weekend open thread – May 6-8, 2022

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: A Splendid Ruin, by Megan Chance. An orphan goes to live with rich relatives in 1906 San Francisco, and quickly realizes something is off about her flashy new family.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,108 comments… read them below }

  1. Tortoiseshell*

    What’s the bare minimum kitchen stuff I should have in my apartment? It’ll be my first time living alone. I haven’t done a lot of cooking solo but I like American, Italian, Indian and Japanese food.

      1. Gingerblue*

        Since you mention Japanese, I recommend the website Just Bento (and the author’s cookbooks of the same title): https://justbento.com/. It’s mostly defunct, but the archives are fantastic.

        I’m also a big fan of the New York Times cooking website, which is worth the small subscription fee if you can swing it. It’ around $40 a year and has a very deep archive of recipes.

        Tons of other great recipe sites, but I’ve used those two a lot.

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          She also has another website called justhungry, but it seems that she’s mostly active on facebook nowadays. She’s posted a life update on justhungry with the link to her Facebook.

      2. Carlottasouffle*

        I think others have recommended a lot of good starting items. I remember first stocking my kitchen and being so proud of my kitchenaid egg beaters (I love baking & still use those egg beaters 15 years later) and a citrus juicer (I love fresh-squeezed orange juice and grew up with that at home) as my first two big gadget items. Go with what you think you’ll want/need to use most often first. I would recommend Smitten Kitchen for recipe browsing — she’s been posting for such a long time and has a ton of recipes to go through. https://smittenkitchen.com/ Have fun!

        1. Scarlet Magnolias*

          Sam Sifton New York Times, Ina Garten (although each cookbook is basically the same recipes) and Joy of Cooking

        2. BethDH*

          Love Smitten Kitchen and she also has two (three?) cookbooks published if you prefer that format. I find that her recipes contain just the right amount of complexity for me, where any steps beyond the basics actually add something to the dish I care about. She doesn’t call for two bowls when there’s a one-bowl method.

        3. Turanga Leela*

          Seconding the Smitten Kitchen recommendation. I learned to cook over the last several years, and a huge percentage of the things I make are from Smitten Kitchen. I particularly recommend her Indian dishes (which sounds funny b/c Deb Perelman is definitely not Indian, but they’re good recipes!), soups, and loaf cakes.

          I subscribe to the New York Times recipe archive, which is more hit-or-miss than Smitten Kitchen. I’ve tried a lot of recipes that were needlessly complex or didn’t turn out well. But it’s great for when you have ingredients and need ideas for what to do with them, and some of the recipes are really terrific. My favorite holiday cookies and lasagna are from the Times. In general, I’ve had good luck with recipes from Melissa Clark and Samin Nosrat.

          Speaking of which, Samin Nosrat’s book, Salt Fat Acid Heat, is terrific for learning to cook. The recipes are good, but the book is mostly about learning techniques and learning to improvise in the kitchen. It taught me to make salad dressing!

      3. Harriet Wimsey*

        It’s probably old school but I much prefer recipe books than trying to read ones off my phone. I find the local library is great for cookery books, and I’ve often ended up buying my own copy (I have a cookery book habit). I’m in the UK so not sure how available these authors are in the US but Meera Sodha is fantastic for easy and delicious Indian/Asian recipes and Diana Henry/Nikki Segnit for pretty much anything.

        1. Harriet Wimsey*

          Meera Sodha has also written for the Guardian/Observer a lot so there should be recipes on their website.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes, she has some great recipes there! I’m also a big fan of Dan Lepard’s baking recipes in their archives, and Felicity Cloake’s “How to Cook the Perfect . . .” column. Rachel Roddy’s weekly column of Italian recipes is worth a look as well. I prefer the Guardian food section to the NYT.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Seconding the library as a great resource.

          I read recipes off my laptop, set away from any anticipated liquid spills.

        3. BethDH*

          Diana Henry and Meera Sodha are both widely available in the US, including at the libraries in the two states I’ve lived in recently.

      4. Random Biter*

        Many, many, MANY years ago when I was first interested in web design I made a recipe site. Nothing fancy but easy to follow, actual people tested recipes from friends in an AOL chat room (I told you it was many years ago) along with some helpful sites. It’s still up (because nostalgia) so if you’d like a peek

        https://www.starzspooksnstuff.com/recipes.html

    1. Gingerblue*

      A saucepan and a frying pan (preferably both with lids), a cutting board, a straight knife and a bread knife, a spatula, tongs, and a big stirring spoon, a couple of bowls in different sizes, measuring spoons and cups, a heatproof glass measuring cup (I suggest 2 c size), hot pads or mitts, a strainer, a can opener, and since you mention cuisines involving a lot of rice, a rice cooker. I’d say start there and then add more equipment as you figure out what you like to make and what it requires. There’s a bunch of equipment that I consider essential for my kitchen, like baking pans and a pressure cooker, which you might or might not have a use for. Also, it can be worth doubling up on some of the cheapest items like measuring cups and spoons—I like having two sets when cooking, one for wet ingredients and one for dry, or just because I’m always fishing them out of the dishwasher to use otherwise.

      When you say bare minimum, is it a budget issue or a space issue, or just wanting to ease in? There are some appliances which can do multiple things (like the Instant Pot), which can be great for small kitchens and for growing into as a cook.

      Have fun! What an exciting move!

      1. Squidhead*

        Adding to gingerblue’s excellent list: storage containers for leftovers or ingredients (half an onion, extra grated cheese, whatever). [Our house has settled on Pyrex for heat/freezer tolerance and microwaveability, but it’s breakable and heavy. We just wanted to stop heating plastic containers in the microwave.]
        Also, a cheese grater. And maybe a whisk. A ladle is very handy and hard to replicate, but bulky in a drawer.

        Stretch goals: a good immersion blender (for everything from smoothies to pureeing hot sauces right on the stove), and a toaster oven/air fryer (long before air fryers were a thing, I lived in an apartment with no oven and a 2 burner stove. You can do a lot with a toaster oven!)

        For the best use of your money and space, think about ways you can use things: you don’t need a spoon rest if you use the plate you’re going to eat off of anyway. Empty, clean deli containers or yogurt cups are (free) good for leftovers or holding some chopped ingredients before they go into the frying pan.
        You can make rice in a saucepan with a lid, though the ricecooker is more foolproof and saves you a burner on the stove. You can whisk up eggs in a cereal bowl or a measuring cup if you don’t have a handy mixing bowl. Cut dry things on the cutting board before wet things so you don’t need so many cutting boards (more than 1 is really nice, though). Especially cut anything that is raw meat last, and dedicate a place to put the board & knife until you can wash them.

        Don’t forget some amount of cleaning supplies (sponge, brush, gloves if you want, dish rack and/or towels if you don’t have a dishwasher). With any size inventory, you’ll get the most use out of it if you can easily clean things and have them ready for the next time.

      2. Tortoiseshell*

        Thank you!! It’s partly a budget issue and partly a space issue, I should be getting a few hand me downs from my mom though.

        1. Gingerblue*

          Gotcha! I see several people recommending slow cookers, and if you do get one, I strongly recommend getting an Instant Pot or similar combo device. They can be used as slow cookers, pressure cookers, rice cookers (though they’re not as good as a dedicated one), and they often have a few other functions like being able to saute directly in them. Having a pressure cooker can be a game changer, especially for cooking inexpensive dry staples like beans and grains, and they’ve become so popular in the last few years that there are dedicated Instant Pot cookbooks, etc. I love mine and use it at least weekly.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            For whatever it’s worth, I have a Ninja, and I like it as an air fryer but don’t love it as a slow cooker. Things don’t seem to cook as evenly as in a traditional slow cooker. If I were outfitting a new kitchen for myself, I’d skip the combo device (even though I know people love them!) and buy a simple crock-pot for stews and beans.

        2. matcha123*

          I live in a small apartment in Japan and my kitchen is very small compared to the average suburban US kitchen. Storage space is a huge issue. I mostly cook with pots or frying pans. I don’t bake since I don’t have an oven.
          I also don’t have a rice cooker. However when I did have one, I would sometimes make cake in it, but that was about it. Instead I use a pot called musui-nabe, which is like a Dutch oven(?).
          I cook rice in my pot, then divide it into smaller portions, wrap and freeze them. With two pots (since I only have two range things), I can cook rice on one and make some soups (kimchi jjigae) on the other.
          T-Fal has some stackable pots/frying pans. I bought a set last year and they are great because they don’t take up a bunch of space.

          Since I don’t know how much space you’ll be working with, I’d suggest starting with what you were given and then doing some window shopping. My mom keeps saying I should get a Keurig, but they don’t sell those here, and if they did, I’d have no where to put one.
          I love coffee, however. Instead of a coffee maker, I do a pour over. I have a kettle that I heat hot water in (electric ones are good, too, but due to space I only have a stove-top one) and it only takes a few minutes.

          If you can hand things from the walls, that’s a great way to save space, too. I have magnets on my walls and they hold mitts and cutting boards and the like.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Tag sales are your leg up on this stuff. I have found so many things this way. And it gives me a chance to try the product out, if I don’t like it a few bucks does not kill my budget.

          I see mention of Pyrex ware. If you prefer glass storage, you can find lots of Corningware and Pyrex at tag sales. I had not looked at the prices of Corningware lately and I was shocked. I bought one piece of Corningware at a tag sale for $4. It retailed for $80. Even consignment shops can hold some finds. I needed new lids for my stuff and found lids online for $20 each. I eventually purchased lids at a consignment shop at the price of 3 for $4.

          I have had great luck with keeping a running list of items I am looking for. I use my planner but a cell would also work. At tag sales, I stick to my list of items that I have decided on. This helps with clutter control.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Also thrift shops. Goodwill, or the local equivalent, often has a lot of this stuff dirt cheap. That is how I outfitted my first kitchen *mumble mumble* decades back. I still have some of it. A good cast iron skillet can, after all, be handed down to your grandchildren.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I was going to say—I always look for stuff at flea markets. There used to be one in OldCity that had TONS of cookware, glassware, etc. I got a bunch of Corning Ware and an English teapot covered with violets, along with a lovely snack set with little shell-shaped plates and teacups, also violet-patterned, on two separate trips. I was furious when the auto shop next door bought them out and knocked down the building to expand their parking lot.

              I also found cast iron at another flea market, including a skillet that’s probably over 100 years old for $15 (I think it’s an Erie; I’d have to look). Permanent flea markets are a good place to look for housewares, although you do need to go in regularly because stuff cycles in and out. But it’s kinda fun to do even if you don’t buy anything.

              Avoid used non-stick pans. Once they’re scratched, you need to get rid of them.

              1. Tortoiseshell*

                There are multiple antique shop/thrift shop places around here, and a fancy kitchen shop.

                1. Chaordic One*

                  Aside from antique/thrift shops, flea markets, tag/garage/estate sales you might consider doing some dumpster diving. I’ve found some surprisingly good items in the dumpsters of various apartment complexes I’ve lived in through the years. Of course, you can’t count on finding any particular thing, but if keep your eyes open (and the stars align in just the right way) you can find some good things. And the price is always right.

                  Some of the things I’ve found include Corning Ware, a variety of near new pans and cooking trays, and an amazing antique cake stand and cover (the lid is huge and heavy). People are always moving and don’t have room for all of the things they’ve accumulated and don’t think ahead enough to donate them to charity. In a couple of the apartment complexes I’ve lived in, I suspect that the items may have belonged to someone who passed away and had no heirs.

          2. Tortoiseshell*

            I like Corningware! I will be checking out Goodwill etc. for some of that, thank you for the idea.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        For what it’s worth, I got rid of my rice cooker because even the minimum amount of rice it could make at one time was too much for my family. If you’re likely to eat leftover rice that’s one thing (or if you can find a one-person quantity cooker) but we weren’t reliably doing so in a manner that made me comfortable for food safety (rice gets funky real fast if you aren’t careful) so ultimately it was just easier for me to make our rice in no-leftovers quantity on the stove. So bigger is not always better :)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I found instructions on the net for how to use a crockpot to cook rice. I love it when an appliance serves more than one function.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            Thanks for the great idea! I’m making a mental note for this to become a small Crockpot Project in the near future, along with figuring out how to use it to make yogurt.

        2. Meh*

          You can pry my rice cooker out of my cold, dead, Japanese hands:) It even makes 1 cup, but my standard is 3 cups for 2 people.

          I tried the stove top white rice and that is not in my wheel house. I can do flavored or Puerto Rican rices on the stove (the solid pegao is my friend)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Totally fair! My rice cooker couldn’t do less than I think four cups cooked, which was just way more than we needed. (I bought a big one not thinking about it having a minimum – if I’d gotten a smaller one that could do as little as 1-2 cups, it would have been different.) I experimented until I figured out the ratio of rice to liquid and the time for one specific type of rice on the stovetop, and now it’s pretty easy to do either plain or to add seasonings as long as I stick with that specific type of rice. (It gets fiddly if I want to try a different type though.)

        3. Tortoiseshell*

          I enjoy leftover rice, but I’ll probably skip that and make it in a pot because of budget. The rice cooker can be a stretch goal :)

        4. Sally*

          Rice is easy to cook. You can steam it in a pot with a well fitting lid. Rice doubles in size. Measure rice and twice as much water into pot. Cover. Bring to a boil (or almost to a boil, so it won’t boil over) turn heat to very low, leave cover on. Takes 30 min or so for white rice, 40 for brown.

          Historical bit: the Minit Rice brand did a heavy handed ad campaign in the 1960’s about how difficult it was to cook rice, complete with tv ads showing horrified housewives with pans full of glutinous glop, failed attempts as they tried in vain to cook rice. Some of our mothers and grandmothers fell for these ads and only used Minit Rice.

          1. Crackerjack*

            You can cook rice in a microwave, if you’re going to have one anyway. I always do. Large heatproof bowl, double the volume of water to rice, add pinch of salt. Cover and cook. I use one cup of rice to two cups of boiling water and it takes about 13 mins on full power in my 800w microwave but you’d have to experiment with quantities/times to get to know your appliance.

          2. Jean (just Jean)*

            LOL at the 1960s Minit Rice ad campaign! I hope that expert rice-cookers everywhere had a good time laughing. (Full disclosure: I never saw the ads. We didn’t have a TV back then.)

      4. BethDH*

        It’s not on a lot of starter lists but I strongly recommend a scale. I use a lot fewer bowls and measuring spoons because I can just put my bowl or pot on it, then keep zeroing it to add new ingredients. It also makes it a lot easier to use British or other non-US recipes. AND to make it even better, it makes it way less of a pain to use sticky ingredients like honey and peanut butter. Making satay sauce, for example, in a single bowl with no measuring spoons at all.

        1. Pippa K*

          Seconding this! A simple digital scale can be fairly cheap and I use mine every time I bake and most of the time I cook. Slides into the cupboard on its side taking up very little space.

          1. pancakes*

            Third-ing. I bought one when I first got into cooking in the late 1990s for around $25 and it’s still going strong. One or two battery changes over the years. It is so, so much easier to just weigh things in grams or whatnot if I’m cooking a foreign recipe rather than having to do conversions.

    2. TangerineRose*

      I don’t do a lot of cooking, some baking. Are you including things like mugs, plates, bowls, silverware, knives to cut meat/cheese/bread? I’d want a microwave. I’d recommend a couple of pots to at least heat stuff up in. Bowls to mix cake, etc. in. Tupperware or something to store leftovers. You might need a can opener. Big spoons to stir soup. If you do much cooking, measuring cup(s) and measuring spoons.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        On the issue of plates, etc., it’s fine to start out with fewer plates, etc. but make them nice.

        I was in my early 40s before I realized that I was probably never going to get married and have people give me china and that it was time to dump the crappy plastic stuff I had been using since my 20s. I got into the habit of going to Macy’s and buying one nice Fiestaware plate/cup/bowl each week after my therapy appointment until I felt like I had a beautiful set of enough pieces to have guests over, and I am so much happier now than I was eating off crappy plates.

        TL; DR: You don’t need a million pieces of china/stoneware, etc., but it’s okay to get a couple of nice things to eat off for yourself as a starter set.

    3. What the Jorts?*

      I recommended getting a large crock pot. I use mine all the time and make meals that I divide into individual portions and freeze.

      Here’s one of the recipes I make a lot, though I have tweaked it some. I add carrots, scallions, other herbs and spices. After 8 hours of cooking, the sweet potatoes break down and you have something very thick and hearty that goes amazing with brown rice.

      https://www.stockpilingmoms.com/crockpot-3-ingredient-chicken-sweet-potatoes/

    4. Chapeau*

      A shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) that can be flipped over if you need a flat sheet instead. I love sheet pan cooking, which is great for leftovers for the next day since cooking for 1 gets old pretty fast if you’re doing a new meal every day. You can search on the phrase “sheet pan cooking” and find tons of recipes that way.
      If you do decide to get a slow cooker, I love the Betty Crocker Slow Cooker cookbook. Some of the recipes will feed 10 or more people, but when I was cooking for 1 or 2, I loved the recipes that provided follow-up instructions using the leftovers for 2 (or more) meals. Some of them you can’t really tell you’re eating the same basic food since the leftovers are so well disguised.
      Other easy recipes for a slow cooker include a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts in the cooker with salsa, cooked on low for 3-4 hours (depending how big the chicken is). Great filling for tacos, nacho toppings, even salads. I also do the same thing with a small beef roast and spaghetti sauce (less or more to taste again, and depending on intended use later) or just peppers and onions with a bit of beef broth, or a pork roast with barbecue sauce or sauerkraut, depending on your taste. Any of these can also be served over rice or noodles, as well. Tonight’s dinner was roasted pork (with the sauerkraut removed), gently reheated, then tossed over greens, just like a steak salad. I may turn the last of the pork into a pulled pork sandwich for lunch tomorrow by adding some barbecue sauce. If I’m out of buns, it’ll go over rice unless there are still some noodles at the back of the fridge…

      1. BethDH*

        Also they make sheet pans in smaller sizes. I use the quarter sheet pan size a ton even with more than one person in the house.

    5. Book the Wink*

      I really recommend the Budget Bytes website for cheap, beginner to intermediate recipes with an eye towards budget. Beth also has a good section titled Extra Butes that has a solid rundown of pantry staples and kitchen basics.

      My only contribution is 1. Get a bigger cutting board than you think you need and if you only have one, go heavy plastic. It is easier to sanitize and won’t damage your knife if you kinda suck at knives.
      2. If you have limited counter space, get a baking sheet, flip it over, and cover your stove burners. Easy extra “counter” space and storage for a sheet pan.
      3. If you are a hot beverage person, grab a small stove or electric kettle (I have free gas w my rent, so it is cheaper for me to have a small stovetop kettle). Honestly, it is one of the kitchen tools I use the most.
      4. The best kitchen cleaner I have found is white vinegar mixed with water. I bought a big, $3 spray bottle and a microfiber towel at Menards and other than the occasional Barkeeper’s friend to scrub out the sink and spray bleach for meat sanitization, nothing has worked better for me cleaning wise. Also, it’s cheap as heck. I also use it to spray down veggies when I am cleaning them so it really is a multitasker.
      5. Knife sharpener. Even a mildly bad one is better than nothing and a sharp knife is probably my #1 piece of kitchen equipment.
      6. When in need, check a thrift store or consignment store first. I have purchased my best pans (bar my IKEA stainless steel fry/sauté pan) and glassware at consignment stores.

      Honestly though, start small. Look at your kitchen space, really review what recipes you make, and add stuff as you need it. But a sharp knife, a decent cutting board, a medium pot w/a lid, a wooden spoon, a metal mixing bowl, a baking dish, a spatula, a baking sheet, some dish towels, a fork, and a frying pan will get you most of the way to where you NEED to be.

      Good luck!

      1. Daisy Duck*

        How… how can a cutting board damage your knife? I just use cutting boards of bamboo, I’ve heard it doesn’t dull the knife but that’s the only damage I can think of.

        1. Kivrin*

          It’s a risk when the cutting board is made of something really hard, like marble or glass – it’s hard enough to blunt the knives.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Years ago I got glass cutting boards because of concerns about bacteria. The next thing that happened was my knives grew dull. Glass really kills a sharp edge on a knife.

        2. Book the Wink*

          Bamboo is also a good choice, but depending on the quality, it can warp in a dishwasher or if your executive dysfunction plays up and it gets left to soak too long. I love wood cutting boards, but there is definitely extra care needed. Marble is nice if you bake because it can double as a pastry surface, but as Kivrin points out, they can dull knives super quick. I’ve had similar issues w the flat plastic mats because they are just covering you counter. (I still use those too for convenience.)

          Like I said, if you are getting ONE cutting board, heavy plastic is the most versatile, imo. You can let it sit in water forever, it has good bounce and dulls your knives more slowly, and if you break/melt it, you are only out $8-15. It also requires basic maintenance (scrubbing/washing) and is generally a set and forget. For a more experienced cook/chef, go nuts. Get that cutting board of you dreams! But starting out? Heavy plastic works fine until you can sort out your preferences.

      2. Tortoiseshell*

        I don’t like the texture of wood or stone cutting boards, so I will probably go with plastic. And thank you for the reminder about white vinegar for cleaning.

    6. Noms*

      There’s an *excellent*, budget conscious kitchen essentials list in Midnight Chicken, which also has many favorite recipes! I borrowed an eldctronic copy from the library before buying and highly recommend checking it out!

    7. AcademiaNut*

      Bare minimum: two pots of different sizes, a frying pan, a baking sheet, a casserole dish, a colander, a cutting board, a grater (small and large holes), a mixing bowl, a small bowl, two spatulas (a flipper and a scraper), a paring knife, a medium sized knife, a long handled spoon, a pair of tongs, a vegetable peeler, a can opener, a bottle opener, and a corkscrew. If you like Japanese food, a rice cooker (basic is fine). A blender or hand blender is useful. A set of measuring cups and measuring spoons. A citrus juicer and garlic press aren’t strictly necessary, but are useful, and if you like to bake, get an extra mixing bowl and a rolling pin (or sturdy empty wine bottle).

      With two pots you can make a sauce and boil pasta at the same time. Non-stick is a good bet for the frying pan, particularly if you like eggs. Baking sheet gives you sheet pan dinners, roast vegetables, nachos and the like, a casserole is good for casseroles, also roast meats. Collander for draining stuff, if you get a metal one you can use it to make mashed potatoes (push cooked potatoes through with a spoon). A metal mixing bowl of the right size can be used with the pot as a double boiler. The grater can grate cheese and vegetables, the smaller holes are good for parmesan, garlic and ginger.

      If you’re going to spend money, good pots are the first thing to get – heavy bottomed and all metal (which means you can put them in the oven).

    8. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Good sharp knives – you’re less likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife, believe it or not.

      For pots and pans, get the highest quality your budget allows – good quality pans make things a lot easier. If you’re not planning to entertain much, you can probably get away with not buying the larger sizes.

      Cutting board – at least one. I like the bamboo kind, but your mileage may vary.

      Bowls in different sizes.

      If you’re planning on baking, scales and measuring cups.

      Also some microwaveable and freezable containers so that you can put away any leftovers for when you don’t have time to cook.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Also for Italian food I think there are English translations of Il Cucchiaio d’Argento (The Silver Spoon). There’s also the website cucchiaio.it but I don’t know if they have an English language option.

      2. Cat*

        And if you do cut yourself, a cut from a sharp blade heals more cleanly. The cut is smoother, while a blunt blade will crush and tear.

    9. Meh*

      Colander for draining pasta, rinsing veggies, etc

      Tongs are super useful- I have 2 sets

      Kitchen scale – it makes it so much easier to measure ingredients and I don’t have additional dirty dishes

      For Japanese cuisine I always find myself wishing I had a ginger grater and then getting annoyed that I don’t.

      Try shopping ethnic markets for tools. You’ll find things not found in regular housewares sections.

      Once you get settled, keep a running list of what you wish you had. If the same items keep coming up, make it a point to get those. Sometimes I’ll make a recipe that will call for a tool I don’t have but it’s such a one-off that I don’t bother. Other tools get used all of the time and make cooking easier/more enjoyable.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes – if you have a Chinese or Thai market nearby, look for Kiwi brand knives. They’re cheap and great. I think I paid $6 for my cleaver. Victorinox also makes relatively inexpensive and good knives.

    10. Vistaloopy*

      If you’re a coffee drinker, make sure you get a coffee maker with automatic shutoff (so basically, don’t buy the cheapest coffee maker, but the next one up should have it). Check out your local Buy Nothing group and post a request for kitchen basics – I bet you could get most of what you need for free!

      1. pancakes*

        Pour-over coffee is cheap, easy, and delicious (a Hario ceramic dripper is about $20), so I’m not sure I agree with this.

      2. Squirrel Nutkin*

        If you enjoy espresso and have a way to heat water, I’d recommend getting an espresso cup and using a great instant brand, like Medaglia D’Oro. Takes up very little room and tastes delicious!

    11. I take tea*

      Stuff I use a lot:
      A sauté pan (I think), that is a big frying pan with straight edges and a lid. That plus one big and one smaller pot goes a long way.
      A couple of spatulas
      Bamboo cutting boards (I dislike plastic) and a good kitchen knife. Also a small knife and a good peeler (Ikea had a really good one!)
      A couple of big metallic bowls (really easy to find second hand). As I said, I dislike plastic.
      Nice extras:
      An immersion blender (for making puree soup or mashed potatoes) with a small mixer attachment (for mixing nuts or similar).
      A mandolin is easier than a grater, but be careful, it’s sharp (eying some cuts on my thumb)

      I use a lot of physical cook books, but Cheap Lazy Vegan on Youtube is very inspiring for easy vegan food.

    12. Lady Alys*

      Get yourself a 10″ cast iron skillet (Lodges are often on sale), learn how to maintain it, and you can do just about anything with it (skillet pizza from Serious Eats, yum).
      I second the suggestion for a good digital scale.
      Every time I go to IKEA I buy another spatula. You can never have too many spatulas.
      If you can find a copy of “The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook,” by Justin Spring, you will find space-saving ideas for kitchenware and recipes.
      Qapla!

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        In the same vein as just committing to buying the spices up front, maybe stock your place with at least small quantities of a few staples, even if you don’t know yet quite how you’ll use them: Cooking oil (like Canola oil), Olive oil, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar, evaporated milk, garlic (fresh, powdered, or from a jar or freezer pack), dried minced onions, pasta, rice, beans (dried or canned), canned tomatoes, canned or frozen veggies, frozen berries . . . . You can make a lot of meals by combining staples like these with each other or with a few purchases of fresh veggies, eggs, meat, etc. It’s just nice to have staples in the house so that when you’re looking up a recipe, you don’t have to run to the store all the time for that ingredient the recipe assumes you have.

        1. Kardemumma*

          If you can find somewhere that sells herbs and spices loose, buy just a small amount and replace regularly. I see so many kitchens with rows of spice jars that might be years old – I can’t imagine they have much more taste than sawdust. I buy about fifty cents’ worth at a time from a store with good quality and fast turnover.

    13. pancakes*

      I can’t recommend Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian highly enough for people new to cooking, even if you’re not vegetarian. It has loads of recipes, but also loads of basic guidance on how to prepare just about every vegetable or grain you can think of.

      I don’t make Japanese food at home often because there are a lot of good Japanese restaurants in my neighborhood, but MTC Kitchen is a great place to shop for supplies. They have good sales, too.

