{ 1,146 comments… read them below }

  1. Might Be Spam*

    The new tenant who shares the garage with me scraped the side of my car yesterday. She doesn’t want to involve the insurance company and offered to pay for the repair. Is this a bad idea and what pitfalls do I need to be aware of?
    How long can I wait before involving the insurance company?

    1. Jess*

      Bad idea. I don’t know a lot about insurance but I’ve read enough notalwaysright stories to know it is a bad idea.

      1. Artemesia*

        I would get estimates from two place immediately and present those bills immediately — if they write a check, fine. Otherwise get the insurance companies involved and you can’t wait too long to do that. The problem is when someone makes this offer and has no idea it is going to cost $1500 to get it done and you have waited too long.

    2. banoffee pie*

      idk about the US but here (UK) if you go through the insurance company, even for something small, it can put your premiums up. So I don’t do it. But there could be good reasons why you should use your insurance, I’m not an expert.

      1. RagingADHD*

        That is true in the US as well, which is probably why the neighbor wants to avoid it. But if the whole side panel of the car needs replacing, they could wind up with a much bigger bill than they anticipated.

      2. Laura Petrie*

        Technically speaking, in the UK, you’re obliged to report any accident your car is involved in to your insurer. Even if you’re not making a claim via your own or the third party’s insurer. Not reporting accidents, however minor, can invalidate your cover.

    3. Jackalope*

      It depends on how much it costs for the repair. I’ve gone that route a few times and did the out of pocket option instead of us involving insurance and it worked out okay, but it could also turn bad. A lot of it depends on how bad the accident was. It helps that she lives nearby so can’t disappear on you as easily. But you’d still want to make sure to get her info (including things like license plate # and such).

    4. Anono-me*

      I would start by getting an estimate at the dealership for repairs to the car. (You don’t have to use them. But dealership estimates tend to be a pretty though. ) Most people significantly underestimate the cost of ‘a little scrape’. For example, sometimes more than just the part that was damaged needs to be repainted due to fading of neighboring sections.

      Once you have a ballpark idea of the funds involved; that may help you decide if you want your insurance involved or not.

      You might want to talk to your insurance agent and see if they have any advice and what the rules/laws/policy requirements are in your location. Mine was very helpful when I was considering it.

      Ultimately, the out of pocket option was too expensive for the person. So that was the end of my experience.

      I don’t know that I would have considered a private deal with someone that I didn’t know and trust well.

    5. Blomma*

      It can be fine, but get an estimate first because it might cost more than your neighbor is anticipating. Also, if you will need a rental while your car is in the shop, typically that would be covered as part of an insurance claim, so your neighbor should technically pay that too.

    6. jtr*

      I’ve had a student’s grandparent back into my car with his trailer hitch outside the school. He wanted to just pay for it himself, so I took the car to his mechanic, whose estimate made him decide to go the insurance route. It costs a ridiculous amount to fix even the smallest, stupidest things. Plus, the part needed took several weeks, and the insurance paid for a rental, where I would have been a little uncomfortable asking him to do it.

      I would probably have a written agreement put together if you do decide to go that route just to be sure you are both satisfied with the outcome and don’t feel taken in any way.

      1. Christmas cookie*

        This is how I’ve handled it. In my state (MA) insurance points skyrocket your insurance.

        I’ve offered to pay out of pocket after getting a quote. I put a credit card on file with the replace place so the other person can be assured it will be paid for.

        Once it was for bumper damage (about a wash between insurance and cash, but no points, which at the time with my driving record would have raised my rate hundreds per year for 5 years). Once I backed up into someone and had a newborn and 2 screaming kids in the car. The dude felt SO BAD for me. I think it was about $600 in scrapes and dings. That dude was a saint. I want to look up his info and send him a Christmas card now, ha!

        1. JSPA*

          That’s how I handled it, and recommend it. I let the other person suggest a shop for their car, checked the shop’s online ratings (excellent!), then gave the credit card to the shop and asked them to put a pre-approval on the card for the estimated total. And left a tip in advance, thus not dependent on the total, as well.

          That way, nobody had to worry during the process.

          If the shop had been dodgy, I might have sought some other path.

    7. Cordelia*

      I’ve done this before and it’s been fine (in the UK) – I’ve both paid out of pocket for a similar-sounding scrape I caused to a neighbours car, and had someone arrange the repairs and pay when they hit my car. Less hassle for each of us, each time, and no-one’s insurance premiums went up.
      Perhaps get her to put something in writing for you, just to say she caused the damage and is agreeing to pay for repairs by a certain date

    8. Asenath*

      I did it once, and it worked out fine. A lot depends on the cost of the repair (as well of course as the person you’re dealing with). If it’s pretty minor, it’s often preferable to just pay for and repair the damage, not getting into a possibility of the insurance rates going up for something that’s largely covered by the deductible anyway. One thing to remember is that in some places (mine, for example) every vehicle accident that results in damage over a certain amount must be reported to the police – plus of course any accident involving injury. Since the damage amount hasn’t changed in years and the cost of car repairs has risen, this means that even if you are fixing quite minor damage due to an accident it needs to be reported to the police (who generally have far more serious accidents to worry about, but will take a report because that’s the law). But for a minor scrape – yeah, paying for the damage personally is fairly common. No police and no insurance claim.

    9. The Dogman*

      Get it done at your dealership or a trusted garage so you know they will do it right and have her pay for it?

      In the UK that is normal for small bumps and scrapes as the insurance corporations are scummy about jacking up prices the following year usually.

      Good luck!

    10. Not So NewReader*

      She shares the garage with you?
      I’d also be concerned about building a plan to prevent further occurrences. A gentler way of saying this is to tell her that next time it could be you who scrapes her car. This could involve putting a light weight partition between the two cars. But I have also seen people do clever things with a rope or string. They hang it from the ceiling and the driver knows if the string moves, (very visual warning) then they are too close to the other car or object. You can attach something to the end of the string to help make it really visible- such as a silk flower or a small toy.

      1. JSPA*

        You could possibly get for yourself, and also give her, for her car, a flexible flag (like one of the bicycle “three feet to pass” flags–4 feet, in some states). Rig it to stick out by the door post, or from the trunk, or from the hood, whatever angle you think is most helpful. Don’t claim a full three feet, if that’s not at all reasonable…but give other drivers something to sight on, as they park. Being scrupulous about being “in the lines” and well aligned when you park can also help.

        None of it will prevent damage if someone is seriously impaired / should not be driving. But a lot of people are not as up to date on their glasses prescriptions as they should be, are extra stressed, extra exhausted, working with a less oxygen, are less able to muster full concentration, or are in more despair than they were two years ago. Making it easy for people who intend to do their best, to succeed, is a win-win.

        1. fposte*

          I just found another possibility, since I’m looking for something to guide me out of my narrow garage door now that I have a new wider car and this thread prompted an idea. There are safety teardrop banners for schools with weighted bases (or bases you can fill to weight, I guess); you could put one of those along the line between the cars. I’m going to try one of those for me.

    11. Akcipitrokulo*

      Depends – mainly on whether there is hidden damage. If you get it examind by mechanic & get quote, you’ll be making informed decision.

    12. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      Agree with the others to get an estimate before proceeding either way. I can understand the neighbor not wanting to go through insurance. I might have told the story before, but once I put in an insurance claim for a smashed windshield, thinking it was going to cost $1500 or more. It ended up costing $225. My premiums immediately went up $100 per year and I’m still paying the higher premiums, six years later. It would have been much cheaper in the long run to pay out of pocket. But every repair is different, so getting an estimate before proceeding is probably worth the inconvenience.

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

      I’ve done it twice…once with a stranger who ran a stop sign (witnesses stopped and gave me their contact info just in case) and once when my mom backed into my car. Both times turned out okay but keep in mind you’ll probably need a rental car while yours is in the shop and usually insurance would cover that (it’s super expensive right now). I was lucky that my mom let me use her car while mine was being repaired. Repair estimates varied widely depending on how “back to new” you want it to be vs just looks “good enough”. Insurance wouldn’t cover it anyway but you’ll be out of pocket for all the time possibly away from work too; getting estimates is just a pain.

    14. JSPA*

      It’s often fine. Premiums go up, if you have a small accident. Paying OOP avoids that. I’ve done it (even when there was no clearly assignable fault).

      But check that she’s given you all her contact information, and ideally make a guesstimate of the money and ask for that much up front. Give her a handwritten receipt for it, stating it’s to go towards the repair, and that you will provide a repair receipt and either refund any excess, or request the additional needed.

      Allow her to suggest a couple of body shops, if she cares to. Many scratches can be buffed out. If it’s gouges, that’s pricier. If it’s anything structural, unless she’s fronting several thousand dollars…get insurance involved.

    15. Kathenus*

      I had something similar but it was someone I didn’t know in a parking lot. Elderly man, said he’d pay the damage, gave me all his info. Once I had a quote he said he wouldn’t pay, sue him if I wanted. Unfortunately I’ll never trust anyone in this situation again.

    16. Not A Manager*

      When my kid was a teen they backed into someone and I actually asked my insurance agent if it was okay to offer to pay out of pocket and not file with insurance. She said she absolutely recommended doing that, otherwise the premiums would skyrocket.

      Similarly, I once had a teen rear-end me at a stop light, and his father paid me out of pocket for the repairs. In a way I think it might be better than using insurance, because then you get to choose your mechanic. I had a body shop I liked and I knew they’d do a good job for their quoted price.

    17. Maggie*

      I don’t think it’s weird, people don’t want their premiums to raise for a scratch. Bring her an estimate and ask for cash for the cost of it. If she doesn’t pay or gets dodgy, involve insurance. I’ve paid people outside insurance for like 3 minor scrapes or fender benders over my time driving and I’m totally normal haha!

    18. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

      How old is your car? Is it a serious ding, or a minor one? How much do you care? You could take the payout and use it to pay bills or a down payment for a new car. Inquiring minds want to know?

      1. Upside*

        Ha! Yes that is a clear benefit of taking the individual payout, rather than filing with insurance! I hadn’t thought of that. Of course, in this particular situation, it might become awkward once it’s clear the OP wanted the money from their neighbor but has no intention of making the repair. I’m not sure what “right” answer is as to whether that awkwardness would be justified, but I could see that tension arising just the same.

  2. Zazz*

    My state is dealing with tornadoes right now. It’s scary having to watch the forecast to see if anything will hit your own city, especially because this is the first time it’s ever happened here, at least that I can remember.

      1. Might Be Spam*

        Thanks. My car was parked in the garage so nobody was hurt. I’m glad my neighbor was honest and told me about it.

    1. PlantProf*

      I was up half the night worrying about tornados too. Fortunately we didn’t get any nearby—I hope you were all right too.

    2. Stitch*

      I think you probably live in the same region as my parents. I told them to sleep in the basement last night.

    3. JSPA*

      We’re outside the main alley (which is, however, shifting dramatically) but have occasionally snoozed in the basement if the watch becomes a warning.

      Fitful dozing on pillows or in a hammock, but with an overall sense of relative safety, beats alternating deep sleep and complete “did I hear or dream a siren” wide-eyed panic, in the bedroom.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      We’re south of an area that was in the path of the worst storms so we didn’t really get anything, although it looked like we would for a while. It was awful watching the updates, though. I was online for quite a bit last night checking on people.

    5. Malarkey01*

      My elderly aunt and uncles house was hit. They are okay and the house isn’t a total loss. It’s so surreal to look at national news and see a relatives house though.

  3. Bibliovore*

    Over a foot of snow herein Minnesota.
    Mr. Bibliovore workday have been out every hour shoveling.
    I hired someone to clear the driveway and the walk.
    I am Not going to do it myself.
    Recommendations for warm snow boots.
    Brands for very wide feet.
    I wear a six and a half wide. My go to are Birkenstocks
    If a buy a 7 my feet slide and they are often too narrow with thick socks.

    1. Mid*

      I usually did rain boots with thick wool socks (I grew up in MN.) It was usually more than warm enough, and rain boots seem to run wider than other shoes.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      If you’re looking for something heavy duty, I suggest Sorel Caribou winter boots. They’re well made and last forever, as long as you’re okay with something bulky and heavy. I also have wide feet, and although Sorel doesn’t make a wide model specifically, they tend to run wide. If you get them from REI, you can return them for a whole year even if you’re worn them. Their customer service folks are knowledgeable if you want to check with them first. LL Bean also has comparable heavyweight snow boots, but I can’t vouch for their fit. They do have the same solid return policy of a year.

      1. Stunt Apple Breeder*

        I agree with Sorels. I wore mine all day, every day during the winter when I lived in the upper Midwest. They weren’t too cushy, but I wore out two pairs in 15 years.

        1. Caterpillow*

          Canuck here. The Sorels have a removable thick felt liner that you could easily pad with a couple of layers of felt and some ugly sewing to narrow them down

      2. MNer*

        I have the LL Bean snow boots and live in MN, and they keep my feet plenty warm and dry shoveling and sledding with the kiddo (or standing waiting at bus stops, pre-covid). They don’t come in half sizes so I am wearing a half size larger than my usual. With drugstore insoles to provide padding and arch support they fit nicely and they seem like there’s plenty of width (but I don’t have wide feet so take that as my own perception).

      3. Come On Eileen*

        I just bought a pair of Kamiks and so far they’re working out great. Had tried a pair of Sorels (both purchased on Zappos) and they weren’t comfortable for my feet/rubbed against the back of my heel.

    3. Asenath*

      I found an ideal pair for me through Naturalizer, and they often have a range of sizes. Those particular boots are probably not still available – they’re so sturdy that I bought a second pair and they’re still going strong after several years.

      Sympathy with the snow clearing. One of my reasons for moving into the apartment was that now someone else wll take care of that, and I’ve known people who hire a snow-clearing service each fall and find it a godsend.

    4. May I Help You Out the Door?*

      Hi, neighbor! (Wisconsin here). I have wide feet (bunions). I’ve had trouble with lace-up boots always coming undone when I’m working or playing outside in the snow. So I was looking for something in a zipper or pull-on style. Two years ago I found a pair from Keen. They’re lightweight and comfy as sneakers, nice and warm, and fit great without looking clunky. They were a little spendy, but worth it.

        1. The teapots are on fire*

          If you’re a woman, the men’s Keens will likely be wide enough. I have not found the women’s Keens to be wide enough for my fat feet.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Might be worth trying a tack store if regular shoe stores are frustrating? Riders have to shovel poo in all forecasts.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Cabella’s. Insulated lined duck boots with suede uppers — I bought them when my boots gave out halfway through Thirteen Blizzard Winter and they’re still going strong. Just don’t try to drive stick-shift in them.
      I want to find side-zip snow pants to wear with them so I can leave those on the porch when I finish snow-blowing …and sit down someplace warm to unlabeled the boots.

    7. Jean (just Jean)*

      Try Kamik boots? I bought a pair of their women’s boots from Zappos[dot]com 3 years ago. The fit isn’t perfect*, and the boots are heavy enough to fatigue my lower legs after a few days, but they were under US $100 and our winters in MarylandWashington DC metro area are milder than yours in Minnesota.

      * These are 1/2 U.S. size and 1 European size bigger than my usual size. If I recall correctly the boots didn’t come in half sizes. If you have longer feet perhaps you can try men’s shoes. My feet are right on that sweet spot of not long enough to fit the men’s and too long for the boy’s–a bummer because you can save money buying kids’ shoes, unless the styling is too obviously “for kids.”

    8. fposte*

      I’m another wide-footer. I’ve never found a regular width to be truly satisfactory once I put on the necessary socks–they’ll fit, but they’ll hurt after time. I’m currently trialing my first L. L. Beans and it’s so far, so good; I’ve got some La Canadiennes and some random brands. I also have snow cleats in case it gets really bad.

    9. Cj*

      If you get snowmobile boots, they are very warm, but also very heavy. They generally tend to run pretty wide as it is as soon you’ll be wearing thick socks in them.

    10. Cj*

      I’m also in Minnesota, probably not too far away from you. We got 10 inches where I live oh, I heard they got 21 in in East Saint Paul.

      1. Lady Alys*

        21″ here in Woodbury – thankfully the HOA’s snow removal team has been through once already so we can get out of our garage if we need to. So sorry to see all the destruction in the wake of tornadoes!

        1. LizWings*

          My Dad is just outside of Woodbury! He was out of town and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to get into his driveway when he goes home tomorrow, lol. We’ll be arriving in a week and hope there is still some snow!

          1. Cj*

            50 degrees predicted for Wednesday, so probably not much snow left by next weekend. We are 15 degrees above normal for most days this fall, although the summer wasnt abnormally hot. Climate change is weirdly unpredictable I guess.

        2. Cj*

          I know, the tornadoes were so terrible. The snow is certainly an inconvenience, but not deadly like the tornadoes were.

          I don’t think we’ve even been on a tornado warning here in South Central Minnesota where I am for the last few years, which is really unusual. I’ll take it while it lasts.

    11. aceinplainsight*

      You might want to look at the kid’s versions of the boots recommended- I have wide 7.5 feet, and often find kid’s shoes run wider than women’s.
      As a Michigander, I just wear rainboots with heavy socks and a polar fleece liner for deep snow, since they tend to be taller than most snow boots.

    12. Fiction Reader*

      I love my Bogs boots, I wear the classic mid and they are warm and waterproof and give my toes lots of room. I’ve had my pair for over a decade. It looks like they only come in whole sizes, but Zappos has free returns or you can check the Bogs website’s store locator to see if your local shoe store carries them.
      We got less than a full foot of snow here, but it took 3 adults almost 2 hours to shovel out our driveway and sidewalks!

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        … it took 3 adults almost 2 hours to shovel out our driveway and sidewalks!

        You remind me of Lewis Carroll’s discussion of sweeping the beaches in “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (appears in Alice in Wonderland):
        “If seven maids with seven brooms swept it for half a year,”
        the Walrus asked, “Do you believe that they could get it clear?”
        “I doubt it”, said the Carpenter, and shed a bitter tear.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Nuts! Should have tucked that last comma inside the quotation marks.
          And “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is a poem-within-a-work-of-fiction.
          I knew I should have proofread my comment one more time.

        2. Fiction Reader*

          I’m sure by the end of this winter I will be shedding many a bitter tear about buying a house on a corner lot – we have to clear the sidewalk on three sides!

    13. JSPA*

      Birkenstock high, lined boots are expensive. I have a pair all the same, from the “regrettable looks” era (when they looked like a suede boot with a birkenstock shoe stitched onto the outside, in shinier leather). Mine work down to maybe -5 farenheit, and they’re not good for slush, so they won’t do all of winter. But if you have the bucks, or luck out and find them on sale, they are the high quality you’d expect from Birkenstock (good support, long lasting, predictable fit). Nordstrom’s used to carry them.

      Ah, found them. Will add link. Now on sale, even. (Still not cheap.)

      I have similar size feet to your and often buy kid’s (big kid or youth) boots like Sorrel. Kids snow boots run wide and run into larger sizes than most kids shoes. The arch support is generally miserable, though, so borrow from a running shoe or add an orthotic or other structured footbed. Many have a removable inner boot which helps for drying and stink reduction. (Be careful with the nomenclature of toddler vs big kid sizes, the numbers overlap.) Youth 6 to 7 is usually pegged to euro size 38 to 39. My birkenstock boots are 38. My Sorels are a 5 (room for single wool socks) and a 6 (plenty of room for ragg wool socks or double thinner, and added footbed).

    14. Kathenus*

      Wide feet here too, I’ve had the best success with Merrell for waterproof shoes and hiking boots, including insulated hiking boots which are great for snow – they come in wide widths. For more severe weather, deep snow I have a pair of Sorel boots I’ve had for years – hard to get your feet in (they have very thick, but I think removable, lining) – but once on they’re great for serious winter weather.

    15. *daha**

      I buy my wide shoes from Hitchcock, and have been since the previous century. They used to be men’s-only, but now they carry women’s shoes and they have a wide range of outdoor boots in wide sizes, plus dress shoes and casual shoes and all sorts of other styles. wideshoes.com

    16. bratschegirl*

      Hitchcock Shoes, an online/catalog retailer, sells exclusively wide sizes, both men’s and women’s styles. They have a large variety of snow boots from various major makers, plus their own label.

    17. Random Bystander*

      I rather like Hotter shoes/boots. They’re a bit pricy, but there’s currently a pretty good sale going on.

      I’m a 5.5 double-wide, so I do know the challenge.

    18. Cookie*

      I see nobody recommended Icebug boots yet. I have a really wide forefoot with narrow heel, and even wide boots pinch in the toes for me. I had Keen boots for years but they threw off my gait and made my hip ache badly. A couple of years ago I tried the Icebugs and I’m never going back, because they’re awesome. Number one, they fit and I still have room to wiggle my toes. They are lightweight like a sneaker, they’re waterproof, mine came with extra removable spikes for really slippery conditions, they lace up (the fit is adjustable and no snow migrates down into them), and they are so warm I don’t need extra socks – normal warm winter socks are fine. I wore them to a bonfire last week even though there was no snow, because they are WARM.

    19. The teapots are on fire*

      I used to wear Toe Warmers waterproof boots from Maryland Square, which they still carry, but I left snowy places about seven years ago so I can’t say if they’re still well made. They come in widths up to extra wide.

    20. WinkyPie*

      If you are good with a higher price point and want to support an Indigenous company, try out the Manitobah Mukluks. SO WARM.

  4. Jackalope*

    Book thread: what is everyone reading this week? Anything new or fun? Anyone looking to give or receive recommendations?

    I just finished “Murder at Sunrise Lake” by Christine Feehan, which my friend and I decided was a paranormal romance suspense. I wasn’t sure at the beginning but I liked it more than I thought I would even though I’m still not sure about the ending. I also just started “The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman; not sure what I think yet since I’m only about 20 pages in but it came highly recommended so I’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I just finished the audiobook of We Run the Tides, one of Alison’s top recommendations for the year. For most of it I was thinking yeah, this is pretty good, solid 4 stars but the way it ended was SO satisfying. My previous two books weren’t great so it was nice to listen to something relatively quick and really enjoyable!

    2. Lemonwhirl*

      I just finished the audiobook of “Plain Bad Heroines” by Emily Danforth. It was so good. I heard the author describe the book on a podcast as “Picnic at Hanging Rock + the Blair Witch Project x Lesbians” and that sold me. It’s a long audiobook too, so definitely felt I was getting my money’s worth.

      I’m reading “The Nameless Ones” by John Connolly, the 25th book in the Charlie Parker mystery series. The focus is on Angel and Louis tracking down a group of Serbian war criminals, so it’s quite heavy.

      Also recently finished reading “Doctors and Friends” by Kimmery Martin, which is about a group of doctors during a terrible pandemic. (Conceived and drafted in the Before Times, published in Covid times.) I really liked it, but I love pandemic narratives because I find them strangely reassuring.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        That’s how I felt reading “Year of Wonders” earlier this year. It was very bleak but the audiobook narrator had a beautiful voice and the overall vibe of it was just like… what can we do but carry on? On the other hand, my book club was reading “The Murmur of Bees” when the pandemic started and it was really stressful.

        1. londonedit*

          My book club decided to read Wolf Hall at our February 2020 meet-up – we only meet every two or three months, so we all spent most of March and April reading about people dying within hours from the mysterious ‘sweating sickness’! Not exactly reassuring!

        2. the cat's ass*

          I LOVED Year Of Wonders-Geraldine Brooks is fantastic.

          Other Pandemic/apocalyptic books also include The Stand, the Road, and The Passage Trilogy. I found them weirdly comforting, except for the Road.

    3. Princess Deviant*

      I just read a paranormal romance called A Christmas To Die For by Jessica Frances. It was absolutely bonkers but I did enjoy it. Working my way through Zoe Chant Christmas novelas today, and probably will read Several People Are Typing after that (it was a recommendation by Alison here a couple of weeks ago).

        1. Princess Deviant*

          I’m not sure about it yet! It’s definitely unique, I’m not too sure about the layout of it.

        2. Princess Deviant*

          Well I just finished it, it was fun! Weird but I enjoyed the ending. What happened to Lydia though?? Did she get out.

    4. The Dogman*

      The Commissar Ciaphas Cain series of Warhammer 40,000 books (in the grim darkness and all that!), they are very good, quite accessable for the in universe background and written somewhat in the style of the Flashman books.

      The Hero is a self admitted coward who in his constant efforts to avoid dangerous assignments often ends up in dangerous assignments facing Daemons (fairly self explanatory), Tyranids (bio-adapted warfare species who want to eat all organic life in the galaxy), Necrons (an undead metal bodied billion year old species who were tricked into giving up “the flesh” and are still pretty salty about it), Traitor Chaos worshipping loonies (humans who have betrayed the religio-facist Administratum of Earth and therefore the Emperor of Man too, big nono in the Imperium), Tau (a sort of communist “greater good” species who “adopt” with some creepy mind control field other species for that “greater good”), and the usual dangers of a high tech battlefield… Oh and Orks… He fights Orks a few times… WAAAAAARRRGGGGHH and all that! ;)

      A very fun series I highly recommend to all!

    5. Golden*

      I found The Seven and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle in a nearby little free library and have been having a lot of fun with that! It’s like a combination of Agatha Christie and the video game 12 Minutes. I’m sure some things have gone over my head, and I have to keep referring to the character list given at the front, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.

        1. Golden*

          I’ve actually never truly played it! My husband did, and because we share an Xbox live account (him on console, me on PC), when I started it up I guess it put me midway through which I didn’t realize until he was like “wow, how are you so far already?!”.

          I quit playing when we figured out what must have happened, because it didn’t seem fun to start with already knowing some of the “big reveals” and bypassing many challenges. Husband agrees with Stitch that the ending is odd, but the concept seemed so unique!

