weekend open thread – September 10-11, 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: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna, about a nanny to three young witches who must question the witching rules she grew up with. Cozy in a way that reminded me of The House in the Cerulean Sea. Highly recommended.

I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,132 comments… read them below }

    1. Margaery Tyrell*

      My tomato refuses to flower :( thankfully my herbs (Italian & Thai basil, scallions) are still doing well and I’m hoping to plant my mint soon!

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Do plant the mint in a bucket, planter, or container of some sort, or it will Take Over and you for one will be welcoming your new mint overlord.

        1. Salymander*

          Your new mint overlord comment just made me spit coffee all over myself. Well done lol

          I have mint in my community garden plot, unfortunately, as well as lemon balm which is related to mint and behaves in a similar aggressive manner. Some daft person planted it at the garden decades ago, and none of us have ever been able to eradicate it. I’m able to keep it under control by yanking it all up several times a year. It comes back, but not so quickly that it takes any new territory. It keeps the other weeds from taking over, like the bindweed and Bermuda grass which are the bane of the community garden. The mint, lemon balm, bermuda grass, bindweed and I duke it out Battle of the Five Armies style, and none of us ever gets the advantage.

          My tomatoes are pretty much done except for the cherry tomatoes. It has been around 115 degrees here, and I was sick with what I think was covid though I tested negative and I couldn’t get to the garden every day, so most things shriveled up and got crispy no matter how much water and shade cloth they had. The peppers are fine though, because they were planted behind the tomatoes and the scarlet runner beans. The extra shade has made all the difference. I’m eating peppers and tomatoes every day. The eggplant finally succumbed to the heat, but I had several months of eating eggplant 2 or 3 times a week. Grilled eggplant and peppers is one of my new favorite things to eat
          My freezer is now well stocked with tomato sauce, chopped peeled tomatoes, tomato puree, roasted peppers of various types, and green coriander seeds. Yum.

          I’m waiting to plant a winter garden until the 115° heat subsides. Then, I’m putting in Favs beans, borage and buckwheat for cover crops. I will plant peas, carrots, beets, spinach, broccoli, chard, parsley, cilantro, onions, garlic and maybe some lettuce. I have a bunch of green onions ready to plant.

    2. Happily Retired*

      Thank the Lord, my ’maters are pretty much all done. Enough already! Pulling out the beans, corn, and sunflowers (and ’maters) and planting out the fall lettuce and spinach, and filling the “nursery bed” for perennials to plant out in the spring.

    3. Not A Racoon Keeper*

      Pulled so many delicious sieglinde (German butter) potatoes this week! Our best harvest yet!

    4. Madame Arcati*

      The sunflower which I lovingly tended, I mean which accidentally grew as a result of garden birds’ dreadful table manners, has bloomed! Good job my friend spotted it a few weeks ago, I would have pulled it up as a weed lol.

    5. CatCat*

      I have a tomato plant still going strong. Of the two others I planted, one only got a couple tomatoes and the other never got any. Meanwhile, a couple late season tomato volunteers that sprang up (seeds must have been in my compost) are also starting to produce. I also have peppers incoming as well.

      Looking forward to starting the fall/winter garden in a few weeks though. Bought some collard green seeds and that will be a new one for me!

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I have crocosmia that needs digging up, it’s too floppy and overcrowded as well as being in the wrong place. I think I prefer the other variety anyway but I have a friend with a new garden who would appreciate some easy plants like these. I’m not sure whether to just dig them up flowers intact for her, or cut them down to the tubers.

    7. Bootstrap Paradox*

      My garden is still producing tomatoes, squash, and lots of dahlias.

      I spent last weekend putting together a plan for four 4′ x 12′ beds in the spring, which involves a whole bunch of lumber, 2 ton of rock, and 10 yards of soil. Am considering hiring help for the day when it’s time for the soil – 10 yards is a lot.

    8. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      My single little Serrano pepper plant is going nuts– 3 harvests so far this summer, and it just won’t quit. I can only make so much salsa verde before I run out of room in my freezer, so I’m hoping to bring the most recent crop to the block party next weekend to foist upon the neighbors.

    9. Cedrus Libani*

      I think I’ve given up on the cucumbers. Alas, I suspect that I will have to hand pollinate anything I plant next year. Did that as a balcony gardener, but was hoping there would be enough bees and such at my new place.

      But the cool weather planting season approaches. I’ve got wee sprouts of artichoke and sweet pea, and some cuttings that will go towards my gradual acceptance of the obvious: my yard is almost entirely dry shade. The former owners put in a bunch of sun-loving water hogs that are not enjoying themselves. Water is precious in California, so if you’re going to be like that then you’d better be delicious…or be gone. Looking at you, hydrangea.

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        Cedrus Libani, I don’t know what your laundry setup is like, but I’ve been collecting the water from my washer drain hose (it usually just drains into a big shop sink in my basement, which is easy to put a bucket on to collect it) and using that to water all my plants, and they are THRIVING. I use one of those no-weird-chemicals detergents, which I think helps. For my house plants I try and keep an ear out for when the cycle changes and only collect the rinse water, because that seems to do better for plants that don’t get any rain.

    10. madhatter360*

      After several weeks of peace the groundhogs have launched a devastating attack. The garden is no more.
      Next year I’m moving the pots to my enclosed porch.

    11. The OG Sleepless*

      My pumpkin plants caught some kind of powder mold/blight and they are rapidly dying. Total harvest out of 15-20 plants that germinated: one. :-( On the bright side (I guess), I’m finally winning the war on the non-flowering violets that had infested my entire shade garden. The solution: brute force. I’ve dug up every single one of the little b*stards with a garden trowel, while getting absolutely eaten alive by mosquitoes.

      1. Salymander*

        I used a baking soda solution for the powdery mold that worked pretty well. You can Google it, as it is a pretty commonly used home remedy for the garden. I don’t remember the exact amounts of everything. It contained flaking soda, dish soap, salad oil, and water. It also worked on those little fungus spots on tomato leaves. Don’t get it on the blossoms though or you will burn them and they won’t produce.

    12. LadyAmalthea*

      My sage is doing beautifully, the mint is still coming along nicely, and my husband’s roadside pinched nasturtiums are starting to take over.

    13. Girasol*

      I tried “Ten Fingers of Naples” sauce tomatoes this year next to my beefsteak ones. I feel like I should take a machete when I go to the garden, the plants are so huge. The beefsteaks can’t compete. But when the weather cools enough that I can heat up the kitchen with cooking, there is going to be so much spaghetti sauce.

    14. Burnt Eggs*

      I just finished digging up a flower bed and sifting through the soil for all the bulbs. We are installing a deck so they all must be moved. At last I can plan out where and what instead of just a mishmash of previous owners and my additions.

    15. GoryDetails*

      Container gardens: the chard and basil and tomatoes and (especially) eggplant are all doing very well. The jalapenos are, too, but the sweet peppers got a late start and are only just now setting fruit; not sure I’ll get any ripe ones before frost, but should get some green ones.

      The cucumbers, which were overwhelming me with fruit for the last couple of months, are fading fast – slowing down production and showing signs of some kind of leaf-rust – so I pulled them out and salvaged a small quantity of baby cukes with which to try and make pickled gherkins.

      In-ground: the fennel is making the butterflies happy. The rosemary and bay are doing well; will try and pot them up for the winter next month.

    16. cityMouse*

      2022 is the year I gave up on balcony gardening. I have a small SW balcony that just bakes in the late summer sun, and nothing does well out there. There’s no roof. An umbrella helps a little but it flaps around when it’s windy, and I honestly just gave up, and re-homed most of my containers. The only things that grew well were thyme, which took over a large container, then at the peak of it’s glory, died. So did my enthusiasm.

      I still have some garden plots around the complex, but mostly I grow hostas and ferns.

      It wasn’t a great growing season here in the Pacific Northwest- too wet in May/June, then drought since.

      Oh well! Next year!

    17. Lucy Skywalker*

      The rabbits ate most of my carrots, and my dill and cilantro have already gone to seed, but I still have a few tomatoes to be picked once they ripen.

  1. All Hail Queen Sally*

    I would like to express my condolences to all the British (and commonwealth country) readers on the loss of your Queen, Elizabeth II. She was definitely a great woman that will be missed. My thoughts will be with you all.

    1. Despachito*

      I am sending my condolences too.

      She will be missed all over the world. A lot of people outside Britain considered her a pillar of stability, and somehow thought she will be here forever.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        We all knew the day was coming when London Bridge was finally down, but we still didn’t believe it would happen.

        I went to a memorial service last night, and sang God save the King for the first time.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      I was more emotional than I thought, to be honest. She’s been such a constant in British lives for so long – she’s been Queen since my mum was five years old!
      There are all sorts of odd little knock-on effects. When they mint new money, it will have a new face on. Stamps too. And policeman’s helmets will have to get new badges as they display her monogram!

      1. Lirael*

        and the king will face the opposite way on coins! that is going to be most strange.

        I’m the same, I didn’t think I would be terribly bothered, but I couldn’t do anything on Thursday night and I cried last night listening to the new king thanking his mother <3

      2. Ellis Bell*

        My favourite clutch bag has a design with colourful stamp imprints on it, with the queen’s head silouhetted in a white relief. It was only as I was using it last night I realized how it was going to age (that’s not counting the fact that the stamps are 7p to 27p!)

    3. Vio*

      I’m English but not a royalist (though I don’t hate them either). I do have respect for her devotion to the role however and she’s certainly always put forth an image of respect, unlike some of her family. I don’t agree with all her decisions, but I don’t think it would be fair to expect to. I think it’s unfair that their family are born into a life of media scrutiny and expectations and while they can abdicate they’d likely be villainised for doing so. Many celebrities have to cope with similar levels of scrutiny, but at least they chose the jobs that resulted in that celebrity knowing that it could happen.
      Anyway… it’s certainly a major event that she’s gone and however you think of her, there’s no denying it’s going to have an effect on people. We’ve had a Queen, the same Queen, for as long as most of us have been alive (obviously not all of us). Now we have a King. Her face is on all of our currency and our postage stamps. Nobody really seems to be able to imagine Charles portrait having the same dignity and he’s never going to escape the shadow of his disastrous first marriage.

      1. Lirael*

        It’s so sad to think that if he’d just been able to marry Camilla in the first place Diana would probably still be alive living out a much less remarkable life.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Or even if he had just been upfront and said to her, “So sorry, I have made a huge error in judgement.” Instead she was made to look like the one who was some how defective.
          He had a lot of time to correct course and did not. He does not bring the credibility to the position that his mother did

          I wish William could be king instead.

          1. Anonforthis*

            I don’t think William brings any more dignity to it – by all accounts he’s following in his father’s footsteps.

                1. er.....*

                  It’s been an open secret for a long time. When he and Kate first married he had something of a wholesome image but that is long gone.

                2. Lirael*

                  I’m pretty late back, but I googled and there doesn’t seem to be a shred of actual evidence for this.

      2. Observer*

        Nobody really seems to be able to imagine Charles portrait having the same dignity and he’s never going to escape the shadow of his disastrous first marriage.

        Because it’s not just his marriage and the way it ended. But how he handled events afterwards. And lots of other behavior that just don’t inspire respect.

    4. Princess Deviant*

      It’s a tricky one.
      Yes, I do feel a bit sad that she died. She was a symbol of morality, duty, and stability in what is honestly just a sea of political corruption and decay, more and more so lately. I’ll miss that.
      On the other hand, she had a long and comfortable life. In the end she was surrounded by family and had excellent care. I know the NHS does try its best to provide that for all families as standard, but sadly that that doesn’t happen. She never had to worry about where her next meal might come from, or that she should skip eating so she can feed her children. She was born into a lot of privilege… and a lot of responsibility. I’m not sure I would have liked that life at all, despite all that.

      But Britain’s history of colonialism and oppression, and the fact that the monarchy is a class- and feudal-based system, cast a shadow over it all.
      It’s hard to feel that the ‘whole world’ is mourning for her loss when actually the system she led was so racist and quite frankly, genocidal. I’m sure there are many many people who are either indifferent or hostile to her death, but feel they can’t really express their views. And of course there are those who have expressed then freely – as distasteful as that is.
      And the idea that she epitomised some kind of old-fashioned ‘Britishness’ that’s now faded from society because she’s gone and taken it with her… that doesn’t sit comfortably with me, as a British person. I despise our oppressive history, and I’m glad that it’s over. More reparation needs to be made. I don’t identify with that traditionalism at all.

      I’d love it if people could donate to a food bank instead of buying flowers to lay at the gates of Buckingham Palace, but I have no control over that. I’d like to see the anguish at get death torn into social action.

      Do it’s very much a mixed bag for me.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Thank you for this beautifully expressed take. You are more generous than me: the only thing I am sad about is that my country is not taking this opportunity to abolish the monarchy, return our stolen wealth, and make reparations.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I agree, and as a British person who would love to abolish the whole monarchy (or more realistically, scale it back massively), I feel no sadder at the death of the Queen than I would at the death of any other elderly person that I didn’t personally know.

          If anyone is moved to donate, I would suggest sending money to the ongoing flood relief efforts in Pakistan.

          1. Princess Deviant*

            Yes! I can’t believe this has just evaded the news here. The climate crisis is another deep sorrow we’re just ignoring!

          2. UKDancer*

            I agree with a lot of what Princess Deviant has said.

            I find it somewhat difficult to understand the surge of mass grief people are feeling at the death of someone they mostly don’t know because I can’t relate to that myself. I am more worried about the cost of the funeral and coronation in an era when many people are worried about their energy bills and struggling for their next meal.

            I think it would be better to spend this money on ensuring people can eat and stay warm and sustaining the NHS. So I have increased slightly my monthly donation to the food bank this month as a result.

            1. BubbleTea*

              I think it has served as a repository for the accumulated grief people have been storing up for the last 3-6 years.

      2. Lady Knittington*

        I’m of a similar mindset. I can respect the person but not the institution that she represented. I remember what our family was like when my grandmother died a few years ago. Having to deal with that, whilst putting on a stoical face for the media and having to go through all the ceremony and tradition of the monarchy transferring and the funeral, is something I can’t imagine doing.

      3. Anonosaurus*

        Thank you for this measured take. I would not have been so thoughtful. The current display of subservience to the establishment and the culture of compulsory grief is enraging me. I know the bell tolls for us all, and I am sure those who really knew her personally are bereft, but I am not and I object to the suggestion that ‘we’ are all mourning. Events like this show British class-bound culture in its worst light.

        I wished the Queen no ill as a person, but one only needs to compare her lifespan with the average life expectancy in socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK to see that there’s a problem. To die peacefully in your bed surrounded by family at 96 is a privilege more people in this country could and should have. Before we even talk about the cost of the lavish state ceremonials which will now ensue in a country where even people who work full-time can’t afford to heat their homes or feed their children.

        1. Pippa K*

          I am sure those who really knew her personally are bereft, but I am not and I object to the suggestion that ‘we’ are all mourning.

          I see what you mean, and the idea that we should all be feeling grief personally is a bit silly at best (and deliberately ignoring that many people have reason not to feel nostalgic about the crown). But I also think there’s some value in the notion of “mourning” as a social and ritual thing, a way of publicly marking a loss that is publicly and historically significant. Older notions of mourning that had specific ritual expectations (wear this, do that, for this time period, etc.) gave a recognized social structure to something that’s naturally going to vary a lot at the level of personal emotions. That can be a useful thing.

          So I’m choosing to take the formal mourning elements (there’s even a government webpage with guidelines!) as shareable public ritual elements that don’t require particular personal emotions to be meaningful. (And for what it’s worth, I had some admiration for the Queen but am not a supporter of the monarchy.)

      4. Chaordic One*

        Monarchy is one of those things that I just don’t get. Not to be rude, but it just seems so irrelevant and inconsequential to everything, except as a distraction. (Oh, every once in a while they might predictably advocate for a worthy cause.) It’s like having an actual Ministry of Silly Walks.

        1. Inkhorn*

          This is prety much how I feel. Monarchy belongs to past centuries, not the 21st. Kings and queens have no real power anymore (at least in Western countries) so what exactly is the point of them?

          Although it turns out the queen has the power in death to shut down my entire (Commonwealth) country for a national day of mourning. That was a WTF moment this morning – an elderly lady dying on the other side of the world warrants a public holiday? I don’t get that, sorry.

          1. Felis alwayshungryis*

            Well…I understand what you’re saying about sovereigns having no real power, but I don’t agree that they’re totally pointless. I’m also in a commonwealth country, and I do think that having that impartial top power is a useful thing to have if everything with a government turns to shit.

            For non-Commonwealth people, basically we have a Government and Prime Minister who deal with day-to-day stuff, but there’s also a Governor General who represents the Crown, and has the power to request the monarch dissolve a Government if things get really bad. It’s never happened in my country, but it did happen once in Australia, I think in the 1970s.

            I know it isn’t perfect, but it does provide a certain system of checks and balances and should ensure that you don’t get stuck with a ruling party if power goes completely to its head. There will always be people who want us to go republic, but frankly there are certain countries who are not good poster children for their system of Government.

            There are definitely problems with the history of the monarchy – colonialism being but one – but I don’t think it’s really the time for that discussion. The Queen was an incredible woman, and was the epitome of taking the ball and running with it. I’m not in paroxysms of grief, but I can feel a palpable end of an era and a loss of connection to my own history.

            1. Wheels on Fire*

              For many of us, now is definitely right the time to talk about the horrific history of the monarchy and ending the monarchy. I don’t care how “incredible” she was. She benefited from and represented a system that has spent hundreds of years abusing, enslaving and destroying other cultures. It’s pretty gross for you to be telling people that we should just forget about all that right now because some old lady died. F@ck her and her family.

              1. Emma2*

                I have to agree – important discussions can be shut down when we say “now is not the time to discuss this” just at the point when the issue is most salient in the public discourse.
                I think it is entirely fair for people to put their hands up and say “wait a minute, this completely uncritical narrative is whitewashing important and traumatic parts of my history that continue to resonate today”. I think that when a particular narrative is repeated over and over again (and given that much British television programming and is going to try to fill the next 10 days with non-stop coverage of the royals, we can expect much repetition) people can begin to absorb it and accept it as true. Where people think the narrative that is being delivered is incorrect, and may in fact be damaging, it is probably a moment when they actually need to speak up to avoid being erased.
                I don’t share the visceral anger towards E2R and the rest of the royals that I have seen some people express, but I think those people have the right to express their views and in some cases they have helped me to see a perspective I might otherwise have overlooked.

                1. Felis alwayshungryis*

                  Thank you for this perspective – really well put, and on balance I think you’re right. I still think the ‘f*** her’ narrative is pretty harsh and visceral, but I absolutely take your point that, amid the wailing and grief, there are many people from many nations who won’t feel that the monarchy is particularly gracious or glorious or all the rest of it.

                  I still don’t think it’s her fault – what was she going to do, sell all the palaces and buy a flat? – because she was from a completely different era, but the same isn’t true for the new line of succession. Perhaps they could consider what could be done to counter the effects of colonialism.

            2. Femme d'Afrique*

              “There are definitely problems with the history of the monarchy – colonialism being but one – but I don’t think it’s really the time for that discussion.”

              It’s never “the time for that discussion” though, is it? My family members were tortured in British “Native Camps” and still suffer the consequences of what was done to them in the name of Her Majesty The Queen.

              Read “Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya” by Caroline Elkins for more and then tell me: when would be a good time?

        1. Paddy O'Furniture*

          I don’t know that she was actually a racist, but her ancestors were war criminals and terrible people and for her to be representing England in any capacity seems inappropriate. It’s like if Germany had Hitler’s descendants representing them.

    5. Crabby*

      As someone from a commonwealth country, it’s no loss to me and I hope the monarchy collapses. I hope England makes reparations to the countries it colonised and returns all stolen artifacts and wealth. My thoughts go out to the people in the UK who don’t know if they’re going to survive the winter and have to watch as millions of pounds are spent on a funeral.

      1. M.P.*

        As a member of the seasoned food diaspora, I thoroughly agree with you. This family and their supporters have committed countless atrocities and caused incalculable harm that will last generations. It amazes me how much support this family has when they don’t even care about their own people. If so, they’d at least use their stolen wealth to ensure everyone in their country is fed, clothed, housed, educated and given health care. But they don’t. Children in their country go hungry and they don’t care. They never have. My thoughts are with the poor, the marginalised, and all victims and survivors of colonialism, and my secondhand embarrassment is with those who are ~feeling sad~ about this.

      2. anonforthis*

        Same here. The monarchy is a family of racist imperialists and there are probably more people than not who aren’t shedding a single tear.

      3. AnonInCanada*

        I wholeheartedly agree with you. Sure the current royal family may be symbolic, but rest assured they have caused incalculable harm to Indigenous peoples through the lands they colonized. Being from Canada, this particularly hits home.

        Maybe now this is time to abolish the Commonwealth, the monarchy, and reclaiming this empire and the billions it’s worth. Sorry if I’m throwing this discussion away from the passing of Her Majesty, but I think most Indigenous people would like to have some of what was stolen from them back, and now is a perfect time for that to happen.

    6. London Calling*

      Thank you. It’s very strange sitting here, listening to God Save The King, hearing the news refer to what King Charles is doing – it’s going to take a long time to get used to. On Monday we had no idea how the week was going to end. No doubt at all that we have lost a very remarkable woman who was the epitome of statesmanship and soft power world wide. Of course she was 96 and increasingly frail and we knew it was coming but it was very sudden. An awful lot of people are very bereft.

      Spare a thought for our new prime minister – first week in the job and she’s seen two monarchs.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I must say in Ireland, we got a sense of why she is so popular in the UK when she visited Ireland in 2011. The week started with some people actually hostile and many of us thinking, “well, it’s cool that the Northern situation has calmed down to the point that it’s safe for her to visit, but beyond that, it’s just the visit of a head of state, hardly that major event.” And then she spoke at the banquet, starting with a few words in Irish (pronounced so perfectly that our then president turned and whispered “wow”) and she acknowledged the painful chapters between our countries and then she paused and bowed her head at the Garden of Remembrance and suddenly, this was memorable; this was historic.

        1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

          Symbolic gestures that, to be frank, do nothing to repair or make reparations for the centuries of Irish (and all other colonial) oppression under the British crown. An utter sop at best.

        2. allathian*

          Not to mention when she went to Belfast and shook hands with the then Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness. That was a real gesture of reconciliation, given that she had lost extended family members in IRA terrorist attacks.

          I’m in Finland, so not at all involved in this issue, but on the whole, I think that she did more good than evil in the world. I strongly suspect that without her commitment to the Commonwealth, the breakup of the British Empire would’ve been even more bloody than it was. And King Charles has said that he’s ready to engage in a discussion about the future of the 14 Commonwealth realms that still have the British monarch as their head of state. It’s up to the countries involved to decide to become republics instead if that’s what they want.

          I must admit, though, that I’ve enjoyed watching the pageantry almost as much as I enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee celebrations and the fairly recent royal weddings.

          I don’t have any strong feelings about the monarchy either way, although I do feel rather sorry for the people who’re caught up in it through an accident of birth. The monarch can’t even travel as a private individual, only as a representative of the monarchy, because he has to give up his passport and driving license.

          As an institution, the British monarchy, or any monarchy, is racist, at least in the religious sense (the sovereign is the defender of the faith by divine appointment), sexist (although becoming less so in the countries that have abolished male primogeniture succession and dropped the requirement for virgin Royal brides as unreasonable in an age when most women don’t “save themselves” for marriage), and elitist (becoming less so, most of the Queen’s descendants have married outside the aristocracy, the big exception was Lady Diana Spencer). Not to mention extremely hetero- and cisnormative, I can’t imagine ever seeing a childfree atheist drag queen on the British throne, can you?

          Her Majesty was sui generis, but otherwise the British royal I admire the most is Harry, who had the guts to get out and try and forge a life outside of the Firm for himself and his family. The jury is still out on how successful he can be at that, because his family connections are the basic reason why he’s a celebrity at all… But given the fiasco with Andrew as well as Harry’s decision to leave, it seems to me that the Royal Family will become smaller (and less expensive for the British taxpayer) by default.

          Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne at a very young age, and she had lived a very sheltered, homeschooled life, largely out of the public eye. Although she was married and a mother of two when she became Queen, people didn’t know very much about her life as a princess, and she was able to a large extent control the image she showed to the public, especially during the first few decades of her reign.

          For King Charles the situation is very different, as he finally gets the job he has trained for his whole life at an age when most of his compatriots would at least be thinking of retirement, if not actually retired already. He has a history of a full life in the public eye behind him, and it’ll be interesting to see how he shoulders the burden now that he has become King.

    7. Bagpuss*

      As another English person, I’m similar- I don’t feel any personal grief and it’s certainly a time to reflect on the institution of the monarchy.
      That said, I think a lot of people had a good deal of respect for her as an individual, I think she did have a very genuine sense of duty and service, however we may feel about it.
      A friend of mine made a post where she talked about the fact that the public process of mourning also stirred up a lot of feelings and memories of her own loss – she lost her mother during lockdown and didn’t have the chance to have a proper funeral, and that the memorial service yesterday in particular had her in tears which were mostly for her own loved ones but that the formal grieving let her grieve. I suspect that there is a lot of that – I’ve found I have been thinking a lot about my late grandmother who was of the same generation.
      On a separate level I find the formal process fascinating and wish that instead of the fairly inane commentary we’ve had, there was more about the history of the various participants in the ceremonies etc – for instance which regiments etc are involved and why, why some have black drapery on their standards and others don’t, why the chap carrying the broadsword at the proclamation at Mansion House was wearing a Cossack hat, and so forth.
      It’s definitely going to take a while to get used to having a King rather than a Queen

    8. Generic Name*

      I’m American and as such am philosophically against monarchies in general, but I found myself unexpectedly touched. My mom is a huge Anglophile, and I grew up with those souvenir tins and tea towels with the Queen’s portrait, etc on display around the house. I was texting my sister and I told her, “We rebelled against the British monarchy, why am I crying?!?”.

      She had a single-minded devotion to her role, which never wavered. While I agree with and admire some of the new King’s charitable works, I think he lacks integrity. I’m glad he’s not MY king.

    9. Asenath*

      Thank you. She had such an impressive life in a difficult role she did not choose. She’ll be missed, even though of course everyone knew she couldn’t go on forever.

    10. PhyllisB*

      Yes. Does anyone know any details about her death? I only ask because there were photos of her on Tuesday and mention that she had a meeting with the new PM, then the next day reports of her death.
      She was a great lady.

      1. RagingADHD*

        She has been declining since last October when she sprained her back and was in a wheelchair for a while. Then Covid in February, then she missed out on Easter, and she’s been reducing her public appearances more and more.

        She received the new Prime Minister for the first time at Balmoral. That’s never been done before. It probably took everything she had to attend that.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Thre hasn’t been any formal announcement but her health has been declining – it’s always the case that the palace underplays any health issues , so over the last few months when they have been talking about ‘mobility issues’ it has been clear that she was pretty unwell.

  2. Happily Retired*

    Alison, love the pic. When I first saw it, I saw a cat spiraling through some unknown dimension.

    This is in no way related to the third glass of wine I just poured.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      The pic does have a touch of the Austin-Powers-time-travel about it…(and it’s half eight in the morning here I have had no wine!)

  3. 9/11 thread*

    How do you commemorate or remember 9/11? I am a New Yorker in exile in the midwest and was taken aback this evening when the Rabbi spoke to commemorate the passing of Queen Elizabeth but no mention of the yahrzeit of those who died on 9/11.

    1. Harriet Jacobs*

      I’m sorry that you are experiencing this. Regions not as directly affected by the attacks do not observe 9/11 the way we do in the northeast.
      Every year I take time in my classes (I teach high school) to make sure that students know what happened. It’s an opportunity for them to ask questions and share stories.
      I live in NJ so many of their parents were in NYC that day. Not all of their parents came home.
      I’ve taught a number of children whose parents were killed that day so I think it is important to take the time to remember.
      Wishing you peace.

    2. Janet Pinkerton*

      I don’t, to be honest. I work in DC but I was a child for 9/11. I keep emergency evacuation sneakers in my desk though, because my coworkers’ stories of walking home stuck with me. That’s the real memory/commemoration.

    3. Vio*

      I’m in the UK so we don’t really have anything much about it here, but I was pretty offended yesterday when someone compared the death of our Queen to 9/11 (although it’s actually 11/9 here since we use a different date format, but we still refer to the attack as “nine eleven”). obviously the relatively peaceful death of an old lady surrounded by her family at the age of 96 is not comparable to the tragedy of countless deaths in a major terrorist attack

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Same. I haven’t seen that comparison (my social media feed hasn’t annoyed me beyond some really dreadful poetry) but it doesn’t compare, and while it’s a big news event here it does not have the international impact of 9/11.
        (Incidentally the habit of brits calling it 9/11 makes absolute sense to me as it was a thing that happened in America – but it has the side effect for me that it often doesn’t occur to me on the day that it is the day, because the date format makes it counterintuitive; I see 09/11/?? my brain says the ninth of November, unless there’s context)

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes that’s very offensive to those who died on 9/11. The death of the Queen is a long anticipated peaceful death of an old lady of natural causes after a full and rich life. It’s a change and a transition of power after many years of continuity but it’s not a major shock or assault in the way 9/11 was.

        To me 9/11 is more like 7 July attacks on the transport networks or even the Warrington IRA bombing (which affected me greatly as a child because one of the victims was my age). It was a terrorist attack on unsuspecting people resulting in many deaths that was shocking and upsetting to everyone.

        1. Observer*

          To me 9/11 is more like 7 July attacks on the transport networks or even the Warrington IRA bombing (which affected me greatly as a child because one of the victims was my age). It was a terrorist attack on unsuspecting people resulting in many deaths that was shocking and upsetting to everyone.

          Yes, those are reasonable comparisons, although not exact.

          The Queen’s death? Sorry, with all due respect, that’s just gross. And a perfect example of why there is so much hostility floating around.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t really, the same way I don’t commemorate the bombing of the Murrah building or any of the other terrible things that have happened during my lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to not be “close” (if that’s the right word, either physically or emotionally) to any of them, so to an extent, making a big display of commemoration would seem sort of performative to me? I wasn’t there, I wasn’t directly impacted, I don’t personally know anyone who was there or directly impacted, so I tend to leave the commemoration to folks who were so’s to not inject myself into somewhere I don’t belong. I have no idea if that makes sense (and I’m only speaking to what feels right/wrong for myself, not for anyone else).

      1. UKDancer*

        That makes sense to me. I grieve and remember those of my family who have died on the day of their death but I don’t tend to commemorate things that haven’t directly affected me such as major terrorist incidents. I’ve a former colleague who lost a friend on 7 July so I tend to reach out to her on the anniversary to check she’s ok. I was deeply moved by the invasion of Ukraine because I’d visited a few times and have Ukrainian friends but I was more inclined to reach out to my Ukrainian friends to see if they’re ok and their families ae safe than go to public events.

        But then I’ve never really been into shared acts of mourning. To me grief is a private thing so I would light a candle for someone who died or give money to a charity they cared about to remember them. Likewise for Ukraine I give money to the Red Cross and took donations to the Ukrainian centre which was taking supplies out rather than trying to join a demonstration.

        I think we’re all different and it depends how something affects us as individuals. I don’t think there’s a right way to respond, we just do what feels right to us individually.

      2. The OG Sleepless*

        I feel the same way. 9/11 was an upsetting, scary, and tragic event, and it set the stage for the events of the 2010s, but it didn’t rock me personally to the core like it did a lot of people. I didn’t know anyone who died; a professional acquaintance had a family member in the Pentagon attack but otherwise I had no connection to it. Possibly because I was driving in a rural area that morning and didn’t hear about it until a few hours later; I didn’t see the breaking news reports on TV.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes I google the pics from that day. Just to sit and quietly pray for the survivors and the families of everyone involved there. I also pray for the rescue folks injured by the fumes/smoke, who will probably never out run those injuries. But I do that randomly so that can happen any time during the year.
      Sometimes I pray for those families impacted by Lockerbie, too. The longer I go the more people I meet who knew someone on that plane.

      1. Meh*

        Japanese-American from Hawaii here. I had family on both side of the war and it’s very much observed and commemorated for us.

        1. KatEnigma*

          But I bet OP doesn’t commemorate Pearl Harbor.

          Obviously it’s fine for any individual to commemorate any thing they choose to.

          But after 20 years, it’s past time to stop being offended if others don’t mention it.

          1. OP here*

            Well, you would lose that bet. Perhaps it is because I am a teacher, I am aware of the many sorrows and loss therefore commemorate on the days of the events I did not personally experience.
            The intergenerational trauma of the Indian boarding schools not to mention the removal of people from their native lands is very real to those families affected by the genocidal U.S. government policies. These tragic experiences can be remembered on Indigenous Peoples day.
            The incarceration of Japanese families during WWII are not of my own experiences but also must not be forgotten.
            How can we not think of people who have been enslaved when it is Juneteenth, now a national day of remembrance?
            I suppose my question was not for those to who 9/11 has no significance but to those who it did.

          2. Flowers*

            Where is anyone offended by it? Personally I don’t commemorate it.

