weekend open thread – November 12-13, 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: Little Children, by Tom Perrotta. Two suburban parents, both aimlessly drifting in unsatisfying marriages, are drawn into an affair against a backdrop of stultifying suburbia. Very John Cheever meets Madam Bovary.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 928 comments… read them below }

  1. Ragged and Rusty*

    First: I love the wistful look in the kitty’s eyes!!!
    Second: I’m looking for people’s delicious pan fried steak recipes and spice rubs… I finished the last of my favorite blend and while I have a plan for this meat, I also overbought at Costco and can’t keep eating the exact same flavor.
    I hope we all have a good relaxing weekend!

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

      I love Alison’s photo here too — the light is so cool. It looks like a painting!

      Not exactly pan fried, but I will toss a steak in the toaster oven with Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and Grey Poupon. It’s really how my parents taught me to season lamb chops, but it works okay for steak too.

    2. Happily Retired*

      We loooove using a coffee rub, both for skillet cooking and for grilling. This recipe is from the 2007 Weber’s Charcoal Grilling book:

      (Enough for 4 boneless rib-eyes; save extra in the freezer)

      1 Tbsp freshly/ finely-ground dark roast coffee
      2 tsp kosher salt
      1 tsp light brown sugar
      1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
      optional: 1/4 tsp allspice

      Mix it up; lightly oil the steak(s); let sit 20-30 minutes, then cook however you’re cooking.

      If it seems weird, make up a small batch and try it on a burger.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      My husband’s friend opened a spice store with all kinds of cool blends. I don’t want to get sent to moderation, but if you google “Baldy’s Blends” it’s a store in PA and they also ship. We don’t live in PA, but have ordered from him several times, both for ourselves and to give as gifts.

    4. slowingaging*

      I use chinese 5 spice, shichimi mix, baharat, (I make my own mixes) , kinder garlic bbq sauce, gochujang … enjoy

    5. Jay*

      Sorry if it’s a little too obvious, but have you made up some nice chicken fried steak with eggs and white pepper gravy for breakfast/brunch yet?

      Also, try seasoning and very lightly frying your steak, then dicing that up and adding it to one of those instant potato soups, especially the “loaded” or “steakhouse” varieties. They make a nice change of pace. You can do the same for ramen (even instant ramen, although I would cook it a bit more, as your steak wont cook much more in the soup with that one).

      Pan fry and slice thin for cheese steak sandwiches, tacos, burritos, etc.

      Try making a mushroom sauce, whole mushrooms, or even just cream of mushroom soup (not my favorite, whole mushrooms are the way to go, in my opinion).

  2. Jackalope*

    Book and reading thread! Share what you’ve been reading this past week, give or ask for recs.

    I just finished Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood. It is a delightful romance novel that I sped through because I was having such a good time. Highly recommend. I also am reading The Overneath by Peter Beagle. I hadn’t realized he had another book out (and it’s been a couple of years so joke’s on me). I find that he particularly excels at short stories, which is what this book is mad of, so I’m enjoying it a lot.

    1. Teapot Translator*

      This week, I read The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr and Asterios Polyp.
      I’ll soon finish She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

    2. Pool Lounger*

      Just finished Malpertuis by Jean Ray. Gothic and postmodern, I recommend it for fans of American Gods, The Secret History, and anyone who likes weird, mostly-forgotten (in the USA, anyway) books.

    3. StellaBella*

      I read ‘Trading Up’ by Candace Bushnell (famous for the TV show SATC). Very fluff, about rich people but a nice distraction. I have some books on order for Christmas but nothing new to read til then.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)nd*

        Ooh I love books about rich people! Thank you, I will check this out (it’s a crazy time at work for me so I need endless quantities of fluff)

    4. Lemonwhirl*

      Last weekend, I read Blair Braverman’s “Small Game”, which was fantastic, and Alison Gaylin’s “Reality Ends Here”, which was quite good. Then I struggled to find something before settling on “Are You Awake?” by Clair McGowan, which is okay and I’ll probably finish it.

      I’d really appreciate any recs for excellent books written in the third-person – crime, horror, or contemporary fiction. (I don’t like historical fiction or fantasy.) I have Kindle Unlimited (from .co.uk – not sure if it differs from the American version), but it has become kind of like Netflix – I am overwhelmed by the choices and just sit there opening books and then closing them after the first paragraph.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I want to read Braverman’s SMALL GAME – I’ve enjoyed other novels themed on reality-TV and want to see how that one compares.

        Perhaps my favorite of the reality-show-turned-horror books is THE LAST ONE by Alexandra Oliva; the contestants and TV crew are in a remote area starting the show when a plague attacks the outside world, and we get to see events unfolding from both sides. [Lots of fun tidbits about the production of “reality” shows, including careful editing to create storylines; these fade away as the actual reality kicks in, but provide a lot of interest.]

        On the lighter side, there’s LOST AND FOUND by Carolyn Parkhurst, about the people who are competing on a travel/scavenger-hunt game somewhat like “Amazing Race,” with lots of relationship issues coming to light.

      2. Cohort 1*

        Here are some of my go-to authors with good-to-excellent writing skills:

        By Donna Leon: a series of police procedurals set in Venice (by a British ex-pat) featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Leon’s writing is excellent and the window into how things are done in Italy enlightening. Start with #1.

        By Louise Penny: a series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete du Quebec battling crime and corruption in Quebec. Excellent characters, compelling stories. Feel smart as you translate all the French bits thrown in. Definitely begin with #1.

        By J.A. Jance: a multiple series author (who is getting on, so there probably won’t be too many more). There is the series featuring Joanna Brady, a young widow who runs for Sheriff down on the southern border of Arizona after her sheriff husband is murdered. An older series features J.P. Beaumont, a detective in Seattle who battles with alcohol. He is my least favorite of Jance’s characters, but ymmv – later books suit me more after he gets over the alcohol thing. A newer series feature Ali Reynolds, a former LA newscaster cast aside by an influential husband and a sexist TV network, who returns home to Sedona, AZ. – a very engaging sleuth. Jance also has a 4 book series I really like called the Walker Family Mysteries which are Native American influenced.

        Don’t miss Tony Hillerman’s novels (and his daughter Anne since he’s passed away) set in Najavo country or any Dick Francis (and his son isn’t bad) novels for a quick and satisfying read.

        1. Jessica*

          Just agreeing with some of this. Louise Penny is a crafty and compassionate writer with a lot of character depth. Her work is on the serious side; I remember reading the author’s note to one of her books where she talked about what these books and characters mean to her. She said she doesn’t have any kids, so her books are her only legacy; they have been her life’s work. They’re a legacy to be proud of.

          A friend recommended Donna Leon to me lately and I’ve just read the first few, but am finding them quite enjoyable. Venice is the #1 place I’ve always wanted to go and never (yet) have, but these books sometimes make me feel more there than if I were there. If I ever visit Venice, it will just be as a tourist, but Brunetti is Venetian to the bone and these books make me feel like I’m getting to know a great city through the eyes of someone who belongs to it.

          In case there’s anyone left who doesn’t know Dick Francis, he was a top steeplechase jockey (a career from which one retires young) whose second career was writing mystery novels set in the horseracing world. Often they’re also connected with some other sphere of endeavor; from Francis novels I’ve not only learned everything I know about horseracing, but also about photography, wine bottling, competitive rifle shooting, flying small aircraft, journalism, kidnapping, railroads, painting, merchant banking, wilderness survival, and more. Most of his books are stand-alone (there are a few exceptions where a protagonist has more than one book), and from 1962 to about 1998 Francis was at the top of his game. His last few books, the ones he cowrote with his son Felix, and the ones Felix has gone on writing after his death are not quite as good, but they’re not bad.

        2. Ghostly Apparition*

          My favorite authors as well! I highly recommend them if you like character driven stories that continue in a series.

    5. onebitcpu*

      I’ve just finished “Raising Steam” by Terry Pratchett.
      For several weeks in a row now I’ve picked up a book to fill a weekly task where I have to wait for 15 minutes for something, and wind up finishing the book that evening.

      1. Lilo*

        I love Pratchett but I stalled out on that one. I think the second author/memory loss affected the book and it just felt off to me.

        1. Angstrom*

          The last Pratchetts, as his Alzheimer’s grew worse, were disappointing and sad to read. You could see that the ideas were still there but the brilliant wordplay was gone.

          1. Jay*

            I know. There were times I literally teared up reading Raising Steam, knowing that this really was the end of an era.

    6. FashionablyEvil*

      Really enjoyed Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. I think it’s technically classed as YA, but it combines threads related to grief, race, class, Arthurian legend, magic, and romance (which sounds like a lot! But go with it!) The middle is a little uneven in terms of pacing and plot, but the ending? *chef’s kiss*

      Currently reading Naomi Novik’s latest, The Golden Enclaves, which is the final book in her Scholomance trilogy. I’m just shy of half way through and am looking forward to the obvious quest moving into full swing soon. (Or at least, it had better. I can’t do another hundred pages of moping and metaphorical wandering in the woods!)

    7. Angstrom*

      Rereading “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. It’s written as a series of journal entries and letters from different characters, which is very effective.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Two books, with requests for recs in a similar vein:

      The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. About a village in England where plague breaks out in 1665, and they choose to quarantine to keep it from spreading through the surrounding area. I went into this thinking the plot was shutting in to keep the plague out, a la our April-May 2020, so it was much sadder than I expected–a lot of people die of plague, obviously, and of the stresses brought by the plague.

      But I really enjoyed it. It was very beautiful, capturing so many small moments, and ends with someone who goes forward out of the darkness.

      Any recs of books that you love just for the beauty of the story?

      1. Jackalope*

        Slightly different than what you asked, but The Wood Wife by Terri Windling is the first and so far only book I’ve read that has such a beautiful and gorgeous setting that I loved the setting more than anything else. This is not a complaint about the plot either, which I also loved, but the descriptions were amazing. And it’s a desert, which I’ve always hated (I grew up in a desert and it was… not for me), so it’s even more amazing that I loved it so much.

      2. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Pretty much everything by Brooks is gorgeous. All different, all engrossing and worthwhile.

        I also really enjoyed Lauren Groff’s “Matrix,” which is also historical fiction, very different in style, and I think equally great.

      3. Bebe*

        I am a big fan of Gwendolyn Brooks! Her book March is based on Little Women, but is the story of what their father, Mr March, does during his time in the Army – there’s little to no connection to the LW story, it is just used as a framework. It has been a while since I read it, but it was really good. Very different than Year of Wonders, but if you like her writing style, you may enjoy it.

      4. fposte*

        Is the Brooks about Eyam in Derbyshire? Jill Paton Walsh also has a book about that called A Parcel of Patterns, if so.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)nd*

          I read A Parcel of Patterns (and lots of other JPW) over& over as a child – it’s really stayed with me.

      5. the cat's ass*

        My favorite of all of her books, with the non-fiction “Foreign Correspondence” about her childhood and adolescent pen pals coming in a close second.

        I think Justin Cronin’s earlier books were small lyrical gems to be read once for their beauty and once for the plot, and surprisingly, when he took a sharp sideways turn into blockbuster dystopian fiction, the writing still had beautiful lyrical moments. The Passage Trilogy (The Passage, The Twelve, and City of Mirrors) are worth a read, or a re-read!

      6. Rosyglasses*

        I think that Richard Powers “Overstory” was this for me. It was beautifully written and the story brought me to a place of deep longing that we could see nature and the world the way he describes.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Second book, a series that starts with The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. A teenager living in her car is named the chief heir to a billionaire’s fortune, cutting out his family. Why did the puzzle-obsessed billionaire do this? Can she meet the terms of the will to keep his fortune? How much would this screw you up, yet how much fun would it be? What should she do with the money?

      The thing is, there are flaws. Some plot mysteries really could have been thought out better. Characterization could be deeper. But it’s fun. I whipped through the first two from the library, bought the third as the wait was long and as soon as I finished it donated it to the library. Sometimes you just want breezy cheesy fun, and this series delivered that. Like I’ll choose to rewatch old Leverage episodes because, okay, maybe the plot would have some holes if I let myself squint at it–but I don’t, I just dive in and get carried along by the con and the characters.

      What’s a book that you recommend just because it is so gosh darn fun to read?

      1. Jackalope*

        I really liked the one I mentioned in my post above – Love On the Brain by Ali Hazelwood. It was light and playful and didn’t have any super intense bits. (Romance genre)

        I also enjoy Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, as well as Bellwether; both of them are light and playful and a good romp. (Sci-fi, maybe a hint of fantasy)

        The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede is also a fun romp; it makes light of several fairy tale tropes and as a series, I found it fun and amusing. (YA fantasy)

    10. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m reading How to Keep House When Drowning. A great book about the moral neutrality of housework. I’m hoping to somehow start reading fiction again

    11. Bluebell*

      Just finishing up Secrets of the Sprakkar, a fun book by the First Lady of Iceland, about life for women in that country. Also reading Breaking the Age Code, which deals with how our attitudes toward aging affect how we age. I’ve started An Honest Living, which is a noir set in NYC. Was hoping to like it more. I should be getting Kevin Wilson’s newest from the library next week. Very exciting.

    12. Bebe*

      Some friends of mine have started a book club where we read all the terrible, trashy fiction we read as tweens/teens in the 80s, and this month’s selection was Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews. Just as unhinged as I remembered, and the writing is even more overwrought than I remembered. We may need a nice Judy Blume after this one as a palate cleanser.

      In other reading, I’ve been struggling to make it through Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson. I generally enjoy her books, but for some reason this has been a slog.

      1. the cat's ass*

        This sounds like such a fun idea! There is a lot of good racy popular stuff to get through in the 80’s, let’s hear it for Judith Krantz!

      2. Jessica*

        That is HILARIOUS. Please continue posting about this in the weekend reading threads! I would love to hear updates on what this group is reading.

            1. Bebe*

              Our next meeting is in 2 weeks – I’ll let you all know our next selection if you want to read along! Fair warning – it may actually be a Sweet Valley High book. And Judith Krantz is an excellent suggestion, thank you!

    13. All het up about it*

      Books by Christina Lauren! Light and fluffy romance with, depending on the book, some spicy sex scenes. Just finished Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating this morning and really enjoyed it when I needed a BREAK from some big emotions this week.

    14. Seashell*

      I am currently reading The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. It’s amusing so far. They had a sign-in sheet for who was initially auditioning for the show. The most interesting name on there was Bob Odenkirk auditioning for the role of Michael Scott. I think he could have been good.

  3. No Potluck Disasters*

    On the topic of potlucks this week. I have friends/family fall/Thanksgiving gathering. I’m looking for potluck ideas that will accommodate picky eaters. Mac and cheese and mashed potatoes are already being brought as well as most of the desserts. The host has main taken care of so I need a safe side for the majority of eaters. I’m not a bad cook but would prefer something not time consuming or difficult.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Cranberry sauce (cranberries, sugar, water or juice)
      Cranberry relish (raw cranberries, a whole orange, sugar, some spices, food processor)
      Jello something something
      Salad
      Steamed broccoli with butter and garlic slivers

        1. Katiekins*

          Just don’t bring the cheap ass rolls. (C’mon, you know somebody was going to say it–might as well be me!)

    2. ThatGirl*

      Cheese ball and crackers. Spiced nuts. Party mix (aka Chex mix). All good for nibbling before or after.

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

        Or maybe that Midwestern fruit salad: can of drained pineapple chunks, can of drained mandarin orange slices, cup of mini-marshmallows, container of sour cream? Scales up well, and is very easy to make.

      2. Stunt Apple Breeder*

        Pear and date salad is easy. Cut fresh pears into small cubes, add chopped dates, honey, cinnamon, and a little ground ginger. Sometimes I add a dash of cayenne because I am a fan of Chef John and like the occasional sweet and hot dish.

    3. Bluebell*

      I second the veggie tray or you could go fancier with an assorted cheese/nuts/dried fruit/some veggies board. That way people can help themselves to what they like. Or do roasted veggies, like onions/carrots/parsnips. Add Brussels sprouts if you are feeling daring. They are on lots of restaurant menus nowadays, and not as reviled as they used to be.

      1. Pennyworth*

        A big tray of mixed roasted veggies is a good option, because people can choose the ones they prefer. If you just use olive oil you have a dish suitable for vegans, vegetarians, with no trouble.

        1. sb51*

          +1 plain-ish roasted vegetables (olive oil, salt, pepper) are delicious, people can pick and choose, and can be a nice antidote to the richness of a lot of Thanksgiving dishes.

      1. Playswithbeads*

        This is a staple at my home too.

        I use a store brand Italian dressing that has a bit of red pepper in it and use chickpeas (or uncooked green peas) and feta as the base plus any roasted vegs that need finishing up at time of serving (my favorites are cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, good olives). You can always add crumbled bacon, shredded deli chicken or pretty much any sliced sausage type food. It’s best made one night in advance so the dressing soaks into the pasta and vegs.

    4. Aphrodite*

      I would suggest either a green salad or more dressing. (I love dressing!) This Rustic Porcini-Onion one is outstanding and will satisfy everyone including vegetarians: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/rustic-porcini-onion-stuffing-233003

      For our work holiday potluck coming up in about a month I am going inexpensive and very easy: 3 packages of Trader Joe’s Crunchy Slaw with Chicken but using only half the fried noodles and making my own (nowhere near as sweet) peanut salad dressing.

    5. Pam Adams*

      Washington Post just had a good roasted veggie recipe. Looked pretty simple, AND you could do the roasting in advance.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I found a lovely easy recipe for a lighter form of succotash that seems to go over well. The key is to not cook it to death, but it is pretty forgiving. You don’t have to time it to the second or anything. There’s a decent sized window.

      You saute some onion in butter and/or olive oil till translucent, then add sliced summer squash and red bell pepper. Sweat those a little. If you like garlic, add it now.

      Then add about a quarter cup of chicken broth, or just enough to deglaze and steam, not make stew. Add thyme, black pepper, and depending on how salty your broth is, maybe some salt.

      Then French green beans (the whole, slender ones) and corn kernels. Let it simmer / steam until the beans are tender-crisp.

      I like it because so many Thanksgiving foods tend to be mushy and stodgy. It’s colorful, it has several textures, easy to pack up and reheat, and you can see what’s in it (which can sometimes be an issue for picky eaters). Very easy to swap out for vegan, too.

      1. Mary S*

        This sounds lovely. I’ll have to try it. Succotash is always on my Thanksgiving table as well. My recipe is probably not as tasty, but it is even easier I think, if you really just want to cook up something fast. And I personally really enjoy it, because I like my vegetables pretty simple.

        1. Boil equal parts frozen lima beans and frozen corn for about 10 minutes.
        2. While that’s boiling, dice onion and red bell pepper.
        3. Saute the onion and pepper in a pan either in olive oil or animal fat (I keep my bacon fat in the fridge).
        4. Drain the lima beans and corn and add to the pan.
        5. Add whatever spices you feel like. I usually add a little black pepper or nothing at all.
        6. Cook for a few minutes more, stirring to combine.

        The great thing about succotash too, is that you can ask ahead which vegetables the picky eaters like and add only those if you really want it to go over well. :) I think traditionally, the only necessary ingredient is corn. And it does look beautiful on the table!

      2. Bluebell*

        This is a nice option to avoid the dreaded lima beans! I wish I could love succotash, but just can’t with Lima beans.

      1. Professor Plum*

        Yes to Brussels with bacon! I’d pick the balsamic over the maple, but can’t go wrong with either, or neither. Bacon for the win!

      2. Where's My Sweater?*

        Last year my sister did steamed carrots (cut on the bias) with a touch of apricot preserves. Yummy.

    7. KatEnigma*

      There is a really easy recipe where you cube sweet potatoes into 1 inch pieces, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon and a little salt, and roast. Easy peasy and very fall Holiday .

    8. mreasy*

      There is a great corn casserole on the Bon Appetit website in their easy Thanksgiving sides section. It’s a little unusual but very crowd friendly.

    9. Pippa K*

      I’m not sure how it would rate with picky eaters, but we often serve harissa-roasted carrots. You can adjust the level of heat, and the recipe has a bit of maple syrup that enhances the caramelised roasted carrotness. Chopped pistachio garnish could be left off. The recipe we use is the old Cooking Light one (link in reply) but there are several out there. Every time we serve this is gets rave reviews, and it’s super easy.

    10. Kathenus*

      My favorite is maple cranberry sweet potatoes – there’s a Good Housekeeping recipe easily available online. Easy to make and really good.

    11. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

      BREAD. I have a family full of kids and picky eaters. I have yet to meet any that don’t love those delicious, delicious carbs.

      1. KatEnigma*

        My son would defeat you.

        He is all about meat. He will only eat bread for PBJ.

        We joke with our neighbors whose daughter is 3 weeks younger than he is that we can go out together and order one meal for both kids. He will only eat all the meat and some veggies, she will only eat the bread and starchy side.

    12. Corn pudding*

      Washington Post’s “corn pudding” is fab. As in we have to dish it ALL up so there’s no fighting over the last bits fab.

      Fast & easy to put together, you can use canned or frozen corn. Baking time will depend on volume. It’s not gorgeous on the table, but it sure is delicious.

    13. Polopoly*

      Can you learn from the host what makes them picky ?
      Kids ?
      Difficulty handling spice ?
      Food allergies / Dietary restrictions ?
      Human weirdness ?

      Once you know what you need to accomodate, it becomes easier to pick a recipe + presentation that meets the need.

    14. the Viking Diva*

      Seconding the recommendations for roasted Brussels sprouts.
      Glazed carrots are easy and good, pretty on the table. Basically steam with a little melted butter and something sweet (such as maple syrup, bourbon, brown sugar), take off the steamer lid the last few minutes to steam away the water, and you are left with a lovely glaze. You can find lots of recipes on the internet.

    15. Blinx*

      Corn bread or corn muffins are a nice alternative to rolls. What about scalloped potatoes au gratin? They’re tasty and can be made the night before and reheated.

    16. Chilipepper Attitude*

      What do you mean by picky/most eaters?

      Just preference or are you looking for vegan, nut, soy, and gluten free?

      I’m thinking about all those!

    17. LadyAmalthea*

      After far too many veggie potlucks have made me conclude that I just don’t like quinoa, my go to alternate side is kasha (buckwheat groats) made with mushrooms and onions. Sautee onions, garlic, and sliced mushrooms in salted olive oil then stir in kasha and some dried mushrooms that have been cut in small pieces in a 2 to 1 water to kasha and dried mushrooms ratio, and a lot of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook in a covered pot for about 25 minutes. Stir and fluff.

