weekend open thread – September 16-17, 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: You Can’t Stay Here Forever, by Katherine Lin. Days after losing her husband in a car crash, a lawyer discovers he had been having an affair with her coworker and heads to a luxury French resort with her best friend to figure out how to restart her life.

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

{ 1,055 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. word nerd*

    Reading thread! Share what you’ve been reading or would recommend!

    I chose Network Effect (the full-length Murderbot) for my book club pick this month, and I’m kind of nervous how it’s going to go over because no one else has chosen a science fiction book before in my book club (which I’ve been in for years). I will be sad if everyone else ends up hating Murderbot because I love Murderbot! This week, I listened to it for the third time in preparation for the meeting, and of course I then had to re-listen to all the other Murderbot novellas too the next day. Still excellent and can’t wait for System Collapse in November!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I just started reading the Tasting History cookbook by Max Miller with Ann Volkwein. I love his show on YouTube — he’s so funny. Hardtack–clack clack! :’D Very gratified to see that the recipe is in the book, too.

      It will be fun to try some of the recipes, but it’s also an entertaining read so far.

      1. Jay*

        I just discovered his show a couple of weeks ago and it’s amazing! I had no idea he had a book out! Well, now I’m going to have to buy it. Thanks for this!

      2. GoryDetails*

        Yes! Another Max Miller fan here! I’ve been following his YouTube show for quite a while, and bought the cookbook as soon as it was out. Have tried a few of those historical recipes, too, with interesting results {grin}. His mix of food and history – and humor – is just lovely. (The cookbook does suffer a bit in that it can’t include his facial expressions when tasting something; the beatific, “this is so much better than I’d dare to expect” ones are good, but the “Oh, crap, what have I just made myself eat?” ones are awesome!)

      3. mreasy*

        Love Tasting History and agreed on the cookbook – so much great info and background on the recipes and eras they’re from.

      4. PhyllisB*

        I love reading cookbooks/food history books, too. My husband says he’s never seen anyone sit and read a cookbook like a novel. I just tell him now you have!! ;-) I just checked out Recipe Road Trip: Cooking Your Way Across the USA
        It will be interesting to see what they have for my state. The articles I read on this topic are always wrong.

        1. GoryDetails*

          I do that too – cookbooks with food-history and/or regional photo spreads… I also love cookbooks with literary themes, whether they’re including recipes taken directly from the source material (the dishes in Rex Stout’s “Nero Wolfe” books or the delectable dinners in Dorothy L. Sayers’ “Lord Peter” tales, etc.) or recipes inspired by the stories or settings. Even collections of recipes by [insert genre here] authors, whether or not the individual recipes have anything to do with their writings.

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

            Ooh, you’re reminding me that I’ve meant to get myself a copy of the *Nero Wolfe Cookbook* sometime! The food is so good in those books that I always feel like I want to eat along. I think it’s *The Second Confession* where Archie goes out to make a phonecall at a drugstore and winds up having a lemon Coke, and I was like . . . hey, I could put lemon juice in MY soda too! Delicious.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            If you get a chance and have some $$ lying around, Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes is super fun to read! There’s vintage versions but you can get a new reprint for less money.

            It’s this huge, leatherbound thing that describes tons of French meals and you want to move IMMEDIATELY to France and devote your life to eating. The latest reprint has an opening essay by Price’s daughter, where she tells about him perfecting creme brulee and how “after two weeks, my jeans no longer fit and I saw why my stepmother had retired as his taster.”

        2. Clisby*

          I do, too. One of my favorites is Matzo Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South. It has recipes – including the one I use to make brisket – but it’s primarily a food history book.

          1. Clisby*

            Oh, also, I love Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks that include a lot of biographical information about her growing-up years in India, before the partition. Her memoir, Climbing the Mango Trees, is really interesting too, but the cookbooks have more on food.

          2. WhatTheActualFact*

            Ruth Reichl, food critic and cook, wrote a terrific series of autobiographical books which include many recipes.

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

          One of my favorites is Jane and Michael Stern’s *Square Meals*, covering American cuisine from the 20s to the 60s. I really like their tuna casserole, apple pies, gravy and mashed potatoes, but anything I’ve tried to cook from there has turned out pretty tasty!

        4. PhyllisB*

          Update: I just finished Road Trip: Cooking Your Way Across the USA.
          I didn’t realize this was written with children in mind. If you have children you want to introduce to regional dishes, it’s not a bad place to start, but if you are personally interested in regional cooking, there are a lot better resources.
          And as a Southerner, I have to say, cookbook authors: PLEASE stop adding sugar to cornbread. No Southerner worth her spatula would add sugar to their cornbread. When you add sugar, that’s corn MUFFINS. Not bad, but that’s more of a breakfast bread.

          1. GoryDetails*

            Re Southerners and cornbread: yes! (OK, my family moved around a LOT, and culturally I consider myself to have grown up in Wyoming and spent most of my adult life in New England, but my father’s family was from Louisiana and I got my cornbread genes – and recipes – there. I favor the not-sweet, kinda-crumbly, made-in-a-cast-iron-skillet kind.)

            If you haven’t seen it, look up The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon; she includes the basic southern – and northern-with-sugar (ptui!) – recipes, with lots of variations, plus anecdotes, side dishes, and more.

          2. Clisby*

            I would have thought that, too, except that I (native of SC, living in Charleston now) got into a discussion about this on a history news group and found out that apparently, sweet cornbread has been popular among Gullah-Geechee cooks here. One woman posted that in her growing-up years they always added sweet potatoes to cornbread (like, cooked and mashed up sweet potatoes added to the batter). I have no recipes like that, so can’t vouch for the flavor. However, my Georgia-born parents were devotees of Jiffy cornbread mix, which is on the sweet side, so there is that.

        5. goddessoftransitory*

          Hee hee, reminds me of Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking where she describes the stack of cookbooks beside her bed!

    2. Mitchell Hundred*

      Just started Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s a sort of Regency / Jane Austen type romance, in a world where illusion magic exists. I’m liking it so far.

      1. Kristina*

        ooh. I have almost worn out my copy of The Spare Man (and it’s an audio book!) I could use a be Kowal. thanks!

    3. RedinSC*

      My book club specifically selects different genres so we don’t get stuck in a rut… we’ve read science fiction (just read Ubik) and biographies, short stories, fiction, non fiction and classics.

    4. Rosyglasses*

      Just at the beginning of A Secret History by Donna Tartt which is intriguing so far! (Intelligent college students studying Greek in a bit of an odd style at their college stretch their morals in pursuit of human understanding – with some mystery thrown in)

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Ooh, interesting! I’m the opposite. Loved the Goldfinch, don’t remember being particularly impressed by The Secret History (or The Little Friend, for that matter). I read it ages ago in my native language, and perhaps I’d change my mind if I gave it another try (or read it in English), but I don’t feel any particular urge to pick it up again.

        2. Rosyglasses*

          I loved the Goldfinch! That is why it sparked my interest to read something a bit different – but I haven’t decided whether I like this one yet or whether I just haven’t found “the flow” of the book – but it’s an interesting story for sure.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        I read that and while it was interesting I found it oddly hard going. But the thing I remember most is that I couldn’t figure out for ages whether it was set in the present day or at some point in the past and I was completely distracted because I was constantly looking for hints or indications.

        1. Rosyglasses*

          I’m finding it a bit hard going as well – but I can’t figure out if its because of the way the book is written or because I just haven’t found the flow of writing to really get into the story.

        2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          YES. I think it was set in its present day but it was weirdly old-fashioned. (I read it while studying Greek at a scchmancy university so obviously I hate it!)

      2. Cordelia*

        we read that one for our book club, and opinions were more divided than for pretty much any other book we’ve read! I actually loved it, found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading it and for a long time afterwards, but I was really unable to explain why as I found them all fairly unpleasant and unrelatable! I read The Goldfinch afterwards and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t have a lasting impact on me. Whatever the mystery ingredient was in the Secret History, I couldn’t taste it in the Goldfinch.

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          I loved it too. Unlikeable characters don’t bother me if they are interesting and I thought these were. Mostly what I remember is that it was so vivid. The Vermont winter, when Richard was in his bone-chillingly cold apartment, the mental unraveling of many of the characters; I remember so much of this book decades later.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Ooooooh, love that book! You might want to check out Tara French’s The Likeness when you’re done for a similar theme.

    5. GoryDetails*

      THE SUMMER HIKARU DIED, the first volume of a manga in which a boy is tormented with fears that his best friend – who’d gone missing in the mountains for several days – is not the same person who went up the mountain in the first place. [There’s a reveal about this very early in the book: no, Hikaru is NOT the same person/being…] Despite the horror aspects, the story is really fabulous; there’s an amazing sense of place and climate, the rural community and the summer heat, the boys’ long-time friendship – sometimes goofy, sometimes very close… And the challenges to the protagonist as to how much to put up with just to keep this being who has his old friend’s face and memories by his side. Really impressive story so far!

      THE MEASURE by Nikki Erlik, a novel in which the world is upset by the spontaneous arrival of mysterious boxes whose contents indicate how long each person’s life will be… (This one’s something of a fable, as there’s no earthly way in which the indestructible boxes could have been created and distributed, and for me that rather weakens the whole concept, but I’m enjoying the ways in which the main characters’ lives and experiences intersect. There’s a political subplot that I confess to skimming over, though.) I’ve read many books with some variation on how the knowledge of when and/or how one died might change one’s life, and the wildly different ways in which the authors deal with this have impressed me. (The effect on society is also interesting, though I prefer the effect on individuals.)

      Audiobook: I’m listening to THE SWARM by Frank Schatzing, an ecological mystery/thriller in which the world bccomes aware of increasing numbers of coordinated attacks on ships by whales, jellyfish, and other sea life.

    6. Sage*

      How To Keep House Whil Drowning, by KC Davis.

      It’s a self help book about how to perform care work like cleaning your house while being depressed or having conditions like adhd.

      The autor also deconstructs some harmful beliefs people might have, like linking how clean your house is with your self worth.

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

        I really like that book. I was just reading this and using her five things tidying method today.
        –Put trash in bags.
        –Put dishes in sink.
        –Put laundry in basket
        –Go to a surface and put away things that have a place.
        –Do something with the things that haven’t got a place? I can’t remember.
        –Take out trash, do dishes, do laundry.
        She makes the point that it’s okay not to do these all in one day, and if you go in this order, you’re prioritizing health and hygiene by getting to the trash and dishes first.

      2. Loux*

        YES!! This book is amazing! I bought it a while back as an e-book and I still refer back to it relatively frequently for quotes or if I just need a refresher on something in order to stop being so hard on myself.

        The funny thing is that, since reading her book and internalizing some of the concepts, my apartment has gotten (and stayed!) WAY cleaner on a regular basis… It really does work!!

    7. English Rose*

      I’m so happy that the lastest Richard Osman has landed this week. Last Devil to Die – fourth book in the Thursday Murder Club series. Settling down to start reading after lunch today, hooray!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I thought to check my Amazon orders and was thrilled to see it’s being delivered Tuesday, just in time for a trip next weekend.

    8. Loopy*

      A friend lent me the Sarah J Maas series a court of thorns and roses and I was surprised how much I liked it. I totally missed all the hype when it came out years ago!

      I’m now trying her other series starting with Crescent City. I almost didn’t because there were some really terrible Goodreads reviews right up top. But it’s not bad so far, just really different in terms of the vibe. Curious if there are any other fans here? Still on book one so no spoilers please! :)

      1. Rosyglasses*

        I adore Sarah J Maas but have only read the Throne of Glass series. I read them pretty much in succession during a trip to Mexico where I blissfully could read by the pool for 5 or 6 days (and I read fast) and just recently started re-reading them. I haven’t read her other series yet but loved this one.

      2. GoryDetails*

        Re Maas and “Court of Thorns and Roses” – I just read that one for a book-group, and was rather underwhelmed. I did like some elements, but for me the writing was a bit clunky (lots of “tell” rather than “show”). I’m fond of riffs on fairy tales, and this one brought in lots of those elements, but it just didn’t grab me. (T. Kingfisher’s “Bryony and Roses” is also a riff on Beauty and the Beast, and gets pretty gruesome in places too, but I liked that one better.)

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I gave a shot to Mycroft and the Apocalypse Handbook, a graphic novel by Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

      I have really liked his previous Mycroft books, which are traditional novels. Like Carole Nelson Douglas’s Irene Adler series, they’re true to the feel of the original while expanding the world out to explore the experiences of more people. (Women in the Victorian era for Douglas; nonwhites under Victorian British rule for Jabbar.)

      This entry was just embarrassing–like hammering every trope of “comics are written for teenage boys.” Mycroft is studly mcstudmuffin of the manly quips, using his brilliance to do something or other re futuristic engines of death. I gave up.

      But I do recommend his previous books if you enjoy Holmes, and also the Douglas series. In both particularly the first entry, respectively Mycroft and Goodnight Mr. Holmes.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes. He’s a serious Holmesian, strong interest in History and English Lit. Mycroft was really good at illuminating the experience of black British subjects in and out of slavery, while feeling like a well-integrated answer to what Mycroft was doing back in Sherlock’s college days. (I’m sure his co-author gets plenty of credit here, too.)

    10. the cat's pajamas*

      I love Murderbot so much!! Play a snippet of the audiobook for the group maybe? They are amazing.

      1. Love to WFH*

        I just re-read the Murderbot series. I have it on Kindle & Audible now, so I can seamlessly switch to audio when I have to stop reading. :-)

    11. the cat's pajamas*

      I just finished Dying of Politeness, Geena Davis’ memoir. It was fun, and she reads the audiobook. Re-listening to Dusk, Night, Dawn by Anne Lamott while waiting for my next holds to come in from the library.

    12. chocolate muffins*

      I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had started reading The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois and I am still reading it. I love family sagas and appreciate reading one that does not focus on White protagonists, and the story is interesting, but the writing feels forced a lot of the time to me. Like, as I’m reading it sounds like it was hard for the author to write, though maybe it wasn’t. Has anyone else here read this book and if so, what did you think of it?

    13. Nervous Nellie*

      My theme of exploring books from the 70s, 80s & 90s that I never got to at the time gave me this wonderful read this week – A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. It’s a modern retelling of King Lear, and is dense and literary in very refreshing way. Loving it!

      1. Love to WFH*

        I adore Jane Smiley’s writing, and have consumed it all.

        I found that particular book so painful to read, but still couldn’t put it down.

    14. carcinization*

      I just got Hall’s Star Eater in the mail, because I was ordering something else from Thrift Books (for someone who’s against Amazon), and needed to spend a few more dollars to make free shipping/remembered it was on my wishlist. Hopefully it will be worth $4! Reviews make me feel unsure about that!

    15. Flames on the Side of My Face*

      I started The Hemingses of Monticello but put it down until I’m back in the mood for heavy nonfiction, which is more of a wintertime thing for me. Instead I’m getting started with the next Rivers of London Book–Broken Homes.

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

      I’m giving a shot to *A Visit from the Goon Squad*. I feel like Jennifer Egan is really talented, but I’m having a bit of a hard time — the characters in her intertwined short stories do some really awful, predatory things, especially to young women, yet she manages to make me take an interest in what happens next, in whether they’ll be okay, and she can be very funny (her parody of a 1990s-2000s *Vanity Fair* interview is spot on). Her making these predatory protagonists sympathetic makes me feel kind of icky and complicit in a way where other novels with anti-heroes who do bad things (like the Wolf Hall trilogy or Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark’s Parker novels or Lawrence Block’s Keller stories) don’t.

      1. Flames on the Side of My Face*

        I know exactly what you mean. A lot of books published around 2010ish left me with those icks, to the point I stopped reading new releases! I kept feeling like the stories were shrugging and saying “the characters can’t help it, people are wired to be this way, destructive tendencies are the norm, it’s terrible but we can’t expect better, etc.”

    17. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      What Souls Are Made Of. It’s good but I was never a Wuthering Heights girl ( it’s a remix of Wuthering Heights that engages with racial issues at that time by making the main character Indian

    18. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Unquiet by E Saxey, a gothic historical thriller set in London circa the Victorian era. Not my usual genre but it’s beautifully written and so atmospheric.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Ooooh I know them! Or I did 20 years ago. How lovely to come across their name in this context!

    19. goddessoftransitory*

      I just finished up Haunting of Hill House to inaugurating my annual Fall Reading. I read:
      Frankenstein
      Dracula
      The Big Book of Ghost Stories by Black Lizard Press
      And a half dozen collections of ghost stories in general–I pick up one or two a year, usually with at least one story I’ve been wanting to read

      I love spooky reading season!

      1. Valancy Stirling*

        Aww, man, I live in the southern hemisphere, so when October rolls around, I’m always torn between spooky reads and all the springtime vibes. Enjoy spooky season!

    20. Valancy Stirling*

      I’m finishing In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace, and (dare I say it?) I think I’m finally able to put my reading slump to rest. I read for work, so I read a lot anyway, but it’s such a treat to finally be able to read for joy again!

      On a different note, I need to look up Murderbot.

    21. don'tbeadork*

      Just finished the newest Bruno, Chief of Police novel, A Chateau Under Siege. Really love Martin Walker’s writing, and the food always sounds so delicious!

      1. Rosyglasses*

        I love his work as well! I always end up making a lot of French omelets and eating my weight in baguettes and croissant when I’m reading a Bruno book!!

      2. Love to WFH*

        I zoomed through that series! It’s a wee bit ridiculous at times, but such a fun town to hang out in and drool over the food.

    22. Nessness*

      I just started Cobalt Red, which is a difficult but important read about cobalt mining in the Congo.

      Novels I’ve enjoyed recently include Hamnet (historical fiction based on the life of Shakespeare, but centering around his wife and kids) and Our Missing Hearts (dystopian fiction about a world where an economic crisis has led to authoritarianism and anti-Asian sentiment).

    23. Jackalope*

      I’m reading Marriage Test by Jill Andres and Brook Silva-Brogas. The authors aren’t sure if they should get married or not, so they come il with 40 “dates” to help them work through some of the issues many couples deal with. I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s a quick light read. On the other hand, some of the “dates” sound truly awful and I can’t imagine trying them. Like emailing your friends and family to have them complete a survey about whether you’re a good couple or not, and what your strengths and weaknesses are, or having 2 friends who didn’t know each other before pretend to be you as they pretend to work through issues in a play. Or going out together with one of each person’s exes. They’ve gotten a lot out of it and I respect that, and it makes a fun read, but I keep thinking, “Hell to the NO!”

    24. Lemonwhirl*

      This week, I read “The Last Election” by Andrew Yang and Stephen Marche. It was pretty good – entertaining, propulsive plot, written kind of like a disaster movie.

      I am also 3/4 through Stephen King’s latest book, “Holly”. I am really enjoying it.

      And I’ve been listening to “The Rachel Incident” by Caroline O’Donoghue which is fantastic.

    25. allathian*

      I’ve been re-reading Anne McCaffrey’s Pegasus and Talent series. They’re nowhere near as problematic as her Pern books are and I think they’ve aged better. It has to be said, though, that they do have some of the same continuity issues as the Pern books do. I love the worldbuilding and they’re my favorite AMC books.

  3. NL*

    Has anyone here ever hosted a foreign exchange student or been one yourself? My family is considering signing up to host an exchange student and I would love to hear what you liked about it, didn’t like, advice for being a good host family and anything you wish you had known ahead of time!

    1. Miscellaneous*

      I had a high school German exchange student for 2 weeks, and one for 1 week, this past spring. It was good, overall. Knowing what food to have on hand was a little tricky at first, but I took them to the grocery store as part of the cultural experience, so they picked out food. Activities didn’t have to be elaborate- they loved going to thrift store, bowling, bonfires. They were even happy just to have a few afternoons hanging out playing video games with friends.
      If you host, make sure you know what responsibilies you have – we needed to provide room, board, transportation, and involve the exchange students in family activities. The teens planned a lot of things with the other exchange students and hosts, so I needed to drive them a bit. But that was great as they were able to experience a lot more than I could provide. The high school arranged Y memberships so they would often go to the gym after-school- that was popular. We had absolutely rotten weather when they were here, so some of the activities I had planned didn’t work- make sure you have some alternatives.
      I wish I had encouraged them to hang out more outside of the bedroom when they were relaxing in the evening. However, I think they spent their time talking with family or watching media- detoxing after spending all day surrounded by boisterous Amercans. (They did enjoy the wifi connection!) Clear communication and relaxed expectations would probably make for a great experience on all sides.

      1. Janne*

        I was an exchange student for 2 weeks when I was 17, and I also spent part of my evenings in my bedroom watching TV. My host gave me a TV series in their language to watch so I still felt like I was abroad and learning the language but I also had some time to wind down from all the new impressions during the day.

        Things that my host family did that I loved:
        – They let me choose what breakfast I liked to eat
        – They didn’t plan things all day, so I also had time to watch TV or lie in the garden
        – They offered to do my laundry halfway during my stay
        – They did some nice activities with me such as kayaking, a BBQ, a pizza party, going to the local festival, going to the pool, going to soccer training. The rest of the activities were provided by the exchange organization

        I went on exchange to Germany. The organization gave me a public transit pass, so my host family didn’t have to drive me around at all. They just helped me travel on public transit for the first couple of rides and then I could do it myself. If you happen to live in a place with good public transit, it can be a nice experience for the student to use it.

        I didn’t have the best home life (I won a scholarship for the exchange) so having my laundry done and choosing what to eat for breakfast were total luxuries for me :’)

    2. cabbagepants*

      I was hosted by a family in Japan and loved it, and also had friends hosted in other countries. overall we had a great time! just being abroad was great. my only tips are: be prepared to find activities or transportation if there is nothing within a short walk; and, be prepared to help with minor personal issues (my friend had to figure out how to communicate constipation in Japanese!).

    3. miel*

      My family hosted an exchange student when I was in high school, and I thought it was awesome. My exchange sister was delightful and we became close friends.

      You’re basically signing up to parent a teenager who you don’t know, which is a potentially big undertaking! I remember my parents and I reading through the profiles of different exchange students and picking our favorite. Apparently we chose well :)

      I would say treat your exchange student like a member of the family! The dynamic in our case was kind of as if she were a cousin staying with us – she went to the same school as me, joined some extracurriculars, and then she also came to family events and we showed her around a bit.

    4. Down with the Sickness*

      I went on a few exchange trips in high school as part of my bilingual track. Two times where I was placed in a host family with 2-3 other students, and once on my own. For overall experience, I had a great time.

      Generally, the host family provided food (breakfast, food at breakfast to make lunch and dinner) and either provided evening activities (when I had a more involed exchange) or left us to our own devices to do what we wanted. Because it was organised through the school, we didn’t see our host families during the day. Reading some of the comments, it seems like that is not the universal experience, so check whether you’re meant to provide daytime activities as well.

      The host families I have the best memories of are the ones that took the time to interact with us. I really liked getting to know the mundane cultural differences (standard breakfast foods, the taste of milk, etc.), exploring a new area and talking with the hosts. If you’re interested in interacting with these students and introducing them to your country, I’d reccomend it!

      1. cabbagepants*

        I really want to echo your comment about mundane cultural differences. I got so much more out of seeing the actually weeknight dinners people ate than I got out of visiting tourist sites.

    5. Fiction Reader*

      My family hosted lots of short-term exchange students and a one-year student, my brother did a one-year exchange, and my husband’s family hosted for one year. We all had good experiences, even though my family’s one-year student wasn’t the best match – he was mostly interested in sports and our family wasn’t, he came from a city and had trouble adjusting to living in a small town with no transit (many programs forbid the exchange student from driving), and he didn’t respect my mom. She tried to treat him like she treated her own kids, and he didn’t think a woman should tell him what to do, or that he should do any chores that were “women’s work”. We all did some adjusting, and despite some bumps we enjoyed the experience. My mom ended up volunteering as a coordinator for the exchange program, AFS, for many years after our hosting experience.
      My suggestion is to talk to the local coordinators for the programs you might consider. Make sure you will get support if you need it. Ask if there are events for the host families – both the exchange students and families benefit from talking to other people going through the same experience, which can be as challenging as it can be rewarding.

      1. funkytown*

        I was an exchange student for one year in Europe, and my family in the US hosted a student for a semester when I was in high school, and I volunteered with the program (AFS) for a time as well years later. I would recommend reading blogs on the subject (if that’s still a thing- there were many helpful resources almost 2 decades ago), joining facebook groups for host families and generally learning about the programs you might want to go with/in your area. I think it’s an awesome experience if everyone is on board and prepared for the natural bumps in the road that come with having a teen in the house who doesn’t necessarily speak your language/customs (yet). Every family and student is unique so impossible to really predict how it will go, but generally having an open mind will go a long way! Having a good support system/community with other host families and volunteers and through the host program I think is also really vital. Good luck!

    6. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      I was an exchange student in the US for a year!

      It was 16 years ago now so a very different time in terms of staying connected to home (my parents called me every 3 weeks and we sent emails back and forth), but I loved my time in the US.

      The most important thing for me was that my host parents always treated me like a member of the family – I never clicked with my host sister but I loved my host parents and that definitely made my year successful.

      Both made sure to include me in all family activities (in return, I was willing to be included- e.g. I’m not religious at all but I went to church with them every Sunday because it was a big part of their lives). For Christmas I got my own stocking to hang up, with my name on it – I still have that stocking!

      Both made sure to spend time one-on-one with me and to develop little traditions (e.g. I am a massive bookworm, so every couple of weeks my host mom would take me to a book store, RIP Borders, and afterwards we’d go for ice cream or starbucks or sth).

      I had my own room and they encouraged me to personalise it – we went out and bought a bookshelf once my collection was too big, I could hang up photos etc.

      They were interested in me and my opinions and my life in my home country, they asked about my parents (and reminded me to set up regular phone calls with them), they liked talking about the differences.
      They folded my into their lives like I had always been there, so naturally I never noticed what a concerted effort they must have made at it.

      Obviously this is all geared towards longer exchanges – but genuine interest, making space, and reaffirming that the student even if for a limited time is now part of your family, will go a long way.

      Also if you can limit their contact with home. I know smartphones make it difficult but being able to be in touch with my family/friends CONSTANTLY would have made it wayyyy harder to really arrive in the US, at least for me.

    7. Jackalope*

      This is timely because my dad and I are on a road trip to go visit my host parents from decades ago when I was an exchange student. We’ve stayed close for a long time, and I would say that my experience was really good.

      I’ll have to think a little bit and may come back later, but I think the good part was feeling like part of the family. Doing normal family things with your exchange student and letting them experience what life is really like where you live is super important. Help them navigate things like the local school bureaucracy and how to do homework in your country, or how to buy important stuff, etc. And if they don’t speak the same language as you then help them with your language and be patient with slow speech, grammar errors, etc. Again, I might chime in some more later when I’ve had some time to think about it (as mention, road trip and it’s coming up on my turn to drive), but I would say 10/10 stars, would recommend, would do again if I were still in high school. (And the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in our plans but my spouse and I are considering hosting a student as soon as is feasible.)

    8. BlueCactus*

      My family hosted an exchange student when I was in high school, and overall it was a very meh experience, although I’m not sure how much of that was foreseeable or avoidable. I would be careful about the organization you work with, because (unbeknownst to us) the one we ended up with worked mostly with very wealthy families, and I got the impression that our student found our middle class household to be very “country-bumpkin” American, and she made a lot of little comments about how, say, seeing camels at our (nationally known!) zoo wasn’t exciting when you’d ridden camels in Egypt. Unfortunately, I think she was just a bit stuck up and found everything to be a bit passe.

    9. Kat*

      My sister is a coordinator and is on her 7th FES. She LOVES it and is great at coordinating. I think the key is the right program. She’s involved with international student exchange and loves it.

    10. JulieA*

      My in-laws hosted a number of exchange students when my husband’s youngest sister was in high school. My husband and I were married by then, so while we never lived with any of them, we spent a great deal of time with all of them. My in-laws treated all of their students like their own children, and we’ve remained friendly with many of them, particularly one brother. He was living with my in-laws when our first child was born, and was one of the first people to hold her when we brought her home from the hospital. In later years, he visited us with his his wife and children, and he sent eulogies to be read at each of Dad’s and Mom’s funerals. He and his family welcomed and hosted us when we visited Europe. And when our son was married, he came to the wedding and danced the night away! He stayed with us for a week, and made a special point of visiting Mom’s and Dad’s graves, all on his own. He is a very special guy and I say without reservation that our lives are so much richer because of our European brother.

    11. Anna Crusis*

      I was an exchange student for a year of high school. I lived with one family that had 4 teens, went to school, traveled with the family, and traveled alone (on a 2 week group tour). The city where I was didn’t have other exchange students, which was good because I made close local friends. I didn’t speak the language at all when I got there, and it took a while to start talking, but by the end of the year I spoke English with a faint accent from lack of use! I still keep in contact with my host family and have been back a few times to visit.

      The sister who was closest to my age showed me how to use the bus system, and took me out with her friends. Per the program, I was expected to be a part of the family – in my case I called the parents mom and dad, helped out around the house and once I could get by in my new language, ran errands to the corner bakery/market to buy the daily bread and milk. They included me in everything.

      My host sister’s kid was an exchange student in the semi rural midwest, and he found it profoundly isolating (no public transportation, family had much younger kids and were homebodies, the high school culture was not friendly there), and he left the program early. I was coming from a small town to a decent sized, walkable city with a good bus system and taxis if needed, and I could catch a bus to the nearby big city. I had a lot more freedom there than here. There were a lot more things for teens to do there, and the culture was more social (it was easy to see why he struggled). Still, it was really difficult for me in the beginning, but it ended up being a fantastic experience and I didn’t want to come home.

    12. Not my name*

      I was an exchange student in Germany for three weeks and I loved it, and then a year later for one year with another family, in another part of Germany, and it was not great.

      Part of the difference was just different family cultures – with the first family we just clicked better in terms of interests and temperament, we had fun just hanging out at home or doing regular everyday stuff, the second family did not like me pretty much from the start and complained that I was not like their former outgoing popular American exchange student that they all adored.

      I was a shy, clumsy kid, bad at sports, who liked to read and could barely ride a bike, they were outdoorsy types, involved in a local league. We stuck it out (and they stuck it out) for a year – I liked the school and had friends there, plus I loved learning German. They stuck it out in that they did not outright kick me out but the dad would not speak to me unless he absolutely had to – literally not say a single word for months except “good morning” and then blew off at me out of the blue on my last day “just letting me know what an awful kid I had been for not making an effort [to talk to him]” when frankly I was terrified of his glares the whole time, and his own kids were pretty scared of him too. Again, the school was nice and I was happy with the book club I was in and the fluent German has been a huge asset professionally but I’m still sad when I think of that time.

      More than twenty years later I have serious side eye to the organization that supervised my stay there who had a (legally adult but still only 20 year old) coordinator/supervisor shrug off my pleas for help where it became really unpleasant by the end of the year.

      But! So many of my fellow exchange students that year had a great experience and kept in touch with their host families for years.

      My one bit of advice is to get informed about the organization running the exchange and the support that is available in case there are any issues especially if it’s a longer exchange.

      For a shorter stay I’d just say be aware of different laws the student might be used to from their home country- like it might be legal and completely unremarkable for them to have a glass of wine or a beer in their home country. But this is usually covered buy the information materials you receive.

      Good luck and have fun!

    13. SB*

      How long will the exchange be for? If it is only a short stay I think most of the answers regarding access to wifi so they can communicate with family, some familiar food, & some home language TV shows are bang on. My exchange was a lot longer (she was with us for a whole year) so we arranged trips to see important & interesting round the eastern states & the company the exchange was arranged through also did a few trips to places that were too far for us to go (Uluru for example) which generally lasted a week & involved all the kids on exchange together.

      This was 30 years ago now & we are still in touch. We attended each others weddings & I have been back for her dear Mother’s funeral. More trips are planned now our kids are older & more likely to appreciate the experience.

    14. Quinalla*

      When I was in high school, my family hosted a German foreign exchange student for I think about a year and same with a Chinese foreign exchange student a different year. They were “paired” with a different one of my younger siblings each time, so I didn’t interact with them as much as if I’d been paired with them.

