weekend open thread – August 19-20, 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: Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. The D.C. novel of its time when it was published in 1983, this is a thinly disguised but highly entertaining account of Nora Ephron’s marriage to and divorce from Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

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

{ 980 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that the weekend posts are for relatively light discussion — think dinner party or office break room — and comments should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or one to two updates on things you received advice about in the past are fine, but “here’s an update on my life” personal-blog-style posts are not. The full rules are here.

  2. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Share what you’ve been reading, and give or request recs! As always, all reading is welcome.

    I’m finishing up the Legendary Farmer series by Elizabeth Oswald. I’m about a quarter of the way through the final book and am super enjoying it!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The new T Kingfisher, Thornhedge: sweet, but on the short side for a novella.

      Driftwood by Marie Brennan: excellent, unusual collection of short stories, about the place where worlds go to die.

      Two fairly recent series, The Copper Cat Trilogy by Jen Williams, and An Accident of Stars/A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows, which were respectively an old school sword and sorcery adventure, and an old school portal world story, but with much more modern gender/sexual variety than you would have gotten in older works. Both recommended.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I’m reading A House With Good Bones and loving it; I never knew I wanted a pet vulture before.

    2. Amory Blaine*

      I just started A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger. I loved Elatsoe, but this one promises to be even better! Native American magical realism/ alternate reality with extremely lovable characters.

      1. RC*

        I only found out about this one because she was at Comic Con (which was also great, I really want to be her friend but like… not in a creepy stalker way) and I thought it started a bit slower than Elatsoe but then I greatly enjoyed it.

    3. Vio*

      Just finished Yumi And The Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson. One of my favourite authors who somehow manages to work on multiple novels (and series) at a time but maintains a high quality despite the high quantity. This one is already one of my favourites of his books, a rare example of fantasy and science fiction mixing really well. The two main characters are really easy to identify and sympathise with. The story is original and intelligent.
      I lost track of time reading the last half the of the book and only noticed it was 5:30 AM when I finished.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I finally finished “Eleanor Oliphant” and have now switched the book I’ve always confused it with, “Olive Kitteridge.” We shall see which one I prefer in the end.

      1. word nerd*

        I prefer Oliphant to Kitteridge, but I think I just haven’t really been able to get into Strout’s style even though I know a lot of people love her.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          That’s a question I’ve wanted to ask: what author, no matter how good the writing or seemingly perfect for your preferences, have you never been able to get into?

          By this I don’t mean bad/sloppy/problematic stuff, I mean a writer whose work “should” appeal to you but f or some reason just doesn’t. For me it’s Helen Oyeyemi–I’ve tried several of her books, can see she’s a terrific writer and plotter, her topics should interest me, but–just no there there.

          1. word nerd*

            Good question! I do feel like I’m the only one in the world not super into Ann Patchett’s novels. I’ve tried a few and never felt that engaged with any of her characters. But I did really like her memoir (which convinced me to try The Dutch House (Tom Hanks!), which I recognized as well-written, but I just didn’t really care about the characters.)

            I was also surprised that I didn’t like The Dictionary of Lost Words much. I love to read books about dictionaries, especially the OED, so this one should have been totally up my alley, but I was just never that interested in the protagonist. I’ve more reliably enjoyed nonfiction books about dictionaries, maybe because I have different expectations for nonfiction vs fiction.

            1. Still Millie's Mom*

              Same for me, for Dictionary of Lost Words! I tried another book by the same author, The Bookbinder, and I just…..couldn’t. Both those books sound like great stories I’d love to read, but they were both just bleh and I didn’t finish either of them.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I’ve noticed it more with the same author:

            I gave City of Brass two shots, before and after absolutely loving The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by the same author. I can tell its well done but the story just doesn’t pull me in.

          3. RussianInTexas*

            Hilary Mantel.
            I read everything Tudor. I watch everything Tudor. I watched Wolf Hall and enjoyed it.
            Could not get in to her writing.
            Same for Orson Scott Card.

          4. carcinization*

            Oh, Iain Banks, definitely! I like long complicated books in the genre and don’t really care if they are violent or morally grey, but I couldn’t get into his most popular book(s). He was apparently a really great guy too, so I’m glad he’s so popular, but he’s also so not for me!

          5. Cookies For Breakfast*

            Everyone I’ve talked about books and my love for writing with since my mid-twenties recommended Murakami at some point.

            By the time that all started, I’d already read two of his novels and decided his writing is not for me.

            1. Ali + Nino*

              Yes! Multiple friends in HS raved about and recommended him to me and I tried to drag myself through The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and after a few hundred pages I just gave up.

          6. Irish Teacher*

            Anne Enright. Her books sound so much like my sort of thing and she is clearly a talented writer, but…somehow they just don’t work for me.

          7. The Person from the Resume*

            Nina LaCour

            I’ve read 2-3 of YA novels and didn’t really enjoy them. And I (and my book club) just finished her Adult debut Yerba Buena which generated a lot of excitement (widely anticpated book) the year it came out and I found it bland and annoying. A lot of book club did too. She told the story from 2 view points, alternating chapters and multiple people said they could not tell twhich character was narrating at the time. They characters sounded exactly the same.

            I did not enjoy it enough that I have decided I just do not like Nina LaCour and will quite trying to.

          8. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I always have to beat myself over the head to finish anything by John Irving–by the time I do, it’s worth the trip, but oh, the work I have to do to get there.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve been re-reading “American Prometheus” (the book that the movie Oppenheimer was based on) and am enjoying it.

      For fans of the Kushiel’s Dart series – apparently Jacqueline Carey wrote a redo of the original book (I think? I assume it’s not the whole original trilogy) from Joscelin’s POV, which sounds interesting and should have way less BDSM sex, so that’s on the top of my list when I finish the current doorstop.

      1. Dovasary Balitang*

        Just the first book from Joscelin’s perspective. Carey’s undecided if she wants to continue through the trilogy. I really enjoyed reading it, and got through it in about a week; Joscelin is a much more palatable viewpoint character than early days Phedre and the language is less heavy.

    6. word nerd*

      I’ve started binging my included audiobooks on Audible: Rosamund Pike’s versions of Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, a PG Wodehouse, some cute Audible Original romances (love the production quality and the feel of being immersed in something like an audio-only movie), and Ender’s Game Alive (a full-cast dramatization of Ender’s Game written by OSC just for audio). I’m looking forward to listening to Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For next. Unrelatedly, I also listened to The Wild Robot last week, and I’m excited about The Wild Robot Escapes just becoming available on Libby from my library!

      One of the things I found myself doing on Audible was searching for books by narrator. I love Jonathan Cecil’s narration of Wodehouse, Kevin R. Free doing Murderbot, Julia Whelan narrating pretty much anything, etc. So I’m curious: What are the audiobook narrators you love? Did they make the audiobook version even better than reading the physical book?

      1. Psf*

        C. J. Critt and George Guidell could read me anything. I usually like it when the author narrates her/his own memoir, see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, for example.

        There are some particular books that I have found to be enhanced by the narrator – Ruby Dee reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, Peter Francis James reading the Octavian Nothing series, David Suchet and the Poirot series from Christie.

        Enjoy your Audio subscription.

      2. Josame*

        Mandy Williams narrated “The False Princess” and “Seraphina”. Her voice was so perfect for both. Definitely made the audiobooks better then the physical books!

      3. Autumn*

        I’m currently listening to War and Peace, read by Thandiwe Newton, and she is killing it. I read it long ago, and will probably pick up the text to read a bit too (for one thing there’s a fair amount of untranslated French in there, I’d like to see what I’m missing), but what a performance she’s giving.

        I love Peter Yearsley’s voice, over on Librivox. His Alice in Wonderland is beautiful. The other books he’s done are a bit of a mixed bag, though.

        1. Nervous Nellie*

          My goodness – Thandiwe Newton narrates audiobooks? She stole the show in RockNRolla and I always thought she had such a compelling voice – such gravitas. Thank you for this! I love Tolstoy, and having her read it to me will be remarkable. Ordering immediately.

          I swear, this AAM reading list surprises me every week! So grateful for you all!

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        His Dark Materials is performed by a radio cast, which really works fantastically.

      5. Veronica Mars*

        Bahni Turpin is an amazing narrator. I’ll listen to whatever she reads.

        Dan Stevens, of Downtown Abbey fame, has only narrated a few books but they are all fabulous!

        I’ve recently gotten into Julia Whelan as a narrator. She also wrote a book about an audiobook narrator and narrated it which was delightfully meta.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          I was also going to say Bahni Turpin. She has a great voice and does well with accents. I think my favorite ever audiobook was “They Both Die at the End” which had two protagonist voices that somehow felt like they had great chemistry with each other (they alternate chapters, it wasn’t like a shared performance), and yes, Bahni Turpin as a narrator.

      6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I second George Guidall. He narrated books in both the Dark Tower series and the Timeline-191 series, and I was absolutely tickled pink when I realized that his Roland Deschain voice is the same as his Abraham Lincoln voice. Also Stephen Fry, personally, narrating his own Mythos series. I’ve been really pleased with most of the narrators of the short stories in Stephen King anthologies – they choose actors for those I think, off the top of my head Kathy Bates, Matthew Broderick, Will Patton, Tim Curry. I expect I’d be happy to listen to just about anything narrated by Tim Curry, honestly, but his voice works extra well for Stephen King :) Will Patton also, very good.

        I’ve read a book or two that I thought might’ve been better as audio – Trevor Noah’s memoir was alright, but I felt like his style of comedy is better told/heard than written/read, and he narrates the audio version, so I suspect that would be the better way to encounter it.

    7. sagewhiz*

      Just finished a delightful chuckle, _The Rachel Incident_ by Caroline O’Donoghue. Unfortunately for me, I know I missed soooo much of the humor (and craic) because I don’t live in Ireland (and had no clue what craic means), and missed out on a lot of the other insider references. Still, a fun summer read!

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        It means fun, usually in a social sense. Like, “she’s good craic” means that she’s good fun to hang out with.
        If you enjoyed Caroline’s book, you might also enjoy her podcast, “Sentimental Garbage”. It’s great craic. :) She speaks with a guest about a topic related to pop culture, which is terribly underselling the podcast, but I don’t know how to describe it better. She’s very funny, her guests are usually very funny, and the discussions are often surprisingly poignant.

    8. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s “Crossroads”, after years of not picking up anything of his (I’m not convinced “Purity” would be up my street, so I gave it a miss). It was a gift from my mother two Christmases ago, and I didn’t mean to put it off this long, but here we are – I’m reading it on the beach this weekend.

      About 100 pages in, I’m finding the characters very well-observed, and I’m intrigued by how their stories might develop. It’ll take me a while to finish it, but I hope it’ll be worth it.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I read Donna Andrews latest bird mystery, Birder, She Wrote. Absolutely delightful, combining a classic “whodunnit and why” with a lovely community feel. (I love that she leaned into that, and that it’s a progression over the course of the books.) Recommend. I appreciate how the long-running series has reasonable tech, e.g. characters carry cell phones once that becomes the norm.

      I am reading How to Survive History, which is a lot of fun and, as the introduction notes, the question “could you get out of Pompeii when Vesuvius started to blow?” gives you a nice granular focus, considering small specifics rather than the whole arc of Roman history.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Robert Harris’ Pompeii is really good, though, and the science bits are easily gotten though.

    10. FashionablyEvil*

      I’ve been revisiting Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries—recently finished Murder Must Advertise and am currently reading Clouds of Witness. I remain in awe of her ability to write dialogue that’s snappy and extremely illuminating but without a lot of explanation of the “he said, adjusting his coat sleeves” type language. Also, the social commentary is deeply trenchant despite being nearly 100 years old.

        1. noncommittal pseudonym*

          Me too! I started rereading the big classic mystery authors. Finished all of Ngaio Marsh a while ago. I tried to reread Agatha Christie, but just *could not* get into them, which is a little sad.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I ADORE Gaudy Night. The way all the women accept and respect each others intelligence but without it dissolving into some sloppy acceptance hugfest is so great. Plus, the actual mystery is intriguing and the explanation/character reason good (if cockeyed, but said character was a little off.)

      1. GoryDetails*

        I adore the Wimsey books! And “Murder Must Advertise” would be a good one if Alison ever does more literary office-advice; the whole workplace vibe at the advertising agency was spot-on and very funny, with some aspects reminding me of my software-development days – people dropping in to each other’s cubicles all the time, finding it more interesting to solve someone else’s problems than their own and vice versa, plenty of tech-trivia and pop-culture chat…

      2. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

        I read those long ago and want to re-read them. They’re all in the garage somewhere….

    11. GoryDetails*

      I’m enjoying AGRIPPINA by Emma Southern, a history-with-humor-and-speculation about Julia Agrippina, aka Agrippina the Younger – the granddaughter of Augustus, sister of Caligula, wife of Claudius, and mother of Nero. Southern goes to great lengths to explain the dearth of historical records about most Roman women, even those related to the emperors, but does her best to present Agrippina’s life in context from what IS known – though she does do some guessing along the way. Her style is on the arch and pointed side; imagine Mary Roach doing history instead of science.

      MONSTORM: A Charity Anthology of Horror, edited by Josh Strand and Matt Masucci, a storm-themed anthology, with the proceeds going to the All Faiths Food Bank in Florida, to help those affected by Hurricane Ian. The stories are good ones, ranging from epic global storms to personal, sometimes figurative ones.

      Carrying-around book: BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, the first of the charming, poignant series set in a cafe where one can – under the right circumstances, and if one follows the rules – travel in time…

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I keep thinking there needs to be a book about Fulvia–everyone she married tried to take over Rome at some point. Sensing a trend here…

    12. Decidedly Me*

      I just finished There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin. It’s about a woman from the midwest having financial issues just as her daughter is about to start college; she gets offered a job in wardrobe at Universal Studios and has to navigate that world. It was fun and funny!

      Now starting The Witch of Tin Mountain by Paulette Kennedy, but only a few chapters in.

    13. PhyllisB*

      Before I mention what I read this week, I was wondering how many of you get ideas for books from sources such as magazine articles, where they mention an author’s name/book, or read something like Reader’s Digest and find a condensed story that you want to read the whole thing, or an article that says at the bottom from the book…by… I even read an author mentioned by Lewis Grizzard. (For those of you not familiar, he was a Southern humorist.) The author he mentioned was Tom Bodette. I had only known him through Motel 6 commercials (“We’ll leave the light on for you.”) Had no idea he was an author. Loved his books!! He wrote about a small town in Alaska and the characters that lived there. Maybe somewhat like Garrison Keller.
      I have discovered a lot of interesting books that way. I tend to stay in a rut otherwise.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Now that I wrote that short dissertation, I will mention what I read this week. it’s First Do No Harm: Tales of Becoming a Brain Surgeon by J. Kenyon Raines. I ran across an old Reader’s Digest (from 1989) and this book was excerpted in there. I read it and decided I had to read the whole thing. (Yay for interlibrary loan!!) It was fantastic!!

      2. Nervous Nellie*

        I absolutely get reading ideas from magazine articles. From there, I will look up the book on Amazon, and if it has the See Inside feature, I will read the first few pages and see if it grabs me. If yes, I will switch over to my library’s website and place a hold on the book to read when they can pull it for me.

        I’ve discovered many authors I would not otherwise have known about this way. It has opened me up to try new things, new genres. I get a lot of recommendations from AARP magazine, from this weekly list here, from Alison’s Picks, and from my beloved nearby independent bookshop – staff picks and personal (and emphatic!) recommendations from their booksellers.

      3. Footnote Reader*

        I read a decent amount of nonfiction/critical theory type books and usually end up adding a lot of books referenced in the footnotes, endnotes, and/or bibliographies to my “to read” list. I also read the NY Times “By the Book” and “Read Your Way Through [City]” series and end up adding books that way.

        I just finished The Revenant, which I liked (and is quite different from the film); now I’m reading Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today. I’m 20 pages in and already have already added one endnote book to my list!

      4. Decidedly Me*

        I don’t really read any magazines, but get books for my TBR from here, friend recommendations, book club nominations that don’t make the vote, GoodReads’ lists, and movie previews (this looks good! oh – based on a book you say??).

      5. Jackalope*

        I get a lot of ideas from here and from a couple of good friends who have similar reading tastes to mine. A lot of my reading is genre fiction, which I’ve found isn’t covered as much or as well unless you look for sources that specifically cover those genres. However, there are a couple of websites that do lists each year – for example, fantasy books to be released this year – and I often go look those up, peruse the lists, and find things that sound interesting to me.

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, all the time. I’ve read so many books that other authors have mentioned in their books: two big ones are Diane Ackerman and my beloved Connie Willis.

    14. Junior Dev*

      Really enjoying Babel by RF Kuang. I’m less than halfway through. I tried reading the poppy wars and it just felt too obvious it was written by someone very young; this book has me hooked and it feels it really nails the premise. If you like linguistics and hard fantasy (like Brandon Sanderson and Fullmetal Alchemist, where the magic has clearly defined rules) you would probably like this book.

      1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Got Babel for Christmas last year and could. Not. Put it down. Being of that profession and of a sympathetic political bent, this book grabbed me faster and more firmly than NK Jemisin’s Stone Sky trilogy. I hope you enjoy it just as much!

        1. Nervous Nellie*

          Ooh, this gives me the chills. I was underwhelmed (or maybe just whelmed, giggle) by The Cat Who Saves Books, and felt the flaws were in the translation. So I look at the Amazon listing for Babel and in the description see:

          ‘Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.’ Whoa.

          In Cat it was simply, I think, a limp translation, but the plot of Babel is about something so much more sinister! I am intrigued and can’t wait for the library to pull it for me. There were too many holds on the regular edition, but none on the large print edition, so I ordered the latter. I’ll get it sooner and not have to search for my reading glasses – yeah! Thank you for this exciting suggestion!

      2. Dovasary Balitang*

        I loved Babel. I did also really enjoy The Poppy War series, and it ignited at RF Kuang marathon for me; but I also ended up donating those books and holding onto Babel.

    15. Mitchell Hundred*

      Jason Lutes’ Berlin trilogy, three graphic novels set during the decline of the Weimar Republic. It’s excellent, sort of a Robert Altman-esque ensemble piece.

    16. chocolate muffins*

      I’ve been reading an anthology of some of Kierkegaard’s writings – The Humor of Kierkegaard. The editor wrote a preface where they mentioned that Kierkegaard wrote funny things even though most people think of him as morose, and given the selections in this volume I am finding that to be true.

      1. Footnote Reader*

        Oh, I love Kierkegaard. I took a course on his books in college and have been thinking I should re-read some of them. Yes, he did have a wry sense of humor. I remember there were a few parts in (I think) the Diapsalmata in Either/Or that showed that.

    17. Bluebell*

      I read Curtis Sittenfeld’s Romantic Comedy this week and loved it. Now I’ve started The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton. Two mysterious women on a ship from NY to Havana in the 30s. I’m enjoying it.

    18. Nervous Nellie*

      Two mixed reviews for me this week, and one triumph.

      I didn’t mind but didn’t love The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa. It had everything going for it. Bookshop! Talking cat! Darling reclusive young hero! But – meh. Maybe it lost too much in translation? There were baffling scenes where two people would be talking, then suddenly the first would be talking to a third person who was not mentioned as being present, and #2 was never mentioned again. There were many, many sudden changes of scene that made no sense. There were odd slang words thrown in the translation that were really jarring. I got halfway through & gave it away. For a magical pet story, instead I would recommend Fairy Tale by Stephen King.

      And then I started into Canadian novel River Meets the Sea by Rachael Moorthy, a lyrical tangle of narratives between two young men 30 years apart. It was gloomy & moody, and I just couldn’t catch the thread of it. Also gave it away.

      But then…..Moon Palace by Paul Auster. It came out in the 80s, and somehow I never read it. It is a sprawling 3-generations story of a fascinating orphan. It is lively and fast & full of suprises. Loving it, and will read Auster’s New York Trilogy because of it.

      And I am off to the library today to collect Maame by Jessica George, recommended here by an AAM reader. Yay!!!! Weekend reading.

      I so appreciate this weekly book list recommendation chat – it feeds my reading list, and then some!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        If I ever become a vampire it’ll be to be like Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive and finally read every single book I want to read.

    19. noncommittal pseudonym*

      Just started reading Fosse, a biography of Bob Fosse. I’m still at the beginning, but I’m startled how autobiographical All That Jazz (one of my favorite movies) really was.

    20. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I just finished The Iron Princess by Barbara Hambly. I’ve always enjoyed her fantasy novels, so it was nice to see her have one out again, although given that it was self-published and she can find traditional publishers for her historical works I’m not holding my breath that she’ll put out too many more fantasy books any time soon.

      It was also nice to read a fantasy novel that actually wrapped up the story at the end of the book! It felt like a full narrative unit as a book rather than something that existed mostly to set up some grand, sprawling epic by sprinkling future plot points to return to. I’ve missed that.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Her main publishing house was bought by someone else, so it’s anyone’s guess if we’ll see more Benjamin January or Don Ysidro books as well.

    21. Angstrom*

      The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, a huge anthology of hard-boiled detective stories from the 20s to the 40s. Many are written in the overblown style that’s so easily parodied — no noun escapes unmodified, which makes sense if you’re paid by the word — but some are genuinely good.

      The opening of Raymond Chandler’s “Red Wind”:

      There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Ooooh, I love the Black Lizard series! I reread their Big Book of Ghost Stories every October. Fritz Lieber’s The Smoke Ghost just gets me every time.

        And I adore the old pulps and their style–Ross McDonald and real inventors of the genre like Dashiel Hammett especially. Plus, women really knocked it out of the park with forties and fifties mysteries: the novel Laura (basis of the famous film) is amazing, with shifting narrators and atmosphere to spare.

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

          Plus one for Dashiell Hammett — I find myself re-reading and enjoying almost all of his stuff every so often.

    22. TashedPotatoes*

      I ploughed through about three Ruth Ware mystery murder novels (The IT Girl, One by One, and the Turn of the Key). I also read Everyone In My Family has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson and How To Murder Your Employer by Rupert Holmes ( same guy who wrote the Pina Colada song). They were all fun and interesting!

    23. the Viking Diva*

      I’m widely recommending The Lost Journal of Édouard Manet, by Maureen Gibbon. The imagined writings of Manet in his last years offer a plausible and tender glimpse into his thoughts about his work, his struggle for status in the art world, and coming to terms with illness and aging. He speaks fondly of the women he loved and painted and the friends who bring him commissions, compliments, and flowers to paint. I had to keep a web browser open while I read it, so I could look at the paintings he crafted or remembered.

    24. Sitting Pretty*

      I just finished Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle. He is definitely one of my favorite writers of the past few years. He writes across genres and has won a couple of Pulitzers. Every new thing he comes out with is so different from the last. He does coming of age stories, nonfiction, historical fiction, sci fi, even zombie apocalypse!

      Harlem Shuffle is a heist story set in the 1960s NYC, race tensions all around and a man with a crooked past trying to go straight, so true to the genre, a whole host of shady characters trying to make it work in a system stacked against the…. so good!

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

      Still on a re-reading kick. I’m re-reading the beginning of Ian Fleming’s *Thunderball* and re-reading one of Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder comic crime caper novels, *Bank Shot*. It’s not my favorite in the series (that would be *Don’t Ask*), but I enjoy just about anything Westlake writes, including his more hardboiled stuff as Richard Stark.

      1. Retired Accountant*

        I think Bank Shot might be my favorite Dortmunder. We get the gang, plus the hysterical scene with the cops, bank manager, safe guy and hippie mobile home guy. (“Trailer, trailer, goddamn trailer!”). “I see those flaaag-draped coffins…”.

        I am laughing now, thank you.

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

          Ooh, I had forgotten that scene — something to look forward to!

      2. Nervous Nellie*

        Yeah! In the spirit of, “if you liked this, you might like that,” the Westlake comic crime stories remind me of sadly departed Anthony Bourdain’s screwball crime thrillers, Gone Bamboo & Bone in the Throat. The former is the better of the two – tight, fast & funny. What a loss.

    26. carcinization*

      I gave up on reading The Deep by Rivers Solomon because I decided not to go to the pertinent book club meeting (I had COVID last week and am still in the period where I need to wear a mask for 5 days in public afterward, and didn’t feel like explaining why I was at a brewery in a mask, plus the meeting was going to be after my first day back at place-that-must-not-be-named after being ill). For comfort reading while I was ill I re-read the most recent October Daye book, and then the one before that, since a couple of new books in that series are coming out next month and the month after that.

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        I listened to the audiobook version of The Deep and found it quite gripping. I picked it up because Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame reads it, and I actually liked it more than I thought I would given fantasy/sci-fi isn’t really my thing. (I also listened to the audio book The Stand In because it was read by Phillipa Soo, and Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe because Lin-Manuel Miranda read it, so I guess Hamilton cast members are my catnip…)

        1. carcinization*

          Yes, to each his/her own, I am very much not a Hamilton fan so the knowledge of the connection was not a plus for me. I’m also not an audiobook person so it was the paper version that I ended up not finishing.

    27. Lemonwhirl*

      I’m reading “The Girl with All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey. It’s incredible and difficult to describe, but if you like pandemic/disaster/post-apocylpse novels and don’t mind a bit of scary stuff, this book is for you.

      I’d listened to the “Talking Scared” podcast episode where Stephen King is interviewed, and King recommended M.R. Carey’s “The Boy on the Bridge”, which turns out to be book 2 in a series, so that’s how I came to “The Girl with All the Gifts”.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I really enjoyed Girl With All The Gifts, and am planning to read Boy on the Bridge soon. I love the concept of fungus-based zombies (which also featured in the recent series The Last of Us, though in a different style than in Carey’s novels), and the story kept me riveted.

      2. Dovasary Balitang*

        The Girl With All The Gifts is so good – I didn’t know it had a sequel! I’ll have to check that out.

    28. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

      Heavy reading, both politically and physically: Stalin, by Leon Trotsky. A biography that remained incomplete because of the latter’s assassination in 1940.

    29. Vistaloopy*

      I just read Traces of Two Pasts (Tifa and Aerith), which is based on Final Fantasy VII Remake. I loved it!

    30. Ali + Nino*

      Just finished Talking Hands by Margalit Fox about a sign language that developed in a remote village in Israel. I read another book by Fox a few months ago and I like her subject matter and writing style.
      Now I’m reading Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser, about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember reading Little House on the Prairie books as a kid but not in much detail. I’m more curious about the historical context.

    31. Irish Teacher*

      I recently read The Final Secret of the Secret Annex. It’s really interesting to read about what went out outside the annex, that Anne didn’t know about.

    32. DW99*

      I’m a big fan of Alice Munro’s masterful short stories, and of Barbara Pym’s mid-20th-century, slow-moving, gently funny novels (she has been likened to Jane Austen).

    33. Robin*

      I’m (audio/listening) to Tom Lake by Ann Patchett. It’s read by Meryl Streep. It’s a nice break from my relaxing obsession with drama, psycho, true crime serial killers.
      It’s a good relaxing story so far and really… Ann Patchett AND Meryl Streep… what’s not to love?

    34. kiki*

      I want to second Heartburn and recommend the audiobook version! It’s read by Meryl Streep. It’s the kind of audiobook that lends itself well to listening while walking or driving, if that makes sense.

  3. RayRay and the Beast*

    Hello all!

    I am trying to get into savings mode and think it would be easier with some concrete goals.
    What are some of your current or past savings goals? Would also love any hot tips for sticking to a savings plan.

    1. JustAnotherFri*

      Look up the “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” blog post by Mr. Money Mustache. This may not count as a hot tip, but it was eye-opening and I used it for inspiration. The basic concept is that every dollar you save buys you financial freedom.

      1. RayRay and the Beast*

        Thank you! I should clarify that I have a long-term investing strategy and the budget for that is a priority. This is more about how to save ahead for bigger expenses (decorating second bedroom,…) and setting aside money for short-to-medium timeline stuff. What happens now is I just tend to go… ah I need it so I will get it from savings, so diluting its function as an emergency fund. What I would like is to be more intentional with my spending money and have a something that’s not emergencies-only, per se, and not invested and untouchable (to me). I hear that’s easier when you have a concrete goal, because then when you’re like… I want this trinket, that money comes from somewhere, like… I can get the trinket but then we can’t do swimming lessons until next month.

        1. Rebecca*

          we are starting this journey too.
          Some of our goals have been a family holiday, a (brand new!) couch, and a statement piece rotating shelf unit for my husband’s extensive LP collection.

        2. Kat*

          It could be worth looking into zero based budgeting! The idea is that your entire income is allocated to categories, or pots, and then if you overspend in one pot you need to take the money from another to make the budget balance. I use ynab for my budgeting though you don’t need an app.

          1. RayRay and the Beast*

            thanks! I have one, but the issue is when things come up I tend to fudge or even ignore it (at times). I think I need some more concrete goals other than just “put it in the savings account for everything that might come up”.
            or maybe I just need discipline :’)

            1. Kat*

              Ah, yes, I’ve been there! I have savings in different pots. The emergency fund is only for losing job type emergencies and is completely untouchable in my mind, so while I do raid savings every so often I’m taking savings from something else and not that.

              Each month I put money aside for presents, health, vet, annual bills etc and I don’t tend to touch those pots.

              The big savings category is home maintenance, and I have a spreadsheet tracking individual goals within this I’ll want to do in the short-medium term with an estimate of the cost: new windows, replace some flooring, decorate the kitchen, new bathroom. It also functions as a sort of home emergency fund as there’s normally enough in there to cover some disasters. I tend to save towards one goal but there’s been a couple of times the money has all gone to some kind of home emergency, or I’ve changed my mind about the order I want to do things in, and I’ve started from scratch again.

              This is also the fund I take money from if I decide I need new curtains or a sofa or something and I can’t cover it from my fun money. I keep the spreadsheet updated monthly so if I do take money from it I need to reduce the amount allocated to one of the savings goals.

              I use ynab for for my day to day spending but keep the big savings accounts off budget so the money doesn’t show as available, and track them in the spreadsheet.

              Before I moved into the money pit that is my current residence, I had a ‘life happens’ savings account that I used as a short of minor emergency fund for things I wanted to dip into savings for without touching the main emergency savings. I’m having some health issues right now that mean holidays aren’t an option, but in the past I’ve saved monthly towards that too. I don’t drive – but I do have a wheelchair maintenance fund. I’ve tried things like putting money each month to clothes or home furnishings, but what works best for me is to have a ‘fun money’ line in my budget I use for things like that.

              1. Ginger Cat Lady*

                This is what we do, too. Literally separate bank accounts:
                Semi-annual expenses (thinks like car insurance every 6 months, annual renewal of a couple memberships that are better paid annually, quarterly estimated taxes, etc.)
                Vacation fund
                Unexpected expenses fund (car repairs, home repairs)
                Home improvement fund (Currently close to empty because we just finished a big project, but we’ll start refilling it next month as we save for the next one)
                This doesn’t include retirement, which is completely separate and much less accessible.
                Vacation fund and home improvement fund (in that order) get raided if there’s not enough in the other accounts. Sometimes those accounts literally have a dollar in them, but they exist. If we get a bonus or other unexpected money, it goes half in unexpected and 25% each in vacation and home improvement.

            2. goddessoftransitory*

              Discipline and vagueness don’t make good roommates, I find. If I don’t have a goal or need, I can get kind of squishy on financial planning. Once I know “this is happening” I can focus on saving X amount.

              When I moved to my current city after I graduated from college, I was working in a doughnut shop for minimum wage. In a year, I managed to save enough (including gift monies like birthday/Christmas) to have thousand dollar budget for that move.

