weekend open thread – December 4-5, 2021

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn. An island’s totalitarian government bans the use of more and more letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial to the town’s namesake.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,083 comments… read them below }

  1. Tattoo question*

    Those who have tattoos – did you tip your tattooist and if so, how much?
    And do you have aftercare advice?

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Yep. I gave him around 20% of the total, mostly because I was a walk in and because he did a bang up job on cleaning up my crude attempt at drawing.
      Your artist can probably give you the best advice on aftercare. I got mine many, many winters ago. I’m sure there have been advances in care since then.

    2. Holly the spa pro*

      I tipped my artist 20% of the total at the end (it was a full sleeve done over about 2 years). I dont know if that is the appropriate percentage but i work in a gratuity based business myself so ill always tip if that is an option and tipping is a common practice for tattoos but the amount seems to vary.
      For aftercare im obsessed with saniderm for the first week or two and then aquafor after but your artist will (should) give you an aftercare regimen and you should follow that. They will be invested in you preserving their work.

    3. mreasy*

      Yes – at least 20%, often more. My last one (last week) was much less expensive than I had expected and I ended up tipping 40%. Follow the tattoo artist advice for aftercare – otherwise, I usually wash with mild soap & water twice a day and use a very thin coat of Aquaphor.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      20-30%, usually. Aftercare: Don’t use Neosporin or cling film.

      I’ve had good results with vitamin A&D ointment, which is what my first tattoo artist suggested 20 years ago (geez). My bestie swears by tegaderm – I haven’t ever tried it myself, but probably will do next time around, whenever that is.

    5. Tattoo question*

      20% seems to be the going rate for tipping. I think that’s a lot, I’m in the UK and I do think that tipping conventions are different here. However, I’d rather give more than not enough.
      My tattoo will be on my back and I don’t have anyone to apply cream to it, I wonder if I can use a soft cloth or something to do it?

      1. JustForThis*

        I’m pretty sure that tipping conventions in the US and in the UK are quite different (as in: much lower in the UK). Maybe ask a few UK friends about that as well? I’d guess that 10% would be plenty.

        1. Boof*

          Don’t know about tats but for grneral service industry I thought folks are paid at least min wage / normal wages and so tips are only for extra “above and beyond” service, vs USA waiters etc are paid a cery low hourly rate (below min wage; like under 3$/hr) because tips are expected as part of the payment – so tip at least 15% (frankly 18% is “normal”). And while USA employers are required to pay extra to at least meet min wage if not enough tips you can imagine they won’t employ someone very long if that’s what’s happening. (Not sure how tattoo artists charge but this seems to be common in most USA service industries; best to look up advice ahead if tine online to avoid not paying someone for their work)

      2. peasblossom*

        Ask your tattooist, but based on my experience it’s a no on the soft cloth (abrasive, more likely to rub out ink). I have a couple of back tattoos, and you might be surprised about how much you can reach on your own. Try now, before you get it done, to see how well you can reach.

        Also, I’ll second the A&D ointment recommendation as well as, in later stages, lubriderm (or another unscented lotion) to keep it from drying out.

        1. mreasy*

          I’ve also used A&D for early stages, and any unscented lotion after a few days. But based on the intricacy and color your recommendations might vary from your artist.

        2. nobadcats*

          It’s also a really great stretching exercise for that area between your shoulderblades. Reach one arm over your shoulder, and the other behind your waist, and try to clasp your hands together. I did that a lot before I got my shoulder tattoo and it really helped when I needed to apply ointment.

          Also: second, third, and fourthing the no on Neosporin. I won’t even let it in my house.

      3. Laura Petrie*

        I’m in the UK and don’t generally tip- my artist has a standard hourly rate for her time. She also gives free aftercare which I use for the first few days.

        I clean it with Tattoo Goo body wash and I also like Stories & Ink aftercare cream. Backs are awkward to keep clean and moisturised, I got my husband to look after mine. Your artist might have some advice for you. I try avoid getting it too wet and gently pat dry, then moisturise.

        Good luck, new tattoos are exciting.

        1. Taking the long way round*

          That’s interesting.
          My tattooist charges £70/ hour which is why I’m wondering whether I should tip or not.
          The parlour didn’t mention it.

          1. Kat in Boots*

            I have no tattoos, but people should probably report what country they are in when sharing advice for you. I think tipping norms for all sorts of services vary WIDELY, depending on the country.

      4. Voluptuousfire*

        I have this thing I bought in Walmart called a lotion applicator for body. It looks like a back brush you use in the shower, a long handle like that but with a foam head that you can put the lotion on. Maybe that would work for anything on your back?

      5. JSPA*

        No tats, but recurrent tendinitis, rotator cuff and other motion limiting injuries that flare. You know how you can scratch a back itch on a door frame? I’ve occasionally had to tape super smooth foam to a door frame (with duct tape at head level and butt level) and slick that down with lotion, when there were no other willing hands currently in the same house. It can gather abrasive dust–and even a tissue or most sponges will leave residue that can then remain on you, (and the tape gunk is a misery to remove from the door frame, when you are done with the setup). But if you’re desperate, it works for moisturizing an itch– and there is no skin stretching.

    6. Dwight Schrute*

      Yep usually around 30 %, use second skin or tegaderm. Easiest heal ever. You can bring it to the shop and ask the artist to apply it or you can just apply it yourself after you get home. Leave it on for like 5 days, take it off in the shower and your tattoo will mostly healed. I used it on my most recent and it was awesome. Boyfriend has used it on several of his and the ones he used it on healed significantly faster and better than those without

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        I love that stuff. I used it for my most recent tattoo used it, and it was amazing. Might be a PITA to take it off your own back when the time comes, but it should be doable, and make the rest of the healing process much, much easier.

    7. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      We are 40-50% tippers. Our shop massively undercharges – they could be working anywhere in the world for two or three times what they charge – and we can afford to pay them well so we do.

      Our shop started using Tegaderm for aftercare a couple of years ago and I will never go back. It stays on 5 to 7 days depending on the size of the tattoo, and when it starts peeling off you have a few days of lotion (we use Aquaphor) and you’re done. There is a noticeable difference in the quality of what’s been healed with Tegaderm and what’s not.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        I’m chiming in late to this party to let everyone know that there is a spray version of Aquaphor. It was a life-saver when I was going through radiation treatment and needed to keep my skin moisturized but it was painful to rub it at all.

    8. Persephone Mongoose*

      I just got my second tattoo last month. It was $100 and I tipped $23 (CC surcharge). You can tip more if it’s especially well done. If you’re saving up for a tattoo, always save more than you think you’ll need.

      Aftercare: Aquaphor 4x a day for a month. You don’t need to use a lot; in fact, you shouldn’t as it can cause ink to leech out. Use just enough where there is no sheen over the applied area. Don’t panic at the scabbing, that’s normal and will go away as long as you consistently use the Aquaphor.

      Good luck and enjoy! Tattoos are fun.

    9. Rebecca Stewart*

      I didn’t but I was having a custom piece done so we set a good and fair price, and he was very very good.

      Keeping it moisturized is key. I had trouble because my bra band goes over part of it (full backpiece), and so I had to plan a couple days where wearing my swimsuit for some degree of support under my clothing was okay. (I got the work done in the swimsuit for modesty.) So if you have a clothing issue like that, consider that.
      I also peeled and shed like a snake and that’s normal.

      1. Tattoo question*

        That a really good idea re the swimsuit, thank you.
        And I think the price is fair for what the artist is doing.

    10. KR*

      20% in the US. Each tattoo artist will have their guidelines for aftercare and how they prefer you take care of it. Growing up we always did Bag Balm. I did Aquophor for my most recent leg piece and it worked well too. You will also want a gentle non-scented soap, either anti bacterial or anti microbial. I forget which one is the best for tattoos.

    11. e*

      I went to an artist who was early in her career and who I thought was drastically undercharging, so I gave her a little more than twice what she asked for. I think tipping 20-ish percent is more typical.

    12. Random Biter*

      I think every tattoo artist has their own preference on aftercare. Mine said don’t use A&D because it contains petroleum products and can clog up pores if too much is used. Although A&D does make a tattoo ointment. Mine recommends Aquaphor. It can be a little pricier, but I liked it. Don’t rub. Whatever you use just smooth on a light coat. And if you’re diabetic remember it will take a little longer to heal.

  2. Kiwiapple*

    Gift suggestions for an older couple (parents/step parent)? They live in the UK (I live overseas). Would like to avoid sweets/candy and alcohol if poss due to their health issues.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Do they have any old television shows they miss–the British equivalent of Carol Burnett, The Rockford Files, etc.–that you could buy in whatever video format they use, if any? If so, they could have fun rewatching them again.

    2. Double A*

      Are they at all tech savvy and are you someone who would supply a stream of pictures they would enjoy? We bought all the sets of grandparents a digital photo frame. I think I’ll be pretty into sharing photos this way, so it’ll be mostly me and my husband updating it (hopefully my brother will join in on the one for my parents).

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Those are great! A bunch of them let you update remotely, either through an app or just sending photos to a specific email, it’s a great way to share and display photos.

      2. bratschegirl*

        An elder in our family has a device called a “Skylight.” It’s a digital photo frame that connects to wifi, and it has a dedicated email address, and anyone who has the email address can send it a photo. This works if the recipient has wifi available and there’s someone local who can get it set up if the recipients aren’t up for doing that themselves. After that, the only requirement is that a designated gatekeeper be in charge of sharing the device’s email address with those who are invited to share pictures.

      3. overeducated*

        I love this idea but would love suggestions for budget options that work well. The ones I was finding reviews of are around $200, and we have a large family so that’s too much for an individual gift.

        1. SpookyScarySkeleton*

          Could you convince multiple family members to go in on it together? It seems like something everyone would appreciate giving.

    3. Morning reader*

      Hobby supplies if there is something applicable.
      Experiences, e.g. tickets to events they might enjoy.
      New electronics (I notice as I age the years slip by faster… that iPad I think I got just yesterday is 6 years old now…)
      Food subscription, e.g. snack or fruit of the month.
      Stuff for their pets if any, fresh chew toys, catnip, a fancy new collar or cat tree.

      1. LynnP*

        My parents loved getting tickets to events. One of us would get the tickets and another would arrange a nice dinner out close to the event.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I love to give experience gifts. Is there a symphony/concert hall or historical site in their area that sells gift certificates? That could be really fun.

      3. Lady Danbury*

        I recently did a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath with Premium Tours and it was such a great experience! I’ve been to the UK more times than I can count, so I usually don’t do a lot of tourist stuff but that’s definitely the type of thing that would be a good tourist for the day type excursion. Depending on where they’re located in the UK, there nay be similar tours or worthwhile tourist attractions nearby. Sometimes popular tourist attractions are overrated tourist traps while others are popular for good reason and totally worth a visit, even for locals. I live in a popular tourist destination and some of my best experiences have been playing tourist when I have visitors.

    4. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

      Subscription to something like the National Trust – if they like to visit posh houses and gardens! Or gift membership to their local zoo. Things like that.

      1. Grandma Mazur*

        Also the National Trust shop online has nice things for this demographic, I find (eg, scarves, gloves, garden ornaments and tools).

        Something from Lakeland if they cook?

        I used the Tesco photo printing service to ship some personalised photo calendars, mugs, etc to friends and in-laws…

      2. Radical Edward*

        Yes, seconding this if they like historical sites and/or outdoor destinations (even just reading about them, as you can get free guidebooks and magazines). National Trust, English Heritage, Historic Scotland etc – I gave a Historic Scotland membership to my mother one year so she could enjoy the discounts during her visit, and she adored the quarterly magazine that came with it.

        Another experiential gift option is to check out the arts and culture orgs in their area. Sometimes studios and other venues have gift voucher schemes that can be used on short courses (like printmaking or glass art) as well as for the usual gift shop purchases.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Combining history and love of doing things, some of England’s small museums are doing online classes, and sometimes their staff are doing the same. I’ve seen announcements that range from art workshops by the V&A to 19th c cookery by Paul Couchman, cook for the Regency Town House Museum of Bristol.
        (I am alas separated by a 6 hour time zone difference and have not managed to try any of these things myself as a result.)

    5. Miss Weiss*

      How about a digital picture frame? You can control the photos it displays via an app so the parents/step parent get updates on the go and can display the pictures without printing.
      I got Nixplay a while back and she loved it. It needs wifi to download the photos. Once set up, it’s automatic.

    6. The Dogman*

      Cheese selection? You can send “Cheese boards” to people in the UK, most of us love cheese, and a selection to choose from is awsome!

    7. Loopy*

      My dad loves getting Great Courses (you can give in streaming, audio only or DVD format) they have a very wide selection of courses (more traditional academic topics and more lifestyle/hobby topics as well) taught by well known professors and experts.

    8. fposte*

      Following this. I’d love especially to hear about other UK food subscriptions or foodstuff gift boxes other than the usual Harrod’s/Fortnums.

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        In the UK, Sous Chef has a range of food gifts and fancy ingredients, including some nice gift packs. Valvona and Crolla in Edinburgh has lovely hampers but they seem to sell out. We’ve given, and been given, subscriptions to The Spicery spiceboxes, which come as monthly boxes of spice sachets with recipes. The Fishbox if they like fish (it is literally just fresh fish fillets shipped direct from the fishing port). Teapigs for tea. Castle Game for venison.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        Betty’s of Harrogate. Someone sent me a gift box when my son was born and it was the nicest surprise ever. I did not share.

    9. Laura Petrie*

      I agree on cheese, Cheese Shed is good, we used them for our wedding cheese.

      If health issues don’t mean cake is out of the question, Betty’s has some nice stuff, my parents enjoyed the selection I sent them. I’ve also ordered them a cream tea from Devon Heaven.

      A bit pricier, but you can order nice food and drink direct from Borough Market via GoodSixty. Or M&S hampers are popular with that age group.

      Do they like tea or coffee? Atkinsons have some nice options.

    10. HannahS*

      We got my in-laws a trio of fancy hummus. I know they eat hummus. If they don’t like this pretentious flavoured hummus, they can serve it to someone else or give it away (or throw it away).

      We got my parents a chrome cast, to make movie-watching more enjoyable for them.

    11. Fellow Traveller*

      I’ve given an olive oil subscription before – there’s a company where you can adopt a grove of olive trees and they will send you the oil from that grove, and I think that’s kind of neat and ships internationally.
      https://www.nudoadopt.com/

    12. Kate in Scotland*

      I can highly recommend Wise Bartender for a range of nice, adult non- alcoholic drinks if they would like that. My favourites are Belle sparkling wine, Drynks berry cider, and Punchy blood orange and cardamom punch but they do lots of nice gift selections.
      For my 70+ parent and step parent we bought some Christmas ornaments from the RSPB shop (excellent gift range again with a lot targeted to that demographic) and sponsored a rivet in the reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo ship in my dad’s name (Google saxon ship Sutton Hoo)

    13. Buni*

      The British Beekeepers Association lets you gift-sponsor a hive for a year. They pick you a hive as close as possible to the recipient and they get news and honey and little wax gifts from ‘their’ hive through the year – both my parents are quite Green / eco so we did it for their 45th anniversary.

    14. Lucy Skywalker*

      Send them flowers or a plant. (not sure if you can send flowers from another country, but you could find out)
      Books (but only if you know what they like to read)
      A calendar (something everyone can use)

      1. Anono-me*

        Is there a CSA (Community Supported Agricultural) nearby that delivers?

        Have you considered an Alexa or Google device? You can talk/video chat over them and they can be set up to call for help in emergency situations. (Assuming the set up logistics are not a problem. )

        The calendar idea is a good one. To build on it, there are lots of companies that will personalize calendars with your photos and add in special dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

        I’ve raved about the Contigo insulated mugs before. (Almost impossible to spill.)

        Fleece sheets, double sided fleece ponchos.

    15. Sungold*

      I am in the same situation. I sent Harrods gift hampers for a while which they liked. But the hampers are small relative to the cost. After a few years I did some googling and read a lot of hamper review articles and switched to Black Mountains Smokery in South Wales. Their boxes have been a big hit and are a better deal with plenty of opportunity to customize the contents. I order them for Christmas and birthdays. I send other family members fancy Christmas crackers from UK online retailers, better than the ones they would buy at the local shops.

    16. Koala dreams*

      Warm socks or gloves (I like the UK brand heat holders, they have extra warm socks for cold nights).
      Gift card to local theatre or cinema (if you think they’ll want to go when things open up).
      Herbal tea or sugar free/low sugar hot cocoa

    17. Sam I Am*

      Streaming service, even if you only get it for a few months. During the rainy or snowy season, depending on where they live. There’s a bunch out there.

  3. Let me be dark and twisty*

    Broken ankle advice? Clumsy me fell down the stairs last weekend and broke my ankle. Needed surgery to fix it and so I’m off my feet for 4-6 weeks. But I need some advice on how to get around — particularly how to make car rides comfortable for my leg since I have some unavoidable drives coming up that can’t be rescheduled or cancelled, and flying isn’t an option.

    On the bright side (if there ever was one for breaking your bones) I got all my holiday shopping in early Nov so that isn’t something I need to worry about with this limited mobility.

    1. Let me be dark and twisty*

      Forgot to add — I won’t be doing any of the driving on these trips, my partner and his brother will be!

      1. JSPA*

        Depending where you’re driving, the legality of either lying down across the back seat (while nominally buckled) or foot on dashboard may vary.

        Long trips are a risk for blood clots, as is surgery. As miserable as getting out and moving around often may sound, it’s far the smartest. And do check with your doctor, in that regard. Missing an important work trip or wedding can seem inexcusable, but in the context of, risk to life, limb, or organ system, that pales.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Sorry to hear about your injury. I was in a cast with a broken ankle and a big help was taking whatever opportunity I could to elevate my leg. It’s normal for gravity to increase swelling as the day goes on, which is uncomfortable and can slow down your healing. Since there are two other people doing the driving on your upcoming trips, I recommend setting yourself up in the backseat sideways where you can prop your leg up on a pillow. I found I was able to do that and still have my seatbelt on.

      Ice is also your friend for addressing swelling, even if there’s a cast between the ice and your injury. A bag of frozen peas, corn, etc. is reusable, doesn’t leak, and has small enough pieces that you can arrange it how you like on the injury. You can tie it on your ankle with a stretchy ace bandage. Good luck, and I wish you speedy healing!

        1. Been There/Done That*

          I have a bag in the freezer to use as an ice pack – I labeled it with a bright marker: Foot Friend/NOT FOOD anymore! Can refreeze iver and over and works great.

          1. Lil Bee*

            A friend and I were talking about our “medicinal” peas. They’ve been using the same bag for 20 years.

          2. sp*

            My mom doesn’t like cooked peas so when I was a kid, I thought that’s basically why the the grocery store sold them. I was delighted to learn that people do eat cooked peas and they are delicious when I moved out at 18. We can’t keep medicinal peas or my daughter will eat them so have lots of the first aid freezer things.

    3. LittleBabyDamien*

      I slipped last summer and broke mine!
      Stay well hydrated and avoid high salt if you tend to get swollen feet/fingers/whatever, and rest with your foot elevated as often as possible, to reduce swelling. I took Advil/Ibuprofen, as it is an anti-inflammatory as well as a pain killer, which will help. Take it on a schedule while traveling to keep ahead of pain.
      Being able to sit with your foot and leg aligned properly without straining will help so you might want to figure out ahead of time which seat works best for you. A front seat that you can adjust might be good, or you might need a firm cushion if the seat is low and your legs are sort of out in front of you. I found sitting with my knee at a right angle and my foot flat on the floor was better. Take it slow getting in and out, and get help if you need it!
      I had an air cast so could take it off and put it back on. I got extra cast socks so I could wash them daily, and I added footie socks (put on first) to make the whole set up easier and more comfortable. I wore my hiking runners on the other foot, which have a fairly thick sole, and for nicer occasions, a pair of low boots with a small heel, both of which more or less matched the height of the cast sole and made me less inclined to trip over my own feet (that’s the sort of thing I do!)
      I used a generous sized canvas tote bag with a strap that went across my body so I didn’t have to worry about a bag slipping and tangling in the crutches. Figuring out where to put the crutches in the car so that they didn’t slip and end up under the gas pedal/tangle in the seat belt/fall out when a door opened was interesting. Also be intentional about them when you sit or lay down in the house. I parked close to shopping carts, and then used the cart to lean on when shopping, but you may need to wait a few weeks for that.
      An over sized warm sock or something around your foot at night so you don’t get cold but don’t have to deal with the weight of the blankets on your ankle is nice. Sometimes folded blankets are easier to adjust to a comfortable angle than cushions for raising your foot at night. A pillow case or over sized tshirt can help hold the whole structure together while you sleep.
      Do talk to your doctor if you have concerns, but I found that there was continual improvement even after 3 months, and I didn’t need surgery, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t healed as soon as you think you should be!
      Get lots of calcium and vitamin D, you might talk to a health food professional or somebody at a store that sells supplements. Don’t overdo it, but do move around as much as you can without strain, to stay as fit and healthy as possible.
      Good luck, and I hope you heal quickly!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Lots of excellent advice in this post. I remember the challenges of where to pub the crutches when driving so they weren’t falling all over the place in the car. In particular, I concur about taking ibuprofen on a regular schedule, hugely helpful for controlling swelling and minimizing pain and therefore promoting healing.

        For carrying things, I prefer a backpack to a shoulder bag since it doesn’t get in the way of crutches. And the shopping cart suggestion is great once you’re a little further along. I used one crutch on the side of my uninjured leg, put the other crutch in the cart along with the groceries, and then leaned on the cart for supporting my injured side.

    4. Morning reader*

      You don’t want to fly with a broken ankle anyway.

      If the car you’ll be in doesn’t have a comfortable way for you to sit, consider renting a different vehicle for your trips.

      Wherever you’re going, let them know your situation and that you’ll need somewhere to sit with your foot up, and clear pathway from your room to the bathroom. You don’t want to get stuck farthest from facilities or be put in a bedroom only accessible by stairs. If they’ve got a office-type chair on wheels, that could be your spot. (I liked to use a crutch like a oar, pushing myself around from sink to cupboard.)

      Get a grabber so you don’t have to stand up so much to reach things.

      Swift healing to you!

    5. The Dogman*

      Take hemp seed oil, CBD and HMB suppliments.

      These are two powerful anti-inflammatories and a muscle wastage counteragent (HMB).

      Take them after the trip too, until you are better.

      I have HMB daily as I get dragged about by dogs a fair bit most weeks, and it is great for reducing healing time from weeks to days.

      Keep the foot elevated as much as possible, take icepacks or buy frozen peas etc to keep the swelling down.

      Good luck!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Stairs: Up with the good, down with the bad.
      This means if you are at the bottom of the stairs you start by putting your good foot on the first step. Then bring your bad foot up beside the good foot. Proceed by putting your good foot on the next step, then bring your bad foot up beside the good foot again.

      Going down stairs you put the BAD foot on the first step and bring the good foot beside it. Then go to the next step.

      You won’t get confused here because here is how to remember this: good go UP to heaven and bad go down to h3ll. Go up the stairs starting on the good foot, go down the stairs starting on the bad foot.

      Time consuming but it does help to keep a person safe.

      1. Might Be Spam*

        Good advice. When nobody was watching, I would sit on the steps and scoot up or down. It was faster and I could carry things.

    7. Colette*

      I broke my ankle falling down stairs 5 years ago.

      My advice: keep it elevated as much as possible. I had a car ride post-hospital but before the surgery, and we rigged it so that I was in the back row (of a Mazda 5) with the middle seat in front of me down so that I could elevate.

      My surgeon told me to take the cast off once a day and do ankle exercises – point and flex, side to side. It might be good to engage a physio now to give you good advice. (I dislocated my ankle, so this was important for my injury.)

      Get a knee scooter. I rented one, and it was amazing. It was easier to get around, and I had a stable base if I needed to bend over to pick something up. Before I had the scooter, anything I dropped stayed there until someone else picked it up.

      Once you’re out of the cast, go to physio and do the exercises they give you. I was in physio for about a year and a half; hopefully you won’t need as much. But take it seriously and do what they tell you – it makes a huge difference.

      1. nekosan*

        I second the knee scooter. If you are extra short or extra tall or extra heavy, be sure to get one that accommodates YOUR size. A basket at the front is super handy for carting things about. The one I has was “all terrain” (read: able to go over sidewalk cracks) and folded down, and did fit awkwardly in the trunk or back seat of a car.

        Get a cast cover for bathing; you should be able to find them at any drug store/pharmacy as well as online.

        I also got a shower bench and a shower handle. I needed my (luckily taller and stronger) sweetie to help me in and out of the shower. I probably would have come up with something if they weren’t available, but it was the simplest solution.

        1. nekosan*

          Ooo, and for car rides, easiest for me was back seat with the “bad” leg stretched out, but that was for say 30 minute trips. Not sure what the best would be for a four-hour drive. (Also, I’m short – 4’11” – so not sure how a more average sized person fits places.)

        2. Retired Prof*

          I am an unwilling knee scooter expert having had multiple ankle surgeries. You want the widest wheel base that will turn around in your living space. I fell off my first scooter and onto my bad ankle because the scooter was too teetery with a narrow wheel base. I now have an all-terrain scooter that is incredibly stable – does not collapse as easily for the car, but worth it for the stability. And you might as well buy one off Craig’s list – cheaper than renting and you can sell it for what you bought it for when you are done with it.

      2. JSPA*

        Many or all knee scooters overbalance (tip forward unexpectedly). I fell multiple times using one after foot surgery, bloodying my hands and pulling my foot stitches. Also got 4 weeks of hip inflammation (other leg) from propelling on it. Which isn’t to say, “don’t.” But for someone similarly clumsy yet drivem… they’re a hazard.

          1. JSPA*

            flat land? or slopes? Nearly flat streets and sidewalks, or streets with a high crown / sloped sidewalks (to handle a lot of rain, snow, or ice)? I suspect those make a big difference.

            1. Retired Prof*

              I have used my all-terrain scooter literally on all terrains – gravel, dirt roads, hills, carpet – and it’s very stable.

    8. PA Julia*

      I was older when I broke my ankle, also needed surgery. I’m in healthcare and saw folks who became permanently disabled from not maintaining strength during recovery from injury.
      I couldn’t manage crutches due to old injury on “good” side. Couldn’t do knee scooter since the knee was also damaged. Got a wheelchair from Goodwill. Great upper body workout! Took a week before I risked going out without someone to push me home when shoulders face out. But getting up the handicapped ramp on my own was a real rush!
      Since my (brand new!) job was not busy (new urgent care) I would practice sit to stand using the good leg, and hamstring curls on bad.
      I agree with elevating as much as possible. But also, resist temptation to drive too long. Get out and move, even just stand, wiggle toes, lift knee, every hour or so to avoid blood clots and just plain stiffness.
      Also, my husband installed a bidet attachment to the toilet. Amazing! Meant I could do adequate sponge baths until we’re figured out how to manage a shower in a tub.
      Good luck! Add my father would have said, This too shall pass!

    9. PA Julia*

      I was older when I broke my ankle, also needed surgery. I’m in healthcare and saw folks who became permanently disabled from not maintaining strength during recovery from injury.
      I couldn’t manage crutches due to old injury on “good” side. Couldn’t do knee scooter since the knee was also damaged. Got a wheelchair from Goodwill. Great upper body workout!
      Since my (brand new!) job was not busy (new urgent care) I would practice sit to stand using the good leg, and hamstring curls on bad.
      I agree with elevating as much as possible. Also, resist temptation to drive too long. Get out and move every hour or so to avoid blood clots and just plain stiffness.
      Also, my husband installed a bidet attachment to the toilet. Amazing! Meant I could do adequate sponge baths until we’re figured out how to manage a shower in a tub.

    10. the cat's ass*

      oh no! Elevate, hydrate, icing and getting a knee scooter can all really help. Car rides with your leg elevated in the back seat is a little awkward, to doable. Wishing you speedy healing!

    11. SofiaDeo*

      This isn’t related to getting around, but to general bone break healing. Stuff yourself with calcium rich foods for a few months. Salmon with skin & bones, cheeses, yoghurt, whatever. Give your body what it needs to heal optimally.