      A lot of people have recommended NYT recipes and they do have some good ones, but so does the Guardian and it’s free. Epicurious, Saveur, Food & Wine Magazine, and Leite’s Culinaria are other sites I like for recipes. The Japanese Pantry dot com has a small but nice selection of Japanese recipes.

      1. Squidhead*

        I have this book and love it (I have a couple of her Indian cookbooks too).

        Tangentially related, international food stores tend to have cheaper spices than US grocery stores. We have a supply of empty spice jars and we buy bags of cumin or mustard or whatever at the Indian store & fill the jars. Obviously depends on what kind of spices you like, but worth a look if you have a nearby store.

        1. Gingerblue*

          Along the same lines, the international foods section of even mainstream grocery stores will often have the same spices you can find elsewhere in the store but for a lot cheaper. Cinnamon sticks, for example, are exorbitant in the baking aisle but super cheap in with the Mexican brands near me.

        2. pancakes*

          Yes! We have a great Indian grocery in the neighborhood but sometimes I’ll go to Kalustyan’s instead, which is even bigger and better.

    14. anonagain*

      Bare minimum? I’ve done dutch oven, 1 knife, cutting board, 1 set of cutlery, 2 glass food storage containers, one mug, water bottle, 2 dish towels, oven mitt.

      Right now I have a basic rice cooker (on/off switch type), 1 knife, cutting board, 1 set of cutlery, mug, a couple water bottles (work and home), random jam jars & yogurt containers, 2 take out containers, and a dish drying rack.

      I like to start with the absolute minimum when I move and add specific things as I need them. I find it very easy to end up with a lot of stuff and still not have quite what I need/want otherwise.

    15. pancakes*

      I also want to recommend Elizabeth Andoh for Japanese recipes. I took a class on Japanese pickle-making with her and it was really cool. She has books out but she also has recipes on her website (tasteofculture dot com).

    16. the cat's ass*

      Mark Bittman’s “How to cook everything” has a batterie de cuisine in the first pages. Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking” also lays out the very bare minimum of what you need for a first kitchen. i have found both obbks indispensable! Enjoy.

    17. doubletrack*

      Immersion blender! It doesn’t take up a lot of room, great tool for salad dressings, soups, and sauces. Make sure you get one that dishwasher safe

    18. Constance Lloyd*

      A decent cast iron pan is great if you’re okay with a little extra maintenance. You can find one new for about $20-$30, but you can also find them at secondhand stores for a lot less. I use soap on mine and it’s totally fine, and I’ve rescued fully rusted pans with a bit of TLC.

      For recipes, I highly recommend the cookbook Good and Cheap. All of the recipes are written to be highly adaptable based on what you have in hand. I believe e-books are available free online, though if you like hard copies they also donate one book for every book purchased.

    19. Water Everywhere*

      Seconding Book the Wink upthread on Budget Bytes, it’s probably the recipe site I use the most. Lots of recipes you can cook in quantity and then freeze in portions for when future you doesn’t feel like cooking (I live alone & this works great for me).

      I’ve also been constrained budget & space wise so any utensil or pot that can multitask is great & there are plenty of good ideas already in this thread, but I have to say that my favourite, most-used kitchen purchase has been a small (1L) nonstick sauce pan. In tiny apartments where I haven’t had the money or space for a microwave, it’s become my go-to for reheating leftovers in me-size portions.

      1. The cat's pajamas*

        Start with the basics, don’t buy too many specialized items right away unless you already have recipes you frequently make that use them. Otherwise you end up with a bunch of gadgets you never use. It’s easier to add them as needed rather than getting rid of them later.
        If you have foodie friends they might loan you gadgets or tools to try a recipe and then if like it enough you can buy your own later.

    20. The teapots are on fire*

      I would add an inexpensive tool (a couple of sharpening stones or other well-reviewed tool) to SHARPEN your knives. Sharp knives become dull knives, no matter how awesome your cutting board is.

      1. pancakes*

        Depends on whether there’s a sharpening service nearby. We still have trucks that go around here, but they can be harder to catch than an ice cream truck.

    21. Veggie Lover*

      I have learned a ton about cooking from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. It’s connected to America’s Test Kitchen. Look for back issues!

      1. Lilith*

        Get rectangular shaped measuring spoons when you do buy them as they fit in the jars better than round spoons. Set measuring cups on a flat surface before purchasing to make sure their bottoms lie flat (some handles make them tip—top heavy).

    22. Texan In Exile*

      A Thermapen. It’s so worth the money (about $100). I think of all the years where I tried to get my sugar to a “dark amber” for making candy. Or waiting for “the juices to run clear” in the chicken. Or thumping bread for a hollow sound.

      And all along, there was an objective measure of doneness. Cook the sugar to 171 degrees! Roast the chicken to 165 degrees! Bake the bread to 205 degrees! Cooking and baking is not magic. It’s not something everyone else but me had figured out. Honestly, I’m a little bit cranky about this.

      1. Bike shorts*

        The thermapen is great, but a home cook can easily get away with the same brand’s Thermapop ($35) or the Lavatools Javelin ($25). They both offer slightly slower readings but they’ve served me perfectly well in professional kitchens. I also swear by digital thermometers over the various other ways of telling if X is done.

    23. The Witch of Sanity's Annex*

      The bare minimum: or what isn’t packed because I CANNOT live without it in the kitchen.

      1 high-sided frypan or caldero, with a lid. You can use it for anything from eggs to karaage!
      1 cutting board. start with plastic, they’re easier to maintain than wood and won’t dull your knives like glass will.
      1 decent kitchen knife (my favorite is a Farberware I got on a Cyber Monday sale for $40.) I use a santoku for everything in my kitchen, but choose one you like.
      1 pot, 3quart or larger (with lid) for boiling noodles and making soups.
      1 saucepan, same size (yes, this one too, lid!!), for making sauce and gravy
      1 sheet pan/cookie sheet
      1 um…*googles the English word* Colander!
      1 spatula/turner/pancake flipper thing
      1 long handled spoon, wood or silicone if you can.
      1 pair tongs
      1 rubber scraper
      1 balloon whisk.

      dishes and utensils too eat from/ with, right now we’re using paper plates and our plastic utensils that came with our bento boxes TBH

    24. Mrs. D*

      I’m coming to this a little late, but I wanted to recommend Cook’s Country magazine. It comes every two months, there are NO ADS in the magazine–just recipes, cooking tips, and reviews of cooking ingredients and tools. It’s published by America’s Test Kitchen, and every single recipe I’ve tried (and there’s been a lot) has come out so delicious! They include recipes that dip into all kinds of cuisines from all over the world, so there’s tons of variety. Annual subscription is about $30 for the physical magazine, but you can get a digital subscription that will allow you to access their entire recipe archives.

      For Italian cooking, I highly recommend Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Very authentic!

  2. jmbagirl*

    Talk me through navigating the emotions of marriage separation when you’re completely blindsided by it. Especially with a 5 year old child. I’m ok with legals and financials etc but struggling on how to accept that the direction I thought my life would go now has another path.

    1. riverflows*

      My heart goes out to you for this time. I didn’t have a child so I can’t speak to that — I imagine it brings a whole extra layer of complication and emotional stress. I do have to admit for me there was way too much hoping my spouse would change their mind — the blindsiding made me be in denial far too long but eventually I focussed on all the things I wanted to do and be that I minimized because of him == the more I deeply thought about it the more I realized how much I had compromised to have the “dream relationship”.

      Therapy was helpful and although more than I could afford at the time, very much worth it to get an unbiased perspective about the relationship, me, and my future.

      Be kind to yourself and your child, and mourn the life you thought you would be having but you can now take some control over your own happiness, and that is okay. I ended up with a life very different than what I thought I would have but it is very good and fulfilling.

    2. justabot*

      I’m so sorry. That’s extremely difficult. I think it’s important to recognize this as a type of grief about the loss of a life you thought was in your future. And that there will be a wide range of emotions and it’s possible to feel in conflicting ways, even at the same time. You can miss someone and still be furious at them for taking away the future you thought you would have together. You can be sad but also optimistic about creating a life that makes you happy, for you and your child. Self care is important. Even if you are in shock and blindsided and not motivated. Do it anyway. Keep your body in motion. Your future may not be what you thought, but you still have one. You may not know the new path for awhile. That’s okay. Honor the way you feel, even if it’s not always pleasant. I am sorry you are dealing with this. Sending warmth and strength.

    3. LittleBabyDamien*

      I found that telling little stories about how other children had mistaken ideas about why the other parent left, for example, would give my children the emotional space to tell their own stories. Example: I read a short paragraph about a 5 year old who thought their parent must have left because they wet the bed, to my 16 year old, who burst into a story about how when I had abruptly left to walk off the aftermath of a teenage argument, their sibling had accusingly yelled at them, “Now look what you did, you made Mom leave too”. Listen lots, use open ended conversation, let them feel what they feel, let them know you are still the parent and will take care of them, emotionally as well as in other ways.
      I found it hard not knowing what was going to happen, and not seeing the future in a clear comfortable way. I also felt powerless when someone else’s choice about my relationship ended it. Understanding what I could and couldn’t control, and taking ownership of those choices that were mine, in a very intentional way, helped with that.
      I grew tomatoes in big pails in a sunny sheltered spot. I didn’t care if they actually grew tomatoes, it was the nurturing and the slowing of time while I tended them that mattered. I stopped for a few moments each day to water them, observe them, smell the scent of their leaves and the earthy scent of the potting soil, and just breath for a bit. They turned out to be my best tomatoes, but the value was in the time I spent.
      I joined a couple of support groups at different times, I leaned on friends and family who were strong and supportive, I took the chance to learn new things.
      My kids turned out pretty good, I like my life and I am happy now. If I had known that this is where I would end up, it would have been a lot less frightening then, but we can’t really know the future, just trust in the journey to get there. I think you and your child will be okay!

    4. Batgirl*

      Stay really, really busy. I don’t mean avoiding the grief; that work has to be done, but I did the grieving purposefully and made sure there were plenty of distractions booked in to stop me wallowing in it. Develop a “New life plan”, as well as plans for next weekend.
      What are your hopes and dreams and what kind of life would you design when there’s no one to navigate agreement with? You’ll also find that it’s at times like these that you discover who your real friends are, as opposed to people trying to keep the social status quo. Beware of the “shoulds” like people telling you you should be friends with your ex, or that you’re not trying hard enough to cooparent together; it’s fine if that’s helpful to you, but the most important thing you can give your child is a happy parent, so if you need some space and freedom, let your ex manage their own relationship with their child (it will reassure them that they don’t need you to be together to have their love) and make plenty of plans with your kid that’s just the two of you. The most helpful metaphor I was given was to expect a rollercoaster ride. Every time things are low, you’ll experience a following upswing as you develop coping strategies. Then when you’re feeling good, you can expect another low point to follow. The good news is that each time this happens it gets more and more level and the lows get shorter and more manageable. It’s possible to have a very good life and have excitement for the future while navigating this, even though it is hard.

    5. Not usual name*

      I’m only a few months ahead of you in essentially the same situation, down to age of child, and still blundering through. Solidarity.

    6. Filosofickle*

      I am coming up on a year since my partner blindsided me and left totally out of the blue. All I can say is that you don’t have to have that acceptance just yet. First, you have to get through these days and months. Accept that it’s happening, but you don’t have to accept it’s for the best or be at peace with it yet.

      I agree with staying distracted — cry it out, feel it, but give yourself a break from that too. Watch silly movies with your kid. I read very fluffy books and avoided anything emotional, heavy, or even a little romantic for a very long time. I let my friends be there for me.

      Know that grief is incredibly fluid and non-linear. It comes in waves. The first couple of months were actually not the hardest for me — the shock kept me from going too deep. I didn’t really hit bottom til month 4 or 5. I was grieving so many things. The loss of love. The loss of a life I enjoyed. The loss of a future I planned on. The loss of his presence. I had to feel all of that, in small doses as I was able so I didn’t drown. One day at a time. Enjoy the better moments and days when you have them.

    7. PRM*

      It takes time. Emotions come and go. Grief is not linear. Anger can strike at any time. I’m a writer and I’ve worked through some of them on the page. But mostly: I leaned on others to help carry me when I couldn’t. I don’t believe in individualism and I live my life and politics in that way the best I can.

    8. A Feast of Fools*

      Recognize that part of what you’re feeling is grief. The loss of the future life you thought you had is real and it’s OK to mourn it like any other loss.

      And, like any other loss, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, while practicing judicious self-care, until you get to that point where you’ve adjusted to all the possibilities of a new future life.

    9. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Sending you all good wishes and strength — I know it’s really unsettling when you can’t quite imagine your future because things have taken such an unexpected turn, but knock wood, there IS an awesome future out there for you, even if it’s not clear to you right now. It sounds trite, but maybe there is a better direction for your life that you are going to be heading in.

      Meanwhile, please be really kind to and forgiving of yourself during this stressful time and also give yourself a big pat on the back every time you are able to model good coping skills for your 5-year-old. You can set a great example here of being able to acknowledge a huge disappointment and deal with it gracefully.

    10. Chaordic One*

      Give yourself a lot of slack. It’s a crappy situation and it’s perfectly normal to feel crappy about it. It is O.K. to let yourself be distracted by life, by your 5 year old, legals and financials, and by doing by yourself all the things that your partner did for you or that you did together. IME it is preferable to just letting things slide and ignoring those things that need to be done.

      1. The cat's pajamas*

        I haven’t been through this but sending Jedi internet hugs if you want them. I find the book Transitions by William Bridges helpful for any major life disruption/change and it covers the common themes for any kind of life change like grieving the past and moving through it.

    11. Random Bystander*

      Family counseling. It is a bit of a time thing, but I had a counseling session for myself, for myself+children, and also individual for two of my children (oldest and youngest sons, as it happened). My particular case was horrific and what ex did meant that he was not going to be involved in the children’s lives going forward (criminal charges were involved).

    12. Stoppin' by to chat*

      I strongly recommend finding a therapist if at all possible. Especially if you can do it remotely and walk while talking to them. Or if you see them in-person, then it’s a safe place to cry, or say the things out loud that you don’t want your child to hear, or whatever. I’m positive you will look back on this time in just a few years and realize how far you’ve come, and how strong you are. You will make it. Allow yourself to feel the grief, and keep reminding yourself you are strong, and you have what it takes to build a new life for you and your child. One step at a time. You’ve got this!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

      Even on weekends when I don’t have time to read and comment I come look at the cat photo.
      This makes me think there’s an untapped market for recessed storage box lids that fit a cat while they protect stuff.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Just make sure there’s nothing you really want to access–say, a Vitamix blender–inside, because you may never get it back.

        1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

          I loved the Vitamix saga! I have had to introduce new empty boxes to make my Sweeneycat move from the ones I need access to.

  3. Crepuscular*

    Remember earlier this week a LW wrote in about how their coworker reeked of marijuana and they wanted to know how to handle it? I have a similar question, but it is not in the workplace.

    Has anyone had a similar situation in an apartment setting? I live in a smoke-free building, and I have neighbors who smoke it outside their front door which makes the smoke come right in through my windows. I personally don’t feel comfortable approaching them because it is marijuana and also the only interaction I have had with the wife was when she complained to me about noise coming from my apartment (and she wasn’t exactly polite about it either, especially since it was the first time she ever spoke to me – Not a tactful, “I know we haven’t really introduced ourselves but I wish it wasn’t over this situation….”). With the nice warmer weather here, I would like to open my windows but a few times a day I’ll have to close them while they get their smoke break in. Furthermore, when it’s inclement weather, they smoke it in their bathroom which comes up to mine. I’m not looking to be the neighborhood narc especially since the state is medicinally-legal only. But at the same time, the smell is disgusting to me, and I don’t want it in my living space.

    Do I grin and bear it? What other options do I have? The design of the complex makes it so that my apartment is the only one affected (please take me at my word and not say that is impossible). I don’t care if they smoke; I just don’t want to smell it.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Have you considered talking to the landlord/building manager? You don’t need to specify exactly what they’re smoking.

      My neighbors’ smoke also comes through the bathroom due to the chimney effect. Luckily, they don’t smoke much.

      1. UKDancer*

        This is what I’d do. It’s one of the benefits of living in a block of flats in my view. You can defer difficult neighbour issues to the management company. So when my upstairs neighbour was smoking on their balcony and dropping cigarette butts over onto my balcony below I told the management company rather than trying to work out which flat it might be and tackle it myself. They dealt with the situation and it’s not happened again.

        1. Hazel*

          And for the times when you can’t figure out how the hell something appeared on your balcony, it could be birds picking things up and dropping them there. Although the time I found a very fancy ashtray on the balcony, I was startled and alarmed until I remembered that I had given my friend a key so she could enjoy the balcony while I was away.

    2. SofiaDeo*

      Can you get a fan in at least one of the windows facing outside? With a different window elsewhere open, so the airlow from ypur living room always goes outside?

    3. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      Not quite the same but I once had downstairs neighbors who smoked cigarettes inside. We complained to the management and they did something that I think mostly involved adding extra foam insulation around the electrical outlets; that’s where they said the air was able to travel between units. It helped a lot. I realize this may not be very helpful since you might not want to go to management… maybe something is DIYable?? Won’t help with having windows open either. I’m sorry, that’s a crappy situation :(

    4. Ugh, that smell!*

      Put a fan in the affected window(s) with an intake/exhaust switch. When they’re smoking, switch it over to exhaust to keep the smoke out. Bonus points (maybe!) if it winds up blowing right on them and they move further away from the building.

    5. fueled by coffee*

      If it’s a smoke-free building and they’re smoking in their bathroom or right outside the door, I’d take it to the landlord. Don’t say it’s marijuana if that’s illegal where you are — just say that you’ve been smelling smoke around the building and could they please email all the tenants to remind them not to smoke on the property.

      Hopefully they are just unaware of how easily smoke can permeate other apartments, and a slight nudge from management will stop this.

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      This sounds awful. If reporting them to building management and/or asking them doesn’t get them to stop, you might want to try an air purifier in the worst-affected areas. You shouldn’t have to get one, of course, but it would probably help with the smell and make the air more breathable. They aren’t hugely expensive, depending on which type you get.

    7. Crimson*

      Ughhhh this is so annoying. Usually I’m a huge proponent of talking to people directly but if it’s not a small building (more than 4 units?) I agree w going to management/ landlord first. You already know they’re not super polite or reasonable. If you talk to them then talk to the landlord they’ll know it was you. I’d be afraid of getting embroiled in some stupid back and forth.

      This is so freaking annoying. I have 0 issues with pot use but if you’re old enough not to live with your mom, you’re old enough to know your smoke is going to annoy people.

    8. Batgirl*

      We had this issue and had no recourse because it was separate houses, but the shared walls had vents and were very porous. They also smoked in the garden which would waft up to the bedroom window. We found neutradol spray on the vents was surprisingly effective (though it was too pungent to get rid entirely it was far more bearable). I’ve been told there are some American brands are even more effective.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      In NYS, smoking pot follows the same rules as cigarettes. If you can’t smoke a cig in a given area, then you can’t smoke a joint either.

    10. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      You got other good advice – if you ever did want to say something to them, you could potentially frame it as being allergic “so can y’all shoot me a quick text before you go out to smoke so that I can close my windows”?

      1. pancakes*

        That would seem a little passive aggressive to me, and moving in the wrong direction. If the scent of smoke is the problem, smelling it is going to be a good cue to close the window, yes? If there’s no smell there’s no problem. There is a smell, and Crepuscular is entitled to be able to use their windows, probably both as a matter of local code and what the lease itself says about habitability. So you probably don’t want to start a conversation offering to close your windows every time they feel like smoking close by. They’re very likely not entitled to do that.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Please don’t create pretend allergies. It just makes it harder for people with real allergies to be taken seriously. Say you’re sensitive to it, say it makes you feel sick, whatever. Just don’t fake an allergy, because the belief that people lie about allergies puts people in life-threatening situations.

    11. pancakes*

      I’m not sure I follow on why talking to them does not seem like an option. The fact that the wife wasn’t nice when you spoke in the past about her noise complaint doesn’t register with me as a good reason to never speak to either of them again, and if you don’t want to be the neighborhood narc, asking if they could avoid smoking right near your window seems like a much better choice than going straight to the landlord. It’s also a very reasonable request, and I think it could be a chance to re-set your relationship in a more purposeful way rather than considering it permanently damaged by the less-than-ideal noise conversation. She was apparently rude, yes, but she did talk to you rather than call the landlord and complain about the noise.

      1. What About My Anxiety?*

        I follow. I live in a state where ALL usage is illegal and I live in a small condo building. The neighbor directly above me, Sara, smokes for her “anxiety”. The neighbor across from her, Allie, asked her one day just to be considerate of the fact that we all have a shared ventilation system, there are children in the building, etc. Sara proceeds to berate and bully Allie until Allie put her unit up for sale and moved. It worked out great for Allie cause this was about a year ago and she made a ton of money on her unit but once Allie was gone, Sara started smoking again. The last two months, Sara seems to be smoking more and more. I have severe allergies, my daughter has severe allergies, and really it just stinks as well. How do I deal with this neighbor?
        My take away from the comment section of the letter this week is that when people smoke weed for anxiety, everyone else is just supposed to accept it. But if someone that does not smoke weed has anxiety about confronting someone about weed side affects, then those individuals just have to get over their anxiety and talk to the person. It’s also something I get in general from reading this blog. Mental health now trumps physical health.

        1. ants*

          Mental health doesn’t trump physical health but you have to be willing to use your words because people can’t read your mind and know what’s bothering you. Part of life is that you sometimes have to do some basic conflict resolution because there’s no magical way to make people know what you need.

        2. pancakes*

          I don’t think that’s the right take-away at all, and I think you are going to have a hard time handling this to your satisfaction if you’re going to regard your own misunderstanding of changing norms based on blog comments as a more reliable guide to how to navigate this than your lease and your local tenancy laws. If you have a look at those I am confident you will find that the details as to what people can and cannot legally expect from their lease and their landlord have not been thoroughly abandoned in favor of a contest to see who is the most anxious tenant.

          It also seems like a mistake on Allie’s part to not have spoken with the property manager (or anyone, apparently?) about the bullying, and I think it’s generally a mistake for people to lean on “there are children in the building” if the real issues are 1) one tenant causing a heavy, unpleasant smell in common areas and/or other apartments, which is generally not going to be ok whether it’s from marijuana or cigarettes, and 2) health concerns around any heavy smoke due to tenants having asthma. It isn’t an advantage to mask those important concerns as something more vague and less urgent.

          Do you have any tenant advocacy organizations in your area? I would start there. Even if there isn’t someone you can speak to, there will likely be a useful Q&A or something to read or watch about local options for handling situations like these.

      2. CTT*

        There is something about a first interaction with a neighbor being a rude one that makes it difficult to talk to them later, at least for me. If they’re going to be so rude as to approach things that way, it doesn’t make me think that a polite approach will work so why bother .

        1. pancakes*

          It depends on the interaction, but in some circumstances “I guess we’re not talking now because she / he seems unpleasant” is going to result in escalation rather than have an overall calming effect on the situation. How someone speaks to you doesn’t have to determine every aspect of how you speak to them.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            But it does make you anticipate how they’re likely to respond even to a polite & reasonable request.

        2. Marion Ravenwood*

          For sure. My neighbours in my old house were like that (complaining about furniture building noise when we were moving in) and it became really awkward later on when we felt like we couldn’t speak to them about their loud music coming through our walls without it potentially kicking off. We did have some conversations with them about it, in a polite manner, and luckily the wife at least was receptive to it, but it still felt a bit like walking on eggshells in case they turned it around on us because of what happened before.

      3. Crepuscular*

        The wife complained about our new dog, who gets rambunctious in the early evening when we come from work. She wants to get dinner and play. This involves her running around and barking. We very quickly try to squelch the barking and running, but right now we’re at a loss because the dog thinks even that is a game. Obedience school here we come and more seriousness with training on our part. But explaining this to the wife downstairs was met with rolled eyes.

        These rolling eyes come from the same person who allows her household to play loud music and TV all night long as well as allow other nocturnal sounds to come blaring out of her apartment at least once a week – and long before we got the dog. I woke up at 3am the other day hearing a percussion beat that lasted for over an hour, accompanied by some other noises. During the day, I was able to Shazam the songs she was playing through my bedroom carpeted floor; that’s how loud her household can be.

        As far as her being approachable – between the rolling eyes, the banging on her ceiling/our floor to the point where furniture moves, and her yelling curses at our dog through the floor…yeah no I’m not approaching that. I feel that if I ask her/them to smoke near our open windows that she will somehow get offended. I’m also thinking that she will turn around and say I’m bullying her because of what she said about the dog. I feel it’ll become a tit for tat ordeal.

        Yes, I do agree that open communication would normally be the best go-to. I actually attribute Allison’s blog here to have taught me that quite well. However, in this situation, I do not feel comfortable, and her blog has also taught to go with your gut.

        1. pancakes*

          It sounds to me like the eye-rolling is mutual. I don’t think it’s horribly out of bounds to roll one’s eyes at a neighbor who thinks the reasons why their dog barks a lot should make the barking easier for everyone in the vicinity to live with. Point taken about the cursing and banging on the floor, but it sounds as if your dog makes a lot of noise, and you know it makes a lot noise, and you haven’t been effective in getting it to make less noise. It sounds like this is already a bit of a tit-for-tat ordeal because you’re pointing out that she plays music very loud. That is a terribly annoying tendency in a neighbor and you have my sympathy, but a barking dog is annoying too. If your gut is telling you to call the landlord or the police the next time there’s an annoying smell coming from these tenants, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did the same the next time there are annoying noises coming from your place.

          1. Also going anon*

            A dog barking in the early evening is in no way comparable to heavy percussion at 3 am.

    12. MigraineMonth*

      Probably a terrible idea, but I’d be tempted to gift them several boxes of brownie mix. I have no problem with marijuana, but I hate smoke.

      1. Anonymous cryptid*

        I had a similar issue except I’m allergic to pot smoke, so not being able to breathe in my own unit is unacceptable. Thankfully, my landlord clarified that no smoking for us also means outside. They ended up smoking in their car, iirc.

        I also have a heavy duty air purifier which helps but is not 100%, and was already carrying N95 masks before the pandemic.

        It’s awful for folks like me, there’s no treatment for my allergy, and I’m treated like a pariah for simply wanting to just breathe without getting sick. My dr is dismissive and won’t give me an epipen. I have been able to put on a mask or get away from smoke so far. I don’t know if I’d get anaphylactic shock, I get to find out the hard way. :(

        1. Fellow sufferer*

          Sympathies. I have the same allergy and was treated like a pariah by my last building management and the offending new tenants when I complained so I know how it is.

          We’re not talking the occasional “For God’s sake use edibles, this is an apartment building and weed isn’t entirely legal here so you’re being stupidly conspicuous” moment. So much weed stench was coming through my closed windows and HVAC every two hours that even five heavy-duty HEPA air purifiers running 24/7 in a 900-square-foot apartment couldn’t mitigate it. Management refused to do anything.

          I gave in and moved out rather than risk yet another allergic reaction landing me in the ER or worse. I pay much more in rent now for the privilege of breathing. The thing is, multiple long-term tenants, not just me, moved out over that and other issues and management had the nerve to complain that all the “steady tenants” were leaving. Sheesh.

        2. Crepuscular*

          I’m sorry you are allergic to it and have to deal with a doctor even that won’t give you an epipen. Have you tried seeking out a new doctor for a second opinion?

