{ 1,006 comments… read them below }

  1. Scout Finch*

    I love that pic. My cat was part of an FIP study at Purdue. I hope that study had a part in finding a cure.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      This time last year, we had just entered our observation period. My little heathen is now fully cured. The treatment is amazing, as is the FIP community. congratulations!

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      My cat survived it in early 2021! I’m so grateful to all the FIP studies and the people in the distribution chain.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        According to her bloodwork, she’s fully cured, but some of the effects are likely to be permanent: primarily, weakness in her spine and back legs that make her wobbly sometimes (because her form of FIP included neurological involvement). It doesn’t slow her down at all — she races around wildly and can jump, etc. without any problem. She’s just wobbly!

        She seems to have fallen in love with Wallace; she lights up when she sees him, follows him everywhere, and is always trying to get baths from him. She has this strange move where she presses her cheek against his and then just tries to stay like that, cheek to cheek, purring, until he gets annoyed and moves.

        1. MEH Squared*

          Awww that is so sweet! (Stella’s love for Wallace.) I’m so glad she’s cured and may she live a long, happy, and healthy life.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Destructobot is lame on one side. (Likely struck by a vehicle as a kitten; she was left in a box on a cat rescue’s doorstep.) While she walks with a pronounced limp, she sprints after The Spanish Inquisition at full speed and is clearly living her best life.

            1. LisaD*

              They can only see walk-in vets, not the kind you make an appointment with, because nobody expects The Spanish Inquisition

        3. The OG Sleepless*

          I’m so glad she’s cured! I can’t believe I now live in a universe where FIP is curable. Congratulations kitteh!

        4. Don't make me come over there*

          My Austin used to have an unrequited man-cat crush on Ernie. I have so many pictures of Austin sitting next to, or on top of, or behind Ernie, with Ernie’s ears straight out sideways in complete annoyance.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I am! I really liked season 1, which was pretty tightly focused on the making of the show, but season 2 is losing me a bit with its more expansive focus; it feels like now we’re getting all these new side plots that I don’t like as much. I’m only 4 episodes into season 2 though.

    2. BunnyWatsonToo*

      I loved the first season. On the second episode of season 2 and hoping she comes back to Boston soon. I enjoyed the interaction with the WBGH staff more than the French episodes.

    3. Lilo*

      I think I feel the same way as Alison, the second season is feeling a little unfocused to me (I feel the same way about The Gilded Age, which is also in HBO and has some overlap in cast, so I suspect the productions are somehow related).

      They don’t have to keep the focus 100% on Julia/Paul, but they’re trying to follow too many people.

      1. Elle*

        Oh boy the Gilded Age is a mess of a show that I cannot stop watching. The seasons almost over and I have no idea what’s happened.

    4. Elle*

      It’s probably a show that should only be one season. They’re dipping their toes into big issues like race, feminism and the blacklist which they probably have no business doing. Also I think Julia had some political leanings/opinions that they’re glossing over. However I’m enjoying the performances and it makes me smile

  2. Claire*

    I am so so glad that FIP is treatable now. Losing a kitten 15 years ago to it still hurts. He had the personality of a cat that you never ever forget.

    1. RMNPgirl*

      Same here. I lost my first kitten that I had as an adult 12 years ago to FIP. I would have done anything for a cure, so I’m happy there’s something now. Although, it still needs to get approved so people don’t have to get it on the black market.

      1. Zelda*

        According to the second article I linked above (it should come through moderation in a little while), there’s an injectable version that is now licensed in the US, with an oral version coming along soon.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Unfortunately it’s still not legal for vets to prescribe here. I do see the article you linked says that, but I think they just got it wrong. There’s no FIP treatment that’s currently legal for vets to prescribe in the U.S.; you can still only obtain it from the underground market (which is ridiculous). Here’s an October article from a veterinary journal about it: https://vetmed.illinois.edu/2023/10/04/fip-responds-to-remdesivir-metabolite/

          1. I just really can’t think of a name*

            Now that Veklury is FDA-approved for use in humans, it’s legal for US vets to prescribe it for use in animals! (Pets, at least – I believe the regulations are different for animals used for food production.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is interesting, I’m finding conflicting stuff on Veklury. My vet repeated last week that he still can’t legally prescribe anything so I wonder what the deal is. I’m going to check with the FIP group we’re in and report back if I can get any clarity.

              1. Just a Doctor DoLittle*

                A drug with full FDA approval CAN be used off-label for veterinary patients in many situations. Remdesivir is still under an Emergency Use Authorization which is not the same as full approval and does NOT allow for off-label usage. I’m intrigued to have found an article on a US vet school website that seems to imply that remdesivir is currently ok to use off-label, but it seems to be written from an Australian veterinarian’s viewpoint. I’d love to stop recommending the back-door route we currently have available, but to my knowledge, US vets still can’t legally prescribe anything.

    2. Cat and dog fosterer*

      I’m another one. It still needs to be cheaper and legal to make it more accessible overall, especially to rescues, but it’s about half the price now compared to 5 years ago and if the price is halved again then I think the market really opens up and can save a lot more kittens and cats.

  3. Annie Edison*

    End of year tipping etiquette question: how much to tip my hair stylist around the holidays? I’ve never really had a regular person before, but the woman I’ve been seeing for the past year and a half is lovely and I’d like to give her something extra as an end-of-year thing. Answers on the internet range from “no extra needed, your regular 20% tip is fine” to “end of year tip should equal the cost of a regular service.” What’s standard for you?

    1. GAPeach*

      My standard is one appointment or one standard hair cut appointment. I don’t dye or get perms, if that helps. Good luck! It’s *tricky* this time of the year.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I typically give nearly the cost of a haircut as a tip, but mine aren’t super expensive and I feel like I might be a little over generous sometimes. I think you should do what feels right to you without breaking the bank.

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Double my usual tip. I usually tip a lot anyway (about 40%) because’s she’s awesome and has gone to a lot of trouble to get exactly the color I want and deal with my somewhat odd requirements about product. So my Christmas tip is about 80% of the charge for my service.

    4. RussianInTexas*

      I am already tip 20%, which can get pricey, because my curly cut itself is $120, and when I do color, it’s $200 overall. I just added extra tip.
      My stylist and his sister own their salon, so they set the prices at the level they want, or I presume need. They don’t jack for business.

    5. Heather Crackers*

      I get my hair dyed at a beauty school, so it’s quite inexpensive, and I rarely see the same student more than 2-3 times. I tip $50 for holiday-adjacent appointments, which is close to twice the cost of my service.

    6. Imtheone*

      I don’t have a good answer. I’m seeing my stylist this week. She owns the shop, and I was always taught not to tip the owner, but I think that advice is out-of-date. My cut, color and highlights are well over $200. Twice my usual cost would really break the bank.

  4. How are you doing?*

    How do you respond to “How are you doing?” when you’re getting that question after a death in the family? People keep asking me this, and I know it’s meant kindly and is a way of saying “I care about you,” but I am at a loss as to what to say. I don’t want to spray all of my actual emotions at them, and I don’t want to be the least bit snide or dismissive, but being asked that is painful right now. I tend to throw my hands up and let the gesture speak for me. What do you say?

    1. Not your typical admin*

      Taking it day by day…thanks for asking

      It’s been hard, but I appreciate you asking about me

      And a gesture is fine!

    2. Office Plant Queen*

      “Hanging in there” or “alright, keeping busy helps” or “I’m taking it day by day” or “I’ve had better days but I’m muddling through” – basically, things that don’t sound like you’re in immediate crisis or like you want to talk about it, but aren’t lying about being fine either

    3. Ginger Cat Lady*

      “It’s too hard to talk about, but thank you for asking.” was my go-to after a recent loss.

    4. Siege*

      I keep saying “it’s all horrible!” in a really cheerful way because this is load-bearing sarcasm. But I also only talk to people who are close enough to know about it, I don’t do that if it’s like a clerk asking how I’m doing. I’m bored with other people’s reactions to my sadness, and that response coupled with a subject change works pretty well.

    5. eggo*

      after my best friend died, i was a big fan of a “you know” with a sad shrug.

      sending you a hug. the first round of holidays without your people is awful.

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

      It’s a challenging time, but thank you for thinking of us during this difficult time.

    7. Double A*

      Do you ever want to tell them how you’re really doing? Because I do think more people than you might expect will be okay with you being honest with them if you want to give a more raw or detailed answer. Obviously this is a case by case basis both depending on the person and the context, but it’s something to think about that sometimes you don’t have to give platitudes.

      1. Siege*

        I can’t speak for OP but I already know who I want to be open with, and it is the exact same list of people who I can safely be open with, and the exact same list as the people who don’t ask that question because they ask different, less superficial questions. I get that version of it from coworkers, who have demonstrated time and again that they are either not okay people to be vulnerable to or do care but would be burdened by my feelings. Again, I can’t speak for OP, but I’ve always hated the “just be honest, people who ask how you’re doing really care!” concept because it completely ignores that the purpose of that statement is just to acknowledge that you exist. So no, I won’t be dumping my grief about my mother’s very recent death on the coworker who still hasn’t figured out that my Masters degree is on his exact pet topic, or the one who periodically cc’s my boss “to make her aware of my workload”, or even my boss, who actively gaslights me. I know who I wish to share with.

        1. Double A*

          Yep, that’s why I said it’s context and person dependent not that you should just be completely open with everyone! There a lot of people. myself included, who find it very, very, very hard to ask for help or comfort and just think about how to make other people comfortable even when we’re hurting and need comforting.

          As someone who would deeply struggle to ever tell someone I’m not doing well no matter what, it was a gentle reminder to OP (and myself) that is is absolutely okay to also look for those people and times when you can need and accept that help and support.

      2. How are you doing?*

        I’m the OP. A couple of days ago a really kind and caring friend asked me this (other friends were there too so it was semi-public) and I just blurted out “Not great.” and then I started crying. And that is exactly what I don’t want to do in front of people no matter how close I feel to them, so I took a lesson from that to be more guarded. And to ask here, “but what can I say?”

        1. Double A*

          There are definitely lots of good suggestions here! I am someone who will manage other people’s feelings always at the expense of my own so that is why I brought up the option of sometimes being more open, if it’s a person and time that you think would help you. I know personally when I am grieving, that is something that will literally not occur to me I can do because it is not my habit and we rely on habits when we’re in pain.

          I’m really sorry for your loss.

    8. Anon for this*

      I relied a lot on “oh, you know, good days and bad days” which felt authentic without going into detail. I don’t recall anyone pushing back to ask for more details, but with someone you want to share more with, it leaves that door open.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

    9. Sharpie*

      Taking it a day at a time, is my response when I get asked that.

      I’m sorry for your loss. Jedi hugs from an internet stranger.

    10. DannyG*

      After losing my wife of 30 years I was asked same or similar questions by friends and colleagues. I thought about what my father (Sgt) and brother (Lt.Col.) said about morale: it’s how you’re doing when you’re not doing well. My usual answer would be “I’m doing” . Sometimes day by day, sometimes hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute.

    11. Wormentude*

      I go with “good days and bad days.” I’m a few months down the line from my mum dying, but getting asked more in the run up to Christmas. It’s vague but acknowledges that everything isn’t easy while also not inviting loads of follow up.

    12. KC*

      During tough times, I just said “I’m surviving.” and left it at that.

      I also experienced a loss where any tiny act of kindness would make me tear up (and I am a professor, so I really needed to keep it together while I was at work or I’d be sobbing in front of 150 students) so I told my friends and colleagues through email and social media “I am heartbroken over this loss. I know you all know I loved X, and I assume that I have your condolences, so it is OK for you not to bring it up. If you do, please know that I will most likely cry, so you need to be prepared for that reaction.” Several people thanked me for saying that, because they felt compelled to say something and that note gave them permission to avoid the topic without feeling like callous jerks.

  5. Teapot Translator*

    What’s cooking?
    I bought a red cabbage vaguely remembering I had a cabbage and sausage recipe (slow cooked in the oven), but I’ve now discovered it’s for green cabbage. So, I’ll be combining some recipes I found online for a red cabbage and sausages recipe.

    1. sweetonsno*

      I’m getting ready for a potluck! Salted caramel macarons and/or some sort of chocolate-hazelnut pastry that I’ll Frankenstein together.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I made a pot of minestrone. It’s good, I just hope I still like it on bowl 6 or 7…. (I don’t like the texture of vegetables in soup after they’ve been frozen, but I may chuck some in there anyway.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I first read that as “I may chuck some (vegetables) into (the soup) anyway” and was really confused about what you do put in your minestrone then?? before I realized you probably meant some (soup) into (the freezer). :)

        1. MEH Squared*

          *light bulb moment*

          Oh. OH! Thank you for this. I was puzzled as well and thought the same as your first read on the comment!

    3. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

      I just finished the first round of gingerbread.
      My cooking challenge this week is trying to recreate the leftover ham pie I made after Thanksgiving, but without the leftovers.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I made a blackberry jam cake for Thanksgiving and mentioned it in the weekend thread around then. Someone asked me to report how it turned out. (Sorry I don’t remember who.) It was pretty good, even my mother gave it the stamp of approval. (That’s not meant to sound like she’s critical, but she’s 93 and grew up making/eating the best.)
        However, to me it just wasn’t as good as what my aunts and grandmother made because I had to use store-bought blackberry jam. What I wouldn’t give to have some home canned again!!

        1. CorporateDrone*

          BlackBerry Jam is pretty easy to make! And blackberries readily available at least around here in Canada, especially during the summer.

    4. anon24*

      My husband usually does most of the cooking, but tonight I made tacos with peach salsa and sour cream. Despite not cooking myself a lot, I collect need cookbooks, and this weekend I’m hoping to make donuts for the first time out of recipe I found in the new Witcher cookbook that just released, except I don’t have the plum jam it called for so I’ll either use another jam or make a cream filling. I also have a recipe for a Yuke log cake in my unofficial DnD cookbook that I’m hoping to make this week!

    5. PhyllisB*

      We’re having a spaghetti lunch fundraiser after church and I’m contributing a strawberry pretzel salad.
      I have no idea why it’s called a salad, it’s really a dessert, much like a strawberry cheesecake. The last time I brought one (about a year ago) everyone went crazy over it.

    6. Not A Manager*

      Ha! I was planning to make chicken and vegetable soup with whatever I had in the fridge, except I was out of chicken. I made a very weird and delicious soup with veggies, black beans that I’d frozen in their pot liquor, and a bunch of leftover farro pilaf. It was oddly tasty. A heel of parmesan helps most soups along.

    7. My Brain is Exploding*

      Turkey vegetable soup with barley. It turned out great (I never use a recipe) and I liked the addition of some cilantro I had in the fridge.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      We’re set for the next few days, but next week I think I’ll do chicken masala over pilaf and an old standby, Perfect Green Soup. It’s very tasty and healthy, perfect for pre Christmas feast gorging.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Perfect Green Soup is a delicious recipe I obtained from Reader’s Digest! Have made it many times and it’s fab, but it does take time, and you will need a blender and at least two large cooking pots.

          Perfect Green Soup

          2 Tbsp Olive Oil
          2 Yellow onions, chopped
          1 tsp salt, divided
          1/4 cup Arborio rice
          1 lb assorted dark greens: Kale, chard, mustard, etc.
          12 oz gently packed fresh spinach
          4 cups veggie broth
          1 tbsp lemon juice
          Cayenne pepper to taste
          3 cups water, plus 2 Tbsp for onions

          Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and half the salt. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown. Turn heat to LOW, add 2 Tbsp water and cover. Stir occasionally until onions reduce and caramelize 30-40 minutes, depending on amount.

          While onions cook, combine 3 cups water, remaining salt and rice in large cooking pot or Dutch oven. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook 15 minutes. While rice cooks, trim stems and ribs from greens and spinach, tearing up larger pieces and keeping the greens and spinach separate.

          When the rice is cooked, stir in the GREENS, keeping spinach aside. Return to simmer, cover, and cook ten minutes.

          Once onions have caramelized, stir them with a little of the simmering greens’ liquid in the frying pan. Then immediately add the onions to the greens/rice mixture. Add the spinach, the broth, and the cayenne, stirring until spinach wilts. Return to simmer, cover, and cook 5 minutes.

          You now have a big pot of wilted green stuff and it’s time to blend. IMPORTANT:

          If you have an immersion blender, you’re set! Simply blend the soup until it is a smooth puree, adding the lemon juice. But if you are like me and have only a regular standing blender, this is vital!

          TAKE THE SOUP OFF HEAT AND LET IT STAND, UNCOVERED, FOR AT LEAST TEN MINUTES.

          You need this to cool off a bit before putting it in a standing blender. If you do not, the steam generated by blending batches will blow the top off the blender and spray your kitchen with bright green splashes that you will find for the next decade (ask me how I know.)

          So, once your soup has cooled a bit, blend it batch by batch into a smooth puree. Pour this into the second large pot. After it’s all blended, add the lemon juice and stir well.

          This soup is GREEN. Vibrant and practically emitting chlorophyll molecules in radiant beams, and it’s super tasty and healthy! I advise going easy on the cayenne at first and adding a bit bowl by bowl if you want it spicier. I serve this with King’s Hawaiian round bread or sweet rolls to cut the zing a bit. Enjoy!

          1. Esprit de l'escalier*

            You can also find this same recipe on cookieandkate dot com – she calls it Redeeming Green Soup. It’s an excellent vegan/vegetarian recipe site. Kate is the blogger, and Cookie is her dog :)

    9. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m so excited that my festive cooking is about to start!

      This morning, I will be making cat-shaped gingerbreads, to bring as a gift for the humans when my partner and I visit our former foster cats in their new family. Twist: I will ice them the colours of the cats (half will be white, half will be grey).

      I may also put on a batch of my homemade granola, a large part of which will become a gift for my mother. It’s probably the thing I cook that makes her the happiest.

      Later in the week, I will pre-cook as much as I can for the meals we’ll make while our parents are visiting: roasted root vegetables for a fillo pastry pie we’ll have on Christmas Eve; hummus; lamb meatballs; the RecipeTin Eats Dutch Oven bread.

      And I haven’t figured out yet our meal plan for the working week, which shall be mostly soups and veggie dishes to balance out food-heavy work trips for both of us…but I’ll work it out somehow :D

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I’m currently making the RecipeTin Eats Dutch Oven bread for the first time! It looks fabulous.

    10. Rara Avis*

      My kiddo decided to make cookies for a holiday party at school, so we dug out all the cookie cutters. It’s been a few years since we’ve had the energy.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        That sounds really fun! Any recommendations for where to get good-quality, not crazy $$$ in a variety of fun shapes?

        We celebrate Chanukah so I made two batches of latkes this week (a lot of cooking for me honestly lol). One night we did one regular-and-sweet potato fried with salami slices and the other, regular potato latkes with cheddar cheese and a stir-fry of vegetarian sausage and peppers. Better than I remembered!

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      I made chocolate peppermint cookies (Smitten Kitchen’s Browniest Cookies) and tahini chocolate chip cookies (NYT) for my adult children. The first is a reliable dairy-free favorite and the second was a new thing that turned out really well.

      When oldest finished undergrad I had initially stopped the cookies as I try not to overextend special childhood stuff. But then it turns out that they both really like getting homemade cookies.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I will never be too old for homemade cookies. I’ll never be too DEAD for homemade cookies!

      2. Esprit de l'escalier*

        What do they call the tahini choc-chip cookies? I can’t find it on nyt cooking under that name.

    12. GoryDetails*

      I’m planning to make some mango chutney for holiday gifts, from a recipe I’ve used in the past – tweaked a bit for my own taste: the recipe calls for curry powder, and I used a lovely hot curry the first time, but will make “hot” and “mild” versions this year as some of my friends Don’t Do Hot Spices. Oh, and I replace any raisins or sultanas with dried cranberries; they’re prettier, and I just don’t care for raisins or sultanas anyway.

      Might also make some Scottish tablet, for the “how much sugar can you cram into a single dessert” category; sweetened condensed milk, sugar, butter, turned into a kind of nicely-grainy stiff fudge-like confection.

    13. Rage*

      I found a recipe for stuff shells, using rotisserie chicken, cheeses, cream, and broccoli. But I’m subbing the broccoli with spinach and artichoke hearts.

      Also we’re doing a cookie drive for the weekend staff (residential group homes) and I’m making crackle cookies in 3 flavors: chocolate, lemon, and spice.

    14. carcinization*

      I have some holiday baking to do, mostly. The next thing is Homesick Texan’s Pecan Date Fruitcake, which is pretty far from most folks’ idea of fruitcake. Not sure what the next savory thing I make will be, probably Chicken Parmesan Meatballs or shrimp and spinach over fettuccine.

    15. Generic Name*

      I have a casseroles and cookies potluck tomorrow. I’m going to attempt a dairy free version of the tuna casserole I grew up with and I’m making ginger snaps.

    16. Elle*

      The only thing I know for sure is gingerbread apple baked oatmeal. And I have udon noodles I should do something with. Hopefully it comes together tomorrow.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Gingerbread apple baked oatmeal sounds delicious! I finally got it together to make applesauce from the (many) windfalls in my backyard and we’ve been having that on oatmeal like it’s Shady Pines. The baby especially loves it with a dollop of peanut butter mixed in.

        1. Elle*

          Oatmeal with applesauce and PB is a great idea! For the baked oats I used the gingerbread pear baked oatmeal from Real Food Dietitians. It’s very good.

    17. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      We had shepherd’s pie, because I remembered that the butcher near my doctor’s office often has ground lamb. We threw in a parsnip from the farmers market, and the topping was potato kugel, made using a box of potato pancake mix.

    18. MissB*

      Soft foods.

      I had oral surgery (bone grafts) this week so I’m still eating soft foods, lol. I’m over soft foods.

      I think I’m making some lasagna tonight. It’s not exactly chewy so it should be ok. Or I’ll just slice it into teeny tiny bites and swallow those without chewing.

      1. Citric zing*

        If it helps, I have found in the past if I put some cake on my tongue, and let it dissolve, then I don’t have to chew it. Might give you some variety!

    19. Claire*

      I’ve got lots of winter squash right now from our winter CSA (I can’t tell you how amazing it is to be able to get fresh produce in Montana in December!), so I’ve been experimenting with sauteed squash recipes. The skin is edible, so I slightly soften the squash with 2 min in the microwave, slice, scoop out seeds, then slice into half moons. So far, I like them best pan fried in olive oil until golden brown, then tossing in chickpeas and a couple handfuls of spinach. I’ve been seasoning it with Penzeys smoked seasoned salt, and it’s really a really simple and satisfying plate.

    20. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I made lentil salad for my family for supper— simmered lentils untiltender, drained, combined with minced onion, olive oil, Balsalmic, a little salt, a little cumin, and white rice.
      then we blew all the healthiness by having cookies & ice cream.

    21. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Just had supper with half of a thick steak/baby roast fried up in the pan, accompanied with basil and garlic. Tomorrow the other half will be chopped up with noodles for breakfast.

    22. Biology Dropout*

      So. Many. Latkes. Three batches this week. Thankfully I do the hack of using frozen potato/sweet potato/carrot hash browns rather than whole potatoes so it’s fairly fast. I’m just finally over latkes after three nights of them!

    23. Bluebell*

      Lots of fried foods for Hanukkah this week. 3 nights with latkes, one night with fried tofu, and one night with felafel. We had sweet potato latkes, potato latkes from a mix, and Trader Joe’s (which are actually pretty good!)

    24. Rainy*

      I made ribs yesterday and they turned out (as always) amazing. Someday I’ll have a smoker, but until then, a low and slow oven cook (and don’t boil them! that is some nonsense) is perfect. I changed the rub up a little and I’m getting closer to the perfect rib rub.

    25. Throwaway Account*

      My spouse is out of town for two weeks and I’ve discovered that I only cook when it is the two of us. I had a decent lunch but had ice cream and chips for dinner!!

  6. chocolate muffins*

    What are you looking forward to this holiday season? For me, a special dish that I make for Christmas + naps + extra family time. Also having some time to recharge between semesters (I am a professor). And more time to read for fun.

    1. RMNPgirl*

      I get to spend the week of Christmas at my parents (same house I grew up in) for the first time in 5 years.
      My parents have come to me every year in the in-between, but this is the first year that my job situation will allow me to take that whole week off so I can actually have the travel days I need to go back there. I’ll also get to see two of my best friends whom I haven’t seen in months too.
      While I love my Christmas decorations, my parents house is always so beautiful and I’m excited to see it in person again. Plus, one of the great things about going home is when I walk in the door it feels like all the burdens of adulthood just go away.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Trying the pound cake bread pudding a fellow commenter posted, present exchanges, and general eating of many delicious things.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Ugh, I’ve been there and it is ROUGH. Here’s hoping a successful end to that job hunt with some very good news soon!

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      It’s time for my annual tradition–an overnight Christmas road trip with a close friend to stare at some of the 1 million+ geese, ducks, wading birds, sandhill cranes, raptors, etc. that winter in California’s wildlife refuges. There’s nothing like thousands of chatty geese (white-fronted, snow, Ross’s) taking to the air all at once at dusk, so loud it sounds like a motor. And then being out at sunrise, when birds of all kinds are on the move and talking to each other above and around you. And that important tradition for us cultural Jews–dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

      1. osmoglossom*

        That sounds so awesome, Woodswoman! That is now on my “Things To Do Before I Leave California Forever” list.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          It’s amazing and two of the refuges are just a few minutes of I-5. Look up Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. From late November through late January is the best time. Starting in February, the tundra swans are heading back north. The geese and ducks are still around, but by February they have more feeding spots to choose so they’re dispersed and not all easily seen. It’s an incredible spectacle.

          1. osmoglossom*

            Thanks for the details!!
            I had no idea there was a national wildlife refuge so close (I’m in North Berkeley) — just 2 hours away!

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Try the Klamath Refuge some winter; we used to be I-5 for several migration lanes, but climate change has not been kind. We still have ton loads of birds in winter when we get our annual moisture (such as it is).

    4. Coyote River*

      Spending time with my daughter. She’s discharged from the military, and moved back home temporarily before she starts university next year. It’s good to have her back

    5. Anima*

      This is my first Christmas ever *not* at my parents. Mums got cancer and wants a break, and since her birthday *is* Christmas, to cancel any and all partys means to not have one at all – I personally am stoked. I’ve never had my own Christmas tree, decorated how I want! I never could cook or not cook (and/or order food in), it always meant being in the kitchen for hours and tending to guests. Not this year! It’s all mine, and my husband is related to the Grinch and doesn’t care if I make a fuss or not, so I will likely not make a fuss. I’m looking forward to Christmas!

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

        Hope your mom is doing okay, and I hope you have a ton of fun doing your own Christmas!

    6. Professor Plum*

      Your user name reminds me of a cake I may need to make. It involves boiling whole oranges, which sounds odd, but it produces the most elegant flavors. It’s made with hazelnut flour, or you can use almond flour, so it’s gluten free. The recipe calls for sugar but I substitute with monkfruit for a low carb version. Look for Nigellas flourless Chocolate Orange Cake at neighborfoodblog dot com.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Oh my! I make a similar cake called Egyptian Cake. It’s an old James Beard recipe. You boil two oranges, then grind them up, plus SIX eggs beaten until thick, some sugar, grand marnier and ground almonds. It is so elegant and different.

        1. Professor Plum*

          I know—it’s so strange to boil whole oranges and then pulverize them in a food processor, seeds and all, and get such an elegant dessert out of it. Love it!

    7. The Other Dawn*

      My husband is working normal daytime hours on Christmas Eve and has all of Christmas day off for the first time in about seven years. I’m looking forward to a Christmas spent at home, all day, without having to go out to someone’s house for once.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Outdoor lights.

      I remember in 20/21 a lot of people left their lights up, and it really feeling like a nice community gesture while we were all masking and staying home, and it still carries some of that meaning for me.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Nerdily, my big excitement this December is that tomorrow is my birthday and I will be 43, which is both odd and prime. (Even numbers, weirdly, feel unbalanced to me, so I’m the only nerd I know who didn’t get excited about being 42.)

      1. JustForThis*

        I understand! To me, even numbers feel unbalanced because there’s no (natural number) middle.

        Happy Birthday!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          YES THAT IS IT EXACTLY and you are the first person who has ever understood that without me explaining it. :)

        2. allathian*

          So *that’s* why I’ve always preferred odd numbers as well. Cool!

          If I’m asked to pick a number between 1 and 10 I almost invariably pick either 5 or 7, for numbers between 1 and 20 I almost always pick 11. My favorite even number is 2. All of these are prime numbers.

          Human brains are weird! Oh, and happy belated birthday, Red Reader.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        Ha, a family member ignores most of his birthdays and only celebrates the ones that are prime numbers.

      3. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

        I like numbers that are perfect squares, because I see them as dots in my mind. I especially like odd numbered perfect squares because there is a dot in the centre.

    10. Dinwar*

      My wife and I have found some Yule books (and some on the other sabbats) that we’re sharing with the kids. After that, lots of cleaning.

    11. RussianInTexas*

      Cons: I don’t have any time off except the actual Christmas Day and New Years Day, no no extra relaxation for me.
      Pros: my partner promised to organize and get rid of piles of crap in the various areas of the house during his two weeks off. I will absolutely hold him to his promise, because it’s 99% his crap that he does not put away.
      Also, there are only two Christmas get together this year vs four last year, because we weseled out of the other two.

    12. carcinization*

      This week: going to a relative’s Christmas gathering today that we haven’t gotten to go to since a few years pre-pandemic. Next week: ridiculous unhealthy cheese dip that I mentioned in the last thread like this, ham that my mom smokes that’s really good, sharing a bottle of red wine at home on Christmas night with my husband after we’ve returned home from all of the gift-opening and such earlier that day.

    13. There You Are*

      I am looking forward to getting a ton of extra sleep and tackling some chores that have gone undone for months because of health issues.

