weekend open thread – January 16-17, 2021

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: Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce. Set in London during World War II, it’s about a young woman who hopes to become a journalist but accidentally ends up as the assistant to a ladies’ advice columnist … and begins to secretly write back to letter writers whose troubles the columnist deems too unpleasant to answer.

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

{ 1,046 comments… read them below }

    1. Anono-me*

      This photo looks like it should be in a fantasy/fairytale book as an illustration of the elf or fairy godmother character in their ‘animal glamor’ guise.

    2. sierraseven*

      That coat color is known as “clouded tortoise-shell” – if the markings are in larger patches, it’s “clouded calico”. It’s a rare and lovely mutation.

  1. The Third Lorelei*

    Someone recently recommended a passion planner to me and after checking it out, I decided to get one to focus on my mental and physical health. Can anyone share experiences with using a physical planner like this to track the trajectory of your well being i.e. not professional goals? What do you like about using it? Trying to orient myself away from my computer and screens is a challenge but I’m looking forward to it because I had way too much of that in 2020.

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Not quite the same but I use a Kanban I made out of some packing materials, it’s just a white board about the size of a magazine cover and at the top are three column headers: to do, WIP,.done. I put goals on post it notes and move them across the board. You can do it online but the physical aspect seems to make it more tangible.

    2. Holly the spa pro*

      I started a bullet journal this year, so very similar to your passion planner but i made the layouts myself. Personally, ive always struggled with digital planners. I think the act of writing stuff down helps me retain and focus. With things like habit tracking, i find the ritual of filling it out everyday is motivating. Im experimenting with time blocking this year. This month has been “this is how i think/want to meter out my time vs how i actually spend my time, get off track, etc” it has been really helpful to see where my day is actually going, where i get off track, etc without the self punishment of “where the hell did your day go, what are you doing with your life?”

      I have found that so far its a blend of my personal/mental health/habit goals as well as tracking work, to-do lists and appointments. Plus i like drawing the spreads for the months. :)

      Good luck, plz share your progress.

    3. Fellow Traveller*

      I don’t have a planner, just a notebook that I use to keep track of life (which, I guess makes it a planner).
      I’ve started marking a page at the beginning of each week to track certain habits. I’ve been taking the (free!) The Science of Well Being course on Coursera and every week, you are given “rewirements” to work on- that is things that are scientifically proven to improve well being. So I’ve been tracking these rewirement assignments in my notebook to try to get them to be better habits and be a little accountable. The categories so far are; Savoring, gratitude, connecting with someone, acts of kindness, sleep, and exercise. So I have a 7×6 grid (7 days of the week x 6 rewirements) where every morning I made a note in each rewirement category of how I did the previous day. I like looking at these actions across the week- it’s a good overview, but not such a long period of time that I make excuses and procrastinate.
      (The course actually comes with downloadable templates for tracking these things which include space to journal about how you feel about your progress.)
      I also track each days’ reading, outside time, listening to music, and whether I floss.
      Anyhow every morning, while I eat breakfast, I will fill out my grid, write in my journal and then use block my day. I find it very soothing.

    4. (A different) Susan*

      I’ve used a passion planner for the last 5 years and love the particular organization of that tool. It only works as well as you use it, of course, but that is designed to support you through the process. I got through a divorce, managed a workforce job for the first time in a decade, bought a house, and got my LMSW (professional license) with that!

    5. Galloping Gargoyles*

      I’m not sure what a passion planner is but I order my paper planner from Plum Paper because you can completely customize the headings. These are my customizations:

      CUSTOM SECTIONS
      TO-DO
      VERSE
      WORK
      HOME
      WORKOUT
      MEALS
      GOALS
      GRATITUDE

  2. Newbie*

    Any recs for breathing exercises or calming relaxation techniques, preferably on Spotify or YouTube? I’m not looking for intense meditation guides, just something to help winding down at the evening.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      I’ve been using Insight Timer to relax at night. It has a wide variety of meditation topics. I go back and forth between the muscle relaxation and the anxiety meditations depending on why I can’t sleep.

    2. Kathlynn (canada)*

      I listen to cats purring sometimes on youtube. Calms me down if I’m stressing out too much (nope, don’t have any atm. nor plan to get any soon)

    3. Nela*

      Yoga Nidra is a relaxation technique that comes in many varieties, from just the basic muscle relaxation to more involved visualization. I downloaded a few audios by Lily Goncalves that I listen to occasionally, she has a YouTube channel as well. I tried different folks but usually their voice or their background music bothers me.

      If you’re just looking for some gentle background sounds and not something you need to focus on, check out ASMR channels. I particularly like WhispersRed, Lune Innate, and Dimitri / Massage ASMR (his singing bowl videos). If you like Tibetan singing bowls, there’s a channel called Temple Sounds that I used to listen to.

    4. Purt’s Peas*

      I really really like alternate nostril breathing—I actually use it every night before sleeping. I was introduced to it by Yoga with Adriene’s video so I will recommend that.

    5. Mephyle*

      The 4-7-8 breathing method. You don’t need an app, just breathe and count to yourself. I will post a link in the following comment.

    6. Frankie Bergstein*

      I really like Belleruth Naperstek’s recorded visualizations and affirmations. These are albums available on Spotify.

    7. Mephyle*

      I have found that the absolutely best calming audio for me is a video on Youtube called “Anxiety Interruption Technique: Experimental ASMR with Hypnosis (Medical Role Play)” posted by Jellybean Green ASMR in October, 2019. I downloaded the audio track from it and carry it on my devices.
      The reason I think it works so well is that unlike most relaxation and calming scripts, it doesn’t tell you anything like “don’t think about your worries and cares” – that immediately starts me thinking about my worries and cares, and it doesn’t talk about attempting to fall asleep – that immediately starts me thinking about sleeplessness.
      But try it yourself to see – she says herself in the introduction, “This particular technique will work very well for some people, but not for everyone.”

    8. Dwight Schrute*

      YES I love the video ( I think it’s a Ted talk ) on whiskey breathing. It seriously helps me so much. It’s the Lucas Rockwood video. It’s memorable, and helpful

    9. memyselfandi*

      My favorite is listening to an audio book. It’s a version of a bedtime story. There are a couple of podcasts that read stories to help you sleep, but most of them add ambient sound, which I don’t like, so I have switched to some free online audio books. Libra Vox is one and Lit2Go at U of So Florida is another. I just listened to David Copperfield, which I had never read. Right now I am listening to Sherlock Homes. They are familiar stories, but charming. I am not sure if the difference is real, but it seems to me that books written during an era when reading aloud was a common past time are best. Getting someone with a good voice is also challenging. Another free source is Hoopla, if your public library subscribes.

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        Yes I have a whole collection of audio books I’ve listened to before, that I listen to at bed time. So calming and soothing.

        1. Buzzbattlecat*

          Yes! All the Golden Age mysteries are available on YouTube, like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh.
          If I’m struggling to sleep, thunderstorm sounds are my go to.

    10. Learning to Breathe*

      If you want to relax your body along with your breathing, checkout intro videos for Qiyong or Tai Chi. There’s videos as short at 5min on youtube (plus some longer ones). It really helped me when I was dealing with a bunch of work stress.

    11. louise*

      I like the guided sleep meditation podcast Tracks to Relax. I get via the Apple podcast app but believe it’s available on all platforms.

    12. Roci*

      The Meditation Minis Podcast- great simple meditations under 10 min each, I’m not sure if she is on Spotify or YouTube but should be anywhere you get podcasts.
      Jason Stephenson on YouTube–Floating in Space is my favorite
      also the entire world of ASMR on YouTube. There is so so so much nowadays!
      There are also Bedtime Stories for Grownups, the French Whisperer (also on Spotify), and audio books of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and so on. These aren’t relaxation techniques per se, but they talk calmly and quietly so your brain has something to latch on to and you can fall asleep while you listen. Like having a bedtime story read to you.

      1. Roci*

        Oh also the Tide app has some breathing exercises as well as meditations.
        You can even use it as a pomodoro timer at work.

  3. Might Be Spam*

    Since I am not going anywhere anyway, this seems like a good time to grow out my roots and I have mixed feelings about it. I now have 4 inches of gray/white and 8 inches of dark brown. The gray/white part is definitely healthier than the dyed part. Eventually I’ll have to cut off the brown and I will miss having long hair, even though I know it will grow. Now I’m having second thoughts because I’m afraid of looking older.

    Have you made any pandemic changes and how is it going?

    1. Kate*

      I decided I needed a change, and got bangs.

      I figured that if it didn’t work out, I could grow them out at home and no one would be the wiser.

      Yeah, good thing on that. Bangs were a terrible choice. I now see why I hadn’t had any since I was 12.

    2. Not Australian*

      I started experimenting with dyeing my own hair. I started out with a deep purple colour, very similar to what my stylist has used in the past, and it was successful, so I then went bolder and tried blue. That was a bit disappointing as it turned out blue-black rather than a real blue. [The real colour of my hair a sludgy brown which I’ve always hated, mixed with increasing amount of white which I rather like.] I’m seriously considering green next. I figure this is the ideal time to get creative, and the very few people who see me really don’t care how I look.

      1. Longtime Lurker*

        Same! Except I left the very front of my hair ( an inch or two on the sides and 3 or 4 on top “natural”) – depending on what background I choose for video calls, I can still pass for professional when I need to!

    3. Erika22*

      If you’re ok waiting until salons are open again, you could talk to your hair stylist about lifting the brown out and dyeing your hair to match your roots, rather than just cutting it off. I’ve seen pictures and videos of hair stylists working with what sounds like exactly your hair, and just leaning into the gray/silver color while keeping the length so you don’t need to worry about that transition period. I don’t think I’m explaining this very well, but if you Google it you may find examples. The ones I’ve seen are really nice looking, and the hair always looks so healthy and young despite being silver/gray.

    4. Doctor is In*

      4 inches should be long enough for a cute new style! Bet you will love having low maintenance hair.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      No changes to my hair, but I’ve stopped wearing makeup. It originally started because I had surgery in March and was recovering for a few months. Those first few months were the start of the pandemic, so I definitely wasn’t going anywhere except the pharmacy or grocery store. Then my company sent everyone home to work and we’ve been home ever since. I got used to not wearing makeup and now I’ve decided I won’t wear it anymore unless I’m going out for a nice dinner or something. If we have to go back to the office, I’m hoping I won’t chicken out and start wearing it again. I almost tried it before the pandemic, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go without makeup at work. I felt like I looked very washed out and just unpolished.

    6. Asenath*

      I stopped getting my hair cut. Initially, it wasn’t possible to get a haircut since all the salons were closed, and I had cured myself of any idea that I could cut my own hair back when I was in my late teens or early twenties. Then when salons re=opened with special precautions, I decided to just get the ends trimmed and tidied a bit. I still haven’t decided “where I’m going with this”, as the hairdresser said, aside from using a hairband to keep it out of my eyes, but I seem to be getting past the really messy period and still going strong. It’s been decades since I had my hair longer than what I suppose you’d call a pixie cut – at that time, I often braided it or put it up in a bun, but it’s not long enough for that yet.

      1. ten four*

        I had a buddy who grew out her pixie for the first time in decades! She just got it shaped into a seriously adorable short shag haircut with bangs; I gather she just asked her stylist to try something. I’ve had amazing luck with my stylists picking for me and then at least one DISASTER (and weirdly the luck and the disaster were the same person!). On the other hand, now is a good time to try stuff!

      2. allathian*

        My hair hasn’t been this long since elementary school, it’s long enough to get stuck under my bra straps. I have very thick hair, and for most of my professional life, I’ve worn it in a short bob/long pixie cut with bangs. Now I’ve grown my bangs out and decided that I definitely don’t want to go back to having bangs, even if it means using a hairband to keep it out of my eyes.

        My hair has always been a very washed out color, and I actually like having steaks of gray in it, because it gives my hair more texture. I’m actually hoping I’ll get the slightly bluish tint my mom has in her naturally gray hair.

        I will need to get a haircut at some point to get a nice-looking longer style that I can braid or put in a bun rather than just an overgrown bob.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      I grew out my hair in 2018. The brown/gray look wasn’t great and I almost gave up a few times but I’m glad I stuck it out. My hair is now several shades ranging from dark gray to silver, and I love it! It ended up looking like I got highlights and lowlights on purpose. It’s much stronger, shinier, and healthier than it’s ever been. If I could change anything I would have done it years earlier.

      1. Gray Panther*

        Absolutely agree, Hotdog. I consider my multiple-grays hair a gift from my parents, both of whom had beautiful gray hair as they aged.

        On the rare occasion that someone points out that I could (emphasis on “could”) dye it, I say, “Are you kidding? Every one of these gray hairs is a souvenir—I earned them!” Sometimes I add, “I’m thinking of naming them!”

    8. Usernames are hard*

      Last spring I dealt with my pandemic stir-crazy (I live alone) by dying my hair with fashion colors. Judging by the difficulty I had getting the supplies, I was not the only one. So far I’ve been turquoise, green and two shades of purple. But the universe had to screw with me: while the purple looks awesome it doesn’t last very long. The green looked ok but lasted for 2 months.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Oh funny, my experience has been the other way around – green fades out super quick but purple goes through this burgundy-wine stage as it fades and just hangs there for months.

    9. CJM*

      I’m in the same boat as you, although my hair is an inch or two shorter than yours and about half medium brown.

      I have mixed feelings about it all. I had wanted to grow out the gray one day soon, and then the pandemic made it happen. But what next? I’ll decide after I get the vaccine, whenever that will be.

      I’ve been drifting along without a plan. If I made one, it’d be to grow out the gray to chin length. That’s the most flattering length for me. And the gray looks okay for now, although I don’t love it. I don’t want a shorter cut that doesn’t look good on me — just to get rid of the brown hair. So first I’ll get a trim to chin length when I feel safe going back to my hair salon.

      But I may weaken, and vanity may win out. I used to enjoy comments that I look much younger than my age, and I think my brown hair was a big reason for that. And maybe I’ll decide I look washed out in my natural gray color. We’ll see. But I’m tired of dying my hair because of the expense, worries about side effects, and buying into a beauty standard I don’t agree with.

      1. CJM*

        Just to be clear, the beauty standard I don’t agree with is one I’ve heard all my life: gray hair is unattractive. That’s simply not true!

        1. Asenath*

          I agree it’s not true – I just wanted to add that I’d heard conflicting views through my life. My grandmother was firmly opposed to grey hair. She dyed her hair to the end of her days, using those home dying products. And that was it. She wasn’t interested in fashionable hair styles, or make-up, and shocked a conventional friend by almost invariably wearing plain pants and a shirt or sweater. She was horrified when her daughter, my mother, did not dye her hair! She said it wasn’t NECESSARY to go grey! My mother, nevertheless, did not dye her hair which eventually became an attractive white. Between the two role models, I took after my mother, at least as far as my hair was concerned. It’s naturally a kind of light brown (sometimes called dishwater blond) and now is greying nicely. My father also had lovely white hair, so genetics should insure that my hair will eventually be white rather than grey.

          1. CJM*

            Interesting! I think I would have followed your mom’s lead too.

            My mom trained as a hair stylist (but only briefly worked as one) and placed a high value on how her hair looked. She dyed her gray hair a light blond until she was about 80, so my main takeaway from her was “gray looks bad.” When she finally let the gray grow out, it looked great.

            Like your mom’s mom, my mom disapproved when her daughters didn’t follow her standards — not just for dying gray hair but for makeup and clothes too. I rebelled and won’t wear makeup and trendy clothes. But I’ll dye my hair! I wasn’t ready for gray hair when it started appearing when I was about 30, but I hope I am now.

            1. allathian*

              I found my first gray hairs when I was a few days short of my 28th birthday. For about five years, I
              diligently plucked the gray hairs I could find. After that there were too many to bother with… At the time I was living paycheck to paycheck, and it certainly didn’t occur to me to spend what little money I had on dyeing my hair.

              I’ve literally never seen my mom wear any makeup. My parents’ wedding photo is black and white, so I’m not sure if she’s wearing any makeup in it either. Her lips are dark so she may have worn lipstick. My mom has great skin for her age, and in spite of smoking most of her adult life (she quit when my son was born), and in spite of having gray hair, she looks young for her age. I’ve never smoked and I’ve inherited her skin, so we’ll see…

              I rebelled in the other direction and at one point in my 20s I couldn’t take out the trash without putting makeup on. These days I’ll wear foundation cream if I feel especially tired, but otherwise just moisturizer with sunscreen from March to October.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        I am told that I actually look younger with gray hair than I did with brown. I have green eyes which looked more hazel with the brown hair, but the green really pops with the silver.

        1. CJM*

          Oooh, very interesting! I have hazel eyes and love it when they appear green, which often happens when I wear a green top. (And I often do because it’s my favorite color.)

          I’ll be thrilled if my hazel eyes appear more green once I’m fully gray!

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I have known several women for whom this is very true. Especially if the dye color is very dark. My grandmother dyed her hair for years until she had an unexpected allergic reaction to the dye and had to quit. She looked much younger with grey.

        3. allathian*

          Yeah, dyeing your hair to look younger is another fallacy sold to women to keep us consuming beauty products.

    10. CatPerson*

      Good for you! I never died my hair because of the maintenance required because of roots. My firm opinion is that someone who dies their hair but shows a stripe of roots (Ivanka Trump for example) would look much better with natural color. As my hair started to turn grey, I never looked back. I like to think that if more older women would proudly wear their natural hair, people would start to understand that This is How We Look and There is Nothing Wrong With That. The pressure on women to dye their hair (expensive!) and cover their faces with makeup (expensive) is outrageous. Nope, this is me, take it or leave it. I happen to be smart, interesting, well-read, and witty, and if that’s not enough for you, tough.

      The most important thing is a good haircut. Let your hair grow out, get a good haircut, and hold your head high.

    11. Jay*

      I’m terrified of coloring my own hair and I don’t like the natural brown I now see in the mirror. When I can get it colored again, I’m going beyond the reddish/auburn with gold highlights I’ve been doing. There will be fuschia. Not sure where, not sure how much, but there will be fuschia. And I’m not asking anyone at work if there’s a rule against it, either.

    12. ThatGirl*

      It wasn’t super intentional, but I’d dyed my hair strawberry blonde for years, it looked great. Last year I tried out some temporary color (teal) for fun and then on a whim dyed it very dark blue. It looked great for a few weeks but the blue faded and then it was just kind of gray. Eventually I dyed it over with dark reddish brown and now it’s growing out because I can’t re-dye the dark hair a lighter color. My hair is not super long but it will still take awhile and I’m seeing that my natural blah brown now has plenty of silver…

    13. Parenthetically*

      My mother did the same, grew out her grey. She looks WAY younger with full grey — it makes her skin look luminous, makes her eyes stand out more, and just looks so much better. I think most people look great with grey/white/silver hair. I’m 100% on board with everyone doing exactly what they want with their hair always, but I love the trend of women letting their hair go grey as an “eff you” to the beauty industry that tells them they HAVE to dye it to ~#*look younger*#~.

      1. Reba*

        It really does suit some people!

        I have one grandparent with snowy white, gorgeous hair and another with grizzly gray. So far all my white hairs are truly white so I’m hoping.

      2. Kate*

        We finally convinced my mom to stop dying her hair this year, and that the pandemic was a perfect time to take the plunge – and now she looks GREAT. She’d been dying it a beigey dark blonde for years and it was just not doing her skin tone any favors.

        Also got her using a blue shampoo which makes her hair bright, and a new pair of glasses with a bolder hue and it makes her eyes pop.

    14. fposte*

      I started dyeing the bottom of my hair a deep maroon pink with semipermanent dye. I didn’t want the labor of dyeing my whole head. I wondered if it would make the rest of my hair seem particularly mousy/colorless in contrast, but it didn’t seem to. I quit for a while but may start again, as I really liked it.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’ve been doing similar (shoulders-down, on waist-length hair) for ten years now and I love it. Easy enough to hide if I need to, but little kids yell about PRINCESS HAIR!! when it’s down or in a braid or such.

    15. memyselfandi*

      I have not cut my hair and it is now past my shoulders. I may keep longer once I start going to a stylist. Right now I am enjoying putting it up in different ways. As for going gray, I think it really depends on what kind of gray hair you have. One of my older sister’s grew hers out and it is now a lovely silver. I am just two years younger but have not turned completely gray. Hairdressers have told me I never will. So, my front hair is a mix of gray and original color and my back hair is mostly original color. I had been having foils to add color and high/low lights to make my head match entirely. I think people who have lovely gray hair are lucky.

    16. Amy*

      We decided to grow out my preschooler’s bangs. I am SO glad we’re doing it while we’re basically homebound because it has been an ordeal. She hates having anything in her hair (elastics, bows, clips, Bobby pins, etc.) and hates the sensation of tucking hair behind her ears, so most of the time she has nearly-chin-length bangs hanging in her face. It drives me absolutely nuts. When I can manage to pin them to the side and actually see her face she looks SO cute, though! It gives me hope for when the bangs are a bit longer and can reliably be swept out of her face with the rest of her hair, which reaches her mid-back.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood”*

        Maybe try hats and kerchiefs — they can be spun as costumes in some cases. Even a Disney princess tiara…which can be made out of wire at home for what it’s worth.

    17. DarthVelma*

      I had a layer of purple and blue hair that peaked out from under my normal color back in the before times…but all that color has been gone for months leaving just pale streaks of hair that had the color lifted prior to applying the fun colors.

      I don’t hate the look, but I do miss my colors and I’m thinking about lifting the color from the bottom 4 or so inches of hair and dip dyeing it. Maybe purple. Maybe blue. Or maybe temporary colors and change it up every few days. Not sure yet.

      I need to call my salon and talk to my stylist to make sure I’m not doing anything terrible and to get the supplies. But I’m figuring if I truly screw it up, almost no one will see it and I’m going to have to have at least that much hair cut off when I can finally go back to the salon anyway.

    18. RagingADHD*

      I did exactly this, and I love it!

      Just before lockdown, I was working with my hairdresser on a plan to transition from highlights to letting my gray streaks grow in. My hair is naturally ash brown & dark ash blond, so keeping highlights toned correctly is a LOT of work. I always wind up with a big clash between warm highlights and cool roots, which makes them look grayer by contrast, as well as neglected and unkempt.

      Since then, I’ve just been letting everything grow out. It wasn’t quite even, but I got about 5 inches in the longest places.

      This week I chopped it all off at the color line, and did a little shaping so it’s kind of a grown-out pixie cut. It looks so healthy and shiny.

      The gray streaks give it some dimension, and they’re silver near my face. Ive been experimenting with different color streaks for a few years (blue, purple, etc). It looks like a silver swatch.

      I’d rather look my age and look sharp, than look like I’m fighting a losing battle.

    19. em*

      Back around April or May I tried that temporary rose gold conditioner and it turned out more hot pink, I think because I had highlights growing out and it’s for brown hair? In July I did a major cut (a little past armpit length to so short I can’t wear a ponytail) and after a day or two of “what have I done??” I loved it. I might use up the rest of the rose gold now that all the blonde is gone and see if it works out better this time :)

        1. em*

          Overtone coloring conditioner! I want to say it lasted a couple weeks of gradual fading. They have a lot of color options :)

    20. StellaBella*

      Go to Bored Panda (dot com) and look this article up “Instead Of Covering Grey Roots, This Hair Colorist Makes Clients Embrace It” seriously the styles and colours of grey are AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL.

    21. Aphrodite*

      Yes. I stopped dyeing my hair about six months ago. Originally, it was blue-black but I began to get gray in my late forties or early fifties. So I have been coloring it every two weeks for a while. Like many, I began to be more relaxed about it. Hence the decision to just stop.

      I think of it as an ombre effect, which was a bit odd at first. I too worried about looking old but I have to tell you that I don’t feel that way at all now that it is about half white silver and half darker. You are right about the non-dyed part looking and feeling healthier. And I like it a lot.

      I’ve come to think the “aging” aspect might come in more in the hair style you choose. If you let it go long and loose in silver it will be gorgeous! Look at some of these: https://www.google.com/search?source=univ&tbm=isch&q=jack+martin+clients+who+go+gray&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjZh7CZh6HuAhVLPn0KHTm6BfcQ420oAHoECBIQBA&biw=986&bih=868

      Notice that they styles are young, which only highlights the gorgeousness of the gray / silve/ white. I encourage you to go for it even though it may take you more than a year to grow it out.. I have mine trimmed 2-3 inches every three months so slowly the silver is taking over. You might love yours as much as I do!

    22. Bluebell*

      I started growing my hair out about 6 months before the pandemic, and I’m not sure if I might have weakened and started getting it colored if the pandemic hadn’t happened. I’m pretty happy with it now, but sometimes I miss the warmer brown tones. I do think it makes my green eyes more vivid though.

    23. Is it tea time yet?*

      I was laid off in March, and for a variety of reasons have been looking for a job in a completely different field from the one I was in for 12 years. I had embraced my greying hair, and even the part around my temples that is white, but worried in this job market and having to look at more entry-level positions that looking my age (51) was not helping. Plus, since I took much longer than average to get my degrees, I figured if it made me seem a little younger, maybe that would be one less hurdle in an interview. I don’t see any middle-aged women around here with grey hair, and my makeup skills are very minimal, so this seemed like a good decision.

      I like the color I chose, which is very close to my natural light brown with gold and and red, but wish I had tried something temporary or semi-permanent instead.

    24. Run mad; don't faint*

      My hair was a bob at the start of the pandemic. It grew out into a blunt cut after a while. When salons opened here, I got a pixie cut. I figured if I didn’t like it, who cared? It could grow out at home. I did like it though, and now it’s growing out into a short shag/shaggy pixie, which I love! I’m taking pictures so I will know what I want it to look like when I need to get it recut.

      I paint my toenails brighter colors than I do my fingernails. Since I’m at home, I decided to have fun with my fingernails. I’ve been enjoying it! Right now, I’m looking for a metallic aqua or turquoise nail polish for my fingernails.

    25. Might Be Spam*

      This thread is helping me get over my second thoughts about going grey. My grey roots feel much nicer than my dyed hair. I’m thinking about playing with some temporary colors and I’m getting some good ideas here.

  4. Freya*

    Thank you to everyone who replied to my post last week about being mired in jealousy as the rest of the people in my health sciences graduate program were getting COVID vaccinated while I was ineligible due to being out on temporary leave. In a crazy turn of events, I actually had the very good fortune to get my first dose of the vaccine a few days ago! (A nurse at the university called me at the end of the day and said, “I think we have enough doses to give you one. How fast can you get here?”) I nearly cried with relief when I got it, particularly since I have a chronic medical condition that technically would qualify me in the 1b group, but the rollout in my state is such a mess that it may be a long time before my doctor could get me a dose.