          Thankfully, I’m not allergic. I just think the smell of it really stinks. I understand that pot can have helpful medicinal effects, but I would really need to lose my sense of smell in order to be able to try it. I don’t understand otherwise why people would want to smoke something that stinks so bad. With that being said, you’re reading a comment from someone who is also a picky eater and thinks strawberries have a funky smell; don’t take my opinion of it personally (whoever is reading this). I can tolerate cigarette smoke a helluva lot better than pot smoke. Go figure, right?

          1. Anonymous Cryptid*

            I’m not sure who I’d go to. There’s no official allergy test for it, and even if there was I’d have to put something in my body I’d rather not have in it, and if I try to do my own test I’d have to support an industry trying to kill me. Neither of these are great options.
            There’s still hardly any research on allergies, and many people don’t even believe they’re real because pot is seen as a totally harmless miracle cure for everything. I’m going to have to wait until enough others suffer for it to be taken seriously and continue to do what I can to protect myself.

            1. No Name For Now*

              If you haven’t yet, you should check out an allergist/immunologist. You can go to the website of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology to search for one. I won’t put the website in, since it will just get held up for a while. They might be willing to prescribe an epipen and it would probably be helpful to have a dr who is willing to say “yes, Anonymous Cryptid does have an allergy to marijuana smoke”.

              1. Quinalla*

                Agreed, even if there isn’t an official allergy test, if anyone is going to be able to help it is an allergist. People can be allergic to ANYTHING, an allergist should understand this. If you explain your symptons when you breathe in the smoke, hopefully they should be able to diagnose from that without having to do a test and get you an epipen prescription. And I would find a new general doc too if you can, I wouldn’t put up with someone that basically wasn’t believing me as my regular doc, yikes!

                Mom to kids with allergies and “happy” to pay for epipens we hopefully never have to use.

                1. Anonymous Cryptid*

                  Thanks, I also have to find an allergist who believes pot allergies are real, sigh. It might be easier now too that more dr’s offices are caught up after pandemic closures.

                  My Dr. is decent otherwise. I’m getting the sense that since it’s such a new area for treatment she’s being overcautious with the dx.

      2. Crepuscular*

        I’m sure anything further I say will make it all the more tit for tat.

        I just have one question – should I have said something to her in the same conversation about her household’s overnight noises?

    13. Wishing You Well*

      Report the smoking to the building manager. And keep reporting it if it keeps up.
      It used to be safe to calmly address people directly about a problem you’re having with them. Now – not so much. Even before Covid, I’ve experienced people’s behavior escalate over small matters. Use your building’s management to handle it. That’s what they get paid for.

  4. Anony*

    Anyone here have experiences fixing diastasis recti with exercise and maintaining it? Recommended resources?

    1. PostalMixup*

      Start with PT, if you can. That’ll give you the most personalized, hands-on help. Then, for maintenance, I signed up for MommaStrong. The whole point of the program is to be safe for people whose bodies have undergone damage from pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting (wrestling with toddlers, baby wearing, etc.) and to fit into a busy schedule. For me, it’s absolutely worth the money, because otherwise I’ll do absolutely no exercise! Another thing I love about it is it’s commitment to body positivity – there’s no discussion of aesthetics or “bouncing back” or whatever bs, but rather the focus is on building and maintaining the strength to live your life without pain.

      1. GermanGirl*

        In addition to PT and then classes of some kind, give yourself time.

        It took almost three years for me to regain all the stability that was lost because of the pregnancy.

        I did PT to start with, then took a weekly post partum yoga class for about half a year and then switched to 5 minutes of Pilates exercises a day and my regular sport which is Ballet.

    2. PT should be standard aftercare*

      Definitely recommend PT. I’m now transitioning to the GetMomStrong program at the recommendation of my physical therapist.

    3. Swisa*

      Seconding physical therapy! They can assess how bad it is, and can give you exercises targeted to your specific situation.

    4. BethDH*

      I found something I think through Mayo Clinic that had info on breathing exercises accompanied by movement that were super helpful — think yoga breathing in a version suitable for diastesis recti.

    5. A Mom*

      I also did physical therapy and found it super helpful! I have 2 kids, and did PT after both births.

      After kid #2 I knew about diastesis recti (not sure if I had it after #1 because I didn’t know to check) but due to the pandemic I wanted to start with an app instead of in person PT. I did a sample class via Facebook with MUTU System and then ended up getting the Every Mother app, and I did see results from the exercises in the app (closed the diastesis) but was still having lower back pain so I did additional with with a PT after (to strengthen my core gently/ mostly resolve the back pain).

      Every Mother was a little “woo-woo beige empowerment/GOOP girlboss” for my personal taste but it worked well and I appreciated that they had various models show the exercises, not just the very thin very blonde owner. It’s a subscription service but they currently have a mother’s day sale and I think there’s a two week free trial.

      MUTU was very energetic/cheerleader loud, and I think more expensive? Not completely positive why I ended up going with EM but probably cost or possibly app notifications (recently diagnosed ADHD, have always had trouble with routines that don’t have external reminders).

      Good luck! I hope you can find a solution that works for your body. I found EM really helpful for the DR and urinary incontinence.

      Links in followup comment!

  5. L. Ron Jeremy*

    My 20 year old male cat Honsom is slowly deteriorating with kidney disease and I’m not sure what signs to look for signaling its time to call it a life well lived.

    He’s still eating pretty good, drinking a lot and pooping and his volume of pee in the box is growing. He is very thin without much muscle and his gate is wobbly. His pelt is looking scruffy and he has many mates on his abdomen that he won’t allow me to remove.

    What do I look for? Thanks everyone.

    1. TangerineRose*

      Have you talked to the veterinarian? A blood test may help explain more about how he’s doing. Sorry you and your kitty are going through this.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Blood test at the vet confirmed kidney dysfunction. Unfortunately, he won’t eat the special diet and he vomits any medication.

        1. My Cat's Humsn*

          So sorry you are going through this. Agree with others’ suggestions below.

          Re the special diet — cats often don’t like sudden changes in food.

          Maybe try stirring/mixing together 10% special diet with 90% usual food, and if he eats that, then increasing the % of special diet in the mixture gradually, as he gets used to it.

          Ours did well on the special kidney diet food for a few years.

    2. TPS reporter*

      I am so sorry as well. It’s so hard to see them deteriorate. I’ve had two that I probably waited too long for as I couldn’t bear it just yet. No one would be mad at you for letting him go now while he has a decent quality of life.

      Going to the box and eating are good signs that he is okay. Once he’s really not eating or suing the box it’s likely time. My best wishes for you to be strong and remember the good times.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        This. Cats are good at hiding when they’re suffering, and by the time you realise it may be too late. I had that happen with my previous cat – had to let her go at the age of 10 due to a tumour that the vet could not do anything about by the time we noticed. My options were putting her down immediately or take her home with painkillers for a few days to say goodbye. I chose the first option.

        There is no real optimal time to let a cat go. He’s 20 and you clearly love him a lot – that alone is already a life well -lived. There’s no shame in not waiting for his life to inevitably become unbearable.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes, I agree. One thing our vet recommended when we were trying to make a timing decision with our dog years ago was to rate his days on a 1 to 5 scale. It sounded odd at first but it was very helpful. That will give you something more than memory to rely on in terms of assessing when kitty is having more bad days than good.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Agree on eating and using the box.

        Will add that I learned in a sci fi book about purring as a means of self-comfort, and then read here about it–don’t assume that curled up purring means idyllic, if other signs suggest he is struggling.

        I’m sorry; it’s hard when they go. With our 20 year old cat I had decided that next week I needed to call the traveling vet, and a couple of days later she was gone.

    3. Princess Xena*

      I’m so sorry :(. Is there any way you can talk with your vet about hospice/palliative care? They may have some suggestions. When I was facing a similar situation with my kitty my vet told me painkillers and all the good treats were my friend, with the occasional stool softener to counteract the painkiller.

    4. noface*

      I knew it was time when: he wasn’t eating, and wasn’t able to lap water – he would let running water from a tap drip into his throat. I’m really sorry. I think there’s no perfect moment, and many people have a hard time making the decision that it’s time.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Thanks for your advice. I want to make the call before he gets to a point of distress and to try to ensure Honsom’s passing is at the correct time.

    5. LittleBabyDamien*

      My cat had kidney disease, and we had her put down when it got bad. It seems that your cat is not doing too badly at this point, comfort wise, but I think that any deterioration, in food intake or ability to make it to the litter box, for example, will be your sign.
      Near the end we took her to the vet, who said that the time was close, and they gave her some intravenous fluids and some pain meds for a bit of temporary relief at that time, so that she would be more comfortable while a family member who wanted to say good bye could get there to be with her.
      I have spent a lot of emotion and energy making the call for my pets, and have never looked back and thought, “That was too soon, I should have waited longer”.
      I am sorry that this is happening, I wish you and Honsom a peaceful passing with no regrets.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Thank you for your kind wishes. I’ve been down this road before with other cats, but Honsom is special. My son found him on the street when he was only about 3 weeks and he’s been with me ever since.

        He has already had several close calls over the past several years where I thought it was his time, but he pulled through each time and fully recovered.

        I know there is no escaping kidney disease; I don’t want him suffering, but I have to balance him comfort against my love for him, and I want his comfort to steer his course.

    6. Little beans*

      I’m so sorry. I lost my dog at 16 years recently to kidney disease. His vet prescribed a special diet and he was able to do pretty well on that for a couple of years actually. We did have to deal with lots of accidents in the house, but it wasn’t until he stopped eating that it finally really seemed like the end. In our case, the vet was able to put him on some fluids that brought his vital signs back up to good enough levels that we brought him home, and he had one last good day with us, but then ended up passing the next night.

    7. Cat and dog fosterer*

      Cats stop grooming when they are too sick. My cat needed extra help for the last few years, but was doing some grooming. The end was really obvious in my case, but if the grooming had stopped completely then that would have been my sign.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Honsom is still grooming himself after eating, although not as well as he used to and it really shows.

        It’s tough to see him shrinking away when he so fluffy and he was the boss cat for so many years.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I know this pain. It was hard to watch our boisterous, fluffy dog lose weight and function. I agree that when he stops grooming, eating, drinking or otherwise behaving normally, it’s probably time.

    8. saradactyl*

      Agreed with the below comments about eating and drinking, but I’d also add what my parents’ vet said about their dog – is he having more good days than bad days still? Does he still feel well enough to do things like sit in his favorite window and look at birds? Or does he curl up and sleep and hide most of the time? If he’s still having lots of good days he might hold on for a while.

    9. KittenLittle*

      OSU’s Veterinary Medical Center has a quality of life scale worksheet to keep track of his good and bad days that may help you and your veterinarian decide when it is time to let him go. (vet.osu.edu/HonoringTheBond)

      I am so sorry that you and sweet Honsom are going through this.

    10. sequined histories*

      My vet had me squirting anti-nausea meds into my cat’s mouth daily as well as sticking a gob of high calorie jelly in there every day, which I do think helped. I started subcutaneous hydration shortly before he died (basically giving the cat a saline IV under the skin) and wished I had started that earlier. That part turned out to be easy, but he tolerated being handled better than many cats might, so YMMV. My vet had suggested that if the cat started refusing to eat that might be a good time to let go. (I adored the cat but I didn’t want to keep him alive if he couldn’t enjoy anything anymore.) What happened in the end is that he collapsed over his food dish–as in his legs wouldn’t hold him up–one evening. He was up and walking the next morning, but I decided I didn’t want him to have multiple episodes of not be able to stand or walk when he was alone, so I had him euthanized that day. It was so poignant, but at least know his last day of life was not some miserable ordeal, and I have some sweet memories from the last hour of his life. By that time, he had been in kidney failure for a couple of years, I guess. I’m sorry you’re going through this,

    11. Cat Lady*

      I am so sorry that you are going through this! Our cat went into kidney failure at 2 years old so I know how hard it is to go through. The best advice we got from a vet was that the cats kidney numbers will never tell the whole story. As an owner you are the best expert on your cat. There is a support group linked below for people who have cats with kidney disease. Aside from this comment section it might be one of the kindest places on the internet. They have a lot of resources on managing disease but also saying goodbye. I hope they might be able to offer you some help in this hard time. Sending you and your cat a lot of love. https://www.felinecrf.org/

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        Thanks for the link. Very comforting words from those who have been struggling with their cat’s kidney health.

    12. Dont be a dork*

      I have only ever regretted waiting too long. I have never ever regretted making the decision a little sooner than I was hoping for.

      If you are wondering if you should, you probably should. If you can trust your vet to be more concerned with Honsom’s quality of life than what you might shell out to keep him around a few more days or weeks, then take him and let them check him out and give their honest opinion.

      I’m so sorry. It’s the worst best decision you can make for them, but after a lifetime of loving, don’t we owe them an easy trip across to the other side?

    13. I'm A Little Teapot*

      What I did was make a list of everything that made life good, from the cat’s perspective. Then I periodically reviewed the list and crossed off anything that had been lost (or gained, if it was a bad thing). For my cat, I found that it was a very slow progression, then something happened and we lost most of the list all at once.

      My cat’s list was something like:
      –sleep in her favorite bed by the window
      –sleep on my bed
      –sleep outside under the bush
      –eat food she likes/not have to eat food she doesn’t like
      –not have regular accidents (she was clearly and obviously distressed by soiling herself)
      –not have to take meds she didn’t like
      –steal my breakfast
      etc.

      She lost a couple items right from the beginning when I made the list, then stayed stable for quite a while. Then she developed a heart condition, which crossed off one thing, but then the heart progressed and overnight she lost about 2/3 of the list. I called it then.

      There was a lot of crying involved while doing the list.

    14. RC+Rascal*

      I did subcutaneous fluids at home the last 2 1/2 months of his life.

      I kept asking the same question you are: how do you know it’s time for the end?

      For me, it was time when I could see he was visibly suffering and then I knew it was my responsibility as a loving owner to end it for him. Mine ate and drank until the end; he had a tremendous will to live. The last few days he started peeing in my apartment; even with two boxes he just couldn’t get there in time.

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        I’ve done subq fluids for Honsom twice before and for only about a week each time. He recovered both times.

        He’s currently resting in his favorite place, between my legs, and getting neck scratches and love.

        His appetite is strong, but I’ll keep watch for out of the box accidents.

        1. RC+Rascal*

          The last 2 weeks of his life I was giving the fluids every day. Hope this info helps.

    15. Eff Walsingham*

      We just went through the “palliative care” phase with one of ours (cancer). Our vet advised us not to bring him in again because of the stress, unless his quality of life wasn’t there anymore. She told us to look for 2 things: (1) is he eating? And (2) is he happy?

      I never made a trip to the fridge without him coming along, and he still found something to purr about up to his final day. (Chicken. He would always purr for chicken.) He had a few hygiene problems toward the end… we had to bathe him a couple of times, but he didn’t mind. He loved the towel cuddles after! But I was glad the vet gave us those signs to watch for, because we were able to have him home with us until he passed away peacefully.

      I am sorry to hear about your cat. It’s very hard, I know.

    16. Free Meerkats*

      We literally had to take Yum Yum to her last vet appointment yesterday due to chronic kidney disease. What settled it for us was 3 things:
      -She would hardly eat anything, including the lickable treats that previously made you count your fingers after giving them to her. Transdermal appetite enhancer only helped a little and the anti-nausea meds made her vomit.
      -She started denning about 2 weeks ago. Just settled in her little cave under the bed for almost all day.
      -She became incontinent.

      Then today we got her birthday card from Chewy…

  6. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    My asparagus and daffodils have finally appeared. I am starting to put the tomatoes and pepper seedlings outside to get used to sunlight. It is finally starting to feel like spring!

    1. SparklingBlue*

      The weather has finally let up in my area, so I hope to do some planting. (flowers and herbs)

    2. allathian*

      Our daffodils and tulips are growing bigger by the day, although I’d be surprised to see any flowers before June. Spring is late here this year. The daffodils we have in tubs are still blooming nicely, though.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

      That dozens of daffodils I planted in the fall are bobbing over bluets. I’m very happy to report that I have successfully encouraged those wild flowers by not mowing until they set seed. I am less happy to report that the same thing has encouraged the hoary cress. Pretty when it first comes up but miserable to walk through. Especially when their seed pods start popping.
      We put in lilacs on the hill that is scary to mow. And we have quince to transplant from our old house. Even though that means escalating my fight with the deer. (They already come within 15 feet of the house to graze on my terrace garden.)
      I have asked for perennials for Mother’s Day so we will join the throng at the nursery tomorrow.

    4. Lizabeth*

      My garlic is coming up! I’m excited because I was supposed to do in the fall and forgot. Threw them into some barrels with a nice mix of soil, compost and leaves. I don’t think the deer or bunnies will munch on them….

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      My iris are putting up flower stalks–I wasn’t sure if the copious amount of leaves would stop at leaves. The garden was left to its own devices the past few years due to poor health, and it’s nice how much it didn’t need me.

    6. Swisa*

      We just planted some asparagus and strawberries, and I’m really excited about it!

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      This is a popular day for garden club plant sales, so I made the rounds (in the rain!) and am looking forward to planting my treasures. I love garden club sales, since you can usually talk to someone who grew the actual plant you are buying and if they’re local, I know it will also grow in my climate. Plus I like to support the clubs, who work hard to keep our public spaces looking good. I picked up a really cool dianthus, a bunch of perennial herbs, and a new variety of coneflower that I hadn’t seen before, all divided from local gardeners’ plants.

    8. Girasol*

      Under milk jugs. I have a collection of plastic milk jugs with the bottoms cut out to protect newly planted tomatoes and peppers from late frost, and good thing, too, since there’s frost predicted Monday. I just have to screw the caps back on. They’re staked with pine sticks stuffed up the handles and work pretty well. I always wanted wall-o-waters but for the army of tomatoes I have, they would cost as much as the truckload of mulch I want dumped on the driveway so I can redo the whole back yard, and I’ll go for the mulch instead.

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

      It feels like I need to repot almost everything this year, and while I love to get my hands dirty and see the finished result, I agonize over which pots to put my plants in until I shut down and put it off another weekend. My Kalanchoe orgyalis “copper spoons” has way outgrown it’s shallow pot and is starting to show signs of being root bound and unhappy, but of all my empty pots, I can’t decide which to transfer it into.

      I picked up 4 new plants at the Huntington Plant Sale, and my friend who went with me gave me 5 cuttings from her collection of succulents, so I have a plethora of plants…a nice place to be in…but they all need to get out of the plastic pots and into permanent homes.

    10. Salymander*

      My tomatoes had a little fungus spotting on the leaves, so I treated them with an organic fungicide spray and they are now doing really well. Everything else is growing well, too.

      Someone ripped up all the California poppies from my guerilla garden tree pits. The other guerilla garden plots were spared, and they didn’t touch the other seedlings that are just coming up. Maybe someone stole the flowers so they could give their mom a bouquet?

      I mentioned last week that one of the guerilla garden tree pits had been doused with vodka when someone broke a bottle into the soil. Nothing would grow. I flooded the soil with water to flush it out, added some minerals and compost, and now a few very hardy seeds have sprouted! Cosmos, California poppy, borage, chia and sunflowers are just beginning to sprout. So excited!!!

      I saw a lot of butterflies in the garden this week, including Edith’s checkerspot, painted lady, tiger swallowtail, and gulf fritillary. I saw others, too, but they were too elusive for me to get a good look at the wings.

  7. Cat’s Cradle*

    Has anyone found an iPhone cord that’s cat-proof? One of my girls has started chewing on cords to get my attention and the lemongrass spray (sold as anti-scratching spray) worked for a bit until she developed a taste for it. Since it’s attention-seeking behavior (she’ll chirp and look at me before chomping down) I’m trying to ignore her when she does it but I don’t want her getting hurt in the process. I do have some decoy cords that aren’t plugged in to distract her but she’s clever enough to keep trying the cords until she finds the right one.

    She gets PLENTY of attention – I work from home and she sleeps in my lap while I work plus she has siblings to play with. She just has moments when she wants attention that very moment and found a way to demand it.

    1. Kitties*

      We had this problem too. We got ridged cord covers and that solved the problem. Amazon sells them. I’ll add a link in a comment, but you can also just google pet safe cord covers and you’ll see a variety of covers.

      1. Kitties*

        I tried to put in a link but it was too long. Anyway the kind we have are from Amazon and are made by Cacovedo. You can cut them to whatever length you need. But there are lots of other kinds if you google pet safe cord covers.

        1. Sam I Am*

          This is what worked for us, and my cat also seemed to have an “attention seeking” element to the cord chewing.

    2. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Lots of cats seemed to be hard-wired (ha) for this kind of behaviour, as they have a snake-killing instinct. Obviously some cats are good snake killers and some are not interested, though. I suspect she is chirping to tell you she has found a snake and is going to demonstrate killing it, so that you will learn to kill your own in future.
      I think cord covers are the go – you can use toilet roll or paper towel rolls for a cheap version, maybe wrap some sticky tape around the cardboard so that the sticky side faces outwards, most cats don’t like getting their fur/whiskers on anything sticky.
      My grandmother had a dog (40 years ago) that used to have fits intermittently, long after his eventual death she found the tv cord had a lot of teeth marks in it where he had bitten it and we presume it sometimes bit him back!

    3. Cat and dog fosterer*

      Bitter apple spray is available in pet stores. It doesn’t work with every cat, but does with most, and might be worth a try. She might grow to like it, like the lemongrass.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      My mom started squirting her cat with a water bottle when he was doing something similar. The cat learned this would bring the wrong kind of attention, but it didn’t actually hurt the cat.

      Then again, he did express his displeasure by pooping outside the litter box each time after mom sprayed him, so your mileage may vary!

    5. Dino*

      Don’t have decoy cords, it just teaches them to try every cord and reinforces the “cord = toy” concept which is not helpful.

      My cat used to do it, too. It was also an attention thing. So every time she bit or destroyed a cord I would (without saying anything or a large reaction) pick her up and put her away from me, then close the door in between us. Since she was doing it for attention from me, turning it into something that got her less attention and access to me worked. She fully stopped chewing cords by the time she was 16 months old.

    6. Sundial*

      One of mine rips out carpet fibers and eats them when she wants attention. I keep a squirt gun handy to make her stop.

    7. I take tea*

      I had a cat like that. She didn’t stop until we had to take her to the vet after getting an electric chock. I hope the other suggestions work better.

    8. Suprisingly ADHD*

      My cat des the same thing, we figured out we can redirect him to something else to chew on. Those plastic straps that come around some cardboard boxes (especially printer paper) are his favorite. We just leave them laying around, and when he chews wires we give him the straps to chew on instead.

    9. kina lillet*

      Weirdly, my iphone cord is the only one that the cat doesn’t chew on. Maybe try those woven cords?

      For all my other cords and cables I use this weird clear tubing that goes around the cord. It’s just the only thing that works.

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

      I haven’t done this with a cat, but it’s worked on chewy dogs…wrap tinfoil around anything you don’t want chewed. It’s cheap and unpleasant to chew.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        I can’t have a cat anymore for reasons, but I’m wondering if getting a cheap knockoff cord as a decoy would work or if they’d be too smart and figure it out, lol.

        1. pancakes*

          How does the cat know it’s a decoy? They like to play with cords and they like to play with yarn as well. They like the motion of a lightweight, wiggly thing. The functionality of it as a charger is beyond their little minds.

          1. The cat's pajamas*

            I was thinking if they chew on it because it’s a lightweight wiggly thing, or if it’s because they know it’s the VERY IMPORTANT wiggly thing that their owner is frequently using, and therefore must chew that specific one. :)

    11. Skeeder Jones*

      My cat is a cord eater so I bought protectors fro all my cords and no longer have to worry about it.

    12. Eff Walsingham*

      We gave up. Both of our phone cords go in a drawer when not in use, and she only went for them when the phone was not attached. Now after seeing the snake- hunting comment, I’m wondering if that had something to do with it in her case? Because she leaves all the other electrical cords alone.

      1. pancakes*

        Of course. If it’s moving, it’s something that might look fun for a cat to pounce on. A phone cord resembles a length of yarn and cats famously like to play with yarn, yes? They don’t understand electricity but they know a wiggly thing when they see one. The only time our cat went for cords was when I’d have my phone charging and in hand – the cord is going to be moving a bit unless you’re sitting perfectly still. Setting the phone down in place and distracting her with a proper toy should work.

  8. Tulips are here!*

    I’m a nervous flyer, but I’ve tried not to let that get in the way of traveling. My partner and I are contemplating international travel this summer, and I want to set myself up for success on the longer flights that will entail.

    Right now, here’s my list of strategies:
    -paying for internet so that I can feel connected to the outside world (one thing that freaks me out is the disconnect)
    -having activities that engage both my brain and my hands (i.e.movie & doodling)

    I want to avoid medication/supplements because of potential interactions with other medication—and I feel like a bad reaction to a sedative will be more terrifying than my baseline anxiety.

    Any other recommendations?

    1. fueled by coffee*

      -over-ear headphones and podcasts. I get worried about blasting music through earbuds with given how loud the engines are on planes, but podcasts are a good “passing the time” option because you can keep your eyes closed while listening. I have a lot of trouble sleeping on planes, but podcasts at least help me “zone out” a little
      -if you find yourself getting nervous, a breathing technique I like to use is to make your exhales slightly longer than your inhales: so, for example, breathing in for a count of four, then out for five, and repeating. It’s possible that this is totally a placebo effect, but I was told by a therapist once that this strategy helps with regulating your nervous system to make you feel more relaxed.

      1. Princess Xena*

        If you can, get a noise cancelling pair! Reducing outside noise means that the inside noise doesn’t have to be as loud.

        1. Hazel*

          Also you won’t hear weird airplane noises that might cause you to worry. I’m not usually a nervous flier, but those noises do make me nervous.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Headphones, music, audio books. Comfy clothes. I like to wear over the counter mild compression socks, because then my feet fit back into my shoes at the end of the flight. I wear another pair of heavy socks over those to keep warm. Exercise is good – walk around the aisles, do some mild stretching or isometric exercises near the galleys. If you have comfort snacks, bring those. I like to bring some games like crosswords or sudoku. If you craft, bring your hand work. I’m big on hot drinks, so I bring a small thermos on the flight and then I can get hot water from the attendants and not keep bugging them for more.

      Basically, anything that’s portable that soothes you and brings you comfort at home, try to recreate that on the flight.

    3. Princess Xena*

      Some other things you could try:

      -chewing gum: our brains sometimes get let freaked out when we eat or drink, or feel like we’re eating or drinking.
      – something with a soothing scent: nothing too strong, because that gets obnoxious in a closed space, but a hand cream with a hint of mint is something I like on a plane

      Good luck, and let us know how your trip goes!

    4. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Another strategy you could try is reading ‘Ask The Pilot’ – it’s a blog that’s pretty much an aviation version of this site. I find it really helpful to know more about how things work – ‘what’s that funny sound? Oh yeah, it’s those hydraulics they use on ascent I read about’. I feel like if I’m educated I can reassure myself with more authority. Good luck – flying is such a weird thing that evolution just hasn’t equipped us for!

      Sidenote: a great way to alleviate jet lag if it’s a big time difference is to change your watch to destination time when you board, and start acclimatising during the flight – try and sleep when it’s their nighttime and do your best to stay awake during their day. I’ve done a lot of international flying and it works well for me.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Seconding this idea–there’s actually a book version of the blog that I keep on my kindle solely to read when I get nervous while flying, and it really helps.

