{ 864 comments… read them below }

    1. UKDancer*

      They definitely look like they’re plotting something sitting there. I think it’s probable that the one on the top is putting forward a plan for world domination and the one in the tunnel is making suggestions for how to improve it. It’s a lovely shot!

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Agreed! I never met a cat I didn’t like but I’m horribly allergic to them. Alas, I must love them from afar.

      Thank you for sharing your kitties with us, Alison!

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        +1 re being a horribly allergic feline fancier who must admire from afar.
        At least we can still donate old towels and the occasional funds.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          We sure can – my local shelter gets regular donations of supplies and funds, too.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        He lies like that ALL THE TIME, often with his head dangling down fully into the compartment below (and sometimes falling asleep with his head in the lower level). The other cats have grown used to having his head intruding when they’re in there.

    3. Daisy*

      I need an additional cat tree. Mine does not have a carpet tube for sprawling, and I am sad on behalf of my cats.

  1. Order of the Banana*

    I’ve been trying to expand my general knowledge recently, so I’m picking up some educational podcasts and books on random subjects (my next read will be The Secret Life of Colour by Kassia St. Clair, after I heard an interview on 99% Invisible).

    If anyone considers themselves a nerd on niche topics, would you kindly drop an interesting fact about your subject of interest?

    1. SG*

      I’ll have to think about the interesting fact on a niche topic, but in the meantime check out the podcast Uncivil if you haven’t already. It rocked my world. So so good.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Birds have flattened eyeballs. Think a ball, but a squashed ball. This is why birds always turn their head to look at you-they can’t roll the eye in its socket, so they have to turn their whole head.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        This also gives me a weird pet peeve: animated birds that get this wrong. There was a commercial a couple year back where the owl irked me every time.

      2. Order of the Banana*

        Interesting! Do you know if a flatter eyeball allows for better vision? Does a bird’s primary method of obtaining food change the shape of the eyeball? Ex: hunting vs scavenging, birds that hunt in the air vs the water.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I believe there was mention of the greater surface area of the flatter back maybe being good for vision, but I can’t remember if it was “scientists wonder if the greater surface area helps with vision” or “scientists have proven that the greater surface area helps with vision” or something in between.

          I have no idea whether eye shape correlates to feeding style, but I would love to know, so if you ever find out please let me know! Obviously some species (eagles!) have excellent, excellent vision, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything about how good vision other groups have.

        2. JACQUI*

          Eye position is more relevant to feeding generally. Predators have forward facing eyes (this allows for judging depth of field and position accuracy) while prey have eyes to the side (for maximum peripheral vision.

          1. allathian*

            Yup. And owl eyes are elongated tubes that expand inwards towards the skull, so that the surface area of the retina is at least twice as large as the surface area of the visible eye, to improve night vision.

    3. Janet Pinkerton*

      Both the lowest point and the highest point of the US interstate system are tunnels: the Fort McHenry Tunnel under Baltimore’s harbor on I-95 and the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels across the Continental Divide on I-70 west of Denver.

      1. Order of the Banana*

        Oooh, tunnels and transportation planning are a whole new area for me (although I admire the logistics behind public transit design). How did you get into this subject? Do you have a particularly riveting book to go with this fact?

        1. Janet Pinkerton*

          I confess I haven’t looked for books related to it. My interest is mostly in the interstate systems and in geographic extremes, and for that I’ve just googled. I do recommend purchasing the Field Notes Highway Map though just because it’s really cool.

          I don’t know why I’m so into it, but I suspect it’s because I’m a spatial/relational spatial person rather than a visual person (I’m one of those people who can’t “picture” things) and I think that’s why I like maps and the interstate system so much. One thing I do for fun is pick two random US cities, then try to plot the optimal route between them in my head, then compare with Google maps to see how I did.

        2. Aphrodite*

          I know you didn’t ask me but have you read any of Henry Petroski’s books? He is SO interesting! You might really love them (as I do, says this non-engineer). Maybe you might want to look at The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure.

          1. Order of the Banana*

            I have not but I am always up for expanding my genres, so I’m gonna add this one (and all the others suggested) to my GoodReads list.

        3. Jim Bob*

          If you want to get into infrastructure planning, David McCullough wrote two fantastic books about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal.

          1. Pippa K*

            My dad seconds the endorsement of McCullough’s Panama Canal book. Apparently a really interesting history.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              The book is very interesting! I lived in the Canal Zone when I was in high school and what struck me from the book – which I read when I was an adult – is that one of the mountains they had to blast through was a place we went parking when I was in high school.

              After you read McCullough’s book, read Paul Theroux’s Patagonian Express. He goes into more of the history behind the canal. (And his host while he was in Panama was the father of my best friend in 9th grade. It was so surprising to read Mr Dachi’s name when I read the book for a Latin America history class in college.)

              And – McCullough’s book about John Adams is amazing.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                I read the Brooklyn Bridge one, and then the Johnstown Flood one, and then the Panama Canal one, and then the John Adams one, and then I went through every McCullough book that my library had. Twice.

    4. Margaretmary*

      Ireland had one of the first female ministers in the world, but as the Dáil (the Irish parliament) was, at the time, illegal, it doesn’t always get counted. This also gets confusing for the British, as what happened was that Irish candidates were elected to the British House of Commons in the 1918 election but, instead of taking their seats, formed an Irish parliament in Dublin, so that means the first woman elected to the British House of Commons and the first woman to actually sit in it were two different people.

    5. ecnaseener*

      The words class, claim, clamor, calendar, clear and council all come from the same Proto-Indo-European root word, meaning “to shout.” Also, the old English word for February translates to “mud month” for unclear reasons.

      I learned those from the incredibly detailed History of English podcast!

      1. Tea and Cake*

        Something Rhymes with Purple is a similar British etymology of words podcast, hosted by Susie Dent and Gyles Brandreth. Highly recommend!

    6. PhyllisB*

      I’ll check back later with the title if I can find it, but I read a book several years ago about how time zones were determined. I love to read when I eat out alone, and one waitress, being friendly asked me what I was reading. When I told her, she looked at me oddly and didn’t say another word to me as long as I was there!!

    7. CatPerson*

      I love reading about natural history, and you can’t go wrong with anything by Bernd Heinrich. The Mind of the Raven hooked me to begin with and I’ve bought almost all of his books.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      To remember the laws of thermodynamics:
      1st law: You can’t win, you can only break even.
      2nd law: You can only break even at absolute zero.
      3rd law: You can’t reach absolute zero.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        The only thing I remember from 11th grade chemistry is that everything tends toward:
        – minimum energy
        – maximum entropy
        And that the skin of a baked potato contains enzymes that help in the digestion of the potato.
        Thanks Mr. Hough!

      2. Formerly Ella Vader*

        We used to say “you can’t win. you can’t break even. you can’t even quit the game” meaning that there’s no measurement outside of absolute-zero. Not as clear an analogy as the others, though.

    9. RMNPgirl*

      Transfusion of blood products can be a lot more complicated than just blood type. Also, the ABO system for blood types was discovered just over 100 years ago so it’s actually a relatively young scientific field. A lot of what are considered clinically significant red cell antibodies (what can make it more complicated than just blood type) weren’t discovered until the mid-20th century.
      Also, one of the biggest medical advances in the 20th century was the creation of Rh Immune Globulin which is given to Rh negative women to prevent them from forming Anti-D. This antibody can cause future miscarriages if the fetus is Rh positive. The miscarriage rate in Rh negative women before the invention of Rh Immune Globulin was 10-15%, it is now less than 0.1%. This medication has saved probably millions of babies.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Sadly, we still have horrible maternal mortality rates in the US – high for all women but even worse for women of color than for white women. Read “The Pain Gap” by Anushay Hossain.

        (She also talks about the lack of research and knowledge about women’s health issues – it took 20 years of intense period pain before anyone even said the word “endometriosis” to Padma Lakshmi.)

      2. It's Growing!*

        I was born in 1951. I went to school with a boy who was the only survivor of his mother’s 9 pregnancies due to the Rh negative problem. Why would I even know that as a child?

        The first mention of a preventive treatment for newborns with Rh disease appeared on April 24, 1947, … Unfortunately, he added, blood tests for the Rh factor were not widely available to pregnant women….But they were available to lawyers and their clients. On July 21, 1947, The Times reported the first use of the Rh factor, an inherited trait, as a test of parentage in a court case. The judge decided that on the basis of the man’s Rh test he could not be the father….On April 28, Ms. Brody reported that the drug, Rhogam, “will be made available to hospitals at $64.80 a dose” — about $407 in today’s money. Rh immune globulin, or RhIg (Rhogam is one of several brands), now costs about $100 a dose. Rh blood disease is no longer a threat.

    10. Mr. Tumnus*

      Not an interesting fact, but an interesting author: Carlo Rovelli. I’m a former Lit Major that nerds out on Physics. His “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” is fascinating and beautiful. I’m currently reading “Helgoland” about the birt of Quantum Physics. You don’t have to understand the math to get what he’s saying (I sure don’t!).

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking gave me the fact that blows my mind. If I can retell it accurately…

        ‘Spin’ is a property of particles having to do with how far it rotates before looking the same as it did where it started. So, for example, a perfect metallic cube would spin 1/4 of the way (90 degrees) before it looks the same. A blank sheet of printer paper spins 1/2 the way (180 degrees). A human would spin a full rotation (360 degrees). There are some particles that have to spin all the way around TWICE (720 degrees) before they look the same as they did at the start!

      2. David*

        Cool! I used to be a physicist, and it always bugged me that so many people’s exposure to physics comes from a few mega-famous people like Einstein and Hawking when there are so many other physicists like Rovelli whose insight and communication skills are underappreciated. (Though to be fair, there are still way more physicists who are really bad at communicating to the general public!)

        In case you or anyone is interested, a few others I liked: “The God Particle” by Leon Lederman, “Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe” by J. R. Gott, and “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene. I’ve also heard many good things about “The End of Everything” by Katie Mack although I haven’t gotten to read it yet.

    11. Velawciraptor*

      Gilgamesh may have been an actual guy (there’s a great series of episodes on the subject on the podcast Our Fake History).

    12. Squirrel Nutkin*

      A cool author who took a lot of deep dives into a whole bunch of niche areas is John McPhee.

      My fun fact: The Peace Corps was founded/announced by President Kennedy at the University of Michigan around 2AM because he was running very late that day.

    13. Nell*

      Richard III was put onto the throne by parliament, unlike what Shakespeare suggests. His play Richard III was based mostly on accounts of Richard III’s enemies.

    14. Generic Name*

      It is illegal, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, to even pick up a feather you find on the ground, unless you have a “take” license from USFWS. It’s also illegal to remove a bird nest on your house if there are eggs or nestlings in it.

    15. Buni*

      Any of Victoria Finlay’s 3 books to date: Colour, Jewels and Fabric. The Colour one is about where paint colours came from before artificial / chemical dyes, and it’s literally just a chapter per colour, e.g blue from Afghani lapis lazuli, red from lead or cochineal beetles. She travels to the place and finds out about the process.

      Jewels does the same thing: one chapter for diamonds, one for sapphires, one for the emeralds etc – where are the best mines, what’s the most famous example, how have fashions changed. I’ve not read the Fabric one yet but I suspect it will be the same – a chapter on eg wool, one on linen etc.

      She’s interesting and interested and chatty and funny and I recommend them all – even the one I’ve not read!

      1. Order of the Banana*

        I am…irrationally excited about the prospect of reading an in-depth book on fabric. I’m not very fashion-inclined so I can barely differentiate between common ones used in modern day. Added all three to my GoodReads!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          You may like Natania Barron’s Thread Talks (on Twitter and her website too).

        2. Morgan*

          I recommend The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair if you want to read more about fabric :)

        3. Zelda*

          I have _The Fabric of Civilization_ by Virginia Postrel on my end table waiting for me to get off the internet and read it already.

    16. JKP*

      Everyone on board the Titanic could have been saved by a ship 10 miles away. The Californian watched the Titanic sink all night long: watched them stop (thought because of icebergs – the same reason they were stopped), watched the angle of the lights shift as the ship lifted in the air (thought the ship turned), saw the distress flairs (thought celebratory fireworks), saw the lights go out (ships sometimes turned out the lights to encourage guests to go to bed). The Californian’s telegraph operator signed off and went to bed <1 hour before Titanic's first SOS. All night the crew debated whether to wake him to find out what was going on with the other ship they were watching.

      Also, the Titanic was the first SOS sent in history. Before that, the standard was CQD (Call to Quarters Distress). The Titanic tried CQD first, then tried SOS to reach anyone they could.

      1. tangerineRose*

        The Titanic also didn’t have enough lifeboats, and they didn’t make good use of what they did have. There were a number of lifeboats that weren’t anywhere near full.

        1. JKP*

          People didn’t want to get in the lifeboats until it was almost too late, but they didn’t have enough time to delay sending the boats either. Crew were frantically cutting the ropes on the final lifeboat as the ship sank beneath them, hoping to free the last boat before it got dragged under with the rest of the ship.

          None of the ships of the time had enough lifeboats, because lifeboats were based on square footage, not passenger count. And no one was outraged about that at the time like we are now looking back at it. It was just a given that if the ship went down, you likely would go with it, like how we feel about plane crashes now.

      2. ecnaseener*

        For the more heartwarming flip side: the story of the ship that DID rescue the Titanic’s survivors, RMS Carpathia, is really amazing. That ship’s telegraph operator had signed off for the night too, but happened to leave the radio on while he got ready for bed, and got a message from shore saying they were having trouble reaching the Titanic. He decided to be nice and try to contact the Titanic before he went to bed, and that’s the only reason he heard their distress call.

        The Carpathia’s captain pushed the engines to their absolute limit to get there faster than should have been possible (way over its maximum speed). They got there in time to save hundreds of people who would otherwise have died.

        1. JKP*

          True, raced as fast as possible for over 8 hours through the same dangerous waters and risking the same fate for themselves. Carpathia was already picking up survivors by the time the Californian turned on their wireless in the morning. The subtext “F U” in Carpathia’s response telling the Californian their help would not be needed.

    17. Jamie Starr*

      I’ve read that book. I was on a color kick a couple years ago for some research I was doing on a paper. If you like it, you may also enjoy:

      Johannes Itten’s “The Elements of Color”
      David Kastan’s “On Color”
      Simon Garfield’s “Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World”

      The latter was really interesting to me, even if there was a lot of chemistry that I didn’t always fully understand.

      1. Order of the Banana*

        I’m definitely adding these to my TBR! The podcast episode mentioned the story about mauve so I’m eager to read the whole story.

    18. *daha**

      After the Philistines stole The Holy Ark, God struck them with hemorrhoids. They returned The Ark, along with five hemorrhoids of gold to show repentance.

    19. beentheredonethat*

      I am not a cool enough to be a nerd, but I am fascinated by odd information.
      Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – the title alone is enough to entertain me
      Spoonerism, sycophants, and sops
      words fascinate me invalid or invalid (heteronyms) – google is my friend
      Longitude the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time
      Elisha Otis fascinates me (the whole safety cable thing)

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        Word by Word is an amazing book about dictionaries and language.

        Garbage! is an interesting book about the secret life of what we throw away. I picked it up on a whim at a museum gift shop several years ago. It’s also fun when someone asks you’re reading and you can legit say “Garbage!” The thing I remember the most is they took core samples from garbage dumps and used pop/beer can tabs to estimate dates since we used to have pull tabs etc.

    20. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Don’t use Portland cement to repoint historic brick. It can increase spalling, because it’s waterproof and bricks are not. Mortar is supposed to be softer than the bricks around it — Yes we’ll always have to repoint every five or 15 years depending on your weather period but that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than having your bricks split during a freeze cycle because the weather can’t get out through the mortar joins.

      1. Bluebell*

        Also- opossums don’t carry rabies. I was at an event one night and seated with the head of a zoo, and we started talking about possums. That was his fun fact.

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I think they eat ticks too. So they are basically the good guys even though they look like big rats.

          Just learned the other day that they are not rodents but marsupials. Kangaroos are marsupials that people are familiar with.

      2. Zelda*

        When South America and North America joined about 3 million years ago (depending on who you ask), animals from each must have migrated into the other, but most of the successes were northern critters moving south. There are, AIUI, practically no native predators left at all in the south. Possums are among a mere handful of southerners that went north and thrived. So that’s why they’re the only marsupials– because they’re only ‘native’ if you don’t look back more than a mere paltry 3 million years.

    21. allathian*

      1 out of 200 men alive today can claim that they’re a direct patrilineal descendant of Ghengis Khan, traceable through the Y-chromosome. There’s a historical genetics paper published in 2003.

      He’s reputed to have sired more than 2,000 children in his lifetime, and assuming half of those were boys, there were plenty of second generation descendants to pass on his genes, even if a fairly small percentage survived to adulthood.

      Why so many kids? A quote attributed to Ghengis Khan may shed some light on his reasoning:
      “The greatest joy for a man is to defeat his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all they possess, to see those they love in tears, to ride their horses, and to hold their wives and daughters in his arms.”

    22. Mother Trucker*

      Try the ‘Stuff You Should Know’ podcast. Every episode is a different random topic that will give enough information to determine if you want to dive into it.

  2. weekly book rec*

    No book recommendation today? I come here for them every weekend because I like most of what she suggests. Help me, someone else please give me an Alison-type recommendation!

    1. Order of the Banana*

      May I recommend:

      Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola – an anthology of love stories based on mythology and POC history/culture

      Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – The protagonist Casiopea accidentally unlocks the Mayan god of death and goes on a journey to help restore him to his former self. One of my favourite reads from last year.

      Exhalation by Ted Chiang – an anthology of sci-fi stories, all beautifully told. This was a good intro to SF imo and very beginner friendly.

      She Who Becomes the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan – Not quite like Alison’s recommendation, but if you’re into Chinese Historical Fiction, I loooooved this one.

      The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Faye – a set of sisters turn to vaudeville in order to make ends meet.

      Also I don’t always keep up with Alison’s recs, so if there’s a bunch of overlap, please look away and allow me to keep my dignity.

        1. Buni*

          Thirding Gods of Jade & Shadow, and if you liked that (I did!) then I highly recommend ‘A Master of Djinn’ by P. Djeli Clark – queer woman police detective in 1930s Cairo trying to solve murders in a sharp suit & fedora while dealing with angry djinn who hate the police, angry djinn who work for the police, a bunch of interfering angels and even more interfering Aunties.

            1. Buni*

              oo ta! I knew this was out there but hadn’t got round to searching for it yet. He wrote this first just as a tester but based on the reaction went on to write a full-length novel after (and I misremembered: it’s 1912 Cairo).

    2. AcademiaNut*

      The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is currently a Kindle deal of the week, as are T. Kingfisher’s Paladin’s Grace and Swordheart (all $3 US plus tax). All three are excellent reads, with character focussed writing and a generally hopeful tone. Kingfisher’s are also quite funny, combining straight up romance with things like vindictive cultists, severed heads and morose paladins.

      I recently read Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace, which were also excellent.

      1. Pinkbasil*

        Thank you! Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books and I’m going to note all of these suggestions.

        1. Lady Alys*

          There is a “Goblin Emperor” sequel-ish book out, “The Witness for the Dead,” that is equally fabulous.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sorry! It has been a roller coaster of a week and I have done no reading, just a lot of collapsing at the end of the day. The book recs are on others today :)
      (And if anyone can give me Alison-type recommendations, I will gladly take them!)

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Have you read The Manningtree Witches by AK Blakemore about the witch trials in Pendleton, Lancashire? It’s written by a poet, the language is very beautiful. I find it sad though.

      2. Pinkbasil*

        I think you’d like Kelsey McKinney’s God Save the Girls. Great story about growing up in an evangelical home in Texas.

      3. AGD*

        Might be long since discovered…but if not, I bet you’d like Nancy Clark. The Hills at Home is a big, rollicking story of the New England woman who looks after the ancestral farmhouse alone…until far too many relatives all descend on the property at once in need of a place to stay.

        1. AGD*

          Oh, and speaking of New England family sagas, Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl. Warm, lively, fascinating portrait of a spirited woman born in 1900 to a Jewish immigrant family. I loved the characters, and the vividly described locations.

      4. Bibliovore*

        The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. Set in the Birchbark Bookstore, (Erdrich’s actual store) perfectly captures the life of the bookseller.

      5. Come On Eileen*

        Alison, if you haven’t already read Project Hail Mary, it’s gotta be next on your list! Its the most clever, engaging book I’ve read in a long time and I think it would be up your alley. If someone told me before I read it how much i’d love a book about space travel and alien life form and a dude trying to save earth by going to a star far far away, I’d have told them they were crazy. And I would have been wrong because it was just delightful.

        1. Cruciatus*

          And may I add that you need to do the audiobook version of it. I think of Rocky and his voice often still. I loved this book! I wasn’t sure I would, but the author makes you feel like you understand the science, but it’s also just such good character writing. Good good good!

          1. allathian*

            I haven’t read Project Hail Mary yet, but I really liked The Martian by the same author (Andy Weir). The movie starring Matt Damon was pretty faithful to the book. It’s a great story about a man using his wits to stay alive on a hostile world when everyone else’s given him up for dead, and a nail-biting rescue mission when they realize that he’s still alive.

    4. Kiwiapple*

      I just finished Danya Kukafka’s “Notes on an Execution: a novel” and thought it excellent.

    5. Still*

      Thank you to whoever recommended The Watchmaker of a Filigree Street and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – the latter of which I’ve read in one sitting, it was hard to put down!

      1. Love to WFH*

        “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is so good!

        My book group discussed it for a really long time, too. Some books get 15 minutes of comments — this got over an hour.

    6. A.N. O'Nyme*

      So I don’t know how Alison-type this is, but I’m going to plug I Want To Eat Your Pancreas. It exists both as a light novel and as a manga (fun fact: the cover for those is the same scene but drawn from a different angle), and it’s about a loner who accidentally discovers his very popular classmate is has a failing pancreas and has about a year to live – and he’s the only person outside of her family to know about this.
      I cried. A lot. And I really should have seen that plot twist coming and I’m kind of angry that I didn’t.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        By the way I just realised what that title must look like and I’ll just say that no, there are no zombie shenanigans and no actual pancreas is eaten. I can’t say too much more without giving spoilers.

      2. GoryDetails*

        Re “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”: I was tickled to see this one mentioned here! I read the manga some time back and enjoyed it – though the title is definitely… unusual. (I originally chose it because I was participating in a “books with body-parts in the title” challenge for BookCrossing, and hadn’t stumbled across a book with “pancreas” in the title before!)

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          I will admit the title piqued my curiosity too and I kinda bought it just off of that. Also the title autofilled on the website I got it from which is…an interesting fact.

    7. AY*

      Looking back at Alison’s recommendations, I think Detransition, Baby is in that vein. A trans couple breaks up, one of them detransitions and then gets someone else pregnant. It’s really funny, observant, often warm, often upsetting, and even sometimes sexy. It’s great.

      The Booker Prize winner this year is also worth checking out. It’s about a white family in South Africa and the end of apartheid. The family sort of stands in for all of white South Africa and its attitudes towards black South Africa. The novel does really interesting things with narrative voice. It’s called The Promise by Damon Galgut.

      1. Crepe Suzette*

        Not the OP of this thread, but thank you for your recommendations! They sound right up my alley.

    8. PhyllisB*

      I was going to ask the same question!! I don’t always care for the types of books recommended, but I still like to see what’s mentioned.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I did read The Maid recently, (one of Alison’s recommendations) though. Very good, and different.

    9. GoryDetails*

      Some of my recent reads (or re-reads) that I’d recommend:

      REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier – a classic and an old favorite, one that has some unsettling relationship aspects that read a lot differently to me now than they did when I first read it in the 1960s. (I also love THE HOUSE ON THE STRAND, a lesser-known title of du Maurier’s, one involving an odd sort of time-travel – quite fascinating, and with similar slow-burning suspense.)

      THE SILENT TRAVELLER IN DUBLIN by Chiang Yee, another in the marvelous 1930s-to-50s travel memoirs by the Chinese poet, artist, and guy-with-lots-of-influential-friends. Whether he’s talking about attempting to befriend the skittish cats of the folks he’s staying with (an Earl and a Countess – I told you he’s connected) or ringing up a friend with ties to the Bodleian for background info on the Book of Kells, he’s great fun to travel with. (Some of his books have been reprinted and are thus easier to find; this one has not been reissued yet, but I found a copy via an online seller.)

      AGAINST THE ICE by Einar Mikkelsen is the first-person account of Mikkelsen’s arduous 1909 trek across northeastern Greenland in the company of one other man – a young mechanic who’d volunteered all too naively, but who turned out to be something of a Samwise Gamgee, ever cheerful, loyal, and inventive. (There are a couple of darker scenes when the two were at their most desperate, but they got through that and remained friends throughout their lives.) There’s a 2022 film adaptation of the story on Netflix now, quite well done, but I do recommend the book; Mikkelsen has this dry, droll narrative style that I really enjoyed.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, this sounds right up my alley! I’m over the moon about the discovery of Shackleton’s sunken Endurance.

