weekend open thread – November 18-19, 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: A Family Daughter, by Maile Meloy – Building on the events of Meloy’s Liars and Saints, which followed a close-knit Catholic family through four generations, this retells the story but from the perspective of the youngest daughter.

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

{ 1,199 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that the weekend posts are for relatively light discussion 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.

    I’m posting this reminder because there has been an uptick in “here’s an update on my life” posts this weekend. I’ve removed the ones I’ve seen, since that rule was implemented after a lot of thought and discussion a couple of years ago about how they had changed the tone of the weekend threads. Thanks for understanding!

  2. sarah the third*

    I am working on my gift list for my family this year. My mom and my sister both really like practical gifts and never want anything whimsical! So what is the best thing you’ve bought yourself for under $100 that you use a lot and fills some kind of practical niche in your life?

    Second question: people who are really good at giving gifts, what are your secrets to doing it well? Let me learn from your ways.

    1. Jay*

      My Dutch Over ($50.00 from Bed Bath And Beyond, I actually don’t know the exact brand) has been a game changer for me.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        If you mean a Dutch oven, I agree! We bought several cheaper brands before investing in the real thing and it’s a whole different ball game.

      2. Unemployed in Greenland.*

        ooh! question for you, and for other Dutch oven peeps.

        mine is one of those with a ceramic coating. I have been trying and trying to get the scorch marks off from the inside, using a variety of methods. No luck! Do you have any tried and true way of removing them?

        1. Maryn*

          I’d try BarKeeper’s Friend (a powdered cleaner usually found next to scouring powders like Comet and Ajax in stores), testing it in a small area first. Although I don’t have a Dutch oven, it’s effective on our enameled pots and pans, at both removing scorch and grey marks from metal utensils. (Good on grey marks on pale colored plates, too. And stainless steel sinks.)

          1. Jay*

            That’s what I’ve used on mine, if there’s something that just will not come off. I’m not all that concerned with just appearances on the inside, but if there’s actual grossness involved that dish detergent will not remove, I use a scouring powder with bleach.

        2. MaryLoo*

          Put about a half cup to 3/4ths cup of baking soda and 3 or 4 inches of water in the dutch oven. Put on very low heat on the stovetop. Simmer for a long time (30-60 min.). Check occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated.
          This method also works for burnt/scorched bits of food stuck to the enamel surface. Use a plastic “scrubbie” to get rid of the loose bits but don’t try scraping what’s actually burned on.

          This baking soda method works really well. The burned bits will eventually float off.

      3. Dancing Otter*

        I have a baby one, half quart size, that’s perfect for a single pork chop or piece of chicken. It was actually purchased when I couldn’t find any saucepans that small, but I love it.

        As Jay says, a true game changer!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      LL Bean’s fluffy throw blanket. Cozy to curl up under, and can be machine washed if you spill cocoa on it.

      Replacing my old battered cookie sheets with new high-quality ones (my son gave me these) had a big payoff.

      1. vatergrrl*

        I’m gifting throw blankets (sherpa fleece-backed) to everyone in my family. I’ve found them very comforting: warm and also nice to touch. Also enough different designs that everyone gets something fairly unique.

        1. Disappointed*

          I have to second sherpa throw blankets. They’re so soft and warm and feel luxurious. And it’s nice to have multiples for each person in a household (so everyone can keep one in the living room and one in their bedroom and double them up if you lose electric in the winter).

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Are they snaggable by cat claw? They sound wonderful but Peanut will insist on inflicting his love on them.

            1. Anono-me*

              Sherpa and dog hair love each other (don’t know about cat hair). Minke fleece sheds hair and is also cuddly.

            2. Dancing Otter*

              One of my cats just loooved “her” Sherpa blanket. She may have stretched her claws in and out, but didn’t tear at it in several years.
              I will say, a hand-held vacuum (like DustBuster) works better to remove fur than the washing machine.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        If you get a tiny brass brush from say, Harbor Freight, you can keep the inside grooves and corners nice and keep them looking better longer

    3. Ranon*

      Good wool socks, enough pairs that I can wear nothing but wool socks all winter

      Boot dryer is nice practical luxury, as are electric mattress pads

      1. Once too Often*

        Ooh, I just got a bunch of wool socks. Smartwool brand (has changed ownership a lot, for a good while I could no longer wear their socks) now has a “universal” size option that is working well for me. These run small, so I’m in their “universal large” which fit my thin feet well without strangling my ankles. I wear a US women’s size 9 shoe [so men’s 7], & got the traditional snowflake pattern socks cushioned ones.
        NB: Smartwool still sells women’s & mens sized socks, in addition to their “universal” sizes.

    4. Aphrodite*

      I’ve always been considered a great gift giver. What worked for me was to listen to what was said by whom throughout the whole year and buy off those comments. If something was mentioned (and it wasn’t a casual throwaway remark) in March the person wouldn’t remember saying it by December but would still love the item or experience. Sometimes I’d expand their desire and still get what they wanted even it wasn’t the exact thing. Listening, really listening was key, though I often included nonverbal clues that were unconscious as well.

      Practical? It really depends on their interests. A person who loves gardening or working in the yard might love a new hose, especially one of those metal ones that never kink. Someone who loves cooking or salads might adore flavored oils and vinegars and these are so easy to make. A knitter? Would they like a very expensive yarn that they lust after but would never spend money on? Would someone love a housecleaner for whatever period of time could be covered in your budget. Even once is a luxury. Someone like me who fears blackouts would love some serious rechargeable flashlights or lanterns. Do you know about the standard-size rechargeable lightbulbs that go on when the electricity goes out? Yup, light from your lamps.

      If you can tell us more about the people you are thinking of perhaps I might have more ideas.

      1. Closing Time*

        Great tips here! Regarding listening all year long… I’ve created hidden shopping lists for each person in my family on a ubiquitous online shopping site. I just add things to the list as I hear or think about something. Come bday or holiday… I have a ‘what-I-wish-for-my-brother/dad/daughter-list’ ready and waiting!

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (I have a couple of those rechargeable light bulbs for power outages and they’re AMAZING.)

      3. Inkhorn*

        Rechargeable light bulbs! *jots down note*

        Really need to get some of those, summer is storm season here which usually means a blackout or several.

      4. ypsi*

        I would never give someone yarn. First of all, yarn tends to be quite costly and to buy enough for an entire garment is out my price range for gifts (and I would not buy just a few skeins because all the skeins needs to be from the same colour lot). Second, taste changes. What a person liked 2 months may be forgotten and there may be a new preference. A gift card (for the yarn store) would be, IMHO, a better option.

        1. Callia*

          I second this, yarn is a tricky gift. For a knitter or crocheter, other accessories might be nice: an organizing project bag, a zipper keeper for needles and hooks, a yarn ball winder, or yarn bowl.

        2. Coin Purse*

          I’m a crazed knitter….no way anyone should buy me yarn, needles, knitting books or anything knitting related. If I wanted it, I have it.

    5. There You Are*

      My favorite gift to myself this year is my UV-light toothbrush dryer.

      Oh! And a teeny-tiny hairbrush cleanout comb thingy. It’s like a tiny little flexible rake.

      Both of those won’t be The Gift on their own, but they’re great stocking stuffers.

      Also, if your mom and sis don’t yet have LED bulbs in all of their light fixtures, that’s a super-practical gift.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Also on the stocking stuffer side: a Slice mini box cutter. It’s a tiny little spring-back ceramic blade in a magnetic housing, so when I need to open a box, it’s always right there on my fridge, I have to hold it open with my thumb but it’s small and easy to do, it’s ceramic not metal so it doesn’t really have a cutting danger, but it also doesn’t get dull, and if it does the blade is replaceable (but I’m on my original blade since 2019), and it was ten bucks.

      2. the cat's ass*

        I ADORE gifts like this! Someone gave me the little rake brush cleaner a few years back-terrific gift! I gave folks the goal zero torch-a solar rechargeable flashlight/charger. So useful.

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I’ve discovered that a backscratcher with metal teeth really helps clean out a hairbrush as well.

    6. Katertot*

      My secret is that I keep a note on my phone and whenever I get an idea throughout the year, I write it down. Sometimes it’s an actual item mentioned, sometimes it’s an idea from something they said. For example, I’m planning on buying some frozen soup dumplings and a steamer basket for my sister in law based on a comment she made last time I saw her (though my note doesn’t include what exactly she said to make me think this, lol.)

      1. Emma*

        I do this too! I keep a running list of gifts for people throughout the year as I think of them (like maybe they mention something when I hang out with them in August and I’m like hmmm that would be a good gift.

        I also sometimes save ideas on a private Pinterest board.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I recommended this last week, but – a USB battery jumper pack, if they drive. (Others in the thread recommended a stand-alone air compressor as well, and I believe you can get combo units that do both within that price range.)

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I have both of these and I love them! The DC-powered compressor that shows the PSI and can be set to stop at a set PSI, I want to say it was from Sharper Image 20+ years ago, is SO convenient.

    8. Double A*

      I always appreciate slippers. I get overwhelmed when picking them myself so when someone else does it for me it makes me happy. My mother-in-law has gifted me UGGs mule house slippers a few times and I have fully worn them out.

    9. My Brain is Exploding*

      I just got a little ultrasonic cleaner. I’ve used it (with just water so far) on my retainers and eyeglasses and can opener. Got it after one of the kids got one and loved it. He did his keys and toothbrush and all kinds of stuff. It’s made by Kunphy.

    10. Trixie*

      Great ideas already listed! For someone who enjoys cooking, a good selection of spices/herbs from Penzey’s or good knife. I just had my knives sharpened, and I’m thinking to do that for my mom this year. For smaller kitchen without counter space, I always liked the stovetop butcher block but depends on how much stovetop is actually used. Items for the car are always nice, USB portable vacuum cleaner for on the spot cleaning.

      I got myself an LED vet for walking at night, and really enjoy it. I love walking at night when traffic is lighter and drivers definitely take more notice at intersections or crosswalks. I may gift one to my sister this year along with vent shoe dryer for winter this year.

      1. carcinization*

        Nothing useful is coming up when I google “LED vet” (just some sort of $900 motor, then assumptions that I didn’t spell “Lead Vet” correctly). Could you explain what it is?

        1. Trixie*

          Correction, that should be vest, not vet! I saw a couple models on Amazon but went with NoxGear. I’ve seen local running/walking groups use something similar for couch to 5k training, and liked the visibility.

      2. Past Lurker*

        I second Penzey’s spices! There used to be a physical store near me but the plague caused it to shut down.

    11. Seashell*

      When I think practical, I think of things that are going to get used a lot. You can’t go too wrong with stuff like underwear or socks, if you know what kind they like. I have underwear from Tommy John that is very comfortable – like the underwear equivalent of a well-worn t-shirt.

    12. RLC*

      MagSafe battery pack for my iPhone. Always convenient but became a necessity whilst family member was in hospital and I was staying there for 24-36 hours at a stretch and didn’t want phone out of my hand (I carry a small charger block and cord to avoid possibly non secure public charging stations).
      Electric kettle, especially for tea and/or tisane
      drinkers.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I was going to suggest an assortment of charging cables of different lengths, as then you can keep 1-2 in your car, your overnight bag, and plugged in in various locations around the house, but it’s more of a stocking stuffer. Now after seeing your comment, I realize that that would be the perfect thing to include with an external battery pack!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        We use our Shark Wandvac more than we ever have any other hand vac before, I was going to recommend it to sarah the third!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I LOVE my dustbuster. It keeps the cat litter and shreds of dried salmon at bay! I requested it for Christmas and am on my second one, having sent the first to the Great Bed Bath & Beyond in the sky through hard usage.

    13. Fierce Jindo*

      It’s in the $20 range so maybe too small on its own, but: we use our garlic rocker many times a week and have gotten rave reviews after giving them to several family members as gifts.

    14. Firebird*

      Sweeping is such a pain because I can’t get everything in the dustpan when I sweep. I impulse-bought a stick vacuum cleaner for my kitchen and it’s great. And it’s red. ;)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        or – I got a broom set that comes with a dustpan that -a- has a long handle so I don’t have to lean over, and -b- has a sort of comb/rake thing on it that helps make sure all the bits are caught in the dustpan and not stuck to the bristles of the broom! (And both the broom and dustpan handles are adjustable in length sort of – they’re snap-together pieces, and you can leave out a piece or two depending on how long you want them.)

    15. Madame Arcati*

      Useful gifts I have given/received:
      A whizz pull onion chopper like this (both given and received everyone loves it) https://www.amazon.com/ZYLISS-Easy-Chopper-Manual-Processor/dp/B00UZEZ196 Over here at least it is in nice kitchen shops you don’t need to buy from Amazon if you don’t wanna

      A charger with a usb on one end and three different charger fits on the other – lightning, mini usb and that one modern Samsung phones use. So the recipient can charge their iPad, phone or kindle with just one lead. Great for travel or the handbag. And you can charge more than one at a time.

      My mum sits at her dressing table every morning to put on her makeup so last year I got her a makeup mirror on a stand (nothing bulky just a a stalk) that lights up round the edge so you can see better.

      Difficult to buy for male family member, no real hobbies, doesn’t need clothing etc – I went to a local brewery and got him a polypin of draught ale (I had to look this up but poly refers to the plastic container and a pin is half a firkin which is a quarter of a barrel, I hope that clears it up for everyone). He was delighted!

      Advice for good gifts: remember it’s about the recipient and what they like, not what you like or whether you “approve”. Even if you think it is stupid. Subscription to What Carp magazine. I got a family member (scientist) a little plush microbe one year and he adored it and carried it around in his breast pocket all day before displaying it proudly. Even though some others thought it was a bit icky and pointless!

    16. cozycat*

      A few years back, my sister bought me one of those blanket hoodies and it is SO WARM and SO PRACTICAL! We keep it cold in the house which means I’m always freezing and I can wear this while doing things and be nice and warm. Plus, it’s so cozy and has huge pockets. I got one for my mom last year because every time she’d come to visit me she’d see me she’d “borrow” it haha. Good luck with your shopping!

    17. Catherine from Canada*

      One year I came across a multiplug with a combination of three prong plug and USB ports (at Costco). I bought one for each of my kids. They were probably $20 each. Well, my goodness, you’d have thought I gave them a gold brick!
      Inspired by that success, the next year I gave them each a trunk organizer. Same reaction.
      This year, they’re all getting small appliance wheels, they stick on to the bottom of small appliances and make them easier to move.

    18. Kathenus*

      I’ve gotten Luminaid lanterns for friends and families (and myself) over the years – especially the ones that also charge cell phones. They can be charged by USB or solar, hold a charge for 2 years in storage, have multiple modes (brighter, dimmer, blinking, etc.). There are various sizes/styles/price points. I also like that the company has a great social mission of providing these for disasters and for developing nations.

    19. Kathenus*

      If you have folks who like unique foods, try Universal Yums. You can do subscription boxes or one time purchases (technically sold as a one month subscription). You can pick a box of snacks from a particular country, or this time of year they have a world box option in three different sizes that has snack foods from various countries.

      1. Jessica*

        These were huge fun. Great to eat together at the holidays. We passed each thing around for everyone to sample and rated them (on a 5-point scale we made up) and then saw which ones were the overall favorites. It was just a fun silly activity.

    20. ??*

      one of the best gifts I got that I use all the time is a metal fish spatula. I don’t cook a lot of fish, but it’s a really great nice and thin spatula that has made cooking anything so much easier.
      cast iron pans are a pretty good gift too.

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

      I love my Umbra bath tray and my bath pillow (can’t remember the brand, but it has a mesh over the pillow and a hook to hang the pillow up with to assist in drying). Add some lavender epsom salts and a good book and a cool drink, and that’s a party right there. I may not have a hot tub, but a nice warm bath with all the extras feels pretty great!

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

        I also just got a lotion applicator (like a big stick with a pad on it) that makes putting lotion on my back much easier. I love it!

        1. allathian*

          I got one of those for my 50th birthday from my friends. It’s great, because there’s a spot between my shoulder blades that I can’t reach any other way. Mine has a removable pad, so I can replace that without buying a new stick. It’s also very easy to clean.

    22. Donkey Hotey*

      My wife insists that the instant read thermapen thermometer is the best gift I’ve ever given her.

    23. Karriegrace*

      I love my water pik! Feels like you’ve had your teeth cleaned at the dentist every day! Practical gifts I like for families are zoo or museum memberships. Tickets to a show or concert they would enjoy is nice too. Restaurant gift certificates….a night out isn’t practical, but it’s fun without being just another thing in the house.

    24. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      May not fit the price range, but I bought myself a new set of higher quality bed sheets. It makes going to bed each night feel like a luxury.

    25. lavender latte*

      Depending on the person, I either listen to their likes or listen to their complaints. Some people communicate to share and some to problem-solve.

      For example, my mom is always freezing, and it makes her cranky and miserable. I’m looking into warming vests for her.

    26. ReallyBadPerson*

      I am an idiot at gift giving, as in, I ask family members for their wish lists and then buy all the things. But I have learned that many people in US cold climates love LLBean flannel sheets (semi cat resistant and they fit deep mattresses), Darn Tough socks (they have a variety of weights), and Blundstone boots.

      Because I am not good at this, I have learned to take notes during the months leading up to holidays and birthdays. And I grill people who express a wish. Oh, you want a cross-body bag? What colors do you prefer?

    27. Rebecca*

      Practical gifts I have given/received:
      – yaktrax (or similar)
      – cute journals from places like botanical garden or art museum gift shops
      – fleece lined tights
      – warmies heated stuffed animal
      – nice local coffee
      – yoga mat
      – magnetic thingie to hold phone in car
      – indoor plant watering can or mister
      – under sink compost bin

      1. A good gift*

        Sharper Image heated neck and shoulder pad. Fits right over your shoulders, still gets your neck. So comfortable.

    28. Colette*

      I love my ice machine – it’s a luxury (my freezer also makes ice) but it’s so nice to have ready-made ice when I want it.

      I have an incredible rechargeable worklight that goes on sale for $10 and lasts for hours. It’s great for walking the dog at night, as well as anything else that you need to do at night.

      I bought myself a super-sturdy collapsible stepstool last year, and it’s great – I find some of them flimsy and this one is not.

      Last year we bought my mom a specialized catcher for picking up small things (e.g. crabapples, pinecones) and she loves it. We also bought her jar openers.

      Tools (garlic press, drill, screwdriver with multiple bits, scrubbers) are always good, if you know what they need/would use.

    29. karstmama*

      secrets to gift giving – listen during the year to things folks drop that they’d like and keep a list somewhere. upgrade something people already have and like – for example, a larger bottle of their favorite perfume or lotion, a couple of bags of their favorite coffee, a nicer baking sheet/bed sheets/wool socks/pocketbook in the style they already have and like. if your friends do christmas trees, an ornament each year that makes you think of them and the year they/you together just had, or one from your travels (souvenir keychains make great inexpensive ornaments).

    30. Chili Heeler*

      Sleep headphones. I drift off almost immediately listening to cozy mysteries and am less bothered by outside noise than with a white noise machine. They’re also good for exercise because they’re in a soft stretchy headband to they don’t go flying if you move too suddenly. The brand I have are Dormi.

    31. vulturestalker*

      I adore my mega-packs of flour sack kitchen towels. The brand is Utopia Kitchen and you can buy them on Amazon. I got a pack of 12 and loved them so much I got another. I use them for napkins, to dry herbs, to cover rising bread, and any number of other things.

      Also seconding the fish spatula that someone else mentioned! Life changing (as long as they have cast iron pans; you definitely wouldn’t want to use it on nonstick or enamel).

    32. Quinalla*

      Some practical gifts I’ve give or received that were well used:

      Good flashlights
      Headlamp
      Tongs/Spatulas
      Paring knife or other small kitchen knife
      Microwave (for someone who needed a replacement)
      Nice socks – I usually do Bombas
      Fuzzy socks – I wore the last pair my Mom got me until they fell apart
      Comfy PJs
      Winter scarf and/or hat and/or gloves
      Fold up raincoat for travel/store in your car
      Umbrella
      Zip up sweatshirt
      Mixing bowls
      Measuring cup
      Fold up laundry baskets

      Not all of this would make everyone happy, but if you know the person well, think about something they might not spend $$ to get or replace themselves.

  3. ThatGirl*

    Crowdsourcing: sheets that are very soft and cozy, but not too hot. Like a thinner flannel or a very soft cotton? I slept on some at an Airbnb but forgot to look at the tag. We currently have crisper cotton and flannel and microfiber sheets, which all have their appeal at times, but I’m really curious about this specific type and what they are. Any ideas?

    1. RMNPgirl*

      My parents just got flannel Threshold sheets from Target. My mom said they’re a bit thinner than their other flannels from LL Bean. Maybe check those out?

      1. ThatGirl*

        Hmm possible. I can certainly give them a feel next time I’m at Target. These seemed more all-weather though.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I have found that with some flannel sheets you need to buy the next size up to really fit an American bed (full, queen, etc).

    2. Ranon*

      Maybe look for brushed cotton?

      Sateen usually feels more soft and less crisp.

      Third option is thrift your sheets so they’re already worn in.

      1. vulturestalker*

        I adore my mega-packs of flour sack kitchen towels. The brand is Utopia Kitchen and you can buy them on Amazon. I got a pack of 12 and loved them so much I got another. I use them for napkins, to dry herbs, to cover rising bread, and any number of other things.

        Also seconding the fish spatula that someone else mentioned! Life changing (as long as they have cast iron pans; you definitely wouldn’t want to use it on nonstick or enamel).

    3. Not A Manager*

      Probably something rayon-adjacent like bamboo, modal, tencel, etc. They’re very smooth and soft, but not too hot.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Agreed. I bought myself a set of Cozy Earth bamboo sheets and they’re light, cool, yet cozy.

      1. Barcaldine*

        This was my thought! I have some not-at-all expensive sheets from IKEA which are part lyocell/bamboo. They’re super soft, cool, and don’t pill.

    4. Fish*

      Sounds like maybe it’s some kind of sateen cotton (instead of percale, like crisp cotton sheets are.) Try Googling “best sateen sheets”- I just did and it brought up several articles that actually looked useful.

    5. But what to call me?*

      There was a very soft, not at all hot set of sheets I had a while ago that I would recommend to anyone but can’t remember what they were made of. The fabric was unusual, but in a good way. Kind of like cotton, but different. Very soft and maybe a little stretchy. Much less crisp than most summer sheets. I can’t remember the name, either, but I’m pretty sure the word “Jersey” was involved. Google confirms that Jersey knit sheet sets and Jersey knit all season sheet sets are a thing, which is a plausible match for what I’m remembering.

      1. Judy B*

        The absolute best sheets I have ever bought were from Ghost Bed. They are smooth, don’t pull. I am very fussy with me sheets and these are the best. I have bought from. Macy’s, Penney’s, and all the other stores. The Ghost Bed sheets are the best. I am still on using the same sheets I bought three years ago. I was so happy with my sheets that I bought another set and they are still in the box.

      2. ThatGirl*

        They weren’t Jersey, at least not the Jersey I’ve had in the past which had some stretch to them. Bamboo has smoothness to it that these didn’t. Could be sateen or brushed cotton. Appreciate everyone’s recs for sure :)

        1. the cat's pajamas*

          I love jersey. I have one slightly thinner set from Aldi I love for summer but they never had that style again. I have a set of bamboo pillowcases which are also nice and thinner than jersey. The bamboo ones were expensive so I tried the pillowcases first. They are really nice but only came in white for cozy earth, and you can’t use full dryer heat which is challenging for me personally since I can’t hang them in my small place easily. The fabric is really nice though!

      1. Grad School Attempt 2*

        Seconding this suggestion! I have slept on linen sheets and they felt like “flannel, but for warm weather”.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I got bamboo sheets – they help me with hot flashes and are super soft. (I also got a glass bead weighted blanket – the glass beads don’t retain heat so it’s actually cooler than a thin cotton sheet!). Link in a follow-up comment to the brand I used.

      1. nws2002*

        That was my thought too. For those not familiar they are a t-shirt like material. They are not the most sturdy but they are super soft and relatively inexpensive compared with high thread count cotton or linen options.

    7. cleo*

      It could be cotton sateen. I love, love, love my cotton sateen sheets – they’re softer and heavier than other cotton sheets I’ve had.

      I have the Wrinkle Guard 400 Thread Count Sateen Sheets from JC Penny and I can’t praise them enough. They feel so luxurious and the price is remarkably reasonable. My mom even bought a set after staying in our guest room and enjoying them.

  4. thequill*

    am I going crazy or was there a post earlier this week about a colleague drinking from cup and bottle lids? I thought I read it a few days ago but can’t seem to find it any more, did it get deleted or have I started imagining AAM letters?

      1. thequill*

        ooh, I fear I am actually losing it then haha. Could there ever have been a post like this? I do hit surprise me pretty often…
        thank you for responding, in any case!

      1. thequill*

        oh my gosh THANK YOU, you have saved my sanity!! Usually I google or use the site search and it’s typically very good at turning up the post based on keywords, but I couldn’t find it at all through search or in my history. Thank you!!

  5. Single-Payer, Please*

    Hope this is allowed. It’s work-tangential but impacts my personal life, not my work life: picking an insurance plan.

    I am in the process of choosing health insurance plans at my new job.

    One has higher premiums but a lower deductible and slightly lower doc visits & prescription costs; the other has much lower premiums but double the deductible (and slightly higher doc visits & prescriptions).

    The higher-premium plan is in-network only; the lower-premium plan covers 50% of out-of-network costs. I typically never see an out-of-network provider (barring hospital weirdness where the surgeon is in one network, the nurse is in another, and the anesthesiologist is in a third).

    I put together a spreadsheet to try to get an apples-to-apples comparison and I’m coming up with the higher-premium plan being more expensive overall, by about $1500/year.

    But I’m stuck on the idea that the lower-premium plan must come with some kind of catch.

    Is there something I should be looking out for that I won’t know from reading through the summaries of each plan?

    1. Wine and cats are life*

      Ehh, both my current and former job has similar discrepancies, I think it’s just people can be fatalistic and go with the higher premium, nothing happens and so not only does the company get more money they also never have to end up paying out on a lot of the policies.

      1. mreasy*

        The out of network coverage, deductible difference, and slightly lower copays are enough to make up the difference. I always get the higher premium plan because I have frequent doctor’s appointments and several monthly prescriptions – so it all adds up very quickly.

      2. Anon for this*

        Or everything happens and you’re deeply grateful to have paid that bit extra.

        My husband’s medical costs since May, per the EOBs: $300 k so far.

    2. Gyne*

      The catch is the high deductible. If you are someone who needs to use a lot of your health insurance (frequent checkups, expensive prescriptions, etc), a lower deductible will be met sooner and you’ll spend less on copays etc. If you are fairly healthy and go for annual well visits only, having a high deductible is more akin to “catastrophic” coverage – in the event you had a major hospitalization, the deductible gets met usually in that one hospital stay, so is a little bit of a risk of spending more if disaster strikes but if not, you generally come out ahead.

      1. WestsideStory*

        This is the best advice. If a you are generally healthy, choose a high deductible that matches about what you’ll pay for a vacation next year. That’s your headspace for covering your out of pocket costs, while being better prepared for the “hit by a truck” scenario that catastrophic care insurance is good for.
        However, if you have any chronic condition, have a lot of prescription medicine or anticipate having any surgery you’ve been putting off, getting pregnant or getting hearing aids etc. go for the lower deductible.
        One other thing – if your higher deductible plan is an HSA qualifying plan (US) you can make tax-deductible contributions to the HSA which means your out-of-pocket costs can be paid through the HSA whims still maintaining that tax deduction.

      2. ConsiderOOPMax*

        most people with any real medical expenses will hit the out of pocket maximum on their plan – I do it after 4 months of prescriptions without any other expenses – so that’s really the key thing to look at (if you can absorb the higher deductibles). If you’re look at total costs it’s your part of the premiums + OOP maximum that matters.

    3. WellRed*

      I duck at spreadsheets so don’t use them in decision making. But I have a chronic and expensive health condition that will never go away but may (likely) worsen. I go with the “better” insurance plan to make sure I’m covered for whatever May come up (or not. I’m still relatively healthy). If you have no immediate health concerns, you can probably go for the lower cost plan. It’s always a gamble but no reason to think the worst without evidence to the contrary.

    4. ThatGirl*

      There is probably no catch beyond the higher deductible. But do check over things like prescription coverage and copays. I’ve seen plenty of places have nearly identical PPOs with the difference being the deductible and out of pocket max but every so often they sneak in a plan with like, no prescription copay or something.

    5. Single-Payer, Please*

      Thanks, everyone!

      My spreadsheet numbers are based on me maxxing out the deductible in either plan because, as I get older (and because I am preternaturally clumsy), I see more doctors and have more x-rays / MRIs / specialist visits than someone 20 years younger and much more physically graceful.

      One of the things I can’t accurately capture is the cost of all those extra doctor visits and trips to Imaging. The high-deductible plan just says “Pays 20%” instead of a flat co-pay. And I, of course, have no way of knowing what rate my healthcare providers have contracted for with this particular insurance plan, so I don’t know if it’s 20% of $100 or 20% of $250.

      Maybe I’ll just toss a coin. :-)

      1. Squidhead*

        The Explanation of Benefits that I get from my insurance shows the amount the provider charged as well as the amount insurance is paying. If you have an EOB from your old insurance for certain types of visit (and you’re seeing the same providers), maybe the price is listed on there?

      2. Audrey*

        You may be able to look up the cost of different types of imaging! Sometimes on the company’s website if you dig you can find a price list.
        Alternatively, if you call their benefits line, they may be able to tell you some of those costs.

      3. rr*

        I don’t think there is a way to do this with you only look at meeting the deductible. You can’t know how the insurance negotiates. So you don’t know what 20% or whatever is.

        I personally calculate based on out of pocket. I take that figure and add in the premiums, and pick the cheaper plan. Still, you have the same essential problem and
        the insurance companies negotiate hard.

        Also, look at how high your out of pocket is with each plan. Given the above, you are probably more likely to easily meet a $5000 out of pocket than one that is $12000. But it is really mostly guesswork because you can’t know. It is gambling that you will win and the insurance company will lose, just like at a casino, when the insurance company is the house.

        Yes, I loathe health insurance companies.

      4. Texan In Exile*

        I bet you a million dollars that the “Pays 20%” is qualified with “of eligible expenses.” Which means you can never know in advance what will be covered and that you might be surprised by what is excluded, including lab work or charges that are considered in excess of reasonable and customary or stuff the insurance company considers not medically necessary.

        I hate risk and I hate surprises and I have had bad experiences with claims being denied (I hate you BC of Michigan), so I am willing to pay a little more to know that my claims will be paid. (That is, by using in-network docs for a co-pay.)

        Also – what is the provision for emergency care when you are out of town with the first plan?

        1. Pumpkin*

          We have BC of Michigan too and they are HORRENDOUS! To make matters worse, we are covered through my husband and he’s a doctor!

      5. nonprofit director*

        I am older and my partner has a very serious medical condition, and I did the same calculation this year myself between a high-deductible, lower premium PPO and a lower-deductible, higher-premium with co-pays PPO.

        I came out on the high-deductible plan being the better deal based on our expenses this year because EVERYTHING is applied to the single deductible. You are still only paying insurance-negotiated rates, not the rate charged by your providers. And once you meet your deductible, your 20% will be based on the negotiated rate.

        The higher premium co-pay plan, on the other had, would cost me quite a bit more even with a lower deductible, because it has a separate drug deductible and all the doctor co-pays don’t go towards the main deductible. So all of that added up to more than the deductible on the high-deductible plan.

        Really, the only “catch” is the higher deductible, but make sure you read the summary plan description to make sure. And if the plan is eligible, you may be able to contribute money to a health savings account, which has great federal tax benefits.

    6. Fit Farmer*

      You may have already done this, but if you put in *your own* ballpark numbers for an apples to apples comparison, one will likely be better than the other. But I would expect that as you put in larger and larger numbers into the spreadsheet, there will come a point where the higher-cost plan does come out ahead, perhaps significantly. (The yearly max is a key number here, too; the higher-premium plan could have a lower yearly max, which matters a lot in some situations and not at all in others.)

