weekend open thread – December 5-6, 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: Mother Land, by Leah Franqui. An American newlywed in India tries to adjust to her mother-in-law moving in with her.

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

{ 1,359 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder: Comments on the weekend threads should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or an update on things you received advice about in the past are also fine. But please, no posts that are just venting or blog-style “here’s an update on my life.” Comments that violate this rule will be removed. Thank you!

    Full weekend rules are here:
    https://www.askamanager.org/weekend-open-thread-rules

  2. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Gift recommendation thread

    If you’re looking for ideas for gifts, ask for them here (describe who you’re shopping for/what kind of gift/etc.) or offer ideas for others! (Came from a suggestion further down.)

    1. Jujubee*

      I need some help getting a Christmas gift for my partner’s parents. I am absolutely blanking on what I got them in years past (I think it’s just stress recently—my memory has sucked the past few months.) My partner only has a vague idea of what their parents’ like and struggles with gifts for them too.

      Is there something that is universally liked by parents? My parents always request cash or gift cards now that we’re adults haha, so they’re not hard to shop for. My partner’s parents seem more sentimental. I do know they like wine, they like food they make from Martha Stewart recipes, and they like luxury linens (but…I don’t think I’m going to get them linens.) I think they enjoy knick knacks but I feel like the mom would enjoy it more if it fit her decor. I am not so great at judging that.

      My thought was going to a local market here and finding something artist made because they enjoy art generally, but I just want to get something they’d like. I could get nice wine too, but my parents are getting them that for Christmas. This shouldn’t be so stressful but I’d like to get it right. My partner isn’t so stressed and says they’ll like whatever I get, but I don’t know about that…

      Any advice for gift giving to your partner’s parents (or in-laws)?

      1. SunnySideUp*

        If they’re covid-cautious and staying home a lot what about a couple sophisticated/artist-designed puzzles? You can buy one ($50) that’s a front page of the NY Times for any day…

      2. Not A Manager*

        If they like cooking, what about a collection of nice ingredients? Depending on your budget and their tastes, I’m thinking something like three pretty oils, or a collection of Penzey’s spices, or fancy vanilla and dusting sugars. Those type of things tend to run a full range of prices and fanciness, so there are a lot of options.

          1. Aphrodite*

            I live in central coastal California, and will take friends to the small town of Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez valley. We always stop at Olive Hill Farm ( https://olivehillfarm.com/ ) for tastings of their oils and vinegars and buy some. They do ship as well.

          1. Morningstar*

            Mm, I love their Italian blend (with rosemary in it), have been making orange salmon with their bicentennial rub, and use their prime rib rub (yes to celery as an ingredient) for steak night.

            What do you think you’ll choose for your gift? And I’d be interested to know anybody’s favorites.

            1. Penzeys Please*

              We love their Northwoods (original and Fire) and Turkish seasoning blends! They’re great on oven-roasted veggies

              1. NoLongerYoung*

                I love Penzey’s. If it helps, I got a selection of their cinnamons for a gift when my husband died, and then a salt & pepper selection as a subsequent Christmas present. Their seasoning salt (in the latter) is amazing on roasted carrots for a savory turn, and I am sad I’m running out!

                1. pancakes*

                  Penzey’s is great. I got my stepdad a box of the low & no salt mixes the year he was told to cut down on that.

                  Zingermans is also great for food gifts.

            2. E. W.*

              They have to eat low-salt so thankfully they seem to have good options! Either the international or grilling sets? Now I want to get some for everyone, ha!

            3. SR*

              MURAL OF FLAVOR!! And I agree Northwoods is great. I also love Forward, and I used their Vindaloo curry in ANY recipe calling for curry, because it is so so yummy!
              If you have a pepper grinder, their tri-peppercorn blend is amazing. Also, their individual spices are typically superior to other brands — I especially love their Hungarian sweet paprika, Vietnamese cinnamon, and their onion powder.

          2. Penzeys Fan Too*

            Go online this weekend! You can buy a $50 gift card for $35 today & tomorrow at Penzeys.

            1. NoLongerYoung*

              I decided I’m giving those Penzey’s gift cards as gifts – THANK YOU for the heads up on the sale…
              and I bought 2 for myself, so I can go back later and get some of the recommendations here for myself. (The northwoods, the mural of flavor, and more… all sound delicious)

        1. pancakes*

          Snuk is great for this. Snukfoods dot com. They have an incredible tea selection in particular, also chili crisps, chili oil, hot sauce, coffee, olive oil, etc.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah slippers or especially nice socks, because those are easy to size. Or gloves! I like them for driving but am always losing them, so I’m thrilled when I get a nice pair.

      3. Just a PM*

        I’d stick to what you know, but put a little twist on it. You know they like wine, so how about a bottle of an international wine (like an Argentinean red or a fancy French white) or maybe a gift card to a local wine bar/vineyard?

      4. RosenGilMom*

        A custom jigsaw puzzle? Or perhaps a nicely framed photo of you and your partner, or the 4 of you all together?

      5. Tea and Sympathy*

        What about a virtual cooking class? Especially something gourmet, if they like Martha Stewart. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I read that Airbnb experience has some interesting virtual things offered.

      6. Ebb*

        I’ve always had very good results giving a Fashy brand (extremely well made and durable) hot water bottle. It’s just the sort of cozy thing for the winter, and you can buy it a fuzzy cozy to sweeten the deal. Everyone I’ve ever gifted one to has been extremely appreciative.

      7. allathian*

        I’m just so glad that we decided to skip exchanging gifts between adults a few years ago. All of us have enough stuff as it is, and just buying books from each other’s wish lists just became so much work in comparison with the pleasure that we seemed to get out of the gifts, so we decided to stop. I do realize that this isn’t an option in many families, but perhaps it’s worth thinking about as an option for the future?

        1. The New Wanderer*

          We decided that on my side for this year, no adult gift exchange (which was becoming a gift card exchange anyway). However, because of the pandemic and my mom’s compromised health, we haven’t been able to visit like we normally would. So I made a photo calendar and sent one to my parents, my sibling, and myself that heavily features the grandkids as well as our last big trip together at the start of 2020.

          In past years, we’ve tried one gift per household and drawing names, but the grandmothers tend to buy for everyone anyway and there’s a whole thing with stockings being a loophole for even more gifts… a lot of it ends up being things like notepads, chocolates, and fancy soap, but next year I should suggest only consumables for the adults.

      8. Pat Benetardis*

        If they don’t already have one, one of those Martha Stewart branded Dutch ovens (soldat macys).

        1. pancakes*

          Those are nice. I bought myself a forest green lasagne pan & a small red heart-shaped Dutch oven in the last big sale they had.

      9. Rare Commenter*

        I got my boyfriends parents a simple family portrait painted by a local artist. It’s one that’s just faceless. I noticed they didn’t have a ton of recent family pics and I know that they don’t enjoy gathering around for that. It was only $45, and it’s really unique and I know his mom enjoys the artists work. I also got to shop local. I’m slightly nervous that I’ve overstepped (I at least didn’t put myself in it!), but I actually think she’ll really enjoy it.

    2. Coenobita*

      Gift ideas please! I have a dear friend (more like a sibling) who is an extremely creative, crafty, handy person. He is also super frugal and kind of a minimalist so when we exchange gifts it’s more “here is a small but heartfelt token of my affection” rather than “I bought you this thing,” if that makes sense. For example, one year he made felted ornaments in the shape of a favorite animal; another year there were intricate folded paper decorations.

      Normally I would go with something cool or inside-jokey from a used bookstore or thrift shop, but of course browsing stores isn’t really a thing this year. Also, the gift will need to travel 3,000 miles by mail. If it weren’t for covid, we would probably be on a trip together right now so I’m feeling bummed out and want to send something fun. Any thoughts?

      1. Anono-me*

        Cool funky socks. Small, useful, easy to mail, and the design can be an inside joke or other personally meaningful image.

      2. Grits McGee*

        If you are ok with a gift card, maybe a gift card to a crafty/arty store that you know he likes/ is in his area? If you know what he’s into, you can maybe make it more special by specifying that it’s “$$$ for x craft”.

      3. I need tea*

        Gift kits for a new craft! If he likes candle making, try a soap kit. If he likes textile arts, try an embroidery kit. He likes paper decorations, so maybe some papermaking frames (he can recycle paper he doesn’t use any more, and dye it with food colouring). There are plenty of beginner’s/try this craft kits out there, and in case it ends up being something he enjoys, you might add a note saying if he enjoys it, maybe he coud show you how to do it together when you can spend time in person.

        If you’re not sure about a craft kit, a book on creativity like “conscious creativity” or “eco-thrifty” which involve budget friendly type crafts, or crafts that use up stuff you already have, or that are focused on sparking creative ways to do something new with your crafts might be welcome. (I haven’t read these myself, I just get them recommended to me because of the other crafty books I look at – those specific suggestions might be good for him, but I’m suggesting them more to give you ideas of the kinds of books to start looking at).

      4. OtterB*

        Some small travel thing, since you would like to be on your trip together? A nice blank journal that could be used as a travel journal or for whatever he would like? A multitool?

      5. Patty Benetardis*

        Do you have a local bakery from your hometown?ship some of their special cookies from childhood.

      6. pancakes*

        There’s a Canadian company called Lee Valley that sells nice & beautifully made tools. They ship to the US. Kaufmann Mercantile might have something, too.

        1. Colette*

          Lee Valley is awesome, and they have a lot of gadgety stuff, as well as books and kits (e.g. “everything you need to make wooden spoons”). They’re not cheap, but have good quality stuff.

          1. pancakes*

            I saw several books I’d like to receive myself, lol. Every year I find myself buying myself a gift, somehow.

    3. Inefficient Cat Herder*

      Thoughts on good sustainable/small business online places to shop for Christmas presents? I need presents for whole age range of people.

      I am in U.S.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        My friend Sharon has just started a new online business, bigearrings dot com.

        She is selling vintage earrings and handmade earrings from artists.

        I love the concept because if I have to cover half my face when I go out (which I actually like doing because my tetracycline-stained teeth are covered), then big earrings do the accessory trick! I mean, they would if I wore anything else but gym clothes.

      2. Grits McGee*

        Etsy is always a good starting point. Most stores will have their location, so you can ensure that you’re supporting a local business if that’s important to you.
        Also check to see if there are local Christmas markets in your area. Some of them have transitioned online for safe shopping.
        Also- place your orders as soon as possible. A lot of small businesses I follow on social media are stressing that aren’t Amazon, and their products take longer to ship because they are dependent on the whims of USPS/UPS/FedEx/etc and they are the only ones handling packaging/shipping.

      3. Aphrodite*

        Here are places I have bookmarked (besides Etsy):

        https://www.ebth.com/
        https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/online-ethical-marketplaces
        https://www.serrv.org/
        https://www.fairtradewinds.net/
        http://www.globalstewards.org/fair-trade-shops.htm
        https://www.goldenhillstudio.com/collections/home-decor
        https://buyifyoucare.com/
        https://nelles-studios.square.site/
        https://sequoiasoaps.com/
        https://society6.com/
        https://yoursustainablehome.com/
        https://www.tenthousandvillages.com/
        https://www.theultimategreenstore.com/
        https://www.uncommongoods.com/
        https://www.vickerman.com/

        1. The Sweetgrass candle is espcially nice*

          I got some lovely soaps and candles from Sequoia as a gift recently (they are local to me) – I wholeheartedly recommend! Lovely product and always great to support an Indigenous-owned business :)

      4. ThatGirl*

        Ten Thousand Villages (tenthousandvillages dot com) specializes in fair trade and handmade items, mostly household decor, kitcheny things, accessories, toys etc.

      5. OtterB*

        The science fiction writer John Scalzi did his traditional series of Gift Guide posts this past week. Day 3 is for artists and musicians to post things they have for sale, so there will be a lot of interesting possibilities. (Day 1 was for traditionally published authors/editors, Day 2 for non-traditionally published authors/editors, Day 4 for fans to post the things they recommend, and Day 5 for charity recommendations). Here’s the link to Day 3: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/12/02/whatever-holiday-gift-guide-2020-day-three-arts-crafts-music-and-more/

      6. Fazl FTW*

        Fazl is a great company. They pay fair wages to local artisans in India to make by hand socks, hats and mittens. They also have some jewelery and bags. Half of the proceeds go to children’s home in India.
        http://www.shopfazl.com

      7. PX*

        Made51 is an online shop run by UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) and everything they sell is made by refugees and helps give them an income/purpose. A bit pricey, but it all looks really really lovely.

        In a similar vein:
        – Ishkar . com
        – Earthheir . com
        – artisanandfox . com

        In a slightly different vein:
        – tentree . com (ethical/sustainable clothing)

      8. pancakes*

        Beautyhabit dot com – Name aside, I can always find something for men or women. Would be great for teen girls, too. Good for stocking stuff like candies, teas, etc. They also sell good quality unscented products.

        Zingerman’s for food gifts, as mentioned above, and The Meadow, a shop in the west village, NYC that sells fancy salts, chocolates, and bitters. They also have shops in some other cities, Portland and Tokyo and maybe another, and they ship.

      9. pancakes*

        Also Kazi, handmade & fair wage items from Africa. Kazigoods dot com. They have cool Christmas ornaments, too.

    4. Grits McGee*

      I need a book or (possibly kit) recommendation for my brother (30 yrs old).
      I’m hoping to encourage him to lean into his artistic side. He’s got a great eye for color and design and is really creative, but I think he suffers from low confidence because my mom and I are the designated “arty/crafty ones”. Since he hasn’t explicitly said he wants to get more arty, I’m looking for something low pressure- so not a manual or technique guide, or a creativity deep dive like The Artist’s Way. Ideally, it would be something like one of those “draw a thing every day” kind of low stakes journal, but without the pressure to develop a discipline, and some guidance for basic, instant-gratification exercises.
      Does anyone have suggestions? If it weren’t for COVID, I would go to the National Gallery bookstore so that I could review the whole book, but COVID….

      1. WellRed*

        I think those draw things journals can be fairly low key, unlike Artist’s Way. Or just a blank and some nice drawing pencils?

        1. Grits McGee*

          I think if I just gave a blank journal it might be too much of a hurdle. He does have a pack of colored pencils, so a book that could throw out ideas for experimentation would have the greatest chance of being used.

      2. tiny cactus*

        Do you think he would be interested in calligraphy? I think you can get a kit with a calligraphy pen or two, some nice paper and a little instruction book. It’s a bit more structured/practical than drawing materials but it can lead into card-making as well.

      3. Bittersweet_silver*

        Maybe an embroidery kit? I’ve found some on Etsy/local online shops that have the hoop, needle, floss, and pre-printed pattern on fabric with either stitch instructions or youtube videos with guidance. Artsy/creative and could open a new hobby/expand beyond using other people’s patterns eventually.

      4. Fellow Traveller*

        It’s not specifically about drawing, but Rob Walker’s book The Art of Noticing is a series of of short exercises/ challenges which are centered around helping you pay more attention to your surroundings. I think a lot of them could be translated into drawing or artistic prompts.
        There is also a series of books called “Wreck this Journal” that has prompts in it. It’s a little messy, but fun.

      5. Gift ideas*

        I enjoy the book 50 Things to Draw by Ed Tadem. It’s a series of drawing activities of different categories (Animals, Food, etc). He shows a picture he’s drawn, breaks it down into a few steps with some simple tips and then there’s a page for you to try. I like it because sometimes it’s hard to think of what to draw, good for practicing, and it’s pretty low stakes. I can just carry it around with a pencil, sharpener, and eraser.

      6. beach read*

        How about scrapbooking? Or card making? Maybe a book and a starter kit? So many ways to be creative with those!

    5. Mella*

      Oh, great idea!

      I need to buy gifts for two colleagues. There are several health/dietary issues among us, so food isn’t an option.

      I’ve used up my ideas in previous years: desk-sized decorated potted firs, state-specific candles, journals with monograms.

      Generally we have all stuck to ~50 dollars, but I don’t mind going above that for something impressive/unique as long as the price isn’t obvious.

      None of us share anything in common other than our jobs, which is why I’m struggling. One is a super-mom who spends all her time on her kids, and the other is a semi-professional artist in her spare time.

      1. WellRed*

        Hmm, tough one. Fun office supplies? I was just at Target and they had emoji sticky notes, maybe with pens and sharpies and some other “office survival” stuff that one wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I know last year on here someone mentioned some funny pencils with rather droll or sarcastic sayings.

      2. Grits McGee*

        Maybe nice writing utensils? Nicer pens and mechanical pencils can get pretty pricey, and you could supplement with monogrammed/personalized notepads or sticky notes.

      3. tiny cactus*

        A few things that went over well at my office’s gift exchange:
        –a nice teapot
        –a utility knife (depending on audience)
        –a set of beeswax wraps and/or reusable sandwich bags
        –a collection of flavored salts and/or spices (if not an issue for dietary restrictions)
        –a set of hand-made ceramic plates or mugs

      4. beach read*

        Food is out but what about beverages? Some nice wine, or a keepsake box of various teas or fancy coffees?

    6. Paris Geller*

      Oh, so happy to see this crowd-sourcing thread! I always have the hardest time buying gifts for my dad. He is retired and lives comfortable enough that he tends to buy whatever he wants. He also lives a pretty simple life and doesn’t have a ton of hobbies (though he does have a few). He also does not like when I spend $$ on him, so I try to keep my gifts to $30 or less.

      The two main hobbies he has is low-key woodworking (nothing extensive or fancy, but he likes making clocks/shelves, etc. out of wood), and bird watching. He doesn’t really like things that don’t serve a practical purpose. The two best gifts I’ve gotten him in the past few years that have gone over well have been a membership to Project Feederwatch and a magnetic wristband for when he’s working with tools.

      1. WellRed*

        How about a bird feeder kit or pattern to build one? I’m assuming he has binoculars and bird watching guides already.

        1. Paris Geller*

          I thought I put this in my original comment, but he already has made some bird feeders and has binoculars & bird watching guides (many of which have been presents from me over the past few years. . . )

          He also has a DSLR he loves to use, but he has pretty much all of the accessories I can think of that would go with that, and most would be over my budget.

      2. Lifelong student*

        Rare earth magnets- they pick up anything- like nails that fall on the floor- they are sort of cool!

      3. Formerly in HR*

        Cornell Lab Bird Academy had a list of online birding courses. Last weekend they were reduced for BF/Cyber Monday, but even at full price some topics were appealing – like how to recognise the various types of ducks, something about owls….

        1. Paris Geller*

          Oh, these are awesome! I think one of these might be the ticket–something useful, not physical (clutter) and in line with his hobbies. The bird photography ones are way out of my budget, which is too bad because I know my dad would love those, but even the affordable options look great.

          1. Formerly in HR*

            I looked at the photo course and was not sold on it. It sounded like a lot of content was to be spent on what camera to choose rather than how to use what you have to get some well focused photos. Of course, that is all based on the description, but while the one for the duckies got me to take the wallet out, the photo one didn’t.

          2. Aphrodite*

            I just googled “adult education bird photography” and came up with, among others, this class from Madison Audubon, “How to Get That Shot: A Virtual Introduction to Wild Bird Photography.” It can be found here and is only $15 a person: https://madisonaudubon.org/naturalists/2020/5/18/beginning-bird-photography

            Here is the link to my google efforts: https://www.google.com/search?q=adult+ed+online+bird+photography&oq=adult+ed+online+bird+photography&aqs=chrome..69i57.7655j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

      4. Washi*

        If he likes to go out hiking and birdwatching, maybe a set of connectors that let you attach your binoculars to your backpack? There’s a set for $9 at bhphotovideoDOTcom that I’ve been eyeing, because I like the idea of a binocular harness, but it would be too much along with a backpack.

      5. Fellow Traveller*

        What about a park pass (National, State Or County, if in the US) so that he can spend time outside birding or taking nature photos?

      6. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

        Is there an arboretum nearby? A gift membership to one would make a great present

      7. Not So NewReader*

        You might want to check out the Lee Valley Tools website. There’s stuff for the kitchen also. I have found them to be reasonably priced and I have been satisfied with their stuff in the past. They are one of my favs.

      8. Keener*

        My dad sounds similar. Has a few hobbies but has all the supplies or I don’t know what specific items he needs. I’ve realized that he isn’t good asset using Amazon so now I order him a new water colour painting technique book for every occasion. I’ve been doing this for years and they are still a bit everytime. You could do something similar for his hobbies.

      9. Birds, birds*

        What about signing up together for the Christmas Bird Count or the Great Backyard Bird Count? Could be fun, and add in meaningful ways to data on birds locally & nationally.

    7. Aphrodite*

      I’ve made three gift bags for my realtor, banker and best friend who have and are helping me so much with my first home purchase. I simply could not do it without them. I bought some black gift bags with gold lettering (“Thank. you”) in script and have filled them with a picture of this ( https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-lumL-Aehiag/UZ8wSHPG5iI/AAAAAAAAC44/qOiH88lFBOo/s1600/Funny+Vintage+Photos+(26).jpg ) on which I wrote “You light up my life, [name]. Nestled inside black tissue paper are mostly rechargeable flashlights and a lantern. Why flashlights? Great emergency things to have and useful for everyone. I included the following ones:

      (1) Tough Light: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01D5I0EBI/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s04?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      (2) Mini Maglight: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00006WNPC/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      (3) Rechargeable flashlight: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PHQF4HY/ref=ppx_od_dt_b_asin_title_s04?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      (4) LED Headlight: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QGRWZNB/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s04?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      (5) Keychain flashlight: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZPQMLSV/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      (6) Keychain Saying: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XMGDYC2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s04?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    8. CatCat*

      Kind of spendy, but having now had a robot vacuum for a couple weeks, I feel like it would be an awesome gift for people who hate vacuuming or need to vacuum often and don’t have the time.

    9. Bluebell*

      This week I bought gifts for several family members from The Women’s Bean Project. They have a great range of healthy food options, including some gluten free, plus dog treats and a bit of jewelry. They also run a training program for women in the Denver area. So glad I found out about them!

      1. Aphrodite*

        I just looked up the Women’s Bean Project–and it’s wonderful! I am ordering from there. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

    10. Kristin*

      Help please. My partner is impossible to shop for, and not only is Christmas coming, but his birthday is in December. He is extremely frugal and minimalist. His parents have given up shopping for him and told him to but himself stuff with their credit card. He can’t even figure something to buy himself that he wants. His main hobbies are vintage computers (think commodore 64) and playing with our cat. In the past I’ve gotten him experiences we can do together, but it’s 2020. I did get a smart pet camera/treat dispenser for his bday, but still need a Christmas gift.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Is there a particular food that he likes but rarely buys because of expense or time in preparing?

        1. Kristin*

          He’s on the Keto diet, but my family (on my suggestion) is already getting him a gift basket of Keto friendly snacks. He does also like horror and Dungeons and Dragons. Experiences have been escape rooms, and tickets to a vintage computer convention that’s in our area annually. For our anniversary I got him a “season” to Hunt a Killer ( if you haven’t heard of it, it’s like an extended escape room you do at home.) But we’re still working through it, so it doesn’t make sense to do another season yet.

          1. Anono-me*

            For Dungons and Dragons: What about vintage collectable D&D items? Or a really nice set of dice ($10-$200)? He might like a Magic the Gathering card game starter set (D&D type card game that can be played in 20 minutes or much longer. Fun for people who like strategy games even if they don’t know much about D&D)

            For Horror: A passing acquaintance told me about a charity fundraiser where they paid to be an extra in a movie. Maybe you could find one for a horror movie. Many authors will auction/raffle off the chance to name a character in a book. Maybe you can find a favorite author doing this.

      2. Might Be Spam*

        My daughter found a mood light, a trinket box, and a wall clock all made out of computer circuit boards. I love them.
        I have some very old circuit boards that I put lights behind. I also take shiny computer parts and hang them on my nerdy Christmas tree. I use a red ethernet cord as a garland.

      3. tiny cactus*

        My go-to gift for the minimalist person is a multitool (Leatherman is the brand I like based on semi-extensive research). Comes in useful quite a lot and just kind of feels helpful to have around.

        For an at-home “experience,” in my city you can book a trivia company to do customized trivia for an online event, and they’ll include a bunch of questions on topics you choose. Not sure if you can find something similar, but if he has specialized interests, he might find it fun to do a custom trivia night.

        1. Anono-me*

          Mulitools are wonderful. They make a great gift for almost everyone.

          Leatherman is the original big name in mulitools. I like their high end stuff.

          I also like Gerber across all the price points.

          A comfort aspect that is important to me is how the handles ‘face’. When you open up most mulitools, they look like needle nose pliers with a pair of swiss army knives as handles or an upside down “Y”. If the knife, saw, screwdriver can be accessed from the outside of the handle; then the edges of the outside of handle will be a trough with narrow sides and 90 degree corners . This hurts when you need to put pressure on something. If the saw, knife, screw driver etc. can be accessed from the inside of the handle, the outside is usually rounded and comfortable.

      4. pieforbreakfast*

        A nice sweater or Pendleton shirt maybe? They last forever and are great for layering and outdoors.

      5. Workerbee*

        Love Commodore 64! Are there any games he’s missing, or components, either for the C64 or others? A better joystick or bits and pieces to make his own? :) I always wore the store bought ones out but the one a friend made out of a box and parts was superb. /nostalgia

        There’s also the emulator side of things though so far I’ve found downloads for free.

      6. anon64*

        ooooh i might be late on this one, but does he do a lot of restoration? a new or upgraded soldering setup, or a desoldering gun, might be nice! is there a parts store he buys from frequently, either online or in person? hardware parts storage containers might also be nice! a fancy toolbox? i’m a keyboard enthusiast who has dabbled in retro computers and i’d like any of those things. if he’s frugal and minimalist, that might be the kind of upgrade he’d avoid buying for himself but would make things nicer

    11. Nynaeve*

      For people who love sending handwritten letters and cards, I heartily recommend the hand-stitched fabric notecards at Pelham’s Paperie (https://www.pelhamspaperie.com/). There are a ton of designs and I always have to stop myself from buying too many. (I’ve bought 14 boxes so far during 2020.) Everyone I’ve sent the cards to has raved about how beautiful they are and how much getting one brightened their day.

      You can give them as gifts or get some for yourself and use them to keep in touch with friends and family – or for the handwritten notes to bosses and colleagues that Alison always recommends :)

    12. Aurora Leigh*

      Best gift idea I’ve had this year is the sushi making kit I’m putting together for my husband. (Kit with mats, cookbook, all the dry ingredients so well just have to get meat and veg at the store). We used to go out for suishi on occasion but with COVID that’s not happening. Ended up being about $75 to put together.

      1. pancakes*

        MTC Kitchen is a great place to buy this sort of thing. It’s also where I buy all my dishware. MTCkitchen dot com.