      1. Blomma*

        I just finished this one too! I enjoyed it, though I didn’t quite agree/like/? with some aspects of the ending. Apparently Netflix UK is developing a tv or movie version of it, which I think has the potential to be really good!

    6. Blue Eagle*

      Nonfiction: Dancing Man – a Broadway Choreographer’s Journey by Bob Avian. If you like musical theater you will enjoy Bob Avian’s memoir of his time dancing and choreographing Broadway musicals.

      Fiction: Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian. No, it’s not about digging gold from the ground and not about trying to marry someone with money. The protagonist is a 15 year old Indian-American boy. I found the story fascinating and kept reading till I found out what happens in the end. Great read.

    7. CTT*

      I’ve been reading the classic Robert K. Massie “Nicholas and Alexandra” biography about the Romanovs. It’s pretty old, but I have been surprised at how fair he’s been to Alexandra considering when it was written – acknowledging that she made a lot of mistakes, but that she was coming from the mindset of the parent of a very sick child. That said, I’ve reached mid 1917 and it’s hard to get through the last few chapters knowing what’s coming.

      1. Tortally HareBrained*

        I just started The Witches of St. Petersburg last night, a fiction novel set in the same time frame. Like you, knowing what’s coming gives the book and extra sadness/ghostly feeling.

      2. Lurker*

        I read that a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it! Even though I knew how it ended (heh), it still had me in suspense at times.

        I just finished Still Life (Sarah Winman); the blurb on the back made me think there would be a lot more about art history and WWII, but it’s really a love letter to the city of Florence. The book references EM Forster’s A Room with a View a great deal and I’ve had that sitting on my shelf, unread, for ages so I thought it was the perfect time/segue way to finally read it.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Almost Human by Lee Berger and John Hawks, in which the lead scientist on two major South African hominin discoveries talks about the work. Both the discovery part and how the bones are unearthed and preserved and information is shared. I really like it. I just got to the second discovery, which I believe is going to lead to drafting teams of small flexible people, often women, who can get into the cave. Based on a recommendation here.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman. Poems, beautifully written. I was in the book store and this had been left on a table of travel books; opened at random to a poem that really spoke to me and so bought on impulse. In more systematic reading this collection is focused on the experience of living through 2020 and 2021–which if I’d known going in might have been a negative, but in practice I am finding really soothing–like draining a wound. It’s been striking how fiction has largely skipped over the pandemic, minus a very good Parks and Rec special, and yet I don’t want to escape into pandemic-land either so I get it.

      From a longer poem:
      When asking how others were faring,
      We did not expect an honest or full response,
      What words can answer how we’re remaining alive?

      1. Mimi*

        I read Going Viral over the weekend, which is supposed to be a cute romance about teenagers in NYC last year (in lockdown). It was okay. I was kind of annoyed with how making up with the girlfriend involved a lot of recognizing where the protagonist had messed up, been insufficiently open, vulnerable, etc, but not really anything with the girlfriend acknowledging what she had done to contribute to that, or apologizing. (Like, maybe MC didn’t tell GF that she was worried that her mom was going to lose her job because every time she tried to open up about how much she hated lockdown, GF was like, “Well, yeah, it’s rough, but there’s no point in focusing on it; just think about how FORTUNATE we are! Well, I’m off to try making madeleines!”

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I am following this for ideas for my family’s Christmas Eve book tradition. (We have Icelandic friends and took their “Yule Book Flood” for our own.)
      Last year’s hit was “The Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking” but it got misplaced before we all read it so if it’s not in with the ornaments I’m buying a second copy.

    11. AY*

      Just finished Before the Coffee Gets Cold for book club. I liked that it felt like a fable or fairy tale where certain magical things like curses and time travel just happen and aren’t explained. But many of the characters were not especially compelling and there was definitely some cringey men-writing-women stuff.

      Reading the Song of Achilles now, which is good but is working for me less than the author’s far superior Circe. I appreciate seeing the story through Patroclus’s eyes. But the Trojan War is such well-trod ground, and the author has a lot less room than in Circe to be creative.

    12. GoryDetails*

      Some good non-fiction, including:

      SHADY CHARACTERS by Keith Houston, about a subset of typographical marks and punctuation, from the pilcrow to the octothorpe to the interrobang. It includes bits of history about writing, then the production of books, then typesetting, and the ways in which the different symbols came to be – quite a lively and fascinating read.

      IN MINIATURE: HOW SMALL THINGS ILLUMINATE THE WORLD by Simon Garfield, about various miniatures from architectural models to toy trains to the famed “Nutshell Studies” miniature crime-scenes of Frances Glessner Lee.

      And in fiction:

      THE GIFT OF THE MAGPIE by Donna Andrews, from her punny “Meg Langslow” cozy-mystery series. This is one of the holiday-special volumes, centering around holiday celebrations in Meg’s home and town, with a lot of really charming examples of people coming together to help each other. And – given that there is a crime to be solved – a more upbeat ending than I’d dared hope!

    13. RussianInTexas*

      Just finished the latest and final book in The Expanse series. Did not see the end coming, even though it made perfect sense. Now trying to get through the backlog of my Kindle First books.

    14. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      I just started The Viking in the Wheat Field. It’s a biography about Brent Skovmand, a Danish plant scientist who began collecting samples and studying genetic diversity in wheat to protect the world’s wheat production from emerging diseases and environmental disasters. I read excerpts from the book online before purchasing a paper copy and look forward to reading the whole thing. Skovmand eventually became the director of the Nordic Gene Bank–I am interested in seeing how his career took him there.

    15. Scarlet Magnolias*

      Just started “Go tell the Bees that I am gone” in the Outlander series. I liked the first 3, didn’t like any of the others and am giving this one a final chance

    16. PastorJen*

      I just finished reading “The Man Who Died Twice” by Richard Osman. It’s the second book in the Thursday Murder Club Mystery series. I liked the first one and loved this one. It was really funny and smart, and the author carried the story through until the last sentence of the book. I can’t wait for the third installment.

      1. JNH Coaching*

        I loved The Man Who Died Twice! Even better than the first one!!

        I just read “Secrets of a Charming Life” by Susan Meissner and devoured it. It’s the story of two sisters during the Blitz in London in WWII. I also really loved “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig, “Agent Sonya” by Ben MacIntryre and “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett.

        “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown was my favourite non-fiction read of 2021, and “Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith was my favourite audiobook. Robert Glenister is a phenomenal narrator and does so many accents!!

        1. PastorJen*

          It really was better than the first one — and the first one was really good! Dare to Lead was excellent, though I love everything I’ve read by Brene Brown. I read one Robert Galbraith book and liked it, but haven’t read any others yet. The Midnight Library was surprising and well done. I haven’t read the others you mentioned, though I need to check out Secrets of a Charming Life. It sounds really interesting!

        2. SelinaKyle*

          Totally agree about the Man Who Died Twice. I can’t wait for the 3rd book. I’m hoping the film lives up to the first book.

    17. Here for the Randomness*

      The Peripheral by William Gibson. Couldn’t get into it when I started reading it a few years back. Really enjoying it now. Probably more of a reflection of my ability to concentrate during leisure reading based on the need to concentrate during work stuff.
      I forgot how dense his writing can be, but it treats the trippy as common.

    18. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I just finished “A Warrior of the People,” about Suzanne LaFlesch Picotte, a native American woman who graduated from medical school in the late 1800s and came back to Nebraska to as a physician, educator, and advocate for her Omaha tribe. Quite a woman!

    19. Emily Elizabeth*

      I just finished The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and think it’s one of my favorite books of the year! In the 1920’s in Alaska, a childless couple is struggling to eke out a homestead and connect with one another when one night they build a child out of snow. The next day they spot a little girl in the snow, and the story follows that of the couple, the girl, and their little community as they all move through and survive the Alaskan seasons. A retelling of the fairy tale The Snow Maiden, I loved how the balance of magic and rough rural life, and the language was poignant and perfect for winter.

    20. OtterB*

      Three Twins at the Crater School, by Chaz Brenchley. This was such fun. It is a blend of an old-style boarding school story with a “planetary romance” where Mars has canals. The Crater School is on Mars, and the girls who attend it are adventurous, creative, and very loyal to each other. There will be a sequel out later this month.

    21. Bluebell*

      Cackle by Rachel Harrison was a fun, slightly spooky read. I also enjoyed Seven Day Switch by Kelly Harms, a Freaky Friday with two moms. Plus I finally read While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams—very Grisham-esque.

    22. JustForThis*

      I’ve been reading Laurie R. King’s Mary-Russell-series, an inventive continuation of the Sherlock Holmes stories with a late-middle-aged Homes and his young apprentice-turning-partner Mary Russell, set in the 1920s. They are great fun and I love much about them, but — maybe because they stay within the established logic of Sherlock-Holmes-plots, maybe because they were written several decade ago — there is some unfortunate (even if sometimes somewhat ironically tempered) orientalism, classism and elitism. Multi-step “deductions” are still oddly satisfying to read for me, though; apparently they hit some kind of instant reward button in my brain.

    23. Loves libraries*

      I’m reading Iced by Felix Francis. I read all of his books as soon as I can. It took my library forever to get it.

  5. Just Lurking*

    So nice to see a photo featuring Eve front and center! Is she a shy cat? It seems like we don’t see her as much as some of the others. Same with the other calico (Olive?).

  6. Melody Pond*

    This past week, I was formally diagnosed as autistic (at 35!). I’ve still got lots of processing to do, and would certainly welcome hearing from any other adult-diagnosed autistic folks on their own journeys.

    But in the meantime, one thing I’ve decided to do is fully embrace my need for loungewear that doesn’t cause sensory irritations. I work from home and did so pre-Covid. Between that and my diagnosis (including a note from doctor saying I should be allowed to work from home as appropriate for my job duties), it’s looking unlikely that I will need to spend 40 hours every week in an office – certainly not in the near future. So, I’m ready to bring on the loungewear.

    Tell me your favorite brands for comfy at-home loungewear! Especially any brands made sustainably with minimal or no synthetic fibers, primarily from organic natural fibers. Candidates I’m currently considering include MATE The Label and Pact.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      Congrats! I was diagnosed autistic at age 46, just about 18 months ago. Actually, it was because of people here that I went for it. But anyway, what I’ve found is that I’m still learning what I can cope with and what not. Since I stopped masking so much it’s becoming apparent what is just too hard for me.
      I’ve had several accommodations meetings in work as I’ve learnt what I need. I suppose I’ll have more as time goes on. Working from home rather than in the office is one of them, but we’re all home workers now anyway, so it frustrates me that my boss wants us to be in the office more when it’s not even required.
      As for lounge wear, well I’m from the UK but I get a lot of cheap stuff from Asda which is Walmart-owned. I presume you’ll be able to find things there? Anything soft and thick and warm, then I cut the labels out. I always wear socks, even at night and have the bottom of my pants tucked into them.
      Good luck and best wishes on your journey! I have found my diagnosis a time of both profound grief at not being diagnosed earlier and of great joy at being finally ME.

      1. Melody Pond*

        both profound grief at not being diagnosed earlier and of great joy at being finally ME

        Oof, yes. This is exactly how I feel. Well, “joy” might be too strong of a word for what I’m currently feeling, but certainly relief. But it’s definitely mixed with grief over not being diagnosed earlier. Especially since I learned that my mother has suspected me of being autistic (or having Aspberger’s at the time) since I was really little, but she never sought any evaluation for me.

      2. Hunnybee*

        Since this is the non-work thread and this comment is work-related, I can’t release it from moderation, but feel free to ask about this on the Friday work thread! – Alison

      3. Hunnybee*

        I sent this long reply to your awesome post but it didn’t show up, maybe because I mentioned “w-o-r-k”. : )

        Similar feelings, and I feel like reading the posts in AAM have been incredibly supportive to those of us on the spectrum. I wish there was some kind of specific thread for newly diagnosed professionals. Seems to be a very supportive community of folks here.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Ah thank you. I’m super intrigued about your question now and will keep an eye out for it next Friday :)

      4. Hunnybee*

        Thanks for sharing this link!

        Also, I’ve been super happy with the Old Navy sweatpants I’ve gotten over COVID and the fleece-lined pants and joggers from Eddie Bauer (and basically any of their fleece is wonderful — it washes well and is so soft).

        I would never before let myself wear this kind of thing all the time, but in the past few years it has felt essential to wear soft and comfortable clothes, like another layer of necessary support.

    2. PollyQ*

      Lands’ End pima knitwear is lovely. I think the fabric is 100% cotton, although the thread may not be.

    3. TiredEmployee*

      Congratulations! It’s such a trip, isn’t it?

      I’m six months post-diagnosis (age 29) and still very much coming to terms with “what it all means”, wrapped up in therapy for the anxiety I developed from being undiagnosed. One thing I have learned is that I need to pay closer attention to my senses than I ever thought – e.g. I realised that it’s the feeling of icy wind on my cheeks every time I walk the dog that makes me boil with rage at this time of year, not just the fact of having to walk him in the cold, so now I wear a facemask the whole time and that alone has been such a boost to my mood! That and trying to stop bullying myself about what I “should” be capable of “as an adult” re: things like housework and social commitments and instead build up from what I know I can handle. It’s all very much a slow work-in-progress.

      1. Melody Pond*

        That and trying to stop bullying myself about what I “should” be capable of “as an adult” re: things like housework and social commitments

        I feel this. Thanks for sharing.

      2. Software Dev*

        ADHD solidarity on that one. There are adult things I have accepted I am not going to master (cooking, for one)

    4. Arya Parya*

      I’ve been diagnosed about two years ago at age 35. I’m still figuring out what stresses me, but getting better at it. The best thing I’ve done is being kinder to myself. I’m allowed to say no to things. I’ll plan downtime after things I know will take a lot of energy. I’ve accepted my energy levels need to be managed.

      As for comfortable clothes, I love stuff with fleece inside. I like how soft it is. I also cut the tags out of most clothing.

    5. mreasy*

      I have 2 pairs of Girlfriend Collective joggers (the ones made of recycled materials) and I love them.

      1. It's Growing!*

        I have a t-shirt from a national park that says it’s made from recycled water bottles. It is so soft and comfy! I wouldn’t have guessed that would be the case.

    6. Shorts shorts shorts*

      Never tried it, but Norwegian brand OnePiece have amazing merino hoody jumpsuits. I wish I had a reason to buy one.

    7. ten four*

      Eddie Bauer’s men’s flannel jammie bottoms. The men’s ones have pockets – essential! They are pricy AF but go on 50% off sales a fair bit, and they are thick and warm. I’ve got a pair that’s a few years old with zero of the pilling you get from crummy cheap flannel. 10 out of 10 stars.

    8. Mimmy*

      I’m not diagnosed but have long suspected that at least have autistic traits. One thing that’s often bothered me is shirt tags, depending on the material of the tag. Pants tags sometimes bother me too. I tend to buy from Lands End and Croft & Barrow for my casual tops because they’re tagless.

      1. Melody Pond*

        One thing I learned is that, within the autistic community, self-diagnosis (after careful thought and research and consultation with others who know you) is considered perfectly valid. Because getting a formal diagnosis can take both time and a lot of money, and that’s not accessible to everyone.

        I don’t know if you’ve already heard of it, but the RAADS-R screening on aspietests [dot] org has some clinical validity to it. It was one of the first things I did on my journey – the score is out of a possible 240 points, and the threshold for potential autism is 65. First time I took it, I got 149. Then I doubted myself a lot and re-took it, and got 131, and later 141. Then after finally talking to my mom about it, and filling in some of the gaps from what I was fuzzy on, in my childhood, I took it one more time recently and got 166.

        1. Mimmy*

          Thanks Melody! I took it and got a 105, although a lot of the questions were tricky because I was fuzzy on whether some of them were true when I was younger, so I’m not taking that score as gospel. It probably works better with the help of a clinician and family members.

      1. Melody Pond*

        Great suggestion, thank you! Their stuff looks awesome, and I am adding them to my bookmarks folder for clothing stuff.

    9. Hunnybee*

      Congratulations! I was diagnosed in my late 40s, and it was like the clouds lifted in so many things about my life.

      Like…my sensory issues around fabric. Certain wools and OMG that metal sponge for cleaning pans send horrifying chills up my spine. Some polyester fabric does that for me too. I can’t explain it to any of my neurotypical friends, but you might understand what I’m talking about. I JUST cringe at certain textures. haha

      I’ve lately embraced my need to wear soft clothing and that means I’ve been stocking up on sweatpants, sadly. But Old Navy has some great ones with thick, soft fabric that launder well. I also love the fleece lined joggers from Eddie Bauer.

      Right now, I am wearing the softest cashmere turtleneck that I got on sale at Nordstrom. Something about soft clothing makes me feel comforted and supported. I hope you find some wonderful and supporting clothing and share with us all here!

      1. Melody Pond*

        That’s interesting – I think touch and fabric are probably my least-sensitive areas, but I still have some sensitivity. Like I can’t bear feeling constricted or unable to move, and I really really don’t want to wear itchy fabrics. The metal sponge thing is not something that’s ever pinged my sensory issues – but I can totally see how it would be an issue for lots of autistic folks!

        I can wear synthetic/natural blends if they’re soft, but my reason for wanting to go full natural fibers, sustainably made clothing, is more because this is part of my long-time “special interest” in sustainability & environmental consciousness.

        My worst sensory sensitivities are audio/noise and smell/taste. I can remember as a kid, I’d always dread having to go to someone else’s house for dinner, because chances were high that I wouldn’t be able to eat what was put in front of me. That still affects me today, and makes it difficult for me to go visit my in-laws with Mr. Pond. And the main reason we bought our current house two years ago, was because I couldn’t deal with the noise coming through the walls in our previous condo – whether it was someone else’s TV, music, or just them having a loud conversation. And I intentionally picked a house with a livable basement, so that on the off-chance my suburb neighbors ever do something loud enough that I can hear it upstairs, I can still escape to the basement. (This was all two years prior to my diagnosis, and at the time I would have dismissed any suggestion of me being autistic.)

      2. Mannequin*

        “Some polyester fabric does that for me too”

        I. Can. Not. STAND!!!!! the feel of polyester.

        I was born in the 60s and grew up in the 70s when EVERYTHING was made out of thick, nasty, hideous, polyester doubleknit, the worst polyester of all.

        It was just as bad as you can imagine and I didn’t have any way of conceptualizing it for years.

    10. Scotlibrarian*

      Congrats! I was diagnosed last month aged 49. I’m so pleased. I’ve taken to wearing some gorgeously comfy stretchy velvet wide legged elasticated waist trousers. I got them from Mark’s and Spencer (UK) and they are so soft I feel like I’m a squishmallow. Also, they look reasonably smart so I can pop to the shops in them. I’m currently wearing the plum pair while laying on the sofa.
      I’ve been embracing stimming, which is super fun / stress releasing
      One of the best things is that a year ago i started working part time as a trainer with 2 other autistic women training managers in how to be an autism friendly employer. I’ve learned so much from the training and from working with autistic people.
      Welcome to the autistic community!

    11. JustEm*

      I don’t have autism, but am sensitive to fabric textures. My favorite is stuff made out of bamboo. I had a baby six months ago and bought some Kindred Bravely postpartum and maternity bamboo lounge pants and I LOVE them … I just bought more in a smaller size even though I could totally fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes now. Fair warning, some of their tops have uncomfortable built in bras or uncomfortable stitching. I haven’t really liked other things from them but I love love love those pants

    12. RosyGlasses*

      I will say that Pact is fairly stiff cotton – it is not “buttery soft” or silky in case that makes a difference (at least the leggings I’ve purchased have been pretty scratchy/stiff).

    13. Quinalla*

      I love Bombas – they started out just socks, but now have underwear and t shirts. All there stuff is low to no synthecis, very soft but also durable. Highly recommended and they donate one of whatever (socks, etc.) to homeless shelters of what you order which is awesome!

      For soft clothes, I love Torrid for my size 18 body. They have tons of super soft shirts especially. Typically 100% cotton or close to.

  7. Mid*

    I rock climb in my free time and just managed to get a route I’ve been trying for a while, and it feels really good. I needed a win this week, and so it’s extra satisfying.

        1. AGD*

          Amazing! I haven’t gone rock climbing in years but I remember just a few months in, conquering a 5.8 that I’d thought was impossible, and realizing I was making progress. That was a big moment.

    1. Double A*

      I miss rock climbing so much. I haven’t done it since the start of the pandemic, first because of pandemic, then because of pregnancy and having a little baby. I’m really hoping now that they baby is a bit older I can get back to it sometimes. Though I was topping out in the 5.11 range (indoors…outdoors more like 5.9)

      1. Mid*

        There are actually a lot of new parents at my gym, and some people who climb while very pregnant! There are even climbing harnesses designed for pregnancy, which I think is super cool. Obviously, not trying to tell you what to do, and you know what’s best for you, but I wouldn’t eliminate climbing if that’s something you want to do!

        1. Double A*

          It’s really been more about the pandemic than anything. With my first pregnancy I did climb through about month 6 and used a full body harness a bit, and I got back into climbing a couple of months after that baby was born. But this time I just wasn’t comfortable going to the gym through the pandemic while being pregnant, and then with the two kids it hasn’t been logistical for my family. We live in a more rural area so it’s a 45 minute drive to the gym and I used to go on weeknights, but that’s out the window for now with two kids bedtimes.

          However, the friend who I climbed with most is about to have a baby, and she and her husband are dedicated climbers so I’m thinking that once she’s getting back into the swing of things we can sync up and I’ll be able to climb a bit with them. Even better would be if vaccines for the under 5 cohort are approved by then and I can get my kids vaccinated.

          1. Mid*

            I completely understand that! It’s been complicated for me and I don’t even have kids. Luckily my area is heavily vaccinated, the gyms require masks full time (and will make people leave who don’t follow that requirement), and have good sanitizing processes, but it’s still a stressful time to go anywhere with crowds of people. I wish you the best!

  8. I'm So Excited*

    On Tuesday (probably), I’ll be getting a pixie cut! My hair is currently waist-length, so it might be a bit of a shock. On the bright side, if it all goes wrong, I’m taking three weeks for Christmas. :|

    1. londonedit*

      That’s so exciting! I’ve gone from boob-length hair to a short bob before and it’s so much fun. I’ve also had a pixie cut a few times and absolutely loved it. Enjoy!

    2. Blue Bob*

      Yay! Hope it goes well! In August, I went from waist-length brown hair to a blue bob. Then I went for a bob-pixie hybrid a few weeks ago when I got the color topped up. I thought I’d miss my long hair, since I’d had the same haircut since 1993, but I don’t miss the tangles. I do find that I don’t have the skills to make my hair look as fantastic as my hairdresser does, but I’ve learned to be okay with it not looking perfect.

      1. I'm So Excited*

        That sounds very exciting! Did you find that people looked at you differently with blue hair instead of brown? A friend of mine dyed her hair pink and she said that she felt that people noticed her more (especially little kids).

        1. Cookie*

          I have had a pink pixie cut for a couple of months, and I’ve noticed that strangers are a LOT nicer to me. Maybe because my resting b1tchface with my normal dark/gray hair makes me look severe, but with the bright pink pixie people assume I must be a fun character.

    3. Daisy Avalin*

      As somebody who’s had a pixie for 12 years now (but never managed to grow my hair out below the middle of my shoulder blades in my life) prepare to have your bathing/hair washing time *drastically* reduced! I love it, for simple ease of wash and go, and for the fact that the majority of the time I don’t have to do anything to it when I wake up!
      One caveat – depending on the style of your pixie, you may need to stick to the hairdresser’s advised trim appointments… I am both busy and lazy, and not overly bothered about how my hair looks, so I tend to be lax on the six-week suggested gap between cuts!
      Also, thanks for posting this, incidentally I do need to go get my trim this upcoming week!

      1. newbie*

        Right? The first time I washed my hair, I put my heretofore normal amount of shampoo in my hand and once on my head it was ridiculous overkill. I got my last haircut about 2 weeks before COVID shut everything down, and it’s approaching my shoulder blades again. Time to make some decisions about what I want this mess to look like.

      2. Mid*

        Yes! I did waist length to a pixie, and I lost like 3lbs because I had so much less hair. I also bruised my shoulders because I was so used to brushing my hair all the way down and I smacked the brush into myself. But it was overall so freeing to have short hair.

    4. Might Be Spam*

      That is exiting! When my waist length hair was cut to almost pixie length, I found out that it was curly. That was quite a nice surprise. It took awhile to get used to seeing it in the mirror but it was fun. It is so much easier to take care of now. Have fun!

      1. PlantProf*

        Mine too! I did the same thing a few years ago, and I thought it might come out wavy, but it was actually pretty curly without all the weight.

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      I did that several years ago, it was amazing how much less shampoo and hair products I went through, not to mention the time it used to take to detangle, wash, dry, and style my waist length hair. The only downside to a pixie is that you have to keep up with the trims. Currently I’ve got a just-below-the-earlobes bob, which for me is the best of both worlds.

    6. Deschain*

      Don’t be worried if you have to give your hair time to adjust to the new style. I have very thick hair and when I went from long to pixie seven years ago, it took a good bit of effort for the first few weeks to train my hair to go forward towards my face instead of the usual away from the face. And unlike everyone else, I use way more shampoo! Because my hair is so thick and coarse, I only washed it once a week when it was long. But with a pixie, I love being able to wash it twice a day! It doesn’t take much shampoo but it’s still more than before. I have Chronic Migraine and one of the only soothing things I can do for it is letting hot water run on my head, hence the two showers a day. The CM is actually why I cut my hair off and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I hope you love yours!

      1. Windchime*

        Total side note, but hot water running over my head helps with my migraines, too. It took me years to figure it out, but now it’s one of my go-to strategies.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Are you selling or donating or making it into extensions or crafting Victorian jewelry or letting the stylist do the same?
      Always curious what someone else chooses. My first two big cuts were donations, then I learned that particular charity was overwhelmed AND that a cousin was learning to make extensions…so my most recent big cut is in the freezer. (Yes bagged!) But it’s been long enough that it’s obvious to me cousin gave up the idea. New Year’s resolution will be to do something productive with it because, well, ick I saved it long enough.