    5. Hola Playa*

      Flights over oceans and remote places may not have internet for a couple of hours until the plane is in range again, so if your flight might have a path like that, prep activities or have downloaded stuff for that time so you aren’t caught offguard.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      If you have noise cancelling headphones–I’ve borrowed my husband’s and daughters and it is such a difference in background noise levels, which can be agitating. I don’t fly often enough to have justified getting my own pair yet.

    7. Crimson*

      Ask your doctor about medication. They’ll be aware of what you’re already taking and prescribe with that in mind.

    8. Mephyle*

      This is what works for me. I have previously downloaded and have ready on my device some audio tracks that help me relax; you can find whatever works for you – for me it’s guided meditation, and/or ASMR, and/or an audiobook that I enjoy and have listened to before (the reason it’s a re-listen and not a new story is so that I don’t focus on staying alert to see what happens next). I put my chosen track on repeat, or make a playlist as long as the flight, and listen with noise-cancelling earphones.
      Get comfortable, close your eyes and listen. For me, I let myself sleep (I know this doesn’t work for everyone) and if I can’t fall asleep, I try to mimic sleep – eyes closed, muscles relaxed, breathing relaxed.

    9. Whynot*

      Do you knit or crochet, or do you have an interest in learning? That fits the criteria of engaging both hands and brain, and as an added bonus, by the end of the trip you’ll have a scarf (or a hat or socks or whatever).

      1. Tulips are here!*

        Thanks! Yes, I do crochet, but I tend to avoid bringing it on planes so my needles don’t get confiscated. Though I think crochet/knitting needles are allowed now under TSA rules? Not sure about other countries’ airlines…regardless, I will investigate!

        1. Salymander*

          I knit when I fly, and have never had any needles confiscated. If you knit socks and use short, double pointed needles your project will look less scary and weapon like. Wooden or plastic needles are not as intimidating as metal. Needles connected by a cable for knitting in the round work well, too.

    10. PastorJen*

      I used to be terrified of flying and now I love it, which is not something I ever thought I’d say! There are lots of good resources at fearofflying.com, which is a website and fear of flying program that is run by a retired commercial airline pilot who has a degree in psychology. I did that program fully online years ago and it was a game changer. I highly recommend it (and no, I don’t have any sort of financial interest in the program or anything, I’m just a happy former client!)

    11. Veronica Marx*

      I have no idea if you like video games, but I like to load my iPad/Switch Lite with games that I enjoy playing on flights. Things that have kept me occupied during travel: Stardew Valley, Donut County, Mini Metro, Monument Valley. These are lowkey, oftentimes pretty, soothing games and most have a puzzle element. It keeps my mind and hands busy.

      1. Lilith*

        I’ve always taken a knitting project on flights. Never had anything confiscated and I knit with circular needles. Crochet hooks should be fine.

    12. VegetarianRaccoon*

      I’ve become a very nervous flier as an adult. In addition to the good suggestions people have already made, I have one of those neck pillow things that’s extra supportive and ‘tall.’ It reaches like halfway up my ears if I scrunch down into it a little. Both easier to fall asleep/zone out in it, and even when I’m not sleepy I’ll kind of use it to insulate myself from the outer world a little more (if you don’t have the big headphones on).
      I keep some sort of small fidget in my pocket to fuss with when I’ve just got a moment or two, or I can’t concentrate on activities. Ok, actually I had two for my last trip, one was a large plastic decorative button that had popped off my wallet and I just left it in my coat pocket, and turning it over in my fingers sort of distracted me. The other was a little plastic pea pod that you could squeeze and the peas would kind of peek out. And a flight attendant gave me a St. Christopher’s medal, like a large decorative coin. I’m not Catholic but it worked well as a fidget turning it around in the fingers of one hand.
      I once had to be let off the plane because I was too panicked. Other times I’ve cried through takeoff. If you’re approaching as bad at flying as I am, give the attendants a heads-up at boarding. That’s what they told me would be good in the future, and I’ve done that and they’re very supportive and that way they know I’m not having a medical problem. If you do get a panic attack, a cold wet cloth (or paper towels) on your forehead is surprisingly helpful.

  9. Jackalope*

    Book thread: what is everyone reading this week? Any recommendations or requests for recommendations?

    1. Margali*

      I just finished John Sandford’s start to a new series, The Investigator. Good if you want rock ’em sock ’em action. If you like cozy mysteries, my book club just finished Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo and we all really liked it.

    2. Princess Xena*

      The Innkeeper series by Ilona Andrews. Urban fantasy romances. The main character is an innkeeper – but her guests are aliens and vampires, using earth as an interstellar stopover point. Surprisingly low on the intense romance scenes and quite funny.

    3. Jackalope*

      I didn’t have time to post earlier, but I reread the Raven Daughter trilogy by A.D. Trosper this week and really loved it. For anyone who enjoys fantasy novels (I suspect it would be considered YA fantasy but I’m not certain), this series was a lot of fun. For those who read fantasy, one of the tropes that the author overturned (common in YA fantasy & possibly adult fantasy as well) is the hero(ine) who tries to fit into society, doesn’t manage it, and finally in the last book realizes that they need to go their own way. In this one the main character tried for a bit, & by the end of the first book decided that this wasn’t working for her at all & found a different option that did. It was refreshing not to have that be the point of the books. And the author started with some cliched ideas and then did fun things with them. Plus, this is a minor thing, but the description of pregnancy was much more accurate than what you usually come across in fiction, & I loved it.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      Read the new P.C. Grant book by Aaranovitch (Amongst Our Weapons) which was a fun read. Also Unlocked by John Scalzi, which I was sure when reading it had been written in 2021, but actually had been written in 2014 (it’s about a global pandemic).

    5. allathian*

      I’m currently reading Arms & the Women, a Dalziel & Pascoe book by Reginald Hill. I’m still mainly re-reading rather than reading new stuff…

    6. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Still plugging along with the Canzoniere . Haven’t had much time to read this week so I’m not quite as far as I had expected (currently on RVF 73), but I’m liking it so far. Also due to the footnotes being 19th century, the editor does step in every once in a while when Leopardi either didn’t comment on something the editor felt needed a comment or when Leopardi mentioned something vaguely like “the Pope” the editor steps in to clarify which pope he means, which is nice.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

      I hit library gold this week! Kaizu Preservation Society by John Scalzi– it’s fun. (It’s the first book I have encountered to be set during covid, but it is not a plague novel.)
      Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I’m going to send you to the internet to read about this one comma because it’s complicated and beautiful.
      Add both books to any LGBTQ+ reading lists you may maintain btw.
      And I reread The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde… even more satisfying after having read Jane Eyre at last.
      Next up is something picked on the basis of a Locus Magazine review: “Battle of the Linguist Mages” by Scotto Moore. I’ll report back next week.

      1. Stitch*

        I was four novellas into the Wayward Children series and they suddenly disappeared from Libby for both libraries I use.

    8. The OG Sleepless*

      I read “Artemis” by Andy Weir this week after somebody here recommended it. I’d had it sitting around for awhile and finally got around to it. It was really enjoyable! The protagonist reminded me a great deal of Kinsey Milhone.

      1. allathian*

        Ooh, thanks for the rec! I’ll have to look into that. I really enjoyed The Martian, but I haven’t read anything else by Weir yet. I really enjoyed the first 20 or so Kinsey Millhone books, but sadly the quality dropped a lot in the last few and I never finished reading Y is for Yesterday, and it takes a lot for me to abandon a book half way through. That said, I’m a bit sad that she never completed Z is for… I gues I’m something of a completist.

    9. Teapot Translator*

      I’m reading Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart. I’m enjoying it!

      1. PhyllisB*

        Loved Girl Waits With Gun!! If you’re enjoying that, you are in for a real treat, because there’s 7 books in the series.

    10. Stitch*

      I had travel this week so I read a lot. I read just about everything but have been trying to read some more lighthearted stuff recently, hence a dip into romance novels.

      Cloud Cuckoo Land – I liked this. The multi year setting was very interesting.
      The Power (Naomi Alderman) – I enjoyed this one.
      The Ex Hex – I found this one frustrating. The setting was good but the main romance was uninteresting and the problem resolved absurdly easily.
      Beach Read – I liked this one.

      1. Stoppin' by to chat*

        If you liked Emily Henry (Beach Read), I highly recommend their other book “People you meet on vacation” Loved that one!

    11. Detective Rosa Diaz*

      I am doing Dracula Daily, an email service which sends you bits of the classic novel Dracula on the actual dates of its various journal entries and newspaper articles. It just started and runs May-Nov.
      Right now my good friend Jonathan has arrived at his pal the count’s house but hoo boy are these peasants superstitious!

      1. curly sue*

        We’re doing that here! I get the emails and read them to the family in the evenings. It’s been a real hoot watching eldest (15)’s reactions, as she’s never read the book before. She’s firmly decided that Jonathan belongs in the idiot box, which led to a really fun discussion on whether you can blame someone for not being genre-savvy when the book he was in helped invent the genre.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Dracula is a perfect book for that kind of thing, with the journal entries, etc.

      3. beep beep*

        I’m also doing Dracula Daily! I’ve never read it before and thought it’d be fun. My Tumblr community seems to have really latched onto it, too, so I’m seeing fanart and memes for this 100+ year old book and it’s amazing.

        1. VegetarianRaccoon*

          Maybe we just inhabit the same kind of circles, but I think ALL of tumblr might be on a Drac kick! I’m loving the memes despite never having read more than a few passages out of Dracula. I’m wondering if I should still sign up. I missed the first two days and for some reason went “oh well, too late now.”

      4. Littorally*

        I’m also doing this! It’s been…. decades, I’m pretty sure, since I read Dracula last, and this seems like a fun way to revisit it. Since it’s going strictly chronologically, some things are going to be in a different order from the way the book is laid out, which could be interesting.

    12. Meh*

      I read the Detective Lavender series this week (I has read the first novel several years ago and forgot)

      I started a new series -Edinburgh Dawn,Dusk, Midnight- and can’t quite bring myself to like the protagonist (and most of the supporting characters). I think the author tried to make him/them human and flawed. But maybe too much?

      I read The Raven Spell as an Amazon prime first free read and liked it so much I pre ordered the sequel.

      I’m trying to listen to books as I work – I do craft type stuff – so any Kindle Unlimited with free audio suggestions are welcomed!

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      The Betel Nut Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu. Second in a series; Chen Su Lin is now working for the police, ostensibly as a secretary to the chief inspector though in practice more of an apprentice. Strong sense of place in 1930s Singapore.

    14. Writer Claire*

      I just finished re-reading The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin. It’s the first book in her Pingkang Li Mystery series, and it’s a lovely combination of romance and mystery. I’m also reading the non-fiction book Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar, about the Dyatlov Pass Incident in 1959.

    15. GoryDetails*

      Most recently:

      ZOM 100: BUCKET LIST OF THE DEAD – a manga that opens with a young salaryman (office worker in Japan) who’s utterly burned out after three years in a toxic, demanding workplace – to the point where the onset of a zombie apocalypse leaves him reeling in joy because he doesn’t have to go in to work anymore!

      THE TEST by Sylvain Neuvel: a harrowing short novel set in a near-future where applicants for citizenship must take a written test – that turns out to be something much more grim. Really fascinating (and wrenching) layers here.

      THE DOLL by Daphne du Maurier: a collection of her earliest stories – and very good they are, with dark humor, psychological twists, and marvelous (if often unsettling) scene setting.

      SAMURAI WILLIAM by Giles Martin: nonfiction about the English navigator who, as one of the few surviving crew members on a Dutch trading ship, was the first Englishman to reach Japan. His adventures there inspired James Clavell’s “Shogun”, and his real story is quite fascinating.

    16. CTT*

      I finished “Dead Lions” this week, which is the second book in the Slough House/Slow Horses series that Apple TV+ adapted. I have this weird relationship with these books where I know I will keep reading them even though I cannot stand the execution. There’s a lot of “Character we are following internally acknowledges that they are lying about something but we are not let in on what the lie is” or “Characters have an intentionally vague conversation so the reader doesn’t know what’s happening, even though they are in cahoots together and would actually talk about it explicitly.” I just think it’s a really lazy way to build suspense. But I love the idea of the books so much and they make for a good “I don’t know what I’m in the mood to read” choice that I’m just going to keep trucking along with them in the hopes that the writing catches up to the premise.

      1. Retired Accountant*

        Yeah, I thought Slow Horses was really hard to follow, and Dead Lions is starting off the same. Lots of extremely abrupt point of view and location changes, and things happening off-page that were alluded to before being revealed much later. Like you I want to like the series. I put Dead Lions down for a while and probably will have to start over.

    17. Another_scientist*

      I recently finished Humankind by Rutger Bregman. It’s half pop-sci, half philosophy, arguing why humans are fundamentally good creatures. Nice these days to dive into a thoroughly optimistic view of the world.

      1. RosyGlasses*

        Sounds similar to The Humans by Matt Krieg (same author as the midnight library but I’m away from home and too lazy to Google :-) ). Excellent sci fi type book that comes to the conclusion that humanity isn’t so bad after all.

    18. Texan In Exile*

      I started “Alpha Girls” by Julian Guthrie last night and it was so validating (and horribly depressing) to see that in the 80s and 90s, other women were also going through the same sexual harassment that my friends and I were going through.

      I also started “Sway: Unraveling Unconscious Bias” by Pragya Agarwal. It’s a bit academic, but very interesting.

      Books that have made me even more angry about how women are treated in our culture:

      The Shame Machine, Cathy O’Neil (Weapons of Math Destruction is also excellent)
      The Authority Gap, Mary Ann Sieghart
      Sex Matters, Alyson McGregor
      Pay Up, Reshma Saujani
      The Pain Gap, Anushay Hossain

      And finally, some fiction
      The Husbands, Chandler Baker (and The Whisper Network)(Both of these should probably be in the list “Books that make me angry”)
      Rizzo, Denise Mina (all her books are excellent)
      The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, Beth Morrey
      The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

    19. Constance Lloyd*

      I started reading The Man Who Hated Women, which is about the Comstock Act, given current events and am… deeply regretting it, given current events. So we’re switching to the Bridgerton books.

    20. LNLN*

      Just finished listening to the book Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean. Fascinating story (based on a true event) and beautifully written. Highly recommend!

    21. Person from the Resume*

      Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby was just published, and it’s great. Fortunately no more of a description of her trauma than was in Nanette comedy show. It’s kind of an autobiography up to her very early 20s and then a description of her creative process in creating Nanette, the comedy show where she said was quitting stand-up comedy and became well known internationally and everyone was talking about the show.

      She’s been writing this book for a longtime. It’s been on my Goodreads to read list for several years. It was worth the wait.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Of course as soon as I finished the book I rewatched Nanette and her second Netflix comedy show Douglas.

        And I’m rereading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for book club in a week and a half. I’d forgotten / not noticed how much of the early part of the book is about Monique the person Evelyn is telling her story to. But it interesting to reread with what details I remember coloring my perspective on what Evelyn has told so far.

    22. Bluebell*

      I just finished Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, which was so good I had to email Alison. Strong female protagonist, great secondary characters, and it deals with women’s roles in the 60s. Lots of funny parts, but it also deals with some very serious issues. Now I’m reading The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, and it’s a challenge. Some narrators are really interesting, but others I don’t care about at all.

    23. Fellow Traveller*

      I just finished Dial A For Aunties which was ridiculous but so much fun.
      Also read Matrix which was … fine, I guess. I did enjoy much of it but I don’t understand all the hype about the book. I liked all the details of the time period but I thought the story/plot was kind of slow. Happy to have someone explain what I’m missing here.
      Right now I’m reading The Menopause Manifesto (because entering my forties and want to know what I’m in for) and just also started The Firekeeper’s Daughter.

    24. Puffle*

      I finished the Daevabad Trilogy this week, and I have a serious book hangover now- it’s such a good series! I have River of Silver on my list now, but does anyone have any recs for similar series? In particular fantasy works set in/ influenced by Islamic culture

      I’m currently also reading Lost Languages by Andrew Robinson, which is about ancient scripts (like Etruscan and Meroitic) and the work done to translate/ understand them, and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

      1. allathian*

        Oooh, Lost Languages sounds fascinating. Andrew Robinson’s also written Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion. Champollion decoded the Egyptian hieroglyps on the Rosetta Stone and basically founded the science of Egyptology.

        1. Retired Accountant*

          The Code Book by Simon Singh is a very readable book about codes and code breaking. It’s more of a survey, for someone who would enjoy a chapter or so in the topics above, as well as the Nazi Enigma machine, the Navajo Code Talkers, Mary Queen of Scots and more. I thought it was very well done.

    25. E. Chauvelin*

      I’m about halfway through an advance copy of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and enjoying it so far.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Knowing nothing but the title and author, this is heading straight for my to-read list!

    26. Foreign Octopus*

      I finished Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke today, which is the second in the Inkworld trilogy. It’s meant to be a children’s book – maybe early teens – and I only picked it up because of the gorgeous cover art but I’m really, really enjoying the story. It’s just good fun with an engaging plot, interesting characters, and plenty of love of books in it so I’m excited for the final book later this month.

      I’ve moved onto Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer, which is also part of a trilogy (I think). I haven’t actually cracked it open yet but my brother got it for Christmas for me a couple of years ago and I’m looking forward to delving into it tomorrow.

    27. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m listening to “She Who Became the Sun” on audiobook and it’s… fine. It alternates between several perspectives and while some of them are AMAZING others are so boring to me! If I were reading in print there would be a lot of skimming but I hate to potentially miss something important by skipping ahead in audio.

    28. Ali + Nino*

      Just finished The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan – excellent but disturbing, especially since I’m a mom with a daughter the same age as the protagonist’s.
      Just started American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser – about homes for unwed mothers and the adoption process in the US. If you saw the documentary Three Perfect Strangers, This book focuses on the same agency that arranged those adoptions.
      I guess I’m on a maternal literary kick!

    29. VegetarianRaccoon*

      Shoutout to whoever recommended The Heretic Queen in last week’s thread, I got it from the library and really enjoyed it!

  10. Ginger Pet Lady*

    It’s getting warm here and that means pasta salad for lunches! I like to mix and match with things to throw in with the pasta and dressing and not use a recipe. What are your favorite things to put in a pasta salad?
    Mine are:
    Olives of all kinds
    Capers
    Roasted red peppers
    Thawed frozen peas
    Roasted broccoli
    Grated carrots
    English cucumbers
    Artichoke hearts
    Halved or quartered cherry/grape tomatoes
    Various cheeses, diced or shredded Perennial favorites are feta and pearl mozzarella.
    (not all at once, that’s just the list I draw from)
    Share your favorite pasta salad add-in!
    I’ll take full recipes, too, but I can’t promise I’ll follow them!

    1. Teatime is Goodtime*

      If you like beets, roasted beets of any kind are delightful. I roast them and let them cool, or use leftovers. Red ones color the pasta, of course, which looks funny.

      Actually, saying that: any leftover roasted veggies work great. I’m thinking of the asparagus in the fridge at the moment, for example.

      Also: if you can splurge, my favorite cucumbers to add are actually the little Persian ones (or at least that’s how they are labelled here, I am not in the US). They are more expensive but so so good in taste and texture for pasta salads.

    2. Gingerblue*

      Now you’ve made me want pasta salad! I haven’t made it in ages. I’m very fond of classic macaroni and tuna salad, but if I were experimenting with ingredients, I might try edamame, bacon, hard boiled eggs, and chives. (Also not all at once!)

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Pesto makes a good base for pasta salad. I like to add arugula and sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers.

    4. Formerly in HR*

      I came up with a ‘recipe’ by trying to make a real recipe last longer and feel more filling. The actual recipe is to saute some garlic cloves sliced thinly, then add thinly sliced zucchini (2-3) and 1 cup corn. Salt, pepper, oregano etc. Stir and cook until slightly browned. If using as is, juice 1/2 lemon over and sprinkle grated Parmesan. Otherwise, add to a bowl and mix with cooked small pasta (cassarecce usually), olives, pine nuts, maybe some chopped artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, capers. EVOO and season to taste.

    5. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I like throwing in some mini pepperoni, too, in addition to what everyone else has recommended!

      1. B*

        Nuts! Peanuts and a soy sauce citrus Sriracha dressing. Apple chunks and pecans with a maple syrup apple cider vinegar walnut oil dressing.

    6. RC+Rascal*

      diced salami or pepperoni is good with onion, grape tomatoes, olives, and pearl mozzarella.

    7. Cartographical*

      I like to add protein to mine sometimes, whatever ever is on hand, really. I adjust the other ingredients accordingly. I think my favourite is leftover grilled chicken breast or smoked ham. Sweet corn makes a regular appearance; if it’s cut from the cob, I usually grill it first. Marinated/grilled eggplant cut into strips is also good. We love red onion in everything, or Vidalia onion. I use kale sometimes, shredded and sauteed in olive oil with garlic first. I alternate pasta salad with quinoa salad or rice salad (with a blend of brown/red/wild rice) every weekend.

    8. Dancing Otter*

      Has anyone mentioned raw spinach, torn up?
      Chopped celery
      Almonds, especially slivered or sliced, toasted or not
      Broccoli florets, raw. Cauliflower tastes and crunches OK, but visually meh
      Cubed leftover meat such as ham, chicken or turkey. Leftover ground beef was not a success. Veggie crumbles (such as Boca) work better.
      Multicolored veggie pasta instead of plain

  11. Bibliovore*

    The bathroom renovation.
    So all the faucets in this house are single handles.
    The designer is recommending two handle faucet fixture from Delta.
    I went to the Ferguson showroom. Most of the display ones are two handle .
    I googled.
    Does anyone know why most of the sink fixtures are two handle ones.
    I think because of my weak hands I would prefer the single handle ones but there aren’t that many to choose from.
    Am I missing something?
    My style is modern/Japanese /Swedish.
    I have been looking at Delta, Moen and some Kohler.
    I need the sink set up, the shower trim ( which is the shower head and the handles and a separate sprayer) and the tub filler and handles.
    Thoughts?
    Recommendations?

    1. Squidhead*

      2 handle sinks seem traditional in bathrooms…I don’t know why! Your designer might not love it, but many kitchen faucets are single-handle. We have one on a bar sink by Delta with the blender handle mounted on the side of the faucet so it just takes up a single hole. It has a tall curved neck so maybe it would be in the way of brushing teeth/face washing? But it’s easy to control the flow volume and the temperature. We also have a 3-hole style one where the blender handle is in its own hole. It’s harder to control and repeat the temperature with that one because the flow is only “off” when the handle is in the center-down position, so you have to re-mix the temperature every time. TLDR: check the kitchen section? If you’re determined to have everything match, this might be too difficult because there aren’t matching tub fixtures, but you’ll be the one using it!

      1. Pucci*

        I think they are traditionally 2 handle because they were originally two separate taps, one for hot and one for cold. Water was mixed in the sink bowl, where you then used it to wash your face, shave, etc. People would have been used to washing from a bowl of water from the pre-running water bowl and pitcher set ups.

    2. RagingADHD*

      IIRC, the selling point for single handles was supposed to be that you can control the water temperature more precisely / smoothly. But ultimately, it’s just a fashion trend as to what is popular.

      Practically, is the bathroom sink designed for 2 handles, or are you replacing it?

      1. Person from the Resume*

        A single handle to control water temperature better strikes me as more modern technology so I’m not sure why two handle faucets (old technology) are at all fashion trend.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not just a fashion trend. Some times it really is easier to deal with the two streams.

          For instance, I found that with the 2 handles, I could teach the little kids to always turn on the cold water first. You wind up with less chance that they will accidentally make the water too hot.

          One thing that always makes me scratch my head is the claim that one handle give greater control over the water temperature. I’ve never found that to be the case over all. With both types of set up a lot depends on other factors in the design.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

      All I have to contribute is that my kitchen faucet’s handle has a problem to avoid. If you turn off the faucet with wet hands, water funnels down the handle onto the counter behind the fixture. It’s a lot of water too, so definite hard-water buildup & potential moisture problems.

    4. Red Sky*

      Single handle is a hill I’m willing to die on. I really dislike two handle faucets and refuse to have another in any area of my home, they’re inefficient what with having to go back and forth adjusting each tap to get your desired water temp, especially if your hands are dirty and now you have two handles to clean. Unless your designer can offer a really compelling reason beyond aesthetics, I’d stick with single handle.

      1. Another_scientist*

        I am also team single lever, especially if it’s the kind you can open and close with your elbow, which helps when you have your hands full, or you are trying to prevent the spread of something (like pink eye).

        1. Texan In Exile*

          My friends have one that is light controlled! You just wave at it and it turns on and off, making it so nice for washing your hands when you have been handling meat or cleaning the cat box.

          1. RosyGlasses*

            We are renting a home that has this too! Initially I hated it but now I am team auto-on/off. Although if the cat is on the counter or the washcloth falls in front there are times the water will “ghost” on and that has been fun! :)

    5. Sundial*

      I prefer double handles because they are easy to push around with gunk on your hands, like if you’re using facial cleanser or coming in from dirty outside work. Most of the single handle ones require a firm grasp, so you can’t shove them with a wrist or a closed fist.

      1. Squidhead*

        Ooh, I should clarify: the single handle faucets in my kitchen are lever-shaped, not round knobs. I can push them with the side of my hand/wrist, especially the “side-mount” style. I did grow up with a round plastic faceted single-handle bathroom faucet (circa 1970, probably?) and that knob required more of a grip.

    6. Bluebell*

      If you have weak hands, maybe you can find a bathroom faucet option with a motion sensor? When we redid our kitchen three years ago, I spent the extra hundred dollars for a Moen with motion sensor. It’s awesome! It has made things so much easier for me, and now it’s funny that when I go to other kitchens, I forget you have to turn on the tap. It’s particularly great when your hands are dirty, and you don’t want to get the faucet handle dirty.

    7. grocery store pootler*

      We used to have two handle bathroom faucets, but switched to one-handled ones (on the same sinks we had before), because that’s what we prefer. We love the one-handled faucets, would never go back. I think ours are Delta, possibly a model used in public restrooms (they seem to be quite durable). Ours look a lot like this:
      https://www.deltafaucet.com/bathroom/product/B510LF.html

      1. Idyllic Gulag*

        Also a fan of single-handled faucets, and replaced all our residential grade 2-handle fixtures with commercial grade single handle. The quality of commercial fixtures is typically worlds better than standard big box hardware store model. I looked for all brass internals and easily repairable, as opposed to the plastic, disposable ones usually found at your local chain hardware store. You won’t find the range of styles and finishes, but since my tastes are on the function-over-form end of the spectrum, it worked for me.

    8. Rekha3.14*

      Our bathrooms have single handle, the sinks and shower. Bathtub has two, but also came with a separate spray faucet thing, too. The fittings are from Riobel and so far we really like them.

    9. pancakes*

      Ikea has a few single handle faucets that might be worth a look, but yes, motion sensor activated is worth a look too if you have weak hands. When I did a quick search just now I got a lot of options from Grohe, Lowe’s, Mohen, Kohler, etc. The site AllModern might be worth a look.

    10. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      We recently re-did a bathroom and got one handle faucets. If you have a hard time finding them in stores, you can easily order them online or through your plumbers.

