weekend open thread – December 2-3, 2023

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Man I Never Met, by Elle Cook. A wrong number leads to a long-distance relationship that takes unexpected turns. I thought the initial premise was A Bit Much and I wondered if it would just be a fluffy romance but it had a lot more substance and I ended up really liking it.

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

{ 1,118 comments… read them below }

  1. Wendy T*

    Not sure if I already missed a conversation about the US Foster System, but I read an amazing book called “The Meth Lunches” by Kim Foster that mirrors a lot of Alison’s thoughts about how corrupt the system is, among other illuminating views on drug use, homelessness and the way charities work for, around and against them. Highly recommended!

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

      I picked up *White Oleander* expecting a noir mystery last year, but it was actually a gripping look at ways in which the foster system can fail kids. It was eye-opening.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        White Oleander manages to convey so much social commentary, in the same way the Crazy Rich Asians books had more history about various countries and ethnic groups than I ever learned in school.

    2. JustForThis*

      There was some discussion of fostering on the weekend thread Nov 18/19th. I’ll put the link in a reply.

    3. Abolitionist Social Worker*

      Thanks, I added to my list! I recently read We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America, and I definitely recommend it. It’s about the children adopted into the Hart family (the adoptive parents famously drove off a cliff with the children in the backseat). Instead of taking a true crime approach or exploring the possible motivations of the adoptive parents–it focused on the first families of the children, their experiences with the foster care system, and how they are coping with the loss of the children who were removed from their loving families so they would be “safe.”

    4. OtterB*

      Not a blog, but if you’re interested in in foster care I like @amynusbaum.bsky.social. She’s got an adopted 3-year old (her original preference was not to adopt but needs changed for the girl she’d been fostering from a newborn) and is fostering that child’s younger brother. She’s sharing a house with a platonic partner who also fosters and besides the long term residents they’ve had others from overnight to medium-term: sibling sets, teens, etc. Recommended.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I bought it from a site that does them (pettsup.com) as a Christmas present for my husband but then was too impatient to wait and ended up showing him the digital proof early.

    1. Mel*

      I drop in every week to see the cat photo but I must admit this one freaked me out ever so slightly!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          It’s the Olden Times Uncanny Valley effect–the cat faces and paws are copy pasted over doll bodies.

        2. Festively Dressed Earl*

          Something about the cat on the far right looks like a murder plot in progress. Then again, that’s one of the nice things about cats. They’re always plotting murder, but they’re on your side. For now.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I lived in an apartment which became infested with water bugs, and my male cat helped me kill them. I would turn around and find one on its back with its legs in the air and he’s sitting there looking innocent. ;)

    2. Fit Farmer*

      My gosh, the attention to which cat is on which body! Especially the tall middle one, perfect.

      And the paws. I didn’t notice the paws. I bet I sure would have noticed arms, though, if they had not been replaced by cat.

  2. Dragonfly7*

    How have you created a comfortable floor seating / lounging area? I am moving, will be without a couch for a couple of months, and am dreaming up ideas.

    1. dusty*

      My Uncle Charlie had a room entirely of comfortable chairs, some family pieces, some from his travels, all surrounding a GIANT brass platter, from his Peace Corps days…

    2. SofiaDeo*

      My very first place, I got a decent coffee table one could put ones’ legs under, and 4 large square floor cushions that could stack. I ate there Japanese style, until I could afford a dining table & chairs, and used it as seating when friends visited. I laid down on 3 cushions with the 4th on top of an end one when I wanted to “recline” to watch TV or read, sometimes sat on 1 with 3 stacked for more of an upright “chair”. As I made money and finally got a couch and some chairs, and dining table/chairs, the cushions stacked in a corner easily and was extra seating as needed. If I were to do it all over again, I would get Sunbrella or other outdoor cushions, so I would have something to eventually put on outdoor furniture, or take camping or take to a park for a picnic.

    3. LBD*

      I placed a comfie rectangular hassock in a corner of my living room and piled random cushion on it. I bought it at a second hand store for $20, it fit in the back of my car and was light enough for me to carry up stairs by myself. (No, autocorrect, I did not mean haddock, but thanks anyways for the hlep.)

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Garden recliners while waiting on couches when we first moved in; ended up being on them for a year, partly because we were renovating from scratch and partly because Brexit and post-Covid meant that waiting for imports and deliveries were insane. The recliners were surprisingly comfortable! I padded one out with cushions to make it extra comfy. If it had been in the budget, or easy to store when the couches arrived, I would have gone full garden furniture sofa set – they’re as comfortable as the indoor versions and lots of them are modular so you can break them up easily to rearrange or move them.

    5. JubJubTheIguana*

      Would a big bean bag work as a temporary option?

      I’m currently couchless, but I actually just ordered a new one and it’s hot pink. Excited!

      1. amoeba*

        Uuh! I love bright couches, mine is orange and I’m very disappointed they’ve apparently taken out that colour because my boyfriend needs one as well and the alternatives just aren’t the same.
        People kept telling me I’d get tried of it but three years later I still love it!

        1. Jeb*

          Jonathan Louis and Rowe are both furniture manufacturers with a strong, bright color palette and good customizable programs. JL is California based, Rowe is East coast.
          La-Z-Boy has a more muted color palette, but they do have some good red/orange options, and unlike the other two, they offer reclining
          options. If you call around to retailers in your area you should be able to find one that carries one of those! Custom takes longer, but it really lets you get exactly what you want.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Or a local buy nothing group! Or off the curb on trash day, honestly (which is where all of the furniture in my first US apartment came from, and I ended up having some of those items for 20+ years.)

        (Want to add that I had a traumatic experience when I bought a recliner for the first house that I’d bought after leaving my marriage, off Craigslist, drove all the way across town to get it, hired a guy with a pickup truck to deliver it to my house as the recliner would not fit into the Altima I had then, the pickup truck cost me more than what I paid for the recliner… all that hassle only to find out that the recliner smelled badly of mold to the point where we couldn’t even bring it inside. Could not smell it outdoors but as soon as we brought it inside the garage and shut the door, BOOM, moldy smell. Had to throw it out and it’s only been very recently, 13 years later, that I finally got over the hangup that I developed about buying stuffed furniture like couches and recliners online. I should’ve known something was afoot when the sellers let me inside their home to see the recliner and then immediately grabbed it and carried it outside, telling me I could look at it more in the driveway. TL;DR don’t forget to give that free couch a smell test!)

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Ooof, I feel this. When we moved we ordered a new couch and various delays meant either sitting on the floor or polite-fighting over who got the one armchair.

      Every time I called I got some very polite, helpful, and powerless person trapped in a call center with no information or ability to find out anything at all. We had to reschedule three different times for it to show! Sears, you SUCK as far as organizing your shipping and delivering departments!

      And after all of that, when it arrived it was too big to come through our apartment unit door! The old place was set up so you could walk backwards into the bedroom, but the new one had the closet blocking just enough so that it was impossible. Had to send it back and order from Macy’s (which was a dream and took far less drama.)

      Now we need a replacement and I’m going modular, baby. No more skimpy two seater, lots of room for stretching out!

    7. But what to call me?*

      I find those low rocking chairs with the rounded bottoms extremely comfortable. I can lean back or not lean back to the exact degree my back prefers at that exact moment, lean *all* the way back for some mildly amusing balancing that also works on my core a little bit, or just rock because I feel like rocking. They have more support than a bean bag (at least good ones do – my parents had a cheaper one that wasn’t as supportive), though bean bags are also excellent. I don’t own one at the moment but will definitely be purchasing another one the next time I have a living room of my own.

  3. Kate*

    Hoping for some low-energy ideas for spending time with my 9 year old kiddo.

    Backstory: I am a disabled single parent with full custody and a very demanding job. I am EXHAUSTED 98% of the time.

    My kiddo is always asking me to “do” something with her, and apparently hauling her to and from swimming lessons, grocery shopping, and doing homework don’t count :D I know what she really wants is to feel like she is getting my attention, which is often in short supply.

    We do have Saturday night pizza and movie nights, and playing music + colouring together in adult colouring books often scratches that itch, but I could use some new ideas. I am board-gamed out.

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

      It doesn’t sound like you have a ton of free time with all that going on, but maybe there’s some kind of class (pottery? beginner ballet? creative writing?) at the local Y or somewhere that you two could take together?

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

        Or like, maybe trying to learn a new language together? You could use some of that time you’re in the car to practice speaking, perhaps.

          1. RLC*

            My mom reading out loud to me just before bedtime was the most wonderful treat. The book was always my choice, and I had her undivided attention for that time.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this. Our parents, especially our dad, still read out loud to us long after we’d advanced to reading chapter books. If your voice can take speaking continuously for even half an hour, it’s a great way to give your child your undivided attention.

            2. Mrs. Pommeroy*

              Yes, reading to her will probably be really welcomed. And if your voice or exhaustion levels don’t permit 30+min of continuous reading, maybe your daughter would enjoy taking turns!

            3. Mephyle*

              When my kids were small I recorded myself reading some favourite books that were worth listening to again and again. Mostly we used them on long car rides, but they were sometimes purposed for bedtime story time when I was too exhausted to do it live.

            4. PDB*

              I have zero memories of my parents reading to me but they must have because I read a lot by the age of 8 or so, science fiction mostly but adult stuff,

    2. Shirley You're Joking*

      Have you done jigsaw puzzles together? If you have space to leave one out on a table, it’s nice and relaxing to work on it a little at time. Of course, not everyone likes puzzles, but I always find them relaxing and more fun when two people are working together.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. We even have a rollable puzzle cloth so that the puzzle doesn’t take up half of our dinner table until it’s done.

        It’s been a while since I did one with my son, but it’s been a great way to get him to talk about the things that matter to him. It’s as good as a car trip, because you’re focused on doing something else together.

        I have fond memories of doing puzzles with my grandma when I was a teen.

    3. Enough*

      300 – 500 piece jigsaw puzzles. Read books alternating pages/chapters between the two of you. Card games.

    4. moonsnail*

      I don’t know how disabled you are, but if there is a relatively wild-ish park or beach that is accessible to you (whether you park your wheelchair somewhere, or use canes to get to a bench not far from the car), I would go there, and have your kid run back and forth from where you are to the forest/edge of the forest, bringing things back for you. Then you can explore nature together, and tire the kid out some. Then, as she brings you leaves/sticks/snail shells, you play with them where you are, you make them into story characters, make villages with them etc. I was moderately disabled (cane-based, couldn’t walk far), and I had a high energy kid. My kid really appreciated this game because it was a combo of having my full attention and running around (for them).

    5. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Could you cook together? Let her pick a recipe and do it together. You gotta eat, cooking is a good skill for her to learn, and “Tuesday Kid Choice” can be a nice tradition, too. Give her a budget if you need to.
      I like the idea of reading a book together, taking turns reading out loud and talking about what you read. A mini book club with just the two of you. Take turns choosing books.
      If you can do anything to make the car time more connecting, like turning off the radio/music/podcasts and talk about things instead, that might help, too. My daughter and I used to take turns sharing music with each other, a day at a time. So one day, she would play music she liked and tell me about the artist & why she liked it. The next day, I’d share something I used to listen to when I was about her age and would tell her about stupid fashion trends and stuff. And then it would be her turn. After a while, we ran out of new things to share but we still alternated music. Some days she was very excited to share a new album/song artist with me, and some days she was surprised that she already knew some of my music (thanks, Glee!)

      1. Dee*

        This was my idea. Even just heating stuff up and learning more about microwaves and ovens and techniques could be fun

        Also a busy working mom, not diagnosed disabled per se but a lot of sleep and energy issues… I acknowledge you probably don’t cook from scratch. But even writing a grocery list together, going shopping at a grocery store or picking out groceries online, and any part of food prep might be an activity or fun together

        No one likes the putting food away part so good luck with that

        1. Samwise*

          Include a special treat, her choice. My son loved jiffy pop! So we’d get that or some snacky item and watch a movie together. My son was very ill for a long time, so we were often both very tired…but that was a nice ritual

          I read to him nearly every nite til he was a
          Junior in high school.

          Your daughter may not see it that way now, but both my son and I really treasure all the time we spent together in the car.

          When I was a kid, we did not have much spare money and I have a lot of siblings. But my mom made time to go out with each of us — if it was a chore outing, then we always stopped for an ice cream or a coke and had her undivided attention for that bit of time. We all looked forward to those outings.

    6. Owler*

      I was a post- cancer mom for my 9yo, and we had a lot of low energy time together. I feel for you…it’s not easy. Some of the things we did:

      * Freaky Friday nights, where she is in charge (picks the menu; picks the activities).

      * Spa nights, where you paint fingers and toes, and wear those silly face masks. Sometimes a bubble bath night, Or a hair salon night, which should include wearing those turbans and maybe cucumbers on your eyes. Sing with broadway musicals.

      * Puzzles and pizza. Does your library have a puzzle library so you could check out some new to you puzzles?

      * I always enjoyed an evening family swim in the place where my kiddo had lessons. It wore her out, and I mostly just hung out in the pool, and maybe threw diving rings.

    7. Jay*

      -Building model kits?
      Bonus points if it’s something the kiddo can then run themselves ragged with out in the backyard/a local park while you sit comfortably on a chair and watch. Maybe like a kite kit or something similar.
      -Do you fish?
      Because you can sit in a very comfortable chair in a sunny spot with a glass of sweet tea with a line in the water (bait is optional if your mostly just in it for the chair, tea, and sun). There are more ‘energetic’ kinds of fishing involving artificial baits and lots of casting and walking that you might want to encourage the youngster to do.
      -At around that age I developed a positive mania for what we always called ‘science kits’. You know, the big box of stuff that has instructions for kids to preform simple, safe little science ‘experiments’? Those kept me happily chugging away on long, latchkey winter days when I was young.
      -I loved my microscope when I was their age.
      -You can get a very simple telescope for cheap either on line or in a second hand store and much better ones at, oh, any number of places. Sitting and learning about the stars and constellations is a really low impact activity.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Legos? And since she’s younger and has more energy, she can always pick up the ones that fall down (because they will).

    8. peter b*

      this may not fill that niche, but is there another adult you trust who can hang out with her regularly? my mom’s best friend came over once a week when I was a kid & having her play with us/take us out for ice cream/teach us how to play tennis/anything really helped me fill that need for adult attention + lifted the load from my parents even when they were hanging out in the house if it was an evening in. ofc, the regularity of it being basically every Wednesday helped a ton as well on both ends, but it made it so I had someone besides my paretns I could bounce my struggles/successes off of. not the same as mom’s attention, but it defo made it less urgent because I had another outlet.

      if it’s time with mom more specifically she’s craving, I second reading books together – my mom & I did Anne of Green Gables (and the sequels) as I grew out of picture books, because she’d read it as a kid too; sharing that was really really cool. reflecting back what stuck with me was her sharing the music she liked, or the Anne books, or little regularly structured moments. best of luck!!

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      More engaging craft things? You could make a quilt together (each working on your own squares then piecing them together), do embroidery or painting, make stuff with polymer clay… there are a lot of YouTube tutorials for all kinds of art, many geared specifically toward kids. Go to one of those pottery painting shops or a kid-friendly version of “sip n paint”

      1. vulturestalker*

        Seconding the craft idea! Obviously crafts can get really complicated, but you could find something simple like colored beads, polymer clay (we had a lot of that when I was a kid and it was awesome), a shrinky dink kit, etc.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Latch hook rugs aren’t hard once you get the hang of it, and there are lots of easy ones out there.

    10. Maggie*

      I was obsessed with weaving and creating beaded animals and keychains at that age. I had a mini loom and yarn, and the bead animals use a type of thick string with plastic beads. My mom is great and I love her but she didn’t do stuff like that with me. You’re a good mom!

    11. SofiaDeo*

      My parents got me involved with chores they were doing. So sorting/folding laundry we chatted, I would put it away in drawers while they sat or dealth with the hangers until I could hang clothes. In the kitchen I washed veggies and fetched stuff from the fridge while we talked, eventually measuring/cutting, then finally cooking. I was taught to sew simple stitches, and “mended” things that could use a small repair, or reinforcement. My parents nor I cared if a torn pocket mend wasn’t perfect, I got praised for finishing adequately. Fetching/holding tools as repairs or whatever were explained “how to do it”, so I eventually learned myself. I remember learning how to can veggies and make jam with Grandma. Standing at the sink drying dishes while she washed is one of my fondest memories, she would point out things through the kitchen window.
      So it seems if there are things that need to be done, as long as you are doing them *together* she likely will be happy. Get 2 dusters, start at opposite ends of the room. Make a game of “who gets the most dusted” and let her do 75% of it and “win.” Ask her to research simple recipes/watch kids cooking shows, and talk about which things you would like to try. Make a game out of her reading the local grocery ads for when the recipes you want to try have items “on sale”. My mom worked on her feet at her second job, and I used to like giving her a foot massage; she would wash them ahead of time of course, & tell me how wonderful it felt, even though I probably wasn’t great at it. Same thing for neck massages. Sometimes we’d brush each others’ hair.
      We did not have a lot of money when I was growing up, but my big memories are of getting hugged/touched a lot. I felt very loved, and was simply told “we can’t afford that” when I wanted to buy things like kids do. So even watching a movie, if you can snuggle or have her put her legs on yours or play Footsie if sitting on opposite ends of the couch, will likely be things she remembers later.

      1. Samwise*

        This reminds me of the lovely Seamus Heaney poem Clearances no. 3, where he remembers helping his mother with chores.

        Search for:
        Seamus Heaney Clearances — then find #3 on the page (the whole poem is great, but that section has always stayed in my heart)

    12. Rise of Caesar*

      9 years old should be old enough to do crafting kits with minimal supervision, right? If coloring is dull but she still wants to craft, could you get her clay or beads and string?

    13. PhilG*

      Fishing: a nice, placid pond in a park or something similar. Several places I have lived have small, maybe 10’ x 10’ platforms around a pond or along the river designed just for that. Bring a canvas chair and a few drinks/snacks.

    14. Jane*

      When I was a kid my grandfather would babysit me a lot and I ADORED him and always wanted to be engaging with him in some way. He….probably got tired lol. He made up “reading parties” that basically was just reading side by side while eating a snack. But he made such a big deal about it that it felt special. And then he got to read his own book haha. All you need to do is prepare a snack and pick a book, snuggle up, and each read to yourself!

      1. trying to be optimistic*

        I love this so much. It made me think of staying with my grandparents, and my grandmother would let me go through her huge costume jewelry drawer, and I would sit there forever looking through her collection and trying things on. Looking back, she was probably exhausted, and it kept me quiet …. lol

    15. Not A Manager*

      I was a single parent for many years, with a lot of support and no disabilities. It was exhausting. My most important advice is to give yourself a break. Your child knows she is loved, and you do give her not only the necessities but also as much time and attention as you can. We all want to give our children everything, but sometimes that’s not possible. Maybe it’s not even desirable.

      When you don’t always give her as much time and attention as she would like, one thing she is learning is that you can be safe and loved, but sometimes you have to deal with disappointments and imperfections within the relationship. There are worse lessons.

      In terms of things to do together, kids actually like sharing your life and your experience. Are there necessary chores/experiences that you generally take ownership of, that she could share with you? You mentioned grocery shopping. What about meal planning and even budgeting? Can you and she prep and cook some meals together? Laundry prep and folding are good times to listen to an audiobook, or to have a conversation. “Spa nights” might include, for example, taking separate turns having a warm bath with lots of candles. Fun for her, but you also get some private time.

      Are there activities that you genuinely enjoy that you could share with her? My fallback was always reading to my kids. I didn’t always have energy for puzzles or games, but I love books and can read out loud for hours. I also happen to like singing. My kids and I would cuddle up in bed and sing silly songs. But those things worked because I liked them and they did not exhaust me further.

    16. allx*

      I read recently in a brain book that for certain brains/kids to feel like they were getting the attention they craved, it was important to offer the attention/time-spending before the kid asked. It wasn’t the quality of the activity that was the most important, but that the parent pre-empted the ask by seeking out the kid to spend time with. My paraphrase based on memory is not doing justice to the concept. The book is “Change Your Brain Every Day” by neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Amen. It contains 366 one-page essays of the most important things he learned from doing brain SPECT scans on hundreds of thousands of people. It is quite interesting and easy to read a page a day.

    17. Mel*

      Looking at all the other suggestions, reading together, cooking, crafting, puzzles, learning a language, which you don’t necessarily need to go to special classes for as you can download apps, maybe learn sign language, which is something I wish I’d learned when I was younger, or cooking are all good ideas. Or, perhaps if cooking seems too mundane and everyday, perhaps baking — you could gradually work up from basic baking to more elaborate and fancy. I don’t know what your disability is, or if you live in a house or apartment, but if you have a garden, perhaps grow vegetables and herbs together. You can get raised beds put in if that will help.

    18. as the fog slides in*

      Google Arts & Culture has online games that are fun and interesting that you could explore together, including online jigsaw puzzles that you can complete as a team. You share the link, and anyone can play with you from anywhere. You can choose the level of difficulty and the artwork. We’ve done a ton of them with family in various locations. There are some fun music games there that I have played myself as an adult. Some of our funniest and most chill moments have been spent playing Animal Crossing on the Switch. Nine is a little young, but my daughter and I enjoy doing online crossword puzzles. And also online Sudoku. The Washington Post has a huge online game page. My kids loved having magazine subscriptions of their own when they were little like the free Lego magazine, Highlights, Ladybug, etc. I think our library has a Binge Pass through Hoopla for Highlights if I recall correctly. I’ve heard The Week, Jr. is good news magazine for kids. Your local library might have an online magazine app you can explore together? Magazines would provide something to look forward to and a routine monthly activity where you could read them together curled up on the sofa and do the puzzles, etc. They also have Rosetta Stone for free, so maybe yours does too and you could learn a new language together? Duolingo? I used to dump the Lego bin on the living room floor and give the kids Lego challenges – build a castle, build an animal. My brain loved sorting the Legos into categories, and while I did that, they played, and I would talk to them about supply chain management lol. When I was pregnant with my second and had 24/7, 7-month-long severe morning sickness, we watched a ton of Sesame Street and PBS Kids during my worst morning waves. There are shows like Fetch and Design Squad that they might love, and you could watch together. We still discuss those shows now, and it’s years later. Our favorite family line is “they did that on Fetch once.” Mark Rober has fun videos. There are subscription boxes like Universal Yums or Finders Seekers – expensive, but we’ve just bought single boxes. You could buy international foods from the grocery store and make your own fun “let’s try it” box. We are making our own this year as a gift for the kids. We have done online escape rooms for free – lots of libraries have them – with relatives all over the country. My daughter went crazy over the loom you use to make pot holders, and we still have a huge collection we use today. Other shows you could watch might include cooking shows like old Great British Baking Shows or Nadia Bakes. We love those. One of my absolute favorite things we ever did was take a giant cardboard box and make a playhouse out of it. I know there is some physical labor to that one, but there are TONS of opportunities for coloring it to look like a real house once it is up and stable, and we left those up for weeks. You could watch knitting or crocheting videos and learn together. My daughter taught herself book binding skills early and now makes the most beautiful books and journals. There are lots of library books you can check out to learn so many skills or find easy craft ideas. DK has tons of amazing books for kids that you can just page through for the incredible photos. Libby online is a great library app, as is Hoopla. Hoopla has some other Binge Passes for kids too, but I can’t recall what they are. My daughter and I have read books each on our own then come together to discuss them and had our own Book Club meetings. Paint by numbers kits, maybe? Making glop with corn starch and food coloring or making salt playdough. Air dry clay sculpting. My daughter and I take turns writing sections of a story in a notebook, passing it back and forth. You could give each other writing prompts. We created a 100 Questions doc, and my daughter fills it out for books she has read, and we discuss it (truth – it only has 58 questions so far lol). We made elaborate halloween decorations one year using a roll of giant paper. We sketched, cut out and taped a giant haunted house to the window. it looked cool from outside, and Pinterest had some great inspiration photos. Paper snowflake cutting. Drawing elaborate coloring pages for each other to do. You could cuddle up and start a Pinterest board with future ideas to choose from together. Or just create boards for fun like fairy gardens or dragons or whatever interests you both. We also play on Google Earth, going all over the world, seeing how many buildings we can get into (malls, monuments, etc.) and having scavenger hunts. Hope this helps! :O)

    19. Boston Mom*

      Watch a series. Or a sports team. My 4th grade daughter and I are watching “Once upon a time” together and she’s also rabidly obsessed with the Boston Celtics so we watch their games together.

      If you can get out and about, how about mani/pedis together? Cooking together? Reading a book to her? Mine is a fantastic reader but still loves to be read to. Or sometimes we just snuggle on the couch together and read our separate books.

    20. Vanessa*

      I love laying outside and watching clouds/stars with my kids. You can talk about shapes/ what they look like. You can snuggle. It’s a good attention activity but zero energy.

    21. bibliovore*

      Some low energy activities can include reading and writing. I am going to put a link for free downloadable resource in the next comment. You would create a writing box for her and may I suggest audible books for reading aloud. (this won’t use up your spoons) The activities like poetry writing, chap books, menus, and mapmaking are all things that you can do together and she will receive your attention as well as find out more about your life.

      1. bibliovore*

        Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection in Libraries is a guidebook and source of programming inspiration for all librarians working with early to young adult readers. Librarians will find thematic, easy to implement, hour-long writing workshops that require only paper, markers, and excited young writers.

    22. Steckel*

      I was a big sister through Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters to a kid whose mom was a single older disabled parent and didn’t have the ability or capacity to be active with her. Twice a month I would take the little on outings, anything ranging from getting ice cream to museums to community events and so forth. Started when she was 10 and continued through her high school graduation, and I am still in touch with her now. I know it was a great outlet for her and also a relief to her mom. The program is free and they also hosted and organized a lot of events that families could join as well.

      1. Anonymoose*

        I did something similar, although we met at the school once a week. He was such a quiet kid and I wasn’t sure if he enjoyed our time together doing board games until the teacher said that it was the absolute highlight of his week. I only met with him for a couple years and we stopped a few months after he started high school because it was much bigger and he finally met kids that liked board games too. In his case his parents were healthy, but his siblings were quite a bit older so I think there was a disconnect and they didn’t know anything about tech so he felt left out at times. I’m sure he felt loved, but I could talk about science and math and games and puzzles and computers.

        To the OP: At that age it might be time to include her in some tasks, so that you can spend time together on things that need doing anyway, and she can learn some skills. Maybe stirring a pot to make a meal and building up from there, or laundry. I also agree with reading as a good way to spend time together.

    23. karstmama*

      i used to love making paperdoll clothes – make or find pre made a fairly open armed paper doll, trace around him/her to get the general shape of the clothes you are making, take the doll off and finish the lines of the clothes then color them and add tabs and cut them out. omg i spent absolute hours doing this! and would have loved to do them with my mama nearby giving me suggestions and chatting.

    24. Sloomoo*

      I’m not a single parent, but i work a full time job with odd hours and miss a lot of evening and weekend time with my kids. I’m never around as much as they (or I) want. It helps them to know when I WILL be around. We have a dry erase weekly calendar on the wall and fill it out together every Sunday. Then I emphasize what days/times I will be with them that week. I also talk it up before and after, as in, “Yes, I’m sad I have to leave for work too, but we’ll have Mommy time Wednesday night!” Or “I really loved doing X with you last Saturday.”

    25. Anon for this one*

      No offense but a lot of these ideas sound exhausting to me, and I am not disabled! I would suggest something *super* lowkey as a together activity – pick a few tv shows to try one episode of, then agree on the one that’s going to be “your” show as a pair, and watch an episode together a few nights per week. It should be something that doesn’t make you want to pull your fingernails out – I might suggest Stuck in the Middle (Disney+) or Secrets of Sulphur Springs (also D+, sorry but the mouse wants your money). Common Sense Media has lots more ideas of suitable shows for age 9, but those are two my daughter liked at that age. Having the long term commitment to watch the show you picked out together can be a special mother daughter thing. And… you can watch in a comfortable seated position.

      1. kalli*

        My mum and I had Friday night media night – sometimes we had a show and sometimes we had a new/rented movie, and we always shared a chocolate bar or had ice cream or some other treat, and I got to go to bed with a new book every week.

        We had our shows as well (although it was like I wanted to watch Ally McBeal so she supervised in case it was too advanced; actual kids shows she recorded for between getting home from school and tea time while she was making tea and Dad was getting in from work or waking up, or she had to run out to collect my brother from tutoring etc.) but Friday night was the special one because my dad took my brother to cadets, and Mum made it up to me. Once I was 13 we even had special drinks (“teaching” me to responsibly drink, thanks I hate it) and while we had early meal so my dad and brother could leave on time, we would sometimes prepare a full fancy dessert together or fill in the time with cards or board games (like if our show was at 8:30pm and my dad left at 6pm then it was Scrabble until 8pm then cooking, then our show, then new book; since I shared a room with my brother I got to stay up past bedtime as well).

        We didn’t have that much money so sometimes it was literally just cutting a Snickers in half or supermarket 4l icecream, but it was different from regular tv and movies because of the treat aspect and Mum getting to pick stuff she liked to share with me rather than the 604th viewing of The Little Mermaid.

    26. Llama Llama*

      I read with my 11 year old each night and she highly enjoys it. We started Harry Potter around that age. When we are done with the book, we watch the movie.

    27. Biology Dropout*

      When body things are acting up for me, my 9 year old and I snuggle in bed and read. She picks the book and we either take turns reading or she just reads to me if I feel particularly bad that day. It’s been really great.

    28. I forgot what I put here*

      If it’s in the budget, could you but a switch and play games together. I know it’s screen time, but to me screen time together honestly does feel very different from mindless watching YouTube.

      You could play Stardew Valley or even minecraft together and there are many other options that are even more low-key.

      1. But what to call me?*

        Developmental science supports you on that, at least as far as together vs. not together screen time goes.

        You still don’t want to be doing it *all* the time, because it’s important for kids to get up and move and interact with their environment and look at real objects that are various distances away and things like that, but one of the big risks of too much screen time is that it’s time spent not interacting with anyone or communicating or developing people skills or maintaining relationships or anything like that. Screen time *together*, in which you are actually interacting and engaged in an activity together, rather than staring at a screen while you happen to be in proximity to each other but could just as easily not have the other one there at all, avoids a lot of those problems.

      2. Clare*

        You don’t even have to play! I love watching other people play games. It’s pretty similar to watching TV, but when you shout “Look out!” or “Don’t listen to the bad guy!” or “The key right there! It’s hidden next to the picture frame!”, the main character actually listens. Sometimes.

    29. Anon for this*

      Cocoa + one of: movie, read aloud, read quietly cuddled up, just have a nice chat
      She gets to do your hair (getting your hair brushed is so relaxing, right??)
      Breakfast tradition – go out for pancakes (or go to IHOP and get pancakes for dinner)
      Go to a park and feed birds (seed, not bread)
      Give each other manicures/pedicures
      My personal favorite – you play a game where she gives you a back massage (yes, I tricked my kid into this once – totally worthwhile)

    30. Throwaway Account*

      You sound like an awesome mom!!

      Subscription to a kids magazine – the week it comes, read it together and discuss. There are usually thought provoking things AND it’s lovely to get mail.

      Another subscription idea, kits in the mail. They can be pricy but if they are in the budget, it can take some of the stress out of it bc someone else has decided what to make/do. Plus, they are supposed to be kid doable with minimal adult support.

      Kids word of the day calendar – you both try to use the word that day and report back?

      Make a jar with activities you can do written on slips of paper. Pull one out each week to do.

    31. NB*

      When my girls were young, one of my favorite things to do with when I was tired was to “play spa.” I’d let them do my makeup, fix my hair, paint my nails, give me a foot massage (!!!). I could usually sit in a recliner and close my eyes while they did their thing. It was amazing.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I (finally) unpacked more of my grandmother’s Candlewick — but not all of it because it may well be the world’s largest collection — and hung a few more pieces of art. All things that came to me through family that I have loved for a long time and are now visible again <3

        1. onyxzinnia*

          It’s a type of whitework embroidery popular in Early America, try googling images of candlewicking to see some examples

        2. Filosofickle*

          Oh! Sorry about that. Candlewick meaning depression glass dinnerware — clear crystal plates and glasses that are ringed with glass beads.

        3. RLC*

          Candlewick is also the name of a very popular pattern of glassware. Made from the 1930s to 1980s by the Imperial Glass Company.

    2. SofiaDeo*

      Finally getting “normal labwork” from my hem-onc after a bout of hemolytic anemia earlier this year. Plus the cancer still seems to be in remission!

    3. vulturestalker*

      I got home from a long day at work, thought “gosh, I wish I had some chocolate,” and then remembered that this weekend, my friend brought me a little chocolate cake from a bakery we both like and it was still sitting in the fridge unopened. I had my chocolate.

    4. Jellyfish Catcher*

      At my supermarket, I buy a couple of power bars with the rest of the groceries and give them to the checker and bagger, or if no bagger, to an adjacent checker.
      Small pleasures…….
      I found a little potted poinsettia outside the front door and a nice note from a neighbor!

    5. Snell*

      I made the two most beautiful loaves of challah I have ever made in my life (literally no exaggeration). I made loads as a teenager, but I feared over-kneading so much that I always under-kneaded and it always came out shaggy and raggedy, with sloppy, lopsided braiding. This week, they were big and puffy and smooth-crusted and I put a ton of extra effort into the braiding, so they were even and well-defined.

      Now that I know what I’m capable of, I want to wipe my teenage efforts from living memory. However, I happen to know that one of my aunts has a video record. For what it’s worth, she was impressed at the time.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I love this. I only made challah at home once, years ago, and your comment is making me want to do it again. Enjoy your beautiful loaves, I bet they taste amazing :)

    6. allathian*

      My son baked a cake with me as his assistant for a school bazaar this weekend. They’re raising money for a field trip in the spring. We’ll probably buy the cake. ;)

    7. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I had a day off yesterday, just for spending time with my partner on a weekday. It nearly got cancelled as he was unwell this week, but recovered just in time.