    14. the cat's ass*

      As is traditional at casa Cat’s Ass, Dim Sum! 2 beloved friends joining us are immunocompromised, so it’ll be take out for their safety. Movies, presents, a little stroll. A nice traditional dinner requiring bernaise sauce-my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is translucent on that page due to butter! And some lovely time off from the new place we don’t talk about on holidays!

    15. Bluebell*

      Since Hanukkah was so early this year, most of the rest of December will be pretty relaxed. We are still trying to decide what we will do on the 25th, but it will probably involve Chinese takeout. My birthday is later this week; serendipitously a band I really love is having a performance that night so spouse and I will be attending.

    16. Quinalla*

      Nice long break – almost 2 weeks! Spending time with some extended family and spending the rest with my husband and kids and getting in some alone time. Making & eating delicious cookies. Having our normal cheese/meat/crackers/fruit/other grabbable food for Christmas day. Playing card games & board games.

    17. Ripley*

      I am spending Christmas with my brother and his family – my niece is 2.5, and I’m really looking forward to getting to do Christmas with a little one – last year she was more interested in unwrapping presents than what was inside, so I’m curious to see what she makes of presents this year. I got her a Play-Doh set.

    18. Chauncy Gardener*

      We have absolutely nothing planned for Christmas Day, so I’ll be making chicken korma! Kind of like the “anti-Christmas” dinner maybe? But oh so good (and time consuming, so I rarely make it).
      Looking forward to a week off and hopefully some time to relax.

    19. Rainy*

      Time off, honestly. My office closes anyway for a week between Xmas and NY, and now they don’t take it out of our vacation time, which is good because that was some nonsense, and I’m taking off this Friday and then another week and a half after the closed week, and I’m hopeful that it will get me recharged for spring (I work in higher ed but I’m not faculty). I didn’t take any extra time the week of fall break, so I was just off Wed after noon and then Thursday and Friday, and I was definitely starting to lose it. The last few weeks have been rough.

      And yes, I will also be doing a lot of reading for fun. :)

  7. Anonymous cat*

    Hello to everyone! I have a question for our friends in the UK! (or anywhere really!)

    Back in 2020 when covid was shutting things down, the National Theatre in the UK recorded a performance of a panto called “Dick Whittington” and put it online.

    I had never seen a panto before and really enjoyed it! So my question is, Is there a way to see things like that again online? Or do you have any particular theater groups you’d recommend for a panto?

    When I try to google this, it takes me to the youtube trailer for DW, or the ticketing section for National Theatre live plays, or random panto theaters that I have no idea of the quality.

    I’m kind of hoping that the National Theatre is going to air it again and I just don’t know the right website to search for it! Any ideas?

    1. Mitchell Hundred*

      I don’t know where you can find this specific pantomime, but I do think you haven’t really experienced a pantomime unless you’ve gone to see one live. The audience participation is half the fun.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        That’s probably true but that’s not an option in most of the US. They aren’t a thing. I googled and found out on Wikipedia that they do sometimes happen in the US, but they aren’t easy to find. I searched for some near me and I exclusively got results in the UK, which is, uh, not near me.

        1. Mitchell Hundred*

          Fair enough, although if you’re able to make the trek to Canada (hopefully a bit closer) you’ll probably have more luck. From the looks of things there appear to be three pantomimes in my area at the moment.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I wish I could remember the title, but there’s a fanfiction about a panto at Hogwarts. It did not Turn Out Well.

                1. Mitchell Hundred*

                  I haven’t actually read that particular fic, I was making a pantomime reference. A common thing in pantomimes is a call and response: someone onstage either says “Oh no it isn’t” or “Oh yes it is”, and the audience yells back the other one of those phrases.

    2. Lemonwhirl*

      I tried googling livestream panto. There’s a lot of old links from the lockdown days, but I found two that look current. Going to type out links to avoid the comment going to moderation.

      santalive dot tv has a 90-minute panto available. (No idea about the quality. The ticket price is 15 pounds, about half the cost of buying a ticket to see an in-person panto where I live.)

      There’s also a livestream for Cinderella theatreroyalwinchester dot co dot uk that’s on 29 December at 2 PM UK time. The ticket price is 20 pounds.

    3. Mimi*

      You can try googling “National Theatre at Home”. It is a streaming service for their plays but I am not sure if “Dick Whittington” is on it.

    4. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Not quite what you’re after but I 100% recommend the new series of UK Drag Race’s panto episode- lots of fun!

    5. fposte*

      If you search “panto” on YouTube, there are several full-length ones there that were broadcast a few years back.

    6. MCL*

      I live in Madison, WI and there’s a local theatre that has a panto every year. I have not been to one in the UK but it’s supposed to be pretty comparable! See if any of your local groups do one?

    7. Bob Howard*

      I don’t know if it will work from the US, but search the BBC website for “Peter Pan goes wrong”. You will not be disapointed! Otherwise search Youtube for Mischief Theatre.

      1. According to the Director in*

        This show is not a pantomime! It’s a traditional Christmas Vignette (LOL)
        * I am seconding watching it. It’s available on YouTube Movies & TV with ads

    8. Ontariariario*

      I’m glad you asked!! I just found The Magic of Aladdin (1989) on Youtube. I saw it in person and loved it. Very well done! I’ll post the link in the reply.

      As a side note, Karen Kain has been married to Ross Petty for 40 years now! I didn’t know or care as a kid, but as an adult it’s nice to see how much they clearly love working together even if they are enemies in a panto. They were both very famous in Canada at the time.

    9. Anonymous cat*

      Thank you everyone! I will check these out!

      If I’m ever in the UK near Christmas, I’ll definitely try a live performance. They look like fun.

      1. Dog Child*

        You could also look our for the ITV Pantomimes, they were recorded in front of an audience and aired on TV regularly for a few years. There’s 4 I think? Dick Whittington, Jack & the Beanstalk & Cinderella. The 4th is Aladdin but that one has really aged badly.

        I think they’re all on YouTube now though.

  8. K9 Toys*

    If you have a high energy, intelligent or working dog (jack Russel, blue heeler etc) what are your (or their) favorite interactive toys?

    Anyone train their dog on agility course type equipment? I thought it might be fun for us. But I’m not sure how good I’ll be at training :)

    1. Zelda*

      We have a couple of the Outward Hound puzzle toys (search “Outward Hound Brick Blue Puzzle Dog Toy” for the favorite). The packaging says different dogs will have different strategies; our English setter seems to choose simple violence, but she does love them.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        We got the Outward Hound hunt-the-treat puzzle for our high energy dog, and the super chill dog got super into it. Apparently she just needed the right puzzle to awaken her inner competitor.

      2. K9 Toys*

        Maybe my original comment is in moderation. I posted under my usual username.
        I will look into one of these.

        @Falling Diphthong aww :)

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My Dane enjoys the Brick Blue Puzzle when she’s at daycare :) weirdly, I got one for home and she ignored it, but she likes it when they give it to her. (So I donated it to them :P )

    2. Pamela Adams*

      Our Jack Brussels like Kongs. we get the black heavy-duty ones- they went through standard ones like buzzsaws. S favorite game is dropping them and chasing them when they bounce.

      We haven’t done agility, but recently brought a couch into the house. The boys quickly learned to parkour from couch to chairs and back again.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      I just got an interactive chase toy as my dog’s Xmas gift – he has used them before and loved them. It’s basically a piece of fabric (fake fur in this case) on the end of a cord that you can pull around for your dog to chase. (The manufacturers of the one I bought are very clear that it’s an interactive toy, not a chew toy.)

      The toy I bought is made by Tug-e-Nuff – not sure if they ship internationally (I’m in the UK.)

    4. Sloanicota*

      I took my sweet boy (he’s got border collie in the mix) to agility classes hosted by our local rescue society. It was super fun because they have all the equipment and the instructor helps, and the money was going for a good cause. My dog and I were pretty lousy at it, but it was great exercise for the four weeks of the class and got us some workouts on rainy days. The dogs have to be good at tolerating other dogs around. They had a special senior dog class with the “jumps” on the floor and no beam.

      1. K9 Toys*

        Just curious, how many sessions a week was yours?

        I think she’s ok being around other dogs. I’m not atm. We already had an encounter with loose dogs and I’m currently feeling grumpy.

        She does adorable leaps so I wonder if we could learn jumps.

        1. Sloanicota*

          We were not at all serious (as I said, it was “seniors intro class”) so it was only once a week for four weeks. We got practice with all the elements and some general guidance. If you caught the bug I think there were many places you could go with it from there, all the way up to like traveling competitions haha.

    5. crookedglasses*

      +1 to outward hound puzzle toys! They don’t hold up super well to dogs who like to chew their way through the world, but if you’ve got a less destructive, curious pup then they can be great.

      I also did nosework with my late beagle/heeler mix and she loved it. We never competed or anything like that, we’d just do it around the house and yard. I didn’t start it until she was pretty old and needed a less bouncy hobby but I think she would have really liked it when she was younger, too. It was a great way to engage her mind.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Ha I bought my boy a slow feeder bowl, which he immediately flipped over, so I started freezing the food in it, so he started chewing it to pieces. Just tearing it apart limb from limb haha. I do not think he is the candidate for puzzle toys. It has to be a relatively simple puzzle for him, but he does like the rubber kind meant to chew on that we can fill with frozen peanut butter (kongs).

      2. K9 Toys*

        Oh, maybe we could try nosework.

        @Sloanicota I got her a puzzle toy that’s a hollow ball with strips of felt. You put food/treats in the felt and roll them up and shove them into the ball-frame. Amzn HDLIV snuffle ball interactive toy.

        1. Cat and dog fosterer*

          I’ve hidden food around the place on rainy days and that has worked well! Not a toy, but looking for the food dish around furniture was a fun change.

          1. Zelda*

            Search boxes is another fun game– use one (and work up to, like, half a dozen) of whatever cardboard boxes you have lying around. Start by having the dog sit and stay while you “hide” a treat (preferably something strongly scented) in the back corner of a box lying on its side with the opening away from the dog. Release the dog (we use the same “Find it!” command that Elspeth McGillicuddy mentions below). Work up (probably over multiple sessions) to using all the boxes, piled on top of or leaning against each other, with the treat hidden in a different spot in the pile each time. The dog may need to knock a tower over, flip over a box that’s opening down, pull one box out of another (that’s a tough one!), move other boxes aside to get to the one with the treat, etc.

            It takes a while to set each one up, so this is not a ‘keep the dog busy while I do something else’ solution. But, the dog is riveted during the setup, and eventually the challenge level can be set just below where the dog gets frustrated and gives up, so it can be a lot of entertainment bang for your treat calorie buck.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Haha I do this with my dog, but one unexpected consequence is that he now likes to chew up boxes that he finds in the recycling. Ah well … nothing’s perfect.

            2. K9 Toys*

              Ha, too bad I just recycled all the boxes all of her stuff came in ;-) Seriously, tho thanks for this idea. I’ll try it.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        There is a fun dog game we play called “Find it!”. Dog stays in another room (sit/stay if she’s solid on that, or just close the door) while human hides a treat, then dog is released and told to Find it! Dog gets to eat the treat when she finds it.

        Start by ‘hiding’ the treat in the center of the room right out in the open, then gradually work your way to tougher and tougher hiding spots. One beagle could find the treat in another story of the house in like a minute. Great nose on that dog. The mutts usually spend several minutes sniffing around all the likely spots.

        1. K9 Toys*

          I started this. Having her guess which hand isn’t working as she thinks we’re doing “paw” (I realize I could be doing it wrong, too :-) ).

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      Agility is great for high energy dogs, but please don’t try to do it yourself at first. Find a trainer with a course and do it there. It’s basically upper level obedience training and is also super for building confidence, but it has to be done correctly and gradually, with lots of positive feedback (verbal and treats) to have it be a good experience for the dog.
      When I took my last dog to agility, it was so great for her. Burned off energy and also reinforced all the obedience training. One time we were waiting for class to start and I just went through the course with her since we had been doing it a few months at that point (even though it was still beginner level). A guy who was also waiting decided to take his dog through it too, even though it was their first time. Man, the trainer chewed him out because things like the seesaw and tunnels can be very scary for dogs if you’re not introducing them correctly.
      Good luck!

    7. Anon for this*

      You might get some more ideas from a friend’s book… going incognito for this even though I’ve mentioned it before.

      Play Your Way to Good Manners: Getting the Best Behavior from Your Dog Through Sports, Games, and Tricks
      by Kate Naito and Sarah Westcott

  9. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Everyone share what you’ve been reading, and give or request recommendations!

    I just finished a book called White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link. It was recommended by someone in the weekend reading thread months ago, and I finally got it from the library. It’s a collection of retold fairy tales, although with some of them the “retelling” is incredibly far from the original. Some I definitely wouldn’t have known at all if the beginning hadn’t given the original story name. One of the stories (the Hansel and Gretel retelling) I didn’t care for, but I enjoyed the rest.

    1. Lore*

      Her first novel, The Book of Love, comes out in a few months, I think February. If you’re a fan, I recommend it—she’s definitely gone from minimal to maximal, as it’s a very long novel, but definitely in the vein of her stories. (And if you haven’t read her before, I think Magic for Beginners and Get in Trouble might be even better than White Cat.)

    2. i*

      Putting in a plug for the audiobook version of White Cat, Black Dog too! Each story had a different narrator; I thought they were well tailored to each story and added to my enjoyment. I wasn’t familiar with several of the originals/inspirations, but still enjoyed the collection (and looking up the tales they were based on after).

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m a third of the way into I’m Sorry You Feel That Way by Rebecca Wait. I’m enjoying the writing, but the dysfunctional family narrative is A Lot. I already had one instance of putting the book down for the day thinking “enough now, I need a break from how awful this character is to others”. I will be progressing slowly.

      So I’ve also started Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson, to have something lighter on the go. So far, it’s fast-paced and funny as I expected, and I like that I have absolutely no idea where the mystery plot is going yet.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days. I love Jeanette Winterson–she was writing about queer and trans stuff decades before it was a public discourse, and I especially love this book. My favorite story is The Lion, The Unicorn and Me, but all of them are wonderful.

      Also halfway through A Lot Like Christmas, the expanded version of Connie Willis’s Miracle and Other Stories. I still keep the original book though, because there’s a couple of stories in it that didn’t move over.

    5. chili oil*

      just started The night train to Lisbon, which is both a lot more literary fiction than I usually read and more enjoyable than I was expecting. Otherwise, I’m reading a history book (textbook, I think) on the mid-east, to try to understand some of the conflict.

    6. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      My reading ranged pretty widely this past week – I read Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, an absolute charming fantasy with a slow-burn Sapphic romance about an orc barbarian who decides to retire from adventuring and open a coffee shop in a town that has never heard of coffee, and The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox, a creepy gothic with a heroine who discovers her father was third cousin to a mysterious Lord who has died and left her his estate in remote Yorkshire which comes with a mysterious library. Good gothic horror but a so-so romance.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Balder just recently released a sort of prequel to Legends and Lattes, called Bookshops and Bonedust. It also stands alone well enough that I didn’t connect the two until I got to the end of Bookshops and realized.

        1. Pamela Adams*

          I just started Bookshops and Bonedust.

          Also rereading Victoria Goddard’s Greenwing and Dart books. Plum Duff, the latest, is set in the Winterturn season of celebration.

    7. Lemonwhirl*

      I recently finished “No One Needs to Know” by Lindsay Cameron, which is about terrible rich people and was a fun read, and “Homebodies” by Tembe Denton-Hurst, which is about a Black magazine writer who gets fired from her job and then tries to figure out her life. Well-written and richly observed, but somewhat ruined for me by the book jacket copy, which reveals two major plot points, leading one to believe that these things will happen relatively early and the book will be about the aftermath, but the plot points happen at halfway and nearly 80% of the way done.
      Also listened to “Everybody Knows” by Jordon Harper, which is LA noir and a very gritty look at the ‘black bag’ PR industry and how horrible people are protected.
      Now, I’m reading “The Eden Test” by Adam Sternbergh. It’s a psychological thriller about a couple who are at a remote cabin for a mysterious couples retreat that involves discussing 7 questions, 1 each day. Entertaining so far, but in a mindless popcorn-book sort of way.

    8. Professor Plum*

      I’m currently reading The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry. It’s an enchanting story of two sisters evacuated in England during World War II, the younger one disappears. A clue appears twenty years later. I don’t know how it ends but I’m caught up in the story as it unfolds in both timelines.

    9. Teapot Translator*

      I read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and In The Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan.
      My reading is set by which book I have to return to the library next. I have started The Satanic Mechanic by Sally Andrews.

      1. PhyllisB*

        How did you like A Gentleman in Moscow? A friend recommended it, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

        1. word nerd*

          Not the OP, but I thought it was a lovely read. It took me a while to get into at first and I considered stopping, but once a kid character showed up, I was in.

        2. Teapot Translator*

          It’s a good book. I just don’t think it was the right book for me at this time of my life, so I didn’t love it.

    10. Atheist Nun*

      I finished reading Fortress of Solitude, which was as fantastic as I expected. I read it after reading Jonathan Lethem’s so-so latest book, Brooklyn Crime Novel. In an interview in The Atlantic, he said that he wrote this new book as an imagined response to long time South Brooklynites who would have hated Fortress of Solitude and said it was “inauthentic.” I am a short time South-ish Brooklyn resident, and I thought the earlier book was wonderful. I make no claims to judge authenticity.

      Now I have started reading Sunny by Sukh Ojla. I like it a lot so far for its humor and observations about South Asians relating to non South Asian culture. I can identify with these nuanced observations, which made it all the more jarring to read what I think is a very basic typo (a character calls a woman “beta” [son] rather than “beti” [daughter]). To be fair I am reading this book as a digital advance reading copy, so I am hopeful that the publisher fixed this error downstream.

      1. MassChick*

        It’s fairly common to use “beta” to address children regardless of gender. My Punjabi aunt addresses me (female) as “beta” fondly when talking to me. I (and other teacher colleagues) often do the same when speaking to a child. The distinction (beta/beti) matters when you’re speaking *about* your (or someone else’s) child – then the gender specific term would be used.
        (For those not familiar, the language in question is Hindi. Or could be Punjabi too)

        1. Atheist Nun*

          Thank you for clarifying this point! The book’s characters are Punjabi. Yes, in this case one person was addressing his niece.

    11. Akcipitrokulo*

      Just finished “The Bitter Crown” by Justin Lee Anderson – it’s the second in his Eidyn Saga (The Lost War was the first.)

      So good!

      Epic fantasy type in an old Edinburgh-based setting. Ensemble cast of heroes with an engrossing plot and great world building.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      Paladin’s Grace, the first Saint of Steel book by T. Kingfisher. About a paladin whose god has died, and a perfumer rebuilding her life. Much more romance in a fantasy setting than I expected, rather than fantasy with a side romance element, but I quite enjoyed it and have gotten the next book.

      There is a severed head situation, and also a ferret.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I enjoyed Paladin’s Grace very much, especially some of the hilarious bits, such as Stephen the sometimes-berserker paladin griping about being bored while on duty:

        “He wished that he could break out his knitting, but for some reason, people didn’t take you seriously as a warrior when you were knitting. He’d never figured out why. Making socks required four or five double-ended bone needles, and while they weren’t very large, you could probably jam one into someone’s eye if you really wanted to. Not that he would. He’d have to pull the needle out of the sock to do it, and then he’d be left with the grimly fiddly work of rethreading the stitches. Also, washing blood out of wool was possible, but a pain.”

        Just finished listening to “Paladin’s Hope” – the third in the series – on audio, and loved that one as well, though it ends with a very startling line that could change everything re the deceased Saint of Steel!

        I do think that the writing in the Paladins series isn’t as solid as in other Kingfisher works – or maybe it’s the editing? I kept stumbling over unnecessarily-repetitive bits, and even the attempts at prolonging the romantic tensions with much miscommunication seemed overdone at times. But I enjoy the ‘verse and the characters (special fondness for the badger-folk gnolls – and for the hypercompetent White Rat priest/lawyer Zale, who deserves their own book IMO), and when the characters get to doing snarky banter (whether romantic or not) it’s great fun.

    13. PhyllisB*

      I read two entirely different types of books this week. The first was The Christmas Hummingbird by Davis Bunn. I loved it!! if you like Richard Paul Evans or Nicholas Sparks you will like Davis Bunn.
      To totally switch things up and taking a pause from my Christmas theme, I read Scared Stiff by Annalise Ryan. Have you ever read something that cracks you up and grosses you out at the same time? This is a series about Mattie Winston, a Deputy Medical Examiner (coroner). It describes a lot of her findings and details of autopsies, so if you have a weak stomach or don’t like reading about dead bodies, you may want to steer clear, and definitely don’t eat while reading!!
      However, she gets in some of the funniest predicaments you could ever imagine. I can’t wait to read the next one.
      Right now I’m reading The Restaurant Critic’s by Elizabeth Laban. Seems so tame after reading about Mattie Winston!! Enjoying it so far.

      1. LA Girl*

        Davis Bunn is a friend of mine! I’ve never seen his name pop up anywhere, and I will let him know it popped up here. He’ll be so tickled!

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

      Still re-reading James Bond books. I am on *On Her Majesty’s Secret Service* now, which is a very enjoyable book, though my least favorite of the Bond films I’ve seen. I swear, whoever directed that film must !@#$@#$ing hate women–e.g., HOW could you have James Bond slapping Diana Rigg–but the misogynistic elements in the film are generally not in the book.

    15. Turtle Dove*

      I’m rereading Whip Hand by Dick Francis. My crappy memory benefits me with favorite books. After a few years, I can’t recall the plot or whodunit. Francis, like Jane Austen, is evergreen.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Ahhh, Dick Francis! I LOVE Reflex, For Kicks, Dead Cert & Risk. I have battered little paperbacks I bought used in the 80s, and they are my go-to traveling books. What a writer he was! His son is endearing, but doesn’t have his Dad’s tight, tidy style.

        1. Turtle Dove*

          I like and agree with your description of their different styles. I think Decider is my favorite of Dick Francis’s many books. The family dynamics intrigue me. Proof and Banker are other favorites. And have I even read all his books? I want to go through the full list this winter to make sure.

          1. Nervous Nellie*

            Oooh, yeah! It’s a good goal. One of my Dad’s very pompous academic colleagues once looked at my bookshelves, nodded seriously and said, “Ah, a Francis Completist. Very good.” I wish I’d kept them all!

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, Dick’s early books are great. The ones he co-wrote with Felix less so. The first few books Felix wrote solo were mediocre, but I think he’s improving. My favorite book by Felix is Pulse. I think Felix writes women better than his father did.

        1. Houndmom*

          Fun fact. Dick Francis wife was his home editor. The stories were his but she worked magic on his writing skills (as per an interview I saw with him a couple of years before he passed). He stopped writing for a couple of years after she died because of it was a joint effort.

          1. allathian*

            Indeed, and when he started writing again he collaborated with his son Felix, even if his name wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the acknowledgments of the first few books. The progression from unacknowledged inofficial editor to acknowledged collaborator to double billing and finally to writing in his own name feels almost as if it was planned in advance.

      3. I take tea*

        Oh, I’m so happy to see others who enjoy Dick Francis. They are my comfort books and I have read some of them so many times that I can qoute passages from them verbatim. I think they hold up better than many similar books.

        Francis were also the first real books I read in English, just the right level for me. The language is not too simple, but not especially complicated either, and the action is good.

    16. GoryDetails*

      I’m reading The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, edited by Otto Penzler, an anthology of pastiches and parodies of Sherlock Holmes over the years – including a couple by Conan Doyle himself, whose feelings about his most famous character were… mixed. I’ve read quite a few of these stories, including a lovely one by Neil Gaiman, while others are new to me – and some are pretty awful, which Penzler defends as “included for completeness” but “mercifully, most of those are very short” {grin}. There’s a tale in which Holmes meets Hercule Poirot – talk about clash of the egos – and a couple of others in which Raffles, the “amateur cracksman,” runs up against Conan Doyle. [Those were doubly fun, as Raffles, created by Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law E. W. Hornung as a kind of dark-side Holmes, was already a Holmes pastiche – and the stories are surprisingly good.]

      On audiobook: Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food, by John Dickie, narrated by the ever-awesome Simon Vance, a mix of food trends and (often quite dark) history through various Italian cities, rulers, and cooks.

    17. carcinization*

      Finally about to finish Kuang’s Babel, so I guess I should say I’m reading Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide since that’s a really small pocket paperback type book I’ve been slowly reading if I have to be in a waiting room or something. It’s definitely a lesser Swanwick for me but it’s still okay.

    18. Dancing Otter*

      I think someone here recommended “Killers of a Certain Age”. Well, my library request finally came in. The story caught my interest from the first chapter.
      Funny aside : my library has started printing, “You have saved $XXX.XX” notes on the check-out receipts. I’d love to see the programming on that, since they claim not to keep records of past check-outs lest they ever be subpoenaed. Just a running tally by card number? Having dropped off three, count them, three full grocery sacks of books for the used book sale recently, mine may be a wash, really.

    19. Not Totally Subclinical*

      Was it someone here who recommended Sara Pinsker’s “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather”? I checked out the book it appears in, Lost Places. Most of the stories aren’t to my taste but are very well written and play with neat ideas, and I’m glad I read them. And Oaken Hearts was fabulous.

      I gave up on Kelly Barnhill’s When Women Were Dragons and sent it back to the library; it’s an interesting story, but I’m in the wrong headspace to enjoy it.

      Now reading Virginia Kantra’s The Fairytale Life of Dorothy Gale. So far I’m finding it reasonably entertaining, though it hasn’t sucked me in to the point of MustKeepReading.

      L. A. Hall started posting a new volume of the Cathcart Chronicles on the Comfortable Courtesan Dreamwidth, so I’m looking forward to that every morning. The ebook and POD will probably be available in late January or February.

    20. Nervous Nellie*

      I have two good ones this week. First, The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim, a prize-winning Korean novel about an office administrator who manages ‘the cabinet’ of creatures called symptomers – they’re people with strange abilities, possibly the next evolution of humans. It’s a surreal series of short stories that weave into a whole novel. It’s sort of science fiction/fairy tale. I could totally see the movie studio A24 turning this into a fantastic movie. Same quirkiness and dark humor as Everything Everywhere All at Once (which I LOVED). It has some challenging surreality and some disturbing violence, but the overall thread is playful.

      Then also The Assistant by Robert Walser, a little-known German novel from 1908. Joseph, the assistant to a technical engineer, lives with his employer at his glamorous hilltop villa. The story is a moody, gentle diary of sorts about Joseph’s experiences as his employer’s business fails. The characters are so fragile, and the writing (in translation) is so elegant.

    21. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I just finished Bookshops and Bonedust, which Red Reader the Adulting Fairy mentions below. I either noticed the connection to Legends and Lattes quickly, or had been told about it beforehand, but the book absolutely stands on its own.

      Before that, Greg Egan’s Permutation City for book club, which is weird and cerebral, but in a slightly different direction than I’m used to from Egan. Everyone else in my book club was talking about metaphysics, which I hadn’t seen at all until we started to discuss the book.

    22. Bluebell*

      Just finished Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Canas, which I learned about on this thread. I thought it was great! I started Act like a lady, Think like a Lord, by Celeste Connelly but it’s not really catching my interest even though I watched a bunch of Bridgerton in the last two weeks.

    23. JubJubTheIguana*

      I just finished Naomi Alderman’s The Future, which was incredible, am now reading her book The Lessons, also reading Alan Bennett’s diaries and will go to the library tomorrow to pick up a load of cost crime/mystery novels as light Christmas reads.

    24. chocolate muffins*

      I am reading The Midnight Library after seeing it suggested here many times and am enjoying it so far. Thank you to everyone who ever recommended this book!

    25. CTT*

      I’m reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, about the 1996 Everest expedition that ended in a lot of deaths. I’m reading this partially because the podcast This Had Oscar Buzz recently featured the Everest movie and made me interested in reading it, but also because that podcast gave me a total flashback to my mom taking me to see the IMAX documentary about that expedition when I was 8, and it was extremely Not For Children and very matter-of-fact about all the horrible ways you can die on Everest (in my mom’s defense, it was at the local science museum where most of the IMAX movies were like “the beauty of our oceans!” and she probably thought it was more of the same). So, now I’m interested in approaching all that from the proper adult point of view.

      1. word nerd*

        The book is fascinating, but just so you know, there was some controversy about how accurate Krakauer’s account was–some of the fellow climbers disagreed with his portrayal.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        Into Thin Air is one of my favorite books! Jon Krakauer is such a great writer and that one in particular grabs you and will not let go.

        I’m reading Patient Zero: A Curious History of the World’s Worst Diseases by Lydia Kang, MD & Nate Pederson (who apparently also coauthored a book called “Quackery”). It’s pretty good, vignette-style retellings about various outbreaks in history and around the world. I’m not ready to read anything about Covid-19 just yet but otherwise pretty interesting (and with some illustrations and photographs).

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Krakauer beats up on himself too much. If he had tried to be involved in the rescued, he was clearly in such bad shape he would have died or had to be rescued himself. And I think he saw himself in the mirror in Into the Wild.

      4. AGD*

        At a teacher’s urging, I saw the IMAX documentary when I was 10 and had what I did not yet know was a full blown anxiety attack in response. What was the teacher thinking?!

    26. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I just finished Paladin’s Faith (the fourth Saint of Steel book) by T. Kingfisher. Remember Marguerite, Grace’s friend in the first book? (the one who had the most amazing hats and looked good in them). Well, this is her story…and Shane’s. Inhaled and adored it. Also, would like to work for Bishop Beartongue. It would never be boring.

    27. allathian*

      Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie. Interesting story, even if I find it less engaging than most Poirots, mainly because other characters do most of the detective work. Poirot is in at the start and the last half of the book.