      1. FoxHaven*

        Seconding that the yearly out-of-pocket max is an important number. Also, keep in mind that with many deductible plans (maybe most), co-pays do not count toward the deductible, though they do count toward the OOP max. As an example, I have a $1,000 deductible, which I met months ago with a surgery, but because I haven’t hit the yearly max yet I was on the hook for a $250 co-pay for a CT scan a few weeks ago in addition to office co-pays for follow-up visits, etc.

    7. Audrey*

      Which plan you choose is really dependent on what your lifestyle is like and how often you’ll likely be going to the doctor and for what.

      If you are someone who just gets a yearly check up, doesn’t do any dangerous sports or have a lion taming hobby that might require an likely emergency room visit, or ahve any pre-existing conditions that involve consistent visits with specialists, then you may be someone who wants to choose a higher deductible plan; you’ll just be rolling the dice on a large medical bill.

      If you’re someone who anticipates needing regular visits with a specialist, or has a very costly prescription, or is going to get pregnant soon, or something else, you may want a lower deductable plan because you know that you will have medical bills and that you’ll probably hit that deductible and now you can plan for it.

      And then there’s your budget. What can you afford? Is it worth paying the higher premium to you because you know your deductible will be lower just in case? Or maybe you really need to do the lowest premium because you have other stuff going on and you’re young and likelihood of serious medical stuff coming up is small. There’s not really a right or wrong plan, it’s going to depend on your circumstance.

    8. Gudrid the well traveled*

      Sometimes plan pricing just defies logic. I tend to build “what if” situations to evaluate plan costs. What if 1 of us maxes out the deductible, what if half in network and half out, etc. Common advice is that the high deductible plan is cheapest but that wasn’t the case for us. And the HSA savings plan was the most expensive. You can also get a feel for procedure costs with your providers by looking at the coverage letters the insurance company provides for each visit. I can’t remember what they’re called but they have the cost breakdown for the services provided. I use them to track our health care costs in a spreadsheet.

    9. Joie de Vivre*

      My husband has a health care provider who was in network, but did not renew his contract with the insurance company and going forward will be out of network.

      If you have a provider you want to keep seeing, you may want to check to see if they are going to remain in network with your insurance.

    10. Miss Buttons*

      The deductible can really matter, depending on how high it is. Mine was $3000 this year. I strongly suggest you look at the schedule of benefits before choosing – that’s the actual laundry list which shows every procedure and whether it’s subject to deductible or not. Very illuminating. The only things not subject to deductible for me were annual physical, mammogram and colonoscopy. All my other medical costs I had to pay in full out of pocket until I met that deductible. That’s on top of paying all the premiums. I just did open enrollment and chose a no-deductible plan for 2024. You really have to balance the deductible against the premiums. And your medical utilization really matters too. I have cancer and huge utilization. If you’re healthy and only have 3 or 4 visits per year, maybe it’s worth it for you to choose a high-deductible plan if it will keep your premiums low.

    11. Cabbagepants*

      My company also offers a PPO that is strictly more expensive than either HDHP option. I asked my boss what was up with it and he said that some people preferred a plan, even one that was more expensive overall, that gave a more consistent and predictable monthly cost.

      It’s good if you’re really bad at budgeting and can’t trust yourself to save the money you would have spent on the monthly premium and put that money aside for possible pre-deductible costs.

    12. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      Can you open an HSA if you select the lower price plan?
      If so, would adding the amount you save each month add up to your deductible?

      I’ve used a high deductible plan with an HSA for years. When we’ve had a lot of medical expenses, the HSA covered the deductible plus other medical expenses and the years without a lot of medical expenses, we were able to grow our HSA for future needs. Plus you can use it for things that your insurance doesn’t cover like glasses and dental work.

      1. Kay*

        One huge benefit to an HSA is that any amount you put into it lowers your taxable income, and if you have an HSA plan that allows for investing – any gains are tax free. If you don’t absolutely need that money it is a option for an investment tool, and after a certain age you can spend it without restrictions.

    13. Can't Sit Still*

      It’s going to depend on your health and the vagaries of the coverage that your company offers. My current plan has higher premiums with low deductibles for the services I use the most.

      I wrote a long screed, but what it boils down to is that I’ve never been denied coverage for a claim. If it’s prescribed by my doctor, it’s covered. If I need to see a specialist, I do, and it’s covered. I’ve had same day appointments whenever it’s especially urgent. I’ve never gotten a bill after the fact. I’ve never had to get a pre-authorization for meds or treatments or had to do “trials” of meds that I and my doctor know don’t work. That peace of mind alone is worth the higher premiums to me.

    14. SofiaDeo*

      I think many are designed where the plan you pay the most upfront for, is not the most cost effective overall if you don’t utilize physicians a lot. I used to run a cost-benefit analysis and for me it generally was the second most expensive plan that was most cost effective overall. I was generally healthy except for fibromyalgia involving a few visits yearly plus 2 monthly meds , female (so had gyn expenses), athletic (so occasional sprains, etc. related to sports).
      After the cancer diagnosis, with more doctor visits and meds and procedures, the second most expensive plan still held out to be the most cost effective overall. My male partner who has zero health issues has the cheapest plan; in over a decade he’s only needed to go to Urgent Care once to get an infection drained/Rx for antibiotics.
      I’ll also mention I prefer a PPO model in the event I ever insist on going out-of-network as the HMO’s near me are small, have few facilities, and few specialists. It is worth it to get quicker access, especially now that I have cancer.

    15. ConsiderOOPMax*

      I can’t tell – are you comparing the total cost – your portion if the premiums + out of pocket maximum for each plan or looking primarily at the deductibles? higher deductible plans often do better (are cheaper) if you calculate correctly (and, of course, if you can budget to handle the higher up front costs). We have two options at my current employer and the one with the higher deductible is quite a bit cheaper across the full year but many fewer people select it (to the point where they were considering getting rid of it, which is how I know). I showed HR that it would increase both their costs (premiums are higher for the lower deductible option in my case) and mine to go on the other plan and they dropped it.

    16. annabelle*

      I’ve used both of these plans in my working life and the higher deductible+but lower copays plan is a scam, in my opinion. In terms of like, it can be a pain to reach that deductible even if you do have a lot of medical claims. So for me, it’s been worth the extra paycheck deduction to have the plan with lower or no deductibles (even if it means a higher copay). Those latter plans sometimes also don’t require referrals which is a nice bonus. A lot of PCP offices have streamlined the referral process (letting you request it by phone or online without an in-person visit) but I’ve still run into issues where they never got the request, they never sent it over to the specialist, etc. So it’s worth it, for me, to eliminate that middle man whenever possible.

    17. Chili Heeler*

      Do you see providers regularly as the moment? We chose the higher premium because the lower deductible is worth it for us. Our kid needs regular therapies that are covered but there are no in-network providers even remotely near us despite being in a densely populated area. This means we hit our out of pocket and deductibles a lot sooner and get better coverage after that. If that isn’t your situation and you don’t have major medical plans in the next year, the higher deductible probably isn’t worth it. Yes, people can get hurt or sick at any time, but it isn’t a given.

    18. Gatomon*

      We have a traditional plan and a HDHP. My company even contributes to the HSA to encourage uptake, but from what I’ve heard, maybe 10% opt to do it.

      What always pushes me to the more expensive traditional plan is the prescription coverage. The traditional plan covers anything generic at $15/30 days or $30/90 days, and I take like 6 generic prescriptions. Most of them are actually even less because they don’t even cost $30 for 90 days, but I have two that would eat me alive. The HDHP only covers select prescriptions before you reach the deductible, none of which I take, so I’d be paying the full cost of those $$$ medicines all year. They don’t actually add up to enough to hit the deductible for me, but it’d still be several thousand dollars, so even the company contribution to the HSA doesn’t make up for it.

      This has been my worst year ever for medical expenses and I still haven’t spent the equivalent of the deductible for the HDHP. I think a few exceptionally healthy people use it for a kind of additional retirement savings, but I am not so fortunate.

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    What things bring you joy, especially at this (colder, darker, sun will soon disappear at 4 pm) time of year? Particularly looking for things that you think would appeal to other people, but if you want to share your One Weird Joyful Thing that works too.

    I will put up two short stories, both by Connie Willis, both in her Christmas collections and probably available online.
    Newsletter, in which she asks “If the holiday season was suddenly marked by kindness, thoughtfulness, patience, and everyone being extremely reasonable about stuff, that would indicate an alien invasion, right? It’s the only thing that would account for it, really.”
    Epiphany, in which she asks what someone would do if they suddenly had a literal epiphany that they needed to go west. It really captures the time of year, the quiet and muted sense of January. And makes you think about just how strange an epiphany is.

    1. Ranon*

      The first breath of air on a day that’s 20F and bright and sunny lights my whole brain up, it is genuinely my favorite weather.

      I love my winter bed when it’s all warmed up with the electric mattress pad, I’m under a nice big pile of blankets, and the bedroom is nice and cool.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I lean into the cozy. I bake, drink tea or hot chocolate, curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good show or book. I also like doing Christmas things like looking at light displays.

    3. RLC*

      The arrival of all the migratory songbirds at our feeders (and heated birdbaths) for the winter. And hoping for a repeat of last winter’s “hot tub party” staged by the resident robin population. Nearly a dozen robins crowded into a single heated birdbath at once and it was hilarious. Lots of pushing, shoving, and noisy fun after a snowstorm. The resident Great Horned Owls have begun to court potential mates so lots of late night owl flirty talk to listen to as we doze off.

    4. Trixie*

      Ditto on bird watching. I’m fortunate to have a great view from my living room deck and adding more bird feeders. I don’t have owls nearby unfortunately but I do hear trains in the area which I enjoy.

      I mentioned in earlier thread an LED safety vest I recently got and it was specifically to walk regularly this time of year. Makes a big difference in getting me off the couch and out the door. I prefer walking later just because there is less traffic/noise and easier to listen to podcast or other.

    5. Firebird*

      I wait all summer for it to be cold enough to get out my mug warmers (one for each room!) and start drinking fancy teas and hot chocolate. Can’t forget the mulled cider, too!

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Epiphany and Inn are two of my favorite stories, and Christmas stories, ever written. I read those and Doomsday Book every year.

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

        You’re making me want to re-read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe short story “Christmas Party” now!

    7. sad*

      I love the damp cool air, and the beautiful trees with their leaves and the leaves falling. Colour everywhere! I like it getting dark early so I can stay inside and knit. I like the coolness of the bedroom with the window cracked mm

    8. But what to call me?*

      1) successful first month of overwintering a tropical potted tree in the garage (probably not a common experience, but it wasn’t supposed to work so the fact that it is makes me happy)

      2) almost time to go see the light displays at the arboretum – they’re amazing *and* a good mid-winter source of funding to keep the arboretum going *and* they sell excellent freshly roasted sugared pecans

      3) golden retriever rediscovering his favorite time of year: the season of cold weather and many visitors

    9. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Fire in the fireplace. We have a wood-burning fireplace and I love a fire. Now that I’m home during the day I have a fire in the afternoon when it’s cold and it is just lovely. I sit on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee and my cozy throw blanket and ahhhh.

    10. carcinization*

      Mostly baking! Today is Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies (from the Simply Recipes website in this case)!

    11. Wow it's almost Christmas!*

      I hate how it’s now dark when I drive home from work but one positive thing about it right now is that I get to enjoy people’s holiday lights and decorations outside their homes. I actually look forward to my drive home during these next few months.

      Also I like winter clothes like boots and sweaters.

      Maybe a little less pressure to go out and do something after work, as it’s dark and I just want to hibernate.

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

        I can relate — I’m not crazy about the sun being down during my home commute, but I have been enjoying seeing the moon against the night sky as I drive! And it’s not too sunny, so that is a plus.

    12. Just here for the scripts*

      We just came from the bank–after paying off our mortgage!!! Never have done that without having it be part of a sale/buying new home. Don’t know anyone in our immediate families who has done it either.

      1. Just here for the scripts*

        uuggg nesting fail. Meant to post down below on Squirrel Nutkin’s thread about joys.

    13. sulky-anne*

      I mostly enjoy the winter, but my brain hates waking up when it’s dark outside. This year I bought a SAD lamp and put it on my bedside table. Now when my alarm goes off, I turn the lamp on and snooze for 15 minutes. It actually makes me feel a lot better.

      1. Observer*

        What might be nice is if you put the lamp on a smart plug. Then you can have it automatically turn on before your alarm.

        I hate waking up in the dark, so I have the light (not even necessarily SAD lamp, just decent bright enough light) and it makes it sooo much easier to get up.

      2. allathian*

        I love my sunrise lamp. It switches on 30 minutes before the alarm rings, and gets progressively brighter. I usually wake up 10-20 minutes before the alarm rings. I hate waking up to a ringing alarm, so the sunrise clock really makes my mornings better.

    14. NeonFireworks*

      I go for long walks outside in the middle of the day, which helps a LOT.

      I also love coming home from work, having a hot shower, changing into pyjamas, and burying myself in 3-4 blankets on the couch.

      1. allathian*

        Oh yes, I try to go for a walk during my lunch bream, even if it’s usually only 15 minutes. It’s one of the habits I picked up in 2020 and I’ve stuck with it ever since.

    15. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I’ve been really loving all instrumental songs, whether that’s original music or covers of popular songs. While I truly enjoy what lyrics add to music, when I’m dancing, exercising, or practicing yoga, it’s nice to focus on the notes rather than words.

    16. GoryDetails*

      The mentions of Connie Willis’ holiday stories reminded me how much I enjoyed her collection “A Lot Like Christmas” – might hunt up another copy to read for the holidays. Also, “Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners” by Gretchen Anthony, a surprisingly touching, often hilarious families-on-edge novel in which the annual Christmas letter (written by the tightly-wound matriarch) provides counterpoint to the main narrative.

      In the not-especially-seasonal category, my latest audiobook is “The Whole Art of Detection” by Lyndsay Faye, narrated by Simon Vance. [I chose it in large part because of Vance’s narration, but I’m enjoying it for itself.] It’s a collection of Faye’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories, which are nicely done – they fit within the canon stories pretty well, including some that fill in details of cases only mentioned in passing by Conan Doyle. There are also some entertaining scenes of Watson pushing back against Holmes when he’s being especially bossy.

    17. Chaordic One*

      I am blessed to live an area with a spectacular view of the nearby mountains and I can’t begin to explain how much I enjoy looking up at them and seeing the fall colors on the trees that cover them. I like looking at the clouds that blow in from the west and just sort of hang in the air below the mountains. I like looking at the rain and the sunsets and changing quality of the light. I like looking at the eaves of houses peaking through the trees below my house, and at their lighted windows as it grows dark.

  7. Carol the happy elf*

    I do my spreadsheets by hand, on big, individual sheets of paper. That way, I can look at the columns and pro/cons on each one individually. (We have a lot of insurance policies and choices.) They’re color- coded to make clear how good or meh each one is, and the dollar amounts are in shades from light to dark. It makes for an insane month. (Prepping the sheets and getting blank ones copied at Office Max, (thick paper!) then putting them up on a wall. I take some PTO to deal with it (and this goes with all of our insurance plans including car and homeowners.) I put the actual policy papers on the back of the corresponding sheets, so they can be verified. (Different agents can vary widely in how accurate they are. This keeps them focused.)

    Then when the decision is made, I wait until January 1 at 2:37 a.m., I go outside and slip on ice and break my arm just to test how well they work in real life.

    This gets to be a chore, so last January, my husband kindly took over the testing and fell off the porch with one leg tangled in the Christmas lights he was trying to remove (and roll up at the same time.) He did a thorough job; his leg has a new plate, and his shoulder and collarbone got separated.
    We met all of our deductibles by February….

    I figure that if I die and see a stack of insurance or tax paperwork on the receptionist’s desk, I’ll know I’m in hell. Plus– who needs to burn brimstone in hell when you have PAPERWORK?

    I also love the kitty pictures!
    (Did you know that a leg cast makes a crackerjack scratching post for a cat?)

    1. Single-Payer, Please*

      Oh noooooooo!

      Have you both tried just not going outside of the house for the entire month of January?

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      On the first visit to my dermatologist, they gave me a clipboard with the usual stack of forms to fill out. The very last form was a copy of a cartoon, asking if any of my information had changed since I started filling out the forms.

      1. Turtle Dove*

        At least they acknowledged the heavy load of paperwork! That’s heartening.

        On a related note, this year I stopped cooperating online ahead of visits. No more checking in and filling out gobs of online forms — especially the ones for my family and medical history. I’d spend ages filling them out (okay, ten to twenty minutes), and then the nurse would ask me some of the same questions in person at my appointment. I concluded that nobody reads my intake forms aside from critical data like insurance coverage. (Plus I see doctors within the same system, so 98% of my information is already in the database.) Sure enough, no pushback yet! Maybe someone updates my chart from the questionnaires after I’m there? For now, at least, I plan to continue my quiet rebellion.

        1. Turtle Dove*

          I’ll add that I’m generally the compliant sort, but I have a real beef with inefficiency and duplication or waste of effort.

          1. ampersand*

            I’ve noticed the same–sometimes I run out of time/forget/etc. and don’t fill out forms, and no one seems to mind. On the other hand, I recently had an appointment where I did everything online beforehand (including paying for the appointment) and the front desk person thanked me for taking care of everything ahead of time. But that’s been the exception, not the norm. Fill forms out online? Yeah, you’re doing it again once you’re at your appointment. It’s frustrating!

        2. Nightengale*

          I have the opposite approach, I refuse to fill out anything by hand. I have a disability affecting handwriting. If they are going to insist on paper forms they can fill them out for me or provide them to me ahead of time so I can type up the answers. (I ask for this with varying degrees of cooperation. My favorite is the office that swore up and down and sideways they did not have any forms to fill out in the office. I described a typical form. Around the 5th time through they were like, OH like this? and pulled out a clipboard with the form. . . )

          So far I haven’t seen much evidence they read the paper forms OR the online ones. . .

        3. annabelle*

          Same, I can’t believe it took me a while to notice that too–no one reads those damn things (or if they do, they know the person may have forgotten to include vital info or left info out on purpose, so might as well just ask the patient directly anyway during the appointment).
          Earlier this year, my allergy provider underwent new ownership and converted from a paper-based charting system to all electronic medical records (including a new online patient portal). I had the misfortune to have a 3-month checkup right after the digital transition. First I had to put all my info (medical history, current medical needs, drug history, basic profile info) into a buggy iPad at the front desk. Then I’m back with the medical assistant in the exam room who is literally asking me the same things all over again but was looking at my chart from like 3 visits prior–so some of it was outdated.
          I had another 3-month checkup recently and the process hadn’t really improved all that much :-/

      2. don'tbeadork*

        OMG, I was at an oral surgeon’s office for the first time yesterday and there was so much paperwork, including one sheet where I had to print/sign/date three different times. I thought I’d arrived with plenty of time to spare to do the paperwork but was I wrong!

        Apparently they got rid of all the visit inefficiency during the intake paperwork stage, though, because everything flowed very smoothly.

    3. Girasol*

      Back in the day insurance was meant to protect you against the unexpected. Nowadays you’re supposed sit down during open enrollment and plan ahead what illnesses and injuries you want to have in the next year.

  8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Instead of Thanksgiving, we’re doing our big group friend feast this year for Life Day, which is a Star Wars holiday. It is officially 11/17, we’re doing ours the 18th, but either way, it’s a chance to celebrate with friends who have family obligations on the “traditional” holidays. (And I am NOT doing a turkey!! We have a ham, a roast beef and a big pile of chicken drumsticks.)

    Everything has Star Wars names on the menu. (Also labeled with real names and ingredients, and thanks to those of you who made veggie suggestions a couple weeks ago, we included a few of those!) My dessert pièce de résistance is an apple spice cake with a gingerbread Sarlacc in the middle. I’ve been prepping all week, and tomorrow is the final push before dinner in the late afternoon. Wish me luck!!

    1. Llellayena*

      I’m going to need some of those menu names…might want to repurpose them for my Star Wars/Trek themed wedding…

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Entrees:
        Roast Kod’yok – Ham (from the actual Life Day cookbook)
        Babasta Roast – Roast Beef
        Endorian Tip Yip Legs – Chicken Legs

        Side Dishes:
        Lukka Tubers – Mashed Potatoes
        Ama Yannok Root – Adobo Sweet Potatoes (spicy)
        Mappa Yannok Root – Maple Sweet Potatoes
        Sargge Stuffing – Chicken and Sage Stuffing

        Wroshyr Pods – Sugar Snap Peas w/ dressing (spicy) (could also be edamame)
        Mos Espa Spiced Molo – Harissa Cauliflower (spicy)
        Kushayan Root – Glazed Carrots
        Mysess Seeds – Green Beans
        Nalla Salad – Spinach Apple Salad
        Vapor Shrooms – Parmesan Ranch Mushrooms
        Brub Berry Sauce – Blueberry Sauce (from the actual Life Day cookbook)

        Assorted Rolls
        Bantha Butter – Garlic and Herb Butter (Blue)
        Eopie Butter – Honey Cinnamon Butter (Brown)

        Desserts:
        Yumi Pod Pie – Key Lime Pie
        Hubba Gourd Pie – Pumpkin Pie
        Warrl Berry Chill Cake – Chocolate Cherry Icebox Cake
        Force Cupcakes – Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes
        Sarlacc Cake – Apple Spice Cake with Gingerbread Sarlacc
        Wasaka & Pomo Ice Cream – Peach & Raspberry
        Hubba Gourd Ice Cream – Pumpkin

        Beverages:
        Meiloorun Juice (fruit mixture, non-alcoholic)

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      It was a hearty success! (Though we did learn that my elder dog is not terribly fond of children. Too much ruckus and not enough following the Rules. Solidarity, Miss Bit.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m not sure how to post pictures of mine here, but this was the inspiration: https://yummycrumble.com/star-wars-sarlacc-bundt-cake/

          I didn’t use her caramel cake recipe, I actually built my Sarlacc on a 3-ingredient cake that is a variant of the When Cherry Met Sally cake – a dry cake mix, a large can of pie filling, and the eggs the cake mix calls for, mix together and bake more or less per box instructions – the original was chocolate cake and cherry pie filling, mine was spice cake mix and apple pie filling. Otherwise, I mostly used the instructions on that page. My Sarlacc’s tentacles didn’t stand up as nicely as hers did though.

  9. RLC*

    Fig has the most wonderful markings! Calicos are a favorite of ours, and her markings set a new standard of cat cuteness. And she looks so happy and comfortable in her environment.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Her markings make me laugh every time I look at them — they make no sense! She looks like a tortoiseshell cat wearing a white dress with a hole in the back. She is an absolute delight. (She also makes hooting noises while she plays, like an owl. She makes no sense whatsoever and I love her.)

      1. RMNPgirl*

        Any chance we could get a video hearing her hooting? My cat is part Maine Coon and makes funny trilling noises, they always bring me joy!

          1. RLC*

            What a wonderfully silly sound! One of ours coos like a dove, and we once had a Siamese who made odd electronic-like beeping sounds. Cats always amaze and surprise, and calico and tortie cats are in a league of their own.

      2. Lexi Vipond*

        A cat with kind of similar marking lives in my street – more white-and-tabby, but I love the way the pattern just starts up out of nowhere, as if the pattern was always there-but-invisible under the white.

        1. Random Bystander*

          Technically, that is actually true–the white on cats who aren’t pure white is “masking”.

          Cat genetics are so fascinating (I have six current cats, two additional who had passed away earlier this year and a small colony outside that I’m trying to manage).

    2. ghost_cat*

      As gorgeous as Fig is, I’m afraid I only have eyes for Mr Hank. He is just lovely. Could I ask how he is going?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Aw, thank you for asking! He is doing well. (Background for others: Hank has inoperable cancer and had radiation this summer, which we were told would give him about 10 months.) He just had a vet appointment where we found out he has maintained the tumor shrinkage that the radiation achieved, which means he is likely to be in the group of cats who get more than the average 10 months. We don’t know how long that will be, but we are trying to make him happy for however much time he has (and so far he is his normal happy self). In particular, he has been enjoying making friends with the two new cats; he gets long baths from Stella and likes to cuddle with Fig (as seen here)! (Second gratuitous Hank photo).

        1. ghost_cat*

          Those eyes!! Thanks so much for the additional photos. I recently travelled the path of a much loved pet through chemo treatment. A comment I look back on was that my vet said that it was a privilege to be entrusted with their care. He is lucky to have you, as you are him.

  10. Rise of Caesar*

    Splitting restaurant checks among my friend group is apparently causing some drama. We try to get separate checks when we can but some restaurants won’t do it and sometimes we forget to ask until too late. One friend, Sasha, is really bad at sorting out who owes what. She usually forgets to calculate tip or tax, both when she covers and we pay her back or when she pays back someone else. I just cover it myself and calculate it when I eat with her; she doesn’t dispute whatever someone else tells her to pay. We’ve recently returned from a friend vacation and are settling up money stuff afterwards. She asked a question about when we did a dinner for our other friend’s birthday, Alice, on the trip. Her dinner was free from the restaurant birthday policy but she said she’d help with tip and taxes. Sasha asked if Alice was chipping in for a shared appetizer we all split and Alice said she thought Sasha was covering her as a birthday gift. Sasha agreed but Alice seemed upset that Sasha had gone back on her offer. I said Sasha probably forgot, she’s bad with totaling up costs, I didn’t think she was backing out on purpose.

    Then Alice told me about two other friends of ours who said they avoided eating out with our large friend group because they’d been stuck with restaurant costs they shouldn’t have paid in the past (not specifically from Sasha, just from bad math). I told Alice that seemed like an odd thing to get hung up on considering we once went out to a bar for my birthday where my family had provided a covered tab in advance as my birthday gift. When we exceeded that tab and were all significantly drunk, I paid the $60 difference myself and didn’t bother trying sort it out afterwards. Just felt like too much hassle to figure out whose drinks were under my parents’ tab or my costs, should one person contribute if they only had one drink compared to others who drank more, that sort of thing. It was definitely a bummer to spend so much money at my own birthday but I don’t harbor a grudge years later, which is why the actions of our other friends surprised me.

    I think people are taking it too personal when no one is trying to get a free meal out of our friends; it’s just people being bad with math or not thinking through the various costs. We don’t do an even split because some of our friend group don’t drink alcohol so it’s unfair that they pay more for alcoholic beverages; as one who does drink, I certainly don’t want to force the extra cost on my non-drinking friends. How do you all sort this stuff among your friends?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I just had a get together with friends where this came up. We all trust each other to pay up, so one friend paid with her card, then texted us the itemized receipt. We all added up our items, tacked on a couple bucks for tax and tip, and Venmo’d/Zelle’d her what we owed.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      Where I am, separate checks are the norm. I once went to Boston with friends and we were baffled that we couldn’t have separate checks at one restaurant.
      I think your situation is similar to a groupe of people where some are punctual and some are always late. Punctual people will sometimes assume always late people are disrespectful while late people don’t mean nothing rude by being late. People are allowed to set their boundaries, though, and refuse to go into situations that frustrate them.
      I may have imagined it but aren’t there apps that allow you to quickly figure out who owes what to whom?

      1. Revere your cat*

        Boston haaaates separate checks. Like, hates. One of the best outcomes I’ve had from moving away from there, haha.

          1. ThatGirl*

            It varies by area and restaurant. I also personally feel bad asking for separate checks with more than 4-5 people.

          2. Fierce Jindo*

            New York also traditionally hated separate checks, although this has changed a lot. Boston and New York are two cities with very old restaurants that have been doing things a certain way for a long time and set the culture.

            1. Teapot Translator*

              Well, that explains my misconception. Boston and New York are the only two US cities I’ve been to with friends!

          3. RussianInTexas*

            I am in Houston and pretty much never had an issue with separate checks, they are the norm here, at all price points.

      2. Retired Accountant*

        Yeah, I’m in the Midwest and servers always ask “how are we doing the checks?” It’s a total non issue. I’ve definitely experienced a different in the Northeast, though.

      3. londonedit*

        It’s not even a case of getting separate hills here these days – you just ask to split it however many ways, and the waiter does it with the card machine. Either you work it out in advance so everyone just says ‘£25.40 on my card’ or if you’re splitting it equally then most of the time the card machine can do it automatically. We don’t have to worry about tax because prices here include tax, and it’s easy enough to round up if you’re giving an extra tip (which we don’t normally do as there will be a 10% or 12.5% service charge automatically included in the final total on the bill). It’s so easy nowadays.

        1. Rosyglasses*

          Except some restaurants explicitly state they won’t take more than two cards (at least here in the Pacific NW).

          1. londonedit*

            Really? Never seen that here! Everyone just says how much they want to pay and taps their card, simples.

    3. RMNPgirl*

      There are a lot of apps now that help people split bills, any chance you could all agree on one? Is Sasha always paying less than she should be, that may be part of the frustration. If the math always works out in her favor when she’s doing it, I can see why people might question things.
      If she is sometimes paying more, then I would let it go.
      When I graduated college, my best friend and I both asked each other if we owed anything. We had never kept track, just sometimes she’d treat and sometimes I would. We just decided to call it even.

        1. londonedit*

          My sister and I have a running Splitwise group to keep track of the money we spend on presents for family throughout the year. We generally try to keep it even by going ‘I think it’s my turn to do £10 and a birthday card for Niece’ or whatever, but we can keep track of it all on Splitwise and then at the end of the year we clear any debt. It’s also worked really well on group holidays – again we take turns to pay and log everything on Splitwise, and then at the end of the holiday we can settle up as needed.

    4. miel*

      Option 1) put someone (not Sasha) in charge of the accounting for each night out. It sounds like Sasha is perfectly willing to pay up, but accounting is not her strong suit.

      Option 2) use an app like Splitwise to keep track of expenses. Use in conjunction with option 1.

      Option 3) have some honest conversations with your friends.

      With my friends, money is rarely a tension point; we usually get separate checks or trade off treating each other. I also tend to do a lot of 1:1 meetups, which is probably lower pressure/ stakes than a large group.

    5. Maggie*

      I basically cannot go out to eat with people that aren’t willing to split the check evenly and Venmo the person who paid. If everyone pays for “what they got” no one ever included split apps or tax or tip etc. So that’s how we do it and luckily most friend groups I go out with are cool with it. One group the girl who books every dinner insists on splitting it by what people got but she’s willing to take on that works me send me a Venmo request so that’s fine. I think your friend who was asking is the birthday girl was going to pay for part of a split app is being a bit rude. It’s the birthday girl! She shouldn’t pay and unless it was beluga caviar or something, her part of a split app couldn’t be more than $5. If we go out for a birthday, the birthday girl/person doesn’t pay a dime, we all share their part.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        “people that aren’t willing to split the check evenly”

        I would rather not split evenly as I never order alcohol but my friends do. I also don’t get an appetizer and only rarely get dessert. (Yes I am very frugal and I actually hate eating out and do it only under duress.) My share is always much much cheaper.

        1. Maggie*

          Fair enough! If my friend was going to go through duress I’d just schedule a different style of hang with that person.

        2. Miss Buttons*

          I got so tired of people saying I was being difficult by refusing to split the bill evenly. I never get apps or dessert, and don’t drink alcohol. My meal is often 50% less than others at the table. Sorry, I am no longer financing your meal regularly, and your attempts at manipulating me don’t work. Difficult is the moocher person who consistently expects to be carried by people like me. Pay for your own damn meal! It’s a separate check for me, thank you!

          1. Maggie*

            Restaurants in my city don’t do separate checks and honestly, the people I go out to eat with enjoy sharing meals, food and drink, so it’s fair when it’s split evenly. I would never try to make someone who didn’t want to split do so or bully that person. I go out to eat with people who enjoy and want to be there, it’s fun, and since we typically all do enjoy drinks, apps, etc and we split all the food, it works out. Maybe it’s just the style of restaurant I end up at, but we all share each course anyway.

        3. M2*

          This. I’m a vegetarian and hardly ever order an appetizer or dessert. I also rarely order a drink and if I do I stick with a glass of wine or one cocktail. Many people I go out with including family order expensive steak or seafood meals with a salad or soup as an appetizer and lots of drinks. It’s not right to ask people to split if you do this. Also if they won’t give separate checks I always give more than mine plus tax and tip anyway because always someone doesn’t calculate it in (you know who you are).