            3. Reluctant Mezzo*

              My son stashes his Total Emergency Savings in a bank he can’t look up online. This helps him a *lot*. I mean, he knows it’s there and he can easily access it, but only if he goes to that bank in person.

        3. Budgeter*

          I have been using YNAB (you need a budget) for years and it really helps with this. The learning curve takes a bit, but there are lots of resources about the principles of the budgeting. essentially, you are giving every dollar a job by allocating all of your money to a particular category. if you want to spend more than you have from one category, it then needs to come out of a different category (which is 100% ok and expected, but the re-budgeting process helps make the trade-offs more apparent).

        4. NAL-NYL*

          Maybe obvious, but in budgeting for a recent trip I found it helpful to know exactly what I was spending on each element, so I could mentally reframe it from “this Starbucks is coming out of my Grand Canyon money” to “I’m setting myself back on the KOA in Tennessee, and I am so close to having that part covered”

          1. RayRay and the Beast*

            Thank you both for this, I actually think this will help a lot! I used to adjust the budget too easily from “eh, overflow envelope I guess” and I think it will be much harder for my brain to do if I have to tell myself, Okay, do you want to pay for this trinket from your holiday fund or from medical care? :’)

        5. Kt*

          At some banks you can create sub accounts and automatically tuck money into the account labeled “goals” or “fun”.

          You might be interested in the “conscious spending plan” concept from Ramit Sethi. He has an idea/category called guilt-free spending and some ideas on how to set it up.

          Sub accounts (for emergency, for goals, for taxes if you’re a freelancer, etc) are the most elegant solution, so it’s worth checking out.

          1. Random Bystander*

            My bank does this–and you can have auto-transfers set up. I also find it helpful to make the savings account *not* linked to money I can move through on-line banking.

            In my case, I own my house free and clear (inheritance) and so I have to pay the taxes directly. So what I did was set up an account, divide my tax bill by the number of pay periods, round up a little (in case of a tax increase), and when my paycheck hits the checking account, the bank auto-transfers that amount into the savings account. Since my bank is also a location where one can pay the taxes (as opposed to online or sending a check, both are options), I can then take the tax bill into the bank, say “I want to pay this out of my savings” and they make the money move appropriately and take the tab that is supposed to accompany the payments.

            Even if I wanted to move the money for another reason, I’d still have to go to the bank physically, which certainly helps avoid the “I’m just going to borrow from my savings and pay it back later” trap. I could set up additional accounts, and choose a specific amount to go in each pay to whatever else I wanted to do. The main thing is to block it off where it’s not a simple matter of sitting on a bank app/website and hitting “move money” to get it from savings to spending.

        6. goddessoftransitory*

          Ask yourself: if you could replace/repair only one thing this year in your house, what would it be? (Mind, I don’t mean stuff like your car, roof, or anything that can’t be put off; more decorating or refurbishing or finally finishing X.)

          For me, it would be new lamps and a new couch. Our lamps just don’t give adequate light for reading and our couch is reaching “the old grey mare” stage. So I would start with measurements and comparison shopping, getting an idea of the cost, and starting a fund for that. (All the while keeping an eye out for sales and such, of course.)

          Having a specific item in mind, as opposed to “I’d sure like to redecorate,” can give you a plan of what you want to do and how much you’ll need.

        7. Miss Cranky Pants*

          If you’re getting direct deposits from your employer, then have it all put into your savings, then very deliberately calculate your spend for the next two weeks and put only that amount plus/minus whatever figure gives you a cushion. This system worked great for me because it was a bit painful to draw down that lovely savings number to spend it on Useless Crap (TM). It made me be very thoughtful about what expenses were coming up, what was due next pay period, and helped me plan my cash flow.

          It’s harder to do if you’re self-employed as I am and getting random payments from all my clients via various sources. But worth trying.

          Use your checking as a spending account, not your savings!

    2. office hobbit*

      Practical things:
      -x months emergency fund (if you lose/quit your job, enough money to live on for x months till you get a source of income). You can start with like 3 months and work your way up to a year.
      -retirement
      -if you own your home, paying off your mortgage faster. if you rent, saving for a down payment, or investing extra
      -paying off other debt if you have it
      -unexpected costs fund (surprise car/home/computer repair, vet bills, etc.)

      Fun things:
      -home improvement projects or interior decor/furniture
      -a class (fitness, art, language, etc.)
      -travel
      -an expensive splurge for yourself that you’d have to save up for (like a kitchenaid, etc.)

      To stick to it: put things on auto deposit as much as possible. My retirement money is whisked out of my main account every month without me even seeing it.

      Also, give yourself a budget for fun money every month. Under that limit, let yourself buy whatever you want. This part was quite eye-opening for me because I finally made myself track all the “it’s under $10 it doesn’t count” purchases and realized if I skipped enough of those per month, I could pay for an art class I previously would have said was too expensive.

      1. office hobbit*

        ETA I saw your later replies clarifying what you’re asking for so I’ll share my little method I’m trying in more detail in case it helps.

        Recently I looked back at my past year of spending and noted down how much I spent on non-negotiables (housing, groceries, utilities, car maintenance/insurance, averaged medical costs for me and pets, etc.). Things I have to spend no matter what. Then I noted how much I want to save toward funds that are important to me and are relatively untouchable except for their purpose, like retirement and my home maintenance fund (this house I swear, I love it but). Then I rounded both those numbers up bc inflation and cushion. Then, I took my monthly take-home income and subtracted those numbers from it. This gave me the remaining amount of money, per month, that doesn’t have a clearly designated purpose. Some of it will have to go to ~necessary things that I can’t predict (like, my travel comes out of it because I travel too rarely to have put that in the first category), but most of it is purely discretionary.

        Then, because I’m into paper planners at the moment, I made a page for the monthly spending. I used graph paper and made each square be $5. Whenever I buy something, I fill in that number of squares and write down what I bought. I try to be pretty strict about rounding up or down so I can’t weasel around it (“you always round down so there’s actually more money left so you can definitely buy this thing!” nope).

        If I know I have a big spending thing coming up, I’ll average the cost out over the next several months. So say I’m spending $500 on a trip, I’ll lower my “fun” budget by $125 over four months. That way no single month is a real squeeze, but you’re still on average staying within budget. Of course this only works if the numbers are within your wiggle room given your income and expenses.

        If I end up spending a lot less one month, I’ll make a note that I have $x cushion remaining for future months. (At first I thought I would let the remaining $x just go to savings, but I know I would end up weaseling extra expenses the next month because of it. Better for me to track it precisely.)

        After I’ve done this for six months or a year, I’ll look back at what I spent the discretionary money on each month and see if any other regular necessary expenses come to light that I should add to that first non-negotiable bucket.

        In the past I tried having distinct categories for my monthly discretionary spending, but the amounts per category always felt a little arbitrary and it ended up being too much work to shuffle the numbers around so I didn’t stick with it. If you’re someone who has more routine/predictable discretionary expenditures, that method would probably work better than it did for me.

    3. Aphrodite*

      I have consolidated my multiple liquid savings accounts into one called Life Fund. It is designed to cover home renovations and repairs, service calls, replacements, emergencies of all kinds, and so on. I intend to get this account up to $100K.

      It has quite a way to go reach that goal but it is my goal. I will get there because I find much more joy in spending money on savings now as I used to spend on buying “things.” It is such fun to watch it grow even when I have to take money out to do something necessary. Like now: replacement shower floor and door.

    4. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      I have found it helpful to have a separate bank account and have the money automatically moved over each month. It doesn’t have to be much, but it establishes the habit. I will set a target amount and when I come close, I start shopping or planning whatever project. I’ve done this for new cars, decorating homes, etc. Right now, I’m saving for the antique pine grandfather clock of my dreams. When I complete the project or purchase, I continue to have the money set aside for the next one. And there’s always a next one.

      1. Miss Thymia*

        Yes, this is what I do. We have a checking account, our main savings account which doesn’t get touched, and then a short-term savings account. Automatic transfer set up so that money doesn’t even count (in my head) as income.

    5. Just here for the scripts*

      When you don’t spend $$ on something. Clause you’re saving, actually take that money and put it into an envelope. At the end of a week, place the $$ you didn’t spend into a special this-goal-only savings account—one that’s separate from all your other accounts.

      Take your change at the end of every day and put it into a flower pot, jar, bowl. When the bowl fills up, roll the coins and add them into your special this-goal-only savings account.

      Of course, both of these techniques require that you use cash (not plastic or cash cards) for your daily expenses. Rolling coins has given us $300-$500 dollars every 3-4 months.

      If you’re a plastic only person, get a credit card with high cash-back policies. Hubby did and he’s using it for items we have to buy and that have 3-5% cash back. Then when the points come in, you can roll the $$ into that special this-goal-only savings account (full disclaimer, I couldn’t do this—I’d just charge my way into the poor house. I have to Sue the cash-only techniques above).

      When I used to balance a checkbook, I would round down my automatic deposits from work and and round up my expenditures. I saved $1,000 in a school year this way when I was making only about 13k.

      Goals have included getting off of employer’s tech and buying our own (for the goal of leaving that job), airfare and/accommodations for a big trip, buying out our car lease (costs had been set pre-Covid, so in 2022 it was quite a savings in and of itself), new closet doors in a 1962 NYC apartment (really they’re $3k???), etc.

      Best advice my dad ever gave me was “When you pay off something big—car loan, school loan, mortgage—tuck 50% of what you used to pay into a separate account via auto-deductions. After all, you made it without having that money before. So you can continue if your flex spending includes only 50% of the new-found savings.”

      Look for ways to save big $$—and think of the total costs you’re saving:

      Today—after much research—I pulled the trigger in changing our insurance company for our NYC coop and saved us over $1700. Our monthly payments will be $133 instead of $295. So every month I’ll be putting the $162 differential into the special this-goal-only savings account. But the big savings is that what we’re now paying—with even more coverage—is a more than 50% savings from what our old company was charging us to renew.

      Working with family to figure out best way to cut cable costs at a shared vacation 8-month home. Next year we’ll be saving $1500.
      Etc.

      How do we stay focused? Hubby is just naturally that way, but I need reminders. So I research the heck out of what I want to use the $$ for—stalking the airline sites for rates to big-trip location, researching the best place for us to stay and—since that means always a favorable no-charge cancellation policy—booking it when the rates are good and then saving money to pay it off when we arrive, researching the oven, fridge, etc that we want and comparing overall costs (including installation and removal) from different companies—then seeing the sales cycles for those companies, etc.

      This way I keep seeing myself using the $$ the way I want, and get to pre-live the experience. It also lets me online window-shop but not actually spend money until I have it.

      And every time I put the $$ into the special this-goal-only savings account, I talk dear hubby to death about how much closer I/we are to that goal. If he weren’t here, I’d be talking to myself about getting closer to said goal.

      Hope this loooong post is helpful ;)

      1. RayRay and the Beast*

        It IS, thank you so much for typing all that out!
        Rounding up to the nearest euro is one I will be doing too! My bank can’t do it automatically but I will just add it up myself every month.

        1. Just here for the scripts*

          Glad it’s helpful!
          To clarify my round up/round down was more like $80 spending entered as $100; deposit of $80 was entered as $70…

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I do that too. I round up to a multiple of five for bills I pay, and round down to a multiple of five for money I deposit, in my old check register (which I use to keep track of all spending online. I buy my check registers by the dozen from Amazon, which is way cheaper than what the bank charges me).

        1. Just here for the scripts*

          Thanks! He was full of good advice—this was just one of the finance ones that really made an impression on me!

    6. Teapot Translator*

      I am on the journey of getting back control of my finances. What helped me was having a monthly budget with all my expenses. Everything is on it. For example, you mention swimming lessons, well, I put it on the monthly budget. I’ve added a line for car repair/maintenance. So, per month or week, I know how much I can spend on unplanned things. If I end up in the red, well I have to make up for it the next week or month. I’ve also started a list of things I’d like to buy once my finances are in order and I’m in control of my expenses.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I started doing this at the beginning of the year, but I pretty quickly realized I was going to run out of money trying to account for things that way. If I did a monthly number to estimate annual car repairs, plus home repairs, then my personal spending money was negative, which is obviously unrealistic and just setting myself up to fail. I realized I needed to have one number for emergencies/savings and evaluate every three or six months how it was working for me.

    7. Kafka*

      My biggest thing lately is setting up a high yeild savings account with sofi, it’s 4.5% and compounds monthly. I have 200 a paycheck direct deposited into the account and it’s a lot better than having it in my credit unions .03% interest until I feel more compelled to research investments.

    8. Excel Budgeter*

      Me and my husband don’t have savings goals, as such. Instead, we have set up a few different savings accounts; e.g. one for holidays, one for major home expenses, individual accounts for treats and gifts etc..
      Each week, when our pays come in, we allocate a set agreed amount to each of those accounts. We also each set aside funds into a shared account for bills and groceries, so doing the same for each savings account is just another part of our weekly budgeting.
      I think the main reason it works for us is because it’s just a routine task we don’t really think about. Then, after a few months, we notice how much has been saved and start thinking about what we can spend it on.
      A savings goal (in the sense of giving myself a target number to reach for a specific expense) would not work for me. I’d be focused on the number, how far I’ve come, how far I have to go, how long it will take, this will take forever, I couldn’t afford X and Y because I’m saving for Z, this is all too hard…
      My best advice is to try different savings methods and see what works for you.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I don’t know that this is working, but I just take my monthly income, subtract rent and average bills, give myself a cushion, and then divide the number left by 31. That’s my daily spending limit. I find it easier to think about it by the day, and if you fail one day, you can try to make it up the next (but if you spend a *lot* more on something, let it go to the cushion and start fresh). The cushion has been slowly increasing with my income – it started out very small so I wasn’t saving a lot, but at least I wasn’t spending too much. Now the cushion represents monthly emergency/savings, and more often seems to end up in savings. This system is probably better for people who don’t make a lot.

    10. CTT*

      I ran across someone on Instagram who makes coloring pages for savings goals: like, it’s a design with 100 things to color in, and you assign it an amount and color in as you make deposits. I bought a PDF packet from her store (it’s succulent themed!) and one sheet is for bulking up the money I have set aside for a house down payment and the other is for a new car. I have a reminder in my phone for each pay day to put $500 into my savings for each goal. Getting to color in the leaves after I do that is EXTREMELY satisfying. I’m sure I would have stuck to this if I just kept up with the numbers in a spreadsheet, but I doubt I would ever kick in some extra money occasionally because I want to finish coloring in one of the plants.

      1. Inkhorn*

        I’m doing this with my mortgage! Gives me a tiny thrill every time I log in and see that the balance has dropped enough to colour in another segment.

    11. Lady Alys*

      We opened high-yield savings accounts with what is now CapitalOne 360 many years ago, and have separate accounts for

      travel savings;
      holiday/birthday gift fund;
      Our Next Appliance; and
      property tax/homeowners insurance account

      I definitely calculate how much money needs to be in the property tax account, and set aside the monthly amount needed to reach that goal, but some of the others are more random – the gift and appliance funds get a small amount on a regular basis (which still adds up!) but occasional larger deposits if we get a windfall.

      The trick is to set up *automated* transfers/deposits, so you do not have to spend any brain cells thinking about it – it just happens.

      (CapitalOne360’s “high-yield” savings accounts stopped being truly high-yield a long time ago, but recently they’ve offered a new savings account with 4.3% interest, so I’ve been switching all our accounts over to that type. Easy enough to do online, but tedious that they don’t offer to do it automatically for long-time customers…)

    12. Generic Name*

      The best tip I have for savings is to automate it. Part of your paycheck gets automatically routed into savings, so you don’t even see it in your checking account. If you routinely overspend and end up dipping into savings, maybe set up a savings at a different bank so it’s not as easy to access.

      1. Emma*

        And some fun goals:

        *a hot tub
        *an international vacation
        *framed decor for the house
        *hiring a house painter

    13. RagingADHD*

      Hot tip: Take it off the top.

      When you calculate how much you’re going to save each time period (weekly, biweekly, monthly, however you want to do it), set up an auto-transfer to your savings account.

      Make it invisible and hands-free. That money is no longer part of your budget. There’s nothing to “stick to.” It just happens.

      1. RayRay and the Beast*

        That’s by far the best way, yes!
        unfortunately my brain is like… but the money is in other account which is also ours :))) and just… I end up taking money out too often. But yes, better by a mile than the short time I tried to “save whatever is left”.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Well, you could try reframing your decisions here.

          You didn’t “wind up” taking it out. You decided to take it out. It was a choice you deliberately made, not something that happened by accident.

          If you have a problem with impulsivity about money, that isn’t something you fix with hot tips and life hacks. It’s something you address by acknowledging “I have a real problem with making impulsive decisions, and it’s holding me back from things that are important to me.” And then you take steps to address the behavior issue, like coaching or therapy.

    14. Dancing Otter*

      RE sticking to a plan: For a while, I had a savings account at a different bank than my general account. It was accessible, but an extra effort, so I was less likely to dip into it casually. My paycheck was set up to put $X in that account each pay period.

      RE goals: If you have an approximate amount for a future project or expense, divide that amount by the number of months until you want or need to have it. Round up, and put it in your monthly budget. Now you don’t necessarily have to save exactly that amount each and every month, but set goalposts of 25% by this month and 50% by that month.
      In accounting terms, you’re either accruing the expense, like property taxes, or creating a sinking fund for a future project, if that helps your thinking on the subject. I still budget that way for car insurance and dentist visits. I recently designated an account as a sinking fund toward the cost of moving next year.

    15. Loreli*

      If your income is a paycheck that you have deposited automatically, most companies give you the option of depositing your pay into separate accounts. Some banks don’t have a monthly fee on a checking account if you have automatic deposit.

      I use this method, and it’s surprising how much accumulates in that secondary account even though the direct deposit amount is a small portion of my paycheck.

      The advantage – the amount comes out before you see it!

    16. Lemonwhirl*

      I have a couple of savings account and set amounts from each pay check go into those saving accounts. I know people who use savings accounts that won’t let you access the money until you reach the goal amount and are using the money for the goal, like a down payment for a house, but my accounts are just regular old savings account. I have online banking and set up automatic transfers to move the money after I get paid.

  4. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! Share what you’ve been playing, and give or request recs! As always, all games are welcome, not just video games.

    I’ve continued my Stardew Valley gaming, and managed a big quest this week: getting to level 100 in the Skull Cavern. It was challenging, but I was super proud that I managed it.

    We also had a fun time in our D&D campaign. We’ve been visiting the village that my character is from and I’m enjoying this bit to fill out my back story some.

      1. Vio*

        I’m looking forward to trying it. I don’t have much free time to devote to gaming at the moment and I have a massive backlog of games on Steam, so I’m putting off buying it for now. Hopefully by the time I get around to it the price will have dropped or there’ll be a collection including all the DLC

        1. anon24*

          I’ve heard that Larian is saying no DLC, this is it. I never buy games full price, but this was definitely worth the money (not that I don’t support waiting and paying less). This game is amazing, I put 40 hours in the first 3 days, but sadly my life has been insanely busy and now I’m back to college so I haven’t been able to put a lot of time into it. Definitely play it when you have the time to devote to it, it’s worth it!

    1. Waiting on the bus*

      I had such a lull in my Stardew Valley playing after reaching Skull Cavern Level 100. I spent so much time focusing on learning what I had to do and preparing for my attempts that afterwards I was at a right loss as what to do now, lol.

      1. Jackalope*

        Thankfully I just recently got Ginger Island too, so I’m busy with that now. But yeah, it took weeks of in-game work to prepare for the Skull Cavern run. So. Many. Bombs. So. Much. Food.

    2. Kafka*

      Like others, been playing baldurs gate but my daily go to the last few months has been honkai star rail. It’s just so fun and it’s part of my fun money

    3. SparklingBlue*

      I’ve been grinding cards in the Game Boy Pokemon TCG in an attempt to build a Fire deck for the next boss.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        Back when I played it 20ish years ago, the Fossil/70HP Magmar was a boss, so I’d load up on those.

    4. Liane*

      I am one of the play by post Cyberpunk Red GMs on a Discord server, as well as playing in a couple of the other games. PbP moves so slowy alas, but is still fun. I am also GMing Cyberpunk for my live Discord game group. I borrowed, with permission, a scenario one of the other PbP GMs created.

      I still prefer playing to GMing, especially in live games but a couple of our usual GMs don’t have the time/bandwidth to run right now.

    5. nope*

      Congrats on level 100 in Skull Cavern!! I’ve also been enjoying Stardew, but I’ve been on a quest for golden walnut.

    6. OMG, Bees!*

      Good job with getting to level 100 in the Skull Caverns! I’ve played Stardew a couple times, but haven’t continued to year 3 or completing the community center fully. Maybe I should get back to that…

      Couple semi recent games for me were Dredge (inde horror fishing game) and the DLC for Powerwash Simulator. And I’ve been watching people play Dave the Diver, which looks fun, but also has a lot of game content.

    7. Jay*

      I’m loving Dead Island II. I’ve barely booted up Baldurs Gate III, just because I’m having so much fun with this (also because my weekend has been the good kind of busy).

    8. Dovasary Balitang*

      I really want to play both Baldur’s Gate III and Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical, but am currently without the hardware to do either. Instead I’m punishing myself by playing Persona 4 for the third time in my life and it… has aged so very poorly.

  5. extra basil*

    All the summer produce is ready! Favourite summer salads? Or other ways to enjoy summer produce? Only a couple of weeks left to enjoy this (where I live)

      1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        My #1 summer salad! My neighbor gave me tomatoes and basil from her garden this week, so I’ve been fixing caprese salads every night.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Gazpach! And more gazpacho. God, I love this soup so much I wish it contained all the protein I’d need because I’d live on it, and nothing else, for months on end.

    2. Pucci*

      I have been baking baguettes (King Arthur almost no-knead recipe) so I can make panzanella and bruschetta – salad on bread :)

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      Grilled peach, arugula, red onion, blue cheese/goat cheese, pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette! Pairs wonderfully with most grilled proteins and tastes like summer.

    4. LZ*

      Strawberries, peaches, avocado, hazelnuts on boston lettuce, with balsamic vinaigrette. Grilled salmon for protein.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Zucchini carpaccio. Slice really thin, fan on a plate, add lemon, salt, pepper, and a bit of shaved parmesan.

      A Thai style salad with big handfuls of fresh herbs.

    6. FashionablyEvil*

      There’s a Smitten Kitchen recipe with white beans, green beans, fennel, and basil vinaigrette that’s delicious. Also a caramelized zucchini one in the NYT. I’m also planning to try a tomato and dumpling recipe they have.

      I’m also partial to pan con tomate, especially when I have some good bread on hand.

    7. GoryDetails*

      My best-producing plants this season are the eggplants, so I’m having lots of ratatouille (or a simpler stewed-veggie mix), plus the occasional sauteed eggplant slices.

      On the salad side of things, I have cucumbers and both sweet and hot peppers – and I’ve made some slaw by shredding them together, with a simple dressing.

      And for the bigger cucumbers (those things grow so fast – and are so hard to see against the green leaves of the vines – that some of them get away from me), I’ve been making cucumber syrup, by steeping shredded cucumber in a simple syrup. It’s very tasty mixed with soda water for a cooler, used in cocktails, even mixed with some yogurt for a salad dressing.

      Oh, and I discovered “sriracha salt” recently; it’s lovely sprinkled on thinly-sliced cucumbers, or on honeydew melon.

      When the heirloom tomatoes ripen I’ll be having them sliced and lightly salted – and, if I get more than a few, some may make it into avocado/tomato sandwiches!

    8. Generic Name*

      My favorite way to use summer veggies is pasta primavera. Or I’ll make thai peanut sauce and serve with julienned veggies and rice noodles.

    9. RagingADHD*

      Depends how your seasons run, but I love a niçoise with new potatoes and really tender green beans. Around here that’s more of an springtime thing. But it’s not like it’s bad anytime.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Oh, and fried okra + fried green tomatoes!

      I don’t like them battered or deep fried, just tossed in cornmeal with salt and pepper and pan-fried in a little oil. Much simpler to make, and never any soggy middle.

    11. Girasol*

      Stir fry a zucchini with basil and whatever else there is – five beans, one onion, and one small tomato, say. Or else stir fry whatever there is with soy sauce and a slosh of sesame oil. Either way you could chill that, add a touch of balsamic vinegar, and make it a salad.

      1. WestsideStory*

        Zucchini – I rotate the recipes from my mom:
        – thin sliced zucchini sautéed with tomato and basil
        – thin sliced new potatoes and zucchini sautéed with oregano and bit of onio
        – thin sliced zucchini steamed or water-sautéed then mixed with butter and Parmesan cheese (I like yellow zucchini for this one)

    12. Cardboard Marmalade*

      I make various sauces that I then freeze in small quantities to pull out and use in the winter:

      -salsa verde
      -a red chili/ginger/garlic paste that I use for stir fry
      -applesauce from elderly/bruised/”seconds” apples and pears
      -pesto, of course
      -ginger-rhubarb compote (goes great on pancakes or mixed into yogurt)

      Basically I’m too lazy/intimidated to try my hand at canning, but plenty of things that wouldn’t have the proper ph to be shelf stable in a jar will freeze great.

    13. carcinization*

      Hahaha it’s way too hot for even the summer produce here and has been for weeks, but the homegrown tomatoes from my mom’s garden last month sure were lovely while they lasted! The other summer produce I usually hear folks saying they need to use up is zucchini, and Smitten Kitchen has a bunch of good recipes for that/for summer squash in general. I fairly recently made a version of her zucchini pizza with some tatume squash from my husband’s co-worker’s garden, for example. You do have basil in your name, if I had a bunch of basil I would definitely make pesto, obviously there are a bunch of recipes out there depending on what you like (pine nuts or no, parmesan or no, etc.).

    14. Bluebell*

      I haven’t been to the farmers market as much as I’d hoped, but when I do get there, my fave options are grilled zucchini, gazpacho, lots of corn on the cob, and the butter zucchini pasta recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Oh, and peach shrub is wonderful (also from SK)

    15. Ajjjjaner*

      Panzarella salad!!

      So customizable!! So tomato-y and as bready as you like !!

      Also a big fan of using corn off the cob and cold cooked black beans and fresh tomato slices as a foundation for a salad.

    16. Coral Honeysuckle*

      Beets/fennel/blood orange/capers
      Watermelon/fresh figs/yellow cherry tomatoes/feta
      Tomatoes/cucumbers/Vidalia onions

      All with oil and vinegar (or lemon juice), salt and pepper, to taste.

  6. Posture activities*

    Does anyone have any good ideas of what I can do while also practicing good posture? My hobbies tend to encourage being hunched by default. I want to practice good posture more, but am finding I get distracted easily. I am hoping some activities to go along with it will help me stick to it.

    1. Jackalope*

      I found that ballroom dancing helped with this a lot. Don’t know if that interests you but you could certainly give it a try.

    2. Might Be Spam*

      Any kind of dancing will help your posture. I do a couple of different kinds of folk dance and it isn’t expensive (unless you get hooked on traveling to lots of festivals.)
      This weekend I’m at Irish Fest in Milwaukee. I got some free tickets, so I can go all 4 days.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Ballet saved my posture during the pandemic. There are a ton of classes for adults online (including seated ballet – also known as chair ballet) if you just want to focus on the upper half of your body. The nice thing about learning via video is that you can do as much or as little as works for you on a specific day, and you can adapt it to work on your body and what you want to focus on.

      My ballet teacher has a series of 10 beginner videos available on YouTube – search for “Patricia Zhou ballet” and then go to #1 in the beginner series to get started. She also has a subscription platform which gives you access to a wide range of video classes for a monthly fee.

      Additionally, English National Ballet have a platform called BalletActive which has adult ballet classes and lots of other non-ballet dance content too.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Pilates and yoga, if that’s at all your thing. Every position is about holding good form and improving the core muscles make it easier to hold yourself up. I find it’s a nice way to stretch away sleepiness too.

    5. Just here for the scripts*

      My Pilates instructor always says to slide your shoulder blades into your pants/shorts back pockets. It is. A gentle image and totally rests my posture

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Shiatsu I found helpful in a lot of ways I didn’t expect, and less hunching was one of them.

    7. The Shenanigans*

      I’ve found fencing/rapier fighting to help a lot with that. I do it for free through the Society for Creative Anachronism. If you are near any kind of population center, you likely have a group nearby. Its fun! We dress up in garb and medieval-style armor/safety gear (but up to modern standards) and have at it.

    8. Zephy*

      No, but thanks for the shrimp check, and I’ll be following this thread for suggestions as well LMAO

    9. ampersand*

      A bit of a tangent, but after I read your question I sat up straight and the headache I’ve had all day diminished by at least 90 percent pretty much immediately. So…thank you. :)

    10. Anono-me*

      If you really want to improve your posture and have an annoying younger sibling that you see often; The quickest way to improve your posture is to give the sibling the ok to give you a poke in the ribs while saying things like ‘No slouching.’ or ‘Stand up straight. ‘

  7. Waiting on the bus*

    Documentaries! Does anyone have favourites? Or maybe favourite educational channels on YouTube?

    I want to get back into watching documentaries. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube available. Back in the day I preferred science and history documentaries but right now I just want to get back into the habit of watching them at all, so I’m open to anything. The only thing I don’t like is a largely speculative narrative or when it’s presented overly dramatically (which I remember could be a thing with history documentaries).

    1. misspiggy*

      BBC has some excellent documentaries, especially the Panorama series and the BBC4 arts and history documentaries. A lot were produced a while back but are still very much worth watching.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Unfortunately the BBC’s budget for new programming is limited, so BBC4 doesn’t produce new documentaries, however some of the older stuff is worth watching again. I liked some of the music and history programmes with Tom Service and Suzy Klein.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      If you’re in a Canada (no idea if it works in other places), there’s the Knowledge Network. They have a lot of documentaries. But it’s a bit like TV; episodes are only available for a set period of time. It’s free though.

    3. Kafka*

      If you like niche stuff, defunctland on YouTube has done a few full length documentaries on different things related to Disney that are super interesting and he goes all in, while also being humorous but serious.

      If you’re into music history the new Netflix limited series (4 episodes, around 2 hours in total to watch it all) about the history of women in hip hop was a great watch and myself and my husband learned a lot as fans of the genre. It’s well done enough I think anyone would enjoy.

      I also watch a lot of sports documentaries as well as historical ones which can be hit or miss as you mentioned.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I personally enjoy pretty much anything with Ken Burns’ name on it. Otherwise, my favorites are on PBS (as are most of Ken Burns’ library), which is free to stream on a computer (I think) or $5/month donation to stream on a Roku/Apple TV etc. American Experience has a lot of good stuff, ranging from an oomphy 3-parter about WW1 to the history of jeans, like the pants. I just watched a fairly recent episode of theirs about early Black folks in the American diplomat service. The Poisoner’s Handbook is excellent (as is the book of the same name).

      I watch quite a bit on Netflix, but mostly true crime, so that doesn’t help you much. If you’re interested in sports, they sometimes have some of the ESPN 30 for 30, and pretty much all of those have been interesting. They also (I think) have “The Last Dance,” the 9-parter about Michael Jordan, which probably could have been shorter but was still interesting.

    5. Bob Howard*

      Search Youtube for “Hotels Of The L.M.S.”. A brilliant but accidental depiction of British social attitudes in the 1930’s.

    6. Dear liza dear liza*

      Lucy Worsley’s documentaries about British history are great fun. Generally available on YouTube.

      BREAK POINT on Netflix, about professional tennis, was very interesting to this non-sports watcher.