        1. GoryDetails*

          Re Shackleton – I’ve read some excellent books on that as well, including:

          SOUTH, Shackleton’s own account of his polar expeditions

          SHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY by Victoria McKernan, about the young Welsh stowaway on the Endurance

          THE LOST MEN by Kelly Tyler-Lewis, the account of the other ship in that expedition, tasked with setting out caches on the opposite side of Antarctica; they had no way of knowing what became of the Endurance, or that their mission was no longer necessary, and plugged along, with dangerous situations of their own to deal with – and a less triumphant outcome.

        2. Lemonwhirl*

          Not a book rec, but if you ever able to see Aiden Dooley’s one-man show “Tom Crean”, do it! It’s an amazing show – a great story, well-told. At points, I felt cold during the show because Dooley does so well to put you in the Antarctic with the Endurance crew. I loved it so much, I went again with my son when he was 6 and even though it was an evening performance that ran past his bedtime, he was positively spellbound by it.
          (If you google Aiden Dooley Tom Crean Show, you’ll find the web site. I don’t want to drop a link and possibly get tied up in moderation. :))

          1. fposte*

            Oh, man, that’s not one I’ve heard of. Tom Crean is a wild figure with both Scott and Shackleton legends to his credit.

          2. GoryDetails*

            Re Aiden Dooley – thanks so much for that! Tom Crean was indeed one of the most staunch members of several expeditions, and deserves to be better known. (There is a sweet children’s book called “Tom Crean’s Rabbit”, about one of the animals he cared for during Scott’s last voyage; add “animal lover” to Tom’s list of sterling qualities!)

        3. Jamie Starr*

          Madhouse at the End of the Earth (Julian Sancton) might be of interest to you. It’s about the Belgica’s ill-fated trip to Antarctica. Roald Amundsen was one of the crew. The captain (?) of the Belgica later had the Endurance built, which Shackleton bought.

          1. fposte*

            Ooh, another I didn’t know about. Most of what I know about the Belgica is on the tabloid side, but on the other hand with a title like that maybe I’m already on the right track.

      2. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Oh yeah, definitely *Rebecca*!

        To go with the interesting fact thread above, if you think that you’re seeing a lot of queer and trans imagery in the book, even beyond Mrs. Danvers, you are 100% right! Author Daphne DuMaurier and one sister were bi, while their other sister was a lesbian. Earlier in life, DuMaurier also identified as a schoolboy and today might very likely have identified as genderfluid.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Nesting fail — this was supposed to reply to GoryDetails!

          Also, there is a lambda-award-winning 1990s lesbian re-envisioning of *Rebecca* called *Divine Victim*, by Mary Wings. Major content warnings for domestic violence and assault, and I wouldn’t call it a comfortable read, but it’s really interesting and has a devastating plot twist that is worth it.

          1. GoryDetails*

            Re Divine Victim – hadn’t encountered that one, thanks for that! Yes, the LGBTQ vibes often crop up in du Maurier; House on the Strand has an openly gay character, though a secondary one.

      3. the cat's ass*

        OOOO, these are all great recs! I had the distinct pleasure of recommending Rebecca just last week to one of my almost-adult girl scouts in need to reading for spring break. My dear cousin Cathy recommended it to me when i was a little younger and bored at Thanksgiving.

        I’m also rereading everything by Dennis Lehane who wrote “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” Just finished “The Drop” which was a tight snappy little novella of mayhem, Chenchens, Irish Bars and a very cute puppy (don’t worry, the puppy is ok). What happened to Dennis Lehane, anyway?

      4. Crackerjack*

        The House on the Strand is my favourite duMaurier! I’m Cornish and still live here so there’s the added dimension of knowing the terrain – which I think comes out really strongly in The House on the Strand.

    10. Love to WFH*

      I loved Kate Quinn’s “The Alice Network”. It weaves back and forth between a young woman in France spying for the British during WWI, and a young American woman looking for her French cousin after WWII.

      Wonderful characters, suspense, intense relationships — I couldn’t put it down.

    11. Kiwiapple*

      I also just finished the Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. The novel consists of two parallel narratives about two fictional women. One is about the disappeared 20th-century aviator Marian Graves, while the other is about the struggling 21st-century Hollywood actress Hadley Baxter, who is attempting to make a film about Marian.

    12. Smol Book Wizard*

      I’m not entirely sure how Alison-esque this is, but since someone mentioned The Goblin Emperor up above… The Angel of the Crows, also by Katherine Addison, is a sweet and vivid Victorian fantasy Sherlock Holmes pastiche/reinvention that I just finished this week. I am a very hard sell on Victorian angels-and-werewolves kind of paranormal, but Addison does it just right (and differently from anyone else I’ve breezed past in the past). I kind of definitely want a sequel.

      If I’d known beforehand that it also had the Jack the Ripper murders as one of the mysteries I… might not have read it but I’m glad I did anyway? Which considering my dislike of serial killers as narrative devices is considerable. It’s interesting that we all think of Addison as the hopepunk writer considering how understatedly gruesome 2/3 of her books under that pseudonym are. Not that hopepunk and gruesomeness are mutually exclusive, but after this and the creepy creepy ghoul hunts in Witness for the Dead I had to say it!

    13. ElsieD*

      Have to thank OtterB from last week’s thread concerning YA fantasy novels- I followed the mention of Chaz Brenchley and now have years of his writing to enjoy!

  3. WoodswomanWrites*

    Birding thread. What birds have you been seeing and what are they up to?

    I was laid up recovering from hernia surgery and haven’t been getting out much so I’m looking forward to reading your observations instead. It’s been a couple weeks and I’m more out and about now, so I’ll see what I discover and can hopefully add something to this thread myself over the weekend.

    1. LMK*

      I’m not a huge fan of magpies, mainly because of their loud squawking, but there’s a pair of them that have been building a nest about five feet from my balcony this past week. It’s fun to watch that. I also read something today about researchers attaching collars to some magpies to track their movements. They watched as the magpies helped each other remove every one of the collars. So I’ve got to give them credit for that!

    2. Tau*

      I’m visiting my parents and it’s been the usual suspects at their birdfeeder – mainly Central-European tits (whyyy are they called that in English), blackbirds and finches (including my favourite, the European goldfinch). Redpolls and siskins now, too, which I’m still learning to tell apart from the linnet and serin respectively. A few Eurasian jays are now common visitors (so striking!) as well as Eurasian nuthatches, who I always find funny with how they want to eat upside-down. I haven’t seen any bramblings in the last few days, so they may have finally taken off to their summer home – we usually only get them in winter here, and some of them have been molting to their (more striking!) breeding season colours, so there was a clear end in sight. We’ve been getting more and more birdsong in general, so clear sign breeding season is starting and a good opportunity to practice my identification skills.

      I need to get out more once I head back home; there’s some woody bits not far from my flat which have more variety, but at my place it’s just sparrows as far as the eye can see.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        In Old English, ‘tit’ was something small. That amuses the hell out of me because of the weirdness you get through a few interim names …going from titmouse to great tit! A big little thing.

        1. Tau*

          Aha, that explains it! Even if it still sounds ridiculous. Especially the great tit. In German the word is Meise (pronounced MY-zuh) which sounds pretty and cute and not sexual at all, so the English names were a bit of a trip!

          1. Crackerjack*

            And just out of curiosity, how would you say ‘tit’ in its other sense in German?

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I can’t answer the German comma but the French is teton… which may raise eyebrows with Americans. Apparently French trappers named the mountain range the Grand Tetons.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      We’ve had much activity in our yard this week. We saw one bluebird, which was very exciting. We’ve had a great blue heron at our pond every day, catching and eating fish. LOTS of chickadees, robins and tufted titmice swirling around. We put up three more gourd birdhouses yesterday and I ordered three more. I think the birds are having a real estate crunch too! Last year we had a very fierce looking hawk nesting in one of our large evergreen trees. I think it was a goshawk, but they’re so darn fast it’s tough to get a good read. But I hope they’re back this year!

      I hope you’re healing well! Can’t wait to hear what you see!

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      Bluebirds EVERYWHERE! We live adjacent to a wildlife preserve so I see them all the time but it seems like there are more than usual lately. Also turkeys, robins, finches, woodpeckers, and the Coopers hawk, who had better leave my bluebirds alone! (He can have the voles which are tearing up the lawn instead.)

    5. A.N. O'Nyme*

      One of our neighbours got rid of a tree (probably too damaged by the storms a few weeks ago) and there’s this one magpie who is having a field day with the leftovers. Wherever it’s building a nest, he picks up branches so big he has to take a few rest stops here and there.

      There’s also a robin who is getting a lot of attention from our cats, but so far it has outsmarted them.

    6. GoryDetails*

      Had a red-winged blackbird at my suet feeder, a first for me; I usually see them clinging to the cattails in the wetlands. Was lovely to get a nice long look at this one!

    7. Cat and dog fosterer*

      I discovered that we have falcons in the area, because a bird of prey landed on a pole near me! I don’t know which type (peregrine, merlin, or possibly coopers hawk) but it was neat to see and I hope for more sightings.

    8. Gurpy*

      I just discovered that the pair of “mourning doves” in my backyard are in fact Eurasian collared doves, so that’s exciting.

        1. Kay*

          There were a few Eurasian collards here in Arizona. They aren’t as common as the mourning or white wing, but still usually always have a few around.

    9. 2QS*

      House finches! The males look like they’ve done a face plant into red paint that isn’t fully dry.

    10. mdv*

      I live next to a wooded area in the middle of my town, and I have been keeping bird feeders here for the past 11 years. Regular visitors include 4 kinds of woodpeckers (downy, hairy, red-bellied, northern flicker), finches, cardinals, bluejays, sparrows, etc. When I have windows open in the late evening, I often hear owls.

      Birds I have only seen once over the years: yellow-bellied sapsucker (woodpecker), painted bunting, and a prairie falcon

      But recently, I had two visitors RIGHT behind my house that were new: a barn owl slept for an hour in a branch I could clearly see, ignoring harassment from some bluejays, and a few days later, I saw a pileated woodpecker – common in NE Kansas, but not usually seen because they don’t like to be near people. It was very exciting!

    11. loislolane*

      I have noticed out my kitchen window the birds seem to like the bush there. So I’ve started pouring a little birdseed on the fence until I can buy myself a proper feeder. I’ve been pretty jazzed to see a cardinal couple, some chickadees, some juncos, and a squirrel with a blonde tail. Nothing wild but nice to have after being in a condo for a few years!

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The Bluebirds have not come back to the bird box I mounted, which might be because there’s a pair of hawks seems to be taking up residence. The crows are not happy.
      A pair of house finches have been checking out the area under the eaves, right outside my home office. I’m thinking of mounting a,little shelf to entice them. Or a box…

    13. Here for the Randomness*

      Red-winged Blackbirds arrived a week or 2 ago. Common Grackles arrived in big numbers last weekend. We are just starting to get some sparrow variety.

    14. Smol Book Wizard*

      The Great Blue Herons are nesting in the big heronry at a nearby park, and here and there in individual nests in other parks for the introverts. It’s so fun to watch them fly. They’re so blobby when they sit, pull in their necks and all, and so LONG in the air.

    15. Birder57*

      Saw a hummingbird flitting around an odd location in my backyard yesterday. Realized he /she was gathering spider web strands to build a nest.

    16. Tea and Cake*

      Our slew of Anna’s hummingbirds are fighting with two very territorial and feisty newcomers – Rufous hummingbirds. It is all very entertaining to watch, but I have been admonishing them all because I’m of the mind that they all need to learn how to share better.

    17. Gnome*

      We have a pair of cardinals that have been around a lot lately. I put out my feeder but a squirrel keeps getting in it (suction cupped to the window a good six feet off the ground)

    18. tangerineRose*

      I used to see a variety of birds, but now I mostly see the Juncos. They’re very cute, but I don’t know why, for example the scub jays don’t show up anymore.

    19. WoodswomanWrites*

      I didn’t have a birding outing myself, but today my new spotting scope arrived. I’ve been wanting one for many years but hesitated because they were mostly expensive and heavy. I’m super excited to try out my Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50 that weighs only a pound. It will fit on the lightweight camera tripod I already have, and I can keep it in my daypack and see if it works just in my hand. I also ordered a window thingie so I can mount it on my car window for next winter’s waterbird season.

    1. Nicole76*

      For the longest time I didn’t think we had hummingbirds in our area (west of Chicago), but I put out a feeder last year and we had them all day every day. I loved sitting on the patio watching them! I’m looking forward to their return later next month.

      Where are you located?

    2. Wishing You Well*

      Yay, good job!
      My Midwest mother had to put up more than one hummingbird feeder because a male hummer would fight others over one and not allow other hummers near it!

  4. Blue*

    I’ve become interested in books about scientific or medical fraud, unethical practices, etc.

    *Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos
    *The Doctor Who Fooled the World by Brian Deer, about Andrew Wakefield and his lies linking MMR to autism
    *Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe, about the Sackler family and how they pushed OxyContin while knowing of its dangers for years

    These are some of my recent reads, all by journalists who helped uncover these lies. Another title on my to-read list is Dangerous Medicine by Sydney Halpern, about how scientists gave vulnerable people (prison inmates, those with disabilities, etc.) hepatitis to study to effects of the disease. I’m looking for recommendations for similar books, especially those covering less recent history.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Five Days at Memorial by Sherri Fink – about a hospital that euthanized patients in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

      1. Blue*

        I remember listening to a podcast episode that covered the deaths at Memorial. It was very chilling.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington. “A shocking and deeply reported account of the persistent plague of institutional racism and junk forensic science in our criminal justice system, and its devastating effect on innocent lives.” I think it’s been one of Alison’s recs previously, maybe?

    3. HQB*

      “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloor, is about unethical (but at the time standard) medical treatment of a young black woman whose harvested cells became an important cell line for medical research.
      “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure ” by Paul Offit also covers Wakefield and associated topics
      “The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank” by David Plotz, is about a sperm bank in the 80s and the children it produced.

      1. Blue*

        Hah, just finished a different book by Paul Offit (Pandora’s Lab, about science, or rather the lack of it, going wrong) and it was pretty good. Will have to check out Autism’s False Prophets.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ooooh, thanks for this thread, I’m going to add these to my list! I loved Bad Blood, and while these are not exactly what you’re asking for, The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin talks a lot about Wakefield and the US military’s unethical medical experimentation on service members, all to explore how the anti-vax movement got where it is today. Also, Doctors by Sherwin B. Nuland is a great “biography of medicine”, as it’s subtitled, and talks a lot about the history of medicine in general, although it’s not focused on malpractice or abuse.

    5. Janet*

      I don’t have a specific book recommendation, but the Maintenance Phase podcast sounds right up your alley. The show notes for each episode include references–I’d check those out for book suggestions!

    6. Brave Little Roaster*

      The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks sounds like it would fit that category

    7. GoryDetails*

      STARVATION HEIGHTS by Gregg Olsen, about Linda Hazzard, who ran a long-term scam in which extreme fasting (among other things) supposedly cured all ills. She set up her own sanitarium in Washington state in the early 1900s, and managed to persuade quite a few people to pay through the nose to spend time there. Many of her clients died, though in the end she was only charged in the death of one, for which she did prison time. Really ghastly story, very effectively told. Oh, and Caitlin “Ask a Mortician” Doughty did a YouTube episode on the story, including on-site conversations with the author of the book; you can see that episode here: https://youtu.be/nltUJIPLvfo

    8. Techie*

      Dispensing With the Truth by Alicia Mundy – all about the drug companies’ push for the Fen-Phen diet drug. Also, if you have an interest in expanding at all beyond medicine into engineering, I’m reading Flying Blind right now (about Boeing and the 737 Max)

    9. anon24*

      Not quite completely about medical ethics , but Dreamland by Sam Quinones talks about the opioid epidemic in America and what caused it and how the pharmaceutical companies played into it. I read it a few years back and thought it a very sad and interesting read.

    10. Mimmy*

      Ooh I love this stuff too. I will definitely be saving these recommendations for this summer (when I’ll hopefully have less on my plate).

    11. Emma2*

      It is not a book but the CBC podcast Brainwashed might fit what your are looking for. I have borrowed the summary from the show’s website: “Brainwashed is an investigative series into the CIA’s covert experiments in mind control – from the Cold War and MKULTRA to the so-called War on Terror. Listen to the voices of the survivors and their families, the conscientious objectors and the lawyers and journalists who have fought to have this story come to light. Go into the hospital rooms where psychiatric patients became unwitting guinea pigs for such so-called treatments given Orwellian names like psychic driving and de-patterning. We look at what happens in times of fear, when the military and medicine collide and how without accountability, a torturous cycle continues”

    12. Tea and Symathy*

      I agree with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks recommendation.

      I would also recommend Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston. It’s about the 2014 Ebola outbreak. It’s not about unethical practices, but there are a couple of ethical decisions made – my friend sent me a copy of this book and insisted I read it, because she wanted to discuss these.

    13. the cat's ass*

      “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts (HIV)
      “Flu” by Gina Kolata (1918 flu epidemic)
      “Empire of Pain” by Patrick Keefe (opioid epidemic)

      1. Coenobita*

        I was coming here to recommend And The Band Played On! That’s the book that convinced/inspired me to go into public health.

    14. Pocket Mouse*

      Medical Apartheid, by Harriet A. Washington, about racism in the medical field’s past and present. Sounds like a must-read for you!

      Deadly Spin, be Wendell Potter. More about health systems and insurance practices, but pretty relevant and captivating.

      A Question of Intent, by David A. Kessler. Details history of research (and manipulation thereof) into the health effects of smoking.

    15. Marion Ravenwood*

      It’s slightly removed from what you’ve listed but I’d have a look at The Radium Girls, which is basically about how women working in factories using radium to paint things like watch faces ended up getting poisoned from it and their fight for fair compensation.

    16. FACS*

      You might want to look at How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman. Great insights about our decision making, good or bad.

    17. Jean (just Jean)*

      Not a book but a route to books and other information: search tuskegee experiment book. (I searched on Google.) The Tuskeegee Experiment was perpetrated by the CDC aka Center for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. government agency) to study the effects of untreated syphilis. The African American men involved were neither informed, asked to consent, nor treated. Nothing good about it. Wikipedia has an article on it.

      You might also search the archives of the Reveal radio show and podcast (https [colon slash slash] revealnews [dot] org [slash] ). They uncover a lot of injustice; they’ve probably tackled medical injustice/deception.

    18. Book Rec*

      Birth Rights and Wrongs: How Medicine and Technology are Remaking Reproduction and the Law by Dov Fox. I came across this author via their podcast called Donor 9623. Basically, there’s a whole lot that’s unregulated concerning assisted reproduction and it’s a bit of the wild west when it comes to holding the medical entities involved accountable.

    19. A Feast of Fools*

      It’s been a while since I read it but I remember loving “Dead Men Do Tell Tales” by Browning and Maples.

    20. Princess Xena*

      The Deadly Dinner Party? It’s a little out of what you suggested in that it’s not directly related to medical ethics, but it’s twelve cases of mysterious illnesses and touches on medical and social ethics and investigations (typhoid Mary and the adulterated Tylenol are both in there).

    21. I take tea*

      If you are interested in medical fraud you should read about Karolinska sjukhuset in Stockholm and Paolo Macchiarini. It’s a really sad story about prestige and covering up. They made a documentary about it, don’t know if there are any books, but a lot of articles at least.

    22. J.B.*

      I’d recommend neurotribes by Steve Silberman. It’s a fascinating dive into the history of autism and he covers Wakefield in some detail, plus I really question Kanner’s ethics. There’s no way he didn’t know about Asperger’s work. Igor Lovaas and the history of ABA is also ugly.

    23. J.B.*

      For medical history and perspective on going from miasma theory to germ theory, I recommend The Ghost Map. I’m not finding books but for sheer infuriation over history read about Ignaz Semmelweis.

    24. Damien "#1 Son of Hell" LaVey*

      *Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban
      *Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Re: mental health, I recommend Susannah Cahalan’s two books: The Great pretender, about a well-known experiment in mental institutions that turned out to have a much sketchier history than previously thought, and her memoir Brain On Fire about her close call of a brain infection going unnoticed.

        1. Mimmy*

          I read Brain On Fire – holy smokes that is a harrowing story! This is why I think it’s important to consider medical causes of psychiatric changes first. In fact, I remember hearing this recommendation when I was studying for my social work license years ago.

    25. A Feast of Fools*

      “Sex Matters” by Dr Alyson McGregor. It’s about how the medical world is failing women because all of our medical knowledge is built on studying men.

  5. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    I think my joy will come later today in the form of great music, nice food as we are remembering a departed friend.

    Please share your joys big or small.

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      My mum got a new cat and she keeps sharing pics of him on WhatsApp (which she just started using) and it’s so delightful.

      There are blooming bulbs in the London parks.

      I got a very sweet thank you from some new starters I’ve been helping train.

      I finally cleared up That Corner of my room and got rid of some abandoned craft projects that were haunting me.

      Watched the lovely Korean movie Miracle: Letters to the President.

    2. UKDancer*

      This week I had my spare room decorated and it brings me great joy that the work on this is now done and it looks so good with a fresh coat of paint. I’ve now got a lovely weekend of putting things back and organising things in the room and putting fresh linen on the spare room bed.

      Also the sun is out for the first weekend in ages so I can deal properly with the pots on my balcony.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      I finished painting the hardware for the nightstands I was painting. Today I’m putting them back together and putting them back in the bedroom. They look WONDERFUL and I’m so excited! It’s a very nice upgrade for the bedroom and didn’t take too long and wasn’t difficult at all.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      We had an unseasonably warm day yesterday, and it felt so good sit outside and feel the sun on my face!

    5. Laura Petrie*

      It’s been sunny and warm the past couple of days. Yesterday, I had a lovely stroll along the canal to a new bakery that just opened. The brownie and blondie I bought were delicious and the owner said she’s been selling out really quickly.

      I always feel more cheerful once spring arrives and it has been lovely enjoying the weather and listening to birds

      My super shy rescue rats just clambered all over me when I went to feed the gang earlier today. The others are always really excited to see me, but it is the first time these girls have joined in. It makes me so happy to see their progress.

      1. KristinaL*

        I love it when shy cats get comfy with people. One of my kitties was very shy when I met him. I hung out with him for a while, and he decided that I was safe. Now he meows at me to tell me when he wants attention. He is still pretty shy with most people though.

    6. KeinName*

      I got a fine in the mail for protesting a right-wing march and after telling my friends I can now send it to someone in our city government so they can have a lawyer look at it! I‘m immensely enjoying our local government currently, they‘re feminist and supportive and kind!

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Friday I whacked a bunch of work moles and none of them re-emerged with seven heads demanding more effort.

      Previously I was having a tiring and stressful work week, and remembering to put some attention on small things going right really helped: I appreciate this thread.

      “2022 might not totally suck” is the theme I’m going for this year, and noticing small things that go right is part of that.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I usually don’t have anything, but I started watching Zelenskyy’s TV show, “Servant of the People.” The first season is on Netflix. The entire show is on YouTube, but the subtitles cut out now and then. Someone helpfully pointed out in comments on Episode 4 that if you turn them on in Russian and then auto-generate to English, they come back. It’s not too hard to get the gist even though the translations are iffy. And thanks to Andrea Chalupa (writer of the Mr. Jones film, about the reporter who broke the story of the Holodomor), who has discussed Ukraine in-depth on the “Gaslit Nation” podcast, I know enough to get most of the political jokes.

      The show is funny and Zelenskyy is adorable in it. It’s weird to watch after getting to know him as a heroic president, though. But it’s been a little bright spot in a really terrible week.

    9. Jay*

      It’s been warm enough to hang out on our screened porch. I’m sitting here now. The birds are singing and I can see the snowdrops and the ridiculously amusing chicken sculpture in our garden.

    10. AGD*

      Some nice weather, some sewing, several bits of friendship-related excellentness, several bits of good news from Not-on-the-Weekend-Place, including two of my mentees being offered promotions. Some early flowers in these parts (snowdrops!).

      Also managed to grab a ticket to see Weird Al on tour this summer before all of the shows in my province sold out (according to the website, the tour is lasting from April 26 through October 29 – the man must have utterly superhuman energy levels).

      1. KristinaL*

        Weird Al is great! I’ve always wanted to see him in concert. That is so cool that you get to!

        1. AGD*

          I passed up a chance to catch a concert of his in a different city about 15 years ago and then regretted this. Fortunately he’s still very much at it!

    11. Margaretmary*

      Not entirely this week, but I finally got around to booking it. I won’t mention specifics as it could give an idea of my location, but a play I really wanted to see was to come to a theatre near where I work two years ago. Then the world shut down and it was cancelled. It has finally been rescheduled for the week of my birthday!! And it is showing at 2:30 on my birthday and…I finish work at 1:05 on that day. I had some problems with booking as the website was having issues, but it’s done now.

      Also on a work related note, my immediate supervisor told me that he told our boss how much work I’ve done and that I am really necessary to the organisation.

    12. GoryDetails*

      Back in 2019 my local Humane Society – from which I’d adopted three cats over a couple of decades – posted a fund-raiser involving commemorative bricks to be placed in the walkway in front of the building. I decided to order one for those three cats, who’d each passed on at a respectable age. I knew at the time that the bricks would be produced in batches based on how many were bought, so I waited patiently for any announcement of installations – and then COVID put lots of things on hold, and time passed. And passed. And passed… A new commemorative-brick post reminded me that I hadn’t checked in for a while, and as the Humane Society had also installed a brand-new Little Free Library that I simply had to drop some books at I paid a visit – and lo! I found my brick, in memory of Phillip, Coriander, and Trooper…

    13. wingmaster*

      Seeing my family since Christmas and enjoyed some live music yesterday – a Rage Against the Machine cover band was playing, and they were awesome.

