weekend open thread – September 4-6, 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: We are the Brennans, by Tracey Lange. A daughter returns home to a family full of secrets, as well as to the man she left years before without explanation. This was like a delicious soap opera.

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

{ 1,201 comments… read them below }

  1. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing.
    I’m actually making some steady progress on a project. Maybe one day I’ll get over my nerves and actually publish something.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was finishing up talks with University of Missouri Press for a book. I signed the contract yesterday. I celebrated by knocking out a draft chapter on the intersection of politics and baseball in the 1860s. This actually will be two chapters: one White politics and one Black. This was the White one, with presidents cozying up to baseball and local political machines getting in on the action.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Congrats! And that kinda sounds interesting, considering I don’t even like baseball all that much.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am all about baseball history as cultural history, not merely tales of mighty feats on the diamond. What happened on the field matters, as it drive the whole enterprise, but it is not in and of itself what interests me. For this period, we have a specific cultural construct, the fraternal baseball club. This is a group of twenty to forty young men in sedentary urban occupations gathering to take their exercise together in a congenial setting. These clubs existed for decades, since at least the 1810s, puttering along at such a low level that they barely impinge on the historical record. Then in the 1850s they explode in popularity, and by the 1870s are nearly entirely gone, replaced by different kinds of organizations. We still call their successors “clubs” but they generally aren’t really clubs in any usual sense of the word. This is a vestige of the earlier era.

          What happened, why did it happen, and why did it happen when it did? These are the kinds of questions that interest me. Yes, it is entirely possible to be interested in this without being a big baseball fan. Sporting culture is a big part of American culture, after all.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I watched Ken Burns’s baseball doco earlier this summer – I’m not really a huge baseball fan, but I am a big fan of Ken Burns, history, ridiculously long documentaries and watching other people nerd about their passions, and it hit all four of those – and the depth of the cultural and political history of baseball was fascinating.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I was part of a media honors program in college and our director was/is a huge baseball history buff. He taught a class and wrote (is still writing? Not sure of its publication status) a book on Ford Frick. I’m not really a sports fan but it’s certainly a cross-section of US history.

      2. whistle*

        Congrats! Be sure to let the AAM community know when you have publication information!

        You might enjoy the tumblr “Handeaux”. He covers Cincinnati history, which of course includes a lot of Reds info.

        I was in Hot Springs, AR a few years ago, and the history there with spring training is really interesting.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        That’s absolutely awesome! I’ll definitely be interested in reading about the Black politics bit.

        Had no idea you were a writer, but your posts have always been spectacularly well written.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Thank you. That is very kind. I mostly write about baseball history. Punch my name into Google Scholar and you will find me, a vascular surgeon, and a biochemist. We are not the same person.

      4. Mary Bennet*

        I would read your book, even though I know absolutely nothing about baseball. Congratulations on the contract!

      5. TransmascJourno*

        Ooo, I’d be interested to hear if any of it involves the Homestead Grays or the Pittsburgh Crawfords! And mazel tov!

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      I got my first academic publication this summer! I was the second author but it still feels really nice

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Kinda embarrassing but just finished a piece of fanfiction that basically posits that Deacon from Fallout 4 is actually a Time Lord.

      Yeah my brain be weird.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Plowing through hard-copy edit changes. After that comes layout and paperback cover design (the back, not the front; I have to use a template and I can’t until I know how many pages it will end up with). I have to figure out how to do a pre-order; I didn’t do that last time. But my trailer is so good. I can’t wait to put it out there. It felt good to get great feedback from my betas.

      There’s something compelling I want to write before I do Book 3. It feels like it has traditional publishing potential, though obviously, I wouldn’t know that until I do it. I have an extremely detailed world compendium, so it wouldn’t be hard to jump back in for Book 3 afterward, but I feel like people would be mad at me if I did that. I don’t want to pull a George R.R. Martin on anyone.

      This is, of course, assuming anyone but me cares about my trilogy at all!

      1. lasslisa*

        Doing what inspires and brings you joy can keep the writerly energy strong, which is good for your readers too!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thank you for this.

          I finished the hard-copy passthrough yesterday and now I’m at the point where I have to do layout, and I’m scared to proceed. Once I put it out, that’s it! I can’t change some of this new stuff!

    5. Exif*

      I pulled two all-nighters to get a story finished in time to submit to the Levar Burton contest, then realized I couldn’t meet the minimum word count. Super bummed, but stretching the story would have made it worse. So I guess I’ll just let it gel, go back for edits, and then figure out a better place to submit it.

    6. Girasol*

      Plotted and started writing on a new story for my themed short story collection this week. I’m feeling more optimistic about this project thanks to the kind folks who answered my plea last weekend for info on what comes next on the trail to publishing.

    7. Vesuvius*

      Oh boy, where to even begin? I’m steadily working away at draft one of my first novel. (Though to be clear, I’m on try 14 or something of writing it.) It’s a fantasy/magitech series (steampunk aesthetic, some tech, but not all is steampunk). It might end up with the ruining of an empire? It’s the series (yes, series) I’ve wanted to read for many, many years, but I’ve never actually found it, in fanfic or other forms. So I’m writing it myself.

      Summary: A tired, burned out war veteran returns home and tries to adjust to civilian life as a healer, only to accidentally catalyze a brewing conflict between imperial forces and a rebellion that’s been in the works for centuries into civil war, by virtue of being in the right place at the wrong time.

    8. SoCal Kate*

      Very well! I edited and submitted a speculative fiction short story in a mere three weeks (the fastest every) and I’m moving on to editing a speculative flash fiction piece.

  2. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week? As usual this is not limited to video games so feel free to talk about any kind of game you want, including phone games and board games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.
    Still binging the Sims. Had some weird save file corruption happening but luckily the back-up option fixed it.

    1. Cute Li'l UFO*

      Oh man. I actually packed up my PC but I know eventually that itch to play Sims 1/2 will come back. I never got as into 3 as I did 2 or 1 and 4 was just so beyond me. What version are you playing?

      I’m still into Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’ve got other games (namely the Mario trio, BOTW, Ring Fit, and so on) that I really do want to play but I had some issues with TV audio and the Switch that I haven’t had a chance to puzzle out and AC:NH is so nice and calming at the end of a day. I like that I don’t feel compelled to invest a lot of time in it at any point. Love that I can just pause and suspend. I really want to make my town look organized for lack of a better word. It still looks like someone threw town bits up all over the place… I just never got into the whole terraforming part and putting down pathways. I have to do a lot of flower culling, they’re freakin’ everywhere!

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Sims 3! I also have the Mac version of the Sims 2 base game, but I don’t think that’ll work anymore because I think Power PC programs are no longer supported. I’m trying to find the Sims 2, however – Juno Birch has me craving that again.

        1. Type Nerd*

          The complete set of the sims 2 games for Mac is up on the apple app store and it seems to still be getting some updates! If you’re looking for a windows version though I’m pretty sure there are lots of links for the complete collection out there

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            I think I’d prefer a Windows version because my desktop runs on that (it’s basically a glorified Xbox anyway). My laptop is a Mac (because I like my work computer to actually work – had to do a full reinstall of Windows 10 several times now because I have the worst luck when it comes to updates breaking things.) I’ll check out the Mac version too, however – pretty sure you can run Sims 2 on a potato nowadays.

        2. ???*

          If you contact the support people at Origin (EAs official site) they’ll give you the sims 2 ultimate edition (the base game plus ALL the expansion packs and stuff packs) for free! They were running a promo several years ago when they were giving it away for free. So this isn’t like a stolen version or anything illegal.

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            I heard about that, but I had no idea they still do that! Is there anything particular they expect (like proof you own it already) or can you just go “hi I’d like a legal version of the Sims 2 plz k thnx”?

    2. Wannabikkit*

      I am at this moment downloading my first ever purchase on Steam – Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. I’m looking forward to playing it. I haven’t done much PC gaming in years.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        omg I am SO excited for you! I finally got bullied into playing it by friends and it’s definitely up there in best games I’ve ever played.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            The DLCs are also of very high quality. Your game version might include them anyway, but if not, watch out for them on sale!

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve got that installed on my PC but somehow have never played it (got too into Dragon Age replays). Can you let me know how hard/easy you find it?

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Easy mode is great and I was less likely to die than I was of some stages of DAI*

          *There’s a few sections where you play another character where I struggled but on balance it’s harder but easier than when you have to enter the Fade in any Dragon Age game.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            The only good thing about the fade in DA:O in my opinion was the music. Sooo creepy.

            Will definitely take a look at the Witcher 3 then. Apparently I do have all the DLC for it, but can’t remember purchasing it.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              It’s on sale intermittently a lot, I picked up the GotY edition on GOG with all the DLCs for around £10-15? Bargain.

              If you use guides for playthroughs, try and keep as unspoiled as possible. There are a few choices in the game which really do change the storyline and it’s worth going in as blind as possible (and prepare for PAIN).

    3. New Business*

      What are your favorite large group zoom games. For between 4-10 players. Australian lockdowns are never going to end. Even after lockdown since our friends and us all have small children it’s really convenient to play online with all kids in their own bed. We play among us, scribble, and codenames. Open to anything and everything. Bonus points for easy to learn. Extra bonus if their are any christian games for my Bible study group.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Jackbox games are really fun, you get multiples in a pack and they’re often on sale.

        They are…unsuitable for Bible Study groups though lmao.

      2. Love WFH*

        Garticphone.com is hilarious. (1) Each player writes a sentence. (2) You’re presented with a sentence and quickly draw a picture of it. (3) You see a picture and guess a sentence for it. (4) You see a “guessed” sentence and draw a picture for it….
        At the end, you see the sequence of drawings and guesses for each original sentence. We laughed so hard!

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Jack box Quiplash is my favourite, you get prompts for a joke and write the punchlines and people vote on them. We’ve played it with my parents (no swearing allowed!) and my friends (which got filthier than a flooded sewage works) and got very different experiences.

        However, with my bevy of young nieces and nephews (I think I have 13…) we’ve been using Desktop Simulator which enables you to basically convert any board game to online. Essentially it’s a framework. I think there’s a few Bible related ones that people have uploaded for use – there’s definitely everything else.

    4. Beancat*

      I’ve been playing a lot of Elder Scrolls Online! The companion system is really fun and I’ve done my best to befriend Bastian – his quests were interesting! My spouse has finally unlocked Mirri’s first quest.

      We’ve also been playing The Great Ace Attorney. I can’t believe after all these years we finally get to play it! Ace Attorney is near and dear to our hearts; we met because my friend made an online group for it. This is the first Ace Attorney game where we didn’t have to crowd together and hunch over a DS screen – we can play it on the TV!

        1. Beancat*

          It’s so fun and well-localized! I get where they’d have difficulty, but I’m so glad they finally did it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I saw Ace Attorney on the Steam store this weekend, I’ve never played any of the games. Seen how loved it is though! Is it fast paced or more cerebral?

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Definitely more cerebral – you get all the time in the world to look over all your evidence and statements. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out the logic the game expects you to use, however, but even then it often makes sense if you think about it.
          However, there is a punishment system for when you present the wrong evidence, though it usually gives you a few tries. The few times where a mistake would mean an immediate game over the judge says so explicitly. And, of course, you can save scum if you want to (which I totally have never done why do you ask *ahem*).

        2. Beancat*

          Definitely cerebral, but I admit to it feeling fast paced when you’re in the throes of a trial, you’re closing in on the true culprit, and Cornered starts playing. Then I forget I actually have unlimited time to present the thing I need, haha! Usually by then my spouse and I are tripping over each other to blurt out what the next piece of evidence is, or where the contradiction is – it’s very easy and tons of fun to get swept up in it all!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            That’s a relief. Am getting on in years and have arthritis so stuff that requires quick button mashing isn’t possible.

            I really like this whole ‘what evidence is best, what contradicts their statement?’ thing you describe. Sounds like it’s great fun and dare I say a bit amusing at times?

            1. Beancat*

              It is definitely both! Sometimes the way a case leads you will leave you absolutely gobsmacked with “how did we get here??” There’s plenty of specific moments, but I don’t want to spoil them in case you decide to play!

            2. Phoenix Wright*

              Fortunately there’s nothing on a timer in these games and no button mashing, not even in the minigames (sometimes during investigations you’ll have to dust evidence for fingerprints, or spray luminol to look for blood), so you can play at your own pace.

              And while the stories themselves are serious (most, if not all cases are murders), the games are full of charm and humor and memorable characters. If you don’t mind reading a lot, I can’t recommend this series enough!

      2. Phoenix Wright*

        I might be a liiiiittle biased (just look at my username here), but the Ace Attorney series truly is one of my favorites of all time. And just like you said, I also can’t believe they finally localized both Great AA titles. Haven’t played them yet because I only finished AA6 a few weeks ago (fantastic game, and it became one of my favorites), but I preordered them as soon as they were available. Hope you’re having a lot of fun with them!

    5. LDN Layabout*

      Still a mix of Genshin Impact and FFXIV. I have also jumped into MHY’s phone otome game, Tears of Themis, and really like it.

      Currently thinking I’ll finish this month of Genshin and take a break for a while before jumping back in. I tend to do this with big online games when it either starts feeling like a chore or I run out of storyline, I stop subscribing, move onto something else and jump back on it when there have been a few big updates.

    6. Hello Sweetie!*

      Going old school – Chrono Trigger! It started because my husband has never played it and I’ve been telling him that he missed out for years. So he started playing on Steam, and my two kids are now super invested in watching him play. It’s really cute to watch them get so excited! My 4-year old picked most of the names (she named the princess after herself) but my favorite is she named the frog Bob.

      So now I’m also playing because I’m having fun watching as well, but also because it helps me from being a backseat player when I am also playing.

    7. SparklingBlue*

      Been waiting on the Sonic Colors remake to come in the mail–loved the Wii version, so had to get the remake

    8. The Dude Abides*

      Been playing lots of the Arena Jumpstart event to grind the new cards.

      Trying to avoid the Tibalt’s Trickery “deck,” but somehow still finding ways to smash.

    9. heckofabecca*

      I had my first D&D session as a DM! My four players LOVED IT. I spent over an hour describing the world, its history, the religions, the different regions… they were taking notes, making awesome suggestions, it was WONDERFUL. I’m working on putting together resources for them on google drive so they have searchable notes. AND I’ve been working on painting my regional map now that I have a functional iPad and apple pencil. :D

      The campaign I’m playing in online is meeting today after a long break, so I am super excited for that!

      PLUS I started playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps (a video game) at my friends’ house, and on easy mode I have been able to do pretty damn good! I am famously TERRIBLE at video games—the button-pressing is VERY hard for me—so I’m really glad to be making progress. The game itself is also lovely—wonderful visuals, gentle music, great in-game teaching. Highly recommended!

    10. Wordnerd*

      Downloaded MiniMetro on my phone. Also starting on Saturday around noon American time, unsurpassablez on Twitch is hosting a stardew valley tournament with ConcernedApe!

    11. SoloKid*

      Katamari Damacy. I played it when it first came out, and it still holds the same joy for me on the Switch. What an odd but memorable game!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        It’s so quirky but so addictive. I’ve recommended it to so many newbies when it’s on sale on Switch and everyone loves it.

    12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Confined to bedroom again due to back not working so got Dragon Age: Origins on the laptop for my…errr..probably 40th play through at this point.

      It’s an older game but wonderfully distracting, beautifully plotted, allows pausing of combat and has rich dialogue and far reaching options.

      Although I’m stuck between Alistair and Zevran. Again :p

      1. Codex*

        Dragon Age: Origins is so well-crafted and soulful! I fell madly in love with it and hold all other games against that standard. Hoping against hope that they do a legendary rerelease like they did for Mass Effect.

        And it’s always Alistair in the end, isn’t it? ;)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Ahh true. Although one of the saves I imported into Inquisition had my Cousland marry Alistair and keep Zevran on the side ;)

      2. LDN Layabout*

        Dragon Origins is the best of the franchise, although I have a soft spot for DAI.

        Please let number 4 be good…

        (and the answer is Alistair, always)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Inquisition is fun, Dorian in particular! Oh my.

          I’m keeping my fingers crossed for DA4. I know they can’t get the voice actor for Cullen back (problematic isn’t the word, don’t look up unless you’re okay with hearing transphobic stuff) but I hope they keep the character in some form.

          Alistair conversations in camp forever :)

          1. LDN Layabout*

            I love Cullen (I have actually cried on replaying when you see him singing towards the beginning and when you KNOW all of his storyline and why he reacts that way) but I’m glad they didn’t get him back (I’ve forced myself to separate art/artist in this case otherwise I’d never be able to play again).

            My hopes aren’t high but I /want/ it to be good so bad. I hope the failures they’ve had, coupled with the ME remaster success have reminded them what their bread and butter is.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Oo, not tried the ME remaster yet. Is there a noticeable difference in the graphics on ME3?

              1. LDN Layabout*

                I haven’t played it yet but feedback all around from friends who have is that they nailed it. Not sure about the graphics themselves though.

    13. Twisted Lion*

      Just started Warhammer Chaosbane because its free on xbox gold. Reminds me of Diablo so its ok so far. Otherwise playing Puyo Puyo/Tetris 2 which is wacky lol

    14. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      I did An Awful Thing in the past couple of weeks. Waaay back in the day there was this game called Jezzball that my friend and I were hooked on. Hadn’t played it or even thought of it in years. Got curious and checked online to see if it was still out there. Yeah, nothing ever dies on the internet. Of course I started playing. It’s a great time waster.

      1. AGD*

        I had Entertainment Pack 4 on my Windows 3.1 machine in the ’90s and this might have been my favorite part! Then I rediscovered JezzBall around 2002 and played it all the time for months. Same thing happened about a decade later. Maybe it’s time for another round.

    15. Nacho*

      I picked up Hollow Knight last week since I had some Best Buy reward certificates that were going to expire in a few days. It’s fun, but it can be really frustrating at times. So much time wasted because I went down the wrong path and missed a bench, or didn’t find the one NPC that sells notch slots/buys relics/etc… until I was almost done with the game.

    16. Southern Girl*

      Forza Horizons 4. We are over 65. We just love racing vehicles around and running into things!

        1. Southern Girl*

          How hard is it to figure out? I am lots of games are very difficult to play, not at all intuitive and hard to get anywhere even with constant googling to try to move forward.

          1. The Dude Abides*

            In the game’s Crash mode, you intentionally try to cause huge wrecks that do lots of damage to other cars.

    17. lasslisa*

      I am… What feels like pretty far into Psychonauts 2, but I’ve thought that several times now already, so maybe there are still a few twists awaiting. I loved the first one and I’m enjoying this similarly much – the storytelling is very emotionally rich and the gameplay is varied and fast paced but with plenty of time to go back and find whatever goodies I missed.

    18. Clumsy Ninja*

      I got a new phone, and Farm Heroes Saga came with it (as well as Candy Crush). I’ve discovered that it’s kind of soothing to do a level or two of a simple matching game when I’m waiting for something to happen. Totally not what I consider real gaming in any way, but that’s what I’m up to.

  3. St. Claire*

    Alison, I saw on yesterday’s open thread that you are doing a redesign of AAM later this year. It’s funny, this is one site where I don’t think about the design that much, I am just here for the content. But I find the current organization of this site straightforward and easy to use and I hope we won’t lose the recent post list in the side column or the Surprise Me button at the top (which has entertained me at work through many boring hours). I am excited to see what you come up with!

    1. DistantAudacity*

      I agree – it’s very easy to use, and «flows smoothly» even when reading on a tablet. (I’ve found that a lot of sites lately end up being a bit wonky after a re-design – they end up having floaty bits that end up getting in the way, etc. I expect a lot of that has to do with ad revenue…).

      Easy to read, easy to find content. If the re-design is on the graphics that’s one thing, but I really do like the usability of this site.

      note: I know nothing on how accommodating it is for alternate reading modes/accessibility etc.

      I would, however, have like a Patreon or Ko-fi link ;)

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s only smooth and easy to use if you use an ad blocked, though. Otherwise it’s a disaster.

        1. Anona*

          Disagree. I have the ads (not blocked) and they’re fine. It likely depends on your type of phone and/or browser. I use Chrome and a Pixel, and it’s been a long time (years?) since I’ve had ad issues. They’re there, they’re fine.

        2. Dr B Crusher*

          I’ve reported disruptive ads to Alison and they get taken care of pretty quickly. Not entirely sure how ads work but I think it’s partly geographical? Which is why some people might be getting disruptive ads when others are not?

          1. Catherine*

            I think it’s partly geographical–when I was located in America or England the ads were reasonable. After moving back to Japan, I got a LOT of upsetting, sexually explicit ads, so I put an adblocker on.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Whoa — there should be no sexually explicit (or upsetting!) ads here — if anyone ever sees them, please report them to me and I will get them blocked ASAP. Same with political ads (which slip through sometimes despite being banned).

              1. Catherine*

                The ads were for sexually explicit incest manga, with all text in Japanese. I didn’t feel comfortable sending you screenshots because it was pretty gross. Will report if I see them again.

            2. Tea and Sympathy*

              I’m also in Japan and I get few ads, and never any like that, from this site. I have seen ads like that occasionally from various other sites where you would not expect to see that kind of ad, so maybe it’s a Japan thing?

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m using the standard browser in Android, and the ads cause me very little problem. For some reason if I scroll with the left thumb, it brings up comment boxes frequently. But I think that might be me can my old phone. If you’re redesigning, it’s worth a mention.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Ohhh will the redesign have likes/upvotes for comments? There’s always so much gold in the comment section and I love the sense of community here.

      I am also a fan of the no/minimal imagery on AAM. Generic, posed stock imagery winds up my cynicism.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Speaking of stock imagery, I hope Alison adds the lively stock photos she has on The Cut, because some of those have been golden.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Some places have a timed edit button, so you can fix “Gah, not latter, former! The former one!” but can’t keep resculpting your comment and then claiming never to have said that.

        1. Cj*

          I never thought about having it timed (like on Slate that has a 5 minute window, and where I also comment) for that reason. It’s a good idea. I mainly want to edit here to fix typos, which seems to be the case with a lot of the commenters.

        2. Jackalope*

          Yeah, I like the timed edit buttons. It’s good for typos and also for making sure that you don’t completely change things. In the other hand, I’m used to the lack of edit button so if we don’t get one I’m okay with that too.

          1. Batgirl*

            The nesting fails are my only complaint on what is otherwise a really great set up, and easily my favourite commenting space. It’s really common for me to press ‘submit’ on a comment, only to be told it’s a duplicate, then it doesn’t appear for ages, then it appears in a misnested place. There isn’t any way to salvage it currently.

        3. Observer*

          This is what I’d love if it’s reasonably easy to implement. I think that everyone would benefit – the people who make the occasional typo (I think that that’s probably most of us) and the people who are reading. Because if there is no correction, it’s not always obvious. And if there is a correction, it often kind of interferes with the flow and introduces weird nesting. Not that I want people to stop putting in those corrections. I just think it would be awesome if it became less necessary.

      2. Myrin*

        I believe Alison has said before that that would require people to register/create accounts and she doesn’t want that to be necessary. I don’t know if that would be a case for a timed edit button like Falling Diphthong suggests, a concept I’ve never heard of before but which sounds extremely practical!

    3. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I too like the simplicity of this site format and hope it won’t get too bells and whistle-y! Less is more. That said, I think the ability to edit comments, at least for a short time, sounds great.

      I’m not sure I would like a “likes” button. It feels like then, I might be more focused on how many likes I did or didn’t get rather than being focused on contributing to a conversation. Don’t we already have SO many other social places where we are rated/given feedback on how “good” our statements are? I find it restful that that is not the case here currently.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I feel that way too about likes and upvotes. It’s not really necessary and would feel too social media-y and less discussion-y.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that’s my take — I have no plans for upvotes, and and I want to keep things as minimalist as possible.

        One constraint with adding new technical features is that I need to keep things as lightweight as possible so the overall site performance (loading time, etc.) doesn’t suffer and so that it doesn’t break anything else. We’ve done a ton of customization to the technology on the back-end of the site to keep it functioning well and to add new features people really wanted (like the blue line next to new comments), and sometimes when I’ve tried to add new things in the past, it’s ended up breaking something else. This site gets a huge amount of traffic (3 million visits a month) and so stuff needs to stay lightweight in order to keep working … or else I could pour a ton of money into tech to keep it functioning, but I prefer not to use that option :) So it’s not as straightforward as “X would be cool, thus we will add it.”

        That’s especially true when it comes to the comment section. There are very few comment section technical set-ups that do all my must-have’s while still keeping people anonymous and without requiring logins … so I’ve stuck to the basics.

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          So thats what the blue lines are…I thought they were kind of nesting dividers or something.

        2. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Thank you for not requiring logins! : ) That’s made all the difference between my participating here and just lurking in my other favorite comment sections.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I think “like” buttons would inhibit comments. I know it can be annoying to open comments and see a bunch of +1 or agree posts, but NOT being able to thumbs up or down seems to spark more actual discussion.

      I would like favorites though. I’m not sure if that would be possible without registering for an account though.

      1. Pennyworth*

        I’m not in favor of ‘like’ buttons, or up and down votes. I read some sites with those and it changes my mindset – do I agree or disagree, if I comment will it be popular etc. I’d hate for any changes to damage the tone of AAM. The only change I’d quite like is a timed edit function, but even that is not very important to me. I really like the way AAM works right now.

    5. Chaordic One*

      I agree that the AAM website is very straightforward and works well. It doesn’t need any major changes. Having and edit feature where you could go back and correct typos would be nice. So would having a like button. But those are not essential.

      A political website (that I frequently look at) revealed a redesigned website last week. They changed the site so that now everything is white text on a black background. I find it much more difficult to look at and read, but maybe that’s just me. Comments now show up on pop-ups and you now have to re-register with a 3rd party service before you can comment (which is doable, but a hassle).

      I hope Alison can retain the current policy for comments on the AAM website. Sometimes you don’t appreciate something until you see it handled badly by someone else.

      1. the cat's ass*

        I really love how clean and streamlined AAM is and hope it will continue through necessary updates.

    6. tangerineRose*

      Sometimes in the middle of a long string of comments, I think it would be nice to be able to close up that string and go to the next subject.

        1. Eden*

          I’m not this user, but what I would like (and thought they meant) is if I’m like 50 replies deep into 100 replies to a comment, I could close all of them without scrolling to the top (which can be hard on mobile without overshooting). Reddit has something like this on their mobile site. But what you were saying about needing to handle tons of traffic makes complete sense so I get if that’s not on the roadmap

  4. Teatime is Goodtime*

    Does anyone have any other songs that work like “bring Sally up” (a.k.a. “Flowers”) for exercise?

    For those unfamiliar, the song has a sample in it that goes “bring Sally up, bring Sally down” and then a bunch of other stuff. I’ve seen it most often used with pushups or squats where you’re supposed to go down at “down” and then come up at “up”.

    1. WS*

      Look for work songs and sea shantys and modern interpretations of them – most songs with a rhythm like that are to keep people in rhythm while they work!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I like line-dance type songs – not ashamed of my love for the Macarena, but my favorite is the Cha Cha Slide (in which the vague directions are actually the lyrics of the song).

    3. Annie J*

      If you do decide to look in to see shanties, I’d highly recommend a group called the longest Johns.
      They do excellent renditions of traditional work songs as well

      1. California Dreamin’*

        My daughter and some friends have a little online youth journalism project. Last year they were doing an article about the sudden popularity of sea shanties among youth. My daughter reached out to the Longest Johns and they agreed to be interviewed for her article! She had to do it at 2:00 AM our time, and it was quite an adventure for her. I thought they were very cool for sitting for the interview.

    4. ALM2019*

      One of the Peloton instructors (Jess Sims) uses this format a lot for the end of strength workouts. She basically uses any song with a repetitive chorus – the one that sticks out is Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman”. Every time she says that line you do a burpee (and jumping jacks in between I think). You may be able to apply that format to alot of songs.

    5. 100 percent that BEC*

      We use “Push It” at my gym- every time the lyrics “push it” come up, do an overhead press. It gets spicy at the end!

    6. lemon meringue*

      I had a class once where they used the Ghostbusters theme like this–I think you had to do a burpee every time they say “Ghostbusters” which was unfortunate.

    7. Katie*

      Rock Lobster! Down, down . . .

      You could also have fun and get a little more motion acting out these lyrics:

      Twistin’ round the fire, havin’ fun
      Bakin’ potatoes, bakin’ in the sun

      Put on your noseguard
      Hit on the lifeguard
      Pass the tanning butter

      1. Sleepless*

        Aw, that brings back memories! I was in high school when the B-52s’ early stuff came out (they were local to me). Rock Lobster was very popular at dances and we’d get lower and lower on the “down, down” and some of the boys would lie on the floor and wave their arms around like a bug.

      1. hmmmmmmmmmmmm*

        I was going to say, going up/down to every ‘b’ in this song was a classic team-building exercise in Girl Scouts when I was a kid.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Go back to an earlier generation, and look at “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. That song is a real aerobic workout!

    9. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve recently discovered “Legend” by The Score. I really like the beat for any repetitive exercise, like squats, kettlebells, etc.

  5. Expiring Cat Memes*

    People who have to make anything and everything all about them. We all know at least one, who’s yours and how do you deal with them?

    Mine is in the comments for those who prefer to skip the negative vibes this weekend.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      My mother. Doesn’t matter what you’re going through, somehow she’ll steamroll it with an endless blabber about her feelings, usually accompanied by a detailed rehash of situations from years or decades ago in her own life. And not a constructive ‘here’s what worked for me in that situation’ kind of rehash, a ‘let’s pick at old wounds and pleasure-dine on misery’ kind of rehash. It’s exhausting.

      I find myself disengaging from her more and more because I don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with her misery wallowing on top of whatever I’m already going through. Which exacerbates it, because it’s attention/sympathy seeking behaviour and my withdrawal kicks off a self-perpetuating cycle where she desperately intensifies the FeelingsTalk to try to reconnect with me.

      On a few occasions I’ve had success with saying something in the moment but it’s a crapshoot whether she’ll respond well, delve deeper into MiseryFeelings, or try to start an argument. Big picture talks have never gone over well due to her knack for selective hearing, and frankly, dealing with years of snarky hyperbole about how she’s not allowed to talk at all anymore wouldn’t be an improvement.

      The only thing that seems to be reasonably effective is when other family members are around and we can work together to cut her off and change the subject. She hates not being centre of attention, but if/when her passive-aggressive response to it veers into the realm of truly ridiculous it becomes an open joke and mocking ensues. Which is really mean, right? But at least she finally puts a sock in it and the family gathering stops sucking. Part of me thinks I should try to be a better daughter, but mostly I’m just fed up and running out of f***s to give.

      1. Dumblydore*

        My mum is not narcissistic like that but I find her emotional reactions unnecessary and annoying. She has a big reaction to life events that affect me way more than her. As a result I’ve shut down and nowadays refrain from sharing any difficulties. There were times in my life where I would have appreciated support from my mother but I know I will only end up consoling her and dealing with her emotions. If I ever get diagnosed with cancer or whatever – touch wood – my immediate thought would be “ugh I have to deal with Mum’s feelings.”

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          I wouldn’t characterise mine as narcissistic, just really emotionally immature. I had to hold back a snork about your cancer comment though because that is exactly what mine did when it came to my father’s major health issues. Still don’t know if it ever occurred to her that his own feelings about his mortality are at least equivalent to hers!

          1. Deanna Troi*

            Yes! When my uncle was going through chemo, my father said “I will be so upset if my younger brother dies – it will really make me contemplate my own mortality.” My eyes rolled out of my head.

            Just out of curiosity, not to argue with you since obviously you know her and I don’t, but why wouldn’t you describe her behavior as narcissistic? Just food for thought. Once my mom and I started reading about narcissism, it gave us tools to help us deal with my sister (I don’t really care about dealing with my father – my parents are divorced).

            1. Expiring Cat Memes*

              I wouldn’t describe it a narcissistic because she does have a high level of empathy, she does feel shame and remorse for her actions, and it’s more about getting attention and sympathy than needing to feel self-important. It’s like she’s just stuck at the emotional maturity level of a small child where she needs constant reassurance and validation, is terrified of abandonment and will cry/tantrum/be hateful when things don’t go her way. She grew up in poverty and had an abusive, traumatic childhood, and while she’s done a lot of therapy and work on herself over the years, her psychological development is irreparably damaged by her upbringing.

              In the thread below, someone mentioned the term “parentification”, which is one I hadn’t heard before but seems to describe it really well. She was parentified as a child, and in a lesser sense she has done that to me too. I was very much loved, well fed, cared for and protected, so she provided for me in those ways, but she also relied on me emotionally in a way that (I’ve been slowly realising) is grossly inappropriate to rely on a child. She treated me as her captive best friend since I was born and I’m only now questioning the extent of what I’ve normalised through my upbringing. There are so many thoughts and questions whirling around in my head right now.

              I certainly didn’t expect my original question to open up the can of worms that it did – I thought we were just going to laugh at annoying people and their stupid comments! But I’m very grateful to everyone who commented for their input. The AAM community is truly an amazing, insightful place, and I’m sure I’m going to have more questions to ask after I process it some more.

