weekend open thread – November 25-26, 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: Family Happiness, by Laurie Colwin. A seemingly perfect wife and mother finds herself having an affair.

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

{ 852 comments… read them below }

  1. Ginger Cat Lady*

    Starting a holiday gift ideas thread! Comment with what you need suggestions for and share ideas with others.

      1. Professor Plum*

        Look for Double 12 or 15 dominos with numbers on Amazon. Way easier to play with numbers on the ends than trying to tell some of the dots with high counts. Helpful for younger kids, older eyesight, and dim lighting. Can play a variety of games with 2 or more people.

        1. S*

          My parents recently got a set of double 12 dominos that are the traditional dots, but each number is in a different color, which also made them much easier to tell apart!

      2. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I love the board games Sagrada, Calico, Wingspan and Azul. All great fun with 2 players, and could also accommodate more. Wingspan has cards with beautiful illustrations of birds, and Calico has some tiles with very cute cats.

      3. Still*

        Codenames Duet. 25 words on the board, you have to take turns giving each other one-word clues to guess the green words while avoiding the black words. It’s surprisingly replayable, simple to set up and makes you think and connect with the other person, really try to understand how their brain works. My partner and I reach for it way more often than we expected.

          1. CAPSLOCK*

            Codenames is brilliant, but for some reason we found the Duet version much more difficult than the regular one by ended up regifting it.

            Duel (from the 7 Wonders series) and Balloon Cup are both great for two players.

      4. Slinky*

        Any of the “Forbidden” games (e.g., Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert). They’re cooperative games, so you’re working together rather than competing.

      5. Jared Leto's kombucha*

        Race to the Treasure is a fun game for the younger set. It can be played with 2 people or several more.

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        I played a game called Mexican Train at my aunt’s earlier this year with my niece and nephew–it’s a variation on dominos and lots of fun. Can be played by 2-5 players.

        1. Julie*

          When my great-aunts and great-uncles were still alive, every holiday ended with the dessert plates being shoved aside to clear space for a very involved game of Mexican train dominoes. I miss it!

      7. Lissajous*

        Fox in the forest – specialised card pack (with very pretty art), and the idea is it’s a trick-taking card game for two players. Works quite well

      8. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My favorite games for 2 players are Mastermind, Scrabble Crossword Cubes (out of print but appears to be available at reasonable prices used), and Trivial Pursuit (I collect all of the weird old expansion sets when I find them cheap in addition to having the base game from various eras and special editions, but we mostly play the 1980s base game). However, that’s because I specifically like games where I don’t have to keep track of information in my head from round to round and where players can’t meaningfully interfere with each other’s progress but where the outcome is skill-based rather than random, so YMMV.

      9. Tea*

        These are slightly more advanced than usual gift games, but if it’s for someone who’s already into board/card games:
        – Hero Realms (deck building)
        – Keyforge (like more accessible Magic: the Gathering)
        – Calico (cute cats, deceptively hard)
        – Switch & Signal (co-op puzzle game about trains)

      10. Numbat*

        I encountered Boop on the weekend and it’s adorable! Easy to learn, tough to win. And it has cats!!!

      11. Pumpkinhead*

        Cat Lady – card game in which you collect cats, food, and toys named pun-ily after famous authors; player with the most fed cats and least leftover food wins, with opportunities to gain additional victory points through toy collection.

        Clank – board game in which you and another player (up to four players) enter a dungeon to seek treasure. Less direct competition in this one than something like Settlers of Catan, in that there’s no direct player-to-player interaction but you can obtain treasure in order to keep it out of the other players’ hands. This one is really fun as a 2-player game!

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Ideas for someone who loves running and just moved to a cold, snowy climate for the first time in their life?

      1. Claire*

        If they’re somewhere where there is snow/ice on the ground consistently during the winter, a pair of YakTrax might be good! They do have some specifically designed for running (as opposed to the regular walking around kind.) I haven’t used to the running kind, but the regular ones have saved my tailbone!

      2. Anono-me*

        Can you gift them a cross country or Nordic skiing intro class. Bonus for you, if they get hooked, you will never again need to ask us for gift ideas.

      3. Random tuesday*

        something with an LED to illuminate themselves at night – so cars can see them. they need to be bright from a variety of directions.

      4. Amory Blaine*

        If it’s cold and snowy, it’s probably dark. Highly recommend a nice headlamp or rear led lights. Also any ibex layers (expensive but amazing).

      5. Camelid coordinator*

        Ooh, I love this question. I’d vote for a pair of winter running gloves and some intense hand cream. (I like the working hands kind.) I see that Oiselle has a nice running glove that has a space for your running watch, those look pretty awesome. (They are called Lux Watch window gloves, and now I am tempted.)

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Silk underlayers –warmest for its weight. Sweater or hat of lambswool — wool stays warm when wet, lambswool is soft. Undyed, if you can find it because dye is one of the things that makes wool scratchy.

      1. Decidedly Me*

        Anything else by Brandon Sanderson, especially Mistborn. George R. R. Martin books. The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind.

        (So says my partner who is a big fantasy reader)

        1. Dittany*

          Maybe avoid the Sword of Truth series unless the recipient is a big fan of Ayn Rand’s nons… er, philosophy. The beginning of the series is derivative-but-solid epic fantasy, but it goes increasingly downhill after the first few books. I finally gave up after Book Six, which does not have a plot so much as it has Terry Goodkind breaking into your living room and screaming “COMMUNISM IS BAD! COMMUNISM IS BAD! COMMUNISM IS BAAAAAAAD!” while hitting you with a paper towel roll.

          As for recs that are not That Fucking Guy:

          Raymond Feist’s books. Start with the Riftwar series.
          Kate Elliot, A Crown of Stars
          Jim Butcher, The Codex Alera

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            The sixth book is also where I tapped out too. I asked the acquaintance who had recommended it if there was actually a story in that book or just the experience of being bludgeoned with the anvil of libertarianism, and he was like “Well, libertarianism IS the point! Isn’t it amazing?!” and well let’s just say there’s a reason he was an acquaintance and not a friend. :P

          2. Queer Earthling*

            I’ve also seen a few people refer to him as Terry BadMean because of the views he espouses in his books, and his interpersonal behavior. Just throwing that here in case anyone else wants to giggle at that and then have it pop into their head whenever he’s brought up.

        2. Claire*

          Just a heads up that Sword of Truth goes off the rails into some serious Ayn Randian weirdness by the last few books, but the first ones are very fun. My oldest son is also a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and he also likes N.K. Jemisin and Patrick Rothfuss.

          1. Mitchell Hundred*

            As someone who got about a quarter of the way through The Fountainhead before tapping out, it’s impossible for me to miss that that series’ principal inspiration (both ideologically and in terms of artistic style) was almost certainly Ayn Rand.

            And I do not say that to be judgmental. I don’t doubt that there are people who would jump at the knowledge that a Randian fantasy series exists. I just think that people should be aware of what they’re getting into.

      2. Janeric*

        I’m really enjoying the T. Kingfisher Paladin series — they’re fluffy romance where one half of the romance is a paladin of a dead god. Great world building, some significant adventuring…

      3. Mitchell Hundred*

        I have not read anything by either of those authors, but I liked The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons a lot. It’s the first in a pentalogy, lots of magic and fights and interpersonal drama, very intricate worldbuilding.

        And my favourite fantasy novel is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, although that’s very different from a conventional fantasy narrative. It’s a regency-era story about the revival of English magic in the early 19th century.

          1. Mitchell Hundred*

            Full disclosure, I have an inherent bias in favour of any author who loves discursive footnotes as much as me (and based on The Ruin of Kings, Lyons would appear to be such a person).

      4. JustForThis*

        Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (starts with Assassin’s Apprentice) shares an epic scale and twisty plots with Brandon Sanderson’s books.

      5. NotAMimic*

        Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick, trilogy with a street urchin running a con to pass herself off as nobility. Very interesting world building and an intriguing magic system and multiple pov characters, as well as a masked vigilante.

        Martha Wells wizard hunter trilogy

      6. carcinization*

        Just started reading a series that, if I recall correctly, the author started writing because he liked those books so much… The Shadow of What Was Lost is the first book, the author’s name is Islington.

    2. gingerbread*

      Suggestions for older teenaged girl/young woman away at college. will be given in person, she needs to fly back with it, so not too large.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Nice water bottle and maybe a sticker or two for it.
        If it’s cold where she is, gloves, scarf or hat
        GC for food delivery
        Phone battery pack

      2. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Cash or gift cards with some small fun things that would be stocking stuffers if we did stockings: fuzzy socks, warm gloves if she’s in that kind of climate, luxurious soaps (bars if she has to get them through TSA).

        Depending on how much money you want to spend: higher-end electronics than she would be able to buy for herself. My daughter’s sophomore year in college we gave her the fancy AirPods for Chanukah. Last year we upgraded her phone.

        Fancy cocoas/teas/coffees – even if she doesn’t have a kitchen she probably has access to a kettle or a microwave.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Charging block
        Starbucks gift card (college students need caffeine)
        Cozy throw blanket if her college is somewhere cold

      4. EA*

        Gift cards for coffee and meals out, for sure. If you don’t want to do just a gift card, a nice travel mug paired with a coffee shop giftcard makes a cute present.

      5. Clisby*

        Cash. That would 100% have been my favorite present to get as a college student. Heck, it was my favorite birthday present every year when I was growing up – my godfather sent me $10 every birthday, which was quite a bit of money back then. About $30 in today’s $$$.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      One-handed gadgets, particularly kitchen gadgets?

      (I posted about this in the Thanksgiving Eve thread as well – my dad is going to have a long recovery from a surgery that will mean limited use of his non-dominant hand while he recovers.)

      For suggestions for others, if someone in your life likes to golf and continues to do so when the course is muddy, Gore-tex leg gaiters are my dad’s favorite trick for mud-season golfing. You can buy them from REI or other similar stores. They’re exactly the part of a pair of pants that shorts aren’t!

      1. Kacey*

        I found that spring loaded needle nosed pliers really help those with limited grip strength open the paper/plastic covers inside the ketchup/mayo containers (can also be used to help open soda cans and other flip tops). You can also get jar openers with handles of various sizes.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Hadn’t thought of pliers – I’ll take a rummage through his toolbox and see what he already has, but that’s a possibility. His issue is going to be limited range of motion after shoulder surgery on his left shoulder, so it’s not so much about grip strength as that his left hand may not be in a useful location to hold things in place while he manipulates them with his right hand so he needs to be able to do things without that second non-dominant hand available.

      2. one of the meg murrys*

        I had endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery on both hands 5 months ago and recovery has been rougher/longer than expected. Depending on what your dad is having done, common hand problems are difficulty gripping/pinching/squeezing especially small things, so padded tools with fatter handles are good. (I am eyeing – but haven’t yet tried – round padded HARAC fingernail clippers that require less force.) Oxo kitchen tools are often ergonomic. You can buy foam tubes to put around smaller handles but I haven’t found great ones yet. I also have tenderness on my palms, so I bought padded bicycle gloves that I use for driving – there are also some made for working out but they were not right for my scar location. I’ll drop link to bicycle gloves in reply.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          He’s having shoulder surgery, so he mostly will have limited range of motion in the arm that will lead to his left hand not being where it would be useful to pair with his functional right hand, I think.

          I’ll take a look at what Oxo tools he already has and see if htere are some good gaps to fill in – we’ve been buying that brand for a while.

          Fingernail clippers are worth investigating – I think the last time (after his hand surgery a few years back) he just started going to a nail salon until he had more use of his hand back though, so he may be planning to do that again.

      3. Middle Aged Lady*

        Handsfree battery operated soap dispensers.
        Or lots of disposable wipes for cleaning his hands when it will be hard to rub them together.
        Food containers with lids that can pop off easily with one hand.
        Maybe some dry shampoo, and/or no rinse body wash. When I had a frozen shoulder, taking a shower was quite a chore.
        Shirts with snaps.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Ooh, the soaps is a good one! He uses the specific brand of bar soap that doesn’t make his skin freak out and I don’t know of any liquid soap that works for him, but maybe I can set up some bars tied up to a fixed point inside nylons like we used to have at camp (in that context, it was to keep the soap from going missing) so that it’s easier to get a lather going one-handed and harder to drop the soap in the process.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      If you’re out of ideas for stuff you need/want, consider asking people who give you gifts if they don’t mind doing something which doesn’t take much time or money, but would really help you out.
      (Probably best to avoid this with people who do art or crafts as a hobby or for a living unless you can buy all the materials, it’s a small job AND you’re completely sure they would be happy to do it, since they likely get many similar requests.)

      Last year, I asked my brother-in-law to do a minor DIY job as part of my birthday gift. I purchased all the materials, he came over with his tool kit, and it took half an hour and saved me from hiring someone. I’m really glad I thought of this, as otherwise it would have taken forever to get around to it!

    5. Miss Dove*

      What’s everyone’s recommendation for yoga equipment for a beginner? We do have a Quest VR. Is there a yoga game anyone recommends?

        1. Professor Plum*

          Look specifically for Wrist Buddy yoga blocks. They have a hand-shaped space that is really comfortable and helps support your wrist.

    6. Makare*

      For anyone who is mobile, but needs to take frequent rests while walking around (say while sightseeing or traveling): a telescoping portable folding stool! An older gentleman was using one during our tour of Pompeii last week and it was SO compact when folded up—his daughter was carrying it over her shoulder and I thought it was a purse! And super quick to set up and put away for a quick rest anytime the tour stopped for a minute. I wish we had had one of these for my dad a few years ago.

      1. Admin of Sys*

        Those things are surprisingly great, they even have ones that support heavier folks – I use one for art hikes, in case I want to stop and draw something for a pit.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I love mine and it supports up to 500 pounds, but my mom can’t use it because it’s too low and her knees give her fits trying to sit down on it and get up from it. So do watch out for that if it’s a concern. (I think the ones that are built into a cane are perhaps not as high capacity weight-wise, but a little taller height-wise?)

    7. lavender latte*

      Need a suggestion for a heated coffee mug that doesn’t require a phone to use it. My mom is a coffee fiend and would love this, but she’s a tech hater/cell phone avoider, and won’t use it if you need an app to set the temperature, etc. It has to stand alone.

      1. Admin of Sys*

        So if you don’t find one that’s actually heated, the temperfect mugs actually do a great job keeping coffee at a stable temperature for /ages/. They’re kind of pricey, but available at https://joeveo.com/ and are pretty amazing – they cool the hot coffee down to a set temperature and then use a layer of pcm to hold it at that temp.

      2. Admin of Sys*

        oh, right, links get put into moderation – the temperfect mug from joeveo are not actually heated but are amazing at keeping coffee at temp. They’ve got a layer of pcm along with the standard insulation and are great.
        There are also heated travel mugs that plug into the car charger things, but that’s only helpful if they drive a lot.

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I don’t know about a heated coffee mug, but you can get standalone mug warmers to put existing ceramic coffee mugs on that have no “smart” features.

        Target’s website had a couple of different options for under $20, and they just have an on/off switch and plug into the wall (or, in one case, a USB port) with no app involved. The two I found were “Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer Black” (wall plug) and “Retro Mug Warmer” (USB plug).

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For an elderly person living on a fixed income who has no more interest in “stuff” — possibly as a group gift. When Mom hit ~80, my brother gave her an extra fuel-oil delivery in the fall. It let her quiet her inner frugal Yankee and push up the thermostat so she wasn’t cold all the time. She was delighted–and stayed healthier.

  2. Junebug*

    Favorite funny/meme Instagram accounts to follow? Need more lightheartedness in my feed. As examples, I like @dudewithsign, @middleclassfancy, @instachaaz,j @childfreedoodles, and @satiregram

    1. Anne*

      @chickenthoughtsofficial are comics for bird lovers.

      I am usually not a huge guitar fan but @prexton8 finds videos of cats and dogs singing/talking/making sounds and accompanies them with music.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      @zillowgonewild, @catsofyore, @medievalmarginalia (CW: frequently features medieval images of sex and gory death) and @mondomascots are all pretty entertaining.

      I also follow a lot of art accounts: @folesdog, @subterraneanthunder and @ablackhistoryofart are my favourites.

      1. carcinization*

        My husband giggles and giggles at that one, even after he has a horrible day at Place That Must not Be Named.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      There’s some old Tumblrs still in existence called Animals Talking In All Caps (the creator captions various shots of animals TALKING IN ALL CAPS) and Someone Ate This, whose creators trawled the net for the absolute worst, saddest shots of various meals and captioned them (the hashtags are the best.)

    4. Trixie*

      My new favorite is the @therxckstxr, with delightful voiceovers of animal videos. (Discovered via @shibamafioso and the funniest dog pack.)

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

      If you enjoy satire and Scandinavian sense of humor, I recommend helgi.and.erland (Norwegian comedians) and greipjokes (Icelandic comedian) both accounts are in English language. Greip is more notable for the shenanigans of his small son in the background, Magnus, who I guess to be about 4.

      If you like beautiful photos captioned with “dad jokes” and a hint of practical advice and animal facts, the National Park Service (nationalparkservice) has a fantastic IG.

    6. amoeba*

      Not funny per se, but super cute and heartwarming: @canopycatrescue.

      They do what the name says: rescuing cats from high trees (and posting videos of it). It’s amazing.

    7. NB*

      Yesterday, Instagram suggested I see Jennifer Garner’s post about seeing what’s in her bag. It was adorable and relatable and I laughed a lot. I clicked on “follow.”

  3. Old Plant Woman*

    A while ago I wrote about a friend since grade school who was moving to my town. Got a lot of excellent advice about setting boundaries and keeping my expectations reasonable. She has been here six weeks and it’s going better than I ever even hoped for. She’s even gotten me to buy some clothes that don’t look like they are for a farmer or construction worker! Do you have any stories about reconnections that really worked?

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      My HS boyfriend who was a friend first and afterwards. Lost touch about two years after I graduated (he’s two years older than I am). Reconnected via Facebook 25 years later and now have a solid, comfortable ten-year friendship that includes my husband and his partner. My parents have both died and I have a very small family. I treasure having someone in my life who knew and loved them.

      In the same vein, one of my HS math teachers who was also friends with my parents. Saw him at a HS reunion about ten years ago and have visited back and forth with him and his wife. He has interests in common with my husband and they’ve made some post-retirement professional connections that have been a lot of fun,

    2. Generic Name*

      One of my best friends from high school fell off the radar for 10 years or so. I had no idea where she was, if she was alive or dead. She had fallen into addiction, and I was worried. She later got sober, got married, and we reconnected shortly before our 20th reunion. Seeing her in person at the reunion was awesome and we ran towards each other and hugged. We don’t live near each other, so we keep in touch online.

  4. ADHD questions*

    Over my years reading AAM, I’ve seen a lot of people talking about fighting to get an official diagnosis for ADD/ADHD.

    What are the benefits for getting a diagnosis? Is it needed in order for a doc to prescribe medicine? Is it needed to request accommodations?

    If someone suspects they have ADHD but doesn’t want to pursue a diagnosis, or medications, will ADHD coaches or therapists still work with them?

    Would anyone be willing to share non-medical treatments they have tried for ADHD? (I don’t even know what those might be, except for neurofeedback and meditation.)

    I’m not talking so much about what strategies help, but ways to non-pharmaceutically affect the brain, if there are such ways.

    (I’m asking because someone close to me suspects their early 20s relative has ADHD and asked me to do some research.)

    Thanks so much!

    1. anon24*

      I can’t answer your questions, but I hope you don’t mind me piggybacking because I have a question of my own about getting diagnosed.

      I’ve heard that in order to get a diagnosis you need to have people from your childhood, such as your parents, fill out assessments as to how you were as a child. I desperately would love a diagnosis because I am barely functioning but I’m NC with my mom(who doesn’t believe in mental health issues) and my dad wasn’t home a lot when I was a kid and definitely wouldn’t fill out the forms anyway because my mom wouldn’t let him. I was raised super isolated and trust me I have lost contact with the few people who knew me as a child. Is it even possible to get a diagnosis at this point? Or worth trying? I feel like as a woman in my 30s I’ll just get ignored.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I think you should find out for sure what’s needed to get a diagnosis before you draw any conclusions. They must have ways to diagnose people whose parents have passed, for example. I really doubt it’s a necessity to have parents involved.
        Then, do whatever it takes to find a good doctor who respects you and go from there. It can be difficult to find a good doctor, but it’s worth the effort.

        1. Gatomon*

          ^This. Even though it’s gonna be a hard thing to do when you have ADHD, best to ask what’s required before committing to the appointment.

          Both my parents were deceased and I don’t have siblings, so besides a friend from middle school and some relatives, all out of state, there’s no one to ask about kid me. I have no school report cards prior to 8th grade, and these were computerized so teachers only had 8 possible generic comments to add. All I could provide are my own memories.

          I saw a neuropsychologist, so the interview was only part of the process. I also completed an extensive series of tests that validated ADHD and actually discovered another disability I didn’t even know I had.

      2. WS*

        My partner was diagnosed last year and while they asked her about recollections of her childhood, they didn’t require anything like this. You should definitely investigate what is required.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Not true in my case at all, nor anyone I know who was dx as an adult. It may vary by region, or it may be that in individual cases providers are looking for extra information to help sort out what the patient’s baseline is.

        ADHD is a developmental disorder, while a lot of the other conditions that mimic it would have a before-and-after change in functioning, even if it came on gradually. But they all mess with your perception of time. So when a patient who is really struggling says, “I have always felt this way,” it can be hard to know what that means.

      4. alto*

        I was diagnosed in 2021 (twice, actually!) and they most certainly did not ask for any such assessments. If you feel you would like to know, go for it!

      5. Rage*

        There are a couple of different ways to go about getting a diagnosis.

        I went through a full psychological evaluation and testing just a couple months ago (I’m 49). In this, yes, they asked me to have somebody complete a questionnaire about how I was between ages 5-12. (This is when I first discovered that my mother had suspected since I was a toddler that I had ADHD; but, of course, in the 70s/80s, girls didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD, so my doctor told her I was “just bored”.)

        My symptoms (that I could recognize) came on very suddenly around about July, and by September I was quickly losing functionality – I’m in a Masters program, and between school, home, and work, I just wasn’t doing anything.

        Because of that, the psychologist wasn’t able to definitively diagnose ADHD; she diagnosed depression (which I already knew about) – it was just that I was breaking down over failing in everything so suddenly.

        So I “hacked the system” so to speak. I had already been talking to my therapist about this, and I went back to her and she gave me 2 questionnaire about my *current functionality* and diagnosed me in about an hour.

        One day later, I had a med eval with a nurse, she prescribed Vyvanse. I had to beg for it, because she wanted to rule out some medical things first, but I said, “Look, if we don’t try this, I have to drop out of my Masters program, and probably find a new job. This is critical.”

        The next morning I took my first dose and OMGWTFBBQ I’ve been on fire since then. I’m 200% more functional at work, 100% more functional at school and home. It’s unbelievable the difference.

        So: yes, you can get a diagnosis without getting input from your parents/people who knew you as a child.

        Is it going to be the best, most definitive diagnosis ever? No. I don’t regret doing the psych eval, because I learned so very much about how my brain works, and why I was completely collapsing NOW, yet skipped through spring semester as if nothing was wrong (in short: my brain likes fast-paced, short-duration tasks. That was absolutely my job. But, in May, they moved me to a new role that, while still squarely in the administrative realm, is much more of a “slow-burn” type of job. So my brain was like, welp, nope, we don’t like this at all. But I never would have understood that as being a problem in and of itself without that intensive testing.)

        So, do I *really* have ADHD? Honestly, it’s hard to say. The meds work – and that’s sometimes a pretty good indicator by itself – but stimulant ADHD meds can also be used to push people out of a depressive state, and we already knew I had depression. And then there’s the whole “how my brain works” thing, that could definitely account for my sudden crash in functionality. In truth, I don’t really care; we found a treatment that works. Now it remains to be seen how long I can safely stay on these meds. Blood pressure and heart conditions are one reason that older adults like me should avoid them. But if I can’t stay on them, then I need to re-evaluate my entire post-Masters career trajectory, since my degree will be in yet another “slow-burn” type of role (counseling).

        If you truly feel that you meet the criteria for ADHD, and you want a quick-and-dirty diagnosis to see if meds will help, go talk to a therapist or counselor. Heck, you can even get a quick dx from some online places.

        1. Screw loose*

          I want to add that I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, but it had worsened considerably as my estrogen levels started dropping (much sooner than they should have, mind; I was diagnosed with POI at 35). Apparently estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all affect focus. So even if it *is* ADHD, it may not be so much that it’s sudden onset, but that your coping mechanisms are failing as you lose the hormonal support your body normally provides. Just a thought from my own experience.

          1. allathian*

            Brain fog and executive dysfunction issues are extremely common symptoms of perimenopause even for people who don’t have ADHD.

      6. OhGee*

        I was diagnosed at 38 and didn’t have to do that. Part of the evaluation included a self-assessment and an assessment by my partner (though it could be done by another person with whom you have a close relationship).

      7. Caramelmachete*

        I recently got diagnosed at the age of 44 (I’m a cis woman) and didn’t need to get anyone else to fill out forms.

      8. Banana Pyjamas*

        The survey for parents and teachers is used to diagnose children ages 4-18. It also screens for anxiety and something else I don’t remember fully, but I believe disordered sleep.

      9. Vio*

        It’s helpful for them to get some feedback from people who knew you as a child but it is not essential.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Yes, a dx is required for the meds or official accommodations. Many people also find it relieving that there is a name for what’s bothering them. And here’s the thing – part of the definition of a disorder is that it is interfering in one or more life functions. And no matter what the underlying reason is, if someone’s inability to concentrate, remember, or execute basic life tasks is impacting them to that extent, they just need to go to the doctor anyway. That’s a big deal and even if it isn’t ADHD, it needs addressing.

      There are many, many interventions and coaching options that don’t require diagnosis, and that anyone can use.

      The three best clinically proven (proven many, many times over) non-pharmaceutical things you can do to reduce ADHD symptoms are the same things that are good for all kinds of brain health:

      1) Improving the quantity and quality of sleep (including medical interventions for insomnia, apnea, restless leg, sleep phase disorder, or other sleep problems).

      2) Regular moderate exercise outdoors in natural light, preferably in green space.

      3) Increasing consumption of plants and minimally processed foods, and decreasing the proportion of highly processed foods. There’s no magic foods, but the basic five fruits and veg a day, the Mediterranean diet, or anything along those lines.

      The tricky bit is that following through on these things consistently requires a certain amount of executive function. But to balance that out, they are virtuous cycles. Doing 1 thing for a little while makes it easier to start doing the others, and they reinforce each other.

      There are tons of other techniques that can be highly individual, such as setting up your living and working space, labelling things, and creating systems.

    3. DJ Abbott*

      Looks like my first post went into moderation, I hope it comes through. I didn’t find a link that concisely describes this breathing technique, so I’ll do it myself.
      -Breathe in as deep as possible, expanding your diaphragm, for 4 seconds.
      -Breathe out for 6 seconds to get all the air out.
      Do this several times. It really helps me stay focused and in the moment instead of spinning out.
      Good luck! :)

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Hope it helps!
          My first comment was to say that I got anxiety medication without a formal diagnosis. My doctor used a checklist to evaluate my symptoms. My brother has a formal diagnosis and he is on the same anxiety med I am.

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            I don’t know about the US but I’m confident it’s the same – because ADHD medication is a stimulant/controlled drug, you need a capital D Diagnosis for medication, which is not the case for SSRIs etc.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Yes, I think I read “ADHD” and thought “anxiety” because my brother takes an anxiety med for his ADD. I hope it’s still helpful though.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        We did similar breathing exercises when I sang in choirs: it really helped focus us and find our notes.

    4. Melissa*

      I’m a therapist, I used to run a group treatment program for adults who had ADHD and didn’t want to take medication. It focused on finding out your own strengths to work with and how to minimise your weaknesses. It also targeted depression and anxiety because they are very common in people with ADHD.

      We can absolutely diagnose without people from childhood around. It would help if you or someone are able to describe what school was like for you (e.g. if you recall that your report cards always said things like “lots of potential but just doesn’t do the work”). A thorough assessment would also help tease out any other mental health issues that are compounding or compounded by ADHD. A formal diagnosis will open up some more treatment pathways but therapists will absolutely work with someone who comes in without one.

      1. ADHD questions*

        Thank you, Melissa, it’s good to know therapists can work with people without a formal diagnosis.

    5. misspiggy*

      I’m in the UK and in a similar situation. Not having a diagnosis hasn’t stopped me from asking for and receiving accommodations, if the people I’m asking know about ADHD.

      I tend to say, I’m pretty sure I’ve got ADHD and I struggle with x and y, and people usually will work with that according to their own capacity. I think it helps when people are aware that the Equalities Act 2010 doesn’t require diagnosis.

      What’s been harder is trying to work out on my own (with a lot of help from Tumblr) where my struggles are abnormal and therefore require accommodation. I imagine getting help from a qualified person would be useful there.

      The other thing has been tackling the horrendous effect of menopause on the dysphoria I experience. HRT is making a bigger difference than I could have imagined on that.

    6. mreasy*

      Hi! You need a diagnosis to request accommodations and definitely to get meds. Insurance also likely requires some type of diagnosis to cover therapy/treatment.

      For the Q below, I was diagnosed in my early 20s (this was 20 years ago), so I’m not sure if this info still holds but – I definitely did not need anyone who knew me as a child to sign any paperwork.

    7. Bulu Babi*

      For me, absolutely being able to access medication. It was life changing. Also, having a doctor diagnosis helps getting accommodations where I work, because their authority is trusted. Finally, just knowing and having an explanation to a lot of struggles in my life really helps.

    8. miel*

      A few self-accomodations my loved ones have used:
      – caffeine is a stimulant and can help with focus
      – made their own daily to-do list format
      – moving your body while also doing a brain activity (rocking chair or knitting during a conversation/ meeting; going for a walk while on a phone call; listening to a podcast while doing dishes)
      – plenty of exercise
      – various techniques (like lists and meal planning) to lessen decisionmaking and combat the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon
      – having a good supply of snacks for when you need energy from a snack before you can tackle dinner
      – earplugs for noisy places. Sunglasses or a hat for sunny days or florescent lights.
      – good division of labor with housemate/ partner to play to everyone’s strengths
      – finding a job that plays to your strengths (i.e. the work comes to you/ is right in front of you, like a receptionist or nurse)

    9. Glenn*

      (Context: I’m in the United States, and was diagnosed as an adult.) Diagnosis of ADHD is not really standardized; it will depend on who you see. If you can find a specialist, they will charge more, but are more likely to be flexible and try to work with you. In my case, I was diagnosed mainly using a computerized test of attention, which is probably expensive to administer and thus maybe hard to find. I was also asked various subjective questions, including some discussion of my childhood, but my sense was that the childhood part was mostly a formality, and I was definitely not asked for “childhood references.” The official definition of ADHD requires that the problem has existed since childhood, but there are no specific requirements for how that’s determined. Because the computerized test was able to definitively say that my symptoms fit the ADHD profile, the subjective questions were mostly about ruling out other things (depression, anxiety, etc.) which need to be distinguished before trying medication. (It’s important not to give stimulants to people with certain other conditions that they can actually make worse, particularly bipolar disorder.)

  5. WoodswomanWrites*

    I have a small apartment I’ve lived in for 17 years. While I was able to keep my stuff to manageable levels for a long time, I’m at the point now of needing to seriously declutter. For items that can be repurposed, it’s easy to pass them along to friends, a nonprofit, Freecycle, or the Free section of Craigslist.

    I’m realizing that a major obstacle and why I’ve got a bunch of stuff is that I detest just throwing things away into a landfill. Personally and professionally focused on the environment and sustainability, what someone else might easily toss is to me a tough thing to do.

    This is on my mind because I had a daypack I loved for many years but it’s worn out. Its not made anymore and miraculously, I found the same one in brand new condition on eBay. It’s great. And I’ve been holding on to the old one because I know it won’t degrade. My landfill thing is getting in my way.

    Oh commentariat, I need your help. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has wrestled with this. I welcome your advice to let these freaking things go and be done with it.

    1. Reba*

      This is kind of grim, but I tell myself that having something languishing in my closet is not any more virtuous than languishing in the landfill. Things don’t last forever. By using items till they are worn out (not to mention buying secondhand!) You have already done the best practice.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This right here. It’s okay to let it go if it’s worn out and no longer useable. And if you don’t have time or bandwidth to make it over or repurpose it, or it’s not in any shape to do that with, it’s also okay. Nothing lasts forever.

      2. Oui oui oui all the way home*

        Yes! It already exists as an unused thing on the earth. Whether it is in a landfill or in Woodwoman’s makes no real difference to the world, but moving it to a landfill could make Woodswoman’s life better.

    2. Pippa K*

      Can you cut up some of the body of the daypack and stitch the material into a small simple pouch, something you could use for pencils/makeup/other bits and pieces? Of course it wouldn’t recycle all the material, but you know rationally that the pack is not useful or biodegradable or recyclable now, so maybe having a symbolic use for a bit of it will let you dispose of the remainder.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Or even just save the material for patching the new daypack when it starts wearing out! Cut out all the seams, etc so you just have fabric that can lay flat and be stored in a drawer or on a shelf.

    3. Old Plant Woman*

      I’ll bet you could post ten things real quick and easy that you do to help the environment. Twenty? More? Throw the damn things out and feel guilty for a few minutes, then read your list of good things you do. You’re excellent. Don’t require yourself to be perfect. That’s not sustainable.
      ,

    4. Generic Name*

      Uh, well, I hate to say this, but stuff in landfills don’t exactly degrade in the sense that they become “one with nature” again. Modern landfills are basically sealed pods that are meant to contain waste so nothing harmful gets into the environment. So your backpack can either not-degrade in the back of your closet or it can not-degrade in a landfill. :/

    5. Jay*

      I also do not like just trashing perfectly good things. And sometimes tend to stretch ‘perfectly good’ far beyond where I should.
      I do a couple of things:
      -The building I live in has an informal “free” spot in the laundry room. You bring something there, leave it with a sign saying “FREE”, the date you left it, and that it will be thrown away the following morning if it’s still there. The date and the fact that it will be thrown out are very important. Knowing this, people will be much quicker and more willing to take something, instead of thinking “well, maybe someone else needs this more than I do, I’ll just wait a couple of days”. You will be shocked with the things some folks can use. I find that once I’ve given everyone a fair chance to take the item, discarding it is somehow less troubling.
      -Sometimes I can’t bring myself to throw something that is unsalvageable or totally worn past any saving I have found myself needing to destroy the item myself. The fact that I no longer have an extremely elderly table that I am keeping together with duct tape, playing cards, glue, and hope, but instead have a pile of disintegrating scraps of wood, somehow makes it easier to throw out. Tossing out a bunch of stained, ripped, torn fabric chunks is easier than throwing out a sweatshirt I would never even TRY to wear again (not even doing shop work) due to it being worn to near transparency and full of stains and holes.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        It would be great to find a spot like that where I live. I used to work in an office near a cheap hotel, one of those places where people were just a step ahead of being homeless. I would leave stuff there and once a resident saw when I dropped off a bag of old clothes and thanked me. Wondering if there’s something I haven’t yet found nearby.