      We bought our (fake) Christmas tree at a huge discount, and sorted out most of our gift shopping with no crowds and stress involved. Had a nice warming tea latte at the store where I got my mother a fancy selection of adventurous flavours, and bought a living room table lamp as my parents’ gift to us, after years of looking for one that ticked several impossible boxes. Back home, I found a perfect gift to send my best friend via Etsy – she will love it (it’s a lovely bookmark I can customise with photos of us, her doggo and her kid). Dinner was a heartwarming Dutch oven chicken with cinnamon and cardamom rice, and I went to bed so content.

    8. BellaStella*

      The baseboards in my place were finally replaced and the bath tiles fixed yesterday too after neighbour above flooded the building. Now just have painters coming Monday for it all to be done. Also while I felt it was terrible dialogue I watched Napoleon last night with friends. And I am going to pack more this weekend.

    9. JubJubTheIguana*

      There’s a tiny park across the road from my building where I like to sit and read, and it has the tamest squirrels and foxes you’ve ever see. They’ll take food out of your hands. I was away for two months and yesterday was my first time back, and all the squirrels came rushing over to me and one even climbed onto my lap to get cashews. The fox cub also came out and ran over to me when I clicked my tongue at him. It’s like a storybook.

    10. My Brain is Exploding*

      Just got back from a vacay with our adult kids. We went to Buenos Aires and Santiago and everyone got along ok!

    11. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      Favorite old winter bedroom slippers were worn out but they stopped making that style. Channel surfing Tuesday and saw an almost identical pair on the shopping channel. Bought them (free shipping!) they arrived yesterday and they are perfect! Now considering getting a 2nd pair, waiting to see if the price drops after xmas

    12. Nervous Nellie*

      In exploring the website RadioGarden, which gives access to radio stations all over the world found by search field or by dragging your cursor around a globe (!!!), found Systrum System, a station in Brisbane, AU that plays electronica that is great during the workday, but also the frenetic & danceable Wazobia FM 94.1 in Nigeria, the soothing Radio Annapurna FM 93.4 in Kathmandu and the charming Birdsong Radio (yes, it really is) in London. Also, Epic Lounge-Christmas Lounge in Cologne, Germany – great jazz and the German ads are hilarious.

    13. GoryDetails*

      I always enjoy a selection of Advent calendars. This year they range from a tiny one from Coppenrath – it’s about the size of a credit card, with eensy little windows that open to reveal tiny silhouettes of animals – to the ever-delightful animated, games-and-activities-laden e-calendar from Jacquie Lawson (this year it’s got an Edwardian theme, so think “Christmas at Downton Abbey”).

    14. Aperol Sticks*

      I’m on a trip checking on my reno project/one day forever home and my nuisance neighbour is away for the winter ;)

    15. Festively Dressed Earl*

      My boo and I tried all of the new seasonal flavors from our favorite local donut shop while doing a dramatic reading of a cheesy spy romance in one of those choose your own adventure apps. With appropriate voices. And commentary.

    16. goddessoftransitory*

      Got through my colonoscopy with flying colors, and MAN, chowing down on lunch was Big Joy. Had a sloppy joe, tater tots, and split a brownie sundae with Husband.

      (Also enjoyed telling him that as he was my Responsible Person (that is, had to show up with me and wait to take me home so I didn’t run off to Mexico or will my estate to a cat under the influence of sedation) he had to do whatever I said.)

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Hey, wait a second. The Responsible Person doesn’t do what you want. You have to do whatever they want, including refraining from forklift races or attempting to invade Greenland, or else they’ll release the video of whatever embarrassing stuff they got you to do in the first 15 minutes after you woke up from sedation.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            And I wasn’t even sleepy! I expected to be all woozled, but got out of there fifteen minutes after the procedure–I wouldn’t have had to stay that long except they needed two sets of vitals.

    17. carcinization*

      A local baker is competing on the Holiday Baking Championship and I got to stop by the bakery at a not-too-busy time and snag some of the amazing raspberry-pistachio tiramisu I’d seen on TV. It was even better than I imagined!

      1. GoryDetails*

        That’s awesome! I often want to taste the dishes on those shows, and very few of the competitors turn out to be anywhere near me. Glad you got to try that one – it sounds luscious!

    18. Irish Teacher.*

      I got an awesome skirt for my staff party next Friday. I don’t usually buy new clothes for stuff like that and I was quite doubtful about this skirt as I bought it online and the last time I bought a skirt from that shop, the sizing was tiny, but they have a small physical shop in the city I work in so I figured I could easily return it if it didn’t fit or was longer than I like and the delivery cost was only €2 (the shop is so small that they only have a fraction of the stock available there, so I didn’t bother going in).

      Anyway it is gorgeous and fits perfectly and I can probably wear it again for Christmas Eve or Christmas day.

    19. Girasol*

      First snow of the season, a couple of inches. It decked all the evergreens and lay perfectly fluffy on each branch, berry, and crab apple.

      1. But what to call me?*

        Same, last week. More snow than we’ve had in years, except occasionally in the icy depths of freezing January. It was even warm enough to go out in and wasn’t even windy! And the snow packed well. *And* it was easy to shovel off the driveway, and melted off the streets pretty fast, though I was glad not to need to drive anywhere that first day.

        Never have I seen such universally enthusiastic snowman building. Though we suspect our dog made off with the carrot from ours, as well as part of the snowman’s head.

    20. Llama Llama*

      I get points at work to earn towards buying things in a store. I used it to get a gift card to Home Goods and bought a 4 foot Santa that I had been eyeing.

    21. Elizabeth West*

      My very first Wayfair order — a white baker’s rack with a little cabinet below — is now gracing my kitchen. Finally got my microwave off the table! As each apartment in these buildings becomes vacant, they’re remodeling (mine was done before I moved in), but part of that remodel includes ripping out ALL the kitchen cabinets and installing new ones that are ridiculously tiny, so it’s nice to have a bit more storage.

      It took me about three hours to put it together. It’s really sturdy and has wheels so I can move it around. I’m still organizing it but it’s beautiful. The best part is that it was on sale!!

    22. Bluebell*

      We had a female handyperson in to take care of a few things, including planing a sticking door and meticulously recaulking the tub. I sang in the shower because I was so pleased to look at the shiny cleanness.

  4. WaspsNeedLoveT0o*

    What are your favorite non-perishable meals? I live and work in a remote place and I’m trying to up the number of shelf-stable meals I can store. I don’t normally get pre-packaged stuff, so I am at a total loss/wildly overwhelmed.

    1. c-*

      I like to can homemade broth to use it a few months later. It’s shelf stable and you only need boiling water and a glass jar to can it, although using a pressure cooker is safer.

      Other than that, pasta, dry basil and jars of tomato sauce keep for years and are ready to go in a few minutes, just boil the pasta and toss the sauce in. Add some canned tuna, mussels or clams if you want to spice it up. Also, herbs and spices are your friends.

      1. Pippa K*

        Ooh, home canning broth or meat (or anything low-acid) by the water bath method instead of in a pressure canner is really very risky. You can’t get it to a high enough temperature to make it safely shelf stable using just boiling water; pressure canners let you raise the temperature beyond the boiling point. There’s a great free set of home canning guides from the US Dept of Agriculture – google “USDA home canning”.

    2. Forensic13*

      Are you able to make rice? There are a lot of tasty Indian food packets that are microwaveable. You could probably put them on non-rice too.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep, my husband loves to combine a 90-second rice packet with an Indian food packet.

        One quick option we do at home sometimes when we don’t have much time is to nuke a 90-second Spanish rice packet and mix it with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and a can of rinsed black or kidney beans, plus whatever protein we have leftover in the fridge (could easily use tinned or packet chicken) for a quick and dirty taco bowl. (Cheese and sour cream for those who want it, but it’s pretty darn tasty without.)

    3. peter b*

      rice is great, esp if you figure out what combinations of stuff you can layer on top – lately I’ve been super into Golden Curry roux cubes with either meat or veggies on top of rice-a-roni microwave cups (including canned carrots!). I’ve been trying to figure out what canned soups I like as well, and potato soups seem to be pretty solid as an option for my tastes. Generally I benefit more from long-term meal storage options if I can mix & match, like dry pasta + canned sauce + canned veggies; even ramen-based “hacks” using jarred garlic + spices I already have has been really fun to mess with when I’m low on ability to cook. Bean soup is an appalachian family staple that I fall back on that’s mainly soaked pinto beans plus spices and maybe some ham & cornbread if you have it.

    4. Cat*

      – Oatmeal with dehydrated fruit, a bit of sugar, cinnamon
      – Veggie chili: All ingredients dried/dehydrate – beans/chickpeas/lentils, corn, tomato flakes, chilis, zucchini, onion. Spices – Cumin, coriander, oregano, chipotle, onion & garlic powder, cilantro.
      – Priya Krishna’s Instant Pot Dal Formula on the Bon Appétit site

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I legit love Campbell’s vegetable beef soup, made with about half the water they recommend. I know a lot of soup manufacturers have the single-serving heat-and-eat type thing, for both soup and also like pastas, if you don’t turn your nose up at tinned ravioli :)

      If you have a heating option and a way to keep leftovers for a couple days, I make a pretty hearty bean chili (or tomato bean soup, whatever :) ) with tinned tomatoes (one big can) and tinned beans (two regular cans), and then just some seasonings (garlic powder, cumin, paprika mostly, but whatever sounds good at the time). Simmer it all together for a bit and bob’s your uncle. The cans are shelf-stable, but once you assemble the clock starts ticking, so I’m not sure if that’s an option.

      You can get flavored tuna and pre-mixed tuna salad in the single-serving sachets, sometimes also chicken/chicken salad — either in foil packets, or in mini tins packaged with crackers. Sides are easy to do, for me the hard part of shelf-stable is protein (other than eating lots of beans) but I don’t much care for nuts and most of the other higher-protein options I can think of require refrigeration to some extent.

      Instant mashed potatoes come in all kinds of flavors these days, I think I got one each of ten flavors the last time I went shopping because they were on sale for a buck a packet. Cheesy ones, sour cream and ranch, bacon, garlic herb, extra butter, pepper jack.

    6. Jay*

      -B&M Baked Beans makes bread in a can that is actually not bad. You can learn to make your own bread in a sealed can that supposedly keeps well and is very, very good. The terms to search for are “Boston Brown Bread”. It’s high in molasses and, needless to say, pairs very well with baked beans.
      – Some cured meats are very shelf stable and long lasting (just do your research first, grocery store peperoni wont work).
      -If you have a cool, dry, space, some cheeses can last shockingly long. Again, research is key here.
      -Look up Pemmican recipes. Some of them are supposedly superb. Also, you can do a lot with it, or so I have heard.
      -Potatoes can last quite a while. Same with onions.

        1. Jay*

          A late dinner tonight consisted of two rounds of that bread, lightly fried with butter, topped with an over-easy egg each. Quick, easy, little mess.

    7. HormelCompleats*

      I like several Hormel Compleats meals. Spaghetti and meat sauce, Turkey and dressing, chicken and mashed potatoes, and chicken and dumplings are my favorites (there are also several I dislike – try a few before deciding you don’t like any of them). They’re small but cheap (like ~$2 each cheap) and microwave in about a minute.

    8. Exile from Academia*

      My suggestions are going to depend a lot on what we mean by ‘shelf-stable’. Do they have to be ready to eat? Or do you have a microwave, or a hotplate, or a campstove? Because you can make some really good shelf-stable soup mixes, but you do need a way to boil water to prepare them.

      If you do have a way to heat your food, genuinely so many soups can be prepped shelf-stable. Dehydrated onions, dried mushrooms, noodles, beans/lentils, bouillion cubes, and even evaporated or powdered milk if you want something creamy can be combined with water and some herbs or spices in pretty much infinite variations. If you have the space/setup to keep some canned veggies to throw in (especially tomatoes, which are super versatile and add a lot of flavor), the amount of options gets even larger.

      I don’t have as many ideas for true shelf-stable ready to eat meals, but you may have luck looking at guides and forums for backpacking or camping.

    9. Not A Manager*

      I’m also not clear on what you mean by shelf-stable meals. If you mean meals that you’ve previously prepped that are pretty much ready to heat and eat, that’s a lot harder than meals that you prepare from shelf-stable ingredients.

    10. OtterB*

      As with some others, not 100% sure I understand what you mean by shelf-stable meals, but one of my favorite simple ones is: Can of mushroom soup, drained can of tuna, mix and heat, serve over chow mein noodles. I usually add some frozen peas while it’s heating but that’s not necessary if having those available would be difficult. Maybe add a drained can of mixed vegetables.

      1. office hobbit*

        omg my mother invented this during my childhood when the pantry was getting empty but I’ve never heard of anyone else eating it! It became a main item in the dinner rotation after that because we kids liked it so well.

        1. Chicago Anon*

          In my family the sauce and peas went over mashed potatoes (usually instant). It was the first thing any of us learned how to cook, because then any kid old enough to use a can opener could fix dinner.

        2. OtterB*

          It was my mom’s fallback for a quick dinner in pre-microwave days. If we’d been out and about and gotten home later than expected so everyone was starving and there was no time to cook, she’d grab this out of the pantry.

    11. Madame Arcati*

      Tinned items are great for meals when the fridge or freezer is bare!
      Tins of tuna and sweetcorn plus a little mayonnaise with pasta. Tinned chickpeas and lentils for a vegetarian curry (stock, spices and an onion…you could probably get tinned onion if you really need) plus rice. Tinned chopped tomatoes with herbs etc for pasta, maybe add sausage if you have some fridge/freezer space.
      Honestly I’d go up the aisles of the supermarket looking at all the tins!

      1. Chaordic One*

        You can make some good meals with canned meats and canned veggies. I don’t think canned veggies are as good as frozen, but they’re not bad. I frequently buy “Margaret Holmes” brand canned cabbage and find it quite good. Also canned spinach and mustard greens. As for meats I like Hormel canned smoked ham and I also sometimes buy canned roast beef and canned roast beef hash.

    12. Ali*

      BumbleBee just started selling (in my area at least) these tinned prepackaged Tuna Salad kits. They come with crackers and a sealed tuna salad. They last for weeks, and they make my life so much easier! And they are almost an entire meal (don’t need to augment with much.)

    13. Thinking*

      There are some very good canned vegan chili options. You can then add fixings as you see fit: chips, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, cornbread, etc. Even hard-boiled eggs.

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

      If you have something you can bake in and access to some water, I’d recommend having Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix plus a pack of those sealed individual servings of apple sauce that don’t need to be refrigerated around. Combine mix with one of the apple sauces (instead of with an egg) and a little water, and you’ve just made a nice cornbread batter to bake.

    15. ShinyPenny*

      I got baby food for my Mom to have on hand for power outage/emergency food. Gerber beef, chicken, pork, ham. She can open the jars, AND they are low salt/zero spices, and single serving. Think of it as pate!
      Also she likes one of the canned sardine brands that Costco carries.
      I just read about keeping freeze dried hiking food on hand for emergencies. Then you just need boiling water to have a hot meal, and you are not depending on a functioning fridge.
      I keep peanut butter and nuts in stock, as well.

    16. Girasol*

      Powdered eggs are rather awful alone but they make great bread or rice pudding with a little sugar, powder milk, raisins, and cinnamon. If you use Minute Rice you can make up a canister of rice pudding dry mix to scoop servings from. It makes a lovely and protein packed breakfast. That was Mr. Girasol’s favorite backpacking breakfast.

    17. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      It really depends, like other people mentioned on your prep and heat situation.

      If you have access to ample water and a stove you can leave on for an extended period, dried beans are a good base for filling, hearty soups and you can mix up the flavor profile by adding different spices and veggies each time. Canned tomato and canned corn both work well in soup, and dried onion is also soup-ready.

      Lentils cook faster than beans and are also available dried. Split peas are also an excellent dried item to make a soup out of.

      If you have electricity, you can probably use a slow cooker to make soups instead of a stove. I know my mom makes split pea soup using her crockpot.

      If you have a refrigerator and a freezer but are trying to extend the time between shopping runs by increasing your shelf-stable pantry staples, you can also make these in large batches once you have eaten down enough of the fridge/freezer foods from the shopping run to make room to store the soup and then have leftover soup for days. For a while, my mom would make a large batch of different soup once every week or two and freeze the leftovers in one-meal amounts, so we didn’t have to eat the same soup for a week straight but she didn’t have to cook soup more often than once a week.

      For open-something-and-eat, I used to be a big fan of preserved fish on rye crispbread for breakfast. Smoked salmon is excellent for this if you have the budget for it (or good local access to salmon fishing), and kippers from a can were my go-to choice when I was broke in grad school.

      Rye crispbread (usual brands around here are Ryvita and Wasa) stays good in storage a lot longer than regular bread. I used to use it for lunch sandwiches too. (Usually nut butter sandwiches in my case, or I’d cut a big hunk of cheese and grab a carrot and eat cheese, carrot, and crispbread in alternating bites while walking to school. Carrots and cheese will both store pretty well under the right conditions, but certainly aren’t actually shelf-stable.)

    18. Quincy413*

      Canned fish is my go-to. You could get the ones in oil to get around needing very perishable mayo.
      Some of my other self-stable go-tos: plant-based milk in cartons (just need to refrigerate once open), peanut butter/other nut butters, packets of lentils/rice and beans, oatmeal, pancake mix, canned beans. Hope these give you some ideas!

    19. LifeBeforeCorona*

      If you like beans, then beans are your friend. Buy a variety of dried beans, they can be used in soups, curries, stews, chili and salads. Do the same thing with different varieties of rice. Both are amazingly versatile and are can be kept for years.

  5. Jackalope*

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

    I’ve given up on American Dirt (which I mentioned a week or two ago) because I just can’t deal with it right now. I did read The Seventh Bride by T Kingfisher, partially inspired by a discussion of her books in this thread a couple of weeks ago. It’s creepier than I would generally go for, but I’d put it in dark fantasy rather than horror. It’s a retelling of the fairy tale whose name I can’t remember at the moment of the young woman who marries a man who’s had several wives already; I found it tense but engaging. I’m also reading a collection of short stories called The Coyote Road edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, since I enjoy anthologies and they’re perfect for reading on my lunch breaks. All of the stories have a trickster character in them, and it’s been fun seeing how the various authors weave that in.

    1. Sad Daughter*

      My Mom recently passed away suddenly and my Dad is going through a long treatment for cancer. I’d love some recommendations for books that do not have death, infections, hospitals, or cancer in them. I just need some escapist literature for a bit at nights while taking care of my Dad and would love any suggestions. Any genre would work.

      1. word nerd*

        I’m so sorry to hear that.

        The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel is about 3 women at different stages in their lives, lovely, funny writing and feel-good without being saccharine.

        The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary is a romance where two people who share a flat (and bed!) at different times of the day fall in love through their little notes and such. Yes, it’s a ridiculous premise but also fun.

        1. Katiekins*

          The Flatshare is great but doesn’t Leon work at a hospital and befriend a girl with cancer? (It’s been a while since I read it.)

          1. amoeba*

            Yes, I think so. (Not major) spoiler:

            With a happy ending, as far as I remember, but if you want no mention of those things at all, I’d choose her other books – none of them have any sickness or death in them, I think, and I liked them all!

          2. word nerd*

            Oops, thanks for pointing that out! It’s been several years since I read it–clearly I should not provide a rec like this unless I’ve read it recently and can remember all the parts of a book.

            I did read The Sweet Spot this year and still think that one would fit the bill though!

      2. Saddesklunch*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. My mom died of cancer last year, and I feel you on how often death and cancer pop up in even fluffy books.

        Some romances I have enjoyed with no cancer or death: Get A Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (she has a number of delightful romances), The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (no death but some mental health issues)

        I also really loved A Psalm for the Wild Built and its sequel by Becky Chambers.

        1. Rose is a rose is a rose*

          Seconding the Becky Chambers duology. I found it extremely soothing during a rough time

      3. Lizard*

        I’m sorry about your parents. I’ve spent a lot of the last year looking for escapist reads. These are some of the things that have hit the spot for me. (* = high on my list)

        Cozy: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu. Mandanna*; A Psalm for the Wild-built by Becky Chambers; House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune; Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

        Action-y: Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (recommended by AAM); The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs (the first is Moon Called)*; The Rook by Daniel O’Malley*.

        Things that take place in ~1700-1900: The short stories of Henry James; These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

        1. Lizard*

          I’m now recalling that Hench has some hospital scenes. And all of the action-y ones might have some deaths, although they aren’t particularly emotional ones. But the cozy etc., should be safe.

          1. Annie Edison*

            The ending also got pretty grotesque/body horror-y. I definitel had to skip a few pages. I still loved the book but might not be the right choice for avoiding death/hospitals/etc

      4. Annie Edison*

        How do you feel about romance? I spent most of the year after my mom passed away reading romance because it was predictably safe and always resolved happily.

        Jasmine Guillory and Emily Henry are my two favorites, and Sonali Dev’s series about the Raje family is also great.

        Terry Pratchett is generally a safe bet if you’re not into romance, and I also quite enjoyed The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared when I needed safe, happy reads

        1. Jill Swinburne*

          Terry Pratchett: though you might want to avoid the Discworld ones with Death as a character. Though he’s pretty funny.

        2. Jackalope*

          I am a devout fan of Courtney Milan and her romance novels. My entry point into her writing was The Duke Who Didn’t, which from what I remember has nothing distressing and the characters are lovely. The second book in that series, The Marquis Who Mustn’t, just came out recently and is also delightful. And her series of The Brothers Sinister is really good reading.

        3. Saddesklunch*

          Seconding Jasmine Guillory, and while I have very much enjoyed Emily Henry’s books (especially Book Lovers) she seems to be incapable of writing a book that does not feature a dead parent, so I wanted to give a heads up on that!

          1. word nerd*

            Plus one of the main characters in Happy Place is a surgical resident–not a lot of medical stuff, but there are some peripheral references to the hospital and her thoughts about her career and unhappiness about it.

      5. OtterB*

        I’m sorry.

        To Hive and to Hold is a cozy fantasy, very low key romance, found family, in a world where magic is real but also some tech remains, e.g. solar panels. An apothecarist who has a hive of magic bees on his roof meets his new neighbor, a magical tatooist. They make trades with groups of neighbors; I enjoyed the different cultures.

        The Hands of the Emperor is a long fantasy centered on a bureaucrat who is making government actually serve the people. He’s also, gradually, coming to a balance of assimilating to the dominant culture vs. carrying on the traditions of his Polynesian-type people.

        The series by L.A. Hall that begins with The Comfortable Courtesan also makes good escapist reading. There’s a large cast of characters with Clorinda, who is a courtesan at the beginning of the series, and her friends and household staff. A broader range of society than most Regency books are. Her friends include nobility, industrialists, artists, etc., and most of her household staff are Black. I’m trying to remember – it’s a long series and there are some illnesses or violence and an occasional death, but it’s in the Regency era so those things happened, and it’s certainly not a major focus. The advantage of this is that it’s a really long series, 12 books in the original series and something like 18 in the follow-on (although most of them are novella length), but they were originally written on the author’s blog and as a result they tend to be short scenes, easy to pick up and put down as time permits.

        1. CJ*

          The Comfortable Courtesan is amazing as comfort reading, but with OP’s current reading needs, definitely stop before the sequels (series title Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle) set ~20 years later.

      6. RLC*

        Downton Shabby, by Hopwood DePree. American Hollywood film producer takes on restoration of his family’s huge and decaying ancestral estate in England. Never expected nonfiction to be this entertaining-the author embodies the “fish out of water” in every possible way and finds humor in every situation. (Hope he pens a sequel as his project continues.)

      7. English Rose*

        I’m so sorry to hear your news. If you’re into fantasy, the Earthsea books by Ursula le Guin are oldies but goodies.

      8. Falling Diphthong*

        Tupper Isn’t Going Out Today by Calvin Trillin, which is a charming tale about alternate side of the street parking in New York City.

        Jeeves and the King of Clubs by Ben Schott, which is a wildly charming sequel to the Bertie Wooster series, in which Bertie and Jeeves get to be spies.

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

          And maybe some of the original P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster books too? Or other Wodehouse — I like giving people *Leave It to Psmith*, which has made me laugh out loud, in which nothing very bad happens, and which I guarantee you comes with a happy ending.

      9. Reba*

        I recently enjoyed some of Connie Willis’s lighthearted novels (i.e. not the ones set in WWII…) They are humorous sci-fi rom-coms. ‘Bellwether’ and ‘Crosstalk’ take place in corporate settings, ‘Road to Roswell,’ in, uh, Roswell. (‘Crosstalk’ does feature minor surgery) She also has some Christmas-y stories if that is appealing – ‘Take a Look at the Five and Ten’ is one.

        Take care.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my favorites, and it’s about time traveling historians trying to find a really hideous giant Victorian vase. Also they try to reason with a cat.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Bellwether is one of my favorite novels of all time! So fun and intelligent and genuinely twisty, with respect for both science and “things we don’t quite get yet.” And To Say Nothing of the Dog is just wonderful.

      10. bookbookbook*

        Two thoughts —

        “The Partner Track” by Helen Wan. It’s fairly beach read-y and is about an Asian-American woman aiming for partner at her NYC BigLaw firm and kicking ass along the way. It’s not devoid of unpleasantness (she deals with racism and sexism) but there’s no death and it’s a bad-guys-get-their-comeuppance type novel.

        You might try “What If” or one of Randall Monroe’s similar books. They’re made up of ridiculous science thought experiments (what if everyone on earth stood next to each other and jumped at the same time?) and are very funny. Each question is a few pages long, so they’re good to pick up when you need a brief mental distraction. (Others can please correct me if I’m misremembering, but I think any death is of the “you can’t do that because it would blow up the planet” variety.)

      11. goddessoftransitory*

        How awful, I’m so sorry.

        I find historical humor a great escape–writers like Dorothy Parker are a riot even when they’re talking about books or plays that are seventy five years old now, and her short stories really stand up.

        I’d go for The Portable Dorothy Parker and read her book and theater reviews. Her review of Mussolini’s “novel” is hysterical, but my favorite is when she reads a medical book about appendicitis and gets to a paragraph about “poisonous bacterium” and how they simply divide in half rather than go through all the tears and drama of a romantic relationship. “I wish, I wish, I were a poisonous bacterium. And I know right where I’d go to bring up my family, too. I’ve got that all picked out. What a time I’d show him!”

      12. KathyG*

        84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. It’s a series of letters between the author (in New York) and a bookseller (in London) during the 1950s. It’s absolutely lovely, and the epistolary format makes it easy to read in short segments.

        There is a sequel as well, but it does mention a death.

      13. LifeBeforeCorona*

        When my father was dying of cancer I re-read the Lord of the Rings. Yes, there is death and violence but it was such a deep fantasy world that it worked for me. Elves, dwarves, men, wizards and hobbits were so far away from modern society that it was easy to get lost in them.

    2. word nerd*

      Someone mentioned Kristin Cashore’s Jane Unlimited last week, which I’d read, but then I remembered I hadn’t kept up with her and missed her last two Graceling books. So I picked up Winterkeep (which I liked) and now I’m in the middle of Seasparrow, which I keep waffling about giving up on. Everything’s told from one character’s POV, but I don’t really like her, so the hundreds of pages from her are starting to wear thin…

      My library just started its winter reading challenge with books in different genres, and for mystery, I’m planning to read an Agatha Christie. So I don’t usually like mysteries, and I was meh on Roger Akroyd (the only book I’ve read of hers), but I thought I’d give her another chance with either And Then There Were None or Orient Express–what would you recommend to a Christie noob? This may be the last book of hers I read.

        1. allathian*

          And Then There Were None is a psychological thriller rather than a mystery novel, so it has a very different vibe to most of Christie’s work. I should really get a new version of the book because I have the original first edition paperback, called Ten Little N-words, and reading the nursery rhyme repeatedly is jarring to say the least.

          If the book club requires a mystery, Orient Express is as good as any Christie. It’s one of my favorites, but TBH there’s some cultural racism with references to “hot-blooded Italians” and hints that a complicated murder required an “Anglo-Saxon brain” to plan. Death on the Nile, another of my favorites, avoids those issues at least explicitly. The story takes place entirely among Westerners, Egyptians are barely mentioned at all.

          I’m currently re-reading Murder on the Links, an early Poirot novel that’s set in France.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Sleeping Murder is also my favorite of hers. Also, Five Little Pigs and The Mirror Crack’ed.

      1. Helvetica*

        And Then There Were None is not a “typical” Christie but it is very good. Orient Express is a classic for a reason; I’d also recommend “Death on the Nile” – very atmospheric and well-written.
        At the same time, if you don’t like mysteries…not sure you can get into Christie fully.

      2. PhyllisB*

        I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan so maybe not as objective as you need, but of the two you mentioned, I would recommend Orient Express. Death on the Nile is very good, too. I read And Then There Were None many years ago (under the original title) and don’t remember being particularly impressed with it. Perhaps I should try it again.
        Of course as others mentioned, you have to remember the time frame she wrote in, and overlook some of her casual racism and perhaps sexism. I haven’t read any of her books in years so don’t know how all this would land now.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        For an engaging mystery even if that’s usually not your genre, I recommend Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club.

        I have fond memories of both Murder on the Orient Express (a classic for a reason) and And Then There Were None (which may have inaugurated the “people gather on an island and the murdering commences” as a genre–a LOT of ongoing series of mystery books and TV shows have taken a turn through “trapped on murder island.”)

        1. word nerd*

          Yes, I did like Thursday Murder Club! I just know that some people adore Christie and she’s such an important cultural influence I wanted to get to know her work better with one of her classics even if I end up not loving it. I don’t like certain mystery tropes with unreliable narrators or situations that seem really hard to believe–oh, it was that shy girl who was the evil murderer all along! I do like Sherlock Holmes because his cases seem more straightforward to me. I guess I should have mentioned that in my original request. I will probably go with Orient Express based on the feedback so far.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            For a fun overall guide to Christie and her work I recommend the You’re Dead to Me podcast on her. As a bonus the comedian is Sue Perkins, of Great British BakeOff fame.

            1. allathian*

              There are also a decent Agatha Christie documentary miniseries, Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen. Lucy Worsley is a British historian who also appears in several other historical documentaries, like Six Wives with Lucy Worsley, about Henry VIII’s wives.

          2. allathian*

            At least it won’t be the butler with Christie because she disliked that trope herself (even if she didn’t necessarily say it in so many words). That said, she does use the classist trope of servants and people in other service jobs, such as airline stewards and train conductors, being “invisible” in several books, at least Orient Express (a very minor plot point) and Death in the Clouds (the whole mystery is based on this idea).

            Agatha Christie’s books are perfect for re-reading while you still remember who did it, because the first time you read it, you’ll go along with the mystery, and the second time you’ll see how she set the whole thing up and all the little clues she gives the reader. There are no deus ex machina solutions to her books, she plays fair with the reader.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I tend to enjoy the trope about what people are considered invisible, and find it to be very accurate. For modern stories, in Killing Eve it was used by an assassin (The Ghost), and in Lupin by a gentleman thief. On Leverage, Hardison and Parker routinely go in as invisible catering waitstaff.

            2. Observer*

              That said, she does use the classist trope of servants and people in other service jobs, such as airline stewards and train conductors, being “invisible” in several books,

              It’s not classist – it’s a reflection of how people think. I think I first saw an explanation is one of the Father Brown mysteries (The Invisible Man). And while it’s true that perhaps one could question if it would have held up, the explanation Father Brown gives is extremely true to life.

              Now, it *is* by and large classist to see people that way. But it’s not classist to recognize that this is how people operate and work with it.

              1. allathian*

                That’s a fair point, thanks. Your reasoning will make me less uncomfortable reading about that sort of behavior in future.

                I’m very bad at recognizing people out of context. I’m not sure I’d recognize my hairdresser or beautician if I passed them in the street. Not for any classist reasons, but simply because I’m very bad at recognizing people out of context. I’ll get a glimmer that I know this person from somewhere, but not necessarily where. I’m not sure I’d immediately recognize my *boss* if I passed her in the street.

                Obviously any of these people stopped and greeted me, I’d be able to identify who they were pretty quickly, but I’d absolutely pass them in the street without greeting them. Granted, I’m in a culture where people generally don’t interact with strangers unless they have an obvious reason to, and for most Finns the shame of mistaking a stranger for someone you know is much greater than the perceived slight of not greeting someone you do know when you happen to see them minding their own business in public.

                I ran into my former high school homeroom teacher about ten years after my graduation. She recognized me before I recognized her, although I’d changed more in looks (gained a few sizes in weight and cut my hair very short) than she had (her salt-and-pepper hair had gone completely gray), and she’d taught hundreds if not thousands of students after me. She simply had a great memory for faces and an ability to extrapolate how her students might change as they grew up.

          3. Old and Don’t Care*

            Without being spoiler-y I think I know what you didn’t like about Roger Ackroyd, and that is unusual among her books that I’m aware of. Having said that I am meh on Christie in general and I guess I would suggest Murder on the Orient Express only because the train journey is kind of interesting to contemplate.

          4. Nightengale*

            I stopped reading Christie when it seemed like the shy most sympathetic character was almost always the murderer. . .

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

        Do you think you might enjoy a different mystery sub-genre with less focus on the problem-solving? I find Dashiell Hammett’s *The Thin Man* to be an interesting window into the out-of-control drinking culture and police brutality of the 1930s. And I find the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe books enjoyable more for how the narrator looks at every personal encounter as a chance to have a sassy linguistic duel than for the mystery-solving per se.