    11. Mari*

      I know someone who works at Delta and they definitely have a number of single-handle bathroom sink faucets. We have some in our bathroom right now :) You can browse their website, just click on bathroom -> sink faucets and there is a filter you can choose “single hole”. They have some nice touch activated ones too if you like being able to keep it at a consistent temperature.

    12. Chaordic One*

      IMHO double-handle faucets tend to be a bit more durable and you can go for longer periods of time without having to replace the washers or even the whole faucet. I’ve also found that, over time, a number of the single-handle faucets can become a difficult to use and require as much physical force to operate as any double-handle faucet.

    13. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      Holy crap, are you me? Team single handle. Just moved into new construction. Single handle in guest bathroom and half bath. Double handle in primary bath. I do not like, nor do I understand. Ugh.

    14. Observer*

      The designer is recommending two handle faucet fixture from Delta.

      Delta makes some good fixtures. Is it possible that the designer is looking for Delta rather than two handle?

      I think because of my weak hands I would prefer the single handle ones but there aren’t that many to choose from.

      Why would that matter? If it’s a matter of knobs vs lever style handles, you can get that in 2 handle versions as well.

      I’m not trying to say that two handle is necessarily better, just that it’s worth making sure you really understand the issues and communicating with your designer about them. It’s also worth just asking your designer why they are specifically recommending 2 handle fixtures. Keep in mind that even aside from the accessibility issues, you are entitled to just not like the look or something as “trivial” as that.

      Really, talk to your designer. You are paying for a service, and part of what you are paying for is to be able to insure that your new set up meets *your* needs, not a general “bathroom for the so called average person who doesn’t actually exist.”

  12. Strawberry*

    Note for mention of weight loss and body size

    Tl;dr – My body size is changing and I have no idea how to dress it anymore. Those of you who have been through the same, please share your advice!

    Longer version: I’ve lost a few pounds and my clothes are getting loose. This is great news because it means my efforts are paying off, but I’m now wearing things that are 1 size bigger and slipping off me. I still have a way to go though and I am not sure what size I’ll end up as. How do I dress myself in this interim period without spending a bunch of money? I don’t see my style changing right now so looking for help with the practical aspect of this. I’m also kinda worried at the back of my mind that I’ll put the weight back on and then I’ll feel bad about giving away my pieces from my current wardrobe, which I’ve collected and maintained over years. Any advice is appreciated :)

    P.S. I’m starting from a US size 12 so availability of clothes is mostly not a problem. I live and earn in a developing country so even something like Zara, while fast fashion, is expensive in local currency. Thrift stores here are pretty hit or miss. However tailoring is quite inexpensive – maybe that’s the way to go?

    1. StudentA*

      If it’s only one size, maybe those pregnancy/weight gain pants extenders will work? Otherwise, I would try safety pins in a pinch. And of course, belts and scarves. But yeah, I think tailoring might be cheaper and frankly more sustainable than shopping for new clothes, but I’d wait until you’re finished losing weight.

    2. matcha123*

      If tailoring is inexpensive, that would be my first suggestion. Maybe try two shirts and two pairs of pants or skirts to test the quality and fit then slowly move on with other pieces.

      If you don’t have recommendations, you may want to try a few different places to see how your pieces turn out before settling on one place. Or there may be a place that’s great with certain types of clothing and meh with others.

      Aside from tailoring, perhaps get a bit creative with belts and rolling up sleeves/pant legs?
      Fashion these days seems like late80s-mid-90s everything goes. If you had a T-shirt that was now a bit large, you could tuck it into your pants, roll up the sleeves a bit, use a belt if your pants are a bit loose, and rock that 90s vibe? That may or may not work for work, but pairing with a more fitted jacket could also allow you to cover some of the parts that don’t fit as well?

      My first step, if I were you, would be to pull out a few items and try them on in front of a mirror. Experiment with different ways of rolling or tying things. Also do a bit of window shopping and people watching. Oversized clothing is having a bit of a moment, I think. Fashion seems all over these days.

    3. DistantAudacity*

      Maybe also invest in one new bra in an interim size at a suitable point, depending on your chest situation. Badly fitting bras are very demoralizing, and cup sizes are not so easy to tailor!

    4. GermanGirl*

      I went from size 10 to 6 and mostly made do with tayloring the pants myself. I did it in such a way that I could have just taken the stitches back out if I’d gain the weight back, but that’s obviously not the prettiest way to do it.

      1. GermanGirl*

        Basically, for slacks and other light pants and pant skirts, you fold the side seams inwards to create a new side seam.

        If you have a sewing machine (or even by hand), the easiest way to do it is to turn the whole pant inside out and just go with a simple straight stitch in a diagonal from 1-2 cm inside of the original side seam on the waistband to the original side seam about 20 cm below.

        Then try whether you like to fold the excess fabric forward or backward and fix it there with a few invisible stitches from the inside.

        This is easy to do and easy to take back out, but a real seamstress will do it differently and depending on the fit of the pants and how you changed shape might do it in different places as well.

    5. LGC*

      Honestly, yeah – if tailoring is inexpensive, then that might be the best start for now. It might not hold up for bigger drops, but if you’re just down one size that’s probably the best option.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      If you have inexpensive tailoring I’d start there–scale your current pieces down a size.

      I get the magical thinking of so long as you preserve a wardrobe of size 12 pieces then your body will stay a size 8, but give those away and the pounds immediately pile back–but try to recognize it as magical.

    7. Turtle Dove*

      I’m in the same boat. Fortunately I kept a lot of smaller clothes from back when I weighed less, and just the other day I tried on some of those. It was rewarding to find plenty that fit and flatter me again.

      As for favorite items that I can’t bear to part with that are now too big, I plan to tailor them myself. Do you sew at all? If so, it may be straightforward to take them in yourself, although I may be wrong about tricky areas like shoulder seams. And I have a love-hate relationship with sewing, so I may never actually follow through.

      If you’re not a sewer, I’d probably take a few items to a tailor for an estimate and go ahead if the price is right. And I’d visit thrift and resale shops (including online places like ThredUp) and buy a few items in my new size. But I enjoy treasure hunting at those places, and not everyone does.

      As for keeping a backup wardrobe, I’m determined not to regain this lost weight. But for sure I’ll keep a few items that fit me well when I’m larger … just in case.

    8. Sundial*

      It depends on your shape, ill-fitting clothes for an apple need different tweaks than do ill-fitting clothes for a pear. I went from a 10 to a 2, and I’m a pear, so I lose first around my waist and last around my hips and rear.

      Belts got me pretty far, as did a wrap dress for special occasions. Once I started noticing that the waistline wasn’t the biggest problem anymore, then I shifted to a smaller size. I bought a few basics at Goodwill, like black dress slacks and a generically-nice blouse, and dressed very repetitively.

    9. Dragonfly7*

      If you are a dresses/skirts person, it seemed to me they could go through a two size loss before needing to be replaced when I lost weight several years ago. Dresses could be belted at the waist, and I wore a skirt that originally fit at the waist lower on my hips for a few weeks before it was too big. I ended up with a very small wardrobe and wore the dresses almost exclusively for a few months.
      Inexpensive tailoring sounds awesome. I would suggest meeting with someone to see how far various garments can be taken in before needing to be replaced. I’ve heard two sizes, but I would imagine that depends on the garment.
      I commiserate with wanting to hang on to larger or smaller garments just in case. I keep 2-3 of my very favorites but eventually give most away.

    10. HannahS*

      I’m in the year after pregnancy, so I hear you on the body in transition. In general, my approach is to maintain a small wardrobe of clothes that are stretchy!

      Types of clothes matter too; a pair of leggings and a knit dress will cross more sizes than dress pants and button-up shirt.

      I will say, though, that tailoring is almost always less expensive than buying new.

    11. Healthcare Worker*

      Recently I was in the similar situation and was amazed at how much better I felt when my clothes fit properly! I’ve been encouraged to continue on my weight loss program wearing well fitting clothes. For me, it was worth the investment. Tailoring is great for pants and skirts, a little trickier for tops but definitely start there as a good tailor can work wonders. I purchased clothes that easily mix to keep in my budget. Good luck!

    12. Observer*

      Tailoring is one way to go. Another thing that can work for certain pieces is elastic. Depending on the cut of the item, elastic in a waistband can make a huge difference while still looking neat and put together.

    13. DD*

      I went through a significant weight loss several years ago dropping many sizes over an 18 month period.

      Pants were the thing I bought most frequently when I was losing weight. Tops, skirts and dresses can be worn over a wider range of lbs than pants. An oversized shirt or cardigan works better than pants that are sagging in the butt.

      My work environment was business casual so I tried to have 3 pairs of wearable pants and a pair of jeans at any given time, I usually skipped a size when replacing so they went from snug in the beginning to fitting to baggy then replaced. Since I knew I had a lot of sizes to go I bought solid colors in washable fabrics with one of them being black. Talbots Outlet ended up being my go-to place for a lot of work pants since they carried both plus and regular sizes and I could usually find something under $50.

  13. Jackalope*

    I’m really wanting to avoid politics, so…. everyone reading this will know what I’m referring to but please let’s not go into the political discussion, just my actual question.

    For me, as I’m sure for many others on here, this past week has been incredibly difficult. I’m finding that my emotional reserves have become pretty tapped out over the past 2+ years, and I’m really struggling. While recognizing that this will continue to be difficult for awhile, what is everyone doing to cope? (This could be with The News from this past week, or from other stuff; it’s been a long couple of years, I’m sure you all have a range of awful options to choose from.) Anyone have any good ideas to deal with great existential dread, fear, and rage? How to keep living our lives? Thoughts?

    1. Some Ideas*

      These are some disjointed thoughts, hope some of it helps:

      I try to keep in mind, that a lot of it is ongoing, ex. Corona, and so are my emotions about it. We get a lot of messages about (any of the possible topics alluded to) how we “should get over it”. We do not work like that however. With a continuous event the emotional reactions will be continuous too and I try to adjust my actions accordingly. While xyz keeps going on I will need: additional time to rest, more time talking with/meeting with people, more patience with myself, to make space regularly for the grief and the fear but also, at best daily reminders that I am capable of affecting the world.

      A lot of this is so overwhelming, because the part we affect is rather small or sometimes non-existent. To not lose and/or create hope we need to remind ourselves that that is not true however. So I set some time aside to address some discomfort on purpose, no matter how small. Can I as a single person solve *gestures at all of this*? No. But I can be part of the solution and a first step can be doing something small, something attainable. Some days that means sorting through clutter for a couple of hours, some days it’s just wiping down a corner of the table or picking up a single tissue that has been lying around. The goal is to remind my brain repeatedly that I’m not frozen in place, nor that all the awfulness around us is immutable. Because it is not. I keep seeing news how a new way has been identified to clear microplastics from sewage, that efforts to address climate change are seeing more results sooner than expected, that all in all the work of many people in aggregate keeps paying of. I keep seeing news that locally a citizens initiative to address a detrimental environmental law has been successful after about 5 years of concentrated efforts. I will look for ways to address what I can together with others. There is a way through this. And if there isn’t a way (yet) we will create one. We are both less and more powerful than we think. So we need more care than most of us are likely affording ourselves right now (many of those limitations are real, I have them too) and can affect more than we think.

      For now maybe just take some time to look at a tree and see its leaves swaying in the wind. Or call the friend you wanted to call. Or cry until you feel somewhat more solid again (please hydrate). I’m looking forward to see more ideas.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Such good advice, thank you!

        One thing I would add is that I’ve found learning history can be weirdly comforting. Humans have made it through terrifying and awful times, and even in the worst there have always been those fighting for justice and human decency.

    2. Princess Xena*

      My sympathies. It’s been a sucky few years.

      I tend to stay off the news in general. I don’t follow politics, fashion, court cases, etc beyond learning enough to be appropriately understanding of my fellow human beings. As rage inducing as a lot of it is, there’s very rarely I can do anything about it except continue being civil, kind, and supporting to those people around me.

      1. Hattie*

        I am really uncomfortable with settling for the idea that we can stop following politics and to just be civil and kind in a society that thinks they own your bodies. The time for civility has long past. Maybe you’re privileged enough to wrap yourself in the warm comfortable blanket of complacency during these times but not all of us are.

        1. Cdn Acct*

          Yes, it is hard to balance taking in the news and dealing with it in helpful ways instead of ignoring things that don’t directly affect me but are damaging to society/the world, and needing to not get overwhelmed with despair.

          1. Jackalope*

            Yeah, I struggle with this too. I don’t want to pretend that the world is fine but I can’t ignore it all. I’m trying to work on things like not engaging with the news on the weekends (my husband keeps I’m touch with it so if something really big happened I’d know) so I can get a bit of a break. But it’s hard.

        2. E. Chauvelin*

          Yes, it is an unfortunate fact that if I were to start ignoring politics, that would not lead to it ignoring me.

          1. Hattie*

            That’s exactly my point. There are these people who have the mindset of not believing in politics or activism but politics certainly believes in them. I have a really hard time believing I can say that I am being kind and supportive to the people around me while just ignoring the rise of Giliad from right beneath us.

        3. Napkin Thief*

          I believe you are well intentioned, but I’d like to ask that you not automatically equate measured detachment from news/politics with privilege or complacency. Not going to play oppression Olympics here, but some of us, with all our various intersecting vulnerable identities, are tired. Some of us are jaded beyond belief. Some of us hear a revival of fiery rhetoric and precious little evidence that the systems and institutions that perpetuate our oppression are any closer to being dismantled than they were 25, 50, 100, 400 years ago. As easily as you can accuse someone of having the privilege of complacency, you could also be accused of having the privilege of energy. Just as privilege can protect the ambivalent from a need to engage, it can protect the outraged from burnout. (Not saying that’s the case for you, but to illustrate that everyone’s calculus for their response is different)

          I can’t speak for Princess Xenia’s motivations, but as for myself, I’m in a season of preserving my hope and goodwill toward humanity by focusing on the people and areas I can have direct, immediate impact rather than burning myself out raging against the machine. Sometimes fighting for sanity and basic survival is fight enough.

          1. Classical Music Nerd*

            Thank you Napkin Thief. This is so lucid and helpful, passionate but measured, hopeful but human. It did me good.

          2. allathian*

            Yes, thank you. I was thinking the same thing, but you put it so eloquently.

        4. FuzzyCatz*

          I’m 100% in agreement with how disturbing our society is but just want to say I too need a break from the news. I really need time to process this before engaging in advocacy. I’m worried about what other human rights we will lose too. I just need some time to cope.

        5. IT Manager*

          My compromise is to read the news, not watch it. I do feel a duty to stay informed and involved but the emotional drain is much less in written words than (IMO) with the cable new banners and dramatic music and talking heads catastophizing.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      As others have said limit the amount of news you take in.

      Oddly, ramp up your self-care. A fortified body supports a fortified mind. Make sure you drink water daily.

      Learn about grief. Learn all the things we grieve and all the ways grief manifests. This will help with the questions of “why do I feel x?” or “why am I doing y?”.

      I am sure you are doing the “be kind” part and you probably even help others. Please add to this the knowledge that we send out a ripple. Every time we are kind, every time we help someone we send a message to society that this is what we all should be doing. And you will never, ever know how meaningful your gesture was to that person. Don’t skate by this stuff, don’t liken yourself to a drop in the ocean. What you do, what I do, what we all do adds up and matters.

      Take care of your surroundings. Keep your home safe and help any beings with you to remain safe as often as possible. I have a friend who refuses to fix her roof. This is scary to watch. Don’t let things fall apart around you, if you can avoid it.

      The next one may work or may not. I like to think of people who have gone through other things. It helps me to realize they were scared/angry/etc also. I have my father as a reference point. Born in 1920, to a poor family the next thing that hit was the Great Depression. Then there came WWII. His life did not truly stabilize until the late 1960s. He was 40 years old and never knew what I considered to be MY normal until he hit age 40. It took that long to dig out from under that mess.
      So I think about things that he did and I read things about what other people did to successfully pull themselves through Rotten Times.

      Last. And this one probably won’t be popular. It’s really easy to focus on what we do not have or what we have lost. Super easy. The tricky part is focusing on what we do have and what we CAN do. I remember a bleak time in my life where nothing was going that well. I realized I had some putty and points, I could point up and putty some of my crappy windows, maybe they would last a bit longer. I found some directions and followed the directions.
      It worked. My windows last through until a time when I could get new (modest) windows. Yeah, it was just windows, I get it. But how often we decide to make something work, in spite of the chaos around us, we can add to our quality of life. This is what courage looks like, we move forward in some manner when everything around us no longer makes that much sense. So some days I fixed windows and some days I just cried. Courage does not exist if there is no fear in place already. Sometimes to have a bit better day tomorrow, we need to sit and cry today. Then tomorrow we get up and go fix our windows or whatever.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Your answers are always so thoughtful and sensitive (and helpful!). I’m not the OP but I appreciate this answer and I appreciate you.

        1. Anonymous cat*

          I agree! I look forward to NSNR’s advice.

          And on that note, can you share things he did to get through? Or any of the ones you read about that really resonated with you?

          I’m curious what someone in your father’s setting did to survive all those tough years.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            smh. That man was with me for 34 years of my life and I am still not sure how to answer your question.

            He did pick up an alcohol habit so I guess that was one of his negative coping mechanisms. But he also carried a huge desire to help others. I think that push to help someone else carried him through some of the rough spots, as it kind of helped to forget his own predicament. I know it upset him when he heard of someone being very selfish.

            He would throw himself into projects. I think he liked the mental gymnastics of working through something new and different. He knew how to handle all kinds of stuff. Years later my friends used to seek him out to talk about problems with their greenhouses or their porches or whatever. Sometimes just having something new to think on can be a tool to pull us through to next week or next month.

            I will say this, because of his family setting and because of the era he grew up in, he did not think of things as choices the way we do. For example: If he had a job and suddenly one day he was supposed to weld something, he never felt he had the option of saying he did not know how to weld. Pick up the welder and figure it out would be the solution- no other choices. I often wonder how often this happened to him because he would never explain how he learned to do this or that. I suspect it happened a lot. Overall, they had to collect a wide range of skills to make themselves employable and to just maintain their own homes and surroundings.

            I do attribute his passing at the early age of 72 as a by-product of his rough launch in life. Not much food at the start of life, once the food situation got better there still wasn’t much medical care and later on in life he had more huge life events in his personal life. He tried very hard to be upbeat but you could see he was working at maintaining a good attitude. It was a deliberate effort. Medical science is only starting to think about how much this stuff takes a toll on us and impacts our life span.

            We know more about foods and proper hydration than they did in that era. And we know more about cultivating and maintaining plants, animals and our bodies. We do have some advantages they did not have.

      2. Turtle Dove*

        Thank you for sharing your window example and reminding me about courage. Both strongly resonate with me.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve scaled way back on following the news. (Combination of cancer + pandemic + ’20 election.) “Being informed” should be in service of your voting/protesting/donating etc effectively, not just to rage-scroll at the day’s headlines.

      I think the internet has warped some natural human socialization tendencies in bad ways, and wallowing in outrage/misery/impotency has become an order of magnitude easier to do.

    5. fposte*

      When it gets bad, I focus on the space I can see and can reach, and I try to do something that benefits space outside my own in some way, whether it’s picking up litter or making a donation. I do also nope out of conversations with friends who want to rehash; I get the impulse, but I don’t want to do it with them. People have found joy in much worse times than this and I think that’s okay.

    6. Texan In Exile*

      Another thing you can do is support candidates who agree with you.

      Where I live, candidates have just started to collect nominating signatures. It’s a pain in the neck job, but has to be done. My state representative is asking people to each get five signatures. That’s it. If you’re comfortable talking to your neighbors, that’s something you can do.

      I am also asking my friends to put my rep’s sign in their yard. Once the new signs are available, I will pick up and deliver them.

      We will get to a point where my rep will need to have door literature distributed. This does not involve talking to anyone! You just put the piece on the front doorknob. However, if you are willing to knock on doors to talk to people, that would be most welcome: it’s the hardest part of campaigning (after asking for money) and nobody wants to do it because it’s hard!

      Outside of politics: We volunteer at the food bank once a week. It’s a three hour shift and it’s physical and mindless, but when we’re done, we feel like we have helped make the world better in a small way.

      And I’m about to return to the volunteer program where adults read to the little kids, with the mission of inculcating them with a love of reading. Again, it’s only a few hours and it’s only a drop in the bucket, but it’s part of making the future better.

      Hang in there. It’s hard.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Also! Depending on where you live – help register voters. The League of Women Voters is always looking for volunteers to help with voter registration. They give you the training. I do this because I live in a place where the majority of the population and I agree on issues but not all of them are registered. If I lived in another part of the state, I would not be doing this. There are people I hope won’t vote. A lot of them. I’m not going to help them inflict their horror on the rest of us.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Also, if you’re thinking about where to throw any charitable donations, maybe give to voting rights organizations of your choice? I like to feel like even if an election doesn’t go the way I want, by getting more people access to the vote, we’re still building a better society, knock wood.

    7. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I think that unplugging from social media is super helpful. I find that when I allow myself to access ALL THE OPINIONS OF EVERYONE EVER, it’s overwhelming, and exhausting. I try to keep my new sources to a minimum, and to choose those that are the most trustworthy and unbiased (as much as that’s possible!), too. For me, it’s a balance of staying informed and involved as I can realistically be, without letting something take over my life. And – I feel like people are gonna hate this! – realizing that I don’t control the actual outcomes of these big issues and focusing instead on how I will handle/ control my own responses to whatever happens. Which is easier said than done, I know!

      1. Retired Accountant*

        Agree. I don’t need to see everyone’s hot takes on everything. Just reading a random opinion from a random neighbor means I have think if I agree or disagree, and think of arguments against if I disagree. Even if I never post a response, which I never do.

        And to the OP, I get my news from (online) newspapers. I believe that television news is designed to get people wound up, and make them angry and afraid. One network in particular, but they are all guilty of it. TV news really aggravates my stress response, so I don’t watch it. I read the NYT and skim a couple others, and that works for me. Added bonus that I can go in-depth on stories that interest me and skim or skip others.

      2. Anonosaurus*

        I agree with this. During the last few years I’ve found that I need to distinguish between information and opinion. I need to stay informed but that doesn’t mean I need to know what everyone on Twitter thinks about this information – mainlining opinion via social media makes me feel frustrated and disempowered, which for me leads to stasis rather than activism.

        Limiting my use of social media has helped my mental health, and I need to do that if I’m going to have the energy to help anyone or change anything.

    8. SofiaDeo*

      I started taking Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder to help mitigate the effects of excessive cortisol secretion from stress. They have a website as well as available through Amazon. I started this after my leukemia diagnosis and think it helped a lot. As well as, avoid sugary and high glycemic load/glycemic index carb-y traditional “comfort foods”. Paradoxically, they end up making me feel much worse. It sounds boring to have a cup of steamed broccoli or fruit when stressed out, but it seems to overall leave me feeling better than cookies, cakes, bread/potatoes, or mac n cheese.

      1. pancakes*

        I’d never heard of that and was curious what it is. It looks like there are several of these supplements and they could be dangerous for some people to take. I will link to the article in a separate reply, but Reuters said “Lab tests of the supplements found they all contained thyroid hormone and most had at least one steroid hormone.” That is not the type of supplement people should just order online and start taking without talking to their doctor.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I don’t watch the news on tv, and I am careful about how much I consume in general. Depending on the topic or how I’m doing, I can read more or less. Making time for hobbies and things I enjoy helps. Getting outside helps too. I may not enjoy weeding but I can’t deny it grounds me in a way few other things do. Doing something that has concrete results helps.

      But yeah, I’m very tired of living in interesting times. There’s a saying that there are decades in which nothing happens and years where decades happen (or something like that). I would prefer to skip to the quiet period after all this and be learning about the events in history.

    10. Chaordic One*

      Like MigraineMonth suggests, look back at history. I often think to myself, that living through the times we live in, must be sort of what it was like to have lived through the 1918 flu pandemic, or the Great Depression of the 1930s or World War II. Or maybe the bad old days when homosexuality or a woman’s right to choose was a crime. But people endured and persisted and things got better, at least for a little while.

      Sometimes it is enough just to get out of bed and go to work in the morning (if you have a job) and come home and fix dinner and clean your house.

    11. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m a long-time activist and I can relate to your post. You’ve gotten a lot of good replies here about staying connected with others and limiting your news consumption. A couple other things I recommend are time in nature and time spent in things that give you joy.

      Connecting with nature could be your backyard, a city park, whatever. There is a lot of research about the mental health benefits of time outdoors, which you can easily find online if you’re curious about that. (There’s even a movement called Park Prescriptions across the country where physicians incorporate time in nature as part of treatment plans.)

      I’ve also found that engaging in other activities that bring me joy has been critical. For me that’s nature photography, adding updates to my blog, playing a musical instrument, etc. It’s also actively engaging in political work by balancing it out with all those things. And reading AAM. :)

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        And more thing I forgot. I make a point to have humor in my life. Sometimes that’s just watching videos. For example, this week I binged on Jonathan Groff on YouTube, singing tunes from Hamilton and interviews with him about it. I cracked up watching him teach Stephen Colbert how to do his King George walk.

    12. Tea and Cake*

      I really don’t know that this will help, but in case it might…

      Others have mentioned self-care and taking moments to acknowledge the world in a quiet way. I have been taking a two mile walk everyday, but without my phone so I spend 30 minutes observing the world, occasionally waving to my neighbors, spotting birds and wildlife or noticing the new flowers/leaves/plants in neighboring yards. While I do track the distance and time, I don’t have specific goals for either so that I don’t rush myself and miss out on the observation of it all.

      Additionally, because I also feel beat up, exhausted and like I have been merely treading water in a rocky sea, I very recently got into listening to podcasts. I have been finding podcasts that pose interesting (to me) questions about things like etymology of words and idiom origins (Something Rhymes with Purple), or conversations about wine (The Black Wine Guy), or conversations about people’s beliefs and ethics (You Made It Weird – the one with Michael Schur was very interesting). These podcasts have basically prompted me to engage, think and reflect on various topics that are not directly related to all of this. The negativity I feel like I’m still absorbing from the past two years has been pretty overwhelming and listening to various neutral or positive conversations has helped me feel like I can keep my head above these very murky waters mostly because everything is not all terrible (although it often seems that way).

      There’s an element in these two exercises that makes me feel connected, whereas the state of things just makes me feel unmoored. I know that podcasts and walks, on the surface, are just another thing to do. It’s the intention of the thing that has anchored me, even if only for a few minutes. All this to say, a stroll and a listen to a podcast may not yield any or even positive results for others, but something will once the intention is clear.

    13. Hypnotist Collector*

      It’s been a really challenging and emotional week. You’re not alone. I had to ask a friend on social media to stop tagging me on outrage meme posts – I see them, I know them, I need the volume turned down. And also, you can choose what to share or not share about your own situation or history; there’s a lot of people telling very intimate stories, and that’s okay, but you also shouldn’t feel pressured to share. Hang in there. I fought for these rights as a politically active teenager 50 years ago and I am so sorry that what we did wasn’t enough.

    14. Quinalla*

      All I know was I was not surprised by what happened, but was disappointed, enraged, etc. As far as dealing with the anxiety – exercise is the best thing for me, it’s the only thing that has kept me going/alive to be frank these past several years. Also, coming up with a worst case scenario plan as best I can helps me, that doesn’t help everyone, but gives me at least some peace of mind.

      For the rage, what helps me is finding something I can do, even if small, that gives me an outlet. Whether it is setting up a monthly donation, calling/emailing politicians, going to a rally, etc.

