weekend open thread – November 26-27, 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: My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings, edited by Zosia Mamet. Various people writing about food, including Danny Lavery on the food literary children take when running away, Jia Tolentino on acid chicken, Tony Hale (Gary from Veep!) on his love of chain restaurants, and more.

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

{ 833 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    Has anyone taken ice skating lessons as an adult? Any tips? The goal would be to skate fluidly, not to win any competitions…

    1. Megan*

      Yes, I started skating at 32, and love it! I started from scratch, and 3 years later am learning to jump and am on a synchronized skating team. I absolutely encourage you to try it! Most ice rinks have learn to skate classes open to all ages. They’re usually run in a series of 6 to 8 weekly lessons, which is a really easy way to try it out without committing to too much. Happy to answer any questions you might have!

    2. tempest in a teapot*

      I took my first skating lessons at 45. I started to learn to jump, but was too scared to really commit. I’d say make an effort to practice once or twice a week outside of lessons. Since just skating around in circles can get boring in a few months you can eventually consider ice-dance lessons, it can give a focus to lessons that isn’t traditional figure skating. Another tip: they make padded shorts so it hurts less when you fall.

    3. Teapot Translator*

      I have! But I don’t really have any tips. The protective helmet is super important.
      I joined a “figure skating” class. You start at level 1 and then progress.
      At some point, you do stuff that’s more to prepare for the “figure” part than just skate. Other forms of exercise (pilates, yoga, etc.) outside the rink may help.
      I didn’t get far because the pandemic hit and everything closed.

    4. Decidedly Me*

      A friend of mine (late 30s) did and she loves it! Her class is for figure skating and has adults at all ages. Really just go out there and have fun. It takes practice, so remember that and give yourself some grace if you’re not perfect in record time :)

    5. Grits McGee*

      I did, right before the pandemic- a couple sessions of group lessons. If I were to do lessons again, I would pay more for individual instruction. Even in a group of 4, it felt like I got about 10 minutes of instructor attention in a 60 minute session.

      I would also definitely recommend figuring out how crowded the rink will be during your lessons before committing. I picked a rink that was in a touristy, but easy to get to, part of the city, not realizing that there was going to be a mass of whizzing/falling/clustering tourists in my blind spot while I tried to learn to skate backwards.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes. Tried as a teen and gave up; restarted in my early 20s, only stopped because I moved to a city with no rink.
      Good skates are key–the rink wouldn’t let me use the ones I had from my teens. “They are at least one reason you didn’t feel like you were learning–there’s no ankle support and tge blades won’t hold an edge.”
      I felt extravagant paying $135 in 1989 when I wasn’t making much more than minimum wage, but they were still good for my teenager to use in 2019.
      Some rinks post secondhand equipment, it’s worth the wait if you don’t have the budget for new.

    7. Westsidestory*

      Yes! I’d recommend taking a private or small group class, it may take several lessons to feel fluid. What’s most important is “time on the ice” – the more you do it (once a week at least) the easier it gets. And also wear warm, flexible clothing. Heavy gloves recommended for getting yourself up when you fall. (A good instructor will also show you how to fall. It’s so enjoyable especially if you can get to the rink when it’s not too crowded.

      1. Chilipepper+Attitude*

        My husband started in his 40s and he now plays league hockey. Like others, he took small group lessons but found taking a few private lessons were invaluable.

    8. Not a spinner*

      I have! And I am so happy I did. Starting out with group lessons, hopefully ones for adult skaters is a good way to start.

      That college where I went to grad school had an arrangement with the local rink and I took classes with other college students. I still liked it after the first semester so I repeated it, and then I took some private lessons with one of the instructors. Pay attention to whether the instructor is a good match for you. My first instructor seemed happier working with the competitive skaters, and not excited about working with me, so I let her go and tried the other instructor. Instructor number 2 seemed way happier to work with a very slow learner like myself.

      Even though I never got past bunny hops and never even could figure out two-foot spins, I am so glad I did it.

  2. Hunter*

    I’m doing one big declutter of my pantry this weekend and finding myself wracked with guilt over this more than any other area I’ve gone through. Has anybody else wrestled with this? I have ADHD and know I have to pare down for my own sanity, because I forget things until they go bad and if I can’t see it then it might as well not exist, but it’s tough.

    I’m donating what can be donated and tossing out the rest to get down to a manageable group of items that I can see without knocking other things over or burying them. When I decluttered other items I was ruthless but food is giving me grief, probably because of the guilt I have throwing away things. I tried giving away some expired cans that my food pantry won’t take, but that was an absolute nightmare and I spent a whole week trying to coordinate giving away three cans of soup. I’m starting to realize that, for a small number of things, if I want it out of my house I’m just going to have to toss it.

    1. SparklePlenty*

      It’s ok to toss items past their expiration date, things that would make one ill if consumed, and stuff that just isn’t needed. Please remember that you are removing a burden from your shoulders. Set the timer, work on one small area, get out when the timer dings. I hope you’ll feel lighter when you complete the task!

    2. Venus*

      I gave away food past the best before on my Buy Nothing Facebook group. It was great, I did it as a big bunch, and I was open about the dates. The cans were within a year or two as recommended online. It may not work for your area, but hopefully.

      I was gifted a big container of rice on the group and when I got it home noticed that the tin was rusting and the rice wasn’t safe to eat. I was a bit frustrated but also relieved because she had planned to put it in a ‘better’ container but if she had then I wouldn’t have known that it was unsafe. I have since learned to be a bit more careful.

      1. Hunter*

        Yes, that’s the group I’m referring to. My experience was awful. I put all the info that I had about the items up front but then people would message me, back out, oh I only want one can of soup, oh I want these two, I can’t come today, I can *only* come today, it was just an unending stream of logistical planning over a couple of $1 cans of soup. I’ve finally come to the point of accepting that I have a lot of executive dysfunction and simply don’t have the capacity to deal with that kind of thing.

        1. LizB*

          Yeah, if your BN group isn’t on top of things, it can be way more hassle to deal with them. In my group it’d be legit to put parameters on the offer, like “must take all” or “must pick up by X day”, and we often do porch/front step pickups so you don’t have to be home at a particular time – but even if those are all in place, people can still get really weird and flaky. You made a good faith effort to pass the food on, and it didn’t work – it’s okay to throw it out!

          1. WellRed*

            This is what I do. There’s very little coordination beyond “here’s the address it’ll be on the porch.” I gave away a couple lots of food that way but it’s fine to toss it too!

            1. the cat's ass*

              Same here, it’s out front, come and get it! If it’s still there a couple days later, out it goes. And it gives me a pang. I come from a modest background, and while we weren’t food insecure, a lot of planning went into meal prep and buying to stretch the family food dollar. So i get the hesitancy when you go to throw out food. It seems wrong. But give yourself some grace and do what you can. My pantry can get a little chaotic and i will clean, reorg and separate things out for donation of disposal one shelf at a time, which feels a lot more do able. I hope that helps.

        2. Nancy*

          Very few people are going to go out of the way for expired food.

          When I use buy nothing, I just say I have X items and will leave on the porch/curb until Y date. No coordination needed.

          1. ShinyPenny*

            I think that can depend a lot on the individual person. I once gave 3 boxes of “mildly expired” canned goods (1-3 years past) to a friend of a friend, who drove an hour to come get it. It kept him eating pretty well for a long time. Different people have different circumstances. (But I agree it’s ok to toss things if rehoming them just isn’t working!)

    3. One spice at a time*

      For the ADHD aspect: I had a mantra “One plate at a time,” when I was moving. It kept me from packing up plates and then on the way to the bathroom seeing the medicine cabinet & packing up that and ping ponging around the house & not finishing the plates. I’d stop. Say “One plate at a time,” & go back to the plates. Maybe for you: “One spice at a time.”

    4. E*

      We all make mistakes, and it’s especially not your fault if you have ADHD, so be kind to yourself. If you do feel guilty, maybe remind yourself this is a feeling that’ll help you not overbuy/waste food in future?

      I’m hesitant to recommend this bc I feel like mostly you should just unburden yourself as quickly as possible and start fresh, but if there are items that are past expiry date but not necessarily bad, you could also try your local BuyNothing or Freecycle group and be honest about the expiry date. I’ve been surprised what people want to take!
      Take care and keep up the good work

      1. Hunter*

        My Buy Nothing group is where I had the bad experience. I’ve finally come to the point of accepting that I have a lot of executive dysfunction and simply don’t have the capacity to deal with that kind of thing.

        1. Venus*

          I’m really sorry that you had such a bad experience. The fact that your neighbors are so difficult isn’t your fault and given your experience I think it is *completely* reasonable to give up on them and throw it away. A shame, but you can’t force them to be nice, sadly.

          If you want to try again then I’d suggest one last post saying that you will give everything to one person with no negotiation and pickup must be on ‘date’ or you can offer to drop off if that’s an option for you. I feel like that would be very generous of you given their behavior so far but if you want to find a home for it then that’s the most I would suggest.

          Unfortunately I haven’t found any other way to rehome older food. Good thoughts to you in your efforts to declutter and I hope you feel better at the end of it! I have been doing a lot of it myself and I feel much better now than I did a year ago.

        2. Zweisatz*

          I have ADHD as well and when I try to give things away I ALSO ask myself, if the effort is justified. How much will a person benefit from an open half pack of X or expired food Y? If it’s not that great I try to make sure to do at most one good faith effort to give it away.

          But at some point not having it get older in my own flat/all my stuff attracting insects or mold becomes more important than doing it *perfectly*.
          So yes, throwing it out should be an option, even if I don’t like the option.

          See it as an investment in the future: it will help you throw out less things when you can actually see everything.

          1. Zweisatz*

            Another thought: It might make sense to try out another narrative to tell yourself. I think some guilt might stem from the fact that we tell ourselves the best possible version: “I have this nutritious can of soup. If I share it with the needy, somebody can have a hearty meal they otherwise wouldn’t get and won’t have to pay for it.”

            Okay but just as likely the narrative could be “I arrange pick up with 5 different people. Eventually the last one actually shows. They could have bought something in the shop around the corner at home, but they like free stuff (fair) so they drove 10 miles in their huge car to pick up my soup. When they eat the soup they find out their stomach is not that sturdy and they get food poisoning.” or “they put the can in their pantry. They put other stuff in the pantry. In one year they discover the can and have to conceed it’s really not safe anymore and throw it out”.

            Which one of the scenarios is most likely? I don’t know. But I can tell you that the ideal scenario is NOT the most likely. It’s okay to let it go if arranging an “optimal” outcome is this hard.

    5. Middle Aged Lady*

      We all have the area where we feel it’s too
      much waste or guilt when we start decluttering. Food is meant to nourish; it’s hard for me to discard.
      We buy things because we want to be a person who does things! I bought chickpea flour, ghee and rosewater because hubs and I wanted to make Persian cookies. We have not made them. Do we ever buy those ingredients normally? No. Are we bad people? No, we are a couple with one ADHD person and another who splurges on kitchen stuff. We cook and eat at home and enjoy it. Sometimes we buy too much. Good luck to you. Sometimes you have to throw the soup out, if it’s too hard to give away.

    6. Ellis Hubris*

      One thing that can work with something like cans of food are whether there are homeless people in the areas you go or drive. I make totes with the items by dentist gives (I have disintegrating teeth due to illness and they give primo bags of stuff) and I include things to eat. A can of soup would be something doable for those housing insecure. It doesn’t work for everything but a lot more than you think. I sometimes have gift cards I won’t use or I put a $5 bill in along with note pads)pens I have. Bits and pieces of needed things and it helps me and helps others. Might not work if you don’t cross paths directly with housing insecure but very cool if you. Good luck

      1. Zweisatz*

        With that option I would make *really*sure the items are still save to eat for everybody, not just the average healthy adult.
        I cannot go over the “best by” dates personally. If I want to do something nice for somebody I would only want to give away things that are 100 % safe.

        1. Russian in Texas*

          I think food banks will normally dispose of food that’s is over the “best by” faster anyway.

    7. MassChick*

      Could you not plan a week or more worth of meals around these foods and finish them? That’s what I would do..

      1. PX*

        This. Depending on how you feel or effort you want to put in, I would approach it this way – do a no-buy week/month whatever, and specifically focus on eating down your pantry items until they are at a level you are happy with.

        If it helps, like you its easy to forget about things if you cant see them, so even though it can feel like the opposite of de-cluttering, sometimes I will specifically put stuff out on the counters when I remember as a visual reminder that I need to eat/use the thing!

    8. Indisch blau*

      Can you put stuff out in front of your house with a sign “Free for the taking”? Then people can take just one can of soup.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’ve never thought to do this with canned goods, but I do this all the time with other items I don’t want or need. It always amazes me how fast my unwanted items are picked up by someone driving by. I honestly can’t be bothered with listing on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc., and dealing with all the BS that comes along with that. I’d much rather just be rid of the item as fast as possible with the least amount of effort and frustration.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      Sometimes we waste things while we are learning. Really, I swear! It doesn’t make you a wasteful person, or mean you have a wasteful way of life set into your bones. It simply means your pantry system isn’t working for you, or your routines are not working for you, or that you’re a human who makes mistakes. I think those of us with ADHD get into twists over simple mistakes that other people would accept as the price of learning, because of all those years of hearing: “you’re so intelligent, so you must simply not be trying.” Mistakes feel bad because those of us who are truly desirous of learning feel frustrated until we hit the jackpot. Also it’s ….. food. Learning to cook, I was reading the Delia Smith cookbook for beginners and very much enjoyed her rant about people objecting to beginner cooks, and experimentation because people get primal and weird about the waste of food. In the long run, though, a good learning process will lead to less waste over time. Donating is also a bit of a learning curve. Sometimes it’s a wonderful and great thing to do, and sometimes it’s a false sense of security, stopping you from learning that something unused was just truly a bust. Be kind to yourself through this process and accept the words of a very wise Maya Angelou: When you know better, you do better.

    10. Hotdog not dog*

      Try the Marie Kondo thing where you thank the item for serving its purpose before you toss it. Just because you didn’t end up eating it doesn’t mean it didn’t once bring you satisfaction in choosing it and thinking about a delicious dish you thought you might make.
      I’m also decluttering and cleaning this weekend, so I’ll send good decision making vibes out for both of us!

    11. The teapots are on fire*

      Think it as giving yourself grace for being human and practicing being as kind to yourself as you would like to be to others.

      The world is very, very big and we, and our errors, are really pretty small. You didn’t invade a country; you let some soup get away from you. Big, fat, hairy deal. It’s probably going to happen again sometime, because life is complicated and our brains maybe aren’t made to live in abundance. Clean your pantry, let go of the past, and start a new day.

    12. Qwerty*

      – Make a game out of finding the oldest expiration date. That way you are laughing instead of feeling guilty.

      – Do you have a family member or friend who can help? It’s kinda fun with two people – again, that way you are laughing at “why are there so many bottles of chickpeas?” rather than feeling guilty.

      – Blame this round on the pandemic. Buying habits got weird. We all changed what and how we ate.

      – In addition to the keep or toss piles, add a third one for Use Soon. Make a special section for it in the pantry. Now you have a system for preventing future waste! Pat yourself on the back.

      For the future: I have this problem of forgetting about food too, and what helped me was having a “food I use often” section and a “refill / overflow” section. When adding new items to overflow, I put it in the back of the row/pile so the expiration dates are relatively in order. I set it up so that I have to go to the refill section often for normal staples like pasta sauce and my favorite soup, which means I’m seeing it more so my brain is more likely to remember. I occasionally visit it for meal planning and start with what I have.

    13. Fellow Traveller*

      If you are going to throw them out anyway, you could open them and see if they are still edible. I have certainly eaten things years past their expiration date. (Of course this depends on your stomach… mine is pretty much made of iron.) I find expirations dates to be very conservative, probably for legal reasons.
      Also this way you can at least dump the food and recycle the containers.

      1. JSPA*

        There are now lists of what’s commonly safe past the best-by, and what’s dangerous. (Nobody has an iron stomach for botulism, nor is it often detectable by smell or taste.)

      2. ThatGirl*

        They’re not actually expiration dates, either. A best by date is not a legal statement, just a guideline. The only thing with expiration dates is I think baby formula. As JSPA notes, some things are riskier than others.

    14. JSPA*

      Some things are fine WAY past “best by,” so maybe prioritize those for passing along?

      Also, see if you can find your local freegans. They may take the lot.

    15. Cordelia*

      Sounds like you’ve donated as much as you can, and it’s really ok to chuck out the rest. You could empty out the food and recycle the cans. Could you get someone to help? Just to get you back to a manageable place, and then you can have a fresh start. Maybe having a friend to give you “permission” would help. Yes, maybe you’ll be wasting some expired food that could possibly have been eaten (although there’re good reasons why food banks don’t take expired food – we can’t always tell whether its safe, and some users are vulnerable) but you will be avoiding a great deal more future waste.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was inordinately relieved when my town started a food scraps dropout station in conjunction with a nearby biodiesel maker–worth looking to see if there’s anything like that in your area. I empty expired or unpleasant food into one bucket and recycle/trash the containers separately.

      1. LittleBabyDamien*

        Yes, this. Where I live there is an industrial composting system in conjunction with garbage and recycling, and anything organic, such as food!, is collected and composted, and then reused for gardening. At least then, the food isn’t just heading to a landfill, but instead is useful for something. The containers can be recycled as well then.
        If you do have no other option but to throw it out, remember that throwing it away will help you to avoid waste in the future by allowing you to create an organized, efficient storage system.
        Good luck; I know it is hard!

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

        Agree with this; open the cans and compost/recycle if you can, but even just dumping the contents will help everything degrade faster.

        For things like rice… do you sew? Rice and some other grains make a nice filling for heating pads, hand warmers, or little beanie baby toys. Nobody is going to eat it and you can add a few drops of essential oil to make it smell nice. If the rice is visibly moldy, of course just throw it out.

        Along that same line, shaped pastas past their prime can be used for crafts. Flour can be used for paste. Stale coffee and tea can dye fabrics or wood… etc.

    17. Ann Ominous*

      Once I heard someone say that this food has gone to waste anyway. Either in your body (or in your pantry) or in the trash, but it’s already gone to waste.

      Perhaps it feels bad because the act of throwing them out maybe makes you face things that you didn’t have to face as long as you didn’t have to deal with the pantry?

      If so, you could try a couple things and see if they work for you: like thanking the cans as you toss them, for showing you something important about yourself and for giving you an opportunity to give yourself compassion in the face of self-criticism. Can the critic become an ally instead?

      Some people make an index of what’s in their pantry and stick it on their pantry or fridge, and r/adhd is a good community if you’re on Reddit.

    18. A Becky*

      Maybe a different framing – “putting this in the garbage isn’t different than having it in the back of my cupboard: nobody is using it either way.”

      I have ADHD too, so I *get* the guilt about getting rid of some specific category of item. Mine is clothes

    19. Flash Packet*

      My trick for becoming OK with throwing away food that I know I won’t eat is holding onto this piece of knowledge:

      All food becomes waste. It either goes in a garbage can, a compost pile, or in a toilet.

      So I stand there holding the can of collard greens that I know I won’t eat because I’d bought two of them and the first one gave me gastric distress, and I imagine pooping the greens in the toilet. Ta-da! No more guilt about pitching the collard greens.

      I do, however, take the time to dump the contents out — whether in a container to take out to the creek behind my fence for the critters, or into the trash can — and then recycle the packaging.

    20. Chilipepper+Attitude*

      Can you be ruthless about what goes back in the pantry but put the rest in boxes in a closet or under the bed for a week? I find that separating the tossing (and any emotions that go with it) from the decluttering and organizing the shelves works best for me.

      Obviously this only works with non perishables. And you have to be sure to follow up and discard eventually.

  3. Ginger Pet Lady*

    This question is making me feel old! I drew my nephew’s name in the family gift exchange. He wants games for his Switch. How exactly do I do this? They’re downloadable, right? Not sure how to gift a downloadable game…

    1. Jeff*

      You can buy physical copies of Switch games. Otherwise, you can buy a gift card for the Nintendo eShop.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      You can either buy a physical game or download one. If you can give him a physical game it might be easier. We download them through our Nintendo account – maybe his mom or dad can help you do that?! Good luck! I have a 12 year old son who would appreciate any version of a switch game so I’m sure your nephew will love what you give him.

    3. Laura H.*

      Game store gift cards for a physical copy OR they sell Nintendo E-Shop gift cards for a digital copy.

      How fun!

    4. frontlinER*

      If you don’t know what he wants, a gift card to Nintendo’s e-shop would be great! But if you do know what games he wants, I would suggest buying the physical copy because the game is stored on the card rather than the switch itself.

    5. AGD*

      I prefer physical Switch games, but (depending on where you get them) some of them can be pricier that way, especially those from indie studios.

    6. Marion Ravenwood*

      Another vote for the Nintendo eShop gift cards. If it’s something with a code or details you print out, you could maybe make a themed card with some gaming-related stuff on it to make it look a little nicer. My sister did this for me last year when she got me a voucher to a sewing shop online – she stuck the code on a piece of card and decorated it with London-themed stickers and a still from The Shop Around The Corner (one of my favourite films). I loved it and have it stuck on the inside of my sewing box even now. So something like that could help make it a bit more special.

    7. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Costco sells $100 Nintendo gift cards packs for $90. You could always give him half for Christmas and half for bday or just let him have the full $100 to spend when/how he wants.

    8. Quinalla*

      Talk to the parents, some will prefer physical copies some will prefer electronic and unless he gave you a list of games, you probably need to coordinate that too :)

  4. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! What is everyone reading right now? Any recs or rec requests?

    I’m reading The Stardust Thief and am greatly enjoying it. I’ve seen a lot of books recently relying on this particular mythology background and I’ve been enjoying them a lot.

    1. OtterB*

      I just finished reading Sunmaster by C E Murphy. It’s the 4th in a series. The first one is Seamaster. Older middle grade, maybe? Different types of magic, developing your skills and finding your place. Rasim, the main character, has a tendency to think his way out of problems rather than fight his way out, which I enjoy watching.

      I have a bunch of unread ebooks that I bought and 4 or 5 from the library. Probably should read the library ones first so I can return them but I may go next for T Kingfisher’s Illuminations, which just released today. It is supposed to be similar in vibe to Minor Mage, which I loved. So, it would be a children’s book if it didn’t have spots that are a bit too creepy.

        1. OtterB*

          I read the first one when it was new and liked it but it didn’t grab me hard enough at the time to follow the series. I should go back to it.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I tried that and couldn’t deal with way he wrote women on the rare occasions he did. Made me sad, because I loved those books when I first read them as a teen. Had the same experience with the Travis McGee books, which I thought would be good mindless audio books for long drives. Sometimes I am staggered by the level of casual misogyny I absorbed as a kid and a young adult – absorbed and never questioned.

        I read “Player Piano” for book club a few years ago and was stunned at the viciousness toward women. I took a class on Vonnegut in high school from my absolute favorite English teacher and I don’t remember either noticing that or discussing it in class.

        1. AGD*

          There was a geeky webcomic that I absolutely loved 20 years ago when I was a teenager. I went back and it’s still clever but often dripping in contempt for women. On the one hand, a disappointment; on the other, I’m glad my own perspective has shifted enough to spot this kind of thing straightforwardly.

    2. Bluebell*

      Sped through Secluded Cabin, Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger. Cheat Day was OK fiction, but not amazing. Schmutz was an interesting novel about a young Hasidic woman with a p*rn addiction. I’m trying to finish a memoir by Betty Gilpin which is very vivid, and boy does she love metaphors.

    3. Broken scones*

      I binge read this manga series called the apothecary diaries after finding volume 1 by accident the other day. Am also making my way through Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events on audio and it’s been fun.

    4. Anonymous Person Here*

      Request: Memoir of someone who chose to detransition . Especially helpful if the decision arose from secular motives .

      1. AGD*

        It’s very rare, and the only cases I’ve seen in my broader social circle are of trans people sprinting back into the closet out of fear when transphobic hate-crimes in their regions spike (which doesn’t really count, at a guess, since it makes their own existence so much less bearable). If I’m remembering correctly, there’s a case of detransition covered briefly in Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree, though that’s not a memoir (and I thought there were a few iffy moments in the stuff elsewhere in the book on disability rights).

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

        Hmmm . . . . it’s not exactly a memoir — it’s fiction inspired by the author’s real-life experiences — and it’s not exactly about totally detransitioning, but Leslie Feinberg’s *Stone Butch Blues* does have a main character who starts out identifying as a butch lesbian, then identifies as a trans man and starts some medical transitioning through hormone therapy, and then stops the hormone therapy and settles into a more intermediate androgynous identity that we’d now probably call being non-binary.

        Anyway, it’s a relatively positive and non-judgemental portrayal at all points — none of the character’s identities are portrayed as “wrong” or “untrue”. The character just seems to evolve when it’s time to evolve to an identity that feels better at that particular time.

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

          Here is a link to lesliefienberg’s page, from which you can download a free PDF: https://www.lesliefeinberg.net/

          Content warnings: violent police sexual assault, institutionalization, and probably a whole bunch of other upsetting things I’m forgetting. That said, it’s a great book — just don’t read it when you’re not feeling up to it, or maybe be prepared to skip some parts.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          My question about SBB is how it would be different if written now with the words and understanding we have now of gender queerness.

          Also it starts in the 50s inside the very strict blue collar butch/femme lesbian stereotypes. Ridiculously strict so much so that the main character is grossed out by the idea of two butches together although two gay men is fine as are a butch and a femme.

          It’s a great historical look at things but not relevant to the modern understanding and experience.

          The MC’s decision to transition is driven simply by the inability to survive (not be beat up, hold a job, make money) in the world as a lesbian butch woman. A character feeling as the MC did then would fit into a gender queer, masc of center space today, I think, and not as a trans man.

          It’s good but very dark full of homophobia, transphobia, rape, family rejection, loneliness, and depression so the reader needs to be prepared for that.