    12. A Simple Narwhal*

      Oh no, so sorry to hear that! If you’re using crutches, I recommend putting additional padding on the armpit pads, it makes things a lot more comfortable. I know you can buy pads specifically made for those, but another option is to get a pair of ice skate soakers instead! (If you don’t know, they’re what goes over the blades when not in use, they’re to soak up any additional moisture left behind and prevent rusting.) I’m a skater so when I was on crutches I used a spare pair I had lying around, but if you google it you can find them in a vast array of colors and designs, and for less money than the boring medical-intended ones, even though they’re essentially the same thing.

      You can also get little saddle bags to attach to your crutches to hold small things like your phone, wallet, keys, or even a drink if you don’t always want to wear a backpack or stuff things into your pockets (if you even have pockets!).

      I hope you have a speedy recovery!

      1. Christmas Carol*

        My boyfriend bolted a tin can to the outbound side of his crutches to he could carry a beer.

    13. Rebecca Stewart*

      I took a regular bed pillow and put it in the footwell and sort of bend the pillow U shape up around the ankle. It was tolerable, but the vibration was painful and more so as time went on. I was also in the front passenger seat to get the ability to stretch my leg out as anything else hurt very much.

      If it’s more than about 20 minutes, plan to up your pain meds. Honestly the best bet would be if you could sleep through as much of the drive as you can.

    14. Sandra Dee*

      Unfortunately, I am in the same boat, fell down steps on Black Friday and broke my right ankle. I had broken the left one 18 months ago. I am scheduled for surgery on Monday. My previous break did not require surgery. The knee scooter, keeping ahead of the pain and take it easy is the best advise.

    15. lissajous*

      Ooof, so many sympathies. I broke mine two months ago, I promise there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train. (I can *almost* walk normally now, but honestly being able to sleep without the moonboot and showering standing up were the biggest feel-good milestones for me.)

      For context: I broke my fibula, which is a very low pain break, at least for me. The whole time I was only on panadol for pain, and at the worst only 4 over a day.

      I had to do a six-hour car trip five days after the original break, and before surgery (guess who broke their ankle on holidays, whoo!). I sat in the back seat, with my foot up on the centre console, with padding underneath to absorb any vibrations. In this instance it was a brand new sheepskin rug folded up to fit under the leg, which was just about perfect.

      For short car trips (to/from hospital), my mum had a mini bolster thing – about 30 cm long, maybe 15 cm diameter. I’d sit in the front seat and put that under my thigh to prop it up. That way the weight of the leg wasn’t on the foot, it was on the thigh through the bolster, and so that was the contact point the car vibrations went through.

      In general: elevate. I’ve spent the past two months working from home *from bed* to elevate more easily.
      And when you start the muscle loading/range of movement physio stuff, get some magnesium to take daily. The last thing you want is muscle cramps in addition to the break!

      And the muscle atrophy is a lot, but I’m two weeks being able to load the foot without the moonboot, and it has come back very quickly. Not all the way there yet, but it looks like an actual calf again.

    16. Retired Prof*

      For icing I recommend Active Wraps – they make an ankle-shaped wrap, and their ice packs come with sleeves with Velcro that sticks inside the wrap. Get two of the small ice packs so you have one to use and one in the freezer. Works so much better than ace bandages.

  4. Aphrodite*

    What changes have you made to your holidays this year? Will those changes be permanent or temporary?

    Several months ago, I was hit with a sudden realization that I would no longer exchange gifts, neither giving nor buying. Instead, what I am doing is writing “letters” inside of a handpicked card just for that person, talking about mutual memories and fun times and telling them how much they mean to me.

    That decision didn’t really have anything to do with one made within the last month. I do not have a floor tree, that is, a six-foot tree any more nor will I again. I’ve had faux trees for about ten years now when the last of the live Christmas tree farms closed. But since I am no longer giving gifts–and more importantly, have three new and relatively young cats who seem to get their energy from plugging into wall sockets and soaking it up–there is no reason to have one and every reason not to. Instead, I have four tabletop trees that range from six inches to 24 inches in addition to a small miniature forest. Those and some other decorations completely fulfill my need for seasonal beauty. The tall tree is now in my past.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Last year I did more holiday baking than usual because a lot of traditions I usually enjoy weren’t available or didn’t feel safe. I ended up freezing a portion of everything I made and then bringing a package of assorted goodies to our masked/distanced/outdoor family visits. I’m soooo glad we get to actually socialize this year (inside, even!) but I’m freezing a lot of stuff to share again because it allows me to try more variety of new recipes + old favorites without eating them all at once.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t have a tree the last few years because my husband’s cat had a habit of assuming the soft ornaments were catnip toys, stealing them off the tree and flinging them around the house, then when she didn’t eventually get stoned, drowning them in the water bowl for the offense of not being drugs. Instead we installed hooks around the top of the living room, just below the ceiling, and drape a lighted garland around the room and I hang the ornaments on that instead. Looks just as festive, safer, and no rearranging the furniture.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        That cat sounds like a force to be reckoned with. New holiday gift idea: Catnip of the Month Club.

        1. Kat in Boots*

          This idea appeals to me: I have cats as well and one of the two is an ambitious climber/wreaker of things!

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I was really glad she at least never had any interest in the fragile ornaments. I have a bunch that are the felt stuffed type, and she just couldn’t get behind the idea that small cloth stuffy things existed that would NOT get her stoned.

      2. Sam I Am*

        I too do garland! The house is really too small for a tree, and no kids here to want one. The “formal garland” is white lights with silver, red and gold ornaments. The garland in the living room is colored lights and all colors of ornaments. I love it!

    3. the cat's ass*

      We’re doing a floor tree with trepidation-our new rambunctious kitty might be an issue.
      No indoor parties or open houses this year, and our tradition of dim sum for Christmas will be take out, same as last year; prior to that we’d head out to one of our fave dim sum places in SF but i am not feeling it this year, even tho they will be open for in-person dining. I don’t know if this is temporary or permanent.

    4. cat socks*

      I was actually in the mood to do some extra decorating this year. I put up a tree in the dining room, but this year I added a small tabletop tree to and end table in the living room. I’ve been wanting to make the house more cozy so I’ve been lighting candles more often.

      I have been very lucky that my five cats don’t mess with the tree. The mini panther likes to hide under the tree skirt so she can ambush her brothers. And today someone puked on it, but it’s easily washable.

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      I have a Christmas tree for the first time in my adult life, not counting the time when a room-mate decorated a large houseplant with empty beer cans. Not a large tree. I have cats who think the world is their chew toy, a culturally Buddhist husband, and a small apartment. But during the pandemic, I became the keeper of my department’s houseplants, and I cleaned out a bookshelf for them to live in without being eaten by said cats. And now we’re back in the office, so that bookshelf is once again empty. The perfect space for a small tree. So I got myself one, it’s cute and smells like memories, and I’m going to do it again.

  5. banoffee pie*

    Is anybody else sick of the dark nights already? It’s dark before 5pm now and it won’t start improving til probably February, anyway. For the darkest few weeks it’ll be more like 4:30pm. One of the drawbacks of being 55N lol (Northern Ireland). Or maybe it isn’t as bad where you guys are? I hope some of you are having better evenings than that lol :)

    1. Aphrodite*

      Well, I love this time of the year. I love the cold weather, the rain, the fog, and, yes, the. early darkness and light mornings. I love the cozy, well-lit home and hot milk as a snack. I get as depressed over warm weather as many do at this time of the year. SAD isn’t limited to winter.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I live in the south, so winter is a reprieve of the heat and humidity. My electric bill likes it too.
        I am nostalgic for living back up north in the winter, coming home to a warm and lit house, spending a cozy day inside with tea and a book.

      2. Clisby*

        +100. I live in SC, and I absolutely hate June-September. I love the weather the rest of the year. Every year, when June is coming up, I wish I could go to bed, turn the AC down to 60, and go to sleep until Oct. 1.

    2. Double A*

      Some years I do, but our summer was so horrific (scorching hot with wildfires) that I’m appreciating every moment of the beautiful fall we’re having. Where I live summer is kind of more like winter in that it’s terrible to go out, but it means we have gorgeous mild winters. I used to live father north and the super short days were definitely a bummer in December. Be sure to celebrate the solstice and the days getting longer!

      1. banoffee pie*

        oh yeah I sympathise with too hot summers and wildfires (sympathise, but don’t really understand). I can see why you’d like a break after all that! But here it’s just mild (summer) and then slightly cold (winter). We had our highest ever temp this summer, 31C, and that is seriouly unusual here.

        1. Double A*

          I think every region has its miserable season. And if it doesn’t, then it costs a lot of money to live there!

      2. Stitch*

        It’s not even been that cold this year and I just can’t handle it this year. I bought myself a new coat and hat to.try to help.

    3. Xena*

      It seems to be hitting me extra hard this year for whatever reason. I think I need to get out and walk in some suburbs with nice christmas lights more.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      YES. I didn’t mind/notice as a kid but now it’s just annoying! I didn’t get a chance to go for a walk until 4pm the other day and it was dark before I got home. I love rain but the darkness is ridiculous.

    5. Edwina*

      It will absolutely start improving in less than three weeks–on December 21, to be exact. The dark will get shorter by several minutes every day. However—you are pretty darn far north!!! So it must be getting dark even earlier than for most of us. And I don’t know exactly how fast the daylight will improve every day. The thing to do is check your times of sunrise and sunset every day starting Dec. 21. After a week or so you’ll be able to see how quickly it’s improving.

      Here in Los Angeles we do have the same thing with shorter days, but we’re so starved for cool weather that most of us really welcome the opportunity to wear a sweater and drink hot cocoa haha!

      1. banoffee pie*

        You’re right scientifically that it improves from 21 Dec, but it’s pretty hard to see or feel the difference until early February unfortunately. I keep forgetting some people are starved for cooler days! Yeah I’ve been on holiday to places that are hot, and we have the occasional ‘heatwave’ that I’m sure you guys wouldn’t even notice. But I’ve never been in hot weather for more than a few weeks at a time.

        The good thing about being so far north it it’s light until 10:30/11pm and then light again before 4am in the very longest days in summer, which I like. Though it can be hard to sleep sometimes.

        1. Lirael*

          It actually starts to get better from 10 December – sunset getting later doesn’t actually correlate with the solstice.

          Waves from 55N in England!

        2. tamarack & fireweed*

          I’m 10 degrees further north than the OP, and this isn’t how it feels to us up here. Mid-January the days are getting noticeably longer (helped by sunsets getting later well ahead of sunrises getting earlier). The elevation of the sun also rises noticeably, so there is an increase of solar radiation already.

          As I type this it’s 3 pm and already getting very dark. In 5 weeks at 3 pm it will feel a lot brighter.

      2. 653-CXK*

        Our earliest sunsets here in Boston will be from right about now to December 13 (4:11); after that, the sunsets will increase until December 31 (adding about 10 minutes). The first 4:30 sunset will be on January 9, 2022, and the first 5:00 sunset will be February 2, 2022.

    6. JustForThis*

      I do know what you mean. I moved a few hundred miles south several years back, and just that made a noticeable difference with the short dark nights in winter, and made me realise how much impact they had had on my mood. But now I miss the gloriously long summer evenings with translucent skies!

      As to dealing with dark nights: I try to get out once a day as close to midday as possible for a short walk (run an errand etc.), and I try to embrace the early nights as allowing me to make myself cozy (hot chocolate in the late afternoon, or warm apple cider with cinnamon etc.)

    7. Bobina*

      Absolutely also sick of the dark nights already. Very glad that this is one of the years I get to break up my winter with a trip to somewhere sunny in December. It means once I’m back there’s only about 6 weeks till the days start to get longer and it feels much more manageable.

      Like Edwina, I’m an absolute expert at tracking what the sunset/sunrises are doing and I’ve often found that by February, you can start to see the difference – so have faith!

    8. Square Root of Minus One*

      Yeah. Every year. I hate when it’s dark when I’m leaving work.
      In my experience it’s not as much being far north than east of a time zone. The further east I am, the worse it is. I could never live in Berlin.
      I planned to go somewhere sunny in January to soak up some vitamin D but Omicron might put a stop to that and I really hate it.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      LOL. The doc just told me that my seasonal affect is kicking in… mostly I want to sleep all the time but that is not a good choice. Yeah, happy lamp, vit D here I come. Things feel needlessly complex and sometimes things actually are needlessly complex. sigh.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      It’s dark before 5pm here, too. I’m sick of it only because we’re working on a backyard project that’s on a short timeline, and by the time my husband gets home from work, it’s almost dark. That means waiting until his day off to get any work done. We’re getting a small spa (ordered in July and arriving…sometime) and we had to level out a spot in the backyard for it. The yard is mostly flat, but the ideal spot slopes about six inches from side to side. We built a basic wood frame and filled it with small bluestone pieces. Now we need to assemble a 10×10 ft. pavilion we bought, and also find an electrician to install a dedicated circuit. (My husband is very handy and is able to do it, but since we need a permit for the spa, we have to get an electrician to do it.) Honestly, we could have had this done a couple months ago, but we spent way too much time trying to decide where the spa should go, how to level the ground, do we build a deck (nope, not with the price of wood now!), etc.

    11. Kate Daniels*

      I don’t mind too much through December because I really like taking walks on the streets with all of the pretty holiday lights strung throughout my city, but it gets depressing post-holidays, especially in January and February, for me. I’m loving all of these cozy ideas that others are mentioning in this thread, though!

    12. Taking the long way round*

      I don’t mind the dark nights, or winter even. I prefer them to summer :)
      It’s quieter and I can get to sleep easier!

    13. Nursey*

      Where I live, we are in summer and I’m finally getting the 35+ Celsius temps that I like. Washing dries so quickly, it’s a joy to be outside and walking around in the sunshine and feeling the heat. It probably wouldn’t suit some but even though during winter the max temps are in the 20’s and it warms up pretty quickly, I feel cold. Thankfully we should remain relatively warm until around June/July and then it starts to warm up again in September, although this year, spring was a bit hit and miss.

    14. Part time Professional*

      This year my body has decided that I need to hibernate and I keep falling asleep at like 8:30, so yes!!! I have absolutely no energy and I already take vitamin d all year.

    15. CTT*

      Not yet, but I am also on the far western edge of my time zone, and in October the sun wasn’t coming up until after 8, which was brutal.

    16. allathian*

      Yeah, I am. Fortunately we’re having a reasonably early winter, even a little bit of snow really helps! Even if I really dislike the cold, it’s about -12 C/10 F, not counting windchill. When I was a kid I never minded the cold, but the older I get, the less I like it.

      A wet road reflects about 1 percent of the light, freshly fallen snow reflects about 99 percent. The difference is amazing. I’m in Southern Finland, at 60 N, sunrise was at 9 am and sunset at 3:15 today. During the next three weeks, days will be getting another hour shorter before solstice. I must admit, though, that I’ve felt better this year than in previous years, largely thanks to WFH. Going out for a walk during daylight hours really helps.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The dattime walk! Working from home means I have a window comma which means I can see when the sun actually comes through the window, which means I get outside if the sun breaks through the clouds. It is so important to my mood. (Come to think of it, that’s probably why I like shoveling snow on weekends & snow days–exercise in the sun. But I hate it if it’s “dark-thirty” before sunrise.)

    17. ten four*

      I LOATHE that it is full dark by 4:30 by me. I have a sun lamp I bask in front of during breakfast, which helps my mood a lot. And then I just try to enjoy night walks! During this time of year it’s actually pretty easy with all the Christmas lights, but yeah – in January and February I just hunker down and try to maximize coziness.

    18. cleo*

      The sun sets before 4:30 here in Chicago right now and I definitely am feeling it this year, even though I also love the weather. I put up fairy lights in our living room and it actually helps – a little more than I expected. I can see them from my home office set up and they help dispel the gloom.

      Chicago’s not as far north as No. Ireland but because of the way the time zones are set up here, it gets dark very early during the winter.

      Out of curiosity, I just looked up our latitude and it’s 41 – the same as Rome. Which I did not expect at all!

      1. banoffee pie*

        yeah 41 N is pretty far south for the sun to be setting so early! It must be the time zone as you say. I think we should maybe be in a different time zone to London, geographically, but it’s easier just to stick with them.

        1. Lirael*

          That’s interesting actually, I’m on the same latitude as you but it’s getting dark just after 4pm here

          1. banoffee pie*

            It could well be the same here. Sometimes I lose track, it might have been 4:30 a couple of weeks ago! I find it depressing to think about haha

        2. ThatGirl*

          Well, Illinois (and Chicago) is on the eastern edge of the central time zone – drive 30 minutes east and it’s an hour later in Indiana. Just the way things fall.

      2. allathian*

        The joys of a more or less continental climate. I’m at 60 N and it’s a lot milder than you’d expect thanks to the Gulf Stream.

    19. Wishing You Well*

      The dark bothers me, too.
      This month, I bought a little fake tree with tiny lights to cheer myself up. Maybe more lights, especially the tiny LED ones, would help you until the sun comes back. The sun always comes back!

    20. Flower necklace*

      For me, it was worse last year. I was rushing out the door every day to get a walk in before sunset, and I knew the time the sun would set down to the minute. Now that we’re back in person, I’m on my feet every day and don’t feel the need to get in extra steps after I get home.

    21. Nessun*

      53N here (Alberta) and its ridiculously dark all the time…well, outside my working hours. If I don’t get out at lunch I have about an hour after work to get any sun at all, then it’s dark again. Sucks for walking but then its so icy that walking is treacherous anyway.

    22. bratschegirl*

      Yes, absolutely. This is my least favorite time of year; as a performer whose work is mostly nights, it’s noticeably harder to get motivated and out the door when it’s already pitch black and all I want to do is curl up under a blanky with a book and cocoa.

    23. Sleepless*

      I live at 34N in GA, so I shouldn’t complain, but I still do. I don’t mind the cold (at least, not our short, not overly cold winters) but boy do I hate the shorter days. My brain is very, very sensitive to things like daylight. If it’s dark outside, I want to sleep. If it’s light outside, I want to be awake. I struggle a great deal in the winter. On the other hand, if I’m somewhere far north in summer, I barely sleep at all.

    24. Lucy Skywalker*

      Oh hell yes. I’m in the Boston area and the sun sets at 4pm this time of year. It really affects my mood. It tricks me into thinking it’s nighttime when it really isn’t and then I get tired. I have a sun lamp that often helps. When I retire, I plan to spend my winters in Florida, specifically Port St. Joe as it is the westernmost town in the Eastern Time Zone and therefore has the latest sunset. This time of year, it sets around 5:40pm- a whole hour and a half after Boston!

    25. cat socks*

      The first few weeks after the time change are the worst for me. It doesn’t help that this past November was the year anniversary of my Dad’s passing. This year, a few days before Thanksgiving we had to unexpectedly say goodbye to a semi-feral kitty we’ve been taking care of for the past year. I just wanted to hibernate for most of the month.

      I’m starting to feel better by sticking to my routine of exercising and trying to get out during the day. Putting up the Christmas decorations has helped things feel more cozy and light.

    26. I take tea*

      I feel you! At 60N it gets dark pretty darn early. I’ve had a hard time with SAD this year, but got some good tips last weekend (thank you all!) and have actually managed to get out and catch a little daylight today. I upped my daylight lamp time, and it seems to help, but of course one can’t use it in the evenings. I’ll have to get some cozy lights up. But mostly I’d like to hibernate November-February sometimes. I try to think that it’s the trade off for the long, light summer evenings. Be kind to yourself.

    27. Linen Lane*

      I hear ya, am fed up with dark nights too..uggh. Been working from home since covid started and I go on a daily walk after work. I reay don’t like that every walk since late Oct is in the dark. I’m in Ontario, Canada, so not that different with darkness from Northern Ireland.

    28. Ginger Dynamo*

      I live in Los Angeles, and civil twilight here doesn’t break 5pm until January 7, so I agree that the difference in daylight is hard to really feel for a long time if your workday ends at 5 (especially if your workspace has no real windows). My seasonal affect has been worse here than when I lived in Minnesota, because at least the snow and below-freezing cold kept me grounded in the season. Here, the cold is hardly worth a jacket so going out is easy, but the weather fronts exacerbate the pollution haze to squander half the daylight we get in the city centers. Not to mention the brown-gray sky makes the city look really gross. If you’re lucky enough to live in/near a suburb, you might get to see some pretty lights around the holidays, but urban/semi-urban apartment-dwellers have to seek that out a bit more. At least it’s nice not to breathe in as much wildfire smoke as some other months.

  6. They Don’t Make Sunday*

    Do your assumptions about how the holidays should be clash with the way your chosen family/partner’s family/etc does things? Have your assumptions (or their assumptions) led to surprises or big feelings you didn’t expect?

    The first year I celebrated Christmas with my now-husband’s family, I assumed we would exchange gifts…when we celebrated Christmas. My MIL’s family tends to do their Christmas the weekend before the real holiday for good and now traditional logistical reasons. I had no idea my MIL expected to exchange gifts with just my husband and me at a later date. I felt as crestfallen as a child when I realized. It just did not make sense to me. I knew she was a last-minute kind of person, so when she asked me what I wanted, I (thoughtfully, or so I thought) tailored my suggestions to be things that she could easily get before the big family gathering. In her mind she had an extra few days until the real Christmas Day.

    Lest you think she just likes to exchange on actual Christmas, no. Just whichever is later: Christmas Day or our family holiday meal (if it falls on the weekend after Christmas). I no longer attach any expectations to when we’ll exchange gifts. One year we did it in the morning before my husband and I got on the plane home. But I’m putting my foot down on behalf of my son, who is now old enough to anticipate Christmas and anticipate a present from his grandmother. On. Christmas.

    1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      Gah, wish I could edit. I made it sound too dramatic. MIL is normally very good about sending her grandchild gifts on time. She just floated the idea of waiting to give him his present when she visits after Christmas, and maybe toward the tail end of her stay… and I just wanted to be like, no? he’s four?

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        Maybe you can tell your pre-schooler that Grandma wants to give her presents on Epiphany??? It might give him something small to look forward to after all of the excitement of the big holiday is over. I just don’t think you are going to make much headway trying to change her behavior since she has probably being this way for quite some time. It would be easier to accept the eccentricity and guide your son into realizing that people are different and that’s okay.

        1. Hornets*

          It doesn’t seem eccentric to me at all that a grandmother would want to give her grandchild a gift when she can see him open it and enjoy it.

          I’m a little confused – They Don’t Make Sunday, are you expecting that any Christmas gifts from everyone be delivered and opened only on Christmas day itself, otherwise they don’t “count”?

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s mostly that MIL clearly runs a little last minute and therefore has no established gift exchange “date” other than The Latest Relevant Moment. Therefore it’s clear that MIL isn’t choosing the visit because she can see the kid but because it’s later than the holiday.

            That being said, I think this is more funny than evil, and I’d advise rolling with it. Presumably the kid will be getting plenty on actual Christmas, so it might be fun for him to have something to wait for; she’s also likely to keep being like this, so it’s probably good if kid and parents find a way to make this a feature and not a bug.

      2. Don't be long-suffering*

        Can I kindly say… he’s four? He doesn’t have pre- conceived notions about these things like you do. We had different traditions (Cmas Eve, Day, Epiphany, Hannukah) and needs (medical, restaurant and retail people never all had the same day off) and the kids loved it because they got to do presents again and again! It sounds like MIL is a good relative and maybe grandma could be indulged to have her own private moment with her grandson instead of one chaotic blowout with everyone? It could become a lovely memory/ tradition for them. Just something to think about.

        1. Virginia Plain*

          Yes, I genuinely don’t think he’ll be that bothered. When I was little we rarely saw all relatives together on Christmas Day and if we visited/were visited by grandparents or my aunt and uncle on Boxing Day or a few days later or whatever then we’d give/receive presents then. It was fine. It’s always nicer to give/receive a present in person and I wouldn’t expect someone to pay postage to send parcels in advance if I was going to see them soon anyway. I didn’t when I was little, either. It wouldn’t occur to me and now it seems a bit wasteful (packaging and postage costs) and a bit…Veruca Salt! But I want it NOW! :-D
          If visiting happened before xmas day presents would be placed under the tree same as if they came by post, and opened on xmas day followed up by a phone call to wish a merry Christmas and thank the giver.

        2. Clisby*

          Agreed. I don’t remember much from when I was four, but I think having the Christmas Day celebration and then getting *another* present later would have been pretty special.

        3. Legalchef*

          Yes, the fact that he’s 4 makes it a great reason to give it later. He will be so into his other new things that the gift from grandma won’t be missed the day of, and getting it later means that by the time he gets it the gift won’t just be another new thing to add to the pile.

        4. JSPA*

          Yes! He can’t read a calendar in any meaningful way, nor tell time. He can’t remember last year, except perhaps as flashes of experience. Don’t telegraph expectations to him, and he’ll be happy as a clam to get gifts when he gets gifts. (Or to play with the box and the ribbon.)

        5. Felis alwayshungryis*

          I live a long way away from a lot of our relatives, and as a child (and now a parent) it was quite common for gifts to arrive late thanks to the vagaries of the various postal systems. Last year one of my daughter’s (also 4) arrived in March. Honestly, she was quite happy. I never minded either, it’s like a little bonus Christmas extension. It’s almost nicer because those gifts don’t get buried and forgotten amid all the others.

      3. Preschool teacher*

        I mean, here’s what I experienced as a kid. I NEVER got gifts from extended family on Christmas Day. Christmas Day was about me, my parents, and my siblings. My extended family would celebrate after Christmas (my mom’s family on the 27th, my dad’s on the 26th). My grandparents (as well as aunts/uncles/cousins) would give me gifts then. Kid me LOVED that because it made Christmas longer! Plus, your kid is four – I teach preschool and they just get excited about any present (no matter the date). So yeah, in my opinion, NBD.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Ditto — my dad’s side of the family threw a big Christmas shindig (that also incorporated December birthdays) somewhere usually in the first half of December, Christmas morning was for our family, and my mom’s parents either came over Christmas evening or one of the surrounding weekends, depending on what else was going on for whoever. Your kid is only going to pitch a fit that Grandma’s present didn’t get there ON CHRISTMAS AND NO LATER if you teach them that it’s fit-worthy — otherwise they’re just like “YAY MORE PRESENTS ON A RANDOM TUESDAY!!”

      4. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

        We started getting together with family the weekend after Christmas when my kids were little. That way we could enjoy Christmas day with our little family, we could relax, the kids could play and no one got overwhelmed. And the kids LOVED having ‘Second Christmas’ with the whole family, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc.
        No traveling on the 25th.
        No melt downs.
        So.much.nicer.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          The fact that you don’t like it that she might wait until the 4th day of her visit to give him the present has me concerned that you’re teaching your kid that the most important reason for the visit is to get presents. That is an unfortunate thing for a child (or anyone) to believe.

          As you said, the kid is 4 – they aren’t born with preconceived notions about when presents should be given. As others have said, they will be fine with getting presents across a period of time if you act like that is normal. It was exciting for me to get presents later – it extended the holiday and the present made a bigger impression because it wasn’t given to me on a day on which I was already overloaded.

          I say this kindly, but I wonder if there is something else going on with your relationship with your MIL since you seem pretty offended by a very normal thing that your kid might actually enjoy.

        2. Jackalope*

          This response seems a bit harsh to the OP. It’s okay to have feelings about things like giving and receiving gifts, and okay to be hurt if you’re going to what you think is a family gift exchange and you don’t get a gift. And it’s okay for the OP to try and save her son from the hurt that she felt previously. I tend to agree that at 4, not getting the gift on the day itself is probably not going to bother him, but clearly it was unpleasant for her before.