    Forty-eight hours out from the shot my only side effect has been a moderately sore arm, which has already improved significantly. Now I’m starting to daydream about the things we’ll be able to do when the high-risk people in our household are fully immunized, probably sometime in April. We’re not expecting a return to normal at that point, of course, but here’s my wish list:
    – Send our four-year-old back to preschool so she can start socializing with people outside our household again
    – Go to the dentist
    – Hire someone to deep clean our house
    – Take the kids to the local pool (when it opens for the summer)
    – Hopefully have my parents and siblings come visit (one they’re vaccinated too, and probably not until the vaccine is much more widely available to the general public)

    What are you looking forward to once it’s possible again?

    1. Might Be Spam*

      I’m looking forward to a road trip to visit my son. It’s already been over a year since I’ve seen him. It will be even longer before I feel comfortable about being on a plane.
      I also miss in-person folk dancing. It helps that a lot of groups are dancing via Zoom and when this is over, I want to visit some of the distant groups.

        1. Might Be Spam*

          Just today my son moved to New Orleans from Miami, and according to my map, in the French Quarter which is exciting.
          The folk dance groups I want to visit are in British Columbia, Toronto, Stockton, San Diego, New York, and Minnesota. (I’m not sure about the one in Italy yet.)
          I’ve never been much of a traveler unless I have a special event or family member to visit. Now I have a lot of places that I want to visit.
          I only started dancing a year before the pandemic started so I’m still new. Folk dancers love to share their knowledge and there are a lot of groups online. I could dance several times each day if my feet could handle it. I moved my kitchen table out of the kitchen and moved in my laptop and another monitor (on the other side of the room so I can see what to do when we do turns. Lol)

    2. WeAreTheJunimos*

      Ah yay glad it worked out! I got my second dose a week ago (ER nurse here) and got more severe side effects the second dose, but nothing too unbearable.
      I literally cannot wait to drive in other people’s cars and pop over to their houses randomly and have dinner. My friends and I organized a (very covid safe) dinner in which we all were like 10 feet apart outside in a park and masked except for taking bites of food and it just….was so sad. I just can’t wait until I can sit at someone else’s dinner table again.

      1. Susie*

        Yeah, sometimes the COVID safe socializing is just too much of a bummer to attempt. After quarantining, we visited my brother and sister in law for an hour and wore masks. It was so stressful and such a bummer given how close we are.
        I’m looking forward to spending real time with them again and seeing my kids interact with their aunt and uncle freely.

      2. allathian*

        I have a hard time dealing with masks. It’s probably anxiety-related because I feel like I can’t breathe. I’m in an area where we can walk outdoors without masks, so I pretty much only leave the house to exercise. My husband does our grocery shopping once a week. Case numbers in our area are low enough that my son’s going to in-person school. He’s 11, and the recommendation here is that everyone who’s 12 or over should wear masks, so as soon as the first of his classmates hits their 12th birthday, his class is going to be wearing masks. I know that in some areas toddlers are doing it, but not here.

        I do look forward to socializing with my extended family and friends again when it’s safe to do so without masks. I can’t deal with wearing a mask for more than an hour at most, so any meetings before then are going to be short. I’m not going to take any risks with my health or the health of other people by refusing to wear a mask.

    3. Lemonwhirl*

      Live music, specifically screaming along in strangers’ faces. I have a band I love, whom I’ve seen 13 times. #11 and #12 were Nov 2019 as part of a lone mini-holiday to another country. It felt a little bit decadent at the time but geez I was glad. I have tickets to see them 3 more times that were rescheduled from June 2020 to June 2021, but I am doubtful that those shows will go ahead. But the idea of being up on the rail, mashed shoulder-to-shoulder, with strangers, all celebrating and singing the same music keeps me going.

      Also planning an epic spa/hotel weekend with a dear friend who also has young children. We are looking forward to room service and 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

      And yeah, just being able to go into someone’s house. And hug them. I was never a hugger, but there are people I miss hugging so much, it’s becoming like an ache.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Ooops, no edit function, but it was the #12 and #13 times. #11 was also great- in 2018, took my then 7-year old kid and we had a great time.

      2. theartistteacher*

        Lemonwhirl, out of curiosity, which band is it? I agree with you – I can’t wait to go and see live music or even – *imagine* – a music festival! I miss that so much.

        1. Lemonwhirl*

          It’s The National. Absolutely love them and have met so many lovely people who love them as much as I do.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Taking a trip to Las Vegas. Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in less than a month and we’re stuck as to what we want to do that week. We’re both off from work, so I imagine we’ll take a day trip within the state or something. Las Vegas can maybe be much later in the year or maybe for next year’s anniversary.

      I’m also looking forward to finally seeing Def Leppard. I was supposed to go to the Hershey, PA, show in August last year, but it was rescheduled to this July. I don’t know if it will still happen, though, since not everyone will have a vaccine at that point and I’m sure things won’t be back to normal again.

      1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

        My anniversary is coming up as well. Years ago, I had decided that this anniversary would be when we finally go to Europe for the first time. When COVID happened, I started looking at other options and decided on going to the Bahamas. Then since COVID continued, that idea was scrapped as well.

        The new plan is to stay in a treehouse for 2 nights. It has a full kitchen so I’ll just make food ahead of time and reheat. For entertainment, we will drive around or go on a small hike. Or just sit in the treehouse by the fire. I’m looking forward to a couple of days outside of my house.

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              You can sort by “treehouse” on airbnb. There are a surprisingly large quantity of them available, probably near you.

          1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

            It’s in Ohio in Amish country – but you should be able to find them in any state as it is a bit of a trend.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      1) Vacations! We’re already planning where to go, probably this exact time next year between semesters, since we might not all be vaccinated by this summer.
      2) Visits! I normally can drive or hop on a bus to see my childhood friends, and I normally do that at least once or twice a year. I hope they can hold the whisky festival some of us normally go to most years in December!
      3) Vision! I think I need new glasses, but I’ve been putting it off because I am not going inside ANYWHERE except for takeout, since that’s maybe 30 seconds (I have started calling from the car to ask if it’s ready to minimize my exposure).
      4) College life! (Ran out of V’s…) Not for me, but our kid is in the middle of their first year and hasn’t been on campus since our visit before they applied. And this school is mostly residential, it’s something they were looking forward to.

    6. nep*

      Hugging and playing with my grand-niece without constantly worrying whether one of us is infecting the other.

    7. CTT*

      I’m a simple woman. I am just looking forward to being able to 1) hug my parents and 2) go to karaoke.

      1. theartistteacher*

        CTT, absolutely – I can’t wait until karaoke is an option again. Hoping you get to hug your parents soon.

    8. Holly the spa pro*

      I love reading everyones responses! For me its:
      1. Concerts! We have tickets to Rammstein in Minneapolis in September so fingers crossed.
      2. Travel! Neither my husband or i have family here so we are looking forward to making the rounds even if we have to drive.
      3. More travel! We have put off international travel for years because it never seemed like the right time or we couldnt take more than a few days off comfortably and now we are really kicking ourselves for it. Should have done it when we had the chance. We wont make that mistake again!

    9. Jay*

      Getting a massage, and I’ll probably do that after I get my second dose of the vaccine (scheduled 2/2). Hosting other people inside my house. Over the summer we had guests in the backyard and screened porch but now it’s winter in the Northeast of the US, so…not so much. Shopping. I miss browsing in Target. I miss looking over the wine in the liquor store to pick out a special bottle for dinner. I miss the mall, even though I don’t really like the mall.

      1. Josephine Beth NotAmy*

        I miss browsing. I miss hanging out in a coffee shop with a book. There’s something so relaxing about it, and I always took it for granted.
        My husband and I will likely be eligible to get the vaccine within a couple weeks, but it may be a little longer for other family members. First thing I’m going to do is hug everyone!

    10. ThatGirl*

      Seeing friends and family more regularly, in groups and without a million precautions!
      Going to a restaurant for dinner
      Travel in general

    11. Rebecca Stewart*

      Seeing my grown sons more often, and hugging them.

      Going to the symphony/the ballet again with Boyfriend. I miss that.
      Going to the gym every day and working out. They’re open, but I’ve got someone with COPD in my household and I just don’t feel safe yet.
      Going out to eat somewhere, with either my boyfriend or my girlfriend, as a time to just get out of the house and be together. I really miss that. We’re all introverts so it hasn’t been hell or anything, but we miss the bits of going out we used to do.
      He and I are talking about getting married next year, and I would like my mom and sons and his mom and dad to be able to be there, even if it’s a matter of a trip to the courthouse. And we’d kind of like to take a bit of a honeymoon out to the West Coast, because I’ve never been past the Mississippi.
      Also some surgeries are going to be needed in the family, and it would be nice to have non-pandemic swamped hospitals for that, and if we have to travel to get Girlfriend’s gender surgery done, I’d like that to be safe as well.

    12. Parenthetically*

      YESSS so happy for you!!

      Our state rollout is going well and my folks should be able to get theirs in a few weeks and my husband and I should be able to get ours a few weeks after that.

      I’m looking forward to getting a haircut! I cut my own hair back in April, but despite being pretty proud of the job I did, it was still a DIY haircut and I’d love to have a professional work on it again!

    13. Frankie Bergstein*

      -live music and comedy
      -going to the dentist
      -thrifting
      -traveling and staying places (e.g., a cabin) [I think if we socially distance, we can do this post vaccine and before things open back up]

    14. fposte*

      In addition to things people have named, I’ll add art fairs. They’re usually a big part of my summer. I have enjoyed the virtual ones, but it’s not the same.

    15. Mimmy*

      I’m hoping this summer we’ll be able to have our annual family gathering. Last year it was supposed to be on Cape Cod.

      I’d love to be able to attend in-person conferences again

      Above all, I miss the hugs.

    16. CJM*

      I’m very glad for you! A friend is getting her first shot next Thursday, and she’s the first in my circle of friends and family to get one. It gives me hope for us all. My category for the vaccine may open up in a few weeks, and I’m excited to schedule my first shot soon.

      In order, here’s what I most look forward to:
      – Mostly I want to visit my toddler grandson lots more often without wearing a mask and worrying about the risks of cuddling him.
      – I want to meet friends for lunches and talking face to face. And to think I took that for granted!
      – I want to organize happy hours with my work buddies. (I’m an introvert who doesn’t drink much, so it feels out of character. But I enjoy seeing my favorite work peeps quarterly now that I’m retired, and they tell me how much they enjoy our happy hours too.)
      – I want to visit friends and family who live in other states. One’s going through a divorce and can use cheering up, another just moved to a big house and wants houseguests, and another is my wonderful cousin who’s still grieving her mother’s death. I can’t wait to hug them all.

    17. 653-CXK*

      Not having to listen to the words “socially distanced,” “social distancing,” or any other cliche related to this pandemic. They are twee, snobby buzzwords should be thrown into the furnace of history with a generous helping of accelerant.

      1. 653-CXK*

        My apologies for being salty on the previous comment. It’s just those words grind me the wrong way.

        On the positive side of things, I do plan on getting both shots, and hopefully once the restrictions are lifted, I can get out more again. I like working from home, but sometimes I need to get out of the house just to get a sense of sanity and a change of scenery.

        1. Llama face!*

          I feel really angry whenever I hear “the new normal”* and “unprecedented times”. So I can commiserate.

          *Particularly since I hear that phrase most from people who act like we’ve attained some kind of normal and we clearly haven’t stabilized yet. Or from people who want to just go back to routine and let the vulnerable die off.

          1. Jackalope*

            I’m personally tired of “out of an abundance of caution”. It made sense in the beginning, but now we’re used to it. Just do the pandemic safety thing and don’t apologize for it! And I really wish that physical distancing had taken off instead of social distancing. Physical distancing seems more accurate to me, and the phrase social distancing also makes me feel echoes of loneliness whenever I hear it.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this. I’m in Finland, and we’re a famously or notoriously physically distant culture. Even in non-pandemic times, it’s rare to see strangers standing closer than about 4 ft from each other unless it’s so crowded that it’s unavoidable. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we’re doing relatively well in the pandemic, because there’s never been a tradition of standing right next to anyone you’re not extremely close to (family members, intimate partners, particularly close friends). Some people hug their friends, but it’s by no means universal, and kisses on the cheek would be unthinkable here. Handshakes are a standard business greeting, but usually only used socially when you meet someone for the first time. In subsequent meetings, a verbal greeting is sufficient.

      2. Deanna Troi*

        653-CXK, what wording would you prefer to the fact that we should be keeping our distance when we’re being social? Why do you think they’re snobby? I’m genuinely not being snarky, but when someone says they don’t like something, I can understand that, but I always wish they would propose an alternative.

        1. OyHiOh*

          I prefer phrases like “physical distance” and “safer social engagement.” This is how I talk about activities nd and choices myself.

          Social distance is a phrase with an unfortunate history reaching back to the beginning of the 20th century, when it was used to describe social, physical, and emotional distance between socio economic groups (in the US). A friend who is black recalls seeing that phrase in his mother’s Amy Vanderbilt etiquette book in the early 60’s so it’s not even that ancient of a concept to for people of varying income levels, not to mention skin tone, to have been taught to keep appropriate social distance boundaries.

          1. Deanna Troi*

            I appreciate your response. I honestly didn’t know this and couldn’t understand why there was a concern about it. And thank you for providing alternative language.

        2. 653-CXK*

          I sometimes use the phrase “Space, Face and Hygiene” to remind myself of the protocols. I use the word “space” as an alternative because it’s a much more accurate and simple term (as in “spaced six feet apart”), but “physical distancing” is also good.

          To me, “social distancing” and “socially distanced” sounds glib and superficial, with sort of an exclusive, trendy air to it. OyHiOh’s explanation of the term below is great…perhaps it’s a convenient term for some, but once they learn the background of it, they may find a better alternative.

    18. Llama face!*

      Sitting in a quiet coffee shop while drinking a latte and reading. It is one of my favourite relaxing activities.
      Going out to my favourite pizza restaurant for their lunch deal- I haven’t been there since early December 2019 because they closed for renos and then 2020 happened.
      Hugging my friends and family.
      Casually taking public transit instead of walking.
      Fun shopping.
      Travelling to visit family, especially getting to see my sibling’s new baby (due in March) and my parents.
      In-person church where we can see each other and eat together. It’s been almost a year of zoom/youtube services now and I miss the mingling.
      Attending regular local summer festivals (music, food, and ethnic heritage themes). Probably won’t be happening this year but maybe in 2022.

    19. OtterB*

      1. Back to church in person.
      2. Seeing my older daughter who lives out of state, too far to drive easily.
      3. Singing! I’m part of a women’s barbershop chorus and Zoom rehearsals are better than nothing but really not enough.
      4. My younger daughter with intellectual disabilities has returned to work in a fairly low risk position, but all her community activities are on hold or being done by Zoom and she misses them. Also, I will be glad when it feels safe for her to take public transit again instead of my driving her and picking her up.
      5. Vacation and also work travel

      1. OtterB*

        Forgot to add, 6. Seeing my renovated office! We went remote the end of January 2020 for a major renovation, expecting to be back in the office in April or May, and we’re still all remote.

        1. Jackalope*

          My church was undergoing renovations and we were supposed to have our first service back in our regular building for Easter 2020. It feels like FOREVER since we were able to have church in our normal space! We’ve gotten to do small group tours in the building (masked, etc.), so we’ve at least seen it, but I so miss our regular space, and mingling, and…. For our Zoom services we get broken up into small groups for chatting but it’s chosen by the Powers of Zoom; I miss being able to pick the people that I chat with. I mean, it’s fine having my horizons expanded to talk with people I don’t really know, but I have church friends that haven’t been in my Zoom group once all year, and that’s frustrating.

    20. Tris Prior*

      I am lustfully fantasizing about getting on public transit (I don’t have a car) and going to a neighborhood other than mine and the ones immediately surrounding mine. Perhaps getting off the bus at Trader Joe’s (which is far from me) and having a nice leisurely browse through all their fancy snacks and wine.

      Thinking bigger, we put off an interstate move due to the pandemic so I am hopeful that we can take steps toward that goal again. It may actually be easier now since my work has allowed me to go fully remote and we have employees in every state already.

    21. RagingADHD*

      I really just want to hug my dad and my inlaws. They’re all in their 80s, so even when Ive been able to see my dad, it’s just an awkward wave from a distance.

      Oh, and I want to sing with people.

    22. em*

      The dentist! Doesn’t it feel weird to be excited about that? Swimming and gymnastics for the kids. In-person school. Meeting people in the area I just moved to. Transitioning back to work from being a SAHM (was hoping to do that for this school year but…)

      1. allathian*

        The dentist! They haven’t had any confirmed transmissions between patients and healthcare workers in either direction here, but I’m still not willing to take any risks… While I trusted my dentist’s hygiene practices before the pandemic, I almost always got at least a cold if they had to do any drilling.

    23. Jackalope*

      So. Many. Things! I want to hug people, and spend time with them without fear. I want to finish the giant puzzle that a friend and I started last January, that’s too big for me to do alone and has been sitting forlornly in my living room for ages now. Go dancing, ride the bus, go to church, sing with people outside of my house,…. Take the trip that was scheduled for late March and cancelled a few days beforehand, and the bigger trip scheduled for last fall.

      1. Jackalope*

        The surprise thing for me has been going to the movies. My husband loves it and I’ve always kind of enjoyed it, but it was more a thing I did because he and my friends wanted to. But I’ve missed it so much this year; being able to go watch a movie on the big screen, and getting out of the house for it, going with a group of people…. Apparently I’ve been enjoying it more than I thought I did! I hope we still have movie theaters when this is all over.

    24. fhqwhgads*

      Primarily looking forward to going out to purchase necessities without being scared it will lead to my death if some maskless asshole coughs in my face.

    25. Quoth the Raven*

      I want to go visit my boyfriend, who I’m in a long distance relationship with. Seeing him involves international travel, so I haven’t done it (I’d originally planned on doing it around April last year, and then Covid happened). Way the vaccine is being rolled out in my country, I’m not seeing myself doing it until next year because I might not be able to get it until then.

      I also want to go back to Six Flags. I used to go 10-12 times a year, and I’m missing it sorely!

    26. DataGirl*

      Concerts and theater are what I’m most looking forward to. I miss the arts more than anything right now. Definitely would like to swim again in the summer, and maybe rejoin a gym.

    27. Natalie*

      In person music classes, both for me and my kid. I am taking my piano lessons by zoom, which is fine, but I will be happy when we can stop. And I wanted to bring my baby to baby singing group, which was of course cancelled all of last year. Maybe they’ll do an outside version this summer at least, last summer I don’t think anyone was fully settled into the idea of this being a quite long haul.

    28. My teeth are clean*

      Wow, I’m surprised by the number of people who haven’t gone to the dentist. I’ve been to the dentist twice (once in March, just as everything was shutting down for a chipped tooth, and over the summer for my regular cleaning). I’m going again in a few weeks for my 6 month cleaning. I’ve also gotten my haircut, had a couple mani/pedis, and take public transportation to work everyday. I follow my city’s guidelines (and I’m in a city/state where the Mayor and Governor are taking it very seriously). I know exactly one person in my real life who has gotten Covid, and that was only within the last week.

      1. Bumpjumper*

        My spouse is a dentist, so I may be a bit biased, but I also feel a little more in the know than the average person. Your dentist’s office is just about the safest place out there. Dentists have been in the infection control business for a long time, and they’ve only increased their protective procedures since covid came on the scene. You can also call your dental office and ask them what measures they are taking to ensure safety—this is a common concern and they will be ready for any questions you have. Putting off preventative dental care and regular check ups can cause a lot of problems and pain down the line. Hope this helps!

        1. allathian*

          I’m not really all that worried about being treated by my dentist, I trust them to do what’s necessary to protect themselves and me. It’s just getting there that keeps putting me off.

    29. ThePear8*

      That’s great to hear!
      There’s so much I’m looking forward to, including:
      -Dining in at restaurants again (haven’t felt safe doing so despite some restaurants reopening their dining rooms)
      -Being able to sit INSIDE Starbucks and drink my coffee instead of just swinging through the drive thru
      -Live theatre shows
      -Live concerts
      -Take my dog to the park
      -Travel, especially since I will be graduating in the spring I would really like to be able to take a vacation to celebrate since I’ve barely been able to take a break at all in college, as I’ve been working and taking summer and winter classes. I also have family abroad and would really like to be able to visit them again.
      -Walk around on my college campus. Even though I’ll probably graduate before I get to back, campus is beautiful and I really miss some of my favorite coffee spots. Plus it’s the best place in town to play Pokemon Go!

    30. Stephanie*

      Aside from obvious things like vacations, small things like:
      1. Hugs that aren’t fraught.
      2. Walking in the store with a drink.
      3. Live music.
      4. Less Zoom.

  5. (Almost) never been kissed*

    So I haven’t kissed anyone/been kissed in about… 12 years? Maybe 13?

    My ex-husband was a certifiably terrible kisser — probably because he hated it — and so I literally have not kissed anybody since before we were dating.

    Now I am testing the waters on online dating, and the idea of kissing someone/being kissed by them terrifies me! Like, you want me to do what with my tongue where? Does it just move side to side? Is it like a lizard head popping in and out of its burrow??

    Please help.

    1. Nela*

      Don’t overthink it! Let the other person lead until you get more comfortable. Just keep your lips relaxed. What you do with your tongue depends on how passionate the situation is! If it’s a mild and more romantic goodbye kiss there may not be a lot of tongue involved. But if you’re heading to the bedroom dropping clothes over the floor it can get pretty wild :D

      Some folks are terrible kisses and just swirl their tongue like a blender, ew. One dude I dated didn’t use tongue at all, it felt like kissing a child, ew. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot.

    2. Still*

      It’s okay if kissing feels awkward at first! It’s certainly taken me a while to figure out what works, and that has changed over time and with different partners.

      I think it’s a bit like… Hmm, like massage! You have the general idea that you’re gonna press on somebody’s muscles, right, but then you actually put your hands on them and start to figure out what feels good and what gets a positive response, and what hurts or tickles. If you have a kind partner and chemistry, it’s gonna be fun to figure it out together.

      Also, sometimes you need less movement than you think. I used to think that I need to be moving my lips and my tongue all the time and it was stressing me out. Now my partner and I laugh about having “lip hugs” – sometimes just a slow press of lips can feel amazing.

      Good luck!

      1. Zooey*

        The changes with different partners is key! Don’t worry about it feeling awkward to begin with because it always does when you kiss someone new, however much kissing you’ve done! Just relax and try out what feels good for both of you and don’t assume that something that feels gross to you must be ‘right’ just because your partner has more experience.

    3. The traps are on fire*

      When the time comes you could just say to your potential partner, “I really want to kiss you. Wanna help me shake the rust off?”

      1. Batgirl*

        Honestly yeah, just say something about needing to practice. Not only are you proposing an incredibly sexy project but it opens up communication about the kind of kissing you like.

    4. nep*

      Agree w Nela–don’t overthink it.
      If there’s physical attraction and you both are drawn to go in for a kiss, the kiss just flows from that and takes on a life of its own. You’ll just go with where the contact and movement take you.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      Honestly, you just sort of vibe. I get the nerves! I grew up in a super-conservative religious group, didn’t kiss anyone until I was 22, and decided to throw myself in the deep end of getting more experience once I left my childhood church. If you are enjoying the person, and you want to kiss them in general, just playing it as it goes is the best move.

    6. ten four*

      This is all good advice, and I also want to throw out there that maybe you’ll find that kissing just isn’t your thing. That’s okay too!

    7. RagingADHD*

      Don’t think about “technique” at all. That’s what makes a terrible kisser.

      Just focus on what you like and what the other person seems to like.

    8. theartistteacher*

      There’s no one thing that works, eg. Move side to side – it’s more about enjoying exploring the taste and feel of the person‘s lips with your lips. Gently sucking their lower lip into your mouth is a good trick. It’s as if you want to make a map of their mouth using only your lips and tongue – but you do it gently and sensuously… that’s my advice. I hope it works out for you!

    9. LeahS*

      So the first time I meant my now fiancé I asked “Do you want to awkwardly kiss now?” And we did. It wasn’t that awkward, it was nice! Now we ask that all the time just to be cute!

      The guy before him… oh boy was he a bad kisser lol.

      But yeah, being upfront never hurts!! You can find out if he’s into you and the expectations are low if the kiss sucks.

      And if the kiss does suck for you or him, you can move on no problem and find someone who loves the awkward kiss!

      1. ampersand*

        Ha! My husband and I say this to each other, too! :) honestly, kissing can be awkward—comes with the territory.

    10. nonamenow*

      I love this question and certainly relate. My ex was a terrible kisser (think slobbery labrador retriever crossed with a lamprey – ew!). I’m not ready to look for another relationship, but the idea of kissing, etc. terrifies me sometimes, since it’s been so long. I don’t want to live the rest of my life without it, so still hope it’s a possibility even it it’s scary.

      Anyway, cheering you on and hope you meet someone who is wonderful and your displays of affection are delightfully aligned.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        “slobbery labrador retriever crossed with a lamprey”

        Dying at your description! :-D

  6. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    I got almost nothing done this week, so unfortunately I have nothing to report.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Also, this came up in last week’s thread but I saw it too late to respond: Techworker asked how you get better at writing and if it’s something that you just do badly and improve that way. In my experience, the answer to that tends to be yes, in combination with reading a lot. For dialogue I find it helps to say it out loud. Also don’t be scared if your first draft ends up having really stilted dialogue or a weird structure, that’s what editing is for. That first draft is basically there to have the story written down.

    2. Nela*

      I didn’t write anything new, but I edited a few articles and transcribed two graphic essays I published on my blog this week so that’s not bad.
      I started working on another homage to our deceased family cat and hopefully I’ll finish it this weekend.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Julia Quinn, who wrote the Bridgerton books, once said the best piece of advice she received was just to write, no matter how bad, since you can always improve a page of bad writing, but there is little you can do with a blank page.

    3. Frankie Bergstein*

      I’m trying to write this year – first time posting to this thread! I am taking a 6 session class at a local writing center, and we met for the first time this week. I wrote/performed my story for the group. They were all really good writers (my opinion), and the class is more like a meet up — less critique/instruction, more just writing and sharing. It’s really nice, and I’m learning a lot from the prompts.

    4. Mystic*

      I’m doing ok. Fanfiction on A03: I’ve finished my last two fics, and have three more in the works.
      It’s also helped me with my original works: I’ve posted two of my original works and people say they like it, so now I’m trying to write more.

    5. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      Also my first time on this thread! My writing is going great, not in quantity (and probably not in quality) but in joy. I think I may be healing from the horrors of graduate school, which utterly killed the enjoyment of writing I had all through my childhood and adolescence. I am writing just…everything! When it pops in my head, I am jotting down a new Google doc with names like “epistolary vicars and tarts!” “chick lit secretaries!” “romance used car salesman and unsuspecting customer!” “humorous essay on childhood religious sect!”

      This week I’ve even found that the joy is spilling over into taking pleasure in crafting letters, cards, basic correspondence. Because I have been privileged to fare extremely well during the pandemic, I’ve been able to spend much of the last year re-cultivating the hobbies that feel by the wayside the past decade or so, and I’m so unspeakably delighted to have writing back.