    13. Always Late to the Party*

      Santa needs to bring socks for both me and my husband – mostly day-to-day ankle socks. I would like to avoid giving all my Christmas money to Jeff Bezos this year. Does anyone have any ideas for US-based small businesses (bonus points for BIPOC owned) where I could order basic socks online?

      I tried SockDreams in Portland, OR and they didn’t seem to have a great collection of casual socks for larger feet.

        1. pancakes*

          Those are comfortable. I’ve bought myself a couple pairs and would be very happy to receive more.

    14. Cruciatus*

      In case it helps anyone with a gift idea, I’m getting some people a painting kit from Painting to Gogh–the kind that you’d do it a Cocktails and Colors event. They have a bunch of different paintings you can choose from, they send you the kits, but also a link to the tutorials which people can watch online and over Zoom so people can still have the fun of painting together.

      They have Starter and Essential kits (the Starter kit includes the paints, but also an easel and paintbrushes, the Essential kit is just the paints). If you put something in your cart and leave it there, you may get an email with a 10% off code (which for me was FIRSTGOGH).

    15. Scott D*

      My spouse and I have been very fortunate during the pandemic. I had to forego a raise, but other than that we are doing OK. We decided this year to only do stockings and to take all the money we would normally spend on gifts for each other and for our home, double it and donate it to three of our favorite charities so that is what we did.

      For stocking stuffers, though, my spouse LOVES The Mandalorian so I found a moveable, talking “Baby Yoda” (Yes, I know it’s not really baby Yoda but I’m always going to call it that) and put it at the bottom of his stocking. On top of it is a bunch of other small, but sometimes hard to find things like a roll of toilet paper (with a politician’s face on it–I won’t say which one but you can probably guess) and some soap with a semi-naughty name.

      Can’t wait to see his face when he finds the baby Yoda!

  3. Good Doggo*

    Being on lockdown, I’ve been taking long walks around my neighborhood down streets I don’t normally pass, one with a house with a dog. This dog, a huge black dog that appears old (gray around the muzzle) seems to spend most of its time outside. No matter what time of day I walk by or if I walk past multiple times in an hour or more, I see this dog outside in the yard. I didn’t think much of it during the summer and unusually warm fall but the weather has finally turned to biting winter cold and I still see the dog outside a lot. This week, it’s been rainy too and I still see the dog outside more often than not.

    The dog does not appear otherwise neglected. It’s not skinny, it’s actually quite a big chunky dog, so it’s not going hungry. It’s not bound to a metal chain but has free reign of a huge yard, though no dog house or covering from the elements I can see in the front yard. The fence goes all the way around the house so the dog can walk to the backyard behind the house. For all I know, it has a doggie door, warm bed, and food bowls out of sight that I can’t see but I still feel a little concerned to see the dog sitting in the front yard all the time. Once when I walked by, I saw the next door neighbor tossing potato chips to the dog who ate them. The guy was eating them too so I wasn’t sure if he knows the dog and was just slipping him a couple chips (I would do that with a dog I actually know) or if he was doing it out of actual concern that the dog wasn’t getting fed.

    I’ve never met this neighbor or even seen them, I don’t know anyone on this particular street so I can’t ask around. Should I do anything or just leave it be? I’ve been thinking of leaving an anonymous note in their mailbox expressing my concern. Calling Animal Control seems extreme when the dog does not appear at death’s door, all I have is mild concern. What do you think?

      1. codex*

        Seconded! Strike up a conversation if you ever see the owner neighbor or see the chip-tossing one again. Ask about Good Dog’s name or favourite chip and learn more from there. :)

    1. Pennyworth*

      I understand your concern but as you describe the situation it sounds as though the dog is accustomed to living that way. If it was distressed or hungry it would probably try to interact more with people walking by. As for the cold weather, some dogs are have built in insulation (think huskies sleeping in the snow) and most are a lot tougher that we imagine. The current fashion for dressing dogs in all sorts of garments is on the whole completely unnecessary. I don’t think I’d call animal control based on the current situation, but perhaps you could call them for advice. It is kind of you to care about him.

      1. Dog and cat fosterer*

        Yes, huskies and similar other breeds often want to be outside, especially in the winter. They are waiting indoors in the a/c all summer for the return of cold weather so that they can hang out in the snow.

        I would worry if the dog was very thin, but it has a lot of insulation. I feel very sorry for obese dogs but I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighbor is feeding junk food often.

        If you see the neighbor then you could ask to confirm that the dog has access to shelter, either with a doggy door to the house or a shelter outside. But someone who mistreats their dog tends to do so out of view, and the fact that this dog has a fence that encloses the entire yard and the dog is often out front makes me think that the owners have nothing to hide.

        1. Sled dog mama*

          My two malamutes have gotten animal control called on us a couple of times when we had a foot of snow and they refused to come inside. They just wanted to lounge outside in the cold snow. I’m not a small person but I’m not strong enough to carry 90 lbs of wiggling dog into the house when it wants to be outside in the snow. Fortunately the animal control officers in my area stopped for the first call and said they had to check, now they just drive by and wave, assuming they are just checking it’s still us and that we still have snow dogs and haven’t gotten a Chihuahua. They did stop once a couple years ago when they got a new officer to introduce him to our dogs.

          1. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

            We have a Husky-Pyrenees puppy (if at 90 pounds and three feet tall he can still be considered a puppy). As soon as it cooled off, he started refusing to come in. He comes in long enough to eat and drink and that’s it. We live out in the boonies near farmers so I have no worries about animal services being called, but when we have a delivery the best any of us can do is stand outside and assure the delivery person that he won’t eat them, but he also won’t leave them alone.

          2. Coenobita*

            Yep, my neighbor’s samoyed is SO happy that it’s finally cold. I think he has been gradually bringing all his stuff out into the yard as he spends more time out there – the past week or so, every time I walk by he is curled up snoozing on the lawn surrounded by toys. (Sometimes he will wake up long enough to come to the fence to get pets and show me his latest bone.)

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              Yep, we have an eskimo dog. She looks like a little lap dog but would live outside in the winter if we let her. We have been having a lot of conversations with her lately about “inside toys” vs “outside toys”

              1. Coenobita*

                LOL, judging from the number of stuffies in the yard, I suspect my neighbor has lost the “inside toy” vs “outside toy” battle!

          3. Natalie*

            Someone in my neighborhood has a sled dog breed and they put a laminated explainer on their fence because so many people have called animal control. (Animal control knows them so it’s not a big hassle for them anymore, just a waste of everyone’s time.)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That’s a good idea.

              I saw a post a while back about a really weird horse that would sleep lying down and people knocked all day on his owners’ front door because they thought he was dead, lol.

              1. Lonely Aussie*

                Been in that situation a few times where I used to keep my old girl. One year we had three separate people post on the local lost pets page about “Ace” who did a very good impression of a dead horse. It’s a difficult thing, cause on one hand you’re happy people notice and care but on the other it can get super annoying to deal with especially if people feel the need to enter the paddocks to check. Ace was pretty chill but someone waking him from a dead sleep could very easily get a hoof to the face if he got a fright.

                1. Pippa K*

                  If I ever write a list of tips for newcomers to rural areas, it’s going to include “horses sleep lying down.” (Also, “exchange phone numbers with your neighbors,” “leave a gate the way you found it,” and “even if you don’t hunt, learn when hunting season is.”)

          4. university minion*

            Right? And now that my husky is older, if she falls asleep outside and it starts to rain, she’s often sleeping soundly enough that the rain doesn’t wake her up. Her fur is thick to the point that it takes a LOT of rain to be wet to the skin.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Let it go. At our last place, which had a front and a back yard, my dog would beg to go outside at all times and in all weather, just to lie in the sun or sniff things and watch the world go by. It’s his favorite thing to do.

      Unless the dog is barking or whining incessantly or looking neglected, with a ratty coat or skin and bones, just leave it. The chips thing? Chips aren’t usually considered bad for dogs, especially if it’s just a couple.

      1. Saturday*

        My dog is the same — in fact she often wakes me up in the morning not because she’s hungry or needs to do her business but because the sun has risen, and thus it’s a good time to be outside! I don’t leave her out unsupervised because she’s just a little too incorrigible, but she would definitely love the life you described.

    3. Lora*

      My Newfie used to do that – refuse to go back in the house after her walk. She could go in the barn for shelter, food and water, but mostly she just chilled out in the front yard smiling at people and enjoying the sun. She LOVED snow, cold didn’t bother her unless it was well below zero. Occasionally someone would pat her and call me to worry if she was okay, so I left the side door unlocked and told them if they were super worried they could let her in themselves but she could go in the barn if she needed anything. Only once did anyone take me up on it – they didn’t know it was her yard/house and thought she was in someone else’s yard (even though the address was on her tag and the house is clearly marked). She passed away six years ago and I miss her terribly still, she was a sweet girl.

      Now I have two Pyrs who also stay out most of the day but fenced in the backyard. They can go in the barn through the back entrance and prefer to bark like demons at anyone they can see through the fence. Some dogs are really built to handle weather, mine are good down to about 10F and they don’t like rain or sleet but snow is their favorite. Big fluffy dog is probably fine.

      1. Juneybug*

        I had a Newfie-German Shepard mix and he too, loved being outdoors. We live in the Pacific Northwest so rain and cold happens all the time but again, couldn’t get our dog to stay out of the weather. Purchased and built different types of dog houses so he could have a warm place to hang out/sleep but nope, he was not going in them, not even for treats. We tried bringing him into the house to sleep or visit but again, he wanted outside. He was perfectly content to slept outside under the patio on a bed (designed to be off the cold cement). The patio had a roof but was still open.
        It worked for him cause he lived for 17 years. I miss my 75 lb baby. RIP Harley.

    4. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      If the dog appears happy and nourished, my opinion is that there’s no action to take here. My suggestion is to take a different route when walking, so you don’t have to think about it anymore.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Please don’t leave an anonymous message! You don’t know enough to justify worrying his owners like that. If there’s a problem, the neighbor can say something. If he cares enough to hang out with and feed the dog, then he’s gonna care about the dog’s well being.

      1. Tabby*

        I would suggest adjing at the house if you’re really worried — as ithers have said, sometimes dogs just like being outside most of the time. I’ve walked a few who I had to literally drag back inside when the walk time was over, because they wanted to stay out, especially the sled dog types. Sitting inside all the time can be boring for some dogs.

    6. LQ*

      I’m going to echo what everyone else has said, I don’t think there’s a problem here. It’s biting cold to you but there are lots of dogs that are very happy in this weather. I’m not sure how cold it actually is where you are but I doubt it’s actually in any kind of danger zone for most dogs. The dogs I grew up with were all totally thrilled to be outside more and more as it was cold. I’d also say that for dogs a fenced in huge yard likely offers multiple places that would be protection from the elements (just moving to the correct side of the house can make 10 degrees difference or more). Just because it’s uncomfortable for you doesn’t mean the dog is uncomfortable. (Also the neighbor eating chips and tossing them over the fence to the dog is an adorable image, one for me, one for you, one for me, one for you.)

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I agree with the dog eating the chips thing! My first reaction was awwww……and, you said it was a neighbor so he was probably doing the same as you said – it might even be their little daily ritual – I can hear, in my happiest dog voice…”Time to go have chips with Joe!”

        And I echo what others are saying. Even when it would snow and be 10 degrees out my cat, yes CAT, would beg to go outside and she would sit on the doormat in the snow. Some animals just love the outdoors, no matter what the elements! As long as it’s healthy, try not to worry!

    7. RagingADHD*

      A large chunky dog with a huge fenced yard to roam likes to sit contentedly in front of the house and watch people walking down the street?

      And there’s a neighbor who is so well acquainted with the dog that they share snacks?

      This is not a problem. Leave it alone.

      1. Mella*

        Agreed. I grew up in a farming family, and this trend of coddling dogs is really eye-rolly. Living anywhere other than inside a purse does not equal neglect.

        1. ....*

          That’s a little ungenerous. Some people spoil their dogs- how does that harm you at all? It doesn’t.

          1. Mella*

            LOL, where did I say anything about being personally harmed? I pointed out that a trend picks up steam, people forget that alternatives are valid. Thus, you know, the original post–a dog that appears well-nourished and acts friendly with strangers is often outside, which OP worries is unacceptable.

            1. Dog and cat fosterer*

              To be fair to the OP, the concern was mostly about a lack of an obvious shelter, which is valid. There is likely one in the backyard, but they don’t know for certain. If there was a doghouse in the front yard then I doubt there would have been a post. I volunteer with rescue and there are plenty of neglected and mistreated dogs so it’s fair to ask.

              To your comment about skewing what is normal, I find it irritating that people think dogs are underfed when they aren’t overweight. If a dog is sleek and you can’t see their ribs then they are not malnourished! I am careful about keeping my dog a perfect weight so the joints stay healthy and avoid early arthritis, and this does not make me a bad owner.

          2. Annie Moose*

            It can harm the dog, is the thing. Feeding a dog inappropriately, keeping it in temperatures that are uncomfortable for the dog (but comfortable for humans), not training it properly, not exercising it appropriately… a lot of things people do to “treat” or “spoil” their dogs are actually bad for dogs.

            (which is not to say that all forms of “spoiling” are bad, of course–just that there is a trend of treating dogs like humans, except dogs aren’t humans, they’re dogs. They have different needs and desires than us–such as many breeds being perfectly comfortable outdoors in temperatures humans find cold–and this should be respected!)

    8. ....*

      I would just talk to them. We used to have an outdoor dog and she hated coming inside even in the snow she’d go in her doghouse. She never ever wanted to come in. She had super thick fur though and even if she got wet her actual skin would be dry underneath. Idk she just loved outdoors and probably wouldn’t even have come in if we offered her treats.

    9. cookie monster*

      I have a dog with a dog door. Every time she hates someone outside, she bounds out to say hello. From the perspective of someone walking by, they can’t see the dog door, and would assume she is always outside, because she goes out any time someone walks by, even if otherwise she is inside. I wouldn’t worry to much since the dog seems healthy.

  4. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    As usual, this thread is not limited to fiction writing.
    I had more free time this week so I got some more light-hearted fanfiction writing done, which I’m happy about.
    For the NaNoWriMo participants: did you reach your goal? How was your experience?

    1. Julia*

      I am making veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery slow progress with my novel. NaNoWriMo did not work for me at all, but I am currently at ~9000 words and think I’ll get more down once I’m a) over the beginning phase and b) have some more time off work.

    2. Nela*

      I wrote a ton of articles this week, but haven’t worked on my manuscript revision at all :/
      Obviously I have the time to write, but I keep having affairs with the smaller stuff instead of working on my most important long-term project.

    3. Kali*

      I’m working on a statistics assignment for uni. I’m doing an MSc in Bioarchaeology, and the question I’m trying to answer is, why are the people buried in cemetery A taller than those in cemetery B? A and B are 600m apart at most and were in concurrent use for a few decades (around 400ad) before A was phased out and B continued to be used. It’s surprisingly interesting. That’s around the time the Roman Empire retreated from Britain and Proto-Germanic tribes began to migrate. In school (25 years ago!) I was taught that the Angles and Saxons almost wiped out the native Britons (“Celts”, but they wouldn’t have called themselves that or thought of themselves as a collective group), pushing them into (what is now) Wales and Cornwall. It turns out, that while story is almost entirely based on the writings of St Gildas, who lived decades later and was writing to preach, not to record. There are many possibilities, but one of them is that listening to him is like asking Britain First for a history of Islam in Britain. There is evidence of conflict – war graves, fines for harming Britons less than for Saxons, etc – but also lots of evidence for life just carrying on as normal, like farming continuing uninterrupted and these two cemeteries being in use concurrently. There was a big culture shift at the time, which was thought to involve a population change, but we *know* they don’t have to go together. After all, Christianity spread at that time culturally, not by replacing entire populations. I’m watching an American TV show right now, I haven’t been invaded by a Republican army.
      Modern genetic evidence indicates modern Britons do have indegenous British DNA and are only 10-40% Anglo-Saxon or Danish (could not distinguish, and we know parts of England were under Danelaw later).

      I struggled a bit at first, but with graphs and judicious use of tables, I turned the 1000 word limit into 9 pages so far, with 300 words left. I have more to do, but I’m using timelines and maps, e.g., “we know X happened throughout England (figure Y), so….”. And then figure Y is a map with all the times X happened, with dates next to the dots and references in the caption so it doesn’t add to my word count.

    4. LQ*

      I decided I’m going to write a never to be published article about my experience of the pandemic as a kind of catharsis. So I’ve been throwing notes down about it. I’m not actually sure it’s good for my brain, and at this rate I’m going to have to super lock it down, but it feels good to flex that muscle.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Congrats to everyone who did NaNoWriMo. Whether you hit the goal or not, you got started, and did work, and that’s the whole point!

      There was a call for subs to a horror anthology on Twitter with a very tight timeline, so I cranked out something. Don’t know if it will be accepted or not; they got a lot of submissions. I hope so bc it’s paid and I could use the money. I read it to my sister while she was here visiting Mom in the hospital, and she liked it.

      I also got Book 2 back from my editor but with all the disruption around Mom, I haven’t looked at the edits yet. Even though she said it was “great,” the longer I wait, the more scared I am to look, haha. I’d originally said January as a release date, but I think it’s going to be more like April. :P

    6. WattyWriterAnon*

      I didn’t win the Watty Awards 2020. But I did join the undiscovered gems group (or similar) run by a fan who makes YouTube vids promoting a new undiscovered novel each time. Sad I missed my chance to get published (only a 0.15% chance), but I’ve gotten exposure, and someone added my works to their library in the past 24 hrs(!). I write for a tiny fandom too. Besides that, 2 short story fanfics in progress, and a multi chapter in the works. I’ve also gotten the fandom’s celebrity fans following me (which is crazy). So, progress of a sort? :)

  5. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this is not limited to video games or “real games” (whatever that means anyway), feel free to talk about any game you like. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help trying to track down a vaguely remembered game.
    Between the Sherlock Holmes games I also got in some Reigns: Her Majesty, which is basically a not-entirely-serious kingdom management game where you swipe left or right to make decisions, kinda like Tinder, and it’s a lot of fun. Expect to die. A lot. Mainly because you sometimes have to in order to advance the story. Expect to die in ridiculous ways, too.

    1. RowanUK*

      I’m finishing up Assassin’s Creed:Syndicate. I started playing the series in August and – hilariously – thought I could catch-up on all of the 11 games before Valhalla launched …nope!

      I have to say, I put off playing the series because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, but it’s been amazing. I love the use of history, the settings and all of the protagonists. The music is brilliant too. It’s honestly helped me get through the last few months of the pandemic quite a bit. I’m especially fond of Syndicate, so it’s taking me ages to finish.

      I did start Valhalla when it came out, but I think I should really play the other two more epic AC games before diving into Valhalla properly.

    2. CoffeeforLife*

      Any recs for games to play with precocious 8/10 year olds but also fun for adults? The family has most of the mainstream games so maybe not something I can grab at Target.

      1. Nicole76*

        Pictionary or Taboo if those aren’t one of the mainstream games they already have. Seems all ages enjoy those games. UNO also.

        1. CoffeeforLife*

          Thank you, but they have those. Along with Life, Sorry, several monopolies, skip bo, dos, dominoes, clue, jenga, etc. Basically all the games you can find at a regular store. It’s tough :)

          1. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

            Do they have Monopoly Deal among their monopolies? That’s a big hit with all ages at our house.

      2. Curly sue*

        Is Catan officially mainstream now? My kids kicked my *butt* at Catan Jr, and now Catan itself. Precocious 8/10 would probably be good with basic Catan, and it’s a lot of fun for adults as well.

        1. Curly sue*

          My kids are 13 and 9 right now and we do a lot of gaming… Labyrinth is a favourite, as is Forbidden Island and that line of co-op games. We play Merchants and Marauders, but that’s a full snow-day game due to lengthy setup and slowish turns. Pandemic might hit too close to home these days, or it could be a jumping off point for discussion – it’s another good co-op game for groups.

          1. Curly sue*

            I keep thinking of others as soon as I hit send! “King of Tokyo” is a kaiju board game where you get to be Godzilla-type creatures fighting each other for control of a city (I believe they also did King of New York, similar concept.) Also smash-up, which is a card game – aliens and dinosaurs vs laser zombies and such. It’s cute.

            1. curly sue*

              I checked with my kids and they insisted that I add “Llamas Unleashed” (also Unstable Unicorns, which is very similar), and if they’re into D&D at all, Munchkin is a very silly card game – but it works better if you’re familiar with tabletop gaming tropes. Grave Robbers From Outer Space is similar in that the mechanics are simple, but the humour lands better if you’re familiar with 20th century horror tropes.

              There’s a great site called Boardgamegeek which has *piles* of reviews and recommendations, if none of these quite hit the sweet spot!

      3. Holly the spa pro*

        I don’t know if this is mainstream, ive seen it at target but Exploding Kittens. My step son loved it when he was around that age and we still play it sometimes years later.

      4. Professor Plum*

        Carcassone—you draw a tile each turn and play it to build the game. There are cities, roads and fields—play depends on matching what’s already there in a puzzle-like manner, while building areas you want to add your tokens to. It’s a great intro to strategy for that age—my nephews and nieces started playing and loved it at the ages of your kids. And it’s great for adults too. Just looked at it on Amazon—good pictures and game play description there. Highly recommend it for anyone!

      5. Jackalope*

        A friend got me Simon’s Cat the card game a few years ago for Christmas, and I loved it. I’ve played it with all ages from about 5-adult. It’s a little bit like Uno, although simpler and faster. It’s listed as being for 3-6 players, which gives a bit more flexibility than a lot of games that are up to 4 people. What I like about it is a) the silly Simon’s Cat drawings (which have amused everyone I’ve played with); b) it’s super quick, so it’s a nice game to play if you just have 15-30 min, say right before bed, and you don’t want to risk getting drawn into a super long game; c) no violence or world conquest.

        I’ve also had good rounds of Ticket to Ride with some kids that I knew that were super into it. It’s a bit longer, but the nice thing about Ticket to Ride is that you can play it at a super simple level or an advanced strategy level based on your age and still enjoy it; you’ll still do decently if you’re younger, but you can get more out of it as you get older. Not as familiar with this one as with the Simon’s Cat game, though.

      6. Stephanie*

        Ooh! My family has played Train Dominoes for years together–grandparents, parents and kids. It’s a lot of fun, and my kids, who are now 19 and 22, still enjoy it. They started playing it with their cousins and grandparents when they were around 8 or 10.

      7. Washi*

        Not sure if these count as mainstream, but I really like Azul and Splendor as an adult. Also if anyone likes animals, Cardline Animals is incredibly simple with basically no setup, but also quite fun for me even as an adult.

        I think Codenames, especially the picture version, might work for a precocious 8 year old. Would definitely teach some good logic/strategy skills!

      8. Kristin*

        Ticket to Ride, though that is becoming more mainstream and actually is available at Target. I think the recommended age on the box is 12 and up, but it should be fine if they’re as precocious as you say and are experienced in board games. If you’re unsure there is also a junior version.

      9. Games!!*

        My son loves 5 Minute Dungeons. It’s better with 4-5 players, but we’re a family of 3 and still have fun playing it. He also loves Catan. One of my favs is Blokus but we don’t get to play as much because you really need 4 players. So before the pandemic, I used to force my parents to play with us when they would come and visit. HA! Code Names is another great game, but may be better for slightly older kids. It says from ages 14+, but we’ve played it with 10 year olds. 8 may be a bit young though.

    3. Holly the spa pro*

      Not much time for games this week but im still bouncing between fire emblem 3h and sakuna. Im kind of struggling to get into this fire emblem game. Fates was one of my favorite games of all time so maybe i had unrealistic expectations for this one. Im still really early into the game so im going to keep it moving and see how it goes.

    4. LQ*

      I’m going to throw out a very specific recommendations request. Long ago I played a game on iOS called GODUS and I loved it. It’s a world exploring, building kind of game that had a fantastic feature where you sculped the world. I understand that there are blocky versions of this game, but I’m looking for one that has that incredibly smooth look rather than the super blocky look. Building up and down the land was entirely my favorite part of the game and so the blocky versions don’t appeal to me at all.

    5. Dr.KMnO4*

      I really need to learn that when I watch my husband play a game, I shouldn’t say, “I’ll never play that game.” Every time I’ve done that I’ve ended up playing the game, sometimes even putting more time into it than he has. E.g. Breath of the Wild, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Hades.

      I’ve been playing Hades on the Switch a LOT lately. It’s a rogue-lite game by Supergiant Games. The story is really cool, the gameplay loop is borderline addicting, the combat is tough but fun and rewarding when you figure it out, and there’s a mode to make things a bit easier if you are struggling to progress. As with all Supergiant games, the art style is gorgeous and the music is perfect.

      1. Alice Ulf*

        I bought a Switch Lite specifically to play Hades, and it’s the best decision I’ve made maybe all this year, haha. I’ve done nothing but play for the last two weeks and the novelty still hasn’t worn off.

        Also it took
        fifty
        SIX
        runs for Thanatos to show up, but still. Worth it. ♥

        1. Dr.KMnO4*

          Thanatos is great! I didn’t realize at first that if I killed more monsters than he did that I’d get a centaur heart, but once I learned that it really lit a fire under me. I’ve only beat the game 5 times in my 65 runs, but I am enjoying it quite a lot.

    6. Beans are green*

      Recommendations for board games, please! It’s just my partner and I, and one of us loves word games like Boggle and Scrabble and the other loves strategy games like Risk and Axis and Allies, and neither is very fond of the other type. Would prefer something that doesn’t take hours to play or set up. Any ideas?

      1. Reba*

        What kind of competition do you like? Some games I like that have a degree of strategy, but are basically indirect competition (you are trying to win but you don’t directly attack the other parties) are Azul, Wingspan, and Spirit of the Wild. A unique game I LOVE but requires than 2 players is the Visitor in Blackwood Grove.

        You might also enjoy deck building games. There are a lot of options with a similar mechanic — I think of them as shopping — with a stylistic range from intense fantasy-adventure (Dominion) to extremely cute and even tender (Machi Koro, Tea Dragon Society).

      2. Dr.KMnO4*

        Villainous, a game about being Disney villains.
        Sagrada, a game about using dice to build stained glass windows for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
        Potion Explosion, making potions from colored marbles (ingredients) that you can then use to help you make more potions.
        Scythe, though that can take a bit longer than the others and is harder to describe succinctly.

      3. Nynaeve*

        Unstable Unicorns is pretty good – there is some strategy, but it’s more like card game strategy and not super tedious long-term planning strategy like Risk. I also agree with Reba about Azul and Wingspan. (Azul is less complex and the quicker of the two to learn. Both are aesthetically gorgeous.)

        You might also look into co-op board games. Here’s a recommendation list of co-op board games for 2 players: https://coopboardgames.com/rankings/cooperative-board-games-for-two-players.

        Good luck!