      PEPSI, WHERES MY JET (Netflix) is a light hearted look at a Pepsi contest that went sideways.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Inside the Body of Henry VIII on YouTube. Recommended here and I found it really fascinating, combining history with modern understanding of how the body works.

      Antarctica: A Year on Ice seems to be on Amazon. About wintering over at the Antarctic research stations. (Stations, plural, one of many things I learned in this documentary.)

    8. GoryDetails*

      For a documentary-lite series, maybe Aerial America? It features a different US state (or sometimes theme, like national parks or notable cities) per hour-long episode, with lots of aerial-photography segments touching on various elements of the history, culture, and geography of the specific topic. I’ve often learned about incidents I hadn’t heard of before, sending me off to do more research on my own.

      For food-history-plus-actual-recipes, Tasting History with Max Miller on YouTube: he presents historical recipes along with info about the sources, the times, etc., and is very entertaining. (His posts tend to be fairly short – less than half an hour – and are posted weekly.)

      I’m also fond of Caitlin Doughty’s “Ask a Mortician” posts on YouTube, though she’s slowed down her posting rate recently. Her topics are usually related to funeral practices, but have included scandalous behavior by certain funeral directors, political machinations over the approval of “water cremation”, and a look at the disastrous sinking of the excursion ship Eastland – at its Chicago dock…

    9. bassclefchick*

      I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m looking forward to the Netflix documentary on Hedy Lamarr. She’s so interesting! She basically invented WiFi.

      I did start watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War. It was good, but I was too slow and it was removed from Netflix before I finished. I really should see if I can find it.

      I’m finding Netflix to be a good source of documentaries. Sure, they have just about every true crime documentary you could wish for, but they have plenty of other topics. I enjoy the animal documentaries. President Obama also did one called Working about everyday people at work.

    10. Mitchell Hundred*

      My personal favourite is Frederick Wiseman’s documentary about the New York Public Library. I would warn anyone considering it to watch the trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddjnbbjl0kM) and seriously ask themselves if they want to see three and a half hours of scenes like that. Because that’s what the movie is.

      To be clear, I personally love it. But I am also aware that my tastes are not universally shared.

        1. Mitchell Hundred*

          Apparently Kanopy is the only place where you can stream it, so I guess check to see if your library has that.

          1. Nitpicker*

            They don’t unfortunately. It’s the New York Public Library so not being able to watch it is kind of ironic.

      1. pandq*

        I so agree with you. And The U.S. and the Holocaust by Ken Burns is hard to watch but powerful.

    11. *daha**

      Here’s two late 50s-educational films – still worth watching today. Donald in Mathmagic Land and Hemo The Magnificent. Both are on youtube.

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

      LGBTQ+ Edition:

      *Before Stonewall* (lesbian and gay life in America from the 1920s-1960s before the Stonewall uprising; not good with trans and bi representation, though).

      *Paris Is Burning* (gay and trans Black and Latinx drag balls in 1980s NY, the inspiration for *Pose*; problematic as the filmmaker was not from that community and profited off the community without their getting much, if any, benefit).

      *Screaming Queens* (transwomen in 1960s San Francisco leading up to the Compton’s Cafeteria riot, which predated Stonewall; made by trans scholar Susan Stryker when she was a graduate student)

      *A Normal Girl* (short film mostly about intersex advocate Pidgeon Pagonis, who co-produced)

      *Free CeCe* (about trans incarceration activist Cece McDonald, who was charged for fighting off an unprovoked attack)

      *Welcome to Chechnya* (about the recent state-sponsored violence against gays and lesbians in Chechnya and the brave folks smuggling them to new lives; not for the faint of heart; you may want to be ready to fast forward over graphic footage of police brutality and police rape)

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

        Also, *We Exist: Beyond the Binary* (about college sports star Lauren Lubin’s realization that they were non-binary; Lauren Lubin produced and wrote the script as well).

    13. Pippa K*

      We’ve really liked the Taco Chronicles on Netflix. Haven’t seen the most recent season but the first one had episodes set in various places on Mexico, each tracing a different style of taco, and it was gorgeous and interesting. And made me hungry, of course! It’s in Spanish but there’s English dubbing or subtitles, I think. Really enjoyable.

    14. Chaordic One*

      “Grey Gardens.” The original 1975 documentary about the mother and daughter both named Edie Beale. (The HBO movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, and based on the documentary was pretty good, too.)

    15. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I (woman in my 50s with absolutely no interest in car racing) really love Drive to Survive on Netflix. It’s a behind the scenes look at Formula 1 and is more about the people and how the cars get built than it is about the races. They also don’t only focus on the top three or four teams

      1. Robin*

        I’m a woman in my 50’s with zero interest in the NFL and I loved “quarterbacks” on Netflix. I was so sucked into the Super Bowl it led up to at the end, knowing full well it was from LAST YEAR! I was yelling at my TV like I was watching Alabama play TN. Since I don’t follow the NFL, I had no idea who had won! I was invested!

    16. Fiona*

      “Judy Blume Forever” is on Amazon Prime – I grew up with her but my husband has never read a single one of her books and still loved the doc!

      Echoing “Crip Camp” as someone else mentioned.

    17. pandq*

      Perhaps more of a reality tv show than a documentary but I really enjoyed Netflix’s “Churchill’s Secret Agents” which has modern day folks go through the training that SOE agents did during WW2. They follow the same training manual that was used during the war to train the agents. I found it fascinating.

    18. The Shenanigans*

      How The States Got Their Shapes. It’s older but has some fun information on why some states look like a distracted toddler drew them, and other states are more square. It also talks about different ways to look at the US instead of by state, e.g., by accent.

      Pretty much anything from American Experience is worth a watch as well.

      David Starkey’s Monarchy is also interesting.

    19. FoodGloriousFood*

      If you get the History Channel I really love the Food that Built America series (if you have the live channel they tend to show episodes most of the day on Sundays). On Anazon Prime I really enjoyed Judy Blume Forever.

    20. Harriet J*

      “High on the Hog” on Netflix. The focus is on how African-Americans influenced American cuisine (Mac & cheese!). In addition there are also lots of fascinating insights – cowboys are “boys” because initially many were enslaved Blacks.

    21. Cardboard Marmalade*

      There’s a pretty great documentary about all the various political protests that went on at/around the 1968 Olympics, available on YouTube. I leaned so much from it, and it’s narrated by Serena Williams. It’s called “1968: A Mexico City Documentary”, if you want to search for it.

      My current favorite educational YouTuber is Bernadette Banner. She is a sewing/fashion/costume historian and has a really great energy: soothing, but engaging and inspiring. My favorite episodes of hers are the ones where she takes terrible cheap “historical” Halloween costumes as inspiration to explain (with gentle snark and gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations) what a more period-accurate outfit would look like.

    22. Other Duties as Assigned*

      Seconding anything by Ken Burns; check out the country music one even if you’re not a fan of the genre. I also recommend most things in the BBC Earth series narrated by Sir David Attenborough like Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, etc. (seen in the U.S. on BBC America on Saturday afternoons and evenings). These Saturday evening showings became a “comfort viewing” ritual for me during the pandemic.

      Also of value are programs hosted by British author and historian Dr. Tracy Borman; many of these have run on the Smithsonian Channel in the U.S.

      My absolute favorite is Time Team, a program on archaeology from Britain’s Channel 4 (episodes ran in the U.S. on the sorely missed History International channel). Hosted by actor Tony Robinson (he played Baldrick on Black Adder), each episode is filmed over a three-day archaeology dig, sometimes in response to a viewer request. The scientists in the cast are really entertaining and as they discover things, the viewer is along for the ride. They did everything from prehistoric sites to WWII aircraft crashes. Most episodes were shot in the British Isles, but they did a few that were not. They produced almost 300 episodes 1994-2014, many of which are on YouTube. Much of the series is available on CD, but look out: you’ll need an all-regions player to play most of them.

    23. documentary lover*

      among my top favorites (uplifting, inspiring, light-hearted); at various times on Amazon, Netflix, Hulu. Will return if not available now!
      1. Searching for Sugarman (about failed musician-construction worker in Detroit who became cult figure in South Africa, unbeknownst to him.)
      2. Buck (wild horse tamer who uses only gentle methods.)
      3. The biggest little farm (amazing story of barren land brought back to lush farm land through restorative farming.)
      4. Bending the arc (AMAZING story of Paul Farmer who treated patients in Latin America)
      5. Twinsters (Twins adopted separately who serendipitously found each other–light hearted)
      6. Bathtubs over Broadway (very funny doc about full blown musicals geared at corporate events; recently left netflix but sure to return.)

    24. documentary lover*

      Harry and Snowman (Horse rescued from soap factory fate becomes champion)
      Eagle Huntress (Girl in Mongolia(?) trains eagle, traditionally reserved for men only.
      Docs about different minds that are beautiful and helpful to understanding:
      1. The reason I jump
      2. Far from the tree
      Nature themed:
      1. The woman who loved giraffes (lovely)
      2. Birders: the Central Park effect (on Amazon, about one hour, and beguiling–how/why people are captivated by birdwatching)
      3.The Gardener (beautiful garden created in Canada)
      4. My Garden of 1000 bees (truly amazing)
      5. My octopus teacher

    25. documentary lover*

      Strong/interesting women:
      1. Amy Tan, unintended memory
      2. My name is Pauli Murray (hidden gem)
      3. Dolores (another hidden gem, about woman who inspired/co-led Cesar Chavez movement)
      4. Molly Ivins (I think it’s the indomitable Molly Ivins but not sure of exact title)
      5. Mostly Martha (about Martha Mitchell in Nixon era)
      6. BOMBSHELL (Hedy Lamar story, incredible!)
      7. Te Ata (native American)
      8. Rita Moren Just a girl
      9. RBG

    26. documentary lover*

      Science/technology:
      1. Good night Oppy (lovely doc about Mars rover)
      2. recent doc on Webb telescope launch. don’t recall name, but believe it’s on Netflix
      Chess & other games:
      1. Magnus (fascinating chess champ)
      2. Speed cubers (sweet doc about Rubik’s cube)
      Music and dance:
      -Hallelujah (heartwarming doc about Leonard Cohen)
      -2 trains running
      -straight outta compton
      -young at heart (seniors singing)
      -Hot chocolate nutcracker
      -Dancing in Jaffa
      -mad hot ballroom
      -alive and kicking

    27. documentary lover*

      CORRECTION: RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS
      Heavy but excellent and compelling documentaries:
      1. Icarus (doping in sports)
      2.Prosecuting evil (how Nuremberg trials came to be) hidden gem
      3.First they killed my father
      Miscellaneous and missed from previous groupings:
      -Fantastic Fungi (mushrooms; fascinating)
      -Temple Grandin
      -Dr. Ruth
      -Giving voice (about monologues, very interesting)
      -If you build it
      -Muscle Shoals
      -Life Animated
      -The last breath (2019)(very short doc about deep sea diver with 5 mins left of oxygen who survived intact for over 20 mins. . .incredible story)

    28. Donkey Hotey*

      My most favorite documentary of all time (we watch it at least once a year) is The Barkley Marathons: The race that eats its young. Proper pairing is with a pint of of Ben & Jerry’s.

      Other goodies include Cane Toads and the new Netflix doc “Poisoned.” The former because it’s surreal; the latter because my father in law is in it.

    29. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Peter Zeihan geopolitical videos–usually fairly short and usually done with the high altitude parts of Colorado in the background.

  8. What's next?*

    I’ve flip flopped a bit about whether this should go in the Friday open thread or this one, but I *think* it’s ok here, as it’s about people reacting to me *not working*, not anything about actual work….however I am quite prepared to be chucked off if I’m wrong. So, I am not currently working. For years I worked at a very stressful job I hated (I am just coming to realise how much, as I thought it was normal). It paid pretty well, and I don’t currently need to work, possibly not ever. I expect I will want to one day, but have no idea what I want to do. This appears to be a problem for many many many people who think I should know. I get a lot of questions about what I do all day, what I am going to do, what my plans are, no really, what am I going to do. People get incredibly intrusive, it feels really judgmental and when I try and say I don’t know, or I am still figuring it out, they keep asking. I don’t think I should feel like I owe them answers, but it feels like they think I do. They seem really invested in my doing something they think is worthy. One acquaintance got very offended when after asking me what I do all day and me saying ‘x/y’, then saying ‘but what else do you do’, several times, I said “Well, what do you think I should be doing?”. Short of telling them that at 7am I get up, then I go for a walk then I do my laundry, or whatever, which I do not think will satisfy them at all, does anyone have any good ideas about what I can say to get them to quit?

    1. misspiggy*

      Give them a cool stare and say, “Do you mean what I want to do, or how I plan to be useful to other people? At the moment I’m just exploring what I enjoy.”

    2. allathian*

      It’s really none of their business. The sad fact is that some people, especially many of those who have a very busy schedule, simply can’t grasp that other people prefer a slower pace of life and can fill their days with going for walks, doing the laundry, and watching Netflix. Or if they understand it, some may be envious and wonder how you can afford it, even if they don’t want to ask about your finances directly.

      Perhaps it would help to say that your finances allowed you to take early retirement? Even if you intend to return to the workforce at some point, lots of retirees do that. Most people don’t ask those who’ve retired, regardless of age or state of health, how they manage to fill all the hours of the day.

      Who are these people? Are you invested in maintaining a close relationship with them? If you are, you could try explaining that you can understand their curiosity but that their incessant questions feel like they’re judging you for making different life choices than they would make, and that you need them to accept your answers and stop asking if they want to maintain a close relationship with you. If you say that, though, you must be willing to pull back if they don’t do as you ask.

      For more casual contacts you can draw a firmer line and just state that your life choices are not up for discussion. If you say “I don’t want to talk about my life choices with you” and deflect often enough, people will eventually stop asking.

      But none of this will work unless you’re willing to draw some boundaries and stick to them. If you’ve never done that before it’ll feel very uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier with time and practice.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I’m not sure which strength you’d be comfortable with, so I would put a few different strengths in your tool kit.
      Mild: “I’m really fine, and I know you’re just being a good friend, but this is starting to get annoying.”/ “I’m not bored if that’s what you’re afraid of, this is a difficult decision and one I won’t rush.”/ “I think that’s everything I do on a typical day! Can’t expect a nobel prize in there, just yet, can we?” Medium: “These past few months have really enlightened me about the work ethic of our society. Everyone seems to think I have to justify my place on the rock, suddenly. It’s quite a lonely feeling, to feel fine while everyone else is aghast, actually.” “I’m not sure what people want me to say when this routine starts, but I think I’m far away from the point of being able to say it.”
      Strong: “You do realise that when my answers aren’t good enough, that it’s not really a question?”, “I don’t remember asking for advice about my day, so I strongly suspect this is unsolicited advice”/ “I’m starting to feel like you want me to want your approval”, /”Concern is one thing, but once you’ve checked that I’m fine, what is it you’re doing here?”/ “I’m going to ask that this stops once and for all. I don’t know how long it will take me to recover from working in actual hell, but I know that these conversations set me back.”
      If none of these answer to the context, I’ve also had success with “Can I ask you to do something for me..” Friends, even when they are being terrible bores are usually just trying to help and have nothing to offer but what they’ve made up on the spot. If you phrase the request of “please stop asking me to reiterate my schedule” as asking for a favour it gives them the message that you trust them to do as you ask and if you add “just ask me how I’m doing and I will tell you” it also gives their concern some direction. Good luck! This sounds exhausting for all concerned.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          No problem at all; it really reminded me of when I was divorcing and told my friends I wasn’t going to date for at least a year. They freaked out and initiated Plan Anti Nun with a lot of not at all subtle fixups and concerned advice. I had to put my foot down and essentially say, dudes chill, I will have men carry me around on a litter as soon as you let me process my shit.

    4. elvie*

      Can you pick a couple short neutral answers that you can repeat until they stop asking?(I’m thinking of the “broken record” strategy, Captain Awkward has some useful posts about pushy relatives/people) You can also stay vague and try to redirect the conversation “Oh lots of things like x and z. So, what about [different topic]?”

      I think people get weirdly judgemental when you don’t have a job, because work is such a big part of most people’s lives and it’s difficult for them to imagine not having that. For some people work is even fulfilling. But pushing you like that (and getting offended! wtf) is obnoxious, and you certainly don’t owe them answers about anything.
      Sorry you’re dealing with that

    5. InvisibleFish*

      Well, are you comfortable being sarcastic? Because if I were in your position, I would tell people I was working to get myself into the best physical shape of my life so that I could finally pursue my dream of becoming an “adult” performer. How annoying they were when questioning me would determine how crass my chosen noun(s) would be in the moment. (And I do NOT mean any disrespect to anyone in any “adult performance” job – those can be draining jobs with an element of potential danger to the workers, and heaven knows I’m not willing to work that hard to look that good!!! – I just know that this would be a surprising enough response it would stop some people in their tracks.).

      1. Lulu*

        Or how about “I lie on the couch, watch soap operas and eat bonbons. What would you do if you didn’t have to work?”

      2. What's next?*

        I have considered saying that I am writing a book and I am having a lot of fun putting people I know in as characters….

    6. Martha*

      I have a seasonal job where 4 months out of the year I don’t work. When people ask what I do with my time I say “I’m retired, everyday is Sat” and that generally gets them off my back. Some people seem to struggle with that concept and get more persistent with how I spend my time, so I just tell them “I do whatever I want, including spending time with family& friends, cooking, travel—its wonderful!” and I say it with a big smile and clear joy and that has been effective for me (so far).
      I think some of the pushiness coming from people is them struggling with their own concepts of work and societal value so when I express to them I’m truly happy they have to look inward, rather than outward.

    7. Still*

      Honestly, I love your answer “Well, what do you think I should be doing?” The reason your acquaintance got offended is because you called them out on the fact they were being judgemental about something that is none of their business.

      It sounds like you’re in a lovely position and I suspect people are envious, plus it goes against what we’ve been told about needing to be productive every second of every day – that can be hard to shake off! But that doesn’t justify anyone pestering you. You don’t owe anyone an account of your activities. Feel free to be vague, turn it around on them, or only stick to the parts you’re excited to talk about.

      “Oh, you know, this and that”. “That’s between me and my calendar!” “Why do you ask?” “How about you, what would you do if you didn’t need to work for a stretch of time?” “You seem oddly interested in my schedule.” “I like to think of it as a practice run for my retirement!” Or even “Oh, absolutely nothing at all, it’s been great”.

    8. Maybe*

      If someone is insistent or keeps wanting an answer (that satisfies them), you could just turn it around and be the one asking the questions, and keep asking them until they run out of steam. It’s like gray-rocking, but with questions. “Why are you so concerned about this?” “It sounds like this is really bugging you, what’s going on?” “Is this more about you than about me?” “If I’m not that concerned, why can’t you let this go?” “What are YOUR plans? Is there a change in your life that would have a lot of meaning for you?” “What do YOU want out of life?” “Have you ever done something that people around you didn’t understand, but you knew it was right for you?”

    9. My Brain is Exploding*

      Best answer I heard once to “but what do you do all day?” = “all the things you would do if you weren’t working.” Things that take TIME – cooking meals from scratch, exercising, reading, hobbies, etc.

    10. Sloanicota*

      Solidarity. When I was on self-imposed sabbatical, I was astonished to find how easily I could fill whole days just sort of … puttering around. I wasn’t bored at all! If you don’t have a lot to do, that one afternoon errand or appointment seems to fill up all your space. These people bugging you probably just can’t imagine how you’re filling the time day after day. “Oh, I keep busy running the house” if that’s true, might feel true to you, or “it’s amazing how there always seems to be something to do around the apartment” or whatever?

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      I actually really like “Well, what do you think I should be doing?” said with wide-eyed interest. I think most people will realize that they are a bit out of line and can talk about the weather instead. And a few might toss out “Sail across the Atlantic obviously!” or some other thing that might actually ping as “Huh, I now have time to actually try that.”

    12. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’m not a fan of the suggestions to say something that would come across as mean-spirited, even though you say you’re fed up with the questions. I’d answer more along the lines of, “You know, living my best life,” “Glad to be out of the rat race,” “Working on finding myself,” “One of these days I’ll know what I want to be when I grow up.”

      You’re in a situation of privilege that the vast majority of people aren’t in. They might be coming from a place of curiosity, bewilderment, envy, or even anger. Why engage with their negative emotions? Doing so might send the message that you agree with their fundamental premise that you don’t deserve the situation you’re in. And in any event it’s not going to make those negative emotions become positive emotions toward you.

      1. somehow*

        I think the whole “privileged” theme is wayyy over-thinking things. It’s not at all mean-spirited to push back against others’ rudeness. The focus being on the reaction to what people do, instead of being on the people who cause the problem in the first place, just seems…odd.

    13. Generic Name*

      Can you say you retired early? I mean, if I didn’t have to work, I’d love to not do it. Or are they demanding to know how you fill your hours? With a heavy dollop of Protestant Work Ethic judgement. If it’s the latter, you can always say, “Why do you ask?” Or maybe “Are you really asking for an accounting of how I spend my days?”

    14. Just a Name looking for a recommendation*

      As a relatively new retiree, I get that question as well. Although with a bit less judgment. I can’t recall where I read it, but the line “I like to do nothing in the morning so I have my afternoons free” seems to be flippant enough to stop them in their tracks.

      1. Katiekins*

        “I get up at twelve and start to work at one.
        Take an hour for lunch and then at two I’m done!”

        (Jolly good fun.)

      2. What's next?*

        Nice to know I am not alone! I’m going to give this one a try (probably after a few drinks).

    15. Darin R*

      If you really want to get them to stop asking and don’t mind a little shock value for fun, just say “Oh, I also watch SOOOO much porn.”

    16. River Park*

      I dropped out of the work force for about 5 years in my 40s just bc I could. I got these questions as well. I also got questions about how I could afford to not work.

      Mostly, these questions came from a place of curiosity, and I encourage you to frame them this way. People are flabbergasted bc just not working is so inaccessible to most people that they have trouble wrapping their head about someone just doing that. A lot of people also have no idea how they would spend their time if they didn’t work-I know a number of people who are not retiring bc they haven’t figured out what they will do for those 8 hours a day. It’s actually a big problem with retirees.

      When you look at things through the lens of “they just can’t fathom how this would work,” it’s understandable why your friend got upset. From her perspective, she’s just trying to understand what it looks like not to work, and you snapped at her.

      I told people I was retired. Using that word put my situation into a frame work that they understood. I also did a ton of stuff- I read a lot, I baked, I volunteered, all the stuff people suggest that retirees should do. One of my go tos was something like, “I work on my garden, I read, I generally live the happy life of a retired person.” Pair it with a big Alfred E. Newman grin, and people usually chuckle in response.

      When they ask me how I can afford it, I say I have savings. Bc I do. And the existence of savings is not something people should be prickly about revealing.

      I wouldn’t bother with any of these responses that are designed to put the asker in their place and make them feel bad about asking. You have already seen how that backfires with your friend.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This is a great way to frame it–most people understand retirement as Thing You Can Do, whereas “I’m taking a multi year break” triggers all sorts of “But how?” questions.

        Even if you’re relatively young, early retirement is definitely a known phenomenon (you might want to take some care that people don’t automatically assume you made a killing in the stock market and want to borrow money!) and the word itself seems pretty synonymous in our society with “this was planned.” It is kind of generally assumed that you don’t retire without finances and hobbies/travel/whatever in place.

    17. RagingADHD*

      There isn’t actually any way to magically force people to stop being nosy, or rude, or intrusive. But you don’t have to humor them. You just stop participating in that conversation. Stop discussing the topic.

      If you want to be friendly, say “I’m lucky to have the time right now to do what I want. So, what about you?”

      Or “Thanks for your concern, I’m fine.”

      And then ask them questions and get them talking about themselves, or another topic of mutual interest.

      If you don’t want to be friendly, you can say, “I don’t see how it’s any of your concern. Excuse me.”

      And then you walk away and don’t talk to them anymore.

      You can’t control other people, but you can make choices for yourself.

    18. Girasol*

      That question was the bane of my early retirement! Everyone asks it, all the time, even really nice people, even friends. They seem to pooh-pooh any answer that doesn’t involve a job, too, as though there’s nothing in this world worth doing if it doesn’t result in money. (The constant magazine article advice that you must never retire without a job lined up or else you’ll go all dotty and die does not help.) I do a bit of volunteering and I would launch into describing my most recent day at it. It sounds worky. If my day was interesting it was a good answer, and if I was boring enough I could win a change of subject.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Same. Retired at 61 and would have a year earlier except my husband (who was already retired) kept saying “but what will you do?” Then I realized that a) I wasn’t sure I wanted to *do* anything in particular and b) I couldn’t figure that out while I was still working. Two years later I’m still happily figuring it out and people are still asking.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Uh, to me the entire point of retiring is to NOT have to have a job lined up!

        I get the need for some structure and direction (the trope of the retired husband who ends up following his spouse around and driving them bananapants is a cliche for a reason) but honestly, I would hope I have enough inner resources and things I want to do that I don’t have to choose between working until my last breath or sinking into the great void of nothingness!

        1. Girasol*

          I always thought that retirement was not having a job too, but these days it seems to mean getting Social Security payments, ideally while still working. Yeah, makes no sense to me either.
          I really did struggle to figure out what I wanted to do when I quit work, which was why “But what do you DO??” bugged me. Ever since I was five years old I’d had someone to tell me where to go and what to do and what my priorities should be for a large portion of my life. It felt weird to have my whole life to myself. It took a little getting used to. But it’s better to work through that than to rush off to another job just because not having outside direction is a bit uncomfortable at first.

    19. Anonymous for This*

      I retired early because I felt like I was becoming unwell from job stress. (Unfortunately, I was and had to deal with it anyway but at least I didn’t have to deal with that and going to a demanding job.)

      People asked me if I didn’t think I’d get bored, especially as I was someone who had always worked a high-pressure job with long hours.

      My response was that I could sit and watch paint dry all day and not get bored as long as it was my paint on my wall. They had nothing more to say.

      Note: The only work I ever did again was a couple of stints back at my old company when they needed some temp help.

    20. I'm just here for the cats!*

      are these friends or just people you know? I could see friends asking more intrusive questions but they should know enough to lay off. Acquaintances need to mind their own business. if someone gets upset let them. or you could say WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?

      I’m assuming you are younger than the average retire so that’s probably where they are getting this from

    21. Old Plant Woman*

      Sounds like you escaped the jaws of death with the grand prize of enough money to take your sweet time deciding on your next adventure. Anyone who doesn’t like it can take a very long hike. Have a blast!

    22. The Shenanigans*

      I’d jump straight to “Well, what do you think I should do?” if they ask. Say it with a quizzical smile. Once they start sputtering, then ask what they do. They’ll be so distracted talking about themselves they might forget all about you.

      The sad fact is adults in the US got sold a bill of goods about productivity being next to godliness and feel very offended that many people are now rethinking their priorities. It makes them feel silly for listening to the propaganda, and that makes them double down. However, none of that is your problem.

    23. What's next?*

      Thank-you, everyone, these responses have been super interesting and it has been great getting all the different perspectives. Some of them really hit home (hello, allathian’s suggestion about the need to learn to set boundaries). Thanks again for your help.

      1. allathian*

        Glad I could help! I grew up as a people-pleaser in a secular but culturally Lutheran household, surrounded by the protestant work ethic. My parents meant well, there was no abuse, they were supportive if not particularly demonstrative. Both of my parents were in academia and although my mom was a SAHM until my younger sister started school, I rarely saw her idle unless she was reading something. Both my parents were readers and passed that on to me and my sister, and I internalized the protestant work ethic early. My parents thankfully never expected straight As, but doing one’s best at school was a given. It’s only in my 40s that I really started to question any of it and recognize that there’s more to life than work.

        I think you’re very lucky, and I’d also quit working in a heartbeat if I could afford to do so, and I don’t think I’d have any trouble finding things to occupy my mind and time.

    24. Samwise*

      Your response—what do you think I should be doing— is perfect. Use that. Over and over and over.

      Another option: I’m very fortunate, I’m retired.

      Also, you know, you don’t have to continue these “conversations “. “Let’s move on to another topic.” If they don’t, end the conversation. Say goodbye and hang up, log out of the zoom, walk away…

    25. DW99*

      Perhaps try the broken-record technique, whereby you repeat the same words, or virtually the same words, every time the same question is posed. And at some point, you shift the conversation to another topic.
      – Them: So what do you do every day?
      – You: I’m figuring out what I want to do down the road.
      – Them: But what does that entail?
      – You: I’m figuring out what to do down the road.
      – Them: I’m asking you for specifics.
      – You: That’s as specific as I can be. I’m figuring out what to do down the road.
      – Them: I don’t know why you’re being so evasive. I only want to help.
      – You: And I’ve answered you. Now: Tell me what’s new with you.

      Don’t ever engage with a comment or question that will take you off this highway. For ex., don’t respond with “I’m not being evasive” etc. — don’t give them anything that will lead to a different conversation, with you on the defensive. Answer the initial question, repeat that answer, and after 3 or 4 prods, shift to a different topic.

      The questioners won’t like this, and you have to be ready to withstand their temporary disapproval, chilliness, etc. Bottom line: You have a right to set boundaries. These *repeated* questions violate your boundaries, just as a question such as “Tell me your most private sexual fantasy” crosses a boundary — and if you think of these questions as being almost equally intrusive, you’ll accept your right to set (and hold!!!) your boundaries. Good luck.

  9. Aphrodite*

    I don’t know if you’d consider her videos to be documentaries but anything by Lucy Worsley.

  10. Ellis Bell*

    Gardening people! If you had a large corner of your garden going unused, what kind of things might you do with it temporarily? I have the top left hand section of my patch looking pretty bare right now. I had covered it in black plastic for a spell to get rid of persistent and invasive plants, (raspberry brambles and a snowberry forest with roots like iron lace) and now that’s done, the plan to make a patio there has to be held off due to finances, for over the winter at least. Problem is my living room french doors look out over it and all I see is the massive tree which is in its foreground which directs the eye straight to the muddy bare patch beyond. I would like something pretty Christmassy there, I think, but it would have to be something that could be easily dug up when we’re ready to make the patio. It’s in the northwest UK, so mild winter with some frost and the garden soil is acidic, (judging by a thriving camellia) and a bit clay. It’s about three metres square.

    1. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

      I like silverbeet because it’s easy to grow, and (snow)peas because they’re easy to eat. I also have cherry tomatoes as a weed but they’re very much a summer crop. Peas might be as well depending on the nanoclimate in that bit of your garden. But silverbeet is one of those annoyingly hardy things that a lot of people don’t like eating :) It does a shallow-ish taproot that’s easy to pull up, and the stem is soft enough that a rotary mower will mow it.

      I’m in Sydney Australia so we only see snow on television, and the other 99% of what I grow is probably midsummer or nothing for you, sorry.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      There are some sparse sections in my front garden bed and I put containers there with whatever sounds appealing this year. Currently I have three tubs of calla lilies, but I’ve done petunias, zinnias and purple shamrocks in the past. Easy to swap out :)

      1. Sloanicota*

        I was going to say, perhaps a pretty pot garden, that’s easily moved, and you can do flowers or fruits and vegetables.

    3. Jen Erik*

      I think I’d say pots, like Sloanicota – any kind of planting is going to take two, three years to look like much – you could just go for a sheet of snowdrops or daffodils, but I think I’d recover it in the black plastic because it won’t hurt to give the roots another six months to surface, stick some gravel on top and if you’re planning to plant round your new patio buy those things, leave them in their pots, and then intersperse with pots of spring-flowering bulbs.
      And then for Christmas, I’d wind those battery powered lights round whatever is evergreen in the pots.