          Related story: a few years ago I was having a family gift exchange that with parents, siblings, and niblings, was about 9 or 10 of us. When we exchanged all of the gifts, it turned out that I was the only person who had exactly ZERO gifts that day. This wasn’t through unkindness on my family’s part; my parents were giving me something larger that year that I had to go with them to pick out, and my siblings had both ordered me something online that wasn’t there yet (I think their gifts for me both showed up the next day or two). But what with one thing and another, I spent 20 minutes watching all of my family excitedly opening gifts while I had… nothing. It was really hard even though I understood what happened. Did my family “owe” me presents? No, obviously not. But it sounds from the starting post here that something that felt similar happened the first year the OP was with her now in-laws that she’s hoping to save her son from.

          (And for the record, exchanging gifts the morning before you’re getting on a plane sounds stressful to me. Having flown many years for Christmas, it’s nicer to have more time to figure out how to stuff things into suitcases and such, and also know how much room you’ll have if you want to, say, buy something local that you can’t get where you live now and want to know how much to get.)

          1. Blue Eagle*

            What is wrong with your family? Everyone knows that if the gift hasn’t arrived yet, you wrap a picture of it so that the recipient has something to open.

            1. Jackalope*

              I have no idea what happened. I think that no one realized that this had happened with everyone’s gifts for me and so thought I was getting something from someone else. But honestly I still don’t know. At least it hasn’t happened again.

              (I will add that we did the gift exchange that wasn’t actually Christmas Day, and then went out after that to somewhere else for… shopping? Something? But I decided that I had $X to spend on myself that day and I could get myself whatever gift I wanted, so I still got something nice.)

    2. Pregnant during COVID*

      In my experience your son will not mind and likely not notice that grandma’s gift came late. And as he gets older it may turn into an endearing quirk that “grandma’s gifts are always a surprise!” if you also treat it that way. My mom let me know that the gift she got my five year old for Christmas this year won’t arrive until January because of shipping delays and asked whether she should cancel and get her something else to open on Christmas. I told her with all the other gifts she’ll be opening that day, it will be nice to get something special later on a day just for her. So it may be helpful if you reframe it in that way for yourself.

    3. Silver*

      This does not seem like something you should cause drama over to me… perhaps it’s worth examining if there are deeper feelings behind the date of when she buys your kid gifts? It seems to me like you find her last minuteness / lack of consistency irritating (for example, you’re vexed that she gives gifts on whatever date falls later – the family party or Christmas itself)… I think you’ve got to recalibrate here before the relationship goes up in flames

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      This year as we were planning Thanksgiving, my husband said “My family always ate mid-afternoon.” As though, after 30 years of marriage, I probably hadn’t noticed this. Not that he was pushing back against my proposed 6-ish dinner time! Because the planning is on me–he’ll do anything I ask except plan.

      • I don’t like eating midafternoon, when I’m not particularly hungry.
      • He has oft repeated the tale of Thanksgiving when his mom observed that she had spent two days cooking and the family had needed 14 minutes to stuff themselves, including seconds. I am trying to push away from the tradition in which it somehow works out that I need to stay in and cook all day while other people do outdoorsy stuff in the morning.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      My husband’s family tends to sort the gifts before opening – like, you gather all of your own presents into a pile and then open them all. My family keeps them under the tree mixed together so you find one, open, repeat. The first year doing presents with his family I felt like it went so fast and I didn’t see what anyone got or notice when they were opening their gifts from me! Neither method is really like a formal rule or better/worse than the other but it just gives the morning a slightly different vibe to me.

      1. allathian*

        We always did it the way your husband’s family does it. When I was a kid, I hated being the center of attention, and the idea of having to fake enthusiasm for an okay but not particularly special gift. When we opened gifts, a particularly enthusiastic spontaneous reaction would get everyone to stop what they’re doing and look at what you got, but everyone would be so focused on what they were doing that if you just shrugged and went on to the next one, that was fine. The adults got far fewer gifts than the kids, and probably paced themselves in opening them, so I suspect that my reactions weren’t as invisible as I thought, but at least they never called me out on the less enthusiastic ones.

        Afterwards, we’d compare gifts, and because we were raised to be polite, I always had something nice to say about every gift. Of course, I didn’t always remember who gave which gift, even if I tried to pay attention when the gifts were distributed, and later when I could read the labels myself.

        The years when we traveled to my maternal grandparents for Christmas, we’d visit my paternal grandparents on either Epiphany or New Year’s Day, and exchange gifts then. When we visited my paternal grandparents, my maternal ones asked my parents to get us something in their name, and probably sent some money for that purpose. I don’t remember ever getting any presents in the mail except from my godparents.

    6. Rara Avis*

      For many years now we’ve done Christmas #2 on the 26th at my brother’s house when we do the grandparent exchange (either taking my parents there for the second half of their visit or retrieving them to spend the rest of vacation with us — they switch off every year). My kid loves it. My sister-in-law does a huge family thing Christmas Eve so we may or may not see her and my brother-in-law on Christmas, depending on whether they got to bed before 4 a.m. it’s all good. 12 days of Christmas, right?

    7. Fa lala la la*

      Your kid literally won’t care or know–you’re making a bigger deal of this than you need/should.
      It’s always a good idea to teach kids two things: 1. delayed gratification and 2. no one *owes* you a present, family member or not. You don’t want to teach them to be ungrateful or that presents mean less because they’re not opened on the *right* day.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      As long as she is doing a gift from Grandma, everything will be fine as long as you are matter of fact with the child. Just tell her not to sign things from Santa!

    9. Theatre girl in an office world*

      Let it go. This is not a hill to die on. Your son will adapt to this and will come to expect it and if you don’t make a big deal about it, he won’t be bothered by it.

      Personally I found my young kids were pretty burned out on Xmas day by the presents and were barely noticing what they were getting after awhile or really wanted to stop to play with one thing. I would ENCOURAGE the late gift from a grandma, better chance your son will be more excited to have something a few days later and actually notice it.

      1. Legalchef*

        Yep. Last year my son was opening holiday presents into January. If he wanted to stop opening and play with something, we encouraged it – after all isn’t the point for them to enjoy what they get, not just rack up the loot?

        1. Theatre girl in an office world*

          My daughter’s birthday is in early January and she was the first grandchild on one side. She had so many Xmas presents the first couple years that she was opening them still when the box of birthday presents arrived. 1-2 a day was all she could manage until she was about 4. Even as a teenager she often wants to stop and read the book, not keep opening.

      2. blue*

        This. My 3 yr old niece was so overwhelmed on Christmas morning that she opened a few presents, cried and went back to bed for a 3 hour hour nap. When she woke up, she opened like two more and spent the rest of the day playing with the hair clips that were my stocking stuffer.

      3. Patty Mayonnaise*

        I was thinking the same thing! I have a young kid and he often gets burned out from opening a huge pile of presents. Now that he’s six, he’s more likely to open them all, but when he was younger it was open a present, play with it for 15 minutes, open another, play with it for 15 minutes, have a snack, play with an old toy, open a new one, etc. Spacing them out over multiple days was a feature, not a bug.

    10. Anony*

      I just wanted to say I understand having lots of Feelings about holiday traditions. My family is big on Christmas gifts, and my husband’s is not. I felt sad not to have a gift exchange on Christmas morning when we first did Christmas together. They just aren’t gift people. I don’t care so much about the stuff, it’s the tradition that I missed. I do have my own kids now, and we’re making new traditions. I do make sure there are presents at least from me to open on Christmas morning, but I know not to expect my in laws to give presents (sometimes they do, it’s a little random). But it is true that the kids know nothing else, so it doesn’t affect them.

    11. RagingADHD*

      I understand having feelings. This is not a feeling you should act on. Please do not “put your foot down,” because no good will come of it.

      If you tell your child to anticipate a gift from Grandma on Christmas Day, or validate and support his anticipation, then he will be disappointed. And YOU will be the one making him disappointed, not Grandma. She’s not the one who gave him unrealistic expectations.

      If you tell your child (or correct his mistaken expectation) that Grandma will bring his gift when she comes, and isn’t it nice to have 2 days to open presents, then he will not be disappointed. He will have something new to look forward to. You will be teaching him to enjoy reality and enjoy his real Grandma instead of creating fictional expectations and being upset that the rest of the world didn’t conform to them.

      If you don’t give your child any other gift this year, please give him the gift of modeling enjoyment instead of self-induced disappointment.

    12. allathian*

      Let this one go, and you’ll have a more enjoyable Christmas. Your son’s four years old, and he doesn’t understand dates yet. If your MIL continues this tradition, by the time he’s old enough to understand, the tradition has become established in his mind as grandma’s funny quirk.

      If you feel as crestfallen as a child when your expectations around gifts aren’t met, maybe now’s the time to examine why that is, and do your best to avoid passing on those expectations to your son? That’s not healthy behavior for adults, IMO.

    13. Esmeralda*

      I think you’re more upset than your child would be — as long as you don’t make a big deal about it with your son. “It’s always a surprise with grandma— we might do presents on X day or we might do presents on Y day!”

      Does your MIL let you know which day? It sounds like you’ve figured it out? If so, just tell your son, “This year grandma is doing gifts on X day “

      If you mope about it, your son is more likely to be upset. If you’re matter of fact about it, he will be too.

  7. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    Ok, this may not be the right spot for this but I’m not sure. Please delete if it’s out of place.
    Just a heads up,this involves death and grief, so if you’re sensitive to that, please scroll on by.

    Yall, I’m in a situation I haven’t had to deal with. This happened at work, but its more of a personal nature,which is why I put it here.
    On Thursday, my partner at work passed away from a heart attack. Tuesday, he said he wasn’t feeling well and his acid reflux was flaring up, so he went home. Wednesday morning, I texted him to see if he was coming in and he said he was still in bad shape. I told him to go get checked out cuz it could be a heart attack because they aren’t always chest grabbers. Thursday morning, our boss sent out a message that he was in the ER with a heart attack, and that afternoon, our boss called me to tell me he was gone. Its not like I haven’t known coworkers that have died before. But this is different and I’m having a hard time of it. Where I work, we’re teamed up 2 mechanics to a truck doing facility maintenance. So for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, you’re together. Alot of times due to retirement, transfers, or personality issues, people get shuffled a bit. But we never did. We were a good team and got along well so we were kept together for 10 years. Ten years on the truck together, working shoulder to shoulder. I guess its like you see on TV with the police having partners. You work together, you get to know each other. I dont know how to explain it. My heart aches in a way it never has. I got to our truck Friday, and it hit me that he’s gone and cried like a little kid. It’s going to be so much worse when I have clear out his PPE and personal belongings.
    Has anyone else had to deal with this? I mean, how do you get past all the reminders that you can avoid? He was my friend and mentor and I need for the grief to be done.I just need to know how.

    1. Don't be long-suffering*

      I am so sorry your friend is gone. It’s difficult because you need to work during your grief, I understand. But grief doesn’t respond to schedules. It will wax and wane and wax and wane in its own time. We don’t get over someone’s death, we get used to it. If you try to demand it be done, it will pop out even more aggressively at the worst of times. Being with the grief is all you can do, and it honors your friend’s life.

    2. Edwina*

      First of all, you need to know your grief is completely normal! You two were extremely close, good friends, spending every day at work together, all day, for ten years. Of course you miss him! Of course your heart aches! Of course you cried. Having wept goodbye to many people at this point in my life, here are some things that I”ve found that help:

      1. Allow yourself to feel grief. Know that the grief is a reflection of the strength of your affection and closeness. It’s a good thing to love someone else, to feel close to them. It’s what makes you a good human. Let yourself feel the grief as a good thing.
      2. Think of something that will give you closure, personally. Something simple but meaningful–maybe going to the coffee shop you always had lunch, or a bar you grabbed drinks after work–maybe buy an extra beer and toast him. Write your favorite memories about him in a letter and send it to his wife or whoever is his closest loved one. Or even just take an hour on the weekend and go somewhere peaceful near you–a hiking area, a park, a forest, a beach–and spend the hour crying and thinking about him. After this you absolutely will feel more peace. But the key is to allow yourself to just be in the grief. The way “out” is through.
      3. Lastly, know that all those other feelings you’re having? “If only he’d gone to the hospital” “I should have been MORE insistent,” etc–? Those are ALSO grief.

      I’m so sorry you lost your friend, and so suddenly. A good friend of mine runs a grief website, grief.com, and it has a lot of soothing and kind advice.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “Write your favorite memories about him in a letter and send it to his wife or whoever is his closest loved one.” I think this is a really good idea. It gives you a chance to express some of the good times, and it should make his loved one feel good too, knowing that someone else cares too and to read about these good things.

        1. beach read*

          Yes. When people share a story that I haven’t heard about my Dad, who just passed this year, it is a gift. A true gift.

    3. Duquesne*

      Echoing the other replies to say it’s so natural that you will miss him as he was such a part of your everyday life and sending my condolences on the loss of a friend. The sudden way he passed can make it more difficult, and some of what you’re feeling now will be shock at the suddenness with which this happened. Of course you’re going to feel it more than if it was ‘Atticus from Accounting’ – from what you’ve said your friend was a big part of how you spent your day. As for how you get through it – slowly, and by being kind to yourself. If you have friends or family, or a pastor etc. who can support you then let them. Grief itself is a collection of hours, minutes, days – you don’t have to have it all figured out or squared away now. Say to yourself ‘I just have to make it through today’ and it will start to fade a little over time.

    4. WG*

      I also echo the commemts already made. Grief has its own schedule. Does your employer have an EAP program? If so, it might help to contact them for resources. So sorry for your loss.

    5. Morning reader*

      Oh my, I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s a very sudden one.
      Suggestions: take some time off if you can so you don’t have to be in the space you shared so immediately.
      If there is someone else who could clear out his things, ask for that help. You might want to save something, his hat or mug, to remember him by.
      Go to the funeral or whatever memorial the family plans, if there is one. If not, maybe gather a few friends who knew him and do something informal to share your grief? I arranged a zoom session when we had a family death last year, and it helped to share memories even though we couldn’t gather in person.
      When you get a new partner, pass along what you learned from your friend and mentor. It can help to feel the “circle of life” as you step into the role he held for you, for someone else.

      Condolences.

    6. The Dogman*

      I do something to honour lost friends, based on what we did together for fun.

      Perhaps you can put his name somewhere in a trucks engine bay, or go to his favourite bar/mountain/trail, or see his sports team, go to a race he watched… that sort of thing.

      My last friend to go was really into walking hills, so I took his dogs and mine up his favourite hills for a couple of days, which gave me some peace of mind and his wife some time where she didn’t have to cope with the dogs on top of funeral arrangements… I also committed to walking his dogs longer term while she sorted out her new life without him.

      Could you do something to honour you friend that helps his family a little perhaps? Cooking and taking good food for freezing is another solid way to show your love and support, his loved ones will probably be grateful that they have nice things they just need to heat up!

    7. Asenath*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry to say that, based on my own experience, grief takes its own time to work through, so be patient with yourself and kind to yourself. It will ease eventually, and you will be more able to remember the good times, and a good friend. One of the most helpful things I did when I was grieving particularly badly was to go to a free public talk put off by our local hospital system – they do it at intervals. Because it was largish and public, I figured I wouldn’t have to speak (I didn’t), and I could sit in the back and see if the speaker had anything useful to say. And it was nearby, so I didn’t need scarce energy or effort to get there. The speaker, a professional counsellor employed by the hospital, did have useful things to say. The first and most important was that what we were experiencing was totally normal (and he said enough to ensure we knew that he knew what we were going through). He assured us we weren’t going crazy (that bit may have been worded differently!) And he described how we would know if our grieving wasn’t normal, if it was “complicated” and we needed individual help. One of the criteria was time – even “ordinary” grief takes time to begin to resolve, ebbing and flowing. It helped me so much to know that what I felt was normal, and would ease in time.
      There are of course other things to do. I’ve found rituals very helpful, varying kinds, depending on what you and the family of the person you loved and lost find comforting. You can create your own, if you don’t know the family, or if you don’t find their tradition comforting. Make a donation to a charity he would have supported. Set aside some time to remember him, kind of like an informal mini-wake or funeral – sometimes people do this with one or two close friends. If you’re someone to whom writing comes naturally, write about your feelings. Music can speak to you as well, if you remember him while listening to his favourite song. Many people find having some small memento or photo helpful; others prefer to put away all physical reminders. Find some way to honour and remember your friend, and keep reminding yourself that your grief will work itself out in time.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I feel a little misty eyed just reading this.

      He was a huge part of your life and your work for a looong time.

      Practical suggestions:
      Ask someone to help you sort the PPE and other belongings. Don’t try to do this alone. Ideally stop and have a cuppa coffee/tea when done, take a few minutes to chat with each other.

      You have some very lovely things to say about him. If you can, send his family a card with a few of these thoughts. This does not have to be long, a few sentences would be perfect. Or maybe you can find his condolence book online and sign that.

      Perhaps you can keep one or more of his tools and use those tools along with your own. I have my father’s hammer and my husband’s hammer here. They are with me when I do a project. It makes me smile. (And I probably have too many hammers.)

      One of the ways to prolong grief and make it harder is to keep wishing for it to stop. This draws everything out and makes it harder because we are denying our own feelings. This is kind of like your arm hurts so you decide cutting off would be better somehow. I’d suggest to redirect those thoughts to wishing for peace or calming. It’s helpful to remember that tears cause a chemical reaction in the brain that help to keep the brain healthy. So in reality, your tears are part of your reweaving/reknitting, tears are part of your way forward.

      Some people get their equilibrium back by doing various things such as writing a letter to their person then burning it, so the smoke and the message to up to their person. Others like to do balloon releases or planting a tree or shrub. Some folks like to make donations in honor of their person. Personally, I get relief in helping others, for me that is a powerful relief.

      It’s times like this that it’s good to think about how unique each of us are. You will never find an exact copy of your work partner again. As you think about the unique things in him that you prized you can also look around and think about other people in your life who also offer something that is unique and important to you.

      I am very sorry for your loss.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      One of the more helpful analogies I’ve come across is that the grief gradually recedes. It’s still there, like a big lump of tar, but at first it’s right in front of you, then farther back, then a little more back and to the side. But there is usually no one cool trick to flipping to the next stage. (Exception for those who get stuck in one stage and need help, and for many people the funeral is a help at finding some closure.)

      Condolences on the loss of a friend and teacher.

    10. fposte*

      Oh, no; I’m so sorry. I can think of equivalents whose sudden loss would devastate me. When you spend that much time with somebody they have a huge piece of your life. The one thing I’ll say is the reminders that are painful now will likely bring you comfort and good memories down the line, so don’t work too hard to eradicate them.

      I like the idea of finding your own private way to mark his memory. Another thought that crossed my mind–if you’re likely to have somebody new in the truck and your old comrade would have approved, let him be an influence as you pass his knowledge forward. IOW, if you get a young goofus, train him up like your friend would have and let him keep sending good into the world that way.

    11. Purple cat*

      {{hugs}} I’m so sorry for your loss. Unfortunately there is nothing they can be done to make the grief just “go away”. It’s a process of emotions that you just need to through. It will help though for you to allow yourself to fully feel all of the feelings. Don’t try to rush through them.

    12. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      I like to think of grief as the price we pay for caring about someone else. I haven’t experienced a devastating loss like that yet, but no doubt I will in the future. My grandparents are all dead, and they either died before I was old enough to understand the finality of death, or following a debilitating illness that allowed me to grieve the death of a loved personality before they died. I think that a sudden death of someone I care about would be much more devastating.

      Does your employer have an EAP? You might benefit from grief counseling.

    13. Another Academic Librarian*

      I am so sorry for your loss. This is exactly the right place for this. I had a colleague die April 2020, who was a dear friend and I was devastated.
      This is grief. And it doesn’t pass on any schedule.
      Writing has helped me.
      Refuge in Grief website has helped.
      Not talking to people who haven’t experienced this is helpful.

    14. Wishing You Well*

      I am very sorry for your loss.
      Please be very kind to and patient with yourself as you go through grief.
      Reach out to people around you to process this. This is hard.

    15. StellaBella*

      I read this recently,
      “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

      I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and colleague.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is huge. If we could stop loving then we might stop grieving. But we don’t want a world without love.

    16. the cat's ass*

      I am so sorry for the loss of your dear work friend! Of course you are grieving, and it’s going to different at work and in your life without them. That’s pretty normal.

      Can you get some help clearing out his things from your co-workers? I know that when one of my dearest shift mates died, a bunch of us cleared out her stuff and it turned into an impromptu memorial service, which was just what we needed. We also went to her actual wake/funeral, and wrote cards to her family talking about what a great person she was with some anecdotes.

      I still think of her with enormous affection, but it’s no longer painful, just lovely memories about our times together. I’m a better person for having had her as a friend and colleague.

      Internet hugs, if you’d like them.

    17. Not a cat*

      My (very close, very nice) boss died of sepsis at age 40. He hadn’t been feeling good and thought he had the flu. I was in Orlando for a speaking engagement. He left me a VM, asking me how the speech went and that he was still sick, but he would see me on Monday. He died in the emergency room on Saturday morning. He left behind three kids under age 10 and a devastated family. His funeral was the saddest I’ve seen (including my own father.) It took a while to adjust. I’m not a crier, but there were many crying moments among the staff and I did grieve. I don’t have any advice other than the only way forward is thru.

    18. un-pleased*

      Just joining the others to say no wonder you are in pain. You just lost one of the people who has given structure to your everyday life for a long time, someone you worked alongside with trust and friendship. And you had essentially no warning.

      Friend, the grief will not just be gone. I know the ache is terrible and the hole where he was must feel so big. As much as it sucks, you’re gonna have to ride it out. It will be so bumpy sometimes, but it’s the only way. Hopefully you will, over time, spend more time and energy thinking about how blessed you were to be work partners and less just feeling badly he’s gone. I’m so sorry. It’s so rotten.

    19. anonymous griever*

      I’m so sorry for the death of your work partner. This is a significant loss for you!

      With your partner, it’s not the same bond as with a close family member, but you still had a strong bond after 10 years of working together daily. I’ve been reading “It’s OK if You’re not OK” by Megan Devine to deal with the recent death of my dad. One of the things mentioned in the book is how spending time together in close proximity creates a physical bond and when one person dies, the other person experiences genuine physical changes because of the sudden loss. That ache in your heart is from your body adjusting to your new surroundings without your partner and is a sign that you are a normal human. Another thing I learned from the book is that grief is something to be carried, and when we start to carry it instead of pushing it away, the rest of life (and living with grief) becomes easier.

      I don’t know if it’s possible to get past the physical reminders to where you won’t burst out crying. Grief is expresses differently for everyone and there isn’t a correct way or “should be like X” way. Often the crying hits me out of the blue. If it’s possible, I recommend that you take some time off from work so that you can grieve without being in the location where you saw your partner every day. And when you do go back, it will still be difficult. But an approach of honoring your partner and friend might help. When you see things that remind of your partner, acknowledge them and don’t try not to cry. Perhaps allow yourself a few minutes to think about a happy memory or a time when he taught you something.

      Gallows humor sometimes helps me. One of my siblings and I like to think of the most outrageous quotes from our dad that would be hilarious if they were engraved on his tombstone. Then we end up laughing about the memory attached to that quote . . . and then sometimes we start crying again. But that’s ok too.

      1. Don't be long-suffering*

        A speaker I saw once said it this way. Grief or other extreme stressors are like you have one leg raised so far in the air your foot is next to your head. No one would expect you to walk in that position, you would fall over! Test people expect themselves to get over it and carry on normally.
        You need to not try to walk. Be kind to yourself. As the grief ages, your foot will start to come down, which will be less painful. In time, you will walk again, hesitantly at first, and then at full stride, with your friend inside, walking with you. The imagery is what helps me.

    20. sequined histories*

      I am sorry you have suffered this major loss. It sounds like your current feeling of acute grief is very much to be expected.

      Perhaps some of the practices associated with grieving a family member would help. I wrote an obituary for my father—really more like a short memoire—and posted it on the website of his funeral home, and that helped me a little bit. If you know a few kind people who liked him but were not quite as close—and thus not quite as grief-stricken—with whom you could reminisce occasionally, that might help. If you could be of some practical assistance to his survivors (without making them responsible for helping you process your grief, of course), there might be some comfort in honoring him in that way. Also, if there was something awesome about him that you could continue or pass on in some way, that might be comforting. My father, for example, was a college professor, and I’m currently teaching a high school class related to his academic specialty and that makes me feel comforted and connected.

      Even though Alison is correct that workplaces that push a work-as-family narrative are usually abusive, that doesn’t change the fact that it is possible to have a deeply meaningful bond with a specific individual you met and bonded with at work. You loved this man. He was an important part of your life. It’s perfectly normal to feel a huge, lingering sense of loss at his sudden and untimely death.

    21. beach read*

      I am so sorry for your loss. You will miss and grieve your friend. You worked side by side for 10 years. This is a very hard loss. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to do your best to take care of yourself by getting enough rest, make sure you take time to eat a meal and don’t hesitate to talk to someone who can help, or even someone who will just listen. If you have some PTO coming to you, consider taking a day or two if/when you need. Many years ago, my team came back to work after the thanksgiving holiday weekend to the news that one of our team members had passed away over the weekend. It was very surreal, almost like working in a fog. It was hard having to advise her clients when they called for her, day after day. But…in time it got better. Once again, my condolences to you.

    22. meagain*

      I’m really sorry. That is so hard. My partner’s coworker passed away a day after he had just seen him at their out of town work meetings. He also had a heart attack. (Pretty young guy too.) My partner took it hard. He cried. I think the thing with grief is that it unfortunately doesn’t just end. One thing my partner and some of their other colleagues did was (finally) go get a full health physical and deal with some health issues he had been ignoring or putting off. They were just trying to make something come from this. I don’t know. The whole thing is sad and still is. They did find little ways to honor him, a moment of silence before a big meeting, etc. Keeping a chair open for him. I don’t think there is just one way. My partner makes a point to see his son on occasion. I’m so sorry.

    23. Theatre girl in an office world*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      You wish the grief to be done, but grief doesn’t work that way. You can not force grief away.

    24. Lady Danbury*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Please take the time that you need to grieve and utilize any resources such as EAP that are available to you. My local EAP often does grief debriefs or provides additional services directly to the organization when an employee dies suddenly. This could be work related casualties but more often is non-work related (everything from strokes to car accidents). You might want to talk to your boss and see if this is something that your organization wants to do on a department level. Please be kind to yourself as you go through the grieving process

    25. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Hello all,
      I want to thank everyone for their kind words and advice. Your words and thoughts have helped me understand that its ok to grieve. I’ve grieved for family and friends in the past, and know that it has its own schedule that can’t be rushed. But this…it hit me harder than I thought it could. Really, it hit all of us hard. We all are a tight knit group of guys. If life happens to one of us, everyone pulls together to help. So I know I’m not alone, and we have one another to lean on. Hell, Friday morning, our boss asked me how I was doing. Him asking me that set off the waterworks and I told him I was alright until he said something. That’s when he starts tearing up, then a couple of others guys that were in his office got started and we ended up having a 4 man group hug. There’s around 40 guys that work in the division and we’re all what you could call “rough hewn”, to put it mildly. But we pull together in times like these and hold each other up.
      To everyone who mentioned my partners wife, he wasn’t married and his only family is his dad, a brother and sister and 2 nephews. Unless you count his dogs. He loved dogs and critters in general. He always made sure we had milk bones for any dogs we came across making our rounds. We once had a herd of stray cats show up and he started buying cat food and feeding them. He always came across as crotchety, grumpy and in a foul mood. But I got to see the soft hearted side. The side that would get a lump in his throat when he saw a critter that had been abused or when he got to remembering one of his pups that had crossed the rainbow Bridge. I think instead of flowers, I want to make a donation in his name to the ASPCA or the local animal shelter.
      Our workplace does have an EAP program and I plan on making an appointment with them. Heck, the director of the utility service called me almost insisting that I get grief counseling.
      Holey crap, this got long. Way longer than I intended. I apologize for rambling on like I have. Again,thank you all for your advise and condolences and if you’ve read this far, letting me ramble on.

      1. JSPA*

        This is exactly what will help! Don’t apologize. We can all use the reminder that gruff people can have hearts of gold in one or another way…be valued, loved, missed… be part of the essential fabric of multiple people’s lives.

      2. allathian*

        Thank you for sharing his story. Think of it as an anonymous mini obituary.