    14. StellaBella*

      Lots of joys this week but the biggest two are that today I celebrated 2 years since my last chemo (for breast cancer)….I met with a friend, we ate at a Mexican restaurant on the sunny patio, and chatted a lot. The other one is that my contract is being renewed at work so this is good news for security of a job!

    15. PerplexedPigeon*

      I spent a few days with my mom buying baby clothes because I am (very early) pregnant for the first time! It was fun to spend time with her and bond over the pregnancy. I’m also late-30s, so I’m sure she was wondering if it was ever ging to happen, but thanks to medical science, here we are!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Congratulations on your upcoming addition!
        (Do you prefer squab or squeaker? Internet says both words are used for pigeon babies.)

    16. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Got my first shingles shot and got myself a nice ottoman so that I can put my feet up.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Good for you! I’ve heard horrible things about shingles. I’ve had the shots, too.

    17. the cat's ass*

      A rough week is over, and in its place…peace.

      I’m going to start some tomato seeds, sent by a dear friend in Munich

      My 2 younger cats are FINALLY, after almost a full year, getting along.

      I’m a week closer to spring break when i get a week off and travel to Portland (helloooooo, Powells!) and hang out with friends i haven’t seen in 2 years!

    18. A Girl Named Fred*

      My mom had her first eye’s cataract surgery this week, which went well and she’s recovering great! She’s been so upset about how poor her eyesight had gotten, so it’s heartwarming to hear her be excited for how much better it is even with only one done.

      And also, one of my favorite k-pop groups, Stray Kids, released their newest mini album “Oddinary” yesterday and it’s SO GOOD. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been a fan of an artist at the same time they release new music, and getting swept up in the hype before the release and then the joy of the actual release has been really incredible.

    19. Rara Avis*

      Our super-shy kitty has started begging for attention. There’s only one location she deems suitable for petting (the top of the cat castle), so she’ll chirp at us and then lead us there (walk and look back to make sure we’re following).

    20. small town*

      Younger son was home last week and we got to meet his boyfriend. Young love is grand. We had a birthday party for my Dad, who turned 89. Older son is home this week from professional school. He eats, he sleeps, he chats. Best Old Dog still has the zoomies and the daffodils are blooming. Spring is glorious!

    21. Coenobita*

      My dog started heartworm treatment yesterday (he was found as a stray last year and came in with all sorts of medical issues) and he did great! We were worried that one of his other health conditions would increase the chance of a bad reaction, but he came through the injection just fine. What a relief. Also, the vet clearly gave him some very good drugs because when we picked him up last night he was completely stoned, and that was pretty funny.

    22. A Feast of Fools*

      The holly bushes in front of my house had gotten overgrown and trashy. Last Sunday I told myself that I was going to grab the loppers and just cut off the branches that had grown 3-5 feet straight up above the overall top line.

      Lopping the Very Tall things turned into lopping the Dang, These Are Pretty High, Too things which turned into Dammit Now I Have to Even All This Out.

      And so now every time I walk through the living room and see a clean, mostly straight, line of holly hedges out the bay window, I smile.

    23. WoodswomanWrites*

      Last year, I gave away the uncomfortable convertible loveseat/bed I had in my living room for years, and spent months trying to find new, affordable, and comfortable furniture that would fit in my small space. I had many potential options bookmarked, and had visited a couple furniture stores with no luck. This week I poked into Craigslist and found the perfect matching pair of high-quality upholstered chairs, like new and inexpensive. It’s so nice to have a comfy spot to read and to host friends.

    24. Ayla*

      I made an oreo pie! Nothing very fancy–i made a crust from oreos, browned butter, and a pinch of sugar; I whipped some cream with powdered sugar and a little vanilla pudding mix; then I creamed some cream cheese with sugar, folded in broken cookies and the whipped cream, and threw it in the crust. It was simple to make but delicious, and rich enough that 10 of us shared it and felt we each got just enough.

    25. allathian*

      Lovely sunny spring weather. The snow is evaporating rather than melting. They’re forecasting 15 C/59 F for this afternoon, which is very unusual for this time of year.

    26. Excited Law Student*

      I’m a first year law student in my second semester, and we just started Spring Break. I haven’t seen my family in a month. My mom picked me up from school on Thursday and it made me feel like a kindergartner again :)

    27. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The daffodils are up! Great bunches are spreading from the few the previous owners had planted …and dozens of tips are showing from the sack of bulbs I planted last fall. There are enough this year do you have cut flowers inside and not leave the garden sad.

    28. Voluptuousfire*

      Went to a wedding out of state for my little cousin and her fiancé. Was happy to be on a plane in a hotel room for the first time in three years. I spent more time in my hotel room then walking around the city. For the most part I’m very happy just watching TV or watching something on my laptop in a hotel room.

    29. Oui oui oui all the way home*

      I’m a night owl and can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have an extra hour of daylight during my waking hours this past week.

  6. The Prettiest Curse*

    Inhaler users – have you switched from an aerosol to dry powder inhaler? How did it go, and how easy was it to re-learn inhaler technique? I’m considering making the switch for environmental reasons, so I’m interested in hearing about all experiences, positive or negative.

    1. MeTwoToo*

      I started on the Advair powder inhaler. I used it for more than 10 years. It caused problems with my eyes, which I understand is rare. If you do use it, I would get regular glaucoma screening to look for thinning of the optic nerve.

    2. Aealias*

      I switched to a dry powder med, because my old aerosol was spiking my heart-rate, so I was avoiding using it.

      I personally love the powder. I always struggled with timing my breath and the aerosol perfectly, I would get the angle wrong and spray it all over my tongue or the roof of my mouth, and I hated the tiny taste. With the powder, there’s no picky timing – the drug is waiting until I take the breath. I don’t have to worry about angle – it flies along in the airflow, so more of it reaches my airway. And I haven’t noticed a taste – probably because it has a much lower chance of settling on my tongue. (My doctor laughed when I explained all this to her, and said I should write ads for the new med!)

      According to my doc, some people find the powder very challenging to use, so my experience is far from universal! Probably my dislike for the aerosol puffers is a big part of my love for the powder.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I had to switch from powder to aerosol, but I’m in agreement with you in every respect. Powder really is just easier for me!

    3. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I switched to powder for both my preventive and rescue medications. I find it easier than the aerosols because your don’t have to time your inhale so precisely. With albuterol, the powder version makes me less jittery too.

      For the daily one, Advair, I developed thrush at first because I ignored the instruction to rinse your mouth out after use. Don’t skip that step! It can also cause a little bit of throat irritation, but that usually goes away after the first week or so.

    4. PassThePeasPlease*

      Echoing what others have said, I find dry powders easier to use since you don’t have to get the timing of the inhale right. Just remember to rinse your mouth after if it’s included in the instructions otherwise some of the meds can stay in there.

    5. WoodswomanWrites*

      Here’s another affirmation for the powder. It’s the same formula as Advair which I used for year, but it’s now also available in a generic called Wixela.

    6. Rachel*

      I ended up getting oral thrush/yeast from the powdered steroid so I had to go back to the aerosol one and use a spacer. Be sure to wash your mouth out thoroughly. At this point I literally brush my teeth afterwards to be sure.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      Thank you to everyone who shared your experiences! I have a family history of glaucoma, so will have to discuss the pros and cons of switching with my doctor in more detail.

  7. matcha123*

    I’m removing this because the work-related piece is generating lots of work-related replies which violate the weekend rules. Please feel free to repost it without the work part. (I’m not removing the replies that stuck to non-work though.) – Alison

    1. Laura H.*

      You matter. Keep repeating this.

      Take a deep breath. Be gentle with yourself. (I have difficulty with that one.)

      All the hugs.

    2. Batgirl*

      I usually default to being nice to myself. I appreciate the positive friends of course, but the person who has most control over my happiness is myself. Booking in a lot of time with the positive friends, and avoiding the negative friends is just one thing I can do for myself. Other things are giving myself small treats like long baths, good quality chocolate, random paperbacks from charity shops or rambling around curiosity shops, making the time for really nutritious and delicious food, putting on some laugh out loud comedy, buying really good quality new sheets and having breakfast in bed. Your list will differ and they may seem like obvious things to do but they are the kinds of things we neglect when we are down on ourselves.

    3. Katie*

      My husband and I decided that our son was good with this (emotional support human as we lovingly called him yesterday). He will sit with you and hold your hand. He giggles easily to warm you as well.

      I find going out and interacting with the supportive people in my life helps me too.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        It’s funny, I was just thinking that my usual tips for this OP would be solitary – schedule lots of cozy times reading books on the couch, taking long baths (my personal comfort go-to) or taking long walks in pretty places – but I think when I’m honest with myself, going out with loved ones often makes me feel better faster when I’m upset, even though I am an introvert. When someone has been unkind to you and made you doubt yourself, having the people around who love you and want to spend time with you can correct that doubt.

        1. matcha123*

          I think I lean more toward the solitary, but I have spoken with a number of friends over the past few days and they’ve been kind enough to let me cry in front of them. I don’t want to push everything onto them, but I think leaning on them a bit is good for my mental health and something I’ve tended to shy away from.

          Also taking many long walks in the evening to clear my head.

          I notice I focus on the people who go out of their way to put me down, and don’t focus enough on the ones who are kind. I wish our minds were better at blocking those negatives and pulling up the positives.

          1. Liliaceae*

            To support your statement about focussing on negative things – I remember reading in a psych class that it takes ~19 positive things said to you to drown out 1 negative thing. I don’t know why our minds are like this, but maybe make a concerted effort to focus on the positive.

    4. Hex Code*

      This will sound very woo-woo, but I put it in the “can’t hurt” category: imagine strengthening your aura through meditations and visualizations. Imagine a robust puffy coat of an energy field like a bird fluffing up their feathers in winter. Or imagine an oily coating like a duck that everything slides off of. It’s free (I watch meditations on YouTube) and helps me feel better.

    5. matcha123*

      To re-cap what I was seeking:
      I was wondering what people did to break the cycle of negative thoughts after being constantly told by someone that you are worthless. And how to move on from bullying from another adult. My mind keeps going back to the negatives, despite getting positive feedback from others around me.

      Thanks to those that did reply earlier, I did read some of the responses before bed.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        The only things that worked for me were therapy and time.
        I had to be taught how to be kind to myself and then practise it. I still find it hard now.
        If you can go no contact with the person, then that’s great.
        If not, limit the time you spend with them, have strategies (like set phrases) to shut them down and move the conversation along in an adult way, and be prepared to leave when it gets too much.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Write down the positives (or print out emails, etc) and keep them handy. Refer to as necessary.

        I also personally like to remind myself that if I wouldn’t ask someone for advice, I shouldn’t receive their criticism (or bullying as the case may be).

  8. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    I have a small kitchen counter which gets cluttered easily, any organisation tips?

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Co-sign. We try not to store things on the counter in our poorly-designed kitchen, even things that are unusual to hide away rather than leave out. Toaster? Goes up into a cabinet after use. Crockpot? Onto a shelf it goes. Spices? Stowed away in a drawer, not in a spice rack on the counter. Knife block? Don’t have one; the knives are in a compartment in the utensil drawer. Food processor? Lives in a lower cabinet when not in use. Paper towels? Mr. Glomarization and I have agreed to disagree on whether they’re necessary at all, but in any event they are in the pantry with things like Saran wrap and baking parchment paper, not on the counter.

        What stays out on the counter is, for us, a bare minimum of things we use daily: hot water kettle, cooking utensil holder, a bowl where we keep onions/garlic/shallots

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        Urgh, I have been trying to convince everyone who will listen that my tiny galley kitchen will be over burdened by having upper cabinets installed and that open shelves would be better for the space. It’s going to feel like the body of an airplane with upper cabinets jutting out overhead. Nobody agrees with me and the kitchen refurbishers included cabinets in the bid anyway so they weren’t listening either. I’m glad to hear there’s at least one other person who likes kitchen shelves!

        1. It's Growing!*

          Kitchen shelves are all the thing at the moment. I don’t know why your designer so behind the times. You might need to remind them who’s paying for this project. (It shouldn’t feel like an airplane though as uppers are usually 12-13″ deep while lowers are 24″.)

          I, OTOH, don’t care for upper shelves replacing cabinets. It’s the dust factor – I don’t want to have to wash a dish before I can use it.

          1. Missb*

            This. I have a 12′ by 12′ kitchen, u-shaped. I’ve lived for years with only 2 upper cabinets (one on either side of the range) and two open shelves. The shelves are horrible dust magnets. Just horrible. Add to that, I had an undersized vent hood, so it’s like greasy dust. Ugh.

            The kitchen is down to studs. I have my kitchen design printed out and the view for each wall is stuck on each bare wall for inspiration. I love the fact that I’m going to have tons of upper cabinets to store stuff. The process of remodeling forced me to go through every.single.thing in my kitchen and purge and store or place it in my dining room for use during the remodel. I found stuff in the backs of my cabinets that I hadn’t seen since I’d moved here 19 years ago.

            I took the time to go through my cabinet design and assign a place for everything. Maybe the OP should consider doing that – look at the space you have and consider what should be stored there (rather than what is actually stored there).

            1. Overeducated*

              Greasy dust is the WORST. We have a non-functional vent hood (why did they put one there? with nowhere to vent?? doesn’t matter because it’s broken now anyway). It gets so disgusting so quickly.

        2. MacGillicuddy*

          Open shelves in the kitchen were designed by people who never cook. In addition to the dust factor, everything will eventually be covered with a film of grease.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Cabinet doors that have windows so that you have less visual narrowness?

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      I try to think about what constitutes the clutter and where it actually should go. Does it have a home? If it doesn’t, therein lies the problem.
      Both The Minimal Mom and Clutterbug have really good (I think) shows on the Tube of You that have helped me organize better and tame the clutter.
      It feels so much better with clear surfaces in my small house!
      Good luck!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      At one apartment we had a super tiny kitchen. The counter space was measured in inches.

      I bought a cart with three levels to it. The top was a wooden cutting board type surface and used that as my work area. The second shelf I kept empty so I could toss random things there while I was working. The bottom shelf had a dishpan for throwing dirty dishes in it.
      The cart also had a towel bar and the sides had holes to put peg board hooks in. I could hang somethings off the sides. The cart was on wheels, too.
      I put the cart perpendicular to my sink and my inches of counterspace. So I had an L-shaped area to work.

      Uh– this was surprisingly okay and we lived in that apartment for a few years. When we moved, I repurposed the cart and I am still using it.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I have a magnetic knife holder on the wall; all my big knives go there, steak knives in a drawer. I also have a pot rack attached to the wall, which holds every pot and pan I own, other than the really big ones.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Advice I saw recently that made a ton of sense but hadn’t occurred to me:

      Don’t start your organizing with the stuff on the counter: it’s there because you use it often. Instead, start with the back of the other storage: What’s in there? A fondue pot you should get rid of? A big pot you use once every few months so it could really live in the basement?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yup, this is a good tip from “Clutterbug” on YouTube. Clear out your hidden / long term storage, and you will have more space to put everyday things away.

    5. Valancy Snaith*

      I have a small kitchen counter and apart from two glorious years with a huge kitchen, always have. Use your vertical space as much as possible. If you have kitchen cabinets that are tall but not deep, put shelves in your cabinets. Poly-coated wire shelving is available at a lot of places and that can almost double the space in your cupboards for stacking foods in the pantry, dishes, cooking utensils, etc. If you have rarely-used cabinets (like over the refrigerator), get a stepstool and start using them for rarely-used things. If the issue is that your counter gets cluttered while cooking, is there a way you can make use of the rest of your kitchen during the cooking process? Have things ready to go on the kitchen table instead of taking up counter space while you cook, or throw all the eggshells and vegetable scraps in the sink to throw away later instead of letting them clutter up the countertops.

      Hooks are useful tools. You can use them to hang up the dish drainer, or your oven mitts, or your utensils on the backsplash to keep them off the counter. My usable kitchen workspace is about eighteen inches long and sixteen inches deep and I make it work, mostly by planning my cooking carefully, putting absolutely everything away when not in use, and dumping stuff into the sink. The upside is that the smaller it is, the easier it is to clean, so there’s that. Really all that I leave out on the counter is the knife block, the utensil crock, and the bigger bottles of stuff I use all the time (oil, fish sauce, balsamic vinegar).

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        This post is a revelation. I have a teeny kitchen and almost no counterspace, and I have long utilized hooks for hanging pots and potholders. Bbut it never occurred to me to do this with my dishdrainer when it’s in the way. Thank you!

    6. Brave Little Roaster*

      I recently got four 11” square baskets and put them on the kitchen counter. It collects all that random stuff that accumulates in the kitchen without being a closed container that I will forget to look in. Having several matching items makes it look more organized IMO. I have a pretty small kitchen with hardly any drawer space.

      In lieu of a link, the item is $10 from Target and it’s called “Square Decorative Basket Natural- Threshold”

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I was about to say this! Find a container. Bonus points if the container is that pretty thing you meant to use somehow (I tend to collect really nice handmade ceramic bowls, for instance, so guess what my exercise resistance bands in the living room live in?). I personally forgive clutter that’s really just a busy process, so that my reusable grocery bags stopping on counter A before going down to the laundry is acceptable to me, since they do go down to counter A within a day or so.

    7. Jay*

      Great tips already in this thread if the counter is cluttered with stuff that has no place to go. Our kitchen counter used to get cluttered with things that had a place but still ended up on the counter. Turned out the place they were supposed to go was inconvenient – tools that are mostly used upstairs are not going to get put away downstairs, for instance. Eventually we figured out a better system for most of those things. We have a set of small cubby-like shelves in the kitchen using what would be wasted space next to the pantry, and one of those is the spot for papers that need action but not right now (the receipt for the pieces we just took to be framed, photos we want to send to family, stuff like that).

      Years ago I subscribed to Flylady and one of the strategies I still use is to tidy up the “hot zones” frequently. So every time I go through the kitchen, I pick up something from the counter and put it away. It doesn’t feel overwhelming, I don’t mind doing it one item at a time, and it keeps the clutter from multiplying. I’ve found that people in my family are less likely to leave stuff on a clean counter. Once it’s cluttered, it’s open season.

      1. Retired (but not really)*

        I’m also dealing with a very small kitchen with too little storage space and very minimal counter space as well. Thanks to all for the helpful suggestions! The addition of a China cabinet from my in-laws when they moved to an assisted living apartment has been extremely helpful for me. I still need to do major reorganization of my other storage, especially the corner cabinet that desperately needs a double decker lazy Susan. The cheapie plastic one I had in there was too small and didn’t hold up well.

      2. MaryLoo*

        I finally figured this out after many “I just tidied this, how did it get all cluttered all of a sudden?”

        What happens is, if you leave one random item on your just-cleaned countertop/table/couch etc, that item invites all its friends to a Party! On the clean counter!!

        I’m sure this must be what happens, because I’m such a naturally tidy person ;-)

    8. Chaordic One*

      If you have room in your kitchen, it is helpful to buy an extra “pantry” cabinet for those things that would otherwise clutter your kitchen counters. I have one for my microwave and coffee maker.

    9. Pocket Mouse*

      There are doohickies that help you utilize vertical space on the outside of your fridge. For things you use constantly, look for magnetic spice tins, magnetic spice racks, etc.

      1. pancakes*

        Yamazaki Home is a good site to browse for this sort of thing. I use two of their rolling carts to store spices.

    10. Overeducated*

      I have trouble with this too. Honestly, lots of good tips here, but I think another huge element is…less stuff. Is it possible to pare down? Our “clutter” tends to consist of stuff that doesn’t have a place, or that’s inconvenient to put away. The way I see it, they either need to go in the cupboards and something else needs to leave to make space, or they need to go away entirely. Constant struggle.

      1. Wilde*

        I’m thinking the OP might need less stuff too. Recently I was getting so frustrated with the toaster and sandwich press living on the counter. So I got rid of the unused blender and food processor in the cabinet below, and voila, plenty of space for the toaster to hide away when not in use.

        Think about the things in your kitchen that you actually need. Then get rid of the other stuff. Donate it, sell it, hide it in a spare room if you’re not ready to part ways today. Then you’ll have space in the cupboards for the things on your counter top.

        I’m seconding the recommendation for The Minimal Mom on YouTube – perhaps start with one of her kitchen declutter videos? I find her older videos better when starting out in a space.

    11. Squidhead*

      While cooking, one of our tricks is to put dirty pots/pans in the oven if it’s not in use. It gets them off the stove into a place where they can safely cool off. We are very diligent about checking the oven for forgotten pans before turning it on.

      A habit that was hard to break was leaving the mail in the kitchen…so tempting to read the mail while standing around snacking or having a cup of tea. We had to just be really determined about it: the mail does not go in the kitchen any more.

      If you have the cash, consider whether anything you have could be replaced by something smaller or multifunctional. The chunky plastic measuring cup set you’ve had since college might still be “good,” but it takes up more space than a single measuring cup with markings for wet and dry (measure the dry ingredients first!). Or the blender (rarely used in our house) could just get replaced by a good immersion blender (which we use a lot anyway). We also have a few appliances and fancy baking pans that we store elsewhere and only get them out when needed. I assume this isn’t the kind of clutter you have, but evicting one item from the kitchen might make a better spot for a frequently-cluttery item.

    12. Skeeder Jones*

      I feel your pain. I have a microscopic kitchen and I love to cook. I literally have 2 feet of counter, broken up into 1 foot on one side of the sink and a foot on the other, 2 small drawers, 2 small bottom cabinets and upper cabinets that are also small and also too high for me to really use them. I have done my best to get as much on the walls as I can by hanging wooden crates to make extra shelving and then using ikea wooden spice racks to hold all my foils/plastic wrap/plastic bags. I have something that attaches to my fridge and makes some small shelves and holds paper towels too, then my knives are on a magnetic strip. I still end up with random stuff on my counters making them mostly unusable and I’ve found that having a crate to throw stuff in helps keep me from having a giant pile. It’s not great but I’m about to move so the end is in sight for me to have a real kitchen!

      1. Wink the Book*

        You have my exact kitchen. Hard recommend a metal/drain shelf over the sink. It can double as a dish strainer, as well as quick storage for dish cloths.

    13. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      We sprung for a piece of UHMW (cutting board plastic) that covers the sink so that real estate can serve as prep space.

  9. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes.

    So turns out outlining the Shiny New Idea (TM) was enough to get it out of my head after all. Thank goodness, and now I have some motivation to finish one of my existing projects so I can actually write it!

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I am excited — finally I have something to say in this thread! I have been in a looooooong slump, but I got a call for papers for a conference the other day, and I find I have at least two things I want to write about.

      I’ve also been doing some fiction writing in my head. Maybe that will find its way out through my fingers.

    2. Forensic13*

      Trying to get writing done this weekend but having trouble focusing. Part of the problem is that there are some pacing issues emerging but I KNOW I have to get through one draft for my own sanity/work ethic.

    3. Miss 404*

      I finished the thing!
      I have now started a new thing with the same characters, and have also restarted writing one of my longer pieces on a later chapter.

    4. Maryn*

      I finished the revision based on an excellent beta-read, so although I’d already typed “The End” previously, now it’s really the end and I won’t be making further changes. Finally!

      1. river*

        Yay! I’m halfway through the same thing and looking forward to “the end” again. It’s been a lot of thinking and rearranging but I’ve cracked it, I think, I just have to finish it up and fill the gap I’ve created. That glorious moment when I realised “ohh, they have to meet that person first and THEN the other person” (it had been the other way around) — it seems small but it made all the difference!

    5. MEH Squared*

      I actually had a piece published on a gaming site about a serious medical event that changed my life last year, my views on Elden Ring, and the intersection of the two. Plus, mention of my love for Taiji weapons. It’s the first time I’ve been published in years–and it feels great. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.

  10. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week? As usual, this is not limited to video games, so feel free to talk about any kind of game you want to including phone games and board games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.

    I’m still on Mark of the Ninja. Some of those later levels are very challenging!

      1. Order of the Banana*

        Pokemon is about the only game I play nowadays, although I’ve been struggling through some of the late ones. I haven’t managed to complete BDSP, but I’m also working through Legends. Legends is super fun, although my current stress levels mean that I’m a little overwhelmed by all the missions we have to complete haha.

        1. Iris West-Allen*

          I’ve been taking my time with Legends because I want to explore everything. It’s been really enjoyable and relaxing.

    1. Alyn*

      Video game wise I started playing Skyrim again; I saw the Anniversary update added new items & quests, so I decided to give it a go. Also playing Stardew Valley now and then; trying to keep focus on my current farm instead of starting a new one as a I have a habit of doing.

      Card game wise, I played two new-to-me games this week – Splendor and Panorama. Splendor is a neat little game that plays quickly; eager to try it again now that I have the basics of game mechanics down & see if I can’t implement some strategy. Panorama was pretty cool – it’s a mix of cooperative and competitive, and the cards are gorgeous.