        If you stick with Agatha Christie, I agree with the commenters recommending *Death on the Nile*.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I love Gaudy Night for that reason–I find the novel itself so compelling I don’t get irritated by trying to track down clues too much.

        2. word nerd*

          Oh fine, you probably knew you would immediately pique my interest with “sassy linguistic duel”–what Nero Wolfe would be a good one to start with?

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

            My favorite one to start people off with is *Some Buried Caesar* or maybe *Black Orchids*. When I was a kid and first read them, I didn’t consciously notice the sassy linguistic duel parts — I just knew that I enjoyed the books and wanted to read them again. It took re-reading slowly (I am someone who usually rushes a bit when reading) for me to see what a delightful smart-aleck the narrator Archie Goodwin (in a kind of hard-boiled Watson role) is and how much of his conversation with others is really about jousting for linguistic dominance. He has the lightning-quick wit I wish I had in real life!

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              Honestly, I’d start with anything but Some Buried Caesar. I think the books work best in NYC, with the full cast of characters. And the orchids.

              I think the first book, Fer-de-Lance is a fine place to start.

        3. Arts Akimbo*

          One of my favorite Nero Wolfe moments was a disagreement with Archie after which Wolfe took the most passive aggressive revenge possible by telling the chef to put less tarragon in the chicken next time. Wolfe knows Archie loves tarragon!

      5. Arts Akimbo*

        A Murder Is Announced is my favorite Christie by far! It’s cozy, full of village drama, and Miss Marple at her finest.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I finished Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, which was adorable, and This is How You Lose the Time War, which took a long time to get into but ended up being… good? I feel like I spent about 90% of the book wishing it felt more immersive and then 10% SUPER IMMERSED so it ended up being better in retrospect than it was while reading.

      I want to finish my re-read of Neverwhere and then start making my way through all the past gifted books that have been on the shelf for (mumble mumble) amount of time before I get even more for Christmas.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I just had the inverse experience, where I spent the first third of Jane, Unlimited super immersed, and the last two thirds admiring the execution from more of a remove.

    4. Tiny clay insects*

      I just got notified that my library hold for the Thursday Murder Club has finally arrived! I heard about it in one of these threads and thought it sounded good, and simultaneously saw Richard Osman on Season 2 of Taskmaster and thought he was delightful. Can’t wait to start it!

      1. Ali*

        I loved this series, but in book one, a side character is in hospice, and during the first 3 books a somewhat main character deals with increasing dementia. Other characters also deal with a lot of issues that crop up for older people, such as past loss. But they are 100% delightful I agree!

      2. PhyllisB*

        You’re going to love The Thursday Murder Club. Be warned, you’re going to want to read the whole series. I just finished the fourth one recently and learned there will be more, but the author is taking a break to start writing a new series.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I really love this series, and that it grew out of the author realizing his misconceptions–that he went to a retirement home and talked to a bunch of fascinating people who had led interesting lives.

        As with Only Murders in the Building, it appeals to my husband even though he doesn’t care about mysteries as a genre.

    5. Exile from Academia*

      If you like The Coyote Road, let me strongly, strongly recommend all of the other Datlow and Windling anthologies, especially The Green Man, The Faery Reel, and The Beastly Bride. I didn’t realize how much impact a thoughtful editor can have on an anthology until I discovered their stuff.

      And if you like tricksters at all, I’m always trying to get people to read The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Absolutely fantastic, tremendously rewarding on reread if you’re into that, and basically the only ‘young adult’ series I feel no qualms about recommending to readers of all ages and tastes.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes, this. There’s a set of six fairy tale anthologies (starting with “Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears”), and the four themed ones you mention. They all come on sale on Amazon deals periodically – I picked them all up for a couple of bucks each.

      2. Double A*

        The Thief is one of the only books I’ve pushes myself to finish and was glad I did and am interesting in reading the rest of the series. The first book is just a little too much walking for me (I’m not a LOTR fan), but the last few chapters totally won me over. I’m hoping there’s less walking in the next books; my friend who gave the The Thief said the next books are pretty different and better.

        1. Exile from Academia*

          Oh yes, there’s much less walking. I’d say if you like the last few chapters the most, that’s a good sign you’ll like the rest of the series.

        2. Jackalope*

          I enjoy her writing a lot, and have read some of the books in The Thief series. My favorites are the second and third books. Note that Gen remains a significant character in all the books but she backs further and further away from him, while still having him in the center of the plot or the action.

          I also recommend her collection of short stories, Instead of Three Wishes. There are a couple of stories in there that are truly delightful, and I enjoyed all but one of them (and that one has still stuck with me so I think it did its job.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      On the Kingfisher front, the next book in the Saints of Steel series (Paladin’s Faith) comes out on Dec 5.

    7. Sue*

      I’m listening to Barbra Streisand’s autobiography “My Name is Barbra”. I listen to a ton of audiobooks and am not always keen on author narrators but she is exceptionally good. Also includes some song clips which add to the story. Very long, I’m 1/3 through, but so far am really enjoying it.

    8. English Rose*

      I’ve recently finished The Last List of Mabel Beaumont, an old woman whose husband Arthur, who was fond of making lists, dies after sixty years of marriage and leaves one last list: “Find D”
      Mabel embarks on a quest to find their old friend Dot, who she hasn’t seen since she married Arthur. But not before meeting a host of new friends with problems of their own, which Mabel tries to solve.
      It’s funny, enchanting, sad and unexpected in turn. Loved it!

      1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        Ooh I was thinking about this but didn’t think I’d like it from the blurb, but you’ve made it sound much better than the official description!

    9. Angstrom*

      Just finished “Making it So”, Patrick Stewart’s autobiography. Nice read, good insights into acting.

      1. Jackalope*

        Oh, I forgot to mention that one because I finished it at the beginning of the week, but I just read it and loved it! It was the first ever audio book that I’ve listened to; not normally my format, but I decided that I could listen to Patrick Stewart reading the phone book, and definitely talking about his life, and it was a good choice. Highly recommend; he seems to have been both a great actor and a generally decent person.

    10. zaracat*

      Just finished Snow Crash, and Anathem by Neal Stephenson ebooks from my local library. I’m hooked on his writing now – fascinating incorporation of linguistics, software engineering, history of philosophy, linguistics, religion, anthropology into the stories.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Anathem is one of my favorite books.

        I’ll particularly recommend Zodiac and Diamond Age. (These are two early works, the first set on Boston Harbor (I lived in Somerville at the time) and the second about teaching young girls (I had a young girl when I heard an NPR interview about the book).)

      2. carcinization*

        To paraphrase “Freaks & Geeks,” I wish I had never read Anathem so that I could read it again for the first time!

        1. zaracat*

          Yeah, this is one where I’d quite like to get a physical book because I’m sure I’ll want to re-read it. Sooo sad that we no longer have Book Depository. Postage to Australia is a killer.

    11. Teapot Translator*

      This week I read Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark, Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher, and The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman (the new book in the Thursday Murder Club series).

      The first one was good, but disturbing because of the historical racism and the supernatural elements. The second one was also good, a nice fairytale.

      The last one was fine, but I think I’m done with this series.

    12. Knighthope*

      Agree on “American Dirt.” My bookclub read it in Summer 2020. Told them, based on articles and blurb, that it was not “the right book at the right time” for me. Those early pandemic months were so hard.

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, about a young woman mourning the death of her guardian who is invited by her old tutor to the family manse. Her guardian had once randomly made her promise that if invited, she would go, so she does. The book is written in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure (though designed to be read straight through), where at one point she can choose amongst several paths, and the rest of the book traces out a story (or more the start of a story) in a specific style (heist, spies, horror, sci fi, fantasy). All of which have been intersecting in the goings-on in the house.

      The first part was really engaging–she really captures the sense of pursuing something because you are passionate about it (art, but not only art), and the heroine is aware of the literary antecedents in a fun way. Because I was most interested in the character turns of the first “path” it was kind of frustrating to divert off that for stories I didn’t find as engaging, and I wound up admiring the execution of a complicated idea more than falling into a plot.

      Currently reading Mirabile by Janet Kagan, which is pleasant but easy to set down. It’s more a collection of novellas about a biologist on a recently settled planet dealing with the various weird hybrids, and worth reading just for the kangaroo rex.

      1. GoryDetails*

        So glad to see Kagan’s Mirabile mentioned! I stumbled across that a couple of years ago and was besotted – so delightful to see no-longer-young main characters who have active, adventurous lives, and the whimsy (sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious) of the mutating wildlife is wildly inventive.

      2. word nerd*

        I had a similar reaction–there were some clever bits, but I found it hard to get engaged emotionally.

    14. RussianInTexas*

      The League of Lady Poisoners, by Lisa Perrin.
      True stories of, well, lady poisoners!
      I got it in Kindle, but the hardcopy version is gorgeous.

    15. Nervous Nellie*

      Two for me this week. A thank you to the AAM member who suggested One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul. I ordered it on the strength of reading and loving the essay posted online about her misadventures in a store fitting room, but got spine tingles from the book, with her essays about traditional Indian weddings and immigrant life in Canada. It was so good that I broke my cardinal rule against taking library books on road trips. Unputdowneable!

      I am also reading Ice-Candy-Man by Bapsi Sidhwa, an Indian bestseller about the turmoil related to the partition of India/Pakistan in 1947. It was made into a film with the dishy Aamir Khan in the lead (the hunk from Lagaan, the cricket film). Gripping stuff. I live in an area with lots of visa workers, and the books they sell or donate to the library are going to keep me in good stead for a long time!

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Oh, that was me! I’m glad you liked it. I came across that fitting room story randomly and immediately checked out the audiobook from the library. I don’t do essays/memoirs very often but I love her writing style and her stories were so interesting.

    16. GoryDetails*

      Several in progress or about to start, including:

      Let It Crow! Let It Crow! Let It Crow! – Donna Andrews’ latest “Meg Langslow” holiday-setting cozy-mystery

      Above the Trenches, the most recent of Nathan Hale’s graphic-novel-format history books, this one focused on the flying aces of WWI

      The Snark Handbook: Christmas Edition: Sarcasm, Bitterness, and the Holiday Season, by Lawrence Dorfman – looks to be amusing, though it was previously published as Snark! The Herald Angels Sing, which I think is a better title…

    17. goddessoftransitory*

      Deep in my Christmas reading, starting as always with Doomsday Book. I’ve probably read it twenty times, but I always find something new. And man, reading it post-pandemic is wild–Connie Willis NAILS the entire “But mah rights!” take on quarantines and other inconvenient aspects of a rampaging virus.

    18. carcinization*

      Reading Kuang’s Babel, which I’m into even though I usually don’t like things set during that time period.

  6. Bethlam*

    Diagnosed with cancer this week. Still some more tests and another biopsy next week to determine sub-type, spread, and stage before starting treatment. Treatment, however, will almost definitely be chemo, just don’t know how often or how long.

    Any advice on what I can/should do before treatment starts in the event it wipes me out? I already started making big batch meals to stock freezer, but I can’t really think of anything else to do ahead of time.

    Live with supportive spouse, and we’re both retired, so transport to appointments no problem.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Jackalope*

      One thing to know is that chemo can make it hard to eat, not just because you feel nauseated but because it makes things taste different AND makes you unable to digest anything complicated (depending on the kind of chemo). I’d recommend looking online to see what sorts of things other cancer patients have been able to eat (bonus points for other patients with your kind of cancer and chemo), and keep that in mind when batch cooking.

      I’d also see if you can get people who are available to help if you need them; it doesn’t have to be on a regular basis if you have a ride already, but if you have friends/family/church members/etc. who can be around to drop by and help for random stuff that will make it much easier on both you and your spouse, even if you both have a lot of time available. People who can drop by when you need to hang out but don’t feel like going anywhere can also help.

      And if you have any projects you’ve been wanting to do – clean out the freezer, get the bulbs in the ground, pick up the piles of stuff, whatever – then see if you can make that happen beforehand. You’re almost certainly going to have less energy while in treatment and it will be nice to get all of that out of the way.

      I’m sorry about the cancer.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^the taste-changing thing is huge. My mother once laugh-cried because she tried to have ice cream but it was suddenly “spicy”. Eating was a serious struggle. We relied a lot on Ensure and just downing it like medication, and even so my mother lost more weight than I can almost conceive of looking back. (But also different chemo is different: a family friend went through chemo at the same time and had almost no side effects!)

          1. Once too Often*

            You’ll see. I couldn’t eat anything with wheat after the 3rd infusion through about 3 months after chemo ended. I hope you can eat whatever you want. (I can eat wheat just fine now, tho don’t choose it as often.)

      2. DannyG*

        As a resident I was part of a study on “taste perversion” among cancer patients (“normal control #3). We found that sweet foods often tasted too sweet to the cancer patients in our study. The effects varied widely, so you will need to see how you are affected, pretty much trial and error. (Supplements like Ensure were particularly problematic in the study.)

      3. Isobel*

        The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook is aimed at people going through cancer treatment, and according to the blurb it has sections on “diet and cancer and the problems you may face during treatment (such as loss of appetite, nausea, sore mouth, change of taste); recipes to cook during treatment, which are nutritionally beneficial and wholesome enough to keep you strong even if you can’t eat too much; and a section of recipes for after treatment aimed at keeping you healthy. ”
        It’s available on Kindle if shipping costs are high.

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

      So sorry to hear about the diagnosis. Maybe stock up on extra self-nurturing stuff right now, like cozy slippers, a really soft plush robe (like one of the LL Bean plush robes) and plush throws for when you want to lounge on the couch, DVDs of a favorite tv series (or streaming services with stuff you want to see), one of those portable Levenger wheeled adjustable tables (like hospital-room tables) so you can eat and read easily in bed or on the couch, a reacher in case you don’t feel like bending over much, a shower chair in case you feel too tired to stand up in the shower, a walker in case you feel unsteady on your feet, etc. And as Jackalope suggests above, research and think about what might be easy to eat when you’re feeling terrible and things don’t taste normal or it’s hard to swallow. Maybe you’ll wind up wanting something that is just bland and easy to eat from a box or bag for those days when you just aren’t up to reheating things or using a fork.

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

        Oh, and maybe get extras of things so that you won’t feel like you have to do laundry when you’re wiped out? Like maybe now is the time to get some extra nightgowns/pyjamas, underwear, bed linens, plain t-shirts, etc.

      2. Anono-me*

        Try to do as many of your other medical care appointments as possible beforehand. Dental, vaccines (ask about RSV as you may now fit the criteria), eye exam etc. You don’t want to deal with a cavity and chemo. (Check with your medical team first.)

        Get a nice mani and peti buff with no or clear polish. Pick out several comfy and easy to wear outfits that you feel good in.

        Do what you can to make your house easy to be in. Switch the throw rugs out for rubber backed ones that won’t slip on hardwood and get rid of them entirely on carpet. Get an Alexa (or Google assistant). Make a nice comfy space somewhere on the ground floor where you can rest outside of your bedroom. Try to fix all the stuff you mutter about needing to take care of after a long hard day. (For example door to the garage sticks a bit and needs to be pulled on to open and slammed to close.)
        Set up as much automatic stuff as possible, bill pay, yard/snow care, housekeeping, rumba vacuum/mop, grocery delivery, other prescription delivery.
        If you think faith will be a comfort to you or your spouse, reach out to your faith leader or commuity.
        Decide what information will be shared and with whom. Tell you spouse. Then consider delegating a loved one to communicate with everyone else on your behalf.
        It sounds like your spouse is great, but maybe have a friend or two who agree that they will step up temporarily if your spouse has an emergency. (This is not only a good plan, it will also take a great deal of stress off of your spouse to know that not everything entirely has to be on them.)
        Get some plain mint tea and some honey and some no spill mugs (Insert long paragraph of Contigo praise here.)
        Unless your cancer diagnosis involves the mouth or throat, find some freezer pops and a mini cooler for when you are doing chemo; the cold helps prevent lip and mouth discomfort.

        Wishing you a good recovery.

        (Some of these suggestions cost money, but some of the ones that you think will don’t have too. I have shaved sticky doors and I have done housekeeping for a friend while they fought cancer. A friend did outside work, when I helped a loved one.)

        1. My Brain is Exploding*

          So we are back from our trip. We all have Global Entry (so that also covers TSA pre check). TSA pre check was fine leaving the country. on the way back, I was the only person in our party to get SSSS flagged so leaving Chile I was searched more thoroughly and after going thru customs ok with my global entry realized my boarding pass was NOT TSA pre check and had to go thru the other line. From what I’ve been able to read whilst sitting at my lengthy layover, this is just a weird random thing. Has anyone else experienced this?

        2. Bethlam*

          “Make a nice, comfy space somewhere . . .” I did this for after my knee replacement surgery because I knew it would be hard getting up and down, but didn’t think of it for this.

          My comfy spot – both physically and mentally – is in my sunroom. Lots of light, a two-tiered table beside the recliner to hold lots of stuff, and lots of house plants to provide lovely greenery, which helps the mood in winter in Western PA.

          However, that table had become a bit of a catchall so, when I had a spurt of energy this morning, I cleaned it off and readied. f. Put the books I’d read away, found the remotes for the TV and VCR, got a fresh box of tissues, and tracked down the gizmo that keeps a mug of tea warm.

    3. SofiaDeo*

      I started doing breakfast in a blender as a protein shake with powdered egg white, ground golden flaxseed, cocoa powder, olive oil, and frozen berries plus powdered greens, beet root, powdered MVI, a few other nutrients. On my worst days when I was very nauseous, even if it took several hours to get this down, it gave adequate nutrition if I didn’t feel up to other meals. I designed it to have my full daily protein needs. I have a leukemia and my chemo was targeted treatments that don’t cause the extreme nausea of the older cancer drugs. If you will be given some sort of “standard chemotherapeutic agent” you likely will not have a huge appetite.
      Get your Vit D level checked, and make sure you aren’t deficient. There is some evidence that levels on the “higher end” of what endocrinologists recommend for good bone function will be helpful. Make sure e, cardiac parameters, etc. are measured to make sure they are functioning well, and as a baseline to see if treatment changes anything, if you haven’t had a full physical recently.

      I also got room air cleaners/sanitizers in addition to a sanitizer unit in our HVAC. Many of the treatments will depress your immunity severely, and you will be high risk for infection. I started changing clothes/shoes near the door, I don’t wear outdoor pants or shoes around the house anymore so I am not bringing germs past the front entrance. I have a bunch of hooks on the entry wall, on the closet door, and also inside the closest bathroom. I wear N95/FFP2 masks every time I go out in public. I don’t care what others think, my particular cancers main cause of death is infection, and I want to avoid it. I use a knuckle to press elevator buttons & such, or wear gloves. I’ve become very conscious of people are coughing or sneezing upwind or near me, and turn my back so it doesn’t blow/spray into my face/eyes.

      I also found out I could no longer tolerate the smells of certain cleaners or air fresheners, be prepared to get unscented detergent & may need to stop using perfumed fabric softener/dryer sheets. In addition to switching brands of cleaning products.

      There is a social media website “HealthUnlocked dot com” where you can likely find others with your particular cancer, in addition to any local, state, regional, and national groups for your particular cancer. Even the American Cancer Society has great basic info in addition to some i fo on specific cancers. It helps to see what other actual patients have experienced, and they will have tips & tricks. I have found the Facebook groups may connect you with some people geographically close, but Facebook groups are not evidence-based like the actual cancer/university/research sites, or HealthUnlocked. If you are being seen in a local hospital, they often have support groups too. You can often get information on who other patients in your area recommend, or at least what their “practice style” is. Not all oncologists run their practice the same, and you may have a preference as to the personality/practice type you go to, if you are fortunate enough to have a few options. Many people recommend a second opinion, from someone specializing in whatever you have, unless you already are at a major US Research Center like MD Andersen or a major university. Most people in my particular HealthUnlocked support group have discussed if your original doctor is offended/upset at you asking for a second opinion, that’s a red flag.

      See about your spouse at least touching base with a local caregiver support group, it may be helpful if you are like me and have a series of treatments/remissions over many years. I’ve been hanging on over a decade with something originally thought would kill me within a few years, so long term caregiver burnout should be avoided. It’s particularly stressful IMO if your main caregiver gets burned out.

      Sorry to hear you got an adverse diagnosis, but depending, many of the ones that formerly killed quickly no longer do so, the newer treatments are a huge improvement. So Try not to Google too much; most of the top stuff on a search engine is older data, with often sensationalistic presentation websites looking for clicks. Look to the cancer organizations, universities, or valid medical sites like WedMD for valid information.

      1. Bethlam*

        I’m already very scent sensitive – not allergic, just pick up on even slight smells easily. So thanks for the heads up on detergents, etc.

    4. WestsideStory*

      Two of my dear ones went through chemo this past year. Both complained how tiring and boring it was to sit during the drip. You could bring books, trashy magazines or audiobook to help pass the time. One thing I did for my friend was to text her back and forth – she’d text me first when she got antsy, we kept the topics light – I’d send garden photos or inquire about grandkids. and when she wanted to doze she would just stop and pick up later for a bit. It was a regular “standing appointment” for chemo day. Do you have a friend who might help in this way? Not a spouse or relative. Maybe that person who says “”what can I do to help” but is far away?

      1. Bethlam*

        I like this idea! And I have 2 candidates – a friend, and a brother who lives out west and who I don’t talk to nearly enough – they’ll both jump all over this.

      2. the Viking Diva*

        If you are getting chemo by infusion (not the case for all kinds) I highly recommend noise-canceling headphones, wired or wireless, to connect to your phone or other device. In addition to others’ conversations, there are a lot of beeping noises from the pumps. On youtube you can find video channels with long playing ‘cafe jazz’ or ‘mellow piano’ etc. – good background music for reading, puzzles, knitting or handwork, napping, email. Don’t assume you’ll have any privacy for conversations, but headphones help somewhat.

        You’ll need to wear short or roll-up sleeves for vein access, so you may want a shawl or scarf. (The infusion room may have pillows and warm blankets but not guaranteed) It can take several hours so bring snacks and water.

        Finally: find a comfortable mask and wear it. Most people in such a space are immune-compromised and you will be too. It’s not a time to take risks with other infections or to share them with others.

        1. MCL*

          That said, if you’re getting your infusions through a port I recommend wearing a zip or button down shirt. My spouse got his port installed (right collarbone) and proceeded with his first chemo on the same day, and being able to give access without taking off his shirt or needing to raise his arms much was helpful. Also he has a pump that administers one of his drugs over the next 48 hours after the main chemo treatment, and there’s a small pump that needs to be taped to his chest. We took a photo of where they put it the first time so that they could duplicate placement (or I guess say “not here again”). The nurses have always said that’s super helpful to have a photo.

          1. Once too Often*

            Oh, I hope you get a port.
            I was told that chemo does a number on the veins of the arm, that a port would be easier. To my surprise, the port has been great! I’m using it for all blood draws now, which have gone from a project that left me on the verge of fainting for 15-30 min after a peripheral (arm) draw to a piece of cake. One does need an RN for port access, but it’s been well worth it. I’m keeping mine.

            1. Once too Often*

              Chemo often leaves you cold/er; bring a sweater and maybe a hat to put on as your body reacts during the infusion.

              Also, your doc will have ideas & options to make chemo easier, so keep her informed. She may be able to make things *significantly* easier. Don’t assume that you have to stick with the full initial plan.

    5. Sloanicota*

      So sorry to hear this. I hope your experience will be like my mom’s; she found that chemo has come a long way since the old days (depends on the type / treatment of course) and that she was generally able to tolerate it better than expected. They can do more for nausea too; it wasn’t really an issue for her. Drinking alcohol was totally out though, so she stocked up on different flavors of sparkling water or sodas – as others say, your tastebuds can change so a variety is probably best. She complained of sitting around for treatments. A fully stocked e-reader, TV series loaded onto a tablet with headphones, and audiobooks were all good for her – basically, preparing as for a long flight. I think she also found puzzles she could do on the tablet, since she loves crosswords and the like but had to be able to use one hand. Wishing you a good experience.

      1. MCL*

        Oh for sure. Chemo day is a full day. Bloodwork then consult with the doctor/NP then chemo which takes 3ish hours, and lots of waiting in between. People in the waiting rooms have had absolutely no problem watching things on their phones at full volume or having loud conversations on speaker (an absolute nerve grater for me) so headphones or ear buds are nice.

    6. Bethlam*

      Thanks so much for all of the ideas so far. Many things I have in place from previous surgeries, but many would not have occurred to me.

      First appointment with oncologist this morning and my husband and I both reallllly liked her. She was positive, thorough, and an excellent communicator. She’s with a highly regarded cancer center in a major nearby city and came highly recommended from multiple sources, so I’m very comfortable with and confident in her after only one appointment. And I’m trying to stay off Google and wait for test results and then information and direction from her.

      The waiting to get answers has been tough, even though I’ve been lucky in how quickly my medical team has scheduled me for tests and gotten me appointments with other specialists.

    7. Bethlam*

      Thanks for all of the suggestions so far. Some things I have in place from previous surgeries, but many ideas here I wouldn’t have thought of.

      I don’t have a laptop, so I’ll probably get one if I have to do the boring chemo drip.

      Will check out support groups once they’ve identified my exact type.

      1. Aerin*

        I haven’t gone through chemo, but I do have a tiring chronic illness and highly recommend some sort of tablet instead of a laptop. It will not only be smaller and lighter and easier for you to carry and hold, but you will have more options for putting it on a stand. I have a floor stand for mine by the couch, and another one between my mattress and my headboard. This means that during flare-ups I can watch movies on my tablet while lying flat on my back, or sit on the couch to read and for comfortable video calls. If I’m sitting up in bed, I also have a little stand for the tablet that sits on top of some pillows on my lap.

        I have a remote control that I use with my tablet, but they no longer make anything like it so I’m not sure that’s still an easy option. Even just getting a small keyboard with it might help, though – it means you can put the tablet at a height that’s easy to see, and keep your hands in your lap instead of having to keep reaching for it.

        Good luck! I hope they come back with the easiest to treat news <3

        1. Pippa K*

          There’s a particular pillow-style tablet stand that is great for using in bed but also works well on a tabletop, sitting in a chair, etc. I’ll put the link in a reply, but what I especially like is that it is very lightweight but stable, has no hard edges but still holds things steadily, and holds things at multiple angles, so I can use it in nearly any position.

          I hope you can make everything around you as comfortable as possible while you go through this.

        2. Bethlam*

          Do tablets come with Microsoft Office? I was thinking laptop because I’m more interested in using the time for working on documents.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            You could get a Windows-based 2-in-1 laptop/tablet, but that would be much more expensive than a regular tablet. At work we had Dell 2-in-1s with detachable keyboards a while back. I removed the keyboard from mine and put it on a tablet-holder with a tripod mount when we went WFH in 2020 so I could have it at a better eye height for a monitor (I used an aftermarket wireless keyboard and mouse – the included detachable one wasn’t Bluetooth and wouldn’t work unattached.)

            I have no idea about using full Office on a regular tablet. I’m guessing that some sort of Office app is available, but I don’t know if the feature set is good enough for heavy-duty document creation. Hopefully someone else can chime in about that piece.

          2. Aerin*

            You can install Microsoft’s Office app on a tablet, and access basic tools for viewing and editing documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with a free account. More features are unlocked if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, but some advanced functionality will only exist on the computer program.

            It’s been years since I’ve used it myself, and I just don’t remember what I did and didn’t do. At the time, I think it was things like: In Excel on android, I could edit text and also formulas in cells and see the colours produced from conditional formatting I’d set up on my computer, but those colours wouldn’t be the specific colour I chose and would instead be one of the default ones (of which there are dozens, I just usually made my own palette).

            There’s also a web version of most Microsoft 365 programs now, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. There’s some basic features if you have a free Microsoft account, and additional features if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription. There are also other programs depending on your subscription level. It won’t have all the features of the programs installed on your computer, but there is some surprisingly advanced functionality.

            I used the web version of Visio a couple years ago because that’s all my license allowed and, while I couldn’t do the very advanced stuff that I wanted to do, I could make a good looking flow chart that did everything that I needed it to do. I also can’t remember if that advanced functionality existed in the web app but I couldn’t see it because of our license, or if it only existed in the computer program that I couldn’t install.

            A laptop or convertible is more likely to give you all the functionality of a computer, like Seven hobbits are highly effective, people says. I do want to warn you that there are devices that look like laptops but have reduced features. For example, I think with a Chromebook you can only access the web version of Microsoft 365 and you can’t install any programs. There also used to be similar devices sold that would technically run Windows, but only a version that had less functionality for installing programs. I know that’s changed over the last 5+ years, and especially with Windows 11, but I’m not confident that there aren’t any similar pitfalls. So I’m mostly just giving you a heads up that if you buy a cheaper laptop or device running Windows to make sure that it will also do what you expect!

    8. Not A Manager*

      I’m very sorry to hear this. Others have given good advice.

      Chemo has really advanced since I personally experienced it with a loved one. If your treatment is likely to nauseate you or make eating difficult, consider upping your calorie intake now if you can. (a) If you find food comforting, why not go ahead and enjoy it, and (b) it won’t harm you to gain a little weight in advance.

      1. Bethlam*

        Thanks for making me laugh. I lost 30 pounds this year (on purpose) and was vowing to get back to my regimen (10 pounds to go) after 3 weeks of emotional eating due to not knowing what was wrong with me. Purposely gaining weight certainly was not on my radar!

        1. Ginger Baker*

          Truly, cannot recommend this more. Put on the pounds now if you can! We were…very thankful my mom started out with extra weight, by the end.

        2. MCL*

          My husband’s doc has said some people do gain weight during chemo so maybe discuss with your doc. He definitely has.

        3. WS*

          Some people gain weight – I certainly did. A lot of that is going to depend on your precise treatment and if/how much steroids are involved. In my case a lot of steroids meant weight gain. It was really not something that was relevant to me at the time since my clothes were loose-fitting and light because of skin sensitivity anyway.

    9. Aerin*

      Another thing that might be worth considering now is moisturizer for your face and body. Your skin is likely to get very dry with treatment, and so you’ll want something that’s easy to tolerate (fragrance free, not too many ingredients) and very effective. In my non-chemo experience, it is absolutely worth upping your moisturizer game before you start doing something that dries out your skin.

      If this isn’t something you normally think of, the ones that are easy in the US and a few other countries are CeraVe’s plain moisturizing lotion (pump) or cream (jar sometimes with a pump). In the US, Vanicream’s moisturizing lotion (pump) or cream (jar with a pump) are also very good. Avoid anything with special claims, like that it works on rough and bumpy skin or is good for itch relief. CeraVe and Vanicream also each make an ointment that I find nicer than vaseline, but any of the three would be good for extra irritation or just sealing in moisture.

      You also might want to find some bath products that are more gentle than you usually use. I love CeraVe’s plain cleansing bar or you might like their plain body wash (which is gentle but has an ingredient I’m allergic to). I haven’t tried Vanicream’s cleansing bar or body wash, but I imagine they’re good. Vanicream’s shampoo and conditioner isn’t great for my hair, but it’s gentle on my scalp and you might want to be aware of where you can buy it in case you need a gentle option to feel clean and comfortable.

      Good luck! I imagine your body’s going to be sending some painful signals for a while, so I hope some skincare changes can help reduce one of them.

    10. BellaStella*

      As a breast cancer survivor I would say getting a cancer counsellor is a good idea to help cope with the emotional part of all of this. To help me on chemo days and after I had a thermos of non caffeine tea to sip all day as keeping hydrated helps. Stock up on masks. Get some good books. A warm hat if it is winter where you are. Also be ok with a lot of sleeping to get better. Keep a notebook to tape in blood test results and other tests too like mri or scans and bring it to all appointments tonrefer back to.
      Sending you strength, you got this.

    11. KEWLM0M*

      One thing that I found helpful was to keep a notebook and pen on hand to keep track of how you feel each day; things like mood, side effects, temperature, sleeplessness, fatigue, aches & pains, etc. so you can discuss with health providers when asked without having to try to recall. And I’m very sorry about the diagnosis.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Keeping notes of anything you might want to bring up at the appointment next week is really helpful. I had a different color paper for each doctor.

      2. Bethlam*

        I keep a daily journal in an Excel spreadsheet – mostly what we did during the day. It’s easy to search in Excel, so “when did we buy that?” or “what year did we have the roof replaced” etc., is easy to find.

        When I made the first appt to figure out what was going on, I searched through the daily journal spreadsheet for when I documented my symptoms, and copied and pasted that info into a tab on my medical history spreadsheet. Printed it and took with me to each appointment. Update and print. So I can give exact date of when I first noticed stuff, when it got worse, etc.

        Do need to set up my mult-pocket folder to put all the paperwork in.

    12. Queer Earthling*

      I’m glad they caught it and I hope your treatment and recovery go smoothly for you.

      Some small things we learned when my partner had chemo:
      •Buy some plastic utensils. Chemo can make your tastebuds do weird things and sometimes the metallic flavor of a fork can make something inedible that you’d have otherwise been okay with.
      •When you start losing your hair, use a lint roller on your head! My partner found the itching to be absolutely maddening and a lint roller removed a lot of the problem hairs that were bothering them. (Granted, they had very short hair at the time so I don’t know whether this would work on longer hair, but it’s worth a try.)
      •Definitely bring stuff to do for chemo. My partner brought their sketchbook a lot, but also wound up playing phone games, and we would all save our “daily” phone game stuff for the appointment so it would kill some time.
      •Don’t sweat eating perfectly balanced meals or whatever. If the only thing you can eat is a sleeve of Oreos, then eat the sleeve of Oreos. Yes, nutrients are good, but you need calories where you can get them.