    6. Lalaith*

      I’ve just recently had the inspiration to write a novel, so I’ve been slowly chipping away at it. I’ve seen lots of people mention writing groups and beta readers – does anyone have any advice for how to find a good group/readers, or recommendations? I’d really like to see if other people actually like my writing! Thanks :)

      1. Nela*

        I’ve used beta readers for two of my nonfiction books. The first one was in English so I was able to reach out to people all over the world, most of them them were long-time online acquaintances, and I’ve also placed an open call in one or two Facebook groups. I’ve sent my book to about 20 people, and about 10 of them read it in time to provide feedback, I had about 5-6 blurbs I could use to promote my book.

        The second book I’m working on now is in my native language so there’s a limited pool of readers. I’ve contacted friends and online acquaintances that I assumed would be interested, 9 out of 10 said yes, and 8 of them had actually read the book and sent in feedback.

        Basically if you have friends from writing groups or reading groups, ask them! If not, post an open call on social media. Get more readers than you need because some won’t follow through. You can make a feedback form on Google forms with specific questions, or just let people write whatever they want over email or private messages.

    7. KoiFeeder*

      Technically not my writing, but I think I found a beloved fanfic author I fell out of touch with on another website on AO3, so I’m very happily reading more works from a good friend.

  7. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this is not limited to video games or even console/PC games, so feel free to talk about board games or smartphone games as well. Also feel free to ask for recommendations and help tracking down a vaguely-remembered game.
    I’ve been playing Stardew Valley again for a bit, checking out the stuff added in the update. I’ve almost got Willy’s boat repaired, and so far I’m loving that new job board.

    1. Someone On-Line*

      I am playing Shadowof the Tomb Raider on PS4 since it was one of their monthly games. It’s really wild to me how this series portrays Mayan/Incan cultures (or rather, over emphasizes human sacrifice) and how Lara really just goes in to people’s houses to read little documents and tear down walls. Overall I think it’s a really good metaphor for British colonialism, though I’m sure that’s not what was intended.

    2. Office Grunt*

      My “new” laptop is much better at running Magic Arena and MTGO, so getting to 15 wins is much easier than it used to be, and I don’t have to worry about timing out with a control deck.

      Kaldheim previews have me non-plussed, as I’m not seeing anything that excites me.

    3. HamlindigoBlue*

      We’ve been playing Beat Saber this week. It’s pretty fun, and it’s set up some rivalry between us and my sister’s family in the battle for all the high scores.

      1. anon24*

        Beat Saber is great. I weighted my controllers and it’s amazing how much difference a few ounces makes. My arms get sore! (If you get bored with Beat Saber, check out Synth Riders. It’s my favorite VR rhythm game).

    4. CatCat*

      I’ve been replaying Red Dead Redemption 2, but moving through the main story fairly slowly and instead focusing on completing challenges, side stories, and having Arthur grow the most epic mutton chops possible.

    5. TX Lizard*

      The Stardew Valley update has really been a bright spot in a pretty sucky couple of weeks. No spoilers, but the new map area is amazing and really challenging me to use some skills and mechanics I had neglected. Also I have been super grateful for the very positive Stardew Valley community. And the new update has reinvigorated some friendships that have struggled since no one ever has anything new or exciting to talk about these days.

    6. Courageous cat*

      My boyfriend and I have taken up playing board games (well, me more than him) and have been enjoying it immensely.

      Lately we’ve been playing Terraforming Mars, Wingspan (I love to lay eggs), and Fox in the Forest and I enjoy them all greatly. Any tips for any of the above welcome.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I play board games with my 2 kids (12 and 14) and occasionally my husband, although he’s not really that interested.

        Would the games you mentioned be suitable for kids this age? We’re always looking for something new, especially with lockdown continuing in my country. But all the games are imported and the exchange rate isn’t favourable, so we can’t buy games just to try them out. It’s too expensive.

        We currently have Catan, Kingdomino, Ticket to Ride and Forbidden Island.

        1. Purt’s Peas*

          Terraforming Mars is pretty complicated, so it’s more likely the 14 yr old would enjoy themselves, but i’s possible a 12 yr old could have a good time, especially if they’ve played complex board games before. It’s a euro game, so an individual game about managing many little pieces of an economy. I’d probably recommend staying away from it for now. Fox in the Forest is a two player card game, really fun.

          Wingspan is your best bet of that list—it’s a beautifully produced, good-looking, fun game.

          If you guys like puzzles, I highly, highly recommend Sagrada, a game about solving a little logic puzzle to make a stained glass window. You might also like Indian Summer, which is about laying down beautiful oddly-shaped tiles to create a forest floor, and collecting small wild treasures along the way—the core of the game is figuring out how to make many weird shapes fit together perfectly. And for something lighter and more luck-based, Celestia is a neat push-your-luck game about flying a steampunk airship.

          1. kowl*

            Just finished a game of Wingspan (our 2nd today haha)! We received the latest expansion for Christmas and have been enjoying our return to the game.

            (And, I do recommend the expansions for anyone who enjoys the base game. The new birds are fun, yes, but it’s actually the new end-of-round goals and personal goals which are really worth it).

        2. The Spinning Arrow*

          You might already know of this resource, but may I recommend “Tabletop” on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel? It’s a little show where Wil Wheaton gets together with various friends (who are frequently other actors/nerds) to play board games, and they explain the rules as they go along. It’s a pretty great way to get a feel for a game before you’re able to buy it! I’d recommend the Takenoko, Sushi Go! & Roll For It, and maaaybe Tokaido episodes though there are a ton of others to choose from! Geek & Sundry also has another series called “Game the Game” which has a similar style, but I haven’t watched those so can’t vouch for them. I hope this helps!

        3. Courageous cat*

          I think Wingspan and Fox in the Forest would work! The 14 yo could probably do Terraforming Mars.

    7. Jackalope*

      Still obsessed with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Because my video game power fantasy (especially in a pandemic year) is keeping the people around me from dying (we will have NO permadeath this year in video games!), I have now recruited everyone that is recruitable and am now figuring out what to do with them all! It’s so much more fun trying to map out class builds for imaginary characters than figuring out pandemics and worrisome politics and what not. (Also, unfortunately, way more fun than cleaning the bathroom.)

      1. Dr.KMnO4*

        I LOVE 3 houses. Which house are you playing as? I’ve completed a Blue Lions playthrough and a Golden Deer playthrough and I’m working on a Black Eagle playthrough. Do you have the DLC? If not, I’ll say that I found it to be worth the investment, especially with the added story missions.

        1. Jackalope*

          I’m playing BE this time, which has been great. Close to the end of part 1, and trying to make sure I’ve done as much as I can before everything changes. (I’ve tried not to read spoilers so I don’t know quite how it changes, but I know it does.). I did get the DLC, since I was having so much fun with it. Played through the side game and now am working on building up the Ashen Wolves in the main game. Also, I really enjoy grinding (in general), and playing on easy mode, so I’ve been doing lots of battles to get a feel for all the characters (the other night I had 45 min of support videos to watch from all the battle supports I got!).

          Any ideas on how to build up my squishy characters? I’m thinking especially the female magic workers like Lysithea and Annette. I know they have some amazing abilities, but they keep getting one-shotted by enemies and so it’s hard to keep them alive long enough to build them up. I’ve tried making them adjutants, or giving them guard adjutants, but it’s still tough.

          And which is your favorite house? What’s your favorite play through so far?

          1. Dr.KMnO4*

            Blue Lions are my absolute favorites, especially Dedue. His supports with Flayn are wonderful.

            I love grinding too! Honestly, grinding and gardening are your best bet for helping your magic users. Keep them behind the danger zone, bait the enemies in with your frontliners like Dimitri and Dedue, and finish them off with Annette or Lysithea. With gardening, certain colors of flowers will provide stat boosters. Giving them some defense boosters will help too.

            Is this your first playthrough? Which characters are your favorite?

            1. Jackalope*

              This is indeed my first play through. As far as favorite characters it depends on what you mean; personality or battle? Since I’m in BE, some of my characters from the original house are still higher than my recruits. Bernadetta is probably my best character for overall fighting followed closely by Petra, Linhardt is my best support, and Edelgard is my best rank. Ingrid and Dorothea are also coming along nicely. Personality-wise, I like Ingrid, Dorothea, Petra, Hapi, Shamir, and Yuri (although I will confess that my favorite bit about Yuri is his voice – nice voice actor!). How about you? Which are your favorites in battle and in personality?

              (I will confess that I’m enjoying playing all of the characters right now; even Anna, who is a pretty sturdy swordswoman even if she has no supports which, why??)

              How do you use flowers for support?

              1. Dr.KMnO4*

                Battle-wise: Ingrid (great resist and dodge), Petra (crits for days, dodge, wide range of possible classes), Dorothea (I made her my Dancer, gave her Reason and Faith), Mercedes (best healear IMO), Annette (great magic, tougher than Lysithea), Bernadetta (great Crest ability), Dedue (absolute tank), Sylvain (I made him a Dark Knight), Balthus (great brawler with heals)

                Personality-wise: Dedue (he seems standoff-ish but he’s really nice), Ashe (really sweet), Dorothea (more for her supports with other people), Sylvain (a lot less shallow than he seems to be at first), Petra (very determined, her sincerity is charming), Annette (works very hard, has adorable songs, is very chipper), Caspar (always giving 110%, very sincere)

                Yuri does have a great voice actor. His supports with Ingrid, Bernadetta, and Constance are great. I also love Bernadetta’s supports with Felix and Sylvain. I’m not entirely sure why you can’t support with Anna, though she is a character in every Fire Emblem game and was originally (pre-DLC) just a merchant, and not someone you could recruit.

                Gardening is a fantastic activity for three reasons: you can get food items for meals, you can get flowers for gifting, and you can get stat-boosting items. IGN has a great article on what items you can get from different seeds. Ambrosia boosts defense, and you can get it from Root Vegetable Seeds. You won’t always get it, but there’s a chance. Everyone likes flowers, and certain characters have favorite flowers which double the support points and motivation (if they’re your student).

                I spend most of my activity points on meals since they raise support between all three characters and increase the motivation of your students. They also contribute a lot of professor XP, which makes your life a lot easier.

                Since you are near the end of Part 1, there will be a very important choice soon. Save the game to a separate save slot so that you can have the option to make a different choice if you want. I hope you post in future weekend threads about your choice because I’m really interested to see what you think!

                If you start a new game+ playthrough after your first one, you can recruit the Ashen Wolves without having to do the side story. You can also raise your professor level early on to have more activity points from the start. The game doesn’t get harder at all, unlike most new game+ experiences.

                1. Jackalope*

                  I forgot Annette and Dorothea in my characters that I like! They’re both a lot of fun too; Annette is such a pleasant character and Dorothea knows what she wants and goes for it, and has a nice rapport with a lot of the others. I also made Dorothea my dancer, since she has charm in spades and since she’d mentioned in her dialogues liking to dance, and that’s worked out well. She’s now an all-around star; she can attack, she can heal (although her healing isn’t as good as Linhardt’s who can almost restore everyone’s full hit points by now), and if she’s not in a place to do either, she can give someone else a second turn! (Oh, and I spotted a typo in my last post; Edelgard is my TANK, not my rank.)

                  I think I know which choice you’re referring to; I got to the month where that choice happens. (Note to other readers that this could be a slight spoiler although I will try to be vague.)
                  *
                  *
                  *
                  *
                  Between supporting the church, which is going around killing sinners so they won’t sin anymore, headed by a woman who did something weird and mysterious to me as a baby that isn’t fully explained yet but it involved my mother dying and my father fleeing her to protect me after lying and saying I died so she’d leave me alone; and my girl who is determined to lead the land to try to make it so no one else has to suffer like she did…. Gotta go with my girl. I’ve heard she’s a terrible villain in the other versions, and she’s BFFs with Hubert who is creepy as all get out, which does give me pause. I don’t know how I’ll feel about this decision, and my plan is to set up a separate save file so I have the option to try to come back and try the other one. But that’s my plan for now.

                2. Dr.KMnO4*

                  I can’t reply directly to your comment, so I’ll reply here. As far as that choice goes, my husband made the same one you did. I’m working through a BE playthrough, and I made the opposite choice. I did it partly because I’ve seen some of the story from his playthrough so I wanted to choose something different, and partly because I started with BL so my feelings on Edelgard are colored by that experience.

    8. Lyudie*

      I started a new Dragon Age: Inquisition playthrough and I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing. I’m waiting for the Stardew Valley update to hit the Switch, I do have it on PC but like playing on the Switch better.

    9. DarthVelma*

      I’ve lost my partner and gaming buddy to BattleTech this week. I prefer my strategy games real time rather than turn based, so I’m probably not going to fall down that hole with him. But I gotta say the graphics are nice and I love his blue and purple mechs. Fingers crossed this results in us picking back up Mech and Minions some time soon.

      The real life game I’ve been playing this week has been “find the dice”. My partner left out a bunch of his dice when we were playing board games a couple weekends ago, and the cat has been having a blast knocking them off the gaming table and leaving them like presents around the house. :-)

  8. Wanting to Give Back*

    Not sure if this question is appropriate for the weekend thread – please feel free to delete if it’s not!

    When giving to charity, what are the things you look for to decide if you should support an organisation? Any red/yellow flags I should keep an eye out for?
    Is it better to give small amounts to multiple causes, or the total amount to one cause?

    1. Doctor is In*

      I like to focus on local charities where I know the organization, or well known international or national charities (Doctors without Borders). There are web sites where you can see what percentage of their money goes to actually help the cause vs salaries and administration, just Google how to evaluate a charity.

      1. Natalie*

        I would really avoid evaluating charities by that method, and not just because I’m an accountant at an NFP and thus some of that overhead is my salary. People who work for non-profits deserve decent wages and benefits just like anyone else, and trying to keep “admin” below some arbitrary number just means employees get squeezed in all kinds of ways. It really doesn’t tell you if the organization is husbanding its resources well – program departments can waste money just as well as admin can – or having any kind of positive impact.

      2. Observer*

        The whole “overhead” thing is blown WILDLY out of proportion. A lot of that administrations stuff is legally required or simply essential to keeping the lights on while some of it is what enables the best results.

        As for salaries vs “help the cause”, that’s noxious nonsense. Really. Unless you think that any and all charities should be staffed by volunteers only it is simply impossible to “help the cause” without spending on salaries. And if you go to a volunteer only model, prepare to shut down every every effective charity that provides ongoing assistance that requires any level of professional accreditation or skill.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! Salaries pay people to do the work; they’re essential. And charities that lowball their salaries tend to have higher turnover (which impacts their results) and not be able to attract the strongest people.

          Look at a charity’s results: What are the outcomes they’ve achieved?

    2. Asenath*

      I like small amounts to multiple causes, although I don’t give the same amount to everyone, but give larger amounts to ones that I am particularly close to. I usually go for smaller organizations, and I initially check out their administrative costs in the various online sources. My list of “regulars” (which is actually quite short) all work in areas that interest me especially (naturally), some locally active, a couple nationally, and one internationally. I don’t worry much if I agree with everything they do or say as long as they do have a major focus on something I support. I also often give small amounts to causes that are not on my regular list on a one-off bases – charities listed as “in lieu of flowers” in obituaries of people I knew, special fund-raisers for things like local schools, hospitals, shelters etc carried out by people I know. I try to keep my regular giving a bit focused because although there are scams, there are also far more reputable charities than I can afford to support.

    3. Buni*

      My main enquiry is how much of any donation actually goes into the work itself; the charities that funnel as much as possible tend to state this loudly wherever possible (usually ‘For every £/$ you give, x amount goes straight our work), so be wary of the ones that don’t seem to mention it.

      As someone who works for a charity, let me say that regular giving is what we crave the most. A guaranteed £$20 every month we know we can semi-rely on is way handier than the occasional / erratic £$100 dump.

      1. Reba*

        This year is the first time that we have done a recurring monthly gift (our neighborhood food bank/childcare/family support/they are truly amazing!). Usually we give once a year based on our financial picture that year. I can say that ongoing giving has actually changed how I feel about it, too — I’m glad to know that I’m supporting their work and I receive their updates as something I feel a part of, rather than an appeal for more money :)

      2. Historic Hamlet Dweller*

        Agreed – regular giving is fabulous and the lifeblood of many charities, especially at the moment when many of our other funding streams are really challenged.
        I agree in terms of how much goes into the work – however the key thing here is how much is going into direct delivery – remember that salary costs and similar are often part of that direct delivery, and charities shouldn’t be penalised for paying their staff living wages.
        If you’re n the UK, the Charity Commission search function has had a massive facelift and is far more user friendly for lay folk.

        1. Buni*

          Basically, regular giving allows us the luxury of being able to plan. We can’t make any future plans based on ‘Well we may or may not get a £500 lump sum some time this year’, but if we know that – short of people leaving – we have £100 regularly every month, we can plan projects / look ahead.

      3. Inefficient Cat Herder*

        Although I worry about charities (and charity rating sites) that push this to the extremes. There are overhead costs to running charities too, and they should pay their staff appropriately to be able to retain the best people for the jobs.

      4. Observer*

        the charities that funnel as much as possible tend to state this loudly wherever possible (usually ‘For every £/$ you give, x amount goes straight our work), so be wary of the ones that don’t seem to mention it.

        In my experience, almost the reverse is true. Organizations that trumpet how low their overhead is tend to be poorly run, hide their “overhead” expenses in various ways (some of which are REALLY, REALLY hard find even by a good auditor), or some combination thereof. Of course, that’s not universal, but very, very common. Because well run organizations know that a lot of that indirect cost is actually crucial to effective operation and / or planning and / or effective evaluation. But that’s often hard to explain to people.

    4. ten four*

      What a fun question! I agree with Bunni to check the amount of dollars that go to the work. Nonprofits are working organizations and they should absolutely pay their staff fairly; I look for at least 70% of the budget going to delivering work.

      Charity Navigator is a handy service for checking a nonprofit’s bona fides.

      I give larger amounts to a smaller set of charities, and I set them to be recurring every month so that the organization can most effectively plan their budget. I personally prioritize direct aid, but there are plenty of great organizations doing valuable work so that’s all down to your preferences and goals.

      1. Reba*

        There are so many important causes, it can be overwhelming! We decided to choose to focus on just a couple areas that are “our thing” and look for opportunities to give there.

        I do also send money directly to people I know who could use it, give to some Gofundme’s, and that kind of thing. Direct cash assistance is something I believe in strongly! Some community organizations and mutual aid groups distribute cash support.

        1. Susie*

          While I agree with direct cash assistance, I am really hesitant about gofundme. I’m the parent of a severely disabled child so many of the parents in our network rely on gofundme me support for the equipment and therapies they need. I also feel like it reinforces biases largely because people have to decide if a cause is “worthy” or not.
          So super complex feelings. Of course I’m happy to help a family that has to pay thousands of dollars for medical equipment that insurance won’t cover but I also work for structural or donate to an advocacy group who is doing the same. We’re lucky to live in a state that has fantastic programs and funds to help level the playing field, so we know it is possible.

          1. Reba*

            Oh, I definitely agree that GoFundMe is problematic in all the ways, and I STRONGLY agree with working for needed structural solutions! So often the stories that appear on GoFundMe and similar provide the most visceral indictments of inadequate social support and planning.

            That said, I feel that giving money to people who need money is good on the whole, and GoFundMe is a pretty easy way to do that at least on the donor side.

          2. lazy intellectual*

            I see GoFundMe as a symptom of a larger systemic problem (lack of government services etc) rather than a problem itself. It’s terrible that people have to advertise their problems online to get help they are already entitled to and should have access to, but alas.

      2. Susie*

        agreed… and I also check out guidestar.

        That said, I usually donate to local food pantries or charities whose work I’m familiar with.

    5. fposte*

      I have regular places I give to every year at least, and then I usually give to a few other places that grab my attention. (Like I just learned about the amazing Black String Triage Ensemble, which plays music at the site of community violence or tragedy.)

      I think it probably would be more quantitatively effective for me to concentrate my money more, but that would mean losing some qualitative effects, and for some small organizations I like even a small donation can be hugely helpful. So I’m likely to keep up my approach of core orgs and occasional donations outside of them.

    6. TextHead*

      I tend to give less money to more organizations because there are several different causes that are important to me. I use sites like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator to check their giving stats.

      I especially like to give to places that have benefitted me, like Khan Academy after using their videos all year.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Check online charity rating sites: CharityNavigator, CharityWatch and Guidestar. These are all dot orgs.
      There are many great charities. This past year my local food bank got most of my charity dollars because many in my town can’t afford food due to the pandemic.
      Charities seem to like a constant monthly donation vs a lump sum but do whatever is most convenient for you. You also get to decide if you give to one or many charities. I give to many but the downside is the multiplying of solicitations for more money. I dropped more than one otherwise great charity due to the constant mail, email and phone calls.
      So be strategic in your giving. You’re already asking the right questions. Tell your charities how and how often you want to be contacted for more donations. Some charities can accommodate your contact preferences and some not.
      Thank you for your kind heart!

    8. Historic Hamlet Dweller*

      If you’re in the UK (or anyone else is) there are a couple of general things you can do to check things out:
      – Have a look at their Charity Commission register entry – look at overall financial sustainability, and if they’ve published 2019/20 finances, what they’ve said about the impact of covid organisationally
      – Big red/yellow flags include high turnover of very senior management or anything about “toxic” culture in the news – there’s been a lot of it about particularly in international development/aid charities
      – It’s also worth looking into whether fundraising subsidises services which should be funded by local or national government and whether that’s something you’re comfortable with
      – Think about your local mutual aid/food aid organisations – some of which may not be fully constituted charities but are providing a huge amount of frontline support.
      – Aside from that – it’s about what you care about and finding a charity that aligns with that

    9. D3*

      I’ve never, ever seen it, but you know what would be gold for me? A charity that I could donate to that would never, ever pester me for more. I cannot afford regular donations, but when I’ve had a windfall I’ve donated a few times, and it’s NEVER ENOUGH FOR THEM. I get hit up for more, more, more all the time and it’s turning me off from donating at all.
      It’s been 8 days since I emptied my email trash and there are 47 emails in there from groups I’ve donated to in the past. And I got two paper things in the mail this week, too.
      I would love to be able to donate to a group that sent me a single thank you email and didn’t try to milk me like a cow.

      1. OtterB*

        Yeah, that’s a problem. I understand that organizations are most likely to get donations from people who valued them enough to donate previously, but still. After Hurricane Sandy (which was 2012) I donated to a few charities that were local to New York that were helping feed people, and one of them still sends me an occasional piece of mail asking for more money. I did at least succeed in unsubscribing to their email list, telling them that I’d sent them one-time support and I was directing my giving in that area to groups local to me.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        These orgs probably do not want to annoy you! In addition to unsubscribing, you can ask them to mark you as do not mail/do not contact in their system. (Hat tip to Alison’s “Have you tried being direct?”)

        1. D3*

          Oh, I have. They promise to take me off, and never do. Or it lasts for 6-12 months and then starts up again.

    10. OtterB*

      This is something I need to evaluate for our family. I have a mixed bag of things I support fairly regularly and have regular monthly withdrawals for some of them. I responded to the pandemic crisis by trying to be intentional about additional giving in support of local food pantries, funds that assist with utility or rent payments, support for the homeless, etc. It’s coming to feel less intentional, though, and more like randomly throwing money at problems to avoid thinking about them, and so needs to be reconsidered.

      Like someone else said, I also respond to one-off things such as charitable requests and GoFundMe campaigns boosted by someone I know (not necessarily in person). I don’t feel the need to investigate those as thoroughly as I do things I’m going to support regularly. Longer term, I look at things like Charity Navigator, the organization’s own website, and other online information about their goals and successes.

      I threw a lot of money at campaigns during this election cycle and need to think about what to do in that area going forward that isn’t waiting until 2022. I have been contributing small regular amounts regularly to nonpartisan groups for voter support and news literacy and will continue and maybe expand that.

    11. Jackalope*

      I personally like to give small amounts to multiple causes, and to pick something that resonates with me. I always make sure I’m giving regularly to at least one environmental organization, one women’s issues organization, one local organization, etc. Nicholas Kristof does a lot of research into charitable organizations and will recommend some that he thinks are doing a good job, so I’ve leaned a lot on his recs. He has several in books that he’s written (Half the Sky, for example), and he also puts them in his newsletter.

      Many people have talked about making sure the money has a high percentage of donations going towards the actual work. That’s really important, but I also want to underline that the percentage going towards overhead shouldn’t be too low, either. Overhead covers things like staff salaries and basic office equipment and stuff, and the orgs that have an overly tiny percentage of money going to that can be the ones that pay their employees tiny salaries and expect them to buy their own pens, that sort of thing. You can look it up and get a better idea for what an appropriate percentage of overhead is, but keep that in mind too.

    12. DataGirl*

      I usually either give to local charities or those run by people I know. There are lots of small charities in my area that help the homeless, runaways, LGBTQ+ kids, or kids without families so I mostly give to them. Sometimes I’m inspired by a news article to give to an animal related charity doing some specific thing. What I avoid are big names as they often put more of their money towards executive salary, administration, and advertising than the cause.

    13. lazy intellectual*

      Two cents on YouTube did a good video on this. Some things to consider:

      Concentrating on a few charities is better than spreading your charity budget across a lot of charities because of processing costs. As an example, if you set aside $100 to give to charities and spread it across 10 with $10 each, and each payment costs $1 in processing fee, then $90 goes to into the budgets of charities. If you donate $25 across 4 charities, then only 4% goes to processing fees and $96 goes to the actual charities.

      Local charities are generally better.

      However, if you are cynical about charities in general like I am, try to find mutual aid funds and GoFundMe’s to donate to over large charity organizations.

      Also, while charities should pay their employees good wages, beware of charity organizations that pay their execs exorbitant salaries. That is just sketchy.

      1. lazy intellectual*

        Two cents suggested allocating 80% of your budget to 1-2 big name charities (that are good), mutual funds, and leaving 20% of your budget for spontaneous donations – giving to someone’s GoFundMe or disaster relief donations.

      2. Natalie*

        It’s worth nothing that you can reduce processing costs by donating through your checking/savings accounts rather than by credit card. Some payment processors will also let you opt to cover the processing fee.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. I donate to two charities by monthly direct debit payments from my bank account, one is for human rights with a focus on the rights of women and minorities and the other is for the environment. Sometimes I’ll also donate to charity campaigns on TV, when you can donate by text message and it’s charged to your phone bill as an extra cost. This especially when my phone company is a sponsor of the campaign, meaning that they’ll pay the processing costs of the donation.

  9. Bobina*

    Food/recipe thread:
    Whats the best thing you ate this week? What are you cooking next week?

    I tried out Mandy Lee’s roast chicken method (actually pan fried) and it was so delicious I’m thinking about making it again already. If you go to Youtube and search for Mandy Lee Food 52 it should be the first video that pops up. I cheated by just using whole chicken legs rather than a whole chicken, but the technique is solid.

    Otherwise I need recipe inspiration for puy lentils. I bought a bag a few months ago that has just been sitting around and I’m not really sure whats best to do with them. Ideas please?