    4. Anono-me*

      Wood chips.
      Are wood chips a gardening thing where you are? If so and you don’t have a ‘dog that eats everything’; Maybe knock together a quick frame of green treated 1×4s and throw down several bags of wood chips. Set out a few pieces of your patio furniture (with pavers in front of the chairs) and a few pots of winter interest plants.

      The big reason I suggest wood chips over gravel or river rock is easy of installing and especially ease of removal. Shoveling up stone is hard. Either material (if it won’t crest standing water) I would leave the plastic underneath it.

      If you do have a dog, please remember the the coco mulch can be tempting for them to eat, but is dangerous.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Oh god, definitely avoid the river rock if you don’t want it there forever. The stripper I bought my house from just kept piling more and more and more and now I can’t dig in any of my gardens because it’s just layers and layers of rocks.

      2. WestsideStory*

        I would not suggest wood chips or gravel as both are expensive and a pain to remove. What I would suggest, if the area is flat, is some of that outdoor carpeting – this could be a nice base for a seating area and just get rolled up and discarded. Something like sisal if you want a natural look.
        See if artificial grass is available in your area. Fake sod has come a long way since it’s tacky beginnings and has a very natural look.

    5. Time for Tea*

      I typed a long reply earlier and then the site crashed and lost it on me…

      Short answer, put grass seed down, there’s enough time for it to sprout and look ok before the winter. Cheap and cheerful.

      Snowdrop, crocus and other spring bulbs round your tree.

      Viburnum Tinus Eve Price or Lisa Rose is evergreen and winter flowering. Will get big if left but fairly slow growing, can keep trimmed or in a pot to keep it to a size you like.

    6. Gathering Moss*

      Could you just throw down some meadow seed mix and let things grow wild until you’re ready to do something more structured?

    7. Madame Arcati*

      I have an empty bed in my garden (had a lawn laid and neither the money nor the inclination to immediately fill all the new beds with plants) and I have declared it a rewilding area with a mix of meadow seeds aimed to please birds and butterflies (you can get them in the garden centre easily). I’ve also got bluebell bulbs in order!
      In another area I am going to plant a mix of spring bulbs – narcissus tete a tete, crocuses, and something else with a complicated name that sounds like a dinosaur – to come up in early spring when most other things are dormant and look cheerful from the patio doors!

  11. The Prettiest Curse*

    In honour of the recent (unnecessary) resurrection of “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, please tell me what you consider to be the worst song ever recorded. (I’m not talking about songs that fall into the “bad but enjoyable” category, like “Friday” by Rebecca Black, but songs that are just flat out bad.)

    One of my all-time worst is a song called “No Way No Way” by a forgotten late-90s girl band/Spice Girls imitators called Vanilla. The video is also atrocious and the song will be stuck in your head forever if you hear it once, so you’ve been warned. So, please share your worst songs below!

    1. Vio*

      Probably the Thong Song. I forget who it was by but I remember it being on the radio ALL THE TIME. Even if it had been a good song it would have been annoying how often, but it’s really, really awful. Might just be a personal quirk though because I can sometimes come across as a little too prudish and maybe overly judgemental on how people prioritise fashion over comfort (I have been assured that “Just wear something comfortable” is not a good response to complaints of bruised feet from wearing heels).
      But even aside from the article of clothing, the song is, in my opinion, just plain awful and would still be awful even if it was about a comfortable pair of socks.

    2. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

      “Who let the dogs out” is high on my list of horrible songs. As is “How Bizarre”.

      I could live without another electronica compilation ever including Silence by Sarah Mclachlan in one of the many remixs of that song. Nice song thrashed beyond the point of sanity then brought back by best of compilations so it can be thrashed again (beating a zombie horse?).

      1. Anonymous for This*

        I think “Who Let the Dogs Out” is cute and I think of “Men In Black II” when I hear it.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Oh, and how could I have forgotten “Diamond Lights” by Hoddle and Waddle? Two late 80s/early 90s footballers team up to record a ballad, and it doesn’t end well. I think the only reason they were persuaded into recording that song is that their surnames rhymed. It definitely wasn’t based on singing ability, because they don’t have any.

      Songs by sports stars are almost a special category of badness. See also: “Fog on the Tyne” by Gazza.

      1. Blythe*

        Agreed. But there was a parody done by some lawyers (??) in New Zealand (??) that is SO SO SO good!

    4. AlliterativeApple*

      Wow I had forgotten that no way song existed! My vote goes to Daphne & Celeste with that ooh stickbyou song. Awful, awful song (that I totally loved as a kid..)

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Just after that song came out, Daphne and Celeste played a music festival in the UK and got so much stuff thrown at them by the audience that they had to leave the stage. The song is definitely bad, but not bad enough to throw things at the performers!

    5. Angstrom*

      Bad songs or bad recorded performances?
      In the later category, there’s the imfamous Willam Shatner recording of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”(and pretty much that whole album).

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        There’s also a YouTube channel of two young Italian guys/insanely talented musicians where they cover pop songs in new ways–they turn Barbie Girl into this moody black and white ballad and it’s honestly great!

    6. WellRed*

      We Built This City by the Starship. It’s the most un “rock and roll” song ever about … rock and roll. I also hate Rhiannas “we found love in a hopeless place” and Sir Paul’s “wonderful Christmas Time” both because apparently varied lyrics were too much of an ask?

    7. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Hey There Delilah by the Plain White Tees. It was on every radio station every hour for MONTHS! It was so bad that the woman it was written about (Delilah DiCrescenzo, a nationally ranked runner) was uncomfortable everywhere she went, feeling guilty that she turned down the lead singer (because she was in a long-term dedicated relationship and had literally just met him through a friend).
      So it’s not only a terrible song, it actively made the subject of the song feel awful for a long time. AND on top of that, pretty much every article about it talks only about the guy who wrote it and how he was inspired by her mere presence.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, that’s a terrible song. Every time I hear it, I think that if I was Delilah, I wouldn’t touch the dude singing the song with a 10ft pole.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Not everyone has their stalking experience turned into a hit song! Good Lord, what a horror show.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Yikes, I assumed the Delilah was a reference to Samson and Delilah or something, like that it was symbolic. I didn’t know it was about a real person.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has always struck me as so incredibly misguided & ethnocentric that I can’t listen to it.

      I love Blondie, but cannot stand “Rapture.” Not a big fan of rap, but really not a big fan of bad rapping.

      1. Anonymous for This*

        Thank you for that comment about “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.

        The people they are singing about weren’t necessarily Christian so why the bleep should they know or care about some other faith’s holiday?

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          “The people they are singing about weren’t necessarily Christian so why the bleep should they know or care about some other faith’s holiday?”

          It’s even worse than that: the song was about the Ethiopian famine so first of all, many Ethiopians have been Christian since the 4th Century and two: are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church so they don’t observe Christmas in December anyway.

          The line that fills me with intense irritation is the “And there’ll be no snow in Africa this Christmas time…” I mean…

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Agreed, the lyrics are awful and culturally tone-deaf to the point of total unlistenability.

        I’ve also always hated the equivalent American song ‘We Are The World”. The lyrics of that song aren’t insensitive, just incredibly bland. But the music is so saccharine that it makes Ronan Keating sound like death metal. Considering the incredible musical talent involved, you’d think they could have come up with something better, but maybe they ran out of time!

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Ugh, that effin’ Christmas song is so “well meaning white people cheer themselves up…” Every time I hear it I want to shriek “Probably! They know what a damn calendar is, guys!” Most modern Christmas music is hot garbage.

        You just made me think of my own pick, Christmas Shoes. Although I actually am thrilled that it exists because the video of Patton Oswald destroying it line by line is worth its weight in gold!

      4. EngineerResearcher*

        In the vein of christmas songs, I cannot freaking stand “Christmas Shoes” it is awful. It has nothing to do with the holiday, I don’t know why it still gets airtime.

      5. J. Jonah Jameson*

        I just found out this week that Rapture was the first rap video played on MTV. And Jean-Michel Basquiat is the DJ in the video (because Grandmaster Flash no-showed to the shoot). All it’s missing is Andy Warhol.

    9. Double A*

      Fly Like an Eagle by the Steve Miller Band. Not because it’s a badly written or performed song, but because it’s overall tone is insufferable. Like nails on a chalkboard.

    10. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      “Song” and “recorded” are both stretches, but the most awful piece of music I’ve ever heard is the Cotton Eye Joe Gregorian Chant Nightcore Hardcore Dubstep Remix. Some guy on Youtube made it and it is BAD.

    11. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

      So many disco songs.

      Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby.

      Disco duck.

      Shake, shake, shake.

      Just UGH!

    12. Forrest Rhodes*

      “Afternoon Delight” by whoever those people were.
      I know, it’s so old that nobody recognizes it now, but even on the rare occasion that it pops up on grocery-store muzak, it still annoys me.

      1. WellRed*

        Starland vocal band! My six year old self loved that song though I obviously had no idea what I was singing.

    13. Girasol*

      Hooked on a Feeling because of all the ooga chakas, or Every Breath You Take, which I’ve always thought of as the stalker song.

      1. I take tea*

        Every Breath You Take actually *is* a stalker song and Sting has reportedly been chocked and dismayed that some people think it’s a love song.

        1. allathian*

          Don’t Stand So Close To Me is no better, it’s about a young, handsome teacher who has a sexual relationship with one of his students. Given that Sting worked as an English teacher before he joined The Police, the suggestion that the song’s autobiographical have circulated for years, although Sting has denied them pretty vehemently.

      1. allathian*

        Mmm yeah. A 25 year old dating a 17 year old and making a hit song about her. That said, I hate to admit it but the song itself is very catchy and I like it more than I should…

    14. Chaordic One*

      Similar to the thread started by The Prettiest Curse, that commercial for Jardiance (a diabetes drug) is awfully annoying and something of an earworm that can get stuck in your head. The little pill with a big story to tell? Any other really annoying commercials out there that make you cringe?

      1. M&M Mom*

        That song bothers you? But I think “Jardiance is really swell”!!
        Now be singing it for the rest of the night.

      2. WellRed*

        Mom and I just this second saw the commercial for the 10oth time this week and she announced “I hate this commercial.”

    15. Falling Diphthong*

      Britney Spears’ Criminal caused me to lecture my children about the poor life choices being showcased each time it came on the radio. Not fun for any of us.

      Oh Mickey You’re So Fine has astonishing grip as an earworm.

      When Dave Barry did this (discovering that hard-bitten reporters have extremely passionate feelings about the worst song ever) MacArthur Park won, and that seems fair. A naturally arising problem is that to get a lot of votes, the song needs to be in wide circulation.

    16. goddessoftransitory*

      Ohhhhh, let’s see!

      My first thought is Dave Barry, back in the eighties/nineties, running a “worst song” contest in his column and getting piles of extremely passionate responses (as he put it, people seemed to care far more about this topic than the then presidential election.) I think the winner was MacArthur Park but I’ll have to reread.

      (Also had a flashback to Joel and the ‘bots breaking down The Pina Colada song!)

      As for my personal selection, it’s hard to say–basically, any song that refuses to leave me the hell alone while I’m trying to sleep and forces me to mentally sing 100 Bottles of Beer for twenty minutes to get it to bugger off. This can be anything from Barbie Girl to the Adventure Time theme, though.

    17. Mimmy*

      Oooh lots of good choices already mentioned! I particularly echo My Sharona and How Bizarre.

      My choice: I Get Knocked Down by Chumbawamba

    18. mmmmmmmBop*

      Just goes to show everything is a matter of taste! I love so many of the songs listed here (except “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – that is truly terrible). Here’s another question – what song do you love that everyone seems to hate? Going by the comments, mine is apparently “How Bizarre” haha

      1. WellRed*

        I’m surprised by My Sharona. I remember when it was a huge hit. I’m embarrassed to say I like “do they know it’s Christmas” (though I don’t disagree with a single comment about how problematic it is.)

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, although I don’t disagree with how problematic it is, I vastly prefer “Do They Know It’s Christmas” to the bland American “We Are The World.” It’s so sickeningly saccharine that my teeth ache when I hear it.

          I get why “My Sharona” is problematic, given that it’s about a 25 year old guy pursuing and dating a 17 year old girl. But it’s one of my guilty pleasures, I enjoy the song far more than I probably should.

      2. carcinization*

        I like the Pineapple Apple Pen song someone mentioned above, and I really like Escape (the Pina Colada Song), the latter is so meaningful to me that it often makes me cry.

      3. California Dreamin’*

        Yes, I like a lot of these songs, including Hey There Delilah and, yes, even Do They Know It’s Christmas (I know, the lyrics are not great, but it transports me back to my senior year of high school when all those artists were such favorites of mine, all assembled in one song!) Truly there is no accounting for taste.
        My least favorite song… I despise every Smashing Pumpkins song I’ve ever heard. They are nails on chalkboard for me. I also never liked How Soon Is Now by the Smiths.

      4. SuprisinglyADHD*

        I’ve always hugely enjoyed catchy, ear-wormy songs! Pretty much every earworm others have mentioned above, I listen to on repeat! I actually have an entire playlist of them for when something I dislike is stuck in my head to displace it (it’s probably ADHD related, I pretty much ALWAYS have something stuck in my head, even in my sleep).

    19. Cardboard Marmalade*

      I had a summer job working retail during the height of Smashmouth’s “All-Star”, and I swear I heard it play at least 20 times per shift. I hated it from the first time I ever heard it, it’s just such a trite, unbeautiful, deeply annoying song, and literally every time I hear it, I discover I am able to hate it more than the time before.

    20. Worst song ever*

      Time Passages by Al Stewart. I am a musician and the first time I heard it I thought it was an awful joke song.

      I apologize for anyone who wastes the four minutes of their lives listening to that terribly out of tune mess of a wannabe nostalgic song.

    21. allathian*

      There’s nothing wrong with Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” as a song, but it was so overplayed on the radio when Titanic was released 25 years ago that I refused to see the movie until 2005. Never mind that James Cameron’s one of my favorite directors, at least as far as the movies he made in the 1980s and early 1990s are concerned. I used to like CD before that song, but now I can’t stand listening to any of her stuff.

    22. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Oh, for Christmas songs, Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You basically gives me panic attacks. It’s always the first song of christmas (earliest I’ve heard it in a store was mid-SEPTEMBER). I hate it and it’s inescapable.

    23. Heffalump*

      I know I’m dating myself, but “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. At least only songs I like become earworms–I’m lucky in that regard.

    24. Jay*

      *********DANGER***********BRAIN WORMS AHEAD********PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK***********************

      Rapture by Blondie.
      Also, if you are REALLY interested in this topic, Dave Barry wrote a (very small) book on it. It’s called “Dave Barry’s Book Of Bad Songs” and it’s a riot. And the songs in it can cause one.

      1. Heffalump*

        Rhino Records has an album titled “’70s Party Killers/Classics.” The review on Allmusic:

        The idea behind ’70s Party Classics/Killers is that this collection contains 12 of the “worst” singles of all time; they’re kitschy, schlocky soft rock hits from the ’70s that are guaranteed to kill a party. It’s also a clever way for Rhino to recycle all the songs that they’ve already licensed for Super Hits of the ’70s: Have a Nice Day; all but Paul Anka’s “(You’re) Having My Baby” are on that multi-volume series. It is nice to have all these kitsch classics on one CD, but it’s a little frustrating to see Rhino recycle “The Night Chicago Died,” “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero,” “Feelings,” “Sometimes When We Touch,” “Afternoon Delight,” “Torn Between Two Lovers,” “Playground in My Mind,” “The Candy Man,” “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” and “Muskrat Love” once again. And if you’re thinking of using this disc as a party killer, keep in mind that for a certain generation — one that’s younger than you may think — this is party music.

    25. Laura Petrie*

      “Don’t get fresh with me”

      Had totally forgotten about Vanilla and now it’s bedtime and I’m humming that song to myself!

    26. Donkey Hotey*

      All time run across the room to turn off is Fatboy Slim’s Praise You. Uncreatively repetitive.

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    Agadoo. Somebody on here told me that it never made it to America but in the 80s it was the song at all parties.

    Anyone else remember the dance?

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Pwllheli for me. I can’t see a scenic bit of Wales without instantly recalling cheesy 80s party music!

    1. Lili*

      This is a big thing in my husband’s family! When he was a kid a DJ at a family party taught it to them, and said it was going to be the next big thing. It was not (they were in upstate NY), but he and his cousins still remember, and have taught it to the next generation, and arranged to dance to it at family weddings.

    2. Buni*

      I can also do all of the Superman song, the Macarena, Saturday Night and the Cha Cha Slide. Basically as soon as I was old enough not to have to go to kids’ parties in the 80s I ended up working with children and going to a lot of after-school discos in the 00s, god help me…

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      In the category of songs that have accompanying dances, The Chicken Song by Spitting Image is a parody that suggests you do many totally impossible actions. The music is incredibly annoying, but the lyrics are pretty funny from what I remember.
      And ugh, Agadoo, a song that should definitely stay in the 80s!

  13. chocolate muffins*

    For people who have more than one child, I’d love to hear about your decision-making process about how to space them. My husband and I have a baby who will turn one soon. We both want a second child but the beginning part of my son’s life was one of the hardest times that I have experienced, and I am nervous about going through that again (so if you have experiences with postpartum depression or something similar, I’d love to hear about that too – especially how that played into your decision to have a second kid or not and if so, when). We are both pretty old for kid-making purposes and don’t want to go the IVF route, which is another consideration for us.

    1. Miss Thymia*

      We’d always thought 2 years between would be perfect, but there’s absolutely no way I could have handled a pregnancy on top of caring for a child that young. We ended up with a 4-year gap which was definitely bigger than I’d hoped. (I had a 5-year gap with my own younger sibling and it made getting along rough, I always felt like he was dragging me down to his level and hated the way I regressed to childlike behavior during my teen years.)

      There were downsides, from a parenting point of view. The older one gave up naps about 2 weeks before baby was born. We were almost totally potty-trained and then had to start over with diapers. Stuff like that. And I guess we’ll see how their dynamic shifts when they get closer to the ages where my brother and I had the most problems.

      Of course you can never know what the sibling dynamic is going to be, so we ended up going with what felt right for us in the moment, and not some vision of a future family.

    2. Sloanicota*

      This is so hard. I do think if you have them close together, you have to just sort of embrace the madness for a few years, and I don’t know how people force themselves off that cliff. I could also imagine all the baby years being a blur (but aren’t they kind of anyway?) that you can’t remember afterwards. On the other hand, my sister had about seven straight years of someone in diapers and I think was pretty tired of that … and she felt guilty for not being more enthused when the younger child would “finally” get to the stages the older one had already surpassed.

      1. chocolate muffins*

        Yeah, I’ve heard the thing about embracing madness from a few people, and I wonder what that looks like practically. Especially given my experience when my son was born – everything felt like an uphill battle, I just had no energy and was crying all the time, and I worry about what that would look like with a second kid both because there would be more stuff to do and because my son would probably be old enough to know what was happening, and I don’t want to affect him badly if I’m having a hard time again. It’s not a guarantee that I’d respond the same way to the birth of a second kid and I have skills and resources that I didn’t have the first time, but I definitely wasn’t expecting for the post-partum period to hit me the way it did and I am scared that it will be that same way again despite my greater knowledge/resources/experience/whatever. I don’t feel like I have a good sense of how to handle that kind of situation well with two kids, or what embracing madness would look like on a day-to-day level.

    3. Following this discussion*

      I’m in much the same situation as you, so I’m interested in the responses here. Have a nearly 14 month old and want another child. I kind of think it’s better to have a very chaotic few years when they’re both very small, rather than starting over with a newborn when your other child is 4+ and more independent.
      I would say start trying at the very minimum after 1 year you’d be comfortable becoming pregnant. Especially if you’re a bit older, but I think it’s true for everyone that you can’t rely on conceiving straight away.

    4. Lady Sally*

      We did the three year spacing twice. It’s worked wonderfully so far. The kids get along well despite the age gap, and it made the new baby process much easier. I think it’s a factor that we both work – if one of us stayed home we might have spaced them closer. With both of us working, even spacing out 3 kids over 6 years was probably the max we could reasonably handle in terms of sick kids/activities/schedules.

      1. Pop*

        The both of us working is big for us. We just can’t flat out afford two daycare payments, a nanny isn’t any cheaper for two, and we both WANT to work and staying home also isn’t financially feasible. So we’re hoping for a ~4 year gap (knowing that there’s no predicting babies), so we then can go on back to back leave and only have to cover two daycare payments for a few months before older kiddo starts public kindergarten.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t have kids, but when my brother and I were in high school, we did the math (I don’t remember why) and realized that he was born nine and a half months after my first birthday, and our sister was born nine and a half months after his first birthday. At one point many years later I mentioned it to my mom, and she said “Yeah, we were aiming to have you guys all two years apart and your father and I are apparently very efficient.”

    6. Jenny F Scientist*

      I had such a hard time with the first and setting up a plan for better support the second time helped a ton (family, friends, preschool, meals, exercise). I was also faster to realize with #3 (surprise baby) when I was abnormally anxious and unable to sleep for more than 30 minutes, and I went and got drugs post haste. Knowing that I had healthcare providers who were willing to appropriately medicate anxiety and depression made a huge difference.
      I also realized about the feeding/tongue tie problems much faster and not being in constant pain helped too.

      I think in the end it comes down to if you can make a plan that’s okay enough that your hopes for another child, or for a new shape for your family, are greater than your fear of all the bad things, which, no lie, are really bad. I personally absolutely hated being pregnant and still routinely say to people about infant-era sleep deprivation “you know they torture people like this” but I LOVE having *kids* especially older kids. Mine are now 14, 11, and 8; you couldn’t convince me to ever have a newborn again and the memory of the misery has only faded a little. But now they’re big people who can feed themselves and it’s great.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah, I had postpartum PTSD after my first and when, after therapy, Covid, more therapy, more conversations with my husband, we finally decided to have a second kid, it was with all the resources in place (care team I felt really good about, therapist, doula, local support, etc.) Because of all of the above, my kids are 10 years apart, but I don’t regret it at all. Little one is 6 months old and I couldn’t imagine it any other way than how it turned out.

      2. chocolate muffins*

        This is *such* a helpful comment to me, thank you. One of my biggest worries is that I can take what I learned from the first and try to do things differently with the second but I might still end up in the same place emotionally that I was for the first 6-7 months of my son’s life. It could even be worse the second time around because there will be two of them. Hearing that it got better for you helps me have hope that the second time doesn’t have to be a repeat of the first.

        1. Anon for this*

          I mean, I’m still a little surprised that it all was fine? Like, we made all these plans and the plans actually worked? Who knew! I also didn’t hesitate to call for reinforcements—when I started having intrusive thoughts in the immediate PP period, I called my therapist and she got me in right away. I also said yes to anyone who wanted to come visit because I knew isolation was bad for me and made an immediate appointment with lactation when the little one was having some issues with weight gain. Having resources in place and knowing to call on them as soon as anything seemed like it was even slightly amiss made a big difference. Having a baby was the time to lean on my support network, NOT the time to try and power through.

        2. Observer*

          Nothing is a guarantee, of course. But the key is that you now *know* that this does not *have* to be this way, and that if it starts looking like it might be, you CAN (and absolutely *should*) get help.

    7. kjpr*

      Mine are almost exactly 2 years apart (they just turned 3 and 1). For us, it has worked out really well, but I credit a lot of that to having extra help. I work part time, my husband has a very flexible schedule, and my in laws (who are wonderful) live 20 minutes away. A lot of friends have more of a 3 year spacing which does seem to work really well since the older one is a little more independent by the time the new baby arrives.

      We were more in the “let’s embrace the chaos for a few years in order to get the baby stuff over with” camp. I also want to get back to work full time and don’t want to keep delaying that indefinitely, so I think there are always going to be family-specific factors that should okay into the decision.

      I think I had mild, but undiagnosed, post partum anxiety with my first (he was also born June 2020, so maybe it was just regular COVID anxiety). my experience with my second was totally different and so much nicer. I hope the same for you, whenever it is time! I’d also say all my worst fears about how awful the first year with my second would be just didn’t come to pass. It was certainly hard sometimes, but not the constant chaos I had imagined! partly because with the second you already have a family routine and then you figure out how to fit the second childs needs into that routine, rather than starting from scratch.

    8. Emma*

      My ideal spacing would have been 3, maybe 4 years. Due to a variety of reasons, we’re spaced closer to 5. I like having a slightly older kid who’s more independent, so we can explain things to them and they understand (mostly), and we’re through the diaper phase. They don’t need us physically as constantly as when they were little (though their emotional needs have arguably increased).

    9. RagingADHD*

      We were going to shoot for 3 years apart, and then we had a surprise, so they are just under 2 years apart.

      It was fine. Completely different than the first time, hard in different ways, but fine.

    10. KatCardigans*

      I have a 1.5 year old, and we are going to try for 3 year spacing. My brothers and I were all 3 years apart in school and we liked that gap—enough that you overlap in school a bit, but not so close that you’re really sharing friend groups.

      To be honest, I am actively trying to hype myself up now in preparation for TTC #2, because my first’s babyhood and toddlerhood have been more difficult than I expected even though I don’t think I struggled with PPD. My toddler often doesn’t sleep through the night, and the impact on our work and finances has been hard. But I don’t want to stretch that impact out over more years while we (and our support network, for that matter) continue to age. So I’m starting to look at baby names and clothes and to notice newborns out and about to start to appreciate that part of having a second baby.

    11. Hypatia*

      My kids are 1.5 yrs-2.5 yrs apart. I haven’t found that the spacing made much difference from how the kids interacted. I liked the ones a little closer together as I had all the supplies and I was used to the requirements of a newborn. It also made it easier to do age appropriate family activities. (Most teens do not want to go to the children’s museum again! and sitting at a big siblings soccer game can get very tedious for toddlers.) However, there’s no perfect timing – each baby is different, so I think you just need to figure out what you’re comfortable with, and go for it. Just make sure you line up some support and keep an eye out for what made it hard last time. Best wishes to you!

    12. Lila*

      we have a 3 year gap between my two oldest. last year we had a 3rd who is 7 years younger than my oldest, and 4 years older than my middle. I liked the 3 year gap a lot. I’ve also found our current gap with the youngest has its pluses – the older kids really can be helpful with the baby, they are much more independent and can understand when the baby needs something. overall, I had the most difficult time going from 0-1 kid, 1-2, and 2-3 have challenges but our life is already set up for kids so in that way I’ve found it much easier.

    13. New Mom*

      I have a 4 month old and we’re trying again. I want to get this over with! FWIW, I had 6 or 8 weeks of crushing PPD, felt like I had a weight on my chest all the time.

      1. Wilde*

        We did this but I regret it. The age gap is 15 months. It was HARD. Lockdowns, PPD, general isolation that comes from the early years of parenting. I look back and realise I had two babies to care for, but each had different needs due to their age. I’m the primary parent, spouse works a 40 hour week and is an excellent parent.

        If my parents were in town it would have been much easier (I think). I would recommend it only if you have a strong local support network who have proven themselves with your first.

    14. Perpetua*

      For me personally, I always knew I did not want kids very close in age (1-2 y gap) and once I actually had a baby, I was even more convinced of that. And I actually think I had a really nice postpartum, and had enough support, didn’t experience PPD or something like that, etc. But stoll, I couldn’t imagine myself having two babies basically.

      And it wasn’t until my kid was around 2,5 that I could start the entertain the thought of another one (which we’d said all along we’d like), and until she was 3 that I was really ready to start trying. Unfortunately, the second pregnancy, a couple of months ago, turned out to be ectopic, and now we’re trying again but we might have difficulties and the need for IVF is not off the table in the future. So now we’re looking at a +4y gap at least, hopefully not much more than that.

      On some level, a 3-4y gap has seemed like a sweet spot for me personally, but there’s planning and then there’s life. :)

    15. MP*

      I have a 2yo and pregnant with our second so I can’t exactly speak from experience but I am now ready and think it’ll be okay. I had a horrible, horrible first year postpartum and so far toddlerhood has had challenges but they are absolutely nothing compared to what I went through the first year. I had a surprise pregnancy when my daughter was just over 1 but unfortunately lost the baby so now I am due when she will be almost 2.5 and I’m looking forward to it. Of course every baby and kid is different but for me personally I think the timing is right. She is potty trained, goes to daycare and loves it and enjoys “helping.” She still isn’t a great sleeper and has her toddler behaviors but I think I just don’t like the baby phase and I want to get all my kids birthed and into toddlerhood. Anyways, just came her to say I understand how you feel and it gets better. I hope you figure out something that works for your family!

    16. Falling Diphthong*

      Abstract theory before actual child: 4 kids, spaced 4 years apart so there would be only 1 baby/toddler at a time. Less competition when you have 4 or more years between kids–like, it’s obvious the 10 year old is faster than the 6 year old, reads better, etc.

      Started trying for a second earlier than that but hit secondary infertility, so I have 2 kids 5 years apart. The lack of competition was really good for my high-strung eldest, and they are close now as 20-somethings.

      I am 2.5 years off from a sibling and we were never close; a good friend has the same age gap and they are very close. Husband is closer to each of his 12 years older siblings than they are to each other.

    17. Ferris Mewler*

      My own siblings have at least 5 years between us and my kids’ father has a much closer gap for his siblings (two years or less) and he convinced me having kids closer in age would be better.

      We ended up with just under 3 years between the first two and four years between the second and last one and honestly? I wish they were spaced out more. It’s so much easier to take care of a newborn when the first one is as self-sufficient and mature as possible. And I think my younger two would fight a lot less if they had a bigger gap between them.

    18. California Dreamin’*

      I don’t think anyone would plan this on purpose, but we have a 10-year gap between our eldest child and our two younger kids (younger ones are twins, so that’s it’s own whole other thing.) I kind of enjoyed the large gap. My older son was very independent by the time the others showed up, and he really doted on them when they were little. We work hard to maintain a close family bond even though he’s in his 20s and out of the house now.
      I had some mild PPD after my first birth, and it maybe took me a bit to realize I was struggling more than was “normal” and to speak to my doctor. The second time around I was very much ready to be on the lookout for those symptoms. But honestly, it was a little easier the second time just because I felt way more competent as a mom. Lack of sleep is still lack of sleep, but the lifestyle change was less of a shock to the system.

    19. allathian*

      I was 33 when I met my husband and 36 when we started trying for a baby. I got pregnant the first cycle we tried, which I definitely didn’t expect. My pregnancy was considered high risk simply because of my age. Except for the utter exhaustion of the first trimester and the moderate discomfort in the third, it went well. Our son was a fairly easy baby to care for and rarely cried without an obvious reason, but the sleep deprivation did a number on me. I’m glad we took so many photos of our son’s first year because I have almost no memories of it.
      I didn’t have PPD, but I was in no hurry to experience the exhaustion again, especially not with a lively toddler. I had lots of support from my husband who slept in the same room with the baby and fed him formula at night or brought him to me to nurse, even when I was on maternity leave and he was working. I envy my husband for being able to fall asleep within 5 minutes of turning out the light. Our son was born underweight and he wasn’t allowed to lose any of his birth weight, which is why he got donated mother’s milk at the hospital (my heartfelt thanks to all donors!) and supplementary feeding with formula when we got home.

      I was 40 when I was willing to even consider trying for a second baby, but by then my fertility had tanked, and after two first-trimester miscarriages we decided that we were done. I could apparently get pregnant fairly easily but I couldn’t carry the pregnancy to term anymore.