    5. Teapot Translator*

      I read Nona the Ninth this week. I have a lot of books from the library and can’t decide which to read next.

    6. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I need to start “The Fugitivities” by Jesse McCarthy – actually I did start it a couple of weeks ago and put it down. Not sure what’s getting in my way. I’m rereading Dick Francis and Marcia Muller books instead.

      1. allathian*

        I just read Crisis by Felix Francis. Only got 4 hours of sleep because I couldn’t stop until 2 am and had to get up at 6. This is the main reason why I mostly reread old favorites rather than read new to me books. I mostly read in bed, and then this happens. In my 50s I can’t deal with a lack of sleep as well as I did in my 20s…

    7. GoryDetails*

      A book I will be reading soon – Alison’s recommended title, My First Popsicle! Sounds like a really fun idea for an anthology.

      Current reading includes a couple of volumes of the lovely, charming, occasionally creepy manga NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, in which a boy who can see yokai (spirits) gets involved in helping some of them, defending others, and figuring out how to get along with the people who find his supernatual abilities odd. (In general it’s a very gentle series, and the artwork is quite beautiful. Some good anime adaptations out there too.)

    8. PhyllisB*

      I just finished a really sweet Christmas story, Christmas From the Heart. Nothing super special, but I liked it.
      Getting ready to start Susan Wiggs’ newest, Sugar and Salt. I’m a bit wary, because the reviews I’ve read mentioned a lot of abuse, and I don’t like reading about that sort of thing. I don’t know if it’s domestic or child. I guess I’ll start it and if it gets too upsetting I’ll put it down.
      If any of you have read it and can chime in, I’d appreciate if

    9. I edit everything*

      I have recently discovered the author T. Kingfisher. Fun, creative fantasy and fairy tale retellngs, centered around young women with practical bents and sharp voices. Just delightful.

        1. OtterB*

          Some Kingfisher is horror and some is not, although even the “not” tends to have creepy parts. She refers to the series that begins with Paladin’s Grace as her fluffy romance with severed heads, for example. Try Swordheart for fantasy romance or Bryony and Roses for fairytale retelling or Minor Mage for middle grade fantasy that adults can enjoy.

        2. Amarzing*

          I am a huge fan of hers from back before she had published any books and as a big ol scaredy cat, she has only two that are classified as horror (maybe three now?) Everything else is I would say fantasy and/or fairy tale retellings with a few elements that could be are unsettling but no more than the original fairy tales.

          I love everything she does, so I did read the twisted ones and the hollow place horror ones and will say they didn’t stomp on my buttons that badly but everyone is different! I do prefer horror books to movies etc and I mostly hate body horror, which these weren’t free of…. The hollow place was worse for me in that regard if that is helpful for you.

    10. Girasol*

      Robopocalypse. I like the writing style. The narrator discovers a record of the events of the robot war, and presents them as a series of short story-like vignettes, each one quite different from the rest. It’s a creepy tale because it cuts awfully close to modern reality with so many everyday devices interconnected and remotely configurable.

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

      Still on Willa Cather’s *Song of the Lark*, but almost done! I was surprised to learn it was based on the life of a real opera singer, just as *Death Comes for the Archbishop* is based on the life of real churchmen. I wonder if Cather ran into the opera singer in New York and was inspired? Cather got me crying again (this happens about once per book with her) with a scene about the opera singer’s not coming home from overseas to visit her dying mother, and her mother’s understanding and not wanting to get in the way of her daughter’s big break. Oof.

    12. Person from the Resume*

      I started *Dirt Creek* by Hayley Scrivenor today and made great progress. In very rural Australia a 12 year old girl vanishes (you find out she’s murdered in the very first chapter) on the way home from school. I’m thinking it’s part mystery and part rural town drama where the disappearance uncovers secrets. The story is told in varying POV including her friend who per the back of the book will launch her own investigation.

      Interesting some chapters are told by “we” which I think is the voice of the children of the town.

      In the past week I listened to and read *A Scatter of Light* by Malindo Lo which is a queer YA coming of age novel with the emphasis on coming of age. Not as great as *Last Night at the Telegraph Club* (highly recommended), but pretty good.

      And I listened to *The Plot* at 1.5 speed during a long drive across 4 states and it turned out perfect because I finished it 5 minutes before I got home. It was not my usual fair, but perfect for a drive.

      1. anonymous reading glasses*

        My turn finally came up for the library’s audiobook copy of “I’m glad my mother died” by Jeanette McCurdy. I don’t follow much popular media, so it’s fascinating to hear more about how the media industry works. It’s sad but I appreciate her speaking her truth. I expect it’d be a difficult read for people who didn’t grow up with some kind of dysfunction. I can relate to parts of it.

        In happier news, I just finished Flying Solo by Linda Holmes and enjoyed it. It’s more fluffy than what I’d usually read but love her childfree characters and her snarky takes on the world. Thanks to whomever recommended it a while back, maybe it was Alison?

  5. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! What has everyone been playing? As always, this isn’t limited to just video games. Any types of games are good.

    We just restarted an old D&D campaign that had been on hold for quite awhile. It was fun getting to jump back into our old characters, and we had a couple of new players too.

    1. LizB*

      I finally picked up Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, and I’m so glad I did! It’s a local multiplayer game where one person is at the computer as the bomb defuser and everyone else are their experts with the manual for how to defuse the bombs; the defuser isn’t allowed to look at the manual, the experts aren’t allowed to look at the bomb. You have to communicate to solve the puzzles that will let you defuse the bomb before it goes off. Slightly stressful but really really fun (and when you inevitably do explode, you can just try again).

    2. SparklingBlue*

      Been loving Pokemon Scarlet! I am about twelve hours in, and it’s great fun just exploring Paldea!

    3. Victoria, Please*

      Question about games – has anyone done Ouisi or Azul? Those look fun to me but expensive so I want input before investing. :-)

      1. JustForThis*

        I’ve played Azul and remember it as an abstract, strategic game with very little interaction. I don’t know Ouisi. 7 Wonders is one of my current favourites among board games with somewhat complex strategy that take about an hour or so.

      2. LizB*

        I’ve really enjoyed Azul when I’ve played it with friends! The art is very pretty, and I was able to understand the basic strategy pretty easily.

      3. Overeducated*

        I am a fan of Azul. It’s a relatively simple game that you can chat during instead of spending tons of time and focus on strategy, and it’s not 2 hours long. My spouse is bored with it for those exact reasons. (I used to be more into the long strategy games, maybe I will be again when we don’t have to start at 10 PM after the kids are asleep and dishes are done, just not where I am right now.) That may give you an idea if whether you might be into it.

    4. Dino*

      I’ve been playing Forty Thieves solitaire for around a decade on a lil phone app, but mostly as mindless clicking to pass the time. My win rate has been 4% consistently over years. I finally looked up strategies and tips and have immediately improved to a 6%!

    5. Girasol*

      Guild Wars as usual. It’s time again for me to decorate our guild hall with a forest, some snow, and snowball-producing drifts.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Hello from Tangled Depths. My bum arm doesn’t let me play much anymore, but I indulged in a hour or so today, and helped stop the mordrem migration.

        1. Girasol*

          I should have been there instead of in Auric Basin where no one was interested in Octovine. BTW, a company doc once diagnosed me with “tennis elbow” from using a traditional mouse, a surprising lot of pain and stiffness for such a small reason. Is that what’s bumming your arm? He put me on a Logitech M575 trackball and I haven’t had any trouble since. I pass that on because I never would have guessed that such a minor thing could make such a big difference.

    6. GoryDetails*

      Not currently gaming myself, but I just finished reading LOOKING FOR GROUP by Alexis Hall, about groups of friends who game – some devoted to MMORPGs, others open to almost anything, including board games and the early text-only computer games. There’s a romance involved, but for me a lot of the fun was getting the snippets of game-centric banter, whether in-game messages or in-person throwdowns.

    7. TX_Trucker*

      I have been playing Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters. It’s a cooperative board game; all players are on the same team and you win or loose as a group. It’s a simple game to learn, no reading required to play and suitable for kids. But in the hard mode, it’s an incredibly strategic game for adults. We lose to the ghosts about half the time. They have several IP versions, including Ghostbusters.

    8. Don'tbeadork*

      One of the evenings when our D&D group wasn’t able to all be here (and we were in the middle of a huge fight, so we didn’t want to play with missing members) we broke out Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town.

      One player is the GM (but I think they call you the Manager) and the others are delivering the pizzas. GM lays out the board (a 7×7 grid) with pizzas, the appropriate houses and whatever fences or other hazards the deliverers might encounter. Those could be fences, a stray cat, a stray pig, ghosts, random teleportals…. Deliverers have little boards that they mark on. They can start anywhere on their board, but the GM places them on the master board. Then they move (or not) one square in whatever direction. If they can’t move, GM tells them, but that is their turn. If they move successfully the GM gives a not particularly useful description of what is right around them. They have to find a pizza on the street and then deliver it to the right house, battling ghosts to make their delivery. They track where they are and have been on their individual boards.

      It’s a strange little game, but lots of fun!

    9. Quinalla*

      We played the Mirroring of Mary King for the first time, pretty nice 2 player vs. game – it’s area control but with a fun theme of one player is the mortal Mary King and one is her ghost ancestor and they are fighting for control of her body :) So not the typical war/fighting area control game. Only played it once, but seems to have a good mix of luck and tactics.

      Also played again MicroMacro – great game with a huge map and crimes to solve – kind of like where’s waldo but fun. And we played again Regicide, 2-4 player co-op game that you can play with a regular deck of cards if you have the rules. Fun and very hard to win!

  6. thanksgiving stories*

    Thanksgiving stories please! Tell me all of the aggravating things that happened at your celebration yesterday. Our own version of Carolyn Hax’s holiday hootananey. Annoying relatives, pushy neighbor, in-law who gave you food poisoning, bring it on!

    1. Disbelief*

      Daughter’s MIL started guilt texting that they didn’t go there for Thanksgiving – feel so bad for SIL, I can’t imagine doing that to my kid. This is the first time in 5 years they have been with our family for Thanksgiving.

    2. Vio*

      I’ve only ever been to one Thanksgiving but it was amazing. Two of my online friends were getting married and one of them was going to be moving from the US to the UK to live with her husband-to-be. I’d been invited to visit before but since she was going to move this was my last opportunity. I built up the courage to get a passport and bought a flight. It was exciting and terrifying. I’d never flown before and made sure to get a window seat. My social anxiety was on high alert the whole time through the airport and flight but the view out the window helped keep me calm.
      I was there for two weeks, including both my birthday and Thanksgiving. Not only was there so, so much food, there were so many foods I’d never even heard of before. I also became addicted to root beer! It was an amazing holiday and a major factor in overcoming my lifelong depression and anxiety. I met so many friendly people who loved my accent and that also helped me to overcome insecurities about my voice (I was always very shy and as I got older very self conscious of the fact my voice didn’t noticeably break).
      I visited a shopping mall that was so large that after some shopping we returned to the car and moved to another car park to visit the shops that side… my family and my few friends were very happy with their christmas presents that year!
      My American friend is now living in the UK with her husband and mostly remembering which side of the road to drive on.

      1. Owler*

        I love this! And while I love root beer, I have found it rare that my international friends care for the taste, so yay for trying it and like it!

        1. Vio*

          I’ve tried to convince fellow Brits but only have one convert so far. One of my friends complained it tasted like battery acid… but if everybody liked the same things there’d be none left for me!

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      We had a great time, got to see my husband’s elderly aunt and uncle for the first time since the pandemic. We got a catering package from the grocery store so everything was heat and eat, no stress over the prep. Aunt and Uncle are starting to get forgetful, but they loved retelling all the old stories. We even got the younger generation, currently ages 18 to 30, to take care of the clean up. As the mom in the middle, I’m usually exhausted from nonstop prep, cooking, cleaning, serving, etc., so this was a true pleasure!

    4. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      Not exactly family drama but amusing The oven, which was working fine on Wednesday, wouldn’t light. However, the broiler was working. So we swapped the dead oven ignition for the working broiler ignition. Turkey went in only two hours behind schedule! The backup plan was to just eat pie which we’d baked the night before!

      1. Rocks are neat*

        That is some awesome resourceful thinking and skills to pull it off! Although just pie doesn’t sound horrible either.

      2. Owler*

        Ours went out on Tuesday! Same problem, but our 20 year old oven wouldn’t give up its screws and let us change the broiler for the non-working one. We ended up borrowing our friends’ oven since they weren’t cooking. A win for us because we got to see them!

    5. Russian in Texas*

      No one’s fault, but we had super rainy weather work flood watch, tornado warnings, etc.
      The drive to MIL’s house is an hour long, and normally is not an issue, but wet roads and tornado warnings alerts made the drive there and back a bit white knuckled.
      Now, unless it’s actually flooded, no one in my area stupid their plans for just “severe weather and flood watch”, and the get together itself was very nice.

    6. Michaele G Burris*

      Not this Thanksgiving, but one year, as I was in the act of putting the turkey into the oven, I saw the heating element flare and die. No repair shops are open on Thanksgiving.
      So, we got out a saw and sawed the 20 lb bird in half and cooked it in the microwave. 15 minutes, turn the carcass. 15 minutes, turn the carcass. Dinner was not on time, but we all ate, and gave thanks for inspiration.
      The next day I called around for a repair shop that stocked the right heating element and hubs installed it that night.

      1. Just Life*

        One year our FIL’s 40 year old oven’s heating element died on Christmas Eve. Miraculously we found one in a hole in the wall repair shop across town. Dinner was saved!

    7. Michaele G Burris*

      AND, this year I was making a compicated chutney cranberry sauce to accomodate one daughter’s family containing several people who have multipe and severe food intolerances. The sauce was finished, sitting in a pot on the stove.
      I opened a cupboard next to the stove to reach for something. A cannign jar fell from the cupboard and broke. Almost all the shards fell away from the stove. I wa 99% certain the no shard went into the chutney. But there was still that 1%. I hated to throw it out, but throw it out I did. Sigh.

    8. Glazed Dount*

      After a lot of family drama earlier in the week (revolving around my late grandmother’s estate/inheritance of items), my Terrible Aunt sent a massive “Happy Thanksgiving!” text to the family–the same people she had tearful screaming matches with just a few days prior. Luckily no one was planning to have Thanksgiving with her.
      After no one replied to her text (not even a heart reaction), she unfriended us all on Facebook.
      Probably for the best! Can’t wait until Christmas (since the estate still won’t be settled…!).

      1. Ampersand*

        You have my sympathy, but also this made me laugh. She wasted no time unfriending everyone—yikes! That’s some high school-level drama. I do hope your Christmas goes well!

      2. Ali + Nino*

        But was it a text with a cartoon version of herself wishing you a “Happy Thanksgiving”? That would have been *chef’s kiss*

    9. LizB*

      My friend brought a cranberry lemon meringue pie partially assembled – the pie was ready to go, the meringue topping was made but in a tupperware. When she took the topping out of the fridge it was weirdly liquidy, but we forged ahead. Then we all collectively realized we don’t have a blowtorch, and she decided to try cooking it under the broiler instead. I didn’t really see the results, but she says parts of the meringue burned, and she was very unhappy with it and wouldn’t let anyone eat any of it. I thought it would still have tasted fine without the meringue, or even with the slightly singed meringue! Overall there were no hard feelings, we had other desserts, but we were all sad we couldn’t eat what sounded like a very tasty pie.

    10. Girasol*

      I commissioned a turkey from the local organic farm one year and they handed me a thirty pound bird. (The Turkey That Ate Chicago!) I roasted it as I always did, in a foil roaster on my favorite high-sided baking sheet. The bird turned out fine but the sheet did not. It was quite baggy after that, so when I tried to bake cookies all the dough balls would roll into a clump in the center.

    11. Middle Aged Lady*

      I measured the flour/butter for my husband’s pie crust. And the sugar and spices for his pie. He is ADHD forgetful and distracted: I always do this for him. And this year he is on crutches. He got up early on Thanksgiving and added the sugar spice mixture to the pie dough. Sigh…I wanted a nap before dinner but instead, I had to help him remale the crust and measure out more spices. Some days around here are hard. You never know when he will have a brain fade.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I bet that pie crust would taste delicious buttered and baked separately. Mom used to roll up the leftover pie crust with butter & cinnamon sugar. I haven’t had roly-polies in years because I never mastered pie crust & buy pre-made!

    12. Missb*

      It was just Dh and I for thanksgiving this year but I was still planning on making most of the usual stuff, just less of it.

      I was just getting the gravy stock going (roasted a separate turkey thigh and then put it with some water into the instant pot to get some good broth) and then….

      Nosebleed.

      I’m not prone to them. I had one the day before.

      But the Thanksgiving day nosebleed took a full hour to stop. I went through two boxes of Kleenex. My first time meeting my kid’s new partner was via phone and him giving advice (he’s a med student).

      Dh was fabulous and walked up to my niece’s house to grab some tampons. Yes, I jammed tampons into my nostrils.

      I roasted our turkey today.

      1. Dog and cat fosterer*

        I visited a very dry part of the world years ago and the local solution for visitors who get nose bleeds was to stuff q-tips or similar covered in vaseline and antibiotic cream up one’s nose. I’m not sure if the cream would be useful, but putting a bit of vaseline on the tampons might have helped? If you have advice from a med student then I’d be more likely to trust that, although my friend did find that the trick helped him.

    13. Katefish*

      My sister and brother-in-law placed a very big, expensive Christmas gift order with my other sibling, who now wants to split it 3 ways. This is after they insisted they couldn’t do Secret Santa intra family because they’d rather have no gifts, and after several hints about prior gifts not being up to snuff. (Did I mention all this gift nonsense occurred after they advised the whole family that I was inconsiderate because I usually don’t fly cross county at an inconvenient time for me? I then booked plane tickets at said inconvenient time, but I’m having regrets.)

    14. Elle Woods*

      Twenty-some years ago, we purchased a turkey and discovered it was spoiled. Of course, we didn’t realize this until it was too late to buy another one and get it thawed to cook, so we wound up having rotisserie chicken for dinner instead.

    15. Quinalla*

      We did have to make a quick last minute store run on Wednesday because I forget to get potatoes for mashed potatoes (LOL) and Kroger was out of sage when I did my big order on Sunday. But all was well, found everything that was needed and people were 99% being patient and friendly in the store even though it was crowded, so that was nice.

      We just had Thanksgiving with our immediate family and the food was yummy and everything got done about the same time. Butter noodles had too much water in them, but was easy enough to strain them and call it good enough. Leftovers have been great! We also got the Christmas tree up and decorated, though I had to cajole the 13-year-old quite a bit to do her share. Ah the teen years :)

  7. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    My cranberry sauce came out beautifully! And my area is getting much needed rain.

    Please share your joys big or small.

    1. AGD*

      I had a very nice quiet Thursday, though I don’t completely understand why things dropped off so much at work (I’m in Canada and work in higher education, so I can’t blame Thanksgiving).

      My institution has introduced a new digital system for filing a kind of report that I have to write on a regular basis. All of these were on paper until about 2014. In between, it took a lot of time, a lot of unwieldy PDFs, too many emails with too many large files named too many different things. It’s now all part of a straightforward, streamlined, foolproof, easy-to-use online system with an excellent interface. I can’t believe the difference; I had 8 of these reports to file this week, and not only was it quick but I actually enjoyed doing it! Grateful for our UI/UX people.

      1. AGD*

        Addendum: I have realized how many of my contributions to these lately have involved Non-Weekend-Place. This is related to one of my own weaknesses (I have a busy job and am not good at drawing boundaries around it to carve out time to think about other things). I’m going to try to cut down on this because it isn’t in the spirit of the weekend thread!

    2. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      I cashed in all my gift cards, checks, & IOUs from Mother’s Day, my birthday, & Christmas to get paint, supplies, and (most importantly) HELPERS to paint & completely redecorate my bedroom. I’m looking forward to creating the space I’ve been longing for four years!

    3. RLC*

      The domestic canary (escaped pet?) who has been appearing in the garden for almost a month has been frequenting our bird feeders and managing to survive the well-below-freezing nights. It appears to have been accepted by its cousins the Goldfinches who are regulars at the feeders. Such a rare and intriguing sight.

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        How interesting! I hope the canary continues to thrive out there! Definitely keep us updated :)

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Today was my birthday and I had a really good balance of time to myself and time with my family :)

    5. StellaBella*

      Yay on cranberry sauce!
      My joys were seeing an old friend who I lost touch with in 2017ish, and hearing that a grant came thru for the place I spend my weekdays at, and taking off Thur and Fri to visit a village in the mountains I had never been to.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      Yesterday was TOY SHOW night. Basically, the Toy Show is an episode of Ireland’s national broadcaster’s flagship (and the world’s longest running) chatshow, where the ditch the usual format of interviewing celebrities, etc and instead spend one night a year where the presenter showcases toys with the help of child guests. The studio audience all dresses in Christmas typed costumes and get loads of gifts to take home (the original presenter’s catchphrase was “and there’s one for everybody in the audience”).

      It goes from 9:35pm until around 5 minutes past midnight and the whole country stays up late (there’s a repeat on Sunday for any of the littlest children who didn’t manage to stay up). And it is just great fun.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      I made the cheesecake from the secret family recipe for Thanksgiving. Elderly Aunt and Uncle, who are becoming forgetful in their 90s, perked right up and started sharing old stories about the relative whose recipe it was, including how he refused to share it with anyone for decades until I married into the family. Up until dessert, Uncle was having difficulty remembering who we all were and why we were in his house, but the cheesecake brought him right back around to it being a holiday and we are his family. (Next time we will start with dessert first!)

      1. tempest in a teapot*

        Awesome story. I think you should make the cheesecake regularly, and record some of the stories.

    8. PhyllisB*

      I have two: I was able to start driving again this week 5 weeks after hip replacement. Good thing, my husband said he was getting tired of Driving Miss Daisy. :-) AND I was able to start taking tub baths again. After 3 weeks of sponge baths and 2 weeks of showers, that was real cause for celebration!!

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

        Ooh, baths are the best! And something I can totally relate to missing after surgery. Glad you and the tub are back together again.

    9. Cookie*

      My cranberry sauce was also great – the best part of my little two-person Thanksgiving.

      And my week-long migraine subsided enough yesterday that I could finally go to the gym, and the weather was so warm I walked there instead of driving!

    10. Chaordic One*

      I moved again and, it was the usual shit show that took much longer than usual and was much more difficult than it should have been and that I anticipated, so I didn’t bother doing any cleaning of my old apartment. I was so tired that I figured it just wasn’t worth it. Deposit be damned.

      To my pleasant surprise I was mailed back most of my deposit. They only kept $120.00 to clean it. (In the past I’ve left apartments in much better condition and was charged much more.)

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

        That’s awesome! So glad it worked out for you and that you didn’t wreck yourself cleaning when you just didn’t have it in you.

    11. Girasol*

      Mmm, cranberry sauce! With orange and honey for me. I was delighted to find a recipe for crumb crust for a pumpkin pie. He loves pumpkin pie. I’m crust-challenged and I forgot to buy a premade crust. But I pounded a few grahams, added half a stick of butter and half a cup of brown sugar and prebaked it, and it tastes like carmel – yum! – better than a proper crust.

    12. PX*

      Lol. Maybe a touch petty, but the first try in the England – South Africa game where Marcus Smith was left eating dust. Absolutely *chefs kiss*. Reminded me why I love rugby so much sometimes.

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

      Just got a notice that my lotion applicator was delivered — no more itchy middle of the back where I can’t reach! : )

    14. Llama face!*

      I have been enjoying a free app I found that provides a daily logic puzzle to complete (and the option of purchasing more). There are NO ads at all which makes for such a pleasant experience compared to most game apps. Logic puzzles were always my favourite out of the variety puzzle books and it is so nice to have a simple thing like this to look forward to each day.

        1. Llama face!*

          It’s called Quick Logic Puzzles and is by Egghead Games. The icon is a grid with a cross section of red X’s and one green dot.

    15. Dog and cat fosterer*

      I had a surprise request this week to rehome a puppy. Someone was struggling, was smart enough to know that they should ask for help, and asked if I could pick it up right away because they’d made the decision and didn’t want to change their mind. I need to build better boundaries around taking in animals but it’s hard not to support good decisions that help the dog and owner. I don’t currently have any dog fosters so that makes it manageable for a few days. I am so thankful that I quickly found a rescue to take it. An extra stress for me this weekend, but a big positive for this one pup who is loving that I have time to spend with training and exercise.

    16. Voluptuousfire*

      I got 3 end tables that match my new coffee table and once they’re delivered, they’ll replace my old end tables and hall tables. I’m looking forward to transforming my space!

      I also saw two adorable corgis while out. Corgi butts make everything better. On my drive home, I kept muttering “corgi butts” to myself and making myself laugh. LOL

      I also went shopping for a new office chair since the gaming chair I thought would be ok isn’t. The foam for the seat is so uncomfortable. I found a dupe for a Herman Miller chair in Office Max but am going to try to find it elsewhere hopefully with a cheaper price.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yesterday was my teenager’s birthday present to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Their first Broadway show: both of us our first time seeing Phantom. Pure joy in the staging and performances alike: “How does the human voice DO that?!”

    18. allathian*

      Although we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Finland, the Christmas shopping season starts that week. Many stores have introduced “Black Friday Week” sales. My husband bought a new 60 in 4K TV for our movie room/library/den as an early Christmas present for the whole family.

      My son’s in 7th grade, and his new school had a Christmas Bazaar, the first since November 2019. Saturday was an official schoolday, although kids who don’t celebrate Christmas at all (mainly Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews and Muslims) were excused. Here the vast majority celebrates Christmas, either as a religious holiday or as a gift-giving holiday with no overtly Christian elements whatever (I’m under no illusions that people raised in a non-Christian religion would see it as a secular holiday) It was basically an event to raise funds for the 9th grade class trip. After a break of 2 years, the whole neighborhood seemed to have been there. My son baked a cake and it sold for the price he asked for it.