        2. Generic Name*

          Omg, my mom is like this. When my sister experienced a pregnancy loss, I was trying to focus on supporting my sister, but my mom basically made it all about her grief at losing a grandchild. I really hope she didn’t spew any of her self centered grief at my sister.

        3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I did have my first cancer when my Mom was still alive, and since it was the same kind her mother had, and died from, I didn’t want to upset her, but also didn’t want to deal with her drama. So I just told her I needed a hysterectomy for mumble number reasons. As Hubby and I were pulling out of the driveway, she came out on her porch and bellowed, “YOU’RE LUCKY IT’S NOT CANCER MY MOM DIED OF CANCER AND IT WAS THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME …” We could still hear her a block away. I told Hubby I was much more likely to die of embarrassment.

        4. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Sounds like you’ve put your mum on what Captain Awkward would call “an information diet,” which is protecting you from further hurt from her. Bravo, and may you find the love and support you need for major life events from people who can give it to you in a nurturing way.

        5. ShortT*

          “There were times in my life where I would have appreciated support from my mother but I know I will only end up consoling her and dealing with her emotions.”

          This is why I haven’t spoken to my mother about deeply personal matters in years. I don’t have enough spoons to manage her feelings and mine.

      2. PollyQ*

        My mother has some of this, although it sounds like it’s not quite as bad as yours. I guarantee you, the last thing you need to be worrying about is “how to be a better daughter.” I don’t think there’s any real solution besides continuing to disengage and training yourself to recognize that this is how she is and almost certainly always will be. Managing your own expectations for how much support and sympathy you can expect from her is going to be key.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Thank you. I’ve been slow to realise that I need to better manage my expectations and you’re totally right on that being key.

      3. Rosalie K*

        What has made things better for me in a similar relationship: distancing, restricting information, setting hard limits, and therapy.

        I put two thousand miles between us, and limited visits to two days maximum a couple of times a year (the most I could reasonably tolerate, I decided). Conversations were kept to light, meaningless stuff and kept short – they didn’t get to know what was actually happening in my life. They got cute stuff my cats did, movies I’d seen, something interesting and impersonal I’d read online, that sort of thing. And I set hard limits – if they tried to pry, got passive-aggressive and woe-is-me, started complaining about how hard done by they were, I ended the conversation straightaway, and didn’t call again until our next scheduled call (I called them once a week, for ten minutes, on a weeknight that worked for me). I told them flat out that I didn’t want to have those conversations and wasn’t going to listen, and I enforced that (mostly – it took some practice to get comfortable actually doing it but I got stronger and better at it as I realised it worked!).

        And I went to therapy to figure out how being raised by this person has affected me, how our relationship was hurting me, and how I could best move forward from that. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. My life is unrecognisable now from four years ago and it’s almost entirely down to therapy and the changes to that relationship I’ve been able to make.

        I’m sorry you are going through this, and I want you to know it can be better. It’s hard, and it takes a lot of energy and time, but it doesn’t have to be like that. I promise!

      4. Generic Name*

        My mom is like this, although she’s usually less negative. She’s actually closer to the toxic positivity end of the spectrum. She loves telling me updates about relatives and people from my hometown who I’ve never met. Especially a distant cousin I don’t know. My mom is always sure to mention the race of his wife, and every time I say, why is this information important?? My mom is a kind and generous person, and she’s a wonderful grandmother to my and my sister’s children, but I think she’s very emotionally immature. I can’t really think of any other way to frame it.

      5. Wishing You Well*

        Maintaining a boundary with a narcissistic parent was the best thing I ever did for myself. I can’t express how much better my life is now. Please put a limit on what you’ll tolerate from your mother and act on it. You might experience the huge life improvement I did.

      6. the cat's ass*

        Pleasure-dine on misery. Yoicks, a beautiful and horrifying way to name it. Thank you, saving that one for future use!

      7. Hrodvitnir*

        Haha (sympathetic laughter) – you just described my mother so well! I read the first paragraph to my partner and it really is a great description of her behaviour.

        She is somewhat different in that what she mostly wants to call back to is her failures as a mother and how she’s so sorry about her parenting. Unfortunately, it’s waaaay too late for that, and her behaviour has not actually changed in the last decades.

        I got diagnosed with cancer this year, and getting daily updates on her feelings about it really made me want to cut her off (we’re low contact, I will probably go no contact at some point once this is resolved. Feels cruel to cut her off when we still don’t really know the outcome.)

      8. Batgirl*

        My partner’s mother does the dining on misery AND the relentless centering of herself for attention. Her traits are also well known and worked around in the family, but the humor approach in yours actually sounds healthier; her family’s approach is “suck it up until you have to cut her off”. The family is in ribbons as a result.
        We both had to move home for way longer than we’d like due to Covid reasons and for a time we were totally separated. Now we are a few weeks away from getting our house keys (hopefully), and he’s on his last legs. I’m so worried about his mental exhaustion. She “can’t cope” with so much and makes it his responsibility to look after her. She used to welcome a visiting cat, but after realizing that Partner enjoys Cat’s company more than hers, neither he or the cat can do anything right and the cat has started dodging the place too, unless partner is home alone. I can’t wait until we have a door to close on her and a phone to hang up so he can set some boundaries.

    2. Anónima*

      Yeah I can relate. It’s my mum too.
      Someone on here recommended a book about emotionally immature parents and I was reading that last night.
      It’s released lots of stuff in me. I haven’t slept much and I keep crying.
      I think you can’t really get emotionally involved like you would do with an emotionally stable person, because that requires reciprocity, but rather just have some kind of emotional relatedness on your terms instead.
      For me, that means keeping things superficial.
      Last night was hard because I realised that I’ve allowed her behaviour to dictate to me how I should be all my life and it’s damaged me so much. Now I’m healing but sometimes it feels so devastating, like the pain will never end. I know it will, but it’s hard.
      All the best to you.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I’m sorry, it sounds like this bit right now is really tough for you. But it sounds cathartic too to finally understand those hurts and give them names. Virtual hugs from an internet stranger if you want them.

        Would you mind sharing the name of that book? My mother’s emotional immaturity stems from a traumatic childhood and she’s used me as her friend and therapist literally since the day I was born. Part of my own emotional maturation is figuring out how to be an empathetic human while still feeling entitled to assert appropriate child/parent boundaries with her. Sounds like a worthwhile read.

        1. Anónima*

          Thank you. Internet hugs gratefully received :)
          The book is “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents” by Lindsay C Gibson.
          Worth a read.

    3. Beancat*

      My mother. For as long as I can remember, everything has had to be about her. It came to a head when we were visiting once and my spouse ended up at urgent care after a minor accident (he’s okay!). We didn’t get back to her house as early as she wanted that evening, and when I called to tell her what had happened with the accident she got huffy, saying “we waited up for you!” No care about whether my spouse was okay.

      The next morning I had told her we had to leave at 8 am to make our trip back home. She wanted a family breakfast. She took her sweet time getting ready, and appeared downstairs at 7:58 saying she was ready to go to breakfast.

      For the first time in my life, I told her no. “Sorry, we can’t go now. I told you we had to leave at 8 am.” She was furious, but my spouse and I picked up our things and left. And that was how we had to deal with her – telling her no and following through.

      We stayed in contact with her for a little bit after that, but I ultimately went no contact two years ago. It was the best thing I’ve done for my mental health. Right up until then she continued to make every major thing that happened all about her. I assume it’s still the same, but I don’t talk with any of them. Like you, I ran out of fucks to give.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      There’s been a couple people in my life where it’s all about them.

      After a big life event, I realized I had to take control of these energy draining situations as I had too much on my own plate. I went low contact with one and no contact with the other. While they are not immediate family they are still relatives and I do feel bad about things getting this sour for them.

      For years, I used my wise friend’s advice about people who were self-centered. My friend said that is because their struggle to survive from one moment to the next is just so hard and so intense for them they become very self-focused. I can see that, I get it. To me the next step in logic is if life is that hard, then get help- be it counseling or medical help or a mix, but they can choose to do something to help themselves. And they don’t. I cannot be their number one plan for survival in this world. It requires me to give up too much of myself- that I do not have to give.

      It was hard to change what I was doing in these relationships. Once I started realizing that it was ME who did not see them clearly as they are, I could stop wishing they would turn into some one else. I had to take off my rose colored sunglasses. And I also had to look at what I was doing to allow the situation to go on for decades.
      This meant I had to change my thinking on a number of matters. Now I try to see if the person is doing something/anything to help themselves with their predicaments before I jump in. I am more apt to respond with, “Do you have a plan for [thing you are complaining about]?”. And I can use that as a filter to guide my next response or steps.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Oh yeah, “Do you have a plan for…” is good for making you an unsatisfying person to vent to. I’m also a fan of “Has something new happened or are you just repeating what you’ve already told me several times?”. She HATES that.

      2. Jean (just Jean)*

        I cannot be their number one plan for survival in this world. It requires me to give up too much of myself- that I do not have to give.

        Absolutely. In these situations, the self-giving is never enough, even if I give until every other part of my own life approaches collapse. Even sainthood–which most definitely does NOT describe me–has limits.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          Thissss. I had a “friend” who Would. Not. Go. To. Therapy. because (a) it totally wouldn’t work for him, and (b) he had me, so if I just did *enough*, he would be fixed.

      3. Squirrel Nutkin*

        How wise you are to think about our own perceptions of these difficult people and to stop expecting them to be different and instead to focus on our own responses!

        I have some self-focused friends whom I don’t engage with so much at length anymore except when I want some company on the phone while I do tedious housework. That sounds awful, but it’s really turned around my experience of those previously draining calls, which used to leave me resentful. Now, I’m getting company and housework done, and they’re still getting my sympathetic ear . . . but only when I feel emotionally up to giving it.

    5. LadyWhistledown*

      We’re dealing with this with my husband’s mother. Two excellent resources:

      Captain Awkward (amazing insights, useful situation framing, and scripts)
      Karyl McBride’s “Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing the Daughter’s of Narcissistic Mothers” (the author has a psychology PhD and a narcissistic mother)

      Oh and therapy. Just… lots of therapy as you process a LOT of complex emotions. It’s pretty devastating to come to terms with your mom’s limitations and failures to love and protect. Intense narcissism is a form of emotional abuse that is just as damaging as any other kind of child abuse but without the cultural hallmarks that would allow you to receive necessary validation and support from others. With time and some family history you can often develop a kind of detached compassion or even objective observer status (oh look, she’s doing the thing again) since these people are often damaged from their childhood BUT don’t be tricked into thinking that their victimization allows for awful behavior. We are all responsible for our choices and you’ll notice how even severe narcissists manage their behavior around some people (law enforcement, various socially high status individuals etc) while seemingly being unable to control their awfulness around you. “It’s just who they are” is certifiable nonsense.

      There’s an anger stage. You can’t skip it to proceed directly to logic and compassion and distance. Feel the anger. Feel the grief at not having the kind of mother everyone else writes adoring cards to on Mother’s Day. Having a living mother who is not a mother is a special kind of hell. Find folks who can support you on the journey without trying to “help” because “but family!”. Best of luck!

    6. Anona*

      My college roommate is somewhat like this. I’ve accepted that’s who she is. We don’t spend much in person time together, and I roll my eyes sometimes when she gets self focused in the group chat, but it’s helped when I’ve accepted that’s just how she is.

      1. Anona*

        And I used to try really hard to be close to her, willing to really go out of my way, and it wasn’t usually reciprocated. Once I stopped and just let it be what it is, it felt much better.

        My husband’s mom is like this too. We both roll our eyes at it. It gets to him more than me sometimes, but I just realize this is how she is and I can’t change it. I can just protect myself if she’s trying to cross a boundary.

      1. Codex*

        I believe I’m receiving the Silent Treatment in response to this tactic, which is an ill-conceived punishment, really.

        1. Might Be Spam*

          Sometimes the Silent Treatment is like a gift. My sister has no idea how much I look forward to when she gives me the Silent Treatment.

    7. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      A friend, who is otherwise a very good person, turns everything around to herself. I notice it so much on FB; no matter what one of our mutual friends posts, she has to one-up the person or somehow take over the discussion. I don’t think she knows she does it, it’s just how she reacts to things. Her life kind of sucks in so many ways that I think she needs to brag and bluff to feel better about herself. But it’s still irritating!

    8. Cute Li'l UFO*

      My horrible ex who I dated for 3 years and most of the student body I was around at my first college. With Ex it ended up being a boiled frog situation. Things got worse slowly over the years but this man was ripe for that ridiculous one upsmanship of the Pain Olympics. Had a bad day? He had a worse one. Something bad happen to you? It happened to him twice, nay, thrice! When I was laid up recovering from a ruptured ovarian cyst I heard through the fog of drugs “Well *I* once had gas so bad I almost had to go to the ER, it was that bad!” and I lost it. I started laughing because I couldn’t believe he was serious. We’d already done this distance relationship thing and I had tried but couldn’t break up with him because I didn’t really have a spine then and I realized I’d have to some better planning to finally end it. When I did finally do it I did it online because I knew there would be no word in edgewise. I couldn’t in person, he blocked my car in with his body. It took a year and a half for the stalking incidences to taper down and disappear. But I was free.

      With regards to the negativity from my peers at First College it felt like a rehash of the above. Like, you’re never allowed to have a bad day because you’re so privileged at college, never mind the fact that admin and staff are not hearing your concerns about your access to education or you don’t have “real” problems no matter what kind of nebulous definition that might ever be. It was a rush to be the best, the most, the smartest, the everything at the expense of pulling the successful down like crabs in a bucket. It was seriously like that letter with the coworker “at least it’s not cancer or an eating disorder!” all the time.

      I realize that they’re not family/friend situations and being able to “just leave” is never just that. There was a fear of the unknown as I walked away. But the unknown held more potential than what I was surrounded by.

      1. Maxie's Mommy*

        Love the hospital story!! My ex was complaining loud and long about his headache not 12 hours after my hip was replaced. The nurse heard him and really let him have it: “she had her hip replaced!! She wins!! Go in there and ask what you can do for her!! Sheesh!!”

    9. Lotus*

      Ignore them/not be friends with them. If I can’t ignore them for whatever reason, keep my interactions with them as short and superficial as possible.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, same. My ex-friend used to call me in the middle of the night and moan about her horrible life when she was so drunk that she couldn’t remember doing it the next day. She was very unhappy, and truly proved to me that money can’t buy genuine happiness. Her parents spoiled her with presents and probably never gave her any affection, and she had the sort of trust fund that meant she never had to work for a living. As a consequence, she’d use her parents’ networks to get a job, and then she’d rage quit, or simply quit with no notice when her boss asked her to do something that was a part of her job and that she didn’t want to do. And then she’d go back to her parents’ and beg for help again.

          I tolerated this behavior for far longer than I should have, because I valued the fact that she’d helped me get in touch with a mutual friend I’d lost touch with. But the friendship ended when I needed support and she just blew me off. The next time she called in the middle of the night, I didn’t even answer, just hung up on her. This was when I had a landline and no caller-ID, so I couldn’t block her number, but for the next month or so I took my phone off the hook so it wouldn’t ring in the middle of the night.

    10. Bluebell*

      Yup- another person on the “that’s my mom!” team. Basically, my sisters and I severely restrict sharing info, because it will become All About Her— from our health to the weather in our states. We try to keep a sense of humor and not expect to much. Recently I weakened and asked my mom if she could simply ask “how are you feeling?” when we talk. And yet, this week when we talked, she chatted for 35 mins before she asked anything about me. Oh well.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Ugh, why is it so hard to just ask how you’re going – isn’t that just standard manners? Mine will motormouth on for hours without coming up for air. Once she came over to my house an hour early before lunch, drilled on the whole time following me around the house while I was trying to finish getting ready, all through the Uber ride, the cocktail, the entrée and the main course. I finally interrupted her and asked if she cared to know how I was going, because I sure as shit did NOT care to know about the new lady from gym’s daughter’s orthotics.

    11. Potatoes gonna potate*

      holy shit I did not open this thread thinking it was going to be mostly about moms. can relate to so many of the comments. Can’t think of anyone else in my life who’s like this but I fear that I have been/may become one of those. I’ve tried really hard over the last few years to be conscious of how I interact with friends and family. It gets exhausting.

    12. Bagpuss*

      Ooof, so sorry for all those of you who have to deal with this in your family / from a parent.

      I had a (now former) coworker who was like this. She was incredibly thin-skinned when it came to her own feelings and had a hide like a rhino when it came to anyone else .

      I found that the only way to deal was to not expect any kind to empathy, sympathy or consideration nd tailor what I shared with her accordingly, and to be a bit of a grey wall towards her when she started on at whatever it was that she wanted sympathy for .
      I recall one specific incident when I mentioned that my chronic pain had flared up and I was having to cancel a much-anticipated thing I had planned for a weekend, and she immediately made this into conversation about how she had had a headache all morning…. I mean , sure, I haven’t had a pain-free day since 1996 and can’t actually remember what it’s like, but do tell me about your 2 hours of pain, which you haven’t tried to do anything for!
      Mercifully since she was a coworker and not a friend or relative I could (and did) limit what nonwork related conversations I had with her.

      1. the cat's ass*

        OMG, i think your former co-worker is now at my office! She’s…a lot. Engaging her professionally when required and grey-rocking her the rest of the time is mostly successful. even a “good morning, how are are you?” can get you in trouble. I feel bad for her but she’s so clueless that i can disengage more easily with every year that goes by.

        And I love your name!

  6. Dumblydore*

    For those who cut ties with family and ended up establishing some form of contact with them again, what made you reach out to them (or respond to them contacting you) and how did it go in the initial weeks/months?

    I have had no contact with most of my immediate family so that my mental health can recover. I’m thinking of slowly building up contact with them again. But I feel nervous about what to say; whether to try have a big talk with them or just let past events go; and how our relationship might turn out long term. They have respected my request to not contact me until I reach out to them. But there is a history of unhealthy boundaries and I don’t know if they realise the extent to which they impaired my mental health.

    How did things turn out for you?

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I can only speak about what I observed from the sidelines of this happening with 2 others in my family. The reconnection was sparked by terminal illness, and it didn’t go well. It seemed to at first, but the same issues quickly resurfaced – only this time with the added messed up dynamic of one them dying. Your situation will be totally different of course, but maybe there’s some universal truths that will resonate for you.

      Firstly, you cut ties for a good reason. That reason hasn’t gone away. You don’t have to “get over it” or feel otherwise obligated to mend relationships just because they’re family. Try if it’s what you truly want, but make sure it’s what YOU want, not what you feel guilted into doing. Trust yourself and put your needs first, because boundary-stompers won’t. If you decide you want to take those steps, get a solid therapy/support plan in place first. Therapy will help you figure out if attempting reconciliation is in your best interest, what kind of relationship you want and how you might approach those conversations.

      Secondly, some people will think that being “family” entitles them to unconditional love despite utterly shitful behaviour. I’d be leery of anyone who treats the steps of reconciliation with a casual air, who thinks that simply hearing from you means all is forgotten, or who refuses to meet you halfway on whatever it is you ask for.

      Lastly, you get to opt out at any point. Any point. You can try, not like how it’s going and nope straight back out whenever you need to. You’re not obligated to continue efforts or consider anyone else’s feelings about it.

      It sounds like a hard situation and wishing you all the best.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agree times 200%. Expect no change in them. Additionally, expect to be “scolded” for leaving them.

        If you are doing this because it satisfies something inside you, plan on not finding that satisfaction. Think of a hot stove. You burn your hand on a hot stove- but you don’t go back and try later to see if you don’t get burned, right? It’s still a hot stove.

        1. Lora*

          Yep. I went no-contact with my mother while I was in college as she had been stealing from me since I first started babysitting in junior high, but ramped it up as soon as I had credit cards she could run up. Went carefully low contact some years later, and things were OK until I mentioned that my then-husband and I were thinking of letting FIL move in as he was having a combination of health issues and abuse from step-MIL. Mom blew her top, how dare we offer space in our home to FIL and not to HER?!? She didn’t need help at that point, it was more of a “you’re giving STUFF to SOMEONE ELSE oh NOOOO” type of thing. Went back to no contact for a couple of years, then carefully back to low contact, and then she decided to retire…and moved several states to be in an apartment very close (like, a mile) from me. She announced to the rest of the family that she was doing this because I needed her “help” after getting divorced due to my “lifestyle” – she was never clear on exactly what she was going to help with, in her mind probably “helping Lora find a rich man to take care of her” but I later found out my relatives interpreted this in various ways of their own.

          Then mom started showing serious signs of mental decline: getting in car accidents because she couldn’t pay attention to the road in front of her, getting lost and needing GPS to get to the simplest places where she’d been dozens of times, forgetting to eat, leaving the stove on, unable to manage email or basic bill paying etc. Her compulsive shopping and temper tantrums got MUCH worse and her doctor sent her to an oncologist, who found a Stage 3C cancer, and also noted her mental issues and sent her to a neurologist. She took the medications she was given while she was getting cancer treatment, but as soon as chemo was over and she felt like she wasn’t being monitored anymore, she stopped and the tantrums went from screaming and stomping feet to throwing things at me and breaking furniture – in addition to stealing, which had started again within a year of her moving near me. Her doctors and financial advisor finally convinced her to go to assisted living, and she built up some nonsense in her head how my brother and her siblings would come visit her all the time (spoiler: they were sick of her crap too, only one aunt and my cousin still visit with her occasionally) but thankfully I am back to minimal contact: phone calls about once a month. That’s it. If she starts her bullshit I say OK BYE and hang up. I don’t try to explain things to her because I explained directly for decades “you need to not do that, it is rude / you are making extra work for me and I don’t have time for it / I am not the right audience for this / I will never take you to a restaurant again with this behavior / that tantrum of yours cost me $500 to repair the things you broke” and it did absolutely nothing. Talking has never worked with her even before her brains were scrambled.

          It’s just my experience, so take it as you will – I really wish I had never broken no contact. All it did was provide continued opportunities for her to be nasty and abusive. Some of my cousins had already gone no contact with her and they were living their best lives, not coming to family events and making new lives with their kids and in-laws and friends. Her youngest brother and youngest sister are low contact, they talk to her maybe twice a year. I bought into the whole BUT FAAAAAMILY crap for way too long. What really kills me is that even the relatives who have gone low- or no-contact with her because they know how she is, will STILL dispute my version of events in favor of hers! They STILL pull the whole “I’m sure it wasn’t THAT bad, you’re exaggerating / misunderstanding / over-emotional / stupid” crap. I’m much more at peace now with the whole boiling of them out of my life – the constant gaslighting was truly damaging.

      2. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Totally agree — you don’t owe them. Think about it this way: would you choose these people as your friends if they weren’t your family? For those whom you wouldn’t choose as a friend, it is FINE to keep them at arm’s length. If you want to be there for a particular event, like a funeral or a wedding or something for your own sake, it’s okay to go and be civil without making that the open door to full-on re-establishment of relations.

      3. NotEstrangedCA*

        also agree 200%. I did go no contact with immediate family for about 2 years. I did reconcile slowly and have had a good outcome. I reached out to a parent, just to offer pictures from where they used to grow up. I had no expectations that they would answer. the parent answered n missed me. I kept boundaries and kept seeing my therapist. I’m glad I at least tried.

    2. Maglev to Crazytown*

      Awesome and better than ever, but your mileage may vary. My situation was my parents who were having that trouble relinquishing boundaries and their opinions on what to do with my life in early adulthood/career. We went almost two years non-contact.

      Unfortunately what precipitated the reestablishment of contact was one of them had a stroke, and so I came down immediately when they were in the hospital. That was very tense, and once they were released to home for recovery, the other simultaneously had to have planned eye surgery, so I packed my bags and worked remote with them while supporting them with doctor’s appointments and driving for 10 days. And from there, we slowly rebuilt a relationship, but it took time. But today almost ten years later, our relationship is amazing, and it never would have been like this without that time of separation.

      I wish you all the best on this difficult issue!

    3. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      Not me, but my wife. Her mother kicked her out of the house for being gay in our 20s, constantly favored her brother (called my wife while she was deployed overseas and asked her to bail out her brother for DUI: “I just don’t know how he could have been drunk, he said he only ate Jello!” I was I was kidding.) MIL was low level abusive when they were teens, etc. They didn’t talk for years.
      Eventually, when my wife moved back here (to be near her dad), she made a conscious decision to try to have a relationship with her mother again, and it’s… okay? I don’t know how it was before (we didn’t get married until we were in our late thirties and I didn’t meet MIL until then). It’s okay in part because MIL really likes me (my wife’s wife, yes, the irony is hilarious), in part because my wife acknowledges that her mom is never going to change, in part because they’ve agreed to not discuss religion (MIL tries it occasionally, but as long as she avoids “what is y’all’s personal relationship with the Divine?” it’s fine, though the last time we were over there she was all “I was watching this prophet on YouTube and she talked about the homos… I mean, uh, she talked about a lot of things.”) Sometimes we get along really well – we’ve had some downright pleasant holiday meals with her, we all got along well last summer – and sometimes she makes us downright angry (let’s not talk about the recent UTI that landed her in the hospital after she asked my wife, a whole trained medical professional, if she should go to the doctor and then ignored her advice), and it’s solidly okay. They harbor no real illusions about how much they like or love each other, and do all right.

      That got long. I guess my point is, take it slow, have LOW expectations, and remember that you can always shut it down again if things are not going well and you’re not getting anything out of it.

    4. GingerSheep*

      My mother-in-law had been no contact with her own parents for about 15 years when I met my husband, for reasons I am not privy to. Neither of her (divorced) parents knew of her two youngest daughters’ existence at the time. She resumed contact with both her parents, with her father about two years after I met her, with her mother maybe five years later. It initially went well in both cases, but she had a bad falling out with her father’s new wife after ten years, and have gone no contact once more since (and is bitter about it). With her mother, on the other hand, they are now really close and appear to have an excellent relationship. This is not my own life, so I don’t know the details, but she is vocal about how happy she is to have reconnected with her mother and how their relationship has improved. So I guess it can go both ways.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Here’s what stuck me: “whether to try have a big talk with them or just let past events go… there is a history of unhealthy boundaries and I don’t know if they realise the extent to which they impaired my mental health.”

      My advice is not to imagine or hope for ANY change in their own perception or behavior. Yes, in some cases that can happen and it’s such a blessing when it does. But usually when someone has to go very low-contact, they’ve already tried all of the big-picture-communication and setting-boundaries-in-the-moment, and that stuff hasn’t worked. Don’t resume contact in the expectation that anyone ELSE’S behavior is going to be any different from last time around.

      If you’re willing to resume contact with the very same people behaving in the exact same way, because *you* want that contact and *you* have healthier ways to interact with those people and *you* are willing to accept them as they are, then you should try it. If you hope that you can somehow explain better or differently so that they “realize” what they’ve done, I think you will be disappointed.

    6. cleo*

      It mostly turned out ok. I cut off all contact with my abusive grandfather complicit/oblivious grandmother when I was in my early 20s, after starting therapy. I didn’t announce it or confront them, I just went no contact for 5 years. I resumed very limited contact with my grandmother after she reached out. We did not discuss it. But i was very clear with myself with my limits and needs. I saw her maybe 5 times over 10 years, usually at family reunions and the like. After my grandfather died I committed to visiting at least once a year and im glad I did. We never discussed my abuse – because of her dementia, I didn’t see the point. INstead i focused on enjoymg her company. She was a lot more fun in her 90s, after her filters came down.

    7. cleo*

      Also, here’s a book rec – I Thought We’d Never Speak Again by Laura Davis. The author interviewed people who thought they’d never speak again but reconciled. I bought it and never actually read it but I think that was more of a me issue than an issue with the book.

    8. Ariadne Oliver*

      Third time was a charm with my mom. All in all I went no contact with her for about eight years. First time two year, second time, three years, third time two years. I guess she realized that she would lose contact with me permanently if she didn’t change her ways. She decided that having a relationship with me was more important than her manipulative ways. She’s still not perfect but I accept that she is who she is. Some things will never change and I decided to just forgive her and move forward. It’s healthier for me.

    9. Rainy*

      I didn’t talk to my parents very much (1-2x a year max) for quite a while–from my late 20s to my early 40s. It took me a long time to get to that point. I left home at 17; I was raised in a cult my parents didn’t leave for almost 10 years after. My parents didn’t like my first husband (fair, he wasn’t great, it was definitely a situation where I felt like my life had improved drastically when we got together, but it was really only an improvement in comparison to my really dire childhood and adolescence), and that caused issues, and then I moved countries for a while, my first husband died, it was all just a lot.

      When I married my second husband, I invited my parents and my mother attended (dad had some serious heart issues culminating in a massive heart surgery and is not currently allowed to fly, take long drives, or be at altitude, and we live 11 hours away by car in the mountains), and then my parents came through for us in a major way when we got our dog and needed some help, and we’ve been pretty congenial since. We chat on the phone, text, that sort of thing. And yeah, we’re not super close or whatever but it’s nice to have more of a positive relationship than we have done.

      1. Rainy*

        I should also say that my mother had some kind of serious personal growth experience while I wasn’t talking to them. She realized she was negative and mean, and has really made serious efforts to be nicer.

    10. Try Captain Awkward*

      Agree with Aspiring Cat Memes. Also please look in Captain Awkward’s archives. She has gone no contact & now limited contact, is an excellent historian & writer. She’s also adept at running scenarios that will happen if you decide to tell your truth. It likely won’t go well & she has great scripts for when that happens a truly valuable resource.

      1. Try Captain Awkward*

        My contact didn’t go well. I confronted my father on the phone for his abuse and my mother for her complicity. I told them I would never allow them to do to my young daughter what he did to me. He screamed and roared. He told me this is not over and he would come and correct me. Two states away. He had already bullied his way past the guard in my gated community (which I had ironically chosen for safety). Therapy helped me to tell him that I was not afraid of him anymore, that I’m an adult and he no longer has power over me. I didn’t really feel all that but the therapy plan helped me feel strong enough to say it and stand up to my abuser. It was a good step for my healing but your mileage may vary. And this certainly wasn’t a step toward reconciliation.

    11. Macaroni Penguin*

      This story is from my partner. His dad abandoned the family when he was a kid. There were addiction issues and general harm involved. After dad left, he did not contribute financially to raising his children. In his early twenties, my partner did reconnect with dad. Dad had terminal cancer, and wanted to reconcile with his kids. I’m not entirely sure what that involved. Though partner doesn’t regret being there for his dying father. It seems that my partner found some peace and closure.

    12. Hrodvitnir*

      Oo. I went no contact with my father for… I’m not sure, maybe 15 years? He contacted me a couple of years after the argument that precipitated but I just sort of let that fizzle out by not being very responsive. The time away was very good for me.

      Eventually I reached out to him via a letter once I was in a mental space where I could try repairing our relationship. Honestly, it’s been quite awkward for a number of years now. I love him, but I do not regard myself as having any parents in the sense of being people who I can go to for support. I’m now in my mid 30s and we had a long time to grow away from each other.

      Interestingly, in contrast to my comment above about my mother, me getting cancer has brought us together. He’s been curious and not made it all about him (I am actually in cancer research so I find the whole thing pretty interesting). I’ve actually started to feel comfortable and like I can relax somewhat with him.

      I have no advice on how to make that happen though! I will never be able to feel fully emotionally safe with my parents, so it’s been just getting to know each other again very slowly.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        I should note that both my parents were abusive (mostly verbal and emotional, some physical), but also very young people who were trying their best. My mother has a lot of trauma and clearly unresolved psychological issues that means no matter how sorry she is, she hasn’t been able to change her behaviour. Her parentification of me (in the sense of being her emotional support child) was the most damaging part of my upbringing. My father has changed, and is aware of actively working to be a better person throughout his life, so I am able to trust him a lot more.

  7. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    I looked at my fanfiction WIP documents for the first time in about two months (that lack of enjoyment of hobbies is definitely my least favorite thing about my depression.)

    Please share your joys.

    1. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Our new washing machine! Ours broke and we got a nice new fancy one. :) Yay!

      One funny thing is that it has a touch screen and I’ve managed to pause it with my hip without noticing. Oops. Definitely going to need to get used to that!

    2. Beancat*

      My cat continues to climb up onto my chest and nuzzle against my neck even though he’s no longer a baby <3 it's so sweet how much he loves to cuddle and it brings me so much happiness!

    3. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I am house sitting for my parents and have decided to treat it like a mini-vacation. No cooking for me this week and eating out at my favorite restaurants growing up, none of which are available where I live.

      (Though I will have to go on a spending diet and exercise a bit longer when I go back home but 100% worth it for my first “vacation” since Covid.)

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      We adopted a new dog yesterday! Due to a lot of personal stuff that precluded it, it’s been more than 3 years since we last had a dog, and getting used to an energetic young dog again is a lot of fun. He is a Lab/Belgian Malinois, possibly with some other stuff mixed in too.

    5. Laura Petrie*

      My recently adopted old lady rat has really settled in and has started to be really affectionate with me. She’s also started sleeping in the hammock with the others and I love seeing her so happy.

      My tattooist started my back piece of Crater Lake. I love it already and can’t wait until it is finished.

      I finally had room in the freezer for more than one flavour of ice cream!