      Overall it was a good experience. We tried to be flexible especially with diet, but also tried to show them a lot of things about how we lived in the USA so they could get a good experience and took them on a few trips too. My Mom even convinced them to let her have the Chinese student’s passport to take her with us on a family vacation to Mexico (typically Chinese students have their passports confiscated immediately on arrival and don’t get them back until they are headed to the airport, not sure if it is the same now but likely.) We got to learn some cool things about the culture of the areas of Germany & China they were from too.

      One thing to consider is weather of their home area and where you are. The area in China she was from was like Southern California, pretty much 70ish all year round. We lived in Northern Indiana, so we ended up having to do a lot of shopping for things like boots, coats, etc. and even some warm weather clothes since we run the gamut of weather from freezing and snow to hot and humid.

      I don’t know if my parents are still in touch with either, but for a few years after, we exchanged gifts occasionally. They were with us before all of the easy video calling we have now, so harder to keep in touch.

    15. Catherine from Canada*

      A cautionary tale, I guess:
      I do recognise all the benefits to exchange programs and was thrilled when our son was accepted into one, but sending our 17 year old son on a year long (service club sponsored) exchange to Germany was the worse parenting decision we ever made. I sent off a goofy, happy go-lucky still-kid and got back an angry, mistrustful drinker.
      His exchange families (he was moved several times and never given an explanation of why) didn’t seem to understand that he still needed parenting. By that I mean guidance, understanding, and patience. Inclusion, not exasperation. Explanations, not accusations of stubborness.
      They didn’t seem to understand that a Canadian kid from a rural community didn’t have street-smarts and basically told him to “figure it out.”
      One mother said, in German, “Move” and when he didn’t (because he didn’t know what she said) she drove over his foot.
      One family kicked him out because the daughter saw him taking an aspirin at school and told her parents he was using drugs.
      He got separated from his group on a school trip to Paris and eventually made his way on foot back to the hotel only to discover that they’d left to return to Hamburg without him. He then walked across Paris (through some really bad neighbourhoods!) to the Canadian embassy to phone home to us. (The embassy refused to help him any more than that, which is a whole ‘nother story.) The school wanted us to pay for a teacher to return to Paris, collect him and both of them to travel back to Germany.
      I’m sure this all sounds like I’m making excuses for my kid, but the organization did do an investigation and eventually apologised to us – he was the hosting organization’s first student and they handled the inevitable “cultural differences” very badly. But the damage was done. He struggled with the consequences of that year for most of his 20s.

  4. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

    People who live or have lives in Seattle…. What are some good (and reasonably priced) food/drink options near pike place? I’m heading there tomorrow until the middle of next week and I am pumped.

    I love wine, don’t love seafood. :)

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      For quick-service type options, my favorite was the Pike Place Chowder shop in Post Alley. I have no idea if they have non-seafood chowders though. It is pretty close to Beecher’s cheese shop, which has really good mac and cheese too.

    2. SeattleLocalish*

      Reasonably priced is always relative, but the price difference between fast food/quick service and sit down is smaller than you might think now!

      The whole of Seattle is very small so “nearby” means almost anywhere in the main downtown area. Just be mindful that a stroll downhill will necessitate an uphill at some point!

      Also in Post Alley is the Tasting Room, great for trying Washington wines!

      I also really recommend grabbing a bite from Piroshky Piroshky!

    3. So many choices!*

      Le Panier is a great French bakery. DeLaurenti has amazing cheeses. I would get a demi baguette at the bakery and either pair it with a gooey cheese (Le Secret des Lys is fantastic) or spread fresh avocado (from a produce stand) on it. Storyville Coffee is wonderful, and there are many great ramen places in Capitol Hill. Salumi in Pioneer Square rocks, too. There’s also a nice H-Mart that’s good for grocery items.

      1. Jackalope*

        I was going to mention Le Panier. It’s right across the street from Pike Place and their pastries are amazing; I highly recommend getting something there. There’s also a great crepe place inside the market itself which is where I usually grab lunch when I’m there.

        I’m not as into piroshkis as some of my friends are, but there’s a piroshki place close to Le Panier (so right across the street from Pike Place) that I’ve heard is amazing.

    4. Anonymoss*

      Just visited last month. If you’re gonna get the chowder, order it online/via phone for pickup. You can stroll over, avoid the 2 hour line, and pick it up in like 5 minutes its great. There’s a great juice shop (called Juice Emporium) by Post Alley as well (next to a dim sum place) with this incredible watermelon juice and some great boba. There’s also the seattle dumpling company which is excellent.

      There’s also a food tour you can take (company is chef-run, so it’s actually really good, though might be pricey) but fun for a weekend. There was a mexican place that was the first place we ate at that was incredible called Maiz, but no idea of the prices.

      Honestly its CRAMMED with restaurants, you shouldn’t have too hard a time finding something reasonable there.

    5. Rosyglasses*

      We were there recently and these are not near Pike Place but like another commenter said, unless you’re going to West Seattle or outlier areas, the neighborhoods are pretty close together and easy to get to via Uber or public transit.

      Homer – probably a $$ to $$$ place depending on what you order, but amazing amazing food and drink selection.

      Perihelion Brewery – $ and amazing amazing burgers if those are your thing

      Cafe Paloma – $ to $$ – near Seattle Underground Tour and definitely near Pike Place – mediterranean, very unique vibe, amazing wine and food.

    6. Pizza Pizza Pizza*

      When I last visited Seattle I found MOD Pizza, there is a location about 13 min walk away from Pike Place. It is a single price for a pizza customized with all the toppings you want. I found it a great value for delicious pizza. Luckily a MOD franchise has finally opened in my home town!

      1. Just Another Cog*

        I second MOD Pizza! We recently moved to a town near Eugene, OR and discovered MOD Pizza when we were out doing errands. It is very reasonably priced and the choices are plentiful for pretty much any dietary need.

        We lived in Seattle in the early 80’s and our apt was across the street from Vito’s – an awesome Italian restaurant. We went back for our 40th anniversary and had an awesome dinner there for old time’s sake. The menu is reasonable and the food phenomenal. It’s a family owned restaurant that’s been around since the 50’s and they have live music at times.

        1. Just Another Cog*

          I should have said Vito’s is near 8th and Spring Street…so not a long walk from the waterfront.

    7. Heffalump*

      Beechers Handmade Cheese, 1600 Pike Place. Panini, soups, mac & cheese.

      Skalka, 77 Spring St. Georgian food. I haven’t actually been there, but they get good reviews on Yelp.

      Le Pichet, 1933–1st Ave. French.

      For coffee, let’s say Starbucks is not the only game in town.

      There used to be a wonderful news stand, Read All About It, with newspapers and magazines from all over the world, right there in Pike Place Market, but the owner retired and closed it a few years ago. :(

      Let us know where you went and how you liked it.

    8. Heffalump*

      Cafe Zum Zum, 1501 4th Ave. Pakistani curries. I’ve been going there for 25+ years. They have have meat curries, but I pretty much settled on their red bean-potato curry even before I became more or less vegetarian–it’s that good. Open M-F 11-3.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      There’s a little walk up window burrito place that’s great right at the main entrance, next to where the big newsstand used to be. Yum!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        And of course have to throw in a shout to Pagliacci! This month our seasonals are the prosciutto/fig primo and roasted golden beet pizza! (All our stores but Valley have slice bars for a cheap option)

    10. You can’t skip lunch*

      I liked Zig zag cafe when we went there, a little pricey but they have happy hour and late night specials.

  5. Sunflower*

    Buying a couch for the first time and I am…overwhelmed to say the least! Tips for things to consider/watch out for- what process did you go through when deciding what to purchase?

    For background,
    – I am in a smallish apartment (living room is 200 sq ft) – I am OK investing in something nicer as long as I can add pieces onto it in the future
    – I would happily buy used but I don’t have a car so transporting could end up costing me a bit
    – I really want a white couch…is that the worst decision ever? I’m single and don’t intend to have any children/animals over but I also plan to spend a lot of time eating/drinking while sitting on it so…

    1. econobiker*

      1. Loveseat is a good size for small rooms to have additional space for more furniture. Some loveseats even have pull out beds however those are HEAVY (see below moving). Regular couches with pull out bed allows visitors to stay in your apartment but HEAVY (see below moving) and take up more room. Futon type couch might be a compromise and lighter weight easier to move.

      2. Gig economy type jobs to hire someone as a mover. In our metropolitan area there are/were guys who moved stuff with pickup trucks. Cost always depends on difficulty picking up, transport, dropping off, bringing into your apartment. Literally make sure the couch can fit through your door and hallway. Ask neighbors if the apartments all have similar layouts.

      3. White couch only if you intend to cover it up all the time so you can sit on it to eat and sit on it to watch TV. White also limits choices- buy cheap used ugly looking but in good condition and put a cover on it anyway.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I’ve had very good luck using Task Rabbit to find furniture movers. (Fit young people with pickup trucks.)

      2. Jopunzi*

        See if you like the Soderhamn couch from IKEA. It is modular, nice looking, and all the covers are washable. I have had a white Soderhamn that is still white since 2017; and I have a dog and a husband who loves eating blueberries on the couch. We have also moved 4 times with it. Afternthe most recent move I also took off the back covers and washed those; it looks like new.

    2. Foxglove*

      One thing i didn’t know when I bought my first couch last year was that certain couches, usually higher end ones, use down in their padding and a lot of my family are allergic to down.

      I got a hypoallergenic cover off amazon for them to use when visiting, and have other seating options, which seemed to work and I don’t think I’d have made a different choice in sofa, but I wish I’d thought to ask/ known to check!

      1. Kat*

        I got one from Amazon! You can visually see it in your house. It’s pretty cool. Also, you can search apartment size couches for slightly smaller.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      White couch + food and drink = extra cleaning. Go for it if you want but you’ll probably end up wanting a slipcover. Ask me how I know, haha!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Maybe go the other way around — get a non-white sofa, then a nice white blanket or slipcover to put on it when you have people over or otherwise want to dress up the living space.

    4. Not Aunt Mildred’s Couch*

      Had a white couch & it got soooo dirty. And once, I sat on a chocolate chip & it melted & smeared. If your heart is set on white, consider buying a washable cover (not a plastic one like at great Aunt Mildred’s house). Good quality, kiln dried wood, cushions that won’t sag are important. Consider how you’ll sit on it and where the back & arms should be. I tried one with cool looking but HIGH side arms and couldn’t rest my actual arms on it.

      1. Loux*

        I had a white couch for about a year and a half and didn’t consistently cover it. It was old and falling apart anyways (got it from family), and if I hadn’t moved I might have kept it a little bit longer, but yeah… it really didn’t look great by the time I was done with it.

        Definitely +1 to either the white couch + cover idea, or other coloured couch + white cover idea.

    5. Ali G*

      I have a cream colored couch and ended up getting a cover for it because I sit on my feet and it was getting dungy. It’s a loose drop cloth like one that is machine washable. There are lots of performance fabrics these days that will definitely be fine for you, either way.

    6. Jay*

      They do have some modular sets online that I’ve seen.
      Not to my taste, but YMMV.
      That said, there are two things I love in a couch:
      1) Sleeper sofas. These have a bed inside them.
      2) Storage sofas. These have storage cubbies inside them.
      I was very, very fortunate to find one that is both. It folds in half to form a small bed and you lift up the cushions and it has several storage cubbies.
      Unfortunately, it’s not much to look at and stains easily.
      Fortunately, they make really nice, soft, good looking couch covers that are also machine washable.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      If you want a white couch, I’d get something like leather or fake leather that can be cleaned off more easily, rather than fabric.

      As far as adding pieces, you could get a fairly generic design that can fit easily with other pieces, or you can get something quite distinctive, and add simpler pieces later.

      I always test out potential couches for how they feel when I lie down on them – can I stretch out and read or watch TV? And my husband checks the napping potential. Also, if you like to use a coffee table to work on, check the respective heights to avoid back strain.

      1. RedinSC*

        I was going to suggest leather as well.

        fake leather is problematic if you live in a warm place, you’ll stick to it if you sit on it in shorts.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I found the opposite – real leather gets mildewy and needs to be cleaned incessantly, so in the summer, we put a throw cloth down under bare skin. But that’s warm and very, very humid.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I feel like leather gets better looking as it ages, unlike fabric; although I think I only really apply this rule to tanned leather, not coloured.

    8. Middle Aged Lady*

      If you eat on it, you can’t go wrong with leather. I have never regretted my tan leather couch. I dress it up with bright pillows and throws.
      Look for a good furniture store that’s having a sale so you get good quality for less money. Said tan couch was listed at $4000 and I got it for $1800 with delivery.
      Depending on your height, be sure it’s not too deep or too tall. I hate a couch where I have to shove a pillow behind my back to make my knees hit the edge, or having my feet dangle.
      Meausure the footprint the couch can tske up in the room, and take a tape measure with you when shopping.
      Good luck on your new couch!!

      1. Schmitt*

        Yes, this. We tried our sofa out with our shoes on, and at home we are barefoot or in socks, and our feet just don’t *quite* reach the floor.

      2. SarahKay*

        In addition to seat and arm height, think about the height of the back. I like to be able to lean back and rest my head on the sofa back without it being at right angles to my body, so for me a low-backed couch is a non-starter.
        Also, it will look a *lot* smaller in the showroom than it does in your house, so definitely measure, measure, measure.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m putting off buying a new sofa set for as long as possible – we’ve done a couple of different repair jobs on my current loveseat and sofa to avoid it, heh. (Sewed up a couple of rips in the upholstery, my husband has “replace the broken spring” on his to-do list for sometime before the end of the year.)

      When we do get there though, my considerations will be:
      -ease of cleaning part A: the parts that don’t come off. I have two dogs, one grey and one blonde, and they’re both short-haired but they still shed, and they still chew toys on the sofa and I have to clean up slobber on occasion. (I definitely do not want white. :) My current one is a sort of dark brown, and it does pretty well.)
      -Ease of cleaning Part B: In addition to being able to surface-clean the sofa, I also would prefer a model that has cushions that can easily be removed from their covers so that the covers can be machine-washed when necessary. (This is assuming cloth. A leather or faux-leather might be easier, but I’m not sure how comfortable it would be to sit on or how well it would hold up to pup claws.)
      -Arm height – I almost always sit at the right end of the loveseat, either criss-cross-applesauce or with my feet tucked up to my left, and sort of half-leaning on the right arm, half using it as a surface for my laptop or tablet (or my dinner plate). So an arm that is too high or too low for that to be comfortable is a dealbreaker. My husband also wants it to be low enough that when he lays on the sofa, he can use the arm as a headrest, with or without a pillow.
      -I’d prefer a sofa that doesn’t have a gap underneath and is just tight to the floor – I am SO tired of having to fish critter toys out from under the sofa :P
      -I don’t want extra moving parts – I don’t need built-in footrests or reclining or fold-down armrests with cup-holders or anything like that. Plain old garden variety sofa and loveseat.

    10. WellRed*

      Whatever you get make sure you can fit it through your door. I recently bought a gorgeous white comforter and the stress if keeping it clean is real.

      1. Enough*

        Absolutely. My family room couch belongs to my son. It wouldn’t fit through his apartment in 2015. They even took the door off to try. He kept the loveseat. Now owns a house and bought the couch he really wanted and put the loveseat in an extra room. I expect to have this couch till it wears out.

      2. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

        Absolutely this! I bought a couch that wouldn’t fit through my door. I was lucky that the shop let me return it (well, the delivery guys returned it) and I could get the same one in modular so that the pieces would fit through the door.

    11. Nitpicker*

      White couch is definitely not a good idea. I didn’t get a white couch but I got a very light beige carpet. Absolutely lovely but it did not wear well.
      And measure it to be sure you can get it in through the door. And take into account the size of the elevator (if there is one). And how the apartment door is situated in the corridor- it may not be possible to angle the couch through the door.

    12. ShineyPenny*

      My aunt bought a white leather loveseat when she downsized into an apartment. She loved how it looked, but the love didn’t really last. The whole time she had it, she was fairly stressed out about needing to keep it clean. She gave it away when she downsized again, and was a bit sad that no one in the family really was eager to inherit it (the family re-use was important to her as part of her justification for spending the money initially).
      She did have it pre-treated with an anti-stain product, but there’s a lot more information now about the potential health risks of that. She wishes she had not paid extra for that.
      Also, she regretted that it was actually too deep for her to sit comfortably in it without an additional pillow behind her, so that’s a thing to have on your radar. (And when she got a knee replacement, it was too low for her to sit on at all, but of course that only applies to a small percent of the population.)

      1. allathian*

        That’s true, but for long-term use, being able to get up from a sofa’s very important. When we moved to our current house we bought two modular sofas from IKEA. Provided they last long enough, we can switch the legs to longer ones as we age.

    13. office hobbit*

      This will depend on where you live but don’t discount local furniture stores. It turned out a place near me makes all their couches, so I got a quality couch the exact size I needed (it had to fit up narrow stairs, plus I wanted high arm rests to sit sideways against), in my choice of fabric, and delivery was included (all under $1000). I didn’t know they made couches till I went in to window shop, so don’t rule it out before looking into it near where you are!

      A white couch will get dirty, but could you always sit on a throw when you eat/drink? It would be more of a hassle, but when you’re not using the couch you will have your beautiful white couch to look at across the room. I think soda covers ruin the look tbh (tho they have gotten much better), but you could look at some in person and see what you think. You will be seeing this couch a lot so pick something you like!

    14. Janne*

      I also have a small apartment and I decided on an IKEA 3-seater couch. Maybe it’s a bit big (it is kind of crammed between the door and the window) but it’s just long enough for someone to lie on and that’s really useful.

      Many IKEA couches have washable covers. You still shouldn’t spill big amounts on it because the cushions beneath those covers aren’t washable. I spilled way more chocolate on it than I had expected but it all came out by spot-cleaning. When I wash the cover, I wash all of it so that I don’t get color differences.

      The couch came as a couple packages that I needed to assemble myself, so it was really easy to bring into my house. I think the biggest package was about 2m long and 40 cm wide.

    15. mreasy*

      I know Ikea gets a bad rap but I have had one of their loveseats for over 10 years now and it’s still in great shape (washable covers too). We also bought one of their more expensive leather sofas and it has also lasted well the past 7ish years though definitely it is more worn (gets more use as it’s our living room sofa and cats and people like to spread out on it. They deliver now, but at least in NYC you can hire someone who will pick it up for you, deliver, AND assemble your Ikea furniture.

    16. Fellow Traveller*

      My parents and my in-laws have white/cream leather couches which have stayed pretty clean for 10+ years. I don’t know how you feel about leather furniture, but if you get the real stuff (not the imitation leather) it will hold up.

      1. KeinName*

        Yeah, we had one in the family for 20+ years. The leather billowed a bit due to compressed stuffing after that time but it was still nice. Impressive how that held up. Was very nice to sit on.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I just visited my aunt and they had the BEST leather couches–like getting hugged by a bovine angel.

    17. beep beep*

      Followup question as not-the-OP for someone who is also couch hunting: Do you recommend leather for a family with a cat who likes to scratch? I enjoy our current loveseat but we have tried many ways to stop her from clawing up the fabric on the arms and back and it has never worked. I think part of it is the fabric itself, since it’s fairly textured like her actual scratching posts are. Maybe leather would be different?

      1. T'Pol*

        Our cat also likes to scratch fabric. She scratched our fabric chair but never on our old leather couch. When we replaced the couch we got another leather one because she had left the old one alone. She then started occasionally scratching the new one! We keep blankets over the parts she scratches and it seems to stop her for the most part.

    18. Anonymoss*

      So when I was getting my couch what was really important when I was shopping was sitting on them. Most couches at stores have been sat on a lot, so you get to feel what these couches will be like after a while. Do they feel kinda mushy? Are they still rock hard? If you get it from a store they’ll deliver, but also if you buy used you can hire someone off Task Rabbit to help you move it (or you can rent a truck from Home Depot for the day).

      Personally I think a white couch is a bad idea. If you can, something like a ‘flecked’ white or a subtle pattern is going to last longer. Even without pets or children, the time you spend eating on it, kicking your feet up, setting things on it, etc, even briefly are going to translate to dirt getting ground into it, making it look dingy and gross fast. Unless you want to spend your time with this couch constantly cleaning it, the stress over keeping it white probably isn’t worth it.

      1. Buggy Crispino*

        I agree with the comment that couches in stores have been sat on thousands of times. I sat in several of them and finally settled on the one that I just sank into and felt like I was in a little pod that fit me perfectly. When the one I bought was delivered, it was hard and uncomfortable. It probably took a good year before it got broken in to the point that it started feeling like the one in the store.

    19. goddessoftransitory*

      MEASURE YOUR DOORWAY AND HALLWAY BEFORE YOU BUY.

      When we moved from one apartment to another in the same building, we also ordered a new couch. It took FOREVER to come (I curse Sears online and all its works) and when it finally arrived, it couldn’t fit into our apartment hallway! Basically, our old place had the bedroom directly across from the door so we could back in there and adjust, but the current one had the closet there, and it could not be done. We ended up having to send it back and get a whole new, shorter couch.

      Now our current one is sagging like the old grey mare, and I’m shopping for modular sofas that can be moved in pieces. Don’t be me! Measure!

    20. goddessoftransitory*

      White furniture longs for only one thing–to attract stains. Even if you eat nothing but white bread and water, your jeans, a stray shoe, or any number of things will pledge their undying devotion to your couch.

      I’d invest in lots of washable throws and blankets and have a strict no-shoes policy.

    21. Emma*

      We have a sectional from Crate and Barrel, in light gray (almost white). It was expensive, but we got it in stain resistant performance fabric. If you go to their website, you can use the search function to search for fabric that works with pets, kids, stain resistant, etc. We checked all those boxes and chose a really durable fabric.

      We do keep part of the couch covered in a blanket, but I’ve still had to remove various stains in the year we’ve had it (pen, muddy paws, etc). The stains come right out with Folex.

      I’m not sure if you could buy something that could be added onto, but if you go into a crate and barrel store, they could help you brainstorm.

      1. Emma*

        And we have both kids and pets, so lots of stain potential:), and have been pleased with the couch. If you have neither of those, but still chose a performance fabric, you would probably be even happier.
        It did take our couch like 6 months to be made, which we knew when ordering it, but I don’t think that’s true of all their couches.

    22. WestsideStory*

      If you’re in the US, try Raymour & Flanagan, and wait for the Columbus Day Sale. We bought one on Labor Day that’s 2 feet shorter than the one it replaces, and transforms via a trundle-like option that you can pull up into a queen size bed. It was 30% off, which helped cover the delivery cost. It’s dark grey, but we are getting a dog cover for it. Very pleased with it!

  6. Gronk*

    themes for adult birthday party- I’m turning 40 soon and feel like I might want a themed party. what are the best themes you’ve seen? what was terrible? it’s going to be a daytime party at an awesome neighbourhood bar. hopefully 50-100 people

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Anything that doesn’t require attendees to buy a costume, tbh. I hate the “everyone come dressed for the 1920s for my Great Gatsby party!” or “Come dressed as your favorite historical character” etc.
      I’m fine with themes for someone’s birthday party, but don’t expect me to dress up in that theme. That’s the worst part of theme parties.

      1. Ali G*

        Yeah I don’t want additional work for attending a party. I’m happy to bring a gift, dish or bottle of wine in a theme, but beyond that, I probably won’t attend.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        It says something about my mind that my first idea for “favourite historical character” was Archimedes, right after his Eureka moment.

      3. RedinSC*

        Don’t know if this will double post, but I really enjoy dress up parties like that, so it’s really a know your audience for something requiring a costume.

        1. Madame Arcati*

          I love dressing up too but if you think it out carefully you can get a theme those who don’t enjoy it have a simple option (which you suggest). Plenty of, say, film or tv themes have characters in normal dress – yeah superheroes could involve spandex and a cape but you can be Lois Lane in a normal office outfit carrying a reporters notebook, or Bruce Banner in a happy mood.
          Unless you’re an Anglophile this probably isn’t a great option for you but I once went to a really fun Tube (London underground train) party where we all dressed as tube stations – this can cover a range of amounts of effort. Someone was Wimbledon in their tennis outfit. Someone else dug out their academic gown from university and added a clowns nose and bow tie -Oxford Circus. Another wore pearls and a velvet Alice band – Sloane Square. (I could churn out ideas all day – wear a flowered dress and be Kew. Wear a green top and carry a toy car – Green Park. )

          Oooh if you are in the US how about states, or cities? Low effort options could be beer in one hand, chunk of cheese in the other – Wisconsin! Dressed in greys/browns and carrying a rock – Boulder. Pair of Mickey Mouse ears for Orlando (or Florida). And you have scope for people that like costumes – I’d want to be Dorothy for Kansas or Alexis Colby for Dallas/Texas.
          And if one had an Elsa (Frozen) costume already I reckon that would be legit for Alaska lol.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            I forgot to say what I wore for the Tube party. It was a shepherd’s outfit (like a biblical type one) with crook and plush sheep.
            And a large triangle of fur fabric sewn to the front of my robe…

            1. English Rose*

              OMG, we did something similar years ago when we held a work party at the London Transport Museum. One man came as Elephant and Castle with a cardboard castle shaped hat and a toy elephant on top. I was one of seven women who each simply had a number 1 – 7 on our backs and no-one could guess who we were until we got together and were Seven Sisters. The wittiest was someone who had an enormous safety pin on their lapel with smaller pins dangling from it. Pinner.
              Thank you, I haven’t thought of that for years, it was huge fun.

            1. Madame Arcati*

              I don’t know what you mean. I didn’t say everything in my post was simple I said it covered a range, and several certainly were. How is carrying a notebook or a rock not simple? It’s barely bothering. And not-angry Bruce Banner is no costume at all if you are male (presenting).

      4. allathian*

        Yeah, same here. I’m not a cosplayer. I enjoy looking at pix from parties where people have put in the effort, but it’s not for me.

    2. Middle Aged Lady*

      I hosted a 40th where I decorated with dolls, dollhouses and other toys and hung a banner that said ‘it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.’ People played with the toys! It was fun! I donated the toys to a shelter afterwards.

    3. Pam Adams*

      my sister had a ’60’s party for her 60th. No costumes required, but 60’s decor and happy-face cookies. (the younger generation called them emoji cookies)

    4. Wilde*

      If it was my year for a big party, I’d be doing a Barbie theme! Easy to dress for (“profession” of your choice or a cheap wig, with a sliding scale dress code so everyone can dress to their comfort) and easy to decorate (pink everything!).

    5. matcha123*

      Timely post! I was literally going to ask the same question. However in my case, I don’t know if I could get people together for drinks or anything.
      I love birthdays, but I don’t feel the same way as others about “milestone” birthdays, so I feel a bit unsure of what I should do. Will be keeping an eye on this thread.

    6. key lime pie ice cream*

      I saw a wedding theme that was “try to upstage the bride and groom” – so everyone wore their fanciest, coolest, wildest, most over the top outfits and the end result of everyone together was absolutely amazing to look at! I definitely think you could recreate this for a birthday. Also, I’m a BIG costume/theme lover, but I think this could be a good middle ground for the people who aren’t (they can wear an outfit they already have and feel really good in)! Whatever you choose, I hope you have a WONDERFUL time celebrating this special day!!

    7. Fellow Traveller*

      Not a theme per se, but I’ve seen a couple milestone birthdays that were “Birthday person” trivia nights, which I thought was fun. It does require someone else to help coordinate making up the questions and playing host, though.
      I also went to a party (okay it via Zoom) where everyone was invited to bring a story about the birthday person, and they went around telling the stories.

    8. MaryLoo*

      Theme of your birth year. I went to a party like that, they had reproduction magazine covers & newspaper headlines from the birthday person’s birth year, printed up ads from that year, popular toys and games, etc. Music from the birth year.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      Decide ahead of time who’s paying for what; open bar? Cash bar? Tab covered to X amount? Will there be food or catering? What about parking?

      There’s lots of little things that can add up. Also, book the venue as soon as possible–things fill up much faster than most people think. It also gives your guests enough time to plan and RSVP in a timely manner.

    10. Kiki Is The Most*

      I recently went to a candy party….candy from the 80s/childhood set out for friends and the invitation suggested bringing candy as a ‘gift’ (though not necessary at all). The candy gifts were shared with all guests, too, and it was fun to reminisce about movie Milk Duds and Lemonheads.

      Or what about a theme on your favorite series? (Old or new) but popular enough to have coasters, beer koozies, trivia questions, costumes or anything else that would engage everyone (Friends, Ted Lasso, The Office, etc.)

    11. Numbat*

      Best: dress up as the birthday person, or dress up as something that starts with the letter B or whatever. I like themes that let you go absolutely over the top if you want, or just throw together something low key last minute.

  7. Ali G*

    Hey folks!
    Can someone recommend a brand of really supportive, but lightweight sneakers? I currently have a pair of New Balance, but they really don’t have the support I am looking for. I have arthritis, and some deterioration in my right foot. I do a lot of walking, and I am finding my current shoes aren’t cutting it.
    Thanks!

    1. Joie De Vivre*

      The best suggestion I have is to go to a running store. They should be able to fit you with shoes that will be comfortable and work with how your feet hit the ground (toe first, heal first, pronate, etc).
      Good luck!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Agree. I wear Brooks but I got there by going to a running store – even if you hate running they can help (walking counts too).

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        Agree. Each brand has different styles with levels of support, weight, etc., and running stores typically have shoes designed for walking too.

        1. Doc McCrackin*

          I’m a chiropractor and this is exactly what I recommend to patients. There’s many awesome shoe companies but it’s really about buying the right style of shoe for you. A great Mom and Pop Running Store is your best friend here.

    2. do it anyway*

      Apart from the running store suggestions, I’d say consider a hiking/approach shoe. Running shoes are very padded but are often designed to have higher heel than toe. I like the hiking/approach shoes because they are flat. But, you have to go to a store and try on a bunch of shoes. People have different shaped feet, and could absolutely recommend what fits their feet, but your feet are a different shape, and I guarantee not all shoes fit all feet the same.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I love my safety shoes! They Look like dress shoes/wingtips but are lightweight (composite cap, not steel) and super comfy.
        Plus, I can travel in them and go on site without changing.
        Now, if someone would inve t a collapsible hard hat..

    3. Jay*

      Redwing has some really nice hiking boots that are built like sneakers. They are comfortable, shockingly light weight for such a substantial piece of footwear, have great support, and even last a decent amount of time on my fat, catastrophically supinated feet.

    4. RedinSC*

      If you’ve got an REI around, they have both running and hiking shoes and can help fit you to what you need.

    5. PTEval*

      Have your doctor send you to a professional sneaker evaluation by physical therapists. There are PTs that specialize in this and they will not only provide you with the specific construction details of the shoes best suited for your specific feet. Most will also provide you with specific current models that fit the criteria.

      Most high end running stores offer a less intensive faster version catered specifically to the brands they carry in their store. In a pinch/if there are no PTs offering the service/your dr won’t refer you to a PT you could try the running store option but they generally are much less helpful, especially if there’s a medical condition involved as in your case.

      Good luck!

    6. Angstrom*

      By supportive, do you mean firmer, more cusioning, or more arch support?
      For arch support, consider a high-quality aftermarket insole. The Superfeet Green is one option for high arches.

    7. Susan-shaped beehive*

      I’d recommend springing for custom orthotics. They really are a foot-saver, and because you can put them in different shoes, they greatly increase the range of what you can wear comfortably. Worth the cost IMO.

    8. mreasy*

      Agreed with the folks who say see an orthopedist or a podiatrist, but shoe-wise, I would try Hokas. They are expensive but the pair I bought (second hand, it was a miracle to find them) have made long walks and gym workouts with my plantar fasciitis so much less painful.

      1. wkfauna*

        I second Hokas. I also have plantar fasciitis and it’s like it almost disappears when I’m wearing the shoes.

      2. Forensic13*

        Third recommendation for these! I got a membership to REI to make mine slightly cheaper. I have arthritic toes and they’re great.

        But you HAVE to try them on, and don’t try to accept an imperfect fit. Did that with another style of Hoka and I was in a ton of pain after one day.

    9. The Week Ends*

      I have found Nike Air Max solve this problem for me, other Nikes and other brand- nope. They run small so I wear a different size. The support is amazing.

    10. Can’t Sit Still*

      I bought a pair of Orthofeet Kita hands free last month.They are very light, comfortable and supportive. I did have to add a met pad for my specific foot issue, but their insoles are otherwise fully customizable.