        1. Anono-me*

          Reach out to a local House Of Worship that places a huge emphasis on helping people who are experiencing financial hardship. No matter how affluent the community, poverty is everywhere. The HOW will either know people who need what you have or know an organization that can use it.

          Please be sure you are donating the right stuff to the right organization . You don’t want to donate somethingthat the organization needs to pay to throwaway. (Most organizations won’t deal with the rules about undies, so while people desperately need bras very few places keep them.)However don’t assume stuff is trash just because it isn’t suitable for its original purpose. (Lots of charities sell ‘rag bags’ to small garages and home shops.)

        2. WorkingRachel*

          It doesn’t have to be an official spot! I’ve left countless items in countless places with “Free” signs on them–sometimes it was a place “recognized” by other people, but much more often it was just a counter/table/stoop etc where I knew people would pass by and that I either had a right to leave stuff because it belonged to me/I lived there/I worked there or I was just pretty sure it wouldn’t bother anyone.

          And of course there are all the Freecycle email lists, FB groups, etc.

          But overall I would say try to let go of the guilt. You sound like someone who probably does not consume much and who uses things until they wear out. That’s all you can do. I’ve tried to do the “zero waste” thing and quickly learned that trash is an unfortunate, and frequent, part of life in our society. Recycle what you can, donate what you can (in ways that don’t take much time, like bringing things to Goodwill), and trash the rest without wasting your life energy on feeling bad about it.

    6. Not A Manager*

      Try Freecycle/Buy Nothing et al. Describe your item and also give one or two possible uses for it. “Box of worn tee shirts, good for quilting, dishrags, or braided rugs.” One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

      1. AGD*

        I do a lot of clothing upcycling and would love to receive a box of clothing items that each have a hole or a stain so that I can tear them to shreds and reinvent them.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I’m a great repurposer and still I am astonished at what I can re-home on Buy Nothing. Recently bag of old decorative hand towels from my mom’s back closet went on to their new home as cleaning rags. It’s worth trying! But at the same time i really love the reframe above about “it can sit here or in the landfill” — some things are beyond use and that is a helpful way to think about it.

        Buy Nothing might be too effective — I have a White Elephant party to go to and due to Buy Nothing I have virtually nothing that I don’t like/want in my house!

      3. S*

        Yes, find your local Facebook group for Buy Nothing/Give and Take/etc and give stuff away! I’ve gotten rid of things on there quite easily that a resale shop would probably pay me nothing for anyway, and people will come to you to pick up their things!

    7. Awkwardness*

      I completely understand. And I really struggle to throw out things that are still good.
      I will always try to wear my things down so the raw materials and energy were not used in vain. (This way, I am unfortunately always behind with regard to electronic gadgets that could life actually make easier, but those fast cycles of mobile devices will not make sense to me.)

      If the thing is torn/ broken/ not working anymore like it is supposed to be, I am fine in throwing it out. I appreciated the product during its lifetime!
      If a backpack is worn out, it is probably not working as supposed anymore too (padding of shoulder straps insufficient (so you will have pain), zipper not working (so things might get lost or full capacity of backpack cannot be used), fabric torn (things might get lost)). The backpack is allowed to retire!

    8. Still*

      If the backpack is so worn out that is never going to get used again, it’s not any better off at your home than going to landfill. It’s going to be left somewhere in the world and that place doesn’t have to be your home. Be thoughtful about what you bring into your home but don’t turn it into your own tiny local landfill out of guilt because nobody gains anything from it.

    9. Teapot Translator*

      I have the same problem. No advice. ;( I’ll read what others say, though. Thanks for asking the question!

    10. Hannah Lee*

      One option is to check with the recycling/waste reduction department where you live to see if they have special collections for hard to recycle items.

      Where I live, they have a once a month event where you can bring anything with a cord, small metal things (like a small patio table), styrofoam, batteries, suitcases, electronic components. There is a small fee for tvs and microwaves, but everything else is free. If there isn’t a municipal one, they may know of a private company or nonprofit that holds similar collections.

      I’d been holding on to old hot rollers, tape players, kitchen appliances, suitcases for the same reason you’ve held on to the backpack and they accepted them happily, and have the resources to either recycle things through specialized channels or dispose of them in a better way.

    11. fposte*

      I too like Buy Nothing groups, as well as any local thrifts. One near me recycles fabric so will take unwearable clothes.

      But. I think as a person who struggles with this herself (and who has some hoarding impulses) there’s a bit of privilege attached to this. We ultimately can’t expect other people to value an item that we don’t value enough to keep. We made our landfill decisions when we bought the item in the first place. As Reba says, it’s not more environmentally friendly in your closet. Maybe it’s just facing that rather than adding to the landfill that’s really what’s poking at you. Or maybe I’m projecting because that’s what pokes at me, but I think for a lot of us throwing stuff out is a point where we face our own incrimination in the problem and how hard it is to find a way out of complicity. Though it might also be a time to reflect that municipal (consumer) solid waste is approximately 3% of the total to industrial’s 97%, and to grapple with the issue with clean closets.

      Yell that the world sucks and toss it.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Speaking as someone who decluttered a house after 17 years of pack-rattery, the best thing to do is set some boundaries for yourself. If it’s completely worn out/torn/broken/not fixable, it’s perfectly okay to let it go to the landfill. I agree with Reba — buying secondhand and using stuff until it wears out offsets putting that spent item in the trash.

      The other thing to do is just start. That’s the hardest part. Take it a little bit at a time. If you’re overwhelmed by the whole thing, start small — a drawer or a closet, or even a shelf. Once you get over that hurdle, it’s easier to keep going. When I purged my house before moving, I found I actually started to enjoy getting rid of stuff. LOL I was like “Why didn’t I do this earlier!?!” :)

    13. Cardboard Marmalade*

      Daypack-specific advice: if it’s just worn out but not actively gross or infested, I think it’s no longer a daypack, it’s a stuff sack for cleaning rags/lone socks/grocery bags, whatever little things you need to corral.

      Trash guilt advice generally: worrying about these things to the extent that all us conscientious folks do is putting a mental load on us that makes it less likely that we will have the energy to write to businesses and elected officials and let them know we want sustainable industry practices and stricter government policies. Grieve your stuff that you have to throw away, and then channel that fury and despair over the state of our world into connecting with people who are organizing and working to make real change. I say that like it’s easy, and believe me I know it’s not, but I’m certain it’s the only way forward.

    14. RagingADHD*

      If you keep all the trash in your home to avoid putting it in the landfill, you are just creating a smaller secondary landfill inside your home. And creating more (probably unpaid) labor for the people who will inevitably have to clear it out someday.

    15. Sloanicota*

      This doesn’t exactly address your concern about landfills, but something a friend recommended that I’m going to try is gamification; she set a goal of getting rid of one item a day, every day (she didn’t have to throw it out, she could put it in the out-of-sight “donate” box). In the beginning of course the game is really easy – so much so that I’m thinking one item per room might need to be how I start, but it cranks up. She said by the end of her challenge she had to stop herself from getting rid of things she needed because it felt so good to purge! And it might help you get out of your head by distracting you from gloomy sustainability thoughts, which others here have addressed well.

    16. WellRed*

      Sometimes you just gotta let stuff go. Our local buy nothing it seems like a few people are trying to cheap their way out of doing what needs doing. One woman keeps posting a stove that’s missing glass on the door(!) and a chair that has a nasty old upholstery job. Uh, just call the dump guy.

      1. WellRed*

        Uh, I’m not implying you are trying to be cheap though! Just saying it’s okay not to find a home for stuff that’s really gone. Or a fire hazard!

      2. Sloanicota*

        I do sometimes recognize that when I’m resisting throwing something out, I may be contributing to someone else’s problem – either someone with a hoarding issue that is picking up my broken things from Buy Nothing, or some other entity that is probably going to end up throwing away the thing I donated because it’s broken or too used. That’s not really a kindness on my part!

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          I find it helpful to look at the thrift store’s list of items that they do not want; it makes it much easier to discard something (broken items, damaged clothing) if you know that even a thrift shop will not be able to use it.

    17. lavender latte*

      Companies buy emissions credits to pollute the air. If you can’t help but browbeat yourself, “earn” the right to throw something out with an equally green action to counteract it.

    18. Loreli*

      Are there textile recycling services anywhere in your area? These typically have a website listing things they take, and locations of donation bins. There’s one around here (Bay State Textiles, in eastern Massachusetts) that takes items like worn out clothing, shoes, purses, linens, etc.

      Unfortunately, stuff that’s donated to goodwill, etc has to be re-sellable, so any items that don’t meet the criteria get discarded. I don’t know whether those agencies send things to real recyclers or just put them in the trash.

      1. Goosey*

        Many Goodwills recycle textiles; you can contact yours and find out if they’re one of the ones that does so!

    19. Girasol*

      Can you cut it up for knee patches for torn pants and save the buckles for repair of the new pack? That still leaves scraps to throw out, but at least that’s less trash.

    20. Peloton*

      If you’re not using the stuff and it’s not reusable, it’s already in a landfill; you’re just choosing to keep the landfill in your apartment. You can choose whether to have a landfill embassy set up in your closet or to take the stuff to a landfill set up on someone else’s land, but it being waste is a sunk cost.

    21. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Something that I have heard people do over the years– Use stuffed animals (sentimental not collectible), baby blankets, and old clothes to fill a homemade bean-bag chair, sofa pillows, etc.

      (We are going to do something similar this winter because my teenager has asked for a kick-boxing bag that needs 20-30kg if stuffing. If the clothes are too light, we’ll weigh it down with “little white garden rocks” from former owners’ landscaping.)

      I also delight in the new textiles recycling program at my town’s landfill. Does your area do anything similar?

    22. Observer*

      I’m realizing that a major obstacle and why I’ve got a bunch of stuff is that I detest just throwing things away into a landfill.

      and

      And I’ve been holding on to the old one because I know it won’t degrade.

      Add up to creating a landfill *in your apartment*. It does nothing for the environment to keep it sitting, unused. But it damage your immediate environment and will cause harm to anyone who needs to clean up after you.

      Can you find a place that does something like shredding up unusable clothes, to then be used for something else?

      If not, keep in mind that ultimately, the problem of the landfill may be addresses one way or another. (eg there have been landfills that are no longer in active use that have been grassed over to create playgrounds with greenery.) However, the clutter in your house will not be dealt with.

    23. WoodswomanWrites*

      I appreciate all the great advice. To clarify, I’m talking about stuff that in my view is at the end of its useful life, beyond the Freecycle and repurposing stage that I’ve already considered, and the daypack was just an example. I figured I’d find others with the same challenge of having a hard time tossing old belongings in the trash, and once again the AAM commentariat comes through. Thanks for the pep talk, really helpful!

      1. CopperPenny*

        My favorite method is the call a friend method that I’ve seen other people use. Sorting the items to get rid of is one thing, actually putting it in the landfill or taking it to the dump, or donation site can be hard. So someone else takes your stuff and you take theirs. Maybe together and get coffee afterwards or at separate times.

      2. WedgeTailedEagle*

        I pay for a Terracycle ‘all your waste’ box. It’s spendy, but recycles things that can’t go in the regular recycling (soft plastic, blister packs from medication, laminated paper, ring binders, pens, kitchen items, old toothbrushes, swimwear) – as long as it’s not soiled, rotting, potentially explosive or liquid (like paint) it can probably go in.

        I figure that if I send it there and they can’t recycle it then at least I tried.

  6. Free Meerkats*

    Last week I worked the Las Vegas Grand Prix Formula 1 race. I’ve been flagging races for 17 years and this was my first F1 event.
    I was yellow flagger at Turn 1, so I knew first lap I was going to be busy. I worked with a great crew in the corner and it was quite the experience. After the problems the first day (night), the rest of the weekend was great!
    They have a 10 year contract, I plan to do it again, even though this took care of one bucket list item.

    1. Awkwardness*

      Kudos to you! Good to realise a dream.

      But how do you become a flagger if I may ask? I always assumed this was staff at the race track.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Way back in 2006, I crashed my race car (a Formula 500). While I was repairing it, I started working Flagging and Communication since I already booked time off and hotels for the races. I discovered I was enjoying that more than actually driving, it was much more relaxing and I saw more of the racing. The weekend the car was going to be started, the guy who crewed for me called and asked if I ever thought about selling the car; he drove home with it the following weekend and I’ve been flagging ever since.

        If you want to become a flagger and be as close to the racing as you can possibly be without being in a car, find your local SCCA region online and email them saying you want to volunteer. We love new people!

        A few tracks use staff, but it takes a lot of people to do it right. The LVGP had about 500-600 track marshals, all volunteer.

    2. Lemonwhirl*

      So excited to hear this. My kid and husband are into F1 – I don’t like the engine noises, so my participation is making “race snacks” – some sort of meal or dessert that is a delicacy in the place where the race is held.

      I really enjoyed watching parts of the Las Vegas race – it was so fun to see the lights, landmarks, and especially The Sphere.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        If they’re going to be near you, surprise the kid and husband with tickets to Formula E next season. No engine noise at all, and some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere. In Portland last season, 19 cars finished and the delta from first to last was <17 seconds.

  7. Not Quite Perfect*

    Low stakes face care question. I rarely wear makeup and when I do, I don’t wear much. I regularly moisturize. I have a classic T-square face with combination skin where my forehead and nose are oily and the skin around my eyes and on my cheeks tends to be dry. There are tons of good moisturizers out there for around my eyes, but what products do you use for the areas of your skin where it is oily? Something that won’t be overly harsh and that won’t dry the skin on your forehead and nose. Do you use face powder? (I never really every got into face powder.) A matte moisturizer? Are there any products you use that contain a sunscreen?

    1. ThatGirl*

      In some cases oily skin can actually be overactive from dryness. I use a light daytime spf moisturizer and a retinol moisturizer at night. Primer can help even skin tone and absorb oiliness, even if you don’t put makeup over it. I do use blotting papers sometimes in summer.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Moisturising quite often means oily/ rich too so the moisture gets sealed in your skin. And if you have oily skin, this only means excess of oil, not necessarily of moisture too.
      So look for moisturing products without/ with little skin sealing agents (various oils, shea butter, wax etc). Maybe start with simple aloe vera gel first and see how your skin is reacting to this.

    3. RLC*

      I’ve found moisturizers labeled “water cream” or “gel cream” work well for me without causing pore clogging of my T-zone. Korean and Japanese brands seem to do this type of moisturizer especially well.
      Shiseido “Urban Environment” oil free sunscreen is one of the few formulas I’ve found that does not cause me to breakout.

      1. misspiggy*

        Dr Jart is an affordable Korean brand which does lots of soothing cream-gel products for combination skin. Love their packaging too.

    4. English Rose*

      You can buy matte foundation primers which are supposed to go on after moisturiser but before foundation, but there’s no law says you have to use foundation on top of them. I used BareMinerals Prime Time and that works well to rachet down the shine. (I even know a bald guy who uses it to make his head less shiny!)
      I would say get some sample size primers at the department store and see what works.

    5. Emmie*

      I have an oily face. I found that washing my face twice a day with cleanser for oily or normal with helps. It works better than makeup removing wipes. I then use a toner for oily skin, and a light wipe of Laneige water sleeping mask morning and night. Clinique foundation is helpful. I like loose powder too because it doesn’t “cake” on my skin.

    6. MMB*

      Sanitas Skin Soothing Concentrate. Hands down my favorite product. A little goes a long way and it does look oily when you first put it on but within about 15 minutes it soaks in and just leaves soft looking skin with no shine. (I use less when I’m in an area with higher humidity and it takes a little longer to absorb.)

      I used to have terrible T-zone oiliness. I started using one to two drops of jojoba oil everyday and after about a month I noticed that my T-zone was no longer greasy looking and the overall tone was better. It did make me break out a little the first week or so. YMMV

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I have both dry and oily skin, and when the oil level seems high, I go with something superhydrating, focusing more on serums and gels than oil rich moisturizers. So, good hyaluronic acid serums (and sheet masks) topped with a good gel moisturizer product like aloe or cucumber. Definitely don’t try to make your skin matte, any attempt at mattifying your skin will dry it out, which makes the oil production go into overdrive to compensate. Drench with hydration instead, (spritz hydrating toner products to follow up with are also good). See if you can try before you buy; if it’s the right thing for your skin it will absorb and not sit on top.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Oh and this may be something you already know, but harsh cleansers can also dry out your skin (which then creates oiliness), so make sure you’re using non foam, non squeaky cleansers (something like a sulphate free balm or gel) with a hot cloth. In fact, a splash of nothing but plain warm water is better than using something too cleansing, that strips out the skin.

    8. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I use jojoba oil for that! Both dry and oily parts of my skin seem to love it. It’s supposedly the type of oil that’s closest to our own skin’s oil. It also is great to exfoliate with – add some sugar to the oil and use as a scrub. Seems to balance my skin the best.

    9. Workerbee*

      I use brand name Skincare Cosmetics retinol day cream, spf 20, and their retinol night cream.

      I also have combo skin but somewhere along the way decided not to worry about trying to serve each part, if that makes sense.

  8. EA*

    Looking for recommendations for fun stocking stuffers and “cool aunt gifts” for kids ages 2 to 9. I have a lot of kids to shop for this year!

    1. Jay*

      When my nieces and nephew were that age, I got them lots of little books, sometimes ones that come with little games.
      They were always a big hit.

    2. Generic Name*

      Candy. A shit ton of candy. Their parents will hate you, but the kids will love you. :)World Market has fun stocking stuffer candy.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I can fill a whole-ass stocking at World Market for someone of pretty much any age, just wandering through the food, candy and beverage section. And have done for several years, haha — pre-Covid, my household made an annual pre-Christmas excursion out there and all came out spending WAY too much money on stocking stuffers for each other.

        1. Space Coyote*

          This. Every year, my first stop for my “official” Christmas shopping. My dad is basically a big kid so I can find the most peculiar little toy and know he’ll get a kick out of it.

          …might also have something to do with all the German gingerbread <3

    3. matcha123*

      I go for a mix of fun and intellectual gifts. Depends on how many you plan to get per person. But lets say 2 – 3?
      For a 2 year old, squishy stickers. Honestly, even older kids love squishy, puffy stickers.
      Stuffed animals, not huge ones, but smallish ones. Personally, I go for Miffy, the characters from LINE or Kakao Talk (messaging apps popular in Japan/Korea), and Sanrio characters.

      Smaller kids love books with things they can interact with. Such as ones with felt or velcro.

      Things like the new tamagocchi could be fun, too.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Tech decks (mini finger skateboards) for anyone over like 5 or 6. “Mochi squishy animals” which are like gross little fidget toys that feel like jello, lol.

    5. Anono-me*

      Shashibo – for older kids up to adults
      + + blocks – for the older kids up to adults (Target)
      oholy balls – balls with holes for toddlers to grab easily
      Tiny tiny games of battle ship, operation, and monopoly. (Menards)
      Stuffies – Ikea has nice ones and some with embroidery eyes for the very little ones.
      Goofy socks for everyone.

    6. RedinSC*

      There are these little lego kits where you make an animal. They’re small enough for a stocking, super fun (for the older kids, at least).

    7. Chaordic One*

      I’d take a quick walk through my local Dollar Tree first of all. I recently discovered Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, little Disney figurines, and little Lego knock-off kits. Not everything at Dollar Tree is good, though. Be wary of off-brand items. You never know what they might be made of and with. Also be wary of things with small parts that younger children might swallow. Then, get on down to World Market.

    8. Cards Fan*

      Flashlights
      I would never have thought of it, but our grandkids (ages 2-8) haves LOVED having their own flashlights that Papaw gave them last year ( the 2 yr old is getting her own this year. She mostly “borrows” everyone else’s so far.)

      1. Red Flags Everywhere*

        Absolutely second the flashlight thing. My grands are obsessed with flashlights. My husband couldn’t find the little flashlight we usually give our grandson (4) to go on a “kitty hunt” (the cats tend to hide under the bed or sofa when the kids come). I knew where it was, but told him to ask our granddaughter (15 months). Sure enough, she pointed right at it – and it wasn’t quite in the usual place. They are both getting their own toddler-friendly flashlight for Chanukah this year.

    9. Queer Earthling*

      I’ve frequently gotten my niblings art supplies! Sometimes I’ll do a big kit of art stuff with a range of age-levels involved (the kids range from early teens down to toddler) so they can do what they want, or some specific activities. Some examples: I once got them a bunch of popcorn boxes along with stickers and stencils to decorate them for movie nights; I’ve also done some “how to draw” books and fancy(-ish, Walmart fancy) pencils; at some point I did a bookmark making kit for everyone; and once I sent some papier-mache dinosaurs, one for each kid, and a bunch of paint. Always seems to go over well. I think this could easily be broken down to stocking-stuffers–like, maybe some blank bookmarks + some paints or stickers for each kid.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        +1 as a parent I love giving and receiving art supplies because they don’t take up a ton of space (depending) and get USED UP! Also, no screens and encourage creativity/combat boredom. You really can’t go wrong!

    10. Cardboard Marmalade*

      A brick of fancy mini origami paper and a few blocks of fimo/sculpey (the clay you can bake in the oven) in their favorite colors. Funny magnets to put on the fridge. Erasers that look like food.

    11. Girasol*

      Not a stocking stuffer, but a big cardboard box with a door and windows cut in it, and maybe some crayons to decorate it with. (I’m thinking of the Christmas when a two year old unpacked a stocking full of fascinating toys but the baggie of plain cheerios at the bottom was his favorite of all. Then he was coaxed into opening the big box under the tree and there was a brand new tricycle inside. He pushed the trike aside as if it had been packing material and climbed into the wonderful box.)

    12. Double A*

      My 5 year old (and 2 year old actually, but we try to limit him because he’s a thrower) can’t get enough of kinetic sand. If any of the kids like playing with dirt or sandboxes, kinetic sand is super fun and you can get it in self contai boxes

    13. Ranon*

      Check out The Kids Should See This Gift Ideas Tumblr. So many cool ideas.

      Classic slinky is a classic for a reason. Also Koosh balls.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For the older kids who are involved in clubs or lessons through school, Scouts,4H, FFA, etc, find out what upcoming projects they’re excited about and give them good equipment or materials. And by the way not projects that their parents are excited about, talk to the kids or their siblings to find the ones that excite the kid.

    15. Fellow Traveller*

      Last year my kids were most excited about those single serving packs of sugary cereal. And I usually give them a magazine and an orangez

    16. Falling Diphthong*

      For the smaller set, a grabber claw. Grabbing stuff with your new robot arm is cool.

      Exciting candy–stuff you can’t get at the grocery store.

      1. Clisby*

        Bath soap is fine if you know the girl is someone who would welcome it. I would have been extremely disappointed to get soap as a Christmas present.

        On the other hand, if you mean bubble bath, both my nieces and nephews loved that when they were little.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        Crayola makes tubes of fingerpaint for bathtime. Of course my kid’s favorite color is red so it looked like a murder scene :-O but the kids love it.

    17. Clisby*

      I have always loved kaleidoscopes, and kids in my family liked those as gifts too. They come in a wide range of costs. (Actually, an octascope is even more fun IMO, and a I was in my 30s before I knew they existed. When you look through an octascope, you’re looking at the real world, but the image is broken up with a kaleidoscope effect.)

    18. Rose is a rose is a rose*

      Quirkle is a fun, easy-to-learn game for 7ish and up (adults too) that in its travel version will fit in a stocking.

  9. Coyote River*

    I’d be curious to hear people’s post-retirement plans, if you have any.

    I’ve realised I’m getting to the end of my career and that over the next few years I’ll need to think about my next move. I’ll most likely hand the running of my company over to my daughter once she finishes her studies, but then what’s next?

    I’m imagining a log cabin in Alaska, hunting, fishing, reading, and a nice bourbon by the fireplace. But I’d love to hear anyone else’s ideas.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      I plan to retire in four or five years. I think about relocating to California’s North Coast where I’d be near parts of nature that are dear to me–giant redwoods, the ocean, coastal birds–as well as friends and a university town for services for cultural stuff. There’s a part-time job in a nature center there that comes open occasionally should I want some extra cash. Getting a tiny home on wheels might or might not be part of that scenario. It’s fun to dream about that part!

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I love your plan!

        The one thing about the tiny home … have some idea of where you plan to keep it/park it. (Even if you plan on traveling around, look into where tiny homes are allowed to be overnight, short term, long term in the places you imagine you’ll be)

        Some people I know who got one wound up just keeping it parked at his mom’s place, a multi acre property in an area where accessory dwellings/trailers are allowed/not heavily regulated, and keeping their condo as their main residence. They use the tiny house as their getaway when they visit that area, instead of as an actual tiny home, because everywhere they were thinking of putting it wouldn’t allow it or had onerous/expensive requirements about placement, hook ups, permitting, duration of stay etc.

        I think some places are changing zoning to allow ADUs or other non-traditional homes (including tiny homes, granny cottages etc) or make it easier to understand where / how they can be but others still have limits that essentially prohibit them as dwellings and enforce them.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Our zoning doesn’t allow extra homes, but our neighbors do (there was a family living in a fifth wheeler across the street for over a year and nobody gave a damn). So zoning might be one thing and the neighborhood another–best to ask around.

        2. WoodswomanWrites*

          Good points about the requirements and zoning for tiny homes. I know that can be a challenge. I’ve poked into that some and if I decide to go for it, I will definitely research it more thoroughly. West Coast states, where I see my future, appear to be ahead of others in terms of updating regulations. I’m also thinking about what would help me as I age. That includes avoiding off-grid design so I can hook up to existing sewage systems, etc. and having a single story with no stairs.

    2. Not A Manager*

      I’ve moved back to the city where I spent most of my life, where my adult children and most of my friends are. I engage with the communities I value, I see my friends and relatives, I enjoy the city’s cultural offerings. I’m enjoying sports and travel while I’m still able to. I have extended family and friends around the country, as well as my own sports and tourism interests, so I always have a reason to visit somewhere.

        1. Mztery1*

          I would love to read more of these – I will be retiring in June and likely staying in the same apartment in San Francisco but with nothing planned yet. I know it will be a big adjustment as I’ve been working hard the past 15 years as an instructor at the state University. I’ve been almost entirely online since the pandemic started, and will end my career that way as well. I have no idea what to do and I would love to hear what other people plan!

    3. Countingdown*

      I’m planning to travel – I want to go round Europe by train with an Interrail pass, this is something I did as a teenager and want to do again.
      Then I might go back to some less pressurised part-time work in the field but not at the level that I currently work, or volunteer. And I will go to the museums and art galleries when they are not busy, and do the free tours there, perhaps do a class on art history.
      There’s an organisation in the UK called University of the Third Age (U3A) which does all sorts of classes and hobby groups – my mother plays Mah Jong and goes birdwatching with them. I will join them, and learn to play bridge among other things
      I can’t wait for retirement!

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I moved to a serviced appartment right on the Rhine promenade. Serviced is so I don’t have to bother about organising repairs, cleaning, utilities etc.
      My windows look out on the river below, which motivates lazy me to go out and enjoy the great walks (well, noty atm as it’s pouring!).

      It’s a small peaceful village in the Rhine wine valley and also just 1 mile from a good gym, which I go to 6 days per week.
      I enjoy pottering about the village. I walk a neighbour’s dog to have the pleasure and not the responsibility of pet-ownership.
      I’m a Kindle bookworm and also enjoy some streaming services.

      For location, imo key is deciding if you prefer peace & quiet or need the buzz of city life – restaurants theatres, cinemas, clubs etc. Important is proximity to any family or close friends to keep your social circle – it’s difficult to make close friends when older, although I’ve made plenty of new casual friends.
      Then decide on the type of property and how much maintenance you want to do/expect to be able to do.

    5. oldfiddler*

      I’m retiring in the spring. Never thought I would do that — I have a senior level individual contributor type position that people keep for decades. I always figured they would carry me off campus in the horizontal position :)

      Luckily for us, we’re at the point where my work is getting in the way of all the things we love to do. My partner is retired already, so we’ll both be fully done with work at age 62 (60 for them.) We are super privileged to have been able to put away some money, so we’ll be able to pay our bills.

      We both love hiking, especially long distance hiking (think weeks or months on the trail), birding, kayaking — ok, pretty much any outdoor activity. We traded in our super-tiny camper for one that is merely “very small”, and we’ll spend weeks or months at a time camping around the country, hiking, taking pictures, looking for birds, etc. We have a kid out West, so this gives us a great excuse to load up the camper and head out there.

      Most importantly, in the last ten years we’ve gotten into “old time” music, which is a kind of back porch music people play with fiddles, banjos, maybe a guitar or a bass, and we have friends and festivals all over the country where we can play. It’s all about playing, not performing, and getting together with friends. It’s a super community and a lot of fun (and beginners are always welcome.) The camper comes in handy for the old time fiddlers festivals, too. And yes, there may be bourbon and beer involved.

      All in all, I can’t wait. Hope your retirement is a good one, too.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Oh my goodness, are you me? If not, can I tag along? I’ll bring my binoculars, trekking poles, mountain dulcimers, and banjo. I hope you can forgive that I don’t drink.

          1. WoodswomanWrites*

            Ha, love it. In real life, I like getting tips for destinations. Should you be open to sharing suggestions, you can contact me through my blog that’s the same as my user name.

    6. fposte*

      I’m in retirement, so I’m cheating a little. I didn’t relocate and have no plans to—I have really close friends here, housing is inexpensive so my money goes a good way, there’s good medical and hospital resources, and it’s an easy community to get around in. What I’ve been doing is a lot more exploration of activities—took up kayaking, took up a new instrument, have done a variety of one-offs and will do more. There are also more spontaneous trips to nearby destinations. There’s a cool show three hours away? Why not go? It’s just a whole different approach to time that’s both refreshing and destressing. I also consciously try to pass that on when I can by being the person who doesn’t mind waiting, who’ll let the person with kids go first in line, who’s audibly cheerful to workers when things get backed up.

      More practically, I have just been officially placed on the proto-waitlist for a nearby continuing care retirement community, where I expect to move in ten years or so; I get some preference this way when I’m ready to move to the real ready-to-move waitlist. I’m single with no kids and I’d rather do this than gamble on being able to be healthy as long as I want, plus it’s a cool place.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        May I ask where you are, geographically?

        My husband and I are in the middle of deciding if/where to move since we are in a very expensive area right now.

        1. fposte*

          Midwestern university town. IMHO, if you’re okay with the Midwestern weather, there are a lot of university and college towns with decent resources and lower cost housing.

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            Thank you! We’re in New England, so the weather in the Midwest would be OK. Just more snow and I love having four real seasons.

      2. Figgie*

        We retired almost exactly two years ago. We spend 6-7 months in an apartment in a Mexican neighborhood located in a beach town in Mexico and the rest of the time in our small house (where we can age in place) in the midwest. Friends told us to retire to something, not to just retire to get away from work. :-)

        We still do the things we love (Tai Chi, exercising, walks, spending time with friends and family, reading, learning Spanish and watching TV). What we don’t have to deal with is the cold and the snow or the tropical rainstorms and heat, since we move back and forth. We have very active social lives in both places, which is quite the surprise to our introverted selves. Who knew that when we weren’t putting our energy into work that we would have the energy to be out and about with friends. :-)

    7. Rara Avis*

      My parents are around 80 and retired ca. 15 years. They’re still in the house they’ve been in since 1972. Their health is good so they can deal with stairs and maintenance (although we’re all working on my dad to stop going out on the roof to remove leaves or ice.) it would be pretty hard for them to leave the community they’re so deeply embedded in. They have friend groups, volunteer work, hiking and rowing, crafting, and they travel to see their children and grandkids on the opposite coast two or three times a year.

      1. Anono-me*

        Can you (& sibs)gift him installed heat tape for the ice?

        If that isn’t an option, how about the ice melt disks? A dog ball launcher works well to get them on the roof and is kind of fun to use.

        Also we went from normal to extra wide gutters for much less than the cost of good gutter guards and so we went from cleaning our gutters 1-2 times a month to 1-2 times a year.

    8. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Retired at the end of 2022. I was 62 at the time. Still working a few days a month to keep my mind ticking over and maintain my medical license as a hedge against disaster. I still call it “retirement” because work no longer defines my identity or rules my calendar. I don’t know how helpful it would be to describe what I’m doing since that’s pretty individual (although I’m happy to if someone is interested). The process by which we sorted it out may be more generalizable.

      Hubs retired before me and we spent a long time talking about what we wanted the rest of our lives to look like and how that fit into our financial resources. We realized that our priorities were 1) living in community (me) 2) having a garden to work in (him) 3) travel (both of us) and 4) having a home that we really love where we can welcome guests. We are happy in our community here and decided not to move because our housing costs are comparatively low. We sank a fair amount of money into making our home as much what we want as possible (added a screened porch and hot tub, redid the living room, created two separate studies, found space for his model railroad, upgraded our kitchen appliances). We also agreed that we needed to pursue our own separate interests and not try to be joined at the hip, which was very freeing for me because I want to travel more than he does. He is allergic to dogs and cats which means when we travel together we need to pay for hotel rooms. When it’s just me, I can stay with friends and family. Much more economical.

      If I could have a community of loving friends and a synagogue I liked right by the ocean, that would be perfect. I’d love to live near the water. I know myself well enough to know that it takes me years to really build the kind of community we have here, and we are very picky about our congregations. So we’re here.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I think about this so much (not great for someone in her late 30s LOL). If I am fortunate enough to make it to retirement and actually have the funds to do so, I’m going to first travel a lot while my health is good – probably on one of those round-the-world tours or something – and then buy a one-story place by the water. My friends claim we’re going to live together Golden Girls style, which would be delightful, but of course I’m not counting on that working out.