      My beyond picky eater grandfather liked this and it is wicked easy.

    18. the cat's ass*

      My fam always had a ‘relish tray’ which was basically a riff on crudites before crudites were a thing-green and black olives, a few kinds of pickles,celery and carrot sticks etc, all of it in a big divided serving dish so each thing had its own partitioned spot (can’t let the foods touch-yes, there were lots of little kids), and there was some sort of dip in the middle. One year it was clam dip (new england, ya know) which was NOT a hit, and after that it was a thousand island kind of dressing. That’s pretty easy with ranch dip!
      And we always finished with celery sticks, blue cheese (Stilton if we could find it-mom was British and liked finishing with a ‘savory’) walnuts and port. I still do that, as well as the relish tray.

    19. JSPA*

      Roasted carrots. The fattest carrots you can find, peeled, sliced thick, rub lightly with olive oil, sprinkle half (or 1/3) with caraway and ground seed corriander for the more adventuresome eaters, sprinkle with salt, roast.

      Store bought little hot dogs in puff pastry. You can brush some with egg white and bake on your spice of choice (mine is apparently caraway this month) to personalize.

      Ramen noodle salad–midwest pseudo exotic, texture and flavor are non-threatening. Many recipes online.

    20. Seashell*

      Charlie Brown Thanksgiving platter – pretzel sticks, popcorn, jelly beans, and toast.

      Yams

      Stuffing

      Roasted vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts

      green bean casserole (can be made ahead of time)

    21. Jay*

      It’s been a while since this happened, but I did have a Friendsgiving potluck and did an assortment of fall squashes. Mashed butternut, roast buttercup and honeynut, a mixed squash soup, and roast and salted squash seeds.

      The roast squash were just baked at 350 with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

      It was a roaring success, especially the roast buttercup.

    22. EJ*

      Cooking light has a fantastic sweet potato brulee recipe. Basically cook and then mash the sweet potatoes with butter/milk and some cinnamon nutmeg and allspice. Put into a casserole dish. Warm for 30 minutes then pull out and sprinkle with brown sugar. Put under broiler 2-4min until sugar is crunchy but not burned… don’t step away!!

      Or carrot souffle is amazing and tastes like pie but without all the calories

    23. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Bread, and several kinds of bread. And when reasonable, keep things separate. So, add your own dressing, not already mixed into the salad.

      Source: a picky eater.

    24. Random Biter*

      My daughter does a great BLT dip that only takes 3 ingredients, no chopping, dicing, the only thing you have to do is buy the stuff and mix it.

      1 medium sized jar of Miracle Whip (16 oz?), do NOT use regular mayo
      1 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes, drained
      1 can Oscar Meyer Real Bacon (yellow can or pouch, usually in the salad dressing aisle)

      Mix well, serve with crackers.

  4. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Share what you’re playing with us! As always, all kinds of games are welcome.

    I’ve had a stressful couple of weeks (nothing awful, just a lot of… life stuff coming up), and I had today off, so I spent around 5-6 hours playing Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. I’m definitely tired of it at the moment, ut it was glorious fun and so nice to have a long break like that.

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      Sorry things have been stressful recently! Definitely nice to take a day to do whatever with the goal of accomplishing nothing :)

      I had today off too and played a bunch of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker on my GameCube. My goal is to finish it before I buy myself a Switch for Christmas.

      Btw any recs for good Switch games from indie developers? I already have Cult of Lamb on my to-buy list. I like platforming, puzzles, multiplayer games, exploring games. So pretty open!

        1. Ellen Ripley*

          Aww it’s so cute! This type of game is definitely fun. Does in game time pass when you’re not playing?

          1. DrKMnO4*

            Nope! Time only passes while you are playing. Also, if you’re playing solo, it pauses any time you are in your inventory or in a cutscene.

            I love playing it on Switch because of how chill it is, and also because it doesn’t drain the battery nearly as much as other games.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Cozy games: Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus Games) and Cozy Grove (Spry Fox). Rogue-lite: Hades (Supergiant Games). I played all these on PC, but they are available on Switch as well! And, I’m a FromSoft fan so I have to recommend Dark Souls (action-adventure).

        1. Ellen Ripley*

          Thanks for the recs! The art style of Cozy Grove is amazing! The new daily content thing is interesting. Did you find yourself playing everyday?

          Ahh we have Dark Souls on PS4… I would like to play it but have been a little intimidated by its reputation!

          1. MEH Squared*

            Cozy Grove: I did play every day! It was weird at first and I found myself thinking, “Give me tomorrow already!” But I grew to appreciate the pacing and the waiting for the next day’s installment. Plus, there are endless chores you can do every day once you get your island set up. There are things that are different for each season, and I played every day for six months. I’m working on the DLC now, which is more new content!

            Dark Souls: I won’t lie. It was really hard when I first started it. I would recommend watching tutorials/videos, reading forums, and if you know someone who has played it, lean on that person for advice. Normally, I would not recommend that because it spoils a game, but in this case, it can really help you along your journey.

          1. MEH Squared*

            Hades is amazing! There is so much content and the dialogue is so good. And the gameplay. I would heartily recommend it for most people.

    2. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      Started Yakuza 6 (wonky dragon engine physics my beloved), had some bad stuff happen, retreated to ignoring the main plot in Skyrim for a few days.

      1. DrKMnO4*

        Ignoring the main plot in Skyrim is my favorite thing to do!

        How much of the Yakuza series have you played? I recently started Yakuza 0 and I am enjoying it quite a bit.

        1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

          I started with 0, working through the series from there. 0 sets the bar somewhere in low earth orbit but there’s not a bad game in the series. If you’re liking Majima and his bullshit you’ll love Kiwami. Have a box of Kleenex handy for… well, most of the endings and a part of 3 I’m not going to spoil. And remember: it’s a serious crime drama NO REALLY

    3. Porch Screens*

      Been plugging away on Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous! Ultimately decided to settle on the Azata path and I’m currently in the depths of Act 3. While I didn’t mind the relative linearity of the prologue + first two acts, it’s been nice to have more freedom to run around and tackle primary quests and side quests as I see fit.

    4. Waiting on the bus*

      I’m playing Persona 5 Royal on the Switch. I only had a PS3, which means vanilla only for me until now.

      Unfortunately it came out right when my vacation ended and work is awfully hectic right now, so I haven’t had the time to really get into it. I want to do the same as you – just sit down for a day and play until I’m tired of it.

    5. DrKMnO4*

      I just started a new playthrough of Breath of the Wild. I’ve completed the game once, but I really love starting fresh and wandering around. It’s fun to discover new things and find a ton of Koroks. They’re my favorite!

      1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        Bokoblin Bowling was always one of my favorite things. Hill next to a camp. Bombs. You know what to do.

        1. DrKMnO4*

          That is so much fun! I also love stealth killing camps – shooting the lookouts then blowing up the bomb barrels from a long ways away with a fire arrow or by shooting down the dangling light. Then watch as the survivors run around trying to find me and pick them off one by one. Works like a charm.

    6. Bookgarden*

      Playing God of War: Ragnarok and it’s soooo good. Also planning a board game night for tomorrow with my partner and am hoping to play Disney Villains, Pan Am, or Ticket to Ride for the first time.

    7. Joy Johnson-Johjima*

      Monster Road Trip! It’s part of the Monster Prom series of games. Highly replayable because there are tons of different possible choices and outcomes. One of my most anticipated games and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it.

    8. Jay*

      Playing some Fallout 76, but mostly Icarus: First Cohort. It’s an interesting survival crafting game. Although it says it’s a full release, it’s really still under heavy development, so be warned. They do, however, release a significant update every single Friday.

      1. Bookgarden*

        How do you like Fallout 76? I’m a big Fallout fan but lackluster reviews kept me away for a time. What are your thoughts on it more that it’s been out for awhile?

    9. Rosyglasses*

      The family and I have been pulling out our favorites as weather turns cold. Milles Bornes, Carcassonne, and recently on a Yurt camping trip, Cards Against Humanity (our son is a few weeks from 21 and it was hilarious for us to devolve into crazy inappropriate adults).

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

    Cleaning/bug query. Actual question in reply so people can skip this if it squicks them out.

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

      I’m having a mysterious infestation of small, but not tiny, black flies in my bathroom, and they have decided that inside my toilet is where they want to be. I’m not quite sure where they’re coming from or why this is happening now, after I’ve lived here for over a decade.

      Potential contributing factors: the toilet did overflow a bit while back (but I tried to neutralize any bacterial yecch with hydrogen peroxide). There also may be a leak in the wall behind the toilet, but management is taking their time investigating fully.

      Anyone have experience with something similar? Anything work for you? I’d prefer to avoid poisonous solutions if possible, though I guess if they’re necessary, they’re necessary.

      1. ThatGirl*

        You could try catching them with vinegar (look up vinegar fly trap), but it would help if you knew where they were coming in.

      2. Girasol*

        Where I used to work there was a problem with a floor drain where the trap dried out and flies would breed in it. Could you have a dry trap in a sink or tub nearby? Also, have you checked the tank? I’ll second the vinegar fly trap in any case: a bowl of water, some vinegar to attract them, and soap to keep them from escaping. If you have a night light, put it under that in case light attracts them.

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

        Thank you, That Girl, and Girasol — I will try the vinegar trap!

        Interesting about flies breeding in dry traps. Maybe that’s it? There has been some plumbing work in the bathroom over the past months.

      4. Squidhead*

        Google “drain flies” to see if they look like yours & get more specific recommendations. Unused drains seem to attract little crosswinged black flies (like the shower at work that is rarely used) but I think they generally like standing water so making sure you don’t have a leak/puddle is a good idea.

        1. fposte*

          A bathroom in my old workplace had a floor drain (it was in the basement) and the drain flies loved it. I bet that’s what these are.

        2. Girasol*

          Wow, I never knew drain flies were a thing! But those are just the ones that used to appear from that dry floor drain: small flies more like houseflies than fruit flies, but with an oddly triangular wing pattern.

        3. Cheshire Cat*

          That was my thought, too. I have a second bathroom and didn’t use it much. Until drain flies showed up! Now I put baking soda and vinegar down the drain monthly, followed by running the hot water for several minutes. Haven’t had a repeat since.

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

        Thank you, everyone! I will give all of the remedies a try.

        Getting the property management company to go into the wall to fix the leak that is likely there is a little harder, but maybe I can use the appearance of the drain flies to encourage them!

    2. RagingADHD*

      Do they look like little moths? They are probably drain flies, which like to live in stagnant water with organic matter in it.

      The organic matter may or may not be from the toilet overflow, because any standing water in your bathroom is going to have organic matter from skin cells, hair, etc. But the dampness may be residual from the overflow, or the plumbing work / leak.

      When they are in an actual drain, you can usually get rid of them with a few rounds of boiling water or baking soda & vinegar. But in this case you’ll need to get a better idea of the target area, remediate the water, and then figure out what can be applied there. You’ll probably want a gel or something that can cling in place, instead of a spray-mist type substance.

      If you look up drain flies, you’ll find lots of options.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      These sound like drain flies to me. Though they’re hanging out in the toilet, if they’re drain flies they’re breeding in your shower/tub and sink drains.

      Boil up a kettle of water and pour it down the drains — no chemicals, no odors, no work. When I get drain flies, it takes just one kettle’s worth to get rid of them this way. Repeat once a day for as many days as it takes, though, if they aren’t gone right away. Bonus: if any drain is a little slow, this may help clear the blockage.

    4. KatEnigma*

      One of those electric fly traps with the purple light to attract them will also probably work. It’s especially good with the tiny flies and gnats like that.

    5. slowingaging*

      google baking soda, white vinegar … I think a cup of baking soda, pour a cup of white vinegar and think finish with boiling water…. or something like that

  6. Teapot Translator*

    What are some good recipes that mix meat with lentils/beans/other meat alternatives? With the price of everything right now, I need ideas of how to “stretch” meat.

    1. Casta Fierce*

      This: https://www.nigella.com/recipes/vegan-spag-bol

      You don’t have to make it with pasta, she gives instructions on how to turn it into a stew with rice or a kind of shepherd’s pie. You can leave out any ingredients you don’t like or find too pricy. And you don’t have to use multiple kinds of lentils, I just used all one kind (the cheap kind!). It makes a ton, tastes wonderful, and is super filling. You can even add a little red wine for extra flavor.

    2. Happily Retired*

      If you’re not trying to make up for protein from cutting back the meat, I just routinely make half again as much vegetables as any casserole-ish type recipe calls for. If you’re making a recipe combining meat with pasta or rice, be sure to use whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

    3. Pool Lounger*

      Giada’s white bean chicken chili. I use extra beans anyway, and you could cut halve the amount of meat and use even more beans and corn. I also use frozen chopped spinach instead of fresh greens for ease, and so it’s easy to add extra.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      More-with-Less’s Honey baked Lentils are amazing. Look like dog food, taste like pure comfort. We always made it with browned ground beef instead of bacon, but either is good.

      I’d recommend More With Less in general for learning how to cook economically. A lot of her recipes treat meat as a seasoning rather than a main ingredient.

      1. Victoria, Please*

        There’s a wonderful international follow on to More with Less, called Extending the Table. The recipes aren’t tested, they’re just home stuff, and i always have to ramp up the spice, but it’s fun to get ideas. (Also, for awareness, there are many Christian scriptures and stories since it’s compiled by Mennonite missionaries.)

        1. workswitholdstuff*

          Those both sound great – tracked down a couple of of cheap 2nd hand copies. I shall give it a go. I’ve got into a bit of a rut, so trying some different recipes is this thing

          (I can ignore the scriptures!)

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I’ll have to check that out. I really like the international stuff in More with Less because it’s also from Mennonite missionaries. So it’s got authentic inspiration from people who actually live in that country, but filtered through the tastes of Americans, which ends up matching my tastes pretty well.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Some of it’s kind of funny because it’s also somewhat filtered to what you could get in the US in the 70s, and there and many more authentic ingredients available now for some of them. (Raised Mennonite, have many cookbooks.)

    5. StellaBella*

      I make chilli usually in winter that is easy to freeze and stretches a pound of hamburger or ground turkey a ways. Use 2x lentils than meat, add onions, chopped carrots, chopped tomatoes etc and make a huge batch. Totally hear you on the costs of food going up.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      Hoppin’ John (black eyed peas with ham and onion) or a good hearty bean soup with ham or pepperoni and lots of vegetables,

      Various Mexican/Tex-Mex things like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, taco salad (use ground meat, plus back beans).

      Moroccan stew with chickpeas and beef/lamb (plus carrots/onion/spinach/tomatoes and flavoured with cinnamon and garlic).

      Mapo tofu (soft tofu cooked with a spicy meat sauce).

      I did a nice stew recently which had chicken, black eyed peas, zucchini and a green chili sauce.

      Hotpot is a good way to feel full without much meat – thinly sliced meat, plus tofu, vegetables, mushrooms, dumplings, noodles or rice on the side. I keep hot pot meat and dumplings in the freezer, and use it as a way to use up random vegetables.

      A quiche or frittata – use a little bit of meat and cheese with the eggs and vegetables. I find the fritatta a bit heartier as a main course.

      You can do rice or grain bowls with a mix of toppings (chickpeas or beans, leftover meat, feta cheese, tofu, various vegetables).

    7. Fit Farmer*

      I really like meat as an added ingredient rather than the main show, especially chopped or ground small rather than in big chunks. A little sausage, especially, goes a long way. I rarely use recipes so don’t have any to point to, but I think taking any basic vegetable- or bean-based dish (like a stew or stir-fry in a vegetarian cookbook, or even just basic Tex-mex or “American”-style Italian food) and adding some meat too it would be a good starting point for a dish that has some meat without relying on a specific quantity of it.

    8. ElsaBug*

      Where I live, it is soup season. I usually up the barley and decrease the meat in barley soups (chicken, beef, etc.)

    9. Vistaloopy*

      I make a white(ish) chili with a package of ground sweet Italian sausage, 3 cans of beans, 4 cups liquid of your choice, onion, garlic, seasonings of your choice (I like cumin, oregano, and a little cayenne), throw in some spinach or other veggies. The longer you simmer, the more it reduces, so you can make it either thicker like a chili, or more like a soy and stretch it longer. It’s loosely based on the white chili recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

    10. HannahS*

      I make smittenkitchen’s bolognese in large batches, but I add lots of extra vegetables–probably at least as much as meat, by volume. It works great. I cut the vegetables very finely in the food processor. Lots of zucchini and mushrooms.

      I also make chicken dumplings and wontons, and have started adding a few cups of shredded, sauteed cabbage to the mix.

      I haven’t done it because I’m not cooking for that many people, but there’s no reason that stir-fry can’t have both meat and tofu.

      1. HannahS*

        Oh, also, if you’re making shepherd’s pie (it’s a bit of a pain but freezes well, if you make big batches,) you could add brown lentils to the meat (any ratio), with or without lots of finely chopped mushroom.

    11. I take tea*

      I think you can add red lentils to almost anything stewy or soupy, they tend to dissolve completely, just makes everything thicker. They have a mild taste, don’t need to soak first and people who tend to get an upset stomach from chick peas or beans tend to tolerate them much better.

    12. Llellayena*

      Ground or stew meat are easier to stretch than steaks and roasts, and are usually cheaper. Mix with mushrooms or sweet potatoes in whatever dish you’re aiming for. Chili works really well with portobello mushrooms, for instance. Rice is a good filler too. My BF makes pork fried rice and ends up using the equivalent of 2 chops for a dish that tends to last 2 days.

      1. Pippa K*

        We use beef chili as a topping for roast sweet potatoes – roast one decent-sized sweet potato each, split it open in its jacket, top with about half a cup spicy chili. It’s delicious and feels like a substantial meal.

    13. Magda*

      For soups or stews – my trick with red meat, which I use sparingly, is to saute small amounts in the pan and then use those drippings for the veggie base of the stew, and go stronger on the bouillon for the rice or lentil part (I use “Better than Bouillon” and it has a lot of flavor). I add the finely-diced cooked meat at the end, more like a garnish. As others have said, you can replace the protein with bean, lentil, peanuts, or tofu.

    14. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Any chili or sloppy joe recipe can take added lentils to stretch the recipe.

      I tend not to like adding lentils to pasta sauce because it feels like adding starch to a sauce for starch. That said, Mr. Glomarization and I have enjoyed Cincinnati chili, with 100% lentils instead of meat, over spaghetti.

    15. Chauncy Gardener*

      I like making a lentil soup/stew with one beef shank (the cut that’s about an inch thick, 6-8″ around, with one round bone in the middle). Sautee lots of onions and chopped garlic, add the beef in one piece. Add tons of finely chopped carrots, celery and any other vegetables you like. Add lentils, thyme, s&p and water to cover. Cook low and slow for about 6 hours (perfect for a crockpot). This freezes really well in any size containers. I like to freeze it in small containers for lunches.
      This is very economical since the shank tends to be 1) an inexpensive cut of meat and 2) you only use one for a huge pot

    16. blue giraffe*

      I add the orange/red lentils to spag bol! cook ~1/4 to 1/3 cup of dry orange or red lentils in water for about 20 min till done.
      Fry one onion, add about 100g/ one quarter pound ground beef, other veggies(peppers, mushrooms, eggplant etc) and a can of spaghetti sauce (500 ml/2cups). Add the well-drained lentils (I sometimes put the lentils in a sieve and push a bit to drain excess water).

      black bean soup/stew: one cup dry black beans. Boil in water for 1-1.5 hours, till done. Drain much water, not necessarily all. When ready to cook dinner: fry one to two onions till caramelized (soft, brown) add a thinly sliced chorizo (here, chorizos are about 100-125 g, or 1/4 pound), fry at low heat till some of the fat leaves the chorizo. Add the black beans, one large can of tomatos (28 oz), or 5-7 fresh tomatoes, several chipped kale leaves (you can use spinach, but kale holds up better), and some frozen corn kernels. Add more water for more soup-like meal, less water for more stew-like meal. Cook for about 30 minutes to blend flavours and heat the corn (I use frozen). This is important: serve with *smoked* paprika. (better than regular paprika), and salt and pepper.

    17. Generic Name*

      Meatloaf (cream crumbs or crackers stretch the meat), meatballs mixed with rice, any midwestern casserole.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My mom used to use oatmeal in meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs, so a wide variety of things will work! It would not surprise me if lentils would work too.

    18. OtterB*

      Chicken and lentil soup from the Skinnytaste website. There’s a stovetop version I haven’t made and an Instant Pot version that is really easy and tasty.

    19. Alex*

      When I want to stretch meat, I make a meatloaf that has part ground mushrooms to replace some of the meat.

      I don’t even like mushrooms but you can’t really taste them.

    20. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Minestrone soup with sausage! You can use whatever beans and veggies you like, I don’t use lima beans or zucchini, but I add edamame and potatoes!

    21. workswitholdstuff*

      My fave ‘spag bol’ recipes really is a ‘sling it all in’ approach. I make in my slowcooker, and I’m too lazy to brown first.

      Lean minced beef.
      Tin of chopped tomatoes
      Carton of passata
      Chopped/diced onions
      some diced carrots/peppers if I have them to use up
      garlic (couple of teaspoons of the ‘lazy’ stuff from the jar,
      Stock cube or two (I fill up the tomato tin with water and add the stock for a bit more liquid)
      good sprinkle of dried mixed herbs/dried oregano
      Couple of tablespoons smoked paprika.
      a couple of cups (if you’re in the US – I just eyeball the amout) of dried red lentils. Obviously, you can adjust meat/lentil quantities to suit your needs.

      Sling all in slow cooker, turn it on – cook for a few hours.

      Delish. Sometimes I’ll add a smidgen of dried chilli flakes for a bit more heat.

    22. Westsidestory*

      I am always stretching with non-meat proteins. Some of my go tos:

      Chili (beef or turkey) with pinto beans or kidney beans or black beans (or all three) served over rice.

      A pound of tofu mixed with a half pound of sliced beef or shrimp, over rice or noodles.

      Red lentil curry with vegetables and a half pound of chicken (can be leftover cooked chicken).

      Meat loaf can be stretched by adding vegetables and any kind of filler – I use breadcrumbs or crumbled stale bread but have also used raw oatmeal

    23. fposte*

      Split pea soup with ham (or bacon, or ham hocks, or whatever salty pork is available)
      Chili, either beef with kidney beans or white chili that uses chicken or turkey with cannellini beans
      Cannellini bean soup/stew with pork of some kind and kale/spinach/greens of your choice

    24. NotABug*

      Smitten Kitchen’s lentil soup with sausage, chard and garlic.

