weekend open thread – Jan. 14-15, 2023

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: Ms. Demeanor, by Elinor Lipman. A lawyer is sentenced to six months of house arrest after being caught having sex on her apartment building roof … and befriends a man in her building who is similarly captive. It’s Elinor Lipman, so it’s funny and charming and you are in good hands.

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

{ 957 comments… read them below }

  1. Advenella*

    One of my goals for this year was to cook more and to try making new things. I’m happy to report that I’ve learned how to make my own yogurt – plain greek and sweetened vanilla – in my Instant Pot, and both have been supremely tasty! I’ve also tried my hand at maroulis salad and homemade chicken noodle soup (which I’ve technically made before but not in the same way I did this time). This coming week I plan to try to make my own mozzarella cheese, start some refrigerator pickles, and to try to construct a “sushi bake” that is similar to one that someone brought into work for a potluck around the holidays. It’s been so much more interesting than the frozen meals I’d been buying (which primarily involve a lot of pasta) or hitting up the workplace cafeteria (pricey and not great).

    I would love to hear some of your lunch prep suggestions, if you’re open to sharing them!

    1. Manders*

      This week I roasted a bunch of veggies – zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, tomato, red onion, red bell pepper – and combined with some orzo and herbed feta cheese and lemon juice. Super versatile in that you could change up any of the veggies/type of pasta/type of cheese.

      My one wish is that as a single person, I could swap this type of lunch with a willing co-worker on a weekly basis, because I am single and this made enough food for the whole week. On the one hand I’m very thankful that I can make a healthy dish for myself for the week. On the other hand, by Wednesday or Thursday I’m very OK with pretty much anything else.

      1. Advenella*

        That’s a great idea! I feel your pain, too – leftovers get really boring at about day 3 for me. I Not everything I make lends well to freezing for future meals – it would be lovely to have a coworker to swap with, to be honest. I’m lucky in that my partner will eat just about anything I make, as my (adult) daughter and I have vastly different tastes, aside from a few dishes.

        1. ProcessMeister*

          It depends on the leftovers, of course, but there’s plenty of recipes available online to solve this problem.
          For example, I had leftover salads/coleslaw etc. from christmas lunch. I found a recipe online to turn it into a vegetable soup (surprisingly tasty, actually). The leftover soup, in turn, became a good thickening agent when making meat pies. The pies freeze well so can keep for some time.

      2. Bethlam*

        When I worked, I had a lunch sharing friend. It was great – we often made things the other person didn’t (largely because of our spouse’s preferences), or we made similar meals but different recipes (like meatloaf).

      3. Clisby*

        I did the big-cooking-ahead thing when I went back to college for a computer science degree – I was going to school in the day and working full-time at night, so I did almost all of my cooking on weekends. I normally cooked 2 things so I could alternate – like make a small pot roast and a pot of spaghetti sauce – and alternated them. (Also kept the makings for simple sandwiches and salads on hand.)

      4. Don't Be Longsuffering*

        Oh, I would love to swap meals with you. It’s a great idea. Roasted veggies are so yummy. My partner and I are old and we also make meals for multiple use. They must be simple, anymore, and it’s tough to stay interested in them. Most are freezable and we’re able to spread the leftovers out over time, but I still crave eating someone else’s ideas/seasoning/skill level.

        1. Manders*

          Yes, that’s exactly it. I’m great about freezing portions (when the food lends itself to that), and I honestly don’t mind leftovers. I try to alternate, etc. But when you are cooking for one, sometimes you just can’t help but make a bigger portion than you want to still be eating 4 days later. And I would enjoy exchanging food with (some) coworkers.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I tend towards a batch of some legume/vegetable heavy stew or soup for lunches, but will do something different on Wednesday to keep it from getting too monotonous.

      This week it’s a black lentil and Italian sausage stew with tomatoes and zucchini. I’ve also done a nice thick borscht (beet and cabbage soup), Italian minestrone, Indian mixed vegetable sambar (vegetables in a spicy/sour lentil broth), bean soup with vegetables and ham, chicken and white bean stew with green chili sauce, cabbage roll casserole, cheesy taco pasta casserole, Thai chicken and vegetable green curry, Moroccan chickpea and lamb stew with tomatoes, carrots and spinach, broccoli/chicken/rice casserole with cheese.

      1. Manders*

        If you take those to work, do you use a thermos? I love the idea of soup for lunch but it’s always a pain to take and heat (I don’t like to heat stuff in plastic, spilling soup is a nightmare, etc).

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I take soup to work when I’m on a vitamin boost. I microwave it in the morning while making breakfast and a cuppa (about 6.30 to 7am) and it keeps very hot in my Thermos (with a capital T) until noon especially if I pre heat it with some water from the kettle.

      2. Don't Be Longsuffering*

        Cabbage Roll Casserole? Please tell me more. My family loves the rolls but they are such a PITA to make and I just don’t do it anymore. Is this an easier, faster version of the classic? Thanks.

        1. LaLinda*

          Make all your ingredients for stuffed cabbage rolls. Meat mixture (mix ground beef with or without ground pork, one egg, panko, salt/pepper/garlic, any herbs you like), one cup cooked white rice, sauce (tomato sauce or diced stewed tomatoes, sweetener and sour-er, a bit of beef stock, cooked down to about 2/3 volume), diced onions, and coarsely shredded cabbage. Saute onions in oil for a few minutes, add the meat mixture and saute until fully cooked into crumbles, drain most of the fat, add cabbage, stir and cook until well-wilted. Stir in the cooked rice and the sauce, place in a casserole dish, cover, and bake about 45 minutes. Pre-cooking everything cuts the baking time about in half. It’s not traditional, but you can add cheese at the end for the last 5 minutes, uncovered.

      3. nobadcats*

        Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home has a wonderful black bean soup recipe that can be reduced or expanded (for when you need to take something for a potluck or party). It’s completely vegetarian/vegan. If cooking just for myself, I make it a little thicker, then add some shredded cheese, a dollop of yogurt, and/or a sliced avocado on top, then eat it with tortilla chips, like a dip, the spoon is just for scooping out the last bits.

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I get over leftover boredom by making sure my partner and I never eat the same thing more than 3 days in a row.

      I’ll plan for 4 or 5 different dishes in a working week that each make 4 portions (sometimes 6), so we can make dinner that is also lunch for the next day, or I can cook several things in a big batch, to save myself time for the rest of the week and make sure it all gets done before I run out of steam.

      It’s usually stews, soups, casseroles or traybakes, to minimize hands-on time and make reheating easy. And I get to fit in at least one new recipe per week, plus leave space for some meals with no leftovers (pizza, pasta, steak, etc.) which are usually the ones he cooks.

    4. Random Dice*

      Yogurt is so much easier to make than anyone thinks! One can make a vat of yogurt as easily as a small container.

      Before I had a multicooker, I did it with a Pyrex fresh from the dishwasher (sanitized), a pot to heat the milk and kill the undesirable microbes, a cardboard box and an auto-shutoff heating pad (to keep a low warm temp for helping the good yogurt microbes to grow).

      1. Advenella*

        I’m having so much fun with it thus far, and loving that I can portion it out in reusable containers – I really dislike how much plastic waste that gets created from buying so many yogurt containers. I live next to a neighborhood pond that is home to a fair amount of wild birds, and you would not believe the sheer amount of plastic I have scooped out of the water and from the small shoreline since I’ve lived there.

    5. Doc is In*

      I make a spiced kamut and chickpea dish with kidney beans , canned tomatoes, lime juice, paprika, balsamic vinegar, thyme. It keeps well and is so tasty I don’t mind eating it all week for lunch.

      1. Advenella*

        I don’t think I’ve ever had this (or even heard of it), but it sounds great and I’m definitely going to try it!

    6. nobadcats*

      I often make fatteh, which is made of chickpeas, greek yogurt (with garlic, tahini, lemon, and cumin), served over roasted wedges of thick pita with a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top. If I have leftover chicken I shred that up and add it to the top of the fatteh.

      The recipes usually call for spreading the broken pita at the bottom of a serving plate, but that ends up making the pita soggy, so I keep them separate til serving or dip in with fresh pita (the very large thin ones), or pita chips.

    7. Fellow Traveller*

      I often make a batch of tea eggs at the beginning of the week, making an easy breakfast option or lunch bowl protein. I make my eggs in the IP- 3 mins low pressure, quick release gets me the perfect not too hard eggs.
      My go to lunch to bring is: tablespoon of miso and a bunch of kimchi in thermos, put lid on, shake to mix and dissolve. Add ramen and frozen peas. It’s usually still a little warm by lunchtime.
      Another quick protein for lunch- marinated beans from the cookbook Weekday Vegetarian. A can of white beans, marinate in olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon, salt pepper, italian herbs. I eat it on salad or in grain bowls or in a pasta salad or even just on its own.

    8. Zephy*

      I love a big batch of hearty soup or stew for weekly lunch prep – that’s the plan for next week, matter of fact. I’m planning to make kharcho, a hearty Georgian beef-and-rice stew.

    9. Elle*

      Congratulations on your cooking adventures! It’s so satisfying when something you cook comes out well. I’m a big meal prepper. I like making shredded chicken breast. You can add that to a lot of recipes or make it and freeze it.

    10. Jay (no, the other one)*

      If you have freezer space and want to plan way ahead, one way to get variety in your lunches is to cook a bunch of different things and freeze them in lunch-sized portions. I used to do this with a couple of different chicken recipes. I love cold chicken, so I’d bake up a batch of chicken with one of my favorite marinades and freeze each piece separately. In summer I’d pack it with a small ice pack in my lunch bag. The rest of the year it served as its own ice pack and kept my yogurt cold, too. I have also done that with soups, stews, and chili.

    11. Girasol*

      I like to make Mimi’s Sticky Chicken – roast chicken – for dinner, have leftovers from it, and then separate the rest of the meat from the carcass and stew the carcass for stock. The bones get sieved out and the meat goes back in. Then I clean out the fridge crisper and freezer for veggies – extra cabbage, the outside stems of celery, carrots even if they’re bendy, excess lettuce chopped fine, broccoli stems, stray leaves of all sorts, onions, the last bits of bags of freezer-burned frozen veggies. Soup makes everything new again. Leftover cream makes it cream of chicken soup, and if there’s none, potatoes, rice, or noodles go well. Then sherry, garlic, and herbs. That makes a big kettle of soup that freezes well in empty cottage cheese cartons for future lunches plus it clears the fridge before stuff goes to waste.

      1. Advenella*

        Not sure if I hit a comment moderation for adding a link, but this comment may pop up twice. Anyway, coworker wrote out her recipe for me, but if you hit up your search bar with the term “Sushi Bake I am a Food Blog”, it’s very similar.

      2. Advenella*

        Oh, failed to mention – hers included salmon and shredded crab, but it’s written as a “measure with your heart” kind of recipe so I’m having to search as well. Pretty sure the salmon needs cooked before going in. Search around, you’ll come up with a few good ideas on how to approach different seafoods in this recipe. I’m making the sushi rice tonight and will put it all together tomorrow before work.

    12. Sam I Am*

      I’m a big-batch-of-soup person, myself. My newest is a veggie ramen, older hits include (all vegan) butternut squash/ ginger soup, black bean soup, lentil soup and a Jamaican spiced stew.
      I freeze about half of it in portions. Freezing does destroy the shapes of some of the beans, but it’s a small price for completely ready, home-made, low sodium soups. (Canned soups have so much sodium!)

    13. SaraK*

      I make big batches of soup. I started during our very long lockdowns in 2020 for my housemate and me to have something tasty and healthy and I’ve kept it up. Favourites are a tomato based seafood and fennel soup, a lemony lentil soup, and a lentil and chicken soup. I also sometimes make up a giant frittata with potatoes and roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, peppers, zucchini or any other combination I think will be tasty (there are always potatoes involved). A slice of that with a salad makes a great lunch. It’s summer here now and I have a lot of zucchinis to deal with so I’m now making zucchini, corn and feta fritters in big batches and then having them for lunch with a salad.

      1. Advenella*

        Ooh, those all sound amazing. I’d forgotten how much I love fennel in soups, too, and that fritatta sounds delicious!

    14. HannahS*

      Honestly, I used to make beautiful lunches. My best was probably rice noodles (or jsut rice) with seasoned, baked tofu, shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, snap peas or radish, and spicy soy-sesame-peanut dressing. So good. Now I have less time and energy, so my standard lunch is hunks of cheddar, bread or crackers, and an apple or grapes. It’s a good way to quickly bring food to work when the main goal is to avoid spending money at the cafeteria.

      As a middle ground, I do love taking leftover stew (lentil soup, chili, etc.) and bread (homemade whole wheat, or cornbread.)

      1. Advenella*

        I have absolutely done similar easy lunches, almost like a scaled down charcuterie/fruit and cheese board.

        I haven’t made a whole lot of soups/stews lately, and I really ought to. I just fall into the easy traps of “Oh, I like that Amy’s Pesto Tortelleni” and eat that, and it’s geting kinda old.

    15. Dancing Otter*

      I just tonight made a meatloaf mixture, but cooked it in miniature loaf pans for portion control. A pound of ground turkey, a cup of bread crumbs, an egg, and your choice of spices (I used Trader Joe’s “everything but the leftovers”.) makes four little loaves.

      They freeze well, and can be thawed/reheated in the microwave quickly. Slicing is easier when cold, but they /can/ be sliced for a sandwich.

      I’m thinking about slowly heating one in gravy one night.

      Obviously, the pan could equally well be used for individual portions of anything you would cook in a normal loaf pan. Just check for doneness sooner, because it cooks faster.

    16. Advenella*

      Just wanted to say thanks to everyone that’s commented thus far – there’s lots of things here that I haven’t tried or definitely haven’t thought of, and I appreciate your sharing your ideas with me! Frozen Amy’s meals, while tasty, are just getting boring and I know I can create more variety for myself in my own kitchen. Thank you for the meal inspiration!!

      1. Elle*

        I know you asked about lunch but you can grow breakfast stuff in there as well. Overnight or baked oatmeal, pancakes, etc.

  2. Warrior Princess Xena*

    Re: last week’s tip thread – I knew I would only remember a good time once it closed. So here it is now.

    If the check engine light in your car turns on with no noticable cause, go to an auto parts store. The chain near me is O’Reilly’s and I think they’re pretty ubiquitous in the continental US. They usually have the handhelds available to read the engine light and tell you at least what general system is triggering it.

    We had a beater Subaru with some form of minuscule leak in the environmental/exhaust system that would occasionally flash a light. It was good to be able to get it checked instead of paying a mechanic $$ to be told ‘just the environmentals again’.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Also, the first thing to check when the check engine light comes on is your gas cap – make sure it’s tight. Even though the check engine light can seem alarming, it’s almost always related to a minor emissions problem, (O2 sensors are another common one.)

      1. Clisby*

        Absolutely check the gas cap. My mechanic once fixed mine by installing a new gas cap – something like $20.

      2. Voluptuousfire*

        Yes! My ‘98 Hyundai Elantra has this issue. The scary thing about it was is that it would not start after I got gas, so I would have to make sure that I turn the gas cap super tight. It was an issue with this for a while, I think. My friend had an ‘04 Sonata, and had the same issue.

      3. Christmas Carol*

        I don’t know if this is still true or not (or even if it ever was) but back in the day the rule was that computers in GM cars tripped the O2 sensor at 100,000 miles regardless of it’s condition in order to force you to replace the sensor as a wear item. My newer GM is connected to OnStar, and when ever the light comes on I get an e-mail describing what the trouble code is, and nagging me to go into the dealer.

    2. Squidhead*

      Life tips: find out what services are available in your area and how to access them. In my city, they’ll come ream out the sewer cleanout at the curb for free. Once or twice this has fixed a drain back-up problem; the other time we still had to call a plumber but always better to start with the free option. Info like this is usually found on city websites…not social media, just the boring old website where you have to figure out whether to search for “sewer” or “department of public works.”

      Also, find out what the expectations are in your area and abide by them (certain parking on certain days, sort versus comingle your recycling, hazardous waste pickup weekend versus a central drop-off). Some of these sound tedious for teen kids but they’ll be driving soon & parking at friends’ houses, or getting apartments, or staining the fence and have some extra stain. They should be aware that there are often rules about things and it’s their (everyone’s) responsibility to look up the rules (ignorance of the “no overnight parking rule” will not get you out of a ticket!).

      1. Clisby*

        One thing that seems to catch college students around here by surprise is that you cannot park on the street during street-sweeping times. Charleston, SC, will not only ticket you, it will have you towed, which is a huge inconvenience. It would really be nice if the city put up big signs about the street sweeping days/times. Oh, wait! They do! It’s just too much for some people.

        1. Seal*

          Same with snow plowing in northern cities. Whenever it shows enough to accumulate, they’re going to plow the streets and you’ll have to move your car or it will get tickete4r and towed. There are signs up all over the place, it’s all over the news, and there’s enough new snow to make driving treacherous. And yet every time there are people who complain that they got towed after a snow storm because they didn’t think they’d have to move their cars. How many more visual cues to people need?!

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        If your city/town sends out email or text announcements and reminders of things like snow emergencies, holidays that mean trash will be picked up on a different day, and street fairs that will affect traffic, sign up for them.

        Many places let you sign up by category — so you can get information about school closures, open houses, etc. but not street fairs, or vice versa.

        At least in the Boston area, the snow-related announcements tend to include when snow emergencies start and end, and how that affects parking rules and how soon you have to clear your sidewalk, so you don’t have to remember the specifics. That’s particularly useful if you just moved from one jurisdiction to another.

    3. Cars are Out to Get You*

      You can also buy a reader yourself. I have one that got handed down to me through a friend chain. And in general, if the light is not flashing, it is not a problem that requires you to pull over to the side of the road. One caveat, any oil light is worth stopping immediately and checking the oil. I can often tell the age of my cars by the number of things I keep in them to keep it going.

      1. Ins mom*

        Yes. Yellow lights are ‘pay attention’. Red lights are ‘stop NOW’. Signed, mechanic’s wife

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          In my car it’s “steady light can wait, flashing light means PULL OVER RIGHT THIS SECOND.”

    4. Chaordic One*

      Quite a few years ago my parents had this problem with their new car. They never did figure out the exact problem, but it stopped after the dealer replaced the entire gas tank and fuel filler pipe under warranty.

    5. Dragonfly7*

      If not the gas cap, my car is notorious for the check engine light coming on when the windshield wiper fluid isn’t completely full.

  3. Spamalot*

    Email spam help! My personal email has recently been getting spam from “Southwest Airlines.” I always unsubscribe to everything so I opened one and clicked on what I thought was unsubscribe. I realized after the fact the email wasn’t really from SA. Now I get these multiple times a week. They are all from different email addresses. I tried using Yahoos “filter messages like these” but the email address and subject line are always different so there’s nothing to filter. I could take a word from the body of the email but it would be something like “deal” or “reward” so I’d also be filtering out emails I want.

    Any suggestions on how to stop this?
    Also, since I clicked on it, did I mess something up? My Bitdefender is constantly popping up saying it’s blocking stuff now so I’m wondering if I let something onto my computer (obviously not tech savvy). Thoughts? Thanks.

    1. Spamalot*

      Also, there is a PO Box in Nevada included that says you can write to and unsubscribe. Also a scam?

      1. Bearly Containing Myself*

        Definitely don’t write to that PO Box in Nevada! Literally no legit company I’ve heard of asks people to unsubscribe from email by writing a snail mail letter.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I believe that’s also a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act (2003). “You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request.” (FTC)

    2. ThatGirl*

      Are you reporting it as spam? Do that every time and the filters should learn. That said, I recall Yahoo’s spam filters not being as good as gmail.

      You may have “taught” the spammers that your email is valid but it’s almost certainly not a virus or malware.

    3. Bearly Containing Myself*

      I moved to GMail which, in my experience, does a significantly better job at filtering out spam than Yahoo mail. But it is sometimes too good, so you’ll occasionally want to check your spam folder in case anything was inadvertently labeled spam. (I do this very rarely.)

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yeah, I’ve had to create filters for legitimate email, including from one of my banks, even after clicking “Not spam” at least a dozen times! But it’s not that hard to do, so I kind of prefer this.

      2. Ginger Pet Lady*

        UGH yes. Gmail somehow thinks that our family surname domain is spam. My entire family (parents, us, our kids, my husbands siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.) have emails on this domain.
        Super frustrating. Even after whitelisting, I get a giant “BE CAREFUL WITH THIS MESSAGE” warning on all family emails.
        (And no, our host can’t help, and gmail support just tells us to ignore it if we know it’s safe.)

        1. Enough*

          I think some times the spam label is based on the quantity of emails not quality. Daughter got a call from unknown number that the carrier labeled as potential spam. It was from the health care company that her doctor was associated with. They send out thousands of messages from that number confirming appointments.

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      For your second point – if you just clicked on unsubscribe, it’s unlikely that you got an active virus, but if your Bitdefender is popping up it’s possible that you’re being targeted more. Have you run a deeper scan? If not, BitDefender should have that functionality, and if it doesn’t, MalwareBytes isn’t bad & has a free version. If BitDefender is flagging incoming it should be able to spot anything that’s made it’s way into your laptop.

      1. JSPA*

        If you click a mail program’s “unsubscribe,” that may be true…but if you clicked the fake “unsubscribe” link in a scammy email, it could absolutely have downloaded something malign.

    5. MassChick*

      I’ve stopped trusting the Unsubscribe link my conspiracy theory is that it’s actually checking for life at this address. I just go by subject line and mark as spam without opening.
      I only open and scrutinize life affairs related emails (banks etc)

      1. Dino*

        I share the same conspiracy theory! I just “report as spam” within my email client. Unless it’s marketing emails from a company I’ve done business with before, then I’ll use the unsubscribe link. I will also complain in the comment section, since I always uncheck the “opt in to marketing emails” box.

        1. Siege*

          That backfired on me this week! I bought a bag from Samsonite for my partner for Christmas and carefully unchecked the box. I then got SO MANY emails from them. I was unsubscribing/marking as spam and gradually it diminished, until this week when I got a request for a review. I wrote a review, for their stupid marketing tactics, assuming it would be human reviewed, but it either wasn’t or the person who did the review feels as I did and now there’s a review for the bag that is full of my vitriol at their marketing campaign. It went into an approval process and wasn’t published for something like half a day so I’m not sure what happened.

          On the other hand, I haven’t gotten any more emails from them. So maybe it only backfired for me in the sense that I am embarrassed it got published; I hate it when people give 1-star reviews based on shipping delays or the physical quality of the product, but I genuinely had every reason to believe they would actually review it before publication.

          1. Chaordic One*

            I wouldn’t be embarrassed that it go published. Good for you for letting the company and their potential customers know about the marketing tactics they use. Well done!

          2. Cedrus Libani*

            I also hate reviews that are only based on shipping delays. If it’s more or less random, and also not the product maker’s fault, then…that’s just life, don’t clog up the reviews by whining about it. However, spamming the daylights out of someone to the point where they’re annoyed enough to complain isn’t just happenstance. If I’m choosing between two comparable products, but one is going to annoy me afterwards, maybe that makes my decision easier.

          3. Bearly Containing Myself*

            OMG, the news site Wired is the exact same. I was receiving numerous emails a week from them and must have unsubscribed at least 20 times. Now it is all marked as spam and deleted without reading. I told them I was cancelling my online subscription (an annual fee to view their website content) because of the unrelenting spam.

    6. kina lillet*

      The P.O. box is a scam for sure. Or at least the little hook to get you into one.

      Probably you do have some malware. It’s possible that it’s not from the false unsubscribe link, but it’s worth doing a full virus scan. Make sure that you keep your software and operating system updated.

      I would also consider changing how you handle your email. For example, no clicking on links—promotion emails will usually give you a code to use on the website. Don’t click any links in the email, just go directly to the website on your own. Additionally, use the “report spam” button if yahoo has one.

      Take care. It’s easy to be caught at least once by this kind of thing. It’s just a signal to figure out some safeguards.

    7. Random Dice*

      That sounds like phishing. The phishes have gotten vicious lately. I’ve suddenly been getting them all the time.

      1. Rara Avis*

        We have pretty good spam filters at work, and they are incapable of blocking the “I caught you watching porn” ransom attempts — sometimes I get 3 a day.

        1. Observer*

          And how many have they caught? I look at our spam filter stats and during the week over 80% of incoming email gets tagged as spam. Over the weekend, that goes up to close to 95%

        2. Random Dice*

          Omigosh I’ve never gotten that at work!! Only at my personal email. Your company needs a better cybersecurity tool. But they’re wicked expensive so maybe only giant corps can afford them.

    8. Flowers*

      Oh Gosh this is such an eye opening thread!

      I opted out of so many companies only to be inundated with their emails a year later… I wonder fi they have some sort of calendar.

      A while back I was getting spammed with emails related to Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit. I’d open the email and hte “unsubscribe” button was actualy part of the email and not even a link. I must have marked it as spam about 100x before I stopped receiving them. So bizarre

  4. Cake salé anyone?*

    I’d love to get good at making the French cake salé — a savory appetizer loaf served with drinks, usually — that I can bring as my contribution to a party or get-together, so it has to taste good at room temperature. It also has to be vegetarian (but not include soy), and an explicit gluten-free option would be very nice.

    As far as finding exotic or ready-made ingredients, there is no TJ or Whole Food or Costco or the like within 150 miles, and I don’t want to order ingredients online, but I do have access to a nice local cheese department.

    Recipes and suggestions and links are welcome!

    1. RagingADHD*

      I’m not trying to be snarky here, but cake salé is a just a base recipe for a fairly rich quickbread, like muffins or scones. The only distinction that makes it called savory “cake” instead of savory gateau, or anything else, is the shape of the loaf tin. Pick any muffin recipe you like, bake it in a loaf pan, bingo.

      If you want a gluten free quickbread, you are probably going to be better off looking for a recipe called that, than looking for one called “cake salé.”

      1. JSPA*

        Not to be contrary, but with many savory muffins are adapted from sweet muffins, and thus face the challenge of balancing browning, dryness and stickiness in the absence of sugar. Make it gluten free, and the challenge is even greater. As a result, the size and shape of the tin really can matter, and a cake-sized version of the muffin recipe will produce a dense mass that’s too dry at the edges and gummy in the center. (I’d also like a foolproof recipe, as my adaptations have never worked, despite more or less working as muffins.)

        1. RagingADHD*

          You’re still a darn sight better off looking for something called “gluten free quickbread” than taking a traditional cake sale and trying to make it GF.

      2. Cookies For Breakfast*

        On a similar note, I would go for something like “savoury loaf recipe” plus any other desired keywords in your online search. It may help with addressing the risks JSPA has mentioned, too, at least in terms of tin size and shape.

      3. Cake salé anyone?*

        I don’t see quickbread recipes that include a significant amount of both soft and grated cheese, which is practically universal in the French recipes I’ve seen on French recipe websites for cake salé.

        I want to retain that taste and texture, plus the vegetable add-ins. Since French-website recipes leave out a lot of details that presumably their French readers are familiar with but I am not, I’m hoping for useful tips here from people who have figured it out.