      My sister’s 2.5 years younger than I am. We’re quite close now although we’re very different in many ways, but we fought a lot as kids, and if we hadn’t been siblings I doubt we’d been friends.

      My husband has a sister who’s 6 years younger than he is. He remembers her mainly ruining his games when he was a kid and tagging along where she wasn’t wanted when he was a teen, but he also helped her with homework in the early grades when their mom was too busy.

      I’m quite happy with how things turned out for us, although I do think it’s a bit sad that my son’s the only member of his generation in two families. But it’s my sadness to deal with, and I definitely don’t share my feelings with my sister who’s childfree and my SIL who’s single, nearly 40, and not interested in being a single parent or getting pregnant without being married first (doing that might hurt her career because she’s a Lutheran preacher).

      As someone who got pregnant at 36 on the first cycle and had secondary infertility 4 years later when I felt ready to try again, my recommendation is to really consider your options and wishes as a couple, and how much you think you’ll regret not trying for a second baby at this stage if you end up being unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term a couple years from now.

    20. Jessi*

      I worked for a family who met later in life and because she was fast approaching 40 weaned at 9 months to get pregnant with number 2 – their children are 19 months apart.

      The last family I worked for didn’t get pregnant when they wanted (I’m blaming covid stress) and their children are 3 years apart. A year later when that baby was learning to walk it was a real bonus knowing I could trust the 4 year old sibling to play with her friends and not run off/ leave.
      If you had a 1 year old and a 2 year old who do you chase when they run in different directions?

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Less than a year between mine and it has been awesome (several years into it at this stage). The baby years were way easier than expected — having really low expectations pays dividends with babies.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Nesting fail, but you chase the two year old first as long as the one year old is unsteady on their feet. Once they get faster, you chase the one year old first, stick them under your arm, then chase the two year old.

    21. Observer*

      I want to focus on the PPD.

      There are a lot of factors that play into this, but there are two things that can definitely be helpful. One is good medical care. What I mean is your care team should be aware of and respectful of both Post and *Pre* partum depression. And also that they should focus on things that lower your stress level around your pregnancy and birth. Now, there is a lot that is out of everyone’s control, but there is some fairly good evidence that women who are supported by their care team really do, do better in regards to PPD. Also, please take the “baby blues” seriously. The term is commonly used, even by medical professionals, for stuff that is not as severe as a full blown case of PPD, and it’s terrible because it minimizes the very real issues and it actually makes it easier to miss clinical PPD.

      Which leads to the second thing. Get as much physical help as you can, and lower whatever standards you can. That includes stretching your budget to pay for as much help as you can afford to. This is not self indulgent or “wasteful”. Our bodies simply don’t heal as well when we have too much to do, not enough sleep, not enough of the right food, and too much criticism (even internal self criticism.)

      Of course, none of this is a magic wand or a guarantee. But as I’m sure you know by know, anyone who promises you guaranteed good results is making empty promises.

      Also, make sure that if there are any potential health issues, you look at those. Like I had what I now know where symptoms of mild PPD after my oldest child. What I also did not realize is how tightly tied thyroid function is to pregnancy and childbirth. Given that I had a *known* diagnosis, it’s utterly insane that NO ONE checked my thyroid levels and my OB didn’t even suggest that I see my endocrinologist. It wasn’t till the baby was several months old that discovered, at loooong scheduled appointment, that my thyroid have gone fairly nuts in the aftermath of the birth. It was apparently getting better, but adjusting my medication was light flipping a light switch. I’ve heard similar stories from other women, and not just with thyroid.

    22. Green beans*

      I don’t have kids but a close friend does. She had mild anxiety with her first, undiagnosed PPA/PPD with her second, and finally got medicated with her third.

      The first two kids were less than two years apart (they thought it would take longer to conceive #2 than it did). It was really, really hard on her and she didn’t really enjoy #2’s baby stage, even though she loves the baby stage. She wasn’t ready for her oldest to stop being the baby with the second was born.

      The third kid was born four-ish years after the second. Even though her PPA/PPD was worse, it was a much better experience. She was able to be honest with her doctor and ready to try meds when they were suggested. She’s been able to enjoy the baby stage a lot more, which is important to her. Plus, she had time to process the difference between the parent she idealized being before kids and actually having kids. She made different decisions for baby #3, ones that weren’t on the table for the first two.

      All that being said, I don’t like the baby stage and I suspect I would go for a two-year age gap to get it over with. So it really depends on what’s important to you/your family.

  14. Legendary Latte*

    Does anyone have experience with buying or selling services through Fiverr or Taskrabbit? My college age cousins are thinking about doing it for some extra spending money and older family members have thought about buying various services. Anyone ever try it out? Or transcription websites like Rev or Scribie?

    Asking here rather than the weekday work thread because the side hustle websites always sounded more like a scam to me. So I’m wondering if anyone has legit experience with them.

    1. Kafka*

      I’ve used fiverr as a customer a few times for various things and had great experiences. I’m happy to answer any questions

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I used taskrabbit a couple of times for when I just needed a couple of folks to help move bulky items up or down stairs, and once for assembling a treadmill. The furniture moving folks brought gloves and moving straps and padding, the assembly guy had his own toolbox (though the treadmill came with the needed tools), so if your cousins are looking at actually doing physical tasks they should be mindful of what tools or supplies they might need to provide in order to do the things they’re signing up to do. (I mean, I don’t care if the moving folks used straps or just their hands as long as they don’t break my stuff, so extras might not be necessary, but having the supplies made it easier on them and I didn’t have those things to offer them at the time.)

    3. WellRed*

      In my area, there are a lot of posts on ND for odd job services (mowing, shoveling, hauling to the dump). It depends on your area and what service they actually offer. It wouldn’t occur to me to use an online service for that.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      I used TaskRabbit around 5 years ago to find someone to assemble some furniture at my previous office job. I read reviews, went with someone highly rated and he did a great job. He bought his own tools, so if your cousins are going to do furniture assembly or something that would require tools, they might want to invest in their own set.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I’ve used Taskrabbit as a customer and it’s been fine. I sort the providers by price low-high and then choose the lowest priced person who seems qualified and gets good reviews. Once someone has worked out well, I keep their number and sometimes contract with them personally for future jobs. I believe that as well as adding a fee to the customer side, Taskrabbit takes a hefty commission from the provider side, so it’s a good deal for the provider if you work with them directly.

      My only issue has been that twice the provider has no show/no called, and I think that’s not figured into their reviews because you only review them if the task is actually completed. But I’ve used TR for at least 8 years so that’s not a bad percentage.

    6. CanadaGoose*

      I’ve used fivver as a customer, too, and had reasonable experiences. Getting started on there as a worker seems tough, though, as the prices are so low and established accounts get most of the business.

    7. Goose*

      TaskRabbit is legit! A good friend worked with them for some time in New York and got to do a bunch of interesting stuff; I was hired with him once to go pretend to be enthusiastic fans outside an interview for someone so the cameras would pick up “fans” outside the window!

      1. Chaordic One*

        About 20 years ago when I was young and lived in Los Angeles, temporary employment agencies would offer short term jobs where they paid you to be a member of the studio audience for different talk and game shows. Anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, but they didn’t pay for or provide lunch.

    8. Hiring Mgr*

      Taskrabbit is great – i’ve used them for years for various things – snow removal, yard work, putting together desks, furniture, etc.

    9. Chaordic One*

      In the past I’ve had good luck with Taskrabbit for help with moving large heavy furniture. This amazing tall fit young woman showed up with her pickup truck and made short work of moving some heavy furniture to my new abode.

    10. sara*

      My friend has used fiverr as a freelancer (marketing/podcast production type stuff) and it’s worked out pretty well. Mostly they’re short-term clients but have been good to get portfolio work in new niches.

      There are prices that are ridiculously low, but she doesn’t even bother competing with that. It seems like there are some savvy buyers on there that definitely look for middle-to-upper range sellers because they know they’ll get what they pay for…

      I’ve considered using it to get a redesign of my website but not sure I want to commit to spending money on it at this point.

    11. Observer*

      Asking here rather than the weekday work thread because the side hustle websites always sounded more like a scam to me. So I’m wondering if anyone has legit experience with them.

      What makes you say that? I mean, yes, there are a lot of scams out there, but side hustles are a thing. How do you think that Uber and Lyft got started? Same for DoorDash, AirBNB, ebay, Instacart, etc. Not all of them are “gig” work, but they are all mostly “side hustles”.

      There are some people whose primary income is from these companies, but many of their people only do this part time.

  15. Riss*

    Good tips on having grab to go meals that doesn’t involve weekend prep? I have overnight oats but I am bored with yogurt + berries

    1. Slinky*

      Hummus and stuff to dip in it (pitas, baby carrots, etc.). You could either make your own hummus or buy it pre-made at the store.

      1. CanadaGoose*

        Bagel, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit.
        Peanut butter banana sandwich.
        Smoothie (oatmeal ingredients, but less oats and more milk/fruit)

    2. Erica*

      Frittatas / quiches are relatively fast to make (if you buy the premade pie crust for the quiche), keep pretty well and are good eat-on-the-go foods. Same with burritos — you can buy beans, shredded cheese, whatever toppings you like that don’t require cooking and either wrap up and microwave on the spot or if it’s not considered weekends prep, prewrap and freeze a bunch –similar to those packaged ones like Amy’s. For frozen ones I wrap in a paper towel and then foil, and then microwave in the towel w a little water sprinkled on it (and you can reuse the foil for next batch).

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Another vote for burritos, which are my go-to freezer meals for friends with new babies (you only need one hand to eat them, after all). Cold soba noodles with a little sesame oil, soy sauce, tofu, and seaweed. You can make smoothies and freeze/refrigerate overnight. And don’t discount sandwiches.

    4. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Uncrustables PB&J. I always have some on hand, even though my kids are grown and gone. They work for when I don’t feel like making anything.

      1. Riss*

        Ohhh this is a real good one I was terribly bored with oats and berries but sometimes I don’t have the energy to cook(can’t meal prep since food spoil easily)

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Is prepping ahead an option? Sandwiches can be made ahead of time, casseroles also. Or are you looking for “no heating, eat right away” ideas?

      1. Riss*

        My family members have a strict no overnight food rule plus food spoil fast here due to the weather, but I look into sandwich thank you! I can’t believe I never thought of it.

  16. Pocket Mouse*

    For those of you who have used financial planning services, how much time did your initial preparation take? Did you go with a one-shot or ongoing planning assistance? What would you recommend someone doing this for the first time keep in mind to make the most of it?

    My family’s situation is on the fortunate end and pretty basic: expecting to purchase a home, pay for kids’ college, retire as comfortably as is reasonable, have a buffer for health and caretaking expenses related to ourselves and potentially older family members, pass something on to the next generation, and try to invest and distribute money ethically along the way. I think we’re mainly looking for help identifying target amounts, optimal investment options, and guidance on risk/fungibility strategy based on proximity each phase, though maybe I’m lacking imagination because this is new for me. (We did one financial “planning” exercise which turned out to be a financial projection only and absolutely no guidance or advice.) I do know to look for a certified financial planner who operates on a fee basis and is a fiduciary.

    1. mreasy*

      We had a windfall of a couple hundred thousand dollars, so we hired a planner to help us invest it for retirement and to help us plan savings to reach our retirement goals. She came highly recommended by friends and so far, despite the market being awful, has been fantastic. We basically meet once a year or when/if we need to.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Our guy is the same guy my in-laws use, so we had that connection. We got a windfall from my husband’s grandpa and wanted to invest it. He does exactly the kind of things you mention. Now we go over everything once a year or so and he’s also responsive when we have questions about 401ks or the markets in general.

    3. CanadaGoose*

      Your last line was exactly what I was about to recommend. Once you’ve found someone who fits your criteria, ask them what to expect! My guess is that prep ahead of meeting for the first time should take an hour or less. Though it is helpful to think through your goals, which may take more time. Meeting several times, or on a regular basis like quarterly could be good if your situation is evolving or you have a lot to discuss. For me, hiring someone for a few meetings with my fiancé was more than enough to organize our financial picture for married life. Could have used a couple more meetings around life transitions lately, though. Ideally, once they educate you enough, you won’t need them much anymore.

      1. Knighthope*

        Agree about prep time. Planner may provide a questionnaire or form for you to complete ahead of the meeting to guide the discussion and save time.

    4. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

      I did some reading online, drew up a brief and emailed it to a few potential advisors. Apparently that’s rare and likely saved me whatever the first consultation usually costs. I had three sessions, two a week apart then one a few months later to make sure I remembered the plan and deal with any questions I’d come up with. It was explicitly fee for service and the planners name didn’t go on most of the investments (for example I created an online investing account and put money in… never told them a financial planner had suggested it).

      Financial advisor was much more clued in that the tax accountant when it came to investments, and the advice was mostly the kind of generic stuff you find online. BUT it was selected bits of that advice that actually applied to my actual situation and prejudices. So it worked really well.

  17. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I am perplexed. I ordered a thing from Etsy, shipping from the Netherlands to the US. It got to the US, went through customs at the Chicago international distro center, got to my zip code, and then everything went weird.

    8/14: Out for delivery at 6am, but it was not delivered (I was home all day), no slip was left, I checked my doorbell cam in case I missed something and no one approached my porch except a stray cat and a couple of chipmunks. 8pm it says “available for pickup,” but then 9pm same day it’s departure-scanned back out of the local distro center.

    Ever since then, it has been bouncing around to VA, NJ, VA, NJ, PA, and is now at the Jamaica NY International Distribution Center. Are they returning my stuff without attempting to deliver it or giving me a chance to retrieve it, or are they just giving it a nice scenic tour of the US?

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Probably a lazy delivery person. We had one of those. I can see the mailbox from my desk when I WFH and I’ve seen him on multiple occasions pull out a prefilled “we tried but you weren’t home” slip from his shirt pocket and put it in the box.
      Made multiple calls to the PO. I kept having to go in and pick it up. Eventually aimed and zoomed the doorbell camera that way when I was expecting a package. Took the video of him doing it to the post office and showed it to the manager. It stopped happening.
      I would call your local post office. See what they have to say about it.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have complained about this postal carrier multiple times, and they don’t give a hang, which is partially why I have the doorbell camera. Heh.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I like my postal carrier, but several times I’ve had a USPS delivery date missed (after it was shown out for delivery) with the message that they couldn’t get to mailbox / door whatever. That’s impossible. The only reason they could not get to my door is because they ran out of time. I would much rather the truth that they didn’t get to it than that lie (clearly it’s just checking a standard explanation of why they missed a delivery after being out all day).

    2. Anonymous for This*

      I’m in the US. Someone I know who is in another country on another continent (not Europe) ordered something from Europe and it want though Iceland before reaching them months later.

      No idea what’s happening with your item, I just thought I’d share; sometimes it’s an international scenic route.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’ve had packages do that — they bounce around over hundreds of miles and multiple cities, going farther away before they come back for no apparent reason. Often they get delivered eventually, sometimes they don’t. Far more packages have gone permanently missing in the last couple of years than all the decades of my life combined.

      One Etsy purchase from Australia never got to me. Tracking said it never even left the country, messaged the seller about it being weeks overdue, and poof the tracking magically updated to say it was delivered 5 days before. Never saw it, always wondered who got my necklace — tho, cynically, the retroactive delivery update makes me think the carrier lost it and covered their tracks. Seller kindly sent a new one.

      Another coming from France made it within miles of my house, checked in/out of a couple local distro centers, and disappeared for 3 weeks. Checked out of the distro 10 miles away, but never arrived at my PO. Post office told me it appeared an entire truckload didn’t make it, not just my package. Then one day the tracking started moving again and it arrived.

      It really sucks. It’s not just USPS (which was kneecapped by DeJoy), UPS has also had many inexplicable bounces.

      1. HBJ*

        Oof, the tracking magically updating grinds my gears. We had that. Never moving from wherever it’s “last destination” was for 2 weeks. I contact them about and later that day, poof, it’s magically in our city, which is over 2,000 miles from its “last destination.”

    4. really*

      I have had packages from one delivery company that have been driven within a mile of my house as they travel to specific distribution points. Have center one east of me and one west of me. The one west of me has a delivery person who always leaves packages at the top of my driveway and not on the lovely covered porch.
      And right now I have a package from Europe that supposedly has been stuck in customs since 6/22. I now have a dispute resolution in with my credit card company as I have gotten no response from the seller.

    5. Indolent Libertine*

      I had a similar experience when I tried to send a package to a friend in Russia right before the USPS stopped all deliveries there. It bounced back and forth between opposite ends of my state – with giant pauses in between- for about 4 months. Eventually they returned it to me, battered and smooshed.

      There’s a place on the USPS website where you can initiate a search for mail that’s gone astray, but I don’t know if it applies for an item that originated outside the US. If you have a tracking or customs control number for it, it’s worth a try.

  18. Fed Up*

    Separating previously pooled finances – anyone done it NOT related to separation or divorce?

    My husband and I have been together for 40 years, for most of that our finances have been pooled, mostly because he earned 8 times what I did way back when. over the years Life has changed (convoluted story) and I find myself with a reasonable income and different goals and spending habits, and he is having job difficulties but no change in habits. I think it would be a good deal less stressful for both of us if we split our finances into his/hers/ours.

    Are there pitfalls to this that I’m not seeing? Is there a better way to handle it than just having 3 different bank accounts? That seems too easy somehow …

    1. CanadaGoose*

      My version of pooled finances IS ours (house, and kid-related stuff), his/hers (separate spending money, retirement accounts). We’ve changed how much goes to each ‘pot’ over the years as incomes change, but the principle is sound.
      How much money do you need for basic living purposes, and where will it come from?
      How are you saving for future needs, especially true emergencies and retirement?
      Then, if your priorities diverge for the rest of your incomes, well, you each should have a reasonable amount for clothing and socializing/hobbies/fitness, but after that you might choose to live and let live….

    2. Girasol*

      We kept our finances pooled in spite of different incomes and preferences, but agreed on a budget which included an equal allowance for each of us to spend as we wished.

    3. Generic Name*

      My husband and I have never really pooled our finances. We have separate bank accounts and just Venmo money back and forth.

    4. really*

      While all of our accounts are basically joint my husband and I have always banked at different institutions. Started before we got married and just continued. we have a number of different accounts at this institutions aligned with our budget. So 3 separate accounts don’t seem far fetched. Based on your description of the situation I would recommend that you have a joint account for the common expenses that you each pay into and separate non-joint accounts for the two of you.

    5. Random Academic Cog*

      This is what we do. I have part of my check direct-deposited into the joint account and he just gives me a check to deposit on his paydays. Not the most efficient thing, but it works fine. Shared household expenses mostly come out of the joint account, dinners out and random grocery store stops mostly come out of individual money. We don’t count pennies (or $50s for that matter), but it seems to even out.

    6. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

      The pitfalls mostly seem to be around having the talk with your partner.

      I can’t speak to US tax and marriage laws, but when I did it we spent more time looking uncomfortably at each other and talking around the topic than actually splitting things out. Once we decided that we wanted to it was mostly a matter of discovering that the bank we used couldn’t cope, opening accounts at two new banks, then redirecting our income to our individual new accounts. We kept the joint account so that existing automatic payments etc didn’t have to be dealt with. Possibly easier to do that in Australia where instant electronic payments are the norm (I can stand in the checkout line and transfer money into the joint account and be confident that it’ll be there by the time my groceries are scanned).

      Our original bank kept un-splitting our accounts. Was a huge pain when the default account on my card flicked over to her “private” account.

    7. J. Jonah Jameson*

      Well, you can have more than 3 accounts. :-) We have 6, with checking/savings each for ours/mine/hers. That way we have somewhere to put joint gifts, somewhere to pay joint bills (with contributions based on relative income), and personal money for personal expenses and personal savings.

    8. Patty Mayonnaise*

      Well the pitfall is if neither partner has access to/oversight of the other person’s accounts and spending, one or both of the partners could drive the couple (as a unit) into debt without realizing it (or realizing it but not caring). Not that this would definitely happen, but it’s a risk if the couple doesn’t have financial transparency.

  19. Relax. It’s just a job.*

    I second the book choice. I was very young when I first read it and saw the movie. Bought the book at a garage sale a few years ago and watched the movie on Amazon a few months ago and still enjoyed them.

    1. Anonymous for This*

      Yes! I saw the movie first and then I had to get the book.

      Both were great and I felt that neither got the praise it deserved.

      Fun Fact: Mamie Gummer played Meryl Streep’s toddler in the movie. Mamie is her oldest daughter – she was about 2 years old at the time.

  20. Old-fashion sense*

    So I was recently involved in a historical reenactment thing that involved wearing layers of clothing we now consider useless and old-fashioned and I’ve suddenly realised that they were not actually pointless! I’ve never been so comfortable in an airconditioned building that I was wearing a slip and stockings (seriously I get not wanting to feel the heat from outside but arctic blast is overkill…)

    Have y’all ever realised that something that always seemed useless to you was not useless after all once you tried it? If so, what was it?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I LOVE wearing hoop skirts. SO helpful in hot weather, it holds all the material out off your legs, keeps the sun off, and if you sway a bit, you get a whole fan effect. (Plus if you’re a little bit handy you can rig up an actual battery powered fan in there. Also helpful to remind people of personal space bubbles, they usually hesitate to get close enough to actually physically touch you or your clothing (in my experience at least) so they stay back a bit. And in cold weather, you have plenty of room to layer warm stuff underneath. I know the trick to using a bathroom in one, so my only issues would be driving and the fact that my Woofapotamus gets weird when she can’t see my legs and she goes looking for them for me. (I got her during late lockdown, she never saw me in anything but pants til she was like 10 months old. She’s getting better but a hoop skirt might be too much :P )

      1. Old-fashion sense*

        …a fan under a hoop skirt sounds both brilliant and kinda dangerous ^^’ I’d be worried the fabric would get stuck in the fan and pull off my skirt like some slapstick comedy cartoon.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Thanks for encouraging me to LOL during breakfast!
          (No computer screens were harmed.)

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Tee! I never have done, but I knew someone who did and she was very careful with it to avoid such a thing :)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Turn around! Face the back of the toilet, pick up the front of the hoop and hold it up while you straddle the toilet to do your business. That way all the extra you’re not holding onto is behind you, but NOT between you and the toilet. It’s still a bit of an adjustment, obviously, but still WAY easier than trying to fit 10+ yards of fabric and boning between your back and the back of the toilet.

          Your underpinnings will probably need to go alllllll the way down to your ankles, which some folks don’t care for, but that’s why ladies’ draws at the time had a split in the crotch – so they didn’t have to fully undress to use the necessary. I have also heard of, but not personally experienced, someone using one of those doohickeys that let women stand-to-pee that are designed for hiking? That seems a little over the top to me, but.

          (I was in a Masonic girls’ youth group for 8 years as a girl and 4 years as an adult advisor, is why I have the hoop skirt experience. I used to be able to change out of a full formal hoop dress into pajamas in a SMART car without injuring myself or the dress or flashing anybody, though it’s been a minute since I had to go to that length.)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            (This is also good advice for many styles of wedding dress without hoop, though obviously not the narrow-skirted type.)

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            I once attended a lecture series on 19th century clothing. The section on underwear was fascinating! (Hoop skirts are pretty much the reason women started wearing underpants. Because otherwise a strong wind could turn you into an accidental flasher.)

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Ruth Gordon’s How To Be A Victorian has a whole section on hoopskirts and their perils on windy avenues!

      2. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

        I love wearing them too. Much more comfortable than people assume. The only thing I don’t like is how I can’t see my feet going down stairs, but I go slowly.

      1. anon24*

        Corsets are comfortable AF. Also, as a rather large busted woman, I genuinely do not understand the bra free movement. Sure it feels great to take it off at the end of the day, but it is also genuinely painful to go a whole day not being supported and contained in a properly fitting bra.

        1. Old-fashion sense*

          Personally now that I’ve experienced so many layers…I find it quite weird how everyone celebrates getting rid of “rigorous pointless clothing” and then complaining about how they experience things that that very clothing was designed to prevent (in my case cold and even heat because even outside I was not melting nearly as much as the people wearing just a short little dress

          1. Old-fashion sense*

            Also as a fellow large-chested woman…yeah I do not like how my breasts make jiggle physics look tame when I’m not wearing a bra. When I’m in PJs I literally have to keep my arm under my boobs when walking up or down stairs. And with my way of walking even just walking without a bra on is hella uncomfortable.

          2. Old-fashion sense*

            You know, thinking more on this (specifically the bras)…a lot of the issue people have with bras are usually down to poorly fitting or even poorly made ones and I wonder…once you make an article of clothing poorly enough it’s going to start losing its function. Instead of recognising it’s the quality of the item…we instead start blaming the item itself (like the concept op bras itself). Like, when you find a shoe uncomfortable you just try another one, but when your bra is uncomfortable you just roll your eyes and complain about how awful bras are instead of trying another one.

            And in that light, it’s also kind of interesting how the only examples of this I can think of are items of women’s clothing.

            1. anon24*

              I spend a lot of money on bras. I hate spending $80 per bra, and I wear them far longer than I should (mine are currently disintegrating) but they fit me better, support me better, and are far more comfortable than even a $40 or $50 bra, because I’m a 34 DD or E depending on the manufacturer.

              I think it’s mostly woman’s clothing both because of just general lack of quality in women’s clothing but also because in general I think maybe woman’s body’s vary more? Our anatomy leads to far more curves and shapes then the typical male body and its difficult to account for that without tailoring to each individual or taking a lot of time to find what works for you. And I dont think thats nessecarily something that is easy to change (whereas putting pockets in womens clothing would be). And (saying this as a very outspoken feminist) I think some women are too quick to claim sexism where none exists. Rather than taking the time finding the bra or piece of clothing that fits them properly and thus is comfortable they claim that none exists or that it’s not comfortable and that they are not going to wear it because wearing a bra is being oppressed and patriarchal. Which, if you don’t want to wear a bra, or any piece of clothing, I fully support this, but I don’t think I’m being oppressed or giving in to sexist roles by wearing one. Do what’s right for your body.

              I think I have this perspective because I’ve also see this play out with body hair. I’ve been told that by obsessively shaving all my body hair I’m giving in to men and misogynistic thinking. I’ve never shaved for a man in my life. I shave every day because I have insanely sensitive skin and when I was a kid I got very very bad rashes any time I sweat and as soon as I started shaving all of that stopped. Any time I’m lax about that the rashes come back, yet I get told that I’m not being feminist because I don’t let my hair grow. So it really taught me this perspective of you do whats right for your body and I’ll do what’s right for mine.

              I dont know if I’m making my point well, and I hope you all don’t jump down my throat if I’m not. I just want people to do what’s right for them and I want equal rights for everyone regardless of their gender identity :)

              1. Old-fashion sense*

                Oh I 100% concur on “do whatever is best for you and your body”. To get back to bras, there are more reasons to not like them than just poor fit, such as not liking tight clothing in general.

                To be honest I’ve never even paid attention to whether people shave or not so I’m always a bit weirded out by comments in either direction. Couldn’t tell you if any of the women I sit next to all day at work shave or not.

            2. Jackalope*

              My experience with bras is also that when I was flatter (which was most of my life before the mid-life weight gain the last few years) they just weren’t super necessary. Now that I’ve got something to hold up, they’re more useful and make more sense. But when my sole reason for wearing them was to hide nipples it really did feel more oppressive – can’t the world just deal with my chest existing?

          3. Anonymous cat*

            Could you explain a little more abut how you feel better in hot weather while wearing more clothing? Genuine question! I don’t understand how that works but really want to learn!

            1. Old-fashion sense*

              I suspect it’s the insulation! We usually think of that as keeping us warm, but at the same time it can also protect us from heat or wick sweat away. Though I did notice it was more pronounced with the wider skirts (probably the air between my legs and the fabric acting as natural insulation).

              I also recently discovered that while we tend to consider plant fabrics (cotton, linnen) to be the cooling ones and animal fabrics (wool, silk) to be the heating ones…that is not necessarily the case! We tend to think of wool as something thick and cozy but they used to make thinner wools for keeping you cool while trotting about in hot countries. Basically, if you see a picture of, say, Howard Carter…dude might actually be wearing wool pants in Egypt, which sounds ridiculous nowadays.

              I suspect the fact that I was wearing less acrylic and polyester and nylon than I usually do is also related. Some of the synthetic fabrics they make nowadays comes pretty close to natural fibers but…I don’t know. Still felt different somehow. Though I may just be imagining that.

              1. Anonymous cat*

                Thanks!
                Your lines about the kinds of wool reminded me of the jokes about “animals do X because they know what they’re doing.” Like what REALLY works as camouflage and how animals would be dying of heat exhaustion if their furs didn’t work properly.

              2. RLC*

                Interesting wool protective garment story: decades ago whilst working for a steel company my dad toured a blast furnace facility. The mandatory packing list for the tour participants included wool long underwear to protect them from external heat.
                I’m guessing Howard Carter was likely wearing what was then called “tropical wool”, popular summer garment fabric.

                1. goddessoftransitory*

                  Wool also is harder than many fabrics to catch on fire–when sparks land on it, for instance, they will go out rather than ignite the fabric.

      2. Anonymous cat*

        I once read a posting from someone who worked at trade shows that corsets were far more supportive when she had to be on her feet all day, than not wearing corsets. I always wondered if that would be true for other professions with a lot of standing all day, like teachers.

        1. Old-fashion sense*

          I guess that makes sense…I mean, a corset is kind of an exoskeleton so I can see how it would help with posture and support if you’re standing up all day.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Too many people associate corsets etc. with fetish wear or cosplay, but plenty of people wear them because they’re good at what they’re designed to do!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I had assumed fringe was decorative, but it’s actually really good at shedding water.

    3. Qwerty*

      You might enjoy the blog Frock Flicks. It mostly focuses on the historical accuracy of costumes in movies and TV, but also explains why hoop skirts and corsets were actually very practical for the time.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh man, a couple years ago I dressed up as Lucy Westenra for Halloween and got really into it, including ordering a full Victorian-style white flowing nightgown.

      People wore that nightwear in the days before central heating (or any heating, a lot of times) and THEY DO THEIR JOB. That thing retained heat better than if I was wearing a coat made of terns with their feathers at full fluff-up. Twenty minutes in and I was boiling.

      I kept it on long enough for work pictures and changed immediately, or I would have done a full swoon over my keyboard. I still have it and love it but cannot wear it to bed unless I move to Antarctica.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I’ll have to look at the tag, it’s been a while, but there are several online companies that specialize in making period clothing, so it shouldn’t be too hard to track down a mini-heat tent of your very own!

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            ETA: make sure to specify “full length Victorian/Edwardian women’s nightgown” in the search to narrow it down!

  21. WellRed*

    I know I’ve weighed in here plenty in getting your affairs in order, clean outs etc so as to be prepared for/not overburden the generation under you but now that it’s weighing down I don’t know where to start with mom. It’s time for her to move home (another state, 4 hours, I live there). She shouldn’t drive, has house that will likely sell easily but owes on it (damn reverse mortgage) etc. can’t move in with me and “home” is an extremely high cost area with major housing issues. Part of the problem is lack of $ and acknowledgement of said lack. Help? Suggestions most practical place to start?

    1. WellRed*

      And I’m assuming a78 yo with an income of $25k will not qualify for a mortgage (don’t think she’s considering that but who knows?$

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Getting some estate agents in to look over the house and make suggestions as to what the place will go for. Lots of them, as the estimates will vary wildly. Also, go look at some other places in your mother’s area that are in the same price bracket to get a sense of the competition. Once you have an idea what kind of budget, maybe attend some viewings, or just online browsing in your area to see what kind of spaces she could see herself in. There’s something about seeing places dressed for sale which really helps with the decluttering. Especially if you’re looking at downsized spaces; all of a sudden you know you need less stuff, and you have no room for it anyway.