  10. Advice re liquor gift*

    Hello hive mind. Need advice for a gift of wine or hard liquor. I don’t drink at all and I need a gift for a friend who is somewhat of a connoisseur. He definitely wants wine or liqour but refuses to advise me on specifics. I’d like to get something good, he’s done me a large favor. Is $100 a good range? More? And what should I buy? I hesitate to just ask at a shop.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Based on this answer, I’d go with liquor, not wine. If he’s knowledgeable about wine he’ll likely have all sorts of opinions and, while my go-to is to ask at the local store, I wouldn’t want to spend $100 on an excellent red wine only to later learn he prefers California whites or something. Liquor is probably more versatile.

    1. Coyote River*

      You can never go wrong with a good Japanese whiskey like anything by Suntory, or if you want something less expensive consider Woodford Reserve bourbon. It’s difficult to tell without knowing the person more, but I find those to be safe bets

    2. RedinSC*

      You could always go with something classic like veuve clicquot, perrier-jouët or dom pérignon (all French Champaign)

      You can find a bottle of clase azul tequila on sale for around $100. It comes in a very pretty white and blue ceramic bottle and is quite good.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I wish I had a better palate! I’ve had some Veuve Clicquot and it didn’t taste *that* much better than Cook’s (was clearly better than Andre’s, I’m not a heathen).

    3. A liqueur gift*

      A big bottle of Grand Marnier would certainly please me! But it won’t come up to $100 — it’s more like $40 — so maybe that plus a very good whiskey? I mean, if they’re playing “you guess”, then go ahead and guess.

    4. Jay*

      Well, keeping in mind the season, there are a couple of very nice ice wines that fall in the $100.00 range. I usually buy a (much cheaper) bottle around the Holidays, particularly apple ice wine (it reminds me of a nice cider) which is the perfect wine for a person who hates wine with a fiery burning passion (all grape wines tastes like spoiled vinegar to me, no mater the vintage or price). Winter Gold is my go to, but it’s no where near top shelf or the price point you’re looking for, for that matter (usually it’s around $30.00 or so a bottle). It smells like apples and fresh snow.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I have a late harvest cabernet for which the sample tasted Distinctly Better than the rest of the stuff on sale. Should open it this year…

    5. California Dreamin’*

      $100 will buy a nice bottle of red wine and a pretty nice bottle of some liquors, but you’d need to spend more for the best scotch and maybe bourbon. It’s pretty weird that he won’t give you any clues because, like, some people love a good whiskey and some people don’t like that but love top shelf tequila. I suppose there are folks who enjoy it all, so maybe he’s one of those.

      If you did go with wine, I wouldn’t hesitate to enlist the help of someone at a high end wine shop. They can definitely assist you.

      1. California Dreamin’*

        I realized my first sentence reads like you could get both nice wine AND nice liquor for 100. I meant OR.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Whisky is one of my favorites and there are plenty of excellent scotches and bourbons in the $60-100 range. Some suggestions for scotch: Glenmorangie Nectar, La Santa, or Quinta Ruban; Ardbeg Uigeadail or Corryvreckan (might be a little over $100 in some places); Balvenie Caribbean Cask or Doublewood; Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel has been one of my recent favorites and you could still get a bottle of wine, too; Johnny Walker Green Label (if you can find it, I actually like it better than the Blue Label).

        1. Pippa K*

          We love both of the Balvenies you mentioned. I’d add Cragganmore as a very good single malt that is widely appealing – complex and interesting but not heavy.

    6. Bluebell*

      Will your friend tell you if he has a favorite wine or spirits shop? Smaller independent places usually have very knowledgeable sales people who would probably be quite happy to advise you.

      1. Knighthope*

        Good suggestion, and if friend is a regular customer, manager may be able to make specific suggestions for something special, based on what he usually buys.

      2. Llama Llama*

        That was what I was going to suggest too. I have had great success with help from my local liquor stores.

    7. chili oil*

      I’ve never been paid as a wine taster, but I used to do a bunch. For fun, I’d pick one grape varietal – something like pinot noir or shiraz for red, and sauvingon blanc or chardonnay for white. And get him two bottles, each of $50, but from different regions. I usually do one warm/one cold region (I usually pick Australia as my warm region, for a cold region you could pick Washington State, if you’re in the US, Canada if you’re in Canada or France – but single variatals are harder if you can’t get get cold north american wines). The same grape grown in warm or cold climate will taste very different, and $50 is a decent amount to spend. It’ll make a fun game for a wine lover. (a different game is the same varietal, from the same region but at $20 and at $70). And, asking at a decent wine shop for warm/cold varietals would usually be something a wine-shop person would love to help with. The people I’ve known who work at fancy wine shops usually do it as second jobs (especially on weekends) because they love wine.

    8. Dr. Doll*

      Cakebread Wine, according to my friend who is a wine-ie, is excellent and about $110/bottle. $100 is a very nice bottle of wine or liquor indeed.

    9. Ranon*

      What are the shops like where you are? Do you have access to one of those indie shops full of wildly passionate people who will talk your ears off about the thing they are recently excited about, or are you surrounded by soulless government run stores? If you have a good indie shop around I would throw yourself on their mercy and see if they can turn you onto something cool.

      Or if he’s a cocktail person and you’re up for a serious mission, track down a bottle of green chartreuse…

    10. Cazaril*

      Many good suggestions here. As a wine lover, I’ll say it can be riskier than the liquor because people who love wine can still have strong likes and dislikes. I would have to feign delight over a $100 buttery, oaky California Chardonnay. One interesting idea for wine is that there are folks who sell tasting flights—Google Master of Wine. However, I also like the suggestion of asking about his favorite shop. Good advice is your friend here!

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      I’VE GOT THIS!!!!!

      Ogden’s Own Distillery Underground Herbal Spirit, from American Craft Spirits. I had it on a trip to Utah and it was really interesting, the many herbs really coming through. (Interesting in a culinary sense, as I drink rarely and in sparse amounts for the culinary side.) So for Xmas that year I ordered some for the family members who drink. Interesting on its own and as a base for mixed drinks.

    12. PhyllisB*

      If you don’t want to ask at the liquor store, is there a really nice restaurant in your area with a sommelier on staff? I would pay a visit and consult with him (or her.)
      Most wine experts are happy to share their knowledge, but might tell you more than you want to know!! :-)

      1. PhyllisB*

        Just thought of another suggestion: do you visit this person at their home? Maybe you could sneak a peek at their wine rack/liquor cabinet.
        Also, this is not as personal, but how about a gift certificate to a high end store?

    13. Advice re liquor gift*

      Thank you, everyone! These ideas are great. And there are indeed some indie shops I can ask at. I learned a lot from all your suggestions! Really appreciate it.

    14. Dinwar*

      I’ve got a coworker that’s a bourbon snob, and he strongly recommends Buffalo Trace if you can find it. It’s not terribly expensive–$40 for a 750 ml bottle where I am–but it’s really hard to find, mostly due to low cost point and high quality. Jefferon’s Ocean is another good option, especially if you’re willing to spend around $100 or so. It’s bourbon aged in barrels behind a ship, with each batch having a slightly different flavor.

      For my part, I like to sample local brews. Sometimes you find a hit, sometimes it’s not so good, but what it’s not is boring. And at least where I am you can get 2-3 bottles for $100, enough to do a descent tasting. One local brewer has bourbon, rye, Texas whiskey, and another flavor I can’t remember, and it’s neat to sample the different types of whiskey from one brewer.

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

      Not a Scotch drinker, but my friend who is likes Macallan Scotch — heads up that the older it is, the pricier it is. I think it’s probably a safe choice in that if your friend likes Scotch at all, he will like this. And if he doesn’t like Scotch, you just gave him the ability to do a very impressive re-gift.

    16. Claire*

      Do you have any local distilleries? That’s always my go-to for gift liquor. If he refuses to give you hints, I’d go with a higher end vodka and whatever might have a regional flair or that the distillery is known for (ours has phenomenal gin)

  11. Jackalope*

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

    I played a card game this week that was brand new to me. It was based on the video game The Binding of Isaac (or maybe the video game was based on the card game? I can’t remember which came first), and was very quirky and fun. I was playing with someone who actually knew what they were doing, and that helped so much after getting many games as presents and such that we had to try to puzzle out from the instructions.

    1. BlueCactus*

      Very excited that the Wingspan Oceania expansion is now available for the online version – my partner and I (long distance due to grad school) play a lot and it’s a great way to connect.

    2. Martin Blackwood*

      Played “Vacant” by doublecrow on itch.io recently! It’s a short narrative horror game about filming a ghost hunting show. It’s real good at building the suspense without jumpscares. The ending, leaving the haunted place……
      It’s good.

    3. Bananapants Circus With Dysfunctional Monkeys*

      Still sloooowly working my way through Baldurs Gate 3 but enjoying it! I love Karlach so much.

      And because I like pain, apparently, I’m also doing all my A Realm Reborn relics in FFXIV. I’m at 5/10 and Light farming is my own personal hell. Why do I have yo be such a completionist…

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Good luck with the relic grind! After taking a super long time only focusing on setting up Free Company submarines and farming Island Sanctuary, I’m finally returning to the “get all combat classes to 90” grind. Currently working on getting MNK, MCH, and BLM up to 50 before I decide which “category” I’ll work on next.

        But I also finally have enough gil for a medium house, sooooo I might pivot into that at some point. There’s just too much to do to focus on one thing, lol!

        1. Bananapants Circus With Dysfunctional Monkeys*

          Ooh good luck with Omni! Finishing that up is why I’m doing the relics lol I was like “well everything’s capped what do I do now?”

          I’m debating a med too but our home server is busy and my game partner is VERY picky about location so it’s probably a no go haha.

    4. Magdalena*

      I started on Chants of Sennaar – an adventure word puzzle game. You navigate a secret world by slowly figuring out the meanings of words in the made-up language. The words /symbols show up on signs and in the characters’ speech bubbles.With each new word you guess your word journal fills up and the English translations are showing up as captions underneath the [made-up language] words.
      The word guessing part is nicely done but the graphics are not my style (very monotonous yellow and pink ) and you have to be pretty good with mazes (my sense of direction is not great and I kept getting lost in the palace).
      I wonder if there are other word puzzle – based adventure games that would be more my style.

          1. Magdalena*

            Hmm, there seem to be no controls in the game? The only think the mouse and keyboard let me do is turn my view around, no way to interact with the environment. Maybe figuring out how to actually play is part of the game but I found myself completely stumped.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Check online, there are lots of hints for noobs for most games. YouTube also has some really lovely guidance.

    5. David Rose*

      The video game came first! But I also enjoyed the card game quite a bit.

      In terms of card games, I got to play a version of Fluxx (Fantasy Fluxx) recently and it was really fun! And video game wise I’m still working up to beating Hades on 32 heat.

    6. MCL*

      I got a Nintendo switch recently and am curious what games y’all recommend. I like rpg and puzzle games. I never really played many classic Nintendo games (Mario, etc) so I’m not really trying to scratch a nostalgia itch. I find games where I have to react quickly with specific button patterns kind of frustrating. I’m working on an old Zelda game and that’s been kind of fun. Recommendations welcome.

      1. Jackalope*

        So my favorite Switch games have been the Fire Emblem games – I started with Three Houses, then there was a spin-off called Three Hopes, and then about a year ago there was a new Fire Emblem Engage. I’ve enjoyed them a lot; fun stories and fun game mechanics.

      2. Jackalope*

        Spent a bit more time thinking about it, and for a sort of puzzle game (I’m not sure if this counts but there’s a mystery you have to solve and figure out clues and things) there’s The Forgotten City. Also, the first six Final Fantasy games were recently remastered and released for Switch, if you’re into FF.

      3. Jen (they or she)*

        Not sure if you’ll like it, but I got a Switch earlier this year, my main game is Sky: Children of the Light.
        One-line summary (quoting a line from a song whose author, Aurora, Sky made a collaboration with): “I would rather see this world through the eyes of a child”. Summarises what the game feels like pretty well, in my opinion.
        It’s a multiplayer game by Thatgamecompany, about 99% of the people are nice and helpful. You’re a “child of light” who lands in a deserted (but clearly once inhabited, there are ruins) world, and your task (or so) is to relive the memories of the spirits of the former inhabitants and to rebuild the world a little. There are multiple realms to explore, the game certainly rewards curiosity and trying to reach many places, be it by finding spirits, or by finding new parts of the map, or some more wing power (you can fly in there), or beautiful scenery… At least until you decide look at the lore/try to figure out the history of that place, that can get really dark at times.
        There are a bunch of differences to normal games, I’d say, such that it’s not really competitive (I think half of the goal is literally to make friends and have fun together). Similarly, there is no way to win (or really lose). I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to always get everything but don’t have much time to play, also there are cosmetics that can be expensive (but they really are only looks, there’s almost never extra functionality, only exception I know is collaborations giving access to special places). It’s clearly my most played game so far.
        I should stop, this is getting way too long, but I’d certainly recommend looking for it in the e-shop (there are no physical copies), and trying it.

      4. KittyGhost*

        If you like old Zelda games you might like Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. It’s silly game with a similar play style.

        Seconding Fire Emblem. Three Houses claimed my life. It’s turn based so no button mashing.

        Stardew Valley is one of my true gaming loves. It’s a farming sim but has a lot more to it.

      5. curly sue*

        For puzzle games, my family had an incredible time with Return of the Obra Dinn – it’s a creepy logic puzzle game that takes about ten hours to play through, and has a fascinating sketchy aesthetic that sucked me right in. You play an insurance investigator in 1803, investigating the appearance of an empty ship (akin to the Mary Celeste). Your task is to figure out what happened to each of the crew members. There’s no timer, very simple interface, just slow unpicking up the events of this cursed trip.

    7. beep beep*

      The new Pokémon DLC came out on Thursday night, so I’ve been working on that- I just got to credits roll on the story, but there’s so much more to do!

    8. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I haven’t even finished chapter 1 of Lost Judgment and the Serious Crime Drama is already shaping up to be even more serious than the previous game… and the bananapants side stuff, in turn, an entire banana ensemble.

      I also bit the bullet and ordered a mini PC to turn into a media/retro emulation console. I still want a PS5 but I think that’s going to be a tax refund treat instead.

    9. Quinalla*

      Really digging early access game Against the Storm. It’s great for me who wants to build little communities and nourish and protect them from harm, but not actually have a war/fighting game. It also has some rogue-lite aspects which I enjoy. Very fun!

      1. Jen (they or she)*

        Haven’t played it myself but had a friend recommend that to me, really does seem nice from what they showed me.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was a late convert to Candy Crush and I’m pretty good — but dang this is the 2nd time I’ve lost a long streak because it just can’t contact the app store even though I’m online l.

    11. Reluctant Mezzo*

      FFXIV, still trying to get the prereqs for some important paladin quests. I need to get on the wiki and write down which quest and what order I need. I swear I sit for two years in front of some dungeons waiting for a party to be made up, though with my healer I get in way faster.

    12. Raia*

      I’ve been playing Harvest Moon 64 that was *FINALLY* released to the Switch library! Loving the nostalgia feels and how days are over in 10 minutes, but it does have the feeling that “there’s not enough time in the day!” that I feel enough during my everyday. I can’t wait to race my horse next Spring tho!

  12. A Tired Queer*

    ‘Tis the season for fumbling my way through family cookie recipes! My only success so far has been Gramma’s shortbread “snowballs” — little pecan-filled balls of shortbread dunked in powdered sugar. Anybody else have seasonal baking triumphs to share?

    1. Snell*

      It is not a triumph (yet) but I’m going to take a shot at those self-icing anise drop cookies this weekend.

      In more general terms, I’ve finally gotten a feel for how to use my stoneware loaf pan. Because of the material, it has a less predictable performance than metal or glass. If a recipe says to wait 5 minutes before de-panning, I wait at least 15.

    2. Cynthia*

      I made the Mexican hot chocolate cookies from NYT’s cookie week – they were so good. You wrap spiced chocolatey dough around frozen mini marshmallows before baking for a gooey marshmallow center. I was worried it would be too complicated of a recipe for me, but they turned out to be incredibly delicious!

      1. Reba*

        I am nearly at the end of my 3rd annual Fruitcake Project. I am struggling with marzipan and frosting but I must say the cake is to die for.

        I don’t use a family recipe per se — I didn’t grow up with fruitcake as part of our holidays — but the first year I did this, I sent one to my grandma and received back a letter full of her memories of her mother making her grandmother’s English fruitcake, and a copy of the recipe in her mother’s hand! So that was lovely.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I make my family pfeffernusse every year and their reputation has now spread. I halved my grandma’s recipe, it still makes a ton, and now I almost wonder if I need to double it next year.

      On the other hand my pinwheel cookie dough is in the freezer to bake this coming week, and I had trouble rolling it up so they might look a mess.

    4. Filosofickle*

      My family’s version of that uses black walnuts! My mom passed last year, not sure I’m ready to make her cookies yet but when I do those are first on the list :)

        1. Filosofickle*

          Swedish cookies

          2 cups butter
          1 cup powdered sugar
          4-1/2 cups sifted flour
          1 tsp vanilla
          2 cups chopped black walnuts

          Cream butter & sugar, then mix in flour, vanilla & nuts. Roll into balls, about 3/4″. Bake on cookie sheet at 400°F for 10 minutes. Cookies will not brown on top. Roll immediately in powdered sugar and cool on wax or parchment paper. Roll again in sugar after cooling.

    5. Sitting Pretty*

      Because of some health stuff that’s going on, I have to steer clear of gluten, chocolate, and sugary things. Holidays can be tough! So I’ve been searching out and testing almond flour cake recipes with reduced sugar. There’s one I baked this afternoon on the counter for tomorrow’s holiday brunch. It has orange zest and amaretto in it with sliced almonds on top… So excited! Being surrounded by cookies is a little easier when there’s a yummy treat I can comfortably enjoy and share.

      1. chili oil*

        I’ll suggest torta de santiago, a spanish cake make with eggs, sugar (you can cut down), lemon, a dash of cinnamon and almond flour. It never had gluten!
        Also, you can make crepe with buckwheat flour (despite the name it’s a relative of rhubarb, not wheat), so has no gluten. You can control the sugar you add to the topping.

      2. zaracat*

        If you can get hold of chestnut flour, castagnaccio is a great option for a gluten/dairy/egg free and low sugar cake/slice.

        1. Zelda*

          Whoops, sorry, missed the “avoiding chocolate” part. This has cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate (so, less sugar than a candy bar, but still chocolate). Apologies for not paying attention.

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

        Maybe try a zabaglione? It’s, like whipped and very gently heated egg yolk with some stuff whisked into it before you start heating — cinnamon, vanilla, a little bit of sweet wine. I think you could probably substitute sweet and low for some of the sugar. I made one during the first part of the covid epidemic for the holidays, and it was scrumptious.

        I also made accidental egg nog with the same-ish ingredients of egg yolk, sweet and low, cinnamon, and vanilla. I was using it to dunk my French toast in and then had a taste and was like, hey, this is egg nog!

      4. Chauncy Gardener*

        Google Whole Orange Almond Cake/Egyptian Cake by James Beard. I described it above. It’s GF, not much sugar and very yummy

    6. zaracat*

      Not seasonal exactly, but I have a couple of favourite cakes which are super easy but look and taste impressive, make lots of servings and also freeze well, so perfect to have on hand for guests at this time of year. One is an orange poppy seed cake where the orange is simmered whole and then de-seeded and pureed, and the poppy seeds soaked in warm milk for an hour. The whole thing is made in a food processor and cooked in a decorative ring pan. The other, which I’ll be baking in the next few days, is a semolina + hazelnut meal cake soaked with cinnamon/cardamom infused sugar syrup and served with extra syrup and grated orange rind plus your choice of nuts – I usually go for toasted almond flakes and (unsalted) pistachios. Add whipped cream or mascarpone if I want to be extra fancy.

      1. Pippa K*

        If you have a link to the recipe for the semolina/hazelnut cake with cinnamon and cardamom syrup, I’d love to know where to find the recipe! (A quick google didn’t turn it up.) Sounds marvelous!

        1. zaracat*

          It’s from a Middle Eastern cookbook I have. Recipe (slightly modified from book):
          Preheat oven to 200˚C. Grease and line 9″ square cake tin
          Cream together 4oz unsalted butter + 4oz caster sugar
          Add finely grated rind 1 orange + 2tbsp juice + 3 beaten eggs + 6oz semolina + 4oz ground hazelnuts + 2 tsp baking powder. Mix until smooth. Bake 20-25 min, cool in tin.
          While baking, make syrup: 1.5 C sugar + 2.25 C water + cinnamon stick + 2 cardamom pods + shredded rind 1 orange + plus any leftover juice from the oranges. Heat gently until sugar dissolved then boil fast for 5 min. Pour half over the cake and leave to soak in. If freezing cake, do it at this point. Save remaining syrup for serving (keeps fine in cupboard). To serve, cut into pieces, drizzle over syrup and top with chopped nuts +/- whipped cream.

          1. Pippa K*

            Thank you for this! I was looking for a new cake recipe to try out this week and this one is definitely the winner!

    7. Might Be Spam*

      I use a family recipe for Ice Cream Kolaczki that has ice cream in the dough and make a double batch.

      For some reason, I always have to lower the oven temperature and reduce the baking time. I’ve used 3 different ovens and different kinds of baking sheets. It doesn’t matter, I still have to make the same changes.

      I wonder if it’s a deliberate mistake. My step-grandfather had to sneak it to me because my aunts wouldn’t share the recipe. (Thank you Harold!)

    8. Rara Avis*

      Made white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies for an event last weekend — they’re pretty quick and yummy. I’ve got some persimmons softening on the counter that definitely red to be made into cookies this weekend or it will be too late.

    9. lissajous*

      I did most of my baking last weekend with decorating happening throughout the week. Ochsenauger (lit. bullseye – linzer biscuits? A simple biscuit, sandwich them with jam in the middle, basically), gingerbread, and not-rum balls (I prefer a whisky and almond flavour profile).
      I did manage to seize up two batches of chocolate when I first tried to coat the gingerbread, it was that sort of day. Got my usual brand of chocolate before trying again later in the week and everything behaved as it should!
      (Whitaker’s dark for the Australian and NZ people! I was converted by a Kiwi housemate years ago, it’s great. Alas my supermarket was out of stock when I was shopping last weekend so I used Lindt instead – there were regrets.)

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      NYT Tahini Chocolate Chip cookies. Turned out really well; the tahini gives an interesting note.

    11. Alex*

      I love those pecan balls! They are my fave.

      I invited my (new!) girlfriend over to bake Christmas cookies this weekend. Not sure what we will make yet but I thought it would be a cute date :)

    12. Decidedly Me*

      My partner’s work did a cookie exchange (whoever wants to brings in cookies and everyone is welcome to them – the company provides some too). We tried a recipe I’d been wanting to try for awhile. The next day, someone asked on his Slack who made them and could they have the recipe :)

      They were the Miso Butter Cookies from Just One Cookbook

    13. carcinization*

      We had a breakfast potluck at work on Monday and I brought cinnamon roll cake; one of my co-workers said that she was asking around as to who made it, then thanked me for bringing it because she liked it so much. I gave her the recipe but warned her that it does contain 3 sticks of butter (and 3 kinds of sugar)!

    14. JubJubTheIguana*

      I’m not much for baking but the one thing I’m really good at is shortbread, and especially Millionaires Shortbread. I make it in all kinds of flavours, I made a giant whisky and orange Millionaire Shortbread with whisky infused caramel and a dark orange chocolate top. I also like to play with Earl Grey tea shortbread, rosemary shortbread, all kinds of things.

    15. Girasol*

      Since it’s just me, a small recipe of plain butter shortbread. I’ve tried fancy recipes but there’s just nothing as luxurious as plain unadulterated all-butter shortbread beside a cup of dark roast coffee.

      If I was making for a crowd, though, I’d crack out the old Mirro cookie press and make four batches of spritz, each a different flavor and press pattern, and sandwich them. It’s easy and fun, just a simple cookie recipe made four times over with simple buttercream made four times. Orange sunbursts with orange filling, lemon wreaths with lemon filling, mint trees with fudge filling, cherry roses with vanilla filling… whatever. Yummy to eat and pretty enough to be giftable.

    16. Chauncy Gardener*

      Florentines with orange infused caramel and bits of candied orange rind with a corner dipped in bittersweet chocolate.
      Pretty involved to make, but my favorite cookie EVER

  13. Hrodvitnir*

    Congratulations cat baby! Sorry, I’m terrible with names. I’m so so happy for you all. ❤️

    It’s partially a demonstration of how long it’s been since I was a practising vet nurse that this is possible.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        What wonderful news! Stella is so lucky to have landed with you fostering and then adopting, and having a new feline family.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        ❤️ Telling people their happy, previously healthy young cat has a death sentence was never a good time. I didn’t see it a lot, but it was impactful.

        1. Slartibartfast*

          So many barns and barn cats here, I saw a lot of it. Also lost my indoor childhood cats to it, heavy stray population in a city neighborhood, the strays would get into the crawlspace regularly. Decimated the entire neighborhood population.

  14. Double A*

    So glad Stella is in the clear!

    It was just our 3 year anniversary of our FIP survivor’s Gotcha Date. He got sick right when he turned 1, so he’s now 1.5 years or so out from finishing treatment so he’s good and cured.

    I do suspect it’s done some long term damage to him and he might not live as long as he might have if he never got sick, but he’s living a lot longer than he would have without treatment and seems to be loving life. He’s the most toddler tolerant cat I’ve ever seen, just plops himself down in the middle of their chaos and lets himself be used a pillow. An insane and expensive process to treat him but no regrets at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s so little data on how cats do long-term after treatment so I’m interested in this! What makes you suspect long-term damage? And did he have wet or dry FIP? (And yes, insane and expensive and no regrets either.)

      1. Double A*

        He has the more treatable on, which is dry, right? He overall seems fine, but he just seems a bit lower energy than I would expect a cat his age to be so I wonder if he doesn’t have some lung or heart damage that slows him down a bit. He’s also pretty fat which could just be his build but seems like something metabolic could have been affected.

        I mean, it’s one of those things where I’m confident he’ll live to old age barring any other surprises but if he only lived to 10 or 12 it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s just a feeling that his body works a bit harder than it otherwise would have if he hasn’t been sick. Or maybe I’m just setting my expectations low so anything past 10 years feels like a wonderful bonus.

        This is all completely my intuition and nothing our vet has flagged so hopefully just my paranoia after having to go through it in the first place!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That makes sense. I hope he leads a long and uneventful life filled with sardines and joy!

          I think wet is considered slightly more treatable — if he had fluid in his belly, that was wet. Stella had dry/neuro. The cure rates are slightly lower for dry, although wet is more common.

          I think Stella has some kind of long-term brain difference, although I can’t put my finger on exactly what changed. I asked about that in the FIP group we’re in and no one seemed to think it was an expected response so maybe it’s just Stella.

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            Based on our experience with FIP and the vet we talked to the wet form seems to be more easily spotted. The dry form can often be confused with other kitty illnesses until it’s too late. Our girl had the wet form and I don’t know that I’ve noticed any significant shifts in her behavior before and after.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, that sounds right; dry FIP can look like so many other things and there’s no definitive test to tell you — and so I suspect it’s under-diagnosed, and also that by the time it’s suspected some cats may be too sick to successfully treat. (We had maybe a 10-day period where it was clear something was wrong and the vet couldn’t figure out what it was, which I think is common with dry FIP, and she was getting worse that whole time. It was awful! And then 30 hours after starting meds, shocking improvement.)

              1. RMNPgirl*

                My kitten had the dry form and it was obvious for a month that something was wrong but we couldn’t figure out exactly what. When we finally did the ultrasound, my vet said it looked like FIP with that and the fact we excluded pretty much everything else. He lived another month after the diagnosis before he made it obvious to me it was time to let him go.

  15. The Dresser*

    This is a weird question.

    Many years ago a relative gave me a mid-century modern dresser they no longer needed. (I really like that era and have other pieces that work with it.) However, this relative has since done truly terrible things to me: stole a lot of money from me (long story) and also slandered me. So I no longer use the dresser and had decided to sell or donate it.

    But when I moved it to my LR for easy viewing by prospective buyers (it won’t fetch much, because the top is damaged), I was reminded of how much I like its looks. If I’m going to keep it, I want to store things in it that I basically never use — I don’t want items “contaminated” by the sh-tty relative. (Yes, I know this sounds nutty — but the theft and slander set me back several years. It was huge.)

    I can’t think of any way to use it. I don’t want it to hold items I like or need, and items that I dislike or don’t need should be on their way to donation bins or the trash. Any ideas? Thank you …

    1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      How about paid bills or old tax forms, warranties, etc. The type of thing that you need to keep for a few years but don’t need to access?

      1. The Dresser*

        If the person who handed it down were “merely” unlikable (as opposed to someone who harmed me massively), that would be a great idea. For example, every day I use some items that a prickly and difficult cousin shared after her mother (my aunt) died — the unpleasant associations are mild to the point that I’ve mostly forgotten them. Unfortunately, the Dresser Person is in another category.

        I appreciate your taking time to help me; thank you and best wishes.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Could you get it repainted or re-stained so that it seems more “yours”? A change in appearance can make a big difference when you’re trying to remove bad associations from an item.

      1. The Dresser*

        That’s a good idea. In addition, I could think of the paint as a barrier keeping the bad karma away from me! Thank you for taking the time to help me; best wishes.

      2. E*

        Yes, also came here to say can you use smudge or another ritual and do a kind of purification ceremony to get their “energy” out and fully reclaim it? Even if you don’t believe in that stuff it might be a nice symbol of getting them out of your drawers/head

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Came here to say this too. And enjoy it in SPITE of them.
          Maybe get it refinished so it’s way better than it ever was when it was owned by them?
          Nyah nyah nyah (sorry. modern immaturity over here!)