        1. Reba*

          I would look for David Lebovitz recipes for savory cake (I find several with a quick search). He is a great recipe writer whose deal is essentially making French baking accessible to the rest of us. His blog was also one of my faves back in the day. Another reference might be Dorie Greenspan’s “My French Table,” I haven’t looked at it myself but Dorie is an authority.

          1. the cat's ass*

            I want to say that Dorie Greenspan had a NYT mag article/recipe on this exact food within the last couple of years (so during COVID).

        2. RagingADHD*

          Oh. See, if you do not already have a basic level of baking skill, it is unrealistic to think you can grab a foolproof recipe for a dish you’ve never made before, and have it come out perfectly the first time.

          You will need to experiment. Some of them will be bad. Plan on it.

      4. Random Dice*

        King Arthur has a very good gluten free flour that’s 1:1 swap for wheat flour. (“Gluten Free Measure for Measure”)

        I’d start there before diving into the world of gluten free recipes, as that’s a long deep rabbit hole and King Arthur knows their flour.

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      Have you considered the Brazilian cheese bread (pao de queijo) as an explicitly gluten-free (tapioca flour!) and savory starting point? I’ve only seen them as muffins or rolls, not a loaf, but that might be an advantage for party food.

      1. Cake salé anyone?*

        Pao de queijo is very nice but to me, it’s kind of one-dimensional compared to cake salé. It’s close to 100% starch and fat and I suspect you can’t successfully change that ratio very much to make it more interesting.

        I mean, if you offered me one I’d happily eat it, but I have my heart set on mastering cake salé. I think I need to screw up my courage and start making it and see how it goes.

    3. GingerSheep*

      Ah, this is a question for me! When I was in college cake salé was all the rage for potlucks and parties – we often ended up with three or four different versions, and not much else. It is really easy to make, and allows infinite variations of the « toppings » you mix in the dough.
      For full disclosure, my recipe isn’t the best I’ve ever tasted – some of my friend’s were even better – but it’s good enough, and pretty foolproof. Here you go :
      – 180g regular flour
      – 3 eggs
      – 100g of grated cheese
      – 10g of baking powder
      – 100mL of vegetable oil (olive is best for taste, but anything works)
      – 100mL of milk
      – salt, pepper
      – 200 to 300g of « toppings »
      Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Whisk together in a separate bowl the egg, milk and oil. Mix the wet ingredients in the dry, then add in the grated cheese and the toppings. Bake at 180°C for 40-50 minutes.
      Possible topping mixes (but honestly, anything not too soggy works):
      – ham/bacon and green olives
      – feta cheese, dried tomatoes and herbs
      – goat cheese, raisins and fresh mint
      – cooked chicken, onion, tarragon
      – smoked salmon, dill, pink peppercorn
      The possibilities are endless!

      1. GingerSheep*

        According to a friend, the recipe works well enough with gluten-free substitute flour (1 to 1), as it is leavened with baking powder and the grated cheese provides the texture, but I haven’t tried it myself.
        You have to bake it in a rectangular high-sided cake tin, and you’ll know it’s cooked when a knife inserted in the cake comes out with no batter attached.
        I can answer any questions you have, but it’s a recipe recommended for baking with your child and for college students, so it’s really easy!

        1. Cake salé anyone?*

          Wow, thank you! I have plenty of GF 1:1 flour and I have the right kind of long narrow tin as well — I bought it for baking my GF bread and then started thinking, ooh, cake salé.

          Questions: Can you suggest a good vegetarian combo with black olives? And are well-sauteed mushrooms likely to be too soggy for a topping?

    4. Expiring Cat Memes*

      THANK YOU for explaining what cake salé is! I had it once in New Caledonia on a platter with lots of other weird and wonderful food and I just thought it was the chef being creative. I never knew it was a thing in its own right as we hadn’t seen anything like it before or since – and my husband is French Canadian so we eat a lot of French food. The New Caledonian one had mixed seafood in it. At the time I was perplexed by the delicious cakey banana-bread type thing with octopus tentacles hanging out of it, but now I know what it is, yay!

      I’ll be trying GingerSheep’s recipe too, and if you’re still reading: I could have sworn that the one I tried had just the slightest hint of sweetness to it, though I see there’s no sugar in the recipe. Is there ever a teeny touch of sugar/honey/molasses/sweet sherry etc added?

      1. GingerSheep*

        The typical recipe does not include any sweetener in the base dough as far as I am aware, but a popular variant is with diced goat cheese mixed in the dough and with the top of the loaf drizzled with honey before baking, so there are definitely some sweeter combinations, and it’s also possible the New Caledonian recipe is a bit different.
        I’ve never had any with octopus, would love to try !

  5. Bibliovore*

    Bathroom renovation.
    Thank you everyone for the advice on the hot water heater.
    Going with the tankless with a “circulator pump” I won’t even pretend to know what that means.
    Another request- there will be a window that looks into the back yard.
    I will need a shade or something.
    I hate the blinds that have slats. Hard to clean.
    I want something that will go half way up if that makes sense.
    And maybe translucent to let in some light (not real sure)
    Suggestions? Spending time on Houz is making my head spin.

    1. Lore*

      My parents just redid a house and put cellular shades (or honeycomb? Maybe some of each) in all the bathrooms. They can be opened bottom up or top down, they come in varying degrees of opacity, and they don’t have slats or cords. I haven’t lived with them so I don’t know how they are to clean but they look nice and operate easily.

      1. Quinalla*

        Love our black-out cellular shades in our bedroom – used Hunter Douglas and no issues. Wouldn’t do black-out for a bathroom, but they have tons and tons of options. Lots of other great ideas in this thread!

      1. California Dreamin’*

        This is what we did in one of our bathrooms. The windows look straight into the neighbor’s kitchen. There used to be white wood shutters there, which were hard to clean and also, really they just remained closed at all times because anytime you’re in the bathroom you don’t want the neighbor seeing in! It was a huge matter to consider when we remodeled last year. We actually put up this frosted film on them for now to make sure we were happy with the look and the privacy level (which we are), and the plan is to at some point replace the window glass with frosted glass. I love it because there’s so much more natural light than before!

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

          Yay for frosted film! It is wicked cheap at, like, Home Depot, and it just basically clings onto your window, so it is super easy to put on and take off.

          Also, instead of plain frosted, you can get opaque films that make your window look like etched or stained glass. Sounds a little weird, I know, but it looks AMAZING! Here are some options: https://www.homedepot.com/b/Window-Treatments-Window-Film/Artscape/Decorative/N-5yc1vZarc3Z6xZ1z139pl

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            +1 for fancy window film! Got some for a high-up accent window that we didn’t want to cover up entirely. It’s a lot of fun.

        2. Liminality*

          Thirding the frosted film! There’s many different patterns and it’s easy to go with something different if your change your mind! My sis and bro- in law have an in- shower window that shows All The Things directly to anyone in the backyard. The frosted film solved that problem and no curtains/ blinds were necessary.

        3. Sutemi*

          I love the frosted window film in our bathroom window. Ours has lots of little squares that diffract different ways, so on sunny mornings there are rainbows everywhere!

        4. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

          Also recommending the frosted film. I used frosted film that looks like mini blinds in the bathroom and also on my garage windows. It looks normal from the outside, and there isn’t a physical blind that takes up space and has to be cleaned.

    2. Jen Erik*

      There’s a blog ‘Mad about the House’ that I enjoy. If you go back to 24th October, she has a picture that shows a hemmed linen panel hung on hooks.

    3. TechWorker*

      I don’t know if they’re called the same in the US but we have blinds called ‘day and night blinds’ in our utility & they’re really practical! They have a circular roll of fabric with stripes of opaque and clear fabric, so you can have them fully closed, half open (similar to Venetian blinds) and also fully open.

    4. JSPA*

      Take a look at “day & night” blinds, sometimes a.k.a. zebra roller blinds. They are halfway near-transparent from inside, block people seeing in during the day, and you barely have to scroll to darken at night. You can scroll them all the way up if you desire, or half way, such that it’s halfway stripes or halfway dark. You can also trap them behind one of those lightweight rods for decorative lace mini-curtains, if (for whatever reason, like being near a stove of heat source) you want to contain their ability to swing away from the window.

      You can choose full dark for the dark stripes, or translucent, and they come in a modest range of colors.

      They do have a cord, but it sits high enough to not be a risk for kids and pets.

    5. Working for the weekend*

      Look at cellular shades called “top down-bottom up and see what you think. They have a small stack and just need dusting on the surface now and again and infinitely controllable on how much is open or closed. The only other decision besides size is opacity, the amount of light that bleeds through. Room darkening would be none, light filtering would have some soft light come through. Note these would be inside mounted, within the casing of your window so the size needs to be carefully measured to fill the opening correctly.

      1. Imtheone*

        They can also be outside mount. My window frames are too shallow for inside mount. I like the bottom up option for privacy.

      2. Bon Voyage*

        Seconding this! I have these and love them. Mine are “light filtering” rather than “light blocking”–great for letting in light while maintaing some privacy, but I would need curtains/a shade/some other layer if I wanted to be able to keep the room dark.

    6. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m thing of installing solar shade when my bath reno is finished. I have them throughout my house and really like them. You can choose how opaque (or not) that you want them.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      You can order a stick-on film for the windows–like glazing, including a pattern, except it is stuck on electrostatically (like those decorative holiday decals) and you can peel it right off if you need to. This is what I eventually did in our bathrooms, blocking the lower half of each window and getting rid of the curtains.

      Search “film for windows” at Amazon and it will bring up a bunch of options, both a glazed look and a stained glass look. Mine came as a roll that I cut to size. I did this several years back, expecting to occasionally need to replace it, but it hasn’t budged.

      Note that you do have to get it right the first time–when you peel off the backing it charges electrically, like if you rub a balloon on your hair, and then if you put it right on the glass it sticks. While being easy to remove, no glue. If you keep trying to peel it off again and straighten it the charge disperses back to ground. So if you’re covering a larger expanse, I’d look for a helper with steady hands.

    8. Missb*

      we did film on our bathroom window. We had someone do it professionally, since we have 7 panes of glass on the double hung window (6 on the top sash, 1 on the bottom). It was far too much effort to try to figure it out ourselves.

      It lets plenty of light in while giving us plenty of privacy. You’d have to be smushed up against the window on the inside to see any details.

    9. just another queer reader*

      I used the static clings in a previous apartment and they’re great!

      In my current place we went the low-tech route and just hung a curtain across the lower half of the bathroom window. We got a little tension curtain rod from Ikea and sewed a curtain from a lacy cotton fabric. We wanted to be able to open the window in the summer to get air and light and still have privacy, so it works great!

    10. Doc is In*

      Roman blinds, come in all types of materials. You can get ones with a remote if the window is hard to reach that run on batteries or plug in.

    11. fposte*

      My house came with stained glass panels, genuine local-made glass designs, the same size as the lower window light and affixed to them with caulk. (I know because the upstairs one was in the garage and I put it back on.) Maybe you’d enjoy something like that?

    12. Texan In Exile*

      First, I am happy that you are getting the tankless heater. That’s what I had when I lived in Chile and it was such a better option environmentally.

      As far as the window – our bathroom window is made of glass bricks, so we don’t need a window covering. The disadvantage is that we can’t see out. But is there a way to have some sort of clouded glass on the bottom half and clear glass on the top?

    13. Quinalla*

      Tankless water heater with a circulation pump should be just fine for one bathroom, nice as they don’t take up too much space like a tank water heater will! Make sure to get it serviced every couple years, scale build up is much more of an issue than in a tank unit.

  6. Anxiety-ridden Millennial*

    Can folks share positive thoughts or experiences about aging? I am in my mid-30s, but I have been getting stuck in a lot of conversations about how scary and horrible aging is with both family and friends (people in their 50s-70s). The result is a lot of anxiety, and my normal coping methods (making plans for dealing with worst case scenarios) isn’t cutting it. Aging is inevitable, and my family tends to be very long-lived. It would be really helpful to have a bank of positive stories to think about when the anxiety creeps in.

    1. a gen-xer*

      I’m 45 and have *loved* the aging process. Not the fact that healing from injuries takes longer — but emotionally I’m SO much more stable and self confident. It’s gotten way easier to parse complicated social and family situations, see the gray areas of relationships, and know when to be patient and calm versus when to draw a boundary. I’m not in a rush like I was in my 20s, and can see a bigger life picture more easily. Professionally, I both understand and can implement goals in my work life that I couldn’t even name ten years ago.

      1. MassChick*

        Exactly this! I’m almost 54 and wouldn’t want to switch back the my 30s (though I wouldn’t mind having the hair and waist back). I feel so much more together now and more comfortable in my skin (though I have at least an extra 10 lbs).
        I will say that I strongly believe that regular exercise, good nutrition and trying to maintain a healthy weight/dimensions from a young age is a worthwhile investment.

        1. Rhiannon*

          Hard agree. I’m 56 and loving it, but wish I’d invested in my health earlier in my life. Also, I have a fabulous relationship with my parents and brother; we’ve never been estranged or anything, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to turn back the clock and lived closer to home this whole time. On that note, as I’ve aged, I’ve come to appreciate those cultures that live generationally in the same house/neighborhood. By that same token, I’ve become deeply irritated with the notion that young adults MUST be on their own in their late teens/twenties or they’re slackers. Nothing beats the support of immediate and extended family if it’s available.

          1. MassChick*

            Interesting to hear this perspective.
            As an immigrant to the US (and a POC) I too easily adopted the mindset of living on your own and looked askance when children never left home (common in my home country).
            And what do you know? I now have my mother and sister living with us (mother has dementia and sister, though quite functional, needs support handling finances and larger life matters). While I still believe young adults should live on their own when possible at least for a few years, living with family is a perfectly fine option! (And often the only practical option)

      2. Italian*

        Completely agree. I think you are born with all the fucks you can ever give, and most people seem to run out around 40.

    2. EdgarAllenCat*

      For me, aging is a new experience. That’s why I talk about it – to process it and try to adjust to new circumstances.

      And Like a gen-xer, I, too, am more confident and advocate for myself. And my sense of consciousness/body shame has decreased – at dr’s appointment yesterday, I dropped my pants for anyone who asked. Didn’t care about cellulite or hairy legs.

      Years ago my mom was at a returned peace corps volunteer conference and was handed a L t-shirt. She asked for a small and a jackass behind her said, “Didn’t the peace corps teach you to accept what was handed to you?” She scoffed at him and retorted, “I learned to ask for what I want.”

      That story encapsulates my understanding and approach to aging. I can better differentiate what is/isn’t my problem and have considerably fewer f*cks to give.

        1. EdgarAllenCat*

          Hi PhyllisB – things are going well and have significantly increased flexibility, strength and balance. May have even walked briskly yesterday, what a treat!

          After the fire alarm went off in condo bldg, I discovered I could walk up & down 6 flights of stairs. Down isn’t so great & caused an arthritic flare-up in opposite knee, so I’ll just take the elevator down. But silver lining – I can walk up 6 flights of stairs and hope to do that regularly once my left knee gets back to its normal.

          Hope your recovery continues to go well. I freely admit to being jealous of your ability to bounce back so quickly. :)

          1. PhyllisB*

            Amen to the increased flexibility!! Also the knee issue. My opposite knee is giving some twinges, but not bad. The main problem is surgery left me with surgery leg longer than the other. Not much, but I can tell the difference. Dr. said it will adjust. Not sure what he meant by that, but it hasn’t really given me any issues.
            Haven’t tackled six flights of stairs yet, but I do plan on getting out more and being more active. Our weather has been weird, so haven’t been able to yet.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        “Didn’t the peace corps teach you to accept what was handed to you?”

        Nope. It taught me to make sure to think of a good, non-offensive reason that I couldn’t eat the horsemeat that was offered to me.

      2. Rhiannon*

        “And my sense of consciousness/body shame has decreased – at dr’s appointment yesterday, I dropped my pants for anyone who asked. Didn’t care about cellulite or hairy legs.”

        THIS! And it is SO freeing!!

        1. StellaBella*

          Yes true. Lacking that shame is so key to ageing and getting the heck over stuff. I no longer shave my legs either (once the hair came back from the chemo I wanted to keep it). And I have never cared about cellulite because in my group of friends and family it meant that not having it meant you were making your hubby happy but I am single and happy.

    3. marvin*

      I don’t know if this helps because it’s more of a big picture approach, but one thing that has really helped me manage my anxiety is to get better at accepting that I can’t control things, and that trying to control things has only ever made things worse for me. It’s a really hard habit to break, and also capitalism encourages us to channel our fear around aging into constantly spending money on “fixing” any kind of visible sign of our age, but in my experience, the more I feel like I can or should control something, it just makes me feel worse about it. It can be quite freeing to just accept the ebb and flow of your experience.

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

      I agree with EdgarAllenCat and a gen-xer — I feel like the increased self-confidence and emotional maturity can be a really positive part of aging. I have fewer Fs to give about nonsense, and I’ve been able to accept some stuff that I couldn’t when I was younger.

      I occasionally faced sexual harassment when I was younger and walking on the street, but that has stopped now that I am middle aged and basically invisible — instead, I get a lot of people asking me for directions, as I guess I look “safe.”

      I also enjoy talking with people who are 20-30 years older than I am to kind of get a sense of how they handle things and to get a sense of what might be coming down the pike for me someday.

    5. LD RN*

      Ask your friends and family what they actually LIKE about being older. If they can’t come up with a single thing — don’t listen to them!
      I’m 44 — do I bounce back (or bounce period) as quickly from injuries? No. Am I more likely to avoid injury in the first place? Yes! Do I look like I did when I was 22? No. But neither does my significant other! Or any of my peer group.
      There is a ton of personal growth in that thirty to fifty age range — it’s really about how to adapt and grow and let go of things that matter less. And learning that MANY things matter less! And like both GenXer and Edgar Allen Cat, I find myself far better at saying, “I’m done. I can’t add a single more thing to my to do list. Find someone else.”

      When one of my friends turned 80, she said that she wished she still had the drive and ambition she did when she was 70. She still works (owns her own company), travels for work and for fun about half the year, and her regret is that she DOESN’T DO MORE (she’s 84 now, and is finally okay about slowing down). Be Sharon, not the old fogies who peaked in college.

      1. allathian*

        A few days ago I read a news story about a very inspiring woman. In her 70s she used to take her grandkids to taekwondo class, until one instructor persuaded her to try it for herself when she was 76. She’s 82 now, has her black belt, and is training for her 2 dan test, as well as leading a taekwondo class for beginners who are seniors.

        Granted, she’s been athletic all her life, but I still find her story inspiring.

    6. Bethlam*

      I’m 66. Something I find positive is that I live in a time and place with excellent medical care. My husband’s prostate cancer was caught early and he is cancer free after treatment. We both had both of our painful, arthritic knees replaced with new ones with excellent results.

      Our property requires a lot of work, but we’ve learned to slow down, don’t expect to get as much done in a day as we did in our 40s and 50s, and there’s always tomorrow so let’s sit on the swing or take a nap today.

    7. PoolLounger*

      My mom is going to be 70 this year and she’s the happiest she’s ever been. She sky dives, swims, ushers at a theater and sports games, makes new friends, tries new things all the time—she just tried an escape room and loved it, she’s planning to audit classes at a university. My MIL is similar—she sings in a band, has deep friendships, just got a new dog. The people in my family who gave aged poorly are the ones who stopped trying to learn, to try new things, and to talk to new people. The ones who’ve aged well try to find friends and community and still take an interest in the world. I hope I’m as happy and fulfilled as my mom when I’m her age!

      1. Relationships Question*

        Can I ask if they are married or live with anyone? I’m in my 60s and have been single and living alone for 7 years and, despite doing a ton of new things (from escape rooms to paint ball to film producing to getting a new kitten), I still feel a giant hole in my life and heart.

      2. Mary Ann*

        The people who age happily like you describe are people with financial security. In US , not only do we worry about our health and our ability to pay for it we now have the fear of cut backs to Social Security.

    8. StellaBella*

      Well I am mid 50s and have been made stronger and more centred by ageing. I have never wanted kids, so that may have helped. My family is also long lived like late 90s ish most of them. Find something else to replace the worrying about it. Travel loads and have experiences to remember. I went to Paris for the first time at my 40th birthday. Do things like save for the later years. Exercise so you can enjoy the years. Also there is not a guarantee you will live long. I had a cancer scare a few years ago so now I savour the moments I can, to do something fun, see a new place, be with friends and family. Also consider seeing a counsellor to help with this anxiety – is it rooted in something else? I have eco anxiety as I work with environmental issues. So I do a lot of walking in the forest and spending time in nature to counter balance my worries about the climate.

      1. Random Dice*

        Yeah agreed – aging sounds like it’s the focus, but the real issue is anxiety. Meds and therapy both help a lot with anxiety that starts to impact one’s life.

    9. Madame Arcati*

      I’ve said for a while now, the thing I like best about being over thirty (I’m now 45) is not having to pretend to like doing things that young people are “supposed” to like doing; I never enjoyed nightclubs or anywhere with really loud music (I like a chat!) or staying up/out after midnight, or staying over unexpectedly at someone’s home in a sleeping bag on the floor. And now nobody expects it! It’s also part of a wider attitude of being more comfortable with my own choices and tastes, and giving less of a flying fig what anybody else thinks about it.
      Also, as you get a bit older, life throws things at you and you get through it, so it builds your confidence – so when a problem rears its head you know you can deal with it. I definitely feel less “oh no how will I manage?” and more, “actually I’ve got this” these days. Many things are less unknown and as such less scary.

    10. Green great dragon*

      I’m late 40s, my parents are 80s, and on the whole it’s not all that different. Yes, we slow down a bit (not that much for me yet, but for my parents), but we’re still doing much the same things, with much the same people – ballroom dancing (parents), long walks and pub crawls (me), films. I’m more settled at work, more comfortable financially, and as others have said I’ve just got my act together more.

      People tend to focus on the health differences because it’s the most obvious comparator, and if you focus on that then sure, the chances rise that you have health issues, but for most of us, for most of our lives, we’re doing OK.

    11. Asenath*

      Do you know many old people? I was fortunate enough in my younger years to know many who set a good example of how to live in old age in spite of slowing down, health concerns, losing friends etc to death… And some who were counter-examples. I find myself that things I worked on when I was younger – eg acceptance of changes – helps, and I also have, in a way, more rather than less confidence. I’m far less likely that I was to be reluctant to handle things myself, and there’s an odd combination of being more willing (and having more time) to try new things, especially when old ones aren’t practical or possible any more, knowing “this too shall pass” because I’ve already been through a lot of tough times and survived/learned. One thing that does sometimes bother me a bit is when I’m with a group of peers and the conversation seems to go on interminably about illnesses (particularly the same illnesses, from the same people, over and over again). I try to listen sympathetically, but when it’s my turn, I say something like “pretty good, actually”, and if they ask about one of my known aches and pains “not to bad, thanks”. (I’m in my late 60s)

    12. JSPA*

      Some positives:

      Not having a personal reaction to negative feedback (or in any case, much less). I have to put myself back in my earlier self to remember the hot flush of shame for…well, for not having already known the outcome of something before I did it, yet feeling like I obviously should have known. Also, there’s somewhat less that I have not already learned (often the hard way), and much, much less that I’m ashamed to ask about, if it’s not something I already know.

      learning patterns of human interaction, and being able to take a pass on someone who is: setting up the same sort of drama; angling for the same scam; promising the same type of time-suck; building that same old castle-in-the-air; pushing the same threadbare promise; proposing the same unequal balance of work in / reward out.

      As you get older, how people treat you tells you a lot more about whether they’d be good friends, worthwhile clients, trusted coworkers, dependable; there’s so much less of the angling towards my pants region to figure into the equation. (Sex is still available, and still good; people are still “thirsty”; but it’s just not shoehorning its way quite so much into every other dang interaction.)

      One knows one’s own body better with every passing year.

      Significantly less pressure to gender conform, or physically conform in general, gets aggressively tossed your way. (At least, not from people who’re able / likely to get problematic about it.)

      It’s a relief no longer feeling like I’m letting the side, my self-image or friends down if I’m not able to jump into any and every task with every muscle.

      Menopause has so far been much better than perimenopause. Someone who had a better “peri” than I (or had / has a gyne willing to prescribe hormones) can speak up in support of those years.

      As you age, you automatically get an expanded age bracket of people who feel like they’re in your cohort (whether that’s friendship, dating, work relationships). At the moment, “feels about my age” seems to span ages ~42 to 72, and “adult I easily see as an accomplished peer” is at least 24 to 87. Below that range, still full respect, but with the same twinge of surprise that you might currently have, at 30-something, being introduced to a 16-year-old who already had a PhD–mad respect, but a moment of, wow, so cool!” And above that range, “dang, I hope I’m still that sharp at 92.”

      You know how if you look back at people who seemed hot (or at any rate, mature and potentially desirable) when you were in high school, they all look like little kids? And some of the “very old” teachers in those photos now look kind of hot, or at any rate, like peers that someone like you could date? That keeps going! Dating someone age 60 at age 55 is just as sexy as dating someone age 25 at age 20. What you see in the mirror, your lived experience–that all combines to update your default search image. (I wonder if that’s why huge age gaps seem transgressive–it’s because we have some sense of exactly how young the younger partner seems, to the older one?)

      If you have systemic health problems, there’s a good chance that you’ll have found your diagnosis, your limits, your accommodations, and having found your reasonable range, you can then sort of move into that space and furnishing it to your liking. That is, it stops being a boundary to push against, and starts being the walls of the home where you live.

      There is no way to protect against every eventuality; not the tornado that could happen tomorrow, not the dementia that could find you in 50, 40, or 30 years. Follow (when you can, and as best you can) the defaults of having x months of emergency cash, then continue to make friends and see the world to find your people and your places (plural and plural). Push to have the social safety net you feel that you and others should be able to depend upon (whether for you that’s governmental or non-governmentally-based, or a combination).

      Make yourself the sort of person who appreciates others, whose information can be trusted, and who has some level of competency in various aspects of worklife and non-work life. That’s its own reward, and it also makes living in a wide variety of shared situations, far more rewarding.

      Having the weight of lived experience, and work experience, feels great. The fact that some people are crappy about listening to older people who know their stuff–and know themselves…often in racial or gender tinged ways? That’s true at this point in history. It does not mean it will still be like that by the time you’re old-old.

      It’s wonderful to come back and see seedlings you planted, grown to be trees. Even if only some of them make it, and others are now construction sites. To see the garden allotments you helped create, now bountiful and decorated after 20 years of use. Too meet the person who grew up in the Habitat for Humanity house that you helped build. To notice the career of the musician/craftsperson/artist/dancer who got their start at the arts program you helped start, run, staff or fund, take off. To spot endangered birds nesting in the park or forest that you saved from strip mining, logging, etc. To learn a landscape well enough, over the years, to realize that the ramps are up are early this year, and thus (without having to think about it), make a mental note to search for morels, too. (Do some of that now, reap the life benefits throughout your life.)