            I was old enough to remember it very clearly, but thankfully, it didn’t affect me in any way – my family was safe, and our lives went on and we didn’t suffer any discrimination or acts of violence afterwards. BUT I realize I’m in a privileged position to be able to say this. Not everyone is, nor is it a bad thing to commemorate it even if it didn’t directly affect you. Just like we let people enjoy their things, let people grieve what they choose to.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        In my city, the football disaster that killed 96 people is still very much commemorated though it was 30 plus years ago. Countless more people than the number of dead are still grieving, or remember waiting for loved ones to come home,who luckily did – not to mention all the people who escaped physically sound but mentally harmed. It also affects your sense of safety as a people when you’re either attacked, or let down. It can be a safeguard to keep history alive and from repeating itself. I’m not saying everyone has to commemorate everything for time immemorial if they don’t feel moved to, but it’s certainly understandable when people do.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Hillsborough disaster. It’s a pretty involved history and fight for justice because there was a cover up which sought to blame fans for the unsafe ground and poor policing which caused it.

        1. CTT*

          Hillsborough seems different to me because it’s still so ongoing decades later – court cases, talks about reintroducing safe standing, the recent awfulness at the CL final. Whereas (caveat, to me) a tragedy like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor is much more folded in with the wars they were a part of.

          1. Patty Mayonnaise*

            Legistlation and court cases involving 9/11 suvivors, first responders, and clean up crews haven’t really stopped – a lot of those people are getting sick and dying from exposure to toxins from that day and they are not getting their promised compensation. Jon Stewart has been advocating for them for decades. My neighbor reminded me literally yesterday that anyone who was living anywhere in downton NYC is entitled to money and to spread the word if I know someone that applies to. Hillsborough is referring to something that happened in England, right? I’ve only ever heard of it, IIRC, because of a podcast that covered it. I think proximity to an event matters a lot in making people feel like it’s “ongoing.”

          2. Observer*

            Whereas (caveat, to me) a tragedy like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor is much more folded in with the wars they were a part of.

            This is where you are factually wrong. This is still an ongoing issue – people who were in the vicinity and first responders are all at high risk of getting a number of fairly rare and serious illnesses. The fight to get the the kind of help they need is also still ongoing.

      3. Russian in Texas*

        I don’t commemorate any tragedies like this that don’t involve me or people close to me directly.
        Honestly, as far as terrorists attacks, the one that stayed with me the most was not 9/11, even though I already lived in the US for it, but the Beslan School Siege, that happened in 2004.

        1. Russian in Texas*

          Thorough all my childhood, I too, like the kids in that school, started the school year on September the 1st.

      4. Observer*

        It’s been 21 years. I don’t

        It’s been 21 years – not a time so long ago that there are maybe a handful of survivors left.

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      Northern NJ, financial industry. I was headed east on route 80 that morning and could see the smoke rising as the radio announcer came to the shocking realization that this wasn’t an accident. I lost many friends, colleagues, and neighbors. It still feels like something that just happened yesterday.
      For the past several years I have marked the day by praying and deliberately choosing life-affirming activities like gardening, walking in the woods, and spending time with my family and my pets.
      I realize that it feels different (and distant) to people who weren’t directly impacted. I pray that we as a civilization can reach the point where nobody knows exactly how a mass tragedy feels. I hope it becomes distant for everyone.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I’m in Ireland, so…I often play “The Bravest” that day, but that’s about it. Terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland were a fairly regular thing in my childhood and while they had nothing like the death toll of 9/11, I think the Omagh bombing still had a greater effect on me because…Omagh looked like it could be my town or a neighbouring town, whereas I find it hard to even imagine buildings like the Twin Towers.

      I did feel there was a bit of virtue signalling to Ireland’s reaction at the time of 9/11. On the part of our government and so on more than on the part of the Irish people. It came across a bit like “see how much we care about the US.” Now, to be fair, some of it WAS that so many New York first responders are of Irish descent, but…I also think there was a bit of “look, we care more than any other country. See what good friends our country is to yours.” And maybe that was because the US has so recently supported us in trying to bring peace to the North, but…maybe it was also a bit because the US is such a rich and powerful country and good relations are likely to benefit us.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Agreed, I think after 10 years it doesn’t need to have a multi-day observance.

        But then, I’m of the age where I was just slightly too young (almost 5) to grasp what was happening at the time, so I never had the same emotional connection to the day. The only thing I remember of “observing” it growing up was my teachers’ disappointment each year that my class didn’t have the same interest in talking about 9/11 than all their previous classes had had.

      2. AngelicGamer, the Legally Blind Peep*

        Well, the Jewish religious day is Saturday so this would be like a Catholic church not mentioning something if 9/11 is on a Monday. At least that’s how it is in my head.

        1. Ali + Nino*

          Not necessarily – Shabbos is the seventh day (so last day) of the week. Perhaps the rabbi intends to discuss it next Shabbos? Idk.

    8. seps*

      I was actually just wondering if my (Midwest) pastor would say anything on Sunday about it, since the worship service will actually be on the date. My 6th grade daughter and I talked about it yesterday because they spent time covering it in social studies. But I would say I don’t typically do anything on average besides pause when I realize it’s the day of or near and reflect a bit.

    9. bratschegirl*

      By the Hebrew calendar, 9/11/2001 was the 23rd of Elul, and this year that Hebrew date corresponds to September 19 of the Gregorian calendar, so in that reckoning those yahrzeits are still more than a week away.

      Even reckoning by the Gregorian calendar, today wouldn’t be the day to acknowledge their yahrzeit since it occurs tomorrow, after Shabbat is over, and therefore it’s part of next week. I would expect that those yahrzeits would be acknowledged next Shabbat, in a community which typically observes by English rather than Hebrew date.

      1. OP here*

        Thank you. I didn’t expect there to be anything said, it was just the reaction in the moment. As I thought about it, I was thinking perhaps next week. I lost 8 people and lived in Brooklyn Heights. My husbands office was next to ground zero for years. I am just returning to Judaism without a solid foundation. They do ask for names of people to be read aloud but I am just visiting this temple and not a member so I am not sure I am comfortable with that. On the day of, I do listen to the memorials on the internet and take the day for prayer and meditation. When I lived in Brooklyn I walked the promenade with my husband.(I am starting adult class Judaism 101 on Monday) I appreciate your explanation.

        1. bratschegirl*

          Oh, my goodness, 8 people… that must have been devastating, I’m so sorry.

          If you will be attending services next Shabbat, I encourage you to submit those names to be read aloud. I don’t know what denomination of shul this is, but in the Reform tradition, the entire community says the mourner’s Kaddish on behalf of those who may have no one to say it for them. It’s a mitzvah in the true sense of the word, and I absolutely can’t imagine that anyone would find it at all inappropriate for you to add these names to the list just because you aren’t yet a member of the shul. May their memories be a blessing.

          1. OP here*

            Also none of who I had lost were Jewish or an immediate family members so it does feel weird to say kaddish for them. Maybe I will ask the Rabbi who is teaching the class on Monday.

            1. Lasslisa*

              My sense from my own shul is that we acknowledge mass / community / world events that are recent, but for older events and “anniversary of” events we would be less likely to say something unless it affected us directly. So the Ukraine war was acknowledged a few times early on but not listed out every week, but if we were a community of Ukrainian Jews it might be mentioned more often or every week. And if we had members of the community with major losses on 9/11, we would be more likely to say something than if not (actually, we DO have a number of New York Jews, so our rabbi might say something? It’s not something I would have noticed strongly either way past years, so I’m not sure.)

              Even if not from the bima it would be entirely appropriate for a congregant to add it in during the going around and saying names, you could say “those lost on 9/11” instead of listing out your personal losses if that feels more comfortable to you.

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          Oh, I’m so sorry. As a non-US person I found the annual international mourning unpleasant, as it underlines what we DON’T care about for more than a hot second.

          But for anyone directly affected, there is no question it will be deeply felt for a long, long time. I cannot imagine. I hope there is some acknowledgement, or you feel you could talk to the rabbi?

          I’ll be thinking of you.

        3. RagingADHD*

          I’m so sorry.

          I lived in Washington Heights at the time. I didn’t lose anyone, but I vividly remember that day and how it changed not just the city, but the nation’s consciousness and feeling of safety. Permanently changed.

          One of my kids interviewed me about it this week for a history project, and I’ve still got an emotional hangover from remembering the fear of not knowing when or if it was all over, with planes missing and so forth. When you look back at the timeline, it is much shorter than it felt, because it was so chaotic and hard to get real information.

          I am glad that I don’t encounter formal remembrances, because I have nobody to attach it to, and it just brings up free-floating bad memories-like standing in line all day to give blood that never got used.

          I rarely talk about it, because those who know don’t need to hear the details, and those who don’t probably can’t understand.

          I am very sorry for your losses and hope the day is meaningful for you.

    10. Russian in Texas*

      I am in the South and we get mention on the local news in passing, but that’s about it. There is no actual commemoration by people. Honestly I forgot it was upcoming, and I was an adult and have all the memories from that day.

    11. RagingADHD*

      I haven’t encountered any formal recognition of 9/11 since moving away from New York, except on the news.

    12. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      After a certain period of time (5 years? 10?), it’s difficult for people to commemorate an event if they have no personal connection. For many of us, the only thing we felt that day was shock and fear. The building I worked in, several states away, had a bomb threat a few hours after it happened, so those reactions got a lot more real very fast. But now, I only think about it if it’s mentioned in the news when I have it on. Same with the Kennedy assassination. Same with Pearl Harbor. Same with any day that’s to commemorate something major that happened more than a few years ago. A mention in an “on this date” feature seems adequate for many people not directly affected by the event. If someone does want to set aside time to think about any of those, it’s fine, but I honestly don’t see the point in making it public. For me, deliberately planning to think “on this date several years ago I felt scared” is just… odd.

      1. OP here*

        of course. I think my question was poorly worded. And I don’t want to remember how scary and frightening it was nor do I wish anyone else to.

    13. Burnt Eggs*

      I was very out out when our work intranet had a front screen banner on the Queen (banking software, based in the USA) but only an email around 5:00 EST regarding 9/11. My thought was the ‘Never Forget’ is on its way to forgotten.

    14. Grey Panther*

      West Coast-er here. On or around Sept. 11 I make a point of watching the short but very moving documentary “Boatlift,” about the New York boat community’s overwhelming response when they realized a whole lot of people were stranded at the tip of Manhattan.
      Makes me proud, gives me goosebumps, every time I watch it.

      1. Here we go again*

        There’s a great book about that. I loaned it out to a history teacher friend of mine and I can’t think of the name of it. It was pretty amazing reading about cops commandeering yachts fishing boats and ferries all working rescue people who couldn’t walk back through to wreckage. A bunch First hand accounts by first responders. I liked it because it was about regular people all coming together to help and not about terrorists or politicians.

        1. slowingaging*

          Dust to Deliverance: Untold Stories from the Maritime Evacuation on September 11th Hardcover – July 26, 2017 Is this the book?

      2. Grey Panther*

        Thanks, Here we go again and slowingaging. I’ll definitely be looking for that book. I’d had no idea about the boatlift until about 5 years ago, when I stumbled across the video.

    15. FACS*

      I say a quiet prayer. I remember seeing the media coverage and being heartbroken by the loss. I was working in the hospital and it was surreal.

    16. Rara Avis*

      I would like to be able to participate in the moment of silence but due to time zones I’m not usually awake.

    17. Cookie Lady*

      Every year, I read Meg Cabot’s account of her experiences that day – she’s the author of the Princess Diaries books and lived in lower Manhattan at the time; her husband worked in one of the other Trade Center buildings. She re-posts it on her website every year. This year I’ll probably also watch Come From Away on AppleTV, the Broadway musical about the people who were stranded in Newfoundland when the US airspace was closed and 38 planes were diverted to the Gander airport, doubling the population of the town.

    18. cleo*

      I’m in Chicago. Until I stopped teaching 8 years ago, I’d talk with my college students about it every year. I’d tell them about how I was teaching a web design class that morning, about going on break and hearing the news, watching the first tower come down on the tv in the library and going back to my classroom to make the hardest announcement I’ve ever made.

    19. Claritza*

      In Parkville, MD, USA just outside Baltimore every year a “Path of Honor” is created with 343 flags placed around the Parkville Fire House in Honor of the 343 FDNY Firefighters, 72 flags placed in front of the Parkville Police Station in Honor of Law Enforcement Officers, and 2,562 flags placed along Putty Hill Ave from Old Harford to Harford Rd, stretching over a 3/4 mile on both sides of the road to honor and remember all of the 2,977 lives lost on 9/11.
      It is a truly moving and sobering display. In addition, there is a remembrance ceremony, a candlelight vigil, and a memorial motorcycle ride.

    20. Generic Name*

      I live in the mountain west. I was an adult when it happened and watched the second plane hit on live television. But I don’t know anyone who was directly or even indirectly affected by the events. So I don’t really do anything to commemorate it. Yes, I do think of the lives lost and how it affected the long-term trajectory of our country, but I don’t know of any special services or remembrance events happening in my area today. I follow one local fire department Facebook feed, and the posted a remembrance image.

    21. OyHiOh*

      I’m of two minds because 9/11 was so massively traumatic and I do think a kind of public remembrance is necessary, but I really, REALLY object to the “Patriots Day” moniker we’re currently using. to quote A.A.Milne, who really gets to the heart of the issue, “a patriot is someone who hates everything about their country except the flag.”

      A couple years ago, I wrote a short play that’s sort of about 9/11 but is really about people who worked under the towers and (opinion of someone I know who was involved with the build and design of the WTC towers) never had a chance to get out. It’s called The Patriots Act, in a moment of pointed critique regarding the domestic security act Congress passed a few months later. Today, I posted it on my social media.

      People (especially outside the US Tri State area) speak about the buildings, as if the buildings themselves once lived. It’s a capitalist-centered point of view that I find enraging.

      1. Observer*

        It’s a capitalist-centered point of view

        I don’t think that this is really accurate. Part of the reason people talk about it that way is because of something of a halo effect. But also is was a very busy center that was full of life, and not just business.

    22. allathian*

      I’m in Finland and this was the first year that the anniversary wasn’t even mentioned on the news. AFAIK no Finns were killed in the attacks. Last year, on the 20th anniversary, there were documentaries on most channels, and the ceremony at Ground Zero where all the names of the victims are recited was broadcast on TV. In the years following the 10th anniversary, it was IIRC mentioned in the “news in brief” section of the main news, if nowhere else.

      This year, 9/11 was completely overshadowed by the death of Queen Elizabeth. That said, Finnish media completely ignored the 25th anniversary of Diana’s death on August 31, although the 20th anniversary was all over the news 5 years ago. So it looks like celebrity deaths and terrorist attacks that most Finns don’t have any personal involvement with are largely ignored by the news media after the 20th anniversary…

  4. pizza pizza*

    I love pizza, and often make it at home. I feel I’ve got the crust down – thin or thick. But, I don’t think I’ve nailed the sauce or toppings. I ate out at a pizza restaurant last week on vacation, and they totally nailed the toppings. If you make pizza at home: what kind of topping/sauce do you use? How do you cook it? Maybe you know the insider scoop on how to make a good pizza? Looking for all sorts of pizzas tops.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I tend to make fairly simple pizzas with mostly cheese and then 1-3 other toppings. For cheese, the cheese blend matters. I tend to go with mostly mozzarella, a little bit of cheddar for color and flavor, and then maybe a crumbly cheese like feta as a topping depending on what other toppings I’m doing (feta goes well with fruits or veggies like diced tomato, spinach, and/or pineapple as toppings, particularly if you’re not adding any kind of sausage or olive, since it’ll be a nice salty note for contrast). I’ll also consider adding a bit of whatever other cheeses I have that day, particularly if I have Parmesan or something along those lines handy, but more as a spice than an ingredient if that makes sense. I have to restrain myself from adding too much cheese in general, since it’s easy to overdo it, so I portion it out rather than freehand. I also save a bit of mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top of the other toppings right before I put the pizza in the oven, which helps to meld things together and keep the toppings from falling off.

      For toppings, smaller pieces are better. If I’m using canned pineapple chunks, I cut each chunk into four smaller ones, and similarly dice tomatoes smaller than I would for something like tacos. Just like with cheese, it’s easy to overload things.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I don’t like tomato-based sauces (though I love tomatoes) so I make a version of spicy Thai peanut sauce. I spread that over the crust and then add a chicken + onion* topping. I add capers and. cooling plain or Turkish yogurt. Yum!

      * I chop skinless chicken breasts into tiny pieces, saute them in some of the spicy peanut sauce and add what I term onion slush, that is, onions that have been chopped then whirled in a food processor until it is slush. I add that to the mostly cooked chicken and when it is all cooked, top the pizza with it.

      1. Aphrodite*

        Oh, and I forgot to add that I finely grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the chicken-and onion topping before putting it in the oven or even the microwave. Then add the additional toppings.

    3. Now I Want Pizza*

      For tomato-based sauce, I use a mixture, of spaghetti sauce and tomato paste (1 jar and 1 can. Yes, it’s blasphemy. Hush. I just made homemade pizza crust, I don’t have time to do homemade sauce, too), then add additional basil and garlic to taste. My tastes prefer more spice than the rest of my family, though, so I artfully arrange mushrooms or banana peppers to spell out my name on “my side.” I do not like pepperoni, so sausage is a special treat when we buy pizza out. I use raw mushrooms, and like pickled banana peppers. If I’m feeling especially brave, I’ll throw on a jalapeno slice or two from the jar in the back of the fridge. I just do a reasonable amount of cheese with tomato sauce.
      My favorite homemade pizza toppings, however, are sauted shrimp or squid in garlic and olive oil, then blot them so they’re not greasy. Those go directly on the partially baked crust, then I put on ALL of the cheese. Sometimes I use slices of fresh mozzarella in addition to shredded mozzarella. Sometimes I use sliced provolone (when I forget to buy a block of provolone for shredding at the local butcher shop). I don’t usually mix provolone with mozzarella, though, but I don’t know why. I might have to try that
      Occasionally we’ll cook the pizza on our gas grill instead of in the oven. That adds interesting flavor, although we usually only do cheese pizza that way, due to some unfortunate sliding topping incidents. Partner claims to love grilling and insists he has to do it, then complains the whole time that he’s doing it. A statistically unlikely number of dinner-ruining accidents happen when he’s grilling. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence…

    4. Filosofickle*

      One of my favorite home pizzas is the green/white pizza from the New York Times. No sauce, just olive oil and garlic topped with fresh mozzarella and parm, then after it’s cooked pile on an arugula salad dressed with lemon and oil. Great on the grill! I like to grill pizzas, great charred California vibe.

      If I make a tomato sauce, I do it really simply. Tomatoes, chili flake, onion, garlic, cooked and smashed down a bit. That’s it. I don’t tend to use a lot of toppings, because other than pepperoni most of them need a lot of preparation and pre-cooking IMO — mushrooms are better sauteed, tomatoes have to have their water removed, etc. That’s too much work for pizza!

    5. Rara Avis*

      Sauté garlic and spinach, sometimes mushrooms if we have them. Chopped tomatoes, oregano, goat cheese. We sometimes add artichokes.

    6. Costa Rica Tica*

      I highly recommend making your own sauce if you don’t already! For me that was the key. I follow several true Italian recipe blogs and have used a few of their sauces, divine.

      I prefer to do minimal toppings, such as basil/ricotta/garlic/tomato. It’s so delicious. I’ve also done one with burrata and prosciutto, which were some toppings I had on the best pizza in Rome.

    7. Missb*

      I use Trader Joe’s marinara sauce for red sauce.

      I roll out the homemade crust super thin, toss the crust onto a large rimmed sheet pan that has been generously oiled with olive oil. I usually cook two pizzas on pizza night, so I then roll out the second crust and put it in another pan.

      I go back to the first crust, using a fork to prick the dough all over, then add the red sauce and a bit of grated parm. I sprinkle on a bit of mozz and then do the toppings. Once that one is ready to pop in the oven (450! Hot, preheated), I prick the second crust with a fork and start the toppings.

      Generally I do a pepperoni one, pretty much just pepperoni, covered with a small sprinkling of mozz.

      The other pizza is always pesto sauce with some mozz, then whatever veggies we have. Sometimes sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, Greek olives, mushrooms. Small slices of fresh mozz instead of grated if I have any. I’ll throw some fresh arugula (from our garden) on when taking the pizza out of the oven.

      I typically start the first pizza on the upper rack in the oven, switching it out after about 10 minutes (putting it on the lower rack and putting the second pizza up on the upper rack). I’ll switch them around one more time, to make sure each has an opportunity to get a more done crust on the bottom and browned on the top.

      I find that a good deal of olive oil on the pan helps get a nice, decadent crisp crust.

      Sometimes I’ll sprinkle the flour with some cornmeal when rolling out the crust, but only if it’s handily available.

    8. Princess Deviant*

      I just spread tomato paste on the base, drizzle it with olive oil, then sprinkle some dried oregano and basil on it, then add whatever supremely thinly sliced veg toppings I want, with some black olives. It is quite dry as a ‘sauce’ but I hate a soggy base :D

    9. FashionablyEvil*

      I think the trick is just not overdoing it—if you’re using more watery veggies like zucchini or mushrooms, precook them so they don’t make the crust soggy. Similarly, don’t do so many toppings that it gets overwhelming/the pizza doesn’t cook well.

      I happen to like arugula with thinly sliced red onion or pepperoni with red onion and hot peppers, but totally steal the ideas from the places you like!

      1. LizB*

        I was coming here to make the same first point – don’t overdo the sauce, don’t overdo the toppings, cook the water out of fresh toppings. You need less than you think.

        I’m not a tomato sauce person, so I do pesto (a thin/sparse coating goes a long way for flavor). Cheese is generally low-moisture mozzarella, and I might add some feta or goat cheese as a topping rather than as the main attraction cheese. My favorite set of toppings at home is goat cheese, torn-up salami, and halved kalamata olives.

    10. Anon5775*

      I switched from shredded mozzarella to mozzarella pearls and will never go back. It makes my pizzas restaurant quality in my opinion. And I also use Italian sausage and I just got a seasoning powder that’s salt, garlic, parmesan, etc to sprinkle on top.

      1. Marigold*

        I use a pizza stone. It makes a huge difference in the crust. You put the stone in a cold oven and then heat the oven to 475 F.
        You need a pizza peel (big paddle) sprinkled with cornmeal. Lay the already rolled & stretched dough on the peel, add sauce, toppings, cheese.
        Then sprinkle the hot stone with cornmeal. To get the pizza onto the stone takes daring and confidence, because you have to pull the paddle away really fast – like that trick of pulling the tablecloth off a table full of dishes.

        Before we got the pizza stone we tried all sorts of pans and techniques for getting a good crust but no luck.

        By the way, after the pizza is done and out of the oven, the stone needs to cool off in the oven for a couple hours before you remove it.

        Caveat if you’re a real neatnick: cornmeal is messy but essential when using a stone.

        We use either homemade dough with high-gluten flour, or buy frozen dough, depending on time constraints.

        1. strawberry ice cream*

          When using a pizza stone, I use parchment instead of cornmeal. Less messy, although I do prefer the taste/texture that cornmeal gives. I put the parchment on the counter, spread the dough & make the pizza. I can then slide the pizza onto a baking sheet for a temporary peel, or use 4 hands to carry each corner of the parchment to plop on the stone in the oven.

    11. Tib*

      Our go-to pizza uses onion and garlic jam as the base (Stonewall Kitchens) and has chicken and either spinach or broccoli for toppings. We were inspired by Puccini’s Smiling Teeth’s campfire pizza that has an onion marmalade base and Gorgonzola, red onion and kielbasa for toppings. That’s also delicious, but not so much a weeknight pizza for my family.

    12. Boba Feta*

      First-Gen Italian-American here with parents raised in south Italy. My mom swore by TuttoRosso brand whenever we’d run out of the home-grown home-canned stuff and that’s what I still use whenever I need tomato sauce for anything. On pizza I do nothing to it- three or four tablespoons of it directly onto the dough! I only use the “crushed tomato with Basil” type.

      When I didn’t have a full-time job I’d make my dough from a traditional southern Italian recipe but now I just buy it from Publix and it’s actually really good. When we aren’t feeling red sauce, we just do some extra virgin olive oil and some dried oregano.

      For veggie pizza: sliced baby Bella mushrooms and cooked (and squeezed out!) spinach.

      MiniBoba is like me and loves salami, so our pie will have that on it too.

      Cheese: we use a combination of belgioioso fresh mozzarella ( those tiny snacking balls that come in packs of three : We squish those up and spread them around) then add a healthy top sprinkle of mozzarella shreds of whatever brand was on sale recently.

      We keep it as simple as possible because we have zero time to cook up specialty toppings and this is a huge hit that we try to do at least once a week

      1. Boba Feta*

        For a while we were swearing by Trader Joe’s frozen pizza crusts that came in a two-pack in a green bag/pouch from Italy (seriously: I was buying them by the case because we used them to feed ourselves and my aging in-laws on a weekly basis!). However at some point they disappeared (we figured supply chain issues). Nope- they got replaced by Trader Joe’s own brand of plain crusts, now in a brown box and gluten free, but they’re now ruined. When once the in-laws couldn’t get enough of the pizza we made for them, this dough change was reported as “inedible”. So back to the Publix doughs we go and there goes the convenience of from-frozen-add-toppings-to-oven. Le sigh.

    13. Anon-E-Mouse*

      Here’s our standard vegan pizza topping combo, on a pizza base we get from a local bakery.

      Canned pizza sauce
      Beyond Sausage, crumbled
      Mixed mushrooms (whatever I have on hand, usually shiitake and portabella)
      Sliced bell peppers (usually green and yellow to add colour to the pizza)
      A tablespoon of capers and/or sliced black olives
      Earth Island grated vegan parmesan
      Earth Island or Daiya vegan mozzarella
      Fresh basil, shredded

      I precook in the frying pan the sausage, mushrooms and peppers in separate batches, in that order. The precooking makes the toppings less liquid so the pizza doesn’t get soggy. The peppers get cooked very briefly so the green peppers don’t lose their colour. I sauté the mushrooms and peppers with some chopped garlic and dried herbs.

      I’ve found with vegan pizza that you need to experiment with toppings and vegan cheese to achieve the umami experience of dairy cheese balanced with the sweetness of tomato sauce. The Earth Island grated parm, olives and capers all contribute to that umami flavour.

      Since prepping the pizza is a fair bit of work, I usually make 4 10” pizzas at a time, and we eat one or two and freeze the others for quick weeknight dinner.

    14. Charlotte Lucas*

      I make a simple sauce mixing diced tomatoes with tomato paste, garlic powder, oregano, & basil (sometimes red pepper flakes) to taste. The sauce isn’t cooked before I spread it. Then I top with a mixture of mozzarella & Parmesan. And I also use a baking stone.

      I don’t like most pizza toppings, so mine is pretty plain. And cheddar doesn’t belong on pizza in my world.

    15. Katie*

      I make homemade pizza at home a lot. To make my sauce, I usually make sausage or bacon first. Take out the meat, drain the grease and then put a can of tomato sauce in the hot pan. I add garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I let it simmer until it gets thicker. It usually only takes a few minutes (while I am rolling out the dough).

    16. marvin*

      I usually go with some combination of olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced eggplant, caramelized onion, basil, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, and anchovies. Not all of those at once, probably about 3 or 4 on a pizza. For the sauce, I just saute some garlic and oregano, add red wine and tomato paste, then crushed tomatoes, and let it simmer for a while. I mostly use mozzarella and parmesan, occasionally feta or bocconcini. Homemade calzones are also great.

    17. Westsidestory*

      So many good ideas here! I confess I am a total minimalist: I hand-crush canned plum tomatoes and place them on the dough; then add canned anchovies; top with a sprinkling of garlic powder and dried oregano; sprinkle grated mozzarella (as much as you like) and that’s it. If the dough seems a bit dry I will drizzle the oil left in the anchovy can.

    18. Here we go again*

      1 Can of tomato sauce,
      Red pepper flakes
      A splash of olive oil
      A pinch of salt
      A healthy sprinkle of Parmesan cheese

    19. Jenny Islander*

      I make rising crust pizzas in 9×13 pans and top them with gobs of caramelized onions, some sliced black olives, and sprinklings of black pepper and crushed dried rosemary.

  5. anon for this*

    Does anyone have tips on how to get skin oil stains out of white cotton sheets and blankets? I finally have a skincare routine that works well, but years of struggling with very oily skin have left big, obvious yellow stains all over my pillowcases, sheets, and favorite blanket. They’re fine otherwise, though, and I’d rather not just have to buy new ones. Thanks!

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Have you tried adding ammonia to your wash routine? I live in the hottest city in North America and every single wash gets an extra long soak with ammonia, detergent and a cup of baking soda. Luckily I have an old agitator washer that I can manipulate by keeping the lid open. I don’t know how new washers work.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        I’m channeling my late Dad all over this subthread today (he was a chemistry teacher) but if you use ammonia do not use bleach anywhere near. Mixing the two = chloramine gas which is very dangerous.
        You all probably already know this but just in case!

        1. fposte*

          I’m so nervous about this that I straight up don’t buy ammonia-based products. If they don’t come in the house, I can’t klutzily pour them into the toilet at the wrong moment.

    2. Aphrodite*

      From BedScrunchie:

      Run your body oil-stained bed sheets through a regular wash with your favorite detergent and hot water.

      Fill your washer again with extra hot water and add a tablespoon Dawn dish soap (to cut the grease), another regular dose of laundry detergent, and a quarter-cup of Arm & Hammer washing soda (not baking soda). Washing soda neutralizes body oil odors and is gentler to the skin and fabrics than bleach.

      Allow the load to agitate for a short time, enough to mix everything up, then let it soak overnight.

      In the morning, drain the dirty water out of the washer and run the sheets again through a regular cycle. Instead of fabric softener, add a half-cup of white vinegar to prevent any additional residue or oil from attaching to your bedsheets.

      If you’re able to, hang your sheets outside on a clothesline. The ultraviolet radiation of the sun brightens whites and kills any surviving bacteria that caused the odors.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Not commenting on effectiveness or comparison with bleach but washing soda, sodium carbonate, is a fairly strong alkali and will irritate your skin so wear rubber gloves if using.

      2. Ampersand*

        Just a heads up not to mix Dawn with any bleach-based products. A roommate in college mixed Dawn and bleach to wash something in our kitchen sink while I was home one day, and the resulting fumes were quite unpleasant. We were okay, but that’s how I learned those two don’t mix.

      3. Mockingjay*

        You can also use Borax in place of the washing soda.

        Hubby has very oily skin and I add the Dawn, Borax, and vinegar to sheets and towels weekly, in a lower concentration.

        I had to replace several older sheet sets, though; the build-up was too much to remove. I also use zippered pillow protectors in addition to pillowcases, which I change weekly and wash the same way.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Nancy Birtwhistle (of GBBO fame) has tons of awesome methods. She’s always showing before and after of oil and sunscreen stains so I know she covers this.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      Not sure about the blankets but for the sheets and pillowcases, I have successfully got oily marks out of cotton shirts by damping the area and rubbing/squishing in a little washing up liquid (dish soap) then machine washing as usual. It’s an effective degreasing detergent so it might work for you. I didn’t leave it for any length of time, just the time it took to collect up the rest of the clothes for the machine load.

    5. Pennyworth*

      I don’t know if this would work on your oil stains, but when I did a dressmaking course a long time ago we were told to apply eucalyptus oil if we ever got sewing machine oil on our fabric.
      Apparently eucalyptus oil reacts somehow with other oils and then just washes out. I have also used dishwashing liquid on oil stains with some success – apply generously and rub in thoroughly, then wash as normal.

    6. Tib*

      Be very careful when using dish soap in a clothes washing machine. They’re not made for each other and too much at once or over time can cause problems.

      My go to for treating grease is Goop. It’s a degreaser that mechanics often use to clean the oil off their hands. You can find it in the laundry aisle at the grocery store or Walmart. I also like to use a laundry detergent formulated for athletic clothes on sheets and towels as a preventative measure. Skin oil also includes protein so you need to treat both. I find it also helps with the smell that tends to linger.

      I also tend to just accept the oil stains as part of life with my oily guy. I’m embarrassed about them on some level but lazy enough that it’s not something I want to spend time on. I always have extra pillowcases available and change them more often than the sheets.

      For your blanket, once you get it clean you could add a binding to the edge by your face. I’d make one out of flannel or a nice cotton instead of buying the prepackaged stuff. Blankets were often bound both to keep the end from fraying but also to protect the blanket from skin oils. A binding is much easier to replace than a blanket. This is also why the top sheet is folded over the blanket at the top when you make the bed. The sheet helps protect the blanket and protect your skin from from the blanket which was usually wool.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        I usually give it an initial scrub with dishwashing detergent, then rinse the suds out, then put it all through a normal hot wash. My husband doesn’t have a lot of hair, so I’ve got pretty good at washing oil out of pillowcases! The other thing is to change them reasonably often – they can’t get greasy if they don’t get slept on for too long ;-)

        I’ve never had issues with smells, but then I’m lucky enough to have space to line-dry all our sheets.

    7. fposte*

      I haven’t tried this on skin oil stains, but my go-to for oil in clothes is citrus cleaner. I’d definitely try a little in a corner, mostly to make sure it doesn’t stain the white orange, but I’ve used it on all kinds of fabric safely and it’s worlds better than Dawn at removing grease.