        1. Laura Petrie*


          I’ve found an amazing artist in the tiny rubbish town I live in and her work is wonderful. I’m booked on for the second sitting in mid-October

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      Fresh tomato sandwiches! Nice big heirloom tomatoes still warm from the sun, thick slices of soft white bread, and just a hint of mayo….mmmmm!

    7. Maglev to Crazytown*

      Keeping the bottle baby kitten removed from the attic crawl space above my office alive (was a few days old only, and a lump with eyes closed… Eyes open now, starting to crawl/walk and growing like a weed!

      Also, I am an amateur herbalist, and made myself some self-care blends this week for my work burnout support. The act of making those, and using them in and of itself is a mental boost. Plus going outside and enjoying collecting the late summer wildflowers for use this winter.

      Yeah, I am a weirdo.

    8. BlueWolf*

      The summer heat and pattern of constant rain/thunderstorms finally broke and we have had gorgeous sunny, cool(ish), not humid weather. It’s so glorious to sit outside and not be sweaty. It’s like gorgeous fall weather.

    9. Anona*

      Seeing my toddler messily eat a popsicle and be her full on extroverted self at an (outdoor) work event, just effortlessly going up to random people to talk with them. We’re so different (I’m a huge introvert), and it will be cool to see how she grows up and the connections she makes.

    10. Voluptuousfire*

      Watched a video on Facebook from The Dodo about a huge Caucasian Shepherd called Yogi and he’s a HUGE dog, about 170 lbs. He has 3 human brothers and they’re so sweet with him. He’s also so good with them. Just a delightful video.

      The weather is delightful. Cooler and low humidity. Windows are all wide open and it’s just so wonderful.

      I got to use my new little digital oven . I made a frozen pizza, chicken thighs and asparagus in it and they all came out OK. It’s perfect for me since it’s just me and I only use it a few times a week.

    11. fposte*

      I had a beautiful morning out kayaking on a nearby lake and saw sunbathing vultures! I did not even know that was a thing. It was on a sandy swimming beach that had no people on it, just a bunch of Canada geese and vultures hanging out, and the vultures would stretch out their rather impressive wingspan as they sat on the beach and just soak up the rays.

    12. Cute Li’l UFO*

      I finished “Hidden Valley Road” at my day off at the beach in the sun with a bag of chili cheese Fritos. I don’t buy them often because I can lose all control around them so when I do get them they’re such a treat! I picked up choco tacos last week to enjoy as desserts because they’re just so special. It felt like my last hurrah of summer and I’m glad I was able to take the time to get out in the midst of preparing for some big things.

      Bone marrow donation got rescheduled to Tuesday which ended up being good because I got pretty sunburned reading. We’re talking like the first dud pancake out of the skillet! I put sunscreen on but evidently not well enough.

      1. fposte*

        I hope the donation goes well and that you report back on the donation experience. I signed up to be a donor but never got tapped (and I believe I’ve aged out now) and I think it’s a good process to get more publicity for.

    13. Elizabeth West*

      I slapped on a mask and went to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It was FABULOUS. I was super excited about this one because I love Simu Liu and it did not disappoint.

      Joy slightly spoiled by the (unmasked) couple who brought their baby to the theater. Pandemic aside, I always worry about babies in theaters because the sound is so loud. Their little ears, man.

    14. PrincessB*

      Fresh tomatoes from the neighbors. They are delicious. And we got a Peloton bike! We have 30 days to decide if we’re keeping it.

    15. Chaordic One*

      I’m happy that the worst of the summer heat finally seems to be past. The high temperatures are now only in the mid-80s and that seems, which I find much more pleasant to be outside in.

    16. WoodswomanWrites*

      I bought the novel today that someone I know wrote. I knew she was an artist but had no idea she was also a writer until she sent an email to her list that her book was published. It was great to walk into my local independent bookstore and purchase the book, supporting both my friend and my neighbors’ business. It will be fun to read.

    17. I take tea*

      I’ve been dancing on the rooftops :-)
      That is, I met with some friends on a roof terrace and we ended the meeting with some dancing as the twilight set over the city. I felt such an intense joy, it was beautiful and fun at the same time. Lovely.

    18. Paralegal Part Deux*

      I got to seek Harry Connick, Jr. in concert (for the third time with my sister). He sounds fabulous in person. He did “If You Could Read My Mind” and OMG! I loved it. Wish he’d do an entire album of Lightfoot songs. So, that was my little joy for the week!

    19. Sleepless*

      I went to Dragon Con! Like a lot of things right now, they were at reduced capacity and had some safety measures in place, but it was so good to have it back. My daughter is in school downtown now and she deigned to join her boring suburban family (kidding, a little).

    20. Slinky*

      Repair Shop on Netflix. The show shows various conservators restoring beloved family treasures. It’s fascinating to watch people doing difficult work at an expert level, but even better to watch people reconnect with their heirlooms. It’s really just a nice show about people doing nice things for each other.

    21. Double A*

      My baby turned 3 months old this week which means he’s officially through the 4th trimester. I am really not a fan of the newborn stage, although this one went better than with my first because I knew more what to expect and how to moderate expectations. Anyway he is really starting to emerge as a human and I’m at the point of enjoying him as he is instead of just kind of surviving it. He smiles and chats and is really working on sucking on his fingers.

      1. allathian*

        Aww! One of my favorite photos of my son is when he was about 4 months old and had just discovered his feet, and he’s sucking on his bare heel.

    22. Dancing Otter*

      I’m boxing up the clothes that are too big for me now. ALL my old pants and leggings!

      And the tuck-pointers came this week, so it doesn’t rain in my living room any more.

    23. Anon because this story is legend*

      We’ve had so very many birds in our yard this week including my childhood favorite goldfinches, and bluebirds.

    24. the cat's ass*

      bought and installed the toilet lids that automatically and quietly close, because my kitten is VERY curious but can’t swim.

  8. Invisible Fish*

    My father had a surprise surgery this week- partial hip replacement. We had no time to research or prepare. If you have experienced something similar, what makes the stay in rehab easier? What changes do we need to make at home? What purchases would improve this (stressful) situation?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Best of wishes to your father for a quick recovery! When my mum had her hip replacement, I had to force her to do the recommended physio post-surgery exercises. She cursed me for it (a LOT), but eventually admitted that it really made a difference.
      Also, there will likely be a lot of post-surgery medication to sort out, so make sure you have a good method of tracking and organizing what needs to be taken and when.

      1. Maxie's Mommy*

        Yes. I went for a rehab stay. My roommate haaated PT and dogged it, and they were pretty hard on her. So PT suddenly became my new religion! I volunteered, I was first in line and relentlessly cheery. Basically you want to validate them. I’m not crazy about needles but they taught me how to give myself the LMWH injections (no discharge til you prove you can do it). And I brought my own fruit cups so I didn’t have to keep bothering staff, and I didnt get constipated—fruit cups are the stuff.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I’m not sure what’s different in a partial vs full hip replacement, but talk to the rehab specialists as soon as you can about how much he’ll be allowed to flex his hip until it’s fully healed because you may need to make changes at home.

      He could need a special firm sitting chair that keeps his hips at the correct angle, bolsters for sleeping, crutches, an elevated toilet seat*, help with stairs, it may be that not all your vehicles are appropriate for him to get in and out of post surgery and you might need to plan for that.

      There are huge variations in reported pain levels and duration post hip-replacement too, so correct expectation management is important for his mental well-being if his recovery does take longer than others.

      (*Some of the meds, um, loosen the stools. The chair is suspended over the toilet and doesn’t catch everything. He won’t be able to clean up after himself, so prepare yourself for… that.)

      1. tuesday last*

        The usual difference between partial vs full depends on what they do to the femur: chop it off? or resurface?

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If loose bowels are an issue: Schiff’s digestive enzyme gummies. I take a lot of magnesium, which loosens my stiff muscles but doesn’t stop at the limbs–taking a couple of these gummies late in the day (that is, shortly before I take the magnesium at bedtime) really helped push my digestive system back toward normal. I had to stumble onto the timing, so be aware that might be an issue. But worth trying if this is a problem.

        On the flip side, if he is on drugs that cause constipation get some Colase now (over the counter, any drugstore) and set a deadline: If no bms by 36 hours after the surgery, take one. 12 hours later, another. I looked after a relative who had knee surgery, and you would think that you’d be so dopey/in pain that constipation wouldn’t register, but hoo boy your body can carve out a special little circle of hell in which you are very very aware of this.

    3. tuesday last*

      I had a full hip replacement earlier this year. The medical establishment should have given you a list of immediate changes that need to be made: he should never cross the midline, pillows for sleeping, elevated toilet seat, possible shower chair, pillow for sitting on, grabbers, walker, crutches, cane (to be used in turn). He’ll need someone with him for the first 3-7 weeks while he’s still using walker/crutches. He needs to do all the recommended physio, and then some. Hopefully his medical team went over all of that. I managed the physio with a wall chart, so I could check off each exercise as I did it. It’s very confusing at first (exercise 1 3x per day, exercise 2 2x per day, exercise 3 2x every other day).
      Longer term, having someone around to go on walks with. It’s a bit lonely being stuck in bed or in a chair and having to manager your own physio every hour or so. For the first few weeks I was a bit sad and a bit bored and a bit lonely, but having someone to go on walks with helped a lot. The first few weeks, walks are something like 3-4 times/day but for a short distance. He should be able to gradually work up to longer but fewer walks.
      Physio and recovery take a long time – up to a year. It’s still helpful to have someone for walks for all that time.

    4. RagingADHD*

      It is so dependent on the patient, which procedure, and how the team operates. When my dad had his hips done a couple of years apart, he never needed any post-surgery painkillers except regular Tylenol. He had delayed the surgery until his life situation was more conducive to recovery, so he was in so much pain for so many years beforehand that the post-surgical soreness was a cakewalk by comparison.

      His PT team took note of how many stairs he needed to manage to get into the house, and made sure he could do them before releasing him. He had his surgery on Tuesday and went home on Friday.

      He wasn’t able to play golf for 6-8 weeks, was restricted from driving and had to minimize car rides except for followup appointments (because of the way you swing your leg to get in & out of the car).

      His house had bedroom, bath, and kitchen all on the same level, but IIRC, there was no problem with walking straight or going up & down stairs. He just had to be careful with lateral or twisting movements until the muscles healed to hold the joint in place. And of course, doing the full course of PT was vital.

      The biggest issue while he was in the hospital was nausea after the general anaesthetic. I just kept the nurses apprised, and kept bringing him ice chips and cold compresses for his neck.

      I hope your dad had an easy time, too! It is so variable.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      As lots of people have said, PT is really important in this sort of recovery. As much as you glare at the PT when they say “Now 10 more” this is what really builds you back to better function.

    6. Wishing You Well*

      This is a very small thing but when my friend had her hip replacement, the seams inside her pants irritated her incision. Wearing her pants inside out at home helped a lot. Also, I hope your dad will try knit or sweat pants.
      Best Wishes for a smooth recovery.

    7. LNLN*

      This past April I cared for a cousin who had a hip replacement. She stayed with us for 6 weeks before she went back to her own apartment. Based on my own situation 10 years ago that involved a fall, a broken leg, an infection, another fall and a long recovery, I had several “rules” for my cousin. 1. We stay on top of her pain. Find a level of medication or other pain management that keeps her comfortable and take those meds on a schedule. Don’t wait until the pain escalates. Write down the times and doses and the meds are taken, because it is easy to lose track. 2. Do not fall. Be overly cautious. If your father loses his balance and falls, he could break his arm (I did) and then he will need to use a wheelchair instead of a walker. It is hard to feel dependent, but it is way harder to recover from a broken arm on top of the hip surgery. Do not fall. Especially, be careful in the shower. Buy, borrow or rent a shower chair. 3. His pain medication may cause constipation. As others have said, stay on top of that. Find whatever products will keep his bowel movements regular. It was embarrassing to ask my cousin about her bowel movements, but better that type of discomfort than the other. 4. Follow the medical directions about keeping the surgical site clean and dry. An infection is no joke.
      Hope your dad has a good recovery!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        For my relative with knee surgery, they were in a lot of pain right after and the doctor said to double the opioid dose. That worked, enough that they could get some rest to heal. After a couple of days they were down to the initial dose. After a week just taking a pill at bedtime, and didn’t finish the second small bottle of opioids. But those first few days? Critical to stay on top of pain.

        With all the stuff about opioid addiction people can be afraid of taking anything at all, but for a few days (high dose) and weeks (low dose) right after surgery they are really useful. That’s very different from taking them for a chronic problem. (I had two rounds of chest surgery, and in each case took my last opiate pill right after the drains came out.)

    8. Laura Petrie*

      Can you get an Occupational Therapy (OT) assessment for him prior to discharge. They should be able to advise on any adaptations and equipment

    9. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I had a full hip replacement about ten years ago. Two nights in the hospital with the days filled with physical and occupational therapy: safe movement, navigating stairs, how to sit, using raised toilet seat, showering rules. After I got home, I had in-home nurse visits, I think 2-3 times a week, for about a month, same with a PT who individualized what I’d learned to my surroundings, and made me navigate the stairs so I could clomp my walker down the sidewalk. I had to sleep with a big firm sponge wedge between my legs for a while, which was creepy because it looked like SpongeBob. I didn’t go anywhere for a rehab stay, but I guess that’s good for anyone who lives alone. I got a pack of goodies from the hospital like a teacher, long shoehorns, and other things to keep me from bending. I got pretty good at bending on my other side but keeping the repaired side straight, is that an arabesque? It all took six to eight weeks. I moved from walker to cane after the first two or three weeks, and that was psychologically helpful. I had the cane with me when I went back to work but only used it (if I got tired) for a couple weeks. And I made myself leave my desk every hour and take a walk around our work area to keep my circulation going. The first couple weeks are a pain in the ass, then it’s not bad.

    10. The Dogman*

      I would recommend the muscle growth promotin HMB (β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate) I use it daily as I have a physical job, and it massively reducing the recovery time for muscle damages I suffer.

      For post surgery it can reduce the muscle loss that is common, it is prescribed to cancer and AIDS patients in the UK for that purpose.

      Hemp seed oil seems to help blood flow and reduce inflammation, and getting all the omega oils can never be a bad idea!

      All the best, hope he heals fast!

  9. Just want a dog pal*

    Tried hard again this week to find a rescue dog but got nowhere. I am a single person working from home, with garden, no other pets and no children. I’m focusing on senior dogs as I think that’s where I am best matched with the lifestyle an older dog needs. There’s so much competition. I keep getting turned down. It’s hitting me hard because I want it so much.

    I don’t know whether to just get a puppy from a breeder. This community saved me from going to a backyard breeder a few weeks ago. I am grateful. I would now definitely only go a reputable breeder who health screens the parents and considers temperament etc. What about PETA and others who say all dog breeding is wrong though? I want a dog but I also want to do the right thing. It’s an emotive subject for me. Plus, puppies are adorable but they scare me a little with their energy levels. And I have suffered from insomnia before so don’t want to disturb the hard-won equilibrium I have gained with my sleep schedule. Some say getting a puppy was the best thing that ever happened to them; others not so much (although all seem to adore their dogs once they are past puppyhood).

    I would love a rescue dog but don’t know if I can take more months of hoping and getting turned down. Tempted to abandon the idea and go back to seeing if I can enjoy the hobbies I had before I became consumed by the search for a dog. Any further advice welcome. I am in the UK if that makes a difference. Thank you.

    1. Academic librarian too*

      Okay. Do your research, I have had rescue dogs. I have had two dogs from “reputable “ breeder that had all sorts of health issues. I now have a dog from a well-vetted breeder and waited a year and half for the puppy. She truly is the light of my life now. I live alone.
      The book that laid out all the issues for me was “ how much is that doggie in the window . “ it lays out all of the issues that you have. Brought up. Good luck.

    2. Meh*

      I volunteer with a foster organization and we turn down a lot of applicants. We match dog personality, temperament, activity level with the adopters.

      If you keep getting rejected ask the foster/rescue groups if there is anything you can do to improve your qualifications (or to pick dogs that match your needs). We require fencing (we work with a strong breed), home insurance that allows this breed, etc. Maybe there is something you can do that will make your home situation more attractive for the foster org.

      1. Just want a dog pal*

        Thanks. I’ll do that. I seem to have passed the basic requirements as I was told I could call one particular rescue if I saw any particular dogs I liked. I worry that they have since started to see me as a little flaky as, to be honest, it took me a little while to work out what kind of dog I wanted and what level of health issues I could cope with in an older dog. I’ve never had a dog before. The will is there but my confidence needed working on! That resulted in me turning down a dog that they offered me in the early days. I wished I’d gone for that dog. I feel more confident now that I could have managed things. They have not written me off but have been wary about matching me with the dogs I have been asking for, which I understand.

      1. Just want a dog pal*

        Yes. Word of mouth is always a good bet I think. Thanks! I may let more people know, such as neighbours etc.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      So, we are also in the UK and it took us a few weeks to be able to adopt a dog. My (We bought our dog home yesterday.) My husband is retired so fortunately was almost able to make the dog search a full time job, which was a good thing because there is still a lot of demand for rescue dogs.
      My advice is to cast the widest possible net that you can. If you aren’t already checking rescue sites for new dogs every day, do so. And be prepared to travel if necessary – we got our dog by applying right after his listing went live and travelling to a rescue organization more than 50 miles away. Make sure your garden fencing, gates etc. are at least 6 feet tall and there are no potential escape routes for a dog who likes to dig or jump (remember, old dogs know lots of tricks!)
      This is obvious advice, but check out breed-specific rescues if you’re interested in a specific breed. (For example, there’s an organization that adopts out retired racing greyhounds and they seemed to have a lot of dogs available.)
      If you’re looking to adopt a breed that often gets surrendered because they’re too much for people (huskys and border collies would be the obvious examples), read up as much as you can on that breed so you know what to expect. Finally, look into fostering. Some rescue organizations will foster out dogs instead of putting them in a shelter environment, and fostering would give you a good idea of the pros and cons of different types and ages of dog. (Though fostering slots may also be affected by the current demand for dogs.) Good luck!

    4. slmrlln*

      I personally wouldn’t get a puppy if you have a delicate sleep balance. I love our dog to bits, but when he was little he had to be let out to pee at 3 or 4am every day, and it was hard.

      1. Just want a dog pal*

        Thank you. That’s interesting. That’s what I fear. I struggle to get back to sleep sometimes if I do wake up. If I can’t sleep for weeks on end, I worry that I would spiral back into problem territory. Insomnia was a pretty grim place.

    5. Laura Petrie*

      Would you consider a retired greyhound? They don’t require a lot of exercise and there are still plenty in rescue at the moment.

      1. Just want a dog pal*

        You know, I’ve been thinking about a greyhound. They seem to have a calm temperament, which really appeals. What’s been putting me off is that my local park is not wholly secure, so not great for off-lead but maybe I could travel to get to a secure area.

          1. Just want a dog pal*

            Interesting. I have a decent sized yard so maybe that could be enough. I will ask my local greyhound rescue. Thanks!

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I have friends with Greyhounds and was fascinated to hear that the sight hounds need to have a solid fence they cannot see through. They can get so focused on a squirrel that they will run straight into a chain-link fence.

        1. Noodlehorse*

          We have a retired racing greyhound (US), and he’s been a great pet. Because they are older, there is no puppy stage to get through. We take him for two walks a day and he is otherwise a couch potato. He’s a sweet and happy boy. I’d definitely recommend at least researching the possibility to see if a greyhound might be a good fit.

      2. Joanne’s Daughter*

        We had two rescue greyhounds and they were awesome! Ours sleep quite a bit and are really mellow. They would go run around the backyard for 10-15 minutes then come in and nap. They were super sweet dogs. We live in San Antonio so they had to stay in the house most of the time, their lack of body fat prevents them from being too hot or too cold for prolonged lengths of time.

        1. HoundMom*

          We have had many dogs, but my (late) retired greyhound holds a special spot. He was a racer for five years and really did not know how to be a dog but it was so much joy to watch him learn to be loved and know that there would food, water, and a comfy spot. He ran around with our puppy Great Dane for 15 minutes a day and then just conked out. He was quiet, leash trained and incredibly sweet.

    6. Feliz*

      A couple of things I thought reading your question
      Can you work on stepping off the Search Rollercoaster of Emotions? This is something I fall into and I try hard to be a bit more zen about things like this that are somewhat out of my control. I also get very caught up in The Thing That I Want and sometimes I’ve made poor decisions because of it :/

      I think it’s especially hard right now because there is a scarcity – so you feel that you might miss out forever. But surely that isn’t true. It’s the uncertainty that’s hard for me. If you knew for certain that the perfect older dog would fall into your life in 12mths or 2yrs would that be ok?

      One thing that helps is to remind myself about the real life issues that could/might happen if/when I get The Thing. It’s easy to think about all the wonderful things you and dog will do together and focus on all the positive aspects but what’s helped me is to think about stuff like – what if the older dog doesn’t sleep through the night? What if the older dog turns out to have a behavioural issue that wasn’t apparent at first? Or a hidden major health issue. Sometimes that helps me be more patient too.

      Anyway, good luck with the search, look after yourself and I hope you find the perfect companion

      1. Just want a dog pal*

        Oh my, this is such an insightful comment. Thank you. You’re right about the rollercoaster of emotions. My emotions have been all over the place, including being quite down. My family has been getting worried in case I am depressed but honestly, I think it’s just that it’s been such an emotional business looking for a dog! I do think that if I could have faith it would work out in the end, even if it takes a while, I would settle down and pace myself, getting back to some other things I enjoy and that have always aided my well-being. It feels sad when I don’t ‘match’ with a particular dog, almost like this is a lost love and now is gone forever. Hmmm. I will think more about you what you say here. Thanks!

        1. Feliz*

          I’m glad my comment helped and I hope you can find a better balance and enjoy other areas of your life while waiting for your dog :)

          I think trying to get something like a dog or house is really hard – it will literally change your life, but you have very little control over the availability of what’s around when you’re looking. So that makes it even more emotionally challenging – well at least for me.

    7. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      We have gotten our dogs from our local humane society. They don’t do as rigorous a check although they ask a lot of questions. I guess once you’re in their system, subsequent adoptions are easier. After the first dog passed at an advanced age, we adopted a middle-aged 7-year-old who we’ve now had for six years. If you have a Humane Society nearby, I’d suggest checking with them.

      1. Just want a dog pal*

        Thank you. I will check that out. Good to hear others’ experiences. Seems like there are lots of routes to getting a dog.

    8. HahaLala*

      Do shelters in the UK use foster homes for their rescues? Here in the states I’ve recommend that to lots of people that aren’t sure what life with a dog would really be like— you can volunteer to foster a dog and get a better idea for the temperament or specific traits you want. And if the dog you foster isn’t a great fit, then you can chalk it up to a learning experienced, and still find that dog a good home somewhere else. Or if you find a prefect fit, most shelters are happy to have dogs adopted by their foster families. I’ve fostered dozens of dogs (and only adopted one of those fosters!) but gotten to experience living with all different sorts of dogs as a trial run!

    9. Hrodvitnir*

      If it helps, a responsible breeder will likely have you waiting for months if not years. People who take care in how often they breed their dogs, and breed for producing great dogs rather than money will not have babies available in the short term unless you happen to have immaculate timing.

      Lots of sympathy for you! I hope you and your future dog find each other soon!

    10. Skeeder Jones*

      Maybe check in with some local vet clinics? I have a family member who is a vet and her clinic is always ending up with animals that need homes for a variety of reasons.

    11. The Dogman*

      I’m in the UK too, I can get you a dog.

      What region are you in? I could possibly suggest some rescues who could help you too.

      Have you tried the Dogs Trust too? They are normally pretty good with rehoming dogs to single people etc in my experience.

      But if no charities in your area will sort you out I will be honoured to find you a dog!

      Perhaps Alison will be up for passing on my details to you? I will ask her is she is ok with facilitating that, but I
      am not sure what legalities are in action regards passing on details.

      In the meantime here are some sites for UK dog rescues I have either worked with or helped the customers of settle their dogs in.





      I am also happy to chat online or the phone about dog ownership and the positives and negatives, but I think you have probably been through all that by now.

      I will mail Alison now…

  10. Let me be dark and twisty*

    For those of you who work in the federal government, does your budget change when debt ceilings and budgets are due in case of a shutdown?

    I’m selling my house and have found a new house I really like. I can afford to make an offer noncontingent on the sale of my current home but the only thing holding me back is the threat of a govt shutdown. I’d be in serious hot water if I had to carry 2 mortgages with no money coming in and all my savings spent on the down payment for the new house.

    1. Meh*

      Are you in a slow market? That would give me pause. We just did the sell/buy (and Federal employee) but we had a cash offer 3 days after putting the house up. The market in our area would not have allowed for a contingent upon sale clause for thr new house. I was in knots until we closed though.

    2. Kathenus*

      I worked for the government in the past. Our work budgets changed through some of this – shutdown emergency budget plans, continuing resolution modified budgets, etc. but in my experience it affected our operating budgets not our salary budget at least for FT staff.

    3. Twisted Lion*

      I think it depends on the market you are in. If its slow Id be tempted to wait. But yes I do make sure I have an emergency savings thanks to previous shutdowns. I trust nothing these days.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Not precisely equivalent, but when my then-husband was in a union job with contract negotiations approaching, we bought extra canned goods and staples with the weekly groceries for a couple of months ahead. Seems like this might be a good idea in advance of a potential shutdown, too.
        No advice on the house, I’m afraid. The first time we put an offer on a house, I lost my job the next workday. Thank goodness someone outbid us on the house. A few years later, we made sure we could swing it on one person’s income if necessary, before even starting to look.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Depends on which agency you work for. Talk to your boss about how shutdowns are managed. My sister is a federal employee going on twenty years and has been thru a number of shutdowns. No disruption to her pay because the agency planned for shutdowns.

  11. Meh*

    What’s American Food?

    I was watching Best British Home Cooks and one person said they like to cook different cuisines, and included American. This left me a little stumped.

    As an American, I think of our food as mostly borrowed from other places and the only a few specific things come to mind as “American food”

    So, what’s American food to you? Tell us where you’re from (vague region is fine for anonymity) but I’m curious for your thoughts!

      1. Meh*

        Which makes me laught that anyone on a cooking show would say they like making hot dogs and hamburgers :/

          1. UKDancer*

            Oh yes a really good burger is a wonderful thing. I get them from my butcher who makes them himself and also sells really good buns. I add a slice of cheddar just before they are finished cooking and it melts a bit. They are so good with onion relish and a nice salad.

            Obviously cheap burgers are dreadful but a really good beefburger is a wonderful culinary treat.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      I would guess…barbeque. Anything in the cookout realm. Soul food. Tex-Mex. Regional foods like jambalaya or hot dish. And desserts–American desserts are pretty distinctive from most other places on earth!

      1. Washi*

        Yeah it’s an eclectic bunch but you’ve named a bunch of the things I was thinking about.

        In addition to immigration being a factor, the US is is also a very large country with almost every bit inhabited, so I think that adds to the eclectic nature of the food.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Desserts makes me think – from my admittedly limited exposure (that is, the Great British Baking Show), it seems that big soft cake-y type cookies might be an American thing? “Biscuits should be crisp, where’s the snap,” I feel like if someone handed Mary Berry a chewy chocolate chip cookie she might have the vapors. Haha.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Peanut butter seems to be a very American thing. So anything cooked with peanut butter.

          Also key lime pie, and in general the meringue citrus pies.

          1. bunnymcfoo*

            Honestly, American style pies are extremely unique and it’s not just the meringue and/or citrus stuff. Shoofly, black bottom, derby, pecan, banana and coconut cream, most of the berry pies, chiffon, mud, peach, pumpkin, sweet potato, and strawberry rhubarb are all American origin pies – we’re the country that really pushed the covered sweet pie as opposed to the covered savory pie.

            1. Pennyworth*

              The Washington Post had an article on the art of making American fruit pies recently. I had no idea it was so technical! Worth looking up.

        2. lemon meringue*

          To my knowledge (from having British relatives, not living there myself) heavy, sugary things like chocolate chip cookies, birthday cakes and brownies mostly appear in the UK as American imports. British baking is traditionally based more around sponge cakes, crisp biscuits, jam, whipped cream and fruit. (And the unfathomable steamed puddings, which I think are a remnant of a bygone era by now.) Canadian baking tends to have a bit of both.

          1. Bagpuss*

            UK person here:

            Brownies yes, they are an American import.

            I am not sure what you are defining as birthday cake – we definitely have birthday cake here! (UK) and wouldn’t see it as American. Sponge cakes come in a wide range of flavours and textures, the jam and cream option is a traditional Victoria Sandwich but there are lots of others (we did, after all, invent afternoon tea!)

            Big, soft cookies are American (or perhaps Dutch via the US!) import – biscuits are typically crisp.

            Steamed puddings are awesome – they are time-consuming if done the traditional way but you end up with what is in effect hot, squidgy cake – what’s not to like?

            1. UKDancer*

              Steamed puddings are a wonderful thing. My grandmother made the most amazing ones. I don’t have the time to make them but I do love it when someone else does.

              I think it’s probably important to remember that a lot of things like that are traditionally working class food. My grandfather worked in a steel factory doing a very physical job. So he ate a lot of what would now be considered stodgy food to give him enough energy to keep going. Also suet was cheap so it was a good way to make something filling for very little money. Fresh fruit was very expensive. My grandmother made amazing jam roly poly because it was made of jam (cheap) and suet (cheap) with a small amount of flour and a little lard (cheaper than butter).

              Likewise she made things like mince and dumplings because you could fill someone up with suet dumplings and so not need much meat (which cost too much).

              Nowadays there aren’t as many people doing that type of very physical job so the traditional heavy peasant food is seen as less ideal.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this hits a key point–American food is more regional than national. So the different forms of barbecue, soul food, stuff that says “New England fishing village” (lobster, seafood chowders), California’s farm to table focus.

        1. WellRed*

          Good point. It’s very regional. Another comment mentioned black eyed peas and collard greens but that’s not something you see outside part of the South.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Collards & blackeyed peas are definitely cooked outside the South, at least in the homes of black families who live in the north.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Which makes sense when you remember that even smaller countries have regional variations within them.
          Just look at the differences between Paris, Brittany, and Bordeaux. Americans are pretty passionate about their breakfast. Pancakes or French toast or waffles. Some form of egg with toast. Bacon or sausage. Biscuits with gravy. Bagels– there’s something that can get people arguing.

        3. California Dreamin’*

          Yes. I’m a native Californian, and when I was dating my husband and we visited his family in Nebraska, the food they ate was completely foreign to me. So many casseroles, which we just don’t do at all on the West Coast. I really don’t think there is an “American” cuisine. Maybe burgers… I think everyone eats those.

      4. The Dogman*

        In the UK BBQ is more associated with out Aussie Cousins I think.

        Tex Mex is for sure an American style, but we have a type of themed “American Diner” sort of restaurant that will have a bit of the Buddy Holly, 1950/60’s style that is burger and fries focused, so Brits will usually be thinking of Burgers, fries, hotdogs, milkshakes and coke served in classic shape glasses when they think American food.

        Those places ALL serve apple pie!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. For me American food tends to mean a traditional 1950s diner with a really good burger with trimmings, chips and a milkshake. Also ice cream in lots of flavours. It’s lovely comfort eating. I don’t particularly think of apple pie as being American because I grew up with a big apple tree in the garden so my mother made a lot of apple pie and apple crumble when I was growing up. I guess they are but they were always what we had at home in the north of England.

          The other US dish I do is jambalaya. Not a probably very authentic take on it as I use a BBC good food website recipe. But it’s one I quite enjoy making.

          Thinking back on my time in the US the thing I really enjoyed and think of as being typical was buttermilk pancakes with blueberries. They were so good!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      NE US here.

      Lots of grease, salt and sugar. Other countries don’t consume this stuff like we do.

        1. Anona*

          That’s a little harsh! And they didn’t actually say that’s what they’re eating. I have the same observation about a lot of US food (even though I like it sometimes!).

      1. PT*

        You’re picking grease, salt, and sugar for the Northeast?

        You really need to check out some of the redder regions then, you will have a heart attack just looking at a menu.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      The thing that jumps out for me is thousand island dressing, which is basically a mixture of ketchup and mayo with pickle relish mixed in and seems to be the “special sauce” for pretty much every burger place that I’ve been to, at least, that does a “special sauce” :P When I was in Berlin several years ago, I came across a bottle of Heinz-57 brand “American Sauce” in a grocery store and while I didn’t buy and try, it very much appeared to be thousand island dressing, so I don’t think that’s just me :)

    4. Expiring Cat Memes*

      American food is totally having a moment in Australia. Here it often means wings, ribs, brisket, BBQ, burgers, cheesesteak, mac n cheese, cornbread, fried chicken, food comas and regret.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Lord I love slow smoked brisket. Give me that over any fancy steakhouse cut.

        Fried chicken and mac ‘n’ cheese strike me as very American, in a good sense–done well they are tasty and homey and really hit “comfort food” dead center.

        I have been watching Soul Food on Netflix, and slow-cooked greens hit that comfort food memory for some people in the southern US.