      People who seem confused because they’re old often just have diminished depth of visual field (or some hearing loss). That’s only a quality of life problem if one doesn’t own it / tries to hide it…or if younger people jump in while you’re teasing out the image and the meaning. Be the young person who allows others time to see and hear the information, instead of assuming cognitive dysfunction, and be the aging person who says, “let me get this into focus and then I’m sure to have any number of ideas” or “my ears are a bit iffy, so let me confirm that you’re asking X.”

      Overall, aging becomes graceful when you become not just begrudgingly OK but actively fine with the idea that life isn’t supposed to remain a smorgasbord of infinite options. The window for “pro gymnast” closes early, then “astronaut,” and so on. If those were your paths, you’d already have been on them. For most of us, they’re not–and that’s fine. Find one of the many paths that could fit you reasonably, and find the pleasures therein, and the rewards will roll in for decades.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        So perfectly stated, JSPA. I’m technically in the “elderly” category now, and I was nodding in agreement to everything you so eloquently stated. Thank you for brightening my day.

      2. Flowers*

        this is one of the best things I’ve read this year, saving it. Love it. Thank you for sharing.

    13. Random Dice*

      Oh gosh they’re full of crap! 30 is definitely better than 20s, but 40 is when the fun starts. That’s when you have yourself figured out, and you start to be out of effs to give for stupid cultural programming that doesn’t serve us. (Especially if female)

      There’s this cultural narrative that youth is best, but it’s written by youths who don’t know better, by lusty old men, and by cynical execs who know it sells. In real life, growing older has so much more depth and self-knowledge.

      You couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20s.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Also in my forties, also couldn’t be paid to go back to my twenties. The thirties were ok, but I was still figuring stuff out, and pleasing others rather than myself and going off other people’s ideas of fulfillment rather than even knowing what my own were. Ironically for people who are anxious about aging, the older you get the less anxious you are.

    14. Doc is In*

      Late 60’s here. You don’t have to worry about figuring out who you are or what to do with your life. My best advice is to take care of your body- eat right, exercise, etc. so that your chances of being active are better 30 years from now.

    15. It's great to be a grownup sometimes*

      iirc, my 30s were tough. 40s were better. Last year I turned 50 and it was awesome. I know my 50s are going to have a lot of challenges ahead, but I’d like to think I’ve developed some coping strategies to get me through the rough spots. I go for long walks with my dog, I meditate, I play music with friends, it’s all good no matter your age. You may be worried that if you feel anxious now, that it will be much worse later. For many people, growing older has the opposite affect, and the anxiety starts to lessen as you age.

    16. Ellis Bell*

      What exactly is it about aging that you find scary? There’s a huge difference between being afraid of change in general and something specific about it.

    17. crispy crispy*

      One of the nicest thing about ageing is that I’ve lived my life – with good and bad experiences -and I”m less scared. I’m not scared about losing my job because I’ve already been fired, laid off, downsized. I can cope. I’ve had cancer scares, I’ve had parents die, friends die. So lots of scary things I’ve already had as experiences. I know I can cope, even if I don’t want to. So emotionally I feel much more prepared for life. The only things I really have in my control are eating well and exercising (and really: in your mid-30’s get some cardio and flexibility training in there. You won’t regret it. Eat well. ). My dad ran his first marathon 2 months after he retired. I agree with the other commenters that if you’re this anxious about “growing old”, it’s time to seek some help. If it’s that bad, I doubt a couple of dozen internet strangers will alleviate those fears.

      1. Random Dice*

        That feeling of “this SUCKS but I know I’ll get through it / I can handle it” is a giant blessing of getting older.

      2. Random Dice*

        Flexibility tips for those who haven’t made a lifelong habit of stretching:

        1) assisted stretching that uses the PNF technique (basically you push the opposite way for 6 seconds, then your body relaxes much deeper into the stretch). It’s amazing and gets you a lot more flexible, a lot faster.

        2) Stretch while high on marijuana. It seems to bypass the body’s defensive counters to stretching too much at once (which exist to prevent tearing in everyday life, but hinder helpful stretches). You don’t get sore and tight the next day like you do if you stretch a lot when sober. The trick is to stretch while a little light headed but still steady on your feet. Put your elbows on the bed and hang out there for awhile, then your calves, etc.

    18. Rara Avis*

      I saw my recent 50th birthday as an achievement — half-century, baby! I still feel young inside. I’m looking forward to gray hair as an outward sign of inner wisdom. ( I’ve been gray at my temples for a while.). Yes, I have some health related concerns related to aging, but my parents are going strong as they approach 80, and retirement looks like a pretty good deal.

    19. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Take a look at John Leland’s work. In 2015 he wrote an article for the NYT called “The Wisdom of the Aged” and he expanded it into a book “Happiness is a Choice You Make.” He followed six very old people (in their 90s when he met them) who were thriving. He has published follow-up pieces over the years. The title of the article is not misleading – there is a great deal of wisdom to be found.

      I’m 62 and have had a different experience of aging because at 57 I had limited mobility and chronic pain, both of which are now resolved after bariatric surgery and knee replacement. So in my 60s I am much more active and much more comfortable in my body than I ever have been. Looking back, I don’t wish I’d had the surgery sooner – I had a great deal of emotional work that had to happen first. I do regret that in my teens, 20s and 30s I avoided a lot of activities because I was so self-conscious about my weight. I could gone hiking or kayaking or sailing or biking. I could have traveled out of the country. If I had I would likely never have gotten to the point where I needed the surgery and I would have had a lot more fun. So my advice is to do what sounds like fun now. Don’t wait for everything to fall into place or for someone to give you permission.

      I am lucky enough to have enough money that I could take my own advice, if belatedly, and I retired 18 months ago and I’m enjoying the heck of my life.

    20. An old person's response*

      I’m 79 and I reckon I am at or past the age that scares you. Looking back, I think my mental health is hugely better now — it’s been a very long time since I experienced serious depression and SI, which I used to have every few years starting in adolescence, and it was horrible.

      I am calmer, less easily bothered, even though I am still heavily involved in organizations I care deeply about, but I don’t seem to internalize their inevitable problems and interpersonal dynamics as I did when I was younger. (Age doesn’t change everything: I still tend to be impatient.)

      I would say, in response to your anxiety about getting older: enjoy what you can enjoy now, and keep on doing that even as your capabilities change over time. The future is largely unpredictable, so don’t use up too much bandwidth stewing over an unknown. (Not to discount planning and preparing, but not to obsess over them.)

    21. MEH Squared*

      I’m 51. I was a hot mess as a kid, a teen, and into my thirties. I’m AFAB and currently agender/agnostic about gender. I belong to two cultures that disdain women (American and Taiwanese), which really influenced me when I was younger. Honestly, I hated myself until I turned 35 and started taking Taiji (Tai Chi). It helped me tremendeously in a variety of ways. I got better at setting boundaries in some relationships, became more confident about navigating through crowds, and it improved my health (mental and physical).

      So many people say that they get aches and pains as they get older, but I got rid of my chronic back pain through Taiji. My joints don’t ache and I don’t have any chronic pain. I’m still clumsy, but I’m better at not hurting myself as badly as I once did. I also started learning Taiji weapons, which has become the mainstay of my life.

      In September of 2021, I had a medical crisis that left me unconscious for a week. I was not expected to survive, and my brother was gently encouraged by my medical team to start thinking about planning for my death. Miraculously, I woke up and did not need any rehab, though they predicted I would need months if not years to recover. I attribute my recovery to luck, Taiji, and love.

      Now, I’m in my second bonus year, and I am better than ever. My stay in the hospital completely wiped out a lifetime of body dysmorphia. It got rid of my chronic depression by 90% and my chronic anxiety by 60% (roughly). I don’t take life for granted because I should not be here. Every day is a gift, and I am so grateful for it.

      Additionally, I am better than ever physically. I have a few issues from my medical crisis, but nothing I can’t deal with. They are far outweighed by the fact that I’m still alive. I care so much less about what other people think of me, and I LOVE my body now. It got me through hell, and it did it without blinking.

      When I look back on the younger me, I have compassion, but I would never ever want to be that person again.

    22. Rhiannon*

      Something I have experienced as I age is that many things that used to annoy me I now find charming or see as very innocent. Aging has provided me a big-picture, calming perspective (and helped me maintain a good blood pressure!).

    23. Angstrom*

      60ish. I’m a much better human than I was when I was younger. There’s no substitute for life experience: births, deaths, growth, couplings and uncouplings, yours and those of those around you. One learns.
      Mentally, keep learning! Since 40 I’ve taken classes in everything from ballroom dance to mountain biking. Learned a musical instrument. Joined a volunteer rescue squad. Learned new craft skills. And so on…
      Physically, there’s more creaking and groaning in the morning. It makes me laugh at myself. I’m not as fast or strong as I was, but endurance is good and I’m much better at pacing. 80-mile bike rides and all-day hikes are still enjoyable. Lots of folks are faster but none are having more fun. Find some forms of exercise you enjoy, stretch, develop healthy eating habits.
      Caring for parents: Start early. Lots of home modifications and behavior changes that makes things easier for old folks are easier for everyone, so that’s a good way to present them.
      You may want a different set of friends. Realism is good but constant negativity beats you down, and you don’t need that.

    24. Old Plant Woman*

      68 and loving it! Eons ago, when I first got pregnant, a wise friend told me people would just love to tell me horror stories. Don’t listen to any of it. I think the same happens with aging and medical conditions. I am smarter, more competent, happier than ever. Decreased physical ability is easily compensated by advanced planning, strategy. And I guess I just think I’m pretty cool. I think asking for positives is a great thing for you to do. I also hope you keep working on anxiety in general. Best wishes

    25. Hotdog not dog*

      53, and completely out of f’s to give about other people’s opinions…it’s very freeing! Life has taught me what’s important and what can be disregarded, so I can save my energy for the right things.

      1. 60 years young!*

        Ooh, I left that out in my longer comment below. When I was in my 40s I thought, yeah, I don’t give a f*ck, I’m gonna say something. Then in my 50s I realized, naw, NOW I’m out of Fs to give. But at 60, I’m realizing there are whole new levels of not giving a f*ck! It’s really great! This is true across all areas of life!

    26. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      When someone tells you one of these scary/horrible aging stories, you might want to think about whether some of their issues are things they might have avoided with better choices when they were younger. Yes, people get hit with things that they couldn’t have foreseen (my father passed away from cancer at 45), but I’ve observed that many of my friends and family my age or older (I’m 61) are suffering from “self-inflicted” problems (sedentary lifestyle, smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, etc). That’s not to say you should be judging people, but you can observe, learn, and adjust. I have certainly not been the pinnacle of good habits my whole life, but I decided a few years ago that I was not going to be taken out by anything I could reasonably prevent. I started eating better, lost weight, began exercising regularly, and I feel a lot better and I’m more active overall, but man, I wish I had gotten serious years ago. I’m definitely glad I was in better shape when Covid hit.
      You asked for positive thoughts, so I would say you should realize you have a lot of control on how you age. You can prevent many future issues by making good choices starting now. Mid thirties means you have a lot of time to turn things around if you need to.

    27. 60 years young!*

      Husband and I both turn 60 this year and our only issues are he does not keep muscle like he used to and he has a tendency toward kidney stones and I’m overweight. We both feel healthy, like we have lived long enough to be pretty intelligent at work and in our personal lives, enjoy our relationship more than ever, and, thanks to working on it slowly over the years, feel we are heading into retirement in better shape than we ever dreamed! We take no medications and have no real physical or mental health issues and we don’t feel like we did anything special to land at 60 feeling so good.

      My husband sort of does “worst case” planning. Maybe not the way others do? His worst case planning is, we do what we can in this moment to set aside money for the future, exercise and eat right, get our annual blood tests, and that’s all we can do. We don’t beat ourselves up over not doing enough right now.

      Also, I went back to school as an adult twice!! It’s easy to think, I’m 35, I’m on my pathway, that new direction will take me 5 years (or whatever). 5 years later, you will be glad you started 5 years ago! We live long lives! Go for things you want to do!

      1. Angstrom*

        For your husband’s muscle mass, you might see if creatine supplementation helps. A search on “creatine elderly” should bring up relevant results.

    28. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Not old but am an Xer, so am aging. I love the credibility I have at work these days. For all of the talk of age discrimination, I find there are more employers and managers and teams who just need sheer experience. It’s nice to be listened to but also to actually have stuff that is meaningful to say because of all of those years of banked experience. I also find awkward situations to be less awkward these days and can move more easily between groups of people and make small talk with various people in a way I couldn’t when I was younger and was sort of afraid of reaching out and talking to strangers. I also have a cache of experience with things like financial emergencies, home repairs, health scares, car trouble, and so things that used to feel like crises just feel like problems now and don’t consume my brain

    29. Flowers*

      aging terrifies me because of finances and health. When I can’t even think of how I’ll get out of this financial mess I’m in (all of my own doing), how can I think of how I’ll support myself at 65?

      I’m 37 now, and JUST beginning to feel like my old self physically but having lived with T2 diabetes for 25 years, the damage is already done so as much as I can try, what’s the point? (well the point is to not end up bedridden and dependent on anyone).

      I’m scared that I won’t have a good relationship with my daughter, because, karma.

      To be fair, I have not seen many good examples of elderly folks. Dad seemed to have the best disposition (happy, gregarious, social etc) but he died suddenly at 69 and he left a huge mess for us to take care of (i.e. mom). Mom has health issues and is just generally unpleasant and not capable of living alone. Majority of their siblings were miserable and bedridden into their final days. I can do whatever I can to prevent that, but don’t know what teh future holds. And tbh I can’t even picture or envision life at that age, but I couldn’t picture 30 at 16 and here we are.

      1. Flowers*

        I realize you wanted positives, and I did the complete opposite. My apologies, I just went off on a tangent.

        Some of the good things of being in my 30s vs 20s and teens:

        definitely more self-assured. Easier to stand up for myself. Disagrreements eon’t have to turn into *things*. Getting better at seeing the big picture, and what the priorities are. Being less ashamed of my past, career wise.

  7. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Everyone share what you’re reading this week. Any type of reading is great.

    I just finished Wordsl*t by Amanda Montell. It was a feminist look at English and the ways in which sexism is reflected in our language. I found it a bit depressing but very interesting. And I’ve just started The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. Not very far in yet but I like her style and am enjoying it so far.

    1. CoastEast*

      Currently reading Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. Its about the art forger John myatt. I bought it for Christmas because my partner and I are on a John Myatt kick (he has such a great presence on BBC, and we love the art heist/forger genre). If you want to learn about art from a British forger he is charming to watch on YouTube.
      Also tried Wuthering Heights last week but I think I prefer 1800s Gothic satire over straight 1800s Gothic literature.

      1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        I hated Wuthering Heights when I read it (so many years ago) back in High School. I referred to it then as “Blithering Idiots”. My perspective on it has not changed.

        1. talos*

          My three sentence summary of Wuthering Heights was:

          This guy named Heathcliff shows up. All the women love Heathcliff so much they get sick and die. All the men, including Heathcliff, hate Heathcliff so much they get sick and die.

          This happened in a way so hard-to-follow and unrelatable to me that I never managed to finish the book – and I _always_ finish books.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            Yeah, it took me a few goes to get through it and whilst I did in the end, I still don’t really feel like I knew what was going on or what the point of it all was. And it’s not the genre or era (Jane Eyre is a huge favourite) or classic literature in general (am massive Jane Austen fangirl and have read plenty of other English lit). I just didn’t get WH!
            It occurs to me I haven’t actually read much American literature – plenty of modern novels, and childrens things like L.M. Montgomery and What Katy Did, but not the adult heavyweights. What are the must-reads for American lit? Moby Dick? The Crucible? I must admit I don’t fancy Mark Twain; read a plot summary of huckleberry Finn and it just sounds really sad. I hate sad.

            1. AY*

              Edith Wharton, especially if you already like Jane Austen. Willa Cather for life in the West. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

              And Charles Portis’s True Grit just for the sheer joy of it.

            2. Mia*

              Moby Dick is fantastic. I also love East of Eden. I haven’t read it in a while, but Uncle Tom’s Cabin is interesting both from a literary standpoint and a historical one.

              1. Clisby*

                My husband has read Moby Dick at least 3 times. I, on the other hand, made it through only by skipping the chapters on whales. (Husband: You SKIPPPED the chapters on whales? He married me anyway.)

            3. word nerd*

              +1 for Moby Dick. And Grapes of Wrath is a classic of course. James Baldwin is a great writer–maybe Go Tell It on the Mountain? Some argue that Beloved is the best American novel ever, and of course Morrison has an amazing way with words (if you don’t want to commit to a full book, her short story Recitatif is fantastic). I love love love Jane Austen, but don’t like Wharton as much. Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor… any of them pique your interest?

              1. Madame Arcati*

                Ooh my mum got me Beloved years ago and I didn’t make it through…maybe a short story would be better. Or I could have another go it’s been about two decades lol.

                1. Irish Teacher*

                  I actually think Beloved is one of the less amazing of Toni Morrison’s books. Love, Sula and The Bluest Eye are all way better in my opinion.

            4. Falling Diphthong*

              Might try some short stories–Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. But I think classic American lit does tend to be sad, now that you mention it.

              I recall reading recently about an early Soviet showing of “The Grapes of Wrath” that was intended to convey how much capitalism sucked, but the audiences kept getting distracted about how everyone, even poor people, had cars. Or a book set in Singapore during WWII discussing The 47 Ronin, which to different characters read as “We must all die for the noble (yet now dead) cause” or “Look at the stupidity of everyone dying while accomplishing nothing, we really need a better model as a culture.” Compelling stories often speak to audiences in different ways over time.

              On that note I’ll recommend taking a pass at the Odyssey as an adult. For kids it’s much more “cool dude keeps having adventures” and for people in their 40s “dude did what was asked of him and just wants to go home, but gods keep crashing him into islands full of psychopaths to see if he can survive.”

              1. Clisby*

                A pretty good kid version of The Odyssey is the 6-book set by Mary Pope Osborne (she of Magic Tree House fame.) I read them to my kids when they were about 6 and 11, and they both loved them. The only adult-level version I can remember was Edith Hamilton’s.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is great for the Greek myths–it really captures the element where it totally sucks to have the gods taking a personal interest in your life, drop kicking you into lethal situations in the hopes that you either escape or die in an entertaining way. Or just using your body to make a point to another god.

            5. Random Dice*

              The Scarlet Letter is mostly about the injustice of sexist religious patriarchy. It kindles fury at sexist double standards over sex, but isn’t very peaceful.

              I liked Tom Sawyer more than Huck Finn, which meandered a lot and had incomprehensible regional accents written phonetically. But I find A Tramp Abroad to be hilarious and succinct, showcasing Twain’s wit without the Huck Finn slog.

              I loved:
              The Importance of Being Ernest (funny)
              Last of the Mohicans
              Picture of Dorian Grey
              Old Man and the Sea
              Of Mice and Men (it’s sad but so good)
              Three Musketeers
              Best of O’Henry
              Little Women
              Catch-22
              The Outsiders
              The Giver
              Call of the Wild

              1. Madame Arcati*

                I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the importance of being Ernest and the picture of Dorian gray are not American literature! But Wilde is great and I have read and loved both so I’ll take that as a recommendation for your recommendations!
                Controversial but I didn’t care for little women. Sappy and pious; frankly by the time the nauseatingly sugary virtuous Beth kicked the bucket I was rooting for consumption! Sorry…

            6. Imtheone*

              Huckleberry Finn is great, and an easy read for an adult. The point isn’t really the plot—more the challenge to the prevailing way of thinking of the time it was written. Read it with the recognition of how race, slavery, and morals were perceived at the time.

              Twain’s writings vary, humor, satire, adventure.

            7. Ellis Bell*

              You might like Work, a Story of Experience by Louisa May Alcott. It’s darker and more adult than Little Women but with a similarly strong heroine. Very representative of the times touching on feminism and the abolitionist cause; some romance in there too.

            8. Irish Teacher*

              I’m Irish, but from my American literature course in college (I mean, it wasn’t officially American literature, but…in effect it was), I’d say anything by Toni Morrison, Carson McCullers’ “The Member of the Wedding” and JD Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”

            9. JSPA*

              Huck Finn has constant flashes of Twain’s very barbed humor! If you like, say, Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary (itself a classic), you might try dipping into Huck Finn, which is so much more than the summary of its plot.

              Later, in that same stream as it developped into the warm fruitful-to-fetid swamp of southern gothic, Flannery O Connor (short stories) and Faulkner. I’d add the more recent Bastard out of Carolina (Dorothy Allison).

              Heading up to New England;

              If you can do poetry at all, read Walt Whitman.

              I love Hawthorne, but the short stories, not the (over-taught) scarlet letter nor even house of the seven gables. Try Twice told Tales or Mosses from the Old Manse (to bookend his short story career).

              Unclassifiable, and unmissable:

              Zora Neale Hurston.

              Willa Cather.

              Seconding “invisible man.” (When people talk about writing “THE” great American Novel, this is where my mind goes as I think, “well, that’s already been done.”)

              mid-century-modern and since then, you likely already have covered, but in case not…

              Some Kurt Vonnegut, some John Irving, some Octavia Butler, some Ursula LeGuin (the short story collections The Compass Rose and the Wind’s 12 Quarters are an easy intro into her non-children’s stuff)

              Pure fun or pure insanity: The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler) (considered a classic). Something by Rita Mae Brown (only rubyfruit jungle is considered classic-in-the-making, but some of the others are very funny and reasonably insightful, while others are fairly fluffy). Naked Lunch (Hunter S Thompson). A Confederacy of Dunces. Something 1970 or earlier from Philip K Dick. I’d add, from the current era, Motherless Brooklyn (Lethem) and Mystery of Pittsburgh (Chabon) and if you include graphic novels, Fun Home (Bechdel). I’m hesitating to add the last on this list, as the author was “cancelled” for darn good reasons (IMO) and because I don’t know if you would count it as an American novel…but The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz) has stayed with me…intensely.

              1. Jamie Starr*

                Ugh, I disliked The Big Sleep immensely. I get that it was the blueprint for that type of novel but it was so cheesey.

                Can’t believe no one has mentioned F. Scott Fitzgerald or Edgar Allen Poe for American classic literature.

            10. I take tea*

              If you like Montgomery and Coolidge, I think you should read Louisa May Alcott too. I recommend reading Young Women and its sequels with a biography on the side, to see what of the story has its basis in her own experiences. They are a bit preachy, but not too bad. I quite like Eight Cousins and it sequel Rose in Bloom, too. It gives a good insight both in the society at the time and also the reform thinking. (I know, not adult literature, but came to mind.)

              I also dislike Wuthering Heights, I haven’t been able to finish it, and I love Jane Eyre too, and old literature in general and gothic a lot. But everybody is just stupid and/or vindictive in WH.

              I reread Uncle Tom’s Cabin a couple of years back, and it’s a riveting read. Of course it has its faults, but I think it absolutely is worth reading.

            11. Tea and Sympathy*

              I love Sinclair Lewis. Although his novels are set in the 1920s, the personalities and behavior he satirizes are still easily recognizable today.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I am glad that I read Wuthering Heights in high school to get that extra layer out of modern adaptations or plays on it. Like Shakespeare or the Bible–I’m glad to have that grounding in what’s being satirized. But I often enjoy stuff that is playing on some archetype I don’t know–it’s an extra layer, not the only aspect.

        Touring a castle in Italy I was interested in a particular mural, which really put me in mind of a TV show with people in Ren Fair dress shooting swords at each other. It turned out to be a classic story (Sumerian?) about a young couple whose love is forbidden. When they go to meet in the woods she gets there first, surprising a lion who just killed a rabbit. Sensibly, she runs away. She drops her scarf, which the bloody lion investigates for a bit before losing interest. When her lover arrives, he finds the bloody scarf and lion footprints: Nothing for it but to pull out his sword and kill himself. She returns, finds him dying, and pulls out the sword to stab herself. “Young people with the communication skills of squash accidentally stage a double suicide” has apparently been a compelling narrative for millennia.

        1. Clisby*

          Oh, yeah, that’s the story of Pyramus and Thisbe – it’s basically the Romeo and Juliet story. Or, I guess I should say R&J is basically the P&T story.

      3. GoryDetails*

        I actually love Wuthering Heights – but I’ve always been a fan of dark/Gothic/horror, and despite the film interpretations of the book as a romance {cringe} it’s totally a horror novel. [Also a magnificent example of terrifyingly dysfunctional families – with the tiniest nod to possible redemption by the end, in which the survivors among the younger generation just might be getting on a decent-human-being footing. Odd how some of the earlier film adaptations chose to drop that bit entirely!]

        1. Clisby*

          I liked Wuthering Heights a lot too – I found out at Christmas my youngest brother is on his 3rd reading of it. We agreed that it’s quite a strange book, but fascinating. Definitely not a romance!

    2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Been rereading the “Janissaries” series by Jerry Pournelle. Interesting with the juxtaposition between the 70s/80s novels (the first three), and the final one from 2020.

      1. Jackalope*

        Other way around, actually! I think I’ve read all of her other stuff, and just learned about this book last month. I’m not normally a space opera type; space ships are one of the few types of sci-fi/fantasy stories that tend to make my eyes glaze over. But she makes them seem less sterile and more livable.

    3. Pamela Adams*

      I just finished Seanan McGuire’s Lost in the Moment and Found. Also reading the latest Long List Anthology of stories nominated for the Hugo Award.

    4. Advenella*

      Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a selection of advice letters written to “Sugar”, so I envision her answering them with this sassy southern accent. I’ve been enjoying it thus far. I never read the original column.

      1. CoastEast*

        Ooh I saw that as a play in San Diego! Heart wrenching as you learn more about the protagonists life through her writing!

      2. Random Dice*

        Oh yes, Tiny Beautiful Things is so good! It needs trigger warnings for mentions of child sexual assault (Strayed is a survivor), but is so warm and hopeful and wise

      3. Cedrus Libani*

        +1. If you can make it through that book without sobbing like a hungry, angry baby at least once, you might actually be Vulcan. I outright lost it on three separate occasions, and I very rarely do that. But I mean that in the best of ways. There are metaphors from that book that I still carry with me, years after reading it.

    5. Manders*

      Just finished “That Time I Loved You” by Carrieanne Leung. Really excellent (though trigger warning for suicide). Also fully enjoyed The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner which takes place around the time of the SF earthquake of 1906.

    6. Quality Girl*

      Poetry Unbound by Pádraig Ó Tuama. It’s 50 poems that he chose with a blurb about why and then a few pages of analysis after each. As a novice poetry reader I appreciate the break-down and the variety.

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        I love his podcast of the same name. it’a perfect for listening during a walk in the woods.

    7. Jamie Starr*

      I just finished “Little Fires Everywhere” and started “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain.

      1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        When that Aprille doth with his shower soote, the droughte of march hath perced to the roote..

        And that’s all I can remember. The first thing we read in my “Early English Lit” class back in [date redacted for my own ego]

        1. Manders*

          My English teacher (student teacher, actually) read that section out loud to us in the Old (or Middle? I don’t recall which) English, and it was pretty cool.

    8. Decidedly Me*

      Just finished The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and have now started Flux by Jeremy Robinson.

      1. Jackalope*

        Was that from a recommendation here? I ask because I just read Cultish after having found a referral on the weekend blog; the jacket cover mentioned her first book and I thought that the first book also sounded intriguing, so here we are.