    8. cat socks*

      I apply a bit of blue Dawn dish soap directly to the greasy spot and rub it in with a small brush. Sometimes I will apply the Dawn to both sides of the fabric. Then I run it through a normal wash cycle.

    9. MacGillicuddy*

      Try Fels Naptha bar soap rubbed directly on the stains. This is the same “yellow soap” they used to give at Girl Scout camp to wash after contact with poison ivy.

    10. PX*

      This has worked to limited effect (and I think is better on “fresh” stains), but I once read a tip that shampoo is good as a degreaser as it is designed to strip the oils from hair, and so works on pretty much most natural body oils. I’ve used it on things like shirt collars before and its definitely made a difference.

      What I would say though is that for old/set in stains – definitely some time soaking/agitating/soaking again then washing might be required. It takes a bit more effort to get things out once they are set in!

      1. anon for this*

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my case, it turns out that I was overthinking it massively and buying a lot of expensive products that weren’t helping. These days I scrub my face with a slightly astringent soap (I’m partial to tea tree oil) and then immediately apply a good unscented liquid moisturizer/toner (I like Garner SkinActive with aloe – comes in a blue spray bottle). I do this 2 times a day (3 occasionally if needed) – it’s not perfect, but after decades of having awful skin, things have really cleared up and I’m not getting regular acne anymore.

    11. River Otter*

      oxygenated bleach products like oxyclean are brilliant on yellowed sheets. It’s not just the oils that produce those stains. They are composed of everything our skin secretes. Ammonia is brilliant on oil, but you need something that will get at the sweat components, too.

      For a first treatment, soak your linens in hot water + double the recommended amount of product and nothing else. Then add the product to your laundry per the instructions to keep them white.

    12. anon for this*

      Thanks, everyone, for the amazing tips! Going to experiment and see how it goes. You’ve given me lots of hope here. :)

    13. Generic Name*

      I’m going to give a really simple suggestion because this is what helped me. I’m very environmentally aware, and for years I used those “eco” detergents. I had been noticing some “residue” on my supposedly clean laundry, but surely, I thought, it wasn’t because of the detergent I was using. My then new husband suggested I switch to Tide, so I did. I was shocked at how much cleaner my clothes got. So my suggestion is to wash your sheets on the hottest cycle with Tide. I’d also use a pre-treatment spray like spray and wash beforehand and see if you get the desired results. If you’re already doing this, or you try this and it doesn’t work, then move on to the other suggestions mentioned in this thread.

    1. Yaz*

      Honestly I was overjoyed at the season conclusion. I saw people on forums who wanted someone to die but I was really really distraught to think about losing either of the endangered characters.

      1. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

        I love Call the Midwife – and you’re absolutely right about that season, it was painful. I don’t know why I love it so much as the stories are so often so harsh! We’ll be getting the next series soon – autumn is the only time of year I really watch tv!

      2. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

        I love Call the Midwife – and you’re absolutely right about that season, it was painful. I don’t know why I love it so much as the stories are so often so harsh! We’ll be getting the next series soon – autumn is the only time of year I really watch tv!

        1. MissCoco*

          I personally don’t think so, but maybe that she will move on to a new posting where she has a more responsible position?

          Most of the conflict around her this season seemed to be about her not gaining responsibilities she wanted.

    2. frontlinER*

      I love Call the Midwife!!! Man, I watched the last episodes through my fingers! I’m glad no one died this time around, especially with the two characters it could have been. Every time they’ve killed someone off, it’s been so so painful (Barbara anyone?).
      I’m in the states so I’ll have to wait until April or so for the next season.

      1. Yaz*

        Barbara’s death was awful but the threat of losing the two characters in season 11 gutted me. My first thought was “oh no Shelagh!” I love Shelagh’s character and the thought of her being devastated was so much worse than the thought of Tom being devastated

      2. MissCoco*

        I gave myself a migraine because I cried so hard when Barbara died.

        I loved that they made space for Phyllis and her friendship with Barbara in Lucille’s wedding episodes, and also that Lucille and Phyllis have a very special but very different friendship.

    3. Kate*

      I am so disappointed that I haven’t even been able to see season 10! Any tips from Canadians on how to access it? They changed streaming agreements and it’s been impossible to access.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I watched the penultimate episode last night, so don’t know how it will fully end.

      Did not like: Millicent moving into Nonnatus and then acting like someone from a bad sitcom–very out of character for her, and then that whole subplot didn’t go anywhere. It was like they needed to fill out one episode and added a wacky roommate subplot.

      I would watch an episode that was just Phyllis and Millicent bopping around Europe by car.

      Liked: Sister Hilda approaching Nancy’s scatteredness with more responsibility rather than less. Showing her what she could do seemed like the essence of good management.

      1. Yaz*

        I have such a soft spot for Millicent that I didn’t mind that subplot! I think her friendship with Phyllis is one of the best parts of the show- two older, non-conventionally attractive women bonding over work and life. We so rarely get that in TV

    5. Yaz*

      What do people think about the Lucille plot line? I didn’t care for it because I’ve always found Lucille and Cyril very annoying both individually and as a couple (“your skirt is too short! Tampons are bad! I am going to preach now!”). I also hate the musical theme that always accompanies them.

  6. s*

    Any suggestions for new hobbies? I’m fresh out of college and not used to having so much time in the evenings/weekends!

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      When I was fresh out of college, I made a point to explore every free entertainment option my city had to offer. Museums, parks, window shopping at farmer’s markets… I also got really into knitting. I absolutely craved lazy weekends on the couch but after being so busy for so long, I couldn’t quite enjoy them because I felt so anxious about having nothing to show for my time. But if I made progress on a hat or sweater I could justify the 10 hours straight I spent watching Criminal Minds reruns.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yes to free entertainment! Many museums have a recurring free or “pay what you will” day, and often the library will have a limited number of free passes to local attractions

    2. lilsheba*

      Something like that is so personal. What do you like to do? If you read, you could maybe find some online book clubs. Do you have any artistic talent? You could explore that, maybe in mediums you haven’t tried. You can watch movies or binge tv shows (I know not really a hobby but why not). You can explore your city. Look up free online university courses.

    3. AY*

      I definitely recommend making an exercise that you already enjoy into a hobby! I enjoy weightlifting and jogging, but any movement will do. Exercise is such a solace to me when life becomes stressful.

      1. I take tea*

        I recommend dancing. Excersise, social in a low key fashion and endorphins. You could try out different kinds until you find one that you prefer.

    4. Angstrom*

      Learn an instrument?

      If you’re in a new place, get out and explore! Check local listings for clubs, volunteer groups, classes, open nights, etc. and go see what it’s about. You don’t have to commit. When I moved to a new city I dropped in on everything from the ski club to the origami club, found a lot of free events on the university campus, and took several inexpensive classes. Much more fun than sitting home alone staring at the TV.

    5. Spearmint*

      Cooking is a great hobby to pick up if you have free time. There are so many great recipes and techniques out there, and if you do it right you’ll save money. And the more you do it the more efficient you become, so you’ll be more able to keep cooking if/when you get busier.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I know it’s late in the weekend so this might not be spotted, but every time cookbooks are mentioned I have to recommend the book Good and Cheap! Its general concept is cooking good, nutritious food on a SNAP budget. A lot of recipes are available for free online, and for each copy sold another is donated.
        Because the most economical ways to cook involve using what you have in hand and shopping in season/on sale, all of the recipes are written to be highly adaptive so it’s an excellent book for people new to cooking.
        There are also recipes for various energy levels, from massive batches of homemade dumplings that will take all day to cook to an entire section called simply, “Things on Toast.” It’s my favorite gift to give new college students, sometimes with a nice cast iron pan.

    6. GoryDetails*

      I really enjoy geocaching; you can do as much or as little as you like, and depending on where you are there may be lots of easy-to-reach ones – walkable, even – as well as those that inspire day-trips to reach. You can combine it with other hobbies too, especially hiking or exploring historic sites, cemeteries, etc.

    7. Westsidestory*

      Hiking. Get out in nature. There are many hiking groups and meetups to be found online, with a range of how fit you need to be (easy walks to challenging terrain.). I’ve met amazing people hiking and it encouraged me into other directions I would never have dreamed of: skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, and learning to cook for 40

    8. Nancy*

      What do you like to do? Are you looking for things that are free or do you have a budget? Outdoors or indoors? Alone or with a group?

      I currently dance, paint, and belong to a book club. When I first graduated, I signed up for hobby-type classes at the local adult ed center and took the free workshops at my library to get ideas on what I enjoy.

    9. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      Volunteer at your local thrift store– it’s usually a great way to meet a ton of totally random people, plus, you can get first dibs on the best stuff when it comes in.

    10. OtterB*

      I really enjoy singing with a community chorus. Some require auditions and experience, but others don’t.

      As has been suggested, think about what you like – or always thought you might like but haven’t tried. Indoor/outdoor? Alone/in a group/individual but you can also meet with a group (e.g. knitting). Look at a community college list of non-credit courses and see what’s out of your wheelhouse but seems interesting.

    11. Chauncy Gardener*

      One year, my goal was to visit every single historical society in every single town in my east coast very old (for the US) state. IT WAS SO COOL.
      Then I had as a goal to visit every single botanical garden in the state. Then every single museum—STILL not there yet. There must be a million! But I have seen some cool and random things and highly recommend this approach

  7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    Does anyone have any tips for keeping ants from getting into dog food? My dog doesn’t always eat right away at meal times and tends to let food hang around until he feels like eating it, but ants keep finding his kibble before he gets around to eating it.

    I tried buying a special “ant proof” bowl at the dog food store, but my local ants can’t read so they don’t know it’s ant proof and climb right in. These are little black ants.

    My entire neighborhood is infested with these ants (I’ll see swarms of them on the sidewalk when out on walks), so complete ant eradication from my property is not really a possibility. Pre-dog, I kept things under control by being very diligent about not leaving food out so they had nothing to find, and then spraying and cleaning the few times a year they found something anyway. With the dog, I can’t spray near where he eats and also there’s always kibble at floor level, and I’m tired of finding trails of ants multiple times a week.

    1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      We had the same issue & had great results using the small ant bait traps you put out on the floor. Within a week, we had no ants at all & no spraying!

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        How do you keep the dog away from the ant baits? I’d worry about just letting them hang out at floor level.

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          The ant baits are small enough you can put them under something like canned soup (or any standard can) to block dog’s access. We did that for our cats.

        2. DontTellMyBoss*

          I use borax baits everywhere and my animals have never bothered with them. I put the stakes outside by the foundation of the house. I have them stuck on the baseboards in my kitchen, under the stove, and in the windowsills in the room where I feed the cats. You will see increased ants for a day or two and then no more ants ever again.

    2. Double A*

      Can you put the dish in a shallow dish filled with water? Might need to do some creative bracing so your dog doesn’t push it next to the edge. Or surely someone has invented a dog dish with a moat and you could buy it.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        This is what I do for my cat food. I have a real problem with those ants too. I found a heavy glass bowl that sits in another bowl filled with water. But I know cats eat more delicately than dogs do.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My dog is a basset hound, so his ears would drag in the water if I tried something like that and he hates water so he’d probably refuse to eat if it meant getting wet. If he ate on command, I could put his ears in a snood first, but that’s not a good thing to make him wear all day, and if he ate on command I wouldn’t be having this ant problem…

        1. Pennyworth*

          It doesn’t need to be a wide water dish – it can be the same diameter as the food dish as long as the only way to get to the food dish is through the water, ie stand the food dish on something not quite as wide.

      3. Voluptuousfire*

        I’ve I had the same issue recently and done the larger bowl with a little bit of water in it moat trick. I use a large black takeout container and put a little water in the bottom of that and put my cats dry food bowl in it. It works! I also upgraded my cats dry food bowl from a small dog dish to a bamboo melamine bowl from target since it’s got a little lip at the bottom. Less likely to grow mold and all that.

      4. tangerineRose*

        This is what I’ve done for my kitties when I’ve had ant problems. Usually it’s a large oldish plate that I put some water in and put the kitty dish/bowl in the middle of that.

    3. Weegie*

      One thing I tried when I lived in an ant-infested place was to rub a cut lemon around doorways and other places they were getting in. It was semi-successful – they would run up to the lemon barrier and immediately turn away, but I did have to keep renewing the barrier and occasionally a trickle of ants would breach it. Could you try establishing a lemon perimeter around his bowl?
      In another place, the ants apparently liked lemon, so I tried ant bait drops – I can’t remember what they were called, but they came in a squeezy tube and you only need a very small amount at a time. It doesn’t keep them out, but as they go straight to the bait rather than other food sources (in theory), you could try putting it down away from his bowl to divert them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ants do follow a trail- maybe scent?- regular wiping down of areas where you see “ant highways” would be worth your time.

    4. KatEnigma*

      Try some (food grade) diatomaceous earth under and around his dish. It’s pet safe. We finally got the fire ants out of our tomato plants using it.

    5. WS*

      Diatomaceous earth in a circle around the area. Cornflour also works but isn’t as easy to clean up if it gets damp, which it likely will around a dog bowl. If there’s particular spots that the ants are coming in that aren’t accessible to the dog, you can use the ant baits that are sweet that they take back to their nests, but it sounds like you live in an area with vast numbers of ant nests, so it probably won’t work for long.

    6. Dwight Schrute*

      I transitioned my dogs from free feeding to set meal times. Helps with ants and then I know if anyone stops eating etc. cog dog radio has a good podcast episode on this and why you should stop free feeding. But basically, i put your food down, you have a chance to eat it and if you don’t then that’s fine I take it up until tomorrow. Not free feeding has definitely helped with ants!

    7. cat socks*

      I use a product called Maxforce Quantam. It is a gel that you put in small, enclosed trays. I have cats and they have never messed with them. I keep the traps near entry points. We also noticed that ants were getting in underneath baseboards, so my husband used this silicone sealant between the baseboards and floor. Definitely noticed a reduction in ants after that too.

    8. North Wind*

      Google “bugsnub ant proof food bowl”.

      It’s a platform with a detachable pet food bowl that comes with an ant deterrent gel that you put on the bottom of the raised portion that holds the bowl. The gel is USDA Food grade/won’t harm your pet.

      A few years ago I saw a few roaches and panicked and bought these, not actually knowing whether they would be effective for something as big as a roach. I can’t speak to how well they deter ants, but the reviews on Amazon (for ant deterrence) are great. By the way, this item appears to no longer be available on Amazon, but if you google “bugsnub ant proof food bowl” you’ll see a link to the bugsnub store’s platform product (it’s a little different, not sure if it still comes with a detachable bowl).

      The roaches were quickly dealt with by an exterminator, but I continued using the platform for years after since my cat was more comfortable eating with her food at a height anyway. I can say that the suction cup used to hold the bowl in place worked well on my own pet bowls, both metal and ceramic (though better with metal than ceramic). If ever the suction didn’t seem to be working, I’d just wash it and leave it a bit damp when attaching the bowl.

    9. Marigold*

      What worked best for us getting rid of ants was diatomaceous earth. You sprinkle it along edges of baseboards etc. The ants walk in it and it dehydrates them and they die.

    10. Chaordic One*

      When I had this problem, after trying all sorts of things, I finally broke down and used Ortho Home Defense. I sprayed it on the floor all along the baseboards and the bottoms of my kitchen cabinets. It is supposed to be safe for pets AFTER IT DRIES. It takes to 45 minutes or so to dry. You’ll want to keep your pets away from the area until it dries. You might even want to keep them away from the area for a bit longer. Anyway, it was a couple of years ago, it did really work and I haven’t had to spray in the house since then.

    11. barcodereader*

      IDK how big your dog is, but I found out the plastic disposal plates from Costco (probably other plastic plates too) are shaped in such a way those ants can’t reach the top. Like there is a base then they have to crawl upsidedown for too long a way to reach the top. You can reuse the plates they are very sturdy. I have the same sort of ant problem. Apartment so it doesn’t matter what I do, they just move nextdoor for a while then come back.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        Yes! I luuurrrrvve black cats and when I was looking to adopt back in 2020, I was looking for black cats exclusively. I spoke to a few rescues about black cats in their care and they said I was the first person to ask specifically about the black cats! Unfortunately the local rescues were not the best with listening to me (a few incidents with them gave me pause in adopting with them) and insisted on doing a house check in person (it was April 2020, so that was not happening. I don’t think they were tech savvy enough to figure out virtual home visits at the time)

        I ended up adopting a dilute calico a friend who does TNR rescued and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. She’s currently sitting in the bay window, getting fresh air and watching squirrel TV. :) She ended up being the ideal cat for me, personally wise.

      2. MEH Squared*

        This is my feeling as well. Black cats are my favorite AND I love all cats!

        When I decided to adopt cats, I knew I wanted two black cats who were bonded. The two brothers I finally settled on were being shown at an adoption fair the next day at a pet store near me. When I showed up, only one was there. I was crushed. Their foster mom told me the shyer one had ran and she decided not to chase him down because the brothers did not get one look in 6 months of adoption fairs. I cuddled the one brother who was there and then went to pick them both up the next day from their foster mom’s house. Sadly, one passed away suddenly when he was 10, but the other is still with me at 16 1/2. He’s my best boy.

    1. anon24*

      So much! It’s almost 3am local time here and I am still awake because I’m a night owl and Friday nights are great nights for video games, and my cat has been smothering me with kisses and draping himself over my computer mouse for the past half hour. I think he just wants breakfast :) but I am loving the attention and he can’t have food for another 3 hours anyway :)

    2. ResearchalatorLady*

      I love cats! I love every kind of cat. I just wanna hug all of them but I can’t… Can’t hug ev-ery cat! (Sorry/not sorry for the earworm! LOL!)

    3. I take tea*

      I do too. And what is fun is that even though I have two of my own, I always like to see other people’s videos, pictures and live cats. Today’s cat photo is lovely!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My feelings are tempered this morning by Destructobot’s new thing of leaping dramatically back and forth using our sleeping bodies as launch pads.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      We have a visiting cat, who is sleeping right next to me right now. He shows up most days; he’s a big gingery tom who purrs like a petrol lawn mower. He’s like a travel sized tiger. We are trying to come up with ways to make him welcome, but not so welcome he moves in. He lives in one of the houses which back on to ours. When he ventured further afield one day he got lost for five weeks. His owner has a tracker on him now, but we like to encourage him to hang out locally. He adores our garden because it’s half wild. As we rip things out and landscape it though, I want to replace it with things he’ll like. So many plants are cat toxic too!

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m a dog person, not a cat person, but the cats all like me (especially the one who thinks she’s a dog, I’m her favorite person). I don’t mind cats, but I hate having litter boxes in the house and the cat people don’t take care of them quite often enough for my preferences, so I’ve lost some dog beds and blankets to cat pee incidents. I would not have cats if it was just me in the house.

    7. TPS reporter*

      yep even when they show you what monsters they can be. one of mine loves to hang out in our fenced backyard. she’s as sweet as pie until a small furry creature enters the yard. last night she left us a trophy on the back step. it was a mouse, it looked like she had eaten it’s heart out I’m not kidding. he had this very wild look in her eye. but now of course she’s lounging and cuddling with me. maybe she was defending me from the rodent hoardes?

    8. seps*

      Cats are my favorite. Have you ever listened to Kitty by Presidents of the United States of America? I walk around singing “KITTY AT MY FOOT AND I WANNA TOUCH IT” all the time.

    9. cat socks*

      I didn’t have cats growing up. My husband grew up in the country and had barn cats who were strictly outdoors. We vaguely talked about getting a pet one day, but never had any concrete. Then one day about 10 years ago, a sweet tabby cat showed up on the doorstep. We rescued 2 other cats after him and had three for a while. Two of the originals have passed away and now we have five. We’ve never adopted from a shelter because they literally show up on the doorstep.

    10. Random Bystander*

      Oh yes–I have seven living in the house with me. My youngest (who is adult, works about an hour away but still lives here) has one cat. Then there are my outdoor cats (the colony).

      I intentionally adopted four from one shelter–a long-haired dilute calico who is the oldest at 14.5 years old, a calico who is about 11 years old who is believed to be the mother of the next two — both black and whites, a male with a “cow pattern” and a female tuxie. The three of them were found as a probable dump job in the middle of nowhere, but the calico was older than the other two (the younger two were in transition between baby teeth and adult teeth, which is fairly reliable for determining age) as she already had all her adult teeth. A few years after I adopted these four, my middle son (who was still living here, he’s since bought the house across the street from me) came home from his job and told me about a cat shivering in front of the house. I took her into the garage, gave her food and water, made a litterbox and she had horrible smelling diarrhea. So next day I take her to the vet, spend a couple hundred dollars getting her healthy and now she is my fat and sassy tortie cat.

      Since then, I also was feeding an outdoor cat when three female gray cats showed up. (Next door neighbor also leaves food out for them). The three grays were probably around 8mo old when they showed up, and then the dreadful summer happened. Gray #1 (with white bib and feet) had a litter of three kittens. Gray #2 (dilute calico short hair) had a litter with two kittens that I saw. A couple months later, Gray #3 (gray tabby) had four kittens. Only one kitten from Gray #1 and one kitten from Gray #2 survived out of that group. When they were about 6mo old, I trapped the surviving kittens and got them neutered. They are now my cats, gray #1’s son is a brown tabby who has dots rather than stripes; gray #2’s son is an orange tabby. Gray #2 disappeared right after I got Gray #1 trapped and spayed, and Gray #3 has also been trapped and spayed. This has gotten my mini-colony fairly stable, until this spring I had another charcoal gray (darker than the first grays) female show up. I need to get her trapped .. she had one litter already but none of them made it and she had no parenting instincts (one was born right in the middle of my driveway, I saw the actual birth), which happens sometimes when the female cat is very young. I’m guessing she’s now around 7-8mo. The consistent part of the colony includes the grays, a brown tabby tom who is probably dad to my brown tabby, a black tom, and a gray-and-white tom.

      I’m also currently wearing a t-shirt that reads “I (heart) cats. it’s humans that annoy me”

    11. GoryDetails*

      Long-time cat-person here. Currently have a bouncy ginger cat and two all-black siblings; went to the rescue to get a pal for the ginger cat and couldn’t bear to separate the bonded pair. It mostly works out, though once in a while they all get into a tizzy and I have to separate them for a bit.

    12. Rosyglasses*

      yes! my husband is the dog person in our family, and while I love our puppers, I adore our cats. I didn’t grow up with any animals, and cats have been a constant companion since college :)

    13. Bookgarden*

      Fuzzy ones, furry ones, cats short and tall!
      Silly ones, dapper ones, I love ’em all!

      … This is why I’m not a poet, but I am huge fan of cats!

    14. Hrodvitnir*

      Very much. My partner and I had a maximum of 13 cats. I “fostered” 7 kittens that would have been put down when I worked at the SPCA, and ended up taking a lot of older cats who had passed their last chance. We definitely feel black cats are the right cats for us, as 90% have been!

      The downside of taking on that many cats is eventually you have ongoing, back to back, health issues and death. We now have only two cats (and three dogs), and it feels a bit wrong! (Plus it’s been a pretty awful last 5 years, but hopefully we get a break.)

    15. cityMouse*

      I adopted a pair last summer, after my old kittycat passed away, and they were, and are, lifesavers. They add so much heart and meaning to my life. I adore them. Thanks for asking! Tell us about yours!

    16. allathian*

      I love cats too. Unfortunately my husband and MIL are very allergic, so we can’t have them. But cats are my favorite furry animals.

    17. Pointy's in the North Tower*

      My sausage princess would tell you that no, I do not like cats since I move him out of my lap when I have to get up. My sister and BIL’s cats would tell you I’m the best catsitter ever since I put the catnip out and give them treats.

  8. dearly beloved*

    I’m looking for wedding planning advice. If you had a wedding, what is one thing you did that you loved and what is one thing you would do differently if you could?

    Bonus question: I really don’t like shopping with other people. Several family members and friends have asked if they can come dress shopping with me. How can I say no without making them feel rejected? (CAN I say no or should I suck it up and let them come?)

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I’ve never planned a wedding, but I’ve been on the periphery of many people planing theirs, and I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that you can mix and match levels of fancy/expensive or simple/cheap depending on how important that particular thing is to you. My mom hired multiple professional musicians for her ceremony when she got remarried, but did not hire anyone to photograph or film it or have a meal during the reception because that wasn’t important to her and having both an organist and a vocalist was important to her. (One of the groom’s friends was the photographer for the local junior hockey team, and he took some posed shots after the ceremony but those were the only “professional” photos. The reception was mid-afternoon rather than at a mealtime and had cake and cookies.)

      You can just … not spend money on the things that neither of the people getting married care about, and unless those things involve the marriage license itself you’re still married even if you skip them! (I’m not saying to cheap out on everything, just that almost all wedding spending is on some level optional, so spend your money focused on the parts that matter to you rather than evenly on everything.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I will say that anyone planning to host a bunch of people for several hours–wedding, retirement, first birthday, housewarming–the standard is to provide something to eat, something to drink, and a place to sit. Do not wimp out on seating when you see the catering prices by deciding that no one you invited is going to want to sit for the several hours involved.

        I am all for a midafternoon tea and cookies–or late morning–but if you plan an event over a mealtime, you should either serve a meal or give everyone a clear heads up that there will be no substantial food.

        1. SarahKay*

          Definitely this. A few years back my parents went to a wedding held at midday, and then onto a small reception with no food. They got so hungry they ended up eating the confetti they’d brought with them as it was made from rice-paper – designed to be dissolved on contact with water – as the only edible item around.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, prioritize the things you personally care about for sure but hopefully one of the things you care about is your guests being comfortable and happy!

        3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Yeah, I should also note that this wedding and reception was on the shorter side (particularly the reception) so the whole thing fit neatly between “after lunch” and “before dinner”. I don’t recall any dancing or other reception activities beyond eating cake and maybe one speech. The vibe was definitely more “cookies and coffee after a church service for those who are interested in sticking around for a bit” rather than “big fancy party”.

          One of the other things not mentioned above that was important to my mom was not having to limit the guest list or get an exact head count in advance, because she was getting remarried in the town where she lived and had lived for most of her life, and where almost all friends and family of both sides lived going back decades (she was marrying her old high school boyfriend, who she’d reconnected with at a high school reunion, in the town where they’d both gone to high school). She wanted to cast a wide net and invite the people they’d gone to high school with and her other more casual friends. Since most of the people who came already lived in town, it wasn’t like a big “family reunion” situation where everyone wanted to linger at the reception for hours catching up. (One of the relatives hosted a post-reception dinner at her house for a smaller group of out-of-town relatives and the in-town relatives who’d want to spend more time with them, but my mom’s work friends were probably just as happy to be in and out in under 2-3 hours.)

          Anyway, I think sometimes it’s easy to just keep adding more things when you’re planning a wedding, because it’s possible to do those things and someone will ask you if you are. I try to remind people that the “required” list is very small, and everything else should be because it’s actually something that matters to you, and you do not have to get 100% completion on Big Event Wedding unless that’s the thing that you actually want. Just communicate clearly in your invitations and other communications what kind of event you’re having so your guests know if they’ll be fed and if they need to bring their own camp chair/pirate costume/kazoo so they can plan accordingly before they accept the invitation and make plans to attend.

          However, don’t do what my cousin did and have your “reception” at a restaurant where you expect your guests to buy their own meals (we were warned in advance about that part), and the restaurant won’t split checks (not warned about that part). After the meal, I ended up being put in charge of dividing up a 60+ person bill where a ton of relatives were also covering meals for other relatives, but didn’t actually know what those other people had ordered. It was a total mess. If you do decide to do this, warn whoever will be stuck dealing with the bill splitting a few days in advance so they will at least bring a notebook and a calculator to your reception, but really, just have a potluck in someone’s backyard instead if you can’t afford the meals yourself, or go someplace where people pay at the counter when they get their food. It’s ok to go cheap, but not in a way that burdens your guests with surprise logistics projects. (I was also surprise-put-in-charge-of-something when I arrived at his second wedding after that first marriage didn’t last, but at least that time it was only suddenly being in charge of the guestbook.)

      2. PhyllisB*

        One thing to skip is favors. Most people forget to take them or get them home and pitch them. Put that money into something that you find meaningful.

        1. California Dreamin’*

          Ah, yes, this one! I didn’t do favors and I can’t imagine anyone cared. I’ve seen a few cute favors over the years, but I agree they’re pretty much a waste.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          My wedding was in 2001, and we made a CD of love songs, music that was important to us, the song from our first dance, etc. We burned 100 copies, and did them up fancy–those were our wedding favors. That went over pretty well!

    2. AY*

      One thing I would do differently is not have planned a wedding for May 2020! (it all worked out–not remotely as planned)

      My friend secretly went dress shopping by herself and picked out a wedding dress. She later did a faux family shopping event with her mom, aunts, and sister and no one was the wiser! could be a good option for you!

      1. Chapeau*

        I did the secret dress shopping! It was great. I also went at an unpopular time (I called stores first) so that I didn’t have to deal with OTHER shopping groups.
        My tips are mostly for during the reception, but…
        Have the caterer set aside a couple of servings of food ahead of time, wrapped up and ready to go with you when you leave. The limo driver was tipped to pick up the cooler from the kitchen before we left, as my BFF and her brand new husband ended up walking to lousy fast food from their hotel as they had no car there and were starving. (This was pre DoorDash, etc, but it was a lifesaver for us, also pre DoorDash). I’d make sure several bottles of water/favorite beverage were included as well.
        Take time for yourself during the reception. Talking to everyone, dancing on command, etc is fun, but figure out a way to take a moment to stand back and really look at what’s happening instead of feeling like it’s happening to you, if that makes sense. So many of my “memories” are from the photos instead of actual memories.

        1. California Dreamin’*

          We also were starving and ordered Domino’s pizza from our hotel room after our wedding. Not ideal but kinda also a fun memory for us!

        2. ECHM*

          Second the advice to have food saved for you! Our wedding planner did that although she forgot to put in utensils so we were eating with our fingers in the hotel room. Fun memory.

        3. Autumn*

          The food for later is such a great idea. Apparently the food was fantastic at our wedding, but I didn’t get more than a bite!

        4. Nack*

          Agreeing with this! We almost managed this… leftovers got packed up in containers but then all sent to my parents house. Cue my husband and I raiding the vending machine in the hotel late that night!

        5. Stunt Apple Breeder*

          Addition to this advice:

          do not put the teenaged ushers in charge of the leftovers. They may skip the wedding dance to play video games at the hotel and eat everything plus half a leftover sheet cake while playing Mario Kart. (Lol)

          1. Generic Name*

            I dunno, this sounds like a win on all sides to me. Ha ha! (I have a teenage boy, and this sounds like an ideal evening for him)

            1. just a random teacher*

              Pre-COVID, we used to buy Costco sheet cakes to cut and serve at the end of high school graduation. One year, we wildly over-bought, and were able to send an entire Costco-sized sheet cake home with two very enthusiastic new grads for their post-grad party…that’s almost exactly the right age for attempting to eat an entire sheet cake while staying up all night playing video games to be a good bad idea.

    3. Pop*

      You can say no! There are some wedding things you’ll have to compromise on but I doubt this is one. Spend some time thinking about what you want out of the experience. Maybe you DO want your sister, or mom, or best friend to come. It is nice to have someone there with you IMO so it’s not just you. Then make it about that and keep it positive, not about who you’re excluding. “Oh it would be so fun but I’m just going with my cousin, we’ve been talking about this since we were little and are going to have a special day! Can’t wait to (share pics with you)(have you see it at the wedding!).”

      1. Pennyworth*

        It is also OK to shop for your wedding dress by yourself and just tell people that you’ve always wanted your dress to be a surprise for absolutely everyone on the day.

        1. Pop*

          Oh yes I absolutely agree! 100% do whatever you want. I took my fiancée with me and the whole thing took about an hour.

    4. Sundial*

      Would do differently: pick a more assertive maid of honor to be a good wingwoman. My best friend is very sweet but is quiet and meek, and I needed someone unafraid to get pushy. (Examples: The catering staff took our untouched plates while we were greeting guests, so my husband and I went hungry. She watched them clear the table but said nothing. Several relatives hijacked us and we got stranded listening to them monologue instead of enjoying our reception. I had warned MOH to keep her eyes peeled in case we needed her to bail us out, but she didn’t do it.) You need someone unapologetic about breaking into conversations, and you need a preplanned “save me” signal like scratching your nose.

      (If your question is “Why didn’t the best man pitch in?” the answer is that my husband was obligated to have his useless manchild brother in that role, and getting him to show up on time and freshly bathed was a feat in itself.)

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I would do less DIY and just generally… care less? That sounds bad lol but as you’re planning you kind of gradually lose perspective and end up caring about things that don’t matter. For example, I found these cute invites I really loved but they were too expensive and instead of just getting a cheaper one (seriously who cares what the invite looks like) I spent a TON of time making my own. They didn’t look like my original favorites anyway and they were so much work! What was I thinking? Similar thing happened with bridesmaid dresses (I did not make them though).

      I also would’ve asked the officiant more questions at the rehearsal. There was one part where he just said “then I usually do a short talk about love and marriage etc.” Found out (during the actual ceremony) the short talk was a Bible passage even though we’d made it very clear we wanted a secular service and had provided multiple nonreligious poems and readings.