  8. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I am in desperate need of your help with book recommendations. I have a month of vacation in which I plan to do little other than read, and I have nothing to read. I have an extremely long to-read list, and nothing on it is appealing to me. This is the worst possible timing for a reading block to strike me!

    Anyone who has a sense of my tastes from the weekly recommendations I make here: help! (Everyone else: literary-ish fiction, epic family dramas, absorbing plots, interesting characters, excellent writing, occasional dark humor without veering into the absurd. Sadly I cannot usually get into fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or suspense/thrillers, and right now I only want fiction.) Bonus points if it’s not terribly heavy — I am in in need of escapism — but I will take all recommendations.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Maybe “These is My Words” by Nancy Turner? Pioneer woman’s fictional diary based on the author’s family. It was one of my mom’s favorite books and I remember really loving it when I read it, too.

      Everything else I could think of is stuff I think I read based on your recommendations!

      1. BunnyWatsonToo*

        Agree with this. One of my all-time favorite books. If you like it, there are 2 sequels, but they didn’t grab me and pull me in like These is My Words.

    2. 2QS*

      (With the disclaimer that you may have read some of these!)

      Lost Geography by Charlotte Bacon
      Salt Dancers by Ursula Hegi
      The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
      Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara
      Impossible by Sarah Lotz
      Throwaway Daughter by Ting-Xing Ye

      Pretty much anything by Kate Morton, Stewart O’Nan, or Nancy Clark. Maybe Anne Tyler and/or Anita Diamant?

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        +1 on Impossible. It’s so good. Utterly charming and a unique premise with believable and relatable characters.

    3. Bluebell*

      Did you read Iona Iversons Rules for Commuting yet? I thought it was definitely in line with other books you’ve recommended. Anything by Abbi Waxman scratches the funny domestic drama itch for me. The Daughter of Dr Moreau by Silvia Moreno Garcia has a splash of fantasy in it, but it’s in Colonial Mexico and the characters are so interesting. Sankofa is a fascinating novel where a Black woman travels to explore the history of her African father, and learns more than she expected. And of course, any Laurie Colwin novels, if you haven’t read them yet, especially Happy all the Time. I hope that this thread ends up giving you lots of options!

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        You got to Colwin before I did. “Happy All The Time” is one of my all-time favorite books.

        1. Bluebell*

          I love her fiction and her nonfiction too. It’s the right time of year for Nantucket Cranberry Pie.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      I just finished Any Where You Run by Wanda Morris and loved it. It’s a mix of thriller, historical fiction and social justice. It was different, fast paced and engaging.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      The Other Mother by Rachel M Harper
      A boy raised by a single mother in Miami goes the the New England college his mother (and his father) went to in order to discover the other side of his family.

      The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
      A once promising author steals a too good to not be a best seller from a jerk of a MFA creative writing student.

    6. Lore*

      I am probably going to recommend things I got from your recommendations! The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk is charming. If you liked A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Candy House is wonderful, but if you didn’t like the first you probably won’t like this one either. Lauren Geoff’s Matrix, if historical fiction works for you. The Verifiers by Jane Pek is suspense-adjacent but that’s not really what it’s about. If you like a ballet novel, Erin Kelly’s Watch Her Fall is really fun.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        LOVED Matrix and I don’t usually get into historical fiction. Could not put it down.

    7. IGoOnAnonAnonAnon*

      Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev
      Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
      Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
      Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
      Longbourn by Jo Baker (old but maybe you haven’t yet read it)
      A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
      The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia

      Maybe something here will work/fit?

    8. CJ*

      I have read two books by Emily Henry this year that you haven’t recommended yet (I think): Book Lovers and Beach Read. I loved both, but since you love to read as well, I would start with Book Lovers. Both are romantic but not in a sappy way and they are a light read but still satisfying.
      I also absolutely loved The Other Bennet Sister by Bernice Hadlow. It is the story of Mary told from her point of view and how she gradually finds happiness and just delightful. Probably best if you love Pride and Predudice, but I think you could also enjoy it if you don’t.
      The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams was also really lovely. It tells the story of how the first English dictionary was made, seen through the eyes of the daughter of one of the editors, who collects words that did not make it into the dictionary (a lot of ‘bad’ words or words mostly used by women). Some reflection on language and documented language tends to be shaped by those with more power (but nothing too heavy).
      Disclaimer: I checked your 2019 to 2021 book recommendation lists, but I may have gotten some of these from you in 2022.

    9. SG*

      Have you ever read The Shark Dialogues? Kind of reminded me of The Stone Diaries, but different. Both are about generations of women in the same family, and both are great and very engaging!

    10. Forgotten username*

      Celeste Ng, if you haven’t read her before (her third book came out this year and I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read her first two and they seem solidly in your wheelhouse).

      An oldie but goodie: Leah Hager Cohen’s The Grief of Others (not hugely heavy but does deal with loss obviously, but beautifully written and satisfying).

      Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club books if you haven’t read them. Mysteries, not gory, wonderful characters and you just feel comforted by spending time with them. Two weeks after I finished the latest book, I started rereading it because I missed the characters.

      I feel like you also read children’s chapter books? but not sure if I’m remembering correctly. If you do, Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee is terrific, a quick read, and the book I wish I’d had growing up. It’s heartwarming without being treacly or unrealistic. If you do read children’s books, I also highly recommend The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo which I completely adored and need to reread soon. It’s funny and feminist.

    11. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Too close to the falls by Catherine Gildiner – her memoir- born in the 1950s by Niagara Falls, Catherine was so very lively and bright that when she was 4 years old the local doctor prescribed a full time job after school- so she began working in her father’s pharmacy and helping with medication deliveries amongst her other duties. It’s a snapshot of 1950s idiosyncrasies in a small town. She writes very engagingly from the viewpoint of being a child, while also enabling the reader to see under the surface into the complexities of the adults’ lives around her. It covers the years until her teens – she later became a psychologist.

      1. Fiction Reader*

        I loved Too Close to the Falls! The sequel, After The Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties is good too – I just read it last summer.

    12. MassChick*

      Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon (NPS Park Ranger) series. Oh wait..no suspense ..
      I would recommend trying Octavia Butler’s Kindred..though her genre is technically SciFi this book is more about antebellum history.. it’s magnificent.

    13. Poinsettia Flames*

      Have you read Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo? It was my favorite read of 2022 and I can’t wait to explore more of her books.

      Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander. The story of a disfunctional family who are Cannibal Americans and some of them are less keen on keeping their traditions alive than others, namely the narcisistic mom whose last wish is to be eaten.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo was a hit with my book club a few years ago. I second this recommendation.

    14. The teapots are on fire*

      Miss Manners once recommended the Eustace Diamonds, which I did enjoy. Anthony Trollope was a contemporary of Jane Austen. A bit literary and perhaps a bit catty. I admit I read it years ago.

      1. Jessica*

        Trollope is actually Victorian, a contemporary of Dickens rather than Austen. But an excellent suggestion! While The Eustace Diamonds can stand alone, it’s also part of a sequence (the six “Palliser” novels), so you might consider beginning instead with Can You Forgive Her? Trollope also has the virtue of having been extremely prolific, so if you find that you like his work, you’ll really have struck a rich vein of possible reading.

        1. Katy*

          My favorite Trollope books are the Barsetshire series, which gets better as you go along. The last three books are fantastic.

        2. The teapots are on fire*

          Oopsies. Sloppy of me—good to know his correct era. I may go back to the series now.

    15. Rosengilmom*

      Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series? It features dragons (and people) in Napoleonic England so for me it reads as alternative history more than anything else, especially since it’s based on actual history.
      Big plus there’s like 9 in the series, so it could be a lot of reading if it captured your interest.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I bought the first three books and read the first two. It’s a lot like Horatio Hornblower with dragons instead of ships. I like the Hornblower novels (read the whole series about three times) but did not finish the third Temeraire book. Not bad, I just found the characters getting more bland rather than developed over time, if I remember (it’s been a few years).

        1. allathian*

          I might add Horatio Hornblower to the list. Admittedly I’ve only read the first one, and that was a while ago, but I did like it. I tend to read mainly sci-fi, fantasy, and crime fiction, so I rarely have anything to recommend for Alison because our reading preferences are so different.

    16. Sage*

      Maggie O’farrell – Hamnet: the Marriage Portrait
      Kamila Shansie – Home Fire
      Elif Shafak – three daughters of Eve; the island of missing trees
      Brit Bennett: the mothers; the vanishing half

      (these don’t really meet the not very heavy criterion!)

    17. philmar*

      Anything Kate Atkinson, but particularly Life After Life or A God in Ruins or Shrines of Gaiety (which just came out). Her Jackson Brodie books are mysteries but not thrillers and also excellent.

      1. Bebe*

        Life After Life and Behind the Scenes at the Museum are my favorites. Still slogging through Shrines of Ecstasy…it’s ok, but is not living up to my expectations.

    18. Still*

      Maybe That Summer? The Goodreads description is quite good and without major spoilers, I’ll link it in the reply.

    19. Indisch blau*

      “Saying Grace” and “Five Fortunes” by Beth Gutcheon. These are old, but maybe so old that you don’t know them.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        My favorite of hers is “Domestic Pleasures” which is definitely an epic family saga with compelling characters and is very well-written, so it hits most of Alison’s must-haves.

    20. Irish Teacher*

      How about Patricia Scanlan? She’s not really literary or anything, but she does rather gentle family sagas. Usually starts with a bunch of girls in their teens or preteens and follows them into their adult lives, often including stuff like sibling conflict or parents who are very disapproving. “Promises, Promises” is about a young woman in 1960s Ireland who gets pregnant by a guy who has no intention of marrying her and whose mother is very disapproving and her brother is married to this really snobby girl from a well-off family and the mother is scandalised that her daughter is shaming her before her daughter-in-law’s family. That sort of thing.

      Emma Donoghue’s “Haven” is pretty good too. It’s about monks in 7th century Ireland setting off for a remote island.

      If you like books about teens, two of my favourites are “Prep” by Curtis Sittenfeld and “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell. In case you aren’t familiar with these, “Prep” is about a girl from a fairly normal middle-class family who gets a scholarship to a posh boarding school and being 14, feels self-conscious about having different experiences, etc to her classmates. She is very much an unreliable narrator. “None of the boys will date me because I’m not rich enough for them,” while she mentions some of the schools “cool guys” dating other scholarship girls for example or she insists any time somebody doesn’t include her or dislikes her, it’s because she’s on a scholarship and they all know, yet at the end, somebody she is fairly close to mentions that they never knew and the people she is talking about judging her for it do not know her anywhere near as well. That sort of thing. It’s all very reminiscent and really well written.

      Fangirl is about twins starting college. Their mother left the family when they were little and their father has mental health problems and the book is basically about their adapting to college life while also coming to terms with the difficulties in their background and negotiating family issues. The mother reappears at one point and the two girls are very much in disagreement about whether or not to reestablish a relationship. It’s billed as a teenage romance, but really, the romance is a fairly small part of the book and I wouldn’t even consider it a subplot.

      If you like cosy mysteries, then Agatha Christie is an awesome choice.

    21. Yoli*

      I just finished and enjoyed On The Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. It’s about a woman trying to set her three daughters up for a big break as a singing trio. Set in SF’s Fillmore district in the 50s (there’s a gentrification subplot).

      1. New Person*

        The Weird Sisters—Eleanor Brown
        The Samurai’s Garden—Gail Tsukiyama

        Mysteries with excellent writing: P.D. James, early Dick Francis

    22. AY*

      Two big, sweeping tomes really captured me this year: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead and The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois by Honoree Fannone Jeffers.

      The former is about a girl in Montana in the early to mid twentieth century who wants to be a pilot. There’s bootlegging, war, love affairs, Hollywood, a tragic flight to Antarctica, a disastrous marriage. It’s completely absorbing and magnificently written.

      The latter is a rich and layered family epic about a Black family in America. It includes a fairly devastating section on drug addiction, so tread carefully there if you need to. It’s so fleet on its feet that you won’t believe it’s nearly 1000 pages when you’re done.

    23. J C Books*

      Mitford Series by Jan Karon is totally relaxing. The author’s word choices and descriptions are really creative.

      It’s easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable. Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa sho moves in and won’t go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that’s sixty years old. Suddenly, father Tim gets more than he bargained for. And readers get a rich, provincial comedy in which mysteries and miracles abound.

      1. My Cat's Humsn*

        Seconding the Mitford series. (Good summary!) Characters are likeable and grow as the years progress. Bonus is if you read and like the first one, there are about 12 in the series!

    24. FashionablyEvil*

      Have you read the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers? The characterization and plots are so so good and are not the thriller types.

      Also, Circe or Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

    25. Falling Diphthong*

      Tepper Isn’t Going Out Today, by Calvin Trillin. About alternate side of the street parking in NYC. (Really.)

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        That book is HILARIOUS. And if I remember correctly, I learned about it through one of Alison’s past book recommendations.

    26. Chauncy Gardener*

      Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
      The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
      The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
      All of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael books. SO well written, murder mysteries but always with a happy ending
      The Switch by Beth O’Leary
      The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
      Not fiction, but belly laugh out loud funny in parts – The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

      1. SarahKay*

        Terribly late commenting, but I had to second the rec for Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael books.
        BUT: the first book in the series is kind of slow and not an ideal entry point. I always share my Mum’s recommendation which is to start with the second book: “One Corpse Too Many”.
        You don’t miss anything by not having read the first (in fact most them will stand alone) and the second is far more engaging. It’s one of my top ten favourite books and re-reads with some lovely characters in it and some incredibly satisfying moments. Finally it has a gripping climax that I got caught up reading on the bus home. The bus having reached my bus-stop, I sat down at the stop to finish it there and then as I couldn’t bear to wait the five minutes it’d have taken me to walk home before I found out what happened.

    27. Dubhthaigh*

      If You See Him, Let Me Know​, By Todd London. They synopsis on the back cover:

      It’s August 1974, the eve of Nixon’s resignation. Jerry Rosen is facing prison for a messy, white-collar crime. Before sentencing, he has to tell his son Philip, a teenager at a theater camp in the Midwest. To the suburban kids at Friedkin camp, history is a game of dress-up. Tragic world events get retold as stage musicals–World War II as South Pacific, the holocaust as Fiddler on the Roof. Anne Frank is a role to play–Philip’s friend Kathy Klein plays it to the hilt. For Jerry, who served as an army medic in Germany, and for the camp’s compassionate matriarch Lila Sahlins, the past can’t be sung away. Jerry’s confession unearths secrets that will change the course of Philip’s life and trigger a pair of haunting disappearances. A stunning novel set at the crossroads between two generations–one marked by what it witnessed, the other by what it missed.

    28. Jay (no, the other one)*

      “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks, although it may be too heavy. It’s set in a small English village during the time of the Black Death. So maybe not – but it’s so gorgeous I had to put it on the list.

      And on the other end of the spectrum, “One Day in December” by Josie Silver. Picked it up in an airport and absolutely loved it. Young woman falls in love with a man she sees through a bus window in Christmastime London. Complications ensue and it’s a good ride through the ups and downs.

      1. London Calling*

        *Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks, although it may be too heavy. It’s set in a small English village during the time of the Black Death. So maybe not – but it’s so gorgeous I had to put it on the list*

        And a very unexpected and beautiful ending.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Oh, yes. I also loved “March” by Brooks and have another of hers on my physical TBR pile upstairs.

    29. No Name Yet*

      Hm, you don’t say much either way about mystery, but right now I’m re-reading the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas. It’s a version of ‘what if Sherlock Holmes were a woman,’ and takes place in the 1800s, so deals with the fact that a woman with those skills couldn’t use them as directly as a man could at that time/place. Definitely engrossing, can be a little heavy at times?

    30. Old and Don’t Care*

      Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Ofill. Literary-ish fiction told in mini-vignettes, with some dark and less-dark humor. I love this book so much. I liked but did not love her next book Weather, but some critic types liked it better.

    31. GoryDetails*

      If you like short stories, I’d strongly recommend BINOCULAR VISION by Edith Pearlman – perhaps my favorite non-genre-fiction book of the year. Her stories range from small domestic incidents to more wide-ranging plots – there’s even a handful of stories featuring the same character, a late-middle-age woman working with displaced persons during and after WWII – and with simply marvelous language. (I read that one as my carrying-around book, which let me savor a story or three at a time instead of my usual binge-reading.)

    32. Ali*

      I really love T. Kingfisher (a pen name for Ursula Vernon.) Most of her stuff is fantasy, but lately she has been getting into horror, so if you are in a horror mood, then “What Moves the Dead,” “The Hollow Places,” and “The Twisted Ones” (none are related, all stand-alone) might be interesting. All of these are inspired by older works of horror (the first is inspired by Poe) but you don’t have to have read the original work to follow the details or catch any nuance, they are just jumping-off points for her imagination.

      I didn’t used to be into horror, but weirdly the pandemic gave me a heightened tolerance for it.

    33. nobadcats*

      If you haven’t read the Thursday Next series, by Jasper Fforde, please try it. Lots of puns, literary references, and escapist, madcap detective work. Start with “The Eyre Affair,” and see if it’s up your alley. I’m currently re-reading the last book I read in the series because the two final books in the series came out when I wasn’t paying attention.

    34. Qwerty*

      Have you read Phantom of the Opera? It’s surprisingly easy to read and not as heavy as the movie/opera version. I blinked and found myself nearly halfway through it despite not normally liking the classics. To be fair, I didn’t bother trying to understand the french names and just gave the characters mental nicknames, which may have helped.

    35. Bebe*

      Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico – it’s a nice book about nice people doing nice things for one another. It was written by an Englishman in the 1950s, so there are times where the tone is, shall we say, outdated. But if you can get past that, it’s a very sweet story. An English house cleaner saves up money to go to Paris to buy a couture Dior gown. (The movie on Prime updates all of the things that could be problematic now, but also changes certain elements of the story that didn’t need to be changed).

      Not fiction, but I’ve been listening to Rob Lowe’s first memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, on Audible, and it is really good. He reads it, which I love because I love his voice, and he tells a good story.

      If you haven’t read the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire, I highly recommend it – or any of his books re-telling fairy tales from the perspective of other characters. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister was particularly good!

      1. Pennyworth*

        Paul Gallico was a great writer. Jennie is about a little boy who becomes a cat, and the way PG writes about life from a cat’s perspective is extraordinary. He also wrote a children’s novel called the Man Who Was Magic, about a genuine magician who tries to succeed in the city of ”magicians”.

    36. Fellow Traveller*

      Some of my favorite books in recent years:
      – A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke, about an actor making his Broadway debut while his high profile marriage implodes. (Maybe slightly autobiographical????)
      – Harlem Shuffle
      -Pachinko
      – The Great Believers

    37. Crazy Plant Lady*

      Killers of a Certain Age. I devoured this book. The tone is similar to Hench (which I read and loved based on your recommendation), but this is a very, very different story. I laughed out loud so many times.

      A few others that you might enjoy: Remarkably Bright Creatures, Lessons in Chemistry, Olga Dies Dreaming, The Lincoln Highway, My Lady Jane, and the Firekeeper’s Daughter. All of these have a bit of levity to them but also interesting characters, absorbing plots, and excellent writing.

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        We seem to have the same taste! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Remarkably Bright Creatures. Olga Dies Dreaming is another book I’ve recommended to many, as is Fire-Keeper’s Daughter.

    38. marvin*

      French Exit by Patrick DeWitt — a comedy of manners about a wealthy, codependent mother and adult son who lose everything and have to relocate to Paris

      Sourdough by Robin Sloan — a very sweet story about dropping out of the tech industry to bake quasi-sentient bread. Good comfort read

      The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley — a beautiful story about a former piano player in Victorian London who befriends a Japanese watchmaker under mysterious circumstances after a bombing. Features a clockwork octopus and cameos from Gilbert and Sullivan and lovely writing

      Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore — an orphaned umbrella maker is invited to a sprawling manor house and has to navigate a series of family secrets and mysteries, each one contained in a different area of the house and a different plot genre. This one may be too genre-y for you (it has many genres!) but since you liked The House in the Cerulean Sea, I thought you might like this too. I found it a great escapist read

      The Secret History by Donna Tartt — if there is any chance you haven’t read this yet, it’s one of my all time favourite books. A murder mystery in reverse set in an elite liberal arts college featuring a group of classics students. Beautifully written like all of Donna Tartt’s books, but to me there is something particularly haunting and magical about this one

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

        Ooh, yeah — someone gave me *Watchmaker of Filigree Street*, and while I was initially doubtful, I wound up loving it!

        1. marvin*

          Me too! It has such a slow start that it took a while to get into, but very worth it in the end. I like all of Natasha Pulley’s books a lot, but I think it’s best to read this one first.

    39. Pieforbreakfast*

      Older, but they’ve stuck with me:
      “Goodbye Vitamin” Rachel Khong
      “Plague of Doves” Louise Erdich
      “Saints For All Occasions” J. Courtney Sullivan
      “Lamb” Christopher Moore, or any book by this guy really.

    40. Longtime Lurker*

      Science fiction and young adult but the KarmaCorps series by Audrey Faye – some serious girl power and tons of heart. Love it!

    41. FalafalBella*

      Anything written by Alison Pataki or Fiona Davis
      Between Two Kingdoms by S. Jaouad
      The Lat Dance of the Debutante by J. Kelly
      The Manhattan Girls Gil Paul
      Ike and Kay by Abbi Waxman
      The Perfume Collector by l. Tessaro

    42. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you so much for all of these recommendations! There’s a lot here that I’ve already read but also a lot that I haven’t. If I can’t get over my reading hump with something from this list, then all hope is lost to me.

      Thank you!

    43. Wilde*

      So glad you asked because our tastes are similar and I’m always looking for something new. Below are my recommendations, the first two are my top picks for 2022.

      Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb (a therapist shares a year of her life as she goes through therapy for a break up.)
      The Crane Wife, CJ Hauser (similar to the Ann Patchett essays you recommended recently, but I liked this more)
      The Switch, Beth OLeary (English granddaughter and grandmother trade city/country lives for a few months)
      The Pick-Up, Fiona Harris and Mike McLeish (Intersecting lives of families with kids at school together)
      Dog Days, Ericka Waller (Delightful romcom that follows all the predictable tropes)

    44. Tex*

      Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and she won a Booker for each of them. There is a third one in the series, The Mirror and the Light, but it didn’t quite hit the same way.

    45. WithAnE*

      Oooh! Read Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. It’s about an octopus! it’s lovely and well-written and just a wonderful book. One of my absolute favourites from the past year.

    46. Fiction Reader*

      On the light and charming side: The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson.
      YA: The Hired Girl by Amy Lynn Schlizt – recommended on a weekend thread and I loved it.
      Tech bro gone wild: Questland by Carrie Vaughn
      Wonderful narrator: How Lucky by Will Leitch
      Britain, WWII, spies: A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver
      Suspense and character: American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
      Classic good guy who gets it done: Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute

      1. anonymous reading glasses*

        I like reading memoirs by interesting/funny people. Not exactly fiction, but most include interesting stories from their lives. Past memoirs I’ve enjoyed are Alex Trebek, Michael J Fox, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Newhart, and Tina Fey. Maybe find ones for people you admire?

    47. Emma2*

      I would highly recommend Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield. The title makes it sound either stuffy or silly, but it a closely observed and very funny book that was originally published in serialised form in a feminist magazine beginning in 1929.
      The titular character is struggling to keep up appearances on an inadequate income, has an unsociable husband, and her arch nemesis is the judgemental wife of her husband’s employer. It is not an explicitly feminist book but there is a feminist undercurrent in the observation of women’s lives. The broader world peeks in vaguely at the margins, but the story is very much focused on every day life. It is sufficiently literary to be published as a Penguin Modern Classic, and be written about in the Times Literary Supplement, but light enough to be a beach read.
      Ex “ Do I know, she asks, how very late it is for indoor bulbs? September, really, or even October, is the time. Do I know that the only really reliable firm for hyacinths is Somebody of Haarlem? Cannot catch the name of the firm, which is Dutch, but reply Yes, I do know, but think it my duty to buy Empire products. Feel at the time, and still think, that this is an excellent reply. Unfortunately Vicky comes into the drawing-room later and says: “O Mummie, are those the bulbs we got at Woolworths?””

    48. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Historical murder mystery with a side of slapstick?
      Saturnalia, by Lindsey Davis. Set in the Roman empire. Marcus Didius Falco investigates a murder while around him family & countrymen start celebrating a season of gifts & misrule.

    49. NaoNao*

      If you’ve never read “The Shell Seekers” by Rosamund Pilcher you are in for a wonderful treat. Family saga, historical fiction, delightful setting, overall low stakes/low drama, total escapism.


      An instant bestseller when it was first published, The Shell Seekers is an enduring classic which has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. A novel of connection, it is the story of one family—mothers and daughters, husbands and lovers—and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. This magical novel—the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while—is the perfect read, whether you are returning to it again, or opening the cover for the first time.

      At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather’s work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer…and it lies in her heart”

      Her other books are wonderful as well.

      1. allathian*

        I had a Pilcher phase in my late teens to early 20s, and I probably read all of them. I was 15 when The Shell Seekers came out.

    50. Jules the First*

      I just finished the Jane Austen Project which was a laugh and exactly what I needed to read sat in A&E waiting for xrays

    51. Panda (she/her)*

      I am just finishing Shantaram – it is twisty, intriguing, uplifting and wonderfully written. And very long! Would highly recommend.

    52. Quinalla*

      Among Others by Jo Walton

      It’s light/urban fantasy (similar to The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker that I know you read as I read it at your rec). And it is really, really good and sort of a love letter to a bunch of other literature!