  14. Princess Xena*

    I have a neighborhood situation that I would appreciate some input on.

    TW: animal injury

    I live with another older family member, who owns the house where I lease a room. About two years ago we were leaving the house and found the neighbor’s dog, who was alive but had clearly been hit by a car. I stayed with the dog to keep her from wandering back into the road by accident while my family member went and got the dog’s owner.

    Fast forward to now: neighbor is convinced that we were the ones who hit her dog and are just not admitting it. She has been spreading this story around and making snippy comments, and it’s starting to spread bad feeling and turn into one of those interminable neighborhood squabbles. We have no way of proving we did not hit the dog (no cameras). Additionally, this neighbor lady has lost dogs before to the same cause because it’s a big neighborhood and she lets them run off-leash.

    Anyone have suggestions on how to keep the peace? Or on reframing us from “heartless murderers” to “neighbor lady is at it again”? Moving is not an option for us, and we would like to be on cordial terms with the majority of the neighborhood even if not that particular neighbor.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Has she been spreading this story the whole time, or did it start recently? If recent, why do you suppose that is?

      Id say that if you have already been on good terms with everyone else, then just continue being a good neighbor and doing neighborly things. If anyone brings it up to your face, you can simply say, “Of course we didn’t. I have no idea why she’d say such a thing.”

      If applicable, you could add that you have no idea why this is coming up 2 years later, since she was grateful for the help at the time and it never crossed any of your minds that she might accuse you.

      Alternatively, you could go all-in on the “bless her heart” route, and say something about how much she loved that dog and how you don’t blame her one bit for lashing out, even if it is not real. It’s such a helpless feeling when a tragedy happens and you don’t know who to blame, sometimes people turn on the very folks that tried to help. (Tsk, tsk, what a shame).

      Unfortunately, there aren’t any good ways to proactively address a whisper campaign in a loosely connected group like a neighborhood. Going out of your way to bring it up is just going to add fuel to gossip that the two of you have a beef with each other.

      If you are resolute in being the nicer person and refusing to say anything bad about her, people will figure out who the troublemaker is.

      1. fposte*

        I really like these ideas. They’re not “make her stop,” which isn’t likely to happen; they’re just making sure she’s troublemaking into the void.

      2. Princess Xena*

        No, she’s been spreading it for the last two years – unfortunately we moved in only a few years ago and don’t Know all the neighbors well

        1. RagingADHD*

          Then “bless her heart” is the way to go, that she still hasn’t been able to accept reality and clings to this weird story.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Do you have any other neighbours whom you get on well with? If so, maybe you could talk to them to see if they can help- I think it is unlikely that people will accuse you directly but if there are others who can respond to comment that might help. (e.g. a neighbour who, if anyone repeats the story to them, could say something like “oh that’s not what happened- Princess Xena was the one who *found* the poor dog, and stayed with it until they could find neighbour, they aren’t the ones who hurt it”

    3. Double A*

      She sounds unreasonable, and unreasonable people’s reputations usually precedes them.

      If I heard a neighbor accusing a neighbor of hitting their dog, my first thought would be, “Why was your dog in a position to be hit?” Obviously sometimes there are just tragic accidents, but your neighbors probably know she lets her dogs run loose and that this has happened more than once. Even if they think you hit the dog, most reasonable people will feel sorry for you, because no one wants to hit an animal and this woman puts her dogs at risk.

      If someone mentions it to you, you could say something like, “We didn’t hit the dog, but I feel terrible for it and wish she wouldn’t let her dogs run loose so they’re in this position.”

    4. pancakes*

      If I lived in the neighborhood and knew this woman let her pets roam into the road or wherever they want to explore, I’m pretty sure I would take her stories about who else is theoretically to blame for that with a massive pinch of salt. She doesn’t seem to have a leg to stand on to frame anyone else as a murderer, seeing as she doesn’t care enough about her own pets to keep them out of traffic. I say that as someone who wouldn’t be worried about my own neighbors thinking she’s reasonable to do that because that is not a thing people generally do in the large city I live in, though. It’s pretty dangerous to do that here. Is it common for people to let pets wander around where you are? I have lived in places where that’s more of thing, but it wasn’t my feeling that people were unaware of the risks.

    5. Juneybug*

      I would suggest the following actions –
      Could you start inviting the other neighbors over for coffee or meals?
      Could you start walking the neighborhood so you are more visible?
      Make sure to wave and sign hi to anyone you see.
      Could you have a block party?
      Could you start a neighborhood watch party?
      Could you beautify the neighborhood with flowers, picking up trash, etc.?
      Could you get with the city/county to get the speed limit lowered or add speed bumps?
      Discuss this with the neighbors prior.

      My reasoning – 1. the neighbors will see you more often, which in turn allows them to get to know you. 2. You obliviously are a caring person with these actions. 3. Builds human capital so when the neighbor talks bad about you, others can defend you as they know the true you. Anything positive you do will help reduce the rumors of you being a bad person.

      Good luck!!

    6. Dwight Schrute*

      I live in a neighborhood where one family used to always let their dog run around off leash and he’d almost been hit multiple times. I would absolutely take any accusations of theirs with a grain of salt if they said you hit the dog and lied about it. Not shockingly their little dog hasn’t been seen for months on end and I have to wonder if he finally did get hit by a car

    7. Salymander*

      One of our neighbors let his dog roam around unsupervised, and I had complained to him several times because it would come over and pee on our door and front windows. It was a big red Chow dog, and I found out later that it would growl at some people. Many people wanted this dog gone, but I was the only one who complained. When the dog disappeared, the owner blamed me and started spreading rumors about me. I just kept acting like I always do, and when anyone mentioned it I would say that it is sad that his dog disappeared, and that he is probably grasping at straws and trying to comfort himself. I just acted like I was sad for him. I mean, I was sad for him no matter how much of a jerk he was. The rumors died down, and neighbors remembered how annoying this man was and how tired they were of dealing with the dog. The man was a jerk anyway, so all I had to do was to keep acting like I always did and avoid saying anything mean about him or his dog, and his own behavior did the job for me. I think every neighborhood has at least one unreasonable loudmouth, and they tend to be really good at letting everyone know who they are and what they are all about.

      It was a kind and compassionate thing that you did when you tried to help that dog.

  15. StudentA*

    I’m obsessed with the concept of cooling mattresses. Anyone here own one? The prices are intimidating—and frankly out of reach for me. So I guess this won’t be a purchase in the near future. Maybe one day. But apparently the benefits are remarkable and I’m enthralled to have learned of them recently.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Like those gel mat things? I know someone who just bought a mat intended for dogs from a hardware store and put it on the bed!

    2. Meh*

      You can get a cooling mattress topper instead of the whole thing. Much less expensive.

      1. Admiral Thrown Rocks the Blue*

        I have that. 4 inch topper from Kohls. Really does stay cool, but it took a long time to stop smelling. And it’s quite heavy. I do love it though.

    3. No Name For Now*

      For something different, check out bedjet dot com. It’s basically a fan for your bed. I have had one for the last 4 years and it is awesome!

    4. Quinalla*

      I absolutely love my gel cooling pillow, not the same thing, but was worth every penny for me especially since I’m in perimenopause right now and need all the cooling help I can get.

  16. Anonymous at Tea Time*

    I’m going to start the conversation with my siblings about the end of life stuff for my parents. They are fit and have taken care of a bunch of stuff on their own (estate etc.), so I’m really only focusing on me and my siblings. Does any one have advice on how best to start that conversation? What questions to ask?

    One tricky part is that I live abroad and my siblings and parents do not…anyone have experience with that? (Also also: I’m the only one with a kid so far, which may complicate my own involvement…)

    Thank you for any advice!

    1. Despachito*

      It depends on what exactly you want to discuss. You mentioned “end of life stuff”, is it more about who will care for your parents if their health deteriorates? What will happen with their possessions? Are there some real practical issues you’d like to resolve? You say that they are fit though, and that they have taken care of a lot of things on their own …

      I am partly asking because if it is about the future care, there is a lot of unknown circumstances that may appear and you cannot really prepare for and I wonder whether it would be worth starting an awkward conversation over things which may never happen, or the situation of the people involved may change dramatically ?

    2. RagingADHD*

      You need to talk to your parents first. You don’t go around to the siblings polling people unless your parents have repeatedly refused to deal with their estate. That’s not the case, so you start by asking them what they have in place and what their wishes are.

      Since you are the only one living abroad, it’s entirely possible that they have already sorted out general plans with the siblings who will be close by.

      There’s nothing to discuss until you know what they want and what’s already in place.

      1. Despachito*

        And definitely this – if the parents do not suffer from a disease that would make it impossible to deal with them directly, I’d absolutely talk to them first.

      2. Cat and dog fosterer*

        I have a family member who has no kids, and spoke to my sibling about whether they would be willing to help out with care at some point. A bit of a different situation, but I don’t think the parents have to be part of the discussion first.

        The bigger issue for me is that AaTT wants to discuss this but can’t do any or much of the work due to distance. So why talk with siblings? If the question is about wanting to know if the others are planning to help out then it could build resentment. If it is about offering help in other ways, like financially, then that would be better.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          And this is so hard to do years out. You can have good intentions now but the reality of caregiving turns out to be overwhelming; you can have flexible time now and a baby or different job or bad back in a few years.

          “We agree that Gretchen will handle it” makes sense only if your parents refuse to do anything and it seems clear they’re within a year or so of needing end of life help–if they’ve made plans and are currently fine physically and mentally, then I’m not sure what there is to discuss with them or your siblings.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Again, if the relative had already appointed a power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and executor, anything you decided with your siblings would be irrelevant and possibly cause confusion and problems.

          You can’t plan for someone’s dignity at end of life by ignoring their autonomy while they are living. If you care what happens to them, talk to them about what they want!

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. This banks off the parents. If everything is taken care of the parents should have assigned an executor for their estate. They could even contact a funeral home and plan out their own funerals.

        Part of why you don’t know what to discuss might be because you don’t know what is in place already.

        Having buried my own parents and inlaws, I can tell you that planning what to do after they pass is a lesser deal than planning what to do if they have a long term illness.

        Respectfully I ask, what concerns you the most here? Do you think that some sibs won’t pull their weight? You can almost count on this to happen. Some siblings will not lift a finger.
        Do you think you will be kept out of the loop? One way to combat this is to take a strong interest in your folks NOW. This will give you background for what you need to know in the future.

      4. CTT*

        On the living abroad point – when my parents re-did their wills a few years ago, they decided not to include me on the medical power of attorney because at the time I was living *two hours* away (as opposed to my sister, who lives 15 minutes away). Just because you’re living far away doesn’t mean they shouldn’t share your plans with you when you ask them, but there are some aspects of this that you won’t be able to be an active participant in.

    3. Pucci*

      I agree that you need to talk to your parents. The most important questions are those about their plans for the last years of their lives. Where do they plan to live? Ifit’s their current home, what are their plans for retrofitting it for mobility issues, dealing with the yard and general maintenance, getting to doctors appointments, especially if one needs daily chemotherapy, etc. If it’s a senior living or continuing care community, encourage them to live close to one of their children. What is their money situation for assisted living, getting through retirement, etc? Do they have a will, advanced medical directive, etc and where are these things located? From there, you are your siblings can evaluate how realistically your parents are approaching this.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        All excellent. In addition, here are some other things:

        * I am my mom’s executor and I have her financial POA. My sister, a nurse, has the medical POA. (Fortunately, my mom is in very good health).
        * My mom put me on her safe-deposit box and on all her accounts. When someone dies, it can be hard to get to the money, but the bills don’t stop.
        * My mom and I made a spreadsheet of all her accounts and bills and doctors, including websites and her passwords. (I have been unsuccessful in getting my mom to change her ten-year-old password. Trust me I have tried.) She showed me her files where the important papers, like the car title, are.
        * My mom and I met together with her financial advisor, who talked about her money and how it’s invested.
        * My dad is buried in Wisconsin (with space next to him for my mom) and my mom lives in Colorado. Because it can be difficult to transport a corpse across state lines, I asked my mom if it was OK if I had her cremated. (She said yes.)
        * I asked my mom about her funeral service. She would like something at the Colorado Springs church where she has been a member for over 20 years, but would also like something in her hometown when we inter her ashes by my dad.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          When my dad died, my aunt sent my mom a check for a few hundred $. Specifically because so many of their friends had run into trouble accessing the accounts in the weeks after the death.

        2. Squirrel Nutkin*

          All great ideas. Strongly seconding the idea of having one of the kids on the safe deposit boxes and accounts (or at least one of the accounts). My dad and I did this where we had one shared checking account where he made very sure to keep at least the amount of money needed for his funeral expenses, since I didn’t have that kind of cash. And when he was on his last legs but not dead yet, I used my power of attorney to transfer some of his other money into that shared account for other post-death expenses until I went through the probate process, since the power of attorney ended with his death.

          Also seconding the idea of making sure you know where important documents are — my dad used to go over this with me again and again, and I kind of thought it was a pain, but I was SO grateful when he died and I wasn’t firing on all cylinders that I knew where things were.

    4. wearethejunimos*

      I agree with other that say to start by talking with your parents first, then you can base any further conversations needed with your siblings from that.
      I think the one of most important question you could ask your parents is “what do you want to have happen if you become really sick?” I am an ER nurse and so so often, I see people who haven’t had that conversation yet and are suddenly having to make huge decisions in the middle of emotions. Do they want medical staff to do everything possible for them? Do they want CPR, resuscitative drugs, the ventilator? Or, if it came to all that, would they rather let nature take its course? This can be a hard conversation to have, but it’s important. Because life is so fragile and if there’s a sudden change in their health status, it is so helpful (and I’d argue, peaceful) to have the knowledge of what they would want in that situation.

    5. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m not sure what topics you are wanting to address as end of life things. Here’s my experience with siblings and our mother who is in her 90s.

      A couple decades ago, I reached out to my siblings and told them that should my mother ever need someone nearby to help her, that would be me because of my geographic location nearby and general life circumstances. That was the first conversation we had. My mother was proactive about making arrangements for herself years ago, moving herself into a retirement community that has life care should she ever be incapacitated.

      This helped my three siblings and I follow up with lots of conversations. We talked with each other about how we were committed to supporting her when her money ran out, which we all knew would happen eventually if she lived long enough. To assauge our mother’s fear that she would lose her home, we told her that we wouldn’t let that happen. (We’re fortunate that collectively we can pitch in enough to supplement her Social Security.)

      We agreed that as she was mentally declining, we needed to do more intervention. We determined who would do what, and recognized that with my being the closest to where she lives, I should be the lead for much of that. This resulted in talking with our mom and now having me and/or my sister legally on all her financial accounts as well as having access to her email, account passwords, etc. She’s feeling better knowing she has back-up in case she needs it.

      I recognize that I’m fortunate to have such a reasonable, caring family. The point I’m emphasizing here is that while my siblings and I are discussing these details, our mom is also directly involved in the conversations so we’re not going around her. Should she get to a place where she can’t manage at all, we have legal documentation set up so we can represent her that she personally agreed to.

  17. Cookies For Breakfast*

    I’d love some advice on two separate topics – sleep and home security. The recent backstory is the same, hence why one single comment.

    Context: a couple months ago, the outside of our home was badly damaged (attempted break-in or vandalism, we’ll never know and the police won’t pursue). There must have been a lot of noise when it happened. Even though we were sleeping inside, we didn’t hear a thing. We live in a relatively safe residential area, but it’s a big city, and these things can happen anywhere.

    I used to struggle with sleep in my 20s, and things had got a lot better in recent years, even despite pandemic and work stress. I don’t sleep all the hours I want, but as long as my sleep is uninterrupted, I’m fine. Now I’m back to square one. I wake up a few times per night without apparent triggers, in what I can only describe as deafening silence. It makes me hyper-attentive to any hint of noise coming from outside, and stay awake for what seems like ages. I may doze off again, but deep sleep eludes me. Then I’m up stupidly early as usual, and not rested at all. Meanwhile, my partner sleeps soundly and naturally wakes 2 hours after me in the morning, and I won’t lie – I envy him so much.

    What advice do you have for trying to train myself back into uninterrupted sleep, or fall back asleep in the middle of the night?

    On the home security front, what equipment would you recommend that doesn’t cost the earth and/or is good value for money? We have an alarm system, not sure what else to get (cameras? Video doorbell? Our front door is very close to the street, so motion sensors may not help much).

    Note, I am looking for a therapist to treat general anxiety (beyond the events above), but it’s taking time. So I’d appreciate practical sleep tips more than anything. Thank you for reading!

    1. Lemon*

      I’m sorry to hear that. On the sleep front – do you think the silence is keeping you from sleeping again after you wake up at night? In that case maybe you could try a white noise or sleep sounds app. I think the app Calm has sleep sounds (soothing audios like rain, waves, etc., need not always be static/white noise – depends on what works for you). I wish you the best!

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Yes! The silence is definitely a factor. I haven’t had much luck with rain and wave sounds: I played a couple tracks from Spotify, and found them more intrusive than relaxing. Your comment and a couple of others are making me think about trying white noise, and the Calm app too. Thank you!

    2. Janet Pinkerton*

      For falling back asleep in the middle of the night: When I fully wake up in the middle of the night, I get on my phone and do wordle and other word games. It only “turns on” a part of my brain and sometimes it’s just the stimulation I need to fall back asleep. If that’s not enough, I read longform nonfiction or fan fiction. I don’t get on my social media, and I don’t read AAM (she says at 5:30 after being up for 90 minutes already). I also don’t try to fight being awake—I wake up, enjoy my “awake nap”, and then fall back asleep. I’ve gotten in the habit of going to bed earlier to help accommodate this gap.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        I do the word games too! I leave those, and reading AAM, for the 6 – 7AM slot – the time when I know I won’t try to sleep again, don’t want to get out of bed, and I still have lots of time to pass before my partner wakes or it’s time to get ready for work. That’s usually when I do some reading, too, but there’s a lot more to read than daily word games to play, so I’ll definitely consider it for the middle of the night. It’s only a shame it has to be ebooks, which I can read without waking anyone, as holding the full weight of a paper book while lying in bed has been known to send me to sleep in the past :)

    3. Flower necklace*

      I listen to an audio book when I can’t sleep. I set a timer on it so it automatically turns off after 30 minutes, which is usually long enough for me to fall back asleep.

      The audio book doesn’t always work, however. I used to force myself to stay in bed, no matter what, but now I’ll get up and do some work (nothing important, but I’m a teacher and I’m constantly behind on planning). I’ve actually found that to be very effective on the worst nights.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        I had a bout of insomnia in college and so learned about sleep hygiene, and a major component is training yourself/your body/mind to associate your bed only with sleep. If I wake up and can’t get back to sleep I read a book on the couch in low light until I can barely keep my eyes open anymore.

    4. Little beans*

      I’m sorry, I would have trouble sleeping after an incident like that too! I recommend security cameras. You can watch what’s happening from your phone anytime, so you can check when a delivery arrives, etc. We have the Arlo cameras and it’s a big upfront expense one time, but feels so worth it. The only thing is, if you live on a busy street, you have to angle it so it’s not picking up street traffic or else you’ll get nonstop alerts from it.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Thank you! That’s exactly what we’re concerned about. We’ve heard before that given how close the front of the house is to the street, cameras would be likely to pick up every movement and would end up not being useful at all. We have neighbours with Arlo cameras, and might ask them, since they’re pretty close to the sidewalk too (but their front wall may just be that little useful bit farther away).

    5. Missb*

      Do you have a car? I keep our keys on my nightstand when dh is out of town and I’m more hyper vigilant because he is gone. In theory, I’d set off the car alarm if I heard anything outside.

      I also keep some lights on those wifi plugs, is I can use my phone to turn on the entryway and dining room lights from bed.

      Those came in handy last year when someone showed up on our porch at 2 am, pounding on our walls. I turned the lights on then got some clothes on. Note that dh was still asleep, so my hyper vigilance when he is gone makes zero sense. I should be hyper vigilant at all times, lol.

      We have dogs and they sleep in kennels in our room. DH wears ear plugs and I do not. Big Dog barked and growled before the pounding started. I let him out of the room after I remotely turned on the lights and before throwing on clothes. He’s 100 lbs and has mastiff/american bulldog in him, so rather intimidating. He takes our security seriously. He stood in the dining room and barked his head off. I didn’t let him outside.

      It was a drunk guy. Totally lost, didn’t understand why we didn’t let him in. The cops took him home.

      We fenced our property. No one walks up to our door now. Mostly we were fencing for the dogs but it also provided peace of mind.

      Lighting works outside. Doesn’t sound like sensors would work but maybe install and keep exterior lights on at night. Maybe having the ability to turn on interior lights will help you feel better prepared. Maybe having a locking bedroom door will reassure you.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Thank you for the advice! We don’t have a car, but I sleep with the home alarm on when I’m alone, and it makes a subtle difference between sleeping roughly and not closing my eyes at all. We’ve finally found someone to install a fence and a small front gate, and even though they can’t be very tall due to building regulations, it helps that the front of the house feels more secluded now. Exterior lights are something that might work too!

    6. Writer Claire*

      I have major sleep issues myself–getting to sleep and staying asleep. One thing that has helped me is the Calm app, which has a number of “sleep stories” and meditations for exactly the problem you describe. I sprang for the paid version and I am using the heck out of the app, both for sleep and for focusing myself with writing, but there is a (somewhat limited) free version.

    7. PostalMixup*

      Perhaps this is a user error thing, but I’ve found that doorbell cameras only save the footage for the immediate time that it detects motion or a person. When we lived in a busy street and had the Nest camera, we could turn off alerts for motion but it still saved the footage. Now we’re on a quiet street with the Ring camera, and when we turned off alerts for motion, it stopped saving that footage. I definitely prefer the way the Nest camera worked.

    8. RussianInTexas*

      Ring doorbell and camera/motion sensor – you can set up the sensitivity and the distance, so it won’t get everyone and everything on the street, vs just by your door. They also have the stand alone cameras you can put on the perimeter of the property, with the same settings.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Oh, that’s very good to know. The Ring doorbell would have been my preference, but I was under the impression (because an electrician we’ve asked also said so) that it would indeed get everyone on the street. Will look into it again!

    9. Suprisingly ADHD*

      For me, what helps is getting up and eating a little something. A couple ounces of cheese, or some pretzels, usually (protein or carbs). Getting up puts a separation between waking up and falling asleep again, and the little bit of nutrition settles my body down (hard to pump adrenaline while digesting). My uncle gets night terrors, he needs cheese right before bed and that reduces the terrors to almost never.

    10. Girasol*

      I second the audio book with one earphone/earbud so the other ear is free to hear sounds in the house if having both ears covered would add to the worry. Regarding security, a recent discussion in our local Next Door app seemed to point to Blink security equipment as our local favorite.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Interesting, thanks! It’s the first time I’m hearing of Blink (though my partner may already know it). I wouldn’t mind having both ears covered, and tried that in the past…but I know, as a side sleeper who tosses and turns a lot, that at some point I’d wake up anyway with the urge to take them off, and that kind of defeats the purpose :D Shame, as that would solve the problem of finding something to do for myself while having someone soundly asleep next to me.

    11. Just a name*

      For me, white noise helps. I have an air purifier that runs all night that works. Also blackout curtains because I like the dark. I take a NyQuil each night. Falling asleep is not an issue, but waking up at 4 am and not falling back asleep because my head is spinning with stuff was. NyQuil makes it easy to fall back to sleep. I do relate to the every noise in the night thing though. I’ve had my home broken into twice (in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, so a while ago). I wasn’t home either time but was the person who discovered the break ins by myself in the dark. Eventually the major panic wore off, although there are still times when I will wake up, thinking I heard something, and then patrol the house, flipping on inside and outside lights.

    12. EdgarAllanCat*

      I actually talk out loud to my anxiety before falling asleep. I reassure it that I collected the mail, fed the cat, etc etc, and it doesn’t need to wake me up as a reminder. This helps for some reason. I no longer wake up 1/2 down the stairs convinced that the world will burn because I didn’t get the mail.

    13. beentheredonethat*

      My Mom has dementia. I have a Nest doorbell camera, and a camera pointed at the back of the house. Also, 4 cameras in the house. They were cheap and easy to install and use. Caveat, they are sensitive and the way my doorbell camera is pointed, anytime a car drives by at night it notifies me. The wind blows the bush, a cat walks by. I do like them. After I move my mom to home, I will keep the outside cameras and shut the inside ones down.

    14. OneTwoThree*

      A lot of people have talked about the Calm App, White Nose, or something to that effect. I also agree that is a great idea. I listen to the same podcast while going to sleep everynight on headphones designed to sleep in (“SleepPhones”). I set the timer to turn off the podcast after the first 20 min. If I wake up during the night, I restart the Podcast. It helps me go back to sleep within 5 min almost every time.

      I also pull the headband down over my eyes. It acts as a sleep mask that way too.

      Also, as silly as this sounds, I’ve mentally assigned “given the responsibility of being on guard” to my partner. I wear the headphones so my partner isn’t disturbed while they are trying to sleep. If I wear headphones, I can’t hear what is happening outside. He has agreed that he will be listening and on guard for both of us. If I know he is taking care of it, I can relax a bit easier and I ignore a lot more noises.

    15. Quinalla*

      The “white noise” we use for our bedroom and the kids’ is just a standard box fan. We like having the extra air movement too, so if that sounds good, highly recommended and cheap white noise!

      Would a camera so you could at least review later what happened give you peace of mind? Cameras often act as a deterrent too.

      Good luck, not getting sleep is rough, mine has been disturbed most nights for months for different reasons and I feel you!

    1. Pam Adams*

      I was thinking- in 1906 San Francisco, a weird family will be the least of her problems soon.

  18. A.N. O'Nyme*

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

    I’ve been trying to figure out where the loose scenes I wrote would roughly fit into the overall story. Problem is that some of them could fit in multiple places – change some names and some scenes could even fit into multiple stories. Woops.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Have you tried writing a one-sentence description of each scene on a post-it or index card, then rearranging them and seeing which flow you prefer? There are also writing tools that do this virtually, if you prefer.

      I usually focus on how the order affects the character arc or relationships. I once watched a TV show that the producers–for some odd reason–decided to show out of order. The show was pretty episodic, so the plot still worked, but the friendship between the two main characters was yo-yoing around with no explanation. It was a very frustrating viewing experience.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        That is usually how I work, yes, but the problem is I can’t really decide which flow I like better ^^’. I’m probably going to do the flip a coin thing and see if I’m disappointed with the result.

        Oof, yeah, that is annoying.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I have 2 chapters due Monday and 0.5 chapters written. Why do I do this to myself? Ugh.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I keep thinking of things to put in Book 3. I fire up the writing software, drop them in there, and then stare blankly at the screen. But it’s coming. If I start describing what I want to do in my outline or notes, then it often turns into a full-blown scene.

      I pretty much know what’s going to happen. Right now, it’s about structure and fleshing out the conlang a bit more.

      1. Chaordic One*

        If you don’t mind my asking, what kind of writing software do you use?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s called SmartEdit Writer, made by a little Irish company called Bad Wolf. I used to use their PageFour program. but I switched to this one.

          I like it because it lets me import and export to and from Word. The thing I like most is that it lets me move chapters around individually before I merge the entire document. It has less features than Word so I don’t have to deal with it doing things I don’t want it to do. You can also set it up to back your work up every time you close it.

  19. 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.