    1. M*

      We’ve been trying to eat more seafood and vegetables and less meat so I’ve been trying out a lot of new random recipes from the internet. Epicurious’s pineapple shrimp noodle bowls (I can’t eat shrimp so I made it with scallops) were fantastic- I could eat that sauce every day. They also have a recipe for warm winter vegetable salad with halloumi that even my children liked. Watching my PICKY children voluntarily eating cabbage was a moment. I’ve been craving black bean soup so that will be on the plan for this week.

      It has been kind of fun to meal plan with new restrictions. Finding new recipes and fitting them together to make a meal plan that lets me nextover and multipurpose is one of my favorite things so this has added a new dimension to my usual meal-planning.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Hi, re: the warm winter vegetable salad with halloumi, do you know if it’s good heated up the next day? I live alone, so even if I make a salad for two, I still have to eat it a portion another day.
        I made these Greek-style potatoes at the beginning of the month and they were incredible, but not so good reheated. So, I’ll be keeping the recipe for when we can eat with other people once again.

        1. M*

          I did not like it reheated but husband loved it. I thought it was a little too oily reheated. But i am especially sensitive to that.

    2. legalchef*

      Last night I made a riff on smitten kitchen’s pasta with chickpeas (hers is soupier than I like mine, and I like adding some extra veg in). I’ll put the recipe (as I made it) in a reply in case anyone is interested.

      1. legalchef*

        Chickpea Pasta
        Ingredients
        * 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
        * 1 small onion, diced
        * 3 stalks celery, diced
        * 2 large carrots, diced
        * 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
        * 6 tablespoons tomato paste (I use 5 plus harissa paste)
        * 1-2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
        * 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
        * Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
        * 2 15-ounce cans low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
        * 1.5 cup uncooked small pasta – ditalini, annelini, small shells, etc
        * 3 – 4 cups water or veg broth

        1. In a medium-large (4qt) heavy-bottomed pot or deep saute pan, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add onions, and sauté until it starts to brown.
        3. Add garlic and cook, stirring until it becomes very fragrant.
        4. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook them with the onions for 30 seconds or so. Add rosemary, celery, and carrots, stir for another minute.
        5. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and water. Start w 3 cups and add more if you like it brothier; different types of pasta will absorb different amounts of water (I used Annelini and 3 1/4 c broth). Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, bring to boil. Then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
        6. Taste and adjust seasoning and ladle into bowls. Top w Parmesan and/or finishing oil

        1. Teapot Translator*

          OMG, I am stealing this and making it! I like recipes that have vegetables AND protein. I know I won’t eat the protein or the vegetables on the side, so I need it to all be together.
          Thank you!

      2. legalchef*

        Chickpea Pasta
        Ingredients
        * 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
        * 1 small onion, diced
        * 3 stalks celery, diced
        * 2 large carrots, diced
        * 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
        * 6 tablespoons tomato paste (I use 5 plus harissa paste)
        * 1-2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
        * 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
        * Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
        * 2 15-ounce cans low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
        * 1.5 cup uncooked small pasta – ditalini, annelini, small shells, etc
        * 3 – 4 cups water or veg broth

        1. In a medium-large (4qt) heavy-bottomed pot or deep saute pan, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add onions, and sauté until it starts to brown.
        3. Add garlic and cook, stirring until it becomes very fragrant.
        4. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook them with the onions for 30 seconds or so. Add rosemary, celery, and carrots, stir for another minute.
        5. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and water. Start w 3 cups and add more if you like it brothier; different types of pasta will absorb different amounts of water (I used Annelini and 3 1/4 c broth). Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, bring to boil. Then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
        6. Taste and adjust seasoning and ladle into bowls. Top w Parmesan and/or finishing oil (I use garlic oo)

    3. legalchef*

      Oh – for lentils, smitten kitchen has a really good recipe for lentil soup w sausage and kale. Maybe a lentil/rice dish? We’ve also made chili w lentils instead of beans.

      1. ten four*

        Lentil soup with kale and hot italian sausage is a staple in my household – that business is delicious!

      2. Bobina*

        Oh thanks for this! I made something like this during the week using black eyed beans, so may just try a variation with the lentils!

    4. Curly sue*

      One thing I’ve been doing during lockdowns has been working out kosher versions of the things we used to eat out, so I can make them at home. Last night Kid 1 and I made a dairy-free butter chicken that knocked all our socks off. The recipe (the one from the ‘Busy But Healthy’ recipe blog) uses coconut milk in place of that dairy, and I also added half a head of cauliflower in with the chicken. I could happily eat that every day for a week.

    5. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Have you tried mujadara? Super simple, easy, tasty and you can make it a main or a side. Easy to make veg/gf. Most recipes call for brown lentils but I always use puy, stock instead of water for cooking and garnish with toasted almonds as well as the onion. And always pickles on the side!

      Another quick fave for lentils is to toss them in a pan with some onion, garlic, chilli and a tin of tomato and finish with fresh cilantro. Goes great with a piece of grilled fish on a cool day!

      1. Bobina*

        Ooh. I have not but have had a google and am intrigued. Will probably make that or some kind of variation :D

    6. Parenthetically*

      Puy lentils are great in my all-time favorite salad. Bed of arugula, simply cooked puy lentils (just salt, pepper, chili flakes, bay leaf), roast pumpkin, crumbled bacon, goat cheese, and a hot bacon/red onion/brown mustard vinaigrette.

      1. M*

        that sounds delicious! I love anything with a hot vinaigrette. Do you have a recipe for the dressing or could you provide guidance on the ratios?

        1. Parenthetically*

          You can basically use any recipe you like, but the basic idea is to crisp up half a pack of bacon, crumble it, and set it aside, drain a little of the fat, then in the remaining fat, saute a small sliced or chopped red onion BRIEFLY, add salt and pepper, and then throw in a few good sloshes of red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar (or sweetener of choice, to taste), simmer the onion for a minute (it kind of pickles it?), and then whisk in a big dollop of grainy mustard. Then adjust the seasoning, add the bacon back in, and dress your salad.

      2. Bobina*

        Ooh. Sounds interesting but definitely one to save for summer – at the moment its cold and grey and I just want warm stew/soup type things!

    7. Ali G*

      So for 12 weeks before Christmas we were on a strict diet exercise plan, took 2 weeks off, and started back up on the 4th. But we are being more relaxed on the weekends, so this weekend is the first time I’ve really cooked in a while. I missed it!
      Last night I made shrimp bowls with quinoa instead of rice. Tonight is beef nacho skillet with fresh corn chips.
      We are still mostly sticking to the tenets of the diet, but relaxing a little on the excluded items like dairy and starch. Tomorrow will prob be something from the freezer and some potatoes I need to cook.

    8. GoryDetails*

      Found a pork roast at the bottom of my freezer – “only” about a year and a half later, so should be fine though not optimal – and am now enjoying the aroma of balsamic-and-honey-braised pork from my Crock Pot. It’s a rainy day, so having my dinner simmering away all day will be nicely cozy and appetizing.

      In other food-news, I bought a small air fryer and may experiment with a small batch of buffalo wings for lunch!

    9. Nicole76*

      I found a recipe online that sounded interesting and asked my husband to make it. He said he was skeptical the entire time, but the end result turned out delicious, and since it’s just the two of us, it fed us for two dinners, and there’s still enough left over for lunch which makes me excited.

      The dish is called Spicy Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka and can be found at Half Baked Harvest DOT com.

      Note – The reason for the skepticism was all the pesto used, but it mixed in nicely with everything else and wasn’t overwhelming. Topping it with freshly grated parmesan just further enhances the deliciousness.

    10. Me*

      My favorite meal this week was a Spanish bean soup with cornbread. Such a simple meal and quite yummy.

      The soup uses garbanzo beans, onion, garlic, veggie broth and paprika. I keep dry beans and use an instant pot to cook them so it’s also a pretty cheap meal.

      There were no leftovers except a small slice of cornbread.

      Trying to clear out the pantry and freezers this month to make sure that things aren’t lost at the back of the shelves or bottom of the chest freezer. The side benefit is a reduced grocery bill. Surprisingly I still have most everything I need for most meals except for an occasional fresh fruit or veggie.

    11. Not A Manager*

      Cooks Illustrated has a nice recipe for a lentil/veggie soup using Puy lentils. It’s different from the soup I grew up with, which was a soft brown lentil mush similar to a split pea soup. This is more of a broth with distinct veggies and firm lentils. IIRC it’s finished with a bit of vinegar and herbs to round it out.

      If you go to their website you should be able to find it.

    12. WellRed*

      I’m hopefully making some sort of chicken stew (with pre-roasted chicken and a mix) and maybe some sort of white bean soup. I wish I had a big freezer, or at least one all to myself. I’d spend a week cooking and freezing stuff.
      Alas, we’re having torrential wind and rain (wish it were snow) so probably won’t get to the store today.

    13. Generic Name*

      Dal/dahl is a yummy thing to make with lentils. I eat it with naan, but it’s also good over jasmine rice.

    14. wingmaster*

      The best thing I ate this week was some grilled kalbi ribs. I didn’t have any KBBQ sauce, so I just did salt and pepper. It was still very tasty!

    15. Teapot Translator*

      Does anyone have ideas of what I could do with leftover hot-dogs? I was craving pigs in blanket last week (I have no idea why, but the beauty of being an adult is that I could just feed that craving and have pigs in blanket for supper!) and I had more meat than dough.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I like to buy refrigerated biscuit dough, wrap the hotdogs in them along with some cheese, and then bake them. I realize that’s basically the same thing you just made, though. You could cut them up and toss them in with mac and cheese.

    16. OyHiOh*

      I wandered into the kitchen today and thought, “I wonder if I still know how to make a decent omelette?” and proceeded to make a pretty good one. A little more brown than it should be, but tasty. Munster cheese and beef bacon for filling.

    17. Jackalope*

      Occasional treat that I made for myself this morning: banana oatmeal. Same proportions of liquid to oatmeal but with milk instead of water. Use a super ripe banana, a pinch of salt, some walnuts or pecans, and a spoonful of honey. So good, and one of my favorite weekend breakfasts, although I don’t get it very often since I rarely buy bananas.

      1. allathian*

        I had some oatmeal as well. I zapped a bowl of it in the microwave for a minute, stirred and then zapped it for another minute. I seasoned it with a little bit of salt and ate it with frozen blackcurrants from our garden and just a little bit of honey. Use maple syrup instead of honey if you want a vegan version. The blackcurrants are tart enough that I find they need just a bit of sweetener. Sometimes I’ll also put just a bit of cottage cheese in it for a bit more protein.

        This was the first time I made it for nearly a year, so I underestimated how much the oat flakes would expand when heated, so I put what I couldn’t eat in one go in the fridge and ate it cold in the evening. Delicious either way.

    18. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I wouldn’t say if it’s the best thing ever? but I just recently bought a new toaster oven when we moved to the new house . It’s a kitchen Aid and has a bunch of features like toasting, baking, air fry (!!!!!!!!!) and dehydrator etc some other stuff. Since I had a few cans of tunafish in the pantry that I wanted to finish, I made tuna “melts” which is basically toast with melted cheese and cold tunafish on it. I’m not sure if tha’ts the true definition of a tuna melt but I like the crispiness of the bread + melted cheese + chilled tuna.

      1. M*

        I need to buy an air fryer and our toaster oven is sub-par so I have been looking at this one. Can you tell me if it gets really smoky? I live in faculty housing in a dorm so if I set off my smoke alarm, the whole dorm has to evacuate. So I have been hesitant. I would love to hear from an actual owner about it.

    19. Pennyworth*

      The BBC recipe site has 3 pages of interesting recipes with puy lentils – just put ”puy lentils” in the ingredient search bar. Mary Berry makes a shepherds pie with lentils and mushrooms instead of meat, it looked good on TV!

    20. Marillenbaum*

      For lentils: I live in Bangladesh right now, and I have become a huge fan of khichdi. It’s a rice and lentil dish, very warming and comforting. I use red lentils (because that’s what I have in my house), but I think puy would be fine.
      Basically, you fry up some onions and spices, then toss in rice and lentils to toast lightly, then add liquid, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Add a few green chilis and fresh coriander at the end, and hey presto!

  10. SaraV*

    Got the chance to drive through a blizzard yesterday morning to the place we don’t talk about in this thread here in the midwest. Interstate was completely snow covered, and I was doing a “blazing” 30-35 mph in a 65 mph zone.

    Left work 8 hours later…no more snow in the parking lots, and the roads were just damp. Saw several vehicles, though, deep in ditches off the side of the road. Even saw a pick-up truck on its side.

    And just a tidbit: A blizzard isn’t determined by the amount of snow you receive. (The local major airport final tally was 4.9″) It’s when you have wind gusts of 35 mph or greater, 1/4 mile or less of visibility, and it lasts longer than 3 hours.

    1. *daha**

      SUVs and other 4WD/AWD vehicles seem to be over-represented in the median. They make it lots easier to go straight ahead fast, but don’t actually help on the turns and stops. The drivers are over-confident. They also spend so much on the vehicle they skip out on buying winter tires.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I’ve noticed this. I was driving back home during a storm and it was the guys in the lifted trucks who were convinced they could go normal speed on the interstate.

        I have a compact car with FWD (but with winter tires) and *knocks on wood* that and driving cautiously has kept it fine so far since I’ve lived in the Midwest.

      2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Notable during any snow event here in the Mitten. The fact that its 4WD and NOT “Four Wheel Stop” seems to be lost on many.

  11. Someone On-Line*

    Can I get some book recommendations for a workplace book club?
    A survey at the beginning said people mostly preferred mystery and action/adventure. The last book we read was The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelidis and they *loved* it.
    Now I feel some pressure to recreate the magic. Ideas?

    1. Tortally HareBrained*

      I’d like to suggest The Feather Thief by Kirk W Johnson. It’s a non-fiction book about a museum heist, the weird world of fly tying, and a not quite solved crime. I’ve read it in two books clubs and it seems to capture people because the story is just so weird. It makes for good discussion on motivations, addiction/obsession, the role of science, and other topics. You can find interviews with the author and quick glimpses of the story with a quick Google search.

    2. L6orac6*

      Redhead by the side of the road by Anne Tyler, not a mystery, it’s about relationships, nice easy read.

    3. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household is a great page turner, as is The Mask of Dimtrius by Eric Ambler, both have some historical/political stuff to chew on as well. For mysteries I always recommend Georges Simenon, classic Parisian noir.

    4. Mr Jingles*

      I like Sebastian Fitzek’s books. They are reasly different crime books and thrillers. My favourite is The Eye-Collector

    5. GoryDetails*

      For mysteries, try Tana French; In the Woods is the first of her excellent “Dublin Murder Squad” series, but each book can be read on its own so you don’t have to start there. [One of the things I love about the series is its focus on the working relationships – good, bad, etc. – between members of the squad; might be a fun aspect for a workplace reading group.]

      Alison’s recommendation, Dear Mrs. Bird, isn’t especially mystery or action, but is a very entertaining read, and could make for some fun discussion.

      Oh, and an oldie but a goodie: Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise is one of her “Lord Peter” mysteries, this one set in an advertising agency – loads of hilarious and spot-on commentary about that kind of workplace, which in some ways reminded me of my software-engineering jobs in the past.

    6. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Okay, so I’m guessing this means you want things that aren’t too long, racy, or depressing but are still awesome reads that are sure to garner different opinions and drive the conversation? If so, either The Butterfly Mosque or Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, 30 Days of Rain (and it’s sequels), The Tenant of Windfall Hall (this turned into a surprise favorite, everyone in bookclub fell in love with it), Funny in Farsi, The Third Eye by Tuesday Lobsang Rompa, The Happiness Project, East Wind West Wind or The Mother by Pearl Buck and those are all I can think of off the top of my head.

      1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        Whoops, kind of forgot about the mystery and action/ adventure towards the end there! Still good books though lol.

      2. L*

        I love East Wind West Wind! Found it in my mother’s collection and had to buy my own. A friend she lent it to finished it in one day!

        1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

          I’m so glad! It’s so little known when really everyone should read it. I love how the protagonist adores her husband so much that only the reader gets to see how selfish he is, never the character.

          1. L*

            I need to read it again, I don’t remember much about the husband, just the rest of her family! He was very distanced from her till she wanted to learn more, is what I remember. And him being schocked at seeing her dying mother.

    7. AGD*

      Unknown by Didier van Cauwelaert is a fast-paced mystery-thriller (a translation, originally titled Out of My Head before the Liam Neeson movie). Or anything by Janelle Brown (maybe Watch Me Disappear).

    8. Someone On-Line*

      Thank you for the ideas everyone! I will write them down and hopefully find something everyone will enjoy.
      For the first month I chose “All Creatures Great and Small” and that did not go over well, so this group has very different tastes than what I’m used to!

      1. AnotherTeacher*

        That might be my all-time favorite book. It’s hard to imagine not loving it!

        I like all the other ones on these lists though, so perhaps I am just not very picky. :)

    9. Helvetica*

      “The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton – it reads very much like a crime novel though it has an additional intriguing layer of a time loop. I think it would a great book for a book club to read and discuss!

      1. Pennyworth*

        Seconding Thursday Murder Club. I’d also like to add that you can’t please everyone with a book club choice, and that is fine. I’ve had interesting discussions about books I didn’t like at all, and once recommended a book I found very funny only to discover a sole kindred spirit in our club.

      1. cleo*

        Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley is an excellent noir-ish mystery set in post-war LA. It was made into a movie staring Denzel Washington. It’s the first in Mosley’s popular Easy Rawlins mystery series.

        You might also try a Dick Francis thriller/mystery. They’re engaging, well written and without the toxic masculinity of a lot of similar authors.

        1. jolene*

          That’s because they were written by his wife Mary. After she died, the son’s name went on the covers but they used a ghost.

          1. allathian*

            I don’t really care who wrote them, I still enjoy them. “Felix Francis” took a while to get into his stride, but the most recent books are decent reads. If you read them all, you’ll also see how much the British racing world has changed since the early 1960s when he started writing.

            His wife Mary was a publisher’s reader, so she probably helped him with his books (she had a degree in English literature), but I have no doubt that the plotting and the knowledge of the racing world that’s so apparent in the books came from Dick himself. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that she wrote them from scratch.

            1. jolene*

              Nope, she wrote them, and did all the research for the non-racing world books. She even learnt to fly for an excellent flying thriller. He was a lovely guy, but not half as sharp and articulate as her. You’ll see the quality of the books drop dramatically after her death.

    10. cleo*

      Accidentally replied to the wrong thread.

      Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley is an excellent noir-ish mystery set in post-war LA. It was made into a movie staring Denzel Washington. It’s the first in Mosley’s popular Easy Rawlins mystery series.

      You might also try a Dick Francis thriller/mystery. They’re engaging, well written and without the toxic masculinity of a lot of similar authors.

      When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole is getting a lot of buzz. I haven’t read this because I’m wimpy about thrillers but I like the author. It’s a thriller set in a gentrifying neighborhood – the protagonists start to believe that something sinister is happening to the old residents leaving the neighborhood. It’s billed as a cross between Rear Window and Get Out. It might be a little political for a work book club, I’m not sure.

      1. cleo*

        Had one more idea. All Systems Red by Martha Wells. It’s a novella and the start of the incredibly awesome Murderbot Diaries series. It’s a SF mystery / thriller about a group of scientists studying an uninhabited planet and facing an unknown enemy. The narrator is a sentient AI / cyborg security unit that really just wants to be left alone to binge watch it’s favorite media but it keeps having to rescue the annoying humans and solve the mystery.

  12. Bobina*

    Plant thread:
    How are all your plants doing?

    I bought some heuchera seeds a while ago, and the instructions say you can sow them anytime but also that they are quite difficult to grow. I dont really know what I’m doing as a gardener but I like trying, so I sowed about half the packet. I was fairly sure it was a bust as after a couple of weeks nothing had germinated (and I’d seen the compost get mouldy in one spot) so I was getting ready to give up this week and then noticed some teeny tiny specks of green, so it looks like there is life after all! I’m not sure if the seedlings will survive really, its winter so there isnt lots of light and I feel like the temperature fluctuations with the heating going on and off probably dont help, but I’m just happy that apparently my technique of throw stuff in a pot and wait continues to mostly work :D

    I have some more seeds that I’m going to wait until Feb-March to sow. But I also realised that me being as impatient as I am is a terrible idea when trying to grow things from seed. Next time I should just suck it up and pay more for established plants!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      A while ago I asked here, when I cut my spider plant baby loose, what should I do with the vine, and I followed the advice to cut the vine pretty close to the baby and let the mother plant reabsorb the nutrients from it — well, apparently the mother plant decided to reuse it because baby #2 is growing now :)

      I had a purple wandering dude who was looking pretty dire because he was shipped in the cold with no heat pack, but he’s doing better, standing on his own instead of flopping over, and the nubbins of new growth on the main stalk. So that’s promising.

      I set up an Aerogarden last weekend and the lettuces have already sprouted! And I have seeds for purple Serrano peppers en route, because that sounded fun. (Does anyone know if the Aerogarden light spillover is enough to be beneficial to other nearby plants, even if it’s not direct? The thing lights up most of the room it’s in, but I don’t know the fine points of how exactly the specialty light *waves hands* works.)

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        What’s your watering regime like for your spider plant? The plant tag on mine and all the articles I’ve read said they like to be kept moist but not wet, but I think I almost killed mine with overwatering… it seems like they might actually prefer to dry out a bit between drinks?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Mine are in 4” pots and I have a reminder on my phone that goes off to check them at noon on MWF. I water them (probably a couple tablespoons?) as long as the surface soil in the pot is not damp to the touch, and I make sure there’s no water dripping out the drainage holes before I put them back in the saucer. (I don’t water them enough for that to be likely, but I always double check.) But yeah, the reason I first got the spider plant was because I have a tendency to underwater (due to forgetting, hence the reminders) and I gathered from some research that they would tolerate it better than some other options would.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Ah, I was probably giving mine a fair bit more than that. I generally have the opposite problem to you, I’m too heavy-handed with the watering can. Then combined with COVID lockdown, they were getting far too much love!

            I saved a piece of my spider plant that’s been rooting in water (ironically!) since the overwatering incident. I think it’s ready to be planted out again so I’ll do that today and try the Red Reader watering method going forward. Thanks :)

      2. GoryDetails*

        Re Aerogarden lights: they can benefit nearby plants a bit – indeed, I’ve been leaving my potted plants next to the Aerogarden during overcast days, and can see the plants leaning towards the light. It’s not a perfect replacement for a sunny window or a separate grow-light but it does help. [I’m on my second major lettuce harvest now, with occasional single-leaf snacks now and then; love the fresh, clean leaves!]

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Sweet. I want to do some herbs inside, but the only place that has the space AND is safe from the cat is a room that gets about three hours of morning light a day, tops. So if I can kinda cluster some containers around the Aerogarden and benefit from that, it’ll help a lot.

          I put the lettuce in the Aerogarden because my husband likes it on sandwiches, so he’d buy a head of lettuce and eat like three leaves, then the rest of it would melt in the produce drawer :-P so the single-leaf snacks are exactly what I’m after! Hah.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve tried sowing from seed indoors a few times, and the plants grow; however, I seem to not be good at hardening off the plants. I’ve lost them every time. I might try once more and use one of those standing greenhouses in the house. Although, I have no clue what I’d plant from seed yet.

      Has anyone bought plants online? How do they ship them for maximum plant heath? I get emails from a few places and I always want to order something (it’s incredibly tempting when they posts all those beautiful pictures of mature plants and trees), but I’m wondering if they’re still healthy when they arrive.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Most of my houseplants came from Etsy. They’ve mostly been wrapped in plastic (or with plastic around the pot/dirt and paper around the plant) and then taped to the inside of the box, with additional packing around them. Sellers should offer the option to add a heat pack if the temperature on your end warrants it, but not all of them do. My pothos and peace lily were wrapped securely enough that they didn’t lose any dirt or budge at all even when the FedEx guy threw the box onto my porch from range AND it landed upside down. :-P (I have some seriously lousy delivery people serving my subdivision.) I did have a couple plants that arrived in bad condition, but I contacted the seller with pictures same-day and they sent replacements.

        But other than nurseries that do their selling on Etsy (and there are quite a few of those), I’ve never ordered direct from one of the big nurseries with shipping. I would assume though that if the little guys can do it, the big guys should be able to as well :)

        1. pancakes*

          Most of my plants are from Etsy, Pistils, and Growers Exchange, and that’s how they ship them too. So far, so good.

      2. fposte*

        Just about every plant I’ve bought has been from online. Bluestone Perennials is my go-to generalist for flowers; I’ve also bought from rose, peony, clematis, etc. specialists. It’s worth looking at the Garden Watchdog section of the Dave’s Garden website, especially the Watchdog 30. It’s not as well traveled as it used to be (it’s been around for something like 20 years now), but it’s still a good place to find nurseries and get warned off really bad vendors.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      So I had to google heuchera seeds. Their germination time is 2-8 weeks.. yikes. If you know what day you planted them, I’d figure two months out from that what you see is what you will have. I’d be interested in hearing how much you ended up with.

      1. Bobina*

        Hah, I put a reminder in my phone because the packet did say it can be up to 60 days for germination and I wanted to make sure I remembered. Technically that will be up on the 6th of Feb so I can update you then.

        I do feel like they are trying to germinate but dying before really getting going because well..the conditions arent really ideal – but I’ll come back and share! And I’ll definitely try planting the second half of the packet mid-late spring when its warmer and there is more light so curious to know how much of a difference that will make :D

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I suspect more light is the ticket.
          I had gerbera daisies that I was wintering over. I kept them under a normal 4 ft fluorescent shop light.
          I had the light on a timer. I don’t remember how long but I am sure the light was on at least 12 hours a day.
          They did okay, they made it through the winter. I was able to divide them in the spring and get more daisies.
          They would have struggled without the light and the heat- by luck they were also near part of my heat system.

        2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          To speed up the germination when conditions aren’t great, you could try creating a mini hothouse by popping seeds in a pot, covering it with cling film, putting it in a sunny spot and keeping it moist. Then plant out once the seedlings have established. I tend to have more success with this than putting seeds straight in the bed.
          I had to look up heuchera too, what gorgeous foliage!

          1. Bobina*

            Yes, they are so pretty arent they! The main appeal for me was the interesting colours and the fact that they are pretty low maintenance, so fingers crossed they actually grow (although I do have 2 plants I bought at the end of the season from a shop near me, but I want more!)

            And yes, I have a mini-hothouse set up for them indoors, but I’m not really sure its meeting the criteria of warm and bright in the winter :/

            1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

              Well I hope they grow for you! I could picture a big bed or hedge of it looking absolutely stunning. I’m all about foliage, I find that for more interesting than flowers.

    4. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Anyone had much luck with oxalis? After much searching I finally found one and after growing ok (but not vigorously) for a few months it went dormant at the beginning of summer (I’m in Aus). So I put it in a cool dark spot (lol, cool for subtropics!) and ignored it for 8 weeks and today I brought it out. The tuber looked healthy so I gave the pot a soak/liquid feed/drain and put it in a bright indoor position so I’m hoping for the best..? I can’t find much useful info on oxalis for my climate so keen to hear what others have done.