      I loved everything else: my dress, the location, the flowers, we had a great photographer, everything that mattered to me *before* planning started was great. The things I would change are all things that I forgot weren’t important after getting fixated on an idea.

      1. Fish*

        The flip side of care less (which is excellent advice) is that if you find yourself really invested in what napkin colors you want, or having fancy chairs, perfecting the layout of the seating chart, etc, just embrace it. As long as you’re not doing it with every part of the wedding, it’s ok to have some tiny thing that objectively doesn’t matter, but that you’re still really committed to.

        For me, it was tablecloths. I saw these beautiful iridescent blue/purple tablecloths on Pinterest somewhere and fell in love with them immediately. Was anyone else going to notice the tablecloths? Probably not. Was I fully prepared to buy 10 tablecloths when our venue didn’t have them available just so I could have my shiny tablecloths? You betcha! (I got married in 2020 so we had to totally change all our plans, and TBH I’m still a little sad that I didn’t get to use the fancy tablecloths.)

        1. Double A*

          Agree with this! Like, if there’s a thing you think sounds fun to really pour yourself into, to do! I spent about 6 months working on our centerpieces. Each was different and a collection of various thrifted things. I had a blast doing them.

          I made our cake and had a great time doing it. We also had cupcakes because I couldn’t make a big enough cake; after trying all sorts of fancy cupcakes, the best ones were the $2 ones from our local grocery store. We added some decorations ourselves.

    6. Lemonwhirl*

      Inviting my mom to go wedding dress shopping is one of my most treasured memories. Which is unexpected because I’m not into shopping or dresses or feminine conventions and my mom and I had a VERY complicated relationship, but I knew it was important to my mom and something she’d always dreamed of doing with me. So we did and it was great. She came to the city where I lived (flew by herself, which was amazing for her) and we had such a great time. It was a really lovely experience. So don’t count out the group shopping – it can be great if you go with the right person.

      The thing I wish I’d done differently is involve my mother-in-law more. She wanted the day to special too and had different ideas about it. I think if I had found a small way to honor what she wanted, I could have prevented the one issue that came up on the actual day.

      And something I wish I had known is the 10 year rule – look ahead 10 years and will this detail or aspect really matter? The answer for most things is no. No one is going to remember or care about most of your wedding – spend your money and feelings on the stuff that really matters and don’t fret about the other details.

      Congratulations and good luck!

    7. Despachito*

      What I’d do differently – hire a good photographer instead of the cheap one who botched the one picture we wanted him to get right (I wanted the classic kind of bride-groom picture of the sort that are hung over your bed in your bedroom in an oval frame).

      What I loved – it was us who paid for our wedding and therefore nobody was interfering, and we were able to have it exactly the way we wanted. Where I live it is somewhat of a tradition (albeit fading now) that certain things around the wedding get usually paid by the parents of the groom and other things by the parents of the bride. I have heard so many stories of families paying but then basically stealing the whole thing by dictating how it should look like and to invite the obnoxious Uncle Dan and Auntie Liz.. no, thankyouverymuch.

      Re shopping – I’d tell them that it is very kind of them but I am doing this part on my own, and then concentrate on what you WILL be doing with them so they feel included. Anyway, even if you did it the traditional way you would have to pick one and refuse the other ones, so you would face almost the same situation.

      Good luck, and congratulations!

      1. Ali + Nino*

        +1 re: photographer! My husband’s friend worked as a photographer and hooked us up with a colleague for a deal. The pictures were…fine, but in retrospect I wish I’d thought more about what I really wanted in terms of style and in terms of shots of us as a couple. I also think we should have clearly articulated what we wanted to the photographer in terms of family photos because they made some assumptions, like taking TONS of photos of my mom’s (very small) side of the family and almost none of my dad’s much larger side. They also didn’t get a pic of my husband’s parents walking him down the aisle, which was important to him. So, don’t be afraid to say what you want – especially if you’re paying for it!

    8. Madame Arcati*

      For the bonus question – could you bear to shop with just one person? It would be much better than a whole crowd (lol like those awful people on Say Yes To The Dress who are downright mean to the poor bride they are supposed to love!) but it would be useful to have a second opinion/cheerleader and you can ask them to help you keep to your budget or remind you you can afford something a bit fancy, whichever is true, tell you honestly how it looks from the back, suggest a cute idea you might never have thought of, or just agree with you if that’s what you need. It would get you off the hook with everyone else if you said you wanted this to be a special experience with just you and your mum or oldest friend etc.
      A friend of mine had a little church wedding with no bridesmaids and her mum was weirdly totally uninterested in mother if the bride stuff so she was going to go to her dress fitting alone. I offered to go along and she accepted so I fussed round her a bit, agreed with her choice, assured her she looked beautiful, pronounced my opinion on the hem length as the shop lady pinned it, and took her out for a glass of bubbles after. I also paid attention to how it laced up at the back so I could help her into it on the day.
      This was all pleasing to her and she thanked me kindly in speeches (her father thanked me in his speech for wearing an absolutely ginormous hat but that’s another story…)

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My favorite thing about my wedding: we did our honeymoon first so that when the wedding rolled around, we were fresh off a week’s vacation and pretty darn relaxed. (For the most part. We got out of Florida about an hour before a hurricane closed down the airport, so that was a little fraught for a minute, and I had a sun-induced cold sore on my face in all my wedding pictures, but I don’t ever look at the wedding pictures anyway, so whatever.)

      The only thing I might’ve done differently was an even smaller guest list — another reason it’s good I don’t look at the wedding pictures is that there’s a couple people in there who are people that in retrospect I would have preferred not to have at my personal special occasion, including but not limited to the asshole spouse of a former friend who decided to pick a fight with me at my reception dinner (about my jerk mailman of all stupid things), so seeing people I don’t like in my wedding pictures annoys me. But I’m not much of a picture person, so there’s only like five pictures anyway. :) (We got married in Vegas and I think the only thing we paid extra for beyond what was included in the casino’s basic $350 wedding package was that I paid extra for orange flowers in my bouquet instead of white ones.)

      So I guess that’s another suggestion – if you (collective you, the couple being married) don’t care about something, don’t spend money on it. If it’s important enough to someone else to spend money on it for you, then you can consider whether that’s an option, but if you don’t want fancy cloth napkins with matching napkin rings, don’t buy fancy napkins, even if it will mortify Aunt Sue to see someone using – gasp – paper napkins at their wedding reception. And if you don’t care about the napkins and Aunt Sue really wants the napkins, then either Aunt Sue can pay for the napkins or she can go whistle.

    10. ResearchalatorLady*

      I bought a wedding “package” from a planning company and it was great. I just said I’d like this type of flower, and that flavour of cake from their “menu” of options. Too many decisions are exhausting or rabbit holes for me, so simplifying it really worked well. I would spend less on accessories – veil, gloves, bra, shoes, hose, garter were all things I wish I had gone cheaper or gone without. Good luck!

    11. philmar*

      I think of wedding dress shopping as different form other kinds of “shopping with people” because it’s more just modeling clothes for your friends. I would do it once for the performance and maybe to try on crazy ones that aren’t my style, then do it more seriously with an eye to buy on my own. I’ve loved going wedding dress shopping with my friends, but if they can tell you are hating it, I’m sure they don’t want to make you have a special day out that you’re not enjoying.

    12. kina lillet*

      Do differently: I would have expanded my wedding party. I really regretted not including my brother in the wedding party.

      Most valuable advice I got is twofold. First part, choose ONE wedding website/magazine/something for your advice and inspiration—looking to multiple will drive you bananas with the options and the pressure. Second, choose ONE goal with your partner, and that is your goal for the wedding. Ours was “have a nice time with my friends,” so we were able to look at, for example, flowers and be like “that just doesn’t serve our goal, we don’t need it.” No need to broadcast it—I didn’t tell my mom that our ideal wedding didn’t care about my distant cousins—but it was really helpful.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      “Oh, I already [have something picked out, something in mind, whatever] and I will just quickly run and pick it up.”

      You can get out of any thing almost. I did not want a traditional wedding but I was stuck with one. I weaseled out of almost everything with stuff such as:

      That’s covered.
      Already been done.
      I just have a phone appointment to wrap up the last few pieces.
      We’ve decided we don’t want x.
      Oh, we won’t be needing y.

      However, before all these answers started flowing, I made a broad announcement that we wanted everything VERY simple. This set the foundation for saying no later on.

      My dress was borrowed, so there was no shopping excursion. ;) My friend paid to have it dry cleaned and boxed. So after I wore it all I had to do was pay to have it re-cleaned and re-boxed.

      I am a big fan of making broad preemptive statements to reset people’s expectations.

      The one thing I would do different is not let someone else pay for the cake. They took it home with them and they were the first to leave. I never had a second piece of cake. No, they would not let me have a piece of cake when I asked later, either. If I would have known that was going to happen, I’d would have rather given the cake to the wait staff for them to enjoy, share with family. No, not ticked, why do you ask???

      Learning experience: When people pay for things for another person’s wedding there is a tendency for the payor to think they own that item.

      1. WellRed*

        No, that’s weird and that person is weird and rude and selfish and a tightwad. Can you tell I’m highly annoyed on your behalf?

      2. SarahKay*

        Wow, just reading this and I’m hugely ticked-off on your behalf. What a lousy way for the cake-buyer to behave!

        1. Reba*

          They took home the cake. They took the WEDDING CAKE away from the wedding. Honestly, this is the stuff of legends.

          1. WellRed*

            Don’t forget the part where the bride asked for a piece of the cake and they SAID NO! Legendary indeed.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Thanks, all, for proving that for every jerk move there’s many more people who “get it”. That means something.

      3. Meowsy*

        My mother was mad she didn’t get to ride in the limousine with the wedding party since she paid for it. She didn’t have to pay for it, mind you. I offered to pay, but she insisted. She also never said she wanted to ride in it.

    14. KatEnigma*

      Just say NO to the dress shopping. Maybe “I appreciate the offer, but I’d feel more comfortable dress shopping on my own. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.” Don’t waver. In general in life, just kindly but FIRMLY say no to things you don’t want to do. This gets easier with age.

      I had a lot of extra flowers, that I don’t regret. I had corsages for my great aunts and the little girl handing out the bubble wands and just anyone who took part in any way. It made them feel special.

      I also don’t regret asking my Uncle’s husband to be the DJ and asking that he keep the volume in a more comfortable range than most DJs do. He had multiple people approach him (including the venue owner!) to try to hire him at my reception.

      There isn’t really anything I would do differently now. I stayed under my modest budget (half the “average” wedding cost at the time) and a 200+ person wedding of my dreams. My parents and I split the costs and didn’t argue about anything. Oh, maybe that’s my regret- that I didn’t get to enjoy the reception food more. My guests raved about the veal that I don’t even remember.

      1. KatEnigma*

        One of those broad statements ahead of time about the way things were going to be, in my case, was that paying for something didn’t make it your way. They knew I meant it. My inlaws gifted us a check, no strings attached- half up front, half on the day. My parents and I agreed ahead of time who would pay for what, but I had final say about everything. It probably helps that my grandmother was a real controlling B (in life, not just about my mom’s wedding) and my mom was determined to not repeat that (again, in life, not just about my wedding.)

    15. Angstrom*

      When talking to caterers and other possible vendors, we found that the word “wedding” seemed to increase the prices. We started saying “planning a party…”.
      Favorite thing: Instead of a receiving line, we started the reception with a mixer dance that got everyone up and moving and meeting all the other guests.
      Do differently: we were so busy with guests that we barely ate anything all day, and only realized how hungry we were as we were driving away. Recruit a friend or two to run interference for you and give you a few minutes here and there to refuel and recharge.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Having known people in the industry, the reason they charge more for weddings is because weddings bring out the worst in both clients and guests, and providing their services for a wedding is significantly harder, more time consuming, and more hassle than an average party.

        They aren’t doing it to rip people off, but to protect themselves based on experience.

        I know everyone believes that they are the perfect clients and all their guests will behave. But there’s always something or somebody.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          Indeed. I’m always surprised to see that on a site that touts people getting paid what they deserve. Everyone says their wedding is different, they are low-key, they don’t want drama, they just want it to be chill. 99 times out of 100, that is not true, either with the couple or the guests. Catering runs into this because at a normal family party, the food will sit out for a couple hours and people will trickle in and out. At a wedding, food is served on a timeline between arrival, speeches, etc., and usually sits out for a lot less time. If plated food is involved, good night, because between the venue and the caterers you’re requiring a ton more staff. For the venue, a family party means minimum staff is usually fine. At a wedding, all bets are off, because it could be fine or it could be Aunt Marge got hammered and flooded the ladies washroom and now Grandma is tearing up the turf because everyone had a few too many. You don’t have exactly the right type of chairs and need to substitute a few more? At a family reunion, no one will care. At a wedding…if the bride doesn’t care, the bride’s mom or maid of honour might definitely care and light you up for it. Weddings are, for most people, a once in a lifetime, this must be right event, so how most clients won’t mind if the florist substitutes purple for pink tulips because that’s what’s available the day of the corporate banquet, a bride probably will care an awful lot.

          On top of all this, venues generally care about their image. They usually do not want to put on sloppy, casual affairs if they’re known for high-gloss showings. Their reputation is on the line for these events and it matters to them.

          1. Reba*

            Heh, I went to a lovely wedding a few years ago where there was some snafu and the vendor did not deliver enough chairs. Luckily the ceremony was pretty short and we ate dinner in shifts. It was at a place with a beautiful garden, so it helped that we didn’t have to just stand against the wall.

            I had a wedding coordinator — not to plan, but someone who was there to actually execute the event/speak with vendors/deal with issues and I don’t regret that at all

      2. Anono-me*

        I agree that some things jump in price because of the word wedding, but sometings jump in price because wedding stuff is more complicated. 5 dozen chocolate cupcakes with white frosting are 5 dozen chocolate cupcakes with white frosting, no matter what the event is and should cost the same. But, typically party makeup has to last about 6-8 hours while wedding make up has to last about 12-14 and photograph really well and takes a lot more work by the MUA.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          Another point which is overlooked a lot in the wedding discussion (which on the internet seems to frequently be a race to the bottom for how little can be spent) is that the great majority of wedding-related businesses are small local businesses, and lots of them are women-owned. Makeup artists, hair stylists, florists, small bakers, photographers, all the way up to caterers and event venues are, plenty of times, small businesses that live and die by weddings. The “wedding industrial complex” is a catchy term, but the woman who did my flowers for my wedding was a 1-woman show. My cousin is a professional MUA and for many years weddings were her bread and butter. Wedding makeup is a pretty big jump from “party” makeup considering what it needs to last through.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I consider the “wedding industrial complex” to be the media / social media / advertisers who seem to have convinced the average American couple that it’s shameful to have a nice little ceremony you can afford, instead of pretending to be rich so you can impress people.

            Not the individual business owners.

            Pay people what their work is worth, and adjust the size or scope of the wedding to make budget.

    16. KathyG*

      I’ll give you my standard two pieces of wedding advice:

      1. Ahead of time, assign someone to MAKE SURE YOU EAT BREAKFAST. In the rush of the day, it is entirely possible that you will miss lunch. (Ask me how I know)

      2. As long as both of you make it to and through the ceremony, no-one other than you will know if things don’t go exactly as planned. If you can internalize this fact ahead of time, you will be WAY less stressed.

      1. Jellyfish*

        Seconded on both.
        The two things I had planned the morning of: a nice breakfast and getting my hair done. That was a nice hour of peace in the midst of (joyful) chaos.

    17. Irish Teacher*

      I think you can definitely say no. Just put it as “actually I rather shopping on my own.” It’s your wedding; I don’t think you should feel you have to do things to please others and spoil your own enjoyment. If they are reasonable, they shouldn’t feel rejected if you say no to EVERYONE. I could see people feeling rejected if say, you told your mother or sister you’d rather go alone, then invited a cousin, but if you just prefer shopping alone, that shouldn’t be a big deal.

    18. Fiction Reader*

      My advice is do your planning in this order: 1. Choose your guest list. 2. Determine your budget. 3. Plan a wedding that allows those people to join you for that amount of money. If you go the other way around, you can end up cutting a friend off the list because your lovely venue is too small, or beloved relatives don’t come because of travel difficulties.
      I loved that a family friend planted extra flowers in her garden and as her wedding gift, helped my parents fill the vases for the tables. I wish I had spent more time with my out-of-town guests before the wedding. Afterwards I was too worn out!

    19. Bart*

      It was a second marriage for me and my spouse this summer. We both had regrets from our first weddings—being so busy/stressed out that we didn’t enjoy the event, in my spouse’s case not being allowed to help plan and for me, having to do it all. We also each had bad photos. As we planned together, we always prioritized what would make the wedding and reception a fun party. We had the reception in our backyard by the lake, a brief ceremony that included our kids (who wore what they wanted), delicious catered food, wine by Costco, and time to talk with our guests. It was so much fun! No centerpieces, fancy signs, photo booths, etc. to fuss with. Electronic invites—so easy and practical! And a photographer whose specialty was taking candid shots. I will treasure the photos of us interacting with friends and family during the reception—she somehow captured joy. My regret was not buying a larger package—I wish we had her there for the whole reception. We just bought an electronic picture frame (Aura) that we have loaded with our wedding photos—a great way to enjoy the photos!! Have fun with your planning and do what makes you and your partner happy!

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I’m fascinated by the references to people being hungry and getting food for “afterwards.” In Ireland…well, weddings run into the early hours of the morning – I was a bridesmaid at my best friend’s and…she finally told us we could go up to bed at 5am (I think it was about another hour before she finally got everybody out and could come to bed herself). And the hotel the reception in brought out cocktail sausages and stuff…after midnight, I think.

        The bride and bridesmaids also had a wedding breakfast in her aunt’s house, while getting our make-up and hair done, and then of course, the huge wedding meal around 5pm or so.

    20. Jellyfish*

      EVERYONE in your life will have an opinion on your wedding, whether it’s remotely any of their business or not. Be polite, tell them you’ll think about it, and then do your own thing. For people close to you, offer *one* brief explanation (I’d rather pick the dress myself), but no more. Trying to make everyone else happy is a recipe for making yourself (and your partner) miserable.

      Every area where I caved in to what someone other than my spouse and I wanted is a thing I now regret. None of it is huge, but I wish I’d been more assertive in saying no when I didn’t want to fulfill someone else’s vision for our wedding.

      We had an ice cream sundae bar that proved very popular. That part was quite fun.

      The photographer also took a lot of more artistic, casual, or playful shots of the family and wedding party, and those are the pictures I have framed. They include genuine smiles instead of the posed, formal family photos.

    21. Ellis Bell*

      Just say that you stumbled across your dress in a shop window, or that you’re having one made to your specifications (when you can be bothered getting around to it, which is never, and you’ll find one in the meantime). I’m planning my second wedding and I will never do traditional shops ever again. Having an entourage, drinks and a person telling you what to do is just so much faff as far as my process goes. When I did find my first dress (in a wedding shop) it was when I popped in alone, and other people were perfectly appeased for me to show it off at fittings as a fait accompli. This time around I actually find a lot of pale ballgowns and formal wear to be better quality and value than those marketed as bridal. They’re also a bit more unique which is what I struggled to find first time and ended up paying extra for. This time I found a lovely pale green organza floral over ivory silk that looks like a fairy’s dress. I got it in record time and for a bargain compared to wedding shops.

      1. PhyllisB*

        When I married (1976) we got married at my parents’ so there was no need for an elaborate gown with a train, etc. Still I took a look at the bridal shop (only one in our town.) The prices were outrageous, even the cheapest ones that looked cheap were over $200.00 (seventies remember?) Finally I asked my mother to come with me and help me pick something out because I was getting nowhere and she has good taste. We we were walking through a department store and fall prom season was in full swing. And I found it: an ivory colored linen dress made in a medieval style. It was on sale for $40.00. My grandmother from New Jersey brought me a champagne colored chapel veil that she paid less than $5.00 for and I was set.
        Extra fun fact: when my oldest daughter was in middle school they had a medieval fair and she wore my wedding dress and a crown of dried flowers. One of her teachers asked where she got her dress, and when she told her, the teacher said, “I didn’t know your mom was a hippie!!”

    22. Pop*

      As for resources, A Practical Wedding (both a website and two books) is great and I imagine you will like if you like AAM.

    23. seps*

      Question you actually asked:

      Loved – We went with cheap, popular food (local BBQ joint – we’re in the Midwest) and copious amounts of alcohol we bought at a warehouse store (you had the choice of beer, mediocre red or white win, rum/coke or vodka/cranberry). It was the perfect balance of cheap, appealing, and plentiful. Your guests WILL remember if they go hungry.

      Do differently – well, I figured out during/shortly after my wedding that my mother is a borderline narcissist, so I probably would not have allowed her to come.

      Unsolicited advice: At the end of the day, what’s important is that you got married. The wedding/reception is just part of it. You still have the rest of your life to go. Don’t put all your hopes and dreams on this one day. Make it fun, make it you, don’t say yes to things you don’t want to say yes to, don’t let anyone (including you) make something a bigger deal than it has to be.

    24. Anon-E-Mouse*


      We delayed the start of our honeymoon by about 10 days. It meant that we weren’t scrambling to get organized for the wedding and honeymoon at the same time … and we got to recover from the wedding while being paid to go to work the following week :)

      Wish I’d done differently:

      I didn’t involve my mom very much in the planning. She lived 2500 miles away, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted, my fiancé and I were paying for the wedding ourselves, and my mom wasn’t the type to insinuate herself into the process. (She’d had a very pushy mother who took over her wedding when she was very young and she didn’t want to be like her.)

      My mom died a year after we got married, after a short battle with cancer. I found out later from my Dad that she had expressed to him (during the lead-up to the wedding) a wish to be a little more involved in the wedding planning but hadn’t wanted to push.

      I deeply regret not doing something with her – maybe inviting her to fly out for a weekend visit. Even if decisions had already been made, she could have come to a dress fitting or a visit to the venue, or the cake tasting.

    25. Mugwump*


      First figure out who is important for you to have at your wedding. How many people? Then you can tailor your wedding and reception based on numbers.

      If you’re doing much of your own planning, think of what’s important and what is not. Personally, we figured we needed an officiant, food, and music.

      By the way, if you’re booking reception venues separately from hiring a caterer, don’t tell them you’re having a wedding- they quote you a higher price immediately. Call it a 50th birthday party for your parents, or a reunion, or anything but a wedding. Beware of wedding “packages”. We considered fabric chair covers, favors for the guests, giant centerpieces to be money wasters. Wedding venues are a HUGE business and they will do everything to convince you that you need all sorts of useless stuff.

      As we didn’t hold with things like “can’t see the bride before the ceremony” stuff, we scheduled our photos before the ceremony.

      Receiving lines: they’ve gone out of style in recent years, but they’re incredibly useful. They allow you to greet everybody personally. We did not want to go from table to table during the reception, so having the receiving line immediately after the ceremony was a great choice. And because our photos were all done before the ceremony, there wasn’t a big time gap between the ceremony and reception.

    26. Golden French Fry*

      We had a 120-ish person wedding planned for Spring 2020 (hah.) Ended up doing an 8 person thing at an AirBNB and looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing! I think that money we saved will be much better served for us going towards a house payment, college savings for a baby, etc. than a party. So I’d say the thing I loved was the intimacy + cost savings. But large weddings are a blast, so it’s great if that’s what you’re planning!

      One thing I’d change is not letting family members’ wishes that didn’t gel with our plans live rent free in my head. I wish we would have just repeated “this is the event, come or don’t, we love you!” instead of agonizing over other people’s unrealistic desires. “We aren’t planning to have X, but if you want it there and are willing to fund it, we will accept.” is also useful (spoiler alert, they usually back off – a family member wanted a fancy rehearsal dinner and tons of weird keepsake stuff. She didnt want those enough to buy them herself though).

    27. slmrlln*

      Think about your priorities BEFORE talking to vendors. We had a lot of guests traveling long distances, so having good, substantial food and a convenient venue that looked nice and didn’t require a lot of set-up were top priorities. Catering and venue ended up being 80-90% of our budget. I also decided that I really cared about flowers. On the other hand, we made our own playlist for dancing, I got a silver dress on sale for maybe $50 at Dillard’s, and I think the only item of clothing my husband bought was a tie. No regrets, and everyone told us they enjoyed it. Your priorities may be different, but the point is not to spend a lot of time and money on the parts you don’t actually care about.

    28. MissCoco*

      My wedding is just a few weeks away, so no wedding advice, but for the dress shopping, I would suggest offering an alternative activity (if you actually like these people well enough that that’ll be fun for you). I had my mother in law come out for drinks once the dress was picked to share pictures and also chat about fun wedding planning stuff like color scheme and her son’s suit.
      Something like veil or accessory shopping could be an alternative, or maybe you could recruit them to do something low-pressure like stuffing envelopes (with some snacks or drinks). You could also just invite them to spend some time with you without any wedding related activities.

      1. Anono-me*

        Actually Bridesmaids Dress shopping might be a good ‘group shopping’ activity. As that way you can getting most, if not all, of the fittings done and dresses ordered as part of the group shopping experience.

    29. Jenny Islander*

      My husband and I delayed our wedding for years because we thought we had to do the big white dress and find places for all of our numerous relatives to sleep and learn how to be comfortable with eyes on us and drink champagne without grimacing, yadda yadda weddingindustrialcomplexcakes. Then we finally realized that we didn’t have to, and we were very happy.

      So my advice to you is to start with two things:

      1. What are the legal requirements for recognition of a marriage?
      2. If you follow a religion, what are the religious requirements (not cultural traditions, purely the requirements) for recognition of a marriage?

      That’s your basic framework. That is literally all that has to happen.

      A wedding is a ceremony–even a completely secular marriage typically requires people to gather in a place to say things before witnesses–to which you can add whatever YOU find meaningful. You can build up a series of ceremonies that precede and follow the wedding–or not. If you want to preface the actual ceremony with the Ceremony of Witnessing Selection of the Dress, do so. If you don’t, don’t.

      The issue here may be with people who place great emotional value on a ceremony that you have chosen to forego. The solution is to devise a polite and kind way to say “Actually, this isn’t your wedding.” Perhaps, in this case: “I prefer to go shopping completely on my own, but I would love to get together with you. Let’s meet for coffee on [date]!” If they get angry at you about your honesty, you can’t control their emotions,

      1. Reba*

        “people who place great emotional value on a ceremony that you have chosen to forego”

        This is well-put and good to have in mind going into conversations, whether actually planning or just chatting about your plans. In my experience it worked well enough to say cheerfully “oh, we are not doing that! I’m so excited about ____ though blah blah blah” Just keep it positive and change the topic. Outside of your nearest and dearest, people don’t really need to know *why* you are not doing this or that, and almost none of it is mandatory.

    30. the cat's ass*

      first marriage;very young and stupid. My mother planned almost all of it and did a great job, but i was so unformed as a person that i shouldn’t have been getting married, let alone picking out napkin colors. It was a package deal with everything at a reception center. One of my former housemates went this route about a month ago, and it was fantastic! And they loved that it was one-stop shopping, and that everything, from the venue to the DJ to the photog to the cake, was included. The wonderful couple and all those attending looked to be having a great time.

      second marriage; had opinions, was living far away from family, decided to elope. That was good too!

      Wishing you the best-it’s YOUR wedding so ultimately you and your partner get to call the shots.

      1. Generic Name*

        Your description re first and second weddings is so apt. I was VERY YOUNG for my first wedding, and my mom also planned the whole thing. Part of it was because I was living in a different state and wanted to have the wedding in my hometown. It was a lovely wedding, but a lot of it was what my mom wanted, and at the time was okay with me.

        Second wedding was nearly the polar opposite, and we also eloped. I called it a planned elopement. No guests, just the officiant, photographer, and us. It was important to us to have a “professional” officiant (meaning a justice of the peace or minister/pastor), and we wanted a non-denominational spiritual wedding. We found a local ordained minister who does elopement packages for a living. People travel to our tourist destination state to get married by this person.

        It was important to us to get married in a natural setting outdoors, I wanted a dress that made me feel like a princess, I wanted a gorgeous bouquet, and I wanted amazing photos. So that was literally all we paid for. I got my hair done by my long time stylist and did my own makeup. Well, the venue was just a natural area park, so that was free, and we just hiked in and picked a location. We got married on a Tuesday as the sun was setting. It was perfect, and the photos are gorgeous. 10/10 would do again.

    31. RagingADHD*

      We did an early -afternoon ceremony with a swing band tea dance and hot & cold appetizers. It was family – friendly and there was space outside the venue for kids to run around.

      We absolutely loved it. Just the right mix of fancy without being overly formal.

      The thing I would do differently would be to dictate the color / fabric of the bridesmaid dresses. I wanted to make it easy, so I sent my attendants the colors of my bouquet (wildflower mix) and told them to get whatever they liked in one of those colors.

      It was the wrong move, because they all over thought it and stressed themselves out about shoes, hair,.etc. They didn’t believe me when I said “you’re all over 30, I trust that you know how to dress yourself.”

      So for a do-over, I would have a bouquet of blue hydrangea and tell them to get a dress from David’s Bridal in royal blue, maybe give them 4 or 5 choices of cut. Make it simpler for them.

      1. ECHM*

        Our attendants wore black pants and white shirts (men) and black dresses/pantsuits (women), then we accessorized with ties for the men and scarves for the women in our color – azure blue. I figured there was only one shade of black and they could always reuse a black outfit. Everyone looked very classy!

      2. Anono-me*

        This is really good advice. I was a “pick your own dress” bridesmaid twice. Both times were incredibly stressful.
        The first time, I wound up tracking down the 1st example dress (pre easy online searches). The second time, I bought 3 dresses and took them to the bride and said “Which one?”.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Yeah, I thought it would be more respectful and less dictatorial because they all had very different body types and personal styles, so I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured into wearing something that made them uncomfortable. But it just wound up being a hassle where they were trying to guess what I was thinking, and I honestly didn’t want to think about it at all.

          It would have been better to make more decisions up front, and give them some leeway within those parameters to suit themselves.

    32. Solokid*

      One thing we did we loved was paying for it ourselves!!

      I see wedding invites with parents’ names first and it always seems sad to me (though I understand the whole point of being “the host” and wanting clout).

    33. Solokid*

      one thing I would do differently is eschew a seating plan and use multiple small tables.

      the best wedding I ever went to had tons of small (6p max) tables and tons of bar height tables. it helped so much with mingling and letting people meet or sit alone if they so chose.

    34. No Tribble At All*

      I loved that we got married in a venue that was unique for us (a museum). I would’ve spent more time curating a playlist — neither of is big pop music people, so it was hard to come up 3ish hours of happy appropriate music.

      It may be helpful to have one or two good, trustworthy people to come dress shopping with you, if you trust their opinion. I was very anxious about dress shopping bc I have body image issues, and the style I initially wanted was… more conservative and frumpy-looking, because I didn’t think I’d look good in a strapless dress. The saleslady suggested I try on a different style, and I wouldn’t if my friend hadn’t encouraged me (mostly with a “what’s the worst that can happen? You spend 3 minutes trying it on, you don’t like it, we try something else!”) If your’e afraid you’ll get easily upsold or something, having someone else to pull you aside, come up with an excuse to leave, etc can be helpful.

      Don’t “suck it up”! It’s your wedding. Draw your boundaries.

    35. Westsidestory*

      Thanks for asking this – I hope you feel helped but I really enjoyed learning about so many weddings from the inside! The commentariat does not disappoint!

      Decide what’s important to you and budget that first, the all the rest afterwards. For us, it was the FOOD – it had to be fabulous so that’s where 85% of the budget went. My dress was $80 off the rack and I did my own flowers so no big expense there.
      Make it fun, bring only the fun people with you. I wanted an Italian wedding singer so we literally traveled to 8 different dinner clubs to audition suitable ones. The cake tasting was four gal pals at the Italian bakery was epic!

      We also had a Broadway theme and our program was designed like a Playbill. With “who’s who in the wedding” with photos that really did assist a bunch of strangers to get to know each other more. Many friends helped to make it happen and we were able to honor them all in the Playbill – if they had businesses we put in “ads” for them on the back page.

      We had a blast and I hope you get the wedding that is perfectly yours.

    36. Cohort of Concern*

      Loved: Low key and in the back yard.

      Would do differently: Wouldn’t hire a photographer. The one we had messed up his camera settings so a sunny afternoon looks like night in all the photos. Also took time away from our guests making us stand around in dumb poses. The best pictures are the ones friends took and sent us prints. Nowadays, I would set up a site for people to upload and exchange photos, so you can see everything!

    37. Clisby*

      We went down to the courthouse and got married. I am so glad we did this; I’ve always been horrified at the thought of the kind of weddings I’ve attended as a guest. I can’t think of anything I’d have done differently.

      1. allathian*

        Neither my husband nor I enjoy big events in general. We got married at the courthouse with my sister and SIL as our witnesses and my parents, MIL, and her husband as guests at the ceremony, and my FIL came to the reception.

        I was 8 months pregnant and had the perfect excuse to avoid a big wedding neither of us wanted. We ate from the coffee service we had requested as a joint wedding present, which they gave to us the evening before so that we could run everything through the dishwasher, and had coffee with a savory pie and a cake. I wore black pregnancy pants, black flat shoes, and a colorful tunic that went halfway down my thighs. No alcohol, partly because I was pregnant, and partly because my dad’s a sober alcoholic and my MIL and her husband abstain for health reasons. No honeymoon as such, although I went on maternity leave a week after the wedding, and my husband took the following week off work to fix the nursery.