      I make it with hot Italian sausage and collard greens instead of chard. Collards hit up well to reheating. This freezes well.

    25. Polopoly*

      You can find lots of inspiration from Indian and east Asian food. They have strong culture of low/no meat dishes which are still filling.

    26. Ashloo*

      Red lentils are great for chilis and stews because they disappear. We just throw them in with extra water when we do ‘jar of tomato-based sauce over noodles’ type meals too.

    27. Madame Arcati*

      You can successfully add grated carrot to recipes involving minced beef to make it go further.

    28. Jay*

      I’ve lately been experimenting with Cassoulet’s.

      It’s really just beans and meat in a crock pot, cooked on low heat for many hours.

      I’ve taken to substituting the regular chicken with boneless, skinless chicken thighs and the sausage with pork shoulder.

      It’s wonderful and, once you have the basic ingredients around, it only costs about $30.00 to make one and it can go to about 8-10 full meals, especially if you add extra beans and stock and pair with something like rolls or cornbread.

      https://www.seriouseats.com/traditional-french-cassoulet-recipe

      1. Westsidestory*

        This looks like. Great recipe. I made a traditional cassoulet with goose fat once. It was WAY too rich for a anyone. But I like the idea of a white bean stew with say sausage and some greens. In past I’ve braised lamb shanks with cannelloni beans – but lamb shanks for some reason are doukble the price they were last spring. In my local markets.

    29. EJ*

      Red beans and rice Cajun style! Also agree with East Indian food inspiration for delicious vegetarian or low meat ideas

    30. Teapot Translator*

      Thanks everyone! I ended up being away from my computer for most of the weekend, but I read all of your suggestions. <3

    31. No Worries*

      I have made really yummy vegan shepherds pies before – the filling on the bottom is usually lentil/mushroom/carrot/onion all finely chopped, and the top can be whatever type of potato you like best. I love to do a sweet potato top. But many recipes online are relatively simple and very filling!!

  7. Jane*

    Hobbies. I’m having a “judging myself for judging myself” moment and sort of lamenting the fact that I don’t really have any, and I always panic when someone asks me about them in social settings. I have ADHD and I think that contributes to my desire to try and then never pick up something again so I’m getting a tad discouraged after trying painting, watercolor, miniature making, embroidery, and various others that come and go. Does anyone have any advice on how to stick to something? Is it even worth forcing yourself to do that for its own sake? I guess I get discouraged partially because I see a lot of my friends love things, and I honestly can say I don’t like things for more than 3 months at the very most.

    1. Claritza*

      Can your hobby be “trying new things”? Looks like you’re a dabbler, as am I. The excitement comes from doing something you’ve never done before, like making a ceramic pot or a basket. No law says you have to stick with it or get good at it!

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

        I love this way of thinking about things! : ) Your hobby is sampling all that life has to offer.

        1. Angstrom*

          Yup! I’ll often start something new that looks interesting, get to the stage where I understand the basics, and then move on. I want to understand how the thing works. That doesn’t mean I want to do the thing for the rest of my life.
          Trying new things is a great way to keep from rusting or getting in a rut.
          There is value in sticking with something and developing skill. Having both — long-term interests and new ones — seems like a good balance.

          1. Magda*

            For me, I also find it valuable to practice enjoying something but being bad at it – having no marketable outcome and not planning to become marketable. I need this in my over-capitalist, under-fun life. So sticking with something long enough to get good is counter productive.

          2. Sam I Am*

            It’s great for brain health, too. Trying new things throughout the year keeps the “novice” level of brain activity busy.

        2. getaway_girl*

          I love this thread!

          OP, I have a craft room full of all kinds of stuff that I have tried: acrylic paints, paper crafting, heat transfer vinyl, knitting, crocheting, diamond painting…the list goes on–and I’m getting Tunisian crochet hooks in the mail today because I was to try that. I also just bought some cheap watercolors. And it’s not always arts and crafts–last summer, I obsessed over trying and making new cocktails for a couple of months. Oh, and gardening.

          There’s no shame in being a dabbler. I look at it as a form of lifelong learning. Once I finished grad school, I needed something to fill that void. Dabbling fits the bill quite nicely!

          1. the cat's ass*

            Let’s hear it for dabbling! There used to be an actual girl scout badge for that which encouraged GS to try a bunch of different things.I really like that approach. In the NY, public health willing, I’ve signed myself up for a cooking class one evening a week, followed by a month’s worth of ceramics classes at a local studio where it’s not just painting things but building things from scratch using a potter’s wheel. I suspect I’m going to be terrible at it, and I can’t wait!

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Yes! I do have some longer term interests but I also dabble. I’ve been having a different worry/embarrassment about talking about my hobbies because I haven’t done much lately, so it’s like “oh I do embroidery” or “I love hiking” and then please don’t ask follow-up questions because it’s been awhile and I’m a bad hobbyist because I can’t remember my last project/hike! You can have a great conversation about your latest thing, no pleasant person is going to judge your leisure activities for how long you’ve done them

    2. SG*

      Don’t force yourself to stick with something just for the sake of sticking with something — if you’re not enjoying it or getting pleasure from it, there’s no point! Hoewever, I think a good way to stick with something you *do* enjoy is to sign on for doing something in a group setting — whether it’s a dance class, a language class, knitting group, an improv class, a book club or cooking club, etc. It makes you accountable, whether it’s because you paid for a class or because people are expecting you. Another avenue is for shared hobby groups is meetup. Is there a language you’ve always wanted to study, or something else you’ve always been curious to learn? Sign up for classes! I don’t know whether you’re in the U.S., but if so, the local park districts usually offer a lot of variety of inexpensive classes and activities for adults.

      1. Russian in Texas*

        From the various attempts at gym that I quit even though it was pre-paid, and online classes I paid for, I would rather lose the money (and I care little about disappointing people) than stick to something that’s boring.
        I also learned to quit boring books, shows, and movies, that took me a while to accept that that’s ok.
        I think it’s my character flaw – unless I am paid for it or it’s legit important to me or people I care for, I don’t really care about accountability.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I don’t think that’s a flaw. I think it’s a skill – the ability to know what’s worth your time and what’s not. I know I do better with accountability for things I want to do – I’m very much not a solitary do-er of pretty much anything except reading – and have still quit groups or classes that did not grab me. I didn’t get up the courage to do that until I was in my 50s, which meant I didn’t try things because I thought I’d be stuck with them no matter what.

          1. Russian in Texas*

            I only started to give up on the boring books in my late 30s. I’ve always felt guilty about not finishing them.

        2. SG*

          My suggestion is that accountability can help if it’s something you *do* enjoy, not if it’s something you don’t. I can’t tell if you were trying to offer a counterpoint, but FWIW I don’t disagree with a single word you said. However, if I’ve prepaid for something or made a plan with other people for something I love doing, it helps add another layer of incentive. And for me (like you, it sounds like), prepaid gym memberships are zero incentive. It has to be a scheduled appointment or class (and not at the gym, which I don’t like, but I do love dance classes!)

    3. Derivative Poster*

      I also feel like this is an area where I could improve, so I’ll be reading the replies to your question. NPR’s Life Kit podcast recently had an episode about hobbies that might address some of the concerns you mentioned.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Your hobby is dabbling, because you are motivated by curiosity. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

      The experience of trying new things is worthwhile in itself.

    5. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      I’m with previous posters who’ve said you don’t need to force yourself to “stick with it” if you don’t want to. Hobbies are fun! If you want to watercolour one day, crochet the next and try rollerskating next week, who’s to say that’s a bad thing?
      How about getting a pretty notebook and starting a ‘hobby journal ‘ where you write about the cool stuff you try? They will give you an element of consistency and you can look back at all the cool experiences you’ve had.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily worth it just for its own sake. If there is something you’d like to get more into but can’t, then it might be worth trying to stick to it, but if you enjoy trying different things, there is nothing wrong with that.

      Questions about hobbies are mostly just a way to start a conversation. You can always reply with something like “I’m trying x at the moment. Just started getting in to it the other week. How about you?”

    7. ElsaBug*

      I’m a dabbler myself! One great thing about it is that I can talk to most people about some common area of interest for about 10 minutes. It makes me a great party guest!

    8. Vistaloopy*

      I find it easier to get into something when there’s a schedule/plan to follow. For example, Couch to 5k if you want to try running, working your way through a cookbook for baking/cooking, reading books from a list of recommendations or a particular author, hiking all the trails from a local preserve and marking them off on a map, etc. Gives a nice sense of accomplishment too!

    9. Llellayena*

      Your hobby is trying new things. It doesn’t matter if the new thing “sticks” because the thing is not the hobby (until you finally find one that does stick!).

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        Seconded. You’re not lazy. You’re curious. This is a fine quality. You can say, “Oh, I like to try new things. Lately I’ve been …” then you can ask them what they do and see if you want to try it or talk briefly about when you DID try it and ask informed questions about their hobby you used to do.

        Most people aren’t looking to evaluate you on the depth of your dedication to your hobby. They’re probably desperately looking for a conversation topic that won’t turn awkward.

    10. WellRed*

      Not a hobbyist here either. I’m in “search of the perfect margarita” I can even answer a follow up question such as where was the best so far? Hobby questions really are ice breakers.

    11. Russian in Texas*

      No advice, my hobby is to watch TV, read books, and play on my phone. And play trivia quizzes from YouTube. Occasional board games get together.
      I’ve tried various things, but I just have zero interest in craft, or baking, or gardening (this one I knew before trying, I legit hate it since childhood), playing an instrument (got put off by 6 years of music school as a kid), hiking, or anything else hobby-ish. I’ve been like this forever. I drew some as a teenager, and that was that.
      So my life is boring and I don’t have an answer about hobbies either.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Reading books and trivia definitely count as hobbies, as do board games. Playing on your phone might, depending on what you are playing, which is kind of silly really (that the game matters, I mean) but people are more likely to see word games or mystery games or something as a hobby than candy crush. I would think watching TV counts as a hobby, but again, whether it’s accepted or not probably depend on what you are watching. There’s some snobbery around a lot of TV, which doesn’t really make sense, as going to the theatre would definitely be considered a valid hobby.

        1. Russian in Texas*

          Actually the app versions of board games! These games have legit good apps:
          Ticket to Ride, Terraforming Mars, Wingspan, Sagrada.
          I play some puzzle and basic arcade games too, but as time filler, like waiting for the car to be serviced.

            1. Russian in Texas*

              I always feel that people don’t tend to count things like that’s as hobbies, because they don’t “produce” anything. There is nothing to show for it. Idle hands and all that.

              1. Irish Teacher*

                I think it’s a minority of people who have hobbies that “produce” anything. Things like art work and knitting and writing are very much minority interests. OK, I guess gardening is pretty popular and could be seen to produce something. Reading, gaming, jogging, cards, sports, dancing, going to the theatre, listening to music are all probably far more common hobbies.

                I think if people only include creative hobbies, then there are probably more people who don’t have hobbies than who do.

    12. MissCoco*

      I definitely think there are explorers and specialists when it comes to hobbies, and crafts in particular. I tend to bounce around a lot, so now I set a limit to my entry costs for a new craft, enjoy it while it’s fun, and move on without feeling like I’m failing if it stops being satisfying.

      I am a long-term crocheter, but I still dabble in new things. I think crochet clicks for me because I can do it while watching TV or listening to a podcast (and it’s easy to get out/put away, which is important for my ADHD). But there is something about the dopamine hit of getting new supplies and learning new skills and improving at them that meets a different need for me.

    13. SuprisinglyADHD*

      I do the same thing, I have 8 or so different craftsy-type projects. I’ve figured out that I can enjoy each of them for a while and kind of cycle through them. I just have a bin for each craft, so it’s easy to take out and put away each type of thing as I’m in the mood.
      Right now, I have bins for: sketchbooks, colored pencils, coloring books, dot-to-dot; cross-stitch and embroidery; yarn crafts; diamond dotz kits and the canvas and extras to design my own; model glue, paint, and tools; legos; and a tablet for digital art.

      Some of the projects take years to finish, and I’ve just had to accept that I can work on them when my energy is there and wait when the energy is elsewhere! Eventually I’ll get there, but for now I have things I can do whenever!

    14. OtterB*

      It seems to me it’s a little like dating. When the right one comes along, you may settle down, but for now you’re playing the field and enjoying it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Your examples are all hands on arts and crafts. Are you interested in any kind of performing art? I’m thinking of something like community theater (which would be time limited for a single show) or an improv class (which might play to the try-it-and-move-on desire).

      Music? At one of our board meetings at work more than ten years ago, I was chatting with a board member who asked what I was doing these days. I started telling her about my current project. She said, no, I meant outside of work. And … there wasn’t anything except reading. I like to read. I still read a lot. But, really, I needed something in my life other than working and being Mom. And I visited a women’s chorus without any real idea whether I could sing with a group or not, then auditioned and didn’t pass, then took some singing lessons and auditioned again, and have been singing with them ever since.

      But again, only if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing and your life doesn’t need to be instagrammable.

    15. Don'tbeadork*

      Why do you want to stick to a leisure activity that isn’t holding your interest? If you tried something and it doesn’t make you want to keep it up, let it go. There is nothing at all wrong with being a dabbler. I’ve played around with counted cross stitch, gardening, painting little figurines for war-gaming, writing, playing flute and hooking rugs. I tried out calligraphy and discovered that not only do I suck, but it wasn’t as much fun as it looked. I did weaving with a little lap loom. Some I do for a year or two and abandon, some last a bit longer.

      That said, I’ve been collecting stamps off and on for 55 years. At times there were years between when I last actively engaged with my collection and when I started up again. If anyone asked any follow up questions after I mentioned that I collected stamps, I just said that I was taking a little break.

      Also, you don’t need to devote hours and hours at a sitting to your hobby. As I taper off and on with the stamps I might buy a few commemoratives that look good to me even if I know full well I probably won’t get them catalogued and in the appropriate album for a long while.

    16. Pinto*

      I agree that dabbling is a perfectly good answer for your hobby. I used to struggle with how to answer this question because between my job, my kids and my volunteer work I didn’t have time for a quote “hobby”. I had a friend frame it for me that a hobby is really just whatever you choose to do with your time outside of work and family commitments. So now, I answer that question by saying that I volunteer to run several charitable events a year. They are fall, spring and summer. So o as soon as one wraps, the planning for the next begins.

    17. ESus4*

      Read Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher!!!! You might be a scanner like me. As someone said below, your hobby might be trying new things! A bee who leaves a flower when it has enough nectar is not a failure.

  8. Pam Adams*

    Washington Post just had a good roasted veggie recipe. Looked pretty simple, AND you could do the roasting in advance.

  9. Taking the long way round*

    What are people’s thoughts on Twitter ‘imploding’ (I’m not sure it is!) or people migrating to Mastodon?
    Also…I have no idea how to use Mastodon so am just staying on Twitter for now .

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      I just canceled my Twitter account. Did not use it much anyway.
      I do use Mastodon for some very specific groups but again low volume.
      Twitter-the-company imploding? Maybe. Looks almost like Elon Musk lost interest and would let it die instead of throwing good money after bad, but he appears quite erratic at the moment… it sure what to make of it yet.

      1. Magda*

        I’m wondering if there’s any advantage to Musk if Twitter declares bankruptcy. That seems to be what he’s trying to do. He wanted out of the deal anyway, perhaps he’s got tax advisors who have figured out a way for him to write it off or something.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There’s that thing about how if we taxed half the fortune of every billionaire, their lives wouldn’t change at all. Musk is acting like someone who can set half his fortune on fire and then shrug and walk away.

    2. onebitcpu*

      I have great sympathy for the people who work/worked there.
      I also can’t imagine the level of self-indulgence behind this, getting so annoyed at twitter to to so far as to buy it because you don’t like what the company did, and then trying to figure out what the heck to do with it.

      This reminds me of my late black lab, who once ate an ant that dared annoy her by walking past, only to desperately waggle her tongue around, trying rid herself of the annoying crawly thing in her mouth.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I particularly love this analogy, both because I can so picture the offended black lab and the dog’s fierce determination to learn nothing from this experience.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I am currently teaching Digital Media Literacy (where one of the learning objectives is about researching “the ownership of major internet sites and the impact on access and choice”) and Philosophy, so I was changing my lesson schemes around a bit to focus on this for a few classes.

      Otherwise, I don’t use Twitter but am definitely both sympathetic to the people whose jobs are at risk and concerned, not just by this specifically, but by the power the owners of social media sites are amassing.

      I’m also concerned about the impact on the economy. Last word was that Ireland looks likely to avoid the recession that the UK is heading for, but…the tech countries play a large part in our economy and with both twitter and facebook laying off staff here and our nearest neighbour and one of our largest trading partners (possibly our largest, though not sure how Brexit has affected that, as there’s a certain amount of move to trading with other EU countries) heading into a recession…it all seems a bit ominous. We’re a small country with a very open economy and are very vulnerable to international events.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s an Eddie Murphy movie from the 80s, Brewster’s Millions, in which Murphy’s character inherits millions of dollars. The secret catch in the will is that if he can blow through the entire inheritance in a few months–without telling anyone that’s what he’s doing–then he’ll inherit hundreds of millions.

      I can only deduce that Twitter’s new CEO believes that he will get 90 billion dollars from somewhere if he can destroy all of Twitter’s value in a few months while personally humiliating himself. If that’s what’s happening, then it all makes sense.

      1. Jay*

        There is a podcast called “Behind The Bastards”. They just did one on some of the people behind the massive jump in rent prices across the country and put forth some very interesting and alarming parallels between Musk acquiring Twitter and Sam Zell acquiring Tribune Media. Basically it’s down to the possibility that he is planning something serious in the next few years and Twitter is the most likely platform to cause him grief. So he’s crashing and burning it in a way that makes people underestimate him. Hopefully this is not the case and he’s just flaking.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That actually makes more sense as a theory than the one that he wants to be controlling it as a media outlet in a few years.

          I imagine that if you have tens of billions of dollars, the difference between 10 billion and 17 billion is pretty academic. You can set fire to the 7 billion and if the conflagration takes out something you want removed, it worked.

        2. Observer*

          I think that this is an extremely unlikely scenario.

          It would require him to be both a lot stupider AND a lot smarter than his history indicates.

          Given some of the things he and his boosters have said, I think that it’s much more likely that the real problem is that he’s come to believe some of his own hype too much.

    5. Magda*

      Just personally, it makes me very sad. I was told to start a social media platform after a book deal. I didn’t want to at all but I did it because it was required – FB, IG, and Twitter, none of which I had before. Twitter is the only one I’ve liked at all or had any success on (very typical of authors). Now it’s going to be deserted, I know I need to shift to TikTok, which did not exist at the time I started. I probably won’t join Mastadon. I’m going to hate TikTok a lot.

      1. WellRed*

        This is where I fall. I use twitter for work and it’s a fun and easy way to connect with our readers. I don’t see any fallout so far and don’t see myself heading to TikTok or IG.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. Like I love social media and talking but I do not like video. It requires too much attention

      3. nnn*

        I would not assume it’s going to be deserted. Wait and see what happens. Musk is so erratic that he could sell it next month or reverse course completely and restore everything he has changed. People aren’t going to Mastodon in serious numbers, nor will they because it’s hard to use. Most people are still on Twitter waiting to see what happens.

        1. Pippa K*

          I agree about waiting to see what happens with Twitter. But for what it’s worth, I’ve found Mastodon fairly easy to use and a pleasant environment, and I’m not at all a DIY-program-your-own-stuff tech person.

          1. Green beans*

            not to break the no-rule talk, but from a professional use perspective (or a large platform perspective) it has several major drawbacks.

        2. Observer*

          Most people are still on Twitter waiting to see what happens.

          But it’s the reverse with the revenue generators. They are waiting to see what happens while suspending their ad buys.

          The problem for twitter is a that a lot of the debt is on Twitter’s books, so if Must can’t make payments (which is a real possibility at this point) creditors will go after Twitter, which will exacerbate the already significant issues with their ability to operate.

      4. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Any writers thinking of trying Mastodon might like to look at “writing (dot) exchange” and “wandering (dot) shop” as possible home servers. Or for science writing, maybe “scicomm (dot) xyz” (which is the one I chose).

        (Not sure if they’re all open sign-up at the moment – you might have to ask around for an invite, or wait till they’ve reopened.)

        Just sharing because working out which instance to start on can be the most off-putting/baffling stage!

      5. Anon for this one*

        Yeah… I think the dust will settle and we’ll have Twitter back as a mostly functional website in a year or two when Musk is done with it. But on a personal level it’s kind of a bummer that this had to happen before my Fun Announcement scheduled for later this week. I made a Twitter, grudgingly, to promote my work and was *just* starting to see a bit of an uptick in engagement. It will be a cold day in hell before I sign up for TikTok.

    6. Lilo*

      I was never really a Twitter user, but given how chaotic it was to have US Policy affected by middle night twitter rants, I’m not sorry to see it go.

    7. Writer Claire*

      I still have my Twitter account, but this week I set up an account on Mastodon. It’s…different but I’m getting used to the differences. And I kinda like it. (One thing I really like is that I can set the privacy level on individual posts.)

      A number of my writer friends have created accounts on the different instances, but I’m gradually finding and following them.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      I had an unused account that I deactivated. I feel sorry for the staff (of pretty much all his companies & of most of the other tech barons).

      I do find it interesting how much we’ve all been learning about the WARN Act.

    9. Anita, Darling*

      I agree with you that I don’t think it’s “imploding”. It’s a very useful platform; the big uses, for me, are local news and (to borrow someone else’s characterization), real-time updates of events, not curated into an article, ability to see a multiplicity of reactions.

      With Musk: when he makes extraordinary claims, I give him greater benefit of the doubt than baseline because he has achieved extraordinary things in the face of similar skepticism – both making electric cars viable and making private (reusable!!) space flight possible. (Imagine having to ask certain other countries to fly to the Space Station right now….)

      I think some of his STATED business goals for Twitter are valid. Reducing bots, verifying people… that will probably damage the privacy and anonymity, but might be necessary to keep it a civil conversation space while controlling nefarious actors. Bringing in Tesla engineers and management to acquaint themselves with the code and integrate seem like good decisions. Likewise establishing a non-ad revenue stream, if there is sufficient demand for it. The ad-based revenue model has so much dark underbelly that if tech moves away from it, it won’t be all bad.