      1. I'm So Excited*

        I haven’t thought about it? I’m in the UK, and I’m not sure how common donating hair is here. I’m not particularly attached to my hair or anything, so whatever works for me (I’ve been feeling so much happier since I decided to get rid of most of it)!

        It’s so cool that you were donating your hair to your cousin (although they gave up)! How does the whole making extensions work?

    8. Grey Panther*

      My friend cut her knee-length hair to earlobe length. It looks great, and her first surprise was that she found she really wanted to learn to scuba-dive. She’d never even considered the sport before because getting her long hair un-salted and dried was such a lengthy process that she just never swam in the ocean.
      Hope you enjoy finding similar surprises!

      1. Michaele*

        Michaele
        ADVICE NEEDED: I am 73 and have waist length salt and pepper thick hair. Really thick. Twice as many hairs as normal people, and each hair coarse and heavy. I usually wear it pulled back in a clip because if I bend my head the slightest bit forward all my hair falls forward and I can’t see a thing.
        The problem is that my formerly straight hair now has broken, wiry strands all around my head and it looks like I’m a curly dandelion. I do not like it.
        I’ve had short hair before, prior to going grey, about 3”, short enough that my hair does not fall into my eyes when it is wet.
        Any advice? Will the wiry curlicues be absorbed into my hair and disappear? Will I end up looking like a dandelion all over? Has anyone else dealt with something similar?

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Get recommendations for a good stylist from friends with short hair. It sounds to me as though the “salt” hair is coming in curly. A bad short haircut will be *really* bad, but a skilled stylist can make any kind of hair look good. Curly doesn’t have to look like a dandelion.

        2. the cat's ass*

          Same kind of hair, and wore it long forever, because the weight of it made it straight. Went to a great stylist who convinced me to lop it off around my shoulders and layer it, and now it’s wash and wear, and with curly-hair gel products, the little wiry hairs are well controlled. I also color it in part because it makes the gray hair less coarse and more manageable. It’s SO much less work, and if i’d realized it, i’d have cut it decades ago.

      2. I'm So Excited*

        I used to swim competitively back in middle school (the UK equivalent of it) – I won’t resume that, but I think it would be nice to swim for an hour before/after work or something. COVID complicates everything though… :/

    9. WinkyPie*

      FYI, you will be a bit of a bobble head for a few days! I went from knee length to collar a while ago, and the biggest take away was how wobbly everything was for the next week. Don’t worry, that passes!

    10. Lady Danbury*

      I went from midback curly hair to a short tapered cut several years ago and have never looked back! Short hair allows me to play with color (everything from blonde ombre to bright purple) without worrying about breakage or commitment and has also saved hours of haircare each week. Hopefully you enjoy the short hair life as much as I do!

  9. Liz*

    Any advice on revamping one’s wardrobe? I’m 37 and have never really had a definitive style. I was raised by extremely conservative, reserved parents who lived in elasticated slacks and plain high neck shirts and any preoccupation with clothes or image was seen as vain and silly and so I have struggled with style ever since. I’ve also been broke for most of my life. The result of this has been that I wind up buying all sorts of things from thrift shops that I don’t really love but vaguely think will do. Now I have far too many clothes and I spend too much time trying to remember what goes with what.

    I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe but I also have all sorts of different looks and I vary between slouchy hippie, fifties glam, and hard butch depending on my mood and could never choose just one. How do I go about whittling my mediocre collection down? Do I sort clothes by season? Style? Are comfy lounge clothes a whole separate thing and not part of the capsule? And are there any tricks to remembering what goes with what?

    1. 30ish*

      I would go with the pieces you like most (that „spark joy“ as Marie Kondo would say) and build outfits around those. Eg if you have a blouse you like, pick pants etc that go with it. Do this until you have a sufficient number of outfits and get rid of the rest. I am not sure a style mix needs to be a problem! Capsule is not for everyone. I cannot work with a capsule because I need very different types of clothes for work, taking care of my son, and weekends.

      1. Chaordic One*

        As an aside, I still have several pieces of clothes that “spark joy,” but they no longer fit and I can’t wear them. They’re beautiful pieces and I don’t want to just give them away and so they are taking up space in my closet. I keep waiting for the opportunity to “gift” them to someone. I think.

        1. Mimi*

          I’ve gained some weight this past year (shocker, I know), and recently went through my wardrobe with a good hard look at “Does this fit? This sort-of fits, but do I like it enough to wear it?” Anything I didn’t really like went straight to the donation bin, and things that didn’t fit anymore went on my bed, and I only kept not-fits that I liked enough that I would be glad to add them back into rotation if they do fit again. Then everything I was keeping but wasn’t going to wear imminently went into a box in the attic, which has really freed up dresser space.

          As far as style, for several years I’ve just been leaning into items that I really like and things that go with them. I’ve found a couple of places that reliably sell things I like, which helps.

    2. Jess*

      I’ve really enjoyed The Vivienne Files. Lots of advice on how to build capsule wardrobes and a few on how to trim down what you already have. (I’ll post a few links in the next comment.) Really I just learned a lot by looking at the wardrobes and determining what I /didn’t/ like – sometimes it is easier to spot the negatives than the positives! Lots of good colour combinations as well.

      1. Jess*

        https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2018/02/my-casual-wardrobe-is-disaster.html/

        https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2018/02/another-wardrobe-disaster.html/

        https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2018/02/fixing-wardrobe-that-just-doesnt-feel.html/

        https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2018/01/how-to-focus-and-refine-pretty-good.html/

        https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2017/12/does-your-wardrobe-work-for-you-some.html/

        https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2016/12/12-months-12-outfits-in-olive-based.html/ (just an example. I like the graphs to visualize the wardrobe and see if anything’s missing.)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My number one consideration for clothes after making sure they fit correctly is color. Some colors just are not me and make me feel uncomfortable. My thought here is that you could use your color theme through-out all the styles you like to wear. This will give a continuity to your wardrobe.

      I use colors in other ways, also. I limit how much I spend on plants for my yard by limiting the number of colors I will use. The yard looks less chaotic because there is a color theme going on. In my house I do the same with household furnishing. It helps the budget and it helps the house to look less like a random collection of other people’s furniture.

      1. Nela*

        Absolutely this. I wear a limited palette (black, white, red and purple) and can mix and match stuff with no issues.

        An item that one might wear in a “scene” outfit (hippie, goth, glam, punk…) may be appropriate for a more professional or casual situation if the rest of the combo is toned down. Combining styles gets more difficult if you don’t have enough basic “bland” items.

        I never really bought into the capsule wardrobe, because honestly every example of capsule styles I saw looks hella boring to me. Besides, I want to have more than a few options ranging from “fancy wedding” to “cleaning the apartment”.

    4. BethDH*

      I’m not useful as a fashion consultant, but if you like these different styles depending on mood, my sense is that thinking of it as three capsules might be sensible rather than truly trying to combine and overlap? I did much better with the capsule concept when I admitted I had three really separate style moods/needs. I defined a dominant color or two and silhouettes for each. The silhouette was key — knowing I tended to wear a-line dresses or longer/looser tops and narrow pants made it easier to buy pieces that can be mixed.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Two bits of nested advice: A system, such as Marie Kondo’s shirt folding, that makes your whole wardrobe visible. (I was living off the top seven shirts in my drawer, for example.) And a system, such as turning all the hangers backward on New Years Day, to determine whether you actually wear something that in theory is fine. (Any hangers that are still backwards a year later, at the end of the season, etc, are stuff you should get rid of because you don’t actually wear it.)

      1. Reba*

        Yes, getting really ruthlessly honest about things that don’t fit/aren’t comfortable (or in my case “I thought I would alter this to fit but I am never going to do that”) is key. When I did this I realized I had a lot of sunk cost in my closet!

        Wardrobe stuff has so many intangibles tied up with it. So having some plain information (like the hanger system) about what I *actually* wear, not just what I like, or what I’m hanging on to because I feel I ought to have this or that in my wardrobe, has been so helpful.

        This may be inspiring me to do a new wardrobe review in the new year, actually! Since it’s been like 2 years since I’ve had a lot of these things on my body, I’m sure my feelings towards a lot of items will have changed.

        I will never be a capsule wardrobe person (let alone a minimalist). I love clothes, and like Liz I like to wear different styles and silhouettes and have things to play with. But getting to a smaller wardrobe that doesn’t have any unworn filler in it, based on my life *now* is sounding good.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I agree with getting past the sunk cost idea. For me, if I put something on an don’t feel great in it I get rid of it. I want everything in my closet to me something I’m happy wearing and not have the 15 minutes of staring at clothes or taking something on and off. If something gets torn or damaged it also needs to go (assuming it’s not a quick repair) which can be hard when you really love it.

          I dont really follow a capsule wardrobe but I do try to minimize what I have to about 10 days of revolving outfits per season for casual and work (although WFH does have me eyeing some work stuff for thinning out too).

          Once you only have things you feel great in you can see if there are any gaps or if a certain style starts to emerge. It’s also totally fine to have a few different looks based on your activity or mood.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        I <3 the Mari Kondo process in principle, and got past a couple of steps, but I could never manage to fold my shirts the way she describes! They always just end up flopping all over the place (it doesn't seem like I have too much in there; if anything, it's a lack of shirts to fill up the space.) Is her illustrated book "Spark Joy" more helpful? What am I missing?

        1. Rrrrach*

          Ali + Nino, having lots of space may be thing causing the issue as my shirts are more closely packed in, so holding each other up. Could you put something like a low-sided cardboard box in there and store smaller items in the box, like belts etc, while it provides a kind of book end to the shirts?
          I found watching her programmes on Netflix most instructive for the folding (am a visual learner!).

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Agree with Rrrrach about the space issue and box solution.

          I looked up something like “Marie Kondo shirts” on YouTube.

          1. Anonymous*

            Thank you both for the good ideas! Now I have to start hunting for things that could serve as “bookends” – two birds, one scone!

      3. Might Be Spam*

        I definitely need to have everything visible. I have to hang up everything except my underwear and socks or I forget what I have and buy more. Drawers just don’t work well for me.

        Apparently I like blue a lot more than I realized. I went through my closet and dresser recently, and ended up donating 4 bags of clothing because I had so many duplicates. Mostly blue pants and shirts.

      4. SelinaKyle*

        I used her technique for the my casual T-shirts. It’s so much easier to find the one I want, and they take up less space.

    6. Jay*

      I had bariatric surgery four years ago and lost 200 lbs. Since I’d been wearing plus sizes for over 30 years, I had no idea what clothes I liked or what my style was. I bought a lot of things on ThredUp – I don’t think I paid full price for anything for the first 18 months – and gave myself permission to buy what appealed to me and see what worked. Now I know that I prefer a fairly tailored style for work and don’t really like flowy things even for casual wear. This was a surprise since so many clothes for fat women are very flowy – I thought that was my style. Not so much.

      You don’t have to choose one style! I don’t have a capsule wardrobe. I think that’s helpful if you want to be consistent and reduce the time needed to choose an outfit in the morning. I’m not particularly concerned about either of those things. Buy and wear the clothes that make you happy. I have not completely Marie Kondo’d my life but I do use her folding method for my drawers – as someone said, it’s great to see everything I have – and I have also learned to let go of things that don’t please me. I just put a blouse in the giveaway box because the sleeves don’t work for me. I kept putting it on – I love the print and fabric – and then taking it off because the sleeves were annoying. I finally realized I was never going to wear it.

      For sorting: my closet has sections for clothing types (jackets, slacks, blouses, dresses) and is then roughly sorted by color within categories. Very roughly, at this point. Most of my slacks and skirts are neutrals so I can wear them with any of the tops or jackets. I didn’t do that on purpose – I guess I don’t like vividly printed slacks or skirts!

      I also grew up with a lot of internalized messages misogyny and thought any interest in fashion was shallow and frivolous. My mother was fashion-conscious and I was DETERMINED to be a Serious Person who didn’t mess with that silly stuff. My mother was also a size 6 and since I couldn’t be that thin, I decided it was all stupid anyway. I had to start dealing with that bias when my daughter was 8 and she said “I am not like you. I am like Aunt Susanne. We are FASHION.” She’s now 21 and my best style guide. ENJOY YOURSELF. This should be FUN.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        This is great advice. Keep what you like, add what appeals to you, and enjoy yourself. For me, a dress or skirt comes out only for a special occasion, something like once a year, and the rest of the time I’m in pants because that’s what’s most comfortable. Most of my pants are black or stone (or whatever you want to call that not quite beige, not quite gray color) because any top I own works with one of those. Some pants are more casual than others. I find that I can grab whatever top I feel like wearing that day and they work.

    7. WellRed*

      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that doesn’t have a clear sense of style but has two or three. Get rid of everything you don’t like or doesn’t fit to start.

    8. Mid*

      I like using Pinterest as a way to figure out what my style actually is. Pin things that appeal to you and see what appears the most. Then from there, focus on finding things that make you feel the best.

    9. Colette*

      This isn’t really an answer, but my rule for clothes shopping is that I don’t buy anything that I like less than whatever I wore to the store. It has really helped me avoid buying clothes I won’t wear.

      Maybe put on an outfit you like, and then go through your other clothes – if you like them as much, they stay, if not, they go.

    10. JSPA*

      Don’t base it on liking how the outfit looks, but on liking yourself while wearing the outfit. (Many outfits are great outfits…for someone else.) “I could see myself in this, doing X” is another way to look at it. If you only come up with, “I could see myself in this” scenarios that are not something you do, expect to do, or aspire to do, it’s probably not clothing “for you.”

      On a separate note: Many people don’t have a single, integrated identity or self-image. If you don’t happen to have that, then the clothes that work for you won’t have that, either.

      When someone has some lingering or buried “feels” about having “more than one way of being or presenting,” it’s easy to outsource that low-level sense of anxiety onto the resulting hodge-podge of clothes in the closet. But identity comfort isn’t something that I’d expect to get worked out successfully by getting tough with your wardrobe (or with yourself, for that matter). Be nice to yourself, even (or especially) if, as Walt Whitman put it, you “contain multitudes.”

    11. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      What do you wear most often? I ended up revamping my wardrobe to purely athleisure, bar a couple nice dresses (for those times when I need to look more “professional”), because that’s what I tend to wear most. And most of it is black, because, again, that’s what I wear most often.

      Of course, I hear a lot about how this is “giving up”, or “lazy” — tbh, I am. I don’t want to think about my clothes. Oh well.

      1. Blythe*

        Yet, note that men are not labeled as “giving up” or “lazy” if they wear the same thing every day (slacks and button down shirt?)! That was my final push toward simplifying my wardrobe choices– if I WANT to pull out some of my more interesting pieces to wear, I can! But if I want to wear more of a uniform, that is totally acceptable too. If men do it, so can I!

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Totally agree, Blythe! My “uniform” is pants/jeans or a skirt, a cardigan with a shell or turtleneck. Add boots or sandals or whatever shoes and jewelry and done. If I had more of a style clue, I’d add a scarf or something, but got none o that!

        2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          Precisely, Blythe. It’s obnoxious how much women have to think about their clothes and be fashionable and come up with elebenty sebenty wan outfits. I’m over it.

    12. Blythe*

      No advice, but enthusiasm! My wardrobe is a mix of clothes I have had for YEARS (like, since high school, clothes I inherited from my mom, and clothes I just sort of.. picked up along the way. During winter break I plan to pack away lots of it, give away some of it, and maybe buy a few new pieces to round it out. I am OBSESSED with the dresses at sondeflor . com. Too pricey to buy in bulk, but I might get one! My dream would be for my workday wardrobe to be entirely full skirts/cardigans/tights/boots or flats and my weekend wardrobe to be entirely leggings/jeans.

      If anyone has any ideas about where to get good quality dresses like the ones I mentioned, I would be grateful!! I want simple designs, full skirts, and long lasting quality.

      1. Anon dress wearer*

        Blythe, I have an entire wardrobe full of good quality dresses from Virginia Dare Dress Co, a small woman-owned business in Virginia. I love their Emma dress style, A-line with a fairly full skirt, machine washable, and great pockets. (Every style has pockets!)

        1. Blythe*

          THANK YOU!!! I hardly dared even hope for pockets. Machine washable, full skirt, AND pockets?! The dream!

      2. Mimi*

        Blythe, have you looked at eshakti? You’ll need to do some searching to get the same “classy old-fashioned” style I’m seeing at sondeflor, but they do have some, and the prices are cheaper even if you get the custom tailoring. Also, pockets!

        Vermont Country Store might be worth looking at, too, though you’ll want to keep an eye out to make sure the skirts are as full as you want.

    13. Tib*

      In it’s simplest form, a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothes that coordinate so you can make more outfits with fewer pieces. It’s a fun thing to do, but you don’t have to have a capsule to have a small, flexible wardrobe. Or you could have 3 smaller capsules instead of one big one. If you work your way up to 2 bottoms and 3 tops in each style, you’d have 6 possible outfits within each style, maybe a few mixed outfits, and you’d still have a small wardrobe. I’d start with pulling your favorite pieces and see what they have in common: color, texture, style, etc. Then pick one piece and create outfits with that piece. Take pictures of your favorite outfits so you remember them. There’s an app called Stylebook that you can use to save them or you can just create an album on your phone. Take notes of the pieces you’d like to add. If you chose the right lounge clothes, that coordinate with other things, they can be part of the wardrobe as well. Work your way through your wardrobe and see where the gaps are. And modify or get rid of anything you don’t like and don’t wear. Looking stylish takes work and forethought but the process can be a lot of fun too.

    14. QuietOne*

      I feel this – have no advice just solidarity. I have a sneaking feeling that some of my favorite clothes don’t actually look good on me. Maybe my gift to myself this year should be a stylist?

    15. Oh, clothes*

      I too have trouble remembering what goes with what. I finally made a list. Such as: “Gray silk jacket goes with gray silk skirt OR black wool pants OR patterned gray and black skirt….” I would keep adding when I found a new combination that worked. Oh and I added accessories for each outfit too (a certain scarf or necklace or whatever) when appropriate. There is a similar method I’ve heard of, which is to write it all down on large hanging tags for each piece of clothing (you attach the tag to the hanger, not the clothes). So the gray jacket would have a tag on the hanger that said all of the above. Then when you pull out the gray jacket, the hang tag tells you exactly what to pull out next! And the gray skirt’s tag would have the gray jacket on its tag, along with whatever else I’d found goes with the gray skirt. Etc.

    16. Not Your Sweetheart*

      Any item can be part of the capsule. Just make sure any thing you bring into your wardrobe can be worn with at least 2 other items.
      The 2 most important things to consider are : fit (does it fit you correctly and make you look good), and how you feel while wearing it. I worked in a clothing store for a few years, and one thing I learned is that the right clothing makes all the difference.
      Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask friends for opinions, ask store associates (some of them do know what they’re talking about). If you can find it, watch the original British version of “What not to Wear” They went into detail about body shapes, styles and colors, while working with a person’s taste.

    17. lissajous*

      A few things that help me make sure new items are more likely to be worn:
      – I dislike synthetic material. Polyester is right out – sticky and sweaty in summer, useless for keeping warm in winter. Mostly I go for cotton and wool as much as possible; there’s often a bit of elastane or similar (especially jeans and tshirts), but as long as it’s majority cotton it’s fine.
      – I hate ironing. Knits are great for not needing ironing, and I try and make sure I hang clothes to dry almost as soon as they washing machine is done so that they don’t wrinkle in the machine. I also avoid linen, even though it’s such a good warm weather fabric!
      – I know the colours I like and that suit me. When one is “in” that year, I try and get stuff. (I swear these days every shop does stuff in whatever the Pantone colours of the year are, plus neutrals. It’s extremely tedious., and means some years I don’t buy anything.)

      Thoughts on the clothes groups:
      I have summer and winter office work clothes and casual clothes; a small amount of exercise clothing; comfy lounging about stuff; and old clothes for grubbing about in the garden and bushwalking (ironically my winter gardening clothes are also workwear, but that’s because I have hi-vis gear for site. In that situation more ingrained dirt = more credibility!). And some fancy going out stuff, ranging from “tops that will take these pants from office wear to going out wear” to “fancy dresses for weddings.” Plus pjs.
      It adds up. I look at my cupboard and go “oh, that’s a lot of clothes,” but I use them. I go through and weed out anything worn out once a year or so, but I buy decent stuff and it lasts. (One of my work tops needs replacing, a white cotton short sleeve knit with a collar, it’s brilliant for summer. And I’ve had for, uh, about twenty years. It’s finally wearing through on the collar/shoulder intersection.) Sometimes I think I have too many tshirts, but then I go on holiday or work from home for a while and suddenly I’ve got the right amount to get me through a week with a few spare.

      On the theory about getting rid of stuff if you haven’t worn it for a year: it’s ok in general, but I have some exceptions:
      – Fancy outfits. I have three or four dresses that are wedding-guest level dressy, I love them and they suit me, I look fantastic in them. None of this going out and buying a new dress every time; when you find one you really like, fits well and is comfy, and you like how you look in it: get it and keep it, then it’s ready to go whenever you do need something for an event. (Bonus: you won’t be in the same style dress as ten other people at the wedding.) Same goes for some very fancy tops I have. And one work top I never wear day-to-day (see above re: ironing) but is great for interviews.
      – Specific use gear. Some years I just don’t get to go out bushwalking, and the old clothes I keep around specifically for that don’t get used. Doesn’t matter, I know I’ll get out again at some point, and I’m going to want them. Or I have some cold weather gear for snowy conditions – snow is not a thing where I live, but I’m going to want it again someday when we can travel again, and that stuff is pricey! In the meantime, I take care of it so it’s ready when I need it.

    18. Wilde*

      I’m working through this right now! I’ve had two kids back to back and am planning on having more before I go back to work.

      So I’ve streamlined my outfits into a couple of capsules. One capsule is clothes I wear when I’m out with the kids getting messy or staying at home. The other capsule is dressy casual.

      Making a list of the items I have helped me identify gaps and the number of pieces and outfits I need to get to washing day. So for me, it’s six messy outfits and four dressy casual. My goal is for every piece to fit comfortably and look good, even if it’s covered in paint or food. This helped me get rid of so many (so many!) things.

      Then when purchasing new pieces, I’m hyper focused. I’ve picked some colours for my palette and have a list of specific items I want. It must fit well, be long enough for my body, and be able to stand up to regular hot washes and going in the dryer. Nothing that needs ironing either. Ideally it’s also ethically sourced according to my criteria (second hand, or designed and preferably made in my small country if I’m buying new).

      Hope this helps! Would love an update or two as you go through the journey.

    19. allathian*

      Good luck on your style journey!

      I don’t have a definitive style, unless long-sleeve knit t-shirts that don’t need ironing and stretch jeans can be called a style. I wear those the vast majority of the time, because my office has a casual dress code. I love the fact that when I get home from work, on the days I go to the office, I don’t have to change into something more comfortable unless I want to. I know that for some people, changing into more comfortable clothes is a key part of the ritual of coming home from work, but I’ve never needed outside reminders like that. (I suspect that’s also why it’s so easy for me to stop working mentally when I log off my work computer and close the lid.)

      I also have a few pairs of black straight pants that I’ve worn to job interviews, conferences, a funeral or two, and a casual wedding (black pants are fine at casual weddings with a colorful top). I also have a long dress for more formal weddings. These happen so seldom that I have absolutely no compunctions about wearing the same dress to multiple weddings. I have body image issues about my legs, and won’t wear a skirt or dress that’s shorter than ankle length.

      I’ve never owned any piece of clothing that has to be dry cleaned.

      I really should go through my clothes and eliminate all of the ones that don’t fit me anymore or are threadbare. They’re definitely not fit for reuse by anyone else. I absolutely detest shopping for clothes, so I tend to wear them until they drop off me. I also hate ironing, so clothes that need to be ironed tend to stay in my closet.

      I still have my prom dress in a closet, even though I know that I’ll never fit into it again.

      I’ll admit that I’ve never cared very much about clothes, at least not once I grew out of my late teens and early twenties, when I was very self-conscious and cared a lot about my image. The only piece of clothing that I remember that’s ever sparked any joy in me was the first pair of Levi’s jeans that I bought with my first ever paycheck. My parents were neither conservative nor religious, but they did consider a preoccupation with style and fashion to be superficial and silly, and I guess some of that attitude carried over to me as well, at least once Levi’s jeans were no longer in fashion like they were in the early 90s.

    20. Batgirl*

      I think it’s pretty common and part of exploring your look to build up a big pile of clothes that you don’t wear, but my best tips for avoiding it as much as possible are:
      1) Decide what’s “too much trouble”. For most people “changing your body shape” is definitely on the list, for me it’s also “needs to be ironed/dry cleaned”.
      2) Hold up the colour up next to your face before buying. If it washes you out, you’re going to avoid wearing it, even if you think you don’t get what colours suit you.
      3) Try everything on. It has to be as good/better than something you already love. It should also work with things you already own.
      4) Comfort. I never saw anyone wearing something uncomfortable who managed to look stylish.
      5) It’s not just okay, but preferable, to return from shopping trips empty handed. It doesn’t mean you suck at style or that you don’t know what you like. It’s like dating in that discerning customers sometimes go home alone.

    21. Olive Hornby*

      There’s a fantastic book called The Curated Closet that takes you through how to find your personal style and buy clothes accordingly. It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you feel you’re building style from the ground up.

      1. suffix*

        Agree! The images used in the book are nowhere near my style, but it’s really helped me develop and shop for my own.