        This was the wedding all of us wanted, and thanks to the pregnancy I got no snide comments about letting the side down by not organizing a big party (all of my married friends had lovely big weddings).

    38. Pool Lounger*

      I loved that we did it all our own way—we had our favorite Thai and Vietnamese food, walked down the aisle together, had it outdoors, basically just had a big party with the people and things we loved. Don’t let other peoples’ opinions or tradition rule YOUR wedding.

      One thing I’d do differently—we hired a photographer friend at a reduced price to do pics, and he got great shots of our friends, but I don’t love all our wedding portraits and he skipped over our family. I’d have either hired a photographer who wasn’t a friend or organized photos better.

    39. TheAG*

      One thing we did that I would never regret is hire a band. It was an expense but we made up for it in different ways -made the wedding cake and appetizers myself, our yard was the venue, bought the alcohol ourselves and hired 2 people to bartend, got the flowers from globalrose and had someone put them together for me). I really wanted people to dance, and the only weddings I’ve been to where everyone dances is when there’s live music. Bonus points if the neighbors a mile away call the cops (I had invited all the neighbors I *thought* would be in hearing distance)

      One thing I would not redo is put the favors at the tables. Our favors were miniature maple leaf bottles of maple syrup that we made from trees in our yard, and the young children had a field day getting hopped up drinking maple syrup. In all honesty I wouldn’t have done favors at all but you know…it was our yard lol

      As for dress shopping, I bought mine “used” on ebay…a 1200 dollar dress for 200 dollars, with the tags on (I guess the woman selling it had bought 2 and picked a different one to wear?). So no dress shopping. But it’s absolutely NOT something you have to do with others, either way.

      Just make it about you. Pick the things you love, bring the people you love together, and have a great time.

    40. Not So NewReader*

      My friend does weddings- she marries people.
      In the meetings before hand, she advises the couple that NOT less than three things WILL go wrong. Remember, you are still married at the end of it all. Those things are small potatoes. The goal was to get married and the goal is accomplished.

      I like this because it resets the way things may feel in the moment they happen.

    41. small town*

      I chose not to care about lots of stuff. Engraved invitations were important to me (old South). I got the wedding dress, solo, from a warehouse type place that accumulated the left over dresses from other stores. When looking for bridesmaids dresses I did not have a “color”, just something that worked for both of them. White flowers only. We did splurge on a carriage ride from the church to the hotel for the reception. I felt like a princess! Frankly, no one remembers the details. We have an album that we look at on the anniversary. Gave the dress away to a friend’s daughter.

    42. Angstrom*

      We figured out-of -town guests who got in the night before might feel at loose ends the morning of the wedding, so we had a “meet the couple” breakfast at a local park. Very low-key: reserved a picnic shelter, bagels & spreads & such, coffee, juice. It was a nice opportunity to talk to people without the pressures of a reception.

    43. Anono-me*

      We got married long enough ago that wedding videos weren’t very common, my intended wanted one and made the arrangements. It was fabulous. There were so many things going on that I didn’t really remember until I saw it on the video. I am definitely glad that we spent the money and energy on it.

      I do wish that we had done a receiving line, we didn’t because two of the people who would have traditionally been in the line couldn’t. It was the right choice for the situation; but it was that ment trying to visit with everyone informally at the reception and I know people were missed.
      I know you asked for two things, but look here’s more…

      Have a stash of protein bars and water for the wedding party to raid all day. (Especially for between the ceremony and the reception if you have the Catholic Gap.)

      If anyone in the wedding party has a strapless dress, ask the seamstress to add removable and or invisible straps. (A well fitted strapless dress will stay up without a problem; but you can’t always tell if a dress is well fitted enough to stay up without wearing for a while.)

      For suits, you may want to look at buying instead of rental. For our wedding, buying a nice 2 piece suit with tailoring, shirt, tie and square was $10 more than the absolute cheapest (and ugliest) rental option and $25 less than the cheapest tolerable rental. In addition to saving $35 a suit and then having a suit afterwards, this also ment the suits could be tailored to fit better and no one had to worry about returning a rental after the wedding.

      Also look at buying vs rental for other things. (It was weird what was cheaper to buy and give away afterwards)

      Have comfy shoes to change into. You two are going to be on your feet all day.

      If someone wears a wedding veil, take it off as soon as is practical. Getting hugs while wearing a wedding veil means getting the veil pulled on and getting your hair ripped out.

      Have a picture list for the photos, including names. Also, ask you guests to share their pictures, some of my favorite ones are candid friend photos.

      Congratulations on your newest adventure.

    44. Healthcare Worker*

      At their weddings both of my kids planned a time for the couple to be alone together for a short while, about 15 or 20 minutes, following the ceremony (and family pictures) and before the reception. It was a great idea! They were able to spend time together celebrating their new marriage, and it ensured they were able to taste the delicious food before the party began. I highly recommend adding this to your schedule.

    45. Alexis Rosay*

      Be open to rethinking the traditions that don’t make sense–we stuck with the best man / maid of honor / etc roles and I really wish we’d been less rigid. Why shouldn’t my brother have stood next to me instead of the “male side”?

    46. Chauncy Gardener*

      I was super happy we only had 40 people at our wedding. It was small and intimate and many said it was the best wedding they’d ever been to.
      I wish we had had a professional photographer vs my sister’s friend. She did a terrible job. We should have had a list of specific photos we wanted.
      Good luck!!

    47. Carlottamousse*

      Loved: Having so many people from different facets of our lives come from all over to celebrate our wedding and have a weekend of fun. My spouse and I had similar priorities — we wanted to have good food, to enjoy the party, and to have it go as late as we could get in the US (I’m used to weddings where I’m from going til 5am, which is almost unheard of over here). In terms of concrete advice, we hired a “day-of” planner who in leading up to the wedding also gave us lots of referrals for vendors, which saved us a ton of time in vetting vendors. For things we didn’t care about but those who we cared about did care about, we let them handle (e.g., my mom handled flowers and my father handled wine selection). What I’d do differently is get more photographs with my mom. And maybe forego the wedding video, because that vendor was such a headache to deal with afterwards.

      Bonus question — just tell people what you’re comfortable with, and that no, you’re not organizing any group dress shopping adventures. I did dress shopping with my mom and luckily found the dress with her on day 1 (or 2), so I just told friends this was something I was doing with my mom, and then I would figure out if I needed to do additional shopping and would let them know about it. You can definitely say no!

  9. CJ Cregg*

    Fun to have the weekend thread go up on a Friday night!

    I’m curious about fan mail. Have you ever sent any? Did you get a response?

    My best friend told me she wrote to a writer she admires and got a personal response back. It never occurred to me to do that before but now that she put the idea in my head I’m making an excessively long mental list of all the people I admire who I could write to! Is this common to do? Do you usually hear back?

    1. Aphrodite*

      I once wrote to Henry Petroski, author of books I couldn’t believe I loved. He is an engineering professor at Duke University specializing in failure analysis. His books are wonderful to this decidedly un-engineering reader. He makes them so fantastic, so interesting that they are “un-put-downable.” I first discovered his book, The Book on the Bookshelf, because for a long time I was fascinated by books about books. Then I branched out and have read several of them, every single one a fantastic read. You wouldn’t believe how interesting a pencil or a toothpick is when explored by him. He has a great sense of humor,, writes well, and is compelling when he discusses failures in bridges, pencils, and more. I especially loved the bookshelf one and have read it at least a dozen times.

      1. cityMouse*

        oh thank you so much for this! He sounds a lot like Margaret Visser, who writes of the anthropology and mythology of everyday things. Her Much Depends On Dinner is a delight! She lays out an ordinary meal, then deep dives into all the history and such around each item. Beautifully written. I can’t wait to read Henry’s books!

    2. Rosyglasses*

      Yes! When I was in high school I was enamored by Anne Rice and she wrote me back! That was pretty epic for a 16 year old.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’ve written to two writers and got a response. In the pre-internet days, I mailed a newspaper clipping to novelist Tom Robbins about a silly event that clearly was inspired by a scene in one of his novels. He wrote me a nice postcard back.

      I’m a fan of Diane Ackerman, who has written a lot about the natural world. She’s inspired me as a writer for many years. I’m forgetting now the specifics of what prompted me to write to her. I thanked her and shared my own Earth Day post on my blog about the importance of kids being able to connect with nature, even in urban areas, sharing my own experience growing up in the city. I was blown away when she included a link to my blog post on her Twitter account. Looking for it now, her tweet appears to be long gone. I’ve posted in another comment a link to what she inspired me to write.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        You can find my blog post that Diane Ackerman shared with a search for these keywords: WoodswomanWrites lilacs Earth Day. (Sorry Alison if my original direct link wasn’t allowed.)

    4. Rara Avis*

      I’ve written to a couple of authors , on paper in my childhood, via email more recently, and got responses.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I wrote to Eric Carle and sent him a drawing when I was a kid and he wrote back.

      Not me, but my favorite story about this is one where Maurice Sendak responded to a fan letter with a drawing of a Wild Thing, and the mom wrote to him again telling him her child ATE THE DRAWING and he was very amused about it

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        This story is cracking me up! In addition to Maurice Sendak’s wonderful children’s books, he had a great sense of humor. Your post reminded me of the interview he did with Stephen Colbert. I just rewatched it and it’s still hilarious. Check it out on YouTube with a search for Maurice Sendak and Colbert Interview.

    6. Anima*

      I wrote to Cornelia Funke, author of Inkheart and many more books, and also got a reply! By her sister as her assistant, but I was happy nonetheless. Also got an autograph card.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have a tattoo that is a mashup of a Seanan McGuire song lyric and Dark Tower (Stephen King) imagery that I shared with her on Livejournal (lo these many many moons ago :P ) and she replied that she was moved to happy tears to see it. I totally screenshotted and saved the exchange. :)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          It’s a black tower in silhouette rising out of three big blood-red roses, and the lyric “My story is not done” (in my handwriting). :)

    8. UKDancer*

      I wrote to Stuart Burrows who is a (now fairly old) tenor. He was my grandfather’s favourite. When Granddad and Nanny were celebrating their ruby wedding my parents took them to see him perform and my mother (who could charm the birds from the trees) persuaded him, despite being a man not given to doing dedications, to dedicate a song to them. Nanny was absolutely made up about it and couldn’t believe it was actually them he was talking about. She died a year later so we were really glad we did it. My grandfather lived another 20 (happyish) years. When Granddad died I listened to Stuart singing a lot and it helped me process things.

      So I sent him an email saying how much he’d meant to my grandparents and how often I listened to him now. I got ever such a nice email back from his assistant saying he was really touched to have had such a positive impact, which was really pleasing.

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      When I was around 8 or 9 I wrote to NBA star John Havlicek, he wrote me back and included a signed photo

    10. fposte*

      It is (or was) common for elementary schoolers to have to write an author as an assignment. My favorite example was received by Betsy Byars. “Dear Mrs. Byars, I hope you are alive. If you are dead, then I will have to write a poem.”

    11. Megan M.*

      I’ve written to a few authors (well, emailed) and usually get a response back! Mostly just nice responses, although I did have an author actually shame me for getting her books from the library instead of buying them. She said if people kept doing that she wouldn’t get to write her series anymore. That was at least ten books ago, and I haven’t read or bought a single one of them.

    12. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      I once wrote to an author who had opened up a whole new part of life for me, and she sent me a lovely card back. It was awesome.

    13. Bagpuss*

      Not regularly but once or twice.
      I wrote to Sir Derek Jacobi after seeing him on stage when I was about 18, and he wrote back.

      I also got a lovely letter back from Diana Wynne Jones when I wrote to her .

      That said, I think that the more famous they are the less likely they are to see/respond to everyone who writes.

      1. Crackerjack*

        I had a two letter exchange with Diana Wynne Jones when I was a kid! As in I wrote, she wrote back, I answered, she answered again! And sent me a signed copy of her latest book. I treasure the letters and the book still.

    14. Cyber Stalker Fan*

      I’ve written to several people and usually get a response back. I can’t begin to explain why I chose to write to these people. Many times I’ve corresponded with obscure cult singers and authors that I suspect most people here have never heard of, so I’m not going to mention them. However, I received a very detailed and thoughtful reply to an email from the late author, Patricia Nell Warren. I ‘ve also written to, and received responses from, Chris Butler (leader of ’80s new-wave music group, the Waitresses) and the late singer, Andrew Gold. I wrote to Richard Carpenter, but the letter came back in the mail as “no longer at this address.”

    15. Anonymous cat*

      Before the internet took off, I wrote to an author and included a SASE because I’d read that postage gets expensive and they’re more likely to answer if you included one. A couple years later she did write back and she included a postcard showing the cover of her latest book.

      I didn’t mind that it took a couple years, I was just glad she answered! And I was charmed by the postcard (though I knew it was part being nice to a fan and part promotional. It was fun!).

      In more recent times, I emailed an author about how much I liked a short story and really hoped it was setup for a new series. She emailed me back within the week (!). I was so incredibly delighted!

      I knew answering an email was only a few minutes to her, but I was still so happy. An author wrote to ME–like a real person! :)

    16. Veronica Marx*

      In high school I wrote a letter to Seth Green, who I was IN LOVE with during his stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I got a postcard back, obviously boilerplate, but I still have that postcard and get a shot of nostalgia whenever I look at it. (Also, I wish I had kept a copy of the letter I sent him–I’m positive it was very cringe and would love to read it now.)

      Not exactly a letter, but more recently I listened to and loved Ann Patchett’s book of essays, These Precious Days. I wanted my own copy, so I ordered it from her bookstore online and mentioned in the order how much I loved it and would love to have a signed copy. I did get a signed copy, and a nice note when my order shipped thanking me for my note (also clearly from someone working in the store, not Ann, but it made me smile anyway).

    17. Pool Lounger*

      I wrote to an academic writer I love and got a response! He’s pretty well known, probably more in England than in the US, so I didn’t expect a reply, but I loved his work so much I wanted to thank him for doing it!

    18. Bookgarden*

      This is a little different, but I once went to a meet and greet with Neil Gaiman (my writing hero) back in the 90’s when I was a teen. I made a packet with some poems and fan art, and two letters: one from me and one from my best friend who couldn’t make it. My Mom and Dad suggested we put our addresses on the letter, so we did, expecting nothing really.

      During the informal meet and greet, where he walked to all of the guests individually and spoke, I gave him the manila envelope with the collection of teenage fanmail, expecting he’d give it to one of his agents or setting it down. He ended up carrying with him the whole time, around forty more minutes, so I was thinking he’d be a bit irritated.

      Three weeks later both my best friend and I received post cards from him, encouraging us to keep writing and believing in ourselves. Definitely a fantastic memory.

    19. brighter than sunshine*

      I wrote an email to Jason Webley. It was an impulsive thing. I had a silly question, and I wrote and sent the email without spending too much time on it, signing off with “Lots of love from a whimsical, lost girl.”

      I got a very nice response that tickled me pink, and he ended with “There are much worse things to be than whimsical and lost” which was a lot more profound than it looks and I still think of it sometimes.

    20. Star Struck*

      My daughter (age 5 or 6) sent a letter to an author of a book about volcanos and got a personal answer back !

    21. OtterB*

      Both of the ones I remember were pre-email and much, much earlier in the author’s career than now. One wrote to the author c/o the magazine or book publisher and, as someone else suggested, preferably including a SASE. I wrote to George R R Martin after he won a Hugo for the novella A Song for Lya (quick check: that would have been 1975), telling him how much I enjoyed the story and asking if he’d written anything else. He replied and sent me a list of a half dozen other stories he had published. I also wrote to Lois McMaster Bujold after The Mountains of Mourning and Shards of Honor but before Barrayar, hoping that she would write a sequel to Shards of Honor. She replied that it was in progress.

      I now follow several authors I like on different online venues: Twitter, their own blogs, Discord. Mostly I just read, but I occasionally comment and they comment back.

  10. WoodswomanWrites*

    Let’s share about birds. This evening, I’m hearing two great horned owls hooting nearby. This is the first year they’ve been so close and I need to go out one of these nights and see if I can find out where in my neighborhood they are.

    I joined a guided walk with my local Audubon group. Among other birds, we got to see both a peregrine falcon and a a prairie falcon which is much less common where I live. This is my second walk with this group, and it confirmed that it’s not the right fit for me. They are nice people. But I, as a typically slow hiker who likes to check out natural wonders along the way, found it excruciating to take nearly two and half hours to walk 1.5 miles on the flat.

    I’ve been looking online at guided birding trips in Alaska and internationally. One of the other attendees happens to run a birding tour company professionally, so I asked if his trips typically have the same pace. When he said yes, I thought to myself, “No way.” That was a good lesson. No judgment for folks who bird this way, I’ve just discovered it’s not for me. If I’m going to a cool place, I want to be moving and experience more than half a mile at a time and discover other wildlife, plants, and landscapes.

    I’ve changed my key words for my online search for trips, from guided birding tours to guided birding and hiking tours.

    1. A Simple Bird*

      I’ve always been so enchanted by the idea of ornithology and birding and whatnot, but I have no clue where to start as far as learning more or getting involved with local groups. I’d love to hear about how you or others here first got started with birding, and if you’ve got any recommendations as far as resources and such for a complete novice!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        First, because this is such a passion for me personally and because I was a professional naturalist, I can’t help writing a long post in response. Birds, nature, and writing make me happy so here’s my tome in response to your question.

        For me, getting into birding was a gradual thing. I spent many years hiking and appreciating what was around me in general before I became interested in learning about birds beyond thinking their songs were cool or one that I saw flitting was pretty.

        What inspired me was a combination of getting field guides, going out with friends who were interested in birds and knew more, and a life-altering organized trip when a friend invited me to tag along with a bunch of bird geeks with two personable and skilled guides. That was when I first visited the important wintering grounds of the Pacific Flyway in California’s Central Valley and was surrounded by thousands of ducks and geese. And that motivated me to learn about their fascinating behavior and not just species identification

        I would start with whatever interests you. Do you have a backyard that the same birds visit seasonally? Is there a park with a pond where you can watch ducks and wading birds? Do you hear a birdsong you really like and can you watch for the bird that makes that sound? Then you can look them up and read about them.

        Helpful tools include binoculars to get a closer look, a camera/phone to take pictures so you can look them up later, and a field guide for your area. While there are a bunch of apps online, there’s something about paging through a book and comparing pictures of similar and different birds that I think deepens my understanding.

        When I first started birding, I’d bring along the book I most recommend, the Sibley Guide. David Allen Sibley’s books are great because he includes illustrations of birds in all their life stages–breeding plumage, juvenile, etc. He has two paperback versions of the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of North America. There are two books, one for the West and one for the East. And anything by Sibley is excellent. Check out his website at SibleyGuides DOT com.

        The Merlin app, created by the Cornell of Ornithology, is excellent and includes identification both by sight and sound. Their website All About Birds is great.

        Because birding is so popular, pretty much everywhere has a birding group. If you search online for your area, you’re likely to find something. A lot of local park agencies lead walks with rangers whose focus is on teaching people to bird. That was super helpful for me when I was a beginner. A lot of places have birding festivals where you can join a leader for whichever topic interests you.

        There are a couple websites/apps called eBird and iNaturalist. What’s great about these is they have maps of where people are seeing birds. So if you want to find a place with a lot of birds near you, go to eBird and you’ll find the hotspots based on where people are posting their observation.

        And finally–remember this is for fun! If you like to look at birds, you’re already a birder. No expert knowledge required!

        1. slowingaging*

          I live in Southern California and in the morning I hear an owl. Well I hear something hooting. How would I know what kind of Owl it is. I don’t want to stalk it, but I am curious.

          1. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

            Use the Merlin bird identification app! It lets you identify birds by sound. It uses your location to decide what birds it could be. I won’t say it is 100 percent accurate but if I see the same bird come up a few times, I know it’s around. I’ve learned a lot from it!

            (If it’s the mornings, could also be a mourning dove, which has a throaty cooing sound that some people mistake for an owl.)

            1. slowingaging*

              Thank you so much. I am always grateful and amazed and how much information and knowledge everyone shares.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I was looking around for a new hobby after we gave up on fertility treatments – I had extra time and energy, and wanted something decidedly non baby friendly.

        As far as resources go – you can get a decent set of starter binoculars for about $100 US. Look for something that’s around 32×8 (32 is the size of the lens, 8 is the magnification). Larger lenses are much heavier, higher magnification has a smaller field of view and is more jittery. A birding guide for your area is also useful. Download the Merlin app for your phone – it’s great for “what’s that bird” for beginners. If you like data, check out ebird.org, which has a compilation of user provided birding reports for various areas, and is a good way to learn what you can see in your local area

        Birding groups tend to be quite welcoming. Many areas have local groups that do free to join weekly or monthly walks with a group, with people to help you figure out what you’re looking at. You’ll go “ooh, a duck” and they’ll tell you exactly what type of duck it is, and that it’s, say, a breeding male coming out of eclipse plumage that will be migrating north in a few weeks.

        WoodswomanWrites is right about the pace of birding trips. Part of it is that if you stand still and quiet for ten minutes or so, birds will start to ignore you and come out of hiding, so you will see more of them. Getting a clear look/ID of something at a distance or bouncing around in a bush can take a while too. Serious birders tend to *really* care about the details of identification, and getting particular target birds when they’re travelling. I’ve never done a pure birding trip (I like variety in my vacations), but when I travel, I like to book a private guide for the day. You often find experienced birders who do this as a side hobby. You get a half or full day tour of local birding sites, with someone who knows the birds and where to find them, and often they’ll pick you up at your hotel and drop you off and provide lunch.

    2. Jo*

      Depending on how far you want to take your international trips and your bird preferences, East Africa has some amazing birds and bird watching opportunities!

    3. Madame Arcati*

      At my previous home, a flat, the only things I saw flying about were magpies and the occasional chinook. Now I have a garden I see robins, sparrows, blue tits and wrens, and sometime high above, red kites. Pigeons. And more chinooks, I can tell them by their “song” now lol.
      I’ve seen goldfinches and wagtails by the river nearby too, and in it, herons, egrets, moorhens and coots. I love coots’s big feet!

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        Omg, yes to the coot love! The first time I saw one I was in my 20s, and I was like, “This bird cannot be for real!”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      A little off point- but have you ever found a hummingbird nest? Just curious about them. Someone commented the other day that they are gone from here. huh? Apparently, they up and moved away from a friend’s property.

      1. Generic Name*

        I’ve found a couple of hummingbird nests! I’m a former field biologist, so one of the nests I found when I was doing a nest survey. Another I found just walking down the street in a small mountain town.

          1. Generic Name*

            Different bird species make nests that are characterized by size, shape, material, and location. So on the large end of the spectrum, bald eagles make enormous nests (like 6 ft in diameter) made of branches and sticks, while hummingbird nests are made of fibrous material held together with spiderwebs, and they stick bits of lichen on the outside, and they’re maybe the size of a tablespoon. Doing bird nest surveys for a job meant I had to learn to identify which species make which nests. :)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              oh my! I found a very nice book one time that showed the nest and identified who it belonged to. The plates were in wonderful condition, with the colors in the photos not fading. The book was $60 at that time. Obvs I did not buy it. (regret, regret)

              The size of a tbs. smh. And they can fit several eggs in there. That is amazing.
              I have an older neighbor who I have a cuppa with every morning. She has asked me a few times about their nests and why she can’t find one. I can’t wait to tell her. (grinning) Thanks.

    5. KatEnigma*

      We had a peregrine falcon that caught a sparrow and was eating it front and center in the tree in front of my picture window a couple years ago. I banged on the window, and it took its catch and flew off.

    6. Trixie*

      Bit if a tangent but this thread reminded me of a movie, The Big Year, book by Mark Obmascik. Movie has Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin. True story about three obsessed men who compete to see who will be the “best birder in the world” by spotting the most species in a year.

    7. PsychNurse*

      I went to Cape May in the spring for the birding festival. It was great! Also, I learned that I do not need to go on multiple bird-watching walks per day. Many of the participants would attend a sunrise walk, then a 9-11 trip, then a 1-3pm trip, then a 3-5pm trip …. I like birdwatching but not THAT much. I realized that spending a relaxing weekend just sort of chilling, interspersed with ONE bird-watching event each day, was a lovely way to spend the weekend.

    8. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Enjoyed seeing a mourning dove (I think) perching on the railing of my fire escape this morning. Birds don’t usually hang out there, so it was a real treat to see one up close like that.

      1. Girasol*

        I have some California poppies growing semi-wild in the xeriscape next to the porch and two mourning doves walk around the porch pecking for seeds. Sometimes they peek in the glass at me sitting six feet away inside. I’ve never seen doves so tame.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

          This one was keeping an eye on me as well, I think! Kind of neat to think that sometimes, we can be entertainment for them (or maybe she was just making sure I wasn’t a predator).

    9. Reba*

      This morning I saw a northern flicker, one of my favorite locals!

      I’m like you. I’ve been on one or two birding walks like the one you describe. While enjoyed getting to use the powerful scope the guide brought, it was winter in Massachusetts… not exactly when I want to be just standing around outside! Mass is great for birds though, for real. We usually hike with one or two pairs of lightweight binoculars, trading off power for compact carry size.

  11. Bumblebeee*

    My autistic son qualifies for an assistance dog. We have never had a dog before and want to make sure we make the right decision either way. If you’ve had an assistance dog can you share your experiences, what to expect, and any general advice? We will likely adopt a labrador as a puppy and take on training ourselves. Having a fully trained assistance dog is also an option but it’s much costlier and comes with a long wait list where we are.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Even wait lists for dogs who fail the course is pretty long.
      I am familiar with the hoops that they put seeing eye dogs through. There are very strict rules and the dog moves from home to home in the training group. Each home brings a different level of training but it also gets the dog used to going in and out of all kinds of settings. The dogs are trained where to ride in a car, and oh so many other details. It’s intense.

      Just because you have a pup does not mean the dog will have the disposition/personality/learning ability it should have to be of assistance. It is possible that you could spend as much if not more on DIY.

      If you forge ahead with your own pup, I’d recommend getting on a wait list just in case the pup does not work out. I’d also recommend picking up pointers on how to select a pup that would be a good candidate. What the pup is doing at 6 weeks old matters, and can begin to telegraph how the pup will do in a service role.

    2. Not A Manager*

      If you’ve never had a dog before, you might be under-estimating what it will take to train it at home into an effective assistance dog.

      I have friends in similar circumstances who connected with a trainer and paid the trainer as a consultant and intensive interventionist, but did most of the training and practice work themselves at home. The dog still boarded at the trainer’s a few times for intensive training, though.

    3. Tib*

      I get the desire to create your own service dog, but you have to think about this as an extra cute “durable medical device” and not an extra talented pet. Just like you wouldn’t make your own c-pap machine or wheel chair, you really shouldn’t make your own service dog. Besides the work of training, you’d be depending an awful lot on pure luck to get a good match and what if it doesn’t work? Service dogs come with contracts and options. Plus, I expect your life is hard enough already; taking this on would be exhausting for everyone.

    4. strawberry ice cream*

      I have a friend who had a medical aid dog – it had to undergo two sets of training: one for her specific issue, which the dog passed very well, and then she got the dog. It was a year old. Then the dog had to undergo obediance training. This took … years. The dog failed the obediance course a number of times before it finally passed. Luckily my friend wanted a dog anyway! After finally passing the obediance test, the dog was a good dog when it wore its working jacket. But otherwise? the dog was a bit exhuberant. When walking with my friend and dog in an off-leash wooded area we always knew where the dog was by the screams of people. It was a full-size poodle and loved to jump on people.

      The moral of the story: you’re getting a dog. Be sure you want a dog.

    5. fposte*

      Labradors are lovely, and puppies are lovely. But all puppies are *work*, and labs are slow to mentally mature, meaning that mischief may last longer than with some other breeds (we couldn’t put the kitchen garbage can on the floor for my lab cross’s entire life). I’d give serious consideration to working with a lab rescue for a slightly older dog, or even seeing if there are breeders who have pet-quality post-puppies.

      I definitely wouldn’t self-train without an expert guiding you for a first dog. Maybe another first step would be to identify an expert to work with and get their input in dog selection.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I love labs, but they are so exuberant! High energy, don’t always know their own size and strength.

    6. Llama lover*

      I think autism assistance dogs are amazing. There are a few episodes of “dogs with jobs” that feature autism dogs.

      Judging from guide dog documentaries and my own experience with my dog (not a service dog but does have some titles), the dog won’t function as a reliable service dog until it’s 18 mo – 2 yrs.

      If you haven’t had a dog you’ve trained before, I would get on the wait list instead. If you decide to train your own dog, I’d hire a trainer to evaluate the puppies for you. It will be a big time commitment, so be realistic if you have time and energy to do the training and care for your son. Good luck.

    7. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      What does this dog need to DO? If it’s more on the lines of “give good snuggles when kid is having a breakdown”, I’d start with a sensible grown dog and work from there. But if it’s more like, “do complex tasks and exercise judgement on when to do them,” just wait for the trained one.

      Lots of service dog puppies wash out of service dog training when it’s run by pros and they’re bred for it. They are too hyper or too stupid or have health problems or just aren’t suited. I think your odds of starting with a puppy and no experience with dogs at all and ending up with a useful service dog are pretty slim.

      There is a reason they cost a lot of money-there is a lot of work and skill that goes into making one.

      1. PsychNurse*

        Yes and I don’t know much about autism service dogs so I’m interested in the answer just to satisfy my curiosity!

      2. Bumblebeee*

        I’m not comfortable detailing my son’s specific needs here, but if you’re curious I highly recommend googling to see how assistance dogs make a massive difference to autistic people’s lives. It’s much more than “give good snuggles”.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        It’s going to depend on what support and at what level is needed from the dog. As Bumblebee doesn’t want to discuss their son’s specific needs, I’ll throw in one of mine that was never able to be properly handled by humans. I used painful stimuli to ground myself if I was stressed, and it was rare for any adult who wasn’t my parents to even feel comfortable stepping in to stop it, much less for those adults to actually be able to handle the situation without making it vastly worse. A service dog can both prevent those behaviors and provide an alternative grounding mechanism, both of which would’ve been pretty valuable for me as a child!

    8. VI Guy*

      I know blind people who have guide dogs and it went well because the training charities breed for specific traits and a lot of those pups aren’t suitable so they fail out of the program ensuring that blind people don’t get a problem dog. As mentioned by others, the dogs are often only well trained when they are two years old, and there are no guarantees. A coworker has a great pet because the dog failed his guide dog training. Friends of mine got a lab pup for their autistic child and after several years of training they have a dog who was unable to qualify although he does help the child in the way that any pet is cuddly and friendly and provides comfort when out on walks.

      If you get a puppy then find someone who has a track record of breeding assistance dogs. There are no guarantees, but they should know which pups in a young litter are more likely to do well. You want a pup that is curious, confident, but not too bossy.

      1. ronda*

        my aunt has been doing puppy raising for a while with a dogs for the blind group. she has had about 7. only one made it as a seeing eye dog. and it was the one she said she would take back if it failed seeing eye training, cause it was a really good dog.

        3 of them went to law enforcement as sniffer dogs, after they failed out of seeing eye training.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I also have a family member who is a puppy raiser for a service dog organization (more general than just seeing eye dogs). I think about half of their dogs have ended up with jobs, most as service dogs but at least one who failed the service dog training and ended up as a law enforcement sniffer dog. The other half failed out of service training completely and went on to become pets. So even with an organization that breeds dogs specifically for service work and experienced puppy raisers, most dogs don’t end up as working service dogs.

    9. The OG Sleepless*

      If you’ve never owned a dog, I wouldn’t advise taking on a Lab puppy even as a pet, much less as a service dog. Get a fully trained dog from an organization that trains them.

      1. Chestnut Mare*

        Thank you. I really wish that we could get over this idea that Labs are easy family pets. They are usually biddable and sweet, but they require a LOT of training and they need a job to do. Anytime you meet a Lab that is obedient and disciplined, so much work was put in behind the scenes to get it there.

        There is a reason that trained service dogs are expensive and have a long waiting list. You’re paying for the professional training, and that takes a lot more time and effort than most people can imagine.

        1. VI Guy*

          Guide dogs are with puppy raisers for a year, so it’s training as well as volunteers who care for a dog for a year and are willing to give it up. I love labs, but they are completely goofy until about 8 months and then they slowly improve their focus.

    10. KoiFeeder*

      I’m also here to rep a trained service dog from a reputable organization.

      I’d also like to ask what may be a silly question- have you looked into trained assistance dogs of non-labrador breeds? A family friend has a service akita for PTSD rather than autism, but if she’s representative of the breed as a service animal, I’d strongly recommend akitas for an autistic child based on my own experiences being an autistic child. Miss Misty is flat-out bulletproof, and is very capable of handling situations where her owner-charge is experiencing emotional distress.

    11. Healthcare Worker*

      Unfortunately a dog you train yourself will probably not qualify as an assistance dog but will legally be considered a pet. Having a fully trained dog is the route to go.

      1. fposte*

        That’s not correct–the law doesn’t differentiate based on self-trained or professionally trained, and accompanying guidance explicitly permits self-training.