        Reading about the 4-man teary group hug put tears in my eyes, too.

        I think that donating to an animal charity in his name sounds like a great way to honor him.

    26. JSPA*

      In my experience, you’re only done with grief when it’s done with you.

      It would be sadder, actually, to think that people would die, and nobody but a couple of socially- approved, designated family members would or should or could feel grief!

      Lean in. Write a memory book, a list of the lessons you learned from him, the things that trigger your sadness to well up and over. Commit to teaching and mentoring a new person, when you’re ready, using some of those lessons. The memories that trigger now will be a valued comfort, and a (smart alec?) voice over your shoulder if you’re ever about to forget an essential step in a process.

      This is part of being human. It’s OK, and something we all deal with, as we and our friends get older.

    27. Sam I Am*

      I just want to add that if what you need right now is to be not grieving at work, Alison has mentioned in the past that drinking a little water can shut tears down, maybe keep a bottle handy. But your grief will simply last as long as it lasts. There’s so many great suggestions here already, I just want to give you my condolences.

  8. StellaBella*

    What’s cooking this weekend, everyone?

    I am currently indoors most of the weekend due to massive amounts of rain and a desire to not go outside in it. So, I am roasting right now sweet potato slices for home fries in a pan, and 3 sweet potatoes for roasted snacks too this week. Later I will make a veggie lasagne and carrot soup for the next week for lunches and dinners. Do you batch cook? I love doing this.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I made a big batch of mala hotpot paste for freezing. In winter, we keep some hotpot meat and dumplings in the freezer. Then, when we’re feeling lazy and have a bunch of random vegetables to use up, we can do a fast, delicious and healthy dinner with minimal effort.

      1. JustForThis*

        This sounds wonderful & delicious. Would you mind sharing your recipe for the mala hotpot paste?

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I roughly follow the one in the Omnivore’s cookbooks, but I use cumin, cardamon, star anise, bay leaf and cinnamon for the spices. I also use much less oil than called for. I like that one because you grind up all the ingredients into the paste, while some recipes use the spices to infuse the oil and then discard them (which requires a lot more of the base ingredients). The addition of the boullion powder/cubes means you don’t need broth as a base. The spiciness will depend on the type of dried peppers you use.

          “Mala” means hot and numbing in Mandarin – the hot is from the chilis and the numbing from the Sichuan peppercorns. At restaurants, you often get split pots, half with the spicy base, and half with a mild one. I get the thinly sliced meat for hotpot, and the dumplings and fish paste, in the grocery store – in winter, most of the ice cream section switches over to hot pot ingredients.

    2. Kate Daniels*

      Latkes!!! This will be my first time making them. In the past, we used to go to a Hanukkah party at a family friend’s, but it is not happening again this year. I really missed them last year, so promised myself that I’ll try making them this year.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I am on my own. This probably means the nifty grilled asparagus and tarragon salad I ran across a few months back for a one-dish supper one night, and on the other a bacon-lettuce-persimmon sandwich to use up the box my in-laws sent.

    4. Teapot Translator*

      I have a Madras lentils recipe I want to try! I’m going to a special store to get the ingredients I don’t have.

    5. fposte*

      I bought an air fryer! I had thought about it and then was up at 1 am one night, which is when I succumb to impulse. I am still getting used to it (it’s the Instant Vortex with the 6 quart capacity–though when I look at it I doubt that’s true, but that’s fine) and would love reports of people’s favorite foods to do in the air fryer. I especially want to hear about things that are genuinely better done that way, not just faster.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I got mine for making chicken wings, and I really like the results. Have tried a number of other things, including eggplant-fries and frozen jalapeno poppers, with good results – though if I wanted to use a deep-fat fryer it might be a bit better. It’s good for quick-roasting vegetables, especially in summer when I don’t want to heat up the oven.

        I did experiment with a steak, after seeing some encouraging articles online, but the results were only so-so – didn’t save any time at all, and didn’t provide the desired sear, so I won’t be doing that again.

        Have fun experimenting!

      2. RussianInTexas*

        Cauliflower! Toss in olive oil and whatever spices you want. Sweet potato fries or chips, particularly good with a light dusting of cayenne, or Cajun seasoning. Beet chips. They aren’t super crunchy, but I like them anyway.

      3. Cartographical*

        Baked potatoes! Check for instructions suited to your machine. But baked potatoes can be so good in an air fryer — it’s just a super-convection oven, really. I’ve fried noodles in mine, though it took a little fiddling, and got the crunch I wanted without having to heat up a lot of oil. I’ve even done pastries in mine, with some adjustments to keep the dough from getting out of hand.

        Pre-made fries are really good; I grind salt to a fine powder (and seasonings sometimes) and toss the frozen fries with it before cooking. “Home fries” or hash browns, homemade or frozen, work well.

        I’ve also used mine to sort of grill peppers and tomatoes for pasta sauce and my husband was thrilled with the results. Chicken drumsticks thrown in plain and then tossed with a sauce of 50/50 melted butter and Frank’s Red Hot sauce are just like wings only with more meat on them. Husband loves them and they’re fast.

        Basically I just experimented with everything in sight until I was happy with the results.

          1. Cartographical*

            For the first few weeks pretty much everything I made I just tried some in the air fryer. That reminds me that I had good luck with meatballs in there as well. I prefer to do them in the oven instead of frying and this was faster and cleaner.

      4. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        Sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted beets, roasted cauliflower, chicken legs and thighs — genuinely better than in the oven, imo.

        I’ve stopped pan frying tofu, it’s absolutely better and easier in the air fryer.

        Chicken wings — maybe not better than oven per se, but a lot more consistent in terms of results, because my oven heats kind of unevenly, which isn’t an issue with the air fryer.

        I also do a “cauliflower wings” thing where I airfry the cauliflower dusted with Frank’s Red Hot (the powder, not the liquid sauce).

      5. Chauncy Gardener*

        A friend does Thanksgiving leftover egg rolls in her air fryer. Turkey breast, stuffing and cranberry sauce rolled up in egg roll wrappers then air fried for 8 minutes. They’re incredible!

        1. fposte*

          OMG that sounds amazing. I bet I could sub in mashed potatoes for the stuffing and it would work just as well.

    6. GoryDetails*

      I’m continuing to use some smoked ham hocks – yesterday I simmered them with some carrots, onions, and celery to make a stock, and used the meat to enhance a boxed jambalaya meal. Today I plan to use the stock with a lentil-soup kit I got at a local herb-themed restaurant.

      On the lighter side, I’ve been enjoying the Bonne Maman jams-and-honeys Advent calendar; each day I get a tiny serving of a different flavor of fruit spread. Today’s is mango/peach/lime; will probably have that on some plain crackers. (Used the strawberry-rhubarb in a simple omelet; mixed the raspberry with some goat cheese for a spread to use on toast; had the lemon-yuzu on crackers because I had no idea what it would taste like and wanted the simplest form. Turns out yuzu is a bit metallic for my taste; now I know!)

    7. Lore*

      I’ve had a weird food week—bought ingredients to make a favorite dish my partner doesn’t much like because he had plans without me one evening. Then he ended up bringing me such a vast quantity of baked ziti and meatballs from the leftovers that I ate that for days and then he came over midweek and continued his mission to get through what’s in my freezer and made lemon chicken. Which I still have leftovers from but all the soup veggies were going to go bad, which is how I found myself making sweet potato and sausage soup (sort of an easy version of caldo verde) at 11 pm last night.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Baking a birthday cake for my kid’s birthday. She wants a chocolate cake from the GBBO cookbook that has a rosette on top, so it will be my first time working with modeling chocolate. Fun!

        1. RagingADHD*

          I seem to have run into technical difficulties with wierd crackley air bubbles on top and the cake rather flat overall. The internets say either the mixture sat too long before going in the oven (quite possible) or the oven wasn’t hot enough (possible as it’s a new oven and may not be calibrated).

          However as my grandmother used to say, “that won’t hurt the eatin’ of it!”

          It is currently ensconced in frosting awaiting its delicious doom.

    9. HannahS*

      I’m going to use my shiny new food processor to make a shredded cabbage salad–a copycat of the cashew salad from Costco. I love that salad kit, but it has two flaws: it’s not big enough, and the dressing is a bit sugary for me. We’ll have it with roasted chicken.

    10. Lady Danbury*

      I just made a dutch baby (this recipe https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/vanilla-dutch-baby-puffed-pancake-recipe2-1960690), scrambled eggs and bacon for brunch. It was my first time making a dutch baby and it came out really well. I also made the bacon in the oven, putting it in at the same time as the dutch baby, so that was perfect for an easy brunch. I would make a few modifications in the future as follows:
      -Add some cinnamon and maybe ginger to the batter
      -Wait until the oven heats before adding the butter. Ideally I would have preferred to rest the batter a little long, but the butter was perfectly browned by the time the oven heated and I didn’t want it to burn. Another option would be to make the batter before turning on the oven.
      -Experiment with different toppings (sauteed apples, etc).

    11. the cat's ass*

      Rice pudding! It actually came out great, after 4 or 5 previous tries that were all terrible. I used the allrecipe’s version of creamy rice pudding and it’s yummmmmmm.

      Also making potstickers for an outdoor potluck tomorrow.

    12. Charlotte Lucas*

      I have some buttermilk left over from making Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m just about to dive into my cookbooks to find a good bread recipe. Then I might make something with the squash & potatoes I still have from the CSA that ended in October.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Thanks! I ended up using my old standby Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads. I now have 2 loaves of buttermilk whole-wheat bread & one of glazed raisin bread.

    13. Bethlam*

      Just got one too,, haven’t used it yet.
      Am disappointed with the paperwork that came with it. The recipe book was full of fancy recipes of stuff we’d never eat and ingredients I don’t have..

      And the instruction book was just “clean before first use, don’t set anything on top,, make sure enough clearance, never never do this or that, etc., etc.” But no actual directions for cooking anything.

      So I’m hoping to get some tips and ideas here.

    14. Girasol*

      Potato cheddar soup made with the last of the tiny potatoes from the garden. It’s a foggy, dull day, so it needs Christmas lights, a pot of vanilla and cloves simmering on the back of the stove, and a bowl of nice thick soup.

    15. Anonymath*

      Big batch of Berbere Beef in the crockpot. It’s spiced but not too spicy, hearty but not too fatty, and pretty low in calories. I serve it over couscous, but it’s also nice with riced cauliflower if you tend that way.

      I always batch cook. I’m not sure I know how to make a meal for less than four servings, and its more likely 8 or more. But I also like only having to clean pots once a week, so this way I do one big cook and then eat off it for the rest of the week.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        That sounds delicious! Do you have a link for the recipe or description to search for (if you’d prefer to avoid moderation)?

    16. JustForThis*

      I prepared some (basic) hummus and a near-Eastern-inspired carrot salad today and will make Shakshuka plus some home-made rolls for brunch tomorrow. Much looking forward to sharing a meal with friends!

    17. KristinaL*

      I’m planning to make what I call brownie-cookies. I start with either brownie mix or cookie mix, add oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and other good stuff, and then cook it in a pan as if it were brownies.

    18. Dancing Otter*

      I simmered the last of the leftover turkey, meat and bones, into broth in the slow cooker: a large jar full without any seasoning for the cat, and the rest to have seasoning and add-ins as we use it ourselves. E.g., I could dish up some for turkey barley soup with poultry seasoning and parsley flakes, or use some as starter for vegetable soup (obviously not vegetarian), or even boil some down for gravy.
      What do you put in your carrot soup besides carrots?
      I only wish I had the patience to make my own lasagna. We like Trader Joe’s for family size, and Stouffer’s does individual microwave ones that are better than no lasagna.

      1. StellaBella*

        The carrot soup recipe is made of 2 pounds of roasted carrots diced, bouillon cube in 5 ish quarts of water as base broth, 3 diced roasted red bell peppers, 2 cloves garlic and one large onion diced and sautéed, then whizzed up in the broth with some ground pepper, turmeric, ginger spices added and simmered. Some times I replace a quart of the water with a can of coconut milk but am out of coconut milk today so might add a bit of corn starch for thickness and a bit olive oil.

    19. BlueWolf*

      For dinner tonight I’m making slow cooker Korean short ribs. Also going to make a batch of cranberry orange muffins for breakfasts this week with the extra cranberries left over from Thanksgiving.

    20. Might Be Spam*

      Last night I made a mystery squash in the microwave. Someone gave me an unknown squash that looks a bit like a pumpkin but isn’t. It’s a bit sweet and very good.

    21. JSPA*

      Autumn Soup, in the “mini” instant pot.

      ~Half cup wild rice, plus
      ~half cup mixed dry “soup beans” (pre-soak together, withg a bit of baking soda in the soaking water, if your water and your beans or your digestion require it).

      Cube up some winter squash (kabocha is ideal but hard to cut raw; butternut works well; a young-enough-to eat turban squash, or any other dry, sweet, dense squash). Ditto a golden or garnet yam / sweet potato (you can keep the skin if it’s nice). Ideally also dice and add parsnip or two (always peel parsnips!) if you have them (or add fennel seed to the spices). Some diced celeriac if you have it (or add celery seed or dried lovage for flavor). An old, fat carrot, if any of the above are missing, and you have space to fill.

      Very briefly pre-saute in olive oil: ground coriander seed (~a tsp or even a bit more). If corriander in all forms tastes like soap to you, you can probably find some other spicing you’ll like, but I find it essential. A dash or two or three of nutmeg. Some caraway (this is another love/hate flavor; I’m “love,” so at least 1/4 tsp). Optional, 2 or 3 juniper berries or some powdered spruce tips. If you didn’t have parsnips, here’s where you add some fennel seed. I add several flakes of dried scotch bonnet or habanero, or the equivalent in the form of hot sauce. If I’m short on sweet potato, and not using juniper, I sometimes add a dash of cardamom. A little salt (it softens the beans further) and/or a quarter tsp or so of baking soda (if not using the soaking water for the wild rice and the beans).

      Toss it all in together, add water to cover generously, set to cook on high pressure for 8 to 9 minutes. Don’t do the pressure release, just let it sit for an hour or more on “keep warm.”

      Then stir well, adding ~ a tsp of rice vinegar or cider vinegar to brighten the taste, and salting lightly as needed (or not).

      It happens to be vegan primarily because every time I’ve added something dairy or meat to it, I’ve liked it less. Same for onions and garlic (though some pre-cooked leek would work, I think, if you don’t trust a soup without them).

      1. JSPA*

        Forgot the all-important dash (but not a lot!) of cumin. Same time as the nutmeg, and about the same amount. Easy to overdo it.

  9. Frida*

    If you had to choose – big living room or big bedroom? Asking as a singleton living alone. I recently bought a new home – it’s a small 1960s build on one level and for a few reasons I’m not in a position to actually structurally reconfigure it. That said, I do have the option to switch rooms around before decorating and moving in, and I’m leaning toward making the larger living room (173 sq ft) into the master bedroom, and then the current smallish master bedroom into the living room (137 sq ft). I tend to spend a lot of time in my bedroom versus my living room where I rent now, I think in part thanks to many years of having roommates! I’m wondering if there’s something I haven’t considered but I dream of a big bedroom more than I do a big living room.

    1. Bobina*

      Ooh. Personally I’d go for big living room, but thats because I consciously choose to spend more time in there than the bedroom. Do you like to have people over at all? Thats one consideration in terms of size and whether you might want more room for multiple sofas/sofabed etc.

      Similarly, think about other stuff – table/desks/shelving etc. Will it all fit in the smaller space?

      1. Frida*

        I hardly ever have people over and when I do it would be 1 or 2 at a time, max. My wfh space will be in a second even tinier bedroom so in my head the living room is just a tv stand and sofa, whereas a bedroom is bed, wardrobe, dresser, drawers etc. (I have a LOT of clothes, shoes and personal knick knacks).

    2. TiredEmployee*

      I would definitely go big livingroom. A bedroom that is purely for sleep, getting dressed, and romantic intimacy is great for sleep hygiene. If you make the livingroom smaller and less inviting you’ll likely use it less as a self-fulfilling prophecy. But that’s just me, ultimately it’s up to what you find comfortable.

    3. Morning reader*

      I think you will find you spend more time n the living room when it’s your own space, so, unless you entertain frequently in your bedroom, I’d go with the living room as the larger space. You’re more likely to spend time with others in your living room so you will need space for a guest to sit in there.
      I live alone and I like to switch things up by spending time in different rooms. Usually spend the day in the living room and eventually wind down and retire to the bedroom a couple hours before sleepy time.

      If you don’t have roommates, there’s no inherent reasons to spend more time in the bedroom. Consider having a couch or day bed in the living room so you could sleep there (or have a guest) if you wanted to.

      My vote is for LR to be the larger room, if you’re counting. Unless you have a significant reason to need more space in the bedroom…You’re recording a boudoir YouTube channel in there? Need space for extra cat trees? A vast collection of shoes? (My imagination is failing me for activities of living that might be better in a bedroom. )

      1. Frida*

        I love the narrative here! I currently live alone in a rental and still spend more time in my bedroom than the living room. Other than the years of roommates thing I don’t really know where it comes from, but it’s always been a place of comfort much more than the living room. There’s also a large kitchen/dining room and a smaller second bedroom (the latter will be my WFH space). I guess with bedrooms I think of lots of furniture (bed, wardrobe, drawers, lamps etc) which in my mind require more space than a tv unit and a sofa if that makes sense?!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          See, if you’re willing and able to shuffle the rooms around in terms of usage, I’d go biggest = living room, second biggest = WFH space, smallest = bedroom, if it was me. But I’m BRUTAL about not doing anything in my bedroom except sleeping, and I spend as little time in there as I can get away with, and if I could be a giraffe and only sleep 30 minutes a day, I wouldn’t even HAVE a bed, I could just sleep my 30 minutes on the couch and get on with it :) My house did the 80s thing of “a formal living room and a family room,” so I basically have two living rooms, and one of them became my home office because THAT is where I spend the majority of my time.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think you will find you spend more time n the living room when it’s your own space.
        I have found this to be true. As others have noted, for sleep health it can be good for the bedroom to tell you “now it’s time to sleep” which is hard if you spend most of the day there.

        My daughter is living without roommates for the first time, in a small studio, and carving out spots for “now I am working” (desk) and “now I am relaxing” (couch) was important to not have everything devolve to sprawling on the bed.

        For the vast amount of clothing I recommend The Container Store (or local equivalent) and putting some money into a good storage system.

        You can ignore all of us and make the bedroom the big space! And if whatever you do first doesn’t work, then have a furniture-moving weekend sometime and swap. But I think years of roommates have shifted your thinking about “my space” and as you get used to thinking of the entire house and yard as “my space” you will want to fully use all of it.

    4. WinterLong*

      I’d go for big living room every time. It allows for more flexibility, and space to entertain family and friends. The bedroom is for sleeping, so as long as there’s room for my bed and clothing storage that’s plenty. (For sleep hygiene reasons I try not to spend too much time in my bedroom doing other stuff so I associate it with sleep exclusively.) A big living room lets me have all the chill out stuff in one space.

      It took me a while of living alone to get comfortable using all my living space instead of staying mostly in my room as I did when I lived in shared flats, but once I did I felt much more settled in my home.

    5. Square Root of Minus One*

      There’s a reason most people say big living rooms. Most people don’t need that much space in the place you sleep in, especially as singletons. As someone said, the fewer distractions (especially electronic) in the bedroom, the better the sleep hygiene. I find my bedroom is almost too big for my needs: bed, window, nightstand, that’s it. Even dressing could be done in an adjoining room.
      Caveat: the difference between the rooms is not huge, if the smaller room gets significantly more natural light in the day, I might consider switching around.
      But still, YMMV.

      1. Square Root of Minus One*

        (TBH, I’m not neutral on the subject. The last year I lived with my boyfriend, he was mad at me for spending more time in the bedroom than with him in the living room. Yeah, right. He lived in an apartment where the LR had crappy natural light, his noisy electronics distracted me and the couch was horribly unconfortable. The bedroom had the bed, better natural light and SILENCE when I tried to read, and was also easier to warm up too.)

    6. Asenath*

      I’m with the majority here – I like the big living room. I did once live in a place where I spent most of my time in my bedroom, which was warmer and more comfortable than the drafty living room, but in my current place, where I do have quite a big bedroom, I only go there to sleep, and spend all my time in the living room, which is much more pleasant and comfortable than the one in that former place. I have all the “awake” stuff in the living room, electronics (including TV), books, really comfortable chair (a bit of a splurge, and I do have more than one chair, but it’s nice to have a great one I use most of the time) and so on.

    7. Janet Pinkerton*

      I would plot out the bedroom furniture to see how you would configure it in each room. Same with the living room. Personally I am also in the smaller bedroom camp—my wife and I share the smaller bedroom in our condo and the larger room was for the cats only for a long time. I don’t like my bedroom feeling cavernous or echo-y, and I’ve definitely had that happen with a larger bedroom.

      One thing to keep in mind (based on what you’ve written in replies) is that your knick-knacks would also do very nicely on shelves in your living room. And that way if you had a friend over you could share that with them!

      Additional thoughts: a small living room limits the size of TV you can comfortably watch, and TVs are getting bigger by the day. TV size isn’t particularly important to me but I will say that when I visited a friend and tried to watch his too-big TV it gave me a headache.

      Also, furniture you find comfortable for long periods will go a long way in making a living room more welcoming. I am in my early 30s but I am really noticing now that I don’t prefer to sit on my bed for extended periods—it’s more physically pleasant to be on furniture intended for sitting.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Everyone should have a big bedroom at least once in their lives. I had a bedroom with two 15 ft closets side by side on one wall. Yeah, it was 30 ft by something- I forget the other dimension probably 18 ft or so. It was the largest bedroom I have ever had. It was great to be able to walk around with out falling over something.

      The house we bought right after that apartment has a small bedroom with seemingly narrow foot paths. I am forever falling over my dog. So glad I enjoyed the big bedroom while it lasted.

    9. Holly the spa pro*

      I think the nice thing about having your own place is that you can be as non-traditional as you want. If that means your bedroom is in the “living room”, go for it! The rooms are similar in size so if you decide you wanna switch it up, thats always an option if you arent happy with it.

      If you dont have an issue with sleep hygiene and distractions, id consider which room has more natural light, better airflow, and which feels more comfy to hang out in.If you like to spend most of the time in your bedroom, you could even do something fun and non traditional with your living room.

      One downside of having your bedroom in the main living area might be front door position. I would feel weird sleeping near my front door for safety reasons (i like an extra locked door between myself and an intruder) or for noise like package deliveries or whatever.

      I kinda love it when people do their own thing with their own space so go live your best life! Nothing has to he permanent!

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        I’m with Holly the spa pro — you do you! If a big bedroom is going to feel right, go for it. I also like all of the feng shui considerations about room placement, air flow, light, etc. Also, if you make a choice and decide you don’t like it, you’re totally allowed to move the furniture and change things up again until you find the configuration that works best for you.

    10. Freelance Everything*

      Big living room!

      Don’t discount just how much having roommates is keeping you from using that space. No wonder you dream of a big bedroom when that’s also been your living space for so long.

      If you’re concerned about how much stuff you have in your bedroom atm…see above! Coats, jackets, shoes, scarves, gloves… don’t *need* to live in your bedroom. And you may find new homes for knick knacks & ornaments too.

      Plus you can always change it back! It might be a pain to do it, but it could be done. You bought it so just test it out.

    11. fposte*

      While it would be a pain, this does sound like something you could reverse if you don’t like it. I always like remembering that about decisions.

      I too live on my own, and while I’m generally a bedroom person too, I lean toward big living room in your case as well. Here’s the main reason I’m saying that: I find the transition from living room to bedroom a very psychologically significant thing and moment in the day, and I think you’d be likelier to lose that and make your bedroom a living room lite if that’s the big room. When I have had health issues that meant I was spending most of my time in the bedroom, it seemed okay, but wow, it was such a joy and relief to get to living bigger in my own house. So I guess what I’m saying is that I think the bigger bedroom would tempt you to living smaller rather than really enjoying the full house to yourself.

    12. MMB*

      Set things up the way you’d like, try it for a few weeks and if it doesn’t make you happy change it. It’s your home and you can arrange it any way you like!

    13. Generic Name*

      Living room. I get when you have room mates your bedroom is your sanctuary and your probate space, but when you live alone, you get to use the whole house. Just for yourself! I imagine you’ll have people over, and folks will gather in the living room, so I would think it makes more sense to have a big living room for folks to gather. Plus, the way houses are configured, the living room is normally near the kitchen and the bedroom is near the bathroom, so it’s typically more convenient to sleep near the bathroom.

    14. Noisy Ghost*

      I agree with others saying big living room, and I’ve done it both ways. My last place, the bedroom was huge and got beautiful light while the living room was small and dark (couldn’t fit a proper couch in it). I spent most of my time in the bedroom because that was where I had space for everything (chair, desk, bookshelf). I didn’t love it in general – I wanted a place to relax that wasn’t a bed- but it especially sucked when COVID hit because not only was I stuck in a tiny apartment but I was also functionally confined to one room.
      I now have a normal-sized bedroom and a nice large living room and I spend way more time in the living room and infinitely prefer it. Sitting on a nice couch is much nicer than sitting on a bed, and it makes such a big difference to be able to work, read, watch a movie, do hobbies in a separate room from the bedroom.

    15. allathian*

      I try to minimize the time I spend in our bedroom to ensure good sleep hygiene. You don’t need to fit all your clothes in your bedroom, and especially not your outdoor clothes.

    16. Not A Manager*

      My very emphatic advice is to do whatever you want. You have strong feelings about this, you know yourself best, and one of the advantages of living alone is you don’t have to please other people in your decision making. If you want a large bedroom, go for it!

    17. Lady Danbury*

      Echoing all of the replies for big living room. You can always hang out in the living room on your own, but you’re unlikely to entertain in the bedroom. Anything that you can do in the bedroom other than sleep/store clothes can also be done in the living room.

    18. Remedial Chaos Theory*

      My vote is living room.

      I’ve been living alone for the past year and a half — for the first time ever, and I’ve been doing nothing in the bedroom but sleeping, and reading in bed a little bit before sleeping. It’s really improved my sleep habits, there is this very clear divide where I am Going To The Bedroom To Sleep. So I’ve optimized the bedroom for sleep only — darkening curtains, calming art, nothing that is aimed at any other daytime activity. Daytime activity is for my larger and more set up for hanging out living room.

    19. Siege*

      I found that I changed which room I used more when I changed apartments. My first apartment opened onto a hall with the bathroom to the left, bedroom at the end, closet opposite the bathroom, and living room to the right next to the bedroom. I used the bedroom a lot more there, and really only used the “dining room” side of the living room. My current apartment, you enter into the living room and the bedroom is beyond it. Because of that, I found I use and enjoy more of the spaces in my apartment now than in the previous. That might be a consideration, since you say you use your bedroom more due to roommates.

      Either way, I would also consider whether you’re going to be opening the door to your bedroom to the pizza delivery guy or UPS person, too. Personally, I’d rather have an intimate space like that be further from the public space in my home, but that’s me.

    20. DarthVelma*

      My partner and I did something similar. We turned what was supposed to be a first floor master bedroom into a theater room and use one of the upstairs bedrooms for our bedroom. (The other bedroom is our office/game room.) We use what was supposed to be the living room as a combo bar/seating area/workout room. We decided we didn’t care what other people thought, we would organize our house in the way that works for us.

      It’s your space – you get to do whatever makes you happiest.

    21. Elizabeth West*

      I would rather have a bigger living room. I lived alone for years and was usually asleep most of the time in the bedroom. I did everything else in the living room.

      Keep in mind that you might want to entertain in the living room and it’s better to have some space for that.

    22. Aphrodite*

      Living with roommates for years can, if the situations were workable and even pleasant, skew your thinking. It’s not that it would be wrong for you to switch the rooms; that may indeed work for you but not, I suspect, for the reason you listed. If the bedroom had better windows and light, a good entryway, and was well suited to spending more time there than the living room then go for it (basically architectural reasons). But if your reasoning is based more on the years of roommate living then reconnsider.