          My BiL is notorious for this. They have 3 kids who all eat from the main menu even though they are all under 10 (think steak for – 7 year old and the salmon for the 9 year old and the grilled chicken from the main menu not the kid menu for the 4 year old). And yes we have also tried breakfast.

          My one child eats from the kids menu or gets a Cesar salad. My BIL will get an expensive meal, an appetizer, etc and lots of expensive whisky. You can tell his wife isn’t comfortable with it but doesn’t offer her credit card or Venmo. He always wants to split evenly.

          My spouse and I just won’t go out with them anymore. It has gotten to the point we had paid hundreds well, probably, thousands extra in splitting the bill. I’m not a bank. If they had financial hardship I would take them out or help cover their kids but they are doing great financially.

          It doesn’t bother me if you split occasionally but you shouldn’t be asking to split and you get an expensive meal and plenty of alcoholic drinks and then ask the person who got a cheap meal to cover your costs. Or ask to split and you have multiple kids and I have one.

          If you can’t tell it is a pet peeve of mine.

        4. There You Are*

          I refuse to split checks evenly.

          I always end up buying the most expensive drink, fancy entree, platter of different appetizers, etc., and would be mortified if my friends who don’t drink, or who just got the soup-and-salad, paid for my stuff. Egads.

        5. MEH Squared*

          Same. Plus, I have a bunch of dietary restrictions (now), which means I can only eat a radically smaller amount of food than most people. My best friend is the only one I’ll split evenly with because we’ve worked it out over the years (she drinks alcohol and will pay the whole tip–she’s a generous tipper). Otherwise, I am always going to end up on the short end of the stick. Always. If you (general you) are someone who partakes of everything, you don’t really get to gripe if someone who is more restricted in any way doesn’t want to split evenly.

      2. EvenDoesntAlwaysWork*

        and this is how my friend and I got stuck paying $250 for what would have been a $10 bill (her meal and non-alcoholic drink was comped and I ordered an iced tea + cheapest dish on the menu which happened to be what I wanted and the other two couples ordered apps + 4 bottles of wine + swordfish entrees).

        1. Maggie*

          Man, I think I’m living in a bubble then! These examples of people ordering expensive stuff and then asking to share evenly have never happened to me. (Thankfully) I wouldn’t eat with any of those people either LOL!

    6. rr*

      yeah, see, this is why I prefer separate checks. you may not hold a grudge, but you certainly remember the incident, years later. I also remember certain instances where I felt the division was bad, or uneven. Then I always feel badly for not being more generous in my attitude.

      Money and relationships can just be really difficult for people. If someone is bad at math, and people are getting pissed off at it, account for that issue. As someone who is bad at math, I wouldn’t want this to happen to me.

    7. Phryne*

      Is ‘just bad at math’ really an excuse in a day and age when everybody at the table literally has a computer in their pocket? You literally can open a spreadsheet at the table if the math is hard? Do you all maybe rush the paying, check comes and everybody has 60 seconds to calculate and she gets flustered? I know dining out is a lot more dat paced in the US than in Europe, here the waiter drops off the bill and gives you a bit of time to discuss it.
      Or is she bad at remembering what she ordered and is it an idea to keep a list when ordering?
      On the one hand, if no one in the group is struggling financially, I think it should not be that much of a deal if one pays a bit more this time and someone else another, but if it is always her accidentally paying less it will become a thing. I mean, people have even directly told you they don’t want to join you because of this, so apparently the issue is a bit bigger for some than it is for you.

    8. kina lillet*

      I use the app Tab. It’s very lightweight—you take a picture of a receipt, edit it a bit to make sure that Tab understood the receipt correctly. Then you can either pass your phone around to have everyone select what they got, or someone loads the receipt on their own phone if they have Tab too.

      I use this a lot with my friends. It hooks up with venmo, makes sure to split up the tax and tip, and (pertinently to your story) has a “birthday” button where one person’s selections get evenly split between everyone else.

      The entire situation sounds annoying, but I’ve been an evangelist for Tab for that exact reason—I’ll just put the receipt into my phone and then hand it around to create the totals.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I think people are taking it too personal when no one is trying to get a free meal.
      You’re viewing intent as the key thing and impact as a minor thing. But on the receiving end, people usually care mostly about the impact on themselves, and then the negative emotions about that hurtful impact are mitigated to different degrees by intent.

      And as has come up in various permutations, not intending to do damage buys you one forgiveness. As soon as it’s a pattern rather than a one-off, the thing where people keep intending the results to be different when they repeat the same action gets a lot less leeway.

    10. Llellayena*

      I’m the calculator for my group. The bill gets handed to me and I figure out who owes what. For tax and tip I calculate on the whole bill and split that evenly. Same with shared apps that one person didn’t say they’d pay. Can one person (someone generous with tipping and good at math) be assigned to calculate everyone’s totals? Job can rotate if you’ve got multiple people who can do it (not Sasha).

    11. RagingADHD*

      My friend groups have usually been really good about everyone remembering what they had and putting in what they owe. But I noticed a phenomenon: when everyone threw their share in, some groups were consistently over, with either a ludicrously large tip or returning a few dollars to each person.

      Other groups were consistently short. Somebody always had to eat the difference. After a while, people notice. And when everyone is watching their budget, it starts to become burdensome.

      That’s when things get tiresome, and you start having uncomfortable conversations about itemizing the bill and “who had the extra order of dumplings, who had the margarita?” Or you get people who spent three times as much as the others offering to split the bill evenly.

      And it becomes clear who is coasting on the generosity of others, and who is using learned helplessness to avoid pulling their weight. It’s always the same 1 or 2 people. And they either get dropped from the group, or people get fed up and decide to hang out more with their “over” friends instead.

      You may have enough money to float your friends indefinitely, or you may wear it as a badge of honor that you ate the cost of your own birthday but don’t “harbor a grudge.”

      Other people getting sick of playing mommy to other adults isn’t “taking it personal” or “harboring a grudge.” It’s setting different priorities than you. And those priorities are valid.

      Sasha and whoever the other “bad math” people are, are a type of “missing stair”. You’re still willing to step over the gap and say, “that’s just how they are.” Others no longer find the experience of your group to be worth the (literal) cost of admission.

    12. Donkey Hotey*

      I avoid these situations like the plague. The Oatmeal had a wonderful comic about that years ago. (Solve for x where x = the amount that covers what you owe and won’t lead to resentment later.)

      But it is seriously to the point that I would rather do a separate check or, at worst, get the whole thing and then coast for the next several until everyone else does.

    13. lavender latte*

      I always get my own check. My brother-in-law is a combination of Sheldon Cooper and Mr. Pink, who would use tin snips on pennies if he could. I got sick of his cheap games and opted out in the 90s.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        LL – that is the most simultaneously hilarious and disturbing pop culture mashup i have read in ages. Well done.

    14. Samwise*

      Easy to say if you can afford to cover the c out Dr of someone else’s bad math.

      We had friends like that some years ago. Back in the days before the restaurant splitting the check was a thing. We made sure to keep track of our share, added tax and a generous tip, handed it to the most reliable person in the group, and left before the bill arrived. Because we could not afford to pitch in extra to cover our friends’ carelessness or ineptitude.

      Calculators are a thing — they’re on every smart phone. Anyone who’s “bad at math” can use one.

    15. mreasy*

      I think everyone has to be willing to split the tab evenly. If some folks don’t drink, that’s an exception, but then have them split the food tab evenly with the drinkers splitting the drinks cost among themselves. It’s just easier if everyone agrees not to nickel and dime food costs if everyone has approximately the same amount, which is just usually how things net out if nobody is actively not eating or actively having multiple top dollar items. (E.g it all comes out in the wash when one person has 2 beers while someone else has 3, one entree costs $20 while another costs $25.)

      Group dining just isn’t the best way to spend time together if $5-15 difference is a big deal to anyone involved. (And I say that as someone where for most of my life that difference was very meaningful.) Either the server gets stuffed on tip or the person who covers and gets paid back ends up paying way too much – and neither of these outcomes is a good one. Maybe only do this in places where you know they can do separate checks?

    16. allathian*

      Separate checks all the way, or if we go as couples, we also pay as couples.

      The restaurants here don’t have any issues with splitting the bill. It helps that it’s a legal requirement to show the final amount on the receipt, and menu items always include tax. Tipping is possible but neither expected nor obligatory, as meals in a sit-down restaurant carry a 17 percent service charge in addition to the VAT. There’s also no guarantee that the tips go to the server, there’s nothing to stop the owner from pocketing the money. Unless you give cash off the receipt, but most people don’t carry cash anymore.

      When we celebrated a friend’s birthday recently, it was easy to pay for a share of the birthday celebrant’s meal. It was even possible to split the cost of a bottle of wine between several of us.

  11. cups and mugs oh my!*

    Because this was recommended in the Friday open thread for a gift: do people really enjoy getting mugs or cups as gifts? If I got a cup or mug, I wouldn’t keep it – I’m very fussy on the shapes and sizes of my mugs, and most mugs are neither. I have separate mugs for tea and coffee, because one mug is better for one and a different one for the other. How fussy are you about your mug shape?

    1. Teapot Translator*

      20 years ago? I loved getting mugs/cups. Now I have too many of them and only use three so I don’t want any any more.

      1. Double A*

        I was trying to think of a complicated reply and then realized this exactly nails it. I’ve gotten very picky about mugs.

        I absolutely loved the mug Santa brought me last year, for instance.

        (Santa is me, I’m Santa).

    2. Porch Screens*

      I’m generally more picky about the design than the shape. That said, as much as I appreciate the thought, I only have room or use for so many mugs so I’m at the point where if I get one I have to decide if I want to donate/regift it or (if I like the design) keep it and get rid of a different one.

    3. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Unless you know that your recipient wants them, don’t give them mugs! I expect that most people already have all the mugs they can store in their cupboard, and there’s only so many pencil mugs you can use and you probably already have them.

      1. Disappointed*

        That’s how I feel.

        I have definitely seen some nice mugs I wouldn’t mind owning, but I just don’t need them! I have a set of 12 mugs that I bought when I moved into my own home, and that’s more than I’ll ever need. (They come in handy for having a few guests over, but otherwise I only use mugs once or twice a day.)

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t drink hot drinks at all, and I have a whole literal shelf full of mugs in my office on display. (I also don’t wear socks other than one specific style, drink wine, eat dark chocolate or use scented lotions, so I am not generally one for secret Santas.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yeah, my point was muddled – I’ll still do something with the mug even if I won’t drink out of it, but in threads like that someone always goes “you can’t go wrong with socks” :) basically there is no foolproof choice :)

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I think part of giving gifts is understanding that you miss the mark sometimes/a lot, and that’s okay.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I am not that particular about using certain shapes for certain things, but I do like drinking from a mug with a pleasing shape and heft. The generic kind of straight sided mug with a logo, I consider junk and only keep for stuff like microwaving French toast, or putting pens in.

      1. Anono-me*

        Could you please elaborate on microwaving french toast in a mug? I tried reheating it in the microwave on a plate or in the toast and found neither worked well, but would like a way that does.

          1. Lexi Vipond*

            But isn’t French toast square and flat and… well, toast-shaped? Mind slightly blown!
            (Also savoury – you put red or brown sauce on it.)

            1. RagingADHD*

              I guess technically I’m making mini bread puddings. But I mix vanilla and cinnamon in it (which is how I make French toast), and it’s how I first heard the dish described – “french toast in a mug.”

              I’ve never had savory French toast, but it sounds nice. I have made savory bread pudding, I just never put them together in my mind before. Thanks for the notion!

              1. Lexi Vipond*

                Yes, I think it’s just local difference – I would only use bread and egg, no flavouring. But I’d never come across a sweet kind – or probably I have, but not realised that the other person was talking about something different.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I appreciate them if there is something unique about them (or specific to me) but I do have a zillion mugs.

    7. Seashell*

      I have too many mugs as it is. I hope to unload some on my young adult child at some point.

      Mugs are a good gift if people are new to living on their own. By age 40 or so, you probably are covered in the mug department.

      1. Phryne*

        Funnily enough, I gifted my sister a set of mugs just a couple of years ago in our 40ies. She asked for them though, because their cupboard was still an odd collection of free/logoed/gimmick cups, mostly chipped and discoloured, from their student days and she decided that now her kids are old enough not to randomly drop things it was time to get something a bit more presentable and matching :)

    8. The Prettiest Curse*

      Ironically, I have spent a lot of time this week coordinating an order of new logo mugs for the office, as the previous ones were bad quality and the handles kept falling off. (The new mugs are a lot nicer.)

      I like getting mugs as gifts even though I already have plenty of them. I’m fairly clumsy so tend to damage mugs or break them outright every so often, so I’m fine getting more!

    9. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m fussy about both shape and design. I only use mugs that bring me joy to look at, and are a certain size. Out of all those I got as gifts, I can only think of one I actually still like and use.

      I currently rotate between a mug from NYC that used to be my grandmother’s, and an old Starbucks mug with a story behind it from when I first moved to the UK. I’d be content if I never received another mug, and really sad if one of them broke. My friend who has an entire cabinet full of mugs thinks I’m crazy :) but at least that means she’s easy to buy for!

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      I am in the “adequate mugs, editing them down” phase of my life. My children are in the “just starting out and could use more eating utensils” phase of their lives. Some people collect mugs. Some people are happy to have an increasing number of Really Nice Mugs so they can phase out the unsexy but cheap ones they got as graduate students.

      I am currently drinking tea out of my preferred small mug, which has a copy of a Chao Shao An painting. My preferred large mug came from Georgetown Pottery in Maine and its colors and shape remind me of that trip.

    11. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m very fussy about all my kitchen stuff, including mugs and other dishware. I have a tiny kitchen and only have what I like and use in it. I hate it when people give me kitchen stuff just because I like to cook.
      Yes, I am a grinch about this! lol
      But I don’t want things in general, so I guess that’s just me!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        And it’s always weird kitchen stuff! Like, odd bowls or whisks that make no sense or specialized tools that only do one thing for a kind of food you never make.

      2. IT Manager*

        I just downsized now the kids are all out of the house and I have spent the last year purging and donating. New house is FULL and I’m dreading all the things I know are coming for the holidays. I’m at one-in, one-out capacity, please don’t give me *anything* else!

        Definitely feel a bit grinch-y this year…

    12. londonedit*

      I collect a specific range of mugs, and I have loads of them. There’s always room for another in my collection, though, and it’s tradition for me to receive a new one for Christmas every year. I love those.

      Mugs in general? No. I feel like it’s the go-to gift for a lot of people but they just clutter my cupboards and I don’t have a lot of space to begin with, I don’t really like mugs with ‘funny’ slogans, and I’m quite picky about my crockery and things in general so it’s unlikely people will choose something I’ll absolutely love. I do have a small collection of mugs that I do like – a big Scrabble letter one with my initial, and a couple of vintage ones – but generally if someone gave me a mug it’d just be more clutter and I wouldn’t use it.

    13. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I emphatically do not like getting mugs as gifts, because my kitchen is full and my office is full. I’m also not a fan of the manufacturing and transport realities of novelty mugs made by shockingly underpaid and overworked people on the other side of the world. It’s going to be the first one into the de-cluttering box heading to the thrift store donation bin.

      1. Deedee*

        Ha! The thrift store I visited recently had a shelf full of mugs marked “Free – please take as many as you want!”

    14. RussianInTexas*

      No, because I already have an obnoxious number of mugs, at least half of them gifted. I have no more space for mugs. I am mugged out.
      in fact, in my family we have a rule of not gifting mugs, or anything non consumable kitchen related, unless specially asked for.

    15. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Regular mugs, no. I have a big glass beer mug that I use for tea, and a double-walled glass mug I use for coffee (along with a couple other favorites – thick walls, nice shape).

      Mugs that are meaningful to me in some way as well as have a good shape are the ones I keep.

    16. cleo*

      I’m fussy about everything about my mugs – shape, design, heft, size etc. And I have enough mugs, thank you very much.

      That said, my husband just gave me my new favorite mug for my birthday. He did ask me ahead of time if I’d be interested in a mug like it and I was! He got me this Le Creuset mug that’s supposed to keep liquid warmer longer, because my tea is always going cold when I’m working. I don’t like most of the insulted mug options I’ve seen (because I’m picky about shape and design, etc) but I love my new mug and it works! It’s attractive and feels good in my hands and it actually keeps my tea warm for at least 30 minutes.

      1. cups and mugs oh my!*

        Do you pre-warm the mug at all? I do that for tea – throw some boiling water from the kettle in the mug to preheat it, when I make the tea steep; or I reboil some water quickly when I’m about to pour the tea, and heat the mug then. It makes a big difference to heat retention if you preheat the mug.

    17. Bo Peep*

      I’m not too fussy (although I dislike mugs too big for my hand lol) but I’ve never quite understood why it’s so ubiquitous as a gift. You wouldn’t present somebody with a random fork. Obviously mugs don’t need to be in a matching set like utensils do, but you get my point.

    18. carcinization*

      Joining the chorus that I might have enjoyed that half my life ago, but now have too many mugs. I got some matching Starbucks ones in a “White Elephant” thing at work last year, and tried to foist them off on my mom but she refused as well, so they were just shoved in the top of a cabinet and will eventually be donated.

    19. Can't Sit Still*

      I have enough mugs, but I confess, we recently had product anniversary mugs at work and I grabbed one, even though I don’t need another mug. But I’m really proud of the work we did on that product! And unlike the chunk of crystal we got for the last anniversary, a mug is actually useful. Plus, it’s an incredibly inoffensive mug for office use.

      But at home? I have way too many mugs, even though I purge them frequently. No more mugs, please!

    20. Elizabeth West*

      Shape is less important to me than pattern. My current favorite is a Prima Design Halloween mug I got for $5 at Homesense. It has a little skeleton walking his skeleton dog. :) It also has to hold a satisfying (i.e., large) amount of coffee, tea, or cocoa.

      I have a set of those glass globe mugs Nestle offered back in the 1970s (Mom gave them to me) and some that go with my glass snack/tea sets, but I don’t use them for everyday. Those are company cups.

      1. Disappointed*

        I googled the skeleton mug. So cute. The glass globe mug looks fancy and classy. :)

        All the mugs I’ve ever been gifted were dollar store x-mas mugs or company branded mugs. I could probably make room for another mug in my cabinet if it was really special.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I love the little skeleton one — I couldn’t resist it. I bought my quirky neighbor one that said “HallowQueen,” lol.

    21. sulky-anne*

      I am excited to receive a great mug, but that has only happened a couple of times. Generic mugs are a chore to receive. I might gift a mug if I thought it was a particularly good one and had some insight into the receiver’s mug preferences.

    22. lavender latte*

      I recently threw a bunch away because they don’t have the correct diameter to fit on my mug warmer. I don’t care how cute a mug is, I’m not running to the microwave every fifteen minutes.

    23. Nightengale*

      I (47) really still do enjoy getting mugs. Enough of my early acquired mugs have broken that occasional replacements are welcomed without risking a mug glut.

    24. Person from the Resume*

      No. I’m not a coffee drinker. I live in the south. I own more mugs/ coffee cups than I need.

    25. don'tbeadork*

      There are only a couple of people who could reliably pick out a mug or cup that I would a) like and b) use at all regularly. Both spouse and I retired this year and although I abandoned a bunch of work-branded mugs to whoever replaced me I still had a ton of mugs to schlep home. He did the same, but he left his mugs on a small table in case some students wanted one (he taught at the local U). We’re still trying to figure out where we can cram such of our mugs as we want to keep.

      I like a specific heft to my mugs and prefer to buy my own, should I ever need to replace any.

    26. Dancing Otter*

      Not about the shape, but about the care requirements. My daughter has given me several mugs that can’t go in the dishwasher. While they’re charming, they just don’t get used.
      Also, metallic accents aren’t safe in the microwave. They really, really aren’t — it was dramatic the time I forgot.

    27. Nona Selah*

      Most mugs are too big. We have a size we use all the time and people like to give us cute ones that are just huge! I guess we are pretty picky. Glad to know we aren’t the only ones.

  12. 2023 is Ending Soon*

    Earlier this week, I was home in the afternoon when I realized someone was at my door, trying to get a key in the lock. I was really surprised, but not scared. I put my lunch up away from the cat and followed the man where he was trying to get back to his car.

    The short version: he was a handyman hired to do some work in an empty apt, but was going by a description of the bldg instead of the address. It took some time to work though all the questions – at first I thought the owner of my bldg hired him, told him to go inside and make himself at home until he got there. That made me pretty angry until I realized he was just in the wrong place, and the person who hired him was not my landlord. It was just a really confusing episode, which included me making calls to my property mgr and the owner, and him calling the man who hired him.

    At no point was I scared. We were both calm and rational – I wasn’t a screeching banshee and he wasn’t trying to be intimidating or threatening. Just a case of wrong place. I did follow the advice I was given, and took his picture and a pic of his license plate. I did, reluctantly, call the police (both property mgr and owner told me I should) but stressed that I believed it was just a mistake on his part, so they didn’t send anyone, just advised me to file an online report.

    We live in such a charged, hyperviolent world right now. He, a black man, mentioned several times that he was grateful that I, a white woman, didn’t shoot him (he didn’t mention race in his comments, but it was implied. I don’t actually have a weapon, but I didn’t mention that!) I kept thinking how easily this could have gone so, so wrong for him, and people shouldn’t have their lives put in jeopardy for a simple mistake (next time, get an actual address, not a bldg description.) If the police had come, how would they have reacted? Would this have ended up as a headline in the local news?

    A lot of my reaction was guided by what I have learned on this site, actually, by the danger authority can pose to people of color, and how 911 calls can end in tragedy. I have asked myself if I was too trusting, if I should have insisted on them coming out, but I really don’t think so; I am at peace with this decision. Such an odd thing to have happen though.

    1. miel*

      What an unexpectedly eventful afternoon!

      I am so, so glad that you were able to sort it all out without any harm to anyone involved. Well done, and thank you.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      There’s a story in the Gift of Fear about a woman dealing with a guy in her driveway who claimed to be at the wrong address but she knew he was full of it even though she’d been in the same situation countless times before and had never been suspicious. It was a snap decision, but later she realised he had been scouting around earlier, and he didn’t behave like someone who had been corrected in a mistake. I found it really interesting when reading Gavin de Becker that there are times when something should be actively scary, but isn’t, and times when something is posed as unthreatening, but we feel “irrational fear” because we pick up on the threat anyway. He says we are much better at predicting things instantaneously than we give ourselves credit for; think of how we know what other drivers are going to do even when ( or especially when) they’re bad ones. The mistakes come when we think about what we’re supposed to think instead of what we really think. If you look at the information in your situation, it all backs up your instant reaction: 1) burglars typically don’t use keys, especially not the wrong key. 2) there would have been no attempt at concealing or explaining the noise, leaving plenty of time for you to call for help, leading to a pretty solid conclusion that the person was probably not behaving in a suspicious way. I do think you’re still right about the potential dangers of the situation ending badly though; if you’d given the police a false impression because you were “supposed to” and you weren’t aware of the dangers of doing so, they would have come into a situation ready to misjudge based on the initial misjudgement.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        As a young teenager home alone, I once refused to let strange men in coveralls with a van come through the house. In that case their purported reason–to get at the power lines out back–made no sense as there was an alley. Eventually our very large dog came to see what was happening, and they left. When my parents got home I told them what had happened and they called the police.

        But since then? It’s been innocent misunderstandings. Occasionally people trying to “sell” what seems an obvious scam in the “oh this poor person, preyed on with the promise of a fresh start” sense. I have also been the person trying to find the house my child went to for an after school thing, on a road where few houses put up house numbers. (Put up house numbers, people!) And aware that being a small harmless looking white woman really worked to my advantage in walking up to a strange house to say I was picking up my friend from Bobby’s, and the person knew where Bobby lived.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          My daughter was 15 or 16 when she was home alone and called me because there was a man outside the house. He pounded on the door and rang the bell. When she didn’t answer, he went back to his car and was sitting there in front watching the house. I happened to be a few blocks away on my way home so I came tearing into the driveway a few minutes later. He got out of the car and started to yell at me about why no one had answered the door. At which point I told him he was lucky I was close enough to home that I hadn’t told my kid to call 911, and that if he didn’t get off my property immediately I was going to do just that. He left.

          We figure out that my husband was in the process of trying to hire a contractor and this guy had been sent by one of the companies to take a look at the job. No appointment. No call ahead to see if we were home and available. My husband, um, provided feedback to the company and we did not hire them. My kid is now 23 and still talks about this as one of the scariest incidents of her life.

      2. There You Are*

        At a convention once, where my hotel was not the convention hotel, I was walking back to my hotel at about 2:00 AM in that city’s downtown, drunk as a skunk.

        I passed a group of guys standing around chatting. One of them peeled away from the group saying, “Well, it’s getting late. I better get back to the hotel,” and followed me to my hotel.

        At that hour, you had to use your room key to badge in. I got to the front door at the same time another convention goer walked up (he had his lanyard on), and the guy behind me quick-stepped it to make it through the [sliding] door before it closed and said, Thanks!”

        He walked to the elevator bank with me and Other Convention Goer and my spidey sense screamed at me. So I made a hard left and went straight to the front desk. I told the Night Desk guy that someone had followed me in and that I didn’t think he was a hotel guest.

        I was turning to gesture at the elevator bank, to indicate that the dude had gone up, but — nope — he was sitting in the very dark breakfast area opposite the elevators.

        The front desk guy came out from behind the desk and Following Man hightailed it out the door.

        I don’t even want to think about how far sideways things could have gone if I told myself, “I’m sure he’s a guest; everything will be fine.”

        And I’m super glad to know that my “gift of fear” works just fine when I have spent the entire night at an open bar. :-)

    3. Texan In Exile*

      I am curious to know why you called the police even though you seemed to be pretty sure it was an honest mistake.

      1. 2023 is Ending Soon*

        Because both the prp mgr and the owner told me to do that. It was such a strange event I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. And if there was a break in later, I needed to be able to say I’d covered all the bases.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Yep. I would’ve considered calling while the person was trying to get in, but once I felt confident that I was safe there’s no need. Honestly with the person being a Black man even if I did feel a little uneasy I’d err on the side of not calling because I truly don’t think police would improve the situation. Manager/owner can be the ones to report it if they really think it’s necessary.

    4. Shy Platypus*

      This whole story is wild to me, like I would’ve been spooked by the key thing but to think that this guy could’ve been shot if he’d made the same mistake at the house of someone less level-headed than you? Like, get a gun regulation system America!

      1. 2023 is Ending Soon*

        Oh yes, regrettably there have been several high profile instances in the last year, in other cities, of young people being shot because they knocked on the wrong door. Usually at night, of course, but not always.

    5. Yikes*

      I live in an apartment complex. There are many elderly people here. A couple of times, I’ve had individuals open the door and get ready to walk into the apartment. It was obvious they mixed doors up. I felt sorry for them.

      But I would definitely freak out if this startled me in the middle of the night or something.

  13. Porch Screens*

    I’m looking for recommendations on a good, basic coffee maker that isn’t too terribly expensive. While neither I nor my husband are coffee drinkers, my parents are and my mother has occasionally commented on our lack of one when they come to visit. So for Christmas this year I thought I would get a coffee maker, for her, to keep at our house for when she visits. Both parents drink their coffee straight and black, with no creamers or anything fancy and I don’t need the option to make iced drinks or anything like that. Thanks in advance!

      1. RagingADHD*

        Seconding the French press. They don’t take up much room in the cabinet, are low effort to use and clean, and make good tasting coffee. All you need is a kettle to heat the water.

        If you want an all in one unit, any basic drip coffee maker works on the same principle. The higher price points are for reliability / sturdiness, and for occasional use that won’t matter.

      2. Not A Manager*

        Ask how they make coffee at home. If they like a french press, that’s fine, but a lot of people don’t love the silt you tend to get in the cup. If they use an automatic drip coffee maker with a paper filter, buy a cone in the appropriate size, and some paper filters. Get fresh ground coffee before they arrive.

        If you want to be fancy you can get a ceramic cone, but the cheap plastic ones work just as well. They’re only there to hold the paper filter. Chemex is legitimately the best pour-over option, but it’s expensive. Again, it’s the filters that make the difference, not the carafe.

        1. Jay*

          With a French Press (or one of those old fashioned perk. pots, for that matter) you need to use very course ground coffee. Regular ground gets you grounds in your coffee. I love French Press coffee, but most days I don’t really have time or energy to do much more than groggily fumble at a button on my drip pot that I prepared the night before. So I went on Amazon and bought a small coffee/spice grinder. So I grind up my weekday drip coffee every couple of days at the fine setting, and my weekend French Press coffee at the course setting just before making the pot.

          1. Gyne*

            I use regular grounds from the grocery store and there is a bit of sediment at the bottom of the cup but it’s mostly fine. But good point – that may bother some people.

            These days I make coffee with a pourover chemex but I didn’t suggest that since it also requires filters and takes up more space on the counter/doesn’t fit in the cabinet.

            As a houseguest, I wouldn’t expect my hosts to have coffee if it wasn’t something they drink normally! I’d probably just do without or bring my own instant if I thought I’d be desperate.

      3. Deedee*

        My gripe with a French press is that by the time you have finished the process, the coffee is not very hot.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          Insulated French press! Mine is double-walled and it’s great. I usually make a large pot and then move into my carafe which is even better insulated, but the French press alone stays pretty hot for a good deal of time – especially if I preheat it.

          1. Deedee*

            Oooh! I’ll look for an insulated French press. I have an insulated carafe already. Thanks for the tip!

    1. miel*

      I was recently in a similar position. On my mom’s advice I got the Mr. Coffee from Target. It was $20 and has one button, which is the correct number of buttons in my opinion. Coffee filters and a bag of generic coffee grounds brought the grand total to $30. My guests seem perfectly happy with the setup.

      1. Flames on the Side of My Face*

        Agreed! No need to do anything complicated or expensive. Hell, my husband and I are major coffee drinkers with strong opinions on our specialty coffee beans, and even we are satisfied with our standard, reliable Mr. Coffee (and it’s lasted ten years so far)

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yup, my parents have a fancy keurig at home and gave me their handmedown Mr Coffee, which lives in its box in my basement closet in between their visits.

      3. WellRed*

        Yep, and it’s available in a small size. Unless someone likes to futz around with coffee equipment just get a drip coffeemaker. I’d be truly bummed to try to fuss with a French press.

        1. Pippa K*

          Ha, see, I think of it in a completely opposite way – the French press is small, doesn’t need to be plugged in so I don’t have to find a kitchen outlet for it, doesn’t need filters, can in a pinch be used for brewing tea, etc. We normally use an espresso machine but keep a French press around for making coffee for people who don’t like espresso. I’ve even bought a metal insulated-wall French press for camping.

      4. Deedee*

        My daughter has the cheapest Mr. Coffee in her guest suite and when I visit her I am always happy with the coffee it makes. She has a Wolf coffee maker in the kitchen which also makes good coffee but IMO not really any better to justify the expense.

      5. WestsideStory*

        The small Mr coffee types are great. I use a Cuisinart version that makes two cups and I use it every weekday. To go with, get them a permanent gold filter accessory so you don’t have to bother with paper filters ever after.

    2. Helvetica*

      A Bialetti stovetop! It’s sometimes also called a moka pot and it doesn’t have to be Bialetti brand, though I find that the original is the best. It makes great strong coffee, less intense than espresso but stronger than a regular cup of coffee.
      Only thing to watch out for is that they don’t work on induction (unless you get a specific one).

      1. Phryne*

        Seconded. If they like strong coffee or espresso, a moka is the best. For slightly less strong coffee you can make it and add a splash of hot boiled water to the cup. And yes, the classic aluminium type is for gas stoves, but you can get them for induction too.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I love my bialetti, but it’s a bit of a ritual. For someone who doesn’t drink coffee regularly, or for guests who just want any old cup of coffee, it is rather fiddly to set up and take apart for cleaning.