      I lost about a dozen indoor plants due to a heatwave at the beginning of summer, my poor babies cooked! Grieving my entire collection of begonias, but I have cuttings of one that were propagating in water, so fingers crossed I can resurrect at least one of them :(

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Not yet, but I’m hoping to do a couple pots of oxalis for my porch this spring (US here) – I figure I’ll plant the bulbs in late February and stash them in my garage until April :)

    5. Buona forchetta*

      When my husband and I moved out West ten years ago we gifted my mother with our beloved and very healthy pathos plant. We moved back to the East Coast a couple of years ago and are just getting around now to re-plantifying our indoor environment. My mother this week dropped off cuttings from the very same pathos plant we gave her ten years ago and it feels like an old friend is back.

    6. CatCat*

      I just bought an Aerogarden and will be setting it up today. I’m pretty excited about it. It will be great to have fresh herbs to harvest during the cold months.

    7. TextHead*

      I brought some of my young potted trees inside for the winter and most are unhappy, unfortunately. I’m not sure if it’s sunlight (they have grow lights on them), drainage, nutrients, etc. I bought a soil testing kit to check some things, things, though. I’m hoping I can save them.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        It could just be the shock of the move? Some plants are like cats, they just have Their Spot and if you interfere with it they will Communicate Their Displeasure. It’s not something I need to do in my climate, but I’ve heard of people taking a hardening-off approach over a few weeks to ease the transition to inside conditions by moving them to a shadier spot first, then under cover, then inside.
        It sounds like your trees might need some time to rest and recover, so I’d avoid doing anything major like soil adjustments, repotting, fertilising, trimming back right now as that would just shock them further. You could try replicating what they had outside as best you can to soften the move. Maybe a cooler spot, somewhere with more airflow or a humidifier if the heating is drying out the air. But other than that it might be best to leave them be and even leave the dead/ratty foliage on. Some plants reabsorb the nutrients or use it for protection.

      2. willow for now*

        If they are ficus trees, those hate to be moved and will pitch a fit by dropping a bunch of leaves so you know they are unhappy, but usually come back okay.

    8. Llama face!*

      I am trying to sprout two kinds of seeds I’ve never grown before: avocado and spider plant. My spider made seed pods this fall and they finally matured. So I planted 8 of the seeds to see if anything will grow. According to my sources they are both very slow starters so I might have an answer in about a month…

      1. Nixologist*

        I had an abundance of spider plant seeds take and thrive in april/may, but the ones I’ve planted since then have not sprouted at all or been slow and tiny. I think sunlight is a part of in (I’m in the Midwest) but I think heat is the bigger variable.
        They are slow started but fast growers once the sprout! Very fun to watch.

        1. Llama face!*

          Good to know! I don’t have a heater to put them on/near but my home is always quite warm (about 25° C) so hoping they deign to sprout for me. My spider plant is also making traditional spider babies on stems so I can propogate that way too, but I thought it would be fun to try a different method.

    9. Might Be Spam*

      How long can I keep my green pepper plant going? I brought it in for the winter and it is still alive although not getting any bigger. Will I be able to get any more green peppers when I put it outside again?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have never tried this but I think part of your answer will be to give it plenty of nitrogen to encourage top growth.

      2. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

        Peppers are perennial as long as you don’t leave them out in the cold for winter! They can apparently grow to be rather large if given a big enough planter, and should put out new growth & new fruit every year.

        I’ve got a habanada pepper (heatless habanero) that put out a second crop of peppers after I brought it in this fall, and just this weekend put out some new green leaves. I’m planning to transplant it into a larger pot for the coming season and see how it goes.

    10. Helvetica*

      My cat has been eating my fittonia so I guess my plants are not great. I bought this one specifically so it would be safe but I did not expect her to eat so much of it! I never catch her doing it so I can’t forbid her but I see the holes and tears. Eh, cats.

      1. Natalie*

        Oh funny, I have a fittonia that I was going to mention, because I bought a terrarium for it that turned out to be too small. They like high humidity, so a bell jar or terrarium could do double duty for you.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood”*

      I tried my hand at bean sprouts and apparently I didn’t have conditions right…so tomorrow I’m going to plant my lentil seedlings and see if i can grow them in a house.
      I bought cilantro seeds to try same. All this will happen after i move some plants to the basement plant room…something smells weird enough that at first i wondered if i had covid. But it’s predictably when i water those plants, and does not hit me when I’m out of the house…phew.

    12. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      We’re trying!

      We found the cutest little succulents at the grocery store. The “not-a-child-Mom”-child (I need to survive raising myself, I find) and the older sibling have taken over the care thereof. I dare say I see what looks to be happy succulents that are considering growing visibly. Older sibling has handled the care research and has labeled the pots with the proper Latin names because they “look cool”.

      Did I mention they’re tiny? Yes. They’re in 1.5″ diameter pots, if I had to guess. And they’re all over the place at home, just little happy pots of green!

  13. The Other Dawn*

    I wanted to say thank you to those than answered my question last weekend about the $64,000 surprise bill from my two surgeries back in March, especially fposte who recommended I contact the state’s health advocate–I never knew we had one. I also didn’t know the state had a “surprise bill” provision.

    I contacted the office of the healthcare advocate and they called me yesterday to explain the process and get some information from me. The woman was so nice and said they get tons of calls like mine. She also said they get lots of calls at the beginning of the year about prescription costs and coverage, such as someone’s company suddenly dropping coverage on a very expensive necessary medication. She said my bill definitely fits the definition of “surprise bill.” I now have an open case and I’m submitting the documentation this weekend. I also submitted appeals to the insurance company and I directly quoted the “surprise bill” definition from the statue.

    Coincidentally, the doctor’s billing service called again yesterday to state they appealed several times and need help from me to get the bill paid. I returned the call and got their voicemail (of course!), so I just let them know I’m appealing to the insurance company. They’ve only left two messages in two months and they haven’t been aggressive in nature, so I’m not worried it’s going to collections. They also haven’t billed me directly.

    This has been a big black cloud ever since I got the first call, and now I feel much better. Let’s hope it all works out!

    1. fposte*

      I’m so glad they were helpful! I hope it gets resolved, and I hope other states pass similar legislation.

    2. Wishing You Well*

      Wow! Good job advocating for yourself!
      I didn’t know about healthcare advocates and “surprise bill” provisions!
      Thank for the info and Best of Luck!

    3. Buni*

      A lot of advice I’ve seen recently says ‘Ask for an itemised bill’. People were finding the usual ridiculousness of e.g. being charged $500 for a cotton swab, and the second it was challenged it was gone.

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m glad to hear you’ve got the health advocate’s office looking into it on your behalf. Years ago I was an aide to an elected official, and companies take notice when government officials get involved. Good luck!

    5. Hound Fan*

      Make sure you let your benefits department know. They will alert the broker and the insurance carrier. Often, there are facilities and providers who do this regularly and the carriers have open fraud cases against them. You can be included in a case. The carrier will either settle or sue in bulk.

      I often find that carriers that over bill never send patients to collections as they are just hoping to pressure you to set up a payment plan.

      Good luck.

  14. Tiny toes*

    I’m looking to rent for the first time in 25 years. I’ve identified some properties that fit my criteria (price, location, amenities) and have decent reviews. What red flags/good signs should I look for when I tour? (Tours are offered by appointment right now.) Any questions I should ask, or look for in the lease?

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      If they are apartments in a complex ask to see the actual unit that would be available and not just the model. Even if you can’t go inside (because it’s still occupied) you can get an idea of the neighbors, proximity to amenities etc.

      Do cruise bys at night to see what is happening. Is it quiet? All parking full? Stoop community? Etc.

      My first apartment I didn’t even think to ask about laundry since I had grown up with it in house. That was a fun slog.

      1. Generic Name*

        Heck, even ask to see an unoccupied unit that isn’t the model. I think some complexes have really nice updated models and then rent a unit that isn’t as nice. A friend of mine rented an apartment based on a tour of the model and was peeved that his unit had laminate and sheet linoleum rather than the nice tile and granite shown in the model. Not like laminate countertops make a place unlivable, but he felt deceived.

    2. Llellayena*

      How are issues handled. Who do you contact, how quickly can you expect a response/repair. What are you expected to handle yourself.

      Parking for yourself and guests. Guest policies. You don’t want to find out that having guests visit for a week violates your lease in the middle of the visit. Or that the only guest parking is on the street two blocks away.

      Laundry in unit, in building or off site?

      Bedbug policy (God forbid). Who pays, what’s the process, just in case.

      Package delivery. Are there automated lockers, cold storage (for flowers or food deliveries), pick up packages in the office only during business hours?

      Snow removal, assuming you live somewhere it’s an issue. How quickly do they get someone there and what gets cleared.

      Sound. Visit an apartment at a time when the surrounding residents are home and listen. How much can you hear of the neighbors?

      When was the carpet last replaced (if there is any)? If you’re planning on being there a few years and the carpet is old, you might want to ask for it to be replaced before you move in so you don’t have to deal with moving furniture when it does reach end of life.

      Everything else I can think to ask is stuff most people think about anyway. Good luck!

    3. WellRed*

      THere’s been a few letters here recently about problems with smoking. I’d ask about smoking policies.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Is it going to be noisy? In particular, if you’re on an ambulance/fire truck route, those will be out at all hours of the day and night. My current apartment is on an ambulance route, but our bedroom is at the back of the building so it’s not a problem.

      I’d also look at the wiring/electrical outlets, and what sort of internet connections are provided, or available.

    5. Jackalope*

      Consider location in the building if you’re looking for an apartment. My first apartment on my own I loved but it was ground floor and so everyone could see right in the many wonderful windows. Every person that lives in that apartment (I still live nearby so often happen to walk by) tends to keep all the curtains drawn! Also, I had a streetlight right outside my bedroom window that was so bright I could have read by its light, and people walking by on the street outside my apartment would be really loud and wake me up. Not on purpose, they weren’t being obnoxious, but they weren’t thinking about the fact that they were going by a place that would have people sleeping (there were things like a theater nearby so people would often be going around at late hours eagerly talking about the play they’d just seen). On the other hand, make sure if you’re higher up in the building that you can handle the stairs. Even if there’s an elevator, they go out sometimes. And laundry is an important issue too. I was fine with sharing a laundry room with other people but I wouldn’t have been okay with having to go offsite for it, for example.

    6. Dan*

      Make sure you know about:

      1. Laundry
      2. Heating/cooling. I will never again, if I can help it, live in a place that doesn’t have complete in-unit climate controls. Older high rises will often have a central boiler system for the heat and AC, and in those deals, it’s one or the other, and state law will dictate when they’re on heat vs ac. This can be problematic in regions where you get wild temp swings in the transitional months.
      3. Parking parking parking, for both the unit and the guests.
      4. This is one I haven’t seen discussed before, but I’ll throw it out: If looking at a high rise, do your best to figure out the elevator situation. In grad school, my building had two elevators, which was fine, except for the once in a blue moon situation when both were out. I had a 7th floor unit, and once or twice that year I hoofed it up the stairs. If you’re able enough to do that on occasion, then fine, but if not, you may need to thing really hard about accessibility. My place doesn’t have elevators, but I recently looked at moving — the yelp reviews were like, “peoples’ dogs pee in the elevators and they stink.” So there’s that.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      In addition to solid tips in the previous comments, check out how things work when you’re in the unit. Test out the burners on the stove, the water pressure of the shower, and the faucets. Watch to see if the sink and shower drain correctly. Flush the toilet. If there are blinds or curtains, try those out. Open and close windows. Test the heat and/or air conditioner to see how loud they are and if they’re blowing air that’s the right temperature. Turn the light switches on and off. Check to see if there’s a smoke/carbon monoxide alarm and a fire extinguisher (for the extinguisher, this requirement might vary depending on what state you’re in, I’m not sure). Etc.

      If you find that some of those things aren’t working well, it could be a hint that the landlord is not committed to taking care of maintenance issues. Alternatively, in some old buildings, it’s just how things work. I’ve lived in a rental where it consistently took a couple minutes for the water in the sink and the shower because the plumbing was a hundred years old. That was fine with me, just good to know before you sign a lease to decide what you are and are not comfortable with.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        There’s a word missing there. I meant to say that with old plumbing, it took a couple minutes for the water to get *hot*.

    8. ShinyPenny*

      Two things that might be relevant if you are more rural/suburban:
      If the rental is on a hill, gear changes from passing trucks and buses can be disruptively loud, and potentially constant.
      If it’s on a corner, oncoming vehicle lights can be unpleasant at night if you are sensitive to moving bright lights in a dark house/bedroom.

  15. Dear liza dear liza*

    If they liked THE SILENT PATIENT and want a more in that vein, I’d suggest THE LAST FLIGHT, BEFORE THE FALL, and PRETTY THINGS.

  16. Mee-ow!*

    Allison, I recommend the facebook group “Beautiful T O R T I E S with TORTITUDE” to see and share quality tortoise shell cat content.

  17. Mourning Reader*

    Recommendations for learning about money?

    I asked late last week about mourning rituals, finding myself in the strange position of being the last serving member of my family of origin. (Thanks for the comments and condolences.) Now I’m asking about this situation in which I find myself… most family assets have trickled down to me, and I find myself with more money than I’ve ever had or planned to have in my life.

    The proceeds of my parents’s house sale, my brother’s life insurance, and now my sister’s widower’s estate, which includes funds from his mother’s and brother’s estates (houses and retirement funds) all basically mine now.

    I’ve lived my whole life paycheck to paycheck. I’ve never been ambitious re money, and I was a single parent during most of my working years, prioritizing having a decent paying government job with good benefits over seeking higher paying, higher pressure, longer hours employment.

    This is a happy problem to have but now I need to educate myself about how to handle money. Not budgeting so much as investments, taxation, what is smart, ethical, reasonable. What do you all recommend for learning about these things? I know some titles, Suze Orman, Rich Dad, etc., but I’m not sure what would be most useful.

    For reference, I’m not a millionaire now, but i think the amount may be similar to what the retirement planning books say you should have. I’ve mostly ignored all that as being ridiculously overestimated or intended for people who want to live in big houses and take expensive trips constantly. I retired early and have lived on my pension about $2k a month with occasional withdrawals from the 401 for big things. I suppose I could move closer to the shore and mingle with the rich retirees, or go on cruises… don’t really want to do those things though. I don’t want to emulate family members and just sit on it all (apparently planning to need money late in life but died early) or fritter it all away like a stupid lottery winner or do the wrong thing and pay too much in taxes or fees to money managers…

    Help?!?

    1. Cubicle_queen*

      I can’t make specific recommendations, so I hope you get that from other commenters. But in general you could consider your money in 3 groups: save, give, and spend. Set aside the money you will live on through retirement & include enough for emergencies (that’s save). Set aside a percentage or amount that you want to give away: that can be charities that are important to you, scholarship funds, and being extra generous to people you know (anywhere from getting a friend a more expensive but much-wanted present, to covering the cost of a friend’s kid’s school tuition, soccer registration, annual pass to the zoo). And lastly some is just extra spending money for you—buy the more expensive dinner because you feel like it, jump for the pricier airline seat when you do travel, etc.

    2. Fair Winds*

      I am a Hugo fan of Dave Ramsey for learning about money management. Recommend checking out or perhaps calling into his podcast for advice. But I can tell you he would start by saying 1) go slowly. You are still experiencing grief and you don’t want to make mistakes with this gift due to emotion. And 2) do not do anything with the money that you don’t understand. Don’t let well meaning friends or salespeople talk you into doing something “they” think is best.

      Another’s option would be to see a fee only financial planner – recommend the Garret network to find so,done near you

    3. ThatGirl*

      Dave Ramsey may have decent advice but he’s a jerk personally.

      I would recommend a financial planner myself, look for a fiduciary (required to have your interests at heart). Money is so personal, and someone who can help you target your goals and knows you will be a lot more help.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Ditto this – a “financial planner” doesn’t necessarily have to actually help you (and sometimes they don’t have any real training either), but if you work with someone who is a fiduciary, they are legally required to act in your best interests.

        As far as investments in general… the EASIEST thing to do in the stock market is to purchase an ETF (short for exchange traded fund). It’s sort of like a mutual fund because you’ll own small pieces of LOTS of companies. That way if one company tanks, your whole investment isn’t gone. It’s an easy way to spread things out and be safer (notice safer, not “safe” there is no investing in the stock market that is completely safe. If you’re looking for something guaranteed, you might investigate CDs or Bonds)

    4. Jay*

      A good financial planner is worth the money. Every penny. Ours is not paid by transaction but rather by a percentage of our total assets, so he has a clear incentive to maximize our returns. When we started working with him we talked about our values and the kind of investments we did not want in our portfolio. We also have an accountant and they work together to deal with the tax implications of interest payments and capital gains.

      Our financial planner did a thorough review of our spending and gave us a projection of what we needed to order to maintain our current lifestyle after retirement. If we’re willing to cut back, I can retire earlier (hubs is already retired). That helps us figure out how much we can give to charity every year. We’ve decided to do a large multi-year donation to a smallish organization because we really wanted to make a difference, and this org has been very important to our family over the years. We also give small amounts to other charities, some every year and some on impulse, but not enough to shift the budget.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        I second this. The people I go to looked at everything I had. Every policy. Every account. They had me do a budget. We talked about my goals. I wish I had done this years earlier.

    5. CatCat*

      The book “The Simple Path to Wealth” discusses simple approaches to investing and makes recommendations on allocations.

      The book “Quit Like a Millionaire” has a couple chapters on taxes and tax efficient draw down strategies.

    6. Girasol*

      Me too – last of my line with an unexpected inheritance. Sounds like you have enough that you could start or add to a retirement fund. Mutual funds are a good place to put money where it can grow faster than it will in the bank but without the level of risk that you’d incur and knowledge that you’d need to invest in stocks directly. If you have a 401K, you could contact the company that holds it and ask about their advising services. If not, you might consider one of the big dependable companies – Fidelity, Vanguard, T Rowe Price, for example – and see if one of them has an office and advisors in your area or can manage a remote consultation. They will, of course, be trying to sell you their services, unlike a financial advisor who has nothing but advice to sell. But if you’re the sort of person who is comfortable saying, “I’ll think about it and get back to you” when someone says, “Let’s sign you up right now!” then you can get some great financial info that way for free. They can show you how to use their free tools to model your expenses and assets and see how much to save and how much you could spend for the life that you want. They would probably leave you with more questions than you had before, but they’d be more educated, specific questions that you could research online. And then you could decide if you like their services or not. But even if you walked away, you’d have learned a lot from an hour’s discussion.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      For myself one investment I actually did do was to secure my home so I can age in place here. I have turned quite a few things around to accommodate Elderly Me. I am 60 now, but I have no doubt that the next 20 years will fly by.

      If you plan on staying where you are you may want to look into the whole concept of how to set a home up to age in place.

      I know that is not the question you asked, and it’s an odd twist on the idea of “investments”. It could be you already have yourself set up nicely. So if this doesn’t apply, feel free to ignore me.

      1. Morningstar*

        I have some vague ideas for setting up a retirement home … an accessible shower or walk-in tub & maybe some landscaping with plants/rocks to eliminate mowing. What other projects have you done? I’m sure there’s plenty of things I haven’t thought of.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I targeted health and safety issues first.
          Then where ever work was being done, I made sure decisions were made with ease of use in mind.

          Some of the stuff included:
          Adding hand rails
          Adding lighting inside and outdoors
          Fixing steps that were not really safe
          Sealing up this old house to protect from critters and insects, plus drafts in the winter.
          We upgraded the locks and even added a few locks on some doors.
          Oddly, I got a larger mail box with the idea that I would be ordering more things online.
          I also added a box on my porch for packages.
          Some of my outlets got raised up so Elderly Me did not have bend over so far or reach around things in odd ways.

          I did get a new furnace, the old one was Not Well At All. This upgrade cut my fuel bill by 40%. Nice savings for older me and also much safer here now.

          I held off on the bathroom accessibility stuff because older me will have a limited income and IF I need that I may be able to get a grant. Right now I don’t need the upgrades and it is possible that I could chose things that would not fit the way I deteriorate… I could end up replacing it again. ugh. Things like lighting and hand rails are sure bets, just my thought on that though.

          I bought a label maker and I labeled water shut offs and the circuit breakers plus a few other things. This type of stuff I forget or if I am having an emergency, the extra clarity would be very helpful. Plus my usual furnace people or plumbing people will retire and I will have to get new people. Labels will make it easier for the new people.

    8. Wishing You Well*

      There’s plenty of advice out there. If you hire a CERTIFIED financial planner, make sure they have letters after their name (meaning some kind of financial education). ANYONE can claim to be a financial planner in the U.S. Also, don’t use one that takes a percentage of your wealth. Use a fee-only planner. You can get referrals to fee-only planners in the U.S. from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, the XY Planning Network, the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners and the Garrett Planning Network. You should have a free, get-acquainted meeting before making any commitments. (I met with a planner but found her so off-putting, I didn’t retain her services.)
      You can also do it yourself. I did – with a lot of reading. The biggest advice is don’t invest in something you don’t understand. (It’s no crime to keep it all in the bank, if that lets you sleep at night.) Typically, you can spend 4% of your net assets per year without depleting your wealth but don’t forget about inflation! Everything will go up in price over the years, sometimes by a lot.
      It is a great kindness to those you leave behind to have a legal will, especially if you own real estate. A revocable trust can save time and taxes. Consider leaving something to charity.
      True wealth is living your life the way you want to. Living well below your means is fine, if that’s your style. I prefer peace and quiet myself. Congratulations!

    9. Incessant Owlbears*

      I am sorry for your losses.

      Money decisions are very personal, and often based more in emotions than logic. That said, I’ve learned a lot from the community at Bogleheads.org, who follow the philosophy of Jack Bogle, creator of the index fund. They have a very informative wiki, including a page on How to Manage a Windfall, which might be helpful for you, and an active forum. The population tends to skew older and male, with very… expansive… definitions of what constitutes “enough to retire on,” but if you can look past the posts about “woe is me I only have $5 million, can I retire yet???”, there is good info to be found.

      For me personally, I like how the advice there empowers me to make my own decisions and understand how simple money management can be. They hammer home the point that if you intend to live on a 4% yearly withdrawal from the principal, paying someone 1% to manage the money constitutes a 25% reduction in your retirement income, which seems like a lot more when you look at it that way.

      1. Nautilus*

        I second the boglehead.org community. I really appreciated their very educational wiki that is both basic but moves to expert. The comment/question is very helpful and respectful and remind me about of AAM.

    10. The teapots are on fire*

      I think Andrew Tobias’s books, though older, offer accessible, sensible information, and there are a lot of good tips on The Simple Dollar, especially articles by the founder, Trent Hamm. There’s a lot of common sense there and Andrew Tobias does a good job of explaining basic financial terminology and I personally find him hilarious. I think laughter improves learning.

    11. anonlurkerappa*

      The Personal Finance Reddit might be a good resource. They specifically have a ‘Windfalls’ section in their wiki
      www DOT reddit DOT com/r/personalfinance/wiki/windfall

      A financial planner might be helpful. They’ve done this (or something similar) before, and are generally going to be a good resource. Make sure they have a fiduciary duty to you.

      Here are two places where you can look for financial advisors in your area: www DOT napfa BOT org/find-an-advisor, www DOT letsmakeaplan DOT org.

    12. Mourning Reader*

      Thank you everyone, I’m taking notes on all this and it’s very helpful! Especially the tips on finding a reputable advisor, and having a budget for giving and generosity. So far I have done more than my usual amount of end-of-year giving, a large check to the cat rescue who found homes for my bil’s pets, and some minor impulse buying like new cat toys on chewy, otherwise have resisted any major moves. I have some homework to do!

    13. ronda*

      There are many websites under the FIRE (financial independence retire early) with lots of advise and info on topics that might impact you.
      My favorite one is Mr Money Mustache. I dont think you need to be a loyal follower of all his ideas and thoughts on the matter but I do think he is entertaining and does have a lot of good ideas (I like his early articles much better than his more recent ones)…. just apply the ones you like and ignore the ones you dont. There are also many other bloggers and if you search on them you might find someone who is more inline with how you think and what path you would like to take. The sites also often have forums where you can find discussions of different topics that might interest you.
      Boglehead is great too. The thing to watch out with them is in the forums, lots of folks dont think you will ever have enough money :) The wiki is very helpful on this site.. this page about most tax efficient investments is very helpful: https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investing_FAQ_for_the_Bogleheads%C2%AE_forum#Which_funds_should_I_place_in_my_taxable_account.3F

      I did do an initial meeting with a couple different financial advisors to see if I wanted to get one. They did come up with a proposed plan (including a list of stuff like make a will, etc) for me before I was a client. I did decide to go with the one who seemed more inline with my thinking, but I am not really sold that they are worth the money I spent on them. I dont think they are bad and putting me in bad investments (some do), but I dont think they are doing much better than I would do with following the initial plan they gave me on my own.
      I think the initial consultation was very valuable, but the ongoing service… not so much.

      It sounds like you have plenty of money for your needs, so dont worry yourself about this too much and just look into the items that you think will help you and dont stress about the ones that seem too difficult or complicated.

      If you want to you can also research lots on how to optimize reducing your taxes. examples: (1) 401k will usually have minimum distribution amounts and that might put your income in a higher taxable range. Some folks do a Roth Conversion Ladder, to get money out of 401k (might have to convert to IRA first) and into a roth that does not have required minimum distributions (RMD) and will not require the heir of the account to pay taxes on the money. If this is a good idea, depends on your current tax rate, and your expected future tax rate, your expected RMD amounts and where exactly it puts you in the tax bracket. (2) tax loss harvesting and tax gain harvesting (be aware of wash sale rules) – When you sell stocks you have a capital gain or loss. tax losses can offset tax gains, ST and LT holding have different tax rates. the tax rate on LT gains is 0 up to a certain $ amount depending on your filing status. So managing your sales on stocks, etf and mutual funds can help with reducing your taxes.

      1. ronda*

        And…… when selecting funds to invest in, I look at make sure no load fees(cost to buy the fund), low expense ratio, and if in taxable account low capital gains distributions (turnover rate is a good indicator that this might be high — ie how often they sell stocks). Each fund has this easily available to see on the internet.

        The low expense ratio funds are usually index funds, so most funds that are based on that particular index are going to get similar results. Active funds are managed by the fund managers rather than just buying what is in the index, these some times have better results, but studies show most of them they dont and mostly dont outperform index in the long term.

        I favor Vanguard and Fidelity cause they are firms with many funds in my selection criteria. — do note that someone mentioned etfs…… at vanguard the etf and the mutual fund are the same thing, just etfs trade midday when you make a trade and mutual funds trade at the end of the day you make the trade. I stayed with mutual funds at vanguard cause I was already in them.