    2. Jackalope*

      This was my second week of DM-ing for D&D and it went well! Still some tweaks needed for me to feel like I’m in top of things but for the most part it was good and we all had fun. The only down side was technology; Zoom issues meant that we couldn’t always hear each other. But other than that it worked, and I’m enjoying the one-shot that I got. It’s got good bones, so to speak, and is really easy to adapt wherever I want to.

    3. MEH Squared*

      Still obsessed with Elden Ring. I’ve put over a hundred hours into it, and I am roughly halfway done with the game (if slightly less). The breadth of it is incredible; I’m constantly amazed by what I find. It pays to look in every corner and under every bend. I can see myself easily playing this game for the rest of the year (and longer).

      Thankfully, the problems on the PC have been alleviated for the most part–at least on a PC with a high-end graphics card. Hopefully, they’ll continue to make it better.

    4. The Dude Abides*

      Cheering on some local friends playing in Indianapolis.

      Was able to get some cards signed by artists (Steve Prescott, Jeff Miracola, Aaron Miller).

    5. Smol Book Wizard*

      About to finish my Verdant Wind run of FE:3H. I think I am anyway? We’re in Enbarr. But I feel there might be more plot coming after, all the same.
      I do like Claude and his friends all right, but I also miss the fraught high drama and Feels of the other two houses.

      1. Jackalope*

        I enjoyed Claude, but he got cheated in terms of character development. The other two lords have fairly fleshed out backgrounds (at least for a video game), and he gets… character traits. Like being curious about the secrets of the church, or anti-racism, both of which are great. But what do we know about his life before the monastery? How much do we really know about him? Not that much, and I wish that hadn’t happened. I mean, he’d be the easiest one to get to know IRL because he’s not as… prickly and intense as the others. But it seemed like the developers thought that laidback = boring and they didn’t put in the time to make him more interesting.

        1. Smol Book Wizard*

          That’s a succinct and sensible way of putting what I thought too! He’s engaging and nice, and I like his curiosity, but I did feel that his arc was a bit flat. I was fairly familiar with his “fanon” interpretation prior to this and was a little surprised that there wasn’t much of his backstory given in the actual game. I’m not sure where the fans found it, to be honest, although I like it. :D

  11. Teapot Translator*

    Has anyone managed to adopt a new sleep position as an adult? If so, how did you do it?
    I want to switch from sleeping on my back to sleeping on the side for specific reasons. It might not work, but I’d like to try. I’m also wondering if I should try using a pregnancy pillow (not pregnant if anyone’s wondering). If you have a brand recommendation, I’ll take it. Thank you!

    1. Katie*

      Good luck! I had to start sleeping on my back when pregnant and afterwards. It was extremely hard, but it helped that 1)it hurt to sleep differently 2)I was exhausted. This happens for at least a month and it didn’t stick.
      To note, I do sleep on my side and use a standard pillow.

    2. Turtle Dove*

      I haven’t switched positions but am a lifelong side sleeper who uses a body pillow to support my knees and free arm. I don’t have a brand preference (the cheap ones from places like Target work fine, in my opinion), but I’m careful to pick firm body pillows, not soft ones. I keep two on the bed (one for each side) because I flip over a lot.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t know if this will translate, if you’ll pardon the play on your name, but I’m a stomach sleeper who has occasionally needed to sleep on my side. And what helps there is to use a body pillow to give me a lot of front support and gentle pressure. Maybe you could try a similar approach with supporting your back.

    4. LMK*

      I’ve used a U-shaped body pillow for years to keep myself on my side at night. One caveat is it takes up a lot of bed space. I live alone so I’m fine, but if you have a partner, they might not appreciate it.

    5. Boba Feta*

      Have always been a side sleeper, am no longer pregnant, but man do I miss my Snoogle. It allowed me to sleep at a magical 3/4 turn because it supported my upper back but also curled at the bottom to squish between the knees, which is key to avoid lower back/ hip alignment issues with side sleeping. I’d start using it again if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t sleep alone- Hubs was very glad when that thing got put away, he no longer felt like he was about to fall out every night.

    6. Sundial*

      I found it very easy to switch from side sleeping to back sleeping in order to heal cartilage piercings, I just put jaw hairclips along my temples to make side sleeping uncomfortable.

      I’ve heard of sewing a tennis ball in the back of a shirt to discourage back sleeping.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      For sleeping on my side, I use 4 different pillows instead of one big pillow: 2 for under the head, one between the knees and one up against my back to keep from rolling onto my back.
      I hope you find something that works for you! Sleep tight!

    8. loislolane*

      I have had to avoid sleeping on my back because when I had a sleep study done it was found I had apnea when I lie on my back but I’m generally OK on my sides or stomach. Instead of a device they could sell me they recommended putting a few tennis balls in a fanny pack and having that sit on my back to prevent rolling. I’ve also tried putting a body pillow behind my back to impede rolling. Both very helpful tips, I found!

    9. AnonAgain*

      I have a mild sleep apnea that is fine when on my side but terrible when on my back. I’m able to stay on my side wearing a Rematee Bumper Belt. It’s a belt that goes around the chest. There are pockets in the back that hold inflatable bumpers that keep me from sleeping on my back. It has straps that go over the shoulders so the belt doesn’t slip down overnight.

    10. Esprit de l'escalier*

      That’s exactly what I did — switched from lifelong back sleeping to sleeping on my side. I was highly motivated: it was around Spring of 2020, I was very scared of the new coronavirus, and I read an article in the nytimes that you could enhance your lung function if you slept on your side and not on your back. I just … did it. Made myself lie on my side every night when I went to bed and after some point that became natural for me.

      At first I found myself immediately shifting to my back, but I’d wriggle onto a side and try to stay there. I can’t remember how long it took, but now, if I land in bed on my bed, that doesn’t feel right — I’ve really made the shift. I found that one side feels more comfortable than the other so that’s how I arrange myself.

      I think you mainly need to be consistent about it to change such an ingrained habit. Good luck!

    11. Cambridge Comma*

      I read an anti-snoring tip that said to sew a ping pong ball to the back of your pyjamas, but I guess anything uncomfortable to lie on would work.
      I wouldn’t bother with the pregnancy pillow, you’ll just push it away half asleep.

    12. Rekha3.14*

      I don’t have a brand suggestion but get the right sized pillow for you for side sleeping. I’m sure there are videos out there on how to figure out the size and how it should feel. I use a foam wave-shaped pillow myself, but others a standard pillow. For example, I can’t sleep on my husband’s pillow because it’s too “high” for proper spine alignment for me, and mine is too low for him.

      As for how to do it, I just made myself, I guess? I used to stomach sleep, but getting the right pillow helps. It’s not a pillow I could use for front sleeping at all.

    13. marvin the paranoid android*

      I’m still working on this, but I’m trying to do the opposite to you: learn to sleep on my back instead of my side. The tips that I’ve read say that it’s helpful to create pillow barricades to stop yourself from rolling over in your sleep. If you have some spare regular pillows, you might want to start with just piling those up.

    14. Chaordic One*

      In addition to experimenting with different pillows, you might want to try sleeping with a weighted blanket.

  12. Crepe Suzette*

    Let’s have a YouTube channel recommendation thread! Please share below –
    1. Any channel(s)/creator(s) you’ve liked recently
    2. If you’re looking for recommendations on a specific topic or similar to a channel you already follow

    Let me start, my answers are –
    1. Quite obsessed with Beatrice Caruso (started off primarily as a weight-loss channel but now does more general lifestyle vlogs as well, I find her hilarious and relatable) and Jenna Phipps (I love her aesthetic and all the things she makes! Crochet, knit, other DIYs, thrift vlogs)
    2. I’d love to find channels/creators similar to Jenna Phipps. I’ve realised I need to have the host talking throughout the video or my attention wanders. Please let me know if you have any recommendations along these lines :)

    I love how I can start really niche threads here and still get many responses, thank you for being such a welcoming community (and a huge thank you to Alison for fostering such a space)

    1. PX*

      I am not a fashion person but I love Haute Le Mode. If nothing else because of his passion and obvious knowledge about huge elements of fashion history/context.

    2. The Dude Abides*

      1 – I’ve been watching replays of ALttPR races on the ZeldaSpeedRuns channel. There are certain modes/settings that don’t interest me (swordless, crosskeys, retro), but on the whole it’s fun to watch and play when I have the time.

    3. GoryDetails*

      I don’t have a LOT of YouTube channels that I follow regularly, but the ones I do include:

      Tasting History with Max Miller: absolutely delightful mix of food, history, and humor, presented at regular intervals (I appreciate YouTubers who are able to maintain a reliable schedule, whether weekly or monthly or something in between), and occasionally featuring walk-ons by the cats.

      Cinema Therapy: a therapist and a filmmaker, best friends and with excellent chemistry, choose particular films or characters (or, sometimes, genres) and point out psychological issues as depicted – sometimes highlighting really good practices and sometimes the really bad ones.

      I’ve been working through the backlog of videos on both of those, with plenty still to go, and really love them.

      Also fond of:

      Ask a Mortician, Caitlin Doughty’s channel, where she provides short snippets about death and burial customs, including items from her various books (all of which I adore), or longer episodes themed on anything from the practice of binding books in human skin to unusual true-crime tales to very entertaining recreations of spiritualist photography or Victorian funeral pics.

    4. PerplexedPigeon*

      Emily D. Baker and her Law Nerds channel. She’s a former District Attorney and trial lawyer who discusses various trials currently in the media. Her tagline is “facts not fuckery” meaning she doesn’t get caught up in speculation and I feel like she really holds to that.

    5. AGD*

      1. HGTV Handmade. Rajiv Surendra is an absolute treasure of a human being, as far as I can tell. He has a presence that is at once vibrantly creative and yet calm and deep. Also really getting into Adam Savage’s Tested, which is a mix of post-Mythbusters building, crafting, and/or Adam just talking amiably to the camera. He’s good company regardless of what he’s doing, plus he’s thoughtful and funny, and he never says anything negative about anyone unless he’s pushing back on bigotry in general. (He never takes shots at Jamie Hyneman, even though it’s clear that the two of them are very different people and probably felt no need whatsoever to spend time together outside of work.)

      2. I adore textile-upcycling/refashion/thrift-flip channels and follow a whole bunch but am always looking for additional recommendations (that is, beyond Thrifted Transformations, BlueprintDIY, TheSorryGirls, Sarah Tyau, Annika Victoria, and WithWendy).

    6. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      1. My favorites:
      -Food Wishes by Chef John. I have made many of his recipes and love almost all of them.
      -Tasting History. Max Miller delivers entertaining history lessons along with redacted historical recipes.
      -Upright Health. The exercises I have learned almost eliminated my hip pain, and I have only been doing them for a month.
      -Yoga with Adriene.
      -Vet Ranch
      -Stylish D. I sew, and wanted to learn how to tailor my husband’s clothing as well as my own.

      2. I am looking for recommendations on beginner ballet tutorials. I started doing some barre exercises to improve the strength and flexibility of my legs and hips but would like to do more.

    7. wingmaster*

      My favorite YouTube channels –

      1. Best Ever Food Review Show – a mix of food and travel. Sonny, who’s the main person of the channel is based in Vietnam, but he is travels to many countries to showcase all types of food from street food to fine dining.
      2. Tasting History – as most people here mentioned, it’s all about food and history
      3. Townsends (similar to Tasting History)
      4. Aaron and Claire – a Korean couple who shows easy recipes that are delicious
      5. My High Desert Garden – a guy who shares his edible garden that’s grown in the Mojave Desert area.

      1. DashieGames – I enjoy his scary gameplays, because he’s always getting jumpscares.
      2. John Wolfe – he also plays scary games, but he actually doesn’t get jumpscares.
      3. theRadBrad

      1. Sidemen – it’s just 7 guys from the UK doing fun things together, and it’s usually funny for me to watch them.
      2. Audit the Audit – this channel talks about the rights and wrongs of police interactions with laws and regulations police may have violated.
      3. BassBuzz – bass guitar lesson videos

    8. OperaArt*

      I like “Useful Charts”. The topic sounds dry, but the content wildly varied. My favorite was about the hidden, matrilineal dynasty that’s been sitting on the thrones of Europe for 600 years. They called it the House of Garsenda. They followed the female lines only, instead of the male.

      1. Jora Malli*

        They’ve also got an interesting video on who would be the monarch of America if George Washington had been King rather than President. Their videos are fascinating.

    9. Wordnerd*

      Game Maker’s Toolkit – game design
      Playframe – let’s plays
      New Frame Plus – game animation

      Passion of the Nerd – deep dive analysis on Angel and Buffy

      Defunctland – deep dive history on Disney (older stuff is ride history, newer stuff is just history)

      Just random other stuff:
      Jenny Nicholson- some Disney, mostly random
      Simone Giertz – used to be shitty robots, now really cool maker/home improvement stuff

    10. Jora Malli*

      I’m super into video essays. Some of my favorites include:
      –Jessie Gender (a mix of trans/lgbtq topics and Star Trek nerdery)
      –Sarah Z (fandom analysis)
      –Rowan Ellis
      –Tara Mooknee
      –Big Joel
      –Shaun (his most recent video is an extremely long and extremely interesting analysis of the Harry Potter series with respect to JKR’s known/stated political beliefs and affiliations)

      I also like fan reaction and analysis channels:
      –Amanda the Jedi (she watches a lot of bad Netflix content so we don’t have to)
      –Black Nerd Comedy
      –Council of Geeks
      –Dominic Noble (his primary series is called Lost in Adaptation, in which he analyzes the differences between movies and TV shows and the books they’re based on)
      –fictionaldarling (an extremely adorable person who watches a lot of marvel content and records her reactions. She cries at all the right parts and it’s very heartwarming)
      –Casually Comics (discussion of some of the more weird and fun bits of Marvel and DC comics history. Worth the watch for Sasha’s gravely Batman voice alone)

      I tend to treat YouTube like I treat podcasts or audiobooks, a source of entertainment and background noise I can put on while I do other things, and I didn’t realize how many channels I follow until I started making this list. :)

      1. GraceC*

        We have a lot of overlap! Others I watch that aren’t on your list – Quinton Reviews and Jenny Nicholson (similar to Sarah Z, but I prefer them since the fandoms they dissect are generally ones they were/are very active in), Bailey Meyers (specifically the Goosedrunks series, reading Goosebumps with a “drink if it’s stupid, drink if it’s scary” drinking game), Defunctland, KrimsonRogue (lots of overlap with Dom Noble, I’d recommend one if you like the other) and Friendly Space Ninja (irl friends with Amanda the Jedi).

    11. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I have somewhat random taste, but here’s some of my favorites:

      VlogBrothers: Hank and John Green making mostly short videos about a wide variety of things. SciShow is an offshoot of that that’s more educational and less stream of consciousness.

      The Hoof GP: A charming Scottish guy trimming cow feet. Some gore since he’s often treating problem hooves, but overall the cattle are very valued and treated well since it’s Scottish dairy farms and not US factory farming.

      The Try Guys and/or Good Mythical Morning: Pure fun entertainment. Try Guys mostly try stuff (drunk vs high games, eating everything at a particular restaurant, pole dancing, etc) and GMM is a lot of comparing foods and competitive games.

      Animalogic: Educational episodes about specific animals. Very mellow.

      A Chick Called Albert: A man saves lots of eggs, birds, and occasionally other creatures. Also pretty mellow and not much dialog since English isn’t his first language.

      Banish Culinary Universe: Lots of recreating dishes from TV shows and movies with some cooking basics videos thrown in.

      WhatCulture: UK folks doing “top ten” type lots about movies and tv.

      Bondi Vet, Pets & Vets, The Dodo: All animal focused, mostly rescue type stuff. The channels can get emotionally trying, but the vast majority of what they show has happy weddings.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        Seconding WhatCulture.

        I followed the wrestling guys to Cultaholic and PartsFunKnown, and the now-monthly Quizzlemania is appointment listening/viewing for me.

    12. cat socks*

      I’m a mid-40s woman living in the Midwest with a boring 9-5 job. I follow a lot of lifestyle people on YouTube who have completely different lives than me.

      Cecilia Blomdahl: She lives in Svalbard, which is an island near the North Pole. The sun just recently started showing up after a few months of polar night. I’ll never live there or visit, so it’s very interesting to see her daily life. Her dog Grim is super cute.

      Nicki Positano: She lives with her husband on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Very interesting to see daily life in such a beautiful place.

      Wonderfully Ale, Kat Nesbitt, Hunter Lihas, Jacqueline Travels, Fly With Stella, Court to Fly: Flight attendant channels. It’s interesting to see the behind the scenes life of flight attendants.

      Clancy Burke: She’s a morning TV news reporter and is up at 2 in the morning. Again, not something I will ever experience, but it’s fun to follow her life.

      Cruising as Crew, Jordan Bauth: Two people who work on cruise ships. I’ve only been on a cruise once in my life and the crew was so nice. Interesting to get a behind the scenes look at life on a cruise ship.

      Emmi La: She lives in Finland. Her videos have no talking and only captions. They are very peaceful and calm. She vlogs about daily life in Helsinki.

      Brooke Miccio, Danielle Marie Carolan: Influencers living in NYC. I grew up without social media, so it’s interesting to see 20-somethings live out their life attending events and vlogging about their lives.

      Mohuya Kahn: A smaller channel. She is a Bangladeshi-American vlogging about her life in NYC. I’m Indian and I haven’t found a lot of other vloggers from that part of the world.

      I also like watching house hunting videos in expensive cities like NYC, Seattle and San Francisco. I live in a LCOL area, so it’s fascinating to see how much tiny apartments go for in these cities.

  13. Bobina*

    Gardening Thread:
    Spring seems to be well and truly springing here which is lovely! Except that I definitely did not repot a few plants in time and also didnt remember to buy large pots for them while I was in a garden centre recently so uh. Sorry shrubs, might have to be another year in too small pots for you.

    I do need to plant some bulbs I had forgotten about, but not sure I’m in the mood to deal with the mess I inevitably make so it might end up being a tomorrow job.

    How are all your plant based lifeforms doing?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I bought bulbs last fall and then apparently totally forgot about them, like didn’t even open the shipping box. I found the box on a shelf in the dining room this week. I think they’re mostly spring flowering bulbs, daffodils and hyacinths – they’re probably not salvageable, are they?

      1. UKDancer*

        I’d say plant them and see what happens. They may not be salvageable but sometimes nature surprises us.

      2. Bobina*

        Depends a bit what the weather is like where you are, but if not for this spring they will probably be fine to plant out in autumn for next year!

      3. Merle Grey*

        I got some grape hyacinth bulbs and also forgot about them. They were trying to sprout, so I planted them last March. A few of them bloomed, later than they normally would, and the flowers were puny. This year they look lush and happy, and I can see them from across the yard!

    2. JK78*

      Spring hasn’t sprung here yet, everything is still under at least 2 inches of snow nearly everywhere that isn’t an edge. I’m excited for the new season but I’m nervous because I want to start a garden where there was previously grass. That section was ripped up to shreds by a construction crew so the grass is gone but I have a dirt section now that could be about 10×30 feet and I have NO idea how to create a garden.

      Like do I section it width wise with paving stones?? Do I just throw wildflower seeds everywhere and try to water the entire area? Yet how do I WEED then?? Should I buy like 3-5 of each perennial and clump them together? Should I try for native plants to try and help the bees or buy whatever I like??

      So many options!!! I’m kinda overwhelmed, tbh.

      1. Anonymous healthcare person*

        Start with Pinterest to see what you like in terms of garden looks. Do you like colorful, serene, woodland, English cottage, Japanese style? Pin a bunch and see what style emerges for you. That helps to get started.

        Then, which way does the garden bed face? South, east, west, north? Makes a huge difference in what will grow. South and west – look for plants that like full sun, North, full shade. East, partial shade. Observe the area over time and you will see when the sun falls where – and it will change depending on time of year. My back yard is shaded in the summer due to trees in full leaf, and sunny in the winter. Also, part of your bed might be full sun and another part, part sun, for example. You learn that through observing your garden over time, and also by what plants do and don’t thrive there.

        Is the soil sandy (good drainage, poor nutrition for plants, so look for ones that like those conditions)? Or clay, or loam? If you don’t know how to check, do a quick Google for your area. I’m in the PNW, where the soil tends to be acidic, for example.

        Also where do you live? Arizona is super different than the PNW or New York State, or wherever. Look up your zone, which is the dates of first and last frost. Go to local garden centres and ask staff what plants they recommend for your area. They can also help a lot with planning, equipment etc. You could consider a consult with one or more garden/landscape designers for ideas too, or ask gardening friends. I do love Gardener’s World with Monty Don, too, although it’s English so less useful if you are not in a similar climate (I am, in the PNW). Your local library and garden club are also great info sources. And local university and botanical gardens.

        It takes time to get a garden bed going, and you will make mistakes because we all do! And no shame in discovering gardening isn’t for you if you try it – you can re-seed it with grass, or get a low-maintenance design done (although, what gardeners think is low maintenance is often a lot of work- just so you know!).

        Oh also – for pollinator friendly, a lot of plants are labeled that way, at least where I am. Again it will change at least somewhat depending on where you are. Final tip: ALWAYS Google plants you are considering in garden centres to see if they are invasive in your area. It won’t be on the label, which sucks, and plant bullies like periwinkle are terrible to get rid of!

        1. JK78*

          Thank you, I hadn’t thought of Pinterest for ideas! The library was my next stop, but the university botanical gardens, I’ll have to check into those! And I actually have periwinkle . . . it’s the only thing that will grow in an area under the trees, but it’s creepy how it’s STILL green under all that snow or mulch!!

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      I realize it shouldn’t matter, but I’m a bit disappointed this year that my bulbs are all coming in at totally different rates. Last year they synched up a bit better and I have no idea why. I have a garden under the tree out front that has daffodils, tulips, hyacinth and allium, with pansies that generally come up behind them. However, it looks kind of silly having just two or three plants coming up at a time – currently just some scattered daffodils – when I pictured them all being up together. Ah well. I should probably have planted them in a prettier order so they don’t look so random. I don’t seem to have my mother’s eye for gardening design.

    4. Puffle*

      I’ve just been out inspecting my plants to see what’s survived… the roses, lavender, catmint and alstroemerias seem to be okay, but the petunias are not looking great… not sure if they’re dead or just about hanging in there.

      I’ve given everything a good weeding and doused it all in Miracle-Gro so let’s see how we are in a few weeks. For a self confessed disaster gardener, I’m not doing quite as badly as I’d thought XD

    5. Retired (but not really)*

      Mostly seeing green at the moment. Scattered a few boxes of wildflower seed mix along the edge of the road last week right before it rained, so hoping to have flowers before too long. My bluebonnets didn’t reseed as they got mowed too early (helpful? neighbor) so going to hope I can find some to transplant.

    6. Jora Malli*

      I’ve traditionally been terrible at growing plants, but I recently bought a vertical planter from GreenStalk Gardens. It’s a small business, and my order arrived very quickly and included stickers!

      You fill the top bowl with water and the planter distributes it equally to all your plants, and the planting wells are deep enough for root vegetables. My turnips and beets are already sprouting!

      1. Coenobita*

        Holy cow, their planters look amazing! I have a sunny area on my front steps that is perfect for tomatoes/peppers/etc. but the footprint is tiny. This might be the solution I am looking for!

    7. Girasol*

      The local wisdom is to plant peas on St Patrick’s Day, and also lettuce, so I did. After such a long winter it’s great to be out in the sunshine puttering around in the garden.

    8. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      My succulent containers are an overgrown mess (in a good way) and I’m slowly pruning, repotting and propagating. Now that it’s sunny and warm and I want to expand my collection. I think I’m going to give away a few of my echeverria pulvanata to free up more space/pots. I’m really hoping The Huntington Library and Gardens have their big cactus and succulent sale this year.

    9. Birder57*

      Found out yesterday that the only garden store that I know of that sells the official Disneyland rose bush just got some in. I’ll be driving 40 miles each way next week to pick up one in Costa Mesa, CA. I’ve never grown roses before so I hope I have success with it.

    10. BlueWolf*

      We had beautiful warm weather here today, and I finally was able to get to the local garden center. I filled up my new raised bed and planted out kale that I started indoors and also sowed seeds for lettuce, spinach, peas, and beets. I had hoped to do some of those earlier, but work and weather got in the way.

    11. Dino*

      It’s my annual “buy my succulents to replace the dead ones” weekend tradition. Living in the PNW means about a third of my succulents die over winter. Less if I take better care of them, but sadly this winter I couldn’t be bothered. So I’ve got some new ones and enjoying rebuilding my planters!

  14. The Other Dawn*

    Has anyone ever done a cross-country drive? Curious to hear how it went for you, where you visited, how long it took you, etc.

    I’m in New England. My husband and I are thinking about doing a drive from home to somewhere on the West coast in a couple years. I assume it would be maybe two weeks, though maybe more. We’ve always wanted to do it, but just never sat down to talk seriously about it. We enjoy history, nature (more like national parks, for example, not birding or fishing), and things like that. Las Vegas, of course. He loves classic cars. We wouldn’t enjoy art galleries or tons of shopping.