    Still not much for me, though I did play some Age of Empires 2, currently going for Saladin’s campaign.

    1. The Dude Abides*

      Today, I’m selling off my consoles, games and accessories (PS2, N64) to Disc Replay. We are in the process of moving, and I can count on one hand the number of games I’ve played on them in the past five years.

      The only video game I play anymore is Link to the Past Randomizer on my laptop.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        May they go to loving homes.

        Also the LttP Randomizer has been on my list of things to try, so I’m curious to hear what you think of it!

        1. The Dude Abides*

          I started on Open Keysanity about four years ago, and play casually off and on when I have time.

          As someone who’s played the vanilla game for over 20 years, I love the variety that the seeds give.

          When first starting, find a tracker that works best for you. Too often, I’d find that one check that I orphaned and isn’t exactly top of mind (Aginah’s cave, bonk rocks) had my progression.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      I have finally won in the Wingspan last week! Wooo! My gaming group is tough, so I am inordinately proud.
      Played a game that was introduced at the latest BGG – Ark Nova. It’s a long big complicated game with an unusual scoring system, but I liked it. The premise is that you are building a zoo.

    3. A Girl Named Fred*

      I just bought Dorfromantik on Steam the other day, and it’s exactly the kind of not-quite-mindless but not-super-difficult game I was looking for. Super relaxing, easy to watch/listen to something else while I play, but keeps my attention in a way some other ‘casual’ games don’t. Only downside is I sometimes struggle to tell how long I’ve been playing lol!

      Basic premise, if anyone’s curious – you have a pile of hexagonal tiles with various landscape features, and your goal is to place them down so that like landscape features are placed next to like. So you try to connect a bunch of houses, a bunch of trees, create a river, etc. If you complete certain quests, you get more tiles. The goal is just to place as many tiles as you can and get the highest points possible.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I love Dorfromantik! It’s the perfect ‘chill out but still engage your brain’ game.

      2. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Picked that up myself a couple of weeks ago (yay Steam sales!) and enjoy it very much, too. It’s a good way to kill an hour or so where I just need to tune out for a bit.

    4. Admiral Thrown Rocks the Blue*

      I started Best Fiends right after Ukraine was invaded. I could not take the news anymore and needed something to fill the void, I’m currently over level 600. I love it. It’s a simple game, and I can take my time after each move. It’s adorable, I love the music and the Fiends are the cutest.

    5. ResearchalatorLady*

      I’m thinking about buying an Oculus/Meta Quest VR headset to use for fitness. I used to be into gaming but that fell away some decades ago (thanks, depression!) so I’ve no experience past SNES and PS2, other than Candy Crush. Any thoughts welcome!

    6. SparklingBlue*

      Re-started Legend of Mana HD just because–my only word of advice is to play with the classic PSX music, as most of the redone versions are meh (to me) at best.

      Also keeping an eye out for any news of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

    7. Puffle*

      I’ve just finished Assassins Creed: Revelations after a few weeks off gaming, literally waiting right now for Detroit: Become Human to finish downloading so I can start playing.

      I can see why Revelations is considered the weak link in the Ezio trilogy, but I loved the setting and the soundtrack is great. The puzzles are also really fun. I think the plot doesn’t have the same visceral appeal as the other two games, where the characters are driven by the classic motives of revenge and a fight to remove corrupt/ evil enemies from power, but it made sense to me that it has more of a contemplative feel and a focus on reflecting on the past and oneself as the trilogy draws to a close. In some ways it feels like a major theme/ question is, what do you do when you’ve had your revenge and defeated your enemies- where does your life go after that?

      First time play of Detroit: Become Human for me, which has a very different setting, so will be interesting to see what I make of it having just played Revelations

    8. MEH Squared*

      Still playing Elden Ring (FromSoft), but am starting to think about other games to play. There are a few on Game Pass that I have installed such as NORCO (Geography of Robots) and Tunic (Andrew Shouldice).

    9. GlowCloud*

      I finally started Psychonauts 2 – It’s been years since the first one was released, and the sequel is every bit as good! Couldn’t help staying up ’til 5am playing it. They have to be my all-time favourite video games.

  20. Piercing questions*

    Septum piercing questions – Is it possible to keep it hidden during the healing stage? (I don’t know if it would be okay at my workplace, but I am fine with hiding it until it heals and then putting in jewelry when I want to show it off) I have a deviated nasal septum and pre-lockdowns (and masks) I was quite prone to colds and sinusitis – is this piercing a no-go for me? I really love the look but I’m not sure if I can make it work with these restrictions :/

    Anything else I should know about possibly getting a septum piercing?

    Thank you and happy weekend!

    1. Velvette*

      I don’t have a septum piercing because I too am prone to colds and sniffles and decided it wasn’t worth it, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But I would suggest testing out a non permanent option first – there are some convincing rings that pressure fit inside your nose, and there are magnetic ones that come in two parts. Wear that for a while and pay attention to how often you feel annoyed when blowing your nose, etc!

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      As someone with chronic sinus issues from allergies who loves her septum piercing, I think you should go for it!

      Unless you have especially petite nostrils, you should be able to flip a circular barbell or retainer up for healing, but plan to leave it up most of the time. It’s not great to move the jewelry around a bunch while it’s healing. If you have seasonal allergies I’d avoid getting it done when they’re the worst, but other than adjusting how you blow your nose to accommodate the jewelry, it shouldn’t really impact much.

  21. WoodswomanWrites*

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

    My birding friends and I took a late afternoon/early evening walk in a nearby park that none of us had been to before. It turned out to be a great spot for watching birds in various stages of caring for young. We watched a junco pull seeds from a flowering plant, and then the parent and fledgling flew to a spot on the ground near us for the parent to offer the food. An adult chickadee fed their cheeping offspring on a branch in a shrub. And in a moment of incredible cuteness, an acorn woodpecker ducked into a nest hole in a tree adjacent to the trail and sat there with her head poking out looking at us.

    1. Lizabeth*

      Mr and Mrs. Cardinal are getting good at guilt tripping me to put out a handful of sunflower chips every morning. And the birds have found the new bird bath – several mourning doves have done 10 minute baths in it. The finches are eating upside down on the firecracker flowers. I expect the hummingbirds to find them next.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Cardinals courting in my yard, against a backdrop of flowering cherry and crabapple trees. The male was feeding sunflower seeds to the female – quite lovely!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I miss cardinals from my Michigan childhood, since we don’t have them in California.

    3. fposte*

      I went for the first kayak outing of the year, and the lake was happening, birdwise. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to see a bird clearly with binoculars when you’re bobbing and drifting, even if only slightly. There are a ton of great blue herons, which I like a lot, but I saw something that looked like a rosy-bellied version and I have no idea what that would be.

    4. I take tea*

      Cranes! They are so cool, very majestetic. And the sound is fascinating, like a cross between geese and Siamese cats.

    5. Sundial*

      There is a woodpecker trying to destroy my brand-new roof. My neighbors are now used to me standing in the yard at 6 am shrieking threats into the sky.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        While that sounds like an irritating scenario, this visual cracks me up!

      2. pancakes*

        We often have the Cornell Ornithology Lab feeder cam at Sapsucker Woods on in the background, and at this time of year we often have it on both the living room TV and a tablet on my boyfriend’s desk. There is one pileated woodpecker that comes around that is massive. I would not want it trying to eat my roof! It looks like a little pterodactyl.

    6. Suprisingly ADHD*

      Our summer birds are arriving! The mocking birds got here early this year, they’ve been singing nonstop for a week or so. The red-wing blackbirds are as aggressive as ever, they’ve started chasing the crows around. The robins showed up with the mockingbirds last week, and we’ve got grackles too!
      The winter flocks of canadian geese have finally left, we’re down to just the 4 nesting pairs. One of them has babies already, but we’re hoping the others won’t hatch.

    7. Formerly in HR*

      Spent the week in San Diego and too many days with my neck craned watching the hummingbirds at Balboa Park. Also spotted a pair of falcons/hawks gliding over the canyon while I was on a museum terrace.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        Nice! I’m going to be in San Diego this week. Where do you go for birdwatching?

    8. Hotdog not dog*

      Lots of bluebirds this year. I think there is a nest in one of the dead trees at the back edge of our property (which is exactly why we don’t cut them down). I don’t do bird feeders because we also have bears, so I try to grow a lot of native plants that the birds, bees, and butterflies can eat from.

    9. Girasol*

      I’m seeing a robin on the arbor in spite of the mylar pinwheels I put up there to keep him from perching and making droppings on the arbor bench where I sit for morning coffee. It’s that robin time of year here, when all the neighbors are complaining of them pounding on windows. I may have to get out the paint roller and paint the outside of my bedroom window with washable finger paint to discourage one that’s been banging there. On a more positive note, I can hear nearby the songs of redwings, kildeers, quail, goldfinches, house finches, and occasionally a meadowlark.

    10. Kate in Scotland*

      We just went to the local pond to see the moorhen chicks. They are already a lot bigger than they were two weeks ago, but still cute. I love their enormous feet.
      The swans in the same pond look like they’re still nesting, but I hope there will be cygnets soon.

    11. Maryn*

      We had a *bad* birding week.

      First we had to remove a robin’s nest built in an inappropriate place that wouldn’t let us open the door fully. While we don’t use this door a lot (which is why we didn’t notice the nest under construction), we don’t want to be unable to use it.

      A few days later, Ms. Robin laid two eggs on the concrete porch below where the nest had been. It was going below freezing at night and those eggs had no protection. We figured it was probably too late, but found the original nest and put the eggs in it, just not where it had been. The birds ignored it, and two days later the eggs were outside the nest, broken, most likely by a predator of some kind.

      Cut to the really awful part. Mr. Robin started attacking the windows, beginning about five in the morning and going until around seven in the evening. By attack I mean come at it with talons and beak, around every ninety seconds to two minutes.

      Audubon’s website said it’s a territorial-mating thing and he’s attacking his own reflection because he thinks he sees a rival. They recommended covering the glass with something non-reflective, which we were willing and able to do in back, where the bedroom is, but not in front, where the windows are very high.

      So for several days, about fourteen hours a take, this robin threw himself at the glass over and over. You could hear it all over the house except in the basement.

      And then he stopped, so abruptly that I checked the ground below the high windows, wondering if he’d injured or even killed himself. Nothing.

      Anyway, I’m glad the robin drama has ended.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        That does sound rough. I didn’t know all that about robins. I grew up in Detroit but was barely aware of the local birds back then before moving to the West Coast.

    12. Dino*

      Just started using the Merlin app and have really enjoyed identifying sounds!

      As for visual sightings: a spotted towhee with an attitude hopping their way into the blackberry brambles. I disturbed them by walking nearby, oops.

    13. Squidhead*

      A rose-breasted grosbeak pair showed up at our feeders this week! They only seem to pass through and not stay, but I enjoy them. And I had just washed and filled all the feeders so they had many options.

    14. Blomma*

      I’m not a birdwatcher but I saw a Belted Kingfisher for the first time this week. I’ve lived near Puget Sound my entire life and this is the first time I’ve seen one. I got to see it in action diving into the Sound several times – it was so cool!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        That is an amazing sighting! Just incredible birds, all head and beak and spearing artists.

  22. Still*

    This is a long shot but does anyone have any experience with piling or with an old building settling due to a decreased groundwater level?

    We’ve won a bid on an apartment in a small building (I think it’s eight apartments in the building, 23 total in the whole HOA). Everything is great, except… In one corner of the building, there are some diagonal cracks on the outside, and it turns out in 2020 the HOA did an inspection of the grounds and it turned out that there is some settling due to the decreased groundwater level caused by a nearby sewer. The inspecting company has recommended ground reinforcement.

    The HOA is in the process of investigating how serious the issue is and what is the best way to reinforce the ground, but that’s a six-months-long process and we need to make a decision this weekend.

    My partner thinks that it’ll be just like any other maintenance: it will cost, of course, but the HOA will have piling or some other form of reinforcement done, and then it won’t be a problem anymore.

    On the one hand, it sounds reasonable; why give up on a great apartment because of an issue that’s already being handled? On the other… I have a feeling like it might be more complicated than that. Even apart from the cost, is there a chance that the piling won’t work as expected, or that it will help for a while but that the building will start settling again in a while?

    I know it’s basically impossible to say anything definitive, but – does anyone have any experience with pilling, good or bad? I’d love to know if settling is usually an issue that’s serious but fixable, or if it’s gonna haunt us forever if we buy the place.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, we read stories out of FL about buildings collapsing. This does not inspire confidence.

      Personally, I think get ready to move. I have a single family home here. I put in a lot of drainage, reinforced a lot of things and the building still moves. I am probably okay for the next 25 years- at that point I will be well into my 80s and probably ready to move anyway.

      Yes, they can fix it. But it depends on the skill and integrity of the contractor doing the work. Underground water flows will continuously wear down the area a building sits on. If they are not working to redirect natural water flows, I’d get out of there sooner rather than later.

      I def would NOT buy this place. This is something that should be constantly monitored and accessed even after the repair is done. Other areas should also be checked. And again if a plan is not in place for regular checks, I’d be out of there sooner rather than later.

      You can find a better place than this one. You can find a place that does not leave you loaded with worry and doubt.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I may be missing something here, but I’m not sure I understand why you would buy an apartment in a building that may be falling down.

      If you do decide to go forward, though, you should know how much money is in the HOA’s reserves fund, what the complex’s insurance coverage looks like, and how much you may be on the hook personally to fund the building repairs that are on the way. There’s a distinct possibility that the building could be condemned, and you might incur an uninsurable loss (and yet still have an obligation to pay the mortgage). I would run, run, run away from this transaction.

    3. Anono-me*

      I personally would be very very reluctant to buy anything with known foundation issues.

      How much money do you have available for the potential special assessment to pay for fixing the foundation issues?

      How will this impact your resale value?

      Do you have any friends or family with construction or engineering background that you could talk to about this?

      (Also, I would be a little concerned about the HOA’s approach taking so long on a decision. )

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        HOA’s approach taking so long on a decision

        Yep. One of the factors in the Surfside Condominium collapse was the failure of the board to act upon the knowledge they had for a few years about construction issues and degradation. They also failed to keep significant reserves and assess the residents in order to get repairs done.

    4. Sundial*

      I live in an area prone to settling and sinkholes. Adding water to that mix is like tossing gas on a fire. And you say there’s nothing even being done about this until a board of amateurs collectively pulls their thumbs out of their butts? Run, do not walk, away from this property.

    5. Liminality (Formerly It’s Quarantime!)*

      The ‘green m&m’s’ test for HOAs is “How well funded is your Reserve Fund?”
      The Reserve Fund is the recommended Savings Account balance that the HOA should maintain to address any structural/property issues in a timely manner.
      I don’t know the law in your area, but here the law is that the HOAmust pay for a Reserve Study every two years or so where a professional in the field examines the property and gives the suggested reserve amount. There is No Law that says the HOA must actually maintain that level of savings.
      HOAs that do not keep a healthy reserve fund can not address unexpected issues quickly and they frequently drag their feet on addressing known issues. Either way, there tend to be Special Assessments that must be paid by the owners on top of the standard HOA fees which can make personal budgeting difficult.
      Ideally, a Reserve Fund would be fully funded at 100%, and depending on circumstances, I’d be comfortable buying in a complex as low as 50% funded. (Maybe they just finished work on a large project and they plan to rebuild the fund ASAP?)

      But every property WILL have big maintenance needs sooner or later and the quality of HOA leadership can be judged at a glance by how well funded the Reserve Fund is.

    6. Still*

      Thank you all for replying.

      I do think there’s a good chance that it might not be a huge issue and that it’s fixable, but there’s no way for me to know it until the investigation is over, and you’re right: it’s not worth the risk. There’ll be other places.

      I’ve called the realtor and told him thank you but no thank you. Wish us luck with finding an apartment that’s just as nice, without being a potential hazard!

      1. Idyllic Gulag*

        As someone who spent nearly a decade of their professional life working with large HOAs to prepare and implement reserve studies and maintenance plans, you made the right choice. I have enough horror stories to last three lifetimes; if you learn about serious structural issues like that before you buy, count your blessings and buy a lottery ticket because it’s your lucky day.

  23. esemess*

    I recently made a hard decision to end a romantic relationship because I realized that the person held me back/exhausted me. It was a really hard choice because I truly care about the person. However, I realized that staying in it would have been unfair to both of us, as we equally deserve to be with partners that enrich our lives. It felt like a risk because I’d like to get married at some point, and this person definitely wanted to marry me. While I am sad, I am also really proud of myself for ending things and staying true to what I need and not letting a desire for marriage scare me into something mediocre. Go me!

    I would love to here about others who chose the path of least resistance for something (definitely doesn’t need to be a relationship!!) that wasn’t quite the right fit. Let’s celebrate our bravery in chasing the life we want/need! :)

    1. esemess*

      EDIT:

      *the scarier path, NOT the path of least resistance. :)

      **In my case it was definitely a path with more (short-term) resistance!

    2. Love AAM*

      When I was 22-years-old, I was a mother of a two-month-old and a thirteen-month-old (yes, only eleven months apart). Their dad and I had a whirlwind romance that became very unhealthy. One day, after trying hard to improve things with little success (he had a lot of serious issues), I left him. I simply didn’t want our children to grow up in that unhealthy environment. It was terrifying at first to be on my own with two babies, but we did just great, thanks to an excellent support system! A year later, I met my future husband. We’ve been happily married for 30 years. He treats me like an absolute queen and has since Day one, and is completely devoted to our family. If I stayed in that unhealthy relationship, I would not have met him. It makes me sad to think of that! You’ve got this!

    3. NeonFireworks*

      I did the same thing not long ago. It was very hard, because we were such a good match in so many ways. However, the relationship was sucking up a lot of my energy/tolerance and not channeling it into anything good. I cannot wait to meet something I click with who doesn’t wear me out with daily high maintenance routines.

    4. FACS*

      My college bf was a great guy. Smart, funny, curious. Her has a PhD now and is a college professor. Everyone liked him and we had talked about marriage. He was also stunningly passive-aggressive. I’m there trying to use my “I” messages and he would say, “yes, I can see how that might be annoying”. And not change anything. I would eventually blow up and he would say “Calm down. Why are you so upset by a few beard hairs in the sink?” I realized that after a decade or so of it I would eventually be a ball of resentment. I did not want that. I did not want to clean up after another adult human for the rest of my life. So I ended it.
      I also ended a relationship because he wanted to be a career military officer. I’m good with the military but my job is referral based and built on long term relationships. I could not relocate every couple of years and had no desire to be in the military myself.
      Both men were lovely but not ultimately the right ones. Sometimes you just have to realize your truth and act, even if it really hurts in the moment.

    5. ElEm*

      At age 51, I left a 33 year marriage. I had never lived on my own, but couldn’t envision any more years with my husband. 12 years later, I’ve never been happier. And the biggest bullet I dodged was finding out he was a Trump supporter, which would have driven me insane.

    6. Juneybug*

      I left my second husband as he wouldn’t work on our marriage and I was so tired of being the only adult in the relationship. Two years of counseling and the needle hadn’t move so I asked for a divorce. It was scary as I had two children (1 and 6 years old) and being a single parent in the military is not for the faint of heart. Plus I really didn’t want to be divorced twice before the age of 30. Looking back, second husband was a rebound as I had recently divorced my first husband over his drug addiction.
      Second husband’s standards of living were so low that I knew I would be the one carrying the workload (maintaining a job with insurance, cleaning house, making all of the decisions, etc.). I wanted an equal partner, not another person to take care of. But at age 29, it was hard to explain that our marriage just didn’t feel right. Of course, everyone thought I was crazy for leaving a nice guy – Think of the kids. Not all guys will be helpful with the house or kids. He’s not cheating or abusing you so why leave? Your expectations are too high.
      The kids and I went to individual and family counseling so we could move on in a healthy way. We were doing pretty well all things considering. Realized that I had much less stress being a single parent than having second husband around.
      Few years later, I meet Mr Wonderful. Wasn’t planning on marrying again. Didn’t need another person in my life. But over time, I realized that he was great person and made all of our lives better. Married him after few years of dating and happy to say I love him more every day. He is the best thing that ever happen to the kids and I.
      So heck yes to taking the path of difficulty, being brave, and living your best life. I am.

    7. Squirrel Nutkin*

      After over a decade together, I left a great boyfriend whom my family all adored because I just didn’t love him in that way anymore and I was feeling very trapped and found myself starting to be mean to him, which I absolutely did not want to do. I don’t have a great “and then I met someone awesome and we got married and had kids!” ending to the story–I sure wish I did!–but I did wind up coming out as bisexual and having a lot of adventures and meeting a lot of new friends in ways that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

      Most importantly, my ex and I still have a warm, close friendship — he feels like a brother to me — and he now has a wife who is a better match for him than I was and who is also really cool. So, even without a storybook ending, I think we both wound up in a better place eventually.

      1. Spearmint*

        It warms my heart to hear you are still close with your ex. My partner and I are about to take a break and possibly break up permanently for similar reasons, though I’m in the position of your ex in this scenario. We’re best friends, chosen family really, but she doesn’t have romantic or sexual feelings for me anymore and that has been really hard on both of us. We really want to remain close if we do break up in the end, and I’m glad others have been able to do so with their exes.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Sending you all good wishes as you navigate this difficult situation, Spearmint.

          For what it’s worth, I am also very close with my ex-girlfriend, who in that case was the one who wanted to break up with me. We talk every day and are mutually supportive, and she also feels like a family member to me.

          I think that if you both chose a great partner in the first place and overall have had a supportive relationship, you do have a good chance of remaining warm friends, although (per the advice in the helpful, if admittedly hetero-normative, book *It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken*) you may find that you need a bit of separation from each other first to let some of the unhappy feelings become less sharp.

          Wishing the very best of luck to you both.

  24. Janet Pinkerton*

    Bathroom renovations.

    We are looking to hire someone to gut and redesign/redo our bathroom. It is our only bathroom. We live in a condo. We had a bad experience with a previous general contractor when we got washer-dryer hookups installed—it took forever and the finish work was really sub-par.

    Questions:

    How do you hire out for this project and trust the final product?
    Should we hire a designer separate from a contractor?
    It’s challenging to find contractors right now, from what I understand, and this is a small job. Any advice for navigating this?

    Part of the reason this needs to be done is water damage from the condo above us. Any advice for pursuing compensation from our upstairs neighbor? We’ve vaguely discussed it in the past but haven’t fixed it yet. She admits fault but she’s difficult in general so we’ve avoided it.

    Thank you!

    1. Meh*

      If you are hiring a designer you can get one that manages the contractor! This is the way I would go instead of getting to two separate people who have not worked together.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t do anything until the problem upstairs is fixed. It’s like throwing money in a garbage can if that problem upstairs is not fixed.

      Maybe you can put a claim in with your insurance company and let your insurance company duke it out with her insurance company.

      Hiring a contractor. Fun times- NOT.
      Get referrals from friends and cohorts.
      Contractors book up FAST. Figure on this year as being lost and ask for people to plan on doing it over the winter or next year. Contractors are usually looking for work in the winter.
      Building materials are higher than ever so there may be advantages to waiting.

      As to getting a designer- I guess you’d what to think about your goals here. Do you want magazine beautiful? Or do you just want it DONE. Do you have an idea of what you want to put in or is everything a whirlwind for you?
      And a reality check-in, what does your budget allow for?

      If your job is a small job then you might want to consider smaller companies that are not interested in huge jobs anyway.

      1. Anono-me*

        Seconding checking with your homeowners insurance .
        1. The insurance company will probably pay for part or all of the repairs (depending on the type and degree of damage. )
        2. The insurance company will probably deal with the challenging neighbor and their insurance company.
        3. Most insurance companies have a list of recommended contractors. Contractors on an insurance company list tend to be good and responsible and timely, both because that is how the operate in general and because they want to continue to receive recommendations from the insurance company.

        (Also seconding getting the upstairs issue fixed first- you may also want to check in to what help is available from your association and bylaws.)

    3. Missb*

      We are doing a kitchen, so different scale and a bit easier to live without the facility than your case.

      But… we have cabinetry as part of the project and likely you do too. I went to a cabinet/floor/counter store. Not a big box store and not a custom cabinet shop. This place sells various cabinet lines. They have a “designer” on staff, and it was good enough for me. She was very thoughtful in her design and frankly the space is pretty limited so there weren’t a lot of ways she could lead me astray.

      Point is it was $250 for the design, refunded as part of the cabinet order. They have a list of installers they’ve vetted, and I found one that is definitely good (I’m going with inset cabinetry and it’s easy to find out whether they have experience).

      The cabinet shop designer coordinates with the installer. Both the designer and installer were onsite for the final measuring. I chose the counter from a local stone yard and the designer handles the coordination with the counter when the cabinets are installed.

      I’m acting as the general so I’m keeping a hand in the process. I could use the cabinet place for everything but I prefer to find certain things (like backsplash, sink, flooring).

      Maybe try to find a shop like that! I know I’m paying a slight premium for everything I buy through the cabinet place but it is cheaper than handing it all over to a general. As an aside, the installer *is* a general contractor so I can hire him to deal with some aspects if needed.

    4. Idyllic Gulag*

      If the original damage occurred due to a leak in an adjoining unit, contact your insurance company. Depending on circumstance and specifics, they may cover repairs and subrogate to either the other owner’s insurance or the HOA’s insurance. Make sure mitigation of any water damage was/is professionally performed, because this can cause serious health and structural issues down the line if it’s not properly done.

      Regarding reconstruction, if you have a clear idea of layout and finishes, hiring a contractor yourself may be the best idea. Ask for recommendations from those in your circle or search online for contractors that perform the work you’re looking for, and make sure to vet any contractor through your State licensing board and business registry (most have publicly-accessible databases). If initial meetings with a contractor don’t go well, there’s nothing wrong with looking elsewhere.

      Some firms competently handle design/build, but expect to pay a premium for good quality work on both fronts. In general, the average small residential contractor won’t be the best choice for the design stage, even if they advertise as D/B, and hiring a specialist for the design phase can pay dividends when it comes to the final product.

    5. bratschegirl*

      Since this is a condo, there will be at least two insurance companies involved; the master HOA policy, which covers the structure itself and is probably liable if there was something like a pipe that leaked inside the wall, and your own policy covering your personal belongings, and probably the walls and bath fixtures. Either of those companies will have the capacity to go after the upstairs neighbor’s insurance for whatever she’s individually responsible for. Your insurance may have lists of approved contractors, so that might be a place to start. You need to dive into your CC&Rs and figure out whether the HOA policy is responsible for any of this, and then file claims with one or both companies.

  25. allathian*

    Little joys thread!

    Share your big or small joys here.

    I had my first breast cancer screening a few weeks ago, and just got the results; everything’s as it should be. I’m lucky enough that free breast cancer screenings are offered to all breast-having people (including trans women who are or have been on estrogen regardless of whether they’ve had top surgery or not) every two years from 50 to 70. My mom got diagnosed at her first screening way back when, and my paternal grandmother had a double mastectomy in her late 60s before the screenings started, and my dad was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer and had some tissue removed in his late 60s, so I know I’m quite high risk. To say getting a good result was a relief is putting it mildly.

    1. StellaBella*

      I am glad for your joy! Glad all is OK!

      My little joy coming up is that I am taking Monday off, after a very long week at work. Today my joy is that I will do some gardening and have a call with a long distance friend, she is in Seattle, I am in Europe.