    7. DarthVelma*

      Still wrapped up in Elder Scrolls Online. We finished all the zone quests in Bankorai last night – one step closer to having that pot to wear on my head. :-) The partner is getting back into 7 Days to Die and I may start playing my secondary ESO character a bit while he’s running from zombies. Maybe start exploring some places Kraagh hasn’t gone yet.

      We also keep staring at the box for Aliens: Bug Hunt and making mouth noises about needing to read the rules and actually play it. Maybe tomorrow morning right after caffeine.

    8. Jackalope*

      We had to skip our D&D game this week since we had a couple of people who couldn’t make it, but some of us who still wanted to game ended up playing Yahtzee. It was perfect because they had a copy, and I didn’t have a copy but had plenty of dice, so we could still play on Zoom (you can get copies of the score sheet online). Hadn’t played that for awhile, and had fun with it even though it’s TOTALLY different than the game we were supposed to play. I’m still looking for games to play that involve various D&D dice (not just D20s or D6s) that we can play on other nights if someone has to back out.

      When I was looking online for potential dice games (I’m gonna find my D8 game, I just know it!), I also came across a game called Yahtwentee, which is basically a version of Yahtzee adapted for D20s. We didn’t play it this week, but I totally want to play it at some point down the road.

    9. Nicki Name*

      I’m learning to use FoundryVTT, which is the New Big Thing in online tabletop RPG gaming.

      I was bemoaning the other day that I’ve never had a group to play Eurogames with, and then I realized that since I’m probably WFH indefinitely now, when gatherings become possible again, I might be able to make it to one of the regular game nights at my local game store.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We’ve been doing an awful lot of weird Association games. I say something my daughter pops a word back my husband pops a word back and drowned in around in a circle. It’s the kind of thing that takes zero props, so we can do it while we are cleaning the kitchen. We need all the help we can get to clean the kitchen.

    11. Nynaeve*

      I just played some Portal 2 co-op yesterday with a friend. (I haven’t finished Portal yet, but he assured me there were no spoilers as the co-op version is a standalone story.) Lots of fun, despite my propensity to fall into acid. GLADOS remains delightfully snarky.

  6. Aximili*

    What are your thoughts on travel plans for 2021?

    My mother and I have been wanting to do a trip to Ireland for years now. Late last year, I finally hit a point in savings where I could treat her to some of the biggest costs of a trip (airfare and hotels, while we’d split cost of food and activities). Our plan was to start putting down money on things this year to travel during 2021. Obviously, with the year 2020 has been for travel abroad, we haven’t paid for anything. Our smaller trips for this year were cancelled and we were playing the waiting game with Ireland for 2021.

    In a recent talk, my mom suggested we push it back to 2022, just to be safe. I don’t mind it (honestly with the job issues I’ve had during the pandemic, it would be nice to have more time to rebuild my savings) but I was curious if anyone else was thinking 2021 would have travel as restricted as this year, whether by choice or by government guidelines.

    1. Val*

      I think that unless you are financially equipped to weather a quarantine, be stranded for a few days/weeks if airports shutdown, or reschedule at the last minute, 2021 is risky (especially changing continents).
      You sound like your budget can’t be stretched all that much, and like this isn’t just a trip you can easily do again if things go south
      So I’d postpone.
      . If moreover your idea of a fun holiday in ireland includes going to the pub or other crowded/indoor places, I’d definitely postpone.

    2. Searching*

      I really hope we’ll have a successful vaccine roll-out to help jump-start the travel industry again. Realistically, I don’t foresee sufficient vaccination happening until mid-2021 at the earliest. I just want to go see my dad again who lives in Europe (I’m in the US). I don’t think I’ll qualify for a vaccine until summer and I’m really hesitant to travel until then (although he’ll qualify before I do due to his age).

      For more tourist-oriented international travel, I will probably wait until 2022, but that’s in large part because my funds will go towards visiting dad this upcoming year.

    3. allathian*

      My husband and I have discussed this, and we both agree that we won’t take long trips away from home until we’ve been vaccinated and all travel restrictions have been lifted. Next summer we’ll probably take a domestic road trip, if the recommendation to avoid non-essential domestic travel is lifted.

    4. Lemonwhirl*

      Hi – I live in Ireland. Please wait until 2022. You’re just not going to have as good an experience in a pandemic, socially-distanced Ireland. My husband is self-employed in a business that is highly tourist dependent, and even he doesn’t want people arriving while the risks of transmission are still so high. (And even if you’ve personally been vaccinated, you can still transmit the virus. Vaccines aren’t magic.)

      I’m sorry to say that not all visitors to Ireland took the quarantine rules seriously, and as a result, there were instances of tourists from outside Ireland (and I hate to stereotype, but they were nearly always American) showing up places and refusing the confirm they’d quarantined or honestly saying they hadn’t. Their reservations were canceled or they’d be asked to leave. It generated a lot of ill will and distrust of some tourists.

      Save more and really splash out in 2022 or 2023 – stay at a castle. Stay at a lighthouse. Eat at Michelin starred restaurants. Have experiences that would otherwise be a bit too spendy for your budget. You will be welcomed so enthusiastically when it’s safe to do so.

      1. Outside Earthling*

        I love this. Now I want to go to Ireland and stay in a lighthouse! Preferably the one in Marian Keyes’ latest book, which I also loved. In 2022.

      2. Aximili*

        Thank you so much for this residential knowledge of Ireland, it is much appreciated! Could I know ask if you could recommend any particular castle or lighthouse that lets tourists spend the night? In our discussions of our trip, we’d joked about staying in a castle but figured it would be out of our budget. Any that won’t break the bank? (We don’t have a specific location in Ireland we’ll be staying so we’re open to anywhere)

        1. Lemonwhirl*

          So, the lighthouse I know of is pretty spendy unfortunately – Clare Island Lighthouse. So I did some googling – https://www.greatlighthouses.com/lighthouses/st-johns-point-donegal/

          St Johns Point in Donegal looks like the cheapest of a fairly expensive lot. I am guessing those prices are per night and the the two night minimum stay might make it too spendy.

          There are way more castles in Ireland, so that is probably a more affordable dream – this site looks like it has a good selection – https://www.theirishroadtrip.com/castles-to-spend-a-night-in-ireland/ 190 for a night for two people might sound high, but depending on where you are, a hotel room for two people can average around 150-200. (There’s a reason resident-Irish people go to Spain and France for our holidays usually. Not this year or probably next year though!)

          But there are loads of budget friendly adventures to be had! Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford is nearly 850 years old and is an incredible place to visit – you can go right up to the top.

          One of my favorite places in Ireland is Inisheer, a tiny island off the coast of Galway. It’s quiet and peaceful and has an amazing graveyard and a shipwreck on the coast.

          I don’t know how mobile you are and how happy you are with heights, but Skellig Michael, off the coast of County Kerry, is incredible. It was used as a filming location for the last Star Wars movies.)

          What kind of things are you and your mom interested in? (Falconry? I know a couple of great places to go for falconry, which can be a little spendy but it is an amazing experience.) I am happy to play virtual travel agent!

    5. StellaBella*

      Check this site out first from the government or Eire: (add the periods and remove spaces)
      https: // www gov ie /en / publication / b4020-travelling-to-ireland-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

      Postponing to August 2021 if things are ok by then, or summer 2022 seems best.

      I am personally not planning any long haul flights until 2022 to be safe. Cooped up on a plane for a few hours with possibly asymptomatic people is above my risk level and comfort level.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m waiting to make any decisions until there’s a vaccine. I just took a job that requires travel but the company won’t allow it until at least July, but I’m itching to go somewhere– and my frequent flyer miles are growing (airline credit card) so I want to go somewhere before they expire. Still, my desire to fly is way lower than my desire to stay safe, so we’ll probably save our miles and our money for a trip in 2022. We’ve been talking about Japan.

    7. Just a PM*

      I am tentatively planning a short trip for fall 2021. Nothing big – just a long weekend in NYC to see some shows. I had two Broadway trips planned for this year (May and Oct) that were cancelled. However, I’m not putting money down to start making reservations until a) we see what the virus is doing, b) Broadway reopens, and c) restrictions are lifted against my state in NY.

      I’d love to go back to London and planning/thinking about that trip has kept me sane through all this. It’ll probably be Spring 2022 before I go overseas again.

    8. Hotdog not dog*

      Our travel plans for 2021 are…to wait until 2022. *sigh* We’re trying to convince ourselves that since we’ll have an extra year to save up, we can spring for a better trip next year.

    9. WellRed*

      Definitely wouldn’t plan an international trip. Hoping to go to Key West next Christmas, but we’ll see how things stand.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, we’ve talked about Key West or similar next fall, but it depends a lot on how things look by then.

    10. Nicki Name*

      I wouldn’t want to try international travel until 2022. I’m hoping for a big trip within the US in late summer/early fall, but that’s contingent on being fully vaccinated and the vaccination rates in the places I’d be traveling to.

    11. Jackalope*

      I’m personally holding off to see what happens next year. I have an international trip that I’ve been wanting to take for a couple of years to introduce my new husband to some elderly family members overseas; on the one hand I in no way want to risk getting them sick, but on the other hand they aren’t getting any younger, and I want him to be able to meet them before their health goes any further south. (We had been supposed to go this fall, but obviously that fell through.) Vaccines are supposed to start rolling out soon in multiple countries, and while I know it will take a long time to get them widespread, I see it as a possibility that international travel might be an option by late summer/early fall of next year. Or perhaps not; I’m definitely not buying any plane tickets yet! But if we have the vaccine, and said family members have it too, and that has the hoped-for effect on the infection rates, then it could be doable. In our case it’s a bit different since I’m going to a country I’ve been to many times before for a visit, so if it’s not the perfect ideal time for tourism then I don’t care as much, assuming of course that we won’t be an actual danger to each other because of COVID. YMMV.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Moneywise, I probably won’t be able to travel outside the U.S. until 2022 anyway. But if I somehow had the money, I probably would wait until then anyway just to make sure there aren’t any more ‘rona tsunamis coming.

      We are still going to be wearing masks well into 2021, and anywhere you go may have stricter requirements than where you are. I would definitely take that into consideration. And definitely make sure your health insurance will cover you if you get sick during a trip.

    13. Suzanne*

      Note that even if the vaccine roll out happens in 2021 the vaccine is not a cure. Remember also there will be people who will refuse to get the vaccine. I wouldn’t be surprised if there will still be restrictions in place until 2022. They won’t be as severe and the threat might not be as severe but we just don’t know! I would wait.

      1. The Unknown B*

        Will they really keep big segments of the economy closed down to protect people who refuse to be vaccinated? At that point they’ll only be putting themselves in danger, not the vaccinated people, right? Or am I misunderstanding how this will work…

        1. ThatGirl*

          I think it will depend more on how many new cases continue to emerge, how full hospitals are, etc. That will partly be a reflection of vaccination rate but also how careless or careful people are being.

        2. Grits McGee*

          I could see country A banning non-essential travel from country B if there’s a high level of COVID infections in country B. Those are restrictions I could really see lingering through 2021 and maybe 2022 as the vaccine gets distributed across the globe.

          1. Jackalope*

            I am wondering if there will be countries who will require out-of-country guests to provide documentation of a vaccination. That seems like it might be an easy way for them to figure out which guests are less likely to be a risk.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, probably. This assuming that the vaccine actually prevents the vaccinated person from spreading the virus. The ones that are currently furthest in the pipeline seem to mainly prevent the vaccinated from becoming sick with COVID themselves, but they won’t prevent a symptom-free vaccinated carrier from spreading the virus.

      2. Chaordic One*

        I worry that the vaccine will not be available in sufficient quantity to allow everyone who wants to be vaccinated to actually receive it. At least not right away. I keep hearing reports that even if the vaccines are rolled out and given to first responders, then people in nursing homes, and then elderly people most at risk and so on down to the people least at risk, it might still take up to a year or so to get everyone (who wants to be) vaccinated. That means probably not until the end of 2021.

        People living in poorer countries who probably won’t be able to receive the vaccine for another year or two. I suspect that if they do shut down the economy, it won’t be because of the people who refuse to be vaccinated. It will be to protect the many people who want to be vaccinated, but who can’t be because of quantity and distribution problems.

        1. Parenthetically*

          What I’ve read indicates that everyone in the US who wants to be vaccinated should be able to be vaccinated by the end of June 2021. Once we have our shots (and we’ll be in line the moment we can) and have waited the month for full immunity? I feel absolutely no qualms about travel. We are moving to another country next year and I feel fine about it.

    14. Paris Geller*

      I would just plan for 2022. Even once travel restrictions are lifted and it’s safer to travel again, I feel like pushing your trip back to 2022 will also give destinations more time to get back into the swing of things. The only travel I have planned for 2021 is for a friend’s wedding, and that’s happening December 2021 (pushed back from . . . today, actually!)

    15. Hi there*

      We just bought tickets to see “The Shining” at Opera Colorado in late Feb of 2022, but I don’t know how I’ll feel about travel in a plane by then. I did suggest to the hubs we could take a train from the East Coast and just hang out in our sleeper car the whole time. Fun fact, we were originally going to see this opera on Friday the 13th! (Of last month)

    16. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Ex-pat in the UK here and we are planning right now to be in the US in May for various reasons, but mostly because by that point I won’t have seen my parents for almost two years and I will have been vaccinated by then, as I am sure they will be as well. We also need to be in the US (a different part) next September and we should probably make a trip to Sweden in late summer to see those family and friends we haven’t seen in two years.

      I accept that travel is likely to still not be “the same” and will require mask wearing throughout (pro at that now), lots of hand washing, etc. It is what it is, and I am happy to do what needs to be done to at least see family. We are saving big “fun” trips to more exotic tourist destinations for 2022, no matter how tempting some of the airfares to the Caribbean are right now!

    17. OtterB*

      I’m hoping we can do a road trip and/or our daughter who lives in Wisconsin (we’re in Maryland) can travel to us in 2021, but I wouldn’t start putting money down on an expensive or complex trip. We’d had reservations for a family trip to Yellowstone in July 2020, which were canceled of course. I recently got an email that 2020 cancelees had first shot at 2021 trip reservations, but I’m not ready to bet on summer 2021 yet.

    18. BuildMeUp*

      Since our holiday plans have been scrapped, I think my parents, sister, and I might take a small trip in late spring/early summer for some family time, depending on how things are going. We’re in the states and would plan something within the continental US. I think we’re still in a “wait and see” mode, though.

    19. HannahS*

      I would definitely not start planning international travel that you wouldn’t mind having canceled for a while. Next summer is…dicey, I think. I’m in Canada, and I can imagine that I’d be good with traveling within Canada and maybe driving-distance parts of the States by summer or fall 2021, but I’d only book travel for somewhere I’d be willing to cancel on short notice.

    20. Aurora Leigh*

      Like most people on this thread — hoping to be able to see family again in 2021 but holding off on any touristy travel for longer. Baby is due in April and we are hoping that things will have calmed down sufficiently that we can have visitors in the summer.

  7. Not Australian*

    Just a line to update anyone who remembers that two weeks ago we had to put my 90-year-old mother-in-law into a care home because she was no longer able to look after herself. The transition itself was a little rocky, and she didn’t understand at first why she ‘had to’ be there and why nobody was visiting her, but a few long phone calls with family members seem to have reassured her a bit – as does passing the Covid quarantine requirements and being able to mingle with the other residents. Apparently she began cheering up as soon as she was able to have a shower – which she could no longer manage on her own – and when she realised that someone would wash up her coffee cup and she didn’t have to, and the process was completed when she found out that one of the carers knew her youngest grandson.

    Unfortunately the rules for Christmas mean that only two family members can visit indoors, and MIL has three children, but as we live at a distance my OH is quite content to wait until the rules ease off again – although he’s also willing to drive down and wave to her through a window or talk across the garden or something. He’ll have to go and help his sisters empty out the flat, anyway, and we’ll also be passing through early in the New Year to touch base with my son and his kids. [An outdoor get-together in January is going to be fun.]

    So thanks everyone for your moral support. In the end it was only a little bit difficult, and not for long, and now everyone seems to be much happier – especially MIL!

    1. Mella*

      I’m surprised to hear that you can visit. I haven’t been allowed on even the grounds of my dad’s facility since March.

      1. That'll happen*

        The use of the term “carer” leads me to believe that Not Australian might be in New Zealand, where restrictions have been lifted somewhat.

    2. Observer*

      and the process was completed when she found out that one of the carers knew her youngest grandson

      LOL. But it makes a lot of sense.

      I’m glad it’s working out well for her.

  8. Might Be Spam*

    I’m not making any travel plans for at least the first 6 months and not going to prepay for anything either. My son is moving to New Orleans in January and I’m hoping to visit some time this summer. I’m looking forward to making lists of things that would be fun to do but being flexible is required. There’s no way to tell how things will play out with the vaccines and any possible mutations this far in advance. I’m very hopeful that this summer will be safe to travel but I’m not going to bet money on it.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Nothing to add here except New Orleans is on my list of places to go when I first feel safe to travel and get out a bit. Bourbon Street isn’t my scene but the galleries on Royal, Jackson Square, WWII museum and the $3 trolley ride definitely are.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Native Louisianian- if you aren’t used to triple digit heat with 90% humidity, you might want to wait until fall (October at the earliest). Leisurely strolling is one of the best activities in the city, but it can be absolutely miserable in summer.

      1. Urkelgru*

        I second that as a native Louisianian. I read it and immediately thought of the stinky streets in the Quarter in the heat, and of course the humidity that leaves us sweaty but always youthful. ❤️

        1. Might Be Spam*

          Thanks for the weather information. I didn’t think about the humidity. I can handle dry heat, but I do not deal well with humidity. My son currently lives in Miami and I can’t be there past mid-May.

          How is September, weather-wise? Any fall activities that I shouldn’t miss?

          1. Grits McGee*

            September can still hit long stretches of 90 degree weather, but you might hits nicer weather later in the month. New Orleans as a city goes alllll out for Halloween, which is really fun, and there’s lots of more low-key events and activities outside of Voodoo Fest.

  9. Sparkly Librarian*

    At what temperature do you keep your central heat? And how cold is it where you live?

    I just had my home furnace replaced (apparently the HVAC had never worked since before we moved in 6 years back, and it wasn’t until this year that I figured we should get it cleaned and tuned up before attempting to turn it on and found out). I’ve gotten used to keeping warm without a heater (a space heater on the chilliest days, electric blankets or heated mattress pad, and putting on a darn sweater!) and it’s very mild where we are. It rarely gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on winter nights. I’m happy setting the thermostat to 60F and just letting it ride. Basically keeping it as a hedge against real discomfort but not using it very often. I’m seeing all these recommendations for 68 degrees, though… are people really doing that when it’s not, like, snowing outside?

    1. Val*

      Yeah, I’m definitely in the 68 degrees crowd. But I guess it depends on the size of your house (two bedroom well-insulated apartment here) and how much it costs to keep it heated. My parents keep their “big” house closer to 62, and turn on the heater/use the fireplace to have the room they’re using at 66-68 when they want a heat boost.

      1. Coenobita*

        Same, we have a small, well-insulated townhouse with electric heat/cooling and this year I’ve been keeping the thermostat around 68F since we turned the heat on. Normally – ie if there was nobody at home during the day – we’d keep it way lower, but I’m working from home due to covid and get so, so cold sitting at my desk. I’d probably be fine at 62-65F wearing a hat/scarf/blanket but I have a ton of video calls so I’ve been trying to stay warm enough to be reasonably presentable :)

    2. allathian*

      We keep our living areas at around 21.5 C / 71 F and our bedrooms at 19 C / 66 F. It helps that our house is built on a slope and our main entrance is on the first floor and our bedrooms are in the basement/ground floor (half of that storey, that is our sauna/shower room and home gym, is built underground, but there’s a door to our garden and our bedrooms have big windows). These temperatures are pretty cool in comparison with the houses of most of my friends. Our house is 8 years old, well-insulated and we have geothermal heating, so it saves on the utility bills.

      We have 4 seasons and during the winter, our temperatures drop below 0 C/32 F and temperatures below -18 C/0 F occur at least a few days every year. We don’t have central AC, though, because our temperatures in the summer rarely rise above 25 C/77 F for long periods of time. In fact, three days in a row at that temperature counts as a heatwave. We usually have one or two heatwaves every summer, unless it’s a particularly cold and rainy summer. The highest temperatures we’ve had here are around 33 C/90 F.

    3. Pennyworth*

      Try 60F and see how it works for you. You can always change the setting, but if you are used to living at a cooler temperature why go to the expense of a higher temperature unless you feel the need for it?

    4. Jane Smith*

      Unless it’s very cold, I keep ambient temp at about 17.5°C (63.5°F). On milder days I turn the heating off completely and let the temp fall until I feel like it needs to go on again. For a bit of extra heat I’ll put it up to 19.5°C (67°F) but rarely above that and only for an hour or so till I warm up. I don’t like to go too far either way, and so I keep the heat fairly steady. I run cold as a person though, so if you cope with it at 60F then why put the heating up and incur the extra costs when you don’t really need to?

    5. RowanUK*

      This is a really useful thread for me right now.

      I moved into my first place in January and a combination of me not understanding the heating system and worrying about how much heating will cost, has meant that I’ve kept the heat off.

      I’ve noticed that I actually get really cold at around 15c / 59f so – when I figure out how to work the thing, I think that will be my cue to turn the heat on. My sister says 20c/68f is a good place to start for keeping the place warm.

    6. Semi-Anon for Identifying Details*

      I don’t have central heat….

      In the summer, we run the A/C as lightly as possible to keep the edge off – I need it to sleep, but during the day we often get by with fans and minimal clothing. Summer temperatures are 36 C and very humid (97 F). When we do set the A/C it’s at 26 or 27 (~80 F). In the winter it rarely goes below 12 C (54 F), but indoor heating is unusual and it’s very damp. Usually, we wear fluffy clothing, and break out a space heater in the bedroom when needed.

      When I lived in colder climates, I usually set things to be comfortable wearing a sweater while stationary, and cooler at night, with lots of fluffy blankets.

      1. Clisby*

        I also keep AC at 78 degrees (I live in coastal SC, in the US). If it’s really humid, I’ll set it to 76 degrees, just so I don’t feel like I’m living in a sauna. In winter, 68 degrees F during the day, 60 at night (I like sleeping in a cold room).

    7. CoffeeforLife*

      We just had a technician out and I asked him the same question. He says he keeps his place at 72F (22.2C). I think our windows are poorly insulated and there’s always a drafty chill in the air if I put it in the 60s. We’re in a mid Atlantic state, so 4 seasons and it’s in the 40s right now

      1. Just a PM*

        Same here. Mid Atlantic state and I keep mine at 72 degrees. I wish I could put it at 75 since I run cold but anything more than 72 makes it too hot upstairs in the bedrooms. (I put the AC at 74 in the summer.)

        Heat comes on when it’s in the low 60s.

        1. CoffeeforLife*

          Thankfully we have 2 units so i can keep the upstairs cooler for sleeping. I wish I could keep it set lower but it’s just not comfortable. And yes, I wear wool socks, thermals and a sweater. I have a Comfy (like a giant sherpa blanket sewn into a hoodie) and live in it during the winter.

          1. Cary*

            You can cut down on the drafts with a stuffed draft blocker (easy) or a window winterizing kit from the hardware store (work, I don’t do this but my parents used to). It’s plastic film that you heat-seal to the window with a hair dryer. Do it in the fall, take it down in the spring, makes the place much more comfortable if the windows are drafty.

            Also, you might like to add thick (like sheepskin) or puffy (like down with a foam sole) slippers and a puffy vest. A Comfy sounds interesting, I’ll have to look that up!

    8. Buni*

      My own internal ‘chilly, better put the heat on’ alarm goes off at about 15C / 60F, then I’ll put the heating on at about 17.5 / 65. It rarely falls below -5C here and I’ve warm-loving neighbours below me, but I’ve only single-glazed windows and a badly-if-at-all insulated roof above, so it evens out.

      Mind you, I also grew up cash-poor in a succesion of large old draughty houses, and if you went complaining about the cold to my parents you’d better be already wearing 17 jumpers when you did…

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        That sounds like me. Older house, poor insulation (although re-roofed in this millennium). My dad rules his home climate with an iron will and when he made a grand gesture of turning on the heat at night “for the baby” when we stayed over last Christmas, I woke up perishing of heat and had to throw off the covers to get back to sleep. I don’t have the greatest temperature regulation internally (metabolic stuff), but as long as I don’t GET cold to start with, it seems like I can be pretty comfortable at lower temps.

    9. sswj*

      I’m in South Carolina and when it gets cold (finally) here I keep the place between 66 and 68, with 64 or so for sleeping. A lot depends on if it’s very sunny, or damp and windy. I’ll actually hit the heat sometimes just because the place feels damp even if the house temp is where it usually is. The humidity where were are can be worse than the actual air temperature!

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is my experience (in a southern state that has seasons) 65 or lower at night, 67-68 during the day. I usually don’t even turn it on until around Thanksgiving. This year it was December 1 when I finally turned it on.

        But if it’s sunny, I turn it off all together during the day. If it’s damp and dreary, it might say it’s 66 inside but I need to cut the chill so I’ll turn it up to 69 just long enough to get the furnace to run once, get some hot air circulating and then turn it off again. I have electric heat.

        I grew up in Pennsylvania and had gas heat – I ran it for a lot longer during the year but because of the gas I kept it at 60 at night at 67 during the day and that was enough to be comfy in sweats and slippers.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      For me, oil based heat is cheaper than using more electricity for space heaters and such. So I go with the oil.
      I have a programable thermostat which saves me a lot of guesswork.
      I turn the heat on usually about the end of September. (Temps are dipping into the low 40s and 30s by then.) I use a night time setting of 65. For mornings and evenings (dinner time) I have a setting of 70.
      When we get down to days of zero degree weather I have to override the settings because it is cold in here.

      If you are comfy then no worries.
      For me being too cold is a problem. I start feeling logy/draggy and I can start feeling down in the dumps about things. Once I turn the heat up, I start feeling better.
      The one thing I do have to watch here is problems with moisture. I live in a wet area. If I keep the house too cool, I can end up with dampness and molds in corners, just because there is so much moisture in the air. Dehumidifiers are spendy to run all the time, so turning up the heat just makes sense.

      As long as you are happy and comfy and the house seems to be doing okay, then I don’t see a need to change what you are doing.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Good point about the house taking it well — I haven’t noticed any moisture issues over the last few years, but our living space is a story above ground so I think that helps.

    11. Lora*

      50-60F, and where I live winter goes down to about 10-20 F at night, sometimes below zero (-20C). No, am not kidding, and I don’t get hypothermia, it’s the equivalent of a warm spring day. The bathroom has a space heater and that’s the only place I’m not wearing Heattech long underwear and wool socks/sweater.