        And for your heirs. putting your beneficiary selections in with the investment firm is going to be the easiest for them when they inherit. It is just a call and a copy of the death certificate to get the money transferred. If it is just listed in a will that has many more steps to get the money transferred.

      2. ronda*

        and the critiques I have seen of dave ramsey are:

        He is great for getting out of debt.
        His investments advice is not that good.

        I havent really looked at his stuff cause I didnt have debt problem and that seemed to be his area of advise that is strong.

    14. Ali*

      I have a friend who was fairly poor for most of her life, and then got a great book deal in her forties – she’s now basically financially set for life. Those were happy circumstances, and she said she still had to do a great deal of work with her therapist before she was comfortable doing any significant spending. You might consider finding a therapist if you don’t already have one just to work through money thoughts.

    15. Anon YNAB fan*

      “Invest Like A Pro” by Jesse Mecham. Very no-nonsense, easy to understand, and backed by research. Available as a free ebook too. He also runs YNAB (you need a budget) which is a budgeting app. What I like about him is that his main budgeting message is to empower you to both save and spend consciously on what you really want to prioritize, whatever that is if it will make you happy.

    16. I'm A Little Teapot*

      My advice: don’t change anything for a while, or at least keep it to the minimum. Do some self education! Managing money, especially when you haven’t had to do it before is a skill. And don’t do anything you don’t understand – it’s your money, you have the right to demand a clear explanation. The internet is your friend to help you research and look up anything.

      I recommend J Collin’s stock series for starting to learn about investments and the stock market. His bias is towards index funds investing, which also happens to be pretty simple and low maintenance once it’s setup.

      Otherwise, a good system for budgeting is your friend! Whatever works for you is fine, it doesn’t have to complex in order to be effective. Take time, live your life, you just have some stress lifted.

    17. Olive Hornby*

      I’m so sorry for your losses. To get a baseline understanding of personal finance, I’d strongly recommend the book The Index Card, which is a really great introduction to thinking about money that isn’t trying to sell you something (one of the authors, Helaine Olen, is a Washington Post columnist who has written very critically about the personal finance industry and folks like Dave Ramsay, Suze Orman, etc.)

  18. Scout Finch*

    I was swamped with spam calls this week – like 70 in a 2 hour period on Tuesday. My Android (Samsung) has a Block Number function that works well, but the spammers just call from another spoofed number.

    I am ready to install an app (paid is fine) to try to retrieve my sanity.

    Looking for recommendations for Android spam blocker or whatever the apps are called. Thank you in advance.

    1. LGC*

      How new is your phone? IIRC, newer versions of Android have spam call filtering built in. I’ll link to Google’s documents below, although those are for standard Android. (I think Samsung’s newer phones hew closely to it, but it might be slightly different.)

      1. Scout Finch*

        Probably 3 years old – I know. I am thrifty…OK -cheap. But I use my phone as just a phone and sometimes a camera in a pinch.

        1. LGC*

          Okay, then it should support call blocking then! I think Samsung has its own method as well, which I checked – it uses Hiya, which is a call blocking app.

    2. CoffeeforLife*

      You could set a Do Not Disturb so that all calls will go to VM except those that are on your priority list (or entire address book).

    3. WellRed*

      I’ve been getting a lot of spam calls. Yesterday, I answered one with a very calm “F**k Off” and hung up. It made me laugh even if it accomplished nothing.

    4. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      I had the same problem a few months ago, which is continuing to a lesser extent now. The answer, unfortunately, is all you can do is block the calls as they come in and hope for the best. There’s no way to completely stop them other than setting your phone to Do Not Disturb, with an exception for your contacts. Even then, the calls will come through; the phone just won’t buzz or ring.

      I guess it’s nice that Samsung marks calls as “Suspected Spam,” but what would be really nice is if the calls were completely blocked and never reached the phone, rather than just marked spam. I’d personally be willing to take the risk that one in 1000 of those might be legitimate.

  19. families!*

    Any breakfast ideas? I am looking for a change! I’ve been having oatmeal with nuts and raisins (or some variation of this) and sometimes have a savory oatmeal with eggs, but I am getting bored of it. I am open to non-traditional ideas but hopefully something that is quick/not a lot of cooking. Thank you!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Turkey or ham sandwich, or PB&J! Not just for lunch :) but more breakfast-y if you use toaster waffles instead of regular bread.

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Chia puddings and Bircher muesli are easy and you make them the night (or a few days) before so they have time to soak – so they’re quick to grab in the mornings. Definitely a summer breakfast though!
      A cooler day one is to put something (scrambled eggs, ham, veg, spag bol leftovers, whatever) in a tortilla wrap with cheese and pop it in the oven or sandwich press. The tortilla goes crispy on the outside and it’s cheesey-licious.

    3. micklethwaite*

      I make frittata-type solid omelettes in advance and cut slices for breakfast – you can put basically anything in them so it’s so easy to change up the flavours.

      1. ThatGirl*

        A variant on this is egg muffins though I strongly suggest a silicone muffin pan because they usually stick like crazy to metal.

    4. Rebecca Stewart*

      I make a hybrid of a crustless quiche and a cheesecake with various savory things in it. We keep it in the fridge and they cut a slice and warm it up for breakfast. The current one is bacon and spinach and onion and mushroom. After that comes sausage and cheddar (it’s in the freezer) and a chicken bacon ranch with swiss one (also in the freezer, I did it yesterday)
      It’s pretty much “beat 6 eggs with a block of cream cheese, spice as you like, add meat/veggies/cheese to suit, dump in a greased pie plate, bake til set.” We get eight slices out of one pie plate.

        1. Rebecca Stewart*

          I bake it at 350 for 45 minutes or so. Basically, til set in the center and going golden brown round the edges.

        1. Rebecca Stewart*

          For anyone curious, here’s my rotation. My partners each have a slice of this every morning for breakfast. And I’ve made all these and they work. We have a formal rotation so we don’t burn out on any one thing.

          1: Ham with grilled onion and sweet peppers, Mexican spicing, chipotle cheddar shreds.
          2: Bacon with caramelized onions and Swiss shreds.
          3: Sausage with spinach and mushrooms.
          4: Lamb gyro: ground lamb seasoned, feta cheese, fresh onion, fresh tomato and a dollop of tzatziki sauce in the batter.
          5: Ham with chopped broccoli and Swiss cheese
          6: Bacon with spinach, onion, and mushrooms.
          7: Sausage and cheddar
          8: Chicken bacon ranch: ground chicken, ranch dressing spices, 1/4 c powdered buttermilk in batter, quarter pound of diced cooked bacon, and Swiss shreds.
          9: Sliced steak with onions and mushrooms.

    5. Colette*

      I’ve done eggs in muffin cups – line the cup with a piece of cold cuts, break an egg into it, season, and back about 25 minutes at 350. (You can also do mini-omelets, if you prefer). They freeze well; then it’s a matter of taking one out of the freezer and heating it up.

    6. Mephyle*

      Quick and minimal cooking: make a little extra of your lunch or dinner. Then all you have to do is assemble it (if it’s like a wrap or sandwich), or heat it up (if it’s like a soup, stew, meat/fish&veg, rice, etc.) Or if it’s a dish eaten cold (like a hearty salad), no preparation needed at all.
      If you don’t want to eat the same thing two meals in a row, skip a day or two, so that the extra food left over from day x is designated as breakfast for day x+2 or x+3.

    7. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I hate cooking anything that isn’t super quick and easy first thing in the morning, but my wife can’t start her day without a hot breakfast in the winter. So I’m a big fan of things you cook ahead of time and reheat all week.

      Stratas are infinitely versatile. If you have bread, eggs, and milk just throw in whatever precooked meat, veggies, and cheese you have on hand. I recently did one with sourdough, apple sausage, spicy peppers, sharp cheddar, and cranberries.

      I also frequently make a crustless quiche. Just butter a pie dish, throw in some diced meat and veggies, pour in the custard (with whatever spices and optional shredded cheese), and bake. I just pulled one out of the oven that’s ham, leftover roasted Brussels sprouts/turnips/potatoes, and smoked gruyere. You can top this with sriracha or salsa, and it goes well with a side of baby greens. You can wrap and freeze individual slices of you get tired of eating the same thing every day.

      You could also try grits/polenta for variety. Instant grits can be dressed up any way you’d eat oatmeal, or you can bake old fashioned grits until they’re fairly solid, then reheat a square in the microwave and top with a fried egg. Cheese grits are classic, but I also love savory pumpkin grits.

      Anytime I have leftover garlic bread I like to make quick breakfast toast. Top with smashed avocado or beans, leftover guacamole, or hummus, and either an egg or something like a slice of ham or turkey. A handful of sauteed greens is nice if you have a couple of extra minutes.

    8. Not A Manager*

      I have been “poaching” eggs per the Cooks Illustrated method, which is super easy and reliable, and serving them over whatever I want.

      Lately I’ve been slivering raw Brussels sprouts and lightly steaming them in the microwave for about 60-90 seconds, then mixing them with a little smoked salmon or any leftover protein. I crack the eggs on top. The whole process takes 8 minutes or less.

      To “poach” the eggs, bring a small amount of water to a boil in a small saucepan (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch). Add 2-4 whole eggs cold from the fridge. Cover and steam for 5-6 minutes. Run cool water over the eggs just until they are cool enough to crack, about 30 sec. Peel under hot running water – they are easier to peel than hardboiled eggs.

        1. Not A Manager*

          Not really. It’s important to steam the eggs and not boil them for this technique. It allows the whites to cook through while keeping the yolks runny.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I mean, your description is basically how I make hard boiled eggs, I just leave them in longer. But I don’t wanna fight about it or anything :)

            1. Not A Manager*

              You can definitely hard cook them this way. I used to get frustrated trying to soft cook an egg where I could never get a firm white AND a runny yolk at the same time. This technique, in which you don’t submerge the eggs in water but rather steam them in a small amount of water, lets me achieve that. I don’t care if it’s called poaching or something else, but the key really is not to “boil” them in a water bath.

        2. Batgirl*

          Yes I would call this a soft boiled egg but the steam technique sounds like it is SO helpful whatever you call it, since you can’t have soldiers unless the yolks are soft and whites are set. I love soldiers! I am five.

    9. TextHead*

      I used to do a fried egg sandwich each day – one egg to your liking, toast, bit of salt, some mayo, done!

      Though that’s still my fallback, I’m trying to cut carbs at breakfast, so some current things:

      – Keto zucchini fritter (I make a big batch and just reheat in the morning) with an egg on top

      – Baked egg/ shirred egg/egg en cocotte. This takes awhile, but the actual hands on time is low. Lots of options and variations. I typically do mine with a base of sautéed mushrooms.

      – Egg over easy, a piece of crispy prosciutto and/or sautéed mushrooms, and some avocado.

      We also “cheat” and get a two pack of quiche from Costco occasionally. Cook one up, cut into 6 slices, and reheat on the next days.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      A friend of mine is fond of mixing veggies in a blender and drinking it down. He says it gives him a real energy kick.

    11. Courageous cat*

      Shakshuka! Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a bagel! Avocado toast! Peanut butter toast! Waffles!

      I love breakfast.

      1. Yum.*

        I love cinnamon toast and had it instead of birthday cake last year. Unfortunately it’s been so many decades since I’ve made it, it didn’t come out right. How do you make yours?

    12. Jackalope*

      I posted elsewhere on today’s thread but I like banana oatmeal for a bit of a change. Use milk instead of water, a super ripe banana, honey, and walnuts or pecans. Very tasty and feels a bit decadent even though I eat oatmeal a lot.

    13. SG*

      Have you every done baked oatmeal? It’s amazing! My sister hates oatmeal but loves baked oatmeal! My favorite way to eat it is cold or room temperature out of hand (it’s solid) or with some soymilk poured over it. You can also replace the raisins/craisins with fresh chopped apples, berries, or even chocolate chips!

      I also use soymilk instead of milk, and I cut way back on the sugar — I only use a quarter cup of sugar if that!

      (Btw, your home will smell amazing while this is baking!!)

      Baked Oatmeal

      2 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked
      2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
      3/4 cup raisins or Craisins
      1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      1/2 teaspoon salt — optional
      3 1/3 cups skim milk
      2 whole eggs or 4 egg whiles — lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
      1 tablespoon vegetable oil
      1 tablespoon vanilla
      fat free milk or nonfat yogurt and fruit — optional

      Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

      In large bowl, combine oats, sugar, raisins, cinnamon and salt; mix well. In medium bowl, combine milk, egg whites, oil and vanilla; mix well. Add to dry ingredients; mix until well blended. Pour into baking dish.

      Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until center is set and firm to the touch. Cool slightly. (Mine cooked in about 50 minutes)

    14. Double A*

      I’ve been eating butternut squash soup for breakfast with toast and it’s awesome. You can bake a bunch in advance on the weekend then it’s super easy all week.

    15. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      My daughter usually eats supper leftovers for breakfast. She’s not a fan of traditional breakfast foods. So that’s one idea.

      I’ve started making something that works well for both breakfast and lunch, when I have falafel in the fridge (ot freezer).

      Crumble the falafel and pan fry until warmed through, with some crispy bits.
      Add some cooked brown rice or other grain.
      At this point you can add extras to bump up the flavour. I like crumbled feta, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro, but I often just go through my leftovers and see what might work well.
      Add a squeeze of lemon juice or a big spoon of leftover hummus or tahini sauce. Add some chili if you like spice for breakfast.
      Season well. And serve.

    16. Holly the spa pro*

      Everyone’s bfast ideas sound so good! I also dont like to spend tons of time in the morning making breakfast and i need something that keeps me as full as possible for at least 5 hours because i dont really get breaks at work, not long enough to eat anyways.
      My go-tos:
      Black beans and boiled eggs with salsa and hot sauce. You can even prep the full week ahead of time. I use a half can of beans and 2 eggs for each portion. I like the beans hot and the eggs cold so i use separate containers, microwave the beans then slice the eggs over top. Sounds weird but its so good. You can add avocado, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, whatever you have.

      Salad kits: the prepackaged ones in the produce section. I split into two containers and add whatever meat or eggs i have on hand and that is breakfast and lunch for the day. My coworkers all find it weird that i ear salad for breakfast but again, healthy and lazy.

      Overnight oats: kind of more work on the front end but super versatile and can prep enough for several days.

    17. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      It’s probably too late for you to see this, but my 9- year- old nephew has been having grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast lately and enjoying then immensely, so that’s am idea!

  20. Ears*

    I have a health related question (nothing graphic, but possibly a little gross). I’ve already seen a few doctors about it.*

    For a few years, I’ve been going through a cycle where I wake up through the night to find that my left ear is wet and I’m scratching it (the wetness is a colorless to slightly yellow discharge). I put Cortisone cream on it, and stuff bits of tissue in my ear to soak up the discharge because I hate the wet feeling (I change out the tissue bits throughout the day). The discharge clears up after several days. I’ve tried wearing gloves in bed, but still seem to end up scratching.

    It’s gotten to the point where as soon as I think it’s cleared up, I scratch my ear and start over. Not sure what to do at this point. Anyone have any ideas of how to take care of this?

    *(A primary care doctor and an ear doctor both prescribed ear drops that basically just have vinegar in them. I’ve tried making my own drops with a rubbing alcohol and vinegar mix. A dermatologist gave me a cream that’s supposed to be like Cortisone but weaker.)

    1. Enough*

      Has anyone analyzed the discharge? I had an ear infection that took 2 years to completely clear up. When I finally got in to see my regular ENT he asked if there had been any tests. Since none were done and I had been treated (couldn’t take the pain) waiting to see him he had to take a broader approach to treatment.

    2. TheMonkey*

      This sounds very similar to something my mom went though about 20 years ago. She had similar symptoms and tried all the same cycle of things you’re describing with all kinds of lack of results. It wound up being allergy related. (I think one of her doctors finally figured that out–I was away at college so don’t remember all the details) Claritin gave her good relief, in the end, I think.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, this hit me as allergy too. Something is feeding all that junk on a regular basis that is why you keep having more of it. And it could be something in your environment or something you are eating. Ears to do not tolerate allergies well at all. And, boy, do I know this.

        I really feel for you, ears that are not functioning well can be real misery. I hope you find something soon.

    3. Generic Name*

      Is it discharge coming from within the ear canal or the outer part of the ear? If it’s from the outside of the ear, you might have dried shampoo left in the folds of your ear that’s causing the irritation. It’s happened to me a couple of times and it’s really annoying. I try keeping the irritated area moisturized with Vaseline (or even lanolin or bag balm) until it heals.

    4. Chaordic One*

      Maybe try wearing a stocking hat or and earband to bed to prevent you from scratching your ears? (I’ve worn a hat to bed when my ears seemed unusually cold.)

      I’ve allergy related ear problems and found that hydrocortisone ointment (in a Vaseline-like petroleum jelly base) works much better than creams. The creams seemed to dry out and leave a skin in and on my years. The ointment seems to liquify and mostly it runs into my ear canal. Sometimes it runs out and off my ear and onto my pillow, but it has always washed out in the laundry. My doctor originally gave me a prescription-strength hydrocortisone cream, and then an ointment which worked much better than the creams. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointments, such as “Cortaid” or “Cortisone- 10” or store brands, have a lower amount of cortisone in them and seem to work almost as well for me.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      It’s likely you’re scratching/damaging the skin in your ear causing it to weep lymph fluid. You need to stop scratching and stop putting things in your ear.
      Call your doctor if it’s been awhile since you’re addressed this with them. You need to make sure nothing else is wrong with your ear. If your doctor’s okay with it, consider taping something over your ear AND wearing not-easily-removed gloves at night to stop this habit. You can get a constant itch in the ear with repeated injury. You’re not the only one with this problem; my dad could not leave his ears alone. It’s possible there’s a stress component to this.
      I hope you find a good solution soon.

    6. Kate*

      Be extremely wary of repeated use of cortisone creams! They can cause many skin problems when used repeatedly over time.

    7. Skeeder Jones*

      I would try an anti-fungal cream, sometimes when there is moisture, we develop a fungal infection (usually yeast) and then it not only itches, but also weeps more moisture. I’ve had similar issues and kept using cortisone but that actually makes it worse.

    8. Deanna Troi*

      This used to happen to me! For over 20 years, I scratched inside my ears in my sleep, they oozed a clear liquid all the time, and sometimes they bled or got pussy. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. Those drops and creams did nothing for me either. My husband was constantly nagging me to “stop digging inside your ears” – I didn’t even realize I was doing it and it grossed him out. And rightfully so (once someone I worked with stuck his car key really far inside his ear and pulled out a huge chunk of way. So gross).

      Then about 10 years ago I was seeing an allergist for a seemingly unrelated issue and she suggested that I take Zyrtec every day. About a month later, I realized my I wasn’t scratching my ears all the time! This was a surprise bonus! It still happens occasionally, but is always short-lived and is not nearly as bad as it was. So, I agree with the others that it might be allergy related. The trick for me is taking the allergy medication EVERY day. If you think you don’t need it anymore because it is cleared up, it might come back with a vengeance.

    9. Ears*

      Thank you for all the replies! The next time I go grocery shopping, I’m going to get a bottle of allergy medication. (It never occurred to me that it might be an allergy thing, so I’m glad I posted here!) If that doesn’t improve the situation at all after a month, I’ll go to my doctor again and ask if there’s a way to test if it’s an infection or a fungal issue.

  21. Scout Finch*

    I have gone down the rabbit hole of cover bands on You Tube.

    Lexington Lab Band is a bunch of local musicians from the Lexington, KY area that can cover just about anything, Personnel are mixed as needed for the right sound. Their version of Steely Dan’s “My Old School” is killer. Their Foo Fighter & Black Crows covers are awesome. They NAIL the organ intro to “Foreplay/Long Time” by Boston.

    So LLB recently did a cover of “25 Or 6 To 4” and another cover of it popped up in the feed on the right in You Tube. Watched Leonid & Friends’ version (and everything else basically – killer “Feeling Stronger Every Day”). WOW. They are basically the Russian version of Chicago – all renowned musicians who do this as a side project . I think they record parts separately (spread all over Russia) & then edit them into videos. They did a US tour in 2019. I want their 2020 tour shirt that has all the dates crossed off. Pretty much sums it up.

    What cover bands (online presence, obviously) do you recommend? Doesn’t need to be rock or pop – I love all music.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Vitamin String Quartet is a lot of fun – they do string quartet covers of like everything mainstream. (I once found my grandmother really getting into their cover of NIN’s “Closer” :-P )

      Similarly, Apocalyptica has some really nice instrumental covers (I think they have most of an album of Metallica covers and their “Nothing Else Matters” is gorgeous), but my favorite piece of theirs is their cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”, featuring vocals by Till Lindemann of Rammstein. That album had quite a few other covers as well as I recall.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        I remember Vitamin String Quartet from a while ago, thanks for reminding me!

        I love Nouvelle Vague – dreamy covers of ’80s songs.

      2. Voluptuousfire*

        Yaaaas…was going to recommend Apo’s first album of Metallica covers. :) Ironically I prefer their covers of Metallica to Metallica itself. I am so prefer Metallica’s covers compared to their music.

        I also highly agree about the Nothing Else Matters and Heroes cover with Till from Rammstein.

        I’d also recommend Children of Bodom’a covers. They’re a Finnish melodeath metal band that covered Britney Spears and Dropkick Murphys. I think they may have done an album of covers. Not 100% sure though.

    2. CTT*

      There is a cover band out of DC called “White Ford Bronco” that does all 90s songs (as the name would suggest). I saw them live once, and it was such a delight. They don’t put any special twists on the songs, but they cover such a wide range that each one was a surprise. If you’re feeling nostalgic, they would be fun to listen to.

    3. Grace*

      Postmodern Jukebox – modern songs covered in vintage or retro styles. They have a rotating cast of a bunch of different artists, so if there’s one whose style you particularly like you can go through their back catalogue.

      1. I take tea*

        It sounds like you’d like Max Raabe, he sings modern pop songs in and 20’s-30’s style. Check out f.ex. Oops, I did it again, Bongo bongo, Super Trouper or Tainted Love. He sings a lot in German too, if you understand German I recommend him even more. Kleine Lügen is genius.

    4. slashgirl*

      Post Modern Jukebox (PMJ)–they cover modern hit songs usually in jazz/swing/ragtime. They’re more of a collective–many different performers, etc. They’re on youtube and have done some amazing covers!

    5. NeonDreams*

      I second VSQ and PMJ! I have a lot of covers from both bands. PMJ’s version of Lizzo’s Good As Hell is my current alarm.

      I have a lot from an act called Brooklyn Duo. It’s a husband and wife. Wife plays piano and husband plays cello. They are fantastic. There’s also one called GnuS Cello- they cover songs on cello. Their version of Chasing Cars made like the song again. I find the original one boring.

      I love finding instrumental covers of popular songs because they bring on a new life to the song.

    6. Bumpjumper*

      The New Standards!! Piano, upright bass, and vibraphone, and they play it all—Sam Cooke, OutKast, David Bowie, Yeah Yeah Yeahs—they are all over the place. They have several albums and put on a crazy live holiday show in Minneapolis every year, with tap dancing Christmas trees and Hot Santa and fake snow falling from the ceiling—-HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

    7. fposte*

      Oh, I will love this thread. I adore unexpected covers.

      Also on YouTube—The Hu (Mongolian folk-rock band using traditional instruments), kossan1108 (Japanese monk), Hildegarde von Blingin’, Bardcore (both medieval-style). And The Bobs are classic and there’s plenty of their stuff on YouTube.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        The Hu isn’t a cover band but they are spectacular and I’m so happy to see them mentioned. “Song of Women” feat. Lzzy Hale from Halestorm basically became my religion for a solid month not too long ago.

        But also +1 to Hildegard von Blingin’!

    8. Mephyle*

      Seconding The Hu and Postmodern Jukebox.
      Tragedy – they started out as an “All Metal Tribute to The BeeGees” and have now branched out to add “and beyond.” Their version of “Stayin’ Alive” will make you believe that this was born to be a metal song, only nobody knew it until Tragedy.
      Leningrad Cowboys – not really around any longer, but their archive material is still on YouTube. They are another example of a band, like The Commitments and Spinal Tap, that started out fictional and sort of became real. For their master work, watch the original version of “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul” by Modern Talking (Official music video) and then the Leningrad Cowboys version. Their collaborations with the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble were also brilliant; “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and more.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        Tipe Johnson of the Leningrad Cowboys was the singer for Apocalyptica around 2009-2011 or so. Got to see Apocalyptica at the Helsinki Metal Meeting back in 2010 and saw him sing live with them. Fantastic voice!

      2. Voluptuousfire*

        Try the Northern Kings. They’re a quartet of Finnish metal singers who put out an album or two of covers of 80s and 90s pop songs.

        Yes, I was very invested in Finnish metal for about 10 years. LOL

    9. L*

      Hildegard von Blingin’, “bardcore”, modern songs with adapted lyrics to fit into a medieval setting, surprisingly catchy.
      Tommee Profitt, “epic” covers.
      Kurt Hugo Schneider, lots of different guest artists, big back catalogue.
      Tyler Ward, started with covers, now more original songs.

      I also find it enjoyable to just find covers of “Wicked Game”, there are a lot of good ones. Personal favorites are Ursine Vulpine feat. Annaca; Gemma Hayes, and Chase Eagleson (he also has made other great cover songs.)

      1. L*

        Ooh, and “The Baseballs”! A German rock and roll band that became popular with 1950s and 1960s style rock cover versions of modern hits such as “Umbrella” by Rihanna, “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé, “Hot n Cold” by Katy Perry and “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
        Very happy and upbeat, check out their music videos also done in a 50/60es style :)

    10. Hobbette*

      Foxes and Fossils is a wonderful cover band – mostly pop/country with amazing vocals and harmonies!

    11. Mephyle*

      I had such a great time making a playlist of multiple covers of “To Love Somebody”. It starts with the BeeGees original version, builds up to a climax with the version by Eric Burdon and the Animals, and ends (sniff) with a version by Barry Gibb when he was the last remaining brother.

    12. Chaordic One*

      I think Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox is great.

      Although not really bands, I really like cover artists Puddles Pity Party, Mike Masse, and Harriet (see Harrietsmusic) whose voice is at times eerily reminiscent of Karen Carpenter’s.

      I’ve also fallen into the adjacent rabbit hole of a cappella cover groups and really like Pentatonix, the Groove Society (Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?), and Forte, among others.

    13. Mephyle*

      I like cross-metal covers particularly: metal songs done in non-metal versions, and non-metal songs done in metal versions.
      Currently listening to: “Thunderstruck” done by Steve’n’Seagulls in a sort of bluegrass slash Nordic viking/folk/punk genre.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I like stuff like this too. I LOVED the Sex Pistols’ version of “Silent Night.” OTOH, I’d like to see someone do the Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love,” as a lullaby.

      2. allathian*

        Seconding Steve ‘n’ Seagulls. I often listen to them when I feel a bit blue and end up with a grin on my face.