    3. Jenny F Scientist*

      Have you talked to the local social services/programs for the aged? They may have some resources for subsidized senior housing or other financial assistance she might qualify for, especially if she doesn’t have significant assets.

    4. Emma*

      It can be helpful to think about what the long term plan is, within the limits of finances.

      Is it for her to live independently as long as possible? Transition to assisted living or a retirement community? Something else?

      1. WellRed*

        She’s quite independent but is needing a bit more help (no more driving as soon soon as I can sort that, slight confusion and forgetting etc) but still cooks and eats, hygiene/care with appearance, pays bills, socializes, cleans house. Bad knees, risk of falling, probably could use a bit more daily socializing rather than constant Fox News and Judge Judy ; ) retirement comm probably ideal but I’m worried about cost and waiting lists.

        1. Emma*

          Once she moves, will you be helping her more? Does she know people in the area where she’ll be moving, or just you?

          I would weigh whatever help you can give her versus the perks of her current situation (people she socializes with, and a house she’s familiar with, and is able, I’m assuming, to pay the mortgage with).

          We ran into this, sort of, with my husband’s grandmother, who also had a second mortgage, and also could not drive. She couldn’t afford to buy another place, and we worried that if she rented, there was a danger of housing instability (possibility of rent being raised, getting kicked out if her dementia progressed, etc). At least with owning her house, she couldn’t get kicked out, as long as she paid the mortgage. But she did live 30 minutes away from a family member who could check on her some.

          $160k (after the sale) isn’t going to go far for nursing care – around here, that’s typically around $8k at least a month, so that would just be about 2 years. So it would be good to call around to at least get a ballpark for your area. With my own grandmother, we faced a similar situation where we had to weigh how long her funds would last vs how long she would live – so it’s a good thing to ask when calling – what happens if the funds run out?

          For my husband’s grandmother, there were some things that we could do from a distance – one family member was added as joint on all.of her bank accounts, and took over paying all of her bills (had them paid online, and emailed). We also arranged grocery delivery. She had a life alert. We looked into getting meals delivered. She had her prescriptions delivered.

          Good luck! Getting old in this country is so hard.

    5. Generic Name*

      I would look into the terms of the reverse mortgage. My understanding of reverse mortgages is that the mortgager owns the house and not the person living in the house and getting income from it. So there would be nothing to sell, but there might be a process to end the agreement if she moves.

      1. Generic Name*

        Well, I just googled, and apparently this isn’t how most reverse mortgages work. I swear I saw an ad that explained them in this way, but maybe that was a predatory company.

        1. WellRed*

          Still a good reminder to be mindful about these things. I believe she would pay off the mortgage and keep the rest which is about $160k after a sale.

    6. Anonymous for This*

      Does she own anything of value besides the house? I’d check and see if she has any antiques, jewelry, etc. that may be worth something.

      It sounds like she needs some help. Assisted living may be the best choice. While some are pricey, others are meant for people of more moderate means and incomes.

      Best of luck to you and your mom.

    7. Girasol*

      Can you afford a financial planning consultation? Sometimes an older person won’t take advice from family members that they will from a professional. A planner might be able to help her come to grips with the reality of her financial situation and consider the options she really has.

  22. The Inconstant Gardener*

    I need to redesign my garden plan. I’m finding what seems like a good idea in the Spring just doesn’t work in the miserable summer months when I can’t be out there weeding regularly. My main issues are vines (grape, bindweed, and bittersweet) as well as crabgrass that takes over my beds really aggressively. I’m literally losing established bushes, and all my fences look like absolute crap. This Fall I’m thinking I dig up the mulch beds and add a second stronger layer of weed-control fabric, maybe just tarp, and then go for chemical control (which saddens me, as I have not been using herbicides until now). But it’s getting rediculous, and every year I think, “oh, last summer it got away from me, but this summer I’ll do better about getting out there every few days and hand-weeding.” Reader, I will not. Help!

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Are you me?
      I have exactly the same issue!
      I did use that fabric once, but never again. Things grow through it and I’m still finding pieces of it 15 years later
      I think my plan for next year is to plant perennials as intensively as possible. The one bed I have that is like that, with violets and European Ginger underneath everything, is the least weedy place I have.
      I will actively lurk to see if anyone has other ideas!

    2. RagingADHD*

      I am leery of digging where there are perennial vines because it tends to spread them.

      This sounds silly, but there is a place near me that does it for real – can you rent some goats? They will clear those vines like nothing.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        They use goats in Atlanta to clear vegetation near the highways. I think it’s a great solution—no chemicals and cute animals. Win-win!

      2. ronda*

        my friend hired goats. he said it cost the same as hiring humans to do it. The goats came with 2 dogs that could chase off any predators and the owners visited every day to feed the dogs(& give them attention) and check on the progress.

    3. PX*

      what I’ve heard with vines is you need to get AAAALLLL the roots out and ideally also make sure there is no source like a neighbour where they are coming from. I’ve heard people have good success with a short but very intensive period of digging them out by hand. but intensive really means going over every single bit of ground to get as much of the root as possible out. so depends how much effort you are willing to put in. if you do that, you’re probably good to go in terms of only having minimal maintenance to do otherwise. otherwise I’d say it needs to be chemical killers alas. if you go for the groundcover method, you need to really commit to something thick enough to suppress them for probably at least one full growing season, but I’ve seen things grow through a lot personally.

      as someone else suggested though, one alternative to try is to grow things that will outcompete them, but given how vigorous they can be, that in itself can be a challenge. if you go for this, highly recommend talking to some local gardeners first for advice on what will actually work in your area.

    4. Old Plant Woman*

      I grow the most marvelous weeds! Tey greet me every morning with a hearty “Thank you for all that loving care” So… each area and each type of weed takes a different strategy. Veggie garden is organic, mulch, hand clean with good quality sharp tools. That and my favorite flowers get most attention. And if somebody sees you weeding with a k-bar, they probably won’t try to sell you insurance. Everybody else gets science’s finest. I think the choice is to spray vines or dig to the center of the earth. I use Crossbow for blackberries, etc. Yeah, it’s evil. So is Roundup. Use it any where you can. Let it work, weed whack, rake, put down the best quality weed barrier cloth you can get. Do anything you can this year, not next spring. Good luck!

    5. Old Plant Woman*

      Random ideas. Bits of wisdom and remembered pain. Don’t plant something to compete with something you want gone. You’ll have the battle of the Titans. Don’t use black plastic as a weed barrier. Disgusting smelly slimy rotten mess. Don’t convince yourself you’ll really take care of a1500 square foot perennial bed. Best thing I ever did was put most of my beds back in grass. Started over with just a little. Could you s do that?

    6. WestsideStory*

      For the crabgrass, maybe try newspaper mulch? Think whole sections (6-10 sheets ) and then put the mulch on top of it. Paper makes a good barrier (weed seeds in the soil can’t sprout, weed seeds landin on the mulch can’t root) but doesn’t interfere with water and air.
      For the vines, you will have to be relentless in tearing them out but some you mention are self-seeding, so a thick paper mulch ne t spring may help.

    7. Jackalope*

      I don’t know if this will help, but the last couple of years we’ve planted some patches of native wildflowers. They are comfortable with our climate and hardy enough to give the weeds what for.

    8. Subtle Tuba*

      Sincere question: Is there anything really wrong with crabgrass? (In a lawn, not a garden bed.) It works as ground cover but doesn’t need mowing…seems like a win-win to me? (Context: new homeowner, ideal is a no-mow yard. )

      1. Sloanicota*

        I don’t sweat it in my lawn, although as far I know it needs mowed like any other grass, but it is pretty unsightly in my mulched beds – it does not look at all like a deliberate groundcover there.

    9. Taly*

      We moved onto a property with an enormous amount of vines everywhere, to the point that they’d killed a couple trees – oriental bittersweet, grapevines, virginia creeper, ground ivy, and all sorts of thorny vines. We have actually tamed them in most parts by doing this (it’s labor intensive):
      1. Pull the vines off the trees/wherever they are attached and follow them to the ground source.
      2. Pull out of the ground but try not to actually break the root.
      2. Once you run out of ability to pull it, cut the root and paint on the following: BioAdvanced 32-fl oz Concentrated Brush Killer — it essentially soaks into the root and kills the vine underground.
      3. For bigger vines like bittersweet it’s key to locate the “mother” – for big infestations these were vines like the size of small trees. Cut and paint here too.
      4. If you are able: cover the area in heavy landscaping fabric and cardboard and leave it unplanted for a whole growing season. This will allow you to then pull up the fabric/cardboard and make sure you actually killed everything.
      5. Once you start planting the area again, make sure you have an unplanted border around what you are planting so that you can patrol for invaders and get them before they get into your beds.
      Good luck! I’m finally down to my last section of our property that needs vine annihilation.

  23. 2023 Got Better*

    I am part of a health tracking study. I was sent a Garmin smartwatch, two weeks ago. I have data now and all I can say is crikey!!

    My sleep is good. My stress level is consistently way too high. During the week it’s way up there. Sometimes I get alerts that I need to cool it. It’s weird to know a thing and then see it objectively, in numbers.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I, too, participated in a study! Anyone else with UTI/IC issues – it’s your chance to pee for science! Go here for more information: liveutifree dot com/urinary-microbiome-study

    2. Texan In Exile*

      (And I hope that now you have that information in writing, you can figure out how to reduce your stress!)

    3. coffee & cake*

      Do you think the bio-feedback aspect will affect how you live, and therefore the study? That is, if they’re looking at long-term health outcomes for various things, and the immediate feedback you’re getting changes your behaviour, the researchers may not get accurate data? Or, are they looking for bio-feedback? Anyway, fascinating!

    4. Manders*

      I have a FitBit, which I love and have used for many, many years. They recently added a stress level feature, and I find it inaccurate for me. The sleep number almost always feels right on, but the stress level seems off. I don’t pay for Premium services, so I have no idea what I can do to change it, but as a person, I don’t feel stressed!

  24. Dawn Approaches*

    Every holiday season, I think about doing handmade gifts way too late. I’m trying to put some thought into now while I still have time to actually make stuff. What handmade gifts have you done for friends and family for the holidays? I’ve done things like the no sew/knot tie blankets and their favorite alcohol personalized photo shopped labels. What kind of things do you like to do? And not food items, those usually don’t go over great.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m the opposite of crafty – I can pretty much only do food! So first of all, well done on your drive to make things, I’m always so impressed by people who have that skill.

      My mother-in-law is a master of anything handmade and we cherish her gifts very much. Last year it was hand-painted Christmas baubles. Ours had the famous image of Snoopy sleeping at the top of his dog house, which felt son thoughtful because we love the Peanuts. The previous year, she painted a beautiful Santa’s face over a fabric heart, and we also hung that to the tree. All very high-impact, and easy to reuse because we’ll want to decorate for Christmas every year.

    2. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Ooh, we did one when I was a kid! Went to a craft store and got a bunch of silk and dried flowers, and 3 “levels” of base: centerpiece-sized wicker basket, small 8-inch wicker wreath, and some pretty glass jars. We also got florists clay (heavy, green, and holds it’s shape forever). For each person on our list, we chose one of those 3 based on how close we were and how much space they had. We spray-painted the wicker stuff gold, glued some ribbon scraps to the jars, worked out some nice arrangements, and handed out pretty christmas decorations. We still have one basket and one wreath, nearly 20 years later, they store just fine in a shopping bag in our decorations box.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Fudge was a big hit. I turned flat sheets into a duvet cover for someone whose precious was looking ragged. I’ve turned a soft piece of wool into a lap blanket by cutting & twisting tassels on each end. I’ve crocheted a market bag. Painted pottery & ornaments. But it’s serendipity more than planking–I’m more the baby blanket at age 3 speed crafted LOL.

    4. KatCardigans*

      I do a lot of sewing gifts for people—dopp-style bags, new covers for throw pillows, costumey stuff for people who enjoy that, clothes. Ditto knitting/crocheting.

      Other things that have gone over well: personalized board games, personalized books (photos, recipes, collected information that’s relevant to the recipient, stories) homemade hot chocolate powder and homemade marshmallows and little bottles of homemade Irish cream (sorry, I know that’s food), embroidered felt coasters, garlands/banners, homemade candles. I’m planning on painting some tapers this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

    5. MP*

      I did homemade limoncello one year. Lots of work peeling lemons and getting the pith off but it was so good and a huge hit!

    6. Girasol*

      Sets of cloth grocery bags. There’s always some appropriate fabric on sale and they’re a quick project.

    7. Past Lurker*

      Some people really love hand made hats, scarves, bookmarks, drawings/paintings, etc. But one time I created a simple crossword puzzle for a friend who really likes them. All the clues were about our close group of friends (like “John’s favorite color” or “Jane’s home state”) and they loved it! It wasn’t a challenging puzzle, but it was meaningful to them.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I did this for my parents one year! It was really fun (and there are websites that will make the grid for you if that’s tripping you up). I also made them personalized wordles because they love the world (again, there’s a website where you can make them of different lengths, which adds to the challenge if people are real experts at the five letter game).

        1. Professor Plum*

          Personalized wordles—thanks for that idea. I’m creating some now for an upcoming family trip!

    8. Dancing Otter*

      For several years, I brought a basket of hand-knit hats to family Christmas. Eventually, everyone had enough hats.
      Then I made quilted mug rugs for friends and placemats or table runners for family.
      I don’t know what I’ll do this year, other than a bed quilt for my daughter. Most of my friends are quilters themselves. Maybe go back to knitting?

    9. Llama Llama*

      My family does a homemade gift for each other each year. Things I have made in the past include a fact a day calendar, Harry Potter themed Phase 10, my brother last name with letters from landscapes.

    10. Homemade gift*

      Years ago I borrowed the original photos of some family members wedding from the 1930s and had them professionally copied and framed them nicely. So then everyone had a lovely picture of the great grandparents (or whomever they were to them generationally) for their home. It’s not exactly homemade, but people still talk about how they like having their own copies of these special photos.

    11. Catherine from Canada*

      I’m late to this but for three years in a row now, I’ve designed tea towels printed on Spoonflower tea towel fabric. They provide a template, and then I just cut them and hem them.
      Pie recipes (with Pi as the border!), herb recipes (pesto, salsa verde, etc), the latest was a collage of photos of my late mother’s Royal Copenhagen Christmas series plates (nobody wanted them, this was the best way to memorialise them). It takes about 20 minutes to press, pin and hem one.

  25. acmx*

    Appreciation/thank you gift for a real estate agent? Mine has been a good resource for tangential services.
    I’m thinking an actual gift just not sure what. Ideas?
    However, I know people here lean heavily towards cash. If I gave cash, how much?

    1. WellRed*

      I think cash would be wildly inappropriate. This is a professional who provided professional services in exchange for payment. I’d do a token gift (local restaurant gift card, bottle of wine or whatever adult beverage they might favor if you know, that sort of thing).

    2. Commander Shepard's Favorite Store*

      Our real estate agent on my last house purchase was an absolute godsend, put up with a lot of flip-flopping and emotional angst–largely from me, I’m sorry to admit–and we adored her. Normally I wouldn’t do a gift for somebody I’d paid already (or who got paid as a consequence of my hiring her anyway, and very well!) but she was so great we wanted to anyway. We asked our loan agent, who was also a friend of hers, what she liked, and sent her a very nice gift basket.

      1. acmx*

        ” who got paid as a consequence of my hiring her anyway, and very well!”
        Yes! This is why I was looking for gift ideas and not more cash.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I like the idea of finding out what she likes before building the gift basket, to avoid allergies and other “oh, well… it’s the thought that counts” moments.

    3. mreasy*

      Bottle of wine, nice chocolates, maybe GC to a local restaurant, but something consumable is ideal – and definitely not cash.

    4. BookMom*

      I sent a nice fruit basket to a realtor who went way above and beyond for me. He was absolutely tickled because it’s quite unusual.

      1. acmx*

        Yes and I do that but this is an investment property in a different county (different metro area).

    5. Anonymous for This*

      I agree with “cash light”, i.e., a gift card. Maybe they have a favorite high-end restaurant that they only go to on special occasions due to the cost. There should be someone in their office who can give you some suggestions.

      Don’t give wine unless you know for sure it would be appreciated. Too many people can’t drink for medical reasons, don’t drink for religious reasons, or have a problem with alcohol.

      1. acmx*

        I don’t like to give wine because I myself do not like wine and so can’t appreciate when I’m given it. :)

        I don’t know his office and he changed companies recently.

    6. Aphrodite*

      I gave my banker, real estate agent and best friend (all of whom had been instrumental in finding and financing my home) the same gift: a pretty black gift bag with “Thank You” script written in gold, stuffed with black tissue paper and tied with a pretty silk black ribbon bow. Inside was an array of chargeable lanterns, flashlights and a headlamp. Instead of a card, I had printed out copies of a 1940s or 1950s actress dressed as a lamp and wrote on it “You light up my life!”

    7. acmx*

      I’m glad y’all don’t agree with giving cash lol
      Maybe I’ll look a subscription boxes for a gift basket type idea. Or a bottle of whiskey.

    8. BubbleTea*

      I sent my estate agent and conveyancing solicitor a photo of myself, my son and our dog in our new home in front of the Christmas tree, because they absolutely hustled to make sure we had the keys in time to spend Christmas there (UK house purchases move extreeeeeeemely slowly, I’d pulled out of a purchase that hadn’t made any discernible progress in four months, in order to buy this house in less than four weeks from viewing to keys).

  26. Llellayena*

    Inspired by comments on a question earlier this week: do you have recipe books or websites that are good at collecting together recipes that fit “specialty” cooking (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc) WITHOUT trying to imitate recipes not in that specialty?

    I see this mostly with gluten free, but recipes books all seem to give me ways to recreate pasta or bread based recipes using 6 types of gluten free flour to get the right texture…when I don’t want to buy 6 expensive flours. I just want a nice, naturally gluten free stuffed eggplant recipe or something. For veggie, it’s “vegetarian hamburger” or “vegan turkey” when I want a nice veggie lasagna.

    I’m not looking for individual recipes, I just want to know the resources so when I need inspiration I can flip through the list.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Rukmini Iyer’s cookbooks are pretty good for that (aside from the one that is about baking). There is the odd pasta recipe, but since she focuses on traybakes, they are a minority. She often uses rice and grains, and you can also get ideas for substitutions with equally mainstream ingredients. There are also two entirely vegetarian books in the series, though all the others also include recipes that are vegetarian or vegan. You can look up some of her recipes online to see if they’re up your street, the Happy Foodie website has a good selection.

    2. kina lillet*

      Thegreekvegan has some cool recipes. Yotam Ottolenghi books often have a really wide variety of vegetarian & GF recipes, but they’re usually not “officially” collections of dietary-restriction-food.

      Serious eats also tends to have some good stuff—J Kenji Lopez-Alt actually has a bunch of great vegetarian & vegan recipes on there.

    3. Generic Name*

      I’m with you on not trying to replicate meat or bread. Vegetables can stand on their own (dammit!). For vegetarian or vegan I’d check out Indian or Asian cuisine cookbooks. They know how to do meatless and animal product free without resorting to fake meat. (I consider tofu it’s own thing and not a fake meat)

    4. No Tribble At All*

      It’s an older one, but the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I’ve seen a lot of her recipes through her children’s cookbooks (when I was a kid), and I didn’t even realize they were all vegetarian until much later in life.

      1. WellRed*

        Was gonna recommend Moosewood and maybe Mar Bittmans vegetarian cookbooks. I too prefer vegetarian that is not fake meat.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Take a look at Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. It’s a vegetable cookbook, not a vegetarian one, so you don’t get weird “meat” hacks. And while it’s not specifically vegan/gluten free etc. many of the recipes naturally omit dairy or gluten, or it’s quite easy to see how to substitute (eg. if something is served on a bed of wheat berries, you can probably substitute any gluten-free whole grain that you prefer).

    6. RagingADHD*

      I say it all the time for many different reasons: EatingWell dot com.

      Their veggie burgers are: Here is a veggie burger with mushrooms and red quinoa. Veggie tacos with zucchini and corn. etc.

      Their gluten free meal plans use potatoes, rice, grits or beans. (Occasionally store bought GF pasta.)

      Straightforward, lots of variety, many different special-diet options, tasty, easy to make.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I exactly get where you are coming from–spouse was doing keto and I was like “I don’t want a recipe for keto bread or pasta; I want a standard meal that happens to be keto.” (Lots of salad with grilled protein.)

      I have found Smitten Kitchen really good for recipes that happen to be, say, vegetarian or gluten free or dairy free*

      *Child is allergic to dairy, and her chocolate olive oil cake is now our go to dessert. Salted peanut butter cookies also excellent while happening to be dairy and gluten free.

    8. OyHiOh*

      I don’t have GF suggestions but for vegetarian, Mark Bittmans How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is excellent. I also love Gil Marks’ Olive Trees and Honey (Jewish vegetarian recipes from across the globe, with a light hand of food history to go along with). If you’re more adventurous, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking is phenomenal.

    9. amoeba*

      A bit late to the party, but smitten kitchen has tons of great vegetarian recipes! She does cook with meat occasionally, but maybe… 10-20% of the time? I believe you can also filter for other things (vegan, gluten/dairy-free, etc…)

      Also seconding Ottolenghi for vegetarian. “Plenty” is completely meat-free, but all of his books contain a lot of veggie recipes.

  27. Hungry Hungry Hippos*

    What is your go to when you’re feeling lazy, low effort to prep dinner? It can’t be delivery/takeout or an instant frozen meal, it has to have a little effort put into it. My go to is sausages with Italian seasoning, sautéed mushrooms, and the Knorrs package of easy Alfredo pasta.

    1. WellRed*

      Burrito bowl: rice (a roni, ha!), canned black beans sautéed in fajita skillet sauce, then sour cream, cheese, salsa, guacamole, whatever I have on hand.

    2. Emma*

      We’re going to try doing a snack dinner for this Friday – thing like nuts, pepperoni, fruit, cut up veggies, crackers, etc. Basically low effort charcuterie.

    3. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

      We love leftover Sam’s Club chicken mixed with egg noodles and cream of mushroom soup. Chicken noodle casserole.

    4. Not A Manager*

      When I really just can’t with the food, I’ll slice up some skinless boneless chicken breasts into roughly equally thick pieces, toss them with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and cook them on a baking sheet in a very low oven. The secret to chicken breast is not to over-heat it. I cook it to between 155° and 160° F.

      This keeps well in the fridge and can be added to almost anything to round out a meal. For that first actual dinner, while the chicken is in the oven I’ll make rice or pasta, and a quick pan sauce.

      The pan sauce is olive oil or butter; garlic, shallot or similar; white wine or broth; dried herbs; plus… [capers and lemon juice][any leftover veggies in my fridge][chopped cherry tomatoes].

    5. ecnaseener*

      Variants on pasta plus vegetable and optional protein — usually sautéed, or if I don’t feel like standing at the stove, I toss some Brussels sprouts in the oven with olive oil and a bit of maple syrup.

      And to get right up to the edge of the “no instant frozen meals” line, frozen ravioli with browned butter.

    6. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Mostly things that can be thrown on toasted bread. Avocado and smoked salmon. Poached eggs and salmon. Poached eggs with avocado and a tahini dressing. Mushrooms with tahini dressing, or with poached eggs. So many combinations, so quick to make, and I always get a kick out of getting a perfect poached egg (which is a given all the time with me!).

    7. Past Lurker*

      In summer I like to make pasta salad: cook pasta, drain, add veggies and dressing, mix. It stores well, so leftovers can be had next day and can be eaten warm or cold. Could also add meat, cheese, various herbs. I use store-bought salad dressing usually, but have also made a simple dressing of just olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper.

    8. Anonymous Koala*

      Oh I have a few!

      A chopped onion, a can of tomatoes, and a jar of harissa simmered together until thick (often with optional extra veg/ things I need to use up in my fridge). Then I crack eggs directly into the sauce and cook covered on low heat until the eggs have poached. Top with feta/olives/something salty.

      Fajitas: toss sliced chicken breast / thawed shrimp with fajita seasoning and sliced peppers and onions and roast at 400 for 20-ish minutes. Serve with tortillas, jarred salsa and shredded cheese.

      Sausage and peppers: store bought sausage crisped on a sheet pan with sliced peppers and Italian seasoning.

      Frozen roasted veg defrosted and served over rice with an egg and a makeshift bibimbap sauce – gochujang, rice vinegar, honey, and sesame oil to taste.

      Chili salmon: sauté an onion with butter and favourite chili sauce, then add salmon fillets and bake at 400 until salmon is cooked. Serve over rice or microwave-steamed veg.

      And of course, breakfast for dinner: pancakes from a mix, oatmeal, smoothies, etc.

    9. Lore*

      I have several: Quick quesadillas with any combination of vegetables, leftover chicken, or precooked chicken plus scallions and cheese. Flatbread pizzas, either traditional; Mexican style with salsa, cheese, scallions, and chicken or black beans; or Middle Eastern style with muhammara or hummus, chicken, cheese, and arugula. Avocado toast with sunny-side up eggs, parmesan, and arugula. Or if I have leftover rice, a Mexican-ish rice bowl.

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Mine is a turkey and cheddar sandwich. My husband makes ramen from scratch, but uses gf rice noodles and pre-seasoned broth plus whatever veggies he has floating around in the fridge.

    11. JustEm*

      Microwaved potato or sweet potato topped with (thawed/heated) frozen peas and cheddar cheese or even a can of chickpeas

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      Pasta in butter/garlic with salt and pepper. Great way to use up random bits of pasta sitting around. Throw in some frozen green veggies and an onion and there ya go.

    13. Cardboard Marmalade*

      If you already like sauteed mushrooms, one of my favorite quick-n-easy-but-sumptuous meals is to saute mushrooms in butter with a bit of mustard, whip up a small batch of very basic crepe batter, and then put a dollop of goat cheese and a spoonful of the mushrooms on each crepe, and roll/fold it up and devour it before the goat cheese melts too much and runs out the sides. If I’m too lazy even for making crepes, a warmed store-bought flour tortilla will do in a pinch, but it’s doesn’t feel quite as sumptuous.

    14. Spearmint*

      Homemade microwave bean and cheese burrito/soft taco. Take a tortilla, sprinkle on cheddar, put a big spoonful or two of refried beans, and microwave. Easy ways to make it more interesting are to add toppings like hot sauce, cilantro, avocado, onion, or pickled jalapenos.

    15. Fellow Traveller*

      At the very simplest – a can of tuna (the nice Italian kind, packed in olive oil), with either furikake or everything Bagel seasoning sprinkled on it. If I’m feeling like making the effort, I eat it on top of lettuce for a salad. If can’t even make the effort, I just eat it out of the can with a few crackers.
      My other go to, “single person/the kids aren’t home” meal is tofu (raw) topped with kimchi and a sprinkle of soy sauce.
      Also – chopped hard boiled eggs and cucumbers wrapped in nori.
      Or – whatever is in the fridge wrapped in a tortilla. Sometimes I open a can of black beans and dump that in too.

    16. Bluebell*

      Omelet w bag salad on the side. And I use presliced cheese. Or I just ask my husband to make veggie burgers. We’re pescatarian so the piece of chicken breast doesn’t translate so well.

    17. Green beans*

      fries or toast with avocado, goat cheese, lime (and smoked salmon on toast but not on fries.)

  28. Decidedly Me*

    A PureBarre studio is opening up really close to me, so I’ve signed up for a membership to give it a try. Any recommendations on what to wear? They say “Wear pants, leggings, or capris that you are comfortable in and a workout tank or t-shirt” – anyone have favorite brands/styles to check out? I’m overweight if that changes recommendations.

    Related – anyone else do PureBarre and do you like it? I’ve picked it purely due to vicinity, as the less hassle to get to a place, the more likely I am to do it.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I mean… sounds like typical workout clothes to me? I really like Old Navy leggings, they last surprisingly long for the price. Wear a t-shirt you can sweat in.

    2. CTT*

      Any sort of workout leggings will do; Target or Old Navy has good basics if you are rebuilding a workout wardrobe. You should also bring socks – they will try to sell you on the “sticky” socks that have tread on the bottom, and they are great, but no reason to spend the $15 on those for your first class if you end up hating it.

      I also used to do PB a lot and really loved it. I haven’t gone in a while for a variety of reasons (no longer living/working convenient to a studio, wanted to change things up), but one thing that I really appreciated about it compared to the Pilates classes I’m taking now is the consistency – no matter what studio I went to in any city, it would follow the same pattern of warm-up, arms, legs, seat, core, cool down. They varied up the exercises within each category, but I liked having an idea of what would come next compared to going to Pilates now and having moments of “we did lunges 20 minutes ago why are we doing NEW LUNGES???” (And if PB doesn’t still follow that pattern, I’m sorry for misleading you!)

    3. MissCoco*

      I used to do pure barre when I was close to a studio! I really enjoyed it, it was difficult without feeling pounding like running, and was a bit more dynamic and dancey than pilates, but also felt very self-focused. I’ll do it again if I’m ever close to a studio. You may need to start with some modifications or just drop out of some exercises early your first few weeks-months (and I could never do their entire shoulder circuit to completion due to an old injury), but the teachers never called people out for doing their own thing. There was more “long and lean” and “slimming” kind of rhetoric than I love, but overall I enjoyed the excerise itself so much that it didn’t really bother me.

      I’d wear capris and a tank because I got sweaty during classes, just make sure your bottoms stay up with lots of bending, so you aren’t tugging them up the whole class.

      The other thing you should bring is grippy socks (they sell them there, or you can buy your own), if you search pilates socks or barre socks a bunch will come up.

    4. TashedPotatoes*

      I do barre pilates but it’s not PureBarre. Personally I like it for the most part. I started it because my back was always killing me and needed to work on it. Since I’ve started about 15 months ago my back pain is nearly zilch and my body feels a lot better. It feels low impact but I spent the first several weeks just being sore.

      You need sticky socks for sure. I use leggings and a top. Most people wear a variation of them all.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d interpret the directive as they need to be able to see your posture so they can say “Turn your knee out a bit more” or “pull your shoulders down.” It doesn’t need to cling to your body, but big and shapeless the instructor can’t tell if you’re hitting the pose right.

    6. WestsideStory*

      I’ve had subscriptions on and off for a few years and have enjoyed the classes – I’d be taking them now except my schedule has been flux since I last went weekly back in March
      Leggings and a spandex tank top will do, and yes you must buy the expensive sticky socks – 1 or 2 pairs to start.
      It certainly does help to have a studio nearby – I also liked the flexibility of being able to choose different times of day and week till I found a schedule that had less crowded class and was easy to get to. Be aware They are sticklers for punctuality- five minutes late and they won’t let you in so as not to disrupt the class. But that’s about the only nod to actual ballet – the workouts are very targeted and you’ll be sweating

      1. WestsideStory*

        Also don’t worry about being anywhere heavier than the other participants. 1 swear in nearly all my classes I was the only person that had thighs. And usually the oldest as well. But it didn’t matter – everyone is busy concentrating on their form and so I found it much more comfortable than other group classes.

    7. Circuses are Coordinated*

      I took PB for years before recently moving and now do the XPonential online version. Love it and miss my studio! Good grippy socks are a must but outfit depends on your preferences. Target is good to find out what you like. I slowly upgraded to Athleta/Lulu/Splits59 over the years.