      No interior seams, so no rubbing, even when sockless. I don’t know how long they’ll hold up, but so far, so good.

    11. fhqwhgads*

      You might also consider insoles. Super Feet (green) have been great for me, regardless of what shoe I put them in. However, I originally got this recommendation from a sports medicine dr I was seeing at the time due to a sports injury that was taking forever to heal. So whether that’s a good option for you might be a question for your doctor.
      But, story-short: I gave up on trying to verify any given shoe would do what I needed, and just rely on the insoles.

    12. Rainy*

      Running shoes are typically lighter-weight than walking or sport-specific shoes. Go to a big store that carries lots of brands and get properly fitted where you can try on a ton of brands. Most people have feet that are going to “like” one brand over others. Mr Rainy wears Nikes, and I wear Asics. I can’t wear Nikes at all and he doesn’t like the way Asics feel. You may need a custom orthotic to help support the right foot.

    13. OyHiOh*

      I’ve been very impressed with the weight (almost non existent) and arch support of my split sole dance sneakers. You wouldn’t expect a split sole shoe to have any arch support to speak of but these, Slow Man brand, do. I wouldn’t wear them for serious hiking but for around about town shoes, they are excellent.

  8. Jackalope*

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

    We’ve continued to have a lot of fun in our D&D game. We’re taking a break next week but for now we’re starting a new adventure (for our same characters). The DM left it on a cliffhanger last week so it’s going to be a long wait!

    1. Jay*

      I’ve started playing Pagan, Absent Gods after a couple of years of abandonment. The Dev’s made some very foolish decisions about how they wanted to take the game (think making a REALLY GOOD casual time waster into a REALLY BAD Souls ripoff). Looks like they eventually came to their senses and made it playable again, along with making it single player offline instead of online-always.

    2. The Dude Abides*

      Got to bear Link to the Past with “help” from my daughter.

      Started a playthrough of Zelda 2 (which I have *never* played), currently at the beginning of dungeon 3.

      Magic-wise, I am increasingly wary of ordering cards through my LGS’s TCGPlayer storefront. Once a month or so, I’ll go on there and pick up 1-2 dozen cheaper cards (read: maybe $2/card), and I have had consistent issues with getting what I ordered. Usually it involves cards mis-tagged as foils when they are not, or the card is from the wrong set (I am a stickler for exact matching).

      I still pick up 1-2 cards from the case when I come in, but I also know that me paying cash and picking them up helps their margins more than if they sold it to someone thousands of miles away. That being said, if I can’t count on getting what I pay for, then I will have no qualms about permanently switching to the 2-3 online vendors I use as backup.

    3. Free Meerkats*

      Continuing with WoW Classic Hardcore. So far I’ve lost 2 Gnome mages , one to a wandering elite, one to a mass respawn. And I’ve lost 2 Tauren druids, one I got several unexpected adds in a pull and the other was stupid, I accidentally ran off Thunder Bluff.

      Current mage is at level 15 and current druid at 14.

    4. Kayem*

      I’ve been trying to get my D&D group back on. Half the group are diagnosed ADHD, one is an autistic math genius, ages range from nine to 59, and there’s a mix of introverts and extroverts, so finding a balance has been challenging. 5e turned out to be “too much math to mess with” for two of the players and “too boring” for three of them. I switched to Fate, thinking that would be more fun for the players who wanted to just go for it. I have been told Fate “doesn’t have enough dice rolling” in it and “too subjective” so we’re moving on to Monster of the Week.

      To keep everyone entertained and to derail the puzzle nerd from again finding the campaign’s maguffin within the first ten minutes, I’ve got it set up now so that for every session, the whole party gets wooshed through wormholes into new situations based on a variety of different genres. For the next session, I’m sending them to Sesame Street where they have to combat the supernatural horrors of elder gods that have infected the characters.

      Assuming we can all find a time to actually play together.

    5. NeonFireworks*

      Wordwhile, which is a fun little sequential word search game that keeps going and going (wordwhile dot org).

    6. Porch Screens*

      I’m finally done with FE3H! Finished my run through the Silver Snow route yesterday morning and it was my last one out of the four routes. Even though it’ll be nice to move on to other games I’ve been wanting to play, I’m still kinda sad that it’s over! I’ll probably eventually pick up FE Warriors: Three Hopes and give that a go since I’m curious to see how an alternate universe spin-off goes.

      I’ll probably go back to Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous and work on finishing that up now but I’ll likely start up something new on the Switch as well – just not sure what!

      Oh and I’m planning to try out some spooky point-and-click adventure games for October, too :)

      1. Jackalope*

        I’ve enjoyed Three Hopes a lot, although it’s very different from a traditional Fire Emblem game. They have the same characters (plus a few new ones like Holst), the same voice actors, and the story has a lot of similarities but is different enough to be interesting.

    7. Nicki Name*

      I’ve started playing the material from the new Pathfinder Society season. Extra elemental planes plus the promise of exploring new areas sounds like it’ll be run.

    8. SparklingBlue*

      Very slowly working through Zelda (now that I know where the other Great Sky Island shrines are), and hope to work in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet DLC soon

    9. SB*

      We pulled the Wii out over the weekend as it was far too hot to go ahead with our gardening plans. We played Pikmin 1 & 2 all weekend & absolutely loved it. Such a cute little game. Easy game play for younger ones but requires some thinking to complete the puzzles so can hold adult interest also. Probably not what a hard core gamer is into but is a nice little game all the same.

    10. Loux*

      I finally got around to finishing Year 1 in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. I’ve been struggling a bit since I don’t usually enjoy the social aspect in farming games (I just wanna run around and do my own thing!), although the game is really nice. I have to play it more.

      I also need to play Rune Factory 3 Special which I recently got from a pre-order. My backlog of games keeps growing because whenever I get bored or frustrated, I just go back to Animal Crossing New Horizons. Which is good for my ACNH villagers, but bad for actually completing any other game!! Haha.

      My sister and I started New Super Mario Bros U for the Switch on the weekend. We really enjoyed New Super Mario Bros on the DS when we were kids. I’m really bad at the game, as it turns out, so I need to practice!! LOL. I don’t remember being this terrible as a child…

  9. Grief resources?*

    My 45-year-old brother died unexpectedly of natural causes recently. Any good resources for dealing with grief that you’d recommend? Or words of wisdom? Thank you.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      This helped me when my dad died, but it is written for atheists/non-believers, so if that doesn’t fit your own worldview, it might not be the best choice: A Grief Workbook for Skeptics: Surviving Loss without Religion by Carol Fiore. The author wrote it after the death of her husband.

    2. Middle Aged Lady*

      Surviving the death of an adult sibling bu T J Wray.
      I am so sorry this happened.
      It happened to me.
      Let yourself feel your feelings, good and bad. don’t be angry with yourself when you laugh or have a good day. Tender feelings towards everyone about the precious gift of life can quickly turn to irritability. You are going to swing back and forth.
      Get extra rest and be extra careful driving or doing any task really. Grief can make us clums, distracted.
      It is unbearable and unbelievable at first. Time itself doesn’t make it fade: doing your grieving work does. And it does get better.
      All the best to you.

    3. GoryDetails*

      Much sympathy! I came across the book The Empty Room: Surviving the Loss of a Brother or Sister at Any Age, by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, some years back, and found it quite thought-provoking. (I’d lost my brother decades before, and while I’ve dealt with my grief long since, I think a book like that one would have helped at the time – as much as anything could, when there’s such a huge hole in one’s world all of a sudden.)

    4. Anon for this*

      I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. As Kaleidoscope said in this thread, grief is not a linear process, it absolutely comes in waves, they nailed grief exactly in that comment.
      Since 2018, I have lost my mom, a brother, and a brother-in-law. I am currently dealing with a younger sister having a rare Stage IV cancer, and I know it won’t be long for her.
      So grief has sort of been my de facto feeling for the last five years, and it isn’t a feeling I would wish on anyone. For me, what has helped the most has been to ask myself as I am sitting there crying uncontrollably in a random moment over one of the people gone from my life is: “Would they want me to be in this much pain right now?”.
      And every time, the answer is no. They would not. That is what pulls me out of the moment, and those moments are becoming less and less as time goes on.

    5. WellRed*

      I’m sorry! I lost my 49 year old brother three years ago this week. We were only 13 months apart. You have my sincere sympathies.

    6. eeeek*

      I am so sorry for your loss.

      My best advice about grief is that it is sneaky. It will creep up on you when you’re doing ordinary things. Suddenly you reach for a can of peas at the grocery store and a memory downloads to your deep brain and you are weeping in the middle of the aisle because you will never be 5 years old or able to throw peas at your brother again. Who knows where memory will lurk?

      GRIEF is SNEAKY. It leaks into your heart and mind in strange ways.

      And this sensation of being utterly out of control, unable to dictate the terms of your memory and loss…is completely normal.

      So.

      Be kind to yourself. When it sneaks up on you, feel free to say “oh, yeah, you’re there, Grief. I see you. What have you got for me, today?” I have found it comforting to pause and remember. That works for me where memories are good/kindly – it’s harder when they’re not. (Actual therapy works better for traumatic memories, of course.)

      As for me, I have learned to weep in public without apology. It’s okay, really. I have been hugged by kind strangers, and I have been the kind stranger who has hugged people. I have been the person who leaves her shopping on the conveyer belt with a feeble “I’m sorry” because I just couldn’t. And the world moved on. There was no disaster, no emotion police to arrest me for not doing “grief” right.

      Remember to breathe. And be kind to yourself.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        This. And while the incidents are few and far between now, they can still take my breath away.
        Last week I saw my brother in the grocery store. Only my brother has been gone 20 years, and this was someone with a similar build and hair wearing a tee of my brother’s favorite band. My heart leapt and I turned to go say hi and then a split second later I remembered, looked again, and collapsed into grief all over again.

        1. Jackalope*

          My mom died 36 years ago. Last week I started reading a book that started off with a girl just a bit older than I’d been learning that her mom just died the same way mine did. I’m USED to the fact that my mom died. Used to it. But I still lost it and cried all over my spouse and housemate. (I have also put that book aside, although it was interesting and highly recommended…) I wouldn’t have expected it to hit me so hard STILL, but there you are.

          1. ampersand*

            I feel this. Coincidentally, my dad also died 36 years ago, and there are still times that grief hits me out of nowhere–or something that I think will affect me doesn’t, or something I wouldn’t expect to affect me does, and I’m sad all over again. Grief is weird.

    7. Charlie*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I also lost my brother 12 years ago and initially found it difficult to find the right resources. Eventually I came across The Compassionate Friends. Although much of their support is for parents, they do have support available for siblings too. The best resource for me has been their Facebook group, where I have met other bereaved siblings, and it’s great to be able to talk to other people who just get it. We have also had some in-person meet ups and genuine friendships have formed.

    8. Elle Woods*

      I am so sorry about the loss of your brother. The best advice I’ve got is to be kind to yourself and let yourself feel all the feelings. Sending you love and peace.

    9. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. There’s so much wisdom in the thread so far…

      one thing I haven’t seen mentioned: hospice organizations have grief support resources available to the community whether or not they have been previously connected to the hospice. There are support groups and also often other options – worth checking with an organization in your area to see if there’s something that feels like it might be helpful.

      Grief is a very physical experience. It is exhausting. Be gentle with yourself.

    10. And thanks for the coffee*

      My husband died in November unexpectedly. It’s a journey. Take care of and be kind to yourself. My condolences.

    11. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I had a grief playlist when my dad died. As everyone has said, grief has its own timeline that doesn’t sync up with what you’re doing in day-to-day life. One weird consequence of this for me was that I found it really hard to know what to DO while the waves were coming on – like I can’t just sit there and feel for very long, but the feelings needed to be felt! Music can be good for giving a focus and a rhythm to your feelings.

      One specific rec, which two separate people rec’d to me and they were quite right, was Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part, which has quasi-magical powers to quiet your feelings but in a loving way. I listened to it on repeat for hours while writing my thing for the funeral.

      I’m really sorry for your loss.

    12. Bibliovore*

      I am so sorry.
      What helped me.
      Books
      It’s Okay that you are not Okay
      This Thing Called Grief

      Ask for help
      Accept help.
      Take time off if you can

      Grief ambushes as unexpected moments.

    13. SB*

      My partner & brother died unexpectedly within 5 months of each other & what helped me was taking time for myself away from other people. Everyone was very supportive, but sometimes it got overwhelming & I needed to be by myself. I would hole up at home & watch my comfort shows on Netflix so I could reset a little.

      Don’t get me wrong, I very much appreciated the care & concern but sometimes I just needed to not be reminded. So I guess my advice is to not feel bad about being alone if you need it.

  10. Mitchell Hundred*

    So I was reading an article about Netflix’s new Scott Pilgrim animated series ( https://ew.com/tv/scott-pilgrim-takes-off-preview-michael-cera-chris-evans-edgar-wright/ ) and noticed something interesting. I have no strong feelings about the series itself, but I did see one part of the article mention that it was easier to greenlight partly because Michael Cera revived a nine years dead email thread for the movie’s cast.

    In other words: we have the first ever reply-allpocalypse success story.

    (If I could post gifs on here, I’d put one of people cheering and hugging each other, so just imagine I did that).

    1. Ancient Llama*

      I loved your interpretation, and your 6 words (no need for 100) painted a picture I imagined as directed.
      All made me smile.

  11. third sarah*

    I think this weekend will be our last grill out of the summer since it’s starting to get cool. What do you like to grill other than burgers and steaks? Creative ideas especially welcome, including vegetarian ones since a veggie friend will be joining us Sunday.

    1. RedinSC*

      My posts keep not posting! GRRRRR

      Shishito Peppers! YUM! Coat with some olive oil and a little salt!

      Cotija cheese (the hard Mexican cheese) slide and grill!

    2. Snell*

      *hopping up and down with hand raised*

      I (vegan) am sooo done with grilled portobellos. I get it, they’re “meaty,” so it’s a go-to. But. They’re just the mature stage of The Worst Mushroom.

      I’m very partial to sweet potatoes that have been cooked until charred on the outside, although this is definitely a matter of taste (I would have hated it when I was a child, but I’m no longer a child and as I understand, even many meat eaters appreciate charred foods). Beyond that, there’s of course corn. Non-terrible mushrooms such as king oyster and shiitake (well, do you know if your veg guest likes or dislikes mushrooms?). Sweet or hot peppers that are conveniently shaped for the grill (hatch chile!!). Dengaku style eggplant. Definitely don’t forget to provide a sloppy/savory sauce(s). I don’t want to assume anything about your hospitality, but in my own experience, it’s often overlooked for veg food.

      I am not the biggest fan of grilled zucchini or summer squash, but it comes up so often that it must be popular with somebody, right? Lol.

      Nearly forgot about the sweets. Peaches. Pineapple. Melon if you a wild one. I think grilled lemon became a fad this year. I’ve never tried it. Looks weird, but you can look for ideas there.

      1. eeeek*

        Totally with you on the “ugh, grilled portobellos”.

        I may be an outlier, but as a happy carnivore, I quite enjoy grilled slices of tempeh. I like the plain type with a little salt and pepper (which play up the naturally tangy taste) and dressed in sandwich with all the fixin’s (lettuce, tomato, onion and/or pickle relish, kimchee, olive tapenade…whatever!) I find that tempeh also plays well with a teriyaki or bbq sauce baste. I’m happy to eat tempeh without *pretending* that it’s meat (like a beanburger or mushroom paste burger) – it’s delicious without being an “also ran” type food.

        And grilled peaches drizzled with honey? mmmmmmmm. So good. I like that with a little vanilla ice cream, but it’s also great with a dairy-free gelato.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          I second this. I find I’m hungry if the vegetarian fare doesn’t include protein. I like grilled veggie hot dogs that are soy based.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I think a key to vegetarian is food that’s not pretending to be a beef burger. So tempeh makes sense. (I’ve heard of doing what you’re describing with reuben fixings.) I really like Smitten Kitchen’s carrot and white bean burgers, but would do them in a pan as I don’t think they’re sturdy enough for the grill.

          1. carcinization*

            Thanks for that recipe, I missed it when it was posted for obvious reasons (March 2020), and like to try out new veggie burger recipes from time to time.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I tried it then, and part of the deliberate appeal was “so you probably have some carrots and a can of white beans at home.”

              1. carcinization*

                White beans are actually not a common pantry item in my region, I think the first time I bought them ten years or so ago (to make white chicken chili, possibly?) I had to google what they even were because I had never seen/noticed something labeled “white beans” in the store. I googled and now I know to buy canellini beans/Great Northern beans, etc., but pinto or black beans are used much, much more often where I live.

      2. JSPA*

        grill white peaches +/- a touch of balsamic vinegar +/- a bit of crumbly mild white cheese (someone mentioned cotija above; that would work).

        marinaded pumfu / skewers with onions and pineapple

        grilled salt-and-pepper green tomatoes served with a smoky hummus or baba ghanouj

    3. GoryDetails*

      Halloumi is another cheese that grills really well. (The loveandlemons web site has detailed recipes/serving suggestions using this, but even as a very basic “grill it and season it as you like” it works well.)

      I’m also fond of grilled eggplant; I like it with very basic seasoning, mainly salt and pepper, possibly dressed with a touch of balsamic vinegar. (A very simple treatment: slice a big eggplant crosswise, a half-inch thick – or to your preference; mix oil, salt, pepper, optional garlic or garlic powder, and brush the eggplant slices with that before grilling.)

      1. Awkwardness*

        Came here to suggest Halloumi or Feta. I used Halloumi most of the time as-is, but for Feta I added herbs, lemon or tomato slices.

      2. GoryDetails*

        Just wanted to add that there are vegan versions of halloumi, though when I posted I was thinking “vegetarian” instead of “vegan,” and I’ve only ever tried the dairy-based version. FWIW!

        1. Snell*

          !!! Could you point me in the right direction? Like, where to find it/do you have a favored brand? I knew of halloumi, but only of the dairy version. Would be very interested in a nondairy halloumi. Will even take a recipe to cobble something together at home as a starting point.

          1. GoryDetails*

            Sorry, I haven’t actually tried the vegan halloumi – just noticed some recipes and brands when Googling. (The recipes I saw featured tofu, nutritional yeast, cider vinegar and some seasonings – sounded relatively simple, fwiw.)

      3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        I do an eggplant-halloumi skewer which is pretty nice – slice the eggplant lengthways & fairly thin, marinade in olive oil, balsamic & garlic, dice the halloumi into nice fat cubes, roll each one up in a slice of eggplant, stick it on a skewer, grill.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Corn on the cob.

      Also fruit–stone fruit to make it jammy, melon and pineapple to go in a salad or over grilled meat.

      1. Scout Finch*

        Oh!! When I was a kid in the country, we’d wrap corn on the cob in several layers of newspaper & roast them for several hours over low to medium fire. SO tender & flavorful.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          We just pulled the husk back, rubbed off as much silk as possible, wrapped them back up in the husks, then roasted them. So good!

          1. Jackalope*

            The essential part of this: grill the corn inside the husks, and then when it’s done rub it with a lime and if you want, a tiny bit of salt. The lime and the roast corn together are unbelievably amazing.

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I’ve heard of people grilling pizza. Unfortunately, I haven’t done it myself so can’t offer any recipes or tips, but it’s one of their favorites.

    6. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I lucked out on tomatillos at my local farmers market so I will be grilling those with some onions jalapeños and garlic then making salsa verde
      (Served with grilled chicken and tortillas)

    7. Mephyle*

      Skewers with (some or all of) mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, corn cobs cut into chunks, sweet pepper wedges, and probably some other vegetables that I can’t remember just now. We found that these cook better when covered with a dome lid. But you wouldn’t need it if your grill has a lid.

      Cut a cabbage into large wedges, anoint generously with garlic butter or olive oil, sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper, and some hot pepper if desired. Wrap in foil and cook until soft. This is even better than it sounds.

      Asparagus! I see it’s already been mentioned. We do it without foil, just toss them with oil and salt and put them directly on the grill.

      I’ve heard that grilling watermelon “steaks” (thick slices) is surprisingly good but haven’t tried it. A quick search turns up lots of tips for timing, seasoning, and accompaniments.

      1. Janne*

        A mixture of sesame oil, some neutral vegetable oil and soy sauce is also nice on those cabbage wedges. You can sprinkle some sesame seeds on and add some hot sauce too.

    8. Fellow Traveller*

      My favorite grilled tofu recipe:
      https://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/rukmini-iyers-vietnamese-griddled-tofu-with-tomatoes-and-spring-onions/
      You wrap cherry tomatoes in foil with some other ingredients, and grill them. Once cooked, you mash them to make a Vietnamese influenced sauce that you eat over grilled tofu.
      I also like to grill tempeh because i find it takes flavor better.
      We also love to grill eggplant, peppers, corn.
      Kale is also tasty to grill, but you have to be careful not to burn it.
      Also the halloumi suggestion above is great.

    9. Fellow Traveller*

      Oh and on the non- vegetarian end, i love grilling cedar plank salmon. Super simple yet feels so fancy.

    10. could be better*

      veggie skewers with grape/cherry tomatoes, zucchini slices, mushrooms, peppers, onions. Marinate for a while beforehand in: sesame, ginger, soy sauce and lime.

    11. Yum.*

      Try this yummmmmmy dessert. Cut a ripe peach or nectarine in half, remove the pit and the bitter dark parts around the pit. In the cavity of each half fruit put brown sugar and some. butter. (I would possibly use nsalted.). Wrap in foil, grill. I don’t know for how long — we made these over campfires years ago. One of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

    12. Kayem*

      Grilled pineapple is a favorite, as is grilled squash. But not the usual yellow summer squash or zucchini, I absolutely adore using zucchino rampicante because it holds up so well on the grill and has a texture more similar to potato than squash. No idea if they’re sold in stores, I just grow my own, or bum some off family who also grow it.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Love grilled pineapple. I slice into one inch slices, spray with Pam, grill until nicely seared. Then dice and make a salsa with it. Diced sweet onion, cilantro and anything else you like

    13. RussianInTexas*

      Salmon steaks in foil. Shrimp skewers. Veggie skewers. You can even blanche some hard veggies like fennel and then grill.

    14. PhyllisB*

      Shish kebabs without meat. For dessert, grilled watermelon or peaches are really good. Pineapple also grilled up beautifully.

    15. Anon-E-Mouse*

      I won’t address the part of your request for creative options (I’m insufficiently caffeinated), but for your veggie friend I’ll offer two suggestions:

      1. Please keep a part of your grill clear of any meat / flesh etc and have a separate set of tongs etc. Some vegetarians and vegans feel very strongly about cross-contamination.

      2. There are varying preferences in the veg community about mock meats etc. I, for example, am a vegan who LOVES a good Beyond Burger or veggie dog, especially at a barbecue! Others really dislike them. So, ideally you’ll have a few options – and they won’t go to waste because omnivores might enjoy them, too. I would recommend getting a few frozen Beyond Burgers because they’re vegan-friendly and hold up well on the grill – but also, of course, have some of the creative menu options you’ve requested. Don’t get Impossible Burgers because some vegans won’t eat them because they were tested on animals. Make sure your buns (for hotdogs and burgers) don’t have dairy.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        If you want a nice veggie sausage to grill, Field Roast makes really good ones. (And they’re a bit more veggie intensive than other brands. And more flavorful, if you ask this vegetarian.)

      2. Jackalope*

        If you have a Trader Joe’s near you l, they have some great veggie burger options that aren’t pretending to be meat, but are rather their own thing. I like the Thai veggie burgers and the Masala burgers a lot. On a non-vegetarian note, they also have some good fish burgers if you want to try something different out.

    16. Elle Woods*

      Sweet potatoes are really good when grilled. Cut them into spears, toss with a little olive oil and seasoning and grill ’em up. (I usually do them on the upper rack of the grill for about 20 minutes so they don’t get charred.)

      Brussels sprouts are also good when grilled, as is asparagus.

    17. kt*

      I am not vegetarian, but I love sliced grilled zucchini and summer squash as do many of our guests. Slice it thin, I slice it like 1/3-1/4 inch thick, and cover it with olive oil and salt and pepper and “Italian herbs/spices”. Since it’s so thinly sliced, it grills very quickly, and it’s just a nice savory veggie side. This obviously doesn’t qualify as a protein.

      For something totally from left field, I’ve been loving a cold tofu salad this summer. Like a riff on hiyayakko, a Japanese tofu dish; something like Silken Tofu With Crunchy Lettuce and Fried Shallots from the NYTimes food section; the version we’ve been loving best is from Kenji Alt-Lopez’s book The Art of the Wok even though it’s uncooked. Basically cold silken tofu on a plate, heaped with corn sliced off the cob, cherry tomatoes cut in half, cilantro or basil (some good green herb), and a rice vinegar/soy sauce/oil dressing. Scallions too. Anyhow, I didn’t think I’d like cold tofu for dinner… but on hot days and out in the garden it’s been amazing!

    18. Rainy*

      A fun side (if you like zucchini) is to ribbon zucchini (you can do it with a veggie peeler but a mandolin is better–ribbon down to the bit where the seeds start compromising the structure, then flip it over and do the other side likewise), thread the ribbons on a soaked bamboo skewer, and then marinade with a nice veg marinade. (I like to mix oil, soy sauce, garlic, and 5 spice, but anything you like will be great.) Grill the skewers, and then serve them either on the skewer or slide them off into a pile to fork up.

  12. Elizabeth West*

    Thanks to everyone who gave me cane advice a couple of weeks ago! I did get one and it has helped immensely. Blinged it up with some stick-on jewels too, haha. People are nice and give me a seat on transit.

    It feels better but it’s still swollen and I can’t put weight on it right away when I get up, so I don’t trust that — it felt better before I moved and look where I am now, lol. I went to an open MRI on Wednesday to see if I need surgery. No word yet. (It was my first MRI ever and boy, was that thing loud.)

    If that’s the case, I will probably need some help. I live in a third-floor walkup and have no one to look after me currently. The orthopedist’s PA did say there were options and we’ll see when we get there. If it is the meniscus, it would probably be keyhole surgery, which typically has a shorter recovery time.

    In case this is necessary, I could use some advice about recovery from similar knee surgery if anyone has had it. Do you have to stay off it completely? There’s literally no room in here for a scooter; a walker might work, though.

    1. Enough*

      Husband had meniscus repairs on both knees. This was 10+ years ago. Did have a few weeks at home then back to work. No walker, no scooter. The biggest issue is you need to minimize the use of stairs. Going down will be worse than going up. Take it slow, use the rail and try not to go up and down any more than necessary. And continue this for a few months. My husband helped our son move about 5 weeks after his second surgery and messed up the knee. Son’s new apartment was also on the 3rd floor.

    2. Gracie*

      Not the meniscus, but I did have keyhole knee surgery a couple of years ago (osteochondritis dissecans loose body removal, so there wasn’t excessive tampering with the parts of my knee that were where they should be)

      The nurses had me up and moving the same day, not using sticks or a walker, and I went home the same day once everything was functioning again after (general) anaesthesia. I was staying with family to get it done, so I had someone at home – I think they required it, at least for the first day or two? I was mostly just sleeping, waking up to do my physio, more sleeping

      I was doing stairs the same day as well, once I was home, but only one flight and very slowly. It was a matter of getting everything I needed for the day/night on one level of the house and then staying there all day. Three flights would have been…a bad idea

      I was also only 23 at the time, which my surgeon said was speeding up my recovery, so mileage may vary on that aspect as well

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      You’re speaking my language–multiple knee surgeries and living in a small apartment with two flights of stairs to access it. My suggestion is to wait until you know your diagnosis. How you manage your recovery will depend on what the situation is.

      Not everything requires surgery and may instead be a case of rest and physical therapy. My experience ranges from a substantial strain to a total knee replacement. My go-to is crutches, which I’m a whiz at, including on the steep and narrow stair steps in my old building that pre-dates modern building codes.

      I’ve tweaked my knees enough that I stopped giving my used crutches away and keep a set around now. They given me the greatest range of options for how much weight to put on the injured knee, from using just a single crutch for extra support to using both and putting no weight on the injured leg at all.

      Wishing you well with whatever is going on.

    4. My Brain is Exploding*

      Spouse has had 3 meniscus surgeries! Try PT first, and since you have stairs, if you find you need to have surgery, do PT BEFORE surgery to strengthen your thighs, etc.! You will have PT afterward, but also see if you can find a myofascial release therapist (Barnes method) that can help you with internal adhesions (maybe even before, especially if you’ve had prior knee injuries). We have two sets of stairs in our house and spouse was doing them, albeit slowly, right away. The freezer wraps (long and skinny with velcro) attach nicely around a knee and there should be a good balance at first of walking around v elevating.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Seconding all this about physical therapy before a surgical procedure. A key component to successful recovery is having your quads be as strong as possible.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Thanks for the recs, y’all. I will talk to them about PT before surgery if that is warranted. On the bright side, it might help me avoid surgery, and also may start me toward getting back in the shape I was in before the pandemic, which is one of my goals. I’ve lost a little weight just from using public transit and the stairs, but I want my strength back.

    6. ronda*

      I had knee replacement this year.
      they required a 2 wheel walker after surgery, that would not be great for getting on stairs :). But actually my knee felt very stable right after surgery and they wanted you walking once the anasthesia wears off.

      to do stairs, once I was using a cane instead (and for any necessary steps before that), do it 2 footed. use good leg to go up a step, move bad leg up to same step.
      to go down- use bad leg to go down a step, move good leg to same step.

      I know someone told me a story that someone they knew went up a couple flights right after surgery, and then didnt come down til their next appointment, so it may be possible.

      I did rent a hotel room for a week with a handicap shower cause getting that leg into the tub was hard for a while and because my sister was staying (needed an extra bed), so I had someone to take me home after surgery and drive me around while on pain meds. once home, I sat on the edge of the tub and swiveled in for a while.

      I wish I had elevated and iced more, but I did what I was able to do. the swelling and bruising was pretty bad and maybe more would have helped.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oof, that sounds like a lot. Fortunately this is a torn meniscus — I read the MRI report online, and it’s right there — “Medial meniscus posterior horn superior surface/free edge tear.” I knew it! I’m getting pretty good with the cane already. :)

        That’s probably what I’d have to do, go upstairs and then stay put. Lucky I can work from home, and the tub in this apartment is so old it’s super shallow. Stepping over the edge is easy. I take showers, not baths, so all I have to do is be careful not to fall.

    7. Just a Minion*

      No advice on recovery but a friend of mine did need a procedure shortly after moving to a new city, where she was on her own. I believe this was an out patient procedure. She needed a ride home and to be monitored for X number of hours. They would not allow her to take a taxi or uber home. She ended up hiring a med/nursing student to for pickup and monitoring. She was very happy with it. I’m not sure how she found the student though.

      1. Doc McCrackin*

        My husband had an acl reconstruction and meniscus repair last year right after we moved into a second floor apartment. His was a bit more complex than yours, but I’ll tell you some things that helped. If you need the contraption that passively moves your knee for you, I recommend setting it up on the side of your bed you don’t sleep on and leave it there. Set it all up before surgery. Also, make sure they know you need to do stairs at home. They had a physical therapist teach my husband after his surgery before we left how to safely navigate the stairs. See if you can have a visiting pt come to your home for the first few visits. Also find a good backpack you can wear to carry things around even in your apartment. Since you’re by yourself also stock up on groceries and prep some easy to eat foods before surgery. Oh, be prepared that spongebaths only for a while. Dry Shampoo is your friend!

        1. Might Be Spam*

          The knee contraption is adjustable, so if you have a bad day it’s ok to reduce the angle and then progress from there.

          I had the machine (with different attachments) after my shoulder surgery and it truly makes a huge difference. I backed it up against the wall and put a pillow behind
          me and was even able to nap. My son liked to say “My mom is so lazy, she has a machine do her waving for her.”)

  13. Joie De Vivre*

    I’ve got a box of “getting to know you questions” called Table Topics.

    Today’s question –

    If you could learn any language, what would it be? Why?

    1. Lynn*

      My heart says Italian but my head says Spanish. Spanish would be the more practical of the two in the US, but I loved visiting Italy and the little Italian I learned ahead of time made such a difference!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My daughter took Spanish on that theory, foregoing French (offered once she reached middle school) and German (offered once she reached high school).