      Is the way he did layoffs, and is reportedly driving the workforce, good for morale? Probably not. He’s a hard manager and probably, as a personal matter, a hard person to get along with (and certainly to date). But I don’t see a failure a priori, as experience changes things.

      In terms of advertisers pulling out…. again, a lot of that seems like political posturing and initial hysteria; if the product is good, and people use it, the advertisers will come, unless there’s some kind of political or extra-market pressure not to.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think advertisers pulling out is reaction to the chaos, culminating in the rollout of the new verification and subscription system by which I could have been Eli Lilly and Company, LeBron James, a British MP, or Tesla for just $8.

        When Bezos bought the Washington Post, he didn’t faff around for two months hoping someone would save him from buying it, and he didn’t immediately use it to post ugly conspiracy theories and Nazi quotes (stuff that gets deleted after a few hours without comment). Bezos just bought the company and continued to let his social media be handled by professionals, and advertisers didn’t see the platform as turning into an open cesspool dotted with Nazis (what happens without moderation anywhere), now with verified accounts that can mimic that advertiser and tank its stock. So they didn’t leave.

      2. Elizabeth*

        A note: Elon Musk did not found any of the companies he is known for. He used his father’s fortune as a South African business magnate to buy his companies and force out their founders.

        The Twitter Blue screw-up may have scared many of the advertisers off. They don’t want their products next to fake accounts parodying ex-presidents, pro athletes and other brands.

        1. Commander Shepard's Favorite Store*

          That’s not entirely true; he did found SpaceX, which has done incredible things. He absolutely did not found Tesla, but he bought into it with money he made from Paypal, which was formed from a conglomeration of companies that included one which Musk was a founder of. His father gave him and his brother 20-30k (accounts seem to vary, I went on a wikipedia rabbit hole–they also had numerous other investors) after they’d established their first business.

          The dude is a trash person, but as far as I can tell he mostly made his money on his own (as much as any billionaire makes their money “on their own”). The truth is enough of an indictment.

      3. Jackalope*

        The thing is that Twitter already had a verification system in place for those who needed it. His new system has not only turned off the genuine already verified folks (and honestly, as someone on my feed pointed out…. If you already have people like Stephen King and Taylor Swift regularly producing content for you for FREE, it’s a bad idea to try to charge them), but also caused a dumpster fire since there’s no actual verification – just paying $8 for the pleasure of impersonating Tesla.

      4. BadCultureFit*

        I feel like maybe you’re not quite as up to date on what has happened on Twitter over the past few days, based on this take? Might want to see how many companies have lost billions of dollars overnight.

      5. Jeff*

        Elon Musk is not a genius who deserves the benefit of the doubt. He is an extremely privileged individual who has always treated his workers terribly. There’s plenty of publicly available information on this.

        Bots were an excuse he was using to get out of the Twitter deal. Twitter already had a verification process which he completely made meaningless with Twitter Blue and has already backtracked from. Many of the employees who were in charge of the issues Elon allegedly cared about were either laid off or resigned. I would recommend reading the NYT article “Two Weeks of Chaos: Inside Elon Musk’s Takeover of Twitter” for a good summary what has been happening.

      6. Malarkey01*

        There’s a lot here that I don’t agree with, but just picking one; Tesla really isn’t a success story. It honestly isn’t a very good product- has quality, safety, and environmental issues- that many buyers had the financial worth to absorb just for the novelty of being an early adapter. The true electric innovations are being done by the traditional car companies using technology developed by small start ups and being done at much higher quality and safety levels and at more reasonable price points. They are the ones maki g electric vehicles a reality. With actual competition on the market, I expect to see Teslas market share crash.

        Add to that, it seems like many of his business activities are a shell game with smoke and mirrors.

      7. Observer*

        . Reducing bots, verifying people… that will probably damage the privacy and anonymity, but might be necessary to keep it a civil conversation space while controlling nefarious actors.

        If you are serious, you have not been paying attention. Twitter HAD a verification program. It was not sufficiently widespread, but it was mostly accurate. But first Musk gutted the staff for the program. THEN he just trashed the program. It was SO bad, that they already had to turn it off, at the same time as they had to add a “new” scaled back version of the old program.

        Bringing in Tesla engineers and management to acquaint themselves with the code and integrate seem like good decisions.

        It’s actually an insanely BAD decision. Because the core issues at the heart of the company and what makes it useful is not the code per se. Yes, there are a lot of issues with the code, but that’s only partially a technical issue. Also, there are a whole bunch of legal and regulatory issues that Tesla engineers have NO CLUE about. Putting them in charge is asking for Twitter to do things that are illegal, customer hostile and / or destructive to the functionality of the platform.

        Is the way he did layoffs, and is reportedly driving the workforce, good for morale? Probably not.

        There is no “probably” here. But morale is not the biggest problem here. There are two far bigger problems here. One is that he gutted departments that were far from over-staffed, some of which are critical to the success of the platform. This is true on the purely technical side (eg keeping the servers up and making sure that accounts don’t get eaten by the system as an example of two real issues – and the account are already showing up.) But also on the programmatic / customer side. The fiasco with the verification is due to a number of factors, but one of those factors is that there simply was not enough staffing to do ANYTHING to prevent or respond to all the clearly fake accounts that were being created. And that’s the other piece here – he’s making personnel decision without any clue as to who is doing what and the actual effects on the company and its ability to operate.

        On top of that the way he handled the layoffs is flatly illegal. He’s trying to smooth that over but is still trying to pull illegal stuff. Like, he claimed that he’s going to pay 2 months severance (as required by the WARN Act), but people need to sign waivers – which is ABSOLUTELY prohibited by the WARN Act. etc.

        In terms of advertisers pulling out…. again, a lot of that seems like political posturing and initial hysteria; if the product is good, and people use it, the advertisers will come, unless there’s some kind of political or extra-market pressure not to.

        What makes you think that there will NOT be that pressure? Not so much because of Musk per se. But because of the highly problematic stuff that’s already showing up on the platform. Again, currently Twitter simply doesn’t have the capacity to control the garbage that’s showing up, which already presents a problem for advertisers. What is worrying advertisers at least as much is whether Twitter can at least make sure that their ads don’t run against / look like they are subsidizing hateful stuff.

      8. Observer*

        By the way, I suggest you give a look at all of the links Alison posted today in response to a letter from someone at Twitter.

    10. Jackalope*

      I’m having a hard time with it. I just started using Twitter during the last couple of years but have grown to really like it for some things. There’s really not a comparison in any other sort of platforms out there for ways to have such a wide-ranging audience. This is going to be a serious loss if it goes down in flames. And I find it frustrating watching how EM has no clue of how to run a business or be a manager. The emails he’s sent to his staff the last two weeks are horrible (I kind of want Alison to use them as a prototype of what NOT to do if you acquire a new business, they’re so bad), and it’s so frustrating seeing something so carefully created over the course of many years going down in flames because of his combined malice and incompetence.

    11. Bookgarden*

      I didn’t post much on Twitter but I loved it as a sort of curated news feed for my interests. I haven’t completely given it up, but it’s hard to watch it go down in flames like this because of one guy. Also feeling for all of the workers who are being treated very poorly, though not unexpectedly.

      I’m using Reddit and Mastodon more. Mastodon is pretty nice but has a steeper learning curve than Twitter when getting started. The conversation pace is slower and more personal at the moment but I’m guessing that will change the more people join. The platform really appeals to people who work in tech and engineering, which I have an interest in, but a lot of the conversations go way over my head. I’m hoping to learn from them, though!

      On a personal note, as a Type 1 diabetic, I’m as nervous about what the Twitter-related drop in Eli Lilly share are going to do to insulin prices as I’m pissed about how ridiculous the cost of insulin is in the first place. Yay shareholders dropping us the second a fake account says insulin will no longer have the retail price of 300.00 a bottle.

      1. I take tea*

        The insulin thing was just stupid. Who doesn’t check a thing like that? You need to verify things you read online, that’s basic information competence. (It’s stupid that insulin is so expensive, too, of course). I’m so sorry for you.

        1. Bookgarden*

          Thank you, I’ve dealt with it my whole life and have been extremely fortunate to have decent insurance. I think I’ll be okay, but I really worry for my fellow diabetics who struggle with her copays or need to pay out of pocket and ration.

      2. Been There*

        I’ve been on Twitter since 2006. The last couple of years I’ve also been using it as a curated news feed (with a third-party app to keep my feed chronological). I don’t see a replacement currently to get this type of experience.
        I’m also dreading having to rebuilt a decent curated feed.

        1. Bookgarden*

          Mastodon kind of hits that curation fix for me, but most people and nonprofits/companies I follow on Twitter aren’t using it so it feels really empty :/

    12. Elle Woods*

      I started on Twitter in April 2009 and really enjoyed it for a while. I met a lot of people through TweetUps, which then turned in to in-person meetings, friendships, and more. (One couple I know met during a TweetUp, got married, and now have three kids!) It definitely had a positive impact on my life. I deactivated my account a few days ago. I may reactivate it before it gets deleted, if only because I’m doing a job search right now and it would be another way for potential employers to research me.

      That said, it’s been a dumpster fire the past few years. Rampant harassment, disinformation, bots, porn, spam, etc. really turned the site into a toxic dump. Twitter was marginally better at dealing with those kinds of things than Facebook was but that’s not really a compliment.

      The one area in which I do think it still has some value is as a customer service channel for companies. It’s a quick, easy way to get in touch with a company that doesn’t involve having go through a phone tree maze or company’s website. Beyond that, I’m not sure what, if any, value holds for a company have a presence there.

      I feel for employees and ex-employees. It cannot be easy to work at a place where everything pivots on the whims of the boss with no notice or solid reasoning.

    13. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      ZDNET had an interesting article the other day on the likelihood that Twitter would fail from a tech perspective. Cutting funds from cloud services seems like a highly stupid move, as does deciding to fire people without understanding the jobs that they do. Doesn’t sound like they’re having much luck getting people who were fired, who they now realize they badly need, to agree to come back. Security execs quitting over worries about potential FTC violations won’t really instill confidence in many advertisers. And with decisions like eliminating remote work, it seems like Muskrat doesn’t care about retaining the employees he has left. Sure seems like a dumpster fire in the making.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s never reassuring when the CEO’s lawyer tells you that you don’t need to worry about going to jail for any FTC violations.

        It increasingly looks like setting a dumpster fire for fun, because he can afford to.

    14. OtterB*

      I’m still hoping it will survive, but we’ll see. I joined Twitter to keep up with some online acquaintances from another site that had gone dormant, and gradually expanded to following authors I liked and some outdoor sites and a few thoughtful-not-obnoxious current affairs thinkers. My feed is fairly carefully curated so I don’t see much of the toxic stuff at all. Like Bookgarden, I don’t post much, mainly read and sometimes reply. I had created a Mastodon account several years ago and never used it, but I’ve reactivated it and am following my Tweeps as they post Mastodon IDs, so I won’t lose people altogether if Twitter goes belly up.

    15. Person from the Resume*

      Mild amusement with the memes comment folks post on FB about it.

      I’ve never used Twitter. I just never saw the point of that app.

    16. Cedrus Libani*

      I thought, for about half a day, that Musk was actually going to take on the Great Moderation Dilemma. (Horn #1: if you wish to make money from user-generated content, moderation is NOT optional. Without moderation, your site will quickly lose most of its audience, leaving behind a wasteland of semi-feral edge lords screaming racial slurs at one another. Good luck selling ads. Horn #2: moderation is expensive, and it doesn’t scale. You’ll be spending all of those ad payments and then some, because you’ll need an army of moderators to adjudicate whether TwoFollowers420 has broken the TOS…again. If she has and you ban her, she’ll be back five minutes later under a different handle. Good luck with that too.)

      It would be fascinating to see what would happen if a big-name site like Twitter was converted to a pay-to-post model. In the best-case scenario, influencer and news-media types who care about their Twitter presence would find it worthwhile to pay, and would continue to produce content that brings views to the site, while the trolls won’t bother. Wouldn’t bet my own $44B on it, but I’d still be fascinated.

      (Honestly, that’s not what I use Twitter for – but I don’t use it much either. There are two reasons I would use it. One, when you have a legitimate complaint about a big company, and the people in the normal customer service channels can’t or won’t help you, calling them out on Twitter will sometimes get it resolved ASAP. Two, when there’s some hyper-local event that’s unfolding. Why is there smoke, sirens, and/or general commotion? Someone probably knows and has probably told Twitter about it.)

    17. Morning reader*

      I’m a little surprised at all the attention Twitter gets. I have it,mi think, downloaded the app years ago but I’ve never done anything with it. I’ve never figured out how to use it or even what it’s for.
      I still use Facebook because so many places around here post their events, menus, etc there. It doesn’t seem like they even update their own websites, just post stuff in fb. Maybe that’s on Twitter too?
      I’m curious what those of you who use it, use it for. Maybe it’s too late for me, I should probably have taken a class on it or something. When I hear about some Twitter incident, it always seems to be some weird political thing that most people (not on Twitter) don’t care much about.
      I did see someone comment about keeping in touch with readers throat way. But, what about the readers who aren’t on Twitter? I’m a big reader but I don’t generally need to be in touch with authors. Their books are how I know them. Are readers generally on Twitter?

      1. NancyDrew*

        Yes, readers are on Twitter. In droves. (Source: I ran social for a major children’s publisher and am also an author myself.)

      2. Jackalope*

        I just got onto Twitter in the last couple of years (during the pandemic). I use it for a variety of things. As a reader, I do enjoy following authors on Twitter; there are many of them who post interesting (and, since they are authors, well-written) thoughts on the world, or life, etc. For example, my favorite person to follow is a romance author who used to be a lawyer, so her perspective on anything touching on legal issues is always worth a read.

        Then I have hobbies that I enjoy interacting with people about. For example, there’s a podcast that I like that is popular, and so I enjoy discussions with other fans (and seeing their fan art; I’m not a good enough artist for fan art, so I have to live vicariously through them). I enjoy RPGs, and have had a lot of fun in RPG discussions with other players; I’ve also gotten a lot of great ideas on things to try in my games that I wouldn’t have come up with myself.

        Twitter is also surprisingly a good place to learn things. I have a doctor whose books I have read and greatly respected who sometimes posts useful things (general stuff, not “here’s a diagnosis for you” stuff). There’s a person into political science that gives great analyses of current politics and teaches me stuff I didn’t know already. I have a much greater access to people in minority groups who are different than my own, and so it’s been a good thing to learn about how different groups have to deal with racism, for example, or some of the specific issues facing trans people right now. Obviously you have to be careful with who you trust, and verify some of it to be sure, but there’s still a lot of useful knowledge on there.

        And finally, there’s a lot of silliness to be had; people posting cute pet pictures, memes about one of my favorite games, etc. It can be fun to scroll when I’ve had a long day and just want to relax for a bit.

        1. I take tea*

          I agree with this. I follow some people who post interesting stuff and have learned a lot. Additionally it’s useful for keeping up with what happens in my professional world, much quicker than looking at a lot of websites or reading newsletters. It’s also good for hyperlocal stuff, as people say.

          I don’t even have an account, I just read it in a browser. (I was so frustrated when twitter started blocking readers without an account, but then I found nitter.net. I have no desire whatsoever to post myself.)

          I just look at this mess and wonder why someone wants to randomly destroy something they just bought. It doesn’t really seems like he’s thought this through a lot, no clear vision, no plan, just “I can do whatever I want”. I feel really sorry for the staff.

          1. Observer*

            It doesn’t really seems like he’s thought this through a lot, no clear vision, no plan, just “I can do whatever I want”.

            This is probably the best summary of the situation we’re likely to see.

      3. Been There*

        News. I’m into Kpop, and all the artists will announce comebacks, concerts and other things on Twitter. Most artists seem to base their promotion campaigns around Twitter, with video teasers posted on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram. But if I want a full view of what’s happening, I need to be on Twitter.
        I also use it for other news sources. I haven’t found an alternative text-based social media network that works for me.

    18. BadCultureFIt*

      I love Twitter. I’ve been on it since 2008 and have several thousand followers — and as an author it’s super helpful for publicity. I also worked in corporate social media for years so I know the ins and outs of the tool and its advertising.

      I am personally quite sad to see it implode like this, because I will miss it greatly.

      This week alone, two of my clients pulled their ad money from it, and I’ve had emergency conversations with all my clients (I work in comms) about doing the same.

      Watching companies lose billions in stock overnight due to Twitter has been…interesting, I’ll give you that.

    19. MeepMeep123*

      I was never a Twitterer, but I signed up for a Mastodon account, just to see what it’s like. I like the idea of it – it’s very reminiscent of the early Internet before it all went corporate, so maybe I’ll find my new digital home on it. So far, I’ve been browsing around to find COVID info (which Twitter is great for), and there seems to be at least some. I hope the COVID-expert population migrates to Mastodon – there’s a treasure-trove of information and knowledgeable people that shouldn’t be lost because of the whims of one Republican billionaire.

  10. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    I think you could embrace the word dilettante! And if you wander about a lot, going nowhere in particular, just being in the world, then the word ‘flaneur’ is for you.
    In many ways you are simply doing extensive research – trying many things, to a small or slightly bigger extent, to see if they interest you enough to do any more. At the end of this year you could make a list of all the things you have tried a little of – maybe there will be 12 things. Maybe you would write a note next to them – eg didn’t mind painting the clay pot, but didn’t like getting damp clay on my hands. Embroidery- tapestry with all the stitches going the same way was ok, embroidery with different stitches was too fussy. Over time you will probably see what sort of things are more or less appealing.
    Also, what is a hobby anyway? One year I studded an orange with cloves; I enjoyed it but that was the full extent of my interest! I have pinned sequins to a polystyrene ball with dressmaker’s pins – never again, it looked stunning but took about a thousand pins and sequins and a very long time.
    You may find that somethings might interest you more if you are doing them in company rather than by yourself. It’s all a bit of entertainment for your brain, a bit of play. And remember you can donate partly done crafts and the supplies for someone else to have a go at – I bought a doll’s bed quilt once that was only half done, and happily finished it. If you start something and get stuck, there’s probably a YouTube clip with handy tips, but if you just lose interest – be like Elsa and let it go. Happy playtime to you !

  11. sewsandreads*

    What’s everyone’s go to summer recipes, and go to “set and forget” recipes? I’m always a bit exhausted to cook after work so I love something you can pop on the stove or in the oven — but I think I’ve exhausted my usual options!

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Rimini Iyer’s recipes are very rewarding in the “pop it in the oven and forget it” sense – that’s the entire concept she created them around. I have her first two cookbooks, and lots of her recipes are free online (mostly, but not only, on the Happy Foodie website, the Guardian, and BBC Good Food).

      I recommend looking up some of her recipes and seeing what you might like to try. I make them so often it would take me a whole thread to list my favourites!

      1. sewsandreads*

        On my way to Google! Thanks for the rec — definitely not a name I’m familiar with so I’m very keen.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Spotted my typo way too late – her first name is Rukmini, not Rimini, sorry! (thanks, autocorrect)

      2. DistantAudacity*

        +100 for her cookbooks!

        I’ve ended up with 3 of them; lots of great, easy recipes that are easy to scale up or down.

      3. Magda*

        These look like I might enjoy them – do you recommend one over the other? I see many books in the Roasting Tins series (I’m not vegetarian). Hmm, perhaps I’m also going to have to buy a “roasting tin”

          1. Cookies For Breakfast*

            I like the original one best – The Roasting Tin. I have The Quick Roasting Tin too, and it works a treat for shorter cooking times, but it tends to repeat itself a bit in terms of ingredients and some of her go-tos are stuff I don’t like. So I might never try some of the recipes. I’ve decided to keep up with her recipes online now instead of buying more books, and found lots more that I love.

            I can’t say I have a “proper” roasting tin either! I use a large glass oven dish from IKEA and it does the trick every single time (with the full quantities to feed 4).

            1. DistantAudacity*

              Yes, I concur with that – ‘The Roasting Tin» and «The Quick Roasting Tin» are my favourites.

              Most originalty in the first book, followed by practicality in everyday life for the second. Both also include vegetarian recipes.

        1. Reba*

          I have The Green Roasting Tin (US name is much less charming “Vegetarian Dinner’s in the Oven”) but it’s so great I would easily recommend the others in the series too!

          You don’t strictly need a roasting tin (i.e. a deep sided roasting pan) — sheet pans, dutch oven, anything that is oven safe will work.

      1. Angstrom*

        Summer? A big bowl of summer veg. Tomatos, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, mozzarella or feta, season to taste. Chickpeas for added protein.

        Salad of potatoes with fish — boil potatoes, cut up, toss with onion, celery, olive oil, capers, sardines.

        1. the cat's ass*

          salads are def a thing. My fam likes what we call “Hippie Salad” which was cribbed from a cafe in Brookline called “Edibles”-this was the 70’s y’all! It’s rigatoni, tuna, feta, pepperocini, cukes, grated carrots and vinaigrette. Sounds weird but it’s delicious.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Summer recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Corn and Bacon Pasta. Small number of ingredients, simple, quick to make, really good.

      Set and forget recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Turkey Skillet Chili. This is quick to put together, sits or reheats well, and is good year round.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Refrigerator case tortellini or ravioli. I always have a bag in the freezer, you don’t have to thaw them before cooking, just add a minute or two to the cooking time. Sauce with olive oil and grated parm, or ready made sauce, or sauce you’ve made earlier and frozen, or ready made pesto, or browned sausage and jarred roasted peppers, or capers and smoked salmon and a bit of cream. Or cooked asparagus (or broccoli or broccoli rabe) and olive oil (or cream) and some lemon. BTW you can used leftover cooked veg, Ive used some leftover ratatouille, seriously good. Chop up some olives and throw them in with any of these.

      Serve with a green salad.

  12. StellaBella*

    What are your money saving tips? For life in general.
    -appliances are unplugged if not in use (including internet box when i have to go to the office)
    -never carry a credit balance to save on interest when possible
    -batch cooking per above thread and bulk buys where possible
    -rarely eat out and bring lunch to work
    -when buying gas use the grocery points card (full tank=75$=75 points, converts to coupons every month)
    -keep heating on low in house and wear sweaters, socks (currently it is off, apartment below me has hers on so it makes mine warm too)
    -I don’t watch tv or stream stuff anyway gut maybe having only 1 service?
    -shop around on insurance each year to cut costs
    anything else that you do to save money?