      The instructor makes a big difference to your class experience. If you aren’t ‘feeling’ a class, try with different instructors before making a decision to stay with PB or not. Ask the studio who their veteren or lead people are. I would sign up for a Foundations class in the first few weeks as it gives you a good intro to all the terms you hear in classes.

      It’s a great workout for everyone! One of things that was nice at my studio is that classes have mix of ages and abilities. You will be very sore the first weeks but keep going ;). Results show up. Good luck and have fun!

    8. Professor Plum*

      When I started my first exercise class and had no idea what to wear, I bought several options from the thrift store. And have discovered what I like—both in exercise clothes and classes! I like tops with built in bras. Thrifting is such an inexpensive way to try new types of clothing. And I often find clothing that is new with tags. When I buy clothes, they go straight to the washing machine when I get home. Have fun!

    9. Jackalope*

      Related, but I tried to look them up online (never heard of them before now) and they have NO PRICES listed on their website, which for me tends to be a red flag. Could anyone give me an estimate of what they charge? Knowing that it will be a bit off from my region most likely but give me an idea. And do they charge by the class or have a monthly fee or some other fee structure?

    10. Robin*

      Agree with the other comments. Whatever ur comfortable with will work. You can be as frugal or as fancy as you desire. They usually (at least at our local) have some active wear for purchase.. Whew, it’s expensive! I treated myself once as a reward for something and I tell you that outfit lasted for years. It really was high quality. Sticky socks… never saw any difference in those and any other.

  29. Junebug*

    Recommendations for stores/websites who have good quality wrought-iron outdoor furniture? My office has a large balcony on the 30th floor and needs heavy tables and chairs that won’t blow away.

    1. WellRed*

      I suppose you could try wayfair or similar though I’d hate to pay freight on wrought iron furniture.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My cast iron & wrought iron has come from tag sales but I can offer a side thought: If wind is the only reason to want cast iron, another solution I’ve seen is to chain down heavy wooden furniture. (Attached to rings in rafters or to heavy weights like cinderblocks.)

  30. Erica*

    I mentioned a few weeks ago we are moving to Montreal. We are here apartment hunting now and having trouble deciding. For context, we are a professional couple with a baby who will be six months when we move here, and I work from home. We plan to rent for 2-3 years to make sure we like it here before buying, so it’s not a forever decision but at the same time we want to get a place we really like to give the city a fair shake.

    Anyone wanna weigh in on our top choices, house hunters international style? All are similarly priced so that’s not a factor. Would be great to lead your response w the # of your choice so I can scan the votes :)
    1) nicest actual apartment — beautiful light, high ceilings, great view and amazing terrace BUT 3rd floor of a walkup with steep steps and nowhere on ground floor to store stroller. Good neighborhood but on busy street, but windows in apt are good so you don’t hear it once inside
    2) downtownish house — a cozy but spacious house with great floor plan though small bedrooms, best for hosting guests bc 2.5 bathrooms (important as we want fam/Friends to visit), nice terrace, but in the least desirable neighborhood of the 3 . On a quiet street with a nice play ground, and very convenient to subway, but surrounded by busy thoroughfares where there are some unhoused people and people who use drugs
    3) location and ease but awkward layout — large apt in elevator building with garage and storage (easy for getting out to hike, xc ski which is part of motivation for moving here) in the best location of the 3, but with the weirdest floor plan. One very large mezzanine space w no doors, and then two small “bedrooms” (one of which has no door/window) on the main floor, and smallish kitchen. Would have to get creative w making space work but best for getting out and about to park, cafes etc. Nice terraces and bright apt but no direct sun which may not be ideal in long winters
    4) keep looking and hoping something that checks all the boxes comes along as we don’t need to move for another couple months, but coming back and forth w baby isn’t easy

    Ps I’m aware this dilemma is a good problem to have!

    1. WellRed*

      No 2. Three floors with a stroller/baby/all the stuff is a no go and No. 3 just sounds awful fro working and house guests. Unless the unhoused are living on your doorstep, that sounds like a decent neighborhood.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      Have you checked how close amenities are from each location? e.g. daycare, supermarkets, etc. It can be an issue in some of the neighborhoods.

    3. ThatGirl*

      #2 or #1 are my votes. As long as the neighborhood isn’t tooooo sketchy the #2 house sounds ideal. But honestly it’s hard to say what your top priority is :)

    4. giraffe*

      I think I remember that you are mostly anglophone? Are these all in predominantly anglophone neighbourhoods? I mean, there are places in the city that you’re not having casual conversations at the playground if it’s not in French. I’d say #2* or #3. You can easily make screens with some wood, fabric and a staple gun. Also keep in mind that if your storage is in the garage, people can and do break into those.

      (*) I live in a different major Cdn city, and there are many homeless people. For the most part, they aren’t “bad” people, you can even make somewhat friends with the people who stay on the same corner. When one of the local people died (overdose), the people in the neighbourhood made a huge memorial for him.

      1. Cal’sMom*

        I would encourage you to be open to living in proximity to unhoused folks. Where I live many of the folks outside are long time residents who have hit hard times – they have connections to and are definitely part of the community, plus folks who need them often stay near social services or emergency services, so it could be that your neighborhood would have those kinds of resources in case you ever find yourself in need of help.

    5. AGD*

      If you have time and patience, my vote would be to keep looking. I was in a similar position and decided to wait and see. There are never any guarantees, of course, but after considering a few pretty good options, something perfect fell into my lap and I’m so glad I held out for it because my quality of life was suddenly 100% better.

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I like number 2,in part because I like being near the subway. However, the Montreal metro is great, but a lot of stations don’t (yet) have elevators. So that’s two or three years with baby and stroller, when it matters whether you live near a good bus (frequent, goes somewhere useful).

    7. Erica*

      Thanks for all the responses so far! I was trying to not overwrite but I should have been more specific about badness of neighborhood #2 — other than the block the house is on, it has zero charm. Dark, no good cafes/ restaurants nearby, loud streets, and a long hilly walk or a subway ride to where our few friends here live. if we lived there it would just be for being in the house and we’d have to go to other neighborhoods to do pretty much anything outside/social other than going to playground.

      I appreciate the input about being open to living near unhoused people and PWUD. I’ve worked in harm reduction for a decade so am pretty open minded but am not sure I’d want to raise kids right next to active drug use for safety reasons — there is a little park next to the house where we saw some syringe wrappers and I wouldn’t want to be on alert for actual syringes during crawling phases.

      all the places have accessible daycares and grocery stores.

    8. Another Erica*

      I would go for #1. We live in a house with lots of stairs (think Brooklyn brownstone with a steep front stoop) and lugging the stroller wasn’t my favorite thing, but it was absolutely fine. We taught our son to walk up and down stairs as soon as he could walk, so we were done carrying him on the stairs by 18 months. And then around 2 he started refusing to use the stroller for the walk to daycare, so we had to carry it up and down much, much less. A great space with lots of light (especially in winter) plus proximity to cafes and other places to meet friends would absolutely be worth it to me!

      1. Erica*

        Thanks fellow Erica! We are moving from a 3rd fl walkup in Brooklyn sono was excited to say goodbye to stairs but you’re right it could be worth it! Still deciding … :)

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I lean to #2, as a quiet street with a nice playground will be SO appreciated with a toddler.

      For #1, does it have parking? We settled on keeping the stroller in the trunk of the car.

    10. Sigrid says hey*

      We lived in Montreal for a while. It is my favourite city to live in.

      Neighborhood choice is very important. If we were going to live there again I would start my search in NDG and look for a main floor unit in an up and down duplex or triplex.

      NDG (Notre Dame de Grace) is conveniently central, good access via both the metro and the bus, walkable and lots of restaurants and shops. There is a wide variety of housing choices available to renters. Nice diversity both ethnically and in income levels.

      If I didn’t find a good fit in NDG I would look to the West in Lachine which has many of the same strengths as NDG, but a little less central. It has a beautiful big waterfront park and good transit connections.

      There are lots of great neighborhoods besides these two. Places like Outremont, Plateau de Montreal, Westmount, Mount Royal, and Dorval. All are great places to live without being in the far suburbs.

      1. Erica*

        Thank you! le plateau, mile end and perhaps Outremont are where we’ve been focusing our search as NDG would be pretty inconvenient to my partners work. I’ll look into whether Lachine could work for him but that’s far from our friends (Le Plateau / Mile end)

      2. MED*

        There are a LOT of other great neighborhoods besides thoses… Must of those listed are not transit friendly either

    11. ronda*

      #3. — I think location is usually my most important and access to the things I want to do. a bedroom with no window actually sounds good to me cause I like it dark for sleeping and you can probably add a door if that would make the room workable for you. Small kitchen doesn’t bother me, cause I would prefer to go out for food but if you really value being able to do complicated cooking, this may not work even in a shorter term. I also prefer not to have too much sunshine, so we may be at cross purposes :).

      It sounds like you want to probably move in a couple of years, so this isn’t forever and doesn’t need to be perfect.

    12. JustEm*

      I’d pick number 3 based on location and easy to get in and out – very important with a baby

    13. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Garage FTW. Do not discount the 6-7 feet of snow that Montreal gets every winter. You’ll be scraping frost and digging your car out frequently, and from time to time on-street parking might be prohibited for snow removal operations.

    14. Camelid coordinator*

      This is another vote for #3. The windowless room could be a good home office for you, and perhaps you could cram the crib into your small bedroom. Or you could set up your desk (and probably a pack and play, if those are still a thing) in the weird mezzanine, which might be fun, and have the windowless bedroom as the baby’s nighttime sleeping area. Later when you move out you can laugh about how wacky the layout was. You don’t mention the bathrooms here, I might rescind this vote if there is only 1.

  31. Mitchell Hundred*

    Bit of a long shot asking about this on here, but the problem doesn’t seem to be going away for me. Does anybody have recommendations for cat care resources?

    My cat has been having issues with vomiting for a few years now, and while several trips to the vet seem to have helped a bit, I feel like they haven’t gotten to the root of the problem (and some of the improvement probably comes from the fact that she’s not eating as much, which is it’s own problem).

    1. mreasy*

      Hi! I have historically had cats with tummy issues/IBS diagnoses, and through a bunch of googling & trials, have found a regimen that has solved the problem. (The Vitality Science website/vibe is too woo woo for my taste but man do their supplements work where others haven’t.) Sometimes it’s eating too fast if they get dry food, and there will be sources online to help with strategies for that… honestly my best advice is to try to find a consensus among cat publications when googling and just try things. A switch in diet / food dish / etc is low risk so it’s worth a shot. My vet is great but for some of the chronic stuff it’s been helpful to find multiple opinions (many vets share info online though you of course have to trust they are who they say they are).

      1. Cat and dog fosterer*

        Agreed that trying different foods would be my first suggestion. A friend had a cat who often vomited multiple times per week and that changed to once per month or less with a change in food.

        1. Mitchell Hundred*

          Yeah, one of the vet’s recommendations that seems to have helped a bit is switching to a food that’s easier on her kidneys.

          Unfortunately she had to have a bunch of her teeth out a couple of years back, so dry food isn’t an option.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Apologies if you’ve already tested this and know she can’t eat dry food — but if you haven’t tried it, try it! Sophie had to have ALL her teeth out a couple years ago (stomatitis) and she still eats dry food perfectly fine (which surprised me). So if you’re just guessing she can’t eat it, it might be worth a try.

            Also, Hank is a chronic vomiter, and moving him to prescription food for stomach issues has helped a lot (we use Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care but there are several).

            1. Mitchell Hundred*

              That is interesting, I just assumed the vet was right when she said I couldn’t give her wet food anymore. I’ll have to see if dry food is an option.

              1. Cat and dog fosterer*

                There are a couple options, either feed dry kibbles normally and see if the gums are enough to break them (I’ve known old chihuahuas who will happily eat big dog kibbles even when they had their own wet food), or try moistening the dry kibbles with water or plain (no salt or sugar) broth until they are soft.

    2. MP*

      I would see an internal medicine specialist who can do a little more in depth testing! Made a huge difference for my medically complex foster dog.

    3. Qwerty*

      Seconding the suggestion to have another vet look at the problem with fresh eyes

      Some issues that my cats have had which caused regular vomiting in case any of them are helpful
      – Plants. We had a safe plant (catmint?) that he loved. Eventually he started biting all the other plants in the yard when we weren’t looking and one or more were not cat safe
      – Wet food – One cat would be ill whenever we gave him wet food pouches because it was too rich for him. I’ve noticed my current cat has to switch to dry food only when he isn’t feeling well
      – Jumping from high places when full. She’d jump down from a counter and be ill within 2min. Something about the impact of the jump.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      I’d recommend a second opinion. Chronic vomiting in cats can turn into a big diagnostic rabbit hole and not every vet will do a deep dive into the cause.

    5. JSPA*

      Mine has a bunch of allergies. Milk products were fairly easy to weed out…but more problematically, peas, pea protein, “vegetable protein” and guar gum (also in the pea family). Also no longer tolerating beef- based foods (but I notice that human beef here is allowed to include a vegetable aminos broth… which may well, again, mean peas. The options on both wet and dry food are narrowing precariously. Peas, due to good marketing, are presumed hypoallergenic, and feature in most “sensitive stomach” diets. And “amino digest” rarely specifies a source. So even if you’ve done a restricted diet, you may not have successfully avoided the trigger.

    6. JSPA*

      Also, it’s often an early indicator of hyperthyroid. there are different sorts of thyroid testing; a cat can be quite sick, but still in the normal range on the basic test. While you have to be very careful with human contact (the cat meds WILL affect your thyroid via direct or secondary contact) one form of the treatment is a gel or cream you put inside the outer ear…so if there is a possibility of thyroid problems, it’s fairly easy to try treatment and see if there is a dramatic change.

    7. carcinization*

      I know you were asking for resources and not anecdotes, so I hope I’m not being too annoying, but when we had 2 cats with these issues awhile back our vet suggested 2 fairly simple things that helped us which were the cats having set feeding times morning and night rather than just being free-fed (so whatever they ate in those 30 minutes constituted their breakfast or dinner for the day because then we picked up the food dish), and giving them only distilled water to drink rather than tap. Our current cat doesn’t have as many digestive issues so we aren’t as strict about picking up his food all the time, but we never switched back to tap water.

    8. Green beans*

      is there a internist vet or gastro specialist you could ask for a referral to? they’re usually quite helpful.

  32. Teapot Translator*

    Does anyone know if there’s an app or a website where I can create a TBR list that can easily tell me if my library has the book? I normally use my library account to create the list but twice now the whole list has disappeared. I’ve told the library and they’re working on it, but it’s made me nervous.

    1. Angstrom*

      Not a list tool, but the Library Extension might be useful for you. If you’re looking at a book on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. it’ll pop up and tell you if it’s available at your local library. You could use the Amazon wish list as your TBR. libraryextensiondotcom

      1. David*

        Yeah Library Extension is exactly what I use and would recommend for this.

        Plus, since it works on so many different sites, it lets me avoid Amazon/Goodreads. I use it primarily with The Story Graph.

    2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I use Goodreads – I have a folder called “Public Library” that tags all of my TBR books that are at my library (I have another much smaller folder for “Academic Library” for books at my local university I can check out).

  33. Bluebell*

    Favorite food tracking app? I’m contemplating moving beyond the tiny paper notebook method. I don’t care about calories but need to track protein, sodium, calcium , and also potassium.

    1. Sj*

      Cronometer. I use the free version. You can scan the upc code for packaged foods, put in your own recipes, etc. I find it easy to use.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Seconding Cronometer. Very easy to set custom nutrient targets, good database, and easy to build favorites or recipes to re-use.

        And no creepy cheerleading. My tracking is for me, and I just want data. I don’t need or want some AI congratulating me because it thinks I did a good job.

    2. Glazed Donut*

      I like Lose It. The name is a bit of a misnomer (it’s not just for those losing weight). I think I paid $30 for the year of premium. I can change my protein goals so that’s the progress I see rather than calories spent. It doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of ads like I experienced with My Fitness Pal, and the bar code scanning has been easy to use and reliable.

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

    Small joys thread? What made you happy this week?

    I recommended a teen social group for a friend’s kid who’s been having kind of a rough time, and the kid really liked the people she met there!

    1. Manders*

      I checked my state’s Unclaimed Property website and found out that the state is holding onto some unexpected money for me! Sent in the paperwork and a check will be here within the next two weeks. So I turned around and purchased concert tickets that I had been debating on.

    2. Girasol*

      I discovered that the DMV hadn’t sent the usual reminder and my car tags were a couple weeks out of date. So I raced down to the DMV office, told the reception person what I needed, and they called my number before the printer had even spit it out. That’s like hitting the jackpot, isn’t it?

    3. GoryDetails*

      The first of my Helios hot peppers is ripe! I don’t usually grow habaneros – a bit TOO hot for me – but these looked tempting, and I can just be careful about the amount I use. (And wear gloves while cutting them up!)

    4. Past Lurker*

      I’m eating a chocolate cookie at one of my favorite coffeehouses. Just finished drinking their new special, a brown sugar-maple latte. It’s been a hot summer here, so I choose to belive Autumn is near!

    5. ripe peach*

      My young adult finally realizing that she wants to switch college majors from a “spite” major (that lots of people told her she couldn’t do), to a major that she enjoys more. Either one is good.

    6. Elle Woods*

      A neighbor stopped by last night with a container of fresh-picked blueberries and bouquet of wildflowers from his garden. My husband and I had helped him clean up branches on his property after a big storm a few weeks ago. The blueberries and flowers were his way of saying thanks.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      We ordered a pretzel at our nice dinner last night, and the chef just absolutely nailed it. Fresh baked, came with a couple of types of mustard but just plain warm from the oven was the best way.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      Going to Rifftrax Live! on Thursday: they did RAD, a BMX bike movie from the eighties and it was a riot and a half–one of those uniquely eighties combos of absurd premise (BMX biking will be the next Superbowl!) and flatly realistic depictions of dances in the high school gym and a “parade” that is nothing but slow moving, undecorated trucks.

      Talia Shire’s in this thing as the mom, and the guys were in top form: “I was in The Godfather.” “I am a Coppela, for God’s sake!”

      1. GoryDetails*

        I love the Rifftrax crew – have seen a couple of the live shows as well. I hope they’re still using their own theme music (“…sparkly vampires…”) and goofy slide show before the main feature.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I heard acorns falling on the leaves on my morning walk this weekend, and it seemed like the air was fresher and crisper all of a sudden. I know we’ve still got some heat ahead of us but this is the first time in a while that I believed Fall is still coming.

    10. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m on holiday visiting family. I could go on for hours about what I’ve been eating since arriving, but I’ll spare you!

      Despite a huge delay flying out, we still managed to get a (very late) dinner at our destination. Being able to eat the thing I’d been looking forward to all along, instead of a pre-packed sandwich grabbed at the airport before flying, made me go to sleep in a much better mood than I’d been in all day.

    11. Jay*

      I finally felt well enough to go fly fishing for the first time this year and caught my first trout of the year.

    12. Can't Sit Still*

      My cooking class this morning was brunch: blackberry German pancake with lemon syrup, bacon leek hash with chive crème fraiche, and frozen sangria.

      I got to use a lot of my new kitchen things: my tarte Tatin pan for the pancake, my 12″ nonstick skillet for the hash, my All Clad saucepan for the lemon syrup and my new blender ‘s frozen cocktail setting for the sangria.

      All in all, everything is delicious and I will make the recipes again, although not all at the same time! Sur la Table’s online cooking classes are so much fun and I always learn new techniques. I could YouTube it, but I enjoy the live class aspect a lot. People always ask questions I haven’t thought of before.

    13. Irish Teacher*

      Was just in Connemara with some friends. It is quite as beautiful as it’s supposed to be. And I got my nephew who attends an all-Irish school a sweatshirt saying “I’m a big boy now,” in Irish. He is about to start his second year of school, so he’s in the “big” kids’ infants class from the week after next.

  35. Texan In Exile*

    What’s a chore that you hate but will begrudgingly do for someone you love as long as they do something huge in return?

    I just finishing mending my husband’s hiking socks. (Sock makers, DO BETTER. These socks were only a few miles old and were torn just along the toe seams, which means bad construction.) I hate darning socks but I hate spending money even more.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I’m sorta the inverse — my husband hates having hair in his eyes AND hates paying money for someone to cut his hair. I’ve been cutting his hair since before we were married to stop him from giving himself a buzz cut. I don’t mind at all, and he is eternally grateful and happy that the person in the world who cares most about his hair (me) approves.

      Overall chore I don’t enjoy but it’s an act of love — doing the litter box. Darn cats never say thank you but they do snuggle me so that makes up for it :3

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Mr. Glomarization and I don’t have an explicit quid pro quo when it comes to unpleasant chores, like “I’ll do this thing I hate but only so long as you do something huge in return.” However, we do seem to have settled into a “my chores, your chores” groove for the tasks that we dislike. So, for example, Mr. Glomarization hates vacuuming with the burning passion of a thousand suns. I don’t love vaccuming, but I’ll do it since he hates it so much. Vice versa with pumping gas. But it’s really informal and not conditional on one person absolutely, positively must do the one chore in return for the other doing the other.

      1. SuperProcrastinator*

        My spouse and I divide up chores based on who hates it less! Works pretty well except for something really gross – then we take turns.

      1. Annie Edison*

        I was about to say the same thing! I have several pairs of Darn Tough socks that are…I don’t know, probably 7 years old at this point and I don’t even know how many miles? Not a single hole and still as comfy as when I first bought them

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Husband deep cleaning the bathroom/kitchen, when he actually does the whole thing. In return I scrub the cat’s litter boxes and vacuum/dust every week.

    4. Fellow Traveller*

      I will wash out the filter in the dishwasher and in exchange spouse cleans out the hair in our tub shroom.

  36. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Crafting thread! What are you working on, or what have you finished?

    I would like to brag that my teenager has MADE THE BED. Literally– their summer project was a loft bed that is now being slept in. (On?)

    Personally I’m taking a break from the never-ending afghan to churn out a baby blanket. (It’s going to take longer than the designer’s 3 hour estimate though LOL.)

    1. RagingADHD*

      I am slowly making progress on my lady hobbit, starting with a new shift. I was thrilled to discover that the smocking stitches on my sewing machine actually make stretchy smocking, so I can pretty up the gathers and have some give in the sleeve bands without using elastic.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m a little over 2/3 of the way through a double-knit intarsia Star Wars scarf for a dear friend. I did one for my husband a couple years ago and this guy is his should-have-been brother type friend.

    3. AGD*

      Have almost finished a baby blanket for a dear friend – which is good because the baby in question is coming and I’m about to get busy at Unweekendy Place.

    4. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      I’m slowly working on a crochet granny square blanket and a big needlepoint panel. Keep switching between them. I may also try a little amigurumi soon so as not to get too tired of all those squares.

    5. SuprisinglyADHD*

      I love seeing all these long-term projects still going! My mom gave me a cross-stitch that was intended to hang in my nursery as an infant, I was 26 when she finished it, and I LOVE it!
      My neverending project is a village made out of plastic canvass sheets and yarn. I’m re-creating one my mom made from kits many years ago, she kept all the instructions and bits of yarn as color samples so I was able to match the originals (“light rust” and “dark rust” are very subjective, and there’s a huge variety of “beige”). I’m actually making 6 sets simultaneously, per requests from my siblings and cousins. I’ve finished making all the pieces for the first building, and I’m 2/3rds of the way through the second, in about a year of work! Assembly will not happen until all the pieces are finished, it’s way easier to store hundreds of flat pieces than dozens of houses!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        That is *amazing*.
        Are you going to share the patterns when you give the houses?

        1. SuprisinglyADHD*

          If anyone wants, I’m definitely saving the patterns and would share with family members.

  37. No Tribble At All*

    Alison- Is that a Hanukkah cat blanket?? If you get the kittens Hanukkah themed cat toys, do they count as Hanukkah balls?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, it is! But inexplicably the menorah has seven candles. (This was bought for us by a non-Jew. The cats all love it though, because they are heathens.)

      1. Not A Manager*

        That’s actually a traditional menorah, as opposed to the kind that’s lit on Hanukkah called a hanukkiah.

        1. Roland*

          Yes, the kind that was the on in the miracle. A surprising choice for a cartoony modern Hannukah thing though.

      2. AGD*

        Haha! Well-intentioned, but yeah, the non-Hanukkah version is a funny little giveaway that someone almost knew what they were doing. :)

      3. Anonymous for This*

        I’m Jewish and I don’t think I would have noticed that a picture on a blanket didn’t have the correct number of candlesticks.

        By the way, those two kitties are a couple of the cutest little heathens!

  38. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    So, I asked about a wedding I’m going to next month in NYC. I need help with the dress. Formal dress code at what looks like a snazzy venue, so I have nothing to wear.

    I’m actually working on sewing a dress, but I’m not sure if it will work. Butterick B6018, view B, with the buttons left off. I am still in mockup phase but have my eye on some gorgeous silk noil that I would dye either a dusty blue or a brick-ish sort of red. Would it be fancy enough for a formal wedding? Any modifications that would make it more formal?

    1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I looked up the pattern and I think it would look great! In silk, it will be dressy enough.

      1. Cal’sMom*

        Yeah, that looks lovely! If you finish it and feel you need to dress it up more, you could always add accessories to complement, the neckline looks like it would be great for wearing a fun necklace.

    2. RagingADHD*

      In silk, gorgeous! I think dusty blue might show off the texture of the silk better, because noil is a low-sheen weave, right?

    3. Never Enough Fabric!*

      Option B is the one without the cuffs on the sleeves, right? That would look great.

      A suggestion – I’d reconsider the buttons, especially if you use the dress fabric to make covered buttons and use button loops (bias strips sewn into little tubes) instead of buttonholes. Or use purchased round or dome buttons with dress fabric button loops. I think button loops look elegant but this might be because I hate doing buttonholes! Of course this would involve more fiddley work than you want to deal with.
      I’ve made garments where the buttons cost more than the fabric!

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yep, open neckline and no cuffs.

        The buttons are fake anyway, so no need to worry about buttonholes anyway. There is a zipper in the size seam. I’m not a fan of fake buttons and like the look of it better without them.

    4. Erica*

      This is totally perfect for an nyc wedding! Id just pair it with fancy jewelry — earrings or a necklace that complements that pretty neckline. As long as it’s formal and not black tie, I feel like we New Yorkers tend to dress more simply and being overly decked out identifies you as a country bumpkin :)

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Ah, thanks for an New Yorker opinion! I’d always heard that y’all are fancier than us mid-westerners, and I don’t want to be underdressed. Good to know that simplicity will fit in. And I have some nice necklaces.

    5. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Another New Yorker opinion, I looked up the pattern and it will be perfect in silk! Either in blue or red, it’ll be gorgeous! A pretty necklace and some earrings would up the “fancy factor” if those are something you enjoy, (the neckline looks very necklace-friendly), but probably not necessary.

  39. Cal’sMom*

    Cat-related encouragement needed: My new housemate and I are in the process (early stages) of introducing our cats to one another. I know the best thing to be is patient, but I can tell my guy is frustrated with being cooped up and it’s stressing me out. Any words of encouragement or wisdom from cat households who have been through this and come out the other side?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you are able to – alternate who’s being cooped up? It’ll also let them get used to each other’s scent if they’re trading spaces.

    2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Extra toys/play time. If you can put up (sometimes maybe a couple) baby/doggies gates so they can see out, that might help. As much as possible, try to put one cat “away” (like in a bedroom) and let the other cat out, alternating. For one, this will help prevent a new cat from being uncomfortable outside whatever room you introduced them to (this was our main issue) and also, they get to get used to each other’s scents, find hiding places, and… have a bit of a scenery change.

      Also, make enrichment items for the cats to ease boredom. The shelter I volunteer at will take paper towels (the papery ones) and put a pinch of herb in them, roll it up and tie a knot over the herb, and give it to cats/dogs for in-kennel enrichment. They use oregano, cinnamon, parsley, and catnip, I think.

  40. Leaf peeping*

    Leaf peepers, is it possible to do an impromptu New England trip, or does the popularity of that location require significantly advanced booking?

    Husband and I are eager to do a fall driving vacation, but the nature of his work makes it impossible to plan far ahead. Most of our PTO is decided last-minute, and we’ve been known to just get in the car and see where we end up.

    1. GoryDetails*

      New Englander here (southern NH). It is possible to do an impromptu trip, but you may want to avoid some of the real leaf-peeping hot spots. In a typical season, you can find lovely foliage in many different places, not restricted to specific routes, so perhaps you could check out other things you’d like – the seacoast? Museums? Fairs? – for the time you want to go, and plan a route that way. [Side note: the actual foliage season can vary quite a lot depending on weather and other factors; some years are glorious, some are just pretty. But if you’re driving around New England during early October, you’ll probably see some lovely leaves *somewhere*!]

      1. Ontariariario*

        Agreed that there are a lot of good colours away from the hot spots. I live near a place that is incredibly popular for autumn colours and it is very difficult to visit, yet I have a city park within a short walk from home and it is equally beautiful to walk around it. The nearby park is much smaller, so better for a walk, whereas the huge park allows for long drives if that’s your thing. The trees in both are the same. So don’t worry about visiting last-minute, but do plan to avoid the busy tourist spots.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Seconding GoryDetails (hi from northern MA!) And do check for storm damage wherever you go in New England this fall. We’ve had some terrible floods and some of the roads are closed/down to one lane.

    3. David*

      New England is huge, and even with as many leaf peepers as there are (love that term BTW), they do not come close to filling it up. In fact you could fit the entire world’s population in Rhode Island alone. (though it wouldn’t end well… https://what-if.xkcd.com/8/ ) Like other people are saying, just avoid the more popular spots and you should be totally fine. Maybe look around for where hotels aren’t too expensive, that should give you a good clue.

      If you’re not already, I would suggest considering upstate New York, which isn’t technically part of New England but has a lot of the same beautiful scenery. The Hudson River valley is well known for it, but there are also many similarly beautiful places further west that aren’t as popular, for example the Finger Lakes region between Ithaca and Rochester, or the Catskills/Adirondack region around Norwich and Oneonta and further to the southeast, or practically the entire northern half of the state west of Vermont, including places like Lake Placid. There are even parts of northern Pennsylvania that would make for some good nature sightseeing, although the season for it is typically a little shorter and later than in New England itself.

      1. GoryDetails*

        May I just say thanks for the “What If?” reference. I love that book – and the follow-on “What If? 2” – so much! Randall Munroe is a genius – and a little too cheerful about some of his disaster-scenarios!

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      2023 specific: Vermont & eastern NYS had severe summer flooding so I advise reservations this year, even if just made the night before.

      More general: Partly this depends on the kind of place you want to stay. If you want idyllic inn with a wooded view on the October 3-day weekend in Western Massachusetts, yep book early.

      Availability is more flexible if you’re happy with a basic motel just off the highway or next to a mall–but I’d still say get a reservation before you get in the car so you don’t get surprised by a big regional event or a cell-service dead zone. (Download local maps or bring one.)

      Talk to the individual hotel about cancelation policies. (Talk directly to the front desk!) If you’re buying direct instead of a travel agent website, there’smore flexibility. This is one time you don’t want the lowest rate – that’s usually the least able to reschedule. (Chains contract with travel agency websites so local hotel franchises are tied to those agreements. )

      Other things that aren’t obvious to people who haven’t lived here, just because it’s worth mentioning: Color change is earlier farther north and at higher elevations. Once the color changes the leaves start falling. Summer weather affects timing and gaudiness –leaves start falling early in a drought year for example. Storms can knock down leaves early. Rain clouds can cover up the view–and yet walking in wet yellow woods is a beautiful thing. (Chilly but beautiful.)