    3. Lifelong student*

      When I visit family members who are not coffee drinkers, I bring coffee bags with me! I drink black coffee and the bags (like tea bags) make perfectly acceptable coffee- don’t require any filters, and don’t end up with waste. I have taken them on international trips as well since I find coffee in other cultures to be too strong for my taste.

      1. Anon. Scientist*

        I have a box of coffee bags for Thanksgiving, which is the only time people will come over and want coffee. I’m not going to buy a specific appliance that I don’t know how to use and then deal with coffee grades / fineness of grinding for a maximum of 2 cups per year.

      2. Pharmgirl*

        Can you recommend a brand? A lot of times when I travel the coffee option is Keurig, which I don’t really like. I’d love to bring my own coffee and this seems like a good option.

        1. Lifelong student*

          I think I buy Maxwell House. I will admit they are sometimes hard to find in my local grocery although I know they are in some grocery stores. I did buy them on Amazon once.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I like Copper Cow pourovers. They make flavors but also a Classic Black. Most coffee bags aren’t strong enough for me, but these are good and the coffee is high quality. Not cheap, but for a trip rather than everyday I would do it.

    4. Bo Peep*

      Would they be okay with instant coffee? I keep it in the house for those rare occasions someone wants coffee and I can’t be bothered to get out the giant Ninja machine. They sell it in both single serve packets and containers and have decaf too.

      1. nws2002*

        The Nescafe Classico instant coffee isn’t bad at all. I keep it at my lake cabin since it has such a small kitchen and doesn’t need another appliance on the counter. I drink black coffee every morning but will admit I’m not picky and often drink Maxwell House at home.

    5. Double A*

      I drink coffee every day and I use a simple plastic pour over thing I got for like $5 at the grocery store. I got annoyed having a bulky single use appliance that involved multiple parts I had to clean by hand, even though it’s something I use a lot. Or maybe because I use it a lot. I’d be annoyed storing something like that just to use a few times a year. I find the pour over makes equivalent coffee to the machine, but I can put it in the dishwasher.

      I do have an electric kettle, so that’s the appliance I choose to keep on my counter.

      Anyway my method doesn’t make a very nice gift but it does minimize space!

    6. Can't Sit Still*

      I used to have a tiny, 2-cup drip coffee maker. I used good filters and whatever pre-ground coffee and it was fine. This week is a great time to get deals on coffee makers, though. If you want to splurge, a small grind and brew machine might be a nice surprise for her. But really, any drip coffee maker will do for black coffee. Filtered water and good coffee filters (bad filters can add an unpleasant taste to the coffee) are all that’s required for a great cup of coffee.

      If you really want to treat her and know what kind of coffee she prefers, just before her visit, buy some coffee beans and have them ground in the store (your grocery store probably has a coffee grinder, but just about any coffee shop sells whole beans and will grind them for you). There is a noticeable difference between fresh ground beans and pre-ground beans, especially for black coffee drinkers.

      Also, not what you asked, but a jar of instant espresso will keep forever.

    7. Girasol*

      When my old coffee maker gave up the ghost I went to Walmart for their bargain variety 4-cup coffee maker, sort that uses paper filters. It’s like the one in so many hotel rooms, a simple to use pour-over machine. IIRC it cost $10 plus $2 for a pack of filters. As long as the coffee that goes in it is good quality, it makes a fine cup of black coffee.

    8. mmmmmmmBop*

      How about a chemex? You can use it as a water pitcher when they’re not visiting, and it doesn’t take up more real estate if you need to stow it in a cupboard. It’s also much easier to clean than most coffee makers.

    9. Observer*

      I’ve had good luck with the Aeropress. But it’s only for people who don’t drink a LOT of coffee or a very large cup. It’s also the messiest option I dealt with.

      I now have a small 5 cup electric pot that works well. Keep in mind that a “cup” of coffee is actually only 6 oz not 8, and you don’t have to fill it up for 5 cups. So for me, this works well to make one “extra large” coffee in the morning. I got it at Walmart, and for occasional use, it should be OK. You can use disposable filters, which makes sense since your parents are not there all the time. I also have an inexpensive one cup machine which uses either a pod or grounds in a different basket.

      If you want other non-electric options, and pour over with paper filters should work. I it’s easy and really inexpensive, but I’m not overly impressed by the results, and it can be a pain to use if you using something like hot water urn rather than a kettle you can pick up. The other option I liked was something like the Bodum Chambored that someone else mentioned. I’ve seen a few different ones, and they all seem to work pretty much the same. It’s not messy and very straightforward to use.

  14. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Everyone share what you’ve been reading and give or request recs.

    I just started a book called American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. It’s about a mother and son who flee to the US when their entire family gets murdered by a drug lord. I’m reading it for a book club and a little unsure; it’s well written so far but I’m trying to decide if I’m down for this sort of heaviness this weekend or if I should wait a bit (book club isn’t for another couple of weeks; I’m just trying to get the book finished and back to the library so others in our group can also get it).

    1. Teapot Translator*

      That book rings a bell. I think it was critized for its depiction of the migrant experience? I have read nothing this week. November is sapping all of my energy. But I got the new Murderbot books, so I have that to look forward to once I get over this slump.

      1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        If I remember correctly, it was criticized as yet another book by White person about non-white people and people were recommended books written by authors with more lived experience of migrants.

        1. Jackalope*

          I’m not very far in so I can’t give much of a critique. I will say however that the author is Latina, although she is not Mexican. She is the second generation of her family born in the US and the stories she heard from her grandmother on immigrating and the injustices she dealt with are part of why she wrote this book. She also married someone who was an undocumented immigrant, and that affected her story a lot. So while I agree that we should read a lot of different stories about this subject and we should definitely look for stories from people who crossed the border, I think her background gives her legitimacy in writing on this issue.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Just to be clear, she had mostly identified as white until her book came out (she has a Puerto Rican grandparent) and her husband was undocumented, yes, but from Ireland. That matters.

            1. Jackalope*

              That definitely matters (and I’m slightly embarrassed that I missed the fact that her grandmother came to the mainland from Puerto Rico several years after it became a U.S. territory so that wouldn’t count as immigration per se, although it’s still a big cultural shift). And again, I strongly support the need to read books written by authors who have immigrated over the southern border. (Out of the dozen or so books I’ve read on this subject, this is the only one whose author has never lived in Central or South America.) I just think it’s also important to consider the ways in which her past has also given her some insights that are relevant to the book she wrote.

              1. Teapot Translator*

                Please let us know what you thought of her book once you’ve read it! As I said, I only know if it because I heard about the controversy (don’t even know why I heard about the controversy).

                1. word nerd*

                  One thing that bugged me from a language perspective was that it would throw in Spanish words, but only the ones that non-Spanish speakers would usually know. It felt like it was catering to the typical White American book club audience–ooh, look how authentic this is with real Spanish! (but don’t worry, Spanish you already know)

              2. ThatGirl*

                I haven’t read the book, but I’m definitely aware of the controversy. It’s not that she can’t possibly have anything interesting to say, but she shouldn’t pretend that the experience of a white Irish undocumented immigrant is anything like that of someone from Mexico or Central America.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  Retired Accountant, I’m aware it’s a novel, but she played up her husband’s experience as relevant.

      2. Seashell*

        I liked American Dirt, but the controversy seemed to be mainly about the author being of a different ethnicity than the characters she was writing and not being an immigrant.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          The controversy, as I understood it, was more about the wider media promoting that book while ignoring the many Latine writers sharing stories informed and infused by real experiences that have the same themes this book was praised for.

          The author herself wrote in the author’s note, “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it” and it didn’t land well that there *are* writers who are writing and publishing, yet publishers weren’t giving them the same attention for the same themes and more accurate stories.

          1. Jackalope*

            This has been an interesting and helpful set of discussions about the book (I say “set of discussions” because people have posted on this throughout the reading thread and I wasn’t sure where I should post my reply). I didn’t know anything about the book when I heard that we chose it (we choose 2 months out and I was gone that night), so everything I knew about it was from having read the first 40 pages or so. But I will take this to my book club when we discuss it and see what happens.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          … and also it was being hailed and acclaimed by many reviewers before being published. I think they assumed or the author misled them that she was writing in her own voice when she had previously in her life identified as a white woman.

      3. Teapot Translator*

        I just remembered that I am reading Le mage du Kremlin (Il mago del Cremlino, originally) by Giuliano da Empoli. I’m not sure I’m going to like it. It was recommended by a friend and it won a prize, but I’m 50 pages in and not feeling it.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I finished The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman and wasn’t a fan. I spent a good chunk of it trying to remember why it was on my to-read list at all, and eventually realized it was because it has a “fictional book within a book” which I think is a really cool concept, but didn’t enjoy in this one.

      Reading This is How You Lose the Time War now.

    3. Jackalope*

      I just had a thought on a recommendation request. There’s a new-ish genre that I call “witchy romance”; generally set up in the modern here and now with characters that are witches (and other magic users or supernatural beings). I read one series that I really liked, the Thistle Grove series by Lana Harper, and the genre is becoming really popular, but I haven’t been able to find more that I like as much as I liked TG. Queer authors are a plus, whether or not the story itself is queer; I’ve read too many romance novels (and novels with romance in them) lately that have icky gender dynamics of the “Are the straights okay?” type energy and I want to avoid that if I can. I also prefer to avoid the 3rd act breakup if possible, although if it’s done for good reasons and not just because one or both of the main characters was hit by the idiot stick I might be okay with it. Any thoughts?

        1. Queer Earthling*

          You know how some stories or anecdotes are presented as normal but have really uncomfortable dynamics? The tweets about how much someone hates her gross husband lol doesn’t everyone though, or stories where the characters don’t seem to actually like each other but seem to be falling in love anyway because it’s expected (and not in a fun enemies-to-lovers way but in a ‘yeah of course this is how relationships work’ way)? Or those weird gendered things where, say, a woman is dressing a way she doesn’t like because she has to and is rewarded by the narrative for performing femininity properly, or something.

          I’m explaining it badly, but it’s a really common observation/joke in the queer community. You see allo-straight-cis people who hate each other or hate their lives specifically because of heteronormativity or gender expectations and you ask, “Are the straights okay?” and the answer is usually “no” lol

          1. word nerd*

            Mm ok so if the guy gets weirdly possessive and jealous but that’s presented as attractive because that shows how much he cares about her, would that count? Because I hate it when romance novels do that!

            1. Jackalope*

              Yes, that totally counts! Also, the thing that I bounced off of in a book I was reading recently (one where the characters get thrown together into an unexpected marriage and then fall in love): the male lead was being all authoritative and telling the female lead what she could and couldn’t do, and this was presented as romantic and thrilling. At one point she started to do something related to her -perfectly normal- career and he stopped her and told her basically, “My wife will NOT do [this career],” and it was presented as him being caring or something? And I was thinking about how much she actually LIKED her career, and this was not in any way romantic to me.

            2. Person from the Resume*

              That is exactly it.

              Also that sounds like stalking but because he’s the romantic hero, it’s okay.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        OK this isn’t witchy romance but it deals with rumors of witchcraft, so maybe tangentially related? I read A Special Place for Women a few months ago and ended up enjoying it way way more than I expected. Highly recommend!

    4. ThatGirl*

      I read it a few months ago, but can I recommend My Name is Iris by Brando Skyhorse as a counterbalance.

      1. Not Totally Subclinical*

        Is it better than Death in Daylesford? Despite being a Phyrne Fisher fan, I bounced off that one on first read; I finally managed to get through it, but it didn’t leave me looking forward to more.

    5. miel*

      American Dirt starts heavy and keeps getting heavier. There is death, violence, and sexual assault. Just a heads up.

      It’s also one of those stories that really stuck with me. The images keep coming back to me.

      Of course it’s fiction, and the author (controversially) has little personal experience, but from my understanding (and conversations with people who’ve traveled north) many of the plot points are fairly realistic.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      After reading about it here, I just finished A Night in the Lonesome October, and loved it! Also just started The Dark Side of the River, a collection of short ghost stories by Jeanette Wintersen. Also bought the Edith Wharton collection Ghosts.

      Just finished The Final Girls Support Group as well–it’s a good, swift read, but I think the characters were a little thin, especially the way they kept blaming the main character for everything, to a ridiculous degree. Although that was kind of the author’s point–even in this group of women who’ve gone through the absolute worst thing possible the impulse is to deny and refuse to believe what’s happening.

      Next up: Christmas reading begins! I read Connie Willis (Doomsday Book and her short stories), A Christmas Carol, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, assorted collections of stories and essays, and new stuff every year. This year I picked up Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, Topsy Turvy Christmas, and Skipping Christmas. Onward!

    7. Lemonwhirl*

      I just finished reading “Baby Island” by Carol Ryrie Brink. It’s a middle-grade novel that was written in the late 1930s and is about a pair of sisters who are shipwrecked with 4 babies (toddler twins, a year-ish old baby, and a 4-month old infant). I read it because it’s discussed in a bonus episode of the You’re Wrong About podcast. It’s…an interesting product of its time, and I enjoyed reading it.

      Now I’m reading “Foster” by Claire Keegan. I loved the Irish-language movie that was made based on the book and am enjoying the book as much. It’s also a delightfully short read, so I can get to my pre-ordered Murderbot book. :)

      1. Inkhorn*

        Were the toddler twins named Elisha and Elijah? If so I read that book back in the day (and apparently have an oddball collection of thirty-year-old trivia stored in my brain).

        I’ve just finished The Dictionary People by Sarah Ogilvie, about the ordinary – and not-so-ordinary – volunteers who sent in words and quotations for the OED. It’s an absolute delight for word nerds, in 26 chapters with titles like “M is for Murderers” and “V is for Vicars (and Vegetarians)”.

        1. word nerd*

          Oh hello there, did you call me by name? And did you happen to know one of my favorite “genres” is books about dictionaries? Of course I must put this on the list, even though I already have two language-related library books to read (The Adventure of English and Letter Perfect) sitting on my desk.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            You would probably like The Liar’s Dictionary, which I am reading at the moment. (You may have recommended it.) The word nerd aspects are aces; I am a bit unsure where the plot is going.

            A delightful detail is that one of the words that should exist for a concept in 1899, but does not, is “hangover.” On looking it up, its first use in that sense is 1902.

            1. word nerd*

              You know, I have to admit I didn’t like The Liar’s Dictionary much (or The Dictionary of Lost Words, which I totally thought would have been right up my alley). I should amend my original statement because I think I tend to prefer nonfiction about dictionaries.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I want to thank you for this post, because last night I got to the midpoint and still didn’t have any sense of where the two plot lines were going or how they would entwine (I was expecting a ghost fighting some sort of elaborate heist) and so I flipped to then end, and determined that by my lights nothing terribly interesting was going to happen.

                I am now reading A City on Mars, about all the practical problems of actually settling off the planet.

          2. Nervous Nellie*

            Ah! In the ‘well, then you might also like’ vein, give these a shot: Lempriere’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk and The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams. Both are engrossing stories, and have lots of obscure words embedded throughout!

          3. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

            Have you read The Great Passage by Shion Miura (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)? It’s about the creation of a new Japanese dictionary.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I have fond memories of Baby Island, which I was probably reading in the late 70s, early 80s.

        … I just realized that we kind of copied the crab-impact-on-psyche scene, in that when my son was a toddler I tried to show him a crab, which pinched me and ran off, and THE CRAB THAT BIT MOMMY became a formative memory for him.

      3. fposte*

        Oh, I remember Baby Island! It was one of the few survival/shipwreck stories to that date that had female protagonists. So naturally they had to have a handful of babies, because girls, amirite?

        1. Lemonwhirl*

          Yeah, it was interesting how resourceful the girls were but also that all that resourcefulness was in furtherance of taking care of the babies.

          One of my favorite books when I was a kid was Z for Zachariah, which involved a girl living alone in a valley after a nuclear war (? I think…might be fuzzy on the details.) No babies in sight, but maybe that’s the difference between the 30s and the 80s.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            I read Z for Zachariah 10 years ago. Your memory is correct. Country girl survives nuclear holocaust because of the geography of her family’s homestead. It realistically bleak. Dystopian.

            She’s a teen – a naive sheltered 16 year old. Eventually an adult man shows up, and he decides he want to repopulate the species with her. Very creepy and gross. Which leads to a very dystopian ending … that was probably going to happen anyway because full on nuclear war in the 1970s is the end of the world.

            Bleak but an enjoyable read. The main character is plucky and spunky but is just caught up in the end of the world all alone.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean, it’s kind of like Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels.

          I thought a real downfall on the plotting of Lost was that having kids to take care of should have pulled the castaways together more. “More vulnerable people whom we should protect” is an element missing from too many survival stories.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Oh I think I read that!

        I still have her book Caddie Woodlawn floating around somewhere. I loved it as a child, although its depiction of Native Americans is pretty cringe.

        1. Lemonwhirl*

          I’ve never read Caddie Woodlawn. Might need to check it out, but I will be ready for the cringe.

      5. Jessica*

        i remember baby island! didn’t remember it was by the author of caddie woodlawn. can you tell us anything about what the podcast addresses?

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      The new Murderbot! Follows directly on the previous novel timeline wise. A lot of fun.

      A novella from Connie Willis, Take a Look at the Five and Ten, one of her Christmas stories. About the family you keep even if the marriages that led to the relationship end, and about older relatives who keep telling the same story over and over. Its central theme, joy, really stuck with me and led to my post upthread.

      Pretty good; a little roadbump with some mildly exasperating tropes at the end. (Also “He was dating my horrible current sort of step-step sister” does seem a more dramaful way to meet your sweet baboo than was perhaps intended? I liked her Christmas story where the bridezilla melts down, the wedding is called off, the groom turns to the noble maid of honor who has been crushing on him all this time… and the viola player pops up and is like “Nope, up until two minutes ago you were engaged to that hot mess; I think she should date a normal person with their life together.”)

      1. word nerd*

        It was fun to be back in the Murderbot world, but I was disappointed that it was only half the length of Network Effect.

        1. failed security consultant*

          I found it harder to get into at first, since I tried and failed to become a security consultant in real life since the last book, and I’m having lots of emotions about that (!) but it was good to get back and I settled back in eventually.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Hee, I love both of those! Especially Just Like The Ones We Used to Know, for both that wedding mess and the idea that somewhere businessmen could be compelled to cough up funding to study climate change.

    9. Nervous Nellie*

      This week I am reading the Stanley Elkin brick of a book, George Mills. It is a tangled story of 50 generations of George Millses, from the first crusades forward. and the curse placed on each son so named that prevents each one from reaching his self-improvement goals. It’s a Sisyphean puzzle, and I can’t put it down.

    10. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m reading The Good Enough Job and loving it. Previously I read Thornhedge and also loved it?

    11. carcinization*

      Still reading The Mountain in the Sea, and The Shadow of What was Lost, concentrating more on the latter because I have more left to read. I did take a little break to re-read The Ocean at the End of the Lane because the book club I’m in was discussing it on Thursday. I guess I liked it a little better the second time around.

    12. Bluebell*

      I enjoyed Ten Things that Never Happened by Alexis Hall- a fluffy gay romance. Also reading Lucinda Williams’ memoir which has a lot of interesting family background in it.

    13. Jamie Starr*

      Just about to start Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer. It’s about how/if we can be fans of artists who are problematic in some way. Chapters on Nabakov, Michael Jackson, JK Rowling, Picasso, etc.. Even Joni Mitchell has a section which I was kind of surprised about. (Spoiler: it has to do with her giving up a child for adoption in favor of having a music career.)

      1. Observer*

        Even Joni Mitchell has a section which I was kind of surprised about. (Spoiler: it has to do with her giving up a child for adoption in favor of having a music career.)

        That makes her a “monster”? Even as an admittedly hyperbolic usage, I think it’s over the top.

        Look, I don’t really *understand* it, but that is a *very* bad metric to judge people on. I bet that a lot of people don’t understand the things I do. And I bet that that’s true of a lot of people. But that doesn’t make her someone so morally bad that one should not ever listen to her music.

        1. feline outerwear catalog*

          It’s been a while since I read it, but the whole point of the book is grappling with whether or not it’s ok to continue to consume or enjoy media by people who have done things that are considered morally rephrensible. The struggle is real and there’s no easy answer.

          1. Observer*

            I understand. But there are levels of “morally reprehensible.” And giving up a newborn when you are a single parent with no source of income is not something that I think falls into the category of some of the others.

        2. Jamie Starr*

          I haven’t read the book yet — just skimmed through it. It’s brought up in the context of how society judges women who prioritize their careers over motherhood, particularly in the 60s when counter culture was looked down on and particularly when the career is music. I don’t think the author is saying Joni is a monster. The author is asking exploring how/if fans can separate the artist from their art, especially if they find something the artist has done distasteful. But again, I haven’t read the book closely — my hunch is that the author is *not* putting Joni in the same level as someone like Picasso or Hemingway.

    14. Annie Edison*

      Currently reading Lords and Ladies as part of my sporadic journey through discworld, and I’ve got two books I’ve been looking forward to lined up on my kindle for Thanksgiving break: demon Copperfield, and Murder and Mamon (newest book in a cozy mystery series I’ve been enjoying)

      1. allathian*

        I’m about half way through Lords and Ladies, and have been for about a year. I love Discworld but I’m having a hard time with this one for some reason.

        1. Angstrom*

          I think it’s because the fairies are cruel in a way that rarely happens in the Discworld. Criminals in the Diskworld are usually criminals for a logical reason, such as money. The fairies are cruel because they enjoy it, and that’s unsettling.

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

      Elie Wiesel’s novella *Dawn*, which is about what war does to our humanity. I found it super interesting.

      1. Retired Accountant*

        That was a good article. I remember the barbed wire part.

        The publishing world, and the art world in general is filled with “better” works that are exponentially more successful than “lesser” works, so that part didn’t bother me per se.

        I did’t read American Dirt but I did read and love Rebecca Mskkai’s Great Believers. She was asked in an interview if she felt she had the right to tell the story of the AIDS crisis in Chicago through the eyes of a gay male protagonist. She said the question wasn’t whether she had the right to tell the story but whether she told it well. And we all can decide that question for ourselves.

        (I didn’t read American Dirt because a) we all don’t read most books; there are a lot of them and b) I had read Parul Seghal’s review and it didn’t appeal to me.)

    16. Person from the Resume*

      I just finished the 2nd book in Lev AC Rosen’s Andy Mills series, The Bell in the Fog.

      Andy Mills is making his way as a PI in post-WWII San Francisco. He’s a former cop caught in a raid by his coworkers on a gay bar. In book 1, The Lavender House, he is about to kill himself after being outed and fired but he’s hired by a lesbian to solved the locked house possible murder of her wife. In book 2, Andy is more involved in the gay community now and takes on a blackmail case which brings him back into contact with friends from his time in the Navy.

      Highly tecommend both books.

    17. Ali + Nino*

      I am about 50ish pages into Indigenous Continent: The Contest for North America and I can’t decide whether it’s too…textbook-y to continue reading. The author is a professor, I believe at Cambridge, it’s a subject I’m interested in, but I have 400 more pages to go. I guess I’m not hating it, and he is an excellent writer, but maybe once I find something I’m more into I’ll drop it.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I have definitely read or tried to read some books on important ideas I’m interested in that are too dry to really enjoy. Usually they were written by academics or were at some point a thesis published as a book.

    18. cleo*

      I just finished babel-17 by Samuel R Delaney. My first time reading Delaney and I enjoyed it – it’s an engrossing, thought-provoking and weird SF classic that felt remarkably fresh to me. I read it for the Queer Your Year challenge (specifically – read a queer book published the decade you were born) and I’m glad I finally read Delaney. Will probably read more by him.

      For my fellow fluffy queer romance fans, I highly recommend Let Love Rule by Frances M. Thompson. Bi4bi m/f work rivals to lovers with a little fake dating thrown in. I enjoyed both characters and their growing connection – the set up is tropey but the tropes didn’t overwhelm the emotions, at least for me.

      1. Foila*

        Be sure to read Babel-17’s better companion novella, Empire Star! I liked both but thought Empire Star was smarter and more fun.

    19. GoryDetails*

      I started reading The Boys by Ron and Clint Howard, and am enjoying it very much. The brothers seem to have an excellent relationship – with each other and with their parents – and, for the most part, have had good experiences with their careers on the small and large screens. (Their father, Rance Howard, was a very capable actor himself, though for most of his career he played background roles – especially while supporting his sons in their child-actor years. His parenting style sounds awesome – involved but not “helicopter” style, allowing the boys to explore options while living up to their responsibilities, answering their questions about difficult subjects with clear honesty… I was pleased to find that one of Rance Howard’s last roles was a stellar performance in the “ER” TV series, as a cutting-edge doctor, mentor to some of the series’ core characters, now in advanced age and floating in and out of the past as he’s dying. He manages to make a key diagnosis in a moment of lucidity, and his entire performance is amazing.)

      The Howard boys’ careers weren’t always without trauma, especially poor Clint, who as a child-actor was involved with more than one production that played horribly fast and loose with animal-welfare issues; those bits were hard for me to read. But overall the family sounds like a fine bunch of people, similar in some ways to my own family (and from the same era – Ron’s only a couple of years younger than I am), and I’m enjoying their anecdotes about their lives as well as their careers.

  15. 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 played a round of my campaign in D&D this week and it went so well! I’m still a total newbie in running, at least compared to other players I know, and I normally have a hard time forming a creative mental image. But this time I knew what I wanted and I was able to set the scene well and it was a lot of fun. My players thought my setting was creepy, which wasn’t intentional on my part, but I was having them go to the Land of the Dead, so I can understand their perspective. And I got to use a bunch of pigeon liches controlled by a hive mind, and it doesn’t get much more different and unique than that.

    1. NotAMimic*

      I have DND this afternoon! I’m especially excited because we weren’t able to meet at all in October (we’re all adults with kids and several have jobs with weekend duties so meeting mostly monthly is a triumph). And I would not be surprised if we aren’t able to meet in December either.

      I’m running Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and the party is about to try to board and capture a pirate ship. Hopefully I can make everything feel good and swashbuckly.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      congrats on your d&d experience! If you haven’t found him already, take a look at Matthew Colville on You Tube. he has an absolutely wonderful series on running the game.

    3. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I finally finished Judgment. That ending hits like a truck and I can’t wait to play Lost Judgment once Gaiden is done stomping all over my heart in soccer cleats.

      1. Super Arcade Kitten*

        Yay! I love Judgement. Lost Judgement is great too. A little dark but great. I love how much there is to do in these games. I am about 12 hours into Gaiden and love it so far.

  16. strikinglaw*

    Hey, tried posting this on Reddit but didn’t get a lot of replies so thought maybe someone here could help. Has anyone ever dealt with subrogation before?

    Details below:
    I was in a minor car accident some months ago in NYC. We exchanged information. No police were called. I don’t know if he filed an accident report after the fact (I did not, as the damage to my car was below the required limit; his car was a luxury vehicle, though, so his damage might’ve been more extensive).

    I didn’t hear anything for months, but then got a subrogation letter from Second Look Inc. The letter is a request for insurance information, citing a loss of around $3k that they are claiming was my fault on the date that my accident occurred and asking me to provide them with my insurance info. The thing is, the insurance company they’re claiming to represent is not the same insurance company the driver gave me; and also, I gave them my insurance information so why are they acting like they don’t have it if they investigated the incident? Other than the referenced date, I have no verification that this letter even refers to a real incident that happened to me.

    I called my own insurance company. They verified that no one has opened a claim with them, but were pretty unhelpful other than that. They said they’ve never seen this situation before and advised that I should call Second Look and tell them that they’re welcome to open a claim with my insurance if they want — and if they ask for my insurance info (which they will), I should say, “Well, you should have it.”

    As far as who is at fault: I was making a legal u-turn at an intersection; the guy tried to pass me and swiped the driver side of my car in the process. I believe he is at fault. To my knowledge there were no other dashcam/witnesses/etc.

    Any advice? Should I really just call Second Look and refuse to give them my insurance info because they should already have it? Has anyone ever been through anything like this before?

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      First, see if you can still file a police report this late. (I am a big believer in CYA.) Share it with your insurance and follow the instructions they’ve already given you.

      I’ve had my insurance handle subrogation for me before, but it’s always with the insurance company the other person provides.

    2. Jay*

      Do a quick Google search and look up reviews and complaints, especially to the Better Business Bureau.
      This is a very, to be generous, problematical, company.
      It looks like they buy the rights to collect theoretical “claims” and try to badger and intimidate people into paying without regard to weather or not they owe anything in the first place.
      I don’t know where you go from there, as it sounds like they don’t respond well (or at all) to the fact that money is not actually owed, but you might need to at least speak to a lawyer of some kind, just to make sure that you can safely block their number and ignore their calls.

    3. RagingADHD*

      This situation is giving red flags. It might be legit, but you are correct that the second company should already have the original file.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep, this feels super sketchy and dancing on the “just legal enough that we don’t get arrested” border at the very least.

    4. Audrey*

      Do what your insurance company said to do! This puts the ball back in their court and if they don’t have your info they can go back to their client and get it.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Call Second Look again if it will ease your mind, but don’t do anything more than give them the generally 1-800 number of your own insurance carrier. If it were me, I wouldn’t proactively call them back, but I’d wait for them to bug me again.

      They’re the ones who want to collect on this. It’s up to them to do the work for it. Don’t do their work for them. Don’t discuss the incident with them at all. Let them spend the time and effort to find out there wasn’t a police report and that you didn’t report it to your own insurance, either — I’m not sure how they’re going to establish that you owe any damages to another party when there is no documentation of the incident.

      If you have a friend who’s a lawyer, see if they’d be willing to accept paperwork from this company for the LOLs.

      1. Generic Name*

        This. I’m sure they sound Officially Scary, but I think it’s a scam. If it’s not, they should have the information they are asking you for!

    6. peter b*

      Formerly licensed P&C agent – Definitely follow your insurance’s advice or don’t bother calling them. If they’re legit (and definitely seems doubtful they are!) you pay your insurance liability premium so your company can handle this stuff for you. Don’t worry too much and refer to your own company if you have to.

    7. Chili Heeler*

      This sounds so sketchy. I’ve been contacted about collecting non-existent debts before and it sounds like this is similar. The first time I was contacted about owing a specific amount for a checking account that had been closed for years. At one point it was overdrafted when my paycheck bounced but that was fixed within a few days. The other was for a medical bill that had been paid (and confirmed) on time. Both of the amounts appeared correct to the penny, so they’d found a way to get legit-looking information.

      That is to say, even if they have details about you doesn’t mean they’re legitimate.

  17. Ginger Cat Lady*

    There’s a new Asian supermarket opening in my area soon! I am looking forward to checking it out. What things would you suggest I look for? Kinds of ramen that are better than Top Ramen, sauces, candies, drinks, I’m open to all of it. Specific products, or recipes where I can find ingredients there, any of that. I love trying new stuff.
    Unfortunately I can’t have anything the least bit spicy, so recommendations for stuff with no spice would be particularly helpful. (And I do mean NO heat, not just “it’s only a little spicy”)

    1. Jackalope*

      I remember very few details, but there’s a special kind of black rice you can get called either black rice or emperor’s rice, and you can make a sticky black rice pudding with it. I don’t have a specific recipe (a family member made it for me), but it was really good, and the basic recipe is more or less black rice, coconut milk (I think cow milk can be substituted), and sugar, so no concerns about spice level. I just did a quick look online and I saw several recipes that looked similar to each other so I’m sure you can find one.

      1. Angstrom*

        There’s also red rice or red harvest rice. Nice flavor, and, like black rice, is much more nutritious than white rice.

        1. Angstrom*

          Whoops! Red cargo rice.
          Also sweet potato noodles — clear like glass noodles, firmer texture than rice noodles.

      2. Venus*

        I have made rice with half water and half coconut milk and it was incredible. No extra sugar needed. Highly highly recommend.

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      Frozen treats like dumplings and scallion pancakes… as well as produce you can’t typically easily find — various squashes, greens, mushrooms. When you say not spicy, do you mean hot spices or ones with strong flavors?

      Have fun :)

      1. Ali*

        Oh yes, scallion pancakes! I love Lam Sheng Kee brand. They puff up almost into a ball in the pan for a moment during cooking, because the center is hollow.

    3. Pippa K*

      This is going to be oddly specific, but: Calbee JagaRico brand potato chip sticks, the Hokkaido butter flavor. These are the best salty snack I’ve had in ages.