    2. Missb*

      Congrats on getting your first screening! I get an annual mammogram (since my 30s). I’m grateful that it is covered!

      My little joy is that I have drywall in my kitchen again! We tore out our kitchen on New Years day. We opted to gut it for a variety of reasons. The electrical inspection finished up two weeks ago and I called our drywall guy the next day. We’ve used him multiple times over the years, which is great in a pandemic when everyone is remodeling. He was on vacation last week, which had me concerned that I’d have contractors and guests here at the same time later this month.

      But no. He called me back Monday morning, came over on Tuesday to double check the details (he’d been out for a quote two months ago), had drywall delivered Wednesday and the install happened Thursday. He even sent a second crew out that day to start the mud/tape process and they came back Friday to finish the mud. They’ll be here early next week for sanding.

      But I have walls! It is so much lighter and brighter!

    3. fposte*

      Congratulations on your good scan!

      I went for the first kayak outing of the year, and it was great. I tested out neoprene wet pants and high ankle wet shoes, since I don’t like being cold but want to extend the season, and I don’t understand their sorcery but they definitely did their job. I love just putting my paddle down and listening to the sounds of the lake.

      Since COVID and the Great Resignation seem to have hit park staffing, I may be buying myself a kayak this year. I’m just doing short outings on quiet lakes, so I’m looking at 8-footers that I can squeeze into my hatchback. We will see!

      1. Lbd*

        Have you considered a roof rack or kayak rack for your car? That would expand your options to slightly longer kayaks. A lot of kayaks are pretty light weight and not too bad to maneuver onto the top of a vehicle. Either way, enjoy your kayaking!

        1. fposte*

          I have, and at least right now I don’t want a roof rack, basically :-). If I find that my interest in kayaking expands in a way that won’t be accommodated by the pocket-sized guys I’ll consider it then. Do you have a rack? What kind, and were you able to self-install?

    4. I take tea*

      My big little joy this week is standing under a big maple in bloom and listen to the sound of happy bumblebees and other pollinators. It feels like the tree is singing.

    5. ThatGirl*

      My husband applied for a new job two months ago and got a call about it yesterday! I know this is the no work thread but it reallly improved his mood. Also happy: the sun is finally out!

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      Things are really starting to burst into bloom. I’m really enjoying all the bright colors and sweet smells!

      1. Pam Adams*

        Jacaranda season is starting- those gorgeous clouds of purple make a great background for Commencement. (and a sticky mess wherever the flowers fall- don’t park under them!)

    7. the cat's ass*

      great news about your screening!
      My DD’s re-adoption papers came in, as did her passport.
      My DH got a great new job.
      We’re having dinner tonight with dear friends!

    8. Girasol*

      Going out on a volunteer job to check new plantings on a wildfire site. It was supposed to be stormy but the morning was sunny with puffy clouds, expansive views, meadowlarks, and of course good friends.

    9. RagingADHD*

      This is a weird one and tangentially work-related, but I’m relieved that my husband got a bad performance review this week.

      I am not glad about him being upset or blindsided. But the fact that this job has been drastically underpaying him the whole time he worked there (7+ years), and demanding that he work 7 days a week for the last 2 years, has been intensely frustrating and very hard on the family. Not to mention worries about the future — we have missed out on some prime earning years because he was mentally stuck there.

      He would halfheartedly job hunt from time to time, but had unrealistic standards, rarely applied for anything, and half-assed the applications when he did.

      In his mind, the job was a worthwhile tradeoff because a) they really appreciated him, b) nobody micromanaged him because nobody else could do his job, and c) he had flexibility to make his own schedule as long as the work got done.

      Now, getting criticized and reprimanded for being “disorganized” and “chronically tardy” made him feel betrayed and righteously indignant at what they have been demanding of him all this time.

      He has been diligently hunting down and applying to some really good jobs. He’s well qualified, and all of them would be life-changing pay increases. Some of them pay double what he’s making now.

      I am so happy and thankful for that bad review.

    10. WorkNowPaintLater*

      Hurray on getting a screening and having it come out good!

      Little joys – the sun finally came back out (been rainy all week) and have finally turned a corner enough on recovering from a med issue that I could take my weekly walk to the coffee shop.

    11. Rara Avis*

      My child has been onstage this week performing Seussical. The kids are killing it! Going to see it for the third time tonight, and my cousin is going to bring her 4yo daughter to see it. First theater experience for the little one!

    12. Jackalope*

      One of my best friends that I hadn’t seen since 2019 is in town for the next week and a half and I’m beside myself with joy.

    13. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      My toddler son has decided that he likes little-kids-music-class after all, after a rough start in the first couple weeks. It’s a relief and a joy to watch him having fun with it. I am so glad we are able to access this lovely thing for him (and me!).

    14. Josephine Beth*

      One of my young adult children filed the official paperwork for a name change, and I am finally feeling like I am able to be genuinely supportive about it. (This isn’t a gender-related issue, just that they have a name that feels more right to them). I credit AAM for part of my growth in this area, and I am also deeply appreciative of my child’s patience with me as I worked through it. I’m now trying to think of some ways to acknowledge this change for them in a meaningful way.

      1. AGD*

        This is lovely! I tried to give myself a nickname in a fit of adolescent awkwardness once (think Amy instead of Amelia) and my parents kind of coldly shut that down so I went back to my given name – I might have eventually done so anyway, but it was hard to feel as if I had no room at all to experiment. I accepted it because I wasn’t a rebellious teenager, but it bothered me a bit afterward.

        Maybe some engraved jewellery for one or you or the other or both? Sometimes you can get one with all of your kids’ names stamped on little charms.

    15. AGD*

      My week at Non-Weekendy Place was excellent, and my favorite deli brought in some delicious options this week. Plus, my neighbor is making cookies and the whole hallway smells amazing. (No envy. If I make cookies, I eat them. All of them. Much too quickly.)

      1. allathian*

        I’m happy to see you posting again, Laura.

        Another little joy is the chocolate I got from work for my 50th birthday, lovely Swiss stuff that I rarely buy for myself. I turned 50 in March, but we had two days with the whole team at HQ (my team has members in several offices). I got the chance to meet several recently hired coworkers for the first time. We celebrated my birthday on the first day, and a coworker’s retirement on the second.

    16. Cool hip dancer*

      Big joy for me, I organized a contra dance, some friends played in the band, and there were lots of happy smiley dancer faces!
      A new achievement for me and people had a really good time – and so did I!

    17. Blomma*

      I paid off my car! I paid it off 6 months early too, so even better. Also, I am an amateur watercolorist and spent about 20 hours over the past few weeks creating a book of detailed paint swatches/info cards for each of my tubes of paint. I finally finished it this week!

  26. Love AAM*

    I’m not looking for advice; I only want to express gratitude. I discovered Ask a Manager about six months ago, and it is now part of my morning routine. I read it while I’m drinking my coffee. When I’m sufficiently awake, I do a Wordle and then Canuckle and then return to AAM to read some more. Thank you to Alison, the letter writers, and all of you for being part of my day and sharing your wisdom.

    1. fposte*

      I didn’t know there was a Canuckle! I will have to see how well I fare and send that to my Canadian friend.

  27. Batgirl*

    Does anyone have any pasta making tips? I’m gluten free, but love red lentil pasta which you can buy everywhere dried. I miss fresh egg pasta though, so I made a batch with eggs, oil and red lentil flour. I’m getting the hang of rolling it out even though it is so, so sticky. I made some linguine strips which held together well in the water but they seemed a bit too thick (I used a rolling pin and plenty of flouring to get it as flat as I could before it seemed to stick) and also it seemed a bit tasteless. I’m toying with getting a pasta machine but not sure about the taste issue at all.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I have a pasta machine (that a friend having a clearout gave me years ago), and don’t think I’d ever have tried making fresh pasta without it. Rolling it out by hand and ending up with overly thick strips was definitely a concern. The machine helps avoid that completely. I’m not a Jamie Oliver fan, but the rolling process in his “how to make fresh pasta” recipe works for me.

      On the “tasteless” point, when are you adding salt? I’d err on the side of using some in the pasta dough even when not recommended in the recipe. And of course, adding salt to the water you cook the pasta in (which you probably already do, but I know not everyone in every country does…I had to dish out some Mediterranean tough love to friends and flatmates when moving to the UK!).

      1. Batgirl*

        I salt my pasta water but maybe I don’t salt it enough? I was considering adding salt straight to the dough so it’s good to get a concurring opinion on that!

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      The tastelessness is probably a salt issue.

      I think flour company websites usually have well-tested baking recipes (more so than blogs) so I’d look at Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur for recipes.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Also pasta machines are something you can probably get used for very cheap – either at like a Habitat or similar store or through Craigslist/Facebook Marketplace.

    4. BRR*

      Pasta dough needs to be very dry. Probably drier than you think will work. If you didn’t add salt, that’s very likely why it’s tasteless. Binging with babish on YouTube had an episode on gf pasta that I’d check out.

      1. Batgirl*

        I was dubious about your advice but I gave it a try and it was the very thing! GF baking has taught me to go easy on the flour, because most of my gluten free flour mixes have rice flour in, which is a recipe for dryness if you overdo it. Reminding myself that red lentil flour is actually pretty moist, I went overly liberal with the flour and I got the most pliable and smooth dough that was not dry at all!

    5. noface*

      My daughter is GF, and I’d love your recipe for red lentil pasta. I’ve never seen red lentil flour, but I do have chickpea flour, and she loves chickpea pasta (which we buy commercially here).

      1. Batgirl*

        Its just three ingredients! Eggs, olive oil and red lentil flour. I tried to post you a link to no avail, but it’s alpha foodie dot com /how-to-make-red-lentil-pasta (without spaces etc). It makes a really pliable, and easy to cook dough if you take the instruction to flour liberally very seriously! It also has instructions on drying the pasta for storage.

        1. Batgirl*

          Oh and I had to get the flour from Amazon; I had no luck with the usual health and world food shops.

    6. pancakes*

      I’m not gluten-free, to be clear, but I wonder if you’d have better luck with rice flour or very finely milled corn flour. Lentil seems too high-protein to approximate the silky texture of fresh egg pasta, and rice flour noodles do have a nice texture in Asian dishes. I recently read about a gluten-free pasta restaurant that opened in my city that people seemed really happy with (Senza Gluten NYC), and I just checked their menu and all their pastas seem to be made with corn. I’m assuming it’s more like 00 semolina than polenta in texture.

      1. Batgirl*

        I do like those types of pastas when I visit restaurants and it’s good that they’re easy to get. At home, we prefer red lentil, because of the taste, and it is actually very soothing to my partner’s IBS; most pastas make him bloat. I wanted to try making him a lasagna with it, as most gf lasagna sheets are made of corn and rice. I will probably learn how to make pasta shapes too – they’ve just discontinued our favourite Italian brand of red lentil strozapretti, alas.

        1. pancakes*

          Shapes sound fun! I’ve never tried red lentil pasta and now I’m curious to. We did try chickpea pasta because a neighbor ordered a case of it early in the pandemic and gave us some, and we were not fans. We like chickpeas and panisse, etc., a lot but the pasta was a bit cardboard-y.

  28. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    I have just started on our yard – we moved last summer and now have a small (very small) yard which was completely paved. I removed about 20m2 of deck stones, sowed a short-growing flower mix, and put plants on the border that won’t be used when the roof gets reno’ed. Veryyyyy excited- how many days/weeks until I know for sure it is starting to grow?? Worried I did it wrong.

    The carport has a small wisteria next to it now, I put a magnolia on the drive, and the border has loads of still-small climbers – passiflora, Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, beans and peas. Also a beautiful yellow azalea

    1. Girasol*

      Depends on how warm the weather is. In spring weather I estimate about two weeks. Sometimes I’m surprised and it’s one. Occasionally they take just a little longer. You picked up 20 square meters of pavers! What a job that must have been!

      1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

        They were loose on the stabilised sand and quite small but I did it leisurely over the course of three days and it was actually very satisfying! So nice to do a physical repetitive task with very concrete immediate results!

    2. Esmeralda*

      Your shrubs and perennials may or may not bloom this year. Water them as directed. The “rule” with perennials is Year 1 sleep, Year 2 creep, Year 3 leap!

      You will also find out if things are planted where they’re happy…my rule is, first time they die, maybe there was some reason just this time; second time, the plant is in the wrong place…

      If you are a journaling sort, you could keep track in a gardening journal what you planted where, when things come up, what never comes up, what comes up then keels over; if you can observe when the various locations get sun/shade, that is helpful too.

      And, I don’t know where you live, but if it’s the U.S. South, keep a sharp eye on that wisteria. It can be a thug. (I love it, but I won’t have it in my yard.)

      1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

        Oooh, what’s up with wisteria? I live in Western Europe in a temperate climate.

        1. RagingADHD*

          If it’s too happy it goes wild and becomes invasive. Drowns fences, kills trees, etc. If you don’t see untended lots of land covered in wisteria and dead trees, you’re probably fine. It is tame when the environmental conditions restrict it.

  29. curly sue*

    Can anyone recommend some books for a very particular teen?

    Every year (pre-Covid) I’ve sent Eldest to sleepover camp with a bag of surprise books that I think she’ll like. Some have been big hits, some have been equally big misses, but I need to start figuring out this year’s list and I’m at a bit of a loss.

    The factors involved:

    – Her reading level is very high, but emotional age is somewhat low (ADHD). She has absolutely zero interest in books about complicated human feelings.

    – She identifies as Aro/Ace and has no interest in books where a crush or romance is central to the main plot.

    – She has zero interest in anything with a real-world setting. No high school drama books, no YA romances, no “my best friend said I’m not her best friend and here’s how that summer went” emotions-lessons-for-teens books.

    – She feels she’s grown out of MG books (Warrior Cats, for example)

    – I will not buy anything related to JK Rowling, and she concurs.

    – I’ve tried her on a bunch of the big names in YA fantasy, to mixed results. Golden Compass got a resounding “Meh.” (direct quote.) Diane Duane’s Young Wizards was “okay,” the cat books in the same universe were better received.

    – I was reading Anne McCaffrey at that age, but those books did NOT age well. I handed her a stack of the old Valdemar books (Mercedes Lackey) and she hasn’t touched them.

    – She loves fantasy, but primarily fantasy world books where the main characters are animals. Her biggest interest is Tui Sutherland’s Wing of Fire books, but she owns everything produced for this universe. We’re at the stage where she’s pre-ordering everything the moment the preorder link drops. Which is great – don’t misunderstand me! I just need to find another 15-book dragon-centric series with similar writing so that I can get her something new to read…

    – The one big exception is that she loves (and already owns) all the Rick Riordan Presents series, and is especially fond of the Aru Shah books. She enjoyed the other Rick Riordan series, more for the mythological settings and backstories than the actual main characters. She owns and does reread Shria Glassman’s Mangoverse books (fluffy fantasy with a Jewish world background).

    Tamora Pierce is already on my list to try this year, and I’m eyeballing Seraphina (Rachel Hartman) and Wicked Fox (Kat Cho). Any other suggestions?

    1. Lemon*

      I don’t remember it too well so not sure if the romance was central to the story, but what about The Hunger Games? You may already have tried it since you mentioned she’s read the popular YA fantasy books but just wanted to put it out there. This is a very cool gift and you’re an awesome parent for putting this together (every year!)

      1. curly sue*

        Zero interest in the Hunger Games – “I don’t want to read sad books about kids killing each other.” Artemis Fowl bombed for similar reasons (“he’s not a fun person to spend time with.”) Lemony Snicket got “ehhh… they’re okay.”

        And thanks! My mom did that for me when I went to camp – every year there’d be a mysterious bag in my duffel when I opened it in the cabin – and it’s been a tradition I’ve usually enjoyed recreating! I’m just running into a wall this year, since it seems like the topics at her reading level are veering from her tastes… that or I’m not looking at the right authors.

    2. AY*

      Garth Nix’s Sabriel would probably fit the bill! It’s fantasy, not too difficult reading level-wise, is a series with spinoffs, and has a cool magic system (necromancy based). There’s a little bit of romance, but it’s really minor.

      1. curly sue*

        Ooh, that’s a thought. Added to the list! Thank you!

        I should also note that she is a gamer – we have a monthly D&D campaign where she plays a gnome shai’ir (Al Qadim setting), so books with gamer humour / fantasy game style humour have the potential to land well.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          In that case, I just recently read a new release, Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. It’s about, basically, a D&D-esque adventurer who retired from adventuring to the local big city and opened up a coffee shop and found herself a chosen family while she was at it, but of course shenanigans ensue as well.

        2. Nemo*

          Maybe 5he Second Age of Retha books by A. M. Sohma would be an option? The main character is stuck inside a game because of a server failure and has to find a way to rescue herself and the other players. Minimal romance, currently three books and really well written.

        3. AGD*

          Nancy Werlin has a newish book about D&D players! I haven’t read it, but I’ve liked the other YA novels of hers that I’ve read.

          1. curly sue*

            Is that ‘Zoe Rosenthal is not Lawful Good’? The summary makes it sound a bit coming-of-age-ish but the fandom content might be an appealing hook. Any idea if the character is Jewish on-page, or is it just her name?

            1. AGD*

              That’s the one! A really good question – I’m not sure (though I hope so!).

    3. Princess Deviant*

      Darren Shan – might be a bit young for her age, but I read them and I’m in my 40s. I think they’re great.

      1. curly sue*

        The summaries I just skimmed don’t mention any female main characters – is it all male leads?

    4. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Would Terry Pratchett’s Discworld work? Especially the Tiffany Aching ones, they’re aimed at younger audiences’ or the ones focusing on Rincewind which kind of satisfy the non-human main character requirement (I think we can all agree the Luggage is the real star there). If memory serves even the books that have romance in them don’t have romance as the central theme, it’s just kind of there.

      1. curly sue*

        I’ve spotted her reading my old copy of Reaper Man, so maybe? I’ve been thinking about the Tiffany Aching books. (I’m an Unseen University person myself, and a lot of the later books seem to be jokes based on references she wouldn’t get. Maskerade only really makes sense once you’ve seen Phantom, for instance.)

        1. UKDancer*

          I love the ones with Susan Sto Helit especially Hogfather. No romance in that one and Death is brilliant.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I recently read the Tiffany Aching series, & it doesn’t require that type of pop culture knowledge. And there are lots of great female characters.

    5. Emma2*

      I read Dune around that age and loved it (although I did not have the same list of preferences as your daughter).
      If she has not read it, I think Lois Lowry’s book The Giver is fantastic – I have not re-read it as an adult, but have heard from others that it aged well.
      Has she read A Wrinkle in Time? My recollection is that it is probably aimed at a slightly younger age, but might still be appealing (again, I have not re-read this as an adult, so am not sure how it has aged).

      1. curly sue*

        She does love a Wrinkle in Time – we have the books, graphic novels, and the DVD of the recent movie. We have Dune, and she was uninterested; too heavy on the space politics. I’ve never read The Giver, but I’ll look into it! Thanks!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          On the off-chance she was interested in the Dune world and it was just the politics that got in the way, some of the spinoff Dune series written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson are way more approachable – more storytelling, less Anvils of Epic Political Theory. To me, Frank Herbert and JRR Tolkien kinda fall into the same bucket – they were both excellent world builders, but kind of clunky writers, and I think other people have done better jobs at telling stories in their worlds than they did directly. (/unpopular opinion :) )

          1. curly sue*

            Dune in general definitely did not appeal. I think it was too remote from the characters, and she couldn’t find a hook to relate.

    6. Miel*

      How about Terry Pratchett? Your kid might be into his young adult series, such as “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.” I believe that the main characters in this book are animals, and Terry Pratchett typically doesn’t have romance in his books.

      (“Going Postal” is one of my personal favorites, but it’s (1) more geared towards adults and (2) about people.)

      1. curly sue*

        I’m thinking about the Tiffany Aching books; I didn’t realize he’d done an animal-POV series as well. I’ll look into it!

    7. Miel*

      Ok this might be a little young for her, but “Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH” is a delightful book! It’s about rats and mice who build a whole civilization. Takes place in a sort of fantasy sub-world of the real world.

      1. curly sue*

        It’s definitely on the too-young side for her now, and she found it ‘weird and creepy.’ Redwall also got a big old No. Tailchaser’s Song got put down halfway through and never picked up again.

        Warrior Cats, on the other hand… she has an entire bookcase for her Warrior Cats books. But she’s declared that they’re getting boring and repetitive, so I’m not going to bother picking up the new arcs.

        1. Laura H.*

          Shucks, I was gonna suggest the Redwall books. I’m 31 and I still don’t think I’ve read them all.

          Nth-ing “The Giver”, however.

        2. allathian*

          My almost 13 year old son loves the Warrior Cats books. He’s on the 6th of the first arc and he got the first book as a Christmas present. That said, he did read The Hobbit and LotR before starting on those, and LotR took almost a year to complete so it was probably a bit difficult for his reading level at the time.

    8. Panda (she/her)*

      I came here to say Tamora Pierce! Loved her books at that age. If she is okay with slightly darker fantasy, she could also try the Abhorsen series (don’t recall the author) and possibly Artemis Fowl books. I just packed up my bookshelf otherwise I would have gone browsing for more!

      1. curly sue*

        I gave her the first Artemis Fowl book in a camp book bag a couple of years ago, and that was one of the misses – she’s not interested in reading more of the series.

    9. CTT*

      Has she tried any Diana Wynne Jones? Thinking on the romance issue, a lot of her books have no romance, or if it does, it’s not central and there’s no huge declarations of love or kissing (the two big exceptions being Howl’s Moving Castle and Fire & Hemlock (neither of which I particularly like, and now I’m wondering if that’s part of it?)). None of them have main characters that are animals, but animals do feature prominently in a lot of her books (mostly in the Chrestomanci books). She may also like “Tough Guide to Fantasyland,” which is set up as a guidebook to a stereotypical fantasy book setting and is a really good (but loving!) send-up of the genre.

      1. UKDancer*

        Diana Wynne Jones is brilliant. I reread them regularly despite being an adult and them being geared for children. I love Witch Week and Magicians of Caprona the best. Tale of Time City is also good. Most of hers don’t have massive amounts of romance.

        I also didn’t like Fire and Hemlock either. I much preferred the Chrestomanci books.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I was going to recommend her too! I loved The Dalemark Quartet – the books all connect but take place across different time periods. First 2 are boy MCs and second 2 are girls, and only the last book has romance.

      3. TangerineRose*

        I also recommend Diana Wynne Jones. I don’t like “Fire & Hemlock” either, but she wronte a lot of great books.

      4. Amey*

        DWJ is my absolute favourite. I’d recommend The Dark Lord of Derkholm for your daughter’s particular preferences, although I agree with the Dalemark recommendation as well. Derkholm is pitched slightly older.

    10. Llellayena*

      I agree with the Tamora Pierce. Start with Wild Magic if she’s into the animals. If you want to give her an easy in into the Valdemar series, try Oathbound. The main character is ace (though it’s not really by genetics/birth). There’s another more recent one with a truly ace character, but it would be a difficult one to start with without the backstory. Anne McCaffrey had a couple other series that might work, try Decision at Doona (there are cat people!). The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan is romance-free, though they introduce a romance by book 3. I also find sci-fi to have a wide range of non-human characters. The Faces of Ceti introduces a kangaroo-like race. Ender’s Game has an insect race and the sequel, Children of the Mind, has a marsupial-like race (but those do get very intellectual). But in general, sci-fi might work. Oh, if you can find it, The Cat who Went to Heaven is a good short read as is No One Noticed the Cat.

      1. curly sue*

        Sadly, despite my plugging of Tarma as a great character, ‘Oathbound’ has been one of the books gathering dust next to her desk for the past two months.

        I loved Anne McCaffrey in the 80s and 90s, but her regressive ideas about gender and sexuality just will not fly these days. I don’t remember if I ever read Decision at Doona, or if it has some of the weird Pern-esque ‘men are only gay because they were assaulted’ ideas in it, but in general her style isn’t a road I really think Eldest will be happy with. For similar reasons to the JKR ban, I will not be buying any books written by Orson Scott Card.

        She’s generally not into sci-fi, though we do have quite a bit of it around the house. I’ve never tried Trudi Canavan, but I’ll put her books on my list to look into! Thanks!

        1. allathian*

          It’s been years since I last read Decision at Doona, but I don’t remember any gay characters at all. The main character is a restless (probably ADHD although it’s never explicitly said) young preteen or teen boy, so there’s no romance, who helps humans and Hrrubans (cat people) understand each other better. The Hrrubans are a hoot and a half, though. There are also two sequels, Crisis on Doona, and Treaty at Doona. That said, the Doona books are sci-fi rather than fantasy.

      1. Shiara*

        Naomi Novak’s Temeraire series might be a good place to start if she likes dragons and low romance.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      We recommend Murderbot a lot here, but Murderbot is agender and asexual and finds human emotions and anything with body fluids off-putting.

      The Martian by Andy Weir is mostly about one guy alone on Mars solving technical problems. My whole family loved it.

      Along the Riordan lines, I’d check Esther Friesner for YA based in mythology, e.g. Nobody’s Princess about a young Helen.

      The 10,000 Doors of January might appeal? About a girl who can open doors between worlds.

      1. JustForThis*

        I also thought of both the Murderbot series and Andy Weir (The Martian and Project Hail Mary), as both have atypical approaches to human relationships in stories; Murderbot reflects on this difference, the Weir novels are just not interested in focussing on human relationships. Murderbot might be too violent for a 15-year-old, and Andy Weir is all male leads, however.

        Thirding Tamora Pierce, though most of her novels do have some romance. What about Zusak’s The Book Thief? And picking up on the mythology theme: there was a thread recently on adaptations / retellings of mythological stories recently (last weekend, I think) which might be helpful.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Andy Weir’s Artemis has a female lead! Heist caper set in a lunar colony, lead/POV character is a youngish (early 20s I think) woman of color. (The audiobook is narrated by Rosario Dawson.)

        2. name goes here*

          The Martian is great, but I’d strongly recommend against Project Hail Mary, not only because it has all male leads but also because it’s not great on gender generally. Defaults to male pronouns for aliens of unknown gender, portrays the one female character as a largely unethical (amoral) utilitarian who does terrible things and never really has a conscience about it. It’s way overrated.

      2. Still*

        I was going to recommend Andy Weir. They’re real page-turners, there’s very little human interaction but the main characters have a ton of personality, and the books have that satisfying problem-solution structure that I think is even more appealing to people with ADHD (just based on the experience of some of my friends, might not be true in general!)

        Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer series is also sci-fi and deals a bit more with the general issue of being a person in the world, but there’s a lot of fun world-building and many species and cultures that don’t subscribe to our ideas about gender, sexuality, family, religion, and many other categories. I recommend Wayfarer to anyone who will listen.

        1. curly sue*

          I’m fairly sure they read some of The Martian in English class, actually. I’ll have to ask!

    12. Of midelan*

      I love all tamora pierce! Maybe look at robin mckinley and Ursula vernon. If you can find vernon’s graphic novel Digger, it would check the animal main characters, fantasy setting, no romance boxes, but it was primarily a webcomic and had a limited print run.

      Maybe look at how well the lackley books aged? I remeber one particular scene in Magic’s price I wouldn’t consider great for a teen, and honestly it put me off all of her books

    13. Pocket Mouse*

      I’m on board with your decision to not buy any Rowling books. Just a note that if she might be interested in reading them still, I’ve seen a few sets become available in Buy Nothing groups or other free book exchange locations.

      1. curly sue