        1. Katiekins*

          I heard about it when she was on the Be There in Five podcast. It may have been a recco here as well. I also sometimes listen to her podcast Sounds Like a cult.

          I’m intrigued to hear she has the new (?) book you mentioned!

    9. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m reading Marple, the new collection of short mystery stories inspired by Agatha Christie. I started reading Christie novels as a kid, and seeing how contemporary authors revisit Miss Marple is good fun so far.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I got that for Christmas and have read about four of the stories. They are good and most are fairly in-character.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          We’ve made about the same progress then, I’m about to start story number five. I agree, they capture the character well so far, though a couple get solved too quickly for readers to get properly invested. The Unraveling is my favourite so far.

      2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        If you like that sort of thing, and you’re a Springsteen fan, you might like “Meeting Across The River: Stories Inspired by the Haunting Song by Bruce Springsteen”.

        It’s a set of short stories inspired by the (penultimate) song on the Born to Run album.

    10. Jen Erik*

      Finally finished ‘At the Feet of the Sun’ – I stalled badly at the 80% mark – be interested to know what everyone else thought. I eventually worked out that, for me, it read like top-notch fanfic drawn from ‘The Hands of the Emperor’ rather than a continuation of the story.

    11. Irish Teacher*

      I’m reading The Butterfly Assassin. It’s not my usual kind of book, but it is excellent.

    12. Angstrom*

      Just started the Miche translation of Ovid’s “The Art of Love”. It’s basically “How to pick up girls” written in mock-epic verse in 2 B.C. for his Roman audience.

      Also started “American Sirens” about the first black paramedics in the 1970s.

    13. Reader*

      Just finished Olga Dies Dreaming, about a multigenerational Puerto Rican/New York family. Such amazing story telling, heart warming and breaking in turns.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Oooh, I’m so looking forward to reading this one, it’s been on my list for a while.

    14. AY*

      I am headed to Savannah next week on vacation, so I decided to finally read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s really throwing me for a loop! The author is clearly very skilled but I am so shocked by the casual and everyday racism described in this book. I know it’s describing events in the 80s, but it’s quite frankly stunning to see people toss the n-word around so freely.

      1. Clisby*

        I remember first learning of that book when I was bringing my now-husband to visit SC for the first time (we were both in Ohio.) This was, I don’t know, 1994 or 1995 and we were listening to NPR and there was a show where somebody (maybe John Berendt) was reading from a book and I was halfway paying attention when I realized Wait! This really happened! I remember when the murder took place. I didn’t live in Savannah, but an old friend of mine kept me up to date on the drama. A few years later my husband and I visited Savannah and actually met a couple of the people featured in the book. That was a trip.

        I’m not a fan of covering up racism. Not that you were advocating that, but I, as a South Carolinian, didn’t see anything unfair or exaggerated about the racism portrayed there.

    15. M&M Mom*

      Halfway through Ms. Demeanor. I love Elinor Lipman. The Inn At Lake Devine is one of my favorites.

      1. the cat's ass*

        I love her too and will start Ms Demeanor today! Just finished “Shrines of Gaiety” by Kate Atkinson about the roaring 20’s in London and it was Dickensian.

    16. word nerd*

      Ooh, just put Wordslut on hold since it sounds right up my alley, thank you! I mean, one of my favorite “genres” is books about dictionaries, so, yeah.

      1. AY*

        Did you hear about the book about indexes that came out last year? It’s called Index, a History of the. It was delightful!

        1. word nerd*

          Yes!! I of course loved it and recommended it to all my friends at Distributed Proofreaders (the volunteer site that puts together a lot of the content for Project Gutenberg).

          Tell me what other book- or language-related books you’ve liked. :)

          1. AY*

            Gosh, I haven’t read that many! I didn’t love The Library Book by Susan Orlean. The library fire wasn’t enough to hang a whole book on, and I thought the other elements seemed thrown together to make up for it. I enjoyed Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue, but I’m a Bryson superfan.

            Kathryn Schulz’s memoir Lost & Found isn’t really a book about books, but she does ruminate very beautifully on the two words (and ampersand) of the title.

            1. word nerd*

              Ooh, I’ve read a fair number of Bryson books (I usually like his non-memoir nonfiction, but he often annoys me when he’s talking about himself), but somehow I’d never noticed that one before–I put it on hold, thanks! I fully admit that the Library Book was all over the place, but I still enjoyed it. Part of the enjoyment was that I grew up in LA, though!

    17. Random Dice*

      The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers is the only one of her books where I got bored and never finished it.

    18. germank106*

      I just finished “Social Climber” by Amanda Pellegrino. It’s a great story with an ending that totally took me by surprise. I ended up staying up until 3 a.m to finish it and then I couldn’t sleep because of the ending.

    19. GoryDetails*

      Current/recent reads include:

      THE PLOT by Jean Hanff Korelitz, about a not-very-successful author who filches the impressively twisty plot told him by a student at a writing workshop after learning that the student had died, and becomes wildly successful – until he starts getting messages calling him a plagiarist and thief. The book includes excerpts from the in-story novel, spaced out through the main narrative, and while I had some quibbles about style I did find it an entertaining thriller.

      HEAD ON by John Scalzi, from his “Locked In” series about a world in which people suffering from Haden syndrome are locked in to their bodies, but can interact with the outside world via neural implants that give access to a virtual-reality world – and to highly-functional robotic bodies (called “threeps” in honor of C3PO). In this one, a new sport involving robotic combatants who literally try to rip each other’s heads off comes under scrutiny when a player dies. Scalzi’s usual fun-with-intricate-scenarios and snarky-banter.

      THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES by Edmund de Waal, non-fiction mixing details of de Waal’s family with a delightful collection of Japanese netsuke. (The parts in which the netsuke were described were my favorites, though some of the personal history – which spanned the world wars – were also of interest.)

      SWING, SWING TOGETHER by Peter Lovesey, a mystery from his “Sergeant Cribb” series, has a really fun premise: in the story, Jerome K. Jerome’s hilarious book “Three Men in a Boat” has just come out, and nearly all of the characters have heard of it, have read it, or are reading it – while investigating a murder that seems to have been committed by three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog). Apparently the book was really so popular that people took to the river in droves, trying to follow the route of the book’s characters, and this really muddies the waters of the investigation.

    20. Rara Avis*

      Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver just came into the library; I really like her writing so I’m looking forward to it.

    21. carcinization*

      Just started reading Emrys’ A Half-Built Garden, taking a break about halfway through McGuire’s Seasonal Fears. Mostly because I thought the first one might be better coffee shop reading.

    22. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Listening to “Dying of Politeness” by Geena Davis and loving it. I’ve been on a bit of an actor memoir kick with audiobooks lately and have generally enjoyed them except for Matthew Perry’s book, which I stopped about halfway through. Davis is delightful as both author and narrator.

      Just started “Great Fortune” by Daniel Okrent about the creation of Rockefeller Center. Yesterday’s trip in NYC also inspired me to learn more about Central Park and I’ve got a couple of books added to my list about that. At some point I’ll return to fiction…

    23. Lifeandlimb*

      I’m reading the third book in the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante, “Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave”.

      To be honest the second (and also the third one) are kind of like horrible car crashes in slow motion. It’s a little painful and I keep saying I’m going to stop after I’m finished with one, but I can’t seem to stop!

    24. The butler did it*

      Just finished COVER STORY by Susan Rigetti. I love thrillers with con artists, and this fit the bill nicely.

  8. Not A Manager*

    Earlier this week I told my husband that our marriage is over. Everything since then has been a whirlwind.

    Any advice from other people about how to manage practically and emotionally when you’re the one who initiated the separation, but there are no villains and not a lot of anger? I’m busy now and surrounded by support, but I know that soon enough I will be alone and probably lonely. I also know that I was lonely in my marriage, but still, there was always someone to hang out with.

    1. AGD*

      I did a similar thing a few years ago and felt SO. MUCH. BETTER. after it was over. I had time to just be me and do, like, me things. Start making lists of places to go, Meetup groups to join, kinds of friends it would be fun to make on Bumble BFF, anything that looks ahead positively. You got this.

      1. Not A Manager*

        Thank you! I already have a document with some links in it called “places to go and things to do.” I’m also planning to take my nephew skiing next month. :)

    2. Generic Name*

      I initiated my divorce as well. Here’s what I did to not feel lonely when alone:
      Got kittens
      Cooked foods I loved but my ex hated
      Exercised after work (without worrying I had to rush home to cook for him)
      Painted the walls a color I wanted and enjoyed only having to please myself
      Bought super girly bed sheets
      Spent time with friends
      Did a couple of meetup groups
      And after a while dated

    3. Anthony-mouse*

      This is from the perspective of an adult child whose parents divorced 3 years ago. My mum couldn’t figure out how to be a person on her own and immediately found a new relationship and made him her new personality. My dad took some time to figure out who he was, went on some holidays alone, spent time on his hobbies, got a dog, and got himself back more involved in my life. When he did find a new girlfriend, he feels much more of his own person. So yeah, from a kids perspective, fill your weekends – travelling, visit friends, spend time with your kids or parents if you have them, take up a new hobby, get a pet

      1. Ellis Bell*

        My strictly single days following my divorce are among my most cherished memories. I did exactly what I wanted, travelled wherever I wanted, and once I banned the idea of dating for a period of time, I felt brilliant about it. You definitely sort out your priorities.

    4. Random Dice*

      I’m glad your divorce doesn’t have villains or big spiky emotions.

      But it’s still a major shift, in routine and finances and identity. It’ll take time but you’ve got time to figure that all out.

      I did all the things that I had compromised away from before. I made my space unapologetically feminine. My bedclothes were girly, no compromises needed. I framed a giant poster of something that felt like it encapsulated the person I wanted to be. I bought sexy red underwear, even if only I knew it was under my clothes. I dyed my hair a shade I’d longed for.

      I found Meetup to be useful. It let me drop into activities I was interested in, without a lot of upfront investment. I found a great boardgame group, made some friends, and learned about what I actually like to do versus what I imagine I’d like.

      I find hands-on art with low stakes to be helpful. Pottery painting, clay sculpture, zentangles doodling, watercolor…

      I started a garden, and now love to visit plant stores, botanical gardens, and to go to garden talks.

    5. E*

      Two things that helped me in my divorce: 1) grief is the body’s natural response to big change. It sounds like you know it was the right decision but for me, sometimes the pain made me second-guess myself and it was helpful to feel this was a normal process to go through and not a sign anything was “wrong”. 2) you’re grieving not only the loss of the company of your partner / life you had but also all the hopes and dreams your younger self has for you two and yourself in the future. It’s a lot so be patient and give yourself grace with all the feelings!

      1. I take tea*

        This is so well said and important. Even if it’s the right desicion, it still can feel bad.

    6. Dragonfly7*

      So glad you have a support system! My advice for the immediate future is make sure there is at least one stable big thing in your life, like the place you are living, your job, or something else. I had quite a bit of pressure from family to move several hundred miles to be closer to them, but my job and the financial security it represented were important to my mental health. In the future, always have at least one fun event to look forward to. For me, that has looked like going to conferences, season tickets to a local independent theater, after hours events at local museums or nature centers, and small group events in my church or at the library. (I really wish I liked book clubs.)

    7. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I found when I left my marriage, my life felt exactly the same except there was no expectation that I wouldn’t be lonely. It made me feel a nice kind of solitude instead. And the freedom to do what I wanted exactly, was really nice.

      (My marriage was bad, I left because he was cheating and cleaning out our bank accounts, so the feeling of knowing I’d know exactly how much money I had made me feel amazingly secure; but even if yours was fine, there are still certain annoyances you no longer have to deal with due to living with another human being, even if they were the best person. What are those things for you and what does that mean for you instead? What do you get to do or how do you get to freely feel?).

      I’m sorry this is happening to you, and I’m proud of your courage to do what’s right for you regardless. Sometimes leaving when there isn’t a villain can be harder because there’s not an objective offense to point to. You have to be even more secure in yourself at that point, to be able to just say you just want to go.

    8. JSPA*

      No specific suggestions, but thank you for modeling that it’s ok to end things without having to force anyone into the villain mold, and without waiting until distance, silence and irritation level up to hatred or seething anger.

      Or maybe the suggestion is to hold onto having launched auspiciously, and picture yourself riding it like a wave, past the rocks of “how bad it could have gotten.”

      I’m partial to goofy-dancing to really bad up-tempo oldies or disco when alone and tired of silence, but that presumes detached house rather than apartment or townhouse.

      1. Not A Manager*

        I think I’ve moved past seething anger, although in my case it was more profound sadness mixed with the unfounded hope that one of us would change. I’ve come to realize that he is who he is. It’s not fair to ask him to change that, and I can’t change myself to be happy with him. Although I did try for a long time.

  9. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Everyone share what games you’ve been playing. As always, any kind of game counts, not just video games.

    I’m still working my way with my D&D friends through a mystery put together by our DM. We are having a lot of fun with it and are probably close to the end.

    Also, for any other D&D players, any thoughts on the current OGL (Open Game License) controversy? I’ve been trying to watch it pretty closely and it’s been interesting and frustrating all at the same time.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Hoping for some good advice for guiding my child. In short, if a young teen is just jumping into the wonderful work of live role playing games, what should a parent helping them with purchases know, to help them make purchases they won’t regret the first time they sit down to play?

      I have a child who is absolutely obessed with role playing/fantasy games and stories. For years, the kid has been completely preoccupied with Power Rangers (every single iteration of the franchise), long past the age most kids move on to other things. At long last, they are willing to, well, not give up the topic entirely, but realizing that their nerdy friends are playing the likes of Magic and DnD and they want to join in.

      I’m thrilled! These kinds of games are about as far away from my own interests as it’s possible to get, but this young person has struggled and worked incredibly hard and that they’re thinking about games they can play in person, with friends (school has an after school games club), I’m happy with anything they choose. They have a bit of cash stashed from the holidays and think they might want to get cards and similar and join role playing with friends. Where should we go (in person shopping) and what would be the best things to get for starting out in Magic the Gathering or DnD?

      1. AcademiaNut*

        For DnD there are a multiple different systems and editions, so it’s good to find out first what game their friends are playing (and, ideally, get a game organized), as the rule books are different for each system. After that a Player’s Handbook for the system they’re using, and a set or two of the appropriate dice. Some systems use miniatures for blocking out combat, but you don’t need to blow a lot of money at first (I use Lego figurines and bricks rather than spending money).

        If they’ve never played before, having a friend help them make a basic character and play through a scenario or two can help them get the basic rules down well enough to join a friendly game.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        If they want to try different systems or settings, there may also be beginner’s boxes available – I know Paizo does them for Pathfinder and Starfinder – Pathfinder is a D&D style fantasy setting, Starfinder is D&D in Space for a more sci-fi option because sometimes you need a laser gun instead of a crossbow :) but the beginner’s boxes include “A 96-page Heroes’ Handbook, detailing character creation and general rules for playing the game, plus a short solo adventure. A 96-page Game Master’s Guide containing an adventure, alien adversaries, and advice on how to create your own science fantasy tales. The Starfinder Beginner Box comes with a complete set of seven polyhedral dice, more than 80 full-color pawns depicting diverse heroes and aliens, and 24 plastic pawn bases. As well as six pregenerated character sheets to throw you right into the action, six blank character sheets to record the abilities of your custom-made hero, six player aid cards for quick rules references, and a durable, reusable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker.”

      3. kina lillet*

        For D&D, a players handbook is more than enough. A set of really fun special dice is a wonderful thing to have too.

        Do you have a local board game store? They’ll have selections of dice and of course a players handbook.

        I’m less familiar with Magic, but I’d recommend that same local game store. After playing a bit with friends, your kid should know what style of game they’re playing, and ideally the game store clerk should be able to help. (Not a bad idea to pre-call and ask if they have someone who can help get a kid set up.)

        1. kina lillet*

          For the versions of D&D, either your kid will say some specific name of the game like “Pathfinder”, or it’s fifth-edition Dungeons and Dragons.

          Also a newbury comics in the mall or a bookstore will have D&D stuff, though maybe not the coolest dice. Target will have Magic cards.

      4. DarthVelma*

        Highly recommend Magic the Gathering. I play it a lot with my brother, his kids, and a bunch of their friends. It’s a lot of fun. It’s been great watching them grow and see how they think and how that has changed over time. Big games with lots of players give you a chance to just sit and talk and build relationships. And it teaches kids things in a way where they don’t even realize they’re learning. :-)

        It teaches math and reading. (My littlest niece learned to read because she wanted to play in “the big game”.) It teaches strategic thinking and sportsmanship. And I’ve seen it work wonders with one of my nephew’s friends who’s on the spectrum and has social anxiety. It helped him learn to pick up social cues in a safe environment and gave him a lot more confidence in being around other people.

        I will warn you, it’s an easy hole to fall down. Next thing you know your house has a dedicated game room and you have three Ikea Kallaxes full of Magic cards. Ask me how I know. :-)

        1. OyHiOh*

          The young person is not exactly on the spectrum but is absolutely nuerodivergent, anxious, social skills issues, etc. I’m absolutely thrilled that they’ve realized there’s a whole world out there, of sit with humans games they can play, that indulge their thirst for adventure and occasional fictional mayhem. I appreciate all of the advice above!! The kid is currently deep in their computer researching Starfinder. They have some familiarity with Magic as well.

      5. Nicki Name*

        Find your friendly local gaming store! Not only will it have the supplies, it probably runs gaming events (especially if your child gets into Magic), and has employees who are used to answering nervous questions from parents.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I am SO STOKED I haven’t been able to PLAY in a TTRPG for like eight years, I GM’ed a 5 year campaign and then Covid put paid to our gaming group. (They also mostly live an hour away and have small kids, so there’s been a few complicating factors.)

      But my housemate is running an Pathfinder adventure path for me starting this weekend and since my character concept is basically a one-woman party, me and my husband are enough players to make it work.

      Kiz is a druid, Pack Lord/Saurian Shaman archetypes, so a gnome with three velociraptors by L3 and 4 plus a T-rex by L7, and then awaken all the raptors at L9 and suddenly I’m playing two druids (L9 and L6), a L7 barbarian, a L6 rogue and a L8 sorcerer. Bwaaa. (We planned out the level progression for the raptors as companions this week to make sure.)

    3. DarthVelma*

      My partner has become slightly addicted to Sea of Thieves. I played a bit last weekend and really liked it. I love the bright colors and the sense of humor. We got into two fights with other pirate ships and won both. Go team!

      Gonna play some more this weekend and try to earn enough loot to buy my own boat.

    4. Manders*

      I’m still an avid Pokemon Go player. Anyone else who plays can friend me with my code: 1099 1977 1935.

      1. No Name Yet*

        Yay for Pokémon Go, my kid and I just had our one-year playing anniversary! Sent you a friend request :)

    5. Random Dice*

      A great ice breaker social game that everyone loves is Splunk. The first person to shout out an answer gets the card. “Kitchen item that starts with an O”, “Body part without an i”. Adults and kids love it, and it breaks through that socially awkward phase of meeting new folks or getting into the swing of hanging out.

      Catch the Moon is an amazing party game that gets people cheering and groaning in suspense, and is kid friendly. One stacks little plastic ladders and tries to keep them from touching the ground. There are only a few simple rules, but it’s riveting.

    6. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We recently did one of those Hunt a Killer games at a friend’s house. It was a lot of fun!

    7. MEH Squared*

      Watching my bestie play Monster Hunter Rise (CAPCOM) makes me want to get back into it. I played it a lot back in January of ’22, but then Elden Ring (FromSoft) came out, and that was the only game I played for the next eight months. I think I might be able to get back into MHR, but I would like to find a weapon I like. I’m using the Switch-Axe because that was my main in Monster Hunter World, but I’m not loving it Rise.

    8. Miss Dove*

      I just got a VR headset, and I’m enjoying playing those games. I like table tennis and VZfit, and exercise game.

    9. Nicki Name*

      I was at my friendly local gaming store this weekend and they were apparently seeing a LOT of people looking to switch from D&D due to the OGL controversy. They were sold out of the Pathfinder core rulebook and on the way to selling out of Shadowrun and Pathfinder beginner boxes.

  10. Teeter*

    I have ADHD and the idea of putting things away vs. piling them up into little “activity piles” is my current frustration. I have very few things and everything has a home but I’m sick of having to reset my house every night, because you can see all the stuff left from where I made coffee, where I opened a letter, randomly decided to water color, etc. Has anyone mastered this? Don’t get me wrong, resetting the house every night is a habit I’m proud to have cultivated and I’m still going to do it, but again I’m starting to dislike that I have to do so much at the end of the day.

    1. Already Up*

      Can you do smaller chunks more often, instead of all at the end of the day?
      I try to clean today’s lunch containers and pack tomorrow’s lunch (and clean that mess up) while dinner is cooking, for example. Clean up the coffee mess while I’m waiting for water to go through the filter pitcher so I can add more. I’m already up and in the kitchen, and I can stare at water flowing through a pitcher, or I can DO something. It’s a work in progress. Sometimes all I want to do is watch water flow.

      1. Teeter*

        That’s what I’m trying to do, but (and I should have elaborated on this when I originally posted) my ADHD means I don’t automatically “see” the things that I’m doing as I’m doing them, or register how much time they’ll take to clean up as I’m making a mess.

        When I’m cooking it’s easy for me to “see” the mess, or to say “Okay, this is in the microwave for two minutes, what can I put away in two minutes?” But when it comes to stuff like opening the mail, for instance, I will open it and then leave the pile when I get an instant message or email from work, then never move back to it. Or I’ll open it, find a bill, and realize I need to find my credit card, so I’ll go dump my purse out, then my food’s done cooking or I get an Amazon box and I open that, etc. since there’s not a built-in timer.

        I believe I can improve on this with practice and I don’t believe it’s a purely neurodivergent thing, but if you’re neurotypical you might not have the same experience.

        1. Squirrel!*

          I’m awfully absent-minded, and getting sidetracked is a constant. One of the best things I’ve found, right before I let the distraction take over, is to set a timer with the conscious intention that when it rings, I will come back and work on the interrupted task. That has become a habit now, so I don’t resist the idea of doing it, and it is often successful. (Nothing works all the time.)

        2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          I can relate to not seeing messes. Something that works for my ADHD brain is not to try to see the mess, but rather take a mental (or real!) picture of what the place should look like. Surfaces are cleared off with nothing on them or with only these three things on them. The living room has nothing in the floor except a dog bed. The blankets/throws are folded over the arm of the couch. And so on.

    2. Double A*

      I don’t have ADHD but I don’t clear the house every night. I got blank chore chart broken down by day and I filled in different chores to do each day. Then I try to take care of that chore that day. Then if a room is getting a bit cluttered and it’s annoying me, I can be like, “I’ll deal with that in two days when it’s on the rotation.” Or if there’s a day I don’t do the chore, I know I did the it week before so it’s not that dire.

      The chart also has a place for monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks. I printed out a year calendar too and I’ve been marking days I did my chore.

      It would be easy to make one but I also found a download on Etsy that was $1 so that was definitely worth the money.

    3. JSPA*

      Even though in theory every hour of the day is equivalent to every other hour, at least for me, the 100% wrong answer is “do it next morning.” It’s about as welcome as cleaning up cigarettes in stale beer cans after a party, while hung over.

      But in seasons where it’s chilly, I almost always cook at home, and dinner is generally simmering “slow and low” for an hour or two, “clean and tidy while dinner cooks” is a workable option (and anything from after dinner can wait for dinner the next day). This only works if you’re always cooking at home, though, and you need a good timer, so you know when dinner is done, and cleaning should be over.

      Another option, if you have allergies, is (in order) “tidy / put away, scoop cat box or deal with other dusty task, shower.” You go from “maybe dusty” to “certainly dusty” to clean and having gotten the essentials done.

      In times of exhaustion, having (in burning man terminology) a MOOP box, and stopping everything to put in place the MOOP, when the box is full, is another strategy, but there’s the temptation of spawning multiple boxes (one for each room, or one for each matter-containing-area) and eventually you’re back where you started, with junk piles, except they’re in boxes. Which does at least mean you can pick them up to clean under and around them, but…not good, overall.

      One of the hallmarks of ADD is getting sick of any system and putting huge energy into wiggling out of it, or feeling a bit oppositional and defiant if you’re tired and running late. I have not found things like “cheat days” to be effective in resetting that “ugh, avert” reaction, because as you know, stuff piles up.

      The best I can offer is that if you do it an hour or two early, it feels like being way ahead of the curve, and can put the smile back on my face about the whole system.

      Another is to budget specific time to a task, do the task for exactly that much time (with the proviso that you’re allowed to clean or tidy if you finish early), and not do anything else until that block is over. And include all parts of the core process on the calendar or list. IM from work? Amazon box? Pay bills? Even having to pee? It waits until the 15 minute “open mail, triage, recycle envelopes and junk mail, put bills on my pillow, put personal mail on the fridge” is done.

      “Bill pay” is a separate item, because as you note, it involves a different set of processes. And, it’s “pay bills online, then fill out any bills needing to be physically sent, then return cards to wallet and wallet to pocket of purse, then put mailed bills on shelf by front door for stamps and mailing.” But that does not include, “put stamps on letters and letters out.” Because, again, that’s a separate topic.

      1. Happily Retired*

        @JSPA, I first read the beginning of this 27 hours ago. I had to google burning man moop boxes, which got me reading about Burning Man, which got me reading about the amazing artist Tigre’s art installation, which got me reading about them, which led me to the website of a friend who inspired a poster they created, which led me to reading about support for trans people during pregnancy and birth, which led me to something else that I have now forgotten. And now I’m back to finish reading your post.

        Yes, I have ADHD. lol

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I have ADHD and I’ve more or less eliminated the tidy piles, except for my dressing table. I think the best way is to develop the habits for each zone quite slowly, (the habits are quite different based on the activity so I think trying to master all of them at once is doomed). As soon as you’ve mastered one zone, then your end of day tidy will be at least one zone shorter. You say one of your piles consists of letters which get left out when you get messages or parcels. There are a few things you could do there: you could dedicate some time to going all or mostly paperless (highly recommended), or you could develop the habit of sitting near the place were mail goes before opening any of it. If half goes in a wastebasket and the rest in the drawer, seat yourself near both before opening the first item. You should file one letter before moving on to the next. You should also have a dedicated spot in this area for the unsorted mail (like a nice in tray), in case of interruptions. So you would need to be sure and pick up and go through the unsorted at the same time as the next lot of mail. The idea of getting bills in the mail that I have to go find payment for, which I might put down and forget about, is making me shudder; surely that’s a task for the neurotypical! All my bills are automated. However if you’re attached to paying bills as and when you get them, then I highly recommend keeping your cards with your phone rather than at the bottom of a handbag. This was life-changing for me! Possibly also keep your phone on you (I like leggings pockets for this) or set up your charging station near the mail station. This is also super useful if you online shop from your phone, because your cards are right there with you. I’m also much less likely to leave the house without cards or phone now they’re combined into one main thing. Anyway, these are details which may or may not work for you; my larger point is to form one habit at a time and all these zones will likely involve different habits and methods. Don’t try to shape a second habit before the first one takes hold. I have one last zone to master, my dressing table because it gets messed up in the mornings which are difficult for me; however that’s not bugging me very much. I have the habit of putting it on order at the same time that I put laundry away.