        As an adult she hasn’t needed the Spanish, but has lived in Germany, France, and Switzerland doing research.

          1. Still*

            I feel like unless you really need to learn a language for a very practical reason, you should always go with your heart. It makes such a difference. Learning a language is hard, unless you’re using it every day, you gotta love it.

            1. Ancient Llama*

              I agree with FD and Still, learn what you love. I did Spanish all through school (to include post grad) because I enjoyed it, but almost never use. Now (in my 50s) learning Italian because we did a vacation there 2 years ago and am using it as a reason to go back. (The Spanish has helped with the Italian).
              There was a great Ted Talk explaining just this (will link in a sec). I might have even got the link from AAM so apologies if stealing someone else’s thunder.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I am currently alternating between French and German on Duolingo, because I took both in high school. Two years of French, one year of German, and then 3rd year French and 2nd year German simultaneously during my senior year, which was the first time anyone in our language arts department remembered a student taking two languages at the same time. My sister was the second, three years behind me. :)

      Other than that, on a really general level, I enjoy the sound of the Polynesian language family (which I recognize is like 35+ languages), but I don’t have the knowledge to select one in particular or to really be able to distinguish in between them properly. I believe the ones I’ve heard to any real extent are Maori and Hawaiian, but I can’t swear to it.

    3. Not Totally Subclinical*

      I suppose I have to pick just one….

      If by taking a class and talking to people, Spanish, because it’s a crying shame that I can’t speak it.

      If by someone waving a magic wand and putting the knowledge into my head, a language that’s in danger of going extinct or has recently gone extinct, so that it can keep going a little longer.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m going with Korean because it’s not tonal, and I do not have a linguist’s ear so adding that layer of difficulty would pretty much doom me.

      1. Esprit de l'escalier*

        I once took a short course in Korean, for fun and curiosity. The writing system was easy to learn and our very basic vocab was easy to pronounce. But at the last class the instructor told us that there are also five double consonants in Korean, and she pronounced those for us. I couldn’t hear any difference between those letters and their non-doubled counterparts, but she said they sound different and it changes the meaning of the word. At that moment I realized I was not going to keep going with Korean.

        1. Esprit de l'escalier*

          Replying to myself, it occurs to me that maybe those Korean phonemes that I couldn’t tell apart aren’t so very different than our many homophones are in English. A learner might be trying to mentally parse a sentence that contains “they’re” and after a while they’d think, oh, maybe that was “their” or “there”…. In other words, maybe that needn’t have been as much of a dead end for me as I thought at the time.

        2. allathian*

          Korean is the Asian language that interests me the most, mainly because I don’t think I’d want to deal with a tonal language. My first languages are Finnish and Swedish (my family’s bilingual), and both of them feature double consonants, so that isn’t an issue.

    5. RMNPgirl*

      For practical reasons it would be Spanish. I’m trying to learn some on my own with a workbook and podcasts/websites. I did take it in high school and a lot of it is coming back; I can figure out most sentences if I can read them.

      For funsies, I would probably go with something out there like Sanskrit.

    6. Kayem*

      The hard part would be to choose just one. Which was evident in my failed attempts at learning various languages. I’m not sure if it’s that or I’m just bad at languages. Supposedly I was fluent in German as a kid, not that I remember anything. And two years of high school Spanish amounted to remembering nothing but what I previously learned on Sesame Street. I took three years of Japanese in college and was getting fairly decent at basic conversation until I moved to a rural area and had no access to anything I could use to keep practicing. I also thought I’d be clever and take Portuguese, Latin, and Greek my final year of college, which went about as well as you’d expect.

      I’d love to be fluent in Spanish. It is more useful for work and I’m only about to the level of a 4 year old, only with a smaller vocabulary. If I had a magic wand, I’d learn Mandarin or Cantonese. I’m also trying to get my mom to take ASL classes with me, but she’s in denial

    7. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I speak English and French in addition to my native language. If I could rewind time and start a career that’s now inaccessible to me, I’d train to be a literary translator, and people who work between my native language and English are a dime a dozen.

      With that in mind, for an additional language, I’d pick something that is not so widespread. Probably a Scandinavian language, since I’m very into Nordic Noir books – a pairing with my native language would be way more niche. Or a language with a different alphabet. I’ve always been fascinated by Cyrillic, and the fact it’s used in many countries that still have differences in their languages.

    8. Emily Dickinson*

      Tagalog – I have a lot of Filipino coworkers and think it would be fun! Or Korean, for getting more out of K- dramas.

    9. Loopy*

      Yiddish. It’s not practical, but I started a few books years ago about it (one being Just Say Nu) and it seems to have SO much character. I also always feel terribly sad when any language is on the verge of dying out (though there are orgs working to prevent this that I know of).

      My grandfather probably spoke a good bit and my dad still has some common phrases so it’s also a personal connection to family history.

    10. Awkwardness*

      Either Russian, Arabic, Chinese or Hebrew.
      I learned in school English, Latin and French. So I’d be interested in something with a non-Roman alphabet for a change.

      1. Loopy*

        I took two years of college Hebrew classes and while now everything is gone I loved learning to write in another alphabet. I really enjoyed the writing most!

    11. Llellayena*

      Sign language (ASL)! I know a little but not enough for a full conversation. There’s translation apps for verbal languages, but sign is harder. And it would help a lot if more hearing people knew sign so Deaf people had an easier time interacting. I helped a Deaf customer when I worked in picture framing and encountered a Deaf employee recently at Home Depot. Even my limited understanding made the interaction easier for both of us.

      1. Dovasary Balitang*

        I’m currently taking an ASL 1 class as an elective for my degree program and it’s so much fun. We pretty much play games all class and it’s surprising how much you can pick up that way! I don’t need it for my program but I’m 100% planning on registering for ASL 2 when I can.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Oooh, yes. I hadn’t thought of that. I’d choose ISL or Irish Sign Language. I’ve tried to learn the alphabet, but without using it…it doesn’t stick.

    12. RussianInTexas*

      Spanish, like everyone else, same reason. I live in the area with very high Latino population, it would be just practical.

    13. Mimmy*

      I’ve been teaching myself ASL off and on over the years. I don’t have an immediate need, but I’ve always loved the language. Plus, since I’m trying to get into the field of disability services, I think it’d be beneficial to at least have the basics down. The language structure is difficult to grasp, however.

      I also used to be really good in Spanish (took 5 years of it in high school and college). I still remember a little bit and tried to relearn it on Duolingo, but the app is so dang repetitive!

    14. Jackalope*

      Most of my life I’ve wanted to learn Slovak but haven’t been able to find any resources for it. We had a Slovak exchange student when I was in high school and I loved the way it sounded. I know that Czech is really close and I’ve sometimes thought about trying that instead, but my heart says Slovak.

      I would love to learn enough ASL and Swahili to be fluent. I’ve studied both to some extent but need more experience, and I enjoy them both.

      I’ve always wanted to go to Wales and study Welsh there. It hasn’t worked out in my life so far but maybe someday I could be a student there for a few months…?

      And Samoan, Vietnamese, and Cambodian would all be helpful for my job, so I would love to learn those languages as well.

    15. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

      For practical and family reasons, Spanish.

      For impractical reasons, Latin, which I studied in school for several years, but have since largely lost. There are some poems I’d love to read in the original language again.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      ASL. I’ve been wanting to and meaning to learn it for ages, but I keep learning new programming languages instead of new human languages.

    17. Valancy Stirling*

      I know a little Italian and French, but I’d love to learn more. Mostly the former, because at least half my ancestors were Italian.

      1. Girasol*

        Me too, but for no apparent reason. I wanted to learn a language and figured that since everyone around me speaks English it didn’t matter what I chose. I picked Irish. I figured if I was awful at it no one would ever know. Now I’m planning a trip there and I am indeed still awful at it. It’s fun to learn though.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Most Irish people are also awful at it, despite learning it for 13 years. Most people are happy to engage at a basic level though, so if you greet people with “Dia dhuit. Conas tá tú?” or say “go raibh míle maith agat” in a shop, most people will respond.

    18. Jay (no, the other one)*

      For practicality in my neck of the woods: Spanish.

      What I really want to learn and am seriously considering: Hebrew. I have been doing Torah study with a friend for years and the deeper I go in the commentaries the more I want to understand what they’re talking about when they dissect the Hebrew.

    19. Heffalump*

      Italian, because it’s romantic. I can’t give any practical arguments for learning it. In the past I’ve dabbled (and I emphasize dabbled) in Swedish and Hungarian.

    20. Numbat*

      Noongar, an Indigenous language from the south west of Australia.

      Because it’s endangered thanks to racist, genocidal government policies, and it was the language of my ancestors.

    21. Loux*

      German. I always meant to before my Oma died, but for various reasons it never happened. But I’d still enjoy learning it, I think!!

  14. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    My New York City trip was last weekend and since I saw several people asking about similar trips I thought I’d share what I learned.

    1. The subway is very warm unless you are in the actual cars. The city also feels warmer than the weather forecast. Bring lighter clothes than you would otherwise plan on.
    2. If it is at all sensible, go ahead and get the unlimited week transit pass. That way you don’t have to consider cost or refilling your transit card.
    3. We stayed in NJ. It was fine-as long as we were using the shuttle to get to and from Manhattan. A bit more time and money, but not too much of either and quite convenient. But trying to use the NJ Transit busses was awful. Do NOT recommend. I’d probably go for someplace in Queens or Brooklyn if I ever go again.

    1. talos*

      If you just tap your card, it stops charging you after 12 fares. Not sure how that compares to the pass, but figured I’d mention.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I think that’s with the tap cards? Signs said to get them in stores, but we were able to get the swipe cards that we used right at the Metro station where the airport shuttle dropped us off. I wouldn’t have wanted to wander around trying to find the right store.

        1. mreasy*

          On the subway now you can just tap your credit card or your phone with a tap payment setup (Apple Pay etc). There aren’t separate cards other than the Metrocards you buy in the machines.

          1. Jim was The Office villain*

            And they refund once you get to 12. I brought my daughter and her friend up back in May and used my phone for the three of us when we rode, so I got to 12 that day no problem. That night I started getting notifications about being refunded for every ride after 12.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Interesting — on my last trip to NY (it was Oct) I had the same experience where it felt way warmer than the thermometer said. Especially in the evenings, the temps just didn’t drop the way I expected. I’m assuming that’s due to the heat absorbed by the huge volume of concrete and stone and steel. All those buildings and roads, heated up by the sun.

      OTOH another October in Chicago it was way colder than I thought due to the winds and overcast skies. Sometimes you just pack wrong.

      1. mreasy*

        NYer here – the humidity is the culprit there, it keeps the heat in the air so the temp doesn’t drop much at night. This summer has been brutal.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, cities can create heat islands so the temp doesn’t drop fast. And in Chicago the lake can have interesting effects – it’s often, but not always, a little cooler closer to the lake.

  15. metzengerstein*

    My home’s foundation needs to be repaired. Does anyone have advice on finding a reliable company? Would you recommend using a national company or a local one? Any other advice? Thank you so much!

    1. Ali G*

      Oof that’s tough. I would do a lot of research locally and see if you could hire a very well recommended company.

    2. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Do you think it is just your home, or has there been local subsidence, flooding etc nearby over the years – if so, it’s possible that neighbours have had to deal with their foundations too, and might have recommendations.

    3. Sitting Pretty*

      This is exactly the kind of thing that Nextdoor cen be great for, if you can ignore all the exhausting stuff on the way! When I ask for local recs, sure, I’ll get a mountain I’d them. But when I see 10 people raving about one dentist or window replacement company in particular, it gives me a good place to start

        1. metzengerstein*

          I posted on Nextdoor this morning but so far no one has responded. AAM has great advice so thought I would try here, too!

    4. office hobbit*

      I might start by calling reputable realtors or home inspection companies in your area and asking who they refer clients to when they find structural damage? Once you have names, look up their business license etc. I always look at google reviews, too, and look at whatever socmed is most active for your city (fb, reddit, nextdoor). And ask coworkers, if they live in your city. Choosing a local vs national company is just going to depend on the company itself.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      Did the structural engineer who did the eval recommend anyone? In my experience, that’s the way to go. They’ll have worked together before, and signed off on repairs being done as indicated, so they won’t point you to someone who sucks.

      1. metzengerstein*

        I haven’t spoken with a structural engineer. Several door frames and baseboards are coming away from the wall, and my hardwood floors are no longer level. =(
        Thanks for all the advice!

        1. fhqwhgads*

          It may work differently where you live, but when I had symptoms of foundation issues, the steps were:
          get an engineer to evaluate and confirm, yes, you have foundation issues
          the engineer writes up a report on the issues and the manner in which they ought to be fixed
          get a foundation repair company to give a quote for doing do what the report says
          get a foundation repair company to do what the report says
          get the engineer to comeback and inspect the work

          The repair companies would not do anything without the engineer stuff having happened first, no quotes, no suggested course of action, nothing. I’m not doubting your assessment, and realize you said you work with a lot of folks in construction, but based on my previous experiences with foundation issues (again, at least where I live), you have to go through an engineer. (I ripped up old floors and found a 20 ft long 1.75 inch wide, I forget how deep crack in the slab, but still needed an engineer to say “that’s a cracked slab that needs repair” to start the process.)

          1. metzengerstein*

            Oh my gosh! Thanks for sharing your experience. Glad you were able to get your problem resolved. That sounds scary.

  16. GoryDetails*

    Small joys thread?

    One of mine: the other day I panicked when my remote key-fob wouldn’t unlock my car, and the physical key didn’t work either. It took me way longer than it should have to realize that this wasn’t my car… I was on the point of calling for roadside assistance when I spotted *my* car maybe 60 feet away from the (same make and model, different license plate and contents) car I’d been trying to get into. I was very relieved, not only to have my own car back but that the owner of the other car hadn’t seen me trying to break in!

    1. RedinSC*

      Oh yeah, it seems that every 3rd car in the lot is the same as mine, I’ve tried to get in the wrong car several times! ooops

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        At least with modern cars the keys probably won’t work! This was a problem with 1980s Toyotas. There were a lot of them, and it wasn’t unheard of for your key to work in someone else’s car…

        1. Kayem*

          I had this happen in my old Civic. I came out of the grocery store, stuffed the groceries in the trunk, got in, started the car…and then I noticed the seat didn’t feel quite right. And my sunglasses weren’t where I left them. And there was something hanging in the rearview. The car looked identical to mine, was parked next to mine, and my keys worked in it. Blew my mind. So glad the owner didn’t see me loading and then unloading their car.

        2. the cat's pajamas*

          There was a funny news story a couple years ago or so where someone accidentally stole a car this way and thankfully they figured it out and the owner was cool about it, they even left them gas money.

      2. The Dude Abides*

        Seconding this – the lot where I park has 30ish cars, and a striking number of them are silver sedans.

      3. Car fails*

        Once I borrowed my husband’s car when grocery shopping and then put the groceries into the trunk of the wrong car. Realized my mistake and unloaded the groceries (in an embarrassed hurry, of course), forgetting a bag of meat, and driving away. Realized what I’d done and drove back just in time to see the woman who owned the car about to drive away. Flagged her down and got my bag, laughing hysterically the whole time. This story can still reduce me to tears; it was just so ridiculous.

        I still often try to get into cars that are not my husband’s often as he has a popular color/model of car. He keeps saying he’s going to get a decal put on the car that says “[My name] go here.” He has not done this yet, though.

    2. Nicosloanica*

      Foster baby kittens! Five of them, only two and a half weeks old. Each one a palmful at most. So adorable. I have never foster failed (over 30 cats in) and I don’t think this will be the time, but they are still super adorably tiny, wobbly, snoozy balls of fluff.

    3. Double A*

      My car model is so common I usually look at the license plate to make sure it’s mine. I was really baffled when I couldn’t get into my car one day…looked in a bit closer and it was cleaner, has I been robbed of all my precious detritus???

      No, my car was one car further along. But I had checked the plate! When I looked, the car I had tried to get into had the same make, model, color, and first 4 digits of the license plate.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        I once saw a “twin” of my car on the freeway that was only one digit off. Must have bought it the same day from the same dealer.
        If mine was 123ABC this one was 124ABC. For a minute, I thought someone had stolen my car! The one I was currently driving, lol.

      2. Elle Woods*

        One evening, I got into the wrong car after an event. Couldn’t figure out why the car reeked like smoke. Tried my key in the ignition, wouldn’t work. I quickly realized I was in the wrong car. Got out and saw my car parked about four vehicles away. Looked at the license plate of the wrong vehicle and realized it was almost the same as mine except the last two digits were transposed (e.g., “21” instead of “12”). So glad no one saw me!

    4. Enough*

      We had a car in the late 60s stolen when some kid had a trunk key that worked I the ignition. When my dad was in high school if he came out and found his car missing he knew it was his friend who took it as some how he ended up with a key that worked. At that time there were only about 100 different key cuts.

    5. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’ve been fighting a nasty cold, and had the classic 24-36 hours where I couldn’t taste anything I ate, as well as several days when I was wiped out by mid morning. The brightest spot was that the day I made my favourite chicken curry was, luckily, the day my sense of taste came back (for meal planning reasons, I had to cook it that day and risk it would feel like a waste of flavour!).

      Not very glamorous, but it’s all looking up from here, I guess :P

    6. NeonFireworks*

      Went on a fun little shopping trip with a wonderful friend!

      And a neighbor quietly did a big favor for me.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      I have a big view from my desk to the street below and beyond. I noticed someone next to a parked car with the hood up. When he was there for a while, I walked down to see if he had a dead battery and if I could give him a jump. Yep, that was the problem.

      He had loaned his car to his girlfriend and the battery died right before she had to leave on a business trip. He already had a ticket for not having a neighborhood permit. Fearing the vehicle would be towed if he left it for a few days, he got up at 3:00 in the morning and rode his motorcycle hundreds of miles to deal with the car.

      I gave him a jump, the car started so he could drive it home, and he was able to put his motorcycle in her garage. Helping him out made me happy.

    8. Sloanicota*

      After literally two years, my foster dog has been able to be left loose in the house for several hours! He obviously doesn’t love it, but he hasn’t gotten into anything or peed in the house for weeks. He hates crating so I’m glad he’s been able to do this. Proud of him (and me)!

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Congratulations!! The first time I left my rescue dog loose about a year after her Big Panic disaster, it was because she was too damn smart to fall for my tricks and I had to leave to get to an interview. I can’t describe the relief I felt on getting home to a completely fine apartment, so I know the feeling!

        And not sure if this will be true for your pup, but our girl likes her crate a lot more now that she isn’t forced into it when we leave. It’s finally her safe space we hoped it’d be!

    9. Llama Llama*

      My daughter is disabled and can’t walk or talk and low ability to do much (though I think she has a big personality and is going to take over the world one day). She started a new school this year and apparently she has best friend who wants to do everything with her. It makes me soooo happy.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      I saw the Barbie movie last night! Ambitiously but accurately priced on Amazon.

      I have some muscle issues that make sitting in a theater hard, so I was waiting for it to come out on streaming. After the positive reviews started I deliberately avoided reading anything that would give away plot turns. It was utterly delightful. :)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean, apparently not, since I was willing to spend this amount. (Or $30 to buy.)

          During the pandemic I really enjoyed the “direct to streaming, for the cost of 2 movie tickets” opportunity to buy, say, Black Widow. Since it’s the inability to sit in one position for hours that keeps me out of theaters, I wish that had continued. So I looked at it as 2 movie tickets, but I can hit pause.

    11. A Girl Named Fred*

      We got back from vacation on Wednesday night and yesterday I picked up our dog from my parents. We’re so happy to have her back and to know she was endlessly loved on while we were gone!

      Then this morning, I got a text from my mom that she missed her, and I think my dad misses her too even if he’s trying to play it cool. Which blows my mind because neither of them wanted dogs when I was a kid, but my pup’s got them wrapped around her not-so-little paw now, lol!

      1. Generic Name*

        Aw, that’s adorable. I never had a dog growing up, but my parents absolutely adore my dog. She gets so excited when they visit. She’s like another grandkid lol

    12. Voluptuousfire*

      The Covid henchmen finally tracked me down and I tested positive on Monday. Got Paxlovid immediately afterwards and feel a lot better. Tested negative on Friday. Am glad I caught the lighter version of it.

      Also have the windows open for the first time in ages and it’s wonderful.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same!! Hurricane Lee brushed by us and all we got was some wind, but it’s delightfully cool. Running the AC was jacking up my bill.

    13. Elle Woods*

      Mine this week is that I was able to find and get an appointment scheduled with a new dentist. The best part is that my appointment is only a few weeks out!

    14. chocolate muffins*

      My infant son is aging out of one set of clothes and into another, including an adorable pant-and-sweatshirt set that has dinosaurs all over it and also spikes on the hood of the sweatshirt, so he can be a real dinosaur. Very excited to dress him in this outfit for the first time. And also in general experiencing him growing and developing is a joy, though not a small one.

    15. Hotdog not dog*

      Apple season has officially started! I can now buy locally grown apples straight from the farm (we have a ton of farms in our area).
      Also, my friend got a new puppy and Best Good Dog is smitten. The puppy (golden retriever) is about the size as his whole head, but when they met he put his face down for a good sniff and she wobbled right up to him and licked his snout. No hesitation from either side, just instant buddies.

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

      Was able to take a full bath without worrying about the procedure incision at all — heavenly!

    17. carcinization*

      I’m in a swap (similar to Secret Santa but held during Halloween season) and was able to find gremolata olive oil (which my swap partner said she wanted to try) from a local shop instead of ordering online.

    18. Valancy Stirling*

      Ha! Thank goodness on both counts. I once stepped off the elevator, headed to my door, and spent a few very frustrated seconds wondering why my key wasn’t working…

      … only to find out I was in the floor beneath mine. I ended up ringing the doorbell to apologize to the very confused owners, and reassure them that I was not, in fact, trying to break in.

    19. Paralegal Part Deux*

      Had a great day today with my sister. We went to a holiday market downtown and then had lunch at a great seafood place. It was just a good day all around.

    20. Cat and dog fosterer*

      I was having a rough time a few weeks ago because animal rescue felt overwhelming (as mentioned on this page), but this was a much better week. Kitten season is starting to slow down, we’re getting a bunch of TNRs done this month (Trap, Neuter, Release where the feral cats get fixed and vaccinated so that they don’t make more feral kittens), and I’m so pleased because we finally got the last female cat fixed from a colony that we’ve been working on for over three years. There will always be more colonies to worry about, and new cats showing up at old colonies, but we finally got *her* and she will never have kittens ever again.

    21. Girasol*

      I did that at the grocery and was trying my key one more time when a woman came up behind me and hissed, “This is MY car. YOURS is over there.” I apologized profusely. I was so embarrassed. Then she grinned and said, “Know how I know that one is your car? Because I just tried to break into it.”

    22. Seashell*

      I once thought my car had been in an accident in a parking lot, because I saw what I thought was my car with a big dent. Then I realized I had parked near a pile of snow, and this car was nowhere near that. Just the same color and model of car as mine.

    23. Nervous Nellie*

      This summer, for the first time, I tried a little cactus garden on my balcony. One of the plants (much like an aloe vera) unexpectedly flowered, putting out two tall stems with shell pink/peach flowers that look like little sunsets. I was already thrilled by that small joy, but now the hummingbirds have found the flowers! I now routinely see two hummingbirds at a time feasting on the flowers. They have such a sweet & quirky,”Why, what’s this?” look on their little faces as they zoom around. I’ve moved the plant down my balcony so I can see it from all vantage points indoors, so as not to disturb the birds. Not bad for a $4.00 plant from Home Depot!

    24. allathian*

      My son’s reading Harry Potter in English now, after reading the series twice in Swedish. He’s in 8th grade and he’s had English at school since he was in 3rd. He also watches a lot of gaming videos on YouTube, so he’s picked up a lot of vocabulary that way.

  17. Party Animals*

    This seems like such an odd question but my friends and I are being a bit dumb. Since college 10 years ago, we’ve always used Facebook to organize large group events. When it’s just one on one or a couple of us, we’ll do it over text. But larger gatherings of 10 or more, especially if we’re planning who is bringing what food item, always seemed easier in a Facebook event, where there were notifications for comments and reminders of the upcoming event. Most of us are getting off Facebook now and we’re unsure how to plan the bigger events without a ton of texts that are hard to track what’s been said without scrolling far back. So how do you plan large events with large groups?

    1. Snell*

      As far as who does what work/who brings what item, I’ve found shared documents (e.g. Google drive) to be very helpful. Make it a sign-up sheet style.

    2. talos*

      I get decent mileage out of a separate chat group that is used only for planning that event. Probably not gonna work with text, but if many of your friends are already on Discord or Slack or something, then that might work.

      1. Janne*

        We text through WhatsApp here (not US) and make separate group chats in there for events. If needed, combined with some Google Sheets/Docs/Forms for more complicated planning.

    3. Ally*

      If you already have a text thread, you can use that- you just need someone to be “admin” and write a summary from time to time

    4. Cordelia*

      we would set up a WhatsApp specifically for the event planning, and keep it just for that to avoid it getting too unwieldy.

    5. Gallumpher*

      My whole community has moved away from Facebook, and a lot of friends have started using a site called Partiful, which seems pretty nifty.

    6. Mcd*

      if it’s a set group of people who want to connect for a longer period of time, the Band app essentially the same features as a Facebook group without the privacy concerns.

    7. Lifelong student*

      There is an app called Group Me which is for texts among members of a group. Still might require some scrolling bask- but at least it would be just among the group. It has the ability to add events. Our craft group uses it.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      A group I belong to at work uses Evite, and it lets people sign up for specific things. I’m only an end user, so I don’t know all the options.

  18. Potatoes*

    Do You have a packing list or emergency bag ready to go?

    I’m putting together packing lists for emergency flights, emergency room visits/unplanned hospital stays and last minute hotel stays (thanks neighborhood power outage!)

    I find that having lists at bare minimum helps ease anxiety in an already stressful situation.

    If you have one, what’s on your list/in your bag?

    1. Big Out Bag Ideas*

      Car
      Shoes & socks
      Non perishable food
      Water
      Flashlight
      TP
      First aid kit
      Garbage bags
      Sharpie
      Mirror
      Compass
      Matches
      Lighter
      Duct tape
      Zip ties
      Leather gloves
      Emergency blanket
      Water filter
      Old rain jacket
      Old jacket
      Writing La per
      Whistle
      Cash
      multi tool

      House Bug out Backpack
      Glasses
      Sunglasses
      Keys
      Cash
      Credit card
      ID

      Toiletries
      Tent
      Tarp
      Sleeping bags
      Sleeping pads

      Prescriptions

      Computer
      Back up drives
      Charging cords

      First Aid Kit
      Bandaids
      Tape
      Gauze
      Steri-strips or butterfly bandages
      Antibiotic ointment
      Alcohol wipes
      Safety pins
      Paper clips
      Water treatment tablets
      Imodium
      AZO treatment
      Benadryl
      Sudafed
      Ibuprofen
      Medical tape
      Scissors
      Sewing kit
      Duct tape
      Tweezers
      Whistle

    2. Ranon*

      I keep a toiletries bag packed for the whole family all the time- makes it much easier to grab and go. Add a charger and underwear and most of your above scenarios are covered enough

      Of course my toiletries bag has all the usual toiletries, sunscreen, extra toothbrushes, a sewing kit, a travel clothesline, dish soap, laundry soap, ear plugs, contacts, and a small thing of masking tape so it may be unusually well packed

      For the sorts of emergencies that get labeled natural disasters ready.gov has good lists

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I don’t in general, but my partner and I found ourselves in a very unusual situation needing one and it was interesting how little we took – way less than if we could have planned it.

      I packed my phone, work laptop and chargers, as well as wallet and IDs. Then left home in the clothes I’d woken up with, which luckily were leggings and a t-shirt I could have worn anywhere.

      We ended up having to find emergency accommodation for a few nights, and the laptop was the best resource, allowing us to stay in touch with people who would otherwise have been very worried (or consider us MIA, e.g. work). We grabbed toiletries, spare underwear and a change of clothes later in the day, which is definitely a perk of being in a big city – we were never far from supplies we might need.

    4. My Brain is Exploding*

      I’m not going to write down everything that’s in the small backpack (for example it has a pair of underwear, a pair of socks, a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush, copies of important documents, phone numbers….) but I will say that it also has a list of other things to put in it! (Like, get the computer, charger, cell phone, meds, spare eyeglasses, etc. I think I could easily assemble the other needed items quickly with a list.

    5. miel*

      I don’t have an emergency bag currently, but I did when there was anticipated unrest in my neighborhood.

      I would put one together again if there were a possibility for severe weather or similar. Although in my region, the best solution to severe weather is usually to stay home – so a stash of water and batteries would probably be more helpful :p

    6. Pamela Adams*

      Earthquake country here. We have emergency bags, for us and the dogs, in the car. Meds are kept in one place, easy to grab on the way out.

      we do need to get better about important papers, but our brother, at the other end of the state, has copies of our wills and medical power of attorney.

    7. Glomarization, Esq.*

      We keep a duffle bag packed with a couple of changes of clothes, a toiletry bag, some cash, and our important household documents (birth certificates, passports, wills, etc.). The idea is that we can grab the bag with absolutely no notice in an emergency, and we can spend a few nights at a hotel or a friend’s house. The potential scenarios are things like a house fire, a tree lands on the roof, or a car crashes into the house — something that means we cannot stay in the house.

      Some “prepper” guides will advise that you pack stuff like firestarters, paracord, supplies of food and water, and camping equipment in your emergency bag. I think that’s not necessary, because there is no realistic scenario where we’re escaping into the woods and living off the land. If a disaster drives us out of the house, then we go to a hotel. If it’s a natural disaster, then everything around us will be a disaster area unsafe for camping.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      Off the top of my head:

      more underwear and socks than you think you’ll need
      cash in small bills/divided into several envelopes (so if you lose one you don’t lose it all)
      Fresh toothbrushes, paste and floss

    9. Girasol*

      The one time that fire came close enough to make us think about bugging out, I realized that my personal papers were scattered all over. So now I keep them – birth cert, passport, marriage license, proof of name change, social security and medicare cards – all together in an identity packet to grab along with phone, wallet, and laptop. Beyond that I hope there would be some brief warning about what sort of crisis is looming so if food, water, and clothing would be needed I could grab them. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earth quakes are very rare here and fire pretty unlikely so I don’t keep a permanent bag.

    10. Imtheone*

      Good suggestions here.

      I try to have cash since one of our common issues is prolonged power outages. Therefore, no ATMs, no stores that can take credit cards. I also fill up the car with gas. We had a nine day power outage once, and only two gas stations in the city had power.

    11. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      I have an ER bag packed for just in case (I live alone, so I’d grab it and in cases where I am physically unable to grab it, can have a friend grab it). It has spare small tablet, charging brick, cords, corded earbuds, spare glasses, sweatshirt, sweatpants, socks (ERs are FREEZING), , some basic toiletries like travel deodorant, toothpaste, foldable hair brush, and a paperback book for all the potential “waiting around” time. I labeled a LOT in there, including the bag itself with a marker (name/phone #) on the inside.

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

      Wishing everyone a good, sweet year with good health and much happiness. : )

    2. Elle*

      And Shabbat Shalom! I made what I think is my best honey cake ever. I used the Moosewood recipe but with strong black tea instead of coffee. It tastes amazing.

  19. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    How are people connecting streaming services to their TVs these days?

    My dad currently has Comcast, and has all of his streaming services running through his cable box to his tv. Comcast is behaving even more Comcastic than usual lately, and he’d like to have a more reliable device to stream from.

    He currently has Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Disney+, Hulu, AppleTv+, and probably at least one other thing that I’m unaware of. He does not have Netflix. (He subscribes to a new streaming service whenever they start carrying live women’s sports – he particularly likes soccer and basketball.) His preferred phone/tablet/AV ecosystem is Samsung. What sort of streaming box might he want?

    He might also be looking to cancel cable tv entirely, but I’m not sure. If so, he’d probably need to pick up an additional streaming service that had more live sports packages to get the things he currently gets through cable. Suggestions for what to look into for that are also welcome. I think he cares about baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR, golf, women’s soccer (he also sometimes follows the local men’s team, but not as much), and bicycling, but honestly I tune out the tv whenever he has sports on so all I really know is that he does not like gymnastics. I think he mostly just likes to have some kind of sports on, and will browse until he finds something that isn’t MMA or similar. I’ve seen him watch lumberjack competitions and dog dock diving or flyball.