    3. RLC*

      Not weird at all! I’ve been compelled to part with otherwise lovely things based on negative associations (events, people, etc), and it can be surprisingly difficult to sort the conflicting thoughts. Maybe consider selling the dresser and starting a fund for “new dresser with no bad associations”? The original owners of much midcentury furniture are now in downsizing mode and a dresser with no negative associations might just pop up in a charity shop, estate auction, or tag sale. Put the word out to friends and neighbors and the right piece at a great price might just find you!

      1. The Dresser*

        Thank you for your kindness (“not weird”) and for a good alternative (sell it and use the money to start a fund for a replacement piece with no associations). Thanks, and take care.

    4. Not A Manager*

      You can enjoy the dresser itself, but not enjoy the things stored in it? If that’s really true, then sure, store your “naughty” stuff in there, like tax returns or knee braces or spare rolls of toilet paper. But if your negative associations cause you to dislike the object itself, then just get rid of it even though theoretically you like its looks. Life is too short to be living with something that causes you distress.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Life is too short to be living with something that causes you distress.
        ^This. It doesn’t matter that it has some aesthetic elements that appeal to you. On an emotional level it does not appeal to you any more, and trying to logic your way into keeping it glooming over things is not the right move.

        1. The Dresser*

          I appreciate your seconding that poster’s insight — it’s an important one for me — and I appreciate your taking time to help a stranger. Take care.

      2. The Dresser*

        I appreciate your insights about this; you’re helping me realize that I’m coming at this from a scarcity mindset, which has been a problem throughout my life. Thank you for that and for taking time to help me; best wishes.

    5. WellRed*

      Get rid of it. It’s damaged so fairly worthless and keeping a large piece of furniture to hold stuff you never use?! What? Nah, someone without much money will be grateful to have a dresser.

      1. The Dresser*

        I had been 100% on board with getting rid of it (I seldom saw it bc it lived in my storage room — I’m lucky to temporarily have a 2nd bedroom) but now that I see it daily, my fondness for its looks has eroded that certainty. So I appreciate your weighing in strongly — you’re helping me think about what really would be the best way for me to proceed at this time in my life. Thank you, and best wishes.

    6. Another Janet*

      Would giving the dresser to a friend and having them give it right back to you help “reset” it? If this were something that came to you because they’d been offered it by a dear friend and they knew you’d just love it, would that change your feelings toward it? If so, try that! If not, I’d get rid of the dresser and keep an eye out for something similar. You mentioned it’s not terribly expensive due to the condition, and it doesn’t sound like an urgent need storage-wise, so could you hunt for something similar thrifting/online/etc.?

      1. The Dresser*

        This is another clever idea bout cleansing it, more or less. Thank you for this, and thank you for taking the time to help me. Best wishes.

    7. PhyllisB*

      Not weird at all. Years ago my husband and I got into a blistering fight and at the conclusion he gave me a ring that he was planning to give me for my birthday in a couple of weeks. I didn’t want it but he insisted. It was a beautiful ring but I never enjoyed wearing it because it made me think of that argument everytime I put it on. I finally gave it away because I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore.

      1. The Dresser*

        Thank you for sharing something personal that helps put this in perspective — I really appreciate it — and for taking time to help a stranger. Best wishes.

    8. Double A*

      I don’t believe in woo stuff, but I’m from California so the sage smudge totally holds some power for me. I mean I’m a fan of fighting superstition with superstition.

      In terms of what to store, linen, tools you don’t use much, holiday decorations, anything that is seasonal.

    9. Dinwar*

      There are a variety of ways to cleans energy from something or somewhere, if you’re into that. Even if you’re not it may help, as the ritual can shift what you associate the thing with. Our culture is dismissive of ritual, but it can be very powerful, even viewed totally separately from religion (like graduations or receiving military honors).

      For my part, I wouldn’t use it to store useless things, but rather to store things you DO like. For example, I’ve made a fair number of blankets, and having a place to store them would be nice. Or if you have kids you can store artwork and the like in there. Doesn’t really matter what it is; the point is to dissociate the thing from the person in your mind, and associate it with something positive. It may not work for you, but I’ve found it does for me.

      1. The Dresser*

        Thanks for helping me think about re-instating or cleansing it through ritual. I believe in that, and I’ll take some time to figure out whether that would be enough for me to overcome my negative associations. Take care.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I am really interested in the points about rituals in this thread.

        There was a Moth story from a woman whose father had died at I think 32. She was about to turn 32 and came up with the idea to walk 32 miles around Manhattan to mark the occasion. Friends and family traveled in to walk with her, and it all came off. And the next morning she woke up, and… she didn’t feel like anything had changed. And that resonated really hard with me, as someone trying to reset after a few years of having my health pounded.

        I think we should be able to make our own rituals, that work for us, but I wonder if you really need them to be on heavy repeat to work? Like it works better if you did it with your parents when you were young, or you’ve done it for other people in your cultural subgroup (family, sports team, house of worship) when you were just being supportive and now you are doing it for you. To what extent do rituals require repetition and community buy-in? (The buy-in isn’t sincere belief in any magical power, but a cultural agreement that we will do this thing to promote this feeling.)

        1. Awkwardness*

          I think that rituals require a certain practise/repetition so the understands the ritual and expected outcome. They can be created at every stage of life and without community.

          Be it festivities through the year to give structure (setting up holiday decorations brings people in the mood),
          Worship (either in private or a group),
          Pilgrimage (walking/eating/thinking on repeat, maybe the greatest contrast to your example),
          Rituals for health care (repeated stimulus as with sauna, muscle-mind-memory in sports),
          Evening routines (diary, reading to children or milk with honey)

          As simple as it is: I was sick this December and was not able to set up Christmas decorations. I thought it I’d not worth to do it for the remaining days, as I will travel to see my family. But I am not able to get in a Christmas mood. I see decorations and all out there, but inside everything says “regular days”.
          I have been thinking a lot about rituals tradition this december.

    10. Jay*

      If you can afford it without undue distress, there are people out there who can do wonders with old furniture. Restorations, conversions, complete rebuilds.
      You can have that old dresser turned into something close to art/folk-art just about anywhere. And if you live in a place with a strong art/folk-art tradition, it shouldn’t be hard at all to find someone who could turn it into something unique and wonderful while still keeping the Mid-Century vibe you love about it.

      1. The Dresser*

        Thanks for this idea, which also makes me think of a long-ago friend who does something similar to what you’re suggesting. Unfortunately, I can’t afford anything more than a can of paint at this time, but that’s a good idea — and I appreciate your taking time to help me.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If it’s oiled wood, you could combine ideas here and reoil it with sage essential oil mixed in.

          Or sell it and buy a different piece with the proceeds.

    11. Unkempt Flatware*

      Do you watch the Vintage Nana on TikTok? She has the most adorable covered front porch where she has a chest of drawers she lines with plastic and keeps her potting soil in it. I absolutely love it!

    12. office hobbit*

      From what you’ve said, it sounds like you should get rid of it. You can find another dresser you like the look of that doesn’t have these associations. What’s the point of keeping something that’s aesthetically nice but that makes you feel bad whenever you use it, that you’re struggling to find a purpose for? Let this move on to someone who can use it, and get yourself something you can use.

    13. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      The dresser was YOURS when the relative did the nasty things to you, so it shouldn’t be associated with them at their worst. Enjoy it, and tell it how lucky it was to have a home with you before it was tainted!

    14. Melissa*

      I agree with the people suggesting you get rid of it. Alternatively, can you store something in it that the relative who wronged you would dislike? Like if they always criticised your art, keep your art supplies in there? Something that allows you to reclaim it as yours?

    15. I'm A Little Teapot*

      If you really can’t detach the emotions from the dresser, then just get rid of it. Even if you like it otherwise. It will always be a drag to you.

      1. The Dresser*

        I really appreciate your post and your viewpoint; I feel that way, too, and I was apprehensive that many posters wouldn’t. Thank you for taking time to help a stranger; best wishes.

    16. Generic Name*

      I’d get rid of the dresser. It’s damaged and reminds you of someone you hate. Sell or give it away and go out and find another mid century dresser or other piece of furniture that makes your heart sing and doesn’t carry emotional baggage.

    17. Violetta*

      I would find a local furniture restorer/flipper and have it repaired and painted to make it “yours”. If you look on youtube, for example, and search ‘flipping a MCM dresser’, they can do amazing things.

    18. Donkey Hotey*

      Were I in your situation, I’d consider stripping it and refinishing it in a new color. Literally grind out the negative feeling you have for the relative and make it yours.

      Good luck.

  16. Dr. Doll*

    I’m so tired tonight after an intensely disappointing workday, two days before I’m leaving on a f><king long plane ride to a covid surge spot, having spent an eye-watering amount on gifts for family members that will be appreciated but not THAT much, that I'd really like to just cry for a while. Or I could go out on the back porch and swing kettlebells for a while, that's probably better, huh?

    …Damned if the local classical station is not playing a majestic choral version of Jingle Bells. I really did not think a majestic choral version of Jingle Bells was possible.

    1. chili oil*

      I’m sorry for your day. The kettle bell thing sounds right. And, I hope your presents and effort are more appreciated that you fear right now.

    2. Dr. Doll*

      I forgot to ask my actual question: Recommendations for surviving a flight in the double digit hours? ANYTHING will help, it’s been at least 8 years since I did this.

      1. MassChick*

        Movement. Try to get up and every hour at least. I preach what I don’t practice much..however I at least try to move my legs regularly- leg lifts, swings, ankle rolls.

        Water/fluids regularly even if you don’t feel thirsty. Tea/coffee counts too.

      2. Lbd*

        Last time I flew, I packed cut up chunks of fruit such as melon, apple, grapes, etc. Something healthy to eat, plus to help hydrate but not get caught up in liquid limitations, and isn’t too messy. I packed it in 2 cup sized repurposed clear plastic tubs then in zip locks, as things tend to end up messier than I would like when I am traveling. I also packed paper napkins and bamboo forks.
        There are restrictions on taking fruit into many countries, so not sure how this would do for international flights, but there may be some types of fruit that is allowed vs what isn’t. Usually the ban is to protect their own fruit industry from pests and diseases from elsewhere, so something that isn’t grown there is more likely to be allowed, but check carefully first. Or end up eating it at the airport while you wait!

      3. Kiki Is The Most*

        Sleep mask, ear plugs, throat lozenges, toothbrush/paste, hand sanitizer and/or lotion that has a hint of a pleasant smell. Having non-furry teeth and invigorating scents can be helpful during the flight.

        Playing cards?

        Take a large, heavier scarf in case you’re cold on the flight and the blanket won’t do.

        Download a couple of your favorite episodes of a series. When I get antsy, 20 minutes of Brooklyn Nine Nine or The Office works instead of trying to fidget through a movie.

        If you’re a list-maker, then the to-dos for your holiday? Things to shop for? Things you might want to do when you return home? (Lists help me sort out my scrambled brain).

        I travel extensively and on long hauls, and I’ve gone back to wearing a face mask on the plane. It seems that cold, flu, covid season is everywhere. I try not to start off my work/play trip feeling poorly.

        **Sorry to hear that you’re starting off your trip in the not-best-mood. Mini-meltdowns are perfectly acceptable! I hope your travel goes smoothly!

        1. Amy*

          I like your suggestions, but I’m going to jump off of them to suggest using fragrance-free hand sanitizer and/or lotion instead, and then choose a scent in something you can inhale directly (they make essential oil nasal inhalers, but a refillable roller ball or other small container also works). This route is much less likely to set a sensitive neighbour up with a worse flight, and from a selfish perspective it also makes it much more likely that you can use it the lotion on your own face if the flight is even drier than you expect.

      4. Sloanicota*

        To get to Australia, I loaded up multiple films on a table and took a tylenol PM shortly after departure (benedryl works better for some people; dramamine could also be good). I think it was three films and eight hours of sleeping but we made it.

      5. fposte*

        Bring an extra battery pack for phone/tablet. In seat chargers may be broken. I love noise cancelling headphones and an a late convert to travel neck pillows.

      6. chocolate muffins*

        I’m sorry you had a rough day. For long flights, I try to bring something that I’m excited to do so that I can look forward to doing it on the flight. Like pack a novel I’m excited to read and don’t let myself read it until I’m on the flight, or pack a type of snack that I like to eat but won’t eat for a bit before the flight, etc. I hope the flight and resulting trip go okay.

      7. LA Girl*

        The jet lag fast (from Harvard/Beth Deaconess Hospital). Figure out when your first breakfast is in the new time zone. Count back 16 hours, and start fasting at that point. Water’s fine, but nothing else. When you wake up, your body will say, “I’m very hungry… and it’s light out — oh, it’s morning!” And your inner clock will reset immediately. If you got no sleep on the plane, you might be tired, but you won’t have the horrible brain fog that is jet lag. It really works.

        1. Dr. Doll*

          Oh man, I wish I could do this. I’d have to start fasting at about… oh… 2-3pm in the new time zone. We’ll be arriving around 1pm, and I cannot see getting out of a social dinner.

          Also, we are going on from that time zone to another time zone in only 4 days. Waaah.

          But this is EXCELLENT advice for returning, because I have one day at home and then back to work in full-on freight train mode.

      8. Amy*

        Lots of good suggestions here! I haven’t traveled since covid, but one of my favourite flight accessories is an inflatable footrest. Mine’s probably 6-ish inches high once inflated, and it’s way better than my old method of using my bag. Supporting my short legs definitely makes my back/hips less sore after a flight.

        The one I have you just blow into. When I travel again, I’ll probably try to buy a tiny hand-sized bike pump in advance and see if I could make it work.

    3. JubJubTheIguana*

      Two flight essentials for me are those special flight ear plugs that reduce pressure so you don’t get ear pain, and a saline nasal spray which will reduce your chance of picking up germs. I also bring eye drops.

      Also decent quality wired headphones or earphones so you don’t have to use the crappy ones they give you.

    4. Anono-me*

      For on the plane:
      Phone battery, cosy blanket scarf, good book/s, protin bars, hard candy, gum, water bottle to refill after security.

      I’ve been on flights where the A/C was stuck on, or the the entertainment center was offline, or the seat charger didn’t work, or snack service didn’t happen.

      In general:

      I would suggest a really good mask. I like the duck bill style. I also like the little gadget that hooks the mask loops snug behind my head without looping over my ears.

      Lots of hand sanatitizer. I have a tiny bottle on a carabiner that I clip to my purse. I also have sanatitizer wipes to whip down the high touch areas by my seat.

      I’ve read that keeping the air vent on helps by using purified air to blow shared air away, so I do that.

      I also load up on vitamins and minerals a few days before flying. Especially things that make my body more inhospitable to viruses like vitamin C and zinc. (Maybe check with your medical provider if you want to consider this.)

      A small tub of good lotion will help keep your skin nice and healthy.

      A walk in the morning. Helps get the kinks out and is a good reason to have some personal time.

      Bottled Water. I drink bottled water when I travel out of state. Every geographic area, no matter how good the water system, has harmless microorganisms in the water that the local population is acclimatize to. (Some places have harmful microorganisms too.) But as a person new or newly returned to the area the acclimatization process can be a little rough on the tum.

  17. Mitchell Hundred*

    Inspired by a comment on one of this week’s posts, I’d like to go on record and state that probably the closest thing I have to a Roman Empire (i.e. a thing I think about every day) is the giant pit of fire that’s been burning in the desert in Turkmenistan for the past fifty years.

    I don’t think about it every day, but I do think about it more than anyone probably should.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Haha I thought that tiktok meme was quite funny; I don’t think I ever spare a thought for the roman empire or the civil war but I’m certain there really are people (my father, for one) who think about it every day. I’m really not sure there’s any topic I’m like that on – I guess all my extra brain space is taken up obsessing over my pets, personally – but I’d be interested to hear what everyone else has!

    2. Workerbee*

      I appreciate you explaining what “This is my Roman Empire” means as I haven’t yet looked it up. I’ve been seeing it on tumblr.

    3. carcinization*

      My husband has Suetonius and Catullus in his reading pile right now, and that’s actually the least amount of Roman Empire things he’s been reading in years. What annoyed me was that people refused to believe that some people actually were like that and thought everyone who claimed to be was just following a trend, when my husband and I have never even seen a Tiktok! I do think about the Bolton Strid a lot, but not every day! I’ll comment again if I remember a weird thing I think of more often.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        My husband is like this with military history, especially world war II, so much so that I have instituted a “no war 2 hours before bedtime” rule. My brain likes to recycle imagery from the day, I don’t need that fresh in my head .

    4. Girasol*

      Have you ever read about the Oklo nuclear reactor? I found those decades-old mine fires fascinating too, but then I read about Oklo.

      1. Cat and dog fosterer*

        Oh, this is great thank you! It’s a perfect topic for a very specific coworker who likes to complain about life. He should know all about this and I can distract him by asking if he’s aware of it.

    5. Nervous Nellie*

      Every day, when I am cooking dinner/watching TV/having a hot shower/surfing the net/etc. I think about the fact that the richest figures in history 200 years ago had none of this. Today in many ways we are richer than Queen Victoria, Augustus Caesar, Genghis Khan. No hot & cold running water, no air conditioning, no cars – they did not have these. I marvel at these things with fresh eyes every day. Then I boggle at the accident of my birth into such privilege in this era, when a good third/half of my fellow humans worldwide are missing these luxuries for other reasons. I am so, so grateful.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        I think about this often too but specifically with regard to indoor plumbing. I love having indoor plumbing, especially when I have to use the bathroom in the middle of a cold winter’s night!

  18. WoodswomanWrites*

    I’ve never listened to an audio book, and I’d like to try it. I’m finding that because I’m a writer professionally, it’s become hard for me to stare at words even more by reading books. Any suggestions for making the transition? I’m looking for guidance about logistics, time and place, good sources, etc., not recommendations for specific things to listen to.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Does your public library have audiobooks on Libby? That is my go-to for audiobooks. They are free and easy to listen to on the Libby app.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        same, Libby is good. I am very sensitive to the voices, so even if I want to listen to a book, if the reader has an annoying voice, I can’t. I also find that using one of those Bluetooth headphone headbands, the kind that look like an ear-warmer or athletic headband, let’s me listen for hours at a time.

        1. Snell*

          Funny story about audiobook voices—I was listening to a series that was professionally narrated except for one book when the usual actor was unavailable for the recording schedule, so the author narrated. Because of this, this one audiobook had very consistent, very terrible reviews. I, not having spent a whole lot of bother over the narration (ex., it doesn’t really bother me if a series is narrated by different actors), took these reviews into consideration, and concluded that I could power through terrible acting—after all, it’s the words that make up the book, so the words are the important part, not the acting, right?

          Wrong, wrong, so wrong! I had to quit less than 3 minutes in.

      2. Snell*

        +1 and lots of love to this

        I already used my public library for audiobooks (I was borrowing the actual CD sets), but when the pandemic hit and publicly accessible spaces suddenly became physically inaccessible, that’s when I really leaned into the library’s online services, like Overdrive (which has now transitioned to Libby) for ebooks and audiobooks.

    2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Oh – you also asked about time and place. I listen to them while I am cleaning the house, gardening, and driving (although in heavy traffic I have to pause the book – otherwise I’ll be navigating traffic and realize I didn’t register what I was listening to). I also listen at bedtime, setting the sleep timer so it stops after half an hour or how long I want to listen.

      1. Thinking*

        I listened to The Poisonwood Bible as an audiobook, and I was amazed by how good I found it. It is a problem to zone off, so maybe set yourself down with a non-reading project when you listen.

        You might try a book you have already read, but which is intrinsically interesting, so missing bits won’t matter so much.

    3. Anonymous cat*

      I started listening to them when I had a job that was repetitive and had no customer interaction. Listening to them helped pass the time.

      I’ve heard of people listening to them while walking the dog—and sometimes doing a longer walk than planned for because they had to find out What Happened Next.

      If you’re trying to decide where to start, I’d suggest trying a humor book or a collection of short stories. So if your mind wanders you haven’t missed important plot points!

    4. Lbd*

      I like listening to them in the car. Once I was playing an audio book of a collection of short stories from my favourite mystery author while traveling to and waiting in line for a ferry, and it put my kids to sleep in the back for a double bonus! Such a quiet peaceful wait! Until it came to the end of the tape (yes! it was an old car!) and a little voice from the back said, “Can we listen to the other side now?”

      1. Angstrom*

        The car works for me. My partner likes listening while she does art & craft work.
        I have a hard time just sitting and listening at home unless I’m already tired — too many distractions.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have a hard time with audiobooks because I have no ability to visualize, so it’s easy to get distracted. I address this in two primary ways:
      1) I do audiobooks of old favorites that I’m familiar with, not new things, so if I get distracted and miss a couple minutes I still know what’s going on.
      2) I listen while I’m knitting or stitching, so I have a visual focus, and that helps me keep my ears focused separately. (I’m also one of those who wishes I could knit through meetings.)

    6. Anon Poster*

      Thanks to Spotify adding audiobook access to their premium plans, I’m now listening to audiobooks for the first time. The only exercise I like to do is go for walks, which usually take close to an hour, so that’s when I listen. I’ll occasionally listen while I’m folding laundry or doing a repetitive crochet project, but usually it’s just on walks. I can’t concentrate on two things at once, so as soon as I have to read a pattern or count stitches carefully, the audiobook has to go because I’ll miss stuff.

      I do find I can really only listen to nonfiction. Hearing a narrator recite facts is just fine, but I feel like hearing one voice act out different characters would bug me? Maybe I’ll be proven wrong someday, but for now I’m sticking with nonfiction for audio and fiction for regular reading.

      1. And thanks for the coffee*

        Some audio books have different actors (readers) for different characters. Many readers adjust their voice for different characters. Those might work for you.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I usually do audiobooks on long drives.

      As a substitute for the radio (or now podcasts), times when your hands and eyes are engaged doing something routine but your brain is available to track something. Driving, exercising, and cleaning are my go-tos. Cooking depending on how much mental engagement that needs from you.

      If I’m really rundown physically, lying in bed or on the couch with my eyes closed.

    8. Llellayena*

      My parents get audiobooks from the library (CD or digital) as they have a wide selection and they listen in the car on basically any trip that will be longer than half an hour. They get a bunch out at once and do a 10 min test run to see if they like the reader. When they find a voice they like, they’ll look for more books narrated by that person (whether it’s the same author or not).

    9. GoryDetails*

      I hope you enjoy your foray into audiobooks! I’ve been listening for years, and adore them.

      For me, listening while driving works very well; keeps me calm in heavy traffic, and in general is very enjoyable. But I have heard from folks who just can’t listen while driving as it distracts them, so keep that in mind if you try it. (When I started listening to audiobooks in the car I chose books I’d already read, so that if I had to focus on a tricky bit of navigation and missed a bit of the narrative it wouldn’t matter. I generally choose new books now, but listening to old favorites is also fun.)

      I’ve listened while walking, but don’t have earbuds at present – and if I’m walking in the woods somewhere I’d rather listen to the ambient noises anyway.

      Don’t usually listen while doing chores, though I probably should; maybe it’d help me get around to decluttering the basement. Maybe I should look into some earbuds after all!

      As others have said, definitely listen to samples first. A good narrator can make almost anything sound lovely, and a bad one can ruin the best writing there is. (Taste in narration varies; just because someone’s a highly-rated narrator doesn’t mean that you’ll like their work. Listening to samples helps a lot, though sometimes they’re too short or don’t feature all the narrators in a multi-cast book, so feel free to skim or quit if you find you just don’t want that voice in your head anymore!)

    10. Morning Reading*

      Seconding many of the suggestions here. Also, if you have (some kinds of ) hearing aids, audio can Bluetooth directly to them. Just like earbuds but they are there all the time, so it’s easy. Other sounds can come through too so it’s not as isolating as using headphones.

    11. Llama Llama*

      My husband and I listen to books right before bed. It’s a nice relaxing event. The one drawback is how tired you are. Lots of times I have to recap what happened the night before to my husband as he falls asleep 5 min in.

    12. Jackalope*

      I just listened to my first audio book ever, and it was a book narrated by the author, who has a voice that I love (one of those people I could listen to as they read the phone book). I would recommend that as a thing to consider when starting, if you’re at all down for that – a book narrated by someone that you’re familiar with and feel pretty sure you can listen to long term, so even if you miss some bits you can still enjoy the experience.

    13. Sally Rhubarb*

      My two recommendations are start with books you already love and listen to them when you are stuck doing something you can’t otherwise be entertained by your phone, etc.

      I listen to audiobooks when I’m driving & on my lunch break & it’s great. But if the narrator is annoying, I don’t hesitate to return the book & move onto something else. (Libby is great!)

    14. MCL*

      I have a preference for non-fiction audiobooks, so know that you might have genre preferences. I think the narrator makes or breaks it, so forgive yourself if you just can’t get past a bad narrator. I like to listen while I walk, do chores, drive, etc. I have a paid Audible subscription but your public library is also great. And honestly, there are some podcasts out there that are serialized and performed like audiobooks, so that might be another entry point.

    15. Dinwar*

      Librivox.org has some good ones. It’s public domain works and volunteers reading; the quality is HIGHLY variable, but at “free” the price is right. I also second Libby–I’ve used it for a while, and it’s a fantastic resource.

      As for when, I usually listen while I do other things. Like, I’ll put on an audiobook and crochet after work. Or I’ll put one on while I’m doing laundry or weeding or something relatively quiet. It doesn’t take much brainpower to pull weeds or turn a compost pile or rake leaves, and having something to listen to makes the chores seem more like an opportunity to enjoy something than like a chore to be avoided, so I’m more likely to do them.

    16. PaceAndStyleMatter*

      The biggest adjustment for me is having to read at someone else’s pace. As a consequence I find it incredibly difficult to use audio books unless I’ve already read the book. They’re just too slow.

      Also, there are a bunch of different styles of audio books and some people like some of them a lot better than others, so be aware that you may have to decide what to read not just based on the type of books you like but also the style of reading. For example, I have a hard time with “full cast” audio books that are sort of hybrids of radio plays and books – hearing the silent parts/”stage instructions” throws me way out of the story. However, I have friends who love this style.

      Also be aware that author-read books tend to be either fabulous or dreadful with little middle ground.

      I don’t know if this is the type of metadata you wanted, but I hope it helps.

    17. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m not a huge fan of audio books, but listen to them occasionally. What I have found is that some narrators are reading the book, and others are performing the book. Both are valid, but for me they are very different things. Example: the old Rob Ingles (BBC) recordings of Lord of the Rings is reading the book to you. The new Andy Serkis recordings of Lord the Rings is performing the book.

      I don’t listen to enough to know how common either method is, but I do know its a thing.

    18. WoodswomanWrites*

      Wow, so many great comments. This is all helpful so I have a place to start. Thanks to you all.

    19. EA*

      1. Do NOT try to push through a narrator who you don’t like. It’s not worth it.
      2. When I was starting out, I chose lighter reads – memoirs read by comedic writers, some fluffy sci fi – where it didn’t really matter if I spaced out and missed a few lines.

    20. Awkwardness*

      I always want audiobooks to be something I can listen to while doing something else.
      This never works when listening to this on loudspeaker or with tethered heatsets. Every noise I am making is too distracting, so in those cases I only can listen to them in the car, or when sick or when lying in the sun in summer.
      I recently puchased a bluetooth headset, and this gives much more flexibility as there is much less distraction.

    21. Quinalla*

      Agree with Libby, great way to listen for free. Audible is what my husband uses which is great as well and they are good about getting rid of poor versions and replacing them based on user feedback.

      I like to listen on long car trips the most, but I will listen while doing laundry, dishes, etc. and on shorter car trips. Some find that too choppy, but honestly I rarely get to sit down and read anymore without interruption, so I get my reading in where I can :)

    22. Ms. Murchison*

      For me, the most important part of making the transition work was finding good readers, so you might ask around or seek reviews that praise the performance. Also keep in mind that authors aren’t always the best choice to read their own book because it really an acting performance. I recommend Juliet Stevenson, Neil Gaiman, Titus Welliver, and Ian Carmichael’s versions of the Lord Peter mysteries. If there are many different voices in the book, like in The Other Americans by Laila Lalami, it’s very helpful when the audiobook producers pick different actors for each part.

      Some books will lend themselves to listening while doing other activities and others will not. You’ll get involved in your task and realize you missed the last five minutes of the book, or the book will require more focus than you can take away from your chore. Since I use Libby, I periodically tap the bookmark while I am fully engaged in the book, so that I have spots to fall back to if I get distracted.

      1. Zelda*

        Neil Gaiman is a great example of an author who *does* read their own work well. Also Mary Robinette Kowal, who is a professional voice actor just as much as she is an author. We’ve listened to her _The Spare Man_ and _The Calculating Stars_ with relish.

    23. KTNZ*

      I found listening to audiobooks took practice, weirdly. I had to start with the audiobooks of books I’d already read so that if my mind wandered, I still knew what was going on and could pick up the thread again.
      So, my advice would be to pick a couple books that you love, and try listening to them to get used to it. I also only listen to audibooks while I’m doing something else (playing mindless games on my phone, knitting, riding my bike etc) otherwise I can’t focus nearly as well.

    24. Person from the Resume*

      I basically listened to podcasts or audiobooks anytime I’m doing something mindless around the house (brushing teeth, showering, cooking, cleaning, etc) or driving. I do turn it off whenever I try to focus on a task, though, including looking at my phone.

      I do think audiobooks need to on the easier side so I don’t require 100% of my attention, but if I find I’m distracted I will rewind . For example I’m a sci fi fan, but a hard sci book with lots of world building is not a good choice for audiobook. Also skip books with so many characters they require a dramatis persona at the beginning. And for me I need to skip books with a cast of characters with foreign (to me) names because although I can keep track of them while reading, it doesn’t stay in my head when listening.