    53. spcepickle*

      I worry my two most recent reads fall into your can’t get into list-
      Hail Mary by Andy Weir – While maybe sci-fi it is set in current time with current technology. I really like the characters. Eva Stratt is a women given ultimate authority by all the worlds government is a take on leadership I don’t often read.

      All Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman – YA, Hunger Games with magic. Family drama galore.

      One of my all time favorites is the Rook by Daniel O’Malley – Also has a touch of super natural to it. The main character wakes up in a rain soaked field with no memory and must figure out who she is!

  9. Dark Macadamia*

    Looking for *light* facial moisturizer with sun protection…

    The only type I’ve ever really liked was CeraVe Ultra Light and it seems to have been discontinued or marked up – I used to find it at Target, Amazon Prime, or my local drugstore and now it’s only listed at Ulta and Amazon third parties for twice the cost. Not a fan of CeraVe’s regular AM moisturizer – I don’t like feeling like there’s stuff on my face. Any ideas?

    1. Sunflower*

      I really like Neutrogena Hydroboost line. I’ve been using Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer SPF 50. Their water gel is great too but I believe the products differ in levels of SPF.

    2. Ranon*

      I like Acure Radically Rejuvenating SPF day cream, it’s lighter on the face than Cerave’s regular AM SPF moisturizer to me.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I like the sensitive skin version of this, and the store brand formulas at Walmart and Target are identical to the original, as far as I can tell. Very light and absorbs almost instantly.

      2. cat socks*

        I was also going to recommend Oil of Olay. It absorbs into my skin easily and doesn’t feel heavy.

      3. Cookie*

        I’ve been using the same thing for years. Nice and light, sinks right in, and it comes in unscented, which is really important to me. If you’re a Costco member you can sometimes get an enormous two-pack for cheap.

      4. Generic Name*

        Same. This is my “winter” sunscreen. (I live in Denver, so I use a stronger facial sunscreen in the summer)

    3. Gatomon*

      Cetaphil Oil Absorbing moisturizer? Might only be of interest if you have oily skin, but it’s very lightweight and effective. SPF 30. Not the cheapest but it should be available at Target.

      My skin is oily and angry (still fighting acne and I also have seborrheic dermatitis) and this works really well for me.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        This actually sounds perfect for me, I have oily skin and have been dealing with horrible acne recently. Thanks!

      2. Quinalla*

        Yeah I like Cetaphil daily facial moisturizer with SPF, works well on my sensitive skin and is one of the brands my derm recommends.

    4. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Seconding the Neutrogena Hydroboost line! I haven’t tried the specific one Sunflower mentioned but use a number of products from that line especially because I also don’t like the feeling of stuff on my face and these products are absorbed into my skin very quickly.

    5. philmar*

      I would go to Ulta or Sephora and ask for recommendations. That’s how I learned about Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench SPF 45 which is so lightweight it doesn’t feel like you have anything on at all. They’ll give you samples too if you ask. Also there are plenty of sampler packages, especially this time of year. I like to pick those up and experiment before committing to a full size bottle.

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      Avene Hydrance Hydrating Emulsion is a great lightweight moisturiser with SPF. It works wonders on sensitive skin. They also do a richer formulation, which is great in winter. It isn’t cheap, but is often on special offer.
      I also love Vitamin E Moisture Protect Emulsion by the Body Shop (also has SPF). It’s probably too lightweight to use alone as as a moisturiser, so I use it under moisturiser for additional sun protection.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      Chantecaille Just Skin made with rosewater. It’s expensive but you will pry it from my cold dead hands.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      LaRoche Posay Double Repair Facial Moisturizer. My daughter put me onto this–it’s SPF 15 and not at all gooey. Target etc should have.

    9. Fit Farmer*

      Cetaphil “Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion” has been very unobtrusive for me, disappears immediately, made for faces, small expensive-seeming bottle but only the tiniest bit gets used each time. If I remember right there were several versions of it that had sunblock of various strengths.

    10. Dino*

      Biore Aqua Rich, 50SPF in either the Japanese or Korean packaging. I buy it through Amazon from the same vendor I’ve been getting it for almost a decade now. This actually replaced my moisturizer, it’s so light and hydrating.

    11. anonymous reading glasses*

      I haven’t tried that one, but like other CeraVe ones. If you have a healthcare FSA you can usually use it to pay for sunscreen. My old non chain local pharmacy used to have their products and Laroche posay etc on sale sometimes, too.

    12. Been There*

      I really like the Isntree watery sun gel. It moisturises well, absorbs quickly without leaving a white cast and doesn’t pill.

  10. WoodswomanWrites*

    Alison, I was so amused by the video of Wallace that I ended up watching all of the videos in your account. Lovely kitty videos, and I appreciated the family video with a perfect soundtrack. Was that you as one of the toddlers with your parents? Thanks so much for these, really a joy to watch.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That baby crawling into the ocean at the end, seemingly unsupervised? I wasn’t born yet in any of this footage; that’s my sister (who somehow did survive the perilous beach adventure). You just inspired me to watch some of the videos in that account, some of which I haven’t watched in years — a very enjoyable trip down cat memory lane!

      1. Pennyworth*

        I just loved A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I wouldn’t have read it without a friend’s recommendation, and I’m so glad I did. The life of a Russian Count under house arrest for decades in the Hotel Metropole in Moscow from 1922 doesn’t seem promising material for a novel, but I found it rich and wonderful.

        I also enjoyed the novels of Emily St John Mandel which were recommended in the weekend open thread earlier this year – Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel and Sea of Tranquility. Her facility for weaving multiple strands of narrative together across multiple books (they stand alone just fine) and bringing them to a neat conclusion is very satisfying. Again, these were books I probably wouldn’t have known about without AAM. Thank you!.

    2. Anonymous Cat*

      Aww, Olive broke her bag!! I thought she wanted to climb back in but couldn’t figure out how!

    3. GoryDetails*

      I enjoyed the cat/bag video – but did worry about those handles; I always cut the handles of my bags so the cats don’t get their heads caught in them. (This, after a mad dash to rescue a panicked cat-with-bag-attached many years ago!)

      My ginger cat will dive into paper bags at full speed from across the room, often breaking right through the bottom – and then gets huffy at me because his new toy doesn’t work properly anymore…

    4. osmoglossum*

      I love how Olive and Eve would start gently grooming each other and end up tussling — they’re hilarious. And Olive fetching made my heart explode — I so want to hug her.

  11. SG*

    Have you ever read The Shark Dialogues? Kind of reminded me of The Stone Diaries, but different. Both are about generations of women in the same family, and both are great and very engaging!

  12. Admiral Thrown Rocks the Blue*

    Removed. This is the second time I’ve had to remove a post of yours for soliciting money; I will need to block your posts if it happens again so please respect this rule. – Alison

  13. Trippychick*

    I’m growing out my gray hair and it’s so much drier than my hair used to be! Any recommendations for shampoo, conditioner, etc. for gray hair? I see a lot about purple shampoo but not sure that helps with the dryness.

    1. Bluebell*

      I’ve tried several different purple shampoo and conditioner brands in the past 4 years. Right now I’m using John Frieda, which I like. Acure was organic but definitely drying. L’Oreal was fine, but the conditioner could have been better. I liked Theorie a lot, but Bed Bath & Beyond stopped carrying it.

    2. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I’d recommend hair oil.
      It basically seals the moisture in the hair without making your hair look oily (if you don’t overdo using it). And I like it because it can be used whenever you need it instead of having to use it for a wash and hoping for good results once the hair is dry. It’s how I got my frizzy, dry hair way more shiny and soft. It’s also very efficient – I use a 1&1/2 pea-sized dollop for my longer than waist length hair.
      Also what probably _not_ to do: wash hair daily, use shampoo intended for oily hair, often use a hair dryer. But those just as an aside in case you hadn’t thought of them.

        1. nobadcats*

          I use Kaleidoscope Miracle Oil in the dropper and leave-in conditioner spray. It’s wonderful.

          iluvcolors.com

        2. Michaele G Burris*

          Argan oil, which is from Morocco. There are several brands,and you can probably pick it up the the grocery store. I am 75, so definitely grey, and I had waist length hair until 3 months ago. My daughter frog-marched me to her beautician a few years ago and got me to use it.
          Now that I have very short hair I daily use a type of argan oil that is a spray. This bottle suggests three or four squirts, which is a huge joke as my hair is extremely thick. One beautician told me that I was supposed to be twins, but only the hair got duplicated.

    3. Today’s the day*

      I switched to washing my hair 2x per week per online input. It takes a few weeks to get used to but it helps. Highly recommend. My hair looks nicer than it ever has.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Hard agree with the washing two times per week. It’s amazing how much drier my hair is as I age.
        I am having great luck using the Keratin Blondeshell purple shampoo and conditioner. I’m not blonde, but going white and it keeps the brassiness out of my hair as well as not drying it out

    4. Dwight Schrute*

      In my experience purple shampoo and conditioner is very drying and I wouldn’t recommend it for dry hair. I’ve been using a leave in conditioner followed by Amla jasmine hair oil and it’s made my hair much softer!

    5. StellaBella*

      I use mayonnaise and olive oil mixed and leave it in for 30 min about once a month (under a plastic hair cover). then wash it out with a gentle baby shampoo to not dry it out, and I never blow my hair dry

    6. DistantAudacity*

      Accept the necessity of hair masks! I do a hydrating one once a week (generally one from a “good” supermarket brand), and it really helps.

      For conditioner I am currently using an Olaplex one – I’ve found that my hair needs the more creamy stuff.

      Someone mentioned hair oil – that can also be used in place of a hair mask, but generally on dry outer parts and roots, and then shampoo’ed out. Look for ones marked as suitable for hair. I made the mistake of also rubbing lots towards the scalp – took about three shampoos to get out…
      Lightweight hair oil can also be used for styling; use very small amounts evenly pulled through the hair with your hands (styling is where you don’t want too much!)

    7. PhyllisB*

      I tried using the shampoo for gray/silver hair, and it turned my hair a lovely shade of lavender. Not exactly the look I was going for.

    8. Missing person*

      I’ve tried multiple purple shampoos and they all made my hair drier than it started. Purple conditioner, on the other hand…

      “L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Brass Toning Purple Conditioner for Blonde, Bleached, Silver, or Brown Highlighted Hair” is my go-to conditioner. It is super hydrating without being heavy and it smells divine. It tones my grey and natural (former) color together so they blend better.

      The only thing to be aware of is accidently turning your ears purple. It washes off, but sometimes I miss and have a purple ear. It doesn’t stain my grout.

    9. RLC*

      My stylist warned me about the drying nature of all purple shampoos and suggested I only use it for every third shampoo, using a regular shampoo the rest of the time. I’ve found the Olaplex purple to be the least drying of those I’ve tried. I also use a leave in conditioner. Be aware that some leave-ins and oils have a distinct brown/gold tint to them which could show on light grey hair; the ones designed for blondes don’t present this risk.

    10. Chaordic One*

      I really like Pantene conditioner. (I find Pantene shampoos to be a bit drying, but their conditioner is quite good.) I usually use a very gentle shampoo, such as Neutrogena, and then the Pantene conditioner. You might also consider diluting whatever shampoo you are using if you find it drying. Sometimes that helps, sometimes it doesn’t.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Yes to Pantene! I find Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek conditioner works great on my straw-like hair. The bottle states that it has intense conditioner, and I really noticed a difference in my hair.

    11. Girasol*

      Isn’t purple shampoo supposed to do what bluing used to do for bed sheets: over-dye any yellowness with a faintly bluish color for a whiter white? My hairdresser keeps suggesting it but I don’t see what’s wrong with a gold tinge. (I would have given anything as a teen to be platinum blond!) I just use a gentle shampoo and VO5 conditioner, and also have a short-ish haircut so dry ends don’t get much chance to form.

      1. Generic Name*

        I think if you have short hair, it doesn’t matter so much, but I see a lot of ladies in my area (hard, iron-rich water) with hair that is very noticeably yellow on the ends. Like a different shade than the 4 inches near the roots. If you don’t care, you don’t care, though. :)

    12. Hotdog not dog*

      I go with the classic Clairol Shimmer Lights once a week. The rest of the week I use a moisturizing shampoo (currently Herbal Essences) and conditioner, but I only wash it every 2 to 3 days. I find that my hair is thicker and healthier than it ever was when I used to color it.

  14. AlexandriaVictoria*

    It’s been over a decade since I’ve had a real “get away from it all and relax” vacation, and I think it’s time! I’m looking at all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. Does anyone have a resort to recommend? Any to avoid? I’ll also be traveling solo (I’m a woman) and have mobility issues (will need to rent a scooter). I would love to hear from you if you fit either of those demographics.

    1. Doctor is In*

      Iberostar Grande. Just south of Cancun. They have an adults only section. Five nice restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, nice beach, excellent fitness center, tennis courts, nice golf course and practice facility. We have been there many times, going back in January. You can get private transportation from the airport instead of a big van, takes less than an hour.

      1. Doctor is In*

        Apologize that I didn’t read your whole post. The place has wide hallways and I believe would be mobility accessible. Nice elevators in all buildings.

    2. Russian in Texas*

      Secrets Maroma Riviera Maya is very nice.
      It is about 40 minutes south of Cancun, so buying the transportation option is a must. They’ll pick you up straight from the airport. And you would have to arrange any excursions through the resort, because it’s so secluded.
      I do not know about the scooter, unfortunately.

    3. Noodlehorse*

      We’ve enjoyed Live Aqua. Adults only all inclusive. It’s been a few years since we’ve been but will be returning soon. It’s in the hotel zone; very easy transport between the airport.

    4. Auntie Matter*

      There are a lot of good options! If this is too spammy I won’t get my feelings hurt if it’s deleted, but I own a travel business and would love to help you plan something! Mexican all-inclusive resorts is our secondary specialty (after custom European trips). Feel free to find me by googling Leaping Hound Travel.

  15. Disbelief*

    Daughter’s MIL started guilt texting that they didn’t go there for Thanksgiving – feel so bad for Son in law, I can’t imagine doing that to my kid. This is the first time in 5 years they have been with our family for Thanksgiving.

    Our day was otherwise great. 4 generations, good food, sunny weather

    1. heather*

      You don’t do *that* to your daughter, but I’d bet you do something that drives her up the wall! (No shade, we all do)

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        I feel like parents driving us up a wall for, say, smoking, is much different than emotionally manipulating someone.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I agree. There’s annoying and then there’s control and emotional manipulation. We all do stuff that annoys people. We don’t all try to control others to the point of trying to make them feel guilty for doing anything that doesn’t involve us.

      2. Observer*

        I agree with the others – this is really unfair.

        “I sometimes annoy my kid” is NOT the same as “I try to insure that my kid will never enjoy any activity that centers on me.” That’s what this MIL seems to be doing and it’s really ugly to dismiss that with a blase and off the cuff comparison to just being annoying.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      That’s so sad.
      When my husband and I first got married (first kid on either side to marry), both sets of parents were unyielding in terms of holiday demands on our time. It was ridiculous! So we went away for every.single.holiday until they calmed down/other sibling got married and all parents had to share.

      1. Koifeeder*

        I mean, that sounds like a sound tactic on your end. It’s like how my mom used to confiscate the bionicles until my brother and I could play nicely.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          It worked, but it was so unnecessary. And we were young and starting out and didn’t really have the money to go away but it was the only way to get around this and kind of wake them up. I still feel bad about missing all those holidays with my grandmother though. That was very sad collateral damage, as they say :(

  16. Broken scones*

    Does anyone around here practice jiu jitsu at all? I’m looking for tips on how to improve my hip mobility. I’ve been practicing a few months but before this, I was a couch potato. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. PX*

      Yup, was going to say yoga as well. I occasionally do a different martial art, and our classes usually start with warm up and then at least 10 minutes of guided stretching with many elements from yoga, so its included in the lesson. If your place doesnt do that, definitely look into doing it on your own time!

      1. Broken scones*

        I’ve noticed it depends on who’s teaching. One of my professors always incorporates mobility and stretching in the beginning of our warmups, and I’m looking to do more off the mat. I’m about as flexible as a bench right now lol. I’m surprised at how many people don’t do warm-ups first!

    2. I need a new name...*

      I’d look at things like Yoga & Pilates for complementary training.

      What kind of Jujitsu do you practice, out of interest? I did traditional Japanese (w/ Bushido & weapon work)

      1. Broken scones*

        I’ll look into doing some combo of both. My professor teaches traditional Japanese jiu jitsu. I’ve only been training for 6 months but I love it. I’ve done gi and nogi. I’d love to branch out into other martial arts (esp judo) but baby steps!

  17. Dreaming of daffodils*

    I put my tulip bulbs in the ground a few weeks ago, and I was unpleasantly surprised to find myself extremely sore in the following days. Neck, shoulders, back, legs… I suspect it was using the shovel to turn up the earth before hand troweling holes and planting?

    Any advice on stretches or exercises to build strength so this doesn’t happen again? I will need to be shoveling snow very soon!

    1. Doctor is In*

      General weight training might help. Hand weights? Sworkit is an at home app that you might like, it only uses your body weight.

    2. cat socks*

      In general, I always recommend Fitness Blender for exercise videos. They have lots of free ones, including stretching and strength workouts for all fitness levels.

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        Love Fitness Blender, and I’d even recommend trying a few videos and then spending $10-15 for one of their workout plans, basically a curated list of videos that you can put on their calendar to give you a balanced set of workouts. Magically fixed my annoying upper back pain.

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      Supplement magnesium as well! My back is out so often and magnesium is the only thing that heals me including pilates.

    4. fposte*

      Definitely look at exercises and consider them something to start now, or at least several months before planting. But would say in general any task that involves bending over repeatedly tends to make most humans somewhat sore.

      Other possibilities for the future: break up the planting over a series of days, or don’t bother to turn the earth unless you’re making a brand new bed. I have amended but clayey soil, and I just use a narrow trenching shovel (more force on the blade if it’s narrower) to dig into the soil, open up a hole, and pop a couple of bulbs in, then I reclose the soil over the top.

    5. Jackalope*

      This isn’t answering what you asked, but I discovered bulb planters this year and it made SUCH A DIFFERENCE in having to plant. I would totally recommend them because you can dig the holes standing up and it will pull out the dirt, and depending on your soil will even leave it in roughly one piece, and it’s both so much faster and also not nearly as hard on your body. The only time you have to bend over is when you are actually putting the bulbs in the hole and then stuffing the little tube of dirt on top of them. I’ll post a link to this in a separate comment.

    6. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      Lots of good advice here about overall strength-training that will support your body when gardening season comes back. But…no matter how much you work out, I bet *something* about gardening still makes you sore! I’ve never been more sore in my life than the time I spent most of a day weeding. OMG! At the time, I was running marathons and doing those ridiculous P-90x videos several times a week, but that wiregrass smote me.

    7. Ann Ominous*

      Someone above-thread in the comment right above you recommended a yoga instructor who posts 5-10 min videos targeted to specific issues. Overall strengthening and stretching should help prevent that, and now that you’re sore, could help treat that.

  18. Expiring Cat Memes*

    Question about wallpapering for those who have DIY’ed! Did you find it difficult? Was it a one or two person job? How did you go with fiddly bits around switches, a/c units etc? Any tips to know beforehand?

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Not difficult per se but requires quite a bit of precision. Read the instructions and follow them – there are different kinds of wallpaper and paste. Either the paste goes on the wallpaper and the paper needs to sit and soften for a few minutes, or (a different kind of) paste goes onto the wall.
      The larger the design, the more paper you’ll need for the design to mstch. Some designs are made so that every other strip goes on the wall upside-down; look out for that or the design won’t match.
      Cut the wallpaper a few cm/inches longer than the wall is high and then cut the still-wet paper with a sharp box cutter.
      It can be done by one experienced person but I’d always do it as a pair.

    2. Lynn*

      I found this series of videos to be very very helpful!

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=drcqCH2wv48

      Two people, yes. Ideally not your spouse lol.

      Remove switch covers before you put up the piece that would go over it. You’ll cut them out when the wallpaper is on the wall before it’s dried.

      Also DEFINITY use a plumb-line for your first piece. Walls/ceilings are rarely perfectly square, so you can’t just line up the first piece to the top and assume it’ll hang straight.

      It IS doable! Good luck!

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      If you’re inexperienced, definitely a two-person thing to do.
      Get clean tools, including a stable ladder, and definitely one of those fold-out wallpaper-tables for cutting the wallpaper to size (and possibly putting the paste on it). You _can_ do it on the floor but it gets very tedious and tiring quickly.
      I’ve only ever used wallpaper that had to sit and soften for a few minutes, which means it can be quite soft, so watch out for tearing. The softness helps cut it out around fiddly bits, though, as I always hang the top of the wallpaper right until where the fiddly bit is, and only start cutting right at the (for example) power outlet and around it – so no measuring and cutting out beforehand needed (and thus less risk of miscalculating).
      The wallpaper also stretches a bit when you use paste&wait, which can make it a bit confusing to match up patterns. Generally, for a first time wallpapering I’d go for patternless, as there’s less risk of mistakes and it’s more forgiving.
      Also, calculate more time than you think you need ;D Just to be on the safe side, have time to relax (and work relaxed), and be possibly surprised if it goes more quickly.
      Have fun!

    4. GoryDetails*

      I did several rooms by myself – but I did use vinyl wallpaper, which is less likely to tear and, for me, easier to handle.

      Definitely follow the instructions, including preparing the walls ahead of time. (Heavier wallpapers are more forgiving of slight imperfections, with some textured papers meant specifically to cover bumpier walls, but it does help if the surface is clean and flat.)

      For me the trickiest bit had to do with the pressure I used when smoothing the seams; if you press too hard you can squeeze out too much paste, leaving the edges prone to curling up. But other than that (which can be fixed with a little effort and some spare glue) it went pretty well.

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        To not squeeze out the paste I’ve always used a large flat brush and more of a tapping motion rather than a sweeping one to “press” the wallpaper to the wall. It’s how my mother taught me :)

  19. Anonymous Saturday*

    I have kind of an odd question and don’t want to bum anyone out but really want to know.

    If you’re not happy with your life by middle age, does that mean you’re pretty much doomed to be miserable for the rest of it?

    I’ve struggled with trying to make my life better over the years (and struggled with diagnosed depression for which I take meds), and always kind of assumed things would get better and work out or I’d figure out life better.

    Now I’m late 40s, pretty unhappy with life, and it seems like life is simply not going to improve. In fact it seems that the people with happiness in their futures are already happy and likely to stay that way, and people like me are likely to stay unhappy regardless of what I try.

    I’ve already tried therapy, meds, joining meetup.com, having a pet, and making job changes. I’m as down as ever and feeling like I missed all good opportunities and this is it.

    Do other people feel similar and just no one talks about it?

    I feel guilty even asking these questions because I’m lucky to have a job and to not be in a war zone like the Ukraine. But on the other hand, I have to live with feeling this bad, so I wondered if this is “normal” and just one of those adulting things no one admits to?

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I think it depends on what aspect of your life makes you unhappy. It would probably be different for each person, as would any possible solution and suggestion. I wish the best for you.

    2. Pennyworth*

      I was desperately unhappy in middle age – I’d made a really bad marriage to get away from the awfulness of work (undiagnosed ADHD, pus chronic fatigue Syndrome) and by my late 40s I was severely depressed and had no expectation of things changing or improving. Twenty years later I am much better – I’m not bubbling with happiness but now I have an ex-husband and I’m in control of my life again. Is there anything in your life that makes you particularly unhappy, and could you make a strategy to change it? I think a lot us are much less happy than we appear because there doesn’t seem much point in complaining. As for Ukraine and all the natural disasters happening everywhere, yes I am grateful not to be caught up in them, but that doesn’t mean personal unhappiness is not valid or something to feel guilty about. I hope you can find an escape route to a better place.

    3. Zweisatz*

      Pennyworth’s suggestion sounds good. Also with depression I would definitely recommend to check if you feel over-exerted in any way/tend to take on a lot/feel relaxed after the breaks that you take.

      It can feel like you are already going at a snail’s pace but if your energy stores are low, radical slowing down might be necessary to really get your energy (and following that your mood) back.

      Also daily journaling without a goal can help you hone in on what’s really bothering you. I set myself a word goal (750 in my case) and then just put everything down that goes through my head. It’s not supposed to sound fancy, just get everything out on a page. That can be more helpful than just mulling things over in your head and you might see that themes are emerging that you want to look into.

      1. Jackalope*

        There’s a spiritual practice from St. Ignatius (founder of the Jesuits) called the Examen, where st some point during the day (I prefer at night right before bed) you write down the best and worst parts of your day. As you can hopefully tell from the description, it’s something you can do whether you’re spiritual or not. I did that for a long time and found that it was really helpful in determining long-term patterns; after a few months I could go review my journaling for what made me happy or sad. After that I could try and hang on to more of what was good and drop what was bad (when possible). It definitely helped me look at patterns in my life, including for example realizing that the person I’d been dating had been on the negative side of things every time I wrote about them for the last few months, and having the realization that I needed to end the relationship. Best relationship decision I ever made.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I do think everyone feels this way sometimes: when you’re down it’s because you don’t have anything to look forward to, and no prospect of a cheering episode in your life. That’s something we all need and can’t do without, even though believing that we know our futures is a bit of a fallacy. When I was in one of the happiest, most secure phases of my life I was unknowingly on the brink of disaster and everything in my life: career, finances, relationship, personal philosophies just ended up getting trashed and I was back to scratch on every point. This was not just shocking to me, but to others who thought I led a bit of a charmed life. Then, when I was in that dark after phase, where nothing made sense, everything felt “too late”, and even seeing other people being happy was torture… I would never have believed you if you’d told me it would all work out eventually and that I would be grateful for that time; that I needed a reset and a completely different path even though it was a more difficult and hopeless one. I know this was circumstantial, which isn’t the same as an illness, so it doesn’t replace your medical advice. All I would say is that when life seems too big, take it in small pieces. What would make you happy in the next five minutes, or hour, or day? What’s happening this weekend, rather than the next decade? Not only is that easier to predict, but this weekend might inspire, or affect what happens in next year’s weekends

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

        This is great insight. I too have been in places where it seems like there is nothing that will get better and that I have no real future . . . . and then, things brighten up and good things happen that I would never have dreamed of. I’m trying to hold onto that idea right now, as currently in one of my bleaker phases.