    10. Jay*

      While I have some doubts I will ever have the option of retiring, if I should ever be able to, I would hope to be able to invest a bit of my 401K into a tiny house on a tiny piece of land someplace warm where the living is still cheap enough that I can get by. Close enough to some kind of water that I can go fishing, being safe and well maintained enough that I can go for walks whenever I like, being close enough to basic stores that I don’t have to go too far for essentials, and having enough infrastructure that I can at least have basic wired cable and internet would be nice perks to have, if I can get them.
      It’s not much, but I don’t have any confidence in Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare still being things by the time I’m done with my working life. So, I’ll take just not having to get out of bed until I feel like it for a couple of years.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Oh geez, I wish I could retire. Unfortunately, I can’t — too many years of underemployment means I have NO savings. Even though my student loans were forgiven (!!!), I still have to eat and pay for housing, and Social Security ain’t gonna be enough, so I’ll probably have a job until I die. :(

      If I could retire from working, assuming I’m not with a partner, I’d love to have a house again with a garden (veggies and flowers). I’d still work, but it would be writing. I’d have a dedicated room or sunroom in which to do crafts and art. Right now, I’m looking for groups and activities where I can make friends to hang out with outside of that, so I’d spend time with friends and do some traveling if I can manage it — visiting family and friends, and just driving around here, since the area is new to me.

      Basically, just doing whatever I want to do and on my own schedule, since my body clock tends to run later than typical work hours.

    12. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’m 37 now and I plan to move to a rural area at age 40 and spend 20 years living my dream of working the land. But retirement is different. I plan to move to a dense urban environment full of culture and art where I can live in a doorman building with all the conveniences as close to me as possible without living in a retirement community. That way I don’t have to worry about driving, about needing small favors like opening jars or a stuck window (doorman), or about needing transport to health appointments. All will be right there. This will also allow me to remain part of society where I can take in all the shows and eat at great places.

      1. Coyote River*

        I wish you all the best with your endeavour! It is quite the opposite for me though, having spent the last 20 or so years in the city I find myself wanting the peace and solitude of somewhere more isolated.

    13. Girasol*

      I’ve come to the conclusion that the “you must have a retirement plan!!” advice is intended to get you past that first year or so when it can be a struggle to make the mental switch from career to retirement. Most of us have been going where we’re told, when we’re told, and doing what we’re told to do since about kindergarten. That first day is like “Yay! Retirement! Erm…what do I do now?” Having some ideas of things you’ve always wanted to try in that first year is great, but holding off any permanent, rest-of-your-life changes for awhile can be a good strategy. Retirement kinda grows on you organically.

    14. DannyG*

      Wife retired some years ago from the school system. I’m looking at a window of 2-5 years. Travel is our biggest priority. Hope to get a smaller motor home and cover the US and some of Canada, hopefully with a couple of the grandkids in tow.

    15. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      I had a detailed plan for retirement and was very well prepared to implement it in May 2020. The ONE thing I didn’t think to plan for was the zombie apocalypse.
      I adjusted my plans (this was hard) and moved forward, THEN both parents began a physical and/or mental decline over the past 2 years.
      Even with the best preparation, life (shit) happens and you will find yourself making new plans and you will mourn loss of some others. I appreciate what I was able to accomplish and have let go of what won’t be and I’ve made some new plans.
      Don’t look at retirement as some magic place that is a reward for all your hard working life. It’s another chapter in your story. I saved the following quote years ago (don’t know who said it, there are several versions)
      When something goes wrong in your life, just yell ‘PLOT TWIST!’ and move on.

    16. Busy Middle Manager*

      I want to retire a little early and live somewhere that feels extreme and spend alot of time gardening and hiking. I have to keep visiting the large coastal cities for work and my parents and siblings like in the HCOL coastal area so I keep feeling tied here, but once, I know it sounds bad but it’s going to happen at some point not that far in the future, my parents are gone and if I can get a fully remote job that doesn’t love constant in person things just because, I want to do rural living.

      I also have stacks of books and magazines I never get to enjoy because of time. It’s not even an excuse, I barely have time to watch TV. I haven’t watch a movie in a year, not because I’m so cool, because it’s constant responsibilities and home care and family stuff and work. I do want to be a couch potato for five minutes at some point and watch shows that will feel ancient at that point, like Northern Exposure:-). I feel like I’ve missed alot over the decades!

    17. Qwerty*

      There’s a nearby university that lets senior citizens take classes for free. Can’t wait to get old and study all the topics!

    18. Red Flags Everywhere*

      I’m going to have to go back to school (still have a few years), but I plan to go into a field where there is great need and heavy societal impact, but no money. I’m figuring I’ll have enough retirement income to be able to donate my professional services to the greater good.

    19. Falling Diphthong*

      One of the following:
      a) Move near one of our kids, especially if helping with grandchildren is a thing.
      b) Move to the old family homestead on my husband’s side. (I think this needs young spry people, but he does love it.0
      c) Move close to a relative with a house on the shore.

    20. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Well, I ended up the chair of a county political party…along with writing more novels (only 4k left on my NaNoWriMo project) and latch hook rugs. (the first one just sort of happened, long strange story).

      1. Elsewise*

        Congrats on your NaNo!! My partner is our local ML, so we do a lot with the community where we are.

  10. DJ Abbott*

    About two months ago, I saw someone on this site say she didn’t like the earlier Star Trek series because of the sexism and racism, end it got me thinking.
    I’m 61 and first watched the original series as a child in the 70s.
    Yes, it was primitive and macho. All action shows were back then, with the white man as the hero who saves the day. But it did break new ground. There were no other shows in the late 60s that had an Asian, a Russian, and a black person and woman as command staff/managers. It also had the first (technically) interracial kiss. Gene Roddenberry wanted to do a more thoughtful and intelligent show, but the network insisted on a cowboys in space format.
    In the 80s it became possible to release a show directly into syndication. This gave Gene the opportunity to do the show the way he wanted to, and he made Next Generation.
    I was around 30 when I discovered it, and was blown away. I had never seen a TV show that was so intelligent and respectful. It also broke new ground. A young, beautiful, blonde woman as head of security? And she was taken seriously and respected? I had never seen such a thing.
    Even more, the episode called Disaster, in which the Enterprise runs into an invisible something in space and is damaged and cannot move. Deanna Troi is The ranking officer on the bridge. She gives orders to the men around and they respectfully call her sir and follow them. No challenges. No silly games to get attention or manipulate her. No mocking, no abuse. They treat her with respect as a fellow officer.
    I had never seen a beautiful, glamorous woman be in charge and respected in either film or real life. Generally if I behaved assertively, at least one man would give me a hard time about it. I never figured out what to do with that, because you can’t win with men like that. But counselor Troi didn’t have to deal with that, because she was respected.
    It took some time to get my mind around that. I still think about it. I had always seen examples where the beautiful glamorous woman was not in charge, and the woman who was in charge was not beautiful and glamorous. I had never dreamed a woman could be both.
    After TNG The franchise took off with other series including Voyager, with a woman starship captain, and Deep Space Nine, with a black captain and his teenage son. Star Trek has been breaking new ground ever since. :)

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      It can be true – and IMO is true – that the OG Star Trek was groundbreaking AND is hard to watch because of the sexism. And that’s okay.

      1. The Other Sage*

        I can’t watch the original series either, but as far as I know it was still an important step forward to less discrimination, and that is cool.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          Yes, it’s all a product of its time, and things move along likewise.

          The Next Generation has some awful anti-Blackness (especially early on) and some homophobia. It’s less blatantly sexist but we’d only reached the 1980s by the time the show came on the air, so remnants of that are all over the place. There’s one episode where an alien impregnates a female crew member and forces her to give birth (and she’s portrayed as completely OK with it, which is cringe-inducing). TNG attempts an episode about a ‘genderless’ alien world, but totally bungles the landing there. The show also quickly loses its female security chief, which leaves both of the remaining female main characters in healing/caring/parenting roles. One of those gets moved off-screen for an entire season; the other is notoriously underused and rarely allowed to do much other than being a psychologist saying things that are already obvious to the rest of the crew and the audience.

          Deep Space Nine does much better in terms of mixing up the backgrounds and specialty areas of its female characters. Is not nearly so bad about Blackness (even introducing a few time-travel-y episodes featuring sharp views of race relations in North America in the 20th century). The show has a main character who (being from a mutualistic hybrid species) has recently changed genders, which leads to one very sapphic episode that was decidedly bold in the 1990s. But then there’s the fact that all three of the recurring characters from a species of (essentially) greedy butt-headed capitalists are played by short Jewish men, which is painfully stereotypical. (The species gets some nuance/individuation, but one of those characters is almost all utterly shameless profit-driven antics.)

          Voyager finally gives us a female captain (the one in one episode of TNG doesn’t really count), and she’s generally well-written, well-acted, and really competent. But the show tries to have a Native American main character and…let’s just leave it at “tries.” And the East Asian guy very obviously never gets promoted from the lowest rung.

          I love all these series and they were progressive in some ways, but yeah, grains of salt are necessary.

          1. The OG Sleepless*

            Let me say that TNG was my absolute favorite show while it was on, and I still have very fond memories of it (and anybody who hasn’t seen the third season of Picard needs to drop everything and watch it; I was almost in tears seeing the crew reunited and showing how much they meant to each other). But when I go back now and watch it, I can see why Marina Sirtis became more and more annoyed over time with being what she called “the chick.” Her role, way too often, was to be the sweet, caring woman. The later seasons, when she wore a regular science officer’s uniform and was able to act more as a ranking officer, were much better and gave Sirtis a chance to show her own snarky personality. Beverly Crusher was not much better. (The reason Gates McFadden disappeared for a season was that she was on maternity leave. Watch the season before that and you can see her pregnant belly under her lab coat.) McFadden and Sirtis both refused to be in a TV Guide issue about the women of Star Trek, so the photo editor had to get creative.

            Gene Roddenberry was a visionary, but he could never quite escape being a product of his time.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            TNG Did not fire Denise Crosby, who played the security chief. She insisted on leaving the show and found a way to get out of her contract. They planned on keeping her for most or all of the series, and I wish she had stayed. It would have been even better as a move forward.
            The episode you refer to with the alien pregnancy was also about Deanna Troi. She decided to keep the baby against Worf arguing that she should have an abortion because it was a security risk. There was no forcing her keeping the baby.

            1. allathian*

              Denise Crosby left because she was never given anything meaningful to do on the show. I did enjoy her later appearances as the half-Romulan Sela.

              My biggest gripe with TNG are the blackface Klingons. You’d think they could’ve found Black actors to play K’Ehleyr and Alexander… I have no issues with white actors playing white Klingons.

              I still enjoy TOS even if the casual sexism is at times hard to watch.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                What she did was very meaningful to me. If she had stayed, it would have been even more meaningful.

                1. allathian*

                  It’s been a while since I last watched the early seasons of TNG, but I remember her mostly standing on the bridge looking pretty. Maybe we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one?

                  DS9 was far better with giving women meaningful roles, two of my favorite characters are Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax, and I absolutely love to hate Kai Winn. The father-son relationship between Captain and Jake Sisko is great to watch, too. And Miles and Keiko O’Brien’s marriage is, IMO, one of the better ones in any sf show that I’ve seen (a second favorite is Sheridan and Delenn on Babylon 5).

                2. DJ Abbott*

                  @allathian, I remember her being a weapons expert, and a fight to the death with the head of a matriarchal society, and turning down the prize – a strong, handsome man.
                  And I remember her standing up to the Ferenghi’s chauvinism in their first ever encounter with that species.
                  And the flashbacks to the extremely rough background her character had overcome to succeed.
                  But you’re free to remember her as only a pretty face if you want to.

                3. allathian*

                  @DJ Abbott, she did have a few notable moments, thanks for the reminder. The Angel episode’s cringy enough otherwise that I’d blanked on that, Yar’s fight was definitely the high point come to think of it. And she did have a meaningful relationship with Data… And yeah, her home planet was a nasty place, no wonder she was willing to do pretty much anything to escape it.

                  Tasha Yar’s experience was a bit extreme, but it seems to me that none of the TNG’s main cast had a truly happy childhood, with the possible exception of Dr. Crusher (her trauma came later when her husband died).

                  Tasha was born on a colony planet where she had to dodge “rape gangs” to survive.

                  Deanna Troi lost her father (and I seem to remember a sibling?) at an early age, and probably left her home planet at least partly to get away from her overbearing mother. Lwaxana’s fine in small doses, but I’m glad she’s not my mother…

                  Riker lost his mother at an early age and had a troubled relationship with his father well into middle age.

                  Both of LaForge’s parents were Starfleet officers and he spent his childhood raised first by one and then by the other for months if not years at a time (even if that doesn’t necessarily make his childhood traumatic on its own, it’s hardly “normal”) Thankfully he seems to be accepted as a very skilled professional and the crew doesn’t seem to consider him disabled, just differently abled, because with his visor he can see radiation frequencies other humanoids can’t.

                  Even Picard grew up in an unsupportive environment, with a father who was contemptuous of his intellectual pursuits and a brother who was a bully. His childhood would’ve been miserable if it hadn’t been for his mother…

            2. Goldfeesh*

              Denise Crosby has since said that she left because of the way her character and she, herself, was treated. Back when she left the official story was she was a greedy so-and-so. There have been some interesting interviews with the various women in the last five years or so showing it wasn’t the happy Star Trek family that Rick Berman wanted to promote.

          3. DJ Abbott*

            This is my first time hearing or thinking the Ferengi are based on Jews! I always thought it was a way of skewering greedy capitalists, many of whom are not Jewish.
            Making them short and funny looking is very funny, and the character Quark takes it all the way. IMO they did some great things with showing how bad that attitude is, and how much better they could be.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                That was my understanding also. I knew such people when I was working as a support person in the 90s and 2000s. They usually see themselves as tall, handsome, God’s gift types, so it was funny to have them be short and funny looking. More like their actual personalities. :D
                As far as I know, none of them were Jewish.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Quark, Rom, and Nog are all played by Jewish actors.

                  However the stereotypes came about, even the Wikipedia article about Ferenghi discusses how the writers tried to mitigate it in later seasons.

          4. Awkwardness*

            I agree with most of your points. But I hesitate to even assume that Jewish actors might have been type casted to play Ferenghi.

          5. Chaordic One*

            I always felt like Janeway was portrayed as a more human and flawed character than any of the male captains. I’m not sure if I am just conditioned to overlook the flaws of men because of my own ingrained sexism, or it that was intended by the writers. It seemed to me that Janeway made a lot mistakes and showed a lot of errors in judgement when compared to the male captains and in that way she was a gutsy character to have shown on TV.

          6. EventingForChickens*

            In Voyager’s defence, they did try a little with Chakotay — they hired a Native consultant to try and be sensitive/accurate, but he turned out to be a fraud.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          Re watching the OG series, The James Blish adaptations found their way into my house and that helped a lot. I didn’t have to deal with the bad acting and special effects, and there was more nuance and explanation of backstory.

      2. Hrodvitnir*

        Yep. I’m of the age to be an og TNG fan, and even that makes me cringe at times. But I love it very much.

        I’m too young for nostalgia to carry me through TOS, though I often toy with watching it. Especially since Tumblr is full of gifsets showing some things that in some cases are *still* progressive. Ie: the staunchly pro-choice episode stands out.

          1. allathian*

            Not pro-choice exactly, but pro-contraception, The Mark of Gideon. Kirk and Spock (and maybe the doctor?) have been imprisoned on a replica of the Enterprise on a planet where the population barely has any room to move. One of them wonders why they don’t prevent conception in some way to deal with the overpopulation.

    2. o_gal*

      My approach to anything like this is to watch while realizing that (as others have said) it is a product of its time. There are a lot of other things that are cringey to watch now. A couple of good examples are Popeye cartoons and Pepe Le Pew. Bluto and Pepe are always trying to force Olive Oyl and whatever female cat wanders by into kissing. But as much as that makes me just shudder that we used to watch that and we were OK with it, I don’t want anything banned, unless it’s outright offensive in a legal-ish way.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I feel like that about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

        I loved it as a kid, but seeing it now with such pervasive, sexism, ableism, actually many forms of bigotry and bullying … in an animated story that on the surface was all about how it’s okay to be different, that we all bring different characteristics to the party and those differences should be welcomed … like, how was that okay?

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          Rudolph always made me a little uncomfortable as a kid! My heart went out to the elf who wanted to be a dentist. What’s wrong with that? And poor Rudolph! I hated getting laughed at when I was a kid.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            What bothered me was that Santa was so mean. Telling Donner that he’d better do something about his kid with the red nose. Like, what? Santa is not supposed to be mean!

          2. Chaordic One*

            Yeah, but… Admittedly the abominable snowman was, well, abominable. So the psuedo- would be dentist goes and pulls out all of his teeth? Not really the greatest way to deal with bullies and probably medical malpractice. What kind of a message does it send?

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          We watch all the Christmas specials every year, and every time Rudoph gets to the line “the best thing to do was get the women back to Christmas Town” Husband glances over to watch me gnashing my teeth.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I still love a lot of my old Looney Tunes favorites, but whew, some of them were pretty awful. I never liked Popeye much.

        I still like Star Trek TOS and I will happily watch TNG for hours (and did so while recovering from my knee surgery — thanks, Pluto TV!) but I recognize the problems with it.

    3. WorkingRachel*

      Yes, it broke new ground and is also hard to watch now. I’ve never liked TOS because I find Capt. Kirk so cringe-y. It’s also undeniable that certain parts of it were revolutionary at the time. That’s how culture goes. When Friends first came out, it was much more accepting of gayness and gay characters than most other shows on TV. Now, it’s glaring how much of the humor revolved around the (straight) main characters distancing themselves from the idea that they might be gay, and the treatment of Chandler’s second parent (always referred to as “he” although they seem to be a trans woman) is horrifying.

      By the time I was a kid in the 80s/90s, TNG didn’t feel groundbreaking to me that there were beautiful women in leadership roles–I’d seen plenty of that. It bothered me that we couldn’t have women who WEREN’T beautiful in…any roles, ever. Culture moves on, and that’s a good thing.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I remember coming across an article where they interviewed Gene Roddenberry’s former personal assistant and he claimed that Roddenberry had wanted to include openly gay and lesbian characters among the Star Fleet officers, but that he was repeatedly shot down by the network. (This was back in the 1980s and early ’90s.)

        1. DJ Abbott*

          This was also mentioned by George Takei in the fundraiser for President Biden in 2020. He said he pulled Gene aside and pointed out there was one group being left out of TOS and Gene said he was aware of that, but the network would shut them down if he tried to push it. They almost shut it down over the interracial kiss, and Gene was cautious. A few years ago, I read there are parts of the southeast that still refuse to show that episode.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, and it’s not as if they wanted to kiss each other, they were forced into it by the telepathic race who used mind control to get them to do what they wanted.

            I can’t even imagine the furore that would’ve resulted if it had been a consensual kiss between, say, Nurse Chapel and Doctor M’Benga (who got far too few appearances on TOS).

            1. Jackalope*

              I’ve heard that the powers that be were trying to decide if they would have the kiss or not. The actors both thought it was important to include it, so they deliberately flubbed all of the filmed takes where they didn’t kiss, so TPTB had to use one of the takes with the kiss in it.

    4. Awkwardness*

      As a teenager, my hero was B’Elanna. A woman as chief engineer, solving all those technical problems! That was amazing.
      As I grew older, i could appreciate Janeway more.

    5. Chaordic One*

      In the original series, I really liked the character of Yeoman Janice Rand (as played by Grace Lee Whitney) and thought she was more of an equal to the male crew members than, say Lieutenant Uhura or Nurse Chapel. It was a pity they wrote her out of the show so early in its run. The pilot for the series featured Majel Barret (who would later portray Nurse Chapel) as the first officer, but the network supposedly thought that having a woman in that role was too unbelievable and that it would repel viewers.

      That said, the absolute most “cringe” and misogynistic episode of the original series has to be (what would turn out to be the final episode of the original franchise) the one titled, “Turnabout Intruder” where an angry woman (They’re always angry, aren’t they?) who had trained at Star Fleet Academy with Captain Kirk implies that Star Fleet prohibits female captains and then uses conveniently-discovered alien technology to swap bodies with Captain Kirk so that she can take possession of his body and become a star fleet captain.

      OMG! It was a hot mess of an episode. There were implications of women hating their gender and of ambitious women being insane, among other things and there was just something so horrible and wrong with William Shatner’s (what I interpret as an exaggerrated, stereotypical and campy) portrayal of a woman inhabiting Kirk’s body.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        William Shatner was not the best actor then. I doubt he was trying to make the character exaggerated and campy because his Captain Kirk was like that, too. I had trouble watching him even as a child. That’s why I liked the James Blish adaptations better. They were much easier to read, and had more background and nuance. Those who are interested in watching TOS but put off by the flaws, might like these books.
        To his credit, Shatner got better later and I enjoyed him in Boston Legal.

        1. Chaordic One*

          No, he wasn’t the best actor then and he definitely did get better as time went on. To his credit he even went on to be able to make fun of himself and his image in some of his later acting roles. That said, there is something to be said for the TOS in that sometimes it is so bad that it is good, like a train-wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            They replay all the old ST series on a local channel, and I’ve rewatched some of TOS. (Not old enough for the original run, but old enough to remember when TNG started.)

            Not only is Kirk not that good at captaining, but I feel like the crew should have kept him on some sort of leash.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Lol! :D
              That’s how it was then. The macho white man in a powerful position could do pretty much anything. Especially on TV, where he was usually a superhero too.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Grace Lee Whitney, who played Rand, was apparently sexually assaulted by an exec and Roddenberry let her out of her contract so she didn’t have to be around him. She’s stated also that Leonard Nimoy was a source of support to her in the aftermath.

      3. allathian*

        Yes, Turnabout Intruder’s definitely my least favorite TOS episode.

        Of course, not long afterwards they had female admirals in Starfleet, which implies that they must’ve been captains before getting promoted. I find the episode easier to watch if I consider Janice Lester’s statement about women not being accepted as Captains as something she said because of her mental illness. It’s possible she didn’t make the cut for other reasons and assumed they rejected her because of her gender.

        My second least favorite TOS episode is Space Seed that’s so problematic in so many ways. Khan’s supposed to be Sikh, but he’s played by a Mexican actor. And when that other Augment slapped Uhura, I got angry. Not to mention that the idea that a female crew member would forget all about her duty when a handsome alpha male showed a bit of interest in her also raised my hackles. Poor Marla McGivers…

        I like the episode called The Changeling, but there’s one scene where the sentient robot Nomad tries to read Uhura’s mind and stuns her because all it can sense is confusion. Kirk says something like “Lieutenant Uhura is a woman” as if that explained it. Grrr!

    6. Quinalla*

      I can still watch TOG, but I understand why some cannot. There are definitely episodes I don’t rewatch cause ugh. Honestly, all Star Trek has its moments of ugh, but I agree 100% that it broke a lot of ground and tried to be inclusive, etc. It didn’t always succeed and some of it has aged poorly, but I share you clear love of the series.

      If you haven’t yet, I recommend checking out Lower Decks for the humor while still being firmly Trek (you’ll get a lot of the references, I have to explain about half of them to my husband who isn’t as big a Trekkie as I am) and Strange New Worlds – it feels like a nice combo of TNG & TOS, but updated for current standards of TV (so much less problematic for sure).

      Also, if you never saw Fringe, watch it. It has aged fairly well, I just rewatched it last year. Really great sci-fi show that respects its audience’s intellegence!

  11. matcha123*

    I hate mushrooms and I am a picky eater, but much better over the past few years.
    I have told friends that I dislike mushrooms and that I’m working on eating a wider variety of foods…but loath mushrooms. I’ve been tagged in posts with mushrooms by friends who know I hate mushrooms as a kind of joke, and I assume that I talk about my mushroom hate enough that friends would know.

    Well, in January after a work dinner, I posted a video to my Instagram (private account) about disliking mushrooms and how I am a picky eater, but have expanded my palate and can enjoy more foods. And that I also feel childish (about being a picky eater/mushroom hater) and know people see picky eaters as childish, and I know people put effort into making food, so I wouldn’t want to offend anyone by picking evil mushrooms out of a dish they made me and I’d power through some mushrooms for a friend.

    Well, apparently some friends took that as me calling them out. A friend served a dish with mushrooms in it a few weeks prior and I ate it and told her it was delicious (it was). Another friend is a picky eater herself, but is fine with mushrooms, but has told me she doesn’t want to date men who are picky eaters because it looks “childish.”

    Neither of them have said anything directly to me, but they immediately stopped watching my stories (their choice, of course) and stopped texting. They used to text our group chat more frequently, but there have always been long lulls. For my part, I’ve been extremely busy with work and some medical issues.
    A few months ago when I met with the friend who made the mushroom dish, she made some comments about mushrooms and when I look back on it, it seemed like she was fishing to get me to “admit” that I hated her dish (I didn’t!).

    So…it’s been almost a year. Do I reach out to these friends and ask them what’s up? Do I apologize? I’ve been very open about my mushroom hate and my journey with eating more foods. I’ve also told them many times that due to a lot of uncomfortable food situations in my youth, my take is that people should eat what makes them happy. When we’ve eaten together, I’ve made an effort to remember their food preferences and go along with things they want to eat.

    For what it’s worth, I did not have either of them in mind, and was talking about something I’ve spoken about numerous times with them before. (Not obsessively) So, my feeling is that something else is an issue, either with me or with them in their lives. I just don’t have a tactful way of asking. I also don’t think that either of them would admit to feeling hurt (if they were) and I have a feeling they’d more likely say that I was being weird for bringing it up/they were just busy/I’m being paranoid.

    1. misspiggy*

      Let’s assume for a moment that your friends haven’t taken offence, but just feel awkward. (If they have taken offence over something as trivial as mushrooms, or thought you were passive-aggressively calling them out for serving you mushrooms, something is going on with them that you can’t fix. They might get over themselves in time.)

      But if they do just feel awkward, it might be because they’re shocked that the issue is bad enough for you to post about it, but that you have still forced yourself to power through and eat the food. Like, no one should be suffering if they’re eating my food. I’d feel terrible if I’d put a friend in that position, so I might be scared to engage with them in case they’re scared of me, if that makes sense.

      If that’s the case, maybe suggesting an activity to do together which happens to have no food involved could be a way to break the ice.

      1. matcha123*

        That makes sense. I may pay more attention to little things my friends do or say and assume they do the same for me. I have a few other friends who loath birds and refuse to even eat chicken and get freaked by looking at birds. They’ve brought it up maybe twice in the time that I’ve known them, but I definitely remember that, so I guess it’s more of me remembering various things about my friends that other friends might not pay as much attention to.
        I did suggest a non-food activity, and they were open to it, but I had to suddenly drop out due to work. I’ll try to think of something. Thank you for the suggestion!

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I agree with this; it may be the disconnect between “she is posting about this so she must really hate mushrooms” and “she said she liked that mushroom dish!” This can easily make people feel awkward about what they perceive as their own missteps; making a dish without checking what you like and saying something a bit judgy when just thinking aloud. I would try priming the pump with a lot of kindness and sincerity and saying direct and positive things that can’t be misunderstood. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, then at least you tried. If the mushroom dish topic gets raised again I would say something that tackles your dislike of mushrooms more straight forwardly like: “I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but I usually don’t like mushrooms so the first bite was politeness – and then I was stunned to find it was delicious. Is there anything special that you do to the mushrooms?”

    2. Still*

      I’m a bit confused – it’s been a year, are you saying that you’re still friends but they’ve been colder than usual, or that you haven’t been in touch at all other than the occasional group text? It sounds like you haven’t really been in touch either because you’ve been so busy. What happens if you just reach out like you usually would, invite them to dinner, offer to see a movie together, do whatever it is you would do if you weren’t worried about their potential mushroom resentments?

      1. matcha123*

        I’ve met the two separately once this year and we’ve had some sporadic messages in a group chat. I have extended some invitations to see movies which neither were interested in seeing. And I invited them to a non-food event which they were interested in, but I had to drop out last-minute due to work. And recently extended an invitation to join me at an event but they weren’t interested. But I will try to reach out to them over the holidays, if not to just say “hi” and see where it goes from there.

    3. sswj*

      I think you’re giving this mushroom hate WAAAY more attention than it deserves. No one has to like everything, everyone is allowed to have things they’d rather not eat.

      Eating things you generally hate because someone else has gone to the trouble to cook a meal is also not unusual – it’s common politeness. I’m not talking about allergies here, or serious sensory issues with texture, I mean the general, run of the mill, “I find this food unpleasant to eat” antipathy. Personally I detest non-sugar sweeteners, all of them. They ruin food for me. But if someone kindly hands me pie they’ve made for dessert using the stuff, I’ll eat the pie and say thank you.

      That your friends are possibly choosing to see this as a slap at them is also weird. I don’t know if it’s because you’ve been so voluble in your loathing, or if they are sensitive about their cooking skills, or something else. But my view is that everyone needs to drop it and move on. It happened, it’s been a year, leave it be. Avoid mushrooms 99% of the time, eat them if you must, but there’s no need to belabor the point any more.

      1. matcha123*

        I feel the same about non-sugar sweeteners, I can always taste them and it really ruins the food for me.
        My guess is they feel they can’t trust what I said because I told them I found the food nice, even though I hate mushrooms…which must mean that I lied about liking the food they took the time to prepare. And if I lied to them about the food, then I must be lying to them about other things? And for the other friend, if I said that being a picky eater is seen as “childish,” that I must think that they are similarly childish because they picky…even though I’ve talked with them about my own picky eating?

        Like they feel as if I targeted them to be shamed?

        I do feel like I’ve thought about this way too much over the year. I’ll try to leave all this behind in this year.

        1. Awkwardness*

          “which must mean that I lied about liking the food they took the time to prepare. And if I lied to them about the food, then I must be lying to them about other things?”

          From one overthinker to the other: Say hello to them, tell them that you miss them/ the funny meetings/conversations and ask if they would be interested in meeting a last time this year.

          There are waaaay too many ifs and assumptions in your post.

          1. Awkwardness*

            I came back to add one more thing.
            You focus on very specific events and assume this might be the reason for your friends not reacting anymore.
            It is not unheard of that one does not like a ingredient in general, but does eat it in certain dishes. If I prepared a dish with this ingredient and my friend said they liked it, I will take them at their word. Maybe ask a second time, if I am really not sure. If I discover later on that this friend does not like an ingredient, I might be confused or offended or fear that they think less of me because I did not know of their dislike. But I would not doubt the general honesty of the friend or the whole friendship over one instance of mushrooms.
            So under normal circumstances this could be salvaged with a simple discussion and some laughter afterwards how I made them eat mushrooms.
            The friendship might be more likely to take a hit if that was a certain pattern of behaviour (as holding back information and venting afterwards to a third person or in social media) or if your Instagram video was offensive, used harsh words, was mocking, or something similar bad. (Maybe tone down on your mushroom hate. It might make a difference if somebody says “I do not like it and I will pick all the pieces” or if they say “I hate it, I hated it as a child, hate it as an adult, and I will never eat one single piece”. For sure there is enough other delicious food in the world to talk about)
            But “likely to take a hit” does not equal “damaged” if you have at least a little bit of friendly history together.
            So try to be as positive and charming as possible to make sure they know that you hold no grudges against them and try to get back into contact. Do not talk about food. Have some fun together. And maybe, in the end, if they are relaxed, you could mention that this has been bothering for some time and you want to make sure everything is okay between you.

      2. Mrs. Frisby*

        I agree with sswj! I think you’re tying up a general feeling of being picky (which I agree that people can be judgmental about, unfortunately) with disliking mushrooms. I don’t consider myself a picky eater–I love food, love to try new foods, and am relatively adventurous. I also just don’t like mushrooms. Most of my friends know this and when I’m coming over for dinner, avoid making things with mushrooms, which I appreciate, although if there’s a dish with mushrooms I will eat it out of the general politeness that sswj talks about. But having a food preference or aversion isn’t the same as being picky, and you can’t force yourself to like everything.

        It sounds to me like you’re trying to widen your food tastes to be less picky, but that you may never like mushrooms. That’s okay! You don’t have to like everything and not liking one ingredient doesn’t make you childish or picky. (And if you weren’t working on eating a wider variety of foods, I think that’s okay, too. I know and love plenty of “picky” eaters and it’s not a character flaw! We just make sure we eat at places where we will both find things we enjoy, and if they’re coming over for dinner I am thoughtful about what I cook, but it’s not an issue, in my mind.)

    4. WellRed*

      Not limiting mushrooms is not rare or unusual. I agree with the comment to stop making it A Thing with posts etc. I am also a pick eater and agree it can feel childish or even stressful when all the other “adults” can just eat whatever while I’m trying to pick out the hated food.

    5. RagingADHD*

      This has nothing to do with mushrooms and everything to do with social media.

      I think, since you specifically mentioned “powering through” a dish for a friend, and that you used your other friend’s exact words in describing people’s attitudes to your food aversions, it was entirely reasonable for them to think you were referencing or including them in that discussion. Indeed, I find it hard to imagine how they could take it any other way, since you were describing exactly the same things that happened. You made them sound mean and inconsiderate.

      In that case, pulling back from interacting with your social media was a smart and measured thing to do. If they believe you were complaining about them publicly instead of speaking to them privately about things that bothered you, that would be extremely hurtful.

      Again, not about the mushrooms. About the dynamic. It comes across as being two-faced. Nobody wants to be close with someone who publicly gossips or airs feelings about their friends that they won’t address in person. Such a person is not trustworthy.

      After a whole year, it would be wierd to bring it up (especially if you focus on the mushrooms). That would just further reinforce the impression that you lack self-awareness.

      Instead, if you want to build trust, cultivate the friendships directly. Seek them out to spend time with. Be positive. Don’t talk negatively about anyone who isn’t present, because they will assume you are doing the same to them when they’re not there. And be thoughtful about how your posts can come across to others.

      1. matcha123*

        For your last sentence, I do try to be mindful of the timing of posts, but I also don’t think it makes sense for me to think about whether or not someone would be annoyed about me talking about my dislike of mushrooms when I’ve spoken about it before and have posts joking with friends about how they’d sneak mushrooms into my food.

        With that said, I do get the point you are making.

        I’ve always been an actions over words kind of person, and I feel like my actions with these individuals reflect that. I make an effort to be positive when I meet friends in real life because I know people aren’t interested in hearing about my struggles and I definitely do not engage in negative, rumor-spreading/gossipy conversation with friends.

        But, you raised some scenarios I never thought about, and I’ll give some thought to that.

        1. RagingADHD*

          But you seem to miss my point. You weren’t just talking about your dislike of mushrooms. You were talking about how your friends thoughtlessly keep serving you mushrooms, and your friends calling you childish.