      Sorry for the novel. (And all the parentheticals.)

  41. The Other Dawn*

    Has anyone tried Loop ear plugs? If so, did they work well for you?

    I’ve been searching for ear plugs for the firing range since it gets quite hot wearing the ear muffs; however, I’ve realized ear plugs don’t have enough decibal reduction and I’ll need to stick with ear muffs. Instead, I would like to find better ear plugs for concerts and things like that. Typically I use the one-use foam ear plugs, but at a concert a couple weeks ago, I found them to be a real annoyance. They just wouldn’t seal the way they normally do and I had to keep readjusting. Rather than buying and trying various disposable foam ear plugs, I’d rather find a reusable pair that fits well and has better decibal reduction. I’ve seen some recommendations for Loop and they seem to get good reviews. I like how they look, too.

    1. Claire*

      I have the Loop Quiet earplugs and I love them – they’re noise reducing so help me stay calmer and focused in noisy environments. I haven’t tried the Experience ones which is what you’d want for concerts etc. but I find mine really comfortable and easy to wear for long periods when travelling and so forth. They’re unobtrusive and look much better than any other earplugs I’ve tried too.

    2. acmx*

      Yup, I use the Loop concert version (Experience I think?) Helps with Papa Roach ;-) I love the fit.

      I keep them on my key chain. I can use them for work and for when you unexpectedly are sharing a room with a terrible snorer. LOL Note that they aren’t super comfortable to sleep in if you’re a side sleeper. But they work!

    3. Sitting Pretty*

      My loop earplugs have saved me. I live in a condo with a busy parking lot and a bunch of trees and birds and inexplicably endless construction projects, so resting well can be hard. The regular foam.earplugs just don’t do the trick. I got the loop quiet and they really muffle the noise.

      I have some sensory issues so the I also bought the loop experience ones and use them when at the theater or a noisy restaurant or something.

      The one issue I find is that (sorry, body stuff here…) your ear canals need to be clean and oil-free. And when you wear the loops for a while, like at night, they can trap the normal.moisture the builds up in there making them sort of unseal. So I keep tissues nearby to wipe off the loops and also give my ears a little mop as needed and then reseal everything

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        Oh also, no earplug I have found do a good job muffling reaply loud, percussive noise. Like at your firing range, or when my upstairs neighbor is clomping around in his wingtips at 5:30 am getting ready for work.

        I think this is because sound isn’t just what you hear, it’s also vibration. And some sounds have bigger, more intense vibrations. You feel the sounds on your body not just in your ears. This is all very unscientific but in my experience, the more explosive/percussive a noise, the less useful earplugs are.

        I’m guessing that for a firing range the main thing is to protect your ears from damage, right? So the muffler/headphone things, being made of many layers, probably do that better than any earplugs could

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Right. It’s pretty loud even in the parking lot since the rifle range is on that side, and those tend to be louder than pistols. I put the ear muffs on as soon as we get out of the car.

          Yes, even with the ear muffs, there’s still the percussion depending on what caliber people are using. We went to the range today and I used a new pair of ear muffs I bought that have a higher decibal rating. Although they’re better that my previous pair with the overall noise, they still don’t do much to cushion me from the guying using a .50 caliber in the next stall. I can’t imagine any pair of ear muffs, and not ear plugs, helping with that–we could feel the pressure from it in our ears and had to move away from the guy.

    4. ampersand*

      Yes, love them! I use them daily to block out various noises (dog barking, kid watching tv while I’m doing other things, and even things like the blender and my hair dryer bc they’re loud). I tried lots of disposable ear plugs before landing on these and highly, highly recommend them.

    5. TX_trucker*

      I tried Loop and they worked, but I hated the way they felt. The Earplug store (online shop) has a variety pack of 30 different disposable brands. I was amazed at how different some of the disposables felt and I found a few favorites.

    6. mreasy*

      I sleep in the Loop Quiet and they have been a godsend. A close friend recommended them as she uses the Experience for loud events and has found them to work well. I’m such a skeptic so it took me ages to actually order them but man, they’re great.

    7. Rara Avis*

      I use them to tone down the music in exercise classes. So much more comfortable and easy to use than the foam or wax disposable ones I was struggling g with before.

  42. Loopy*

    Does anyone use a portable blender? I just bought a really cheap one at Aldi and realized cutting frozen fruit down to the tiny size it can handle is a real hassle. Before I return it, I thought I’d ask if anyone has any good smoothie recipes that are good for such a small, limited blender.

    Unfortunately I really hate banana which would probably be well suited to it.

      1. Loopy*

        I have a good one, I just thought it would be nice to have a portable one as well. Hence considering trying to make it work with some recipes for when I want the more portable option.

        I’ve seen other portable ones and they all seem to require very small pieces, not sure if there is an exception to that (I’ll be honest I haven’t really investigated that extensively beyond finding most reviews and instructions seemed to include that)

        1. Anonymous Koala*

          Frozen wild blueberries are pretty small and delicious in smoothies. Sometimes I also make smoothies without fruit – just yogurt, water/milk, and protein powder. I bet the blender would also work for frozen coffees – you could freeze the coffee in pebble ice trays so it’s small when you are ready to blend.

    1. matcha123*

      I use a small blender because I live in a small apartment and have limited space. It is a recolte capsule blender.
      I mainly make smoothies with it because I don’t cook much.
      When I make smoothies it’s just random, I usually use bananas, but I don’t think you need them. I take some frozen berries, frozen mango, some scoops of yogurt and blend them together. I used to add milk, but it doesn’t really need milk.
      If you are sensitive to dairy, you could substitute water. I’m sure others use soy or almond milk, which I haven’t tried.

      I don’t need to cut fruit into smaller pieces because I buy frozen fruit that’s already cut into tiny bits. I live outside of the US, so I don’t want to say this is something you’d be able to find easily. For larger frozen fruit, I put it in, give it an initial spin and then use a spoon to push down and move things around as needed.

  43. BlueCactus*

    Recommendations for more obscure mystery series that you especially enjoyed? My mom’s birthday is coming up, and she is a mystery fiend – which means she’s read most of the common ones! The early Three Pines books are a particular favorite of hers.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Does she like historical mysteries? I love the M. Louisa Locke series set in 1880s San Francisco. The first is Maids of Misfortune. The protagonist is a widow who pretends to be a psychic as that is the only way she can use her business acumen to make money advising people.

      I also really like Iona Winshaw’s series set in 1940s British Columbia, with former spy Lane Winslow who settles into a small town after WW2.

      If likes the Three Pines books, she might like Elly Griffiths – I’ve read 2 of her series, the Harbinder Kaur books and the Ruth Galloway series. Both have British settings. Harbinder is a Detective Sargent and Ruth is an archeologist who works with police.

      1. BlueCactus*

        She does like historical mysteries! Thank you so much, I’ll check these out. (also, love the username – she’s actually a retired legal librarian!)

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Then maybe the Brother Cadfael mystery series from Ellis Peters? I found the books addictive. The tv series not so much

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Margaret Frazer’s Sister Frevisse mysteries. Frevisse I believe is a niece of Chaucer in this series.

        3. Just here for the scripts*

          Ann Swinfen’s Oxford medieval mysteries—the bookseller’s tale is the first of 6…looooove them!

          Also Lyndsey Feye’s God of Gothenburg series (3 books)

          And finally the Rivers of London series.

          1. Just here for the scripts*

            I hate autoincorrect!!!!
            Lyndsey Feye’s series is Gods of Gotham—not sure how the typo above happened!

      2. TortallyHareBrained*

        I absolutely adore the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Its fantastic.

        Thanks for the recommendation about Harbinder Kaur, I tried to read her Zig Zag mysteries but just didn’t find them compelling.

        1. Calico Tabby*

          Sticking with the historical theme, I’ve enjoyed Erin Hart’s Irish archeological mysteries. The first one is Haunted Ground.

    2. GoryDetails*

      I’ve mentioned these before, but Alan Gordon’s “Fools Guild” series is great fun; historical mysteries that start with a Shakespearian theme, with plenty of delicious banter and some intricate plotting. Starts with “Thirteenth Night”.

      Another historical-mystery series I’ve enjoyed: C J Sansom’s “Mathew Shardlake” series, set during Tudor times and featuring a mix of the daily life of a working lawyer in London with the various historical incidents – from the dissolution of the monasteries to the sinking of the “Mary Rose”. Starts with “Dissolution”.

      For something more modern and a bit (OK, a lot) wackier: Betty Webb’s “Gunn Zoo” series, in which a zoo worker with a wealthy and very eccentric mother gets involved in mysteries, usually themed on specific animals – it starts with “The Anteater of Death”. [The animals are usually fine, btw; it’s the human characters who sometimes have a challenging time!]

    3. Deschain*

      The Maisie Dobbs series is really good. Not quite in the same caliber writing-wise as Loise Penny, but good characters, good writing, interesting plots, and historical (post WW1). With a very strong female main character.

    4. Loreli*

      The Andy Carpenter series by David Rosenfelt is fun. Main character is a defense attorney who has a dog rescue.

      For something completely different: the ballad series by Sharyn McCrumb. They’re set in Appalachia.

      1. GoryDetails*

        McCrumb is very good, though I prefer her “Elizabeth MacPherson” books to the ballad series – largely for the quips from cousin Geoffrey, though he doesn’t appear in ALL the books. Elizabeth is a forensic anthropologist, giving her more of an excuse to get involved with investigations, though she does her share of stumbling over bodies. “Sick of Shadows” is the first book in the series, but “Highland Laddie Gone” is my favorite – it involves a murder at a Scottish festival in the Appalachians, with much hilarity as well as mayhem.

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

      I enjoyed James Anderson’s Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy and its sequels.

    6. Anono-me*

      Janet Neel(AKA Baroness Cohen) a series about British gov. accounting specialist who marries a police officer that I really like. (I think she also has a few stand alone books.)

    7. *daha**

      Consider Kate Wilhelm. She wrote two series of mysteries. The Constance and Charlie series starts with The Gorgon Field. Charlie is a former arson investigator. They are a husband/wife team. The series sometimes verges into science fiction, which is where Wilhelm got her start.
      Her second series features Barbara Holloway, a defense lawyer who is especially good at cross-examination. First entry: Death Qualified.

    8. Penny*

      Just started reading the Wrexford and Sloane series by Andrea Penrose, set in Regency England. They do include some information about the social issues of the time period, if that’s of interest (or not), but it’s usually relevant to the plot, at least tangentially.
      And I have the second book in the Lily Adler series by Katharine Schellman on reserve. Not sure what I think of them yet, but I’m willing to read another one.
      How about Amelia Peabody, if she hasn’t read them? It’s a long series by Elizabeth Peters.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      Hanna Vogel series by Rebecca Cantrell
      The Crown Colony (Amazon has books under various series names) by Ovidia Yu
      Underwater Investigation Unit by Andrew Mayne
      Maeve Kerrigan series by Jane Casey
      Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French
      Bruno, by Martin Walker
      Adam Lapid series by Jonathan Dunsky

    10. Jean (just Jean)*

      First, check the reading books discussion up-thread. (In a reply, I’ll share the name of the original question-asker so you can find the thread quickly via Search.)
      Second, here are three of my favorite series authors and titles. All three authors spin gripping narratives and usually describe violent misdeeds without excessively vivid details. These books are not fully violence-free, but much milder than those of Fay Ferguson or Stiig Larsson.

      – The Claire Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming: Episcopal priest and chief of police collaborate to solve crimes set in and around a fictional small town in upstate New York. Set in our current time and the characters wrestle with contemporary social trends. Includes many luminous descriptions of the rector’s spiritual life.

      – The Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne: Set within the Irish Catholic community of 7th-century Ireland, in which both women and married folk (women and men) can be church leaders. Fascinating, although I kept getting confused by the Irish names–which is my problem, not the author’s!

      – The Hugo Marston series by Mark Pryor: Set in contemporary European cities (mostly in Paris). Central character is Hugo Marston, Texas-born investigator with CIA experience, now head of security for the American embassy in Paris; other characters include his current romantic interest, long-ago CIA colleague, the U.S. ambassador, and Paris itself.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Jackalope started the discussion of books being read. I think that Falling Dipthong first mentioned mysteries.

    11. Pamela Adams*

      There was a short series- 3 books by Edward Wright. set in the1950’s- a former Hollywood star fallen on hard times who becomes a detective.

    12. Girasol*

      I just finished Murder in an Irish Village, a rather humorous one, and enjoyed it. It’s first in a series.

  44. Anon Poster*

    Does anyone have any cleaning cloth recs? I’m looking for something reusable/washable I can use on my hard surfaces, including glass and mirrors. I don’t like microfiber, mainly because it picks up hair (pet and human) when it’s in the laundry and just holds on for dear life. I’m having to de-hair the microfiber cloths before I use them, and I can spend my life living this way.

    1. MP*

      Trader Joe’s sells some I really like I think they come in two packs. They aren’t microfiber and are pretty absorbent. Plus, they are affordable and have held up well with daily use!

    2. Double A*

      Swedish disk clothes which are a little more spongey but great for kitchen cleaning. And then Utopia dish towels. We use them for everything — as napkins, as dish towels, and they have replaced even more of my use of paper towels.

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      If you put the miceofibre cleaning cloths in a close-mesh laundry net they don’t pic up hair in the wash.

      (As for actual recommendations, I’m afraid I’m on the wrong continent, sorry)

    4. Dancing Otter*

      I just use cheap facecloths. They definitely don’t match the good towels, so there’s no danger of mixing them up. I think I got a pack of a dozen from Target or Costco last time. The actual dishcloths cost more and don’t have any advantage I can see.
      Cotton (or mostly) terry cloth, they’re more absorbent than microfiber and never just disintegrate like sponges. If they get stained, I don’t care; if they get to looking too grungy, they’re not too expensive to throw out and buy more.
      I haven’t had trouble with hair or fur, but I use wool dryer balls to de-lint all the laundry.

    5. Missb*

      Carbon cleaning cloths. Ocean sales sells them.

      I keep one in my kitchen for my stainless fridge. I never have to use any product on it (so no spray cleaner etc).

      Works fab on my bathroom mirror too.

      They’re ridiculously pricey but they work. Like really really work. No loose fibers.

    6. SuprisinglyADHD*

      I use old cloth washcloths for a lot of my cleaning. Also, I’ve got several kinds of shop-rags, they’re somewhere between paper towel and cloth, and I consider them semi-disposable (wash and reuse if I can, otherwise for something really greasy, throw it out with no worries).

    7. 00ff00Claire*

      Look for “birdseye” style cotton cloths. It’s a style often used for cloth diapers, and it is both pretty absorbent and lower on the lint-production (but not zero lint). The cloths I bought actually came from a company that primarily does cloth diapers, but they are approximately 10in x 10 in instead of diaper-sized. You could also just buy the diapers and cut them up if you don’t mind the rough edges. I’ve pretty much given up on microfiber too and I like the birdseye cloths better – a lot easier to maintain.

  45. the Viking Diva*

    The Lost Journal of Édouard Manet, by Maureen Gibbon. The imagined writings of Manet in his last years offer a plausible and tender glimpse into his thoughts about his work, his struggle for status in the art world, and coming to terms with illness and aging. He speaks fondly of the women he loved (and painted) and the friends who bring him commissions, gossip, compliments, and flowers (to paint). I had to keep a web browser open while I read it, so I could study the paintings he crafts or remembers in the story.

  46. Parent Someday?*

    Can any adoptive parents recommend any websites / subreddits / etc regarding adoption that are actually good for guiding prospective parents through the process? Everywhere I’ve googled seems to be either:

    a) completely useless [vague reiterations of extremely broad generalities with no useful specifics, especially about how to actually navigate the progess]

    b) vibes off [either uncomfortably “rescue”-y or mommy-blogger tone or otherwise not seeming like a sensible, practical POV that puts the kid’s needs first]

    c) vitriolic [especially places implying that even wanting to adopt a child is wrong because “kids belong with their parents”, which is… not how it works when the kid is already up for adoption! Like, societally, yes! But for the prospective adoptee, that’s already not on the table!]

    I’d be looking for both an AAM-style community around navigating tricky emotional issues once you already have adopted, but especially for a really practical, granular site regarding how to navigate the adoption process, from foster care or from birth. I’ve done so much googling and it just seems like there’s so much to wade through that’s either vapid BS or scorn toward those who want to adopt.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I’ve only read a few posts here and there, so not sure if it’s a good fit, but you might want to check out creatingafamily.org

    2. Manders*

      I don’t have anything useful to add, but as an adoptee I wish you luck on this adventure! There’s a kid out there that needs you!

    3. Miss Thymia*

      I have no website recs but I quite enjoyed reading Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos about her adoption experience, if you want some commiseration about how hard the process can be.

    4. Observer*

      vitriolic [especially places implying that even wanting to adopt a child is wrong because “kids belong with their parents”, which is… not how it works when the kid is already up for adoption! Like, societally, yes! But for the prospective adoptee, that’s already not on the table!]

      Not what you are asking, but in addition to your point, there really are situation where “with the parent”*really* is not possible. And situations where there is no parent – whether it’s a parent that abandons their child or who dies… Which says to me that any place with that kind of vibe is *really* not reality based.

      1. ann*

        The point is to recognize that adoption is a trauma because to be up for adoption in the first place means a terrible loss and trauma has occurred to that child (especially if adopted from foster care which usually means not babies) and potential adoptive parents often aren’t exposed to that perspective. Not every adoptee feels this way but there is a growing community of adults who were adopted as children who are trying to educate people about this.

  47. Missing our view*

    I live on the ninth floor of an older, slightly rundown apartment building (but with a mangificent view!). Our windows are the kind made of two horizontal panes, so you can open the bottom pane up or the top pane down. No screen, sheer drop. The panes don’t come out. Lived in it 13 years. They powerwashed the building 10 years ago to prepare it to sell to a new owner. But not since then.

    In 2020, wildfire smoke stained the outside of the windows horribly, and now as of last year suddenly we got TONS of spiders on the outside of the building – so in the corners of our windows (which are 2 walls of our 1br space) there are like, former egg sacs and tons of webbing. It’s horrible, it’s gross and it’s disrupting the view we’re paying for.

    My question is: HOW do I get it clean? Is there a law that can make the landlord hire window washers again? (We’re in WA.) Does anyone recommend those magnetic scrubbing sponges, or U-shaped squeegees? It’s high stakes if anything falls from the window if we try ourselves. I don’t want to hurt anyone or have something crash into a lower floor window. Please help!

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Seconding contacting the landlord/owner/property management.

      If you do try and clean it, you could tie a long-ish string around whichever cleaning device you use and tie the other end to yourself (wrist, belt loop, waist – whatever feels comfortable and seems reasonable for the size/weight of the device), so in case you do let go/it slips from your hand/whatever it would just dangle a bit ans you could easily retrieve it.

    2. Squidhead*

      I know you said the panes don’t come out, but is it possible they tilt inward? That’s what our medium-quality double-hung windows do. At the top of each framed pane are small latches that hold the top edge into the track. Undoing the latch lets us tilt the whole pane inward. We have to tilt the lower one in before lowering & tilting the upper one, if that makes sense.

      Barring that, I personally would make a leash (rope tied around the tool and your wrist or belt or anchored to an indoor chair) for any tool/spray bottle I was using so they couldn’t fall, and give it a shot. If there’s a time of day when there are fewer people below, I’d do it then.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      DON’T do it yourselves. This is part of what you pay rent for, so definitely contact your landlord or whatever company runs the building. Keep in mind that booking washing for windows can be an undertaking so it might be a few weeks; also make sure they notify all tenants so no windows are left open!

  48. Cactus*

    Have you made any new friends recently? How have you kept in touch with them?

    My family recently moved to a new area (thanks military =P) and I’ve been wanting to keep in touch with a couple newer friends from the last duty station.

    I’ve done the usual “this (new story, meme, XYZ) made me think of you” or simply “hey, thinking of you”, but I’m wondering if there’s anything else. I’m clearly overthinking, but it’s so easy to be random or out of the blue with friends I’ve known 10-25 years+ whether I talk to them daily, yearly, or anything in between.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Ask a question about the new area? “Know a good handyman?” or “My husband and I want to go out for dinner this weekend? What’s a good place that runs about $20 a plate?”
      You could also invite them for a playdate, or a picnic, etc.

    2. Fellow Traveller*

      I’ve had two recent friends move away last month and your post has reminded me to send them a text to see how they are settling in and share what’s going on with me.
      There was a great interview on the podcast On Being with the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and he said something that stuck with me. “We sometimes think,” he says, “that the world of people who care about us is smaller than it really is.” He goes on to say that there was a point in his life when he thought he didn’t have very many friends, but a friend helped him realize that the people he had lost touch with would be happy to hear from him because people are always hungry for human connection. I think of that a lot when I ask myself whether or not I should reach out to someone.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      A few of my college friends and I have started writing actual on paper, via the USPS letters. I have discovered that handwritten letters lend themselves to a very different kind of content from emails and texts. And it’s so nice to get something in the mail besides junk and bills.

  49. Potatoes*

    Has anyone been diagnosed with a learning disability as an adult?

    I realized that I’ve always had a hard time connecting concepts and processing things. Not just at work but in non-work situations as well. I know about dyslexia and dyscalculia but not much beyond that. I see therapist next week would I start with telling them?

    1. OyHiOh*

      I would ask about investigating “processing” disorders, which a therapist can help you work through emotions around, but evaluation would likely come from a specialist.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Yes, any questions about your own mental functioning should first be directed to your to therapist.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I wasn’t sure if I should seek out a specialist first or talk to therapist but makes sense to discuss with her first; based on my previous experience finding specialists, it could take months.

    3. bathing suit gown*

      Since the open thread isn’t a doctor, yes this is something you really need to discuss with a healthcare provider.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Yes, I’m aware a diagnosis will come from a doctor. I’ve seen questions here in the past where people have discussed trying to get a diagnosis for something or other as adults and those topics seemed to be OK to ask here.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Think about how the traits present themselves, and how you compensate or manage them. Are you good at ‘masking’ or are people constantly remarking on x, y or z and telling you to “try harder”. Think about the cost of your energy levels in managing these traits; what’s the impact on how you prioritize things? Have you made deliberate decisions about what type of things you’re up for in order to cope? It’s good that you’re thinking about how far back it goes, you might also want to think about the frequency of those occasions when it’s had the most impact. Have the wheels ever come completely off and rolled merrily down the hill? Have you ever lost out on something important to you or have you always kept things afloat? What’s your nightmare learning environment? What’s your ideal one? When did parents or teachers first notice something? Do you struggle to pay attention when information is presented in a certain way, i.e. visually, or audibly or while moving around? Don’t forget to account for the possibility of poor teaching and training that still exists out there. I’ve heard people in charge of learners say the daftest things, like they are willing to explain concepts “one time only” which is just anti pedagogy and a lack of common sense. Sometimes impossible expectations of how the human brain should work makes people think they have poor function when what they have is poor guidance.

    5. SuprisinglyADHD*

      You can ask your therapist, ideally they would be able to help you sort out what you want help with so you have more specific questions to ask any specialist, or terms you can look up (eg dyscalculia doesn’t get a lot of publicity, so when you learned what it’s called it was probably easier for you to find more information). One thing that has helped me navigate many different kinds of appointment, was preparing a list of questions ahead of time. I use a free template I was able to download from pictal health: http://www.pictalhealth.com/free-tools
      Being able to list some specific things you struggle with is also helpful for health professionals. “a hard time connecting concepts” is descriptive but “I struggled on [x project] because I didn’t understand how [specific things] related to each other” might be more actionable.
      Best wishes to find helpful specialist(s)

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Most of the examples I can think of are related to work so can’t really share them in this thread, but I’ve noticed it outside of work as well, but examples don’t come to mind as easily.

        The best example I can think of is from Friends, when Phoebe tried to teach Joey how to speak French. She would say a word, and he’d repeat it perfectly but when asked to repeat the sentence, he’d say gibberish.

        So I can say – yea A B and C. but put them all together and I’ll get C or not get A.

        Or another way is that we’re looking at a painting and all I see is a few paintstrokes but everyone else is able to see the entire painting.

  50. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    I’m trying to decide on a vacation for next summer (2024), and one of my possible trips would be a train trip across the country to Buffalo, NY (for the NASFiC, July 18-21). I’ve also lived in the PNW my whole life, and I’ve never seen fireflies.

    Is there any place near the train route from the PNW to Buffalo that would be a good place to stop for a few days and firefly-watch? I’d be taking the Empire Builder to Chicago, and then the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Buffalo. I don’t care if they are some fancy species of firefly, I’ve just never seen them at all so I’d like to see the regular kind.

    Alternately, if I’m starting in Chicago and going to take a train somewhere else to look for fireflies, any thoughts on where I should go? I could add a week to my trip on either end.

    I can drive and realize I’ll probably need to rent a car to get to an actual campground, but I’d like to spend as little time driving as possible. (I’d probably try and rent a small RV if I’m renting a vehicle specifically to camp and look for fireflies, since otherwise I’d have to buy and then get rid of camping gear unless I wanted to camp backpacker-style.)

    This plan is still very much in the “rough draft” stage, and I really don’t know much about fireflies beyond that I’d kinda like to see them. (I know a lot about the local ecosystem where I actually live and camp, but fireflies are just something I’ve only read about or seen on tv.) I am not looking for a dedicated firefly tour situation, I’m looking for more of a reasonably chill campground where I can hang out for a few days, read books, go on hikes, and see some fireflies at night if I’m patient and sit still long enough. (I do not need a lot of structured activities to keep myself entertained on vacation, but I don’t solo wilderness-camp, particularly outside of my home area where I’m more likely to misread the local hazards, so I’d need to find a backpacking buddy or two if I’m not staying in an actual campground.)

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Alternately, I might try to chain together going to the Westercon in Salt Like City, UT from July 4-7 with going to the NASFiC in Buffalo, so places to see fireflies along the California Zephyr route from Salt Lake City to Chicago would also be a possibility.

      I’m skeptical that next year’s Westercon will actually happen since two of them have fallen apart lately, though.

    2. Ontariariario*

      I don’t know much about fireflies except that they like a lot of moisture. We rarely see them here and yet this year we’ve had a lot of rain and they are now everywhere! So I’m not sure if they are a reliable option for a trip.

    3. WellRed*

      I grew up with fireflies in the backyard and don’t see how you’d swing something like that on a train trip. They were just kind of there. I also believe fireflies are fairly rare in the western half of the US (I live in New England and rarely see them anymore fwiw, due to a variety of factors I’m sure). As kids, we called them lightning bugs ; )

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        The idea is that Id’s get off the train and camp (at a campground) for a few days somewhere along the route. So, for example, it would be helpful to know if any of the towns in Wisconsin that have Empire Builder stops would be good places to take a few days to go camping, or if it would make more sense to take that side trip in Minnesota/North Dakota/wherever, or if there are good places near Chicago and I should add a longer stop there, or whatever.

    4. RagingADHD*

      The only place I know of where people go to watch fireflies is the synchronized fireflies in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. But it’s not really on your way.

    5. Vanessa*

      I’m from Wisconsin and I desperately miss fireflies. I don’t remember the exact range of months they show up but if I recall empire builder goes through central Wisconsin on the way to Chicago. Wisconsin dells/devils lake is a great outdoorsy area. Lake Geneva is great too and closer to Chicago.
      I hope you have a great trip!

      1. Jm*

        I live in the middle of a Midwest corn field. There were a few lightning bugs on July 4, more the next few weeks. Timing is everything. Maybe look for a rural b & b? T think the Empire train goes thru WI so that would be a place to start

    6. ?*

      This is a very charming request! I’m not sure you’d need to go camping; growing up fireflies just showed up in suburban backyards and parks during the summer. I did the Empire Builder & Lake Shore Limited a few years ago (it was a great trip) and it goes through some small towns and more rural areas. I’m not sure if you were planning to do the whole thing in one go other than the stop in Chicago? If you spent the night in a small Midwest city and spent some time in parks I bet you’d see some. Or just look for them in Buffalo? Again, don’t think you’d need to go camping, just find a park area, maybe not in the heart of the city. I see them sometimes here in Brooklyn, so even being in an urban area is not necessarily an impediment.

    7. Alex*

      I grew up in upstate new york, aka sort of near your destination, and saw fireflies every summer, in my yard.

      Now? Not so much. I believe that they have greatly declined in number, so finding some may be really hard :( I just googled it and it does seem like the further east you go, the more there are, so stopping somewhere midway may not be the best plan, but probably your best chance it to just get out into nature as much as possible at night when you are in Buffalo.

    8. Penny*

      Kiddo and I were in southwestern PA, outside of Pittsburgh, this summer, and caught tons of fireflies. There were several state parks in the general area, although I’m not sure about where you could rent an RV. There are two separate Amtrak lines that run nearby, the Capitol Limited and the Pennsylvanian, both involving Pittsburgh.
      The Capitol Limited looks like it has a similar route as the Lakeshore Limited until somewhere in Ohio, so that might not be too far out of your way.

    9. Penny*

      Also, we saw most of our fireflies a bit after dusk, not the “full dark, super late” I remember from childhood. Which is likely to be a childhood memory issue and not an actual timing change, although my mom thought they were showing up earlier in the evening than they used to.

    10. Cleveland rocks*

      I grew up in Cleveland, and there’s a decent state park with camping sites 45 minutes from downtown Cleveland – Punderson State Park. Fireflies are definitely seasonal, so you’d want to do research to make sure they’d be around when you’re going to be around. I think the first week of July should be firefly-y, but who knows? (Also, we called them lightning bugs.)

    11. Doctor is In*

      Kentucky girl here. There are still lots of fireflies in the summer where I live, best seen in open fields like hayfields rather than woods. They were here during most of July but mostly gone now.

    12. MMB*

      There are Fireflies in Kansas and Missouri. It doesn’t look like the Empire line runs through either of those states but St. Louis is only about 4 hrs from Chicago and there are nearby campgrounds.

      1. WorkNowPaintLater*

        Live in this area surrounded by hay fields and cow pasture. Had quite a show after sunset despite the drought.

        OP: if you are not coming this far south, I would try somewhere in C Wisconsin, maybe in the Wisconsin Dells or Madison areas. I think past Madison the Empire Builder turns towards Milwaukee, and I’m not sure how good your options for viewing will be once you get in the more populated areas.

    13. JustEm*

      I was just back “home” in New York state (mid-hudson valley) and there were plenty of fireflies. Not sure in Buffalo but I’m guessing they’d be there too.

    14. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Thanks for the replies! Since several people said that the greater Buffalo area might also have fireflies, what I think I’ll do if I decide that this is next summer’s trip (I’m still researching multiple options) is get in touch with some of the people running the NASFiC in Buffalo to see if they have any local-area suggestions, and see if that’s something to do at that end of the trip before or after the convention.

      I’ll also probably be planning at least one “get off the train for a few days” stop somewhere along the Empire Builder line just because taking a train for multiple days is fun and all, but at some point I want a wider menu and to take a shower. If I decide on this trip I’ll also eventually post here looking for things to do in Chicago, but I am not to that point of the research and decision-making yet. (If I take a cross-country train trip at any point, Chicago is an inevitability rather than something to go out of my way to try and visit since it’s the central hub for Amtrak, so it’s not something I specifically am taking this trip to see as much as it’s something I will have the opportunity to see on this trip as well as on other trips I’ll probably take in the future.)

  51. anonymous reader*

    BOOK RECOMMENDATION: I just started reading Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley. This was written in 1930, but the descriptions of office life are so fresh—and so spot-on—that I think Allison and readers of this blog would enjoy them very much. They begin in Chapter One, not in the prologue.