    1. GoryDetails*

      I haven’t done the entire country, but have been on a number of very long drives. When I was a kid (talking the early ’60s here) the folks would toss us into the back of the station wagon and hit the road for trips from Wyoming to the family home in Louisiana; those took two or three days of driving as the folks would take turns at the wheel, with one or two nights at motels to give everybody a break. [I think of those trips fondly, though of course having kids rattling around loose in the back of the car was not particularly safe. But if we’d had to sit strapped in side-by-side for all that time we might have throttled each other, so…]

      On my own, I drove from Wyoming to Louisiana for the last time (left my first job to try for something out east; met my father at his family place in Louisiana and then we drove to Connecticut together). My leg of the trip was… well, a study in highway hypnosis, I suspect! I drove a little Chevy Chevette then, no air conditioning or cruise control, manual transmission, and in summer the trip was not comfortable. I had to keep the windows open to stay remotely cool, and at one point put a bag of ice on the floor under my accelerator foot as the heat from the transmission was starting to be uncomfortable. (Little tiny car at highway speeds for many hours on end – not good.) Had my cassettes playing at top volume so I could hear over the rushing wind – lots of Springsteen and other pedal-to-the-metal numbers, meaning I really had to watch the speed limit, though the car couldn’t go *that* fast so I was OK. But I remember being very unwilling to *stop*, even when I needed a restroom break or gas or food; just wanted to keep on going…

      The shared leg of the trip was more comfortable, with some random “that looks interesting, let’s stop there” bits along the way. I do recommend a mix of planned stops and some leeway for impromptu ones.

      In recent years my longish trips have ranged from 3- to 4-hour multi-state drives to a full 10-hour trip that I managed in a day to avoid hotels, but that was pushing it. I like to mix in stops for hobbies (geocaching, checking out Little Free Libraries, visiting interesting brew-pubs or historical sites) with the actual driving, and in general I take things a lot easier now. But the internet does make it easier to change routes, seek local shelter if needed, modify plans, reservations, etc. remotely… very different from those early trips, where we were pretty much incommunicado for much of the time!

    2. Janet Pinkerton*

      My wife and I drove from Denver to the Mid-Atlantic this past fall! We did it too quickly, I think—we took five days. Our overnights were in Wichita, Little Rock, Nashville, and far southwestern VA. We also stopped in the geographic center of the US, Oklahoma City, and Memphis.

      The highlight of the trip (other than seeing friends along the way) was Oklahoma City thanks to Sam Anderson’s book Boom Town. I would definitely recommend reading about cities before going to them—it really added to our enjoyment. The other great joy was playing “weird stuff on trucks”. It wasn’t this trip, but I once saw three trucks in succession, each with a giant windmill blade being transported.

      Potential considerations: it’s expensive to rent a car and then drop it off elsewhere. There are large parts of the country where there’s really not much to see other than fields. I most enjoyed when we drove on US highways and state highways rather than on the interstate system (despite my love of the interstate system) because it’s just so much more interesting. It is physically challenging to sit for that long too.

      Overall I’m glad we did it. I don’t think I’d do it again, but I might if we stayed a few nights in several cities along the way.

    3. MINI Driver*

      Road trips are great. A week to go west and a week to go east is a minimum, though, and even at that you’ll spend a lot of time in the car.

      We drove from CO to NJ once, to start the 2012 MINI Takes the States cross-country drive (an event sponsored by MINI USA). We gave ourselves 3 days to get there. Drove one day to Omaha (and saw the Olympic swim trials that night), spent the next morning at the zoo, then drove to Ohio, spent the next morning at a historic site, then drove to NJ. And at that, we felt rushed. (By comparison, the actual MINI drive that we were going to, which was from NJ to LA that year, was 11 days just to go one way. But it did meander a bit.)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Ah, MINI Takes the States! I’m a newish MINI owner and I haven’t yet gone on the trip because of the pandemic. I was hoping to this year now that it’s on, but with the ongoing hip and back issues, plus a concert planned in PA, I can’t do it.

        We’re thinking probably three weeks for a trip like this, and definitely not until my physical issues are taken care of. So maybe two years from now? I don’t know, but it gives us plenty of time to plan.

        1. MINI Driver*

          I think 3 weeks would be reasonable.

          We’ve had a MINI since 2002, and MINI Takes the States (and other MINI activities) is one of the best things! Sad that this year they are focusing solely on East Coast — just too far for us to drive over, do the event, and then drive home. We’ve taken part in a few cross-country MTTS where we can drive out a ways, do two or three legs, then drive home again in a reasonable time. And in 2018 they did an East Coast/West Coast joint start that ended practically in our backyard! We drove the last two legs, and then were home a couple of hours after the final rally.

          Hopefully there will be another MTTS in 2024, so maybe that one will work out for you.

    4. Jay*

      I’ve lost track – we’ve done it maybe five times? Much of the time we were just trying to get there as soon as we good (CO to upstate NY in three days). Five days is a minimum if you want to drive less than 1o-12 hours a day, so if you want to do any substantial sightseeing, two weeks may not be enough to get there and back. Random thoughts:

      If you can avoid the summer, that would be best because the major National Parks will be ridiculously and unpleasantly crowded when school is out. Yellowstone is a must-see in my opinion because there is nothing like it anywhere else. I also love Grand Teton and Glacier. Hoping to get to Bryce and Zion in the next couple of years – my husband has been and wants to go back. And Yosemite.

      For history, there are the Civil War battlefields, especially Gettysburg. The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The WWII Museum in New Orleans.

      If you’re going to Vegas, then think about Joshua Tree and Death Valley.

      1. OperaArt*

        I agree about avoiding summer. I used to work as a tour guide in a town with several tourist attractions. The best time to go through our site was the two weeks before Memorial Day and the two weeks after Labor Day. Everything around us was still open, but the crowds had died down.

    5. PostalMixup*

      When I was a kid, we drove from New Orleans to Phoenix. Our rules: no interstates, no national chain restaurants. Stop for historical markers and anything that catches your eye. My mom literally handed me a paper map (I was 13) and said “pick a route for us.” It was a blast!

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I did this as a child and was too young to appreciate it. Now that it’s hypothetically interesting later in life, there are health and logistic reasons it’s not easy. Those disclaimers out of the way:

      The long views on the drives across western New Mexico wound up being a highlight of our trip west this fall. Long drives along the east coast tend to be lots of forest and just less interesting to me; this was different and beautiful and I really want to incorporate this into some future trips. (Also appreciated drives along the west coast oceanfront and through Oregon for beautiful scenery unlike home.)

      My advice is to look at stringing together some national parks (and maybe classic car shows or museums) you’d like to visit, and alternating long-haul travel days with explore-one-spot days. It helps to have days you aren’t just sitting in the car. Make sure there’s open time at regular intervals so you can seize any unexpectedly interesting finds and really enjoy them–we thought Petrified Forest National Park would be a couple of hours, and reluctantly exited after eight hours so we could make it to our next hotel at a not ridiculous hour. We detoured to a meteor crater we hadn’t planned on because my husband realized that it was something a coworker had described.

      Once you have a route, I’ve gotten good ideas with googling “Things to do in City.” It brought up botanical gardens we visited in Phoenix and Santa Fe, and stargazing at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. (A plug for botanical gardens–they can be really good at guiding you to what to notice when hiking or driving through the surrounding area.)

    7. the cat's ass*

      Ive gone CC three times, the last two with cats, which made it a bit more complicated but still fun. First trip Boston to LA, hit a lot of National Parks and stayed in some campsites through out. That trip was R60 and the legendary R66! Took 10 days.
      Second trip LA to Boston 5 years later when I’d picked up a husband and two cats. We went through Santa Fe, Taos, Amarillo and then struck North through Niagra Falls and across NY to MA. We mostly arranged pet friendly hotels a day or two in advance. Took 2 weeks.
      Last trip Boston to SF, same husband and now three cats, spent a lot of time in Chicago and Mt Rushmore area. Went to the legendary Walls Drugs as well. National Geographic has a book about interesting things off the Interstates which can be fun in terms of planning.Took 16 days. Enjoy!

    8. Mephyle*

      About 10 years ago my adult daughter had to move her household goods from Colorado back to Ontario (Canada). Her mother-in-law lent her a pickup truck for her things but she had no one to accompany her on the road until I volunteered. We drove Highway 80 from Nebraska to Michigan. It was the so-called flyover states; boring, right?
      Not at all; it was the most fascinating trip and I wish we could have spent five times as long so as to see everything. We traversed Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and lower Michigan. Some of the highlights for us that we will never forget were the International Quilt Museum and the state capitol building in Lincoln NE, the train and city history museum in Omaha, and several wonderful artisan chocolate shops in Michigan, among others (the Pony Express Museum in Gothenburg, a meditation maze at a church in North Platte, a vegan restaurant in Omaha that used to be a gas station on the main east–west highway where everybody who was anybody used to stop in the 1930s – according to the local history the owner told us…) . But there were quite a few more very interesting-looking places on my list that we didn’t have time to visit!
      I made my list by looking up the places on our route on TripAdvisor and checking the “Things To Do” tab, and Atlas Obscura. So these are some resources that I’d recommend checking whatever your route.

    9. Rara Avis*

      Yes, moved from CT to CA, from CA to FL, from FL to CA. Each time the purpose of the trip was not vacationing, but we did some cool stops. First trip highlights: Grand Canyon, 4 corners, Mesa Verde. On the other two trips we did one tourist stop a day, but they mostly weren’t planned — we’d see a road sign, say that sounds interesting, and have a little adventure. (This is pre-cell phone.)

    10. Salymander*

      I did a cross country trip with my boyfriend (now husband) after university. We lived out of the car and camped most nights, staying at national parks along the way. We started in Northern California and ended up in North Carolina where we stayed for about 5 or 6 weeks before driving back by a different route. Basically, we drove in a big oval shaped path around the country. It took months, but neither of us had a job at the time and we didn’t have anywhere to be. We had saved a little money and we just kept going until it ran out. We visited a bunch of historical landmarks and did a lot of hiking. We would spend 1-2 weeks in each national park that had good camping facilities. Glacier National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park were my favorite parks out of all of them, but we visited a lot more. We spent a few nights in the car, and many nights at other camping spots. During the trip we only spent one night in a motel the whole time, and had only one meal in a restaurant per week as a treat. We each brought several nonfiction books as well as novels, and I brought a few knitting projects. It is good to have something to do so that you aren’t breathing down your travel partner’s neck the entire time. We also brought some good field guides for identifying plants and wildlife. We were hoping to see all the big mammals, and we did see every one except wolves. We even saw a huge male grizzly bear. It was running across a meadow, headed the same direction we were. We watched it run, and then we went back the opposite way. It was a really big bear.

    11. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I’d do three weeks. I live in the Midwest, and our road trips to either coast are at least two weeks. You can do it in two weeks, but it won’t allow you time to explore the areas you want to. We do a lot of road trips, and we’ll pick out places we want to see and plan a not-too-rigid route and itinerary, which for us includes indoor and open-air museums, national and state parks, historic sites, and scenic routes. We only make lodging reservations if we’re planning to stay several days in one place, or if it’s super-touristy – but when we went to the Grand Canyon, we called from Tuscon just a few days ahead of time (that’s where leaving flexibility in your plans is great, because we hadn’t planned on seeing the Grand Canyon that year). I have nearly as much fun planning our trips as I do once we’re on the road!

    12. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Not all the way across…Los Angeles to Green Bay Wisconsin and back. I took the southern route out…interstate 40 or 41 I think…the original route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 and or around there but the interstate still runs parallel mostly so I drove that eastward until I reached Chicago, and then whatever highway up to GB. Coming home, I took the northern route…80? I think. OMG that was desolate until I reached Colorado. I’m sure the midwest is a nice place, but how do you all live where the tallest landmark is the town watertower? I need mountains!…hills!…something! I really enjoyed it but I should have stopped more often than I did.

      1. Mephyle*

        “Thank you for your concern” is a useful catch-all “bless your heart” response for a lot of unwanted advice, and it could do for this. Even if it’s the fifth time you say it to the same person.

          1. Mephyle*

            Sorry for the nonsense comments above, I’m still trying to sort out my so not helpful fill-in-the-fields app.
            What I wanted to say was that the Chicago to Colorado on Highway 80 part of this trip was (in reverse) the same trip I mentioned farther above, that I found so fascinating and wished I would have had much more time to explore. Different strokes for different folks!

    13. ronda*

      I drove with my sister from dalton ga to olympia wa in 6 days. we did stop in LA for a day to visit with relatives. we didnt do much stopping but did see the petrified forest and that meteor crater someone else mentioned. my sis only had 2 weeks off and was flying back. I was moving to olympia.

      We were all on interstates, but didnt drive too late in the evening.
      google maps tells me that it is 49hours of driving dalton to LA to Olympia.

    14. osmoglossum*

      First, trust me, two weeks will not be enough time to do round trip driving and have time to stop and explore — if that’s all the time you have then you ought to look into renting a car that you can drop off at your west coast destination and fly back east. Whatever you do, avoid I-80 at all costs. It’s a nightmare of an interstate.

      If you have a local AAA office, the travel advisors can be a wealth of helpful information. In the fall of 2008 I drove from San Francisco to NY — since I was relocating I gave myself the gift of a leisurely road trip. My local AAA travel advisor was awesome and knew a lot about historic sites all over the country and made suggestions on different routes I could take depending on my interests as well as suggestions as to what to see. I spent 5 weeks on the road and drove about 6,000 miles — my only definite stops were friends I wanted to visit in Tucson, College Station, TX and New Orleans, otherwise I stayed as open as possible to whatever struck me as interesting. A few of the major highlights were the Grand Canyon, the Bat Flight program at Carlsbad Caverns NP in New Mexico and driving the Natchez Trace Parkway from end to end (MS to TN).

    15. Longtime Lurker*

      I drove around the country back in the early 90’s, pre-internet, pre-cell phone, by myself. 6 weeks in a Miata. Definitely get the annual pass for national parks, visit a lot of them, and try to not over prepare – be surprised by the beauty that is there and not be disappointed by things not looking quite as fabulous as they do in the advertising and tour guides (where the colors are always vibrant, the sun is shining, and views are never blocked by all the other visitors!). I tried to eat local for dinner but usually filled up on a Denny’s breakfast so I could get away with two meals a day and save money- hey, I was in my 20s!

    16. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      In 2017, I took two weeks to go from Seattle to Boston, one way. I felt like I was always running late, so if you get the chance to take more time, do so.
      For me, the things I looked at were: out of the way history bits (the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Amana Colonies in Iowa) and fun bits from movies that I love (such when I was in Chicago, I saw several locations from the Blues Brothers and the high schools from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Breakfast Club.)
      My rule of thumb was: the more likely I would be to visit the area again, the fewer stops, and vice versa. I never need to go to South Dakota again (seriously, Rushmore and Crazy Horse are not worth it), so I hit lots of places. Chicago, I will definitely visit again, so only a few bits.
      One final note on Vegas. People call it “the adult Disneyland.” This doesn’t mean a fun house where people run wild. Please approach this from the perspective of “Disneyland is designed to suck every last penny from your wallet all while entertaining you.” That said, I cannot recommend the Lost Spirits Distillery tour any higher. It was the highpoint of our trip to Vegas in February.

      1. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

        Reading through the other comments: Oh YES! I never ate at a single chain restaurant. Always look for the local mom and pop places. (See also: Road Food dot com). In Chicago, I had a cheese steak the size of a baby’s arm, fries, and a liter of soda pop for $10.

  15. Doggie Thread*

    Anyone want to share doggie updates? How are the pups this week?

    As for me, my good boy has put me in a panic this week because his weight is inexplicably down from a vet visit just two weeks ago, where it was down from his weight a month ago. The vet thinks it’s possible his food allergies are preventing him from absorbing his food properly, so we’ve added an extra meal a day of rice and egg and supplements. He’s a big boy and eats a lot – and I admit, I’m trying to finish the expensive bag of food I have before buying an even more expensive bag of food. I knew having a big dog was going to be expensive but I really underestimated *how* expensive!

    1. Generic Name*

      My pup is enjoying the *slightly* warmer weather. It’s in the 40s outside and melting snow everywhere, and she’s happy as a clam outside. I know so many dog owners who’s dogs have similar issues with allergies or needing a special diet. I’m very thankful she does just fine with Iams or purina food.

    2. FACS*

      Best Old Dog will be 17 in July. He sleeps a lot but still runs around. He is under my feet now. My elderly father worries that he will be lonely when my husband and I are both at work (we have odd schedules), so the dog does go to daycare with my folks. He takes medicine for his arthritis and apparently he only likes one brand of hot dogs to hide the meds in, so we get the fancy dogs. For the dog.

      1. Tea and Cake*

        Sometimes my cat goes on hunger strikes from her wet food. She’s 17, and can be very stubborn, but always adorable. When she has gone two or three days refusing the wet food, we buy her a roast chicken (her favorite thing ever) and cut it up into tiny bits for several days of food, and almost every time the cashier will comment on how convenient the roast chickens are. I never know what to say because “It’s for my stubborn cat” just sounds ridiculous in my head.

    3. A. Ham*

      my poor, dumb, almost 12 year old dog (who, considering age, is in very good health *knock on wood*) went beyond her geriatric physical abilities and ran after a rabbit in out backyard this week. Of course she managed to hurt herself and limps around looking sorry for herself. Vet said it was totally minor and to just have her rest for a few days. good luck with that! she still wants to jump on and off the couch and run down the stairs. we keep an eye on her and try to stop her from doing dumb things but we have not been 100% successful. Thankfully, even with all that, the limp is now almost completely gone, so she is on the mend. :-)

    4. Smol Book Wizard*

      Lancer is just about 8 months and 80lb now, bless him. I hope he won’t get any bigger, or he’ll be even harder to clean. I washed about half the park off him this morning in the bathtub…we got muddy while chasing friends, a favorite sport of ours.
      I really do want to get him a friend, and this is partly also because I miss having a lapdog (the poodle lives with my brother because she tries to hunt our parrots endlessly). Anyone have stories of adding Dogs the Second? Or recommendations for little dog breeds that play like big dogs, haha?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        When Elder Statesdog Gone Beyond was 7, I brought home an 8 week old puppy who became my Junior Ambassador. Elder Statesdog (who went beyond back in September) was about the absolute most chillest specimen ever, and she was cuddling Junior Ambassador before the sun came up the next day. (Literally, I looked down under my desk at 6am and the two of them were curled up snuggling together on the dog bed under the corner of the desk.) So the adding of second dog was totally painless that time.

        Junior Ambassador is now 7, and coming up here at the end of April, I will be bringing home an 8 week old horse puppy. Junior Ambassador is NOT the absolute most chillest specimen ever, so I’m not expecting it to go quite as effortlessly, but I am crossing my fingers for good outcomes. (And I need to refigure my titles :P Junior Ambassador will get a promotion to Senior, I think, and horse puppy may become an attache of sorts :) )

        As far as lap dogs that play like big dogs — Junior Ambassador is a 50 pound boxer mix, and I always assumed that she’d eventually get too big to fit in my lap, but we haven’t found that to be the case so far. :)

        1. Haha Lala*

          Chiming in late because I can’t help with doggo threads!
          I had to put down my Big Dog last month, 10 months after being given a 6 month cancer prognosis. He was a 50# boxer mix too, and he was definitely a lap dog for all 10 years we spent together. Luckily he took to sitting right next to and leaning into me, so that made it a little more comfortable for everyone!

          My Little Dog is a 25# ish dachsund mix– but she thinks she’s much bigger. She was a foster fail, and I decided to keep her when I kept finding her snuggled up to my Big Dog, who never let other dogs snuggle with him until her. She’s also a definitely a lap dog and loves to burrow under the blankets. And she plays like crazy with every foster dog we have through our house!

          I’ve fostered a lot of pups, and I always tell families looking for dog #2 that the people don’t get to pick dog#2, the dog#1 does. I’ve seen so many dogs returned/surrendered because the people tried to force a bad fit of new dogs.

  16. Llellayena*

    House hunting thread! Commiserate over your adventures in what I have recently seen described as a life size game of Hungry, Hungry Hippo!

    I just lost out on a house that I thought I had a great shot at. Was able to offer over asking, met the owner and gushed over his strawberry patch, offered that he could come back to pick the strawberries. But no…someone else had a stronger offer. There’s one in my ideal location coming on market in 3 weeks…but that’s 3 weeks away! Gah!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      We’re thinking of moving (kids up and out, house has low ceilings that only a major rebuild would fix) and I am stressed at the prospect of trying to find a new small house that a dozen other people don’t grab with sky-high offers.

    2. Ashloo*

      We bought in 2020 and I thought it was bad then. It’s far worse now! I honestly hate our house so my only advice would be to not settle or jump on just anything because of low inventory. Wishing you the very best luck!

      1. Sloanicota*

        I think this all the time as I listen to my friends agonize. This market is so, so tough here – people are making offers sight unseen, waiving contingencies, etc etc – that it is just begging people to get swept up and make decisions they’re going to regret. But being stuck having overpaid for a house you don’t really want (bad commute, wrong layout for your family, crappy neighborhood) would be so, so stressful – and that’s before you even get into the unthinkably expensive repairs that some of these places are probably hiding! It sucks to miss out but it’s not worse than ending up with the wrong thing.

    3. BalanceofThemis*

      I recently lost out on two houses that I thought I had a shot at. I put in very strong offers, well over asking, and even offered cash over appraisal on one, but still got beat.

      Good luck from a fellow hippo.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I keep hearing of friends losing out to all-cash offers in our market, which is really tough; I assume that means either flippers or corporations are involved. I don’t see how regular people could ever offer an all cash. Then I was saddened this week to get an email from a popular home buying website (the one I bought my house with) indicating that they would make all-cash offers within a certain range and you could choose your closing date. I assume that would be attractive to a lot of sellers in the same way that buying a car online appeals – even if you don’t get the best deal, avoiding hassle is worth a lot. I assume they’re targeting low hanging fruit with these types of offers, and it’s just going to shut even more home buyers out of what would otherwise be great opportunities for them. Boo.

      1. BalanceofThemis*

        My brother is in real estate, and yeah, a lot of cash is coming from corporations, specifically property management companies looking for rental income. But there are some very wealthy people out there, or groups if wealthy people, putting un cash offers. Another source of cash is apparently foreign governments looking for new investments.

    5. Won't Get Fooled Again. Maybe.*

      We just sold a house in the Midwest that we flipped and, obviously, the timing couldn’t have been better. For us. A year ago, this house would have maybe sold for 185K. We accepted a cash offer of $225 but had other non-cash offers of $235K.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      We’ve toured 38 houses in the past 11 months and made 3.5 offers (one house was snapped up before the review date as we were working on our offer). A couple I’m glad we didn’t end up with but there’s one I’m still sad about. There are way fewer listings in our area right now than there were when we started and they’re all either extremely expensive fixer-uppers or nice enough that we can’t afford a competitive offer. It’s really depressing.

    7. Sundial*

      I want a house in the woods. Not a cabin retreat, just a regular house on a lot that wasn’t clear-cut before building. I’m not finding an option to search for that, only vacation cabins. Frustrating because I can’t drive around the areas I like looking for these types of houses, since what I want is isolated and hidden from the roads (and from Google satellite).

      1. Retired (but not really)*

        I would suggest you look in the east Texas area. Are you wanting acreage or smaller 1-2 acre spots? My daughter and I each have that type of spot. I have a two bedroom cabin plus a “garden shed” (sewing room) on mine and she has a single wide mobile home on hers.

        1. Sundial*

          I appreciate the input, but I’m a childfree woman, and there’s no way in Hades I’d risk getting legally trapped into parenthood by living in Texas. New England is more my type of place.

    8. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Depending on where you are, you might be able to put in a bid that has an escalation clause (like you’re willing to pay $5000 over the current highest bid). Only do this if you can really afford that, though.

      1. Llellayena*

        Tried that on one, but still got beat out by a higher offer. Unfortunately, what I need in a space and what I can afford in this market are too close to leave me much wiggle room.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        My impression is that this is basically standard practice, at least in my area right now. It doesn’t really help when everyone is doing it and houses are regularly going for 20-30% over list price

    9. Filosofickle*

      My head shaker: Listed on Friday, I went at the start of the first open on Saturday. The agent said there was already an offer on the table and pushed into making our own that afternoon, a hoop we jumped through. Said my offer was great and they’d share both with the sellers that night and give us the thumbs up/down, so we didn’t put in an expiration time on the offer. I had a good shot! Only two offers! But then (we believe) they “shopped” my offer, extending the decision to the next day to get a couple more offers leveraging mine. So when I didn’t get the house, I assumed the winning bid was substantially better and I kept an eye out to see what it sold for. Guess what? It sold for exactly what I offered, which was not a round number so it is definitely possible the winning buyer was given the number to match. My offer had no contingencies and even free rent back for a month. Very strong lending position. So they must have offered something else — a lower commission, maybe a cash offer or an inside relationship. No idea. I was gutted.

      Unfortunately in the past two months prices have surged badly so it feels like that was my last chance. That’s probably not true but I was already barely able to squeak in and another 10% bump in pricing plus higher interest rates means I’m having to seriously reset and reconsider. :(

    10. Golden*

      We were stuck between buying and staying in our (beloved) apartment another year, so had been house hunting until our landlord offered us a great rate to stay. Bless him!