      You will probably get used to having the living room larger quickly. And want it as you use it for multiple activities. You also, as many people on here have commented, be able to finally separate out parts of your life and furnishings into living and sleeping areas and keep the sleeping. area just for that or intimacy. You don’t need to keep your electronics in there any longer anything else that is not conducive sleep health. In fact, you might try minimizing furnishings to beautiful essentials only. Make it your place of peace. Do not put much in the way of knickknacks; always lean to simplicity and beauty. Keep your nightstands mostly free; I have a quiet and tiny battery-operated alarm clock that I keep in a drawer so I can quickly look at the time but am. not reminded of it all the time.

    23. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I don’t spend much time in my bedroom. It’s where I sleep, not much else. So for me a huge bedroom is a waste of space. It sounds like that’s not how you have lived previously, but consider that how you do daily life may change. Don’t lock yourself in mentally. You can always repaint and move furniture, but the mental lock is tough to undo.

    24. acmx*

      I say go for it. Use the larger room for your bedroom if that suits you. But you can always graph it out and see if you need extra space for the bedroom furnishings.

      I currently have a huge LR (I have an open floor plan) and I still probably spend less time there than my room. I read in bed a lot (I don’t watch TV). When I was in an apartment, I made the dining room into a reading area because I did not need a table (and needed the space for the reading chair). I ate at the kitchen peninsula or my desk.

    25. Morning reader*

      Coming back to add that, despite my vote for the bigger living room, there’s no reason whatever you do has to be permanent. Do it one way for a year, then try the other way. I have a similarly small house and I’ve switched bedrooms once already and rearranged everything a few times in my 4 years here so far. I’m a big believer in rearranging the furniture or getting a dramatically different hair cut whenever I feel I need a change in life.

    26. beach read*

      Big living room, smaller bedroom. If you do spend more time in the bedroom, it is likely you don’t need much room to ‘walk about’, whereas the living room you might. I’m a single in a small place and just last week my friend who had some emergency plumbing repairs had to last minute stay with me for a few days. I was grateful the living area had enough room to accommodate her and her stuff.

    27. Fiction Reader*

      Do the rooms face different directions? I moved from a house where my bedroom windows were on the east and south sides, to a house where my bedroom windows face west. I miss the morning sun and in the summer my bedroom gets hot in the evening from the sun. Unfortunately in this house the east-facing bedroom is tiny.
      Also, if you are living alone there is no need for all your clothing to be in your bedroom. You could put a dresser full of out-of-season clothes in the living room and use it like a side table with a lamp on top. You can also store clothes in your home office. If you don’t cook, you can store shoes in your kitchen cabinets. :)

    28. RowanUK*

      I moved into my first place just before the pandemic and I’d spent all of my life seeing my bedroom as my main living space…and I still treat it like it is. I can’t make the living room a bedroom as it’s slightly open plan with the kitchen, but even if I could have, I’d still have kept it as the living room (but the master bedroom is still quite large anyway).

      However, IMO if you can get away with making the larger room your bedroom without it looking weird, I say go for it. You know your own preferences, and if you find that they change once you’ve been there a while, you can always switch everything around. (I still spend most of my time in the spare bedroom (office) or my bedroom – it may take a while for your habit/preference to change too.)

    29. JSPA*

      My bedroom tends to accumulate clutter if it’s large and I can get away with it. (I get to bed tired, drop whatever it is by the bed.) So, despite spending a lot of time in the bedroom, I’m better off with small bedroom and larger living room.

      You can also take some of what you like about bedrooms and bring that level of comfort into the living room, unless you’re a believer in a formal living room. (Hammocks / hammock chairs can be indoor furniture; Daybeds in place of couches, etc.)

      But if your “more space” really works out to “more spaciousness,” not “more clutter,” then of course, go with your dream of a large bedroom!

      Do quickly check, first, that you still have legal and safe egress (large enough windows) in case of fire or other emergency…and conversely, that you’re comfortable with the security and exposure of whatever will be the bedroom windows. Google “bedroom rules of egress” for details.

  10. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes.
    NaNoWriMo participants, how did your month go?
    Somehow, my light fluffy fanfic project for busy times is turning into something much more significant. I did not anticipate this.
    Woops.

    1. Maryn B*

      Pfft. My third novel in a series I thought was finished has timeline issues. The imagined events need to align with real ones, and I didn’t leave enough time for the events to play out as they must. So I’m sitting here with 2019 calendars, weather data for two locations, and spreadsheets of plot points trying to reconfigure the dates. I’m on my third attempt and it’s not going well. Can I time travel and control the weather to create lightning strikes in the place I need there to be a multi-day power loss, please?

      FWIW, my first novel started as a fanfic. If yours is becoming significant, that’s great! Follow it to the end.

    2. HBJ*

      NaNo went pretty well. I won, barely. I wasn’t able to write the second-to-last day so had to write 2,700 words the last day. But I did it! And I more-or-less finished it, too. I have a complete novel, although I don’t love all of it, and the background plot that drives the main story is kind of weak.

    3. Noxalas*

      This NaNo, I made a point of working in as many Ask A Manager legends as I could. It was set in a secondary fantasy world, so no Hanukkah Balls or other real-world holidays, but I did have someone spell out “I QUIT” in fish fillets, the cheap ass rolls showed up and of course, “I will confront you by Wednesday.”

    4. Smol Book Wizard*

      Almost done with a very difficult novella project; I did not anticipate having so much trouble writing the emotions of the adult characters that are surrounding the protagonist. Has anyone ever had that problem of feeling like “I may have bit off more emotionally in this story than I can chew,” not in terms of one’s personal coping but in terms of what you can imagine how to write? If so be I ever published this, I would want to first have a lot of beta readers outside my own range of experience. Basically, my protagonist has been dropped into the middle of someone’s Messed-Up Family Situation (of a kind I am not personally familiar with) and is trying to do her best to mitigate the damage.
      I don’t usually feel that my autism affects my writing directly, but now and again when I hit some very high-grade Perspective Taking I do. :D

      1. Maryn B*

        This is probably a discussion more apt for a writing site like AbsoluteWrite, but for the most part you don’t need to plumb the emotional depths of anyone except your point-of-view character. Why? Because they’re the only one whose mind is available to the author, who can share memories, fears, hopes, disappointments, sorrow, humiliation, crushes, etc. to illuminate the POV character.

        Your reader knows all the other characters only through what they say and do. So if I’m not the POV character, readers can probably tell I’m furious from my clenched fists and mutters swear words. But if I’m simply disappointed or really wish I could leave, I can hide that and the readers may never know unless and until I choose to reveal it.

        Focus on the POV character’s emotions.

  11. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this thread is not limited to video games, so feel free to talk about any games you wish including phone games and board games.
    Still on Stardew Valley for me, but I haven’t had much time to make progress. Someone asked me last week if I had married anyone yet, and yes, I have! I’ve owned this game for a few years now, and no matter how many farms I start I usually end up marrying Elliot – even when I actively try to court other people, I somehow still end up with a silly writer husband with glorious hair.

    1. Nursey*

      This is probably a bit juvenile but I love playing fairway solitaire on my iPad. I find it’s great for me as when I wake up in the morning, that’s my “me” time before I have to start my day and I take my coffee and iPad out to the alfresco (yes, even in winter) and sit there and play the daily challenges and, time permitting, one or two main games. There’s no real thinking involved so it’s a nice relaxing way to start the day.

      A strange flex but this week, I managed to accumulate over 100,000 golf bucks.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Halo! If you’re like, isn’t that the ancient xbox live game where people are shitty to each other? Yes, but I’ve never played the multiplayer, and the campaign (single-player stories) are surprisingly good. In anticipation of Halo Infinite release next week, I’ve spent this month replaying the games. I finished 1-3, Halo: Reach, and 4 (I probably won’t ever play ODST because I’ve seen my husband play it, and I know there’s an annoying, persistent beeping if you take damage, and I just can’t deal with that). I’ll replay Halo 5 after I finish a specific project around the house. I’d only played Halo 3 and 4 once, and that was before I knew a lot of the lore, and I’d forgotten what good games they are. For a game that starts as “you’re a space marine shooting aliens” it gets pretty deep and emotional.

    3. twocents*

      Still on Shin Megami Tensei V. So far, it’s my favorite of the series. I hope the rest of the game plays that out!

    4. Golden*

      I just started Stardew Valley yesterday! I’m a huge Harvest Moon fan and it feels like a blatant rip off, but still fun.

      I’m on Spring Day 5 and was joking with my husband, telling him I’d marry whichever guy looks most like him. But that turns out to be Shane, and he’s been a huge asshole to me! And apparently spends 5 hours a day drinking at the bar! Husband suggested Harvey or Sebastian might be better options :P

      1. Just an autistic redhead*

        Don’t want to spoiler anything, but if you do manage to get all the way through Shane’s story, there is hope XD

      2. A.N. O'Nyme*

        It’s based on the older Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons games actually!

        Also…Yeah, I originally didn’t like Shane either, but then I went through his storyline and he kind of grew on me, so maybe don’t write him off just yet – though Harvey and Sebastian are great too. Basically everyone is great.
        But Elliot is best :D

      3. Golden*

        Update: made it to Day 13! Had to install a mod to remove the fishing mini game; that was atrocious. But I have a cute cat now and working my way towards repairing a bridge. I’m so excited to play again but I have a bunch of errands planned for today that might have to fall by the wayside…

    5. Noxalas*

      I’m currently playing Wandersong (on the PS4.) Everyone keeps gushing about how calm and relaxing this game is, and the non-platforming sections ARE very charming, but I have to admit I’m wrestling with the controls and cursing more than I should for such a “chill” game! I just started Act 4.

    6. Phoenix Wright*

      I’m trying to finish Psychonauts 2. It’s a great game, but sadly some of the latest levels are dragging out a little so I’m getting a bit tired. It doesn’t help that I recently played the latest Ratchet & Clank, which totally blew my mind due to how well it looks and feels, and as a result it has made P2 a lot harder to go back to.

      Still, I’m incredibly happy that Psychonauts 2 is a thing that exists and people can play at this very moment. I’ve been waiting for a sequel since I was in high school, so this is kind of a dream come true. And because I took part in the crowdfunding campaign that happened several years ago my name appears in the credits, which would have made 16-year-old me incredibly jealous.

    7. Ginger Dynamo*

      I love Stardew Valley! Elliott was always my go-to husband of choice, but in my most recent save I married Maru instead. She’s very sweet, although I still don’t know how to feel about the mornings when she gifts me explosives. I’m starting to get back into all the games I love but had to stop playing while I was writing my grad school apps. Now that the deadlines are past, it’s good to start feeling a little more human again :)

    8. LimeRoos*

      I just got my Barbarian to level 76 in Diablo 2 Resurrected, which means I have 4 of the 6 set pieces equipped for Immortal Kings and omg is it awesome!! I just whirlwind right through people. I can even handle an amount of cows (if they don’t have mana drain/steal). That was exciting yesterday.

      Also have already done over 50 homes in Happy Home Paradise… so uh, not sure if that’s an accomplishment but it sure is something lol. Really enjoying the updates to ACNH and the expansion. It’s Rave Day at my vacation island, so I will be doing some of that later.

      And of course, the Minecraft update!!! Caves & Cliffs part deux has been fantastic so far!! We played with our two friends in WI (we’re in MN) and there was pretty much no lag in the realm at all, which is crazy but such a good fix. You can fly in caves, the new stuff is really fun, and somehow a lot of our machines still work! So excited to explore more later.

    9. Koala dreams*

      Oh, finally I can tell about two games. First is 3 dimensional tic-tac toe/droughts and nots/four in a row (are those the same?). It’s difficult and really fun. I also played Quarto, a similar game on a flat board but more complex rules. Also lots of fun. Although first game both players missed the chance to win.

  12. Silver*

    Gift for a loved one preparing for a double mastectomy? This isn’t a desired procedure and she’s terrified

    1. Nursey*

      If you are able to, make up a gift basket with some lotions for hand, body and feet, some bed socks and even a couple of bed jackets. I always like to put lotion on patients feet as usually they are so dry and the patients enjoy that little bit of pampering and are really appreciative. It’s also a good time to talk to patients as well about their fears and worries and set their mind at rest, so hopefully the nursing staff will be able to do this for your loved one.

      Some books or puzzle/crossword books to alleviate boredom would be good too if they like to read or do puzzles and also can help take their mind off things.

      For a longish stay of >7 days, a plant to brighten up the bed area.

      Just please remember to name everything.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Seconded. Putting your arms into sleeves can be difficult after the surgery.

        Don’t know if you’re crafty, but I especially like the concept of a prayer shawl, with prayers or good energy worked into the fabric as I knit or crochet it.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      1) Advice: Physical therapy really helped with my recovery. You want someone specialized (the open plan office won’t cut it) which I had through a sports medicine center associated with the hospital.

      2) Gift: It is going to be tough to move her arms for a while.
      a) Soft comfy tops that close in front. I am presently wearing an LLBean sweatshirt that I got at this time (2 years ago). Something you can wear to bed, and then out to the surgeon’s for the follow-up appointment. If she’s anywhere warm (my follow-up surgery got pushed to the summer) then it can be hard to find short-sleeve tops that fit this bill. (I have three identical LLBean camp shirts, which I wore each day I had to go to a doctor and take my top off.)
      b) A month of housecleaning is something the cancer center recommended and I regret not getting. Just take that off the plate.
      c) Gift cards for local food delivery, or whatever effort on your part would cause food to appear and she doesn’t have to plan it.
      d) Something to do while lying down recovering and not moving her arms much.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        A downthread suggestion reminded me of another thing that worked with my LLBean zip-front cotton sweatshirts and zip-front flannel shirts–the way the pockets were inset created an extra unofficial pocket inside, perfect for holding the drainage bags. This is a common design but not a feature that will be explained in an online description. (As I recall I had ordered one of each, for the zip-front-and-soft features, and then went back and ordered every color when it emerged I would be living in them.)

    3. Generic Name*

      If she loves a certain type of food, get her an expensive gift box/basket of that type of food. Cookies, chocolates, cheese, etc. Or maybe a month subscription like Birchbox or wine of the month club.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Maybe get her a small portion of marijuana edibles? They can really make a difference when recovering from surgery.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Audible subscription and/or Bluetooth headphones so she can easily watch/listen to stuff while resting

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

      My mom really appreciated rice-filled heating pads after her surgery. Maybe get/make several. I like them more than anything electric…although the heat doesn’t last as long, it tends to be a moist heat which is more soothing, and it’s not tethered to a spot near an outlet, or has a cord to get tangled up in. My mom also had a friend gift her a few absolutely beautiful muumuu…Hawaiian loose-fitting dresses. They were easier for her to wear, put on/take off and cheerier than other options.

    6. BSharp*

      The Keep a Breast foundation has plaster mold kits, which can be a nice way to honor what you are giving up.

      Grace. Give them grace. Recovery took my loved one a long time, and the only really important gift I can offer is patience.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Give her your time and attention as best you can.
      That said, there are pillows specifically for mastectomy patients to ease their post-op pain.

    8. Squidhead*

      Research and suggest some mastectomy support groups in her area? Offer to go with her/log in to the Zoom with her (if the group allows a support person). My memory from a long time ago is that my mom attended some meetings before her surgery and at least a few after…like right afterwards, when she still had surgical drains in place and getting out of the house was a big effort. She did find the experience of other survivors to be helpful in terms of “what are good pillows” and “where did you get your prostheses” (She was not a candidate for reconstruction.) She was reluctant to seek these out on her own, though.

      I also went with her to Nordstrom’s department store which at the time had a very good reputation for post-mastectomy undergarments (both soft shells and also bras made to hold prostheses). The clerk was very attentive and appropriate, but this was pre-internet and so there are probably many more options now! Some of these things are expensive, so your gift could be your presence and financial as well.
      Having me with her in the mall meant that I could literally get between her and anyone who might accidentally bump her.

      Nurse hat for a minute: being as active as possible and doing the stretches given by PT after surgery are important. I understand the impulse to help her nestle in, but moving around helps prevent many complications such as blood clots, pneumonia, and constipation. (Hope that doesn’t violate the rules!)

    9. Rainer Maria von Trapp*

      A housekeeping service visit (even 1-2!) can be extraordinarily helpful at a time like this — both for her and for her family. If that’s too expensive, you can even schedule yourself in to clean, if that’s possible for you — “I’ll be in every other Tuesday afternoon to do the bathrooms,” for example). Takes a huge weight off. You’re a very thoughtful person! <3

    10. Fiction Reader*

      You can make or buy a seat belt pillow – it cushions the seat belt strap where it crosses over her shoulder and chest. My mom only used hers for a few weeks but she really appreciated it.

    11. Juneybug*

      Here’s what helped me/what I wished had happened during my recovery from mastectomy –
      1. House cleaning. My husband did the light housekeeping (dusting, vacuum, dishes, etc.) but I wished we had hired someone for the bathrooms, mopping floors, etc.
      2. Meals. My husband cooked meals but again, we should have hired meal delivery so we had side dishes (he makes a great steak though!).
      3. Movies – a written list of comedies available on Hulu, Netflix, etc. (whatever streaming service they have), would have been helpful when you just need someone to make a decision for you.
      4. Drainage tubes holder. Both for dressing and showering. I used a metal chain (normally used for dog tags) with safety pins to hold my drain tubes during showers. I wished I had a lanyard for showering and pocket or holder for clothing (than piece something together).
      5. Small desserts. Sometimes I just wanted a sweet snack without weighing down on my nauseated stomach.
      6. Linen or bedtime spray and 7. Body spray. Both for the reason that you cannot get a good wash when you are in pain, lift your arms, etc. I recommend soft scents (lavender, floral, vanilla, etc.).
      8. Headbands. Soft fabric headbands because styling hair is next to impossible when you can’t lift your arms.
      9. Fluffy socks. Cause you are resting and need your feet to be happy and cozy.
      10. Pillow(s). To help you get comfortable.
      11. Throw. Again for resting and staying cozy.
      12. Bed tray. Some days you will want to stay in bed all day so having a place for water, book, snack, etc., is handy.
      Hope your friend has a speedy recovery. She is lucky to have you!!

    12. JSPA*

      If this comes along with chemo, as opposed to being done prophylactically, probably skip the food gifts, unless and until you know that her taste buds are not affected.

      As opposed to antibody treatments, most broad-spectrum chemo of the “killing the cancer only slightly faster than your quickly dividing tissues” sort, messes with your taste buds big time, and leaves lining of your mouth / throat / GI tract gossamer-thin and barely holding on.

      If there will be hormone treatment or shifts, or hormone blockers, anything that allows for a quick response to “super hot, but now chilly, but now hot again” will be welcome. Easy to kick off and step into puffy slippers, a “puffy” blanket (if you’re familiar with patagonia’s nanopuff pullovers, these are featherweight blankets of similar construction)?

  13. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

    Alison, if this is too much work-related, please feel free to remove and I’ll post next Friday.

    An acquaintance and I want to start a 501c4 community group to do things like host fun and safe holiday events for our town, do fundraisers for local groups (animal shelter, homeless shelter, etc), and various volunteer projects (trash pickup, etc).

    I’m curious to know if anyone here has ever started their own 501c4 and what that experience was like for you.

    1. Pop*

      I haven’t, but I would ask – why did you pick that structure? What are you hoping to accomplish? Do you have nonprofit experience? I honestly generally discourage people from starting new nonprofits as they can be a TON of work. Not discouraging you specifically, but from your few sentences above a 501c4 wouldn’t be my first thought, so wondering why you picked that.

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        We wouldn’t meet the specific criteria for 501c3. We would like to be tax exempt because we will be a not-for-profit group.
        Our main reason for wanting to formally organize is so that neither of us have to bear the tax burden of claiming donations as individuals.
        We held our first event this year for Halloween and our town council donated some money and I’m going to foot the tax bill since it was a nominal amount and won’t affect my tax bracket. But we’d like to do more events and/or community outreach and the funds needed for ongoing efforts would almost definitely impact my or my colleague’s tax burden.

        1. JSPA*

          Individual gifts are tax-free to the recipient. (They have tax repercussions on the estate of the giver, as far as shifting the estate tax limits, if the giver goes over a certain amount, per recipient, per year.)

          Are you treating gifts as income? or is the issue that it was given in the form of a public grant, rather than an individual gift? Is it that you’re charging for the event, to defray costs, but because there’s a ticket charge, there’s a requirement to collect sales tax?

    2. pandq*

      Just be ready for the administrative end of things – yearly tax return for the federal, state and possibly the state entity that oversees nonprofits (In California that is the Attorney General), and staying on top of those deadlines. Letting any one of those lapse can make it a time consuming problem to fix. And people who donate are going to assume their donations are deductible because you will be confused with 501(c)(3)’s, so be ready for that misunderstanding. You might want to contact a group like CalNonprofits dot org to make sure you don’t qualify as a (c)(3). From your brief description, I don’t know why you would not qualify for that status.

      1. twocents*

        Agreed. What is written for the purpose of the group sounds like basically a neighborhood association, which can be a 501(c)(3), unless OP is targeting to also be a political advocacy group which pushes into 501(c)(4) status…

        OP, I’ve never run either, but before starting one, I would ask yourself not just what do you want to do, but what does your community actually want and need? And think about how your community will respond to thinking you may be an eligible charity, and you aren’t. Personally, I wouldn’t donate money to a community group that couldn’t meet the 501(c)(3) qualifications.

        1. retired3*

          I’ve started and managed an environmental 501(c)3. I agree that it sounds like that is what you are doing. We do educational events and have brought legal action as a 501(c)3. We can’t endorse political candidates. I was advised by a man who runs a large 501(c)3 (environmental) that right wing groups are going after groups like ours and that I should manage money as though I am going to be audited by the IRS. You need to find a bank that will take your account. They may not give you the services you would like. Right now we have a grant and would like to have a sub account to keep it separate from our general donations but US Bank won’t do that. In Washington State there is a non profit that helps other non profits sort all this out…they helped us find an accountant (it apparently is quite a sub specialty).
          We have to register with the state and d0 our regular IRS report. If you earn more than $50,000 you have to do a complicated report. We also track income and expenditures in spreadsheets (others use Quickbooks),

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’ve set up 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations for clients. The only real reason to form a (c)(4) instead of a (c)(3) is to be able to engage in political advocacy. PACs tend to be (c)(4)s, for example. And unless you’re a volunteer fire department or a vets’ organization, donations to a (c)(4) are not tax-deductible to the individual taxpayer donor as a charitable contribution. You may be caught up in the dictionary definition of neighborhood association but be assured that there are many such associations that are ordinary charitable (c)(3)s.

      In any event, keep in mind that 501(c)(3) and 501(c)4) organizations are businesses, with the same general requirements for accounting and management as for-profit businesses, just on a slightly different paradigm. In addition to the usual paperwork, there are extra administrative and government reporting burdens to both your state and the IRS. (Too many to discuss here. See a lawyer or google for resources for nonprofit organizations in your state.) You’ll also be answerable to a board of directors, rather than just doing what you want. I’ve found that a good number of my non-profit clients come to me thinking “we’ll take donations, do our program, and not pay taxes,” and it’s just not that simple. There’s a real quid pro quo in play for the privilege of being tax-exempt.

      1. JSPA*

        Important proviso, even if you’re not doing candidate endorsements: If you might want to advocate for a specific piece of legislation, that does fall into c(4) territory…but you can advocate for the general topic, without mentioning the specific legislation, as a c(3).

  14. Green Snickers*

    Sound machines for sleep. Who has them and is it something I’m ok cheaping out on or should I spend a little extra?

    I live in small apartment and get super paranoid about every little sound when I sleep so I like to have something on thru the night. I’ve honestly just been using playlists from Spotify on my work phone and playing it from the iPhone speaker. I noticed last night that the phone was super hot in the morning and something about playing music for 8 hours from there feels like I’m wearing it out or something?

    I generally keep my sounds to colored noises, box fan sounds or ocean/rain sounds. I’d like to have the machine have some variety in these sounds as well (another reason I like playing the Spotify list). Any suggestions?

    1. Gut issues are great*

      I use an app called dark noise! It’s been a bit since I’ve used it, but I believe you can set a sleep timer for it. They have a lot of different sounds, and you can mix and match!

      I know it’s not a machine, and I don’t know if running it all night would be a good idea (if that would also make your phone hot), but it might be worth looking into! :)

    2. Purt’s Peas*

      I just use a box fan, really! Not usually blowing right on me, but it’s nice in the winter when all my neighbors have their heat on and my third floor apartment is feeling the effects :)

      1. Clisby*

        My sister takes a fan with her anytime she travels (doesn’t have to be a box fan) – that’s her wuite noise. I don’t have trouble sleeping, but my husband does, and by serendipity it turned out the air purifier we bought to help with his allergies is giving him a much better night’s sleep, because of the better air and the noise.

    3. The teapots are on fire*

      I have a Conair Su1w. It works fine but I found I only liked one of the sounds (the babbling brook sound). I don’t use it anymore and just rely on swimmers’ earplugs. My SO has two of the Lectrofan machines and LOVES them. He’s a terrible sleeper and likes his white noise in stereo. He even bought two of the mini ones for traveling.

    4. No Tribble At All*

      Spotify (at least on premium) has a “sleep timer” option which will stop playing music after a certain number of hours. From the app: once a playlist is playing, tap the playing bar in the bottom of the app that shows you the specific song. It should show you the playlist name at the top, the album art of the song that’s playing, and the name of the specific song. Tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner to open the menu for that song, then scroll down to the bottom. You’ll see a little crescent moon for sleep timer. Tap it, then choose the time you want the audio to stop. Works for music but not podcast. Hope this helps!

      1. Gut issues are great*

        spotify does that for podcasts too! at least on my phone (I have an iPhone), there’s a little moon icon at the bottom and it lets you pick time increments or until the end of the episode.

    5. Bookgarden*

      Oooh, I’m a very light sleeper and have a noise generator I absolutely love, a LectroFan. It has a variety of noises that may work for you. It’s a bit expensive ($50 I think?), but I’ve used it almost every night for the past five years and it’s still working great. It’s small so I can pretty much take it with me anywhere if I need to travel.

      It offers a variety of sounds, but I only use the ones that sound like fans. Some of the others were too distracting for me to fall asleep. I can’t test it right now but I think a few sounded like a steady truck and/or train engine. Every sound has a few different pitches to cycle through. When you start it up, the machine defaults to whichever sound/pitch you were using when you turned it off.

      1. WeAreTheJunimos*

        I second the LectroFan! I’m a night shift nurse and I sleep so good with it on! When I used to live with family, they could have a relatively normal day and I wouldn’t hear them at all. I’ve also had mine for about 5 years and no signs of wearing out.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve had that thing bookmarked forever. Usually I use a fan, but I heard those are wonderful.

      3. Double A*

        We have the lectro fan for each of our kids and have been using it with them each since day 1. So one of them has been running about 12 hours a day every day for 3 years and is going strong. We also take them when we travel and find it blocks the noise well even in a more open space (i.e a loft).

        I have a clock that makes a wave sound that I’ve gotten fond of, but I slept with the lectro fan when the baby was in a bedside bassinet. It really does obscure noise. We watch loud TV just down the hall from the kids and they don’t notice a thing.

    6. Pop*

      The Hatch sound machines generally get a lot of positive reviews – these are big in the new baby market. I have a smaller one, the hatch mini, which you do have to plug in, but it’s Bluetooth enabled (can do things like set a timer on your phone for it to turn on) and has a nice variety of sounds. We listened to a few in the baby store, and the $27 one absolutely had not as good sound quality as the hatch ($40). However, playing Spotify playlists wasn’t practical for baby so getting a white noise machine was kind of a given, can’t help you with the “is it worth it” part.

    7. Maryn B*

      After years of using a box fan, we bought a white noise machine from Hammacher-Schlemer and never looked back. We have them in every bedroom now, and grab one for travel as needed. It only plays the box fan noise, but we find that’s enough.