    5. DistantAudacity*

      Hehe! If a restaurant gets touted as «American» foods here it tends to be burger-style or diner-style. US regional foods haven’t really exported themselves into the global food culture as A Thing on a large scale, although those concepts may include recipes from different regions :)

      I’m in Scandinavia, for reference.

      Oh – and American- style pizza!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I was thinking pizza, which also has many regional styles in the US. (And multiple styles in Chicago alone. People there don’t only eat deep dish.)

    6. Koala dreams*

      Most cuisines around the world are influenced by global trends, including British food. (Perhaps especially British food?)

      When I think of US food I think of the food I see in TV shows, for example pumpkin pie, brownies, turkey, clam chowder, burritos, hamburgers, US style pizza, US style chili. I also think of trendy food like poke bowls and California rolls. And if I get the opportunity, I would like to try general Tso’s chicken, but I suppose that’s more of a local dish?

      For desserts, US versions of pie and cookies seem quite popular here in Europe.

      /From Europe

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        General Tso’s chicken isn’t a regional dish. It’s considered “Chinese” food here (really it’s Chinese-American) and can be had at any typical Chinese restaurant, which are often inexpensive buffet or take-out restaurants.

      2. bunnymcfoo*

        You can get General Tso’s chicken at essentially any American style Chinese restaurant in the country and there are literally millions of American style Chinese restaurants in the US (my town has a population of around 20k and we have five Chinese restaurants, all of which serve General Tso’s) – it’s almost the exact opposite of a regional/local dish!

    7. StudentA*

      Fried chicken
      Turkey with fixings
      Chicago style pizza
      Philly style foods and other region specific foods

    8. Canadian Living in Asia*

      As a non American, I’d think of BBQ (the kind that doesn’t mean “cooked on the grill”, American style Mexican food, Cajun cuisine. Also burgers, fries and ketchup, hot-dogs, fried chicken sandwiches (there are literally five fried chicken places within ten minutes walk of my apartment, and the only one that has a sandwich is KFC). Plus the American versions of pizza and subs. Diners. Ribs.

      Also, restaurant portions that contain more than one days worth of the recommended caloric intake for an adult.

      When I say “let’s go out for American food” it usually means we’re headed for Chilis, or something similar.

      FWIW, cross border food mingling is not solely North American, or even remotely new – for example, tomatoes, pasta, peppers and corn were all foreign imports to Italian cuisine at one point.

      1. Cj*

        I thought maybe Cajun cuisine was French, since that is where the settlers who now cook it originally came from. But I just googled it, and found out that these settlers couldn’t cook their traditional dishes because of the climate (ingredient issues), and started cooking what is now known as Cajun cuisine instead.

        1. Generic Name*

          Cajun is another way to say Arcadian. The Arcadians were French Canadians who emigrated to what would become Louisiana, and brought their cuisine with them, which as you mentioned, had to be modified.

          1. Cj*

            Did they cook in Canada the way their French ancestors did? Or was it actually French Canadian cooking before they had to modify it?

              1. Valancy Snaith*

                So, poutine isn’t really recorded until the mid-20th century, by which point Quebec had been independent from France for about 200 years! Quebecois and Acadians are actually distinctive and separate groups as well, and while there is some overlap, there’s also some significant differences. Poutine originated in Quebec, while Acadia is today’s Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

                All cooking in French Canada was pretty strongly influenced by where the French settlers came from (mostly northern France), but varied based on what was available. Things were further influenced by indigenous practices (which is where maple syrup comes from), trade routes, and British food habits, more significantly so after the French defeat in 1760.

                The Acadian expulsion took place around the same time, but I’m no expert on that so I can’t say anything about food habits there, but I’m sure there’s a very interesting story of how Cajun cooking came to be!

      1. Cj*

        But lasagna is actually Italian. And like I mention above, all the casseroles here in So MN are German. Does anybody know what casseroles are truly American?

          1. CanItalian*

            It’s very popular in Italy. Have never had it in America but have in Canada and in Italy and there is no great difference.

        1. Lora*

          Tater tot hotdish? I can’t imagine any other culture putting frozen tater tots, ground beef, frozen veggies and a whole bunch of cream of mushroom soup from a can together…

            1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

              I read someplace (can’t remember where) that casseroles are an example of “recombinant cuisine” – that is, taking things that are already food items on their own (i.e. tater tots, canned soup, chili, etc) and combining them to create another food.

              “Recombinant cuisine” makes it sound so fancy! :)

        2. bunnymcfoo*

          I would bet money that a lot of the casseroles in So MN have been modified from their German roots to the point where they wouldn’t be recognizable in Germany.

          Casseroles that are “truly American” would, in my opinion, be tamale pie, Frito pie, anything that uses Campbell’s soups as a base, and/or calls for fried onion strings, tater tots, potato chips, or chow mein noodles as a topper. Oh, and mac n cheese!

      2. londonedit*

        An English person who doesn’t understand why lasagne is popular? Lasagne is HUGELY popular in Britain. But it’s not seen as an American dish, it’s seen as Italian (or probably a bastardised British version of Italian). Lasagne and spaghetti bolognese are super popular meals in Britain.

        However I don’t understand the concept of American ‘casseroles’. To me (a Brit), a casserole is like a stew, but cooked in the oven rather than on the stove top. But in America, it’s anything that’s sort of baked in the oven? And it often involves canned soup as a sauce? Those are my preconceptions about American casseroles, and they’re not something we have in the UK.

        1. UKDancer*

          Lasagna has always struck me as Italian but it’s probably a British take on it. I think we all adjust food to our own taste. I mean I love cooking Thai food but I’m pretty sure any Thai people would probably consider my attempts deeply inauthentic because they reflect my own culinary preferences.

          I would agree with you on a casserole. It’s an upmarket stew when I make it. I usually use stewing steak, bacon, button onions, carrots, parsnips and mushrooms and cook it long and slow in the oven with wine and bouquet garni. It’s a lovely winter dish on a cold day. I’ve never used anything like canned soup. The sauce comes from meat juice, stock and wine. I do variations involving paprika and peppers rather than carrot and parsnip which I call goulash (again not authentic).

    9. Femme d'Afrique*

      I tend to think of things like jambalaya, gumbo and soul food. There’s a wonderful documentary on Netflix called “High on the hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” that’s really worth checking out.

      I think *all* food from around the world comes about from borrowing and altering other cuisines. The documentary did a really good job of showing how ingredients and cooking techniques from Africa were transformed into new dishes in the US.

    10. Emma2*

      As someone who is not American (and who does not live in the US), I would think of American food as soul food – corn bread collard greens, black eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, barbecue. I would also think of food from New Orleans like gumbo, crawfish étouffée and jambalaya.
      There are also things like lobster rolls that seem pretty basic, but are not found as commonly outside the US. I would also think of hamburgers as American.

    11. Pam*

      Mac and cheese
      Those (delicious) thick pancakes with maple syrup

      (I’m from South America)

    12. Anona*

      I think bland things like pizza, french fries, burgers, ice cream, hot dogs, bbq, Mac and cheese, spaghetti, fried chicken, grilled cheese, cookies, and sandwiches are all American food.

      I spend a lot of time with people from other countries, and their assessment is often that our food is really bland, and that desserts are overly sweet. They often get excited to eat it at first, since it’s available in their home countries but expensive, but then they get homesick for more spice.

      1. Anona*

        Oh and peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and chocolate! It seems like that’s a really American thing. My British friends found it disgusting.

        I’m from the US- the south.

      2. Imtheone*

        In the American Southeast, people put hot sauce (Tabasco type) on lots of food, and use lots of chili peppers of different kinds.

        There are lots of regional differences in what types of food are most common. Big national grocery store chains are changing that somewhat, and smaller stores are dying out.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        Hmmm… I think well-made versions of some of those things aren’t bland. (I’m originally from Chicago & have come across bland pizza in other parts of the country. Sauce needs flavor, people! Garlic & oregano won’t kill you!) But I also think if really regional cuisine, like in New Mexico, where the corn is blue & you get asked if you want red or green chile on everything.

        Also root beer seems intensely American, as does corn on the cob roasted on the grill & served with butter & salt.

        1. Anona*

          In the US, it often seems like fat/salt/sugar substitute for actual spices.

          Their cuisines (Indian/Chinese/etc) typically use more spices, both in terms of complexity but also in terms of heat.

          I like pizza – it’s one of my favorite foods! But it’s generally not that complex, flavor wise, though obviously there are tons of different versions.

          Some of the Asian desserts I’ve experienced are much less sweet than what’s standard in the US. Like they have red bean filled versions that are just slightly sweet!

          I do like a good burger, fries, hotdog situation. I am American, after all! But it’s just a common complaint from the people that I interact with from other countries that in general our food is less spiced than what is typical in their countries.

          1. Anona*

            And maybe it’s not a complaint, just more of an observation.

            I also love a good processed cheese dip. I think food can be good/tasty even if it’s not that complex. Americana! I literally grew up eating Velveeta singles and bologna.

            I love sushi and other things now, but I think it can be a class thing too. In many parts of the country, and for many working class folks, simple stuff like corndogs are just more standard. At a grocery store where I shop, I’ve gotten questions about what a leek is!

    13. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      Mid-Atlantic. I would mention everything that’s been said here, but in general I assume that when other countries talk about American food, they mean anything that’s highly processed and/or over-the-top – like cronut burgers topped with onion rings and Cheez-Whiz. Or that sundae at Friendly’s that’s covered in cookies and candy.

      Also, I don’t know much about Indigenous cuisine, but I would consider that the original “American food.”

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        + 1,000! Corn is certainly “original ‘American food.'” The food writer Betty Fussell wrote an entire book about this subject.

        Your comment is far more insightful than my Wall of Snark below, but I had fun with it…

    14. Jean (just Jean)*

      American here:
      +1 to hamburgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese (including the boxed variety with orange “cheese”), and cookies
      brownies (these deserve their own line on the list)
      chocolate-chip cookies (same as brownies)
      root beer floats aka Brown Cows
      banana splits, hot fudge sundaes, “Magic Shell” freezes-to-ice cream chocolate sauce, ice cream sandwiches, and double- or triple-dip ice cream cones
      ice cream cones themselves (1904 St. Louis World’s Fair)
      green beens, oven-baked in a Pyrex glass pan with cream of mushroom soup and canned fried onions
      bagels (although when I see a restaurant offering them with cream cheese and bacon bits I think to myself “that is SO not kosher!”)
      cinnamon raisin bagels (okay, I don’t object to every modern twist on tradition)
      chicken soup, with or without matzoh balls, noodles, or rice
      ketchup … but it seems very American to me to dump one’s favorite condiments all over everything
      artificial bacon bits, fake crab salad, Tang orange “drink,” cheese “foods”/cheese Wiz/”American cheese” (the individually wrapped square slices), extra-thick gelatin sliced into blocks (aka Jell-o cubes)
      vegetarian versions of hamburgers, hot dogs, and breakfast sausage
      flavored pancakes
      flavored crackers
      too much salt all over everything
      breakfast cereal, especially the kinds with artificial coloring and enough sugar to launch a small child into orbit
      cookies the size of a small pizza
      cupcakes smushed together on the plate underneath a shared icing that depicts some seasonal image
      highly decorated cakes for birthdays or weddings
      baked potatoes with sour cream and chopped chives
      bottled water
      drinking way too much coffee (or soda) all day long
      red licorice candy, also All The Candy especially what used to be penny candy…
      fried everything, funnel cakes, and cotton candy at the county & state fairs
      Pepto-Bismol, in that truly malevolant neon pink color
      diabetes and heart disease…
      …I hope to take a walk this afternoon.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Top Chef Canada did a challenge with Kraft mac-n-cheese (they call it “Kraft Dinner”) and what was great was that all of the chefs, except the French guy, were like THIS IS AWESOME I DEFINITELY LIVED ON THIS STUFF IN SCHOOL. As someone who cooked a lot of Kraft mac-n-cheese (with pepperoni and vegetables) in our first few poor years, this really resonated with me.

    15. Generic Name*

      Here’s what I grew up eating that I think of as traditional food from my region:

      Cornmeal fried catfish and hush puppies
      Salmon patties
      Strawberry rhubarb pie
      Sour cherry pie
      Tuna casserole
      Jello salad
      Potato salad
      Macaroni salad
      Egg salad sandwiches
      Chicken salad sandwiches (on a croissant if it was a fancy place)
      Buttered corn on the cob

      I wonder how many can guess where I’m from? :)

      1. Elle Woods*

        I’m going to guess Midwest. I grew up in MN and we had most of those things though instead of calling them runzas we called them pasties.

        And it’s a very MN-specific thing, but it’s always hotdish, not casserole. Casserole is the dish you cook your hotdish in. :)

        1. OperaArt*

          It’s also hotdish in North Dakota.

          Hotdish, Jello salad, and bars (no, not establishments that serve liquor).

          Humor columnist Dave Barry made fun of Grand Forks, North Dakota many years ago. So they very nicely informed him that they were naming a sewage treatment plant after him, and invited him up from Florida for the ceremony. In the middle of the North Dakota winter. He made the journey and was treated to a big potluck dinner afterwards. One third of the city was assigned to bring hotdish, one third was to bring Jello salad, and one third brought bars.

          1. FarmGirl*

            My favorite cookbook that has hot dish, jello salads and bars was my Grandma’s Lutheran church cookbook-classic MN fare. And no, Mom, strawberry pretzel salad can not replace a vegetable dish. It is called salad, but it is dessert!

            1. Stunt Apple Breeder*

              I’m not familiar with strawberry jello salad. We had a pistachio pudding-pineapple-whipped cream-marshmallow salad that I know has an actual name, but we called Church Potluck Salad.

    16. OyHiOh*

      Where I grew up, “casseroles” were a primary staple of American food. Usually pasta based although more adventurous cooks might use rice. Jello salads. In the aquatic department, walleye and bass (white fleshed fresh water fish), usually grilled over charcoal, or deep fried. The immigrant base of that US region was primarily Scandinavian and based on dairy agriculture, with more recent Hmong and Hispanic influences. The food has improved considerably!

      Where I live now, chilies and tomatoes reign supreme. Rice and beans figure heavily, just about anything can be wrapped in a tortilla. “Sloppers” are popular as a Europe meets the Americas fusion dish. An open face hamburger sandwich, with green chili poured over. Sopapillas, a type of fluffy yeast dough flattened into a disk and fried, are one of the more popular deserts. The river that separated the US from Mexico prior to 1830 runs through the middle of the city so the local indigenous culture is heavily and inescapably Hispanic/Mexican, with layers of white/European immigration over the top.

      Non-US readers, it takes 16 hours by car to get from one home town to the other.

    17. RussianInTexas*

      Where I live it’s burger and got dogs, but also Tex-Mex, bbq, kolaches, pho, Viet-Cajun crawfish, and the rest.
      There are three noodle shops on the 3 out of four corners by my office, and there is a ramen joint on the 4th.

    18. Lora*

      Whenever I’ve been overseas, as near as I can tell they think of American food as sort of what we would see on the kids’ menu of an Applebees type restaurant: burgers, hotdogs, bad pizza, chicken fingers, fishsticks, fries. Lots of fries. Often with some Cheez Whiz type concoction on top.

      What *I* think of as American food:
      South: gumbo, jambalaya, biscuits and gravy, the various regional BBQs – brisket is my favorite. Banana pudding dessert and bananas foster, greens with bacon dressing and/or ham hocks, hopping john, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, catfish and hushpuppies, okra, butterbeans, country ham and slaw, beignets and chicory coffee, key lime pie, cornbread

      Mid-Atlantic: venison stew, cheesesteaks, Maryland crab cakes, Old Bay boiled shrimp, peanut brittle, ramps and wild mushrooms, chicken fried rabbit, dilly beans and greasy beans, bread and butter pickles, New York pizza, scrapple, shoofly pie, birch beer, every kind of meat and cheese ground up with scraps and made into some kind of “loaf” (ham loaf, pimiento loaf, olive loaf…), pretzels with mustard, pork roll, Italian ice, pastrami, NYC cheesecake, lox bagels, the wrong kind of clam chowder

      New England: lobster rolls, real chowder, the Other Cornbread, maple syrup, cranberry sauce, turkey with stuffing, pumpkin pie, over-hopped microbrewery beer, baked beans, a cafeteria-type dish called American chop suey, Concord grape jelly, Fluffernutter sandwiches, bluefish and steamer clams, fiddlehead ferns, Boston cream pie, Parker house rolls, blueberry everything, Vermont cheeses, weird apple varieties (lots of apple orchards and apple picking is a whole THING in the fall)

      Midwest: Hot Dish, Chicago pizza, “Cincinnati chili”, Detroit coney Island hotdogs, Kansas City BBQ, persimmon pudding, UP pasty, toasted ravioli, Wisconsin cheese, Rocky Mountain oysters

      Southwest: New Mexico green chili peppers, Tex-mex type of stuff like burritos, fajitas, queso, nachos, chili con carne, Texas BBQ (smoked moist brisket and jalapeno sausage), sweet potato casserole, King Ranch chicken, prickly pear jelly and sauce, nopales

      West coast: everything with very fresh vegetables and a lot of salad. No matter what you ordered, it comes with a huge salad. Alice Waters / Chez Panisse type cooking. California style pizza has things on it which don’t belong on pizza. I think of San Francisco as the origin of a lot of Chinese-American food too, like General Tsao’s Chicken and fortune cookies.

      Generally: buffalo wings, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, ice in your drink no matter what the weather is, lemonade (other countries have something they call “lemonade” but it’s fizzy which is incorrect).

    19. RagingADHD*

      Cornbread, okra, greens with ham.

      Succotash, corn on the cob, grits.

      Pancakes, maple syrup, pecan pie.

      American baking is also much lower in eggs and butter, and higher in sugar.

      I also think of fusion cuisines like Tex-Mex, or American Chinese, that are quite different from the original style.

    20. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      A lot of the “ethnic” foods we have are really American dishes very loosely based on other nationalities. Tacos, as known in America, are not the tacos from most of Mexico.

      American foods:
      Fortune Cookies
      Peanut Butter

    21. Now I want some Nutella*

      Peanut butter for sure. When I (an American) was traveling in Europe in my early twenties, I couldn’t afford to eat at restaurants. I would buy groceries to eat in my room. Peanut butter was my first choice as it didn’t need refrigeration and was high in protein. But I couldn’t find it! This was in 1980. I remember being in a grocery store in Paris and no peanut butter anywhere. But a HUGE number of Nutella jars, including one that was bigger than a jar of mayonnaise. I had never seen Nutella before. I bought a little one and sat on my bed in absolute heaven eating it with a spoon. It was years before it got to the U.S. and years until places I visited in Europe had peanut butter.

      1. allathian*

        Interesting. I’m from Finland, and our traditional cuisine is pretty bland. My maternal grandma never used anything other than salt, pepper, and mustard for seasoning. We lived in the UK in the mid-80s for a year, and peanut butter was definitely available. I think we bought a small jar of chunky peanut butter to try it, and I thought it was the grossest thing I’d ever eaten. I don’t think we finished the jar during the year we lived there. I haven’t tried it since, although these days I do like Snickers chocolate…

      2. osmoglossum*

        You must not have grown up in an Italian-American neighborhood — I was raised on Nutella sandwiches (on Wonderbread) as a kid in the 60s-70s in NYC. It was in every local supermarket/grocery store. I miss it so much — haven’t had it in years because of the palm oil.

    22. Girasol*

      When we visited Australia from the US we went every noon to a bakery because every bakery made fabulous pies of lamb or beef with vegetables. Once my husband asked if they ever made anything like an apple or cherry pie. The baker looked at him like he’d suggested eating a worm and said, “Well, I SUPPOSE you could do that.” So I think fruit pies are more American than not. While pumpkin is a common veggie on an Australian dinner plate, IIRC the US is where the otherwise savory pumpkin is turned into a sweet spicy pie. I don’t know if anyone but an American sticks pumpkin and spice into their coffee. (Somewhere an Aussie is saying, “You do WHAT?”)

    23. Bagpuss*

      UK based, and I would think of big burgers, fried chicken, BBQ (as in meat with bbq sauce) American pancakes, pumpkin pie, hot dogs, glazed donuts.
      Also things like grits, gumbo and chowder.
      (Also lots of processed / convenience foods, but I wouldn’t think of them in the context of home cooking! )

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        American in the UK here and I would agree with the above. I think a lot of people have a skewed idea of American food because they only see US brands in places like the American Candy Shop or the weird end of aisle section at Sainsbury’s supermarket where there are random things like peanut butter cups, root beer, a marshmallow brand I’ve never heard of, and more electric green and orange food. It must be one importer carrying specific brands because I only see those brands wherever “american” food is sold, including online shops.

        In context of “normal” cooking then I would add on the Thanksgiving dinner concept that folks seem to go nuts for here and almost beg for an invite even though its just the UK Christmas dinner minus some tiny sausages and plus a pumpkin or pecan pie.

        Ive found bringing a cornbread or corn pudding to bbqs to be a huge hit, and I usually like to bring an American-style dessert, cut into tiny squares!, as well – like a bar or krispie treats or something like that.

        What I dont get from the UK side is this bizarre obsession with cake. And its not like an American cake where you would have a nice frosting and its moist, a lot of times its just a sponge and jam in between, usually really dry. You can get a cake at the supermarket for less than 5 bucks and the use by date is like 4 months out. Go out anywhere for the day and inevitably there is a cake stop, and cafes at attractions are rammed with cake and tea folks.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Oh, I am sad for you if you are getting dry cake, and yes, cheap long life supermarket stuff is not good.

          Properly made cake isn’t dry, although I think we do tend to have much less frosting and it’s not normally so cloyingly sweet , based on my experience when I’ve been in the US)

          National Trust cafe’s are often a good place to get proper, well made cake :)

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. Home made cakes shouldn’t be dry. I would agree a lot of what is sold in the supermarket isn’t a great representation of the art form and involves too many preservatives. My grandmother made the lightest most wonderful cakes ever and we all are sad that she died before writing the recipes down.

            Traditional British cakes don’t tend to involve frosting or icing very much and are probably less sweet so I suppose it’s a question of what you’re used to.

    24. Ariadne Oliver*

      Shrimp and grits, California Roll, Oreo cookies, lobster roll, po’boys, collard greens, barbeque according to region, steak and baked potato, surf and turf, crab cakes, devils food cake, pumpkin pie, turkey and stuffing, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole, fried bologna sandwich, biscuits and gravy, and the list goes on and on.

    25. Sc@rlettNZ*

      As a Kiwi, I think of American food as hot dogs, pecan pie, green beans mixed with mushroom soup (why?) and those weird salads made with Miracle Whip.

    26. HannahS*

      A lot of foods widely eaten in Canada/US that are associated with immigrant communities are actually fusion foods! These dishes don’t always exist in their “home” countries or among people from the same diaspora in other places, and evolved out of the availability of local ingredients. Things like American-style Chinese food, spaghetti and meatballs, bagels with cream cheese and lox.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. Given the history of bagels, I find it amazing that at one coffeehop here, the most popular bagel is filled with ham. Yes, really.

      2. Tayto*

        Corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef isn’t an Irish food and you won’t find it here, but it was popular in American with Irish immigrants.

    27. Cj*

      I found this question really interesting, so I Googled a few of the items that people consider to be American food.

      Please believe me when I’m say I’m not trying to correct anybody for the sake of saying they are wrong, I just wanted to mention two in particular as I was surprised because I would also have considered them American foods. Apparently french fries are actually from Belgium, and macaroni and cheese is British.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think that sits with the fact that the US is dominated by [the descendants of ] immigrant populations, so most things are American versions of dishes from other places, and in some cases combinations or derivations of the same.

        I wonder whether the Macaroni Cheese thing is because it was an early / popular pre-made / packaged food? I don’t think of the dish itself as American, (I was quite surprised to learn how far back it went as a English dish) maybe the Kraft packaged version made it better known / more mainstream?

  12. Venus*

    How does your garden grow? Mine is full of tomatoes! I plan to cut some up and freeze them this weekend.

    1. Me*

      Lots of beans!

      Some tomatoes but I have a squirrel that is tasting some. Not enough to hurt the overall haul of tomatoes but still annoying!

      I have three spaghetti squash and three sweet meat squash. My long pie pumpkin only produced one large pumpkin but it’s looking great!

      I had a lovely plate of fresh mozzarella with basil and tomatoes from the garden for dinner the other night.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      Rented an excavator to break through the caliche in the main garden. We’ve been out since the buttcrack of dawn. Hubs is running the machine while I shovel and dump buckets of compost into the trenches. I finally decided this was for the birds and woke up the minimen-spawn for help. I think I’m done for the day: now to convince the hubs to come inside too.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      It’s tomato season! (Also weed season, but I think it’s always weed season.) With the extra rain from Ida and now a few days of sunny weather, it’s a jungle out there!

    4. Windchime*

      My sister planted a couple of tomato plants at my house because she didn’t have a good place to plant them at hers. They are doing very well; one is loaded with green tomatoes although she did get some cherry tomatoes today. I also have a plant that my yard guy gave me when it was tiny; he said it was a cucumber but it is producing a very nice cantaloupe so I’m thinking he was wrong about it being a cuke. :)

    5. Back to the garden*

      After years of break from gardening, last year it was just kale, kale everywhere… this year I put in a lot of seeds… most of them were past expiry date.
      – Surprisingly the beets turned out well, I have tried this in the past with no success, so this was double the happiness when I saw them growing.
      – One lone beans plant
      – Russian Red kale
      – Italian Black Kale
      – Swisschard

      Other than food, I had planted some perennials last Fall, all of them grew well and flwoered and made my summer this year!

    6. Potatoes gonna potate*

      So I don’t really have a garden but I did post last week about buying indoor plants….

      I picked up a few herbs from Trader Joe’s, they were inexpensive, low maintenance and smelled great so I figured why not.

      Basically they were OK until the week before when my husband shut the window and moved htem to a shelf and they withered and died. I cut what I could, and watered the soil and roots but nothing came of it after a week so I just chucked them. I’m going to buy new ones soon but before I do — does the window actually need to be open for them to thrive or can they get sunlight through a closed window? and what happens if it’s rainy or cloudy for several days in a row?

      Also any suggestions on where I can learn more about gardening, for a beginner that aren’t Youtube videos?

      1. SarahKay*

        Not sure if you read the comments after the weekend, but I’ve successfully kept herbs in pots on a windowsill with shut windows; it’s my go-to for fresh herbs in the winter. I’d say unless your glass has some sort of special treatment added (UV blocker / reflective coating, maybe?) they should be fine.

  13. Baby Shark DO DO DO*

    Warning for talk of potential miscarriages

    My close friend group (all in our early 30s) has our first pregnancy. We all so happy for our friend and her husband. But I was surprised how early she told us; she’s only 4 weeks along. She hasn’t even missed her period yet but she started getting other symptoms (heightened smell and body aches) so she took a test. Is that too early to tell even your close family and friends?

    I always heard don’t tell people so early when things can go wrong but she’d still have to explain the situation if she did have an early miscarriage. The couple has only told their parents, siblings, and us close friends: people they said they would want to know if there was a miscarriage so we could be their support. So is it more normal to announce it earlier these days to your support system?

    1. Vici*

      I think it completely depend on the person. Some people want to share the news early, others prefer to wait. There’s no right answer here. As long as she’s comfortable with how they’re handling it, it’s fine.

      1. Daffodilly*

        ^^ This 100%!
        The theory behind the advice is that if you don’t ever tell them you were pregnant, you can deal with your miscarriage and grief all by your self and not bring anyone down with your awful news. My sister had THREE people tell her some variation of “if you’re having a miscarriage, why tell me about the pregnancy at all?” Her MIL was offended that they would “tell her something they knew would only bring pain.” when they told her what was going on. As if sharing their struggle and grief was something they did AT her.
        Eff that.
        If you want to share, share!
        If you want to wait, wait!
        But never, under any circumstances, should people expect ANYONE to deal with the physical and emotional fallout of a miscarriage without the support of friends and family.
        Personally, I would rather have the joy of sharing. If it does end in a miscarriage, I’m going to need my friends and family, and if I have to tell them while in the middle of it, they (and I) missed out on the joy and only got the pain.
        But again, everyone gets to do what is right for them. It’s never too early.

        1. PT*

          That experience sounds like it illustrated why people opt not to tell, though. So they don’t have to deal with other people being insensitive jerks while they’re grieving.

    2. Asenath*

      I think it has always been the case to announce a pregnancy at different times to different people – the closest and most trusted hear first, and the wider circle finds out later. Yes, the traditional reason given was so that you didn’t have to talk about a miscarriage to a lot of different people over weeks or months if the miscarriage happened early on. But if your friend wants to make the announcement to those closest to her, I don’t see anything wrong about it. I mean, in the past it wasn’t an option – it took longer than 4 weeks to confirm a pregnancy, but technology has advanced, so it seems fine to also announce it earlier. I don’t really know how common announcements at each stage are, but I don’t think it matters.

      1. Cj*

        I wouldn’t want to tell a bunch of people that I had a miscarriage. But I would definately want to be able to get support from my closest friends if I had one. I can’t imagine going through that myself without being able to talk about it to those closest to me.

    3. Anona*

      I think it really depends. It seems like some people are more transparent than they used to be, partly to destigmatize miscarriage.
      We told people really early with our first pregnancy, and it was awful when I miscarried and we had to untell them.

      With my second pregnancy we waited until the second trimester to tell everyone, including family. But I do know some people tell earlier for support.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I had to tell some people sooner than I expected because I had some very obvious symptoms and needed to accommodate extreme fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Fortunately it worked out fine (although I was sick for the entire pregnancy) and the baby is now a healthy teen. I didn’t want to have friends and family who weren’t strictly in the “need to know due to accommodations” group being offended by being excluded, so we gave in and told everyone at about 5 weeks.

    5. SoloKid*

      My friend also announced early, and also miscarried. If one trusts their support group to actually be supportive then I don’t see a problem with announcing earlier. “Normal” isn’t always the way things have to be.

    6. HBJ*

      No, it’s not to early. The only reason to wait until 12 weeks is if you plan to keea miscarriage a secret. Not everyone wants to do that.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Different things work for different people. I had a miscarriage at the very end of the first trimester, a week after we started telling people. And would get slammed occasionally when someone would innocently ask how the pregnancy was going, since that news was circulating on its own. For that reason, my generic advice is to bear in mind how news travels without you when choosing to share.

      But different things work for different people. Certainly you will want support after a miscarriage–though how far and wide varies by person–and there’s a logic to not starting that with “I hadn’t told you I was pregnant, but I just had a miscarriage.” There is no hard rule about when it is okay to tell the people you expect to be supportive for the good or the scary. People you expect to be difficult, I’d tell them as late as possible.

      1. Blackcat*

        “For that reason, my generic advice is to bear in mind how news travels without you when choosing to share.”

        Yes, this. My parents treat anything I tell them as public news, even if I tell them not to tell. Therefore, they cannot be support people. They found out about current fetus at 20 weeks for that reason.

    8. RagingADHD*

      There are no rules about this, but unfortunately it’s never too early for the pregnancy police to tell women they are pregnanting wrong.

      I don’t mean you asking the question — that’s not policing. I mean that no matter when your friend tells people, there will be some glassbowl who thinks their opinion matters, who will decide that she told too soon, or too late, or the wrong way. Hopefully they will keep it to themselves.

      Miscarriages are sadly common, but as far as we can tell, they are still fairly unlikely, at 10-15 percent of known pregnancies. Different people do the math on that differently, and to a lot of people, a 15% chance of bad news is not a reason to keep good news to themselves.

    9. Alexis Rosay*

      There’s no right time. I told family about my first pregnancy at 4 weeks and miscarried at 6 weeks. I regretted telling–having to tell people about the miscarriage made the whole experience much worse. I’m the kind of person who would have preferred to grieve privately with my partner. But others may find solace in sharing the news of miscarriage. I hope this doesn’t become relevant for your friend though.

    10. Baby Maybe*

      Ugh, I am dealing with this right now. I’m just 6 weeks along and have had to tell a handful of people – the ones who I see regularly and with whom we have a hot-tub-and-drinking party planned. They would notice I’m not participating.

      I am really scared of the possibility of a miscarriage, but know I will also need their support (and possibly hot tubs and drinking) if I do.

      If a slight hijack is okay – can anyone recommend a book, a blog, a podcast etc about pregnancy after infertility? It is… not very easy.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        I have no blog or book recommendations, but having been there and done that, it is not easy at all! We tried for over 10 years, and our son was a huge surprise. It was a difficult pregnancy, and the less said about the birth, the better. However, it was more than worth it! I wish you a comfortable pregnancy, fast birth, and a healthy baby!

      2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

        Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure. They’ve podcasted in real time about their journey through fertility treatments, pregnancy, and after their son was born. I think they started “Season 2” of the podcast when Doree was pregnant so that there was a clear demarcation for listeners between fertility treatments and pregnancy after infertility.

        1. Janet Pinkerton*

          Yes and they have two Facebook groups—one for trying and one for pregnancy and beyond. Highly recommend. Just search for the podcast name on Facebook. (And agreed, it’s not easy. I’m 16 weeks and I have only told seven IRL friends so far. A bunch of internet friends know but that’s different.)