    1. Taking the long way round*

      Re the streaming services – if there is something I particularly want to watch I will look for a free trial and watch the series then, but that only works occasionally. My brother pays for Netflix and I have a spare screen so I get it for free currently but will pay him the extra when Nwtflix starts charging for that next year.
      I really struggle with the bulk buying and batch cooking (think I might be undiagnosed ADHD) but otherwise I do everything on your list.
      I keep an eye out for special offers but I don’t use the BOGOF offers for fresh food, bc I am on my own and it’s wasteful for me, which ends up being more money.
      Days out and cinema etc I use coupons and special offers.

      1. rr*

        Slightly ot, but a few years ago, with the BOGOF offers on fresh produce, I asked the store manager of my local grocery store if I didn’t get the 2nd one (because it would be a waste for me too), if they’d donate the value. I was told they would. Now, I obviously don’t know if they made good on that, but I like to think they did. Also, if the offer is for something less perishable that you still can’t use up in a timely way (potatoes, onions, etc.), I would try and take it to my local soup kitchen. Of course, that all depends on how much energy you’re willing to exert. Because that has a cost too, of course.

      2. Venus*

        I use the FlashFood app. I can buy a big container of expiring fruit and veg for $5 and all other food such as meat and bakery items are half price. Some of the fruit might not be salvageable and I don’t have any control over what is in the bin, but I can see what is in there before I buy and it’s a really good deal if I like most of the items. Each store sets their own prices. There are other similar apps out there that avoid wasting expiring food.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      – Wear thermals as much as possible in winter. Fleece-lined tights (for UK folks, Marks and Spencer does some good ones) are helpful too.
      – Put draught excluders by any door leading outdoors and any draughty interior door. (You can buy inexpensive ones on Etsy or make your own by stuffing old tights or leggings with pieces of fabric, then tying off each end.)
      – Cut open any plastic tube or bottle of toothpaste, body lotion, shampoo etc. using nail scissors. There will usually be a few days’ worth of product still left inside.
      A couple of things which require a small outlay up front:
      – I’ve found that solid shampoo bars can last longer than soap.
      – Reusable/washable face cleansing pads will save you from endlessly buying cotton wool.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Sorry, for the shampoo bars, that should have said that they last longer than bottles of shampoo!

          1. Taking the long way round*

            Thirded! My hair’s in better condition too, and it’s better for the environment.
            Win-win.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        You can also pour water into your almost empty dish soap bottles and get a lot more dishes clean!

    3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Bicycling for nearly all errands and to work – works wonders for my stamina as well. I have 10km (6 miles) to the office one way, it takes 30 minutes either by bike or by car in usual traffic. I do most of my shopping at Aldi on my way home. My 10yo car is fairly efficient (40+ mpg) and gets very little mileage now.
      Air conditioning-I have only a portable unit in one room; my bedroom has a ceiling fan that uses very little energy compared to AC.
      I’m right now considering putting 11kW or so solar cells on my roof but that is quite an investment (25k Euros) and will have an ROI only in 10+ years.
      I just made 2 gallons of Chili, this will be today’s lunch plus 2 portions in the fridge and 6 in the freezer.

      1. StellaBella*

        I think all this talk of chilli means I will make that for the week now! Yay on biking, too, good for health and the air.

      2. Research Is Key*

        Talk to others in your area re:solar and what their ROI was. My parents were told 10 years and saw complete ROI in four.

      3. Observer*

        Air conditioning-I have only a portable unit in one room; my bedroom has a ceiling fan that uses very little energy compared to AC.

        Most portable units are MUCH less energy saving than window units. So, if you need AC in a particular room, you are generally much better off getting a decent window unit.

        Good ways to save on AC:

        Good insulation when running the AC – but keep in mind that there are significant health benefits to making sure that there is good air turnover in all rooms so figure out a way to balance those.

        Get the right size AC – if the unit uses either to many or too few BTUs you are going to wind up wasting a lot of energy.

        If you have windows that get a lot of sunlight, putting heavy curtains in will block a lot of the effect of the sun. Again, it’s a balance between needing lights and higher AC, but overall it’s a net gain because LED lights tend to have much lower electricity usage than every extra degree of AC cooling. Also, even if you open the curtains when you are in the room, keeping the sun out the rest of the time keeps the room from heating up as much.

        Check the SEER and EPEAT ratings on your unit – it’s a good idea for all larger appliances.

    4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Have a long and hard look at your mobile phone bill. Any contract with a subsidized phone is usually more expensive.
      Buying a (potentially used) phone outright can be way cheaper with a discount plan. Select a low-end or midrange phone that will get updates for 5 years or so (Apple and Samsung are quite good at that); don’t buy a “flagship” phone. Samsung lets you limit the charge to 85% to extend the battery’s life (they age faster when charged to 100%).

      1. StellaBella*

        Interesting on the phone charging! Yes on the bills too. Definitely good practice there. I have not bought a phone subsidized, but yes also good advice.

      2. Magda*

        Yep I use a website swappa to buy older model phones and then just switch out the SIM card. This is because my ADHD is very hard on phones, and I just can’t be spending that kind of money when it ends in tears every time.

      3. Generic Name*

        I second looking at your mobile phone bill. There are various pay as you go plans out there.

        Also, when you upgrade your phone, get one a few years old and then keep it for 4-5 years. I recently upgraded my iPhone 7 to the 13(whatever is last years model) on sale right around the new iPhone release date. I paid like six cents for it.

        1. Observer*

          That may save you money, but it’s still a bad idea.

          The suggestion to buy a lower end phone and to buy outright is much better. You can save significant sums that way, while getting better usage and more safety as well.

          1. Generic Name*

            I guess I see buying last year’s model outright for six cents as a pretty big savings? It’s not a payment plan.

            1. Observer*

              Last year’s model is not bad. But going further back than that creates its own problems, especially since even most higher end phones didn’t get security updates for more than a couple of years, till the last 2 years.

      4. Clisby*

        Also internet. My husband has *finally* gotten Comcast to delete TV from his plan. He’s been trying for a couple of years now.

      5. Westsidestory*

        Seconding this. Have a nice chat with your phone provider to see if a change of plan makes sense for you. I was able to cut $20 off my monthly phone bill this way. Also reduced my monthly pet insurance by $15.
        We have also bargained down cable/internet so I guess any monthly service can be looked at – and that includes monthly bank service fees. All small potatoes but in the end $500 per year that can be used for something else.

      6. Chauncy Gardener*

        Look at ALL your bills. It seems to me that companies are always trying to slip a little charge in there once in a while

    5. Sadie*

      Avoid using the tumble dryer and dry clothes outside or on a rack by the window or the radiator. Saves a lot of energy, money, and wear and tear on clothes.

      1. Russian in Texas*

        That is really climate dependent. Last year it took six weeks to get my dryer fix, during the summer.
        My clothes would not dry outside. Just wouldn’t. It’s so humid, they just never got fully dry.
        My dryer is gas though, it doesn’t use much electricity and gas is much cheaper.

        1. Epsilon Delta*

          This has been my experience too. It must depend on the specific dryer and energy source, because I always used to hang dry our clothes (3+ loads per week) and it had zero impact on our energy bill. I still do in the summer, but in the winter it’s not worth the space it takes up in our house to do it.

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Yes Memphis is very humid. I just use a dryer rack inside for nice items and the dryer for items that will be just fine thank you.

        3. ThatGirl*

          I live near Chicago, where it’s currently 30F outside, and we’re in a townhome so no putting clotheslines out anyway. I can’t live without a dryer.

    6. sagewhiz*

      If you wear makeup, switch from costly makeup removers to plain ol’ olive oil! It works wonderfully well plus it’s is good for the skin. Smooth it on, tissue it off—even removes mascara easily, which can be stubborn with a lot of products. I keep a very small jar in my bathroom vanity, when it runs low I wipe it out, carry it to the kitchen, and refill. Has saved me tons of money since I started this years ago.

    7. Missb*

      After reducing any bills through various means, my largest target is the food budget.

      I keep a solid amount of food on hand, very organized in a basement cool room (can’t quite call it “cold, but it’s close).

      I grow what I possibly can grow in my yard and preserve what I possibly can. This year was frankly a pretty bad year for both growing and preserving as I had an ongoing kitchen remodel project that took just a ton of time. I’m going to be very sad when the last jar of pickles is gone.

      Still, I can feed us for more than a year with what is on hand.

      I buy in bulk or things that are on sale. My weekly grocery list is usually just perishables like milk and fruit and the occasional bulk item. If pasta is 79 cents a bag, I’ll buy the limit or whatever I decide I need if there are no limits.

      I store most dry goods in jars in my basement. I use a vacuum sealer to seal things up in the jars. I don’t run out of things like quinoa or rice (or pasta!) etc because when I grab a jar from the basement to work into my kitchen pantry, I add the item to my weekly shopping list. If I’m making cornbread to go with a pot of chili, there is zero chance I’m out of the ingredients to cook it from scratch.

      I have a half acre, I can grow a lot here, and I keep chickens. The hens provide both eggs and fertilizer for my garden- their poo board uses shredded scrap paper to catch their droppings and it all gets cycled through my compost piles. Not everyone can reduce the amount of grocery items by growing and canning/freezing/dehydrating the harvest, but everyone can keep a bit of a pantry of bulk foods even if it is stored under a bed.

      It doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn dry garbanzo beans, a potato, an onion and a bay leaf into a hearty smoky bean soup, and that’s cheaper than buying a can of ready-to-go garbanzo beans. I don’t run out of bay leaves ever because I have a culinary bay shrub in the yard that I pluck young leaves from mid-spring each year and string up the leaves to dry. I grow onions and potatoes (not nearly enough potatoes to last the year). I dehydrate chopped onions when there are too many, and can potatoes if I have a bounty.

      I keep a lot of bulk meat in the chest freezer. If the power goes out, I’ll be pressure canning like crazy to save that meat (I have a gas stove; we’ve lost power before for a week). I keep a ton of canning supplies available.

      Anyway, it’s taken me years to develop my pantry and my garden but I save a ton of money by growing things and buying in bulk and using what I grow and buy. It’s way faster to order out for dinner, but I can do many many meals for the equivalent cost. We still do order out on occasion.

      1. Magda*

        Add to this, I recently switched to cheaper grocery story (shop rite) that I previously wouldn’t have visited – and often the brand name products are the same. It’s like buying things at Marshalls instead of Macy’s. Not as pleasant a shopping experience, and you have to be careful about what you’re buying, but for many things it’s the exact same, just cheaper. Watch expiration dates and think about the ethics of some products though.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        Seconding this! Growing as much of your own stuff as possible is very economical, especially if you can do it from seed.
        I have a bay plant in my window (too cold here to have it outside year round) and in season I grow a lot of herbs and then dry them. This works great (in New England) for herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel seed, dill seed, coriander. For herbs like chives, I chop them up, put them in ice cube trays and add water and freeze. Plop them out and put in a container or baggie to use in soups or whatever. You can freeze basil pesto in ice cube trays as well. All of this is SO much less expensive than buying at the store.

    8. Might Be Spam*

      Cover your windows with plastic. It really cuts down on cold drafts and as a bonus, you don’t have to wash your windows as often.
      My older picture window gets covered inside and outside with plastic, and the extra layer makes a big difference. My other windows only need a layer on the inside.
      Make sure the glass is completely dry before covering it, so you don’t seal in any moisture.
      I also caulk around window and door frames.

    9. Magda*

      Ugh I really, really need to review all the insurance I’m paying for (pet, home, car, health) but they make it so unpleasant, opaque and difficult!! And the stakes seem high if I switch to a cheaper plan and then it turns out it’s cheap for a reason. I am cynical and tend to believe insurance is already a scam anyway (we will cover you for some relatively rare situations! But actually there are a lot of loopholes!!) but I need to do it.

    10. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      You can start and stop Netflix without penalty, so I’ll subscribe for a month or 2, watch all the series I want to watch, and then cancel it for a while until the next batch is available. It’s rare that there is a continuous supply of things I want to watch, so cancelling if for a couple of months is ok. I think you can do the same with Amazon prime.

      1. Glazed Donut*

        I do this too! I started when I was a student, knowing that the winter and summer breaks were better for my Netflix watching. Just re-activated this weekend to watch The Crown (+ GBBS) and then will cancel again.

    11. Russian in Texas*

      Only but meat when it’s on sale, and stock up. Store brands. Limit on eating out.
      I am not sure about unplugging the appliances. The biggest appliance is the fridge and you can’t really unplug it. Compared to the A/C cost, nothing else is really going to make a dent.
      Never carry a credit card balance, unless it’s a 0% promotion, like from an appliance store.
      Buy things like soaps in bulk. I switched from my favorite Dove body wash to Dove soap bars, it saved me a ton of money AND it’s a lot more environmentally friendly.
      Work from home was really good for savings on clothes and lunches.
      We are lucky we don’t have to economize that much on stuff we like in general.

    12. Generic Name*

      I called my internet provider and asked them to slow down my speed because I needed to cut costs. They kept my speed the same and knocked $10 off my bill.

      1. E*

        +1 and I also call them every time they try to raise my bill (like once a year argh) and make the case that as a loyal and timely paying customer they don’t want to lose me by going higher and higher

    13. Ashloo*

      We have 1 streaming service at a time and rotate every 3-4 months. No, I’m not current on basically anything but such is life.

      I bought a heated throw for the first time ever and can imagine it saving some furnace runtime this season. Always always always unplug when not in use because I’m a little afraid of them.

    14. Charlotte Lucas*

      If fresh organic vegetables are important, look into local community-supported agriculture (CSA). There’s an upfront cost, but over the growing season, it can be cheaper than buying retail. (And you know your produce is fresh, which means it can last longer.)

      Some farms do a variety of share sizes, & some households go into shares together.

      A friend did one with a beef share (“cowpooling”), & she calculated that overall she paid less for higher quality beef than she could get at the store. (But that requires a deep freeze to store the meat.)

      I use my local library for books & to get movies & TV shows. And my local broadcast channels are good enough that I don’t pay for services.

    15. Girasol*

      – Check your grocery receipt. See where your money is going. You might decide you’re spending too much on things that you don’t really enjoy.
      – Grow a garden or even potted veggies on a balcony, and plant the ones that you like that cost most. Veggies that don’t ship well (lettuce, kale, green beans) cost a bundle and aren’t hard to grow, so you save the most with those. Ask gardening friends if they can share seeds.
      – If you eat much bread, make your own. Yeast breads are fun to make and cost less as long as you buy yeast in bulk or grow your own sourdough starter (yeast is the spendy part). If you can’t spare the time for yeast bread, beer bread (google it) is quick, easy, and tastes a lot like yeast bread. Bargain beer or even near-beer work fine. Or try soda bread.
      – Shop second hand/thrift stores. They have kitchen supplies for pocket change. It’s amazing how often you’ll find very expensive, brand new clothing with a price tag that makes Walmart look spendy. Look through the junk in the furniture area and you could find an antique gem for peanuts. If you’re dying to splurge and you know you should stick to your budget, a second hand store shopping spree can let you do both.

      1. Observer*

        – If you eat much bread, make your own. Yeast breads are fun to make and cost less as long as you buy yeast in bulk or grow your own sourdough starter (yeast is the spendy part). If you can’t spare the time for yeast bread, beer bread (google it) is quick, easy, and tastes a lot like yeast bread. Bargain beer or even near-beer work fine. Or try soda bread.

        Even if you don’t buy yeast in bulk, making your own bread can save significant money. Especially if you have any related dietary restrictions that increase you cost of bread.

        I can’t eat wheat, nor can my husband. I’m OK with not eating much bread, but he doesn’t do well that way. So bread was costing us a pretty penny. We got a bread machine a few months ago, and bake all our own. I got a basic model, and we’ve already more than paid off the cost of the machine.

    16. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m a fan of thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay. Those are sources for a lot of my clothes, etc.

      In addition to other suggestions on this thread, I take advantage of credit card promotions. They award free points for signing up as long as you spend X amount in the first three months. For example, I bought my iPhone with points from one of my credit cards. I recently timed signing up for a credit card because I knew I’d already have some expenses to take care of the required minimum. I now have a free flight to a location I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. And I’ve got a second round-trip flight from points on a different card. None of this has affected my excellent credit score.

    17. E*

      If you menstruate switching to a cup or reusable pads is very cost effective (and more environmentally friendly) – requires more upfront cost but pays for itself in like 3-4 months

      1. Storm in a teapot*

        I bought some menstrual knickers a few years ago and they’re brilliant. Also I feel much more comfortable in them

    18. E*

      Oh and not so much cost savings, but keeping my savings in a high yield savings account has made a meaningful difference — I use Alliant credit union bc I was sick of big banks, and their current interest rate is 2.2%

    19. Observer*

      -appliances are unplugged if not in use (including internet box when i have to go to the office)

      That’s outdated and often not even useful. And I’m talking situations when that’s even practical.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, you’re really only making it a bigger hassle for yourself. Turning the heat down a degree and switching to LED bulbs will have a bigger impact.

    20. Firebird*

      Check out The Affordable Connectivity Program from the FCC benefit program.

      The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households.

      I don’t meet the income guideline through the FCC website, but when I applied through my internet provider, I must meet some other unknown criteria because I did get the $30 discount.

    21. Glazed Donut*

      If you do online shopping (especially with the holiday season coming up), you may want to look into a cash back service such as Rakuten. You’ll get a check for a certain % of the total cost you spend online–typically every few months I’ll get a check for $15-25 just for my normal online shopping. Of course there’s a trade off (likely some kind of data tracking sites and purchases–but I feel like that’s most sites these days so may as well get paid for it).

  13. Poinsettia Flames*

    I’m looking for book recommendations for an aspiring writer (me). I’d like to read more about storytelling, narrative structure, or anything creative writing really while I’m experimenting with my short stories and future novel. If you know of a good edX/coursera course to get an introduction to creative writing, let me know.

    1. Lemonwhirl*

      Highly recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing”, which is part memoir and part writing how-to.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey is an interesting read! She identifies the heroine’s journey in three foundational myths and talks about the ways it differs from the (much better known) hero’s journey. Lots of pop culture references to make it more accessible. I think she also periodically does workshops based on it.

    3. MissGirl*

      Save the Cat is a great resource for beginner writers on structure and plot. I don’t use it quite as much anymore now that several books in but just this week I was hitting a wall in my finale. I went back the basic guidelines of Save the Cat and was able to work through it.

    4. Magda*

      I’m going to go a different direction than others, but “story engineering” by Larry Brooks really changed my life and is the reason I got a book deal. He really breaks plotting down into a checklist, even better than the more popular “save the cat” I think. You may have to work through feelings about not wanting to be too formulaic (and I actually dislike his snarky tone – but his advice was exactly what I needed to hear). I am obsessed with craft books but I think the “right” one for you depends on the problems you’re having – so yes, if you’ve got a self confidence or inspiration issue something like Bird by Bird may be right for you. I was having issues with how to build and develop plot, and Story Engineering was a step by step guide for me.

    5. Writer Claire*

      I found Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft very useful.

      And while it’s not about the techniques of writing, I love Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She talks about giving yourself permission to write a sh#tty first draft, about using a “one-inch picture frame” for difficult scenes, and how to deal with your inner critic.

    6. Westsidestory*

      Writing Well by Willam Zinsser- the guidance on writers block is so valuable. I’ve recommended it to many authors who get stuck.

      1. libraryfrog*

        There are a lot of great, short, reads and guides on plotting techniques etc available on the NaNoWriMo website right now – since it’s THAT TIME of the year! Even if you just make an account and don’t actually use it to track a project – you should have full access to all the regional forum posts and all the national resources! https://nanowrimo.org/

    7. Liminality*

      Fairy-tale master Gail Carson, the bestselling author of Ella Enchanted, guides writers of all ages on how to develop their craft, with practical advice and heartfelt encouragement.

      In Writing Magic, Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine shares her tricks of the trade. She shows how you can get terrific ideas for stories, invent great beginnings and endings, write sparkling dialogue, develop memorable characters—and much, much more.

      She advises you about what to do when you feel stuck—and how to use helpful criticism. Best of all, she offers writing exercises that will set your imagination on fire.

      With humor, honesty, and wisdom, Gail Carson Levine shows you that you, too, can make magic with your writing.

  14. Cookies For Breakfast*

    Hello from another aspiring writer! I struggle with implementing advice I’ve only read in books (I mostly learn through hands-on practice), so a writing craft book that sticks with me is a rare unicorn. Novelista by Clare Askew was it for me. It’s very down-to-earth about what writing and publishing really involve, but the author keeps a very encouraging tone throughout and makes readers feel hopeful about their work.

  15. Janet Pinkerton*

    Frozen pizza troubleshooting

    Question: Have you ever had a frozen pizza just totally fail to cook?

    Context: I made a frozen pizza last night (DiGiorno’s) and followed the instructions—preheated the oven, sat it directly on the oven rack (with a piece of foil on the rack below to catch drips), cooked it for the appropriate duration. When I went to retrieve it, it looked like it could use a few more minutes (looking at the crust) so I left it in for a few minutes. The crust was looking good and I went to take it out and couldn’t! It was like totally raw dough in the middle. It was kind of sinking through the oven rack.

    What could have caused this?

    Possible things causing problems that have never caused problems before: We leave a pizza stone in the bottom rack of the oven at all times. I left the pizza on the counter while the oven preheated. We had a cleaning person come this week for the first time and maybe something she did? (We have a gas oven.) Thanks everyone!

    1. Lemonwhirl*

      Can you test your oven to make sure that its temperature is properly calibrated? Have you cooked anything else in the oven since the pizza and had any problems?

      I suppose that leaving it on the counter might have caused the edges to defrost a little, while the center could have stayed more frozen, but if you’re leaving it on the counter for like 5 minutes, it doesn’t seem like it should be that drastic of a difference. Is everything the same with your freezer – has its temperature changed? Is anything blocking its airflow?

      1. Janet Pinkerton*

        No, it was just last night and I didn’t want to ruin something else. I don’t have a working oven thermometer but I will be buying one.

        The pizza was in the chest freezer rather than the fridge-freezer, but I think (not positive) that I’ve made pizza straight from the chest freezer before. What would be the difference maker here?

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Could have been the foil preventing the heat (radiation) from reaching the pizza bottom.
          The pizza stone is usually a good thing, preheat it with the oven and place the pizza directly on the hot stone on the medium rack.