  19. The Prettiest Curse*

    Even though they’re being replaced somewhat by social media, there’s something weirdly fascinating about holiday/end-of-year family update notes and emails. Do you have a cousin whose parents won’t stop bragging that their kid is a doctor, a lawyer AND an astronaut? Does a family you know run ultra-marathons in unusual places? Have your extended family started (or continued) a feud via holiday update notes? Tell me about it!

    An example from my own family: in her annual updates, one of my aunts did a pretty good job of writing around the fact that her son-in-law had left one of her daughters – for another of her daughters. It was always interesting to see if the son-in-law and new partner would be mentioned in the year-end update…

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Nothing crazy ever happened and she’s passed now, but my gran always wrote her Christmas updates in poetry. (Nothing particularly stylistically special, the AABBCC etc that always says “old ladies in the Midwest” to me.)

    2. Not A Manager*

      Usually I skim those at best, but I would for sure read that aunt’s letter! What a situation.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      My mom had a coworker who, after she left that job and moved away, kept Mom on her Christmas card list for many years. Christmas letters were not very common in that time and place so I was intrigued to even see them at all, but the thing I remember is the formal style they were written in. “The Smiths have relocated to X location for Mr. Smith’s professional growth. In referring to your atlas you will see that this is just west of Y city.” Several years down the line the letter started with “The Smiths regret to inform you all that we have divorced, but continue to be amicable. Custody will be X and Mr. Smith will be relocating to Z.” It was just a lot for someone I had met a couple of times at Mom’s workplace. I’m sure that’s the only reason I remember her at all.

    4. miel*

      I love these letters!

      I think it’s very fun to see how different people approach them. There’s the standard “kid report,” there’s the (braggy?) travelogue, there’s the minimal effort, there’s the maximal effort, there’s an entire well-thought-out two-page story that moves me to laughter and tears! (That’s one friend who has particularly great letters.)

    5. GoryDetails*

      Not a lot of annual-holiday-letter writers in my circle – though I do rather miss the ones from some lovely (and, sadly, late) friends: they’d send detailed letters of all the doings of the family and pets, from travel to fun-and-games to support for charities, nicely written and, often, including events to which their entire circle had been invited, so it was more “commemorative” than “bragging”.

      Side note: there’s a marvelous novel that’s presented largely in the form of an annual holiday letter: “Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners” by Gretchen Anthony, a delightful mix of hilarity, familial stress, poignancy, and heartwarming.

    6. Ochre*

      I write our letter and I’ve basically made it a rule that we only write about *our* news. Someone got married? Not my story to tell. The nibling is on their 6th job in 5 months so they visited us? I’ll mention the visit, but not why they had 3 weeks off to spend with us. The aged parent is getting concerningly forgetful and we’re shopping for care homes (which has in fact been a huge effort and a big part of our year)? Not going to make it into the letter, though next year maybe I’ll mention that we visited their new location or get to play Scrabble with them every weekend now.

      If we had kids it would be different, we’d want to share their direct news while they were still kids living at home, but once people are adults I think it’s safer to just talk about what we (and the pets) did that year.

    7. Manders*

      Totally minor, but my parents have written a year-end letter exactly once, about 15 years ago. It was the same year I moved across the country and started my job at the University of “City”. However, my very proud parents didn’t quite get the memo of the name of the university, and they called it University of State, City (I attended one of the University of Californias for undergrad, so sort of like UCLA or whatever). Unfortunately University of State is an actual school, and quite our rival! My parents, not being the sportsball type, had no idea that they confused everyone so much. 15 years later and I’m still having to tell their friends that I do not, and never have, worked at University of State.

    8. PhyllisB*

      I love Christmas cards and Christmas letters!! Some years I even remember to send them out myself.
      I don’t write letters to everyone, just folks that I know are interested in what’s going on with us.
      But what I DO hate are cards that just have a printed signature and nothing personal. I understand if it’s from your insurance agent, but I have a cousin who sends us one with the family picture they made that year and it’s just a printed signature. I feel like she could at the very least scrawl “hope you have a Merry Christmas!!” at the bottom. What would be really helpful is if she listed who’s who. We haven’t seen each other in years
      and she has eight grandchildren I’ve never met, and I don’t have a clue who any of them are.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      You might enjoy Connie Willis’s short story Newsletter, on this topic.

      I will say that my personal experience is that these provide pleasant updates about the lives of people I care about. Maybe everyone took a warning from the satirized versions. Or maybe that energy all went into year-round competitive social media posting, leaving “here’s a photo of the now-taller children” for the yearly updaters.

    10. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I used to love getting those letters, especially the weirder ones. I had a family friend who would write super-braggy letters about their travels and accomplishments and their children (even after the children were adults and sending their own Christmas cards) and grandchildren. I used to read them out loud in a affected British accent (not nice, but satisfied my snarky soul).

      There was a relative who would send letters that were almost unreadable due to their poor grammar. My mom used to joke that she wanted to take a red pen to the letter and send it back (you can see where I got my sense of humor).

    11. Heather Crackers*

      I have a sad one, actually. For the past few years, my cousin and his wife have filled their holiday card with amazing travel photos and descriptions of the many extended vacations they take with their kids each year. If you didn’t have any context, you’d be envious of their lavish lifestyle. The reality is that their son was diagnosed with an incurable degenerative illness, and they want him to see the world while he’s still able-bodied. They are emptying their retirement accounts to make this happen.

    12. LNLN*

      One year my husband and I could not agree on the style of our annual letter, so we each wrote one and sent them both in our Christmas cards. We got a lot of responses, more or less voting for their preferred style.

    13. Mobie's Mom*

      My MIL’S letters were always enragingly hilarious. I married her oldest son (oldest of 7 kids, most of whom were still at home for many years after we married), but she always had a blurb about each kid, even after all left home, for a few years even after the youngest left home. However, I’m not sure I was ever mentioned personally at all, in all those years, although other daughters- in- law were. The enraging part was the farming over the younger kids with no mention of my husband, OR including something from hubby’s life that he had not shared with them, but one of his siblings had. And I believe the last time I myself was referred to was maybe 3 years ago, when it was mentioned that hubby “and wife” had yet to visit MIL and FIL since their move to a new state. I regret not saving them all to chortle over later, but MIL is also VERY bad at spelling and grammar, so some were not very readable, and really kind of embarrassing. MIL is in pretty poor health now, despite relatively young age, so no letter last year and I don’t expect one this year, either.

    14. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I send Christmas cards, partially because its the only way some people hear from me. A lot of the ones I get don’t include a letter, just the card. Often a picture card. My mom normally does one, but with the price of stamps she told me today that she’s going to send emails this year.

      Certain family members are known to be problematic. Their letters often are displays of that. I don’t get many of those, I’m the “young” generation and thus don’t rate a card from some of the snooty family.

    15. zaracat*

      One aunty sends out a xmas update exactly like this, compete with photo montage. Their kids are all just average with regular jobs though. The star of the family is my cousin who’s an astro-physicist married to a biochemist, with super cute kids, but we don’t get updates on them from his parents cos his dad is *that* uncle (Trump loving Christian Zionist awaiting the rapture and got no time for actual science).

    16. LA Girl*

      When our best friend died, my husband and I had to clear his apartment out. We found his file of 30 or so Christmas newsletters. Of course we’d received them year after year, but I sat down to read them all at once.

      …And realized that he died of the exact same cancer as his mother, at the same age she died at. And after dutifully reporting on his slow-growth cancer each year for 6 years, in his final newsletter, he didn’t mention it at all. Turns out it had taken a turn for the worse and he didn’t tell a soul — and I was aghast that I hadn’t noticed the omission at the time. Three months later, things got very bad very fast and in one week he went from running 3 miles a day to dying.

      I saved all the newsletters.

    17. Lime green Pacer*

      A few years ago, out of the blue, I received one of these letters from my cousin. She mentioned, in passing, that her husband was “hoping to get out of prison soon”. When I mentioned this to my mom, much later, she laughed and told me that the husband was working in corrections but hoped to be hired by the local police.

      1. Cat and dog fosterer*

        Oh, that’s too funny!

        After reading all of these I’m tempted to write up something funny about my dogs with the sole intention of giving friends a laugh, but I’m not sure what that would look like. I might have to think on this a bit. And I know given the timeline that I can’t send them as Christmas cards but I have been known to send winter cards to a few good friends.

    1. Roland*

      Lockwood and Co was a lot of fun for me even reading for the first time as an adult, so that could also be fun to read together. Anything by Jonathan Stroud really, loved him in 5th grade and still genuinely enjoy his new books. His Bartimaeus series is my favorite but the themes in the later books in the series might be just a touch too advanced at age 10. (Or not, I don’t have kids, maybe I was just emotionally behind at that age.)

    2. Fellow Traveller*

      Rick Riordon has his own publishing imprint, called Rick Riordon Presents. They publish books, similar in style/genre to Percy Jackson by authors from underrepresented cultures or backgrounds.
      We really liked the Aru Shah series from that imprint.

      1. Clara Bowe*

        +1

        Also, Xiran Jay Zhao has “Zachary Ying and the Dragon Empire” our, which is middle grade and pretty fun!

    3. Not A Manager*

      The Children’s Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum.

      My child’s teacher saw him reading this and wound up using it for his class. It’s really engaging.

    4. Josame*

      John Flanagan author, The Ranger’s Apprentice series.
      Also seconding Jonathon Stroud, The Bartimaeus books.

    5. Generic Name*

      My son loves The Warriors. It’s a massive series about a colony of feral cats, but they have a whole society and go on adventures.

      1. Clisby*

        My daughter and son both loved the Warriors series. It’s written by 3 authors (using the same pseudonym) so the writing output is prodigious. (Or was – I don’t know whether new ones are still coming out.)

        1. Generic Name*

          Ha! I didn’t know that! I won’t tell my son (who is 17) because I think he’d be disappointed.

          1. curly sue*

            I think there are actually about seven “Erins”?

            One of the early Erins left and wrote her own series about dragons. Tui Sutherland – Wings of Fire. My previously-obsessed-with-Warrior-Cats kid moved to WoF when she got bored with the Warriors books, and at 16 is still a huge fan. Wings of Fire is still very much aimed at a middle-grade audience, but the writing is much, much better.

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

      Not directly inspired by Percy Jackson, but I think a lot of 10-year-olds might enjoy the *Great Brain* series by John D. Fitzgerald about growing up in late 1800s or early 1900s Utah. The books are narrated by little brother JD about his mischievous older brother Tom and his schemes and scrapes, and they gave me a bit of a sense of what life back then might have been like.

    7. Clisby*

      Mary Pope Osborne, of Magic Tree House fame, wrote a series of books telling the story of The Odyssey. They were quite good – I’d say written at about a 4th or 5th grade level. I think there were 6 books, but not sure.

    8. Tessera Member 42*

      He might like the Mr. Limoncello’s Library series by Chris Grabenstein – imagine if Willy Wonka were a rich man who established a library and set kids on a fantastical scavenger hunt through it, and you’ve got the vibe of these books. It’s got a good ensemble cast with distinct personalities like the Percy Jackson books, plus there are puzzles you can try to solve before the characters in the books.

    9. beep beep*

      He sounds like a good age for the Redwall books. There’s a lot of them and mostly you can read them in any order, so good for library pick-ups. I read and reread them from about eight to sixteen, and I still have a few of my favorites on my shelf. (Animals have heroic adventures, solve puzzles/mysteries, and do battle with evil.)

    10. Aneurin*

      He might enjoy Garth Nix’s “Keys to the Kingdom” series (“Mister Monday” is the first book) – a 12-year-old asthmatic protagonist called Arthur Penhaligon is sent on a quest to take back a magical world called The House.

      Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a lot of historical fiction set in different times & places (Roman Britain featuring heavily), and she also wrote re-tellings of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Her writing is quite old-fashioned/mannered now, but I’ve loved her books since I was about 9 years old – the Iliad and Odyssey retellings also have fantastic watercolour illustrations by Alan Lee.

      Agree with the Jonathan Stroud, John Flanagan, & Redwall recommendations!

    11. Pamela Adams*

      I like Greg Eekhout’s books. A few samples- Boy at the End of the World, Cog, and the most recent- Ghost Job.

  20. Fish Fan*

    Any home aquarists here with any advice for newbie?

    I told my boyfriend I wanted fish for Christmas and we brought home the first ones yesterday. We got a 46 gallon bow front on marketplace last month and also set up a small 12 gallon corner tank that he had in storage.
    So far we’ve got sanke swordtails and amano shrimp. I know I’d like to also get honey gourami and some type of corydora. My boyfriend is also thinking pea puffers for the smaller tank.

    I’ve been learning a ton but there’s so much that I still don’t know. Luckily by boyfriend has had multiple tanks over the past 30 years, and works in animal care, including a variety of fish, so he has a lot of expertise. But I don’t want to just rely on him, I’m trying to learn as much as I can myself.

    1. Anima*

      Shrimp keeper of 10 years here!
      My best tip is to not overfeed. They (and also fish, I found, I had a few over the years with the shrimp) do need way less food than the package says. In small tanks overfeeding can lead to bad water conditions and illnesses.
      Also check the age of the food – managed to get hydras from old food. The eggs of these are dormant for a loooooong time.
      (Got a betta fish who took care of the hydras, but still.)
      You (and your boyfriend) seem to know about the basics, cycling and stocking, so my usual beginner tips don’t apply here. Have fun with you new pets!

    2. It's me*

      Seconding Anima, you seem like you’ve got your basics pretty much covered, and your boyfriend as a good advanced resource. My tip is to always use multiple sources as you do your research and double check your information-like Anima said, never trust the feeding guidelines on the food packages, they’re just blatantly wrong. Find out the natural history of the fish you have/want, use that as a care baseline.

      Fish forums are hit or miss, sometimes they’re a goldmine, sometimes they’re useless. I don’t trust information I look up unless I can find it in multiple places and it doesn’t look like it’s just the same info copy/pasted onto different websites. As you get more experience it’ll be easier to use your judgement about the info you come across. Also, every setup is unique and has it’s own quirks, even if the principles are the same, how it shakes out in practice can vary wildly from system to system. Learn how your specific setup and tank ecosystem work and what “good” and “bad” look like for it specifically.

      Start thinking about emergencies, what’s your plan if the power goes out? If the tank springs a leak, or the pump or heater stop working? What’s the plan for if life stuff happens and you or your boyfriend can’t perform the care for a while? How will you deal with fish diseases? In my experience this is the most frequently overlooked part of care-and the most important to plan for because aquatic emergencies tend to be time sensitive. It’s the sort of thing you hope to never need, but if you have it ahead of time it’ll save you from so much hassle.

    3. chili oil*

      Are you having plants in your tank? (I love plants). It’ll take a while to cycle your tank (that means have the bacteria/algae stabilize) I think ours took around 4 months to stabilize. If you have plants, get some algae eaters. We got otocinclus (something like that. They are catfish and *so cute*. They perch on their fins while “sitting” on a leaf). Otherwise, don’t get lemon tetras- we got some, and 15 years later, we still have some, but they are hugely territorial, and somewhat mean, and have killed/harassed till death all the other smaller fish in the tank. One of my local fish stores will take healthy returns – this is important if you buy some small fish but they grow larger than intended or two fish pair off and become agressive to the rest of their species. Always isolate new fish for a few days. Your smaller tank can be used for eggs- angel fish are easy to breed.

      1. Fish Fan*

        We’ve added some plants to one of the tanks, which is also the one housing the shrimp who already seem to be good little algae eaters.
        Not likely to try to breed anything right away. We’ve talked about using the smaller tank as quarintine/hospital tank but if we do decide to make it a pea puffer tank we’ll have to have plan for anything we need to isolate

      2. carcinization*

        I know the guy that we had in our tank to eat algae was called a plecostomus, but was otherwise how you described. That was back in the 80s when I was little, so it took me a long time to figure out what we actually had (what I remembered was something like “pug-ostomus,” so close but not exactly the actual name).

    4. Sally Rhubarb*

      Don’t trust the pet store unless you’re going to an actual fish store.

      Source: former pet store employee who knew fuck all about fish but had to sell them anyway

    5. don'tbeadork*

      Always have slightly fewer fish/organisms than conventional wisdom claims the tank can hold.

      You do not have to feed every day, and certainly not multiple times a day.

    6. Busy Middle Manager*

      Get a water testing kit, your ammonia can be high and the water looks clear and pristine. You seem in a rush like most fish tank keepers but a tank is something you need to be slow and laid back about. Let it run with no fish for a month or six weeks. It will be a good sign when you see algae around, but not overgrowing. Then start slow with adding fish

      Read about nitrogen cycle for aquariums

      I had two tanks over 15 years (got rid of it when there was an unexpected ammonia spike after having stable water for years, and many small fish died very very quickly, and I had to find someone to adopt the rest, I am getting prepped to move. There are logistically hard to do BTW!)

      I also had a “treat” type food to provide variety. As per overfeeding. One trick is to put food in in tiny quantities. Can always add more in a few minutes.

      Besides that big ammonia spike (still don’t know the cause) my water quality was always good. I made a concerted effort to keep it in a natural state and not introduce stuff to kill the good bacteria. Which meant, always always letting a bucket of water sit for a day so the chlorine goes out. Even the water I’d rinse off an algae covered filter cartridge. Also, not doing a deep cleaning of the filter. It being a bit slimy is good, you just need to clean off the “bad” stuff which is basically anything that will block the flow of water. Put another way, clean it but don’t overclean or clean everything all at once.

      1. Fish Fan*

        Yeah, we’ve had the tank running about a month before adding fish and started with just the swordtails as they’re one of the more hardy and tolerant of the fish we want.
        My boyfriend is good with the cycling and chemistry stuff. And I’m learning. But he likes to age the water instead of treating water to remove the chlorine as well

  21. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Maybe a weird question – if you have cameras around your home (anything from pet cameras, nanny cam, doorbell camera, security system of some sort) do you specifically mention it to people who come over?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I don’t think this is weird, and I think people should. I pet sat for someone as a favor, and they casually mentioned later that they watched on their camera to see what time I came and went. I really disliked that, although I had nothing to be ashamed of; it just felt like a “gotcha” and a weird power imbalance, but I would have been fine with it if they’d told me before. But, I do recognize that I have a weird bugaboo about privacy stuff that most people just don’t have.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yeah, sneaky watching people is yuck. I left the initial question kind of vague, but specifically what I was thinking is, our security system includes indoor cameras that cover most of the main floor of my house, and my husband feels like he has to warn everyone about them before they come to visit us while we are at home. I don’t have any particular feelings about it either way, they’re pretty obvious and nobody has access to them but us (unless the system is actually triggered, in which case the monitoring company gets access if we don’t answer the phone when they call) and so far everyone has been “sure, whatever” but I was just wondering about it this morning.

        1. Still*

          Oh, I think you should absolutely tell people! People are very bad at noticing things they don’t expect, and I don’t think most people would expect cameras at a friend’s house. I certainly never would. And I would feel widely uncomfortable if I found out about them after the fact.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      When our cat had been ill just before we left on a trip we set up a camera, and told our various young catsitters that it was there and why. Each read the note, then turned and waved at the camera. (Cat was fine while we were gone.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Cute! One of our cameras is aimed so that when we’re not home, we can check in on the crated dog :) and the non-crated one tends to stay close by.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        We do the same. It’s pretty obvious why we have a nanny cam pointed at the cat feeder, but it’s in a space that would otherwise be private, so we let any cat-sitters know it’s there. Seems like the respectful thing to do. (We only turn that camera on when we’re out of town, so we aren’t filming anyone else.) The doorbell camera is looking onto a public street, and also a very common thing to have, so I don’t feel obliged to warn people about that one.

    3. Clara Bowe*

      Personally, I am deeply uncomfortable with being in homes with direct surveillance (Alexa, Google Home, Cameras/etc.) without the knowledge of what I am walking in to. I know it is super “normal” these days, but no. No it isn’t. It shouldn’t be. And yes, that limits stuff for me, but that’s between me and, well, me.

      Idk, informed consent seems to be a good look across the board?

      1. Sloanicota*

        See now I’m thinking about this. I would want someone to ask me if I would prefer they turn off Alexa or whatever (and I would probably say yes!) when I come over, but I’m not sure how I would react if they said after I was committed to coming, or was planning to come in, “oh by the way the home is under surveillance, just wanted you to know.” It’s an interesting question to me. In theory I’d rather know than not know but if I’m unlikely to change my plans and they’re unwilling or unable to change their surveillance it’s kind of just a bummer now. Hmm.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          That’s kind of where I ended up – I’m happy to tell people, but I’m not going to change my house’s normal settings, so is there really much point in the end? (There is a sign on my front door that specifies that there are cameras and a security system, which to me seems sufficient heads up, both to my friends and to bad guys. Plus I think at this point anyone I would invite over knows.)

          1. Still*

            The point is for people to be able to opt out, preferably in advance. It would be a bummer to come all the way to your door and then find out about surveillance that I’m uncomfortable with. If it’s not an issue, mentioning it in advance isn’t going to make it into an issue. But if it’s an issue, not mentioning it until the last minute or until after the fact is going to make it way more uncomfortable and a logistical headache. Your husband is being thoughtful about it.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              No, for sure he is, and I certainly don’t object. It just never occurred to me as a thing that would need mentioning, until he started telling everyone he knows, and I was like “huh. I guess? Is that a thing?” So apparently it is a thing, and now I know. :)

        2. kalli*

          See, I’m more in the realm of someone going ‘we have an Alexa and here’s how to use it’ if I was going to their house for sitting or helping or working, because that’s a house appliance that not everyone has and some people have them super integrated and some people just use it as a handsfree music player. I’d like to think that turning it off wouldn’t affect anything but at the same time, if it’s linked to the lights and the fridge and the security cameras it may be rather onerous for them to turn it back on and make the reason they have it less functional for them while they’re gone – if it’s off and someone breaks in and that means they can’t access the footage until they come home or whatever. If it’s normalised for them then treating it on the same level as ‘the lights are here, the fridge is here, the vet’s number is here, let me just add your voice to the Alexa so it’s more likely to behave’ gives the opportunity to go ‘oh you have an Alexa! I’ve never seen one, is it watching me?’ and have a conversation instead of ‘do you want us to disable part of our home for your convenience’.

    4. Generic Name*

      No, but they are pretty visible and aren’t in any way hidden. Plus the Ring doorbell is pretty obvious. I only have exterior cameras.

    5. Anonymous cat*

      I’m not sure that “obvious” cameras are actually obvious to a casual visitor (excluding doorbell). The resident sees them because the resident is there every day, but a casual visitor might not be inspecting every detail of the house.
      I couldn’t tell you whether people have cameras unless I needed to pick up something in the area.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Not to casual visitors, but to people who work for us like pet sitters and cleaners. We only have one watching the front door, and I tell them it’s mainly a security measure so we get an alert if someone entering our house at an unexpected time. It’s only fair that they know that we’ll know when they come and go, although we also have a smart lock and alarm keypad, so they should already have assumed that. We don’t really socialize that much at our house, and when we do, it’s usually not in that room anyway.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Our previous landlord had cameras watching the yard, and I think I told some people but I didn’t make a point of warning them.

      I would want to know if I was visiting someone with cameras or surveillance in the house, partly because I don’t really believe that Amazon or the security company doesn’t have access to the images. I’ve read enough articles about warrantless surveillance, and security company employees ignoring the rules about looking at things, to know that the homeowner may not even know if someone grabs those files.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Not all cameras work like that, though. Our Wyze camera only stores video locally on an SD card, because I refuse to “subscribe” to yet another cloud storage account for a specific device.

        But good to know that that’s the main concern for most people, which means it’s probably fine that I don’t tell everyone.

    8. Melissa*

      If someone is in my house and I’m not (e.g. babysitting) I mention that the cat feeder has a camera but I wouldn’t use it while the person is there. It’s pointing at an unused corner of the lounge room so it’s unlikely anyone would be in that space unless they’re a cat that likes treats.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I have a couple of exterior cameras for the purposes of neighbor-mitigation. I don’t generally mention it, though they are easily visible if you look up. Most of the people who come to my house are aware of the cameras already. Also, you have to be on one side of the property to be caught on video anyway.

      If you have active cameras inside, then yes I’d like to know. And frankly, it may impact my decision to come to your house in future.

    10. Hrodvitnir*

      Yeah, I would definitely want to know. I would almost certainly still visit, but if I found out later I might not any more, because it makes me so viscerally uncomfortable.

      This is for inside cameras, outside doesn’t have the same feeling of being watched.

    11. Disclose*

      I would be pretty upset if I wasn’t told about it ahead of time in a social situation, probably to the point where I would reconsider whether you were actually my friend. If it’s a professional situation in some states you actually have a legal obligation to disclose and get consent.

      If you had a sign outside I’d assume the surveillance was outside (if I even noticed the sign).

    12. Pocket Mouse*

      I really, really wish people would. I once went to a dinner gathering and found out halfway through the meal that the device I thought was just showing a slideshow of photos was also recording video and sound. :/ When we visit a family member who has Alexas throughout the house, we immediately turn off the one in the room we stay in.

    13. Vacation time*

      I mean, I don’t usually tell people about the baby monitor but visitors aren’t usually in the habit of hanging out in the crib which is the only thing is covers (and it doesn’t record/isn’t accessible via Wi-Fi)

  22. Anon for This*

    Oh boy, help me commentariat; I really need your advice. Earlier this year, I was committed to trying to become a single mother by choice (sperm donation). I am not straight, so any reproduction for me was always going to involve medical intervention anyway. For a long time I was with someone who didn’t want kids, and I decided I’d be willing to forgo them if we were together, but this past year we parted ways – a sad, but mutal decision – and I realized without them I *would* want a kid, even if on my own. I am turning 40, so I really feel like the window to have my own child is closing.* I know my friends and family wouldn’t be the most supportive if it was a planned decision – although annoyingly I’m sure they would have turned out in force if it was an accident that I was making the best of. But I own a house, have a good remote job that pays pretty well with good insurance, and my health is good. As I said, family/friends support was my biggest question mark; I would have been hoping they would rally and also that I’d find a new parent community. Well … this week I had some conversations with my boss that made me realize my work situation isn’t as stable as I hoped (this is the weekend thread, so that’s the last I’ll say). Now I’m realizing I should probably be looking for a new job. But what about my plan? Morally, ethically, do I have to abandon it now? Mixed family support AND a destabilized job to me feels like it’s got to be a no, but that would mean probably running out of time (since I assume it would be a year *miniumum* to find a new job and qualify for FMLA / mat leave, or at least feel secure enough to ask for more flexibility – my current job is extremely flexible and would have been a good fit for a single mother with a young child. I do have savings but they’re not infinite. It just seems … wrong? Selfish? to bring a child into the situation KNOWING about these two question marks. Should I try and turn all my energy into making peace with being childfree*, or is this one of those “well, there’s no *perfect* time …” situations?

    1. Anon for This*

      * Obviously I’m aware of adoption and foster care, but we’ve had some great, nuanced discussions here about it, and more importantly it’s not a one-or-the-other discussion for me; they’re two totally different decisions and right now I’m talking about this one.

    2. Emma*

      A year for FMLA really just means 3 months at new job, since pregnancy typically takes 9 months.

      But, if you want to have a kid, have a kid. Your time is running out, and this is probably one of those things you will regret way more if you don’t try/don’t do than if you do.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      David Sedaris had a metaphor about just turning off the burner under one life pot so you could focus on the others. That might make sense for you right now. Which burner needs to be off for a while, that I don’t know.

    4. Slartibartfast*

      There’s never a perfect time and there’s always going to be a good logical reason to not get pregnant, and selfish reasons to conceive. So the question is, will 60 year old you regret it if you don’t pursue this path? Picture your life down the line and ask yourself what you need/want to see there, then pursue it.The rest of it will work its way out, one way or another.

      1. All Monkeys are French*

        In addition to this, I think it’s important to ask how 20 year old kid will feel. Were you up to the challenge of raising them with the resources you had?
        When I was trying to decide if I wanted kids or not, I envisioned future conversations with them. I had to be pretty honest with myself about what I was capable of, and I ended up remaining child free.

        1. matcha123*

          I’ve never had a desire to have kids, but when I was younger I assumed I’d just end up with them somehow and I would think about all the things I’d want/need to do so they would have a better life than I had. As I got older, and made adjustments and so on, I knew that in addition to not having a desire for kids, I wouldn’t be able to give them, or even one, a good life.

          People say things like, “It will work out,” “Kids only need love,” “You will find your tribe,” but not only did things not work out for my mom, she never found her “tribe” and she raised me and my sibling as a single parent with no help from family. She placed so much on me to help raise my younger sibling and to get a job from a young age to help with household expenses. I’ve basically experienced parenthood and I don’t recommend it to anyone. It’s emotionally stressful in a way that I can’t easily describe. Not having money or a support system is just a recipe for disaster.

    5. miel*

      I think you’re right – there’s never going to be a perfect time. And life throws us all kinds of curveballs even if we have a perfect plan.

      It almost seems like you’re waiting for the perfect time, and… I don’t think the perfect time will ever come!

      Loads of people right now are parenting with less-than-ideal family support/ jobs/ financial situations/ living spaces. I truly believe that people are really good at making it work! (and – probably a lot of them are exhausted.)

      If your current friend group isn’t into kids, you’ll make new parent friends at the playground or in your area’s queer parent group. If your current job doesn’t pan out, you’ll find a new one, probably with similar pay and benefits.

      To me, it really sounds like you want to have a kid. I wish you the best in making this decision.

    6. chili oil*

      There is 100% no perfect time to have kids. You’ll make it work because you have to. If you imagine yourself in 20 years, will you regret not having had a child? If so, have one. I’m sorry you feel your family won’t be supportive. If your friends aren’t, they may not be as good friends as you need.