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      I really liked the graphic novel Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto, about her experience with cancer–read it from my library’s new books section when it came out, and sought it out again when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

      Locally I have a really good cancer support center–the surgeon, oncologist, plastic surgeon all gave me literature for this spot. One thing that was super helpful was that the counselor knew what local charities were available with what sort of help–a local group came in and walked my dogs midday while I was recovering from chest surgery, which was really helpful and not something I would have known existed.

      I wish I had hired a cleaning service, and would recommend doing that for the course of treatment if it’s an option.

    14. Nervous Nellie*

      I am sorry, Bethlam! That is a tough road. Sending you healing thoughts & encouragement.

      My Mum’s chemo gave her mild dizziness and low-grade nausea that made reading uncomfortable because moving her eyes too much made her whole body feel like she was slightly swaying. During treatment, she switched to audiobooks and to having family read to her, as she was a voracious reader and didn’t want to miss months of reading pleasure. This was in the 80s, and from what I understand, meds are better tuned today, but audiobooks could still be a pleasant support.

    15. MCL*

      I’m so sorry. It’s a stressful situation. My spouse (41M) is almost halfway through 8 rounds of FOLFOX chemo for colon cancer. We got a shower hose for an adjustable height handheld shower head because he has to keep certain parts of himself dry for one of his extended drugs. That was so helpful. His chemo makes him very cold sensitive (especially extremities) so he gets the parking spot in the garage so he doesn’t have to scrape. He can’t help prep cold food, like cutting veggies out of the fridge. I also bought a heated blanket (Costco) and he plugs in a little heating pad for his feet in bed at night (which of course is unplugged before sleeping). It helps his nausea to eat small amounts of carb rich snacks. He’s never had a sweet tooth but now he’s really liking the mini chocolate chip cookies from Costco bakery. We bought a few different things to figure out what he liked, and I chunked up and froze rotisserie chicken for easy protein. We have found it very helpful to keep a short journal of daily symptoms, good and bad. He is working full time through treatment but the drugs have really impacted his stamina and energy- it improves over time between treatments. He has found that low stakes repetitive video games help engage his brain and give him something to distract him, he really likes those world building games. It’s a big learning curve and no two weeks have been the same. Be patient with yourself.

    16. Which Katie*

      Mostly just here to send my best. Both my mother and mother-in-law got cancer diagnoses in the last couple of years.

      I don’t have any specific recommendations for things to do before treatment starts, but I’ll share some “lessons learned” from my observations.
      – many, many people that care about you will want to help but not know how. That can feel disappointing or like it creates more work for you, which is totally valid. On the other hand, it also means that if there are things that need to get done (grocery pick up, food prep, laundry, etc), there’s probably someone who would be thrilled to be able to support you by taking care of it
      – many many people that care about you will want to show their support by checking on you and asking how your feeling, turning most of your interactions or conversations into cancer talk. You don’t have to answer everyone’s (strike that – ANYone’s) questions about your health. “Thank you for asking, but I’d love to talk about anything other than that right now…”
      – if in any way you are drawn to stuffed animals, get yourself a special one! My mom ended up bringing a silly stuffed anteater to every appointment (during peak COVID so my dad couldn’t go in with her), and my mother-in-law received a teddy bear as a gift that has become a major source of comfort and joy for her. They also bring joy to medical staff and other patients in a truly incredible way.

      Not sure if any of that is useful to you at this point, but I wish you all the best.

    17. Fastest Thumb in the West*

      I finished 15 months of chemo (2 different kinds in succession) in July. I lost 20 pounds. If your chemo regimen involves steroids you might actually gain weight, though. I found Orgain Protein Shakes to be very helpful- they make both soy and whey versions (no soy for me). Loss of appetite, nausea, and taste changes all affected me. I have just recently begun eating salads again, as they made me very ill while in treatment and tasted terrible. The best foods were Italian pasta dishes like spaghetti and lasagna. My husband made me a lot of toast! The most helpful thing to me was Door Dash. My coworkers organized a Door Dash gift card drive and it fed us for months on the days I was too nauseous or fatigued to cook. I’m not very good with batch cooking.

      If you can, go for a walk every day, even if it is just a few minutes. It really helps push the chemo through your system and prevents deconditioning. Drink as much water as you can stand. Gatorade is good, too.

      I had horrible insomnia on my first chemo. I spent a lot of nights on the couch watching youtube or listening to podcasts.

      1. Bethlam*

        I usually walk 2-4 miles a day, but just haven’t been in the mood the last few weeks. Need to get back to it _before_ chemo starts so I’m back in the habit. Thanks for the nudge.

    18. Miss Buttons*

      My heart goes out to you. I was diagnosed in July and doing chemo now. Great suggestions already. I would think ahead about hair loss and your approach. I’m not a wig person, so I bought a bunch of bright chemo hats and snuggy winter ski hats. Much easier to cut your hair short before it falls out. There’s also an option for a “cool cap” which you wear during infusions which supposedly saves your hair. It was $2800 & insurance didn’t pay so I declined. I would ask your med onc about possible hand & foot neuropathy. I avoid it by using the hand and foot cold packs during infusions, available on line. Best news for me is I’ve had no nausea at all. The anti-nausea drugs have come a long way. The fatigue is the worst side effect for me, but I’m still working part-time with chemo infusions every 21 days, and it’s usually only days 1-6 that are challenging. Naps are your friend. Best of luck to you.

    19. Once too Often*

      First, I hope this is as easy as possible for you, & that your medical team are as kind, gentle, sophisticated, & thoughtful as mine; great that you’re so pleased with your oncologist. Second, the palliative care team is there for *all* patients & has info & ideas to help ease the process for patients & loved ones.

      Company for chemo was huge for me. Had someone with me the entire time – even for bathroom trips with my drip pole. My infusions were ~ 7 hours each. Not everyone wants or needs company, or that changes as things progress. Ask for what’s right for you.

      Hair loss will depend on your chemo. My hair was gone before the second infusion. Soft hats & scarves were great. There’s a donation table in our infusion center; people donate hats, scarves, books, cards, wigs, hair pieces, etc. Finding hats to sleep in really helped, I was always cold.

      My diet changed off & on during chemo, & stayed odd for months. My body tolerated primarily single foods (eg, one particular kind of vegetable) for x days/weeks before switching to a different one. Couldn’t bear the thought or smell of anything else. Finding favorite foods repulsive was sad, but that did pass. It was months before I could eat more than one food, or more than once a day.

      My brain power started dropping after the second (of 8) rounds, & my stamina followed after the 3rd. There were a few months where I mostly slept (as in 22+ hours/day). Neither are back to normal yet, & I’m 9 months out from chemo. Doc says that’s typical. My peeps are glad to have more of me back every month.

      Best wishes.

    20. Bethlam*

      Thank you, thank you to everyone for your good wishes, positive thoughts, and encouragement. And for all of the suggestions and advice. I like to be organized and prepared and I’m feeling better prepared thanks to those of you who shared your own experiences or those of friends or family members.

      I took notes, added items to my grocery list, made a ‘other things i need to buy” list, and got a couple of things done since today was a good energy day. I will also come back and check this post after I start treatment for some reminders.

      I really appreciate all of your input.

  7. Jackalope*

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

    After much playing off and on, I finally finished Final Fantasy 6. It truly does have the worst villain! Thankfully I was so over-leveled that I skated right through. I’m glad I played it and I’m also glad to move on to something new once I’ve had a bit of time to think about what.

    1. Manders*

      I continue to play Pokemon Go (trainer code 1099 1977 1935 – aka1124manders – for those interested). I think I friended RockTheSol here and would be interested in coordinating our friending up in a week if possible.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      When I’m gaming and I’m not at home playing Classic WoW Hardcore, I’m either playing Ingress or Pokemon Go. On the trip to Vegas to work the F1 race, I managed to earn about 500,000 AP in a week, much of it riding the bus back and forth to the track.

      BinkytheHorse Ingress
      9529 6990 1514 BinkytheHorse Pokemon Go

    3. Porch Screens*

      Let’s see…after I finished Three Houses a while back I dabbled a bit with some other games. Bounced off of Banjo-Kazooie (Switch Online) due to the janky control scheme while trying to swim or fly. Started Okami HD and want to go back to it because it’s absolutely charming but I got distracted by Mario Wonder; I managed to get almost 100% completion on it but that final Special World Badge stage can die in a fire. After finishing Mario Wonder I’ve started 0n the Super Mario RPG remake and am having a grand ol’ time with it, especially since I haven’t played the original game since I was in middle school.

      Not sure what I’ll play once I finish Super Mario RPG (which probably won’t take too long, the game is definitely much shorter than I remember) but I’ll probably go back to Okami HD and see if I can finish it before Christmas. As of right now it looks like I’ll be spending part of my Christmas Eve home alone so my plan is to settle in on our huge bean bag and start Star Ocean Second Story R. The original PS1 version is my second-most replayed game of all time, right behind Final Fantasy Tactics, and I just love everything about it. It’s such a cozy game for an RPG. It also holds a special place in my heart because I was introduced to it by a gaming buddy that’s since passed away so any time I think of the game I can’t help but think of him, too.

    4. Shiara*

      What are people’s favorite two person board or card games? Bonus if they’ll work as a stocking stuffer. We have cribbage already.

      1. Phryne*

        Bandido card game. It is a cooperative game. You can play it with more people but it works well with two. Same for Cubirds. Both of these are small games that fit a stocking. Azul is much bigger. It is an award winning game, everyone I know has it. You can play it with up to 4, but again, it works well with 2.

      2. Jackalope*

        I’m normally not a fan of games that have themes from pop culture, since they often seem to be just there to let you have whatever the pop culture is instead of an interesting game. But there’s a card game based on Simon’s Cat. It has some rules that are similar to Uno, although a bit different. I’ve loved it, and the best part is that it can be super quick or drawn out. I haven’t played Exploding Kittens as much but it was fun the time I played and I know people who love it.

      3. A Minion*

        Sushi Go is a fun card game and has modified rules for 2 players. It might fit in a stocking too.

        I just ordered Abducktion for my tween niece. It has rules for single and two players. It is collaborative and looks like a lot of fun! I hope we play it at Christmas!

    5. Forensic13*

      I started playing a free browser game called The Roottrees Are Dead yesterday. You play someone hired to fill out a family tree after one branch of the family all dies in a plane crash. The gimmick is that you’re searching for info on the in-game 1998 version of the internet, and you have to use logic for most of the facts. It’s really fun!

  8. New Reader*

    Fairly new reader – how do you pick a name to comment under? Once someone posts under a particular name is it “locked”? I don’t want to accidentally swipe someone’s name!

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

      I guess just do the best you can, and you can always modify the name somewhat if it turns out there’s another person commenting under your original choice. I thought I had successfully picked a name no one else was using, as there were no Squirrel Nutkins that I had seen comment on the weekend thread, which is where I mostly comment, but then on a weekday thread, I found another Squirrel Nutkin who was also in academia. I added the parentheses to clarify a bit, and hopefully, the other Squirrel Nutkin is okay with that?

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve only seen it happen once in the past couple years (although it wasn’t with Squirrel so I guess that wasn’t the only time!) You could always tell us what name you have in mind and see if anyone recognizes it?

    3. ThatGirl*

      Mine is a variant of my email address, and I have occasionally seen a That Girl (with a space) but she doesn’t seem to comment very often. So hopefully nobody is confusing us, but I’m not that bothered.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I picked mine from an old AAM comment. A person said something like wanting to be paid for their time made them a filthy vulgar mercenary. They were criticizing sentiments like “no one wants to work anymore” while hiding the fact that you’re paying minimum wage.

      Just pick whatever you like. Change it if you want. You’re not locked in. If you discover you’ve chosen the same one as another, you haven’t taken someone’s – you both can still post. You could modify yours to indicate you’re PolarBear2 or whatever but it’s not a big deal.

      1. Square Root Of Minus One*

        I got curious so I looked it up. Seems the original quote is from Alison, answering a letter from someone whose friend was invited to fly out for an interview and wanted to touch base on salary before making the effort.
        In the comments of this single post there were at least three people vying on the name, including the very first comment.
        Congrats on winning :)

    5. Magdalena*

      I picked my first name and it’s definitely not locked as I later came across another commenter with that same name and neither of us was prevented from posting.

    6. UsuallyALurker*

      I just picked mine because I comment so rarely. I did see someone use a very similar name a few weeks ago and was very confused for a second, but I don’t think you need to worry too much.

    7. Filosofickle*

      I use a couple of names, and I have tried to pick something out of the ordinary that ties to my old screen names or obscure references — regular names and fictional characters are really popular so i stay away from those!

    8. OtterB*

      Mine’s a name I have used on multiple online venues for more than 10 years, so I just stuck with it.

    9. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I didn’t want to use anything similar to my social media handles, and challenged myself to not make it about cats (nothing wrong with it, I just do that a lot). Fairly sure the name would be unique to me, as enjoying biscuits for breakfast seems to be a peculiarity of my home country! I see a couple other nicknames mentioning cookies now and then, but nothing too similar.

    10. Halle*

      I just use a random first name and regularly change it into another. I am probably a bit paranoid about giving too much information out on the internet.

    11. Richard Hershberger*

      I am that rare bird: someone who for over a quarter century has used his real name on the internet, or a obvious abbreviation of it. This was a conscious decision back when this meant usenet.

      My thinking was that I saw a lot of ill-considered posting behind pseudonyms. Using my real name would encourage me to pause just a moment before hitting the send button and think, is this something I want to have associated with my real name? I can’t say that everything I have posted is a literary or intellectual triumph, but that moment’s pause has largely served me well. As an unexpected later benefit, it bolsters my position within my specialty field of early baseball history. You can look me up in Google Scholar. There are three of us with the same name. It is pretty easy to sort out which one is me.

      That being said, I post from a position of white hetero cis male privilege. I can totally understand why someone without it would hesitate to use their real name.

      1. David*

        I use my real name too, for much the same reason: I want to personally stand behind the things I post online. When I was first getting acquainted with the internet, roughly around 1999-2004, I looked up to people who would publish really good content (sometimes blog posts or the equivalent before blogging was a formal thing, sometimes free software) and attach their real names to it. Not that anonymous content is inherently bad or anything, I just felt it adds an extra layer of respectability when you tie your real-life identity to something, rather than publishing it under a pseudonym and trying to hide who you are (aside from situations where someone’s safety might be threatened by the creator using their real name). That stuck out to me as something I wanted to aspire to.

        So to this day, my personal guideline for myself is that, if I feel the need to post something under a pseudonym because I would feel uncomfortable attaching my real name to it, it’s probably not something I should be posting at all.

        BTW Richard, your mention of early baseball history reminds me of a fun series of posts someone was making on Mastodon (the Twitter replacement, roughly) last week: baseball player or Star Wars alien? You get six names, five of which are baseball players from the roughly pre-1940 era (e.g. Sicnarf Loopstok was a favorite), and the sixth is a character from Star Wars, and you try to guess which one it is. It was hilarious but also broke my brain. You might be one of the very few people who would actually have a shot at doing well at it.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Few problems with this: people can and do get harassed online and offline, people may have sensitive situations to post about, and Facebook and Nextdoor have proven that using a real name does not stop people from being assholes online.

    12. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve changed the name I use on here a few times. I started off with a favourite fictional characters. They were all female, which identified my gender, and I got a bit ticked off when someone challenged my opinion as being unsuitable for a woman. I remember thinking this was what the Bronte sisters were trying to avoid, hence the current moniker.

    13. Porch Screens*

      Sometimes people will just go with a name that correlates to the topic of the post they’re making. My first ever comment here was a question about screening in a porch so I just went with ‘Porch Screens’ because I wasn’t too worried about coming up with a snazzy name. Then I just kinda…kept the name because (I) think it’s funny when taken by itself with no other context. It also doesn’t match any other online handle or alias I’ve used, so that’s a nice bonus.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      Says You had falling diphthong as a vocabulary question, and I was charmed by the concept. Even though I have a terrible language ear.

      On reading of the cot-caught convergence recently (these words are pronounced identically to me) I asked my husband, who is good at languages, and I could hear the difference when he said it but not make the sounds myself.

    15. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Associating a Gravatar with your email address is an easy way to make sure that, even if you pick a username that has been used or will be used again, people won’t get you confused. No one will see the email address…except maybe Allison?

      But since it’s just a name, not an account you register for, duplicates aren’t blocked and it’s not a big deal. The couple of times I’ve seen it happen, one or both users added a parenthetical to their name.

    16. Unkempt Flatware*

      I have three I use depending on the device I am using (this started because of forgetfulness). The other two are based on my cats’ names. This one I chose in solidarity with a commenter here who was just divorced and was reveling in her freedom to put the clean utensils back in the drawer without nicely stacking them the way her husband demanded. I also toss my silverware with reckless abandon and smile thinking of her small win.

    17. lavender latte*

      I just make crap up based on an object in my view; currently it’s a beverage. I change names frequently I went through a major identity theft drama a few years ago and now I’m way OTT about online behavior.

      Some people prefer to use a constant name, and thus develop a known persona. If that’s your goal, just go back through a few months of weekend posts and glance at the repeated names to make sure you don’t use one.

      1. violin squeaks*

        This is me, too. This one came when I was posting during my child’s music lesson…

        I haven’t gone through identity theft but every now and again I think it’s a smart idea to break a thread from my past comments so there is never too much of me out there at the same time.

      2. moonsnail*

        I change names pretty regularly because I use the internet in private browsing mode & my computer has to be restarted fairly often, so I lose the username when the browser crashes & cookies disappear. Then I generally pick something in view.

    18. Irish Teacher.*

      I originally had a different username, just my first and middle name, but somehow it didn’t feel right so I decided to change it after posting here a few times and I found that as most people here are from the US and a lot are working in the private sector, I often had to clarify that “I’m in Ireland so not sure if X is a possibility under US law” or “I’m a teacher so…say negotiating PTO isn’t exactly a thing” and I just decided to put those two details in my username, so people would know the context I am coming from.

    19. goddessoftransitory*

      Mine’s one I use on several platforms–it’s from the MST episode “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank.” I have a couple other personas floating out there too!

    20. NeonFireworks*

      I don’t remember how I came up with mine. I think I just wanted something that sounded colourful and exciting?

    21. WoodswomanWrites*

      My usual user name is the same as my blog. I have an alternate name when I post about things related to work that might be personally identifying, to add another layer of anonymity.

      I have occasionally seen posts from someone using the handle of Woodswoman. It hasn’t created any difficulties.

    22. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I decided to take advantage of the fact that it was a name rather than a “username” and pick something that would be too long to use in a place where people needed to type it out regularly. Then I decided that it needed to be a work-adjacent pun of some kind, and that’s how I landed on mine once the pun came to me one day. I’d been reading the comments for a while so I was pretty sure no one else was already using it.

      If you want to check to see if a potential name is already in use, you can open up some recent threads and use your browser search the page to see if anyone is using it on that page. (Add * at the end such as “Examplename*” to get only usernames rather than comments – a white text * is added to the end of each username when comments are posted as a site feature to make it easier to search the comments for other posts by that user rather than every time someone uses that word in their comment. So, searching “people” would get a ton of comments talking about people, but searching “people*” would just get comments by me and anyone else who has a handle ending in “people”.)

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world*

        1. You have a most excellent name! I smile every time I see it.
        2. Your comments about creating a long, hard to type name plus the idea of searching for handles with “people” made a new name pop into my mind. (See name above.) It’s too long for me to use much but it also made me smile!

    23. Mornington Crescent*

      I’m in the slightly weird position where another, more established commentor was already using the name I wanted, and I didn’t want to double up and potentially make life awkward for them.

      So I picked the name of my favourite tube station, which also happens to be a nonsense game. I also think it’s quite pretty, in a weird way, and have also used it before on click-and-adopt pet sites, so it’s one I think of as being “me”.

    24. Bibliovore*

      I got this off of a t-shirt years ago and when Alison asked people to stop using Anonymous for their commenting names, I chose it. I use it for personal posts for weekends and use my job title for weekday comments and questions.
      A week or so ago someone else used Bibliovore for their name and I was a bit taken aback. Should I change my name? But I do like having a history here so I stuck with it.

  9. Avery*

    Back again with… another dream featuring AAM, lol!
    A few days ago I had a dream that there was an Ask A Manager convention being held in Los Angeles. Except I’m not really sure what the convention entailed except that Alison was speaking for an hour or two at one point.
    Also the entrance fee was $300.
    Despite the $300 entrance fee and living several states away from LA, dream me was tempted… and waking me can see the appeal a bit too…

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Maybe I wa the harried event planner/registration desk coordinator in this dream! If the event was badly organised, it wasn’t me, okay? ;)
      And anyone want to speculate on what the talk titles at an AAM conference would be?
      – Setting Boundaries With Your Boss When You Don’t Want To Donate A Kidney
      – Biting Your Colleagues Is Not Normal
      – Don’t Put Cookies On Your Dog: Strategies For Potluck Success

  10. Missing cat*

    My cat has recently gone missing and I’m beside myself with worry…I’ve alerted local vets, the animals shelter, reached out to an org to get my cat’s info online, go out into our backyard every hour to call my cat while shaking a bag of his favourite treats…In a few hours I’m also planning of robing neighbour’s doorbells to ask if they’ve spotted my cat or if they can check garden sheds and garages.

    Any other things I can do that I might be forgetting in my panic?

    1. L. Ron Jeremy*

      You didn’t mention if the cat is a inside or outside variety. Lost our inside cat for 52 hours, but was found under the house. We had a plumber come to check out a plumbing issue and the open crawlspace was too inviting.

      You could set out some non-lethal traps to try and catch them, but be sure to review the traps twice a day to release other local cats.

      1. Missing cat*

        Former stray so unfortunately still a bit of an adventurer, though less and less over the years.

        1. Aquamarine*

          I’m glad to hear he’s a former stray because that means being out on his own isn’t new to him. I had a stray-turned-cozy-house-cat, but he still had some wanderlust in him and twice he went missing. I was sick with worry too, but even though searching didn’t help at all (I think because former strays especially tend to stay away from people when they’re outside), he did turn up when he felt like it. I hope your cat does the same – and soon!!

    2. Missing cat*

      Forgot to mention: I’ve also adjusted his status to “missing” in the microchip database. Hopefully if he’s found they’ll be able to read his chip.

    3. Hazel*

      Neighbourhood facebook group? Ask your neighbours if there is one, very useful for this and often folks post if they see an unaccounted-for cat around. Posters with decent colour photos and a request to check sheds etc – we found a neighbour’s cat hiding under the back porch on a hunch.
      I read that cats only need go a few metres outside their territory to get lost – so maybe shake the treat bag a bit farther afield. You might leave smelly food out and see if they go for it (not overnight unless you like to feed racoons). All the best! It is worrying.

      1. Missing cat*

        I probably should have mentioned I’m not in the US so luckily raccoons are not a worry, though I think I might end up with an influx of visiting cats if I left food out (now if only I could get them to search for my boy)

    4. SofiaDeo*

      My local Nextdoor group has missing pet postings with pics, and Facebook has local groups also, if you are in the US. Some of the things I’ve seen others recommend (I don’t have a cat) include putting their litterbox or other “scent station” outside. And calling outside very very early (like 5:30am) or very late, when it’s quiet out & they can hear you better.

      1. Missing cat*

        The non-profit I gave his info to also posted on Facebook and from the looks of it his photo is being shared in the neighbourhood as well so fingers crossed.

    5. Typing All The Time*

      Do you have any recent photos of your cat that you can share? Does he/she know how to come back home?

      1. Missing cat*

        Luckily I do, yeah (my previous phone was an Android that kept “helpfully” pointing out how many similar pictures of him I had. Yes phone, I know you’re 90% cat pictures, stop bothering me about it).

        He usually does know how to find his way home, which is why his being missing for multiple days is getting me worried.

    6. Wow it's almost Christmas!*

      *Post on local Facebook and Nextdoor groups and Ring network if you can.
      *Create a flyer with large letters “LOST” and their picture, and your phone #, and hang around the neighborhood
      *Put stuff with his scent outside
      *Go out late at night with flashlight and shine all around looking for his eyes to reflect

    7. Happily Retired*

      Spread his used cat litter (yes, really) around the perimeter of your property. If he’s not familiar with the neighborhood (an indoor cat), or if he’s done some serious roaming, it will help him identify your house. Don’t use the entire litterbox at once if you can help it. You might have to “update” several times.

      If you’re in a neighborhood with a lot of walkers, put signs with a photo up on telephone poles.

      I hope he’s back home soon! It’s an awful experience for you, I know.

      1. Missing cat*

        Unfortunately he’s not exactly big on using the litter box (he knows what it is and what it’s for, but will basically only use it when he really doesn’t want to go outside like when it’s snowing or raining heavily). I did put out some items that smell like me (a worn shirt that I made sure to sweat in and because I was changing my bedsheets I also put out the old ones) and his favourite blanket so hopefully that’s enough.

    8. Turtle Dove*

      Hanging posters, posting online, and talking to neighbors helped us. We’ve had two cats go missing in the past decade. With Gus, my husband put up posters around our subdivision. He almost didn’t bother on a little court in a far corner. Turns out a child who lives there said, “Mom, the cat hiding under our deck looks like the cat on the poster,” and we got a call and fetched Gus. With Smoky, my husband drove and walked all over the neighborhood, calling for Smoky and chatting with neighbors. I was out of town, so my job was to post on NextDoor and in our neighborhood Facebook group. That did the trick. Someone had found Smoky and was looking for his owner, and we connected online. (Smoky was an adventurous former stray too, and he’s now supervised outside.) Good luck, and I hope you find your little guy very soon.

      1. This, too*

        I was going to point this out. Not everyone walks the neighborhood where they would see a flyer on a lightpost, but if they notice your cat in their yard, each neighbor getting a flyer in their mailbox could be very helpful.

    9. pally*

      Might check local media (Craig’s List, for example) to see if anyone is trying to ‘give away’ a pet cat- for a fee.

      And where I am, there are both county, city and private animal shelters. I’m not sure how well they communicate with each other. Might make sure you’ve reached to every one of them.

      Might also include contacting some shelters that aren’t so local to you. Like driving distance away from you. Sometimes cats go far and the person who finds them may take them to a shelter that’s convenient for them- but not most local to you.

      Yeah, I know, that last one sounds stupid. But if cat got into a vehicle and not discovered until after that vehicle was driven away, they might drop off the cat to the shelter nearest to them.

      And, might open all of the drawers, cabinets, boxes, ducts, attic, appliances, look behind, under and on top of furniture, and all nooks and crannies inside your house and garage. Sometimes they get themselves into these spaces and decide to make themselves at home.

      1. Missing cat*

        We only have one animal shelter for our city and a few neighbouring villages and they’re keeping an eye out – I’m also e-mailing every vet I can find so they know what to look for (he has some very unusual physical characteristics so they’ll be able to spot him if he’s brought in).

        Good idea on contacting other shelters as well though – recently there was a report in the news about a Dutch cat being found all the way in Austria, and my local animal shelter once found a cat that had been lost several cities away.

    10. Taly*

      Also ask people to check their garages. I had a cat go missing once who loved garages. Turns out someone down the street had their garage open while working outside and the cat snuck in. They then closed the garage and went away for the weekend resulting in our missing cat. When they came home and opened the garage my cat popped out and made a beeline for home. I found her snarfing down the food I’d left outside in a bowl.

      1. Missing cat*

        Yeah, I’m going to make the rounds tomorrow and maybe ring some doorbells to ask people to check their garages and garden sheds – especially the kind that locks or has sliding doors (my boy is very smart and understands how door handles work – in other words, he’s just smart enough to get himself into situations).

    11. Ellis Bell*

      Our visiting cat got totally lost for about five weeks. Even though he’d rambled pretty far away, his owner found him by posting a flyer in a busy shopping area halfway between that neighborhood and ours. The woman who found him called her and said “There’s a ginger cat like yours who keeps coming into the garden and miaowing, and behaving weirdly towards my black cat”. It was indeed the visiting cat, whose sister is a black cat.

      1. Missing cat*

        I don’t think he got out onto the street (the way our city block is set up makes that rather unlikely) but yeah, I’ll be going further and further if I have to.

        At least sending e-mails to less-local shelters as someone suggested above is quick to do.

    12. Aphrodite*

      Here is what I always post for those neighbors on NextDoor who post about their missing or escaped cat:

      Cats tend to rely far more on their hearing and their sense of smell rather than their sight. Also, if they have gotten outside, especially if they are not used to it, they will be scared and hide in a dark, hidden place. They generally do not respond to calls from their human either.

      So the best thing to do is to look for them using aids. One is a flashlight. Always have one with you, day or night, because you can use it to spot them under bushes or behind things. Their eyes are reflective so even if you can’t see their body, you will likely spot their eyes.

      It is good to out looking for your cat at various times, but especially in the early morning and in the evening when things are quieter than during the day. If you call them, make sure your tone is as calm as you can get it. If you sound scared that may add to their fear as well.

      Take their litter box, preferably uncleaned, and put it outside not too far away from your door. The idea is that the cat can smell its litter box, which will mean “home.” In addition, you should heat up a dish of the cat’s favorite wet food until it is very hot. You are not doing this to feed the cat but to let the scent of the hot food waft through the air so the cat can smell it. Next to the food put a small pile of your unwashed laundry (so it smells like you) or, if they have one, their well-used cat bed/blanket.

      Especially if you are using one or more of the items above (litter box, food, clothing), sit outside. Bring a book you enjoy, preferably a soothing one, and read aloud as you would to a child. Keep a calm, soothing tone of voice.

      One thing to always bear in mind is that cats can find and get in amazingly tiny places. Unless you saw your cat leave the house, assume the it is a possibility they are hiding inside. Check each drawer and each cabinet thoroughly, running your hand around, pulling stuff out. Go literally inch-by-inch from floor to ceiling, room-by-room. Miss nothing, even places you consider too high or too small.

      And be sure to check with your neighbors; ask to check their cars, sheds, garages, etc. because all provide dark places to hide from “scary” surroundings.

    13. Cat and dog fosterer*

      I’m involved in a lot of lost and found, and my few thoughts:
      Don’t put the litter outside, and if you put food out then only do it during the day. Both litter and overnight food can cause aggressive cats to want to be in the area and drive your cat further away. A lot of people say that the litterbox worked for them, but I don’t know if it actually helps – would the cat have come home anyway? – and I have heard from experienced trappers that it can cause problems. Clothing or other items that smell like you are a much better idea.
      Posters. This has worked more often than I would have expected. My neighbor commented about a cat with a weird look that had shown up at a friend’s place maybe 10 blocks from us, and my immediate reaction was gasp and run over to the post where someone had described their cat with that same feature. I took a photo of the poster, sent it to the neighbor, who then sent it to the friend, and the cat who was lost for weeks was home within an hour.
      If he’s chipped and your contact info is current then I wouldn’t worry about contacting all the shelters and vets. All our rescuers here have chip scanners ($50) and it’s the first thing we look for. If something pops up then I can guarantee you we are calling immediately, because it’s so much less work for us if a cat has a home!
      Traps only work if a cat is seen regularly but is too afraid to come back inside. Putting out a trap without sightings isn’t going to help, and they need to be monitored every 30 minutes or more because animals trapped will try to get out and can really hurt themselves. Trappers here prefer to watch them either by sitting in a car or setting a trail camera, or at most go every 15-20 minutes to check.

    14. fanciestcat*

      I’m a little late to post, but in case you see this, remember to look up into the trees. Cats are great at climbing up but not so good at climbing down so it’s a common way for them to go missing. Try shining a flashlight up there to see if their eyes reflect. Don’t hesitate to look up high, I follow people who rescue cats from trees on social media and they can get pretty far up there.

  11. Rise of Caesar*

    Has anyone had success transferring old home video tapes to DVD? I have several old tapes of home videos that my parents want me to figure out how to transfer to DVD (also digital files but mostly DVDs). They’re not full sized VHS tapes but the smaller tapes that actually fit in video cameras. I’d tried to do this several years ago but the cost of these services was so high. I’m hoping now that a few years have passed, the price might have relaxed now that it’s more of a common request. Any device to DIY or third party service anyone can recommend?

    1. Vio*

      If there’s any photography shops in your local area it’s worth talking to them. At least in my experience most of them have the training and equipment for videos as well as photographs, even if the services aren’t as prominently advertised. Failing that you can ask at libraries and schools as they will often have needed to use such services themselves and may be able to recommend somebody.

    2. Morning Reading*

      I did a bunch a few years ago at my library. Check around you might find one locally that has a maker space with what you need. And it’s free! (Well you need to bring the blank DVDs.)

    3. ProfPHer*

      Good suggestions as to finding local transfer services. To which I will add, it is NEVER wise to send original materials, whether video, audio, or photos, to the services that advertise (especially this time of year). Packages do get lost or damaged en route, and some of those services have poor reputations, in that they lose your originals or never return them.

      (Speaking from three decades of experience as a professional personal historian who’s heard too many tales of woe.)

    4. Anonymoose*

      I was looking for similar recently, and a friend found this site (I’ll post it in a reply). It’s about VHS tapes so not quite helpful, but they mention a company that Walmart and other big companies subcontract to, so that might be a place to look if you want a service.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Sorry if they don’t do more specialized types, but at least several companies and technology options are mentioned so it’s a place to consider options.

        Yes Video
        Big box stores like Walmart and Costco use this company for the digitization services that they advertise through their stores. Yes Video has been in business for 20 years; their prices for digitization start at $19.49 and come with either a DVD or USB and digital copies available through MemoryCloud for 60 days. Digital files are typically captured at 720×480. There is a two-hour limit on DVD transfer and no time limit on USB transfers. Yes Video provides customers with a prepaid UPS label for shipping their media and everything is tagged with a barcode once it arrives so customers can track their order through the digitization process.