          1. KatEnigma*

            This. Both parts of the answer.

            Also, the “trick” to frozen pizza is to ignore the instructions and to go as high as your oven will go, and then watch for doneness based on a shorter time. So I would have preheated my oven to 550 with the pizza stone inside, and probably cooked it for 10 minutes.

        2. Lemonwhirl*

          If the pizza were at the top of the freezer and the airflow in the freezer was somehow blocked, I suppose it’s possible that the pizza’s edges could start to defrost.

          The oven is the more likely culprit, but it worth checking the freezer and making sure its contents haven’t shifted to block the cold air coming in and circulating around the freezer.

    2. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I’d put my money on something wrong with your oven–when our oven broke, this is exactly what happened (although it wasn’t frozen pizza). At first, it was just the internal thermometer that was broken, so the oven couldn’t keep the right temperature. It was either too high or too low. Then it started turning itself on and off without discernible cause while it was supposed to be on.

      I would just try baking something else to see what happens. If that’s wrong too, well, there’s your answer.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve started getting the tarte d’alsace at Trader Joe’s (AMAZING) that’s basically a thin pizza with gruyere, ham, and onion, and I put the frozen tarte on the cooling rack, then put the cooling rack in the oven so the hot air can circulate better, and when it’s done I can just grab the cooling rack with an oven mitt and not worry about it cracking or sagging. It doesn’t protect against drips, but tl;dr, I’d say if you have a cooling rack try just that, and no foil or pizza stone. The pizza stone wasn’t in contact with the pizza, so it impeded the hot air from circulating at the bottom of the pizza while not conducting it to the crust.

    4. SuprisinglyADHD*

      I’ve never put a pizza directly on the oven rack, I always use a flat tray. The hot metal pan puts heat directly onto the bottom of the pizza, and prevents the crust from drooping through the bars of the rack. We also have a gas oven that doesn’t cook things as fast as the recipe says, but if I use “convection bake” instead of just “bake”, it tends to cook things much faster than expected. For frozen pizzas, I preheat the oven to the temperature on the box (usually 375-400), put the pizza on a flat cookie sheet lined with foil, and leave it in until it’s done, which is often longer than the box says.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’ve never had a frozen pizza droop when putting it straight on the rack. A homemade one would, but not frozen! If it did I would assume something was wrong with the oven.

    5. JSPA*

      If it’s a gas oven and some of the burners are not lighting, that’s a real risk! Get it sorted before using the oven again. Water or dirt can block the burner, or some have diverter / guide tubes that can be displaced.

      Electric can also short / fail with water getting in. Water and baking soda and / or vinegar will do a number, if it gets into electrical connections.

  16. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    Anyone being on an Antarctic cruise?
    I’ll go there next week (fortwo weeks of work but expect to have a day or two off) and would like tips on what to pack. Airlines losing my luggage frequently means I’ll need to keep all the essentials in carry-on. I will check a small bag with more spare clothes but only non-essentials.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Just to add I’m looking for tips specific to Antarctica/Patagonia.
      The usual stuff (medication, passport, etc. I’ve got covered; I travel quite a lot).

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Did you try looking at the boards on the Cruise Critic website? There’s a section for ports of call and there’s usually a ton of tips in there. I’m going on a cruise late next year and I’ve been reading the boards like crazy lately. Cruisecritic dot com.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Good idea! Look up the roll call for your specific cruise; a great way to meet people and arrange independent, small-group shore excursions. Done that a lot and enjoyed all the tours.

    3. allathian*

      Depends on which cruise you’re going, but some cruise companies provide passengers with warm clothing for the trip. Check yours. And have fun!

    4. ghost_cat*

      I travelled to Antarctica a few years ago. Are you doing a small ship with shore landings? If so, I found it very manageable as you warm up while you walk. My favourite thing was my neck gaiter/snood, as it meant that your ears and neck were always warm, but for very little weight or bulk. That, and thin merino gloves. Bulky gloves were just a nuisance. If getting into zodiacs, you need waterproof pants (our company wouldn’t let you board a zodiac if you weren’t wearing waterproof pants) and I’d highly recommend a waterproof stuff sac for your camera. Other than that, my standout ‘I wish I had brought that’ was a stronger moisturiser. I live in a hot climate, so found the cold air very drying and needed lots of lip balm and facial moisturiser due to wind burn.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I will second the efficacy of thin Merino gloves. So long as you aren’t trying to work with your hands (e.g. shovel snow) and just keep them warm.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Thanks, that is useful! I’ll bring lip gloss and SPF 50 sunscreen.
        I should have thought of Cruise Critic – I’ve been a member for years.
        Thin merino gloves are a good idea; I’ll get some in addition to my Norwegian offshore gloves made of neoprene.
        Waterproof pants: Good idea again; my sailing overalls should work for that.

        1. lissajous*

          Second this. I have a friend whose dad had worked a lot in Antarctica (some features are named after him!). She always said: the strongest moisturiser you can find, and lots of it, and the strongest sunscreen you can find, and lots of it. That six months of daylight right under the hole in the ozone layer is fierce.
          If you’re US, I’d recommend checking the sunscreen for compliance with AS/NZS 2604:2021 – that’s the most recent version of the Australian/New Zealand standard for sunscreens (previous was 2012). We’re pretty strict about sunscreen requirements here.

    5. Katiekins*

      I don’t know what to pack but I’m intrigued by the idea of you going on an Antarctic cruise for work! (And the way you drop that piece of info, like “I’m going on an Antarctic cruise for two weeks of work, ain’t no thing!”)

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          I used to go on cruises for vacation (got interested when I did some projects on cruise ship construction); now I certify some specific aspects of cruise ship operations as part of my job. Going on 10+ ships per year for a few days each dilutes the wonder a bit. We work 10-12 hour days without any opportunity for shore leave in most cases. This Antarctic trip is a bit different as we will have free time (we can’t disembark earlier and do two ships back-to-back to reduce travel).
          I’m quite excited; Antarctica is the only continent missing on my bucket list so far!
          Good tip about the Vaporub – would have not thought of that. Fortunately my sense of smell is not very acute.

    6. Malarkey01*

      I never see this mentioned- Vicks Vapor Rub or something with a similar strong smell that you can apply below your nose….the smell of millions of penguins and the poop they produce….I cannot describe. I’m usually not sensitive to smells but this was shockingly bad and inescapable at the typical stops.

      Good sunglasses are another must. The light can be literally blinding and you can damage your eyes if not careful.

    7. Storm in a teapot*

      My parents did it a few years ago and found the Uniqlo Heat tech tops invaluable. Really thin so perfect for layering

  17. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

    Would anyone with experience in self-publishing fiction like to share any tips or experiences?
    I would call my writing a hobby rather than work, so far I’ve mainly shared with friends and people I know. I’ve written a novel that has gotten great feedback so I thought I’d look into publishing it. I’ve been looking into Amazon publishing because of the lack of outlay, what has been people’s experiences with this? Are there any traps I should be wary of?

    1. RagingADHD*

      The only traps are paying for author services if you don’t fully understand what you’re getting and why. There are a lot of indie writers who think there is magic or mystery to the process, so they are willing to pay for the promise of success. That’s a trap.

      There are also author services that are really straightforward about what you get and paying for them vs DIY is just a business decision about your own abilities or the value of your time.

      I recommend paying for editing and a cover that will fit in with bestsellers in your niche. You could have the best story in the world, but a Becky-Home-Ec-y cover is going to put readers off before they give it a chance. And weak editing can leave people disappointed.

      I recommend using Amazon only for Amazon sites. For wide distribution to all the other sites, I recommend Draft 2 Digital. That maximizes royalties across the board.

      Uploading and releasing your book is very straightforward. It’s the discoverability and marketing that takes a lot of planning and work. Fortunately, you can change keywords and categories or build a platform and email list separately.

      Rule of thumb is that it usually takes three books to turn a noticeable profit, because you need return buyers. And to keep making profit, you need to keep publishing.

      There’s a lot of resources out there about building the perfect book launch, getting an email list, timing the “bounce” to get the recommendation algorithm in your favor, etc. With fiction, it is very hard to build an audience base before you launch the first book. So I wouldn’t worry much about the advanced marketing tactics for Book 1. Do what you can, but mostly focus on getting the first one out there, and that will help you find your people.

      Don’t expect a lot of sales from close friends and family. They tend to feel hinky about reading your stuff, because what if they don’t like it? They don’t want to hurt your feelings.

      The most enthusiastic fans you know personally are going to come from the middle to outer rings of your social circle: acquaintances, neighbors, friends of friends. There’s no pressure on them, because you won’t know if they read it until they tell you. And they are more likely to be jazzed about knowing an author.

      Network with other authors in your genre and related genres, so you can cross promote. Authors are not in competition with each other for readers, because voracious readers always want more. “Related genres” does not always mean different branches of the same genre, it means crossover audiences. For example, paranormal steamy romance might cross over better with sci fi that has a love interest than with squeaky clean Amish romance. And the squeaky clean readers are probably going to cross over with cozy mystery.

      My best marketing advice is to make sure that absolutely everything aligns, so the reader knows exactly what they’re getting. The cover, jacket copy / listing copy, your blog and emails, the sample, everything needs to match the tone and nature of the book. The biggest driver of bad reviews is disappointment that the reader didn’t get what they expected. Good marketing doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. It appeals to the people who will like the book, and tells people who won’t like it “this isn’t your bag.”

    2. BadCultureFit*

      Just curious — if you’re getting good feedback on your novel, is there a reason you wouldn’t try traditionally publishing it?

      I see a lot of writers jumping right into self pubbing without exploring the querying route, and I never understand why?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Indiepub isn’t a Plan B for “failed” novels. It’s an alternate business model that, for some genres, has a much better profit margin.

        Querying is a long, tedious process with a steep learning curve of how to sell your book to the gatekeepers. It can take years to get picked up, and then another year + to get to market.

        Indiepub is a long, tedious process with a steep learning curve of how to sell your book to readers, but overall the book can get to market quicker.

        There are a lot of practical & economic reasons to choose one over another. There are also personal reasons as to which learning curve is more motivating or rewarding.

        I never queried my books because after working in show business, I realized that getting actual audiences/readers to buy stuff they enjoy is a lot easier and more fun than trying to convince industry employees to risk a capital outlay on an asset they have no personal connection with.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I recommend reading Writer Beware – it’s focused somewhat on SF/Fantasy since it’s a SFWA project, but a lot of it is applicable cross-genre. You can find it at writerbeware DOT blog . It’s a great resource for pointing out scams and getting a sense of what is and isn’t “normal” behavior from various people selling services to authors.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Caveat: make sure you use critical thinking about WB posts. There is a small but vocal contingent of writers who are using paranoia about “scams” to avoid taking any action on publishing by any route, ever.

        So they vehemently proclaim everything–absolutely everything– as suspicious when it’s just confusing and scary to them, personally.

        There are also folks who got disappointed because they tried to buy a fairy godmother, and it didn’t magically make them famous. Some of them were actually ripped off by shady people preying on the ignorant. Others just had unrealistic expectations.

        There’s some good info over there, but just bring your thinking cap with you.

    4. Rick Tq*

      The MadGenius.com group blog talks about these topics at length and some of participants have/are published both by traditional publishers and self-publish. The writers come from the SF/F world so a similar genre.

      There are threads on cover art, editing, marketing, etc.

      DO NOT PAY to have your book published. That is the hallmark of a Vanity Press that makes their money by charging authors, not selling books.

  18. ElsaBug*

    I need advice – a close family member is making some objectively bad parenting choices that are alienating her teenage kids. I ended up having to set a boundary that she can’t complain about her kids to me. I’m seeing them all for the holidays – how do I get through watching her interact with them for days?

    1. allathian*

      Oh dear, that sounds really tough. Depends a bit on what kind of bad parenting choices she’s making, if her kids are in actual danger my advice would be different than if it’s something fairly innocuous but which many people disagree on. Like if she’s denying them food and shelter, or the space to do their homework in peace so they get worse grades than they might, my advice would be different (contact CPS) than if she’s insisting on closely supervising all their online activities with their friends (IMO not appropriate for the average 15-year-old with no history of bullying others, doing drugs, etc.), which might alienate the kids, and justifiably so, but which probably doesn’t count as abuse.

      1. ElsaBug*

        Thank you for the clarifying question! Not unsafe, no abuse at all. Good person making some bone headed calls.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Try to grey rock her, and to engage with your neiblings like a refreshingly normal person.

          With this stuff, it’s critical to remember that your relationship with minor children is under the control of their parents. You and the kid can be right all day long–the entire internet can agree that you’re right–and the parent can still decide you’re undermining their parenting and cut you off.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Do you have other family members who see the same challenging dynamic? It can be helpful for other people to have a heads up or be ready to step in with a diversion or topic change (“Hey, Nephew! I think your grandmother needs help moving the dining room table,” or if the mom starts having a go at the kid, someone ready to empathize how tough this age is and then confidently change the topic.)

      Basically, support the kid, let the mom know you empathize with the challenging phases of parenting, but try to keep it from escalating at the event.

      1. Missb*

        Really good advice!

        I wasn’t a perfect parent, but it seems like it is common knowledge that the teenage years are tough for kids. Why make it more difficult for them? Sigh. I feel bad for the teens.

        Again, I was totally not the perfect parent! I do feel fortunate that my two kids and I have fabulous relationships with me and each other. My life would be so much less if I’d alienated them. My oldest is working on his PhD, so still in grad school. He texts me almost every day and calls often to chat. We FaceTime once a week. The youngest is out of undergrad and is working- he texts and calls several times a week. He FaceTimes maybe once every two weeks. They reach out when they are stressed or need cooking advice. I know that i can ask one to call the other when one sounds like they’re struggling (young adulthood is tough! Relationships, figuring out your life path….) I just can’t imagine what my life would be like if I’d pushed them away during their teenage years. I’m so sorry for your relative, but mostly for their kids.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      If you can, please let your nieces/nephews know that you support them. My mother was extremely critical of me as a teenager (I could do nothing right). One Thanksgiving my uncle pulled me aside and told me that he and my aunt saw how my mother treated me and that it wasn’t right and that problem was her, not me. It meant the world to me at the time, and I still remember that kindness 35 years later.

      1. AGD*

        This. I get that it’s tricky, but there’s a huge risk of the kids internalizing the bad stuff, and providing an alternative perspective from a nearby loving adult (gently but firmly, without over-ranting) goes such a long way.

      2. blue giraffe*

        I was going to suggest this – pull the kids aside, and just a quick word with them can make a world of difference

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Structured games, like Trivial Pursuit means that the conversation is about the game instead of life stuff, and a lot of films! You might also want to set up little outings which gives them a breaks out of the house, and from each other, like some one on one time with your family member, or something with you and the kids. Or just go for long walks and naps yourself?

    5. Generic Name*

      If you haven’t already, cultivate relationships one on one with each of your niblings. Teenagers mainly communicate via text-based methods. If they have phones get their numbers and text them occasionally. Or see if they are on discord or WhatsApp. You don’t have to say anything about their parents. Just be interested in them/their lives. Share funny memes, etc. a parenting teenagers class I took had an interesting statistic that if a teenager has even just a single adult who cares about them, it makes a big difference in their lives.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, our school is doing a big thing on the “One Good Adult” theme.

        And yeah, I think just supporting the teens here makes a big difference. You don’t want to undermine the parents unless it’s something REALLY major, like the teen is gay and the parent is telling them they are sinful or something; then I think it’s reasonable to say “no, you’re not. Your parent is being ridiculous.”

        But you can be a listening ear and a support.

      2. Firebird*

        THIS! “if a teenager has even just a single adult who cares about them, it makes a big difference in their lives.”

        My grandmother was the only person who made me feel like someone cared that I was alive. My parents said that the way I was treated was normal, now I know how bad it was. It is not normal for a 10 year old to attempt suicide. Nobody even noticed. My grandmother is probably the reason I am still here. Years after grandma died, my mother let slip, that grandma tried to tell her that she was making me work too hard and to let me be a kid.

        Even just one adult can make a huge difference by caring, even if they can’t change the situation. Kids may look like they are ok, even when they are suffering.

      3. Observer*

        You don’t have to say anything about their parents. Just be interested in them/their lives. Share funny memes, etc.

        This is excellent advice. You don’t say what kind of bone headed decisions your relative is making. But if one of the issues is that Mom and Dad are monitoring their kids communications to heavily, you won’t create any issues by speaking against the parents.

    6. JSPA*

      Grab the relative for a “just us” a walk or shopping trip or anything. Grab each of the kids in turn, for equivalent. You get time with each of them while getting a break from the overall dynamic, and they each get a break.

    7. SofiaDeo*

      My Mom noticed this with one sister. She had some convos along the lines of “times always change, historically parents have generally resisted them, isn’t it odd” and recounted some of the things THEIR parents did. And “they are really good kids, and you are alienating them from their peer group by forcing them to (dress/behavior/other) differently than their peers. You taught them Right from Wrong, they need to experience some of the challenges as a teenager so they can ask for your advice while they are still living at home.”

      Without being more specific as to examples (does she infantilize them still? Ridicule them? What?) it’s hard to be more specific about a potential script to use.

  19. Oxford Comma*

    For the first time in my life, I can afford actual professional movers (local move). What are questions I should be asking moving companies before committing? And what general advice do you have for trying to ensure a positive experience?

    1. Missb*

      Are you packing things up yourself or having them do it? Are you providing the boxes? Will they provide the blankets? Do they wrap the furniture? Are there extra charges for those sorts of supplies? Is there a minimum charge (around here it is a two hour minimum).

      Do you have easy access for their vehicle? Any steps?

      Also, just a tip: considering tipping :)

      (I had movers here this summer during part of my remodel. They just moved the heavy stuff from my first floor to my basement while we had floor work happening. Everything was wrapped up in blankets and plastic so they didn’t damage anything. They did the wrapping and unwrapping when they returned a few weeks later).

    2. Rosyglasses*

      We recently moved with movers – this is what we looked for:

      1 – Really positive reviews that were recent; what was the experience like for those folks, what did they call out, and did we see that repeatedly in the last 3 months.
      2 – They should tell you how many people they are sending based on the size of your house (inside and outside items). Our home was 3 bedroom, 2 bath, around 1100 sq ft and they sent a 23′ (I’m bad with numbers so I think this is correct – hubby still asleep) and 3 movers.
      3 – Do they wrap everything and help box items? They should. Our movers literally wrapped or boxed (if we had a random item out) EVERYTHING and it keeps it from getting scratched. We’ve since observed neighbors moving where the folks seem to be throwing things in a truck with no protection. EEK!
      4 – They should also be able to tell you average move time (altho this will vary) e.g. for this many rooms/stuff, estimate on packing the truck and unpacking.

      My personal tip, plan on 3 hours longer than their estimate or your internal estimate and budget appropriately. Our move in a Portland OR ran us around 1400 and we had cash tips on hand. So worth it tho!

      1. Rosyglasses*

        Also I will say – box up as much of your stuff as possible yourself as they generally do charge you for every box they provide and box for you – plus it adds to your time. We rented UHaul plastic bins ($1.50 per bin for the first week, $1 per bin every week after) and boxed up most everything and it made things go much faster.

        1. Writer Claire*

          I ended up buying a quantity of moving boxes, just to make sure they were sturdy enough. This let me start packing well ahead of the move date, not to mention giving the cats boxes to nap in.

          1. Rosyglasses*

            Yeah we used to use cardboard but I am a huge fan of the reusable bins they provide – no taping, breaking down and storing or finding someone to take boxes and much more affordable. I think we spent $65 on our 1100 sq ft house move that normally would have been a couple hundred for boxes. But not every place has them available.

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

      All the local moves I’ve done have a minimum time/fee and then per hour charge after so it can get expensive quickly if there a lot of wasted time…for me it’s usually been 3 hours minimum. I do as much as possible to stay in those 3 hours to save money so I have everything planned and do all of my own packing; they are there to move big stuff. If you want them to do packing, it would save time to at least move things off from furniture, like bookcases, so they can fill the truck with those big items first and boxes last. I give them a map to the new location, and a floorplan for all the big furniture so there’s no time wasted on where the couch goes etc.

      I always provide cold bottled water to the movers, in addition to a tip.

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

          I gave them each $75 for 2 people, but they were only moving furniture, not packing anything, and we were done in 3 hours.

          You can tip based on % of the total bill and that might be a regional amount…here in Los Angeles tips are typically 18-20% of the bill.

        2. New Yorker*

          I think that depends on where you live, how much stuff you have, how well organized it is (e.g. packed well in labeled boxes or thrown in trash bags), and the places you’re moving from/to. For example, if you’re moving from an elevator building to the fifth floor of a walk-up (i.e. no elevator) I would tip VERY generously. Especially if you have a lot of heavy furniture, if the weather is rainy, hot, snowy, etc. If you’re going from a house to a house, then maybe less.

          I second providing cold water (or Gatorade). In the past when I’ve hired movers I also buy donuts/pastries if they’re starting early in the morning and offer to buy them lunch (which they’ve declined b/c they just want to finish). My philosophy is treat them extra nice so they’ll be careful with your stuff. Also if there is a foreman/woman I would tip them more.

          Whenever I’ve hired movers they always send someone to my apartment to do walk through first, and then provide an estimate based on that. They are professionals and know much better how much *stuff* it really is. (Like one tall bookcase seems like not that much, but could yield 5+ boxes of books.)

          Last thing, if there are super precious/expensive/fragile things you might consider moving those yourself. I have some artwork and a few rare vinyl records so I usually make a trip to the new place with those items (plus my plants and cleaning supplies) before moving day to be on the safe side.

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

            For the OP: If they don’t do a walk through prior to moving day, be sure to let them know if you have anything exceptionally big or heavy, like a piano. Some regular movers won’t even move it and you’ll need a piano mover.

            Around my area, they also tend to say they won’t cover/guarantee ready to assemble furniture. If you keep the assembly instructions, have those and a screwdriver handy and not boxed up. Even if they don’t disassemble them completely, you’re probably going to need to tighten everything up.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              You also may want to warn them if you have a large library. I didn’t realize that most people don’t have at least 10 bookcases full of books because, well, that’s completely normal for the houses of people I visit, but the last time I hired movers they mentioned that they’d like a heads-up about that next time. (I boxed them up myself, in suitably small boxes that they weren’t too heavy for me to lift, but it was still a lot of extra boxes compared to a typical bedroom since I was using that bedroom as a library.)