    I am no help, because the only thing hooked to my tv is a PS2 and my video-watching needs are met by a few niche YouTube channels and my DVD collection.

    1. Filosofickle*

      There are a ton of options. I used to have a Roku which is inexpensive and perfectly fine. Now I have an Apple TV (everyone in my family has one including my 77 year old dad) because it’s better about privacy and doesn’t share data, but they are more expensive so not something most people would choose.

      Disney/Hulu bundle comes with ESPN, hopefully he’s found that.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        “Expensive” is not much of a deterrent with him, but he has no other Apple products (he does have an Apple account for AppleTV+ the service) so I’m curious how well the AppleTV performs as a standalone box without any iPhones to talk to.

        He’s also pretty tech-savvy, which I should have mentioned originally! We had home computers starting with a Compaq Portable in the 1980s, and he did the computer maintenance up to and including replacing bad memory chips on it as needed. He’s had a complicated AV system hooked to the TV for decades, and used to built parts of it from kits back when that was a thing. Like me, he can be baffled and irritated by some current “friendly” user interfaces that don’t let you actually configure things and optimize for your particular use case, but I’m not worried it’ll be like how grandma used to get in a cycle where the tv was on and the cable box was off, and the same button controlled on and off for both devices, so then she’d hit the power button again and now the tv was off with the cable box on…

        He’s definitely less privacy-conscious than I am (he’s the only family member who ever created a Facebook account), but has a low tolerance for advertising that gets in the way of things and notices when things get enshittified.

        I assume he knows that he has ESPN streaming, but since he also has the cable package with all of the sports I don’t think he’s browsed it much yet. I might suggest to him that he see how much of what he cares about he can watch through that.

        1. Angstrom*

          We’ve got an Apple TV box, and the only thing we use iPhones for is when we want to cast something from the phone to the big screen. The Apple TV remote is a bit odd but works fine for navigating onscree.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Yeah, my dad does have an iPhone but doesn’t use them together and I don’t even think he’d know how. He just uses the remote. (And in fact same with me! I have all Apple computers and devices but don’t talk to the Apple TV with anything other than the remote. Except when I used my iPad to set up the device & transfer my logins.)

            What it does best is simply work, the way Apple stuff does. As well as the lack of advertising. I think it’s a lower-frustration device, which is worth some amount of money IMO.

    2. ina*

      My old, limited English proficiency family members have a Roku and it works well for them. They mainly use it for YouTube though, lol.

    3. Kayem*

      I have a Roku smart TV because I got tired of having a thousand doohickeys and cables plugged into the TV. It works well enough and was pretty inexpensive. I think Google is the only content there’s no app for, save for YouTube, at least last I looked.

    4. mreasy*

      Smart TVs are much less expensive than they used to be. If the TV itself could use an upgrade you might do best just replacing the whole lot… then there’s no what mode does it have to be on to connect to the device, etc.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        He has a smart TV! I don’t remember how many years he’s had this particular one. I think he bought it to get higher resolution when he got the ultra 4k bluray player and needed a 4k TV, which is probably longer ago than I think it was, but not nearly as long as I keep my electronics. I don’t know why he has his streaming services through his cable box rather than his TV. I guess that would be the next logical thing to ask him.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Update: his smart TV apparently doesn’t have a Paramount+ app, which is a problem because that’s where women’s soccer lives. (There is apparently a Star Trek and women’s soccer streaming service! That feels like it’s targeted at a global market of Exactly My Dad.)

          Apparently the cable company is coming tomorrow, and he’s optimistic that they’ll replace the cable box with one that works better. If not, we’ll have to see how many streaming services he can get through his TV natively and then figure out what device to get for the rest, I guess.

      2. MechanicalPencil*

        There is a limit to the smart aspect though — my mom has a ~5 year old smart tv, but I’ve found that the apps are no longer being updated, nor could she install new ones. For example, I wanted to sync my Hulu account to her tv over the holidays and was unable to because the Hulu app was literally not available. It’s a Samsung tv, so the whole thing is quite strange. My solution for her is going to be adding an external something or other (Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku…) once I figure out which will work best for her. Also one I can feasibly long-distance support.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        He’d been wanting to get a Playstation 5 (he currently has either a PS4 or a PS3, I can’t remember which), but they were always out of stock when he looked. If that’s finally gotten better and they work well as streaming boxes, maybe he’ll use this as an excuse.

        (I’m trying to convince him that what he actually wants is a Steam account and a Steam Deck rather than trying to find games for his tablet, but that’s another story. He just kind of missed the boat when PC games stopped being sold in boxes and stopped playing them.)

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I have my desktop computer connected to my TV, via HDMI. I use the TV as a computer monitor for streaming via a web browser and games.

    6. Jay*

      I have a Roku.
      Like everyone else says, it’s simple, comparatively cheap, and easy.
      If you can find one, try to get one with a memory slot for an SD card. I find mine helpful, as everything now stays loaded into the player itself, cutting the starting times for some channels significantly.

    7. Generic Name*

      How old is his TV? I have a smart tv I bought like 8 years ago and I stream everything through my tv. No converter or box needed.

    8. Elle Woods*

      My parents’ primary television is a Sony smart TV connected via ethernet cable to their modem. They recently ditched cable TV and signed up with FuboTV, which carries a ton of sports. (Seriously, a *TON* of sports.) They went with Amazon Fire Sticks for their secondary TVs. They’re a few weeks into the new arrangement and it seems to be working very well for them–even for my mother, who hates learning new technology.

    9. allathian*

      We have a Philips ambilight TV that has all the apps we need (Netflix, Disney+, Discovery+, HBO Max, the Finnish public broadcaster Yle’s free app, YouTube).

  20. Stevie Budd*

    I rented a car from Hertz for a road trip 8 hours each way. 2 hours in, the car started having issues and wouldn’t accelerate. The issue would come and go but we weren’t comfortable continuing with the car since we still had a long way to go. We made it to a hotel and called Hertz roadside assistance. I spoke with a very helpful rep who tried to arrange a double tow (pick up car and deliver new one), which could have occurred overnight. But his higher ups wouldn’t approve towing both ways and the only option was for them to pick up the car and me, drive me to the nearest location 2 hours back the way we came, and then me drive the new car back another 2 hours to get my family and continue. This cost us several hours off our trip as we stopped for the night earlier than we planned and then had to go through this is the morning before we could do the rest of the drive. We got to our destination at 8 instead of our planned 1. I think this was totally unreasonable of Hertz. My question is – what is reasonable for me to expect Hertz to do for us when I contact them to complain? And any suggestions to get them to take it seriously?

    1. Not A Manager*

      I think it’s reasonable for them to refund the full rental fee. Don’t waste your vacation time on phone calls. Lodge your first complaint with the location manager when you return the car, escalate up customer service via phone when you have the time, and dispute the charges through your credit card company if they don’t accommodate you.

    2. Anono-me*

      I think waiving the full rental is reasonable, but would make my complaint in writing probably via email and send it a few days before you return.

      Writen because:

      It is easier to forget or misunderstand your complaint when it is only verbal.

      It is easier to share writen complaints with social and news media.

      Prior to the end of your trip because:

      It is easier to get a charge waived than it is to get one refunded.

      Refund person will probably need approval of higher to do anything substantial money wise.

      Please let us know how Hertz handles this, my family has several trips coming up and we will be renting a vehicle at some point.

    3. Llellayena*

      I agree that your complaint needs to be in writing but they did still give you a car so asking for a full refund seems excessive to me. A partial refund would make sense though and if you incurred extra costs (higher rate hotel than originally booked, maybe) asking for the difference to be covered should be included in the request. Elliott dot org has the “who to contact” list if basic customer service doesn’t work.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        If they don’t give you anything after complaining, you can escalate to your state attorney general, or maybe the AG of where the rental was. The BBB is another option. I’ve had luck with both before and it’s more private if you don’t want to deal with social media.

    4. Kay*

      Well – I guess our 3 hour delay for receiving our reserved vehicle (and erroneous damage charges, administrative charges for them to deal with the damage charges, etc. after the fact) doesn’t seem quite so bad (Hertz as well). While I don’t have any good resolution advice, at minimum complain early, in writing, take it up the ladder and stay on top of it. If you can, dispute with the credit card early as well if you don’t get an acceptable resolution.

  21. Sadly carless*

    Any tips for dealing with car insurance? Our teenage son unfortunately crashed our only car, and has been decided he was 100% at fault. Car is very badly damaged – not yet sure if the insurance company will write it off or not. Anything we should be aware of our prepared for in this scenario?

    1. Squidhead*

      Presenting receipts for recent work you’ve had done on the car may increase your settlement if it comes to that. It’s usually fairly major work (new brakes and rotors, not oil changes and air filters).

      If your repair shop can source used parts, that will bring down the estimate for the repair and might save it from being a total loss. This worked for me many years ago!

    2. Oread*

      It’ll cost a lot more on insurance is the main thing I have discovered. Went from $125 a month before kid entirely to $450 a month with kid plus one wreck (he took out a light pole so it’s hard to argue it wasn’t his fault).

      1. Imtheone*

        Good suggestions here.

        I try to have cash since one of our common issues is prolonged power outages. Therefore, no ATMs, no stores that can take credit cards. I also fill up the car with gas. We had a nine day power outage once, and only two gas stations in the city had power.

    3. NPTraveler*

      If the cost to repair is more than the value of the car (Blue Book), they will “total” it. That’s a judgment decision sometimes, though, especially if the cost to repair is close to the bluebook value. If it all possible you want the car repaired so that all it costs you is your deductible. If they total it, they will write you a check for the value, but it won’t be enough to buy a new or used car most likely. So try hard if it’s a borderline case to get them to not total it and to repair it, you can ask for a second opinion and push back somewhat if you need to. This is happened to us twice and both times we were able to get it repaired rather than totaled. (2 different cars. One was the son. One was a deer)

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Definitely investigate how much it might worth if they try to total it and be prepared to come back with your own figures to get it non-totaled. We were able to present some comparable sales on our car to get it back to “worth repairing”. (In this case, the car had gone from “so old it’s worth maybe $1000” to “some collectors are starting to get nostalgic for this specific car”, which may be harder for an insurance company to notice in their metrics compared to something that’s less than a decade old with lots of regular car lot sales, though.)

        1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

          Where did you find the comparable sales? Were you looking at asking prices in by-owner sales? We got rear-ended (not our fault), and the other party’s insurance has said they will total it but they haven’t arrived at the “value” they will pay us. Our car is 31 years old and rare, so when my brother went looking for ads for similar cars, he found just three in the U.S.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I know we ended up looking at private party sales. I think my dad rummaged the internet until he found evidence of someone else selling one somewhere in the state. This was on a 1984 vehicle in around 2015.

            I’ll note that we’ve had a consistently good relationship with our insurance company, possibly because we were paying for comprehensive coverage on an ancient van and got in a not-at-fault rear-ended situation, so our insurance company took on all of the arguing with the other person’s insurance company on our behalf.

            We ultimately did have to source some of our own parts (drove halfway across the state to pull a “new” bumper off of a different van in a u-pull-it) since the insurance shop didn’t have the network to do that part, but the other person’s insurance company paid for the repair.

    4. Sadly carless*

      Thank you all for this information. It’s been really helpful, and it is good to know that we can push back, if we need to.

    5. Imtheone*

      Similar car damage, also teen age son. We switched insurance companies, and got a better priced plan, with the same coverage.

  22. Anonymoss*

    Any recommendations for interactive cats toys? Or things I can set up to let my cat play with while I’m gone that’s more interesting than just playing with a ball? I’ve got a laser light that comes on and moves but she doesn’t seem super interested. My cat is 2 years old and energetic. I worry that she’s bored while I’m at work (my other cat is 13, and therefore mostly inclined towards napping). I try playing with her when I’m at home but she never seems very interested, but at times she just seems bored and running around but with nothing to do.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      One of our foster cats loved the challenge of stalking and uncovering things. A foil ball was okay to play with but he’d get bored after a while. When we paired it with another object he could retrieve it from, it was hours of fun. Putting it inside a box or Amazon envelope would have him try his hardest to get it out. When we were at home, we’d have him watch us put a junk mail flyer on top of the ball, so he could stalk it and get the ball out – over and over again. This worked better than any toy that cost actual money!

    2. TechWorker*

      We have a ball on a track thing that our cats love & do instigate play with when we’re not around. You can make it more interesting by hiding some of it under a sheet or changing the layout

    3. kina lillet*

      My previous cat didn’t like to play. Instead we clicker trained her—a session a day. Also when I gave her treats I threw em across the apartment so she had to run & chase them, which she really liked. And, put some treats in a puzzle feeder. The training and stuff provided reasonable stimulation and engagement, so she was pretty happy even though she really just didn’t play.

    4. mreasy*

      My cats love our ripple rug (warning, don’t buy a knockoff version on Amazon, a friend got burned)… it’s great for hiding and finding, poking your cat head into, and sometimes lounging on. It goes best with a lot of little crinkly balls and catnip mice that end up everywhere in your whole house. One of my cats is also obsessed with pipe cleaners and will start fights with them all on her own. As far as active play with you, I have found that wand toys are best and, having a smart and tough to please guy myself, the ones where you can change out the toy on the end of the wire give you options. Both of my cats like to chase with a wand but they like different toys on the end!

    5. miel*

      When you’re home, play with a wand toy; do clicker training; and/or coexist on her terms.

      When you’re not home:
      – wand toy on a stand
      – puzzle feeder
      – boxes
      – looking out windows
      – cat tv (this is a thing, literally on YouTube there are hourslong videos of squirrels or something)
      – my parents used to leave talk radio on to keep the cats company. not sure if they appreciated it, but maybe worth a try?

      Also, sometimes cats just get the zoomies.

      1. Jackalope*

        Warning on the cat TV, though. Our cats love it but really want to try to get the birds and squirrels on the screen. We don’t feel comfortable letting them watch it unsupervised because one of them has almost scratched and almost knocked the TV over. Not all cats are like that but I’d want to make sure first.

    6. Kathenus*

      I have an exercise wheel from One Fast Cat – my cat’s interest is intermittent, but when she does use it it’s a hoot. Pretty easy to assemble, finding the best place to put it might be a challenge since it’s pretty big, but if it works for your budget and house worth a thought.

    7. tangerineRose*

      When I had a young cat and an older cat, I ended up adopting a second young cat. It took a little time, but the younger cats played together.

      There are downsides, 3 cats eat more than 2 and need more veterinary visits.

    8. Wordnerd*

      We got a cat dancer and my husband clamped the end of it to a sturdy scratching post. Put it on carpet if possible so they can really throw themselves around.

  23. Kismet*

    I would like to know people’s opinions about recipes. Here are two scenarios. The first one involved having my mother over for dinner after I was in my first apartment. I cooked a family recipe passed down from my grandmother (her mother). I changed a few of the ingredients, and my mother was mad about it. She said I was dishonoring her mother’s memory by not making it as written. My second scenario was when I was newly married. I asked my mother-in-law for one of her recipes. When I made it, it didn’t taste right at all. My sister-in-law (who was married to her other son) told me that she deliberately left some ingredients out of the recipe, apparently thinking if I learned to make it, my husband would quit coming over to her house for dinner! Am I wrong for thinking both these reactions are weird? Anyone else have any odd recipe stories?

    1. Kayem*

      Definitely weird. Sometimes you might have to substitute an ingredient you don’t have or that someone is allergic to. It wouldn’t even occur to me that someone might think I was dishonoring grandma’s memory because I used walnuts instead of pine nuts or sunbutter instead of peanut butter. She probably wouldn’t think that either.

      The second is kind of…wow. Depending on the type of person your MIL is, it could be either a method of controlling or a charming quirk.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I have heard of people holding back ingredients in “secret” family recipes, but it seems very PA to me. (If you don’t want to share the recipe, just… don’t.)

        My family is fine with tweaks to family recipes, as long as they’re improvements (or at least not making the recipe less tasty).

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Both those are controlling and overbearing.

      For the first, call yours “Inspired by Grandma’s XXX”. For the other, what’s your husband’s opinion on her actions? Is it worth him asking for the ‘real recipe’? Besides, even with the actual recipe, yours will never taste like hers. I have some of Mom’s recipe cards (we shared favorites out when she died). I’ve made some of these alongside her. But mine never taste like hers did.

      1. o_gal*

        Yeah, I’d be serving her nothing but pizza and other take-out, and going out to restaurants when she visits. If she complains, say that you are just terrible at cooking. You tried her recipe and it turned out AWFUL, so you wouldn’t want to subject her to your cooking skills. If she protests, just tell her that it’s better this way, she wouldn’t want to eat food made by such a terrible cook.

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m now the official custodian of my grandmother’s homemade potato gnocchi recipe, as my mother and uncle never tried making it. Grandma never wrote down recipes or defined ingredient quantities, so I replicate what I can from watching her years ago, and have made my own adjustments, which include some shortcuts to make it into a weekday meal. The gnocchi don’t taste exactly like Grandma’s, but, allowing for varying ingredient quality where I live, the texture is still very pleasing. I love eating them so much.

      I cooked the recipe for my mother the last time she visited – she hadn’t had it in years. Eating homemade gnocchi together was a very touching moment, but my mother is also a bit of a recipe purist, so I had to fend off some comments while I cooked. The highlights:

      “Noooo, you’re cooking the potatoes too early, you can’t let them rest that long!”
      (Who’s made this several times now, Mum? Me or you?)

      “You say the ragù you’re serving them with is my recipe, but my ragù tastes different”
      (I think they’re exactly the same, and my partner prefers mine).

      “Grandma would be so disappointed if she saw you don’t make fork ridges in the gnocchi”
      (I tried. Can’t get the hang of it. Nobody’s perfect!)

      I think she liked them in the end. I know she noticed the differences with the original, and maybe made some effort to not point them all out, but every time we talk about gnocchi, she tells me she’s happy I’m keeping up the tradition, and that’s what matters.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          It makes me so proud that you’re asking! Bit of a narrative recipe as I’ve built it through trial and error, and this is what works for me. If I have a picture, I’ll try putting it in a separate comment. English isn’t my first language so I hope I can make myself understood.

          This makes about 4-5 portions of gnocchi:

          – 1kg potatoes (floury potatoes, Grandma would say; I don’t know what type she used back home, and regular UK baking potatoes work for me)
          – 300g plain flour (you may not use it all)
          – 1 egg
          – Pinch of salt

          Prepping the potatoes is the bone of contention in my family. Grandma would put them, whole and unpeeled, in cold water, bring to the boil, then let them cook until soft (this could take 1 hour or longer depending on size, plus what felt like ages to cool enough to peel). I peel and chop them instead – a lot quicker (let’s say 30-45 mins) and foolproof. Now I have a pressure cooker, I use that and it saves even more time.

          Once you have unpeeled potato chunks that are not steaming hot, mash them into a large (ideally wooden) bowl with a potato ricer.

          Now add the egg and salt, and half the flour upfront. Start kneading (ideally by hand), and add more flour as you go if you feel you need it. Stop when you feel the dough is firm enough you could take chunks out of it and roll them on a floured surface. If there’s leftover flour, that’s ok, too much flour spoils the potato taste.

          The rolling is the most hands-on part. You’ll end up making lots of thin snake-shaped threads, which you’ll then cut into individual gnocchi. It’s ok if the dough sticks a little bit when you handle it, as long as it holds the shape. Set them aside on a floured surface so they don’t get stuck. I use silicone baking mats to minimise mess. Grandma had the biggest wooden board I’ve ever seen, which may well have been a heirloom from her family.

          Now, you’re supposed to roll each piece on a fork to make ridges that will absorb the sauce better…but I don’t do it, it adds time and I just can’t get the ridges to appear. I’m sure YouTube could help with that if I was so inclined!

          To cook the gnocchi, have a large pot of boiling, salted water on the hob, and add the pieces to it in small batches. When they starts rising to the surface, take them out with a slotted spoon. Repeat until you’ve cooked them all, serve with your sauce of choice, and enjoy :)

            1. Cookies For Breakfast*

              If you remember, let me know how you got on in the open thread next week :)

              Another thing: for some reason, cooked gnocchi can taste even better the next day.

              I always cook all my gnocchi, portion them up, put what we’re not eating straight away into a food container and mix with sauce. Once cooled down, it all goes in the fridge. That makes for lovely leftover lunches the next day, either reheated in the microwave or in the oven.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Gefilte fish skipped a generation in my family. My grandmother made it from scratch (including grinding the fish in a hand-cranked grinder) and my mother never learned. When I was in my 20s I asked my grandmother for the recipe and she just laughed because of course there was no recipe. So I followed her around the kitchen while she made it and wrote everything down. It never has tasted *exactly* like hers but it was close enough to satisfy my father, who was the real aficionado in the family.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          I can relate so much. There is wonderful stuff I’ll never eat again because my grandmother refused to write down even a single recipe. If I asked nicely, she occasionally made sweet fritters, or a savoury roll with spinach filling, out of spare gnocchi dough. I’ll never know how any of that is made. And her meatballs were legendary, but because she added whatever meat scraps she had on hand and never shared what exactly, they’re pretty much irreplaceable.

          My uncle wrote a few at some point, and makes them now and then – then again, I moved countries many years ago now. I have the transcripts, but they’re mostly regional meat stews I’ll never find the ingredients or the time for. More of a sweet memory than something I’ll ever make for myself.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          We have a recipe! My mom and I used to make it all the time. Of course, the recipe included things like “pinch of ___” and “enough __ to taste” (I don’t remember now, Mom has it) but we made it together and changed things according to how we like our fish. Then Mom decided to start buying gefilte fish loaf from the Kosher supermarket and I partnered up with a vegetarian.

          Recipes evolve. They should, in my opinion. My mother’s brisket was my favorite thing ever. About 20 years ago a friend bought a brisket and asked me for the recipe– there isn’t one. But you do this, you do that, you add this… I’ve made it a couple of times and while it doesn’t taste exactly like my mom’s I think I’ve managed a more refined version. And my friend sent her notes to her family in Indiana, and they’ve been changing it ever since.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            Absolutely! It turns out the secret ingredient in my grandmother’s gefilte fish was MSG, which we don’t use. And for years my husband would not tolerate enough salt for my palate. He’s changed his tune (thank you, Samin Nosrat). I have made it with the “wrong” fish because I can’t always get whitefish and pike (we don’t use carp) and I use the Cuisinart to grind it even though I have my grandmother’s hand grinder, so the texture is a little different. Still tastes better than anything I can buy in a jar and at this point it tastes like mine.

            On the other hand, her recipe for derma died with her.

    4. Emily Dickinson*

      I made some adjustments to my grandma’s recipes and they were well received. Tastes change! Also, if you don’t want to share a recipe, don’t. Don’t go to the trouble of giving the wrong one. I would check versions on something like All Recipes to compare and see what you might want to adjust to get it tasting more like the original.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Taste, kitchen equipment, even things like the size of eggs; nothing stays the same forever. I heard on another site about some cake recipe from George Washington’s time that had some ridiculous amount of egg in it–like forty eggs! Granted, it was to make multiple cakes and eggs were much smaller back then before chickens were bred for increased size, but still–40 eggs? There’s no way anyone I know is going to be making that anytime soon.

    5. WellRed*

      Sorry you have not one but two bonkers mothers in your life. MIL reminds me slightly of the infamous Dear Prudence MIL who was deliberately making DIL sick by tampering with her food.
      As to recipes; I had a friend who would try to take her grandmothers 1950s era recipes and modernize them: think macaroni & cheese but with wheat macaroni, soy milk etc. she’s not a natural enough cook to pull this off.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Adjusting recipes is sooo tricky–even just trying to halve or double something is a rocky road. Throw in having to make it gluten free or whatever, and yeah, I leave that to the professionals.

    6. Llama Llama*

      Your mom would die with me. I take a recipe as a general guide and make make mannnnnny adjustments along the way.

      Once I proudly told my husband I didn’t make many adjustments to a recipe (when it turned out to be 5 or so…..)

      I also have no qualms about sharing any of my recipes. Though, mostly it’s just the ingredients, I don’t generally know the specific quantities.

    7. Generic Name*

      A quick google search tells me that it’s very difficult to copyright recipes themselves as intellectual property. So, even in the legal sense, your mom and mom in law do not “own” the recipes. Your mom’s reaction is at least understandable from a nostalgia standpoint, but yeah, it’s controlling. Your mom in law, yeesh.

      I think it can be very hard to replicate certain family recipes with modern ingredients and techniques. I inherited a stack of recipe cards from my grandmother. I think some must come from her mother. They have instructions saying things like, “cook in a slow oven”. And plenty of baking recipes say “cook until it’s done”. Very difficult to replicate as written. I’m sure I’ve made stuff that taxes totally different from the original, but luckily my family is too polite to say anything. :)

      1. Arlene*

        We found some of my grandmother’s recipes, possibly from the 1920-1930s. One in particular I remember called for a 5-cent bag of marshmallows! Good luck guessing how much that would be now!

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I have a recipe from the 90s that calls for a can of flaked coconut. Haven’t seen one of those in years.

          Margaret Powell (whose memoirs informed the portrayal of the servants in Downton Abbey) even said that by the 1960s she could no longer make some of the recipes the way she learned them while working as a cook in the 1920s.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        The book Perfection Salad is a history of “scientific” cooking in the US, and how standard measures were basically the hot new thing–the women teaching cooking classes wanted to impart recipes that didn’t rely on how hot a wood fired stove felt or “lump of butter the size of a walnut.”

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I have some family recipe cards that call for a “blue bowl of flour” or a a “yellow mug of milk.” Apparently my great-grandmother liked a colorful kitchen…

          1. Lexi Vipond*

            Somewhere I’ve got a family dumpling recipe in big handfuls and wee handfuls. But I like the idea of measuring by colour!

    8. Alex*

      This reminds me of my mom’s story of when she was first married to my dad, who is a VERY picky eater and “won’t eat” certain foods if he knows they are in there. My mom, being newly married to a picky eater, asked his mother for a recipe that he liked. She told him she was going to cook it and he hung around the kitchen, saying “no, don’t put that in there,” and “I don’t like that ingredient, leave it out!” So she listened to him, and they sat down to eat and he said, “This doesn’t taste like my mother’s.”

      When she told my grandmother, my grandmother said oh yeah, you can’t let him watch you make it or else he won’t eat it.

      1. Generic Name*

        Omgggggg! My grandfather was a picky eater. He didn’t like his food touching each other, liked meat and potatoes only, etc. Well, one time my grandmother made a newfangled dish called a “casserole”. My grandfather poked at it with his fork and said with a bit of a sneer, what’s this?” My grandmother looked straight at him and pointedly said, “your dinner”. ROFL

      2. ghost_cat*

        My mom’s story is that as a newlywed, she asked my gran for the recipe for my dad’s favourite cookies. Except my mom’s cookies turned out crispy instead of chewy. When she asked my gran what she did wrong, my gran replied that the recipe was intended to be crispy and she didn’t know what she had been doing wrong.

    9. pansies*

      Your MIL is straight-up mean.

      As for your mother … I’ve been her, sort-of. When she was alive, whenever I’d visit my mother she’d make a particular soup when I visited. As she got older, she got a little bored of the soup, so she changed the ingredients a bit. I remember she asked me how I liked it, and my answer was polite but essentially, “I’m sad because this isn’t my childhood soup”. I know that hurt her (and I wish I could take it back!). So, I don’t think you’re dishonouring your grandmother, I think your mother is a bit sad that when presented with her mother’s recipe, it wasn’t her mother’s recipe. I’m sure your grandmother is fine with the swapping, but it didn’t match your mother’s memory.

      1. ronda*

        yes I can feel a little bit for the mother, cause I really do like how my mom made some stuff and nobody else makes it as well. and it is a little upsetting to think you will get that food you remembered, but get something else.
        But I would not tell them they were dishonoring her !!!

        my uncle came for thanksgiving and insisted on making his great pumpkin pies. We, the adult children, asked our mom to make her pumpkin pie after he had left town : ). but we certainly did not tell him that it was a problem. And I do see on the Facebook that his daughter still makes his recipe and seems to love it !

        For mother in law, google the recipe and make it correctly. You can helpfully tell her that you saw she made a mistake in writing the recipe for you and left off x, y and z– and now it taste just like hers. :).

    10. Glomarization, Esq.*

      dishonoring her mother’s memory

      That escalated quickly.

      left some ingredients out

      … so then eventually you end up dishonoring your mother-in-law’s memory by making her recipe incorrectly once she’s gone and you can never get the true recipe. You just can’t win with either of these ladies!

    11. Pianogirl*

      I make homemade mincemeat pie filling and have made some changes so that I can properly preserve it via canning. Because of that, I have left out the suet (rendered beef fat). The pie is no longer as rich. I’ve also changed the crust. If someone doesn’t like the changes, they are welcome to make help me cut up twelve quarts of apples the next time I make it!

    12. captain5xa*

      Your mom was a bit out of line.

      Your MIL is way out of line.

      I dealt with my MIL by never cooking any of her “specialties” – i.e. homemade lemon pie, homemade fudge, coleslaw, etc. – for my hubby. He was fine with that. He has always enjoyed trying new foods / recipes and actually prefers my cooking. His mom is a great cook; there’s just soooooooo much drama attached to all of it. You also have to eat her food with “proper appreciation.” Yeah.

      The craziest thing she does is when she is over and eating a meal with us, if hubby compliments anything we are eating, she demands the recipe. The next time we visit, she has cooked it (and never follows the recipe). Then she demands that hubby says whose is better. Hubby always refuses to play that game and his mom gets in a snit.

      I’ve often wondered why I haven’t smothered that woman with a pillow and hidden her body in the nearest pond. JK!! Mostly.

    13. PhyllisB*

      I’ve shared this story before, but..
      when I was first married I asked my husband if there were any dishes his mother made that he would like me to learn. Sweetheart that he is (sometimes!!) he said I was such a fantastic cook there was no comparison. I said surely there’s something? He finally admitted he loved her cheesecake and would like me to get the recipe. So next time we were there I asked her if she would share her recipe. She looked me straight in the eye and said, ” Honey, it’s real hard!! Buy a box of Royal cheesecake mix and follow the directions on the box!!” Well, his sisters and I cracked up, but hubby was devastated. He said, Mama, I can’t believe you use mixes!!” She replied, “Sonny, times have changed.”

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, I’ve heard that story so many times! The “family” chocolate chip cookie recipe is the one off the back of the bag and so on. So many people (mainly those who never grew up cooking from scratch, every single meal, for multiple people) think of mixes as cheating or whatever, where the person doing the cooking regarded them as “lifesaving.”

    14. 00ff00Claire*

      This is a topic that fascinates me. It’s pretty hard to make a recipe *exactly* the same as someone else does, especially an older recipe. Ingredients vary or change over time, ovens and stovetops run at different temperatures, and even the difference in pots and pans can change how a recipe comes out. Maybe it’s because I grew up with cooks who rarely used or followed recipes, but this idea of gatekeeping recipes is so foreign to me. My mom and I are both of the opinion that recipes are just guidelines and you adjust for what works for you. We don’t make a lot of the “family” recipes anymore because my nephew has allergies and I have to eat low FODMAP. We’ve changed some and replaced others, and no one complains. I think both your mom and MIL were being a bit obnoxious, but I’m also so intrigued by their thought process!

      I have a funny twist on the idea of changing up a “family” recipe! When my dad’s uncle passed away, his daughters requested family and friends bring desserts to share while everyone visited after the funeral. My mom promised to bring her famous banana pudding – the one she had brought to all the family gatherings of my childhood – but at the last minute she couldn’t attend or make the pudding. She handed me the box of vanilla wafers and said to just follow the recipe there. 1) The infamous recipe was just from a box, and 2) said box recipe directions involved a double boiler and tempering eggs to make the custard. I had never tempered eggs before! I plowed ahead, pulled off a custard instead of scrambled eggs, and assembled a passable banana pudding. All the while commenting to my husband that I did not remember banana pudding being so much work!