          You were talking about relationships. If you can’t see that, I’m surprised this kind of thing hasn’t been an issue before.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, exactly.

            I don’t count people as friends unless I can share some of my troubles with them and realistically expect to be listened to. I do them the same favor and generally it works out. Naturally I try to keep a balance by not venting to the same person too often, and by sharing my good news and being happy for them when they share their good news.

    6. Nancy*

      People get busy and it is very common for friends to go months without seeing each other. Not liking mushrooms is not unusual, I have several friends that dislike them and they are hardly picky eaters. I doubt anyone cares that much about your mushroom dislike.

      Just text them like you normally would and offer to get together to something simple and doesn’t require lots of hours or planning, like going to a cafe.

    7. Maggie*

      I would completely remove mushrooms as a topic of conversation with others and social media posts. I don’t like mushrooms either, and that’s common, I think they’re considered one of the top “controversial” foods that is commonly disliked due to their texture. Anyways. I don’t need to talk about mushroom basically ever unless someone directly asks me “do you like mushrooms?” to which I can say “actually I’m not a fan”. If someone offers me food with mushrooms I just say “none for me thank you for offering”. Just stop talking about mushrooms! Invite your friends to do something that doesn’t involve eating or mushrooms. Act friendly and talk about other subjects. Mushrooms do not deserve this much mental attention.

    8. Ginger Cat Lady*

      It seems like you’re posting way too much about your food issues. Lots of people have foods they don’t like. They don’t post about those feelings. They don’t talk about “powering through for a friend” as if they’re looking for kudos. They just take a pass or pick out the foods they don’t like.
      You don’t like mushrooms. That’s not a big deal. When you make it a big deal on your social media, you can’t complain that others react like it’s a big deal.

      1. matcha123*

        Would you be willing to expand your last paragraph a bit more?
        I see social media as a place to share thoughts with friends. The things I’d say to them at my home are the same things I’d share on an Instagram story. For me it’s saying and doing the same things I’d always do, just through a different medium.

        1. Ginger Cat Lady*

          Don’t EVER make a big deal of it, and if you do, don’t be whiny that people act like what you did is a big deal.
          You seem to be making “not liking mushrooms” a much bigger part of your personality/identity than it should be. It’s bizarre, and obviously causing you issues. So stop making such a THING of it!

    9. Irish Teacher.*

      I know this isn’t exactly what you were asking but…you don’t sound at all picky to me. It sounds like mushrooms are about the only thing you don’t like and that you can even eat some dishes that include them? Most people have at least one food they dislike and I think dislike of mushrooms is quite common. I googled and got numbers between 18% and 29%, but I think some of the numbers were from surveys of “which food you hate most” so there might be more who hate them too, but just hate another food moore

      When people talk about picky eaters, they usually mean people who have lots and lots of foods they can’t eat, people who find it difficult to find anything they can eat on a restaurant menu.

      If people are judging you for disliking one food, that’s really odd behaviour on their part. I mean, I’d argue it’s odd to judge people for food preferences anyway and there is nothing childish about having food restrictions, no matter how severe they are, but having one food you can’t/don’t like to eat is…well, having a wider diet than most people probably have.

      1. matcha123*

        I’m surprised to find so many people here who say they know people that don’t like mushrooms. We didn’t eat them when I was growing up, but aside from my family members, I didn’t meet another mushroom hater until a few years after graduating college.

        I’m not as picky as I used to be, but until a few years after college I basically ate no vegetables and rarely ate any fruit. I would push aside any vegetables in meals I got and was always very nervous about eating with people or eating meals cooked by other people. In high school a friend’s mom offered me some green beans she was cooking, and I took one and visibly gagged while eating it (horrified and embarrassed by my reaction). I wouldn’t even eat salad. And any fast food sandwiches I’d get would be literally meat and bread. It’s been a journey to push myself to try and eventually be okay with eating more vegetables, not have mini panic attacks when presented with something unfamiliar, and so on.

        But, I have been very open about my journey and have learned ways to turn down some foods (lamb or other game meats, for example). I do think that since they met me at a time when I’d become more comfortable with different foods, they may have let my words go in one ear and out the other.

      2. Lucia Pacciola*

        “I know this isn’t exactly what you were asking but…you don’t sound at all picky to me.”

        It’s the making it a part of their public personality that makes them sound picky.

        I dislike corn, and I dislike celery. When dishes with those ingredients are served, I ignore them in favor of what else is on the table. When those are the only dishes being served, I “power through them”. Because I’m picky.

        But I don’t *sound* picky, *because I keep my picky thoughts to myself.*

  12. Janeric*

    I love the book “Family Happiness” a lot — it’s one of my favorites. I like to think about what the characters are probably doing now, 40 years later.

  13. Anono-me*

    Does anyone have any experience canceling streaming services?

    I’m looking to add a new TV option or two and one thing that I am concerned about is about what happens if I don’t like it and want to cancel. Is it as difficult as canceling cable or a newspaper subscription or do I just click a box and sign out?

    Here are the promo deals I am looking at:

    -Hulu $0.99 a month for 12 months
    -Hulu and Starz $1.98 a month hor 12 months
    -Britbox $10 for three months

    Thank you.

    1. DistantAudacity*

      I regularly subscribe to and cancel streaming services – it usually is supereasy.

      Several of mine are through the apple services, those are just a click. Even those who are not are very simple.

      If I’m using a promo offer to test a service, I often subscribe for the month (or whatever the promotion period is) and then immediatly cancel. The service will then run for the month before it stops, and I won’t have to remember to cancel it later.

      1. The Other Sage*

        That last paragraph is a neat trick!

        With Disney+ there was a bit of emotional manipulation involved in their wording if I remember right, but it was otherwise also easy peasy to cancel (3 years ago).

      2. Seahorse*

        Same. I cycle through about seven streaming services and have one or maybe two at a time. They’re all very easy to stop and restart, and most have the simple “turn off auto-renew” feature. Several just run through the smart TV (Roku), and others have a quick log in process via their website.

        The audiobook service Audible gives me more fits than any of the TV services – Amazon isn’t afraid to get a bit underhanded. Prime hasn’t been as complicated though. I think they’re handled by entirely different divisions of the company.

      3. Katiekins*

        Read the fine print, of course. I cancelled a few days early with an Acorn promo and they stopped access right away. (As far as I remember. That was in 2020.)

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      With some of them you can just click to unsubscribe. Sometimes you have to chat onscreen with a rep and patiently answer “no” every time they ask you to reconsider. A few places make you call them and really give you the hard sell, but I haven’t run into that in awhile. If I really have to, I’ve been known to edit my membership and put in the wrong credit card number. That tends to put the brakes on things in a hurry.

    3. Jay*

      Over the years I have subscribed to and canceled, sometimes multiple times each, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, HBO/MAX, a British channel I don’t even remember the name of as a part of something else, Peacock, Paramount+, and probably a couple of others.
      I never have more than one or two at a time and watch those until I start to loose interest in what they have to offer, then cancel and move on.
      They’ve never given me any trouble, and in fact I usually get a discount when I re-subscribe.

    4. Cardboard Marmalade*

      ugh, no advice but thank you for reminding me that I have a britbox subscription to cancel (which I guess is advice of a sort, because you run through all the good stuff on it pretty fast, imo)

    5. lavender latte*

      I had no problem cancelling Hulu on my desktop computer. No calls needed. (You may be able to cancel it directly on the TV, but the reason I had to cancel was because they stopped supporting my TV model, so the app stopped working.)

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I have found cancelling Hulu and Britbox to be really easy–just go to Settings or Your Account and click cancel. (I had Britbox, then Peacock, then Hulu, as my “extra” streaming service where I go through the things I want to watch over a couple of months.0

  14. The Prettiest Curse*

    Since it hasn’t yet been posted, I’m going start the “what are you watching?” thread that I promised last week. This incorporates film, TV, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok etc.

    This week, I saw Anatomy of a Fall, which is highly recommended. I’ve also been watching the final series of the UK version of Ghosts. And last weekend, I saw an excellent BBC documentary called The Hermit of Treig. It’s about one of the UK’s last hermits, a man who lives on the shores of a beautiful but otherwise uninhabited loch in Scotland – and is facing the dilemma of whether or not he should move, given that his memory is getting worse and he’s recovering from a stroke.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Still rewatching Doctor Who, in the middle of the Donna Noble season (my favorite!) Debating whether to watch the first anniversary special tomorrow or finish these last couple episodes first.

      I’ve also been rewatching The Good Place because it’s been awhile since I last saw it and it’s one of my favorite comfort shows.

    2. Forensic13*

      Finally watched “Spider Man: Across the Spiderverse” last night. It was awesome. The animation is beautiful, and incredibly creative, and does so much to drive the plot. And they really expanded on the themes that they started in the first movie.

    3. GoryDetails*

      I’ve been very impressed by the Indian series “The Railway Men,” a dramatized account of the horrifying 1984 disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. It’s airing on Netflix, and features some excellent performances.

    4. Anon Poster*

      Where can I find the last two seasons of UK Ghosts in the US? HBO Max never went beyond season 3, and now they just don’t have the show at all. I noticed CBS is airing it now, so I asked a family member to record it for me to see how many seasons they air, since they still have regular cable and a DVR. If it’s on CBS, does that mean it is, or eventually will be, on the Paramount streamer now? I really want to finish this show!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Paramount Plus only has 2 episodes of the UK Ghosts! I would love to watch the show, but can’t find where without starting a whole new subscription service.

    5. RMNPgirl*

      The Gilded Age, which is insanely enjoyable to me due to how ridiculous and over the top some of it is.
      A Murder at the End of the World, which I’m watching mainly because I love Raúl Esparza. Although, I am getting interested in what is actually going on and who the murderer is.
      I do like that both shows are weekly, unlike a lot that drop all episodes at once. It allows the enjoyment to last longer.

    6. WellRed*

      I just finished season 2 of Lincoln lawyer and the latest season of Bosch. Am seeking more in that vein. Signed up last night fir PBS so I can watch newest season of Unforgettable which I’m loving (even without the marvelous Nicola Walker).

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

      Some old Columbo clips on YouTube. Even 10 minutes at a time, it’s still fun to watch!

    8. mreasy*

      Loved Anatomy of a Fall – Sandra Hüller’s performance especially. We just saw Dream Scenario, and I thought it was excellent – though definitely perplexing and upsetting. (And as much as people caricature him, Nicolas Cage is a phenomenal actor!) Otherwise I’m dabbling in Moonlighting (recommended!!), and there’s Bake Off of course.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      I’m just starting Death in Paradise, which is fun so far. Also watching Annika, Tudor Monastery Farm, and other Brit delights. Looking forward to new Midsommer Murders, too!

      Other than that it’s tons of Rifftrax and MST. I love rewatching the Christmas stuff!

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

        Oh, I looooved *Death in Paradise*! It helped keep me sane over a very oogy winter last year. Enjoy!

    10. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Finishing up The Crown. I have a sneaking suspicion that the last four episodes were put together by the same hit and run showrunners who murdered the last season of Game of Thrones (not that I’m bitter!). There really was more than Diana going on during that time, people.

  15. Need more small joys*

    What are non-alcoholic drinks that “feels equal” to alcohol?

    I’ve come to realize that I don’t really have any cold drinks I like the same way my family and friends like to relax with and feels like a reward after a long day. I just have my water and juice and a few sodas and it just doesn’t carry the same weight. It is just quenching thirst – it is not the same “ah I deserve this, it’s been a long day, let’s enjoy this and feel relaxed.”

    What do you drink?

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I tried various alcoholfree fizzy wines until I found one I enjoyed. Friends who are beer-drinkers genuinely like some of the alcohol-free beers when they are driving.
      I’d look at reviews of the various alcohol0free subs.

      I also discovered a delicious fizzy aromatic organic apple drink with elderflower that tastes better than any alcoholic drink I know. I’ve not drunk wine since. I’m in Germany and I doubt if you can get that specific one – Clostermann’s Appleretif ; however you could experiment mixing apple juice with fizzy water and then experimenting with elderberry and aromatics. Or just try various high quality organic apple fizzes from smaller businesses without additives & preservatives – not the crappy ones produced by huge conglomerates.

    2. Kat*

      I really like kombucha, it’s got the same dryness of alcohol. I also often drink soda water with elderflower cordial.

      For me a lot of the replacement is in the ritual though. I read an article several years ago that has really stuck with me, where the author looked forward to pouring a cold glass of wine when she got home, and when she stopped drinking she replaced it with a soft drink (I can’t remember what – I think it might have been soda water and lime) that she also made a ritual of – tall glass, full with ice, pour drink over, and found that by doing that it hit the same spot. I drink my kombucha out of wine glasses and that helps it feel more special to me.

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        I’m with you on the ritual part of it. My son came up with the idea of “Fancy Drink” when he was little. It was quite involved! We’d run frozen berries through the blender, press the mash them through a fine sieve to collect the juice, pour a dribbled of this over ice in wine glasses and add sparkling water then garnish the rim with a slice of lime. It was INCREDIBLY involved. And messy. Like making margaritas! I’m telling you, Fancy Drink is the most special and luxurious of beverages.

        I’m certainly not suggesting elevating your beverage game to Fancy Drink levels on the regular, but Kat’s suggestion to add a little panache to the process (or even just the glass) can really make a difference

    3. Morning Reading*

      Lately I’m drinking cider; it’s best and most available in the fall. Sparkling water is my go-to, not to replace alcohol but to replace Diet Pepsi Cola which I drank for years. (I avoid soda for the health effects but just can’t seem to quit carbonation.)
      The thing is though… people find an alcoholic drink relaxing because the alcohol (in low doses) has that effect. So unless you lean into your evening drink ritual as somehow relaxing in itself, it is never going to have that same effect or feel.
      Although some people love their tea. In books and movies, the English are always putting the kettle on. Iced tea doesn’t have the same cozy connotations but maybe you could find a blend that appeals.

    4. Reba*

      We do sparkling water with interesting syrups and bitters (big into Pink House Alchemy lately, and I also make syrups at home). Adding things like luxardo cherries, fresh juice or citrus twist, etc in a special glass makes it more fun.

    5. NorwegianTree*

      Non-alcoholic beers there is a much better selection now than just a few years ago, at least in Norway.

    6. vombatus ursinus*

      There are a lot of really nice kombuchas and water kefirs out there in some places, now! I would recommend trying to find something made locally and without artificial sweeteners.

      Another idea could be an iced tea, or make a spritzer mixing iced tea or cordial with sparkling water?

      Finally, again depending where you are there could be a pretty good range of ‘sober’ versions of alcoholic drinks on the market. Things like non-alcoholic gin & tonic or that kind of thing. I saw a big range of these in shops when I was last in Australia!

    7. Claire1*

      I love Coke. (Not diet)
      My aunt swears by tonic water. It has sugar but you can get a sugar free variety too.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        RE Tonic Water, there are some brands that have regular sugar but not as much as typical grocery store brands, so that’s an option if you don’t like things super sweet. Fever Tree light tonic is one of those, which is getting available more widely in the US

      2. Girasol*

        You can make some nice cocktails with tonic water and fruit syrups. I’m partial to currant syrup but there are lots of options. Tonic has that bitter note that makes a non-alcoholic drink taste more adult and less kiddie-sweet.

    8. Bluebell*

      I also like the occasional different but special drink. kombucha is definitely one option, but I also make shrubs, especially in summer. They are usually fruit, a bit of sugar, and then vinegar. You can mix them with sparkling water, or with alcohol. During the winter, I’ll sometimes choose a fancy tea and that will be my treat drink.

    9. Queer Earthling*

      Hot drinks are my go to “I deserve this and would like to relax” beverage. Decaf coffee or tea, especially in the afternoon or after a stressful day, are super relaxing to me.

      I also do only seldom get sodas (I’m diabetic and limit caffeine, but I don’t really like Sprite or most fruity sodas, so it’s hard to find sodas for me!) so they become a bit of a treat when I do have them. Maybe that can help, to reduce something to an occasional thing so you can really sit and enjoy it?

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I like to mix it with fruit juice, lemonade, limeade, or maraschino cherry juice for an easy mocktail.

      1. RLC*

        Hot drinks for relaxation fan here too! French press coffee (the steps involved emphasize the special-ness and the slow paced enjoyment) or specialty teas. Making tea in a traditional Japanese or British teapot and serving it in corresponding traditional cups. For my husband it’s also hot chocolate made on the stovetop with milk, cocoa powder and sugar. All about slowing down and fully enjoying one’s relaxing beverage of choice.

      1. Jay*

        That’s a great one! Sweet, spicy, plenty of burn, like a strong drink.
        There are also just so many regional variety’s to choose from! I love the Jamaican kind, personally, and can’t stand the English version. The Scottish type is good and the Southern US variety (if you can find it) hits like a ginger brick (it’s a love it or hate it thing, personally I love it with spicy food and find it overpowers everything else).

      2. Jackalope*

        I find ginger beer works really well as a mixer. We often mix it with cherry or apple juice, although we haven’t found a bad fruit juice to mix it with. It tastes “fancy” and similar to cocktails for me (I tend to like the fruity cocktails so that helps).

    10. Jay*

      You can try an Egg Cream or a non alcoholic Lime Ricky. The dairy in the Egg Cream, in particular, has the same sedative effect on some people as a very small amount of alcohol does. There is is ritual behind preparing one that is involved enough to make it feel “special” or “substantial”, while at the same time it’s not SO difficult as to make it not worth the trouble.
      They are also delicious.

    11. Sloanicota*

      An Australian friend recommended bitters and soda (if you like the taste of alcohol, which I do, just not the effects – some would not like the taste) – and I found bitters in flavors that I really like, like cardomon, lavender, grapefruit and licorice). I also found a product they sell in the stores that is grapefruit bitters and soda. I also like to make a very bitter lemonade with rosemary sprig. I have been experimenting with non-alcoholic shrubs made with vinegar, which again hits that alcohol bitterness that I apparently enjoy. Especially the extra prep of cutting and bruising the rosemary makes it feel like a fancy, special cocktail rather than just cracking a sparkling water.

      1. trust me I'm a PhD*

        I’ve been enjoying bitters and soda since someone mentioned it here a month ago. I use Sprite (usu. Zero, but there’s a cranberry spice version out right now that’s v. good with this) and regular bitters, sometimes a little orange liqueur as well.

        There’s not enough alcohol to feel the effects at all, which is what I’m going for; but it’s more substantial and bitter than, say, sparkling water and lime which is good but not “special” for me

      2. Sara K*

        The most ubiquitous Australian non alcoholic drink which is served at every pub/place that serves alcohol is a ‘lemon, lime and bitters’ – Australian lemonade (think Sprite), lime cordial, and a dash of bitters over ice with a slice of lime or lemon. An alternative is soda, lime and bitters. You can tart the drink up with different sodas, different cordials and different bitters but this is pretty much my go to if I’m out with friends but don’t want to drink alcohol. It’s pretty tasty.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      Sprite+mint+passionfruit juice+pineapple juice
      Ginger ale+mango juice+guava+grenadine

      Pretty much fizzy thing you like + at least two tropical juices + pick an herb to muddle

    13. Orangina*

      Half lemonade soda and half ice tea. Bonus: Put in a pint glass and it looks like beer. Sweet or unsweet tea as you prefer, because the lemonade soda has sweetness. Similarly half ginger beer half iced tea.

    14. Llellayena*

      Fancy hot tea (loose, not bagged)
      Sparkling cider
      Mulled cider (you can do this with just the spices or add alcohol)
      Egg nog with nutmeg or cinnamon on top (seasonal), you can add almond, coffee or rum extract if you want the flavor of added alcohol without the effect.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My English grandmother may be showing here because I like afternoon tea. :)

      Scandinavian fruit syrups also are nice, and flavor wxtracts in other soda.

    16. goddessoftransitory*

      Sparkling cider. I have it every Thanksgiving/Christmas. The only downside is if you get a bottle without a resealable top you have to drink the whole bottle before it goes flat.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Shameless plug for Martinelli’s brand here. It’s much better than Welch’s but can be harder to find.

        Some of our local wineries are starting to make sparkling grape juice, too.

    17. carcinization*

      I’m sure people are coming up with things that are more inspired, but I really like half pineapple juice/half Sprite or 7up. We usually have the diet versions of the soda component, but I’m sure it’s good with the non-diet version as well.

    18. The Prettiest Curse*

      They have quite a bit of sugar, but San Pellegrino sparkling drinks are good if you’re fed up of soda. Not sure about availability where you are, but we used to serve La Croix flavoured sparkling water at my training events in the US and people generally liked it. The current trendy upmarket substitute for prosecco seems to be sparkling elderflower cordial – not sure if I have the right terminology there, but elderflower is pretty popular at the moment.

    19. amoeba*

      I love tonic-based drinks – for starters, there’s quite a few non-alcoholic “gins” from nice gin brands like Siegfried. Don’t taste good by themselves, but really nice as an alcohol-free gin and tonic!
      But also just a nice fruit juice, I’ve found grapefruit juice and tonic really tasty.
      And coffee and tonic is becoming more of a thing here in Europe – either espresso tonic or cold brew tonic. I really like it!

      On that note, if you like caffeine/coffee, cold brew or iced espresso by themselves are also really nice cold drink choices for me that seem a bit more “fancy”.

      Also, the alcohol-free bitters that were mentioned already – San Bitter by San Pellegrino would probably be the most popular here. Classic would be with alcohol-free prosecco for a “real” non-alcoholic “Aperol Spritz”, but I personally actually also prefer them with tonic, because I don’t really like alcohol-free prosecco that much and also am really unlikely to have some around. But if you’d like to try it, there are small bottles of that available so you don’t have a liter of it standing around and going stale like I always seemed to do!

      And, lastly, would really look into recipes for alcohol-free cocktails for special occasions. My favourite food and drinks site, certainly has a few that I’m sure are good!

  16. ECHM*

    With Becky Lynch appearing on Celebrity Jeopardy! recently, I was wondering what happened to our commenter, The Man, Becky Lynch. I also haven’t seen Not So NewReader in a while, and was hoping everything was OK. Wondering if you are still here under different names, or anyone know how they are doing? Any other longtime commenters who don’t seem to be around recently that you are curious about?

    1. Blue wall*

      NSNR stopped commenting about a year ago, there’s been some discussion since which always seems to ruffle feathers. Her voice is missed.

        1. GingerSheep*

          I miss her as well. She gave me kind and thoughtful advice that I will remember. Hope she is doing well!

        1. ECHM*

          She is another one (along with Katie the Fed) I wonder about. I think of Jamie every time I see Hello Kitty!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Me too, and I am not even sure how much we overlapped or if I just read her things from the archive.

            It’s one reason I haven’t changed my username even though this one doesn’t really amuse me any more.

          2. WoodswomanWrites*

            I miss Katie the Fed, too. As well as Princess Consuela Banana Hammock.

            When I first started reading AAM, I enjoyed reading the weekend threads someone added here with mock battles of opinion. They went something like “Ketchup is fantastic and perfect. Mustard is the pits. Fight me.” I can’t remember their user name. I’ve actually been tempted to post a comparable thread occasionally but thus far have restrained myself.

    2. Past Lurker*

      Laura H used to be the one to start the Little Joys thread. Haven’t seen their name pop up in a long time. Hope they’re doing well!

  17. Nancy*

    Laurie Colwin has been one of my favorite authors for about 35 years. I’m always happy to see a reference to her.

  18. Loopy*

    We lost our dog this week (we had to make the decision to let him rest). I’ve had him for 11 years (he was just over 13) and we are destroyed.

    The other hard part is for the first time we don’t have an animal in the house and so his absence is felt even more.

    Does anyone have any tips for getting through this awful period? We aren’t ready for another pet and not even ready to foster, but I hate the emptiness of the house and we are feeling the loss badly.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Southern Girl*

      I feel your pain. We only lasted 2 weeks when our second dog died age 12, got sibling puppies who are now 8. Dogs become such a part of your daily life. We are older and doubt we will get more dogs when these pass. No ideas just commiseration.

    2. English Rose*

      It’s the day-to-day emptiness and lack that hits you, isn’t it? So much sympathy to you.
      In a similar situation with my cat, I printed out loads of photos from kittenhood onwards and stuck them into a small book which I called The Adventures of Jess. And I journaled a matching story of her life and stuck that in the book. It was a way of saying goodbye and it helped a little.

    3. aubrey*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I had a very similar situation with my cat who was 15, I’d had him my entire adult life. I wasn’t ready for other pets for 9 months after he passed and the empty house was unbearable.

      I couldn’t walk into my living room and see the couch against the window where he loved to sleep and watch birds without sobbing uncontrollably. Or see the empty space where his bowls were. So I rearranged all my furniture so there were other things in his special places. That helped with the empty house.

      But the grief was definitely in proportion to the many years of love we had (I’m crying right now, 4 years later).

    4. ThatGirl*

      We were there two years ago. I let myself cry a lot, and remember him, but I also slowly gathered up things like extra food, his bowls, leash, etc to donate or put away. It felt final but also good to not have the constant reminders everywhere we looked.

    5. GoryDetails*

      Much sympathy! The last time I was petless, I coped by doing some deep cleaning – and while it was hard whenever I fished out yet another cat toy from beneath or behind bits of furniture, the process let me go through the roller coaster of feelings at (mostly) manageable intervals.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I suggest changing a lot of your routines right now. Don’t think about what you’re *not* doing – think about the new thing you’re doing. It’s worse when everything is the same except that something is missing. This is also a great time to plan some travel, something that having pets really restricts. Do some of the things you may not have been able to do and recognize that this is a new season of your life, if that makes sense.

    7. All Monkeys are French*

      When my first dog died my neighbor gave me an orchid as a condolence gift. That sweet gesture kicked off a houseplant obsession that lasted several years (I still have plants, just fewer). It was a nice way to fill the house with living things I could fuss over, but without the commitment to another dog right away.

      1. Mztery1*

        I feel you. We have never had a situation where there were no animals in the house, but we are facing that when our current cat passes on. We have an age where we’re not going to adopt another animal. I think it’s just hard and you will mourn. If you’re not going to get another pet, maybe you could pet sit or foster?

    8. Mrs. Frisby*

      It’s such a hard time, and I’m so sorry for your loss.

      For us, we knew we didn’t want another dog right away, and we knew when we got a dog again we’d get a much smaller one, so we focused on getting our dog’s stuff out of the house, to people who could use it. We donated the food/medications we could to a shelter, gave her supplements to a friend who used the same kind, cleaned out the toys, etc. That gave us fewer reminders and felt good that her stuff could help people.

      Beyond that, it was still really, really hard. It’s been two years and I still miss her a lot. Like you said, a lot of it comes down to the house feeling so much emptier without a pet. I would try to schedule things with friends on weekends and other things that got me out of the house. But I think a lot of it is just going through it and remembering that grief is really hard and sneaks up on you unexpectedly and a lot of it is about feeling the feelings.

    9. ShinyPenny*

      I was in that boat after losing my first dog to cancer unexpectedly. My heart was broken and it was awfully empty at home. For the only time in my life, I started going into the big city a ways away from me, to hang out with a city friend and see live bands and eat out at restaurants. Absolutely not my normal thing, but staying at home was so painful.
      I learned my lesson and have had 2 dogs ever since. Except my current 12 year old has needed to be a singleton. It’s gonna be rough when I lose him. You have my sympathy.

    10. Loopy*

      Thank you everyone for the compassionate answers. I am definitely trying to be home less and throwing myself into hobbies.

      Fortunately, we happened to have travel planned for Dec 5. It also helps to know others struggled just as much and felt the loss as much.
      Not that I would wish it on anyone but knowing others have gotten through it helps.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. We lost the last of our three a couple months ago, and you’re right – having an empty house where you no longer even have the rhythms of having a dog was harder than losing the first two.

        My advice is to stay wide open to the grief. Cry when it crashes over you unexpectedly. Allow yourself to lean into it when you reach for her leash before you realize there’s no leash and no excited furry creature to walk. When the wave recedes, sweetness remains. Over time the wave will get smaller (though, in my experience, not less intense) and the sweetness will take up more space.

        I also keep this Reddit comment on hand – it might make you cry. It always makes me cry:

        “I have an old dog in kidney failure too. Haven’t told her yet, she just keeps being happy.

        I’m old too, and I’ve had animals my whole life, mostly cats and dogs in various multiples. Do the math and you can see I’ve been here before.

        The way I reconcile it is pretty straightforward, and well in line with the overall Stoic approach to things. It always begins the same way- see things plainly for what they are, understand the natures of the things involved, and respond reasonably and virtuously to the reality around us.

        Every day I care for my animals, keeping them happy, keeping them safe, shepherding them through their day with joy, and without harm. When they get old and approach death, nothing changes. As crazy as it sounds, the day I take them to the vet to be put down is the day that I have been working for all this time – I have successfully taken them the whole way. They did not get lost, they were not unhappy, they got to live their whole natural lives the way I wanted them to live it. We made it. We got there together.

        When they are gone, my feelings for them don’t change. Their bodies are taken but my feelings are my own; I still love them, I am still happy to think of them, my heart is still open.

        What has changed is that I have a space for another thing to love, and the cycle continues again, when I’m ready to start anew.

        Their bodies, our bodies, everything external to us will always change and always come and go. Our love, our care, our joy belongs to us, and we apply it to what we have and to what is new.”

  19. A March*

    I’m trying to lose weight. I need to lose probably close to 100 pounds to be within normal bmi ranges, and even knowing that bmi is not representative of my gender and race I need to at least lose enough to get my health indicators (blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol), down and into healthy ranges.

    I have so many emotions around eating and feeling deprived I can’t even begin to explain all my thoughts and feelings. I cried in my car yesterday at the thought of restricting my eating like this for a year or more, and then having to watch what I eat *forever* after that. I’m not used to making good choices about my food, and I never realized how many times a day I make bad ones – grabbing a snack bag of chips when I’m at the I’m grocery store, eating a cupcake or cookie brought in my 1 of my student (I’m a teacher). Even when I try to make a healthy meal I’m horrified at how many calories are in everything. One of my to-go “healthy” meals is baked chicken and broccoli, but after reading the nutrition info it turns out I probably add like 200+ calories in olive oil just to roast the broccoli. The internet says “1-2 pounds/week should not be overly difficult” and I’ve barely lost half a pound since I started. It seems like every day I make a bad decision and go over my expected calorie count, even on days when I try to be “good” — see the aforementioned roasted broccoli.

    Every time I think about food it’s about how hungry I am, or how many calories I’ve eaten today, or how many calories I overate yesterday, or what I might eat on my “cheat” day, or how I probably shouldn’t have a cheat day this week because I’ve cheated every day this week already, or how many calories I burned working out, and whether that means I can eat something else today or should save it as a buffer because I’m probably going to go over tomorrow anyways.

    I’m angry and frustrated that I’m struggling so hard to eat normal amounts of food and making no progress. I’m dreading going home for Christmas, where I know I’m going to make more bad decisions and undo any progress I make in the next month. I’m ashamed that I’m throwing a toddler’s temper tantrum at having to tell myself “no” for basically the first time in my adult life.

    I couldn’t talk to anyone in my real life about this so I just wanted to get this out there. Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. Southern Girl*

      Such a hard problem with no easy solutions. Your genetics are probably a big factor. Have you sought advice about the newer medications? Best wishes.

    2. vombatus ursinus*

      Oof, that sounds really hard! Commiserations :(

      I don’t have a ton of insight or expertise into this topic (though I’m sure you’ll get some good advice here as the weekend goes on), but something that stood out to me is the language you’re using here … I think a) you’re being really hard on yourself and b) thinking in terms of calories, “cheating”, and “good” or “bad” foods or decisions is not a way to build a healthy or sustainable relationship with food. If you were my friend and talked to me like this I would be worried you were setting yourself up to develop disordered eating patterns.

      Are you being guided by a doctor, and if so what is your impression of their perspective on weight and health? Do they talk about losing weight as if it’s simple and automatically solves all medical problems, or do they discuss your health in a nuanced and holistic way?

      I am not a doctor, but I know research shows it is extremely difficult to lose weight long-term through dieting. And weight is not the only factor associated with the health markers you mentioned. Can you explore with a doctor or other healthcare provider whether there are strategies other than dieting that could help you improve those indicators?

      Wishing you all the best and hope you get some good advice. Definitely sounds like a rough time so please be kind to yourself!

      1. RagingADHD*

        Can we please stop undermining people’s individual health journeys with this science denialism doctrine that weight loss is never necessary to address health risks and morbidities?

        If OP weren’t working with their doctor, they wouldn’t know their blood sugar and cholesterol were issues in the first place. BMI and the number on the scale are not the be all end all of health, of course. But the behaviors that improve important health markers like blood pressure and blood glucose *are the same behaviors* involved in weight loss.

        And those behavior changes are difficult and suck. That’s painful, but realistic. “Just don’t bother, go doctor shopping until you find one with an imaginary magic wand instead” is never going to help anyone.

        1. the BMI is nonsense*

          Wow, you’re projecting a lot onto the comment above, which did not actually suggest changing doctors or any kind of “magic wand.” And FWIW fat people do have a very different experience with doctors than thin people – it’s very common for real health issues to be dismissed/go undiagnosed because their doctor blames everything on their weight without further investigation. So it’s not out of line to suggest thinking about whether your doctor listens to your concerns and sees more than your weight.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I am a fat person. My doctor is not at all fat phobic, and never tell me to lose weight, but I get my blood work, and I KNOW I need to lose weight and really try to improve my A1 and cholesterol, especially before I hit the menopause.

        2. vombatus ursinus*

          With respect, RagingADHD, you are putting words into my mouth here, and I don’t understand why …

          Yes, presumably OP has had some interaction with the medical system to know what their blood results are, but what I asked was whether they had a doctor *guiding* (i.e. advising and supporting) them to address these health issues — which isn’t clear from their post. All OP says is that they “need” to lose a certain amount of weight. We simply don’t know where they got that idea/number from, and we also don’t know whether they have a doctor who is now guiding them towards their goals and helping them take care of their mental health at the same time.

          I thought it was worth raising the questions of any doctors’ approaches and whether it might be helpful for OP to shift their focus a bit from diet, given that what OP is doing now is leaving them, by their own description, “angry”, “frustrated”, crying in their car, persistently ruminating about food and calories, and feeling like they can’t talk to anyone they know in real life about what they are going through. That doesn’t exactly sound like a “health journey” that is going anywhere good.