      I love sleeping with the cold on my face under heavy quilts and a down comforter. If you wear a base layer of wool or Heattech leggings and undershirts under a good quality real wool or cashmere sweater, and a hat, you will be plenty warm. Heat can be insanely expensive where I live – my winter heating bill is regularly $2500 even at this temperature, even with the house well insulated with R40 in the attic. Before I insulated the attic, windows and a wall, and shut off the crappy oil furnace in favor of electric heat, the winter heat cost $7500-11,000.

      Flannel sheets, layers with long underwear and a wool layer. If you’re still chilly after that, polar fleece or light down jacket, but a merino wool sweater over heattech shirt does wonders.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Jiminy Christmas. You mean $2500 for the whole winter, not per month, I hope? You’re right though, that’s still wacky expensive — we keep the thermostat at 70 for a 4500 sqft house in the Midwest year round, with both electric heat and AC, and our full 12-month power expenditure doesn’t hit $2500.

        1. Lora*

          For the whole winter *now*, turning the heat on in November and turning it off about mid-April. When I first bought the house, it was well over $2000/month – the oil heater was not very efficient (despite being about 12 years old in 2006), frequently broke down, and oil at the time was well over $4/gallon. The original house had a single batt of fiberglass insulation casually tossed into a crawlspace, original mid-1800s windows and doors that had been made by the previous owner from rough cut wood as a hobby project (as opposed to fitted wood doors with weatherstripped jambs – which apparently the owner before him had installed, and he got rid of them). That’s for a 2500 square foot house – the oil company was refilling a 300 gallon tank about every 2-2.5 weeks. And it was still pretty drafty.

          I spent a fortune installing historically-acceptable double glazed windows, which had to be hand-made, insulating the attic, replacing the clapboards to insulate walls and putting reproduction-historically-accurate doors (with proper jambs and weatherstripping) on the house, and getting electric heat to replace the oil furnace. I STILL cannot get the original oil furnace people to come out and collect their disconnected paperweight from my basement, there’s some EPA thing they have to do to remove it and they don’t wanna.

          That’s before we talk about the lead and asbestos remediation that had to be done before moving in. Antique houses LOOK really cool, I am the first to say that oak paneling made of old growth forest and huge exposed timbers are lovely, but they take a ton of work to be livable.

          1. Lora*

            Also – the heating bills *have* come down some in the last year or so and I’m hopeful that it will come further down this year. For a while my mother was spending most days at my house, and she would crank the heat up to mid-70s while she was here, still complaining all the time that it was cold (she did the same in her apartment, which was practically a blast furnace). Then I had a housemate who also turned the heat up and ran every electronic device you can think of 24/7, who I kicked out in early January. So, ideally I’d like to see the heating bill well under $700/month…

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Oh gosh, I bet it is gorgeous though, and bless you for trying to keep the original look of the thing despite the expense!!

          3. Uranus Wars*

            You have just validated my choice to not buy an old mansion on the cheap about 10 years ago.

            It was BEAUTIFUL and structurally the previous owners ensured it was sound. Long story, but the couple selling it was the wife’s sister and BIL who were in their 70s and couldn’t keep up with it and their own home and didn’t want to become landlords that late in life.

            It had oil heat and the main reason I passed was because even keeping it at 60 was $1,000 per month in winter…the “selling point” was that with 9 working fire places you didn’t have to use the heat as much.Well, that might be true but I also don’t want to come home from work and maintain 9 fire places or live in 2 rooms!

            1. Lora*

              YES I tell my friends who talk about buying an old house – you do not actually want an antique house. You want a *reproduction*. The heat isn’t even the worst part, the crazymaking part to me is that when something breaks, a regular contractor won’t touch it because they don’t know how to do timber framing or plastering with actual plaster – they need to hire a specialist. Then they have to get a permit from town. And a specialized architect. And, and, and. By the time you find someone willing to take on any given repair, no matter how urgent it is, several months have passed and it costs 10X your original budget based on modern-house estimates. I finally replaced my doors because they had cracks showing daylight through them – huge, enormous cracks, I put space blankets over every door but one. It took 8 months to get a contractor to install doors, which had to be custom fabricated and had 4-month lead times, despite a really horrible winter that year. If you saw these doors, they are not substantially different from any other door you see at Home Depot, but they are made of wood and made to fit sort of a weird measurement because the timber frame stops at a slightly lower height than modern standards. They cost $6000 installed. For a regular boring wood door that doesn’t even look like much – on a modern house, would be maybe $1000 tops. Dumb stuff like that, it will drive you completely bonkers.

            2. Woman of a Certain Age*

              When my parents were children, they both lived through the Great Depression and, at different times, in houses that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing, as well as central heating. They grew up with kerosene and wood for heat. (This was in the 1930s and 1940s). I grew up thinking that fireplaces were attractive and desirable and cozy, I guess from watching TV and movies.

              Strangely enough, no one in my immediate family actually has a house with a working fireplace. In the 1990s, my then 70-something grandmother built her dream home and it lacked one. When I asked her why, she said she was so tired of cold drafty fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, and of cleaning ashes out of them that she never wanted to see one again and I think that is how most of my relatives of a certain age feel to this day.

          4. Not So NewReader*

            You have done an awesome job with your heat bill. I am so impressed.

            I live in an old school house. We took out the tar paper and put in actual insulation. I think the ceiling has R-30 something. When oil was at $4 per gal, I paid a little over $4400 for that year. With the insulation and the lower oil price, I am down to $1800 per year. (I also have new energy windows and new doors all around.) Should it go to $4 a gal again, I anticipate a bill in the range of $2400. Not great but no where near what others are wrestling with.

        2. Quiet Liberal*

          Wow, that is spendy, even for the whole year! We live in a similar climate. (It’s 10F right now) We heat/cool a 2200 sq ft, 70-year-old house and our natural gas/electric bill is $70/month for everything. We keep our thermostat at 70F during the day and 55F at night in winter. Like Lora, we love to sleep in a cold room with lots of covers.

        1. Cary*

          The typical advice for avoiding pipes freezing is to keep the thermostat at 55 (I’ve occasionally seen 60 recommended for places that routinely get below -10F). It does also depend on where the pipes are and if they’re insulated. Ours mostly aren’t (old pipes, want to find leaks), but they are insulated within 6 feet of outside walls in the basement (and the main waste pipe that runs down the outside wall is insulated), and that seems to work fine with the thermostat set to 55F at night.

        2. Lora*

          Heat tracing!

          You can buy it at Home Depot, they are rubber-encased heat cables that plug in. I think the brand is Frost King. And then wrap piping insulation around that. Due to the plumbing being a retrofit, a lot of the piping is actually sort of built into a cabinet area in the kitchen, and there’s only two stretches that go through crawl spaces – both of which have heating cables and a LOT of insulation now.

        1. Winter*

          As I was saying, me, too. House is around 55-58 days, low 50s at night. That’s just my temp. Northeast, cold winters, wood heat mainly, but like Lora, a heater in the bathroom ‘cause you gotta drop trou. Have a central system for backup or to keep a minimum heat if I have to be away. I had to take shorts when visiting Mom, because she set her thermostat at “stifling,” somewhere in the low 80s.

          For those with drafts/poorly sealed homes, shrink wrapping your windows works wonders!

      2. Cary*

        Haha no. No, we’re two people who tend to be cold, and we do keep it at 55 at night and 60 during the day, and

        (a) We were also always COLD outside on a “warm spring day,” I gotta say 60F is not “warm” (except relatively) and never was; and

        (b) We are not “plenty warm” in just a base layer, a cashmere sweater and a hat, nowhere near. Cashmere’s warm for its weight but it’s also very light, so “warm for its weight” still isn’t warm enough for us for this purpose.

        It *is* completely doable even for us, even though we both have Raynaud’s, but please do realize it’s much harder for some people than it seems to be for you!

        Sheepskin slippers over wool (or acrylic for the allergic person) socks; lined pants (because we can’t find baselayer bottoms that both fit and breathe); baselayer top plus lined flannel shirt, plus 2-3 sweaters or a sweater and down vest, and add a sweatshirt or robe as needed; hat. The first year we also needed fingerless gloves at times.

        Extra thick flannel PJs (Vermont Country Store FTW, nothing else is as warm and durable as their store brand or the Lanz they sell, $$$ but worth it), flannel sheets and a polyfill comforter AND a down comforter at night.

        Oh and yeah, space heater in the bathroom.

        (Yeah we also have an old house. :D)

        Now *speed-walking* somewhere, that’s different. Even in the 40s, if I’m hurrying to or from the store or something, I’m comfy in my lined pants, long underwear top, LL Bean merino sweatshirt (RIP, wish they’d bring it back, I was about to buy another when they discontinued it), and Gore-Tex jacket. And hat and gloves which I take on and off to adjust temperature as I walk. But that’s semi-vigorous physical activity. Sitting and working from home or watching TV…is not.

        1. Lora*

          That is true – I am very physically active and have a lot more muscle mass than most. Rarely sit down for more than a couple of hours at a time, unless I’m actually sleeping, and normally when I sit down it’s with a hot cup of caffeine. That makes a difference.

          When I am doing normal chores around the house, even at 60F, I am sweating. In summer I spend a lot of time in the pool or not moving in front of a fan, with a pitcher of cold mint tea at the ready. Hot flashes only got somewhat better and sort of evened out, for me, they never really went 100% away yet, and it’s been 7 years now…

        2. Lora*

          Oh, also, if you liked the LL Bean merino – definitely check out Uniqlo! Their Heattech apparel was originally designed for use in Hokkaido where it gets as cold as New England, but houses are much less insulated and weather-proofed. They also do some nice basic merino sweaters that are very warm. I have absolutely no affiliation with them other than a drawerful of leggings and undershirts.

          Also, if you have some money to spend on the good stuff, alpaca fiber anything is wonderfully warm and soft. My sock drawer is nearly all alpaca and llama socks these days.

          And now I go out in the nor’easter to shovel…

          1. Cary*

            Thanks! Does the whole “changes moisture into heat” thing really work? I really liked the LL Bean Heavyweight polyester baselayer until it started causing problems from not being breathable enough.

            1. Lora*

              Welllllll eh. It keeps you warmer than wool long underwear, especially if for example you go out to shovel the driveway or have a hot flash vision of hell, and start sweating like mad and your leggings and undershirt get sweaty – when you settle back down you will not be suddenly smacked with chills. You will still be warm and gradually cool off. Whether this is due to “turning moisture into heat” or merely being extraordinarily good at wicking sweat off you, I don’t know. I can say that even when you shoveled the entire damn driveway and sweated through your deodorant, when you go back indoors to guzzle drinks, you are still warm, whereas with wool long underwear or that waffle weave cotton stuff – not so much, I would feel suddenly slapped with cold. It really is the best I have found for long underwear though, and I swear I have tried everything on the market. Silk did nothing and I might as well have been naked. Wool was itchy and had the wave of ice thing. Waffle weave stuff was bulky, annoying and didn’t fit well at all, I felt like I had to live in long hippie skirts and wearing it to work was out of the question. The technical fiber stuff you can get from outdoor sporting goods places had the wrapped in plastic (OMG the lady parts were VERY unhappy with that) issue you spoke to. But the Heattech stuff breathes, can be worn under regular pants and also comes in plain neutral tights that are appropriate under-dress work wear, is very washable, soft and comfortable, and really, really helps.

    12. Mimosa Jones*

      Here in northern New England, I try to keep the heat off into October, but I don’t always make it. We have zones and programmable thermostats (worth every penny) and have the downstairs living areas set for 67 daytime and 62 nighttime. The upstairs is set to 62 all the time with a short boost in the morning to encourage us out of bed. My office is on this floor and I use a space heater to keep that warm. I can’t function if the house is colder than 64. I just stay huddled under blankets no matter how many layers I’m wearing.

    13. Not Alison*

      We keep our thermostat at 62F at night and 64F during the day (except if the house gets really chilly we will boost it to 66F for a while). When my spouse used to say it was too cold, my response was “well, put on proper winter clothing” (i.e. long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt, long pants and socks). And that has worked.

      1. Kt*

        We also have 64 for “around during daytime” and down to 58 at night. I find that if I wash my hair in the evening and it’s 57 and I don’t wear a hat, I’m miserable. So I put a strict 58-degree minimum. I find I am sensitive to temp to the degree at a certain point, but above that it’s fine.

        I do love sweaters though :)

    14. ThatGirl*

      We are near Chicago. No real snow yet but it’s been chilly at points. We keep our heat at 68 during the day and 62 at night. Our house is about 25 years old so some of the window insulation is failing, but we got a new front door and that’s really helped. We have gas heat and it’s not too expensive.

    15. Jules the 3rd*

      We’re 72ish in winter, 76ish in summer. US South, not going to get above 50 F this weekend. Lows in the 30s are common, in the 20s happen, in the 10s are rare.

      But our dog is a whippet, and she gets uncomfortable if the house goes below 72. We just had the HVAC replaced, the house hovered in the low 60s, and she only came out of the blankets to walk in her coat. She doesn’t like to wear the coat all the time.

      My parents keep their house in the mid-60s with a fire in the fireplace, and I find that uncomfortably cold in the guest bedroom. The fireplace draws in air from the outside, so the back rooms end up in the 50s.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Awww, chilly whippet!

        The cats have their own heated beds here (and a lap of whoever’s working from home) so I just worry about our toddler getting too cold. (That’s why we turned on the heater this year — last winter she was tiny and immobile and we used a space heater in her room, but now she’s on the go and I worry about her investigating hot appliances right at her level.) Her hands are usually cold to the touch, even when it’s not winter, but her feet and the back of her neck stay warm with reasonable clothing. Usually long cotton or fleece jammies and a fleece sleepsack over the top at night. This morning the thermometer read 56 inside and I was comfortable standing in front of it in a t-shirt, pajama pants, and wool socks (although when stationary on the couch I do want a quilt to snuggle under); she’s wearing a thick cotton jumper and seems perfectly happy.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I think there’s a lot of variability based on ‘what you are used to’ and ‘how you just are’. If the baby seems happy, she probably is.
          – I can tolerate lower temps better in January than in November.
          – My husband can tolerate lower temps better than I can all year round. He just got a heat camera attachment for his phone, and we have established that he’s noticeably warmer than I am, especially hands and feet.

          But in the US South, my ability to handle warmer temps better is the more useful adaption.

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            I wish I could adapt to warmer temps! We had a September heat wave the last couple years, and even with all fans going it was pretty miserable. And there’s only so many layers of clothing you can take OFF. Southerners are acclimated to this (or know all the tips and tricks), but around here we’re pretty useless in the heat. Plus there’s no AC — my workplace shut down several times because it got over the proscribed 87 degrees inside. Lots of baby baths and dinner in the bathtub!

    16. Puffle*

      This is a strangely fascinating thread to read- and interesting to get a benchmark of what other people do.

      I only really turn my central heating on from about Nov to Feb, and only during the early morning/ evening. I turn it off when I go to bed. It’s usually on 18/19C (66/67F). But I live in fairly mild climate, and have neighbours on either side. Average temperature in winter here is about 3C (37.4F), and it can occasionally drop down to around to the -5C (23F) mark.

    17. PostalMixup*

      Tl;dr – it’ll probably depend a lot on your specific house and who lives there. You might want to just pick a temperature to start with, see how it goes, and adjust from there.
      Long answer:
      It really depends on a lot of factors. When I lived in Tucson, our house didn’t have heat (well, it did. It was just the only thing that ran on gas, which we had never turned on). The first winter there were 3 of us living in the house, and we honestly never realized the heat didn’t work. The second winter there were only two of us, and we didn’t generate enough body/electronics heat to keep the house comfortable. Our house was about 58F and I was miserable, sleeping in a sweatshirt under SO many blankets.
      Now I live in the southern part of the Midwest. It’s not Arctic, but it gets plenty cold in the winter (we’ve got lows on the 20s right now). Our thermostat is in the center of the house, which means that most rooms are colder than the thermostat thinks the house is. If we set the heat to 68F, the front room is 64 – unless it’s morning, and sunny, and the blinds are open, in which case it’s actually 68. So we set the thermostat to 68 until 3:00pm, when it bumps up to 70.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Ah, yes, good point about the thermostat location! Ours is also central to the house layout. Our front room gets a lot of midday/afternoon sun, so from about 2PM onward it is VERY warm (and I usually have the front door open with the screen on), but the bedroom at the back of the house is FRIGID in the mornings. Have been noticing the difference more now that we can’t go anywhere and have been working from home all day.

    18. Mimmy*

      We have both central heat and cooling. We keep the heat at 71-72F during the day and 65F at night during the colder months and about 72-74F during the summer. We have oil heating.

    19. CatCat*

      Sounds like I’m in a similar climate to you. Ours is set to 62 for most of the time, but programmed to go to 68 for a couple hours early in the morning when it’s coldest. Otherwise, yeah, put on a sweater. We put hot water bottles in our bed in the evening before we go to bed. We use a space heater in our living room where we spend most of our at-home time because we don’t need to heat the whole place when we’re in one room. I WFH in the living room and use the space heater or hot water bottle during the day if needed. Our energy bills go way down in the winter.

    20. Jackalope*

      I spent a number of years living in apartment buildings where the temperature was set by the building manager, who tended to keep it fairly warm. In one building you had absolutely no choice about it; the heat would turn on sometime in mid-October and then off in the spring. In the other, they would turn the boiler on in mid-October, but you could either have the heat on (and very warm!) or off, because the radiators had just one setting. (I normally turned the radiator on in one room, and the apartment was small enough that that worked for the whole place.) So I got used to having things be kind of warm and not having to worry about the cost (both places the heat bill was bundled into the rent).

      Currently the region where I’m living it’s usually in the mid to upper 40s Fahrenheit during the day and low to mid 30s at night. We have the heat set at 68 degrees during the day, but there’s only 1 thermostat in the house, my housemate is working in one of the colder rooms, and I’m in the very hottest room in the whole place. So I’m often at 75 or so up here, thinking about wearing shorts, and then go down to visit her on my breaks and she’s bundled up in multiple layers and still cold. We’re leaving it at 68 since that’s survivable for both of us if we each wear appropriate layers, but it is kind of funny sometimes. (I’ll go downstairs and start shivering, or she’ll come up to my room and say, “Wow, it’s SO warm in here!”) We’re both full-time WFH at the moment so it’s got to be something we can both manage.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s my situation – my building dates to the early 1900s and we only keep 2 out of the 5 radiators on. We’re still often broiling and have windows open at least a bit even on the coldest days.

        1. Cary*

          As you probably know, heating systems in buildings that age were designed for people to keep the windows open all winter because it was thought to be healthy. (And in the 1918 flu, it *was*!)

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            I didn’t know that! In my house (y’know, without running the heater) we keep track of the seasons by when we can keep the windows open. Usually we button them up some October night and look forward to the late-February/March date when it’s warm enough to crank them open again. Occasional exceptions made throughout the year for surprise rainstorm or smoky oven incident.

          2. pancakes*

            I have read that! It does feel healthy to me, but it’s so inefficient. I have a good friend who’s really into passive house tech and he can talk about energy efficiency for hours on end.

        2. Clisby*

          Same with my college dormitory. It had radiator heat, which apparently could be set to OFF or BLAST FURNACE. We had the windows wide open for most of the winter (this is in South Carolina).

    21. fhqwhgads*

      Mine it set to 64, although I have it turned off at the moment and it’s 62 in here right now. My overnight lows sound similar to yours. Occasionally it’ll go down to high 30s, but that rarely lasts more than an hour. I just wear a sweater during the day. No space heaters or anything.

    22. Cary*

      60F here (55 at night), because we have oil heat and that shit is expensive. :D IOW we even have it at 60F when it *is* snowing outside. We run cold, so for us it takes layering and so on. Ordinary shoes aren’t warm enough (even with warm socks) so we wear sheepskin slippers. We also wear lined pants, lined shirts (or, LL Bean chamois shirts are extra warm for their bulk) and either 2-3 sweaters or else a sweater and a down vest. And a hat and/or fleece robe over top if still cold. But oil heat is so expensive that these layers paid for themselves in one heating season. At the same time, you can see why someone else who runs as cold as we do might set their heat warmer. But if you’re comfortable at 60, there’s no reason not to leave it there!

    23. Courageous cat*

      It rarely gets below 30 degrees on winter nights, usually highs in the 40s-50s during the depths of winter here (which is fairly short)

      I keep it on 68-70 when I’m home and up, bump down to 65 during the day. I find inside temperatures to be very different than outside temperatures – 65, for instance, is perfectly agreeable outside, but I start to get soooo cold inside, and no amount of wool socks can help. 60 would kill me.

      1. Tortally HareBrained*

        Agreed on the 60s feeling differently indoors and outdoors. We also have ours set between 67-69 for hours we are home (and also during the day since we have small mammals) and a hair lower at night for sleeping.

    24. Dan*

      Temps are weird. For quite awhile, I was ride-or-die at 68 year-round. I grew up in the Upper Midwest, so I know what cold temps are. I live in the mid atlantic now, and it doesn’t get that cold this far south. It does, however, get humid as all get out in the summer. For that reason, I’m reaching for the AC quicker than many.

      That said… I’ve been losing body fat, and consequently, I need warmer temps to be comfortable. It used to be that 75 would make be start to sweat just sitting around. Now? 74-75 is my comfortable temp while WFH all day. I set it to 70 to sleep. Whereas in years past I’m sure 62 at night would be fine, something that cold would have me freezing my arse off.

    25. RagingADHD*

      I prefer it around 68 by day and 62 at night, but my family (including spouse) would prefer to crank it up to 75 and sit around in tank tops. We have many discussions.

      The youngest just got guinea pigs for her birthday, and from what I’m reading 62 is probably too chilly for them, so I’ll probably reprogram the night setting to 65.

      1. Workerbee*

        We tailor our heat for our guinea pigs, as well. If they’re puffed up, it’s too cold. We also have fleece beds and fleece blankets for them (which they use).

    26. CoffeeforLife*

      This thread has taught me that I *cannot* move to a colder clime nor do I want oil heating.

    27. Dancing Otter*

      Well, it isn’t snowing yet… but we regularly get winter temperatures in negative numbers Fahrenheit.
      My apartment is NOT well insulated. In fact, I can see the blinds swaying in the draft as I write this. In order to keep the temperature at 60F, I need to set the thermostat closer to 80. With sun, it may get to 65 during the day, but there were nights last winter that I wore a wool hat and socks to bed with three quilts.
      When I had my own house, I had a programmable thermostat. I set it to 62 overnight and while we were out during the day, but 68 mornings and evenings when people would be taking showers, changing clothes, trying to warm up after being outside, etc. Sometimes, the sweaters and shawls have to come off, you know?

      1. RagingADHD*

        If you have drafty windows, I have had a lot of success with that plastic film that you can heat-shrink with a hair dryer.

        You put it on the room side of the windowframe to create an air gap. Essentially creates the effect of a double-paned window, as well as stopping air leaks around the frame.

        It has made our place so much more comfy in winter, and saves $$$$$!

    28. PT*

      68 in the winter, 75 in the summer (down to 73 at night.) There’s usually a few degrees spread based on how much sun/shade a room gets and how far it is from the HVAC unit.

    29. Rebecca Stewart*

      We keep ours around 65, which means for me if I’m just sitting I want my sweater on and I don’t go barefoot anyway (I have a lift in one shoe). Upstairs I don’t need the sweater. Some nights I open a window before bed. It’ll be interesting to see how the new house handles proper cold.

    30. Mella*

      I’m in NEUS, and it depends on the type of heat. I grew up in an old farmhouse with radiators, and they would pour out heat long after the thermostat would tell them to stop. Now I live in a 90s Colonial with forced air, and we keep it cranked to the mid-70s because this type of heat doesn’t radiate into the floor and furniture, so it feels cold again as soon as it kicks off.

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

      I keep it set to 17-18 degrees C (62-64 F) generally, I tried to position the thermostat in a fairly central place which means some parts of the house end up colder than that (I don’t think the insulation is very good…).

      I remember living in a rented place where there was no real heating to speak of — there were those “storage heaters” which heat up a brick of concrete overnight when electricity is cheaper and then gradually release it during the day, but we couldn’t use them as all the knobs had been removed and then when I worked around that, found that they had electrical issues resulting in dangerous electrics. The rental agency people were less than helpful, which is to say, as much use as a chocolate teapot. We spent most of that time with a temperature in the house of about 8-9 degrees C – 46-48 F….

      We only lived there 18 months including 1.5 winters (the first winter, and the one we moved during, just around Christmas when no one is available, which makes it extra fun) as the landlord apparently wasn’t paying his mortgage (what exactly was he doing with the rent we paid him every month, then? The answer is blowing in the wind…) so the bank started foreclosure proceedings against him, and I don’t think he had even made the bank aware he was renting the place out!

    32. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I guess I live in one of those western/mid-western states where the weather is usually between 20 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.67 to 4.5 C) in the winter (with occasional dips down to 20 F below zero (-29 C or so) and then between 70 and 85 degrees (21 to 29 C) in the summer (with occasional highs up to 105 or (40 C) so). Being old and probably having Renaud’s disease, I leave my thermostat set at 75 F (24 C) in the winter and 80 F (27 C) in the summer. I set the thermostat lower in the winter (60 F/15C) and higher in the summer (95 F/35C) wwhen I’m not home, like when I was at work or on vacation.

      I live in a fairly newish (built in 1995), but drafty, apartment of about 1,000 square feet and have natural gas powered forced-air heat. The combined gas and electric bills have never been more than $75.00 a month. Since working from home, I find that when I’m at my desk in the mornings my feet will still be cold so I’ve resorted to having a small electric space heater under my desk to keep them warm.

      Lately, I’ve been reading about a kind of plug-in electric floor mat to keep feet warm and I’m thinking I’ll get one to replace the space heater. Supposedly it is similar to those kind of new electric radiant heat elements that they are installing in new luxury housing under the floorboards. One of my co-workers built a new house and had those built in and she says that it is the epitome of luxury.

    33. ....*

      I pretty much leave mine at 70 all winter. I live where it gets cold and snowy for months at a time but only live in a 1 bed room apt. My bill usually only goes up 20-30 bucks per month in the winter. Id be extremely cold and unhappy at only 60 degrees

  10. Val*

    Maternity leave question.

    I gave birth on Thanksgiving (yay), baby boy is gorgeous, I’m fine and not exceedingly exhausted (considering), and husband is home (silver lining of covid layoffs). He’s involved and thrilled. It’s our first kid.

    I will be on maternity leave until March (not the US) and am only keeping a distant eye on what’s going on at work (i have a senior role in a small company). Baby already has a daycare spot for March+ (small place, reasonably covid compatible).

    For those of you who had maternity (or paternity) leave, what have you enjoyed doing? Either with baby, or for yourself / as a couple?
    Anything you regret doing/not doing?
    Obviously, visits will be few and the weather is cold, so we’ll be mostly indoors.