      1. mreasy*

        Seconding Hokkaido butter flavor! Also limited edition Pocky flavors. There are these mini sandwich cookies in a hamburger themed box that are extremely special as well. Oh and the potato crisps called Turtle!

      1. beep beep*

        Is there non-spicy real kimchi? I can handle a little bit of spice, bu I’m led to understand HOT is the usual setting.

        1. sad*

          I think you are correct that HOT is normal, but near me there’s a woman that sells “white kimchi” which has no chili. It has garlic and onion, but no heat. Maybe look for that?

          1. Jay*

            This, so much this!
            I mostly don’t care for fermented cabbage foods, but I’ve actually had a “mild” kimchi at an Asian market in Boston that blew my socks off. It sounds a lot like the “white” kimchi Sad was talking about!

    4. RLC*

      Botan rice candy. Unlike any other sweet I’ve ever tried, have enjoyed it since childhood.
      If you’re a tea drinker, you might find a much broader selection of green and black teas at an Asian market than in a typical supermarket.

    5. DistantAudacity*

      Soba noodles! Buckwheat based, different usage than ramen noodles. They have a slightly nutty flavour.

      Vermicelli rice noodles – look up recipes for Arabic rice, which contains both rice and (fried) vermicelli, and tastes really great!

      Pre-Toasted sesame seeds were a personal revelation.

    6. Angstrom*

      Kerupuk! It’s a snack cracker made with tapioca flour that puffs up when fried, but the big win is that it also puffs up nicely in the microwave. The brand I’ve seen in stores is Komodo brand kerupuk udang(shrimp flavor) in a bright red package.

      1. Phryne*

        Kroepoek is very popular in the Netherlands as a snack, you can get all sorts in a regular supermarket here. Can confirm it is yummy. If you don’t like shrimp, there is a vegetarian version made of cassava.

    7. Phryne*

      Does ginger count as spicy? I love the ginger chewy candy myself, but I guess that it is spicy (though very different from chili spicy)

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Seconding chewy ginger candy! Also there is a candied? jellied? ginger in a glass jar that is wonderful spooned over salmon before grilling

    8. Phryne*

      Black sesame flavoured ice cream. Seaweed snacks. Sateh sauce (Indonesian peanut sauce). I also sometimes get dried herbs there, generally you can get them in bulk for cheaper. Types of dried beans you can’t get in your local supermarket (Ottolenghi has an excellent mung bean recipe, the only place I have found mung beans is in an Asian supermarket). Frozen dim sum.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I really like rice cakes, which are like chewy thick noodles. Kind of similar to gnocchi.

      My usual problem with ordering them in restaurants is that they are paired with super spicy things, so being able to get just the cakes and add them to a mild sauce would be nice.

    10. beep beep*

      My usual international market shopping list:

      -Udon and glass noodles
      -Sushi (short-grain) rice and sushi vinegar (which already has the sugar and other seasonings you’d add to regular vinegar) for making onigiri and spam musubi
      -Kewpie mayo, which has a richer flavor than American mayo
      -Nori (dried seaweed) sheets, also for the musubi
      -Furikake seasoning; goes on top of rice dishes and onigiri
      -Mooncakes if you can find them (sweet pastry filled with a sweet bean paste and a salted egg yolk, very rich, I usually eat one in four servings), usually around festival seasons like Chinese new year and the mid-autumn festival
      -If you like American Moon Pies, try out Choco Pies. There are other flavors than chocolate, and I like the cookie:marshmallow ratio better.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Was going to suggest furikake. I love it and I’m out of it right now. I need to find a good Asian market here.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          There’s a huge H Mart in Burlington if you’re in Mass. There’s also China Town in downtown Boston.

          1. Trixie*

            I’m looking forward to shopping there. I have yet to explore the H Mart here, and an International Fresh Market also just opened.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I hoped for something nearer where I am but Chinatown is close to where I get off for work. I’ve been wanting to explore more of the outlying area so I’ll make a note of the other, thanks!

      2. LimeRoos*

        Late to the party, but for Kewpie mayo fans, check out your local costco. Ours has started getting the big bottle for only $6.99 which is completely nuts since it’s like $10 – $13 depending on the store.

    11. BRR*

      The website (and now cookbook) Woks of life has lists of ingredients as well as recipes that use them. I also love recipes from Kenji Lopez Alt like his low mein. Pantry staples would be light and dark soy sauce, shaoxing wine, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I love getting frozen noodles from there as well as rice.

    12. Generic Name*

      Can you do horseradish heat (it’s a different kind of heat that hits your sinuses rather than your mouth)? If so, I’d go for Chinese hot mustard. I think it’s a powder you mix with rice vinegar?

      Also favorites of mine are shrimp chips, Botan rice candy, seaweed snacks, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, tamari soy sauce

    13. My Brain is Exploding*

      The last time I went to one I bought a bunch of things, and I LOVED the truffle chips! Lay’s makes them and they come in a can like Pringles.

    14. carcinization*

      Kecap Manis (thick medium-sweet soy sauce), ube halaya (purple sweet potato paste good in baking), Xiaoxing cooking wine… better versions of stuff you might already have like soy sauce, hoisin, etc. Shrimp chips are good for snacking, try some frozen dumplings or fun ice cream flavors of your choice, chrysanthemum tea in cans or juice-boxes is nice, powdered sachets of ginger drink are nice… um, I could clearly go on forever….

      1. carcinization*

        Okay, the only produce thing I thought of to specifically mention was king oyster mushrooms, I got some at an Asian market during the very early pandemic and they were definitely a highlight.

    15. Ali*

      The produce section at our local Asian supermarket is awesome. Absolutely beautiful vegetables. Bok choy, daikon, cucumbers, etc.

      1. Clisby*

        Ours, too. Fresh mushrooms, not just button/portabello or oyster mushrooms; daikon; bean sprouts.

        As a bonus, our Asian grocery includes a tiny Vietnamese restaurant; we often combine a shopping trip with lunch. They also sell whole roast duck (with the heads on, like in A Christmas Story). We bought one once, and my husband had to break out his cleaver to chop the head off.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      If you’re into tofu at all, Asian markets often have it in the freezer section for way less than the grocery store. I used to get these big blocks at the Japanese market in OldCity for just a couple of bucks. Also very large bags of sticky rice.

    17. Cynthia*

      I love a drink called Aquarius that I’ve only ever found in Japanese markets – it’s a very lightly carbonated citrus drink. The candied citrus peels found in Asian markets are often really delightful too.

      I’d also get onigiri (some kind of filling, usually fish or meat, wrapped in rice, which is then wrapped in seaweed) to eat on the way home! They are easy to make at home but the supermarket ones always taste better to me!

    18. Ginger Cat Lady*

      So many amazing ideas here! Making a shopping list that will take multiple weeks to move through, I’m excited. Thank you all for the ideas!

    19. Chili Heeler*

      Chinkiang black vinegar. I splash it into a lot of things, especially sauces or soups. It has a wonderful depth of flavor and the acid can help bring out other flavors. I like the one with a yellow label and yellow cap. I also get vegetarian oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce (Wan Ja Shan brand) there.

      If they have baked goods, grab a pineapple bun. They are not pineapple flavored, it is about their appearance. They’re soft and lightly sweet.

  18. Jackalope*

    I wasn’t the person that was going to start this, but I don’t see any comments yet and I was also curious so figured I could jump in. Alison, you mentioned being willing to talk about the foster care system on a thread this weekend. I’m curious about what you have to say. In particular, we are a ways from fostering but have considered it, and if we did I’m leaning towards fostering teens. A lot of that is because I know it’s harder to find homes that will take in teens, and I’m hopeful that we could help them bounce around less. And I have some past experience working with kids of all ages that are going through really rough life experiences and lack of stability. But I never actually lived with them, and that makes me nervous. So I’m curious on what your opinions are (and other people too) on fostering teens, how to support them well through a lousy situation, and… I guess whatever specifics you feel like sharing.

    And I guess I’m also wondering something else. I apologize up front if this comes out wrong; I’m trying not to say anything too stupid. I really resonated with what you said earlier this week about supporting biological families who are poor instead of taking their kids away. Some of my kids that I worked with had that happen to them, and while I was glad that they had food and clothes and things, what they really wanted was food and clothing and their families. But on the other hand, what about situations where kids are going through abuse? I don’t mean like their parents let them go to the park alone and they were taken away because their parents were Parenting While Black. I mean some of the really awful abuse, which some of my other kids went through. I’m totally down for them going to live with family first before being taken to live with strangers; that seems like a much better idea. But if they don’t have that option, should the foster care system still be trying to get them back to their parents, or is that a situation where it would be better for them not to go back? I tend to lean towards the latter, but I also know that I was raised in the system that said foster care and adoption were unalloyed good, and so I don’t feel like I can trust my instincts on this one.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ll answer any questions I can! Bring them on.

      First, after the discussion we had earlier this week, it occurred to me to say that ideally fostering is about supporting families, not just helping kids. Obviously helping kids is the majority of the day-to-day work, but it really helps to go into it thinking of it as helping the whole family. I remember hearing that when we were in training and feeling nervous about the idea of interacting with the parents, but it turned out to be one of the parts of fostering that I’ve liked the most. One of our teens has aged out and has chosen to live with her mom again (after the system not letting them have *any* contact for 10 years, a decision which just further harmed her), and so I talk to her mom a lot now and I’ve come to see my job now as supporting her mom so her mom can better support her … and I’ve been surprised by how fulfilling I’ve found that. A lot of the parents of kids in foster care were foster kids themselves, or easily could have been, and they’re dealing with the same sorts of trauma, just as adults. I think the more prospective foster parents can go into it seeing the job as helping an entire family, the better it tends to go for everyone.

      To your question: So, the data shows that kids are better off with family except in the most egregious cases of abuse (better off as measured by things like mental health, suicide rates, teen pregnancy rates, risk of prison, etc.). “Most egregious” is a tough thing to grapple with, when you consider what might fall outside that. But that’s what the data shows. Now, maybe that’s because foster care is such a F’ing mess — maybe if we were comparing staying with moderately abusive family vs. being in a really well-functioning foster system, it would show foster care was better. (“Moderately abusive,” good god.) But the data is looking at the system we actually have, obviously.

      One interesting side thing intertwined with this, which I hadn’t known about before, is the value of “genetic mirroring,” which is interesting to look into if you don’t know about it. Not every kid feels they suffer when they don’t have that, but a lot do.

      For what it’s worth, the foster care system is supposed to try to place kids with family first before they turn to strangers, but a lot of times it doesn’t happen because the family members can’t pass the background checks for a whole variety of reasons (not always ones that should be prohibitive) or because they’re not willing to comply with various (sometimes onerous) regulations the system will require of them. But the data is very clear that the kids would be better off if the system was more willing to make it work, or to help them stay with their parents by giving them some of the financial resources (as well as therapy and other forms of help) that they’re going to turn around and give to the foster family anyway.

      1. Jackalope*

        This reminds me of a program in my area that I really liked, at least in theory (I wasn’t able to participate when I heard about it). The idea was to help families who needed it so the kids didn’t have to go into foster care. Off the top of my head, I remember things like volunteers (screened and with background checks of course) taking kids in for an hour or two after school until their parents could get off work and pick them up, taking kids for a weekend for respite care for their parents, taking kids during a parent’s chemo weeks so the other parent could focus on just helping them, and so on. I really liked the idea when I heard about it, although it was second hand so I don’t remember a ton.

        One of my other questions was about coping with the system. My general impression is that the foster care system basically chews up everyone and spits them out – kids, bio families, and foster families. How do you deal with that, and figure out how to work through it yourself and help the foster kids living with you deal with it too?

        Before I ask any other questions I’ll have to mull on what you said. I really like the idea of supporting the family and not just the kids/teens. It seems like it could be super challenging to figure out from a practical standpoint, but also I can see that being really good.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I love programs like that; they’re so needed!

          And yeah, chewing everyone up and spitting them out sounds about right. I read somewhere that half of all new foster families quit within their first year. Some of it, I’m sure, is people having unrealistic ideas about what it will be like — thinking kids will be happy to immediately integrate into their family (some are, many aren’t, you definitely can’t expect it), or not fully realizing how trauma is going to manifest and how hard that’s going to be, etc. etc. But also it’s just genuinely hard and exhausting and the system asks a ton of you without a lot of support. And the stuff you see is gut-wrenching and you have almost no power to change it. I ended up really struggling with whether our participation was enabling a fundamentally bad system (and am still struggling with that). I don’t have a good answer to how to deal with it, but having a community of other foster parents who also see the same stuff is good, and choosing an agency that has enough resources to really support you helps.

      2. sulky-anne*

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this! I am also contemplating fostering at some point if I can. One wrinkle for me is that I’m particularly hoping to be connected with queer and trans teens. In theory I really resonate with the idea of supporting the whole family and helping to enable family connections instead of disrupting them. But in cases where kids have been abused and/or kicked out of their homes on the basis of their identities, it feels more complicated. I certainly would want to support a queer kid who had feelings of anger and distrust toward family who had turned on them. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to prolong their separation from family if there is a possibility of them finding some kind of way to a more positive relationship. Do you know of any foster caregivers who have navigated this kind of dynamic and shared about it?

        1. Jackalope*

          That is a very good question. I too have thought about fostering queer teens in particular, since I know many of them really need someplace to stay, and our household would be happy to let them be their openly queer selves. I’m not sure how to go about that – thankfully all of the queer teens I know personally are in loving and supportive homes or else I would be happy to let them come stay with us – but it seems worthwhile.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, definitely! In that case hopefully there might be extended relatives who would still like a relationship if the kid is open to it. I haven’t come across any foster parents writing on this (it’s hard to find good foster parenting blogs, frustratingly — and a lot are by people are fostering for religious reasons, which is a whole different paradigm than what I was going in with), but one thing to know is that you can screen for an agency that’s strong on these issues and talk to them about how they navigate it and what kind of support you’d have in navigating it too.

          (By “agency,” what I mean is that you’ll generally sign up to foster either through your city/county or through a private agency, although that can vary by locale. There are pros and cons to each option — which I can talk about if anyone is interested in that — but private agencies will usually have more resources.)

          1. sulky-anne*

            Thank you for your perspective! I’m based in Canada so it’s not the same system, although I suspect there are a lot of similarities. I need to do some additional research into the system itself and what the resources and barriers are, but I’m currently trying to hear from people who have fostered teens to see how they’ve found it. It’s the emotional/relational side I am trying to get a sense of in advance.

          2. Jackalope*

            So what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of each approach? I had long thought that fostering only happened through a public agency like CPS, and when a couple of years ago I learned that that wasn’t the case my mind was blown. I talked with someone who worked with a private agency a bit but didn’t get much info other than the basics (it was at a sort of volunteer in your community fair so she was talking with lots of people).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              So this is how it works for my location; each state has stuff specific to them but at least in my state:
              – City/county department of social services – they’re the first line for placements, and then they turn to private agencies if their own families (i.e., the families fostering through them) don’t have spots/aren’t the right fit. They tend to be wildly under-resourced, and so you’re less likely to have a social worker who can spend significant time with you/your foster kids.
              – Private agencies in my state (but not in all states) are all “therapeutic care,” which means their foster parents get more hours of training in trauma and supposedly the kids placed through them have higher level needs (my agency points out that basically all kids in foster care could use this level of care). They generally have more funding and more staff so can provide more support (this definitely proved true for us — I felt like I had access to our social worker 24/7 when I needed her). Private agencies tend to get harder to place kids, but not always (and certain groups automatically fall in the harder-to-place category, like sibling groups and teens). They’ll also get calls for placements from all over the state.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              Just for a different angle: in my county, while there is a public entity such as CPS (but has a different acronym here), there are no public agencies. All foster care is handled by private agencies, which have contracted with the county. Some of these are big orgs that have multi-county, multi-state presence. Others are small and local and only exist here. Some focus on “therapeutic” care, others don’t. But basically, if you’re fostering where I live, it’s “pick one of these dozen private agencies to sign up with/train with/go through.” Other locations it is mostly what you’d thought: the county has its own process and agency. My understanding is most places (in the US) it’s a mix of both.

        3. Lime green Pacer*

          My cousin fosters kids. Reading between the lines, it seems she ends up with many LGBT foster kids who have been abused because of their identities. She & her husband are straight as can be, so I get the impression that either this is not unusual, or she is particularly good with LGBT kids, or they are harder to place? She actually specializes in keeping siblings together, and has an extra-large house so as to do that.

          This is Canada BTW, and she can’t say hardly anything at all due to privacy issues with the foster kids.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Teens in general are harder to place. LGBT+ teens as especially hard to place because so many people foster for religious reasons and try to foist their religion on the kids (even though they’re not supposed to) and consequently there are lots of certified families who would absolutely terrible for LGBT+ teens.

      3. Annie*

        This is a very interesting topic! So many questions!

        “family members can’t pass the background checks for a whole variety of reasons (not always ones that should be prohibitive)”

        Could you give an example of a requirement that (in your opinion) is needlessly prohibitive?

        “Help them stay with their parents by giving them some of the financial resources (as well as therapy and other forms of help) that they’re going to turn around and give to the foster family anyway.”

        I was able to find information about the $300-$1000+/month cash payments (depending on U.S. state) foster families get. Do you think it would be best to implement a universal “parenting wage” within this range for all families caring for children, regardless of where the child came from; replace the cash payments with expansions to the availability and scope of dependent care FSAs (like what’s been happening with HSAs); or some other setup?

        “as well as therapy and other forms of help”

        Could you give some examples of this that are easy to get for foster families but not for bio families? Is it possible to quantify in terms of number of sessions or number of hours for e.g. therapy? I’m not super familiar with the foster care system myself, and a quick online search for “what resources foster families get that birth parents don’t” didn’t provide much clarity to me here.

        I think it would be really helpful to have a “checklist” of sorts with specifics on how to make the foster care system work better for all involved.

        The volunteer program Jackalope mentioned does sound really cool.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I knew a family who failed the check for a baby because their pool did not have a proper **perfectly** fitting cover. They did get a cover that did not pass inspection.

          This was a caring family with a 6 yo and 4 yo. This was a temporary above ground pool and the only way to get in was to climb a ladder over the side which they removed when not using it. They were likely going to end up fostering a baby or very young child.

          Rigid rules that in this case would have been cost prohibitive to comply with. A custom designed pool cover to meet the requirements.

          I don’t know. Pools can be dangerous, but … If it was safe enough for their own two kids … If they were actually getting a baby …

          Things that weren’t damaging their own kids already living with them, but probated them from fostering.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s a good example — there’s lots of stuff like that, as well as agreeing to home inspections that can be pretty invasive, locking up all your medications and knives and cleaning chemicals (even if your particular kid doesn’t have particular risk in those areas), fingerprinting and criminal background checks, etc.

            Re: the question about what types of resources foster families get: a monthly stipend (varies by age and need level of the kids – it’s meant to be a reimbursement for their expenses, and we always found we spent a lot more than it covered, but some crappy foster homes will use it as a money maker), and fully covered services for the kids like therapy (no limit on sessions, although it’s limited to providers who will take Medicaid and we were not impressed with what we saw of it) and any medical stuff they need. Daycare will usually be covered for babies/little kids. Help with rides to appointments in some cases. Summer camp in some cases (if both foster parents work). There’s a clothing stipend for the kids (it’s not enough to cover all the clothes, but bio families sure aren’t getting that). If a kid needed some kind of specialized help like, I don’t know, speech therapy or rehab, that would be covered. (I should note that all these services tend to be covered at the lowest possible level and the quality is not always great unless foster parents kick in additional money for better quality providers. But it’s still stuff that most struggling bio families are not getting.)

            1. Annie*

              Wow. It sounds like a lot of this stuff could be covered by helping bio families who qualify sign up for Medicaid and/or get on charity help lists as a first step.

    2. Trains*

      Have you seen the YouTube “movie” ReMoved? They showed it to us as part of a trauma-informed training I did online once. It really helped me understand where some outrageous/inexplicable behaviors come from in children who have experienced trauma.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I haven’t!

        One thing our training was big on re: trauma was “parent the need, not the behavior” — i.e., a lot of challenging behaviors will be based in trauma, so try to figure out what need is being expressed at the core of the behavior and respond to that, not to the behavior itself. Which I found a very helpful framework.

      2. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

        I have seen the movie now (both parts) thanks to your suggestion – I found it very emotionally moving and worthwhile seeing.
        Just a heads up, if you watch it on you tube the ads are intrusive and jarring – first one was on animal cruelty, then one on cooking a better steak, lip fillers etc – very disruptive to the storyline and pacing of the movie.

    3. Trans Government Employee*

      Jackalope, thanks for raising the topic! I’ve also been looking forward to talking more about the foster system.
      I’m not in the system or planning to foster, but I’m starting training with an organization that connects system-involved kids with mentors. I was connected with the organization through my transgender support group, since many of the kids in our local foster system want to be connected with out trans adults.
      I’m excited and nervous. The training is really focused on trauma and trauma-informed care. If anyone has recommendations for supplemental reading, watching, or listening, I’d appreciate it! I’m especially interested in books, blogs, or podcasts by adults who were in the foster system.
      Thank you very much!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If you can, look into TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention); it’s a way of working with kids from trauma that focuses on building connection above all else.

        Also, the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk.

    4. Clare*

      I have nothing useful to add but my thanks everyone who has shared in this thread! It’s always helpful to read more people’s experiences and perspectives regarding such nuanced topics as the foster care system.

  19. Morning Dew*

    Dog owners:

    My husband and I do not own dogs. He grew up with one but I didn’t. Honestly, I’ve been somewhat afraid of dogs until recently. I can say hello if they are well behaved but that’s it for me. Anyway, my husband really likes dogs.

    How would you feel if non-dog owners like us offered treats to your dogs when going for a walk outside/around neighborhood? If you did not mind, do you care what kinds (dry biscuit kind vs jerky kind)? Do you care about the brands?

    Or is the whole thing considered weird (us giving your dogs treats)?

    We say hello both to the owners and the pups. We would definitely ask beforehand if we can give the dogs treats and show them the treat packages. I understand some dogs have special diets/allergies/sensitive stomachs but I’m just curious if your dog didn’t, would you mind/like/be ok if someone gave your dog some treats?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As long as you cleared it with me first and I had seen you around a couple times, ideally know which house in the neighborhood is yours, I wouldn’t mind small treats. 50/50 whether either of my girls would actually take it AND eat it – they both about half the time take treats from someone they don’t know, then take a couple of steps away and just sort of dump it somewhere. Some of my grocery delivery folk leave biscuits for them with my deliveries and they always get those.

    2. Bluebell*

      Our mail carrier always has milk bone treats to give to our dog and she loves it. I think if you were someone I had seen around in the neighborhood, I’d be ok with it but if I’d never seen you before, I’d be a bit wary. It definitely could help to have the treat package with you. It’s a sweet idea- let us know if you go ahead with it.

    3. Snell*

      I will usually accept treats for my dogs, and sometimes I will offer treats from the bag that lives in my coat pocket to stranger dogs, even if I don’t have my own dog with me at the time. For one of my dogs, I’ve had to decline treats because of her allergies, but with the two other dogs, it’s pretty chill. Whether people accept or reject treats from you, I wouldn’t read anything deep at all into it unless you notice a pattern with specific individuals. Sometimes you’ll get rejected because of allergies, or the dog has eaten enough/too much that day already (and so might accept a treat on a different day), or the human always rejects strange treats as a rule. I’d definitely say it’s not universally considered weird; just do the courtesies like offering and then accepting the yes/no, which it sounds like you already do.

    4. Elsewise*

      Agree with others, I wouldn’t be too weirded out. If I was having a really paranoid day I might say no or offer you one of my treats instead (I have a (mostly-)irrational fear that strangers are trying to poison my dog), but even if I said no I wouldn’t think less of you. I would definitely be more likely to say yes if I’d seen you around or knew at least vaguely who you were.

      One thing that might help- try spelling out the word treat or saying a different word. A lot of dogs have a very strong reaction to hearing someone say “treat”, and that’s often adorable but can be a pain in the butt for the human to control them after, especially if they’ve said no. A friend of mine will often ask other dog owners at the dog park “can your dog have a c-o-o-k-i-e?” She spells it so fast it usually takes people a minute to process what she’s asking, which is also pretty funny to watch.

    5. Laura*

      I like it when people offer my dog a treat PROVIDING they ask first. And I love it if they tell me what it is. My dog can eat basically anything so the specifics don’t matter that much to me, but I just appreciate the gesture, because obviously a lot of dogs can’t just eat whatever and I do wish more people understood that.

    6. But what to call me?*

      Not weird at all, but definitely do it in a way that doesn’t show the dog the treat until you know they can have it, and spell out the word rather than say it. Dogs like mine are experts at both recognizing potential snacks and conveying their utter devastation if they think they’re going to be offered a treat but then don’t get to have it.

      I recommend going with a treat that’s mild and small rather than large treats or something with a strong flavor to keep it safe and healthy for more dogs to eat. I’d happily let my dog accept a small milkbone but couldn’t let her have something like pupperoni or jerky because of food sensitivities and would rather she not have one of those giant milkbones a neighbor gave her once because that bone alone was more non-kibble food than she’d normally get in a week. There are also some mild meat-based treats that are popular with a lot of dogs and are generally safe unless the dog is allergic to that kind of meat. Mine loves the little chicken or turkey bites the pet store people give her after she bravely makes it through a bath, and they never upset her stomach.

    7. ghost_cat*

      Very happy if you ask first and they are packaged treats where I recognise the brand – this means that I know how to adjust what she gets to eat later in the day. My neighbour keeps treats on hand, and I think it’s charming. My dog is an absolute fangirl of his, that for sure. I do like that people ask first, as my dog doesn’t always have her manners on hand and offered treats can result in a snatch and grab. It’s nice to warn someone of that, but also, to use it a teaching moment for my pup in how to take treats graciously.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Always ask first, because there are dogs with allergies.

      I would appreciate the friendly gesture. Our current dog is not particularly food motivated, so if she rejected your treat it would just mean she was not in direct competition with a cat right now so meh. Our previous dog would have been beyond ecstatic because the only thing he liked more than food was people telling him he was such a good boy (and then giving him food).

      I have met joggers who don’t have dogs but keep some treats in their pockets for meeting dogs; I have myself been out without my dog and encountered a dog who was like “THE MAGIC POCKET” and I was like “… he’s right, I’ve got half a dog treat in there, would he like it?”

    9. Autumn*

      FYI I don’t allow my dog to have treats with peanuts due to food allergies in the house. Just something to be aware of.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I love it when people give my dog treats during our walk. It’s also the only time he’ll eat Milk Bones– usually he rejects them (not enough cheese for Mr. Picky), but I think he understands that taking them will make the nice stranger happy, and then he always asks for another (which I do not allow him to take). My grandfather used to walk around his complex with treats in his pockets to give to all the doggies. When we first moved to DC my dog made friends with a construction manager down the block who gave him mini-Milk Bones every day.

      I would keep your treats very generic and inexpensive. Milk Bones are ideal for this. And greet the owner and dog, then ask, “Can he/she have a treat?” Also, be prepared that the owner may have to be the one to actually administer the treat.

    11. Miss Buttons*

      I usually decline treats because our dog will get diarrhea from them. You are considerate to ask the owner beforehand. Please remember dogs are super-smellers, so ask the owner from 6 feet away or more, BEFORE you have the treat in your hand. My pooch grabbed a dog treat out of a little kid’s hand once. Kid was not pleased.

    12. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

      I would be slightly warier of a treat-offerer without their own dog. Not categorically opposed or upset, just a little less trusting unless I’ve seen you around before/you’ve greeted my dog before.

      My dog became a true scam artist with other dog owners. She figured out they usually had treats, and if she ran up to them and sat down looking obedient and attentive, they’d turn to me and say “She’s such a good girl! Can she have a treat?” She finished most morning walks in our off-leash park with a second breakfast until I finally had to start saying “she’s already pulled this three times today, save the treats.”

    13. Hrodvitnir*

      One thing you can get is the treats that are designed to be low calorie, so you’re not significantly impacting on their diet. They’re sold as “training treats.” It’s not a big deal though – people will tell you if a treat won’t work for their dog.

      Would it be a little weird? Yes. Would I be OK with it? Yes, so long as you talk to us. If you were in my neighbourhood in particular I’d actually be all good to arrange a play date if you’d like: people who love dogs but aren’t in a good position to get dogs are doing a good thing not getting one!

      Good luck making doggy friends. :)

    14. Ali G*

      I would be fine with it, provided you followed my instructions. My dog is really shy with new people, so I would ask that you toss them to her rather than try to feed her. You would need to keep your distance in order to not scare her. So as long as you ask, and follow instructions, and take no for an answer, you will be fine.

    15. Dog and cat fosterer*

      My dogs get treats from all sorts of neighbors, and I think it’s very normal to offer. As mentioned I would suggest always asking first, and bonus points for being clear with what you plan to feed. I agree that it might seem odd to some owners at first if you don’t have a dog, but if you ask “Mind if I say hello?” as the dog approaches and mention something about wanting to get a dog, or not being ready yet to get a dog, or wanting to get over a fear of dogs, or… any explanation is a good place to start. Sometimes my foster dogs can be untrained and enthusiastic so I often walk quickly past strangers because I worry that they might not like dogs, so a quick “Can I say hello?” will make every difference because I’ll happily take time to socialize the dog with a new friend and make you happy. With some dogs you’d have to throw the treat or take time for them to get close, and I know which neighbors are really kind and willing to do this for me.

      Many dogs are allergic to chicken and processed foods. I have dried fish as treats, and you will probably have a lot of happy owners if you offer something like dried beef liver or fish jerky with no other ingredients. Dogs often get bouncy about Milk Bone or other cheap treats, so if you want to be flexible then you can have both types and provide the choice to the owner.

      Thank you for asking! I wish more dogs were lucky to have you as a neighbor.

      Oh, and one other suggestion… if a dog looks unsure then try to skritch the dog’s chin first and not pat the top of the head. Patting the head is… dominant isn’t the right word, but it’s more forceful whereas a gentle finger along their jawline and then moving to skritch around the ears will make you more popular. This is what I do with new fosters and it relaxes them. I have neighbors who love to pat heads and quickly rub their shoulders, and I don’t mind because they love dogs but it also winds them up and that wouldn’t be helpful if you’re learning to make friends. Good luck!

    16. IT Manager*

      I don’t mind being asked, thank you for asking! I say yes with one dog and no with another who has dietary restrictions. The pups love the interaction and it gives them a chance to practice e saying hello politely (no jumping etc)

      There are shockingly people who DO NOT ASK and that is the worst.

    17. Sloanicota*

      Eh, my dog looks cute but I have good reason to closely monitor his interactions. There is a lady who wants to give him treats (and then pet him obviously) and I do struggle a bit with this. He does have allergies, but once he sees the treats / knows it’s treat lady, it’s not really worth trying to convince him not to eat them. But I do wish she’d just wave.

    18. eeeek*

      I’m in the “please ask” group because that would give me a chance to reel my dog in firmly and warn you that she might snap at the lovely people trying to be nice to her. (Sigh.) She’s better than she was, but snaps when surprised by sudden movements and unfamiliar hands holding treats are vulnerable. Most of my neighbors know we are keeping our distance and working on “ignore that” and “leave it” and “come away” commands not because we are rude, but because that’s preferable to lunging and snarling. We are making good progress, and someday maybe she’ll be able to sit for a treat tossed to her by a friendly neighbor. Not yet.

  20. Delphine*

    My retired immigrant parents who live with me and my sibling (we’re both adults and the owners of our home) might want to get a divorce. Neither has more than a dollar to their name. I can’t figure out where they’re meant to live. Who lives with us? Who goes? We can’t afford a second place. There’s a reason we’re all living together. One of them is entirely dependent on the other and literally can’t be on their own or isolated from people, but the other has grown resentful of essentially lifelong mistreatment. I don’t know what to do. “Nothing,” seems like it’ll lead to more issues down the road. It feels like I’m dealing with children. They keep falling out and then one gives the other the silent treatment because they have no other power in the relationship and it all fills the house with just terrible negativity for weeks on end. I hate it.