    5. Just Life*

      Yeah, I get you. On paper my life is great, but I have anxiety, insomnia, eating disorder and rarely feel happy. Maybe I need to go back on antidepressants!

    6. Ranon*

      Totally normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to get through or something you might want to change! You might like reading The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 – on average, hard as it is to believe, people become more satisfied/ content with their lives after middle age, middle age is a very common life satisfaction low point.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Came here to say this! I’m 47, my partner is 74, we both agree that the forties are HARD – 50s and 60s look great. I’m looking forward to them.

        Obviously everyone is different but on the big scale, research shows that the 40s are the lowest decade on the happiness curve in the West – it’s all up from here.

        1. allathian*

          With some caveats, depending on your life phase. I was certainly happier in my late 30s and 40s than I was in my early 30s, never mind my 20s or teens. I was lucky enough to grow up in a great family, so I don’t have any traumas from, parental abuse or neglect. My early teens were miserable because I was so lonely, but when I found my crowd in middle and high school things improved a lot. I mostly loved being in college, but allowed what others might think to influence my decisions in a way that I wouldn’t do anymore.

          I had a serious relationship that didn’t work out in my early 20s, and during the relationship and immediately following the breakup I was as miserable as I’ve ever been, and for about a year I went to therapy, which helped solidify my decision to break up. He was unhappy as well but didn’t have the guts to break it off when it wasn’t working for him, either. He didn’t protest, though, when I made the decision. In retrospect I think I got over the breakup quicker because I had to take responsibility for my own happiness.

          Even though I was happier single than I’d ever been with my ex, I was vaguely unhappy with my life until I met the man I’d later marry, even when I was no longer clinically depressed. Our relationship is the foundation of my contentment, which is longer lasting and more solid than happiness. Of course there have been ups and downs, and if I could change anything, I’d prefer to have had my kid at a younger age than 37. Although my core identity now is that of a mother, and I love my son more than I ever thought it was possible to love anyone, and he’s so far been a relatively easy kid to raise, the first few years when he was totally dependent on adults were sometimes tough. He’s 13 and not a particularly early developer, but so far at least I’ve really enjoyed watching him grow into his teenage personality.

          I just turned 50 this year, and I love it. I’m pretty much living the life I always imagined for myself growing up, even if it took longer than I would’ve preferred to get there.

          There are many more paths to happiness than the traditional heterosexual get married and have kids, but I can’t imagine any other life path for myself.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      No, it’s definitely not normal to struggle with depression and wonder if you will be miserable for the rest of your life. This is not to say that nobody else experiences it or that you are alone, but it is definitely not something you should just accept as part of “being an adult.” There is absolutely no reason why being middle-aged should be any less happy than being a kid or a teen or young adult.

      I was once on a website where somebody asked people what time of their life they were happiest at. Two emerged as the most common. One was the young adult years, say 18-25, but the other was late middle age to early…older age? Like late 50s to late 60s, when people felt that their children (if they had them were grown), their mortgages paid, they were either retired or at the end of their career, etc.

      You definitely haven’t missed all the good opportunities. What does a good opportunity mean to you? Marriage? Children? A good career? Travel? A wide circle of friends? All of those except maybe children are still open to you and even with children…well, you might be unlikely to have birth children, but you could foster, possibly adopt (depending on the rules where you are), work with children, etc.

      I could be wrong, but it sounds like you are looking at happiness or opportunities as something that are the same for everybody, when really what means happiness is going to be very individual. Did you really want a pet? For me, a pet would have no impact on my happiness because I’m not really a “pet person”. For other people, it would really make them happy. Happiness for me involves doing well at work, books, having long deep conversations, good shows in the theatre, learning about new ideas and to some extent sharing in other people’s happiness – hearing a friend got engaged for example. For other people, those things would have minimal impact or would even bore them.

      Are there specific things in your life that are making you unhappy? Such as being dissatisfied with your job, feeling lonely, not having hobbies you enjoy, wishing you had children? If so, then think about how you can change that. If loneliness is a factor, are there ways you could get to know more people. If you are dissatisfied with your job, then why? Would you prefer to be in a different field altogether? If so, then there is still time to retrain.

      Or is it more related to your depression? Is it possible the meds you are on aren’t right for you or aren’t sufficient? Have you spoken to your doctor recently? Because honestly, it does sound like your depression might be a factor here, if your unhappiness is more general and isn’t directly related to anything in your life.

      And you have no reason in the least to feel guilty. Being in a warzone or being unemployed are not the only problems that exist. I read something somewhere about how there is only one person in the world who has it worst of all and they are not the only person allowed to complain.

    8. RagingADHD*

      I think discontentment / dissatisfaction is a normal experience, but not inevitable or universal. Depression is common but not normal. The sense of doom sounds like depression talking.

      It seems like the changes you’ve tried are in circumstances and activities. Do you have a sense of purpose about the decisions you’re making or have made? Are your big picture and day to day choices expressing your values?

      As we approach midlife, our “why” becomes more and more important. If we are following our inner purpose, the circumstances of life may be enjoyable or frustrating, but the sense of meaning and purpose can give contentment and joy regardless.

      I hope you find it!

      1. Zweisatz*

        Definitely. I think looking within and starting there could be more helpful right now than changing circumstances because they “should” help (because society says so).

    9. Anonymous Saturday*

      Thank you everyone for your kind words. I might need to focus more on next day or this weekend for a while instead of the big future.

      1. Old Plant Woman*

        Maybe you hit it right there. No you are not struck forever. Please don’t look ahead forty years, and say this is as good as it will ever get. Could your meds be improved? Therapist? Can you find a small joy? Every day?

    10. MEH Squared*

      Hello. I’m late to answer, but I wanted to throw my two cents in. I have dealt with depression (both the chronic, exhaustive type and the day-to-day meh type) and anxiety for most of my life. I’ve tried dozens of things to alleviate both (throwing in sleep issues, body issues, and eating disorders, not to mention a whole host of sensitivities/allergies).

      Therapy worked–in a limited fashion. Antidepression meds worked–for a limited amount of time. Everything else had little or no effect to make me feel better. I honestly did not care if I lived or died–and I didn’t find much enjoyment in life.

      Except for two things. One I can recommend and one I cannot. The first is Taiji (tai chi, Yang style). I started studying it fifteen years ago and it has become an important part of my life, especially the weapon forms. I do a half-dozen weapon forms and am maintaining right now before moving on to the Guandao.

      Taiji has given me purpose, has helped me become at peace with my body, and has helped me become better able to deal with difficult relationships. It helped me escape a minor car crash with nothing but a big bruise on my stomach from the air bag, for example, and I no longer stress about moving through big crowds (which used to stress me out). This is the one I can recommend.

      The second thing is that I had a life-threatening medical crisis a year and three months ago. I was not supposed to survive and when I did, I was filled with wonder and awe. My depression was gone and so was roughly 60% of my anxiety. Having nurses take care of me and be so respectful of me as they helped me with my bodily functions wiped out my body issues completely as well. I consider every day I’m alive a bonus day and a gift. It gave me a whole new perspective on life. Obviously, though, I cannot in good conscience recommend this. But it demonstrated to me in a crystal clear way that life is short and can end at any time.

    11. Sunflower*

      I think as others have noted, ask yourself what you feel is lacking and what your definition of happy is? Is it that you’re lacking the things that make you happy (despite trying) or the things you thought would make you happy, don’t. You also want to make sure you’re focusing on things that will actually make you happy vs what society’s idea of happy looks like. It’s interesting because I wouldn’t consider myself happy overall but I would say I’m generally a hopeful person.

      Additionally, I’m starting to feel like when people say they’re happy, they really mean content. I feel that happiness is more of an emotion we feel vs a state of life- content feels like a more realistic state of being to me. I’ve always been someone who has the bad habit of always looking for the next best thing and I have trouble being happy with my current state of things. I find myself slowly shifting to feel more OK vs happy with things. As life goes on, more and more stuff happens that knocks you down, I still am not sure how I feel about the concept that people can decide to be happy. I don’t believe this overall but the older I get, the more I consciously accept to let things go and consciously decide to feel more grateful for things like my health. I also realize how much more fragile life is and these things that make you crazy happy can be taken away in a moment. Also keep in mind that appearances are just that- appearances. No one posts the bad moments online and I think we can all be guilty of assuming other people have it way more together than us.

      I’ve also struggled with feeling unhappy and playing the ‘it could be so much worse’ game. It’s hard to balance being grateful for what you have and also wanting more. Putting your general unhappiness aside, there’s no reason to feel guilty about wanting more in life.

      I know you said you tried therapy but I’m wondering if you may have luck trying a different therapist or type of therapy. Some of the stuff you mention here, while may be difficult to kick, therapy should be helpful in moving the needle a little closer to where you’re looking to be and if therapy isn’t doing that, it’s likely a mismatch vs an inability on your end. Therapy is often times an up and down process- you may need to go on and off or try different therapists and treatments throughout your life.

      1. allathian*

        Yes to all of this. Happiness is a transitory emotion, it comes and goes, and it’s not realistic to expect to be happy all the time. I don’t think it’s possible to choose to be happy if you have a diagnosis of depression, for example. Contentment is a more permanent state of being, and to some extent, it’s possible to choose to be contented with what you have instead of continuously striving for more of whatever it is you think would make you happy. I read somewhere that a raise increases people’s happiness for about 3 months on average. After that, they’re used to the new status quo and their basic emotional temperature returns to their normal level. Some people are more contented/positive/optimistic by nature than others.

    12. comityoferrors*

      I can’t say much as a younger person, and I think the replies from others have good suggestions for how to move forward. But I will say that my mom was deeply unhappy in her 40s. She’s now 70 and is the happiest I’ve ever seen her, possibly the happiest she’s ever been. I have some ideas of what changed for her (and some things we’d both still like to change) but obviously I’m not in her head to really know. Just wanted to offer another data point that life carries on and there’s almost always hope on the horizon. Sending you good vibes and hope for your future.

    13. JSPA*

      I’ve definitely had friends come into their own (emotional equilibrium, feeling comfortable in their own skin, reduced psych symptoms) in their mid-late 50’s, e.g. at / after menopause (or andropause). Or, especially upon making a major life change (like gender transition, coming out, giving up on a failed goal or a wearing career, finding an unexpected interest) in their 60’s or 70’s.

      Probably not what you’re looking for…but one bitter, grouchy neighbor became practically beatific when moderate dementia robbed her of the ability to keep track of her anxieties and her catalog of how life had wronged her. Not the way one wants to get there, right? But all the same, it suggests there’s the possibility of default happiness burried deeply (and there might be other ways to access it). I will note that she remained completely recognizable as herself until very very late in the process. (Though I’d bet that if you’d asked her at 40 or 50, she’d have mocked the idea that a cheery person who delighted in watching the sun through flower petals could in ANY WAY be her.)

      A lot of me isn’t working quite right, but deciding to let go of many “oughts” (and getting enough testing to find then treat some underlying metabolic disorders) has me sleeping much better. That makes everything a bit less painful, and sometimes actively enjoyable.

      (Oh, add “late diagnosed conditions” to breakout-and-thrive level changes, anything from sleep apnea to not spectrum stuff.)

      Leaving aside overall satisfaction, if you’re not even having good minutes or hours from time to time, or at least the occasional flash of triumph or delight, that’s commonly quoted as a flag to find further treatment.

    14. marvin*

      I know you mentioned that you have been treating your depression, but a lot of your thought processes here stand out to me as someone who also has depression. The idea that you are just a type of person who is doomed to be unhappy forever, the guilt over being unhappy when other people are suffering more, are ways that my depression manifests as well. If possible, I would look into whether there is anything you could adjust or try in terms of depression management. In my experience, trying to make any lifestyle changes is really difficult when my mental health is acting up. I hope you are able to feel better <3

    15. Not A Manager*

      I’ve been thinking about your question all day yesterday. I don’t know whether it’s “normal” to feel the way you do, but I don’t think you have to just resign yourself to it, either. I’m not an expert in happiness and I would feel weird telling you how to be happy, but I do have techniques that I use myself for solving personal problems. If I were feeling the way you do, I would make this my intense “project” for six months.

      First, I’d be sure to rigorously address medical/mental health issues as much as possible. Are you up to date on your meds? Are you plugged into good mental health support? Have you had a full medical screening and bloodwork? I consider these gimmes in terms of “find something wrong, fix it with medicine.” (And I do know that not everyone has access to all or any of these things. But if you do, I would avail myself of them.)

      Second, I’d think about my immediate daily life and routine. Are there things that regularly make you stressed or unhappy? Maybe it’s hard to find ways to feed yourself during the workweek, or you get bored on the weekends, or you can’t find anything in your closet. These aren’t gimmes, but they can be specific action items that you address, not out of some vague sense that you “should,” but because they are part of a serious Project Happiness.

      Similarly, identify things in your immediate life that give you pleasure, if not happiness. Morning coffee, or going for a walk, or seeing live theatre. A lot of times we put those things at the bottom of the list *because* they merely give us pleasure, and don’t seem to have a greater purpose. Try to identify pleasure points in your life, and prioritize them even above other things that feel more weighty.

      Third, I’d take some time and space to do the same type of thinking, but about your life in general. What does happiness mean to you, not as an existential state of being, but as a series of actions and experiences. Does it mean personal connections? Physical experiences like fine dining or hiking or dancing? Spiritual ones like connecting to a deity or being in nature? When have you felt happy in the moment? People talk about happiness as an existential state, living a thriving life, and that’s great, but happiness can also be a series of pearls on a string. What gives you a little pearl of happiness, even when you feel that your life as a whole isn’t a “happy” one? What makes you actively unhappy in your life? It could be the converse of things above – like lack of personal connections – but also things like, climate where you live, or conditions of your job, or the nature of your housing.

      Obviously it’s easier to make room for a second cup of coffee in your day, or going to museum more frequently, than it is to change housing or jobs. But some of the “life” things you identify might turn out to be action items that you can put on a three-year plan, or some of them might be things you can address in part if not entirely. And sometimes, just naming something even if it’s out of your control can be helpful.

      Anyway, this is what I would do if it were me. I’d treat this as a project where I can identify what is within my control, and try to change it, and what is outside of my control, so I have to work around it. And I’d aim for discrete bits of happiness, rather than chasing some abstract concept of Happiness.

      I really feel for you, and I hope that your life starts to feel more satisfying.

    16. NaoNao*

      May I ask what are the missed opportunities? Is there any chance to take a fresh look a them and see just how “missed” they really are?

      Reading between the line it sounds like this is about marriage and maybe kids. It’s so hard to accept that the hand of fate plays such a strong role in ability to get married, but good news, if you feel like you need children in your life, volunteer work, fostering, or perhaps even adopting might be a road to go down.

      Another thing that is easy to say but hard to implement: people who are happy are usually tackling challenges, and pushing themselves. As one example, I’m on my 2nd self published romance novel and go through swings of “this is a huge waste of time” vs. “wow, I DID that!”

      I will say I’m in my 40’s and I also count up all the mistakes, missed chances, roads not taken, and I feel an almost palpable sense of loss. So you’re not alone. But…there’s not much I can do about it except use that to light a fire that when I’m 60 I won’t be beating myself up for all the things I missed by being sad and depressed in my 40s.

    17. Ann Ominous*

      Nietzsche and Jung on the three metamorphoses of the spirit.

      There is a passage in ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ in which Friedrich Nietzsche describes the spiritual evolution of man from childhood to old age.

      He begins the passage by showing how a child spends his first years as a collector of duties, traumas and the word ‘No’, and how he resembles that of a camel, a beast of burden who must carry whatever is thrown onto its back.

      The child is made a camel by the dragon of society, who goes by the name of ‘Thou Shalt’, and on each of the dragon’s scales there are laws and instructions declaring what thou shalt not do.

      Eventually, however, the young child will begin to question the authority of his society; he will ask why he is carrying such a heavy burden and, if he is paying attention to his surroundings, a feeling of disillusionment will set in, because he sees the dullness of the world that he has been conditioned for, he sees the consequences of his years of yielding to the dragon and he senses that he has been betrayed somehow, that what was promised to him by society has not been delivered.

      Then he will notice his conditioning, all the limits and expectations that imprison him, and he will finally give way and fall to his knees, throwing the load from his back and onto the desert beneath him.

      This is the first sign of maturity, referred to by Joseph Campbell as the ‘call to adventure’, and it is the stage of life when the boy sets out on his own into the desert and marches towards the great dragon of ‘Thou Shalt’.

      At this moment, the young camel faces two options: Either he continues to exist as a beast of burden and allows the dragon to rule his life or, like St George and Apollo, he slays the dragon and becomes a lion, the monarch of his own kingdom:‘

      Here ‘the spirit’, Friedrich Nietzsche writes, ‘becomes a lion who would conquer his freedom and be master’…

      …Now, at this point I would like to address the final threshold of life — that is, the age of atonement and of the elderly sage.

      In primitive tribes, Carl Jung writes, the elderly were always the sacred guardians of common law and the guiding light for the younger generations.

      …There is no happiness in fighting dragons all one’s life; one cannot live in the evening as one did in the morning.

      [Old age] Jung writes, should be a celebration of what has become an opportunity for everlasting creativity, because the old man is no longer a participant in the attainment of life — for he has already achieved his life. He should let go of the things of this world and all that he has accomplished in his previous life, and he should allow himself to lower his energy, to descend within and leave the game of life to those who have yet to prove themselves.

      And as he lets go, he transforms once again and returns to the world as a child, but this time he is a child with the experience of the camel and the wisdom of the lion, able to pass on wisdom to those who are at the beginning of their journey.

      ~ Harry J. Stead

    18. MeepMeep123*

      It does sound like depression talking. When you think “life is simply not going to improve”, that’s an artifact of your brain in its depressed state. You can do a lot of things to improve your life – the question is, what are they?

      I’m 46 and I can tell you that for me, the biggest contribution to feeling relatively happy has been rigorous, and rigid, attention to physical health. We are living creatures and we can’t feel good unless our physical needs are met. I actually have one of those habit-tracker apps where I have my “healthiness checklist” – sleep, outdoor time, healthy food, walking, etc etc etc. The biggest one, btw, has been a rigid and regular sleep schedule. One of the other contributors to happiness has been the “contact at least one friend daily” checkbox, which I do place in the “physical health” category.

      Maybe try a checklist like this and see if that fixes at least some of the sad, or at least gives you some more energy to think about what else in your life may be fixable?

    19. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      You’re probably not doomed! I often feel like that and they call that ” depression” and ” seriously it’s not as bad as all that”

  20. Heelp*

    Looking for some advice for my friend, Ash. Ash befriended Alex a year ago, but has been struggling with how to move forwards. Alex is open about their mental health issues (specifically anxiety and depression), which is good in terms of removing the stigma etc, but does not stop talking about it. Literally every single time they meet up, Alex will spend upward of half an hour hashing out how hard life is, how much they cried the day before, how bad their mental health problems are. Alex is starting antidepressants but is not currently in therapy, and seems to be using Ash (or anyone who will listen) in lieu.
    Of course Ash has empathy for Alex and wants to be a supportive and understanding friend, but this has defined their interactions since day 1 and it’s very draining. Ash has started to dread seeing Alex.
    Alex has also made it clear that they worry they’re a burden on the people around them, and this can send them into really bad panic attacks. As such, Ash is worried that any attempt to gently ask to change topic/talk about this stuff less will send Alex into a breakdown.

    Any tips or scripts for managing this delicately? (Would especially help if someone with similar issues to Alex could weigh in on how to set boundaries with you without triggering a panic attack or similar)

    1. Pennyworth*

      I heard my cousin recently deflect her Alex by making it about her not him – along the lines of ”I’m so sorry you are going through this and I worry that I’m not equipped to help you the way you deserve. Can I help you find someone who is qualified to treat you?” It seemed to be well received.

    2. Zweisatz*

      I recommend the archives of Captain Akward. com. She has answered questions around depression and friendship/relationships many times with actionable advice and scripts.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I would choose a good time to mention it when Ash is actually fully charged and not at the end of their rope. So something like: “I think it’s really considerate the way you worry about your effect on others. Today is a good time for me so that’s why I’ve been so supportive. What would you like me to say or do if it’s not a good time for me to listen?” The danger is in Ash taking it too far with the self sacrifice and then blowing their top and saying: “You ALWAYS do this and it’s NEVER good”. However it sounds as though Ash is never fully charged, and never has any interaction with Alex which isn’t providing free therapy? (I hope this doesn’t follow a predictable gender pattern of emotional labour) If Ash is not getting anything for themselves out of the friendship at all (?!) I would go with options of either saying 1) “I don’t think I’m getting anything out of this friendship, and I want to hit the brakes while I still like you, but I can’t be your therapy session. Best of luck.” or 2) “I think this friendship can work better for me if we don’t do Alex problem talk during x time or x activity.” This could mean limiting his venting to a set time of half an hour when they meet, or half an hour after doing something fun. If Alex responds “Oh god, you hate me, I’m just a burden”, I would say “I’m not there yet, it’s manageable and I think this will work”. The truth will be in how receptive Alex is to a reasonable boundary; does Alex really want to be less of a burden, and hear all the helpful tips, or does Alex just say that they are a burden as a counter argument to prevent hearing that they are?

    4. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I guess my first question is whether you are asking on behalf of Ash, or whether you want to know what advice to offer them as a third party friend/observer? Because those are two different things.

      If it’s the former, I’d actually be asking what Ash gets out of their relationship with Alex? Anything more than the feeling of “helping”? I mean, it’s great to want to be supportive of Alex through their difficult times, but friendship is also meant to be a 2 way street. What you’re describing doesn’t sound like a genuine friendship… it sounds like an emotional energy vampire that has attached itself to Ash. Ash is dreading these interactions – is there any reason for them to stay in this “friendship” other than feeling guilty if they start fading out? It’s ok to have empathy for Alex, while also not wanting to be their involuntarily assigned support animal.

      I think it would change things if Ash and Alex had been friends for a while and this was a new phase. But a one year relationship defined by one-way emotional propping-up since the start sure doesn’t sound like a healthy, genuine friendship to me.

      However, if it’s the latter and you’re asking what advice you can give to a friend about their relationship with another friend? Unless they’ve specifically asked for your opinion, my advice is to stay out of it. Support as necessary, but you will likely harm your own relationship with Ash if you try to get involved uninvited.

      1. Siege*

        I had to cut off my Alex. It was a one-way relationship where the majority of it was how terrible he was, and how he couldn’t do therapy, and there were no therapists, and tomorrow he’d look for one, and he was sure he was a burden and I was SO patient, etc. It reached the point that I was considering a cross-country move that would have put me within an hour of him and I couldn’t do it. My mother, who is not usually sensitive to this kind of thing asked if it would be possible to move (it was for a job I wanted but wasn’t ultimately offered) and just not tell him. It finally blew up when he saw me “online” due to a glitch in his software but I was actually just listening for email alerts and physically across the room and guilted me for a bunch of messages about how awful he was and he wouldn’t want to talk to him either, and just attributing terrible motivations to me “ignoring him”, when Trillian was just incompatible with Y! away statuses.

        I think, going back to your post, Heelp, there’s removing the stigma by talking about your struggles, and then there’s beating people over the head with a stick and pretending it’s good for everyone. I don’t mean that the only way to have mental health issues is to say you do but never let it impinge on your relationships, but what on earth is Ash getting out of this at this point? It sure sounds like they’ve become a tool for Alex to use so they don’t have to use actual tools like therapy: “I’m talking with my friends and engaging with people, I’m doing well. I don’t need therapy, tra-la, I shall skip down the road singing!”

        It mostly sounds like Ash is taking and not giving, and that’s unsustainable no matter the dynamic, whether it’s caused by mental health issues or by one person being a crappy jerk.

        1. Dog and cat fosterer*

          Your experience reminds me of insight that someone gave me years ago:
          People with mental illness can have bad days and we should be patient. If a friend was physically ill and had to hobble then we would walk more slowly to accommodate their day.

          Assho!es push boundaries and make life difficult.

          Sometimes assho!es with mental illness can push boundaries too far by blaming bad behavior on mental illness and forcing patience. To stretch my example, this person would expect to be carried everywhere even on days where they were feeling well but they had a bad habit of not caring about their friends.

          Your Alex and OP’s Alex may be good people, so this isn’t meant to be specific advice. Yet it happens sometimes, and a good friend of mine spent years learning this lesson (because people who are kind and weak with their boundaries can end up with so-called-friends who take advantage of them) and I later read some good advice about the problem on Captain Awkward.

    5. Koifeeder*

      I don’t know how to say this compassionately, so I’m just gonna be blunt about it and take the deserved scolding for not being nice.

      If Alex cannot handle people putting up boundaries in any way, Alex should not be interacting with people until they get that taken care of. This is social skills 101 (and I say that as someone who never got the hang of 102).

      1. Qwerty*

        This is something Ash needs to hear. It is not Ash’s fault if stating their boundaries causes Alex to have a panic attack.

        By being afraid of the panic attacks and the reactions, Ash might be inadvertantly making things worse. Mental health stuff is a jerk that takes up whatever space exists, so being extra accomodating of it can instead make it grow to fill the space. Having the conversation might be rough initially, but could long term save the friendship which is better for both of them.

        Ash can say something like “I don’t have the energy to talk about mental health today, can we jump ahead to talking about last night’s episode of the Bachelor” (replace with whatever it is that they bond over). Redirect to the reason why Ash is friends with Alex so that it isn’t a rejection, its actually a reminder of why Ash likes Alex. Wait out the resulting reaction, then resume the redirect. Resist urge to apologize for not being a free therapist. If it kills the friendship, then it wasn’t really a friendship to begin with.