    22. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Maybe think about what shapes look good on you (might be different shapes for each of your styles, like tailored shirt for your hard butch style and A-line dress for your ’50s glam style) and toss anything that’s not in those shapes, trying to build up your collection of the shapes that DO look good on you? Single-color items are easier to mix and match than prints, but if you have some prints you love, you can work with them — just try to pair them with single-color items.

    23. CatLady*

      Find a shop whose style speaks to you. I was style-less too for a long time and then I found Anne Taylor Loft. A few years later as I matured I grew into White House Black Market and have been buying from them almost exclusively (occasionally Anne Taylor too). I don’t buy clothes often anymore (for obvious reasons) but if I need them, I go to WHBM first. I imagine at some point I’ll migrate to another style should I ever need work clothes again.

      Regardless – each shop usually have a vibe – find one that matches yours and go play.

    24. Quinalla*

      I know for me, I took it slow to find my style, finding things I liked and getting more like it and being ok with purging stuff that wasn’t working – either returns or donate. I enjoy going with more plain/match everything bottoms (jeans, khakis, one-color skirts) and then get fancy with the tops/dresses. That makes it fairly easy to match, but I still have variety and I usually have one or two bottoms that are not as matchy and have shirts that go with them.

      I 100% have to have my wardrobe visible. I have everything I can hung up. Jeans are stacked on a shelf where I can see them and sweaters too and underwear/socks in open bins in my closet on shelves as well.

      For things that don’t fit, I allow myself to save a handful of things I’d like to give to someone else cause they seem too cool to donate and I allow a small number of items that don’t fit but have sentimental value (my wedding dress, a couple event shirts, my band jacket, band shirt) that I’m ok with having, but they are in a guest room closet. Anything else that doesn’t fit if I think I’ll be able to fit into it again soon, I will box it up and put it away. If 2+ years go by and it still doesn’t fit, I generally donate at that point. I figure if I get to that size again, well I can have fun buying new clothes.

  10. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, feel free to talk about any writing you wish.
    I did almost nothing this week ^^’ I’m super busy lately so I haven’t had much time to do anything else that write down loose phrases or ideas that pop up into my head.

    1. The Dogman*

      I have only been managing to add to the vignettes I am writing for backgroud detail and as placs to explore ideas…

      It is still progress but I have hit a wall with one of my three main characters and I do not want to advance the others so far ahead when I still am not seeing the path forwards for this one person…

      It is very annoying!

        1. The Dogman*

          Hmmm, how to explain it…

          I have had them overcoming some danger (crashing spaceship, injured parents, and only 15 years old or so) and forming an alliance with an alien race (scifi space opera style novel) and I am having trouble seeing how I get from this “minor” threat part back to the main plot without being cheesy or dull… I need to explain his access to new technology, and how his new alien allies will act, maintain a threat to spur them to on to fix their broken starship and get off this dangerous planet, then build a fleet etc… without being boring or Deus X’ing it as that is always too easy and often used in SciFi.

          So in the meantime I have been doing bits from “behind the lines” on the worlds that have fallen to the greater enemy of the story, which at least keeps the creative bits moving but is not advancing the plot!

    2. DrunkAtAWedding*

      I’m working on a story about a woman who inherits her grandmother’s diner (and then meets and falls for an alien Prince). The diner is failing, mostly because it’s in a small town and most of the customers worked at the mine nearby, which recently closed. My character desperately wants to save it because, to her, it represents her grandmother and her childhood. However, apart from the lack of customers, she has some flaws that are making it harder. Mostly, she doesn’t want to be a manager and run a diner, she has no experience and she’s not good at it.

      I bring this up here because I was idly looking at old posts, looking for ideas for things a new manager might do which maybe sound good but which are actually really unhelpful. Not specific details, more ways of thinking. For example, she’s very independent and tends to try to solve problems herself, rather than ask for help. That means she doesn’t tell the staff what’s happening or ask them for their input, even though they have a lot more experience in the business and probably have some good ideas. She also thinks of leadership and management as being about power, like she has to make people respect her and do what she says. Like “I’m the boss and a good boss has people follow orders.”

      I know one thing she tries is reducing the portion sizes, which is a pretty good idea. She then shoots herself in the foot by giving in when a customer complains, which means the staff will now have to argue with that customer (and everyone he tells) every single time, because they can’t just give out free food like that. She also tries 50% off vouchers, but they don’t help because they don’t bring in new customers, they just mean the customers they already have end up paying less.

      Oh, I just had an idea. Because she thinks she needs to be doing everything herself and making every decision, maybe she has the staff come and ask her about something they could easily decide for themselves. Having to find and ask her means they can’t work efficiently, and means she gets even more stressed and can’t really have any time off.

      1. WellRed*

        Is she from the “big city.” Or is she local? Because that would set up some conflict and adjustments that aren’t specific to the nitty gritty of the diner.

        1. DrunkAtAWedding*

          Oh, that’s a good point. I know her parents weren’t in stable work and moved around a lot – one of the factors in why the diner represents home and stability to her – but I think I have been picturing her as being much more of a big city girl. So that might well be a factor.

      2. The Dogman*

        Not sure I can add much but it sounds like a fun concept, perhaps you could work in some of how she gets helps when she needs it, but have her use “business coaches” who are rubbish perhaps? Her reliance on outside “experts” could be used as a (minor) point of conflict maybe?

    3. HR Disney Princess*

      Not getting through as much writing as I’d like, but that’s about to change very soon. I was just accepted to a master’s program in creative writing. I will be going full time, and I just put my notice in at work. :) I’m looking forward to making up all the reading and writing that I haven’t had time for recently.

      1. Mstr*

        Congratulations!! Do you have a particular passion or project you’re pursuing? I mean like, poetry, screenwriting, want to come out of it with a draft of a novel, etc?

    4. MissGirl*

      I just released my latest novel so hooray for that. Now I can focus on a mystery, which I haven’t done in a while. It’ll be the fourth and final in a series. I’m outlining today. I think the murderer is going to be the 96-year-old matriarch of a powerful family. She’s faced with her imminent death and discovers the foundation of her family fortune is based on a mass murder by her father. Each generation has added to the fortune through nefarious means so she’s going to take out what’s left of the family before she dies.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’m still on the fence about which book to work on. On one hand, there’s the end of the trilogy. I’ve already completed most of the alternate worldbuilding, although the language will take some extra work. I’d like to get as much of that done as possible before I write the draft.

      On the other, I’ve been sitting on something that may be commercially viable (possibly; maybe; IDK; probably not) and the climate seems ripe for it. I have a solid outline for this one. I’d like to at least write a first draft to see if it’s workable.

      I’m thinking I should start the second one and then work on the language for the first one in between. That way, I can do two things at once (thus saving time!) and still concentrate on the story for Number Two.

      It’s hard to even think about it while I’m still job hunting. The stress of that is taking up so much of my pandemic brain I can’t seem to concentrate on anything right now.

    6. Maryn B*

      It took a detailed spreadsheet to work out my timeline issues–way too much happening in too short a time period–but now that it’s solved, all I have to do is delete one event that happens on the page and make it happen off the page, with far less detail because the point of view character isn’t there to experience it. Not as bad as I’d feared. Whew!

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        Well done!

        Can you tell me more about this spreadsheet? Was it like a big table with a timeline for each character and notes of plot points?

        1. Maryn B*

          I’m happy to. I’ve structured entire novels this way, but what I’m working on didn’t seem that complex. Wrong!

          I start with the columns. Each character gets one except for walk-ons whose entire function is their job (i.e., bartender, cashier). So does setting, both specific (living room of Jack’s apartment) and general (Indianapolis), date and time of day, weather, and any important things I need to keep track of, like stolen money or who knows the family secret. Usually I end up with forty or fifty columns–and lots of them are empty cells, although it’s helpful to note things like “still missing” or “dead.”

          The rows are plot points and their details. I start with a structure I found online for screenplays, although the site is gone now.

          The hook and the set-up, takes about the first ten percent of total word count. Who is the main character, what’s their life like, that sort of thing.
          Turning point one, the opportunity for something in the character’s life to change, at about the ten percent mark
          The new situation as the character pursues change, taking ten to twenty-five percent of the way in.
          Turning point two, change of plans. Something about the opportunity doesn’t go as expected and now the character as a new, firm goal.
          Progress toward the new goal, from twenty-five percent in to the halfway point.
          Turning point three, the point of no return, where the main character commits to a plan of action and cannot ever return to things the way they were before.
          The stakes get higher and complications arise, from the halfway point to three-fourths of the way through.
          Turning point four, a major setback, at the three-quarters mark.
          The final push, where it’s all or nothing, which can go nearly to the end or stop about ten percent from the end, depending on the length of…
          The climax, when your character succeeds or fails.
          The aftermath, when your character is living their new, different life, changed by events.

          In between these plot points I list specific scenes–a secret meeting, an argument with the friend who isn’t really a friend, the encounter with an unexpected ally–and find I usually have fifty or sixty rows total.

          It takes me weeks to complete a spreadsheet, but once I have, I never have the horror of wondering what’s next or writing myself into an impossible situation. The worst that happens is I get a better idea. Then I copy the spreadsheet and change the copy to include the new idea and all that changes because of it.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      I was inspired to write an extended post on my blog, describing my first overnight birding outing of the winter. The focus is on birds of prey, and I wanted this post to include a full narrative and not just a few words squeezed between the photos. It feels good to be writing more. (My blog is the same name as my handle.)

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        How cool! That is incredible news. I can only imagine how gratifying it will be to see the story published.

  11. 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 games you wish including board games and phone games.
    I haven’t done much gaming this week as I have been rather busy, unfortunately. I’ve mostly been playing a little nonogram (picross) game on my phone called Somnus, which is basically the story of a young girl conquering her nightmares. It’s surprisingly calming.

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        Mysterium is so fun! I managed to play with my averse-to-game-rules parents and they had fun with it :) Very pleased

      2. DrKMnO4*

        Mysterium is so cool! We have the expansions for it too, which add new art cards and a new third “tier” option. I love that the game is different every time you play it, even if you’re playing it with the same group of people.

      3. Quinalla*

        Another one in love with this game, if I had my way we’d play it every time we had about 5 people to play a game. It is so interesting trying to figure out how people’s minds work in how they make associations with the cards. Not everyone likes this one, but when you have a group that is really into it, super fun! I really enjoy the hidden role type games as it is so interesting trying to figure out how people’s minds work, but this you are all trying to work together, not even 2 teams or more working against each other, so super fun!

    1. Chief Petty Officer*

      I’m working on Lightning Returns! I recently got a game guide for it, courtesy of some friends of mine. I’ve played the game for years, so I don’t precisely NEED the guide, but having it is fun. I can use a new strategy for it that I don’t ordinarily use.

    2. Noxalas*

      I mentioned not really feeling Wandersong last week, and I take that back – the last third is PACKED with great moments. The gameplay from the second half of Act 5 onward was what I wish the earlier part of the game had been like. There’s a lot of character development and the game does some cool stuff with defined roles (the titles of the trophies are icing on the cake.) By the end, I had a big, dopey grin on my face just like the Bard’s. That and it was 2 AM on a weeknight. But so worth it.

    3. Koala dreams*

      I played Love Letter and Murder of Crows. Not a fan of Love Letter, but quite like Murder of Crows. It helps that Murder of Crows is easier to get into.

      Does anyone have recommendations for games to play with children?

      1. Quinalla*

        Animal Upon Animal is awesome at that age range – wooden animal stacking game. It is also fun to play as an adult too. My kids also liked Catan Junior a lot, might be a little much for a 4-year-old, depends on the kid. Sticky Chameleons (everyone has a sticky “tongue” they are trying to catch bugs with is hilarious. We had a few other HABA games – they tend to have some of the best kids games.

    4. The Dude Abides*

      Had to tweak some decks due to the Alchemy rollout on Arena which…yikes.

      Currently waiting patiently for the LGS to re-stock KMC hard perfect fits, as I have multiple decks that badly need re-sleeved (I’ve already used 4-5 packs, and need to get to 3 EDH decks).

    5. urban teacher*

      Just went to PAX unplugged this weekend. I now want Bad Zombies, Good Dogs but not enough to pay for it until after the holidays.

  12. Virginia Plain*

    On the very slim chance that anyone reading this is in the south of England and thinking of going to Winchester today, perhaps for Christmas shopping and the excellent Christmas market; catch the carol singers from 1500 by the Christmas tree in the high street. They are going to be awesome ;-)

    1. DrunkAtAWedding*

      I am in the North, but I can tell friends in Birmingham and hopefully they can send it further south.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I wish I could do this! Christmas is the only season I haven’t been to the UK. I’d like to visit the markets and see a pantomime. Perhaps sometime in the future after the plague goes away.

    3. I'm So Excited*

      I’ll be in Winchester on Monday, but not today/tomorrow, sorry! (hello fellow UK reader :))

  13. londonedit*

    The other week I saw something on the TV that gave me an idea for a festive weekend thread question: what Christmas/festive/holiday traditions exist in your country/culture that absolutely no one else would understand?

    The thing that sparked it was seeing an episode of the BBC’s One Show (a sort of weekday magazine programme at 7pm, with little films from around the country and presenters in the studio with celebrity guests plugging whatever they’re doing). On this episode they had Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dakota Johnson promoting a film…and Craig Revel Horwood, a judge on Strictly Come Dancing (our Dancing with the Stars) who was plugging his turn in panto this year. Apparently the two Hollywood stars had been briefed on pantomime beforehand but they were Just. So. Confused.

    For the uninitiated, pantomime (known almost universally as panto) is a theatre production aimed at the whole family – usually it’s based on a fairytale, like Cinderella or Puss in Boots or Dick Whittington, and it’s completely OTT with mad costumes and glitter and everything camp. It’s an integral part of the British Christmas season – a panto will usually run from early December until some time in January, and they always feature a celebrity or two making a tit of themselves (in Britain we love seeing people making tits of themselves, especially celebs). There are all sorts of traditions that must be adhered to – the main male part is known as the ‘principal boy’ and is played by a woman, and there’s always a ‘pantomime dame’ played by a man in the most outrageous giant drag costume, the bigger and wackier the better. There’s also always a pantomime fairy. Audience participation is essential, with loud boos and hisses for the baddies, cries of ‘He’s behind you!’ whenever the baddie inevitably sneaks up on someone, and there’s always a call-and-response ‘Oh yes it is!’ ‘Oh no it isn’t!’. If all of that sounds absolutely mad, yes it is. It’s camp and outrageous and crammed full of innuendo, and it’s been going on for hundreds of years.

    So what mad Christmas traditions do you have that would completely baffle the casual observer (and/or members of the Gyllenhaal family)?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I just mentioned upthread that I’d love to see a panto. :)

      We don’t really have any weird holiday traditions in my family; it’s almost depressingly normal. I always wanted to start something bonkers if I had my own family, though.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I’ve been trying to find cultural things from the countries of origin of my ancestors to add into our very quiet, generic Christmas. So far, it’s mostly food, and listening to music on Radio Garden ( AMAZING web stations from everywhere imaginable around the globe). Other ideas will have to wait until post-plague, like finding churches in our city that still have ties to their original ethnic founding. Of course, it could be interesting to dress as one of St. Nicholas’s grim, punitive companions and terrorize the neighborhood children in early December.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I really enjoyed the threads here about American Thanksgiving foods – I’m from the US but still think things like jello molds and green bean casserole are extremely weird.

      A lot of Christmas stories are super odd. Yes, let’s celebrate the birth of Jesus/coming of Santa with… a ballet about dolls fighting rats, and a book about ghosts bullying the rich.

      My aunt did a lot of things I think are baffling even as a participant. We would do a swap style gift game except… all the gifts were from her? I think it was just an excuse to stock up on things when there were good sales but it ended up defeating the purpose/fun of the game on many levels because no one else contributed things and it’s like, well, there are 4 different birdhouses and 6 pairs of gloves, how much stealing is even going to happen? She would also make everyone take turns sitting on a chair so she could take multiple posed photos of each individual opening their gifts. Her gifts were often bad and/or embarrassing and it created so much extra pressure to fake enthusiasm beyond normal politeness, AND she somehow manages to take the most unflattering photos I’ve ever seen then print and distribute multiple copies of them! All around terrible tradition, would not recommend lol

    4. The Dogman*

      And if anyone is interested in it go see one soon since there are activist groups trying to get all pantos banned!

      Some people have no sense of fun or tradition it seems…

        1. The Dogman*

          There have been death threats on twitter and I know there were protests outside a few pantos near me in South Wales… Pretty sure Christopher Biggins was harrassed a bit since that is his main gig really.

          1. Laura Petrie*

            I could only find an article in the Daily Express about this, and Biggins didn’t mention harassment. It still sound to me like tabloid manufactured outrage

            1. Freelance Anything*

              Maybe people are just upset about having to see *Christopher Biggins* in a Panto?

              But yeah, I don’t think this is an actual real thing.

            2. The Dogman*

              That is weird, cos a simple google search finds 79,700 results and in the first 3 pages almost all are articles or posts about how panto is transphobic and needs to be banned.

              Some of them are articles on people like Mr Biggins who are getting abuse from the TRA’s.

              Strange you get such a different result online really.

              Locally to me there were protests outside the theatre in the city in 2019 about panto being transphobic too.

              1. Lemons*

                I searched a couple of different variants, with and without Biggins, and most of the results are unconnected. The sole article from this year is classic churnalism with identical wording in each result, which is the hallmark of a press release.
                Could you get be examples of campaigners who actually have any clout in this area? Leaving aside that ‘activist groups’ can’t actually ‘ban’ things themselves, but all the articles I’m getting just refer to unnamed ‘activists’ and I’d like some solid sources to follow up.
                Biggins has been banging this drum since at least 2016 and just updates his gripe for whatever he sees as threatening the grand institution that year (Yewtree, Weinstein, COVID). If anyone’s trying to ‘ban’ him, it clear hasn’t worked yet. He seems to have a ready audience for anything he’s miffed about, though, so there’s a backup career for him if he ever quits panto. Which he’s also been threatening to do for the last four years.
                Whether his art form is truly at risk or not, it certainly gets him a lot of headlines.

                1. AGD*

                  Seconding. Complaining about “trans activists” who are supposedly out for blood is what British folks eager to perpetuate fearmongering do, so I have no sympathy for that. It usually isn’t true and it endangers my trans friends.

                2. pancakes*

                  You do understand that even the sharpest critics of something cultural don’t have the capability of banning it, yes? And that making one’s adversaries out to be as powerful as that is a traditional scare tactic?

                  Whether you agree or not, I read an article about this yesterday and contrary to what you say, the form seems to be getting more inclusive rather than shrinking away. “Happy queer Christmas! Drag kings and queens’ festive spectaculars” in the Guardian lists several LGBTQ-centric productions.

                3. The Dogman*

                  I would not name names on this sort of forum, I don’t like the tactics of harrassment that are so popular these days, but there are a few twitter activists who get pretty heated each each about this, there are small local groups in my city, and I cannot assume my city is unique, who protest pantos each year claiming that pantos are “violence”.

                  Personally I think pantos are pretty boring, but a lot of people seem to love them and I have never seen anything that calls for violence against trans people in a panto… admittedly I am not a panto expert… so I wonder why anyone can get excited enough to even complain on twitter, let alone go to stand outside one with a sign!

                  But people do.

                  In regards campaigners… would the people who claim all traditonal pantos are racist, homophobic and transphobic count? They produced a panto called Madre Goose as I recall. Or the trans support group who made a police complaint of “transphobia” about a childrens hospital charity panto? Dames on the Run was the name of that panto.

                  I do agree Mr Biggins is probably over-egging it to get eyes on pantos, he is a bit keen on the limelight for sure.

                  I don’t particularly care about pantos, again not my cup of tea, but I think when people are calling for it to be banned on twitter etc it is at least notable in terms of the culture battles over what is permitted and what must be said.

                4. Lemons*

                  If they’re ‘activist groups’ they’re presumably publicly identifiable, and have made public statements. I’m not after Twitter handles of private individuals, nor your location. Even Biggins’ latest interview didn’t specify, just those nebulous ‘campaigners’ again.
                  You seem to be conflating people who take a dim view of traditional panto- and who, in the spirit of ‘if you don’t like it why don’t you make your own?’ provided an alternative- with an undefined, anonymous, yet extremely influential group who ‘want all pantos banned’.

                  I wonder how people get excited about the threat of a vanishingly unlikely hypothetical, but here we are, and it certainly fuels the British national press.

                5. Lemons*

                  “Dames on the Run was a charity fun run, not a panto (although the theme was crossdressing dames). The police received a complaint in 2015 but stated they were not investigating. It seems to have continued in subsequent years.
                  Interestingly though, in light of taking a more critical look at how news is presented and spread, and who’s allowed to say what, there’s a response from the founder of the trans support network who had allegedly lodged the complaint that she had not actually done so, and certainly hadn’t reported it as a ‘hate crime’. She claims to have only called the event insensitive and asked for a different theme, but all subsequent reports- again, churnalism- quoted her by name, without apparently contacting her for verification.

                6. Laura Petrie*

                  Ah those ‘activists’ who want to ban everything Middle England and the right wing press holds dear.

                  I’d also like examples rather than hearsay and vague ‘threats’. Judging by the sheer amount of different pantos on offer in my liberal, queer friendly city, they don’t seem to be under threat here.

    5. Nela*

      I heard of panto for the first time on this week’s episode of My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast… The title of their production is “Cinderella the Intern” iirc.

      I don’t think we have any unusual festivities in my country this time of year… besides giving spray-painted twigs decorated with ribbons to children (along with presents) on St Nicholas day, as a warning to be good… Although corporal punishment is no longer socially acceptable. I have no idea why the twigs just won’t go away.

    6. Anon log host*

      So a log will be coming to live with us any day now, it is currently finding its way down the mountain (it should have already arrived but I haven’t been able to get it down from the attic without the kids seeing). It has a face and a red cap. It will live with us and until 24 December we will feed it overnight with fruit and stuff (parents eat it after children are asleep) and in our house it will also have books read to it but this is not traditional. On Christmas Eve we will cover it with blankets and beat it with sticks, singing “sh*t, log, sh*t, Christmas log, don’t sh*t herring, it’s too salty, sh*t nougat, it’s much nicer”. Then under the blankets are small presents and nougat. (Search for Caga Tió if you want videos. There’s one where some guy thinks that Tió means uncle, but he’s got his languages confused, this isn’t Spanish, it’s Catalan.)

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Upriver from New Orleans on the Mississippi River, people in St James and St. John the Baptist build elaborately designed bonfires and light them on Christmas Eve to light the way for Papa Noel.

      Check out the link to see the amazing and huge alligator this one group is building, just to set it on fire on Christmas Eve.

      https://www.wwltv.com/amp/article/life/holidays/st-james-christmas-eve-bonfires-levee-return-2021/289-c80a4b4d-e690-492f-8c84-c5178225cdec

    8. Koala dreams*

      I read an article about weird Christmas traditions in different countries a few years ago. The US one, ugly Christmas sweaters, has showed up in my country since then, with lots of confusing commercials.

      The weirdest food tradition for Christmas is dipping bread in the water you cooked the ham in and eating that as a light lunch (the ham is saved for the big dinner). I want the ham on the bread!

    9. Chauncy Gardener*

      Ohh thank you for this! Just found out a Christmas tradition in Spain is an ornament (?) of a man defecating. I have sooo many questions. True? Why (oh, why)?

      1. Anon log host*

        Catalonia, not Spain, and it’s not a standalone thing, you hide it in the manger, often there’s another person peeing. There are hundreds on sale; in the tourist areas you can find famous characters and politicians. It’s about the coexistence of the divine and the profane I guess.

    10. banoffee pie*

      Wow I’ve learned something here. I had no idea they don’t have pantos in the US! I don’t know why but I just assumed they were a worldwide thing, or at least an English-speaking country thing. As a kid I always used to go to pantos in the Grand Opera House in Belfast. It was one of the highlights of the Christmas season :)

      1. pancakes*

        We do have it at a lovely little theater near my neighborhood in downtown NYC, the Abrons Arts Center, but only as of the past few years. It’s a production of Jack & the Beanstalk and everyone shouts at a giant, villainous Rump.

    11. WS*

      Every year, people take their candles to their local Christmas Carols and almost every year there’s a total fire ban and you can’t light them. The other year it gets rained out. And yet people still take candles!

    12. Retired Prof*

      This was just my family, but my mom made nearly inedible fruitcake every year. It was her own personal tradition, and incredibly important to her, so we’d choke it down with a few funny comments. Then she had a stroke and after a very difficult year, she died. When we were cleaning up the house, we opened a tin in the kitchen…and there was the final fruitcake. So we broke it out, and cut it up and again choked it down – this time with tears and cherished memories. No one else will ever make fruitcake like my mom.

    13. Upside*

      This is incredible. It’s the most unexpected, unheard of (US here), and yet of COURSE British people do that. I have some exposure to old-style folk Christmas traditions from Britain, albeit as reconstructed by Americans, and the performance includes similar stock characters, audience callbacks, etc. I’ve never heard of panto, but the elements you describe feel so similar that it is no surprise that all of these things I’m familiar with originated in the same place that would produce the panto you describe! Thanks for sharing.

      To answer your question though, yesterday my Jewish partner was remarking on how weird it is that in most areas of the States (as far as we know), a high enough percentage of parents tells children that Santa Clause is literally real, such that adults perpetuate this mass delusion until the kids can work it out for themselves that he’s not! As a child her parents told her, “Most of the other kids believe in this thing Santa Claus. Don’t tell them it’s not real.” And she was like, “How is this a thing?!” I could imagine some other country’s culture does not include such an element of childhood delusion on any topic, and people would be astounded to hear of it. To be clear, I grew up with Santa Claus and don’t have any problem with the custom, but on the face of it it is a weird thing.