    5. Jongst*

      Are they the 8mm cassette tapes? You can get adapters for fairly cheap. Just pop the cassette into one and it will play in a standard VHS player, which can be played through an Elgato media encoder that runs to your computer for capture. The adapters can be a little finicky, but if you find the right one, it makes copying a breeze. I had to create documentation for a local archive’s public memory kit and spent a LOT of time using them to figure out how they work.

      1. Annie*

        This may sound nitpicky, but precision matters here: 8mm tape to full-size VHS adapters are NOT a thing! It is very common for people to conflate VHS-C (which CAN be adapted to full-size VHS as you describe) with 8mm.
        What IS possible is to put the 8mm tape in something specifically designed to play 8mm tapes and then run the video and/or audio cables to another device (such as a regular VCR) to transfer that way.
        Link that explains more in simple English: https://www.lifewire.com/8mm-vhs-adapter-1845834

    6. Jongst*

      Didn’t finish my post before hitting submit (half a dozen people are talking around me and every time I try to move somewhere else, they all wander my way to talk around me again and I lose my train of thought).

      Best thing to do is find an old camera that records onto those tapes at Goodwill or a flea market. Then you can run it out directly to your computer to capture and the quality will be much better than using the VHS adapter. Especially those are the 8mm cassettes like digital 8. You might need to get some FireWire or similar older cable adapters and use the legacy drivers in Windows, but once you have the setup, it’s very easy to do all the tapes. The only annoying part is capture goes at the same pace as playback, so it can take a while. This is what I’ve been doing at home copying all my mom’s old videos.

      Make sure to capture to your computer’s hard drive rather than an external drive (can always move the file later if space is an issue) just because some capture software has a hard time handling external drives and can introduce playback glitches.

      Our big conversion kits had a laptop with pre installed software, VCR player, tape adapter, audio cassette deck, turntable, Elgato encoder, scanner with negative insert, and a mess of cables. We could do everything but 8mm and 16mm video and reel to reel audio, but if someone brought in an 8mm projector or reel-to-reel player, we had all the cables we needed and the encoder to transfer everything to digital. I did so many video captures, I could probably do it in my sleep now.

  12. Dark Macadamia*

    I need suggestions for recipes that are pretty low-effort but still feel like an actual meal and not something I threw together after giving up on making “real” food. Minimal prep time and brainpower required, vegetarian preferred but chicken is okay too, bonus if it’s something a picky child would eat and/or can justify the existence of my Instant Pot that I never use :)

    1. Revere your cat*

      I slightly adapted this from a meal kit!

      Easy cheese and bean tamale pie

      1 can beans, black or pinto
      1 clove garlic
      1 can tomatoes- diced, crushed or whole (cut up)
      1/4 cup cheese
      2/3 cup dry cornbread mix (I’ve been using one small box of jiffy mix)
      3 tsp Chili seasoning
      2 spring onions (or 3 tbsp onions)

      Sauté garlic and white parts of spring onions for a minute
      Add can of beans (rinsed) and can of tomatoes and chili seasoning, cook until liquid reduces a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

      Combine cornbread mix, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 T sugar to taste, then mix with 1/2 cup water, and 1 T oil

      Put bean mix into square baking pan (8×8) or you can use oven safe pan
      Pour cornbread mix on top
      Bake at 450 for 10 ish minutes

      Then change to broil for a minute or two

      Top with 1/4 cup cheese

      Serve with green spring onions, onions, salsa, etc

    2. Jay*

      Add chicken and rice with butter, salt, pepper, and a can of beans to your rice cooker and press the button.
      Congratulations! You’ve made chicken with rice and beans!
      Make it “fancy” with things like cilantro, or give the chicken a quick fry first.

    3. Alex*

      I’ve found the instant pot pasta dishes really easy and satisfying. They usually use some kind of protein, some kind of jarred sauce, some extra pizazz of some sort, and pasta. You can make the whole thing in the instant pot in a few minutes. Love it.

    4. Exile from Academia*

      I’m a big, big fan of The Sad Bastard Cookbook, which is available as a free PDF download and is entirely variations on low-to-no-effort vegetarian meals.

      If you’ve got a wee bit more time and effort, Smitten Kitchen’s Simple Eggplant Parmesan is huge payoff for minimal effort (just sub crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce for the whole canned). Chop one onion, slice two eggplant, tear up some basil, then simmer the tomato sauce while the eggplant roasts, layer everything in a baking dish and top with a bunch of cheese. It takes a while because of the baking steps, but only like 15 minutes of that is time you actually have to be in the kitchen doing stuff

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Relatedly I will recommend Smitten Kitchen’s Eggplant Involtini, and I replace the homemade tomato sauce with Rao’s.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Toss a bunch of veggies in olive oil and salt, spread them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet, and bake at 375° F ish until they are al dente, stirring once or twice. Try to bake wet veggies like mushrooms in a different pan from harder, drier veggies like broccoli. Serve over rice or another grain. If you want chicken, slice up a chicken breast, coat with olive oil, salt and a dried herb, and bake it in the same oven. Or bake up some salmon.

      I love soup. Maybe some people would find it fussy, but I don’t. I saute soup veggies like carrots, onions and celery, add seasonings and chicken thighs, and then put in whatever else I have around. My favorites are zucchini, canned white beans, fresh green beans, frozen peas/corn/limas/okra, and a bitter green such as arugula or escarole. I always have a pot of something in the fridge. It reheats well, I can add a starch if I want, and it’s endlessly adaptable by adding kimchi or other seasonings to an individual bowl.

      Vegan chili or turkey chili also reheat well and can be adapted with various toppings.

      Baked potato “bar” can use up leftover bits of veggies and cheeses, and feel like a real meal.

    6. Hot potato*

      Easy chicken & rice:
      Package of chicken pieces (I like thighs)
      2 cans Campbell’s chicken gumbo soup
      1 1/2 cups dry rice
      1 Chopped onion
      Whatever spices sound good (garlic powder, pepper, paprika)
      Scatter the rice in the bottom of a 13×9 pan (or similar), mix in the soup & chopped onion, and a cup of water. Place the chicken on top, cover and bake at 350 for an hour

    7. LA Girl*

      If you don’t mind using prepackaged foods, this is my family’s super easy go-to:

      1/2 bottle Kraft Catalina dressing (fat-free is fine)
      1/2 jar apricot preserves
      1 packet Lipton onion soup mix

      Mix them together, pour them over boneless chicken, bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes.

      Serve over rice. Even better as leftovers.

      This is even our standard potluck dish as it’s *so* easy and people love it. We call it Cheater’s Chicken because it feels like we’re cheating every time we serve it.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That exact sauce is also really good on meatballs in a crockpot or on thick-cut pork chops. (I got the recipe from my ex-husband and ate it the first time just to be nice because it sounded vile, but it was fantastic, and I’ve never heard it anywhere else. But that is not what he called it.)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        When we were first married a standard dish was Kraft Mac-n-Cheese with some vegetables and pepperoni added.

        Top Chef Canada did a QuickFire challenge with Kraft Mac-n-Cheese (I believe called “Kraft Dinner” in the great north) and the one French chef was mystified, while all of those who’d started off in Canada were like “Oh yeah, I ate a whole lot of this when I was in college, I’ve got this.”

      3. M&M Mom*

        After seeing this yesterday, I bought all of the ingredients and I’ll be making it for dinner tonight.

    8. Algernon*

      Rick Bayless’ quick pozole. You basically open a can of hominy, a can of red chile enchilada sauce, add chicken broth and cooked chicken. I bought a rotisserie chicken so the whole thing took 10 minutes. (He also suggests some garnishes but I didn’t bother.) Very nice on a cold day!


    9. OtterB*

      I really like the Chicken and Lentil Soup recipe from Skinnytaste. There’s a stovetop and an Instant Pot version; I fix the Instant Pot one. There’s very little prep, just chopping an onion and a couple of scallions and a tomato, and measuring out some spices to add to chicken thighs and water in the Instant Pot. Not sure how well it will suit a picky child, though.

    10. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Pasta with avocado pesto ticks most of these boxes for me (also approved by my best friend’s kid when he was starting out on solid food).

      For 2 people, I blitz all this in a blender until creamy:

      – 1 small / medium avocado, the riper the better
      – 1 small garlic clove
      – 30g pine nuts (toasted in a pan for a couple of minutes beforehand, you can probably skip this)
      – 4-5 large basil leaves, or several small ones
      – Olive oil and lemon juice to help the blending
      – Salt and pepper, to your taste

      Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, mix in the avocado pesto after draining, and serve :)

      1. JustForThis*

        This sounds lovely! I’ve learned that you can easily substitute pine nuts with e.g. almonds or walnuts if needed.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Yes! I imagine this recipe would work pretty well with walnuts. I’d also like to try it with pistachios when I’m next feeling adventurous. It’s a reliable favourite I’m resistant to changing, because the flavour always hits the spot.

    11. office hobbit*

      I got this super easy Indian lentils recipe from Chetna Makan’s youtube channel:
      -250g lentils (I think this works out to about 1.5C, I always tell myself I’ll remember and then I forget)
      -1 can coconut milk (14oz/400ml)
      -700ml water, which you can just measure out in the empty coconut milk can
      -1 tsp each of cumin, turmeric, and salt (I find this a bit mild so I would add more)

      That’s it!! Simmer until done and serve over rice.

      To make it a bit more, you can add fried onion or leek (the original recipe includes this), or add a few handfuls of spinach near the end, or add a can of tomatoes, or add a few shredded carrots. I’ve also tried using whole milk (cow) instead of coconut milk which worked but wasn’t as good.

      This usually lasts me around 5 full meals.

    12. Anono-me*

      I have a couple (And I’m stealing some new ones from here. This is a great question. ) of go to ‘It’s been a hard day” recipes.

      Chili Cornbread Hotdish

      1 can of your favorite chili
      1 cup of your favorite shredded cheese
      1 small box of cornbread mix (and whatever the mix calls for.)
      Optional: sour cream for garnish

      -Mix the cornbread as directed on the package and let it rest.
      -Lightly grease the sides of a high sided 9×9 (or there abouts) pan.
      -Spread the chili in the pan.
      -Sprinkle aprox. 2/3 of the cheese on the chili.
      -Spread the cornbread dough on top of the cheese and Chilli.
      – Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top of the cornbread.
      -Bake according to cornbread package directions.

      Pea soup in the slow cooker (Minimal prep time, but long cook time)


      Part 1
      – 1/2 bag of dried split peas
      – 1/2 onion cut into several pieces
      – 3 +carrots (I use 1/3 bag of baby carrots that I microwave for 3 min first because they take the longest.) pealled and cut into smaller pieces
      – 2-3 Bay leaves
      – 5 cups of water
      – 1-3 cloves minced garlic or equivalent

      Part 2
      – 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
      – 2 packages of bullion (I like the Jamon, but veggies is good also.)


      – Crockpot
      – Stick blender
      – Big Spoon
      – Measuring cup
      – knife and cutting board


      1.Rinse off and inspect the peas for foreign materials
      2. Dump everything in Part One in the crockpot.
      3. Cook on high for about 4 hours or until every thing is tender. (Usually the carrots take the longest, which is why I microwave them first.)
      4. Remove the bay leaves.
      5. Unplug and let cool until you won’t burn yourself with it.
      6. Puree with hand mixer until soup is smooth.
      7. Add Part Two ingredients
      8. Return to high heat for 30 to 45 minutes .
      Serve plain or add crackers, sour cream of diced deli bacon

      Shrimp Boil in Foil


      -Shrimp: 3-5 large per person (raw or precooked)
      -Sausages/brats precooked (chicken in this case): about 1/3-1/2 per person and cut into bite size pieces
      – Red or gold potatoes diced to bite sized: 1 medium per person (microwave to expedite)
      – Corn on the cob, shucked (at store) and cut into 3 or 4 pieces: 2 or 3 sections per person.
      – Onion sliced: 1 large onion per 10-12 people
      -Butter or margarine: 2 teaspoons per person
      – Old bay or similar seasoning


      -Big pieces of tin foil (1 per person)
      -Knife and cutting board
      Big flat spatula or big tongs

      -Optional Equipment

      -Extra large sheet pan with 1 inch sides.
      -Sharpie marker
      -Pie tin or similar shaped dish (one per person)


      1. Put all the some of each of ingredients in the middle of a big sheet of tinfoil vith variations to individual taste.
      2. Fold tinfoil over to cover. Then fold the edges in and up to seal. (The idea is not to have anything leaking out.)

      Optional steps
      2a. Label each packet with the sharpie.
      2b. Cook on large sheet pan to make transfers easier and keep any leaks contained.

      3. Bake in oven at 375 °F until every thing is cooked. (Time will vary depending on status of original ingredients, but probably atleast 30 minutes due to corn on the cob)

      Be careful when opening.

      Serve in pie tins or similar shaped large shallow dishes .

      Good pot roast (Minimum prep time but long cook time )

      There are lots of little steps that elevate a pot roast from good to great. But thy take time, so they are being skipped. )

      – Pot roast: 2-4 pounds
      – Potatos: red or yellow washed and cut into two inch dice)
      – Onion 1/2 cut into several chunks
      – Celery: 3-5 big ribs
      – Carrots 1/2 bag or baby carrots or 3 big carrots cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces.
      – Spices (savory)
      – liquid 1/2 cup: water, wine or beef broth

      knife and cutting board
      large roasting pan with lid or large cake pan and tinfoil


      1. Lay the celery across the pan.
      2. Lay the roast on the celery .
      3. Season to taste
      4. Add everything else around the roast.
      5. Cover snuggly.
      6. Bake in oven at 3:50° F for at least 3 1/2 hours.
      7. When done, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes or so.

      Soup with drop biscuits always feels fancy
      If you heat your favorite can of soup in a large saucepan with a lid, you can mix up some bisquik biscuit dough as directed. Then drop spoonfuls of dough into the hot soup and cover with the lid. (Check Bisquick box for cook times. )

    13. RussianInTexas*

      Lentils and beans, especially canned beans. There is WaPo recipe for “saucy lentils” I like a lot. And in general, lentils and canned beans just need some aromatics, some seasoning, and shimmer for a bit.
      Recipes From The Pantry had “how to cook canned pinto beans” which is a basic recipe, takes as long as for rice to cook, and bam, you get ready rice and beans. Top with pico, even store bought, and it’s a nice meal.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      One of my grown children observed that charcuterie boards are lunchables for grownups, and this can be a good way to put together a simple meal to eat while watching a show. It’s easy to add on some grapes, apple slices, baby carrots, etc.

      Last night I made something to use up the endive (“use up the stuff from Thanksgiving week” being my cooking theme just now) and because it looked insufficient I added the following:
      • Scoop of plain hummus, stir in several shakes of Everything Bagel seasoning, more seasoning on top. Some raw vegetables.
      • A hunk of good cheese and a handful of crackers.

      If the picky child is literal, do not underestimate the appeal of cutting the crusts off the peanut butter and jelly and cutting the sandwich into long strips, or other nontypical shape.

    15. BlueWolf*

      Recipe from NYTimes that I’ve enjoyed. You could make it even lower-prep by using ginger paste, jarred garlic, cilantro paste, and frozen greens.
      2tablespoons neutral or olive oil
      1(3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
      2pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
      Kosher salt
      3large garlic cloves, minced or grated
      2cups jasmine rice, rinsed with cold water
      3cups low-sodium chicken broth or water, at room temperature
      ¾pound quick-cooking greens, such as chard, kale or spinach, leaves removed from thick stems, if needed, and cut or torn into bite-size pieces (about 4 packed cups)
      2tablespoons soy sauce, plus more as needed
      2limes, 1 juiced (about 1 tablespoon juice) and 1 cut into wedges
      2scallions (optional), sliced
      ¼packed cup cilantro leaves and tender stems (optional), roughly torn or chopped
      Step 1
      In a large Dutch oven or pot with a lid, heat the oil and ginger slices over medium-high until the oil around the ginger starts to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Season the chicken with salt, then push the ginger to the side. Add the chicken to the pan and let cook, undisturbed, until the chicken starts to brown and easily releases from the pan, 5 to 7 minutes. (It’s OK if the pieces of chicken don’t all have color, as it will be crowded.) Stir in the garlic and rice, flipping over the chicken, and cook until the rice is coated with oil and starts to sizzle, about 1 minute.
      Step 2
      Add the stock or water, then raise the heat to high to bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up anything on the bottom of the pot. Cover and immediately lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until most of the water has been absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. During the last 8 minutes, stir to make sure nothing is sticking on the bottom, then layer the greens on top, cover and finish cooking.
      Step 3
      Remove from the heat, stir in the soy sauce and juice of 1 lime. Fluff the rice and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Serve as is, or pull the chicken apart into bite-size pieces. Season to taste with salt, the lime wedges and more soy as needed or serve at the table. Top with the scallions and cilantro, if using.

    16. Chaordic One*

      This isn’t what you asked, but my advice is to avoid anything that has the word “dump” in name. Because that’s usually where it should go and because it inevitably will look like something that you threw together after giving up on making “real” food.

      1. Hot Potato*

        I agree. I once made an easy enchilada recipe using a package of frozen taquitos, pre-shredded Mexican cheese blend and a jar of enchilada sauce. It was easy but our bodies didn’t register it as food. We were full but shaky & felt undernourished.

    17. Phryne*

      From the Hairy Dieters cookbooks (if you are unfamiliar with the Hairy Bikers I suggest looking then up, best commission of good TV and good cooking):

      chicken (I prefer organic boneless thigh, other boneless cuts work too)
      bell peppers, red and yellow
      salsa in jar
      creme fraiche
      and a spice mix:
      5 tsp ground cumin
      4 tsp smoked paprika
      2 tsp dried thyme
      2 tsp dried oregano
      2 tsp coursely ground black pepper
      1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
      1 tsp flaked sea salt

      (this makes a lot of this mix, I make a batch of it every now and then. You can start with smaller amounts to try first)

      Cut chicken in random chunks vaguely resembling strips
      chop peppers into strips lengthwise, again, minimal effort is required, every size strip is a good size
      chop onions in 6 wedges
      Heat pan with oil of choice, fry chicken on high heat, when seared toss in some spice mix and fry until chicken is cooked. Put chicken on a plate.
      Put a dash more oil in still hot pan, toss in peppers and onions, fry on high heat. Add in some more spices. When veggies are very hot and starting to char, put in a small amount of water. The water will evaporate and steam the veggies and loosen the tasty spice residue from the bottom of the pan. When the water is gone, put chicken back in and reheat.
      Warm up wrap, smear some crème fraiche on it, put veggie chicken mix and salsa on and wrap. If you want to be fancy, some little gem lettuce gives a nice crunch but I’m generally too lazy. You can keep the chicken veggie mix in the fridge and reheat the next day if you have leftovers.

    18. Anonymous Koala*

      I love this question! Bibimbap is one of my go tos: the sauce is 1/4 cup gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, I buy mine from trader joes), 1 tbsp honey, 2 tsp vinegar, and 2 tbsp sesame oil all stirred together. Then I make a rice bowl with whatever rice/veggies/cooked protein I have in the fridge (raw veg, roasted veg, microwave-steam-in-the-bag veg, frozen chicken strips, leftover salmon – it all works) and top it with the sauce and a fried egg. This is also a great picky eater meal because everyone can choose their own toppings.

      Fajitas are another quick easy meal – I make a fajita spice mix with equal parts onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, chile powder, salt, and brown sugar. Then I pound chicken thighs or breasts until they’re 1 inch thick, rub them with the seasoning and bake at 400 for 15-20 min. Peppers and onions get tossed with the same mix and baked for 20-30 min. Then I serve with store bought tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and canned refried beans microwaved with cheese on top.

    19. carcinization*

      Going into my usual mode of recommending the Budget Bytes website! They have a bunch of recipes like that so I’m not sure what to recommend! I am going to make the Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls for dinner tomorrow and that is a really simple one (even though I cook the bell pepper and green onions so I make it a little more complicated). Another one that I couldn’t believe how good it was since it was so easy was the Chicken in Peanut Sauce, but there are so many other good recipes there depending on what you are into.

    20. Phryne*

      Making your own pasta sauce takes a bit of time, but it is really easy and you can freeze it in portions and it is way nicer (and probably healthier) than pre made.
      Chop some onions and fry them in olive oil on very low heat for about 15 mins till they are soft and fragrant. Put in some chopped or squeezed garlic and a tin of chopped tomatoes (or a tin of whole tomatoes if that is what you have and bash them with a spoon for a bit). Add three or four bay leaves, a small cup of water, salt and pepper to taste. You can add a teaspoon of sugar if you don’t like the acidity of the tomatoes, personally I prefer it without.
      Leave to stew for about 30-40 mins with a lid on, stir every now and then. If it gets too thick, add a splash af of water. If it stays to thin, take the lid off.
      Then fish out the bay leaves and puree the sauce. Freeze in portions.
      All you need to do is add a veg (I usually use some mushrooms or zucchini) and boil some pasta to have a meal.

    21. Christmas Cookie*

      This is all I do.

      If you like Indian food, google “instapot butter chicken lady.” This is excellent. Add frozen naan from Trader Joe’s.

      “Salsa dump chicken”: jar of salsa, half a bag of frozen corn, can of black beans (rinsed). Put in crock pot for the day. Consume.

      Chili with frozen veg

      Stir fry rice: scramble eggs. Remove from pan. Add butter. Add garlic and precut and frozen onions. Cook. Add frozen peas and carrots. When cooked, scootch veggies over and add more butter. Add in leftover white rice. Add soy sauce. Add seams oil. Add eggs back in. Consume. Can add previously cooked shredded chicken or other protein.

    22. DannyG*

      My local grocery store has frozen, fully cooked, chicken meatballs. I will place a single layer in a shallow casserole dish add canned or jarred spaghetti sauce, some frozen diced onions & bell peppers, and canned mushrooms. Bake for about an hour if frozen. With about 15 minutes left top with mozzarella.

    23. Throwaway Account*

      We make an Instant Pot Vegan Burrito Bowl almost every week. Link in reply.

      I modify it sometimes and add different things. If I make a big batch (doubled), I don’t add the corn, beans, and salsa till after it cooks.

  13. Knit 1, Chaos 2*

    This feels like such a silly disagreement but it’s become grating. My dear friend and roommate Sasha is a knitter/crocheter. Back when she first started at least five years ago, when she was still getting the hang of the craft, she made me a shawl. It was very sweet of her to make it for me and I get wanting a simple shape to practice on when you’re just starting out (I’m also a crafty person in other medias and I’m well aware of gifting beginner projects that aren’t very good). But honestly, it’s not something I would ever wear. It’s a dark brown color that I would never wear and, though it’s a shawl from Sasha’s own words, it barely covers my shoulders, it’s pretty small and thin. In other words, it’s not the kind of thing I would ever pick for myself.

    I still have it but I’ve never worn it. Sasha has made passing comments in the time we’ve lived together, since she very clearly sees what I wear every day, but I never thought much of it.

    Now this holiday season, a mutual friend of ours (who has been knitting for like 12 years, so her stuff is very well made) is knitting me a hat as a Christmas gift. It is one where I have picked out the design and bought the yarn myself and the friend’s labor will be her gift to me. Because it’s something I’ve picked out for myself and know I will wear, I’m very happy excited about it. When I’ve talked about the hat, Sasha would say something about the shawl she made that I’ve never worn. I worry she’ll continue to make comment when I get the hat and she sees me wearing it. Now that Sasha has come very far in her knitting/crocheting that her projects have vastly improved from the past, I compliment her on them when she’s working on them in the house and she just remarks about the shawl.

    Probably the easiest thing to do is to pick a day and wear the darn shawl to get her comments to calm down but it’s very difficult when the color clashes with everything I own and the small size doesn’t even fit the purpose of a shawl for around the shoulders (it could fit around my head but I don’t like shawls wrapped around my head). What I’d love to say to her is “I appreciate the effort of your beginner’s project from years ago but I’ll never wear it” but Sasha would not accept that. What should I do?

      1. Not A Manager*

        I second this. Wear it a few times under your coat. You can even literally take it off after you leave the house. If it’s that small it will probably fit in your bag. This sounds like it’s maybe become a bit of a power struggle. Sometimes the best way to “win” a power struggle is to concede.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, I’m honestly a bit surprised by the comments. Like, she’s your friend, why not just talk to her? Sure, there are unreasonable people who will explode, but normally I’d expect a good friend to be ok with that. And then re-gift it (maybe for a child if it’s really small?) or donate it or whatever. Or just keep it as a treasured memory that you don’t actually wear. That’s ok too!
        And yeah, do tell her that you think her knitting is amazing now and you’d be more than happy to receive a different gift from her at some point in the future (maybe with some input from you on colours etc…)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          To be fair, someone who has spent five years going on about how “you never use that whatsis I made you” – even just occasionally – is already slightly lacking in the reasonable department. I don’t even remember most of what I made people in the last five years.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I mean, does she have to accept it? I know it’s awkward but it sounds like she might not have even made it FOR you, just… made it and then gave it? And it becomes a much less gracious gift when she’s made it uncomfortable for YEARS.

      “I love that you made it but it’s not a color I usually wear and it’s too small. Of course I would like to wear it!” Maybe also “I wish you would trust that I appreciate the work and thought that went into it” and/or “Please don’t make me feel bad for enjoying a pattern/color that I chose for myself”

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Instead of wearing it, could you maybe lay it on a shelf or hang it up on a wall and use it as a sort of backdrop for some well loved knickknacks? (Also, you know this but — as a knitter and crocheter of many moons- she’s being patently ridiculous. Once the gift is given, let it the eff go.)

    3. Sloanicota*

      Well, I’d probably stop enthusing to Sasha about my new hat. I do really like the suggestion to use it as a table cloth or a doily somewhere, and then if she mentions you not wearing it you can say you really like it where it is and it was always a bit small for you. She should be able to hear this as an adult and it’s not really your fault if she struggles with it, but at least it may answer the question in her mind of why it’s not working for you.

    4. Tea and Sympathy*

      Has Sasha seen the shawl recently? If not, she probably just remembers making it and doesn’t realize that it looks like a beginner effort. Can you wear it sometime when you’re out with her and let her see for herself that it’s too small and clashes with your wardrobe?

      I’m a quilter and made baby blankets for all my nieces and nephews. My one sister carefully saved hers to give to the niece/nephew when they had their first child. A few years ago I saw the first one I had made, for my oldest nephew. Yikes! It’s a cute design, but… I told her that if/when he has a child she is to give the quilt back to me first so I can fix it. Lol But as a new quilter I had been pleased with it, and that’s how I had remembered it.

      1. Knit 1, Chaos 2*

        I’ve been wondering that, if she forgets how small it is. The weather turned cold recently and she again made a comment that the shawl she made me could keep me warm. No it definitely couldn’t, it’s far too small! Maybe I could try for a scarf around my neck but I’d really have to stretch it.

        1. Chicago Anon*

          Could you get it out and ask her for suggestions on how to make it bigger?

          I like the suggestion to use it in decorating, too.

          1. AnonyOne*

            I would caution against this – it quite possibly could be made bigger by picking up stitches and adding on extra knitting that way, but the original shawl would still make up a significant part of it (and remain a colour that does not work for Knit 1, Chaos 2)

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          Could you use it as a lap blanket instead, or would she be mortally offended by that?

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          So – what do you say when she says “that shawl I made you could keep you warm”? Because that’s kind of your chance right there to go “mm, maybe you’re misremembering, it’s actually pretty small, which is part of why I don’t have much occasion to use it. See?” I’ll bet you a dollar that in her head she’s remembering it as a big full-sized thing.

    5. Magdalena*

      If you have not worn it once, then I’d honestly just wear it once for an outing with her, and do it graciously. It would be a loving gesture. And then not wear it again.

      1. tell*

        Exactly. It was a thoughtful of her to do, so just wear it with pride every once in a while, keeping in mind that except she, no one will notice or remember what you’re wearing – absolutely no one – and retire it later to a different, non-clothing purpose.

        1. Observer*

          It was a thoughtful of her to do,

          I’m going to disagree with this. Thoughtful would have been to at least make sure that you got someone a color they actually wear.

          so just wear it with pride every once in a while

          Why? The problem here is not that someone else might thinks things about it. But that the OP never really liked it, it’s not a functional item for them and it doesn’t actually have been made with them in mind.

          1. Astoria*

            I agree. Especially since it’s a color the OP doesn’t wear or like.

            If someone I saw frequently wore an unflattering color that they don’t usually wear, I would silently notice. Politeness would keep me from commenting.

            Just say, “I appreciate your effort, but I just don’t wear brown.”

      1. Sloanicota*

        This one is an interesting option for me, as someone who has been on both sides of awkward gift-giving and receiving. On one hand, realizing a past handmade gift Made Things Weird is my cue to *not* make anything else for that person; sometimes gifts just have too much emotion (which I could totally see for BFF roommates who see each other every day) and it’s time for scented bath sets / food gifts to take the emotion waayy down. Plus, if I was hurt by lack of appreciation of the past gift, a request to make another, better one might land flat for me. On the other hand maybe this would really help her see it’s just the specifics of the first shawl and not a rejection of her act of love. Hmm.

    6. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Can you wear it around your neck, pinned together with a brooch? Then she will see it and you can take it off and say “Is it smaller than you remember? It was so kind of you to give me one of your first creations…”
      Perhaps she will decide to enlarge it for you!
      It does sound as if her recollection of it has changed significantly in the remembering.
      You could maybe ask her to make you another one (in a colour you would wear!)
      A dear friend once made me a top and skirt from a simple pattern, she was so excited for me to try it on, but I knew immediately it would not fit. She was insistent and then we were both really embarrassed. It was not a stretchy material, and I have no recollection of how I got the top off, mercifully have blanked that out…

    7. Still*

      I’m tired just reading about the shawl and all the (well-intentioned) suggestions about how to utilise it. I suspect Sasha will never be happy unless she can see that you use it often and enthusiastically, and that’s just not something that’s going to happen. Honestly, at this point I’d just give it back.

      “I really appreciate that you thought of me and gave me this shawl, I know you’ve put a lot of work into it. The truth is, it just doesn’t fit my style and I’m never going to use it. It makes me feel sad and guilty when you bring up that I don’t wear it. I love you and I don’t want to disappoint you, the shawl really just doesn’t mesh with my wardrobe. It’s clearly being wasted on me so how about I give it back to you and you can gift it to someone who will truly love it?”

      If she doesn’t take it back, tell her you’re donating it to charity. Get the damn thing out of your house so she can stop pressuring you to wear it.

      Oh how I hate gifts that come with strings attached!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Yes, there is a ton of gifts I’ve received that I would never use or wear because they aren’t what I want or need. I get rid of most of them, regardless of how much “heart” was poured in to finding or making them. A friend always mentioning their gift would get annoying fast, and I would distance myself from them.
        It’s a gift. Once given, the receiver can do or not do whatever they want with it.

      2. kt*

        The sweetest thing my mom did when she was first knitting and knit me a scarf is see, when I got it, that the color wasn’t one I liked — and she just grabbed it back & swapped it with the other one she made that was more my color. I still remember that, and that is the gift!

      3. captain5xa*

        “I hate gifts that come with strings attached!” OMG!! THIS!!!

        I do needlework. I sometimes gift projects if I think the recipient might like / use it. My rule is that once the item is literally out of my hands, I cease to care about it. The fun for me was in the creating of it.

        I once spent several months stitching a dragon for a nephew. I let him pick one of several patterns and then stitched, framed, and sent it to him. (It was a very fun stitch!) He was 11 when I made it and it still hangs on his wall.

        At my last visit, I told him, “You know, “Z”, you don’t have to keep that dragon forever. If you want to rip it out of the frame and use it for a handkerchief and use the frame for something else, that’s fine. If you want to sell the whole thing on Etsy for money, that’s fine, too. It’s okay to change what you like or don’t like or change what you want hanging in your room.”

        He still likes it but when I mentioned selling it, my budding entrepreneur got a bit of a gleam in his eye.


        1. Zephy*

          [bad joke]
          Actually, I think you’ll find that both needlework and crochet involve attaching quite a lot of strings.
          [/bad joke]

        2. AGD*

          This. I overtly tell people that they can do whatever the heck they want with handmade stuff I produce. All that knitting time was just to keep my hands busy, not to make something that needed to be treated like a museum piece. And I don’t want anyone feeling guilty or weird about using (or overusing, or donating, or throwing out) any of it.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            And it goes the other way too — I once donated a really intricate lace shawl that I had made, about 120 hours worth of work (and $16 worth of yarn), to a silent auction fundraiser. It was a really nice piece, I had just made it as a keeping-my-hands-busy project and didn’t have any particular use for it. It sold for $25. The following year, they asked me if I would knit another shawl for that year’s event. I said “Here’s the deal — that shawl took me over 100 hours to knit, and you guys got $25 out of it. How about if, instead of knitting a thing, we find some other way that I can contribute to the event, in a manner that will take way less of my time and net you way more benefit?” And they allowed as how that made sense, they hadn’t thought about it that way, and that is how I ended up on the wine tasting and silent auction planning committee. :P

      4. tell*

        “I’m tired just reading about the shawl and all the (well-intentioned) suggestions about how to utilise it.”

        But that’s what the LW was looking for, i.e. suggestions, for example, for re-purposing. Not sure what the other commenters are doing wrong here.

        1. the Viking Diva*

          I read this not as criticism but as an effort to empathize – it has indeed been a tedious thing for OP to deal with for so long.

        2. Still*

          I didn’t mean to say that anyone is doing anything wrong (other than Sasha making a big deal about the shawl). I’m saying that no gift should require the recipient to put this much thought into what’s the least inconvenient way to placate the huffy gift-giver.