    6. Frankie Bergstein*

      I’ve been in this situation before. I think the cleanest solution is to do a slow fade — that is, become just too busy dealing with their own life to continue to provide free therapy.

      (In my situation, I did try to delicately have a conversation with them, and it blew up — they yelled at me, criticized me, blamed me — it was ugly. More importantly, it didn’t repair the relationship.)

      1. 1LFTW*

        If it helps, I don’t think the slow fade can work on the Alexes of the world. I tried it with mine. It *seemed* to work, but as it turned out, that was only because their life was going reasonably well at the time.

        Then they experienced a few moderately stressful life events, and it it was right back to manipulative demands for free therapy, complete with a long list of excuses for why they didn’t want to pay an actual professional. When I didn’t respond immediately, sent messages like haven’t heard back from you, so worried :( and please just tell me you’re not dead :’( .

        Eventually I was faced with a choice: I could ghost them completely, or end it directly. I chose the second route, wording things as compassionately as I could, and reiterate my lack of professional credentials… I did it over email, and blocked them. It was very painful, but ultimately one of the best things I ever did for myself.

        1. Frankie Bergstein*

          Sounds like your Alex couldn’t / wouldn’t take the hint or just did it catch on. Kudos for doing via email and blocking vs. the messier approach (even if some folks say it’s more courageous!). I’m sorry. It also sounds like they were happy to not talk to you until they needed something – if that’s the case, ugh, that’s not great. I’m sorry.

    7. Generic Name*

      Alex sounds like a manipulative emotional vampire. He gets a panic attack when Ash sets a boundary? That sets off alarm bells for me. Either Alex is having “panic attacks” as a way to be controlling to get Ash to not enforce her boundaries, or the dynamic between them is so toxic it is unsafe for both. I certainly would avoid someone if I had frequent panic attacks in reaction to something they did, so it’s weird to me that Alex wishes to keep hanging around Ash.

    8. Samwise*

      I am married to Alex, who developed panic attacks, anxiety, and major depression in fall 2020.

      I have listened to Alex a lot. But not endlessly. I have told Alex, I’m not a trained counselor or therapist, and even if I were, I’m not the right person to listen to all of this. I’m your *spouse* not a therapist. It’s not appropriate and it’s not fair to me.

      Sometimes I have to be “cold” and say, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for you. Have you tried … [answer: no/I can’t/that won’t work].

      And then I say, I’m so sorry that you are feeling bad, but I have to take care of myself. And then I go out. Literally leave the house. I go to the office more than I have to (we are allowed a hybrid schedule), because while I’m helping people most of the day at work, no one expects me to be an endless ear.

      Ash needs to straight up tell Alex that it is too much, they are not able to help Alex, and that they (Ash) are starting to feel heavy and down — they are sorry, but they have to take care of themselves. Ash needs to understand that if
      Alex feels bad about hearing this, it is not Ash’s fault. It’s Alex’s illness that makes them feel this way. Ash should say all of this kindly, but they cannot be Alex’s free pseudo-therapy.

    9. Heelp*

      Thanks everyone for your responses! Some really useful stuff here (esp. Captain Awkward). I asked the question because Ash asks me for advice on the situation but is hesitant about taking it, so I’m looking for alternatives to what I’ve already suggested.

      For clarity, totally agree with what’s been said here, and it’s stuff I’ve already tried to communicate to Ash (the friendship is unhealthy, Ash needs to set boundaries even if it upsets Alex, Ash isn’t Alex’s personal therapist, Ash could try gently (or bluntly) explaining they don’t have the bandwidth all the time for the negativity etc).

      I’ve talked to Ash a bit more and we’ve also established they have their own issues with being a conflict-avoidant people-pleaser. They’ve acknowledged that they need to end the ‘friendship’ with Alex and are planning on doing a slow fade. (Grinds my gears as an approach but its their own issue to solve). So at least that’s something.

      1. Generic Name*

        I’m glad you’re such a supportive friend. The Alexes of the world have an uncanny ability to find and glom onto the Ashes of the world. I would encourage Ash’s slow fade to ultimately culminate in blocking Alex from all social media and electronic communication methods.

      2. Ann+Ominous*

        Tell Ash they can’t set themselves on fire to keep someone else warm.

        I mean…they can. But I don’t recommend it.

  21. JAR5001*

    I’m having gallbladder surgery next week. Does anyone have any advice on preparation/recovery they can give me? Thank you.

    1. Wombats and Tequila*

      My partner had it a few years back. It ended almost three solid years of off and on torture.

      It was done laproscopically, which makes a huge difference. If yours isn’t thus, you might want to question the doctor closely as to why.

      Because the damn thing had given my partner so much trouble and his primary care physician had dragged her heels on recommending him for surgery, I made a joke to the surgeon we wanted to save the gallbladder in a glass jar. They couldn’t do that, but they did take a photo of it, which was very satisfying! It was nasty and twice the size it should have been. Half of it was taken up by a gallstone half the size of a squash ball. No way that would *ever* have passed.

      He has since been able to eat pretty much anything without issue. YMMV if you load up on animal fat.

    2. 40ish*

      The recovery was easy for me. I couldn‘t lift heavy stuff for 1-2 weeks. Was eating normally pretty much immediately. Heavy painkillers for 2-3 days, then I needed very little. I stayed at the hospital for two nights i think.

      1. Koifeeder*

        Same here when mine tried to rupture. I don’t have much advice on prep because it was an emergency surgery, but it was done laprascopically and the recovery was very mild. I was trying to get up and cook breakfast the day after.

    3. thebeanmoveson*

      my spouse had his taken out about two months ago. it was unscheduled but he had been in the hospital for a few days prior.

      the hospital didnt really give him much of a recovery plan besides telling him to reduce his fat content and increase his fiber intake.

      afterwards, he was in quite a bit of pain, so be sure to keep the meds handy as the pain was intermittent. the first few days afterwards he had a poor appetite, but has completely recovered since and eats fairly similarly to presurgery. Also, for nearly three weeks he could lift no more than 15 pounds. Now he does his prior activites (mountain biking) without issue.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I always advise having a stool softener on hand, as general anesthesia and strong pain drugs can both cause constipation. You might think “I’ll be pretty out of it, will I really notice being constipated?” and if it happens yes, yes you will. Colase is gentle.

    5. the cat's ass*

      Hi there! I had my gs removed arthroscopically after 3 months of nausea and weight loss, and I am SO glad i did. Ironically, it started right after a Thanksgiving feast that was unusually rich. Be prepared to wake up with shoulder pain-you get blown up with air so that the surgeon can visualize the separate organs, and the gas rises to your diaphragm and irritates the phrenic nerve and that gives you shoulder pain! That was the worst thing i experienced post op and it was better within 48 hours as i moved around and passed gas. I took a week of from work and didn’t lift anything really heavy for a month. I do have to be careful with fried and fatty foods and falafel is an absolute no go. Good luck!

      1. thebeanmoveson*

        omg, i forgot all about that part. the worst part was no one told him about it, so my spouse thought something was horribly wrong!

    6. Sorry*

      Had mine out this past March. No real issues. In fact I hadn’t felt this good in a long time and I hadn’t had any issues with the gallbladder till the attack 3 1/2 weeks before. (One gallstone the size of a golf ball that was hard) Initially the hardest part was getting in and out of bed and rolling over as the area was sore like after any type of surgery. Took 1 Percocet the first day and a couple of ibuprofen and that was it. Just avoided lifting anything for 6 weeks but was able to do my back exercises by 4 weeks.

    7. Annie Edison*

      I just had mine out at the beginning of September! My abs were pretty sore for a few days and I definitely needed help with getting up and down at first. Walk a little bit every day- it helps release the gas they use to inflate your torso for surgery.
      Honestly, my recovery was a little bumpy. They say you can eat whatever you want after removal, but I didn’t really have that experience. I had very little appetite for at least a week, and some weird food sensitivities for several months after. You might want to stock up on some bland/mild foods just in case.
      If you use Instagram- there’s an account called gallbladder.nutritionist on there that I got some diet and recipe ideas from

    8. JAR5001*

      Thanks for all the advice! Hopefully they’ll be able to do keyhole surgery. I’m slogging through the liver-reducing diet.

      1. Mztery23*

        I had mine out about 15 years ago. I remember everyone telling me that laparoscopic surgery would be a picnic and I’d be fine after a few days. I took over 10 days off work, as I was in quite a bit of pain. But once the pain subsided I was fine. I didn’t do any lifting or any strenuous exercise for about six weeks afterwards. I’ve had no lingering after been quite a while. I hope you have someone there to help you with things like going to the bathroom, etc.

    9. Hotdog not dog*

      I had mine out a few years ago. I felt a thousand times better pretty much immediately. It was a little sore for about a week, and you’ll want to not overexert for a few weeks (even if it feels better, your body still needs to heal inside.) I am one of the rare people whose system never quite adapted to having no gallbladder, so I still need to watch my diet. Anything with a lot of fat, salt, preservatives, or sugar causes an unpleasant result. Not painful, but I can’t make any plans more than a minute’s run from the bathroom. It’s probably for the best, as I now find myself eating mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
      Good luck and fast healing to you!!

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

      Not gallbladder, but when I had my appendix out (planned) laprascopically, the surgeon focused on cleanliness to reduce the risk of infection — he had me washing with an anti-bacterial soap (which I would normally not use) for a couple of days before the surgery, and he had me changing the sheets on my bed and wearing fresh nightclothes each night for the two nights before the surgery.

      1. Nicki Name*

        Mr. Name had similar instructions when his gallbladder was removed, although they only started from the night before the surgery. He was given jumbo-size antibacterial wipes to use the night before and the morning of, and instructions to wear clean pajamas the night before.

    11. JSPA*

      1. I figured I would not fill my meds order because I still felt fine 8 hours after (keyhole) surgery, hadn’t needed them for tonsils, and anyway, opiates don’t work great for me, and they are constipating, which I didn’t want to deal with (etc etc).

      That was not the right call. (Bad night, sent spouse to get them at 7 a.m.)

      I did take fewer, at greater intervals and for less time than prescribed (10 of 30 pills, I think?) but in retrospect should have indeed filled at least the half prescription.

      2. If you’re considering stool softener, and never have used it before, try it ahead of time, with the doctor’s ok. I find them harmless, but some people apparently can’t stomach them (well, literally, the problem’s further down i think? But in any case, better not to find out they bind you up or cause cramping when you’re post-op.)

      3. I was allergic to the adhesive of the large clear non-band-aid-brand “band aids” they put over each of the incisions. It took me a while to figure out the problem. The incisions healed a couple of weeks before the resulting welts, though I scratched an incision in my sleep, as a result. If you have sensitive skin / skin allergies, that’s something to be aware of, whenever you’re dealing with post-surgical adhesives. (Scented denatured alcohols, ditto.)

      4. The little holes on the side oozed longer and took longer to heal than the bigger front keyhole, plus I couldn’t see them as easily to assess healing.

      5. I went strictly nonfat up to the date of surgery, and avoided all foods that made any part of me tingle or itch, figuring that minimal gallbladder activity and minimal GI inflammation would both be helpful. (This isn’t “diet advice” except in the sense that fat passing through the g.i. tract signals your gallbladder to try to release bile, which is hecka painful, if it’s partly blocked.)

      6. Without the gallbladder, there will still be bile release, but not keyed to what you’re eating. Depending on a lot of variables, this can be unhelpful / irritating / problematic, either from the constant drip and re-uptake of the cholesterol-rich bile salts, or from residual undigested fats in your diet hitting your lower GI tract.

      Solutions vary, and differ, based on biology and habits and needs: anything from occasional colace (bulking agent) to cholestipol (cholesterol chelator) to broad spectrum digestive pills that include lipases (my general answer for all my GI malfunction) to smaller, more frequent meals, to not dropping an unaccustomed “fat bomb” on your digestive tract unless you want distress for 8 hours following.

      Some of these combine, some really don’t. You may need “none of the above.” Or, “only in specific circumstances.” But it’s good to know there are options.

      1. JSPA*

        Oh, just remembered. My bed frame sits low. I had a second mattress lying around unused, so I put it under the good mattress, ahead of time. That way i could slide out of bed (minimal ab and side muscle use), rather than really getting (directionally) up from the bed or twisting a lot.

    12. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Had mine taken out laparoscopically over 20 years ago, so techniques might have changed a bit, lol. I was told not to lift anything over 5 pounds and not to drive for a while (I think it was at least a week but it’s hard to remember). I was in my mid-20s, single, and lived alone, so my parents actually came to town to give me some help.

      I had heard that afterwards I might experience digestive troubles when eating certain fats, but I haven’t ever had any problems and can basically eat whatever I want. But just be aware of that possibility.

    13. Nicki Name*

      Mr. Name had his out several years ago. It was done with keyhole surgery, but we were warned that 1 in 5 surgeries has to switch to a different approach during the operation which changes the recovery time from about 1 week to about 3 weeks. So make sure to have contingency plans for that.

  22. Four of ten*

    My husband of 38 years died Monday November 21. I’ve gotten through the first part with the support of immediate family and several close friends.
    I’d appreciate learning from those who have lost a partner what helped them build a life without that partner. I’m female, retired, I’m in my early 70s and have some physical limitations. I can’t stand or walk for very long and use a walker.

    1. Indisch blau*

      I am so sorry for your loss.

      I have not been in this situation, but the date jumps out at me. So I want to say: Take your time. It hasn’t even been a week. Do what feels right in the moment, whether that’s making a change (even as small as doing something the way you always wanted to but deferred to him) or keeping things the same to remember him and your life together.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m so sorry for your loss!

      Some things I have seen help multiple friends in this situation:
      -reach out to initiate get togethers, don’t wait for others
      -join a group doing things you like (bridge?)
      -look into activities at your local senior center. The ones near me have SO many things to do
      -volunteer in an area that interests you in a capacity you can handle
      -be very gentle with yourself in this transition. Make sure you are eating well and drinking a lot of water. Many of my friends went through a stage where they were not eating regularly because they no longer felt like they had to make a full dinner every night (YMMV depending on who did most of the cooking in your relationship)
      -don’t rush into making a change in your living situation

      I wish you the best of luck with all of this.

    3. Valancy Snaith*

      My dad was widowed three years ago and had been married to my mom for about 38 years as well. The single biggest factor that helped him was joining a grief group of about 7-10 other people who had lost their spouse in the same general time frame. It was coordinated through hospice, but hospitals and senior centres and churches often run them, too. They met weekly and the first 10 weeks were run by a hospice employee, and then they continued to meet on their own and they still meet up almost every week, although fewer of them come than before. It was immensely helpful for my dad to be with people who completely, totally understood what he was going through.

      Once the first horrible few months were over my dad got back into his regular routine of volunteering, church activities, meeting with his group, going to the gym, etc. Routine was extremely helpful, with occasional things like making lunch or dinner plans with friends to break it up. He’s doing reasonably well now, but I don’t think he would be if he did not have a group of friends and a routine to fall back on.

    4. Anonosaurus*

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      I’m younger than you but also widowed. My two tips are firstly to seek out the company of other people who have lost their partners (all bereavement is of course painful but I think the secondary losses of being widowed are particular to this experience) and secondly to ignore anyone who tries to tell you what grief is like or how to do it. Your journey will be unique. I don’t think the popular models of grief are helpful or accurate. There’s literally no way to grieve”wrongly” so trust your mind and body to deal with this in the way that is right for you.

      It’s very, very early days so for now I’d focus on being incredibly gentle with yourself, having no expectations of what the future will look like, letting yourself cry (and howl and sob and whatever you need to do) and trying to stay fed and hydrated as best you can even though you might not feel like it or see the point.

      I’m glad you are being supported, and wish you the best.

    5. Healthcare Worker*

      Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss. I hope you find a clear path to building your life without them, and your memories bring you comfort.

    6. Jean (just Jean)*

      Sympathies from another 2022 widow (March of this year). Take good care of yourself. I hope you have a few good people on your side who will calm you down or listen to you (in person or via phone call) and/or share quiet activities (sitting outside if it’s not too cold, having a cup of tea indoors, doing whatever you both like via Zoom or phone–chatting? watching the same TV or online show or movie?). If you’re part of a congregation or any other group of people, I hope that folks step up to be sympathetic, errand- or food-runners, companions or anything else that you find helpful.

      +1,000 on everyone’s advice to take your time and remember that your grief is yours alone. You don’t have to mourn according to someone else’s template or timetable. Try to honor and express your grief however it suits you best.

      Not much advice on building a life without the now-departed partner… just solidarity. You are not alone in this situation. Internet hugs if you want them.

    7. J. Jonah Jameson*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      First and foremost, try to avoid making big decisions for a while. Take time to grieve. It will eventually get easier – that hole will always be there, but over time you’ll do some landscaping around it, put up railings, and so forth.

      Also, however you feel is always okay. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel, or when (if ever) you are ready to start moving on. When my wife died, she had been sick for a while, so in some ways I was relieved – once the Sword of Damocles falls, it’s no longer scary.

      Also, I had to take some time and think about things we did – were they things I liked, or just things we liked together but that weren’t things I wanted on my own? Were there things I had wanted to do that I hadn’t had time for because she wasn’t interested? Basically, I needed some time to figure out who I was now that it was just me.

      1. J. Jonah Jameson*

        Oh, and also, counseling or therapy. Having a neutral, uninvolved person to talk to was really helpful for me. The hospice provided a counselor for a year.

    8. JSPA*

      Pick and choose any that might help:

      If people are not ongoingly dropping in and bringing food, if you’ll be living alone, and as economics and local situation allow, set up (or ask a friend to set up) some fresh food deliveries. Not a week’s worth, necessarily, but enough that you’ll actually cook for yourself (something that’s not just tea and toast) and eat it. Ditto a restaurant order once a week, for something you don’t have to cook. “It’s just me, why bother, and what’s hunger when you feel empty regardless” can be insidious.

      Go outside every day (unless the weather is such that’s it’s unsafe for your abilities) even if it’s just 10 feet from the door.

      Get out of bed every day (which doesn’t go without saying).

      Start making lists, if you don’t already. Grief can take you from hyperfocus to complete scatteredness, in an instant.

      If you realize you have not used your voice for a day, and you don’t feel like calling someone, it’s fine to talk to the plants, or to yourself. Sing, if you can, when you’re ready. Vocal cords work better with fairly regular use.

      Accept help, without protestation, if you need it, and someone offers. Ask for help, if you need it, and someone seems willing.

      If you will need more physical support, but your brain is sharp, consider whether there are neighbors who’d love some tutoring for their kids, making you feel better about accepting a more-regular hand with tasks your husband used to handle.

      Have a plan for “fallen and can’t get up.” Even if it’s just a text exchange with a family member, daily.

      If you expect at some point to move to supportive living, move in with family, or have someone live in at your place in exchange for help, and you need a worthwhile yet open ended task to occupy your mind, you can start a sports-style bracket to rank what furniture and belongings you’ll be holding onto, and what could (as and when needed) go. The early process is the same, whether you’re consolidating in your own place or moving, so this eventually lets you engage with that larger question organically–over months and years–and it finds you better-prepared, either way.

      As with amputees whose nerves and brains generate phantom limb sensations and blind people whose nerves and brains generate the perception of light: after a certain amount of time without hearing or seeing your husband, it’s likely you will hear his voice, or sense him in the other room, or feel certain you’ve just seen his face through the window or in a crowd. If this feels meaningful in a good way, lean in (no harm to it). In contrast, if you fear it is a bad omen or dementia or madness–it’s not. This is a thing healthy, functional brains do.

      Similarly, if you have a huge row with him in a dream, or he ignores you and walks off, or you abandon him, that’s not a sign of something wrong in your head (or was wrong in the relationship). Your psyche doesn’t automatically know that the reason he’s “missing” is that he’s dead. “How dare you abandon me” feelings have no place to go, in your waking hours, so they can pop up in your dreams.

      If you’re frozen in place by it all, it’s not a betrayal to tell yourself, in that moment, that he’s gone on a trip, is all…and you just have to hold it together for now. Whatever gets you un-stuck.

      When you see something you’d like to show him, or remember something you’d like to tell him, or hear a joke or find the perfect slippers he’d been looking for, or smell the same aftershave, it’s fine to have a small smile and a heartbreak (or ugly cry). As the loss becomes less raw, the warmth of the memory will persist. But the fastest way to that place of solace is damp with snot and tears.

      Carry handkerchiefs / tissues.

      1. A Frayed Knot*

        These are all great. My father passed away about 3 months ago. While it was not sudden, he and Mom were married for 66 years. There is a huge hole in her …everything. I’ll be sharing these suggestions with her. Thank you.

      2. Bibliovore*

        Everything here.
        Especially a grief councilor and/or a group.
        Books sometimes help.
        For me it was the Grieving Brain.

    9. Four of ten*

      Thanks to all for comments. I’m going to rename to Breaking Dishes. I got some old dishes – so when I feel like breaking something- I go to the garage and toss a plate or two onto the concrete floor and smash it. It’s been really helpful. Better than punching someone or putting a fist through the wall

    10. Miss*

      I can’t imagine what you are going through after losing your husband of 38 years. My condolences to you and your family.

      When I was 43, my husband of 9 years passed away after a one year battle with colon cancer. My first piece of advice to you is to carry a real cotton hankie with you at all times at least for the next six months. You will be caught unawares with occasional outbursts of grief and flimsy little tissues will be no match for your tears.

      My second piece of advice is to involve yourself in activities where you can interact with other people who are not necessarily close family or friends (ie. classes, clubs, internet groups, etc.). In my case, the routine of going to work every day was a big help, but what saved me was joining a theatre group with people 15 years my junior. I also started dancing (ballet) again after a 10 year hiatus.

      One good thing to come out of the pandemic is the proliferation of online activities. Many of these are keeping their online platforms even as they resume meeting in person. This is really a boon to people with mobility issues. My 88 year old father plays bridge online with his friends on days that he can’t make it to the bridge house. I still take an online yoga class and for the past two years I have been teaching an online dance class for people with Parkinson’s and movement disorders.

      Even though you have some physical limitations, I would strongly suggest that you try to find some type of group activity that involves movement, whether in person or online. Moving your body feels good and may help to dissipate some of the emotional stress related to your husband’s passing. You might find classes in your area or online that can accommodate your limitations. Chair yoga comes to mind. My fitness club has classes specifically designed for the 60+ crowd (strength, restorative yoga, and water aerobics). There are lots of artificial joints in the classes (knees, hips, shoulders), a woman with a walker, one with a cane, and many shared life experiences including losing a long-term partner.

      How did I build a life after losing my husband? One day at a time, keeping a routine but at the same time re-kindling old interests and developing new ones, and most of all being open to new experiences.

      Amidst your grief, may you find joy in remembering the good times that you shared!

    11. Dance Like A Dolphin*

      I can’t imagine what you are going through after losing your husband of 38 years. My condolences to you and your family.

      When I was 43, my husband of 9 years passed away after a one year battle with colon cancer. My first piece of advice to you is to carry a real cotton hankie with you at all times at least for the next six months. You will be caught unawares with occasional outbursts of grief and flimsy little tissues will be no match for your tears.

      My second piece of advice is to involve yourself in activities where you can interact with other people who are not necessarily close family or friends (ie. classes, clubs, internet groups, etc.). In my case, the routine of going to work every day was a big help, but what saved me was joining a theatre group with people 15 years my junior. I also started dancing (ballet) again after a 10 year hiatus.

      One good thing to come out of the pandemic is the proliferation of online activities. Many of these are keeping their online platforms even as they resume meeting in person. This is really a boon to people with mobility issues. My 88 year old father plays bridge online with his friends on days that he can’t make it to the bridge house. I still take an online yoga class and for the past two years I have been teaching an online dance class for people with Parkinson’s and movement disorders.

      Even though you have some physical limitations, I would strongly suggest that you try to find some type of group activity that involves movement, whether in person or online. Moving your body feels good and may help to dissipate some of the emotional stress related to your husband’s passing. You might find classes in your area or online that can accommodate your limitations. Chair yoga comes to mind. My fitness club has classes specifically designed for the 60+ crowd (strength, restorative yoga, and water aerobics). There are lots of artificial joints in the classes (knees, hips, shoulders), a woman with a walker, one with a cane, and many shared life experiences including losing a long-term partner.

      How did I build a life after losing my husband? One day at a time, keeping a routine but at the same time re-kindling old interests and developing new ones, and most of all being open to new experiences.

      Amidst your grief, may you find joy in remembering the good times that you shared!

    12. Workerbee*

      I am sorry for your loss.

      If it helps –
      A close friend lost his wife of a similar timespan – a lifetime, really – abruptly last year. He immediately went into therapy, and said his therapist recommended he make a point to try a new thing at least once a week. So we would see him push himself and sign up for a cooking class, try archery, go to a show – things that seemed at least marginally interesting to him that he could also do. He also joined a widowers group to talk with others. He also tried not to isolate himself. He pretty much accepted any invitation coming his way if he wasn’t already booked up.

      Now, the above worked for him, overall, probably also because he chose these paths. This isn’t saying anything about his actual feelings during this, or what he did or felt when alone with his thoughts and his house still filled with her.

      Grief is personal; those 5 stages we get bombarded with weren’t actually meant for personal processing like this; and everyone is different. I say all this in case anything has crept into your consciousness as you “should be” feeling or doing certain things at certain stages.

    13. Dance+Like+A+Dolphin*

      Betty Rollin has an essay in the 11/27 NYT entitled “How to Talk to a Widow” that you might find interesting.

      P.S. I apologize for the double posted entry above. I’ve been reading AAM for several years, but this was my first time to post a comment. I had a change of heart on my user name, then my screen locked up and I didn’t realize that my comment had already posted before I hit the submit button.