    For now, I’ve been making a photo album and we (husband mainly^^) has been fixing up the always-postponed small stuff in the house + doing some decorating.
    We’d like to start baking now that I am allowed to eat most of everything again but baby (breastfed) sleeps in irregular bursts so it’s a bit tricky.

    1. Lemonwhirl*

      Don’t rule out outside activities! I have a November baby (who is now inexplicably 10 years old), and as long as it was dry, I took him for a walk outside nearly every day. He was well bundled and the fresh air and change of scenery was good for both of us.

    2. allathian*

      Congrats on your new baby!

      I’m not in the US either, and I had 3 months of maternity leave at full pay (paid by my employer) and then about 20 more months of parental leave at 60 percent pay (paid by our social services), so my son was a bit over two years old when he went to daycare. My husband works in a very conservative field where men almost never take paternity leave, he took two weeks when our son was a newborn. When I went on leave, it was like being furloughed, I had to hand in my work ID, work phone, etc. Even had I wanted to, there was no way for me to keep up with what was going on at work. I’ve never had a boss go on maternity leave, my current boss is in her mid-30s and she has a couple of kids, but she was an individual contributor when she took maternity leave and she did the same thing as I did. I did keep in touch with my boss about return dates etc. by email using my private email address. Some parents on maternity or paternity leave have brought their kids to the office for a visit, but I never did.

      I was very lucky in that my MIL, who had retired early for health reasons a few years earlier but was well enough to care for our son, enjoyed spending time with him. We have a great relationship and I haven’t had any significant childcare issues with her.

      When my son was a few weeks old, I really didn’t do much. Now, more than 11 years later, I actually don’t remember much what I did, it’s all lost in a blur. A friend of mine had a baby about two months before I did, so when they were small, we took a lot of walks with our babies either awake or napping in their carriages. Your baby’s sleep will hopefully stabilize during the next few months and then it’ll be a lot easier to start baking.

      You could start using a baby carrier or sling where the baby faces inwards. I never did, but I’ve seen some moms even breastfeed their babies when they carry them that way. You could certainly do a lot of baking-related stuff with the baby in the carrier, although I’d avoid using a noisy electric mixer and putting stuff in and taking it out of the oven, for obvious reasons.

    3. Amy*

      Congratulations on your new baby! I’m due any day now with my second, but here’s what I remember from my first (pre-COVID, obviously).

      Even though young babies are a lot of work, they’re pretty easy in some ways. There’s a limited repertoire of things they need (eat, nap, diaper change) and they will sleep pretty much anywhere. I remember feeling like I needed to be doing something enriching with my baby all the time, but newborns honestly don’t care much about “activities.” All that to say, once baby’s basic needs are met, focus on what you and your husband need to stay sane and connected as caregivers! It’s a marathon!

      One of the absolute best things I did as a new mom was joining a local support group for parents of newborns. Obviously in COVID times it won’t be quite the same, but even via Zoom it’s so helpful to have a space to chat with other moms dealing with the same stuff. I’m still in touch with some of them years later.

      Getting out of the house for a walk every day is huge. Try to make it a goal, even when it feels like a PITA. Weeks on end of being stuck indoors with a newborn is crazy-making, COVID or no.

      If it’s safe to do so in your area, take advantage of the newborn period to do some road trips (maybe just for the day). Once your baby hits the ~4 month mark you will be more homebound since the baby will not take naps “on the go” as easily, whereas newborns are generally just as happy to sleep in a carrier or car seat as in their cribs. Honestly, perhaps more so.

      Take lots of pictures and videos! You might consider signing up for a service to store and share memories with relatives and friends, especially since COVID may have taken visits off the table. We really like TinyBeans, which sends a daily digest of photos and videos to people you designate. We’ve kept up with it for years and it’s a lot of fun to look back on since everything is organized stored in the cloud.

    4. Anona*

      Honestly I was too tired to do much more than exist for the first couple months. Sometimes I’d watch shows or movies but I have recollection of trying to watch a documentary and having to restart it a bunch of times before finally giving up.
      Once she was a few months old I would take walks with her and the dog, and also bring her to visit older friends and relatives.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Congratulations!

      I got bored, because the baby slept in between most feedings. So I took naps, took him for walks, read a lot, played some games, and started sneaking on-line to check work emails and emergencies around week 4 of my 6 weeks leave. I didn’t write anything, but I cleared my inbox and started a list of stuff to do once I got back.

    6. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      A lovely thing to do with small babies is learn some sign language and use it with them. Sometimes they’ll reply, with recognisable attempts to sign, before they can speak.
      Also, singing! This is a great time to learn some songs, even if you don’t think of yourself as a confident singer.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        I put that a bit wrong – “learning new songs” is an optional extra to “singing”, as most people already know some :-)

      2. Might Be Spam*

        My sister has her masters in early childhood education and works with babies. She teaches them sign language and says that they get less frustrated because sign language is easier than spoken language. They still pick up spoken language at the appropriate age.

      3. OtterB*

        My younger daughter hears fine but has major speech production issues. She worked with a speech therapist who taught her some sign. She was in the two-year-old room at day care (regular day care, not oriented to special needs, just generally great) when the teacher told me, laughing, that they’d had to teach the parents of the other kids a few signs, because as soon as the kids saw my daughter getting a response to a sign for “more” or “cookie,” the kids started signing for that too. :-)

        I read out loud to both my daughters. Some children’s books, but especially when they were very young, just whatever I would be reading anyway. Hearing the rhythms of language is good for them, and it was semi-interactive. There are still family jokes about me reading the Wall Street Journal to a newborn.

    7. Call Me Cordelia*

      Congrats on the little one! My girl is 13 months now and the past year has been a blast…silver lining to covid is all the time at home with her.

      I second the mom group suggestion above. Even zoom meetings will allow you to connect with families that are in a similar state of life. I’m still friends/friendly with the moms I did “mom group.” We‘be problem solved, shared sleep tips, discussed meeting milestones, helped each other through baby illnesses…I found to to be a lifesaver!

      I also recommend lots of walks and trips to coffee shops (be safe of course) and enjoy the the cuddles that come with the infant stage. Soon enough there will be a strict(Er) nap and feeding schedule.

    8. Dancing Otter*

      I don’t know how COVID-safe (or even available) this would be right now, but the Baby & Me exercise classes were great.

  11. StellaBella*

    Has anyone here ever had a frozen shoulder? If so, what did you do to get it back to normal? I am stretching and using tiger balm and hot showers and gentle exercise but this has been going on for over a month. Because of covid, am not too keen to go to physio any longer, tho I did go a few times before our virus counts spiked and am using those exercises.

    1. Quandong*

      Hi, yes, I have had a frozen shoulder and can share my experience. But I wanted to check first, do you have an official diagnosis? If so, what advice did you receive?

      It will make a difference to what I write especially if you have an informal assessment rather than a diagnosis from a shoulder specialist type of person.

      1. StellaBella*

        No, my doc looked at it and asked if i wanted more physio, so i may do this in a month if the virus is less present. She said it seemed very tight but is not an arm or muscle specialist. I was there for a pap smear. :/

      2. Nicole76*

        Not the OP but I’m going through this now and do have a diagnosis so I would really appreciate advice. I’ve been to PT twice now and have really poor range of motion. I can’t even put my hair up because I can’t reach that high or behind my back with my left arm.

      3. Freelance Accountant*

        My mother had a frozen shoulder after a car accident. After a year of physio and shots with no improvement she was desperate. What worked for her was accupuncture. She does not believe in alternative medicines or therapies AT ALL, so this gives you an idea of how desperate she was. I think her physiotherapist suggested it as a “can’t hurt, and might help” option.

    2. Outside Earthling*

      I had a frozen shoulder twice, once per shoulder. With the first one, I did a lot of physio. It was painful and expensive. Improvements were tiny. There was maybe a slight improvement in my range of motion but it was too small to be in any way meaningful. The second one I just left alone. I had faith by then that the situation would improve eventually, as I’d been through it with the first. I just gave it time and patience. It was a long haul but I got through it and am absolutely fine now.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      I was diagnosed with a frozen shoulder last February, squeezed in one p t session in March, and then…. I did exactly what you’re doing now! I now have almost 100% range of motion back and no discomfort. It took a lot longer than I had hoped, but I think the stretching was key. I am still doing shoulder exercises to prevent a recurrence. I hope you recover quickly!

    4. WellRed*

      I’m on round 3. First was worst. Honestly, just keep stretching and doing the exercises. It really takes time (months) to slowly unfreeze but it did and I could tell the tiny incremental improvements.

    5. Worked in IT forever*

      Yes, I’ve had a frozen shoulder. For a while, I had very limited range of motion and a lot of pain if I did any sudden movements. I went to physio, but I was busy at work and somewhat lazy at doing the daily exercises on my own, which likely delayed my recovery.

      A sports medicine doctor gave me a cortisone shot in the back of my shoulder, which helped a lot to get me over the pain threshold. It might have helped with the range of movement, too. (This happened several years ago, so I can’t remember.) The doctor did say I could have a second cortisone shot, but repeated cortisone shots are not very good for you for some reason. By the time I saw him again, I was a fair bit better, so he advised against getting a second shot.

      I was eventually 100%. To be honest, I think it took close to a year to get the last little bit of range of movement back (see previous comment about lack of focus on physio exercises), but I was in decent shape before then.

    6. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

      It took months of twice weekly physio (pre shutdown) to unfreeze my shoulder. I do the exercises still, because the shoulder that froze is my less dominant side and prone to stiffening up again. Give it time- this won’t resolve all at once, but if you stick to the exercises and keep it moving it will improve.

    7. Fred*

      I’m in the UK so treatments my be different depending where you are. Both my shoulders have frozen (Thankfully not at the same time tho…) For the first one (Left shoulder) I initially got a diagnosis of frozen shoulder after a range of x-rays to check there were no fractures as my range of movement has gone to virtually zero. The first treatment I had was a steroid injection into the shoulder capsule but although this helped slightly with the pain it did nothing for movement, the second treatment was guided injections of saline, steroids and something else (don’t remember what) into the capsule to essentially flood the capsule and to force the ligaments that had atrophied and adhered to the capsule wall back to more where they were supposed to be. The main thing with frozen shoulder is the time frame of each of the stages – the first stage is the freezing stage and on average will last 6 months, during this time the movement you are capable of will decrease, the next stage is the actual frozen stage, again this will last on average 6 months, the final stage is the thawing stage and again this will last on average 6 months. I found the freezing stage and the thawing stage to be the most painful.
      Even with physio during the thawing stage you may not get 100% range of movement back.

      The differences with the second frozen shoulder (right) has only really been the method of the guided injection, for the left shoulder this was done with a sonagram and for the right shoulder it was using x-ray.
      The time frame is also slighly different as the first shoulder followed the average 18 month period to a T and I got 95% movement back, however the right shoulder has been going on for 24 months and I currently only have 80% movement.

    8. Kama'aina Kitty*

      I had a frozen shoulder when I was around 51. I tried a cortisone shot, which was very painful and gave only limited relief. I ended up seeing an osteopath (DO) who gave me this exercise: lie on your back. Take each arm one at a time and make circles across your body, 10 times in each direction. Imagine you’re trying to draw a circle on the ground with your hand from the left side, over your head, to the right, and across your hips/stomach. At first, you may only be able to make small circles in the air above you, but gradually your arm will come down to the floor. 10 times in each direction on each side at least twice a day. You must perform this exercise while lying on your back.

    9. Wishing You Well*

      A close relative had a frozen shoulder twice. She had to go in, get anesthetic and have it pulled free twice. After that, there was physical therapy. My own injured (but not frozen) shoulder never healed in a year, so I went in. I had to get shoulder-specific treatments that I could never have done myself.
      Keep doing your frozen-shoulder-specific exercises. More is not better in physical therapy, so don’t over do. No pain, no gain doesn’t always apply, either. Call or email your health care to get their opinion on how you’re doing and if they want to change your routine.
      Best of Luck. I hope your shoulder is 100% soon.

    10. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Yes, I’ve had that. I think I remember reading that frozen shoulder _can_ come out of nowhere, but in my case, I think it was the offshoot of having overstretched either a tendon at the top of my bicep muscle, or a bit of the muscle. There was a specific “ouch” which came first, and the overall limited motion came on after that.

      Things that I definitely think helped:
      – Trusting it would recover in its own good time, and coming up with workarounds until then – e.g. how to put on my coat, which hand I used to put shampoo on my head, etc. Like Fred says, I looked up the predicted timescale for recovery (I think I found the same info, can’t quite remember now, something similar anyway), and set my expectations accordingly. Initially my shoulder & arm were quite painful if I moved them the wrong way, but as time went on, I knew what not to do and/or it just naturally didn’t hurt as much, and the whole problem mostly receded into the background. I forget exactly how long it took to go back to normal – probably around the average sort of time, 18 months to a couple of years, and the changes were quite gradual. Luckily there wasn’t much I had to do which involved raising my arm above my head, so once I’d got used to my workarounds, I mostly forgot about it.
      – Massage, to an extent. I don’t know how much that actually speeded up the recovery of the shoulder itself, but I think while it was in the initial painful stage, I’d tensed up, and the massage helped with undoing that tension, all up and down my arm and into my back and chest. Also, after I’d got back all the range of motion in my shoulder, I’d still feel a bit of a twinge in the middle of the joint sometimes, and massage definitely helped with loosening off the last little bit.

      Other options:
      – I was offered a steroid injection, but did my own research about that and decided not to have it. The gist of what I found out was that it might have reduced pain, but there wasn’t strong evidence of it actually helping the joint to heal.
      – I was given some exercises to do, but I didn’t feel they were helping. It seemed more like, it just got better when it decided to get better.
      – A suggestion for tendon/muscle injuries, which seemed like a good idea even though I didn’t actually do it very much, is to fill a small plastic bottle with water, freeze it, hold it via a towel or gloves, and use the end of the bottle to massage and cool the area that’s sore. I do wonder if, supposing I’d known about that option right at the start and had used it to cool and soothe the original injury, it wouldn’t have escalated into the shoulder joint! Can’t find out now :-)

    11. Lives in a Shoe*

      I did, in my early 50s. I couldn’t reach past the middle of my back and it was very painful. I did some stretching exercises until I broke my exercise band over the top of the sharp door – don’t do this, you can put your eye out – and what finally fixed it I am convinced is that I kept playing ultimate frisbee with my friends. I was so excited about the disk that I would reach out with a sore shoulder to catch and sometimes fall with an arm extended. It hurt, but after a few times, it was clear that it was just getting better. I think it was tearing loose.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes. My solution was regular swim exercise & stretches, including lifting myself on the racing platforms.
      Now that the pool’s been closed since March, I’m attempting wall stretches to keep it from tightening up again.

    13. Ariadne Oliver*

      Cortisone shot and physical therapy. If you don’t want to do the physical therapy, I would still do the shot. It made a lot of difference.

    14. Ouch!*

      Well, not sure what you mean by frozen shoulder is the same as what I mean…but I’ve had it several times. The only thing that has ever worked is a prescription muscle relaxant.

    15. Hi there*

      I haven’t had one (knocks wood) but was reading this morning in a group on Facebook that frozen shoulder can be common in perimenopause and menopause. (The group is aimed at active women in those times of life.)

      1. StellaBella*

        well interestingly I am in menopause thanks. I will keep doing exercises and warming it in the shower. this too shall pass I guess. thanks to everyone for the advice and ideas.

    16. Phoenix from the ashes*

      Honestly, I don’t think physio had any effect on my shoulder. I think that keeping the joint active within the pain-free region and not forcing it into the pain zone was much more effective. But frozen shoulders take a long time to come right.

  12. Lonely Aussie*

    Anyone know if sheer exhaustion after some pretty nasty pulmonary embolisms is normal? I came very close to actually dying from them (massive clot between my heart and lungs) and spent a week in ICU and then a few days on a normal ward. Now two weeks on I’m absolutely exhausted. I get so sleepy in the afternoon and while I’m not working full hours (3 hour shifts, 3 times a week) it’s a struggle. Breathing is still a little gaspy and I get so puffed easily. I dunno if this is a normal thing to have happen or if I should be talking to the docs again. I’m just really scared I’m going to be told I shouldn’t be working.

    1. Jane Smith*

      Yes, absolutely normal and completely to be expected. Your body is still healing.
      Rest often and pace your activities (I’d actually say if you can take more time off work that would help but don’t know if that’s feasible for you). 2 weeks after the fact is still very early days. Take it very easy.
      Experience: work with stroke (& some caused by PE).

      1. Jane Smith*

        At any rate, talk to your docs about your concerns. They may recommend not working for a bit, but you still have control over your medical choices right now.

        1. Lonely Aussie*

          Thanks, I’m in a really tough spot with work. My doctors in hospital were pushing for more time off (or a completely new job) and while I appreciate the concern, I’m also currently on WorkCover from a totally different injury and unless I follow the return to work plan, I don’t get paid.

          1. Cary*

            …I think your condition has changed (which WorkCover at least *claims online* that it wants to know about) and your return to work plan needs review.

            (I know, might not be possible, but ideally…)

            1. Lonely Aussie*

              It’s not possible because this wasn’t related to the first injury. Spent a couple of hours on the phone with works insurance company and HR while in the ICU trying to sort it out. The insurance company was annoyed I’d missed a Dr’s appointment and a physio session while in ICU.

              1. Cary*

                Ugh, how frustrating!

                What do you mean by “annoyed”? What did they do?

                The thing about these bureaucratic systems, their whole design is they make scary threats and nonsensical complaints, but they (are supposed to) then accept a “reasonable excuse.” Which you have. Like if you have a problem, you’re *expected* to break the draconian rule and then give a “reasonable excuse.” Typically.

                I get the impression there have been ombudsman complaints about WorkCover not accepting reasonable excuses though. Was your ombudsman able to help at all?

                (Another avenue might be incapacitation pay. I guess that’s under JobSeeker now? Apparently another bureaucratic nightmare…you may turn out to need it though.)

                Good luck with your recovery. Please get as much rest as you can. You deserve it!

                1. Lonely Aussie*

                  The person whose dealing with my claim basically tried to say I was non-compliant with the treatment required. When I asked her how I was supposed to make an appointment outside the hospital when I couldn’t even take a piss on a proper toilet because walking more than two steps was beyond me even with oxygen she said I was hostile. The nurse who was looking after me at the time basically walked in and said that I needed to get off the phone because the stress of the whole situation was pushing up my heart rate. We’ve spoken since but it’s pretty tense.
                  The guy at work who deals with the company side of workcover and who I first called actually wanted to speak to my doctors. I tried to shut that down and he kept pushing so I handed him over to a really lovely nurse who basically confirmed I was in ICU and then told him to mind his own business in polite but very firm nurse speak.

            2. CC*

              Is the blood clot potentially related to the original injury ? For example, if you are on WorkCover for an orthopedic injury than the PE might actually be part of the orthopedic injury (as a result of it).

              1. Lonely Aussie*

                Unfortunately, while the limited movement for the injury probably didn’t help matters I was on BC which the insurance company thinks trumps it all. :(

                1. Natalie*

                  Is there any kind of appeals process or some kind of medical ombudsman that can help you? (I’m not Australian so not familiar with the system.) Hormonal bc can increase clot risk, but the overall risk is still incredibly low (less than 0.1%), assuming you don’t smoke and are under age 45. The risk increase from certain types of injuries and limited mobility is higher, especially if you had any kind of surgery. It’s just not statistically accurate for them to assume your birth control was the cause.

                2. Lonely Aussie*

                  There possibly is. I’m just at the point where I don’t have the energy to fight with the whole situation. I don’t smoke, I’m not yet thirty and I barely drink.
                  My physio for the first injury keeps trying to tell me that the pain is in my head. (Which, even if it is, still hurts) she’s pushing for me to do more yoga type stretches but it’s hard to do as many as she wants.
                  The doctor who’s working with WorkCover straight up told me it was offensive for it to have been suggested as a WorkCover issue. And the insurance company is basically threatening me with cutting off my WorkCover if I don’t comply with the physio and return to work plan.
                  The company I work for have also made it clear they’re not happy with me. I’d quit but there’s not a lot going and I’m worried if I don’t resolve this injury I’ll be poop out of luck if it flares up later in another job assuming I’d pass a medical right now.

              2. Lonely Aussie*

                Unfortunately I was taking BC so as far as the insurance company is concerned that’s the source. I personally think that the limited amount of movement I was able to do (after being fairly active at work) probably contributed given I’d never had an issue with the pill (it probably saved my life tbh) but it’s impossible to tell.

    2. WS*

      Totally normal. Anything to do with your heart or lungs is going to leave you exhausted, let alone anything requiring a week in ICU. I would expect them to tell you to pace yourself, but not to cut out anything specific. You should definitely keep checking in about the breathing because they need to continue monitoring your lung function.

    3. CC*

      I had a PE when I was 23 & ended up taking 2 months off work (between my time in the hospital & time at home afterwards). You are going to be completely exhausted trying to work 2 weeks later. If you need & want to work, your doctor will probably let you – but be aware that it will probably take you longer to get your normal energy level back than if you took more time now. (And even at the 2 month point, I was tired. Of course, it didn’t help that I worked in the hospital at the time & one of my first days back one of the ICU doctors made a comment about being surprised to see me back at work because I had been so sick he thought I was going to die.)

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        Eek not the most tactful of him. My GP was pretty thrilled to see me after getting released from the hospital, I rocked up to a doctor’s appointment thinking I had heartburn or something and she put me straight onto oxygen and called an ambulance.
        I can’t take anymore time off, I was really lucky that I happened to be on holidays when it hit because I was out of sick leave.

    4. SunnySideUp*

      Your body is recovering from a major upset. It needs time and plenty of rest. Be good to yourself and hope you feel better soon. And yeah, please talk to your HC providers!

    5. RagingADHD*

      Yes. If you almost died 2 weeks ago from anything, it is normal to still feel weak and fatigued.

      The fact that the hospital discharges someone doesn’t mean they are fully recovered. It means they dont need 24-hour medical supervision, and the risks of staying in the hospital are higher than the risks of being at home.

    6. Squidhead*

      Unless it was surgically removed (unusual in my experience; I’m an ICU nurse) the PE is probably still there, slowly dissolving (part of your body’s normal coagulation/anti-coagulation process). Whatever anti-coagulation medicine they put you on is to help prevent it from getting bigger and reduce the chance of new ones. But yes, your body is probably still not getting the full benefit of each breath you take because the PE is blocking some of the blood vessels in the lung. Air goes in and out, but the oxygen can’t get into the blood. (This is all on top of the fact that *any* ICU stay is exhausting.) Not saying you shouldn’t check in with your actual doctor…you definitely should be getting follow-up care after this!

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        The nurses in ICU were the best, so thank you for all that you do. At one stage they were considering surgery from what I’ve been told but decided on just pumping me full of blood thinners. I felt really good after the powerful thinners and had almost forgotten that they were still there (I think they said it was a bilateral PE). I went from barely managing to take a step to being able to walk to the loos alone. The first day on the general ward I kept getting up and walking around the room because I just needed to move. Now I’m home and just want to sleep for a month.

  13. Bobina*

    I’ve got a bunch of loose black tea that…is kind of terrible. What can I do with it other than toss it? I’ve used it for ice tea before and it needs a lot of sugar and lemon to make it palatable for me. I keep thinking there must be something more interesting I can do with it but when I looked for recipes, other than incorporating it in cookies or (meat)rubs I haven’t found any other ideas.

    1. Nela*

      If you’re into arts and crafts, you can use the brewed tea to stain watercolor paper and make it look vintage :)
      You could keep the paper soaked in a tub for a while, or dab the tea on with a spunge or something. I’m sure there are many tutorials on YouTube.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        What about using it to smoke your own salmon (or chicken)? I once saw somebody do it on television.

        1. Bobina*

          I feel like smoking things is a bit beyond me to be honest! But maybe I should investigate it a little bit more :)

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Funnily enough, I bought a magazine today which had a recipe for smoking your own salmon!

            It was a hybrid recipe, in which the raw salmon is cured for a day (like Gravadlax), and then, the rinsed (and well dried) salmon is steamed in a pan. The instructions were to put tea and wood chips in the bottom of the pan, heat, and once it starts smoking, put the salmon in a steamer, cover and leave for 7 minutes. (NB. After 3 the heat should be switched off)

    2. CoffeeforLife*

      I made black tea pork chops. Sorry no recipe as it was long ago but I remember brewing strong tea as a braising liquid. There are several recipes on the web.

    3. KeinName*

      Add it to Henna powder when coloring your hair. Maybe it can be used for other cosmetics as well. I suppose you could also flavour frosting for cake.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      If you like the smell of it, you can use it to deodorize shoes or rugs. Sprinkle it on, let it sit a few hours and then vacuum the rug (or empty out the shoes). I used to put cheap tea bags in my teenage son’s sports equipment. It really helps!

    5. nep*

      Sometimes I’ll put some loose tea in bars I make. Might be an option, if you ever make homemade bars. Or mix into a smoothie?

    6. WellRed*

      I’m gonna go against the grain and give you permission to toss it. Life is too short to expend so much time and thought on how to use tea you don’t like.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        That’s my thought, too. I think sometimes there’s value in making the effort to find another use for something you don’t care for, and it’s great to not want to waste something that’s perfectly good, but I wouldn’t waste any time or effort on something like tea. Unless it was something like five pounds of the stuff and/or I’d spent a lot of money on it.

      2. Courageous cat*

        I always think it’s fascinating how here and on Reddit people will go to great lengths to save something really minor/small/cheap that they don’t even really like. Sunk cost fallacy and all that. Get rid of it! No reason to keep trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

      3. Bobina*

        Ahaha. I was kind of reaching that point, but cultural upbringing means throwing away food is *a bad thing* so I generally like to make sure I’ve exhausted all my options before I get to that!

    7. Stephanie*

      Maybe use it as a deodorizer if you like the smell — just sprinkle it on the rug/carpet and vacuum it up. I’ve made a good chai ice cream using black tea — there might be enough sugar, fat, and other spices to balance out the tea taste. But if you don’t like the taste, might be hard to use it in cooking!

    8. Not A Manager*

      I’ve never done the stovetop home smoking, but I have several friends who swear by it. They say it is not very difficult but you do have to somewhat jury-rig the setup if you’re just using your own kitchen stuff. I like to experiment, so I would give that a try. Also seconding that black tea makes a lovely home dye.

      But also, yeah, if you don’t like it just toss it.

    9. lazy intellectual*

      If it doesn’t smell bad, some sort of at home skin treatment? Like a scrub or face mask?

    10. Chaordic One*

      Sunk fallacy costs. I get it.

      Maybe just sort of sneak a small amount into whatever you’re cooking or baking as a sort of spice. Cookies or bread. Soup, stew or sauce. Hopefully, it won’t have much of an impact on the taste. Like how some mothers were encouraged to sneak vegetables into other foods that their children like.