    7. Generic Name*

      I agree with the others that there is no perfect time to have a child. Plus, fertility really does plummet after 40, so sooner is better, I’m afraid to say. And the whole part about having a child being selfish? Just ugh. Women get told that we’re selfish if we DON’T want kids, so don’t listen to people who think like that.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Exactly. “You’re being selfish” is an all-purpose pejorative that gets thrown at women all the time for just existing.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        +1 for the reality check about fertility. You’ll hear plenty of women tell you not to worry because they had a healthy baby at 45 without any medical intervention, but those are the exceptions, not the norm. Far more common are women who would have loved to have become biological mothers but were not able to do so. And as I and many other women have experienced personally, fertility issues can also pop up at any time – even if you’re otherwise healthy – so I would strongly advise against waiting any longer if you are confident that you want a child.

        Sounds like the biggest challenge, once the child gets here, is money (which, as a parent, I can tell you – it’s not easy!). Save like it’s your job.

        Finally, with regard to whether or not it is selfish to have children: 1) having just one child is known as the replacement rate – nothing lost, nothing gained, in a way. 2) Is this argument used universally? I feel like I only ever hear it in response to white women (or those perceived as white). Anyone else notice this?

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

      Hey there, fellow not-straight single person! I was in a similar situation some years ago, trying to knock myself up while basically on my own. In my case, I ran out of money before I was able to get pregnant. I think I waited a bit too long, as my family tends to be very fertile into their early 40s, so I tried to be responsible and “waited for the perfect time” (after going up for tenure) and then assumed I’d be okay trying at 45-46. Alas, no.

      So, my view is probably colored by the fact that I waited too long and then tried and failed. Had I succeeded, I think I would have figured out how to make it all work. If I had been actually pregnant, I think I would not have hesitated to ask friends and family for the help I needed. As I wasn’t actually pregnant, I didn’t feel right asking for help with other ways of parenting, and when I looked at my life, I realized that I wasn’t really up to adopting or being a foster parent on my own.

      All that is to say, that if you want to do this, I think you should go for it now! Whatever happens with your job, once there is a baby here, I am confident that you will be highly motivated to find the resources you need to find to take care of the baby.

      On the other hand, if it doesn’t work out, knock wood, you will come to terms with being childless not by choice and find some other outlet for all of that love you want to pour into the world. I won’t say that the pain goes away, as in my case, it has not gone away completely, but it does hurt somewhat less as I get older. I don’t have any nieces or nephews or godchildren, but I try to be nice to my students and my friends’ kids and to kids who for whatever reason don’t have a mom or a good relationship with their mom. It’s something.

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

        And sending you a big hug. I hope you feel at peace with whatever the outcome is.

    9. Double A*

      Do it! After I had my daughter I was like, “Oh yeah, this would have been worth doing by myself.” Before I was always very on the fence if I could have been a single mom.

      But yeah the fertility window is real when you hit your 40s, you’re still solidly in it but if you’re gonna take the plunge, it’s not going to get easier as time goes by.

      Also I know it’s popular to act like children are vanity projects, but the impulse to have children is no more selfish than the impulse to eat or sleep or otherwise tend to the bodily functions that keep us alive. It’s an urge to keep living on a species level.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do feel like the urge to have children (speaking as someone who has this urge right now) is a bit selfish – I’m aware the world doesn’t need any more children, and that there are people out there right now who could use the love and care and resources I’m about to pour into my own children – but I’m not sure it’s any *more* selfish to have children in nontraditional situations vs traditional ones. We are just harder on the people who plan to adopt / go through IVF / use a sperm donor than on the people who do it “the old fashioned way.”

        1. Clisby*

          Of course it’s selfish. The only good reason to have children, or adopt children, is selfish. Because you want them.

        2. Joron Twiner*

          It’s no more selfish than wanting food to feed yourself when others are starving elsewhere. It’s not selfish to choose not to have kids either… We should stop throwing the word “selfish” around the decision to parent another person.

      2. Washi*

        Oh I had the opposite thought, I was like “how the heck do single parents do this??” However we also moved 4 days post partum which was…bad.

        That being said, you WOULD figure it out and make it through. My vision for what I want my family to look like is what gets me through the tough times and I imagine that would be similar for you.

    10. o_gal*

      Apologies in advance if this seems harsh – I’m not really meaning it to be. I think a question you need to ask yourself, and possibly work on with the help of a therapist, is: When you reach menopause, will you have more regret on not having a child than you think you might have if you go ahead and it turns out to be the wrong choice, given your current circumstances? I think it’s something that you need to work out while talking to someone. Just like you have asked us, the commentariat, to weigh in, you probably should get some IRL advice as well.

    11. Also anon*

      Wow this is pretty much my story – I didn’t tell my family about my plans and got pregnant through donor via IVF. I just told them I was pregnant and planning to raise the baby alone and I was surprised how few people asked questions! I can’t comment on your job situation, but if you think family are the type to rally around you for an accident, I suspect they’ll rally around you when a baby comes, no matter how it was made. If you can afford it now, could you get some fertility tests (e.g. egg count) to get a sense of how much time you have left? Or find out if there are any medical issues that need to be sorted first anyway (e.g. my plans were delayed by 8 months due to ovarian cysts)? The donor process in my country also took a while, I had to get a psych evaluation and medical clearance and it all took time. I guess what I’m saying is get the ball rolling now so you can make a more informed decision. Fingers crossed for you!

    12. chocolate muffins*

      I agree with everyone who is saying there is no perfect time to have a child. One thing that surprised me when I had my child was how much help I needed. I’m not a single parent but we don’t have other family, and I thought two adults to one kid would be an okay ratio, but for me it really wasn’t – we needed to hire help and rely on friends and neighbors more than I thought. If we have another child one thing I would want to do is set up a support system in advance so that I’m not trying to figure that out while also taking care of a newborn and managing postpartum depression (which you may not have, in which case your experience will probably be thousands of times easier than mine). Doing something similar may be helpful for you also – setting things up in advance so that once baby arrives, there is some kind of care train that jumps into place and relieves you of some of the things you would need to do, regardless of whether or not that care train consists of your family or someone else.

      One other thing I’ll say is that when I am making a weighty decision, usually the answer is inside of me if I listen carefully enough. For me right now, trying to decide whether to have a second child, there are all kinds of surface-level worries about logistically what it would look like. But underneath all that, I know I want another one. And usually in my experience, if I go in the direction that my insides are pointing me, things go pretty well – in the long term even if not initially. I hope the same is true for you and am wishing you well with your decision-making process, however it goes.

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, I think very few people (perhaps nobody) has a stable job situation for the next 18-25 years. If people waited to have children until they knew for sure there was no chance they would be unemployed during the child’s childhood, very few people would ever have a child.

      It’s a decision only you can make and I think it would be reasonable too if you decided it would be too stressful to try for a baby and then start job searching when you had a small child, but if you do want to have the child, I don’t think it is selfish.

      My perspective may be somewhat influenced by growing up at a time when Ireland’s unemployment rate was…sometimes around 20%, I think. Didn’t stop people having children nor did it prevent those children from having great childhoods

      1. Anon for This (there's two of us!)*

        True, but if most people have children in a couple, they’re halving their odds of having the whole family unemployed – whereas if I’m going it alone, it’s all down to my job, and if I lose it, we’re basically screwed. Especially if I lose it right as I’m pregnant / have a newborn. That said, I’m encouraged by everyone’s take here.

        1. goducks*

          This is your situation today, but consider two things.

          First, a lot of two parent families only have one wage earner, and yet they still have kids. Having kids changes the way you deal with life’s upheavals, but there isn’t any family configuration that comes with any promises.

          Second, in just the same way you’re aware that things can happen to change your situation for the worse, things can also happen that can change your situation for the better. Maybe in a few years you meet someone and you spend the rest of your life together raising your child, and you do have that second-income safety net. Who knows? Life brings ups and downs.

    14. E*

      In addition to the great comments above that I agree with —
      1) have you joined the single mothers by choice community? They might have great advice for you and I’m sure many have been in similar experiences

      2)one option would be to start the IVF process now but wait to actually do the embryo transfer. The downside of course is IVF is really expensive/invasive so this may be a better option if your insurance covers it, as you may not need full on IVF depending how you were planning to get pregnant (maybe just IUI which is much more straightforward and cheaper, though lower odds of success) But IVF would allow you to harvest and fertilize your eggs now and freeze them as embryos which have a much higher success rate than egg freezing. Then the actual embryo transfer is much less invasive/expensive so the hard part would be behind you and you’d give yourself more time for the actual baby part.

      +1 to the person who said get some tests done now to see your ovarian reserve. HOWEVER my numbers were good and we still had to do IVF bc of a bunch of other small things (tube blockage, slightly suboptimal
      uterine lining, etc, ) that I wouldn’t have known about till we started the process. So all that to say I hope it’s not for you, but getting pregnant can be a long road so I have a bias for starting the process early.

      Just wanted to give you options to consider if you feel like the clock is ticking but are not sure about timing for actual baby.

    15. MissCoco*

      I’m in a straight relationship, but for similar blah blah ~weekend thread~ type reasons, my husband and I recently reconsidered our planned timeline to start trying to conceive (and for different reasons, some type of intervention is likely for us). For me the deciding factor was the amount of sadness I felt over the decision to delay. For several years we have had this timeline, and I have (at least intellectually) accepted that we don’t really have control over when or if I get pregnant after that point, but we could decide when we started trying, and it was very hard for me to give up that little smidge of control. Deciding that we would “stick to the plan” was also a huge relief to me, and that reassured me that this is the right choice for us.

      I agree with others that in your situation, I would absolutely meet with a fertility specialist if possible as a part of this decision making process. The timeline may change significantly, and you will have a better idea of the initial intervention(s), even if not of the entire process.

      Wishing you luck and peace with whatever you decide.

    16. Emma*

      one final thought — I recommend googling the Dear Sugar column called the Ghost Ship that didn’t Carry us. It’s a lovely essay about deciding whether or not to try to have kids, and I found it helpful.

    17. Fun Shirt Friday*

      Very late reply, so you may not see, and not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but I have seen people saying “there’s no perfect time”, and I wanted to ask you to reflect on whether or not you still want to be a parent if/when circumstances aren’t perfect. If you have to have a perfect set of circumstances to have a child, please really think about how you will parent in less-than-perfect circumstances. I’m sure you have already thought of some things, but be really, really honest with yourself before you make a decision, not just for the child’s sake, but your own as well. Raising kids is no joke, and if you don’t have a support system it’s even harder, and when other large parts of your life become unstable, what then? Things might be absolutely just fine and I’m just a doomsayer, but I think you do have to at least have a rough plan for the “what if” things. For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer for you, b/c every person is different, including every child, so your or your (hypothetical) child’s response to ife circumstances will be different than anyone else’s, so do with that what you will!

  23. GythaOgden*

    Hurrah for kitty and her vets! I hope she is enjoying her new lease of life. As a potential cat owner (taking a week off after Christmas to give the house a real tidy up so any rescue agency isn’t concerned their kitty is going to a complete slob; sadly the one named the same as my husband has gone from the RSPCA website, but I’m sure there’ll be another fuzzball I fall instantly in love with up there), I love seeing your cat pictures and had one from your site as my phone lock screen for a while (where one of your ginger cats was hiding in the airing cupboard; I wanted to be as cosy as that at the time). But I like them even better when they come with good news.

    So on to the meat of my post…(pun intended)

    I’ve started subscribing to Hello Fresh. One of the dishes I ordered was macaroni cheese with roasted sprouts and a crispy topping. It was only when I took it out of the grill and cut into it with a spoon that I realised I’d effectively made sprout crumble.

    Basically, crumble is a British dessert that has a sweet bread- or oat crumb on top and stewed fruit underneath. We usually use apple or rhubarb. Sprouts would be a choice only used by people who really wanted to screw someone else over…like Rimmer in Red Dwarf offering the rest of the gang sprout crumble as part of his quarantine diet.

    It was obviously supposed to be a real joke! No-one puts Brussels sprouts in a sweet dish! Heck, they’re the least favourite part of a traditional Christmas dinner, and even roasted they can smell like old socks mixed with Stilton. So obviously Rimmer is being really nasty to his captive crew mates and it’s indicative of the fact he’s contracted a holovirus and is slowly going mad. (It’s Season 5’s Quarantine episode, and goodness knows how many times I watched it during lockdown, finally realising it was way too close to home!!)

    So…I know there’s a big genre of sci-fi and fantasy cookery books — I have a World of Warcraft one and now I have the time and energy to cook properly (and an air fryer), I’m looking forward to knowingly cooking some food from favourite media franchises. But I didn’t think I’d begin with sprout crumble.

    So my question is…has anyone /unintentionally/ made a dish from their favourite show or game etc? Bonus points if it wasn’t supposed to be something that the show portrayed as particularly wholesome.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not unintentionally, only on purpose :) I semi-frequently cook a chickpea chili sort of dish from a Pathfinder game supplement, and I used a couple different recipes out of my Star Wars cookbooks for my Life Day feast last month.

    2. carcinization*

      Not sure this is the same, but in the Inside Out movie broccoli pizza is featured as like, an ultimate gross-out dish, and it was a common dish at a pizzeria I lived near when I was in college. I love broccoli and thought the pizza was fairly decent.

    3. Nervous Nellie*

      I have not, but I did attend a party some years ago at which the host made the alleged trifle from the Friends TV show episode. Brace yourself – it is an evil unknown to man before it. This is the character’s description of it:

      “It’s a trifle. It’s got all of these layers. First, there’s a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch. Raspberries, more ladyfingers. Then beef sautéed with peas and onions. Then more custard and then bananas and then I just put some whipped cream on top.”

      Needless to say, I looked at it, nodded, said, “Well, my goodness, are those cookies over there?” and slipped over to the next buffet table.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Heheh I chuckled! For anyone confused: in the episode, Rachel makes the dish not realizing two pages of the cookbook are stuck together. Joey eats the trifle and thinks it’s pretty good.

    4. Ontariariario*

      The taste on this dessert is equally questionable, and I highly enjoyed watching it on QI (Quite Interesting) with Sandi and Prue (look on Youtube for QI’s First Bake Off!)

      Danish Lemon Quaffles

  24. aaanon*

    I have almost certainly waited too late, for a combination of factors, and because of those factors, it still feels like I can’t do it, even though if things ever change it will certainly be too late. Do it. Nothing is ever perfect, right? Family support is always a crapshoot. There are social service programs to help with money/other necessities if you need them. Unless you live in one of a few states, there’s Medicaid if you need it. SNAP. Your health is good. You have prospects, even if things aren’t perfect job-wise. Things can change so fast, or you know, there could be another pandemic, or a disaster. Whatever.

  25. Don't Call me Bro*

    Longtime reader, first time commenter

    Short story: I do not like my first name and have been thinking if changing it. Apart from changing all the official documents, anything else to take into consideration?
    Any advice/stories?

    1. LG*

      I don’t have advice on the legal aspect, but just anecdotally, my partner is trans and changed their first name socially (but not legally). There was a lot of agonizing over how to announce it and when, and how people would respond. They were surprised at how easily everyone took it and how swiftly everyone – work included – transitioned to using their chosen name. They never liked the name they were born with, and it was such a huge relief to finally be called a name they didn’t hate! I hope you feel that same relief when/if you go ahead and change yours.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I changed my first name at 24 (though I had been mostly using the new name since I was 12, and in fact the funny story as to why I finally got off my butt and changed it is that someone bought me plane tickets in the new name without knowing it wasn’t actually my name, and it was cheaper and easier to change my name in Washington State than to change the plane tickets) and it was almost completely painless. My parents took a little bit to get used to it and my brother pulled a snotty “I’m never calling you anything but (deadname)” for a year or so but I think my mom talked some sense into him, I just ignored him til he got it right :-P

    3. miel*

      I (somewhat recently) learned that several of my relatives have changed their names, or go by a name that isn’t their legal name!

      My grandma completely changed the spelling of her name when she was a teenager/ young adult.

      Several of my aunts and uncles go by their middle names, initials, etc.

      (Not to mention all my trans friends who’ve changed their names too!)

      I say, go for it!

      1. Sloanicota*

        I’m actually astonished by how many people in my acquaintance go by something other than their legal name; this is much more common than I realized! Most did not go ahead and legally register their new name as far as I know, they just started introducing themselves by their middle name, nickname, or a random new name altogether. More power to them! I want to think about this myself for the next time I move!

    4. Liminality*

      My only advice would be:
      Do a Very Thorough Google search on whatever new name you’re thinking about taking. (the name alone, the full name you’d end up with, first and middle, etc…)
      There is something to be said for the relative anonymity of a name like Michael Meyers, or Barbie Oppenheimer. People googling are unlikely to find you specifically, but if a simple name change is going to have potential employers finding graphic articles detailng someone else’s legal troubles you might want to take that into consideration.

      1. Heather Crackers*

        Yes. In particular, tailor this search to your professional needs. If you’re a teacher, make sure someone with that name isn’t on Megan’s List. If you’re a lawyer, make sure someone with that name isn’t disbarred. Et cetera.

      2. Nervous Nellie*

        And I would add the flipside. If you currently have a common enough name that makes it hard for others to find you online and you like it that way, reconsider any unusual names. I have a very unusual name that makes it very easy to find me online, as the field of possible results all point to me. As a result, I use no social media/business media, and even chose the job I did because my role and any promotions above it would keep me firmly out of senior management, the only folks who are featured on my company’s website.

    5. Rara Avis*

      We are in the process of trying to change my teenager’s name. It is taking forever (submitted paperwork in August; hearing supposed to be in October, moved to December; date has come and gone with no anction) and the dealing with inefficient bureaucracy is not fun. And after the court does its thing, then we have to start making the rounds of new birth certificate, changing at school, health care, etc.

    6. anon24*

      I changed my entire name. No regrets.

      Telling people is annoying. Depending on the type of people who are around you, some will be very respectful and kind and some will blow things out of proportion in a way that leaves you absolutely dumbfounded. I had people come up to me and privately ask if I was safe or needed any help and when I assured them I was ok and it was just a name change because I hated my old name, they helped me spread the word that this was not a big deal, just something I wanted to do. I also had someone accuse me of practicing black magic and kick me out of their life (I wish I was joking) and someone claim that this meant I was a closeted gay person (okay???)

      Honestly, the most annoying thing for me is that corporations still refuse to use my correct name. For example, I sent my credit card company my legal documents and my credit card shows my correct name, but when I log into my online portal it still says “hi [old name]!” I continually get communication from different companies addressed to old name and when I contact them and ask them to change it they tell me that the name is correct in the system, but yet the system still sends mail and displays everything in my old name. If it’s just a minor company I don’t mind as much, even though I hate seeing my old name, but I’d really like financial companies to just use my correct name already!!!

      1. Chaordic One*

        I would certainly be annoyed if I had notified a business that I had changed my name, and then, when I logged into my account it still showed up with my old name. It’s sad that you have to complain to the business about it.

        Part of the problem with marketing mail is that they buy these mailing lists with old names. About 15 years ago I took over the financial affairs of an elderly relative who had to move into a nursing home and I had her mail forwarded to me. She passed away 13 years ago and I’m still getting junk mail addressed to her. I’ve moved several times since she passed away and her mail is still being forwarded to me. I’ve googled her name and it comes up with her supposedly living at my current address.

        1. anon24*

          These aren’t marketing letters though. A few weeks ago I noticed Experian had a previous address listed as my current address on my credit file and finally figured out why I keep failing identity verification checks. I contacted them and asked them to please fix it. They sent me a letter to tell me they had… and addressed it to old name. When I called to ask why they had my name listed incorrectly I was told that it is definitely correct in their system and there’s nothing they can do about the fact that all their communication goes to old name. It feels so disrespectful. I only changed my name because I disliked it, but I can only imagine how awful it is for any trans persons in that situation.

        2. Bo Peep*

          I live in a house my grandparents used to live in and have gotten mail for my grandmother who died in 1995. You’d think they’d realize someone born in 1916 is very unlikely to still be alive…

        3. Rara Avis*

          I got a piece of mail addressed to my grandmother who was at that point ten years gone, and we had never lived at the same address — or even in the same state.

      2. Chaordic One*

        That’s terrible! I don’t get it at all! My employer (financial services) has procedures in place to handle things like this (admittedly time-consuming, complicated and convoluted) but, after the appropriate paperwork is submitted, it is done (or if not our customer is notified that it is not done and told what paperwork to submit to us to do it).

    7. Maryn*

      One thing our daughter mentioned is that you may never get your former name corrected or removed from everyplace you go online. It helped her somewhat to google herself and review online purchases, etc. going back as far as she could, then change her name at each website–but she still had a major retailer revert to her deadname and ship to her address from a decade earlier.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        You will also always have to fill out forms where they ask “were you ever known by a different name?”

    8. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If you haven’t already chosen a new name, do you want a name that was being given to children around the time you were born, one that’s more common now, or somewhere in between? In my cohort, “Marissa” or “Noah” would stand out, and “Jennifer” or “Mark” might get you asked whether there were two other children with the same name in your kindergarten class.

    9. captain5xa*

      Difficulty / problems depend on the country / state you live in.

      My 90-year-old dad, was named for both his parents. Being in the US south, he was called by both names growing up.

      His first name was legally spelled on his birth certificate as – for example – “Jimmie.” When he joined the Army at age 20, he began spelling it with a ‘y’ – Jimmy – because he thought it looked more manly with that spelling and asked people to call him Jim.

      Tw0 years ago, as my brother began helping my parents make sure they had their will up to date, and it was discovered that as this spelling was not legal, there were major problems.

      For 68 years, Dad has been signing everything as “Jimmy” and as it didn’t match his birth certificate, this made all of these documents technically illegal. (Think house deed, car insurance, etc.) So…a lawyer was hired, efforts are ongoing to legally change the spelling of his name, and all still-remaining legal documents must be updated. Lots of drama and $$$.

      Long story short? Make the change legal now to save time and money later. If anything, paying a lawyer for a consult is worth it.

      1. Oysters and Gender Freedom*

        Oh that’s interesting. I changed my name “by common usage”, which was legal at the time in California. The new name is the name on my passport, my social security, etc. I am now talking to a lawyer to change my name formally to the new name. She said that there would be headaches because when I die, the name on the death certificate would have to be my birthname (without a name change paper trail) and the name on all my accounts etc. would be my new name. I don’t think it’s that the documents aren’t legal, it’s just that it would be bureaucratic hell after I’m dead if things don’t match. She made it sound as though once I get the court order to change my name to the new name, it’s all good.

        I just Googled common law name change and got this:

        ‘The federal courts have ruled again and again that changing your name at will or, by “common law” is every citizen’s right under the U.S. Constitution. Using this “common law rule,” you can change your name without even going to court. Technically, you only need to begin using your chosen name to assume it – and can do so legally. However, there are some benefits to having your name changed “officially” through the courts.’

        1. Girasol*

          I did this too, at the time of my marriage, so it was on my marriage certificate as my new official married name. That may be legal in theory, but OMG what a mess when I had to get a Real ID (“star card”) from the DMV. They would not accept that name. When I told Social Security about how uncooperative the DMV was being and asked their help, the representative yanked my SSN card out of my hands and insisted they too must change my name to something different than the one I’d had on all my IDs and tax forms and passport and real estate contracts for decades. After all the mess of straightening that out, I’d recommend taking no shortcuts, but jumping through all the official hoops to get an affidavit from the court that states what your name was and what it is, and a corrected real ID and passport. You might want to double check your Social Security record for the next few years to be sure that your earnings history remains consistent through the name change.

          1. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

            My new name is on my passport so I just use that for all places where I need proof of citizenship and never let anyone get a whiff of my birth certificate. But yes I am going to file a name change just to have a court record. No problem for the real ID, I just went online a couple days ago and ordered it by mail (possible if my state is okay with your documents) and they should come soon. I’ve been okay so far, but I’ve seen the bureaucratic creep and I don’t want to be boxed in when it comes for me.

    10. beep beep*

      I changed my name for trans reasons, but I’m lucky to have a long family history of changed names for even non-trans reasons. The thing that’s a hassle right now is getting the credit bureaus and the companies that run credit checks for prospective new banks to believe that I’m a person with a credit history. It was a hassle in my state to get it changed, and by law I can only do it once in my life unless I get married, but no regrets.

    11. Aphrodite*

      I live in California and changed my first, middle and last names somewhere between 1985 and 1989 using the court petition method. (I’d have to get up and search through my documents to be sure now of when happened.)

      I had ordered about fifteen official copies and I am glad I did as some places would not change it without the court order. In other words, using the usage method would have been a lifelong annoyance for me having to use both names depending on who I was dealing with. I strongly suggest having the power of the court behind the change.

      Government agencies are the easiest to deal with; they are used to it. So are banks and investment firms but do have those official copies. Regular businesses such as cable companies, etc. can be easy or hard. The most hassle by far was from Cox Cable. I had been with them for about 8-10 years, always paying on time, but it took going up four (!) levels to the president before getting (really fast) permission to change the name on my account without a hefty penalty.

      Finally, family was both weird and accepting. I am sure it baffled everyone as I had never mentioned it but my parents never said anything. One sister, however, was really resentful, repeatedly saying I was obviously doing it to sever myself from my family.

      I only talk about it if asked because I do not want to bore people but I am so, so, so happy I did it. I never liked my old name. But now … I love all three names I chose.

    12. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You should socially transition whenever you’re ready, regardless of what you decide to do with your legal name. If you find that a social transition is sufficient, then that will ease your paperwork burden considerably. Plus, if you’re using a name day to day you can really figure out if its the right one for you.

    13. GoosieLou*

      I changed my first name! I would just encourage you to do it when you have several months before major travel or life transition stuff that involves finances (buying a house, etc) because no matter how diligent you are you’ll spend a while playing Wack-a-Mole with places you forgot to change your name, places that need special kinds of documentation, etc. I’d also advise going ahead and getting a few extra copies of the official certified change form when you get the change done so you don’t have to pay for shipping and other fees if you end up needing more.

  26. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    I’m doing some work at home over the weekend and watching the Equaliser movies in the background, which overall quality aside – Denzel! Any other ideas for good movies to have on in the background for an action fan?

    1. I just really can’t think of a name*

      Double down on Denzel and put on Man on Fire. I haven’t watched either in a while, but I recall the Bourne Identity & the Transporter both have great soundtracks in addition to cool fight choreography, so they’re probably extra good in the background.

    2. Heather Crackers*

      Shooter is a lesser-known but still good one. It’s also a pre-John Wick, because it starts when they piss off a retired special ops guy by killing his dog (not on screen).

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I like some of the goofier ones — Battleship and Rampage were a good entertaining pair for a weekend a little ways back. Maybe some of the Fast and Furious movies too, or the Expendables series. RED and RED-2?

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      If you like Denzel, watch Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. Not an action movie, but it DOES have Denzel riding a big, strong horse in tight leather pants (swoon)

  27. Falling Diphthong*

    Book recommendations for someone who in practice doesn’t read that much, though he likes the concept? Past books that did draw him in were The Martian and Watchtower. Graphic novels fine; nonfiction fine; great if it’s either easy to either read at one go because super compelling, or easy to pick up and put down as time and inclination allow (he’s in grad school).

    This is a context where, on the emotional side, I think the fact that I found a book I thought he might like (books are my thing) would carry more weight than a gift card for that amount.

    1. Cynthia*

      Maybe The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury? It’s a collection of linked science fiction short stories – they each stand on their own beautifully (The Veldt, one of Bradbury’s more famous short stories, is in this collection), and the linking narrative is haunting.

    2. Book Addict*

      I highly recommend “The Day the World Came to Town,” by Jim DeFede. It’s about Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, on 9/11, when 60+ planes from around the world were forced to land in a little town unexpectedly. Fascinating, entertaining read that is fairly easy to pick up/put down as needed.

      Also recommend the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series, trivia, anedcotes, and interesting stories.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If he liked The Martian, other books by the same author might be good – Project Hail Mary was excellent, and I really enjoyed Artemis which is sort of a heist caper set in a lunar colony.

      1. Still*

        Is Artemis good? I loved The Martian and Project Hail Mary but I couldn’t seem to get into Artemis, somehow it stressed me out more than the other two books – the situation was less stressful but the society was much less supportive. What I enjoyed in the other two books is the satisfaction from solving one problem at a time, and Artemis seemed… more complicated than that. Should I give it another go?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          It’s a lot more action-y than his other books, by virtue of not being a one (or two) man against the universe type setting, so it really is a different type of book – if you like heist capers, Ocean’s 11 and the like, give it another shot?

      1. just here for the scripts*

        Loved this book—and there’s a sequel which is just as good (although he turned the series over to his assist/co-writer of the original).

    4. Double A*

      Has he read The Hunger Games? I don’t know if he’d feel weird it’s a teen series but it’s truly one that’ll suck you in.

    5. Arya Parya*

      Maybe City of Thieves by David Benioff. It’s historical fiction set in Russia during World War II. The book also isn’t very long, that might make it more accessible

    6. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Banvard’s Folly by Paul Collins, it’s a great light history read and each chapter stands on it’s own. Catch-22 is also a classic for a reason.

    7. Max*

      I’ve got some graphic novel recommendations, though some of them may be a bit tricky to find.

      American Cult by Silver Sprocket Press: A non-fiction anthology that talks about different religious cults in America, including several lesser-known ones. Each chapter is a separate religious group so easy to pick up and put down.

      Cook Korean! by Robin Ha: A cute cookbook that has several little comic interludes.

      Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean and Mike Spicer: A great fantasy comic for fans of Conan the Barbarian.

      Hidden Systems by Dan Nott: A non-fiction graphic novel that looks into all of the different systems that keeps the world running, and how they got there.

      Heretics! by Steven and Ben Nadler: A non-fiction graphic novel about the beginnings of modern philosophy. A bit more dense than some of the other books, but a fun read.