      Until the lease is signed we’ve still been looking just in case, and found an awesome one last week during an open house. We didn’t make an offer, and I think it’s status on Zillow is pending now. There was a group of about 8 very obnoxious adults at the open house, and I hope it wasn’t them that won the bid lol, but I’m hoping whoever gets to live there will enjoy it. Anybody got any predictions of what the market will look like about this time next year?

    11. Cedrus Libani*

      This hippo is getting a bit hangry, not gonna lie. We’ve been looking for about a year. Part of the problem is me. I can’t drive, so I really want to be within a ~15 minute walk of transit. He’s a musician, so he really wants an enormous living room that can hold normal living room stuff and also his music stuff, preferably without shared walls so he can make noise at all hours. We’re both ferociously risk-averse, so ideally we’d be able to pay the mortgage on one person’s income if necessary. This is basically a unicorn.

      It’s just barely possible if we’re willing to take on a fixer-upper – not the kind where you take out old carpet or whatever, the ones where you practically have to rebuild the sucker. But that sounds like a part-time job, and frankly I don’t want it. It’s also just barely possible if we’re willing to take on a multi-unit property and rent out the space we’re not using. But that also sounds like a part-time job, and I want that one even less. The other option is to spend more money, but that has its own complications.

    12. Camelid coordinator*

      I hope you don’t mind my jumping in from the other side! We had an open house for our townhouse yesterday, and I hope we get some good offers. It’s been a ton of effort to get this far, and I am not enjoying all of the uncertainty. One good thing is that I am super-busy today, so I won’t have a lot of time to stress about whether anyone will buy (and love) our house.

  17. Alice*

    Do you think my expectations are reasonable?
    I was notified of a COVID exposure by contact tracers last week. Because of the notification details, I know who the person was. That person hasn’t told me anything themselves. I am not planning to talk to them about it, but internally I am upset that this person didn’t tell me themself, faster.
    Based on the situation at our school (what counts as exposure, free test availability and turnaround time), I know that this person either got a positive test result no later than Saturday, or started having symptoms no later than Friday (and could have gotten a free test that day, with results the next day).
    This person emailed me on Sunday but didn’t mention having COVID and potentially having been contagious when we saw each other. At some point (I don’t know when) they told the contact tracers that we had been in contact, and I got an official notification on Tuesday.
    I’m upset because I was taking care of my nieces (who are too young to be vaccinated) on Sunday — that is, after the person knew or should/could have known they were positive, and before I was informed. If I had known I had been exposed, I could have talked with my brother about whether he could make different plans; he and SIL are super careful. Luckily we were mostly outside. Also luckily, I remain negative.
    I don’t know if the delay in telling me was actually the person’s fault — maybe they told the contact tracing team my info very soon after learning they were positive, and the delay happened at the contact tracing team.
    Is it unreasonable to expect that an acquaintance who knows your contact info should tell you asap if they find out that they may have exposed you to COVID? I know stigma is a thing but I would be so upset if I had brought it to my nieces, especially since the older one is SO CLOSE to vaccination.
    One more piece of info: the person didn’t know that I was baby-sitting young kids.

    1. Cocafonix*

      It’s reasonable to expect a heads up, and it would have been the right thing for your acquaintance to do. But they probably thought they did via contact tracers, so I’d cut them some slack. Because they did inform you, just not in the timeframe that met the bar for you. Some people get a visceral negative reaction when they tell people, so that’s the benefit of doing your duty through contact tracing. In my area, contact tracing has gone by the wayside, so I would be annoyed if covid positive acquaintances fail to tell me that I’d been exposed. This because I would never otherwise know to take precautions unless I become sick. If they exposed me knowingly, that friendship/acquaintanceship would abruptly end.

      1. Alice*

        I definitely have no suggestion that this person exposed me knowingly! But the whole saga is making me think that, if exposures are still happening and not being acted on in a reasonable time frame – at a college that says it is putting a ton of resources into it’s response, and certainly the testing is free and convenient and fast – then how are we ever going to turn the corner? Then I imagine if I had to schedule testing at a pharmacy instead of my school… And some places don’t have PCR testing available at all :(

        1. pancakes*

          Of course exposures are still happening. Of course a general announcement that the college “is putting a ton of resources” into testing, etc., isn’t a guarantee that you will not be exposed to the virus. I can certainly understand being upset, but try to keep a sense of perspective about what is and isn’t realistic to believe.

          1. Alice*

            Of course I don’t think that resources prevent exposures. I think that if a well-resourced school is struggling with the caseload such that a positive test result on Saturday doesn’t generate a contact notification until Wednesday, there is a problem.

            1. Alice*

              Whoops, I lost track, it was test results Sat, contact notification on Tuesday (not Wednesday).

              1. pancakes*

                There is a problem of this nature pretty much everywhere! I don’t know how anyone could look at the way we’ve collectively handled the pandemic and think that public health resources in the US are reliably top-notch, or that contact tracing is generally super diligent and error-free.

    2. Barb*

      Are you vaccinated and if yes does the infected person know it?
      My understanding is that vaccinated people still don’t have to quarantine so they might have thought it wasn’t urgent to tell you before the contact tracers did.

      Everything about this virus has become so fraught
      Maybe they already had a lot of unpleasant conversations with other contacts and were afraid of more, again leaving it to the contact tracers

      1. Alice*

        Current CDC guidance is that if you are vaxxed and boosted (as I am, and the person didn’t know for sure but could guess because of our school’s mandate), then you don’t need to *quarantine* because of an exposure, but you *are* supposed to wear masks around other people for 10 days and get tested after 5 days. So, you are right that quarantine isn’t required but there are still some actions that the contacts are supposed to take.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I would be upset but it’s not necessarily reasonable. I’m still angry with someone who exposed my family in January (they’d gotten tested but didn’t have results yet, and did wear a mask around us… but didn’t tell us they were waiting on results until after they arrived). I wish I could get over it but this is a big deal, especially with kids involved and even if they felt they had done their best.

      1. Alice*

        TBH I think your friend was worse than my friend. At least, I don’t know when my friend got tested but I have no reason to think they suspected they were sick at the time of our meetup.

    4. Granger Chase*

      It’s okay to be upset, and it’s also okay if you feel you need to take some time away from the friendship for a bit to process on your feelings about the situation. If you expose someone you know to Covid, they deserve to hear that from you personally instead of waiting on contact tracers to do it for you. I believe they should’ve let you know as soon as they had suspicions they might be positive (whether from having symptoms on themselves to being in close contact with someone else who was positive).

      Although I’ll admit this is coming from someone who has become a lot less charitable about forgiving people who have exposed me to Covid and not said anything directly to me about it until several days after they found out they had it. After two years of this pandemic, I was hoping people would be more proactive in letting others know they might be infected so they could take extra precautions and get tested.

      1. Alice*

        That’s exactly my thinking! If we can’t depend on contact tracing to function effectively (which means quickly) then I think people have a responsibility to their friends to do what they can as individuals. I mean, ok, a normal person doesn’t have a way to track down the stranger sitting next to you on the bus yesterday, so you have to rely on contact tracers or apps for that, but if you have their contact info, use it!

    5. Anonosaurus*

      I don’t think you are being unreasonable, but I can also understand your friend being reluctant to mention it. I’ve been in situations where I saw someone, then the next day felt like I had symptoms and went for a PCR test – and I’ve never been sure whether I should tell my contact that I’ve gotten a PCR until I know the result, since it’s not confirmed. And in all such situations, the test has been negative. I know it’s not the same situation, I’m just saying that there can be some difficult judgements to make. And I guess also we have contact tracing for a reason and the person thought it better to leave them to deal with it. I’ve been told by friends directly they’ve tested positive (and so I needed to test) and while it’s been ok, I can also see it being a very difficult conversation in some situations, especially when you have different approaches to mitigation etc.

      1. Alice*

        It’s definitely helping me to reframe things as “my friend thought the contact tracing team had it covered” instead of “my ‘friend’ DNGAF about my nieces.”

    6. RagingADHD*

      I think you are making a lot of assumptions about what this person should/could have known, and really blurring the lines between what you know or don’t know, and who is responsible for managing your personal risks and worries.

      It’s pollen season, and a lot of people are doing daily calculus about whether this itchy nose/throat or that sneeze is an allergy or a germ. If everyone were testing daily for the least sniff, we’d be back in weeklong waits and test shortages.

      You cannot know exactly when they showed symptoms, when those symptoms were clearly not allergies, and exactly how long it took them to get their results and pass the info along. You think you know how it must be, but you can’t.

      OTOH, you knew you were going to be caregiving littles, and your friend didn’t.

      If the friend followed protocol about contact tracing (which apparently they did,) further expectations are excessive.

      The contact tracers exist precisely so that people don’t have to personally call every single person they may have been within 6 feet of.

      We are in a state of community transmission, and have been for a long time now. Most cases are totally asymptomatic, and therefore most people who spread it never knew they had it in the first place.

      You should assume that everyone you come in contact with is potentially positive, all the time. That includes yourself. If you feel that you need to take extra precautions beyond your vaccinations in order to protect a vulnerable person, then you should take those precautions regardless of whether you’ve been notified.

      When / if you catch it, you probably won’t even get a notification, because you are most likely to catch it from someone who never knew themselves.

      Since you aren’t sick and nobody you potentially exposed got sick either, it sounds like the friend responded appropriately to the risk.

      1. Alice*

        Well, I do know what “counts” as the contagious period, for the purpose of contact tracing at my school, and so I know the timing of either their test sample collection or the onset of symptoms.
        But you are right that there are a lot of unknowns, and that everyone and every indoor space presents a risk. And you are right that nothing bad happened as a result. Well, nothing bad happened to me/my nieces, and I haven’t heard that anything bad happened with my friend’s case, so fingers crossed.

    7. SmoothViolet*

      I’ve had covid, and I’m a very conscientious person. I have followed all the rules the whole way through the pandemic.

      But for context, when I actually got covid, it took me several days to realise I should notify people. I know that sounds crazy. But my thoughts were completely maxed out with the following:

      a) realising we had to isolate
      b) securing food for isolation
      c) looking after very sick children
      d) having brain fog combined with a panic response
      e) feeling sick enough myself to be sleeping most of the day and on constant paracetamol
      f) acquiring more medicine and electrolytes

      It was a few days more before I remembered to check if contact tracers had done their job and notified others.

      I hope that helps give you context. (We’re all fine now.)

    8. Kay*

      If I’m reading this correctly, your friend either knew they had covid or had symptoms enough that would make them test for covid – before they met with you. In my opinion, if you are concerned enough to get a test, you should be concerned enough not to be socializing (and obviously not if they had already tested positive!).

      My personal protocol has been to overly disclose, and at least give the other person the information they need to make a decision. If someone decided I didn’t deserve that same respect, I would be questioning our friendship.

      1. Lasslisa*

        Even if that was the test timeline, it could have been routine testing for another purpose, such as for travel or school, and the person may not have felt sick in any way.

        1. Alice*

          Lasslisa is right, it may well have been a regular scheduled surveillance test (we do that weekly at our school, we are lucky).

    9. Lasslisa*

      I know I have been surprised how slow the contract tracing at my work has been. At one point they waited three days for a PCR result before initiating tracing, even though the person in question was symptomatic, known exposed, and had even tested positive on a rapid test. I would never have expected that delay, if it were me.

  18. Emily Elizabeth*

    Any tips on both logistically and ethically hiring a regular cleaning service? I feel a lot of weird feelings of guilt wrapped up in it but my partner and I have decided outsourcing cleaning would make so many parts of life better. We are younger and live in an apartment so I’ve never hired any kind of worker for the house before. Where should I start looking and what things should I keep in mind?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I have heard it is more ethical to hire a cleaner you pay directly, versus a cleaning service that presumably pays their workers very little (minimum wage). You can also then ensure you have a kind relationship with this person and treat them well. I am not positive how people find individuals – word of mouth? Finally I would assume that paying properly and not under the table is more ethical although I know sometimes the individual requests being paid under the table, which is thorny.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, someone who owns their own service and does all the cleaning, or is part of the small crew they manage, is likely to give those people a better wage. The best ones, like many services, may be very busy, so after you ask around for recommendations, be prepared to wait quite a while for an opening for the best service or to pay more than other quotes. (Service providers who have more job requests than they can fill may charge more than the “market rate”.)
        The biggest drawback to that is that they may not be available if they go on vacation or become ill, since there may be no one to fill in for them, like there is when a company has multiple crews. And to assuage your feelings of inequity, consider how you’ll handle these types of hiccups: we told our cleaner to skip us and paid her for her scheduled visits during the early months of COVID, and also when she needed back surgery. (She does all the cleaning herself, but also uses a business name, so may have an LLC or S-corp.) You’re not an employer like you would be with an au pair, you’re one customer paying for a service just like a plumber or electrician, so IMO none of the responsibility for taxes is on you (unless they make a snide joke about not being a sucker who pays taxes or something like that), but we decided we didn’t want her small business to go under, and we do like her.

        1. Jay*

          Our cleaner sets her own schedule and uses her own supplies, so she’s an independent contractor and we do not have to deal with payroll taxes.

    2. Jay*

      We used a service that was locally owned and provided benefits to their staff. As a result, I paid close to twice what some of my friends were paying. The company didn’t survive the pandemic but the woman who was our usual cleaner is now in business for herself and we’re paying her directly. I’m still paying the same amount, which is OK with me. I don’t have an issue with ethics in paying someone to clean my house in general; I do worry about patronizing a company that exploits its employees and prefer to deal directly with someone.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      No guilt. You are paying someone to do honest work. You do it ethically by paying a fair wage.

      I agree about hiring someone directly. I would suggest asking how your cleaning person will keep her little girl, whom she brings with her because otherwise, who will watch her, from getting to the pens on your desk and then coloring all over your white sofa. :)

    4. UKDancer*

      Cleaning is wonderful and improves my quality of life significantly. I use a service because it works better but I checked to ensure they treat their cleaners fairly and pay them the London living wage. I wouldn’t pay someone under the counter because I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.

      When they come I treat my cleaner with respect, give her a cup of tea, thank her for her work and give her a positive review for her work because that gets her a bonus from the cleaning service. If I want something done differently or in a particular way I am clear about what I need and why. Also I move stuff out of the way and tidy up in advance so she can clean and not have to spend her time tidying up my stuff.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I don’t think it’s unethical to hire someone to do work that you are unable or unwilling to do yourself. That’s how labor is exchanged for money in our society. I think it’s unethical to exploit people because of unequal bargaining power or to be rude to them because of some perceived status difference between you.

      So long as you provide a fair wage and decent working conditions, and treat the person with normal human dignity, then I think it’s better for both parties if you trade your money for their professional expertise.

      In terms of logistics, I’d use word of mouth and local social media apps to get a personal recommendation. If that doesn’t work, I’d use a placement agency to hire a person directly (you and probably they pay a one month fee to the service, but they are your direct employee).

      The reason to use a cleaning service is if you want to be completely arms-length from the staff. Theoretically, the service provides a cleaner at the agreed time without you having to worry about one particular person being sick or not showing up, etc., if someone disappoints you can ask for a different cleaner, the service pays their taxes and sometimes provides transportation and supplies. The downside is that the workers are probably being seriously exploited and you’re probably being overcharged for what you get.

    6. Cocafonix*

      When I first moved in with my boyfriend, now husband, I told him that if he does the cooking, which he loves, I would take care of all the weekly cleaning and all the laundry and we can share day to day tidying stuff. His eyes bulged at his good fortune and I’ve paid a weekly cleaner ever since. I did it for marital harmony. We can have people over (notwithstanding plague) anytime with no notice. And I cherish our independent cleaner. Sadly I was the only one of her clients who continued to pay her during lockdown. Not sure where guilt comes in when you’re part of providing meaningful and fair employment for someone.

    7. Autumn*

      We have a small family business (the owner is often part of the cleaning team) come every other week. Having to tidy up ahead of their visits keeps the house in a pretty good, livable state – they just do literal cleaning. It really is so helpful, and removes some of the stress of living with someone whose definition of clean might not exactly match your own. We both work demanding jobs and have pretty intense, time-consuming hobbies, and they help make all that possible. People need to work and we are lucky enough to be able to employ them. Like Cosmic Avenger we paid them through the early days of the pandemic even though they didn’t come, because we could, we like them and we want the business to survive. The work is not shameful for them to do or for you to decide you need done. It’s a business relationship, and a lot of the usual AAM advice applies. Be respectful, understand the scope of what you expect of each other, don’t burden them with your private emotions, and you’ll be fine! I will say, there is always the chance that they will break something, it’s just a risk and something you will need to be gracious about if it happens (unless there’s a pattern). Anything truly irreplaceable should be someplace really safe though.

    8. Squirrel Nutkin*

      My mom gave our housekeeper regular raises and a yearly bonus of an extra two weeks’ pay, and when our housekeeper fell and got injured on our property, my mom paid for all her medical bills and her regular salary until she was able to work again. (Mom probably should have paid her a lot more than that for the injury, as she wasn’t able to work for her other clients either for a while and kindly didn’t sue us.) Since my mom knew some of the other folks our housekeeper worked for, my mom would call them up whenever she was going to give our housekeeper a raise and encourage them to do the same.

      This is not everyone’s MO, and I can see how it could go wrong in some cases, but my mom loved to make friends, and she and our housekeeper became extremely friendly over the decades, having lunch together and chatting on our housekeeper’s workday.

    9. Jane*

      If you can find someone who owns their own business, I don’t think it’s unethical at all.

      My aunt started her own cleaning business when she wanted to have a more flexible schedule and she sets her own prices, schedule, and decides which clients she wants to take on. She also decides what she will and won’t do – for example, some cleaners will do the dishes and laundry while they’re there but others won’t. Some will tidy before cleaning while others prefer you to pick up everything as much as possible before they get there. You can discuss when you set it up. Honestly, the cleaning business my aunt has always sounded like a great job to me.

      She started this back in the 90s with newspaper ads and I think personal ads might still be a good way of finding the old school smaller cleaning businesses. Also, word-of-mouth if you ask around or Yelp – but know that smaller businesses might not have the overhead to have their own website.

      The pricing will be according to # of rooms and how far away you are, and how often they come (they charge more if they only come once a month, for example, because there’s usually more to clean the longer you go). Her clients usually give her a tip / gift of cookies, etc around the holidays but other than that I don’t believe they tip every time, because, again, she sets the prices. In the US, I don’t think it’s customary to sit and have a drink together – usually they want to finish as quickly as possible and move on to the next house.

    10. Emily Elizabeth*

      Thank you all so much for the insights so far! Should have clarified more – the guilt is more for deciding to finally outsource the cleaning, the good old combo of gendered division of labor/you should be able to do it all/bootstraps etc. This might be a basic/silly question but another thought I have – while the cleaner is working should you try to leave the house or just stay and move around so they can get everywhere?

      1. Observer*

        Stay in the house. There is no reason to leave. Just make it clear that you can leave the room they are working in so they can work freely.

      2. UKDancer*

        I stay in the flat. What I do is work in the lounge while she’s doing the rest of the flat then move into the bedroom while she does the lounge. This seems to work quite well. I wouldn’t leave the flat because I am needing to work while she’s there but I don’t want to get in the way or for her to feel like I’m watching her. This seems like the best solution.

      3. Accountant*

        We usually stay in the house, although partially that’s because they come on a workday and we’re fully remote. We just stay in one room downstairs until they finish upstairs and then move.

        In general, just remember it’s a professional relationship and you can ask for what you want and need. If they can’t do that, then you negotiate like any other business relationship. Don’t offer to leave the house if you would prefer not to, or offer to stay if you would prefer to leave. Speak up if you need them to do something specific, have questions, or are unhappy with something.
        Contain or temporarily relocate pets (our dogs go to daycare on cleaning day) even if they’re generally well behaved. If you are okay with the cleaners using your bathroom or grabbing water out of the fridge, tell them so – most cleaners IME won’t use any client stuff by default and might not ask.

  19. RMNPgirl*

    Has anyone used Lowe’s or Home Depot for carpet replacement? I need to get my carpets replaced and don’t have a lot of options in town. One of the few flooring places gave my a quote that I felt was quite high, so I want to see what the Lowe’s near me would be. From what I understand they subcontract it, so just curious if people have done this and what your experience has been?

    1. Nicole76*

      Keep in mind, this was 17 years ago, but we used Home Depot and it wasn’t great. Three men showed up initially but quickly left one guy by himself to do the entire living room, up the stairs, and the loft. It took him over 8 hours and the stairs don’t look great. Not only that, but after he left we realized he never cut holes for the floor vents in the living room so my husband did that himself. I wouldn’t hire them again, but considering they sub-contract, your experience could be much better than ours.

    2. fposte*

      Agreed that it will almost certainly be subcontracted. Reports I’ve heard acknowledge two things: that in most areas, really skilled tradespeople won’t need to work for them and lose a cut of profits, but that if something goes wrong, Home Depot will have more leverage with your fitter than you will.

      I’d certainly get a quote, and the simpler the job and more supervision I could give, the more I’d consider them a possibility.

    3. Farmer’s Wife*

      My parents have used Home Depot 3 times for- a very large complicated basement job, hallway and 3 bedrooms, and the master bedroom. They were very happy with the last two jobs.

      The first job was installed horribly, but HD sent a new crew to reinstall new carpeting for no extra charge, so my parents were very pleased with how it was handled and the outcome (A bonus was that my mom didn’t end up liking the original carpet, so she got to choose new carpet for the reinstall!)

    4. The Other Dawn*

      We used Home Depot twice for carpeting and were happy both times. It was a large bedroom with weird angles (same room, both times). There were two guys both times, and they worked quickly and did a great job.

    5. Alyn*

      We used Home Depot 7 or 8 years ago to redo the carpeting in our townhouse before we put it on the market – wall to wall carpeting in the two bedrooms upstairs and the connecting hallway. We had no issues and the installation went fine; it may have been a factor though that all of the rooms were completely empty as we’d already moved to our new house at that point.

    6. acmx*

      I’ve used Lowe’s. I replaced the carpet with LVP. Yes, they subcontract out. My experience was good. But like Alyn, my house was empty at the time so it was quick and easy for them.

      The local place gave me a higher quote and I didn’t like the options/pricing as much as the stuff I got through Lowe’s. I’ve used the local place for a repair (due to bad tenants). I tried to find out who Lowe’s used for the install (I have since forgotten the company) to have them do the repair but Lowe’s was not helpful in that regard. They really seemed confused by my inquiry lol

    7. Girasol*

      We had poor luck with Lowes on a roof. The subcontractors didn’t understand what the job was and didn’t bring the right equipment. They did some minor damage to the house though they did repair it. Then shingles blew off in the first winter storm. We’d gone through Lowes because we didn’t know how to find a good contractor and thought that might be a good way to avoid getting a bad one. But it cost extra because Lowes did the arrangements and we got a poor contractor besides. Not sure that contracting through these big companies is really an advantage.

    8. Doctor is In*

      Our Lowes did a very mediocre job. A local independent store does much better work.

    9. the cat's ass*

      Ive used HD twice and a local place (that i found out HD subcontracted to) HD was great one, terrible the second time (showed up 2 hours late when I’d taken the day off; brought the wrong thickness of rug pads and had to go back and get the right ones so they were even later, complained about the stairs-lots of stairs, even tho it was all on the work order, and didn’t leave until after 8 pm). Local company was phenomenal.

    10. Bluebell*

      We had Lowe’s do flooring a few years ago, and I wasn’t that impressed by the job. I’d try for an independent store next time.

    11. The OG Sleepless*

      I’ve used Home Depot for carpet more than once. (Local subcontractor.) They did a good job and were easy to work with. I would rather work directly with a small local company, but I didn’t have any contacts/recommendations, and I’ve dealt with enough fly-by-night contractors that I didn’t want to take chances.

  20. Macadamia*

    I’m trying (and failing!) to remodel a new-to-me home I bought prior to moving into it. It’s a little off the beaten track so contractors and architects are hard to come by, and I’ve been let down by the only contractors who thought they had the space to take on the job. Anyone else within radius is booked up for the rest of the year, and contractors from farther afield won’t travel. It’s definitely a tradesperson’s market right now (outside the US). My question is – although it’s not advised to move into a remodel prior to the work being done if it can be avoided, is it really that bad to be living there while it’s done? Right now I’m still paying for a rental whilst the other home sits idle and empty. I don’t relish the thought of living in a building site (after many years living in poorly maintained and semi-gross rentals!) but there really doesn’t seem to be an end in sight here. The other down side is I’m a pack rat so once my stuff is in there it’ll be pretty packed. The home is liveable as-is, and the remodel would include replacing most of the roof and a new heating system which were noted as being urgent when I did the pre-sale inspection, with other non-essential work planned including an additional extension, possible reconfiguration of the internal walls, replacing all the flooring (in ok condition I just don’t care for it) and new kitchen cabinets/counters. Alternatively if you have any tips on how to woo a contractor I’m all ears for that – it’s a new area I’m moving to so I have zero connections, contacts or leverage!

    1. Pippa K*

      It’s not usually a problem to live in a house while the roof is being replaced, I think. We just got a new roof and it was just two days of really loud banging and thumping, but no intrusion into our living space or loss of utilities or anything like that. (Roof replacement is maybe the most boring thing to spend a large amount of money on, but when it’s necessary it’s really necessary!)

      1. fposte*

        The one tip I’d offer is to take breakables off of unrimmed shelves, especially if they’re on the top floor and you don’t have much of an attic.