      After we had returned from the funeral I shared with my mom that I had never realized how much work banana pudding was and how intimidated I had been by the double-boiler and tempering. She laughed and said, “Oh, I never did all that. I just dumped it all in the pot and cooked it over low heat!” Well then. You couldn’t have mentioned that when you handed me the wafer box???

      But also, no one at the funeral was upset (or even seemed to notice) that the pudding was “different” from my mom’s.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        This reminded me of an apple pastry recipe I made recently. The recipe, from an American book (I’m in the UK) called for “pastry cream” as one of the components, and as I was making it, I became almost certain that I was just making custard. It was custard coloured and the consistency of custard, and it tasted like custard when it was done! Because Britons have an obsession with custard, and have it on pretty much every dessert, it’s really easy to buy very good custard which is ready made. The whole time I was making it, I’d had a carton of the stuff in my pantry. I was super annoyed that I’d gone to the effort of making something I already had ready to hand! At least I know that I can make it just in case they ever stop selling it.

    15. goddessoftransitory*

      Both these reactions are weird!

      I could come up with a scenario where a very, very special recipe that’s from Our Storied Past might be considered important enough not to change, like a Christmas cake or something (and we’ve all heard the story of the person who made the Pepper Chicken but hated pepper and chicken so they left those out..) but honestly, dishonoring a memory? Unless your grandma is planning to haunt those who violate the recipe that’s a bit much.

      Frankly, the second is right out of some old sitcom premise–who is that insecure? Or thinks the only reason her child might come over is to have Mom’s Special Meatloaf or whatever? Bizarre.

    16. Esprit de l'escalier*

      What a great thread! From what I have read, the MIL deliberately omitting an ingredient is not so unusual, certainly for her generation. I guess if your main identity was as the family homemaker and cook, you might feel ridiculously possessive of the one thing you thought people appreciated you for, but it was probably socially unacceptable for her to outright refuse to share her recipes. So she made sure no-one asked twice, lol.

  24. Kayem*

    I need help finding a substitute for black pepper! I’m going to cook BBQ a brisket this weekend, but I’ve run into a bit of a problem. My partner has IBS and absolutely cannot have in any quantity: mustard and capsicum peppers, except for green bell pepper (no other colors). One grain of mustard is enough to ruin a whole day and peppers might as well be barbed wire.

    The last time I made a brisket, we discovered that black pepper is also now verboten. I always do a simple rub that’s just kosher salt and black pepper. And I’m now at a loss for what I’ll be using as a rub. All the stuff I’ve found online suggests substituting with mustard, paprika, or cayenne, which is entirely out, or using a pre-made something that usually contains either black pepper, mustard, paprika, or hot peppers of some kind.

    I usually use finely ground white pepper when I cook but I had to stop using it when cooking for the both of us because it was giving partner a problem. Several years ago, I saw someone on Reddit recommend Szechuan pepper as a replacement for capsicum peppers. Partner could tolerate it back then but I’m unsure if they would now. Or if I could even make a rub with it.

    I have a fully stocked spice cabinet (as in over 100 different herbs and spices, not including the curry section and blends) so I have a whole lot available to me. I just am stuck at what might work functionally the same as black pepper for BBQ brisket.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I’ve seen papaya seeds listed as a substitute for black pepper several times, though I don’t have any personal experience with it.

      1. Kay*

        I came here to say papaya seeds. They have a peppery flavor and if you are looking for the “black pepper” substitute they visually do the trick as well.

        Also, although the flavor is similar I have no idea how this would work in a rub, but.. nasturtium leaves? Peppery flavor for sure – like rocket on crack. Can only speak to their power in straight leafy green situations though.

    2. Grandma Mazur*

      I’d strongly recommend doing more internet research before trying this but it’s my understanding that red peppercorns aren’t actually from the pepper family – would that work?

    3. I take tea*

      I can’t say anything about brisket, but spicy things we use instead of chili are horseradish (which probably is a bit too close to mustard) and ginger. Garlic is always good for a bit of kick. Also sometimes acid can help, we use a lot of lemon juice or vinegar in food making.

      1. Kayem*

        Yeah, horseradish is definitely out. Just to make it more complicated, I’m allergic to garlic and I keep having reactions to ginger that make it hard to eat.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Go to Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking and read the essay Without Salt. She wrote it after her doctor told her to knock it off with eating salt grains straight out of the grinder. I can’t remember everything she listed, but there were things like Astagora bitters, several vinegars, lemon juice and so on. Her big thing was NOT skimping on quality and freshness in order to get the flavor enhancement she wanted.

    4. Ranon*

      Not at all the same but I’d think about sumac or cumin, maybe rosemary (to be clear one of these, not all) – cumin is the most BBQ friendly likely.

      Long pepper is worth looking into if you haven’t yet

      Or if it’s a good brisket you really ought to be able to get by with salt!

    5. mreasy*

      Pink peppercorns are from another plant entirely and aren’t “hot” in the same way, so they might be worth a shot. Otherwise I’m with commenters below who recommend changing the flavor profile. Thyme is lovely with meat dishes.

    6. Llama Llama*

      I know it’s not a rub but what about stuff like soy or Worcestershire sauce? I have used that in the past to marinate steaks.

      I have also heard of used Dr. Pepper on pork so that may work too.

    7. Jay*

      I use a sweeter brown sugar based rub for pork shoulder. It (or something like it) should work for brisket as well.
      You can try a mix of dark brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, onion powder, garlic, salt, and allspice. Add Liquid Smoke, if you want it and it does not bother your significant other.
      It will give you a vaguely “holiday-ish” flavor and aroma with light citrus undertones (from the turmeric) and a little spiciness (from the ginger). As a bonus, both turmeric and ginger are actively soothing to an upset stomach (I have IBS with many, many complications, and can confirm that ginger and turmeric help a bit).

      Also, have you looked into Corned Beef recipes? Because that’s the same cut of meet traditionally used in Corned Beef.

      1. Jay*

        Oh, if you don’t do this already, you put the Holiday Rub on the meat, wrap it in plastic, and leave it in the fridge for 24-48 hrs, depending on preference. Then cook low and slow!

    8. kalli*

      I gave up black pepper and don’t really substitute it – I found a spice combo I like and I use it on everything regardless of what’s ‘meant’ to be used, and it’s fine.

    9. Samwise*

      Just use salt— the same amount you’d ordinarily use. Don’t use anything else. Cook as you usually do. It will be good!

      Then make a bbq sauce as you like it, for you. For your partner, make a sauce with tomato paste, honey or maple or brown sugar, orange juice to thin it. Fr this sauce, if your partner can eat onions and/or garlic, I’d start by caramelizing some onions, then proceed w tomato, sweetener, oj.

      My husband also has developed an intolerance to black pepper, mustard, chiles (not IBS)…so I’ve been having to rejigger a lot of dishes.

    10. Ellis Bell*

      Reading along with interest because my partner is also an IBS sufferer who can’t tolerate mustard, cayenne, fennel, anise and has to take it easy with onions and garlic. My go-to replacement for onions and garlic is leeks, and for mustard is paprika, which are things he is fine with, but I think if this were out I would probably go with cumin, black or green cardamom, cloves, cassia etc. Possibly even go with a marinade instead of a rub – fat can really dilute spice or plant extracts so a yogurt or oil base can give you an extra safety net If none of these, maybe go with things like vinegars, sundried tomatoes and citrus zest and steer clear of spices entirely. The best thing is to ask him to weigh in on any substitutes too.

  25. Which one am I?*

    Advice for coping in a couple where one is an ask personality and the other is a guess? And to boot, the ask is logical and analytical, raised on the straightforward coast while the guess is feelings and intuition, raised in the passive apologetic Midwest…

    1. matcha123*

      If you are one of the couple, then the key (imo) is talking with the other person on how they can move a little to your side and you can more a little more toward theirs.
      I’m from the midwest and the “straightforward” types really annoy me. Their priorities seem to be on what *they* want rather than taking others feelings into account.
      For an “ask” type, I’d tell them that I need them to take a moment to think before asking.
      The whole, “Psh, well, if they didn’t want to, they should have just said so” comes off as rude to me and it comes off as someone who isn’t interested in knowing or understanding others.
      As a guess person, I try to take a deep breath and give a more straightforward answer with askers, so it’s not like I’m expecting them to change 100%.

      1. RagingADHD*

        As an Asker, I don’t really understand this, because what I’m asking usually starts with “How do you feel about…” or “Do you want to…” or “Could we,” “Are you okay with…” etc.

        If I didn’t care how other people felt or want to understand them, I wouldn’t ask anything. I’d just do stuff regardless.

        1. matcha123*

          If I’m imagining your scenarios correctly, they are different from the ask/guess ones that I’ve come across/that I picture.

          For me, an ask scenario would be like:
          I have rented a cabin with my family and they encourage me to invite friends. I reach out to good friends to ask them to come and one friend goes, “Can I invite Joe, too?” I’ve never met Joe. This is the first time I’ve heard of Joe. Why ask if I can have some new random person spend time with me and my family? To me that shows a lack of respect for me and my family. The point of extending an invitation to my friends is that they are people I know and trust, and thus people that my family would feel comfortable around. I suppose the friend could say, “I was just asking, you could say ‘no’!” But the fact that they asked in the first place is, to me, an issue and an example of what I picture as a big thought process difference between the two styles.

          1. Washi*

            Hmm I think there’s kind of a range of Ask behaviors and I agree that this is an Ask thing but would be on the ruder end of what I think of as a typical Ask thing.

            To me the epitome of Ask vs Guess is how my in-laws will say “let me know if there is anything I can do to help” and I am SO bad at just telling them to load the dishwasher but also secretly feel annoyed that they ask that while standing there watching me try to clean a kitchen one handed with a baby on my hip. In my family that’s how you’d phrase it if you were just offering to be polite and I have the hardest time taking the question seriously even though I know that it is probably a genuine question from them.

            (I’m actually not totally sure if they are Ask or just slightly clueless, as I wouldn’t characterize them as terribly direct. But I am definitely more of a Guess person.)

            1. matcha123*

              I would find that rude, too. Unless it was followed by them getting up and walking over and trying to do something.
              Where I’m from you need to ask at least three times and have something in your hand for it not to be considered rude.
              “Do you need any help?”
              “I think I’ve got it.”
              “Okay.”
              ^^ This would be rude to me.

              “Do you need any help?”
              “I think I’ve got it.”
              “Are you sure? Let me put these glasses away.”
              “Oh, it’s okay.”
              “Do they go in this cabinet?”
              etc. This would be more polite for me. And I am sure there will be people who say “Omg, that’s too much.” But I guess that’s why these differences exist!

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                Not gonna lie – the idea that it’s rude to believe someone when I have point-blank asked them if they need help and they say no is absolutely appalling to me. Why is telling the lie more rude than believing it?

                1. matcha123*

                  I think the difference between my way of thinking and how I was raised was not that we think the other person is lying when they “no,” but that they are saying it to be polite and not to inconvenience the other party.
                  If someone has invited me into their home, it is basic politeness to offer to help them clean up.

                  I’ve come across people who jump into cleaning, which can be a different problem because just opening people’s cabinets to find where they put things is not great. I’ve come across people who will eat and then call out to the host for more food and drinks as the host is cleaning, almost as if the host were a waiter and not a friend.

                  When I have people over, I let them know when they come in that I don’t expect them to help with clean up for reasons XYZ. Personally, I think the best option is to assume first time guests don’t know my style and to tell them up front. However, when I am not told that, I default to asking and letting them know that I would like to help, but also don’t want to mess up their specific routine if they have one.

              2. Loreli*

                So we’re at dinner, you say to me “would you like more chicken?” and I say “no thanks”, you think I’m lying, so you ask again, and I say no again, and you ask for a THIRD!!!! time, because you think you’re being polite? Why didn’t you believe me the first time, and why do you insist on badgering me by asking again and again? Will you ever accept “no” as an answer?

                You’ve already described how they asked if they could help, you said no, and because they believed your answer, you resent them and are angry at them for not helping. How is this a good way to interact with people?

                1. allathian*

                  Yeah, I’m wondering the same thing. My maternal grandma was difficult with seconds, in that you had to refuse an offer twice before you could accept it, otherwise she’d say you were greedy (to a kid at least). Gluttony was the biggest sin in her book, so it was a bit fraught to say the least.

                  Thankfully my mom decided early in her marriage that she wouldn’t think badly of people for accepting the first offer, and if they refused she wouldn’t offer again, except to her mom who never did learn to accept the first or second offers.

                  I’m very happy being the guest in people’s homes, and when I have guests over, I don’t like having anyone except my husband in our kitchen. So guests who insist on being helpful get to clear the table, but that’s it.

                  I’d be much more likely to offer to play with and watch the baby than interfere in someone else’s kitchen… And any offer to help woudl be at most perfunctory from me, so I’d be really confused if my hosts were offended at my “refusal to insist on helping in the kitchen.” It would probably also mean an end of the friendship, or at least a serious cooling of it. I’m fairly direct and I don’t have the patience to play guessing games with people, so I tend to avoid guessers as much as I can.

                2. matcha123*

                  Hmm…I’m not sure why you interpret that as me thinking you are lying?
                  If I offered you more, and you said no, and I offered again, it’s because I think you are being polite and turning it down. I want to make sure that you know that I am fully happy to give you another piece, should you want it, and that you shouldn’t feel any guilt for taking it.
                  And before you ask, “Why would I feel any guilt?”, well, if it were the last piece of chicken, you may be thinking that I should eat it or that I might want to keep the leftovers.

                  Honestly, I feel like the replies are really stretching to make it seem like a more aggressive interaction than it would be in real life.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Well, if they said, “Hey I’ve been dating this guy Joe for X months now, and I know you haven’t had a chance to meet him, but we’re really getting serious. Do you think it would be okay to include him?”

            Would that feel disrespectful and offensive, or like a good friend (your description) you liked well enough to include in your family gathering being transparent with you?

            I’m just wondering whether you think asking is inherently disrespectful, or if it’s the way people ask.

            1. matcha123*

              I don’t think asking in general is disrespectful, but it’s like in school when teachers tell you to think a little or try to look for a solution before asking.

              With the Joe scenario, if a friend asked about inviting her boyfriend, I’d be put off because I didn’t extend an invitation to her boyfriend. Like, if she asked that the impression I’d be left with is that she’s actually not interested in spending time with me, but doesn’t want to pass up the free cabin trip, and so she she wants to invite someone she prefers spending time with so the two of them can sneak off together and get a free trip in.

              If she likes the idea of the cabin, but wants to be with her boyfriend, she should turn down the offer.

              On the other hand, if she suggested reaching out to a mutual friend who was planning on being in the area, I’d be more open to that scenario because mutual friend.

              1. Not A Manager*

                I understand this, and yet even as you parse it I find it sort of exhausting. It’s okay to ask to bring a friend under some circumstances, but not under others, and you can’t fully articulate the rule until you think about each individual thought experiment. As the original invitee, I don’t actually know where my “platonic roommate that you met a few times and seem to like” fits on the spectrum of “don’t ask to bring your new boyfriend, do ask to bring our mutual friend.” I have to guess in advance what your intuitions are about it.

                And the things that’s extra hard for me is that if I guess wrong, you would judge me for asking. My literal response to “can I bring Joe,” if I don’t want Joe there, is “no, sorry, this time it’s only for us,” and I wouldn’t think twice about what your motive was for asking. The only time I’d judge you would be if you kept pushing, like, why can’t I bring Joe, I know there’s room, etc. But I’d never be angry that you just asked once and I said no. Let’s move on.

                I hate feeling that people are secretly angry at me or that I guessed wrong, so your example cuts close to home. When I know someone is likely to be secretly upset that I’ve asked something, I tend to self-censor and pass up opportunities to suggest/ask things that might be fun for all of us. It makes me feel less close to the person ultimately.

              2. RagingADHD*

                That’s interesting that you’d interpret it as her using you for a free weekend, as opposed to her wanting to integrate one person she is starting to love into a group of people she already loves. Perhaps not choosing the right time.

                Like, I’m not saying you don’t have the right to say no – of course you do, for whatever reasons matter to you. It just seems like there’s a lot of attributing bad motives instead of assuming good motives that just may not work for you.

                Do you think other people are always attributing bad motives to you?

          3. Patty Mayonnaise*

            But this is not a difference between ask vs guess culture, this is a difference between people who think it’s okay to ask if they can invite an additional person along vs people who don’t think it’s okay to ask to invite an additional person along.

            Like, a difference between ask and guess culture would be that Asker wants to invite Joe and Guesser wants to invite Ricky. Asker says, “Is it okay if I invite Joe?” Guesser says, “I would LOVE to go to the area where the cabin is with Ricky sometime. Ricky really wants to go to that area, it’s on his bucket list! Did I mention Ricky loves cabins? And he really wants to meet you sometime!”

      2. trust me I'm a PhD*

        I find it so interesting when people associate guess culture/non-straightforward with the Midwest. I’m from the Midwest and am enormously an ask culture person.

        Also, I second RagingADHD below –– what you’re describing (“If they didn’t want to, they should have said so.”) seems more like rudeness than ask culture. I would express my own ask culture tendencies by … asking other people what they wanted to do! And taking it for granted that they shared their real feelings with me. What I wouldn’t (want to) do is suss out from context clues what people ~actually~ wanted.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I think we’re kind of in that boat, or similar – I’m super analytical/logical type ND and Ask (which was fun growing up in the Midwest), my husband is RSD, tries to give answers that are what the other person wants to hear and not very good at saying what he actually wants so closer to the Guess end of the scale.

      I do a lot of prefacing/caveats. “Please don’t interpret this question, I mean exactly what I say, so please answer the actual question as asked and not just the answer you think I want.” “No, please use your words” is a big one :-P we had a lot of instances in the past where I’d ask him to do something, he’d tell me yes, and then when the rubber hit the road he’d do something different because that’s what the people he was physically with wanted to do and he couldn’t bring himself to say “no, I told ginger I’d be home by 10” OR to text me and tell me his plans were changing because he didn’t want to upset anybody. (Even he knew I would be ticked, but that was Future Him’s problem.) So we had a lot of discussions about how I felt like he was lying to me and being disrespectful when he wouldn’t just tell me what was going on. I also started asking more pointed questions. “Is this really home by 10, or are you going to leave me worried and sleepless not knowing what’s going on until you roll in and rile up the dogs at 4am like the last four times? Why do you keep telling me 10 when we both know that’s not the case? Please just tell me what I actually need to be expecting.”

      Any rate, short version, I got even more explicit about using my words and, frankly, made it safer for him to use his words than to not use his words, and progress has been made.

      1. Buni*

        My friends & I came up with a sorta tone-warning / advance-warning when we worked together in a fairly high-stress environment. Quite often one of us would need to know the timings on something that another person was in charge of / doing, but we found ‘Is (x) ready yet / When is (x) going to be ready?’ came across as…passive-aggressive? and could get a snappish answer. So instead? An explicitly stated:

        “I don’t care, but when will (x) be ready?”
        “Don’t care, just need to know, how far along is (x)?”

        It was our way of removing any personal aspect from the request.

      2. Jay (no, the other one)*

        OMG you have just described the first ten years of our relationship. My desire to know he arrived safely after driving 18 hours straight with grade school friends to a conference was apparently trumped by his fear of making his friends wait while he found a pay phone (obviously this was a long time ago). That time I waited an additional 12 hours and then called campus police where the conference was and asked them to do a welfare check. If he thought asking the guys to wait for a minute was embarrassing….

        What finally got through to him was when I did the same drive by myself with a planned overnight stop, got delayed by weather and a longer-than-expected hunt for dinner and didn’t call him until two hours after he expected to hear from me. He was FRANTIC. Since then has always called (now texted) when he arrives somewhere. On other subjects it took a lot longer for him to care more about me being upset in the future than the people he was with possibly being annoyed in the present.

    3. miel*

      I’ve found that within a trusted partnership, I feel much more comfortable Asking (partner and I are both Guess in other contexts).

      Explaining/ clarifying context/ intentions seems to help too. (“When you say that the trash needs to be taken out, are you asking me to do it, or are you making a mental note to yourself?”)

      1. Washi*

        Yeah I would say I’m more Guess but with my partner and people I trust and know well, definitely Ask!

        I think in something as intimate as a couple, I do question what it means to be Guess…like do you not tell your partner the truth and give hints? I see those things as ways to protect yourself when you don’t know how the other person will react, and with a partner, I hope you wouldn’t feel the need to do that.

    4. Generic Name*

      I think it’s probably going to be easier if the guess person is able to express what they want directly in words more than for the asker to learn how to guess. The asker also needs to respond positively when the guess person asks. I’m a guess and my husband is an ask, and it took me a long time to feel comfortable stating my wants and needs. It’s been very helpful that he always responds well when I ask him something directly. As in if I say I want jewelry for Christmas, he’ll buy me some jewelry. Or if I say, “Honey, can you come up and do the dishes right now?” He will stop what he’s doing and do the dishes without grumbling. If there’s a dynamic where the guesser feels forced to ask but then the asker tells the guesser that they asked wrong or pouts or grumbles or acts like a jerk when asked, there’s more than just an ask versus guess dynamic going on.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        I’m an asker, and communicating with a guesser drives me stark raving batsh!t ! My MIL is a guesser and it’s like she never believes what I tell her.

        I don’t like being expected to read people’s minds when they can’t/won’t/refuse to say what they really want or need. I’m not clairvoyant. It’s especially annoying when the asker gets angry or hurt because they didn’t get what they wanted or needed. It makes me feel like I’m in a circular game that I can never win. I truly do not understand the concept of having to figure out what the other person is thinking, or having to predict what is ok for them so I don’t say the wrong thing.

        One poster said they were a guesser and have a very hard time asking for what they need. I find this really sad.

        I’ve read many articles about the difference between askers and guessers. I often feel like askers can more easily slip into passive-aggressive stuff. Reminds me of “well if you don’t know what I’m upset about then I’m not going to tell you”.

        The poster who gave the example of renting a cabin and Clueless Friend asking to bring an acquaintance (unless the “can I bring Joe” is when Joe is the person’s live-in boyfriend, which makes sense to ask.) But I think that’s a case of the asker being socially clueless.

        And how much of this is gender linked in the sense of “women need to anticipate the needs of others” and women being criticized for being direct? Among “guess” people, what’s the ratio of men to women?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I get this kind of dance around a lot in my job, and it is soooo frustrating. The person just wants something totally normal, like, say, no sausage, and it takes five minutes and tons of indirect “okay but..” dodging for them to say so. It really feels like they’re afraid to request something very simple and straightforward, like I’m going to find them and punch them in the nose for not liking sausage.

          It does make me wonder how much trouble they got in as children or in their families for actually asking for things.

        2. Washi*

          Being a woman plus my cultural background are a big part of why I have more Guess characteristics with people I don’t know well. If I know a friend or coworker is fine with direct communication I will use that, but I’ve also had people get pretty bent out of shape at times when I didn’t even mean to be blunt so I don’t start off assuming that will be fine.

      2. Overeducated*

        I think it’s very feasible for an asker to learn to guess though! I’m definitely more on the guess side, and I don’t think it’s true guessing, I think there are codes that are very learnable. They are routine communication patterns. For instance idea that “enthusiastic consent” is the goal, not just “consent” that may be begrudging, can take you pretty far in understanding responses to direct questions even outside the bedroom.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          But I mean, to use your example, enthusiastic consent is explicit, there’s no need to guess because it’s very evident. If I have to guess whether someone is consenting or not, I should assume the answer is no, right?

          Likewise, “routine communication patterns” also include words. Why can’t people just … say the words that mean things, instead of beating around the bush and hoping I figure it out? “It’s chilly in here,” “Do you have a blanket or hoodie I can borrow” and “Can we turn up the thermostat about ten degrees” do not all mean the same thing, why can’t someone just say the thing they mean?

          1. David*

            I think the code in this case is supposed to be that non-enthusiastic consent is not consent. Like, to use a slightly different example: if one person asks another “Hey, do you want to get together for dinner sometime?” then if the response is “Yeah I’d love that! When are you free?” that means “yes”, whereas if the response is “Yeah that would be fun! We should do it sometime soon” but the person being asked never follows up, that means “no”. That’s where the need to guess comes in – or the need to learn a particular code, as the case may be. If someone got the second response but had never learned that it’s code for “no”, I feel like it’d be very understandable that they wouldn’t even realize there is supposed to be any guessing/decoding involved.

      3. Not A Manager*

        “If there’s a dynamic where the guesser feels forced to ask but then the asker tells the guesser that they asked wrong or pouts or grumbles or acts like a jerk when asked, there’s more than just an ask versus guess dynamic going on.”

        This is very true, and one of the main reasons my marriage ended. I started out as an asker, got punished for it because every time I was asking just a little bit wrong, tried to become a guesser, then got told that it was my fault if I was misunderstood because I should have just asked straightforwardly. It took me a long time to figure out that there was no “right” way to communicate because my husband didn’t care how I felt anyway.

    5. Magdalena*

      One downside of Ask culture’s “why not just ask, they can just say no!” attitude is that there’s often a cost of saying “no”.
      Depending on the relationship, it can be unpleasant to have to say “no” to a friend, and a feeling of irritation that they are putting us in a place where we either have to outright refuse or give in for politeness sake.
      It takes mental and emotional energy to refuse. It just does.
      As one example, there was a question Alison answered a few months ago when a married couple were both working from home and the guy was liberally asking the woman to interrupt her work day to deal with unexpected calls from a plumber etc. In theory yes she could have just refused at least 50% of the time but it irritated her that he’d always ask and not consider that he was putting a burden on her by all the asking.
      Guess culture is not some unreasonable annoying relict of old times, it relies on considering the situation before you make a request and making it easy for the other person to refuse. A direct Ask can feel like calling in a chit / calling in a favor. Because we might not be directly asking unless we really needed the other person to say yes.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        But isn’t there a cost to saying no to a request in a Guess situation too? If the answer is no, then why not? I think there is an equal cost to saying no in either situation personally.

        1. matcha123*

          In a “guess” culture situation, you are only asking when you are close to 100% certain that the answer will be “yes.”
          If the ask could be a burden on the other party, you either don’t ask, or you give some context as to why this particular (unreasonable) ask is necessary and important.

  26. Sage*

    I want to thank everyone who two weeks ago gave me some advice on how to get rid of stuff you where given as a present but you don’t use at all.

    I could finally give away some things that where either as good as new or unused, but I didn’t give away earlier because those had been presents. I even felt almost no guilt for doing so and it was liberating!

    I found out a trick to prevent re-cluttering. If you find something nice, especially when it’s price is reduced, imagine you find it on the street to give away. Would you take it? I don’t know why often suddenly the answer for me is no, but it works.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I enjoyed that thread, as I’m a hard-line declutter person. At home, I can’t convince my partner to manage his old clothes and unused gifts (I’ve settled on “his stuff, his choice” – one day even the ugly novelty clock we don’t use will meet its end). So it’s great to hear you’ve had a positive experience!

      Your last paragraph is spot-on. I’m looking for a specific type of chair, and not even the heavily discounted ones I see on Facebook Marketplace tempt me. I notice I ask myself “this is cheap / free but not 100% what I’m after, could I keep using what I have for longer?” and “am I eyeing this because it meets my need or because it’s cheaper / free?”. It’s been months and my old chair (that I’d have to find a space for once I have a new one) is still going strong.

    2. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      Glad to hear that it helped.
      I’ve continued my unpacking and increased my purgatory piles, although I did mention to my sister that I need to take the purgatory books to the library for donation soon since I’ve already moved a couple back to the “keep” shelf. Bonus, she is interested in taking some of my extra kitchen stuff, so I consider it an even swap.

  27. Frustrated Daughter*

    I’m staying with my mom at the moment. We have a generally good relationship but I wouldn’t say we are close at all.. and to be honest I find conversations with her very difficult. She talks at me, rather than to me. She will jump into telling me about her work, our relatives, her neighbours, what happened when my siblings visited, house maintenance… there’s not much room for anything else (& the stories get repeated). If we’re in the same room it’s a constant stream :) If I try to contribute she does sometimes listen but other times it’s as if she’s not paying attention at all to what I say & just continues on the previous track. Part of it might be hearing related, she’s mentioned tinnitus, so I can encourage her to see a doctor about that, but it makes me a bit sad because I just don’t enjoy her company (and end up feeling like she doesn’t care about my life at all). Any advice? She is late 60s but still working and mentally ‘with it’. She does the same to my partner (so she barely knows him at all despite having met him multiple times).

    (My MIL is the opposite, she asks questions about you to the point where it feels like an interrogation so I guess I do prefer complete lack of interest, but still…)

    1. Rosie*

      That’s really tough, and if it’s an ingrained habit for her it will probably take a real effort from her to change. I wonder if you could find another way to connect through doing things together, rather than focusing on conversation? So if you were making a cake or going shopping or riding bikes together, could you connect through the experience and talk about what you’re doing. It’s really hard if you don’t feel heard but you may be able to find ways to build the relationship that don’t rely on this skill which your Mom obviously struggles with.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I agree – activities give you something to talk about that you’re both aware of, or, failing that, something for you to think about while you tune out the 4th run-through of why Frank had to buy a new grill. Jigsaw puzzles have been very helpful in my family for this, and couch co-op video games might also be a good way to go.

      1. IsolationEffectIsReal*

        I find myself doing this as my socialization options shrink- when I do get the opportunity I spew. I try to manage it a hit by asking the other person how they’re doing before I start talking which helps, but I invariably end up following up online with “meant to circle back around and ask you how X is going/Y is doing” later when I realized I never asked. In my case this is often exacerbated by a time limit – the length of a short car trip – but I still feel bad about it.

        I also find as I get older my ability to hold a thought for later has diminished so that also leads to both my getting out there asap and my forgetting to cycle back to topics about the other person.

    2. Rosyglasses*

      Does your mom live alone? If so, how social is she, does she have other outlets? I’ve noticed my mom more like this since my dad passed last year and I think it has alot to do with being alone so much of the time and having limited social outlets (even though she sees a friend or has an activity at least three or four times a week) — it just is not the same.

      Otherwise, I’m sorry – that sounds really frustrating and tiring!

      1. Elle*

        I’ve got one as well. She has no friends who she can talk to and doesn’t see the point of seeking out any. She rarely asks about me or the kids and when she does it always leads back to some random story about her life. We don’t talk very often.

        1. Frustrated Daughter*

          It’s also nice to hear it’s not just me :)
          Sometimes people just assume you have a close relationship with your mom, & that can be a bit painful even though there’s nothing dramatically bad about our relationship. Case in point, when I got engaged some folks were like ‘oh that’s so amazing your mum must be so excited!’. She has expressed zero interest in it tbh..

          1. The Dude Abides*

            Same here re: assumptions.

            I have gone no-contact with my mother and sisters, to where once my mother dies (she’s 71 and has a laundry list of health issues) I will not attend any visitation/funeral, nor will I help with expenses. If my 4yo asks about my mother, then we politely explain that I do not like talking about her.

    3. Generic Name*

      My mom is a lot like this. I love my mom, and she is kind and generous, but she’s also a bit self-absorbed and emotionally immature. I just take her as she comes and try to enjoy the visits as much as possible. My mom is capable of having a conversation and does ask questions about my life, but she also always does the lions share of the talking and will give me updates about relatives I’ve never met or places I haven’t been to/haven’t been to in decades. I try to bite my tongue, but sometimes I’ll say, “Mom, I don’t know who these people are”. My mom is in her mid-70s, and I’m sure she won’t change. I try to accept her as she is and get my social and conversation needs met via my spouse and friends.

    4. Frankie Bergstein*

      This sounds really frustrating and maybe even hurtful. For me, I really strongly desire to feel seen and heard in my close relationships. If it were me writing in, what I’d need to hear is accept that this is who she is. Really, deeply accept it all the way down deep into your bones. She’s not going to be different. Know that visits will be like this and plan accordingly.

      I love what other commenters have said – do activities, don’t have conversation-focused hangouts.

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      My parents and I have a similar pattern that was set early on in our relationship (probably like many people). We’ve managed it somewhat, so maybe some of these would help:

      First, name the pattern and let your mom know it bothers you. You *don’t* explain why it bothers you, since then it’s about defending your feelings. Something like, “When we talk, I feel like the conversation is focused on updating me, rather than us conversing and exchanging. That makes me feel [insert your feelings here].” But see the next point.