      Guy Delisle’s travelogues: He’s done several about different countries, any they’ve all be interesting. Pyongyang and Burma Chronicles were my favourite but his book on Jerusalem was also excellent.

      Mr. Boop by Alec Robbins: A comic about copyright. It can be quite vulgar but is an intensely interesting and funny dive into intellectual ownership and how we relate to fictional characters.

    8. Mitchell Hundred*

      For the “graphic novels/comics that can be read in one sitting” category:

      MW by Osamu Tezuka. A Japanese crime thriller that I always find incredibly gripping. My one issue is that the two main characters are gay and it was made in the ’70s, so its depiction of queer identity hasn’t aged all that well.

      Lake of Fire by Nathan Fairbairn and Matt Smith. An alien ship crashes in medieval France, and a bunch of Crusaders have to go fight the aliens. That’s it, that’s the book.

      The Nameless City trilogy by Faith Erin Hicks. A YA series about a city that’s been conquered a bunch of times because it sits at a strategically important point between three great nations. The protagonists are a couple of kids that get swept up in the politics surrounding the city. Very explicitly anti-war/violence/imperialism.

      1. Mitchell Hundred*

        Oh, and for stuff that’s easy to pick up and put down again, maybe go with a compilation of a newspaper comic strip? Fantagraphics has a bunch of collected editions of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”, and Richard Thompson’s “Cul de Sac” is criminally overlooked IMO.

    9. Lady Alys*

      The “Murderbot” series is good, I’d group it with “The Martian” in terms of snarky humor. They are quick reads too.

    10. GoryDetails*

      If he might enjoy a police-procedural/AI-robot-rights/SF story, I’d recommend the manga “Pluto” – it’s by Naoki Urasawa, and is a re-imagining of Osamu Tezuka’s “Astro Boy” story, “The Greatest Robot on Earth”. It features a world where advanced AI robots might be almost indistinguishable from humans – or might be clearly-mechanical workers, but with feelings and families – and where Something is deliberately targeting the most powerful and beloved of the Earth’s robots, leading to an intense investigation. The art-style is quite realistic, and the story has a lovely noir feel. Some advantages: it’s a short series, in manga terms: complete in eight volumes. (Also, there’s an anime version airing on Netflix now, so those who might prefer that can check out the art-style and story.)

      Urasawa has some other lovely series as well, including the unsettling “Monster,” set in a realistic non-magical world but featuring an antagonist who’s diabolically and coolly brilliant. (That one has a really excellent anime adaptation as well.)

      Oh, and Urasawa’s “Master Keaton” series – loosely-linked short stories about a guy who’s a professor of archaeology when he isn’t being a hostage-negotiator, think a kind of low-key/affable Indiana Jones. The standalone-story format might appeal to one who only reads sporadically.

      And “20th Century Boys,” a dystopian-future series in which humble friends-and-family have to go up against an escalating power-cult, with music as a running plot thread. (Also Urasawa, who is – surprise! – a favorite manga author for me.)

    11. the cat's ass*

      John Scalzi’s last two books, “The Kaiju Preservation Society”, and “starter Villain” might hit the bid! Snarky and easy to read.

    12. Girasol*

      If he liked The Martian with all of its engineering detail, he might like another book by Andy Weir, The Hail Mary Project.

    13. goddessoftransitory*

      For non fiction, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is really compelling and a quick, fun read. It’s a couple decades old now, but still fascinating. Ditto Devil in the White City, but that story is much darker (about one of the first modern-defined serial killers.)

      For fiction? He seems to like sci fi, so Margaret Atwood’s collection of essays In Other Worlds is great, and has lots of leads to different styles of the genre.

    14. SuprisinglyADHD*

      If it’s the serializes nature of The Martian that he liked, there’s now a new version of Dracula available that puts each entry into date order. It’s called Dracula Daily, I was able to buy it at Barnes and Noble.

      Alternatively, for easy pickup and put down, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is humorous and relatively short. Most of the books have no chapter breaks so it feels easier to pause wherever you are, instead of feeling compelled to push for the next break spot.

    15. Joron Twiner*

      The Expanse series is in line with The Martian, first book is a noir thriller meets adventure in space. There are graphic novels that just came out too.

  28. MechanicalPencil*

    I have been considering purchasing a Nintendo Switch. I’m just not sure what games to look into. I know my teenage nephew would have all kinds of suggestions, but I don’t think we have the same play style.

    I am of an age where I am most accustomed to side scroller games or strategy games. Does anyone have any game suggestions?

    1. kina lillet*

      Hollow Knight is a really delightful game; there is some dexterity, navigation, and combat involved, but it’s a 2D platformer. It’s kinda hard so you might consider waiting until you’ve warmed up on video games again.

      Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactics game, and it has a lot of plot interwoven–you may or may not like it, not sure!

      Super Mario Wonder is a newly-produced sidescrolling Mario game. I haven’t played it but I’ve heard some great stuff! You might also like Octopath Traveler. Also the new Monkey Island game is a blast, it’s really funny.

      The Switch also has a large library of classic games–some of em are remastered, could be nice to pick up some games you remember.

    2. Generic Name*

      Kirby is pretty universally beloved as a game. I don’t know if it’s still available, but Yoshi’s Wooly World is pretty fun. It’s a side scroller.

    3. Stevie Budd*

      I don’t really have suggestions for that type, but I wanted to mention that if your nephew also has a switch, you can play some games long distance. My family plays Mario Kart together from different states and have a lot of fun.

    4. Reba*

      The gamer in my house recommends:
      Many of the Mario games
      Pode (gentle co-op)
      Ori (excellent, can be hard)
      Dead Cells (creepy premise and hard rogue-lite)
      Cadence of Hyrule (rhythm action game like Crypt of the Necro Dancer)
      Hollow Knight (really good, also hard)
      Celeste (really good, hard but has nuanced difficulty settings that can make it more enjoyable for you)
      Emulators are included in Ninendo Switch Online so you can play games from older consoles if you are feeling nostalgic! There are a lot of not-good games to wade through in the store but also much to discover.

    5. nopetopus*

      I love Stardew Valley, a cute pixel farming game. Your granddad left you his farm and you leave your crappy office job to move to the valley. You farm, fish, explore, and meet the locals of the sleepy town.

      You can YouTube playthroughs to see if a game seems like a good match. Whatever games you pick, if you’re worried about the controls there’s nothing wrong with looking up game wikis and strategy guides!

    6. Dinwar*

      There’s a lot of classic NES, SNES, N64, and other games available on the Switch. There are good games as well, but it’s always fun to go revisit the classics.

      Terraria is a good game if you like side-scrollers. It’s…..sort of a cross between Minecraft and Metroivenia. You find resources and craft stuff, there’s a nifty house-building mechanic (so making your rooms look nice actually matters), exploration is a huge aspect. I strongly recommend it.

    7. Wow it's almost Christmas!*

      I’m not a big gamer, but I bought a switch just to play Zelda Breath of the Wild. It’s not a side scroller, but there are puzzles in the game and it’s beautiful. You can just play through the game or just roam around the huge world exploring, solving puzzles, and just trying to find hidden treasures.

      I also enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion, which is also not a side scroller but it’s not too hard, and it’s cute. You go around sucking up ghosts in a haunted hotel. There is some strategy involved if finding the ghosts.

    8. Llama Llama*

      we are getting my daughter a switch for Christmas and through us and family are getting Mario wonder, Mariokart (my favorite), donkey Kong and Minecraft.

    9. Flapjack the Cat*

      Many libraries circulate switch games (mine does!) which could be a fun way of trying out lots of he suggested games without having to invest in something you might not like. Or if you buy something and it’s not for you, they might take a donation.

    10. Wordnerd*

      Seconding Stardew Valley for chill and cheap – it’s also infinitely replayable and very formable to your particular playstyle. You can go for minmaxing or speedrunning, increasing automation and efficiency, get really into the role-playing aspect and make friends/start a family, or just get super into decorating your farm.
      Seconding Hollow Knight if you want to really get güd – it’s an amazing game but is legitimately difficult.
      For a fun time-waster: Suika Game. It’s like Fruit Ninja meets 2048, and it’s a whole $3.

  29. Stuck*

    Odd dilemma – I can’t motivate myself to have fun – please help?

    I have a couple of art/craft kits that I’m super excited for – Easy stuff like a paint/wine kit and simple baby quilt where I don’t even have to exercise any creativity to make something pretty. I even took yesterday off work to do them! (had expiring PTO). But I can’t get myself in the mood to start. They are both projects that need good natural lighting so if I don’t start soon it isn’t happening. Plus these are multi-hour projects that require moving furniture to make room for them in the good light, so its not like I can just try it for 10min or “just start”.

    I feel like I have a chicken and egg problem where I need these types of projects to disconnect from work but I need to disconnect in order to start them.

    Also, playlist ideas welcome for projects like these, maybe the right music will help (No Christmas carols, hit my limit on those for the season)

    1. Liminality*

      Maybe you don’t have to commit to actually starting the projects.
      Maybe just take the pieces/parts out of their packaging to get an idea of what they look like and review the directions they come with.
      That way when you ARE ready, you’ll antidote BE ready to jump in with both feet.

      As far as playlists, I like instrumental stations that play current songs with none of the distracting vocals. :)

    2. Sloanicota*

      Ha! I absolutely have this issue, and it doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll think of something I’m excited to do, get all the stuff to do it, plan the window of time, and then just … not do it. I don’t know man!! A playlist is the right call, of whatever kind of music is the right kind for you – I do movie scores if it’s something that requires a lot of mental concentration, or upbeat pop if it’s something I need energy for – or sometimes I need to put on a movie in the background to take the heat off. I also struggle with making a big mess because I know for sure I’m going to fail to clean up in a timely manner, which I think has put me off a few projects now, or at least made me implement a rule that I can’t start new projects until I put away old projects, which has slowed me down too.

    3. office hobbit*

      I absolutely have the same problem and no super good advice for you. One thing I notice in your post is that you seem to be mentally building these up as Big Things, where Everything Must Be In Position before you can do the Big Thing, which can make starting them a bigger hurdle. For me, mentally characterizing a project as “first I must do xyz, then I will work on the fun project All Day” makes it feel way too much like a chore or an obligation and my mental block kicks in. Maybe this is inevitable for the reasons you described, but maybe those assumptions can be challenged a little. For example, can you commit to having the furniture semi-permanently moved for a long weekend while you work on this a little each day? Or, how long does it really take to move the furniture anyway? can you move the furniture, work for an hour, then move it back? Or, if these specific projects really can’t be split across several days, can you get a new, smaller project that doesn’t have these strict parameters, and use that as a gateway? Maybe after a week or month of working on New Little Project a little each day, it will be less of a hurdle to jump into Big Project for a full day.

      No specific recs for playlists, but for me in these situations, my brain wants something familiar to keep the distracting part of my brain busy (new music would distract the other, project-doing part of my brain). Maybe try some old favorites?

      Good luck! I hope you figure something out and have a great time.

    4. SuprisinglyADHD*

      One thing that helps me is reading the instructions first. Just opening the box/bag and learning all the steps make it feel like less of a big unknown. Next is sorting the parts/tools to “make sure all the pieces are there” (they always are, but it’s a low-investment way to get my brain excited for it). Something about feeling all the textures and colors, or examining the tools, helps boost my enthusiasm.
      As for moving furniture, that can absolutely feel like a barrier. Can you set up a temporary craft station that doesn’t have to be put back when you are tired for the day? My longest-term project ended up needing a folding table and extra lamp set up for several months, others have lived on the coffee table for a week or two. That helps me remove the barrier of “I have to stop early to leave time and energy to clean up”, since now I can just walk away and come back without added stress.

    5. Girasol*

      When I’ve had that problem I usually conclude that whatever I was trying to start isn’t all that much fun. I just want some fun and it ought to be fun so I ought to want to do it. If whatever you can’t bring yourself to do isn’t really your idea of a good time at the moment, why not give yourself permission to set it aside for some day when it’s more appealing, and think about what really would be your idea of something enjoyable right now. If you’re aiming for creativity, would a trip to an art museum for inspiration be of more interest?

    6. allathian*

      How stressed are you at the moment? Sometimes you can have so many obligations at work, in your family life and/or socially in general that you just can’t with the fun stuff. Maybe you just need to rest ehen you have some free time?

  30. Hatchet*

    Suggestions for word games/brain puzzles for an Android phone, but I’m open to other favorite games or apps, too!

    Ideally something with no or only a few ads (I don’t mind paying a small amount to get an ad-free version), and something I can get off the Google Play store.
    Hit me with your favorites! Thanks!

    (And I’m super happy to see the good news about Stella! Totally want to reach through the screen to rub her belly!)

    1. Liminality*

      Cardgames.io !
      They aren’t words games but they are strategy based card games, and they have some boardgame type options too like backgammon, checkers and yatzee. You can play against a computer or real people.
      They do have an app, but I just play directly from the web browser.

    2. Llama face!*

      Two that have no ads, a good number of free intro game packs, cheap paid game packs, and also daily or weekly free games are:

      Quick Logic Puzzles by Egghead Games
      These are classic small grid style logic puzzles with clues similar to what you get in the variety games magazines. Once you’ve played all the free puzzle packs, this app still has a daily free game for each day of the week. The games at the beginning of the week are easier and then they get progressively more difficult towards the end of the week.

      Hashi by Conceptis Puzzles
      This is a fun and sometimes tricky connecting game. There is a grid with a bunch of circled numbers spread around it. You have to figure out how to connect them all in one unbroken chain. The number inside the circle tells you how many connecting lines attach to it. There are several intro packs of varying difficulty and then you can buy more. There is also a weekly free puzzle.

      1. Llama face!*

        I should add that for both of these you can clear the results for old puzzles you already played (except for the daily logic puzzles) and then go back and replay them later. I do that especially with Hashi.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      (I assume these are available on Android; I have an iPhone.)

      Singularity: When you flip a card it flips the neighboring cards, within various restrictions for different levels. Make all the cards the same color (out of two) to win.

      Blendoku: Arrange colors in order by shade.

      I like these because they are quick to play and don’t have a timer–it’s just me solving a puzzle in a few minutes.

    4. beep beep*

      I love the Luna Story nonogram apps. There’s four of them that tell a story (…interestingly translated as it is), and “no ads” are less than $5 each with tons and tons of puzzles, both “many puzzles that form a big image” and single types. I’m very bad at sudoku, but these are easy enough to occupy my brain.

    5. Turtle Dove*

      I like Wafflegame.net, which I play in my phone’s browser. There might be an app too. If I get a top score, it says something like “INCREDIBLE! Exquisite. That was magnificent.” Nobody talks to me like that in real life. I almost always smile.

    6. Unreal Sonia*

      0h h1 and 0h n0 (the 0s are numbers) are nicely designed little apps with daily puzzles. They can be tried out on the puzzlepass website.

    7. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Simon Tatham’s Puzzles has no ads whatsoever. A bunch of different puzzle games, each with instructions in the menu. Some are confusing because they use “right click” instead of “long press”
      Bonza Word Puzzle has ads available to get hints but no automatic ones. The concept is that a crossword puzzle has been broken into pieces and you need to reassemble it. The daily and weekly puzzles are usually larger, since they’re user-made, but require an ad to play.
      Word Shaker can be played with data turned off to prevent ads from loading, this disables the leaderboard and dictionary. It’s basically boggle, different sizes and times are available and an untimed mode.
      Meow Tower Nonograms is cute, as you solve nonogram puzzles, you can “buy” furniture for a growing tower of cats. Needs to be played with data off to prevent ads from loading, which means you can’t replay previous puzzles to earn more “currency”. There are over 1000 puzzles, divided between easy and hard (switch by tapping the circle icon on the play button).

    8. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Gubbins!
      It’s quite new – published in November, I think – and a fun word game! You get letters or letter combinations and have to make words out of them with help of some and being hindered by some other gubbins.
      It’s ad-free and with lovely little animations. You get one free game per day but can also pay some money for an unlimited amount of games per day.

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

      I had a couple of students say that they enjoyed my class and that they learned a lot! : )

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Similarly, I had a coworker message me this week and said, “Hey, I had you on speaker while you were helping me with X the other day and as soon as we hung up, the student I was with said, ‘Wow! She is really nice!'” Made my day :)

        1. Chaordic One*

          In yet another similar situation, I helped a customer over the phone with a business account issue and she asked me to stay on the line because she had a coworker who also had a issue with my employer. I told her, “O.K. I would be happy to wait for a minute or so while you get your coworker on the line.” No big deal.

          She set the phone down and I heard her excitedly say to her coworker, “Oh! Oh! I’ve got a smart CSR on the line who knows what they’re doing! You’ve got to talk to them about your account!” It was nice to hear. Then her coworker came on the line and I helped him.

      2. chocolate muffins*

        What a lovely feeling this is. I was trying to think of a small joy when I came to this thread and then your post reminded me that a former student wrote a very nice letter for me as part of an award nomination and then shared the letter with me. Made my week! And I appreciate you reminding me that this happened so that I can feel all those warm glowy feelings again.

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

          Ooh, I hope you get the award! It’s cool that you got nominated! : )

    2. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Someone complimented me when I went into a deep squat to look at something on the bottom shelf of a store then stood up, I have to credit my Pilates teacher for great form!

    3. WellRed*

      I’m just enjoying my tree every evening in the living room along with other Christmas lights I’ve strung about.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Got a Christmas tree this year – I don’t always, but this year I was just in the mood. I love the balsam fir scent, both in my house and in my car; it’s funny how a 15-minute drive imbued the car with long-lasting holiday fragrance!

      I put the lights on it but haven’t added any ornaments, and am debating whether or not to just leave it as it is. (Also, the cats might want to play with the ornaments, so there’s that…)

    5. Llama face!*

      I got a really generous and thoughtful unexpected Xmas gift and a sweet message on a card from the family I babysit for part time. The gifts were things that they knew I liked (nice coffee beans and a bookstore gift card) as well as practical (gift certificate for delivery service) I wasn’t expecting anything, never mind a big gift like that!

    6. anon24*

      Last night I was gaming and had a glass on my desk with an ice cube in it. My cat became absolutely fascinated with it, tried to attack it, and when he realized it wasn’t going to attack him back in the immediate future he snuggled into my lap with his chin on my wrist, staring at the melting ice cube, and ended up falling asleep that way. He doesn’t often snuggle with me and it fills me with joy when he does.

    7. A Girl Named Fred*

      I’ve actually made enough progress on a crochet sweater for my dog that it’s starting to look like something! And she showed enough interest in it for me to slip it over her head briefly to check the fit, and my boyfriend and I both about lost it at how cute she was. Now I just have to figure out a new way to hold my yarn so that I stop hurting the heck out of my left thumb while I do it and I’ll be set lol!

    8. Girasol*

      Very small joy: A pan of water simmering on the stove with cloves and cinnamon and vanilla in it. It makes the house smell so cozy.

    9. Heather Crackers*

      A family elder floated the request to quit doing Christmas gifts, and to just gather for a holiday meal. Everyone agreed, and it’s like the stress instantly evaporated from my shoulders. A few picky ungrateful narcissists in my family always make gift-giving a total misery, but that is no longer my problem. For the first time since I was a minor, I am looking forward to Christmas again.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      My nephew not only got into his first choice school, he got a private scholarship to cover at least half the total costs! Woot!

    11. Llama Llama*

      I went to my twins Christmas party at school. It is a special needs class and got to meet my daughter’s ‘BFF’. Despite the fact that mat my daughter doesn’t walk or able to do much, this other little girl insists on being by her side.

    12. carcinization*

      Found everything I needed during my trip to the grocery store to buy all of the holiday stuff! I was especially worried about blackeyed peas for New Years but they even had those!

    13. BellStell*

      Just found on youtube Deck the Halls but it’s War Pigs by Aaron Gage and I love this. Always have been a fan of Black Sabbath, and kind of annoyed at holiday music so this made my day much better.

      Also a joy for Stella kitty, free of FIP! WOO HOO!

      And finally, finding a tonic of pomelo and nepalese berries flavour, it is refeshing!

    14. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve been doing a lot of Christmas things but not really feeling “in the spirit.” I had my kids host a little party for their friends and was feeling stressed and discouraged because only one parent RSVPed but it ended up being so nice! My kids and their guest had a lot of fun and I got to meet a new mom.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I made it to the fire department fundraiser tree sale and have my first natural tree in 20 years.

  31. The lifeboat*

    I am contemplating leaving my seven year long relationship. I won’t get into deep details (trying to keep it light) but nothing horrible is happening in my relationship, I just have been unhappy for the past couple years and my partner is kind person—making it much harder to justify to myself and anyone else why I want to leave. Our parents expect us to get married this year.

    Here’s my question. I’m 31 going on 32. I feel the pressure of being a woman and the clock ticking. I’m on the fence about kids, but I constantly hear from single friends and social media that dating after 20s is awful. I saw a viral post on Twitter with too many comments describing bad dating experiences nowadays (something in the water for straight men?) that you might as well stay in your current relationship—you may be *just* as unhappy single, it’s that bad out here. I don’t even want to date in the near future, but I also want companionship one day. Maybe I should continue to make things work. But for those who are 35 and older, what was your experience leaving a long term relationship? What was your experience dating? Did you regret anything?

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is an interesting question and to be clear, I don’t think there’s a right answer, just an answer that’s right for you. You also just can’t know the future, which is what you would need to answer this question – I know people who re-entered the dating market and found someone they clicked with right away (someone I know just married the literal first person she ever met up with online) while others go through literally years of the online dating grind, which can be demoralizing or not depending on your perspective. I did read a really depressing book by an advice columnist I had previously really liked, Lori Gottlieb, called “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” that perhaps you can read and then decide, as I did, that the author is wrong and you don’t agree. Her point I think was that if you do want kids, and you have found a decent co-parent, you will probably regret leaving him out of a vague sense of longing and unsatisfaction because you won’t find someone better at a certain age. Like I said, I came away being glad I stayed single, personally, haha.

      1. PollyQ*

        FWIW, Gottlieb found a man, got engaged to him, only for him to dump her before the wedding. Granted, it’s just one data point, but still, not a ringing endorsement for her philosophy.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I was really surprised by that book because I enjoyed “Ask a Therapist” *and* I thought her other book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” was thoughtful and sensitive. So even though I was turned off by the title I figured I’d give it a shot. The tone felt really bitter and nasty to me. But if OP reads it and decides she’d still rather leave her current partner I think she can feel confident she’s thought it through!

    2. Hard Decisions*

      I know this probably isn’t the answer you want, but this sounds like a good case for individual counseling…and then, if you decide you would like to try to make it work, for couples counseling/premarital counseling. Individual counseling will help you figure out things like – what other things are going on in your life that might be contributing to this feeling, what your communication style is and how it could improve, sorting out what things are most important to you, etc. This is a hard thing and I wish you luck. (Also, don’t worry about the expectations that you will get married. Although 26 at the time, I broke off an engagement 6 weeks before the wedding and the following year I married someone else and we’ve been married 42 years.)

      1. RagingADHD*

        I think this is good advice, because it is important to know whether you are unhappy with the relationship as-is (in a way that could be improved), unhappy with this person, or generally unhappy (possibly depressed). They all need different approaches.

        If, for example, you are dealing with some overarching depression it might still be a relationship that needs to end anyway. But ending the relationship wouldn’t be the solution.

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

      I left a 12 and 1/2 year relationship, but I knew it wasn’t working after about 6 years. Same issues: the other person was overall, a good person and beloved by my family. I wish I had known that you don’t need a family-approved reason to break up. I wasn’t fair to my partner by staying because I thought I “should” — that was keeping them from being able to find a new partner who WOULD appreciate them (which they did — they’re happily married now to someone else, and we’re all on good terms).

      While I dated some lovely people after that (with whom I remain close friends), I never found a partner whom I lived with again. Am I sorry about that? I don’t know. Maybe? What I DO know is that I don’t regret the breakup — like, I don’t really miss us being a couple. I just wish I had had the guts to break up sooner, which would have been kinder to us both.

      I think it feels better to be a little lonely on your own (though most of the time, I don’t feel lonely at all) than to feel lonely in a relationship (or whatever flavor of not-right you’re feeling in your relationship) and hang on because you’re afraid you can’t “do better.” Don’t fall into the sunk-cost fallacy. Sometimes alone IS better.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        A friend once told me, “It’s better to be a solo for the right reasons than a duet for the wrong reasons.” He was right, and it sounds like you already know that, Squirrel N.

    4. Annie Mouse*

      So your life is your own and only you can decide what’s right for you but here’s my story.

      My ex blew up our marriage when I was 30. At first I was heartbroken, we had been married for 8 years and she was the only serious relationship I ever had.

      But then I started thinking about all the things that were wrong in our marriage (I was constantly doing things she wanted to do while she refused to even entertain doing something I wanted to do, naive little fool that I was thought I was compromising, our interests no longer aligned, her friends were frankly, awful, etc) and suddenly it didn’t matter.

      She was out of my life and I was finally free. I might come off as bitter but honestly her running off with someone 10 years younger than her was the best thing to ever happen to me. I got to live with myself, just myself and learned a lot about myself that I don’t know if I ever would have because I was so busy trying to make her happy and never thinking about me.

      I’m still single and will probably die alone but I don’t really care? It doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I’m enjoying my freedom and honestly don’t know if I have it in me to pursue a relationship with anyone or give up my space to anyone. (I’m ace so that also makes dating a shit show)

      So my vote is stop wasting your time with someone who doesn’t make you feel happy. You only live once, why waste your time on misery?

    5. Not A Manager*

      I left my relationship under similar circumstances. All I can say is, I got to a point where I knew that I’d never find a way to be happy in the relationship, so if I stayed I would literally spend the rest of my life waking up every morning wondering if this was the day I would finally leave.

      I’m much older than you are, and I will probably not find a new partner. I waited to leave until I was sure that I wasn’t hoping to trade up. I know people who did that and they were bitterly disappointed. Do I sometimes miss the companionship? Yes. Do I ever regret leaving the relationship? No.

    6. Qwerty*

      I don’t think it is fair to stay with someone simply because you don’t want to be alone. Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want you or feels that they have settled sucks.

      The questions you raise are good conversations with a therapist. How much of this is dissatisfaction with your relationship vs dissatisfaction with your life? I’ve seen a lot of people hit a milestone birthday and have quarter- / third- / mid- life crisis and a lot of those feelings get directed at thier partner. Some of them needed to move on, others ruined a good relationship. Regardless of what your scenario is, the life questions you have will still be there whether you are single or partnered.

      Personally, my long term relationship of 5yrs ending was a blessing that I could not see at the time. I kinda love being single and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I’d gone through with getting married. I don’t think dating in your mid-thirties is as bad as you hear online – it depends a lot on how you go about dating. If you use dating apps or tactics from your 20s, its not great. But I’ve had friends find really great matches – even if the relationship didn’t work out in the long term – by having honest profiles that included their quirks. I think one of the rough bits is the pool of people is smaller, meeting people is hard, and we all are a lot more set in our ways.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, I don’t think the idea that dating in the future might be awful is a reason to stay with somebody with whom you are not happy. Could you be unhappy single too? Sure, it’s possible, but you could also be blissfully happy. Apart from anything else, isn’t “I might still be unhappy but there is no reason to assume that” better than “I am currently unhappy.”

      Admittedly, I am speaking from a particular perspective as I am aromantic asexual, but I am 43, never been in a relationship and 100% happy with my life.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      You might as well stay in your current relationship—you may be *just* as unhappy single.

      I’m in my 50s, happily married, and I married young. And the above sounds so unappealing to me–I’d rather be figuring things out on my own, solving a one-body problem, than in an unhappy relationship. The inertia of those grating but familiar relationships (not only romantic) can be immense.

      From what you write, I can’t tell if the relationship is causing you to be unhappy, or if you are unhappy and casting about for things to change and the relationship is a variable. I think talking this over with someone (therapist, supportive friend, cousin who has good insights) would help clarify just where the unhappiness is rooted. The simplest answer is that you’re unhappy in the relationship because this relationship is not what you (on some level beyond good-on-paper) want. Often the simplest answer is true, but it’s worth trying to figure out if you’re complicating something simple, or looking for a simple fix for something too complicated to respond to that.

    9. And thanks for the coffee*

      You say: I’ve been unhappy for a few years.
      If you stay you may be unhappy for much years.

      You, of course, are the only one who can really make the decision to stay or go. Best of luck to you as you ponder this issue. Being able to recognize and accept how you feel is a first good step.

    10. office hobbit*

      You can apply the Captain Awkward sheelzebub question: if nothing changed in your relationship, how much longer would you want this to be your life? If you wake up in five years, next to your kind partner, feeling unhappy, is that what 31-yr-old-you wants for 36-yr-old-you?

      I agree with the above suggestion that a couple of sessions with a therapist on your own may help you clarify to yourself what you want. Or with a trusted friend, if therapy isn’t on the table.

      I do think “does not make me unhappy to be with them” is a bar you can and should want a prospective life partner to clear.

    11. funkytown*

      Wanting to leave is enough. I’m close to your age and feel similar pressures and fears, AND every time I’ve had several breakups over the last few years, of varying levels of seriousness and thought Maybe this Could be my person? I’m so glad that those relationships have ended. It’s hard for me to see the difference between, am I unhappy in the relationship, or am I unhappy in other areas of my life that could be addressed instead? But ultimately, even though some of the breakups were extremely hard and not all initiated by me, the main feeling in the long term has been Relief. So much relief to not force myself to stay with the wrong person even if there may not be a right person.

      I think Captain Awkward has answered letters in a similar vein that may be helpful to you if you are interested in browsing the archives for breakup letters, I’ll post links in a follow up.