          There are now many other comments below that echo my overall points of both concern for the OP’s mental health and the difficulty of weight loss through dieting.

          I’m sorry my comment seems to have inadvertently touched on some sort of sore spot for you, but I really think this response was unwarranted.

    3. English Rose*

      Oh I just want to hug you, I so completely understand what you’re going through.

      I have managed to lose and keep off 12lbs over the past ten months. All I can say is that the switch for me was throwing gentle exercise into the mix (literally just a 20 minute walk every day) and focusing on feelings of wellness rather than deprivation.

      Even with that, I’ve had to stop that inner critic going “only 12lbs? you’re pathetic, you should be doing much better”. I had to learn to love that inner critic – to mentally say things like “Oh hi, you’re here again are you? Not having a good day, I’m sorry to hear it, but I’m not up for your negativity just now”. (I know that sounds a bit hokey but it works.)

      I’ve found that so long as you’re focusing on feelings of anger and frustration and deprivation and the starve or binge mentality it’s much more difficult.

      I know that if I were to tell myself I could never have pizza again, for example, all I would want or focus on would be pizza. So I allow myself to have it when I really want it. But that’s the key – only when I really want it. And then when I eat it I don’t have that mentality of “Well this is the last time I’m ever going to allow myself pizza so I’m just going to eat every last mouthful even though it’s a super-size pizza and I’m already full.”

      So many of us have serious issues around weight and diet and body image. Someone I know was helped by counselling, because she was swallowing feelings by eating.

      You don’t mention your gender, but for women I think we do have particular difficulties around all this. If you are female, you might be helped by a very old book called Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach.

      Be gentle with yourself

    4. Teapot Translator*

      Please note that I’m not saying you have an eating disorder.
      Can you afford to see a therapist specialized in eating disorders? Even if you don’t have one, they can help you examine your relationship with food and work through specific issues relating to food.
      The mind is as important as the body and you seem to be in a lot of pain. I wish you well on your journey.

    5. I've been there*

      I’ve been struggling with food and weight for my entire life. What worked for me was a support group – in my case Overeaters Anonymous which helps with both the physical and emotional issues. It’s like AA but for food and one of the key concepts is to take it one day at a time. It will provide you others who have the same problem to talk to in real life about your feelings and about the details of your food plan. I still remember going to my first meeting and listening to other peoples’ stories and identifying strongly – and feeling if they can do it, so can I. There are both in person meetings and online (Zoom) meetings – the program has an amazing sense of community – it was remarkable how quickly the online meetings went up after the lockdowns started.
      Also, I worked with a nutritionist to develop a food plan that I could stay on – she gave me a lot of insights and suggestions as to what to eat including how to prepare it.
      After a lifetime of ups and downs, I’ve been maintaing a 50 pound weight loss for over 12 years.
      My heart goes out to you and I wish you luck in your journey.

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

        Yeah, I’d say give OA a try and see if you like it!

        I have to say that it’s not what has worked the best for me personally in terms of weight loss — other strategies have sometimes worked better — but it is a supportive environment, and I’ve made some wonderful friends through the program, and the program has been good (along with Co-dependents Anonymous and Al-Anon) at helping me develop as a person who takes life a little more lightly.

        If you do decide to try the program, maybe shop around a bit trying various meetings to see which ones have a vibe that you like. Every one feels a bit different.

    6. Forensic13*

      Just to check—have you gotten bloodwork done recently? Hormone issues, especially thyroid, can mess with the weight loss process.

      Personally, I do better if I build a small treat (emphasis on small, if possible!) into each day, rather than planning a cheat day. And I personally also do better if it’s less about DONT EAT THIS and more “I will try to eat more vegetables.” And make what you do eat as tasty as possible, though I know it’s hard to cook when you’re unhappy about it. Lots of spices and herbs!

    7. Ochre*

      I want to push back on just one part of what you said: “the internet says 1-2 lbs/week should not be overly difficult.” Sorry but that’s BS. First off, if it wasn’t difficult everyone would just lose weight when they felt like it and rationally you know that simply is. not. true. Second off, mathematically that would mean you’d need a calorie deficit of about 7000 calories/week, or 1000 calories/day. Anyone who jumps right into eating 1000 fewer calories a day is going to feel like it is “overly difficult!” I mean, sure, if there’s one thing you always eat that you’re actually kind of “meh” about and you can just give it up, go for it and knock off some easy calories, but most people don’t work like that. And yes you can create that deficit by increasing your exercise rather than (or in combination with) reducing consumption but you probably can’t just jump into the deep end. (Plus, not everyone’s metabolism is the same.)

      So, look, I don’t have the answer but don’t take everything on the internet to heart! (It is possible I am salty about the internet having read a NYT article recommending a solid medium-intensity workout as a “light warmup” and I was mad because that’s like half my actual workout. Eventually I realized they were either writing for hard-core endurance athletes, 18-year-olds, or they were just plain wrong.)

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Amen. A lot of advice to postmenopausal women is exercise, do some weights, and sometimes it is just not going to happen; but being fit is something you *can* do.

        2. londonedit*

          Yeah. In my thirties if I wanted to shift a few pounds I’d just stick to a 1500-calorie diet and up my exercise and I’d drop 2lbs a week easily.

          Now I’m in my forties? No chance. I run twice a week, go to the gym three times a week, and try to be as healthy as possible with what I’m eating, but it’s extremely hard for me to lose any weight. For me it’s mainly because it turned out I had an overactive thyroid, and now it’s no longer overactive my metabolism is normal and it’s a lot harder for me to lose weight. I don’t have a lot to lose, ideally maybe 20lbs, but I know that won’t just be a case of ‘watch what you’re eating for the next couple of months’ anymore.

        3. amoeba*

          Yeah, I mean, it can happen in the beginning, especially when you’re losing a lot of water first. But 2 pounds per week long-term would be really quite fast. For slow and steady and long-term sustainable, I’d definitely aim lower – maybe 0.5-1 pound?

      1. Observer*

        Eventually I realized they were either writing for hard-core endurance athletes, 18-year-olds, or they were just plain wrong

        My guess is the latter. But even if it were either of the others, it’s just irresponsible to not make that clear.

    8. RagingADHD*

      I 100 percent understand those feelings and know exactly what you’re talking about. I am so sorry you are dealing with that. I found a lot of help dealing with those feelings through a book by Laurel Mellin called “The Solution: Never Diet Again.”

      The title is over promising, of course. That’s what titles do. But there are some very interesting and useful techniques to follow those feelings of frustration and “tantrum” into greater insight, and process them productively instead of staying caught in a battle with them.

      It’s not a magic bullet. I still wind up in that headspace sometimes. But it helps.

    9. fposte*

      I’m agreeing with Ochre that the internet is full of crap on this.

      I have a heavily caveated book recommendation. The caveat is that this author, Brian Wansink, is a social scientist who in the last few years was caught out for fudging and faking results (I just watched a good doc about Dan Ariely, another such researcher, and now YouTube desperately wants to tell me about cheating academics). But I still think that his Slim by Design has really good info in it about ways to set up behavioral interactions with food to make it easier to eat the way we’re trying to. I had a vending machine habit back when I was in the office, for instance, and my mitigations were not carrying cash, having no cards in my Apple Wallet, and only taking one credit card to work, which was sealed into a beautiful expensive little envelope with lovely stickers I’d have to slice through to open. It did not always work, but it precluded the daily auto-snacking of yore. And it worked for me because I could put in the guardrails not in the moment of want but when I was at home and not feeling any yearning. Different people respond to different kinds of guardrails, but Wansink is pretty good about providing a variety of suggestions. And it really is easier to let objects and the physical environment do the work for us as much as possible, since it’s really tough to fight millennia of evolution shoving us toward high-calorie foodstuffs.

    10. Noname*

      First of all, please remember that it took years, probably decades, to get to your present weight! Getting healthier will take time. A lot of time. That´s OK! For what it´s worth, here´s what worked for me:
      – Ignoring the long term, and focusing on This One Day
      – Changing the internal dialog. Find a mantra to counteract the negative messages you´re telling yourself all the time, and say it to yourself every time your negs turn up. At first, you´ll be constantly fighting this battle, but gradually you´ll begin to make the positive message an almost automatic response. Your message could be anything that ´clicks´ with you. Maybe you just repeat ´I´m fixing this now!´ to yourself whenever intrusive thoughts overwhelm you. But switching out the internal messages can help a lot, just be persistent. It might take a while to find the mantra that works for you (it did for me), but it will come, and it will help.
      – Remembering that this is a long-haul goal, lived day by day. Keep the focus on what you are doing today, and not on how you imagine you will have to live a year or more from now. Take care of each day, and the future will take care of itself.
      – On the practical level, change one small thing at a time. If you´re eating four or five snack treats a day, take a week or two and cut down to just three. The following weeks, cut down to two, and so on. To start with, focus on counting this kind of input instead of calories. Get yourself used to reducing the less-healthy choices a little bit at a time, and build on that.
      – Don´t take the amounts of oil in recipes too seriously. Almost always, you can get good results with half (or less) oil. This is a good stealth way to reduce calories in those healthier dishes. A spray oil mister can get that roasted broccoli and chicken to perfection with hardly any calories at all. This is a useful approach to lots of dishes, as well as condiments, etc. What´s the smallest amount of the dense-calorie foods that will do the job?
      – Practice taking smaller portions, even if it means wasting things. Picked up that cupcake? Take a bite, and toss the rest, and get on with the rest of your day. That´s not a failure, it´s practice at success!
      – Recognize that when you change habits, you will feel differently. If you reduce food intake, you will feel hungry. You will crave old familiar foods. Lean into the new feelings! Learning to live with the changes is a sign that what you are doing is working.
      – When craving just a little more at the end of the day, it helped me a lot to remind myself that I got to eat again, tomorrow, and that I never needed to eat All The Food today.
      – Remember that you´re not telling yourself ´No´. You´re telling yourself ´yes´ for a healthier life and better well-being. Finding a way to tell toddlers yes (even your inner toddler!) is a great way to build success!
      – You will make bad decisions at home, at Christmas, especially since you are just starting to focus on changing your habits. Look for the opportunities to make good choices, and celebrate them. One small good decision a day is still a good thing! Recognize that this holiday, this year, is not an appropriate proving ground for the way you want to live going forward. Do the best you can, and be kind to yourself.
      – If you are in an unsupportive family situation over the holidays, don´t discuss your feelings about your weight, and shut down any inquires or unhelpful comments. You don´t owe anyone any kind of discussion about your health, food choices or size. Politely (or not) move the discussion in a different direction. Share only with those who are prepared to be kind and supportive.
      Baby steps, all the way, just putting that foot forward, and keeping on, building on each small positive step. You can do this! Be kind, and don´t fret about the pace. Slow and steady wins the race almost always, and for sure in this case!

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This is the best advice I’ve ever heard!
        I would just to reemphasize/add:
        1. Please be gentle with yourself. You seem to be very hard on yourself. Would you talk to a friend the way you’re talking to yourself right now?
        2. One thing at a time. When I quit smoking for the last (and FINAL!!) time, my mantra was “I’m not having a cigarette right now. Maybe in a minute, but not right now. Maybe in five minutes, but not right now” Put it off for a minute or two and let things pass.
        Hugs from an internet stranger and I wish you the best of luck. I also wish the best for you!

      2. Observer*

        Baby steps, all the way, just putting that foot forward, and keeping on, building on each small positive step.

        This is all excellent advice. But this last comment is SUCH a key. It’s just not realistic to make huge changes in a short time all once. You get much more accomplished – and much more quickly – by taking small steps.

    11. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I’m a doc. I had gastric bypass surgery in 2017 and lost all told 200 lbs. Have gained back about 20 and I’m OK with that (mostly). It took me YEARS to even consider having bariatric surgery because I felt like I *should* be able to do it myself and that anything else was the easy way out. I was deeply ashamed.

      The bottom line is that dieting doesn’t work and most medical advice on this subject is driven more by fatphobia and moral panic than by science. And much of what we see as “healthy” advice (like working out to “earn” what you can eat) is actually pretty disordered thinking.

      What helped me was the Health at Every Size community (HAES) and what used to be called the “fatosphere” back when blogs were all the thing. And losing 100 lbs and then gaining back 70. That cycle is more dangerous than carrying the weight in the first place. Eventually I realized I wanted to be able to walk more than a block and to travel comfortably. When I had surgery my goals were entirely related to mobility and function. You’re punishing yourself for not being able to do something that is basically impossible. Please please please find someone you can talk to and maybe even a therapist (ideally one who is familiar with HAES) to start to deal with the shame. You’ll probably get a lot of diet tips on this thread and that may be what you’re looking for. What I’m sending you is a heartfelt Internet hug and the assurance that I see you, that you are not a terrible awful very bad person and that your metabolism and weight do not determine your worth. If the people you’re going to see over Christmas believe that it does, they are not helping you. Be gentle with yourself.

      1. Dr. KMnO4*

        I second your rec of Health At Every Size. I read the book, and found it to be extremely helpful in helping me change my mindset around food, dieting, weight, and health. The science it presents about metabolism, weight loss, actual markers of health, and more is really useful.

    12. Formerly in HR*

      Maybe instead of counting calories you can just focus on eating healthier and changing habits, one step at a stime.
      Stop buying snacks and sodas, so they are not available. If you find reaching yourself reaching out for them, substitute with eating an apple, having a drink of water, having a healthy snack (e.g. hummus with carrots instead of pretzels, a handful of almonds or nuts instead of chips, a spiced apple with a bit of peanut butter smeared on the slices).
      Instead of calories, focus on the plate content. Try to have protein at every meal. Try to limit the starchy carbs (bread, rice, potatoes, pasta), especially in the evening. Based on many recommendations, the componence of a plate should be: 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch/ grains, 1/2 vegetables, so if you want to have fries or pizza just have a smaller serving and have a large salad on the side – this might work better than having cheat days. Add extra vegetables to dishes (e.g. recipe asks for 2 carrots, you can almost always use 4-6 etc.). Try to cook more at home, if you can and have time, so you can control the ingredients that go in. Replace some foods with the whole fibre version (e.g. whole wheat instead of white fluffy bread, whole wheat pasta, wild rice, can even try the pasta made of lentils if they are not too pricey).
      https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/tips-for-healthy-eating/make-healthy-meals-with-the-eat-well-plate/

    13. the BMI is nonsense*

      Losing weight is extremely difficult! It’s so frustrating that the medical profession places so much emphasis on BMI (which has bad racist origins and was also changed in the 90s after a big-pharma funded campaign so more people would be “overweight” and increase the demand for weight loss drugs). They tell patients to lose weight as if it is simple / a question of just deciding to do it when it really isn’t, and you’re not broken or lazy or any of those things for finding it hard.

      100lbs is a lot, and if you could flip a switch to lose 1lb/week starting now, it would take you most of 2 years to do it. You cannot bully yourself into that, it’s not sustainable. This is going to take a long time, and it will go more smoothly if you allow it to take longer while you try gradual changes to reduce your calorie intake to the number you want over time. Eating less doesn’t have to be about punishing yourself all the time. If you try cooking the broccoli in less oil and that tastes bad, don’t make yourself eat sad broccoli all the time, look for something else to cut out / substitute that you miss less.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that weight is a VERY noisy statistic day-to-day – mine can fluctuate 4-5lbs daily based on how much food is currently in my digestive system, how well hydrated I am, whether I had something very salty / lots of carbs yesterday and am retaining more water, where in my menstrual cycle I am, etc. That means when you are targeting 1-2 lbs a week you don’t always see the progress week to week and sometimes it looked like you gained weight week to week but actually you just drank more water, or whatever. The progress is only visible over much longer periods of time.

      Bodies also hate giving up their precious fat stores, so they will react to being in a caloric deficit by slowing down your metabolism to offset some of that deficit. This includes both unconscious stuff like fidgeting less and not warming you up as well, and also brain chemistry stuff that drops your motivation to move around so it gets harder to want to exercise. Despite what everyone says it is not as simple as calories in/calories out. Forget what “should” be easy and work on figuring out a deficit that is sustainable for you, even if that means you’re “only” losing half a pound a week on average.

      A lot of people find it helpful to take a break every so often (like every 6-12 weeks) to eat at your maintenance calories for a few weeks – you won’t make progress on your weight goal during that time, but it can help reset some of those metabolism-reducing things your body is doing. Plus it’s a nice break where you can fit in a few more high calorie treats, and mentally it’s much easier to think of “well I’m doing this for 8-12 weeks” vs. “I’m doing this until I’m thin.” Taking the breaks on a schedule vs. when you reach a weight goal is important so that you’re not rewarding or punishing yourself, you’re just doing some routine maintenance for your body.

      I will throw this out there in case it is helpful: IF you are closely tracking weight/calories and IF that is a mentally healthy practice for you (it isn’t for everyone and that’s okay, it’s not a personal failing, it’s just how brains are) – I like the app Macrofactor. I have used it to lose smaller amounts of weight for strength training and gain them back during “bulk” periods where I put them on as muscle. (Tip: if you search for “macrofactor affiliate codes” you should be able to find codes that extend the free app trial)

      As someone else noted, making sure you are seeing a doc who will treat the body you have now and who is realistic about both the feasibility and time frame of weight loss. A doctor who refuses to discuss any alternative treatments for your health issues until/unless you reach a normal BMI is not a good doctor for you (and arguably, not a good doctor at all).

      Culturally we attach a lot of shame and stigma to this stuff and it’s really unfair. I hope you can be kind to yourself and find a sustainable approach that works for you.

      1. Peloton*

        I commented below about losing 50 pounds, and I also use MacroFactor. Love it. It’s dead simple and designed not to do the shaming things a lot of other apps do. There’s definitely a learning curve, but the help documentation is really good. Strong recommend.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Totally agree. Am dealing with a health issue where only Seriously Processed Food seems to work well, so I hate that part. Trying mindfulness and drinking lots of water, too.

      3. Observer*

        A doctor who refuses to discuss any alternative treatments for your health issues until/unless you reach a normal BMI is not a good doctor for you (and arguably, not a good doctor at all).

        This is very true. And also, not a good doctor for the thing they want you to do. Refusing to treat issues makes it harder to do any of the things that can help with weight loss.

    14. Sloanicota*

      I think this will be a helpful comment although it’s not weight-related, but I’ve also been observing myself so much this year and realizing I need a bit more self-discipline in my life. I’m kind of a careless slob and I put off a lot of boring tasks or chores for far longer than I should. I’m not sure the root of this, other than pure laziness, but as you describe, when I think about being “good” and doing all the things I’m supposed to be doing, my vision is that this is very dreary and dull, and the boring things pile up and never end, so suddenly my life is drudgery. That is kind of silly though, right?? Like, that’s probably not a super realistic prediction of what it would be like if I made myself do the danged dishes every day instead of letting them pile up. I’m not positive the origin of this false belief I have, but recognizing it has helped me move past it a bit. Now I try to do something quick that makes an improvement and then – this is important – *reward myself immediately* (not with food though. So part of the journey might be to find non-food rewards that still feel great to you. A hot bath? New clothes or earrings or something? Whatever it is, this is the time to throw it at your problems). I learned this in part from trying to train by big dumb dog. All the tips were about small incremental change and lots of rewards and I realized I do the exact opposite when I try to “train” myself.

    15. lavender latte*

      You sound like a good candidate for volume eating. It lets you concentrate on specific healthy foods that you can eat in bulk, so you don’t obsess over meager portions and a rumbling stomach.

    16. RMNPgirl*

      First of all – obesity is a disease, it is not a failure of you or your willpower. It is a disease in which your body does not process food correctly and hormones (multiple) related to hunger and fullness are out of whack.
      Have you looked into bariatric surgery or the new weight loss drugs? I had gastric sleeve surgery 2 years ago and lost 115 pounds, I’ve regained some which is due to not following the requirements afterwards. But I know I can lose it again as soon as I get back to following those, although not nearly as quickly as I did in the beginning. I would go on the weight loss drugs but my insurance doesn’t cover them (one of the many reasons I’m job searching right now).
      It’s also a chronic disease like diabetes or hypothyroidism or multiple other things out there. So, unfortunately, it is something you’ll have to deal with the rest of your life. But the surgeries and the drugs are offering a lot of new options that we didn’t have before.
      Also, forget BMI entirely. It is completely BS and has nothing to do with health. Focus on being healthy, moving your body and eating nutritiously. Food is not “good” or “bad” it’s just food and some of it is more nutritious than others. That’s what I try to focus on, putting nutritious food in my body.

      1. Nicki Name*

        Seconding that BMI is not useful for individual health. Get your A1C checked instead. And if that’s fine, and you feel your weight is too high, look into medical conditions that could be keeping it high.

    17. RussianInTexas*

      I am sorry, it’s rough. What helped me, weirdly, was my partner recently gone through a serious health crisis (nothing to do with his weight, but extreme hypertension, heart and kidney issues), and was put on a pretty low sodium regiment with a side note of if possible, lower cholesterol too.
      Which resulted in cooking most things from scratch (sodium is insidious), more plant food vs meat and not having various convenient food and snacks at home. I already have to watch my sugar intake anyway. I never counted calories, but lost about 13lb since August due to basically having a partner in healthier eating.
      I do not recommend the stress of your partner being hospitalize though. But restructuring of what you eat, even a slow one, can help, maybe?

    18. purple spotted giraffe*

      I agree with most of the above – be kind to yourself, 1-2 lbs/week is unrealistic, focus on what you *can* eat, not what you’re not eating.

      Here are my two tips: 1) eat a restricted number of times per day. Decide what that is. and BRUSH YOUR TEETH afterwards. It is easier to resist temptations with clean teeth. Also, when it’s not your time to eat, it’s not your time to eat.

      2)Find meals with LOTS of FIBRE to keep you full. My favourite lunch is: 3/4-1 cup of white beans, sweet pepper, tomatoes and half an avocado. Add fresh herbs if they are easy to get, add dried otherwise, and a touch of balsamic. The fibre from the beans and the fat from the avocado keep me going a LONG way. Make sure you’re getting your 30 g of fibre a day, from beans/legumes or vegetables. Then brush your teeth :)

      Also losing weight is hard. If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone do it?

    19. Peloton*

      You have attached a lot of moral weight (no pun intended) to something that is more of a math problem. As someone who’s been there, working with either a therapist who focuses on eating disorder issues OR a registered dietitian who focuses on the psychological side of eating will do you just a world of good. What you eat, when, and how, is not a moral issue, and gaining or losing weight is not a character issue.

      Once you have the psychological side sorted, I have successfully lost 50 pounds by counting calories and maintaining a 500 calorie a day deficit. I determine my deficit by looking at whether my trend weight is declining by the expected amount of 1 pound a week (1 pound = 3500 calories = 500 a day). If I lose more over the course of a few weeks, I eat a little more. If I lose less, I eat a little less. I only look at my trend weight, never the day to day fluctuations. I now can eyeball my portions, but when I first worked with a dietitian, I bought a food scale and measured my food that way.

      This is a very low drama experience for me at this point. But it’s only low drama because I did the psychological work first. Most people have only had the messages you’re giving yourself pumped at them—learning to let go of those is an acquired skill, not a “some people just get it” skill.

      Good luck. You got this.

      1. Peloton*

        Oh, also every four weeks, I eat at maintenance for a week. I also don’t track if I’m sick or there’s a crisis or I’m on vacation or whatever—I just do my best to eat food that makes my body feel strong during those periods. Helps psychologically a lot. I still want to lose about 30 more, and I don’t mind that that means this is a 2ish year process. Took a lot longer than that to gain it.

    20. Girasol*

      You might take a look at the website “Mark’s Daily Apple” and his Primal eating plan. I’ve failed a zillion diets because I don’t do constant hunger well and I can’t face never ever eating some of my favorite treats again. Primal is healthy but not calorie controlled, and it has an “80/20” rule, so with 80% compliance, perfection is not required. It doesn’t lead to quick weight loss but since it’s easy to live with all the time once you get used to it, speed doesn’t matter. It’s helped me to eat better without thinking of food – what I want but mustn’t eat, what I ate and shouldn’t have – all the time. We’re all different, and it may not be your thing, but it’s worth a look.

      1. kt*

        I’d second this, actually. I am not at my optimal weight* right now as I’ve been making some non-optimal choices recently, but I am working to get back there. Folks may make fun of this but finding the “paleo” way of eating really helped me because 1) it turns out I have some food intolerances I didn’t know about, which I discovered while trying paleo, and 2) at least the way I found it, it focused on good things to eat (what to add in, what is positive) rather than not eating.

        I do *not* do well with hunger, at all. I tried things like Noom and ended up hangry and angry and mad and depressed and tired. I do like cooking and eating. So finding endless wells of healthy recipes & foods and a way of eating that put an emphasis on getting enough protein and fat was a real game-changer for me! When I get protein and fat right away in the morning — at least 400 calories — I can continue the day with some equanimity. Even if I have oatmeal for breakfast, the food recommended by so many nutritionists and weightlifters, I am a very angry and agitated person by 10 am.

        You of course may be a different kind of person. After all, I can’t make it thru life starting the day with porridge or cereal (well, I can if I add a whole pile of nuts and flax and more, haha) but there are apparently millions of folks who do just fine with that. My point is that “conventional wisdom” can be right or wrong for you and either way, you’re not a broken person or a wrong person if “what works on the internet” does not work for you. Humans are really diverse. For me, making sure I get a high-protein and fat breakfast and definitely eat 800-1000 calories by the end of lunch ensures I make good choices for the rest of the day (and yes, tons of veggies along the way!). Mark’s Daily Apple was a resource I used for a while, and (gasp) the Whole 30 was very eye-opening for me as a *temporary* challenge that helped me understand how I relate to food, where I eat sugar, what kinds of cravings I have, how alcohol plays into my diet, health, and habits, and more.

        * optimal doesn’t mean lowest, for me, but a weight at which it is easy to move/hits the biomarkers/etc.

    21. Not A Manager*

      I have many of the same responses to “dieting” that you have described, in particular the obsession with food/fearing hunger/feeling constantly deprived/feeling shame. I have the best psychological and physical outcomes with Weight Watchers. I think they’ve rebranded to be WW now, I’m not sure.

      They are always tinkering with their system, but I prefer the middle balance between free foods and points. There are enough free foods that I never have to worry about actually going hungry or having very restricted options, but I have enough points that I can use some butter, eat some carbs, have a treat. I also like that they reward eating within your points allowance, and provide the same prompt for going under as they do for going over. That impedes feeling rewarded for over-restriction.

      I agree with other commenters that learning to prepare most of your own food is very helpful in finding satisfying meal options that don’t feel like you’re cheating.

    22. Cornelia Gruntfuttock*

      Two things that helped me:
      Cutting portion sizes to about 90 to 95% of what I would previously had.
      Reframing my thinking to “eat enough to no longer be hungry” instead of “eat enough to be full”.

    23. LAGirl*

      I feel you, A March. Your body is letting you down. It is not doing what it’s supposed to do. (And yes, 1-2 lbs. a week via behavior modification is a pipe dream.)

      I share much of your journey. May I tell you what changed things for me?

      At the height of Covid, weighing more than I ever had in my life, I impulsively downloaded a free trial of Noom. It’s a cognitive behaviorial therapy app for weight loss. The lessons were cheesy, but they worked. I learned *why* I was eating, I learned all sorts of behavior management tricks. I counted my calories, my steps, my water intake. I lost 30 lbs in 1 year, which I thought was impossible. It worked.

      Until it didn’t.

      I stuck with the program religiously for Year 2 — and I didn’t lose a pound. I did everything right, I maintained all the good habits. And my weight stayed the same. I was furious and despondent.

      I vented to my doctor: “My body isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.” She responded, “You are correct.” I was shocked. No one had ever said that to me before.

      She sent me to an endocrinologist. He concurred: My body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. And he told me the part of my body that was off kilter was my hypothalamus. He prescribed Mounjaro. And he mused, “Let’s see what weight will give you a normal BMI.” My jaw literally dropped — “I’ve never had a normal BMI in my life,” I said. “You will now,” he responded.

      Mounjaro is one of the radical new weight loss medications originally invented to treat Type 2 diabetes. The FDA just approved it for weight loss under the name Zepbound. It works on specific receptors in your hypothalamus to decrease hunger and slow the emptying of your stomach. You feel far less hungry, and you feel full very quickly.

      It’s a true game-changer. Everything I’ve tried to lose weight since I was 11 years old has been about behavior modification (intermittent fasting! 2 hours of exercise a day! no fats! no carbs! no fun!). This is completely different. This is change from the inside out. I’ve talked to naturally skinny friends, and they say yes, this is what their life is like normally.

      I don’t think about food anymore. I don’t think about what I’m going to have for dinner, and the various treats awaiting me in the fridge don’t call out to me anymore. The “food noise” is just gone. And none of this takes any willpower at all.

      When I go out to eat, I order whatever I feel like. No more gaming the menu ahead of time (if I have a salad without dressing for lunch, I can order a cheeseburger for dinner, but I’ll take half of it home and I’ll order hash browns instead of fries because that keeps in my calorie count, and no glass of wine because that puts me over). I’ve learned, to my unending shock, that I can trust my body now.

      The epiphany came at a special occasion dinner, about 3 weeks into using Mounjaro, where I allowed myself the treat of ordering French fries. They were magnificent fries, really perfect. I ate 8 of them (because counting French fries was something I learned on Noom). And then I felt my body say, “you’re done.” That had to be wrong. How could I be done when there were still (many) French fries in the basket? I ate 2 more and realized — I was done. I enjoyed every bite, but I didn’t *want* any more fries. (And fries are my love language.)

      In my 20s, I went through a university-sponsored diet behavior mod program that taught us to follow 3 rules: 1) Eat when you’re hungry. 2) Eat what you want. 3) Stop when you’re full. Sounds like great, natural advice, right?

      But it turns out that obesity *is* a disease, and those rules Do. Not. Work. for someone with obesity. I didn’t know when I was hungry. I was out of control regarding what I wanted. And I certainly couldn’t tell when I was full.

      Now I can. Mounjaro has made those rules a reality. I know when I’m physically hungry — but I’m just not that hungry. And I’m full so quickly that there’s no chance of binging. I have lost 20 pounds in 4 months (Oh, look! 1 pound a week! Like a normal person!). My BMI has gone from obese to overweight. And I fully expect to see that normal BMI next year.

      I apologize for sounding like an evangelist. But this is life-changing. Please, A March, talk to your doctor about this medication (or Ozempic, which is similar but not as effective).

      The caveats: 1) These drugs are EXPENSIVE. I am blessed to have astonishingly great health insurance that covers it ($25/month). I believe there are programs that reduce the price for a year, but– 2) This is a lifelong medication. Once your body finishes losing weight, you have to stay on a maintenance dose (or your hypothalamus will revert to its obese ways). 3) You have to qualify for it. Ask your doctor. 4) Some people can’t take it (people with thyroid problems in particular). A few people have extreme side effects (Nausea, etc. All I had was heartburn, which is gone now).

      Again, my apologies for this long, long comment. But I felt every sentence of your post, A March. And I want you to know there might be an answer that doesn’t involve months of deprivation and frustration and anger. Your body isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. Please, check your insurance (or change your insurance if you can! It’s that time of year!) — and talk to your doctor. Please update us.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Yup. Bariatric surgery does much the same thing, although the metabolic changes are not permanent. No matter what, I still feel full sooner. And I just don’t want some of the foods I used to crave. I haven’t eaten rice in five years. I hardly ever eat pasta and when I do it’s usually something like linguine with clams and I eat the all the clams and maybe two bites of the linguini. We went out to lunch yesterday. I ordered a chicken sandwich and fries. Ate one bite of the whole sandwich, then half the chicken, and not even 25% of the fries. And I was fine.

        My low weight was not sustainable for me and I’ll never have a normal BMI. That’s fine. I can shop in normal stores, wear straight sizes, travel anywhere I want, walk miles and miles, climb mountains…you get the idea.

      2. Part time lab tech*

        Comiserations, A March. I think it’s the knowledge that even if we make the effort, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be ineffective, But it’s still our fault of course, that makes it so hard.
        I completely agree with the above comment. People talk about willpower because we’re used to thinking of eating and maintaining weight as simply a matter of self discipline. I have a strong feeling it is matter of intense appetite and persistent hunger for many. There is a little research on hunger in PCOS but it is not mentioned in clinical guidelines.
        I remember taking a herbal tonic related to hormonal and inflammation issues. My naturopath was under impressed when I reported I was no longer hungry all afternoon and evening, even if I’d eaten. For me though, I feel it was a strong indicator that it was working. I am recently on medication for that hormonal issue and noticed the same effect. Regular exercise more than 1 hr, 5 or 6 days a week (normal walking is fine) also stabilises my appetite (and I gradually lose weight). Unfortunately at the moment I have inflammation issues that mean I have to incredibly careful not to overdo it when exercising so my body is back to storing extra reserves each month.

    24. Rachel*

      I realize this is going to sound really expensive, but I would strongly consider enlisting a professional like a personal trainer or a nutritionist, ideally both.

      The Internet has no shortage of conflicting or fad (sometimes both at the same time!) suggestions and it’s very difficult for a layperson to wade through them.

      A professional who can look at your specific numbers and health goals and lifestyle would be more efficient than going about it on your own.

    25. Manders*

      One additional thing to remember is that food scientists have put a lot of time and effort into developing processed foods that have all the right taste and texture and such. It’s really, really hard to stop eating those types of foods if you are accustomed to them because they hit all the right notes and are comforting. Replacing just one processed snack item per day with a less-processed food can go a long way in reprogramming what foods we gravitate to, without making us feel totally deprived.

    26. Pocket Mouse*

      This sounds very difficult for you, and I want to echo advice above to seek professional support around the mental and emotional aspects of this chapter, not least to avoid disordered thinking and an unhealthy relationship with food.

      Not sure if this will be helpful, but: I’ve been paying more attention to what I eat lately (for a very different reason though). Very loosely, I categorize foods into three categories: nutritious (e.g. egg, cheese, nuts, fruit), not nutritious (e.g. chocolate), and kind of in between (e.g. crackers). I eat what I want–never tell myself ‘no’–but if I start to reach for something Not Nutritious, I remind myself to eat something nutritious *first*. I don’t always do it, but when I do, I often end up eating just the nutritious thing because it somehow satisfies whatever made me reach for the not nutritious item. Anyway, mentioning this because I’m not convinced focusing on calories for calories’ sake will lead down a healthy path overall, but nutrition is important and even what feels like a craving for non-nutritive food may often be satisfied by something else.