    11. Cary*

      You can compost it with your brown matter, or brew it and use the (cold) tea to water acid-loving plants such as African violets!

    12. higheredrefugee*

      You can use it to make kombucha if you have a starter or access to a bottle of plain kombucha. I have been doing it for years, and when I lapse, I can tell – my gut tells me ASAP.

    13. Fellow Traveller*

      One of my favorite savory snacks are Taiwanese Tea Eggs. You basically boil eggs and then marinate them in a mixture of soy sauce, tea, and star anise. (You can add other things too like cinnamon or orange rind). You can either marinate the eggs peeled, or you can crack them gently then put them in the marinade. The former has a better flavour, but the latter method produces an egg that has a beautiful spiderweb-like pattern. It’s a very popular snack in Taiwan – they sell them in large vats everywhere, even the 7-11.

      1. Bobina*

        Ahhhhh. My brain is super torn as to whether this would be delicious or awful. Thank you for this suggestion though. I am immensely intruiged.

    14. Bobina*

      Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I know I could have just tossed it but I really hate the idea of doing that.

      Top suggestions I will probably try:
      – Jane Smith gave me the idea of cake and I’ve found some recipes for basically masala chai cakes so that went straight to the top
      – Deoderising things: excellent idea. I do have sports equipment that gets smelly so can definitely be used there
      – Plant food/composting: I have plants. This will probably be the thing I do if after all of the above there is any leftover.

  14. Jane Smith*

    You can add chai spices for a cuppa, or soak dried fruit in it to make Dundee cake or Christmas cake.

  15. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    I will be meeting my foster son next week! Hopefully I can also meet his mom that same day (complicated situation).
    The next couple of meetings will be soon after, and he will be moving here on the 19th!
    The practical prep is going well, and I already got so many recommendations here, but I would like to look ahead a bit to activities, bonding time, etc. Of course I will try to replicate his current routine as much as possible, but would still like more ideas as to what activities I can do with him besides the physical care and talking, walking, toys,… He is 7 months old (preemie – corrected to five months and doing well on that curve).

    1. Amy*

      So exciting! :)

      I really enjoyed Music Together with my baby at that age. They have franchises all over the country – in the USA, at least. I think most have moved their classes to Zoom due to the pandemic but especially at that age it’s really more about you singing and interacting with your baby as opposed to them being around the other kids, so I think it could still work.

    2. Teatime is Goodtime*

      So the really cool thing about babies and small children is that the whole world is really interesting. Mundane tasks or items are things they’ve never seen before, or things they’ve never understood before. The discovery factor is huge and so much fun to watch. Which is all to say: your whole house, your every day life, will be totally fascinating. Baby toys and baby activities are great, but also know that everything in your house and everything you do will be great too.

      Things I did a lot with my child at that age:
      -Walks. So many walks. Tree walks, field walks, street walks, walking by any place that had lots of commotion just to watch from afar (playgrounds, schools, businesses, bus stops, horse riding school, places where birds were nesting, anything). Any place my son loved, we went back often.
      -Kitchen stuff that stacked or whacked or could fit inside other things was gold. Tupperware! So much tupperware. It’s like learning physics but for babies–what happens when I do x? What noise does it make when y happens?
      -Random objects that locked his attention. We had about two weeks where our doorstops were the coolest things in the house.
      -Housework tasks that needed doing. Vacuuming with a small child is totally different! Takes longer but is so much fun, or at least it was for us. Cooking with him watching me stir. Loading the washer and pressing the buttons. Make these things an activity! Yes, it takes longer, but it’s wonderful bonding and discovery time.
      -Food! Let him squish it. Let him eat it. Let him throw it on the floor. Plan a bath right after. Totally fun. Sensory learning is great and really important.
      -Reading. We read as much and as long as we could. There are such great books out there, but you can also read the ingredients list on non-breakable food containers or magazines that you get free somewhere that he can rip to shreds and so on
      -Cant go wrong with peekaboo. Can’t go wrong with repeating back what he says to you. Can’t go wrong with talking to him about anything and everything. It doesn’t have to be magic words or perfect activities. Just be yourself, but with him.

      That’s all to say that my advice is to just live your life, but live it now with a small one attached to you and see what happens. :) Woo! I’m so excited for you!

      1. CC*

        My only comment is to be careful with the washing machine play. Some children have gotten into the washing machines & died after they started. So, make sure the laundry room locks when you are not in there if playing with it.

      2. Detective Rosa Diaz*

        Thank you so much for this list and esp. “It doesn’t have to be magic words or perfect activities. Just be yourself, but with him.”
        It made me feel a lot better. I suddenly was like, what if I can’t entertain him properly? And feeling insecure.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      My son was fascinated with containers at that age. Pull out the Tupperware, plastic cups, anything clean and sturdy that he can put inside each other, bang together, peer into the bottom of, fill up and empty (in the bath). We could have saved a fortune in toys had we known a free plastic souvenir mug would be his prized possession!

        1. Natalie*

          One of the things my daughter loves to do is watch our pets. They are apparently fascinating, even just sitting still will sometime elicit a lot of giggles. If your cat likes any kind of toys, playing with the cat with baby on your lap or sitting nearby would be immensely interesting to him.

    4. Pennyworth*

      Plenty of talking, about everything you are doing together, as well as reading to him. The more language he is exposed to the better it will be for his mental development and vocabulary. No screens. Make sure he gets outside during the day, latest research is that the world epidemic of myopia is due to children being indoors most of the time.

    5. OtterB*

      I see a couple of people mentioned tupperware and such. We filled a lower kitchen cabinet with things our kids were allowed to stack and bang (while putting latches on the other lower cabinets).

  16. Not An Expert*

    The Green Lantern (movie)
    I know it’s old and wasn’t well received, but I’m hoping someone can explain a detail Google could not. Also, I have not read the comics and know nothing about it past the first hour of the movie.

    I have not finished it because I went searching the interwebs, so if it’s answered in the movie, let me know.

    If Abin Sur imprisoned the Parallax why don’t any of the other Lanterns remember? Was that guy thousands of years old and the others just… forgot?

    It’s really bugging me, like such a huge plot hole I can’t get past. Tangentially, what movie plot holes bother you?

    1. Jackalope*

      I’m not familiar with that movie so can’t speak to it, but related to your tangential question…. Years ago I watched a French movie that had some plot holes the size of a planet. To give you an idea, one of the key points is that the main character discovered that she was probably switched at birth by accident and wanted to get to know her birth family. The thing was, the person she was switched at birth with was… a boy. They weren’t even in a huge area or anything, more a medium-sized town if I remember correctly, and it seemed so impossible to me that no one in either family AND none of the hospital staff would realize that her mom had given birth to a girl but was leaving with a boy and vice versa. This was back at a time when babies were taken away and put in a nursery soon after birth, but STILL; it was a small enough place that I can’t imagine there were THAT many babies born on that particular day, such that they’d lose track.

      So, assuming you could roll your eyes at that and move on, the plot thickened. (This next section is going to be very spoiler-y, be warned!) She contacted her possible birth family and discovered that her birth mom had died in mysterious circumstances a few years earlier, and her birth father had married someone else. You basically figure out that the stepmother had drugged the mother with Rohypnol (Roofies) before the mother went out on a drive, and she fell asleep at the wheel and died, leaving the stepmother free to marry the father. Years later, the father is taking Rohypnol every day for a medical condition, and the stepmother is taking some of them and putting them in the son’s nightly tea that she brings him. For a bit when this part first came up I thought the movie was going to some super dark places, but it turns out the stepmother isn’t *doing* anything after she drugs the young man; she just does it because…. Because she can? Because she feels like it? Because… who knows? Somehow the father never notices that she’s regularly taking some of his prescription pills and that his prescription presumably runs out super fast. Because… plot??

      So at the end our protagonist has been staying with them, and the stepmother knows that she and the young man have figured out that the stepmother basically murdered the mother. So she makes them up some “special tea” and gives it to them, all the while asking them to run into town on an errand to pick something up for her. Town is about 50 min away on a long winding road. It’s the same long winding road the mother fell asleep on a few years ago. The protagonist and young man KNOW that she is trying to do the same thing to them. So, dear reader, what would YOU do in this situation? A) Confront the stepmother, call her out, call the police, or otherwise do something to make sure she ends up in jail? B) Take the tea and pretend to sip at it before dumping it in the potted plant, then get the hell out of Dodge? C) Find some way to politely refuse to drink it, then say you’re going on the errand and get the hell out of Dodge? or D) Take the tea, drink it because you don’t want to be rude, and then get behind the wheel of the car and head out on the errand.

      Readers, they chose D.

      The movie ends with them being part of the way down the mountain and (if I remember correctly) a sort of vague scene making it look like they might have gotten into an accident or possibly just swerved, then cuts back to the stepmother who is looking horrified and dismayed at what she has just done. Or something like that.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        I would be so grossly dissatisfied watching that. Possibly, you’d find me yelling at the screen.

        1. Jackalope*

          I know. French movies work very differently from American movies in terms of pacing and what is considered an acceptable ending or plot point, but this was beyond the pale for me. Although I’m kind of glad I saw it so I could have a Worst Movie Plot ever in my back pocket for moments like this.

    2. Belle*

      In the books, it was the Green Lanterns bosses that imprisoned him and didn’t tell the Lanterns (so they wouldn’t know he was there).

      But I don’t know how the movie handled it.

  17. Guilty daughter*

    My entire immediate family in NJ (mom, dad, and brother) have all been diagnosed with COVID. My mother is already laying down the guilt for me to come for Christmas from CT, and I really, really don’t want to go.

    What do I tell her?

    1. sswj*

      That you are so very sorry the pandemic has forced so many difficult changes and you are so sad not to be able to come this year, and let’s plan on some Zoom/FaceTime/WebEx get togethers.

      And maybe, if you can distract her with flattery, ask for a special recipe of hers, or advice on how to do something she loves that you don’t already do for holidays so you can have a bit of her Christmas at home this year.

      Stick to your guns. You are in the right and her feelings about are her own to manage. Stay well …

      1. Guilty daughter*

        My excuse was going to be giving them corona. Now they all have it, and my mom is already insisting that they’ll be fine before the 25th. Even if they are, I don’t want to go.

          1. Sunflower*

            CDC guidance won’t help in this case most likely. As long as you don’t have severe case and your symptoms are improving and you go 24 hours without a fever(it was 72 and looks like they updated it), you are allowed to be around people after 10 days as the virus is at 0 capability of spreading.

            1. SunnySideUp*

              But if they think they’re fine and everything is back to normal, they’ll be out in public and picking it up again.

              What is with people? Stay the fuck home and stay alive.

              1. Guilty Daughter*

                My dad was supposed to get knee surgery (hence the test), so he almost definitely picked it up at the hospital during one of the pre-operation things and then brought it home.

              2. Sunflower*

                I was just stating the CDC guidance which will most likely have the opposite impact the OP was looking for. It’s only going to give her mom more ammo to push her to come home.

                If you have a problem with the guidance contact the CDC

                1. Sunflower*

                  This is true and the likelihood of reinfection at this stage in research is ‘rare but possible’. Unfortunately, our testing is still not great so and tests are so sensitive that they pick up dead tissue and can give a positive results months later when a person is not contagious.

                  I don’t mention this or the CDC guidance to encourage people travel or expose themselves to the virus, I say it because it’s science and I believe in educating people on risks instead of giving governance like ‘just stay home’ with no context.

              3. Observer*

                It’s not likely that they will be picking it up again. While it’s true that it is possible to get reinfected, it really does seem to be extremely rare. And if you don’t get infected, you don’t give it to others.

                That’s the main reason the vaccines are expected to make such a difference, even though it’s going to take a long time to get everyone covered.

        1. Pennyworth*

          And now you don’t want to catch corona! Remember, no matter how much guilt they pile on, they can’t force you to be there.

        2. Oxford Comma*

          “We’re not comfortable traveling or gathering with anyone outside our household.” (Then offer the virtual, phone options). I think if you offer up excuses, that just gives them a way to try and get around it.

            1. ....*

              Just say I will not be traveling this year under any circumstances. Just say no. There’s no other advice to be given. You don’t want to go. Say no.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But “outside our household” means “people we don’t live with” (not “people outside our family”).

              The bigger point, though, is that I think you’re looking for magic words that will satisfy your mom and there probably aren’t any because your mom is unreasonable. You have to shift how you’re looking at this — you don’t need to convince her in order to be able to stay home. You get to stay home if that’s what you decide to do because you are an adult who is in charge of your own safety and risk assessments. It’s a bonus if she’s okay with it, but she doesn’t need to be okay with it for you to still make your own decision.

              So: “Mom, I love you and we’ll miss you, but we don’t feel safe coming this year. I don’t want to debate it because I know how upsetting it is to all of us. This is the decision, and we’ll be together next year.”

              And then if she keeps pushing: “It’s upsetting me that you keep pushing this so I’m going to go now, but I’ll call you later in the week.”

              1. Generic Name*

                This. Setting a boundary doesn’t mean that the other person agrees with you and feels good about what you are doing. It’s about saying “this is what I am doing” and sticking with that. If the other person doesn’t like it, oh well. It’s not up to you to manage their feelings about it (or anything else).

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Work on ignoring the guilt trip. She will come at you, so just be prepared and say no. Don’t make excuses. You don’t feel safe traveling, period.

      My family is all about guilt. It took a long time (and a lot of therapy) to recognize that their guilt trips don’t outweigh my reason or my discomfort.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah… my ex and her family were one big walking guilt trip. She had this uncanny ability to attempt to turn *anything* into a guilt trip. She wanted to work in health care, and consequently worked shift work. Me? I’m a software developer with no set hours — just get the work done. One day, she whines, “It’s not faaaiiiirrrrr…. I have to be at work at 6am and can’t be late, you just roll out of bed whenever, pick up the same pair of jeans you wore yesterday, and nobody cares.”

        After awhile, it just seemed like anything was positioned as a guilt trip to get the guilt going to then soften one up for something totally unrelated.

        The weird thing is, those patterns either work or you get desensitized to it. I went with the later, because it was pretty much like, “ok… so you want me to feel guilty about having the job that pays the rent and puts food on the table? That’s weird.”

        I actually wonder where those patterns originated. They use them because they work, but they had to learn them from somewhere.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Tell her that decisions made on the basis of emotions usually don’t work out too well. Tell her that if she gets it a second time she may not be as lucky to “get over it” the second time. Remind her a holiday is basically one day out of a year’s worth of days. You’d rather know that she is well and healthy for the upcoming year’s worth of days.

      Here, the idea is to make it all about her. I am skeptical you will gain ground if you say you are worried about your own well-being.

      If nothing works, then you can just say, “I love you, mom and so therefore I am not coming.” Say it with a tone of finality in your voice.

    4. Millicent*

      Honestly? There’s no answer you can tell her that will satisfy her, unless it’s a yes. So just keep saying you can’t make it this year and repeat it every time she asks. Don’t bother explaining it or giving different excuses or trying to get her to understand why you can’t go. Just focus on keeping yourself safe, which means not going there for Christmas and repeating your no.

      1. LGC*

        Yeah. Honestly, she’s going to be upset regardless of what you say, OP. Unless you decide to go.

        The good news, OP, is that you’re already set in your decision. So just say you can’t make it and given the general situation – that for example, confirmed cases are already well over the spring peak and hospitalizations are substantially up – you don’t feel safe. Even if they’ve hopefully recovered from COVID-19 by Christmas.

      2. pancakes*

        +1. She’s not entitled to a response that satisfies her, or to steamroll over any that doesn’t.

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      I’m in NJ. Don’t take either trip…the actual one or the guilt trip! My family is in a similar situation with loved ones out of state and while none of us are happy about it, we are consoling ourselves by planning a huge blowout end of pandemic party…date still TBD.

    6. Mimosa Jones*

      There are no magic words that are going to make her understand your point of view. But that can be freeing. Find the phrase that works for you and keep repeating it.

    7. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

      I already told my parents we won’t be at family Christmas. My husband and I have very compromised immune systems, and I really don’t want to deal with the potential risk of orphaning my kids. We haven’t told his family yet- they are more likely to try a guilt trip, even though his dad has COVID right now, about how we are ruining Christmas or some nonsense. “Mom, I won’t be there in person, that’s not going to change, but I will be thinking of you and would love to video chat with everyone all at once. Gifts are in the mail, gotta go, love you, byeee!” And hang up and go do something very absorbing that just happens to be away from the phone for a bit.

    8. SunnySideUp*

      I know this is pouring salt in wounds, but SERIOUSLY? How can she even ask you to come and get COVID and then take it back to CT?

      I just don’t understand people.

      1. Natalie*

        If they have it now (Dec 5th) they won’t be contagious 20 days from now.

        That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for OP to travel, but it’s obviously not the same as their family asking OP to come over today.

        1. pancakes*

          It doesn’t follow that everyone and anyone their daughter along the way isn’t contagious either, or that they can’t / won’t get it again. Either way, trying to insist that someone visit during an airborne pandemic is extremely self-regarding.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think saying it’s not a good idea to travel does address how self-regarding it is to urge someone to do so anyhow.

      2. LGC*

        Logistically, they’re all in the same buffer zone. (CT/NY/NJ/PA, and I believe DE?) And New Jersey and Connecticut aren’t that far away – about an hour or so from Fairfield (CT) to Bergen (NJ) County. (So Stamford to Paramus.)

        For NJ residents, we’re not asked to self isolate if we’re coming from one of the other four states. I’m not sure what the rules are in CT, but I imagine it’s similar. (Probably a slightly different list – I’d think New England, New York, and New Jersey.)

        You’re right that it’s a bad idea. But we’re already intertwined, so I can see why her parents think it’s okay.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Depends on which part. It’s 200+ miles from Williamantic CT to Trenton NJ, and there are someextreme variat I ns of density & transmission rate in both states.
          I am not going from central CT to western CT, even.

          1. LGC*

            I mean, I did say that it was a bad idea. But it read to me like SunnySideUp was making travel between the two states to be a big formal deal, when travel between those states isn’t restricted to begin with.

            Or, in short: the spirit of her argument is right, but the particulars are shaky. We’re already “allowed” to swap our ‘ronas, in that we can go back and forth with no restrictions. And I was arguing that point, not that OP should give in to her mom because it’s fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

    9. Alex*

      I just went through this with my family for Thanksgiving.

      I had to just live with the fact that I was making a different decision than they wanted me to. I went with “Visiting isn’t a good idea this year. I’ll see you on Zoom.” The end.

      Yes, my mom told me I was wrong, and came up with 100 reasons and scenarios why everything would be Just Fine. I let her have her opinion but didn’t let it affect my decision.

      It was hard. But I think I made the right decision, and once my mom got over her anger and saw I wasn’t budging and that she could either have Zoomsgiving with me or nothing, she took Zoomsgiving. And she’s also going to need to accept Christmazoom too.

    10. SwitchingGenres*

      Tell her there’s a pandemic and you cannot go. You don’t have to listen to any guilt trips or give any other reason. It’s not safe. That’s it. Don’t go!

    11. Natalie*

      Something it took me a LONG time to learn about setting boundaries: it’s not contingent on the other party accepting them or agreeing with you. In fact, they almost never do, that’s why you have to “set a boundary” rather than “communicate a decision” in the first place.

      Your family’s feelings aren’t yours to control. What you can do right now is decide what actions or behaviors you need (from you, or from them), communicate those clearly, and then follow through. So decide you’re not going, and communicate that you’ve made your decision and you aren’t revisiting it. Then decide what you want to do when your mom brings it up again – change the subject? Repeat something bland until she gives up? Hang up the phone? All of the above?

      Devote your “feelings” energy to yourself.

    12. RagingADHD*

      You learn to accept guilt without letting yourself be manipulated.

      “Mom, you raised me not to be reckless. Obviously it’s not safe- you’ve all caught it. I don’t want to catch it, too. I hope you will all recover easily with no long-term consequences, but there’s no telling with this stuff. I love you and we can video chat on the day, if you want.”

      Calmly exercising your own judgment without defensiveness in the face of parental disagreement/disapproval is a big hurdle in becoming a fully separate adult. Your mom may be sad about missing you at Christmas. She’s allowed to be sad, and you’re entitled to be sad, too. It’s a sad situation!

      She would be a lot sadder if you died.

    13. I'm A Little Teapot*

      It sucks, but it’s not safe to travel. You wish things were different, but they’re not, and you and they will get through this. Then plan a zoom call.

    14. LGC*

      …wait, I’m just curious, were you the poster who was asking about going to your parents’ for Thanksgiving? If you are:

      1) In hindsight, although I hedged a bit, I really hope you didn’t go!
      2) I kind of said this already and Alison already said this, but it bears repeating: there probably isn’t a response that will make your mom happy. At least, in the moment. I did just think of something – would you be able to defer going to see her?

      For example, would you be able to see your family in the spring or summer? I think part of your mom’s anxiety is that she doesn’t know when she’s going to be able to see you again, and Christmas is a time for FAMILY and TOGETHERNESS. And…I’ll be blunt, but she might see the fact that they’re all sick now as a plus – hopefully, if they all have mild cases, they’ll recover by the week before Christmas. It also seems like peak contagiousness is in the days just before and just after symptoms start (so two days before symptoms start until five days after). So she might be assuming that everything will be fine and they’ll be immune and non-contagious for Christmas.

      Even if you could push that off until Easter or the summer, that might help.

      And yes, your mom is being a grade-A jerk. But…I’m trying to be compassionate to her here.

  18. Kali*

    Can we talk about kids menus in restaurants? I like them because restaurant portions are normally so oversized, so a kid’s meal is a great deal. I initially thought they were quite straightforward, you pay a bit less for less food, seems like a good deal for everyone. That is how it works in fast food (I grew up poor), and I still love a happy meal today (at 32). But a few years ago, I noticed some places were really off with you if you wanted to order a kid’s meal as an adult (I’m British, it’s not about the top). I googled and apparently some places offer kids meals at a loss to appeal to families, since the parent will also need to be there ordering food and they make their profit there. I guess that explains why they don’t want me to do it, but how was anyone supposed to know that’s the system? And how do you know when that’s the case or when it’s McDonalds rules? Some places in a similar price range do just offer smaller plates for slightly less. I guess the strict places do specify “for kids under 12” or whatever, but if you know nothing about the “behind the scenes” of family restaurants, those can be mistaken for guidelines, not a strict rule.

    1. WS*

      Fancy and/or independent places tend to be the ones that restrict the kids’ menu to under-12s. Chain restaurants of any kind should be fine. And you can always ask for “entree size” – this is what my (tiny) mother does.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Just don’t asked for entree size in the US, that’s our main meal portion :) We like to make up new meanings for words.

        1. lazy intellectual*

          Same. Or a side/soup. I’ve always been one of those people who preferred sides to actual entrees – like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.

    2. Kali*

      To clarify, I mostly do have the system figured out now, I don’t need help there but…how are people supposed to figure it out if they don’t know?

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I thought the menu usually says that kids meals are only for a certain age or that they accompany adult meals. Maybe many ppl learned that from the menus so they dont put it on there anymore? Also, sometimes you only learn things by trying, thats ok.

      2. Something Blue*

        Possibly you’re not supposed to know! I kind of assumed that the restaurant assumes adults will only be looking at the adult menu and won’t really think about ordering a kids’ meal for themselves.

        I learned about the portion size from news articles with “tips” about eating out but I hadn’t known about the kids’ meals being sold at a loss.

      3. legalchef*

        I think most restaurants assume that adults won’t be looking at the kids menu, since the food on the kids menu is usually “kid food” made to appeal to a pickier eater who won’t want fancy French food or whatever (chicken nuggets, plain pasta, etc), so they don’t bother specifying that it should only be ordered for kids.

        1. Kali*

          Sure, you ask if you realise your assumptions were wrong. But I’ve got the impression there’s not much to give away the fact that the assumption – you just pay the money and get the food at the price they’re willing to pay, even if it’s less food than they would normally expect an adult to order – is incorrect prior to the point where staff think you’re intentionally taking advantage. Especially since, that’s not really an unreasonable assumption and it does work that way in most places. How do most people figure that out? By noticing staff subtly indicating you were doing something they didn’t like and then asking/looking it up like I did? Or do other people find it out in other ways? This whole thing just seems so inefficient and impractical, I feel like I *must* be missing something.

          1. LQ*

            I think that you’re giving this a very outsized amount of attention in your head.

            Lots of places will say “Kids menu” or “Under 12” because that deals with 98% of people, you happen to be in the 2%. You are the rare person who did the research. Most of the 2% (or whatever) are just what the restaurant deals with the same as any other thing, they wrap it into the costs and deal with it.

            If all things that addressed a very small percent of the population were written out explicitly and clearly and with the full detail, no one would read it because that’s what the T&C is and no one reads those either. What you are looking for is a menu terms and conditions/terms of service. They don’t exist in most places. I’ve been to restaurants who do them, I have never gone back to those places because they are litigators who serve food, not people who care about food and service.

            I don’t think you’re missing anything. It’s just lots of stuff is unspoken in the world.

            1. Kali*

              That line isn’t a contradiction!

              I am happy with the amount of attention I’m giving the issue. I’m not thrilled that I didn’t figure out exactly what was bothering me about it until after my initial comment, so this hasn’t been terribly effective in eliciting the discussion I wanted, but we live and learn.

          2. Natalie*

            I mean ask them if you can order off the kids menu. If you want to explain you like the smaller portions, you can. They will either say yes or no, and you can just accept their answer. You really don’t need to second guess it for them.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Sometimes if you do this and explain you want smaller portions, they’ll suggest something on the menu. Or you can also just ask about smaller portions.
              I often order appetizers instead of an entree; it’s less food and costs less, but it’s still adult food and not just chickie nuggies.

              1. Kali*

                This may be a cultural difference. In the UK, I find the options on the kids menu tend to have more portions of vegetables, and usually you can thent add even more of them on.

                1. acmx*

                  Hardly vegetables for kids’ menus in the US. It’s usually: spaghetti, macaroni & cheese, hot dog, hamburger, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, quesadilla (so basically Mexican or TexMex grilled cheese).

                  I don’t have kids but this is mostly what I’ve seen on the menus

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            I mean, yeah, sometimes you just have to figure stuff out without being explicitly told. That’s life.

            If anything I think you actually are being explicitly told, in that these menus are specifically called kids menus, i.e. menus for kids. That *is* the explicit directive you’re looking for that these menus are not intended for you, an adult – you’re just choosing to ignore it. Sure, it’s okay to ignore that rule in McDonalds, but there is a lot of general dining etiquette that it’s fine to ignore in McDonalds – most rules do not apply there are you shouldn’t extrapolate from “this is okay in McDonalds” to “this is okay everywhere”. And to figure out which rules are okay to ignore in which locale, again, you can either a) ask or b) figure it out from trial and error. I am not sure what other options you are envisioning so if you could explain that would be helpful?