              1. KatEnigma*

                I like the movers that you can tell how many boxes and pieces of furniture you have, online.

                But regardless, they were always going to complain about the books. Every.Time. We made 7 local moves and 3 cross country moves and the crews always complain about our 40-50 boxes of books. (And I always figure that if I can lift a book box, the pros can lift them 3 at a time.)

                When ordering boxes for my husband to pick up from Uhaul, we had a clerk argue with him that I’d ordered too many book boxes and tried to talk him out of taking them all, and reminded him that we could return any we didn’t use. That was for move 9. Nope, I know how many book boxes I need.

            1. Manders*

              We moved our laboratory at work a few years ago. The “professional” movers they hired packed a desktop computer in a box with a 4 liter bottle of concentrated sulfuric acid. They … aren’t specialists, let’s say.

        3. KatEnigma*

          We tip minimum of $50/person and we’re currently in a much cheaper place than California. We’ve tipped as high as $100/person when we were moving on a really hot day (in OCTOBER in SF Bay Area) from a 2nd floor walk up to a 3rd floor walk up.

        4. EdgarAllanCat*

          I’m in the Chicago area and gave $100/person tip. Was a lot of $$, admittedly, but they did a great job. Even before the tip, they were all so kind & solicitous. I had a massive arthritis flare up and could barely move.

          It was a two-day move and gave the same tip the next day.

    4. KatEnigma*

      If you buy your boxes from Uhaul, you can return any extras you don’t use. Plus they are good boxes with reinforced edges that don’t collapse when you leave your 40 boxes of books stacked for months until you get to unpacking them. Ask me how I know the difference in box quality.

      Have rolls of tape and your own boxes available if you don’t want to pay a premium for their supplies, but seriously, try to pack everything yourself, if at all possible. We have a lot of stuff, and it usually takes 3-4 hours to load and 2 to unload but anything they have to pack slows the process way down, and costs so much more money both in time and supplies.

      A 3 person crew is the minimum that’s ideal. That way if 2 people are needed to move heavy furniture, etc, that doesn’t stop the rest of the progress. It’s less money to pay 3 people for a shorter amount of time. We’ve done the math.

      And I hate to say it, but you need an adult in the room with EVERY mover, just to prevent them from making boneheaded choices. This is true regardless of how awesome their reviews are. If you are doing it on your own, just keep circling from room to room.

      If you have pets, board them for the day or have someone stay in a locked room WITH them. No, signs on the bathroom door to not open ( even in 2 languages, in areas where that’s the norm) has never, not once, stopped movers from trying to open that bathroom or walk in closet door with the pets inside. And I’ve moved 10 times using movers!!!

      Make bottled water available and cash for tips.

    5. Rick Tq*

      – Find a mover that works by volume, not by weight. You can get a nasty surprise bill (to be paid BEFORE your goods are delivered) if the estimator lowballs the weight to give you a cheap estimate.
      – Hire the mover directly, do NOT use a broker service.
      – Pack and move fragile or valuable items yourself if possible.
      – Put informative labels on boxes, not just “Kitchen” or “Bedroom” but “Kitchen, Silverware drawer”
      – Count the items going on the truck and count what comes off.
      – Find out what they will not or cannot move.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Local movers generally don’t charge by weight or volume – if they don’t have to go past a weigh station. They charge by time and double the drive time.

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

        Agree with KatEnigma. I’ve never had a local mover charge by weight or volume, and I usually lead or follow the truck to the new location on the same day so they are never out of sight usually. But you should definitely make sure the truck is empty, and check to make sure there’s no damage to anything before you pay; they’ll likely have you sign a waiver that releases their liability, so don’t sign until you’re sure.

      3. smeep248*

        I didn’t get a surprise bill, but was surprised by the estimate. Our “local” move was approximately 35 miles and at mile 30 it switches to being by weight. It is a good thing to look into ahead of time – if I had it to do again, I would rent the UHaul and hire people on either end to load and unload instead

    6. Too Embarrassed to Use My Usual Name*

      My recent moving experience was mostly positive, but I had a couple of problems. There was a big chip in an open door where some large piece of furniture bumped into it. It will need to be puttied, sanded and some touch-up paint.
      Really big mistake. I used a bunch of those boxes that reams of paper come in to pack things in. (They were going to throw them away at work, so I figured I could re-use them.) I did not tape the lids to the boxes. The movers put the boxes in the shelf area at the front of the cargo area of the truck, above the cab of the truck. (There was a sign in the truck that said to put light-weight things up there.) Anyway, during the comparatively short move, the boxes slid off of the shelf and spilled their contents all over rest of the stuff in the back of the truck. There were several broken dishes and other damaged items. It was big hassle having to repack the boxes before we could unload the rest of the truck. I would have thought that the movers would have known that, but I guess they didn’t and (to be honest) the boxes were not labeled.
      Finally, is there a special way that dressers should be moved? I and emptied out the drawers, but these guys taped the drawers shut so the drawers wouldn’t slide open. I was kind of worried that when the tape was peeled off, it might take some of the finish off of the dressers, but it did not (fortunately).

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My movers always used plastic wrap around things like dressers to keep the drawers from coming open.

      2. KatEnigma*

        Yes. Plastic wrap. When they use tape the finish does sometimes come off in fact. I have had it happen by movers…

      3. Anono-me*

        Movers have ginormous rubber bands and huge rolls of plastic wrap. I would have expected those to be used on furniture. Normally tape is for boxes and for holding blankets in place.

        Also, experienced movers should know to tape boxes shut and how to load their truck. I wonder if maybe you got a crew of newbies.

    7. Anono-me*

      1st move of the day. You don’t want to be waiting for them to deal with someone else’s delays. (Such as 10+bookcases of undeclared books or 3k of undeclared jik canned goods.)

      Move on an off peak day. (Typically moving companies have a mix of full and part time people with their best people working the full time hours. And typically everyone wants to move on Friday or Saturday and at the end of the month. So usually everyone works the higher demand days and the slow days are just the full time people. )

      Move your tiny valuable items and ewelry yourself. Most movers are honest, but they don’t want the worry.

      When packing boxes yourself, fill all the boxes 100% even if you have to stuff with newspaper. (More structural integrity)

      Offer water and a bathroom. Most movers bring their own food and drink, but do appreciate more offered, especially if things are running late.

      If you are in an apartment, make arrangements for the elevator.

      If you are in a high density housing environment, find out how many parking spots the movers will need for their truck (typical enough for the length of the truck and two more). Arrange with friends to park cars the night before to save the spots as otherwise they will need to park where they can and carry everything to the truck. (Not good for them, your budget, or your furniture;especially if it rains. )

      Tip. I suggest $20 pp minimum for an easy 3 person move that you are happy with. (Tip before they figure the bill. )

      If you have something that you don’t want moved; tape a sign to it saying “No Move” don’t expect them to remember.

      Do a first and final walk through at your old home. First walk through the movers should be discussing/planning the move and noting and preexisting damages. Final walk through, make sure everything to be moved is out and no damage occurred to the home.

      In your new home, put extension cords in any outlets that will be behind heavy furniture, even if you don’t need them right now.

      Make sure your drive way is shoveled and ice free. (The movers will shovel if need be, but usually prefer not to and it is not cost effective. )

      Congratulations on the new diggs.

      (Lots of SO’s friend group are movers. )

    8. Gnome*

      If a mover has to leave early, what will happen to the hourly rate?

      Had movers once. Guy injured himself on their truck (had to call an ambulance) and they didn’t adjust the hourly rate

  20. allathian*

    Little joys thread.

    What’s brought you joy this week?

    After a week of rainy and drizzly weather, we’re having unseasonably warm and sunny, albeit windy, weather today. I enjoyed a brisk walk in the sunshine with my son and MIL today.

    1. UKDancer*

      Been in Germany for a conferenxe with work this week. After 2.5 years of not visiting it’s a joy to use my German again and find it still works and I can still understand people. Also much wiener schnitzel which is a definite joy.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      It’s been in the 70s (F) all week and this morning was 30, so I got out my dogs’ coats for our morning walk – I put their coats on if it’s below freezing, because they’re both fairly thin builds with low body fat and sleek fur. Then right as we walked out the door, it started to snow, so I got to enjoy my 8 month old puppy’s first snow this morning. :) She was pretty chill about it, pardon the pun – lots of shaking her head because stuff was falling on her ears and face, that sort of thing, but she didn’t seem terribly inclined to play in what was collecting on the ground. We’ll see if that changes when there’s more of it, since it’s still snowing an hour later :P

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          She likes the snow for a few minutes at a time, so far. She’s slow to go out the door, but once she gets out she romps for 4-5 minutes, then is ready to come back in. And like every dog I’ve ever had, she loves to eat the snow.

    3. GoryDetails*

      Had a lovely walk through Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge MA the other day. Some of the trees still had colorful foliage, though most of them had dropped their leaves already; a mild breeze shook some remaining leaves loose, and they would drift down slowly for an “autumnal snow-globe” effect.

      The rain has moved in today, so I get to enjoy sipping tea and watching the deluge while being sat on by a cat.

    4. AGD*

      Nice weather, productive week, wonderful chance to catch up with a colleague-friend, and several excellent snacks.

    5. Angstrom*

      Learned something new! Saw a reference to paracord bracelets, watched a couple of videos, and made a few. Having fun with knots and colors. :-)

      Got out on the bike, in shorts, in the Northeast, in November. :-)

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’m wondering if the videos you watched were from the YouTube channel TyingItAllTogether. I was curious what a former co-worker from years ago was up to, and Google led me there. Cool stuff that he’s doing. I ended up sending him a note and he sent me a nice reply.

    6. The teapots are on fire*

      A friend is coming over to alter her Victorian dress for a dance performance next month, and she found her leftover fabric. It’ll be a fun challenge, and to me, alterations like these is are true historical sewing. Make, do, mend, and their forgotten cousin, extend.

    7. Cookies For Breakfast*

      The results of the invasive medical test I went for this week (after months of playing phone tag with doctors) came out perfectly normal. I was really dreading it, and even if today I’m still feeling a bit worn out from the procedure, I feel I can finally relax.

      1. Westsidestory*

        Hugs to you! Treat yourself to something nice after you rebound. Rest and let the worry go away.

    8. fposte*

      I went to James Acaster’s live show this week and it was *amazing.* Sometimes I do a long haul to see something live and think “I might have been better off watching a recording at home later,” but not this time–it was absolutely worth it and the crowd was great.

    9. the cat's ass*

      Started some prep for Thanksgiving. And got to get out of That Place at noon the Wed before!
      DD is turning 17 this week and just got a very fetching buzz cut!
      I successfully assembled a new cat drinking fountain for my furry overlords. It looks weirdly like a bidet, but they love it!

    10. sewsandreads*

      I’ve started growing dahlias — and I’m a notoriously awful gardener. But my dahlias ALL have flowers!! It’s so exciting for me, fills me with so much happiness every time I see them.

    11. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      It’s gotten cold here which means the cats are super snuggly all the time. It’s especially delightful because the bigger cat doesn’t care a jot whether the smaller one is already sitting on my lap and will nonchalantly plop down right on top of her.

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

      I am enjoying the slow turning of the leaves around here — so pretty!

    13. WoodswomanWrites*

      We’ve finally gotten enough rain after the long drought to start California’s green season, which is the winter. It’s wonderful to see tiny shoots coming up from the soil everywhere.

    14. Healthcare Worker*

      Hurricane Nicole turned into only a rainstorm here. Thankful we had no damage. Thinking of those not as fortunate.

    15. Ellis Bell*

      I spent the whole summer and autumn in the new garden clearing brush and removing invasive plants, so I didn’t get to do any planting. It looks tidier, but I was a bit annoyed by the big patch of bare soil right by my patio doors where the lawn won’t thrive, and potentially having to look at it all winter. I bought some stepping stones and plugs of Irish moss, but it was still quite bare, so I sprinkled micro clover seed without much hope as it’s a bit late. Well, this morning all the seeds have little green antennas!

    16. I take tea*

      I just saw a glorious sunset in intense orange and yellow, the outlines of the black, bare trees silhouetted against the horizon and mist on the fields. It was so very beautiful, even more so because November usually is a bit drab and grey here.

    17. OyHiOh*

      The school my girls go to started a ballet folklorico club this year. They had their first performance this past week and were wonderful. For my girls, it was their first exposure to folklorico and the culture around the dance. The teacher has been welcoming to all the girls and it showed in their spirit when they performed.

  21. Decidedly Me*

    Probably a long shot, but does anyone know of less crowded destinations for the week after Christmas? Looking for more relaxing than active- somewhere warm at an all inclusive resort, cozy cabin in the snow, Airbnb in a central location with a view of some kind, etc. Something a bit more than hotel room in a random locale. Really just looking for someplace nice to relax, maybe swim (for a warmer locale or a place with an indoor pool), etc. Staycations don’t do it for me. Everywhere seems slammed at this time, though, unsurprisely. Hoping to avoid that if at all possible. US, Mexico, Canada, or Caribbean areas preferred – maybe Western Europe.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Have you considered a more local location? For example, when I lived in Atlanta, the north Georgia mountains were a great local get-away but not a major tourist destination.

      Also, not sure what it’s like around Christmas, but I have a bunch of friends who all seem to adore Destin, Florida.

    2. MissGirl*

      I was just telling my mom how much I’d love to spend Christmas at this tiny resort in Costa Rica I went to last January. It’s called Isla Chiquita and is its own private island in the Nicoya Bay. Since it’s so small and remote, it wouldn’t be that crowded. There’s also a nearby town called Montezuma. That might be a bit more crowded.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I have a nephew who’s made three trips to Panama, and he loves it. In fact, he’s considering moving there when he retires.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I would look at places that are more popular in the warmer seasons, but still pretty in winter. Northern Wisconsin, the UP in Michigan, etc. The American Club in Kohler WI is a nice midwest resort, and Sheyboygan has good art museums. It’s not going to feel like a tropical resort, clearly. Santa Fe might be busier, but that’s a beautiful location. Colorado and the American West have some lovely little towns that aren’t major ski resorts, where you might be able to find a cosy cabin without paying ski prices.

    4. Anono-me*

      Try looking at smaller non chain resorts about an hour or two from the bigger places. Ponce, not San Juan in PR. (Haven’t
      been since b/4 the hurricane.) Two Harbors, not Duluth in MN.

      But to be honest, I would go see the butterfly migration in California or Mexico if I could this year. No matter the crowds.

    5. Banana*

      Galena, Illinois is my go-to for that kind of thing. There’s a nice historic district with good shopping and food options. There’s a resort and a property owner’s collective that shares a very nice recreation facility with a big indoor pool and spa. A lot of the residences are vacation homes for the wealthy and a lot of them are available on Airbnb. I’ve done everything from a bachelorette weekend to a getaway with my spouse to a weeklong getaway with my mom and sisters. Never had a bad experience. There are a lot of rolling hills and nice views.

    6. Chapeau*

      I’ll put in a plug for Colonial Williamsburg. If you stay at one of their hotels downtown, you can use the indoor pool at the spa.
      It’s Virginia, so it’s not fabulous temperature wise, but it’s not freezing.

    7. tessa*

      My family and I go to a state park in our state that has cabins, and just chill. No internet or TVs, but we do being a DVD player and watch (usually) scary movies. The cabins do have modern conveniences, like complete kitchens, fireplaces, and very comfortable bedding, but it’s still a pretty rustic experience with plenty of privacy and forest magic. We love it, and have been going for several years!

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m not sure what shape it’s in right now, but Sanibel Island in Florida is great for everything you’re looking for.

  22. CL*

    Family drama- A family member sent an out of the blue email yesterday with a link on a controversial topic. Family member is pretty much on the other side of the debate from everyone else on the topic. For now I’m ignoring but I see an explosion of family drama on the horizon. Any recommendations for surviving the holidays beyond, “thanks for sharing, please pass the mashed potatoes”?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Alcohol? (YMMV)

      I’d say have an exit plan. With really dysfunctional family, I’ve found the approach that keeps most people as sane and balanced as possible is to have an exit plan. Even if you don’t use it, knowing it’s there is a huge relief. Figure out what your boundary is — name calling, taunting, cruelty, and decide how many warnings you think are fair. If you’ve told this family member before that you will not engage on that topic, and you do not want them to bring it up with you, zero warnings could be fair. Me, I like to make sure I state the consequences so it’s harder for them to play victim, but that depends on whom your dealing with.

      It may only take enforcing that boundary once, or you might need to do it every time you see that family member, but it’s very empowering and liberating to realize you do not need to put up with that bullcrap.

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

        I agree on having an exit plan! It helps if you have your own transportation if possible, so that if you get to the point where you need to leave, you don’t have to then ask someone for a ride.

    2. Anono-me*

      Can your family come up with a code phrase/non sequitur that means it is time to change the subject? We copied the idea from friends who all love a local sports team. If a conversation is getting to be too much for someone, the person says “How about them XTeams?” Then the conversation switches to XTeam for quite a while (Most people in both groups love to talk about XTeam) Then it drifts to a new topic and the prior topic is not revisited that day.

      If this person is “angry militant” or “insistant savior” about the issue; Can you find a part of the issue that you both agree on? For example, a system that manages an issue that you are on different sides of, but is scheduling people for routine appointments 800+days out is something most people will agree is inefficient.

      If they have the personality for it, the host could ban any discussion of “XYZ” on pain of doing the dishes/KP. With the host having the final call on violations.

      But sometimes it is good just to have an exit plan, like The Cosmic Average said.

    3. Observer*

      “thanks for sharing, please pass the mashed potatoes”?

      This is actually a good approach. Exit plan for when that doesn’t work.

    4. Ann Ominous*

      I usually like to be more direct. “You know I don’t share that view at all (and don’t find the source of that article credible), so why don’t we move on to [how amazing Aunt Beulah’s potato casserole is this year][sports thing][anything else]?”

      And follow up as needed with “are you really wanting to talk about this?” or “what do you hope to get out of a conversation about that?”

  23. MCL*

    We unexpectedly had to say goodbye to one of our kitties on Tuesday, and I’m not sure what to expect with the remaining one. They were adopted five years ago at around age 10 and as far as I know spent their entire lives together. They weren’t joined at the hip but were very social and did play and cuddle together. When this happened with our last two cats, they weren’t close and I wasn’t so worried. But this is a big change for our current solo cat. It’s definitely too soon to bring another cat into the mix and I’m not sure how well he would tolerate that anyway. Remaining kitty is very attached to us and is pretty senior with kidney disease. I’m curious from those who have been in this sad situation how it went or anything we could think about.

    1. Magda*

      I think I would just keep an eye on the remaining cat for a few weeks – he may adjust just fine, at a senior age, to being an only kitty. He may just need more cuddles with you. I think you’ll be able to tell if he has settled in or if he’s distraught past the initial confusion.

    2. Epsilon Delta*

      I’m sorry for your loss. We had three cats and had to put the oldest to sleep in August. The three cats had been together for almost 10 years, since the two younger cats were kittens. I think it took the remaining two a few days to realize that old man cat wasn’t coming home. Then they were a bit anxious, edgy, and clingy for awhile. We had a vacation scheduled shortly after it happened and they freaked out when we left by puking more, eliminating outside the litter box a few times, and being super clingy when we returned. About a month or two later they seem back to normal. It’s so hard not to be able to tell them what happened and why, so the best we could do was offer them physical comfort and soothing.

      1. Magda*

        I have read that, when putting a cat to sleep, it’s kind to do it in the home and let the other cats witness it so they understand what happened. I think I’m going to try this next time.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, and if you can’t manage that, if you are able to bring them home for a day or so before any burial or cremation that helps too.

          I don’t think I would try to introduce another cat in this situation.

        2. MCL*

          We did do that, and solo kitty was there, but I’m not sure he understood what happened. We have home euthanized all of our cats and I would definitely try for that each time it’s needed.

    3. Morning reader*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I am in a similar situation. One of my sibling pair cats died earlier this year, leaving my 13-year-old senior cat an “only” for the first time. I don’t think he questioned so much where his brother went, because he was so sick at the end, and I let him sniff and cuddle before the Final Vet Appointment. So I think he knew.
      He’s been quite subdued and perhaps even depressed since then. Visitors have remarked on his change in personality. He was never much of a lap cat, might visit a lap for a pat now and then but didn’t stay. Now he spends more lap time (maybe a result of not having to compete for lap? Brother cat used to take the opportunity to sit close by and bite a dangling tail if he got a chance, then they’d be off chasing) and he sleeps with me more now, usually pressed solid along my back.
      As of last week, I’ve adopted a new set of sibling kittens. He doesn’t think much of them but he seems more mentally engaged, keeping an eye on them. Or maybe just waiting his chance to steal their kibble. (They are not much attracted to his senior diet kibble.) I’m glad I got two because he doesn’t seem to want to play with them, and they keep each other amused. I hope they get to be friends when they’re older.
      Mostly he reminds me of my brother-in-law after my sister died. Depressed, low energy, grieving, but keeping up with regular routine to some extent, especially old habits that bring comfort.
      BTW he looks very much like Alison’s cat pictured above, except he has a white blaze on his nose. I’ve taken to calling him Grumpy Grandpa Cat lately.

      1. allathian*

        My parents adopted a pair of kittens from the same litter, when my aunt’s cat got herself pregnant just before she was due to be spayed. They lived to be 16, and when the one with kidney issues had to be euthanized, his brother who had thyroid issues stopped eating, and also had to be euthanized about 6 weeks later because he was clearly suffering and not enjoying life at all, and his thyroid got worse. I’m firmly convinced that the second cat lost his will to live when he lost his brother.

        1. allathian*

          And I’m also very sorry for your loss, I hope that the kitties will give you lots of joy for many years to come.

    4. WS*

      I had two brothers who had been together their whole lives and one passed away at age 14. The other brother was immediately and constantly distraught, and it was very, very obvious – he stopped eating, cried loudly at any time of day and night that he wasn’t actively being patted by us, and started peeing outside the litter box, which he had only once in his life done before. We adopted two more adult cats (we were planning on one, but they was a bonded pair) and while they’ve never become friends in the two years we’ve had them, he is constantly intrigued by them and likes to be in the same room. They’ve had some minor spats, but apart from one actual fight when the older girl broke into his part of the house in the first week (turns out she can open doors) it’s been fantastic for him. No crying, no litterbox problems, no food problems – they have separate food areas but primarily like to eat each other’s food!