      The first one was fairly expensive, but that’s H-S’s trademark, isn’t it? Amazon has them for less than we paid. It’s this one: https://www.amazon.com/Marpac-Classic-White-Noise-Machine/dp/B00HD0ELFK/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=white+noise&qid=1638636287&rdc=1&sr=8-7

      FWIW, the first one we bought had seven or eight sounds, but something was not right about every one of them. The rain sounded like TV static, the waves had too much crackle, like that.

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

      I use apps on my phone. I’m currently using HeadSpace but there are pretty good free ones. I like having lots of sound options and I’ve found water sounds don’t really sooth me so i like frogs, crackling camp fire, a train especially an old-fashioned steam engine, the hum of a car driving on a highway; and almost all apps have sleep timer settings.

    9. ildrummer*

      Buy a used Google Home or Amazon Alexa from Facebook marketplace/craigslist. It will play white noise, pink noise, etc.

    10. Cartographical*

      I have a Dohm, which I like, but my air purifier does the work most of the time. I also have a clock radio with a decent library of nature sounds if I need more noise.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I use a detuned FM radio for white noise to get my baby to sleep. Occasionally I have to alter the tuning if it starts picking up a signal!

    11. Girasol*

      I have the phone in airplane mode beside me. If I’m not listening to an audiobook, I like the Ambience app. I can combine a selection of sounds that I’m in the mood for and they don’t sound like a repetitive loop. Sometimes I can start both an audiobook on a timer and Ambience, and the white noise will continue all night after the book reader stops, but that’s not entirely dependable.

    12. Pip*

      Bit random, but I’ve found that my phone gets significantly less hot while charging (and playing music) when it’s laid screen side down, so the battery side has unrestricted airflow. So if you usually keep your phone laid battery-side down, try flipping it over!

    13. Dancing Otter*

      I discovered accidentally that my bathroom exhaust fan makes great white noise. The intent was to get hanging laundry to dry overnight, but rather than keeping me awake the sound helped me stay asleep.
      Can’t beat the price.

    14. Dwight Schrute*

      I use a Dohm and love it! I also have a smaller cheaper one that’s like a plug in that has different sounds that I use for travel

  15. Falling Diphthong*

    Books That Delighted You

    Looking for recommendations of books that delighted you. It can be something you knew going in was perfectly up your alley, or fortuitously happened across. Could be recent or something I’d have to go to a library to find.

    Two that straddle science and art:
    Animal Life by Piper
    A beautifully photographed book about everything in the animal kingdom. It’s organized by phylum(?) so humans, tigers, fish, etc are all packed into “Craniata” and there’s a chapter on comb jellies, one on tardigrades, etc. The art is beautiful, the text informative and readable, and its focus is different.

    Shaping Humanity by Gurche
    The artist behind the sculptures and paintings in the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human History describes his work. There’s an incredible amount of science going into what can or should be shown, and art going into how to show it. Two details that stuck with me: Marks on the bones that indicate humans could now throw overhand, so the sculpture took that pose. And the debate about at what stage to add whites to the eyes, since that’s not preserved in fossils.

    1. Part time Professional*

      So they’re childrens books, but the two Skunk and Badger books by Amy Timberlake brought a sense of wonder I don’t think I could have experienced as a kid.

      Also I couldn’t put down A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik and am looking forward to getting the sequel in paperback! It was the sort of magical school story I always wanted, with just a hint of teen romance.

      1. Stitch*

        Novik is a really interesting author. I really liked her first three Temeraire books particularly (though I struggled with the series as it went on).

    2. Stitch*

      I’m going to toss out The Magicians series by Lev Grossman. I hadn’t read fantasy I’m ages and this worked for me. Quentin is a difficult protagonist but I liked that. It’s the boomtown got me back into fantasy.

      Last year’s House in the Cerulean Sea was a good one for me too.

    3. Jellyfish*

      Fiction – I’ll second Stitch’s rec for The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. Alison recommended it last year, and it’s just the sweetest book. I like fantasy anyway, but I loved everything about it.

      Nonfiction – Almost Human by Lee Berger and John Hawks. It’s an account of paleoanthropologists making a couple really significant discoveries of humanoid fossils, and I found it fascinating. It’s written to a general audience and has an appealing conversational tone that explains clearly without talking down to the reader.

    4. Emily*

      A lot of the books that have delighted me were unexpectedly funny or clever.

      On the clever side, The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. The basic premise at the start of the first book is that a steerswoman (kind of like an archivist/scientist/librarian) sets out on a journey to explore a part of the fantasy-esque world that she wants to know more about. Over the course of the series, she (and the reader) slowly learn more about how the world works. In addition to the satisfying worldbuilding, the two main female characters are smart and likeable, with complementary skillsets.

      On the funny and charming side, a lot of books by Diana Wynne Jones (recent favorites are Howl’s Moving Castle and Witch Week, but I really do like most of the things she’s written), Connie Willis’s lighter books (To Say Nothing of the Dog is probably the safest read for anyone looking to avoid tragedy), and Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell (a very light-in-tone novel about a group of barristers and their pompous professor friend trying to clear their friend of murder).

      1. Purt's Peas*

        I looooove the Steerswoman series. I was so happy to have it recommended, and I’ve been trying to get everyone I know to read them!

      2. tangerineRose*

        Diana Wynne Jones wrote some amazing books! I like how at various points there’s sort of a paradigm shift as you find out more about what is really happening.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      Klara and the Sun – it’s so sweet and weird.

      Alix E. Harrow’s books – magical and really satisfying to read.

      His Dark Materials trilogy – I’ve reread them so many times and they’re just really good.

      The Sun is Also a Star – rom-com where you just can’t stop smiling.

      Gods of Jade and Shadow – Jazz Age, Mayan mythology, it’s amazing.

    6. pandq*

      One of the best books I’ve read this year was The Ministry of the Future. It’s classified as a sci-fi book, I think. It’s about climate change and has a happy outcome!

    7. Jean (just Jean)*

      Great question! No organized thoughts yet; will respond later this weekend. Looking forward to posting and reading other folks’ replies.

    8. CatPerson*

      I guarantee that anyone would be delighted by The Thursday Murder Club, followed by The Man Who Died Twice, by Richard Osman. In fact, delightful, and charming, would be just the words to describe them.

    9. Aphrodite*

      This is an unusual suggestion because it is an unusual book. 100 SUNS (Knopf, 2003) is the title, and I reviewed it at the time it was issued. It is a collection of brilliant, disturbing, and beautiful reproduced official photographs of nuclear explosions. You might think this is weird but it is compelling and thought provoking. There is no text throughout and none needed. This is the one book I have constantly displayed on my coffee table and it always gets attention. I look through it on a regular basis.

      https://www.abebooks.com/100-Suns-Light-Michael-Knopf/31019499637/bd?cm_mmc=ggl-_-US_Shopp_Trade-_-product_id=COM9781400041138USED-_-keyword=&gclid=CjwKCAiAwKyNBhBfEiwA_mrUMiN2jfbgeZlMU5b3wgNeL8ktmzDB1hXmEg086HKyvOwIi3QeqbIzpBoCYM8QAvD_BwE.

    10. Clisby*

      The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. It won the Newbery Award in 2009 (I think). I bought it for my daughter, who was 13 at the time, and then I read it. When I was a child, I read and loved Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and Gaiman clearly was influenced by that. (Not just my opinion – he’s said so, but anybody who’s read The Jungle Book would get what’s going on in The Graveyard Book.)

      1. I take tea*

        I love Neil Gaimans own reading of The Graveyard Book, so if you are into audio books, check that out. (That said, his style isn’t for everyone, my partner gets annoyed with it, because it’s a bit pensieve.)

    11. Lady Alys*

      “The Goblin Emperor,” by Katherine Addison (that’s a pen name BTW). Political intrigue, mostly fantasy, people for the most part being kind and helpful to each other. My top comfort re-read right now.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Lara Maiklem’s “Mudlark: In Search of London’s Past Along the River Thames”
      It’s like taking a long slow ramble along the Thames with and observant a friend who knows local history.
      I’ve been doing it out to myself a very small piece at a time and sadly I’m on the last chapter.

    13. Phoenix Wright*

      The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. I knew going in it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be so funny. Literally laughing out loud funny at times. Adams was truly a genius, with his ability to stretch the English language to its breaking point while still managing to make sense and his unique yet clever way of seeing the world. The whole series is worth it, despite some fans disliking the last book (it’s a lot more pessimistic than the others, but still hilarious).

      There are tons of quotable phrases and moments from these books, and I can’t recommend it enough to any science fiction or comedy fan. One day I should try to find the original radio show in which the first books were based on (also written by Adams) and listen to it, because I’ve heard it’s even better.

      1. AY*

        My husband and I listened to Stephen Fry narrate the audiobook on a recent road trip. He was perfect! He made funny lines even funnier.

      2. Weegie*

        I’ve got tapes of the original radio show somewhere that I played obsessively in the years after it was first broadcast in the 70s. They are brilliant, but the later series (recorded and broadcast much later) weren’t as good. Definitely try to find a download or CD of the first two series.

    14. JustForThis*

      A few weeks ago, someone recommended Becky Chambers on a weekend thread in response to someone asking for light / fluffy / comfort reads. I’ve since read most of her books and am enormously grateful indeed for the recommendation! I thought Wayfarers #1, #2, and #4 were especially wonderful.

      Any other tips for similarly comforting novels with main characters who like and support each other?(Tamora Pierce’s first _Circle of Magic_ series, though for much younger readers, hits that spot as well for me.)

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Victoria Goddard’s The Hands of the Emperor fits some of that – a doorstopper of a fantasy book that whose main character is the personal secretary to the Emperor. There’s politics in the background, but it’s mostly about the interactions between people. Kip, the secretary, his relationship with the emperor, the other senior members of the emperor’s household, and Kip’s many, many relations back home. It’s primarily family and friendship based, with very little romance. The Return of Fitzroy Angursell is good, but don’t read it until afterwards.

        Her Greenwing and Dart books, which are loosely connected but can be read as a separate series, are faster paced, but have a strong focus on friendship and family relationships.

    15. Forensic13*

      Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach! It’s a book that just perfectly encapsulates my personality, and I found it randomly over a decade ago in a small beach bookshop. I cackled the rest of that day reading it.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I love all of Mary Roach’s work – Stiff’s still a favorite, but Spook (about various spiritualist/haunting/does-the-soul-weigh-anything questions) and Bonk (about aspects of sexual research) also featured laugh-out-loud bits.

    16. tangerineRose*

      Dave Barry’s books of columns, Donna Andrews’ bird mystery series, Krista Davis’ mystery series.

    17. Patty Mayonnaise*

      The Unhoneymooners was perfect rom-com reading. It made me laugh out loud throughout, and the characters faced realistic obstacles to getting together (which can be rare!). A joy to read!

    18. Chauncy Gardener*

      The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. Absolutely laugh out loud hysterical at parts.

    19. GoryDetails*

      On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor – non-fiction, went into it expecting mild interest and found myself enraptured, surprised, and delighted at every turn. It deals with trails in all their aspects, from cultural to prehistoric to practical to metaphorical, and it’s marvelous.

      Intrusions by Ursula Hegi – a novel about a woman who’s trying to write a novel, while daily life keeps getting in the way; the book switches between the author’s viewpoint and that of the main character, and it’s a very entertaining look at the crafting of fiction. Can’t remember where I heard of that one, but I went into it without any idea of how much fun it would be.

      The Silent Traveller in Boston by Chiang Yee – a travel memoir from the 1950s in which artist/poet Chiang Yee provides his perspective on his trip to Boston and surrounding areas. The entire “Silent Traveller” series seems delightful – I’ve read four so far and am trying to collect the others – but this one was especially interesting to me as I live in the general area. (I discovered the series in a convoluted way; one of the windows in last year’s Advent calendar, a gift from my sister, featured the cover-art for the book, and the art style made me look into it further, acquire a copy, and become hooked on the series.)

      Machine by Elizabeth Bear – a SF novel that’s both an entertaining space-opera/character-study in its own right but that also does amazing homage to James White’s “Sector General” series. I chose this one because I have enjoyed the author’s works in the past, but hadn’t realized the extent of the homage to Sector General, and was delighted with each new example that I encountered.

    20. Falling Diphthong*

      Thanks to all who tossed in ideas–I have a bunch of requests in at my library now, and have checked out a couple already.

      And to Patty Mayonnaise specifically, as I exited an unexpectedly stressful medical appointment this afternoon and realized that what I needed for now was a story about clever people banter/squabbling over their free Maui vacation.

  16. Gut issues are great*

    Hi all! I’m hoping for some food advice. I don’t officially have IBS, but I’ve been noticing some gut issues. I’m not officially following the FODMAP diet right now, my plan is to make notes of what I eat and then whether or not they’re high or low and kind of avoid and adapt as I can.

    It’s not the best plan, but it’s all I have right now. Apps haven’t helped like I thought, so I’m using Google sheets, which so far is easier for my brain to understand.

    Anyway.

    Does anyone have any advice or snack suggestions? Specifically things that are pre-packaged and quick and can be eaten on the go (one of my jobs is at a restaurant). I shop a lot at target and amazon, and it’s a little overwhelming trying to find foods that “fit,” so I thought I’d ask here too. :)

    Thank you!

        1. green beans*

          most applesauces don’t have corn syrup; it’s really easy to find unsweetened ones or ones sweetened with sugar. (I’m allergic to corn so I’m very familiar with where the corn syrup lurks and I’ve never had an issue finding applesauce.)

    1. ATX*

      Have you tried the AIP diet? I’m unfamiliar with the one you mentioned but maybe it’s a similar thing.

      I followed the aip diet for a while and while it was hard, it really helped my stomach bloating. It was expensive and required me to make every single meal, and I ended up spending a ton more money on groceries! I figured out more or less what triggers me now so I’m more lax about it (although I’m still strict)

      The aip diet is similar to paleo minus nightshade vegetables and a few other things.

      I buy a ton of things made from cassava root, which is a grain free carb. They make pastas, tortillas, taco shells, chips, it’s amazing. Gluten items make my heart race so I don’t do much of them anymore.

      I use a lot of cook books and recipes and replace ingredients with ones that are aip friendly.

      My main veggie staples are butternut squash, sweet potatoes/yams, roasted veggies like carrots, beets, etc.

      I make TONSSSS of soup. Probably a soup a week! I buy the high end bone broth (brand is Zoup I believe) which is great for gut healing.

      All in all, my best advice is to be patient and prepared to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.

      1. Gut issues are great*

        I don’t know that that diet is going to work for me, because of the expense and also I can’t cook every single meal. but thank you so much for the comment! and I’m glad you figured out what works for you.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      When my son was trying to figure out food allergies I almost ordered a kit off Amazon that tests for different things. The cost is not insignificant ($100-150 at a quick glance) but if you are trying to narrow it down they can be helpful.

      Target and Amazon should have large packs of individually wrapped smaller packs of nuts. Which is prepackaged but a small number of ingredients. Dried fruit might also work well.

      1. Jenny F. Scientist*

        Biochemist here chiming in to say that for a whole host of actual science reasons, the kits don’t work; save your money for snacks!

        Even actual tests in actual doctors’ offices, if you test positive, it’s about 50/50 whether you’ll react to the food at all. In addition, the #1 result on Amazon makes the claim to test IgG, which is not actually related to allergies. (https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/igg-food-test ; https://www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/food-allergy/diagnosis-testing)

    3. Sooda Nym*

      My son was very briefly low FODMAP (as much as he could). He ate tortilla chips (plain) as a snack. And the brand Kind makes a probiotic protein style bar that worked well as prepackaged snack or breakfast. They say probiotic in the name…I think there were 2 flavors. Not sure either is 100% low fodmap, but he was just doing his best while still living his life, which sounds like your plan, too. Good luck!

    4. Chaordic One*

      I’ve written before about being diagnosed with IBS not dealing with stress very well and generally being dismissed by doctors. Then many years later finding out I had numerous significant food allergies. I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself with my sad story, but I would strongly urge you to go to a doctor and get yourself tested for allergies. You might want to go to an allergist. I went to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist who had extensive experience with treating allergies. One of the best things I ever did for myself and I wish I had known to do it year earlier.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      For serious issues, weeks on the allergy diet is a way to determine if your gut issues are food related. The allergy diet is very restrictive and takes an iron will. After the initial weeks, one food is added per week to test sensitivity.
      Gut issues are often not food issues. Please also explore other causes for your symptoms for the best chance at success.
      Best of Luck

    6. CatPerson*

      When I suffered from IBS I got some advice from a gastroenterologist that I had never heard before: Raw vegetables are not better for you than cooked. This is because you are not a rabbit. Your gut sweeps them through undigested (more or less). And it’s not true that you remove the nutrients by cooking them. Plenty of veggies are important, but cooking helps digestion.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        A gastroenterologist also told me that kale is often tough for people to digest even when cooked. That was my own experience and I had already eliminated it from my diet.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      I have been on the low FODMAP diet and it’s really helped my digestive issues. It’s not exactly the plan you’re following, but in case the low FODMAP guidelines are helpful, here are on-the-go snacks that I like.

      BelliWelli and Fody specialize in pre-packaged low FODMAP snacks that you can order online. GoMacro makes energy bars, several of which are low FODMAP. Google “GoMacro low FODMAP” to find the right ones (they’re pricey because of organic ingredients but the best ones I’ve found for both taste and filling me up.) I’ve made my own trail mix based on the Monash FODMAP app, which I use as a reference to calculate safe amounts. My personal mix is shredded coconut, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and raisins.

      1. Gut issues are great*

        thank you! I actually ordered from those brands on amazon this morning, i’m glad to know others (other than the amazon reviewers) like them too. :D

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          To clarify, I’ve tried the Fody bars but haven’t personally sampled anything made by BelliWelli.

    8. Pennyworth*

      This may not be relevant to your situation, but I come across a lot of stuff which says that processed foods contain ingredients (emulsifiers etc) that strip off the mucus which protects the lining of the small intestine and interfere with its function.

    9. CatPerson*

      Also, I get very good results from one dose of Metamucil a day. Three heaping teaspoons in 8-12 oz. of water, drink it down.

    10. The Dogman*

      Your gut issues could be caused by stress too… look into relaxation ideas and hobbies you can do to reduce the stress and the knock on effects to your gut.

      Good luck!

      1. Gut issues are great*

        i HAVE noticed these issues flare up more often when i’m stressed, but for the most part i’ve been pretty stress-free (compared to where i was a few months ago). but i’ve also recently really started to pay attention to all of this, so idk. but i’ll look into relaxation stuff!

    11. Juneybug*

      I have celiac disease/IBS and here is what I snack on –
      Food Should Taste Good crackers/chips – I love the tortilla and sweet potatoes. Haven’t tried the other flavors yet.
      Natures’ Bakery bars – all gluten flavors are good but make sure it’s says gluten free if you are celiac).
      Parm Crisps – I love the cheese versions but haven’t tried the other flavors or snack mix yet.
      Nature’s Intent Dark Chocolate Enrobed (what a funny word for food) Fruit – all flavors are great.
      Kirkland/Costco Chewy Protein Bar – peanut butter and chocolate chip is the best.
      Warning – this product contains chicory root which can cause items to move faster than expected.
      Test speed of elimination at home first. :)
      Cheese – cut into bite size.
      Dried fruit and nuts – watch out for sulfites as possible allergy.
      Yoplait yogurt – most flavors are gluten free.

      Also make sure you drink plenty of water. That helps so much with my digestion.

      I will agree with everyone that you should get tested for food allergies.
      Good luck!!

      1. Gut issues are great*

        i’m not ruling out going to the doctor/allergy test, but i’m hoping to have a decent idea before going, not just being like “my stomach hurts.”

        thank you for all the yummy suggestions! i already know and love nature’s bakery, and i’ll have to give the other stuff a shot too. :):)

    12. JSPA*

      I can easily determine incomplete digestion problems vs. allergies / sensitivities that are not related to that, by taking digestive pills. If a food is harmless when accompanied by a slew of enzymes, it’s generally something beyond “incomplete digestion.”

      Two sorts that have worked for me are Healthy Origins Broad Spectrum Digestive Enzymes and Enzymedica
      Digest Spectrum.

      The Digest Spectrum also supposedly partially blocks reaction to gluten (at low levels), so it may be more effective at protecting, but less useful for diagnosis purposes. (It’s also pricier.)

      Note that this isn’t, “try this for a month” and you will start to see a difference” stuff. I can eat the same meal twice in a row…once with the enzymes, once without. The “with” meal is fine and dandy. The “without” meal has me cramping for several hours, then rushing to the bathroom repeatedly, within 6 to 8 hours after eating.

  17. home organizaton/cleaning consult?*

    Does a service exist that comes in, helps you assess your home’s organizational system for your stuff and how you*your partner’s mind works with regard to stuff, and help you build a better organizational system?

    I am feeling fed up with how our apartment looks. (Context: Its just my partner and I, and we’ve been here since 2015). I feel like there are little and big piles of stuff everywhere. I might take some pictures and post via IMGUR down thread. We are not hoarders. Neither of us are the neatest people either, and we both willingly admit to this. I strongly default to bring able to see where things are stored. (Think your work colleague with of paper piles all over their desk, and they know what each pile is). Another key point is that our apartment doesn’t really have any storage closets. We’ve gradually accumulated those storage cube shelves, where your have a stiff cloth-covered storage cube you pull out, for storing some of the things. And this has helped, but there are still some problem areas.

    Basically, I’m not sure if our problem is that
    > stuff feels like a mess because we don’t have good “homes” for the stuff (i.e the home for all the sauce bottles and the pizza peel is just on the far end of the counter, and it take up a lot of counter space) or
    > we don’t have good “homes” for where we put stuff away because we just don’t have enough storage space or
    > we aren’t using the storage space we do have well or
    > we both need to be better about putting stuff away back to its home once we are done with it / its more of an “us” and our everyday behaviors thing

    Its probably a mixture of these things. For what it is worth, two areas that annoy me are the bathroom counter and the kitchen counter. And the stuff that is on them, that is the stuff’s current home. And we don’t mess with those areas a lot as part of our daily behaviors. It just feels messy to me. I’ll neaten it up – i.e, for the bathroom, throw all the empty toilet paper rolls away, make the first aid , hair clipper, and plant boxes line up, but it gets disarrayed again pretty quickly. I feel like I am missing a certain sense that other people have when it comes to this stuff.

    Are there home organizational consultants that help with this kind of thing? Has anyone ever used one? What was your experience? Advice or suggestions welcome

    1. Purt’s Peas*

      Ugh, I know that feeling. I’m working on the same in my apartment. For the kitchen, I do have some advice—if you can keep one counter just totally empty, it feels good, even if your other counters are a little more crowded. Second, vertical space. I added loops to all my spatulas and hung them up, for instance, and a pizza peel loves to be hung up. I got these open IKEA shelves and I could just drill hooks and stuff in the side to hang as much as possible. I like them a lot because they’re unfinished wood and can be squeaked into different sized spaces depending on configuration (and you can drill holes in em!)

      1. Purt’s Peas*

        Also you can get strong magnet hooks and use your fridge space that way.

        I’ll add, I think the key really is “have less stuff out”. If you don’t have storage space that means less stuff overall; more storage space can help. Personally I don’t really want fewer kitchen tools & knickknacks so I just kinda live with it feeling cluttered.

      2. JSPA*

        One kitchen solution: Pegboards, like for hand tools. They make metal peg boards, that stay clean in the kitchen. And, as for tools, once you are comfortable with the placement, you can draw an outline around each item in sharpie, so there’s no excuse for not returning that exact item to that exact spot.

        Make sure you hit a stud when mounting, if you’ll be hanging heavy items.

        I use hanging wall jars (which I make myself) for pens, in any room. Spatulas and cooking spoons, in the kitchen. Toothbrushes and toothpaste, in the bathroom. Combs and related, another, in the bathroom. They’re visible / out / easily findable, but they’re also organized, and they can’t wander.

    2. ATX*

      If I can be honest, an organizational consultant can help you but if you’re not naturally organized, you might just fall into those habits again. There is a ton of info online about organizing and cleaning, how to get started, tips for where to put things.

      I’m not a clean freak but I do like my very place clean and organized. My rule of thumb is if a neighbor says she’s gonna pop by in 30 minutes, the house looks okay enough. Perhaps a quick sweep or organization of the pillows or wipe down of counters, but that’s it.

      One thing that helps me is taking care of stuff as I go. You mentioned toilet paper rolls, throw them away as you change the roll. Neaten you your bathroom every morning before work. Or before bed.

      The kitchen is tough because if you’re like me, both my husband and I cook at home almost every meal so it’s a constant stream of doing dishes and keeping the counter clean. Unless I do a huge cook, it’s really only 10-15 min a day that it requires to keep it looking nice (minus the once a week stove top deep clean). Very doable. Don’t let the dishes stay in the sink, wash them and put them in the dishwasher (or by hand to let dry).

      I’d recommend getting some containers for your piles of things and figure out what’s necessary to keep out. Do you ever use it? Why not give it away? Do you use it once every few months? It can go in the container and then in the closet/attic/garage. I’m a big fan of purging, especially bc my mom is borderline hoarder so every time I visit her I wanna get rid of all the unnecessary :P

    3. Llellayena*

      I hired a professional organizer a couple summers ago for my studio apartment and it was a blessing and so worth the cost! She helped me see where I could add more storage, how I could use what I had and (most importantly to me) what I should get rid of and how to get rid of it. Without her help I would probably have been trying to move to a larger apartment right at the beginning of Covid rather than waiting until now-ish and buying rather than renting (the plan for spring). My apartment is still too small overall right now, but I’m not tripping over piles that have nowhere else to go. There is a professional home organizer network that of course I forget the name of. But it lets you search by what you need (area, small space, downsizing…). If all you want is the evaluation and not the actual physical help reorganizing, it might run a little cheaper. Mine was about $500 for 6 hrs.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Look up Clutterbug on YouTube for a helpful perspective on how people’s thought processes affect organization, and how they work together. Stuff like needing to see things vs. wanting a clear visual field, or how detailed you sort stuff.

      I think she has a book out as well.

      1. Ranon*

        And a TV show, if the episode I saw at the dentist was any indication.

        I second that her approach would be a good one for this scenario, it’s exactly the questions she thinks about when organizing

      2. 00ff00Claire*

        Yes, her TV show is called Hot Mess House and what the OP wants is exactly what she does on the TV show!

        1. JE*

          She also collaborates with Dana K White from aslobcomesclean.com and Dawn from theminimalmom.com on a course called Take Your House Back. I’ve read good comments about it. I love Dana K White’s practical (and amusing) take on decluttering and highly recommend doing that before organizing your stuff.

      3. Chauncy Gardener*

        Coming here to recommend Clutterbug as well! Her organizational types are so helpful in understanding what will work for everyone. Lots of shows covering different issues on the Tube of U as well

      4. AlabamaAnonymous*

        I highly recommend the Clutterbug system! Her system helps you identify how each of you naturally organize and then gives suggestions for how to combine those two styles into something that works for both of you. If you have the time and energy, you can probably use her book and website to figure everything out for yourself. But I think there is a link on her website that you let you find Clutterbug consultants in your area.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I’ve never used a professional organizer, but they do exist. If I were looking for one, I’d post on something like Nextdoor to get current, local recommendations. I have had other people help me organize, and to be honest it was only somewhat helpful. (Maybe a pro would be different.) The issue was that the helpful person organized/suggested methods that work for them, and if they weren’t actually intuitive for me, then I didn’t maintain them.

      I have become much better organized over time through a combination of experimenting with different systems in order to find what actually works and is sustainable for me, AND learning how to get rid of stuff. I found Marie Kondo’s book transformative, not because it’s so very clever, but because it was literally the first time that I realized that “organization” doesn’t mean “finding out how to keep every single item neatly stacked like a jigsaw puzzle.”

      Whether you choose to hire a pro or not, your organization will go a lot further if you’re only organizing things you actively have chosen to find a home for, as opposed to treating it as a game of shoe-horning in as much as possible.