      1. AGD*

        I’m also Jewish and am thrilled that I never had to deal with the whole Santa Claus thing. I think it’s probably harmless most of the time, but it seriously weirds me out.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I loved believing in Santa as a kid and it never occurred to me not to continue with my kids, but it’s honestly weird. It’s really fun and exciting for them now, but I don’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would and I think I’ll be a little relieved when they figure it out

      3. marvin the paranoid android*

        The Santa Claus thing is weird to me too. My mother didn’t go in for it, so I grew up just thinking of it as a story rather than actual reality. I didn’t realize other kids were being told anything different until I was a lot older. I guess at the time I assumed everyone was just playing along with a bit that we all recognized as fake. To me, if you want to take part in this tradition, making your kids aware that it’s not literally true seems kindest. I know a few people who were somewhat traumatized when they found out Santa wasn’t real, and I’m not generally a fan of messing with children’s sense of reality, since they’re pretty vulnerable to it.

      4. Jacey*

        I’m also Jewish, and my parents never talked to us about Santa at all… so at a young age I just assumed that my peers were right and Santa was real. I remember that in 1st or 2nd grade another kid said, “Santa can’t be real because it’s impossible to visit every house in the world in one night,” and I tore him a new one because 1) he was upsetting a friend of mine who still believed and 2) “Santa doesn’t come to MY house—not everyone is Christian!” I think a teacher had to come break up the argument… not sure whether I’m amused or mortified at that memory xD

      5. Random Biter*

        Ok…my favorite Santa story….at the time my daughter was probably around 6 or 7 years old, just when kids are having serious doubts about Santa. We were on our way to Christmas Eve service at church on a very cold, drizzly, dreary evening. The parking lot of our church bordered the backyards of a very nice housing development. As we were getting out of the car, my daughter whispered to me, “Mom! LOOK!” There, peering into the window of one of the homes, was Santa. Yes, he was probably there for a Christmas party at the home, waiting for the signal to make his appearance, but the timing was just too perfect. We quietly tiptoed away so as to not disturb the Jolly Old Elf and got another whole year of believing.

    14. Anon Islander*

      I’m from Bermuda, which is a British territory, and panto is performed here, though it’s not as integral as it is in the UK. I’ve only attended once, when my sister played the role of Genie in Aladdin.

      Foodwise, cassava pie is a must for any Bermudian Christmas dinner. It’s basically a savory cake (baked in a large pan, similar to cornbread) with ground cassava replacing most of the flour, with a layer of chicken in the middle. I have a British friend who refers to it as chicken cake, lol. In addition to the giant Christmas dinner (think American Thanksgiving on steroids), many locals go to the beach on Christmas Day to enjoy the mild weather.

      Another key tradition is gombeys dancing their way through local neighborhoods on Boxing Day (also a holiday here), accompanied by drummers and whistles. Gombeys are traditional Bermudian masked dancers, a legacy of African masking traditions, as well as Native American and British influences dating back to the early 1800s. Enslaved individuals weren’t allowed to dance in public, so the masks were necessary to hide their identities. Their colorful costumes still include a mak, as well as a tall feathered headpiece, cape and tasseled pants. Dance moves may include gravity defying leaps and dance battles.

  14. Sleepless*

    Does anyone have any tips for using a sound machine to help mask sounds so that you can stay asleep through the night? I got one a few days ago, and it hasn’t helped at all so far. I couldn’t find much advice for using them online (though maybe there just isn’t much advice that can be given since they seem simple).

    I read that you should have it as loud as you can without it being uncomfortable, so I’m doing that. I also read that you should place the sound machine close to whatever is making noise that wakes you, but I have it on my night table for now until I get an extension cord. The noises that wake me are pretty varied though (the heating vent in my ceiling, other people in the room next to me or in the hallway, sounds from outside my home). There’s 22 sounds to chose from, and I’m using the “mellow fan–low” one because it seemed calming.

    1. Christmas cookie*

      My kids rooms have them and I actually put them on the night stand. Seems to work better since what wakes them up is anything from general household chatter, the baseboard heat turning on, a toilet flushing, a delivery truck, etc.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not really what you asked, because your asking about sound machines. I use a radio and go to classical music. Because the sounds in the house are random the music hides the random sounds well enough for me. Knowing how it helped me, when my previous dog suddenly developed a tremendous fear of thunderstorms I put a radio on for him. It 100% worked- he laid down and was fast asleep in minutes. This was a dog that had been inconsolable before the music. It was then I noticed I could still hear the thunder, but it sounded way off in the distance and was barely noticeable. Actually, I kind of liked it too. This is more about blending the sounds as opposed to blocking the sounds.

    3. MeTwoToo*

      You might try one that has a varied sound, like rain or the ocean, instead of one continuous white noise. If the sounds are varied you might be picking up the change in sound level while sleeping.

    4. Venus*

      I would think that as loud as possible is the final aim. I would try the lowest setting, and keep increasing the volume every night until you aren’t woken by random noises. If you raise it one night and find it too loud but also get woken up then sleep for a week at the next lowest setting before starting again.

      I’m not an expert on sound machines so someone may have a better answer, but starting at the highest reasonable setting seems like it wouldn’t work for most people.

    5. MNer*

      If your sound machine has different settings for pitch, try out different ones to see if some are more helpful masking your particular background noise. It really can make a difference. When I found the pitch that was pretty close to the sound of our intermittent ventilation fan, it masked the fan kicking on/off much better and made a huge difference in my sleep.

    6. Blackcat*

      I agree with trying less uniform noises (many white noise machines/apps have rain or similar sounds). I also get the best results using an app on my phone and Bluetooth headphones made for sleeping. Putting the sound right up on my ear blocks out everything.

    7. Ali G*

      You might need more time to “train” yourself with the white noise. When you get to the point where you can’t sleep without the white noise, you won’t notice that stuff as much. Also, and this is weird, but you are probably listening for the other noises out of habit. Train yourself to turn off a little and if you listen to anything, listen to the white noise.
      I agree with the others, if you have varied noises, close to you is fine. It won’t drown everything out, but you should be able to get to a solid nights sleep on a regular basis.

    8. Deschain*

      I have to place sound at different places in the room. I use box fans—I have three spaced out. If I only have one, it only covers noises in that small area.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      I tried, and they never worked for me. As a result, I’ve been sleeping exclusively in ear plugs for the last 15 years. Sorry.

      1. TPS reporter*

        Me too. I have a creamy old house plus busy neighborhood outside that produces a lot of noise. Either ear plugs or headphones playing white noise is the only thing that works.

    10. Girasol*

      Amazon has sleep headsets, little flat speakers in a headband that may also serve as an eye shade. I don’t have one because I got used to wearing wired headphones all night long ages ago (something you probably don’t want to do). I listen to audiobooks, music, or a sound machine app all on an android phone. With the headset, night noises don’t bother me, except rarely when there’s a sound in the house that I need to get up and check. For some reason I can hear a thunk in the house but all the trains and sirens and dogs and car honking that my husband complains about are too muffled to notice.

    11. JSPA*

      Some have settings that ebb and flow, which is more likely to mask (or prepare you for?) additional sounds. Some people do fine with “a background / coffeeshop chatter” setting. I can’t do that–my brain forever is trying to make out words–but something like layering railroad noises and waves or wind, works.

      I feel it creates not just a shifting soundscape but a background against which one’s sleeping brain can re-contextualize the additional noises…in a, “not that sound that I dread that wakes me up” way.

    12. Theatre girl in an office world*

      I have a dohm which produces a fan noise. I actually go with not too loud and pretty far away from my bed so that it more turns up the background sound. I love it and it does help a lot, but it can’t combat really loud noises. I use it more for helping to relax me to sleep rather than keep me asleep.

    13. The Dogman*

      There are free to use 10+ hour long youtube mixes of rain, wind, snow, crackling fires, waves, rivers and combinations of all of them too, a lot come with a black screen version.

      You might find a natural noise better than artificial noises?

      Personally to sleep if I have issues I usually go for heavy rain, no thunder (since my biggest dog is scared of thunder and climbs on me… not too restful really) and that puts me out and keeps me out for hours!

      Good luck snoozing!

    14. Bagpuss*

      I think you probably need to try a few different sounds and settings to see what helps.
      When I used one due to living in a house with thin walls and noisy neighbours, I found one with oscillating sound rather than a steady noise worked far better, and the ‘brown’ or ‘pink’ noise was better than ‘white’, for me personally.

      1. Windchime*

        I can’t do white or pink noise; both make me anxious. But brown noise is really good at blocking out distractions. At night, though, I usually just turn on a small fan that’s on my nightstand.

    15. Octavia*

      I started using one earlier this year due to neighbor noise. Lessons learned:

      It didn’t really stop me from hearing the sounds but it made them more “just part of the background”.

      I would keep the machine as close to where you’re sleeping as possible. Makes it easier to tweak settings and masks the noise where you are.

      Second fiddling with the sounds to see what works for you. i.e. for me, fans annoy me but brown noise and I’m out like a light.

      Headphones or sleeping earbuds may be a better solution. I splurged on some for travel and they do a better job than the machine in terms of limiting noise, but because they do a better job at blocking sound, I don’t like using them when I sleep alone.

      YMMV, but took some time for me to associate the sounds I liked with sleep – once it became a part of my night routine the machine was more effective.

  15. Frenzy*

    Christmas gift idea for a 13 year old boy (8th grade)? Does not like or play sports.

    It’s a nephew we don’t know well or see often, but he is a great kid. We are gifting cash/cash like gift card, but want a ~$25 something else to go with it.

    Considering some kind of hydro flask- there are so many options! If this is a good idea, which type?

    1. Bulu Babi*

      What about books? The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson is a blast with teens.

      Or Sophie’s World, on philosophy. I think I read it at that age.

      1. allathian*

        My son grew out of Legos at around age 8. But he was building sets meant for 8 year olds when he was 5, with a little help with the fiddly pieces. He’s really great at visualizing in 3D from the instructions booklet. It really varies by kid, and Legos are expensive. I don’t think you can get a complicated Lego set that would interest a 13 year old for $25…

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Hydro flask is good, albeit moreso for sports.

      Books in YA, I will toss out:
      Illuminae, by Kaufman and Kristoff, space opera in which things start off as an epic disaster and just keep getting worse. Fast-paced and gripping.
      Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland. Alternative history in which partway through the Civil War the dead rise and start trying to eat everyone on both sides. We follow a black girl training to be an anti-zombie bodyguard. Lots of revanchist themes that rung true.
      (The above are “YA” in the sense that the protagonists are teens and that’s the part of the bookstore where they are, but they have massive body counts.)

    3. Gift ideas*

      Do you know what kind of things he does like?
      Board/Card games could be a good option like exploding kittens, a little wordy, code names, sushi go, etc. My son is 12 and really likes Pokémon cards, D&D, and Minecraft.

      1. Gift ideas*

        Oh, or an escape room box. There are several retail versions, like Exit. My son is very interested in those although I can’t recommend any particular one.

        1. CatCat*

          Seconding an escape room in a box. We have several of the Unlock games and they’re lots of fun. There’s even a Star Wars version of the nephew is into Star Wars.

    4. Generic Name*

      Do you know what he is into? Hoodies are popular at this age. Ask his parents what he’s into and go from there. At that age, they are too old for most toys, but my 15 year old boy is still into legos.

    5. HamlindigoBlue*

      My kids both wanted Hydro Flasks at this age. My son has the larger wide-mouth bottle, and I bought him the separate wide mouth flex sip lid because he doesn’t like the straw lid. My daughter was the same, preferring the other lid. The flex sip lids seem to cost an additional $10 to $15. They get a lot of use out of their Hydro Flasks.

      1. HamlindigoBlue*

        Oh, and just to note that my kids don’t use the Hydro Flasks for sports. They prefer lighter weight bottles for that. Their Hydro Flasks go to school with them each day.

      2. HamlindigoBlue*

        I was just checking my Amazon history. My son has a Hydro Flask, but my daughter got an Iron Flask (same thing, really, but less expensive and with more color options, plus it comes with 3 different lid attachments now for $23.

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      I’ve ordered a whole gamut of water bottles for my kid this past year and within the $20-30 price range, I find they are all very similar.
      I personally look for one that comes with a variety of lids, a bottom bumper, and is dishwasher safe. Also if they need it to fit in a cup holder, that’s another thing to consider.

    7. JSPA*

      T-shirt from threadless plus gift certificate for same. The designs are submitted and voted on. There are other sites operating similarly. Everything from super nerdy snark to positive and otherworldly to visual jokes to the simplest of graphics. Thin fabric, though.

    8. Demonic Pigeon*

      Boy mom here. Here are a few ideas:

      Video games and/or video game accessories (i.e. headphones with a microphone)
      Spotify gift cards
      Amazon gift cards
      Lord of the Rings book series
      Event tickets, or theme park day pass (Six Flags, etc.)
      Cash/gift cards in a box of candy. Seriously, they love that kind of thing.

    9. The Dogman*

      Lego or similar, or perhaps books if he is into reading?

      Depends on what he is allowed but there are tons of good YA books and war gaming universes to get into…

      My recommendation would be the Warhammer Universe but it is a bit on the dark side really… being all war and gloom with a lot of doom, but a lot of teenagers love it, and you don’t have to do the gaming to get into the universe.

      Otherwise a videogame perhaps… usually going to be more than $25 sorry, unless you go to somewhere like good old games or similar!

    10. Koala dreams*

      Book (fact or fiction), board game, 3D puzzle, earphones or a gaming mouse/keyboard. Be careful with clothes unless you know the size for sure, or it would be easy to change in nearby store.

    11. Chauncy Gardener*

      Where are they located? Are you in a ‘cool’ place and could send a hoody or something from there/logoed?

    12. Here for the Randomness*

      I am sure a gift card to the digital store of their video game console or cell phone of choice would be appreciated.

      1. allathian*

        Yup, agree. More so than Legos for $25. Sure, some teens still build Legos even if they don’t play with them, but you can’t get anything complex for that amount. At least in my son’s class, all of his friends have lost interest in Legos, and he’s 12. All he wants for Christmas is a new phone, and virtual money for the PS5.

      2. Christmas cookie*

        OP here. We are already doing a $100 gift card or cash. I’m specifically looking for the token gift to go along with it (legos are out- if he wants them, he can get a fancy set with the GC!).

    1. UKDancer*

      Bank transfer. When I sold mine they sent me the money by bank transfer immediately and I got a text it had got through. I’d really recommend it.

    2. Sutemi*

      Bank check, but you meet at their bank and watch them withdraw the funds. Don’t assume that a bank check can’t be forged.

    3. *daha**

      I should think you would want to barter for a horse of equal value. That way you have something to ride home after.

      1. Squidhead*

        Aww. I felt this way too when I sold the first car I’d owned from new. I knew it was time, but it was still sad.

  16. Teapot Translator*

    I need help working through my flight response in one specific case.
    Here’s the context, I paid someone to design a bookcase for me. If I liked it, the same person could build it. I saw the design last week and I did not like it. Instead of saying thank you, the project ends here, I asked for a few days. Guys, the designer called me like four times in one day and then once every day since.
    I have general anxiety. I’m doing better, but I still have “habits” from when it was out of control. First day, I did not answer because this week has been bananas, but now I’m just avoiding them. I need to call them to tell them it’s over, but every time they call my avoidance/flight instinct kicks in and I spiral.
    Anyone have advice on how to stop this? My week is still genuinely bananas (it will be until Christmas), so I need to concentrate on stuff, not have this ball of anxiety and resentment. They left a message, I will call them back, why are they calling every. single. day…

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s the holidays, perhaps they are hoping to earn some extra money. Perhaps they thought they were being friendly/concerned. I do agree that this many points of contact would be over the top for me, too.

      I know when I get overly concerned about something one of the ways I can get out of it is by figuring out what worst case scenario is and what I will do about it. What can they say that worries you the most?

      From what you have here, I would go with, “Gee, I am way more busy then I realized. That is why I have not been able to return your call. I have to cancel the project because I just cannot take on extra right now.” And if they say, “Oh maybe in a little while?” then just repeat, “I cannot commit to any projects, so no, I have other things that are more of a priority.”

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      That’s rough. I’ve been there! Hid from phone calls from an online school that had given my kids a sample lesson, and turned out afterwards full course was beyond our budget. Told them that and calls kept coming…

      Do you have an email address for them? I found being able to compose response helped. If not, compose a text message? Remember writing it is not sending it. You can go over it a few times. Something like “Hi! Thanks for the designs. Unfortunately, I’ve decided not to go forward with them. Thanks again, and best wishes.”

      Then you can send when you are ready.

      Alternatively, someone could contact on your behalf?

      Best of luck – I know it’s hard but you will feel so much better when done.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Love the e-mail idea. Or you could text. But maybe rip the band-aid off and do it so that it’s not haunting you? (Fellow avoidant person here.)

        I feel like the four calls in one day is a red flag, and I would not want to do business with this person either — sounds exhausting. And if this person gives you a hard time in any way because you decide you don’t want to move forward, then you’ve *definitely* made the right choice to back out!

        Remember, a business relationship is in some ways like a romantic relationship in that (as long as there’s no contract), you get to break it up with just person wanting to do so, even if the other one wants to stay. You don’t need the perfect reason to decide not to go forward with a business plan.

    3. Venus*

      Four times on the first day? That’s weird and I would be avoiding them too, and I don’t have anxiety and tend to enjoy talking on the phone. Can you email them? Text?

    4. grumpy*

      I’d look at it as an anxiety response on their end. It’ll put you both out of your misery to just call and say “No thanks, the design doesn’t work for me. Good luck in future endeavors.”

    5. WellRed*

      Call them back or email or whatever. I’m sorry this seems so hard for you but you’re being unfair. Maybe they are spiraling too.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      They are calling you often because they want to plan their work life, and can’t if you don’t get back to them. Right now they suspect it’s no, but if they start planning like it’s definitely no and then it isn’t, that’s more effort to undo.

      Do you have an email? “After thinking it over, I’ve decided not to go forward. Thanks for the design.” Let’s you each have your emotional reactions in private.

      All I can say is that, really, truly, doing it will take you 2 minutes and that is such a small fraction of the time stressing about how you need to do it.

    7. Loves libraries*

      I so much prefer writing a response than speaking over the phone and will delay phone calls because of this. This sounds like a time when you should speak on the phone though and in those cases I find writing out a “script” (really just a few dot points) helps me to feel ready to make the call.
      For example,
      1) thank you for all your time and effort on this
      2) unfortunately the design isn’t to my taste so I don’t want to move further with this
      3) what you might say if they push back or suggest alterations
      4) anything else you think you might forget to say
      5) thank you again, I think you’re very talented and would recommend you to others

    8. Fellow Traveller*

      I am like this too, and then I realized that I am just prolonging m my own anxiety and I always feel a million times better one I get the thing done. And usually it’s not a big deal and the other person just wants to know.
      Honestly do you want this little thing to be taking up so much mental space in the coming weeks? Take the two minutes and call them back and you’ll feel amazing after.

      1. MissGirl*

        Yes to this. I’ve started creating a list of things I need to get done each week that I’ve been procrastinating. I do a gut check and see which one is causing me the most anxiety and try to get that one out of the way first.

    9. RagingADHD*

      They are being OTT, but tgey probably want to get feedback and make changes to please you. If you are going to work with any custom designer, it is probably unreasonable to expect they will capture your vision exactly in the first draft.

      Submitting preliminary designs and making changes is completely normal for all kinds of custom work, so if you want to have 1 pass and done, you are probably going to have to talk to many more designers.

      If that is a very stressful thing for you, you might be better off buying something ready made.

    10. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I asked for a few days. … called me like four times in one day and then once every day since … why are they calling every. single. day.

      So I take it that those “few days” have passed? They’re calling because it’s not unreasonable to expect an answer at this point. It sounds like maybe it’s hard for you to deliver unfavorable news to them. But it’s also hard for them to keep waiting for an answer after you told them you would get back to them.

    11. Not A Manager*

      Email or text. Don’t spend a long time apologizing or explaining. “Thanks so much for the great design! Sorry I didn’t get back to you immediately. I’ve decided not to move forward with the project at this time. I appreciate all of your help and look forward to working with you another time.”

      I assume you’ve already paid for the design portion of the project? If not, include a line about paying the invoice immediately.

    12. Malarkey01*

      My suggestion when I’m avoiding things:

      1) Write out a short message- Thank you for sending over your design. I’ve decided to pass on the project but appreciate your thoughts. -pause for their reply- if it’s short acceptance day thanks have a great day and hang up. If it’s a question or any kind of retort I’d say I’m sorry I’m in a rush and don’t have time to talk further but I do thank you, have a great day and hang up.

      2) Once I write it out, I say it a few times.

      3) I set a timer for 3 or 5 minutes and tell myself when that goes off make the call.

      4) if you get a voicemail, leave your message. If he calls back you don’t need to take it but it’s done.

      I know this seems silly but I’m a procrastinator sometimes and the prep, timer, do method works for me.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I was also going to suggest writing a script. I like that yours have options for different reactions!

    13. Ampersand*

      I understand. I’m the same, even with texts. Someone sends me one text, I’ll get to it as soon as I can. If they send several more before I respond, even just to elaborate on the same topic? My brain is usually like nope, that’s gonna have to wait until I get over being overwhelmed.

      I think the answer is you should call him and tell him you’ve changed your mind/won’t be moving forward with having him build a bookshelf. It really is a lot to have called you multiple times in one day! And also you should just get that call over with. I agree with what others have said—if texting or emailing is an option, maybe do that instead. If he won’t take no for an answer and continues to call after you tell him no, block his number if you need to. You’ll have done your part. But I would get back to him soon—you’ll feel better, even if it momentarily sucks to say no.

    14. JSPA*

      “email. Hi [person]. there’s often a gap between the fuzzy edges of what I was imagining, and any one real design, so I gave myself some time to sit with the design and adjust. But it turns out I’m not feeling it. I have no idea why. Your design is beautiful work. I’d be thrilled it you found someone else who wants one built, so you can use the design. But it’s just somehow not sparking joy for me–and it would be disrespect to the craftsmanship and materials, to go through with this.”

      This places the issue in context. Leaves the decision with you. Says definitely, “no.” Lets them reuse the idea. Thanks them, praises them. Closes YOUR door, while opening theirs (while there is still time before Christmas for them to jump on another order, instead of holding time open for you).

      There’s zero wrong with taking this much time–it’s a built-in part of the process, really!–but eventually, you suck their time needlessly. Free them, please.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It’s a very kindly script, but a cabinetmaker doesn’t need permission to reuse the design, even if OP agreed to have the work done. Exclusive furniture rights aren’t really a thing, and it would sound pretty wierd.

        The builder just needs to determine their schedule / workflow.

        1. JSPA*

          Sure, most designers are not Noguchi or Eames, and most furniture design is not exclusive or copyrighted. But who knows how personal or personalized the design was. I don’t see any harm in gushing a bit, and hoping the effort doesn’t go to waste. Even if it’s way more basic.

    15. The Dogman*

      Why were the only options:

      A: project stops, and

      B: project carries on…

      ?

      Why not:

      C: design changes are needed?

      I think (in my experience) a lot of anxiety sufferers are too binary in their thinking, and when the switch is flipped the anxiety kicks in to stop normal reactions.

      You did not like the design, could you have asked for modifications?

      I am pretty sure the calls are an attempt to get in touch with you to resolve the problem you have with this design, most custom workers are happy to be flexible and want to do what the customer is paying for.

      Perhaps just call them back now and either cancel it or try to explain what was wrong with it?

    16. Overeducated*

      Sometimes the painful thing IS the kinder thing. I think we sometimes associate wanting to avoid conflict with being nicer, but sometimes timely truth-telling is actually the more thoughtful thing to do interpersonally.

      What would do is decide on a specific time when you are going to tell them (agreed with other posters that in writing may be easier than calling), and then a thing you will do to decompress after. If time is short it can just be a treat like “have a cookie.” But then you’ll know when it starts, and when it ends, and it won’t just continue on in your head.

  17. Sally Sparrow*

    Thoughts on healthy snacks? I realized I eat way too many chips during the course of the day as a snack, would like the thoughts on alternatives that aren’t just fruits and veggies.

    1. HamlindigoBlue*

      My favorite is veggies with a black bean hummus. It’s easy to make, but Lantana makes a really good one that’s sweet and spicy.

    2. Aisling*

      I like nuts, though they aren’t low calorie. They help keep me full so I don’t feel like snacking on other junkier foods.

    3. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I’m a fan of popcorn. It’s a satisfying savory snack substitute, and you can control how much fat and salt you add to it by starting with kernels instead of the bags of fake chemical butter flavor stuff. My default is coconut oil and light salt, but there’s endless ways to change it up and still keep it fairly healthy. Nutritional yeast makes it sort of cheesy and is a great source of B vitamins. Fancy smoked salts are nice, or parmesan and black pepper, or garlic and smoked paprika.

      I know you’re looking for non fruit and veggie suggestions, but I have to suggest dehydrated stuff. It’s a much different snacking experience compared to eating baby carrots or whatever. Okra and green beans are my favorites. Plantain chips are also a great substitute for potato chips.

      Things like nuts, seeds, and other legumes might be an option too. You can get frozen edamame that you just microwave in the bag and sprinkle with salt. There’s also a lot of roasted nuts and flavored dried beans and peas.

    4. Bday Girl*

      If you like salty and chip-like things, you can get veggie chips (there’s a sweet potato and beets mix that I like a lot, also good with hummus or other dip), lentil chips in various flavors, and flavored dried lentils. Those have been my go-tos.

    5. Mary S*

      I highly recommend Abbey Sharp’s YouTube channel + blog for ideas on building snacks / small meals around her concept of the Hunger Crushing Combo (add protein + a fat + fiber to your carbs). I mostly eat all my meals around this concept, but keeping everything separate like in a continental breakfast. It really works for me!