        3. Indolent Libertine*

          The original comment about the shawl was quite clear IMO that it was something they would not use or enjoy using; color they don’t like, size not suited to the thing’s stated purpose. I think the reply you’re reacting to was expressing some exasperation at the commenters who kept suggesting ways for the shawl recipient to use something they had already clarified that they didn’t want to use.

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      Maybe if you wore it a few times in front of her, she would see how small it is and how the color clashes with your clothes?

      1. Observer*

        Why bother?

        Better to just kindly tell her that it’s not actually something they can use in the intended manner.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      These are basically the reasons I don’t love receiving handmade gifts (I, myself, don’t craft at all, so I can only speak from the receiving point of view).
      There are to many emotions attached to then. A lot of times they aren’t good, a blanket from Home Goods would be much nicer than a half baked one from you cousin, but you have to grin and bear and “treasure”, even if you don’t like it. And so many crafters really make these things for themselves, to show off what they can do, and not really for the person they are gifting the thing to.
      Call me materialistic, but I don’t care you spent hours making this and thinking of me if it’s crap and or like like nothing I would wear or use. It’s a bad gift in that case. You weren’t actually thinking of me, because then you would know what I like.
      *you can tell I am jaded about gifts and don’t like the whole system in general

      1. tell*

        I find it so touching when people think I will like something when privately I don’t; it’s actually quite sweet that they try so hard. Also, yes, while some gift-giving is done without regard, I disagree that people generally make their gift-giving about themselves. They’re just misinterpreting what they think I will like, and that certainly is not the crime it’s sometimes made out to be. As such, the best gift for me is their genuine eagerness at my opening the gift, truly believing I will adore it. It’s an unmatched little joy in life for both of us, in a world filled with petulant self-absorption. As I gaze at my surroundings while writing this, I see the many objects I would not have chosen for myself aesthetically but nevertheless remind me of the love, kindness, and consideration I am fortunate to have around. That’s where the real beauty is.

        Perspective really is everything.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Oh, I HATE opening gifts in front of people, and find people opening gifts in from of givers awkward in general. Because there is a high chance they won’t think I am enthusiastic enough, not appreciative enough, grateful enough, etc. A polite “thank you” is not enough for many people. I am not enthusiastic or eager about gifts. I don’t like them more often than I do. I am picky, and difficult to get gifts for, so I prefer you just get me someone off my wish list if you insist on gift exchange.
          I also really don’t like giving gifts either because I never know what to give to people. I have never once had a situation of seeing something and thinking “such and such would like it”. My brain does not work this way.
          At least there is no gift giving in my circle of friends, not for birthdays, not for Christmas, not for any occasions. As of now, not just the immediate family, and it gotten downgraded a lot. Fancy tea for everyone.

          1. tell*

            Yeah, different strokes. Perhaps my post is better-suited for the Little Joys thread, as my neighbor gave me a fruitcake the other day, which I don’t like, but she was having so much fun, I just accepted it joyfully and thanked her. Then we went in for coffee and fruitcake, and had a great time (she just rescued an older dog). No way was I going to ruin such a wonderful vibe by focusing on “But I don’t like fruitcake!” Just not how my brain works.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        My sister is always sending me crafty stuff she’s made, and sometimes it works out (funny tee shirts we wear to bed) and sometimes it goes in the donation bin (some deeply deeply weird and clonky candlesticks.)

        Luckily she lives across the country so I don’t have to deal with the whole “where’s the X I made you?” too much, and I’ve told her look, it’s a one bedroom apartment, we have limited space.

    10. WellRed*

      Just tell her it’s too small! I realize she’s being passive aggressive and unreasonable but it’s a too small! It doesn’t matter that you don’t like the color etc. we can’t be expected to wear stuff that doesn’t fit.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yes, she might be upset but she’s already upset! At least let her be upset for the correct reason and not because she thinks you don’t appreciate it or like the hat-making friend better or whatever this has come to mean for her.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      There are a few options: 1) Don’t talk about your other friend’s gift in front of her, treat it like a party she’s not invited to. She can’t share in the excitement. If she happens to raise it, I would just say “Well I really needed an x, a specific type of x, which I picked out for friend to make” and leave it at that. 2) Respond to the comments truthfully, maybe with a softener attached “I thought it would be good for winter warmth too, but when I got it out the other day, it’s too small. I still like it as a keepsake” or “I thought it would go well with my usual jacket, but the colour clashes. Maybe when I buy a new jacket.” 3) Grey rock the comments and just respond agreeably without getting into it. “No, I don’t think I have worn it yet”, “Huh, maybe it will keep me warm”, “Good idea, it was a very thoughtful gift”, “Ill see if goes with the outfit I’m wearing this weekend (spoiler it won’t) or “Ill see which is warmer; the shawl or my blanket scarf (another spoiler..)

      1. allathian*

        Another option is to simply offer to give it back the next time she asks for it. “This doesn’t go with my wardrobe and it’s too small to be useful. Please don’t ask me to wear it again, I’m done talking about this. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in making it for me, but you’re making it difficult for me to be your friend by harping on the subject.”

        Soundi like it’s time to pull back from this friendship. And find another roommate.

    12. Samwise*

      Find a way to get over your dislike of the color size and style and wear the damn gift from your friend. Seriously. How does it hurt you to be kind to your friend once in a while by wearing her gift to you?

    13. Dancing Otter*

      Blocking knits can sometimes make a dramatic difference in the size. I knit a lace shawl that, straight off the needles, would fit in the average coat pocket. It blocked out to a six-foot-plus wingspan. Get the thing damp, and see how much you can stretch it out. I recommend drying it on a layer of towels. You’ll need to pin it, so it doesn’t just scrunch up again.
      It’s entirely possible that as a beginner, Sasha didn’t know the importance of blocking , and this will make the shawl more wearable. At least, making this effort will show that you would *like* to use her shawl.

      Or just wear it under your coat collar a few times, making sure she sees, then be Very Sad when you lose it on public transit.

  14. Typing All The Time*

    Wondering if there’s still a market for selling things to get rid of them. I have some books, CDs, and other bits and pieces that I’m discarding but want to make a few dollars.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Half Price Books will buy books (usually not for much, but better than nothing), Disc Replay buys CDs and games.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Just remember: if they’re selling it at half price, they will never offer you more than one-quarter price, if they buy it all all. I’ve brought in boxes and boxes and left with enough for a happy meal.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yes, I did say not for much – 50c or a dollar even. But it can feel good to get a few bucks instead of absolutely nothing.

    2. Knit 1, Chaos 2*

      It’s not cash but if you want credits towards different media, I’ve been doing PaperbackSwap, Swap-A-DVD, and Swap-A-CD for years. You give away a book/CD/DVD, get a credit, and then Use that credit to get something else.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      See if you have a second-hand bookstore around. Someone mentioned Half Price Books, the chain nearest me is 2nd & Charles, and both of those will pay (cash or store credit iirc) for used media. You could also try eBay or Facebook marketplace. You could list individually or as a bundle. Some folks just really like physical media still, and some people use that stuff for crafting etc.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      There are certainly still used book and/or music stores around that by from people off the street. Typically only certain people, e.g. the owner, do the buying. Call ahead to find out when that person will be there. Be prepared for them to only accept some, and for the price to be unimpressive. Once you have sold that which is salable, many libraries accept donations for period book sales.

    5. AnonRN*

      I’ve sold used textbooks on Amazon. The process to become a seller has a few steps but wasn’t too difficult. I didn’t care about getting top dollar for my books, so I usually priced them a little under other sellers and they sold quickly (convenient because then I didn’t have it hanging over my head…when someone buys an item you need to be prepared to ship it quickly). Novels and the like might not be worth your effort (since a used paperback novel probably sells for $7, by the time Amazon takes a cut and you go to the post office to mail it you’re not making much!) but if your post office is nearby or your carrier can pick up packages at your location, even a couple bucks are better than none.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes, but unless we’re talking first editions or rare stuff, it’s a few dollars.

      I’ve sold tons of stuff at Half Price Books over the years, and see it more as a way to keep stuff moving to new owners and out of landfills (Same for DVDs) and not a way to make a lot of cash. I’ve gotten sixty, seventy dollars sometimes, but that was exceptional and for a LOT of stuff.

      Also, keep in mind it’s not “show up, get handed money.” The staff has to go through it and see what they can sell and what they can’t–usually it’s a drop off the load and come back several hours later or the next day for their offer.

  15. Won’t see another one*

    RIP Shane McGowan. I’d have Fairytale of New York in regular rotation anyway this time of year but now it’s just going in repeat for a while until I get it out of my system.

    1. Still*

      Fairytale of New York is one of those songs that just immediately transport you and make you feel a very particular way.

    2. Bluebell*

      Watching videos of Fairytale of New York also made me miss Kirsty McColl. Gone way way way too soon.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, it’s really a shame that (in comparison with other music stars who died way too young), people don’t pay much attention to Kirsty Maccoll’s music nowadays. She was such a brilliant, hilarious and totally unsentimental writer and performer. (A good starting point for anyone interested in discovering her music is her album “Kite”.)
        She and Shane McGowan were a really brilliant combination on Fairytale of New York. RIP to them both.

        1. Glass watch*

          So nice to see any mention of Kirsty MacColl. I was lying awake only the other night, thinking “People don’t appreciate or know about Kirsty MacColl enough!” I think about this surprisingly often!
          I had a ball recently listening to some of her album Tropical Brainstorm.

    3. WFH FTW*

      Have been doing same at my house, singing along to his music and raising a few glasses in honor.

    4. SG*

      The post that Tom Waits wrote on facebook is really beautiful — a very brief but poignant elegy. The accompanying photo is also very striking and moving. I recommend looking it up!

  16. Annie Edison*

    Audio book suggestions for a roadtrip? I’ll be driving about 3 hours each way on Sat and Sun. Looking for something warm, cozy, and engaging. I’m open to podcasts too, but my life has been pretty stressful lately so I don’t want to have to think too hard

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Saint of Steel series by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon.) She refers to them as her “fluffy romances”, but don’t let that put you off if you’re not into romance novels, they aren’t.

    2. Magdalena*

      I love The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Cozy and warm and just the right amount (and kind) of excitement. And the audiobook is excellent.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Some of my favorite audiobooks this year were Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches and What If It’s Us, both cute wholesome rom-com type stories. I also really liked Nothing to See Here on audio, which is a sort of unusual found family one.

      If you’re a fan of The Good Place, the audio version of How to Be Perfect is really fun but like… it’s still a philosophy book, so maybe too much thinking.

    4. Professor Plum*

      I really enjoyed the audio version of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (Westley). This behind-the-scenes book is read by Cary with guest appearances from others involved in the movie. It’s inconceivably good!

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Oh yes! This is a wonderful read and an even better listen because the actors in the movie make appearances in the audiobook.

    5. Bluebell*

      I’m a fan of the comedian Trae Crowder and he has just come out with a book called Round Here and Over Yonder which is a travelogue. I’m reading it on paper and it’s very funny, but it’s probably even better as an audiobook. I have two favorite new funny podcasts one is Family Trips with the Meyers Brothers hosted by Seth Meyers and his brother Josh Meyers. They talk to different guests about their family trips when they were kids, and what they do now for trips. Amy Poehler just came out with Say More, in which she is a couples therapist and the half hour episodes have different actors doing improv as patients.

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      We listen to Elaine Stritch reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on our holiday road trip every year. It’s hilarious and heartwarming.
      This year I also enjoyed: Thank You For Listening and the Audible full cast recording of Good Omens.

    7. Pharmgirl*

      I really loved the Thursday Murder Club audiobooks, and I believe the 4th one has just come out.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Truly, it is hard to beat The Phantom Tollbooth for a roadtrip, even if there are no children in the car.

      I also like Carl Hiassan for road trips, especially his juveniles. (So you don’t have that weird thing where the narrator is describing a sex scene while you think “Hey now! Our relationship is not close enough for this!”) Hoot, Flush, Scat, and Chomp.

      1. Old and Don’t Care*

        I was thinking about a juvenile Hiassen book for my 13 year old nephew…is there one you’d recommend?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I have a particular fondness for Hoot because of the adorable tiny owls. Chomp takes a look at animal wrangling for TV and film, which is neat to learn more about.

          For something different I’ll recommend Illuminae, which is told as interviews with a couple of teenagers who break up just before their planet is invaded and they flee on different spaceships. Great in the riproaring adventure sense, as things keep going wrong.

    9. GoryDetails*

      Becky Chambers’ “Monk and Robot” books might do – I loved reading them, but haven’t listened to the audiobooks, so do check to see if the narrator works for you before committing.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        So much love for Monk and Robot, along with all of Becky Chambers.

        Now join me in my mantra: I can’t run away and become a tea monk. I can’t run away and become a tea monk. I can’t run away and become a tea monk.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        For what it’s worth, I’ve listened to those audiobooks, and don’t recall narrator issues with Monk & Robot, although I am not very picky. I don’t re,member anything in particular narrator-wise, and 5-starred them when I was done reading them, so the narrator wasn’t actively annoying to the point I didn’t leave a review, anyway. (On the other hand I dislike the narration of the Wayfarers books – it seemed like the narrator didn’t know how to pronounce some real-world words and decided to wing it rather than looking them up in the first book, and there were some distractingly audible breaths in poorly-timed places in the 4th book.)

    10. Which Katie*

      This is my first ever comment because I’m THAT stoked about my recommendation. (Which, full disclosure may be of no interest to you – it doesn’t really fit your “warm” and “cozy” requests).
      That said. “Murder on Sex Island” is an outrageously hilarious parody of reality TV and true crime and it’s some of the smartest comedy writing I’ve ever consumed. It was written by Jo Firestone, a TV comedy writer, during the writer’s strike. She also narrates the book.
      I recommended it to my sister who is very picky, and regularly got texts referencing funny bits.

      1. Annie Edison*

        OK this actually sounds delightful and right up my alley. Will definitely put this one on my to read list

    11. karstmama*

      Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. Or Starter Villain, also Scalzi. They are both modern day set mild sci-fi.

    12. Jay*

      -Just about anything by Terry Pratchett, although it sounds like you might want something in the Witches series, which are often take-offs of Fairytales.
      -Jeremy Robinson is fun, although not generally warm and fluffy. I especially like his Kaiju Thrillers (the Nemesis series, soon to be one of those really high-budget Streaming series!).
      -Patrick McManus’ books. Mostly short articles, they are fun, funny, and I can best describe them as “Huck Fin by way of A Christmas Story”.
      -Dave Barry. If you’ve somehow never heard of him, think of him as Florida Man’s unofficial official biographer.
      -The Beef And Dairy Podcast, which is a podcast set in the format of a trade podcast for the beef and dairy industry of Great Britain. It’s full of bizarre, sometimes otherworldly, things reported completely strait, in a classic “Farm Report”/NPR style. It’s just hilarious.

    13. Phryne*

      The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer is the cosiest fluffiest feel good book I have read in a long time. Like a warm bath with hot chocolate on the side.

    14. Girasol*

      I like books, especially young adult books, that are read by a cast. The variation in voices helps keep me awake on long drives. So The Golden Compass, or anything Redwall, or Neil Gaiman’s odd The Graveyard Book.

    15. Chapeau*

      It’s a six-book series, totaling 60-65 hours I believe, but the Land of Stories by Chris Colfer (from Glee!) are amazing. The author does the reading, and uses voices for each character. I can tell who is speaking just from the voice.
      They’re about fairy tales, as in the fairy tale world is an alternate dimension to our world (aka “the other world”).
      They’re YA and have some violence, but my 9 year old wasn’t fazed in the least when she read the books. I read the first two, but I’m doing the audio books now because I don’t have time to read and knit separately.

  17. Magdalena*

    I love The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Cozy and warm and just the right amount (and kind) of excitement. And the audiobook is excellent.

  18. Windward*

    I was watching The Lucy Show (the show Lucille Ball did after I Love Lucy) and in this episode she and Viv get coal delivered for their furnace. The truck pulled up next to the basement window and sent a load of coal down a chute. This was in the early 1960s, did people still have coal-powdered furnaces? People in suburbia had to shovel coal into their furnace? It seems like something that would have been modernized way before that. But I wasn’t born until decades later so what do I know Lol.

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Well, I shoveled coal from a big mound into our cellar in the 90s. Not in the US, though.
      But, yeah, to me, people doing that in the 60s seems perfectly normal :D

    2. Ellis Bell*

      This is Britain, but I know my maternal grandparents had a coal, or open fire in the living room growing up as a child. I know this because the aunts and uncles talk about how cold it was to get up until someone got the fire lit, and because everything burnable got tossed on it “especially old boots which lasted ages”. I think a gas fire was put in in the seventies.

    3. Phryne*

      My parents in their youth both lived in houses heated by coal burning stoves in the 50ies and 60ies. In my mothers case (working class), only the kitchen was heated in winter, in my fathers house the living room was heard too. The bedrooms were not. This was rural Netherlands. In 1959 a source of natural gas was discovered and by the end of the 60ies, coal had pretty much died out, but until then, yeah.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      In urban areas, for sure. Suburbs were designed to be clean, efficient and modern, and lure young professionals from the overcrowded cities, so electric or gas heating would be de riguer there, but the apartments like Lucy’s in the city would very likely still have coal burning furnaces right up until they collapsed from old age and had to be replaced. Throw in heavy subsidies fought for by Congressmen in coal heavy districts and coal is still around in some areas.

    5. Bunny Watson*

      My father delivered house coal for a living, and we also had a coal furnace. We did switch to an oil furnace in the 1990s sometime. My in-laws still have one actually. Lots of folks around Pennsylvania and West Virginia do still have them.

    6. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      My grandfather shoveled coal into his furnace until 1984, the year he died just shy of turning 95. I guess it was good exercise.

    7. Observer*

      This was in the early 1960s, did people still have coal-powdered furnaces?


      If you really want your mind blown, consider that NYC had school buildings using coal powered furnaces until 2001.

  19. Windward*

    I was watching The Lucy Show (the show Lucille Ball did after I Love Lucy) and there was an episode where Lucy ordered coal for her furnace. The truck pulled up to the basement window and dumped the coal down a chute. This seemed very old-timey to me. Were people in early 1960s suburbia still shoveling coal into their furnaces?

      1. Myrin*

        Germany too, at least where my mum grew up (which was, admittedly, a mining town so coal was, like, right there, but it certainly wasn’t small or rural even back then).

      1. Morning Reading*

        I think she lived in a house in the followup. But was it still NYC or somewhere north? I recall an LA feel to it. So maybe yes if northerly but does LA even have furnaces?

        1. RagingADHD*

          It started in a fictional town in upstate New York, and then the character moved to LA in the fourth season. So you are probably remembering the later setting.

      2. Windward*

        This was the show she did after I Love Lucy- she and her friend Viv (played by Vivian Vance!) were 2 single mothers, one widowed and one divorced, who lived together with their kids in a house in upstate NY or Connecticut, can’t remember exactly (though the show was filmed in LA).

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      It is a good question. If this episode did not present it as notable, such as comically old fashioned, I would take it as strong evidence that this was still done. It’s not as if the writers did not know how people heated their homes.

    2. Coal Miner's Cousin*

      I have friends who still heat their homes this way. Granted, she’s a coal miner and a certain amount a month is provided as part of her pay, but the short answer is yes, and then they buy enough to round out their usage.
      Southwestern-ish Pennsylvania.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Remember, a lot of NYC was built 100+ years ago. When I was in elementary school (1975-1982), I remember coal being delivered to my school, and playing with the bits that missed the chute. And an apartment I had in the 90s still had pipes for gas lighting, they just capped them off.

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      Absolutely. There are still oil heated homes in Chicago that still need the delivery truck to pull up to the basement and pump.

      1. Jay*

        I live in an apartment building that has oil heat right now in Massachusetts. Coal was not unheard of in MA in the 80’s. I know people in Main today who have coal heat. I’m even under the impression that it has started to expand a bit in the last couple of years. Coal has many advantages over wood as a heating source (disadvantages, too, of course) and has found a small amount of favor among people looking for energy independence from the big utility companies (sometimes it’s a political thing, too, I won’t go into that here).

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Yup, sure were. Remember, especially in a huge country like the US, “modern” stuff we take for granted came into common usage a lot later than most people think. There was a discussion last week about some people’s tendency to overcook meat to leather or pulp, and often that was a result of growing up without reliable refrigeration, so the only way to render meat “safe” was to cook it into the next plane of existence.

    6. Other Duties as Assigned*

      Coal hung on for a while and heating oil still has a foothold.

      I had a colleague from work who was still heating with coal in the early 2000s. His setup had some sort of automatic auger that kept feeding the furnace. He’s the only person I’ve known who used coal, but I had school friends whose older homes had decommissioned coal chutes.

      When I was growing up in the 1960s in Wisconsin, the local TV news on one channel was sponsored by a coal company in Green Bay.

      My parents’ home (built 1957) was heated by oil and still was when they sold it in the 1990s.

  20. Myrin*

    Okay so was anyone going to tell me that making friends as an adult is some sort of magical wonderful feeling or was I supposed to find that out by making a friend as an adult myself?

    Seriously, please tell me about friendships you forged when you were already beyond the children/teenagers/going-to-school age. I’m very excited about this new development and would love to hear what others experienced!

    1. BellaStella*

      I moved in 2008 from USA at age 39 to Europe and have made a lot of friends here but it takes effort. Also most friends are thru work. A language to learn helps also to connect. But I cherish these people loads!

    2. Sloanicota*

      Adult friends I find are the ones you really *choose* based on your actual preferences and priorities, whereas all my other friends started as more “stage of life” friends or somewhat randomly came into my life (although it’s not random which ones stayed, of course). But the ones I made in my late 30s were the ones who really fit who I really wanted to be.

      1. Myrin*

        I think that’s exactly it for me. I’m like – “This guy chose me when thinking about who he’d like to have lunch with. He actively shouts out to me when he sees me because he wants to stay a little to have a chat even though I didn’t reach out first and in fact hadn’t even see him.” and the same goes in the other direction.
        And I think part of the feeling of awe is certainly the novelty of this specific person – my best friend of fifteen years absolutely reaches out to me as well and sometimes thinks of me randomly but I don’t find that particularly noteworthy – but really the big thing is that, in a group of people with broadly similar attitudes, ages, and outlooks, we chose each other specifically as someone to get to know better and spend time with.

    3. Turtle Dove*

      It really is magical! I had that feeling just the other day. I’ve made lots of friends in the past 20 years, and I did it purposefully. It started when the empty nest loomed, and I realized I’d been too busy raising kids and working to build close friendships. I wanted a healthy empty nest full of connection. So I co-founded a book club, and three solid friendships grew from that. I did a volunteer gig and clicked with a fellow volunteer. I told her I really enjoyed talking with her and asked if she’d like to meet for coffee. She did, and we’re lovely friends now. I admired a coworker’s spirit and humor, and we started going to lunch (not sure who asked whom, but it was probably me) and became the best of friends. Now I’m friends with two of her other friends. For me, it’s about looking for a click of understanding and delight and then bravely pursuing more. (I’d take no for an answer, of course.) It doesn’t hurt that I’m finally (mostly) over a lifetime of social anxiety. Now I can be myself, nerd and all, and relax when I talk to anyone.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I am meeting for dinner with two friends I made at a job about twenty years back. It was a terrible job and the friendship of the “forged in fire” sort. While this is somewhat random, the dinner group that resulted started out much larger. The ones who considered this a “stage of life” friendship have long since dropped out.

    5. Jay (no, the other one)*

      15-ish years ago a non-local friend texted me and said “My HS bestie is moving to your area! You must meet!” So we met up for coffee and she is awesome! She’s now married, our husbands get along well, and they’re also foodies and adventurous cooks so we have great meals together. The four of us get together on New Year’s Eve and do a tapas-style evening with small plates and nibbles. So fun.

      I can’t even remember how I met one of my closest friends – we have mutual friends and some professional connections. A few years ago we ran into each other somewhere and made a breakfast date. Now we have breakfast every Wednesday morning. We resumed this as soon as our favorite spot re-opened after lockdown. Indoor dining was still verboten so they set up tables on the sidewalk and we ate outside for a year.

    6. Turtle Dove*

      It really is magical! I had that feeling just the other day. I’ve made lots of friends in the past 20 years, and I did it purposefully. It started when the empty nest loomed, and I realized I was short on friendships because I’d been busy raising kids and working. I wanted a healthy empty nest with lots of good connections. So I co-founded a book club, and three solid friendships grew from that. I did a volunteer gig and clicked with a fellow volunteer. I told her I really enjoyed talking with her and asked if she’d like to meet for coffee. She did, and we’re lovely friends now. I admired a coworker’s spirit and humor, and we started going to lunch (not sure who asked whom, but it was probably me) and became the best of friends. Now I’m friends with two of her other friends. Sometimes I take walks with a neighbor, and we’re gradually building a friendship. For me, it’s about looking for a click of understanding and delight and then bravely pursuing more. (I’d take no for an answer, of course.) It doesn’t hurt that I’m finally, mostly over a lifetime of social anxiety. Now I can be myself and relax when I talk to people.

      1. Turtle Dove*

        Sorry for the mostly duplicate post. I reposted after not seeing my first comment show up for a while.

    7. Perpetua*

      I met my current best friend at age 31. We started chatting in a larger group on a pregnancy-related forum, then hit it off chatting 1:1 and never looked back. It was very much a magical friendship romance! That was almost 5 years ago, still going strong. She even ended up being the maid of honour at my wedding a year and a half after meeting! It’s the kind of close friendship I always longed for and feel very grateful to have.

      In general, my friendships have felt much more fulfilling after age 30.

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      I just made a new friend last year! I am 61 and she is 66. A mutual friend kind of fixed us up because she felt we would hit it off. She was right!
      We are both SO grateful and happy about it!

    9. Generic Name*

      My current groups of friends are friends I made as an adult. They’re moms of kids who were in the gifted and talented school program with my son. The other group is more centered around the “Scout Dads”, and there is some overlap between the two. The scout dad group we have a monthly couples dinner at a different restaurant. Hilariously, the last time we went out, our son asked where we were going and who we would be with and he was kind of pissed when he heard we were seeing his friends parents. He was like, can we (the “kids” who are 17-21 in ages) come too?? I go walking on the weekends, go out for dinner or drinks, and we have house parties with my mom group. We all (parents and kids) stayed at a cabin for a weekend to celebrate one couple’s 25th anniversary. Super fun. My mom friends were my rock when I went through my divorce years ago. We support each other when we’re dealing with stuff with our kids. I’m still in touch with friends from high school and college, but I don’t live near any of them, so my local friends are a lifesaver.

      1. Myrin*

        I have never before which is why I found it so exciting! I’m a loner by nature and while I get along extremely well with (all kinds of different) people in general and like it, I’m quite content being on my own, so this is definitely a first for me!

    10. LA Girl*

      It is special when you move on from one stage of life or group of people or location and some people stick with you.

      About 15 years ago, a woman I barely knew called and asked me to lunch. I was puzzled. I mean, it’s not like we were friends. She told me she had made a New Year’s resolution to have lunch with a different person every week.

      I loved it! I immediately adopted that resolution and have renewed it every year (though it obviously went on hiatus during lockdown). It was the best thing ever. I’ve stayed in touch with people I would otherwise have lost. I’ve made friends out of one-off lunches that ended up repeating. As a committed introvert, the resolution gave me permission to reach out to people I would never have connected with. And people I barely knew have reached out to me because they know I do the lunch thing.

      This year I have had 99 lunches (or breakfast/brunch/coffee/dinner/drinks), with 6 more scheduled till the end of the year. And yes, I still get together with the woman who started it all off 15 years ago.

      Highly recommended as a way to make and maintain adult friendships

      1. Seashell*

        That sounds like a good idea, but I am not sure I know enough people who live close enough to meet for lunch to cover one person per month, let alone one a week.

        I don’t think I have ever successfully made a friend since I finished with school, which was decades ago. I’m in a book club, but we don’t socialize much outside the group. My husband has various work-related friends or old school friends who we have socialized with, but I think of them as his friends rather than mine. I always get along with co-workers, but it has never developed into anything outside of work (and I am not even sure I want to mix work and private life that much anyway.)

        So, long story short, the characters on Sex and the City seemed to be living a very different life than me.

    11. Rage*

      2008: I was randomly browsing Craigslist and somebody had posted “Girls Night Out?” Me and another gal responded, and the 3 of us have hung out regularly since.

      2010: A new person came to a NaNoWriMo write in, and we’ve been BFFs ever since. Her primary friend group adopted me.

      2021: A fellow student in my Masters program came up to me after class one evening. “You are so awesome,” she said. “We should be friends.”

      Honestly, I never realized how rare it was to form such close bonds in adulthood.

    12. WorkingRachel*

      I have been having a friendship renaissance since my divorce a couple of years ago. It was a LOT of work at first, especially given that I started putting effort into this in early 2021, i.e., not the world’s most social time, but I finally feel like it’s paying off and I have a vibrant circle of friends and acquaintances.

      I have been really happy this year to find that I’m still capable of getting as excited about friendships as I was as a teenager. Especially, I never expected to feel the “falling in love with a group of people” feeling I had when I was 15 or 17 again. This year I’ve had it twice.

      – Improv group that really gelled and took a bunch of classes together. The series ended around September and the friendships don’t seem to be continuing, but I had an amazing year or so of playing with, going out for drinks with, and roaming around Second City like we owned the place with these people.
      – An old friend introduced me to her neighbor, and after a slow start of a couple coffee dates over the course of 6 months, I started showing up to a trivia group she was trying to make happen. After a while it settled into mostly four of us, who now also do a variety of other things together and have a group chat going most days. At the beginning of 2023, I would have said I was casual friends with A, I had met K a couple of times and liked him but hadn’t hung out independently, and I had never met G. Now I’ve seen this group of 4 like 3 times in the last week, and we did a Friendsgiving together that we want to make into a new tradition. I’m kind of aware that the group dynamic is not likely to stay stable over time, but I do think all three of these people are going to be in my life long-term, and are introducing me to so many new things and experiences.

      Being open to new relationships in my 40s is hard but amazing and I highly recommend it.

    13. Donkey Hotey*

      It’s most often by chance. My best friend and I met while floating naked in a swimming pool. He mentioned to the person he was with that his astrological chart had five planets in Aries and I asked “Do you hit your head a lot?” and it went from there. That was twenty years ago.

    14. carcinization*

      Read a Captain Awkward post several years ago about making friends as an adult. I hadn’t met anyone in my new town and my husband had a weird work schedule that meant I was spending a lot of evenings and weekends at home since my job was normal business hours. Due to reading the comments of the post, I ended up joining the Jaycees in my town because I was in the right age group at the time. At the very first meeting a woman who was a Jaycees officer came up to me and introduced herself, after we talked for awhile she asked if I’d like to be in a book club she’d recently started. Neither of us are in the Jaycees anymore (I’m too old, for one thing!) and the book club fizzled out a few years ago, but she and I still get together on a regular basis.

    15. MissCoco*

      Aww I love this question!
      My grown-up friendship story is that I was out at a board game night held at a local brewery with some co-workers, and a woman on her own asked to sit down, so we started a new board game with her. She had a flight of beer and I asked her what she’d gotten as a small talk question. She listed them out, and I (with poor impulse control and pre-COVID naïveté) blurted out “ooh can I try a sip of that one?” The moment she said yes to an absolute stranger (as it was dawning on me that I’d just asked a totally inappropriate question) I had the sudden sense that she would be in my life for a long, long time.

      Funnily enough, a few years later, she told me the reason she sat down next to me instead of at any other table was that she thought one of my co-workers was cute. The co-worker who turned her head was the same man who introduced me to my now-husband just a couple weeks after I met her, so I owe two of my favorite people to him!

    16. Meow*

      This topic is very relevant to me right now. Sadly, I have not succeeded in making friends beyond my high school/college years. I think it’s for a couple of reasons:

      1) I just haven’t found anyone in my adult life who has the same values I do. Also, I only realize now how fortunate I was to grow up around a lot of kind people. Many of the people I’ve met as an adult in my city tend to be very selfish and self-absorbed, and it’s hard to maintain relationships with people like that.

      2) I do think shared experiences are the strongest catalysts for forming bonds, but there are few opportunities for that in adulthood beyond work. But even the workplace isn’t ideal. When you’re in school, you’re with a bunch of people in your age range and in the same stage of life which provides ample opportunities for forming meaningful connections. I live in the US, and there has been some recent commentary on the lack of accessible third spaces (places to socialize that aren’t work or home) where people can have access to a community and opportunities to meet people.

    17. Tiny clay insects*

      I know I’m replying rather late to this, but I just needed to say roller derby, roller derby, roller derby! No better way to make friends as an adult, and you don’t have to play the sport itself: you can be a skating official, a non-skating official, a bench coach, a mascot, or volunteer in a bunchif other capacities! I joined my league when I was in my early 30s and it led to meeting so many awesome people.

  21. Morning Reading*

    Question on surveys, petitions and political action (US based)

    I receive so many texts and emails daily asking for support, or asking to fill out a survey, or sign a petition. Do I approve of Biden? Will I vote and for whom? Etc etc. I can never tell where these surveys and questions are coming from. Often they plead for participation.

    My question is: do any of these things matter? I want to be a good advocate for my positions but, other than donating money, I don’t see how any of this churning is helping. Is it ok to delete all this stuff without responding? Especially with the petitions. Unless it’s a physical petition asking for registered voter signatures, I don’t see how it could have any effect. Why would the Supremes, for example, care about the opinion of one voter? Or ten or ten thousand for that matter.

    Also: what actions would likely be more effective? I occasionally write a letter or call my representatives, but I don’t like or am not good at many of the other political actions most often recommended. I don’t want to call or send texts to other voters and I definitely don’t want to knock on doors. I attend a protest occasionally but I’m getting too old to march very well. (The women’s protest in 2017 was the last big one I went to.) I don’t want to be outspoken on social media and I avoid what passes for political debate there. On the other hand, I can’t just stand around while my country sinks into fascism.