    27. purple spotted giraffe*

      I commented earlier, but you have focused a lot on negatives, and you’re beating yourself up. Can you focus on positives? And do a sticker chart. I find a literal sticker chart on the wall very helpful. So, you get a star every time you work out/go for a walk because you want to encourage yourself to do that. Then you can look back on the week and see that you’ve earned 4 stars. And, you get a different sticker every time you make a good decision about food – like turn down a cupcake or eat carrots instead of chips when tire and hungry. You’ll probably get a bunch of those each day. But, it also helps to be mindful of every choice and decision that is made, and it will eventually be a habit, although not for awhile. And then, at the end of one or two years you have a visual reminder of every time you did something good. And every day, you can look at the chart and say “yesterday I made 5 good decisions for myself” or “last week I made 20 good decisions” – the whole thing is about being positive and not negative. Some people game it by giving rewards for so many good weeks – but because the habits you’re trying to change are around food, it shouldn’t be a food reward. I used to do nail polish or fancy lotion – something I would really appreciate but that I don’t normally buy for myself.

    28. goddessoftransitory*

      Woof, this is such a tough situation. I highly recommend Geneen Roth’s books on emotional eating, especially When Food Is Love.

    29. Weight loss input*

      With the intense focus on calories, I wanted to share what worked for me a few years ago (lost 30 lbs – perimenopausal at the time). I changed one thing at a time. I started with taking stairs at work. Sometimes I’d go up one flight, then hit the elevator. Mostly I’d try to set routes that had me go up one flight then walk a little way to catch my breath and take a different stairwell up to the next floor. I lost a little weight. When I’d go two weeks without even 1 pound of loss, I’d add something else to the mix. Started hitting the gym (mostly Zumba class), found a tolerable brand of beef jerky and kept that on hand for a snack. Switched up my coffee order (switched to whole milk instead of skim – yes, I upped the calories which helped cut down on mid-morning snacking because I felt full for longer). But the biggest change ended up being intermittent fasting. In my case it wasn’t perfect – I had a whole milk latte every morning, but then was able to keep the rest of my food intake restricted to an 8-hour period. I’m too ADHD to consistently track calories, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the actual calories. Tried to make healthier choices, but at the end of the day I never completely gave up ice cream and chocolate bars and still retained a slow but steady weight loss until I reached my goal.

    30. Observer*

      The internet says “1-2 pounds/week should not be overly difficult”

      And the internet is WRONG.

      A few things that may be helpful (speaking as someone who has had and is still in a looong slog with my weight.)

      See if you can find a good dietician. It’s a lot easier to make decent meal and snack plans when you are working with someone who can give you some realistic guidance on what works and what doesn’t.

      Try to get into a decent exercise routine. It’s not just about “X minutes of umping Jacks burns Y calories”, but the exercise helps rev up your metabolism so you burn more calories overall. You’ll also feel better.

      Make sure all of your blood work is in order. If there is stuff that is out of whack that your doctor is telling you will resolve if you lose weight, take the medication anyway – you can always stop as you lose weight. But in the meantime, you’ll keep damage from happening. But also, you’ll probably feel better, which will make it easier to lose weight – it’s much harder to avoid comfort foods and over-eating when you are just not feeling great. Also, sometimes those things can directly make it harder to lose weight, which contributes to a negative spiral.

      Try to organize things so that it’s easier to make good choices. Like, don’t have certain foods in the house because if you have to go to the grocery for that food, it’s less likely you’ll eat it. Or pre-portioning foods that are ok in moderate quantities – if you have a big bag of something it’s all to easy to take a little, then a little more, then a little more, then…. If you’ve separated it into portions it a lot easier to see what you are doing and easier to stop.

      If you grocery shop every day or two, drop down to once a week or every two weeks. And make sure you buy only moderate amounts of the most problematic foods. This way if you do wind up overdoing on something, you just won’t have it for a few days. Which makes it easier to stay within limits, but also means that if you did over do, you are still not so badly off, net for the period, without the whole shame and anger spiral.

      Think about reducing your calories targets in steps, because it sounds like you need to make a fairly significant cut. Keep in mind that even if ti does not lead to immediate weight loss, getting your diet under control is going to help all of the issues you mention. And even *improving* your diet is going to help in that respect, even if not as much as you want it to. So that means you can start with small steps that are helpful, but also let you ease into the major changes you need to make.

      Lots of luck with this. It’s not easy.

    31. amoeba*

      For losing weight in a sustainable way -either by a healthy diet or by not dieting but incorporating healthy habits that will increase your well-being while potentially also losing some weight along the way – I really recommend Ben Carpenter. He started on Instagram where he has loads of free content, debunking diet myths and providing the actual science on things. He also has a book (“everything fat loss”) that I really enjoyed.

    32. Marvin O’Gravel Balloonface*

      You might get something out of reading Burn, by Herman Pontzer. Human metabolism is very complicated, and while weight loss is definitionally “calories in calories out” because physics you would be surprised at how complex calories out can be!

      1. Agnes*

        Note that the only people here with actual experience losing large amount of weight are those with bariatric surgery or drugs. The fact is, every other method has a 95% or more failure method. Would you take a drug with a 2% success rate and significant side effects? That’s what anyone encouraging portion control, various types of diets (and any kind of eating plan, no matter how labelled, is a diet), etc. is suggesting to you.

        Now, all those methods may be helpful for improving health and/or your relationship with food. But if you actually want to lose weight, whether or not that is a good goal, the smart betting is that they aren’t going to work.

            1. Observer*

              That’s not actually what the article says – and the article doesn’t really cite its sources either. So it’s not actually clear what they mean by “diets”.

                1. Observer*

                  That’s useful, but again, it doesn’t make the claim that 95% of all diets fail.

                  I’m not arguing that “go on a diet” is simple or even useful in many cases. But neither is it useful to claim that going on the right diet never makes a difference. (Note that there seem to be differences in effects between the diets. That says something right there.)

        1. Dancing Otter*

          No. You’re being unnecessarily discouraging.
          I posted below about how much I lost – over a quarter of my body mass in three years. I did not have surgery, nor do I take any miracle drugs.
          I know the statistics on regaining the weight, and I’ve been there. I really hope that I’m forming the good habits to keep it off this time.
          But the fact remains that many people actually do manage to lose weight by changing their behavior. Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly – I don’t know if they still exist), hypnotism, meal substitutes, the support of family and friends, different things help different people, but it is NOT a hopeless endeavor.

          1. Agnes*

            The conclusion is literally. “Despite millions of dollars spent on popular commercial diets, data are conflicting and insufficient to identify one popular diet as being more beneficial than the others.”

            And that is among people who lose weight on these diets to start with, which is a small proportion.

            I don’t actually believe it is hopeless, but it is very clear which direction the betting is in and it’s pretty clear that it is a significant, constant effort. The evidence is also that more extensive interventions have a better success rate, i.e., the opposite of the “only do small changes” which is the advice above.

            I will put another link in the next post that covers the evidence for effectiveness of dietary interventions – the abstract is general but the paper goes through specific studies and also points out that the more methodologically rigorous a study is, the less likely it is to show any benefit.

            1. Observer*

              The evidence is also that more extensive interventions have a better success rate, i.e., the opposite of the “only do small changes” which is the advice above.

              That’s a mis-characterization of the advice and the evidence.

              The advice is to start small because more often than not that is how you wind up creating significant and long lasting changes, which are what is needed for losing weight and keeping it off. And the evidence supports the idea that sustainability of effort is a key factor in long term success.

        2. amoeba*

          I didn’t go into the primary literature – but in the book I recommended upstream, Ben Carpenter does give data on this and it is indeed a bit more complex. Yes, the failure rate is high across the board, but there are indeed studies that show a much higher rate of success. The key seems to be a “holistic” approach including e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy or some other ways of looking at ones relation with food, follow-up sessions with coaches, also long-term follow-up in the maintenance phase…

          1. amoeba*

            Also: I’ve lost around 40 pounds myself by incorporating healthy habits and exercise around 10 years ago and have successfully kept most of it off. Without constant dieting or avoiding entire food groups, “just” by changing my habits towards more veggies, fiber, protein, etc. (which I actually like, tastewise!)
            My boyfriend is now at 2 years and counting with a similar amount of weight. It’s not trivial and yes, it’s a long road. But it isn’t doomed to fail and it doesn’t require constantly depriving yourself for the rest of your life.

    33. Dancing Otter*

      First, my sympathy on your medical problems — and obesity IS a medical, not a moral issue. I’m about 95 pounds into what I hope will be a 150 pound weight loss, and it is a long slog. But I hope it’s given me some insight.

      First, 1-2 lbs per week requires serious dedication. You might see it occasionally, but don’t expect to average that much. Plateaus are inevitable, and not a sign of failure. And eating one thing “off plan” doesn’t mean you’ve blown the whole day – just go back to what you’re meant to be doing. As with alcohol or tobacco, just climb back on the wagon.

      Intermittent fasting can be a good starting point for some people. In my case, snacking after dinner was a problem, and deciding not to eat after X:00 reduced that considerably. Of course, one can pack a lot of calories into an 8-hour period, so it’s not a total solution, but it’s a way to ease into food planning. A similar approach could be setting mealtimes, which could include a scheduled snack time, and only eating at those times.

      Ordering groceries for pick-up is vital for me. If I don’t have my trigger foods at home, that makes it a lot easier to avoid them. But walking through the grocery store, past all the convenience foods, the sugary and salty snacks, is still too much temptation sometimes. I actually lost my first 20 pounds at the beginning of the pandemic just due to online grocery shopping. Darn that candy in the checkout line.

      Regarding sweets, if that cookie or cupcake is really shouting “Eat Me! Eat me Now!” at you, can you tell yourself that you’ll have it with lunch, and put it out of your direct line of sight? “Yes, it looks really good; I know I’ll enjoy it; but I’m going to save it for dessert.” Not denying yourself forever, but just until mealtime. Then eat your planned meal first, and maybe you won’t be hungry enough to want it, or not all of it.

      Protein is slower to digest and will hold off actual hunger, as opposed to emotional or taste-driven desire, longer. It’s also very important in order to protect lean muscle mass while losing weight. Plan that first; eat that first. Then, vegetables, fiber, even fruit. (Some fruit is healthier than others. For example, unsweetened applesauce is surprisingly low in calories, and can be bought in single servings convenient for packing lunch.)

      I go to a nutritionist, and she really stresses getting plenty of protein and less carbs, but not no carbs because who can really stick to that in real life? So if I really want rice, say, I can cook one portion. (Speaking for myself, I do not have the willpower to save extra servings for another meal. YMMV) But only so many grams per day maximum.

      I start my morning with a fiber supplement, though I draw the line at adulterating my coffee with it! It keeps my morning pills from upsetting my stomach, and feels like I’m not starving until brunch. In addition to the obvious benefits, of course.
      I also keep protein drinks on hand, for when I don’t want to cook; quick in the morning and very portable for lunches. (But read the label, because some brands have a ridiculous amount of sugar.) The protein drinks come in flavors like chocolate or strawberry or even cookie dough, so it feels like I’m having sweets, even though not really.

      Good luck!

    34. Magdalena*

      I haven’t read all the previous replies but I just want to tell you please don’t judge yourself for being hungry.
      I’m a physician. I see patients of all sizes. I’m also trying to keep up with research on body weight as it relates to my specialty.
      We have much less control over out body size / weight than the popular narrative tells us. Study after study has shown that caloric restriction leads to weight loss in the short term (1 to 2 years) but the vast majority of people start regaining weight after that. Often while maintaining the same “behavior change”.
      Our bodies are complicated and it is not as simple as calories in calories out. People who are thin and not having to think about food all the time have not been dealt the same genetic and hormonal/metabolic cards that you have.
      Please hang in there.

    35. sulky-anne*

      I’m really sorry you feel this way. Leaving aside the medical part, it is nonsense of our culture to shame people for not being able to exist in a permanent state of starvation, and for claiming that it’s easy and simple to do so. Almost no one can do that long term. Also everyone’s body works differently so it makes no sense to directly compare ourselves to others in this area.

      I don’t think any of us can make our best decisions when we have all of these emotions wrapped up in it. And I think emotions around food are worth paying attention to as well. An existence of always eating in ways that make you sad would be gruelling. I hope you’re able to find a balance that feels right for you <3

    36. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      A March, sending hugs. You are NOT alone. I am about 5 foot 3 and weigh over 200 pounds… so I feel your pain. I have those tears and tantrums too.

    37. Random Bystander*

      I am with you on the weight loss struggle.

      Part of what I have determined is to not divide foods into “good” and “bad”, but rather foods that I can eat more of or less of. So, for example–chocolate. I am not giving up chocolate–but if I get the Ghiardelli wrapped squares (or a Lindor truffle), then make it very intentional when I sit down to eat that chocolate, I’m having a small amount but make it feel like a treat that I am enjoying (and the calorie count is down in the 65-70 range on the squares depending on if it is a filled or a solid chocolate).

      The other thing that has helped is to make the food tasty with wider range of spices/herbs, so that I’m not thinking “oh, this is diet food, it’s deprivation” but “wow, this stuff really tastes good” like the hot bacon kale, garlic broccoli, dijon asparagus, or sesame spinach for side dishes. (I am happy to share recipes to any of those side dishes.)

      The other thing that has helped for me is to not look at it as this big 100+ pound weight loss, but to go with 10% mini goals. So, a starting weight of–let’s use as an example 250, because it is a easy math number for my example. The ultimate goal is to get down to 130 in this example, we’ll say in this hypothetical example at 130 the person had felt good/found moving easy/etc and that’s why the number was chosen. So the first goal is to lose 25 pounds (we’re not putting a time limit on it, we’re just saying that the goal is to lose 25 pounds whether that takes 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years or whatever). So from 250 to 225. When that goal is achieved, buy a small present like a new accessory or item for the house, or treat yourself to a personal care luxury if that’s appealing (like facials, massages, manicure/pedicure), or a new haircut or whatever feels like a reward (you don’t want the reward to be either food or a clothing item, because you’re not at the ultimate goal). Now from here, we’re going to go with a goal of 23 pounds, to drop from 225 to 202. Same thing, no time pressure, just a reward of some other thing that is not food related and can be used even after further goals have been met, or is some other way a treat and reward for the accomplishment. Now, the next goal is going to be 21 pounds, to 181; then 19 (I always round up, even when mathematically incorrect), which makes it 162, then 17 to 145, and then 15 to get to the final goal of 130.

    38. MassChick*

      So much has been posted about being kind to yourself, baby steps, focusing on non-weight, health/wellness oriented achievements, etc.
      I just wanted to add that I’m about half way through “The secret life of Fat” by Sylvia Tara and it’s fascinating. It’s the science behind fat which apparently is an organ (not unwanted and vilified tissue) and is what has helped humans survive food scarcity which was the norm until maybe 100 years ago.
      It made me think of my jiggles with affection rather than dislike..it’s only doing what it thinks will help me survive!

  20. Teapot Translator*

    What’s cooking thread! What are you making this week? (or maybe you’re all eating leftovers from Thanksgiving?)
    I’m going to try One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese by RecipeTin Eats.
    I’m also on the lookout for a mild curry recipe. My local sushi place has branched out in to hot dishes (must be hard for them in the winter, people probably eat less sushi), and I tried their curry chicken. It was delicious, so now I want to make some at home. It’s going to be an adventure as I know curry is a mix of spices and not a specific dish. Wish me luck!

    1. GoryDetails*

      I made a couple of unusual frozen desserts for a Friendsgiving dinner. (Got them from a column by John Fladd in a local (New England-area) free newspaper – see hippopress.com if interested.) One was a cilantro ice cream – I swear I’m not making this up – and it turned out quite tasty. (It also fooled all the guests, who couldn’t guess which herb was involved.)

      The other was a dairy-free “marzipan sorbet,” very much all-almond all the way!

    2. WellRed*

      Chicken stew (pre shredded chicken and frontier soup mix), spicy beans and rice and maybe Cajun sausage pasta.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I had two bananas left so I made banana bread last night. This weekend I want to make some pumpkin bread. Or maybe these pumpkin cookies I like, since the pureed pumpkin was on sale and I got four cans. :)

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

      I have a bunch of extra scones I need to use up. Maybe a scone grilled-cheese sandwich?

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m making a swiss chard, white bean soup tonight (turkey broth, of course!), a roasted potato with seared greens and carambozola (sp?) salad tomorrow and then a big batch of spicy orange beef stew so we’ll have lots of leftovers. It’s cold here, so all warming foods!

    6. Pippa K*

      More free time for baking this week, so I’ve made a Bakewell tart, lemon bars, a sticky toffee pudding, blondie bars, and custard creams (which required me to finally learn how to make a crème au beurre, and the results are great!) Tomorrow a loaf of bread, then I’ll need to do a resupply run for more flour.

    7. Sitting Pretty*

      I’m celebrating my 50th birthday this week solo (it’s by choice!) I’m making my own cake. Health issues have restricted my diet so I found a recipe for a gluten-free olive oil cake. It has sliced pears and almonds baked on top plus orange zest and a splash of almond liqueur in the recipe… I sprung for the fancy olive oil and a lovely bottle of amaretto this week, and am soooo excited to bake tomorrow!

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s been a couple of days of traditional turkey here, but today I’m making Italian sausage, fettuccine with tomato sauce, and a salad. I don’t want to get tired of turkey!

      The turkey bones have already been boiled so the soups start tomorrow.

    9. carcinization*

      Just to note, Teapot Translator, in general, Japanese curry dishes do use a curry powder blend rather than building ones own spice mix each time like Indian curry recipes might, for example. I’ve had good results from a Japanese Chicken Curry recipe from a website called Erren’s Kitchen, if you’d like to take a look at that. Japanese curry recipes usually do specify mild curry powder as well, so you should be set for non-spicy as long as you don’t buy hot/madras curry powder to begin with.

      As for what we’re eating, we do have some Thanksgiving leftovers sitting around (mostly desserts, but I made turkey lasagna and we still have a bit in the fridge). I just made quiche with some bacon and spinach left over from some of the stuff I made around the holiday, and it turned out well/will also provide leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, probably.

    10. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m trying out Ottolenghi’s green chilli con carne recipe from the Guardian website. My partner suggested we make some kind of meaty comfort food in the Dutch oven, and the recipe he was thinking of is a pork stew we made once last year – delicious, but so spicy I thought it might kill me (it takes A LOT of spice for me to feel like that). I had to think fast and come up with an alternative, for my stomach’s sake :P the green chilli looks interesting and way milder.

      Other than that, I have the rest of the grocery list to sort out this morning and zero ideas! I love cooking, but sorting out the weekly shopping is such a slog (a necessary one, as meal planning works really well for us).

    11. Lemonwhirl*

      I’m making luqaimat for the F1 race today.
      Meals this week include huevos rancheros, chicken with roasted butternut squash, and lazy noodles.
      My kid is turning 13 on Thursday, so we’re also going out to a steakhouse that has a surprisingly good vegan menu. (I eat a plant-based diet but still cook for my two omnivores.)

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I didn’t! Adding to my list. And digging into my shelves to find my copy of “Happy All The Time” because I’m due for a re-read.

  21. Dog and cat fosterer*

    Small joys thread!

    I sent an email this week asking nicely for a favour and the person agreed. It doesn’t sound like much but it saved a friend hours and hours of work to make an official request, and it made me happy that I could help them.

    I also finally got my vacuum cleaner fixed and that is a big joy because the fur is everywhere.

    1. Jay*

      I just found out yesterday that Amazon is developing a series based on the Project Nemesis books by Jeremy Robinson! And it’s being directed by the director of all of the John Wick movies! It should be just epic and finding out about it makes my day.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Small joy: my dog has been refusing to get into the car lately, which has been a big damper on my enjoyment since it means he can’t come out into the world with me, nor can we go to some of my favorite walks further away. But lately he’s been turning the corner and letting me coax him in! It’s still more effort than I’d prefer but we got to go on a walk I haven’t been able to do since summer, and it was glorious! Brisk but sunny and mostly deserted this holiday weekend.

      1. Reba*

        Had you posted about this here before? Either way, I’m so happy for this positive update for you! (My dog is in the back seat behind me as I write this)

        1. Sloanicota*

          I believe I did and got some helpful advice! But really it just took time and patience (the vet said it’s probably not a health issue so much as a phobia).

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Last night was the Toy Show, when all of Ireland stays up late to watch our national channel’s flagship (and the world’s longest-running) chatshow ditch its usual format for a night and intead give the show over to testing toys and children performing. It begins after the 9 o’clock news, so about 9:35pm and finishes around midnight, but given the revenue it brings in from ads, it can do what it likes and while it was scheduled to end at midnight, it was probably closer to 10 past by the time it did.

      It’s been going on since…the ’70s, I think, so virtually everybody has either grown up with it or remembers it from their children’s or niece’s or nephew’s childhoods. It’s become more and more of a thing. Now clothes shops sell pyjamas with “staying up late for the Toy Show” on them, sweetshops sell treat boxes and some people even decorate for Christmas before it.

      An indication of just how popular it is: in recent years, they have started a charity appeal during it. Within half a hour of the appeal being announced, they were almost at €1 million (€930,000 apparently) and by the end of the two and a half hour show, they had passed €3.1 million. This in a country with a population of about 5 million.

      1. MaxKitty*

        Thank you so much for mentioning this! I’d never heard of it and just enjoyed reading recaps. Sounds like it was a great show this year!

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        I am unable to stay up past 10pm, but my husband and son love The Toy Show. I catch up on the highlights in the morning by reading Twitter. (Sounds like Sheamie was the breakout star of this year. :D)

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          He was hilarious.

          Actually, one of his standout lines is relevant to this blog as he mentioned that his uncle had to take a “Lego day off work” to help him make the toys and Patrick Kielty (the presenter) asked where his uncle worked and he said, “I’m not going to tell you that, because I don’t want to be getting him in any trouble!”

    4. the cat's ass*

      Thanksgiving was lovely and unfraught;
      I’ve got 4 days off from The Place We Don’t Mention on Weekends;
      I slept like an absoulute rock Thru and Fri night and that’s really helped decrease my overall holiday angst!

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

      The slices of chocolate cream pie that I Instacarted to try during Thanksgiving were yummy!

      I do wish Sara Lee still sold its chocolate bavarian cream pie in the US (I see something called that in Australia, but it looks a little different from what I remember), but this brand was really pretty good, so a reasonable substitute.

    6. Hotdog not dog*

      The Kid (and his laundry) are home from college for the weekend. Not only is it great to see him because we miss him, but it’s a huge convenience to have someone tall enough to reach the top shelves! (Mr. Hotdog and I are both about 5’4″).

    7. AGD*

      The local weather has turned cold, so I decided to reward myself and bought a high-end thick blanket. After I completed my pile of work last night, I sat down on the sofa sideways and unfolded the blanket and climbed under it. Got so comfortable so quickly that it pretty much made my week. I have a perfectly good bed but now I figure there will be many accidental nights on the sofa.

    8. Anonymous for this*

      An old dear friend just won a screen play contest for a fascinating sf novel. very exciting!

    9. Girasol*

      A howling wind took all of the last autumn leaves away midweek. Now the crab apple tree is all branches and shiny red berries and sparrows waiting their turn at the bird feeder. They look like a Christmas card picture.

    10. carcinization*

      There’s a vintage store the next town over that somehow other people I know always find great stuff at, but that never has anything quite right for me, but I found a really nice vintage t-shirt there today that fits well.

    11. Firebird*

      Grandkitty stayed with me all of this week. He was surprisingly friendly and even fell asleep in my lap! He is normally not a lapcat with anyone. When I kittysat at his house he was much more aloof.

  22. Sloanicota*

    I have come to the recent realization that growing up, my mother only ever made low fat recipes, so I thought that was just how food tasted. I’ve always been a bit confused by people who claimed to really enjoy food. Like, how could food be a delight of your life? Thanksgiving – what, plain mashed potatoes with skim milk? Boiled frozen vegetables on the side of unseasoned chicken breast? Okay, weirdo. Happy to enjoy the season of gratefulness but I didn’t “get” it. I did know there was “fancy” foods in restaurants, but we didn’t go out a lot, and it wasn’t like gourmet foods were attractive to kids either even if I had been encouraged to order it, which I wasn’t. Just wanted to share that, as an adult, I’m still learning to cook things so that they really taste good – particularly non-deserts. I roasted carrots this weekend instead of eating them raw and was astonished. Now I’m looking up recipes to glaze them!

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Ha! That’s hilarious and exactly the way I was raised. However, I knew of flavorful food. My mom would take chicken breasts from the package, rinse them, and toss them onto a metal sheet pan with nothing on it and bake the holy hell out of them and serve them next to a side of curry rice or something. I never knew chicken could be chewable until I was an adult. I’m still chewing on the chicken of my youth. I still don’t eat chicken. I didn’t know margarine wasn’t butter until I was a teenager. She still packs her pantry full of low-fat cheeze-its and reduced calorie cookies. Remember Snackwells Devil’s Food Cookies?

      I now live with a black man raised in Chicago and I love to horrify him with the tales of my white culinary adventures in childhood. I had to convince him he could safely eat at my family’s house the first time.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes! Those cookies! The funny thing is that I remember them being good, even though in retrospect they were weird little hockey pucks that probably weren’t even “healthy” anyway. My mother was also famous for side dishes being one (1) scoop of plain wild rice without any kind of seasoning. Enjoy!

        1. PhyllisB*

          Our pastor told the story of how his mother would start a pot roast and a pot of rice to cook while they were at church. He said he didn’t realize rice was a grain until he was an adult.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who thought there were three flavors in the world: to quote Bill Bryson “Salt, Ketchup, and Burnt.” Meats tortured into leatherlike strips were a huge feature of so many people growing up, especially the Boomer generation.

        There’s a reason for this, though! Dependable refrigeration for meats and dairy was a lot more spotty and recent than many people think, especially in rural or poorer areas. Meat that wasn’t dried to a shred or boiled to a soup simply wasn’t trusted to be safe to consume–food poisoning was a much bigger and more common hobgoblin than it is today. So the idea of a rare steak or tender poultry was dismissed as “dangerous” out of hand.

    2. anon24*

      When my husband and I were dating he couldn’t understand why I loved food so much. I couldn’t understand why he never looked forward to meals. Then he took me to his parents for dinner. After a long meal with my stomach literally growling but only able to stomach the tiniest portions of their cooked to death, unseasoned food, and refusing second portions because “really, I’m not very hungry today,” I understood. We got in the car to leave and I said “ok now you’re taking me out for food because I’m so hungry I’m about to die.” I watched them make mashed potatoes once and they literally just cooked some potatoes and mashed them. I was like uh, no seasoning? No milk or sour cream? Wtf!!!! I taught him how to cook and while there’s still times that he asks for help with some things and with spices for certain foods, he’s overall a far better cook than I am.

      1. Sloanicota*

        “I watched them make mashed potatoes once and they literally just cooked some potatoes and mashed them” – yes! It was this, but I know she’d glug in some skim milk too. And yes, portion sizes were small. I knew desserts tasted good (she made them regularly, more or less) but we were raised to have like, one cookie or a sliver of pie so it was still not a joyful experience of eating.

      2. Clisby*

        A guy I know (he’s maybe 55) told me when he went off to college he couldn’t understand why his fellow students were always whining about the college cafeteria food. His mother was a TERRIBLE cook, and he thought the cafeteria food was heavenly.

        1. anon24*

          I remember eating college cafeteria food once when I went away to a summer camp held at a college and it was so inedible. Dry burgers on super hard buns, chicken that resembled jersey and that sort of thing. I was starving by the end of the week. One day my group and I were complaining about the food and one guy said “I don’t understand what your problem is, I’m enjoying myself.” I remember just looking at him and all I could come up with was “wow, I’m so sorry”

    3. WellRed*

      Sesame is pretty good with roasted carrots. I love this topic! The simplest additions of seasonings and fats can really transform a dish.

    4. purple spotted giraffe*

      Also, read books that explain tasting to you. “Taste what you’re missing” and “Salt fat acid heat”. So you can learn how to tune your cooking to your taste.

      My partner grew up with the healthy/over-cooked/unenjoyable food descriptions in this thread. I grew up with all the fat and salt. When I read Taste what you’re missing , the author had specific instructions on how to change tomato soup, and we had the ingredients to hand. I followed the instructions, and partner agreed the soup *tasted* so much better, but … wasn’t convinced he wanted his food to have so much taste.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, honestly it’s probably almost too late for me, although I try around the edges to experience more flavors. I’m just used to thinking of food as mostly fuel, and it does sort of squick me out when I hear something is made in a way that strikes me as unhealthy. They got to me too young!!

      2. Observer*

        the healthy/over-cooked/unenjoyable food descriptions in this thread.

        This is SOO crazy to me. The foods described are by an large NOT all the healthy.

        Spices and condiments have nothing to do with the healthfulness of food, over-cooking destroys nutritional value, and neither “low fat” nor “sugar free” actually mean that a food has nutritional value. Which is why we have not started eating actual cardboard, which should be the *ideal* food.

        I know that to an extent I’m preaching to the converted, but I hate to see those two things conflated. Healthful food can and should taste good!

    5. Voluptuousfire*

      I grew up I a meat/starch/canned veg family and only was exposed to thinks like cauliflower and broccoli due to my great aunts who cooked actual food!

      Learning that vegetables aren’t always mushy and from a can and seeing how delicious they are roasted was a game changer.

    6. Maggie*

      Lol I totally had this realization too. Like, oh, using actual cooking techniques and seasoning makes food taste really good! Actually following the recipe using the intended technique results in a way better product than substituting half of it and not following directions. Other spices beyond salt and pepper exist! Garlic powder was a revelation in college. I don’t know why my family hates their tastebuds and refuses to use any actual cooking techniques, but they certainly do.

      1. Clisby*

        My husband and I once decided to cut back on salt (not truly follow a low-salt diet, but just get close to the recommended amount per day). It took a few weeks to adjust, and then we started noticing how unexpectedly *salty* some processed food was. I don’t mean something like potato chips – of course they’re salty – but things like unsweetened breakfast cereal. All of a sudden, cheerios and corn flakes tasted salty.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I remember Laurie Colwin wrote about this in her first collection of cooking essays! She was a Salt Kid and adored all things salty. Then her doctor told her to knock it off or she was going to get hypertension. She wept into her salt free cottage cheese, then decided to meet her fate with a stout heart and began exploring spices, vinegars, and oils.

          After a couple weeks she couldn’t BELIEVE how salty restaurant and packaged foods were!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        This reminds me of that Oprah thing where this woman made some kind of “special” chicken that was just barely seasoned with black pepper? I think? And here’s Oprah desperately trying to pretend on national TV that this dish tasted like anything except beige made flesh.

    7. WorkingRachel*

      I, too, grew up in a household where things were, if not completely unseasoned, definitely underseasoned. Vegetables were almost always steamed and plain, with salt and pepper and margarine available on the table if you really needed that. Realizing you could do other things to veggies and they didn’t have to taste like nothing was a revelation. (What is this roasting you speak of?) So was butter.

    8. Generic Name*

      Ha ha, I grew up in the 80s and had the same experience. I love my mom, but her cooking just isn’t that great. The only “spices” that were used were salt and pepper. Maybe some parsley. Meat was cooked until it was hockey puck-like. I recently went back and looked at the binder of recipes and “how to cook” instructions that my mom lovingly put together for me when I had my first apartment. Her instructions on how to cook a chicken breast were wild. Wrap a boneless skinless breast in foil, teeny amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 350 for ONE HOUR. For a single chicken breast.

      1. mreasy*

        The 80s panics: Satanic ritual child abuse, stranger danger, undercooked chicken. I have friends my age who still won’t cook chicken at home because they’re terrified of undercooking it!

    9. Old and Don’t Care*

      I’m the exact opposite. I was a kid in the 70s, and we had so. much. ground beef. Which I disliked. I thought my mom’s cooking improved a lot when she got ahold of a low fat cookbook in the 80s. Roasted chicken was just fine with me, especially as it replaced chicken a la king. And in the 70s we had full fat or 2% milk and I hated it. I didn’t have skim milk until college and I was able to tolerate it.

      Looking back I don’t think it was the fat content in my mom’s cooking that made a big difference so much as it was the raw (so to speak) ingredients and limited use of spices. Canned green beans would not taste any better with butter on them. But my mom is frugal and to be fair she actually liked some of the things she cooked. My parents still voluntarily eat meat loaf with ketchup on top.

      Anyway, my mom put dinner for five people on the table seven nights a week and I absorbed the most important lesson about cooking from her, which is just do it and if you don’t like it there will be another meal tomorrow.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah to be clear, no disrespect intended to my mom here. She single handedly made all meals (grrr) for a family of four for something like twenty years straight. I don’t think she’s a big foodie herself and probably would have been happy to skip most of those meals herself.

        1. Clisby*

          My mother did this for a family of 8 – and she hated cooking. She was a stay-at-home parent until the youngest kid went to first grade, and then she went back to public school teaching.

          Oddly (or maybe not) my mother was a very good cook. I guess she figured cooking badly did not really save you time over cooking well, and since she had to eat the food too, why not cook it well?

          That being said, the 3 oldest in the family – me, my sister, and my oldest brother – often were tasked with producing the evening meal, which was *very* good practice for our later adulting.

          Also, my mother was not a slacker. She just didn’t like cooking. She was perfectly willing to take on cleaning.

          My father liked cooking, so on weekends he did a lot. It’s only due to him that I had experienced pizza and enchiladas before I went to college.

          1. allathian*

            Reminds me of my family growing up. My mom didn’t particularly enjoy cooking, but we had basic, reasonably nutritious meals every weeknight (she was a SAHM until my sister started school when I was 8 and kept cooking when she returned to work). Cooking wasn’t her favorite chore, but she did it because we had to eat. That said, in retrospect I wish she’d let me and my sister help at an earlier age. She delegated laying and clearing the table and washing the dishes to us as soon as we were old enough to reach the sink and could be trusted not to drop the dishes on the floor, but she disliked cooking enough that she didn’t want to have anyone else in the kitchen while she did it. She liked baking, still does, and she taught us to bake pretty early, I was 10 when I baked my first cake all by myself, she only took it out of the oven. I started cooking at home sometimes when I took home economics in junior high.

            My dad learned to cook as an adult, and he’d do the fancy stuff like make the occasional pizzas from scratch, or beefsteaks. My mom’s only issue with my dad’s cooking was that he seemed to use up twice as many pots and pans and utensils as she did…

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        My mom really liked to spice things. My husband to be said, “I didn’t know there was such as thing as five alarm spaghetti before”. I learned not spice things so much, there really is a happy middle.