      1. Double A*

        Another suggestion for the mail is not to handle it at once (other than maybe throw away junk mail). I stack unopened mail in a pile (in a designated place) and I handle it once a month on my designated “business day,” which is the same day each month and I have a calendar reminder. Then I deal with the whole stack and once.

    5. Cendol*

      Any chance you could think of cleaning up the activity piles as part of the activity? For instance, when I’m cooking, I’ll include the washing up as a step on my “making food” checklist. If I decide to knit, I include putting the yarn away as a step in the knitting checklist. I don’t consider the activity finished (i.e., deserving of that lovely final checkmark) until I’ve checked off every step.

      I also have ADHD, and if I left everything I did during the day in piles to clean up before bed, it’d never happen. Of course, this method is not foolproof. I write to you with a pile of Christmas decorations sitting on the rug directly in front of me…

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I imagine my house is a boutique bed and breakfast as I’m cleaning up. Something about that connects me to the sense of it being cozy and special, instead of a chore.

    7. Lifeandlimb*

      The only way I’ve managed to keep the house vaguely tidy is because I put each item away AS SOON as I have used it. It makes me a little slower to get things done, but then I don’t have to deal with reorganizing later.

  11. UpnUp*

    Has anyone overcome (or helped a child overcome) extreme picky eating? Long story short, my now 5 year old just finished 6 months of feeding therapy because their limited diet of food they are willing to eat was shrinking, not expanding. Therapy helped. It halted the shrinking and added a couple foods. But we’ve plateaued. The therapist recommended occupational therapy and our first session is next week. I’m having a hard time seeing how it’s going to help and honestly am feeling a little beat down by the thought of more therapy and support work with no solution in sight. Not looking for medical advice but any hopeful stories of success would be great.

    1. Cat Lover*

      My nephew had colic as a baby and has sensory processing disorder which led him to eat literally like 5 foods for several years (as a toddler he would only try food if it passed what I called his “poke test”- if he poked it and wasn’t immediately grossed out my the texture, he would try it).

      He went to therapy as well and it definitely helped. Has he got older (he’s 11 now), he became more conscious of the fact that he needed to be eating more food, and that awareness led him to be open to trying more foods (even if he ended up not liking them) and opening up his food list. He’s still picky but it’s much better.

    2. PoolLounger*

      I’m not sure if this is helpful or not, so please ignore if it’s not. I have a relative who has had a very limited his whole life. He basically eats some white carbs, butter, some nuts, sugar, and some meat. No green things, no vegetables, no fruit. As a child his parents tried to get him to eat other things but he absolutely refused. He’s now in his 70s, healthy, and has played sports his whole life. I genuinely don’t know how his digestive system or body handles it, but it does. Hopefully your kid’s therapy will help, but even if their diet stays limited they can still live a normal, happy, healthy life.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I was going to say something similar. I am a very picky eater. Probably have some sort of sensory issue with food. Obviously growing up in the 1980s, there was no such thing as therapy or anything like that and it was just seen as an annoying quirk, so I just…worked around it.

        Personally, I dislike the term “picky eater”. It makes it sound like the person is being awkward and is choosing not to eat various foods when it is more likely to be a sensory issue or an allergy.

        Would it be nice to be able to eat more foods? Sure. Is it a big deal? Not really. Now, of course it does depend how many foods the kid is unable to eat. If it is a case of their only eating chocolate and crisps, for example or they will only eat white bread without butter and chips/fries, then that is likely to be more of a problem than if it’s a case of “all they will eat is bread and butter, eggs, cheese, oranges, bananas, tomatoes, plain chicken, chips, plain pasta without sauce and bacon.” The latter is more likely to be just a nuisance.

        Like MeetMoot, I would also advise not making a big deal of it. Try not to let the child see it’s stressing you, because that will stress them and make them feel guilty. “I’m upsetting mum/dad by not being able to eat x/y/z.”

        1. Melody Pond*

          Personally, I dislike the term “picky eater”. It makes it sound like the person is being awkward and is choosing not to eat various foods when it is more likely to be a sensory issue or an allergy.

          +1000. I was labeled a picky eater as a child. I remember one three-day long power struggle with my mother who tried to force me into eating something I couldn’t stand. She kept serving it to me at each meal.

          And then about a year ago, I was diagnosed as autistic. Being labeled a picky eater had caused me lots of guilt and shame by that point. There are lots of sensory or medical reasons why a child might have dietary restrictions.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I was and still am a picky eater, and I also find the term kind of unpleasant. To me, it makes it sound like I’m just being picky, and the truth is, some smells, tastes, and textures make me feel nauseated.

          I think it may help with kids if they have some control over what they eat. The “try a bite and see if you like it” can work, especially if a tiny bite is OK. As a teenager, I appreciated the “If you don’t like what we’re having for dinner, heat up some soup.”

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Same here. My parents force-fed me meat until I was in high school, and the taste literally made me vomit. It was vomiting regularly as a child, mainly because of the taste of meat. Once I could stop eating meat, that disgusting taste wasn’t always in the back of my throat, and I could actually live a vomit-free life.

            I’m not “picky” because I’m fussy or high maintenance. The food I don’t eat is absolutely nauseating to eat.

            1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

              I am horrified that your parents made you continue eating food that made you vomit. I am so sorry. I am glad you can finally now eat in a way that honors you.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There was a scientist who lived on peanuts in soda. Stayed alive, in normalish health, and did productive research. His colleagues just didn’t invite him to dinner parties.

    3. MeetMoot*

      As a child I was a very picky eater. I hated all vegetables (except carrot), I wouldn’t eat seafood or potato or anything with vinegar (no salad dressings, no mayo, no ketchup etc), I was (and still very much am) extremely particular about bread and barely touch sandwiches…
      That list is also cut very short. The list of things I didn’t (and don’t) eat is still enormous. I have no idea how my parents survived it. Lots of pasta dishes and lots of “You can’t have X or do Y until you’ve eaten what’s on your plate”. Did I make a show of it and grumble and pinch my nose so I couldn’t taste the food? Sure. Did I eat it? Eh. Some of the time.

      What I can tell you is that it did get better year-by-year. It’s actually made me very adept at cooking, and I now love trying new things (within reason. I know I hate seafood so I’m not about to go for sushi with friends). It’s actually been eye-opening, because I always thought I was the picky one, and now when I cook for family I’m surprised to learn they don’t really like capers or eggplant or vermicelli noodles. I’m also more mature about food I dislike and have more control over my body, so if I’m visiting friends and they cook chilli for dinner, I’ll still eat my whole serving even though it has beans in it.

      One thing I would say (and I’m sure you do this) is to keep practising empathy. Eating sandwiches makes me genuinely nauseous but I didn’t know how to communicate that as a child, and it caused a lot of distress for me and my parents when they kept trying to get me to eat them.

      Keep at it, though! I’m sure it’s frustrating and exhausting but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you’ll get there.

      1. mreasy*

        Yeah, I think there are picky eaters and there are folks with ARFID or another disorder. I was extremely picky as a kid, basically through high school (and I became a vegetarian at 13 so that didn’t help my food range). But I was very fearful as a child, and this is one of the ways it manifested. It sounds like you are doing all the right things, including therapy, and I wish the very best for you and your family.

    4. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I was the picky eater. I grew up in a time / environment where no one would even have suggested therapy, dismissing it as shameful, too expensive or weird for a child. So I lived through years of comments from people who’d watch me eat and want to have their say on my body and my health (I had no physical issues at all), and frustrated my mother to no end because there was so little she could cook for me.

      I worked out by myself that my issue is with the texture and/or smell of certain foods. There are still some I can’t stand, but if you didn’t know me intimately, you’d think I’m pretty much an omnivore. The sensory issues are really hard to explain to others, but come up less and less because I eat lots more. Long story short, almost everything ended up being a very slowly acquired taste for me. What did it eventually were two things:

      1) Very moderately, peer pressure. For example, I’d get served something I was wary of at a friend’s house, decide to eat it over making a fuss, and (sometimes) realise it was actually ok. This is how I got into the few cheeses I now enjoy – pizza toppings!

      2) In my late teens, I made an effort to vary my diet, unfortunately driven by body image issues (which had a lot more to do with Western diet culture than real health problems). I asked my mother to support me to introduce more foods, and together we would choose recipes that felt interesting enough for me to get over the weird feelings around the ingredients. From there, my range broadened quickly, as I discovered more flavours, and ways I liked things cooked. And as a positive side effect, because it turned out I could enjoy so much, I learnt to cook for myself, which is one of the activities I love the most.

      This is very me-specific, and I’m sure there are unpredictable individual factors at play in your situation too. But I hope you can find it a little bit reassuring here and there :)

      1. Washi*

        I have a very similar experience! Super picky as a child, though for me I think I developed some anxiety around having a taste I didn’t like in my mouth. But it started to be embarrassing around middle school and there ended up being a positive feedback loop of trying new things, realizing I could handle it, trying more things, etc.

        The prevailing culture at the time was much more clean-plate-club, but I was lucky my parents didn’t try to make me eat anything, which would have made it worse. They didn’t make me special meals or anything, but if I was still hungry I could have a plain piece of bread. Being a parent now (of an infant) I imagine that it was probably hard to navigate the judgment at times of picky eaters as I think it’s often wrongly associated with overly permissive parenting. But it all worked out and now I’m a vegetarian who loves more kinds of vegetables than my parents!

        Side note: a silver lining of being picky is I think it made me extra uninterested in experimenting with weed, nicotine, or alcohol soo that’s a plus?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My sensory issues with food as a child were helped SO MUCH by my family’s not doing the clean plate thing. Our rule was that if you served yourself, you had to eat what you took, mostly to keep food from being wasted – the idea was, take a small helping and you can always go back for seconds.

          We also each had a No Thank You dish – mine was creamed chipped beef on toast :P Everyone else liked it, but I couldn’t do soggy bread (still can’t), so if that’s what was for dinner, mom would make me a sandwich instead by default and wouldn’t even suggest that maybe I should try the CCBoT this time, we all just knew that I would say No Thank You and eat my PB&J instead.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I meant to add, we weren’t required to serve ourselves everything on the table, so if there was something I didn’t like I could just skip it.

    5. Lcsa99*

      I can tell you what not to do, what made things harder for me and left me with many good issues as an adult and still unable to eat a lot of foods.

      Don’t force them to eat what they don’t want. Don’t hide other foods in the foods they do like (ie hiding veggies in plain rice). Don’t yell when they won’t eat or make them stay at the table until they do eat. Don’t tell them the food is one thing when it’s another.

      Don’t know if this is going to be helpful. Like others above it’s mostly scents and textures but the above methods added a need to control what I eat too.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yes, all of this, don’t force them or trick them. That makes things worse. If you can help then look for healthy alternatives, that could be good.

      2. Vanellope*

        I think that’s a good point — when my kids were small, the “sneaky chef” type books were all the rage. While I did used to grind up frozen veggies to add to pizza sauce to amp up nutrients a little, it never seemed to me to be a good idea to make a habit of sneaking broccoli into brownies or whatever into the Mac and cheese – it leaves kids not knowing if they actually like certain foods or not, and if mine ever found out I was sneaking stuff into their food it would have made them distrustful.

    6. Neurodivergent in Germany*

      My daughter was/is quite a cautious eater due to GI issues (now mostly resolved now but she had stomach cramps, ulcers, diarrhea…) and also sensory.
      What helped:
      – encouragement to use any strategies to encourage her to eat, e.g. cut favorite shapes out of fruit, add color, sprinkles, jam on top or even just sprinkling food with sugar.
      That came from an experienced older friend and also from the hospital dietician.

      – food chaining: think about what foods your kid will eat and serve something very similar. E.g. if mashed potato works, maybe plain pieces of boiled potato or a potato soup. If fries work, maybe crinkle fries …. Baby steps

      – no pressure to eat: it is always okay to only touch, smell or lick food or spit back out.

      – toddler plate with compartments and bento box: so one undesirable food doesn’t “contaminate” everything else.

      – homemade squeezies (applesauce plus favorite fruit plus oil for calories and Omega 3, instant oats, multivitamin, probiotic)
      Let me know if you want the recipe.

      I hope this helps! Hugs

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      At this age one of my son’s friends did OT to deal with sensory processing issues, and it really helped him. (Two younger sibs didn’t have the issues, he was just wired differently.)

      In a past thread on toddlers, someone observed that there’s often a pattern of a year that’s pretty smooth, and then their minds and bodies change and everyone has a rougher year while the child tries to figure out their new systems. What Cat Lover says about therapy-for-support + time resonates with what worked for my son’s friend–things got easier as he got older. Which I’d view as both change happening over time, and the therapy giving him something to build on as those changes happened.

    8. just another queer reader*

      My family likes to tell the story of my uncle who, as a child, subsisted on hot dogs and bread alone. He refused to eat anything else, and eventually his parents gave up trying to force him. Nowadays, my uncle is an impressive cook and loves eating foods from around the world. I guess he figured out what he liked, and also grew up a bit.

      I also have several friends who, as adults, are pretty particular about what they’ll eat. They do fine and make it work. (Planning meals and grocery shopping with my housemate can be frustrating, but mostly I just eat what I want and let them do their thing.)

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I was that kid too. I ate Kraft mac n’ cheese for dinner for at least two years straight. Now I eat just about anything. There’s hope. (I do have sensory issues, which I have done some combination of growing out of and getting used to.)

        My parents did the “no thank you bite” with me. I didn’t have to eat it, but I did have to take one bite, and eventually I got used to new tastes. I think it helped me, and I would at least try it with my kids if needed.

    9. JSPA*

      I had a family member who had very stringent limitations when young, but some of it turned out to be food incompatibilities (not nauseated by the taste, but literally allergic to the point of nausea) and much of it turned out to be supertasting (bitterness of vegetables, metalic tang of meats, very strong over-awareness of the fishiness of fish). With age, the super-tasting became less extreme, the allergies became better-defined, and the “I once was nauseated from a meal involving these 4 ingredients, so I can’t look at any of the 4 of them” wore off. YMMV, depending on the etiology.

    10. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I was a really picky eater as a kid, and I kind of just grew out of it. Which I realize is not necessarily helpful, but our taste buds change as we grow up and our exposure to different things expands. It happens.

      On the other hand my sister in law is very picky even as an adult, but she is still very healthy and just tends to cook or buy her own food as much as possible. She says the biggest thing that never allowed her to feel comfortable expanding her personal menu was people trying to force her to eat things she didn’t want to. She ended up really clinging onto her safe foods and became averse to new things.

      This sounds really frustrating and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. It sounds like you’re being proactive and doing everything you can. Don’t panic if it doesn’t get better for awhile. As others have said, it’s manageable even if it’s not ideal.

    11. icicle*

      I work with kids with autism and this type of restricted eating is not uncommon with my clients. I am really glad to hear that you have received feeding therapy and are about to start OT. Those are both ideal interventions. In my experience, plateaus are relatively common, but with continued programming can be overcome. A positive, calm, loving presentation of eating trials is key. I have a client who has gained a lot of menu items across food groups (including new fruit/veg, dairy items, meat, combinations (e.g. sandwiches with cheese and meat), and food types presented in novel ways ( e.g., would eat one flavor and brand of yogurt, now eats several, including Gogurt tubes; this client used to eat only shaped holiday chocolates like a chocolate bunny, but not a bar, and will now eat chocolate of any shape). This has taken us several years to achieve, but this provides the client with new nutrient sources, fiber for digestive health and the gut bacteria that seem to be important to mental and physical health, and the ability to be part of the group when the snack on the field trip is Gogurt or an applesauce packet, common portable snacks. It’s expanded his world. I have other clients who are also in feeding therapy and making progress. Please don’t give up!

    12. MJ*

      I was a “picky eater”, although not to the extent your child appears to be.

      One thing that might be worth figuring out is if it’s texture or taste that causes the problem. For me it was a mix of both.

      There were a number of veggies I couldn’t stand the taste of. Many of these (broccoli, Spanish, etc.) I now love as an adult. Others (green peppers!) I still can’t stand even a small amount mixed in a dish. I have been known to pull apart a pot pie to pick out all the pepper bits before eating it.

      With other veggies it was the texture. I don’t mind the taste of onions, but can’t stand chewing them. As a child I picked them out of dishes. Now that I cook, I purée them in a food processor until they are mush before adding to the recipe. As a child I loved raw carrots, could eat them if they were cooked and still had a bit of a crunch, but couldn’t abide them if they were really soft and mushy. (As a adult this is no longer an issue and I eat them in any state.)

      If/when you can, involving your child in helping with cooking – without necessarily requiring them to eat the food – might help if fear of the unknown is partly triggering the aversions.

      Depending on their level of aversion to trying new food, gentle encouragement to try a single bite rather than a full serving might be possible. Depending on your child, either celebrating the attempt or a low key “thank you for trying that” acknowledgement might work better. It doesn’t actually matter whether or not they like the food – just that they made the attempt to try it. This is all about positive reinforcement, and not punishing or shaming if they don’t try something.

      I seem to remember several years ago when I fell into the YouTube rabbit hole of SuperNanny I came across some videos of children with restricted foods and what they were trying. One boy who had only been able to eat Arrowroot cookies successfully added a few other options to his diet.

      This is a tough situation. I wish you all the best in resolving it and hope the therapy helps improve things for you.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Some things can be surprising too. I’ve always loved baked potatoes, but I used to hate mashed potatoes. As an adult, I can handle mashed potatoes, but still sometimes I have felt slightly nauseated. I think it’s a texture thing. Mashed potatoes are so… mushy.

        1. Cookie*

          My former partner still cannot stand mashed potatoes, at age 58. Can’t even swallow them. The revulsion is so great for him that he also won’t eat potatoes in any other form except very thin french fries, and only when they’re super hot and crisp – once they cool, he will not touch them. I think his issue was from being forced to eat repugnant foods as a kid – but I have another friend who simply cannot swallow some things, even though she likes them! Like they just will not go down.

    13. Squawkberries*

      Some of it will also be helped with maturity. My daughter was extremely picky from ages 2-5. We didnt view it as an issue because the 3 or 4 things she would eat were fairly nutritious. I never made an issue of it but praised her like crazy for being willing to try new foods (even if she spit them out). And we found that as she got older he palatte has broadened. Peer pressure to try new things at friends houses, understanding of nutrition, involvement in cooking etc have all helped. She has her whole life to broaden her palatte and develop her relationship with food.

    14. Dancing Otter*

      Have they been allergy tested?
      It turned out that the things that I found revolting were my body warning me to avoid something that would legitimately make me sick. Bell peppers, for example – if there’s enough in a recipe to smell awful, there’s enough to be a problem.
      Mind, I’m not allergic to everything I don’t like, just the few that make me gag. Too bad I didn’t know back when my mother was constantly bitching about how picky and rude and ungrateful, etc., I was.

    15. Ellis Bell*

      When my brother was very young, like toddler young, he would only eat baked beans or cornflakes. Literally two things. Anything else was just spat out in horror. My parents were a bit perplexed because my sister and I were pretty much game for anything. As he got a little older he was willing to add in anything super-bland, like toast or fries, to round out the cornflakes and beans. I don’t think he even started eating meat until he was about seven or eight and it was still very much bland stuff like hot dogs or plain chicken. He was still doing a very limited repertoire into his teens when he discovered a fondness for super noodles which became almost every meal. He’s always been the picture of health and he eventually got over most of the stuff he didn’t like as a child. When I used to make pizza or cheese on toast he would make retching noises. Now he adores melted cheese more than anyone! He eats pretty exotic stuff now, and although he’s never going to be huge on vegetables or salads, he does eat them – and so do his kids!

      1. Clisby*

        One of my nieces went through her early years eating almost nothing but plain pasta with butter, plain rice, and apples. Her doctor said she was very healthy; she was athletic (swimming, soccer, basketball up at least through middle school.) She eventually branched out to other food. She still doesn’t like for her food to touch on her plate, but neither does my daughter or another niece, so maybe that’s not out of the ordinary.

    16. It's like eating peanut butter crackers*

      I still, at age 50, have issues with eating. But I discovered that my main problems is that I don’t salivate enough. This is not dehydration. I put some foods in my mouth and whatever triggers those digestive enzymes just don’t activate. When I was young I was offered milk which I despise. Mostly now I have lots of water when I eat. If things are known to be problematic (breads are particularly an issue), I tend to have a slightly sweet drink to encourage salivation. I will pair salty things like chips with sandwiches – a combo of both texture and saltiness which is usually successful. My biggest lifelong problem has been eating meat which I eat only rarely as an adult but was served frequently as a child. I basically need a bite of meat in my mouth with a bite of a starch.

      It is really hard to eat when you don’t salivate properly. Salt and sweet seem to trigger salivation. Everything else just needs lots of liquids, sometimes that liquid needs to be sweet. Until I figured this out, eating was a chore that I dreaded.

    17. UpnUp*

      Thanks everyone. I so appreciate you sharing. It’s reassuring how many found solutions, or figured out how to eat healthily even with a restricted diet. We don’t do any forcing/guilting/shaming. Kiddo is happy. I was looking for (and found!) reassurance they will be okay. It’s a health issue, not a convenience issue- as in we use Ensure and multivitamins and fiber liquid supplement (at pediatrician’s direction) to make up for their diet.

    18. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      This may sound harsh, but what we often did was to serve what we were serving, and if the child wouldn’t eat it, we would not fix something else; they would just have to wait till next meal to eat (no we didn’t save whatever it was for next meal). We didn’t make a big deal of it and it usually only took one or 2 instances of “going hungry” for the child to decide it wasn’t so bad after all. We noticed that a lot of our friends with “picky eaters” would almost immediately prepare something else when their child balked at eating something. It seemed to us that the child had trained the parent. This is a of course a greatly oversimplified description; there’s a lot of nuance to this. We weren’t trying to feed our kids bizarre things and making them go hungry. We also learned the difference between something they really didn’t like vs. just being defiant (like if they ate it last week but “hate” it this week.) Assuming there’s not a medical issue, maybe just de-emphasizing mealtimes and food will help. Don’t make a fuss, and the child loses the control factor. Not making a fuss also includes not commenting if a child does eat something new. Eating should be just a normal activity that doesn’t require tons of attention.

    19. Tio*

      I was that child, and I am them today in my 30s.

      Please look up ARFID (Avoidant/restrictive Food Intake Disorder). It’s a surprisingly common sensory food eating disorder.

      During childhood, my mother tried everything to get me to eat different. Begging. Bribing, Punishment. Having me stay at the table until I ate one bite of the food. It was so bad for me, that I would literally take a bite of something and then throw up. I still eat this way. I take multivitamins to ensure I’m not deficient in anything, but my diet is extremely limited. I started cooking and baking and while it has helped a little – seeing things I don’t like being transformed into things I do like was good, and I became less brand-restricted than I was – I do not see myself ever changing.

      That said, I am a perfectly functional and reasonably healthy adult. Try letting them watch you cook and bake, but don’t push things on them. It will really damage them and probably set any progress back. (I say, from experience.)

    20. My kid was like this*

      My son had a very self-restricted diet — there were 5 foods he would eat as a young child. My mother had forced me to eat whatever she served when I was a child and I wasn’t about to make that mistake when I became a parent, but when he was 7 I began to cajole him into adding one new food per year.

      I did this for a few years until he had enough of an acceptable-to-him food repertoire, though still very restricted, that we could eat out with him at someone’s home or in a restaurant, and I stopped worrying about it. As he matured he significantly enlarged his okay list, although he still (as an adult) has some aversions.

      I sympathize with you; it’s worrying and can also be very inconvenient when this is an issue.

      1. Clisby*

        My kids weren’t picky eaters, but both of them (oddly, to me) went through a period where they wanted to eat only plain food. Like, if I had given them baked chicken, rice, and green beans/broccoli/squash 4 days a week they’d have been happy to eat it. This was easy enough to accommodate at home since while we ate much more varied food it’s not hard to incorporate rice and plain green beans into a meal. But with each of them, we went through a period of eating out where we went only to restaurants that served rice. Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Indian – it was all fine, because if they wouldn’t eat anything else, they’d eat a bowl of rice and be happy.

    21. Stephanie*

      I was a very picky eater as a child, and there’s still a long list of stuff I won’t eat, but my palate has expanded. My parents were pretty judgemental about my food issues, and it made everything worse–one example: I was forced to eat 7 green beans before I could leave the dinner table, even though green beans made me gag. I still hate green beans, so nothing at all was accomplished by forcing me to eat something that I did not like.
      My son was also picky as a kid, and I very purposely did not do the things my parents did regarding his food stuff. I made sure that dinner always included at least one thing that I knew he liked, and did not ever require him to try anything. I would encourage it by putting a tiny bit of it on his plate and say “It’s there if you want to try it, but you don’t have to.” His list of accepted foods was pretty small for quite a while, but he slowly started to try new things and the list grew. He really, really jumped way out of his comfort zone when we were staying at a fancy hotel with a fancy dining room and he ordered duck (I was shocked!), and LOVED it. The next night, he tried the salmon, and loved that, too. He told us that he was tired of ordering from the kids’ menu all of the time (I think he was around 10 at the time). He’s now a much more adventurous eater than I am.
      It was really, really hard, sometimes, to not get annoyed with him because it was a pain to come up with dinner ideas that would work, but it was worth it. I have so many residual issues around food because of the constant power struggles when I was a kid. My son doesn’t seem to. (He’s 21 now.)

    22. Quinalla*

      My sister has what we think is a sensory issue – was very picky with food growing up. She is much, much better now. She still has food she can’t stand, but she can eat anything if she has to now. I think for her it was deciding not to let it hold her back – she did a rotation in Africa where she had to eat/drink all sorts of things that would be unappetizing to most westerners – as well as accepting it and trying lots of things to find a variety of things she does like.

      Two of my nephews have sensory issues with food. They are working with therapists and have both gotten somewhat better, but are still young.

      Good luck, it can be so frustrating as so many will just not get it thinking you are a bad parent or spoiling your kids or whatever.

    23. Anonymity*

      The Solid Starts Instagram/ webpage was started by the mom of a picky eater. Her son (now 7) is slowly expanding the number of foods he eats- she posted a video in tears when he started eating pizza, and just yesterday they were experimenting with apples with the skin left on. My son isn’t old enough to be picky yet, but I have some of her strategies around food observations and no pressure eating (some of which people mention upthread, like serving family style at the table) in my back pocket for when it rolls around.

  12. EdgarAllenCat*

    Do you have any favorite brands or websites for looking at purses? I love looking at tote bags & purses and feel that my go-tos are kinda becoming stale. Go-tos = Nordstrom, Zappos, thestrategist.com, etc. Bonus if it’s an indie brand or has a philanthropic/do-gooder angle.

    (Btw not fond of Etsy because of the website design; feels cluttered to me.)

    1. E*

      Matt & Nat — vegan from recycled materials. Have a backpack from them that I love and has held up well

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Seconding this. My Brave backpack looks great and held up nearly 5 years. I’d get another one if I didn’t need something larger now.