        FORK. They’ve disbanded, but they use their voices and a mixer/synthesizer to create instrumental sounds as well as singing. It’s amazing how someone going wah-wah-wah into a mic can end up sounding like an electric guitar. They did amazing shows and I’ve seen them live 3 times. They did cover versions of everything from AC/DC to Michael Jackson.

    14. Dr.KMnO4*

      Metalachi! They’re a mariachi band that does covers of classic hard rock/heavy metal songs. One of my favorites is their cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. The music video for that one is just amazing.

    15. AnonoDoc*

      Well, for “all music” may I recommend (not a cover band but an album or live concert) Richard Thompson’s ‘One Thousand Years of Popular Music’?

      And Face Cover band (I think I have the name right)

    16. Mrs. Picklesby*

      I absolutely love Leo Moracchioli’s metal covers. He does everything from Adele to Toto to Pantera and unbelievably Wheels on the Bus and Baby Shark. His videos alternate between fun, tongue-in-cheek (Thriller, Feel Good, Inc.) and serious (Take Me to Church) and sometimes feature guest YouTube musicians (Hello, Africa) or his daughter (Let it Go).

  22. Marillenbaum*

    Dear Mrs. Bird is so good! I adore this book so much. It feels like it would be a great Netflix original movie, like “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        Not to mention that the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society would also be a great read if co-workers haven’t seen the movie yet (which I haven’t).

    1. Bluebell*

      I love Dear Mrs. Bird. Last year my 16 year old niece had to read a book with an adult, so we read it together. She liked it a lot.

  23. HannahS*

    HannahS is pregnant: a semi-regular thread.
    So, I’m still very early–six weeks–but my body is already noticeably changing. My breasts are getting bigger, which I don’t mind at all, but I’ve been bloated–painfully bloated–to the point that my clothes are uncomfortably tight. How did you dress in early pregnancy? When did you need to switch to maternity clothes? Any tricks to stop the bloating?

    1. Jessie*

      The bloat comes and goes. I started wearing regular non pregnancy baggy pants and dresses after 14 weeks. And maternity jeans after 18 to 20 weeks. Congratulations and good luck!

    2. Occasional Baker*

      The first advice I have is to make sure you’re drinking water, and the second is to increase your skin moisturizer game. Stretch marks don’t just happen later in pregnancy, so if you can set the new habit now, it’s the best. Because it’s like, 60 days for something to become regular, right? I liked the Palmer’s Stretch Mark lotion.
      There can be weird ebb and flow. You feel like this now, but in 3 weeks you may fit back into your clothes in some ways. I didn’t switch to maternity until about 19 weeks, but I was VERY sick w “morning sickness” for months first.
      When I started changing sizes, first I invested a little $ in jeans that were non maternity but bigger size. I then wore those AFTER baby girl came, until I got back into Pre-P clothes. Or you have some options if you don’t get back to the same size clothes. If you wear dresses, an unstructured swing type dress will go a LONG way into pregnancy, and again, postpartum. Old Navy has some I wear just regularly, and you can get them for about $15. If you are OK with dresses, really lean into that, because they will be comfy and forgiving and in the summer, less hot.
      Anything stretchy of course is your friend. Borrow from the dad, and embrace a “men’s look” if that suits you.
      Be aware that a LOT of maternity clothes are not returnable, or the return policies are stringent. Read carefully before buying.

    3. ten four*

      Bloat sounds so uncomfortable! No tricks to help with that, I’m afraid – you might talk to your OB? I wouldn’t worry about when it’s normal to switch to maternity clothes – just focus on what feels comfortable to wear that day. I second the recommendation to pick up loose tunic tops, leggings and dresses. You can get pretty far on those while pregnant, and then again postpartum.

      I hope you don’t have nausea/morning sickness, but if you do I definitely recommend taking the anti-nausea meds. I didn’t for my first pregnancy and I really wish I had – I had a tough time with all the changes in general and with the benefit of hindsight I can say that taking any and all help to make things easier is a good move. I did take them for my second and it made a huge difference to my happiness level!

    4. Disco Janet*

      Everyone is different with when they need maternity clothes – whenever your clothes don’t fit, so it sounds like you’re there. And yep, bloating is quite normal. No special tricks for it.

    5. Zooey*

      I found the bloat came a bit later but it’s definitely a thing and at around 18 weeks I had agonising wind (I now understand why babies cry!).

      As others have said, wear maternity clothes when you feel like it. I’m 30 weeks and still wearing some non maternity stuff (I have a lot of stretchy jersey dresses which are old enough Indint mind stretching them out). However I regret not buying some stuff earlier because I am now getting to where I can only wear maternity tops, for example, and it’s a lot of money to lay out in the last trimester if you didn’t bother before. Building up the odd piece bit by bit is more economical.

    6. Fran*

      I agree that everyone is different. I wore my regular pants till 20 weeks and then needed to get into maternity. Dresses fit a lot longer. About till 7th month. I didn’t buy a lot. 2 pairs of trousers, 2 pairs of leggings, a maternity dress, panties and of course maternity- nursing bras. But I gave birth last May so I was mostly pregnant before covid. Maybe you can get away with less.

    7. Squidhead*

      My friend who is very short–so already has trouble buying slacks–got some “Belly bands” which are pretty much a tube of stretchy fabric that you wear around your midsection to bridge the gap between your shirt, your growing belly, and the waistband of your slacks. Not an option for all styles of dress but it helped her not to have to buy too many “casual” slacks (jeans or whatever) and just focus on her work wardrobe as needed. (Pre-pandemic; she’s WFH now.)

    8. Generic Name*

      If you are bound and determined to not wear maternity pants/skirts this early, you can buy Bella bands that allow you to wear your jeans unbuttoned. I was pregnant 14 years ago, so it’s a little hard to remember the exact timeline, but in early pregnancy I wore skirts with wide waistbands in the next size up. Those weird cropped flows pants with wide waistbands were in style then, so I wore those.

      The bloating, well, there may not be anything you can do, especially if it’s your midsection and not overall swelling. Maybe reduce your salt intake? It’s something you can absolutely ask your doctor about. I’ve noticed that some women just seem to swell (and not just the belly) when pregnant. I have a friend who’s been pregnant 3 times, and each time, her nose got noticeably wider. It went back to normal size after she had her babies.

    9. Clisby*

      Luckily, I didn’t experience bloating.

      I never bought maternity clothes with either pregnancy (casual dress code at work with #1; working from home with #2.) I bought things like track-suit pants and larger tops (including snitching some of my husband’s shirts), and that got me through.

    10. Blackcat*

      The bloat for me died down around 8 weeks, I think. I think it’s from hormones so there’s not much you can do.

      I bought some loose/stretchy dresses that I wore through most of pregnancy and then post-partum. I used very few actual maternity clothes, and I only needed them late (like 30+ weeks). Dresses + leggings (again, not maternity, just regular) was all I needed. I also got “belly band” stretch things so I could wear my regular pants unbuttoned with a button extender and the band. I’ll drop a link in the reply.

    11. Pocket Mouse*

      I don’t have much advice, but here’s a hack for some pants: loop a hair tie through the buttonhole, then through the other end of the hair tie, then around the button. It gives some leeway while still appearing more or less buttoned.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        That got me to about 20 weeks! Worked well, because that was the end of our summer so I didn’t need maternity shorts for what would have been a matter of weeks.

        Early on, I also found that my size fluctuated during the day. In the evenings I’d have a noticeable bump (I guess after dinner) and then in the morning I’d be like, ‘where’d the baby go?’ You’ll probably find that the maternity pants with the big elastic bit at the top will be too big for you (I couldn’t really fill them out until around 24ish weeks), but there are ones you can get with stretchy side panels and adjustable waistbands with buttons, which you might find better.

    12. Call me St. Vincent*

      I had tons of bloating from about 6 weeks onward with both kids. I bought pants in a couple sizes bigger than my usual and wore those until I fit into maternity clothes. Bonus, you will need them again once the baby is born and you are still getting back to your regular size!

    13. Susie*

      Agree with the above commenters, the transition happens at different times for everyone. As a person who has disproportionately large hips, I don’t think I needed maternity clothes till trimester 3 with my first. For my second I used a belly band and wore mostly jersey dresses and leggings, so I don’t know if I every wore maternity clothes, except for the dress that met the criteria below…
      If you do get new tops and dresses, there are some that also are accessible for nursing. If you plan on breastfeeding, look into these features and the clothes will be useful longer.
      Also look into buy nothing groups on Facebook, if you use it. You can find maternity clothes there and see what you like. There are different types of waist bands for pants—some worked for me, some didn’t.

    14. Jules the First*

      I bought a couple pairs of inexpensive maternity leggings and wore those under my a-line dresses for much of my first trimester. I had a noticeable bump from about 9 weeks (at which point my jeans were no longer wearable), so was mostly wearing running tights or an old pair of low-rise yoga pants when I wasn’t in leggings and dresses. I’m now 20 weeks (ish) and none of my pre-maternity stuff fits any more. Facebook marketplace is a good place to pick up some inexpensive pieces, but 90% of my maternity wardrobe has come from a couple of friends who are about the same size and had babies a year or so ago, so highly recommend checking discreetly with friends as well. Note that if you bump early, you may need two sizes of maternity stuff – your usual size and one size up for your last trimester.

    15. allathian*

      I can’t remember getting bloated in early pregnancy, but the ache in my breasts was pretty much the first symptom I had, along with the kind of fatigue that had me falling asleep on the couch with no warning. That said, my breasts ache every month before my period, that’s my most noticeable PMS symptom.

      I lost about 10 kilos (>20 lbs) and two pant sizes just before getting pregnant and I hadn’t thrown out my old jeans and pants, so I went back to the bigger size around week 10 and only bought two pairs of maternity pants around week 28 or so. I did buy nursing bras early on and even had to go up a size later, because I found that I couldn’t deal with the underwire when my breasts were so sore.

      I usually wear fairly lose tunics at work in any case, so I didn’t need to switch to bigger tops until fairly late in my pregnancy.

  24. Polar Bear Plunge*

    I’m participating in a Polar Bear Plunge (virtually, done in a neighborhood beach without a crowd), and am trying to think of some fun milestones to encourage donations. I already have an idea for a silly costume but what other fun things could I do with my Plunge? Anyone else do a Plunge before?

    1. WellRed*

      NOt sure if this is what you mean, but I have a friend who regularly participated in a run challenge thing and they hosted a few fundraiser type things, like donate $5 and come to a pizza party. Obviously you can’t do that but maybe you can do something similar and winter themed? Virtual hot chocolate?

    2. MissCoco*

      I’ve never done a charity one, but my family keeps a polar bear list for earliest and latest in the year to have been in our grandparents lake. Current record is late February, but we thought long and hard about doing it when the outdoor temps were in the mid 50s for Christmas a few years ago.

      Could you set up challenge levels for the donations? Like at $X you will perform a silly dance before the plunge, at $Y you will perform it in the water, at $Z you will sing while dancing?
      Maybe whoever donates the most (or over a certain amount) can decide on or have input into your costume (within reasonable boundaries of course)?

      I do think there is an aspect of donating to polar plunges where you are encouraging someone you know to do something silly and a bit unpleasant, so maybe maximizing that angle could encourage donations?

  25. Occasional Baker*

    The first advice I have is to make sure you’re drinking water, and the second is to increase your skin moisturizer game. Stretch marks don’t just happen later in pregnancy, so if you can set the new habit now, it’s the best. Because it’s like, 60 days for something to become regular, right? I liked the Palmer’s Stretch Mark lotion.
    There can be weird ebb and flow. You feel like this now, but in 3 weeks you may fit back into your clothes in some ways. I didn’t switch to maternity until about 19 weeks, but I was VERY sick w “morning sickness” for months first.
    When I started changing sizes, first I invested a little $ in jeans that were non maternity but bigger size. I then wore those AFTER baby girl came, until I got back into Pre-P clothes. Or you have some options if you don’t get back to the same size clothes. If you wear dresses, an unstructured swing type dress will go a LONG way into pregnancy, and again, postpartum. Old Navy has some I wear just regularly, and you can get them for about $15. If you are OK with dresses, really lean into that, because they will be comfy and forgiving and in the summer, less hot.
    Anything stretchy of course is your friend. Borrow from the dad, and embrace a “men’s look” if that suits you.
    Be aware that a LOT of maternity clothes are not returnable, or the return policies are stringent. Read carefully before buying.

  26. Laura H.*

    Little joys thread.

    What small thing brought you joy this week?

    I have not had a relapse or a sudden downturn in Covid symptoms, or new ones in 14 days so I think I will be able to go out with mask and other proper precautions sometime this week.

    While I’m nervous about prematurely returning to normal more for others than for me, I think I just want to give myself a bit more time to let this stuff get out of my system as much as possible since I don’t think I explicitly have to take a retest.

    Sadly Mountain Cedar pollen is still present so I do still have to deal with those fun allergy symptoms.

    Please share your joys. :)

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      This is a wonderful thread! My little joys are:
      -seeing the pond in the local park be half-frozen, half-melted on the surface and how beautiful it looked
      -my cat and dog are healthy and happy and excellent company (they like hanging out with me! I’m frequently flanked by little furry ones!)
      -making progress on my 2021 goals/intentions

    2. Christina*

      This was a big joy when I was just expecting little joys this week – quarantine or not, I just had the best birthday of my life.

      I split up with my long-term partner last year and he moved out right before the holidays and I don’t have family within a 10 hour drive, so I was on my own really for the first time in my adult life and it was really hard and lonely. This week was my birthday and I’m not usually super excited about it because the weather is usually crappy, but I at least plan a dinner out with friends – obviously couldn’t do that this year. So I just planned to enjoy the little things – a friend sent me a croissant for breakfast, I bought myself cake for lunch, got nice messages from family and friends, did a really good workout, ordered something fun for dinner.

      THEN. A friend texted me that she was at my door with a birthday treat. What fun! I ran downstairs in my socks because I figured it would just be a quick hello, but when I opened the door, a dozen of my friends were there in the freezing rain with cake (they made me a cake!) and candles and gifts and sang me happy birthday on the sidewalk and I got (safe) hugs and my socks were soaking wet and I almost lost it.

      I’ve never told anyone that I’ve always really wanted a surprise party (it felt so silly asking for a surprise party – then it’s not a surprise! And I never felt like I had enough friends to have one or a friend I could have even told this to). It was the most perfect, un-replicatable birthday ever.

      It also made me want to go back and tell my younger self when I thought I would never even find one good friend, that one day a dozen of them would be standing at my door in the rain singing happy birthday because they love me. It was a really good big joy.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Sitting and smiling here. Your post reminds me that life is cyclical. In the good times one can be happy (or grateful, or contented–for oneself and also for others) and in the hard times (for oneself or others) one can be hopeful.

    3. fposte*

      My lower back continues to improve, to the point where I was able to stand up and cook a proper dinner! I was extremely excited.

      And I’m glad your recovery seems solid, Laura.

    4. Fran*

      The baby was fighting a nap for a very long time. I stay with her in the room till she falls asleep. She was playing in her crib for a long time and I was playing with my phone but turned around on time to see her pushing up to a sitting position for the first time. I took her and we did a little congratulatory dance before placing her back in the crib.

    5. wingmaster*

      The small things that brought me joy this week:
      -completing another week of Whole30 without cheating
      -going on three days without spending $ this week

    6. Ali G*

      We spent a lot of time cleaning stuff out of the house over our holiday vacation. We gave away/sold a lot of stuff, but there was some stuff that no one wanted. We just loaded up the truck and hubs took it all to the dump to trash/recycle. It feels so much lighter in here. We also replaced our counter top microwave with a mini one and regained a tin of counter space! It’s so cute. It looks like the little black and white TV your grandmom had in the kitchen so she could watch her programs while she cooked :)

    7. Girasol*

      Take care of yourself, Laura, and keep getting better! My joy this week is finding that after wishing for years that I could see reruns of the sci fi cult classic Max Headroom (20 Minutes Into the Future) I found a DVD set of all episodes for sale online. There were episodes I never saw and I can’t wait. I’m listening for it to thump onto the doorstep today.

    8. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Oranges:

      A friend of a friend sells high-quality citrus by the box or half-box, as a a charity fundraiser. I’d ordered and paid for navel oranges, but wasn’t thinking about them when the doorbell rang this morning. By the time I got to the front door, there was a cardboard box of oranges on the porch, and the person who dropped them off had left.

      I ate one after putting the rest away, And It Was Good. Better than I would get at the supermarket in normal times, and much better than the ones I got through Instacart.

    9. Jay*

      Two pieces of clothing I didn’t buy because they were too expensive went on sale for 60% off, were still available in my size, and arrived two days ago. One is a bright pink fuzzy sweatshirt and it makes me ridiculously happy.

    10. Hotdog not dog*

      I had to buy myself a new pair of sneakers because my old ones wore out from all the dog walking. I love a fresh, new, clean pair of comfy shoes!

    11. Chaordic One*

      On Tuesday I woke up to a freezing cold apartment. I have a natural gas-powered forced air furnace. It was turned on, but it was blowing cold air and during the night the temperature in the apartment had dropped down to 61 degrees when I woke up. (My downstairs neighbor always jokes that I get all of her heat, but I guess not.) I phoned the after hours maintenance people and got an answering machine and left a message. Then I called work at 8:00am and told them that I wouldn’t be online until I got the situation fixed. The maintenance people called me back shortly after that and showed up about 10 minutes later. They told me that there were was a problem with flame sensor becoming oxidized and no longer working. They were in and out of the apartment, but cleaned the sensor, put in a new furnace air filter, and tightened up the thermostat on the wall and then the furnace was running again. I called back into work and was back online by 10:00am.

      Don’t it always seem to go?… Not having heat made me really appreciate it when it was up and running again. I was just so happy to be warm again.

    12. Dainty Lady*

      We got our house exterior painted. It looks so beautiful and I feel like I’m taking care of the house the way that it deserves. We bought it from its second owners who had lived in it and taken immaculate care of it for nearly 50 years, so I feel a sense of responsibility to them as well as the house. Also the local business that did it was a delight to work with and *for once* my husband was impressed with a job.

    13. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I had a lot of stress and upset this week. But one thing that brought me a little joy was buying a cake and sign and balloons and throwing a half birthday party for baby potato who turned 6 months last week. obviously she’ll never know or remember, so it was 100% just for me…..best part was hubby who joined along in the fun for me. Now to plan the first birthday in July God willing which hopefully will be a return to normal *fingers crossed*

    14. MissCoco*

      I’ve been feeding birds on my balcony.
      Today alll the finches were there. I counted 12 at one point (goldies and house finches)
      Also the nuthatch pair no longer flies away when they spot me creepily staring at them through the window.

    15. WoodswomanWrites*

      First, I’m glad to hear you’re on the upswing from Covid.

      Walking on a dirt fire road in a park, my friend and I rounded a bend and there was a coyote not too far ahead. We moved as far as we could to the side and stood still without talking. After we and the coyote stared at each other for a bit, the coyote continued on its way, right past us about 15 feet away. Later we descended at dusk and watched and listened to a great horned owl waking up from its daytime rest and getting ready to take flight for the evening.

      1. Pippa K*

        I love the sound of owls! There’s one who visits our property occasionally, and although I rarely catch sight of him, his low hoots always delight me.

    16. Puppy!*

      I took my eyes off of the puppy while making lunch. I swear just for second. If she gets away from me she is usually in the upstairs bedroom so I wasn’t too panicked.
      Turn to go up the stairs.
      She is sitting at the top looking down. With her ball in her mouth.
      I sat on the landing and said , “come!”
      She dropped the ball.
      It bounced down the stairs.
      She waited until it stopped next to me.
      Bounded down the stairs.
      Grabbed the ball and went back to the top.
      She did this about six times then trotted into the kitchen, had a slurp of water, and laid down on her mat.
      What a good girl!
      So much joy!

    17. Finny*

      I splurged and got myself a Schlumpie Bunny by Douglas (a plushie that is part plushie–the head is fully stuffed–and part blanky–the body is flat), and I named him Pancake. He rides in my backpack (I need a plushie everywhere–yes, I turn 40 this year, no, I don’t care), and I love him so much I am going to the store after work today to get a second one as backup incase Pancake gets lost or damaged. (Stores are open here, and I am doing the curbside pickup thing.)

    18. Voluptuousfire*

      My cat actually sat on my lap and made biscuits for the first time. After 8 months of adopting her, she just popped on my lap, making biscuits last night. She’s currently sitting on my lap, cleaning her paw as I type this.

  27. bassclefchick*

    Can we discuss subscription boxes? I asked for a subscription to WeeBox (Scottish themed gifts) and my sister got it for me! I should be getting it next week. She said she made a mistake when ordering and only got me 1 box. Oops. So, here are my questions – do you generally like what comes in your box? If you specifically get WeeBox, what carrier do they use (they use Royal Mail in the UK, but I’m in the US)? Is it worth the investment? I’ve signed up for more boxes because I’ve been looking at this for a long time. Any tips or words of wisdom would be appreciated!

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Can’t answer the box contents but be aware they could be postal delays on both sides – royal mail is having performance issues as a lot of staff are off sick and there may be additional network issues due to back up from Christmas and ongoing high levels of online shopping in thr UK due to lockdown conditions. US delivery likely handed off to USPS.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, with minimal air travel the postal services that don’t lease their own planes but rather lease space in the cargo hold on passenger flights aren’t providing airmail services.

    2. Anon100*

      Subscription boxes run the gamut from beauty items to food! Mine have been US-based and I live in the US, so for the most part I haven’t had issues with shipping. I used to subscribe to Birchbox (the most established beauty sample subscription box, but now less popular and I ended up with too many samples after being subscribed for about 6 years), Graze (a snackbox that eventually got too expensive to keep up for what I received), Ellie (a clothes subscription box mostly for activewear and atheleisure), the Sill (houseplants), and Causebox (lifestyle/beauty box sent once a quarter). I’m still subscribed to meal boxes like BlueApron and HelloFresh, although I tend to rotate and skip weeks.

      I would just be patient about shipping for the most part, unless it’s raw meat (meal boxes) or houseplants, it’ll eventually get to you when it gets to you. With all the USPS backup delays, I’m actually pretty surprised I’m getting things that were shipped from Boston to DC within a week. I did have a couple of one-day delays from a meal box and that was annoying, although the food was fine mostly because this was during the cold stretch we had in December. If a meal box had been delayed in July I’d have thrown the meat out, and possibly the veggies depending on condition.

      For transoceanic shipping – I ordered some stationery from Hong Kong early in the pandemic and it took like 3-4 months to make to the East Coast because I think they shipped it by cargo ship since there were basically no transpacific flights at that point. And unless they’re shipping it by FedEx or DHL, I’d assume you’d get Weebox by USPS especially for last mile delivery. USPS is required to ship to all addresses in the US, the private carriers are not so they end up giving USPS a lot of parcels for ares the private carriers don’t deliver to.

  28. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    I wanted to say thank you to all the people who gave me advice several weeks ago about my diabetes diagnosis. I seem to have gotten out of the anxiety spiral it was causing and my numbers have been fairly good for weeks now. I’m taking my meds and continuing to make adjustments to my diet, but it’s starting to feel more normal. I did tell my mom before Christmas and she took it fairly well. Thank you all for your encouragement. It was so helpful!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I married into a family of diabetics. From many years of discussions with them, I think one surprising thing is that once on the new track feeling better helps a person to stay on track. Falling away from the plan is not worth it because it’s just too hard. It’s a big change but they got back their life. I am glad things are leveling out for you. The initial set up is so. very. daunting. It can feel like life will never be good again. Congrats on how far you have come!

  29. Isabelle*

    Does anyone have recommendations the best website for building a website? But for someone who doesn’t have energy or knowledge to code? I’m between Wix and Squarespace although I’m tempted about WordPress because I *might* want to learn how to code down the line, but I don’t think that’ll happen soon. I basically want a no-fuss way to make a visually appealing website. If you have had experience with one brand, let me know please!

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      I had square space and it’s super easy. I switched to shopify (because it was supposed to make selling through instagram easier…but I’ve never had a sale that way ) I think I prefer squarespace but it’s really easy once you decide on a layout. I *think* you can do some coding in both of those – I’ve accidentally opened up a window that looks like code.

    2. Reba*

      I have a wordpress website hosted on my own domain. I use a template, no coding!
      (previously I used an open source code library called Stacey, again hosted on my domain, it was fun learning some CSS but I certainly don’t remember how to do it anymore!)

      Square space is definitely favored by creative folks — or anyone who listens to podcasts, lol. But, Wix is said to be a bit easier to actually use. Both will look great! If you are planning to use the site to sell things, I would think that is where you need to really dig into the details of the offerings.

      1. Nela*

        I’d say Squarespace is favored by creative folks who are afraid of tech :P most creatives I’ve encountered use self-hosted WordPress.

    3. Nela*

      WordPress .com is an affordable option for those who don’t want too much fuss. The new block editor looks more like a page builder offered by the likes of Wix. I’ve taught 8 year olds how to use it.

      WordPress .org with own hosting is advanced, but allows for a lot more flexibility and functionality through unlimited themes and plugins. A WP.com website can be exported to a selfhosted website if you ever change your mind.

    4. Colette*

      I’ve used Wix and WordPress. If you’re going for a free site, I think Wix is more flexible. There are a lot of wordpress plugins, but the last time I checked, you needed a paid account to use them.

    5. Professor Plum*

      What do you want to do on your website? If you know what features you want to use that may steer you to one platform over another. For example, is having a blog, a photo gallery, an interactive forum or selling items more important?

      If you know what’s most important it can help when you read reviews or use a free trial.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I echo this point about determining your goal and checking reviews for different formats online. I have zilch training for creating websites, and I’ve been happy with WordPress for my blog (same as my user name here). My goals are sharing my writing and nature photography easily, and also making it easy for people to add their comments. It works fine for that purpose. When WordPress introduces new features, I’ve been able to figure out how to use them without help. I decided to purchase my own domain. Also, it’s worth it to me pay extra every year to keep my site ad-free for people who check it out.

    6. nep*

      I’ve made a few very basic websites using WordPress. I like that it’s really as easy or difficult as you want it to be, depending on how much you want to do, how much you want to delve into coding, changing things up. I can’t speak to the other brands; given the I started w WP I just stayed there.

    7. mreasy*

      Squarespace is quite easy and non-intimidating. I worked for a very successful business that used it for everything with no problem.

    8. Weegie*

      I found Wix the easiest. Couldn’t get on with Squarespace at all, and found WordPress unwieldy.

    9. Texan In Exile*

      I have used Wix to build about five sites this year. I helped my cousin build a Wix site for her optometry practice – we picked a template together and then she, who has no coding or web background, build the site herself over the weekend. It’s that intuitive and that easy to use.

      I blog on WordPress, which is fine, but when a friend wanted to build the site for her new business on WordPress, we were tearing our hair out. I was so spoiled by how easy Wix is. WordPress is a nightmare. I convinced her to switch to Wix and we were both much happier.

  30. Save The Shoes*

    A pair of sneakers got soaked in salt water and now they stink to high heaven, even after a wash on the delicate cycle. Anything I can do to save these shoes from their horrible smell or should I just toss them?