    10. Elle*

      My MIL is the queen of non fat, processed foods-dressings, sauces, puddings, syrup, bread, etc. A lot of it tastes awful. When my FIL’s dementia progressed he became brutally honest about how bad the food was and wouldn’t eat it. It was news to her! She was completely focused on calories and didn’t care about taste.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      Man, the Low Fat fad destroyed so many palates! When we use things like sour cream or cheese, Husband and I get the real deal–there is no point to eating the same amount of calories for a fraction of the taste.

      Healthy eating is one thing–we buy fresh stuff and make sure to get low sodium versions of any canned or packaged food we buy, and so on. But I remember Low Fat, followed by Low Carb, followed by Gluten Is Worse Than Hitler For Everyone On Earth, and the trendiness of the diet overtook any actual health parameters in a heart beat.

    12. Radar’s glasses*

      As a child i hated sandwiches because my father’s idea of a sandwich was to put a slice of boiled ham between two slices of white bread— no mustard or mayo because he didn’t like the taste. In middle school I discovered our local Italian deli: freshly sliced salami with mustard on French/Italian loaf bread. No lettuce or tomato. Delicious! My dad never knew what he was missing.

  23. Buggy Crispino*

    I am probably going to be adopting two older cats that have been outdoor/barn cats for several years. The property owner died and her family is selling off the farm and I feel like if I don’t take these cats in they won’t survive long. They like me and I like them and I think I can give them a good home and good care and they’ll be happy with me. I’m very concerned for their well being and happiness, but the thing is I don’t “love” these cats. I’ve had lots of cats, dogs, various small pets over the years and I am all in ending up head over heels with every animal I’ve shared my home with.

    Am I just being silly? Have I just forgotten how to bond since I haven’t taken a new animal into my home for over 15 years? Any tips or advice to get my head into the right place for these sweet needy older cats?

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I recently rescued a bonded pair of 100 pound dogs. They lost their human in 2020 to COVID and sat in a shelter for almost 2 years. They are amazing dogs. I also do not love them or feel head over heels but they certainly wouldn’t know that! I think it is more that my love for them is different than my love for my cat. I need my cat and long to be in her company. My dogs need me and long to be in my company and I am happy to provide for them. I squeal at them when I return home and I dote on them but basically the act of rescuing them and providing warmth and food and care is the act of love they get from me.

      By the sounds it, these cats may not even want the closeness you feel bad about not giving. A safe place with guaranteed food and warmth is likely all they need. Just the act of this is a show of love that these cats may not have felt otherwise. Feel good about htat.

      1. Sloanicota*

        FWIW, I’m not sure I “loved” my dog until at least six months or a year in, so it may still change – or it’s okay if not, as long as everyone’s needs are being met! I wanted good things for mine and worked hard to provide everything he needed, but we hadn’t quite reached an understanding at that point. It doesn’t help that he, also an adult rescue in a working dog breed, isn’t super affectionate either (although I do think he loves me now, he’s never been particularly effusive. The most he will do is press against my legs sometimes).

    2. Sloanicota*

      I wouldn’t worry about this over-much yet. One, of course you don’t love the cats yet, you haven’t actually spent a lot of time with them. It’s enough to wish for their well-being; I promise, outdoor cats will be completely satisfied with this. You may develop deeper feelings over time – I “took a level” with my cat after rushing her to an emergency vet, whereas before I would have said I felt neutral-to-positive. Apparently stress creates love (at least for me)!

    3. Cat Adopter OP - Buggy Crispino*

      Oops. Well crap. No username and an email address posted for the world. Oh well!! I must have put it in the wrong box instead of the Gravatar box.

        1. Cat Adopter OP - Buggy Crispino*

          Ha ha. I could always use new friends but that’s probably not the best way to go about it!

    4. RagingADHD*

      The most important and reliable face of love is a wholehearted commitment to do right by them and see their needs met.

    5. Mztery1*

      I feel you on this. We adopted our current cat from the shelter six years ago, she was the last cat we looked at, and they warned us that she wasn’t very friendly. However, when I went into her enclosure, she jumped on my lap and started purring. That was probably the last time she did that for a long time… I worried for actually a year or two that I didn’t love her enough because she had a lot of annoying habits, was very anxious, but wasn’t cuddly and friendly like she had been in the enclosure. Overtime though, I can’t imagine life without her and I love her as much as I’ve ever loved any pet. She still not super cuddly, but she likes me to scratch her ears at night before we go to bed. And that’s enough for me so I think you will grow into it as well!

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My grandma’s method for convincing a non-social cat to come out from under the furniture and become a lap cat (your results may vary):
        1) Put a towel on your lap – smooths the dent between your legs to make a flatter surface, lets the cat know that it’s “lap time”, gives a buffer if the cat’s claws come out a little, reduces mess (the towel part may have been unrelated to her grand cat-socializing strategy and just been about the last part – this grandma was not fond of messes)
        2) Feed the cat bacon when the cat is on the towel
        3) Occasionally try petting the cat and see if the cat will tolerate it (continue to apply bacon to keep cat motivated to hang around)
        4) Gradually fade the bacon to a sometimes thing as the cat discovers that laps are pretty nice
        5) End up with cat that will get on laps only if there’s a towel there first (bacon still welcome, but not required)

        She started with a cat that basically always hid and ended up with a lap cat, but it could also have been that the cat in question was much happier at her house (with one calm older lady, no dogs, no kids, everything orderly and quiet) than at our house (dog, kid, visitors, music, indoor rollerskating, who knows what because the dog and/or kid just had a great idea).

    6. Double A*

      We adopted an older dog and honestly all she did was confirm that we’re not dog people and we didn’t really love her. But that didn’t seem to be what she really needed. We gave her a comfy and safe couple of last years and we felt good about that. It was enough.

    7. Reluctant Mezzo*

      It’s a work in progress. A friend of mine adopted a survivor cat whose owner had died. I informed that it was ok he didn’t love her right away, because she was saving him from starvation etc., and if he was forever Mr. Under The Bed.

      Reader, in six months he’d moved in with a vengeance and had become the alpha cat…(there was another cat there who was a perpetual beta, poor guy, but a sweetie).

    8. Cat and dog fosterer*

      Outdoor barn cats aren’t used to trusting humans, so if you provide them with warmth, food, and a lack of predators then they are very lucky kitties. No need to love them, I’m just very grateful to you for wanting to give them a safe place to spend the end of their years.

      1. Old Plant Woman*

        Barn cats I’ve known were not friendly or cuddly. But most would come when I called them for food. It was a lot of fun to watch them run and play if I hid and didn’t laugh too loud. They will not love you and you don’t have to love them. But if you can give them a comfortable life maybe that’s good enough.

    9. Clara Bowe*

      For my last three cats, I have not fully liked/loved them for ~6 months. It takes time to get to know them in a close environment and that’s ok.

      Heck, it took one of those cats three years before she ended up liking ME.

      Good on you for caring for the cats though. That is incredibly kind.

  24. RagingADHD*

    Im a twist on the discussion earlier this week about duvets and top sheets, the hotel we’re staying in just sandwiched the duvet between 2 flat sheets: one tucked in under the foot of the bed, then the duvet, then another slightly fancier flat sheet laid over the top, not tucked in.

    I’m sure it’s very easy to clean, and it looks nice and crisp for the first 30 seconds you walk in the room. But very tangly for sleeping in.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Huh, that is … inventive. I’m always suspicious of hotel comforters / those thick covers at the food of the bed, as I’ve heard they are not washed between guests. So I guess the top sheet is intended to ward off messes :(

  25. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

    Boston area recommendation

    I’m looking for ideas for a great neighborhood or closer in suburb of Boston for a young single person. Area with nightlife, recreation, things to do. Mid-priced to upper mid-priced

    1. Jay*

      Saugus is great. It’s an old Irish and Italian community (with the restaurants that this would suggest), plenty of history, and locally available nightlife. It’s also got older, more sedate neighborhoods if you decide to settle down there. It’s also growing by leaps and bounds. It’s cost it some of its history and character, but its getting more upscale amenities.

      1. Saugonian*

        ymmv. saugonian here (weird to see it on AAM!)

        We do need some fresh blood to push out the bigots, but the town amenities and schools are atrocious (said as a SHS alum). No single stream recycling or compost. We’re the reddest town closest to Boston. I grew up here but made ALL my close friends outside the city.

        That said, it isn’t the worst, but Malden and Melrose would’ve been higher on my list if I didn’t already have family here.

        1. Jay*

          I grew up there, long ago, and, to be honest, I’ve mostly only been visiting a few times a year for over 20 years now, so I was going by what I could see and what family has told me and my memories.

    2. WelcomeToBoston*

      Just be aware that mid priced here is more than high priced options in most other places. By a lot.

      Do you want/need public transportation?

      Are you looking to buy or rent?

      What type of recreation are you looking for?

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      Are you going to have a car or rely on public transportation?
      For super urban areas (almost still Boston):
      Medford has a lot going on for young single adults, plus Tufts U.
      Somerville is pretty happening as well.
      Everett is gentrifying, but parts are still pretty sketchy.
      People rave about the Seaport District, but the public transportation and traffic totally suck.
      Less urban, but still a city, but way more fresh air and space:
      Beverly is REALLY up and coming. Brand new really nice apartment buildings, several easily accessible public beaches, lots of new restaurants and the commuter rail is right in the center of town and takes you to North Station in Boston. And very cute neighborhoods (plus uber expensive ones) if you decide to settle down there. Plus, the North Shore rocks.

      1. Beverly*

        My husband and I used to live on highland Avenue (4 minute walk to commuter rail) :) we loved it so much. We moved further north for less traffic and more space though. It’s amazing how much it built up even while we were there.

    4. Bluebell*

      North of the Charles, Somerville and Medford would top the list, and Malden is up and coming with a lot of development downtown. South of the Charles, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale.

    5. watch city fan*

      I really enjoyed living in Waltham – it has festivals, bars, tons of great restaurants, parks/trails, and downtown Boston is very easy to access by public transport or a 30min car ride. Plenty to do in the surrounding towns as well.

  26. So, about teenagers ….*

    In the course of my life, I interact with kids doing college prep stuff- this year, I’ve had a couple ask for rec letters. Cool. Except … um … I don’t know how to write a rec ltr for someone I look at and think “well, this child doesn’t seem to possess any criminal tendencies … and he does the bare minimum required for him to be allowed to join our activities …”

    How do you gussy that up into a rec ltr? Any columns on this site to revisit? Or websites to go to? Or advice? Or something?

    Because … for real … I can’t think of much to say except … what I mentioned up there. I interact with some rock stars I could write novellas about, so those kids aren’t the challenge…

    1. Sloanicota*

      I might ask them to help me, by sending a few bullets of accomplishments they’d like me to highlight or qualities they think they’ve really demonstrated this year. Bonus, if they can’t be bothered to do it, perhaps they aren’t very invested in getting the letter after all.

      1. AGD*

        I work in student advising at a college. There’s a classic hypothetical example of a student whose professor has said, “They are very punctual and have tidy handwriting.”

        Odds are that absolutely everyone will see what’s been left unsaid.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        As someone who used to write letters of rec, I advise this (you can say no) as well. If you don’t have anything meaningfully good to say, your letter or rec wouldn’t benefit the student anyway. In fact, it would probably hurt them, because the college admission folks who read those letters can read between the lines. They’re looking for very specific anecdotes (not just a bunch of adjectives), unless you literally say “I’ve been tutoring students for 20 years, and this is the hardest-working and smartest student I’ve ever encountered in my career” (and don’t say that every year).

    2. LAGirl*

      I’m a college professor who reads all those rec letters. A few thoughts:

      1) The rec letters don’t matter all that much. (Unless they’re from a VIP/major donor to the university or they’re packed with red flags.) Consider this low stress.
      2) You can say no. I say no all the time to students who are less than thrilling but want my name on a letter for grad school/summer program/job/internship. “I’m so sorry, but I’ve already reached the limit of letters I write per year.” (There is no limit. The limit could be zero if I want it to be.)
      3) We do read between the lines. If you like a student but you’d write a weak rec, you’ll do the teen a favor by saying no.

      1. Mztery1*

        I teach at the local University, and I agree with this . Sometimes I don’t remember the student and I asked him to send me more information about what they’ve been doing since our class, and that jogged my memory and I’m happy to write about them. But if it’s someone I really can’t recommend I just decline and if they press me I tell them Why in a very nice way.

        1. rr*

          or you could do what one person did to me, for a graduate letter reference: write a really good letter, until the end, where they qualified the whole thing by saying I needed more of a particular kind of coursework to succeed in the graduate program. In other words, not recommending me and making the letter unusable. By then, it was too late to get another letter. So, yeah, if you can’t write a letter, just say so and don’t make the person wait and then miss a chance to ask someone else (another person also agreed to write a letter for me…and just didn’t…until the deadlines had already passed. At which point, also unusable).

      2. anon26*

        This is not all true. Someone close to me is high up in admissions at a top Ivy and many years ago I was a reader at a top univerity. The letters actually do matter!

        I agree with unless you really know the person and write an exceptional recommendation they can go either way, but I have read recommendations from Presidents, VIPs, CEOs, etc and many are lackluster. It matters more what is said in the recommendation than who actually writes the letter. I rather read an exceptional rec. from a high school teacher “in my 20 years of teaching this is my top student” than from a mega donor CEO who has an EA write the recommendation and it is average. The former would mean a lot more than the later and I have heard this from others I know in admissions at other top universities. People think they need a fancy person write their recommendation, that is not the case.

        If you can’t write a letter say no from the beginning so they can find someone else. It is the kind thing to do.

    3. Samwise*

      You don’t have to say yes to everyone who asks you for a letter.

      For students I do agree to write a rec for, I say they have to do three things: 1. Write out their qualifications, experiences, interests as related to the opportunity for which they want the rec; 2. Meet with me so we can talk about it and 3. Let me know if they get the internship/ scholarship / whatever.

      Sometimes those diffident or difficult kids don’t have anyone else to recommend them — they see you as an adult with whom they’ve made some kind of connection. I do tell students that I will not lie or exaggerate, but maybe we can see where they do shine.

    4. Rara Avis*

      I interact with younger students, so I don’t get asked for recommendations very often. Had a doozy once, though. The mother of an advisee asked me to write a recommendation for a summer program. Readers, the student had failed my class the previous year. And was consistently negative and uncooperative in advisory. I suggested the mother ask a current teacher (of a class he was doing well in, maybe?) but she insisted she wanted me. So I wrote an honest recommendation. Never did hear if he got into the program.

  27. RussianInTexas*

    I have a dilemma. We got a ton of leftovers from MIL. I don’t like 90% of it. I don’t like staffing, gravy, or cranberry sauce in general that much or Thanksgiving food really, and I really don’t like hers. She doesn’t season anything, her dressing had too much almost uncooked celery, homemade cranberry sauce is some kind of fancy jelly. I of course ate everything at her house because I am not a rude savage. But I will have to tell partner I don’t want it. He’ll ask why I am only eating turkey and mashed potatoes. And the pumpkin bread.
    Ok, this isn’t that serious, he won’t be upset for real, but only yesterday he mentioned his mom is a good cook, lol. My dude. I fed you seasoned food for the last 11 years, at home and eating out. I trained you to season food at home.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        He will, some.
        She also came up on ice cream sale, so we now have two tubs of good ice cream neither of us needs to eat. Dastardly!

          1. Chaordic One*

            I’m going to be trying to make a cranberry pie tomorrow. I don’t know if it will be good or not, but it might be something for you to try. I’ll let you know how it turned out. Google it and you’ll see several different kinds of cranberry pie and recipes.

    1. RagingADHD*

      It will either get returned to the earth quicker via the plumbing, or slower via the trash. So if he doesn’t eat it all, let it go to its destiny!

    2. Jay*

      Okay, this might sound crazy, but bear with me here:
      Put everything all mashed together into a pie, add seasonings you like, and bake.
      This uses up your leftovers, cooks that uncooked celery, seasons that unseasoned food, and the cranberry sauce becomes a flavoring, not a side dish.
      Also, Thanksgiving Leftovers Pies are just plain wonderful.

      1. Observer*

        Put everything all mashed together into a pie, add seasonings you like, and bake.

        A variation that can work well and make a nice full rounded meal. Beat up an egg or two (or however many will work with what you have) mix it with your mix. Then either bake it or scramble fry it on the stove top. It doesn’t need a lot of oil, but if you eat it straight from cooking it’s delicious. But if you want to leave it for the next day, I would choose to bake it.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      Come tomorrow you can use the excuse that it’s getting old. Stuffing doesn’t stay good that long. Eating sugary jellies in huge quantities is also unhealthy so just say you feel sick from too much sugar.

      I’m curious if MIL cooks anything good or you hate it all? I remember in the 80s/90s at least, alot of people made stuffing by using wonder bread white bread and threw in the celery and it would be like you described, hard celery, and soggy tasteless “stuffing.” Or conversely they tried to get it crunchy but them it would be dry and not be very edible once refrigerated. Maybe she is stuff in the past with that one. I feel like in the 2000s everyone starting doing their own versions of stuffing and getting creative with it. My sister using dried cranberries which gives the actual chewy texture people were going for with the celery

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Her baked goods are just fine, and her Italian food as well. But the traditional American food is…well, I don’t want to say very Midwestern, but kind of like stereotypical of that?

    4. Qwerty*

      I dislike those three things too – What about making a thanksgiving pie and adding seasoning when assembling it? We started doing this with leftovers a couple years ago and I think I like the pie better than thanksgiving dinner. It won’t use much of the stuffing – its just a bit on top to crisp up nicely.

    5. Mitchell Hundred*

      I know this isn’t the reason why you made this post, but something caught my eye. Am I reading things correctly in assuming that, for you, dressing and stuffing are two distinct dishes that can be served separately at the same meal? Or were you using two different terms for the same thing?

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Where I live, dressing and stuffing are used interchangeably. It’s the same thing in this instance.

        1. Clisby*

          In my family (my parents were both from Georgia, and I’m from SC) dressing and stuffing are the same recipe, but stuffing is actually *stuffed* in the turkey or chicken or goose or whatever; dressing is the same food baked on its own. I’ve never understood using “stuffing” to refer to something that hasn’t been stuffed into something before cooking, but I know people here who do. Or they call the food stuffed into the turkey “dressing”.

        2. Mitchell Hundred*

          Got it, thanks.

          To be clear, I wasn’t being judgmental or anything. I just enjoy parsing ambiguous statements.

  28. Sauces, etc.*

    I have a specific cooking question! In an effort to not eat a bunch of crap dinners during this incredibly busy time of year, I bought a bunch of frozen chicken breasts and fish filets, hoping I could find some quick and easy sauces/ marinades/ toppings etc. to dress them up a bit and serve with a veggie. Does anyone know of a blog, or even book, that has a lot of these types of recipes? I’ve done a cursory Pinterest search, but those always take you to blog posts with compiled links to multiple places. I’m hoping someone here knows of a food blogger, or whatever, who posts a lot of “here’s a sauce to jazz up your proteins” recipes.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’ve just noticed these nice Indian sauces in my grocery store, Maya Kaimal is the brand. Very low sodium and not spicy at all (I add a lot of red pepper flakes). I just cut up and saute some chicken breast, add the sauce and maybe some frozen peas or other vegetables and there’s dinner! With rice.
      There are also super fast Asian stir fry recipes. I am old school and use all my old cookbooks, but Fork in the Kitchen has a good one.
      Also, Ambitious Kitchen has some fast really good recipes. Date Night Shrimp Cilantro Pesto Pasta is awesome. I use chicken instead of shrimp unless I have shrimp in the freezer. It comes together super fast.
      Good luck!

      1. Clisby*

        Yes to the supermarket Indian sauces. My son, who is a college student, is a pretty good scratch cook but wanted some things to throw together food fast for him and roommates. He likes the Sharwoods sauces, particularly the butter chicken sauce.

        Cut up boneless chicken (could be chicken breast but thighs are much more tasty), sprinkle with a little salt, garam masala or curry powder, and cayenne pepper, put in a bowl, and add enough cream to moisten it well. Cover and let marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. Pour that mixture in a frying pan (cast iron is good), and cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked through. Add jarred sauce – no particular amount, just what you like to provide enough sauce for rice.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      On chicken:
      BBQ sauce from a bottle
      Italian Dressing from a bottle (You could freeze the chicken marinating in it)
      Pesto + Cheese
      Salsa + black beans + cheese + sour cream and/or avocado

      On fish:
      Compound butters with herbs + lemon slices
      Dip in egg + panko crumbs

    3. Samwise*

      There are a lot of books and sites like that but I’ve never been impressed by quality of the recipes. I recommend instead:

      1. Ask any of your friends and relatives, or coworkers, to share their very favorite chicken breast and fish filet recipes.

      2. The protein is rarely the time sink in a dinner (unless you’re doing a beef Wellington or some such madness), it’s the other dishes. Think about what carb or grain you want, then what cooked veg/fruit and what raw veg/fruit (I usually have two fruit/veg dishes). Cook enough for a second meal. For instance, buttered white rice for the first meal and fried rice for a second meal a couple days later; roasted potato wedges for meal 1 then home fries with onions and peppers a couple days later.
      3. Chicken or fish can go into a pot or skillet dish, such as a soup or stew or curry. Chicken breast and fish fillets cook fast, so cook all the rest and then add them towards the end. If you have freezer space, make a batch then freeze in portions.
      4. Proteins: I recommend chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts, as they are more flavorful and harder to overcook. Other fast proteins are pork chops (you can get boneless chops) and eggs. I also buy crab cakes and salmon cakes on sale (they freeze well) and cook fast in a skillet, and I make but you can easily buy meatballs, which can go in pasta sauce or soup or on a sandwich.
      5. Fast and delicious fishes: line a broiler pan with foil (otherwise cleanup is terrible). Pat fillets dry. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle very generously with your favorite spice blend. For instance, zaatar. I love the Bajan mix from Savory Spice, I broil fish with it a LOT. Cut up a lemon. Make a tartar sauce or use one from a jar.
      6. Cook enough of your protein for two meals. For meal 2: quesadillas with leftover any proteins, chicken salad, etc

    4. Admin of Sys*

      If you’re okay with sticking to mostly western european flavors, look into the “5 mother sauces” and what you can do with them. They are the basis of vast swaths of european sauce flavors. The Spruce Eats has a great walk through on them.
      If you want to go in a slightly different direction, r/salsasnobs has a great recipe guide that includes everything from Indonesian Sambal to Lebanese Baba Ganoush to Thai Nam Pla Prik.

      But also, just start grabbing jars of things from the grocery store and deconstructing what you like.

    5. MaryLoo*

      Trader Joe’s has stuff like that.
      You can also use one of these over chicken breasts
      -bottled barbecue sauce
      – jarred salsa
      – canned cranberry sauce mixed with. chopped up orange.

      The above are individual baking sauces, by the way, don’t mix them together!

    6. Mephyle*

      Not a blog, but a couple of suggestions. You can probably find more specific instructions (like time and temperature) in recipes.

      For chicken breast, mix unsweetened plain yogurt with a couple teaspoons of dijon mustard; prepare enough of this mixture to slather it over the chicken. Bake until the chicken is done.

      For frozen vegetables, any kind, but especially mixed ones: (optionally toss with a bit of oil) in a frypan, cover, add a bit of water and cook until they’re done just enough. The important part is: stir in a teaspoon of pesto and mix well. The pesto is salty, so you probably don’t need to add any extra salt.

    7. Qwerty*

      D*mn Delicious is a great cooking blog aimed at working people who don’t have time to cook. There are a lot of one-pan meals with marinated chicken + veggies. The balsamic chicken one is my favorite.

      Grocery stores also have pre-made marianades! Sometimes I switch up what chain I go to and check out their marinade aisle because I’m a super lazy cook. Or there might be other easy stuff – I’m a fan of combining my easy chicken with pre-mixed stir fry bags.

      If you want an easy chicken soup – toss your frozen chicken in a pot with a bag of mirepoix or soup veggies (found in the frozen food section) and chicken broth. When the chicken cooks it’ll come apart and shred easily. Towards the end add noodles or a wild rice blend for your starch. The rice option will soak up all the liquid so add more broth when reheating leftovers. I generally make mine one evening after dinner as meal prep for later in the week.

    8. WellRed*

      There’s so many cooking sauces, simmer sauces and marinades you can buy as well as mixes from like Knorr. Asian Indian Mexican plus thing like garlic or lemon pepper etc. I’d lean that way if you’re worried about a time crunch. I always think I want to google a sauce recipe but they n Ed so many ingredients sometimes and would cost a lot more to make.

    9. carcinization*

      I recommend the Budget Bytes website for everything, but I think it could definitely help with this. She does have meal plan/prep type things in addition to singular dishes. She has so many relatively easy recipes for this stuff, but right off the bat I can recommend Baked Chimichurri Fish Bowls, and Chicken in Peanut Sauce, as good examples.

    10. EventingForChickens*

      My go-to when I was low on time was just salad dressing. I’d cook chicken thighs in it in a frying pan. Balsamic vinaigrette or sun-dried tomato vinaigrette or whatever else looked tasty.

    11. Alex*

      Do you have an air fryer? I love using mine in this way–I usually just sprinkle some herb/spice mixes on it with some olive oil. For fish, I like a chili lime flavor or a lemon garlic flavor. For chicken the possibilities are endless. Be generous with those spices and oil, and for the chicken, if you have time, brine them a bit first and they will be juicy and flavorful.

    12. Pomegranate*

      RecipeTin Eats blog! she has a lot of exactly what you’re asking for- things to do with a chicken breast/fillet of fish. I like the honey soy garlic sauce best for an easy dinner.

    13. Bluebell*

      Not a blog but Rozann Gold had a great cookbook called 1-2-3 that had terrific 3 ingredient recipes. Maybe you can find it in your library? I also agree w the premade sauce solution, and I like to steam fish filets in a mixture of tomatoes and greens. Easy and v nutritious.

    14. Clare*

      I stir fry a lot of food with just soy sauce. The flavour variation comes from the different vegetables I use. Heat protein, heat whatever random chopped veg is lying around, add soy sauce, dump on top of rice, done. Zero thought or effort involved and yet’s never the same meal twice, especially if you swap in red or black rice as well. Egg noodles are another fast option. Add honey to make honey soy chicken if you like.

      Store-bought stir fry sauces are a good option too, if you can afford them. The protein and veg are the healthy bit, so it doesn’t really matter so much if the unhealthy bit is home made or store bought, plus they have a long shelf life.

      Stir fry is my best “I don’t wanna think but I wanna be healthy with a varied diet” hack.

      1. Clare*

        Another lazy cooking hack:

        Place fish fillet on a sheet of al-foil. Crack salt and pepper on top and add a generous knob of butter. Wrap up the fish into a little parcel and steam in the oven for about 15 mins at 360-400F (ish) (adjust for your oven). It’s tasty just like that, no sauce needed. You can even prep the parcels the day you buy the fish, prior to freezing. Then you just yoink them out of the freezer and yeet them in the fridge to defrost the morning before you cook, and yeet them in the oven that night. Simple.

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

      I’m still feeling a little brain foggy, so on a pause from *Black AF History* still, but enjoyed re-reading *Diamonds Are Forever* and am enjoying re-reading *Goldfinger* now. Content warning for casual racist language and attitudes, though.

      1. word nerd*

        Have you listened to Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) narrate the Casino Royale audiobook? I listened to it a few months ago and thought he did a great job with it.

      2. Mitchell Hundred*

        I haven’t read any of the James Bond books, but nothing has validated my choice to check out on the movie franchise more than its perfunctory treatment of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Best villains in the series by far, and they just kill them after one movie. Tragic.

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

          I enjoy them too! There’s like a mini-trope of gay criminal partnerships that pops up in pulp fiction of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Like Donald E. Westlake has a at least two sets of gay tough guys/hitmen in his Parker novels, and Peter O’Donnell has a good gay villain or two. Wint and Kidd from the movie are my faves, though, and infinitely cooler than their representation in the book version.

    2. Filosofickle*

      I’m not doing great on choosing books right now. Just started the 3rd Samantha Kidd and they’re just OK but since Libby only has the series as a single 12-book download inertia is driving me forward. Gave up on This Is How We Win the Time War, I don’t have the attention span for that much world-building at the moment. Also in the middle of and considering giving up on The Librarian of Burned Books — I want to love it but eh. Read the 3rd Mrs Pollifax yesterday, the best of the lot.

      I wish humorous-fiction-but-not-rom-com was easier to come by!

      1. don'tbeadork*

        Discworld. There is some romance occasionally, but it’s not the main point of any of the stories.
        I’d start with either Guards! Guards! or Wyrd Sisters.

        Have you read any Tom Holt at all?

        1. Filosofickle*

          Discworld is on my list of things to read someday! I tried a sample of the first book yesterday and decided against it — these days my attention span doesn’t tolerate intricate world-bulding, which rules out a lot of science fiction and fantasy. Though just now I discovered starting at the beginning isn’t recommended, so I could try to sample a different book per your suggestions.

          Tom Holt looks more likely, as (I think) it puts fantasy into a familiar world.

          Thanks for the suggestions!

          1. Sally Rhubarb*

            Definitely skip the first two Discworld novels if you’ve never read them before. They’re not bad, but he hasn’t gotten his rhythm yet.

            Most of the novels don’t need to be read in order, but Monstrous Regiment is a good stand alone Discworld novel.

            1. Jackalope*

              I tried Discworld ages ago and bounced right off of the earlier books. Years later some good friends who enjoyed them recommended the Tiffany Aching books to me, and that proved a better entry to the series. I don’t know if that’s an option for you, but here’s why they worked for me: Discworld contains multiple series within the series, so to speak, and this one is only 3-4 books long. It was written when Pratchett had already figured out what he was doing, so it works a lot better than the earliest books (which still have their moments, and once I’d grown fond of the series I was able to go back and read them and appreciate them for what they were, but they aren’t nearly as good as the later stuff). And it has some moments that for me (knowing that this can vary so much by person) were hilarious. So that’s my recommendation.

              (Monstrous Regiment and Going Postal are also books that are somewhat one-off and are widely enjoyed, should you want to try them.)

        1. Indolent Libertine*

          LOVE Bryson! We’ve read almost everything of his. I don’t often laugh out loud while reading a book, but have done several times with his books, especially “A walk in the woods” and “In a sunburned country.”

        2. Lemonwhirl*

          Love early Bryson, especially “In a Sunburnt Country”, “Neither Here nor There”, and “Notes from a Small Island.”

          But I could not warm to “The Road from Little Dribbling”. The humor felt mean in a way that the humor in his earlier books did not.

          1. The OG Sleepless*

            I thought the same. A couple of his books have made me think, “wait, this guy is just traveling around making nasty remarks about everybody he meets” and that was one of them.

          2. Filosofickle*

            I really enjoyed In a Sunburnt Country! I have another on my list, maybe I’ll try that next :)

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I’m reading Time War right now and still not sure what to make of it (22% in). It feels like a very long poem written by a robot. I think I like it? haha

        1. Jackdaw*

          I also liked it but the characters’ personas never lined up with their voices, which kept me at a remove from the story.

          I just finished Trust, by Herman Diaz. I put it down after 50 pages but when I tried again I liked each page a little more and by the end I *loved* it.

      3. word nerd*

        For humorous fiction, have you read Hollow Kingdom by Kira Buxton? I imagine not everyone’s cuppa as it is a very odd book with a certain sense of humor, but fairly easy to follow, no complex world-building (at least as far as I know just from the first book). Zombies have taken over, but the book is narrated by a pet crow who leads other pets and wild animals to stake out a place for themselves.

      4. carcinization*

        Have you read any of the Thursday Next books? They are pretty funny, and I didn’t find the world-building onerous. I bounced hard off of Discworld, in case that makes a difference.

      5. Dancing Otter*

        “Fred, the Vampire Accountant” series has a little bit of a romantic sub-plot, but is definitely not rom-com. Having started my career as a CPA may be coloring my thinking a bit, but I find all Drew Hayes’ other books very humorous, as well.
        Available as ebooks and on Audible.

        My current library book is “Women of Futures Past”, an anthology of classic science fiction stories by female authors. I have great hopes for it, based on the table of contents and the introduction.

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

        Ooh, I hope you enjoy *Orient Express*! If you don’t know the ending already, don’t let anyone tell you. My dad spoiled it for me when he came back from seeing the movie. I still liked the book, but it would’ve been sooooo much better had I gone into it cold.

        1. allathian*

          Oh, don’t worry, it’s one of my comfort books to re-read when the modern world gets to me. It’s the first Agatha Christie mystery I ever read, I got it for Christmas when I was 12. I’ll be 52 in March. :)

          Re-reading Christie is fun, especially when you remember who did it, because you get to see the build-up and all the hints she drops for readers to work out.

    3. Sitting Pretty*

      Just finished The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts (that’s all one title!) by Soraya Palmer, and wow is it a great book! Hard but so beautifully written and the characters had me captivated.

      I’m reading what I think is Tananative Due’s first novel, The Between. I just love her ghost stories and it’s amazing to realize she’s was an excellent writer and storyteller right from jump!

    4. Rose is a rose is a rose*

      I just finished Jo Walton’s Among Others as well as An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon.

    5. GoryDetails*

      The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the first of Becky Chambers’ “Wayfarers” series about galactic colonization. It opens on a small scale: a young woman who’s apparently fleeing her former identity for reasons as yet unknown, has signed on as a records clerk on a ship that jumps through wormholes to carry consignment orders. Her new crewmates are a delightfully eclectic bunch, including humans, aliens, and a very helpful AI, and so far it’s great fun.

      1. Double A*

        I LOVE this series (A Closed and Common Orbit is my favorite) and I just got my husband to start listening to the audiobook.

    6. NotAMimic*

      I’m reading the latest murderbot! Struggling a little since it’s so long since I read network effect, so I may pause to reread that one first.

      1. Mephyle*

        I’m re-reading Network Effect for exactly that reason. It’s even funnier the second time around (at least the opening scene; I know it gets more serious later on).

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Listening to The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches on audiobook and it’s so cute! I love it. Not quite cutesy enough to be “too much” (I wasn’t a fan of that Cerulean Sea book) but super cozy and fun.

      1. word nerd*

        I feel the same. I loved Irregular Witches, but I found Cerulean Sea and The Wishing Game (another popular cozy read) to be too sentimental.

        1. funkytown*

          this has convinced me to check Irregular Witches out- I like Cerulean Sea okay but definitely prefer juuuust slightly less sugar-sweet.