    12. Bumblebeee*

      In the part of the world where I am, self training a labrador is the only realistic option right now. To get a fully trained dog comes with a 5+ year waitlist, and because of the backlog that covid created we can’t even get on a waitlist probably for another year or longer. I would also love to get a dog that’s already certified. Given my son’s needs though I don’t want to wait that long.

      The reason why I asked about labradors is because there is a specific puppy available. If we pass that up now we are back to the 5+ year waitlist and 1+ year waitlist to go on a waitlist.

      1. fposte*

        Can you clarify why passing up this puppy means the waitlist rather than getting a different dog to self-train?

        The thing I’d encourage you to think about is that you’re waiting two years even if you get this puppy, because of how long training and maturity take, and there’s a high chance it won’t succeed as a service dog, because that’s pretty common. Then you’ll have to decide whether to keep this dog, which family may have bonded with, and to start from scratch with dog number two or to replace this dog. To some extent that’s faced by anybody self-training, but since you’re not accustomed to dogs I think it’s especially important for you to think about what you’ll do if the dogs begin to multiply.

      2. Macaroni Penguin*

        I’d get on the wait list for a trained service dog.

        Maybe get the puppy and try to train it as a service dog while you’re on the wait list? Just be comfortable with the possibility of Pupper turning out to be a family pet. Even with your best training, it might not be Service Animal Material.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        Unfortunately, I really do think getting on the waitlist is a better idea than trying to do it yourself. If this is your first time trying to train a dog at all, a lab is not a good choice. There is a chance that you may have to return the dog to the breeder. In the absolute worst case scenario, the dog may have behavioral issues that weren’t apparent as a puppy, and there is that small but real chance of a bite incident occurring.

    13. Emma*

      If you haven’t had a dog before, I would assume you won’t be able to train it for special assistance. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and while I’m fine training them for normal dog things (walking on leash, going potty outside), there’s no way I’d feel ok training a dog for any kind of special task.

      If the goal is for the dog to help with something specific, I’d go with the pretrained dog, even if it means waiting, and fundraising.

      If the goal is just to have a cuddly pet, then I’d just get it and train it on your own.

      Good luck!

      1. Emma*

        And as a reference, I grew up with a lab, and currently have an 11 year old one of my own.
        My cousin trained a dog from a puppy to be a guide dog (through an official organization), and it was a really intense, rigorous training process.

        Like she had it practice going on planes and things. She trained it for about a year, before it ultimately failed out of guide dog school.

        My cousin had tons of preexisting dog experience before this (worked at a pet store, owned dogs, wanted to be a vet). So it really is challenging to train!

  12. Cordless Headphones*

    Can anyone recommend cordless headphones or earbuds that would be comfortable for someone with tragus and daith piercings? Open to any shape or style, as long as they stay put, instead of ejecting themselves from my ears constantly.

    1. Duck Jumper*

      Oh! I can answer this one! I have both a tragus and daith piercing in one ear and use the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds, they’ve been great.

      Obviously how comfortable you find them will depend on what jewellery you have in your ears (my tragus has a straight bar and my daith has quite a delicate hoop), but the Bose for fine. They are pricey but the comfort and noise cancelling made it worth it for me.

      Hope this helps!

    2. anon24*

      I’ve found that pretty much anything with an over the ear style is ok with my daith. I don’t have a traigus but I have 9 piercings total in each ear and I have 3 different styles of over the ear Bluetooth headphones and they are all fine. In ear only are brutal on my daith because of the pressure to stay put.

  13. A.N O’Nyme*

    After a few weeks absence: writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes .

    I’ve had a busy few weeks but I did get a good chunk written, so that’s nice. Also got a compliment on my writing style so I’m feeling all fuzzy now.

    1. Maryn*

      The writing goes, in fits and starts. I’m about three-quarters done with the fourth and final book in a series, and I have zero ideas for what to do next. I suppose something will come. It always does. Or I could revisit some of my many abandoned novels.

    2. Cendol*

      Welcome back! I took a break from original work to write (of all things) a Columbo fanfic. Part one is finished, and I promised to have part two ready by the end of September; not sure that’s going to happen anymore, as life has thrown me *several* curveballs, but I’m eager to get back to it.

      On the original works front, I’m working on edits for a short story that will be published next year. While I have gone through the editing process before, last time only a few minor changes were needed. This time the editor has asked a crucial but difficult-to-answer question that will involve rewrites and a fair bit of head-scratching from me. I find myself feeling surprisingly vulnerable about it! It’s weird to have developed the thick skin needed to face nonstop rejection but still quail in the face of edits. I also have no idea how professional novelists manage to do this without losing their minds. I only have to fix about 2,000 words and can’t imagine needing to go through this process for an entire book.

    3. OyHiOh*

      Because inspiration strikes at the worst possible times, I have, in the middle of moving house, also started a biography about someone I know well, whose story deserves broader recognition.

      They are reading a draft chapter this week, in order to help me answer the question should this be a novel, with names and identities altered but acknowledged as based on real events; or a biography that contains novel-istic styling but with permissions obtained from those who can still grant permission. I’m leaning towards the later but we’ll see what the primary subject says before making a final decision.

  14. A.N O’Nyme*

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

    I’ve been playing a lot of Half-Minute Hero of my PSP during my commute this week. It’s a bit of a parody of RPGs, in that per level you have half a minute to go through an entire RPG (though you can buy more time from the Time Goddess. In case you’re wondering why she’s making you pay despite being the one asking for your help: because she’s just that greedy)

    1. Porch Screens*

      Still greatly enjoying Hollow Knight! It’s definitely not the easiest game if you’re not used to Metroidvania-type games (which I was not) but I’m enjoying slowly picking up on the lore and backstory of the world as I run around slaying things. The atmosphere of the game is very…haunting. Or perhaps melancholy. Especially combined with the music.

      Also, to Jackalope who asked me about Triangle Strategy during last weekend’s thread, I’ll repost my reply in case you didn’t see it (since I posted it late into Sunday): I enjoyed it, though it did take a little getting used to. It’s much more of a ‘low’ fantasy setting than something like Final Fantasy Tactics and the story focus is primarily on geopolitical shenanigans rather than some fantastical world-ending threat. While each unit is unique and has their own (mostly) unique set of moves, there are no job classes and your units get stronger primarily by just leveling them up and upgrading their weapons. The music is lovely and I actually enjoyed the story and the different battles that can take place depending on the choices you make. If you’re on the fence about it, I believe the demo is free to download and goes through the first 5 chapters or so – and if you purchase the full game, you can import your save from the demo and keep going.

      There’s also a lot of dialogue and some pretty lengthy gaps between battles, especially early on. It does eventually pick up the pace, though.

      1. Henry Division*

        I played Hollow Knight earlier this year and it might be one my favorite games ever. It’s beautiful, fun, and was truly challenging. Fingers crossed that we’ll actually get the sequel next year.

      2. Jackalope*

        Thank you! I did miss your response last week so thanks for reposting. My husband bought the game already so if I want to try it I can. But I’m the sort of person who can only do one or two games at a time and he likes to bounce around from game to game so has a LOT of them; I try to save my energy for games I think I’m likely to enjoy. I may give it a whirl and see how it goes.

    2. Anonononononononymous*

      Well, we had a very close and very frustrating fail trying the Alpha version of the tek cave to ascend on The Island in ARK last night. We’re regrouping today and making some modifications to our strategy and trying again.

    3. Nicki Name*

      Very pumped about the impending return of KeyForge! If this is news to anyone, go check out its fundraising campaign on Gamefound.

    4. Jackalope*

      Still making my way through Fire Emblem Warriors: 3 Hopes. I’m still enjoying it a lot, so huzzah! Also, my husband just started an RPG with me and some friends called Uncharted Worlds. It’s a space opera game that looks to be fun, although hard to tell yet because we just started.

    5. Bookgarden*

      I haven’t been able to play games as much lately due to MIL staying with us for awhile. I went back to Arceus to finish up my Pokedex and am almost done, just two to go!

      Also paying FFXIV and working on my island sanctuary during rare alone time. It’s fun and can be interrupted easily, so it’s perfect for my living situation right now.

  15. Sundial*

    Not sure if this is a cleaning question or a chemistry question.

    I have a vinyl-coated wire dishrack, and the coating is turning sticky. Nothing I scrub it with makes the stickiness go away; I think the material itself is starting to break down.

    Is there any way to salvage it? Between stocking issues in stores, and the fact that my kitchen’s finish/color scheme is not currently popular, I can’t find a replacement I’m happy with.

    1. Kate, short for Bob*

      scrubbing with barely-wetted baking soda is good when plastics start to go gloopy – I’ve rescued a couple of torches that way. But for a replacement – most metals and all woods pretty much go with everything.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that the coating is breaking down. I find that the wire coated racks last about 10 years or so then it’s time for a new one. If the coating looks cracked- they call it crazing in ceramic ware- yeah, it’s done.

      You could try some blue dawn and a scratchie. You could try some Goo-Gone.

      I ended up with a white rack from Ace Hardware. It’s crazy how much they cost now. It doesn’t match anything.. worse it’s white so every speck shows. It’s not my first choice and not my second choice either but it’s what I brought home.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      We have the KitchenAid full size dish rack that was Wirecutter’s top pick. It’s not cheap ($60), but it’s the best one I’ve ever owned—sturdy, easy to clean, and comes in variety of colors

    4. Maryn*

      When vinyl-clad wire gets sticky, there’s no fix. It’s breaking down and is likely to being cracking and peeling away fairly soon.

      Don’t you hate that the colors you choose for your kitchen, which will last decades, mean you can’t necessarily find replacements that don’t clash?

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I haven’t the foggiest idea what the proper cleaning product, if any is, but when I’m trying to get something off I run down the list of solvents in order of convenience:

      soapy water
      rubbing alcohol
      mineral oil
      elbow grease (can be used in combination with any of the above)

    6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I’m no help with cleaning your current one, but I’ve been very happy with my collapsible silicone dish rack, which I bought at Homegoods for probably $10. That might be a route to try for a temporary replacement while you wait for your current color scheme to come around again on the kitchen trend wheel, and since it collapses down you can store it in a drawer when you’re not using it rather than leaving it out all the time.

    7. Observer*

      What the others said about it breaking down. In general, actual scrubbing tends to accelerate or even precipitate the process, because of physical damage to the surface.

    1. Juneybug*

      I agree and the font is perfect!
      Alison listened to everyone’s many, many, many opinions and somehow made it all work out perfectly!

  16. matcha123*

    I feel very uncomfortable when people spend money or time on me. I love the *idea* of someone spending money and devoting time to making me feel happy, but when it actually does happen on occasion, I feel like they are doing it out of obligation or pity.

    Logically, that shouldn’t be the case. But, I think that because much of the time I spend with family and making them happy comes from a place of obligation, I tend to assume others feel the same. I also grew up poor and every purchase needed justification. When I was younger, friends at that time who were significantly better off than me would berate me for not chipping in for food that I didn’t eat or other expenses. (“Ugh, you work a job, shouldn’t you have money?,” “You should pay for us since you have a job!”, etc.)

    If any of you have felt anxious over similar things, what are some steps you’ve taken to allow yourself to enjoy being treated by friends who want to treat you and who want to spend time with you and make you happy? I guess I also feel guilty that I may not be able to repay them in the same way.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Some one or something is killing your joy. Usually when stuff sticks and we can’t shake it off it’s because the negative message came from more than one source, as you show here.

      I can remember my mother sneering, “We don’t need charity.” Uh, it’s not charity, it’s a GIFT.
      My few thoughts:
      Decide to allow yourself to just feel joy. It’s a decision. And part of this decision is to tell the voices from the past to “Shut up. I am enjoying this moment.”

      In order to be a good gift giver, we have to learn to become a gracious recipient. Part of being a gracious recipient means seeing the moment for what it actually is, and not blurring it with the confusion of other people in our past.
      Here part of this involves realizing how sadly and deeply confused your friends were and other folks in your life. You don’t have to have their confusion. You are free to accept the gift and assume the gift is given with joy and the hope that you will have some joy also.
      You can kick start this one by telling yourself- I am going to learn how to be a better gift giver by watching myself receive gifts.

      And on the giving side- where you are the giver- take note of how you feel. When I did this, I noticed that I wanted the person to genuinely like the gift and use it. I hoped they got something out of it. I hoped they felt lifted up, even if it was just for a short time. I have gifts here that I was given decades ago, and I still smile when I think of the giver. It’s important to notice our own reactions so we can more easily see how others could feel.

      Sadly what we don’t learn as kids/young adults, we have to teach ourselves. Teach yourself that you are free to enjoy.

      1. matcha123*

        This is really helpful advice, thank you!
        I definitely want my own friends to enjoy the things I bought for them or the time we spent together. I really want to enjoy the moment rather than thinking about whether or not I should be paying them back!

      2. Observer*

        In order to be a good gift giver, we have to learn to become a gracious recipient.
        I am going to learn how to be a better gift giver by watching myself receive gifts.

        Very, very good points!

        ere part of this involves realizing how sadly and deeply confused your friends were and other folks in your life.

        That’s a very kind take. I think that if the OP chooses that take, that’s great. But I also think that the OP would be perfectly OK to recognize that this was behavior that was simply not ok, and very unfair to them, even though those friends were probably not monsters.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Not the answer to the questions you asked, but I am the friend who will sometimes spend time and money on my friends (drive an hour to a friend’s house to hang out with them, pay for a friend’s meal at a restaurant, etc.). I never do these things because of obligation or pity. I do them because I love my friends and want to spend time with them, and if I have more resources than my friend (time or money) it makes sense to me that I will spend more of those resources to have a good time with the person/people I care about.

    3. marvin*

      I’m the same way and honestly still working through this in therapy. For me what has helped is being aware that these thoughts are like little relics from my childhood that don’t apply to my life anymore. It still isn’t easy to shake them but it removes a bit of their power if I can see them as kind of quaint artifacts from a past life rather than something I still need to pay attention to. It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of the four humours theory of medicine. Interesting theory, but we’ve moved on.

    4. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Some of the 12-step groups that work on relationships (Co-Dependents Anonymous, Al-Anon, ACA) can help with working through issues like these.

    5. Observer*

      But, I think that because much of the time I spend with family and making them happy comes from a place of obligation, I tend to assume others feel the same.

      Do you NEVER do things for people just because you like them, care about them, want to make them happy? And are there no situations where your sense of obligation is mixed with these other emotions, or actually come from those emotions?

      I think realizing that we all have that mix should make it easier to accept when people spend time or money on us.

      PS I’m glad you are tackling this, because it can be very corrosive to relationships.

      1. matcha123*

        Hmm…For much of my life I haven’t had the means to buy nice presents for friends or treat them to dinners and so on. So, I feel a bit guilty about people (even if they aren’t the same people from my past) treating me.
        I’d often spot things I thought my friends would love, but in the past I didn’t have the money to buy them the cute earrings I was sure they’d love and so on.

        Honestly, the way money was treated in my younger years has really shaped how I deal with it now. Especially when it comes to being treated by others. There have been countless times when older coworkers have treated me to a lunch or dinner, and I’ve tried to repay them on the spot. I have a terrible time understanding whether someone is treating me because they want to, or if they actually want me to pay them back, but are too polite to say so. I was raised in the midwest, and our beat around the bush communication style doesn’t help.

        I’m now in a place where I can pay for someone, and I am happy to write it off(!), but in the moment my mind defaults to, “Sure, they paid, but they probably didn’t want to and it was a huge inconvenience and you should have tried to pay first since blah blah blah.”

    6. Four of ten*

      Thanks to the commenters here. A friend had pulled some weeds out of my front garden. I’m actually unable to do this myself due to disabilities. This discussion made it easier for me to be a better gift receiver. I was able to tell her how nice it looked and how much I appreciated it. (My initial perspective was that she didn’t need to do that.)

  17. AcademiaNut*

    Happy mid-autumn festival (aka moon festival)! I’ve got my mooncakes and pomelo, and I swear half the city was buying BBQ ingredients and beer in the grocery store this afternoon.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m going to make mooncakes with my kids later! I bought a press last year with flower and bunny patterns on it :)

  18. Poppy*

    I need help finding a cat name!

    We adopted our cat from a shelter, where they’d rescued him four months ago (apparently his previous humans left him behind when they moved, and after a while the neighbours brought him to the shelter). We’re really not fans of the name they gave him there, which is a human name that just doesn’t seem to fit him.

    As for our cat: he’s approximately three years old, white with tabby-like stripes on the top of his head and his whole tail (also a little black spot on one of his paws and another on one of his pads), and yellow eyes. There is a problem with his left back leg (apparently their vet thought it was from birth) that means he limps a bit, and it sticks out adorably when he’s sitting (but he was quite capable of jumping up the garden wall that’s as tall as me). He is quite talkative with a distinctive meow, not shy, a bit silly, a bit clumsy, loves food, being petted and playing.

    As much as I love cat pun names, it probably won’t work as we’re not english speaking (“chat” puns would work though ;)).
    Bonus points if the name starts with G as both of ours do so we thought that could be fun !

    1. Pennyworth*

      From your description of him he could be Gammy (he has a gammy /injured leg) or Goofer because he likes to goof around.

    2. CatCat*

      I’m guessing French speaking because of “chat.” Since he making you happy and he sounds like a lot of fun, I like Gateau because cake also makes people happy AND it’s funny because the same pronunciation means cat in Spanish (“gato”).

    3. Invisible fish*

      In the American south, gimpy means you have a bad leg or are having some problems walking due to a back or leg problem. (My father in his 70s is gimpy, as am I if I make poor shoe choices!)

    4. Megan M.*

      You said he’s talkative so you could name him something like “Chatty” which means talkative in English but also includes “chat” for cat.

      My favorite cat name I’ve ever heard is Ferris Mewler (like the movie/character Ferris Bueller). My son also wants to get a white cat and name it Moonlight. :)

    5. Helvetica*

      I’m a huge fan of giving cat normal people names because I love the unexpectedness of it. If “G” and you speak French, then I’m partial to Gustave :)
      Otherwise, I also think Magnus is a great cat name.

    6. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      I’m a fan of nouns for cat names. I knew someone once who named his cats Satchel and Bundle, and honestly, nothing has ever topped that for me. I also think any cat name that begins with a formal title is pretty much guaranteed to be excellent. I’ve been honored over the course of my life to meet both a Mr. Pickles (orange tiger cat) and a Lady Bat-ears (siamese).

    7. Aphrodite*

      I like Greek mythology so I looked there and found this male name: Ganymede – To be glad. Ganymede was the cupbearer to the gods on Mount Olympus.

    8. Anonymous cat*

      Remember a cat must have three different names–first of all, the one that the family use daily! Sensible, everyday names.

      I’ve never been clear if humans get to choose the second one or the cat does. But if they don’t have a more particular, dignified name, then they can’t spread out their whiskers or cherish their pride.

      And of course, the cat will never confess the third name. Humans must be content without it.

    9. Jackalope*

      I don’t know if this is helpful, but I like picking names from my hobbies. For example, all of my current cats have names from books my spouse and I like. If there’s a word from something you or your cat’s other people enjoy doing, that could be fun.

      Given that your cat is largely white, I offer up the name Ghiocel, which is Romanian for “snowdrop”. The pronunciation is GHEE oh chehl using English sounds (the G is a hard G, and the CE sounds like a CH sound in English. If you are French like others have guessed, all of the vowels are the same as in French.)

    10. Lucy Skywalker*

      David Meow-er (instead of David Muir). I know that you said no puns, but cats make the same sound in all countries and languages.

    1. SarahKay*

      Cats do that just to mess with photographers, I reckon. My mum got a photo of our cat as she (the cat) was lying on her back with all four paws up on the radiator.

      When the print came back we all ended up turning it round and round as it looked wrong whichever way up we held up – either the cat or the radiator would be upside down :D

  19. Backyard wedding*

    Anybody have a backyard wedding? We’re getting married in a week in his parent’s backyard, and I woke up in a cold sweat this morning worrying about my guests safely returning to their cars in the dark. Parking will be on the street (not busy, but people drive through entirely too fast) in a very rural, hilly area. I plan to put signs and cones up, but still kind of worried. Also wondering if I should make seating assignments. Someone on Instagram said it was a favor to your guests to not have to worry about where they were sitting, and encouraged mingling across groups.
    I wasn’t worried about much before, but it all hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. Please share success stories for your backyard wedding, tips you found useful, things you wish had happened from a guest perspective, please!

    1. Angstrom*

      Could you recruit a couple of your friends(or friend’s older children)to be safety escorts? When it gets dark, give them a safety vest and flashlight and have them walk guests back to their cars.

      The best way I’ve seen to encourage mingling is to have food options, drinks, desserts, etc. in different locations in the room/yard, so people are always crisscrossing the space.

      Accept that everything will not go as planned. It’s ok. Guests are usually happy to help out —- they want you to have a good day, and it’s nice to feel useful.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Assigned tables is a good idea but I’d do less forced mingling (by which I assume you mean mixing people who don’t know each other) and more assigning people with those they know/like best.

      1. UsuallyALurker*

        Seconding assigning people to tables with people they already know. My brother has never been really comfortable talking to strangers/people he doesn’t know well. And it’s really helpful to him at family weddings to be seated with relatives he’s close to.

        1. UsuallyALurker*

          I just noticed the part about the wedding being in a week. Don’t worry about assigned seating. If there isn’t assigned seating my brother sits with relatives that he knows anyway. Please don’t feel that you need to figure out how to arrange people. Your guests will be fine.

    3. Fiction Reader*

      My husband and I made seating assignments and mixed the groups. We got many complaints from people who wanted to sit with someone else. Only one table worked out perfectly. Looking back, I would let them figure it out themselves.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Niece had a small wedding with close family and then a large reception a few weeks later. The first had assigned seating and table service and the second open seating and a buffet. Both worked fine! I talked to in-laws I knew at the first one, and former coworkers of my niece at the second.

      1. Westsidestory*

        Agree. I’ve been to many outdoor weddings, and most allowed guests to seat themselves. Table hopping will occur, and that will be fun for everyone.

        For the parking, do use signs and maybe get some portable lights so the area is well/lit.

    5. Bart*

      I had a backyard wedding at my rural home that was lovely and had minimal fuss. I didn’t have a seating chart or signs or favors—I am way too busy for those projects and didn’t think they were necessary. I was grateful for the tents we ordered—it was raining two hours before the ceremony and everything was dry under the tents.

      I bought cases of outdoor string lights from Costco. The lights were so festive and they provided a surprising amount of light. Could you string some up for a lighted path?

      We rented a deluxe portapotty that had a working sink—it was cleaner than our bathroom in the house! And we bought some nice portable speakers to play music during the cocktail hour and we still use them when we hang outside or have a bonfire.

      I hope you have a wonderful wedding! Try not to add more to you to do list at this point!!

      1. TheAG*

        We did the deluxe porta potty too (we have septic sooo…). The day after the wedding several of the neighbors came over curious to look at it LOL. People loved it but we did it because we had just gone to another wedding with 400 guests and TWO normal porta potties. The lines were RIDICULOUS lol

        For lighting I got strings of solar lights and wrapped them around tree trunks and some of the solar spotlighting pointing up into the trees. It was enough that people could get to their cars.

      2. Mockingjay*

        You can also line paths or the curb with Garden solar light stakes. Have a friend pick some up at dollar discount stores. (They’re on clearance now.) You don’t need many- just mark reference points.

    6. Not A Manager*

      A backyard wedding sounds lovely. I would not do seating assignments for that.

      What specifically is your concern about returning to cars that is different from if you had guests to dinner and they parked on the street? Do you think people will be too intoxicated to look out for traffic? Is there some other concern? Options include: Deputizing someone to line the parking lane with cones after the cars are parked; buying a bunch of dollar store flash lights and making them available as people leave; same for cheap blinking bike safety lights; a strip of reflective tape on the street surface demarcating the parking lane.

    7. strawberry ice cream*

      No seating chart! It’s a backyard, let people enjoy that.
      Is getting back to the cars especially hard?
      Can you do strings of lights or torches or a gift of flashlights to get people back to their cars? (like just have a bowl of flashlights people can take?)

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I went to a wedding in a rural venue once where there were no lights and it was fine! The person nearest the building turned on their car lights for others. You could ask a few people to do this in advance if necessary if you are really worried. Or just buy a few flashlights to keep near the exit for people’s use. Most people have good lighting on their phones, remember. Seating plans always make things feel too formal I think, but some people like that. Most wedding guests will tell you that the worst things you can do to them are to not feed or refresh them on time, or keep them somewhere without seating or if there’s a lot of hanging around. General comfort is pretty much the gist, everything else will come from people’s happiness for you. I think Instagram should be taken with a large dash of salt. It’s not the place I go to for realism (she says, sweepingly).

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Oh a friend of mine had a garden wedding and she provided a big basket of blankets and wraps for people when it got a bit colder in the evening and that was a hit. This might be a British concern, though.

    9. Rara Avis*

      Ours was a front yard wedding (in the same yard where my parents married). No seating assignments. Buffet food. Everyone had a great time.

    10. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      I went to one recently where small tubes of sunscreen and paper fans were provided as party favors. To this I would add bug spray if you’re in an area with mosquitoes.

    11. Orla*

      I can’t speak to backyard weddings, but I was thinking constantly about details and what could happen experience-wise leading up to mine. I told my friend and she said, “when I got married the entire week before I got into the bed, laid down and just stayed there with my eyes open until I heard the birds outside” which made me laugh and realize it is stressful but will all be ok, like her gorgeous wedding was. Congratulations and enjoy the day as much as you can

    12. Rosyglasses*

      If it will be warm or have direct sun, having fans or parasols for people to have while sitting is a game changer. Otherwise we feel like raisins slowly baking in the sun waiting for everything to happen :)

    13. Pool Lounger*

      I had a backyard wedding. No seating assignments. I dislike them and everyone just sat with friends or relatives.

    14. Backyard wedding*

      Thank you all so much!
      I will not do seating assignments. Thank you for the wake up call to not add more to my plate!
      My fiancé and his mom picked up cones and road signs, and some more lights. My main concern is that it is so dark on that road, and people tear through it so fast. It’s hilly, so I’m worried that my guests won’t be seen until too late. So we’ll place the cones far enough to alert people and provide as much light as we can.
      Thank you all for helping to calm my fears! Now we’ll see what my brain thinks up tonight…

    15. Observer*

      Also wondering if I should make seating assignments. Someone on Instagram said it was a favor to your guests to not have to worry about where they were sitting, and encouraged mingling across groups.

      Seating assignments should generally not be necessary in a relatively casual set up, unless there are sensitive family dynamics or likely to be people who will wind up feeling isolated. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Also, I don’t think that wedding planners need to take on the role of social manager of their guests. It’s really not something you need to worry about.

      I woke up in a cold sweat this morning worrying about my guests safely returning to their cars in the dark. Parking will be on the street (not busy, but people drive through entirely too fast) in a very rural, hilly area

      Is the lighting really that bad? Would it make sense to put up some floodlights are the edge of the property to light up the area? Or maybe have reflectors that people can use while they are walking to their cars? I’ve seen strips for people’s clothing, but I have no idea if that’s a practical solution.

  20. Lirael*

    My son has started a new school this week and he has to get up much earlier, so I also have to get up much earlier. We had a good summer, mostly, but it was also exhausting for many reasons and I don’t feel refreshed. I’m SO TIRED. Also my house is a tip because of a combo of exhausting summer and ADHD-type-struggles.

    I don’t even know what my question is. I’m not a morning person at the best of times. and I’m really struggling. Quite frankly I feel like I need a bloody week in bed to feel human again but that’s not gonna happen (also I have training all week this week that’s gonna be both full on and actually longer than my usual working week so by next weekend I anticipate being even more knackered).

    Any suggestions as to how I can continue to function most welcome.

    1. PX*

      Honestly, I’ve also had a super stressful period and was feeling utterly exhausted so I gave myself a week to abandon everything that isnt work. Cancelled social plans, ordered take out so I didnt have to stress about cooking, and very important – went to sleep at like, 9pm every evening!

      So if you can (both emotionally and financially) – I’d say give yourself a couple of weeks to do the bare minimum of adulting, and spend the rest of the time sleeping/resting/mentally recuperating (an important part of this is consciously letting go of expectations of what you should be doing!).

      If you can delegate/outsource some parental duties as well (either to a partner/grandparents/neighbours/friends etc) so you could maybe even get a weekend or evening to yourself, I would also go for that as well (if its less hassle ofcourse!).

      1. Lirael*

        I think I keep realising that half my problem is that I don’t have anyone who I’m comfortable asking for help :(

        I also…. I feel like this is going to sound bizarre or ridiculous, but I’m kind of counting how rarely I get hugs from adults, and it’s SO RARE. My son is super affectionate but he’s also the sensation seeking flavour of autistic and I just get so drained by his needs and there isn’t anyone who can pick up the slack, nor is there anyone in my life who can refill my emotional bucket.

        I’m so lonely, work is sucking at the mo (and usually I love my job and it’s what keeps me functioning and happy), I’m exhausted by a ton of stuff in my personal life.

        Hey ho.

        1. Spearmint*

          Ugh I’m so sorry. Loneliness is itself exhausting, I’ve been there. I know you probably feel like you don’t have the time/energy, but I would encourage you to try to devote some time to meeting new friends. I’ve found that been going to meetups really picks me up even when I don’t have close friends there.

          1. Lirael*

            Thank you. I had started to go to meetups at the end of 2021 but then, well, I had a million things happen and I caught covid for a second time and this year has been exhausting and now somehow it’s September :/ will have to get back to it.

        2. PX*

          Ah man, loneliness sucks! I’ve definitely also been there. Depending on how comfortable you are with any “casual” friends you do have, sometimes these are the moments where you deepen a friendship by asking for help? I am definitely someone who’s default is to try and do everything alone and hate asking for help, but I’ve learned that sometimes doing so is a) the thing that saves my sanity and b) the way friendships move from casual/acquaintance level to something more solid.

          So maybe not now, but it might be something worth thinking about for future? Like Spearmint alluded to, making new friends as an adult can be really hard – but worth it once you’re there!

          1. Lirael*

            i was thinking yesterday about friendships. I have some friends locally who do help me with things, but who have a hell of a lot of stuff going on themselves, and also who are very different to me as people.

            then I have friends who “get me” who are quite similar to me as a person, but who are far away.

            and then I’ve recently ended a couple of friendships because of misogyny, and I’ve realised that one of my other friends is kind of…. really not there for me.

            I think I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about friendships and who I put effort into.

        3. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

          Needing support and affection is definitely not ridiculous, and it’s a really good sign that at least you’re able to acknowledge that need instead of just, you know, burying it the box of suppressed sad feelings that will absolutely eventually explode all over your life (ask me how I know).
          It’s hard for me to know what to advise because so far you are listing only what resources you don’t have access to, and it’s unclear what resources you DO have access to. I think a good place to start is just making a list of resources, which might include:

          -any money in your budget to throw at the problem, like by hiring someone for an hr to help with cleaning

          -long-distance good friends or family who you can talk to about how you’re feeling

          -local acquaintances or neighbors or even mutual aid groups who might be able to help in small, limited ways that nevertheless can take some of the pressure off (yes, I know asking for help is the WORRRST, but think of it as modeling healthy adult behavior for your kid! You want him to learn it’s ok to ask for help, so you gotta step up and show him how to be brave and do it.)

          -any resources from your employer (mental health support? Negotiating a day off in the future after training is over so at least you have something to look forward to?)

          -local parenting meetups (I just feel certain some frazzled new parent would also need a hug and a “You’re gonna get thru this”– it doesn’t have to be a deeper connection than that!)

          -support groups (in-person or online) for parents of kids with autism

          -perspective (in 5 years time, what are you going to look back on and actually regret? If your kid misses a week of school? Yeah, probably. If the laundry doesn’t get folded? Probably not.)

          Good luck, hon, I’m sending you a big hug.

          1. Lirael*

            “I know asking for help is the WORRRST, but think of it as modeling healthy adult behavior for your kid! You want him to learn it’s ok to ask for help, so you gotta step up and show him how to be brave and do it.”

            damn, that’s a really good point. a lot of things that I don’t want to do I can make myself do by framing them as necessary for my child.

            thank you <3

        4. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

          If you feel comfy doing so and can squeeze in the time, could you get a massage? Let someone touch you in a way that meets your needs for a change!

    2. Princess Deviant*

      This might not be possible for you because you have school-age children and may be saving your time off for when they’re off too, but are you able to take a day off to just… rest?
      And as for the house, doing little bits often is not going to get it fully clean all in one go, but it will probably save your sanity. E.g. wash up 1 bowl of dishes instead of all of them (or 6 items instead of a whole bowl). Fold up some clothes when you next go into your bedroom. Wipe the bathroom shelves when you go in to wash your hands after being on the loo. Stuff like that.
      And be kind to yourself if you can.

      1. Lirael*

        Haha, I have the problem that I feel like it will look dreadful if I ask for a day off having had half the summer holidays off :( but I think sanity requires it.

        The house stuff is good advice, I’ll give that a go.

        thank you <3

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Lower your standards for the training period. What really needs to get done and what can wait?
      This one is tough- prioritize rest over tv, long visits with people, extra shopping, anything that is not absolutely necessary. (Note, if talking to your friend/family member is your life line then that means it’s absolutely necessary. So this is something that is unique to each person.)