      Some components that I like to throw in my small meals that I think of as healthy and are not fruit/veg: pretzels, roasted chickpeas, yogurt, protein granola, no-bake oatmeal energy bars, pre-prepared protein shakes, sourdough toast, English muffins, Parmesan crisps, beef jerky, nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin). Also I do eat a lot of potato chips too but I add a source of protein like a Greek-yogurt based dip and maybe a source of fiber with it :)

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      I like nuts/ trail mix, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lunch meat and cheese rolled up around a pickle, olives, kimchi. Seaweed snacks. Dry cereal (i read an interview with a nutritionist once and her go to snack was frosted mini wheats). Soy milk or rice milk – i get them in juice box format and it’s a great quick snack.

    7. T. Boone Pickens*

      Almonds or perhaps rice cakes? Rice cakes would give you that ‘crunch’ that chips deliver.

    8. JSPA*

      roasted-to-almost-caramelized root veggies are a treat, if you’ve only doing “crunchy” fruit and veg. Sweet potato, winter squash, especially parsnips.

    9. TPS reporter*

      Pistachios have the crunch and salt but also take a little time to eat if you get in the shell. And they’re pretty filling.

    10. Bureaucratte*

      Dips are an awesome way to make fruits and veggies more exciting. Also fun slice mixes (on fruits and veggies or popcorn). I eat a lot of string cheese too

  18. ESL*

    I just want to thank Alison for the general information diet script and the knowledge that we can maintain boundaries around our privacy without feeling bad about it.

    I especially appreciate the “It’s under control!”-follow up, because I’m not lying and saying that things which are not fine, are fine. I’m indicating, in a socially acceptable way, that we there’s no need for us to talk about it, and that’s a relief.

    I’ve used it in my private life when I’m just not ready to deal with other (well-meaning) people’s emotions or don’t want them to worry about stuff I myself don’t have all the information about yet.

    And I don’t have to feel bad or conflicted about doing that. So thank you.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      I recently used a variation of this (sorry, don’t recall exact wording; basically I politely said “it’s not a crisis”) and it was great! The other person had to say “oh, okay” because it was clear that there was nothing further to discuss. I wasn’t upset, the situation wasn’t a crisis, and the whole matter fizzled out.

    2. Ali G*

      I also employ the tactic of approaching things as “if course you are going to be totally reasonable about this” in situations where no, the other person probably doesn’t plan on being totally reasonable. I’ve had good success!

  19. balanceofthemis*

    I am looking to buy my first house. I am pre-approved and have a real estate agent. Any advice?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Buy less house than you are approved for. You will spend years being grateful you did that. We bought something that was about 2/3 of what we were approved for. That one move saved us so many problems.

      1. Daffodilly*

        This was the BEST financial decision we ever made. It allowed us to save, to make repairs and upgrades, and most importantly to have a 15 year loan instead of a 30 year loan, which means the house is paid off now. That means instead of a mortgage payment, we have been able to pay tuition for our kids, which means both of them got a bachelors degree with no student loans. So that decision has had good financial impact for not just us, but for our kids as well.
        But they had to share a room as kids. Which everyone told us was going to be the worst and we should buy bigger.
        I think it was a good tradeoff.

      2. Lissa*

        First off, congratulations! We just bought our first house 6 months ago and I second this. I don’t know how the housing market is in your area, but houses in our area were listed at 10k – 20k over before covid and we’re in a moderate sized city. When the asking price seemed low for the house, it was either bait for a bidding war or there was something pricey wrong with the house/property.

        Strongly recommend figuring out what features you need vs. things you want/could live without. We also ended up doing a sort of gut check rating system after viewing a house (can you see yourself living there?) based on how we felt.

        Do NOT drain your savings to buy the house. We didn’t have a lot of the stuff needed to maintain a yard or do basic repairs and have had to get a lot of basic tools and supplies. Also, there could be unexpected expenses or repairs within the first year as you figure out home ownership through the seasons.

        Good luck and happy hunting!

    2. L. Ron Jeremy*

      Buy as much house as you can qualify for. Bought mine for $220K in 1996; now appraised for $1.3M.

      1. Generic Name*

        This assumes that the OP is thinking of their house as an investment rather than a place for them to live and care for. If you buy at the top of your budget and the water heater goes out, you’re kinda screwed.

      2. JSPA*

        I’m happy for you, and of course, every person’s anecdote is N=1

        However,

        So many people have lost houses when the market moved the other way.

        We’re at historic short supply and high prices again.

        A lot of current mortgages are adjustable (which sets up the next wave of housing losses).

        Unless you have money to burn and lovely family waiting to take you in, the roof over your head is the last place to play a brinksmanship game.

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        Yikes, just going to add that if I had done this when I was house hunting in 2004 I would have gone bankrupt a few years later. Husband works in the mortgage industry, and our income went straight off a cliff in 2007. The only thing that saved us was that we bought a house that cost about 2/3 what we qualified for.

        My advice would be to not have a house payment more than 25% of your take home pay if you can avoid it.

    3. Generic Name*

      I think it’s hilarious that the first two pieces of advice are directly contradictory.

      You can’t change the location of a house, and changing the general layout is difficult to impossible. Decide on the neighborhood first, and then decide on what type of house you want. But also keep in mind that you just won’t find some types of houses in certain locations. An extreme example is you won’t find a sprawling ranch on an acreage in a downtown neighborhood, but more mundane example is I really prefer a traditional 2 story layout with rooms with doors, but those houses just aren’t available int the area I want to live.

      Have a list of needs and then a list of wants you can compromise on. For most budgets, wood floors and granite countertops are wants and not needs. Pay attention to the quality of local schools. Even if you don’t have kids, house values are higher and stay higher in good school districts (side note- this is why it’s important to pay attention to local school board elections and to vote in them. Property values!)

      Ignore the tacky decor and horrible paint colors. All of that is easy to change.

      If you hate mowing, don’t have a huge lawn, unless you can pay someone else to do it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I liked the first few Not So Big House book (a series, check your library) which named architectural patterns and showed examples of them. e.g. light from two sides; a circuit; varied ceiling height. It helped give me an idea, when looking at things I did and didn’t like on a gut level, what pattern my gut was responding to. And whether it would be easy or hard to change.

      2. A Feast of Fools*

        My local community college offered a course in the 1990’s called “How to Buy a House”. It helped me focus on my needs, my really-wants, my nice-to-haves, and my oh-hell-nos.

        First and foremost, I wanted a safe neighborhood where people are neighborly (take time to get to know one another, stop and chat when walking dogs, etc.).

        Second, I wanted a huge yard. I was raised in apartments with no private green space and homes with postage-stamp yards. I love being outside and I wanted safe access to the outdoors 24/7 (i.e., not have to drive or walk to a park).

        Third, I wanted a large covered front porch that I could sit on and wave to / chat with neighbors who were out walking.

        The house I bought is inside the limits of a big city (also something I wanted), sits on half an acre, backs up to a creek and woods, has a big, covered front porch, and is in a neighborhood where I, as a single woman in her 30’s at the time, was instantly adopted by the families on either side of me and directly across the street. I still spend all of my holidays at my next-door neighbor’s house with her extended family (that I have now known for 23 years, long enough to see children become adults and then parents).

        I paid $98K for it in 1998 and it’s worth around $1M now, mostly because of the land and the location. Since I have no desire to ever sell, all that does for me is raise my property tax bill.

        As for the advice on how much house to buy. . . I was pre-approved for $140K and used $3K of the credit worthiness differential to buy new furniture and make some minor updates to the house. I will forever be grateful to Past Me for not taking out a larger mortgage because the Great Recession hit and suddenly I had trouble paying bills. I am glad that my mortgage payment was as [relatively] small as it was, or else I might have lost my house.

        Current Me is also grateful to Past Me for not buying a bigger house because I’d really rather mow my lawn than dust all the things. If I had more house, I’d have more stuff inside it.

        Oh, and don’t do what my ex did. . . He bought a house with an Ikea kitchen (stylish and functional) EXCEPT FOR THE SINK. It’s *tiny*! Like, one side is a 12-inch square; and the other side is a tiny, shallow rectangle that is completely full with just three coffee mugs in it, and that tiny side is the one with the disposer. Oof.

      3. Overeducated*

        I also found the contradiction hilarious, and at odds with how my recent (2019-2020) preapproval experiences went! We got preapprovals at 3 different banks because the advice is to shop around. Not one of them took all our financial information and spat out a number! They said “what is the upper limit of YOUR budget?” and then crunched the numbers to see if we qualified for it. They also adjusted our preapproval letters when we actually made offers on lower priced houses, so that the sellers wouldn’t see that we were actually approved for $18k more than we were offering and assume we’d pay that much for their house. There was no “preapproval amount” other than the one we asked for, having already calculated a very realistic budget for the monthly payments.

        The one piece of advice I wish I’d taken to heart a little more is budgeting more generously for repairs than you think will be necessary. We expected the repairs our home would need in the first year would be in the range of $5-10k. It was more like $15k, and that didn’t even cover everything the inspector noticed (we got estimates for a couple things and said “well…that’s not urgent…or maybe we could DIY it….”

    4. SofiaDeo*

      I read both “Build It Right” and “Better Houses, Better Living” by Myron Ferguson to familiarize myself with basic house design elements and the advantages/disadvantages of various house elements. Having an idea of the upkeep & maintenance of various things, what obvious and not-so-obvious problems could entail, and thinking about the impact of various aspects of a house was very helpful. Because buying a house is a major, major investment that really needs some thought behind it (unless your time & $ are no object).

    5. Not my usual user name*

      You’ve probably already made your list of what features in a house you require, which ones you’d really like to have, and which ones would be nice to have but are not deal breakers. So start looking at what’s available in your area!

      I found when I started house-hunting this past spring that after looking at a few places, I was able to refine what features went in which categories, and that helped to broaden the available houses for me. For example, I thought that I needed a one-story house, but after looking at the available houses for sale I realized that a house with two bedrooms on the main level and other rooms upstairs would work just as well.

      The housing market in my new town exploded while I was in the process of applying for a mortgage — it had been a buyer’s market for several years but in the space of about two weeks in March it became a seller’s market. This meant that housing prices rose and I had to revise my expectations of what I’d have to pay. I’d applied for an amount thinking that I’d find a place for 85-90% of that. As it turned out, there were bidding wars on most houses, and sellers weren’t negotiating the price at all. The house I ended up buying was one where my agent was also the sellers’ agent. She never formally listed the house for sale; she suggested a price to the sellers that she knew was in my range–and given what I’d seen from other listings it was a fair price, so that’s what I paid.

      (Having the agent represent us both wasn’t ideal, but it did work out for me. I’d been paying an exorbitant amount of rent for a small apartment in the city where I’d been living, and my mortgage is about 2/3 of what my rent was. I was disappointed that I couldn’t negotiate a lower price but it’s still quite affordable.)

    6. Ashley*

      Determine how much fixing you are willing to do.
      Consider property taxes vs commute vs access to fun stuff balance.
      Think about the house in all seasons and accessing it in bad weather (like bad winter storms).
      And always if at all possible try for two toilets in case one breaks and you can’t get it fixed immediately.

    7. Dancing Otter*

      Water!
      My father bought a house on top of a modest hill (the only kind we have around here). It had a pitched roof. Snow slid off; rain ran down gutters and drained into the street.
      My stepfather (really his first wife) bought a house on the side of a hill, with a flat roof. Water ran down the hill, in their back door, and through the house. They repaired the roof pretty much annually when snow sat and melted and always, always found a way in.

      This one is from my own mistake — electric garage door openers eventually wear out, and power failures happen. Make sure you can get in and out of the garage without power.

    8. Here for the Randomness*

      Make sure to calculate what upgrades are imminent against the cost. For example, chimney cleaning, roof, hvac, water heater need to he done periodically. Rooms that obviously need renovations reduce the cost of the house. Even if you don’t due it yourself, that can save you money in the long run. If the housing market is hot, be prepared to be outbid a lot. You might need to go over asking price.

    9. Retired Prof*

      For our first house, we bought what we could afford and didn’t really think about choosing a neighborhood. The neighborhood was fine, but it was not neighborly and we did not make any friends there. When we looked to buy our second house, we asked a friend who lived close by to the house we were looking at about the neighborhood. She told us we’d be lucky to live on this street. So we bought the house – and we ARE lucky to live on this street. We have neighborhood potlucks and Christmas caroling, and we live two doors from one of the most generous men on earth who will help anyone who needs help with anything. It’s really worth trying to find out about what it’s like to live in a neighborhood. My friend did not find out until they moved in that the next door neighbor had vicious dogs – and they ended up moving out to get away from the dogs a couple years later.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        If you have (or plan to have) kids, pick a location where you’re happy with the public schools.

    10. Virginia Plain*

      Do your maths. Work out what the monthly repayment would be based on the amount that you intend to borrow (as others say don’t max yourself out) and how that sits as a portion of your salary and within your budget. Bills might not change much, but a couple of things you might save on (maintenance charges if you currently rent a flat, for example) but then you will have some more expenses such as savings for repairs the landlord won’t do because no landlord now. So sit down and do your budget as carefully as you can. Remember not to calculate with all your savings as a deposit figure: At purchase you will need not just the deposit but also enough to cover lawyers fees, taxes, and the expenses of moving such as removal services, necessary refurbs, new appliances (this will change from property to property so keep a notebook with running totals and things). There’s probably a website that will run through a lot of these (I could only give you a uk based one and doubtless our taxes and expenses are different.) Consider setting aside money to refit a kitchen or bathroom, as many places you will need or want to (or make it your rule that you will only purchase a place where this isn’t needed). Basically when you’ve moved in you don’t want to be looking at a bank account with three dollars in it, you want to be thinking, right, time to choose new curtains or paint the living room.
      Accept that you will feel like you are haemorrhaging money all over the place but be safely armed with your careful budget and financial plan!
      Also talk to friends who have recently bought if you have any. They will be able to give you good tips and ideas of cost. For example recommending a trustworthy efficient lawyer; over here at least, conveyancing (the checks and searches and drawing up of contracts etc) is entirely a paper exercise and you never need to go to the solicitor’s office so using someone recommended by a friend or family is easier as it doesn’t have to be a local firm (although I guess in the US it might have to be the same state).
      Before all this though, get on property websites and set up alerts but also get on the emailing lists of local estate agents (realtors). Some properties sell fast, some don’t, ime there is often no rhyme or reason to it, but if you see something that interests you pick up the phone and make an appointment to view it; no point hanging about.

    11. Ildrummer*

      Closing costs are expensive and you get nickle-and-dimed with fees from many angles. Plan to reserve $10-15k for closing costs and initial expenses (HOA starting fees, getting utilities set up, etc.). This will probably factor into your calculations of your down payment.

    12. PostalMixup*

      In my experience, the realtor was more helpful once we’d found a house to make an offer on. Sure, they made suggestions of properties to look at, but we could also see what was available (on Zillow or similar) and most of those were ones that were on our second tier list of “not really what we’re looking for, but maybe it’ll surprise us.” Both our houses were ones that we brought to our agents’ attention.

      Off season *can* be a good time to house hunt – we bought our first house in January, and we just closed on the sale of that house last week. There’s often less competition for buyers in the off season, which means you might get away with a lower sale price, keep all your contingencies in place, and even get some major inspection items taken care of by the seller. That said, there’s often less inventory in the off season, so it might take longer to find what you’re looking for.

    13. Anonymous*

      You can make offers that automatically adjust to compensate for other offers. I forget what it’s called, but basically we were able to say our base offer is this, but if someone else offers more, our offer will automatically increase to be 1k higher than theirs up until a certain price. With the market moving so fast, almost every decent house was getting multiple offers within the first week.

      Also – make sure you get a good inspector. Ours missed a lot of things that cost us a lot down the road. Also talk to your realtor about making sure the house is in the correct condition before you close. Request receipts for any repairs that should have been done if they’re not obvious. We had some issues with that, but because we did our final walkthrough right before closing and didn’t know what to do, we ended up having to deal with them on our own after.

      1. Overeducated*

        It’s called an escalation clause!

        Agreed on the inspector note – if you buy an old house, ask around and see if you can find an inspector who is familiar with them, or get an expert opinion. Ours was pretty spooked by some stuff that is fairly common, and that a friend who works professionally in historic preservation said were nothing to worry about.

      2. PT*

        We bought from experienced investors and they knew exactly what parts of the house the building inspector and a home inspector wouldn’t check (or be able to access, due to the design of the space.)

        When we finally got around to going in those places…yeah there were surprises hiding. (For example in the crawlspace, the only part of it that was lined was under the toilets in each bathroom. Because the city building inspector issuing the permits wouldn’t go in the crawlspace, it’s too tight and nasty, but he would peer down the toilet hole before the plumbing was connected and see the sheet of plastic.)

      3. BlueWolf*

        I’ve seen differing advice on escalation clauses. It can be good if the seller honors it, but it also tells the seller right out what your highest number is, so they think you should just pay that. We tried an escalation clause with our offer and basically for our top end we were willing to go $10k over list. However, with how hot the market was, there were multiple offers in the first two days and the seller refused to use the escalation clause. They just asked everyone to submit best and final offers by the next day. Of course, not knowing what others were going to offer we decided to put in our highest number because I really liked the house. In hindsight, knowing what we know now we probably could have stuck at list because it sounded like we had more secure financing than the other potential buyers, but of course you don’t know that going in. Also, as I posted below, we discovered a cracked joist after closing, which probably would have been an issue for any FHA funded or other similar buyer because they require structural inspections. Gratned, we can’t know for sure if the joist was cracked before or if it happened after we were moving in.

    14. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Get a great inspector who’ll do a thorough job so you don’t get blindsided by something expensive you have to fix. You can still buy a house with a problem if you love it overall, but it’s legit to then negotiate with the seller to have them knock the cost of fixing the problem off the sale price (or to have them fix it before the sale becomes final).

      1. BlueWolf*

        I should have investigated inspectors and chosen one before we started putting in offers. I went with a guy my realtor knew. The home inspector is a retired contractor type, and seemed to assume we were more handy than we really are. Sure, my partner and I can do some basic stuff, but we’re not professional contractors. Our house has a crawl space and we paid extra for that part of the inspection. It was pretty messy down there, but he said “Oh, you can clean it up yourself or with a couple of buddies.” My partner is 6’2″ and not the skinniest guy. He doesn’t fit comfortably in a 3 foot high crawl space and I wasn’t about to go down there with the spiders. Our inspector also completely missed the fact that one of the three main floor joists was cracked. After we closed and got a crawl space company in there they discovered the cracked joist and that, along with cleaning up the nasty old insulation and encapsulating cost over $10k. Our inspector was good pretty good with the rest of the stuff in the house, but we should have gotten a dedicated crawl space inspector to handle that part.

    15. Windchime*

      Make a list and share it with your agent. The list should contain your Must Haves (these are absolutely non-negotiable), Nice To Have (would be nice but can do without) , and Absolutely Do Not Want.

      My Must Haves were things like: Quiet neighborhood, one level, Master bathroom
      Nice to Have: Pool, view, hardwood floors (I didn’t get any of these and I’m OK with that)
      Absolutely Do Not Want; Basement

      Your lists will be different, but I found it really helped my agent to know that she didn’t need to be even showing me a house if it had a basement or was next to a busy highway. I also had a maximum amount that I would not go over, and it was less than I qualified for. I didn’t want to max out my budget.

  20. cbh*

    What are your thoughts. I have an elementary aged child. Pre covid for Christmas gifts, we always baked cookies, brownies and cakes to give to the teachers along with a coffee gift card and a heartfelt note. Last year we were quarantined during the holdiays and somehow the gifts never made it to the schools. This is our first “covid” gifts to the teachers. We found someone who makes ornaments and actually has cookie related ornaments. We were going to send in the ornament along with the recipe explaining that when the school allows baked goods we will be making them this cookie but in the meantime here is the ornament, recipe, coffee gift card and note. Is this silly? All I can imagine is the “big kids athletic sports loving rock n roller” gym and music teachers looking at this like what do I need a recipe for? We have a lot of teachers to give to.

    1. WellRed*

      Just send the coffee card. The cookies may never get made and the only reason to give someone a recipe is so they can make it themselves.

      1. WellRed*

        Also is it a thing to give all the teachers gifts where you are (or these days?) I thought always just give to the main teacher or special teacher.

    2. BRR*

      I wouldn’t do it. It’s a very sweet premise (no pun intended), but this would mean a teacher would have to want an ornament/celebrate Xmas and bake. Plus who knows when baked goods will be allowed again.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree–sweet premise but sounds like a promise of more effort on all sides later, which is daunting in a year when everyone’s kinda on the dregs of their reserves. I’d go with the coffee gift card and heartfelt note. Or even only the latter.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Also: I don’t even drink coffee, but Starbucks has decent tea and hot chocolate and they have cake pops. For most good coffee shops, even if you don’t drink coffee there’s something you would like, or you have a family member who would use it, and a small amount of money still gets you a treat. I think they’re an unusually strong choice of gift card to someone you don’t know well.

    3. cat socks*

      My Mom is a teacher and she appreciates gift cards and a heartfelt note. She’s gotten a lot of trinkets and Bath & Body Works stuff over the years. They usually end up with me because she doesn’t really use that stuff.

    4. JCBooks*

      A heart felt note means so much more than an ornament or a small token. Gift card to Barnes and Noble, coffee shop. Amazon. Hallmark, etc are always appreciated. Mugs, candles, ornaments, or items that say teacher are less appreciated. I once received a gift card to a fancy grocery store. I loved it because I splurged on some fancy cookies I normally would not have bought myself.

    5. Susie*

      The best gift you can give a teacher is a heartfelt note or a thank you email with the teacher’s supervisor cced (either the principal or department head)

      You have put a lot of thought into your gift! If I was your child’s teacher, I’d definitely feel the thoughtfulness and be appreciative. What are you hoping would happen to the ornament? When both my husband and I were teachers, we’d come home with bags of candy and cookies and tchotchkes. Most food items were trashed and tchotchkes given away.

      If you want to give a gift in addition to a thank you note, a coffee shop card for most (but not all) teachers is great. Also, something like 85% of teachers spend their own money on school supplies, so find out what the teachers need for their classroom. (My school gives us one tissue box a year) Most elementary teachers use picture books as part of their teaching, so a gift card to a local book store is something else to consider. Also, donating to the school library in honor of a teacher or teachers is something really thought.

      Thanks for being thoughtful about how to appreciate teachers this year! We need it. But all we really need is a note. I have saved every thank you note I’ve received from students. I have not saved every mug.

    6. RagingADHD*

      We do scented candles in a jar, either a bigger one by itself or a little one with a coffee card. The holiday themed ones tend to be more spicy or piney than floral, so they come across less “girly.”

      Any gift you pick (including coffee cards) isn’t going to work for everyone, but thats what regifting is for.

      1. Mannequin*

        Coffee cards are more universally giftable than scented candles. They don’t only sell coffee, or can be easily regifted.

        Scented items are kind of personal- what one person thinks is heavenly can reel to another. And then there are people with asthma or allergies…and now long covid.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I think you missed the sentence: “Any gift you pick isn’t going to work for everyone.”
          Do what you like. It’s a suggestion, not a legally binding edict.

          1. Mannequin*

            Since we’re talking here about generic gifts applicable to the widest number of recipients, I was pointing out the reasons that scented candles are not really suitable. They are better saved for people whose tastes & preferences you are already familiar with.

            Additionally, numerous people have spoken up to ask that people NOT give teachers small decorative items as gifts, which includes candles.

    7. Anony*

      I wouldn’t do it. First-Ornament screams Christmas and maybe they don’t celebrate Christmas. Second-my mom is a teacher and we never ate most of the homemade baked goods that kids gave her. A gift card is nice, but honestly I don’t think it’s necessary to give a gift to every teacher. A card with a nice note is just as appreciated.
      P.S. I know scented gifts are common, but I wouldn’t recommend them- my mom for one hates all scented products and other people are very picky, have sensitivities, etc.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I genuinely appreciate the gesture of any gift from students and their families, but the note is by far the best part and I’d really prefer not to get random things like mugs, lotions, etc. I’m picky about ornaments, and if any recipients don’t celebrate Christmas there’s not much they could use it for.

      I wouldn’t be mad about the recipe, but I would kind of be like “am I supposed to… make my own gift?” I think store-bought baked goods would be preferable to an IOU for home-made. I know that feels less personal but it’s more appropriate under the circumstances and you’re taking care of the thoughtful part by including a nice note :)

    9. Christmas cookie*

      In our elem we all chip in for a group gift (always signed from the entire class, regardless of who contributes- suggested $10-$20; we always try and do a little more to cover anyone that may not contribute). Our PTO does a separate cookie bake thank-you thing- like 100 families make 4 dozen cookies, then they set up a “cookie bar” and let any staff that wants to fill a couple take-out containers.

      In your shoes, I’d do the coffee gift card and a heartfelt card.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My school did the cookie bar in the before times and it was very popular.

        I really liked the group gift, but rules limiting the cost of a gift a teacher could accept effectively killed the group gifts, which were over the limit.

        1. allathian*

          Mmm, I’m thankful my son’s school district hasn’t instituted this policy. The parents in his class pay about 5 euros or so for a gift basket. With 20 kids, it’s 100 euros, so a nice gift. If some parents don’t participate, it’s up to them, but the gift is given by the parents of kids in the class. Some parents insist on giving a separate gift, which I think defeats the purpose of the joint gift.

          If we had a limit, I’d probably just write a note of thanks.

          I see it as a silver lining that I haven’t been forced to bake anything for school events thanks to Covid putting a stop to all of them. This year, homemade edible gifts are definitely not acceptable, and if someone insists on sending homemade baked goods to school (all adults except school staff are banned from the premises), it will be sent back with the kid, or accepted and thrown away.