      2. mreasy*

        I love my Matt & Nat bag!
        Otherwise I do Poshmark pretty much exclusively, as the prices are great and you can get really high quality, barely used items with much more selection than our current season.

    2. sagewhiz*

      Tumi! Fabulous, very high quality, definitely not cheap, but the product at outlet stores is less expensive and just as good. My black (for winter) purse came from one nearly 20 years ago and last week drew a complement from someone.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      I love libbylane dot com. Her work – handmade leather bags – is beautiful. She used to use the leather from the cattle on her grandfather’s west Texas ranch, but I am guessing she has to get other supplies now.

    4. RLC*

      Harveys California Seatbelt Bags-indie brand making an amazing array of bags and accessories from automotive seatbelt webbing. I have a number of them: lightweight, easy to clean, wear like iron, and designs ranging from conservative to wild. Their warranty is excellent, the products are made in California, and many of the styles are distinctive yet compatible with traditional business wear.

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      I love my Haiku bag—their stuff trends more sporty, but it’s so well designed and holds up so well. I need to replace mine, but they don’t make the same style anymore and I just can’t make myself switch because this one is so perfect.

    6. Quinalla*

      My SIL works for Vera Bradley so that is my go-to now. I am a big fan of their backpacks & backpack purses and other bags as well. They hold up well and have such fun patterns and also some more muted options as well.

  13. ThatGirl*

    I’m looking for websites, resources, ideas for laundry room shelving.

    We live in a townhome, the laundry room connects the garage and kitchen. It’s not too big and the hvac and water heater are in there so I can’t reconfigure anything. But I can make better use of the space.

    Right now there is one heavy-duty wire shelf the width of the room. It’s a bit too high for me to reach easily and just not very attractive. There is more height and depth that can be used, and the side walls could hold some shelving too. Cabinetry seems like overkill, but any ideas for where to start with better/more shelving?

    1. Not A Manager*

      I used Ikea cabinets in my laundry room. I built one set low, with a counter over it, and one set high anchored to the wall. If you’re not fussy about color, a lot of times they have good sales on the black or the white laminates.

      1. mreasy*

        This is what my homeowner friends have basically all done – inexpensive ikea cabinets for laundry room & garage storage.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      If money is no object and you want sturdy & modular? Elfa shelves. They mount onto the studs and will hold just about anything you put on them. They’re modular and there’s a lot of options from small shelves to drawers to hanging walls.

      However, they’re expensive, take a good bit of setup, and are heavy duty wire. You can get into the high 3 figures quite quickly. I’d second the recommendation to go to the Container store and browse. Even if you don’t get one of their products, they have a lot of ideas on how to fill awkward spaces.

    3. Imtheone*

      There are modular shelf systems at Home Depot. Wire shelves that can be adjusted for height, and various options of depth. I get the plastic matting in rolls that is designed for this when I think things might fall between the slats. Easy to install.

  14. Home Sweet Home*

    Looking for resources on how to go about the home buying process- where do I start when looking for info to determine when/if/what to look for when buying a specific property or looking in a specific zip code? Specific books, websites, databases? I’m looking for a 1-2 bedroom in a city/urban setting so it will most likely a condo/apartment vs single family home.

    I’m the type of person who likes to do as much research as possible, consult the experts, splice it all together and make a decision from there- I just don’t know where to look! I’m seeing stories of people greatly overpaying for homes and I want to avoid that at all costs as I’m lucky to not be on a time constraint and am flexible with the process.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Zillow is pretty widespread & a good starting point to see what things are costing in your area. ‘Overpaying’ can be a hard metric to pin down – the ‘best’ price for a house will be highly dependent on your location and the type of house. But some notes to consider:

      1. Talk to your bank early in the process. Get a good idea of what sort of interest rate you could be approved for, how much you’d be approved for, and what the bank would require to close. The time I went through a house purchase with a family member, beyond the financial checks, the bank required a walkthrough of the house by an inspector.

      2. Apart from the cost of the bank itself, keep an eye on the other fees. If you’re buying a condo/apartment, there’s a much higher chance that you will have HOA or similar fees involved. Get an idea of that up front. Zillow has started including them which is great. But also try and get an idea of what utilities etc will cost. Does the place have gas? How is sewage worked? If you’re in the city, are there stormwater or other additional utilities? Utility companies tend to be pretty good about putting this information out, so while you may not know exactly what your bill would look like you can know what bills to expect.

      3. Consider consulting with an agent. You don’t necessarily have to use an agency for your house hunt, but they can give you a good idea of what is standard in your area. My family member’s was gold when she went from making an offer to closing in less than 72 hours. He helped her get it worked out start to finish, including making sure all the proper documents were submitted to the bank. If you have friends/family in the area they may be able to provide some of that knowledge as well.

      4. If possible, do not sign the purchase agreement until you have had a chance to walk through the place with an inspector. This is likely more true for houses than for condos/apartments. This gives you a much better chance to spot major problems before you close on the sale, such as ‘huh – that roof is 35 years old and should have been replaced at 28’.

      1. Imtheone*

        When the housing market is not overheated, people should always make an offer contingent on an inspection by a licensed home inspector. During Covid, when the housing market was very tight, people would forego this step in the hopes of getting an offer accepted. In more normal times, there’s no need to skip the inspection.

    2. Just here for the scripts*

      Redfin always included all costs—taxes (single family, condo, townhomes) maintenance (condo, co-op), last purchase price and date, etc.—I’ve used it for everywhere from Baltimore to Honolulu and Kauai.

      Single family homes will need a maintenance budget too, but no one ever talks about it…Suze Orman has calculators to use.

      If you’re looking in NYC, New Jersey, streeteasy.com has all of the above too. As well as many articles on how to get started. So does brickunderground.com. The articles have content that’s transferable to other locations—just the listings are limited to NYC/NJ.

      Many urban areas have workshops run by community councils or other citizen-focused organizations on how to get started/what to research/how to budget/etc., maybe yours does too.

      Co-ops and Condos are business relationships—make sure you have a lawyer look over their financials and monthly reports, as well as any homeowner rules document—you want to know what you’re getting for those fees and what you can (and cannot) do/have/build.

      And I second Warrior Princess Xena’s recommendation of talking with a real estate professional—before you commit to anyone. Many of them have blogs about their field, resources, etc.

      I go one step further than WPX and insist on a home inspection. Buying a place without one is setting yourself up for budget nightmares down the road.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          I think a lot of people assume first time homebuyer education if for people who know less than them (I know I thought there was no reason for me to take it). But the home stretch curriculum (most common class) is great and covers a lot of aspects of home buyer and ownership. There may also be 1:1 counseling available from community action, habitat for humanity or other organizations which tend to me aimed a lower income people or people with credit histories that will make home buying more difficult.

          Another aspect to consider since you are potentially buying a condo or townhouse is finding a realtor that can help you understand the HOA stuff. It is critical your HOA has adequate reserves. My realtor owned a few townhomes as rental properties and had been on the board of a few HOAs so he was able to look at the disclosures and say this looks healthy or not. A ton of condos don’t have enough in reserves and/or are deferring a lot of maintenance. You can easily end up with a sudden assessment for a huge project or a massive increase in dues. When looking for a realtor just asking how many condo sales they do and what do they look for in the condo disclosures would be a good start. Unfortunately there are a ton of people working as realtors who don’t know a clue but a good realtor can save your butt.

    3. kina lillet*

      Your best expert will be a good realtor—look for a really solid recommendation from your network. There are many many not so good realtors out there so don’t be afraid to move on from someone if they’re not a fit.

      Ideally, they can recommend a lending officer to get a preapproval letter to include with an offer. But you can also find a respected bank on your own and get in contact with their mortgage department. Have a picture of what you want to put down—the most important information they want is how much money you can put down, what percent down payment you expect that to be, and what your income is. Best case for them is a conventional mortgage with 20% down, and they say, “oh yeah we’ll lend you an absurd amount of money.” That’ll give you a picture of your budget.

      Definitely go to open houses at every range of your budget, and stuff that’s out of your budget too. Actually going and experiencing places is about a million times better than just looking at pictures and fantasizing.

      1. Home Sweet Home*

        Thanks for this! Is it common for listings to not actually be on the market and go through word of mouth/connections with realtors? I’m wondering if there is an advantage to talking to multiple people at once? FWIW I am buying in Philadelphia but used to live in NYC and all I ever heard there was that most places never actually hit the market.

        1. kina lillet*

          I think it probably depends on the market. If someone’s anxious to sell, maybe they’ll take the first OK buyer that crosses their path, whether the open house has happened or not. In the market I bought in, it was all about open houses.

          You can also contact sellers’ agents to set up viewings outside of open houses, but your buyers agent will be really helpful in that process and in negotiation.

    4. Llellayena*

      Motley Fool is a website I used a lot when I was researching house hunting. They’ve got some great articles about what to expect at various steps, how to calculate what you can afford and similar. Like you, I like to do the research first. Start going to open houses now so you get an idea what types of things are available on your budget before you fall in love with something you can’t afford. If you’re a first time homebuyer look at your state website for available programs. Freddie May and Fanny Mac both have similar programs that allow for a smaller down payment than 20%. Good luck!

    5. RagingADHD*

      Your decision matrix on homes is a Venn diagram of quality, space, convenience, and price. Any one factor that you improve will make the others worse. You’ll need to set your targets and your dealbreakers for each factor.

      But of course, you can’t set those parameters in a vacuum. You have to get a sense of what’s available in the market.

      Having a low-stress “flight path” for getting to my most important activities is really important to me, so I usually start looking for a home by putting a pin in my major anchor points – job, house of worship, gym, school, whatever you do regularly – and looking in a radius from there, or following main transit paths to see what lies along them.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      You’ve gotten great advice so far. In my area, houses don’t stay on the market for very long and you have to make offers fast, so my realtor did something brilliant for me to get me to really understand what was a good deal.

      She had me make a wish list and took me to see all the houses on my wish list. We compared what kind of square footage and amenities were normally available for which budget range. When my dream house suddenly became available, I was able to make an immediate offer on it without second guessing myself, because I had looked at 30-40 houses already and felt confident I knew what was a good deal.

      1. Jackalope*

        One of the things my real estate agent did was have is do a walk-through of 3 houses. We looked at several that were more or less our price range, then picked one and wrote up a fake offer for it (none of them were houses we were seriously considering, just houses we were okay with looking at). Then he went over the fake offer with us step by step and explained what everything meant, how it related to the actual house we saw, etc. That way when we found a house we could jump on it and not worry about all of the paperwork and what it meant. It was great.

        I would also add that visiting open houses and such (if that’s an option) can really help you get a feel for what is available in your area and what the different price points will get you.

  15. Goose*

    My new DC apartment has absolutely no weathering for winter. My balcony door is and windows are single pane!! This midwesterner is shocked. I don’t want to plastic wrap—curtains are my best bet, right? Any other night time suggestions? Days are beautiful, nights are freezing.

    1. WellRed*

      I live in Maine. I have honeycomb blinds that when down and “snug” in the frame do a good job of blocking drafts and chill. Otherwise, yes, heavy insulated drapes would help.

      1. RLC*

        Seconding this, and if the “puddled curtains” look works with your style, the extra foot of curtains on the floor “seals” the bottom and
        helps keep cold air from flowing into the room. Cats do like to sit on the curtain fabric on the floor, BTW.

    2. Just a Name*

      They make insulated curtains that may help. Draft stoppers/window weather stripping during for where the air leaks. An infrared thermometer (relatively inexpensive, probably less than $20) will show you exactly where the cold air is coming in (drafts). Caulking around the window and doors can stop leaks. Outlets around outside walls can be insulated to stop cold air coming in.

    3. Invisible fish*

      I know this won’t help with the interior of the apartment, but an electric blanket will help *you* – I can’t believe not everyone knows this. If you don’t have one, get one, and don’t balk at the price – just look for a sale. They make it possible to turn down your heat at night and still sleep comfortably.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Most safety experts say to avoid electric blankets. It’s not that people don’t know they exist- they just have opted that it’s not worth the risk.

      2. Derp*

        Electric blankets are great when you are in bed. Not so much during the rest of the hours when you’re not. I lived in an old apartment with large, single panel windows surrounding the entire home. It was colder inside than out. Heaters would keep you warm when you’re right next to it but failed to increase the temperature of the rest of the place. Electric blanket was useless when I was cooked, ate, got in and out of the shower, walked around, and generally living my life outside of my bed.

    4. KatEnigma*

      Yes. Thermal drapes. As a midwestern girl myself, I was (am) always shocked at single pane windows and ZERO INSULATION in warm climates! We froze in California and were much warmer in freaking North Dakota in the winter. It’s as if no one has realized that insulation and e glass helps keep you cooler too.

    5. MissCoco*

      Honeycomb blinds if you can afford them, thermal curtains if you can’t.
      I spent 5 years (in the Midwest) with six 4foot by 4foot single pane windows in my little bedroom. I combined roller blinds with thick insulated curtains. I made mine out of some denim duvet covers I got from a thrift store. I’ve also made insulating panels out of foamcore board with Mylar bubble wrap on the outer side. It has a bit of bend, so you can use tacks or command hooks that just stick over the edge of the sill/frame and bend the panel to keep it and they are easy to remove and replace. They create a bit of an air cushion between the frame and the pane too.

      Also plastic wrap has a bad reputation for looking ugly and cheap, but if you’re careful and thorough it can look quite neat and be hardly noticeable.

    6. Enough*

      I found newspaper between window and the framing makes a big difference. and if you have old windows they probably don’t seal well and you have leakage. While no the prettiest look and will reduce light, bubble wrap applied to the glass can help. Cut to fit , wet the glass and apply to window.

  16. The Prettiest Curse*

    Since we’re heading into the most depressing part of January for those of living through winter, I thought it might be helpful to have a thread of (easy and small) ways to make winter more bearable.

    It’s a winter cliche, but hot chocolate is always good, especially aftter spending an hour walking the dog!
    I’ve also been trying to tackle a few small things around the house. The previous occupants left some small water stains on the carpet and I finally found a good way to tackle them (I’ll post the link later if anyone’s interested.) Even though the stains aren’t gone, they look much better.

    Since January means spending a lot of time indoors, I’ve found that any minor improvement to the house really cheers me up. What are your tips for getting through winter?

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I up my game of cooking new recipes (I always do it, but more intentionally in January) and, lockdown years aside, try to plan ahead for the year’s travels

      This year, as an added joy, we have our first two foster cats at home and they are absolutely delightful to be around.

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I loaded pictures from past excursions to the annual local orchid show on my PC and phone, and also some spring flower photos. I also cook occasional sort-of tropical or warm climate foods from my Hawaiian cookbook and online searches. I have several small bottles of roll-on soliflore scents, and I’ve been wearing a dab of gardenia (not a cloying one), lilac, or hyacinth at the base of my throat where I can smell it but it doesn’t waft into other people’s faces. And I’ve been wearing more bright colors.

    3. Just here for the scripts*

      In my 30s I embraced winter and started skiing—made me actually look forward to snow falls and weather cold enough for resorts to make snow! Time off the slopes was spent working out ( so I could ski better), planning trips, researching locations, etc.

      Since Covid (and hitting my 60s) I’ve used those same winter clothes to keep walking 10-15k steps a day in NYC—hubby and I walk throughout our hood, play tourist in the city, and explore neighborhoods we haven’t been to in years.

      We also use this weather as an excuse to go to museums (if far away, we plan a stop or two enroute to sip a coffee and warm up), see plays, and attend dance concerts. We bundle up to walk there, and walk home.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I’m planning a nice, hearty stew for the next cold snap – I’m going to make a whole crock-pot-ful all for myself and live off it for however many days it lasts! It’s actually got me disappointed about the relatively-warm weather (temps reaching 40s and even low 50s), I’m ready for cozy stew time!

    5. Ranon*

      I jokingly say we live in a winter wonderland (Minnesota) and since we moved here on purpose we try to embrace it.

      Most key thing is having the gear to make getting outside comfortable and enjoyable- I have a coat I don’t even wear until the high is less than 15 degrees and it really takes the edge off those days. Wool insoles for the boots plus wool socks makes for toasty feet.

      I have a kiddo so snow is an amazing decrease in parenting effort, we go sledding, haul the whole family outside when shoveling needs to happen, go snow shoeing, all sorts of stuff. There’s also ice skating if the weather stays sufficiently below freezing (and gives us a reason to be mad it’s too warm!)

      For the dark, sunrise alarm clock and Phillips hue bulbs on a schedule, working next to a window during the day, and some indoor plants all help.

      We don’t particularly spend more a ton more time inside during the winter than we do the rest of the year- we’re maybe outside in smaller chunks of time but certainly not an inside the whole month kind of thing.

      Honestly, I think the folks with the wet, damp, dark winters have the worst of it (the Pacific Northwest, the milder not north but not south bits of the Midwest and Atlantic seaboard) – I can do twenty degrees and sunny all day but rainy and 35 pretty much sucks. I used to have to make myself take 15 minute walks outside at noon just to get some real daylight in my eyeballs.

      1. Overeducated*

        I think you’re totally right on the last bit. I moved to one of those “milder not north but not south” areas and winter is kind of a drag. I CAN go outside when it’s just 40 and wet, more easily in terms of bundling up and driving, but it’s just less fun and motivating do to the exact same things we do in spring and fall in uglier weather. I miss snow!

        1. Jackalope*

          For anyone living in (or considering living in) that climate, I 100% recommend rain pants. Most people get rain jackets, but those don’t keep your legs dry (and umbrellas aren’t great at that either). I also recommend either good, waterproof shoes or else sandals (which will dry faster). Pouring cold rain will still be miserable, but a lot of the steady rain becomes much more bearable with the rain pants and shoes.

      2. MEH Squared*

        I’m a Minnesotan born and raised. Still here. I love winter. It’s my favorite season, and I am LOVING the snow we’ve gotten so far this year. I’m very lucky that I have a snow guy and that I work from home (so I don’t have to drive to work) so I can fully enjoy the winter wonderland.

        I like cold (anything over 70 is too hot for me), and I love the clean, crisp feeling of the bite in the air during the winter. So for me (in response to the original OP of this thread), I thrive in the winter. I soak it all up and enjoy it–from the inside. I order hearty food like stews and soups to enjoy as I cuddle with my cat on my couch under a comfy duvet. This is when I truly come alive.

      3. I love the rain*

        I was born and raised in the Canadian PNW, and it kinda bugs me when people say stuff like this about our climate. It’s a rainforest. Just like any climate, you need the right gear to be comfortable and enjoy your time outside. I hike and swim year round, and you can’t do that in the midwest. While I LOVE summers here, my activities stay the same year round, but my gear changes with the season.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          Your comment reminds me of a saying I’ve heard over the years–there’s no such thing as bad weather. Says this fan of the Pacific Northwest landscape who contemplates moving there someday.

            1. Jackalope*

              I have a friend who gave me a caveat to this. She’s from Alaska, and she told me that, “Fun freezes at 30 degrees below [Fahrenheit]”.* In other words, it’s possible to wear appropriate gear and enjoy being outside down to -30, but below that there just isn’t gear to make you not be miserable. (It’s also important to note that your skin can freeze in 30 min at -30, and 5-10 min at -40. I’ve heard it’s just a few seconds at -70, which is also a temperature that exists in Alaska.) I hadn’t realized that it was possible to get too cold for gear, so that was a new thought for me.

              *34 degrees below zero in Celsius.

              1. WoodswomanWrites*

                Yep, when it’s that extremely cold, all the rules go out the window. My friend in Alaska used to tell me that his options for being outdoors, in non-extreme temperatures, were being wet and warm or wet and cold.

    6. Random Dice*

      I have a Click and Grow garden – it has a water reservoir for self-watering, and automatically turns grow lights on and off. I find the lights and the greenery help a lot. They’re available on eBay for a lot less.

    7. TPS reporter*

      I just bought a heating pad that goes under the bathroom rug. It is such a joy to get out of the shower and into a cozy warm rug. And my cats love it too.

    8. the cat's ass*

      I’d love your tips on cleaning the rug!

      I’m making a lot of soup as Northern CA trudges through torrential rain, hailstorms, and thunder and lightening. Also planning a trip in April, so something to look forward to!

      Definitely tackling small and slightly bigger projects. Our housemate moved out (finally) so I’m cleaning that space and thinking about a new shower surround since the original dates to the 70’s.

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

      I like to stream TV shows with lots of sun, greenery, and water — some of the episodes of *Poirot* set in warm climates, *All Creatures Great and Small*, and my current fave, *Death in Paradise*.

  17. Annie Edison*

    Does anyone have tips for adjusting to small town life? I moved to a small town where main street is two blocks long after living most of my adult life in a vibrant, major city, and I’m struggling.
    New Town is only about 30 min drive from a fun, smaller city, but I really miss being able to grab a good cup of coffee on the weekend without spending an hour round trip in the car, or have access to interesting and varied takeout on nights when I don’t want to cook. Lack of local arts and culture and some political differences are also causing some feelings of loneliness.
    Any tips for enjoying rural life?

    1. Grandma Mazur*

      We invested in a decent grinder and some equipment for brewing coffee (eg, Aeropress) so that good coffee from a coffee shop became more of a welcome change rather than a desperately missed treat! I also tried to find more varied recipes to make that were still easy (daal was our big winner, along with some Korean recipes) so that the takeout nights could be more “boring”. And my partner got a subscription to the London Review of Books (and started looking at more galleries online, and purchasing online access to live theatre and recorded live events). I tried to be grateful for more green spaces in my life and set up more regular donations to political causes I care about. To my mind it’s a question of finding the right balance between ways to “replace” what’s missing and identifying the trade-offs (what’s better about where you are now that you didn’t have before). Not sure if any of this is helpful – feel free to ignore! Rural life in the UK is likely different from the US…

    2. Angstrom*

      You have a Main Street? That’s bigger than the town I grew up in. ;-)

      Do more outside. Take advantage of the forests/mountains/lakes/rivers. Enjoy the lack of traffic and minimal light pollution.

      Get involved. Every small town has volunteer organizations and committees that need active participants.

    3. Just a Name*

      When we first moved to a more rural area, a coworker told us – there isn’t much to do for entertainment, so just go out and do whatever is available. You either have a good time or a good story. Plus you get to meet new people.

      1. Zephy*

        “You’ll either have a good time or a good story” is a really good guiding philosophy, actually. I like that a lot, thank you! (Not OP, just appreciative)

    4. Invisible fish*

      I don’t have advice, but you have my support … I grew up in a tiny town and moved to one of the largest cities in the world and the thought of trying to readjust to that is stressful.

      I know you probably already know this or realized it already, but living in a smaller community will impact emergency services. Do a little planning to know what to do/how to handle emergencies in advance. (Sorry – I know you didn’t ask about that, but I seem to run into lots of people who romanticize small town life and therefore don’t realize that getting help for a serious health problem/car accident/house emergency can be challenging. I worry.)

      Oh, what’s the situation at the library? They sometimes do interesting stuff!

    5. Person from the Gym*

      I agree with learn to / get what you need to make good coffee at home so that when you have the time on weekends you can do so. I will ask is it the coffee or the coffee shop experience you miss (people watching / gathering)? If it’s the experience maybe become a regular at the local diner.

      Other than that I suppose you need to replace art and culture with what this small town has to offer. Parks and green space? Strolls, hikes, biking.

      I’m not quite getting the vibe of the place you live. I grew up in a rural area where there was no Main Street. No commercial gathering space in the area at all. If you hung out in town, you hung out a a friends’ place. There wasn’t even a “park” but people had yards. If you drove 20 minutes you’d find the next town over which doesn’t have a thriving Main Street either, but has many, many coffee shops, restaurants of all kinds and some art and culture. We just grew up knowing that if you wanted a tiny city you had to make that short drive. It was a fact of life. We probably strung errands together, but nobody gave the drive to the tiny city much thought.

      Now I live in a medium sized city and people get disgruntled if they’re asked to leave the city for something cause we have almost everything you need here except true wild green space, but there’s two awesome large city parks. Maybe it’s simply recalculating in your brain that that 30 minute is easy and casual and what you need to do to get yo what you want. And also string errands together like coffee and art and shopping when you visit that fun smaller city.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes, I do think it is about giving yourself some time to get used to the reality of a 30min drive being ok. Where I live (Suburbs of a decent sized Midwest city), unless you are going to the very nearest stores, it’s pretty much 20-30min to get anywhere. Where I grew up it was basically 15 min or less to get everywhere you’d want to go local, 1 hour to the beach at Lake Michigan and 2.5 hours to Chicago. Having to drive more than 5-15 min to get places at first bugged me, now I don’t mind at all as long as I can make it home with my take-out while it is still warm :) Find some nice podcasts or books on tape so when you want to make the 30 min drive you have something to look forward to.

        I also agree with going to what is available if there isn’t much. It might be fun and at least yeah a good story and a chance to meet people. If you are really motivated, try to start up something that you enjoy – a board game group, book club, whatever :) Volunteering is also great and enjoying whatever outdoor areas there are. Get outside even if just in your own yard – buy some cheap chairs for camping/outdoor use, maybe a cheap table, etc. Make it enjoyable to be outside. Like I said, I’m in the burbs, but I LOVE my screened porch and eat out on it basically every day it isn’t freezing outside. Getting outside like that on the regular really improves my mood.

    6. Double A*

      I also ended up moving to a rural area after being a city person. I still prefer cities. But there is actually a lot of awesome stuff to do here! Granted, it’s in an area with wonderful outdoor activities (river rafting) and our overall county is pretty large.

      We love our house, so we’ve spent a lot on making it a wonderful place to be. I’m in my house like 90% of the time and I never really get sick of it. I have kids, so making connections through playdates has helped.

      Also our main street is small but there are at least monthly activities that are wonderful to participate in.

      I will say I almost never eat takeout or grab coffee out but I don’t really miss it now. You can make it a monthly treat rather than an anytime treat. You just shift your mindset about what you do at the drop of a hat.

    7. Happy Trails*

      Totally commiserate. Family moved from large metro area to rural and I struggled, too. For years. We moved here on some land because city life was killing my spouse’s soul. The Rural area seemed to have no diversity in race, religion or politics. I did find some local political groups & women’s healthcare activism & was pleased to find some kindred spirits. And to be the change I wanted to see. If nobody different came here how would it change? Eventually I realized rural area was a good home base for travel. And it got away from the materialistic mindset of big city. I’m happier driving a sturdy dependable car instead of a showpiece, live in a reasonably sized house, and don’t buy a lot of stuff. As someone mentioned, please give yourself some grace in adjusting.

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

      I wasn’t very successful at small town life (not really rural but a 2-block main street small town surrounded by sprawl), but some strategies that helped me survive were these:

      –Find whatever IS good on that little main street, and try to enjoy it. I’d never had a Miami Roll or slice of Seven Layer Cake until I checked out the local bakery. Yum — two new foods I will love forever!

      –Check out the local library — it was a nice oasis to sit and read in when I was tired of being at home.

      –Walk to whatever you can walk to on main street to do your shopping, assuming you’re close enough to do that.