    11. allathian*

      It really depends on the person. There’s no shame in having a miscarriage, or even multiple miscarriages, but some people would prefer to grieve in private and don’t tell anyone until the end of the first trimester just in case. Some people have a reason not to trust their “support system” to actually be supportive, and don’t tell them for that reason.

      When I got pregnant with our son, I told my parents, sister and my in-laws at 10 weeks, after the first ultrasound scan. I showed them the pictures, too. I told my manager much earlier than I’d planned, because she found me asleep at my desk when I was about 14 weeks along. That was perhaps unfortunate, but it didn’t have any consequences for my employment. I work for the government in a country with long maternity leave, so I could trust that to be the case.

      After I had my son, I’ve had one chemical pregnancy, when I had a positive pregnancy test and a late and exceptionally heavy period afterwards, and two first-trimester miscarriages. I was 40 and 42 when I had them. Both times I miscarried before 10 weeks, so I hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant except my husband. I also had very few symptoms of pregnancy apart from not getting my periods, so the test results felt unreal both times. I didn’t even tell my family and friends after the fact, because I didn’t want to deal with the resulting supportive fuss. They would’ve been supportive, but I just wanted to forget the whole thing and move on, especially after the second miscarriage, when I realized I was more relieved than sad. I think my husband told his two closes friends and dealt with his grief that way, but I absolutely forbade him from telling his mom. She’s a great person and I love her a lot, but I didn’t want to deal with her mourning a lost grandkid more than I mourned my lost pregnancy. I guess I was just happy that I wouldn’t have to deal with a baby at 43… At that time, I think my husband finally realized that a second kid wasn’t on the cards for us.

    12. Blackcat*

      “So is it more normal to announce it earlier these days to your support system?”

      It really, really varies. I am very private and don’t want anyone to know. I got away with very few people knowing about my current pregnancy until I was 20 weeks along. (Upside of no travel/wfh). Basically, only my neighbors who saw me often knew, because I was like… super obviously pregnant if you saw me in person.

      My husband’s best friend has been dealing with recurrent miscarriages and seems to tell him about as soon as she knows, because she wants support.

    13. Roja*

      It depends on the person. We announced to parents and close friends when we found out at 7 weeks, because we knew that if I did miscarry there’s no way we wouldn’t tell them anyway. We left extended family and acquaintances until later once things felt more secure. But I knew that if tragedy did strike that I would still want family and friends around me–and frankly, I felt so miserable for that first trimester that there’s no way I could have reasonably hid it from people who are normally very close to me.

  14. Bibliovore*

    Feeling pretty stupid right now. My sister came to stay with me for a few days. She expressed surprise and a bit of dismay at the contents of my fridge.
    I have been living on hard boiled eggs, apples and peanut butter. Toast. Quesadillas. Ramen. Kimchi. Frozen dumplings from Trader Joe’s. Coffee and milk or ice cream for my meds.
    I just can’t cook right now.

    Anyone have a shopping list of easy to prepare or ready made food for one?

    1. Anon for this*

      Some of those frozen mixed veggie dishes that you can microwave would be a good addition. Some even have beans or pasta and could be a small meal.

      1. Cj*

        Seconding the pasta suggestion. There are tons on dry mix pasta preparations that you just need to add water and/or milk too, simmer for 10 minutes, and they are awesome. Add some microwave rice, like Uncle Ben’s, and maybe a salad-in-a-bag, and that’s a pretty decent meal.

        Sounds like you need to add protein, even though you are getting some from the eggs, so try to add meat in there somewhere. Maybe tuna salad sandwiches if you don’t want to actually have to cook meat. Or add some pre-cooked chicken to the pasta mentioned above.

    2. AY*

      It looks to me like you’re really missing vegetables. Pick your faves, toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt, and whatever other spices you like, and look up on Google how long to roast each variety in the oven. It’s cooking but not really cooking!

      When I can’t even face the thought of roasting veggies, I eat those premixed salad bags from the produce section.

    3. Quick easy food*

      Hummus, pita, and cut veggies (cucumbers, carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes)
      Jar spaghetti sauce and pasta. Some grocery stores have fresher pasta or tortellini
      Avocados, cut in half and sprinkled with salt and pepper flakes (if you like a bit of spice). Or avocado toast
      Trader Joe’s: Pouches of Indian Curry (you can Microwave), frozen samosas. I also like their marinated swarma chicken – 20 mins in the oven and you can eat alone, on salad, with rice, on bread, etc
      Baked potatoes with toppings
      Prepared rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. My store also has prepared fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw
      Deli meats for sandwiches
      Pepperoni, cheese, crackers

      Don’t feel stupid. What you’ve listed for food seems pretty reasonable to me, especially considering the circumstances.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        Pasta + jarred sauce + a half a bag of frozen veggies + canned chicken or precooked sausage was a staple of mine in grad school. You just boil the pasta in one pot and throw everything else in a small pan until the sauce boils. Makes enough for a couple days of dinner.

        See also sandwiches, prepared salads, frozen meals, a bowl of cereal, potato + ham + cheese (microwaved), eggs + toast, frozen pre-seasoned veggies, bratwurst or other sausage on a roll with a side of store bought coleslaw (this felt fancy but just required microwaving precooked bratwurst), baby carrots and hummus, or bagels/rolls with cream cheese or avacado. I generally aimed to eat at least one each of a vegetable, a starch, and a protein (dairy counts) for dinner and some kind of fruit juice or fruit at least once per day, and otherwise as long as I ate food that was good enough.

    4. Asenath*

      I often fall back on a local business that does ready-to-eat meals (frozen and fresh) that are a big step above most commercial offerings and far tastier and more balanced than something I prepare myself. I sometimes toss in some extra frozen vegetables. I can cook, but prefer to do less of it. It’s an expensive option, but nutritious and convenient. I make salads. I like green salads, but some people like adding grains and protein (like boiled eggs!) to make it more of a meal. Rice + lentils + flavourings are a favourite of some people. You do get fruit, which is something I tend to neglect, but I like hot cereals (I vary the grains, usually combining a few) with fruit or jam and yoghurt.

    5. Expiring Cat Memes*

      One of my go-to meals for one is a basic flatbread pizza. Everything has a reasonably long shelf life so I don’t have to plan or prepare too much in advance. Flatbread freezes, I keep a big bag of pre-grated cheddar in the fridge, dried herbs, onion and tomato I always have on hand, maybe tinned tuna if I want some protein. It takes around 12mins in the oven, so less than 20mins all up to prepare. Just leave the centre of the flatbread free so it doesn’t sog out.

      (PS: you’re not stupid and don’t let concerns about what others may think make you feel that way. You’re managing to put one foot in front of the other right now and that is enough.)

    6. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      You’re keeping yourself fed during a global health emergency. You’re eating at all – don’t feel bad.
      I think what you’re eating right now sounds perfectly fine. That said, if you want to change things up a bit:
      – depending on where you are, it’s the end of stone fruit season and the stone fruit has been amazing this year. Slicing up a nectarine or plum is just as easy as an apple. Get some presliced watermelon too – yes, it’s more pricey, but it gets hydration and a little bit of fiber into you with minimal effort.
      – Does blending count as cooking for you right now? Yogurt or plant-based milk, frozen fruit, banana, whirl. Bonus, drinking your fruits and veg often feels easier.
      – Bagged salad mix and rotisserie chicken, if you eat meat.
      – Definitely steam in a bag vegetables, especially if you have a microwave. There’s a ton of variety, especially if you have TJs, and you just have throw the bag in the microwave and then add the veg on top of your ramen or dumplings.
      – Do you have Costco or a friend with a Costco membership? They have a lot of really nice ready to eat or just throw in the oven options. The portions are, well, Costco sized, but if you don’t mind eating the same thing for several days, you could get a couple of things things from Costco. Go at the beginning of the week, grab a tray of those pork medallions and a rotisserie chicken, a big salad, and call it a week. (Sorry if you don’t eat meat, their options are pretty carnivorous, though that’s changing).
      – Do you have a bougie grocery store with a deli counter available? They’re great for premade side dishes. Again, it’s a little more pricey, but you’re trading that to get food in you.
      But honestly, you’ve got protein and carbs and fruit and veg (fermented veg, even!) so you’re doing fine. Only add stuff in if you really want to and you’re up to it.

    7. Anona*

      I don’t think you’re stupid. I think your capacity is currently full with grief.

      When I’ve been low on capacity, protein granola bars have been helpful. I like the fried rice from trader Joe’s and also the orange chicken. Frozen pierogis. Frozen pot pie. Costco has these frozen spicy meat pies that I have liked. Greek yogurt for the protein. Chicken nuggets. Spaghetti.

      Smoothies. Sometimes when grieving I’ve found it easier to drink calories (like in a smoothie) than eat them.
      A good smoothie is a banana, Greek yogurt, milk, and frozen fruit. Banana is optional. Or you can do just banana, no frozen fruit. Maybe add some peanut butter.
      I hope you find some filling, easy food that work for you.

    8. Hotdog not dog*

      Hmm. I think we might have the same fridge contents. I don’t like to cook, and there are 3 of us in the household. We eat a lot of sandwiches, eggs, fruit, prepared frozen meals. Your sister is probably just concerned about your well-being, but it’s entirely up to you whether you want to change up your groceries at this point. If you want to start veering healthier, you could add some fresh fruits and veggies to your current menu.

      1. ronda*

        I dont like to cook either, so I am ordering from a meal service and it works well. you pick out the number of meals you want from about 30 offered each week and they mail them too you. They arrive in very good condition and I have found them to be nice meals.

        The one I am using right now is factor. I have a free box of 4 meals to give if you are interested. It is really free, but you are automatically subscribed for weekly, so put future deliveries on skip, then cancel if you dont think it will work for you, or they will automatically send/charge you each week. (would need an email to send it to you and they will likely email you for the rest of time)

        But as to the contents of your fridge… It sounds fine to me. If that is what you want to eat right now, it is what you should eat.
        If you want to have different stuff…. maybe try a meal delivery service to make it easy on yourself. you deserve easy on yourself.

    9. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      If your sister is staying with you and finds the contents of your fridge dismaying, she should definitely take the opportunity to feed you right for a few days and leave your fridge full of yummy leftovers.

      You might also ask for food next time someone offers help. There’s a reason meal chains are a classic gift to the mourning.

      One of my particularly lazy dishes is scrambled eggs with peas in them. Just cook frozen peas in the frying pan in a bit of grease for a few minutes before adding the eggs. Sometimes I add a good sprinkle of texmex spices-cumin, chili, powdered onion and garlic-for a different flavor. I usually eat this in a tortilla with cheese.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That’s what I was gonna say – if your sister has opinions about the state of your fridge, she’s cordially invited to either remedy the situation or shut her piehole.

    10. Dino*

      You are not alone. My fridge is the same, and it’s a struggle to do even that.

      When I do cook, batch cooking is the only way. My easiest recipe/shopping list is:
      – 6-8 servings of rice. Boil.
      – 2-3 frozen or pre-cut veggie bags
      – 2 jars of sauce such as butter chicken, curry sauce, orange chicken glaze
      – 1 bag of frozen chicken breast, tenderloin size so it’s easier to cut/shred and takes less time to cook.

      Boil rice, steam veggies or cook in saucepan, bake chicken, then heat sauce and combine with veggies and chicken. Put in individual containers, then freeze half.

      Eating anything at all is success. You’re doing just fine. <3

      1. Dino*

        And if that list seems daunting, I’m right there with you. I can manage it sometimes twice a month. My mental health/mental illness plus family grief has been… destabilizing, to say the least. So I live on snacks, try my best to vary them, but otherwise don’t put the pressure on myself.

        Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. And if your sis or anyone else says anything, let them fill up your fridge.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin*

          +1 You’re still hanging in there while a bit overwhelmed, and that’s GREAT! Go easy on yourself. I’m sorry you’ve got a judge-y sister. My pandemic-have-no-energy meal plan:

          Buy small pack of chicken thighs
          BBQ sauce
          Tiny little potatoes in bag
          Container of sour cream
          Put foil on little baking sheet in toaster oven
          Dump 2 chicken thighs on baking sheet
          Dump BBQ sauce on thighs and spread it around a little
          Run a little water over a couple of tiny little potatoes to rinse and dump them whole on baking sheet around thighs
          350 for 1 hr, 10 mins.
          Put on paper plate
          Dump sour cream on potatoes
          Put leftover chicken thigh (if any) in foil and dump in freezer for later.

          1. Squirrel Nutkin*

            A variation, if you feel up to watching something on the stove: Pepsi chicken and little potatoes. Take above chicken thighs and rinsed little potatoes and put in saucepan over medium heat with some Pepsi for liquid. Cook at least 45 minutes, turning chicken thighs over a couple of times. If you’re feeling energetic, dump in some frozen veggies after 45 minutes.

    11. Not A Manager*

      Are you asking for shopping lists, or are you asking if your sister is correct, or are you asking if she’s being helpful?

      Your sister might be correct that, for someone who generally has a more varied diet, limiting oneself to a few foods could be a sign of something else going on. In your case, there is something else going on. I don’t think your current diet is wildly unhealthy in the medium term, and I think that when you’re ready to expand it, you will. So my first advice is, don’t give another thought to changing your shopping AT ALL if you don’t want to.

      I’m sure your sister’s comment came from a place of love and care, but from how you’ve described the situation, it doesn’t sound all that helpful to me. You’ve posted before about people not wanting you to answer them honestly about your grief, presumably because it’s uncomfortable for them. I wonder if your sister’s immediate response to your fridge is similar? Your current diet is evidence of your deep distress, and that’s hard to see. Instead of her either saying, “wow, it’s great that you are keeping yourself fed and hydrated at all, good job!” or instead of her just going out and doing a big shopping for you, I feel that she’s subtly telling you not to express your grief in ways that make her sad or uncomfortable. Again, I’m sure she’s generally supportive and loving, but if you are feeling that she’s casting some shade about the food thing, I don’t think you’re wrong and I think you’re allowed to dismiss it.

      In terms of shopping lists, I’d suggest that if you already like TJ’s dumplings, and if you can afford to buy prepared treats, just shop in their frozen section and get a bunch of frozen comfort food. I personally like their tamales a lot, and most of their frozen pasta stuff.

      When you decide to venture back into cooking, I also like TJ’s bundles of pre-chopped veggies and their bagged salad mixes. I’m not a big salad person, but I’ll buy the cabbage slaw mix or the broccoli slaw and cook it up as a stir fry or in soup.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, I hope sister isn’t judging and in fact ran out to the nearest grocery or whipped up something nourishing and nurturing.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Trader Joe’s has some really good soups, it looks like the weather is turning cooler here at least, maybe you can put soups on your radar. Potato leek soup is a comfort food for me.

      Since I have been doing life on my own, I buy bagged salads. (GASP. I know.) I just can’t be bothered to cut up all those veggies. I have been enjoy some of the salads that have the greens cut up really small. I don’t know why I like it. Odd things can just hit right, I guess.

      Grocery shopping is so loaded with emotions for people. If you used to shop together it can be hard to shop by yourself. Then there is forcing yourself to remember to get food for ONE, not two. Omg. Why is that so hard to remember. Then, nothing is appealing so pick something/anything throw it in the cart and get out of the store.
      Once outside, “omg, where did I put the car? And when will my brain come back?”

      This is why people offer to take widowed people to the grocery store. Something so simple can be so loaded.
      Sis won’t know but my reply to her is, “And did you take Bibliovore shopping? Did you help her with getting food? How about making some soups/breads/other freezer items with her so she has something lined up in her freezer?” grr. Sorry, my 2 cents and FWIW.

      1. Bibliovore*

        All of this. She wasn’t being judgy . It was the audible gasp that got me. Today we went to a fancy food place .I can’t actually express an opinion about anything right now. She bought what we would call expensive noshes. Fresh soft pretzels, Smoked salmon spread, three kinds of pricey cheeses, summer sausage (?) prosciutto,fancy olives, pickles and First Kiss apples and a watermelon that she cut up when we got home. I am grateful that I don’t have to think about it.
        The reason I haven’t been buying vegetables is that I get a CSA and it all goes bad if I don’t give it away.
        Also most things taste like sawdust right now. Kimchi is the only thing I actually find tasty.

        1. Dino*

          Hey, me too. Sometimes I’ll cook something, take a bite and it tastes like nothing.

          If you like kimchi, going to the fancy grocery store and getting jarred sauerkraut might give some variety of flavor while still having bite. I eat it on pita chips and it’s a treat.

        2. OyHiOh*

          Can you contact the CSA (or maybe have your sister do it) and see if they can suspend your subscription, or possibly scholarship your box to someone who wouldn’t be able to afford it?

          It might give you a little bit of mental wiggle room if you don’t have to think about giving the box away every week.

          Sounds like your sister has your back. If you find yourself liking any of the things she bought, let her know.

          1. Bibliovore*

            I have good intentions when I pick up the box but just can’t cook/prepare anything now. Anything that takes planning or effort just doesn’t happen. If I just leave it they do give it away.
            Picking it up at least gives me an outing.
            I give away the CSA contents to the people who have been stopping by – trimming the lawn and bushes, walking the dogs, stopping for a short visit.
            This week’s giveaway was hot peppers, red peppers, shitake mushrooms, golden beets, zuchini. I kept the tomatoes.
            What I liked best- today we had fresh mozzerella, tomatoes and basil for lunch. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before.
            My grief therapist has said that I have to treat myself as I would a person with traumatic brain injury. Accept the brain fog and not have an opinion about it or myself.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Oh so much agreement on having no opinion about the brain fog or yourself. Do what you need to do to keep yourself safe and secure. I put a clip on my key ring because I am really good at setting keys down and forgetting where I set them down. I clip my keys to a belt loop or to my purse. Doing this little things to address recurring brain voids can really help. The brain voids will fade, but meanwhile, I just accepted them as how things were at the moment and made plans so I did not forget stuff. I also put my health insurance on autopay. They don’t send me a bill and I am supposed to magically remember. Yeah. Right. If I forget they said they would cancel. (??? I couldn’t even waste my time figuring out what they were talking about.)

              1. Bibliovore*

                My brother talked me into a four pack of apple find it buttons. I lose my keys about twice a day, can’t find my purse, can’t find my wallet. My watch tells me where my phone is and my phone tells me where everything else is.

    13. Feeling for You*

      Hello, Bibliovore. Good to “see” you. Oh dear, I’m sorry you feel stupid You aren’t! The food you are eating sounds just fine. In your shoes I’d be eating nothing but junk food. You are getting protein and carbs, you’re doing great. IF you want veggies, I second the person who said microwave steam bags you can get in the produce aisle. No prep, four minutes, and they’re good. But don’t feel pressured to eat even that! Also you might keep some Ensure in the house for days you just feel you can’t eat. And raw almonds or walnuts are easy and delicious. Hang in there.

    14. Feeling for You*

      Oh, and if you eat meat and don’t mind the expense, Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausages are good. We just throw them in the microwave. They cook in a minute or so. Stick with a fork first so they don’t explode.

    15. OyHiOh*

      If your sister has a problem with what’s in your fridge, she can shop for you! I mean this in all seriousness. I didn’t grocery shop for about two months after Mr Oy died, because family and a couple friends shopped and had it delivered.

      For close to half a year, small children and I mostly ate what I refer to as “platter meals.” I usually had sliced meat, cheese, hard boiled eggs, hummus, bread or crackers, crunchy vegetables, and berries (when people shopped for me, I told them to buy pre cut veggies and/or fruit). For a meal, I would put a couple choices of protein, hummus or some other dip, a carb, and 2 or 3 types of produce out on the counter and we’d fill our plates from there. A friend of mine, who has been widowed for a decade now, still pretty much feeds herself like this, with a rotissery chicken or other hot dishes from the deli counter once in awhile.

    16. Dark Macadamia*

      You’re eating. Don’t feel stupid about what.

      Gardein has some yummy frozen entrees that are quick to heat up. I really like the mandarin chik’n (with rice, and chopped scallions if I’m feeling fancy) and the chik’n sliders (top however you want – I usually do cheese and sliced avocado). The bbq porkless buns were disappointing though, very saucy and not enough protein (por’k? lol)

    17. Falling Diphthong*

      It is genuinely harder to cook for just one person. (One market for those meal-prep services is people who don’t want a bunch of fresh ingredients, of which they will use a teaspoon of each and then it goes bad.)

      My son is cooking for himself for the first time and I think it is going to look like:
      • rice in rice cooker
      • vegetable in top of rice cooker
      • some sort of baked or pan-fried protein

      I specifically gave him freezer bags and a marker so he could store individual chicken servings.

      I will note that I like to cook, am considered a very good cook, and when everyone was gone for a few weeks this spring I ate lots of takeout. I would order a soup, appetizer, and main, and then portion those out over the next few days. It often doesn’t feel worth it to cook for just one, and I do not judge anyone who finds they don’t have the energy for it in normal times, much less these times.

      Classic Shakshuka, a recipe that worked for my oldest when she started cooking on her own:
      Saute a small onion and 2 cloves garlic in olive oil. If you have a sweet pepper, it’s a nice addition. Add at least one teaspoon each of dried cumin, coriander, and paprika. Can add some hot pepper if you like here. Stir for a minute, then add a can of diced tomatoes. (I like fire-roasted.) Let flavors meld, then make a couple of indentations in the top and crack in two eggs. Cover and poach. Good sprinkled with feta and pita chips, but you don’t need them. If a light eater, you can break in one egg, eat that with half the sauce, and save and reheat the sauce for a second round in a day or two.

      When I was first cooking for myself I hit a string of pb&j toast for breakfast lunch and dinner, and I decided that was really sad and went shopping. But I don’t judge anyone cooking for one and living on pb&j, cause sometimes that’s where you are.

    18. Alice*

      My cooking shortcut is Better than Bouillon jars of bouillon paste. The chicken, garlic, mushroom, lobster are all good — I don’t like the beef. VERY HELPFUL
      – make a mug of chicken broth to drink – by itself, or with added lime juice
      – cook some pasta in a little water (sometimes I just break up a long pasta into pieces if that’s what I have), add a spoonful of broth concentrate, and a handful of frozen peas. All in the same pot. Now you have a super-easy version of chicken noodle soup
      – any time you warm up frozen vegetables, put a little chicken broth paste in too. Now you have steamed/boiled/sautéed veggies *in sauce*
      Frozen vegetables will be great for you, and maybe some dried fruit and nuts for more easy preparation, tasty options?
      I hope you feel better. And I hope that you and your sister have a good time together. I think it’s possible that your sister did not anticipate her comment would make you feel stupid and she may apologize if you explain that it did.

    19. Fiona*

      I don’t see anything wrong with your fridge contents! Like others have said, maybe add a few more veggies in to round things out – but why make yourself cook if you don’t want to? I’d only be concerned if you said you weren’t eating anything or if you were drinking alcohol in place of food. I really wouldn’t spend any time trying to whip up food to make someone else (in this case, your sister) more comfortable.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Same. There was a period early on in my grief process when I basically ate one meal a day (dinner, with wee dragons, they had breakfast and lunch at school) and lost an alarming amount of weight very quickly.

        Bibliovore, you’re eating, that’s literally the only thing your sister/other family/friends should be worried about right now. You can add more produce and/or hot meals later, as you feel up to it. Meanwhile, I feel it’s necessary to point out that apples and kimchi are, in fact, a fruit and a vegetable. You’re good. Eat the things that sit well with you right now.

    20. Laura H.*

      One thing I have on hand if I’m solo for a weekend (once a year usually) is packs of my store’s fully cooked, sliced and grilled chicken breast and frozen green beans.

      I put the green beans and chicken (it’s cooked already) in my microwaveable pot, with a splash or two of water, a little seasoning or teriyaki sauce and zap it. Usually made two servings with one 6 oz pack of chicken. Never measured the green beans but I subconsciously split that in two servings as well. (Prolly got 6 servings of green beans in the bag which was enough for lunches and dinners while the folks were away.)

    21. RagingADHD*

      There is a lot of scientific evidence that adding more fruit and veg to your diet can help with mental overwhelm and stress, so every day you get a bit more plants, it will get a teeny bit easier to deal with the rest.

      Lots of fruits and veggies can just be rinsed and don’t even need cutting up. Many can be peeled by hand or don’t need peeling: Bananas, grapes, grape tomatoes, plums, pears, cherries, nectarines, clementines, baby carrots. The small salad cucumbers with a thin skin can be eaten whole. Bagged pre-washed salad greens. And so forth.

      If you eat meat, you can get precooked frozen chicken breasts that just need reheating, as well as sides like rice or cauliflower rice that you can microwave.

      Scrambled eggs can be done in the microwave, too. Sometimes I like to zap a dish of frozen spinach, then crack an egg on it and zhuzz it with a fork, zap it again for 45-50 seconds, then top it with cheese or salsa. Tastes better than it looks.

      You aren’t stupid. When it feels like the world is on top of you, it’s hard to think of things like food that sound simple. Hope you get to feeling better soon.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Super good point about whole foods and stress. Someone in our fire company commented that the firefighters who do not use sugar, alcohol, tobacco or caffeine had the sharpest responses in the time of crisis- their mental clarity was discernibly higher than those who did not watch what they took in so much.
        When my husband got sick I could see the writing on the wall, I went down to just eating whole foods- lots of veggies, fruits and just plain meats. I did not care what I ate or if I even ate, so it was no hardship to limit my foods because I did not care. I firmly believe that the whole foods helped me through the whooping boatload of crap that happened next. I felt my mental clarity go up and I believe I did my best that I could with my givens (notice I did not say “ideal”).

        Truth be told, I did not eat that much and it was a struggle to eat three times a day. There were days, where three bites was all I could hack at a meal. I just. kept. doing. it. Gradually, the dust settled and slowly my normal appetite did return. My appetite and eating habits paralleled how well I was doing in dealing with problems and building a new life.
        One thing that upset me was one night I forgot to feed the dog. His appetite was fine so I know he was hungry. But I was too distracted and I forgot all about feeding him. This is so not me and it scared the crap out of me. How did I forget, omg. After that I made a habit of feeding him before I ate or I could graze on fruits/veggies while fixing his dish.

        1. Bibliovore*

          yes, this happened once. I was horrified at myself. They get fed now after their afternoon playtime (a friend visits, I put the food out for her)

    22. Aphrodite*

      If you like tuna, salmon or chicken salad, either stuffed into a tomato or in a sandwich or just by itself, TJ’s has decent canned versions. Put it in a bowl along with a some of the cut-up vegetables that you buy in their produce sections that comes in a round plastic container. (I add a lot of it.) Add a fruit like white grapes, chopped ripe mango, or cherries cut in half, those dry Moroccan olives you pitted, scallion, spicy mustard, some mayonnaise with thick ranch or Caesar dressing and anything else that sounds good. Mix it up. Yum!

    23. beach read*

      Barilla brand makes a 60 second microwave pasta(Ready Pasta) that I keep on hand for those days I’m too tired to cook and want something hearty. You can literally add anything, from a frozen veggie bag to a can of tuna.
      I cook and separate in to small batches, a pound of ground turkey breast, 99%. Pull a batch out of the freezer and add to some minute rice, a frozen veggie, and your favorite sauce for a quick stir fry. The ground turkey also finds its way into tacos, nachos, make shift cheeseburgers and a quick chili with beans and tomatoes. These are pantry type meals for when you don’t want to fuss but want a hearty meal,
      I also ask the butcher at the grocery store to cube chicken breast for me. cubes go right in the oven to cook and then in to batches in the freezer.

    24. WoodswomanWrites*

      It sounds like you’re taking good care of yourself. You’re dealing with a lot and there’s no need to feel stupid.

      Like you, I’m solo. I dislike cooking and here’s what I do to include fruit, vegetables, and protein. I enjoy munching on raw green beans and carrots, with or without dipping them in store-bought hummus. Favorite fruits are berries, grapes, bananas, and oranges. I’m a fan of prepared fish like smoked salmon and canned sardines. I like cottage cheese on rye crackers. When I’m craving something hot, I steam chard and tofu, and then put it on top of pasta, rice, or quinoa and add butter and soy sauce.

      I hope that helps, and I’m sending warm thoughts your way.

    25. HannahS*

      Honestly…all of those things sound fine to me. I see protein, I see fruit, I see vegetables, I see carbs. Obviously, if you yourself are tired of it, there are some awesome ideas around here, but in and of itself I don’t see any reason for you to feel stupid, bad, or wrong for eating the way you are currently.

      Here are simple things that I enjoy:
      Avocado toast (two pieces of toast, smash half an avocado on each side, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice)
      Scrambled eggs put in a tortilla with some ketchup and maybe some shredded cheese
      A bowl of sliced cucumbers with a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and some vinegar
      Frozen ravioli with jarred sauce
      Pita and hummus
      Yogurt and granola
      Pizza crackers (crackers on a place, put on tomato sauce, put on shredded cheese, microwave)

    26. Anono-me*

      I wound up supper stressed and unhappily cooking for one a while ago. I did soups and salads,(mostly from Trader Joe’s) with the occasional fried egg on toast. I also took a multivitamin.

      Here is what my shopping list was like.

      1 or 2 cartons of cream of ____ soup.
      1 package of cooked chicken breast.
      2 or 3 bags of salad
      4 or 5 individual salad meals (by the premade TJ sandwiches).
      Breakfast bars
      Fruit juice
      Trail mix.
      Shredded cheese
      Sour cream
      Breakfast bars
      Easy fruit (Bananas, Grapes, strawberries etc.)
      Bean Soup Ingredients *
      8+ cans of beans (multiple varieties)
      Can of tomatoes
      Veg or chicken broth
      Spices -Garlic, cumin, chili pepper
      Cooking oil

      I would have the breakfast bar or an egg on toast for breakfast with a piece of fruit.
      I would have one of the salads with some of the chicken for lunch.
      I would have bean soup for supper. (Sometimes with rice or sour cream or cheese or a combination. )
      If making and eating a meal was too much, I would nuke a mug of soup and munch on trail mix.

      *For the soup: Rinse and drain the beans. Mince the onion. Saute the onion in a little bit of oil with the garlic. In a large pot, combine the onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil . Add the spices, boil for about 5 minutes more, then remove from.hat and add the lime juice. Puree to your preferred texture.

    27. The cat’s ass*

      Oh dang. I feel this. It’s been a real ride over this last 18 months. I’m a second line HCW, my hubs works from home and aside from omelets is a terrible cook and our daughter in 10th grade cooks a little. Far be it for me to criticize anyone’s fridge but my own! Here it’s been a combination of takeout, Trader Joe’s frozen entrees, Hawaiian eggs ( fried eggs with rice-yay rice cooker! With bagged salad), an occasional roast chicken, really good Japanese ramen with poached eggs-eggs seem to be a theme here! I just think we’re all doing the best we can.

    28. Rainy*

      After my first husband died I couldn’t cook for months because I burned everything. I’d be standing over the stove with a spatula, zone out, and tune back in to find a completely charred egg or pasta water that had boiled down to almost nothing without me ever adding pasta. I don’t remember what I ate. Not much, I think, except when my friends came over and made me.

      It’s pretty normal. If you are not capable of cooking anything, or anything complicated, just buy what you can eat and don’t feel guilty. You’re not going to die if you don’t eat veggies or anything home prepared until you are capable of cooking. It won’t be forever. If your sister is volunteering to send you prepared meals, great, take her up on it. If she’s just criticizing you getting through this as best you can, well, I wouldn’t pay any attention.

    29. Bite by bite*

      You can buy prebaked wholewheat pizza crust, pizza sauce and cheese… use your mushrooms/sweet peppers from your CSA for toppings .. assemble, bake your pizzas and cut up the slices and freeze them separately. This will last a long long time. or just buy preassembled pizza from the store. Or order similar pizza in a really large size from your favorite pizza place .. separate the wedges, let it cool. pack each in individual ziplocs and freeze.

      I really like all the ideas you have got from our readers.

      Pita bread is amazing to load up stuff and eat without cooking. Put some salad items like cucumbers, tomatoes, in it, some precut ready make cooked chicken, some sauce.. that’s it.

      You can also buy readymade precooked meatballs, chicken tenders, breakfast sausages etc and put them in freezer and use them as needed.

      bread freezes amazingly well. I buy these sprouted breads from costco for my husband and children – 7-8 packs at a time and pull one loaf at a time in fridge, where it thaws and ready to eat. less shopping and more handy when needed.

      Avocados mushed with crushed garlic, salt and lemon juice is amazing on toast… The only kind of guacamole i like anymore.

      Wholefoods has a lot of readymade soups in bottles and a bottle lasts me for 3-4 meals.. pick whatever flavor you like. other stores may have this too.

      You can also make breakfast burritos that freezes well (one pack tortilla, one cup rice cooked, scrambled eggs, can of beans drained, some cutup veggies, cheese, some chicken if you like, some salsa… assemble and wrap in freezer paper… then cover in Al foil. This lasts for a long time in freezer. No cooking needed. Just assemble and freeze. When you need, just pull one and nuke in microwave.

      Tortilla chips with bottled salsa make a good meal as well. :) OR with tortillas if you don’t want to eat too much chips. I buy the salsa bottles on sales and its always handy.

  15. Lifesempossible*

    What is the highlight of your morning routine?