      Prioritizing rest sounds too simple to work. Tricky part, you actually have to get there. It means setting a bed time and going to bed no matter how many dishes are in the sink or how many texts you have not answered. Here the bar is to keep yourself and kiddo safe, keep your house safe, and call it good, then go to bed.

      Hydrate, too. Please drink your water and have your child join you. Hydration goes into a lot of things, it controls aches and pains, it helps with mental function and so on.

      1. Lirael*

        hydration is a good one, my son is actually drinking more water than his usual (basically none until he notices he’s thirsty, then ALL THE WATER) but I’m drinking less. Good call.

        you’ve helped me realise I have to cancel meeting up with a friend tomorrow :( it would be lovely to see her but rest is more important.

        Big question though: …. what is rest? how do I rest if not sitting on sofa watching TV?! I kind of realise that it’s not that simple, but I don’t know what to do instead!

        (Also NSNR I’ve had so much amazing advice from you over the years. you helped when I was planning to leave my abusive ex 5 years ago. I change names regularly for fear of people working out who I am,but, just know I appreciate it more than I can say <3 )

        1. Tib*

          Try some meditation. Go for walks outside, as close to nature as you can get. Lie on the couch and listen to a podcast with the volume so low you have to lie very still to understand the words. Sit outside and observe a space for at least 5 minutes beyond when you start feeling self-conscious and bored. Do one task that is always on your list but never enough of a priority to get done. Buy flowers for your space. Go to your favorite bakery or coffee shop.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Reading? That’s my one. But whatever your restful thing is, you’ll know it when you find it. My sister in law swears by a bubble bath and telly in bed early in the evening. I’m the type of ADHD person who haaaaaates mornings and sometimes you’ve just got to streamline the crap out of it. That might mean some evening prep, or it might be letting go of some standards. Like I don’t know what’s feasible for you but things I’ve done in the past are grabbing breakfast in a wrapper, or paying for takeout breakfast near my workplace, relying on a work uniform for a bit that’s easy to throw on, and just cutting back on every expectation. I teach special needs students and you’ve made me think how many of their parents should meet and support each other. Is that something to look into when you’re feeling better? Socialising can be so draining though! Hugs.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I used to think I was resting if I was watching tv. I was mistaken. For many reasons. TV can be a stimulant but sometimes it can be a huge downer- this depends on content. Additionally, TV causes us to be stationary so we have the illusion of resting. If you’re like me, eating kicks in. I snacked. I was not hungry, rather I was fn tired. We get energy from two places- food and sleep. I realized if I am not hungry then what I need is sleep. And I ate junk food which caused more problems that interfered with sleep. I told myself that tv time was the best part of my day. I had to think about that. What is up with my life that a few hours of tv is the best part of my day? ouch. Hard question.

          I suggest reading. I read for an hour each night before bed. I’d race around to get everything done that was necessary. Then around 8-8:30 I sit with a book. I chose carefully. I either read feel good stories (brain candy) or something that I wanted to learn more about such as changing to natural cleaners. One hour, then time for bed.

          It took a bit. I had to make myself lay there. I figured at least I wasn’t burning physical energy. I counted my blessings in life. I thought about what was RIGHT with my life. It was hard to stay focused. We have to have energy to sleep which seems wildly unfair. Then I started looking at my diet and all the junk. I added in more protein. No immediate miracles, but it gradually got better.

          Punchline. It’s a self-discipline. Something I need to pick up more of when I am at the grocery store next time. No, wait. ha. Keep your eye on the goal. The goal is to keep going and doing what you gotta do. I used the hour of reading to find new ideas for old problems-make my life simpler and less frustrating. It’s a work that will always be in progress.
          It’s easier to go to bed at the same time if I get up at the same time even on weekends. There was a comfort in knowing the chaos for the day would end.

          Am so glad to hear you got a way from your abusive ex. I am not trying to figure out who you are because privacy and all that. If any thing I said helped that is a credit to you- you 1) knew there was something better and 2) went looking for it. This is something that not everyone knows or does (for reasons). I think that if you look for ways to build up your physical and mental resilience you will find this also. You have the skill set in place.

          1. Rosyglasses*

            This is golden. I echo the bedtime routine aspect. I also tend to look forward to my solo tv time, but have started to shift (intentionally, it doesn’t come naturally) to looking forward to my evening routine with a focus on care and cozy.

            Washing my face (and doing a bit of skincare routine – gua sha or a face mask), brushing hair, moisturizing all over, brushing teeth, taking my contacts out (a big one), wearing my favorite pajamas and robe and slippers. Making some herbal tea, lighting a candle, reading a book with soft music. Really physically and mentally shifting into rest mode. Trying to make my bed a phone free zone so I’m not trying to come down from the stimuli of blue light.

            Doesn’t always work but I feel so gentle and relaxed when it does!

          2. Lirael*

            “What is up with my life that a few hours of tv is the best part of my day? ouch. Hard question.”

            ouch indeed.

            I guess TV is like alcohol in that regard, can be ok but the majority of the time is counter productive.

            thank you so much. I always appreciate your words <3

        4. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

          “What is rest” is such a deceptively simple question, and such a good one. For me, small creative endeavors are restful and crucial for my mental health. Abstract visual art of some kind seema to be the most restful– I love all sorts of crafting and fiber arts, but can easily get sucked into spending 2 hrs just planning WHAT I want to make, and then have no time for the actual making. Drawing with crayons/colored pencils, painting, or (my favorite) collage are all freeform enough that you can just dive right in and start making something that expresses how you feel. If you’re musical, turn on the voice memo app on your phone and make up songs. Write some angsty poetry, turn on some music and choreograph yourself a dance, or even just take a walk around your block and take some artsy photos.
          Since you mentioned loneliness, I’m also going to recommend one of my favorite books ever, which informed my thoughts on the importance of making time for creative expression in your life when you’re going through hard times: The Lonely City by Olivia Laing. It’s part memoir, part art history, part queer/feminist critique, and (imo, at least) part manifesto. I would buy and send you a copy TODAY if I could, it’s that good.

          1. Lirael*

            wow, thank you, that’s a resounding endorsement for that book, and queer+feminist is just the cherry on top. I’ll get it ordered.

    4. J.B.*

      I’m so burned out (I have an autistic kiddo and an ADHD kiddo as well, plus work went insane this summer.) what I am doing is taking every stitch of leave to be off two afternoons a week. these are afternoons when a child has therapy but that gives me an hour to sit in the waiting room and read, instead of doing work on my laptop. another thing is to take some time off (long lunch, nap, whatever) when kiddos are in school. I also send the younger child to camp every time there’s a day off school.

      1. Lirael*

        sending you support too, you must be exhausted!

        I need to figure out how much leave I have and see if I can book in a rest day or two.

        thank you!

    5. Double A*

      I finally took the plunge after much denial that I should have any right to hire someone to help me clean and got some cleaners to do a deeper clean and am having them come monthly for maintenance. It felt really good to have the house feel kind of “reset” fully and that *I* did not have to do it. It’s back to looking the same, but I know that under the clutter things are scrubbed pretty well. It also made a difference when we got stomach flu that we were throwing up into pristine toilets rather than me being grossed out even more by realizing how long it had been since I cleaned it… So if you can swing it financially, a cleaning service can lift a physical, mental, and emotional burden we don’t even realize is weighing us down so much.

      In terms of touch, kids are so demanding! But as they get older, I think you can be affectionate with them in more mutually satisfying ways. So like, maybe you’re watching TV together and you cuddle. Or maybe a big bear hug would feel good–ask your kid for that. We’re so used to just being physical with our kids on their terms we forget that they can sometimes meet us on our terms! Like, maybe your kid is old enough to brush your hair if you like that, or give you a shoulder rub.

      Also for now just go to bed immediately after the kids do. It kind of sucks but also you just need more sleep right now it sounds like.

    6. Lirael*

      update: so last night I went to bed 2.5 hours earlier than normal…… and lay awake for over an hour entirely unable to sleep. in the end I got up, ate toast and tidied my lounge (a bit, it’s still a mess). didn’t get to sleep until after midnight.

      then my cat woke me up at 6am, 2 hours before I was due to get up, and I could NOT get back to sleep.

      kill me now haha

  21. PX*

    Mattress toppers: can they help *increase* the firmness of a mattress?

    Context: I’m staying in temporary accommodation for a couple of months probably, and the mattress on the bed feels like a cheap very basic spring mattress with a lot of give (by my standards anyway). Unfortunately for me, I sleep best on rock hard surfaces. Think, only one step up from sleeping on the floor.

    Its been a week and I can already feel my back starting to get unhappy. But like I said, its a temporary place and so I cant control or change the actual mattress. Wondering if buying a mattress topper would help? Did a bit of Googling and some websites said yes and others said no (i.e. a topper only increases softness and cant decrease it).

    Anyone have any experience with using one in this way?

    1. Princess Deviant*

      Oh yes for sure!
      I can’t remember the type I got, but it’s a memory foam one with indents in it like waves. It’s very good for covering what is really a subpar mattress.
      I also recommend sleeping on the floor (if you’re able to move the mattress there, and don’t have mobility issues that would make getting up and in the bed difficult).

      1. Angstrom*

        If the floor isn’t an option, you might try a piece of plywood between the mattress and the box spring.

      2. Anono-me*

        Chiming in in support of plywood.

        And if it is just you, you probably only need to buy a 1/2 sheet to support your torso. (Which is much easier to transport. )

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Lord, I hope so — I have the same (general) problem, with an added complication of, my mattress is a shared one, and I want a rock and he wants a marshmallow, we split the difference, and now a couple years later, it’s gotten soft enough for him and way too soft for me, so I was just thinking this week that I need to start researching ways to make my side of the mattress firmer :) So I have nothing useful, but will be watching this thread for suggestions! (An adjustable mattress was not a viable option the last time we were mattress shopping, though will be higher on the list next time. :P )

      1. Anono-me*

        You may want to check with mattress stores to see if you can buy one of their demos that are being closed out. Many mattress stores have demo models that are one model on the left and another on the right. (Macy’s would do this about 7 years ago.)

    3. Loopy*

      I had this problem as my husband needs soft and I need firmer. We definitely ended up doing it backwards but realized what a problem it was after the return period.

      I got the Puffy firm mattress topper. It helped but the break in period is about two months so it will definitely not feel AS firm after approx. 6-8 weeks. It wont get you to rock hard firmness but it was definitely an improvement for me. It was a bit pricey.

      I’ve also added very thick cardboard under the mattress to mixed results, worth a shot if you can easily find some but YMMV.

    4. WS*

      Yes, they can. They don’t last forever (6 months has been the longest for me until I got a mattress custom made by a business that makes mattresses for caravans – great buy, would recommend) but they’re really good while they last. They also stabilise the top layer of the mattress so you don’t get that rolling feelings as the springs give.

    5. WellRed*

      Huh. I disagree it will help. If the mattress is saggy or non supportive(I’m thinking if the wrecks I sleep on at camp) then adding a mattress topper is just going to be an unsupported mattress topper that you are lying on. I have a mattress topper because my mattress feels too firm these days.

    6. fposte*

      I’d say generally no, but it also depends on where the give is. If it’s a pillowtop that’s squishing in, something like a latex topper might spread your weight over it more evenly. But I would agree that a plywood board is likely to be a better route (I use two separate ones for the guest bed).

      Other possibilities: the floor, with or without a mattress topper. Removing the mattress and putting a topper directly on the foundation could also be a possibility.

    7. the cat's ass*

      I used a piece of plywood between the platform bedframe and the mattress (no boxspring) and that firmed things up nicely.

    8. PX*

      Thanks for the suggestions people! I’ll investigate the plywood option but might also do a bit more digging on toppers and see how it goes.

      1. Loopy*

        The puffy topper had a great return policy when I got it (was a while ago now) so I’d also check out returns so you can try it and return if it’s totally the wrong option!

  22. Princess Deviant*

    Thanks for the recommendations for Jewish books for a non-Jew wanting to learn more about Judaism.
    I’ve found Claudia Roden’s The Book Of Jewish Food very helpful, so thank you in particular to the person who suggested reading cookbooks as a way to access history etc.

    1. Becky S.*

      Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food is also excellent, with a lot of historical references.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Olive Trees and Honey is another excellent Jewish cookbook plus food history – bonus it covers the much less well known communities in (or formerly in) India, Brazil, and Ethiopia.

  23. Richard Hershberger*

    I posted last week that I was interviewed by the history podcast Professor Buzzkill. That was initially set to go up last Tuesday, but got pushed back a week. I will post a link next week.

    In the meantime, I was interviewed yesterday by an entirely different podcast, Effectively Wild. This is a long-running baseball show, hosted by the baseball analytics site Fangraphs. The show is not specifically baseball history, but likes to be historically informed. I have been contributing a short history piece since episode 1856, corresponding to the year. It is up to episode 1901 and I handed off the segment, as 20th century baseball is outside my expertise. I was interviewed as part of the handoff.

    I will post a link as a reply, but if you google “Effectively Wild” it will come right up. The interview comes in at about 52 minutes in.

  24. A Becky*

    Shameless plug for sympathy: my mother is staying with us for a week (visiting my young son) and it’s *awful*. She’s got a bad case of the Fox News Brain Rot, and I’m literally biting my tongue not to rise to the bait on her screeds about The Arabs, climate change, The Left, Feminists, Woke People…

    And while I do understand her rampant transphobia (my other parent being trans and unable to cope with staying closeted ended their 30 year marriage), hearing my other parent – whom I love and maintain a relationship with – constantly misgendered and deadnamed is something I find very grating. She’s here till Tuesday :'(

    1. WS*

      She doesn’t want to have a conversation, she wants to have a rant. You don’t have to be present for a rant, you’re a busy person with jobs to do. So when she starts, suddenly remember a thing you need to do, and go do it. Repeat and repeat (it may help to come up with a list ahead of time) and only stay present for actual conversations.

      This never stopped my racist family members being racist, but it sure made it easier for me to deal with and my house got cleaner!

    2. Jellyfish*

      That’s rough, I’m so sorry!

      I had some luck telling a relative, “I’d like to enjoy your visit, and neither of us are coming out of that particular conversation feeling happier, or like it was a good use of our time.”
      It won’t change their mind, but it can at least shut down the baseless rants.

      Would it do any good to indicate you don’t want your son hearing that kind of hatefulness out of someone he loves?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “Oh let’s find happy topics to talk about.”

      She will either find those topics or leave early.

      I have a friend who can get wound up on some of this stuff. I tell them, “I want to talk about happy things.” And my friend will tend to pull themselves together. I do have to rope in the conversation again later on. So it is a mindset.

    4. Not A Manager*

      You can try to have one loving and honest conversation with her If you have the energy.

      “Mom, I know you love me and you value our relationship. You know that we don’t agree on a lot of political topics. Why do you keep bringing them up?” … “Well, it’s making me unhappy and it’s not changing anyone’s mind. I’m asking you not to talk about things that will make your visit here unpleasant for both of us.”

      When she talks about your other parent, I would just say, “I love Parent’s Actual Name and I wish you wouldn’t say things like that.”

      Or, alternatively, you could just leave the room whenever she starts up.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      This sounds miserable but honestly… why are you biting your tongue? Ranting about any one of these things in front of my kids would be a deal breaker for me.

      1. A Becky*

        He’s not yet one, he doesn’t understand. In the long term…. well, she doesn’t visit often, I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.

      2. Kay*

        I thought the same – why is she staying with you?? I have a very low tolerance for this sort of thing so if it were me she would likely be cut off already, but either way you don’t have to be biting your tongue (nor should you in my opinion!).

        You have many options – having a mild retort at hand “hmm, my understand is different”, “ooof-what a terrible thing to say”, “don’t let god hear you say that or he won’t let you into heaven”, etc. to the “mom – we disagree and this topic is off the table, please don’t bring it up again”. Pick a boundary and stick to it – letting someone espouse hate speech around you should not be your goal.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Sympathy! Also, I can understand not wanting to rise to the bait of an overly dramatic argument, but you don’t have to silently consent to having your ears assaulted. You’re not the one who needs to be more tolerant in this situation! You can either briefly say you’re not the audience for this or “not cool”, or “Do you mean (correct name)”. Or you can get up and busy yourself away from it until she learns how to attract people to her conversation. If you can’t do those things; extra sympathy!

    7. PollyQ*

      My father and I only get along because we’ve agreed to never, ever discuss anything political. It takes some effort from both of us, but I find it’s well worth it.

    8. TransAcademic*

      I’m sorry that the mom that is staying with you is awful. It is heartbreaking to have relatives who have toxic and bigoted beliefs, and to know that there is little you can do to change their minds.

      That said, I don’t understand how you can “understand”/rationalize transphobia. I don’t understand why someone should have to “cope with staying closeted” just to preserve a 30 year marriage to someone with “rampant transphobia”. Why should your trans parent have to suppress and hide her identity just to make her family comfortable?

      Are you okay with your transphobic mom passing on her toxic beliefs (transphobic and otherwise) to your son? Because that’s what will happen if she keeps saying awful things and you don’t push back in the moment. If you want to be an ally to your trans parent then you need to correct your transphobic parent when she misgenders and deadnames your trans parent. If you want to be an ally to other marginalized groups then you need to push back on your mom when she espouses harmful (racist, misogynistic, anti-science, transphobic, etc.) beliefs.

      1. A Becky*

        My parents’ relationship is their business, but I’ve had a conversation with [other parent] about it, and she thinks that Mother may refer to her as she chooses. Not to air too much family drama, but my parents had a discussion in the 1970s about “gender and our relationship” as they understood it at the time, and had reached a compromise. The compromise didn’t hold forever. My mother feels betrayed by that, and I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault but it’s not an unreasonable response either.

        I am eventually going to have to have a conversation about the deadnaming and misgendering, but I’m not up for that fight yet and my son is too small to speak.

        I do push back, but at present I’m not willing to either cut her off all together or spend an entire week fighting – quite apart from anything else, I have a literal trauma response to fighting with her, I did it too much as a child. She knows I don’t like it.

        1. slowingaging*

          Make a list of everything physical thing she likes to talk about, flowers, dishes, food, clothes, jewels, anything. She says thing, you ask her opinion about roses vs daisies. Repeat as necessary. It is how I deal with my Mom and Dementia.

      2. Despachito*

        It is not very difficult to imagine that if you feel that something ruined your marriage, you will not always be able to be perfectly objective, and to find out the person you were living with for 30 years has been somebody different must be very difficult.

        This by no means mean I approve of transphobia, but I’d cut more slack to your mother in this case because the consequences of her spouse being trans damaged her. Perhaps she feels deeply hurt… who knows? Of course she would be better off if she was able to forgive, but it seems she is unable to do this for the moment.

        You cannot make her forgive but can refuse to listen to her rants. Perhaps something like “X is my parent the same as you are. I love you both, and therefore not want to listen to any insults towards X. Please stop.” And try to talk about something else of interest for her.

        1. marvin*

          There is no explanation for bigotry that makes it okay. It’s a pretty low bar to be able to expect people to deal with complicated feelings they may have about trans people in their life without being hateful to trans people as a group. And no one is actually harmed by a loved one transitioning. They may not be happy about it, but most of the pain in that situation ultimately derives from social stigma that creates barriers to transition and to understanding the experiences of trans people.

          This isn’t to say that I think every bigoted family member needs to be sent out to sea on an ice floe, but I want to resist the general idea that it’s okay to be transphobic if you were ever hurt by an individual trans person.

          1. Despachito*

            I never said it is OK.

            I said that it may not be realistic to require that a person who feels harmed or betrayed behaves and speaks 100 % fairly. Similar as if two people divorce and one feels bitter and speaks ill of the other one, rationally it is clear that they would be better off not doing this but perhaps they need some process (and a proper response from the people around them that they are not taking this) to let it go. (I know, I know, some never do).

            But it seems that Mom has a lot of other issues with bigotry and racism. Were it a stranger, it would be much easier to just stop talking to her, but here, if OP does not want to do that, I’d try to deflect the conversation each and every time she begins her spiel to something interesting to her, and if possible to make her feel valued, but let her know that you are not willing to talk about these topics. Hopefully, OP does not have to live with her every day, and she will soon go home.

            Good luck with this, OP, I am sorry, this must be very frustrating.

          2. Lucy Skywalker*

            “And no one is actually harmed by a loved one transitioning. They may not be happy about it, but most of the pain in that situation ultimately derives from social stigma that creates barriers to transition and to understanding the experiences of trans people.”

            Becky’s mom sounds like a real bigot; however, in her case, the pain derived from discovering that she had been married to a woman and not a man, as she had previously betrayed. Now, that in no way excuses her behavior, but let’s not demonize everyone who is in a similar situation. There is nothing transphobic about not wanting to stay married to someone who is a gender that you aren’t attracted to. Not everyone is bisexual.

            1. Maggie*

              So true. Also “no one has ever been harmed” but it isn’t exactly true. I imagine there would be a great emotional cost to finding out your partner of 30 years is a different gender and pursuing living as that gender instead of the one you married them at. Cmon now

        2. A Becky*

          She doesn’t speak ill of [Other Parent] to my face, she never has. She just refers to them as she always had – with the wrong pronouns and name.

          With everyone in her life but me and [Parent], it doesn’t matter because they have wholly non-overlapping social circles at this point. [Parent] is an adult and can handle that as they wish. It bugs the hell out of me, but until now it wasn’t worth upsetting her (I think it would genuinely hurt her) by asking her to change.

          By the next time she visits, I’ll need a game plan, but right now I’m too exhausted to think about it.

          1. Despachito*

            This changes the picture a bit – if she spoke ill of the other parent, she would definitely be in the wrong, but where is the real harm in this?

            Their circles do not overlap, so she cannot do any mess there. And as she lived with your other parent in a certain role for a long time and keeps referring to them in that role … it is certainly not ideal but I find it understandable.

          2. Lucy Skywalker*

            In THAT case, she is a bigot- not for divorcing your other parent, but for deadnaming and misgendering.

      3. A Becky*

        To add, I don’t think that my parents’ marriage should have survived. One of them was trans, the other one was transphobic, they were doomed from the get-go. I think that the poor understanding both of them had going in of trans issues is a huge shame that hurt them both. I just think that given that they had discussed things and come to an agreement before they were seriously involved, I think they both have the right to be hurt with the way things shook out.

        Would my mother be happier if she weren’t a bigot? For sure. Have we had screaming arguments about it? Yep. (Hasn’t helped.)

    9. the cat's ass*

      oh, whew, that sounds excruciating. I’m so sorry. I had an awful relative like this and when we’d meet up i used to remove my hearing aids!
      But I’m more uncomfortable that your young son is hearing all of the bilge too, especially as directed at your other parent. I don’t know how old you son is, but if he understands the nonsense she’s spewing, you can course correct by directing comments at him, “Son, we don’t feel that way about Grandperson/The Left, Feminism, etc.”
      Only three more days!

    10. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      I’m trying hard not to judge, but part of me is like, maybe reconsider having this person in your son’s life? It can actually be a legal obstacle to going no-contact in the future (which, I’m just saying, I would definitely include among your options!) because if a grandparent can prove that they have had a significant role in a grandchild’s life in the past, it’s more difficult to deny them visitation rights going forward. Just some food for thought, and above all else, my deepest sympathies, because it sounds miserable. If nothing else, calmly, tiresomely keep correcting her when she used the incorrect name/gender for someone, because it is not cool for your kid to grow up seeing that you’re the kinda family where that sort of behavior is acceptable.

      1. A Becky*

        Neither of us lives in the US, and we don’t live in the same country. It would be wholly impossible to enforce any kind of custody order even if she could get it.

        1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

          That’s a relief! From your other comments where you mention a trauma response to fighting with her, I definitely want you to feel supported through this. Do you have access to a therapist/close friend/support group during this time? The subreddit r/raisedbynarcissists has a lot of resources for how to deflect and cope with someone harmful that you’re still in contact with, as well as support for the painful process of going no-contact if that becomes necessary. Wishing you all the best.

    11. CharlieBrown*

      Some bridges are worth burning. That is always an option, and even if you never choose it, remember that it’s always on the table. That thought can help save your sanity.

    12. Qwerty*

      My advice is more long term – redirection and small boundaries. Those boundaries can grow later, but right now keep it small and palatable to get the habit in place for both of you.

      Boundaries – Maybe start with something about not ranting in front of your son? This goes for both of you! Catch yourself if you or your spouse start on a negativity spiral, even if your topic is more innocous. This makes it not an attack on your mom or her beliefs, but on the environment for your son. It also builds on habits of talking about other things so that Fox News is not her default conversation topic with you and reduces your overall exposure.

      Redirection – Have other things to bring up and talk about. When she goes to her Fox News rants, redirect or go grey rock until its over. As she enjoys talking about other things with you, the rants will get shorter and less frequent.

      Are there other TV channels that you can watch with your mom and maybe get her hooked, like HGTV or something? I’ve realized that people who watch a lot of Fox News do it because its always on, so their TV is just set to that channel, and the programming is just always amping them up. There was a big change in my grandpa when we redirected him to the 24/7 golf channel – a lot of older people just want something on all the time. I don’t have cable so I don’t know what other channels to recommend that are just always showing something watchable if not engaging.

    13. Maggie*

      Unless this is the first time she’s acted like this you need way firmer boundaries not sympathy. Don’t allow people like that in your house if you don’t want to be around them.

    14. Missb*

      Please do push back. Your child is young but I wouldn’t expose even a baby to such hatred.

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. A good friend has 3 kids. They brought one to the marriage and her husband brought the other two. Really good friends with my kids while they were growing up and even now into adult hood. Her husband’s ex has turned into a raging transphobic angry person. It’s sad and none of the young adult kids want to be around her. One of them is likely to get married soon, and she’ll be missing out on those key things in life because her kid (mid 20s) won’t tolerate her hate.

      I correct my own mom all the time. She’s 80-something and I’m 50-something. I’ve had to protect my own kids their entire lives. She’s racist and it just sucks. She’s also a bit anti-gay, and one of my siblings and one of my kids is gay. She’s more careful around me – she only lets the racist crap slip out, not any anti-gay things slip out. She knows better.

      My mom never got to have my kids stay the night (or a week) at her place. I wouldn’t expose them to that hate. Their other grandparents are fabulous.

  25. Forensic13*

    Any recommendations for horror books or podcasts? I’ve been relistening to The Magnus Archives, a British horror anthology (that turns into a world with its own story,) and I’m in the mood for more creepy things.

    I don’t mind gore if there’s a purpose to it, but don’t like “women suffering for suffering’s sake” media. And no Grady Hendrix, I beg you.

    1. UKDancer*

      It depends on your tastes. I love MR James, EF Benson, and some of the older British ghost tales from the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are some quite good recordings of Michael Hordern and Christopher Lee reading them on Youtube.

      I also like the R Chetwynd-Hayes stories but they’re harder to find in print nowadays.

      I don’t like gore so tend to read the older ghost stories because they’re more creepy and less gory. Of the modern ones I like Susan Hill’s Woman in Black which is really well written.

      1. fposte*

        M. R. James’ “The Mezzotint” scarred me, in an enjoyable way, when I read it at 8. It was even spookier because I had no idea wtf a mezzotint was. Then I found out one of my favorite ghost story writers for young people, Robert Westall, was heavily influenced by him, which made perfect sense.

        1. UKDancer*

          The mezzotint is really spooky. Mark Gatiss did an adaptation of it and that wasn’t nearly as good as listening to it or reading it.

          I also love Robert Westall although some of my favourites are out of print.

          1. fposte*

            The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral is the one that made me realize the M. R. James connection (and that’s a great supernatural horror tale, for thread purposes).

            But the short story “The Call” is probably my favorite. I like my spookiness best when it’s poignant as well.

            1. SarahKay*

              Oh, The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral is so, so creepy! I’ve loved Robert Westall’s stuff since I first came across him in the school library when I was about twelve, and that one absolutely sticks in my memory as one of the scariest things I’ve read.
              A few years back I did a big seach and buy on eBay for copies of his out-of-print stuff and had a fabulous few weeks reading (or re-reading) all his books as the packages came in from different sellers.

      2. GoryDetails*

        I adore James and Benson – lovely, usually not too gruesome (though there are exceptions), very atmospheric. (There are touches of comedy here and there that leaven the creepiness, such as James putting in asides about characters having a conversation about golf “that would only be of interest to golfing persons”.)

      3. Pool Lounger*

        This is also my taste, snd Valancourt Books has some great similar offerings. I just read The Benighted, a classic old dark house story.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I was going to suggest this too, it’s so creepy and I’m still thinking about it weeks after finishing the book. Not much gore but lots of hallucination type scariness. A lot of the horror connects to gender and race dynamics but not in a torturous/exploitative way, I think.

        I’m also a big Shirley Jackson fan, Haunting of Hill House is the classic haunted house psychological thriller

    2. SarahKay*

      Books: The Twisted Ones, and The Hollow Places, both by T Kingfisher. Both are really creepy, minimum gore (arguably no actual gore, but a couple of already-happened results of nasty magic on a human body, not to the protagonists), and have strong female lead characters.
      Her non-horror books are also excellent – I found her writing after a recommendation for A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking on a previous weekend thread, and tore through pretty much everything she’d written in the course of about three weeks.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Seconding Kingfisher’s horror books – and there’s a third one out (this one inspired by Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”), though I haven’t read it yet. The first two really entranced me for the updating of classic tales while including fascinating new characters – and while they were scary they were often also quite amusing.

      2. FashionablyEvil*

        Thirding T. Kingfisher—I don’t normally like horror, but really enjoyed The Hollow Places—deeply creepy but not gory; I had to stop reading it at bedtime to finish it. I actually love all her books so if you prefer the horror angle, Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, Nettle and Bone, the Clocktaur series, and her fairytale retellings might all appeal to you too. (My favorites are the Paladin series, but those have more of a romance angle.)

    3. I take tea*

      As a Swedish speaking person I want to recommend the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. He might be known to Americans as the author of Let the Right One In, but he has written quite a lot, some of which is translated into English. I think my favourite is Harbor, or maybe his short stories. He is seldom gory, and always very good at writing impending doom and general creepiness.

      For audio I recommend Neil Gaimans Click Clack the Rattlebag. It’s a short story, you can find himself reading it on Youtube, and I think on Audible too. (I like his way of reading, if you don’t, there are other readers to be found.) It is a delightful little story, that will make you shudder.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Lindqvist is wonderful! I think Let the Right One In (aka Let Me In) is still my favorite, but I’ve enjoyed most of his novels and quite a few of his short stories. (The collection Let the Old Dreams Die is very good, and has a couple of tales featuring the “Let Me In” characters.) Handling the Undead may be my second-favorite of his novels – wildly creepy/disturbing dead-returning-to-life setup. [I do think that sometimes his stories don’t stick the landing as well as they might, but the journey is always compelling.]

    4. GoryDetails*

      I’ll add a plug for a collection that my brother-in-law has a story in: Classic Monsters Unleashed, an anthology themed on classic movie monsters, where the authors have chosen wildly-varying ways of adapting or re-imagining the originals. Some are quite touching, some pretty grisly, some very unexpected – one of my favorite anthologies of the year.

    5. Hlao-roo*

      For a Victorian/Edwardian English ghost story feel: Ghost by Gaslight edited by Jack Dann.

      For a graphic novel: In the Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

      For a haunted house/descent into madness novel: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

    6. Pool Lounger*

      The Lovecraft Investigations is a bbc podcast that takes Lovecraft mythos and puts it into contemporary times. It has three seasons and is on Spotify. Spooked is an amazing “true” spooky stories podcast. It’s well produced and genuinely creepy, and it’s always supernatural horror, not true crime.

    7. Lemonwhirl*

      I recommend the podcast “Talking Scared” as a great resource for finding horror books to read.

      Some book recommendations:
      – The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig – a story about familial trauma with a supernatural twist and great characters.
      – Hide by Kiersten White – An amazing book about finding your people in extreme circumstances as a bunch of 20-somethings are brought to a dilapidated theme park to compete on a reality TV show, but not everything is as it seems.
      – Number One Fan by Meg Elison – Takes the premise of Misery but with a twist. CW – it’s a tough but compelling read because of kidnap and bodily harm.
      – The Getaway by Zoje Stage – Three women hiking in a remote part of the Grand Canyon encounter a stranger. CW – peril and violence, but it’s not without purpose and it’s not exploitative.
      – Dead Silence by SA Barnes – Great science fiction story – kind of Titanic meets Aliens.

    8. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I do a lot of short stories but some of these authors have books too: Carmen Maria Machado, Joe Hill, Steven Graham Jones, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Sarah Pinsker.

  26. Stamp collecting*

    When I was growing up I collected stamps. Apart from a few stamps, most are from envelopes and the like that people gave me. I have about 5 stamp books. I am ready to get rid of them but I it is a bit harder than expected, I keep feeling I want to go to a “good cause”. I’ve asked friends who have children of an age to be interested, but no one is interested (I get it, who even writes letters anymore). Any other ideas?

    1. Inkhorn*

      Are there any stamp fairs in your area? When I inherited an unwanted stamp collection I was able to take it to a fair and give it to a group which takes donated stamps on school incursions, to try to get kids interested in collecting. At the very least you might find someone who can point you in a likely direction.