        1. Wishing You Well*

          Yes, look for shake-able breakables! A friend had a ceiling glass light fixture crash after being banged loose by the shingling guys on the roof!
          Check on the roofing job while they’re working. Years ago, we were appalled to find the roofers had thrown the old shingles against the house, marking up our new exterior paint job. They also threw shingle scraps and other debris into our attic. They snagged many of our window screens and smashed a large expensive garden ornament with their ladders. Only one guy spoke English – barely, so that was a big problem. They left food debris and a pile of garbage knee-high on the sidewalk that included a used saw blade for a week after the job was done! The company wouldn’t answer our calls about these problems.
          Thank God for Yelp, etc. now! Check reviews!

          1. Pippa K*

            Yikes! We were lucky to have a really good crew that draped tarps over everything, cleaned up debris, and went over the whole place with the big magnet tool three times after cleanup to make sure no nails or screws had been dropped. The business owner was on site for the whole job, which I think makes a big difference.

    2. Chestnut Mare*

      That’s a pretty major renovation to live through, especially if you’ll have a lot of stuff to have to move around. We are currently undergoing a kitchen renovation and it’s such a pain…We are pretty chill people for the most part, and our tempers are wearing thin, even with a remodel that is, knock on wood, on schedule and without major issues. Since you describe yourself as a pack rat, I’d expect that having to navigate a congested space will turn off contractors and tradespeople.

    3. Jessi*

      Could you hire a caravan or similar to sit on the property so you have a space that’s not a construction site? Probably cheaper than renting a whole flat/property while you do the project

    4. The teapots are on fire*

      I live with a pack rat and the amount of work to move all the stuff from upstairs to downstairs and then back up again for a carpet installation and paint job was shocking. SO MUCH STUFF. Can you get a temporary storage shed for your stuff? I agree that the roof and probably the heating system work can be done while you live there (especially if it’s just a boiler or blower but not all new ducts or pipes throughout the house), but the rest sounds very difficult while you live there with your possessions.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Can you select a few key items that you need in order to occupy the place, and put the rest into storage? As if you were moving into a six-month remote job placement or something. Then when the work actually starts, you can stay at an airbnb for the worst of the work if you need to, and you won’t have too much stuff for the workers to deal with during the construction.

    6. Lifelong student*

      We have lived in our house a very long time and had two roof replacements. Just be aware that anything in the attic or rooms directly under the roof will be covered in dirt when it is done- and clean up is not done by the roofers!

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Heating system. What type of heat do you have?
      Here I have an oil fueled furnace. My oil company was the one who replaced the furnace.. This only involved going into the area where the furnace was, nothing else was disrupted.
      If you are changing heat systems then that is a different story.

      Wooing a contractor. Be kind and pay promptly. Be fair. If something additional comes up quickly offer to pay the extra for them to take care of it. Keep thinking about things from the contractor’s perspective.
      Most contractors have been stiffed by a few customers. Keep your actions transparent.
      And most contractors have had customers who absolutely insisted on having something made that the contractor knew would not work out. Be sure to listen when a contractor tells you they are concerned about a particular task.
      Some prep work is done off site and then there is procuring materials. These are all billable hours that you do not see. It’s entirely possible that you could see someone working for 3 hours then receive a bill for 5 hours. It’s okay to politely ask, but going ballistic is not cool.
      If you hire a general contractor and they tell you that they are not good at doing X, don’t push them into doing X. It’s new levels of misery for everyone. My friend helps me with my house. I had tiling work. He said “nope, nope, nope”. But he did know someone who could do it and was good at it. I got this other person to do the tiling more me. Here’s a secret- these people all know each other. They know who is good and who is a rip off. They can steer you toward good people. Both the contractor and the specialist rely on each other to do good work so they can keep referring each other. It’s a system that works because each of them ends up with good customers who pay promptly. In my tiling story, all three of us ended up with big smiles. The tiles look great and compliment my friend’s own work.

      My father was big on using the same businesses over and over. There are numerous benefits to that. If this idea appeals to you, that you would like an on-going business relationship then be sure to tell the contractor who does do the first job for you. “I have some work now and in the future I will have more work. I am looking for someone who I can keep calling as projects come up. I’d like to keep doing business with the same people.” This also gives them incentive in how they handle transactions with you.

    8. Tea and Cake*

      Since you’d be new to the area, ask your realtor for referrals – they should have some contacts they’ll share with you.

    9. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      I like the idea of giving up the rental, getting most of your packrat possessions into storage, and moving in to the place with just the basics until the renovations are done. You can visit your things in storage and they should be safe from damage. Then you can welcome them to your new finished home!
      You say your home is liveable as-is, maybe you could imagine it as a holiday home with just the bare essentials in the meantime. And as someone has mentioned, you could move out short term if renovations required it.
      I suspect of you move all of your stuff in before the renovations, that will add a lot of inconvenience for you and the tradespeople and will create delays. Good luck!

    10. Tex*

      Even if you got an architect out today for a consult, it’s going to take a year to do everything you want to do. Between plans, permits, shipping delays for materials, etc. It might be cheaper to move in with a minimal amount of items and pay for storage.

    11. Ides of May*

      Could you move in but rent a storage unit until reno is done? A lot of what you have listed will be hard to do with stuff everywhere. If you can keep it to a minimum of easily moved items, you can shift from room to room while work is done (bed, couch, table – yes. Bookcase, shelves on wall, kitchen cabinets full – no)

      Roof should not be an issue at all, nor probably heating as long as it’s just the actual unit and not ducting or something.

  21. Elizabeth Bennett*

    Ask around for recommendations. Like others here, we had better luck with an individual rather than a service. Be prepared to pay fair wages. In our area, we pay what amounts to slightly more than $50/hr. That’s more than my hourly wage. Good cleaners are professionals that are good at what they do. We used to pay less for a service, and the cleaning was not as good. Don’t be afraid to say what you need them to do better, just like with anyone you’d manage. Participating in the economy by employing someone is a positive and contributes to the well-being of the community if you are behaving fairly towards them, so don’t feel guilty about having someone clean your house. Cleaners see all kinds of houses and it’s not just fancy rich people who need them (this is what I tell myself when I wonder what our cleaner thinks of our small, cluttered home). Also, if the guilt is at all gendered, that’s sexist nonsense you can absolve yourself of. Last, there sometimes can be an unacknowledged racial dimension in hiring cleaners (white privilege stuff, I don’t know if this is part of the guilt), and again…pay fairly, treat the work as the difficult, professional work it is (and put separate energy into learning about anti-racism that you don’t burden the cleaners with).

  22. RussianInTexas*

    Cinema Therapy! A family therapist and a filmmaker watch and talk about various characters and situations in movies. Their series on the Twilight movies had me in my stitches.
    Legal Eagle, for fun take on various legal issues and cases.
    The Take, feminist take on various TV and movie tropes.
    Cold War, about, well, Cold War.
    City Beautiful. Fun and accessible take on city planning, issues, etc.

  23. Applesauced*

    Who else is watching Severance?

    Would you sever yourself? If so, what kind of job do you have?

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      No I’d never sever unless I suffered some extreme tragedy like Mark S seems to have but even then, no. I like doing work things at home and home things at work. It helps me with balance.

      I love the show. So fabulous. The drabness is great to look at somehow.

      1. PineapplesOnPizza*

        Definitely!! It is my favorite show to watch aesthetically right now. I love the colors and the minimalism and the style.

  24. NoLongerFencer*

    38w tomorrow(!!) Getting induced at 39w due to family history of stillbirth at term.
    1. When’s the last time you can eat before an induction? 12 hrs before? Birthing class said just eat lightly but nothing of timing (and I’m an emetophobe with low pain tolerance).
    2. How early did you ask for an epidural with induction? Again, birth class left it up to me.
    3. Is it realistic I’d be able to read during matleave? Like, fiction books? Too much TV gives me headaches. What did you do over matleave? I’m focused on healing but was thinking Duolingo, knitting, reading parenting books, music.

    1. Chestnut Mare*

      Congratulations and good luck! I can’t speak to the eating question, but for me it was true that I knew when I wanted an epidural. Depending on how busy your hospital is, it might take a while for the anesthesiologist to be available so take that into consideration.

      I was able to read while breastfeeding, which was great. I also got back on my horses at about 3 weeks post c-section and was back to competing at around 8 weeks…birth and postpartum is definitely a unique experience for everyone!

    2. BookMom*

      Question 1 is for your medical professional.
      Question 2. When you’re ready, you’ll know. I was induced with #1 and the nurses told me when I was dilated enough for the epidural. By then, I was plenty ready mentally.
      Question 3. Yes, read lots! Consider audio books as well for when your hands are full. All that language exposure is good for baby too. If you’re willing to read on a Kindle or Nook, that might be easier for one handed page turning while snuggling or feeding baby.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      3: You can read; I read while nursing. If the baby falls asleep and you don’t dare move, a book in arm’s reach is really useful. Magazines are your friend here, and things built around short diverse articles, as you may need to stop at any moment. You might skim the YouTube recommendations here for short things to watch. “Short and pausable” is the vibe you’re going for here.

      Also, walking! Spring is a great time to have a baby in this sense. Get up and move with the baby in a sling. My spouse theorized that babies have a strong “Mom and dad are running from the lions so I should doze off” instinct and that is why they like the vigorous bouncy walk. Also, my younger child had to always face out so he could vigorously wave all his body parts–adjust your style to the baby you have.

      2) When the pain got harder to ignore. I will give you my experienced mom permission to ask for one right away, or as soon as you decide the pain is getting hard to breath through. (Medical details: Eventually had a C-section. Baby weight and head circumference were bigger than they had estimated from the ultrasound and I am confident I wasn’t getting her out with pushing and more time–I don’t think waiting on the epidural would have done a damn thing other than have me in painful unproductive induced labor for longer.)

      1) The hospital will probably have a nurse registering you a day or two before you are scheduled to be induced; she will tell you what to do. 12 hours with no food would be typical.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      1. Ask your doctor.
      2. Don’t remember lol
      3. After my first kid is when I started listening audiobooks – choose something fluffy or something you’ve read before because you’ll probably fall asleep or forget to listen at some point. I also read on the Kindle app on my phone during feedings because it’s much easier to juggle with the baby than a book, and you don’t even need a light on to do it. Knitting seems ambitious, don’t do anything complicated where you’ll have trouble remembering where you left off if you have to stop suddenly.

    5. HannahS*

      I was induced at 41w. I was allowed to eat until I was admitted to the L and D unit and after that only dry toast, crackers, and juice.

      I asked for an epidural quickly. After laboring at home all night with back labor, I felt like I’d had enough. And I didn’t want to have to wait because of shift change; there’s about an hour twice a day when it’s hard to get an epidural.

      Inductions are all different. For context, my hospital induces via bulb catheter, sends people home, and then admits the following day for the pitocin drip, unless constant monitoring is required.

      All of the things you suggest are possible for mat leave, but not all right away. As you heal and baby sets into a routine you’ll likely have some more time and bandwidth.

    6. Janet Pinkerton*

      I ate intermittently during my induction! I was starting from 0 cm dilated, 0% effaced, and it took a total of around 60 hours from start to finish. Baby is five weeks old today.

      I had my last big meal around 4 pm (ordered pizza to the hospital) and then started cervidil maybe two hours later. Once they took that out I ate and slept. The next morning I started cytotec. Every time I was at the end of a four-hour dose I could eat again. I was basically eating a PBJ every four hours. Plus just a ton of jello and juice (thank you clear liquids). I don’t recall exactly when I stopped eating—probably when they started me on pitocin or when they put the cook catheter in, about 16 hours before I delievered?

      The only time I felt nauseous the whole time was from the cervidil. (I had about every bad side effect listed for cervidil, my experience was not typical.) I’m not an emetophobe but I hate vomiting more than the typical person does. (Note that if you lose a lot of blood in delivery that can trigger fainting and vomiting, so if offered, be sure to get a transfusion before trying to walk around.)

      I asked for an epidural around 8 pm the night before delivery. I could have asked earlier, and if I ever give birth again, I’ll ask for it the minute I’m eligible. They don’t want to give you an epidural before you’re six cm dilated, I believe.

      I’ve done a ton of reading on parental leave, but almost none of it has been physical books. It’s all about the ebook—for me it’s on my phone. The key is to be able to hold it and advance the pages with one hand. Similarly, duolingo is a good option (I do that daily too). I can only knit when I’m not feeding or holding the baby, so I haven’t done too much of that. If you figure out a one-handed craft you can do while breastfeeding, please let me know!

      Mostly I have been reading ebooks, reading the general internet, hanging out on my social slack groups, doing crossword puzzles (I have a subscription to AVCX, they’re great), knitting when I get a chance, watching some tv, and going on walks and spending time outside when I can. (And cherishing when I get to run errands alone!) But I spend a ton of time also doing laundry, eating, and feeding the baby too. God, I have to eat so often.

      The most critical things that I’ve done to make my parental leave enjoyable are all about peace of mind with feeding the baby. I rented a hospital-grade pump for a month because it was too much trouble to figure out the insurance pump (which I ended up hating anyway) while two days postpartum. That helped me ensure my milk supply, then I stopped pumping at about two weeks because I hate it. I have a hand pump for if I’m going to miss a feeding, which I haven’t yet. And my wife does an overnight feed with formula. Getting that extra (“extra”) sleep is amazing—a few weeks ago I got a seven-hour stretch, though it’s usually just 3-4 hour stretches.

      Oh and in case you haven’t learned about wake windows yet, Google them, they’re so helpful and I didn’t learn about them until after baby was born.

    7. PostalMixup*

      I had my elective induction. At 39 weeks (he had been breach, had a successful version, wasn’t taking any chances). I was not given any restriction from eating prior to the induction. If your OB thinks you’re at high risk for emergency C-section, that might be a different situation, but I think the only risk would be global anesthesia.

      I got the epidural just before they broke my water, but it is totally up to you. At that point my pain was still manageable, but once your water breaks, all bets are off on timing and pain intensity.

      Good luck!

      1. Accountant*

        Even in an emergency c-section, general anesthesia is extremely rare. Standard of care is regional anesthesia via epidural or spinal block.

    8. Pop*

      I read sooo much during my maternity leave. I (was/am) breastfeeding which takes up an extraordinary amount of time in the early days/weeks. It was also great to have something to do when baby fell asleep on me and that helped me stay away. I have a kobo (ereader) which made it easy to click through pages with one hand and super easy to constantly check out new library books. My one caveat is I couldn’t read most nonfiction because I was honestly too tired to follow serious stuff. I also am a fairly active person and had an okay recovery so I spent a LOT of time walking. YMMV but I had a nice maternity leave with a lot of time figuring out how to be a parent, yes, but also free time for myself.

    9. Double A*

      I was induced with both my babies! At 41w, wish it had been sooner, my babies were 10+ lbs. I was able to eat whatever I wanted prior to the epidural, and then after the epidural was allowed to eat clear food (broth, jello). I didn’t throw up or even feel nauseous with either one. I know some hospitals don’t let you eat, but this is not best practice and a lot are moving away from it. My hospital actually brought me meals.

      For both, I got the epidural once the contractions hurt a lot. Basically, they were fine until they weren’t. I’m glad I didn’t get it immediately but I’m glad I got it once I needed it. With my first I had over 24 hours between the epi and delivery, with my second it was more like…6? Hard to remember!

      I actually read a ton on mat leave, but the trick was using a kindle, the one with the back light. The fact that it’s one handed is crucial, and that you can read in the dark is awesome. I didn’t read a physical book until the baby was into his own room and I could use a bedside light again.

    10. Ayla*

      I ate up until I was started on Cervidil, then had clear liquids (Jello, juice, Popsicles and broth) until delivery. No epidural so I don’t know much about that, sorry. I did a lot of reading, walking, and crocheting those first few weeks. A Moby wrap helped a lot so I could comfort the baby and still have free hands.

    11. Accountant*

      I was induced at 37+5 for hypertension. Most L&Ds seem to have restrictions on eating unless there’s some issue specific to you – the entire logic of that rule is to prevent aspiration in the extraordinarily unlikely circumstance you had to get general anesthesia. I cannot stress how much that *never* happens. Bring some easy to eat snacks, sports drinks, things like that – labor is hard work and you’ll appreciate the energy. Ask your doctor/midwife about the vomiting, they may have specific suggestions *and* there are anti-emetic drugs you can take if needed.

      Timing of an epidural will depend on how labor is progressing. If you’re interested in getting one talk about it at the beginning with your doctor/midwife and birth support (partner, doula, etc), so you can communicate your goals in a clear headspace.

      Overall, try not to hesitate to speak up if something isn’t working for you, or task your birth support folks with doing that. You have a lot more choices than it sometimes seems like.

    12. California Dreamin’*

      With my first child (not induced) I tried to wait as long as I could for the epidural, but there came a moment when I was like ok, that’s it. You just know. The L&D nurse said she could see in my eyes that I was going to ask for it after that contraction and was immediately on the phone to anesthesiology. My twins were induced at 37 weeks. Nothing much happened for the first several hours of the induction and my OB said you can either go home and we can try again in a few days or we can ratchet things up. Well at that point I was ready to deliver babies that day and no way was I going home. They increased the pitocin and I believe they manually broke my water, and they went ahead and gave me the epidural right then because they knew the contractions would come on strong.
      You can read with the newborn and you’ve gotten some good advice on that. I’m going to pitch the idea of actually reading TO your new baby even though they obviously can’t understand. We started reading to our children when they were brand new infants, and they all developed into older infants/toddlers/children who loved being read to above all other activities and then were excellent independent readers.

    13. RagingADHD*

      I was in the hospital overnight prepping for an unscheduled induction, so I had a normal dinner but only a liquid breakfast tray (broth, jello, etc).

      What to do over mat leave? Oh lolololololol. Change diapers, feed, track poops and feedings, pump, and sleep whenever you can. My pastimes revolved around trying to eat, bathe and leave the house. I have no recollection of doing anything else during the first 12 weeks. I certainly didn’t have time for a hobby.

      If your leave is longer or you’re blessed with a good sleeper, I recommend light fiction. I discovered Alexander McCall Smith when my baby was several months old and I could sustain attention enough to read. His stuff was perfect for a tired & emotional mind: not stupid but also not taxing.

      Best of luck!

  25. BookMom*

    Meal kit recommendations? In order to preserve my sanity and also put family meals on the table, I’ve been ordering Hello Fresh for a few months, but my new customer discount has run out. I like to cook but hate to shop. Also the kits seem motivating for my teenage children to take their turns at preparing supper without being cajoled. (Plus for good vegetarian options as we are trying to reduce meat consumption.)

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Sun basket was my favorite and has a lot of vegetarian/different restrictions options.

    2. suggestion*

      I love Hello Fresh. I thought I’d drop it after the discount ended, but I’ve found it to be so much help in reducing day to day stress surrounding dinner, shopping, etc. I really like the variety of options Hello Fresh has and I appreciate the different levels of difficulty. It’s also teaching my husband and I about proper portions. It’s reduced our food waste, too, and it’s reduced our grocery bill since proteins are so expensive right now. And finally, I appreciate the lack of excessive packaging that Hello Fresh works with.

    3. I was told there would be llamas*

      I have been getting Blue Apron for many years. I like the variety of options and the meals aren’t basic…a lot of them are things I would never come up with myself.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I did HelloFresh for a year or so, stopped, and then occasionally will go back for a few months when they send me coupons. Honestly it’s one of the cheaper ones by serving size, so if your reason to switch is budget rather than menu it’s probably still better to keep it even without the discount.

      Right now I’m using AcmeBox, which is PNW-based and focuses on locally sourced products. It’s pricier but has a ton of vegan/veggie options and I like that the packaging/supply chain is more sustainable. See if there’s something similar in your area!

      I tried OnePotato for awhile (their theme is kid-friendly and organic) and while the flexible sizes were nice, I wasn’t very impressed with the actual kits. They tend to have inconsistent portion/ingredient sizes which makes the recipes difficult to reuse.

    5. Anono-me*

      You may want to check the gift card section at Costco/Sam’s Club if you or a friend have a membership. When we had a membership, the Costco we shopped at had gift cards for one of the meal prep services. Seeing what cards are available at what level of discount much help you decide.

    6. GoryDetails*

      Of the ones I’ve tried – Blue Apron, Sunbasket, and Hello Fresh – I like Hello Fresh the best (though Blue Apron got points for having some delightfully exotic ingredients now and then). But I found them getting a bit same-y after a while, and some of my favorite recipes (including several different styles of sheet-pan dinners) were so simple that I preferred to just make them myself and save some money.

      On the not-quite-a-kit front, I have been enjoying a line called eat2explore; they’re country-themed food-and-culture kits meant for kids. They include three different meals, with recipes, shopping lists, and sometimes actual utensils. They do NOT contain the fresh ingredients, so some shopping would be needed, but the lists are convenient for that, and the kits do contain spice mixes or slightly-less-usual ingredients (I had no idea there was a powdered coconut-milk product!). There are also fact-sheets about the various countries, small pins with each country’s flag, and a few additional goodies. I don’t have kids but I’ve enjoyed playing with the kits – Brazil, Lebanon, Kenya, South Korea, to name a few.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I tried Dinnerly a couple months ago, and it was an utterly awful experience – so bad that I don’t know how their food could be, because it had already gone bad by the time it was delivered, but I wasn’t TOO upset, because they’d already refunded me for the full box over other issues. So not them. :)

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Agree, not Dinnerly. We got it for a few weeks and nearly all the meals were too heavy or too salty.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      I got a Green Chef coupon with an order from King Arthur. I gave it to a friend who likes using meal plans. I’ll let you know how it goes.

      1. Not a cat*

        Green Chef sent me moldy food multiple times. And they DNGAF when you report it to them.

    9. The Dude Abides*

      My city used to have a business that was half dinner prep, half cooking classes. You could come in and learn to cook the various dishes on offer that month, or you could order pre-made versions that could be heated and served with minimal fuss.

      The food was really good and they had a good variety, but the owners retired about a year ago and no one took it over :-/

    10. Marion Ravenwood*

      I don’t know if it’s available outside the UK but I vastly prefer Gousto over Hello Fresh – it felt like it had more variety, was better value (ie kits with two meals whereas Hello Fresh starts at three, or did when I used it) and easier to recreate the recipes yourself because it gave you weights and measures rather than just ‘1 pack of X’.

    11. Peonies*

      We have done Sunbasket when my work has been particularly busy. It is the best I have found for needing low-sodium options. What I like best is that they have a wide-range of flavors available and lots of different meals so you aren’t repeating all the time.

    12. Amtelope*

      I’ve done Hello Fresh and Home Chef in the past. I liked them both and thought Home Chef had more variety, but Home Chef was too flaky about delivering on time for me (this was pre-pandemic, so that wasn’t the delivery issue).

      Right now we’re doing EveryPlate, which is the budget version of Hello Fresh and which we’ve been happy with. The main differences we’ve found are that EveryPlate has fewer expensive proteins (unless you add them for an upcharge), some cheaper ingredient switches, and sends you all the food in a single box for the week rather than packed into separate bags for each meal — but it’s much less expensive.

    13. Two Dog Night*

      I love Meez–the meals are great, and they deliver in an insulated bag, which they pick up (along with the ice packs) the next week. We’ve also used Sun Basket and Hello Fresh, but we got tired of disposing/recycling all that packaging. I think Meez’s quality is the best of the three, and I’d rank Sun Basket higher than Hello Fresh. YMMV.

    14. Introverted Dog Lover*

      I have used both Blue Apron and SunBasket, and liked both. If you live somewhere where there are Publix grocery stores, they have meal kits you can purchase at the store. I don’t mind cooking but hate deciding what to make/shopping.

  26. HannahS*

    Tell me about a time when your niche interests or experience helped you not be tricked by marketing!

    I was recently shopping for linen to sew with, and this upscale very cool retailer was selling some gorgeous stuff for a LOT of money. I was considering a splurge until I read that it’s innovatively made of the FINEST tow linen….so the shreds left over after all the better linen is spun. The stuff that will wear our the fastest. Hahaha not paying $120 for that, thanks.
    (Merchant and Mills, if anyone is wondering)

    1. Macaroni Penguin*

      Sometimes I come across advertisements promoting group RESPs (Registered Education Savings Plan. It’s a Canadian thing.) Hahaha!No. Since I worked as a financial social worker, I know that group RESPs are substandard. They’re restrictive and often have unnecessary rules about contributions and withdrawals. It is MUCH BETTER to set up an RESP at YOUR OWN bank. You can’t fool me group financial companies.

    2. Salymander*

      This is a great topic! Sometimes even really terrible experiences can be useful in helping to see through deceptive marketing.

      When I was a child, my father got heavily into several multilevel marketing schemes, and totally destroyed our family’s finances. He lost two houses, and we went from comfortably middle class to way below the poverty line in just a few years. Our family finances never recovered from that, and we had an entire garage full of stuff that my dad said was his great business opportunity, but was actually a lot of substandard toiletries that smelled like gasoline, cheap jewelry that caused my skin to turn green and bubble up in hives, and fruitcakes. So many freaking fruitcakes. I had to go to the meetings with my dad, too, so I spent countless hours being made to organize inventory and paperwork while listening to some slimy creep convince my dad that he needed to keep buying boxes and boxes of crap to sell to customers. Customers that existed only in my dad’s mind. So, you could say that I have Opinions about multilevel marketing.