    8. word nerd*

      I read A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske (the first of the Last Binding trilogy that was mentioned recently on AAM), and I liked it enough that I put the other two books on hold at the library. But I think I realized that I like my fantasy to focus more on fantasy and the romance to be a sideline if there’s one present, where this is definitely more romance-heavy dressed up in a fantasy framework.

      I also enjoyed Amor Towles’s A Gentleman in Moscow recently. I picked it up since I’d enjoyed the Lincoln Highway earlier this year.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        That’s how I felt about the Last Binding too. I really liked the first one even though I picked it up more for the fantasy than the romance, but wasn’t as into the second (which, funnily, had less romance). Haven’t gone back to the third one yet because it focuses on a character I haven’t particularly liked in their earlier appearances.

        1. Read this in the bath yesterday*

          I liked the third one more than the second one. And the character you probably mean may surprise you in the third one. The sex scenes lean hard on the kinkier aspects mentioned briefly in the first one, FYI.

      2. Double A*

        I’m on the wait-list for these. I just read “Winters Orbit” based on that same thread I think. I liked it a lot but I’m in a romance mood so I’m kind of looking for the opposite– more romance, less intricate plot.

        So if you’re looking for plot with a slow build romance in the background, that might be a good one. It’s scifi not fantasy.

    9. M&M Mom*

      Just started Madhouse at the End of the Earth- I think it was recommended here. Next up, Exiles by Jane Harper

    10. carcinization*

      Just started reading The Space Between Worlds by Johnson a couple of days back and I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s not at all like I expected, but in a good way.

    11. Lemonwhirl*

      I’m reading “Bright Young Women” by Jessica Knoll. It’s essentially a fictionalization that focuses on some of the women who were affected by Ted Bundy. There’s a couple of main characters, and a lot of the book focuses on an attack on a sorority in Florida. Bundy is never mentioned by name.

      The book is so good – layered and textured and it’s making me think about so many things. I’m halfway through and it’s very hard not to ignore everything else and just read.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      Started Jane, Unlimited which I am really enjoying. A young woman mourning the death of her guardian runs into her old tutor, who invites her to the family estate. And she promised her aunt that if she was ever invited she would go. Mysterious happenings are afoot.

      Really good at capturing the feeling of doing art, science, or something else because you are passionate about it. Also I like the sense of the house–I enjoy really strong houses that are somewhat like characters in their own right.

      1. word nerd*

        You’re right that the house feels like a character in this book–were you the one that asked for book recs about sentient houses in an AAM weekend thread or was that someone else? And I <3 Kristin Cashore. Thanks for reminding me that I haven't kept up with her lately–I missed her last two Graceling books!

    13. Jackalope*

      So on the plus side, I read a duology by Lana Popovic: Wicked Like a Wildfire and Fierce Like a Firestorm. She’s the author who wrote the witchy romance series Thistle Grove that I mentioned last week (under the name Lana Harper, which if I remember correctly is her married name). This series was the first thing I’d ever read that was set in Montenegro and I loved it – as her name suggests she is Eastern European, including being half Montenegrin, and she obviously loved the land a lot. These were her first books and it sometimes showed, but I had a lot of fun reading them and would recommend them to others who like Eastern European settings, or wonderful descriptions, or just a couple of fun quick books.

      The other book I read was Peter Pan. I’ve always read a lot but this book somehow is one I’d missed growing up, and I recently came across it at the library and decided to fix that. Friends, I hated it. Some of it is like Seanan McGuire said in her book Every Heart a Doorway, that nonsense worlds don’t work for adults. The total randomness just annoyed me at times. And then the awfulness of the way he described the Native Americans – I knew I would find it awful, but then it took the awfulness I was expected and magnified it tenfold. And his views of motherhood were so weird; on the one hand he had Wendy become a mother to all of the Lost Boys, and they were so so happy to have a mother. But then he also made scornful throwaway comments about how mothers are unimportant and unnecessary, and only mothers themselves mistakenly believe they are needed. His disdain for Mrs. Darling – who committed the terrible crime of… missing her children while they were gone and hoping they’d come back – was horrid, including his dismissal of her when he was closing up loose ends at the end: “Mrs. Darling was now dead and forgotten.” That’s the entirety of the end of her story. And his sexism, while not as awful as his racism, was still kind of sucky.

      1. word nerd*

        That duology looks good! Too bad I can’t find an audiobook version for myself.

        Do you wish you had not read PP, or are you glad you read it because now you have strong opinions about the book that you could potentially discuss with others if it comes up? I’ve not read it, but I imagine I’d pick it up if my son decided to read it, for instance.

        1. Jackalope*

          I’m Glad I read it. It was a hole in my past reading that I’d always kind of noticed and I’m glad I know what’s there. But I wish I’d read it 20+ years ago. I mostly feel like I’ve read as many classical novels as I need to (most of the ones I’ve missed are books I chose not to read on purpose because I wasn’t interested), but it’s nice to have read the original since it’s contributed a lot to the cultural conscious of the US and UK.

    14. Roland*

      Been in a bad mental place lately that makes my usual fare hard to stomach, so a friend loaned me an Asimov short story collection (Robot Dreams) and wow! For stories that were mostly written in the 50s and 60s, they sure are incredibly relevant right now.

      1. allathian*

        The companion collection, Robot Visions, is also very good. Some of the stories appear in both books, but most don’t.

        Asimov published his first robot story, Robbie (a.k.a. Strange Playfellow), in 1940, when he was 20 years old. The immaturity of the author shows, but the potential he showed later is clearly there.

    15. Invisible fish*

      * Vampires of El Norte – some weaknesses, but still engaging – who are the real monsters, the vampires or the Americans/gringos? (Yes, we all know who the real monsters are here!)
      * Desert Creatures – the majority of the book, I was so frustrated by how unrealistic the characters were! No one can survive in a desert dystopia while being naive and foolish!! Then the last 5 pages or so saved it…
      * The September House – survivor of domestic abuse uses skills she developed to navigate that situation in order to survive haunted house – very well done!!

    16. Jessica Clubber Lang*

      Just read The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller – interesting and a little weird but loved it

  29. Busy Middle Manager*

    There is a story on Insider about someone who worked for Disney who spent $24K on a company card on drugs and didn’t get fired after admitting it. Wasn’t that the same exact amount as a letter here? I’m wondering if it’s the same person except they’re giving more details now. If it’s the same person, it’s raising the question on whether they were asking a genuine question or just peddling a story. The question here about the credit card thing seemed like a legitimate question, but this article feels like they’re trying to sell or push a story, but I don’t know why! Seems like something one should keep to themselves!

    1. Qwerty*

      Unlikely. The letter you are referring to is the first option if you search “credit card” on this site and came out in 2015 while the Insider article says the Disney employee had their issue in 2017. The stories seem completely different to me.

  30. Robin*

    Parenting question:

    We have two kids. Older child (OC) is in high school; younger child (YC) in elementary school. Both kids are neurodivergent. We have a fairly intractable problem where OC is very noise sensitive/misophonia and YC makes a lot of repetitive noises (stimming). OC is constantly telling YC to stop making noise and tends to come in hot/hostile/angry. YC will not always stop and sometimes appears to be intentionally provoking her (looking right at her and doing one more click or hum after OC has asked for it to stop, etc. — though YC vehemently denies it and gets very distraught at the accusation). At that point OC can fly off the handle and become physically aggressive or start screaming, at which point OC incurs a consequence.

    OC feels powerless and even has nightmares about being trolled by YC. YC doesn’t feel safe. OC feels targeted for bearing all of the consequences and feels YC gets away with being a jerk.

    Things we have tried:
    1. Asking OC to ask politely for YC to stop. If it doesn’t stop, come get a parent. YC will stop when directed by a parent. OC is unhappy w this solution as it allows a window of time where YC can annoy OC without consequence.
    2. Asking OC to relocate to somewhere quieter if the noise is bothersome and if we are not in a confined space like the car. OC does not like this solution and says YC needs to do some work too.
    3. Asking YC to make noise in YC’s bedroom only. Works except we don’t allow eating in the bedroom and YC gets tired of feeling banished/isolated from the family.
    4. Applying a consequence to YC for trolling or not stopping when OC asks nicely. This is tricky bc it’s hard to reliably judge intent especially when not witnessed by a parent and also I’m not sure YC should be always expected to immediately comply w OC requests as if OC were a parent.

    Thanks in advance for any advice/ideas!

    1. RagingADHD*

      I have a quiet older and a rowdy younger, and some of this sounds like classic older / younger dynamic. But your situation seems to have everything turned up to eleven.
      Have you brought this to their care teams? My first thought is that you need some real expert advice, particularly since you say OC makes YC feel unsafe. No child should have to grow up scared in their own home.

      Second+ thoughts include:

      1) Does OC have headphones? Do they help?

      2) Can you get either or both of them engaged in suitable activities outside the house where they can each relax and be themselves?

      3) Can you plan regular patterns of when common areas (kitchen, living room, etc) must be quiet zones vs noise zones? That way it isn’t always ad hoc, based on who is at breaking point. There’s structure. During quiet hours, YC must confine noisy stims or play to their room. During noisy time, OC can retreat to their room or another area.

      4) Can you, as the parents, sometimes hang out with them during either noisy time and quiet time? The isolation seems like a problem for both of them. It would be good if they could get their need for connection met while also getting their need for noise or quiet met. Not constantly, but sometimes.

      But I’m sure their care teams will have better ideas.

      1. anon for this*

        Seconding. I grew up in a family where this was pretty much the exact dynamic between the youngest two siblings. Our YC did sometimes provoke our OC a bit, but the bigger problem by far was that our OC would totally lose it and lurch into emotional and sometimes physical abuse, and this made it an unsafe environment for YC. Both kids needed a lot of therapy – the older one to deal with major anger issues and the younger one for ADHD – and didn’t get it for years. Bringing in a lot more professional expertise a lot earlier would have helped so much.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        On 3 — you could even set up a smart light bulb or LED strip as a visual reminder for both, set to the agreed-upon schedule – the light goes blue during quiet time and orange during noisy time, or something.

      3. Robin (OP)*

        Thanks so much! Yes this has been brought to professionals but it’s been a very tough nut to crack. OC does have noise-cancelling headphones, definitely helps and is a good tool but OC still complains about being able to hear the noise through them. We have also been advised that overuse might backfire and aggravate the noise sensitivity. Still, for now, they are in use a lot.

        I LOVE that idea of having structure around noise vs. quiet either by time or location. Ad hoc parenting is the worst! And I keep trying to figure something out that allows them both to get their needs met and both to be part of a compromise so the burden of accommodation doesn’t just fall one or the other. Thank you! And yes for sure on the connection piece. I do think we are overall doing well in that area but it’s always good to keep it on the radar.

    2. Solo turkey*

      I’m ND, which manifests in part as being hugely noise-sensitive. My younger sibling is AFAIK, NT. So grain of salt and all that.

      I am 20 years beyond childhood. Growing up, I felt as though my YS got away with a lot more than I did, and it disrupted our relationship with ways that linger to this day. So when you write that “applying a consequence to YC for not stopping when OC asks nicely” is “tricky” because “YC should [not] be always expected to immediately comply w OC requests as if OC were a parent.” I think my brain leaps to okay, so YC gets to ignore OC’s requests? E.g. you’re not my parent so you don’t get to tell me what to do? Even when I ask politely? And I can see how the possible permissiveness towards YC would possibly rankle OC.

      I’ll also flag that you say OC comes in hot/hostile/angry; how much is emotion linked for them to noise? Certain noises cause me to feel a lot of tension, which if the noise goes on long enough/comes at a bad time/etc turns into anger.

      I don’t have a solution –– YC is also ND, needs the noise, and shouldn’t be forced to mask in their home; but I wanted to encourage you to consider how feeling as though expectations are misbalanced could affect OC. I second the solutions RagingADHD provided, especially NC headphones.

    3. Family meetings*

      Can you call a family meeting and invite them to think up solutions? Sometime when everyone is calm. I would start by talking about the dynamic you are seeing, that they both have these needs that are at odds with each other, but that both are legitimate. And ask them where to go from there. Obviously you moderate it, so no one gets to insist their needs are paramount all the time. Ask what compromises they are willing to make, like maybe one kid has stronger feelings in the morning and the other directly after school. Make some suggestions yourself if they’re having trouble (I really like RagingADHD’s suggestion of set, routine loud and quiet times, for example). Ask about what the consequences are if someone doesn’t abide by the rules. Maybe even talk through some hypothetical situations (e.g. do things change if someone has a bad week, is sick, etc.) If you can get them participating in the system you set up, they are more likely to accept it and abide by it.

      And yeah, individual time sounds like a great idea, too, like RagingADHD said.

      1. Robin (OP)*

        I love this idea about a family meeting so much. We have done this before for other sticky wickets and it’s worked really well. Don’t know why it has fallen off my radar, but that’s why it’s so helpful to post and get ideas. :) I’ll have RagingADHD’s idea for quiet/noisy locations/times in mind to toss out at the family meeting, too.

        1. Family meetings*

          I know how that feels!! Sometimes an approach that seems so obvious is so hard to think of when you’re in the weeds of a parenting problem. Especially the big picture, dynamics ones. I wish you much success and mutual peace, hard work and respect from all parties.

          Just to add, what you already know having done this: one of my favorite parts of the family meeting method is that you are not only having a good go at the problem at hand, but you are also modeling what good conflict resolution looks like in real life. They will take that with them when they launch! You’ve got this. Cheerleading from the sidelines!

    4. Quandong*

      It sounds like your children have competing access needs, and what is currently happening just isn’t working for either child.

      I’m sorry, this adds an extra layer to sibling relationships that you might not have expected. I don’t think internet advice is quite up to the task and that you need to seek professional help – perhaps from a family therapist who works with ND children, in addition to whatever the schools can provide.

      Does your older child have an individual education plan at school? If so, I hope they have already been working on strategies for managing their misophonia and sound sensitivity in school settings. Likewise, does your younger child have support around stimming? Perhaps this is something you can pursue if there hasn’t been explicit support in this area for your children.

      In the meantime please invest in the best noise-cancelling headphones / ear defenders that your older child can wear.

      I think you (and any other adults who live with you) may need to be more present with your children to intervene before things escalate, at least until you have established firm guidelines for safety. With two ND children it’s not realistic to expect them to maturely manage their competing needs (sibling relationships are tricky enough for ND people without this extra layer).

      Don’t wait until the younger child is also in the midst of raging hormones and puberty before seeking professional help, that will just make the sibling relationship more difficult to mediate.

      1. Robin (OP)*

        “don’t think internet advice is quite up to the task and that you need to seek professional help – perhaps from a family therapist who works with ND children” — Yes we do have this! Very helpful for *many* things, but this has been a tough nut. This is my first time ever asking for internet advice, actually. I’m not thinking anyone here can solve it completely, but I’m really grateful for some of the ideas being offered. I feel like we have fallen into a rut with this and just having fresh ideas/feedback is so helpful.
        OC has a 504 plan but did not qualify for an IEP last time we tried. Noise is a huge struggle at school for this child so it is worth revisiting. YC has informal supports such as a special chair that allows movement; teachers report noise/movement have not been disruptive in the classroom. I think that is true (not always easy, but that’s ok) that until things are stabilized we will need to be on deck to help them in the moment. And it’s a good idea to upgrade to better noise-cancelling headphones. Thanks for the helpful ideas!

        1. Goldfeesh*

          Ok, I’m not an expert on anything ND or children at all. Is there a pattern to the squabbles and fights between your two children? I’m thinking if the OC is already on edge from being in school all day with no noise support and then comes home to the YC being noisy it might just be a step too far for the OC and they snap. Does the OC maybe need some extra downtime after school somehow?

    5. WellRed*

      YCs annoy OCs just by virtue of existing and then you are layering that in top of some ND issues. I think others have offered some practical advice. I just want to say that reading your post, I am very struck by OCs seeming unwillingness to be part of the solution. I think you recognize this to some extent but please take a harder look at that. The whole family can’t be hostage to one person’s behavior, especially when that behavior makes one person feel unsafe and isolated.

      1. Sloanicota*

        It’s interesting to read your response and Solo Turkeys together. I think older sibling / younger sibling dynamics touch a nerve for many people and we all tend to have a certain bias, including parents (maybe not if they were only children? Or maybe still!). I’m a younger child and tend to sympathize that way. But I really like the suggestion to have the kids work out a solution *they* think is fair, including consequences.

        1. WellRed*

          Yes I thought the same after my post and then reading Solos. I am also an oldest child and had a pesky brother so it’s definitely weird for me to sympathize with the younger child.

    6. sulky-anne*

      It’s hard to tell from the outside how much of this is about the sibling dynamic (OC feeling that YC is allowed to get away with more than they are) and how much is about the noise itself. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination, but the noise issue is upsetting enough to become the main catalyst for this kind of reaction.

      On some level, it feels like a good learning opportunity for both siblings to negotiate a situation with incompatible needs. It sounds like OC in particular needs to learn some strategies to navigate loss of control over their physical environment without getting so upset and stressed. But YC will probably also encounter many environments when others are bothered by their stimming, and would benefit from learning to find solutions that meet their needs while also allowing them to participate in group environments.

      I feel like it would probably be beneficial to work on these things separately, so the sibling dynamic isn’t so much of a distraction. I’d also do a bit of reflection on whether there is merit to the claims of unequal treatment, while also making sure YC is allowed to exist comfortably within their own home and not constantly required to suppress their stimming.

      1. Robin (OP)*

        “It’s hard to tell from the outside how much of this is about the sibling dynamic (OC feeling that YC is allowed to get away with more than they are) and how much is about the noise itself.” — Definitely both. It started with the noise; it’s really a painful stimulus for OC, but it has spiraled from there into a situation that is eroding their relationship. I wish we had known how to handle it better from the get-go, but no time like the present.

        1. Observer*

          I wish we had known how to handle it better from the get-go, but no time like the present.

          That’s an *excellent* starting point. You can’t go back in time, and you may not be able to repair all the damage. But preventing further damage is a positive all on its own.

    7. Observer*

      immediately comply w OC requests as if OC were a parent.

      To start with, I want to very much agree with everyone who says that you should bring in their care teams. But also, that you need to look at this beyond the issue at home.

      Don’t get me wrong! That alone is reason enough to try to deal with it, as neither kid right now feels like they have a safe space at home, with good reasons. So that absolutely needs to be dealt with.

      But ALSO, they also both are showing patterns that could really create problems for them moving through the world. OC’s issue is more obvious – losing your temper when people make noise is simply not a viable way to live. Even if everyone accepts that OC will limit their opportunities by only taking job that can be WFH, and do as much as possible in the *quiet* home that they control, that leaves a LOT of issues for them. If they are going to be able to manage relationships, career and life in a reasonable way, they need to be able to develop some better tools for dealing with this stuff. And yes, I do realize that it may be that they do wind up having some limits in their life, but it’s to their benefit to reduce that as much as possible.

      But, something similar is true for YC. The issue is not *masking* but the reality that some types of stimming are legitimately disruptive for others. The obvious question here is does YC’s stimming *need* to be auditory? Because even outside of the issue of OC’s misophonia, noisy stimming is the kind of thing that’s most likely to cause problems for YC, even with folks who *want* to be helpful and supportive.

      Having said that I want to highlight 2 things.

      One is that OC simply cannot be allowed to be physically aggressive. It’s a non-starter. The other is that YC needs to reign in one specific behavior – and I don’t care how “distraught” they get about it.

      YC “sometimes appears to be intentionally provoking her (looking right at her and doing one more click or hum after OC has asked for it to stop, etc.” and that needs to stop. It does not matter if they are ACTUALLY trolling OC. It’s still a pattern of behavior that needs to stop. I would totally not even discuss whether it’s “trolling” or not. If OC brings it up, just tell the that you get that the behavior is a problem and you’ll deal with it, but refuse to be a mind reader. And if YC defends themself by saying they are not doing it deliberately to annoy OC, let them know that that’s not the issue – they still need to stop doing it.

      Also, yes, YC *does* need to stop right away even though OC is not their parent. If you think about the “stepping on my foot” comparison, it’s like saying “I don’t have to get off your foot right away because you’re not my parent.” That’s ridiculous and so is YC’s argument here. That doesn’t change the fundamental problem of course but when it’s reasonable for YC to stop making noise, it is absolutely reasonable to expect that to be done right away, as though they are a reasonable person acting on a reasonable request. It’s not only parents who have standing to expect that.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I think their relative ages / developmental levels matter a lot here, as well as the specifics of when and where. It isn’t appropriate to expect an elementary schooler to parse when OC’s request for silence is reasonable or not. For example, if OC walks into a common area when YC is minding their own business, and demands instant silence; or if OC expects YC to be confined to their room anytime they are both home, it is totally normal and reasonable for YC to push back on that, and it would be unfair to give OC free rein. Whereas, if YC has been disrupting OC’s homework, or the family’s attempt to watch a movie, then putting limits on YC is appropriate.

        These are the kind of power struggles NT kids have trouble working out, much less ND kids who may need things very black and white.

        1. Robin (OP)*

          YES thank you so much for saying this! Sometimes OC’s requests are totally reasonable and sometimes they are not. Just yesterday OC, with noise-cancelling headphones on, demanded YC stop talking to me on an airplane, and then for YC to stop walking around in circles while waiting to be picked up in arrivals–YC wasn’t in the way of anyone and needed to move after being confined inside an airplane. It sometimes feels like YC just hears an endless stream of “STOP” from OC — stop humming, stop clicking, stop chewing, stop breathing, stop existing. Which I think is what drives YC to make that one more sound. OC then feels intentionally provoked, like why would YC knowingly do something that hurts — and lashes out, and over time this cycle repeats so much that it’s damaging their trust in each other. Meanwhile since we do have a firm and predictable boundary around physical aggression, OC bears the majority of the consequences and feels a sense of injustice/unfairness. I feel pretty bad myself that we haven’t been more effective as parents in managing the whole dynamic better. Not for lack of trying or caring!

          But all that to say that the idea of expecting immediate and consistent compliance from YC is not reasonable at this time.

          I’m thinking family meeting when things are calm and having them be active participants in brainstorming and working out plans ahead of time is the way to go. They can both have buy-in and make sure they are both part of the plan so it doesn’t fall on just one kid or the other to make all the accommodations. We can write it all down to refer back to and then frame it as a first draft and try it out, then come back and make adjustments as needed.

          1. Observer*

            But all that to say that the idea of expecting immediate and consistent compliance from YC is not reasonable at this time.

            I hear that. But the issue is not about reacting as though OC is a parent. And I think that needs to be made clear to both of them. OC needs to understand that they don’t get to demand that YC provide obedience and conform to her needs at any and all times. That’s a bit much even for a parent to expect, and she’s not a parent. But, when OC does make a reasonable request – as pre-defined by you or in your presence with your assent – they do need to stop right away rather than that one last time.

            And, yes, I get that given the history it’s going to be hard to make that happen. But it seems to me that if YC sees that you are not expecting them to just always comply and are truly trying to make sure that reasonable expectations are maintained, it’s something that you can start enforcing.

            I think that your plans for a family meeting with regular updates is a sound starting point.

            But, I want to point something out. You say that “since we do have a firm and predictable boundary around physical aggression, OC bears the majority of the consequences and feels a sense of injustice/unfairness” And it’s easy to understand. But the reality is that of all of the issues here the tendency to react with physical aggression is probably the most important thing that needs to be gotten under control. Your goal here cannot be to equalize the level of consequences felt by each child. Or even to make sure that OC feels like it’s “fair”.

            Fair and equal are not the same thing, and that holds true here. Obviously that does not mean that you just let YC do whatever they want and just punish OC for not handling it well! It just means that you don’t get distracted by this issue.

        2. Observer*

          It isn’t appropriate to expect an elementary schooler to parse when OC’s request for silence is reasonable or not.

          True. That’s where the parents (with the help of their team) has to set the guidelines. But within those rules, it is perfectly reasonable for YC to stop as soon as asked.

          if OC expects YC to be confined to their room anytime they are both home, it is totally normal and reasonable for YC to push back on that

          Agreed as well, which is why I pointed out that OC needs to learn better ways to handle her issues as well.

          These are the kind of power struggles NT kids have trouble working out, much less ND kids who may need things very black and white.

          True. Which is part of why I said that getting into motivation or whether YC is actually trying to troll OC or not, is not really useful. It’s hard enough to parse this stuff when you are just talking about specific behavior, much less when you start getting into motivations. Anything that reads like “Don’t try to get a rise out of your sibling” is going to be impossible. “During designated homework hours, if OC asks you to stop your noise, you need to stop right away, not even an extra click / whatever noise” is the kind of thing I had in mind.

    8. Old Plant Woman*

      Retired special ed instructional assistant. I got to spend all my time with students instead of being a computer slave like most teachers. Yea. So. Sounds like OC is living in a constant state of agitation, waiting for the noise trigger. It will happen. She just doesn’t know when and has very little power to control it. Crazy making. So she is reacting aggressively. While you are doing the excellent things others have suggested, can you separate them absolutely as much as possible? And their time together is supervised. Just for awhile. It’s not a punishment, just a way to give everyone a break. Can YC not be allowed to stim with sound at all around OC but more around adults so they are not isolated? There are some very cool stimming toys available now. A new one, maybe one for each would probably help with car rides, help YC replace sound with something easier.

      1. Solo turkey*

        (Ooooo, thank you for this response just for my own self-understanding. “A constant state of agitation waiting for a noise trigger that I know will happen but not when” explains why some environments/noises are particularly tension-creating for me.)

      2. Melody Pond*

        Thousand percent agree. I’m extremely noise-sensitive (ND), and in a situation like this, the absolute worst part is not knowing what to expect – when the noise triggering will start and when it will end. So having structured loud times and noisy times (as suggested by others above), where they can each have a good expectation of how things are going to go, is a great idea. Right now, it’s all unpredictable chaos. And even in situations where you’re out of your normal routine – on an airplane, for example – you can cycle on and off: 20 minutes of silence, 20 minutes of noise.

        1. Observer*

          And even in situations where you’re out of your normal routine – on an airplane, for example – you can cycle on and off: 20 minutes of silence, 20 minutes of noise.

          How do you even do that? Keep in mind that while OC was demanding the YC not talk to Parent, the real issue – the constant assault of sound and the chaos and unpredictability – are all out of the OP’s hands. There are situations where this kind of thing should be doable, but if you’re stuck traveling with public transportation (or have to be in a doctor’s office, or some other similar situation where you simply cannot control the environment), that becomes much harder.

      3. Misophonic Adult*

        Seconding this. There are several replies saying that OC shouldn’t be allowed to scare YC, and while this is 100% true, OC isn’t safe in this situation either.

        Let me make an analogy. If YC could only stim by tapping their hands on things, you wouldn’t allow them to start slapping OC. Even if it was the only way for them to stim when around OC. Even if that meant that they couldn’t be in the same car because YC would reach out and slap OC. Allowing OC to be slapped and punched just wouldn’t be an allowable solution, even though the violence is unintended. You’d find a way to shield OC or you’d put them in separate cars, no matter the inconvenience.

        Because OC has misophonia, they’re experiencing the auditory equivalent of being slapped. I’m not surprised it’s triggering a fight-or-flight response. OC is being ear-slapped and nobody seems to notice the seriousness of the problem. What other working self-defense mechanism have they got left? Noise cancelling headphones don’t work for intermittent noise, they only work for regular noise at a constant frequency – such as hvac or humming lights or airplane noises.

        Now, OC shouldn’t ever be allowed to harm YC. That’s just the same situation in reverse. But to protect YC, you need to protect OC from being ear-slapped all the time. Just because YC can’t control it and the metaphorical ‘slaps’ are too weak to metaphorically ‘hurt’ you, doesn’t mean OC should be put in harm’s way. They can’t just withdraw their consent to being around this noise and leave like a misophonic adult can. Their living environment is unsafe too. Please protect OC’s hearing and sanity somehow. If you take away the noises, OC won’t have any reason to lash out (other than more normal sibling aggravations) and so you’ll be protecting YC too.

        1. Misophonic Adult*

          A bit of background about my own experiences:

          My personal misophonia is to do with white noise style hissing. I get very aggravated by cymbals. I’ve had to run out of live performances by community groups due to the enthusiasm of the drummer. Some genres of pop-rock I just can’t listen to. Extractor fans set my teeth on edge. If I could smash every white noise machine on the planet, I would do so with glee. But instead I just remove myself from those situations. I paid extra for a quiet fan in my kitchen. Some days I just open the windows to cook. One day OC will be have the agency to be able to leave the room when people are humming, like I can leave the community hall when a drum kit turns up. They’ll be able to apply for a new job if their boss hums, no big deal. But they can’t yet. That’s the problem.

    9. Observer*

      I have a couple of thoughts, based on some of your responses.

      Obviously, your long term goal is to enable your children to live as unrestricted lives as possible, and learning how to navigate the world is going to be important for that. But in the short term, is there any way reduce some of the stressors for your kids (in addition to the suggestions already made)? Perhaps it’s time to push back on some apparent obligations that really aren’t quite so obligatory? Like, you mentioned air travel in one of your comments. Now, I’m sure you didn’t just hop on a plane on a whim. But is it possible that the next time a similar situation comes up you could push back and decide that even though normally you would feel obligated to take the trip, at this point, it’s just too much for you kids? Travel can be overwhelming, even without sensory / ND issues! Or other situations where you would normally legitimately feel obligated, but at this point it’s just too much for them and that shifts the obligation level. And while OC may not be eligible for an IEP (which must be infuriating for you!) are there are informal things that can be done to help OC?

      It also seems to me that OC is getting overwhelmed, and dumping all her angst on YC – probably because that’s who is available. Like in the airport situation, the real issue was not that YC was walking in circles, but that there was just too. much. noise. But she can’t make that disappear, so YC needs to stop doing whatever it is that she is doing regardless of whether it actually makes a difference. You clearly see that it’s not reasonable and it’s unfair to YC, but it’s also deeply unhelpful to OC. And in the long term that’s a tactic that’s going to make it very hard to maintain relationships.

      OC is in HS, so should be old enough to discuss some of this with her directly. Not just how to manage, but why it’s important. Like, it may feel unfair that you simply won’t accept physical agression, but she needs to understand that outside of literal self defense, this is the kind of behavior that could make impossible for her to do any of the things she’d want to do in life. This is a conversation that should happen not in the family conference, but depending on where OC is holding, it could be helpful.

      1. Observer*

        I just want to add that I don’t mean to come off as critical. I realize that you are dealing with a very difficult and complicated situation. You’re being very thoughtful about the whole thing, and I give a lot of credit.

    10. anon_s*

      I agree with others that their actions to each other are just a consequence of big sibling/little sibling dynamics. I think you see the tricky part of them being neurodivergent but it’s really 1) YC needs to learn to lay off (they’re in elementary school, they know they can and you should be setting consequences for the intentional provocations) and 2) OC needs to learn to remove themselves from situations.

      Solution #1 was doomed to fail, I’m sorry. You know it’s intentional and you know they do it to the point where OC has an outburst and thus they won’t get in trouble, OC will. You’re putting all the work on OC. YC shouldn’t even be doing the behavior, period. OC is right that it just lets YC get away with it.

      Solution #2…why is ALL the work on OC? This isn’t fair at all. Why should the relocate? Why can’t YC learn to just not bother them? OC is right.

      Solution #3…is good. And YC shouldn’t be accommodated. If YC doesn’t like being banished/isolated form the family, they shouldn’t disrespect their family (i.e., OC). They are feeling a consequence of their action and they can alleviate their own burden by not provoking their sibling intentionally.

      Solution #4….I was answering as I was going but YEAH? Of course. I have to be honest, I feel very bad for OC because you put a lot of the work on them and you give YC the benefit of the doubt so much more than them. Their emotional outburst might be a result of being ND, but also they are probably so frustrated that they have to constantly ask to not be provoked and then have their parents punish them rather than try to get to the root of the issue. I would be so resentful.

      Solution #3 is easy to modify — have someone check on the kid or go in and play with them sometimes, but also explain to YC that this is needed because they have lost the trust of the OC when they don’t respect their wishes. Their need to stim has to balance with their siblings need of quiet. Have you asked OC what they can tolerate? What they actually want their YC to promise not to do, while understanding that YC also suffers if they can’t do what they need to do as well?

  31. Aphrodite*

    Just wanted to say that Thanksgiving dinner this year was very simple and a lot of fun. It was just one of my friends and myself and it consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches and a lovely green salad. For dessert, she brought four tiny slices of cheesecake, two slices regular and two had some chocolate in them.

    I had made a simple salad dressing from good olive oil and flavored vinegars plus salt and pepper In bringing out the vinegars I found some chocolate vinegar I had forgotten about so at dessert time I wondered how that might be with the cheesecake. Let me tell you it was fabulous! Cut the sweetness and added another and amazing level of flavor to what can be bland. I highly recommend it!

    1. MissCoco*

      We did homemade pizza for dinner this year! Your dinner and cheesecake sound delightful, especially with the vinegar, that sounds like a brilliant addition.

  32. Need a smaller dishwasher*

    Can anyone recommend a good-quality 18″ dishwasher? The ones I’ve seen online appear to be cheap models and I don’t have faith in their functionality or durability. I’m in the U.S.

    1. Generic Name*

      My parents have a Bosch model in their cabin. It’s very small. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, but it cleans really well.

    2. Bluebell*

      When we were originally looking at an 18 inch dishwasher for redoing our kitchen, it seemed that Bosch was far and away the best option. In the end, we went with a 24 inch and it all worked out fine.

  33. Double A*

    How are other parents of young kids dealing with the constant illnesses? My kids are 5 and 2 and it’s constant. As soon as one is over another one starts. (The doctor assures us this is normal and we go to the doctor when it seems like we need to, so this is not asking for medical advice).

    My husband was sick basically all of October. I got a cold mid November that still has me coughing. It’s meant it’s very hard to do the other things that help cope — exercise, eating well, sleeping well. We’re both just feeling very worn down.

    Commiseration? Stories of when it gets better? I just had a “week off” (staying home with the kids is more work than work) and I’m not feeling refreshed to go back to work at all.

    1. Observer*

      If your kids are in reasonably good health, it does get better. Especially if they have a relatively consistent school / childcare environment. Because their immune systems begin to know how to react appropriately to the typical stuff in their environment.

      1. Double A*

        This is what we hear!! They are as far as we know fundamentally healthy so we’re waiting for this promised land of the strong immune system.

    2. RagingADHD*