    As I start a a new position this week, I want to revamp my morning routine. I feel like I’ve read many ideas over the years where people try to maximize their health or time (or both). Some swear by CrossFit, or yoga, or a morning jog. Some drink a full glass of water to jump start their digestive system. Others love sitting down with coffee and having a slow morning. I’ve always been a a zombie, but I’d like to change that and make the most out of my mornings. What are your routines like?

    1. Workerbee*

      This is only because I have some time in the morning. Generally:

      -At least 5 minutes of yoga stretches
      -30 mins on elliptical or indoor bike
      -Make scrumptious breakfast and sit out on the patio if the weather is accommodating.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      On weekdays, my first alarm goes off at 5:45, and then I lay in bed with my phone and check my email and social media, read the first AAM post of the day, do two lessons in Duolingo, and the daily challenges on my Solitaire and Sudoku apps. (I’m streak-driven – if they tell me “You’ve done this three days in a row!” I will keep doing it out of sheer principle to see how high I can get the number, haha.) If there’s any time left before my second alarm goes off at 6:30, I might do more solitaire or sudoku or read a few pages in my book. After the second alarm goes off, I get up, get cleaned up and dressed, let the younger dog out (older one usually doesn’t wake up til closer to 8 or 9, or sometimes even pushing 10) and settle in to work.

      Weekends are similar, except that the only alarm is at 6 (and I usually wake up 30-45 minutes before it anyway), so I do all the same everything whenever I wake up and then get out of bed whenever I’m done with it all. Junior Ambassador won’t let me stay in bed past about 7:30 even if I wanted to, because her digestive system is set to outside-before-breakfast-which-is-at-8am. Elder Statesdog gets her outside and breakfast whenever she gets up – even if I try to get her up at 8 to feed them at the same time, she won’t eat until she’s good and ready, so I don’t bother to rush her.

    3. FD*

      I have found that eating the same thing every morning is really nice, so I make a breakfast from a sugar-free hot cocoa recipe I developed and an omelette with farm eggs (I know someone who has chickens), cheese, green onions, and ham. And I usually listen to a podcast–currently, Critical Role is my drug of choice.

      1. FD*

        If anyone wants the recipe! This Stevia based. Some people I’ve let try it don’t care for the flavor; I think it takes just like sugared cocoa so YMMV. Also I generally try to do lower sugar but I don’t worry about fat since that’s worked well for my particular body.

        Cocoa Base (will last 1 week if you make a cup per day)

        1 cup heavy whipping cream
        7 cups whole milk (approximate)
        1 tsp Stevia
        4 tsp vanilla

        Put 1 cup of heavy cream and 2-ish cups of whole milk into something microwave safe and heat them up to being warm but not hot. Add 1 tsp of Stevia and 4tsp vanilla. (The Stevia won’t mix in if the milk isn’t warmed up.) Whisk until the Stevia is fully combined and pour the mix into a half-gallon jug. Fill the jug the rest of the way with the whole milk. (I generally don’t measure the whole milk, I just fill the jug.) Shake to combine.

        Shread a bar of high quality unsweetened baking chocolate. I personally think that the Ghirardelli baking chocolate is worth the extra price, but YMMV. If you have a Ninja, you can break the bar up into small pieces and just turn it into powder that way. Store the shredded chocolate in a closed container in the fridge to keep moisture out.

        Cocoa Instructions:

        1 cup of cocoa base mix
        0.4-0.5 oz of shredded chocolate

        Pour 1 cup of cocoa mix into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When steam starts to rise (which will happen quickly), pour the shredded chocolate into the saucepan. Stir with a whisk. Be careful not to let the milk boil (it will caramelize the milk which I personally don’t care for). When the chocolate is fully melted, pour into a cup. I also like to add a dash of cold milk to bring it right to sipping temperature.

        1. FD*

          Also, you have to use whipping cream and whole milk. The chocolate won’t bond properly to the milk if you use a lower-fat percent milk, in my experience.

        2. FD*

          Sorry, keep forgetting key info…

          A lot of Stevia has a filler in it so it measures 1:1 with sugar. This recipe works with the Stevia where 1/8 tsp equals 1 tsp sugar. I get the SweetLeaf Stevia that comes in the little jug.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is easy to do because I have a dog– my day doesn’t feel right unless it starts with a long walk. When we we’re on vacation without him, it still helped to get out and walk to get breakfast. Unless it rains, we’re out for about an hour every morning, no headphones. It’s good for clearing my head and taking in the world.

    5. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      I need at least an hour to drink a cup of tea or coffee, do some thinking, praying, and reading. (Confession: sometimes I doze a little during that hour.) I look forward to this time, and if it doesn’t happen, my whole day is off. I just love quiet, still moments, and starting and ending my day with them has become such an important self-care step for me.

      My schedule will be changing next week, and I’m looking to try to get in a morning jog on the days I go into work later.

      Also, I think the most important thing is doing what works best for you – my spouse sometimes is a morning person and sometimes is a night owl who gets the most of her mornings by sleeping in until the last possible second. Do what makes you feel good, not what you feel like you should be doing!

    6. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Mr Cat Memes bought a very fancy espresso machine. I am very much Not A Morning Person, but knowing the delicious caffeinated goodness that awaits will get me out of bed.

    7. Arya Parya*

      Our mornings are pretty hectic with getting a 3 year old ready for daycare. So no sports or meditation advice. But I love to end my morning shower with about a minute of cold water. It wakes me up, is good for circulation and the skin. I always get out refreshed and ready for the day.

    8. WellRed*

      I love that wfh means I can ease into my day with coffee, newspaper and AAM. I’m bummed that I didn’t remember to take that coffee outside more this summer.

    9. Jay*

      Weekdays: up with or slightly before the alarm. The best days are when I have time for a little snuggle with my sweetie. Exercise, either walking or core workout, at least three out of five days – love the way I feel afterwards because I’m more awake and have a nice feeling of accomplishment. Prayer/meditation for 10-15 minutes, shower, cook and eat breakfast while I do the NYT crossword. Probably the cooked breakfast is my favorite part, followed closely by the shower. All told it’s about 90 minutes from the time I wake up until I sit down at my desk to start work. Weekends are slower-paced – more snuggling and lying in bed reading before I get up, and we usually eat and do the crossword before we head out for a walk or a hike.

    10. Cookie D'oh*

      On weekdays, I’m up around 6:30 because my husband has to go into the office and the cats need fed. I brush my teeth and make the bed before heading downstairs. After feeding the cats I do an exercise routine. Right now I’m working through a routine from Fitness Blender. The best part of my weekday routine is getting a nice shower after my workout. Then I get started with my work day. I usually wait to eat until 11 and then I’ll enjoy a cup of tea or iced coffee. I do fill up a water bottle with cold water to help me wake up.

      On weekends, I’ll get up at the same time to feed the cats, but then I come back to bed and sleep in until I feel like getting up. Sometimes the cats will cuddle in bed with us. I still try to get in a workout and shower and then have a leisurely breakfast. Today I’m picking up carryout from a local restaurant.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I force myself to drink a full glass of water (a wide, fluted stadium cup; mine is old and I need a new one). Then I fire up the kettle and make a huge mug of French press coffee with raw sugar and half-and-half, and sip it while reading a news aggregate online. I cannot stand to have the TV on first thing in the morning, at least not until my zombie state has receded.

      I really enjoy that coffee. It’s usually the only one I have unless I’m very tired midday for some reason.

    12. RagingADHD*

      I’m a slow-with-coffee kind of person. I like pottering out to get the newspaper, reading it and doing the puzzle page. It also helps me plan my day, because how I do with the jumble and sudoku are a pretty accurate measure of whether it is a good brain day or a fuzzy brain day.

    13. ampersand*

      A couple of weeks ago I started getting up about 30-45 minutes earlier, drinking a cup of coffee, and doing 15-20 minutes of yoga. It’s been the best! Once it gets cooler I want to start running in the mornings again. So far the extra time to myself before my husband, toddler, and dog are all awake has vastly helped my mental health.

      1. HoundMom*

        I am with you! We always walk our dogs in the morning, but it was not enough exercise. I stared to 20 to 30 minutes of yoga and I feel so much better all day long.

        I also make myself a mix of chai tea and milk before my coffee and literally cannot function until I drink that.

    14. Girasol*

      I got started a few winters ago using a SAD lamp in the morning, propping it on the blankets and staying by it half an hour. I started using Duolingo to pass the time, so now my first thing is to bring up Duolingo on the phone and do a few lessons, winter and summer. Then a ten exercise routine with a medicine ball. When I’m done I get a cocoa.

    15. HannahS*

      1. Going to bed early enough (boring, but it helps)
      2. Sunrise alarm clock in the winter (prevents the feeling of being dragged up from the bottom of the ocean)
      3. Giving myself time for a proper breakfast, which for me is eggs, toast, and tea. With a good breakfast, I feel like I can tackle anything.

    16. Academic Librarian too*

      5:30 up with the dog (paper arrives, wakes her)
      Ten to 20 minute walk
      1/2 cup of whole milk with two shots of expresso with my meds.
      quick 5 minute shower.
      dress for the day. Feed the dog.
      6:30 to 7:30 zoom 12 step meeting.
      7:30 to 8:30 walk or doggie play date.
      8:30 -9:00- soy egg, 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup kimchi, fresh cucumber pickles. reading the paper or check email.
      Then the workday begins- WFH mostly still.
      If I go into the library, I bring my breakfast in and eat it there.

    17. Rainy*

      Coffee brought to me in bed by my husband. A slow wake up with a shower. I walk to work, so on days I’m in the office, a mile and a half walk with my backpack on.

      I’m just not a morning person. I never have been and I’m not that interested in changing at this point in my life.

    18. Meep*

      Cold shower, morning walk. Also, I’ve been doing an experiment where you maintain a “mental journal” of sorts – recall an event from each day that passes, and then review them regularly enough to avoid memory fading. I’m about 2 months in, and reviewing the “memory tags” is a pleasant part of my morning ritual. It keeps the days from blending together.

    19. Potatoes gonna potate*

      In the before times, my highlight was getting on the bus, putting on my music , closing my eyes and taking a nap. Being in a moving vehicle always put me to sleep.

      Nowadays, when I do have to go anywhere I’d say my highlight is putting on makeup.

  16. Nessie*

    Does anyone have recommendations for advice blogs that aren’t behind a paywall? I love Captain Awkward (though their updates are very infrequent) and I found Dear Prudence but I’d have to pay for that one. Any others I could check out? I love reading the advice and hearing other people’s stories?

    1. Amey*

      Carolyn Hax live chat isn’t behind a paywall (the daily column is but most of the daily column comes from the live chat.) You just need a free Washington Post account. It’s my Friday evening while eating pizza reading.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Washington Post has a discounted subscription rates for Amazon Prime & for .edu email addresses. I believe the free accounts are offered to people with .gov and .mil email addresses.

    2. The llama's pajamas*

      Your local library may have access to some of the paywall sites, or at least the archives.

    3. Double A*

      About half of the Dear Prudence content is free. And Slate has about 5 different categories of advice column (Parenting, School, Money, and Sex in addition to Dear Prudence). I pay for slate plus because I’m an advice columnist addict and also I listen to enough of their podcasts that having no ads is totally worth it to me.

      Ask Amy at arcanamax is free, though not my favorite.

      Savage Love is free at The Stranger, though it’s explicit.

    4. mreasy*

      Dear Prudence is only behind a paywall for certain Slate Plus only posts. (I will say Slate Plus is a great deal though!)

  17. *daha**

    How does roommate hunting work these days? I’m in Michigan USA, I’ve been living with my girlfriend in her house, and I’ve realized I can’t continue in the relationship. What I can afford is a room in a shared apartment or house. I haven’t done this in a long time.
    My first thought was craigslist. Genuine offerings of roommates wanted are thin. Most of the offers actually lead to paid roommate matching services on the pattern of dating sites. I posted my own notice to say that I am looking and had one genuine response that might turn in to something, or might not.
    I went to one matching service (Roomiematch) and filled out their profile, and it has been pending review for 24 hours. I’ve since found mostly negative reviews of that service.
    So where/how should I look? Is the beginning of the month just a slow time, complicated by a holiday weekend? Is there a service with a good rep? FWIW I am M 61 and my income is SSDI disability payments.

    1. WellRed*

      I use Craigslist and there’s lots of roommate ads. Maybe it’s regional? I’ve never seen a roommate match service. It does get harder as you get older. I’m 51 and many roommate searchers are quite a bit younger.

    2. Lifesempossible*

      I’ve seen genuine roommate ads on Facebook marketplace. But watch out for it being college students.

      Kind of a long shot, but maybe a room with an elderly person who needs help with yard work or basic chores etc. Anywhere that has community (churches?) might be able to connect you.

    3. fueled by coffee*

      Facebook also has groups to find roommates (in addition to marketplace). Search for things like “[Your town/county/area] roommates” or “[Your area] housing.” The crowd might generally veer younger (because Facebook), but in my area I’ve seen a fair number of people renting out basement apartments and such in their houses.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think Facebook is now a common way to find a room or renter. It’s what my daughter used in NYC. I don’t use Facebook, so this is abstract, but whatever settings get you to the local message boards.

    5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      This is probably regional, but I’ve noticed apartment complexes (large multi-unit and/or multi-building corporate managed) have started listing roommates wanted postings. But I’m in So Cal. I would think those are more legit since they are for their own units/tenants.

    6. lemon meringue*

      One thing you can do is go to a rental listing site (I used padmapper) and just filter by price. The cheapest listings are usually for shared accommodation, although they’re not always entirely clear about how the sharing situation works. The benefit to going this route, though, is that sometimes you can find something a little better within your price range–for example, in my area, sometimes you can find someone who’s renting out a little above-garage apartment next to their house for less than what a studio apartment would cost.

    7. kaga*

      I’m a grad student and just recently worked on finding roommates for this school year. One thing to look into, if you’re anywhere near a university, is university-affiliated Facebook groups. Of course I understand that this may or may not apply to you, and you’re older than most grad students, but in my experience there were at least a few people in those groups who weren’t themselves directly affiliated with the university, or who were at different stages of their life and willing to live with students. You probably wouldn’t want to live with undergraduates, but Master’s/PhD/etc. students can range hugely in age and lifestyle, and some might be looking for something that would be surprisingly compatible with your living preferences!

      Even if this isn’t helpful for your situation, good luck to you, and best wishes.

    8. Janet Pinkerton*

      Are you part of any local community such as a church? That might be a good place to start listening around to hear if anyone needs such a thing. I wish I knew how my FIL found his roommate years ago. To be honest they were probably ex-bar buddies (my FIL is sober now).

  18. Art*

    [This is something that may not have one answer but idek where to start]

    How does one buy art by a specific artist? There is a living artist who has a few pieces in museums (not like the Met, but smaller places, especially in the region where he’s based) and whose work I adore, but he’s at the level where he doesn’t have an online store to buy his work. Do I have to wait for him to have a gallery show? Or get really into the world of art auctions? (In googling I found that some of his work has been sold at auction and the prices were doable for me.)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We recently commissioned a piece by an artist whose work we saw while on a trip. I remembered his name and found his website, emailed him and went from there. If you know the artist’s name and can’t find his contact info anywhere, maybe try getting in touch with one of the museums? If it’s a local museum, they may have some info or be able to point you to a gallery.

      I would say I’m surprised that an artist wouldn’t have a website with a way to contact him, but a close relative of mine is a glass artist with near zero online presence, so I know it happens!

    2. Asenath*

      He might sell through a particular gallery – I know some local galleries sell work by local artists all the time, not just when they’re having a show by the artists. If he has any online presence at all, he’d probably be happy to get a message asking where his works are available for purchase.

    3. Anima*

      Former art sales person here:
      The artist most likely has a gallery representing them. I would google around in the general area and try to find the gallery. Also search bigger nearby towns – sometimes the gallery is next town over.
      Another possibility is finding their atelier. Some artists sell directly out of their atelier, mostly by appointment, but I have heard of open atelier days were one could simply walk up.
      (You might get a better price by direct sales, because the gallery wants to make a profit. But buying from a gallery can be worth it, because then you might have clear provenience and paperwork. This entirely depends on artist and worth of artwork, but sometimes it’s useful to have the middle person (the gallery).)
      Also, auctions are not out of the question here. I would keep my eye on auctions, too!

    4. fposte*

      I *love* art shopping. My experience is mostly with non-American sales (for some reason UK artists seem to be making the kind of thing I really like these days). Sometimes artists who don’t sell on their own still have websites or social media where they mention where their work will be shown–that’s a great clue to places to contact, and often it’s a way to get an earlier look at a work. It’s common for me to inquire about a painting listed online in a gallery only to find out that that one’s gone back to the artist, so they need to check on it for me; sometimes also the painting is sold but here’s more the artist has just done.

      I’m pretty comfortable buying most art without seeing it in person; the only time I get let down is when I was motivated as much by a shopping itch as the art itself (that’s also common with in-person purchases when traveling). If you’re buying paintings, most of them will come in comparatively inexpensive gallery frames, which does add to the shipping costs but is protection for the painting. (If you’re buying the work of a printmaker–a great way to get into art–it’ll likelier be shipped in a rolled tube.) There’s one sculptor I have my eye on but I think that would have to wait until I can haul it back personally.

      With a living artist, I’d first try that route rather than the art auctions, but I’ve done them occasionally for glass or pottery, and I have a friend who does them a lot; mostly make sure you understand that particular site’s process and premiums.

  19. Bad Skin*

    I posted previously about how I’ve been getting a rash all over my neck (now for three months) that goes away when treated with hydrocortisone but that returns a few days after I stop using it. Right now I’m taking a 24-hour allergy pill every morning and using hydrocortisone as a spot treatment.

    My primary care doctor thought it was hyperkeratosis and recommended exfoliants. Someone here suggested it might be fragrance in the shampoo I use, so I switched to a fragrance free shampoo (all my other skin products, aside from hand soap, were already fragrance free). I tried an acne medication because the rash kind of looks like acne. Nothing’s worked.

    I ended up going to a dermatologist. Her only guess was that it might be sun sensitivity from Lupus. I had to ask another doctor to send me a script for a blood test, which I had drawn this morning. I’m hesitant to return to the dermatologist if the Lupus test is negative since she seemed stumped (and I thought it was odd that she didn’t give me a script for the blood test herself).

    For people who have had random rashes diagnosed, what kind of doctor figured it out? I’m wondering if an allergist might be better (though I assume they’re harder to get appointments with).

    1. Lifesempossible*

      An allergist is a good idea. When I job shadowed with one, he told me that he is like a catch-all for the weird stuff. He gets consults for everything, so even if it’s not an allergy, maybe the person you see could point you in the right direction.

      I think my allergist is way easier to see than a dermatologist or my dentist! But it depends on your area.

      The dermatologist thinking it was lupus… could be not far off. There could be a different autoimmune thing going on? Not sure what specialty that might be though.

      1. Jay*

        Rheumatologists are the lupus/autoimmune experts. Was the derm actually a board-certified dermatologist doctor? If the answer to any of that is “no” (not board-certified, not trained in derm, not a doctor) then I’d find one who is all of those things.

        1. Bad Skin*

          The dermatologist is listed as “board-certified by the American Board of Dermatology.” Were you wondering because she didn’t write the blood work script herself? She asked when I was due for yearly blood work. I said around the end of September, so she said to have the doctor that would normally order it add the Lupus test. I guess she was in a hurry? Annoying though, because it took a week just to get a new script written from my other doctor instead of being able to go get the test done the same day as the dermatologist appointment.

          1. Jay*

            I was wondering because around here, at least, there are people (not all docs) who set up a “dermatology” practice but are not actually dermatologists. If she’s board-certified, then she’s real. It may still be worth seeing a rheumatologist if there’s any question about a lupus diagnosis. The blood tests will not completely tell the story.

            1. Bad Skin*

              I didn’t know people could set up “dermatology” practices without being real doctors. I should start looking at credentials before seeing any new specialists!

              I’m honestly doubtful about the lupus thing because there wasn’t any specific reason she thought I had it, except that my neck is one of the few things exposed to sunlight when I go grocery shopping or commute to work (I wear long sleeves and long pants, and am not otherwise outside during the day).

                1. Bad Skin*

                  The medications I take are on my record, so I assume she checked them. One medication I’m on can cause photosensitivity, but I’ve been on it for over a decade without issues. I’m not sure why it would suddenly be an issue now when I’m not getting more sun exposure than usual or anything. (And it’s strange that it’s only on my neck, not my face and hands.)

      2. Bad Skin*

        My rash seems weird, so allergist sounds like a good fit, lol. There aren’t any allergists in the doctor offices I would usually go to, so I assumed it’d be harder to book an appointment (like, maybe there’s less allergists even though there’s a lot of patients), but maybe not!

        1. Chaordic One*

          I don’t know that you necessarily have to see an allergist. When I was tested, there weren’t any allergists near where I lived so, I went to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Specialist and I was very happy with him and the medical treatments he prescribed.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Yeah, maybe an allergist is a better bet.

      I haven’t had any luck getting skin issues diagnosed via a doctor or dermatologist. I had a persistent itchy rash around my eyes once that turned out to be an allergy to new face cream. I figured that out on my own though and it took ages to pinpoint because it didn’t show up till 3-4 months after I started using it, then took the same amount of time to go away again after I completely stopped.

      You seem to have tried a lot of different treatments all in a short time, which makes me wonder if that’s making it worse? If it’s an allergy, exfoliants will irritate it and hydrocortisone will only mask it. Honestly, I’d go easy on all the new lotions and potions, strip your routine back to bare essentials that you definitely know are ok on you from years of use, then slowly work the others back in to see what the culprit is.

      Consider fabric/clothing choices and if you’ve changed laundry detergent too. Diet and stress can also trigger it – I have a stress rash all over my chin right now.

      1. Bad Skin*

        I’ve been using all the same products for years. The only new “product” was getting the covid vaccine right before the rash started. I only used the exfoliants and acne medication temporarily since they didn’t help at all, so I’m back to my old routine (except still using the fragrance free shampoo–might as well finish the bottle before going back to the old shampoo).

        Haven’t eaten any new foods recently.

        How would I know if it was a stress rash? Life’s always been stressful, so I can’t think of anything special that would have triggered a random rash.

        1. StrikingFalcon*

          Products change their formula periodically. Even if you’ve used the same products for a long time, they can still be a culprit. Anything you put on your neck, or your hair if your hair touches your neck, could cause an allergic reaction. Allergies can be incredibly difficult to pin down

          1. Anona*

            And you can also develop allergies to stuff you’ve been using for years.

            I have, on multiple instances, used a specific brand of laundry detergent for years, only to suddenly become allergic to it (itchy, red bumps). Several of the kinds I’ve become allergic to have been the “free and clear” versions, so it’s always stressful to figure out if I can find a new detergent that won’t make me itch.

        2. Expiring Cat Memes*

          I guess it’s a know-your-body thing. My stress rash is always in the same spot and it started appearing on and off a couple of years ago. I figured it could be hormonal changes as I get older. Everyday “busy” stress doesn’t really trigger it for me, it’s more that lingering, emotional, depressive stress. It’s a slow slide to that level for me so I don’t always realise I’ve gotten there, but my other signs are digestive upsets, hair falling out, bad dreams and waking up frequently during the night.

        3. Call me St. Vincent*

          The Covid vaccine can cause a rash. That would be my guess. I would talk to your primary care doctor about it first.

          1. Bad Skin*

            I did tell my primary care doctor and the dermatologist about the rash starting after I got the vaccine, but they didn’t seem to think anything of it. (And I didn’t see anything about long-term vaccine rashes when I googled it.)

            1. Call me St. Vincent*

              When did you get the vaccine? Mass general hospital researchers have been looking at delayed onset Covid vaccine rashes. I have a friend who had something similar. He saw a rheumatologist (a great doc I used to see when I lived near him) who said Covid and vaccines could potentially trigger autoimmune responses but I’m not totally clear. So maybe a rheumy is the way to go? They tend to be “figure out weird stuff” doctors.

              1. Bad Skin*

                I got the first dose at the end of April and the second dose at the end of May. I know for sure the rash started around the beginning of June. I may have had a milder version of the rash between my first and second shot. (I vaguely remember getting what I thought was a small acne breakout on my neck, so I started using moisturizer and being extra careful about cleaning my neck in the shower. I assume it either went away or didn’t get worse because I didn’t think to use hydrocortisone for it at the time.)

                Do you happen to remember how your rheumatologist treated your friend’s rash?

    3. Stephanie*

      I always found it easier to get in to see my allergist than even my primary care doctor.
      I would definitely try an allergist next.

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

      Definitely an allergist. They can test you and help you find which exactly is triggering the rashes. I’m allergic to the polen of the non native trees that are extremely popular in my area, and occasionally get rashes like yours. Face masks help a lot.

      1. Bad Skin*

        I honestly thought that the dermatologist would do one of those allergy skin tests where they prick you with a slew of allergens and see which cause tiny rashes. That’s the test you’re talking about? I guess I that’s really something an allergist would do, not a dermatologist.

        1. ampersand*

          You want an allergist for that. A dermatologist might be able to biopsy and test it—mine did, but he couldn’t determine the cause. My random rashes are caused by food intolerances, seasonal allergies, and stress. The immune system is weird and (sometimes annoyingly) very interconnected. I hope you get some answers and relief!

    5. fposte*

      I would agree with going to an allergist, but I can’t remember–is it itching or causing you pain? Because if not, there’s the option of just waiting it out, too.

      1. Bad Skin*

        No itching or pain. The rash just looks really bad when it’s not being treated and I’m concerned about having to use hydrocortisone so frequently and for such a long time (since it can thin your skin). :/

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I was wondering about just going off the cortisone and letting it (hopefully) settle down on its own. Obviously if the visual is a problem that makes it harder, and I would bet that things like makeup and scarves might be advised against as well.

          I hope you get a good outcome, even if its departure is as mysterious as its arrival.

          1. Bad Skin*

            My dermatologist actually recommended wearing scarfs while outside (assuming it’s sun sensitivity from Lupus). I hate wearing “accessories” and it’s 95 degrees out, so I’m putting off wearing a scarf for now. (If I end up wearing one, I’ll probably just cut up an old black t-shirt and use that while it’s hot out.)

            I don’t wear makeup at all, so the idea of suddenly to learn to cover up 60+ red bumps spread out over my entire neck is a bit daunting. :/

    6. merope*

      As far as the sun sensitivity is concerned: my sister has sun sensitivity, and no lupus. Since she was very small, she had what we called “sensitive skin.” As a result we used glycerin soaps, fragrance-free, etc. Her sun issue is basically that after a very small amount of time in the sun (and particularly in the spring for some reason) she will break out in small red hives. Consequently she has a large collection of sun-blocking sweaters and shirts; sunscreen does help to prevent it but wearing a layer of something between her skin and the sun works just as well.

      1. Phoenix from the ashes*

        Huh, til. I have a patch of skin on my arm that comes up all puffy and white when I’ve been in the garden. At first I thought it was a reaction to a plant or something because it looks a bit like a low level chemical burn. But in the same place every time, for several years? Lol.

        Sun allergy. Well, now I know. Thank you!

        (And yes, I do wear sunscreen.)

      2. Bad Skin*

        Now that I’ve been thinking about your post, one of the reasons my dermatologist suggested sun-sensitivity/Lupus was because the rash started in June when the sun starts to get stronger and is out longer. I did start using sunscreen on my neck. Haven’t tried a scarf yet since I don’t have one and it’s ridiculously hot outside (I already wear long sleeves and long pants because I’m in cold air-conditioned buildings all day), but I guess that will be the next step.

        1. merope*

          I have seen hats that come with a piece of fabric to shade the back of your neck, and a wide-brimmed hat might have the same effect.

    7. ShinyPenny*

      One idea I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that, for some people (me! And my mother!), skin reactions/allergies can develop over time. 

      I have to change all my fragrance-free/sensitive skin products about every 2-4 years or I will end up with rashes that progress to blisters.  

      Allergists are the most relevant specialist, but there are a number of different “ways” one can be allergic, and the standard tests only look at a couple (IgE? IgG?) and Mom and I don’t “test” very allergic.  We just have to stay alert for signs that we need to rotate products (all personal care products including laundry detergent).

      Our food allergies work the same way.  Oddly we have learned to refer to this as “food sensitivities” (not “allergies”) with our grumpy allergist because the testing our insurance pays for only looks at *one* of the Immune Globulin factors, and doesn’t capture our relevant data (and he is apparently The Nomenclature Police lol).

      Amazon reviews are my go-to now for finding promising new sensitive-skin products.

      1. Lizzie*

        Hi Bad Skin, Many years ago I developed an itchy, sore rash pretty much all over, it was driving me mad and keeping me awake, I saw a dermatologist who suggested it was stress (I was getting divorced and the house was having minor renovations done by someone I really disliked), no cool showers and soap free skin washes etc did anything helpful. Eventually I noticed my poor cat was also itchy etc – turns out the offending cause was a very fine layer of plaster dust from the renovations (cracks in the plaster being filled and then sanded down) and this plaster dust (very abrasive) got into all my linen, clothes, carpet etc etc. my general practitioner then said that he could fix the itching/soreness within 24 hours with a low dose of an anti-depressant (duloxetine as I recall) – and it did fix it. And I ramped up the vacuuming and washing etc and eventually the renovations were finished.
        And the cat lived for many more happy non-itchy years.
        So, long story short, are there any renovations, new buildings etc near you that may be putting fine abrasive dust into the air and into your aircon system on an intermittent basis?

        1. Bad Skin*

          A neighbor across the street started adding an addition onto their house in April (I don’t know if they’re also doing renovations inside the house). The windows, roofing, and siding are up on the addition, but there’s still piles of trash on their front lawn so I don’t know if they’re done yet. Not sure if dust from so far away would reach my air conditioning system.

          Interesting that your doctor treated the rash with an anti-depressant! How could that help?!

          1. Lizzie*

            Many drugs have side effects that can be useful for other conditions! Anti depressants are often prescribed to assist with pain management in back injuries for example, well before a person might be experiencing depression due to the injury. The drug stopped the burning skin and itchiness very fast. I hope you can track down the cause of your symptoms pretty soon, best wishes to you!

      2. Bad Skin*

        That really sucks. Sorry you have to keep finding new skin products. It sounds like a big hassle and probably expensive. :(

        I “stocked up” on extras of all my usual skin care products so I could make shorter/less shopping trips during the pandemic, so it’d be super crappy if this was when my skin decided to start rejecting them. :/

    8. Emily Elizabeth*

      No advice but lots of sympathy! I’m also dealing with some rash/skin issues and I understand that it feels so frustrating and difficult to have no diagnosis or easy fix for something bothering you daily. Figuring out specialists and paying attention to all the minutiae of your lifestyle take a lot of brain power and I’m sorry you’re going through it!

  20. HOA?*

    I’d like to hear about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs). My husband and I are looking to buy a single family house next year, and our area seems to have options both with and without.

    We’ve had awful neighbor experiences during our time of apartment living, so I like the theoretical layer of protection against neighbor problems. But I know my parents had to jump through several hoops with their HOA just to get their front door re-painted the same color(!), and I don’t want to deal with that either. My husband has been reading a lot of HOA horror story forums and is against them.

    Did an HOA or lack thereof factor into your choice over which house to buy? Anyone have horror stories or experiences when it benefitted you?

    1. Lifesempossible*

      I haven’t lived in one, but FWIW…

      I think lifestyle plays a factor. The particular rules play a factor. Some HOAs that my husband and I visited did not allow overnight driveway parking. Made the neighborhood look wonderful, but it means you’re limited to your garage size for vehicles. That applied to guests too. (I think street parking was available, but limited.)

      I’m into pollinator gardens, and HOAs would be able to enforce what your yard can and can’t look like.

      But another neighborhood had the cutest parks and even a designated neighborhood school bus stop! That place was so friendly when we went walking, and kids were out on their bikes because nobody was speeding down the road.

      So I would look into their specific rules and go from there. It definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

      1. BlueWolf*

        Maryland recently passed a law (takes effect October 1) saying HOAs can’t force you to have a lawn (so people can plant native plants for pollinators). Glad to see someone fighting for the pollinators!

        1. tangerineRose*

          Good! I think I’d rather have native plants in my front yard than a lawn, but I have an HOA that can prevent that.

    2. Daffodilly*

      I will never, ever live in an HOA again.
      HOAs don’t *protect* you from neighbor problems, they embolden the bad neighbors into becoming the HOA defenders. They’ll report you for putting your garbage out on the street an hour early. They’ll police the length of your grass. They’ll buy a decibel meter to get “evidence” that you play music too loudly, and when it doesn’t prove it, they will come stand right under your windows.
      And if the HOA falls down on their duty to maintain common areas, good luck getting them to follow through. We had an HOA that just decided to skip snow plowing that year because they wanted to save money and it was forecast to be a mild winter. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t!) They also didn’t hire anyone to shovel snow in the area, and asked everyone to “pitch in” (Spoiler alert: Many of us moved there to have someone else take care of all that for us, and at $250/month, we weren’t “pitching in”)
      Last but not least, if Paranoid Patty convinces the board that you need to install a new security system or something, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a big, fat assessment – for something you don’t even want!