    Ideas, recommendations?

    1. SBT*

      One thing I try to do is really encourage my friends to participate in elections that are likely to be low-turnout. I know many friends weren’t going to go vote this past November as in our area, it was all local elections, and in a predominantly Democratic city, most of the spots were foregone conclusions. So I will get really outspoken about why I think they should go participate in a local election – for us, there were school board spots, which is one of the most overlooked political positions in the country and one of the ones with the most power. School boards are running multi-million dollar businesses essentially, and affecting the lives of our kids and their future (and thus our future). So I’ll send a text reminder to friends, or bring it up at dinner in the weeks prior (“Everyone knows we have a school board election right?!”)

      I’ll also share with my friends my research on the candidates and who I’m voting for. I know many of my friends took my research and then went and voted. No way they would’ve voted if they’d had to sort through all 14 candidates themselves. This somehow feels more manageable to me than figuring out what to do (besides donate) about wars and crises overseas or all the major issues in our country. Just a few votes can (and do) change local elections.

    2. Texan in exile on her phone*

      Doing doors can be very effective for getting out the vote. My candidates have always had lists of people likely to support them – we’re not trying to change anyone’s mind. That said, I still hate doing it. :)

      Persisters has postcard campaigns to GOTV. They give you the addresses, the message, and the postcards. You donate stamps and labor.

      And the League of Women Voters registers voters. It’s non-partisan, but I only volunteer in neighborhoods where I will be registering Ds.

      They also seek volunteers to get candidate info from city clerks and candidates so they can prepare voting guides.

      1. Texan in exile on her phone*

        Candidates also need behind the scenes help. As SBT noted, many races are overlooked but so important. I helped a school board candidate with her messaging, website, and social media. And sometimes, candidates just need someone to drop off yard signs to people who have asked for them.

    3. Anonymous cat*

      I’m cautious about ones that I haven’t signed up for. I’m sure some of them are spam or looking for active phone numbers to harvest.

      Plus I get some addressed to the same person (not me). I figure either all those are spam or “Louisa” uses my phone number as a fake nymber!

    4. chocolate muffins*

      I know I’m coming late, but in case you’re still reading (or someone comes along later and is interested), writing with postcardstovoters.0rg has worked well for me. Same basic idea as calling/knocking on doors but no in-person interaction and I can do as many or few postcards as I want and whenever I’m able to rather than at a specific time. That feels manageable to me and also helps me feel like I’m doing something useful, especially when I then get e-mails about how a particular candidate for whom I was writing won by X votes and X is a small number.

  22. Morning Reading*

    Book club meeting question:

    I’m a member of a book club sponsored by the local botanic garden. Since 2020 we’ve been trying to include remote participants who can’t get to the meeting. This has worked reasonably well when we are all Zooming. But when it’s hybrid, some of us in the meeting room and some at home, we have technical difficulties with just one person bringing a laptop to the room.(Feedback and muting issues if there is more than one in the room.)

    All of you who communicate with your offices remotely, surely there is a better solution for this? I’d like to have the remote people on a big screen, with speakers we can all hear, and maybe a mike we could pass around the room when each person is speaking.

    I would like to ask the organization to provide us with the right equipment for this. Surely there’s an easier way than bringing our individual laptops? Could I have some suggestions about what to ask for?

    TL:dr: What’s a good setup to meet remotely with several people in one room and a few others on their computers at home?

    1. Sloanicota*

      Hybrid is actually pretty tough even for organizations, I find, but it does exist. Like you said, you just need a room with a big screen and camera, good wifi and – this is the most important, IMO – really good speakers throughout the room, or else the people joining remotely are unlikely to be able to hear well enough to participate. It’s a pretty small room / group of people that can use the one speakersphone mic in the middle of the table. For my critique group under similar problems, what we do is alternate remote and in-person meetings, so nobody is left out every time.

    2. The Week Ends*

      Use 1 laptop only, or if you have additional don’t connect them to audio because troubleshooting the feedback will make you batty. There are decent inexpensive room speakers and mics, I use a small Bluetooth speaker mid room for a group of 20ish. The best solution I’ve used is an Owl, a portable room camera, mic and speaker that easily plugs to a laptop. They’re not cheap, but perhaps your library would consider investing in something that could be checked out. Many nonprofits are navigating hybrid board meetings so perhaps you can find one with a rental or sharing arrangement. Good luck! They’re rarely perfect, especially with mumblers and low talkers in the group.

      1. Mrs. Frisby*

        Yeah, the Owl is the best tool for this but it is expensive! But it’s possible they already have one you can borrow if the organization has a lot of hybrid meetings. We have one at my library and we allow patrons to use it (in the building only).

      2. Maestra*

        For hybrid teaching, we used a Swivl robot. It wasn’t perfect, but basically, you hook an iPad in and both the iPad and a laptop connect to zoom using the same user name. One person (this was for the teacher) can wear a tracker and then the robot turns the iPad to follow that person. The tracker is also a microphone. Then, there are four additional microphones that you can spread around the room that will pick up the voices of other attendees. I couldn’t tell you how much they cost or how they compare to the owl device, but because the camera you use is an iPad, maybe you already have that device available.

    3. Gyne*

      Agree with above, hybrid is tough. We have a small conference room with a speaker/camera that rotates when someone is speaking so they are on camera. I have no idea what it’s really called but we call it “the owl” and I imagine it costs more than is reasonable for a community group. We also have a projector and a screen, so while someone does bring a laptop, they hook it up to the system. it still doesn’t work great for interactive discussions, which I think is more the point & the fun of a book club.

      What I would recommend is having someone (the facilitator) on the laptop monitoring the chat, and setting some expectations with the group about how to include the remote people. Either checking in periodically to see if there is something the remote folks want to add, or having the remote people use the “raise hand” thingy (teams and zoom have this) when they want to talk, and the facilitator also reading their messages to the group. If you can get the library to get a Webcam on a tripod you can set that up facing the room, and a projector showing the screen of the laptop to the in-person attendees, that is probably the best you can hope for.

    4. Square Root Of Minus One*

      At my job our meeting rooms use a device that, as I recall, looks like a huge tv, is piloted by a tablet by the facilitator and you also have a few mics across the room to pick up voices. If a mic must be muted, I think it can be done from the tablet. Also, the cam zooms on any movement or adjusts the field if the room isn’t full.
      It’s Cisco and exclusively for Webex but there might be zoom equivalents. No idea how much they cost, but Google might tell you.

    5. Phryne*

      The most important thing is having only one mike. Everyone can log in in their own laptop, this has the advantage of everybody being in full view and bring able to read the chat, but everyone but one person needs to turn off both speakers and microphone. That one person can connect a conference speaker/mic. At my workplace we use conference speakers by Jabra, and they pick up did amazingly well (I found out when I whispered something I thought only my neighbour would hear). They are around $100, do depends on what your budget is, but they are worth it. We have loads of hybrid meetings, they are pretty much the norm, and meeting rooms have expensive big screens and inbuilt cameras etc, and often we still prefer this setup with individual laptops.

    6. Filosofickle*

      You’ve gotten good advice about the tech logistics. Once you set that up, note that it still takes a LOT of mindfulness and discipline to ensure those who are virtual aren’t sidelined! It’s so easy for a room to devolve into cross-talk and unintentionally exclude the virtual folks. It takes strong facilitators and time to build good hybrid habits like speaking clearly, one at a time, and remembering to include everyone evenly.

    7. BeenHappeningForDecades*

      companies have been doing this for decades. they usually have a single phone or teleconferencing system in the middle of a conference room table and sometimes extra audio pickups at either end of the table. An in room monitor would show the same screen sharing as remote folks see.

    8. IT Manager*

      Hybrid is still terrible, there’s no good solution that prevents the ppl in the room from having a better experience and routinely forgetting the ppl on the line. That being said:

      1. Get an external speaker/mike for the laptop. Jabra and others make these, not too pricey. Greatly help in picking up voices and having the remote speakers be loud enough.

      2. A facilitator must make a point of pausing and explicitly asking for input/comments from the remote participants. It won’t happen organically, it’s too hard to interject into a room full of ppl. Train ppl to use the “raise hand” feature and make a point to listen for the alert noise.

      3. If you can, project the laptop onto a BIG screen and ask the remote participants to make sure their cameras are on. This helps local participants remember that there are others in the meeting.

      1. IT Manager*

        Oh also:

        4. If everyone does have laptops – yes, they should all bring them in and join WITH NO AUDIO (no mic, no speaker) but just video. Have 1 laptop with an external speaker/mike in the center.

        That way everyone is on video for the remote participates to see also, it drastically cuts down on the side conversations.

  23. BellaStella*

    I have an online shopping question. I live in Europe. Until October I could use my USA visa card to buy things on Amazon Com, Amazon UK and Amazon DE. But now neither my USA card or European card work. I have talked to my banks and there are no blocks. The cards work online for things like plane tickets etc. I have tried three times to get an Amazon rep to help but usually after 45 min I give up. Any ideas? I wanted to send family a couple of holiday gifts. I also tried in the UK the BandQ site and another online shop to no avail. I am going to buy and ship things from here I think.

    1. LuckySophia*

      I’m in USA and when I tried to use my credit card (MasterCard) on a genealogy site in Scotland, it would not work. Credit card service rep told me I was not the only one having this problem! She recommended I find a credit card specifically designated for “International Use” and most importantly, one that had NO extra fees for purchases in a foreign currency. I googled and found a “Visa Signature Card” that worked in Scotland, and had no extra fee.
      As it turned out, I was able to apply for that card through my local bank…but maybe Visa would give you the option to apply for that online?

      1. LuckySophia*

        Forgot to add: the Visa Signature card is not limited to use in Scotland, I believe it can be used almost anywhere that accepts Visa.

    2. Zephy*

      Are you using payment information saved to your Amazon account, or are you entering your card info every time?

      If you’re using saved payment methods, maybe try deleting and re-adding the card?

      1. BellaStella*

        Thanks this is what led me to erase ALL addresses and update all of them – this was the problem it seems.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      It is possible for individual merchant accounts to be set to what’s called an “aggressive profile” for fraud protection – which often involves blocking transactions from certain other countries. Which ones are blocked is going to depend on the configuration. But basically, to prevent fraudulent transactions, they reject anything from country X even though they know they might reject some valid transactions in the mix. Because chargebacks are a bitch.

    4. BellaStella*

      I figured it out at least for Amazon!
      Instead of the unhelpful error message of “there is a problem with your card” a message saying instead “your billing address does not match this card” would have led me faster to the place to update that info in full as the numbers were off because I transposed the preferred default address. I was able to buy and ship a gift today! Thanks all for the info and suggestions! It helped!!

  24. Christmas cookie*

    I want to throw a New Year’s Day open house party. It will be family friendly (we have elem age kids as soon most of our friends) and I’m thinking 1-4pm but open to feedback. We will probably invite ~40-50 families I but expect less than half to have able to make it.

    The parking situation is good, and I plan to have a zone (probably the walk out finished basement) for kids- snacks, toys & tv/video games, plus they can play outside if the weather is ok (we’ve in the cold north so probably not but we can hope!).

    I know sports are a thing on New Year’s Day- I can put a game on TV in one of the adult room (what game? Rose bowl? Others? Our professional teams are off that day)

    Tips? Food and beverage ideas? Have you been to other hosted a party like this and have advice?

    Starter menu ideas:
    Rotating warm apps (would love ideas)
    Big pot of meatballs
    Cookie/dessert table

      1. Christmas Cookie*

        How do you serve them? We are not in the south, but my husband is from SC and agreed this is a tradition.

        1. Sloanicota*

          You can look up recipes for a dish called “Hoppin’ John” although I don’t like to use pork in mine so I end up messing with the recipe every year.

        2. carcinization*

          The Homesick Texan website has many great blackeyed pea recipes, including at least one for a dip which might be nice at a party.

    1. Bluebell*

      I have friends who have hosted a huge New Year’s Day open house for years. They set up a couple of tables for food in their dining room, the living room and kitchen are the main socializing rooms, and the kids go down in the basement. I don’t think there’s a TV room, but it isn’t much of a TV watching crowd. They usually put together a nice cheese and crackers tray, and some other snacking things, and other people are welcome to bring other foods, which they do in abundance. I think they run everything starting at 12 or one, and try to wrap up around eight. It’s always nice to see people there year after year, though I haven’t been since Covid.

    2. Rachel*

      I would do a sliders from King’s Hawaiian Rolls. There are a bunch of combinations that work well for a party:

      Ham and Swiss with honey mustard
      Roast beef and provolone with Dijon or horseradish
      Pulled buffalo chicken or BBQ chicken and mozzarella or American cheese

      Easy to make ahead and the smaller size is nice when there are a lot of options and people just want a taste.

      For vegetarian options, smitten kitchen has a sheet pan spinach quiche that is filling and easy.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Black eyed peas are for luck and greens are for money in the New Year. There are a ton of recipes for cute apps that combine them, like little cornbread croquettes.

      But hoppin’ john is a lot easier. I start mine by sauteeing onion, bell peppers, celery, then add the rice and blackeyed peas with thyme, salt and black pepper (or whatever seasonings you like), then chicken or vegetable broth – enough to cook the rice. Close it up and cook on low till it’s done. You could make it herby/savoury or hot & spicy, depending on your crowd.

      I just sautee the greens with olive oil and garlic, but for a party it might be easier to do kale chips or something.

    4. Double A*

      I’m going to be following this because I’ve been thinking of having a GMT New Years because that is 4pm our time and perfect for kids.

    5. Kiki Is The Most*

      For bevvies, I’ve served Gluhwein (many stores sell the spice packets for this) and hot chocolate. Both could be left on ‘low’ on the stove and were self-serve. I also had a bin of capri sun, flavored soda water, chocolate milk for easy access for the kiddo area.

      For food, maybe chili with all the fixings? (also self-serve) And I see that someone already commented on all-things-snacky-and-cheesy.

      I’m not big on watching sports so it was recommended to me to have a large puzzle started (for the adults), and it ended up being where we moved the snacks to because many of my guests were chatting and working on the puzzle!

      Enjoy your holidays!

      1. Christmas Cookie*

        Ooh! We are holiday puzzle people and I will make sure to put one out for the party- great idea!

    6. Old and Don’t Care*

      Lentils are good luck too, and Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from the NYT is sippable from a cup and a good party soup. I bring it to parties all the time. Should be Google-able.

    7. E*

      Warm apps that are easy to eat at parties –I’m veg but I think even omnivores like this stuff
      spanakopita (can buy frozen or at least get frozen phyllo dough to make easier)
      Mushroom turnovers
      Roasted Cremini mushrooms stuffed w goat cheese/herbs/paprika

      Yum, have fun!

  25. Nicosloanica*

    I have been trying to “hack” myself lately to take up better habits (the usual types of goals) and I wondered if any commenters would have insights I’m lacking. I find I do really well with monthly challenges like dryanuary or nanowrimo or even lent, and the most extreme challenge the better – like, go vegan for a month! Write a novel in two weeks! – the challenge seems to keep me motivated. But obviously that doesn’t translate into lasting change, and it doesn’t work well for things like cleaning (extreeem new challenge, do your dishes EvErY NiGHt!!). I don’t seem to do as well with gamification where you like, earn a star every day or use an app to track progress long term; it’s just not motivating for me. And I always fail New Years Resolutions. I can’t keep up the “extreme challenge philosophy” for longer than lent at the most before it feels less fun. Is there any way to trick myself using this challenge-loving quirk of my brain?

    1. Ideas?*

      Can you find ways to make the things challenging for longer than the initial month by adjusting the challenge? For example: challenge to figure out the most efficient way to stack the dish drainer or dishwasher, how many loads of laundry can I fit onto my drying rack, what is the optimal way to hang things so they dry extra quickly, how many rounds of dishwashing can I do in a week/month and can I beat last week/month (size of dishwashing doesn’t matter, so one cup totally counts), number of cleaning sprees in a week/month, can I complete my spring cleaning to-do-list before X date, etc. Just reformulating the same tasks in a new way. Maybe you’re optimizing for efficiency this month, next month it is slow but thorough cleaning, month after that it is speed, and so on.

      1. Nicosloanica*

        I have been trying to figure out how to switch the challenge! I was trying to do twelve different “challenge months” last year (I have plenty of bad habits to work on, sigh). But I wouldn’t say any of them stuck after the month. Maybe you’re right and I can focus on different elements. It definitely doesn’t work to ramp up the challenge (like, this month I’ll eat less meat, next month go vegetarian, then in the third month ultimate vegan boss challenge!) because the “baby challenge” doesn’t get me going in the same way knowing the real challenge is three months, plus it’s demoralizing knowing it’s going to ramp up; I do better trying to hit vegan on day one knowing it’s only 30 days … which is the exact opposite of habit forming, sigh.

        1. Ideas?*

          Yeah, scaling challenges never worked for me either. I think the re-focus-the-challenge thing also can allow for personal circumstances in a way that other things can’t. For example, there are absolutely weeks/months where the challenge I would set for myself is “keep things from falling apart” because everything else in my life is insane. If I were engaging in some sort of competition with past weeks, or even some gamification things, then the “negative” feedback of not doing as well as other weeks makes me feel even worse. I end up demoralized instead of celebrating doing a set of things DESPITE having a crazy week and not really wanting to do it. It allows me a better way of approaching falling off the bandwagon for some habit or other, something I know I will do in the long run, and incentivizes getting back on. Challenge for this week: get back on the bandwagon!

          One thing I recently started up for myself, on days when I’m actually in good time or even early with my routines, is the “one more thing” step. So I do all the stuff I always do and then I pick one more thing to do. Doesn’t matter what it is, how big or small. It has made a surprising difference–stuff that I normally have to set aside time for I have already done. A gift to myself, if you will. Doesn’t always work, but it feels good when it does.

    2. Lemonwhirl*

      Have you considered doing a few sessions with a coach, particularly a positive psychology coach, who would be able to help you breakdown why extreme challenges work and work with you to find ways to transform an extreme challenge to a daily habit?

    3. Turtle Dove*

      I’ve had success this year with a weekly goal and the good feeling of keeping a long streak going (six months next week!). For my top hobby, it’s “do X items each week,” and then I have the freedom to skip some days as long as I meet my goal by the end of the week. It doesn’t hurt that it’s mostly stuff I *want* to do. I’ve tried daily goals like sink zero every evening, and I did that for over a year and then gained confidence that I’d do it without pressure, and I mostly do. But for me daily goals chafe because there’s no flexibility if I’m out of town or accept a last-minute invitation and don’t get something done. So maybe experiment to find a sweet spot of a goal and a time frame that together keep you engaged and feeling successful.

    4. RussianInTexas*

      The gamification and “challenges” do not work for me at all, I am not at all competitive or care about completing a challenge. So I don’t even bother.
      So I make a schedule that I must spend 10 minutes in the evening to do dishes, 20 minutes at 4pm to do stretches for my back, etc. Does not always work. But since there is no goal or a challenge, the is no failure. So I didn’t do dishes last night, I did then in the morning. No big loss.
      There are important things that I can’t occasionally skip, like taking medication on time, but chores and other non crucial things? Sometimes they get missed, and oh well.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I’ve found two things that are reasonably helpful to me. The first is to remove *every* obstacle or barrier to entry. I’m terrible at “beauty routines” but am trying to incorporate 2 min of fluoride toothbrushing every morning, and also 2 kinds of face cream. Generally I keep my bathroom counters very streamlined and everything I need is in my cabinet. But for these “new” items, I purposely leave them out so (a) I’m visually prompted and (b) I don’t have to retrieve them in order to use them. It sounds ridiculous, but I am 50% less likely to use the new items if I have to pull them out of the cabinet.

      I do this for any new habit that I can. Exercise – leave the equipment where it’s super accessible, even if it’s not the ideal location. Tidying up – I have a large “stuff” basket with a lid that I can toss things into that otherwise would clutter my space. When it gets full or when I need something at the bottom, I take 10 minutes and put everything where it belongs. Once the habit is well-established, you can readjust if you think it won’t interfere with the habit. I’m not planning to keep all those tubes on my bathroom counter forever, for example, but I’ll always have my overflow stuff basket.

      The second thing that works for me is to try to incorporate my new habit into something I already do. I’m bad about leaving dishes in my sink, but I already have a morning coffee routine and a nighttime hot tea routine. So while my coffee is dripping in the morning, instead of poking around on my computer, I empty the dishwasher and the drain rack. And while my water is heating before bed, I clean up any dishes that are in the sink. This way I don’t feel that I’m “wasting” time on a chore I dislike, I just feel like I’m being efficient with time that’s already committed.

      1. MamaSarah*

        I absolutely love to finish up the dishes and tidy up the sink when the coffee is brewing in the morning. It helps to me remember that dishes are a quick and easy task (we also have a dishwasher) and I love coming home to a clean and empty sink. Perhaps instead of thinking of life hacks as challenges or a silly game you play against yourself, one can think of these things as rituals or a practice.

    6. Cynthia*

      I love bullet journaling for this – a quick google or Pinterest search will give you tons of ideas for very elaborate pages, but really they can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Something about having current and previous challenges/habit trackers all in the same notebook is really motivating to me. Maybe the goal of filling the notebook with different challenges could be a hack for you?

      Also, linking habits to things you like can develop a great kind of automaticity. I HATE brushing my teeth and flossing, but I do it regularly now because that’s the only time I let myself look at the Instagram app.

    7. kina lillet*

      I think that when you require a ton of pressure + reward to get basic motivation, you either need to artificially manufacture that pressure OR try to remove the need for motivation.

      I recognize myself in this a bit. Certain ADHD strategies help me, and they’re really plentiful online. I just find that exerting extreme pressure on myself wears out quickly—and wears me out! So my suggestion is to try the opposite, and change the task so it requires less motivation to accomplish.

      One crucial strategy here is to look at whatever you’re not doing, and being really honest with yourself about what is stopping you from doing it. For example: Do you hate drying dishes? Scrubbing is bad? The “many”ness of the dishes is overwhelming? You tend to get on the couch right after dinner?

      As you progressively figure out what “needs motivation” in order to be done, you progressively figure out solutions. Crucially you try out solutions even if they are unconventional or seem inefficient on their face. They’re solutions for your brain, not anyone else’s.

      Finally, it really is okay to use tools to do this stuff—exactly like the challenges you’re suggesting or ADHD strategies. (Worth saying even if you feel already comfortable with it!)

      1. Turtle Dove*

        I especially like what you said in your next-to-last paragraph. That’s similar to what I’ve learned about myself. I had to play around with goals and timing until I found something that works just for me. Maybe I massaged my goal into more digestible bits, or maybe I shifted the timing so it didn’t feel oppressive. I’ve learned that I rebel against expectations, even when I put them on myself. So I have to play nicely with my brain to find a solution.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      I can do it as mini-challenges: when I decided to cut down on snacks, for instance, I did it a snack at a time–each time I asked myself: do I want to spend the calories on this? (Not that I had a calorie limit; it was more a mini estimation at that point in time.)

      I found a lot of times I at due to a combination of boredom, FOMO, and “well, when’s the next time I’ll have this?” It’s amazing how much less appealing stale cake becomes when you actually ask yourself if you want it or just don’t everyone else to get it first.

    9. SparklingBlue*

      Bend the rules of the challenge!

      To use NaNoWriMo as an example,this is how I turned it into a Kinda-WriMo:

      –I do not have to specifically write a novel.
      –I can write as much as I want, on any topic I want, in any style I want, so long as everything I write in the month of November adds up to 50,000 words.
      –I can go for longer than 50,000 words, if I so choose.

      This turned out more stressful than I thought, but it was an experiment to see if I could do something on the scale of the original challenge.

    10. Awkwardness*

      I am a bit confused if you want challenges or lasting change because to me those seem somewhat contrary.
      I know that it is generally said to take 30 days to adopt a new habit, but it might take a lot longer to master the extreme ones as veganism: In the beginning it is new you are motivated and excited to find out about vegan recipes and products. All is new! But if you are sick, have no time to cook, stress at work, ae travelling or craving a certain product? How you handle those situations will show how well you adopted your new habit. It is unlikely that all those tough situations arise in the first month. If you are already occupied with new routines and new challenges, it is very likely that you forget about the veganism or only continue with two or three more things because you liked them best/ they were the easiest to follow.

      It is ok to treat challenges as challenges, have all the fun and have your habit changed 10 or 15%. But it is not necessarily A habit change. One only has to be clear about expectations.

      1. Awkwardness*

        And to add: Some challenges might be contrary. Example: If you did sports three times a week, and then decided to write a novel – how willing would you be to sacrifice sports time in order to achieve the challenge? If you dropped regular sports for one month, how long would it take you to get back into the habit?

    11. Can't Sit Still*

      In all honesty, I essentially hired someone to tell to do stuff like that. I use Shelpful, the real person option, not the bot, and she texts me every weekday about the goals I’ve set and helps me navigate my to do list.

      I’ve been using the service since June and have discovered that I do not make habits easily! I feel a lot less guilty about it now. For some reason, getting texts from a real person is much more effective than app or calendar reminders.

    12. Pocket Mouse*

      Someone mentioned sorting out the aspect of a task that poses a barrier and therefore needs motivation; can you flip it and figure out what it is about a challenge that makes you respond to it, then work that into the things you want to do regularly? You’ve identified that gamification doesn’t work for you, but another aspect of the challenge setup may be adaptable for your purposes.

      For example, if you need a deadline or reward: dishes all washed before bed = reward of buying rather than brewing coffee the next morning (or something else enjoyable that’s small stakes and acceptable to go without). Or if you thrive on the sprintiness: this week is a dishes challenge, next week is a clutter challenge.

  26. Sloanicota*

    I think we’ve had discussion here before about how to get dogs on a weekend/day off schedule rather than always wanting a rigid workday routine 365 days a year. My goal is to be able to take my dog (working breed, generally uptight but should be smart enough to learn there’s two routines) on a later morning walk on days I’m not working, so I’m not dragged out in the frozen dawn at the usual pre-work hour. I wanted to share some progress I’ve made lately; now when I come downstairs, I actually give him breakfast about 15 minutes *earlier* than usual, but instead of his bowl, it’s in his slow feeder toy; this immediately twigs his brain to “new routine” without upsetting him by being Off Schedule (ahead of schedule is fine in dog land, apparently). Then I keep giving him small portions of his same total breakfast amount over a much longer period, so we’re past usual Walk Time but I’m still on the couch enjoying my coffee. He generally has a nap after his stomach is full and by the time he’s done with that, I’m usually willing to take him out because it’s a decent hour. No more 6AM Saturday morning walks. If anyone else has had success, I want to hear tips and ideas!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Mine do definitely notice when I put on my “leaving the house and have to look halfway decent” jeans as opposed to my “staying home” jeans, but that’s not a workday/not-workday thing. Our distinction between workdays and not workdays are whether we go into my home office after first morning outs in the backyard. If it is a workday, we go to the office and they rampage in there til breakfast time, and Abigail gets her breakfast in the office. If it is not a workday, we stay in the living room, they rampage until breakfast time, and Abigail eats in her crate. (Alannah’s breakfast is in the same place either way.) They settle down faster on work days – I’m not sure why.

    2. tell*

      When you discuss early-morning walks, are you referring to your dog getting exercise? If so, yeah, it seems you would just do things a bit later on weekends.

      If you mean nature calling being the main purpose of the early-morning walks, there’s nothing you can control on that. Neither can your dog.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Yeah, agree. I think the dog will need a potty break at the normal time even if it’s only in the yard even if exercise walk is later.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Oh, of course. I have a big fenced in yard so he gets “let out” first thing but he wants a proper, 40 minute walk after breakfast. And dogs do have their ways of letting you know what they want.

          1. tell*

            Cool! Yeah I definitely think you’d be able to teach your dog that when you’re in bed later, everything (except potty breaks, as you note) are later. Teaching my cats this now but it isn’t working, lol.

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

    Who among us is as tired of ticket surcharges as I am. A $25 Monster Jam ticket turns into $40. $10 Peepfest tickets become $14. Donating $100 to my nieces cheerleading fundraiser (my wife made me do it) becomes $112.

    It’s such a blatant cash grab and it seems we are unable to fight this.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I got so annoyed at the AirBnB ones that I stopped using the site (an $85/night room share became … an $150 room with the last-minute “cleaning fee” – so suddenly it’s the same price as a real hotel room) although hotels also do this I see now, with “resort fees” that are non-optional and meaningless. It’s clearly just a cash grab.

      1. Bluebell*

        I think that for Airbnb, the cleaning fee is one that the Airbnb owner gets directly without a cut from the company. So they often use it as a way to get a little more money. I stayed at a place in New York that had an outrageous $200 cleaning fee, but the overall price was lower than market, so I took it.

    2. Rachel*

      I just lean into it and mentally tack on about 50% when I start any transaction.

      Good luck to your niece! I hope her fundraiser goes well!

    3. Florence Reese*

      Oh gosh, yes. I bought front row tickets for a special event a few months ago. I knew it would be expensive, and I was okay with that because of the value of the seats and experience for me. The tickets were $348 apiece. The fees were A HUNDRED AND TEN DOLLARS PER TICKET. Why?! Ticketmaster did not provide me a 10x better service for these tickets than they did for the $30 tickets I bought earlier this year! There are scores of things I wouldn’t pay over a hundred dollars for normally, let alone as a fee.

      It’s so frustrating. I’m not sure if it’s the same for every vendor, but I looked up Ticketmaster’s fee limits after that and the limit is ~30% of the price. I’d love to see some kind of better cap on that but it does feel like a losing battle.

    4. Bluebell*

      It’s not surprising that the current federal administration in the US has taken this on (with an extra nudge from Taylor Swift)

    5. Girasol*

      Was looking for a hotel in a rather spendy area and found one that looked good for slightly less than the rest. Great! Then I noticed the per night cleaning fees doubled the price. How do people get away with that?

    6. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Small comparing to the other examples in this thread, but…I get so annoyed when ticket providers add fees for digital or print-at-home tickets. Luckily it seems to be the exception rather than the norm. It’s definitely happened to me more than once, though.

    7. Rick Tq*

      The best way to fight it is to try and purchase from the venue when you can.

      I was shopping for tickets to Wicked at a downtown theatre and started on a broker site that wanted double the ticket price with their surcharges. I went directly to the venue and got the same tickets for the face price plus some small fees.

  28. Teapot Translator*

    What’s cooking?
    My One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese and Baked Fish with Lemon Cream Sauce from RecipeTin Eats were good! I’m not sure what I’ll make this week. I don’t have time to go to the Asian grocery store to buy the Japanese curry I want to try.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Tomorrow I’m trying out the chocolate and tahini cookies from Sabrina Ghayour’s new book, Flavour. The recipe cals for almonds, but I’m tempted to use hazelnuts instead, which I generally like more.

      I plan to make lasagne at some point, probably tomorrow night. My adaptation of my mother’s recipe, and always a favourite in this house (my partner prefers my version, I think they’re at the same level). I’m equally excited about eating them warm from the oven, and about the leftovers, which will taste even better the next day.

    2. Rage*

      I did beef tips with gravy in the crockpot this week:

      -London broil cut of beef
      -1 packet brown gravy mix
      -1 packet au jus mix
      -1 C water
      -1 stick of butter
      -1 tsp beef bullion

      Cut beef into 2″ chunks, toss in crockpot. Mix packets with water, pour over beef. Toss in bullion and the stick of butter. Cook on low. Serve over rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes.

      You can also just cook the beef in a whole piece and shred it; it’s a great topping for baked potatoes (with cheese!).

    3. Girasol*

      I’m rediscovering my love of mushroom soup. Saute 3 portobellos, chopped, with half an onion, chopped, in a good deal of butter. Then simmer that with 2 cups chicken stock (made from bouillon is okay) for ten minutes. Add 2 cups milk, 2 cups cottage cheese blended in the food processor, a glug of sherry, a sprinkle of oregano, and salt to taste, and heat until it’s warm. Winter comfort food!

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      This week it’s spaghetti, parsnip soup with rye toast, Brazilian stew and greens over rice, and Three Sisters quesadillas. I may have to have Husband actually roast the squash for that last one since I’ll be at work all day, though.

    5. carcinization*

      I made Weeknight Black Bean Chili from Budget Bytes last night, but with 1lb meat and 2 cans of beans instead of 1/2 lb meat and 3 cans of beans. It was good and we still have quite a bit left over. Tomorrow is going to be one of my top 5 recipes, which is Smitten Kitchen’s Mushrooms & Greens with Toast.

    6. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      I made Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken Thighs from Hungry Girl Simply Comfort.
      5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
      1 cup chopped onion
      1/2 cup brown sugar
      1 1/2 TBSP chopped garlic
      1/2tsp onion powder
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp pepper

      Spray slow cooker, add chicken, season with onion powder,salt,pepper. Top with onion, brown sugar and garlic.
      Cover and cook on high, 2-3 hours or low 5-6 hrs. until chicken is fully cooked and onion is soft.

      I had it over rice, but any grain or noodle or mashed potato will do. Chicken can be cut with a fork and caramelized onion and juices are SO good. I made a side of steamed broccoli and had some red wine. I love recipes where you don’t have to buy anything you can’t find in your pantry. I made it once with drumsticks and that was good too, plan to try chicken breasts next. Now I need a nap.

  29. Ali*

    I got a bad sinus infection in September that took me weeks to recover from – now I’ve got another one. My new neti pot just arrived in the mail today. What else do you do to recover as quickly as possible from a cold or sinus infection? And have you found any habits that seem to boost your immune system overall? (Unfortunately the upcoming month is an intense one at work so I just have to push through.)