      Second, don’t try to change them, but work with what’s already present. At least for my parents, part of it is that they *don’t* know me, have a hard time relating to me, don’t have the tools to learn about me, and repeatedly say they’re too old to learn (they’ve been saying it for 20+ years and they learn new subjects all the time, so they’re wrong). Instead of trying to help them develop tools, I identified spaces/topics that we do overlap or connect on. For me, that includes: work and career challenges and successes; financial and legacy planning; their childhoods and how they think about things. Yes, they’re still doing a lot of the talking, but at least it’s topics I *want* to hear from them. And half of it is about my life, so they’re learning in a background way about my life while I learn about theirs.

      Third, identify, what do you want instead? It’s unlikely that she’ll change and ask you questions, but it’s worth giving some thought to what you want, so you can nudge in that direction.

      Good luck!

    6. Frustrated Daughter*

      Thanks for all the advice, I do appreciate it. She does live alone, though will have even fewer people to talk to when she retires (which is soon). Weirdly she is absolutely fine when other siblings are around (maybe just once there’s a few of us it’s harder for her to dominate the conversation, idk). I think the advice to focus on what I want out of it is worth taking, realistically I think that means limiting our 1-1 time and making sure I plan to visit when a sibling is visiting too. (She is also much better at conversation after a glass of wine, though perhaps that applies to me too! But that’s obviously a small proportion of visiting time).

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      This sounds like my mom–I just recently visited and my sister and I call it The Mom Show. She starts on the things she’s interested in and just happily chats away! She can literally go for hours and I could tell she was thrilled to have me there in person.

      I do find that directing her away from pigs in Colonial times towards another area of interest works best in stemming too much info on any particular topic.

    8. Not A Manager*

      If your mother has good will in general, and a bit of a sense of humor, you might try just telling her what you want from her. “Mom, this is the point in the conversation where you pretend to be interested in me. Ask me how my remodeling is going.” “Mom, I just told you that my back’s been acting up. This is when you say, oh no, that’s terrible, I hope you feel better soon.”

      I used to do a version of this with my mother, and I currently do it with an adult child. If nothing else, we both laugh as they repeat my words verbatim.

      I also give my child a heads-up in advance. “I’m going to tell you some stuff now that’s important to me. I want you to listen and engage with it.”

    9. Ellis Bell*

      I doubt she will ever change entirely but one of the things you could do is frame it as “she’s not good at this” vs “she isn’t trying” or “she doesn’t care”. Something I have discovered with stream of consciousness talkers, is that even though they’re hard to interrupt, they don’t particularly care if they are interrupted. YMMV, but try butting in once or twice to redirect her, and see how that goes. One particular treebeard relative of mine doesn’t even care if you walk away from her mid-sentence (half an hour after telling her you need the loo) if necessary; it’s that hard for her to stop talking once she’s started. Lack of practice in conversational give and take and a lot of stored up stories seems to make this stuff happen, though some people have always been somewhat bad at it. One thing I find helpful is try to structure their responses a bit, so they don’t have to and they know what they are expected to pay attention to. Phrases like “If you had to choose between x and y, what would you do? I’ll tell you about why this is my dilemma before you give me your answer”, and “I’m going to tell you a story and I bet you can’t guess the ending…” Sometimes they are so busy trying to remember something interesting to say, that yeah they aren’t as focused as they should be. Also, sometimes just let her get the stream of consciousness out. All the family stories you’ve heard a million times. But yes, definitely interrupt and redirect to your own needs too.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, my MIL is a bit like that. I love her dearly, but two hours of her company is about my limit. She’s capable of showing interest in other people and asking questions when she feels like it. She’s especially interested in our son, who’s ironically hit the taciturn teen phase with a vengeance and getting him to contribute to a conversation is like pulling teeth much of the time.

        Thankfully she lives in the same town so there’s no need for overnight visits, which I don’t think I’d be able to handle very well. A month ago my sister invited all of us over for coffee and cake. She’s also friendly with my in-laws and likes to invite them, and my MIL invites her to lunch with us about once a year so the relationship is reciprocal. After about an hour I noticed my husband getting more and more annoyed and frustrated, while the rest of us were having a good time. When we got home, he said that he wished we could spend some time with my sister without his mom around because she monopolizes the conversation.

        My husband’s quite bad at interrupting his mom. He lets her talk until he gets upset. I’ve had some success with just interrupting her, although I understand why my sister doesn’t do it, she’s not close enough to my MIL to feel comfortable interrupting her. It took a long time for me to get to that point, too.

  28. matcha123*

    Is there a gentle way of guiding a friend who strives for perfection and gets frustrated when she doesn’t experience the magazine version of events?
    This friend, Susan, has fun ideas and knows great ways to get good views for a fireworks show or tasty spots to eat at. She has some interesting hobbies, too.
    But, she has very strict visions for how these all play out and gets very frustrated when something doesn’t go as planned. When we went to Mouseland last year, she was frustrated at the long wait times and not being able to get her preferred spot for parades.
    She invited me to see a play featuring her favorite actor, and the play was awesome, but she felt it was ruined because the actor didn’t smile as much during the final bows at the end of the show.
    I’ve tried suggesting to her that there’s no perfect day and getting to experience these things with friends is fun. Basically if we focus on it being a cloudy day or trying to see and do everything and get perfect photos that there’s too much pressure and we should try to go with the flow and look for the good.
    I’m not a hugely optimistic person, but hearing about how the play was ruined because the actor was tired after some 3 hours onstage or how Mouseland was not fun because of the wait times and so on is kind of draining. Especially when I’m using my time and limited funds to participate in these events.
    I’d like to find a way to explain this to her that doesn’t sound overly harsh since I know she’s having issues at work that have gotten her down. Does anyone have any advice or scripts?

    1. Still*

      I feel like I tend do be more critical of stuff when I’m the one organising it for friends, because I’m afraid they’re not enjoying themselves. I try to remind myself that my pointing it out is probably more upsetting than whatever little detail that isn’t completely perfect. Maybe you could say that to your friend?

      1. matcha123*

        I definitely feel that way when I arrange get-togethers or suggest restaurants to friends. “Omg, do they like it? Do they hate it? They hate it. They hate me. They think I’m stupid.”
        But, I work hard not to verbalize those thoughts and push myself to remember that they are allowed to like and dislike things.
        I definitely try to re-direct to the good parts with her.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Maybe just say: I did enjoy it/I thought it was a great show/I thought it was a great experience even without the parade? And repeat as needed.
      Make clear you do not want to engage in negative talk.
      This will limit your exposure to her criticism and if she is overcritical because she fears you would not enjoy yourself, she has gotten a nice feedback too.

      1. matcha123*

        Yes, I’m thinking of a way to say, “I prefer not to rehash these negative parts.” I’m more afraid of saying it in a way that comes off a lot harsher than intended.

        1. Awkwardness*

          That’s not exactly what I tried to suggest. Analytical tree hugger has written a much longer comment below in the same sentiment. It is really good!

          I would try to stay away from discussing her way of communication but just focus on your experience. Whenever you try to cheer her up or try to convince her that it was not that bad, it will be emotional labour for you, which will be further draining. It would be nice if she enoyed herself, but in the end it is not up to you to make this happen. And if she has no sounding board for overcritical thoughts either through agreement or counter-arguments, it might become pretty boring for her to do so. That way you can stop the behaviour without being to explicit.

          Every explanation how her behaviour is impacting you, how you are frustrated, how you would wish she reacted differently could lead to aggravation. In order to land well, she needs to be aware that perfectionist behaviour has its problems.

    3. mreasy*

      Is your friend extremely online – especially social media like Instagram? Whether she’s posting or just following influencers, this can create a ton of pressure toward perfection or the appearance of it. Regardless, the way she’s focused on minor things like the actor not smiling enough (!) makes it seem like she has something going on beyond just big standard perfectionism. This sounds like it could verge on obsessive thoughts? Do you think she’d be open to therapy? Being unable to enjoy anything sounds miserable, and I feel for her (and for you, this sounds exhausting).

      1. matcha123*

        I’m not sure what kind of accounts she follows. She’s into flower arrangements and follows a lot of accounts like those. She’s asked me to photograph her arrangements, but gets kind of down that I can’t recreate the types of photos she sees on Instagram. But also likes the photos, which I’m happy that I could get shots she likes, but she doesn’t seem to understand some of the limitations, even if I explain them to her.
        I do think therapy would be helpful for her, but I don’t think she would be open to it.
        The play was awesome. And I’m not someone who tries to go to plays. I was glad to see it.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        This is why I gave up social media. People only post the one perfect picture, no one talks about their shared problems and frustrations like you do in person and it feels really depressing even though it looks so perfect.

    4. A Girl Named Fred*

      This will depend on your closeness level and how open she is to feedback and change, but I have a tendency to be like this (although not quite as extreme, I hope!) and the way my boyfriend phrased it that opened my eyes was some combination of, “You are so good at seeing patterns and how you wish the world was. I think that’s a real strength of yours. But things won’t always live up to those standards, and if you expect them to then you’re always going to be disappointed. What if you tried appreciating things the way they are, or at least letting go of the ones you can’t control?”

      I will say it has not been an immediate change, and it takes active work on my part that I have to be willing to do. But having it pointed out in a gentle, clear-eyed manner by someone I trust and respect helped me see that I can use that “discerning eye” as a strength in other contexts and stop letting it ruin all my fun. I still have standards but am getting more comfy with the idea that “good enough” is exactly that.

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

          My ex used to phrase it this way (I think it’s a 12-step recovery slogan): An expectation is a pre-meditated resentment.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I say this as the child of someone like this, who is raising someone who exhibits these tendencies – extreme all or nothing thinking to this extent (he didn’t smile enough?) is a symptom that they are struggling inside. They have this very critical voice inside their head that is doing this to every aspect of their lives, and you’re just hearing the part they say out loud.

      That inner mean critique creates more pressure for things to be “perfect” on special occasions, because they desperately want to be happy and enjoy something, so the stakes get higher and higher.

      If you don’t want to get into deep water, you can just say firmly, “Well, I had a great time! Thank you so much for arranging this, it was wonderful.” And that’s fair. Unpacking their issues isn’t your job.

      But if you’re up for it and want to address it, start by asking if they’re okay. They probably aren’t.

      1. matcha123*

        She’s definitely been having a difficult few years at work and when we meet much of the conversation is me and a mutual friend listening to her go over those topics. The mutual friend and myself try to give helpful advice for things that she can control, validate her feelings, encourage her interests and so on.
        She relies a lot on astrology and numerology to guide how she’s feeling and I’ve encouraged her to not lean so heavily into readings.

        I totally understand this itch for having a perfect vacation or perfect pictures, but I’ve had to push that to the side for my own sanity. I would like to help her start making that push, but I’m not sure if she wants to.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Focusing on the piece about maintaining your own peace of mind:

          If our friend would focus solely on the imperfections and can’t appreciate the good, then I would step away from the good/bad dichotomy entirely and go into a different type of framing about the experience, e.g.,

          Friend: Ugh, that was cool, but Favorite Actor didn’t smile enough during the end.
          You: Oh, I didn’t notice, that’s a bummer. What I did notice was how the structure of the second act setup the twist that…

          Friend: Gah, why were those lines so long?
          You: Yeah, lines. Do you remember the part where it went all *whoosh*, then *zoom*, then STOP…EXCEPT IT WASN’T DONE?? How do they come up with stuff like that??

          So, rather than discussing how good/bad it was or challenging my friend’s perceptio, discussing the experience itself or reliving/recapping it.

      2. A Girl Named Fred*

        I said above that I have a tendency to be like this, so from that perspective – RagingADHD is exactly right, and phrased it so well that I’m actually going to spend a little time reflecting on it too. Thanks for the thoughtful perspective!

    6. Ally*

      I really don’t know the answer but am following as my Mum is very much the same – for example when I was a teenager we were flying home after an incredibly long and expensive trip, and she got extremely upset as we weren’t all sitting 4 together in a row on the plane, because that was how she’d pictured it in her mind – we were split by an aisle (as is much more likely anyway?!) It’s irrational.

      When I was a child I would spend lots of time and weird fake happy energy trying to cheer her up. Now in practice I just ignore it, but it’s sad.

      1. matcha123*

        My mom would be like this at times, too and I had to (and still have to) work on not hating myself for not having the perfectly tidy home or whatever.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      She sounds like the Shel Silverstein poem “Almost Perfect–But Not Quite.”

      I find that with some people this kind of kvetching is actually a protective reaction to not feeling “right” about something, especially something important or expensive like a big vacation. What’s wrong with me that Mouseland isn’t making me delirious with joy? Well, it ISN’T me, it’s the wait times, so there!

    8. Ellis Bell*

      This honestly makes me so sad that your friend is missing out on the joy of imperfection. Things that go wrong make the funniest stories. Shared problems will always bond a friendship more memorably than a shared perfection. I can honestly say that the best family outing we ever had as kids was the day we arrived at the beach just in time to see the skies open with pouring rain, and we just went into the water laughing at how we were getting wet from both sides. So a bit later on, we were in the car eating to keep the sandwiches dry, and we noticed the surfers had been there for ages without eating anything so we offered some food. They were thrilled because they had forgotten to pack any lunch, and they taught us to surf as a thank you. If it had been perfect weather, or if the surfers had packed a lunch, the beach would have been packed and anonymous and it would have been a completely average beach day like all the others.

  29. Onion*

    I have a friend with an annoying habit of explaining the obvious. It’s like she’s mansplaining, except we’re both women. As an example she referenced Elvis while discussing music, then immediately said, “Do you know who that is? His full name is Elvis Presley. He’s a famous singer who…” Another time I had difficulty getting a hold of an organization where I had to call to ask about special needs accommodation. Friend then proceeded with a lengthy explanation of how to contact them online instead: “Go Google the organization name. There should be a “contact us” page. You can send a message directly on their website or find their email address. It’s usually next to their phone number in case you didn’t notice.” I add that I’m not 108 years old, I know how emails work – but sometimes you have to talk to a human. I’m also not 8 months old so I know who Elvis is.

    I noticed she does this with other people as well. I’ve heard her explain to highly educated people what student loans and QR codes are where there is absolutely no reason to assume their ignorance. I either pass over her unnecessary explanations or politely mention “Yes of course I know [subject].” But as this is grating on me more, is there a kinder version of saying “Please stop, you are very irritating when you do this”?

    1. Buni*

      A faintly baffled look and “Yes, why would you think I didn’t already know that?”. Tbh that’s the least sarcastic of all the options I personally would use…

    2. My Brain is Exploding*

      If she’s a good friend, I think at some point when you have a bit of time and she hasn’t JUST done this…tell her! Explain what she does and how it makes you feel, and how the more it happens the more it builds on your annoyance. Tell her she’s your friend and you don’t want to feel annoyed with her! Then pause and see what she says. Hopefully you can get her to agree to some kind of verbal or non-verbal signal you give her when she starts doing this to you.

      1. Maybe*

        See, I think saying something in the moment might be better. Otherwise, it becomes a ‘conversation’ and makes it seem like a bigger deal than it might need to be. Saying something in the moment, while it’s right there in front of you both, makes it quick and less painful to bring up. ‘Hey, I know you’re trying to be helpful, but it makes me feel like you don’t think I’m able to figure things out on my own.”

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          In my experience, the efficacy of naming it in the moment versus naming the pattern really depends on the self-awareness of the receiver.

          Some people will recognize, “Oh hey, this keeps coming up, maybe I should adjust.” Others won’t recognize the pattern until it’s pointed out to them as a pattern.

          And then there’s the layer of whether the receiver is open to receiving feedback, in general or in this specific case.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Condescendisplaining can transcend gender, and is nearly always tied up in feelings of insecurity and the need to either pose as superior, or an intense need to “help” even when no help is necessary.

      The more casually you can tell her in the moment to knock it off, the better. I agree that making into a special conversation is likely to blow up and be more hurtful than you intended.

      I think “please stop explaining common knowledge to me, it’s very irritating,” is perfectly fine. She isn’t going to stop immediately because it’s an ingrained habit, but after a couple of times spelling it out, you can switch to something on the lines of “you’re doing that thing again.”

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I guess a gentle way could be to focus on how it makes you feel, like “when you explain very simple and obvious things it makes me feel like you think I’m extremely stupid and that’s really hurtful” but honestly these examples are so extreme I might just burst out “you think I don’t know who ELVIS is?????” without meaning to lol

    5. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I’d approach it in the moment with good humor: if she starts explaining who Elvis is, for example, then big smile and warm, calming tone: “Yolanda, are you seriously explaining who Elvis is?! Sweetie, Amish toddlers and the Yanomamo know who Elvis is. Let’s move on.”

      Tone is counts most in this, of course. It has to be delivered in the cheery manner of the friend who loves her, trusts her and can be trusted in return, and is just wondering why this really weird impulse overtook her for the moment.

    6. mztery 1*

      I’m wondering if she’s actually saying it in a condescending way? It sounds like someone who has a lot of trouble with social cues.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Is she by any chance from a different cultural background where it might be assumed the average person didn’t know who Elvis was? Because otherwise this is very strange.

    8. Busy Middle Manager*

      Do you believe there is any reason she does this? If she deals with the “general public” she will encounter people who don’t know basic stuff (there is always one or two in the group), and might get into the habit of over-explaining, in anticipation of questions that have come up before.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I wondered if she might have some difficulty expressing herself clearly (or have had a difficulty when she was younger) or might be very anxious or self-conscious and worry that she is not being clear enough.

        I will add that my brother sort of does this, though not about such ridiculous things and in his case, most of the advice would not work because he would turn it around to imply that you were so much less intelligent than him that it is difficult for him to know what is obvious to somebody like you and that you were being sensitive about not being as smart as him (he isn’t any smarter than I am and to highlight the level of ridiculousness, he once informed me that not all biographers of de Valera supported him. This is utterly bizarre because not only do I have a history degree, while he has a science degree, but I am somewhat obsessed with de Valera and have read at least part of every biography of him ever written whereas I don’t think my brother has read any of them, so um…you are telling me what is said in books I have read and you have not).

        But hopefully, Onion’s friend is doing it more out of something like concern that she is not expressing herself properly than out of an assumption that she knows more than everybody else.

    9. MissCoco*

      I get the sense you are being very polite about all of this. I’d just start responding a bit more honestly, like “yes obviously I know who Elvis is” or with some mild sarcasm/joking in the moment.

      I had a friend do this to me in college, and I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to have a big conversation about her behavior, but if this friend is important to you and consistent “hey stop it” comments/reactions doesn’t change the behavior much, I think bringing it up as a pattern might be worthwhile.

    10. Not A Manager*

      I like all of these suggestions, from a casual remark at the moment – “oh course I know who Elvis is” – to the more serious conversation. With a good friend, I think I’d use the casual remark to segue into a more serious, but not super loaded, conversation. “Of course I know who Elvis is. Matilda, what ever made you think I hadn’t ever heard of Elvis Presley?” Wait, and see what she says. Follow up with, “You kind of do this a lot, though. I know how to google, I know what a student loan is, I’ve heard of Elvis. It’s really puzzling to me when you carefully explain these things to me.”

      I have a very dear friend who’s a little bit like this. She knows it, though, so she’s not shocked – although sometimes a little bit hurt – when you point it out. This is how I would approach it with her if she were less aware and did it more often. But she’s a very good friend and we love each other.

      I commented on a different post about how much it bothers me to feel that someone is secretly angry at me or is pulling away because I did something wrong but I don’t know what it is. On the other hand, I’m fairly non-confrontational myself and tend to censor my spontaneous responses until I’ve had a chance to think about whether my internal feelings are “okay” or “not okay.” I am working on this. But one thing I find is that a lot of times people who love me and that I have a good relationship with, respond better to a genuine expression of my immediate feelings than they do to a careful conversation after three months of bottled up feelings. My bossy friend is like that. She’s a lot happier with “Oh my God, I do actually know How To Internet,” than she is with some low-voiced, careful conversation about Patterns In Our Relationship.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        You just described Captain Awkward’s “Grudge Clock” which I just recently read about and love.

        It basically says that you know that you’re getting increasingly annoyed at this person’s behavior, and every time they Do The Thing it adds to your list of irritations, but if you’ve never told them to stop, their grudge clock has never even started! And so you blow up (or have a Serious Conversation or whatever) but they’re confused as to why this very strong response to something they weren’t even tracking as an issue.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      I would find this hilarious, and it would be the temptation of a lifetime for me to see how far I could get her to go. Could I get her to explain what a fish is? How many hours in the day? the alphabet? Ok, don’t do that (unless you think you’ve earned it), but I think a good humoured giggle, waving your hands in a stop motion and then saying “Oh my goodness, don’t ever explain who Elvis is, people will think your flying saucer only just landed”. Follow up corrections could be using the same gesture with “Yes, that’s very common knowledge, please proceed as though we both know that, because we do”. Big, encouraging, good humoured cheerfulness and encouraging her back to story – while also letting her know that some types of common knowledge is better off unexplained. Definitely let her know “you’re doing it again”. It would be fascinating to get her take on why she does this; perhaps she doesn’t have the context of what constitutes common knowledge.

    12. allathian*

      OMG, I must admit that I wouldn’t be able to remain polite with a person like that. She must have some pretty awesome qualities as a friend for you to have put up with this for so long.

      I think “Please stop, you’re very irritating when you do this” is probably the most polite thing that would come out of my mouth after even two instances of this sort of behavior. But then, I’ve had my craw full of mansplainers in my life, so I won’t put up with that sort of behavior anymore, regardless of gender.

  30. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Home warranty companies? The only one I’m familiar with is AHS, what are folks’ experiences with any other options?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I was glad one was conveyed with my house, because it gave me security as a new homeowner who didn’t know much. That was when I wasn’t paying for it. I didn’t get much use out of it (nothing it covered broke) so it was purely mental I guess. When I had to pay for it myself the next year, I renewed it and actually used it a few times … mixed results. One advantage is you don’t have to call around to find experts, and I do think the contractors prioritize their warranty clients a bit – BUT, there were also times the assigned contractor couldn’t come right away, and that was it – I had to wait, I couldn’t call around the way I would have. Also, under the plan I had, you still had to pay like $180 for every claim, plus whatever the monthly or yearly cost of the service. So I wasn’t always clear that I was saving a ton considering I didn’t have a lot of issues (luckily). They will always fix the thing and never repair it, in my experience. I eventually canceled my plan after going through that and then discovering the first actually expensive thing required “wasn’t covered” through one of those insurance-y type loopholes. I never really got my money’s worth by having them, say, replace the HVAC and I don’t think that would have ever happened (they would have fixed it even if just to keep it going for a few months, and they also would only have replaced it at the lowest standard, I would have ended up paying for any “upgrade” to bring it up).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Sorry, I should’ve clarified — I’ve had one through AHS for a few years, and actually mostly gotten my money’s worth out of it – they’ve replaced my hot water heater and clothes dryer, plus repairing my washing machine and dishwasher, in the last three years. I’m just wondering about other options besides them since my annual renewal is coming up. :)

    2. ThatGirl*

      We had one with our house when we bought it and they kinda sucked. Called about our hvac and they claimed it wasn’t covered because of improper previous repairs. We’d just moved in, we had nothing to do with those! It might be better for brand new houses but I wouldn’t recommend otherwise.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        We only have the dish washer and the ranger that aren’t replaced in the house, both are old, so repairing would be useless. Both cost about what the annual HW cost. Everything else is pretty new and under their own warranty. So we decided $720/ year for crappy service isn’t worth it.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      We had one for 9 years with very mixed results. They fixed a minor plumbing issue fast. Then it took them 6 weeks (really) to fix a small and common issue with the dryer. They fixed the old A/C once, but then next year sent a service tech for the annual maintenance, and he marked the A/C as “working fine”, when it was 20 years old and was NOT working fine (as we found out later).
      When it died two months later, they refused to fix/replace, because since it was obviously working fine, we let the great around it grow too high (no).
      In the last three years we replaced most of the appliances and most of the pipes, so we dropped them like a hot potato.
      Now mind you, you still have to pay the trip fee every time. And you have no control over who they contract to fix your issue. My neighborhood plumber charges less that their trip fees for the basic leak, and shows up on weekends.

    4. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Bad experience with mine. It was offered by the seller and we had it for one year.
      Water heater went out in a “spray water everywhere and flood the basement” way on a Saturday morning, they told us to turn off water to the house and they’d call us back in 7-10 days. Didn’t think that living in our house with no water was an issue at all.
      Then we had problems with the shower. They replaced the bronze knob with a white plastic lever that wouldn’t stay in place anywhere but “off” and we should just hold the lever at the right temp while we showered.
      Dishwasher went out, the repair person they sent out asked to connect to my wifi so he could go on YouTube and see how to fix it. He was not able to figure it out and left without fixing it. They refused to send anyone else because “we had used our benefit for this issue”
      All three times we ended up just paying for it ourselves.
      They were called Liberty then (2016), but I know they’ve changed their name at least twice since then (which seems totally suspect), both were “patriotic” names but I don’t remember them exactly. They haven’t stopped calling and emailing me trying to get me to sign up with them again – that’s how I know about the name changes.

    5. Glazed Donut*

      I had AHS for a few years (came with the home purchase and then renewed). I’ve called to use it twice – the first time, I had a gas leak in my home. The plumber they contracted with said they didn’t do gas leaks/couldn’t fix it and I had to find someone on my own and submit receipts (I didn’t end up going that route).
      The second time, my dishwasher stopped working and needed a new motherboard or something. It took the company about 5 weeks to fix, and the tech wasn’t really overly concerned with the work product.
      In all, it wasn’t worth the hundreds of dollars a year just in case. I think in general people are better off putting those hundreds of dollars per year into a savings account for home repairs.

    6. Nessness*

      I had a number of bad experiences with First American. The worst was when I tried to get an appointment expedited for a leaking hot water heater. After several hours on hold, and multiple representatives promising to call me right back and not doing so, my “expedited” appointment was the day AFTER my original appointment. That experience soured me on ever wanting another home warranty.

    7. Grad School Attempt 2*

      I had Home Warranty of America for my house, and I want to strongly recommend against them.

      First, if you need e.g. a plumber, they will not let you pick the plumber yourself; they will just assign you one.

      Second, they will only cover the minimal version of the repair. I bought my house right after a big freeze, and when a pipe burst in the crawl space just after I moved in, it was clear that a lot of plumbing would need to be examined and probably replaced, since if that one had burst, what about the others? HWA would only cover the resoldering of that one burst pipe, and if the crawl space was not accessible, I would have to pay my own money to get the entrance widened. Since the plumber they sent to diagnose the problem was terrible and accidentally damaged another pipe + made an accidental cut in one of my wall studs, I decided not to use HWA for that repair.

      Third, repairs take longer when you’re going through HWA (this might be true of all home warranties?). They often make you do two visits. First they come and diagnose the problem, then they leave and talk to the home warranty to see how much of the cost will be covered; then, after all that negotiation is done, they finally come back days or a week later to actually do the repair.

      And lastly and most egregiously, when I went to cancel my HWA subscription, they demonstrated really sketchy business practices. I had to call several times to unsubscribe because it kept not working somehow. And then, once I had unsubscribed from their yearly plan, they autosubscribed me (without my permission) to their more expensive month-by-month version, and it took many phonecalls to get this straightened out. After that they kept texting me multiple times a day to warn me that my home warranty was about to expire and it was very difficult to get them to stop contacting me.

      So, overall, a really bad experience that I would not recommend.

  31. Unpearable*

    Any suggestions for what to do with tons of pears? A neighbor actually picked their backyard pears this year and is feeling completely overwhelmed by the bounty. I like baking and have dabbled in preserving but haven’t usually done much with pears.

    I think they’re Bosc pears.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      When I make applesauce, I put other fruits in too, and pears are great. I’ve never tried making just plain pear-sauce, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Just whack them up, remove stems and whatever passes for a core in a pear, and chuck them in a crockpot til they fall apart. Add a bit of cinnamon and vanilla (or honey, or rum, or whatever flavors you like) and eat it plain, with yogurt, with ice cream, with granola.

      1. I don’t post often*

        So, most varieties of pears won’t “cook down” the way most varieties of apples will.
        I like to boil pears. Drain water and add a little honey (or not) and cinnamon. They maintain their shape. Peal (if the skin is bitter) and chop first.

    2. Golden*

      Do you or the neighbor know anyone with a baby? I make a lot of pear purees for mine. (Pear/carrot puree is surprisingly tasty!)

    3. Jay*

      You can make pear jams and jellies.
      I had an aunt with a huge old pear tree who did this, and they were amazingly good.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        Yes, this. My grandmother made the best pear preserves in the world. Delicious on buttered biscuits, toast or ice cream.

        1. Jay*

          With the added benefit that properly jarred preserves KEEP. Make up a single huge batch, store them properly, and you are set for a good long while.

          1. allathian*

            They do keep. You need to store them in a glass container and sterilize them by boiling them in hot water, also remember to sterilize the lids.

            Just last week I saw an investigative news report where a journalist wondered if her apple preserves from 2007 and 2013 were still safe to eat and she got them investigated by our food hygiene authority. They were still perfectly fine to eat, because the lab couldn’t find any mold or mildew in the preserves at all (they’re unlikely to be affected by bacteria thanks to the acid in the fruit and the sugar in the preserves). She tried them, and they were as good as last year’s preserves.

            The reporter had sealed the glass containers with duct tape.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Pear butter, perhaps? I love apple butter, and I imagine that pear butter would be very tasty! And as it’s cooked down quite a lot, it’s a way to use a quantity of pears at once.

      I do love pears poached in wine, too!

      1. BlueCactus*

        Hearty second to this suggestion, I have had pear butter and it is unbelievably delicious especially with cardamom and cinnamon.

    5. pansies*

      pear pie. Like apple pie, but with pears. Poires au caramel : slice pears in half, take out seeds. Add pears, butter (1-2 tbsp /pear? about that) to baking dish, and add sugar (1-2 tbsp/pear? definitely not as much as 1/4 c per pear, that’s too much). Bake in 400′ oven for about 30-45-60 min. Till pears are soft. Add heavy cream (> 30% fat) to dish, it will turn the butter into caramel sauce. Maybe 2-4 tbsp per pear.
      Pear sauce, like apple sauce, but pears.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      Pear upside down cake. Poached pears. Pear crisp. Pear muffins with Bleu cheese. Just a big tray of pears with nuts and cheeses.

      Dried pears are very tasty, too.

    7. Pieforbreakfast*

      A lot of what you make with apples can be made with pears- sauce, butter, cake. We have a tree as well. I’m making a batch of pear hand pies today for a party, some savory (with carmelized red onion, goat cheese and hazelnuts) and some sweet (with hazelnuts and cardamon). Hand pies freeze well so you can have later. Last year we cooked pear pie filling and froze it in batches to throw into a pie or cake or oatmeal topping.

    8. Rosie*

      It’s easy to preserve pears in jars – if you get a few people together to lighten the load you can split the bounty between you!

    9. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      My local farmer’s market has a community table. Backyard gardeners can consign their goods to the community table and get the profit without signing up for a booth for the season.

    10. carcinization*

      This happened to my husband and I before, and we made… jam I guess? It’s been a long time since I’ve canned so it’s possible it was actually jelly or preserves. But either way, they were pear-ginger, we loved them, and so did the other people that got a jar. We googled a recipe, and this was over a decade ago, so I’m sure that’s even easier now. It was only our second time canning anything, after making persimmon jam or preserves several years before that because we had a tree, and reducing those a bit too much, but the pears were easier to work with, I guess because they were less sticky? I dunno.

      1. carcinization*

        I mean, my mom makes a badass pear bundt cake that’s probably like most of the apple cake recipes one sees online, and I think I used a few of the pears for taking a swing at making that and of course it was great, but canning uses way more.

  32. Washi*

    My in-laws just bought a house a 15 minute walk from us. Overall, I feel positively about it – while I don’t quite click with them in a purely social sense, they are nice people who are enthusiastic about being involved in our son’s life. (And let’s be real, free babysitting outweighs the irritation I have a certain habits like my FIL’s interrupting.)