    Are there any immigrants here who’ve experienced anything similar?

    1. Phryne*

      I can’t offer you any advice, but this sounds like an awful situation to be in and I just want to express my sympathy and wish you strength.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think a lot of this depends on the abilities of the people involved. Are your parents at a stage were they need elder care or could they potentially earn their own money, even if it’s small amounts? Is your more dependent parent dealing with a health issue (physical, mental or neurodiversity?) or is it just that they have bad coping mechanisms? Could treating these issues resolve the marital issues? Would extended family, be able or willing to help? Most importantly, what do your parents want to do about this? Maybe they want to resolve the issues, but have their own thoughts on what they would do if the marriage doesn’t work out. If they are just looking to you to decide for them, I would find that awfully concerning.

    3. Washi*

      How old are they? And when you say dependent, so you mean physically or emotionally?

      If they are elderly and one has significant care needs, perhaps you could help that one apply for long term care Medicaid and get help at home, or nursing home placement (in my state there are some assisted living facilities that take Medicaid as well.) In my state, that type of Medicaid also gets you priority for a section 8 voucher.

      Maybe get them both on all subsidized housing wait-list in your area? One area of my state has a nonprofit that helps elderly people with limited incomes find roommates. Or maybe if one of them gets into a subsidized apartment, you or your brother could take turns staying there at times? It’s possible to request a second bedroom for a live in caregiver as a “reasonable accommodation” but in my area a lot of the senior buildings are just 1 bedrooms so it would limit the options a bit.

      My mother and her parents are immigrants so I get that there are likely cultural issues around this, especially when it comes to something like a nursing home. My experience with my grandparents is that they will NEVER say “wow we are really adding a lot of stress to your life, how about we take advantage of some community services?” The kids have to be willing to push back if they don’t want to do something, which is so hard!

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      First generation immigrant here! We came over when my sibling and I were young, and my parents divorced within a year of arriving. Mom mistreated us kids and dad mistreated mom.

      It was rough. We lived with mom at first in poverty because dad didn’t support us and mom’s job paid $3 less per month than daycare cost, so she quit till we were in school the following year. It was bad for a long time, we were more poor than we needed to be till I joined the military and that paid for school and paid me well. So you’re right to consider this, but don’t let that stop you from being deliberate about searching.

      Because your folks are elderly, look into adult services in your area. They vary widely in my experience, based on geography and resources, but there may be something helpful even if it isn’t a total fix. Community centers, friends, activities may be helpful to them or you.

      Is family therapy an option for you or them? Depending on their personalities and background, cultural competence may be really important too. You could consider going alone even if they don’t want to go – that helped me when I was in a bad marriage.

      Also, therapy could help you/them while they’re deciding what to do. For example, setting ground rules or practicing different skills or setting parts of the house/rooms aside for each of them; opportunities for connecting to the community or a sense of purpose or finding other joys.

      Good luck to you. This is genuinely hard. Don’t be discouraged by how hard it feels – it feels hard because it is. I hope you can find lots of supports and options for you.

    5. KeinName*

      Not an immigrant but child of parents who remained living in the same house after divorce (which was shit but financially necessary). Do you think they could just get the divorce and maybe live in separate rooms/one sleeps in living room? I think seeking a divorce is very sensible of them and what happens in the future is up to them. I have no legal info however, possibly one needs to be physically separated to file for divorce?
      And of course the whole set-up of you having to think through the consequences of your parents‘ wishes rather than them presenting you with a Plan sounds very very hard.

    6. Jay (no, the other one)*

      If you’re in the US, get in touch with the Area Agency on Aging for your county and ask to talk to someone. Describe the situation and ask about general advice and available services. It sounds like one of your parents is emotionally abusing the other, and one would qualify as a vulnerable adult (although it also sounds like the vulnerable adult is the abuser so it’s complicated).

      And put on your own oxygen mask. Do you have access to therapy? Actually if you have an EAP at work they may have legal advice available to guide you.

      This sounds incredibly difficult from all angles. Gentle Internet hugs to you.

    7. miel*

      Not an immigrant, please disregard if you like.

      Seconding the suggestions to look into social services that might be available.

      I’m also wondering if you could take some pressure off your budget in other ways to open up a few more options. (if eligible but not signed up already, get your parents signed up for SNAP or other benefits. Or have them shop for the basics at a food pantry; in my experience many food pantries are happy to distribute food and have very few requirements.)

      My other short-term thought is if you can get creative with space usage in your house to allow some more breathing room. Would it be possible to create a semi-separate apartment in the basement/ attic/ garage/ ?? Bed, mini fridge, and microwave? Or could you convert an office/ sunroom/ living room into a bedroom?

      Take care. This sounds tough.

      1. Washi*

        Yes to SNAP! But if the 2 adult kids are working full time for anything beyond minimum wage, the whole family is not going to qualify. The parents will need to apply as a 2-person household and there will be some mechanism for them stating that they “buy and prepare food separately” from the kids. (In my state it’s a separate form that the whole family signs, in other places I’ve seen it right on the application). Also in my state unless they already qualify for the max $$ amount, they’ll get more help if they say they are paying even a nominal amount toward rent AND utilities. (Just telling you the rules you can decided how to use this info. I’m a social worker and have no qualms helping people who need help max out their benefits.)

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      Does your area have any community resources for immigrant groups? I live in a city that has many centers and services for many ethnic and religious groups, particularly newer arrivals, and many with a focus on trauma counseling (since a lot of them were forced to flee due to wars, genocides, and other atrocities.)

      Even if your parents have been here for a long time, they may benefit from being around other people, especially in their age group, who “get” what their experiences have been. And the centers can be invaluable for things like legal advice, connection to therapists, housing, foods that are familiar, and so on. If there’s anything like this in your general area, go to their website to get some ideas.

    9. Observer*

      Another thing to look at, when looking at social services – Day Care / Respite care. Depending on the situation, even if the person lives with others, a person might be eligible for an aid who spends a few hours a day them, which would give the other parent some breathing room. The “Day Care” model is not necessarily called that, but you might see names like “senior center” or “Older Adult Center”. Whatever it is, the parent who can’t be alone might be able to go there and spend the morning or even most of the day there several days a week. What’s more in many cases, there are programs to help people get to these programs.

  21. Anon Poster*

    Can anyone recommend a lap desk they like? I would mainly use it for grading papers or using my laptop while seated on a couch, so I’d like it to be big enough to comfortably hold two stacks of papers at a time. I did a quick Amazon search and was overwhelmed by the choices, so I’d love to hear if anyone has one they use and like.

    1. Jackalope*

      I use an Aeon Gold Lagio desk. I’m not sure if they’re still available or not, but I’ve really liked it. It’s got foldable legs so I can stand it on something or sit on my lap. It’s a decent size that works well for me. And best of all, it’s ambidextrous. When I was looking for a laptop desk most of the ones that I could find had, for example, a separate mouse platform that went on the right side only, or had space for writing only on the right. As a lefty I found that utterly useless. This desk can be used either way.

    2. Maryn*

      I have a bamboo wooden lap desk 23″ wide, with a cushion that sits on my legs. It could easily hold two stacks of papers. I’m not seeing the exact one I have, but Honey Can Do and Sofia and Sam look like they offer similar ones. Limit your search by size of the longest dimension or you’ll get a lot of compact ones that won’t do for what you want.

      I’ve found wrist cushions and inserts that stop items from sliding off just get in my way. Mine is plain with a carrying handle at the edge away from the user.

    3. Just here for the scripts*

      Levengers had a great ne years ago. I”ll look online and post the link in the comments if it’s still available.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Here’s another vote for checking out the Levenger site—they have all kinds of writing/editing equipment, and all of their products are excellent. The company has been in business for, okay, maybe it’s not 100 years, but close.

        Around 1990 I spent my first freelancing check on a Levenger folding editing desk (lap size) that came with with fine wood, leather hinges, and a carry-bag. Since then I’ve used the desk almost daily and it’s still a valuable tool, even though my work is seldom in hard-copy these days. Every time I bring the desk out, I think of that first check and smile—it was totally worth it!

    4. Disappointed*

      I have a Honey-Can-Do lap desk that I got from Amazon for about $20. I think you could fit two piles of papers on it.

  22. Snow on the Roof*

    Since there have already been a bunch of insurance-related questions asked today, I thought I’d throw this out and see what the commentariat have to say. I live in the U.S. and this thing happened without my really being aware of it. All-of-a-sudden I find that I’m soon going to be 65 and eligible for Medicare. I plan to work full-time for several more years because I need to be 67 to qualify for my full Social Security benefit, and maybe even longer than that if my health holds up. I do plan to meet with my local SHIP (State Health Insurance Program) consultant at my local senior citizen center in the next couple of weeks to help me sort out my options.

    It’s not really clear to me if I should sign up for Medicare and see about a supplemental insurance plan or if I should continue to get all of my insurance from my employer. (Yes, I know that Medicare doesn’t a lot of stuff. I’ll continue to get vision and dental coverage from my employer.) Perhaps there may be some readers who might have some insights and experience about what they (or their parents or friends) did and what went into their decision.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There was a lot of of inaccurate info in this thread which I worry about harming someone, so I’ve removed the replies and am recommending that you consult an expert instead!

    2. MozartBookNerd*

      Yikes, clearly we’d better consult with experts about getting started with BOTH Medicare and Social Security, so let me ask an important “meta-question” please! Namely: what kind of an expert?

      Not an investments person, I assume? And not a lawyer, I assume? But talking to the government agencies seems like a recipe for hours of waiting on hold and getting half-answers. And the idea of a Dummies book fills me with anxiety, because the advice wouldn’t be individually tailored and I can’t invest dozens of hours in working through the in’s and out’s.

      This stuff is all pretty momentous and difficult, so there must be a real market for professional consultants on Becoming a Senior Citizen . . . . ?

      1. BunnyWatsonToo*

        When I was going through this last year, Medicare.gov and the AARP website were very helpful. I also suggest talking to whoever handles insurance at your employer.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes. I say that as a 70-year-old who just got my first SS check this month, and have not signed up for any Medicare beyond Part A, which doesn’t require a premium.

          I’m not an expert, and not offering any particular advice because there are other people way better qualified than I am to do that, and because my financial circumstances are mine, and no indicator for what other people might experience.

  23. The Dude Abides*

    The day after thanksgiving, I am attending a brunch hosted by a neighbor who happens to be a member of the House of Representatives.

    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I am a non-union state employee, so I am wary of getting on their shit list, but I also want to not be that weird loner who stands in the corner.

    Any advice for striking a balance?

    1. Liminality*

      Do they have a favorite sports team? Can you talk sports at a level more knowledgeable than “go, sportsball!”
      Maybe you can use that as a conversational bridge?

    2. miel*

      I think neutral, pleasant conversation is the way to go. Weather, their house decor, the food, your family’s winter plans, your hobbies.

      You can talk with the host and with the other guests, a few minutes with each – and maybe you’ll really strike it off with someone.

    3. Audrey*

      Be uplifting and encouraging to everyone in the room. You’ll be the favorite person there by everyone.

    4. kina lillet*

      This person (and/or their partner) is probably a capable host, so one tip is to let yourself be hosted—if you get brought over to a group of people, chat with em about the weather or whatever it is.

      If you see a weird loner who’s hanging out in a corner, go say hi. “Mind if I join you? I’m Dude. Isn’t this cranberry sauce good?”

      If it helps with the nerves, tell yourself you can stay like 45 minutes and then give yourself permission to leave.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        “Let yourself be hosted” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve read! Assuming they want to throw this party (pretty safe assumption,) that means they want you as a guest and want you to have a good time!

        Kids, the weather, pets, gardening–there’s always a pretty safe topic to discuss.

        1. kina lillet*

          Aw thanks! I feel like sometimes you do have to be more proactive, but given that this neighbor is a politician, it’s preeeetty likely that there will be some proficiency in the art of hosting.

    5. Ranon*

      Folks who get elected to political positions at that rank need to be, for lack of a better term, basically pathologically personable. And will likely have a lot of other exceedingly personable folks in their orbit.

      If I had to put money on it I’d bet on this gathering being one of the easiest small talk experiences you’ve ever had. Plus there’s always the weather, winter plans, or sports to fall back on

    6. matcha123*

      If it’s anything like the events I’ve attended that were for Ambassadors, there will be food on a table and the person will kind of wander around and make light chit-chat.
      You can thank them for hosting and compliment the food or their home decor. At these kinds of events there will always be a number of people who want to brown-nose and they will probably be jostling with each other to get that person’s attention.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Why would you wind up on their shit list from chitchat at brunch? If you don’t agree with them politically, just talk about anything other than politics.

      1. Observer*

        Why would you wind up on their shit list from chitchat at brunch? If you don’t agree with them politically, just talk about anything other than politics.

        Yeah, that was my first thought. I mean, I’m sure that you are not going to tell them just TERRIBLE some policy or other is, or say something stupid “Well, you seem a lot more normal than I would have expected.” So, you’ll be fine. You can be sure that they are not necessarily looking for scintillating conversation.

    8. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Have fun? Enjoy the hospitality, meet new people, practice your small talk, eat yummy nibbles.

      Unless you actually interact with your neighbor at work at all, your behavior at this party is going to have no impact whatsoever on your work life unless you do something outrageous and awful. No sane Representative is going to track down a random neighbor who is bad at small talk and make their work life hell. You should not get into a drunken fistfight with their mom, but if you behave like you should at any other party you will be fine.

  24. NeutralJanet*

    I’m going to be in Madison, WI for a few days this August – any suggestions on what I should do/see?

    1. kina lillet*

      The botanical gardens are really nice—the Thai pavilion is really wonderful to see. Also recommend walking some of the Frank Lloyd Wright trail that’s in Madison.

      There’s a big brunch culture in Madison; I really like Madison Sourdough and Marigold Kitchen.

      The farmer’s market is huge, packed, and a ton of fun. You can follow the new to Madison tradition of getting a loaf of Stella’s spicy cheese bread and walking through the statehouse—they have some tours.

      I personally think that the Old Fashioned has the best fried cheese curds in town, though this is controversial.

      If you like beer, there’s even more to do—lots of great bars.

      1. Clara Bowe*

        +1 For the (free) Botanical Gardens. Also, House on the Rock and Taliesin are in easy driving distance and worth the time.

        That said, there are some fab Indonesian places in Madison and if you are at all interested, do recommend.

    2. Sage*

      Wander the cute shops on State Street and people-watch…so much fun energy. Agree with Lina that the cheese curds at the Old Fashioned are top-notch!

    3. MCL*

      Madisonian here. There are lots of tasty places to eat. My favorite place downtown is the Tornado Room. In summer there are lovely paddles or walks on/near our lakes (paddle Cherokee Marsh or walk picnic point). Go to one of our many outdoor festivals or concerts that happen in August. Lots of concert venues for all kinds of different performances and shows. The Chazen Museum and Vilas Zoo are also free among other suggestions here.

  25. Liminality*

    I’m house/pet sitting this week! And on my first night I let the dogs into the back yard for potty time. I waited by the door cause they usually bark to be let back in.
    … and I waited, and started thinking they seemed to be taking a while
    … and I decided to open the door and call for them. No response. Out in stocking-feet to look for them. No sign except the driveway gate slightly ajar.
    Yep. They’d escaped. I swore. And went through the gate myself to call for them and look into the darknes for them.
    Lucky me! They hadn’t gotten far, and when they saw me they came trotting back to the house.
    …. and then I started wondering where the cat might be. (Under the couch, as it turns out.)
    Phew! It’ll be escorted potty times until further notice.

    Have you or someone you know ever had catastrophe while house/pet sitting?
    Alternatively:
    What kinds of things do you do for days on end in someone else’s house? I’ve got an embroidery project but I’m not sure how else to keep myself occupied.

    1. Not A Manager*

      A few years ago my then-spouse and I came home to find a mystery dog in our backyard. It’s completely fenced, surrounded by other people’s yards on three sides and fronted by our house. All gates and doors were closed and locked.

      We finally figured out that the dog was visiting our kitty-corner neighbor and had jumped out of their yard (over the very small amount of shared wall) into our somewhat lower yard. Having jumped down, the dog couldn’t jump back up and made herself at home on our back deck.

      No one in the other house knew she was even missing, and the first people to answer the door were pretty clear that no one in the house even owned a dog. Took a while to sort it all out.

    2. Jackalope*

      I pet sat for some friends who had a couple of critters, including one rat who was actively dying. She had been sick for quite awhile, and they thought she’d die before they left, but she did not. Their trip was almost a month long and she died the night before they came home. They had expected it and were only normal grieving levels of upset, not angry at me. And there’s nothing else I could have done, although I did my best to make her last days comfortable and full of everything a rat might want. But I still felt so awful!

      1. California Dreamin’*

        My kids’ hamster died while we were on a long vacation in Europe. She was boarding at a bunny rescue that would board mostly rabbits but also Guinea pigs and hamsters. I think they felt terrible, but she was on the older side for a hamster and slowing down, and, well, hamsters aren’t that sturdy. The worst part was my husband and I having to calculate the best time to break it to the kids. I think the rescue people had to store “the body” in their freezer for us until we returned.
        For shorter trips we used to bring her over to our neighbors’ house and their kids would take care of her, and I was so glad this wasn’t one of those times so they’d have had to deal with the unexpected death!

    3. Audrey*

      OMG I’ve never shared this.
      I was watching a dog and took her for a walk. I was really young and knew she wasn’t good off leash. I met this older gentleman in the park with his dog off leash who was SUPER well trained. He kept talking about how dogs will always come back, and I can’t even tell you why I believed him, it was such a naive moment, but I let the dog off.
      I spent the next hour chasing that dog around an open field. The gentleman, to his credit, used his well trained dog to help me lure the dog back. I never told the owner, but they must have guessed because they never hired me again.

      I swear I was a good house/pet sitter! But had that one bad judgement moment that haunts me to this day. Thank you for giving me somewhere to air this out.

    4. Dances with Doodles*

      My catastrophe was I once took my sister’s dog for a walk on a dark fall night several years ago. We went down a street in a nice residential neighborhood lined with tall trees. Being fall, the trees were pretty much all bare but on this particular street the trees dropped these odd seeds that had sharp sticker things sticking out of them. It was dark and I really didn’t notice them when we were walking on them. The poor dog walked on them and a whole bunch of them got stuck in his paws. We didn’t walk very far down the street when he started crying and whining and wouldn’t/couldn’t walk any more. In the dark I couldn’t really see well enough to pull the stickers out of his paws right there, so I ended up having to pick him up and carry him something like 8 blocks home. I’m not the most in-shape person and even though he only weighed 30 pounds or so at the time, he was heavy. I got him home, got the stickers pulled out of his paws, he didn’t bleed very much, he got better right away and we never went down that street ever again.

    5. Maggie*

      I would definitely recommend leashing them for their potty breaks! My guideline is if my dog is not behind my locked door he is leashed 100% of the time.

    6. ShinyPenny*

      My neighbor finally got his own dog, and followed all the right advice about training all the different skills. I kept asking, “And when are you going to fence in at least a PART of your yard?” because omg I consider that critical. Nah, his dog was so well trained, she didn’t NEED a fence.

      So he calls me one day to ask me to go over and potty his dog because he was caught late at work.
      Sure. Where will I find the leash?
      Oh, no need for a leash! She’s totally good with voice control!
      Seriously? That’s a terrible idea!
      No, really. She does not need a leash! She’s super obedient.

      Sure. Foolish me. I thought, well, he should know?
      And OF COURSE she peed and then TOOK OFF LIKE LIGHTNING chasing some critter she’d air scented. Did she care that I was yelling? No. She did not care. She was GONE.

      I had to go back in his house and call him at work (no cell phones then) and tell him ***I had lost his dog*** (I was so panic stricken I didn’t remember it was all HIS fault til sometime the next day.) Luckily he was able to drop everything and drove home in about 10 minutes.

      In the meantime, based on the direction she was running when I last saw her, I drove down to patrol along the one small neighborhood road she’d have to cross— before she’d get to the big deadly road, if she kept to the same direction. I was so incredibly stressed out, worrying about her getting killed on that busy road. It was an awful feeling.

      Happy ending, though. The minute my neighbor got in his yard and yelled for her, she did a perfect recall right back to him. Turns out she was barely fifty yards away the entire time, fixated on a rabbit under the neighbor’s barn. (That thing they say about rotties not being barkers was sure true for her— any other dog would have been easily found, but she was totally obsessing about the rabbit, and totally silent the whole time.)

      My neighbor never did put up a fence. And his dog lived a happy long life, so it worked out for them. But I sure learned to be more skeptical! And always bring my own leash, ha. People’s assessment of their own dogs is… often not accurate.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      In someone else’s house – I’d bring a knitting project and load up my phone/iPad with library books, hopefully there’s wifi access for streaming movies (and if not, well, I have unlimited data in a pinch), and probably play a lot of solitaire on my phone and coloring pages on my iPad. Heh.

    8. ThatGirl*

      In college one of my roommates was house sitting for a professor who was on a trip, and he said we could use his washer and dryer. We started a load, left for a bit and returned to find a hose had come loose and water was everywhere! Luckily we got it cleaned up and no harm done but then we had piles of sopping wet clothes and it was winter.

    9. Surprise!*

      Now you know to make sure the gate is closed! A lot of people around here do the same, letting their dogs out in a fenced backyard for “last call,” and too many have found out the hard way there was a skunk already in the yard that was unhappily surprised about the dog’s sudden appearance. Something to think about/check for before letting them loose if wildlife could make an issue!

    10. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I was the owner, not the dog sitter. We had two large dogs and a fully fenced back yard in a neighborhood where lots of dogs spent the day out in the yard. We went away for a long weekend and a young woman I worked with came to house- and dog-sit. She came over the night before we left and got the keys and instructions. We departed early in the morning, fed the dogs, and put them out in the yard. We got home Monday to a note saying “dogs are fine. Please find me when you get to work and ask me to tell you the story.”

      The story: sitter got to the house that evening to find two very happy dogs and a whole bunch of messages on the answering machine. This was before cellphones so she listened to them, concerned I was trying to reach her. First message was from our across-the-street neighbor saying that the dogs were in the front yard so she’d gone over, put them in the back yard, and closed the gate. Second message, same person: dogs out again, one was in the front yard, the other was gone, so she took the one home with her and checked and turns out the latch on the gate was broken. Third message: strange person saying he found our dog wandering in the neighborhood, please call to come get her.

      Please remember that the sitter *found the dogs in the backyard* when she got home.

      Fourth message: neighbor saying she went out and found the lost dog so now she both of them. Fifth message: neighbor reporting that her husband fixed the latch and both dogs are now back in the yard at our house.

      When I went to thank the nieghbor she explained that she thought our dog was sad and missing the other dog so she put her leash on him and walked him around the neighborhood to see if he could find her, and apparently there was joyous barking from some other yard. The people weren’t home so she climbed up on the fence, recognized our dog, and took her. I’ve always wondered what those folks thought happened to the disappearing dog.

      Did I mention this all happened in the pouring rain?

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        This is like a cartoon! The dogs and neighbors had a whole adventure while you and the dogsitter assumed everything was fine haha

    11. Dark Macadamia*

      As a teenager I watched a neighbor’s cat and the first day he pooped right in the middle of the living room and while I was looking for stuff to clean it up the owner walked in because he had dropped by the house for something (I think they were visiting family not super far away, so they weren’t staying at home but still in the area). I was mortified about both the poop and about running into the neighbor unexpectedly in his own house.

      The cat was allowed outside during the day and during that same job I went to give him dinner one night and he wasn’t waiting at the door. I spent awhile searching the yard in the dark and yelling, went home and got my dad who came to help, and eventually we looked up to see the cat just crouching on the fence watching us while we crawled under bushes looking for him.

    12. Rara Avis*

      I was babysitting for a family I didn’t know (got the job while on vacation through my aunt). 4th of July, fireworks, big stressed dog on tranquilizers. Got the kids in bed, stepped out onto the front porch, the door locked behind me. Dog hears me trying to open the door, then walking around the house looking for other options, starts growling and barking. This was years before cell phones, but there is a happy ending. Went to a neighbor for help. He suggested the bulkhead door to the basement. It was open and the dig let me back into the house.

    13. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I know of one lady who lost the fat orange tabby she was fostering. He got out and of course wouldn’t come when she called and didn’t know their house. So she drove around calling his name and looking, until there was a fat orange tabby sitting in a distant neighbor’s yard! She called “Here, Gus!” and the tabby came happily over to her. So she scooped him up and stuffed him in the cat carrier and took him home. Except, the next day when she took him to the vet, it turned out that he didn’t have a chip like Gus did, and also that he didn’t have a small white patch on his chest. He wasn’t Gus.

      She brought him back to the house where she found him, and knocked on the door. Where we were very surprised, because we hadn’t noticed that our fat orange tabby was missing yet! He was a very friendly creature who would happily go up to anybody and didn’t care what name they called him.

      And that is the story of how our cat was accidentally catnapped.

      1. Bad Movie Plot*

        I have some relatives who had a similar thing happen to them. They had a female Brittany Spaniel who was a very high-strung, high-energy and nervous dog. (Let’s call her Brittany1.) Brittany1 ran away from them while they were at a rest stop on a cross country trip near a small town and their trip was delayed while they looked for her. They filed police reports and notified the local animal control officers and shelters. Later that day, a local animal shelter reported someone had just turned in a female Brittany Spaniel. It looked like Brittany1, so they claimed her and happily went on their way back home.

        After they got home it slowly dawned on them that the dog they brought home was not Brittany1. Although she looked like Brittany1, the one they brought home (Brittany2) was much more chill and had a calm disposition. Brittany2 seemed much more intelligent (or maybe she was just better trained) and she knew dog tricks. Anyway, they kept Brittany2 and never said anything to the animal shelter which was hundreds of miles away in another state. I wonder if the real owners of the Brittany2 claimed Brittany1, and if so, I would imagine they must have wondered what happened to her that she became so much, well, different.

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      If you watch their TV, make sure it’s set on a completely innocuous channel before you leave.

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

      Content warning for death.

      I was pet sitting for someone who had a friendly cat and a cat who liked to hide. I didn’t see cat who liked to hide until the last night, when she made a silent meow, but I didn’t think much of it, as her owner said I probably wouldn’t see her at all. Turns out the cat had somehow found and swallowed a needle that destroyed her intestines, and she passed away. I stopped pet sitting for a long time after that.

      I’m glad the dogs you were with turned out to be fine!

    16. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I’m glad the dogs came back so easily! Good luck with the rest of your petsitting time.

      I once had a coworker volunteer to petsit my dog while I was on an extended vacation because her kids wanted a dog and she wanted them to get some experience living with and taking care of a pet. Unfortunately, they got the worst of the pet owning experience as my dog got sick and had to be put down while I was gone, devastating everyone. They never got a dog.

    17. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I had a pet sitter at my house with my 2 cats and my parent’s cat. As far as I know, she played with the cats (2 were under a year so lots of play time, and parent’s cat mostly kept herself separate from the kittens), read, watched tv/streamed, did whatever projects she does. She also did basic housework to maintain the house. Sent me lots of funny pictures.

      Basically, do whatever, just don’t cause damage or problems and clean up whatever mess you make.

    18. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yikes! Glad it all worked out for you. That’s a stomach-dropping feeling.

      Worst pet-sitting experience I had was when I was watching my neighbor’s ancient, really sweet cat.

      I woke up early (headed for a sunrise second date with my now-husband) and couldn’t find the cat to feed him. Had to text my now-husband to tell him I would be late, and when I finally found Mister Kitty…he had peacefully passed in his sleep.

      I felt awful but my neighbor said he had been expecting it, so that was okay. I don’t remember what I did with his body till my neighbor got home, and now I’ll be wondering about this. Maybe I told my husband? I’ll have to ask.

    19. Dog and cat fosterer*

      The comments about elderly pets reminded me of a good story:

      I fostered for a charity who help people leaving domestic violence situations, when they stay in shelters or with family and can’t care for their pets right after leaving home. I took in an elderly 19 year old cat, and looked after her for 8 months. The owner didn’t expect to ever see her again, but at least she knew that her sweet kitty was safe and I would send updates to the charity who forwarded them to her.

      And then she found a place to live, and got her 20 year old cat back. I couldn’t be there for safety reasons, but apparently there were copious happy tears and I get slightly misty just thinking about it. I was so thankful she was reunited and whatever months or years she had with her family were well worth my time caring for her.

    20. eeeek*

      I have a friend who had a very cute but terribly behaved little doggy – the sort of tiny-dog tyrant that she never trained or socialized in any of the ways that would make it a good dog. My friend left the country for a year on a mission/service trip, and asked my husband and me to take on the yappy, nippy, poop-in the kitchen, pee on your foot, purse-dog. Nope. She found another set of friends who agreed to do it, and when she returned home, she found her precious baby completely transformed into a clever, well-behaved, sweet, quiet and calm dog. It turns out that as soon as her plane took off, her friends checked that dog into a sort of behavioral training boot camp (6 weeks with a good trainer and a good pack of dogs), so they could enjoy the rest of the year with the dog. They probably pushed the limits of their care agreement, but I don’t blame them.

  26. WoodswomanWrites*

    This is a question for those of you who have been solo caregivers and live far from family who would help if they were nearby. This is a wordy post but I’m hoping the background gives some context in case anyone has been through something comparable.

    My brother-in-law is very ill with a neurological disorder that’s not Parkinson’s but could be something more than what he’s been tentatively diagnosed with, and perhaps is related in some way to another serious health issue. He’s on meds for all this stuff and side effects might be part of what’s going on. It’s taking freaking forever to get a full work-up because of the mess that is our US health care system and it’s been awful for my sister to watch him go from a lifelong competitive athlete less than a year ago to now being barely able to move. He can get himself to the bathroom but I’m not sure he can do much else on his own. Both are in their 70s and live out of state in a small city. She’s retired, and he continues to work online here and there in a self-directed career he can control.

    He can still think clearly but he is suffering from severe depression, to the point that if my sister weren’t around I’d be concerned he’d just give up on life before asking anyone for help. While she told me over the phone that the situation was awful, I saw for myself only this week how bad things are as he continues to deteriorate physically. They came to where I live in the SF Bay Area because there are outstanding specialists here and they got a work-up for his other health issue. Somehow they managed to get him here on a plane and I drove them everywhere for their overnight trip. They’re still waiting to get an appointment to see a specialist here for his neurological condition.

    My sister’s best friend who lived nearby died at the beginning of the year and my brother-in-law comes from a mess of a family where no one would ask for help. He has some casual friends but won’t reach out to them. He’s given up on pretty much everything. They’re working on getting him an antidepressant that doesn’t give him challenging side effects. He’s agreed to see a therapist but no one has any openings, so they’re trying telehealth. In the meantime, she has to have the willpower for both of them in virtually everything in day to day life. There’s nothing that can be done for how long it takes for an appointment to see a specialist.

    For anyone who has been the caregiver (or the person cared for) in a comparable situation, what help was useful for you when your support system was far away? After their visit, I gave them a link to models of rolling walkers that would fit his tall frame because my sister could only find one that is too short (he fell while he was here since it gives him little stability).

    He’s never been chatty but really is not up for talking these days. She’s worn out talking about it so mostly we email. I send them links to light media features, and have sent them books reflecting their interests which they appreciate. I think they’ve reached the point where they need to hire someone to help and will suggest that but not sure how it will land.

    I welcome hearing suggestions about what worked for you.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      The non-local family can help with some things. My sister isn’t local, but she handles Medicare and that’s a lot. She also researches for things. Basically, there’s a lot that needs to be done that doesn’t necessarily require being on site, or only partially requires being on site. Need to hire caregivers? Lots of legwork happens before you get to the interview.

      It does require good communication between the local and nonlocal people though.

      1. Mztery*

        This sounds really challenging. I think talking with your sister-in-law about getting some help would be a great first step, is that would allow her to take a break now, and again. I haven’t gone through this personally, but I have a good friend who is going through it now, and I can tell you that the donations that we can make to her family so she can take a night off or go out to dinner or get a massage have been invaluable. Somewhat like your family her situation is not going to change – she will still remain the caregiver for her husband for quite a while, but having in-home help a couple days a week, and then our friend group helping her out for treats has made life really livable. I hope this is helpful.