      1. Stamps*

        Ha, I was in the same position! I never found any other person to give my stamps to, but eventually rediscovered my own love of collecting. I find it very soothing. If you are in the US, I can give you the contact info for some nuns who collect and re-sell stamps to help with their ministry. They are lovely ladies and I have bought from them a few times.

    2. Paddy O'Furniture*

      Reading the previous post, and then this one, I’m having flashbacks of the old movie, “Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?”

    3. Quaker*

      Right Sharing of World Resources is a Quaker organization that receives & sells domestic (US) & foreign stamps to help fund their services. If that appeals to you, look for the “stamp program” page on their website. The stamp program has generated thousands of dollars for their work.

    4. Jaxom of Ruth*

      My mother in law inherited a stamp collection. She couldn’t find anyone that wanted it. Selling it was less money than the stamps were worth. She is now using the stamps to send mail. They are still legal tender; they just have to be added together to the current price of a stamp. Letters to us usually include 3-5 stamps.

        1. Ampersand*

          I’m also amused! It’s interesting how things lose their value (monetary or otherwise) over the years, and suddenly you’re using your beloved stamp collection to send actual mail.

  27. blue wall*

    Hair questions, apologies if you are grossed out by hair-
    1) I have short, extremely thick, curly hair. Since my hair is so curly, hairs only come out when I’m showering, as opposed to just dropping all day. And since I have a much higher quantity of hair than average, it’s a lot of hair coming out when I shower. I seem to spend half my shower time just picking hair off my hands so I can carry on finger-combing, etc.
    –Is there a tool that will help me quickly remove wet hair from my hands?

    2) I’ve also started swimming at a local YMCA pool. What’s the deal with swimming caps? Recommended to wear one? How to choose a good one? Any other tips?

    1. TPS reporter*

      I always wear a swim cap to swim laps so my hair doesn’t get in my face. not to protect my hair, I think just rinsing it after is fine. I much prefer the soft fabric caps to the plastic ones, they’re much easier to put on, don’t stick to my face and don’t pull out hairs.

    2. Squidhead*

      I have long, fine hair and I spend a lot ot time trying to get it off of my hands too! I do use a scalp brush (Fuller brush brand) and use it to scrub my scalp and then comb through the hair, and then spend time picking hair out of the brush. I also use a good tub strainer and just resign myself to cleaning it off every shower (and pulling the hair out of the drain every time I clean the tub).

      As to swim caps, they keep the wet mop of hair out of your face, especially if you are doing racing (somersault) turns, or swimming freestyle where you turn your head side-to-side to breathe. They keep your hair from swirling and tangling. Your hair might be short enough that this isn’t necessary, but some pools require them to contain shedding, too. I like the Speedo “long hair” silicone cap (it has a bump at the back for more hair). When I swam in high school long ago our team caps were thinner rubber (?) and prone to tearing. Whatever cap you use, rinse it out and dry it each time. With the rubber caps we used to put baby powder in them to they’d go on easier, but I don’t have that problem with the silicone cap and baby powder isn’t great for your lungs.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I find there’s nothing better for separating wet hair from yourself/bathroom than an absorbent cloth. That could be kitchen towel, a piece of muslin; anything fine, thin and absorbent. I actually find it much neater to use a really wide toothed comb to detangle my curly hair in the shower when it’s covered in conditioner, but that’s because I rarely have enough slip for finger combing. I do finger comb dry hair sometimes, but only when wearing satin gloves. If you’re really attached to finger combing, you could try those, or cloth gloves which might help with detaching the hair you’re loosening.

    4. PollyQ*

      1) If you rub your hands together like a villain plotting evil deeds, your hair should come together in a nice handy clump that can be more easily removed than a bunch of hairs singly.

    5. Russian in Texas*

      I have curly hair that don’t shed freely either. I brush WELL before every hair wash. Like, until no more hair covers out on the brush, otherwise, my poor shower drain.

      1. Healthcare Worker*

        This is my strategy also. I have very curly hair and never brush except before I wash it – then I gently brush, brush until the loose hair comes out.

    6. Mollie*

      Can you brush your hair before you shower? I do this, and then have to use a comb to get all the hair out of the brush, but it’s better than having it get loose everywhere in the shower.

      For the shower, there’s a thing called a tub shroom (plug for the drain hole) that’s good for catching loose hair.

    7. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      A large plastic bowl or small plastic tub (like the kind some folks use to wash dishes in) set on the shower floor where hopefully you won’t trip on it. Either fill it up first or just let it fill with the spray if you take longish showers. Dunk your hands and swish to get the hairs off.

      Also, I have extra-curly mixed-race hair and I swear by the wide-tooth comb from Pattern for combing my hair out while I deep-condition in the shower. It is as gentle as finger-combing but also catches most of the loose hairs at the base of the tines where I can pull them off in one clump at the end.

    8. LizB*

      I have thick curly hair and I use a very wide-tooth comb to detangle my hair in the shower, so I end up with most of my shed hairs on the comb and just a few on my hands. I’ve found that rubbing my hands together quickly tends to make the hairs twirl together and clump up, which makes them easier to pick off. Not sure if your hair is too short for that to work – mine is chin-length.

    9. Asenath*

      There are two main classes of swim caps. One type claims to keep the hair dry, is made out of silicone (there are similar ones I haven’t tried made from neoprene etc), and may or may not keep the hair dry, because I found them difficult to put on, and nearly impossible to take off without feeling like most of my hair is sticking to the cap and being pulled out by the roots. So I don’t use them. The other is a kind of stretchy cap, quite often made from lycra/spandex/nylon. These don’t even claim to keep your hair dry, but do keep your hair out of your eyes (and presumably the pool filters) and are comfortable to wear and to put on and take off. All the care they need is a quick rinse in plain water, but they, like swimsuits, won’t last forever.

      If your hair is short enough, or can be tied back so it doesn’t get in your face when wet, and you don’t mind it getting wet, you can certainly do recreational swimming without any cap at all.

    10. LNLN*

      I have been a lap swimmer for many years. Chlorinated water is very hard on hair! I wear a silicone swim cap (Speedo brand). I wet my hair in the shower at the pool before putting on my cap (so my hair is already saturated). The hair at the nape of my neck is always a bit fried from the chlorine.

    11. nom de plume*

      Definitely wear a cap to swim! It will keep the hair out of your face, the pool and other swimmers’ faces / hands (yuck yuck yuck), and reduce drag.
      Silicone caps are thicker, sturdier, and MUCH easier to put on and pull off than the plain rubber ones. They also dry faster.
      Buy two or three at a time if you buy them online, that way you always have one on-hand in case another tears.

    12. Jshaden*

      Regardless of which type of swim cap you go with, rinsing your hair with cool water and applying a thick cream leave in-conditioner before putting the cap one can help protect your hair from chlorine damage. I use that plus a lycra type cap, and it keeps colored hair pretty happy.

  28. Green Beans*

    another car decided this week that it had a burning desire to exist in the exact same space as my car and my poor little car is in very bad shape now.

    Any tips for dealing with insurance? I don’t have collision insurance, which isn’t a big deal because I am not at fault (and I’m pretty sure a cop witnessed it; he was on the scene in less than 2 minutes and they straight up told me I wasn’t at fault.) I filed with my insurance online but ended having to call to get things moving. They determined I was not at fault during the phone call. Then I had to call the other person’s insurance to get things moving there. That insurance is saying (1) they have to contact the other driver for a statement but if he doesn’t answer, they have to wait 2-3 days to call again and (2) they’ll likely want a police report to determine liability but my state (which is a bureaucratic nightmare on the best of days) is saying it can take up to four weeks for a police report to be sent.

    And my state also requires a form to be filled out within 5 days that includes fields for things like name and age of passengers in the other car and if my car was totaled or not. I don’t know the former and won’t know the latter until liability is determined, which is not going to happen within the timeframe. thankfully, the form has to be mailed so I’m just going to annotate it in pen but… arghhhh.

    The other insurance did say they would reimburse for a rental car if I got one now and was determined to be not at-fault, so I’m at least able to get that sorted.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      Your insurance should be subrogating your claim with the other insurance company to get damages and all that. You CAN take your car to a collision center to get an estimate on repairs, and they should be able to tell you if it were totaled or not.

      I was in a not-a-fault accident a few years ago, and once I looped in my insurance, the other person’s insurance basically no longer contacted me. I did have to give statements to BOTH companies, and their tone, even though she clearly ran a stop sign, was that it was somehow my fault. So be prepared for a VERY frustrating, redundant conversation.

      1. Green Beans*

        My insurance is technically handling everything – they filed the claim (I have USAA and they are excellent) but I needed to figure out a rental fast and that wasn’t happening. So I called the other person’s insurance and they took my statement and told me they would reimburse the rental if I was not at-fault. Planning to let my insurance handle everything else but I needed transportation before Monday and it was Friday by the time things started moving on their end.

        Yeah, the other insurance company was definitely looking for anything I did wrong, which – I know it’s their job but it was very unpleasant. I was very, very clearly not at fault (and the adjustor got noticeably deflated the more questions she asked.)

        Car got towed and is sitting in a tow lot. It’s not drivable (headlight and tire damage) so it would have to be towed to a collision center to be checked out, which I’m not paying for. Other insurance can pay for it to sit in the lot while they get their stuff together.

    2. Rara Avis*

      Yeah, when my husband had a fender-bender, our insurance was the one to deal with the other insurance. It’s very much to their advantage to do so — then they don’t have to pay out as much.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If you were hit from behind then generally it is assumed the person behind you is at fault.

      Google to find the Blue Book value of your exact car. It will be a range. Write this down so you have it.

      If the cost of the repair is LESS than the Blue Book value of the car then the insurance company will opt to repair it.

      If the cost of the repair is greater than the value of your car then the insurance company will total it out. They will give you a dollar amount for the entire car and you go buy a new one.

      Here it is handy to call several car dealers around you and ask how much a car exactly like yours goes for on their lot. If the insurance company low balls you, then you read off your list of several places that told you cars were selling for more than that. (You will need the dealership, who you spoke to and the dollar amount.) I did this for one vehicle and I found the insurance company offered me 25% more than the top price of the 3 dealerships I called. But I was glad I called any way because I felt confident taking the offer. I kind of figured they would declare the car a rolling total because I had wiped out one whole side of it on ice. The car was 9 years old an not worth repairing all that. It was driveable except for the problem with random parts falling off the side of it.

      My husband was an insurance adjuster early in his working life and he was very sure-footed in these situations. I learned from him.

      1. Green Beans*

        thanks! I was not hit from behind, but I was definitely not at fault. I’m decently sure a cop witnessed the whole thing as well and they were very much “this was not your fault” during the response.

        I’m not sure how easy it’ll be to find a car exactly like mine but I’ll do my best. I know the KBB value from mid-2021 (checked out of curiosity when used car prices surged) but I’ll do some more research on it. I suspect the car is totaled but can’t be sure until the insurance company makes a call – it’s definitely fixable so it’s just a matter of is the damage more than the value of the car?

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          If it’s a particularly old car, you may also need to see if it’s slid from “generic old car” into “collectable old car” to make sure that it’s been priced correctly by the insurance company. I got rear-ended in a 30+ year old vehicle a while back (that we’d been insuring with the same company since we drove it off the lot as a new car), and they were only going to value it at $1000 due to the age, but we looked online and this particular vehicle was worth more than that since people were nostalgic for that particular model. This ended up being the difference in whether it was totaled or repairable, although it was also an exciting adventure in driving to another city to pull used parts off a junk car to get the parts to repair it with due to the age of the vehicle.

      1. Green Beans*

        I’ll call them again on Monday and let them know what happened. They’re normally really excellent customer service.

    4. Stevie Budd*

      I was rear ended over the summer and my older car was totaled. It took about a week for the other insurance company to really do anything, but then they got it all done in a couple days. So hopefully it will go smoothly once they start working on it. If you have any medical concerns, make sure you let them know about that as well. I sort of wish I had asked for them to cover a medical exam because I was hit very hard. I was just sore and am fine but I think it would have been a good idea to get checked out. Also, if you don’t end up getting a rental car, you can ask for some money for not getting one.

  29. MechanicalPencil*

    Cat related question:

    I have purchased catgrass directly from a pet store. I have gotten kits from pet stores. Both are fine for one-off purchases, but is there a better, more sustainable long term solution? I’m fine growing some seed from the garden center or whatever, but is the “cat grass” there the same cat grass?

    I have thoroughly confused myself, and I don’t want to hurt any of my creatures. My current foster cat LOVES chomping houseplants but can be bribed with catgrass, so I’m trying to appease him.

    1. The Jobless Wonder*

      The seeds in cat grass kits are usually just unsprouted wheat berries, which you could get fairly inexpensively from a grocery store.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Adding grass seed in nurseries is a rye mix, at least in this part of the country. My dog loves to graze on the lawn, but he won’t touch the wheat grass from the grocery store. Too funny.

    2. Red Sky*

      Yes, ‘cat grass’ can be grown from any wheat, rye, barley, and/or oat seed, it all just depends on your cat’s personal preference. I order the 2 lb Thunder Acres Wheat Grass seeds from Amazon for about $15 and it lasts 6-12 mos depending on how many fosters I’ve got, Much cheaper than buying the ‘Cat Grass’ seed packets at $5-$6 ea.

      Wheatgrass seems to be the most popular with the kitties I’ve fostered and I usually have 2-3 pots in rotation, so at least one is always sprouting while the other(s) are getting destroy by the kitties. I germinate the seeds in coco coir in a little bowl* or pot, just soak the coco coir in water then squeeze out excess moisture, place in your pot then sprinkle seeds on top and pat down. Place on sunny windowsill, mist daily and wait for them to sprout.

      *I like to use shallow bowls that don’t have drainage holes, you just have to make sure you’re not adding too much water; you want moist soil, not soaking wet

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

      I just bought some live wheat grass from the pet store and potted it into a large 18 inch shallow bowl. It’s growing and filling in the bowl nicely. I didn’t have any luck at finding pet grass at a garden center. They only had lemon grass in their herb section, and ornamental or lawn-type grass, which I read aren’t good for pets. If I cut the grass and let the dog eat the clippings, the plant recovers pretty quickly and I have perpetual grass.

    4. All Hail Queen Sally*

      My cats love the cat grass seeds that are available from Botanical Interests dot com the best. I have to grow them their own plants to keep them away from mine.

  30. Bluebell*

    Super trivial recommendation request: I’m not a chocolate person or a fan of peanut butter but find meal/protein bars a useful alternative for breakfast. Anyone have ones they like that do not involve either of those flavors? My top two are the One blueberry flavor, and the cashew caramel flavor from GoMacro.

      1. Filosofickle*

        It’s pretty good. I like chocolate but get overwhelmed by the dessert-ness of all the bars so I seek out the ones that are different (and less sweet!)

    1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      The cashew Larabar is quite good– and I don’t usually like those kindsa things.

    2. Roland*

      The Luna lemon used to be my go to for similar reasons. I don’t dislike chocolate but it’s not what I want when I want an energy bar. There’s also RX bars which I usually get instead now, they just taste like fruit.

      I don’t use them for meal replacements so much as occasional “meal delaying” so you’d want to check that the nutritional info is what you’re looking for.

      1. Bluebell*

        Yes, Luna and Lara bars have some good non-chocolate flavors, but they aren’t very high in protein. One bars have about 20 grams of protein.

    3. Not that Leia*

      Lara bars have a good range of non chocolate flavors. I really like the carrot cake one. They’re all basically dates + Nuts + other dried fruit, so they taste less processed (and slightly less sweet IMO) than some of the other options out there.

    4. Annie Edison*

      Have you tried RX bars? They are a bit pricey but delicious and I think they have a few non-chocolate flavors

    5. Random Bystander*

      Try the energy bars & squares from nuts (dot) com. (I tend to buy just nuts for my parents, who’ve requested that gifts be consumables because they’re trying to get rid of stuff). You can also make a custom trail mix, as I initially found them because every commercial trail mix included almonds, which my daughter didn’t like. The trail mix can be portioned out into containers for convenience and you can include just the sort of things that you do like in your mix.

  31. Stuck*

    What do you do when you are on a long run of bad luck? We made a major move a year ago for a job and bad things have happened every other week from major injury of a child to problems with the place we’re living, to having one car robbed and another in a collision, to not finding new medical providers easily or liking the ones we did find. Plus a zillion other relatively minor things. It never ends. I don’t have any joy living here but my family love it. Can’t move again for a couple years. Feeling v down about it. Anyone have a similar experience and how did you deal? Thanks.

    1. Spearmint*

      I had something similar happen to me after a big move I did four years ago for my then-partner’s career, and only now am I starting to make my peace with living here. One big thing that helped me was trying to go out of my way to find and do cool things, especially ones that I couldn’t do in my previous location. And this can be anything from local restaurants to museums to unique landmarks. The other thing that helped was getting out more and being more social. Having friends and acquaintances, even if they aren’t the closest, makes me feel more positively toward a place.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. So very sorry.

      Self-care is number one because that is usually the first thing we give up so we can handle all the problems. Get your self-care back in place. Rest, whole foods and hydration.

      Next is friends in the new place. Do you have people you feel a warm friendship with? If no, check around and see if someone appears to be offering friendship but you did not notice before. Friends can be a respite from the chaos but they can also offer bits of information that might be helpful.

      Join a neighbor forum if available. The forums can shorten your learning curve in a new place.

      Do you have a favorite relative? How about setting up periodic calls to “visit” with this person. This would be someone who is a port in the storm to you. Just hearing their voice makes you feel like things are okay for a moment.

      Check out your library. Find out what free events they have going on, perhaps they have something for your kid(s) that they would like.

      Simplify things in your day as much as possible, especially recurring house chores. I know I have a habit of watching every penny. This one can bite those of us who are routinely frugal. Sometimes we need to spend a little money on “pressure relief”. I was making the washing machine limp along, what I really needed to do was buy a new washer. Get a few of the daily problems under control so that feeling of hopelessness does not build up so easily.

      Soak in your family’s joy. Sometimes another person’s joy can be enough for the moment.

      I hope things get better for you in meaningful ways.

      1. Chaordic One*

        A big yes to self-care. Sometimes just some little things you can do for yourself. Taking a walk or a bike ride. Reading a book or a magazine. Watching a TV show or a movie. Taking a bath. Sometimes, when you’re in the right frame of mind, cleaning can be very therapeutic, but you don’t want that to be overwhelming or burdensome, so if it doesn’t work, don’t do it.

    3. NancyDrew*

      At the risk of sounding too witchy, when I have a string of bad luck I do some cleansing: reiki, cord-cutting, burning sage, manifestations, etc.

  32. bob ross*

    I want to take an online printmaking class but the options are overwhelming. Any recommendations for either a printmaking class specifically or a course website geared towards arts that you have found worthwhile?

    1. bratschegirl*

      We are really enjoying ours! And it hasn’t yet spontaneously combusted in our garage. We’re actually surprised how much we enjoy driving it, since we’re usually dyed -in-the-wool manual transmission snobs, and it costs so much less to drive than a gasoline car it’s astonishing. The battery replacement process from the recall is moving pretty slowly, though. No idea when it will be our turn.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband has had one for a few years and really likes it. The 200-300 mile range means it’s easy to go somewhere 1.5 hours away and back without recharging. He’s about to take it on a long trip.

      1. ThatGirl*

        My commute is very short and I frequently drive less than 15 miles a week, so I’m excited by the idea of not needing gas OR to charge my car very frequently.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I am curious about the backseat – can a full size adult sit comfortably for short drives? Usually it’s just me or me + husband but we do have friends visit who we’ll go out for dinner etc with. I know the backseat is not large but is it ok for say, 20 minutes or less?

  33. marvin*

    I’m taking up canoeing this winter and trying to figure out how to dress for it. I need to stay reasonably warm in rainy and somewhat cold (above freezing) temperatures, and I need to be prepared in case I fall in. Any recommendations from others who are out on the water in cold, wet weather?

    1. fposte*

      I added some colder-weather kayaking clothing this year, and I suspect they’d be fairly similar. Definitely research online in paddling sites and forums so you know what factors to consider in your particular location and if particular brands have key characteristics. I got neoprene wetsuit bottoms off of Amazon (brand is Seaskin) and Neosport neoprene wetsuit boots that go up above the ankle. On top I just wore a fleece zip hoodie with something reasonably water-friendly underneath, I forget what; I’m only on calm lakes and I’ve never gotten more than spattered above the waist, so the top just needed to be air-warm rather than water warm.

      It worked above expectations. I’ve never used anything wetsuit-like before and it was fascinating–I get cold feet very easily, and it was slightly surreal to have them a little wet but not actually cold. The kayaks I’m using mean my legs were in a little bit of undrained water for much of the outing, but the neoprene did its job. And they really weren’t that pricey, either.

      1. fposte*

        I should probably add this was for 50s, maybe 40s at the start Fahrenheit; since it was spring I was more concerned with the cold water temp than the air temp.

    2. MaxKitty*

      Layers with a waterproof outer layer. Inside layers of quick-drying materials (no cotton shirts or jeans).

      For kayaking in Alaska, I had long underwear and fleece pants covered with waterproof pants, and a short-sleeve shirt under a long-sleeve fleece top covered with a waterproof jacket with a hood. And polypropylene padding gloves. That got me through a three-day paddling trip, including one day of nonstop rain (we added and removed layers as necessary).

      For Antarctica, they issued us a dry suit. If you’re out in winter, you may want to consider one. It helped keep us warm in the kayaks and would have saved our lives if we fell in.

      I assume you’ll have a PFD, so that will provide warmth as well.

    3. Rara Avis*

      I rowed in college in northern New England. Wool socks, for sure. Otherwise we wore running tights and long/sleeved T-shirts under waterproof jackets. (But the chances of going inyo the water are very small, and there would be quick rescue by the coach’s launch. Local ocean kayaking rental places give out wetsuits or rain pants with a waterproof jacket.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Check out ice fishing clothes. You can google that phrase it will come right up.

      There are full suits and separates to chose from. I’d recommend the separates because I am told these things keep you VERY warm. You may want to just wear the coat or just wear the pants, depending on the day. They have built in things for buoyancy if you fall in. The suit my friend bought promised to keep your head above water for an hour. They also have
      the coolest little pockets where you could put your license and other important papers- it will stay dry. I think the suit my friend got was just over $350. It’s loaded with features/conveniences.

      The sizing is good on these. My friend wears a 4x and he had no problem finding something to fit.

    5. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      I don’t have gear-specific recommendations, but I’ve done some whitewater canoeing/rafting and have had to pull people out of the water before because even though they had decent gear on, the shock of getting dunked was just so intense that they froze up and couldn’t coordinate their limbs to get themselves to safety. So I say take a day to give your gear a swim test in frigid water before you take it out for real. Get used to the shock of the cold, the weight of your gear it when it’s waterlogged, etc. Practice retrieving your paddle and getting back in your boat/lugging it full of water to the shore when you’re shivering. Possibly this is obvious and you were planning on it anyway, but just in case, that’s what I wish I’d known when I first started. It’s one thing to learn capsize-recovery skills on a warm sunny day in a lake, it’s another to put it into practice in fast-moving snowmelt.

      1. Westsidestory*

        Oh yes do the dunk test. Even in the summer some lakes/rivers are very cold. You need to discover how you will react, and build faith in your PFD.

        That’s how I was taught kayaking: being dumped overboard multiple times in a lake, surrounded by a circle of bobbing friends who assured me they wouldn’t let me die!

        I would also recommend a half wet suit at least – top half is what I like. It can be unzipped if it feels too warm. I prefer my legs to be free as possible so just use running tights. In a canoe sometimes the position is kneeling so flexibility is important. Water shoes (cheap ones okay) and a hat.

      2. marvin*

        Thanks! I’m required to demonstrate that I can get back into an overturned canoe (in October) so that should be a decent test run.

        1. Westsidestory*

          Let us know how you do! The world needs more people who know how to canoe – sometimes I really hate having to do all the steering in a double.

          It is a wonderful sort of sport.

  34. Rara Avis*

    What are your favorite treats/self-indulgences? I’m feeling really burnt out (which I attribute to a major change at that weekly place, parenting challenges, a run of really miserable weather, and losing most of my vacation to a case of Covid). I could take a sick day or two, but picking up the pieces afterwards when the work has lain in wait and multiplied isn’t that much fun. Right now I hate people and that isn’t fair to my family and is a big problem for the kind of work I do. First on my list is go to the ocean and listen to the waves for a while. What should I add?

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      This is really individual, of course, but I’ve found myself Duck Duck Go-ing things like this when I’m so busy I’ve forgotten. But here are things I find restorative (that I can and like doing alone or with a pet):

      -reading or TV, anything where I can escape into a narrative
      -change of scenery, like another city or even a nice patio for reading
      -anything to get me moving in gentle ways that feel good, like walking or yoga
      -anything art related — looking at murals or paintings in a gallery. Something about witnessing creativity is fulfilling to me.
      -getting out of my comfort zone to try something new, even if it’s just a sandwich shop
      -walking through libraries and bookstores
      -meditating but only after doing fun things. It does feel good, but it feels like work.

    2. Maryn*

      So many possibilities to indulge yourself.

      Get family cooperation to leave you completely alone for an hour or more. (You and significant other, if there is one, can trade off doing this for one another.) During that time, you can take a bubble bath, read a book, give yourself a mani-pedi, pursue a craft or similar project, go for a walk somewhere other than your own neighborhood, meditate, do yoga, buy or bake something delicious and eat as much as you want…

      When time is tight, I’ve found the most relief comes from taking a walk in a natural environment, like a hiking trail in a wooded area. I return from those feeling pretty calm and more myself.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes! When I really need to recharge I want to be alone. I even take my dog in for an overnight at doggy daycare (he’s lovely but a pest) so that I can wake up and have a slow peaceful morning not being nagged for breakfast/walkies. Then I go on a bike ride in a pleasant place.

    3. Mia*

      two things I like –
      – treating myself to an iced coffee
      – sitting outside and watching trees (I find something soothing about how the branches move more at the edges while the trunk and roots are grounding it)

    4. Excuse Me, Is This Username Taken?*

      A coffee drink from my favorite coffee shop, or if I have more time sitting and reading a book for fun at the coffee shop.

    5. Rosyglasses*

      There is a beautiful little public sauna/spa near me, and I love indulging myself in a couple of hours – no phone, a book if I wish. Two hours going in and out of dry and wet heat, cold showers, soaking my feet – it’s bliss. Yoga before or after to gently twist and wring out the organs also tends to center me quite a bit.

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Ice cream or interesting teas.

      I’m getting the ice cream from local shops, and mail ordering the tea (which takes a bit longer).

    7. Girasol*

      A museum or the zoo. If it’s a museum, a snack break afterward in a nice bakery/coffee shop afterward. If it’s the zoo, a corn dog at the snack bar.

    8. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Have the best bath ever. Buy a good bath pillow to cradle your head. Buy a bath tray (I like the one from Umbra) and use it to hold a great book and a refreshing drink while you bathe. Make your bath smell nice with scented bubble bath or scented epsom salts. Maybe play a little music in the background if you can read and listen at the same time. I have a friend who sets up a laptop on a chair in the bathroom and watches shows while bathing if that’s more your thing.

    9. Random Bystander*

      There is a place I go to every three months for a facial. If there’s a day spa near you, they may have packages that include things like massage, mani/pedi as well.

  35. Qwerty*

    Recommendations on free mobile apps/games that don’t use data? I’m going to have very little cell service or internet over an upcoming vacation and am looking for something when I’m just looking for a distraction. I currently have internet-heavy versions of minesweeper, suduko, solitaire, and various brain game apps that don’t require much brain power – wordscapes, sorting colored balls, match3 games, etc.

    I’m attempting to find a book version of suduko, but for some reason phone versions make me less car sick during long drives and plane rides than the pen-and-paper type.

    1. Dr. KMnO4*

      I Love Hue is free, and I believe its “sequel”, I Love Hue Too, is also free. I Love Hue has ads, so that might be an issue with data, but if you don’t have reception it might not be a problem at all. I Love Hue Too does not have ads.

    2. Suprisingly ADHD*

      There’s an app called “Simon Tatham’s Puzzles” available on the google play store. It includes sudoku, minesweeper, and like 20 other puzzle games, and doesn’t use data even when you have data turned on. It shows up as “Puzzles” once installed.
      Also, seconding I Love Hue and I love Hue Too! Thousands of gradient puzzles, but you have to disable data on your phone or they load ads. I recommend ILH Too over the original. The original makes you watch ads to “purchase” puzzles, the sequel does not.
      Finally, you can try turning off data and wifi and see which of your current favorites still work! Some won’t work at all without ads, some only lose the social aspect (play with friends, ask for help, high scores).

      1. RagingADHD*

        I have this one, lots of good ones in there. You won’t get the cute animations or pretty colors of a trendy app, but there’s lots of variety and it’s very stable.

    3. Tib*

      I have successfully played both Two Dots and Jewel Sliding with my data turned off. Two Dots has some ads in reserve for data-free playing and you can’t get your daily reward and some other things without data, but it plays just fine. Jewel Sliding was ad free with data off.

  36. Voluptuousfire*

    Piggybacking on the cats thread, how do you determine if your cat may benefit from a friend? I have my calico and she’s a dorky, sweet girl who is independent but can be shy and skittish. In theory I’d love another cat because I grew up with clowders of them so it’s what I’m used to, but I’m kinda happy with our dynamic duo. I go back and forth.

    I do think Eloise would like a friend and like I said in the cats thread, I’d love to adopt a black cat since I love them and they’re much less apt to be adopted. I have a house so I have the space for more than one and no landlord issues. I also wonder what kind of cat Eloise would get along with. I’d think a more confident cat would be a great fit or even a cat who is like her but more submissive and she could be the alpha cat. It’s just so hard!

    1. cat socks*

      I understand the difficulty! Cats all have different personalities and some kitties definitely enjoy being singletons. Do you think fostering would be an option? I would still go through the process of slowly introducing them, but maybe it would give you a feel for how she does with another kitty.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        I’d potentially consider fostering. Right now it’s not in the cards but maybe in the new year.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      I would definitely look into fostering to adopt. It would give you a trial run to see if personalities are a mesh. If that’s not an option, try to get a cat from a foster rather than a shelter (fosters work through shelters/rescues, I know). That way you have solid notes on current in-home behavior. Cats in shelters very rarely display their full personalities. Also, SLOW introduction of Eloise to whomever you decide on would be ideal, if you do.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Honestly, I’m not sure many adult cats who have been living along really “enjoy” having a stranger cat move in, although many will learn to accept and tolerate it in time. I’m sure it does happen but it it’s rare in my experience – and if they don’t get along it’s very stressful for everyone. Kittens can certainly benefit from having playmates, although even that doesn’t always last once they get to a year or two. The best odds of introducing new cats to existing cats is supposed to be an opposite-gender kitten to your existing cat.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        I’d rather an older cat. I love kittens but too much crazy energy for me. My Eloise is like 8 or so and her energy is perfect for me.

      2. KristinaL*

        When I had an older cat and a young adult cat (both female), I decided the younger kitty needed a friend her own age she could play with. It turned out really well. I went to a kitty adoption place and talked to them about what I was looking for, and I brought home a sweet-natured, playful young adult (maybe 3 years old) who they knew gets along well with other kitties.
        There was some hissing at first, but they all got along. Now I just have the 2 younger cats (who are now technically seniors, but don’t tell them). They don’t cuddle, but they hang out and sometimes play.

  37. cat socks*

    Thoughts on dental care for cats?

    One of my black cats is a street cat who spent most of his life outdoors. When I first rescued him, the vet noticed he had lots of tartar and inflammation. He has tooth resorption issues and gingivitis. During his first dental, he had five teeth extracted. Since he has chronic issues, I do get him yearly cleanings.

    Floofy ginger boy had his first dental earlier this year. He had bad breath and a lot of tartar and had one tooth extracted. I’ll have to see how he’s doing at his annual exam in December and he might need another cleaning.

    At a recent vet visit, she recommended that tabby boy get a cleaning because he had a lot of tartar build up.

    If teeth need to be extracted, I find it worth it because I know that can be painful.

    Do you get dental cleanings for just tartar build up? Tabby boy is FIV+ so I want to make sure it doesn’t turn into an infection.

    It’s also expensive, but that’s something I’ve planned for with having five cats. Thankfully the other two have good teeth.

    1. Sundial*

      My tuxie has stomatitis, so she needs more dental care than the norm. The vet told us to expect her to be toothless eventually, and TBH I look back and wonder if we should have just gotten them all out earlier and saved her the discomfort.

      I personally do not agree with just tartar cleanings for cats, because the anaesthesia is so hard on them. If I’m putting her under for extractions, a cleaning is a nice bonus, but I won’t put her through that more often than absolutely necessary.

      Have you tried brushing their teeth at home? I’ve had mixed success, some cats don’t mind it.

      1. cat socks*

        Good point about the anesthesia. He was pretty wiped out after his neuter surgery. I do have special cat toothpaste and my vet gave me a sample of these teeth cleaning wipes. Tabby boy would probably tolerate it. Maybe I’ll do an initial cleaning and try to maintain it via brushing.

        1. Sundial*

          There are also liquids you can mix into their water bowl to repel tartar. Navigate Chewy via “Cat > Healthcare > Dental Care > Water Additives” for examples.

          1. Cormorannt*

            This is what we use. One of our cats cannot be safely anesthetized due to a heart murmur. We tried brushing with several ty