      –Make sure you keep calling your friends from far away — they can feel like a lifeline when you are lonely in a new environment.

      I think I also would have had a better time if I had tried to join a community group or two of some sort. As it was, I didn’t really make friends.

  18. Anónima*

    Removed because of the weekend rules. You’re welcome to repost without the work stuff, but also please keep in mind that the weekend threads are for relatively light discussion and aren’t the right place for heavier stuff. I’m sorry about that (and sorry that you’re having a tough time). – Alison

    1. Anónima*

      Sorry Alison- It’s been a while since I read the rules and didn’t realise my post contravened them.
      And thank you.

  19. Jo*

    Little Joys Thread: What small thing has made you smile this week?

    I’ve sort of gotten back into rugby as a bit of a distraction from winter and started listening to a podcast hosted by two players from my local club. One of the segments is “2 Jakes and a cake” where they get their guests (other players usually) to bake a cake and bring it in and be rated. I cant tell you why but it absolutely tickles me. Its probably also the seriousness with which its taken (and not outsourced to their partners etc). And apparently its fairly common in many clubs (even at professional level!) for players to bring in home baked goods and share which is yet another reason rugby is the most wholesome :D

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Foster cats!

      We took the plunge and signed up with a local shelter this month. They brought us a pair of gorgeous young cats – one is a Russian Blue, the other all white with orange eyes. Their humans need to move to accommodation that doesn’t allow pets, and had to re-home them. They’ve been here a little over a week, and have settled in pretty well. They have a lot of big kitten energy, but have grown comfortable spending part of the day just sleeping next to us, which melts my heart.

      We will miss them loads when they get adopted, but already have a ton of sweet and silly photos that we’ll remember them by.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      When I was little my dad (a chemistry teacher) had a poster of the periodic table of the elements on his study wall and I was fascinated with it.
      About a year ago I bought a place with enough room for a study/home office area and – my periodic table poster has just arrived!

      1. carcinization*

        My husband’s degree is in Chemical Engineering, and we have an at-least-double-sized periodic table up at home as well.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Perhaps more of a relief than a little joy, but I wanted to announce it anyway. I had thyroid cancer three years ago and on Thursday, I had my yearly scan and they said that all continues to look good. There was absolutely no reason to assume anything else, but…it still gets scary as the date approaches.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My older dog is half the size of my younger, literally – they’re 50 and 96 pounds. But she has decided that her job is, when her baby sister (almost 11 months old) is getting too riled up and misbehaving as a result, to go get a tug and whack baby sister in the face with it until baby sister gets distracted by a game of tug. Then when they’re into the game, I can see the younger one deliberately letting the older one gain some ground sometimes so they can keep playing longer. Watching them play together (because it took a while to get there; Alannah was not thrilled about getting a baby sister at first) makes me smile. (Even if sometimes I feel like I have to get up and stand between them and the TV to protect it. :-P )

    5. SpellingBee*

      Not technically this week’s joy, but I missed the thread last week so I’m posting it now – I saw a Baltimore oriole at my bird feeder! We’re in Georgia, and I’ve never seen one here even in the summer. He came for the suet originally, but also went to town on the half orange I put out for him. He must have been just passing through because I only saw him for 3 days, but he was so beautiful and it made me happy to see him enjoying his treat.

    6. Buni*

      This is going to sound an odd start in this thread but: the other day I lost a £20 note (~US$25) from my pocket. 99% sure I put it in there before I left the house for the weekly big supermarket shop, definitely didn’t have it when I’d scanned a week’s shopping and was stood at the tills.

      Here’s the thing; I was annoyed and disappointed, obviously, but that I was all. I sighed heavily and dug out my card instead. But just a very few years ago this would have been horrific. I would have had to have put most of the shopping back, and spent the entire week living on plain pasta and toast. I might have had to go without semi-necessary meds. Now I just cursed shallow pockets and a really windy morning and got on with my day. I even said to a friend “I hope whoever finds it really needs it, hope it saves their day!” (though I was on the canal path, there’s a possibility this will be a goose…).

      So my joy is that I am now in a position where my reaction to a loss of £20 can be ‘mildly peeved’, not ‘panicked and hangry’ .

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I feel you – a couple years ago there was a time card hiccup and I was shorted a day’s pay on a paycheck, and my boss asked me if the default of “adding it to the next check” was okay or if I needed her to see if payroll could cut an emergency check, and the fact that no, next time was fine, and that day’s shortage didn’t mean having to decide between paying rent and eating or something was just the best feeling.

    7. germank106*

      Not a small thing…..Retirement. December 23rd 2022 was my last day at work and it has taken me until yesterday to realize that I am not on vacation but that I can sleep as long as I want to and do whatever I want to when I want to. It’s absolutely glorious. I will keep volunteering for a few local organizations and SIL and I have a trip planned to stock up on yarn and quilting supplies.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Just celebrated my one-year retireversary. Jump on in! The water’s fine! I am still happily surprised that I can just do! what! I! want! There’s a cool exhibit at a nearby museum? I can go on Thursday and avoid the weekend crowds! There’s a class on Tuesday afternoons that sounds interesting? Sign me up! My kid, who lives 3,000 miles away, is sounding a bit lonely? I’ll go for the weekend! I’ve just about used up the airline miles I banked with credit card purchases during the pandemic so my spontaneous traveling may need to be trimmed. to places I can drive to – which isn’t that bad because I have plenty of time to drive to a lot of places! Definitely joy :)

    8. Just a Name*

      Major project step completed – we took up old Berber carpet from the basement (yuck) and had it replaced with wood look porcelain tiles. The contractors were great. It looks awesome. Movers are coming tomorrow to return the furniture to the basement from storage, so getting the rest of my house back will be nice. It’s cluttered to store a broken down pool table in the dining room.

    9. Voluptuousfire*

      My little joys this week were going into Manhattan on Thursday for a discussion panel about the exhibition for one of my favorite artists. While the weather was foul, I enjoyed the panel and had a fantastic flat white coffee while killing time before it. I know little about art and didn’t really “get it” when someone spoke about how art made them feel. Now I do.

      Also Ville Valo (frontman from the Finnish band HIM) put out his first solo record yesterday and I am so happy. The bits I’ve heard I really love and HIM is such a happy place for me, this is just an extension of that.

        1. Voluptuousfire*

          Welcome! There’s also a huge Europe/US tour in Feb-May. The sets are half VV and half HIM songs, so that is delightful to me.

    10. crispy crispy*

      went to the symphony this week, and was very pleased that the audience included a couple in ball gown & tails and an older lady who walked in still wearing her bike helmet and carrying a pannier. Everyone is welcome!

    11. RagingADHD*

      The women in my neighborhood have organized a kickball league. I missed the signups, but the first games are tomorrow and I am so going to go and watch. I know a lot of the participants slightly, and a few moderately. I’m really looking forward to hanging out and getting to know some folks better. And it’s supposed to be a beautiful sunny (if chilly) day!

    12. Rara Avis*

      My kid didn’t like their haircut and decided to buzz-cut their head, which they had been talking about doing for a while. With the help of their dad (and 3 friends on FaceTime), it was accomplished. The haircut by committee entertained me.

    13. Voluptuousfire*

      Oh, also got two new pairs of glasses in the mail abs am so happy to be able to see though my glasses without peering! My old frames were 5.5 years old (script hasn’t changed), so I was well overdue for new glasses. Learning that I can get my script filled online without the hassle of the optician store is awesome. No more prissiness from the counter people when I don’t buy frames because I have my own.

    14. carcinization*

      Finally going back to a rollerderby bout (as a spectator, not a participant!), this is the first bout the local-ish league is having since COVID started to be a thing, so this is exciting!

    15. Laura H.*

      That this thread brings joy to so many.

      I’m getting my haircut- I’ve let it lapse a bit….

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

      Found some documents for my accountant! (I am very bad at finding documents.)

    17. Hotdog not dog*

      I lost a game of yarn chicken a few weeks ago and was resigned to disassembling a whole crocheted sweater (so I could remake it as something smaller). Of course, this was with a discontinued yarn that had a fairly distinctive pattern, so finding a match wasn’t likely. I was very excited to find the skein I needed in the clearance bin, so $2 later, I’m back in business!

    18. WoodswomanWrites*

      I recently discovered the music of Rhiannon Giddens. She is magnificent as a singer, instrumentalist, composer, and as a human. I’ve spent hours watching and listening on YouTube.

    19. E*

      visiting friends in Northern California and while things have been fine compared to other places nearby that have really been devastated, the weather plus my Covid precautions have been limiting. Had a respite from rain yesterday and went to a state park (Año Nuevo), not even realizing it’s home and the perfect season/weather for seeing elephant seals come on shore for mating. It was amazing!!

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        That’s awesome you’ve gotten to Ano Nuevo for the elephant seal breeding season! When the weather is sunny, it’s impossible to get last-minute tickets for their guided tours.

    20. slowingaging*

      Took down Christmas decorations and actually cleaned out the boxes before putting them away. Just makes looking forward to next year a joy.

    21. Paralegal Part Deux*

      I bought a 65” tv for my bedroom that’s rather tiny so it’s like having a mini theater in there. I love it. Now, I just need a sound bar to go with it but can’t make up my mind!

    22. Firebird*

      I’m really enjoying my new apartment. This is the first place I’ve lived, where I feel warm enough even in very cold weather.

  20. Green great dragon*

    Yesterday’s thread on competent characters was so good! I’m now £30 down with lots of new e-books and no other plans for today once I’ve done the chores.

    Also delighted to see I’m not the only Vetinari fan. I want to work for him *so much*, especially when senior management is being very not like him. He’d be demanding, sure, but understands people’s limitations.

    1. Invisible fish*

      Competent characters thread leading to new book selection? I don’t suppose someone could post a link to that?

    2. Silence*

      Very much a fan of Management with a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and how to achieve it.

  21. Expiring Cat Memes*

    Guest bedroom and bathroom when staying with friends/family: what do you appreciate your host providing in your space and what do you wish they wouldn’t?

    I’ll be rearranging and redecorating my guest room in the next few weeks and want to make it a beautiful, inviting, comfortable space that my special ones enjoy. I already have a large, super comfortable guest bed and space for 2 bedsides. New ceiling fan, blockout blind, paint and wallpaper to come. Hopefully I can squeeze in a chair or stand in the corner for bags. What else?

    My secret peeve as a guest is a gorgeous looking, showroom style bed that’s covered with superfluous cushions. It’s pretty, but I don’t want to find a spot to pile all that up in an already cramped room when I’m tired, or trip on them when I wake up for the bathroom disoriented. It seems to be a thing though, so I don’t know – is that actually comfortable to others?

    Has there ever been a time when you found that the style of decor or the colour choice in the guest room mattered; a time when you especially loved being in the room or found it really off-putting?

    I only put towels and soap in the guest bathroom as I assume everyone BYOs the rest when they stay. But should I consider keeping anything else there for guests?

    1. mreasy*

      As a toothpaste forgetter, a small tube just in case would be great! And if you have a drawer of cabinet with common toiletries that folks can use if they forget – say a toothbrush in package, floss, tampons, disposable razors, sunscreen – you will undoubtedly end up helping some guests out (this has been huge for me when staying.) I have a guest room but no guest bathroom, and given it’s NYC, having a guest room is a unique blessing – even though it’s tiny. I try to keep the bed itself as comfy as possible – 4 bed pillows, only one decorative, and lots of blanket options. Otherwise I have fresh towel & washcloth out when guests arrive, & just make sure the room is spic & span. We have pump type toiletries so we let our guests know they can use them, in the event they forgot or didn’t bring body wash, shampoo, etc.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Good point on the toothpaste! We always have plenty of spare toothbrushes on hand because hubs buys everything in bulk, but we each use different toothpaste and don’t usually keep any in that bathroom!

      2. just another queer reader*

        Seconding the toiletries!

        Last year I went on a weeklong trip with only a backpack, and being able to use my friend’s shampoo and conditioner made me very happy.

      3. Dragonfly7*

        Thirding the toiletries! My culprit the last time I visited family was forgetting my deodorant. I also appreciate there being a robe since those can be bulky to pack.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I agree with you on superfluous pillows – in hotels the first thing I do is push the five extras off the far side of the bed :-P

      I do keep a few extras in my guest room – a couple spare (still in wrapping) toothbrushes, a new hairbrush (of my style – if nobody has used it when I’m ready to replace mine I take that one and stick a new one in the guest room), and a couple of those packets you can get in the travel aisle with a disposable razor and a single serving packet of shave cream. Basically stuff that isn’t going to expire between guests, but also isn’t really stuff people want to share if they forget it – cadging a palmful of someone’s shampoo or body wash is one thing, but nobody really wants to lend or borrow a toothbrush :-P

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I tend to forget my hairbrush when packing too! They’re so awkward and always the last thing to go in the bag.

      2. Just a Name*

        I have a small sign (in a frame) with the Wi-Fi password and a note about how the shower works (because whoever did the plumbing reversed the hot and cold, and you would be waiting a long time for the water to get warm if you didn’t know).

        Also leave some room in the closet and dresser if possible to put things away.

        1. Blue wall*

          A DRESSER!! 100%. I need space to put my things away. That also means not too many tchotchkes on the flat spaces.

    3. Agnes*

      Two things that people seem to leave out of guest bedrooms are clocks and wastebaskets. I end up roaming the halls with a used Kleenex. Also, making it clear where the outlets are, for charging.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Seconding the wastebaskets, if you can’t fit one in the bedroom at least have it in the bathroom the guests will use.

        Honestly, “comfortable bed” is the key thing and you’ve got it. I have a friend who got rid of a guest bed and replaced it with a cheap air mattress on the floor, and both times I’ve tried it, I haven’t slept more than a few minutes in a row. Mindful of that, my partner and I spent ages looking for a sofa bed we’d be happy sleeping on ourselves (which we do sometimes, when my elderly parents come to visit we give them our bedroom).

        Other than that, I’d say have clean towels handy that guests can use (i.e. don’t assume they’ll always bring their own), and a good system to regulate the temperature in the room. Which hopefully all sounds obvious :)

        1. ThatGirl*

          I just assume any adult I’m staying with will have guest towels? Like… I don’t mean to sound incredulous but if you can afford a place with a guest room and furniture surely you have extra towels.

          For us, we upgraded our guest room to have a proper bedside table and a lamp with usb plugs. I put hotel shampoo and conditioner in the guest bath and we have mini toothpaste tubes and extra toothbrushes if needed.

      2. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Yes, wastebaskets! Thank you, that drives me nuts at other houses yet I hadn’t even thought of it..!

        Bedside alarm clock or just any clock? I’m not personally a fan of the type that creates light in the room at night, but a cool looking analog wall clock that can be seen in the morning light I could appreciate.

        Hubs will also use the guest room when he has insomnia, so all the usual device plugs will be there on the bedsides too :)

        1. German Girl*

          I’d prefer a digital clock just because most analogue wall clocks tick tock kinda loudly and I’m super sensitive to repetitive sounds like that.

        2. Dragonfly7*

          Maybe both? I bought my first analog clock for my home after my parents complained about there not being one.

    4. Turtle Dove*

      I’m with you on bed fluff and don’t use decorative pillows in our guest room.

      I appreciate a bottled water at the bedside when I stay with a friend, and I try to do that at our home (although we don’t usually buy bottled water). Our last houseguest quietly brought a drinking glass up to the bathroom from the kitchen and left it there, so I’ll try to remember to leave a clean glass at the sink.

      Last summer a friend who hosted me left snacks on the bedside table, and that was fun. I may do that soon. Usually we just encourage our guests to help themselves in the kitchen, and we show them where snacks and other foods are.

      My daughter leaves shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in her guest bathroom, and I appreciate that. I get to try new products and can skip hauling mine to her place. So I put out those items in our guest bathroom. I also leave clean wash cloths. Some people don’t use them and don’t think to offer them to guests, I’ve found. I use them, so I appreciate that option and put out a tall stack.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Re: water at the bedside, do you think a pitcher and glasses would work? Bottled water is pretty uncommon for residential use here, our tap water is clean and then filtered on top of that. My Mum has a decanter type thing with a stopper that also doubles as a drinking glass. I thought that was cool, or maybe I could get a nice vintage set? Long as there’s a lid or stopper of some sort on the jug.

        1. Turtle Dove*

          I think that’s a great idea. I may do that too, especially because I recently bought a water pitcher with a filter that I keep in the fridge. Our city’s water quality degraded, and straight tap water isn’t the top choice for us and our guests.

          I appreciate this thread so I can improve my hosting game. Thanks for starting it!

      2. Turtle Dove*

        I thought of one more thing: a nightlight, preferably motion activated — or two, one for the bedroom and one for the bathroom. It’s unnerving to navigate an unfamiliar space in the pitch dark.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          LOL, hubs is already all over it. He’s suddenly obsessed with smart lighting and has put motion sensors all over the house. The bathroom one is fine. But currently when he tosses and turns in his sleep and the loose top sheet activates the motion sensors on his side of the bed (ours and when he sleeps in the guest bed), the hallway and bathroom lights wake me up on my side. We’ve been Having Discussions About The Need For Finer Tuning.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Omg my partner is obsessed too! He has the hallways on motion activated nightlight settings. It’s too dark a setting to wake me up though.

    5. Squidhead*

      Reading lamps on both sides of the bed that can be turned off without getting out of bed!

      I’m with you on the decorator pillows, but I do like more than 1 bed pillow.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Yes, I’ve got dimmable lamps that give enough light but don’t take up much space on the bedside. I hate using my phone to find my way to bed!

    6. Happy New Year*

      I like a small dish/container somewhere so I can put my necklace/watch/earrings there at night.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Ow stop it hurts when you twist my arm to go shopping for more vintage art glass like that!

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I do not understand decorative, non-functional pillows on the bed that you are supposed to pile elsewhere.

      But I do like functional pillows for adjusting support (e.g. post breast cancer treatment it helps to have a pillow to support my arm), and got a couple of extras in a different style (from Target, nothing fancy) for each bed so people could have firm or soft, one or two, one by the knees, etc.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Do you have opinions on feather vs foam for the support cushions? I’m thinking to use the same pillow set up as we have on our own bed, which is 2 low profile, firm latex pillows for sleeping, and 2 feather pillows for propping up in bed or smooshing around painful limbs. Maybe one (ONE!) additional decorative looking, yet also functional small feather cushion that could prop up an elbow, which makes reading in bed more comfortable for me.

        1. crispy crispy*

          I think a few pillows in various places on the soft to hard scale would work. I personally use a very low profile pillow for my head and a king size stiff pillow, folded in half, between my knees to keep my back straight. I think you’ll get as many pillow preferences as commenters! I also appreciate shampoo/conditioner when I travel, but that’s because I travel by plane, and it’s too much of a hassle to carry those.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            A couple of different options are good, but yeah, it’s impossible to have the perfect thing for everyone unless you have a whole closet full of pillows! If the guest is really picky about their pillow, they will probably bring it with them.

        2. Rara Avis*

          My husband is allergic to feathers, so we’ve had some difficult nights in hotels that do T have alternatives.

          1. Imtheone*

            For guests , you can solve the allergy to feathers option with hypoallergenic pillow protectors under the regular pillowcase.

            1. M*

              Dear God yes please do this. I try to bring my own (dust allergies) but sometimes I forget and it’s so miserable

        3. Jay (no, the other one)*

          My vote is for non-feather pillows. It’s a pretty common allergen. I like several pillows on a bed because I like to sit up and read and I’m more comfortable with a pillow behind my back and one under my knees, and it helps to have someplace to stash them.

          Second the vote for a bedside lamp that can be turned off without getting out of bed. Some kind of layering option for covers – I like at least a sheet over me even when it’s hot and I know people have very different needs for warm covers. Our guest room has a lightweight blanket, a fairly thin quilt, and and extra quilt and blanket in the closet which I point out to guests.

          Honestly, the thing I’ve struggled the most with when I visit people is temperature/airflow control. That can be difficult to adjust since most homes have a single thermostat for all the bedrooms. I really appreciate having a fan in the summer.

          I’m a contrarian about the clock. I have an iPhone and an Apple Watch and I keep both plugged in next to the bed, so I don’t need a bedside clock, and I’d rather have the room on the bedside table for my charger and my book and my crossword puzzles :)

          Definitely second the glass in the bathroom. Also if it’s possible to have some counter space in the bathroom, that would be great so I can leave my toilet kit there rather than carrying it in and out each time.

          Love the idea of the sign with the WiFi password! Will be borrowing that!

    8. Manders*

      Good pillows and comfy sheets! I got my memory foam (with cooling gel) pillows at Costco and everyone always asks about them. Likewise with my (super cheap, from Overstock) microfiber sheets. Guests really seem to like them.

    9. Not A Manager*

      As someone who’s currently “boarding ’round” in other people’s guest rooms, I am valuing the following:

      Good reading light
      Ready access to outlets or extension cord
      Extra blankets
      Comfortable bed pillows, sufficient to stack up for reading in bed (and no superfluous ones, thank you)
      Easy access to a shelf of paperback books
      Bedside table
      Small amount of hanging space in closet
      Convenient area to open my suitcase and access it as clothing storage
      Bottled water
      Simple snacks
      Basic toiletries/shower stuff

    10. Workerbee*

      An air freshener spray or Poopourri in visible sight in the bathroom.

      Whenever someone doesn’t provide something (anything) like this, even tucked away in a cabinet, it makes me think they don’t understand that it’s okay to do normal bodily bathroom functions in a bathroom.

      1. Lore*

        That’s so interesting—I have the exact opposite reaction. Seeing air freshener etc makes me feel like the smells of normal bathroom activity are troubling to the hosts and makes me more self conscious!

        1. Cordelia*

          yes me too – understanding that its ok to do normal bodily functions in a bathroom surely also includes understanding that sometimes there might be a smell? Air freshener doesn’t cover up the smell it just adds another one on top – I’d rather we all just ignored it till it went away

        2. KatEnigma*

          Me also. It’s okay to do normal bodily functions in the bathroom and you don’t have to hide that… I can NOT do any scents, so you won’t find any here and if you try to bring your own, you’ll be directed to a hotel next time you want to visit. Use the vent fan, if you must, but otherwise poop smells. Some of us just accept that.

      2. Rara Avis*

        I’m sensitive to scents, so I would never provide either. I would love it if society could be okay with bathrooms being places where odors happen.

      3. Anon for this one*

        I feel exactly the opposite! If people want me to go so far as to cover the quickly dissipating natural odors of normal bodily functions with stinky lingering chemicals, I feel like they’re only grudgingly admitting those functions happen and would prefer I try to avoid them!

      4. Pottymouth*

        I’m dead against air fresheners and can’t stand to use them in my house. I just think of them as indoor air pollution. So I personally wouldn’t make them available to guests, either.

        Usually, the odour from the toilet disappears within seconds of flushing – the other name for the U-bend is called a stink trap for that reason.
        ‘Air fresheners’, on the other hand, linger for several long minutes and make me gag, even with the bathroom fan running. So then there’s a strong chemical “fragrance” *on top of* and definitely in no way masking the first stink – I’d rather catch a whiff of poo and politely ignore it than have the lingering fug of the aerosol.

        I would strongly recommend making sure there’s a toilet brush and some loo cleaner available – when I’m a guest, I’d prefer my hosts not to see any brown marks after I’ve left!

      5. Ellis Bell*

        Seeing scented products would freak us out because my partner is scent sensitive. I know he’d be just waiting for the next assault on his nose if he knew people were reaching for some scent as soon as something as normal as a bathroom smell occurred. I mean that he’d instantly be checking the sheets for softener, and the outlets for those plug in thingies before saying that we should really maybe just go to a hotel. That said, he’d probably be okay with neutradol spray or orbs; it really came in handy when he had a pot smoking neighbour – completely prevented the smell coming in through a vent and causing a migraine.

    11. Invisible fish*

      Collapsible luggage stand like you see in hotels- the guest can put it where it works best for her when there, and it’s closed and tucked away when you’re guest free. Suitcase up off the floor, easier to get stuff out of suitcase, etc.

    12. Xyz*

      Since it tends to get over looked in guest bathroom, a plunger and more toilet paper then you actually expect them to need. No one wants to come asking for a plunger or extra toilet paper.

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

        OMG, seconding! One of my most embarrassing guest experiences involved needing a plunger at prospective future in-laws’, and when I finally got over my embarrassment to ask, they couldn’t even find a plunger anywhere in the house. Boyfriend at the time and I had to go out and BUY a plunger. Ugh.

        Yeah, I always try to have a plunger and plenty of toilet paper available right near the toilet.

    13. RagingADHD*

      In the bedroom: easy access to plugs or power strips for phone charging. A clock. Plenty of extra blankets and a choice of pillows (firm/soft). Water on the nightstand. Oh, and something so many people seem to skip: a wastebasket!

      In the bathroom: a nightlight so people can find it if disoriented in the dark. A set of small necessities like an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razor, basic period products – just in case they forgot something and can’t get to the drugstore until the next day. A cup for toothbrushing or taking meds. And make sure the extra rolls of toilet paper are easy to find.

    14. Cloudy Day*

      I think it’s nice when the guest bathroom comes with a full tissue box, extra toilet paper rolls, paper towels, hand soap, and those little 3oz bathroom cups. I guess because that’s what I use and keep in my own bathroom. When I visit my one brother though, the hand soap and tissues are often nearly empty, and then I have to ask for more. And at some point I have to ask for more toilet paper. It would be nice to just have paper towels in there incase I make a small mess. And I bring my own 3oz cups now because I always had to ask for them. I just hate having to ask for what seem like basic things.

      1. Still*

        Gotta say I’m intrigued about “those little 3oz bathroom cups” being not only useful, but considered a basic necessity. I’ve googled them and they’re definitely a thing, but… What are those for?

        1. Cloudy Day*

          They’re to fill with water to rinse your mouth (like while flossing) or to fill with mouthwash. Or to take a small drink to swallow pills with. I grew up with them in the bathroom, but I guess maybe that’s not a common thing?

    15. Jackalope*

      Thirding the recommendation for easy outlet access and also the lamp right by the bedside. I also really appreciate having a nightstand next to the bed so I can put some of the things I need during the night (like earplugs, or my cell phone to check the time).

    16. Filosofickle*

      I have a small tip my guests have appreciated unrelated to decor: When they arrive, I show them their room and bathroom and give them an opportunity to take a few minutes to settle in alone. THEN do the catch up and tour. Not everyone needs this but if I’ve been traveling, a little bit of quiet time to transition into social mode helps! And they probably need the bathroom too and this way they don’t have to ask.

    17. Imtheone*

      I appreciate a straight chair. Helpful for putting on socks and shoes. I’m short and not as bendy as I once was, so a cushiony bed is not that helpful.

      A luggage rack.

      An uncluttered surface for my small suitcase items. Place for hanging clothes or drawers for folding clothes. (The drawers in bedside tables can be useful here.)

      I have a bedside light with one regular outlet and four that take usbs. Very helpful.

    18. Zephy*

      I’m with you on superfluous pillows – at minimum, provide somewhere for them to go when the room is actively being used, you know? I think as long as the room is clean, smells neutral-to-nice, and that’s not where you’re keeping your collections of alcohol-preserved marine specimens or porcelain clown dolls, you’re probably good.