  23. Indisch blau*

    Sympathy card for an ex-boyfriend’s wife.
    The wife of my ex-boyfriend informed me on Thursday that he had died on Wednesday morning. A month earlier she told me that he was ill and had given me infrequent updates on his health – usually after I asked.
    We dated over 30 years ago for around 4 years with interruptions (dysfunctional relationship) and both quickly found the partners we are now with. We’ve had sporadic contact over the years, mostly in the last 10 years and mostly e-mail and Facebook. I met his wife once over twenty years ago. He signed his e-mails with both of their names. His death has hit me harder than I had anticipated.
    Anyway. I want to write something like: “My sympathy on the passing of X. I will always remember (these traits) and am grateful to have known him. I’m also grateful that he had you at his side all these years.”
    Is that ok? Or does it sound like “better you than me”? I want to avoid that. Of course I don’t want to dump my grief on her.
    The internet is full of advice for condolescences for the ex on the passing of someone close (like a parent) or condolescences to the parents/siblings on the passing of the ex. But nothing for my situation. Maybe someone else has been through the same thing.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      It doesn’t at all sound “Better you than me” or like you are dumping grief on her. It sounds like “he was a good person and you made him very happy. I’m sorry he’s gone.”

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Have the grandchildren expressed an interest in learning to sew? Do they all have the same interests or hobbies otherwise? I remember, when I was a pre-teen, receiving gifts that the giver assumed I’d develop a long-term interest in them. Usually, I’d try it once or twice, then be bored or frustrated and it would wind up in the back of a closet because there were other things that engaged my interest.

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

      What you want to say sounds lovely. Go for it — I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. And I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  24. SEWING FOR BEGINNERS*

    I am buying mini sewing machines for my preteen grandchildren this year. Sewing is a useful skill, and I think they’ll like making clothes when they get to that level and being able to alter clothes to fit them perfectly. If they use their sewing machines a lot, I’ll buy them bigger ones next year. I’m also buying easy-to-follow books with patterns. I’ll need to buy some fabric, too, but I don’t know what to buy or how much or where. What is the best place to buy fabric online? Do you have any suggestions for nice fabric for preteen clothes? What else should I buy to get them started? Any suggestions for good YouTube tutorials for beginner sewers? Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I want to make it fun and easy enough for them (and their parents) so that they’ll actually sew and enjoy it. Thank you!

    1. Indisch blau*

      Maybe gift certificates for the fabric or shop for it together? I sew and I learned to sew from my mother, but I didn’t really get started until middle school.
      In my day early sewing projects for kids were things like aprons that are fairly easy and don’t have to be fitted.
      I wouldn’t necessarily have been thrilled with the fabric to make a garment that I hadn’t picked out. And I would have needed advice on suitable fabric to use. Does it drape well, is it too bulky or too light for the garment? Some fabrics are really hard to sew with, especially without a special machine or for beginners.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I’d suggest patterns and fabric for super simple things like pencil cases, carry bags, pillow slips, scrunchies, hair bands etc. I would let them start with straight-line-sewing basics first and see if they even like sewing before jumping into clothing. Maybe a couple of metres of calico, plus a handful of fat quarters with cute prints for them to play with, plus elastic, velcro, buttons etc?

      (Clothes-sewing is… ambitious for pre-teens. And I say that as someone who learned how to sew as a baby from my mother’s lap and got my own first sewing machine when I was 5.)

      1. Indisch blau*

        +1 to the clothes sewing is ambitious for pre-teens. I sew and began to learn it as a middle schooler. But my first attempts were not really encouraging. It’s easy to attempt something that’s too ambitious, botch it and lose interest. Especially if they’re on their own (like if no one else in the family sews). At that age I wanted to cut corners and skip things like facing or interfacing that really are necessary for the garment to turn out well.
        If you are intent on giving them fabric for making their own clothes they may need someone to advise them. When I was learning to sew, I often wanted to try fabrics that were either too difficult to use with a basic machine or not appropriate for the pattern I’d chosen. I needed someone to say, “that’s not going to drape well”.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        Agreed. Maybe a bit of flannel too, for things like hankies, iPad covers, etc. Definitely encourage them to start on small projects—especially since instructions for larger projects may use opaque terms and specialized equipment that they may not have or be familiar with.

      3. RLC*

        Concur! I started sewing with my mom’s Singer 66 at around age 5 (hand crank allowed only) and recommend offering materials and supplies for “crafty” projects like you mentioned to any beginner. Clothing can be frustrating and discouraging to a beginner of any age (as I recall helping friends in university when they got in deep on clothing construction beyond their skills).
        Also strongly recommend OP test-drive the sewing machines prior to purchasing and gifting. So many machines marketed to beginners just don’t work well, even when new.
        Even with 50+ years of experience I prefer a well maintained older machine over a new model (Singer Featherweight and 201 fan here). The older machines are also just about impossible to break (I’ve done soft sculptures for years and ruined two new $2000 machines in the process) and are often quite reasonably priced.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Pillow cases (for decorative throw pillows) are a good starting point.

      Quilting stores can be a good source of fabric.

    4. Llellayena*

      A couple of fun fat quarters would be good, but a gift card to Joann Fabrics (or your local equivalent) so they can pick their own fabric is better. Each pattern will have guidance on how much and what type of fabric will be needed and you don’t know which patterns they’ll want to try first. Many sewing stores also offer beginner lessons, if you’re not planning to teach them yourself.

    5. WellRed*

      Pick out a fun project from one of the books and buy the suggested fabric so they can try it out. Then, let them pick their own fabric and projects. I think expecting them to make and alter clothes is unrealistic. I’m assuming you sew so can get them started.

    6. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I’d go for simple cotton, with prints or without depending on what you think they’ll like. Avoid jersey, satin, organza, … – fabric that stretches or is slinky.
      Your typical JoAnn’s should have plenty of beginner-friendly materials.
      Expiring Cat Memes suggested wonderful starter projects! Pillow cases and bunting are easy, too. Don’t expect anything fancy, clothes are far out for a beginner of that age, and don’t be discouraged if they need a bit of time to get into sewing as a hobby.
      Mini sewing machines tend to be really light, which makes sewing anything a bit larger quite a hassle because the fabric takes the machine along with it and then it’s hard to hold fast the fabric _and_ the machine _and_ get a straight line. So if at all possible, see if you can somehow make the machine heavier or fixed to a piece of wood or something.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Are you sending a notions kit? Pins, decent scissors and thread snips, chalk or disappearing pencil, measuring tape, hand needles, thread assortment, etc.

      Some machines come with a little kit, but they are usually very poor quality and frustrating to use. Even an inexpensive version bought separately is usually much better.

    8. Lizabeth*

      I learned to sew back in high school through a class at JC Penny’s and was introduced to it getting my sewing badge in Junior Girl Scouts. Dad made the deal if we sew our own clothes he’d pay for the fabric during high school.

      I highly recommend that the kids get enrolled in an age appropriate how to sew class in a nearby Michaels, Joann’s or independent fabric shop. I’ve found You Tube is good for reference but not for teaching beginners.

      Take them shopping for the fabric – it’s fun to pick out their own! Pillowcases are a great place to start…napkins, placemats, simple doll quilts…

    9. Professor Plum*

      I wonder if including some thrifted clothing with ideas about upcycling could work for them? That way they can skip the hard parts of clothing construction but still customize and make it personal.

    10. tempest in a teapot*

      I taught my now-teenager to sew. Do the kids *want* to sew? My kid eventually became actually quite good at clothes making (made bathing suits/ a variety of pants & dresses etc/ button-up shirt). But it took about 10 years to get there. There’s a lot of practicing straight lines at first, and making *a lot* of mistakes. My chorus was: be grateful for every seam you don’t have to undo. Do the kids have adults that can help them trouble-shoot? Generally first projects are skirts & pajama pants.

    11. Dark Macadamia*

      This sounds like such a fun gift! I agree with others who are saying to hold off on serious apparel fabrics/patterns for now – I’ve been sewing casually for over 20 years and I still won’t wear something I made in public, although I’m decent at mending/altering things when needed.

      My suggestion is pajama pants. That’s the first thing I remember making and they’re perfect because you get to use fun/silly fabrics and it’s okay if you don’t do a great job because you only wear them at home! Matching family pajamas are a big thing lately so you could give them all the same cute plaid or something, or choose a flannel that reflects each of their interests/personalities and a pattern with options for both pants and shorts.

    12. Polopoly*

      Are you close (geographically and otherwise) to your grandkids ?
      Instead of buying them a sewing kit, could you invite them over on a regular schedule and work with them on a project that you decide together ? Do they have other proficient sewers in their lives to help them through the early learning curve ?

      1. Cordelia*

        that’s what I’m wondering. It sounds like “learning to sew” might be a fun activity to share together, but expecting pre-teens to teach themselves from YouTube, unless they’ve already shown a lot of interest in sewing or have other people who will help them, sounds a lot, to be honest, and might end up in disappointment for both you and them. Maybe if they’ve worked on projects alongside you, and seen the rewards, they might be enthusiastic enough to make it worthwhile buying them their own machines when they are teenagers.

    13. Pieforbreakfast*

      Older, but they’ve stuck with me:
      “Goodbye Vitamin” Rachel Khong
      “Plague of Doves” Louise Erdich
      “Saints For All Occasions” J. Courtney Sullivan
      “Lamb” Christopher Moore, or any book by this guy really.

    14. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Have the grandchildren expressed an interest in learning to sew? Do they all have the same interests or hobbies otherwise? I remember, when I was a pre-teen, receiving gifts that the giver assumed I’d develop a long-term interest in them. Usually, I’d try it once or twice, then be bored or frustrated and it would wind up in the back of a closet because there were other things that engaged my interest.

      1. Workerbee*

        I am leaning toward this as well. My mom was an avid sewer, but I never absorbed the interest or desire. Yet I (the daughter) was gifted with a mini sewing machine that I then felt guilty over just.not.wanting. My brother did not receive any sewing machine.

    15. Pieforbreakfast*

      I started sewing around age 10 and it was all about crafts- pillows, stuffed animals, bags, soft boxes, doll house stuff, hats, costume accessories.
      Are you going to be teaching them or expect it to be self taught? If the latter I’d look into classes available for them to take.
      If you (or someone) will be helping, I suggest looking for books with projects to pick from (there’s a ton out there just Google it).
      Fat quarters or remnant bundles in a variety of color and patterns will be good for this.

    16. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      The only thing I have to add is that if any of them are into costuming/cosplay, that’s what they’re likely to try to use their machines for. Helping them temper expectations and figure out which projects are suitable for beginning sewers, and how to figure out what techniques to use where when trying to match a picture rather than follow a pattern, would make a big difference in whether or not they stick with it as they try to devise and sew their own costumes.

      (Also, teach them about spray starch! This helps with so many little costuming-things in getting fabrics to look right, but since we’ve gotten away from wearing stiff, ironed clothing in our everyday lives, it’s something they probably have no idea exists. I mostly use it to restyle hats in my everyday wardrobe since I’m burned out on complicated sewing projects, but it’s useful for a lot of costuming tasks.)

      1. Pippa K*

        I just love that you have hats in your everyday wardrobe! Clearly you are much more stylish and put-together than I am!

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I am neither stylish nor put-together, but I have A Default Look that I’ve been wearing variations on for a couple of decades now, for I am old, slow to change, and gave up on fashion about the time that babydoll dresses became The New Look in the 90s.

          My particular look includes a Winter Uniform and a Summer Uniform, each of which come with their own seasonal broad-brimmed hat to block UV when outside and overhead lighting when inside. I have a default “everyday” hat for each season that goes on my head before I leave the house just like shoes go on my feet, plus a large collection of special occasion hats since I’ve been gradually accumulating hats since the 90s. I generally just wear my default seasonal hat rather than match with a specific outfit each day, although I do have a collection of hatbands to swap onto them if I want to mark an occasion in a low-effort way (such as green for Christmas or St. Patrick’s day, red if we’re having a union-declared “wear red” day or for Valentine’s day, or rainbow for pride). I’ll get out my specialty hats every now and then, like if I’m really dressing up for a special occasion or if I want a very distinctive hat so I can be found quickly in a crowd (“Go find Hobbits, she’s the one wearing the blue furry hat with bells on it” is going to be an easier task than “Go find Hobbits, she’s the one wearing a blue shirt and black pants”, so if I need to be findable by people who may not remember what I look like, I will pull out the really odd costume hats).

          Spray starch is really useful for the woven paper summer UV-blocking hats, because they get droopy when rained on. Spray starch gets the brims sticking straight out or rolled up again. I usually spray-starch mine at the start of the season, plus any time I get caught in the rain wearing it.

    17. Kittee*

      Spoonflower! And if you can, I’d let the kids pick their own fabric. There are probably thousands of choices there, and the kids can get swatches before committing to very much. They can even design their own fabric there if they want to.

    18. SEWING FOR BEGINNERS*

      Thank you so much for your helpful tips and advice! I should have provided more information in my post. I don’t know how to sew, but I want to learn. I plan to enroll us in sewing classes that we can do together in the New Year. Their sewing machines are portable, so they can use them at home and easily bring them to my house to do projects together. My husband (their grandpa) has experience with sewing machines as his mother sewed all the time, so he’ll be able to assist with any technical difficulties. :) The sewing books I’ve ordered have patterns for pillowcases, pencil cases and other simple projects to get them started. I don’t see any clothes-making or altering happening for a LONG time. If they like sewing and keep at it, they may like to try clothing as teenagers (they’re 10 and 11 right now). They have never expressed an interest in sewing, but they love doing crafts. We’re buying mini (and cheap) sewing machines for this reason. We have no idea if they’ll even like it, but we like to give them opportunities to try new things. Thank you again for your help. This is a great community!

      1. A Frayed Knot*

        Quilting is a great place to start! Simple projects, straight sewing lines, an abundance of free patterns! The only drawback is that it can become addicting. Ask me how I know!

    19. ESus4*

      This is awesome!! I remember at age eight flying to my grandparents’ house for two weeks, where my grandmother taught me to sew. We went together to get a sewing kit, notions, good scissors that I still have. We picked out a simple dress pattern and fabric and made it. My parents got me a used Singer and I sewed for years.

  25. Petirrojo*

    I had an unexpected experience at Thanksgiving this year, and I’d like some advice if possible! For context, I usually attend a large Thanksgiving hosted by an extended family member’s friend. I’m there as a guest of a guest, basically, and people are lovely but don’t know me well. They’re super politically liberal, as am I (this matters for what I’ll describe).

    Halfway through Thanksgiving, they began to have a conversation about COVID where they talked about how it was basically no longer an issue, how their main desire is to never hear about it again, and so forth. I had an unexpectedly extreme emotional reaction to this conversation, which I attribute to my fully boosted dad dying of COVID very recently (3 months ago). I basically broke down (tried to hide it by hiding in a bathroom several times).

    My question is: do I email the host and hostess to tell them why I acted as I did and apologize for any discomfort I may have caused? Or do I leave it be? I can’t be certain that they noticed, although I believe I was very unsubtle, despite trying to hide it. But I don’t want them to be wondering why I was behaving so oddly when they are generally very lovely and nobody but my family member had any idea that I had such a close and recent experience with COVID. I’m torn.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’d just leave it. In your shoes, honestly, I’d be worried that sending an explanation like that to someone I don’t know well would come across as passive-aggressively chiding them for their (thoughtless, unrealistic and kind of dumb, don’t get me wrong) commentary, and would that backfire on my family member. (And to be fair, I WOULD ABSOLUTELY be chiding them, which might be satisfactory in the moment but isn’t likely to have positive effects in the long term.)

      1. PsychNurse*

        Same here. I am so sorry for your loss. Trying to communicate about it via email is not going to be successful. They are likely to read your email as an accusation that you think they were being insensitive. I’d drop it.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I’m so sorry for your loss and that apparently nobody noticed you were breaking down. I would have started sobbing at the table.

      If you’re really concerned about explaining how you behaved, you could write them a thank-you card and mention that things have been difficult since your dad died so recently. It’s also possible that your family member may tell the host about your dad – if I were them I would (but then again if I were them I would have shut that conversation down so hard).

    3. Ins mom*

      Don’t beat yourself up. It was an appropriate response to the conversation over which you had no control. You could mention your dad in the thank you card as others have mentioned,

    4. Ellis Bell*

      This is so hard and so sad, I’m sorry you had to go through that. I think posting your feelings here is probably a more effective way of a) moving through it personally, and b) getting the message out there that those discussions about not wanting to talk about Covid, IS actually talking about Covid, just with huge side helpings of thoughtlessness, denial and irony. I don’t think you can contact them about it without it coming across as criticism. It may be a possibility to ask your family member if you were noticeably upset. If so, I would only go so far as to say you found the holiday harder than expected after a bereavement and that is then the Official Statement should they be curious enough to enquire of her. Probably they won’t be, and they won’t remember the details of the conversation or your reaction like you do. Unfortunately when some of us go through something as a reality, we have to encounter the more fortunate treating the topic as an imaginary Boogeyman ripe for jokes and dismissal simply because they fear it, and cannot imagine it, and are tired of trying to do so. You can ask one irreverent child to stop speaking before thinking, but you can’t get to them all. For me, when I was being hurt by a topic that is often talked about, but never seriously, (not Covid, but I went through something of a taboo type of pain that is commonly joked about and lightly discussed), I went from being surprised when people’s conversation hurt me, to expecting it, to having set moves and scripts when it inevitably happened. I think today I would say something like “I don’t think it’s like that for everyone” or “It’s really just a sign of being more fortunate when we are able to say that” without further explanation. In the early days though, when I was viscerally upset, I either had to choose my company carefully or live with the fact that they caused the awkwardness, not me.

      1. Bluebell*

        I agree with this reply- check with your relative, and maybe write something brief and vague. I think part of the reason so many people are all “covid is over” is because they don’t know anyone who has died from it in the past year, and with the average age of people dying being 80ish, there’s a feeling of “ well, it’s their time anyway.” I wish the media would occasionally cover these deaths in some way, but it doesn’t seem to be on their agenda. My condolences on your loss.

    5. Siege*

      I mean, I personally would probably tell them their liberal politics don’t mean squat without compassion and the honest recognition that the pandemic is ongoing, mention how many people a day are dying and what percent are vaccinated, tell them my dad died of COVID, and then never speak to them again, but you wish to be a bigger person, which is an admirable goal. Under those circumstances, I would leave it, and I wouldn’t even send a card unless that’s something you usually do.

      I realize it’s my ADHD and autism speaking, but if they can’t notice your pain and discomfort in the moment, you don’t have to share it to make them comfortable, especially when it’s something they should be embarrassed about (regardless of my reaction, they SHOULD be embarrassed about making a guest uncomfortable and causing pain like this, and it just can’t be impossible to imagine that other people at your table might have a different perspective on COVID, or different experiences with it). It sounds like you’re trying to light yourself on fire to keep them comfortable, and they’re not reciprocating.

      I’m sorry about your dad and I’m sorry you had such an awkward and uncomfortable experience at dinner.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      I wouldn’t say anything. You don’t need to apologize for being distressed by them thinking it’s cute to play ostrich over something that is actively harmful to not take seriously. I’m very sorry for your loss and that you were in this situation.

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

      I am so sorry for your loss, and I can absolutely understand why you broke down — that must have been so infuriating and upsetting for you.

    8. Petirrojo*

      Thank you all for your thoughts and advice! I’ll try to decide whether to do a thank you card or nothing at all. My family member definitely completely agrees with them and didn’t speak up affirmatively only due to my presence….but that’s another story. Sigh.

    9. TallGuy*

      First things first: I am so sorry about your father’s passing. That’s it.

      Actually, no. I had a huge editorial typed up, but I’ll summarize it: I personally feel like people who say they’re “over COVID” are coming from a place of MASSIVE privilege.

      Anyway, about Thanksgiving: so…did they notice? That’s probably the main thing that determines if you acknowledge it. It sounds like you tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, so they might not have even noticed (even if you feel like you were REALLY FREAKING OBVIOUS – people are surprisingly oblivious). But if they did pick up on it…it sounds like you know these people, and like these people. I’m generally an advocate of some disclosure – in this case, mentioning that your father died from COVID recently – but I am also extremely aware that 1) you are going through a whole freaking lot and 2) you do not owe anyone an explanation. So it really depends on whatever works for you.

      I’d say do one of three things with regards to emailing the hosts:
      1) Don’t email them at all. That’s valid.
      2) Mention that you’re going through a rough time, and you needed to step away from the discussion. Or…
      3) Mention that your dad died of COVID three months ago. The difference is that you’re directly addressing the issue here.

      Honestly, 2 and 3 can be combined, but you can also take them separately as well.

      Actually, one more thing: I’m a little (okay, a lot) fired up, but: yeah, I’m okay with the other attendees feeling a little bit uncomfortable by your behavior. It was a jerk move on their end.

    10. MeepMeep123*

      I’ll go against the commentariat here and say that YES, you need to say something. If they are “generally very lovely”, they will be mortified at the idea of hurting you like that and they will not do that again. I mean, if I’d gone off on an oblivious conversation about something that hurt someone else, I’d want to know that it hurt them – so that I don’t do that again, and so that I’m more careful about other strangers.

      And if they are not as “lovely” as you think they are, they need a nice hard swat on the nose anyway.

      I mean, a million Americans have died of COVID so far, and all their grieving relatives are supposed to be tiptoeing around everyone else’s feelings so that their “COVID is over” bubble isn’t burst? Isn’t that asking a bit too much of a grieving person?

  26. Golden*

    I messed up and posted this on yesterday’s work thread, but I think in October there was a discussion here started by Come on Eileen about Costco’s Hotel Signature 800 thread count bed sheets. It appears they are back in stock!

  27. Dwight Schrute*

    Sewing machine suggestions for someone who’s never sewed before but is considering getting into it? Knowing myself I’ll need something that is very user friendly and I’m looking for something that’s not super expensive (under $200). Thanks all!

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      If it’s reasonable in your area, I’d recommend buying used, like from Craigslist. I was in your position a few years ago and got a former fashion student’s perfectly good spare machine for $45–I just had her demonstrate that it worked in person before confirming the transaction (which had the added benefit of me getting a glimpse of the very basics of operating it).

    2. Llellayena*

      Sewing machine repair shops often sell used machines in good condition. They’ll also be able to walk you through how use them and care for them.

    3. Professor Plum*

      What kind of sewing do you want to do? Clothing, home dec, quilts? There are different features that may be more of a priority depending on what you want to make.

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Good question! Primarily things like pillow cases/covers, crate pads for dogs and at most dog pjs

        1. RLC*

          Singer 201 or 403A:
          The 201 is a straight stitch only machine – an absolute workhorse and a heavy beast. It’s the closest to a commercial machine you can get but still be for home use, and they don’t seem to have hit the collector market price range yet (made from 1930s to around 1960, recommend the newer end of the range as electrical wiring may be better, mine is from 1951). Will sew thru heavy sailcloth with ease, have used to make dog bed covers and mend canvas duck overalls. Zigzagging can be done with an attachment.
          The 403A has built in zigzag capability, is not so heavy, but almost as strong. Mine is from 1958, came from an estate in near new condition for $125 a few years ago. There is a similar machine, the 401A, out there but the stitch mechanism is more complex (makes more fancy stitches than the 403A).
          If there is a sewing machine repair shop in your area which has been in business for a long time, that could be a good resource for older but well serviced machines.
          Good luck with your search and projects!

        2. Professor Plum*

          Whether or not you buy from them, you can always go to a sewing machine store to test machines. Tell them what you’d like to be making and your max budget, and then don’t even look at the machines above that. If you stay focused on used machines, you may get a feel for what’s out there on marketplace etc if you go that direction. There is value in buying from a good machine store—training, questions, servicing etc. Good luck!

    4. Siege*

      I’ve been using a pretty intro Pfaff for 20 years and it’s a workhorse. It doesn’t do fancy stitches and doesn’t have a one-step buttonhole, but it’ll make corsets and happily sew 8 or 10 layers of fabric and interfacing. It retailed new around $100 and came with several basic feet plus other supplies.

      If you anticipate making a lot of buttoned garments, get one with a one-step buttonhole feature. Pfaff often does ranges of 3, so they’ll have 3 intro machines, 3 embroidery machines, 3 high-end machines, etc. The top of the intro range should have that buttonhole feature; mine is the middle of that range.

      You’ll get more bang for your buck if you buy used, but buy it from a reputable source. It’s easy to damage machines and pass it off as fine or minor. It doesn’t sound like you need more bang, though, so a new machine might work fine for you.

      If you’re in the Western Washington area, be aware that Quality Seeing and Vacuum is commission-based now and they will absolutely hit you with a high-pressure guilt trip. Bernina of Renton has been good in my experience.

    5. Maryn*

      A used sewing machine up to 45-50 years old is likely to outlast a new machine. More of the parts were made of heavier metals and fewer of plastic, which becomes brittle with age. (My machine is a 46-year-old Kenmore.) Make the seller show you that it sews ordinary straight stitches if varying lengths (how many stitches per inch) and zigzag stitches in varying widths. With only those two, you can sew almost anything.

      Newer machines’ ability to do embroidery, the computerized controls, and fancy stitch capabilities don’t add to the basic functionality a beginner needs.

      Watch NextDoor, CraigsList, and other online sales that are local. Visit estate sales and other local points of sale. It wouldn’t be wrong to put out an ad saying you want to buy a used sewing machine. Lots of people have on sitting around that they haven’t used in years.

    6. LNLN*

      I agree with the idea of buying a used sewing machine. Sewists upgrade their sewing machines all the time, and sell their old machines. Older machines that are mechanical rather than electronic (like old Singer machines) might be a great place to start. I sewed for many years on my mother’s Singer, had an Elna for 30 years and now have a Bernina. Places that sell new sewing machines will often have used machines “traded in” when customers bought a new machine. I also see machines at garage sales and on Nextdoor Marketplace. Good luck!!!