    12. I just really can’t think of a name*

      I didn’t leave a long-term relationship in my thirties, but I didn’t meet my now-husband until I was 34 – we got married when I was 38, and I had our son when I was 42 (with no fertility interventions). So don’t let the timeline alone freak you out! And not being in a romantic relationship leaves you a lot more time to work on friendships and your own ish, which I think people underrate.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I’ve had two serious relationships in my life so far, and I seriously doubt there’ll be any more. I met my first serious boyfriend when I was 23 and he was 30, and I left him two and a half years later because I felt that he was too immature to build any sort of a future with. If I’d been more experienced, I would’ve left him after 3 months because the relationship never really went anywhere. It was a relief to leave him even if it took me far too long to make the decision to leave, I always loved the idea of having a boyfriend more than I loved him.

        After that I was single for 8 years. I had a few FWB relationships, probably because I don’t date casually. I need to be exclusive from the first date onwards to feel secure enough to pursue a romantic relationship (as opposed to an FWB), and most men just don’t want to deal with that. My best friend’s husband is a work friend of one of my husband’s good friends, and they introduced us to each other.

        I met my husband when I was 33, got pregnant when I was 36, and we got married a few weeks after my 37th birthday, about a month before my due date. We’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary next March. We have a very solid and happy marriage, and I honestly can’t imagine it ending until one of us dies. I can’t imagine dating again, never mind getting into a committed relationship with someone else even if he dies before me, which is unlikely given that he’s 5 years younger and in a much better physical condition than I am (especially the latter).

    13. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I got divorced for the second time when I was almost 30, and eventually married again at 36 to a guy I’d known as a friend for twelve years before we started dating. So I never really did the “dating” thing in the traditional sense. (Literally never – I was friends first with everyone I’ve ever been involved with, for good or ill.) So I can’t speak to that. But I can say that, it seems to me that if you know you’re unhappy now, or you MIGHT be unhappy in a different situation, taking the chance on possible improvement seems the most logical to me. Also, life is too short to stay in a position that you know makes you unhappy.

    14. RagingADHD*

      It’s been a million years ago now, but I decided in my 20s that I would much rather be single the rest of my life than be in an unhappy / unhealthy relationship. And I was very happily single for several years, with some short term dating that didn’t really go anywhere because I wasn’t willing to put up with nonsense.

      I met my now-husband when I was 32 and we’ve been married 20 years. I love my family very much and am very happy with my life choices. But I honestly believe I would also have been happy single.

      I think an unhappy relationship is much worse than being alone, as well as kind of unfair to the other person. They deserve to have someone who is happy to be with them, instead of being a consolation prize.

    15. Chaordic One*

      Any time I initiated the breakup I always felt a sense of relief when the relationship ended. (That wonderful sense of freedom!) OTOH, there were a couple of times when my “beloved” ended the relationships and those were hard to take. At the times I was devastated, though in retrospect, I can now see where there were red flags about the relationships and I was slower than my exes in picking up on them. (I miss my would-be in-laws, though.)

      One of my exes went on to marry someone else (whom I’ve repeatedly heard described as being a younger version of myself). Although we are no longer close, from a considerable distance, I think I can see where my ex and his current spouse have certain problems and I think to myself, if I had married that person those would be my problems. Maybe I dodged a bullet. I’ll never really know.

      I don’t regret anything. I would, however, like one of those “Remains of the Day” lunchboxes to take to work.

    16. goddessoftransitory*

      I like Captain Awkward’s take on this dilemma: If you knew, for sure, that nothing about your relationship/partner would ever change, how long would you be willing to stay in the relationship? A year? Ten years? A week?

      For me, it comes down to: how much of myself am I stifling because it’s easier? I’m not talking about abusive situations or similar, but just–the person and how they are, and if I find myself just not doing things.

      Like, I have a funny story to tell, but by the time I get home I realize he won’t be listening, or is going to use it to go off on a tangent, and I just don’t have the energy to bother. Or I want to try a new restaurant but it’s too much trouble to get him to agree. Or he’ll never, ever care enough to come with me to buy new sheets and towels, but will complain endlessly if they don’t suit him.

      How long would I want to do that? A year? Ten years?

    17. FourOfCups*

      One important aspect of this is seeing things from the other person’s perspective. I would not want to be in a relationship with someone who was thinking about it the way you are with your partner. I think people deserve to be with a person who enthusiastically wants to be with them. If you’ve talked about it and you both agree that you’re settling for the saje of having kids or some such, that’s one thing. But if your partner is very enthusiastic and 100% and you’re not, that’s a problem. In my experience, if you’re in a lackluster relationship eventually you will meet someone you could fall in live, or at least lust, with, and then there are issues. Better to be single.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        So much yes to this. I used to follow a dating coach on his blog who taught women to settle. And I had my mom repeatedly tell me that I needed to find a man who loves me more than I love him. Never made sense to me and, while I probably said nothing to the coach, I did eventually get in my mom’s face like “and how does it feel to be the person who loves their partner more than they are loved, because the partner thinks they need to settle? how is it fair to this person? why would they even want to stay in this dynamic?” And even if I were the 100% enthusiastic partner of somebody who’s meh about me, eventually their meh-ness would make me lose all my love for them anyway, so it wouldn’t be the relationship security they think it is.

    18. Rainy*

      My first husband died when I was about your age, and I dated through my 30s (and if I hadn’t met Mr Rainy I would probably still be single). Parts of it were unpleasant, but dating has always been unpleasant in various ways. It’s fun in retrospect when you’re telling stories; it’s usually not when you’re actually doing it.

      I really don’t think that you might as well stay in a relationship you aren’t happy in, because you will be *so* happy single. Building a community of friends and acquaintances is key, but if you don’t enjoy being with the person you’re with, being without them is going to be very freeing.

    19. Violetta*

      I felt like this a few years ago at 31: my then-boyfriend was a good guy, but I just couldn’t see spending my life with him, it felt like settling (which was unfair to both of us). I made a tough decision to break up with him, and four years later, I’m married to the guy I met three months after that break-up. If you’ve been unhappy for years, leave.

    20. WorkingRachel*

      Don’t stay just because dating might suck. Those aren’t equivalent things.

      I left a bad relationship at 39. So far, dating has, indeed, kind of sucked–just haven’t clicked with anyone enough to make a go of it, and online dating is a lot of work. I didn’t date in my 20s so I don’t know if it’s worse now.

      The kid thing really does have an expiration date on it, but I’m assuming you don’t want to have kids with someone you’re lukewarm about? Having kids never made a relationship easier. Better to break up, give yourself a few years to maybe find a partner, and if it doesn’t happen after a while try to decide if it’s something you want to pursue on your own.

    21. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was 42 when I left my marriage, we’d been married 18 years, together for 22. But 1) it was a pretty bad marriage. I’ve heard of worse ones, but ours was maybe a 3-4 out of 10? Either way I was afraid of growing old with that man. 2) we had two kids, whom I asked for and got custody of, so while I had a lot of problems, the ticking clock wasn’t one. I was done having kids either way. I activated a POF account the minute I came home from court, dated online on and off for maybe half of my 14 years on my own, had a total of four longterm relationships in various degrees of seriousness, between 1.5 and 4 years long. So to your questions, first of all, while I do regret either getting into some of those relationships, or staying as long as I did, I 10000% do NOT regret leaving the marriage.

      Second, “you might as well stay in your current relationship—you may be *just* as unhappy single, it’s that bad out here” is bogus, and honestly makes me angry. Yeah the dating market is not great, but who is even talking about the dating market? you are not trading your maybe-STBX for one of those other guys out there, who may in fact turn out to be no better or worse. You are exchanging him for your own company. I happen to really enjoy mine! Being on one’s own is amazing and my only regret is that I haven’t done more of it in my 14 years since I left the marriage. (Also in my case, honestly none of the guys I dated for any length of time longer than a couple of weeks were worse for me than my x-husband had been. They all had their flaws, but my marriage was a nightmare trap from hell. If I’d married one of them and stayed together for two decades, I imagine things would’ve been worse than my marriage had been, but I didn’t.)

      One thing that helped me decide whether to leave or stay was asking myself “suppose I never meet anyone again and spend the rest of my life alone” (inconceivable for someone like I was, who met their husband at 20 and was now in their 40s) “would I be happier or unhappier than if I stay with this person?” and the answer for me was “the rest of my life alone would still be better”.

      I also second, third etc the recommendation of therapy, that I am only seriously getting into now (because I’m tired of getting roped into long relationships by guy friends who turn out to be less than ideal partners, waste my time, and mess me up psychologically even more than I already am. I want to figure out what it is about me that makes me keep doing this.) It is really helping me understand and work on myself, wish I’d started it earlier.

  32. Qwerty*

    I subscribed to BritBox for a couple months – suggestions on what to watch and why you like it or what kind of vibe it has? (like, is something to give my full attention to or half-watch when unwinding after work?) I got BritBox to watch Doctor Who but want to make the most of the subscription while I have it. I lost Netflix so I’m rotating through the other streaming services for a couple months each.

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

      Does BritBox have *Death in Paradise*? I LOVED that series — it’s a cheerful series of murder mysteries (if you an imagine that) set on a beautiful, sunny British-French Caribbean island. Like on *Dr. Who*, the cast changes every so often, but the formula is a winning one. I found the sun and cheeriness most therapeutic for getting through a cold, gray, and miserable winter last year. And the mysteries are good too. The early ones are especially challenging. I guess that means you want to give your attention to these so that you can catch the clues, though you could give up on solving the mysteries and just watch the show to unwind too. There are about 12 seasons so far, I think, so if you like it, you’re all set for a while!

      If it has *Poirot*, I would also give those mysteries a try. I particularly liked most of the longer ones that were, like, an hour and 40 minutes. They were usually set someplace sunny and had lovely sets. They did the darker (both in terms of set design and in terms of plot) ones later on in the series, mostly, so you might want to avoid those if your purpose is to relax.

      *Are You Being Served* is a 1/2-hour comedy from the 1970s that I find funny and relaxing (though you can get it for free on YouTube, I think). I used to think the humor was too crude and didn’t like it much, but like all great sit-coms, it eventually makes you feel fond of all of the characters and makes you enjoy seeing how they will react to a crazy situation based upon the way they interact with the world generally. It also had a clearly gay regular character, Mr. Humphries, quite a long time before we got one on American television.

      Also, if it has the recent BBC *All Creatures Great and Small*, that is very relaxing — it’s set in a small English town veterinary practice, and there are animal stories, family dramas, romantic entanglements.

      Have fun watching!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I second Death in Paradise, in which people get murdered in pleasant tropical surroundings. Somehow the perfectly fine elements all come together to make something that’s much stronger as a whole.

        I also liked Shakespeare and Hathaway, about an odd-couple pair of private investigators in Stratford-on-Avon.

    2. Silly Sheep*

      My household is a big fan of the Lifestyle/Documentary section: Make it at Market, This Farming Life, Gardeners’ World, Antiques Roadshow etc.

    3. Turtle Dove*

      I have Acorn TV, not BritBox. I peeked at the T section of shows on BritBox. I was hoping to find The Trip, which might be my favorite show ever on Acorn, but I don’t see it on BritBox. It’s funny, full of great scenery, and touching at times. I highly recommend it wherever you can find it. I did notice The Duchess of Duke Street in the T section of BritBox, which I enjoyed a few years ago on Acorn TV. I almost always split my attention and play solitaire while I watch a show on my laptop. If I miss some dialog or a scene confuses me, I rewind a bit and give it my full attention.

    4. Jay*

      Every so often I rewatch Red Dwarf and Pie In The Sky.
      I personally didn’t really like Faulty Towers all that much (it just didn’t “click” with me the way most former Python member ventures do), but just about everyone who ISN’T me agrees it’s one of the most amazing comedies ever.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      I’ve been binging Death in Paradise and the Various Farms series (Victorian Farm, Tudor Farm) and enjoying every minute! Also the Sister Boniface/Father Brown series and random other Brit stuff. It’s quite unnerving at times, because the same actors keep popping up on different shows, and I’m always going “wait, that guy was just the Colonel who’s almost-fiancee’ got murdered and now he’s a German scientist?”

        1. Nitpicker*

          Also Bergerac which John Nettles did before Midsomer. Interesting to see him looking so different because much younger – but the voice is the same.

    6. UsuallyALurker*

      Seconding “Are You Being Served?” It’s really silly and never really has much of a plot, which I love.
      Also seconding “To The Manor Born” which is absolute comfort viewing for me. It’s a very calm little sitcom with plots like pretending to go on holiday or trying to protect the historic train station.
      Looking at the BritBox list of shows, A Bit of Fry and Laurie is excellent if you enjoy sketch comedy.
      The current Father Brown is good if you like cozy mysteries that can get scary at times. (They seem to have two versions, but I haven’t seen the other one.)
      ‘Allo ‘Allo and Dad’s Army are comedies set during WWII. They’re both good but I enjoyed Dad’s Army more.
      The Vicar of Dibley is another good peaceful sitcom, very silly.
      Although it also looks like you could also just watch every Shakespeare and Jane Austen adaptation they have and get plenty of use out of your subscription

    7. Sally Rhubarb*

      Of all the streaming services I use, Britbox is the one I watch the most. Lately I’ve been watching Rosemary and Thyme which is about two women gardners who also inexplicably solve crime. It’s very cosy but also very silly in the way that all “random unqualified people who end up solving major crimes” shows are.

      There’s also QI which is an extremely funny panel show first hosted by Stephen Fry and then more recently, Sandi Toskvig

      So yeah I recommend Britbox

    8. Busy Middle Manager*

      These were on TV alot already so you may or may not have seen them but my favorites are:

      Keeping Up Appearances – stands the test of time because there really wasn’t any other show like it. It’s hilarious and the aesthetic of early 90s small town England is very cozy to me

      Hetty Wainthropp Investigates – I love Patricia Routledge from the above so liked this as well

      French and Saunders and Waiting for God – both for if you like ridiculous comedies Gimme Gimme Gimme – if you like ridiculous comedy and like Kathy Burke’s unique nature (she was Magda in AbFab)

    9. Miss Dove*

      I second Death in Paradise, and also its spinoff Beyond Paradise.
      Vera is very good, as is an older police show called New Tricks. I’m currently watching The Last Detective, with Peter Davidson, which I am enjoying.
      All the Morse and Lewis and Frost that used to be on PBS are also there.

      I also like the panel shows – QI and Would I Lie to You, especially.

    10. Nitpicker*

      BritBox is amazing. Wide variety of programs. Mysteries of course – including Morse and Lewis. Non mysteries including Larkrise to Candleford. Oddball mysteries – Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot. And see my other comments.

  33. Cruciatus*

    Low stakes gift presentation question! Last year I gave my friend and her family tickets to see Riverdance. I cut out each letter of Riverdance, taped them to Lindor Truffles and hid them around their house. They had to find them all and unscramble the letters until they figured it out. It was maybe 5-10 minutes and kinda fun (and they got some chocolates for later!). This year I got them tickets to see Stomp. I could do the same thing but it’s a much shorter name and probably much easier to unscramble. Any ideas for another fun way to present this to them? (And sidenote: I don’t have actual tickets, sadly (though I could make fake ones, I suppose). We pay so much for “processing fees” for digital tickets and I’ll never understand it.)

    1. Liminality*

      Maybe go with “Stomp Concert” for more letters?
      Or do the name of the concert venue, or the city where the concert is?
      Or print out the names of 5 of their songs and have them guess what is in common?

    2. fposte*

      Can you do a charades element? Or have a bunch of different things that could mean Stomp (a sounds like, a synonym, some squashed grapes in a bowl, maybe?), maybe all on mini-elf shoes?

    3. GoryDetails*

      I love that gift idea – my family would have fun with something like that!

      Re Stomp: maybe find a variety of boot-shaped candy and small toys, and see who guesses? [Or not; “Kinky Boots” would come to my mind before “Stomp” did!)

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Jigsaw puzzle: Make some sort of appropriate graphic/”ticket”, glue to cardboard, cut out puzzle pieces, hide separately.

      Series of clues: Give them the S. Written on the back of the S are instructions to look under the microwave. Under the microwave is the T with instructions to look toward the light. Taped to the kitchen light fixture is the O with instructions to… Five is probably as long as I’d want a clue chain to go anyway.

      Get a little puzzle box. “Tickets” are inside.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I did a scavenger hunt like this when I got my husband an Xbox for Christmas – it was the Assassin’s Creed package, so a quest seemed on point. He enjoyed it, aside from the part where he almost broke his nose looking the wrong place for one clue.

        1. Anono-me*

          I know it 99.999% isn’t what happened, but I just have a vision of a big central casting gamer dude, peering over some tiny little ol’lady’s hedge and getting bashed with her purse.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Almost as bad! He decided the next clue must be up in the rickety old playset jungle gym thing in our backyard that rattled if the wind blew, so definitely not somewhere I would encourage my out-of-gamer-central-casting 280# 6’4” husband to go. I yelled to him that he was going the wrong way, and he leaned out sideways to yell “What??” and also climbed up another step on the ladder at the same time, thus crunching the middle of his face right into the crossbar next to the ladder.

    5. Random tuesday*

      have chocolates with “stomp” so they don’t have to unscramble, but do a simple cipher. say, a next letter cipher so s goes to t. so it might be tupnq

    6. Dinwar*

      How good are you with poetry? You could do a poem where the first letter of each stanza is a letter in Stomp.

      1. Hazel*

        There is a word jumble puzzle in our newspaper where you unscramble several word anagrams and then take the circled letters from them to make the word or phrase. There is also a cartoon clue. So you could do ‘stripe’ as an anagram and circle the first two letters, etc and the clue could be ‘show we’re seeing this year, throw a tantrum’ or something.

  34. Bluebell*

    Super trivial question- are there different types (not different flavors) of mochi doughnuts? I’ve bought several at a local bakery and love their chewiness. But friends gave me a box from a different place, and they are just sort of light and cakey and not chewy at all. They weren’t stale or anything, but they were kind of meh.

    1. Mr. Donut Lover*

      The mochi flour, itself, is distinctively sticky and creates the chewy texture in the baked goods. There’s also a classic shape of mochi donut (like a ring of orbs). Bakers might take liberties with the shape, flavor, and embellishments … but the mochi dough’s “chew” is what makes it a mochi donut.

    2. Fellow Traveller*

      When I make mochi baked goods, I do find that they get less bounce and chew over time, like a day or so.

    3. Reba*

      I’m sure different bakeries use different recipes (and since mochi donuts are kind of a nascent trend, businesses will be bringing them without necessarily having a lot of experience with them)! I’m seeing tapioca, mochiko, and wheat flour in various proportions in recipes.

    4. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I have noticed differences in texture/chewiness/cakey-ness too, and I just assumed that some were better and/or fresher than others!

  35. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Cat people, I would like some ideas. Beren and Luthien are bonded cats, just over a year old. Beren’s bigger but also a follower, Luthien is spunky and generally starts all the trouble. They do not tolerate being separated from each other, and if one gets locked in somewhere the other turns up to demand release. Luthien also has IBS or similar – chronic, and likely to be lifelong. Thus far, both cats have been eating the same foods, which because of Luthien’s digestive problems means both are stuck eating sensitive stomach foods. The problem I’m having is that Beren is not a fan of the sensitive stomach wet foods. She’s fine with them in moderation but clearly would prefer more variety. Since the brands are also the more expensive ones, my budget would be fine with switching Beren to something cheaper.

    I got some Fancy Feast cans and have been feeding that to Beren, while still feeding Luthien the special diet. I’ve been feeding Beren in the usual food spot and luring Luthien to the other room, then closing the door. As long as Luthien doesn’t complain, Beren will continue eating. But once Luthien starts squeaking, Beren will abandon her food and try to rescue Luthien. If I lock up Beren then Luthien immediately goes after her.

    The goal is to feed different foods, without Luthien getting into Beren’s food at all, and ideally without causing a mutiny. Any ideas or suggestions?

      1. Kat*

        If it happens to be the surefeed microchip feeders, there’s an intruder mode you can set so it won’t open if it registers a second chip. My cats got the message surprisingly quickly once that was set. You can also get clear hoods for the back of the feeder so they can’t stick their head in that way. The company has lots of extra settings and options that it doesn’t put in the manuals, but if you email them they’re really helpful.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          I wish it were that easy! Beren figured out how to flip them upside down. Luthien figured out how to lift the plastic.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If they both eat fairly quickly and aren’t super dawdling, then could you maybe separating them but keeping them in the same room – put Luthien and her food in a pack-and-play or dog crate or something, so that they can still see each other, and maybe that would avoid the squeaking?

    2. Anono-me*

      Can you tip one of those big rectangular plastic laundry baskets over Beren while they eat? The open mesh might be enough visibility to prevent separation anxiety. But give you a little bit of freedom from hovering.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        Beren is big enough she can escape, and Luthien is smart enough I wouldn’t put it past her.

    3. Heather Crackers*

      Feed them on either side of a wire/mesh baby gate, so they can still sniff and touch each other but not the bowls.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I was going to say something like this; a gate, even if they can jump it, and they’ll probably keep eating their own food. You would probably need to monitor them so that Luthien doesn’t eat Beren’s food, but Beren should eat all of it without either of them getting upset.

      2. Wordnerd*

        This is what I would have suggested. I also just wanted to congratulate you on some of the best cat names I’ve ever heard.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          lol thanks. I’m a big Tolkien fan, all the cat names I pick are from Lord of the Rings. Best part is, Beren the cat is female, but I already had named Luthien and, well, just couldn’t not name the 2nd kitten Beren. The cat doesn’t care!

  36. nnn*

    Question for the hive mind: how easy or hard is it to take down a roller shade and put it back up if you’re just one person without help?

    I’m tall with long arms but not particularly strong. The roller shade in question is 40 inches long. I can comfortably reach it from my stepladder but it is over my head.

    If the task at hand were putting a 40-inch roll of wrapping paper on a shelf at that particular height, I’m confident I could do it. But I don’t know anything about the weight of a roller shade or how much nuanced manoeuvring is involved.

    Has anyone done this before?

    1. Blinded by the light*

      Depends on the roller shade, natch. The simplest ones – the ones where you pull on the end of the shade to lower them, then do the slight tug to get them to wind up – will have a post on one end that fits into a hole in a metal bracket attached to the framing. The other end will have a small flat blade (similar to a flat-head screwdriver) that connects to a ratcheting spring system inside the rod. The blade fits into an open slot in a slightly different bracket on that side’s frame.

      For that sort of shade, you need to take the weight of the shade and rotate/lift the blade out of its track (using the post end as a support/pivot), then angle the rod slightly into the room and pull the post out of the hole (it’ll be a loose fit). Putting it back is just reversing the steps; getting the post in the hole is probably the trickiest part.

      Total weight will depend on the shade width, length, and material; shouldn’t be too heavy, call it 5-10 pounds (2-4 kg) on average?

      OTOH, if it’s a fancier shade with a chain to raise/lower it, then you’re probably going to want to seek out the installation instructions. Taking it down shouldn’t be difficult — the shades are intended to be replaced/cleaned — but the exact method is probably manufacturer-dependent.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      I am very short with very short arms. I am very strong but I have no leverage. I installed all of my custom fit Roman shades including the 6 foot kitchen window by myself. I also uninstalled and reinstalled by myself when I hit new windows. I’m 1000% sure you can do it.

    3. anï5*

      Could you go to a big box or hardware store nearby and try picking one up off the shelf to see how heavy it feels for you. I’m concerned about the ‘not particularly strong’ part of your question as that can be really subjective. I think most adults (or close) could switch out a basic wondow basic roller shade (like Blinded by the Light describes) in 3-5 minutes.

      One thing, if you have a roller shade like Blinded by the Light describes and you are considering changing them out because they don’t retract, sometimes that can be fixed without removing the blinds. Simply take the bottom of the blind and lift it over the top of the roller. Wrap up your Blind thus way several times to increase tension.

  37. Aur Naur!*

    I’m devastated that the Australian sitcom Kath & Kim is leaving Netflix at the end of the month. It is my comfort show. I’ve been desperately trying to find a way to own it digitally and I’ve even gone as far as to line up a Region 4 DVD player (but how would I plug it in here in the states?) and look for ways to switch my American DVD player to Region 4 somehow. I really hope some other streamer has picked up the distribution rights but that information doesn’t seem to be available online anywhere. I’m so sad!

    1. nnn*

      Rather than a Region 4 DVD player specifically, you can look for a “region-free” or “multi-region” DVD player. They seem to be in the same price range as regular DVD players, although I can’t vouch for any specific product because I bought mine ages ago.

      Also, if you have a computer with a DVD drive or get a DVD drive for your computer, it generally lets you switch the region a limited number of times, so you could designate a specific device to be your Region 4 device.

      1. fposte*

        I have been a multiregion household since the days of VCRs, when it was really a pain, and I find the external drive the simplest way to do this nowadays.

    2. carcinization*

      There should be converters/adapters available for whatever sort of weird plug from another country if needed. I know my husband and I ordered a lamp-like thing from some Eastern European country before and had to buy such a thing, the item still works fine with that attachment after several years.

      1. BellStell*

        Agree I have a few multiple international adapters for plugs but would recommend looking online for region free dvd pmayer or seeing if you can find it on another streamer

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      If you have a tablet you barely use, you can download the show on the Netflix app then put it into airplane mode. You’ll keep the show until you reconnect to internet.

  38. Sic Transit Vir*

    Any singers here? I was wondering if anyone could recommend any good online video series or other resources for getting better at singing (for an amateur). I’ve started singing in a (pretty informal) choir recently and it’s really highlighted that I know nothing and have no technique (the director says something about “chest voice” and I’m like… what does that mean). I’m hoping to have some money to shell out for real lessons soon but I’m looking for something to explore on my own during the holidays.

    1. Fellow Traveller*

      You can check out Laura Stuart Choi’s FB page and website- The Weekly Warm Up. She’s an opera singer local to my area and has posted a bunch of videos with has warm up exercises that breakdown vocal technique. She also does online vocal lessons as well.

    2. Luisa in Dallas*

      The Great Courses has a course called How to Sing that sounds like what you are looking for. I can totally recommend this company; we have a lot of their courses on DVD, and they are uniformly excellent. At their regular website, the How to Sing course is currently on sale for $69.95. HOWEVER, I happen to have a special sales catalog of theirs, and How to Sing, course #7833 (24 lessons at 45 minutes each) is $35 for the DVD with a free guidebook included. Sale ends December 29. I don’t see a special code for this $35 sale, but you can get to it by going to TheGreatCourses(dot)com(slash)UHL .

      Hope this helps!

      1. RuthA*

        If your library has Hoopla or Kanopy, they also have a lot of Great Courses courses that you can watch for free with your library card, depending on what kind of access your library offers to the services. I see How to Sing in the Hoopla Great Courses BingePass and available through Kanopy from one of my libraries.

    3. Once too Often*

      Have fun! Choral singing can be a joy.
      Head voice/chest voice refers to where the sound resonates most. This changes with a combo of pitch & intention.
      And, everything works better when your system is open or “free,” & you don’t push or force sound. Powering the system (breath support) is great, pressure on individual parts is like putting your hand on a bell; it may still sound but it won’t be as clear, takes more effort, & can lead to problems.

    4. wkfauna*

      Hi! I’m a professional opera singer. I think it’s pretty hard to learn singing by yourself, primarily because the way we hear ourselves when we sing is not the same as how people hear us. So it’s hard to make adjustments. I would highly recommend making it a habit to record yourself and listen back to judge your progress, without relying on real-time listening to yourself. Doing that with the voice memos app on your phone is fine.

      All that said, I would recommend looking into Julia Nielsen’s Co-Vo program. Julia is a teacher in the SF Bay Area to many beginners and very advanced professionals. She leads live warmup exercises several times a week on YouTube. Some of them are free and appropriate for everyone. Some of them are for pay (but not very expensive) and address specialized areas of technique.

      For a comprehensive learn-to-sing course I recommend looking into Claudia Friedlander. She has a course you can buy for a few hundred dollars that purports to take people from zero to competent. I don’t know if it works, honestly, but I’ve worked a little with Claudia and she seemed to have a reasonable approach to technique.

      Good luck! Singing is super hard but also super fun

      1. Sic transit Vir*

        Thank you for this!! I guess I finally have to face my fear of listening to recordings of myself haha.

  39. Generic Name*

    Maybe this is an odd question, but I’m hoping the wise folks here can help me with some phrasing. I’m looking for appropriate responses when people ask me questions about how my ex husband is doing or ask if he and out son get along (this one a coworker asked me, which I probably overshared in response, but why ask that kind of question??). The folks I’m close with know The Whole Story, so this is for acquaintances and colleagues. The truth is I have no idea how my ex is doing because the only interaction I have with him is via a monitored communication platform put into place by the court, or when he questions me in court hearings. Well, I have some idea in that his hobby seems to be fining motions in family court. I’m worried if I just say, “he’s good!” or whatever they’ll ask more probing questions and I’ll have to finally admit I made up a socially acceptable answer. I’d like a response that is reasonably neutral, doesn’t make me sound craze or bitter, and also closes the loop/doesn’t invite any more questions. I don’t want to say, “we don’t get along” because he’s been harassing me for years through the courts, and I feel like that makes me sound like part of the problem. Any ideas?

    1. Indolent Libertine*

      “I don’t really know; we’re both better off with minimal communication. How about that sportsball team?”

    2. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Hi Generic, why are they even asking??
      I would go with something like “Oh, I expect he’s ok.” – in a very boring tone. Very boring. Followed by an exciting question about anything else at all like “Hey did you see that news clip about the guy being interviewed and a big snake appears behind him?” Flat expression and tone and no information as a response to any questions about your ex. It is a really inappropriate question for someone to be asking you.
      I will add the snake clip in a separate message, and yes this is Australia of course.

    3. RagingADHD*

      “I hear he’s fine. I wouldn’t really know.”

      Shrug and change the subject.

      I can’t imagine why people would ask whether he gets along with your son. But there’s always the rather pointed, “You know, that’s not really my business.” Or, “I don’t like to pry.”