            1. Kali*

              I appear to have given the impression I asking for advice on how to fix a problem. I wasn’t, I was musing about something I found interesting.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I see from your comments below that you’ve chosen to disengage from the conversation. I completely get that, and if you are still reading I hope that you will take this in the constructive spirit that it is intended.

                When you are attempting to elicit discussion on a particular topic (which I think in this case was “situations where knowledge is assumed to be universal or implied”?), you will usually get better results if you do not open with a hyper-specific example. In this thread, your opening line was “Can we talk about kids menus in restaurants?”, which I think quite naturally resulted in the rest of us assuming you wanted to talk about kids menus in restaurants. It actually seems like it wasn’t until several comments in that you yourself decided what you were asking about. You’re much more likely to have the conversations you want to have if you a) know what you want to talk about when opening the discussion and b) don’t centre the entire opening of the discussion on one specific practical example, because that leads people to assume that you are looking to discuss that example.

                Again, I hope that this comes across in the constructive manner that it is intended!

      4. Anon For This*

        As you say, in many (not fast food) restaurants they will say “for kids 12 or under” on the menu as a signal that they don’t appreciate adults ordering it. I feel for you, I have an aunt and uncle that routinely split an entree and sometimes the waiter is clearly a little put out by it. For some reason it seems more acceptable to order an appetizer for your main if you’re not hungry, versus either order a kids meal or loudly announce you will be sharing a plate.

      5. WellRed*

        If the menu says 12 and under, isn’t that clear? If the kids menu is also an entirely separate document, as well, you could ask to see the kids menu. I just wish restaurants would offer a few dishes in smaller portions. Even apps are ginormous.

      6. Not a kid anymore*

        I mean, they do know. It’s the kids menu. That’s what it’s called. It’s for kids. It’s clearly labelled as such. I don’t get why that’s not enough for you to understand that it’s meant for kids?

        1. Kali*

          There’s a difference between “meant for” and “only available to”, and whether that difference matters in a given place isn’t obvious.

          1. Sunflower*

            Just noticed this wasn’t super clear in your initial post but are you talking about reactions you’re receiving in the UK or the US?

            In the US, this is ‘not prohibited but frowned upon/you just don’t do that’ territory. Meaning if you explicitly ask your server/the restaurant, they aren’t going to say no but they are going to be pissed. I’ll put this bluntly as it seems the vagueness is what’s causing the confusion- servers and restaurants in the US are never really OK with you ordering your meal off the kids menu even if we say it’s fine. If you’re getting the vibe that the server is saying it’s ok but getting the feeling it isn’t, that reaction is correct. Most restaurants won’t prohibit it (I could see a casual dining room chain like Applebees saying no) because it’s not worth pissing someone off over $10 lower check but if everyone did it, the restaurant would be losing money.

            McDonald’s calling them kids meals should really be called mini meals.

            1. Kali*

              It surprises me that it wasn’t clear, because I mentioned that I’m British and so it’s not about the tip. Why would I be talking about the US? I’m not trying to criticise you personally – though I realise it’s probably coming across that way – but it’s really interesting that your brain did that. The only reason I can see is the assumption that most posters on the internet are American, but I said I wasn’t, and yet the idea that I might be talking about America was still there? Maybe you know lots of people from the UK who’ve moved to the US and expressed surprise over differences in dining culture, or maybe you’re pretty sure this is about the tip so it’s probably about the US? I think the concept of a kids meal did originate in the US – if I recall correctly, I think it was to do with prohibition and getting people into bars for something other than alcohol – so maybe that’s what you had in mind?

              Apparently, what is now a Happy Meal – the classic hamburger and fries option – was the original meal size at McDonalds and then they just kept adding on bigger sizes over the years. So I’d only disagree with the “mini” there!

              1. legalchef*

                Perhaps you’d be better off asking your question somewhere where the majority isn’t American then. You shouldn’t be surprised to get answers from an American perspective when you are posting somewhere where the majority of the readership is American.

              2. Sunflower*

                I assumed you were talking about America because you did say you were British but remarked on the portion size being too large which is generally regarded as a US issue so I assumed you were a Brit in America. On this blog, most commenters are American and the advice is usually default to American.

                You missed the point above- I never said it was about the tip, it’s about restaurants losing money. This is a global thing. Restaurants operate on a very small margin and there is an opportunity cost to people taking up seats and not ordering a full meal.

                Kids meals exist in restaurant because they need adults to come in and adults have kids they need to feed. The idea of them existing in bars during prohibition has nothing to do with why they exist now. They need to be affordable to entice the parents to come in. They are only there with the thought that like 1% of all meals will be kids because kids under 12 are not the target clientele for restaurants. There really isn’t anything more to kids meals but this (FWIW I have a degree in hospitality management and there’s literally no other reason for kids meals to be on the menu except the above)

              3. Courageous cat*

                You’re ruminating on all aspects of this to an intense extent. This site is US-based, many of us are from the US. I don’t think it needs a paragraph of analyzation as to one person’s thoughts.

                I get the feeling you’re feeling defensive about this whole situation irl and maybe that’s what’s factoring in, but ultimately, it should be a simple concept: some restaurants are cool with it, some aren’t, and there’s no harm in asking and having them tell you no. None at all.

            2. Kali*

              I’ve been thinking about this, and I think I’ve identified the underlying idea here that’s fascinating me. You’re right, the actual example of kid’s menus is trivial. But, the underlying issue of what we perceive about what other people know or don’t know is quite interesting, and that’s also why I got interested in why you still thought I might be talking about America.

              My perception is, that there is ambiguity which causes me to unintentionally act in a way that causes inconvenience to those people who could easily fix that ambiguity. So, to me, those people taking action to fix the ambiguity before it inconveniences them seems like a really obvious solution. But, quite often, people don’t realise that what they’ve taken to be an obvious, unspoken rule which is known to everyone ISN’T actually. So they interpret other people’s actions as understanding the rule but breaking it, and don’t stop to think about the possibility the other person doesn’t know that rule.

              In this case, I think the unspoken rule is something like “adults don’t order from children’s menus”, but, in other cases, it can be things like “love is expressed verbally” (i.e., the 5 love languages concept), or “If I want something, I will ask and deal with it if the other person says no” vs “I should take care to anticipate the needs of others. If I don’t and they have to explicitly ask for what they needed, I have dropped the ball and been inconsiderate. Because other people also follow these rules, someone will only ask me for something they really need, and so I should avoid saying no and compounding my earlier inconsiderateness” (i.e., Ask vs Guess – I’m Ask, which is why I needed more words to explain what I think someone who is Guess thinks). Or it might be a Geek Social Fallacy, like “Ostracisers are evil”, e.g., excluding someone from a friend group is one of the worst things you can do, so you should avoid doing that no matter how badly that person acts towards you. Those examples are all googleable, which is why I included the titles. I didn’t include links because I didn’t want this comment to get stuck in the mod queue.

              The other thing people do is to assume that their experiences are universal human experiences unless explicitly told otherwise. I think this is what I did with the assumption that adults ordering from kid’s menus is widespread, and you did in assuming I might be talking about American restaurants even after seeing a reason to think I wasn’t (“I’m British so it’s not about tips”). This is also one of the things we talk about when we talk about privilege, especially when people dismiss the experiences of others with things like “but everyone suffers!”. They assume that everyone’s day to day life is basically the same, except for the explicit thing being discussed, and don’t realise all the tiny differences, like, e.g., a constant difference in how people look at you or talk to you, or make assumptions about you, which people are trying to illustrate with broad examples. They think the experience of, e.g., racism, is limited *only* to the broad, unambiguous examples, and don’t realise that their day-to-day lives are fundamentally different because human brains just aren’t built that way.

              1. Kali*

                I have another example of a time I forgot to mention I was British, because it seems so obvious to me that I forget to say it. I entered uni as a mature student, and worked as a student ambassador. By my third year, I was promoted to senior ambassador and, together with the other seniors, needed to help organise social events. Because I’m 30 and an introvert, I wasn’t a big fan of the “let’s all get drunk” events – which was ALL of them, all 5 of the ones traditionally held throughout the year – and I knew that some of the other ambassadors were also introverts and/or didn’t drink for various reasons, some of which were obvious (and protected statuses) like religion. I was met with a shocking amount of resistance when I suggested doing something more inclusive for at least one of the events. I brought this up in the comments of these weekly posts last year BUT I forgot about the difference in drinking ages between the US and the UK. In the UK, the drinking age is 18 and so the vast majority of those attending uni are legally allowed to drink. I don’t know exactly what differences this causes, because I’ve never attended a US university, but, this does mean that we have pubs on campus, and it is very normal for university students to drink, especially in their first year, when they’re away from home, with people their own age, and still new to being allowed to go out drinking. It’s a very, very normal part of our culture. It’s so normal that I completely forgot to mention that I’m British, and, iirc, most of the comments I got were along the lines of “omg, you need to report this underage drinking problem!”.

                We have all kinds of assumptions about what is normal that we never question unless we suddenly find ourselves in an out-group on whatever scale, being explicitly told that other people have different assumptions. By outgroups, I mean like being not-American on the internet, or being mixed race in Britain. I’ve learned that my experiences as an outgroup in those contexts differ from the experiences of people who are American on the internet, or who are white in Britain. As far as I can tell, the people who are ingroups in those contexts don’t develop that same awareness of difference, certainly not to the same degree. That’s why I’m struggling to think of an example of me being ingroup and gaining an understanding about an outgroup member. The only one that comes to mind is a uni friend of mine who is American. American TV is so ubiquitous that Americans don’t seem like an outgroup even in the UK, although an American-expat living in the UK would probably disagree. Anyway, the other day she was registering for a GP and noticed that GP clinics are called ‘surgeries’ and wanted to know what we call the room where we have surgical operations. It’s an operating theatre. I didn’t realise that term wasn’t universal until she pointed it out because it had never come up before.

                1. Thankful for AAM*

                  It sounds like you approach everything you know as a sort of “normal” and everything you dont know as something others should know you don’t know. What you are describing is, to me, well, just life. There is no manual. You do a thing, you notice others’ reactions to you doing the thing, you learn and you decide your reaction. Rinse and repeat. For example, for me, you are giving too much bandwidth to the kids menu thing and then in explaining that its not too much bandwidth. I’d not enjoy those kind of conversations so I’d react by avoiding having them with you. You notice and find someone else to have them with. Or if we are coworkers, ideally we’d both adjust and be patient with our different styles. Thats how we move through life. There are many enjoyable posts on the interwebs that start, “I was today days old when I learned . . . ” cool thing everyone else seems to know. Its how life is.

                  I feel like you are surprised we did not know you are not in the US. You are sort of approaching us in the same way you are complaining waiters approach you. You did not know kids menus are for kids, “no one told me!” you said, “how could I know and they are not clear when I ask.” I thought you were from the US because you did not tell us, and when someone asked, you seemed surprised that we did not know. For what its worth, I’ve noticed and admired the way so many AAM commenters can simply and clearly address all the relevant info into fairly short posts. You could observe that as a model.

                2. Kali*

                  @Thankful for AAM:

                  You’ve written your comment as if I have a problem that I’ve asked for advice on how to fix. I understand I’ve managed to give a lot of people that impression, but that was never my intention.

                  You’ve repeated the point I made as if it’s advice you’re giving me that you expect me not to have realised, rather than literally the points I just made myself. You also claim I gave no indication I was British. It’s written in my first comment, and I mentioned that fact when I discussed it in the comments you’ve replied to.

                  You say you don’t want to have a discussion about how people think and how societies work. That’s absolutely fine. I don’t want to have a discussion where my own points are repeated back to me as life advice for a problem I don’t have. I find it patronising and frustrating. Let’s not have that conversation. There are hundreds of other comments, I’m sure you can find one you prefer.

                  @anonnie, honestly, I’m not sure. It might be that it is, and I’m remembering that experience as more frustrating than it was because everything around that job was incredibly frustrating, or I may have been recalling one of the other times I raised it.

                  I understand you think I’m devoting too much effort to this. I disagree – I’m literally just musing out loud about something I find interesting during a break from working on an assignment. You don’t have to do it with me. It’s not a problem I’m having, I don’t need advice on fixing it. I get that you’re probably coming from a place of trying to help, but it’s not needed, please spend your time on a conversation you would prefer.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  One thing I ask here is that people not post things they don’t want input on; if you post here, people are going to respond with their own thoughts because that’s the whole idea of these open threads. So I’d rather you not shut people down when they do (although you’re of course welcome not to engage with the comments that aren’t speaking to what you’re interested in). Thank you!

                4. Kali*

                  Sorry Alison; I wasn’t trying to prevent input, but I DO want to correct the false impression I gave, that I was asking for *advice*. Both commenters expressed frustration but seemed to feel obligate to offer assistance for a problem. That path only leads to more frustration for everyone.

                  Tbh, I feel satisfied with the realisation I had about the thing I wanted to discuss, and I think any new replies – if there are any after this – will probably continue to insist that I have a problem I don’t have and they must fix me while being irritated with me. Rather than just thinking “oh, this is a discussion I won’t enjoy, let’s not have it”. So I’m not going to check back. It’s a discussion I won’t enjoy, so I’m not going to have.

              2. Courageous cat*

                Can we please not compare the concept of you being assumed to be in America on a site that’s based in America to actual racism? This is a really outsize reaction and such a comparison is going to be offensive to people.

                1. Kali*

                  I compared it to my own experiences of living as a woman of colour. If anyone is upset that I found a similarity between my own iutgrouo experiences, that is really a them-problem.

                2. Kali*

                  I really shouldn’t reply on my phone!

                  I felt it was very important to add that I wasn’t talking about racism, I was talking about being a member of a minority in specific contexts. Very often, the expeirence of being a racial minority is also an experience of racism, but they are not identical. They correlate a lot, that venn diagram is *almost* a circle, but it’s not a complete one.

      7. tiny cactus*

        Mystifyingly, restaurants tend to assume that everyone always wants a massive portion, so it may not have occurred to them that an adult would voluntarily choose a smaller amount. Back when I still went to restaurants, my system was to always order something that I could save half of for the next day, but that doesn’t really help if you’re also looking to pay less.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, most restaurants will absolutely be happy to provide a smaller portion, as long as you’re willing to pay for a full meal. The culture of enormous meals in restaurants is also slowly changing, for health reasons. Here, restaurants get scored on how much food they waste, so there’s an incentive to providing smaller meals for customers who ask for it. One of the sit-down restaurants my husband and I most often frequented had the option on the menu for getting starter-sized main dishes for a slightly lower price.

          That said, I don’t think the American fashion of one meal being enough fo feed a family ever caught on in Europe as much as it has in the US.

    3. Pennyworth*

      I’d just ask if they are OK with you ordering from the kids menu or would they rather you just ordered an appetiser. That way you are signalling that you are not planning to spend a lot.

    4. Laura H.*

      I’m in camp ask.

      My favorite local restaurant serves a kids menu with a small up charge ($2 more)for 13 and older orders. I’ve done that numerous times when I want tamales, but 3 feels like a lot to eat with the rice and beans. They also have some items a la carte, so I could order one enchilada with an order of rice.

      Most of the time, I am of the stomach to order from the regular menu. But for days when I just want a little something, it’s nice to have those options.

    5. Grapey*

      Interesting, in US most places say “For kids 12 and under” so much that it became an assumption even when it’s not printed, but I’d still feel weird ordering off something called a “kid’s menu” in person.

      I’ve seen “lunch menus” that imply smaller portions, but the standard is to just have leftovers if the meal is too big.

      I have totally ordered off the kids menu for home delivery though!

    6. Jackalope*

      This is a tangent, but that’s one of the things I like about take-out. If I’m getting take-out, we can totally order something like 2 adult meals and 1 kids meal for the housemate who just isn’t that hungry, and they’ll never know the difference. Especially right now when we often send 1 person to pick things up, they have no way of knowing that the kids meal isn’t for an actual kid.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      I’ve never seen a place that wanted to restrict to actual children and didn’t have the “under 12” (or whatever age) printed on the menu. You’re not expected to know the “behind the scenes”; you’re just expected to take the statement at face value. That’s how you’re expected to know.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Even without an age specified, I take what I see at face value and assume a kids menu is for kids. I’m not a kid, so the kids menu isn’t for me.

        That said, I agree with others that you can always ask if it’s okay for you to order off the kids menu and you’ll get a clear answer.

    8. Not A Manager*

      I assume that at any restaurant where you order at the counter and pick up your food, you can order anything that you want. (My only exception is when I order a kiddie cone of ice cream. I ask then as well, even though it’s counter service.)

      Any restaurant where I have to sit down to eat, I ask whether I can order off the kids menu. I also tend to tip as if I’d ordered the adult version. I don’t know the tipping customs in the U.K., but in the U.S. you can really stiff the waitstaff if you get the discounted price and then tip a percent of the bill.

      1. Dan*

        TBH, I just tip the percentage of the bill for what I order and forget the rest. I’m not a “kids menu” person, but sometimes I order alcohol, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I order appetizers and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I order an extra side, and sometimes I don’t. Dinner last night was $18 before tax and tip. My half of dinner the week before when I went out was almost $100 before tax and tip. When I eat at cheaper places and order/spend less than I might on nights when I “go out”, I don’t tip extra.

      2. Kali*

        In the UK, waitstaff are paid the same as any other job, so tips are nice to have but nothing like as big a deal as in the US. You would normally base the tip off the price of the dish, but 5-10% is normal to generous, and I really can’t imagine anyone caring how much your dish cost in terms of the difference it makes to their tip.

    9. RagingADHD*

      You don’t have to try to guess/figure out anything. Just ask.
      “Are kids’s meals available to anyone, or is there an age restriction?”

    10. Sunflower*

      This is a US culture thing and has to do with our tipping/serve pay structure. In most restaurants, the kids menu has totally different(and usually much cheaper) items than the adult menu whereas in fast food, it’s the same food just a smaller portion. Kids menus in restaurants are developed pretty much just to give the kid something to eat while the parents ring up the big dollar dishes. Sitting at a restaurant, there’s also a much bigger focus on the amount of the check as the establishment and server could make a very significant differing amount based on what is ordered in the same amount of time. Fast food is grab and go so the check doesn’t have an impact on server or establishment income the way sitting a table at a restaurant is.

      This is all very much part of US culture and has to do with how our tipping system works- the servers make a percent of the check so it’s possible to make a big variant of $$ for doing the same amount of work. Upselling is a huge part of server work. I grew up in the Northeast and have worked in restaurants and it’s regarded as rude to sit at a table for a long time when you’re no longer ordering anything or you’re expected to leave a bigger tip to make up for it.

      US has massive portions in anything except fine-dining. Living here forever, I usually eat half my meal and plan to take the other home for later.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Having read your followup comments, for someone who claims to operate from an “Ask” mindset, you seem to have a very difficult time stating directly what you’re looking for.

      Your first post stated right up front that it was about kids’ menus and contained several different versions of the question, “How was I to know?”

      Then you returned to say it wasn’t really about kid’s menus but about communication, and continued with several versions of the question, “how do people know things at all?”

      Then you complained because people are trying to fix a problem you say you don’t have, and not engaging in the discussion you actually wanted.

      If you don’t know or can’t articulate what you actually want, you can hardly expect anyone else to psychically discover it.

    12. Morning reader*

      I suggest looking for “senior menu” or asking if there is a senior discount on the regular menu. This is more likely to be smaller portions of adult meals. The only reason I can see to order from a kids menu is if they offer something otherwise unavailable. Like a pb&j or a hot dog.
      You are more likely to be in the correct perceived age range for senior menus than kids menus. If you’re not old enough yet, wait. I started ordering senior items in my 40s. They don’t question it particularly if you’re with some other older people.
      I think senior items are less likely to be a loss than kids menus. They are trying to attract older adults and it’s just smaller servings of the same things, not totally different food.
      No advice on the larger question of how to tell. You just… notice? Why a steak restaurant will offer a kids hot dog is different from why fast food offers a junior burger. They are not trying to become known for their hot dogs but steak eating parents need to feed kids with them, and they want the steak eating parents. Fast food place just wants to sell more of whatever, they don’t care who eats it. Steak place obviously not thrilled if you take up a table to eat a hot dog.

  19. Puppy!*

    Update: Less excercise! More Training! Thank you everyone. She is the star of the zoom puppy class. Sits, down stays, come, touch. Working on wait.
    Reminder, she is in her 4th month.
    she sleeps in a pen.
    Question: Crate training. I’ve watched the videos, I have read books, articles etc. Puppy class!
    No one says how long this should take BUT NEVER FORCE THE PUPPY!
    An estimate- days, weeks?
    How many times a day should she be “playing” in the crate- she eats 2 meals and at least 2 kongs.
    The trainer says put her in when she is tired.- if she is sleeping she wakes right up and plays “bang on the door, let me out!”
    Do I just Ferberize?

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      I’ve never crate trained puppies but I do with adult foster dogs. Some of them dislike it and whine the first few nights, and we just prepare for a rough sleep (we keep the crate in our bedroom so I can hear if anything goes really wrong).
      So..yeah. ferberize. Ignore. Don’t reinforce that banging = getting out.
      My forever dog sleeps in her crate (she gets a treat to go in) but NEVER goes in voluntarily..she does not consider it her den.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am not a super fan of crates. With my current dog, he could not hack the crate at all. I have never seen anything like this, his level of upset was heart attack level. And he was only a pup. I truly feared my pup would die from being so very upset. I mentioned it to the vet and the vet said he had heard the same thing from other people who had gotten their dog from the same place.

      I gave up with the crate. While he was cutting teeth and still had destructive puppy tendencies I gave him a cardboard box on its side. I just replaced the box as he grew or as he ate it. (He actually did not eat them that much.) I gated him in the kitchen where there aren’t any rugs to pee on if I could not watch him.

      Once he got so he did not chew on everything in sight, I bought dog beds for him. (I had been giving him old blankets that were not a big deal if he destroyed them.) One bed I keep at the foot of my own bed and one I keep in the living room which is a central spot for this house. This is a dog that is very stubborn and very willful (husky mix). He loooves his beds and I have no problem telling my stubborn dog to go to bed at night or getting him to settle on his bed if we have company. Matter of fact, he is sleeping on his living room bed right now.

      I don’t believe crates are suitable for every dog. I get the theory behind the idea but you can create other areas that he associates with rest/sleep and he will use them regularly.
      We can choose to let our dogs show us things. I hope you get a chuckle. I was keeping an old blanket in the kitchen for him. As soon as I took the gate down in the morning, he would grab his blanket and drag it through the house. He always landed in the same spot with his blanket in front of the recliner in the living room. Just to see what this was, I grabbed his blanket and brought it back out to the kitchen. Yep, he followed me and dragged the blanket back to the living room. He had to walk backwards each time to successfully get the blanket through the doorways.
      Yeah, his dog bed is in front of the recliner even now, 12 years later. He is twelve years old and he still wants his bed in front of the recliner.
      In exchange for “tolerating” his preference here, I get a happy, content dog. While it’s not ideal having a dog bed in front of the recliner, it’s also not hurting anything either. This was a pup that had a very hard time settling down. I think he showed me one of many helpful solutions to his ansty-ness. I don’t understand the recliner thing, but I do see that he is content.
      If we watch, our pets can show us things.

    3. Missouri Girl in Louisiana*

      There is an excellent training video out called “Crate Games”. I train and show my dogs in agility and obedience and love this video a lot. I think you can buy it from Clean Run or J&J Dog Supplies (also 2 really good places for quality dog gear-and no, not affiliated with either company; I’m very picky about collars, leashes, and other training equipment).

    4. Beans are green*

      Our first dog (gotten at 8 weeks) screamed bloody murder in her crate. But she couldn’t be trusted alone in the house, so we persevered. We realized that if she could hear us, she would whimper and cry- but once she thought we’d left, she’d settle down. So…ferberization. By 6 months she would go into her crate and stay quiet until released.

      Ironically, I’d say both of our dogs finally adjusted to their crates around 6 months, just as they became trustworthy to be in the house but out of sight while we’re home. We still crate our 2 year old when we’re both gone, though. When anxious, she eats things like socks, so she can’t be unsupervised,

    5. Me*

      Our amazing trainer showed us how to make the dog love his kennel.

      With the door open, walk over and start being happy about the kennel (he has us do this for any object, basically just start talking in a happy tone about the item).

      If the dog touches the kennel with any part of his body- like his nose or a paw, reward with a treat and a “yes”. This clues the dog into “oh, I’ve done something to earn a treat. How do I earn another?”

      It usually takes my dog ~10 minutes of that to grasp the new skill. In this case you’d be looking for increased body contact with the kennel. So a nose would earn the first treat, putting a head in would earn another and a walk in would get a party o’ treats. Keep talking about the kennel as they figure out how to earn another one- nonsense stuff like oh the kennel, it’s right there, what do you need to do here pup, hmmm, I think you could do it, yeah let’s see what you can do with this kennel. The talking keeps them actively engaged while they try to figure out how to earn another treat. (We chose string cheese as a training treat- he loves it- soft and easy to eat during training and easy to carry/break into small pieces).

      It won’t be a fast thing but with a week or two of this, your dog should learn to love his kennel.

      If we are in a hurry we can now say “kennel” and he will run to it and wait for a treat. The treat goes in the kennel and the door is shut. He’s 18 months so he can spend a few hours in there if needed. We don’t always give him a treat to get him in. He likes to sleep in there some nights and he doesn’t need to be lured with a treat. He just has positive views of it. Like anything we’ve done, he learned via treats but it’s reinforced with only occasional ones to keep him guessing.

      We don’t reward door bangs or whines. He doesn’t make those noises much because he knows it doesn’t get him out. It’s fine for him to whine once to let us know he’s in there but we don’t immediately respond, giving it a minute or two of silence before letting him out. Puppies at 4 months wouldn’t spend much time in there. Definitely use for naps.

      I’m getting our next puppy in two weeks and will start him like I did with our current dog- on the half shell. Kennel bottom (sans top) becomes the bed from day/hour 1. After a week or so, the top goes on without the door. At some point the door goes on but isn’t closed. This remains the bed. I think it’ll be pretty easy because older pup will model good behavior :)

      1. Puppy!*

        I love this. She started on the bottom. And now runs in to get her dinner or kong. I will play the happy game with her.

  20. sswj*

    She should be WELL used to it now and it’s not a frightening place to be. Now it’s time for her to learn patience there, and if you’d rather her stay in the crate than the pen make that where she sleeps. Put her in it with a toy or a kong or something and then close the door and preferably go away for a couple of hours if you don’t think you can ignore her banging to get out when she’s done with her toys. While you don’t want to force her to GO in, you can increase the time she stays there. She doesn’t get to make the rules, and you need begin to see the difference between her frustration at not doing what she wants *right now!!!!* and real discomfort/distress (gotta pee!). They need to learn to deal with frustration, and the only way they learn that is to be frustrated. It takes willpower on your part, but it’s doable.