      Basic toiletries are also a nice gesture, in case someone forgets something or you’re hosting unexpected company. Travel-size deodorant and toothpaste/toothbrush don’t take up much space and they’ll keep more or less indefinitely. It’s also a kindness to keep menstrual products on hand (and a small wastebasket by the toilet) – a mixed box of tampons and package of regular or overnight pads ought to tide over anyone finding themself in sudden need of such items, just long enough for a trip to the store to get their preferred supplies.

      1. Jackalope*

        I learned the hard way that toothpaste can indeed go bad (or at least dry out, even if it isn’t open, and be tough to use). My dentist regularly gives me sample size toothpaste when I do my biannual cleanings, so I try to rotate my free sample into the storage and take the old one out and use it.

    19. carcinization*

      For sure the guest bathroom needs a cup… I have to use a cup of water for brushing teeth and taking meds at night, and I never travel with a cup… I mean, if I’m doing outdoorsy stuff on my trip I might bring a water bottle, but might not think to fill it or bring it into the bathroom with me when getting ready for bed.

    20. Kiki is the Most*

      I live overseas in a very popular, walkable city, so I get LOTS of visitors of every year. The suggestions here have been excellent and here are a couple more:

      *I make sure there is an adapter available for their electronics.
      *Disposable ear plugs and I have a fan available + an extra blanket
      *A list of recommended restaurants for all price ranges that are easily accessible
      *Walking map/guide book of my city with more recommendations (for days I’m not available)

      My sister also gets many guests (different country) and emails them a list with links of the worthwhile highlights of her city so that they don’t have to waste time figuring out activities, transportation, etc. once they get here.

      I keep neutral smells for the toiletries and the room, and my guests have a place in the bathroom to hang their towel instead of on a door handle. (that’s always been my peeve–nowhere to hang the towel)

    21. Aphrodite*

      I’m in the process of converting my guest bedroom to a home office for hybrid work. But when I did have one I put a lot of thought into what would make it an excellent place for my guests. I had the usual: well made bed with my favorite percale sheets; a couple of lightweight blankets plus more, heavier ones in the closet; a pretty comforter and matching shames in white with no decorative pillows but two down pillows, one medium height, one low height; side tables, lamps, a couple of light reading books, a flashlight.

      But I also added unopened packages of cotton underwear (in small, medium, large and extra large), a couple of sizes of pretty “leakage” underwear, over-the-counter headache medicine, a white noise machine or table fan, a small non-electronic clock, a few pairs of gripper socks because mine is a strict no-shoes home. I believe there was more but I can’t remember. The guest bathroom had a new razor, a couple brands of unopened toothpaste, new toothbrushes, emory boards, a fresh cup for tap water, unscented deodorant, waffle and thick cotton towels, a small pile of washcloths for wiping up stuff, a roll of paper towels, extra toilet paper, menstrual pads, tweezers, small jars of safety pins and bobby pins, a box of different sized bandages, a couple of different brands of fragrance-free or skin sensitive soaps (like Dove), new medium-sized bottles of good shampoo and conditioner, new bar of good face soap.

      I really went out of my way to think of things that someone might forget and while could be bought at the store made life easier if it was there. I did that by taking a couple of hours one day and going through a drug store and Bed/Bath/Beyond aisle by aisle and carefully looking at every single item to determine if it would be helpful to have it already there.

      It was!

      1. Aphrodite*

        To add, based on other comments (things I forgot in the post above): floss, brush and comb, ear plugs, wifi password on a card plus folders on the many things to do or events going on around town (I live in a California tourist beach town), a small dresser in the closet, plenty of wood hangers, a hard chair on one side of the bed rather than another nightstand, a small upholstered chair with floor lamp in the room for reading.

        This list seems *massive* to me but it’s stuff that was around normally or a one-time purchase so it wasn’t a big deal.

    22. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t mind one or two extra pillows so long as they actually are extra pillows, with a place to live when not needed, like in the wardrobe. Those decorative cushions are never going to pass muster as an extra pillow anyway. I think extra blankets are much more useful. It keeps you warm if you are reading on top of the bed, provides extra warmth if you’re a cold sleeper, but could replace the duvet if you’re a hot sleeper. A good topper blanket is more decorative than pillows too! However this also needs an out of the way place to live when not needed; I like blanket boxes because they provide seating for pulling on your shoes and somewhere to put your case when unpacking.

    23. Blythe*

      Love the ideas that I read, and they are SO practical.

      In my house, I added an Echo Dot so people can set alarms, listen to music, etc. They can unplug it if they want to avoid Alexa spying on them!

      When I stayed with a friend, she had all the stuff for tea in her guest room— kettle, tea bags, sugar, even milk in a mini fridge. It felt SO luxurious!

    24. Seconds*

      Two suggestions.

      (1) Once or twice a year, sleep in that bedroom yourself to be sure that things are the way you think they are.

      (2) If a guest tells you that there is a problem, take it seriously. Here’s what I mean. Suppose someone tells you that they had trouble sleeping one rainy night because the water coming off the roof fell straight into an open metal basin. Don’t then tell her, the next time she arrives, that you slept there yourself one rainy night and slept just fine. (Yes, I’m thinking about my mother-in-law. Why do you ask?)

    25. Squidhead*

      Not glamorous at all but a smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector. Local codes might require this anyway, but if you bought your house a while ago the rules might have changed (and even if not required, it’s a good idea).

      My SIL appreciates a hair dryer, since it’s a bulky thing to pack.

    26. Lifeandlimb*

      I always appreciate a hair dryer in the bathroom drawer. It’s hard to pack when traveling, but I still often want to use one.

      The best guest rooms I’ve stayed in have some charming, welcome decoration, but are not cluttered with tons of overly personal decorations and knick-knacks. If you have no decoration, I will start to feel slightly hostage-like.

      Personally, I hate having a ton of pillows on my own bed at home, but I don’t mind it while traveling! You’re very thoughtful to ask for recommendations!

    27. Napkin Thief*

      I’m also not a big fan of superfluous, fancy pillows – but as a perpetually cold person, I GREATLY appreciate access to extra blankets/comforters!

    28. Happily Retired*

      This is very specific to my brilliant, adored adult children who forget the most basic things whenever they travel (or get caught by surprise):
      -contact lens “juice” (cleaner)
      -contact lens cases (seriously, how do you forget these??)
      -cell phone and other electronics charging cables (USB-A, USB-C, Lightning)
      -tampons/ napkins/ pantyliners
      -toothpaste/ toothbrushes

      In general:
      -wifi network name and password
      -Kleenex
      -wastebaskets (bedroom and bathroom)
      -darkness-activated LED nightlight in bathroom
      and all the rest of the comments about towels etc.

    29. Courageous cat*

      My biggest desires are a floor fan (for white noise/temperature adjustments) and enough hangers/ideally even dresser space. I never know what to do with my underwear/socks/etc if I’m travelling and there’s no dresser.

  22. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Cat Litter in Small Space

    Hello, we have a room that’s the only place we can logically have the cat litter. It’s also the best spot for the kid’s playroom so it’s extremely necessary to corral the litter and have it been hygienic. Does anyone have litter solutions that would keep the cat litter corralled and hygienic in a room that gets use otherwise?

    1. mreasy*

      An enclosed litter box with a mat underneath, if your cat can handle enclosed. Some companies actually make furniture that is meant to enclose litter boxes while being unobtrusive, so depending on your space, that may work. I have a folding screen around our litter box as well (purchased from Chewy) that makes both cats & people happy. Low-dust litter and cleaning twice a day will also really help.

      1. Bearly Containing Myself*

        I use World’s Best Cat Litter (in the red bag, unscented) which is low-odor, low-dust, and made of corn, so it’s not toxic.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Put the litter box inside a wire pet crate, with a crate cover if your cats don’t mind a covered box. A 24” might be big enough, I’d probably do a 36” if you have room for it. The tray at the bottom of the crate should do a pretty good job of catching stray litter, and they’re easy to slide out and clean. The cover should help catch any flying litter if your cats are aggressive kickers, but also cuts down on visibility and (to an extent) smell.

    3. Cormorannt*

      If your cats will use it, an enclosed box where the opening is in the top. We have one that basically looks like a Rubbermaid bin with a hole in the lid. The lid is also lightly textured with wavy grooves which helps prevent them from tracking litter out on their paws. That’s the absolute best litter box we’ve found for keeping the litter and litter dust from getting everywhere. It’s also sitting on a good sized rubber mat that has a little edge to contain the litter that does escape. We have a cat who is enthusiastic and particular about burying his business and the hole-in-the-top box was a game-changer.

    4. germank106*

      Scarlett flings litter everywhere every time she uses her litter box. I bought a handheld vacuum and installed it right next to the box. Every time I use the guest bathroom (where her box is), I suck up the litter from the floor. It keeps it clean and contained. We tried an enclosed litter box but she hated it and ended up pooping on the floor next to it.

    5. Sits all the Cats*

      Cat sitter here, I’ve noticed my clients who use a pellet litter, rather than clay based or crystals or ground corn/wheat etc, rarely have issues with it escaping the box. Having the litter box in it’s own contained space like a cabinet or you can get a large plastic tote with a lid and cut an entry hole at each end. Also, scoop frequently, at the very least once a day, and get a litter genie.

      Google ‘litter box cabinet’ and ‘diy litter box storage tote’ for ideas.

    6. RJ*

      Former pet care person suggestions: I couldn’t live without the litter-catcher mats around the cat box. My favorite are the bi-level ones w/ sturdy mesh on top but adhered at three edges to the bottom ‘catcher’ level. Once a week or so you pick up the mat, tip it over the litter pan and dump the little stray bits back in. There are several brands sold ($16-50) online. My veterinarian sells the original brand but I don’t remember the name. I also the handheld vac idea but I use a small long handled dustpan\broom combo from a discount store. Last suggestion, if you have the space, a larger cat box usually helps so they aren’t forced to ‘leap out’ to get away from what they have left behind (I use a $9 concrete mixing pan from Home Depot – lower sides and twice the space for big cats).

    7. KatEnigma*

      Do you have $500? Because a Litter Robot solves this problem almost entirely. The ramp does a great job of keeping the litter contained, and I KNOW they can’t be smelled, because not one person who walked into our laundry room when we were selling our last house commented (and they commented about phantom dog odors- surprisingly that stopped when we removed the leashes from the mud room…) But they are pricey. We bought ours when they were less pricey, and then this summer the motor went out, and my husband replaced it for $50 from an online robot store…

    8. Courageous cat*

      Maybe pine litter? The pine pieces are too heavy to track much, and they’re quite good at odor control. Only downside I found is that it can be noisy when the cat’s poking around in there.

  23. Chapman*

    I’m writing this flat on my back after emergency spinal surgery (discectomy on L2 and L3). It was totally out of the blue and I’m still coming to terms with it. I’d had sciatica for about a year that was getting worse and my PCP asked the local hospital to MRI to rule something out…turns out the MRI very much ruled it in and I was moved to a bigger hospital for the surgery within a couple of hours. As a result I’ve had very little information on what’s happened and what recovery might look like. Dr Google is more harm than good so I am here asking the lovely AAM-ers, have you had any experience of this surgery and how did it play out for you?

    1. Workerbee*

      I don’t have experience either, but I am grateful you got in to surgery when you needed to and I hope you can track down a nurse or doctor soon to answer all your questions.

    2. L. Ron Jeremy*

      My wife’s back was injured by a drunk driver at age 26 and she has had a series of surgeries to address her L4-5 to L5-S1 damage. Laminectomy, then spinal fusion, and then microdiscectomy over the past 35 years. Spinal stenosis with arthritis have made things worse.

      I’d say, from my perspective as her care giver, is to stay ahead of the pain by taking your meds as scheduled, get rehab when you’re up to it and don’t mistake a good day as a sign that you can do things you did previously too soon.

      Give yourself 3 months of healing and take baby steps when adding in activities; don’t push yourself beyond your ‘new normal’ as you get better. Add an activity, have a break and see if you flair up, as opposed to assuming you can do it indefinitely.

      Watch for muscle spasms, as they are very disabling and can feel like a new injury when they occur. Ask about meds to combat these and be ready to scale back. Also, think back a day or more as to what you might have done to have a spasm occur. Could be something simple, such as bending to far or lifting while twisting. Lift with your knees and keep you spine as straight if you must lift something; this will become tempting as you get better and ‘forget’ you have a bad back.

      My wife is now only taking one flexril (for mobility) a day. She completely weened herself off all opioids and is much better than before. I’m very proud of her; her positive mental attitude helped a lot.

      Take it slow. Good luck.

    3. YesIAmRetiredNow*

      There’s a website called “HealthUnlocked” dot com, which is I think the world’s largest health related social media site. There’s a “Pain Concern” group as well as other various posts when I searched “spinal surgery” and “discectomy”. You may find some relevant stuff there, as well as answers if you ask this question with one of those groups.

      1. YesIAmRetiredNow*

        Re:the “Dr. Google”….You probably need to go to at least Page 2 of your searches, and look at websites from universities, research institutes, and hospitals. Mayo Clinic, Harvard University, various medical groups. Instead of places like “mybackpain dot com”. If you speak medical at all, remember PubMed.

    4. fposte*

      I had a microdiscectomy and laminectomy at L5-S1. Sounds like you were getting into cauda equina syndrome, which is what usually turns disc issues into an emergency. My overall outcome was great, and I’m glad I had the surgery–and for me it was a choice.

      Ask about restrictions, of course. The thing I would liked to have been warned about is that delayed post-op soreness, which is a nice way of saying severe pain for me, can be a thing–that in the next couple of weeks you may have some symptoms get worse and some new pains and sensations, and that’s common and doesn’t automatically mean you’ve reherniated. (But get in touch with the doc if it happens anyway, especially since you were at risk of cauda equina syndrome.) They did also put me on pregabalin eventually, which helped a lot, but it made me pretty dopey the first two weeks of taking it. I lived on my own and was fine, but I made good use of a shower chair and skipped taking out the garbage one week.

      L2-L3 (the disc is between the two so it’s identified by the vertebrae around it, so I’m guessing you actually just had that single disc operated on) is a slightly unusual place to have a serious disc problem on its own–they’re usually L4-L5 or L5-S1. You may know why that is (car accident wouldn’t be an uncommon cause, for instance), but I’d use this as a cue to be extra vigilant about spine fitness down the line. That’s not extra-focused on any little sensation, just more focused than many about limiting sitting, ensuring thoracic spine mobility, etc.

    5. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Had semi-emergent laminectomy a few years ago, lower in the spine than yours. Was blessed to wake up with immediate relief of the sciatica that had been plaguing me. I had residual muscle soreness for quite some time, which by comparison was a breeze to deal with even though it was pretty uncomfortable. The sciatica was so bad that almost anything would have been an improvement.

      Agree with the previous comment about staying ahead of the pain. Take your meds on a schedule – don’t wait. It takes less medication to prevent pain than to get rid of it. Also take a laxative! Pain meds are constipating. The physical therapists will give you instructions and exercises. Listen to them. The biggest surprise to me was the fatigue. I tired very easily for about six weeks and wish I had taken more time off work – I went back in two weeks because I was scheduled to cover someone’s vacation and didn’t want to let them down and it was a mistake. I was just.so.tired

      Aside from the fatigue my recovery was smooth and if I’d taken more time off work the fatigue wouldn’t have been that much of a problem. I wish the same for you.

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

      No experience, but wishing you excellent care and a good recovery! Whatever was wrong, I’m glad you had someone take it seriously and got treated.

      Don’t be shy about asking questions of the surgeon when you get to see them.

      And after you’re discharged, if you have any problems/questions/weird difficulties healing, call up the surgeon’s office and ask if you can speak to their nurse. Their nurse can usually give you good information and also relay things back and forth to the surgeon if needed.

    7. Filosofickle*

      The L2-3 jumped out at me too, I’ve never heard of anyone needing that!

      1o years ago I had a micro-discectomy (L4-L5) taking out some disc and bone matter to widen the space around my sciatic nerve so it isn’t as squished. I didn’t jump straight to surgery — this was after months of unsuccessful steroid and cortisone treatments as well as PT. It was successful and I felt immediate relief from the sciatica, though sciatica management is part of my life forever.

      Recovery for me was slow. I tried returning to work too soon (after a week, to avoid losing my temp job & benefits) and that really knocked me back. In all it took 3 weeks of serious recovery where I wasn’t good for much, either from pain or the pain meds, then than another month to resume more than basic activities. Several months before I was “normal” again.

      My best advice is take it very, very easy for longer than you think is needed and stay ahead of your meds. Don’t wait to see if you absolutely need them — just take them in the early days. And get help if you can with rides and light chores so you don’t overdo it. I did a LOT of standing and walking once I could, that helped.

    8. Hello Sweetie*

      Another veteran of microdiscectomy at L4-L5. Mine was 10 years ago. I was super fit and running marathons and then one day I heard a pop and a scream while I was doing a pushup. Apparently the scream was me reacting to the pop I felt.

      You’ve gotten excellent advice and I will offer you what thoughts I have:
      – While the surgery solved the spinal issue, you had a hole cut in you! I was so focused on finding help with my kids (was a SAHM working PT with 2 littles) and the spinal recovery I forgot to even think about the *surgicial* recovery.
      – Eat what you can. General anesthesia will screw with your ability to eat for a week or so. Keep gatorade or pedialyte around so that if you can’t eat, you can at least hydrate well & get electrolytes in you.
      – No picking up even a gallon of milk until you are cleared by a PT. Nothing more than 5 lbs.
      – Do your PT. Be a good patient. Do not get over-aggressive “oh this little move is easy, I will do 3x as many.” Trust your physical therapist and be DILIGENT.
      – As others have said, stay ahead of the pain. For me this meant sleeping on the couch for weeks where I had support in the form of the couch back, and it was easier to get on and off. Plus I would set an alarm to wake up for my pain meds overnight.
      – STOOL SOFTENERS: you are on pain meds and they will stuff you up. Take colace diligently so your first post-surgical poop doesn’t kill you. I wasn’t as diligent as I could have been (though I tried) and that first poop was honestly right up there with birthing babies.
      – Get on a probiotic. Post surgical antibiotics can wreck your little ecosystem. I wound up with thrush and other stuff. Avoid my mistake.
      – Surgery will mess with your metabolism for at least 6 months. Don’t be alarmed if your weight doesn’t seem to move the way you expect with your food intake and activity level.

      As far as recovering? I had my surgery on August 2. By the beginning of October my PT let me run a slow mile on the treadmill. On NYE I ran my favorite local 5K and in the following year I PR’d every distance I ran: 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon. I was good about my PT, followed my PT’s instructions, and kept up with the core PT exercises (therabands are your friends). THose little stabilizing muscles around your spine are super important. If you take care of them, theytake care of you. The year after my surgery I was literally in the best shape of my life.

      Good luck – just remember to take it easy and listen to your body. A good PT is going to be your best partner in your recovery.

    9. Chapman*

      Thanks so much to everyone – for the advice and personal experiences! Back pain is an old enemy of mine but the surgical intervention was totally new (and emergency!) and there’s been very little said to me about the whole thing to be honest. Being surrounded by medical professionals who don’t tell you very much is a scary place to be. Thanks for the support – it is so appreciated.

  24. StellaDoodle*

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Alison and all of the commentariat for this space. There is so much hatred and anger and vitriol out there in the world right now. I’ve always believed that there are more good people than bad in the world, but the last few years have really made me question that sometimes. But then I come here, and see all of you! And I’m reminded that there are still so many kind, thoughtful, compassionate people, and my faith in humanity gets restored. So – thank you!

    1. waffles*

      I second this. This community is helpful and warm, and the open thread each weekend is delightful. SO MANY excellent recommendations across…. everything!

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      Thirding or fourthing this. Yes, and amen — both to identifying the good people here and to pointing out how this restores one’s faith in humanity. Thank you!

    3. Firebird*

      After ending a long and toxic marriage, seeing so many thoughtful and kind comments has really helped me regain faith in other people.

      It also helped me raise my standards for the way I allow people to treat me. I’ve been able to cut toxic people from my life without feeling guilty about it, because I see people modeling reasonable responses to unreasonable behavior. I also see people in my situation making their own lives better.
      (. ❛ ᴗ ❛.)

  25. Puzzles!*

    What brand or style of jigsaw puzzle would you recommend for someone who needs high-contrasting colors and a not-too-repetitive scene to see the pieces and pattern clearly?

    Hopefully I’m explaining this correctly – a puzzle with just two or three colors in it along the same spectrum would be difficult for her to distinguish among. A scene where it’s something like a thousand little books in a library, or a great grassy field or a sky, also wouldn’t work, either.

    1. Alex*

      I think a lot of the Ravensburger puzzles fit this bill. There are ones with lots of little tiny specific details, very vibrant colors, etc.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t know if a particular brand will skew toward a useful pattern or not; you might just need to triage via image. Ravensburger is a good solid brand, and I do almost exclusively Pomegranate these days, which are fine art replicas. They have a lot of Charley Harper, which might be a good artist for her.

      1. Brunch Enthusiast*

        Seconding Charley Harper and adding Frank Lloyd Wright’s Peacock Carpet and Saguaro Stained Glass, also Pomegranate. And some Edward Gorey (some are monochrome but the coloured ones have good colour and texture differentiation although they don’t seem very vibrant at first glance).

        I don’t know how available they are outside Ireland but Tailten Games/Purrfect Puzzles has some lovely bright Celtic-style art puzzles.

    3. Not A Manager*

      How many pieces are you aiming for? My favorite brand is Cavallini. Most of them are 1000 piece puzzles, but they make some 500 piece as well. Some patterns are quite repetitive, but not all of them. I find the ones that are a collage of images on different color backgrounds to be much easier than one large image with a lot of tiny details.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Wintry Cats puzzle, available on Amazon. (And I got it at my local bookshop, within the past year.)

      My mil used to have a series of puzzles like this–paintings of small towns, about 300 pieces, with a bunch of different designs of buildings so you could focus on making the red house or the grey barn. But I can’t narrow the search terms enough to find them.

    5. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

      I would go to somewhere like Puzzle Warehouse (online) and browse the images. I would avoid classical or impressionist paintings, the colors can be less of a contrast and the lines can be blurred. Photos also definitely will have areas that are not well defined — no matter how many brightly colored buildings or boats are in the foreground, the hills water and grass will become in distinct in spots.

      Pomegranate puzzles are good. New York Puzzle company has New Yorker covers, but IIRC the pieces are unusually shaped, which some people like and some really don’t. (Think, not on a grid at all. Pieces can be as big as two or three pieces stuck together with weird curves or a tiny stub with only two outies and no innies.)

      1. fposte*

        There are actually jigsaw terms for that! The pieces that line up at the corners regardless of the shape are ribbon cut, whereas the ones you describe are random cut.

    6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I usually get my puzzles at the thrift store so I’m not very familiar with modern brands, but I do recommend a higher quality brand. The cheap ones tend to have pieces that are almost the same shape so it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’ve got the right piece.

      I definitely recommend a painting or drawing, as opposed to a photograph. Ideally something fairly stylized, instead of realistic. Art by Charles Wysocki with a townscape is about perfect, if you like that style of art. Or maybe along the lines of James C. Christensen’s fairy tales puzzle. Something with lots of fun little detailed bits.

    7. MeetMoot*

      Would a Wasgij work? Everything is very clearly distinguishable, but it doesn’t have a picture on the box that you can work from. The picture on the box will be a scene, and the picture on the puzzle is then the same scene 50 years into the future, or 50 years in the past, or ‘what happens next’, or ‘what does X character see?’

      It sounds tricky but they’re generally easy enough. They use a lot of different colours but also lots of different pictures within the one image, so you can do the puzzle in sections, if that makes sense.

    8. Puzzle fiend*

      I’d look at mudpuppy puzzles. They tend to have more differentiation- like you might have an area with black and white stripes and then another area with black and white polka dots- and are a little easier, even with more pieces.

      1. HoundMom*

        White Mountain puzzles are made in the US and have a great selection. The pieces are heavier than most.

    9. Dainty Lady*

      There’s that periodic table of the elements one. Black and white, with lots of structure and easily identifiable images.

    10. marvin*

      I really like the puzzles that Colin Thompson has designed for Ravensburger. He has a specific style that’s composed of a lot of little details and mini illustrations within each puzzle, so you don’t end up with a big wash of various beiges. A lot of his puzzles have a “cabinet” theme, so it’s a bunch of little weird objects that have a general theme to them. They’re quite fun and the details are often funny, and I think the colours do tend to be pretty vibrant.

    11. Veronica Mars*

      I’m not 100% sure this is what you’re looking for, but I love White Mountain puzzles and they have a lot that are different squares within the puzzle–I did one with cereal boxes, one with book covers, another with national park badges, so there were lots of little discrete areas within the puzzle to work on. I find those to be fun, especially when I’m not in the mood to do a puzzle with a ton of blue sky or whatever.

    12. Puzzles!*

      Thank you all so, so much! I am diving into puzzle-hunting now thanks to your awesome suggestions.

  26. Stitch*

    I was wondering if anyone here could recommend a cookbook or resource for a small child who’s obsessed with cooking. My preschooler loves helping to cook (putting cheese on things, mashing bananas). He pretends to cook with play dough and pretend stuff a lot.

    1. Sunshine*

      Mom and me cookbook by Annabel karmel
      Simple recipes with lots of pictures and yield food you’d want to eat.
      Americas test kitchen has a kids cookbook.
      It’s probably a bit advanced for this age but is a good cook together and grow into it.
      Green toys has a kids kitchen set with a corresponding cookbook. It’s a good one. It comes with measure cups and spoons that are all distinct shapes. All the recipes are given in both traditional measurement and then shape. ( 3 cups =3 star shapes)

    2. YesIAmRetiredNow*

      The Food Network website has a section on “Cooking with Kids” in their “Family and Kids” section. Plus there are kids cooking shows, too.

    3. Bibliovore*

      My favorites are Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood cookbook fame) Pretend Soup , Honest Pretzels, and Salad People are three titles that show young children the steps of cooking real food.

      1. MissCoco*

        I grew up on those cookbooks! I know we had Pretend Soup and Enchanted broccoli forest. My family and I still do variants of some of the veggie recipes.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Someone recently brought some cornbread from Pretend Soup to a work potluck. So, good for grownups, too!

        I love Mollie Katzen. Her books were one of my go-tos when I was a newly minted vegetarian learning the rope. And they’re so pretty, too!

    4. We love you (in soup)*

      We have “Ada twist scientist- the science of baking” for my 2.5 year old and although it’s a bit old for him, he loves it. Very cool focus on science, with female bakers and WOC heroed.

    5. Cookbook*

      Discovery kids had step by step cookbooks when I was little that were great. Good photos and clear instructions for as you got older and could read. You might need to look at a used bookstore- not sure if they are still around.

    6. Italian*

      If you don’t have one already, buy a lettuce knife. My son can cut a lot of vegetables with that and this is the reason he now eats broccoli. You can also find it under the name ‘montessori knife’, which seems to be the same product at 4 times the price.