      1. Lotus*

        Yep. I’ve never bought a HOA home myself, but grew up in an HOA neighborhood, and we couldn’t help but notice that the only people who ever got written up for “violating” petty nonexistent rules were non white people.

    3. Anona*

      My husband rented in a place with an HOA and it soured us on them. They were really restrictive on guest parking. There wasn’t any street parking, and for the shared lot you got 3 passes a month, which made hosting a poker game complicated (we had to ferry people back and forth to a grocery store lot). Definitely read whatever terms they have before buying.

      And I’d also look into whatever the financial terms are. I’m assuming monthly dues, but I think in one apartment complex I lived in people had to also kick in for larger shared repairs, like repaving the parking lot/road.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      After seeing my mom’s experience with an HOA in Colorado Springs, I will never buy in an HOA.

      The president of the HOA wanted to keep using the outdoor pool in October, so she turned the heating on for it. The whole HOA had to pay for it.

      The association wanted to save money on landscaping, so they hired people who didn’t know what they were doing and who butchered the trees and shrubbery and cut down things my mom had planted in her own front lawn.

      My mom finally got involved in the HOA board – I think she circulated petitions or helped get a new president elected – something like that. But she also started attending all the meetings just to fight against the bad president. It’s not how she wanted to spend her time and it’s sure not how I would want to spend mine. (I need to save my political firepower for getting rid of senator Ron Johnson.)

    5. Meh*

      I don’t have a horror story but I’m happy to be out from my HOA. We did have a violation notification that our shutters were “faded” and I was slow to getting them fixed. When I called regarding the notice (a few months later) they said i did a great job rectifying them (I hadn’t done anything). The neighborhood was clean and maintained but, kind of in a sanitized way.

      We recently moved to a historic district and I love the mix of house styles, old trees, etc. I’m especially excited that I can finally paint my front door a color other than black.

      I’d be especially interested in what you get with the HOA and how you are limited. My friends in NOVA have a restaurant/bar in their community, a lot of events including live music, a maintained dog park, etc. Those are things I would find interesting. You can keep your community pool and lighted entrance signs.

      1. PT*

        I also live in a lightly regulated historic district (the rules are regarding construction, so once your house is built, you don’t have to think about them again) and I’m going to second that. My city has nonprofit neighborhood associations for each neighborhood. They don’t regulate anything the way an HOA does- we are still covered under whatever codes and laws the rest of the city uses- but it pools knowledge, resources, and contacts to make sure that everyone in the neighborhood is on top of what’s going on in the neighborhood, and how they can affect change if needed, and how to get “extra” resources. It puts us in contact with our local police captain, our city councilor, and our state representative on a regular basis so problems that might get ignored through the normal channels can get resolved faster. We also fundraise, and a chunk of that fundraising has gone towards food, rent, and utility assistance for families and seniors in our neighborhood, as well as freshening up the parks above and beyond what the city is willing to contribute.

        The downside of course, is that we are in a city, and the reason we have these nonprofit neighborhood activist orgs is because the city is a bit dysfunctional and only the squeaky wheels get grease. A well run suburb probably wouldn’t require a chairperson to create a log of complaints for dates Sanitation forgot to pick up the trash.

    6. Me*

      I could never live in one.

      I have a half acre in a very nice neighborhood. (My 2300 sq ft house will soon be dwarfed by a 6300 sq ft house next door on a same sized property.)

      I keep half of my property wild. I don’t rake the leaves or pick up the fir cones or smaller branches. I keep the big firs trimmed up every few years per whatever the arborist says should happen to them but we don’t trim anything otherwise to shape any of the understory. It’s kept as a natural forest. I therefore have a sh*t ton of birds living there. And probably other creatures too.

      And all around me are manicured lawns. I have no f*cks to give on how wild my property looks. The rest of my property is perennial beds, garden, really large chicken coop for my dozen hens, and hardscaping. I use chop and drop in my gardens rather than raking them clean. They’re lush. I’m fine with a slightly unkempt look.

      No way would I deal with an HOA. Nope. I own my property free and clear. Nobody will tell me how it should look- that’s entirely up to me.

        1. Me*

          Pretty much, lol. My neighbors do know where to get some arugula, kale, oregano, rosemary etc! Or eggs. Honestly no one complains about how the yard looks.

      1. Esmeralda*

        You have raccoons. Even without the chickens, you have them, but the poultry buffet ensures it. (My husband spent yesterday afternoon reinforcing the door on the back of the roost area ).

        1. Me*

          Yes we do. We also have a Fort Knox of a coop! Nothing can penetrate. We literally poured a concrete perimeter wall that the coop is built on so nothing can dig under. 4×4 posts. Hardware cloth is reinforced with large washers/screws every few inches. Metal roof, locked doors. The food isn’t accessible even to mice.

          We see the footprints when it snows. Various animals walk up to the coop and walk away.

          Our neighborhood is on the edge of a large urban area with a state park on the boundary. We see coyotes running up the road.

          I’ve had chickens since my youngest was in kindergarten and he graduated with his bachelors degree last May. In the early years, we discovered alllll the predators (coyotes, hawks, raccoons) and slowly strengthened our coop, finally rebuilding it completely.

          But the eggs can’t be beat!

    7. Pop*

      I live in a 16 unit condo building with an HOA. My experience is the opposite of other commenters! They maintain our shared garden and outdoor space, and by they I mean one of the residents who is in charge of the HOA. Technically repainting the building is not allowed, but when my husband asked if he could patch up our porch the HOA guy gave him a can of paint to use. Our HOA fees are also very low for our area/type of unit, so I think we just have a more chill org that isn’t interested in policing people’s behavior or looking a certain way.

      1. ThatGirl*

        In my observation, condo and townhome HOAs serve a whole different purpose than for single family homes.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        We had an HOA when we lived in a condo but it didn’t affect us at all, and we were renting from the owners so I don’t even know if there was a fee. I think they replaced the outdoor light fixtures at some point.

    8. ThatGirl*

      We live in a townhome with an HOA. I would not choose one for a single family home. For us it serves to maintain the exterior including lawn mowing, snow removal, they replaced our roof, that kind of thing. The rules are occasionally a bit silly but it serves a purpose. But for single family homes they tend to be designed for exclusion and have whiffs of racism.

    9. Not A Manager*

      “Did an HOA or lack thereof factor into your choice over which house to buy?”

      Yes. We had a strong preference for no HOA, and mostly looked only at houses without one.

    10. RussianInTexas*

      My dad lives in one, single family house, dues $1200/ year. He haven’t had much issues or interactions with them. They keep the neighborhood, the pool, the park, playgrounds super nice, don’t restrict parking (except you can’t park against the flow of traffic), and never check people’s backyards. They do restrict the parking of such things as RVs or boats, and do have standards for the front yards, down to replacement of trees that died.
      Now, I am in a small town that is a suburb of a large city, we don’t have an HOA (it’s only a square mile place), but the city ordinances basically stipulate the same things an HOA would, without a power to place a lien on the house if you don’t avide. They can, however, fine you. Stuff like how high the front lawn grass cab be, youust take in the trash cans no later than 7am on the day after the pickup, no RV or boat parking for more than 24 hours. Last spring we got a nastygram requesting to power wash the house. Again, no HOA involved.
      There is probably a way to check how despotic or difficult the HOA is in any given are, maybe the Nextdoor?

      1. RussianInTexas*

        It’s incredibly hard to find a single family house in my area without an HOA. Weirdly enough, it would be a very high end historical areas with multimillion dollar homes. Or the poorest area of town (this isn’t the weird part).

        1. blue*

          Mine too. I tried desperately to find a house without one but couldn’t. This week I got a notice that they would be issuing fines for people who let their mulch fade. Like… what now? I also had to ask permission to change the color of my front door from gray to darker gray. Fences have been a huge issue as well. I’m always looking for ways to make my house look less cookie-cutter but doesn’t “violate” the “rules.”

    11. Elle Woods*

      I live in a house now that used to have a HOA. The details are long and involved about why the HOA no longer exists but if/when I move, I’ll definitely choose one that does not have a HOA. It wasn’t a nightmare but it was definitely an added layer of bureaucracy to being able to do things to our property (paint doors, replace landscaping, installing a fence for our dogs) that was completely unnecessary, in my opinion.

    12. Dark Macadamia*

      I lived in a neighborhood with an HOA and wasn’t a fan. I filter them out in my current home search.

      They once came to our door and told us we had to remove a window screen that had been on the house for 3 years plus however long the previous owner used it. Because someone complained that it was ugly.

      They frequently sent out threatening emails about pool usage. “If you can’t use the pool properly we will CLOSE it!” Once this was in response to trash that they already knew had been left by non-residents climbing over the fence – how are we supposed to stop that?

      Dues mostly went towards landscaping and pool maintenance, which was fine. One time they made a big deal of replacing the bulletin board thing next to the mailboxes, which only ever had the monthly newsletter that we could also request by email or paper copy – and it was rarely updated. Other flyers would be posted on the mailboxes and/or distributed door to door. Meanwhile we had to mail a check for dues each month, why didn’t they install a dropbox instead?

    13. Cookie D'oh*

      On weekdays, I’m up around 6:30 because my husband has to go into the office and the cats need fed. I brush my teeth and make the bed before heading downstairs. After feeding the cats I do an exercise routine. Right now I’m working through a routine from Fitness Blender. The best part of my weekday routine is getting a nice shower after my workout. Then I get started with my work day. I usually wait to eat until 11 and then I’ll enjoy a cup of tea or iced coffee. I do fill up a water bottle with cold water to help me wake up.

      On weekends, I’ll get up at the same time to feed the cats, but then I come back to bed and sleep in until I feel like getting up. Sometimes the cats will cuddle in bed with us. I still try to get in a workout and shower and then have a leisurely breakfast. Today I’m picking up carryout from a local restaurant.

    14. Cookie D'oh*

      We built a new house in a subdivision that has an HOA. We have lived here for almost 8 years. No issues so far, but the yearly fees are $350. This goes towards use of the community pool. We never use the pool because it’s filled with kids. I would pay HOA fees for an adults only pool.

      We added a deck shortly after we moved in and we had to submit some paperwork to the HOA, but I don’t recall there being any issues.

      They send out emails about keeping trash cans out of visible sight and cleaning up after your dogs, but people still leave dog poop in our yard.

      My experience is that they are fairly useless for the amount of money I pay them every year. I would definitely prefer a place without an HOA.

    15. anonForThis*

      I live in an HOA neighborhood. They don’t like RVs parked in the neighborhood. You’ll get a letter if your lawn needs to be mowed or is too weedy. And yah, they want you to fill out a form if you want to make any changes that can be seen from the street.

    16. RagingADHD*

      We looked for a non-HOA neighborhood on purpose, because we don’t like cookie cutter houses and yards, and we like stuff like veggie gardening and line-drying our clothes, both of which are verboten by HOAs around here. That search led us to a neighborhood with plenty of compatibly odd, semi-crunchy-granola types, and we’re very happy. We give our neighbors homegrown fruit and veg, and honey from our bees. Some of them give us eggs from their chickens.

      A few of them are occasionally and unpleasant, but not in the way of a direct personal conflict.

      All in all, I have heard more stories of HOAs causing conflict than resolving them. I don’t think nitpicky rules help people get along.

    17. Nerdybird*

      My condo neighborhood has an HOA and I’m happy with it. I’m not an outdoor person and greatly prefer having someone else manage lawncare, building maintenance, garbage collection, etc… Those are not parts of homeownership that I enjoy. Granted, I think the only bit I do enjoy is no longer being subjected to the whims of a landlord.

      Anyway, while every HOA is different, it can be a way to offload maintenance, benefit from group discounts on utilities and/or insurance, etc… If I move I would definitely look into HOA neighborhoods and their offerings.

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Most single family home HOAs do not do any maintenance. That’s up to you as the owner or renter

    18. Say no to HOAs*

      My uncle was killed by a drunk driver and one of my cousins was badly injured (thankfully he recovered). My aunt and uncle lived somewhere with an HOA. The HOA fined my aunt for having grass that wasn’t mowed weekly and for putting an ‘unauthorized’ ramp on the porch that she was using for my cousin’s wheelchair. She was a widow with 4 kids. The fines were more than she could pay and the HOA foreclosed on the home forcing my aunt and cousins out. The ended up living with us afterwards until my aunt could find an affordable rental. Based on this I will never live anywhere with an HOA.

      1. Say no to HOAs*

        Also just to note this was all immediately after my uncle died and my cousin got hurt. It wasn’t like years later or anything.

        I remember my dad going over to mow the lawn but since he wasn’t an occupant of the home or a licensed landscaper with a business the HOA banned him because it was against the bylaws to have him do it. My aunt couldn’t afford a landscaper.

        1. WellRed*

          What your aunt neededed was a lawyer. Or a decent neighbor to at least mow. W how do those people sleep at night?

          1. Say no to HOAs*

            Even if her jerk neighbors were so inclined they weren’t allowed to mow her lawn. My dad wasn’t able to because the bylaws said only occupants of the house or a licensed landscaper could. My aunt tried to do what she could but with limited funds and all her energy on my cousin’s rehabilitation and my other cousins it was impossible for her. That was a really hard time for her. I imagine with the power of social media things would have gone differently if it happened today.

    19. Jane Doe (for this post)*

      When I was in law school the firm I was a summer student at defended a blind man from a lien the HOA put on his house because he put a texture warning strip on his porch by the door so he wouldn’t trip or fall. The HOA had demanded he remove it because it was ugly and didn’t fit their aesthetic. I’m years away from buying a house so this doesn’t affect me but if and when I do buy it won’t be in an HOA neighborhood.

        1. Jane Doe (for this post)*

          He did. But he still ended up moving because his neighbors that were involved the HOA were really passive aggressive at him.

    20. Workerbee*

      We would never live in an HOA-infected area, having come through the perhaps-minor but still largely idiotic and annoying condo association board where we previously lived. So many of the so-called rules are just so Power Trip Patty can have something to fill her empty life with in her quest to make the area like the creepy town in Madeline L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

      But then I never did understand why grass had to be shorn down to its roots and things of that unnatural ilk either.

    21. Dwight Schrute*

      We currently rent in a neighborhood with an HOA and they drive us batty. There is always something they find to complain about- our grass; any weeds (we get the yard treated); we didn’t pressure wash our clean house; the bushes weren’t perfectly trimmed, etc. When we move we will be looking for a place without an HOA. I’ve also spotted an old lady driving up and down the streets stopping in front of each home to look at it and presumably send notices out later.

    22. Meep*

      I hate the idea of HOA’s in theory, but our HOA pays for the outdoor swimming pool that happens to be located right across the street from our house. We literally pad across the street in our swimsuits and jump in. It’s like having our own swimming pool without the hassle.

      That reconciles me to the time they sent us a nasty letter for having a yucky-looking front yard and made us plant a lawn there. Admittedly, the front yard was looking awful when we bought the house, so I’m not even too mad.

    23. Night Vale Seems Good By Comparison*

      Jumping in late to agree with the majority “no HOA” opinion. I lived under a large one for 12 years that was comparatively well run (for example, we never had any surprise assessments because they kept an adequate reserve). And still, “no HOA” was an absolute requirement when I was house hunting. No one picked up after their dogs, & the HOA claimed there was nothing they could do. There were townhouses in my neighborhood with collapsing fences, peeling paint, & one I believed was abandoned until I saw people entering: all the “property value” nonsense they claim to be about. Nothing ever changed. Yet when I wanted to replace my little lawn with a native plant garden, suddenly it “wasn’t in character with the neighborhood” (what character??). They focused on b.s. rules nobody cared about while ignoring any real issues. And they have a scary amount of power.
      I decided if I was gonna keep living in this HCOL area, no way would I ever again have to ask permission to modify my own darn house (except the occasional building permit if needed). If you have any choice at all, try to avoid buying into one.

    24. Gnome*

      I was on a HOA board. They vary A LOT.

      First, if you go to buy a home with a HOA, you will need to get a packet. This will include any outstanding violations with the specific home as well as financial information. A big thing to consider is paving… It is hugely expensive and if the HOA has to take care of roads, likely the single biggest expense. If the roads are newer looking, not a worry, but if they are in bad repair and they don’t have a large fund (I forget what’s it’s called, but it’s for major planned things), beware!

      Look at the rules. Look at the neighborhood and see if they appear enforced. You might ask some folks at the playground. You might see that people park in visitor parking without tags, no proof, or you might see a tow truck patrol the area. Check online for the community.and see if they have a Facebook or something… You might get a feel that way.

      Bit the only real way to know is to see it in action. I’ve been in two that’s were just fine and probably could have been more active. I’ve seen one that was… Too large and paper-pushing for my tastes.

    25. Kelly*

      I’m in a condo now and there’s an association that works with a property management company. It’s been a very mixed experience. This year’s board is better than other year’s but they are still ineffective. The property management company isn’t great. They also manage apartments as well work with condo associations. Some people with the management company aren’t able to differentiate between the two types.

      There was flooding shortly after I moved and some storage units and garages had water damage. I had it easy with only some minor damage in my storage unit, but because my building was in the middle between ones that had more significant damage, there had to be flood remediation work done. The flooding was in August and it took the board and property management company nearly 9 months to come up with a plan to address the water damage. Water damage was an existing problem prior to the flooding, but the only reason it got done then was because the board president’s garage had gotten ruined in the flooding. I arrived home from work in mid March to find the sheet rock knocked out of my garage. I had not been notified about the work. We finally got an email from the property manager around Memorial Day with the plan. The actual drainage wasn’t put in until early September, and new tile and sheet rock were not completed until close to Thanksgiving. Multiple buildings were without laundry machines for nearly 4 months.

      Communication was awful. I got multiple curt and rude emails from the property manager in response to my emails asking for updates on the project. I was getting frustrated not being able to use my garage, storage unit and do laundry at home. It was difficult staying polite when you have to clean up ice and snow from your car outside. Since the project was completed, I’m not sure how well it has worked. I’ve noticed water damage on the new sheet rock in my garage and check my storage unit after any major rain for water damage. I can no longer store items in cardboard boxes on the floor because of my own concerns.

      It took nearly 6 months for water softeners to be replaced in multiple buildings. This was after our monthly fees went up without any discussion or explanation why it was necessary. I did put in my comments that I disagreed with it and it should have been done after a discussion and an audit.

    26. Katefish*

      If you ever get behind on your bills, bear in mind that HOAs can foreclose, often more easily than a regular mortgage bank. Hopefully you never need this info, but my vote is no HOA for a whole glut of reasons.

  21. Orange Dahlia*

    Advice for online dating? For context, I’m a woman in her mid-30s in an East Coast city, hoping to get married and have kids once I find the right guy. Pre-pandemic, I always ended up meeting great guys in person, at parties, social events, etc., without really trying. Now, I’m ready to try online dating for the first time, but the process of actively searching for dates feels a little strange to me (even though I know it’s been totally normal for years, and many of my closest friends met their partners online).

    So far, I’ve made placeholder accounts (on pause) on a few apps just to see how they work, and I’m kind of surprised. For example, Hinge is supposedly the relationship app, but the profiles seem so superficial! Is the algorithm just really good or something? Maybe certain types of people gravitate to certain apps? I was also considering shelling out for eHarmony until I heard someone describe it as full of people desperate to get married (yikes!). Anyone have thoughts or recommendations for apps?

    Also, feel free to chime in if you have stories of finding love a bit ‘later’ than usual… intellectually, I know there are still plenty of single guys around my age, and I have several friends who aren’t partnered yet, but sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I missed out when everyone was partnering up in our mid/late 20s (and I did have a serious boyfriend then, it just didn’t work out).

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I met a wonderful boyfriend on matchmaker.com. We dated for a few years. My sister met her husband (she was in her 40s) online. A good friend met her husband online.

      Even though I had other relationships (and marriage proposals) in my 20s and 30s, I didn’t get married until I was 43. I met my (used) husband at our 20 year college reunion. I am glad I waited. :)

    2. Pop*

      Certain types of people gravitate towards certain apps for sure. Because hinge markets itself as for relationships, that’s who’s on the app. I’d honestly be surprised if their algorithm does anything – it’s up to you to screen and swipe. I’ve heard similar things about eHarmony, my friend called it a “ghost town” in our area. If you try a dating website, they’ll generally be more in depth and the algorithm does more work. Ive heard Match and Okcupid recommended for your (our) age group, although the okcupid one may be outdated, perhaps someone else can weigh in. Good luck!

    3. Paris Geller*

      The only dating app I ever had any success on was Bumble. I met my now-boyfriend there, and we’re going strong on two years and have talked about being engaged by the end of the year. I was in my late 20’s and he was in his late 30’s if that helps. My good friend met her husband on Bumble as well. In my experience, Bumble & Match.com have more late 20’s–early 40’s, whereas Tinder and Hinge skewed young, but your location probably also has something to do with it.

    4. SoloKid*

      I heard eHarmony had a religious bent (I noticed no same sex options when I tried it over 10 yrs ago), with the goal to be serious marriage instead of the more casual sites at the time. I met my husband on OkCupid when online dating was still largely “nerds/awkward people”. Maybe eHarmony tried to distance themselves in that regard.

      I don’t understand how “desperate to get married” got a yikes when that’s what you started your post with tbh. Especially mentioning kids, which I understand to mean wanting biological ones. People can rush into bad decisions with people from eHarmony just as much as any other platform.

      My advice is that you’ll have to sift through a lot of unsuitable profiles before someone strikes your fancy. When I saw my now husband’s profile, I reached out first, and I remember I really wanted him to contact me back vs just throwing lackluster messages out into a bunch of people’s inboxes. I had the opposite experience in life though – I hate parties and found most people to be superficial at them and rarely made friends at them. Online hangouts were/are definitely where I find similarly minded people that also avoid parties. And though I partnered relatively early in my mid 20’s, I didn’t date at ALL in my teens or college years and never felt like I was missing anything. Don’t let the FOMO feeling drive you.

      1. Orange Dahlia*

        I apologize for being judgmental about people “desperate to get married,” that wasn’t kind. But what I meant is that I only want to get married if I find someone I can very happily say yes to (which is why I recently broke up with a person who was very nice, and wanted to marry me, but it just wasn’t the right fit). So I wouldn’t want to pay a lot of money to join a place skewed toward people who prioritize getting married over finding the right fit (if that’s actually what’s happening on eHarmony). Like you said, I’m sure those people are on every app, but it seems like certain types of people gravitate to certain apps.

        It really helps to hear that you often just have to go through a lot of profiles to find the ones that appeal to you. That’s what I’ve seen so far, and I was worried maybe it was just me.

    5. GoryDetails*

      Not online-dating advice, but a possibly-encouraging anecdote: a dear friend of mine was in her mid-30s (and a divorced mother of two) when she met the man who’d become her second husband, and the two of them were clearly a perfect match. They met through mutual friend-groups, via a live-action roleplaying event, FWIW; definitely in the “not looking for love” category, and they got to see each other interacting with friends in a no-pressure situation, which may have helped.

    6. Orange Dahlia*

      Thanks everyone who shared their (and their friends’) stories so far! Honestly they really help. Also sounds like I should look into Match.

      1. Lizzie*

        Captain Awkward has good advice on being really specific about what you are looking for, to improve your filtering – many people like pina coladas and walks in the rain, after all, and that doesn’t narrow things down much!

    7. HannahS*

      Online dating is really different from in person dating. One thing that I think is helpful to keep in mind is that the ratios of reaching out to someone and getting to a date, as well as getting a first date and going on another one are VERY different from in-person dating.

      There’s a lot more reaching out to people and getting ghosted, and a lot of first dates that don’t go anywhere in online dating, in my experience. To me, it felt like a lot of work; that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you know, expectation management and everything.

      It’s helpful not to get too emotionally invested right at the beginning–like at the “messaging strangers” and “meeting strangers for coffee” stage. Also, if you’re being flooded by “Hey baby ;)” messages, or messages from people who clearly didn’t read or understand your profile, give yourself the freedom not to respond. I didn’t–I felt like I had a duty to politely reject anyone who reached out on OkCupid, including all the (I’m sure very lovely) people who were like, “I see that you said you only want to date someone with this specific attribute (a non-negotiable, like same religious beliefs or kids/no kids) and I don’t have that attribute but want to go out anyway?” In retrospect, I wish I had just given myself the freedom to ignore a lot more messages.

    8. Public Sector Manager*

      I found love a lot later than most. I started dating my wife when I was 41, we got married right after I turned 43, and we had our son right after I turned 44. My wife is 3 years younger than me, so we both started “late” by contemporary standards. There have been some perks–we’re both stable in our careers, we don’t have a lot of the financial pressures that younger couples do. Downsides–I’m now 51 and keeping up with the energy of a 7 year old is tough!

      The one thing that was important for my wife and I is that we both wanted kids and we both wanted a spouse who didn’t already have kids. Early in my legal career I was a family law attorney, and marriage is hard enough, but second marriages are harder, and marriages with step-kids are the hardest. Tons of our clients were from the latter categories.

      I met my wife on eHarmony back when you had to pay upfront before searching. That weeded out a lot of fake profiles and people who were just casually looking. This was back in 2011. At that time, a lot of couples found each other through eHarmony. Now I understand that it’s format is like all the other sites, e.g. you can search for free but have to pay to email someone on the site. I think that’s not as successful as the original format.

      I have a friend who is 60 and 2 years post divorce (with grown kids out of the house), and he’s had a lot of success on Match. My wife and I know a younger couple (early 30’s) who just got married and they met on Plenty of Fish.

      I think online is still the way to go for finding someone. You just need to find what online platform works for you.

      Best of luck!

    9. MinotJ*

      I met my partner on okcupid when I was in my mid-30s and we’ve been together for a decade now. My advice is to go through and selectively block everybody you know you’re not interested in. I knew I didn’t want kids, so I preemptively blocked everybody who definitely wanted them. Same with people who had completely different political/religious/etc views or were so far outside my age range that I wouldn’t consider them.

      It meant that anybody who messaged me had been pre-filtered to be somebody I might actually consider. It took a lot of up-front effort, but I never got a mailbox full of come-ons and “Hey gorgeous”. (Note: I am not gorgeous. Those dudes are just… ew)

  22. Dr. Doll*

    Noom or WW? I think I like and dislike them equally for different reasons. Opinions? Insights as to their ethics?

    1. Daffodilly*

      But I have issues with companies that profit off the insecurities and unrealistic beauty standards anyway.

    2. Meh*

      BLUF skip them..

      Both have a good immediate weight loss success rate. Both have abysmal long term. I also recently read a piece on the negative impact Noom had on psychological health and disordered eating.

      Spend your money with a real, registered dietician. Not a “coach” or self- styled nutritionist if you need information on caloric intake and eating a nutritious diet.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        I did ask a registered dietitian and she said given my needs (completely healthy just a bit heavier than I feel comfortable) that WW or Noom would be fine.

        Interesting about Noom, since they are all giggly about their psychological approach.

        1. Daffodilly*

          A “psychological approach” is just a tool. A tool that can be used well or used poorly.
          A “psychological approach” can be supportive and helpful.
          A “psychological approach” can be demeaning and abusive.
          *Even if effective for weight loss* a “psychological approach” can be problematic.

          It’s all just marketing.

    3. Catherine*

      Noom kind of started our relationship on the wrong foot when I signed up because it populated the signup form with “examples” in gray text (fake email address etc) to show you how to do it. The “name” field had Watanabe Naomi in gray text (a celebrity who is fat and vocal about body positivity). This was definitely not a coincidence because the standard “Jane Doe” name here is usually Tanaka Hanako or similar.

      For context, I am in Japan, and this was the Japanese version of the app. I went partway through the American version signup on PC with my VPN on just to see if the company as a whole was petty and bullying, and the American version does not do that. But it soured me on them enough that after my free trial expired I did not want to use their service.
      (It might also be worth noting that both versions let me set goal weights that were solidly in the Underweight range of BMI. I only used the Japanese app, but my personal coach was very enthusiastically in favor of me shooting for even a lower weight than I set.)

    4. Chrysoptera*

      I’m not sure what you mean about ethics but I’ve lost 15 pounds on WW this summer. It’s very affordable and there’s 24/7 support from their coaches. I’m online only.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Never tried Noom. I’ve really liked WW the two times I’ve used it. For background, I needed to lose a relatively small amount of weight and I don’t have an excessive personal history of negative experiences around weight or weight loss.

      WW “blue” option gives me a large variety of foods that I mostly like and that I can eat without having to question them, and I like the flexibility of the points system. I wish that there were a “maintenance” option, but generally I maintain pretty well by remembering the “free foods” principle. It helps that generally the blue option corresponds to how I mostly eat anyway.

      1. Not A Manager*

        I should mention that I don’t do any of the support, meetings, coaching stuff and never have in any format. I use WW strictly to track my intake and exercise and to give me some goals and guidelines.

        1. IGoOnAnonAnonAnon*

          This is me, too. I just ended my WW membership after 3 months because I hit my weight-loss goal. I was on Purple plan, with fewest points and most free foods, and found it met my needs well. Spouse used Green plan (most points, fewest free foods) and liked it. Online only, used mainly for tracking.

    6. Nessun*

      I’ve used both. I find the information from Noom better; the WW online seemed more focused on just getting people to post pics of themselves and chat. In Noom the vibe is different for people posting and I find it more relaxed, easier to take. WW people (in meetings and online) was so much more focused on numbers. I like the psychological focus on Noom. I also like their approach to food types rather than points (Noom counts calories, yes) – it’s easier to deal with calories than calculated point systems. WW may have moved from the points the way I recall them? It’s been a little while. I have found the online support and accountability in Noom firs more closely with what I need. YMMV.

    7. Exif*

      I’ve used and like WW online, I don’t have any interest in doing meetings. Any time I’ve “failed” was due to my own laziness at not tracking properly. If you’re looking for a quick fix rather than a lifestyle change, it won’t do that. I now track with MFP for free, but WW got me started at being able to eyeball appropriate portions.

      Not sure what you’re looking for in regards to ethics, but I ignore nonsense like HAES if that’s what you’re getting at. I’m trying to avoid losing my gallbladder to obesity-caused disease, not win points on Instagram.

      1. Daffodilly*

        Whoa! HAES is not nonsense and your comment is awful.
        What the hell does instagram have to do with HAES?

        1. Exif*

          Do what you like with your own body, I’m not engaging with your sea lioning.

          I’ll continue to follow the direction of a nationally-recognized gastroenterologist, which is that obesity damages your organs.

        2. RagingADHD*

          There are people who self-identify as advocates for HAES but in reality just go around promoting a false narrative that there is never any connection between any health condition and weight. Which is, of course, patently ridiculous and not at all what HAES is supposed to be about.

          These supposed champions of body positivity instead shame people who try to lose weight for medical reasons, as if all weight loss is motivated by beauty standards. It’s gross, ableist, and frequently ageist.

          They give HAES a bad name, and frequently cause folks with real health issues like Exif to have a bad taste in their mouth about the whole concept.

          1. StudentA*

            Well, why else would they call themselves HAES? I’d say they should expect pushback with a name like that. Seems pretty controversial.

            I appreciate your post btw. And I haven’t researched this movement.

            1. RagingADHD*

              The point is that weight is not the sole determining factor of overall health. People at every size can become healthier by doing beneficial behaviors and lifestyle choices. That’s not really controversial at all.

              Exercise, sleep, hydration, quality nutrition, etc, will improve health metrics like blood pressure and long term risks like diabetes or heart disease, even before the person loses a significant amount of weight. And even if they never reach a certain number goal on the scale, they will be better off in the long run with those sustainable positive behaviors.

              When doctors and society focus only on “lose weight” as the beginning and end of health advice for everyone whose BMI doesn’tmatch an arbitrary range, it is counterproductive because it misses the facts that a) skinny people who don’t make positive lifestyle choices are also at risk, and b) you can lose weight in ways that are really harmful instead of helpful. It also discourages larger people from making changes that would do them good.

              Where people go off the rails is when they start thinking that all attempts at weight loss for any reason are “fatphobia,” or spouting nonsense like the notion that weight and health aren’t related at all.

              1. Lotus*

                This is where I’m at regarding HAES as well. I’m generally for it, but people massively overstep when they get mad at anyone and everyone for losing weight/attempting to lose weight.

    8. lemon meringue*

      Okay, I realize this isn’t really the answer you’re looking for, but essentially the reason why weight-loss is such a big industry is that for 99 percent of people it doesn’t work in the long term. Generally it’s a better strategy to make small, gradual dietary or exercise changes that you can keep up indefinitely, because diets only work for as long as you’re on them. I wouldn’t trust any company built around a weight-loss model–Noom is just a more contemporary packaging for the same old problems.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I started off enjoying Noom, despite the cheese factor, and it is helpful for creating the habit of mindfulness instead of mindless inhaling food.

      I can’t say it has helped jumpstart my weight loss, I’m just bumping along in the same 5 lb range for a couple months now.

      If you do the free trial and then cancel, they will offer you a much better price to go month-to-month.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Oh, it has also helped me track my exercise & encouraged me to do more, which has helped a lot with my goals for mobility and blood pressure. So that’s good.

        The daily articles / lessons include solid research about stuff like how exercise is not stronly correlated with weight loss, but has many other health benefits on its own.