    The question I have at this point is holidays. For those who have in laws very very close, do you see them every holiday? My husband and FIL are both only children so his side of the family is quite small and the nearest relative on his side is 3 hours away. I am fine with hosting them for any holidays we do at our house, but I’m wondering if it’s going to get awkward if we go to my parents house (1 hour away) for a holiday and don’t invite them. My parents feel similarly about the in-laws to me so they are not likely to independently become friends.

    Tell me about how you manage holidays with geographically close relatives!

    1. sswj*

      Though I haven’t had to deal with this in a long, long time, my thought would be to broach the subject well before the holidays and just see what their expectations are, and make your own clear. Talk with your husband and see what his thoughts are, and then bring it up with your in-laws and your own parents as well.

      It can certainly be navigated, but get the discussion done before the holiday crazies set in.

    2. miel*

      Not the exact same scenario, but we’ve started doing two Christmases – actual Christmas with my partner’s family, and Christmas in January with my family. It works very well for us; my siblings are unavailable during actual Christmas because of their jobs.

      Maybe by shuffling the timing you could make things easier.

    3. RagingADHD*

      My dad lives in town, my inlaws live 10 hours away.

      We discuss with each set, and with each set of siblings, and we wind up more or less alternating. It’s not exact, because it depends on who’s hosting, whose job or health or kids allows travel, etc. For example if my stepbrother invites my dad & stepmom for Thanksgiving, we are invited sometimes but not always. So we’ll probably go to the inlaws then. Or if my brother is flying in, we’ll stay here.

      It all works out in the long run.

    4. Buni*

      Second-hand to me, but when my parents moved two roads away from my brother & his family my mother was adamant that they would not become That Sort of in-laws. There is no standing presumption of holidays – eg last Christmas everyone did their own thing in their own house on the day, went up just for coffee & cake on Boxing Day – and my parents wait to be asked re childcare etc.

      But yeah, as @sswj says, state plans early, clearly and definitely – “For (Holiday) we are spending (Time) with (People, possibly yourselves) but we’d LOVE to see you (Day after / whevs) how about you come over for (Meal)?”

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      With my parent’s families as a kid and mine/husband’s now it’s usually a combo of alternating, doing 2 celebrations, and just what we feel like/who invited us. One side does Christmas Eve and the other does Christmas, one does Thanksgiving on the day and the other does it later that weekend, etc. Stuff like Labor Day we might get together with just one side or do our own thing.

      If one side of the family is really aggressive about “claiming” holidays early you’d just want to be prepared to tell them you need to think about it/coordinate with the other side before confirming – don’t let them end up getting every holiday just because they asked first.

    6. Emma*

      My parents and my husband’s parents are about an hour away. We typically try to combine when we can (they come to my parents or my parents go to them). I wouldn’t say they’re very similar, but they get along ok, and it makes it so much easier for us.

      On years where that doesn’t work, we alternate which family we see. Or we’ll see different family on different days (Christmas vs Christmas Eve, for example).

      We’ve also done the make-multiple stops-see-everyone-at-their-own-house, and that very much sucks (which is how we settled on trying to combine visits).

      1. Washi*

        I can’t really invite them to someone else’s house, especially as my parents have made it clear that they prefer a cordial but distant relationship.

        But I think the suggestions to just be very clear and proactive about letting them know if we will be out of town so they can make other plans as they choose are very good!

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Those suggestions make sense to me as long as you accept that you can’t control their reactions. They may be upset. Your job is not to prevent or fix that. Your job is to make the best decision you can for yourselves.

        2. Emma*

          You could float the idea of hosting everyone at your house. You could also explain that you understand that it may not be their first choice to spend the holidays with the in laws, but if that’s the case you’ll likely be alternating who you spend the actual day with. That may change their calculus (or it may not!).

          1. Washi*

            Yes anything we hosted we would definitely invite them! But we don’t plan to spend 100% of holidays at home and if we go see other relatives from my side, I don’t anticipate the in-laws tagging along. So I think we’d just let them know and like someone said down below, accept it’s not our job at all times to please them/creat holiday plans for them when it was fully their decision to move here.

    7. Rara Avis*

      When I was growing up, both sets of grandparents lived pretty close. We did Thanksgiving and Passover with one set, and Christmas and a summer outing with the other. My brother lives very close to his in-laws and whenever my parents are visiting at a holiday, they are part of the event, whether it’s at my brother’s house or at the in-laws. (But my parents and his in-laws get along really well.) Some of my husband’s cousins alternate years. Others always travel to the farther family for major holidays, because they see the neighborhood grandparents so often.

    8. kz*

      my parents live about 2 hours from us, and my in-laws moved to be only 15 minutes away a year+ ago (free babysitting is indeed a lifesaving gift!) prior to the move, the in laws were an 8 hour drive away.

      we’ve had an every-other holiday system since we got married. we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, so each year we do one with my family and one with my husband’s side. we also rotate, so everyone knows well in advance which side of the family we will be with on that day. for Christmas, we do an informal get together with the other side on another day. we’ve kept the same system even after the in laws moved close by. My mom wouldn’t mind having my in laws join on holidays, but my in laws are the kind of people who would rather stay home alone than spend a holiday with so many (almost) strangers (which is totally understandable!)

      you’ll definitely need to clarify expectations with everyone, but I often have to remind myself that just because the in laws moved near us doesn’t mean I have to orient my whole life to make sure they are happy with their decision. when we’re not there they can spend holidays alone or go to visit their other son – totally up to them!

    9. Rainy*

      Clarifying expectations as soon as possible is a good idea. So: figure out what you want those expectations to be, and then communicate them.

      Also, think really hard about whether you’re going to give them a key, whether they are welcome to pop over without calling, how often you’ll have dinner with them, etc. These are also expectations that need to be clarified with someone living so close.

      Hopefully yours are reasonable, but if mine lived close to us (every god forbid), my MIL would probably steal a key and come rifle through everything we own daily while we were at work, looking for things to lecture me about. (I’m almost 50, for the record.)

    10. Ellis Bell*

      If you go to your parents for Christmas, the short distance might make it easy to drop by at the inlaws on Christmas Eve for presents drop off/pick up. Perhaps to have desert or a drink? In my family we siblings get together with our mum on Boxing Day (day after Christmas), which is not commonly in high demand, so we know we’ll be free for it. So the inlaws get to have us for the big day, or if it’s not “their turn” we get two days with our own family or one day to ourselves.

    11. allathian*

      Both my parents and in-laws live a 15-minute drive away from us and a 5-minute drive away from each other, so it’s very easy to host them for a few hours during the holidays. Before the pandemic, we hosted because our dining area’s large enough for a table that can be extended to seat 12 people if necessary.

      We tend to host dinner/lunch on Christmas Eve and Midsummer Eve, and invite people over for coffee for our birthdays and our son’s birthday. Other than that, we see my in-laws about once every two weeks and my parents about once a month, mainly because my MIL’s much more social than my mom is.

      I’m just happy that we don’t have to travel far for the holidays.

      When I was a kid, we’d spend every other Christmas with my maternal grandparents who lived 4 hours away by car, and every other Christmas with my paternal grandparents who lived an hour away, or right next door, when we moved to the same apartment building be closer to grandma after grandpa died.

  33. AnonForThisOne*

    What’s the etiquette around befriending friends’ friends? (Friendship, not romance, not sexual.) My entire adult life – and I’m oldish – I’ve never figured it out. Say I go to a close friend’s dinner party and I really hit it off with one of her friends whom I hadn’t met before (we’re all women if it makes a difference). Can I pursue a friendship with this new person outside of our mutual friendship? Ask her if she wants to get together another time to continue discussing our obsession with Captain Pike’s hair and culinary skills? Or is that rude to our mutual friend? (This is theoretical but I’ve not pursued what might’ve been some good friendships in the past because I just don’t know. I’m neurotypical though have begun to wonder over the past few years – for reasons not related to this – if I’ve had undiagnosed ADHD all my life.) How was this all so easy in grade school!?

    1. Roland*

      Not rude! It’s a healthy, normal way to expand your social circle. If you immediately stop doing fun stuff with your friend and start doing it with Friend’s Friend that could be hurtful, but just making friends is totally fine. Also one concrete strategy is after say this party scenario, invite only your friend and the new friend to brunch or an event if you don’t feel confident in inviting new friend only.

    2. GoryDetails*

      I’d say it’s fine to invite your new acquaintance to something of mutual interest – though if your original friend also shares that interest, maybe include them, at least for the first invitation. (Side note: I read reddit’s AITA for amusement, and if some percentage of those posts are genuine, there are people who will take umbrage at one friend inviting another to something without including them. But in general I’d imagine that people who are social to begin with will be happy to see their friends forming new bonds with each other.)

      What might be touchy is if you and New Person hit it off so well that you drop your original friend entirely.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Reddit, especially AITA, is not a good measure of either etiquette or how relatively healthy adults deal with interpersonal issues.

      2. lissajous*

        I can confirm that there are, in fact, some people who get miffed if you start becoming friends with one of their other friends. But that says rather a lot more about that person than anyone else!
        Frankly, if I have invited people who don’t know each other to the same thing, it’s because I think they will get along and enjoy each other’s company, and if that happens to be correct to the point that they get in touch independently, why, how excellent, more friends all around!

    3. Still*

      Totally normal and not rude at all! The mutual friend might have some kind of feelings about it, because it’s human to feel a little jealous or be afraid of being left out, but if they’re a reasonable adult, they will know that that’s on them, and be happy that you guys have hit it off.

    4. Frankie Bergstein*

      If two of my friends hit it off and became buddies without me? I’d pat myself on the back for matchmaking! Heck yes! Go have fun.

      1. Agnes*

        I believe the Miss Manners answer is that you should first invite both the old and potential friend to something (to avoid the appearance that you’re social climbing or otherwise ditching the old friend), then after that you’re free to invite potential new friend however you like.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          That’s how two of my best friends met: I knew each of them independently, then I introduced the two of them. At one point, the three of us were hanging out and one of my friends turned to me and said, “Okay, you can go now” (we have that kind of friendship :D).

          I moved to a different state, so now they hang out with each other more than me, but I still talk on the phone with both of them more days than not.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Not at all! I presume you all aren’t going sixth grade Mean Girl and purposely excluding somebody in little whispery, sniggery cliques, right? It makes sense that people you like –tend to like the kind of people you like!

  34. Longtime Lurker*

    Possibly three questions in one, but do you have a “sweet spot” in the number of comments before you click through? Say for a normal weekday question, the Friday work open thread, and the Weekend open thread? Too few and there’s not value added to Alison’s answer? Too many and it’s hard to pull the most useful thread? It’s “determine your target metrics for next year” season at work and I’m overthinking everything….

    1. GoryDetails*

      As a sometime overthinker myself, I empathize! But for me it’s not the number of comments but the topic that makes me want to click. (For the long open threads, I make extensive use of “expand all” and “find on page” to look for specific topics of interest or for my own posts – to see if anyone’s replied to me…)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yep, if I read it and completely agree with Alison, I don’t usually comment and often just skim the first few comments to see if anyone disagreed – if I don’t see a discussion I’m interested in, that’s it for me, on with my day. It’s really only if I think of an angle that’s a bit different from the advice given, or if I feel strongly about one part and want to see if others agreed or disagreed, that I dive in. The number of other comments doesn’t matter really, although if I’m late to the post and there’s over a hundred comments I’ll post much less, assuming I’ve missed the discussion – if I’m one of the first ten I’ll be more tuned in because there may be more replies. Then if I feel the discussion is going off the rails (I wasn’t crazy about how this week’s vacation equity conversation went) I stop reading and go touch grass.

        1. Arlene*

          Yep, this is me. I collapse comments, and expand to read what interests me. On weekday questions, I look to see if I’ve got a different opinion than anyone else before posting. I don’t like being the tenth in line to say the exact same thing as everyone else. When I see a huge number of comments, like yesterday, it’s almost guaranteed to be something polarizing, so I definitely don’t want to read every comment, as that would eat up too much of my time.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Me too; for me it’s the topic more than anything else. I get really excited when there’s lots of replies in the reading thread, for example.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Nope, it depends entirely on the post itself! If I finish reading it and I’m interested in seeing what the comments say, I’ll take a look.

    3. Emma*

      Typically I don’t read any during the week days (including the Friday thread), and will read most of the top level comments on the weekend thread.

    4. Mimmy*

      For the open threads (Friday and weekend), I skim the top-level comments, then expand any threads that I’m interested in reading further.

      For the “short answer” posts, I skim Alison’s post; if any of the topics interest me, I skim the top-level comments for the corresponding number referenced by the poster. As with the open threads, I’ll expand anything I want to read further.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is interesting and makes me realize my strategy of generally posting replies rather than top-level comments may not be the best way to dig into a topic. It just seems … friendlier somehow.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t consider the number at all. I always click through. Whether I continue reading/read them all depends on what I come across. I do keep threads collapsed from the start and only expand them if they seem interesting.

  35. Makeup for lesbians*

    I never really learned how to do makeup as a teenager, and now that I’m nearly 30, it seems that my cobbled-together knowledge is not getting me to where I want to be (i.e. looking like one of the hottest lesbians at the Tegan and Sara concert).

    How does one learn makeup?

    Looking for occasional, low-maintenance ideas.

    [obligatory note: of course lesbians can do whatever we want w/r/t makeup! I hope to convey the general vibes I’m going for with this wording!]

    1. Vanessa*

      A decent make up counter can give some instruction. I really liked Bobbi brown when I was younger. It was a less is more look. Generally the time is free with an expectation to but something.
      But I guess the more now answer is internet. There is so much skilled instruction.

      1. Golden*

        You’re right about the internet! YouTube is a great place to learn, especially if you find someone that has similar features. The makeup addiction or beauty guru chatter subreddits will have good recommendations for someone who has the vibe you’re looking for.

      2. Llellayena*

        I did this with Sephora. One of their people walked me through the best products for my skin and complexion and I walked out with foundation, blush and lipstick that I knew how to apply and looked very good on me. Still working on eyes…

    2. wkfauna*

      I recommend Lisa Eldridge on YouTube. Her videos are very approachable and instructive. She has several in her archives about the kind of look I think you are going for.

      I would recommend starting with drugstore products, so experimentation doesn’t feel so onerous. For foundation/concealer I would personally only go with L’Oreal, but for everything else there are plenty of fun, good quality options that won’t break the bank.

    3. nopetopus*

      Hello fellow sapphic variety human! I also had that same journey.

      The main thing that helped me was learning that primer and setting products actually make a HUGE difference in how that stuff looks and stays on your face. Second thing was experimenting with different forms of the same product. When I was trying to learn winged eyeliner, I started with a liquid eyeliner and struggled hard. It was always a mess and never dried fast enough. Pencil was okay but couldn’t give me defined edges I wanted. On a whim I eventually tried a gel eyeliner in a pot with a separate brush, and it all clicked! I hadn’t even known that gel eyeliner existed before that.

      I hope you find some things that work and give you that amazing vibe you’re looking for.

    4. Alex*

      I just want to say I lol’ed at “(i.e. looking like one of the hottest lesbians at the Tegan and Sara concert)”

    5. RagingADHD*

      I find Alexandra Anele really helpful because she explains why things work the way they do, and teaches how to achieve lots of different looks from minimal to highly artistic.

      She is also dry and funny.

    6. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      You could also reach out to a local makeup artist and pay for a tutorial session. Or the free version might be a makeup oriented friend.

    7. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I am the kind of lesbian that just does lipstick and eyeliner/eyeshadow (actually I don’t do either any more) – I wonder if the makeup counter people will try and convince you to do the whole face stuff (primer what even is that, foundation, blush etc)? That might be what you’re after, of course, but I just wanted to jump in and say start with lips and eyes! (Apologies, I have no idea how you learn this, I just really liked this question & wanted to join in!)

  36. PhyllisB*

    Just wanted to thank everyone who gave suggestions for Secret Pal gifts last week. I ended up getting a cute decorative pie plate and a dish towel that said “your opinion is not prt of the recipe.”
    It was a big hit. The funny thing is, I wasn’t even planning to look for her gift right then, but when I walked into my neighborhood Dollar General they had a display with this dish, AND it was on sale!!
    I plan to refer back to the thread for further suggestions. Thanks again.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Ahaha, those sound amazing!! And I don’t even bake pies (they’re one of the gaps in my baking repetoire).

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thanks!! She posted an effusive thank you to our group Facebook page. The dish is really cute, and I figured if she didn’t want to use it she could display it.

        1. Anono-me*

          If you want take pies, bit don’t want to worry about the crust, here is my hack.

          1.Buy a Pillsbury pre-made pie crust in the box.
          2. Sprinkle a just little sugar (fine granulated) on the counter/piemat.
          3. Roll the crust dough jut a little thinner (maybe 10-15%).
          4. Cut off the excess and make pie crust cookies .(Sprinkle the crust scraps liberally with cinnamon and sugar then bake on a cookie sheet alongside the pie until done.)

          I kid you not, People for whom the office potluck is a competitive bloodsport often ask for my crust recipe. I have stopped telling people because they get so upset. Either they think that I am lying or that semi homemade is cheating.

  37. Cj*

    we are looking at adopting a German Shepherd that is in San Jose california, and we live in South Central minnesota. we really don’t want to fly him here and are looking for ground transport. I’ve gotten a lot of quotes that range from $700 to $2,600.

    we definitely want an insured company to do it because our worst nightmare would be to have somebody just pick him up and steal him.

    habe you ever transported a pet by ground? if you have and had a good experience or a bad experience could you please tell me what company you used?

    1. PhyllisB*

      If you’re adopting from a rescue group, perhaps they are plugged into resources for transport. Someone takes pup to next state, they take him further, ect until there’s a reasonable meet up point.
      These will be reputable animal lovers who will deliver your fur baby in good shape.
      I don’t know how costs are dealt with in these cases. It’s worth asking.

    2. ArchieBell*

      Seconding PhyllisB. Our 2 rescue pups were transported by a chain of volunteers associated with the rescue org, and that same group has also transported dogs from other organizations that were headed in the same direction.

    3. MissCoco*

      sorry I can’t be more helpful with recommendations, but I have had a good experience with a USDA certified animal transport company (the one we used is exclusively for rabbits, but they agreed to add my gerbils to a van). Their business model was making multiple stops in a loop from Florida to MI and back to Florida, picking up and dropping off rabbits, so it took a LOT longer than a straight drive, but they provided excellent care to my guys, and were very careful of their lil non-bunny passengers, even swapping out a leaky water bottle for us. I’m not sure if there are any similar companies for dogs, but it might be more affordable.

      Our experience was excellent. The transport arrived about 20 minutes late, which they communicated clearly with me, and then called me at work to get my permission before giving the gerbils to my dad who I’d sent to do the pickup. He said all the cages were very thoroughly secured in the back and the animals were cool and seemed relaxed. The gerbils were very tired, but that seemed normal to me after a long drive and many hours in tight quarters.

  38. Jim was The Office villain*

    I wanted to give an update on the puppy and ask for some tips about playing. He’s definitely feeling better and slowly come out of his shell. He has started very cautiously licking our hands and taking small pieces of food when we offer it to him, though he still has zero concept of a treat (but sees our other dog getting them and is always given one—just rarely eats it). We’re working on getting him to eat his food because he’s so easily distracted and on constant alert to watch what our older dog is doing. He is her total shadow, always within six feet of her. This has actually helped with going out, though, so now we don’t have to carry him. We leash her up, double leash him (4 ft regular one he wears around the house and 25 ft lead), and he’ll follow her outside, down our porch steps, all over the yard, and then back inside with minimal issues. This has been a great stress relief for all of us because we’re no longer having to pick him up all the time.

    I wanted to ask about playing. He’s given our older dog some signs he wants to play, but she picked up his kennel cough and isn’t interested right now. We bought a ball, some crinkly toys, and a rope attached to a ball, but so far he’s not interested in any of them. Is there a particular toy or technique that y’all have tried that your dogs enjoy? Also obviously willing to give this time; we just want him to be able to have fun when he wants to! Thanks!

    1. pansies*

      Since older dog is feeling badly, would you have a friend with a dog who likes to play? Maybe new puppy would follow that dog. But, I’m glad that a week has made such a tremendous difference!

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Since new puppy might still be contagious, I’d recommend holding off on this until the entire dog household has recovered.

        Some dogs just aren’t big fans of toys, and others are picky and only like certain kinds. My current dog thinks that nylabones are wonderful, and none of the previous three several showed the slightest interest. (I bought them for him because he kept fishing plastic containers out of the recycling and chewing on them, so I wanted to give him something to chew that was actually safe for dogs.) He also likes the “burrowing” toys, where he can pull smaller squeaky stuffed animals out of a casing of some kind. (The Outward Hound log with squirrels is usually the favorite, although at this point I just stuff it with as many of his smaller squeak toys I can fit in it without regard to theme.) The previous dog would occasionally carry a stuffie, but that was about it, and the one before just was completely uninterested.

    2. My Brain is Exploding*

      Thanks for the update! Please continue posting updates! As soon as your dog gets better, the puppy can watch her play with toys and learn how to play. Maybe try a stuffed toy (dog safe, not a kid’s toy) that the puppy can carry around with him. He’s making progress, yay!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Kong has some heavy-duty stuffy toys that I gave my dog when she was a baby baby – she’s too rough on them now and they don’t make it ten minutes, but she’s also 120 pounds :) Up until about a year old though, her favorite toy was a blue Kong rhinoceros. She had one she’d carry around downstairs, plus also a red Kong giraffe that stayed in her sleeping crate.

        I was worried with the stuffies, since I have a lot of them myself and my concern was that she would not be able to distinguish between mine and hers. Hers were all nylon, not fuzzy, and it actually worked out really amusingly – if I handed her a stuffy toy, she’d go to town on it. If she found one of mine herself, and I hadn’t given it to her, she would hold it carefully in her mouth and generally slobber on it, but not destructively tear at it.

    3. Generic Name*

      I’m so glad to hear this! I’m happy that your older dog is teaching the puppy how to be a dog. Our dog is such a good dog in no small part because our old husky taught her so well. :)

      My dog’s favorite toys are squeak toys and super soft stuffed toys which she then rips apart. We just live with having to pick up fluff all the time….the best ones are the fluff filled ones that have a surprise squeak toy inside. Bark Box is great for imaginative ones. We’ll play a kind of keep away with her where we sit down on the floor and have a toy in our hand and move it behind our back or to the side and she has to run around our body to get the toy. There’s always fetch. A lot of the games we play with our dog are based on deep mutual trust, though. When my son was smaller (he’s almost 17 now), he and the dog would wrestle like littermates.

    4. Rosyglasses*

      Our dog definitely has preferences for toys – she wouldn’t really enjoy the rope toys, but LOVES little stuffed toys (her favorites have been a stuffed hedgehog squeaky toy a little stuffed lion and a soft plush sloth). For her, she likes the squeak, as well as the soft mouth feel and ability to get a good grab on it for tugs and playtime. You may have to try a few different things to see what they like (and it may change over time as well). I’m glad to hear puppy is doing better!!

  39. Lifelong student*

    Looking for advice on appealing medical insurance coverage denial.
    Long version- while visiting across country I fell and broke my femur right below the hip. Ambulence and surgery at hospital A. Discharged to relatives house. 10 days later- to urgent care/emergency room because of increased pain and swelling. Ambulence to hospital B, admitted for observation where it was found that I had further aggravated a compression fracture in a vertabrae- procedure to have a procedure on it. Discharged. Submitted to insurance and denied. Filed appeal. Then a few days later had a severe attack of A-fib! Ambulence to Hospital B- admitted for observation. Scheduled back procedure knowing I may have to pay.
    Came home after 6 weeks and followed up with local docs. Now being checked for possible soft tissue damage to knee below femur brake and diagnosed with osteoporosis.
    Does anyone have any insights on how to increase possibilities of winning appeal?

    1. WellRed*

      Didn’t this all just happen within the last two months or so? That seems really fast for an insurer (maybe I’ve always just had slow insurers). Is the insurance company actually telling you it’s denied or is it the health care providers? I’ve had (local) providers actually bill to the wrong address or something else equally stupid. If it’s the insurer, what is the reason for the denial?

      1. Agree*

        Definitely check where the claim went to. I had a hospital send a claim to a local insurance with the word Capitol in it (Wash DC suburbs) just as mine did (lived near my state’s Capitol).

      2. Lifelong student*

        There were multiple reasons given mainly that at the time I had not been formally diagnosed with osteoporosis and that I had not tried alternate, more conservative treatment for 6 weeks. The alternate treatment was painkillers (oxy) which I did not want to take long term- a brace which was extremely uncomfortable, and PT which I cannot do because of the broken femur. The denial was for pre-authorization and indeed came from the insurance company. Given the amount of claims I had in August, I suspect it was denied because I had already cost them a lot of money!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          The hospital should’ve been responsible for the pre-authorization – I’d contact their patient advocate group and get them working on it for you. (Ok, this is veering into Friday territory for me, sorry, but I manage a medical coding team for outpatient surgery and we’re working on a project to address auth issues with the group that submits authorizations these days.)

          Questions to ask the patient advocates if you don’t already know: Did they not get an auth, or did they auth the wrong code? If they auth’ed the wrong code, has anyone checked to confirm: was the wrong code was auth’ed from the get-go, was the right code auth’ed but the wrong code coded, did the surgery change unexpectedly which meant that the auth’ed code was originally expected to be right but turned out not to be? A lot of the time, the people doing the auth aren’t coders, they have a list of general codes that the practice usually does and they pick one that looks like what the doc described, but if medical coding it was that simple, we wouldn’t have certifications that require continuing education.

          1. Samwise*

            Or case manager/s for each unit you were in, if there is not a patient advocate.

            My husband had a cascading series of medical disasters this summer; I worked with the case manager each time he was moved and/or had an additional diagnosis. Very very helpful. (Insurance has paid over $200k so far…)

            A few procedures and medications were not approved on the first go round— I spoke with case manager and docs and they got everything sorted. Sometimes it was a coding error and sometimes they needed a detailed medical justification.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I would insist on talking to a human; this sounds like their algorithm just scanned for “didn’t do XYZ” and denied it.

      3. Anono-me*

        I would start by asking the billing department at the hospital that provided the treatment (and wants to be paid for it) for advice. But if that doesn’t work, at some point you may want to contact the State Insurance Commissioner’s Office in all three states (yours, the hospital’s, and the insurance company’s).

        Anecdotally, my guess is that Red Reader TAF is correct about Medical Coding being a problem. I went to pick up a prescription the other day that was denied. When I asked the Pharmacy Assistant “Why?.” The PA went to check and then came back and told my it was covered. The PA had submitted it as X number of pills to be taken ever 6 hours until gone, not Y number of pills for Z days to be taken 4x a day. It was the exact same number of pills either way, but the insurance company would only pay is submitted the second way.

        Wishing you a good recovery with less stress.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m not sure if you’re linking my mention of a coding problem to your anecdote, but your PA submitting the wrong dosing instructions to the insurance company is not a medical coding issue like I’m talking about, that’s purely an administrative nitpick on the insurance company’s part (shocker :P ).

          The closest a prescription gets to having a coding error is if the doc writes down the wrong diagnosis and like, prescribes a hypertension medication for diabetes or something and it gets denied as off-label use. Medical coders don’t generally code for prescriptions, that’s all the doc – and docs may know a few codes, but they pretty much never get any level of coding training in their educations, our motto is “Doctors are not coders.”

    2. chocolate muffins*

      Here is something I came across on Twitter years ago from someone in a relevant field (doctor? someone who works in insurance?). This is for something that has already been denied.

      – Call the insurance company and tell them you want to speak with the “HIPAA Compliance/Privacy Officer.” By federal law, they have to have one.
      – Then ask them for the NAMES as well as the CREDENTIALS of every person accessing your record to make that decision of denial. By law you have a right to that information.
      – The person who posted this was saying that if they do this, they will usually reverse their decision quickly because many insurance companies are not following laws about who is allowed to deny claims (e.g., the decision has to be made with someone who is appropriately credentialed but usually isn’t).
      – They also suggested reporting any refusal to the US Office of Civil Rights (OCR.gov) as a HIPAA violation.

      Hope this helps!

    3. NaoNao*

      I actually work for the Grievances and Appeals dept. at an insurance company!

      –Read your EOB very carefully. (Your Explanation of Benefits).

      –Reference your EOB or other documents when making your appeal. If you can, reference the specific page that your support is on.

      –There’s two types of appeals–clinical meaning a medical provider has to approve it and admin, which is basically “you billed me incorrectly”. You’ll have better luck if you can figure out which one it is first. It sounds like you want a clinical review for “medically necessary” but I’m not 100% sure on that one–are you appealing the initial ambulance and Hospital B visit or something else?

      If you’re saying Hospital B *caused* further damage, that’s a grievance, and is handled differently–it’s unrelated to getting a bill paid/covered. You can have a grievance and appeal in the same case, but in your case, I would take a minute and try to figure out which one you’re pursuing here.

      –Make sure you pare down your appeal to the relevant facts. The later visits, etc–to me that’s not related to the original Ambulance to hospital and hospital visit, so don’t include those. Appeal associates read hundreds of letters / notes a day–make their lives easier if you can.

  40. LemonDrops*

    When you’re a kid you’re told to go speak to an adult if you have issues with bullying or see something concerning or scary.
    As an adult, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do if a child approaches me with something like this! What are “we” supposed to do if, for example, our child’s friend says they are being picked on at school or they saw a parent hit their child or some such? I did not see any instructions in my adult handbook.

    1. Buni*

      As a school teacher & Girl Guide leader we have explicit training on this, and it is very tricky. The very basic steps are:

      1) DON’T agree that you’ll keep something secret if the child says they have something to tell you but you “mustn’t tell anyone”. Find some age-appropriation variation on ‘I want to help, but if I can’t help I want to be able to find someone else who can’. I’m a mandatory reporter so if it warrants telling I have to tell, and one more adult breaking a promise is not what the child needs.

      2)Offer to go with them to an appropriately-in-charge adult – parent, teacher whevs; often they just need/want back-up and having an adult on their side helps.

      3) If it’s serious take notes either immediately after or even jot down stuff during the conversation if the kid’s happy for you to. If it’s Serious serious then you need time-relevant proof / written evidence.

      But I am so happy I have never had an actual reporting scenario…

    2. OyHiOh*

      This is US and state specific, there may be similar resources in your area.

      We have a state wide app called SafeToTell. It’s a text/chat reporting app adults and kids can use to report a wide range of behavior from I feel angry and don’t know what to do, to my child’s friend might be abused, to I saw my friend writing about suicide in their journal. Reports go to school administration/counseling/social services as needed and the reporting person is kept as anonymous as possible. It works best if the reporting person knows school, grade, and the student’s full name but they can work with less information if necessary. My middle schoolers have used it a few times for things where they didn’t feel comfortable with the counseling staff knowing who “turned in” a classmate saying upsetting things.

      I like having this option available, I also like Buni’s scripting above. I think if a friend of my kids came to me with something that concerning, I would use Buni’s language first and SafeToTell second if necessary.

  41. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Did anyone start a thread about being pumped for fall? fall festival season is starting now and I’m going to try. Also caramel apples! I love letting the change of seasons flow. It was almost cold at night now. Now I feel like fall

    1. Buni*

      ugh, it looked like Autumn was coming and then we had a last mini-heatwave here, about 7-8 days of ~30C. It was 27C today, but apparently tomorrow is 21C & thunderstorms – fingers crossed!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Thursday I walked the dog while:
      a) wearing a sweater.
      b) not waving my arms nonstop around my head to drive off midges.

      I love fall. Cold enough to kill the bugs, but no shoveling snow.

    3. Porch Screens*

      Today’s the last day of the season for our local farmer’s market and I came home with some apple pie jam and mini pumpkin pies, among other things. Yummy!

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      I just ordered an array of winter squash from my CSA. So excited! And I have some spaghetti squash already.

    5. Chaordic One*

      For sure. I’m looking forward to not being hot all the time and to wearing sweaters. I’m also looking forward to the pleasures of hot beverages (tea, coffee, cider) and hot foods (soups, stews, baked goods and desserts) that I associate with fall.

    6. Excuse Me, Is This Username Taken?*

      Yes! I’ve decided this year I’m just going to embrace my excitement for the season. I put all my decorations out over Labor Day, even though it was still 80 degrees. I’ve started baking things on my fall baking list, and I’ve already worn my new fall sweatshirt a couple times!