        And yes, bay area doctors are the best – part of the “golden handcuffs“ we have here is that we have access to the best medical care in the world. so hopefully they will find out what’s going on with him neurologically and that will be a step forward.

    2. Morning Dew*

      May I recommend an upright walker for him? My husband has one and this one makes you stand tall and not have to hunch over like you do with the typical lightweight walkers you see out in public. We got his from Amazon but just Google for upright walkers and you will see many options/models.

    3. Sitting Pretty*

      I can’t help but wonder if there are some things that faraway loved ones would happily help with if they knew what those things were. Like contributing towards a biweekly cleaning service. Or contributing towards a meal delivery plan.

      A friend of mine whose husband has had a rapidly worsening condition asked specifically for meal delivery to take the pressure off having to cook. Mealtrain is a little work to set up (which you or someone else could offer to set up for them) but once it’s going, she can put in which days she’d like food (or help walking the dog, or whatever). This can be nice if her area has DoorDash or something similar because distant loved ones can sign up for a takeaway meal and have it delivered.

      I’ll also say that my friend set up a Caring Bridge site for her husband’s condition. She makes weekly updates about how they’re doing, what she needs help with, what his prognosis is, and happy stuff too. She does all this with his permission. And it gives her as the caregiver a way to share with their circle what’s going on without having to have exhausting individual conversations with everyone. She controls who is invited to see the site. And sharing the story gives all of their loved ones more insight into what kinds of help is really helpful… Like people swinging by for a visit so she can get a break and he can get company is really a big help, but people may not know that, so the CaringBridge is a good tool for connection and support

    4. Samwise*

      Are you/anyone willing and able to help pay for someone to do housework? Yardwork? Gift cards for gasoline? Home health aide?

      Ask your sister if your BIL would welcome texts or calls or cards. If yes and you promise to do so say once a week, make sure you actually follow through.

      Can you go out and care for your BIL for a few days so your sister can take a break? Even if it’s just for half a day for a couple of days. Or go out and do all the stuff she can’t get to because she’s too busy with your BIL or too tired.

    5. Been There*

      I have been there. I cared for my terminally ill husband for a year. It was awful and exhausting and scary… and yet I would have happily done it for longer to get more time with him. In addition to the great suggestions already made about meals and contributions, here are some other thoughts. I didn’t ask for help until I was so worn out that I could barely articulate what I needed help with. I desperately wanted a helper to come in the morning and clean up last night’s dishes but I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. So… I think a good approach would be to email your sister and ask her to help you come up with a few things that would make her life just a little easier — whether it be helping to set up grocery delivery or getting a helper, etc. These aren’t giant things but they can seem giant when you are physically and mentally tired.

      For my own sanity, I started two hobbies that I never thought I would. They gave my brain a rest from the constant worry. Caring for someone isn’t creative. I took up knitting, especially with variegated yarn (the kind that is dyed in various colors) and I enjoyed the little delight of seeing new rows of color. The other thing I started doing was jigsaw puzzles while listening to music — mindless fun. These things helped me.

      Depending on what your sister feels she needs, I’d vote for an occasional helper in the house or someone to run errands if that’s financially feasible. For hands-on care help, if they are open to having someone (like a relative or a trained nursing assistant) stay in the house with him so that she can take a weekend off, that could be very helpful if she’d like that.

      While I went through my experience alone as a caregiver, I had friends who sent emails and that made me feel less alone. So nice that you are keeping in touch so well and offering distractions.

  27. Bagpuss*

    Hello,
    I am looking for recommendations for books, ideally series, for my dad. He is having some health issues which make him very tired so wants stuff that doesn’t need too much focus – he has been re-reading Ellis Peters Cadfael books, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham , the ‘Sharpe’ and Hornblower’ novels.
    Ihes not into action/spy stuff or the darker or more graphic type of crime novels .
    any suggestions?
    thanks in advance

    1. Quandong*

      Based on what he’s read, perhaps books by Alexander McCall Smith? I can’t speak for the 44 Scotland Street series but the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series was enjoyable for me (a long time ago when they were new).

    2. ShinyPenny*

      When my Mom was ill, I got her a couple of large print Louis L’Amour short story collections that were really cheap on Thriftbooks. Not her usual read! And she doesn’t actually need large print. But she said they were the perfect fit for her level of fatigue and brain fog at the time.
      I found two LL collections of western shorts. There also was a third collection of shorts set in… hmmm… maybe Southeast Asia? Which was unexpected, and all the stories seemed depressing so I did not pass that third book to Mom.

    3. rr*

      I would count Ellis Peters as my favorite author. Someone who also writes period mysteries was Margaret Frazer. They aren’t as good, but it is something to maybe look up.

      But that said, if I’m tending to depression anyway, they can add to it, because an overall theme in a lot of them is the hypocrisy of human beings.

    4. Georgia Sands*

      Definitely Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey – Maturin series! Like Hornblower but it’s actually good and there are 20 books so there’s a lot of reading for him. I’d recommend them to anyone actually, they’re brilliant!

    5. Madame Arcati*

      Colin Dexter? He wrote the inspector morse books. Vg and you dad might enjoy the ones written in the seventies /eighties. Or PD James?

    6. Phryne*

      Based on his Cadfael interest I can recommend books by Susanna Gregory. She writes historical detectives, not too heavy. The Matthew Bartholomew series is set at the uni in medieval Cambridge, and she also has a Thomas Chaloner series set in London during Charles II. Another light historical detective is the Falco series by Lindsey Davis set in Rome during Vespasian (severe half of the 1th century CE)

      1. Phryne*

        For something more contemporary, I really liked the books by Philip Gwynne Jones set in modern day Venice, the main character is a Brit who moved there and so is the writer.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      If he likes the Cadfael books, he should try Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series. It’s set in 7th century Ireland and she is a dalaigh (a lawyer (yes, there were female lawyers in Celtic Ireland)) who solves cases to prove her “clients” (for want of a more suitable word) innocent or not liable (because sometimes it’s more a case of the local chieftan being held liable for somebody from outside the area being killed under his jurisdiction and she has to prove they aren’t liable under the law codes of the day).

      I find them much more relatable than the Cadfael books, but that may be because I am Irish (and Brehon law was just SO Irish) and a history teacher who has a fascination with Brehon Law.

      By the way, there’s some discussion in them about St. Patrick becoming Ireland’s patron saint or at least the process that would lead to that and as they are from Tipperary, they see it, with good reason, as dismissive of their local saints.

      And there are some short stories that don’t require the same level of brain engagment as a full book.

    8. Teapot Translator*

      Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Siri Paiboun series, maybe? The main character is in his 70s. I should warn that Siri discovers in one of the books that he’s the reincarnation of a thousand-year old shaman. I wouldn’t call the books fantasy, but it’s part of the character’s journey.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Based on the Sharpe and Hornblower, the Patrick O’Brien novels that start with Master and Commander. Early 1800s tale of a sea captain and his close friend, a physician who clearly takes a bit of inspiration from Darwin.

      One of the readers of the audio books is really exceptional at capturing the rip-roaring tale of the sea aspect; the other reader is trying to perform Shakespeare and it doesn’t work.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco series, starts with The Silver Pigs. It’s a Marlowe-esque private detective transported to ancient Rome. Nice bits of history; late in the series she is clearly working out some issues with her plumbing contractors.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Pretty much anything by Alexander McCall Smith, starting with the “Portuguese Irregular Verbs” or “44 Scotland Street” series.

      He might like the “Flavia de Luce” mystery series.

      Josephine Tey.

    12. GoryDetails*

      In the historical-mysteries genre:

      C. J. Sansom’s “Matthew Shardlake” series, set during Tudor England, about a lawyer who keeps getting involved in mysteries ranging from legal battles over wills to high-level political concerns. (In one book he winds up on the Mary Rose when it heels over and sinks; he’s not usually an action guy but sometimes events take over!)

      I also love Alan Gordon’s “Fools Guild” series, set in 13th-century Europe, and following a very clever (and snarky) professional fool/juggler who’s also part of the Fools’ Guild, which does behind-the-scenes political machinations. (I’m mainly there for the snark, which is often hilarious, but the author’s historical research is awe-inspiring.)

    13. Part time lab tech*

      Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series and the Dick Francis books. (His son Felix Francis also writes books in a similar style but the way Felix writes women lacks depth to me. Dick Francis’s wife helped a lot with the research and drafting). Kerry Greenwood. My Dad also likes those books listed and he likes Louis L’Amour as well.

    14. Nervous Nellie*

      As he’s been reading lots of English writers, he might enjoy Dick Francis racing mysteries. Not the ones he co-wrote with his son in later years – they’re a bit coarse. The earlier ones are masterpieces.

    15. Lexi Vipond*

      Has he read Ellis Peters’ Inspector Felse books? I find them a bit more hit and miss, but really like some of them.

      Dorothy Sayers?

      E. C. Lorac, who I’d never heard of until her books started turning up in what I was proofing for Faded Page – but I got a few of them from Amazon, if he doesn’t like reading online.

      Cyril Hare’s books are mostly about a barrister, so a slightly different feel, but I love them – and they are still mysteries.

      Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver books are great comfort reading, but ‘cosier’ than Marsh or Allingham – he obviously has nothing against female authors, though!

      I was going to suggest the Richard Hannay books, but that might fall too much on the action/spy side – I like them and also don’t like a lot of things which come under that description, though!

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

      Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. Some are novels: I’d start with *Black Orchids*, *Some Buried Caesar*, *Fer-De-Lance*, or *Over My Dead Body* or *Too Many Cooks* (content warning for some racism on that last one, though Nero Wolfe comes out on the anti-racist side). After he’s read a couple, he might like *The Second Confession* and *In the Best of Families*, which are the last two parts of a mini-trilogy of novels in the series. There are also a bunch of trilogies of Nero Wolfe short stories that Stout wrote that might be good for limited attention spans, though I think the short stories are more enjoyable once you’re already a fan.

      P.G. Wodehouse short stories and novels are great light reading too (content warning for occasional racism, though).

    17. PollyQ*

      Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries are charming & breezy, and there are dozens of them if it turns out he likes them.

    18. Unreal Sonia*

      Has he read the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser? (Not sure how famous they are in America). They are about a scoundrelly soldier who is hailed a hero in the early 1900s – very readable and there’s overlap with fans of Sharpe.

    19. Sister George Michael*

      Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver series. Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series. Ruth Rendell’s Chief Inspector Wexford. PD James. Georges Simenon. Andrea Carter’s Inishowen (Ireland) mysteries.

    20. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Does he read in paper or on an e-reader? If e-reader, I recommend M. Louisa Locke’s historical mystery series. It starts with Maids of Misfortune.

      My dad had similar taste. He really enjoyed Peter Robinson’s mysteries (British police procedurals) and Aaron Elkins’ Gideon Oliver series (forensic anthropologist).

    21. Pam Adams*

      Nero Wolfe?

      Second the Aubrey/Maturin books.

      I enjoy 50’s/60’s boys books. Stephen Meader and Jim Kjelgaard are favorites.

    22. Janesfriend*

      Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club novels are a huge hit with my father and his cohort, though our whole family has read and enjoyed them. They’re fun murder mysteries set in a retirement village.

    23. Turts*

      Not sure how available they’d be where you are but the British Library has a series called Crime Classics where they’re republishing lots of lesser known crime stories from the Golden Age by various authors

    24. Bagpuss*

      Thanks for all the suggestions .

      I’ve got quite a few LCR Lorac but I hadn’t to suggest them to him, so may lend him some and see what he thinks! And will see if I can get a couple of the Sister Fidelia
      They already have a lot of the Master & Commander ones,Lindsay Davies
      I am heading to the British library later this week so will be checking out those although I admit that of quite a few of those which I’ve read, I felt there was a good reason they’d been out of print!

  28. Firebird*

    My historical dance group is getting more historical by the day. We are getting old and are having trouble recruiting younger members. It seems that we are considered the most historically accurate group left for our dance form, so when we end, there’s nobody else to take over. Right now it’s frustrating because some of us are getting forgetful during performances.

    Last week I had to physically turn and push my partner into the right direction during a performance. Just telling him what to do doesn’t always work. He’s a lot bigger than me and it’s hard to keep him on track. Others are starting to have similar issues. It’s important that everyone is in the proper place at all times, because it really messes up the dance and throws off the other dancers who don’t know how to compensate. I’m not sure how much the audience notices.

    Our group leader later came up to me and another dancer to thank us for keeping our partners going. I don’t know how much longer I want to keep doing this. I get problematic partners because I can keep them going and do my own part at the same time. It is exhausting and I don’t enjoy performing any more.

    I’m willing to keep practicing with the group, but I don’t want to perform with a partner who either is forgetful or doesn’t bother to show up for practice. Our group leaders don’t know how to handle this, because they don’t want to exclude anyone.

    I like our group and the leaders and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or get anyone kicked out. Is there a tactful or kind (yet firm) way to explain that I don’t want to perform anymore? There will be pushback and possibly begging and I’m afraid that I might give in.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Do you want to stop altogether or would you be happy to consider continuing if you had a partner who didn’t need your reminders/guidance?

      while the leaders don’t want to exclude anyone, would it still work with fewer people? is there any scope for suggesting a ‘display team’ for events with everyone still being able to participate in lower stakes, social events?

      I think probably the best option is to say what you have here about how exhausting it is, and if you would be open to continuing with a different partner, say so

    2. Zebydeb*

      That’s so tricky. My mum’s morris dancing side has adapted their dances as they started to feel their age, e.g. re-arranging some eight-person dances to six so that people get more rest breaks, but that probably doesn’t help if you want to maintain historical accuracy.

    3. Lila*

      this isn’t what you asked, but if you are considered the most historically accurate group, you could consider recording some of your performances/practices/etc so that even if your group ultimately ends there’s a record of them. it might help the weighty feeling that this information will be lost if you don’t continue.

    4. Group dancer*

      You might be able to better recruit new members and maintain members, including yourself, if you split into multiple levels – folks who learn fast and perform at a higher level, and a slower moving level. They can meet at different times or in different rooms/parts of a large room, but still perform together. In my 25+ years of experience with folk dancing, having multiple levels is key to success.

    5. Generic Name*

      If you’re wanting to recruit younger members, think about practice times that are convenient for people with jobs. I’ve seen groups that I’d love to join, but a 10:30 AM meeting on a Tuesday just isn’t workable with me working full time.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      Some things I would wonder about for recruiting:

      – Is there a cultural center or other community group where people might be invested in preserving the tradition even if they wouldn’t typically enjoy dancing? Would people like that be interested in the group if they knew they could learn/practice/socialize but not need to perform?

      – Is this style of dancing familiar to an immigrant population in your area who may be interested but have barriers such as language, cost, or awareness that the group even exists? How could you reach out to them?

      – Are there youth dance programs in your area that might be interested in collaborating with you even if they wouldn’t fully join your group?

      – Would group members be interested in doing some kind of mentorship program? I’m imagining that even if young people are interested in the dance they might feel weird about dancing with older members, especially if some of them are the kind of partner you’re frustrated with yourself. If you could develop a program where beginners learn and perform together you might be able to keep the group and dance going with people who are struggling more to perform taking on a different role.

  29. The Prettiest Curse*

    We already have regular weekend threads for reading and gaming – could we start one for “what are you watching?” too? (Film, TV, YouTube, TikTok etc.) I usually don’t get to the weekend thread until there are 100+ comments due to time zone differences, so we could do this on the basis that if the comment thread hasn’t already been posted, whoever wants to start it can go ahead and do so.

    Tell me what you think of this idea – and also what you’ve been watching!

    1. Helvetica*

      Ted Lasso! As always, I am watching a very popular and well-acclaimed show years after everyone else. It is charming and heartwarming, and I am pleased it is less about football than I thought it’d be.
      However, while I loved the first season, I am finding the second one less well balanced and a bit off when it comes to seeing storylines come through. It does run into the problem I have noticed with many comedies/comedic series, which is that the characters may develop and grow in one episode but then regress in the next one, as if they’ve forgotten the change they went through.

      1. Perpetua*

        I love Ted Lasso so much. <3 Although I did find the quality waning a bit with each season, and I wasn’t entirely happy with parts of the ending, but I still think it’s such a precious show and I wish we had more of that!

    2. Hot Water Bottle*

      Very good idea!
      Probably no-one else’s idea of a good time. but.. I went out on a limb last week and watched the first four ‘Friday the 13th’ slasher movies from the early 80s (my library had a 4-pack DVD). they were an easier watch than I expected (I quickly breezed through all 4) and not nearly as offensive as the critics of the time claimed they were.

      Biggest takeaway was that they were probably written by people with a Freudian Psych background.. they are loaded with obvious castration, phallic, oedipal, etc. imagery. One of the heroines is even a child therapist LOL who saves the day by talking to the killer like he’s a 5 year old.

      Parts 1 and 2 are more serious. and the next two try to mix in awkward raunchy comedy (another 80s relic). They also reminded me of some common early-80s social habits that are now thankfully gone, like imitating Native Americans (the hand over the mouth thing), egging on single guys to approach strange women, casual hitchhiking. etc. So not bad for some accidental nostalgia value.

    3. Teapot Translator*

      Good idea!
      I’m re-watching Poirot because I discovered a podcast (the Labours of Hercule), where the hosts rewatch episodes and gush about it. It’s great fun.

      1. Just here for the scripts*

        where are you finding them? I’m been searching for the David Suchet ones for years!!!!

      2. Helvetica*

        I did it last year to de-compress from working on emotionally heavy things – it is such a nice show and David Suchet is a gem.

    4. L. Ron Jeremy*

      Finished the first 4 episodes of season 6 of The Crown on Netflix last night. Main focus is the last few months of Diana”s life and death.

      It was sad, but well though out and enjoyable. Looking forward to the next 4 episodes coming in mid December.

      1. Mimmy*

        My husband and I just finished those episodes as well (I mainly just watched episodes 3 and 4). I thought it was done very tastefully.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      (I want to note that I sincerely feel like the recurring threads are fine for anyone to start. It’s whoever gets here first and wants to talk about books, nifty small purchases, etc.)

      I just watched the second season of Shadow and Bone, which was fun. The first season I felt was dragged down by the main character being very passive, while the fun was all over with the secondary plotline about the Crows; in this season Alina is more active*. There is no third season (I think that’s a bad call from Netflix, in terms of trusting them that I should get invested in a future series) but Season 2 winds up most of the ongoing plotlines and then the end is setting up the third season. You can get a lot of what would have been in that third season by reading the Six of Crows duology, which is a very fun heist with magic.

      I really liked the new Spiderman movie, which is on Netflix. It does the multiverse well.

      *More active compared to the books, too, I gather; I think the author has intimated that she would have avoided some tropes if she were recrafting the stories about these characters now, and the televised series seems to roll with that.

    6. mreasy*

      Moonlighting is finally available on streaming and so that is our main project! Also bake off of course.

    7. Jackalope*

      As the person who usually starts the reading and gaming threads, I definitely encourage you to start a “What are you watching?” thread series if you want! My experience is that people generally enjoy that kind of thread a lot – both with those two threads and with others that people sometimes come up with – and they can have a lot of fun.

      If this is an option for you, I’d recommend paying attention to when Alison generally starts the weekend thread and trying to get your posts in on the earlier side. It’s the sort of thread that benefits from being higher in the list of comments. And I’ve noticed that on the weekends that I’m able to put some sort of question in the starting post to trigger discussion (like one week when I had a question about a specific game series in the gaming thread, for example), that can also help. But it’s 100% not necessary if you have inspiration for a question beyond “What are you watching?”

    8. RussianInTexas*

      Doctor Blake on Britbox, a mid-century crime drama series set in a small town in Australia. Boyfriend and I just finished Psych, catching up on Star Trek: Discovery, and will be starting the second season of Wheel of Time next week.
      I am also solo catching up with Virgin River, British Bake-Off, and will start the new season of The Crown today.

    9. fposte*

      I have been watching Welcome to Wrexham and am astonished by how incredibly absorbing it is, even the soccer. I am now convinced I have an inner Megan Rapinoe, though she’s pretty well buried. I also studied for a year in North Wales and am a bit of a Welshaboo, so it’s fun to have an opportunity to sing along with the anthem and annoy my friends.

    10. Nervous Nellie*

      Great thread! I just finished Slings & Arrows, a Canadian short series about a Shakespeare company, and am finally watching the final 2 seasons of Homeland – which is tough going as always, especially these seasons with their ripped-from-the-headlines events. I also recently watched and loved the series Superstore, about the workday and personal lives of employees at a big box store. It was a sweet comedy, but also with strong, positive messages about unions and undocumented workers.

    11. Toni*

      Re-runs of “Dr. Phil,” who I cannot stand, but I love when he tells off meddling mothers-in law. So satisfying!

      1. L. Ron Jeremy*

        I loved the episode where Dr Phil invited the creator of the BumFights video series on his show to confront him about exploiting vulnerable people for financial gain—only for him to show up dressed up as Dr Phil & point out he does the same exact thing.

        Priceless!

    12. Seashell*

      I am watching the third season of Starstruck on Max. I was trying to avoid binging the whole thing too quickly, but then I forgot about it. Now I’m back with it. I still like it, but I’m thinking the storyline is getting too repetitive.

      1. fposte*

        I had the same concern and felt the third season improved as it went on; I’d say stick with it and see what you think.

      2. Janesfriend*

        I loved the 3rd series and was embarrassingly proud of Jessie by the end of it – I though she’d really grown up!

    13. Jay*

      I’m on a YouTube kick lately.
      Smaller, more bite-sized, self contained videos that are easier on a Place That Shall Not Be Named addled brain.
      The SCP Foundation, Warhammer Lore videos, young people reacting to classic comedies, short shows from standup comedians that I’ve never heard of before, spooky stories, people with cool/strange jobs and hobbies, that sort of thing.

    14. Perpetua*

      I recently finished watching Daisy Jones and The Six, and frankly I was quite surprised by how much it impacted me. I went into it not expecting much, found the start somewhat slow, but I had nothing better to watch so I continued. And while I was often annoyed at some characters, I also got completely hooked and I keep thinking about it for days! I keep listening to the soundtrack and loving all the songs. So funny how these things sometimes take us by surprise.

      1. Retired Accountant*

        I love the book so much and the full cast audiobook is fantastic. Still starts slow, though. (The Six are pretty boring until they hook up with Daisy.)

    15. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve been rewatching The Good Place! I’ve seen it many times but it’s just so funny and wholesome, and it’s been awhile.

      I’m also rewatching Doctor Who. Originally the plan was to watch the seasons I haven’t seen (I stopped somewhere in the 12 years and haven’t seen 13 at all) to be completely caught up for the 60th anniversary specials starting next weekend, but no, I started at the beginning. Even though I haven’t been into the show for years I’m SO excited for the specials!! David Tennant and Catherine Tate are my favorite Doctor/companion duo and I’m thrilled they’re both coming back.

    16. Kathenus*

      I recently discovered Maine Cabin Masters on Magnolia Network, and really enjoy it. Beautiful scenery, funny/quirky/talented group of people who renovate Maine cabins, and love seeing the transformations of the buildings and the owners’ reactions.

    17. Mitchell Hundred*

      I am almost done watching “Dragon Ball GT”, the sequel series to “Dragon Ball Zed.” I feel like the people behind it didn’t have a good handle on what made the original series so beloved, as they kept introducing and abandoning interesting ideas (ideas that the previous series would have spent an entire story arc exploring). But I’m watching it because one of my favourite podcasts is dedicated to recapping the various series in the franchise episode by episode.

      I also recently watched “System Crasher” on Netflix, a very good movie from Germany about a young girl in the foster care system who has been severely traumatized and has deep-rooted behavioural issues as a result.

    18. OyHiOh*

      I made a dumb perpetual theatre “kid” playlist on YT that I’ve been playing nearly daily for awhile. Iconic musical theatre numbers, ideally with the actor who originated the character, paired with interesting and/or thought provoking interpretations of the work. For instance, Betty Brinkle singing He Plays the Violin (1776) paired with Andrew Keenan Bolger singing the same role for Broadway Backwards (fundraising showcase for Broadway Cares).

      Cell Block Tango, Mein Herr (if you are of an age to have obsessed over High School Musical, earlier this year Corbin Bleu did a performance of this number that will make you see him in a whole different light), A History of Wrong Guys, I Feel Pretty, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, You’ll be Back, A Boy Like That, Impossible, Getting Married Today, Big Spender, and one of my absolute twists on an iconic standard, Titus Burgess singing And I am Telling You (Dreamgirls, normally sung by an actress playing Jennifer Hudson), and more.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Excuse me while I go find that Corbin Bleu video, lol.

        If you like that type of performance and haven’t come across MCC Theater’s “Miscast” fundraiser series on YouTube you should check it out! My all-time favorite is Kelly Marie Tran doing “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” and I also love Auli’i Cravalho’s “Something’s Coming.” There’s a “Telephone Song” from Bye Bye Birdie that made amazing use of the online format during Covid, too.

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

      Showed my students *Hotel Rwanda*, which I had not seen before. Wow, that was a beautifully directed film that absolutely kept my attention. (Content warning for genocide. Even though most stuff is not too graphically shown, the film is really good at making you the viewer feel some of the stress and tension the people in that situation were feeling.) I felt like it was important to show the film because of the genocidal language being thrown around publicly these days — I wanted my students to see what that kind of language and thinking can lead to.

    20. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      Life has been super stressful lately, and I’ve been enjoying Korean housewife YouTube videos. My favorites are HeyMayDay and HoneyJubu. Little 20 minute videos of calmness – cleaning, cooking, no dialogue (but subtitles) and gentle music. I enjoy seeing the cultural differences, and pick up cleaning hacks and Korean recipes I want to try. Very soothing.

    21. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been working my way through The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which I dipped into occasionally as a kid but with no real understanding of it. The sexism of 1970s TV is really annoying, but it’s not all bad. Cloris Leachman was an absolute treasure, and Ted Knight as Ted Baxter was funny as hell.

    22. Mimmy*

      After spending several months watching the ENTIRE Grey’s Anatomy series, I was itching for another medical drama, so I’ve started watching House on Hulu.

    23. GoryDetails*

      It’s more what I’m refraining from watching – there are a couple of Netflix series that I’m enjoying so much I don’t want to run out, so I’m… anti-binging?… these:

      The live-action “One Piece” series, rollicking pirate/fantasy-superpowers action with a thoroughly charming cast…

      The animated series “Pluto”, based on the marvelous noir/SF manga in which something is killing the world’s most powerful – and best-beloved – robots. (Whole subplots involve the rights of intelligent robots, issues of AI, what-is-a-person, etc., but it’s also a police-procedural, and has surprising character-depth overall.)

      On the lighter side, cooking shows: The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, The Great Canadian Bakeoff (usually via YouTube), assorted holiday baking/decorating contest shows on the Food Network…

    24. All Monkeys are French*

      Our Flag Means Death. It’s a short series (so far?) but I’m so charmed by the central romance, the inclusivity, and the quirky characters that I keep coming back for more viewings.

    25. allathian*

      Great idea! We just completed the second season of Loki. I enjoyed it, even if I missed the humor of the first season. We’re also almost done with the sixth season of Voyager. I’m liking it a lot better this time, I guess I can enjoy it for what it is rather than criticizing its faults (inconsistent writing).

      My husband and I are almost done with the third season of The Wire.

    26. Tiny clay insects*

      Taskmaster! I got the app to get access to all of it. Back in October my husband and I started with Season 1 and have now reached Season 10. :-) I think my favorite seasons have been 1 (Tree wizard!), 4 (Noel and Mel!), and 7 (Jessica Knappet falling off the stage, James Acaster screaming at Rhod for the extension team task, so many good moments).

    27. goddessoftransitory*

      We’re watching Victorian/Edwardian/Tudor Farm on Britbox, with Ruth Goodman just nerding out over having a copper and a hot tap and it is delightful.

      Also just started Death in Paradise, which I’m thoroughly enjoying, especially since it stars Danny John-Jules, Cat from Red Dwarf! Still in great shape and charming as ever.

  30. Lemonwhirl*

    Love the idea.

    I’m a couple of episodes into the second season of “The Afterparty”. The first season was so great and funny and perfect. It’s taken me a few episodes to warm up to the second season.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      For me, the songs in the first season raised the bar pretty high when it came to watching the second. “Yeah, sure, whatever” is said a lot in this household, and the series is totally to blame :)

  31. Madame Arcati*

    Oh my life I am SO frustrated with the comments section – not the content but I’m trying and trying and it just won’t post!
    Or refreshes halfway through and loses what I have written!
    What can I do? I don’t get this anywhere else on the internet…

    1. Madame Arcati*

      I’ve tried drafting in a note and pasting in to avoid the refresh-loss but I swear o have tried about eight times to reply to an early question about gift ideas and it just refuses to appear! I took out the link after the first couple of goes but still no dice!
      And I’ve tried both phone and iPad.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Likely something in the comment is triggering moderation. Links always do but certain words and phrases can as well.

    2. Phryne*

      I’ve had several instances where typed replies don’t post. Sometimes they show up later anyway, sometimes not. Singing I wonder if they went to moderation (My Dutch mouths is ready more potty than is polite in US, but in that case I wish the site would tell me that) but mostly these were not controversial so I would not know why that is happening, if it is happening or it is something else altogether.
      Anyway, first step in problems browsers, have you tried resetting your cookies? Always a good idea to do every now and then

      1. Me too*

        this happens to me sometimes without a link, especially the page refreshing while I’m in the middle of writing something. Sometimes if I can find the same reply link and hit it again my partial draft will be there and sometimes not.

        Also, just today (so far) I am getting taken to a random place in the comments after I post something.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It sounds like you’re not talking about comments going to moderation, but rather page jumping? (Links aren’t the only thing that will send comments to moderation though, and sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to it at all.)

    3. ShinyPenny*

      The page randomly refreshing itself is happening a lot to me this weekend- about every 5 minutes? Of course this erases any comment I’ve half finished.
      I’ve started writing my comments in Word, and then pasting them into the comment box. Or periodically select all and copy, so I don’t lose everything every time. Either method helps a lot.

  32. Hot Water Bottle*

    Very good idea!
    Probably no-one else’s idea of a good time. but.. I went out on a limb last week and watched the first four ‘Friday the 13th’ slasher movies from the early 80s (my library had a 4-pack DVD). they were an easier watch than I expected (I quickly breezed through all 4) and not nearly as offensive as the critics of the time claimed they were.

    Biggest takeaway was that they were probably written by people with a Freudian Psych background.. they are loaded with obvious castration, phallic, oedipal, etc. imagery. One of the heroines is even a child therapist LOL who saves the day by talking to the killer like he’s a 5 year old.

    Parts 1 and 2 are more serious. and the next two try to mix in awkward raunchy comedy (another 80s relic). They also reminded me of some common early-80s social habits that are now thankfully gone, like imitating Native Americans (the hand over the mouth thing), egging on single guys to approach strange women, casual hitchhiking. etc. So not bad for some accidental nostalgia value.

    1. Hrodvitnir*

      I enjoyed this review! I haven’t seen any of them. It’s pretty fascinating watching films from that time period and seeing how wildly perspectives have changed – I was born in the 80s but of course 80s films very much lingered throughout my childhood, and the 90s weren’t wildly different.

  33. KarenInKansas*

    I second the Louis Lamour…esp the Sackett series. James Herriot’s books are interesting for the people, humor, and era, even if he’s not big of animals. Patrick F. McManus books about the outdoor life are hilarious. Ivan Doig’s books tracing the history of Montana through the stories of several families are great. I hope your father feels better soon.

    1. KarenInKansas*

      argh!!!! I know I nested this properly! the page refreshed and when I hit submit it was no longer nested!

  34. Anon for this II*

    Do you feel like certain life-skill work is something cultural pressure says we are “supposed” to do?

    Long story short I have never liked cooking/cleaning, and although it’s work I can do, I am pretty bad at getting it done. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just hard to do. I’ve recently been understanding this as a result of ADHD (not diagnosed). It’s clear to me how I’ve structured most of my life in ways that match my strengths and otherwise accommodate how my brain works, and I would like to extend this to cooking/cleaning as well, by hiring someone to come once or twice a week for a few hours to clean, organize, and cook with me (not even “for” me). But, I feel like a loser asking for that!