    10. Malarkey01*

      My sister and sister in law are teachers and I’ve asked them for help in the past. The agree the notes are special and a no gift is needed but if you do get one a gift card is the most preferred.
      Honestly ornaments, mugs, paperweights aren’t kept (there trees would fall over from the weight if they kept them and while they love your children they don’t really want an annual reminder for the next 30 years of each one). For the recipes…honestly if I want cookies or cakes I’ll just Google a recipe from the millions online. I know everyone’s tolerance for home baked goods is different, but after a few “incidents” of food poisoning and especially in the post CoVid world, their districts send out notes and advising teachers and staff against anything homemade.

    11. Koala dreams*

      I think it sounds great! Silly is good, better silly than too serious. I would skip the cookie recipe though, that feels like too much in the current situation. If the logistics of the ornaments is complicated, it’s fine with just the notes and the coffee card.

    12. Invisible Fish*

      Nothing but a note. For some teachers, a gift – no matter how small – makes them uncomfortable. (I’m one of those teachers.)

    13. Middle School Teacher*

      I’m a teacher. I never ate homemade goods from kids because you just don’t know. Personally I would give a gift card to something you know they like. Coffee, or as an English teacher I read all the time so cards to a bookstore. Some of my faves have been gift cards to local businesses. No mugs please :)

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    The high school decided to un-cap the audience for the upcoming concert, just before omicron hit. They have not re-capped it.
    My teen’s face fell. So I am going double-masked, and my [risk-factor redacted] husband is not. I keep having to remind myself that the high school auditorium is bigger & better ventilated than the middle school but geez. I am now wondering if we’re going to be able to see my [higher risk] MIL at Christmas.

    1. Workerbee*

      I don’t mean to be asking an insensitive question: Does your teen _have_ to participate, given the current climate?

      1. Daffodilly*

        Probably. If it’s a school choir, showing up for performances is usually a huge chunk of the grade for the class. At least for all my kids it was. It was a huge issue whenever there was a conflict with another activity or sport, and every teacher thought THEIR thing was the one that should be prioritized. A couple times I even had to get involved to help my kids navigate teachers who conflicted but wouldn’t budge.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I see why you’re railing. I understand if people want to go to the concert, but seriously, to make it part of the grade, in the current climate?

            I don’t know about over there, but here in the UK I get the feeling they’re softening us up for more restrictions again. Omicron is spreading fast and they’re talking about the NHS being ‘overwhelmed’ again soon if something isn’t done.

    2. SofiaDeo*

      I don’t know where you are geographically, but a well fitted N95/N95 or FFP2/FFP3 mask along with
      lubricating eye drops (barrier for your eyes in an enclosed space) will protect you much much more than double masking the loose fitting surgical type of mask. It’s what your husband needs to wear, too, if he is a high risk person. The larger size of the auditorium will Not protect you. This is what you need to -prevent- infection.

      The looser surgical type masks are appropriate for “not passing anything you may have to someone else”. This type would be more appropriate to wear indoors going to visit MIL. Turn your head “away” from faces when hugging, and any kisses should be on the neck area. The idea is to Not Inhale Others Breath.

      I also have air sanitizers in the house and cars. Any virus brought into them gets killed without having to spend time wiping things (or breathing disinfecting chemicals. Soapy water works for standard cleaning, I use disinfectants only if there is known exposure to something).

      1. JSPA*

        skin taping the top edges of a mask along the nose bridge and cheekbones is uncomfortable, and hurts a bit on removal. For this? I’d do it. In part because it makes it very uncomfortable to lift the mask for momentary urges, whether that’s “wipe nose” or “sip of water” or “he doesn’t hear me, I need to yell louder to tell him it’s time to leave.”

    3. allathian*

      I’m so sorry. A better mask than a surgical mask and eye drops sounds like the way to go. You also don’t have to stay for the whole concert, watch your teen perform and then leave, even if you have to return later to pick your teen up. This doesn’t help if your teen’s performing in the last act, but otherwise it would help limit exposure.

      The antibody home test kits for Covid have been shown to be more effective than the medical authorities initially thought, so maybe test a day or so before you’re planning to go to visit your MIL, and definitely test if you have any respiratory symptoms at all.

      I hope the concert goes well and none of you get sick, and you can celebrate Christmas with your MIL.

  22. Steel Before Iron*

    What activities do you have that take you outside the house? I have a lot of hobbies but most of them seem to revolve around me being in my house, like crafting and doing puzzles. I did some charity fundraising this past year, but even that was all online and involve me staying at home. Obviously I’m not going out a lot because of Covid, but even before that I feel like I didn’t go out too often for activities. So what do you do that gets you outside the house? Obviously there is sightseeing, taking walks, events to attend, volunteering. I’m looking for a really specific ideas. Whether it was stuff from pre-pandemic that you hope to get back to you, or some thing you can still do right now safely, would like to hear what you all do.

    1. Girasol*

      There may be winter activities with Fish and Game or BLM that you’d like. Where we are there’s seed collecting, seed scattering, and nest box maintenance. It’s good healthy exercise outdoors with very good company.

      1. Upside*

        Confused for a sec until I realized that would be the Bureau of Land Management, I assume ;)
        I bet in areas without Bureau of Land Management activities to join, there may be Black Lives Matter activities to be involved with.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I realized after having kids that my capacity for going out to activities is a lot less than it used to be (probably because I get less alone time, so when the house is quiet I soak it up.)

      But I do go to a few regular things most weeks, with a wildcard activity every once in a while. Im vaxed and I mask, so I’m doing a lot of the “regular” stuff again: Gym, church, Bible study, library browsing. Of course I never stopped walking & jogging outside.

      Used to volunteer at a medical clinic, have not since covid.
      Used to sing in a choir, not back to that yet.

      Wildcards:

      The most frequent is that I’ll meet a friend for lunch or go for coffee at their house.

      There’s a nice nature trail a few miles away for hiking, but I haven’t been in a while due to laziness.

      Contra dancing: our group, being a private club, is legally allowed to require proof of vax, which is banned for businesses in our state. So that’s nice.

      Our locally owned coffee shop has puzzles and board games, so that’s a nice hangout

      Our local art museum has some cool looking evening events coming up, I hope to try some of those. Or just get myself into the museum during the day.

      1. Dancing is a joy*

        Folks are contra dancing again??? Oh how I love doing that, but it would be too up close and personal for me right now.

        1. RagingADHD*

          They started back over the summer with proof of vax required. They haven’t had one since Omicron popped, IDK if they will scale back. I can’t go until after the first of the year anyway due to family commitments.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Hiking and walking. There’s a nice flat trail near my house and I’ll take walks while listening to audiobooks just to get some fresh air and time to myself.

      Would you be interested in something like roller skating/blading? Biking or longboarding would get you out and active too!

      Are there places near you where you can craft in public? Some locally owned knitting/yarn shops do events, or places like Lowes or Home Depot sometimes do workshops that might be fun. Library events, community center classes…

    4. GoryDetails*

      Another geocacher here – it’s great fun, whether you seek caches on lengthy hiking trails or in mall parking lots or local parks. [It does depend on where you live; some areas have a lot more active geocaches than others.]

      I double up that hobby with BookCrossing, where I leave specially-labeled books around for others to find, in hopes of hearing back from them someday. Pre-COVID I’d leave books almost anywhere [except for explicitly-secure “no unattended items” locations, of course]; more recently I’ve focused on Little Free Libraries, which have popped up all over the place in the last year. I’ll map out LFLs that are near interesting-sounding geocaches, and make a mini-expedition of it.

      A friend of mine belongs to a regional historical society that offers free or discounted admission to a number of historic homes, and sometimes I’ve gone along – it’s fascinating seeing the history of the houses, and sometimes there are geocaches on the property {wry grin}.

      I’d recommend botanical gardens too, but they’re usually seasonal and always weather-dependent. But if there are any near you, you could see if they have seasonal events that sound entertaining.

      1. fposte*

        Geocaching question: maybe it’s just because I read the paranoia that is Nextdoor, but when I hunted my first caches I felt really self-conscious, and the one that was in a neighborhood I didn’t even open after finding because I felt like I’d hovered in front of somebody’s house for too long. How do people deal with that? Can you find enough if you just focus on parks or other places where lingering is less creepy?

        1. JSPA*

          Wear enough exercise-appropriate neon, and the chance of being thought a prowler drops significantly. Glasses probably help too. And stretching.

          Don’t look into windows, onto porches, nor go up driveways. People will also be less on edge about porch pirate activity after Christmas (and a lot more people will be out an about doing new year’s resolution exercise as of Jan 1st).

          YMMV (or rather, guaranteed will vary) based on other factors (size, race, perceived gender, age and location / attitudes). Brighter socks or a high vis vest would not have saved Ahmaud.

          You could alternatively break the “rule” of finding X number of caches first, before hiding your own, and decide to primarily be a cacher, rather than a cache finder. That way, you control the location.

          You probably have seen the “how to hide a cache” info, but will link it, anyway.

          1. fposte*

            Thanks, that’s useful. I look more like the person who calls the cops on lurkers than somebody who will set the neighborhood abuzz, but I like the exercisewear idea a lot. No worries about the driveways–the one I bolted from was on the verge next to the street, and that was as close as I wanted to get.

        2. GoryDetails*

          Heh! One of my favorite local caches is hidden under the porch of a residential building, and involves opening a combination lock to peer at the elaborate miniature scene inside – while lying on the driveway of the house. The cache listing specified that the neighbors were informed about geocaching, but that people should stick to daylight hours. Still took me a while to feel comfortable with that one!

          There should be lots of caches in mall parking lots, guardrails on lightly-traveled side roads, stone walls surrounding old cemeteries, the trailheads of hiking trails – those might feel less stressful than the near-a-home residential ones.

          Note: some folks combine geocaches with Little Free Libraries; a built-in excuse to stand there and stare! [Some of the hides are very sneaky – a roof with a secret door, a camouflaged panel in the back, a hollowed-out book – so they can still present a challenge.]

          1. Retired Prof*

            My favorite geocache of all time was a weatherproofed tub under a fallen tree near the creek – full of books. A feral Little Free Library.

      2. JSPA*

        I’ve been dropping a book or two at any mini library (whether an official “mini free” or not) unless they’re very clearly single interest / special interest / very limited age range (as is true of some at religious institutions and preschools and gradeschools). Gets me to cull my library, rediscover what I want to re-read, and encourages me to “release to the wild” some of the ones I liked well enough, but don’t need to read again.

    5. Daffodilly*

      Photography! Nature/close up mostly. So it can be done anywhere. I have a “big” camera and sometimes go out with intention to shoot. But also I shoot with my phone. Some of my favorite photos of blossoms were done in the parking lot of my grocery store. I’ve gone to new parks and gardens I probably never would have ventured to for photos.
      And best of off, doing photography has taught me to look at the world differently. I am constantly finding and appreciating beauty in small things around me, even when I’m not shooting them. I wonder how many times I walked by that flowering tree at the grocery store and never noticed in my pre-photography days.

    6. OtterB*

      Singing with a women’s chorus. We met by Zoom for a long time and are just getting back to rehearsing in person (all vaxxed and masked).

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Playing in an adult social sports league. Attending storytelling and comedy shows.

      Hmmm… not a lot actually.

    8. Koala dreams*

      Bird watching, especially if you have neighbors with visible birdfeeders. Parks and forests are also good, bring something to sit on and warm clothes. Many birds look for food in cities in winter, then birds are very active in spring/early summer. Autumn is more of a challenge, but you can look for fruit trees and such.

      I hope to get back into second hand store browsing soon, we’ll see what happens. I do go to the library, the librarians are very good at finding books.

    9. PlantProf*

      Playing in an amateur orchestra. Going to church. Not a ton else, I’m also in the crafting etc at home category.

    10. allathian*

      I’m hoping to get back to tai chi classes in person someday. My teacher quit completely when the lockdowns started, so I’m going to have to find someone new.

      In my area, businesses are allowed to require proof of vaccination for entry, so that’s made me a lot more comfortable about eating in a sit-down restaurant indoors again. I do know that there’s a risk of breakthrough cases, but it’s a calculated risk that I’m currently willing to take. I wear a mask on public transit and indoors in public places, except when I’m eating at a sit-down restaurant. Visits with fully vaccinated, and in some cases boostered, family members and friends have resumed.

      I’ve been going on bike rides and walks throughout the pandemic.

    11. Puffle*

      My main activity outside the house is tae kwon do- I go to classes at my local club twice a week, it’s a nice club with a really good community spirit.

      During Covid times I’ve also been going for long walks while listening to podcasts (and dog watching), and swimming at my local pool.

      One thing I’ve been missing due to covid restrictions in my area is that I used to stroll down to my local library on a weekend morning, have a nice leisurely browse, and either grab a cupcake on the way home and head back to have tea/cake/book session or go to a coffee shop with my spoils. Now I’m limited to browsing online library ebooks which just isn’t the same, but at least my cat can come hang out with me

    12. Oddity*

      Take the crafts with you! I can cross stitch as easily on a park bench as anywhere else and the outdoors provides a lot of subject matter for sketches, cards etc.

  23. BethDH*

    What are some small (20 minute) tasks that just feel visible/relaxing to have done?
    I’m going to have some extra time the next few weeks and I’d like to use it to tackle some of the things in my life that will make me feel happier and/or less chaotic later.
    My ideas so far are polishing my shoes, cleaning out my main work bag, going through my to-read list to weed and prioritize, and getting rid of all the pens that don’t work in my pen cup. I’d love some other suggestions.

    1. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I always liked going through my pantry and refrigerator to throw out expired or old food.

      1. cat socks*

        I do this every week before trash day. I found some scary looking hot dogs I had somehow previously missed.

      2. BethDH*

        I’m hoping to do this too, but I’m guessing it will be a longer task (at least for the freezer). Maybe I can break it into sections somehow. This has been a chaotic year.

      3. Fellow Traveller*

        Yes! Or actually planning some cooking or baking products to use things up. Sooooo satisfying!

      4. JSPA*

        I…find that amazing! I bet a lot of people would pay good money for you to do this for them? (Apologies if this constitutes a “work” suggestion; it’s not meant that way.)

        I only like it in the sense of the george carlin routine: when you save it, it makes you happy because you’re saving food; when you toss it, it makes you happy because you’re saving your life.

    2. HannahS*

      In my apartment, that would include cleaning out the junk drawer/junk utility cart, cleaning out the cupboard under the bathroom sink, tidying the bookshelf of the random cards, pens, and electric cords that get placed there. Shredding everything in our “to be shredded” pile. Agree on going through the fridge or pantry and getting rid of stuff that’s no longer usable.

    3. Jay*

      Getting rid of non-working pens is so satisfying! I did that recently in the pen cup on my desk and the junk drawer in the kitchen. If you have a junk drawer, tidying and organizing it is also a good small doable task.

      20 minutes for me usually means tidying a surface I have to look at all the time, like the dining room table or my nightstand. I recently went through the (deep) drawers in my nightstand. Donated six pairs of old eyeglasses, tossed a lot of random crap that had been swept in there, and have easy access to the things I actually want. Not immediately visible but made me happy.

      Sort through the medicine cabinet and get rid of expired meds? Put the random bathroom counter items into baskets or bins so they look nice and are organized?

      1. allathian*

        Oh, I really should sort through our medicine cabinet and the deep drawers of my nightstand (Malm by IKEA).

        I should also clear the paperbacks from the top of my nightstand. I have a few Agatha Christie mysteries on it at the very least.

        I should also go through the drawers of my dresser. I have lots of old clothes I never wear. A drawer at a time should be doable, I’ve been putting it off for far too long.

        Our linen closet also needs going through. I haven’t looked at every item in it since we moved to this house 10 years ago…

    4. cat socks*

      I re-folded the towel in my linen closet and moved some into the garage for rags. I have more room there now so I’m trying to jam stuff in the shelves.

    5. Jean (just Jean)*

      Some of these may be longer than 20 minutes….
      Stock up on postage stamps. (In the U.S. you can purchase by mail or online.)
      Catch up on any lingering clothing repairs.
      Finish any half-done crafts projects (if you enjoy crafting) or take a deep breath and donate/discard the project and related supplies. Some cities/areas have a store that recycles crafts/arts supplies and other interesting junk (pill bottles, beads, picture frames, you name it).
      Wash leaves and re-pot houseplants (if you have houseplants).
      Back up your devices and figure out a way to do this regularly in future. And may the Evil Eye not read this comment and be inspired to cause trouble!
      Take your clutter to the local dump / recycling / architectural salvage store.
      Eliminate excess.personal health & grooming supplies.
      Reorganize your coat closet and landing/launch pad areas.
      Purge & donate or recycle any shoes you don’t wear regularly or semi-regularly (dress shoes, winter boots, etc.), then buy a back-of-the-door set of hanging shoe pockets for the shoes you’re keeping.
      Polish any metal objects that need it.
      Weed and reorganize your jewelry.
      Tackle any expired or about-to-expire groceries. Make soup, compost, or garbage as appropriate. Reorganize the pantry in whatever way suits you.
      Clean your eyeglasses, tech devices, and peripherals.
      Review any recurring expenses (subscriptions? donations? memberships?). Increase, adjust, or delete as you see fit. Also unsubscribe to emails and do whatever it takes to reduce your junk snail mail.

      Enjoy! I’ll enjoy vicariously since at present I don’t have time for many of these tasks.

      1. BethDH*

        This is a fantastic list, thank you! This is going to be one of the few chances I get to do tasks like this — all the stuff that annoys me at the corner of attention that would make my life easier during those crazy times.

    6. Reba*

      For me the biggest visible improvement exercise is getting everything that isn’t supposed to live on the counter/table/coffee table put away.

      A big functional improvement is sorting out the “landing zone” by the door.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Choose a storage unit (freezer, cabinet, drawer) and empty it. Return only the things you use, neatened so you can find things. (I did the freezer yesterday. Apparently I thought I would remember having, and defrost, frozen potato water to use in some future baking?)

      You don’t need to do the entire kitchen/bedroom/attic at once, which can be daunting and make it hard to start. Do the freezer on one pass, the fridge door on another, the back of the fridge shelves on a third pass.

      The pen cup idea I will second as very satisfying.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Re the potato water – same. I have started writing notes to myself and putting them in the appropriate baking mold to remind myself to use the ingredient. For sourdough bread, I put a sticky note on the starter jar in the fridge. Potato water is too good to waste!

      2. Purple Cat*

        potato water?
        I’ve never heard of saving such a thing, but I’m not a baker.
        What are the benefits/uses?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s starch-laden water, so good added to starches. Especially common in coffee cake, but also added to bread.

          I have a vague memory of reading some baker who recommended freezing it, and I must have meant to remake whatever the baked good was. But forgot completely about my frozen potato water for some long stretch of time.

    8. Aphrodite*

      Do you like a clean house but aren’t really crazy about cleaning? If so, try the annual Apartment Therapy’s January Cure ( https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/january-cure-2022-sign-up-37004167 ). It’s a 20-day program all about loving on your home and preparing yourself and your space for the new year. They send 20 weekday assignments straight to your inbox starting on Monday, Jan. 3. It’s some cleaning, some decluttering, some small home projects planned for the year ahead in a virtual group.

      One day you’ll declutter a single drawer, while other days you’ll tackle something more ambitious like cleaning the bathroom top to bottom. But there’s no pressure to complete everything. The Cure is about progress, not perfection, so you’re welcome to follow along and pick and choose whatever assignments speak to you.

      I have participated for years. I don’t do it all but I try to and what I do accomplish feels SO good. I recommend it.

      1. Not Your Sweetheart*

        I’ve signed up every year for at least the last 5. In all that time, I’ve cleaned one drawer and bought myself plants/flowers. I did follow their summer Kitchen Cure all the way through once. It felt really good to get it done.

    9. Susie*

      Wipe down kitchen cabinet doors

      Clean drawers (take out the contents/remover drawer liner and wipe out any lingering dust/debris).

      Vacuum and spot clean any upholstered furniture

      Clean curtains

      Dust moldings

      Clean out the bottom of the window and the track of sliding doors

      Wash or Swap out pillows

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

      Dusting the ceiling fans, window blinds and air vents. I want to do it quarterly but getting out the step ladder and moving furniture so i can reach is such a pain. I feel so much better when it’s done though…like I’m adulting on a higher level.

    11. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      -I wipe down the walls using a mop and microfiber towel. A surprising amount of dust collects in my drywall texture. A little degreaser helps prevent buildup of grunk over time.

      -Clean the dishwasher and washing machine using pre-measured packets of cleanser. I also wipe down the top of washing machine tub, rinse out the softener and bleach dispensers, and check the hookups for leaks.

      -Clean the accumulated lint out of the dryer. This usually takes me about 45 minutes because the outer cover needs to be opened to access the space around the drum. Reassembly can be a 2-person job. There are YouTube videos that demonstrate how to do this.

      -Invest in a shower squeegee. Squeegee the walls and spray a daily shower cleaner after every use. Wipe down the bottom of the curtain liner and use a more powerful shower cleaner every few weeks to keep mineral buildup at bay.

      -Going through all the pockets of my coats in the closet to make sure they are empty. I always find a few bucks or lip balm and a pair of gloves I have been looking for…

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Clean out my wallet/purse. I try to do this every few weeks but it’s actually every month and a half or so.
      Clean the silverware drawer. Why does so much crap fall in there???
      With limited time, I like to just vacuum the front seats of my car. It feels so much better- like the car won’t fall apart on me now. ha! It’s great what the mind can be tricked into believing.
      Wipe down frequently used appliances.
      Figure out which drawer is the worst one in the house or in a particular room and thoroughly clean it.
      I am decluttering so sometimes I think of an item and realizing I am done with the item. I dig it out and put it on the tag sale pile. The key here is I just retrieve that one item no big project involved.
      I do have broken things around the house. Because of my limited technical ability I am able to figure out if I can fix it or not within a short period of time. So some days I will grab a broken item and see what I can or can’t do for it. It either goes back to its designated spot for usage or it goes into the garbage/recycle, depending on the outcome of my efforts.
      Some days I will open my container of batteries and just go around the house replacing batteries that have quit. Usually this starts with a beeping smoke detector and I end up doing clocks, doorbells, flashlights and so on.

    13. Fellow Traveller*

      I love all these suggestions!
      One thing i do when I get a few minutes is go through my phone and delete/ cull my photos. Maybe even do the same on my computer.
      Mending is also very satisfying for me.

    14. A Feast of Fools*

      I bought a fabric brush for just this reason. I have 3.5 weeks off from work, for the first time ever in my working life, and I want to tackle all the niggling little things that bother me the rest of the year but I never have time to get to.

      So I decided to finally scrub my kitchen cabinets and remove the [embarrassing amount of] years of grease and dust build-up from the ridges and corners of my not-flat cabinet doors. They’re painted, so I have to be gentle. I did one door with a toothbrush and despaired at how long it would take to do all of them the same way.

      Then I Googled “large soft brush” and landed on a fabric brush. It’s perfect. It’s like a giant, super-soft toothbrush.

      I use it on a different section of a cabinet door each time I’m in the kitchen waiting for the microwave to ding or for the kettle to boil. The progress I’m making is visible, tangible, and very, very satisfying. :-)

    15. I take tea*

      Clean the microwave. Boil water with a little lemon in for a fresh feel, and the steam softens up gunk. Defuzz the water kettle or clean the coffee maker properly.

    16. Squidhead*

      Refill the bird feeders!

      Set up your calendar for next year (we are a paper-calendar-in-the-kitchen household, so paydays, birthdays, and important reminders need to get transferred onto next year’s calendar around this time for us.)

    17. Retired Prof*

      I translated all the items on my electronic to-do list into Italian. Now even if I don’t do any of them, I feel like I’m studying my Italian while checking the to-do list. Plus my mundane chores sound more elegant in Italian.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          I agree!
          I wonder if somewhere else in the world people are happily translating their to-do lists from [you name the language] into English for the same reason.

  24. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Looked out my back window this morning and there was a whole dang tree missing.

    We had a lot of rain last night followed by a lot of wind (not as much as the tornado folks but apparently still enough) and one of the trees apparently had shallow enough roots that it just pulled itself right out and lay down. Fell away from the fence and the other trees, luckily, so nothing was damaged — we just have to manage cleanup now. But that was a whole double-take this morning. :)

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Those sudden & unannounced scenery changes can be unnerving! I hope your double-take didn’t come with a spit-take. ;-)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Haha, nope! Put on my husband’s big stompy boots (see also, lots of rain and wet ground) and tromped out to get a closer look and make sure nothing was damaged, and that was about it.

        When housemate came upstairs, he looked out the kitchen window and went “Yup, it sure fell down. As long as nothing is damaged, that looks like springtime Mike’s problem.” Which seems reasonable to me, nothing is damaged and it’s not in the way or anything, so as long as we get to it fairly early in the spring, it should be fine to lay there for a couple months over the winter.

    2. fposte*

      I’m in tornado country so I’m used to the yard-check in the morning. We don’t seem to have progressed beyond a tornado watch last night in my area but the winds were fierce. I was quite surprised to see how few things were down this morning–I guess that trees are less vulnerable without leaves to catch the gusts.

    3. Morning reader*

      Tree roots are mostly in the first foot of soil anyway. They spread a distance and might be intertwined with the roots of other nearby trees which iirc does more for their stability than depth. Was your fallen one separate from the others?
      There’s a large branch fallen off the one of the white pines next door. The neighbor has several tall ones and I console myself with the idea that they are holding each other up. Lots of branches and needles and pine cones galore but so far, the trunks are holding.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        The closest to it are a lilac bush, what used to be a 50 foot ash tree before we took it down a couple years ago (it was diseased about 20 feet up, so we cut it down to the ground, and now the stump is regrowing saplings), and a 3 year old peach tree (about 15 feet away), so even if the roots from the old ash tree were tangled up with it, I don’t think that was enough to help.