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        This. I bought mine second hand from a keen sewist who had 4 machines and only used this one twice. I think it was retailing around $700 new and I got it for $200.

        It’s a Singer Heritage, which admittedly I bought without research just because it’s gorgeous. But I adore it and it’s perfect for a beginner. Very simple to use – with my eyesight, I especially love the automatic needle-threading lever! I also like that it stops and beeps at me when it’s lost the thread rather than finding out after I’ve done a whole section and having to go back and find out where. I use it for upholstery, cushions, curtains etc and the occasional clothes alteration/repair.

    7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      The feature I most value on a machine for beginners (and which I still use a lot myself) is a fast/slow switch, so that in addition to using the pedal control for speed adjustment you can slow the overall machine down. This means less lightly hovering on the pedal for doing things at slower speeds, and when you’re new to slowing you’ll probably want to do everything on slower speeds so you can better see what is happening and adjust as needed. Once you’re more comfortable, you’ll probably want to use the higher speed for things like long, straight seams and the lower speed for fiddlier stuff, but just having the machine slower the whole time while you’re first learning can be really helpful.

      (My current machine is over 20 years old and was bought in anger at Sears when I didn’t like any of the pants available at the mall that season, so I’m not helpful in terms of knowing which specific machine would be best for you to buy right now. Growing up, I did most of my sewing on a bunch of constantly-breaking thrifted machines my school had for sewing classes, so I have a poor opinion of secondhand machines from that experience. However, buying a used machine from a place that repairs sewing machines would probably lead to buying more a functional machine than the ones donated to thrift stores and then “repaired” and used by schoolchildren with minimal maintenance skills, particularly if the repair place offered a warranty on it.)

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      I have a John Lewis (UK department store that has a reputation as a sewing/haberdashery specialist) basic sewing machine. It’s essentially a Janome model but in a different case. I’ve had it for about ten years now – although admittedly it didn’t get tons of use for the first few years of its life – and it’s still a very reliable and hardworking machine.

      That said, I am thinking about upgrading it soon, but only because I want to start sewing with jersey and it doesn’t have an option to adjust the stitch width. It does also have a lever for backstitching rather than doing it automatically, which can be a little tricky to control. But if you’re OK with both those things then I’d say Janome is a very good starter brand, and also has the advantage that it’s easy to get replacement parts, extra feet etc if you need them.

  28. I take tea*

    Hi, I have a food / kitchen utensils question.

    We eat a lot of beans in our household, and have been talking for a while about cooking our own instead of using canned, because they taste better and the selection of canned beans isn’t very big. I used to do it when I was a student, but have just done it sporadically since. The problem is that it takes ages to pre-soak and then cook for hours. We have gas, which doesn’t go well with long cooking times.

    My question is: would it be worth it to buy a pressure cooker? Has anyone used it for beans, and does it work? I’ve read that you might skip the soaking by cooking a bit and changing water. Is that true? It would be wonderful not always having to plan ahead. Do the beans get all soggy, or is it possible to get good beans for a salad? I love marinated black eye beans, for example.

    If a pressure cooker of some kind is the answer to our prayers, brand recommendations are very welcome.

    I have been trying to research this, and just feel overwhelmed. Here seems to be a lot of food people, so I thought I’d ask.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Instant Pot, because it is multi use. You can use it as a slow cooker or pressure cooker. It’s even got setting for making yogurt (which can also be used to culture sourdough). All kinds of stuff.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Re cooking dry beans – I absolutely recommend a pressure cooker for that. I got an Instant Pot and found that it did a marvelous job of preparing many different varieties of beans. (I get a lot of heirloom varieties, either from Rancho Gordo or from local vendors, and was delighted to be able to cook them up without having to plan too far ahead!)

      1. Nonbinary Pal*

        Rancho Gordo is the gold standard of dried beans, and I second the Instant Pot. Lately I’ve been cooking a lot of fresh-frozen black eyed peas and purple hull peas which imo have better texture than either canned or dry. Definitely give em a try for the new year’s day tradition if that’s your thing.

        1. I take tea*

          I have sadly never seen any fresh frozen beans other than edamame here. And green peas. Those sound nice.

      2. E*

        Yes agree, pressure cooker cuts wayyyyy down on cook time. We have a gas stove and an old fashioned stovetop pressure cooker (you don’t need an Instant pot tho I’ve heard the resale market for them makes them cheap now. We just don’t have counterspace ). The brand we have is “Presto” but I’m sure others are equally good.

        I still do soak bc I find it helps keep the skin on better and cuts down on cook time, and I don’t mind the inactive time, but it may not be necessary. Most beans after soak take only 3-8 minutes to cook after coming to pressure, about 20-30 min total of cook time and then a little longer to cool down and unlock the pressure cooker. Active time is very minimal. I make a big batch and freeze in small containers the ones we’re not eating within a few days. Game changer! I live in a city where driving isn’t really a thing so being able to carry a couple bags of dried beans means I save myself from lugging dozens of heavy cans.

        As for soggy, no worries — you can control how long you have them under pressure for, it’s easy on a gas stove to just turn it down/off! — so making them a little Al dente for salads is totally doable . Our cooker came with a little recipe book that tells you optimal cook time for each type of bean and has a range, so you’d just do lower end of range

        1. I take tea*

          Yes, the carrying is a factor too, although we live pretty near a shop. Mostly I’d like a bit more variety.

      3. Newbie*

        I’m the outlier who doesn’t use a pressure cooker for beans. The pressure cooker narrows the sweet spot between “not done” and “overcooked” to the point that I have a hard time getting them right (I’m an absent-minded cook).
        I’m a happy member of the Rancho Gordo Bean Club and can’t recommend their products enough, especially their cranberry beans, Marcella bean, Christmas lima and mayocoba. Oh, and flageolets. Ok, well, all of them.

        1. I take tea*

          Oooh, that sounds so good, all of it. I’m not in the US, but if I were, it sounds like a super cool club. The canned I get here are more or less butter beans, kidney beens and black beans. Plus chick peas and lentils. In ethnic stores maybe some more, but nothing like that. You can see why I would like to do ny own? Not that the selection is anything like that dried either!

        2. SpellingBee*

          Greetings from another member of the People of the Bean! Rancho Gordo beans are the best. I love all of them, but my absolute favorite is Good Mother Stallard.

          Re cooking, I pick through the beans and rinse, then cover with plenty of water and do a short soak (maybe 3-4 hours). I don’t change the water when I’m ready to cook, but I do make sure that the beans are covered by at least 2 inches – they won’t cook evenly if there’s insufficient liquid. Bring the pot to a rolling boil and cook hard for 10 minutes or so to show the beans who’s boss, then turn down to a bare simmer. Since RG beans are so fresh when you get them, it rarely takes more than an hour to cook them to the proper creamy consistency. You can add diced onion, carrots, celery, etc., or just cook them solo. They’re delicious any way you do it.

    3. Victoria, Please*

      I have a pressure cooker that I’ve used all of two times (not an instant pot). For me, generous soaking times (12-24 hr, changing water 3-4 times), only adding salt in the last 20 minutes, and not using old beans all help a lot.

      If you want an Instant Pot, because they do sound great, use it for the beans too. But don’t buy one, or a regular pressure cooker, just for beans.

      1. I take tea*

        The problem with “no old beans” is, how do you know? I mean, obviously if it’s been in the cupboard three years, but sometimes they are old from the shop. I once bought beluga lentils and cooked them for three hours, and they stayed hard. Not al dente, crunchy hard. Frustrating.

        1. Victoria, Please*

          I buy ’em from the local Indian grocery. The shoppers there are very sensitive to food quality.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Long-time vegetarian-flexitarian here. There are basically 4 ways to cook beans: (1) rinse, soak overnight, drain and change the water, bring to boil, and simmer for up to 2 hours, depending on variety, size, and age of the beans.

      (2) Don’t soak overnight. Rinse, “quick soak” by boiling hard for 3 minutes, soak in that water for about an hour, drain and change the water, then simmer for up to 2 hours, depending on variety size, and age of the beans.

      (3) Rinse, soak overnight or “quick soak,” drain and change the water, and cook in a crockpot for a few hours. Start it on low before you leave for work and your beans will be ready for use when you get home.

      (4) Rinse, soak overnight or “quick soak,” drain and change the water, put in a pressure cooker, cover with water plus about 2 inches more, and cook in the pressure cooker for about 30 minutes.

      Add some baking soda or a strip of kombu seaweed to reduce gas (your mileage may vary as to how well either of these works).

      Presto is a very common brand of pressure cooker. There’s also Mirro. Gold standard would be an All-American, with the commensurate price tag. Any of these pressure cookers will have a safety relief valve that will prevent explosions.

      1. I take tea*

        I’ve done nr 1 always, and I really feel that it takes too long and also is wasteful, because so much energy. It starts to sound like nr 4 would be worth it. I didn’t know you could speed up the soak, thank you!

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          If we want to talk saving energy … back in my hippie days, I knew a household that minimized their energy use by cooking beans in their own, D.I.Y. “haybox” cooker. (See the Wikipedia entry for info.) They cobbled it together with a couple of cardboard boxes with a blanket in between. People have used hayboxes forever but I’ve never been comfortable with the risk of the internal temperature dropping below that of safe pasteurization.

          As for crockpots, the newer ones — sold in, say, the past 10-15 years — run hotter on the low setting than they used to. Good for food safety, but older recipes often have to be adjusted. And fun fact: the appliance that eventually became the Crock-Pot brand slow cooker was originally marketed as the “Naxon Beanery,” sold specifically for cooking beans. There’s a fun article at smithsonianmag dot com, “A Brief History of the Crock Pot,” going into the story.

          1. I take tea*

            I’ve used that kind of warm keeping for porridge, but I would not be comfortable to do it for beans, as you say, it feels risky.

            I must read that article! It makes sense, I have the impression that people in the US used to eat more beans, but my impression is from reading Laura Ingalls-Wilder, so I’m not sure if it was just them, but I suppose not.

      2. Emma2*

        Is #3 safe for things like kidney beans if you don’t boil them at any point? I think the guidance is that you should boil them for 30 minutes. (Surprisingly, certain beans contain a toxin and you need to cook them properly to break it down).

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          The toxin in kidney beans is destroyed if you cook the beans at 212F (100C) for at least 10 minutes (link in reply). If you have an older slow cooker that can’t boil water on the low setting, then you shouldn’t try to cook kidney beans in it. But if you have a newer one, where the low setting is warmer than it used to be, or if you cook the beans on the high setting, you’re probably good to go. In my own experience, when I start some soup or chili before leaving for work, it is legit boiling in my slow cooker by the time I come home.

          The link in my reply suggests boiling them for 30 minutes rather than just 10. It also advises against using slow cookers to cook casseroles that contain raw kidney beans, because the casseroles were heated to only 167F (75C). But this is apples and oranges: beans cooking on their own in water or broth will get hotter than beans cooking in a casserole.

          You can mitigate the risk by using a kitchen probe thermometer in your slow cooker. You can eliminate the risk by not cooking kidney beans in a slow cooker at all — and to be honest, this is what our household does. We don’t use dry kidney beans.

    5. CatCat*

      Yes, we occasionally cook ours in the pressure cooker and they turn out well. We usually use a slow cooker though because we like the pot liquor the beans generate in the slow cooker. We never soak the beans regardless of whether we slow cook or pressure cook them. We have an Instant Pot pressure cooker.

    6. OyHiOh*

      And old school stovetop press cooker works well but for simplicity and ease of use, I heartily recommend an Instant Pot type appliance. They’re especially brilliant for beans that take forever on the stovetop, like kidneys and chickpeas. I’ve cooked beans in it without soaking, even, and they turn out well.

    7. Weekend Warrior*

      Interesting to see that so many others have had good luck with beans and pressure cookers. I’m leery since my grandma had an explosion due to the bean skins blocking the pressure valve. She wasn’t hurt luckily, but the ceiling took a big hit.

    8. Just Life*

      Another Instant Pot fan here. I got the mini as I have a small family. You can do soups, stews, meats, all kinds of things. I start with dry beans and it works fine. Adjust the cooking time to get the texture you want. The booklet that came with it was way off for times for cooking some things

    9. AnonyMouse*

      Go to your local Latin American bodega and look for Central American beans that are fresher than bagged beans. Make sure to sort well (remove rocks, debris), rinse several times, then soak. The last time I made them they cooked in 2 hours.

      1. I take tea*

        I don’t have a local Latin American bodega, sadly. We do have Asian markets, and general “ethnic food” shops, but really, there isn’t a lot of diversity in this northern corner of Europe and stuff isn’t always that fresh.

    10. Girasol*

      Do you have a slow cooker? Ours fits a pound of beans and enough water to cook them perfectly. I put them in the pot to soak at bedtime, then in the morning drain the soak water off, add fresh water, and turn it on. By evening they’re ready. That’s still a long time, of course, but hardly any fuss. That might not be better than a pressure cooker but if you already have a slow cooker you might try it.

      1. I take tea*

        No, no slow cooker. The nearest thing I have is a Römertopf :-) (German clay pot.) I looked into the slow cookers, but it feels really wasteful to have something cooking a whole day – how much electricity will it need? And what happens if the electricity is cut off in the middle? We might (will probably?) have shortages here in the winter, because of a certain grumpy bear who wants to eat his neighbour.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Oh slow cookers are fabulously economic. They cost nada, they use low, slow energy and only have to heat up the small pot area. More energy saving than cooking something in a short burst, which requires more energy. If the electricity cuts off in the middle it may even remain cooking for a while because of the heat they build over time.

    11. I take tea*

      Thank you all so much, this helps a lot. I think I’ll keep my eyes open for an Instant pot kind of cooker, it seems to be pretty versatile and could double as a rice cooker (rice is always a little dicey on gas). Maybe I’ll even find one someone wants to get rid of, if I’m lucky. It’s not just the price, I really dislike waste and prefer second hand, when possible.

      1. Clisby*

        Rice is a little dicey on gas? I’ve never had a problem cooking rice on my gas stove (usually in a stovetop steamer, but I can just cook it in a pot as well).
        What problem are you seeing with cooking rice over gas?

      2. M*

        I also have trouble with rice on gas- I am sure it is a me problem rather than a gas problem – but since i started making rice in the instant pot, I have never looked back. It works great every time. I also use it for things like hard cooked eggs and steel cut oats in addition to beans. It ends up being used almost daily at my house for this kind of basic staple food prep.

    12. Missb*

      The only beans I soak now are white beans. Everything else just goes in dry to the instant pot, along with water and often a bay leaf. About a half hour later, perfect beans. Absolutely life changing.

      White beans for some reason are just not soft enough to just put right in the pressure cooker, so I soak overnight then put them in the instant pot.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Whether you get a traditional pressure cooker or a new fangled instant pot, just make sure to check the interior size against the jars you want to use. Some pots will only fit a limited number of one particular size. For both of them, 2nd hand is possible and replacement parts are available online. Gaskets are the 1st things to need replacement. Scare stories about exploding pressure cookers often turn out to be nobody replaced to the gasket for too long.
      When you are learning, invest in new inner lids for your canning jars each time. Some people like my husband have been doing this long enough that they are willing to reuse lids, or can in commercialsalsa jars. But you need to internalize how to check that a jar is a 100% sealed before you do that. It’s not worth saving pennies per jar if a bad can gives you botulism.

    14. Kay*

      You don’t actually have to pre-soak beans. I cook black beans (and others-I’m yet another Rancho fan) all the time and I use the same method for all of them. They all turn out great!

      I use a dutch oven, rinse the beans, dump them in with water covering them by at least an inch or so, bring everything to a boil, drop it to a simmer and let it cook for about 3 hours. For black beans I add an orange cut in half, onion cut in half, and depending on the quantity of beans 1-2 bay leaves. I’ll check it about every hour, an depending on the temperature, etc. it’ll need to cook another hour. Other beans often take less, but this is my go to method for every type of bean and it is so easy!

  29. Nontechie*

    Curious how other people use their tablets and what features they find the most useful? Especially if you use it for projects, art, freelancing, etc.

    I’m impulse buying a tablet this weekend so I’ll have it for an upcoming trip with a long plane ride. I’m not really sure how to get the most use out of it when I’m not traveling and I’m not really an idea person, so crowdsourcing! My previous tablet was a freebie that crashed if I did anything other than solitaire or spotify – great for short plane rides, but not much else. The only apps on my phone are Pinterest and Lingodeer, so I’m really in the dark on what the wide world of tech even offers. Love to hear what other people love about their screen time!

    1. DistantAudacity*

      I use it for all my internet surfing at home, from the couch.

      It’s also good for casting video of whatever (streaming, youtube, etc) that I don’t have directly on my TV setup.

      Also some games!

    2. costello music*

      I use it for watching yuotube when I’m gaming by myself. I also brought it to an old job where we were allowed to read at work and browse for my lunch break.

      I’m vaguely interested in learning to draw and my tablet is capable of that but that hasn’t gone anywhere. Was also going to use it as a planner but that also hasn’t gone anywhere.

    3. CatCat*

      For art, the Procreate app on the iPad with an Apple Pencil is great. My spouse has really gotten into it and watches a lot of tutorials on YouTube. He’s made some really cool digital art creations!

      We both use the app Good Notes to take handwritten notes on our iPad (I just have a cheaper stylus since I don’t do art and don’t need the Apple Pencil features). I use it also for downloading and highlighting PDFs, keeping a day planner, and keeping a journal.

      We both play casual games and have an Apple Arcade subscription because I hate ads in games and the games available via Arcade don’t have that.

    4. grocery store pootler*

      I read a lot of ebooks on mine (mostly reading free public domain epubs with Moon+ Reader Pro). I also listen to podcasts, and occasionally audiobooks through the library or from Librivox. Some general web browsing and email checking as well. I have a Google Voice number on it, so I can text from it if I have wifi (my tablet doesn’t have any sort of phone plan).

    5. 653-CXK*

      I can cast YouTube and other programs from my tablet to my TV screen, which comes in handy when I have to put my legs up before I go to bed (my legs swell up, so each night I put them up on a wedge and let the fluid drain…this was after I had a really bad case of cellulitis in my legs, in which I was in the hospital for 17 days because I got COVID-19 while in the hospital). It makes it much easier to search through the tablet, instead of typing through my remote control!

      I also use it when I’m not using my main computer. The programs are slightly different (Android vs. Windows 10), but not by much.

    6. Anon for this*

      Let’s see: large library through both the Kindle app, Apple’s Books app, and the Libby library app. Email and web use, storage of notes and lists, timed reminders, recipes (in their own Notes app folder – handy to have them searchable). Watching occasional videos. Games, lots of games. Apps for things like my bank and controlling the home thermostat. Photo editing, sketching. Occasionally for work I use a pdf markup app for annotating articles etc. I can do Zoom sessions from my iPad and I have an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard so I can use the iPad as a substitute for my laptop when traveling.

      Obviously I’m a very heavy tablet user, despite using a laptop for most work tasks. It’s so lightweight and multipurpose. I don’t think I could do without it any more!

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I enjoy the Happy Color app for some mindless color-by-number action, and some of them look nice enough that I’ve printed them and used them as framed wall art in my house. It technically requires internet to start a picture, but when I travel I open a dozen or so and fill in one spot each and that’s enough to store them for offline coloring later.

      I also love Notability for drawing, pdfs, note taking, but I got grandfathered in when they went subscription mode so I’m not sure how strongly I can recommend their current iteration.

      I’ve read 7 library books on mine in the last three days. (Traveling solo with lots of sitting on buses and standing in lines.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I also work on mine at least an hour of every workday and did two master’s degrees on it. :) I’m with the previous Anon; I use mine a ton and generally prefer it over a laptop. And if I’m at home and need the laptop for something, I am actually more likely to remote into it from my iPad than to go actually get the laptop off my desk.

    8. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      There are two different kinds of tablets on the market right now. There are cheap ones (Amazon makes a lot of these) that are good for reading, web browsing, watching videos, and light mobile gaming. Then there are ones that are more “laptop replacement” tablets like an iPad (you’ll also find a lot of 2-in-1 Windows laptops and Chromebooks that let you switch between laptop and tablet form factors), which have a lot more available in terms of you creating stuff using a tablet rather than using it to consume stuff.

      If you’re thinking that you’d like to have a computer along on your trip, I’ve seen a lot of “want to have access to a computer so I can get stuff done” people who can make an iPad with a keyboard case be “enough” computer to take with them while traveling. If you’re more thinking that you’d like to have “phone, but bigger screen, so I can keep myself entertained”, you might be able to spend a lot less by buying something like an Amazon Fire.

      Personally, I’ve owned several delightfully garbage low-end tablets and e-readers over the years that I preferred for traveling since I didn’t worry as much about them getting broken or stolen. I just wanted something to read e-books on and maybe also listen to music, so I didn’t want to spend more to get a more capable device that I’d then have to take better care of. I’ve yet to spring for a higher-end tablet because I have a strong preference for keyboard shortcuts over other input methods, so I rarely use my work 2-in-1 in tablet mode and don’t miss the lack of tablet in my personal tech ecosystem. That probably won’t change unless I get into digital art, since that’s the only case where I think I’d personally prefer stylus over other input methods.

    9. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      I have two older iPads and I love them. I find a tablet less of a hassle than a laptop when traveling. And they’re just easier to deal with when I’m moving around the house while cleaning or doing projects. I’m fine with the virtual keyboard so I don’t bother with a detachable one. I do have an Apple Pencil though.

      I primarily use them for web surfing, reading Kindle fare, playing games, and watching streaming content (Netflix, YouTube, etc.). I like the Notability app, and used that a lot when I was back in school. My SO is very artistic and he likes the Procreate app for drawing and sketching. I have a mild Google Earth addiction and can get lost in that if I’m not careful, lol.

    10. Ann Ominous*

      I use it to listen to audiobooks (you can download them ahead of time) and to read e-books (you can download the kindle app on most tablets, don’t need an actual kindle).

    11. bratschegirl*

      I love love LOVE my iPad mini! It’s the perfect size to go in my small handbag, and I often travel with it instead of laptop.

      I do my NY Times crossword puzzles on it using their dedicated app for that. I borrow ebooks from 3 libraries with the Libby app; it’s very very comfortable to read from, both in terms of weight and ease on the eyes. Also have the Kindle app because I’ve bought a few titles that way. Read the NYT, cook from recipes in the NYT Cooking app. Play sudoku, solitaire, and Wordscapes. Look at FB and AAM and do Wordle and Quordle in the Safari browser. Texting. Could do email but I’ve never connected that; my first iPad had minimal storage and email would have consumed too much of it. Enjoy!

    12. The+OG+Sleepless*

      I use my tablet for Pinterest because I like the images to be larger than they cane be on my phone. Also for reading ebooks. It just feels a little more like I’m reading a book than when I do it on my phone. (I don’t listen to audiobooks because my verbal processing is a little iffy and I don’t want to miss anything.)

    13. Might Be Spam*

      I was so glad that I splurged on a tablet for Christmas right before the first lockdown started. My computer crashed the first Saturday and I had to use my tablet for two months because I couldn’t get a new computer sooner. It’s a 32Gb budget 8-inch Android and I’m still using it a lot.

      The Google Voice app can be used to call and text (including with non-Google phones.) I like using my tablet like a phone and getting phone notifications so I can just leave my phone in my purse.
      My kids and I use Google Chat together and I use Google Voice with everyone else.

      I also use it for Skype and Zoom.

      While I was waiting for my new computer, I started using it for Microsoft Office Word and Excel documents, reading library books, playing games, surfing the internet, controlling my smart outlets, and emailing. It does a lot more than I expected and I’m really glad I splurged on it.

  30. Loopy*

    Does anyone have any easy, hearty recipe recommendations that center on roasted vegetables? Looking for something that can be eaten as a main, is low effort, and is vegetarian, and vegan would be a plus.

    I like roasted vegetables but often don’t know how to add the omph to get them to be a satisfying main dish.

    1. Nonbinary Pal*

      Grains are usually a good answer for moving vegetables from side to main. Farro is very hearty and easy to make a big batch of to freeze or just have in the fridge.

      Otherwise…sauces! A little vinegar or citrus juice, a little oil, aromatics and herbs pulsed together in the style of a chimichurri or an Italian salsa verde to toss with your vegetables is going to pull everything together.

      In a similar vein diy Thai curry pastes (you can omit the fish sauce) are pretty easy to throw together in the blender and then freeze in portions. Roast your veg quickly on high heat to brown but not cook through, throw it in a pot with curry paste, veg stock and coconut milk, simmer until things come together, and serve over rice.

      The biggest mistake home cooks make with vegetables is underseasoning. Salt and acidity are your friends, lean toward acidity if you require a low-sodium diet.

    2. Squidhead*

      Put them in tacos with beans, salsa, cheese(optional)? Or burritos (with beans, salsa, rice, cheese)?

      I think of the “main” dish as being the protein, but I think roasted veg make a hearty side to other proteins (tofu or egg scramble, some kind of beans, fish if anyone eats it).

    3. E*

      Check out minimalist baker’s site. I like her sweet potato chickpea bowl and other stuff she makes w roasted veggies and good sauces

    4. Bluebell*

      Smitten Kitchen has a fun sheet pan chow mein recipe that’s yummy, and their are other good hearty veg recipes on her site.

    5. All Monkeys are French*

      A favorite meal in my house is roasted beets. I like to dice them fairly large and toss in a balsamic vinaigrette as soon as they come out of the oven. We eat them over some kind of grain (Israeli couscous is our favorite, but rice or farro are good, too) or over French green lentils. I like to add goat cheese and arugula or spinach, sometimes pine nuts or walnuts.
      For summer season vegetables I like chermoula, which is very similar to chimichurri. It’s a potent flavor bomb on top of veg and works well with polenta as well as other grains.

      1. Elle