    5. MEH Squared*

      I’m so sorry. It’s really hard to lose an animal friend, especially when they were one of a sibling pair. I adopted two brothers (a bonded pair) 15 years ago. They were nine months. When they turned ten, one of them suddenly died. He was the outgoing, people-friendly one who always took the lead. The brothers weren’t as bonded by that point, but they still liked to be near each other/cuddle from time to time, etc.

      The surviving shyer brother (did not like people at all) was devastated. For six months, he wandered around, looking lost, and I know he was searching for his brother. I tried to explain to him what happened, but he didn’t understand. When I went out back, he would put his front paws up on the sliding glass door and yowl mournfully.

      After six months, though, he started to get better bit by bit. He meowed for his breakfast, which he hadn’t done before. I realized that his brother used to do it and he must have figured he had to step up and meow for his breakfast himself (like I wasn’t going to feed him!). He grew more outgoing and more of a snuggler, too. In some ways, he incorporated the gregarious bits of his brother’s personality and we became an unshakable duo. Now, he loves being a solo cat and has no fears in the world.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      Ooff. No advice, unfortunately, but just wanted to send you my condolences. I’m so sorry for your loss!

  24. Unscented products*

    I have super fine hair that tangles easily, and I don’t like scented products. I’ve been having a really hard time finding an unscented detangler. Does anybody here know of a good one?

    1. MissCoco*

      I used to make DIY detangler by just diluting conditioner, so if you have a good unscented conditioner you like, that may be an option. I’ve had a really hard time finding unscented styling products in the past

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Honestly, I have super thick hair, so I didn’t even bother with the diluting. But that’s probably not the optimal solution for people with fine hair.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I like the It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product. I think it just smells like… hair product? Like a clean/salon scent rather than flowers or fruit

    3. time for cocoa*

      I use Desert Essence unscented conditioner as a detangler; the sprays tend to make knots worse for me. Only buy in-store or directly from the brand site, I got a fake on Amaz0n.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        We need a thread about weirdest Amazon fakes. I once got a legitimate bottle of an acne cleanser but the bottle had been emptied and refilled with water.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        Ditto on Desert Essence unscented conditioner, which I’ve used for many years along with their unscented shampoo. I’m not much for hair care products so I confess I don’t know what a detangler product is, but this conditioner functions like that for me.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Fine, tangly hair here too. I use the Biosilk silk therapy after showering. I never think it makes much of a difference until I leave it off. Then the next time I’m brushing out my hair I’m like, “what a mess! Why is this extra snarly today?”

      It’s not actually unscented, so it wouldn’t be good if you have a sensitivity, but it’s very light+you use just a smidge, so it doesn’t scent your hair.

    5. Rosyglasses*

      Jennifer Aniston has a line called Lolavie and it works really well. There may be a light scent but I’m pretty sensitive to most scents and it hasn’t bugged me at all.

  25. Cat’s Cradle*

    Update on the cat caravan. After getting some great advice here, last week my husband and a friend loaded up our 6 cats in an rv and drove 3000 miles to our new home. We divided the cats into pairs among 3 carriers so everyone had some space (unfortunately not a lot but some). And everyone made it!

    Husband discovered that our two more adventurous cats seemed to really like the whole thing and spent their days watching the world go by. Our two shy kitties hid for the first couple days but we planned on that and made part of their enclosures into caves with towels covering openings. We also paired each of them with one of our more chill kitties so hopefully that helped.

    Feliway calming spay was used rather liberally and seemed to help. Everyone got lots of their favorite treats and affection. I sent along the harnesses in case my husband wanted to give any of our three harness-accepting cats a chance to stretch but he felt it best to keep them contained.

    He did switch them around a bit one night so that the two in the smallest carrier could have more space but found everyone was pretty set in “their” territories and after some yelling and hissing he put everyone back to starting positions.

    Litter boxes were the only issue, mostly because the cats alternated between kicking the litter everywhere (they’re used to enclosed boxes so usually they can kick to their hearts’ content) and lying in it. But there were no accidents, just some crowded kitties when there were boxes, water bowls, and food all in there.

    Now they’re in their boarding house (local friend who often fosters cats is keeping them in her cat room) while we wait for the moving truck to get there with our things!

    1. GoryDetails*

      Glad things have worked out so far! (I’ve made some long drives with a cat who huddled under the seat and howled – and another who lounged on the rear deck enjoying the view; very different personalities…)

    2. KatEnigma*

      Glad it went smoothly!

      The part that always freaked out our cats when moving cross country was the empty house on either end! I’m glad you have a friend who can keep them while you wait on the truck.

      When we moved from CA to WI, the only thing in the house besides our sleeping bags ended up being a cat tree I ordered and assembled for them!

    3. Ashloo*

      Great! That sounds like an ideal way to move everyone. Did you rent the RV? I think (hope) our next move is out of state and we have a similar pet situation.

      1. Cat’s Cradle*

        We rented from cruise America. They knew we had pets (though they probably should have asked how many we had!) and were fine with it. Someone previous mentioned they’d looked into cruise America and they didn’t allow pets so maybe check your local place before making firm decisions. It wasn’t the cheapest move we’ve made but worth it to get the cats there without negotiating hotels.

  26. Magda*

    I am a bit underwater on, erm, life tasks just now, for personal reasons, and I’m looking for low-pressure ideas to build better habits. I also just keep finding clutter everywhere and thinking “where did this come from?? How did this get here??” I’m totally inundated with yard work right now so that’s pulling me away from things like laundry, sweeping, vacuuming etc. I get overwhelmed easily so it has to feel sort of low-stakes. My sense is, if I can make something a habit (by doing it every day for ~30 days?) it will become automatic and I won’t have to think about it so much.

    Here’s a few examples that have worked decently well: I try to empty the dishwasher while the coffee perks in the morning. I try to clean the kitchen while I’m streaming a weekly broadcast. It’s been helping, but I still get behind on tasks during the week, and then my weekends are this big endeavor to get caught up again. Does anyone have more examples they use?

    1. The teapots are on fire*

      I was a big fan of the Sidetracked Sisters, and one thing they would do is set a timer (they had ADHD levels of distractibility) for about ten minutes to do a thing. So you could do a ten minute timer and sweep or vacuum or other daily house chore until the timer goes off, and then you’ve done enough, so you get to stop. They had 3×5 card file to list daily and weekly chores, but that is probably not what you need right now. When you’re in a low energy state that’s just a 3×5 Guilt Box.

      Starting a load of laundry when I get out of the shower works for my fiancé, but the timing doesn’t work for me because that’s my bedtime.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I followed Flylady for a while back in the ‘aughts. A few things stuck with me even after I got sick of the one-true-pathism of her approach. She talked about “hot spots” – the areas in the house that seem to accumulate clutter. For us that’s the dining room table and the counter in the kitchen, which at the moment holds part of today’s paper, two purses (I switched yesterday because it was raining), a bag of pecans packaged for the freezer, a coffee-table book that, some articles my husband intends to file, a fruit bowl, and the recipe file box. The only thing that belongs on that counter is the fruit bowl. I make a habit of addressing the hot zones at least twice a day now that I’m home all day; when I was out of the house, I did it every evening around dinner time. That way the clutter doesn’t accumulate. I also gave up on “touch it once.” Sometimes I relocate things from the dining room table to my desk upstairs, which is still not their final destination. I’m OK with that.

      Flylady has a thing about “shining the sink” – basically she keeps the kitchen sink empty at all times, which means if the dishwasher is running she puts dirty dishes in a dishpan underneath the sink. This made no sense to me but did spur me to think about what made the kitchen look messy to me. I like to keep the counter clear and don’t care if there are dirty dishes in the sink. My daughter automatically puts dirty dishes in the sink. My husband does not. I have learned to live with that and rather than feeling bad if I don’t wash them RIGHT THIS MINUTE when I see them, I put them in the sink and whoever does the dishes gets to them when they have time.

      1. SuprisinglyADHD*

        Flylady had great ideas, my mom used to follow her. When I first started looking for ADHD advice, I kept thinking “why does this sound so familiar?” and finally realized it was mostly stuff I had heard from Flylady!

      2. Banana*

        Seconding the Flylady thoughts. My “sink shining” is taking out the trash. If I have a fairly empty trash can I seem to be able to zip through a lot of other stuff. If the trash can is getting crammed though, I seem to get backed up on other things too.

        1. Magda*

          I do think pots and pans in my sink causes me to give up on keeping the kitchen nice otherwise. I need to redouble my efforts there. The kitchen is probably my worst room, which is odd as I don’t really cook that often TBH.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            I read somewhere that even a partial load in the dishwasher uses less water than washing by hand, and also learned that modern dishwashers are more effective when the dishes are dirty because they sense the amount of dirt and adjust their cycles accordingly. So now I put the pots and pans in the dishwasher after I’ve scraped off the cooked-on stuff and I run the dishwasher more often. I’d rather load/unload the dishwasher than wash pots by hand. I also stopped waiting until the dishwasher was *completely* full – if one rack is full, I run it. Otherwise I end up putting two plates in after dinner and running it while the rest of the dinner dishes and cooking bowls just sit there, which drives me bananas.

            The other Flylady thing that stuck was “doing anything is better than doing nothing,” basically the housekeeping version of “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I can do something in ten minutes to make the house look better and make my life easier, so I do the ten minutes. I’ve been doing that for years with the result that the house rarely gets completely out of control and it only takes about ten minutes to do the whole dining room, for example.

      3. Camelid coordinator*

        I also tried flylady back when I was working in the office full time and had a young kiddo. I agree with the advice about hot spots—I recently realized I should move my hamper to the place I keep putting my clothes on the bedroom floor! I also really like the advice to do one load of laundry a day. I don’t need to do a load all 7 days a week but tacking the work a little each day makes the laundry more manageable. In my new house (with new job) I tried to make a list of which cleaning task I was going to do each day but I don’t have a good routine yet. Probably because the cleaning the kitchen floor needs to be on the list frequently, and I really don’t like that job!

        1. Magda*

          I think I need to put a hamper on the bathroom floor. I don’t know how others are transferring their dirty clothes after shower but apparently I am incapable sigh

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I had temporary success with a habit tracker on my phone (it’s just called Habits with a blue “refresh arrow” icon) that you can set to give you reminders or just use to track completion.

      Depending on the type of clutter, can you limit/contain it with an “inbox” type of tray? Something shallow that can sit on the counter where the clutter happens. Make a rule for yourself that you’re not allowed to set stuff down in that room except in the tray, and when the tray gets full you can carry it around to put things where they belong.

    4. SuprisinglyADHD*

      For myself, I use a website/app called Habitica RPG. You have a little avatar with stats that can level up, and you can join a small “adventuring party”. It lets you set habits and dailies, and rewards you when you check them off, giving you items, gold, and pets. You can “fight” bosses with your party, each thing someone checks off is multiplied by their stats, and each uncompleted daily task “injures” your health (mitigated by your stats and items).
      It’s pretty basic as far as to-do apps go, but it’s fun and you can set it up to only reward you without penalties if that feels better for you (I won’t log in if I know I’m gonna be punished so I don’t have negatives on my habits).

    5. OtterB*

      Unf*ck your Habitat has some good suggestions and resources. Like the mention of Flylady and the sink, she encourages “Sink Zero.” Has some online resources, checklists, occasional challenge tasks (put away or put in a donate box 10 things, Go), a book or two.

    6. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Is there anything you absolutely hate and avoid that you would be willing to pay someone else to do once a month or whatever? That would take some of the pressure off.

      I usually try and fit chores in between the flow of the day and also group similar chores/objectives together. – coffee in the morning/feed cats and deal with the dishwasher or wiping down counters. Ill do both bathrooms at the end of the work day because its the same actions and the same cleaning supplies. I vacuum once a week. Maybe 20 minutes every few days Ill do a blitz to pick up and put stuff in its rightful home.

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

        I second the idea of paying for the things you really hate to do if you’re able to afford it. Sending out my laundry has been life-changing — it comes back nicely folded, too!

      2. Hdd*

        Late to the party but coming to say just that. If there’s something you hate and you can afford to outsource, do! We have a super local cleaner who does 2 hours a week and keeps on top of floors, kitchen and bathrooms. It’s a splurge, but one that save us a lot more in arguments and joint time than it costs.

    7. Lady Alys*

      I have an app on my phone that is similar but not exactly identical to the habit trackers mentioned here – it’s called Tody, and it lets you set up a cleaning schedule over different time periods. So you can be reminded to take out the garbage every day, change the towels every four days, vacuum every week, change your toothbrush every 90 days, etc. So every day you can see a list of things that are due, which at least takes away the “where do I even start?” decision paralysis (that I at least suffer from…)

    8. Amey*

      I like The Organised Mum Method (no need to be a parent, it’s a method created by someone who calls herself ‘the organised mum’) although I’ve only occasionally manage to properly follow it. The idea is that you do 30 minutes in a different room each day and 15 minutes quick daily tasks and then theoretically don’t need to clean at the weekend. The motto is ‘there’s more to life than housework’. What I’ve found totally transformative lately, however, is her Patreon account called Rock the Housework where she does guided cleans with music and instructions. It’s SO good for making me get something done that I don’t want to and they’re all short and really supportive. They help me with that kind of helplessness about where to start. I’ve subscribed to the Patreon but there are four free cleans that you could try out.

    9. Qwerty*

      This is a process I’m just rolling out, so not sure if it’ll work yet

      I’m make a weekly calendar with a task or two each day to get in the routine. Like Wednesdays I sweep and Saturdays I vacuum.

      I’ve also started doing partial loads on the dishwasher or laundry, because the point I get stuck on those is emptying the dishwasher or folding the laundry. The shorter I can make a routine task, the more likely I am to knock it out. Same with hand washing dishes – I don’t force myself to do all of them, just a couple at a time while I wait for the toaster.

      Basically, I’m trying to do tasks in as small of chunks as possible and just doing it more frequently. It takes a while to get through the backlog, but my goal is preventing the backlog from building up – I don’t have to get everything “clean”, just have to make sure it isn’t worse than yesterday.

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

      I try to wash out the pan I make my morning oatmeal in and the cooking spoon I use with it while the oatmeal is cooling down to a temperature I can handle.

    11. Cat’s Cradle*

      I have ADHD so doing stuff is really hard and habits have to be intuitive. I’ve found a combination of outsourcing and simplifying really helps. For outsourcing, yard work just wasn’t happening so we hired a teen to mow the yard. It’s not the best but it’s a little better each year and I feel good contributing to his college fund.

      Simplifying – I found tasks for put off because it took too many steps. Laundry, for example: I had to take the lint into the other room to throw away and take air-dry stuff into another room and then go hunting for ways to hang them or leave them draped around my bedroom, making the place look even messier. I got a tiny trash can for on top of the dryer for the lint and put it right where I was forever piling lint and forgetting it. For air drying I installed a towel rack behind the door and hung little hooks on it for the clothes. Those little simplifications worked because they were intuitive. I didn’t build a habit (because those are incredibly hard for my brain – I still struggle with remembering to brush my teeth), I just made it so I could do the task with as little movement as possible. To help clean pots and pans I keep a kettle on the stove and splash water from it onto the pans when I’m done cooking and while they’re still hot. It’s basically pre-soaking but I don’t need to move from the stove.

      I still have a ton of my life that’s messy but In small ways it’s getting less so.

      Oh, and a cat that will eat anything she’s not supposed to and knock over things she shouldn’t has done wonders for incentivizing me to keep the place neat. But it’s a little hard to recommend that exact solution.

    12. Jessica*

      Upthread in the reading thread someone recommended a book called How to Keep House While Drowning. I haven’t read it but I went and looked at it a bit and it looked really good.

    13. Esmeralda*

      Give yourself grace. It’s ok if the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied etc.

      I’ll usually on top of all the household things, but work and family issues have made all of that feel like Too Much. So it doesn’t get done. What does get done: I make my bed every morning (= one ritual that helps me feel that I have a little bit of control), food and clean water for my kitties, clean the litter box, make sure my husband’s meds are refilled, wash dishes (because I don’t like seeing dirty dishes first thing in the morning, also I’m in the habit of washing up while cooking) Anything else is extra— yardwork, vacuuming, laundry, etc.

      Do you have to do all the things? Or can you just do what’s truly needful, what’s easy, what’s calming for you.

    14. Fellow Traveller*

      Two books I read this year have really helped how I frame these things:
      1) As Mentioned above – How to Keep House While Drowning. There is a lot of really great re-framing about housework in the book, but the most tangible tip I took from it is to think of end of the day tasks as “resetting” for the next day. So look around and think what is the minimum you need for things to be functional for yourself in the morning. (Think of it as a gift for your future self). For me, it means that the countertop in two areas need to be cleaned and the foyer needs to be picked up so I can find my shoes, keys, and purse. Not the whole countertop, mind you. Just the counter top in front of the coffee pot and the counter top next to the stove where I make breakfast. So I tell myself, I don’t have to do all the dishes – I just need to neatly stack them next to the sink so that I have a space to make breakfast when I get up. And sometimes, I find that stacking the dishes leads me to washing them. For the foyer, I tell myself, I just need to check that my shoes are in the shoe mat and the keys are in the key bin. That is all I need to do. And then sometimes, as I’m setting the shoes in the shoe bin, I will end up tidying the whole foyer.
      So I guess, decide what really needs to be done for your life to be functional the next day, and make those tiny things all that you have to do. Because functional is more important than clean.
      2) The second book, somewhat related, is BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits. He talks a lot about linking habits to prompts, and making those habits super small So, for example – “After I shut the dishwasher, I will take out my broom and make one sweep.” You can probably find his method online, but basically, think about what you want to accomplish, and break it down into tiny parts, find a prompt for the tiny part, then celebrate doing the tiny thing. For me – I’m terrible at remembering my pelvic floor exercises. So I told myself anytime I’m at a stop light I will do one Kegel then do a happy car dance. Other ways I’ve implemented it – After I turn on the water for my shower (prompt), I will put away one item of clothing on my floordrobe while waiting for the water to heat up (tiny habit). Then I say, “Yay!” For my kids: After they finish brushing their teeth at night – or more specifically after they put their toothbrush back in the holder – they empty their pockets and separate their underwear from their pants and put the pants in the laundry basket. Then I give them a High Five. Granted, I’m not seeing any huge systematic changes – but I’m hoping doing the minimal tasks and doing them regularly will help get the bigger ones done. Or… at least, I know I’m doing the least that I need to function and everything else is not essential.

    15. Chauncy Gardener*

      Yes, I try to multitask the way you do as well! I unload the dishwasher while the coffee is brewing and the toast is toasting. I’ll wipe down the counters while I’m boiling water for tea.
      I do try to keep my kitchen sink empty. That makes a huge difference for me, and many others.
      I keep things either where I use them or as close as I can get them. It really makes putting things away a lot easier and more intuitive. I don’t have a big house, but if something has to go to a different floor, it can get put off.
      I have a nice wooden basket on my kitchen island that gets all manner of paperwork. Bills, checkbook, pens, grocery list, recipes to try, a folder for receipts, etc. Once every couple of weeks I go through it and pay bills and take any other action I need to take. This has been a lifesaver. When the mail comes, everything goes into the recycling bin except the ‘action’ stuff that goes into my basket.
      My grandmother always said “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” So I just try to have someplace where everything lives.
      Good luck!

  27. Crocheted familiar*

    Knitting! Vaguely an update on my attempt to learn to knit but mostly a question: has anyone with joint problems tried square knitting needles? Are they easier and less painful to hold? Do they help in other ways? Thanks to everyone for all of the tips last time I posted about knitting; I put them into practice and they were SO helpful. I think I have the basics down and I’ve got good enough to make a hat, which I think is pretty good going.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t have joint problems, so I can’t speak to that aspect, but I found that the ridges on square needles hurt my fingers to hold after a while, personally. They rubbed on my fingers to the point of causing blisters in some spots.

    2. what's in a name*

      I haven’t tried square needles. I’ve tried some triangular ones, and they were okay, but as Red Reader pointed out, the ridges got uncomfortable if I used them for too long.

      Have you tried wearing compression gloves when you’re knitting? I’ve found them to be really helpful in preventing fatigue.

      1. Crocheted familiar*

        Unfortunately, my bad joints are of the variety where compression gloves actually make them worse, which is honestly very unhelpful of them. I’m doing ok with the needles I have, but I’m finding needles under 4mm a bit hard to hold onto so I was wondering if the square ones would help with that. It seems like they’d just cause different problems though.

        1. Chapeau*

          You might try circular needles, which are easier to hold (not use, just rest fingers for a minute). I often knit while watching conference calls or webinars for work, and the circular needles make it really easy to scribble a note to myself because it feels less likely to drop a stitch or unravel stuff with them. They were kind of intimidating before I used them, and now I want more sizes.

          1. Felis alwayshungryis*

            I love circulars! They distribute the weight of the piece so much better – important when you’ve got an almost-complete sweater on the needles!

            Get yourself a set – mine is HiyaHiya. I’ve got four lengths of cable and sizes 2-8, though I’ve also bought a couple of bigger pairs as well. You’ll always have the needle you need (especially helpful when swatching).

    3. Unicorn Steak*

      My mum is a keen knitter and has some joint issue which were causing pain in her wrists and fingers. She has switched in the last year to bamboo needles which she finds easier on her hands when compared to the metal ones she always used previously.

    4. anxiousGrad*

      I’ve never tried square needles, but I’ve found that bamboo needles are better to work with (for my joints and my project) because you don’t have to grip the needle as tightly as with metal needles to keep the stitches from sliding off. I also try to make sure I’m knitting in a place where I’ll have plenty of elbow room so that I can get my shoulders into the most comfortable angle. But the most important thing is to take breaks if it’s hurting you, since the repetitive act of knitting will only make the joint pain worse.

    5. Firebird*

      You can try wearing thumb stabilizers to help support the weight of the needles. The thumb stabilizers take off a lot of joint stress by letting me relax my joints. I still have full use all of my fingers.

      It’s basically a rigid support along the outside of the thumb down to the wrist with straps around the thumb and hand just above the wrist and it’s very comfortable.

  28. Doggone It*

    Do you feel like your dog just … nags you all the time? I’m not sure what is normal. This is my first dog and I’ve had him six months. The vet told me to feed him three times a day because his weight was down – but two walks a day plus three meals a day mean he is constantly expecting me to do something for him. You know how dogs manage to communicate quite well when they want something. He jumps to his feet every time I move and starts communicating. Is this just how they are? I knew they&#