      My ex fiance begged me to go to a “party” with him, to meet his new coworkers and buddies. He said they wanted to discuss a business opportunity, and he wanted me to go because I was “so smart” and “worthy” of being a part of this. I immediately said that I will not have anything to do with MLM. I said, “If this is Amway, tell me now because if it is I don’t want to go, and if you lie to me I will be angry in a way you have never seen before.” He said it wasn’t Amway. He promised fervently that it wasn’t. He begged me to go on his knees. I knew he was lying, but I went anyway just to see how far my ex had fallen.

      It was Amway. Of course it was Amway. They gave it some other name, but it was still the same company. They started their little sales pitch, and I interrupted and said that I wasn’t interested. They asked me how much I spent on toiletries and beauty products per year, because they said most women spend $5000+ and they could save me at least 1/4 of that if I agreed to sell product. I said I spend less than $200, and it wasn’t worth it for me to get a second job offloading their crap on innocent people just so I could save a few dollars. Even if I were spending thousands, I wouldn’t be a part of something so shady and manipulative. I told them that they had already lied in order to get me there, so why would I believe anything else they said? Ex fiance and his new Amway pals got all self righteous with me, said I was being unreasonable, and that they were trying to do me a favor. Their little presentation had worked on lots of other women, who were their favorite targets to exploit. Fortunately, my experience with MLM made me immune to their manipulation. Oh, and it also made me realize that breaking off my engagement was a really good decision.

      1. fposte*

        Wow, this is an amazing story. Was he already an ex at the time you attended the Amway “party”?

        1. Salymander*

          Thanks! :)

          Yes, I had broken up with him a number of months before that. He was still friendly with my family, and was invited to all our family gatherings and holidays. We were trying to stay friends. He got a new job shortly before I left him, and his new coworkers were all in Amway as a side job. They were also really against feminism and we’re just generally awful people. I think that breaking up with him then was one of my better decisions. He really went down a men’s rights rabbithole after that.

      2. They Don’t Make Sunday*

        Wow, what a story. I’m so sorry you went through that as a child. And glad you didn’t marry that guy!

    3. Princess Xena*

      Ooh, ooh, me! Dyes. Not so much a marketing thing, but I’ve dyed my own fabric. Let me tell you, if you want something even slightly more permanent than a fun summer tie-dye project, avoid RIT and all of its friends and look for more expensive dyes that require mordant. Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, it’s messier. Yes, it’s a particulate so you have to be slightly more careful (but N95s are so widely available these days that you can get good safety gear pretty easily). But all those steps are the difference between a dye that will fade the first time you wash it (and stain everything else) and a long-lasting vibrant color that isn’t going away any time soon.

    4. A Feast of Fools*

      I worked in sales for two decades. I can spot a troublesome selling technique from a mile off, especially F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). If a marketing message is to buy their product because other products are scary or a waste of money, or that Bad Things will happen if I don’t buy their product, then it’s an immediate No from me.

      I also collect gemstones and gemstone jewelry, especially the ones off the beaten path of “birthstones” and the Big Four (diamond, sapphire, ruby, emerald).

      So I’ve been able to tell, say, eBay sellers that they really shouldn’t be advertising their garnet ring as a ruby. I can also tell you if a stone has been heat-treated, coated with a vapor deposition, or “fissure filled” with a substance akin to glass.

      The stones that have been treated are still pretty and still (in my opinion) better than 100% man-made stones, but I get tetchy when sellers and retailers don’t disclose the information. Because a natural, untreated blue topaz — one where you can clearly see that it’s blue — is worth 10,000x more than any blue topaz that’s available in the retail marketplace. Ditto pink topaz. Those vibrant pinks and blues come courtesy of being heat-treated.

      So when acquaintances or co-workers show me their 10K gold, 2.0 carat morganite rings and gush that it *only* cost them $1000, I cry a little inside.

      1. Jora Malli*

        Similar for me. I have a degree in human communication, which included courses on rhetoric, persuasion, media studies, nonverbal communication, and marketing. I can pick up on all the advertising tricks!

      1. Rocky*

        Came here to say the same thing! I have been so happy with all the linen I’ve bought from them, for apparel and other projects.

    5. beentheredonethat*

      The place we don’t talk about works with metal alloys. I get a little crazy when they advertise stainless steel. Really, a ferrous alloy with a minimum 11% chromium. There is the good stuff and the not good stuff.

  27. Bibliovore*

    Luxury problem/issue. I have taken over my husband’s apple watch. Overwhelmed by app choices.
    Are there smart watch apps that you use all the time? Anything amusing or fun or useful?
    So far I use the breathing one daily and am amused by the one that tells me to stand up.
    Recommendations please.

    1. CatCat*

      I use Siri on the watch all the time for reminders and timers. Never really used it until I had the watch, but it’s super great to not have to remember things or write them down on a paper or in a hone app. It’s sooo easy to use on the fly.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I use WaterMinder for hydration tracking, if that’s something that is of use to you.

    3. Tea and Cake*

      Standard install apps I use are Siri, Workout, Weather, and the timer (use this so frequently). I use a sleep app to track how well I sleep. SleepMatic and also Sleep Cycle. My car’s app so when I accidentally leave it unlocked I can lock it when it pings my phone and watch. My smart thermostat app is easy to change from the couch on my watch. And podcast and music app controls. Oh! And the walkie-talkie app!

  28. Music Festivals*

    If you play a musical instrument (non-professionally), have you ever attended a music festival to play with others? I heard a lot of good about Winter Harbor music festival in Maine for example, but there are others. I play classical piano and have always played on my own, so I’m intrigued about playing with others. Any pros or cons? things I should consider?

    1. Rara Avis*

      I play handbells and go to mass-ring festivals every year (or did, until 2020 … ). It’s a lot of fun!

    2. Angstrom*

      We went to the Fiddleheads weekend camp in NH a few times. It was a very positive learning environment, very friendly, and a great way to overcome worries about playing with others. The only downside is lack of sleep because you don’t want to leave the jam sessions to go to bed. :-)

  29. KuklaRed*

    Cat relations question.

    I have 2 older cats Lizzie, who is 9 and chonky and is Queen of the house, and Willow, who has just turned 2 years old, has a bit of a flighty and nervous personality, but has grown to be a rather large cat and is usually very sweet. Willow belongs to my son and daughter in law, but they live with us.

    3 weeks ago, my husband and I adopted 9 month old siblings, Sasha and Sammy. I have had cats since I was 9 and have introduced many new kitties to existing cats. However, we are having problems with Willow. She wants to attack Sasha and Sammy. She hunts them and corners them rather aggressively, rather than just sniffing and growling a little, as most of my previous cats have done when meeting new family members. We have tried the usual methods and not had much success. We have been keeping them separated so that no one gets hurt, but obviously this cannot go on indefinitely.

    Does anyone have any particular techniques that worked for you? I’d love some suggestions. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Is your sense that she’s just playing too aggressively (like she sees them as a toy) or that she’s genuinely hostile (growling and hissing)? Eve did the former to Wallace when he was a kitten and it stopped as soon as he got bigger than her (now he hunts and chases her sometimes, to her great surprise; the tables have turned). As best as we’ve been able to figure, she has a real “might makes right” mindset and saw him as a sort of entertainment object because he was smaller (but not in a way he enjoyed). I really worried about it, but as soon as he got bigger, she totally backed down.

      Once she corners them, what happens? Is she attacking in a non-playful way or just enjoying her dominance at being able to get them cornered?

      1. KuklaRed*

        There is a fair amount of hissing and growling, on both sides. Willow has never been around any cats younger than she is, and I think she just doesn’t know how to react. It does feel like she sees the younger cats as prey, she hunts them when she is in the same area. I can’t tell if she really wants to hurt them, but it doesn’t seem friendly. She corners them and she attacks.

        I really worry about this because we can’t keep them separated forever and I do so want them to become friendly enough to play together.

    2. Some Old Goat*

      I’d just recommend being really careful. I also have integrated many cats successfully over the years. But I have had two $1500 vet bills inflicted on one cat by another cat. The victim was the same but the perpetrators were different. Who knows what she says to elicit such rage. The only solution for my situation was separation. One perpetrator was a foster cat that I rehomed. But I still have two cats permanently separated. One or the other of them is always locked away. We’ve become used to it but it was a nuisance at first.

    3. CatCat*

      We followed Jackson Galaxy’s process detailed in his book “Total Cat Mojo” and it really worked. It’s a time consuming process, but it 100% worked!

  30. Teapot Translator*

    What are your methods to keep track of books you want to read? My bad method is to keep tabs open for each book.

    1. Koala dreams*

      Write the titles and authors on post-it notes and put the post-it notes in a heap. I used to have a list in my mobile phone but I stopped after changing phones. For library books, my local library makes it possible to log in and create list on the library website/app. I do that sometimes, but the lists tend to get super long… (The library has a “you might also be interested in…” function.)

    2. Cruciatus*

      It used to be a notebook, but now I just use Goodreads. It’s easy to access on the computer or the app so if I’m out and about at a bookstore/library I can remind myself what I was looking for. And in the last couple of years I’ve gotten much better at keeping my “currently reading” list up-to-date, and since FictFact went away (it would update users on when a new book in a series they were reading was available), I find GoodReads the next best thing to keep track of my series, though it’s nowhere near as efficient (you have to check things manually instead of getting a handy dandy email notice). But it works.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Another vote for Goodreads. I just put some books from the medical history reading thread on my list. And the list is still long and unwieldy, but it’s both easily searchable AND manually sortable, so I can move books to the top when I remember forgetting about them.
        And for me, personally, since I read a lot of ebooks from the library, my Kindle will automatically let me rate a book when I’m done and post the rating to Goodreads as well as updating the status to Read. And I have a lot of well-read friends on Goodreads, so I do also benefit from the social networking aspect of it, as I’ve culled a few recommendations directly from friends via Goodreads.

    3. Water Everywhere*

      I keep a running list in my Notes app. Only please learn from my mistake and put both author AND title when adding to the list! Mine’s been on the go for years and sometimes looking back at earlier entries where I only added the author’s name, I can’t remember which book interested me.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I have a document on the desktop of my laptop called “Notes” where I record all the things I run across and want to remember to possibly pursue later; there’s a long book list. I frequently add to it off this thread.

    5. sagewhiz*

      I’ve used an Excel spreadsheet for years and years.

      Yesterday a writer friend alerted me to Library Thing that let’s you keep track of what you’ve read. Looks similar to Goodreads, haven’t yet taken “the tour” to delve into it but plan to use both when my novel comes out near the end of the year.

    6. Lady Alys*

      I have an account on my local library’s website, and if I see a book I want to read I add it to my “wish list.” This is mostly to replace the habit of buying whatever looked good on Amazon’s “$2 today” Kindle sales emails, but it helps in general with the reading list.

    7. Just another queer reader*

      I use Libby (library app) and tag books I want to read with a book icon.

      1. cat socks*

        I also use the Libby app. I have a number of books on my hold list. I also add ones to my wish list that I want to read. Not every book is available on Libby, so I have a “Books” list on Evernote.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve used Goodreads for over a decade now and it’s always been great. I’m also trying StoryGraph which has some fun data features (showing trends in your reading by genre, author, etc) but I find it harder to use and it doesn’t always do what I want it to, lol

    9. Book list deleted*

      I used the notes app but didn’t select it for iCloud backup. Accidentally deleted the list – years worth of lists & notes about books. Way too easy to delete a note.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      Goodreads, but actually request from the library and pausing the hold. Or buying the book and piling it on the living room coffee table until I decide I must read some books I own before getting a new one from the library. Similarly I am not allowing myself to buy more ebooks until I finish the ones I already bought.

    11. Atheist Nun*

      I created an online wish list at Powell’s Bookstore, which I share with friends in case anyone wants to give me a book.

    12. marvin the paranoid android*

      I either put them on hold or on my wishlist at the library! Much better than my previous option of thinking I’ll remember and then not remembering.

    13. Tea and Cake*

      Goodreads is good, but I also use a private wishlist on Amazon for books only- I go through GR regularly to make sure Amazon doesn’t get out of sync. I usually get email notifications if a book on the wishlist is on sale.

    14. Albeira Dawn*

      I have a page in Notion with two tables: one with already published books, and one with upcoming titles. When I buy or read a book it gets taken off the list. I have columns set up for Fiction vs Nonfiction, Genre (this tends to be specific to my tastes, so things like “Amateur Archivist Novel” or “Alternative Ethnography” to better help me find things I’m in the mood for), and Conceits (tropes or hooks, stuff like “Face-Blind Main Character” or “Epistolary”). Not all of the entries have all of the columns filled out, but whenever I want to take a break at work I add to the entries.

    15. Skeeder Jones*

      i keep an amazon list just for books, I don’t necessarily buy them from Amazon but it helps me both keep track of the books and also view info on them. I also keep a favorites list in my browser for non-amazon books. If I hear about a book that I want to write down to remember, I send myself a text to remind me to put it on my list. These all work for me but might not work for everyone.

    16. RagingADHD*

      My library’s online catalog allows you to make lists, so I’ll save them there or in a private list in my Amazon account.

    17. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      Luddite bit first: I avoid GoodReads like the plague.

      I keep a spreadsheet including when I added the book to my list. Anything on the list longer than 3-4 years gets the boot. And, because I suffer from decision paralysis, I use a random number generator to pick my next book from the list.

  31. PerplexedPigeon*

    Maternity Clothing Advice: I am newly pregnant and just starting to think of maternity clothes for down the line. I went this week with my mom, but it turns out most places don’t have a maternity section and women just go with stretchier leggings and longer tunic tips.
    My dilemma: I dress more androgynous and by default shop in the men’s section and wear button downs and khakis for days I need to look nice; jeans and a hoodie for days I don’t. I’m terrified I’m going to have to end up shopping in the women’s section forced to wear feminine-style clothing that is not me. Any recs for less feminine maternity-type clothing would be appreciated!

    1. Not A Manager*

      A billion years ago I shopped at A Pea In The Pod for maternity clothes. I see that they are still in business and offer some “activewear” options that are not too frilly, and also knit tops (which seem to include sweatshirts) and jeans.

      If you google “maternity button down” a bunch of options pop up. They are probably styled more traditionally female, but they are not all frilly or patterned. I think you could probably find some maternity slacks or jeans, and a few button downs, and mix them up with oversized sweatshirts. I do think most bricks and mortar stores have reduced their maternity offerings and you will be better off looking online.

    2. Pop*

      H&M has a decent maternity section online and will have some things that are less femme. I also personally only got a few basics of T-shirts, shorts, one pair of jeans (mostly from old navy) and then would wear non-maternity things with them like cardigans. Good luck! I am queer (although quite femme) and I found so much of pregnancy unnecessarily gendered.

    3. HannahS*

      I found many wide-legged linen-blend pants at Old Navy that had a straight cut in the leg. A few of those in khaki, black, and navy might be comfortable for you. As for tops, I found that I could wear my normal (loose-fitting) pullovers until 3rd trimester because I had a small baby and it was my first pregnancy. Your hoodies will likely fit a while! A zip-up hoodie or a cardigan will always fit, too. I found that old navy and gap had fairly plain maternity t-shirts, with no ruffles or patterns. But if closer-cut tops are uncomfortable for you, you may find that shopping at big-and-tall stores (so tops for men with big bellies) are worth exploring.

    4. Same boat*

      …Are you future me? The exact same question has been bouncing around in my head for literal years!

      I once had the opportunity to ask this question of a trans man who had been pregnant. He said his go-to work outfit consisted of joggers (elastic waist but of a style that could fit in at the office, I think he actually specified they were khaki-esque), a sized-up button-down, and a cardigan.

      Looking forward to the answers here. If you’re queer, a queer parenting group may be a good source of info as well. Good luck, and please do let us know and treasures you find!

    5. Generic Name*

      Target has a maternity section. Lots of places do sell maternity clothing, but only online.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I was pregnant last century, but I had good luck with coats at a clothing store for larger women. After the baby was born I would tuck her inside the coat, so I got more than a few months’ use out of it.

      Seconding A Pea in the Pod. Back in those days department stores had maternity sections but they were really awful–I remember one had put gigantic lace clown collars on every single top. It was better to bite the bullet and spend more at a specialty store that recognized I needed clothes appropriate to an office job.

      I will note that a loose dress, loose tunic over stretchy pants, wrap dress or wrap skirt are pretty universal maternity options, and all unlike menswear. You need stuff that can stretch and expand as you stretch and expand, and in one or two spots rather than all over evenly. Khakis and a button down is kind of the polar opposite of this. So I’d advise going broad and trying on stuff that isn’t your usual style and seeing if it clicks.

    7. Squidhead*

      Never pregnant myself but my friend who prefers only one style of jeans was able to stick with her jeans most of the time by adding a “belly band”. It looked like the bottom of a long tank top (might have had more support; I think they come in different types of fabric). No gap of skin between her shirt and waistband, and her waistband was just lower than usual. She wore stretchy but not overly feminine shirts and (since it was winter for most of her pregnancy) a loose zip-up or hoodie.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I remember seeing an ad for a non-feminine maternity company a few years ago but can’t find it now. Google showed me “ButchBaby and Co” and “ButchBasix Alternity” which don’t seem to be active anymore.

      I mostly shopped at Target and Motherhood Maternity. Pregnancy wear does trend toward ruffles and florals, especially in spring/summer, but there are a ton of basic options too. I mostly wore solid or striped tees and tanks with leggings (which may not be your usual style but are SO comfy). You might be able to find less fussy button-downs, like flannels, in clearance?

      One thing that can help early on is getting a “Bella band” which is basically a stretchy tube that goes around your stomach – it can be used to hold your regular pants up when you can’t fasten the fly anymore, and will at least buy you some more time to search for pregnancy pants you like.

      1. PerplexedPigeon*

        This is helpful! I was so sad to learn that ButchBaby had closed. I was so hoping they would work…

    9. Not that Leia*

      My recommendation would also be not to shop too much ahead. Especially for your first pregnancy, it can be hard to predict what will end up being comfortable. Target maternity has plenty of “basic” maternity wear—t-shirts and leggings/sweats. Thred up is a great place to get lightly used maternity stuff for cheaper, to try out what you like. Also, usually the maternity modifications have to do with making tops longer and (obv) wider, so you could probably stick to slightly oversized regular menswear (which is usually longer & wider anyway) for a while, if not most of the pregnancy. A caveat is that most current maternity stuff seems to be styled pretty fitted/body con these days…

    10. marvin the paranoid android*

      I don’t have personal experience with this, but I understand that a loose fitting hoodie can be a popular option among the pregnant transmasc set. I’ll bet there are probably online groups for people sharing resources for this exact dilemma, and those can be very helpful. Gender diverse people can be very resourceful about finding clothing that works for us!

    11. Bon voyage*

      Evan Rachel Wood talked about something similar with Cameron Esposito on Queery. She said that when she was pregnant, she wore lots of vintage concert t-shirts (secondhand). Not a perfect solution, especially for more business-y settings, but maybe an option? Could maybe add a jacket to dress it up a little?

    12. Ayla*

      Currently 7mo pregnant and hate frills. I have a few pairs of maternity jeans, and a few pairs of XL pants that I wear with suspenders since belts are uncomfortable. For tops I’m wearing a lot of stretchy tees and tanks, along with oversized button-downs (sometimes open over a tank, depending on weather). Those big button-downs can be really great for breastfeeding, too.

      1. PerplexedPigeon*

        Thank you for this! I hadn’t thought of suspenders, this might be fun mostly because I assume I’ll have to give up my bow ties for a bit, and suspenders might make up for the style factor!

    13. PerplexedPigeon*

      Thank you everyone for your replies! So far, Target seems to be a go to, especially because their line is “buy the size you were before pregnancy” which means even less time obsessing about what my body is doing because I’m trying to decide what size to buy. Also helpful to know about buying too early! I may try some of the big and tall menswear ideas, since my shoulders are broader than most women’s anyway and given that I’m above average in height, they might not look like I’m drowning too much. Thanks again!

  32. SecondBreakfast*

    What are the best host gifts you have given or received?

    We’ll be staying with some friends across the state next weekend. I don’t want to show up empty-handed, but I’m having trouble thinking of ideas. Usually I just bring wine or beer, but I’ve given up alcohol for Lent, and don’t want to tempt myself. Any ideas?

    1. the cat's ass*

      I’ve done thetraditional bread (so you will never be hungry) salt (so your life will always ahve flavor) and money (so you’ll never be poor). the $ is a Sacajawea or silver dollar and then some good gourmet bread and salt and i wrap it all up on a really nice platter that matches the decor.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Yes! A friend from San Francisco brought the Good Salt and some very cute little salt cellars and spoons.

        I like consumable gifts.

      2. SecondBreakfast*

        I love this idea! And I am a baker, so I can bring a loaf of good sourdough. Thank you!

    2. Texan In Exile*

      I live in Wisconsin and take local cheese. I also take homemade sourdough bread and David Lebovitz’s salty dark chocolate brownies.

      Best gifts received include a jar of bacon grease from the Good Bacon our friends buy. After I moved to WI, a Chicago friend showed up with a snow shovel. (I didn’t know that you need an entire suite of snow-removal equipment.)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      My aunt brought a huge tray of nice quality mixed nuts last weekend. It did not survive long.

      Real maple syrup. Fancy chocolates. If they cook, unusual spices/olive oils/vinegars. (Really glad of the fig vinegar I got in some forgotten way; now it’s a staple.)

      A small bowl designed for olives–the gifter had stocked up when in Greece. But this was when I was younger and had less stuff.

    4. NoLongerFencer*

      Chocolate covered macadamia nuts, high quality ground coffee (TJ Maxx has cool flavors for budget prices, ie. Lavazza, Starbucks, coconut, pumpkin spice), pralines, See’s caramel lollipops (for non-chocolate treats). Also, fresh fruit (depending on personal preference): large orchard apples or pears.

    5. Overeducated*

      A little less useful, but I adore flowers! Not everyone has the cash or garden to consistently have flowers indoors and they brighten up a space so much.

      For a visit this weekend, my partner made a couple big loaves of the Irish grandma’s soda bread, if baking is an option. A product from your town, like locally roasted coffee or specialties from a local bakery, can also be nice.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Flowers are great bc ifyour host hates them they won’t feel obligated to keep them very long lol. I’ve also brought tea towels as a gift.

    6. Salymander*

      My ex boyfriend’s mom was the best gift giver. She once brought a set of three herb plants in matching pots on a little matching tray. It was adorable and functional. She also brought flowers in a teapot instead of a vase. I still have the teapot, and it is really pretty. She also gave me a yarn basket that was lined with fabric that could be closed with a drawstring. She put a few balls of really lovely hand spun yarn in the basket. It was perfect.

      I like to bring baked goods. Cookies and soft pretzels are the most popular. People who don’t bake seem really impressed by the pretzels because they seem difficult to make compared to bread. They are actually pretty easy, and way less time consuming to make than sourdough bread.

    7. Aealias*

      I love to bring something that’s local to me. Local honey, jelly/jam/syrup, jerky or dried fish, local crafter’s tea towels or beeswax candles or food-wrappers. Local specialty bread, pastry, cheese.

      Obviously, I also favour consumables.

    8. Sundial*

      The most memorable thing we got was an unusual succulent (something pink, I think a Korean echeveria?). I loved it because the giver was careful to choose a plant that was both robust enough to withstand me (the Angel of Plant Death) and also wasn’t toxic to our cats.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      Chocolate stuffed figs. A friend brought them when staying with us and they were ridiculously good.

    10. cat socks*

      Once when we invited a couple to our house for the first time, they brought toys for the cats. I loved it! If they don’t have pets, I like the suggestion above about bringing something local from your area. I also love getting something like nice kitchen towels or a candle if they are okay with fragrances. I love flowers, but I have a couple of cats who will eat anything.

    11. Veronica Mars*

      If you have a local delicacy that isn’t available to them (maybe not really a thing if they just live across the state) I’d bring that. There’s a local place that makes really awesome toffee and a great local chocolate place with fancy chocolates–I usually grab something from one of those places.

    12. Alexis Rosay*

      I love to receive something edible that is local to wherever my guest is from, whether that’s another neighborhood, state, or country.

  33. Sundial*

    Cat advice: despite otherwise being good about the litterbox, I caught one of our cats multiple times peeing in the dirt around our potted ficus. I’m no stranger to litterbox noncompliance, so I whipped into action. Covering it with river stone, and then again with tinfoil, and spraying it with various citrus and bitter apple products, did not work. It is very dead.

    I am considering buying realistic fake trees to replace it, because I don’t trust him not to continue doing it, and I really want trees. What exactly is in the bottom of fake trees, and do you think it will tempt my repeat offender?

    1. Generic Name*

      I’ve successfully used pinecones to keep my cat from using a larger potted plant as a litter box. They are cones from my ponderosa tree, and they are hard and have spiky parts. For cones are too soft, and not much of a deterrent.

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I would worry that he’d pee in a fake plant too if there’s any decorative substrate like dry moss or something. I’ve heard of using scotch tape to make a grid across the top of the pot, sticky side up, with squares big enough too water the plant through.