        But we were pretty sure the fallen tree was mostly dead anyway and needed to come out, removing it was going to be on next spring’s list so now that list entry is just … revised. :)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Exchange I have had with said housemate:

        Me: “You may not use a gas-powered chainsaw in the house.”
        Him: “Of course not. That’s why I got an electric one.”
        Me: “…. carry on.”

        (The sofa wasn’t coming out of the basement in one piece anyway.)

        1. Enough*

          Friend’s daughter got tired of waiting for her father to move a dresser out of her room. He came home to find the pieces in the basement. A sledge hammer can be your friend.

      2. Salymander*

        Recently, my husband has had a lot of fun cutting off tree branches that are too close to the house. He bought a rather small electric chainsaw thingy for the purpose. We call it the Baby Chainsaw. Which, now that I have just typed it, seems like a name that could be interpreted in an unfortunate way, yaknow? Yikes!

    4. WellRed*

      I thought this was going to be a story about someone cutting a tree for Christmas! Glad that’s not the case.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      With all the rain here this year, our yards were really wet. The water came up over my shoelaces almost everywhere I walked.
      There was a large tree in my neighborhood that fell over because of all. the. water. I got ready for bed and it was there when I got my final drink of water and turned in. When I got up in the morning I went to the window, I saw the sky and stars then I realized “where is the massive tree?”. It fell over in the night. It was about 200 years old and probably 4 feet in diameter. We never heard it- I mean -even the dog did not heard it. The most remarkable part is that it did not hit any buildings (and therefore no one was injured).
      The lack of noise started a new joke here. “If a tree falls over and there ARE people around to hear it, does it make any noise?” No. It does not. BTDT.

    6. A Feast of Fools*

      Ooh, yeah. I looked out my bedroom window one day this spring and had that weird feeling that something was off. It wasn’t until I’d fired up my [battery-powered] lawn mower and my neighbor hollered from the other side of the fence, “Come see where my tree landed!” that I realized the weirdness was the missing 60-foot hackberry tree that had been at the back of our shared property line (though the roots were on her side).

      The thing had done a dramatic, high-school-acting-level, *swoon-and-faint* straight down her side of our fence line, landing with the tips just inches from her carport. You could see how the tree had basically swiveled on its root ball, just like a diva making sure that she landed perfectly on the fainting couch with the back of her hand to her forehead.

      One of the branches bounced off the edge my detached garage, causing ~$250 in repairs. But had the tree landed just five feet to the east, it would have taken out my shed and my entire garage.

      When trees fall like that overnight — and it’s not one of your own trees — it’s kind of like when a coworker shaves his beard and you know something is different but you can’t quite put your finger on it. :-D

      1. allathian*

        I’ve had multiple experiences of that kind when coworkers change their hair or get new glasses.

        Luckily no trees have fallen on our lot, because the lot next door is a small wood that’s never been cut. It’s downhill from us, though, so that decreases the risk somewhat, at least if the trees are healthy.

        In 2011 we built our house, and one of the trees on the municipal lot next to our boundary was rotten. We asked the municipality to cut it down multiple times, to no avail. Then, around Christmas, storm Dagmar arrived. When it was ravaging Sweden, my husband called the municipality again, and told them that if the rotten tree fell on our almost-completed house, we/our home insurance company would be suing the municipality for damages. They sent someone to take the tree down on Christmas Day, and the storm hit on Boxing Day. The dominant wind direction was such that the risk of it falling on our house would’ve been very high.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My dad did that the whole time I was growing up — I’m mostly face-blind due to a total lack of visual memory anyway, and he switched back and forth between beard/mustache and clean-shaven about every six months. Drove me bonkers. (He keeps his whole head shaven now that he’s gone mostly bald, so at least I recognize him consistently every visit now. :) )

          Yikes! I’m glad they did finally come and get yours out in time at least. This one was located such that the only thing it really might have done damage to was if it fell in the direction of the fence, it MIGHT have taken out a fence panel, but I’m not sure that hitting the fence wouldn’t have done more damage to the tree in this case. Glad we didn’t have to test the theory.

    7. Retired Prof*

      This happened to us but it was an 80’ pine tree and it landed on the edge of our cabin. While there are dead trees in the forest, this one was green and healthy, but a had shallow root mat. Rainstorm + wind did it in. I felt very betrayed looking at the crushed wall and roof. I trusted that tree to be that close to the house, and it betrayed me.

      1. Anima*

        The day our fig tree in our backyard needs to be cut down will be a sad day. It’s the highest tree for miles (it’s so big it’s easily identifiable on google maps despite google maps being from around 2008). We rent, so it’s not actually our tree, but I have a connection to this fig. It should be as old as the house, which will be 100 in a few years.
        Our landlord says she has the tree monitored by an arborialist because if it falls, it will do *so much* damage to houses and properties all around, regardless where it falls. Hope the fig never falls and never need to be cut.
        That said, it will possibly involve a crane and the fire department when this tree needs to be taken down because of the dense buildings around, I would like to witness that spectacule. Hope it’s not needed for a while!

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          I had a 60-70 year old American Elm in my backyard. Its branches covered my *entire* backyard, which is a smidge under half an acre, and includes a detached garage and a big-enough-to-live-in shed. It, too, was easily visible on Google Maps.

          It eventually succumbed to disease and needed to be taken down. The tree cutters climb waaaaaaaay up to the top and started cutting off “bite-size” pieces and lowering them to the ground. The guy in the tree tied a rope around the branch he was targeting before cutting it, tossed one end of the rope to his coworker on the ground and tied off his end on another branch in such a way that it acted like a pulley. The branches didn’t get lowered straight down, but got pulled away from the trunk and guided to a safe landing spot by the crew on the ground.

          Once they got the outer branches trimmed down, they started cutting bigger and bigger chunks, eventually sawing off 3-4 foot high chunks of the massive trunk.

          So a well-trained crew could cut down the fig tree without disturbing or harming anything around it. I hope that’s not necessary for a long, long time. :-)

        2. Anima*

          I learned the wrong word, its not a fig, it’s a spruce! English is not my first language, ooops. I’m sorry for any confusion caused.

  25. The Prettiest Curse*

    The staff at our GP surgery have done an incredible job taking care of me and my husband this year, and I’d like to send them an end of year gift. If there’s anyone here who works for the NHS, are there any restrictions on patients giving gifts to staff? And what would be most appreciated if we can give them a gift?

    1. Jay*

      I’m a doc in the US, so I can’t speak to NHS rules. When I was in primary care practice, food that could be shared among the staff was definitely the most appreciated gift.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Worker for the NHS here. Large gifts have to be declared and are not allowed to be accepted, so definitely not a collection of money or anything like that.
        But food for the whole office to share is a great idea (not homemade) either ;) I always appreciated boxes of chocolates for example.

        1. Cordelia*

          yes another NHS worker here – something that can be left in the kitchen/staffroom/wherever, at work and be shared by everyone there. Chocolates, biscuits, cakes, etc. Not homemade, and not too expensive.
          Fancy teas also go down well in our clinic, especially for people who are avoiding chocolate for whatever reason.
          Thankyou for this thought

      2. JSPA*

        US here; I’ve been sending fancy dried fruit, occasionally chocolate covered. Sometimes seeds or fancy popcorn, but I avoid peanuts, “tree nuts,” cashews and soy (as people who are allergic can be allergic at a distance) and make sure some or all of the selection is sulfite-free. Nothing “scented.” Google says the NHS gift rules cut in at £50.

        “The guidance will permit staff, such as nurses, to receive a box of chocolates or other small tokens of gratitude from patients but will require them to decline anything that could be seen to affect their professional judgement. Gifts with a value over £50, accepted on behalf of organisations, will need to be declared.”

        I suspect that if you gave £40 worth at one point and husband gave £40 worth at another, that might save them the bother of reporting. Don’t know if you can have it delivered direct from the manufacturer with a gift receipt that does not show your name, or only says, “with gratitude.” That seems like it would get around the stated problem of encouraging preferential treatment (?).

        1. Cordelia*

          £80 is too much, I’d say…(speaking as an NHS receiver of gifts, not as a mean gifter!). That’s a lot of chocolates! I’ve always understood the limit to be around £10, but I don’t know where I’ve got that from. Really, its kind of you to think of the staff, and it will be appreciated, but as Laura says, a fancy box of M&S biscuits is the level you’re looking at. And a card with a handwritten note, rather than an anonymous gift message, probably

    2. Laura Petrie*

      I’m not working in the NHS (yet!) but have been on placement in NHS settings. I usually buy the fancy boxes of M&S biscuits and some chocolates for the team at the end of my time with them.

  26. cat socks*

    Has anyone used the Minute Clinic at CVS? Yesterday I was trying to rescue a stray, injured cat and he got his teeth on my finger in the process. The wound healed,, but it was inflamed and I wanted to get some antibiotics.

    It was later in the day and my regular doctor didn’t have any office or televisit appointments. The clinic had an appointment available within the next 30 minutes so I quickly signed up online. When I got there I told them the wound was on my finger, but they weren’t able to treat it. They said something about the tendons being affected and recommended I should go to urgent care for a more thorough examination.

    A few years ago I went to a Minute Clinic while I was traveling because I had UTI symptoms and they weren’t able to treat that either. Their website lists a lot of services, but I’m not really sure what they can treat.

    Thankfully I was able to get a televisit for today. I’ve had a cat bite before and it healed up fine with the antibiotics.

    Also, the kitty is doing well. There’s a family in my area who cares for a colony of cats and they noticed this friendly guy start to show up. He had some wounds on his body and they were concerned it was deliberate. He’s set up in a dog crate in my basement and I’ll be taking him to a shelter next week.

    1. Steel Before Iron*

      I used it a few weeks for a skin irritation/rash. They recommended a cream but it hasn’t helped so I’m going to meet with my doctor or dermatologist. But it was fine for quick peace of mind.

    2. WellRed*

      Yes for what turned out to be bronchitis. Efficient, friendly convenient and I would recommend. I think it was about $79 for the visit.

      1. WellRed*

        Oh I see you’ve not had as much luck. Yeah, there is definitely a lot they can’t do, some possibly out if abundance of caution.

        1. cat socks*

          Yes, I understand some services are probably limited due to liability. They were very friendly, though and I didn’t have to wait much at all before my appointment.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have gotten abx from a minute clinic before when I had a tooth infection and both my regular doc and my dentist were out of town because their kids were both getting married (not to each other), and I see them for minor things like ear cleaning once or twice a year. In general, they’re best for sick, not injured, if that distinction makes sense.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (I’m surprised they weren’t able to address your UTI symptoms though, I know a couple of people who have had UTIs treated through Minute Clinics with no issues.)

      2. cat socks*

        That makes sense about sick vs. injured. That’s good they could treat the tooth infection. My husband had a tooth problem about 10 years ago and we had to find an emergency dentist. Good to know they can treat those types of infections.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          yeah, they couldn’t do anything about the actual TOOTH obviously, but I was just like, I would like my face to not fall off before I’m able to get in to see the dentist next week please? and they’re my normal pharmacy, so they had access to records that said I’d been prescribed abx before with no problems.

    4. Ashloo*

      It seems weird and incorrect that they didn’t immediately write you a script for antibiotics for a cat bite. I had a bad one earlier this year from (ironically) administering antibiotics to a former neighborhood roamer (happy indoor guy now). I used a telehealth appointment and the doc took it extremely seriously.

      My only interaction with Minute Clinics has been to check out a rash and drive-thru COVID testing. I think they suggested a topical steroid cream to start, but they also didn’t prescribe anything for the rash. Maybe they can’t? In any case, I’m glad you were able to find appropriate treatment in the end!

      1. cat socks*

        Yes, I was hoping to get started on the antibiotics yesterday. Thankfully the doc on the televisit will be sending prescription in today. It seemed to be the issue that the bite was on my finger that was the problem.

        1. Cj*

          I can understand recommending you seek further treatment for the injured tendon, but they should have started you on antibiotics immediately. You can get sepsis and die from and infected cat bite.

        2. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

          I follow many cat blogs and FB sites all dedicated to cats in some way. Cat teeth go in deep and often heal over very quickly so you don’t realize how deep and bad it actually is, until the red streaks go up your arm. I have read this story many many times. Quite a few people get hospitalized for days due to this. I love cats but yeah, they can do their damage.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Speaking as someone who did get hospitalized for a cat bite, yes, the sooner the better.

            Also, if it is a stray cat, the clinic might report the bite. When my cat bit me, the hospital ER reported it to the county animal control office even though it was my cat. I then had to argue with someone in the corridor that no, you were not going to dig up her poor little body for rabies tests; her shots were current, and here is the name of her vet.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Many states mandate that medical providers (and veterinarians) who see patients on the receiving end of mammal bites report them to the state department of health (either directly or indirectly) as a public health issue. (I’m the one who does the reporting for one of the hospitals in my system.)

            2. cat socks*

              Yes, bites can be very serious and that’s why I wanted to get started with treatment soon. I’ve gotten scratches before, but the teeth are worse. Thankfully they didn’t say anything about reporting the bite. Kitty is not neutered and hasn’t had any shots, but will be treated at the shelter next week.

              1. Cj*

                I don’t want to worry you, but since this is an unvaccinated, injured straight with wounds, is it possible those wounds are from a rabid animal? If you have any suspicion at all that is that that is possible, you should tell your health care provider and get rabies shots. I guess now it’s only like three shots in the shoulder, not 14 in the stomach like it was decades ago when my cousin needed them after being bit by a rabid bat.

                If you don’t want them to put the cat to sleep in order to test it, tell them it was a stray you don’t have access to or something and just get the shots. Then keep a close eye on the cat for symptoms in the future.

                1. Cj*

                  I wanted to add that that my husband and I have been bitten by many a feral cat we were trying to catch in order to get them fixed. But this was a supposedly friendly cat that bit you, which is a little different, and since they have wounds it would concern me more.

                2. cat socks*

                  Good point. Thanks for bringing it up. The people who were caring for the kitty previously think he was being hurt by someone deliberately. But I will check with the doc about the process for rabies shots

          2. WS*

            My cat bit me very deeply (he’s an old man and got a fright) and I went to the (usually calm and undemonstrative) doctor and got a dramatic lecture with gestures about how cat bites are the SECOND WORST because at least dog bites pull away but of course human bites are the WORST and I’m lucky it wasn’t a human!

            (I’m in Australia so no rabies concerns even if it wasn’t my indoors cat!)

      2. Windchime*

        Yeah, I had a cat bite a few years ago and I called the clinic to see if I needed to go right in or if it was OK to wait till the next day. They told me to come in now and they treated it like a snakebite or something. Lots of scrubbing, a tetanus shot, and all kinds of wrappings and antibiotics. Apparently cat bites can go bad very quickly. This one was right through my thumbnail–it still gives me the chills to think about how that felt.

    5. fueled by coffee*

      I’ve used minute clinics for things like flu shots/TB tests/strep tests. At least in my area, they are staffed by nurse practitioners, rather than doctors, so I think there are limits on what they are allowed to do — specifically, I don’t think they can prescribe medication (I think a separate doctor had to prescribe the antibiotics for my strep, but it was years ago so I don’t really remember).

      So that might be why they were hesitant to deal with your finger or the UTI. I find that the minute clinic is convenient for routine shots and stuff, but I would go to an urgent care for more pressing issues.

    6. Blackcat*

      Huh, I’ve had great luck with minute clinics for exactly things like UTIs and sinus infections while traveling. They’re the only “in network”’option for me when I’m out of state, and it be universally had good experiences. Sorry they couldn’t help you!

    7. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      Based on my experience with Minute Clinic, they should be able to treat that. I’ve used them a couple of times and it was about equal to visiting a more formal urgent care, but faster. The only problem I had was that one time there was weirdness with insurance covering it, but that might not have been Minute Clinic’s fault.

    8. HamlindigoBlue*

      Minute Clinic isn’t my favorite. They prescribed the wrong kind of antibiotic for my son to treat strep, so we had to have his regular doctor get him a second round of the correct script. Since then, I’ve only gone back to get a signature for a sports physical. I think my husband went there to get a prescription shampoo also. I am glad Minute Clinic is available as an option, but not long after the strep incident, an urgent care associated with our doctor opened up. We just do urgent care now.

    9. JSPA*

      Unless you had an anaphylactic rabies vaccine, or are in the UK, I’d strongly, strongly suggest the ER. Also check your tetanus shot date.

      Rabies isn’t something where you get a second chance.

  27. HannahS*

    Any reformed complainers out there? What helped you?

    I have a sister who complains a lot. She has normal problems (doesn’t like her job, pandemic was and is hard, rough commute, is lonely etc.) Her complaining forms a significant portion of the time we spend together. She knows what the solutions are to her problems (it’s mostly waiting until circumstances allow her to change them), so it’s mostly an endurance game for her right now. I have two separate issues.

    1. Frankly, I’m tired. Listening to someone complain as much as she does is hard on me. It’s a big stream of negativity to absorb.

    2. Complaining isn’t helping her. She gets worked up while reciting the litany of everything that’s wrong with her life. She’s unhappier afterwards rather than calmer, and she’s sometimes bewildered or upset that she doesn’t feel better after telling me about what’s wrong.

    I’m one of her only sources of emotional support and I’m honestly fine with that, most of the time. I’d like to do something other than just suggest therapy or set a limit on complaining for my own sake. If you’re someone who used to complain a lot, what helped you shift? Was there anything your loved ones did/could have done to help you be more at peace with unpleasant situations?

    1. Reba*

      Have you had the meta-conversation about her conversation? Point 2 makes it sound like you might have? If not, I think you are in a great position as someone who knows her well to basically say kindly what you said here. “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem to feel better after venting, and frankly I don’t feel better either although I want to support you.” See what she says!

      My other suggestion that comes from having been in my own rut is to come up with things to look forward to and talk about them instead. “What are you looking forward to?” The answer may be, not much. You may have to make your own fun here. If you have the time to offer her to watch a movie or show or read a book and then get together/call to talk about it, that can be a pretty simple activity to look forward to, and even become recurring. But you just had a baby, right? so perhaps that’s not realistic. :) But I feel like some near-term future, small, positive stuff can be part of changing this habit.

      1. Lasslisa*

        Asking better questions is a big step, I find – change the pattern and make her think a bit. Ask about what’s been pleasant lately, ask if she’s watching any good shows, if she’s heard from any mutual friends lately, disrupt the flow with a “wow, that sounds like a real shame. What else have you been up to? Have you gotten out for anything special this week?”

    2. WellRed*

      My mom is a complainer (she’s also fun but the complaining is suuuuch a drag). When I’ve found myself starting to sound like her I’ve made a conscious effort to STOP. Like literally talking to myself to cut it out. I also call out my mother when it’s too much. To get credit, she listens.

    3. MissGirl*

      Do you know if she does this with other people or just you? I have a brother that brings out this side of me. If you’d ask him, I’m a giant Eeyore. If you ask me, I’m a generally pleasant person. I’ll be perfectly happy and then he calls. He has a way of minimizing my complaints that makes me dig in deeper to them. It’s a bad cycle I’m trying to break out of. I try to remind myself he stinks at emotional support so I can’t use him for that and to keep things more surface level. But just once I’d love him to say, it does suck that you’re alone on Christmas. I think he feels if he commiserates with me then he has to fix it so he just doesn’t.

      In that vein, here’s my advice. Offer her sympathy without judgment or trying to fix it or minimize it. Even in your comment, you’re minimizing her complaints. I know you say they’re “normal” complaints but they’re really not. For instance, I’m lonely but I also have a great job and no commute. I’m glad I don’t have all her problems.

      Let her complain for however long *you’re* comfortable with and genuinely commiserate. Maybe that’s one minute, five minutes, or one phone call a week then shift the conversation. Maybe if she feels heard and doesn’t have to justify her problems, she won’t dwell on them with you. Ask her about things she’s excited about. Does she have hobbies you can talk about? Are there things she’s looking forward to? Show genuine interest in these things even if they’re not your thing.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Buckets of empathy.

      My relative passed away before we could reset from the stress-transfer pattern. (I got cancer a year before this, which meant I won the family bad week contest hands down for the next year and it turned out if not telling me how hard other people had it, she had nothing more to talk about to me–logic says stress, depression, age; emotion was sad and feeling unseen.) I really regret not figuring out a way to break that pattern earlier, because it strongly affected the relationship in a way I think was big for me and unnoticed for her. But she would have regretted it if she recognized the pattern, and maybe been willing to work on breaking it.

    5. fposte*

      This is thoughtfully written, but I’m not sure that it escapes the usual challenges of “How can I make this person change?” Two possibilities I haven’t seen–talk to her about it in just the way you’ve laid it out here, with emphasis on 2, and find an activity you two can share that can carry some of the conversational burden and, hopefully, give your sister some more positive energy in her life. Maybe you’ve got some insight from counseling patients? If so, bring it to bear without positioning yourself as the authority. There’s certainly plenty of research indicating that constant venting does, in fact, make things worse, so if you need an appeal to authority it’s there.

      I’ve gone through complaining phases (and have definitely been in the “it’s making things worse” spiral), but mostly it’s with particular people; it’s very much a habit, and you can be emotionally supportive without being a captive audience for an unchanging movie. So as much as you don’t just want to set a limit on complaining, I think there’s merit to that for both of you–at this point it seems like your conversations are mostly about her and mostly her complaining, and that’s not good for either of you. I would be inclined to broach it in those terms–“I feel like we’re focusing on complaints a lot in conversations, and since it’s about stuff that isn’t changing it just stresses us both out more. I’d like to spend more of our time together training the dog/learning to tapdance/painting the basement, at least for a little bit. Would you be game for that?”

    6. Wishing You Well*

      You can only change you, not someone else. Suggesting therapy and setting a time limit on complaining are sound coping mechanisms, which I hope you will do. You can also start asking your sister some form of: “What are you going to do about it?”
      I have a friend who’s a chronic complainer. She is the most put-upon, burdened person she knows. This is her identity. She gets lots of attention and drowns out other conversations. This is far too rewarding for her to change. I changed by spending very little time with her. I’m sorry for her troubles; I just can’t help her. You could be more helpful to your sister by listening LESS but you can’t change her.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        THIS, MissGirl. I can be a bit of an Eeyore, myself, but nothing aggravates me more than someone who won’t shut up about “fixing” me. I don’t need to be fixed, I just need an ear for a bit. And yet, people like to rush straight to fixing it – this is also why therapy is a no for me – the idea of therapy is to fix things, and the fact is, I don’t need things *fixed*.

        1. JSPA*

          Nobody owes an ear, though, unless you pay them. A lot of therapy is less (or not at all) about fixing you, and more about being a “paid ear,” while you work through the stuff yourself, that’s more easily worked though by saying it out loud to someone else. “How do you see approaching that” is a dead common therapy response.

          1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

            But if you don’t want to be an ear, just say that rather than jump to trying to fix it for me. You’re not a therapist, so you don’t get to try to solve my stuff; that’s my job.

            1. JSPA*

              Strong agree. Only addressing the line,

              “this is also why therapy is a no for me – the idea of therapy is to fix things, and the fact is, I don’t need things *fixed*.”

              You don’t need to be fixed, you don’t need someone else to fix your life, but you do appreciate an ear that’s willing to listen to you be eeyore. You can use your friend time for that, if your friends are willing; you can pay a professional to listen (with ground rules of, “not looking for a fix!”) and do something else with your friend time. Some therapists (and some friends) will not be on board with that, as is their prerogative; some (of each) will.

        2. allathian*

          Maybe you don’t need things fixed, but nobody owes you an ear. I find it very annoying to listen to someone complain repeatedly who refuses to do anything about the causes of their complaints. If a friend wants to vent, I’ll often ask, “do you want to brainstorm solutions, or do you just want to vent?” and if it’s the latter, I’m very firm with only listening once or twice to them complaining about a particular issue. Often, someone who will listen repeatedly to complaints about the same issue will be an active enabler, because the person who gets to vent doesn’t have to do anything else about their issue, venting lets them relieve their feelings enough that they can continue to put up with whatever it is that’s making them miserable for a while longer. If I’m the one with a complaint, I’m careful to share the load between friends, so that no one has to be my friend-therapist.

          Some people thrive on drama, but they’re exhausting. I recognize my limits and I’ve learned to set boundaries. When I was single and lived alone in my early 30s, a friend of mine was in a relationship that was making her unhappy for various reasons. It was a matter of incompatibility and unwillingness to compromise and set boundaries rather than abuse; he was very extroverted and wanted to party every weekend, she was more introverted and would’ve been happier just seeing a friend or two, or staying at home, and he resented that and let her know it, so she’d often give in and resent herself and him later when she was exhausted from the parties she never wanted to go to in the first place. She vented and I let her vent, until I couldn’t take it anymore. So I told her that I couldn’t be a sympathetic ear for her troubles anymore, but if she ever left her then-partner, I’d be happy to let her stay at my apartment while she figured out her options. I didn’t hear from her for nearly a year and actually thought she’d ghosted me as a friend (even if we didn’t use that word in the early years of the millennium), until she called me and said she wanted to leave her boyfriend and asked if my offer of a place to stay was still on. So she stayed a few weeks at my place while looking for a new apartment, I and a mutual friend helped with the move one day when the ex was at work. I guess we were lucky in that the ex didn’t cause any trouble when he realized she meant it when she said it was over. He did try and get her back a few times, but finally desisted when she didn’t answer his texts and let his calls go to voicemail. It was his apartment and the furniture was his, so she basically left with a couple suitcases and a backpack. I also helped her furnish the new apartment by going to flea markets and second hand shops with her. We’re still friends, and now she’s happily married to another extrovert, but he’s happy to party with his friends without her, and in return she’s happy to go to events that he thinks they should attend as a couple, li