      The way that I organize now is I mentally assign a certain amount of real estate to whatever that item is (sauce bottles, sweaters), and then I look at what I have to fit into that space. How rigorous I am about eliminating depends on how much space I have. The first step, no matter how much real estate I have, is getting rid of things that are literally outdated. For sauce bottles, that means checking the expiration date. (I know that’s somewhat artificial, and I’ll fudge a little sometimes, but if something is way past its expiration date that tells me I don’t actually use it very much.) For sweaters, it means things that are getting ratty. If I have enough room after I do that first step, and I’m not in a divesting state of mind, then I’ll just keep the rest of the stuff. But if there’s not enough room, or if I feel overwhelmed by All Of It, then I’ll make a second pass based on how much I use something/whether it sparks joy/how expensive it is to replace, etc.

      Once I have a limited universe of things that I actually want to keep, I find it a lot easier to decide the best way to store that stuff, and to maintain the system into the future.

      I don’t know how much money you have to spend on organization systems, but like you, I also want to be able to see my stuff. What I like are various containers (could be drawers, boxes, etc) with clear fronts, that stack on top of each other. I fit those onto my shelves, under my sink, in cabinets, etc. The contents are sorted enough that it’s not a big mash-up, I can see into the container enough to know what it holds, and the system looks a lot neater than piles across every flat surface. I also like small bins that fit into drawers so that I can very generally keep like items together. Finally, for things like sauces or different kinds of rice, I have some medium bins that fit into my cupboard and cabinets. It almost doesn’t matter how or whether you sort that stuff, but it’s easier to put away and to get at if you have several manageable containers rather than one big lazy Susan or you have to root around in a cabinet full of bottles to find the one you’re looking for.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am a big fan of clear totes. They look a little messier (busier?) on the shelf but I really like knowing I have grabbed the correct bin.
        I’d like to add a good rule about bins is no more than three high. So worst case scenario you’d remove two bins to get what you want. I read some where that having to move 3 or more bins will cause people to not put things back as it is just too annoying. The way things are set up here I go no more than two bins high, that is because my shelves are not super tall.

        In terms of finding inroads, different things hit different people. I got a nice label maker. Making nice neat little labels for the bins just makes me way too happy. I feel like things are organized and neat. (Reality, a hand written label would do the same.)

        I’d like to encourage you to think of flexible systems because our needs change with time. From my own life- I figured what my husband and I needed changed every 7 or so years. What I needed at 30 became something I was done with at 40. How this plays out in real life is I don’t fill my bins to the brim. I have a little space to add more. I also keep a few empty bins around so as needs change I can get a larger or smaller bin for a group of items.

        With non-essentials such as seasonal decorations, the size of the bin becomes the limit of my buying more. For example, my Halloween bin is full. If I want a new Halloween decoration, I must give up something in the bin to make the new one fit.

        The amount of paper in a home is a big flippin’ deal. Years ago, I read “Taming the Paper Tiger”. It gave me lots to think about. One of my biggest take-aways was to purge as you go. If you know you are done with a piece of paper then get rid of it. (trash/recycle) The author said if you are unsure then keep it. So you are only tossing the stuff that you are 100% certain about in the moment. Just doing this much can make such a difference- it can stop the clutter from building at its current rate. I turned and applied this rule of thumb to clothes and many other household items.

        When I started organizing my husband was NOT on board AT ALL. I just kept going and I asked for his inputs where it mattered. (Ex: he wanted to know where his bathroom items were and how they were stored. But he did not care where the bowls in the kitchen were as he would just look for them.)
        When I got most of the cats herded, THEN it clicked in. He actually liked the way things were organized. He liked knowing what he had on hand and where it was. Along the way we made decisions such as we do not need 6 cans of WD-40 or 17 rolls of scotch tape. We committed to looking for this stuff instead of simply buying more. A portion of the clutter was reduced just by deciding to hunt for things.

        I don’t think we are ever totally done organizing but I think we can get to a level that we can live with. It really helped to target the goals of saving time and money. That made it feel like a destination rather than a punishment.

        1. Not A Manager*

          In terms of the stacking issue, what I personally like are the Container Store stacking lucite shoe and sweater boxes – but they are spendy! They are sturdy, stack very well, and because they are drawers you don’t have to move one bin to get at another bin. Container Store also has a line of larger drawers with clear fronts that stack, but that’s more like a modular bureau size-wise. The shoe drawers, on the other hand, fit into all kinds of shelves and corners and are good for small things like medications and shampoo.

          I’m pretty sure that Bed Bath & Beyond and Target have similar items at a lower cost.

        2. Girasol*

          I love clear totes on wire racks. Our teensy suburban garage is just wide enough for two cars, but the door opener hardware makes just enough room for 18″ wide 5 shelf wire racks that happened to go on sale just as I needed them. I have them along the sides of the garage wherever we don’t need to swing a car door open. They’re all sized for big clear covered tubs that make a logical place for everything. Alas, this does not help my husband, who expects things to remain wherever he set them down that time that he used them ten years ago.

    6. Chaordic One*

      I had a similar problem, but I felt like I was using the existing storage space well, but I just didn’t have enough of it. My apartment has a surprisingly spacious kitchen and bathroom, but there just aren’t very many cupboards to put things in. I ended up buying 2 plain white storage cabinets. Not a perfect solution, but it seems to work.

      They are approximately 3 feet wide by 6 feet tall. I put one in the kitchen where it functions as a pantry and I store canned foods and pots and pans in it. I put the other one in the bathroom where it functions as a linen closet and also storage for various rarely used personal care items. The cabinets are kind of ugly, but they provide a place to put things and when the doors are closed I don’t have to look at them.

    7. Lizy*

      I have a friend that does this. I don’t think she does it much now, but she LOVES this type of stuff. She’s like Sheldon Cooper organizing Howard’s closet, but in real life.

    8. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I think the first step in tackling the stuff clutter problem is getting rid of stuff you don’t need/want. Some of this is little things on a daily basis. For example, why do you have to make an effort to throw out the empty toilet paper rolls? Those should have been dealt with in the moment.

      Little things like putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, not the sink, or hanging your coat up in the closet vs putting on the back of the chair add up.

      Try working to change these little, daily habits and also get rid of things that you don’t actually use. That may make a big difference.

    9. Squidhead*

      I haven’t used a consultant, but one rule of thumb for us is “how accessible does this need to be?” We use our pizza peel once or twice a month, on average, which is probably more than some people but not so often that it needs to be out on the counter. It can take one or two steps to get it out of a storage location, and since it’s the only device that performs that function, I’m not going to forget that we have it. (On the other hand, we use the electric kettle daily, so it has earned its place on the counter!) Ditto, in your example, the first aid supplies: in my world, they don’t need a home on the counter because when we need them, we’ll get them out of a closet. But if you need them frequently, they belong on the counter!

      If your apartment is full of things you’re hoping to use but will forget if they’re not in plain sight (see: fancy soap, nice condiments, soft scarves, etc, if my house is any indication!) then you need to find a way to make a habit of using them or realize you don’t really care to change your current soap routine and let them go. That’s less about organization and more about deciding what you want to keep at all.

    10. green beans*

      My friend hired an organizational consultant for her wife’s birthday (her wife is super messy.) The person helped a lot and helped them get rid of stuff they no longer needed. IDK how long it will last (wife is super messy and likes stuff) but I do know the organizer spent a lot of time talking to them about how they like to organize, why they didn’t put stuff up, things like that, so the advice was personalized to them.

    11. Random Bystander*

      A book I found helpful: Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out. Instead of a OneTrueWay ™ to organize, it’s a more thoughtful approach to think about what’s working/what isn’t and making a plan that fits you (or you and partner).

    12. Retired Prof*

      I tend to be a clutter person but a couple things that help are baskets and armoires. I do have storage closets, but I also have 3 armoires, 2 dressers and a breakfront, none of which are used for clothes. You can put stuff in dressers and armoires and have easy access and no visual clutter. And I love antiques so this lets me collect something useful that conquers clutter rather than adds to it. For the stuff on surfaces, I have baskets of many sizes to corral things. It also helps limit the clutter because when a basket is full it gets purged.

  18. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    I had dinner with a friend at my favorite Mexican food place. Told them about it on Sunday night and realized that I still hadn’t had them there for dinner. (It’s our family’s usual after mass dinner stop.) Was nice to catch up over some fajitas.

    Please share your joys big or small.

    1. fposte*

      I tried aerial silks! It was on the list of things people here suggested for me. I was at least thirty years older than the next oldest class participant but kept up fine. One of the students was much farther advanced (really should have been in a higher-speed class) and was especially kind and helpful in giving me tips; also she was just fun to watch when she practiced.

      I don’t know if I’ll keep going with it since it looks like a lot of positions really depend on a lovely curved back, and hyperextension tends to annoy my back; I also think it was here that somebody said it takes a while before you develop the strength to do the cooler moves, and I can totally see how that could work, especially if like me you have more weight to lift off the ground so need even more arm strength. I might try the pole dancing and other classes at the same studio, though; it seems like a cool space with small groups that takes COVID seriously while being low-key and enthusiastic about the athletics.

      So thanks for the recommendation! I have pictures of me swinging a dizzying foot above the ground (I swear it seemed like higher when I was scrambling up there).

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Honestly, one of my first “frivolous” purchases when I get a new job is going to be signing up for an aerial silks class. It sounds SO FUN but also like a serious, serious workout.

        1. fposte*

          I was wiped out after the *warmup.* There were more students than silks, and one student was very kindly taking turns with me; a few times she would start to get off the silks to switch and I’d be like “No, keep going, I’m still recovering.”

      2. crookedglasses*

        Oooh, intermediate-level aerialist here, and I am so excited for you!

        FWIW, I have incredibly limited flexibility. My straddle is a right angle, and I can only just touch my toes. While arching doesn’t bother my back, I don’t have much flexibility through my back, either. I’ve found having a more dramatic arch in your back makes a lot of poses prettier but isn’t mission-critical for getting into them.

        Enjoy your continued explorations! Aerial fabric and pole are the two apparatuses I’ve done the most training on and I adore them both.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, thanks for weighing in! The nice student I was sharing silks with seemed too good for the very beginner class (and was definitely known by the instructor), and because she was a dancer her poses were absolutely beautiful. It’s a good reminder that that’s an aesthetic rather than a balance necessity.

          I’m currently sampling a ton of activities to see which I might want to do more regularly, and this gym has three different aerial classes plus pole, so I may be busy trying things there for a while.

      3. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’ve successfully reintroduced some foods that I’d avoided during the elimination phase of my low FODMAP diet. So good to have garlic and onion back and not be so restricted and be able to join my friends to eat at a variety of outdoor restaurants.

    2. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

      I just put up my new unicorn Christmas tree. About 2.5 ft high, prelit, has a big uni stuffie head on top, white branches. Makes me very happy.

    3. Filosofickle*

      I recruited my sibling to go with me to a place I’d been avoiding — in my mind it is strongly associated with my ex — and I got to be somewhere I really like and start to reclaim it for myself. It was nice to be there in a new way.

    4. Lady Danbury*

      Current little joys:
      -Making a yummy new recipe (vanilla dutch baby on food network). It was easy enough to become a new brunch staple, especially since I cooked the bacon in the oven at the same time as the dutch baby.
      -Fighting toxic masculinity, one comment at a time. My 5yo nephew told me that he liked a certain cartoon even though it was a “girl show” (according to the kids at camp). I told him that there’s no such thing as a boy show or a girl show and that he could watch whatever he wants.
      -Sunshine! It’s a beautiful day outside, after multiple gray, rainy days.

    5. Josephine Beth*

      A friend of mine is a adopting, and baby is due to arrive in a few weeks. I had such fun going out and buying baby items! I’m so happy for her and so impressed by how she’s handling the very complex emotions around newborn adoption.

    6. Rara Avis*

      One of my students asked, “Do you prefer coffee or chocolate?” (One of my friends said that I need to introduce my padawan to the concept of mocha.)

    7. AGD*

      I sent a box of Hanukkah gifts to some loved ones in another city and they unexpectedly sent me reaction photos of them opening everything!

    8. Voluptuousfire*

      Washed sheets and my blankets so I have nice fresh linens for tonight. Also bought myself a new comforter since the heavy summer quilt I use currently is gorgeous but such a pain to wash. The other comforter I have is gorgeous but too hot, so I’m donating it.

      Just reorganizing things this weekend and sorting out what I want to donate. I have so much junk around the house since I tend to impulse buy a lot.

    9. Might Be Spam*

      I’ve been growing out my long gray hair. Every couple of months I cut off a handwidth using the ponytail method. It’s now shoulder length and almost all of the dyed part is now gone. I like the shorter style and I’m getting used to seeing it in the mirror.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Small but important — listening to stormy weather knowing we’d gotten the gutters cleared ahead of the rain.

      1. Anonymous tech writer*

        Listening to a pet canary trilling in the background of a video call that I had not expected to enjoy. Almost let me forget we’re below freezing here.

    11. Paralegal Part Deux*

      I bought a new car – 2022 Nissan Altima due to current gas prices, and I know they get good mpg in town. I plan on refinancing it with another lender in the near future since I really liked my precious lender, and I hope it all goes smoothly.

    12. UKDancer*

      I did a workshop online with an incredibly amazing principal dancer from the Royal Ballet. He’s incredibly lovely to watch and jumps like gravity doesn’t exist. The class was far too advanced for me but I’m so pleased with how much of it I could follow.

      He was also a really patient and encouraging teacher and I learnt a lot from watching and listening to him. It’s always nice when people you admire for doing something well turn out to be nice people too.

    13. GoryDetails*

      Got to try a new restaurant in my area with some friends – it specializes in Mexican-style seafood, with some marvelous ceviche dishes and delightfully spicy aquachile options.

      In the very-small-joys-indeed category, my XO marshmallow advent calendar has been providing me with a different flavored marshmallow each day since Dec. 1; today’s was “oatmeal cookie,” and was very tasty indeed!

  19. Dwight Schrute*

    I posted a while ago asking if anyone has used curology for adult acne, and wanted to update! I used it for about a year and saw minimal difference in my skin, mostly because I think I have hormonal acne. I recently switched to Apostrophe because they have topical spironolactone which can treat hormonal acne and my skin is better now than it ever was a year into curology! So if anyone is struggling with adult acne I’d give apostrophe a try!

  20. Albeira Dawn*

    Does anyone else bike to work and/or errands [as opposed to for recreation or sport]? What are the most effective ways of staying warm and safe in these dark winter days?

    [I use a bikeshare, so I can’t modify the bikes myself.]

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Warm mittens, snow pants, and a lot of LED lights or the equivalent. Colorful/blinky ones are both noticeable and fun!

    2. allathian*

      Brr, it’s far too cold for me to ride a bike in the winter. Lots of people do it here, but I’m just not that adventurous. Enjoy your rides!

      I use a helmet when I ride, and mine has a red LED light in the back, so I don’t need it on the bike itself. A front light is also good, even if you ride on well-lit roads, because the light makes you visible and it’s also much easier for others to judge your speed.

      As the outermost garment, wear a reflective vest or visibility jacket to ensure that other road users will see you.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        As someone who has both biked & driven at night, I’ll say the more lights the better. You don’t want to be caught without a light when one battery dies.
        Remember the lit-up aliens on a tandem bicycle in Men in Black II? I saw that and thought it would be a great thing in the real world!

    3. Bobina*

      Good gloves, helmet – and all the reflective kit you can get your hands on. I find lights on the bike themselves can be mediocre (especially if they are battery operated or mounted in places which are likely to be obscured) so its worth getting removable lights you can clip on to yourself, but honestly a hi-vis jacket is even better. Also if you can, something with reflective markers around your hands if you use them to signal is also great. I often see velcro lights/reflective strips you can wrap around your wrists and would recommend those.

      Also practise or be mindful about cycling in slippery conditions. This can be just the difference between wet/dry, but also (wet) leaves or snow/slush if thats a thing where you are. Slowing down, adjusting for braking distances etc are also important, and especially if you are sharing the road with cars vs a separate bike path where sudden braking on something slippery could make you swerve/fall.

    4. The teapots are on fire*

      I was a winter commuter when I lived in Wisconsin and I was very concerned about visibility. I wore a bright yellow jacket with reflective tape sewn on. I think lights and reflectors do not adequately compensate for dark clothing—you want to present a person-shaped picture so people identify you as a bicyclist right away and not, say, a sign or reflector until they have time to look closer. If you use a backpack, get a bright one or one with a bright rain shield put reflective tape and a blinky light on that bad boy as well.. It’s the part of your body that is at eye level for drivers behind you. Reflective stickers on your helmet. I had panniers, since I owned the bike, and they were decked out in reflectors and light as well. It was my goal to look like the old Disney Electric Light Parade and a driver once rolled down their window at an intersection to thank me and tell me they could see me from several blocks away.
      For warmth, I had a fleece balaclava with a neoprene face shield covering my nose and mouth with a few strategic vent holes, and after a lot of experimentation I settled on snowmobile mittens for my poor, poor hands. I added goggles for subzero temps but then had to stop now and then to wipe off the fog. Since I had bike shoes I used neoprene shoe covers but if that doesn’t apply to you consider wool socks or other ways to keep your feet dry.

      Happy biking!

    5. StickOrSnake*

      Seasoned bike commuter here. HEAD: get a thin hat to wear under your helmet. I like the bondiband beanie because it is the thinnest hat I know of. You can even purchase one with a ponytail hole! A helmet mounted headlight and blink back helmet light. This lets you have illumination in the direction you are looking. NECK: a neck gaiter of some kind. This you can pull up over your face if you get too cold, or leave around your neck. One of the best temperature regulation pieces I own. TOP: Wind/waterproof outerlayer. Mine has arm pit vents which is nice if I’m not sure how hot I’ll get during the ride. Unzip the pit vents and cool air comes rushing in. If the jacket isn’t reflective, wear a reflective vest. You want cars to see you. HANDS: They make cycling gloves for winter. Get them. They are insulated, wind resistant, grippy on the part that touches the handlebars, and most of them have a soft bit of fabric on the back for wiping your nose which will run. LEGS: Wind/waterproof pants are the best. Snowpants would work if you have them, but be sure to wrap something around the pant cuffs to keep them from getting caught in the gears. A good way to do that is to buy/make reflective velcro pants cuff straps. They hold your pants in place and you end up with more reflective stuff moving around for motorists to see. FEET: Warm layers in shoes that have room for a couple pairs of socks – don’t want them too tight and cutting off circulation. If it is super cold, a plastic bag between your socks and shoes is a dream. Ugly but effective. FACE: If it is super cold, a good thin slathering of vaseline on my face and ears for the ride. BIKE: Find an easy clip on front light. I also recommend a back blinky light that you can attach either to the bike or to you. If you are riding with a backpack, put reflective something on the pack, and clip the blinky there. If you ride frequently in snow/wet, lube your chain often.

      General thoughts: Assume cars can’t see you and ride defensively. Make sure your batteries are charged. Beware of ice/snow/slipperiness. Have fun!

      1. retrowaveRecluse*

        Very much recommend lights on yourself as well as the bike – not just reflective/hi vis on yourself. I am cycling during dark winter nights in a rural-enough area that I am mindful of the remote possibility of being separated from my bike, perhaps in a ditch or field, should an accident happen. I want to have lights and something to make noise with on my person in case I end up in a terrible state in a place hard to see. Having a friend who spent more than one day and night partially paralysed in a ditch, I think cyclists and bikers should keep in mind how useful it can be to have lights and noise on their person. Body harder to replace than the bike, an’all.

      2. The Dogman*

        Hi, as a driver of some experience I would like to recommend you and all other cyclists consider getting a lot more lights.

        You describe a single blinking back light?

        This is insufficient. To a car at night it can be hard to determine how fast flasing lights are travelling, so I would advocate a strong solid red light too, the flashing in combo with the solid light makes a huge difference.

        I would also recommend not having flashing lights on the front, just get 2 or 3 powerful solid ones, since flashing white lights often dazzle car drivers.

        The more lights the better too, so many cyclists round my way wear NOTHING at night and it is deeply worrying. The police have stated that no lights at night on bike means no charges should a driver hit them but it doesn’t seem to sink in sadly…

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      I had a pair of “lobster gloves” for bike commuting, and i loved them. They keep your pinky and ring fingers together like a mitten and the index and middle together for shifting.

    7. PostalMixup*

      I knitted a wool…thing…that was like a knee-high sock minus the part below the ankle for the leg with the rolled up pants. I also wore tights under my pants. Plus what other have said – lobster claw gloves, neoprene face covering (mine covered all the way to below the collar of my coat), hat under the helmet, lots of layers.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m thinking you made leg warmers. From WWI army uiforms, leg gaiters & even putties would serve the same purpose.

    8. GermanGirl*

      Good gloves, rain pants, rain over-shoes, a good jacket, a helmet, reflecting gear have all been mentioned I think.

      If you want to cycle in icy or snowy weather, I highly recommend getting spiked tyres, too. They’re great and I use mine from October to Easter, just like I’d do for car winter tyres in my climate.

    9. JSPA*

      Blinkie on helmet!
      Reflective singlet or jacket.
      Reflective pants guard straps.
      “Slap on” blinkie arm bands, just above the elbow, so they’re statically visible from the back, but also visible in motion if you’re throwing a turn signal.

      I’ve seen someone who bikes with the sort of blinker light they use on barrels at construction sites, bungied to the back rack of the bike. I’d say it’s overkill, but he’s visible from a block away, even in a full white out blizzard. If you’re not that person, you don’t need that level of light.

      I’ve occasionally commuted as cold as minus 20 degrees F. That requires ski goggles and ski pants, over your regular clothing; helmet large enough for ski hat and parka hood under; studded tires, if there’s hard ice on the roads; someone you call before starting out, and again, once you’re home safe; and a very short commute!

      Sunny and 15 to 25 degrees F is lovely. In the dark, it’s still fine (the air is drier and more comfortable than the miserable, 30 to 38 degree range). Above that temperature but damp? Then you’ll probably be a bit damp from inside, even if you keep the outside wetness out. Dry bag and change of clothes is likely the best option.

    10. JSPA*

      What I WANT, but can’t find, is a waterproof, structured (not flappy) but close-fitting rain kilt. Looks like there are thin, flappy versions, but they seem like they’d be a flappy distraction doing 10-15 mph in a 30 mph gusty cross wind. There’s a massive long skirt (made by carooo) that clearly requires at least a sealed chain bike, probably also hub gears…perhaps ideally a rod drive. And it’s clearly “gear,” not “lady clothing.” So I’m a bit tempted, but my bike might not be right for it.

  21. lapgiraffe*

    TL;DR my friend is a terrible conversationalist and rather boring person and it’s holding her back in her romantic pursuits if not in other areas of her life as well.

    I have a friend (we’re both straight women in our 30s) who has never been the most exciting person, but she’s friendly and we used to enjoy lovely dinners out together in the before times. She’s also been dating like crazy for years trying to get married and start a family, but with no luck on that front.

    A few years ago, while dissecting a date, she kinda blurted out “I’m starting to think that I’m boring, that I’m just not an interesting person, and this is why I’m not connecting with anyone.” Of course as the friend I tell her that’s not the case, but she lays it out – she doesn’t really have hobbies, her life outside of work is still very work centric (it’s a fun industry but it’s also niche and not everyone’s cup of tea), she doesn’t really do any arts/culture activities, she’s very much anti going to sports things, even travel revolves around work and very specific tastes.

    I still maintained positive friend vibes while also suggesting “well why don’t you try some of these other things! Why not branch out, it sounds like it could be a good idea!” Well then covid hit so *shrug*

    But here’s the thing – she’s right. She is incredibly boring, and it’s only gotten worse with WFH and her taking a rather cautious stance when it comes to (not) socializing. I dread phone calls with her because she just has nothing to say. Or, rather, she has plenty to say, but it is beyond boring – why she’s annoyed with someone at work for a slack message, or telling me a story about thanksgiving but including so many useless details that a three minute anecdote turns into a ten minute meandering monologue. She talks like a valley girl teenager meets a toddler, lots of “like” and “whatever” filler with “and this happened and then this happened and this and this and…,” plus endless giggling. It’s just exhausting.

    So it’s two fold – I don’t exactly love chatting with her on the phone, but that’s definitely what she prefers and feels slighted if we don’t. I also do care for her and would love for her to meet someone, but I can completely understand why her first dates aren’t turning into second and third dates. She’s a traditionally beautiful woman, so she gets dates easily, but once she opens her mouth….ooof.

    Ideally I would send her to a finishing school to learn how to be a great conversationalist, but I am not her mother and this is not 1950. But seriously, how does one help their friend in this situation?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I flinched at the part about covid, because hoo boy did that put paid to intentions to try and get out and connect with people more.

      The “maybe I’m boring realization” was a few years back, so I don’t think you can follow up on it the way you could if it were last week. (I do think a close friend or relative can speak up out of nowhere, once, and then back off again–but you have to be close and the sort of person who normally never does this, so they weigh your making the exception here.)

      Can you invite her to a thing? Like a local park?
      This is something where the change really has to be something she wants to work on, and it may be that as her friend you just need to categorize her as “Susan, who is all about her work.”

    2. Pool Lounger*

      I don’t think you do, really. My father and grandmother were like this in a way—no hobbies, seemingly not much interest in anything outside of their one interest (though I wouldn’t call them boring conversationalists). People are the way they are, and if she knows she seems “boring” to others but still hasn’t tried to expand her interests she probably doesn’t want to. Maybe she’ll meet someone within her field who’s also single-minded. I also want to ask, do you like her, and if not, why are you friends? I’d be utterly embarrassed if a “friend” secretly felt I was so boring, but I’d also wonder why they were still talking to me in the first place.

    3. allathian*

      Oof, this is tough.

      Honestly, Covid’s done a number on a lot of people’s social skills, including mine.

      I’m wondering why you want to be friends with this person, because the way you describe her sounds very judgmental. Why do you like her? How and why did you become friends?

      1. Olivia Oil*

        Not the OP, but I recently ended a ten year friendship with someone I found myself progressively disliking. I think some people initially become friends because they genuinely do have some stuff in common, but the interest can fade out (sometimes slowly) over time. Or you might discover other unfavorable traits about the person. It happens. I’ve definitely seen this happen a lot in romantic relationships as well. Those tend to drag out even longer because people are very invested in making those partnerships work out as long as they can.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, that’s true, and it’s happened to me, usually as a mutual slow fade, sometimes just realizing that we don’t have all that much in common anymore. I once ended a friendship because my friend was constantly late, every time. For a long time, I enjoyed her company enough that I could accept her as she was, if grudgingly. But when I realized that my annoyance with her constant lateness outweighed any pleasure I got out of her company, I ended the friendship.

          I value punctuality a lot, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to waste my time with people who are always late. I just can’t deal with it, because I lean a bit too much the other way. If I’m just on time, I feel like I’m late, so I always try to be early because it’s so much less stressful for me. I tend to spend time with people who are more or less like I am in this regard. If you’re always late, I don’t care if it’s because you’re neuroatypical and don’t have a clear concept of time, a time optimist who has too much scheduled to ever be on time for almost anything, or simply don’t respect anyone else’s time, I consider it a moral failing and won’t have anything to do with you if I can help it.

          1. Olivia Oil*

            Omg YES. I can’t deal with flaky people. I went through a similar journey as you as well where it took me awhile to realize how much that was a dealbreaker no matter how nice someone is.

            And to be clear, I am diagnosed with ADHD and have time blindness, but that doesn’t mean I’m not considerate of other people’s time. I used to let a friend get away with extreme flakiness because she always blamed it on her anxiety disorder. But I know other people with dxed anxiety or depression who don’t cancel last minute. If they don’t think they will make an event, they just decline it upfront. It’s never an excuse to be rude.

          2. ADHD anon*

            Time blindness is a symptom of ADHD , which is a genuine disability and something those afflicted with it genuinely cannot help. You can find it annoying and are free to choose not to associate with people for it, but to consider it a moral failing is ableist and cruel.

            1. Lady Danbury*

              This times a million. And just because some people with adhd don’t have time blindness or have figured our workarounds doesn’t mean that it’s doable for everyone with adhd. Time blindness is just as much a “moral failing” as a diabetic not producing adequate insulin.