    I reject cultural norms in many ways, but this one feels more ingrained. Maybe it’s an ADHD thing, making me feel like a loser for not doing a thing I want to do. Or maybe I’m feeling (or generating!) pressure to do this work myself. If someone makes enough money, or runs in a certain social circle, it’s normal, even expected, to hire all this sort of work! Something feels off, though, about me doing it as an otherwise self-sufficient small business owner earning a moderate income, and I can’t quite pin it down. I hire people all the time to help get business work done that I can’t or don’t want to do, but there’s something different about doing that for my personal life! Honestly, I suppose it all comes down to one’s own values and the values of one’s social peers. Like everything else, it’s a soup of cultural norms and pressure, different for everyone. How do YOU navigate it?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I would happily pay someone to clean my house except that I hate having strangers in my house if I can avoid it – pre-covid, my housemate’s mom actually was a professional house cleaner, which was perfect for me, but she retired and moved out of state during the pandemic. I outsource most of my lawn and yard work – mowing and weeding to a neighborhood high school kid saving for college, and the post-doggy pickup to a professional service who comes and scoops the poop and takes it away for “sanitary disposal” (whatever that means, I just know it’s not all going into my dumpster to get gross, so I’m all in). But otherwise, it’s pretty much just the “having people I don’t know in my space gives me the wiggins” part that keeps me from farming out more household chores than I already do. I just vacuumed my house yesterday and was muttering “I miss Miss Patti” under my breath the whole time :P

    2. Georgia Sands*

      As someone who has ADHD (diagnosed), something that will make your life much harder and exacerbate the negative aspects of your ADHD is caring about how you “should” do things in situations where it doesn’t matter. Find ways that work for you – society will find some way to criticise you whatever you do. Other people don’t live your life and if someone thinks you’re a loser for doing something in a slightly different way, which harms nobody and has no negative consequences, because it works better for you… Do you really think their opinion is worth valuing?

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yes yes yes. Throw out all the “shoulds.” Don’t try to brute-force your brain into the “normal” way of doing things, it’s a waste of energy. Work with the brain you have. And if you have the money to remove some barriers, go for it – who cares if it “shouldn’t” be a barrier, it is one for you.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      A past physical therapist shared that his much younger brother had severe ADHD, diagnosed in high school, and after his diagnosis the older siblings recognized that they had similar traits expressed more mildly. They had gravitated toward careers where they were moving around and doing a lot of different tasks. (And he ran triathlons in his spare time.)

      I think the cleaning is a very normal thing to outsource if you can afford to do so. If my cancer returns that is the one thing I would do differently, and it was recommended by the cancer center counselors as the thing that really helped a lot of newly wiped out patients–hire someone to come in and clean, even though my husband is very sincere that I can just point out to him any household chore that needs doing.

      Cooking with you once a week is more unusual; I’m not sure if this is something a private chef might do?
      I am a good cook, like to cook–but I usually don’t want to bother when it’s just me, as it has been for the last few weeks. After trying a few different things on this run I have gravitated to good premade stuff as tastier than frozen meals. Soups, especially, last a long time and are easy to heat up.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I think the cooking with is going to be the most difficult to outsource–it sounds pretty expensive to have a chef or cook come to someone’s house on a regular basis.

        Things to consider: buying as many ingredients as possible pre-measured and pre chopped (my life CHANGED when I discovered portioned out shredded chicken in our deli,) meal boxes where everything is right there and you just mix and heat, and so on.

    4. RagingADHD*

      If I could hire out cleaning, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I just can’t drop enough needs out if my budget for that want. But I like cooking for myself, partly due to cost and partly due to needing to control ingredients.

      Beyond the cost, I do have some lingering internal friction with various aspects of the process – either tension over the historic /class indications of having servants, or squeamishness at having strangers in my home touching my stuff. Or judging my dust bunnies.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      I do not have ADHD and I do not like cooking or cleaning. I don’t know if many people like cleaning, realistically, but with cooking, there is a LOT of pressure to like it, for it to be relaxing, to make things from scratch, etc.
      Well, it’s not relaxing for me, I hate prep, I hate planning it, it’s a chore and a drudge. I/we both do it because we like a clean house, and we both now need food being healthy in a specific way, which requires more home cooking.
      I also hate gardening, which is an absolute shock to my mom, who is a garden wizard, and I do not bake. At all. I have never in my life baked a sheet of cookies, and my only brownies cover from a box. I bring drinks to potlucks.
      Also, if hiring someone to clean your house is something you can afford and will make your life easier, do it. There is zero shame in it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think some people like cleaning for the sense of immediate accomplishment. You start in one corner, and an hour later the room is visibly much nicer to be in.

    6. Gyne*

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable to outsource housecleaning. I draw a distinction between oranizing/putting things away and washing/scrubbing. If you are happier in a cluttered space (whatever that means to you), then embrace it. The washing, though, I don’t think of it as a “social norm” to do laundry, scrub toilets, wipe down counters, it’s kind of basic hygiene. The advantage of living in a society is you can pay someone to do that for you!

      As for cooking, no reason whatsoever to do that. I love to cook and eat and make new recipes but if that’s not your thing, order out or get preprepared foods you will eat or whatever you want. I feel like hiring someone to walk you through meal prep will be a losing battle if you don’t actually like it.

      1. Anon for this II*

        I’m still reading everything but just wanted to jump in and note the social norm is that it’s *done yourself*, not *done at all* :)

        1. Gyne*

          Oh I definitely do not think of it as a social norm to do all the cleaning yourself! It’s undoubtedly a privilege to be able to hire someone to do it for you, but I don’t know many people who can afford a housekeeper and choose to scrub their toilets for the joy of it.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Some years back I got annoyed at the PTO for asking us to pay our kids to engage in cleaning to raise money, with the explanation that since the parents all already paid someone to do that anyhow it would make sense. I was irritated both at the idea that everyone must have a housekeeper coming in (I did not) and at the attempt to mess up my “chores are what we do to take care of our shared space, allowance is what you get to practice managing money” system.

          I think fposte is right that this perceived cultural pressure is coming from inside the house.

          There is nothing unusual in paying a cleaner to come in once or twice a week–daily would be unusual. There is nothing unusual in deciding “making this dish from scratch is not worth the effort to me, so I’m going to get it premade.”

      2. Observer*

        order out or get preprepared foods you will eat or whatever you want.

        The problem with this is that the food tends to be either very expensive or poor nutritional value. Having someone come in and do prep for them or cook with them is not about giving them skills for the long term but handing off the job to someone using ingredients that will provide a healthier end product.

        If that works for Anon For This II, I don’t think it’s a big deal. If they prefer to buy prepared food, I don’t think that’s a big deal either.

    7. fposte*

      If I unpack “cultural pressure,” I often find the call is coming from inside the house. Other people don’t care whether I clean or cook or whatever nearly as much as I seem to. So what if I didn’t care so much either?

      I’ve had a biweekly/monthly cleaning service for years and have been delighted with the decision—it’s buying time and paying to be less stressed, which are great uses of money. And I’m better at picking stuff up if I have a cleaning partner coming in to do the rest. I also outsource yard work so I can focus on the fun garden stuff.

    8. Not A Manager*

      Linda Hirshman’s recent passing reminded me about her book Get To Work. In terms of your own mindset about the “virtue” of caring about these chores, you might take a look at it.

    9. sad*

      One of my good friends is a male immigrant froma region of the world where men aren’t expected to cook or clean. He hires out the cleaning, as for cooking: he eats lunch out a restaurant each day, and at home eats non-cooking foods. I don’t think he even “makes” cereal. He makes a middle-class income (for my region) and does this all non-apologetically. He doesn’t feel bad about this at all. So, letting go of cultural norms is one success story!

      1. allathian*

        Or never adopting them in the first place. He presumably follows the cultural norms of his birthplace by not doing what he sees as “women’s work.”

    10. Jay (no, the other one)*

      When I was working full-time I really really wanted to hire someone to come in every morning for a few hours and clean the kitchen, make the beds, do a load of laundry, and pick up whatever groceries we needed. AFAIK I am neurotypical. I can do all these things and I don’t mind doing them when I have time but man oh man did I resent having to do them when I was working 50+ hours a week and had a small child. Even with two of us pitching in pretty equally it was just.too.much We have weekly cleanings without which I would have totally lost my mind.

      It will make you happier and less stressed. There’s nothing “loser” about that at all. Do it. I am working to stop “shoulding” all over myself and I suspect it will be a lifelong task :)

    11. UKDancer*

      Nothing wrong with outsourcing things like cooking and cleaning if you want. I can cook and clean but I don’t want to and there are other things I’d rather do with my time. So I get a cleaner in regularly to keep the place nice. I don’t get people in to cook for me directly because I don’t like people in my kitchen but I do get a takeaway sometimes.

      I think it’s important to outsource things when it makes your life feel better. Life is hard enough.

    12. Just here for the scripts*

      I remember there was a study (Pew Institute?) that said the #1 way people could improve their happiness score was to 1. hire someone to clean their home and 2. eat out more. My take away? There’s no “should” that should be applied to these tasks if most of us would be happier not doing them.

    13. Aphrodite*

      I am older and I realized one day that not only had I never liked cleaning (though I kept things clean my places were never super clean) but I was now old enough where it was getting harder.

      So in August of this year I realized it might be possible to actually hire a gardener and a housecleaner because Covid had upended my spending habits so well I was actually able to save a nice amount each month. (I had completely stopped eating out during Covid and have never resumed it. I also stopped almost all shopping other than necessities.) So I went ahead. I now have each of them comes every other week, the gardener for one hour (at $40) and the housecleaner for three hours (at $30 per hour) and I, and they, are thrilled. They get paid cash and more than they could make working for a company, I have two people I like a lot and who like me in return, and I have a clean, clean, clean house and a yard that is lovely and allows me to do what I like, which is mess with the small potted plants on the porch.

      I am white, they are both Mexican and as far as I know there is no stigma or issues. They both see themselves as independent business people who have built their businesses and are reaping the benefits. I know her husband has good benefits from his job; I am not sure about his wife.

    14. Busy Middle Manager*

      TBH I don’t see cleaning as having to do anything with cultural norms, since 100% of people do it. But to your question, one I’ve been noticing is this expectation that everyone is going to live on a bunch of loans and travel the world, at least around here. It definitely feels like a hamster wheel. I was at a luncheon the other day and was trying to enjoy it but it’s actually insane how many people are doing these crazy expensive things and lifestyle but they make the same as me. I live my wage and look poor compared to these acquaintances. I don’t get it! Don’t they worry about the future? I just wish they didn’t feel they had to do all of these things like traveling the world on credit card debt, just to feel accepted or happy. There is a lot of shame in saying no and not doing things, at least in the lower end of upper middle class.

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        I’m with you on the expensive travel thing. Where I live almost everyone in my social circle makes more than me and the expectation seems to be that every break from work or school is about going somewhere interesting and far away. It’s fascinating.

        A combination of modest wages, natural frugality, and a chronic illness means that there is absolutely no pull towards travel right now. I mean, I love the world and want to explore it but it’s just not in the cards for me in the immediate future. I have to prepare myself for conversations around holidays and summer breaks with a breezy, “Oh I’m really looking forward to some quiet time, there are so many books I’ve been wanting to read!” and just deflecting any pressure to do perform a fake plan to go anywhere… When really what I want to say is, “I’m staying close to home and socking away money for retirement and an emergency fund.”

        My guess is some of the pressure is coming from within me to look worldly or something, when maybe no one else cares. But I’m still surprised that like everyone is going somewhere far away and expensive, multiple times a year!

    15. I'm A Little Teapot*

      The cleaning has to be done. It doesn’t follow that you have to be the one to do it. You judging yourself is a you problem, so if you want to hire someone to do the cleaning then you’ll have to dismantle whatever is going on in your head. And yes, there’s all sorts of cultural and gender expectations that get into this.

      I generally do my own cleaning, but sometimes I’m just tired and overwhelmed. A few times a year I have someone come in to clean. Had someone this morning actually. For me, when I’m cleaning I do a much deeper clean than hired cleaners do. This isn’t wrong, it’s different, if I hire someone then I need to mentally adjust expectations.

    16. Observer*

      I think you would do well to reframe the issue. Cooking and cleaning are life skills people should have, not as a “cultural norm” but as a practical matter. There are very few people who are in a position to totally farm out all of their cleaning and cooking without some significant negative trade-offs.

      That doesn’t mean you “shouldn’t” farm it out, or parts of it. In fact, I would approach it exactly as you approach the issue in your business. There are things that you can do there, that you don’t actually do, because it makes your life easier / it’s more efficient / you just want to and you can afford to. All of these are good and sufficient reasons to farm out stuff in business and just as legitimate in your personal life.

    17. Courageous cat*

      I think it’s worth putting out there, especially among this commentariat, that… not everyone who struggles with these things has ADHD. A quick google shows roughly 4.4% of adults in the US are affected by ADHD. It’s entirely possible it’s the cause, but it’s also possible that you just don’t enjoy it/aren’t motivated to do it.

      And I say this because I think labeling things as ADHD (especially without a diagnosis from a clinician) can almost be demotivating in a way, where you can say “well I can’t do it because of ___ so why try?” to yourself – I do this with my depression from time to time. You end up falling into a self-fulfilling trap of inaction.

      I think if it’s simply something you don’t like to do, there is no problem whatsoever outsourcing it! If you can afford it, it sounds well worth it and nothing to be ashamed of.

      1. Observer*

        I think if it’s simply something you don’t like to do, there is no problem whatsoever outsourcing it! If you can afford it, it sounds well worth it and nothing to be ashamed of.

        I totally agree with you. It doesn’t matter if you have ADHD, some other condition, or a simple dislike of the job. As long as you are don’t look down at the job as something degrading per se (which tends to lead to problems with the people who *do* the job), treat the people who do the job with respect, and pay fairly, promptly and cheerfully for someone to do the job for you, it sounds like a good use of disposable income. And there is zero to be ashamed about when you spend your money to make your life easier.

  35. The Cosmic Avenger*

    How about an EV thread? I got a Kia EV6 (Wind AWD w/ Tech package) a couple of months ago, and just took my first road trip with it last week! Lucky for me I have a couple of good friends who are electrical engineers, one of whom actually modded his Chevy Volt and does industrial electrical and battery work for a living, so I’ve already had some questions answered.

    It was a bit nerve-wracking looking for Level 3 DC fast chargers (DCFC) for the first time, but I had apps (A Better Route Planner, PlugShare, plus apps for 4 charging networks), and the Kia’s nav system will find them for you, although it doesn’t have as much discretion as I’d like, it only shows you the nearest ones. I tried 2-3 stops each way on what would otherwise be a 4-4.5 hour drive, and I’ve decided that I like using Google Maps via Android Auto now that I know a few good chargers, including which ones are busier and which ones have enough chargers that any line moves fast.

    One question: if you have a L2 home charger, do you leave your EV plugged in all the time? I was, but when I’m using it only for short trips around our neighborhood, I could probably go 3-4 weeks or more easily without going below 20%.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I got a Bolt EV in May but we have only used it for driving around town/the metro area. Furthest I’ve gone is a 100-mile round trip. I love it though.

      I don’t plug mine in most of the time – I wait till it hits 30-40% and then charge back up to 80.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      We have a Hyundai Kona EV and we charge it when it gets down to 50% or so or when we plan to take it somewhere that requires a full charge. We haven’t taken it on a road trip so I’m glad to know that’s feasible! Our other car is a plug-in/hybrid and that’s our road trip vehicle.

    3. Indolent Libertine*

      We have a Bolt with only L2 charging capability, and an L2 charger at home. We almost exclusively charge overnight when needed, which isn’t every day; we have the car set up to begin charging at midnight when the electricity is cheaper, and we generally only attach the plug at bedtime, or sometimes earlier when we’re sure we’re done driving that car for the day and know we need it to charge overnight, but the charging doesn’t begin until midnight regardless (unless we manually override that setting). Our utility company offers a 3-tiered EV owner rate plan where the cheapest is midnight to 3pm, middle rate is 3-4pm and 9pm-midnight, and top rate is 4-9pm.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Thanks, I’ve been leaving it plugged in because 1) our utility, Pepco, sucks, they say we can’t do a variable rate plan because we have solar panels, and 2) I like the idea of the remote warm up/cool down feature, but didn’t want to drain the battery with the car unplugged. However, that last part probably only takes 1%, if that, so I think I’ll just plug it in once it gets below 50% for my normal, infrequent use.

    5. Rachel*

      I have a Rivian R1S and I don’t keep mine plugged in because I can charge (roughly) 250 miles in a half an hour.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        But not at home, right? I think the Rivian and the EV6 both have 800W capacity, but I only get the top speed at 350kW DCFCs, and many don’t actually deliver anywhere near that wattage. Do you have a home charger? I know some people don’t bother and only charge at DCFCs, but I love not having to stop to charge/fuel, just being able to do that in my driveway.

    6. MissB*

      I have a Volvo P8, bought in 2021. Came with a free ChargePoint L2 charger, which is installed in my garage.

      Dh and I both drive the car occasionally during the week. We don’t plug in until we approach 20%, unless we are planning for a longer trip.

      I don’t keep it plugged in at night, or at least I stop the charging via the app if I’m too lazy to get up and go downstairs and physically unplug it.

      Mine is running about $30/mo to run. We don’t drive much- we go days without going anywhere.

    7. Lemonwhirl*

      I have a 2017 Hyundai Ioniq, which I bought new and got a free home charger. At the time, it had a very respectable battery range, but the newer EVs really dwarf my range. I have a charger at home and only use fast chargers on road trips.
      When I plug it in, I do leave it plugged in until the next time I use it, which might be a couple of days at most. I don’t charge it after every short trip, like the school run, but I do charge it at least a few times a week.
      FWIW, I’ve seen no degradation in the battery, and it really is a lovely car. I have had my head turned a few times by the Ioniq 6, but not enough to actually buy it. My car is fully paid for, and although the warranty ran out last year, I still am nowhere near the point that it would make financial sense to get a new car. (In the last year, the only unexpected expense was having to replace the parking brake sensor, which ended up being about 800 euro for diagnostics, part, and labour.)

  36. A lighting question*

    Is there such a thing as a light that goes on when it senses motion regardless of how dark it is or isn’t? This light needs to supplement a too-weak light source rather than only work in the dark. It would light up briefly in response to motion and not try to sense the level of darkness. Is there such a product? Or is it possible to disable the brightness sensor? (I’m in the US.)

    The other possibility I can think of is something like a French minuterie , but that seems even less likely to be available.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I thought most/all motion-sensor lights worked that way? They use infrared rather than visible light, right?

    2. MMB*

      Indoor and outdoor motion sensor lights that are not light dependent are available. Just google Motion Sensor Light.

    3. DistantAudacity*

      Yes – lots ofmotion sensors tha work in the dark, from the IKEA lighting systems upwards (I have an IKEA one for my hall wardrobe, that turns on a LED strip so that I can actually see all the dark winter coats )

    4. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      I have motion activated night lights, positioned in outlets so that as soon as I put my feet on the floor, they activate all the way to my bathroom. They only stay on for about 10-15 seconds, but its enough time to get to a switch to turn on another light if needed. They were fairly inexpensive 6 years ago and the bulb is still the original. They even work in the daytime, so level of darkness doesn’t matter.

      1. Janesfriend*

        Offtopic, but had to say how much I love your name – I wanted to be Trixie Beldon when I grew up. Sadly I grew up!

        1. Trixie Belden was my hero*

          Thank You.
          I did too. Now that you mention it, I just realized that I did end up in a profession that used some ‘mystery solving skills’.

  37. pally*

    What transportation options to and from hospital does one have?
    This is for an outpatient surgery.
    My only family member (elderly) does not drive.
    I don’t have any friends that I might ask to do this.
    Location: San Diego, CA.
    Suggestions please.
    I’ve never had surgery before, so I don’t know what is involved.

    Thanks.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Call your doctor’s office. There are services available where you pay someone to accompany you home. Often they’re associated with in-home nursing care services or eldercare services. Your doctor’s office or the hospital may have a service they recommend. Really all you need is someone to accompany you home (either driving you or being with you in a rideshare/taxi) and to be available for a bit to make sure you’re ok.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Look up “Ambulette”. Those are the vans that can transport people in wheelchairs and help people in and out of their house when they don’t need actual medical attention from an EMT or paramedic. Or just call the hospital for them, ask what they would recommend, they know what kind of transportation they will need (because it depends both on their current health and the surgery they’re having), and they likely can even arrange it. If not, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

    3. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

      Getting to the hospital isn’t usually a big deal, could be public transport, Uber, etc. Getting back is more complicated because they often want someone you know to be with you, and it’s usually a good idea. You don’t know how the sedatives you have will affect you.

      One option would be to have your relative come to the hospital when you are scheduled to be released and go home in Uber/Lyft with you, if they are capable of that. They might have to organize the ride if you’re really spacey so set them up in advance.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Seconding that there are services that do this (you did not invent the problem) and your doctor or hospital should know what the local ones are.

      The main reason is for the going home after anesthesia part; I think the reason to use it to get to the hospital would be so the person driving you home later would recognize you, recognize your home, etc. General anesthesia is notorious for people feeling fine afterward yet not actually being in a state to write any binding emails.

      If you’re having just local anesthesia (when I had skin cancer removed) it might be fine to just take a cab or uber home, and the reason to plan it that way is that you might feel drained and shaky and wobbly. (My initial impression of the outpatient surgery was people would have the skin cancer removed and then drive themselves back to work with a bandage on their head, and it was a lot more draining than that.) When my kid had wisdom teeth removed she needed someone to drive her home, and the nurse checked that I had gotten her in the car okay (I believe this was a state reg) and while she could walk and cooperate she has absolutely no memory of any of this–later she was home, but how that happened was not stored in her memory.

      1. Gyne*

        This – the hospital will very likely require someone to stay with your family member the night after the procedure.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same — they said I should have an adult stay with me after my meniscus surgery, but my neighbor and her BF took me to the outpatient clinic last week and we decided her being next door was sufficient. She’s checked on me often since (I’m doing pretty well, by the way).

            I think it’s a liability thing as well as precautionary.

            1. the cat's ass*

              NP coming here to say, yes, it’s a liability thing. I had a pt who took an Uber home in the very early Uber days from their out-pt procedure where they were given conscious sedation and fell over the threshold and broke their hip. After that it was have a friend/fam member drive you there and back and escort you into the house.

    5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      You’re allowed to take an Uber/Lyft/taxi – you just can’t leave alone. You and your family member can arrive by taxi, they can wait for you, and you can both take a taxi home.

      1. rr*

        I have regular outpatient procedures, and I have been specifically told that, no, I can’t get a taxi or uber/lyft.

        Maybe it would be different if I had a relative who could come in that vehicle, but for me it misses the point entirely. The hospital is more than sn hour away, and my relative can’t really manage the trip well. Plus, there is the added expense.

        The last time I tried talking to my doctor’s office, they suggested I stay at the hospital overnight. I really don’t want to do that, not least of all because I highly doubt my insurance would go for that.

        This is a huge and increasingly difficult problem for me, and clearly I’m not alone. What I have wound up doing is lying ever since this became an issue when the pandemic began. Which I don’t love. It makes me more anxious than the procedure itself and I have always really tried hard to be honest with my doctor.

        It really ticks me off and I think this is less safe for me, medically, lying, than just being honest about my plans.

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

          I know how you feel, and it sucks. Do you have a nice co-worker or neighbor you could ask? As long as you’re able to take “no” as an answer, there’s no harm asking, and maybe someone will be happy to help. Then get them a little thank-you gift.

    6. Not A Manager*

      Talk to the doctor’s office first. They can give you a sense of the scope of the surgery and what issue might arise post-op. For a simple procedure, your relative can get themselves to the office in an Uber if they’re capable. For getting home, they need someone who can at minimum accompany them inside the front door of their residence. Even for a simple procedure, I’d prefer that someone be available to them for at least a few hours to make sure they’re set up with their meds and feeling okay. If you can’t find a city or county agency to help coordinate this, see if there are any volunteer orgs that help seniors with these kinds of things.

      I assume if there were a trusted housekeeper or building employee available you would have mentioned that. Usually the helper only needs to be a basically sensible person, and it’s great if they already are familiar with the patient so they know what’s normal behavior for them and what isn’t.

      I believe that for people who really can’t be discharged immediately after surgery, there are some “day hospitalization” options (IDK if that’s the right term), where they are kept at the location for a period of recovery until they can go home unaccompanied. If that’s an option, you’ll need to check insurance and costs, but there should be a clear line between that and an overnight hospital stay.

    7. SofiaDeo*

      If you will be under general anesthesia, the recommendation is that someone receive you at the hospital when discharged, take you home, and get you inside/settled safely. So an Uber/Lyft is not recommended for this. The medical transportation companies others have mentioned, will have some options around this, especially if you have someone at home willing to receive you/get you inside/care for you. The issue is “what to do” if you start having problems on the way home, an Uber/Lyft driver won’t be qualified to know if you should go back to the hospital after a general anesthesia procedure, or if it is something minor and you can continue home. I have a neighbor who routinely is transported by ambulance, he has so many medical issues. Before he got severe, he used a transport service. When he started dialysis, they didn’t want him driving afterwards.
      So if a friend is willing to be at your place to receive you/get you inside, the simple medical transport services many large cities have should be fine. If you don’t have anyone to get you inside/stay with you, hiring someone for the day at least is probably a good idea.
      If you are having a local anesthesia procedure & your doc just doesn’t want you driving because they may be giving you painkillers that would affect driving, this is less complicated. Speak with your doc, see what they have to say.

    8. Unkempt Flatware*

      What you’re looking for is called Non Emergency Medical Transportation NEMT. They are rife with terrible service so choose one with the best reviews.

    9. Melissa*

      The hospital might allow you to sign a release to catch an uber home to your family member. The one I had to sign basically said “I’m irresponsible and willing to die by leaving alone against the hospital recommendations”, which was insulting, but it all worked out.

    10. ItsReallyHard*

      it depends. you can sometimes pay a service to drive if you just want the transportation but most won’t provide any monitoring or care. yet you will have to pay for one of the approved expensive transport services (last time I checked pre-pandemic the approved services here in Boston started at $300) if you can’t find a neighbor or friend of theirs to do it as they will not let you just take a cab or rideshare home even though the approved transportation services literally provide no additional medical care. also be aware most of the services have limited service areas so if they’re not super close to the hospital these services may not work.

      The US medical system in general is not kind to either people who can’t drive or people who live alone.

      Good luck.

    11. pally*

      Wow! Thank all for the suggestions and things to think about. I’m glad I asked cuz you all gave me some very concrete ideas.

      I checked Yelp for nonemergency medical transport. One with lots of good reviews and high marks. This service is available, and I put in a request for a price quote.

      I go in next week to discuss particulars. And now I have (thanks to you all!) better questions to ask the doc. There will be general anesthesia. So I will need to ask about aftercare needs.

      My relative is very wary of Uber/Lyft. She’s heard stories (**eyeroll**). So she won’t use it alone. Depending on how “with it” I will be after the procedure, this may prove to be the best option.

      Thanks all for having my back on this and sharing your wisdom with me. Very much appreciated!
      Thank you.

      1. pally*

        And I’m looking into “Ambulette” too!
        Along with additional non-emergency medical transport services. A gal’s got to have choices!

      2. Samwise*

        Lyft and Uber drivers everywhere I’ve used them have been very courteous and kind. They can’t help you walk from the car to the door, but they can put your bag/s in the car and walk them to the door for you. Tip well and leave a nice review. They work hard.

  38. Come On Eileen*

    My family (parents, sister, and I) decided not to exchange Christmas gifts this year to give us more time, space, and money to relax and focus on the spirit of the season. My goal is to enjoy the season in other ways – think making cookies, playing games, etc. What are some fun holiday things we can do in December with all this new free time on our hands?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Advent-esque things, where you have a ritual that you perform daily or weekly. Open an actual advent calendar. Read The Christmas Mystery by Gaardner, which is framed with each chapter as a day in the advent calendar. Read a collection of Christmas short-stories on whatever theme you enjoy. (Connie Willis has been mentioned a few times; there are usually mystery and romance collections.) Find a YouTube channel with interesting-to-you short videos and watch one each day at a set time. (Great Art Explained does this for me.)

      Figure out where the lights near you are, and go see them.

        1. Kathenus*

          Agree on this, last year we had a large family/friends group go to a zoo lights event and had a great time and made good memories.

    2. Turtle Dove*

      Is there a Christmas market near you? I love those. Thanks for the reminder to seek one out! Sometimes they’re right after Thanksgiving or so early in December that I’m not thinking about Christmas yet. The Christkindlmarket in Chicago was fun when I used to go there, but now I prefer staying closer to home.

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

      If you like Christmas-y smells, maybe get some gingerbread- or peppermint-scented lotions, bath cubes, etc. for yourself to enjoy.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I always do a lot of baking and decorating, and I love light displays. Look into shows or concerts in your area, ice skating, displays of fancy gingerbread houses or train sets, fun workshops for making things, maybe zoo events? One near me has reindeer feeding this time of year.

    5. Aphrodite*

      My town has lots of activities going on including tree lighting, lights all around town and stores open, singers or music playing groups on corners, craft fairs, church or professional concerts, plays, lots of streets to look at lights. Most will post on NextDoor. Also, I always reread A Christmas Carol and watch a film version of it (George C. Scott is wonderful) in December. I adore the annual Christmas in Vienna concerts and watch several years’ worth on YouTube. Though I don’t buy a live tree I adore wandering the various lots and picking up the free cuttings they give away.

    6. Anonymous cat*

      Do you like Neil Gaiman? A while back he did a reading of “Christmas Carol” and it’s online in various places. You could do a family “listen” to it!

      1. Angstrom*

        Listening to the Patrick Stewart reading of “A Christmas Carol” is one of our traditions.
        I used to go to a Christmas vintage dance where, at the break, someone would read the “Fezziwig’s Ball” scene. It was lovely.
        If there’s a contradance in your area, that could be fun.

    7. Ellie*

      If I had more time on my hands, I’d love to volunteer again. Make warm meals for houseless folks, buy and donate socks to a shelter, collect canned food from neighbors to donate, or work for a toy drive. As my kids get older we are going to do our best to incorporate giving and helping others into our holiday traditions.

      1. Pamela Adams*

        My sister and I will be cocoa comparison tests. we will also eat nightly toast and jam(bonne maman advent calendar)

    8. Blomma*

      My mom and I have enjoyed getting a tea advent calendar from David’s Tea and a jam advent calendar from Bonne Maman for the past couple of years. Having a new tea along with a baked item or toast with jam every evening December 1-24 is lovely!

    9. Sloanicota*

      I like the bookmas tradition of exchanging books or having a reading night before the holiday. We give books as gifts in my family (only books for gifts, no other gifts) but it could just as easily be a swap or a family trip to the library.

  39. Texan In Exile*

    I discovered this week that there are people who intentionally do not use a top sheet and all I can think of is gross. Because I know they are not washing that comforter cover every time they wash the pillowcases and fitted sheet. Or, even grosser, they are not washing the blanket.

    1. sad*

      Huh. I don’t use a top sheet, but I wash the comforter cover at exactly the same time I wash the bottom sheet and pillow cases. The people you spoke to may not wash the comforter cover each time they use it, but that doesn’t apply to everyone. That’s a weird assumption to make

    2. Turtle Dove*

      That is me, although I use a fleecy blanket rather than a comforter with a cover. I figure it’s only my body dirt that goes on it, so no biggie. I don’t sweat at night, and I wash my blanket and my body when they seem dirty. I don’t skip a top sheet at other people’s homes. I have sensory issues, and a fleecy blanket feels like a cozy hug against my skin. A top sheet does not.

    3. Maggie*

      I don’t know anyone that uses a top sheet. They’re not really a thing anymore and going out of style. I wash my comforter frequently.

      1. nnn*

        Huh, I admittedly don’t go around asking everyone about their bedding but I think top sheets are still very much in use in the US.

        People who do not use them: what about when you’re too hot for the duvet but still want something covering you?