    1. Dino*

      Hand washing is a million times more efficient for shoes in my experience. I use delicate detergent and really work and rinse a few times using a bucket or clean sink.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood”*

      If it’s ocean/bay water the problem might be organic—plankton & the like—so maybe try an enzyme cleaner.

  31. F.U.N.*

    We had to read this book for one of our clubs, “The Gifts of Imperfection” and one of the chapters that struck me was the one of play and it needing to be part of life. Play being described as something fun and purposeless. Sometimes as something you did as a child uninhibited and enjoyed.

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually had “play” and want to do more fun things without pressuring myself to monetize it or get good at it. But what can I consider as play? I do play video games but I’d like to do something different that works a different mind or body muscle. I might try drawing again (but there’s the pressure in my mind to get good at it rather than fun.)

    What are some things you do that you’d consider play? I need some ideas please!

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      Instead of drawing, you could color. Any paint by number set or similar. I’ve seen cute wall hangings, wooden plaques, etc.

      Do a puzzle. Bake or cook something new.

      My friend is doing cross stitch where the pattern is impregnated on the cloth so it’s more just fun/busy work of stitching and not the stress of counting.

      I tried an Alexa escape room (audio only) with my partner and it was so fun.

    2. Fellow Traveler*

      Well, I have kids, so…. play is sometimes joyless because it’s how I engage with my children when they are difficult.
      But non kid specific things that I consider play
      – making music (piano) or singing at the top of my lungs along to my favorite play lists
      – kicking a soccer all around my backyard (I do this by myself while on the phone sometimes). Or taking a basketball down to the park and shooting hoops.
      – juggling (i’m learning how to do this and it’s fun! My friend started teaching me with a couple of small oranges)
      – my husband calls gardening “playing in the dirt”.

    3. Colette*

      Escape rooms (ideally with friends – there are virtual rooms that you can do over zoom or similar conferencing software)
      Painting (again, there are classes online.)
      Puzzles in general (not my thing, but some people like them)
      Learn to juggle
      Skip (to a skipping rhyme)
      Sing
      Dance
      Use a sock as a puppet

    4. arrogant worm*

      What about balloon twisting?
      There are plenty of free tutorials online, all you need is a pump (you can get a cheap one at the dollar store) and balloons. Buy good quality balloons. Qualatex is good and easy to find online or at party stores.
      Low cost, fun, and doesn’t take up much room for supplies. My favourite part is that you can give the creations away, or pop & toss, so you aren’t creating more stuff you have to find room to keep.

    5. Reba*

      “but there’s the pressure in my mind to get good at it rather than fun” Relatable!!!

      In my house we play musical instruments and sing (that can have some of the above dynamic but it’s still really rewarding!). I just made a piece of art for the first time in a loooong time and it was great! Maybe trying a new material or medium for the first time would help you get into that exploratory mindset, rather than the “I should already be good at this” space?

      Do you enjoy games? There are also some table top games that engage the imagination more–if you have people to play with. Visitor in Blackwood Grove is one I really enjoy, Dixit is another popular one. There is also a super silly card game called Gloom that involves narrating the events. If you need solo play options, Onirim is an interesting solitaire or 2p co-op card game. You could also look on Board Game Geek for solo games.

      For me, cooking can be play-like in that there is improvisation and experimentation to it.

    6. Nela*

      Doodling is different than drawing – I find it much more playful than attempting to draw something that looks “right”. I’m all about organic shapes, swirls, and cartoon faces, while my partner prefers geometric futuristic stuff. You just need to find your groove. I usually do it on the couch in the evening and it helps me unwind.

      1. allathian*

        Seconding doodling! It doesn’t have to look like anything. I tend to doodle stars and hearts and a weird tree shape I call Yggdrasil.

    7. lapgiraffe*

      I gotta say, this year has been the year I played with dough. I’ve been making pasta for years now, and dabbled in sourdough a bit several years back, but with being at home I’ve had more fun playing with doughs than ever, I swear it’s like play-doh for adults AND you actually get to eat your creations haha. I don’t have a stand mixer so it’s just me, my hands, and the counter top. So yesterday it was me snd a focaccia dough, music on, chanting to myself “I am the dough hook” while I slapped it all around. My current favorite pasta dough requires 20-30 minutes of this and it becomes like a meditation. I get to make a little mess, feel interesting textures between my fingers, engage in a some light science, and eat delicious things.

    8. AGD*

      I read a book about this! Play by Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughan. Google says Brown has also done some TED talks. I think skill-building can be involved as long as it’s primarily recreational and joyful. I’ve certainly gotten much better at knitting since I started putting time into it – but even when I’m picking up new techniques, it’s a break from my laborious day job and a chance to let some other parts of my brain come up for air.

      Huge variety of options out there depending on what seems fun. I’m making this list up spontaneously, but: paper crafts (origami, scrapbooking), reading, exercise or dance or gymnastics or parkour, carving woodblocks for print-making, LEGO, furniture building, sewing, knitting, crochet, weaving, tatting, cartooning, digital animation, painting, calligraphy, playing music for yourself or in small low-stakes groups, photography or photo editing, code golf, chess, board games, solo tabletop games, writing, sculpture, jewellery making, wood carving, 3D printing, that thing with narrow rolled up paper turned sideways quilling, Etch-a-Sketch, stained glass, game websites (GeoGuessr?), or maybe ‘augmented reality’ games (Pokemon Go, Ingress) or their lower tech scavenger-hunt predecessors (geocaching, letterboxing, etc.). Also, one of the things I love about YouTube is that it’s full of people trying out equipment for specialized stuff (rock tumbling, stained glass, metalworking, mechanical keyboard building, etc.), which means I don’t have to buy expensive things and risk only using them once.

      I’d say it’s okay if it’s unconventional as long as it’s fun (and, you know, not harmful). I sometimes invent games for myself in Excel or Google Maps. I know a person who cleans up pennies by putting them in ketchup, and another who has been happily assembling a list of subway cars they have ridden on by number. In general it fascinates me to watch people find their thing and their community, even if it’s something I’m not into.

    9. Queer Earthling*

      My favorite forms of play are unstructured and imaginative; when I was a kid I’d play-act stories by myself, and now as an adult I either write self-indulgent stories with no plan, or I do typing roleplay stories with my spouse. (That’s how we became friends anyway, doing those over like, Yahoo Messenger or something.) D&D is a similar concept, though you do need a group.

      Other things I do for fun: I collect dolls and I enjoy repainting them or making clothes for them, and I’m not good enough to monetize either of those things, nor do I intend to be. (This can be expensive, though.) I got a big thing of Lego from my spouse and enjoy building houses and towers and not doing a very good job at that, either. I’d argue that reading fluffy stories could count as play, too.

    10. Girasol*

      I have a hand sling (the David-and-Goliath kind but not as big) that I take down to a quiet spot on the river to sling small stones. While I try to improve my distance and aim, it’s more play than practice because it’s clear that I will never be any good at it. I couldn’t hit a barn much less something as tiny as a giant. (Isolation and a sturdy hat are important for someone with skills as poor as mine.) But the riverside is quiet and pleasant and it’s fun to watch the stones go plunk way over on the other side, so I suppose that’s play.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t really think of it as play. I like to make myself step outside my safety zone and try things that are new to me. Some of the things might seem silly or too obvious for other people. I bought a set of cordless (battery operated tools) and am slowing teaching myself how to use them. In an other instance, I love spiralized veggies, I mean they taste SUPER good to me. So I got a spiralizer that I can work with (the first two did not work for me) and I started using it. Someone gave me a Pfaff sewing machine from 1960. I googled and found it’s a pretty good model so I am beginning to fuss with that and see what I can do with it. I think it could be play for me because it’s an opportunity to shut out the outside world and just focus on a little challenge for myself.

    12. 00ff00Claire*

      I think it might depend on your definition of “purposeless”. If you do mean just anything that you aren’t pressuring yourself to be good at / earn money, then any kind of hobby could work. I think if you want a hobby, you will need to figure out if you will only focus on the pressure to get good and therefore ruin the fun for any hobby at all or if there might be one that you really could enjoy and find happiness with getting only as “better” as you would naturally get from participating in the hobby. Puzzles, lego kits, kids craft kits, or coloring books could be good hobbies with some structure, but they don’t feed the drive to get better as much as some other hobbies do.

      As far as ideas for things that could be play but are less likely to bring out the drive to improve, sensory materials can be pretty soothing for adults – think of the sand or water table in a preschool classroom. You don’t have to use those mediums though; there are plenty of alternatives and you have options that aren’t available to preschools because you won’t try to eat them and choke :) Those water beads that were popular a few years back, a bunch of pony beads, anything that is small enough that it will scoop and pour works. A plastic shoebox storage bin or plastic dishpan would work fine for a container.

      In a similar vein, playdoh or hobby / toy modeling clay can also be relaxing and gets your mind and hands working together. Legos, Kinex, or other building toys can be open-ended if you get the generic bucket instead of a kit. Pattern blocks (these are small, geometric 3-d shapes that you can make designs with) can likewise be either open-ended or structured if you want them to.

      Some of my family members are really into board games – those are a good form of higher level play and at least somewhat less likely to have that pressure to get good at them.

      If dancing for fun sounds interesting to you, there are plenty of dance videos on youtube whose target audience is older elementary kids, so there are actual moves but they are a little challenging but still fun.

    13. LQ*

      Painting with the plan that it all goes into a firepit. I like fire too so that helps. Having the goal that it all is ephemeral (into the fire!) helps keep me from trying to get good at it. As does an explicit desire to just try and experiment. Like oh what happens when I do this. huh, cool. And now it’s in the fire.

    14. RagingADHD*

      For me, a big part of the fun of things is satisfaction at overcoming a challenge, so watching myself improve at it adds to the satisfaction.

      It’s comparison or competition that undermines the spirit of play, to me.

      For a simple brain game I really enjoy Sudoku. For complex brain games I like interactive fiction, especially the older text-based ones.

      Our library has a board game collection for checkout- you might see if yours does as well, they are becoming more common.

    15. OtterB*

      Listen to yourself. Listen for the little passing thought “oh, that looks like fun” while you’re browsing online that you would normally disregard because it’s not sensible. You might not want to do that specific thing, but you might identify a related something you do want. Harder to do in these pandemic times, but explore – go somewhere and wander by following what appeals to you.

    16. Jay*

      I’m a singer and a writer, and while I love doing both, they don’t have that “play” quality because I can’t let go of my training and standards. I went looking for a totally different art. I have been taking beadmaking classes at a local glass studio (masked, distanced, in a huge room that’s basically a well-ventilated garage). I love it because it’s totally new to me – I don’t do visual arts and I don’t do anything with my hands these days. It requires enough concentration that I can’t worry about or plan anything else – I’m totally absorbed. I have no goals or aspirations except to make pretty things. Last week the teacher asked if I’d bought any findings to make jewelry and it honestly hadn’t occurred to me to make anything out of the beads. I just like looking at them.

      I also have a mandala coloring book which I enjoy, although I think I’d prefer one with bigger spaces – there are a lot of small fiddly shapes which can feel a bit tedious after a while.

      For me the most important thing is that I can get absorbed in it and I’m ok being really bad at it. Then it feels like play.

    17. em*

      I like “doodling” with embroidery… Not trying to make a completed or coherent design but just like, “hey can I figure out how to stitch a cactus?” or taking 10 different thread colors all in the same length and just adding random designs until each color runs out. You kind of inadvertently get better because of the practice but you’re not trying to make that specific piece look good so it’s not as purposeful :)

  32. Mimmy*

    Just wanted to thank everyone who responded to my post about my husband last weekend. It took another couple of days for him to start feeling normal again, but he is doing much better now. He did have intermittent cough (mild) and runny nose this week that we thought was strange.

  33. College football is [I hate the offseason]*

    I’m puzzling through a relocation issue. Pre-pandemic my husband and I both worked and lived in (major city) 5 days a week. We also have a weekend house that we both moved to last March. My job is full-time remote. His was remote/1 day per week in office to now at least 3 days/week in office. He may need to be more soon. He lives at our place in the city when he works. At what point do I move my remote job back to the city? How many days do we live apart. I feel much safer in our weekend location – and have more space for my office, it’s much quieter, beautiful views, etc. I am worried about being apart, I suppose. I think he wants me to relocate back to town. He’s planning to retire in the fall, so one one hand I feel like it’s a short period and maybe I should suck it up until then. We would still be in the country on the weekends, but I’ve enjoyed not having to do the drive and the hauling things back/forth. What would you do? Going on 29 years of marriage. We’ve not lived apart aside from these few months where he is the one going back and forth.

    1. fposte*

      Are there ways to split the difference? Could you go in one or two weeks out of the month, for instance?

      It also sounds like this hasn’t been clearly discussed—if so, it’s probably time to do that.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I could make the argument that one of us has to stay away from the heavy pockets of Covid, we both can’t be sick at the same time.
      Buuuuuut… that is really not that great a talking point.
      I might be tempted to say I would try it thinking that once he sees how much hassle it is to move the both of us back and forth he’d change his mind.
      OTOH, though maybe this could be used as a bargaining chip. “I will stay in the city with you until you retire, if we can do [thing of value to me] afterward.” My husband and I made these type of agreements. Interestingly, we were both enthused not only to get our own Thing but to watch the other one get their Thing, too.

    3. Cats on a Bench*

      Can he do all 3 days in a row? So like M,T,W in the city then TH, F and weekends remote to reduce the back and forth? And then maybe you could agree to go with him every other week so he doesn’t always feel so lonely while he’s away? If he’s retiring in the Fall, maybe he could negotiate with them to let him stay remote 2 days.

    4. armchairexpert*

      How far is the drive? Is the plan for you to both live full time in the country once he retires, or not?

      Assuming it’s only a couple of hours, I think I’d split the difference. Say he works in the office M-F and stays in town. You drive into the city on Wednesdays, spend W-F working in town, both of you drive back out to the country Friday for the weekend. That way you get 4 days a week where you love and he gets to spend 5 days/7 with you.

      If he doesn’t want to move out to the weekend place in the fall, though, you need a broader conversation.

  34. CoffeeforLife*

    Instead of drawing, you could color. Any paint by number set or similar. I’ve seen cute wall hangings, wooden plaques, etc.

    Do a puzzle. Bake or cook something new.

    My friend is doing cross stitch where the pattern is impregnated on the cloth so it’s more just fun/busy work of stitching and not the stress of counting.

    I tried an Alexa escape room (audio only) with my partner and it was so fun.

  35. Soonish to be Mrs*

    Wanted to jump in early in hopes of getting additional feedback. We’re thinking of eloping, either this year or next, and are considering a couple different locations: New Orleans or the Hudson Valley area of NY. Anyone with experience in either, tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m leaning away from New Orleans because of stories of heard from friends who used to live there about the crime, even though they are still “I love the city.” I’m not sure I’d want to deal with that. Any advice on weather, what time of year is best, crime, recommendations of places to stay/eat/visit, etc etc would be super helpful.

    1. mreasy*

      Hudson Valley is beautiful in the spring (though it can rain a bit) – and is just a lovely part of the world. You’re near the Adirondacks and not too far from the Berkshires, so gorgeous landscapes abound, but there are also incredible indoor & outdoor art spaces (Dia:Beacon and Storm King are obvious and essential to visit but Opus 40 in Saugerties is incredible – and there are just so many others). Tons of lovely places to stay as well! I highly recommend it for a very nice and not tremendously expensive getaway.

      1. pancakes*

        +1. A concert & picnic at Tanglewood in the Berkshires is a great thing to do if the timing works out.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Congrats on your plans! I’ve been to both areas – short visit to New Orleans, longer visits to the Hudson Valley (mainly Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow and farther north, Beacon/Newburgh area, as family lives there). Both are worth visiting – but for me, the Hudson Valley area is more my comfort level nowadays. I would like to do a mini food-tour of New Orleans someday, as I only touched the tip of the culinary iceberg before – beignets to die for! – but there are great food places in NY as well (if you like luxury, try Blue Hill at Stone Barns), and the scenery is stunning.

    3. NeonFireworks*

      I don’t think you can go wrong here.

      The Hudson Valley, especially in the fall (or mid-to-late May – the magnolias!), is magical and intoxicatingly so. If the idea is to find a quiet place or take elopement photos with incredible nature backgrounds, you won’t do much better than this. Also, the wine!

      New Orleans has an incredible vibe and all sorts of things you can’t find anywhere else in the U.S., and I didn’t have any experiences with feeling unsafe (even though the Saints were playing one evening and people were…pretty excited). If you want to be towed around on a bike couch or take elopement photos on gorgeous cast-iron balconies, this is your place. Also, the food!

      1. Person from the Resume*

        You probably don’t want to visit New Orleans during the summer (June – September) unless you’re fine with sweating and possibly dodging hurricanes.

        I live in New Orleans and you just got to be willing to be hot and wear as little clothing as you can get away with in the summer.

    4. EBennett*

      You can’t go wrong with either – but fall in the Hudson Valley is amazing. If its open you could have dinner at the Culinary Arts Institute!
      We eloped and I have to say it was the BEST decision. Just the two of us (and our photographer) – we could really focus on the ceremony. We went to Cape May NJ – we stayed at a great B&B, walked to the beach for photos, and walked to dinner.
      Then we had a big party/reception a few months afterwards so we could gather our friends and family.
      Wishing you and your significant other years of health and happiness.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood”*

      Storm King is on my to-visit list — mountainside sculpture park.
      Bear Mountain State Park has a lodge that does weddings in normal times.
      If you’re going further up into NYS, we were fascinated by the Corning Glass Museum and Studio. Precovid visit. We had signed up ahead of time for an intro glass-working class at the Studios. (Glassblowing requires some arm strength to manipulate a 6ft/2m metal rod with crystal at the end.) And the factory museum has glassblowing demos.
      If you’re getting there via ‘downstate’ New York, the NY Botanical Gardens is beautiful at any time of year.

      1. pancakes*

        If you’re in the area and like sculpture, I recommend the PepsiCo sculpture garden in Purchase NY too. Great collection, the landscaping is nice, and it’s free. Technically it’s named the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens.

  36. Heffalump*

    A few days ago I saw a parked car with ERL GRY vanity license plate in my neighborhood. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on me.

  37. Tiny Home*

    Anyone living in a tiny home? Or once lived in one? I’d love to hear your experiences, tips, hacks, etc.
    My husband and I will soon be moving into one this April with our cat. We’re pretty excited!

    1. MissCoco*

      Not a tiny house, but 350 sq feet apartment.
      Perfection on my own, felt tiny once my partner moved in after I’d been living there 4 years

      I think so much depends on setup, but I found that the #1 important thing for me was buying for the actual space, or building (shelves especially, since they are easy + you can make them fill every available inch)
      Especially with organizational stuff, if it doesn’t fit well or isn’t easy to use, you lose space by having it around

      Depending on ceiling heights, awkwardly high shelves all around a kitchen or living room can be a lifesaver for all those bits and bobs you need (or just want) but don’t need to access every day.

      Also I’m not sure if this is a tiny house thing or an ADHD thing, but I stay organized because I minimize the effort involved in putting things up.
      For me that involves having stuff where I can see it, ideally in a visually pleasing way, and sometimes in multiple places. I own a truly absurd number of scissors, but in every “room” there is a jar or drawer where they go, so they are always put up in the many different places they belong in.

    2. I take tea*

      Not a tiny house, but a small apartment. If you want to give the cat a bit more space (especially if indoor cat), think of high spaces. It doesn’t need to be floor space. We have a lot of bookshelves with empty space on the top, and the cats love it. They can climb up at one end, run to the other and climb down.

    3. Kage*

      Same – not a tiny house, but a small apartment full of 2 adults, a baby, a dog and a cat.

      Maximize your storage solutions. With small spaces, clutter will make them feel smaller. We in particular liked the IKEA Kallax/Expedit system given that you can mix drawers, shelves, doors, etc as you want. Shelves are also huge – particularly look at your height to see where you can add them. We had a long one mounted in the hallway at like 6’-6” (so above our heads, close to the ceiling) that housed things that we didn’t need on a daily/weekly basis but needed to keep/couldn’t get rid of.

      Get used to storing things in “strange” places but that work for you. Our cat’s litter/food was in the bathroom; dog’s was in the bedroom. Keep an eye out for ways to streamline your life because of your limited circumstances (for example, we then switched to a flushable litter/pellet system with pee-pads as we could easily just sift the cat litter straight to the toilet.

      Related to space – As much as possible, put things away as soon as you are done with them. If you only have a 3’ wide counter space in your whole kitchen, it gets really cluttered really fast. You’ll want to become religious about always tidying behind you. This also plays into shopping in general as you also have to worry about do you have space for something new. We went grocery shopping every few days due to small fridge/storage space but then also probably ate better/fresher food in general.

      While there is no way I’d live in a tiny apartment now with our multiple kids, I do miss it…

    4. Salymander*

      I lived in a tiny home for 2 1/2 years. We had no running water (showered at the gym or used a makeshift outdoor shower), and no electricity for the first 3-4 months until we did some work on it.
      We didn’t have a loft, as the ceiling was quite low. Our bed was 4 feet off the floor for extra storage, but a loft would have been better. Especially one with stairs/drawers for storage and ease/safety of access. If you get injured, climbing a ladder into a loft is really not fun, no matter how much more space you have with just a ladder.
      It is good to have all clothing and linens stored in a covered closet or in drawers. Even coat hooks are a problem. I see a lot of tiny homes with open shelves and bins, and coathooks on the wall. It looks cute, but is hard to keep tidy. Also, open shelves, hooks and bins allow cooking smells to permeate all the fabrics in a tiny home. I spent a couple of months figuring out how to keep my clothes from smelling like salsa, curry and fried onions. It smells good when you cook it, but when the smell lingers and turns rancid in the fabric of your winter coat you will be less pleased. I have one sweater that still smells a bit like french fries. Years later. And I have never made french fries ever in my life. Really, any strong smells of any kind will get into everything in a tiny house. Even improperly managed composting toilets (properly done, they are fine). Or cat litter. Open lots of windows.
      Also, be prepared for the cleaning. You spend less time cleaning house all at once, but you end up needing to clean all the time. Seriously. Especially if you have pets or if your tiny house is in a more rural area or has a muddy/dusty surrounding area. I am not a super tidy person, but I felt compelled to sweep and clean things off many, many times each day. We were surrounded by countryside, which was muddy/dusty (but beautiful!!!). It is just a few minutes, but you repeat the cleaning maybe ten times a day. If your tiny house is nice, and in a nice spot, it can be totally worth it. But be prepared. Good luck! :)

  38. nep*

    Fitness / strength. I’d be interested to hear of people’s experiences with recovering a certain level of fitness, especially strength, after a period of time not training as hard for whatever reason.
    I am not as strong as I was a year or so ago, just from having gotten out of the habit of a certain kind of working out on a regular basis. I still exercise regularly, but because of some joint issues here and there initially and just life changes, got out of the routine I was in. I know I have to be patient and regain the strength slowly, in order to avoid injury/setbacks. I have to think of myself back before I had gained that strength in the first place, and how I did it. Somehow the second time around, because I’ve “lost” it, it sometimes seems impossible or at least overwhelming. But I know I can get there. Little by little.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      I injured myself and didn’t get back into running for nearly two years. Had to take it slow at first, which was really frustrating. I switched to a treadmill for a while because outdoors on favorite routes it was too easy to see how difficult a time I was having, if that makes sense, and I was getting discouraged. It took 6-8 months of running several times a week before I was back to managing even 2.5 km at a time.

    2. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      I am in a similar situation and have found both the most difficult and the most useful thing is to make my peace with doing a modified version of the exercise until my strength is back.

      1. nep*

        That is it–exactly. I go into each workout reminding myself I’ll be far better off in the long run (and make my goal of regaining my strength) if I modify as need be, if I do a move with the lighter kettlebell. I have found that the gratification of just getting through a solid workout is still there, even if I am not able to lift or do as much as at my peak.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You probably have this covered, but I cannot say enough for proteins drinks and collagen. I think you might prefer a plant based product for proteins? There are some good ones out there now, more so than ever before.

      And this could be just me, but I found carbs really took away from my muscles and my over all strength. I did much better when I limited myself to one or two servings of carbs per day.

      It’s super important to put rest on the same level as exercise. Rest gives the body time to rebuild what it needs to fix. This is to say that your patient. slow approach will pay off for you.

      It’s interesting to look at Eastern Medicine even if it is just briefly, they seem to have a bunch of information on just what the body works to fix while we rest. I am not into the Eastern modality but I am interested in reading about the various modalities available. I was super impressed by their focus on what rest does. I am a convert- good rest is as important as good exercise.

      1. nep*

        100 percent. Rest paramount in this effort.
        I probably get too many carbs and too little protein–good point there.

    4. fposte*

      Currently doing this. It’s sometimes a struggle, especially as in my head I’m ready to complete a triathlon at the drop of the a hat. (Note: I have never, ever done a triathlon.) I try to keep a very tight focus on the changes in the last couple of weeks. A 50% improvement is big no matter what the starting place was.

    5. LGC*

      That’s…really common, actually. The advice I’ve heard is to almost forget where you were at before.

      Last winter, I was 1) injured and 2) worried about being able to run the Boston Marathon well. (I didn’t do that well last year, running my slowest marathon time.) And then COVID blew up my race plans.

      I don’t think I’ve fully recovered whatever fitness I had back in 2019, let alone 2018. And I feel guilty that I actually did benefit a little bit from COVID – I was able to let myself relax without FOMO, and relaxing was what I needed. But I feel like – at least as a runner, since I’m pessimistic about races happening in a pre-2020 way until at least 2022 and maybe even beyond that – I was able to just switch into an extended base period after…basically working towards peaks for two years straight.

  39. Courageous cat*

    I got a $1624 bill for a (mandatory new patient) urinalysis at my psychiatrist’s office. $1624 for a drug test that I couldn’t opt out of if I wanted to see the doctor. And from last September, no less, so I can’t even use my FSA to pay for it.

    I have full insurance through my employer (aka it’s not just catastrophic or something). This is insane, right? Like, I pay for insurance… so that I don’t have bills like this. What am I supposed to do, say “oh hold on nurse, I know you want to prick my finger to check my iron but sit tight while I call my insurance to verify it won’t be half a million dollars first”?

    I have never appealed? debated? a bill with insurance before, but I’d like to. Can anyone give me some advice on if that’s possible, or what you would do from here?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Did the insurance company tell you why they weren’t covering it? Or is that the amount left for you after they processed it?

      1. Courageous cat*

        Yep, it was originally $2030 and they covered enough to bring it down to this amount. Which still sounds egregious to me!

    2. Girasol*

      Did you ask the psychiatrist about it? Sometimes a clerical error will blow up the cost of a minor test into a major bill. If the psychiatrist didn’t warn you ahead of time then they probably didn’t expect this would happen. They might offer help to solve the problem.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Very good call. I see him soon so I will do that. I was wondering if it could be like, something that was mis-coded.