      2. Sleepless*

        Yeah, I did Noom for a month or two. It was interesting, easy to use, and definitely helped me think about my food choices more. Too bad I lost NO weight. None at all. Oh well.

      3. The Time Being*

        Agreed. I started ignoring all the little daily “lessons” and whatnot early on for being much too twee for me, but the calorie tracker, the red/yellow/green sorting, and the way the exercise tracker informs the calorie budget tracker all work pretty well for me.

        I’ve lost about 20lbs on Noom so far, a couple months in, but I think I would have lost that on any program. The weight was there to be lost. There’s still quite a bit more to go.

    10. Lotus*

      I recommend MyFitnessPal for tracking calories and nutrients, but get your dietary recommendations from a medical professional like a dietician or doctor. What I like about MFP is they warn you when you log in too little calories.

      1. HannahS*

        I also like MyFitnessPal as a calorie tracker. I found it really helpful to help me gauge both portion size and the relative calorie-density of certain foods. For example, it was really helpful for me to see the caloric difference (and macronutrient difference) between a Yukon potato and a sweet potato at dinner, or between eggs on toast and granola on yogurt at breakfast. All are nutritious options for me, but it just gave me context when I was making daily choices. In conjunction with a step-counter, it helped me with losing some stress-weight that I’d put on.

        The only thing that I’d caution is that, well, tracking my intake had a weird effect on me psychologically. I was thinking about food and calories and step counts ALL THE TIME, because I had to pay attention to it. I had a pretty neutral relationship with food and with my body, so I don’t think it harmed me, but it was weird. I still remember confessing to a friend (and fellow medical student at the time) that if a patient described the thoughts that were going through my own head on a daily basis, I’d be pretty concerned that she was on her way to an eating disorder. It’s an easy trap to step into.

        1. Lotus*

          Yeah this is good to note. Fortunately for me, it didn’t go down that road. I only really closely tracked my calories when I started on the meal plan my dietician recommended just to make sure I was on the right track. But eventually I gained an intuition about how to portion my foods and haven’t been using it since.

      2. Elizabeth Bennett*

        I was going to chime in about My Fitness Pal too. Free and effective. I was in a similar place, healthy, eating ok, just a bit heavier than was comfortable for me in my body, and I’ve been able to lose most of it without changing much but logging my food. It opened my eyes to how frequently I was eating when I wasn’t hungry. And just as a side note, I’m a big fan of the HAES movement and an avid listener of the podcast Maintenance Phase which helps me check my internal compass for unexamined fat phobia.

    11. Ron McDon*

      I tried WW many years ago, it didn’t work for me.

      Slimming World (not sure if that’s available in your area) was what changed my relationship with food. I’ve kept the weight I lost off for 3+ years now, which was unheard of for me before.

      I also recommend the Virtual Gastric Band app – not only does it help me drift off to sleep, but if I am sliding on my healthy eating/exercise regime it helps me get back on track.

    12. rkz*

      Well I can share my experience with Noom, but I can’t speak to WW.

      A year after giving birth I wanted to lose some weight for genuine medical reasons (not a huge amount, 15-20 pounds). I actually was genuinely happy with my body and how it looked etc so this was not an aesthetic issue for me. Noom was perfect for what I needed which was basically just a little accountability so I didn’t immediately give up. Also the calorie density system they use makes sense and seems to align with what I would consider a healthy approach to weight loss (the idea is basically that to lose weight you usually do need to create a calorie deficit, but by eating foods with a high volume as compared to calorie content, you will feel more fill and satisfied…not surprisingly, you end up eating more fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein).

      I did see a dietician a few years ago and Noom honestly reflected a lot of the types of things she would say, especially in terms of thought distortions around food.

      The cons: the lessons are written in a pretty cheesy tone. even though they do things like encourage moderation, sometimes the lessons can be a little more black/white, good/bad than I would have liked. The original calorie goal they gave me was too low for me by about 500 calories, so if I hadn’t been self aware and self confident enough to adjust that I would have been super hungry all the time and just given up after about a day.

      I’ll also say that the groups and the coaching weren’t a big part of it for me, mostly logging my food and exercise and doing the lessons was enough for accountability. I did lose about 15 pounds, which was my goal.

      1. RagingADHD*

        The interesting thing I discovered about the food color system was that “yellow” foods are actually quite important for satiety. If I tried to eat nothing but “green”, I’d wind up starving and then overdo it on sweets & fats (“red”) to try and feel full.

        Hearing the message that these moderate foods are good and necessary, and that eating more of them would help me stay in balance, was quite helpful for my mindset.

    13. WoodswomanWrites*

      WeightWatchers worked well for me using the online version of tracking. I had no interest in the meetings, coaching, etc. and didn’t use those options.

      What I liked about it is that it gave me a sense of which foods I could eat more of and which I had to track more carefully, and the fact that I could track my exercise and see how that affected the amounts I could eat. I liked that I could eat anything that I wanted as long as I was aware of the big picture. I think it promotes healthy eating patterns and long after I formally stopped using it, I have used what I learned to manage my weight well over time.

    14. Anon today*

      I can’t comment on ww, have only tried Noom. Have to say I was not happy with it. Due to COVID-19 my usual routine of working out had been disrupted and I’d gained some weight on 2020. Full disclosure I’d been really healthy before on a Paleo-type diet with lots of powerlifting (by healthy I mean top edge of normal BMI but amazing triglycerides and cholesterol balance, to the point where nurses asked if I did triathlons). Had to stop lifting due to gym closure and stopped biking to work as well. Because I’m petite Noom immediately put me on a 1400 calorie diet. I could not change it even after searching through all the settings. Five, I just aimed for 1600 which is slightly less ridiculous. But all the foods I ate were either red or green since I like a veggies/meat/nuts/fruit diet. Too many simple carbs give me bloating and other digestive problems. And trying to follow Noom’s suggestions I was hungry all the time. And starting to relate unhealthily to food. And annoyed because I couldn’t change the calorie setting. And last, gaining weight!!! Hangry, neurotic, annoyed by the food categorization and shaming (yes I know that’s my psychology but that’s how I felt seeing all that red), and gaining ten pounds in those two months alone, to hit my highest non-pregnancy weight ever. Aaaargh!

      So I quit Noom, ate everything I wanted over Christmas, then did a Whole 30 and started a new exercise routine (Sweat, Fierce at Home) and lost fifteen pounds practically immediately. Loving my exercise routine, have stuck with it for eight months, weigh what I weighed senior year of high school (I’m forty), don’t count calories, not hangry.

    15. Public Sector Manager*

      Just find a real dietician. I’ve done WW, pretty much every calorie tracking app, etc.. I always lost a ton of weight and gained it back.

      Once I went to a dietician, for my exercise level (running 3-4x per week, 3-6 miles each time, and walking/gym 3 days per week), we discussed I wasn’t getting enough protein to help with muscle mass and recovery. My diet was too heavy on carbs. Once I started eating more protein, I dropped 30 pounds. I’m still 20 pounds away from my lowest using tracking apps, but I feel so much better, both physically and mentally.

  23. blue wall*

    Fellow readers, I’ve forgotten how to pack a lunch for myself. Can you help me come up with some lunch ideas for school days? I do have access to a full kitchen at school if needed to prepare as well.

    I have a bunch of food restrictions; I do not eat any of the following:
    gluten, cow’s dairy, eggs, quinoa, pork/too much meat

    Back pre-covid, I would often do soups and salads, but my brain is overloaded right now and I can’t get over the hurdle of “what soup? what salad?” etc.

    1. Me*

      My favorite soup is a basic veggie soup with tomato as a base. The recipe calls for diced tomatoes but I also add tomato paste.

      To a bowl of the cooked soup I’ll sometimes add a bit of pesto, or a few taco-spice lentils or some cooked wild rice- just to keep it mixed up a bit. I make a big batch and eat it everyday when the weather turns colder. For salad, I usually have greens in my garden like arugula, chard, kale and sorrel. If I have store bought lettuce then I add that too. The arugula and kale tends to last the longest in the fall. I’ll add some pumpkin seeds or walnuts and some apples or dried cranberries, some goat cheese and use a homemade vinaigrette.

    2. Jay*

      I often make chicken salad on the weekend to eat for lunch during the week. Or I buy a bunch of yogurts and eat one with some carrots or fruit.

    3. heckofabecca*

      Generally I’m a fan of leftovers for lunches, so here are some recipes I like that might work for you!

      SALMON SALAD: Cook ~a pound of salmon on stovetop with whatever flavorings you prefer. Let chill. Make salad with greens of choice (I buy pre-washed), throw in dried fruit/nuts/sunflower seeds. Add your salad veg of choice if you like. Then add salmon + dressing, and you’re done! The salmon can also be used in sandwiches.

      CHICKPEAS WITH SQUASH: “Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash” on wellcooked can be adapted: remove the quinoa, up the chickpeas, don’t add cheese, and you have a REALLY YUMMY MEAL that’s good hot, room temp, or chilled.

      RED LENTIL STEW: My recipe (vegan) takes about 45 minutes, most of it waiting with the occasional stir. VERY filling, very delicious, easily adaptable.

    4. tuesday last*

      a good lunch salad is beans/chickpeas, goat cheese, chopped tomato, cucumber, pepper.
      Soup: pumpkin soup with coconut milk (thai-flavoured for fun, or just cooked onions, add pumpkin, cook, puree and add coconut milk. )

    5. Atheist Nun*

      For my work lunch I make a lentil salad (French/green lentils) with scallions and some kind of herb (parsley/cilantro/tarragon). The dressing is simply lemon juice and olive oil. If I make the salad with 1 cup dried lentils, it yields 4 daily servings. I also make fish cakes using canned tuna and pulverized rolled oats (instead of breadcrumbs), pan fried in olive oil. One can of tuna plus 1+ cup of oats makes 4 large fish cakes. I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, so this works for me (and on my 5th work day, I eat out).

    6. Chaordic One*

      I find a lunch of canned soup and a sandwich quick and easy. For sandwiches, I usually just throw together deli meat, cheese, and some lettuce on wheat bread with some condiments.

    7. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      If you want a big pot of vegetarian (or not) chili then you can bring that for lunches. Can also mix it up a bit as a topping for a microwaved baked potato or already cooked sweet potato. With a side green salad?

    8. Gnome*

      I’ve done grilled chicken with vegetables and rice. You might enjoy doing roast veggies on a gluten free pizza crust/focaccia, although I’m not sure about the eggs there.

      Oven roasted veggies are a favorite of mine.

  24. Me*

    Gifts for paramedics at a fire station?

    I’m looking for input on an appropriate thank you for some paramedics at a rural fire station. I live several hours away so it has to be something that can be delivered, and flowers don’t seem like enough. There are no restaurants in the small town that deliver.

    My mother has covid. Her husband is currently on a ventilator at a hospital hours away from her and is unlikely to make it. She doesn’t believe in covid and hasn’t been formally diagnosed but her current weak state and gasping for air indicate she has it.

    I’ve been dealing with this for two weeks, so sorry if I come across slightly detached. She’s stubborn as hell and no one in our family can convince her to go to a doctor or hospital. If she survives, it’ll be due entirely to her own stubbornness but she’s in her early 80s.

    I’ve sent the paramedics to her house twice so far, though they went there once before at the request of the hospital at the start of her illness. (When her husband was diagnosed at a hospital in the next town over, the hospital called the local paramedics to go check on her as they knew their patient had a spouse at home.) They were able to enter her house once only because she’d left her door open. Otherwise the two times I’ve asked them to check on her, she’s been unwilling or unable to get to the door. (Fire station is a half mile down the road from her house and the town is small enough that I speak to the paramedics before they go see her.)

    I’d like to send them a thank you. Ideas?

    1. Hearts and Minds*

      I’ve had good luck with Wine Country Gift Baskets (there are a lot of options without wine in them). The other suggestions here are are good too.

      This is kind and considerate of you. It must be so hard, I’m sorry you’re dealing with all of it.

    2. anon24*

      I’m an EMT, and my favorite gift that I’ve gotten was cookies from an online bakery that a patient had delivered to me. They came in a sealed package with instructions on how to freeze the ones I didn’t eat right away and because they were sealed I knew no one had tampered with them. And we love food!!! EMS is all about free food haha because we have to abandon so many meals for calls.

        1. Windchime*

          Yes on the sealed food. My son is a first responder and people will often send gifts of homemade food, and it all has to be thrown out because of potential tampering unless it comes from a known safe place (like my son can put out cookies that I send, but he has to label them that they are from “[name]’s Mom”).

    3. My Favorite Meal is Chocolate*

      See’s candy. Expensive to have them shipped from the website, but I’ve never met a person who didn’t love them, and I’ve sent them as thank-you’s several times. I’m sorry about your mom, this sounds hard.

      1. Me*

        Thanks- and sees candy is wonderful. I used to walk to the mall at lunch with coworkers and we would often stop by sees on the way back..

        And thanks for the kind words.

    4. Baby Warmer*

      As the wife of a firefighter/medic, you can call them and order pizza for dinner one night or ask them where they want dinner from

    5. WoodswomanWrites*

      I don’t have a suggestion, just sharing that I am so sorry to hear about your difficult situation. How kind of you to thank the paramedics.

    6. Rachel*

      Last year I sent cookies from Carolina cookie company to my doctors’ offices because they sell boxes of “singles” that are individually wrapped. I just sent apples from Paulus Mt Airy Orchards in Pennsylvania to all of them again. The cookies were well received. Not sure how the apples will do. So anyway I suggest baked goods or fruit.

    1. MissGirl*

      The good. First of all a friend gave me advice for the app. I’m on an app like Tinder where you can’t communicate unless you both swipe on each other. She said don’t waste time communicating with men unless they start communicating with you first. Apparently, a lot of guys swipe on everything whether or not they’re interested. I decided to give it go because I can’t get a guy to ask me our or regularly message to save my life.

      So far, so good. I’m swiping a lot more to compensate for the guys who never reach out and the ones that do seem more engaged in the communication. Hopefully, there will be a date soon.

      The bad. I matched with a guy who described himself as a “Proud American Viking.” I know this phrase has been used a bit with the white supremacists. When he reached out, I first decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and responded back. His first request was for us to send five emojis that describe ourselves and let the other guess what they mean. He sent the Norwegian and American flag. I asked if that meant he was from Norway. Nope, he repeated again that he was a “Proud American Viking.” Two of his emojis were related to this.

      Now if he’d said something like his family was from Norway and he loved pickled herring and visiting there in the summer, I would’ve thought way cool. But the emphasis on those exact words made me on edge. I would’ve wondered the entire time if he was straight-up racist and there’s no way anyone’s going to admit to that so they couch it in other terms. I didn’t want to waste time waiting around for his true colors to maybe show up. So I unmatched.

      Anyone got any advice on how to get that first date? Asking them hasn’t worked because they come up with a litany of excuses or keep canceling.

      1. Oux*

        If they are really interested, they will go on a date with you! If they cancel more than twice (you know, sometimes things come up), or if they make a bunch of excuses, don’t waste your time.

        Online dating is honestly a crapshoot. I’m bisexual (she/her) but I only online date to find women. I find it easy enough to meet men irl that I decided I didn’t need an app to help me along. This sounds mean, but I honestly found that a lot of the men (and sometimes women) on dating sites are on there for a reason. It could be geographical or maybe my picker is just broken.

      2. Spearmint*

        It’s hard to say based on the details you’ve given. In my experience, most women looking to date men usually have a pretty easy time getting first dates if they want them (if they have problems with online dating, it’s usually finding a guy they’re interested in). So I’d recommend looking over your whole profile and approach and see if there are any weak spots. Try asking yourself these questions:

        – Do you have high quality, flattering, and varied photos?
        – Does your profile (1) express core features of your personality/interests and (2) in a way that would intriguing for the kind of guy you’re looking for?
        – Are your standards realistic? If you’re honest with yourself, are you only swiping and talking to guys who are in a higher “league” than you (and I’m not just talking about looks here), or are you swiping on a lot of guys in a similar “league” as well?
        – Are you on the right app? Each app will, on average, attract a different sort of crowd, and maybe you’re on the wrong one for you.
        – Is your texting game up to snuff? Make sure you are coming across as engaged and interested in the guy without coming across as needy or overly serious.

        I know that’s all vague, and maybe you’ll look through all of those and say “yep, I’m doing well in all those areas”, in which case I’m not sure what to tell you. Some people just have less luck in the dating realm for mysterious reasons.

    2. Lotus*

      Good: I went on a date that was enjoyable.

      Bad: Said good date did not follow up. Not a big deal. But then I went on a bad date with a guy who was ridiculous in every way, including he kept bragging about every time he got black out drunk with his bros.

    3. OLD*

      I’m back on Bumble after taking a break for a bit. Got the initial flurry of matches, but most of them have not been great conversation so expecting to go back to the usual tumbleweeds soon. But one guy has actually asked to meet for a drink – shock horror! I find guys so passive on there that I’m usually the one initiating everything, so it is genuinely such a pleasant surprise to have someone suggest something.

      About to give up on Hinge I think. Have one last match as its in its death threos, but I feel like the conversation is not going to be enough to make me stick around for much longer.

  25. Teapot Translator*

    What do you eat for breakfast that is savoury (not sweet)? I’m looking to try out new stuff.

    1. heckofabecca*

      I don’t eat all of these (I’ll star the ones I have eaten/do eat), but the ones I don’t are popular!
      – Shakshuka
      – Congee
      – Beans on toast
      – Bagel, lox, and cream cheese*
      – Eggs* (Egg Bhurji is a savory Indian scrambled egg dish)
      – Savory breakfast muffins
      – Avocado toast*

    2. LDN Layabout*

      I’m a savoury breakfast person, so this is a small selection of favourites:

      – 10 million variations of avocado toast. A slight exaggeration but there’s so much you can do to it. My favourite ‘normal’ variation is salt, heavy on lime and hot sauce. Other things that work include tomatoes, feta, olives, everything bagel seasoning, pickled hot peppers, toum (garlic sauce). crushed/mashed chickpeas or beans as an under layer or an egg for protein.

      – Eggs. I’m not a huge egg person but friends of mine swear by the make them yourselves breakfast sandwiches, which they make on a weekend and freeze. These can be unhealthy or healthy as you want based on meat/cheese, whole egg or just whites etc. I personally prefer a spanish-style tortilla, which again can be made in larger sizes and frozen.

      – Any variation on a sandwich. I personally grew up on toast + meat/cheese as breakfast so anything goes. Personal favourites are croissant with ham/cheese or a jambon beurre.

      – Savoury breakfast pastries. There’s a million things you can do with a roll/pack of puff pastry and your favourite fillings/toppings. Use a non-sweetened shortcrust and make breakfast quiche! (could also go in the egg section). Again, easily made in bulk and freezable. Also works for lunch with salad and/or soup.

      Savoury porridge. Sweet porridge sucks (or at least I don’t like it), so a savoury porridge topped with things like cheese or sauteed mushrooms or bacon bits or salty ham? Mmmmm. Also here for rice porridge or corn porridge variations (I grew up on the polenta style porridge as a special breakfast)

    3. RussianInTexas*

      Savory egg muffins with various fillings, frittata, hard boiled eggs. Last week I made a sweet potato frittata and ate it through the week. Sometimes I make what I call a “savory Russian French toast”, “grenka” – mix couple eggs, milk, salt, pepper, dip a slice of bread in it (soak it), fry in a pan, after pouring the rest of the egg mixture over. It comes out slightly custardy. Can add some shredded cheese and herbs too.
      Sometimes I do a week of salmon and avocado on toast.
      Sweet breakfasts don’t do it for me.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Lots of variations of eggs, from eggs-in-a-frame to scrambled to omelets to frittatas (especially good with some leftover ratatouille or roasted veggies).

      For quick breakfasts, I’ve become fond of the El Monterey brand of frozen breakfast burritos; I’ll put two of those in the microwave for the recommended time, and they turn out quite tasty.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I don’t like sweet breakfasts. I’ll eat any leftover dinner for breakfast. Specifically “breakfast foods” that I like:

      *poached eggs on a bed of protein and vegetables (such as smoked salmon and Brussels sprouts)
      *steel cut oatmeal with butter and salt
      *buttered toast with ham and cheese
      *avocado toast

    6. Pharmgirl*

      For savory I prefer eggs. Recently, it’s been toast, cream cheese, Trader Joe’s Italian bomba sauce, and a over medium egg. I really like any kind of “fancy” toast though – avocado toast with egg, the pesto eggs tik tik thing that was popular recently.

      For egg free I’ll usually go with toast cream cheese and hot pepper jam. Or lox cream cheese toast.

    7. fposte*

      I don’t like to cook for breakfast most days, but sliced cheese on crispbread is great. Two big wafers, decent supermarket cheddar (I like Cabot), you’re good to go in about 90 seconds and it’s yummy.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Breakfast salad: Mixed greens with a fried or poached egg on top and a simple mustard+lemon+salt dressing.
      Whole Foods whole wheat English muffin (this is the only ww EM I like) with almond butter.

    9. Angstrom*

      Kippers aka kippered/smoked herring
      Eggs with savory condiments, such as harissa or balachung
      Frittata-like dishes with chard, sweet potatoes, etc.
      Chilies are a great way to wake up breakfast ;-)

    10. MaxKitty*

      Breakfast burritos-scrambled eggs, potatoes, black beans, smothered in green chili sauce (and right now, a side of tomatoes from our garden).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        My favorite breakfast burrito is scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns wrapped up. My kids eat egg and cheese sandwiches using buttered toast, with or without a slice of ham.

        Banana pancakes with peanut butter are pretty tasty too!

    11. RagingADHD*

      Grits with cheese (could also add bacon).

      Oatmeal with peanut butter.

      Bagel or toast with cream cheese.

      I was so happy to discover that you can get “Everything bagel” seasoning mix in a jar now. I put it on eggs, avocado toast, all kinds of stuff.

    12. Lotus*

      Anything with egg! I’m a big fan of English breakfasts or the classic American brunch diner eggs sausage hash browns/toast platters. Also, bagels and cream cheese w/lox.

      1. Lotus*

        I also want to offer up that technically anything can be eaten for breakfast. So if you want to eat dinner leftovers for breakfast that is acceptable! I have definitely eaten fried rice and pad Thai for breakfast.

    13. Girasol*

      Scrambled eggs microwave reasonably well so I like to stir up a couple in a bowl with salsa and maybe some refried beans. Sometimes I microwave a bread pudding bowl (sweet) so I imagine you could make a savory strata the same way, with bread, egg, milk, cheese, leftover veggies or meat, and seasonings. Leftover potatoes of any kind with cheese and whatever leftover meat and veggies are handy.

    14. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      My favorite quickie breakfast is an egg scrambled with Tajin for seasoning, topped with finely shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, cover for a few seconds with a flour tortilla, flip it out, fold, and presto. Takes about two minutes.

    15. Sleepless*

      I’ve gotten to where I can’t really eat carbs for breakfast, and I have *no* time to prepare anything in the morning. Greek yogurt with nuts or trail mix added is my go-to.

    16. Windchime*

      I usually have a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter. Easy, quick, and it keeps me full until lunch.

    17. Chilaquiles*

      Chilaquiles. Easy version: Scramble some eggs, toss salsa in the pan, add tortilla chips, (some green onion & cilantro if you like), top with shredded cheese, cover till melted.

  26. Trixie B*

    Thoughts – If you were in the process of a separation or divorce from your spouse and won a substantial lottery, what method would you use to collect it? A trust? Are you obligated to split it in half? Could you negotiate them receiving a third of the winnings? Could you block this future spouse from receiving your winnings if they remarried? Or any future children of theirs? Say you have one child and a grandchild. Ideas? Your intent is not to screw them over but you want to protect yourself.

    1. Anona*

      I don’t know the answer to any of this. My only contribution is that my guess is that lotteries are taxed like bonuses. When we receive a bonus, it’s taxed by about 40%, meaning we only see about 60% of the money and the rest goes to taxes. So if you do some kind of split, make sure it’s the after tax value.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      How long do I have to collect the winnings and am I in a state that allows me to collect anonymously? Can I hold off on cashing in the ticket til the divorce is final? :P

      1. Wishing You Well*

        This! State laws vary too much for blanket advice. Hiding your win or waiting to collect it can result in its total loss to your ex. Remember the guy who tried to give his big winning jackpot ticket to his mistress to claim while married to another woman and owing child support to a third woman? He ended up with nothing.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I’d run straight to a lawyer before even collecting the winnings. But I would do this anyway, as I would prefer to remain anonymous.

      I think you have a year to claim your prize? If so, there’s no rush, you can take the time to put your ducks in a row.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      You go straight to a lawyer because depending on local laws? Trying to hide it/depriving your spouse of assets that should be split can mean they get the whole thing.

      1. Meep*

        I’m an attorney (not your attorney and this is not legal advice). I remember reading a case where this happened – the wife won the lottery and hid it from her husband during the divorce. The court gave all the lottery winnings to the husband because of the wife’s concealment.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This 100% depends on your state and where you are in the separation/divorce process, because it’ll be a question of (a) whether you’re in a community property or equitable distritution jurisdiction, and (b) how your jurisdiction determines the cut-off date for when income is considered marital or individual. Speaking very generally, if you buy a winning lottery ticket on a date before the date that the divorce is finalized, then you’re probably going to “lose” half the pot, more or less, to your spouse. In this scenario, what they do with their share of the pot will be completely out of your control. But if you buy a winning lottery ticket on a date after the date that the divorce is finalized, then — assuming there’s nothing in the separation agreement to the contrary — then you should be able to keep everything to yourself.

      Also you have to consider what’s in your pre-nup if you have one. And I can’t imagine that a lottery windfall would have zero effect on any alimony or child support the winner would be responsible for.

      If you are quite literally in a situation where your divorce is not finalized and you have just won the lottery, turn off your computer and go hire a lawyer.

    6. RagingADHD*

      If this is for a fictional scenario, you’re going to have to get real specific on the setting first, and then do some deep-dive research on the laws there.

    7. Pennyworth*

      It depends entirely on the laws applying in your jurisdiction. If you ever have a big lottery win I’d suggest immediately getting legal advice and financial advice. I doubt if you’d be able to conceal it in any way and trying to could tie you up in expensive litigation. Of course you would want to protect yourself but bear in mind this is a windfall and even half of a substantial amount can be life changing. Also ask yourself what you would regard as fair if it was your soon-to-be-ex-spouse who won the lottery. For your own peace of mind I’d abandon any ideas of trying to use money to control your ex. Once the divorce is finalized it is none of your business what they do with their assets or if they remarry.

    8. Angstrom*

      I’d find a lawyer and set up an anonymous trust to collect the prize. I would NOT want the publicity of winning and the headaches of scam artists targeting me.

  27. Oux*

    Cooking – what’s everyone’s favourite way to make pasta sauce? I’m looking for some ideas!

    At the moment I usually use a recipe that includes crushed tomatoes, ground beef, oregano, basil, garlic, and some other spices. Apparently making pasta sauce from tomatoes is pretty fun, but it seems sort of difficult. Would it taste a lot different than using crushed tomatoes to start with? Any ideas appreciated!

    1. Not A Manager*

      You’re asking about fresh tomatoes? No, it’s not difficult but you need really good fresh tomatoes. If you’re buying that stuff from the grocery store, you’ll be much better off using canned tomatoes. I generally prefer the whole canned “Italian style” tomatoes, but you can experiment with different brands to see what you like.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      The only one I know is one I developed at university and ate for three years:

      Tinned chopped tomatoes + tin of tuna + olive oil + mixed herbs. Cook till you lose interest in this whole cooking malarkey, slap on top of the pasta.

      The quantities of the oil and herbs tend more toward the ‘you used *how* much?!’ scale as I don’t measure things :p

    3. newbie*

      Marcella Hazan’s recipe – 28 oz can of plum tomatoes (pick the fibrous stuff out), half a stick of butter and an onion cut in half. Simmer till done.

    4. Kathenus*

      Not totally what you’re asking, about the homemade base sauce (I used jarred), but I do a bunch of add-ins to sauce to make it my own – for red sauce that might be beef or sausage, green/black olives, artichoke hearts, extra garlic. For Alfredo sauce chicken, green/black olives, artichoke hearts, broccoli/cauliflower, and sometimes other veggies like carrot or zucchini.

    5. Redhairedrunner*

      The type of canned tomatoes you get at the grocery store tend to be lower moisture than fresh tomatoes which means fresh tomatoes usually need to cook longer if you don’t want watery sauce. You also have to blanch and peel fresh tomatoes since the skins are not nice in sauce.

    6. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      Not quite what you asking for but this is what I do when I have tomatoes (usually cherry or grape but this works with any) that are almost bad:

      Slice a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes in half
      Or chop about 3 to 4 plum or regular tomatoes into chunks
      Chop up about 4 cloves of garlic
      Put into a 9×12 baking dish
      Add 2TB olive oil and mix
      Bake at 350 for 20 or 30 minutes. You want them well roasted but not burned.
      Place in blender with basil and 1/2 cup of cream (cashew cream works well.)
      Blend until smooth
      Add salt and pepper to taste

    7. Purt’s Peas*

      For tomato sauce, I just absolutely adore the Marcella Hazan simple sauce that’s whole canned tomatoes cooked with an onion and a ton of butter. It’s just so good and so easy.

    8. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Roast! Definitely the easiest and yummiest to make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes.

      Fill a sheet pan up with large chunks of tomatoes (ideally sauce type tomatoes, like roma, but this works good on normal ones too, squeeze out the seeds if they are particularly juicy), a few cloves of garlic, maybe an onion. A zucchini is also excellent. Roast @400F for 30-45 minutes until everything is soft. It makes a great rustic sauce if you just mash it up a bit with a spoon, or you can stick it in the blender if you want puree.

    9. Fellow Traveller*

      My method for tomatoe sauce with fresh tomatoes is to roast tomatoes on high heat with olive oil, sprinkle of salt and garlic and then put it through the food mill. If it is too runny, I will cook it down a little bit. Really simple and flavorful.

    10. Girasol*

      One autumn day when I had 80 lbs of tomatoes to bring in from the garden ahead of a frost and no idea what to do with them, I opened a random book at the library and stumbled over a super easy roasted tomato sauce recipe. Oil a high sided cookie sheet. Slice tomatoes 1/2 thick. Lay them out one layer thick and sprinkle with salt. Roast them at 300 degrees for three hours. (Check occasionally. They should sweat down and shrivel, and darken and caramelize a tiny bit around the edges, but don’t let them go all to cinders if your oven runs hot.) Scoop the lot into a food processor and whir them up, seeds, skins, and all. To go from there to spaghetti sauce, fry up some ground meat and/or italian sausage with onions. Pour on the tomato sauce. Add olives, mushrooms, and/or bell pepper if you like them. Season with garlic, basil, a tad of oregano, and a generous slosh of burgundy or whatever red wine is handy. Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. If you make a lot and you can freeze some for later. This is really easy to do and it has a great bright flavor. Store bought spaghetti sauce tastes like baby food next to this.

    11. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and Aldi’s red pesto, seasoned with garlic and onion powders and basil. Super simple and a very good, quick, basic sauce.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Oh, and about a half can of water mixed with red wine for both the crushed tomatoes and paste.

        1. Crabby Patty*

          Sounds delicious! I make something similar (and eyeball and taste for desired proportionality): crushed tomatoes, olive oil, salt, crushed garlic, red wine vinegar. So simple but really tasty.

    12. Valancy Snaith*

      I use a derivative of a Smitten Kitchen recipe. Saute some garlic in olive oil until all fragrant, add a 28-oz can crushed tomatoes plus about 1/4 c of balsamic vinegar and 1/4 c of water. For seasoning, a tablespoon of salt, a half tablespoon or so of sugar, and a heaping teaspoon-ish each of garlic powder, onion powder, basil, and sometimes a couple others if they’re handy. Simmer on low for I don’t know, ten minutes to an hour? However long. Sometimes I’ll cook meatballs in the sauce, other times I’ll use it as my base for whatever other kind of pasta I’m making, always turns out excellent.

    13. Bluebell*

      If you want to veer off of tomato road, here are a few options:
      Sauté broccoli and garlic, add broth, then cook til the broccoli falls apart.
      – ditto for cauliflower
      – roast eggplant, garlic and 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, then purée and thin out with pasta water.

  28. Teapot Translator*

    Another cooking question! I am not satisfied with my pans. I bought them not so long ago (like a year or two?). I also think my stove is not the greatest (doesn’t heat up very fast), so I’m wondering if it’s worth it to get better pans with a so-so stove, or if I should wait for my stove to die on me to get good pans? They’re non-stick pans, but the non-stick is already wearing off.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        This! The good pans will last until you get the new stove, and beyond.
        Unfortunately you do need to spend money to get good cookware.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              I like the Cuisinart set I got last Christmas. It’s been holding out well so far.
              Not super expensive but a notch above the basic stuff.
              For the cast iron, I am a Lodge girl.

              1. BRR*

                I also have a cuisinart stainless steel set that I really like. I wouldn’t have usually gotten a set but it only had one or two extra pieces and was on sale. If you have the $$$$ all clad is the top of the line but cuisinart is fine.

                I also love lodge. I use my lodge skillet 95% of the time.