    Questions:
    -Is there a reason you want to use the crate over the pen? If she’s happy in the pen can you just use that?
    -If your aim is to transition to crate only, can you set the pen up as a patio of sorts in front of the crate? She’s still contained, – the pen is attached to the crate on either side of the door so it’s all one space. Then gradually shrink the pen space so that there’s a whole lot more crate than pen, and eventually just crate.
    Keep at it. At 4 months she should be getting a bit more of an attention span, be able to hold her bladder pretty well, and it sounds like she’s learning lots.

    She (and you!) can do this!

    1. Puppy!*

      Thank you for this advice. I want to crate train so that she will have a safe place to be when I am out of the house.

  21. Just a PM*

    Does anyone have any cookie recipes that will keep for about a week before being eaten? I am making a gift card basket for my grandpa for Christmas and want to pit some homemade cookies in it so it’s more than just a pack of gift cards. I’ll be sending it to him on the 19th. I’ve sent him cookies before (so I know most of the tricks to keep them fresh – layer with parchment, use a bread slice, keep covered, etc) but never a week in advance.

    Right now I am thinking about peppermint bark, rum balls, or some good old’ chocolate chip but am open to other ideas! Especially if anyone has tried-and-proven recipes.

    1. Union Maid*

      gingerbread people? I have just made a lot from Fannie Farmer (with molasses and no egg) = they are quite hard. as I recall from childhood they keep well. this is my practice batch – I have narrowed down the cutters (not used for a decade or more) which work well. I will be using coloured icing in tubes and assess that too. Then, there will be another batch which will go in the post.

      I am pretty impressed so far with shape definition, and how they are keeping together as they come off the sheet, after baking.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      Rum balls, Pfeffernusse, gingerbread, and biscotti all hold up well. Rum balls and Pfeffernusse are actually better a week later if you can stop yourself from eating them all at once, and they ship well without breaking.

    3. Teapot Translator*

      Biscottis last a long time in my experience, but the recipe I use has no butter in it and I use a KitchenAid stand mixer. I’ll post the link to the recipe in a follow-up comment.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      Rum balls will definitely last. I keep mine in the fridge. Also a lot of cookies freeze really well. I use a plastic container and just make sure it’s well sealed.

    5. pancakes*

      There’s a post on Eater titled “The Best Ways to Send Holiday Cookies in the Mail.” It has some good tips about packing them.

    6. Unicornucopia*

      My family makes these cookies that are just peanut butter crackers covered in chocolate (I’m sure someone has a name for them but we don’t) and they last for quite a while. You can make them a little fancier and drizzle white chocolate on top or add sprinkles etc. but they’re delicious and very easy to make. We make them all through December to give as gifts and we tend to keep them in the freezer but they’re also just fine in an airtight tin.

    7. Dancing Otter*

      Springerle. My grandmother’s recipe calls for drying out the rolled dough overnight before baking. They come out of the oven rock hard (great teething biscuits if junior likes the taste of anise), and take a few days to soften up to eating texture. They should work well for your purpose, and they look like a lot more work than they really are.
      Date nut balls with brandy. We always made them the day after Thanksgiving so they would have time to “season” before Christmas. Dates, pecans and Nilla wafers forced through the meat grinder, moistened with corn syrup and brandy, formed into ~1” balls and rolled in decorating sugar: no cooking. They really are better after at least a week, when the flavors have had time to blend well.

    8. Morningstar*

      I also always tell the recipients of food gifts to go ahead & open their gift early/upon receiving it as it’s perishable.

    9. SpellingBee*

      Chocolate shortbread is one of my go-to cookies for gift giving – they stay fresh for quite a long time if you keep them in an airtight container. I use Maida Heatter’s recipe, which is excellent and easy. I can write it out if anyone is interested, or you can probably find it online somewhere.

    10. HannahS*

      Shortbread cookies keep incredibly well. The trouble is that they’re kind of fragile for mailing.

    11. Girasol*

      You could go with the historic Anzac biscuit. Australian and New Zealander mothers sent them to their boys fighting in Africa and Europe in WWII. The boys dipped them in tea because they’re hard as rocks plain. They’re said to last for ages though, so they’d be good no matter how long they’d been in the mail. I love them just for the story. For just a week, though, these chewy molasses oatmeal cookies always get raves and they’ll ship well and last. They’re yummy with walnuts but if you happen to have hickory nuts or black walnuts they’re to die for.
      https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/old-fashioned-oatmeal-raisin-cookies/5fc2dae2-73b3-4440-957f-f409ecdff3fa

  22. aninum*

    I live in the US and have distant family in India I would like to give a wedding present – the closest in ease/flexibility to cash the better. Any ideas on something easy for me to buy in the US that is useful in India?

    1. aarti*

      Hi! I live in India and have family in the US. They’ve bought me gift cards from Amazon India, that are super useful if that is a service your family in India uses. You have to buy the gift card from the India version of the site, not the American one, but you can use your same Amazon account

        1. aarti*

          Not in the same way as the US but people will use it more occasionally to buy things. I think with COVID gift cards have become a super common wedding gift since people aren’t giving cash at the ceremony

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      If you just want to send cash, TransferWise is pretty easy and has lower fees than a bank. I’ve used to to send money from the US to other countries.

  23. Richard Hershberger*

    What I Learned Last Week: The house in London where George Frederick Handel (the “Messiah” guy) lived is now a museum. OK, that’s unsurprising. But it turns out that Jimi Hendrix lived in the adjacent house. So they did the sensible thing and have a double, single-admission museum for both. Bravo!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I don’t know. My local classical music station mentioned it before playing some Handel. That’s all I know. But it clearly is a must-see if visiting London.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      That is amazing and wonderful. People (Handel, Hendrix, and the museum folks) can be so creative!
      I’m going to look at their online store because I would love to see a t-shirt with both musicians’ faces.
      Maybe somebody can adapt each person’s music in the other’s style.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It also puts the lie to the image of the stodgy classical music lover. Those guys exist, but there aren’t as many as the popular imagination would have it, and even fewer are actual musicians.

    2. pancakes*

      I saw that circulating on Twitter around Hendrix’s birthday, which is in late November. The museum has an account, @handelhendrix

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ll add it to myou “unexpected musicians” tour…along with Muzio Clemente’s tomb in Westminster Abbey. Vivian Lee is in London too.

  24. Lcsa99*

    So a while back we asked about how to get some home help for my mother, and we were able to get her approved for less than 4 hours free a week. Unfortunately she has too much pain to stand long enough to cook for herself and can’t get in and out of the tub without help so we’ve been paying the woman under the table to come pretty much every day. So with the holidays coming, I am assuming we should give her some sort of a bonus as a thank you, but I have no idea where to start. How do I calculate that? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. Grim*

      I’d say paying her under the table saves her money, so that could be considered her bonus.
      But if that is hard to discuss, give her two days pay as a bonus. We hired a professional caregiver through a service that charged $25 per hour, so this would come out to a $200 bonus.

      1. Morningstar*

        It doesn’t save her money because, for example, she has to pay her own taxes, unemployment insurance, etc — or hide her income which means she’ll qualify for less social security or disability benefits later in life.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If it’s her first year, you can consider increasing it in upcoming years. I am not sure what amount would be comfortably doable in your setting. However, I suggest you settle on a figure that is comfortable to repeat again next year. I think consistency is good. It’s better to give $50 each year that she could count on than to give her $200 this year and nothing next year.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I wanted to add, don’t forget that stuff around the house which is no longer being used MIGHT be useful to her. So through out the year you could offer her first refusal on good, working items that are no longer needed. This can be anything from a handbag or coat up to a spare tv that no one uses.
        If you plan something like this, it may also help you arrive at an amount for the holiday bonus.

        1. Lcsa99*

          Unfortunately I live on the other side of the country and my mother is renting so I don’t know what is hers and what belongs to the landlord in order to offer something like that.

          As for the amount, we were thing the equivalent of half, or a week’s worth of pay but I don’t know if that’s too much. Is something like $50-$100 closer to the average for this kind of thing?

    3. Not A Manager*

      How long has she been with you, and how long do you hope this relationship will continue? If you like her and if your mother likes her – if she’s timely, reliable, honest, kind, and sensible – then I would absolutely give her as large a bonus as is reasonable and affordable. It’s super hard to get good elder care from a distance (ask me how I know), so if you have someone be sure that they feel valued.

      If she’d been working for me for close to half a year or more, I would give one week bonus for sure and I would round up to the nearest fifty. If she’d been working for less than that, I would give whatever is in the ballpark of one week but round down to the nearest “gift sized” amount.

      I would ALSO give a small physical gift that is as personal as possible. Wrap the gift, write a heartfelt card, and put the check into the card.

      1. Lcsa99*

        Thanks everyone! We’re glad we were in the right ballpark with the weeks+ pay. We’ll do that and a tin of cookies and a nice card.

  25. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

    I bought a new laptop with Windows 10 recently and am struggling to understand OneDrive. I transferred my old computer’s files from a USB drive and forgot to deactivate OneDrive first — I want my files saved to the local computer, not the cloud. I only remembered to change the setting to save to my local computer after I reached OneDrive’s free 5 GB limit (which happened quickly, as many of my old files were photos).

    I want to empty the OneDrive so I stop getting the warnings about it being full. If I delete the files in OneDrive, will they delete from the computer entirely? I tried to Google but couldn’t understand all the tech speak and I am not sure how they are connected. Thanks in advance.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Yes, that should do the trick. Don’t forget to empty the recycle bin located in OneDrive.

    2. curly sue*

      Yes, I believe they will delete from the computer as well. You want to be sure to copy them to a hard drive before deleting anything.

    3. My Brain Is Exploding*

      You have my sympathies! We had a similar problem with a computer once and finally one day one of our offspring was here and…fixed it. :)

    4. Laura H.*

      Do you still have the USB drive, or some similar physical storage media you can transfer the files back onto, do the One Drive clearing and deactivation/ nope don’t want to use, and then put your files back on your local system?

      Yes it’s time consuming, but I think it worth attempting if you can.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        Thanks, that’s what I’m going to try to do. And thanks to everyone for their comments.

        Unfortunately, I tried to delete the files off OneDrive and got a message that they couldn’t be deleted… because they are waiting to sync to OneDrive. Even though I thought I set the computer’s default to not save to OneDrive. On the face of it, it seems that the only way to get out of this loop of futility is to pay an extortionate annual rate to upgrade OneDrive.

        I’ve never liked Macs, but Microsoft has become pure evil.

        1. Not Australian*

          It’s probably too late in this particular case, but I’ve been using Linux for ~10 years now and it’s no more complicated than any other software, plus it’s free. It’s almost impossible to buy new equipment that doesn’t have Microsoft already installed (we buy good reconditioned hardware) but it should be straightforward enough to strip it out and install Linux instead.

        2. Cary*

          “Even though I thought I set the computer’s default to not save to OneDrive.”

          Your previous comment makes it sound like you set that *after* you’d already told the computer to put *these* files *on* OneDrive (by forgetting to turn it off). That’s why the change wouldn’t apply to these files.

          If they’re still waiting to sync, then they’re not actually on OneDrive yet (but the computer still thinks it’s supposed to put them there). You have to “Unlink This PC” and then they should never sync and it also defaults to leaving them on your PC.

          More specifically:

          In the OneDrive menu that you get to by right-clicking on OneDrive, you may have already gone to Settings and unchecked the option “Start OneDrive automatically when I sign into Windows.”

          You also need to go to the Account tab and click “Unlink this PC.” It then asks you to confirm. It says something like “OneDrive will stop syncing and a copy of these files will be left on this computer”–which I think is what you want? So then click “Unlink account.”

          HTH!

          1. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

            Problem solved, in literally two seconds. Such a simple fix! Thank you again!

            (My opinion of Microsoft is still zero. My workplace has forced OneDrive and Teams on us, and to put it mildly, they are crappy products. There also was the creepy article Alison posted earlier this week about Microsoft’s productivity reports. But that’s a problem for another day.)

  26. Hotdog not dog*

    So this is my big cookie baking weekend! We (well, mostly my son and husband) decided, “Damn the pandemic, full speed ahead!” What are your favorite holiday or traditional cookies? We like to explore other cultures and traditions, and in the kitchen seems the only safe way to travel the world this year.

    1. Lcsa99*

      Its our cookie weekend too! We’re making six types of cookies and special brownies. Happy baking!

      As for traditional cookies, I think our favorite is Rugelach! Chocolate, which is a little less traditionally but we’re chocolate people. :)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m not sure what your “special brownies” are (though I’m curious :) ) but one of my favorite dessert treats are brownies with dollops of chocolate chip cookie dough dropped on top pre-baking, so they come out as both desserts together :)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I’ve tried them with peanut butter cookie dough as well, and it didn’t work *quite* as well as I wanted it to, but I think that was because of the specific dough recipe I used, and a more standard one would probably work better :)

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        Last year I made chocolate rugelach and it was a huge hit! We are big chocolate fans here!

    2. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      There are so many good ones! Mexican wedding cakes were always a treat for me growing up. Algerian tcharek/tcharak crescents cookies are amazing and a bit more fun and involved in the stuffing and the rolling making for a great family activity (but definitely leave off the icing sugar in my opinion) and while they might not technically be cookies you can’t go wrong with gulab jamin, especially if you find a recipe that lets you take the easy way out and use milk powder. For less common American recipes, something like Joe Froggers/molasses crackles are so much fun to make and a bit more interesting than chocolate chip cookies (not to knock them, they’re my favorites). Also, angel food bars anyone?

        1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

          Lol, you will not regret asking! They are the most amazing layered bar cookies. It starts with a shortbread-ish base, then you bake on another layer made up of coconut, chopped pecans, sugar, and eggs, then once it’s cool you drizzle on lemon icing. We had them almost every big celebration growing up and I still make them when the whole family gets together. Here’s the Joy of Cooking recipe (replacing the white flour with whole wheat flour gives.a more nutty flavor).https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/pecan-or-angel-slices-360792

          1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

            I don’t when they changed the name from ‘angel food bars’ to ‘angel slices’.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Our plan this year is pfeffernusse (family tradition I carry on), Italian butter cookies and pinwheels. But I’ve done all kinds in years past, when I could share them more easily.

    4. Grits McGee*

      I make cucidati (Italian fig cookies)- 7 pounds of dried fruit, a quart of nuts, and a whole orange and lemon. :) I have to use my grandfather’s old metal meat grinder to make the filling; it’s so dense, it will absolutely destroy the motor of any food processor or blender.

    5. Llellayena*

      Russian tea cakes (not sure if they’re actually Russian since they’re used in traditional Italian cookie trays…)
      Pignoli cookies
      Shortbread (in many different flavors)
      Anise cookies (very traditionally Italian)

      I have such a strong Italian tradition in the cookies I’ve made that I really don’t know how to make basic American Christmas cookies like sugar cookies or chocolate chip!

    6. LQ*

      My grandma’s orange walnut icebox cookies. They were a shortbread cookie with orange zest and black walnuts from the tree out back. I’ve made them as an adult and actually managed to make them taste as good. It was sort of a miracle because nostalgia cookies are in my experience impossible to replicate. I’m not big on nostalgia but cookies out of the window well are the big thing for me.

      I did it by using really good ingredients, really high-quality butter, flour, and salt, and the best orangiest oranges I could get.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        I had a colleague whose wife was from Greece and made these for the whole office! She wouldn’t tell anyone the recipe, and none of the recipes I’ve found have been as good as hers.

    7. Natalie*

      When I was growing up our “official” Christmas cookie was speculaas, using the recipe in the James Beard cookbook. My family isn’t Belgian or Dutch, I’m not exactly sure why that’s the recipe my mother settled on. But I like them, I think they’re a little more interesting than sugar cookies but they still roll out and decorate easily.

    8. Buni*

      I tend to stick to:

      1) traditional gingerbread biscuits – a couple of years ago a friend bought me a Christmas-themed set of cutters, so there’s about 12 different shapes – decorated with piped white chocolate, and

      2) ‘stained glass’ biscuits, usually in an orange spice flavour, with cut-outs done in different colours of ‘glass’.

    9. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      It is just the two of us for the holidays so I haven’t baked in many years because well, don’t want to pile on the weight! But this year I got a hankering to do holiday baking (the holiday meals are all mix and match international recipes instead!) both for some home cookies and also to give some in a bag as gifts to friends.

      Growing up we always did chocolate crinkles, mexican wedding cakes, three-colored icebox cookies, and I think molasses cookies (for dad). Oh, and some of those peanut butter and hershey kiss ones. But the big big deal was mom’s sugar cookie cut outs with Grandma’s frosting and colored sugar sprinkles. I have practically nothing from either grandmother, but that recipe has stood the test of time. Looking forward to baking – but probably not until the 17th!

    10. Glass Piano*

      My uncle married a wonderful woman from New Mexico a few years ago who shared her family’s recipe for biscochitos, which are a traditional cookie from NM flavored with anise and cinnamon. They are amazing! Our other family traditions are spritz, pazelles, cocoons (which are a family variation on Italian wedding cookies), these chocolate and vanilla swirls that my mom developed in her twenties (since I’m moving out this summer, I get to learn her secret recipe this year!), and then we’ll usually do a classic like gingerbread or oatmeal. Cookies are a big part of the holiday for us, so we’re not cutting back on the varieties but we are only making one batch each.

    11. Chaordic One*

      My family likes a Pinwheel Cookie made with a basic butter cookie dough, a plain simple sugar cookies that you use can use cookie cutters on and then add sprinkles to. Or frost them after they’re banked or add maybe add sprinkles to them then. They also like povitica bread.

    12. Aurora Leigh*

      Press cookies (with almond flavoring, not vanilla), crybaby cookies (these have coffee and molasses in them as well as raisins, dates, and walnuts) sugar cookies (our recipe has sour cream in the dough), cherry chocolate chip (shortbread base with maraschino cherries, almond extract and dark chocolate chips)

    13. Might Be Spam*

      Our traditional cookies are ice-cream cookies. Mix the ice-cream with flour and butter and roll them out. Put a dollop of jam on top and bake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
      I don’t think I can mail them to my son so I am sending him the recipe, since he can’t visit this year.

    14. Generic Name*

      Ginger snaps
      Pfefferneusse
      Chocolate crackle cookies

      All from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book

    15. Girasol*

      Spritz sandwiched together with butter cream. We make four batches with different shapes, colors, and flavors: chocolate mint trees, chocolate coffee whirls, lemon or orange sunbursts, cherry vanilla wreaths.

    16. Dancing Otter*

      Family cookie traditions I don’t make any more: fattigmands, because of the deep frying; rosettes, because I lost the iron and they’re also deep fried. They’re pretty fragile, too. So much for the Norwegian heritage.

      We always had both butter and almond spritz and springerle, which are more properly German, I think, but the recipes came from my Norsk relatives. My springerle roller has been in the family for at least eighty years, and may not have been new then.
      None of our other usual cookies are particularly ethnic, unless shortbread qualifies as English.

  27. Jane Smith*

    Gardening question: I had my back yard paved and have finished painting it. It looks great! A small section of the back was left for me to plant flowers in. It’s always been very clay-ey and weeds loved it but I have grown nice stuff there in the past. Anyway. I removed the weed roots and put lots more soil down and planted bulbs and wild flowers for spring, but the soil is now sodden. I’m very doubtful anything will grow there. It’s just thick mud.
    Can I salvage it? Maybe put a layer of grit over the top and mix it in with the soil to help drain it?
    Any advice please:)

    1. Anon For This*

      Is the paving area now creating runoff into the area you want to plant? You could try rain barrels or other stormwater practices if so. Removing the plants that were there can also cause you to lose soil because it’s roots that hold it in place. Mulch is usually an option to absorb extra water and hold the soil in place while new roots set.

    2. It happens*

      Containers! You can control a container garden’s soil. And you can put them on the clay or the paved part. You can also add a variety of heights and textures- I have low teak boxes that hold the base for my climbing vines, higher teak for a treelet, higher plastic-that-looks-like ceramic containers for bushes, and higher cor-ten steel for attention-grabbing flowers at eye height when seated. Writing it out makes it sound like a lot, but it works for me. Have fun!

    3. SpellingBee*

      I also have clay soil so this is something I’m familiar with! If you just added soil on top of the clay without mixing it in or breaking up the clay bed and the area is now surrounded (or almost surrounded) by paving, what you’ve done is created a big pot. It’s super soggy because the water has nowhere to go. It will eventually soak into the clay below of course, but it will retain water for longer than it should. Unfortunately mixing sand or even organic matter (which would be preferable) into the top layer won’t help, because that’s not where the problem is. Since you just had a lot of work done in the yard, it’s likely that the area was compacted even more than normal by people and equipment going over it, which would exacerbate the issue.

      Your options are pretty limited at this point because you’ve already planted, but I’d try taking an earth fork and carefully pushing it into the clay as far as you can, then rock it back and forth to break into the hard layer. Do this about every six inches or so, or as close as your plantings allow. You may spear a bulb or two – I always do when I dig in a bed where I’ve planted bulbs – but just push it back into the soil and it will probably be okay.

      Good luck!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have snotty, greasy, clumpy clay all around me here.

      After much debate and reading, I decided to try some Jersey Greensand. Yep, it’s green and looks like sand.
      This is an odd thing, it works to loosen clay soils but it can also build cohesion in sandy soils.
      Healthy soil has worms. There were no worms here. I tried it in a couple beds and wow. Even the first season, I could see the results. Finally a family of parent robins brought their 4 youngsters to forage for food in my garden. The young birds made a racket and attracted my pets’ attention. When I went to the window I found my cats and dog staring out the window at these 4 young ones noisily chirping away and pulling up worms with mom and dad watching closely.

      Very basically, the idea is to put minerals into the soil, which stimulates microbes which in turn feeds earthworms and every body makes the soil in that area better.

      I shopped around because the first bag I found (years ago) was $100 for the bag. I found it locally at a lower price. I don’t think the lower priced ones are as high quality as the expensive ones. But I was happy with the results I had.
      My friend has the sandy soil problem and we used it in her gardens. And the worms came back, they were large running about 6-8 inches long.

      As others were saying, if you cannot get that bed to drain out that will be an issue and probably wise not to put a lot of money into the bed. But maybe there is something else you can do for drainage, so I am just throwing out the greensand idea.

      1. SpellingBee*

        I’ll look into this – thanks for the idea! Always on the hunt for ways to improve my concrete clay soil. Did you dig it in, or just topdress? I can obviously google, but was wondering what method you used since you had a good result.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The first time I spread it out as a thin coating by hand over the whole area. Then I took my shovel and turned over maybe 1 inch of dirt. My thought was this stuff is not cheap, I don’t want it blowing a way or draining off.

          Subsequent applications the soil was looser so I used the teeth on a bow head rake to scratch it in a little bit- again so it did not blow away/run off.

          The bag does show an application rate, I used less that that because I am frugal.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      I have heavy clay soil. I recommend doing nothing now with muddy clay except maybe a cover layer of organics. Wait until spring to work the soil. Please don’t add grit or sand to clay; in my area, that just makes concrete. Working mud now can make it worse and maybe disturb your bulbs.
      You’d be surprised at what survives over winter.
      Happy Gardening!

      1. Jane Smith*

        Thank you! I am normally quite lucky with plants, considering I am not green fingered, so here is hoping!

      1. pancakes*

        A lot of the gardeners I most respect are very anti-peat moss for sustainability reasons, and there are great alternatives. I’d advise people to read up on this subject before buying.

  28. Photography backdrops*

    Does anyone have a photography backdrop they like? I like the idea of replica surfaces (where you buy fake marble, wood, brick, etc printed boards that you put together at 90 degrees) but they are way too expensive. I use a white sheet or a light box with white walls now but would love being able to swap out the white for wood, brick, other surfaces. (About 18 inches by 18 inches in size)

      1. nep*

        Oops–OK. Just realised that you gave dimensions there. That’s what I was getting at w my question.
        I have been happy with a wide-slat wooden fence in the yard–perfect on overcast but bright days. But when outside’s not an option, I’ve got a big piece of light wood left over from a building project. I’ve been seeking backdrop options also…I’ve got to keep this in mind when out at thrift shops, estate sales, and the like.

      2. OP for this*

        Mostly my 7 pound dog and the clothes I make for her.

        But also food, craft projects, things I make.

        Thanks

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      I’ve had success with scrapbook paper (they have wood look. Brick, etc) you could also get a few planks of vinyl tile glued to a surface and then cut to fit your light box. Try a habitat for Humanity reStore for some cut offs. I’ve also seen marble tiles there. I photograph using a light box and background struggle is real :)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I was going to say, scrapbook paper or maybe patterned contact paper on a piece of plywood, you could do different paper attached to each side.

    2. Anona*

      The replica boards I found on amazon (though I don’t love amazon) were $13 for a double sided vinyl wood (or they also have marble) backdrop (34×15.7). For $40 you can get a pack with a bunch.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      Scrapbook paper is a great suggestion! I get multiple sheets of good backgrounds to get a bigger backdrop.
      I also use background fabric over foam board. I can get a larger continuous surface that way and if the fabric becomes wrinkled, I can iron or tumble-dry it flat again. There’s stone, brick, grass and wheat field print fabric. Fabric isn’t as fragile as paper and it stores more compactly.
      Yay, photography!

  29. Teapot Translator*

    TW for self-harm
    I just learned that my niece is cutting herself. :-(
    I have some questions:
    1. I don’t intend to mention it because she’s not the one who told me. Besides trying to spend time with her, what else can I do to help?
    2. If she tells me about it, what are the things I should avoid saying or doing? Should I just listen and tell her I love her?
    This is very sad for me.

    1. nep*

      If she does bring it up, maybe ask her what she’d like you to know or understand about it. And be OK with long periods of silence, which might help her share more than she otherwise might.
      Sorry your niece is struggling. Wishing you both peace.

    2. Anon For This*

      This is something I have personal experience with. In many cases it has nothing to do with suicide and is more about managing stress. It was a bad habit and it faded in time. Honestly, I don’t think you should bring it up with her that you know because she’s probably embarrassed that people are talking about this. Yes just try to be a supportive presence in her life, ask her questions, listen thoughtfully (without making it seem like she is A Project or a A Problem you trying to solve) and at most, offer some healthier suggestions you use for self care when you’re upset or feeling bad.

      1. nep*

        Wow–this is so subtle but so important. Not making a person feel they’re A Project or A Problem. What a great insight.

      2. Reba*

        This is great advice. I also did this as a young person, and even though I mentioned it in creative writing projects and told close friends, I would *never* have wanted to talk about it with an aunt or other adult, or know that people were talking about it without me (!!).

        Maybe you could invite niece to do some fun, soothing self care thing with you. Home spa, scented candles…?

        Glad your niece has you in her life.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ll try to focus on fun activities. I don’t intend to talk about it with her unless she talks about it first. And if she does, I will try to just listen.