            2. allathian*

              I’m not ableist in other ways, I hope, but this is my total deal breaker. I don’t honestly care that it’s a disability you can’t help, it’s not one I’m willing to deal with in any capacity.

              But can you be on time for job interviews, medical appointments, or the airport if you’re going on a trip and have a non-refundable ticket? If so, if you want to associate with me with your disability, you’re going to have to do whatever it takes for you to be able to do that that, even if it leaves you completely exhausted for days afterwards. Most people wouldn’t bother, and honestly I wouldn’t blame them for that.

              That said, this doesn’t really come up, because people who are time blind notice very quickly that I judge them for their disability, and they’re just as free to choose not to associate with me for that.

        2. lapgiraffe*

          I relate to this a lot. I wouldn’t say that over time I’ve grown to outright dislike her, but I think our friendship started with shared work lives (we didn’t work together but in the same industry doing very similar things and our worlds overlapped a lot) and much like when you leave a job and it’s hard to maintain friendships with old work friends, it’s taken a lot of work to maintain this friendship once our work lives became less intertwined.

          And yes, the covid part, I think it’s definitely affected her social skills, and for that I should have more compassion and more patience.

    4. fposte*

      Ooh, a lot going on there. I think there’s some overlap here in what annoys you about her conversations and why she might not be getting a lot of continued interest, but they’re not the same thing, either.

      I also think it’s not having no other ways of spending her time–it’s having little facility for conversation. I don’t think she’d automatically be interesting talking endlessly about drama in her bouldering and skydiving group. I’m seeing her as the 21st century equivalent to a bad dancer in the Edwardian age, with the added burden of conversation being something that nobody actually teaches you. (Have you met her family? I’m wondering if this is a family trait.) I think most decent conversationalists could springboard an engaged conversation about what *you* do rather than what they do, or gaming, movies, etc. with people who enjoy those, even if they themselves don’t do that. Then it sounds like the pandemic has affected her squarely in this already weak spot–that she’s, like many people, suffering from having less practice than usual with people.

      As far as what you can do–I would focus on your friendship and not on her dating. This may feel to you like “if she changed these things, she’d annoy me less plus get better dating results,” but I think that’s a questionable twofer. One possibility is in dialing back the friendship–you do sound like you might be coming to your limit here. Another is saying what I suspect might be a truth, if not an all-encompassing truth: “I think the pandemic changes mean I’m less inclined to hang on the phone while to you it’s even more of a lifeline. Any thoughts about compromises we might find to this?” Another is that you recast your thoughts about her conversations. My friends listen to me be boring a lot, and vice versa; we’re listening more for subtext than for text, and the subtext to your friend’s conversation may be “I’m lonely, I miss you, and I miss people” rather than “I think you deeply care about what Craig said to Becky.”

      1. fposte*

        Additionally, after an already long comment–with a long-term good friend, you get the latitude to occasionally say “Can we put the work conversation on hold for a bit?” Or “Sorry, I’m having a short-attention span night–can we save our longer stories?” (Or, if you’re like me and my friends, you just interrupt when the story goes on too long.)

      2. lapgiraffe*

        I really appreciate you whole post, lots of good stuff in there, but I’m especially drawn to the bad dancing in the Edwardian Age. This friend is such a great on paper woman, a suitable bride she would be, and when she arrives to the party the potential suitor is taken with her beauty. But then they finally meet and CLUNK! She not only steps on his feet repeatedly, she really steps in it figuratively with an awkward joke and a loud laugh. It would be a delightfully funny character in a book, the beautiful but hopeless woman, desperate for a husband but failing so spectacularly you’re simultaneously facepalming and laughing at her misfortune, but I suppose it comes across as cruel to suggest you have a friend in real life with those qualities.

        I know others find my description too mean, and I didn’t provide enough evidence that she has good qualities that I like about her, but maybe my biggest mistake was not presenting her as a gorgeous woman with an impressive resume (both personal and professional) who then opens her mouth to reveal the complete opposite of what you were expecting. She truly could benefit from some elocution classes at the very least, and yes, I’ve met her parents and they’re incredibly interesting and lovely to be around, so I’m not sure how she turned out so differently (public school) (I kid! She literally went to one of the best public schools in the entire country! Just playing off the social status tropes of the finding a husband game).

        But yes, separating her romantic woes and my frustrations with our communication as of late is crucial to finding more compassion for her. It’s clear she’s lonely and covid has affected her more deeply than others. She’s also coming up on a birthday so I feel like that always makes her extra sensitive to the no husband thing. We’ve already got lunch on the books so maybe we just got get on the other side of another year and it will improve on its own.

    5. fueled by coffee*

      1. You’re not responsible for her dating life, so let that burden off your shoulders. There’s an introverted, work-focused man out there who loves listening to others talk about their day-to-day life at the office who would love to date your friend, but you’re not going to magic him up out of the blue for her. You can commiserate with her if you want, but it doesn’t sound like she especially wants to change (start new hobbies, go to sports events, etc.), so let this go.

      2. It kind of sounds like this friendship has run its course. You have one positive thing to say about your friend in this entire post — she’s “traditionally beautiful” — and the rest is that she’s boring, she’s too focused on work, she’s bad at conversation, the way she talks annoys you, her covid cautiousness annoys you, and so on.

      If you want to maintain the friendship despite all this, do what I do when I talk to extended family who can’t get off the phone: schedule a phone call, get a pile of laundry to fold, and treat it as entertainment while you get your chores done. But if you’re at the point where you’re describing a grown adult woman you consider a friend as talking like “a valley girl teenager meets a toddler”… you’re being cruel.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        Completely agree with this. There’s a pot for every lid. Just because you find her conversation boring doesn’t mean that every single guy will or that her conversation has anything to do with not getting second dates. Also, someone doesn’t have to have the same interests as you to enjoy talking about them. My bf has a bunch of interests that I don’t share but I enjoy when he talks about them because he is so passionate about them. Passion is sexy!

        As for the friendship, you say that you used to enjoy lovely dinners but what was so lovely about them if you don’t enjoy talking to her? Other than the dinners, you haven’t made a single positive comment about your friendship. It doesn’t sound like you feel like you’re getting much out of it, so it may be kinder to just move on.

        1. Pretty Purple Pen*

          An old coworker from a job I left several months ago was fun to talk to in person, but we’ve been texting since I moved to another job and it’s boring for me. She doesn’t supply any details (as an example, she’ll mention she watched a movie, but not mention what made her want to watch it or if it was a good movie or what it was about). Her texts are mostly vents about work, or rambling and repeating things without really saying anything. I don’t particularly like texting to begin with. (I don’t like phone calls either, don’t use FB, and can’t meet with her in person because I’m immunocompromised and she’s not careful about covid.) I’m gradually spacing out my responses so that eventually we can just text occasionally instead of frequently, and that won’t be as bad.

          Maybe OP’s friend is better at conversations in-person than over the phone? Or maybe the OP doesn’t like phone calls to begin with? Not sure how often they talk on the phone, but maybe the phone calls need to be more spaced out.

      2. Olivia Oil*

        I noticed this too. It sounds like you don’t really respect her. I actually recently ended a friendship because I found that I had lost a lot of respect for the friend’s personality traits and interests. It doesn’t mean other people won’t like her, but it’s a sign that we stopped having anything in common.

      3. David*

        Yup, introverted work-focused man who loves listening to others talk about day-to-day life, checking in :-P

        Seriously though, I do think you (lapgiraffe) should mentally separate how this is affecting you from how it’s affecting your friend’s dating life and how it’s affecting other aspects of her life. It’s ultimately not your job to make her dates better; you might be able to offer some guidance if she’s receptive to it, but the motivation and action has to come from her, and if it doesn’t work out for her, it’s not *your* failure.

        With the caveat that I’m probably a very different type of person than you and your friend, I think you’re not doing her any favors by telling her she’s not boring when you think she is and she also is starting to think she is. If she really wants things to change, I think being a friend means being honest and telling her what you think of her when she brings it up. None of us can really tell how we’re coming across to other people without getting that kind of feedback.

      4. tangerineRose*

        Are there any meetup groups (or similar) that are related to a facet of her work? She might find those more interesting to join.

        Toastmasters would be something she might consider joining. Being able to talk well can be useful for a lot of professions, and it has a Table Topics section that’s great for impromptu speaking. Also, they’ll gently remind her of her filler words. (If they aren’t gentle, try another group; the group I was in was really nice.)

    6. Olivia Oil*

      Lol for a minute I was afraid this might be about me. I’m currently dating and am stuck in a first date rut. Part of this is due to me not liking my dates, but this is also the case with the guys I like and I’m starting to wonder if I’m boring lol. But luckily a lot of your details about your friend don’t apply to me.

      My two cents: you aren’t responsible for doing anything. You could give her some conversation topic suggestions but that’s it.

      Also, I don’t think that having a ton of hobbies necessarily makes someone a great conversationalist. It’s more about having a pot of interests. I have two broad categories of friends – extreme homebody introverts who aren’t very active but are awesome conversationalists because they are knowledgeable about a lot of topics and very analytical people; and very active, “fun” types who aren’t the most deep conversationalists. The latter group are the people I go hiking with but can’t see myself having an extended conversation with them at a coffeeshop or something. Different people are different.

      It’s also worth mentioning that what we consider boring/not boring can be very subjective. The people I don’t find to be interesting conversationalists, others might!

      It’s hard to know what is going on with your friend. It sounds like she rambles a lot about herself and maybe doesn’t ask enough questions to her dates?

        1. Fa lala la la*

          I enjoyed “pot of interests”!
          Made me think of a really of a really flavorful soup and I thought that was a neat turn of phrase you used, lol!

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      I think the only thing you really could do would have been to be a little more honest (still supportive!) when she initially brought up being boring. Like “well, what makes you think people feel that way? Do you want ideas to change that impression?” or “well, I love talking to you but sometimes you do tend to ramble for awhile” instead of being more generically positive. Maybe just be prepared to gently agree next time she brings it up?

      I feel like someone could post this about me, I have gotten extremely bored and boring during the pandemic and just… don’t have anything to talk about. I hate feeling myself talk about something stupid that doesn’t make a good conversation but sometimes it feels like the only alternative is just not talking at all! Can you get her to come out and do stuff with you occasionally? Even like get into a show/book together so you can discuss that?

      1. Frankie Bergstein*

        My Mom and I – who talked often – fell into this. We would call each other weekly, but we had nothing to talk about. We started doing Netflix watch parties of The Good Place, then we could gossip about the characters. It was really nice!

        Also, this is all really good advice. I second the idea that it’s about being boring as a conversationalist (e.g., not listening to or engaging with the other person, not taking interest in them) rather than as a person. You can be one or the other; these traits don’t necessarily hang together.

    8. Wishing You Well*

      You can’t help her but you can help yourself.
      How much contact are YOU comfortable with? Dreading her phone calls is not good. Consider putting limits on how long and how often you talk with her. You can tell her up front you’ll be cutting back on phone time because *insert something here*. You can’t change her but you can change you.
      Live your best life!

    9. Zona the Great*

      You’ve described my father to a T (tee? tea?). He runs short of things to say in mere seconds and will resort to things like, “do you drive with your hands at 10 and 2?” No one likes him and he has no friends to speak of. My brother and I love him but deeply dislike him. In my experience, there is nothing you can do except maintain your boundaries. That includes not calling her just because she wants you to. You dislike the conversation; you don’t have to keep doing anything you don’t enjoy. When my dad calls and brings up topics I’ve asked him not to, I simply say, “no thanks” with my hand up and he knows to stop.

      1. Olivia Oil*

        Fortunately this isn’t someone I interact with regularly, but a couple my parents are friends with and works with my dad literally don’t know how to talk about anything that isn’t work gossip. I’m not even talking about their general field of study. I love listening to other people talk about their chosen fields and other interests. They only want to talk about their specific workplace politics, their colleagues, etc. I’ve tried asking them questions about their general line of study (they are academics so I will ask them about research) and they have nothing to say. They also have zero interest in hearing about anything I have to say. Basically, any interaction with them is them monologuing the latest workplace gossip, even name dropping specific colleagues, though I have no idea who they’re talking about.

    10. CatPerson*

      I am starting to distance myself from a friend who has become incredibly boring because all she ever does is talk nonstop about herself. She never asks me any questions any more, if I say something she doesn’t exactly reply, she doesn’t compliment me on clothes or jewelry or even notice that I painted my kitchen a new color. It’s completely one sided. I redid a bedroom as a sewing room and when I showed it to her she barely even looked around or noticed the artwork that I rehung, etc. Good conversationalists must engage with each other.

      1. Pennyworth*

        And good friends take an interest in each other. I have a friend who talks about herself a lot because she often has more to say than I do (my choice not to say much), but she will always listen and take an interest if I do want to talk.

      2. Olivia Oil*

        Yup I had a friend like this in college. Bonus was that she primarily used me as a sounding board to rant about her boyfriend and their relationship drama. Gave no F’s about my own relationships or my life or anything.

    11. Fireye*

      One thing I’ve found recently that I really love are conversation starters! You can google around and find ideas and I’ve even bought a box of cards to pick from at dinner parties, but essentially it is a question/statement that is meant to start off a conversation – so nothing that could have a yes or no answer. It could be useful both for your conversations you have with her (get her off the work topic by asking one and see if it gets her out of that mode) but also something she could have in her back pocket for dates. My current favorite question to ask people is, “What is the first event you can remember being in the news?”. In my experience using these types of questions can start a really interesting conversation and the great thing is she won’t have to suddenly become a hobby person to be successful in using them.

    12. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Sometimes that sort of monologuing about tiny details is anxiety based, and feeling compelled to fill every conversational gap, being unable to sit in silence at all.
      There’s a woman I see at a friend’s place at Christmas time who talks without ceasing, no back and forth talk at all, one literally has to walk away from her in mid sentence because the sentences never end. In this woman’s case, knowing her history, I believe she does this to prevent anyone ever speaking about anything meaningful or telling her anything she is afraid to hear, but it is exhausting and sad as well.
      I second the suggestion to have a task you do while listening to her on the phone, and that you limit the time you have available.

    13. Despachito*

      I had friends like this- when the telephone rang and it was them I rolled my eyes and braced myself to hear a 2 hours’ monologue about THEMSELVES. No asking about “how are you”, no interest about me, I felt like their sounding board.

      It was even not about not having hobbies – I shared a hobby with one of them and there were times when we would talk hours over the phone and I’d find that extremely interesting – she was almost a generation older than me and I sort tof looked up to her. I realized only later that I listened a lot more than talked even in those “olden times” but I found her topics very interesting back then, and I hoped that in the future I’d “earn” more of her interest in me. Long story short… I didn’t, and as time went by, I found the conversations about HERSELF more and more boring – because she did not show any interest about how I am doing.

      For me, it was not so much about the topics of the conversation itself but about the complete lack of interest in the other person. I have people I love dearly and our conversations are quite about “boring stuff” but the difference is that we are MUTUALLY interested in our lives, and a question “what did you cook today” is not just about cooking but about caring about the other person, and she asks me something BACK.

      I think THIS is what makes a great conversationalist, and something I’d possibly say to your friend if she asked me whether she is boring (good thing she asked, my friends never did) – show genuine interest in the other person. It is more the ability to LISTEN than great conversational skills that make you a great conversational partner.

    14. JSPA*

      Toastmasters? If you can tell a good story, you can make the mundane interesting.

      Volunteering? If you do necessary things (even if those things are not exciting, because they’re worth doing) you meet other people doing the same. That’s a great way to screen for people who care (or who choose to care) about “being a solid human being” over “scintillating conversation.”

      But above all…let go of the idea that she needs to attract the sort of person you want her to attract, and be the sort of person you want her to be.

      What do her dating app bios look like? My guess: she’s probably had friends (maybe even you!) help her feature her “good” points and play down her “adorkable” and “quirky” and “a bit too niche” aspects. Instead, help her rework her dating app bios so they do feature the (to you!) irksome and vapid giggling, and the chattiness, while downplaying the (conventionally) pretty exterior. Rather than changing who she is, let her find someone who actually values the way she communicates, and finds it endearing, rather than sitting in excruciating judgement. Put some vaseline on her excellent web cam. Let them get to know her by chatting FIRST. After all…the goal is to find someone who fits her, not to mold her into someone who will attract the sort of person who’ll be horrified when the real her, emerges.

  22. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Someone explain floors to me.

    When I stayed at MIL’s I saw her sweep maybe 2x over the 2 weeks. Neither my husband nor myself saw her ever mop the floor. Vacuum the rug 2 or 3 times. Still, everything was remarkably clean. I walked barefoot and my feet stayed pretty clean. My kid’s socks weren’t dirty until day 2.

    MEANWHILE.

    In my house, I sweep 2-3x a day. I mop (well use a swiffer) every other day. They’re still dirty ALL THE TIME. It’s frustrating to see it. Kid’s able to find just a tiny bit of something to put in her mouth (seriously, why are kids like this? everything goes in their mouth except food lol).

    It’s driving me bonkers. I never did chores growing up and I have pretty relaxed standards for a clean home, so I was never so anal about it. But tbh even if she wasn’t getting in to everything, I’m just getting annoyed at seeing dirty floors.

    Any advice/knowledge/explanation of these?

    1. Asenath*

      Different locations? Some places have a lot more wind blowing around a lot more dirt than other places. And it gets everywhere. Also, dirt accumulates more rapidly if there’s more coming and going. If you have more people (including other children) visiting than your MIL does, that would help explain it.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Shoot, I should have mentioned that in my post.

        I live in NJ. stand alone house with a giant backyard and 1 of 3 houses on our block.

        MIL lives on the 6th floor of a high rise building in an area in Toronto

        She definitely has more visitors as all her kids & grandkids come every few days. every one takes their shoes off at the front door and walks in socks or bare feet

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          There’s your answer. Living in an apartment means you don’t enter directly from the outside, plus the socks. I’m also willing to bet her floors are of a different material.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            Yes true, the material is different. I can’t say what it is because I know nothing about these things. Just that her floor is a light pale grey while ours is a dark brown wood

        2. Lady Danbury*

          Not wearing shoes inside also makes a huge difference. It’s one of my few house rules. I have a shoe rack by my door switch out my outside shoes for slippers when I enter (and vice versa when I leave).

          1. Lady Danbury*

            Nevermind, I saw that you also don’t wear shoes in the house. Agree that outdoor environment and ground floor versus high rise are the key differentiators.

        3. JSPA*

          Air pollution. In a problem location, there will be sooty dust on the screens, and on the sills, and really, everywhere. It’s not only industrial (though the industrial stuff can be particularly tiny, sticky and toxic)–if you’re downwind from farms, you get dust from tilling, crop “dusting,” pollen, burning (of fields or garbage).

    2. Generic Name*

      I assume MIL lives in a different area than you? It sounds like your environment may be “dustier”. Dust as in fine particles of dirt carried on the wind in a dry environment. Do you have pets and she doesn’t? My floors are exponentially dirtier since I got a dog. One way to keep floors clean longer is to take your shoes off the second you step inside. Maybe her house is better sealed against the outside? Older houses have lots of cracks and poor insulation which means dirt from the outside gets in easier. When I was living by myself, my house was SO CLEAN, it it’s so much dirtier now that I have a teenager and a husband with a physical job. I’ve just learned to tolerate things being less clean. I’m certainly not going to be the only one doing the cleaning all by myself. :)

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        No shoes in the main area of the house, we have designated indoor slippers and outdoor shoes. We’re mindful that if we need to just hop Outside to check the mail or go to the car, we change our shoes.

        She is in a relatively newly built high rise whereas our house is 90+ years old

        1. Generic Name*

          There’s your answer right there. New construction disconnected from the outside by many floors versus an old house that is likely very leaky.

        2. JSPA*

          If you have blown air, have your ducts cleaned by someone excellent. Huge difference. But at 90+ years old, there may be coal dust or oil furnace residue in all sort of places, that will continue to settle out. Takes very little of either of those, to make black.

    3. Bobina*

      Definitely the general environment can play a part and dirt/dust has a magic ability to blow in through open windows/doors. But personally, this is why I’m firmly against shoes on in the house. In my experience, its the one thing that brings in huge amounts of dirt vs a shoes off house. Not sure if thats a difference in your case?

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        No shoes in the house.

        (Side note/off topic this was actually a very spirited conversation I had at work. Shoes on/off in the home seems to be a cultural thing. I was always perplexed to see ppl on TV shoes come home and just lay in bed wearing their shoes.)

        1. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

          I hate wearing shoes in the house (Tallahassee, FL, no cultural or regional aspect to this) because all kinds of nasty toxic things are on shoe bottoms. I wouldn’t care so much if it was just me, but there are two cats and one dog in this house, and it’s for their protection.

        2. Lady Danbury*

          I take this one step further with no outside clothes on/in the bed. I’ll change into sleep clothes (or nothing at all, lol) even if I’m just taking a nap. Shoes on the bed are definitely gross (imo).

        3. RagingADHD*

          We didn’t have a rule about no shoes in the jouse grwong up, but it was definitely No Shoes On the Furniture!

          I think they do it on TV just to make the shots and resetting go quickly. Most shows don’t want to do a whole Mr Rogers moment in the middle of the scene.

        4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. The only person we knew who had a “no shoes” rule did it because she had white carpet (which was dumb anyway because she had three rowdy kids). Back then, asking anyone to remove shoes was considered rude, as was removing your shoes in someone’s home on your own. Times change. But as an older person, I cannot do bare/sock feet on most surfaces and I need my own specific shoes and insoles that conform to my feet and their problems. So shoeless residences are a deal breaker for me socially, Covid or no Covid.

          1. Generic Name*

            Gosh, if I had a friend who didn’t visit my home because we normally are shoeless in the house and they can’t be shoeless, I would hope they would speak up and say they medically can’t not wear shoes. I would of course accommodate that, and I think so would most people.

          2. Potatoes gonna potate*

            A lot of cultures (mostly Asian like myself though I’m sure there are others) adopt this rule. I’ve seen some homes go further and provide extra slippers to guests. If I had someone with your issues I would most certainly accommodate them. Treating a guest well trumps cleanliness in this case.

          3. JSPA*

            I had a minor plantar fasciitis flare while in Japan, and would take along my own “indoor shoes” to change into for places where it was really impossible to enter, otherwise.

          4. allathian*

            I’m in Finland and shoeless is the standard here. Separate indoor shoes are standard when you visit someone for a more formal party, stockinged feet are unremarkable among friends. But hospitality certainly trumps cleanliness, and if you need to wear your outdoor shoes because of foot issues, I’m definitely willing to accommodate that.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Well, stuff on the floor comes from somewhere -it’s dropped, like crumbs or bits of paper and plastic, or it’s tracked in.

      If MIL keeps the countertops and other surfaces tidier, less will fall down. And if the area is less dirty, there’s less to track in.

      It could also be related to the age of the house and how well it has been deep-cleaned in the past. If the previous residents in your house really ground in the grime, you might still be getting some dingy socks as a result.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        That’s true. She does keep countertops etc fairly minimal.

        One thing kid keeps picking up are those little tags from clothing. (Seriously don’t know why kids clothes have SO MANY TAGS). suppose I wasn’t careful enough in discarding them. Guess it’s just something to be cognizant of.

        Funny the things you never think of and suddenly have to.

    5. Jean (just Jean)*

      TL:DR: Same as above from Asenath and Generic Name, only a bit more detail. Also +1 to Generic Name’s suggestion of not wearing “outside” shoes at home.

      Dense urban areas–heavily built up, lots of people, lots of vehicular traffic–are dirty and dusty. The windowsills in two of my apartments, located in the outer edge of the city or the inner edge of the suburbs, are always astonishingly dusty. I wouldn’t be surprised if uncarpeted floors did the same thing. (One of my places had exposed wood floors, but that stage of my life was so hectic that I almost never thought about floor cleanliness.) Non-urban areas can also get dusty (deserts? agricultural areas hit by drought, e.g. Dust Bowl in USA in 1930s); I can’t discuss this from personal experience.

      Side note: don’t think about what all this crud does to your lungs.

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      I barely used to sweep a couple times a week. Then I had kids and now I have to sweep 2-3x a day. We steam clean once a week and still have biweekly cleaners. And we are strict about no shoes in the house and have no pets.
      We don’t have carpet or rugs. We used to live in a house with carpets and I never felt like they were clean.
      I 100% blame my kids.

    7. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Things that come to mind that can make a difference:

      – Pets make for dirtier floors.
      – An older home will often be dustier.
      – If you have forced-air heat or cooling, you’ll have more particles blowing around and thus landing on the floors. It helps to change the air filter(s) at least twice per year.
      – If you don’t have air conditioning, then you’ll get more dust, dirt, and pollen when the windows are open for cooling.
      – Make sure your clothes dryer is properly venting to the outdoors, check the duct, and clean out the filter with every use.
      – Remove shoes when you enter the house.
      – City vs. suburb vs. rural will have different dirt that gets into the house. Different seasons bring in different dirt, too.

      1. Girasol*

        Plus open windows. I can’t sleep with a closed window, but if I sleep through a gust front, I sometimes wake to find the bed all dusty.

    8. the cat's ass*

      I envy your MIL. I have three cats, hardwood/rug/tile floor combo and live in a redwood grove; it’s windy here a lot of the time, and it’s a 1950’s house with lots of not air-tight nooks and crannies, so it’s dusty and hairy and i vacuum every other day. I’d imagine her condo has a great HVAC system. I love my Dyson stick, (even tho i feel like Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back trotting around with that giant blaster) and it does do the job.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Years ago I ended up talking to a person about floors who installed flooring for a living. He commented that there is something about walking across blacktop and then going into a house, eventually there is a gray wear path. He believed it was caused by dragging in particles of asphalt on the shoes.
      This made me think about putting a runner over a wall-to-wall carpet in high traffic areas near exterior doors, with the runner being the replaceable part.

      IF, big IF, this person was correct, then by the time people arrive at your MILs on the 6th floor they have probably gotten a lot of that junk off their shoes. Here my biggest enemy is clay soil. I don’t get dust I get CLUMPS. I put a long runner by the back door and the first week it was in place I noticed a big difference in my kitchen. (The next room after the entry by the back door.) I have kept rugs there ever since. Recently I invested in a heavy duty rug with rubber like backing that you see in stores. It does a great job of catching stuff.

    10. Lizy*

      How big is the space? Our house is CRAZY dirty because 3 kids, 2 big dogs, and 2 cats in like 1500sq ft. We also basically live outside and don’t take shoes off when we come in.

      My mom’s, by contrast, is the same size (roughly), and 1 person, no pets. Obviously she vacuums once a year (ha!)

    11. Ranon*

      For your place a massive (and I mean massive, as big as fits or at least six feet long) entry mat at the doors can make a huge difference, even if you run a shoes off household (because, for starters, there’s a place for the shoes to come off!) We’ve got an 8′ x 4′ LL Bean waterhog at ours.

      If your MIL is in a condo they probably have big walk off mats at the main entries that you didn’t even notice, and I bet those take a very different kind of maintenance than her condo floors

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My mom was big on sweeping the front stoop frequently and shaking out the welcome mat. I also know she didn’t like shoes with bumpy soles–no matter how well I wipe my feet, something stays in the soles of my Merrells. And even if you’re leaving shoes at the door, something could drop off and then your next shoes could track that through.

    12. Janet Pinkerton*

      One additional note—Swiffers help, but they’re nothing like real mopping or a mopping robot.

    13. BossBen*

      Have you ever considered a robot vacuum? I just purchased one because my dog sheds everywhere and I honestly hate cleaning the floor more than any other chore. It has been a game changer. Yes, I still need to mop but at least the dust, the hair the general dirt is picked up every night at 8pm when my little guy loops around the house. I have wood floors and a few area rugs and it transitions and works on both. I bought a eufy brand and it only cost like $130ish, worth it to me to not sweep the floor all the time!

      1. Bluephone*

        Swiffers are great but no substitute for actual mopping on a regular basis (like weekly—maybe more depending on your specific situation). So I think that will make a big difference right away.