    1. It's a Cold, I swear*

      If you can find something called Alkalol, add a tiny amount (like 1/2 tsp) to the neti pot with the salt and water. It’s kind of like vicks, made with eucalyptus (I think, it smells like it, anyway). I used to be able to get it from behind the pharmacy counter, but the one store in my area that carried it is gone now. It just seemed to help clear things out better/faster/more thoroughly.
      I also drink tons of water to keep the gunk from drying out. The water helps a lot, and I try to drink 80-100 ounces a day anyway, and I go for 150 if I start to feel like I’m coming down with a cold/sinus issue.
      However, my most effective cure is drinking a can of Coke in my closed car on a hot day in August while eating a whole bag of barbecue potato chips on my lunch hour. The combination of near constant nose blowing plus dehydration seems to really fix the problem, and the dehydration is short term. The hot car is, obviously, harder to manage at this time of year, at least in the northern hemisphere.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        The, only thing that ever worked for me was Peppermint Schnapps. I drank a glass (maybe 6 oz) at night and woke up the next day feeling great, with no cold.

    2. Stupid Sinuses*

      I am a sufferer of stupidly built sinuses that are prone to sinus infections. I have a solid approach now that works well at the first sign of the sniffles! First, I love my neti pot. Twice a day, every day. Second, I also use an over-the-counter medicine 3-4x per day, either as a pill or inhalable, that dries out my sinuses. Google says the active ingredient is Eucalyptol (also called cineole). It helps ENORMOUSLY and as a bonus is a non-antibiotic inhibitor of infections. Just remember to drink enough water–I usually do that by downing a glass of water with each pill. The downside of the meds is occasionally I hiccup and taste eucalyptus for a while, especially if I take it before or after drinking a hot liquid, but that’s still better than a sinus infection. And third, if I must, I use nose spray. These tend to give me nose bleeds, though, so it is usually a last resort.

      If, after those things, I’m still gunked up, off to my sinus specialist I go. I’ve had two laser-operations to sort things out long term, but I have thus far avoided full-on surgery.

      Best of luck!

    3. Rachel*

      If you aren’t already taking a vitamin D supplement, I would add it in.

      I drink Athletic Greens with a Vitamin D supplement daily. It might be psychosomatic but when a cold went around my household it didn’t seem to impact me very much at all.

    4. Qwerty*

      Going out and doing stuff has been surprisingly helpful, even if it just running errands or a walk. I think science is something about getting the blood moving helps with cleaning up the dead cells and defeated bacteria/virus parts, its been a while since I read the studies.

      I love Zarbees cough syrup – I find it works better at breaking up the gunk in my lungs than cold medicine plus makes a great tea if mixed with hot water. I use it at the mid-point of the cough medicine so that I feel like I’m doing something more often (ex: if meds have 4hrs between doses, take the non-meds at 2hrs in)

      My favorite cold remedy is basically the non-alcholic version of a hot toddy: 1tbsp honey, 1tbsp apple cider vinegar, 8oz hot water. Soothes the throat from coughing and breaks up mucus in the throat, honey and ACV have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

      It’s too late for you now, but I also start taking cold medicine right when I start getting sick. It seems to reduce the amount of symptoms overall. If I find myself so sick that I’m taking meds on exactly the 4hr mark religiously, I start weaning myself off for longer intervals to avoid rebound symptoms.

    5. Stephanie*

      I asked my doctor if there was anything I could do to boost my immune system (I work in a school, and I kept getting sick), and she recommended zinc. I take one every day, and if I feel like I’m coming down with something, I take 2. It seems to be making a real difference.
      Lots of water, and hot tea (any flavor/variety) help, too.
      I tried a neti pot for a while years ago, and I hated it. My doctor told me that a saline nasal spray (like Ocean brand) is a good alternative. Also, Afrin nasal spray is great for congestion, with one very important caveat: only use it for three days, maximum. If you use it any longer, you’l get bounce-back congestion.

    6. A Reader*

      Go on the cruise! If you’re my Ali you’ll know what I mean! And if you are NOT my Ali, then the advice stands, more generally: relax and recharge!

      1. Ali*

        Haha, I think I am not your Ali, because I would never go on a cruise for the reason mentioned below – I don’t want to get sick!

    7. anxiousGrad*

      Old fashioned but effective for clearing out the sinuses: sit with a bowl of boiling hot water and a towel over your head and the bowl to keep the steam around your nose.

    8. Jay*

      -A nice humidifier.
      -Vics now makes a bunch of products that can help a bit, like a disk you put in your shower and it turns the whole shower into a giant Vics steam bath. It’s wonderful. I think I’ve even seen a candle, at one point? I don’t know if that was serious or some kind of gag gift or something, but I remember I thought it was interesting.

    9. Dinoweeds*

      Make sure you’re using distilled water with your neti pot! Hurts like hell if you don’t (ask me how I know lol). And get some eucalyptus steamers for your shower, I bet you can find them on Amazon. Feel free to disregard the rest of my advice below but I figured I’d post it just in case.

      Have you seen an ENT yet? I went through a phase in my life where I had sinus infections just about every other month, and after a particularly bad infection I finally went to a proper physician instead of getting meds from urgent care. Turned out that I needed both my tonsil and adenoids removed as an adult. Sinus infections suck, so I hope you get well soon!

      1. Ali*

        Oh yes, of course, always distilled water!

        Tonsils are already out, and I don’t think this has repeated enough to get an ENT visit (which would end up being next July anyways at the rate things go) but I’ll keep an eye on it.

    10. Anonymous Koala*

      It might be psychosomatic, but whenever I feel something coming on I take 1000 mg/day of vitamin C. That, plus drinking lots of room temp and hot fluids, seems to blunt most of my colds and sinus infections. And I try and sleep more if I can – I skip chores and social events until I’m feeling a bit better. The extra rest seems to speed recovery.

    11. SeeYourDr*

      talk to your doctor – there are prescription options you can mix in with the neti pot to make it a lot more effective. And if you’re really having issues you might need an inhaler to help clear out your system.

    12. carcinization*

      There’s a drink I make called “Forest Nui Cobalt’s Flu Shot.” I think she sells pre-made just add water mixes of it now, but the recipe should still be floating around online somewhere. Other than water, it’s spices, honey, and apple cider vinegar; just wanted to clarify that it’s not something alcoholic since the word “drink” can go either way.

  30. MS shared account*

    I’d like to know how to transfer a personal multi-user Microsoft account for MS Office 365 from its current owner (who has died) to the other user. Anyone know what that involves?

    1. Belle*


      From link:
      Whatever your reason, you unfortunately cannot manually transfer an existing Microsoft 365 subscription from one Microsoft account to another. However, you can turn off recurring billing for the existing subscription, and then purchase a new subscription using the other Microsoft account

      1. MS shared account*

        That’s a bit of a nuisance, but at least I now understand what needs to happen. Obviously you would not want to lose access to your Word documents etc during this transition, so would it make sense to purchase a new account before turning off the old one?

    2. Kay*

      I think you can simply add the users to the current account (if they have the user spaces available). Then stop auto renew and the new users can sign up on their own after this one expires.

  31. Filling a humidifier*

    I really need to add a room humidifier to my bedroom but I’m afraid I won’t be able to refill it, since water is heavy and I am not strong enough to carry a 1-gallon filled water tank from the bathroom to the bedroom. Is there something that I could use to wheel it back that is small enough to get to the corner of the bedroom where there’s a spot to put the humidifier? Or any other solution other than a lot of back-and-forth with a quart bottle?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Is the problem with carrying the tank being able to get hold of it comfortably to carry it safely when full, or is it literally just the weight? A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds – I’m not second-guessing you, but when my mom had a weight restriction post-surgery she was positive the gallon of milk in the fridge weighed 20 pounds until we got out the scale and showed her that it was well under her 15 pound weight limit, estimating weight can be weird.

      If the problem is just getting hold of the tank in a safe and comfortable way, you could buy your first gallon of water in a gallon jug with a screw top and handle, and then use that, it should be much easier to hold than the humidifier tank. If it truly is the weight, you could get the same kind of jug and then even just set it on the floor and shove it along? Or possibly get a two-quart pitcher, if that’s not too heavy – still two trips, but not as many as with a quart bottle.

    2. Nervous Nellie*

      In garden centers you can often find inexpensive & rather pretty medium-weight cast iron platforms that are on wheels. These are meant for garden planters, but you could use one to roll a water tank around. I use one to move a large sewing box around my apartment. It’s beautiful, so I leave it out all the time. As a bonus, my pal’s dog loves to ride it when she comes to visit!!

      1. RLC*

        Platform-type furniture moving dollies, available at many home improvement stores, have worked well for me. If you have access to a Harbor Freight shop their options are quite affordable.

      2. Filling a humidifier*

        This could be an elegant solution, but I have wood floors in my bedroom and the hallway to the bathroom. Would this kind of plant trolley be likely to scratch the floors?

        1. Nervous Nellie*

          Would the trolley wheels be scratchy? Maybe? Mine has molded iron wheels with no obvious seams, and they haven’t scratched the laminate.

          Another though – I am remembering when I was a kid and babysat a neighbor, one of my little jobs was to fill the child’s humidifier. It was too big to move around, so I filled from a large lidded plastic jug that I filled in the bathtub, covered, and carried over several trips to her bedroom. Maybe an option?

    3. RagingADHD*

      You probably won’t use a whole gallon every day. If you get the kind you can refill in place, and top it up daily, you could go a good while before you need to use it all up and clean it.

    4. Qwerty*

      I usually only fill my humidifier halfway and it lasts most of the night. My new one has a convenient handle that my others didn’t have which makes it easier to carry if I go above halfway, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully filled it (Vicks 1Gal Warm Mist).

      If you think you’ll leaving it stationary, consider a vaporizer – they work a little differently, but it makes it easier to refill from a bottle or pitcher.

    5. Bluebell*

      Last year or the year before I got a Vitruvi humidifier, which is pretty to look at, and also has a much smaller reservoir. It does mean you need to refill it more often, but it’s not very heavy at all, plus you just take the cover off and the reservoir has a little handle on it, you can also just grab a watering can open up the top and pour the water in every morning and that’s not too heavy either.

    6. Llellayena*

      IKEA has some small metal storage carts that might work. I’ve seen similar at Michael’s as well. It’s a bucket top though so be careful if it blocks the controls. They might have so flat topped ones available though. Maybe look at kitchen carts?

      Also, do you need it to go through a gallon of water a night? We have a 10 cup humidifier that only uses about 4-5 cups in a night. We refill with a 4 cup measure each night and occasionally need to add another 4 cup (second trip) if it gets too low.

    7. Filling a humidifier*

      Thanks, lots of great ideas here! Which leads me to another question. I looked up humidifiers and the article that I read said to empty and wash them daily, plus more thorough scrubbing every 3 or 4 days. I know I will never adhere to that level of sanitation no matter what model I get. Those of you who have a humidifier, how do you handle the cleaning task?

      1. miel*

        We clean ours once a year (in the spring before putting it away for the season).

        It does get kinda grimey after six months of use, and it might be smart for us to wash it every month or so. We’ll see if that happens.

      2. E*

        I think emptying it and letting it dry out daily is more important than a full scrub, as it’ll help prevent mold that can be bad for your health.
        Using distilled water will help prevent buildup.
        That said, trying to get in habit of giving it the recommended vinegar soak and scrub (once a week is what I read, not 3-4 days) for the one in our baby’s room.

      3. Clisby*

        I just clean the filter when the “Clean Filter” light comes on. We don’t collect the water in a container and then discard that; we have a drain line that goes right into the sump pump, so in our case I don’t know what else I would need to clean.

        1. Squidhead*

          Sounds like you have a DEhumidifier, then. (We have a similar setup for our basement.)

          OP, using filtered water to fill the humidifier could help, if it’s not too difficult to obtain. We put an in-line filter on a cold water tap for drinking (our water is clean but tastes like chlorine). We fill the kettle with it too and it definitely helps reduce scale. It seems to work better than our old Brita pitcher but we did use one of those for years. The filter is from Amazon and you might need a helper to install it (turning off the water shutoff and screwing it in) but then it’s good for 10000 gallons. Short-term effort for longer-term gain, hopefully.

    8. Chaordic One*

      You might consider a small shopping/grocery bag carrier with wheels, a wheeled luggage trolley, or even putting the bottle inside of a wheeled suitcase.

  32. kt*

    Can’t think of where else to ask this, haha.

    I have a lot of sweaters (wool, often heavier weight). I do not wash them after every wear, or even after every two wears — it’s not good for them, and I’m wearing shirts underneath, and since they’re “nice” sweaters I’m usually wearing them for office work or out-and-about not exercise.

    How do you deal with your sweaters etc between washes? I don’t want to put them back in the same drawer all folded up. Do you do so? I do like to indicate to myself somehow that they’ve been worn and are on a path to getting a wash, although not ready yet. I think airing them out is good for them, but also, they should not be stored on hangers — they’d stretch out. How do you air out your sweaters or merino wool or whatever else?

    1. Qwerty*

      I have a spot in my closet for “worn but not dirty” I either put sweaters folded on the shelf or drap over a hanger (the bar part) depending on where I have room.

      If the sweater really needs to air out, I’ll put it on a hanger and put the hanger on my shower bar in the bathroom – better airflow than my closet and ensures that I’ll see it the morning to put it away

    2. Not A Manager*

      I definitely don’t wash my sweaters between every wear, or every other wear! I do fold them up with my other sweaters. For me, the time to wash them is when I can see that they are getting dingy (usually at the cuffs or collar), or if they have a spot. As you say, they are being worn over another layer, so I see them as analogous to any other top layer. I also literally sniff them to see if they are holding odors.

      My dryer used to have a “steam refresh” setting. I would use that between washings, as necessary, to air my sweaters and remove occasional odors. I don’t have access to that now, but I’ll spray them lightly with a mister and toss them on “air fluff” for 10 minutes. I’ll also hang them in my bathroom when I shower and let them steam a bit.

    3. lavender latte*

      The bottom drawer of my highboy is designed for worn items. I put in a thick liner paper that I pull out to wipe clean every few weeks.

    4. Kiki Is The Most*

      Don’t put your sweater away when you take it off. Better to give it a very light spray of fabric refresher or febreeze and then lay it on the back of a chair, even better if you then can air it out outside (unless it’s raining). I have a small, collapsable standing rack for my patio. The cool air works wonders for maintaining my sweaters, and the scent of the fresheners usually has dissipated by the time I fold them to put away.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is what I do, although I’m impressed by the people who fold and put away used clothes and apparently keep track. I have a clothing rack for intermediate-used clothing, and it looks less messy than having them over the back of chairs or whatever. I guess it wouldn’t work if I had a lot of clothes in that state at one time (like I wore a sweater every day and didn’t wash any of them until the fourth or fifth wear; but I don’t have that many items that fall in this category. The clothes rack is next to the laundry so used items go either in one or on the other.

      2. office hobbit*

        I’ve read that spritzing them with vodka is another option for any mild odors, though I haven’t tried it myself. As to the main question, I do exactly what Sloanicota said above, and it is just as messy as theorized. Following for other ideas!

    5. Generic Name*

      I have a row of hooks on my wall I hang them on for a day or so to air out, and then I fold them back up with my other sweaters. Wool has natural anti microbial properties, so they don’t get stinky like other fabrics.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I use a row of hooks too, though I don’t typically wear stretchy things that would resent spending time on a hook. I keep two pairs of jeans and two bras in rotation, wearing them every other day, so that I can get away with wearing them several times before they get funky. In winter, I have fleeces in rotation too, though since they’re outer wear I only wash them maybe 2x over the season. I don’t attempt to manage a large pool of items this way; one small row of hooks is enough. If you have a big sweater collection and don’t want to alternate between the same two distinctive sweaters until one of them has unambiguously earned a wash, I’d go with the other suggestions: air out for a day or so on a laundry rack or other flattish surface before putting it back in the drawer, using some kind of system that encourages you to rotate through your collection, so that (at least in theory) the whole drawer has a gradual, synchronous increase in worn-ness that you can reset at any time by washing the lot.

    6. 1LFTW*

      I don’t wear sweaters because my cats tend to snag them, but years ago someone told me that putting worn delicate clothing in the freezer is a really good hack. It kills off the bacteria that causes odor and damage to clothing fibers, I guess?

    7. Anonymous Koala*

      I also wait to wash my sweaters after a few wears. I have one of those folding drying racks in my closet where I air my once-worn sweaters for a day or two. I also have a linen spray of water and a little vodka and essential oil (lavender or eucalyptus, usually) that I spray on my sweaters before I fold them and put them away.

    8. Donkey Hotey*

      Back in the same drawer… on top, and i draw from the bottom of the stack.
      But then again, I’m the heretic who only cleans my sweaters once a year in spring.

      1. allathian*

        Knitted wool sweaters get washed once a year in spring, when I can count on at least 5 months of not wearing them again. Our washing machine has a gentle wash cycle for wool, and then I dry my sweaters flat so they don’t stretch.

        I’m in a temperate climate, so if a sweater needs freshening up in the winter, I’ll put it out to air on our balcony on a hanger.

  33. Not Alison*

    Good Book

    Just finished reading “We Fed an Island” by Chef Jose Andreas (from World Central Kitchen). It is the story of feeding the American citizens of Puerto Rico after the hurricane hit their island in 2017.

    An amazing read of how the chefs of Puerto Rico banded together to figure out what was needed and to do the cooking. Also amazing how FEMA botched the job and how the Red Cross used the money donated for the hurricane relief. Made me rethink how to direct my charitable contributions for disaster relief. I totally recommend this book.

  34. lavender latte*

    Has anyone ever made a secondary mailbox for packages? Newspaper boxes on the same post are common here, but I’ve never seen anything larger.

    We don’t have a huge property, but it is very steep, so our driveway has a switchback. I’m very tired of delivery trucks charging up at full speed, then being unable to get back down without obliterating our hedgerow.

    I need to figure out how to make it obvious that they can leave things at the road. Adding notes to the delivery instructions has not worked.

    1. Mari*

      if you search on amazon for “locking package delivery boxes for outside” you’ll find a bunch of options that might work, and you could add some clear labeling on the outside for packages. some of them include mailboxes on top and house numbers if you want to get fancy, so hopefully they’d see the address and also notice the spot to put the package. surely they’d appreciate saving the time driving up and get the idea pretty quickly!

      1. Girasol*

        If you don’t need a lock, I’ve seen a local home business that takes deliveries in a big, well-labeled ice chest at the bottom of the driveway.

    2. Kay*

      Is there an easy way to block the entrance? A gate/chain? With a sign hanging on it saying – put deliveries in the mailbox?

      1. A Reader*

        This is the best solution. It has worked at my property! There was already an old farm gate that I merely had to add a bracket/wheel to and a chain (no lock). No one but the propane company, which has permission, has driven to the house as a result! My driveway is long, narrow, downhill, and has a 60 degree turn that often caused delivery trucks to either get stuck or make ruts in the lawn and they never ever fixed these or apologized!

  35. Help with living room makeover!*

    My living room desperately needs a complete makeover, and I have no idea what to do. It’s small and has an awkward layout. I’m so used the the way it’s looked for the last 15 years that I can’t picture what to do, other than just replace the furniture exactly where it’s at now, which I don’t want to do. Any tips for how to approach this? Should I hire an interior designer? Use one an online service (where you submit pictures and they present you with a few mock-ups), use a service from a store like Crate and Barrel, create a Pinterest board try to figure it out? I’m slowly trying to redo my small house in a way that I will like for years to come, so I’m super nervous about making big changes. I don’t want to redo my living room and not like the end result.

    1. Sloanicota*

      It’s funny you say this. I have a huuuuuge crate in my living room for my huge dog, because when I brought him home everything and everyone said I needed this crate. Always thought it looked just awful but – the things we do for pets. Well, he hates the crate and rarely uses it so, two years later I started to disassemble it today to put it downstairs, but I immediately got overwhelmed by the task of rearranging everything since I was used the way it looked, even though I don’t like it. I’m going to keep trying haha, I know it will eventually look a lot better and I’ll get used to it.

      1. Help with living room makeover!*

        I currently have purple unicorn shaped cat tunnel in my living room, which will be temporarily replaced by a holiday-themed one shortly. My living room also contains a cat bed shaped like an igloo, and a cardboard scratching post shaped like a holiday present. I just realized my cats have almost as much furniture in my living room as the 2 humans do!

    2. office hobbit*

      Handshake of solidarity!! My living room is a lot of “I brought this home and set it down and that became its home for the next two years” so I’m in a similar boat. All I’ve done so far, but which did help, was to sketch out a blueprint of the room on graph paper with doors, windows, floor vents, etc. marked. Then in a different color I marked out the necessary paths of travel (between all doors), because this made it really clear which spaces were actually available to put things in. Then in a third color I marked in furniture items that I knew had to go in a certain spot (plant tables by the sunniest window, cat tower by the window overlooking the street). Then you’ll see what spaces are left. I think this will make it seem less overwhelming. As for what you need, let how you use the space currently inform what you need. Like, I perpetually have a pile near the door where I set things when I come in–so I’m getting a hall tree to put there. I have a bunch of cozy house jackets slung over the backs of chairs, so they’ll go on hooks. Etc. Good luck!

    3. Generic Name*

      I’d start by googling different layouts. The most common thing I see is people automatically put the couch along the longest wall, and you don’t have to stick with that. You can put it in front of windows, or even an open area. I have a sectional in my den that backs to an open area, and I have two floor lamps behind the couch to anchor the space. My parents have a table behind their couch that is similarly situated. Not like a dining table. It’s narrow and taller and is about the length of the couch.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      If there’s a large piece of furniture you don’t really like, temporarily move it out of the room and keep looking at the room. I had this quandary about a year ago. I hadn’t really liked the way my living room looked for years. It has a slightly unbalanced layout plus my husband was pathologically attached to a worn out leather chair. I got my son to help me just take the chair out of the room for a minute…and suddenly the whole puzzle just broke open. I ended up getting rid of that chair plus another one, moving the couch a few feet, getting a new loveseat, and changing up some artwork.

    5. Still*

      Could you try moving your existing furniture around just to play with it a bit? Maybe you’ll discover something that works much better, or would work much better with a specific piece of furniture.

    6. Maryn*

      If you want to consider rearrangements of your existing furniture, try cutting scale pieces from graph paper and moving them around a graph-paper room. We’ve done this many times and it sure beats trying the couch here then realizing it blocks the book case, so you move that…

      Great advice about “floating” the couch in places that are not necessarily up against the longest wall. Consider diagonals, too.

      Don’t forget heating vents and electrical outlets you don’t want blocked.

    7. Professor Plum*

      Recently I asked a friend to help me think through how to rearrange my living/dining room. I knew it could be more spacious, and I had family coming to visit, but I was so stuck on how it had been for so long, that I couldn’t redo it by myself. The couch switched from one wall to another spot. The dining table shifted to an angle that opened up the space. Very happy with the new layout!

    8. Awkwardness*

      Pinterest Boards really helped me getting started. Even if those rooms might look vastly different than mine, I had a reference of what I was going for (think of criteria as clean/heavily decorated, scandi-style/mediterranean, and so on).

  36. Christmas Cookie*

    Any recs for a puzzle/game/card table? Budget up to say, $2500 but I can be flexible. I want real furniture but not $10k if possible.

    This is going in the library/book nook in my silly big living room.

    We would use it for cards, puzzles, and chess for sure.

    1. Generic Name*

      I would look in antique stores. It’s very difficult to find solid wood furniture that is less than a Queen’s ransom these days.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Absolutely. In fact, this weekend is our biannual arts fest downtown and there are so many amazing wood workers who make pre-made and custom games tables just like OP described. Look for an artisan.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Carolina Game Tables is one we looked at to replace our dining room table. They’re solid wood and seem well made.

  37. Bluebell*

    Travel question- anyone have advice for Malta? Friend and I are looking at different possible destinations for a 5-9 day trip together, coming from New England. We want to see interesting things, eat good food, and are open to history in cities or enjoying nature.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Jealous! Malta has been one of my dream vacations since I was in college.

      There are significant archeological sites in the interior of the island that, from books and internet research look well worth investigating. I would want to spend a day wandering around Mdina’s old city. And a boat ride over to Gozo which is much less traveled but the coastal scenery is amazing.

    2. Atheist Nun*

      I traveled to Malta in 2012, so take my suggestions with 11 years’ worth of grains of salt. I think 2-3 days is a fine amount of time to spend there. I liked Gozo a lot. From its main town of Victoria, it was easy to catch buses to scenic coastal sites as well as an archaeological site. Also, I very much enjoyed drinking Kinnie, which is a Maltese soda flavored with bitter oranges. Have a great time!

    3. PX*

      Its become fairly popular as a long weekend type of getaway in Europe. From what I’ve heard it’s nice but as it’s not that big 9 days might be too long? Although if you’re travelling from the US, maybe a few extra days to get over jetlag and/or just chill might be fine.

      Lots of history, castles etc so think you’re definitely sorted in that regard!

  38. Falling Diphthong*

    What are you watching? What did you think of it?

    Just finished S2 of Loki (Disney+). I did not care for most of this season–the plot was confusing*, and Loki kept earnestly explaining that THE ONLY CHOICE is to preserve the deeply corrupt genocidal institution that we have, because it’s all we have, and maybe it can do better. Weird choice for the god of trickery and chaos; weird choice for the zeitgeist with faith in institutions at an all-time low; weird choice for Marvel as the multiverse is overladen and stumbling. So weirdly I did really like the ending, which embraced chaos and choice.

    Watched S3 of Lupin (Netflix) which I highly recommend, especially if you like Leverage. It’s about a Frenchman, immigrated from Senegal as a child, who becomes a gentleman thief based on the classic works about Arsene Lupin.

    Started S3 of Slow Horses (Apple) which is as delightful as the first two seasons. Gary Oldman is fantastic as the head of the misfit washed up spy group Slough House. It’s that rare show where the characters make mistakes.

    *And I am a plot person; usually my complaint is that the showrunner seems to think I’m too stupid to keep track of a complicated plot so they have to keep stopping to explain to me.

    1. GoryDetails*

      I finished “The Railway Men,” an Indian mini-series about the Bhopal gas-leak disaster – mainly factual, with some dramatic license re specific characters. Very impressive – and infuriating, what with the criminally cavalier attitude of the executives and politicians.

      On the lighter side, I’m binge-watching the Syfy special-effects-makeup show “Face Off” – watched all the seasons when they first aired, but it’s fun revisiting them.

      1. carcinization*

        Gosh, “Face Off” was a show that my husband and I really loved. I wish it would come back!

    2. RagingADHD*

      I really liked Lupin S1, so I’ll have to watch the new seasons. It’s a great part, with all his disguises / personas, and the lead actor is excellent in it.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I can’t wait for the next episode of Slow Horses to come out! Also starting Lupin today, and a few episodes into the first season of Somebody Somewhere (Jeff Hiller is a national treasure). I added Happy Valley and C.B Strike to my watch list this week.

    4. Bluebell*

      Started the new season of Fargo and am loving it. Also enjoying The First Wives Club series- a good chance to enjoy Michelle Buteau before Survival of the Thickest comes back with season 2.

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      Thank you for posting this thread! I am making my way through the most recent series of Black Mirror, I’ve just watched Barbie and last weekend I finally watched the filmed production of Hamilton, which I really enjoyed.
      And I do want to watch Lupin at some point, I just have so much other stuff to get to as well!

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Just finished Tudor Monastery Farm and loved it. I read Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Tudor, and in it she described roasting meat for this series and how the crew tore it apart like wolves before they could film it and she had to make another. I was all ” THAT’S THE ROAST!”

    7. carcinization*

      Just watched “The Star Wars Holiday Special” after decorating our house, and wow, it was the worst thing I have ever seen!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, it’s best forgotten.

        George Lucas once said in an interview something to the effect of wishing that he could get his hands on all copies of the show and destroy them…

    8. allathian*

      I feel the way you do about the second season of Loki. It was so confusing, and I’m a plot person too. I missed the humor of the first season, feels like the second took itself a bit too seriously. I also liked the ending, but Tom Hiddleston’s incredible charisma as Loki kept me watching until then.

      We’re on the sixth season of Voyager, and I’m still liking it far better than I did the last time I watched the show. Then, I felt that Voyager was too episodic, especially following the much more story arc-based DS9. But now that story arcs have become the mainstay of storytelling for streaming shows, I feel like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. This is especially true for Star Wars and Marvel, where you have to watch a number of shows/movies to fully understand what’s happening in the most recent one. It can be refreshing sometimes to watch a show where you can just pick an episode more or less at random and enjoy it for what it is.

      We’re almost done with the third season of The Wire. It really is an amazing show, if rather disheartening at times.

  39. Diocletian Blobb*

    How do you wake yourself back up after eating when you absolutely cannot keep your eyes open? Last night I was falling asleep during my D&D game after eating some Mexican food we ordered and I felt awful about it. I tried getting up and stretching, but even being up and moving around I was able to participate only at a reactive level, not truly engaging with the game or my friends, because my brain just absolutely would not wake up. Caffeine *sometimes* helps, but I have to remember to drink it well before I eat or there’s just no energy left for my brain to borrow, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all period. (High tolerance from drinking coffee all day, maybe.)

    Any suggestions? Do I need to just start being more mindful about when I eat? It’s so hard for me to resist when everyone else is ordering food and I know I’m going to smell it and get hungry :( I have this problem at work too, but I work from home so when I get really tired I can put my head down on my desk and take a five-minute power nap, which DOES work but feels really disrespectful and weird when you’re doing an activity with other people.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Hmm, how is your sleep generally? Do you get more or less eight hours at night, and do you feel rested when you wake up? Is it easy to get up in the mornings – waking on schedule before your alarm and generally being ready to get out of bed – or are you dragging, hitting snooze multiple times, etc?

      1. Diocletian Blobb*

        My sleep is quite good. Never have trouble falling asleep, bed around midnight and wake up around 7:30-8 feeling reasonably well rested, sometimes before my alarm. It does take a cup of coffee to get me going and fully awake, but that doesn’t seem like an uncommon or especially urgent problem.

        I’m pretty sure eating is specifically the problem, because when I let myself go hungry for a bit I almost never have the same problem with sleepiness. My body just REALLY wants to sleep after I’ve eaten anything bigger than a snack.

    2. lavender latte*

      I avoid carbs in these situations. Like if the group gets burgers, I take off the bun. (This may be easier said than done, since I’m already known for allergies/food restrictions in my group. If you are part of an “eat anything you put in front of us” crowd, then it’s harder to be fussy.)

    3. GoryDetails*

      Maybe try different types of snacks and see if your response varies. Something like cottage cheese or cold cuts, perhaps, or raw veggies – just to see if your metabolism reacts differently to all-protein vs. all-veg vs. carbs?

      1. Diocletian Blobb*

        this is a good idea and something I’ve tried to do, it’s just so damn hard to find takeout food that falls in these categories! I guess maybe I should be the little dork who packs his own raw vegetable snacks, haha

    4. office hobbit*

      “postprandial” is a word to use in any little medical searches about this. Eating protein and fat along with simple carbs/sugars will help insulate your blood sugar from as strong a reaction. Eating in smaller portions will help too. This reaction sounds very severe tho so it’s worth bringing up with a doctor if that’s something you can do! They gave me a glucose tolerance test a while back (where you chug sugar water, basically) and I got as sleepy as you describe here, and turns out it was because my blood sugar had dropped super low. So you might be having some blood sugar reaction that, once you know what it is, you can figure out how to manage.

      1. Diocletian Blobb*

        I had a full bloodwork panel with my yearly checkup just over a month ago and everything was normal, so I don’t immediately suspect any serious metabolic issues. And the meal I ate — pork burrito with chips and guac — did actually have a lot of protein and fat, but it might be just the size and general heaviness of the meal that made it so hard to deal with. I love rich, heavy food, and I know that’s probably not the best thing for my energy levels.

    5. Not A Manager*

      If a five-minute power nap solves this problem, then I’m not sure it’s a glucose issue. It could be post-prandial hypotension. You could try monitoring your blood pressure occasionally.

      In any event, these are your friends and a 10-minute break after meals isn’t a big ask. Probably everyone else would like a bathroom break or to stretch their legs. Just tell folks, without making a big deal out of it, that you’re happy to order food but you’ll need 10 minutes lying on the sofa afterward. People might make a few comments at first, and then it will just be a regular expectation.

      1. RagingADHD*

        This was my first thought. Your blood pressure naturally drops immediately after eating, and a big drop can make you feel sleepy.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I agree–it sounds like this is more meal than “snack while doing,” so perhaps suggesting a five-to-fifteen for general stretching, cat naps and bathroom breaks would go over well!

        I would also cut down on the amount of food eaten–when I go full bore on a meal, I definitely drift off shortly afterwards!

    6. MamaSarah*

      I went through a phase last fall where I would get painfully full after eating a moderately sized meal. I also felt similarly when I needed to burb (that was unsettling!). FWIW, I chalked it up to taking antibiotics twice in the same six month period and tried to eat more foods with happy bacteria (yogurt, a quality well crafted unfiltered beer, fruits and veg with pith and peels).
      A lot of Ayurveda resonates with me. It’s a like a science or philosophy of eating. For example, Ayurveda teaches one to refrain from drinking ice beverages (it’s like throwing water on the “digestive fire”) and to minimize distractions while eating. We’ve also found that a quick pause to ground out with a few deep breaths before eating can do it wonders for stomach.
      Perhaps this is TMI, but constipation can have some pretty wacky effects on the body. Anyhow…I wish you the best of health during this festive time of year. ☺️

  40. Sloanicota*

    I’m in a contemplative mode as we approach the holiday season. One thing I have really struggled with is that my first reaction to new things is often a kind of automatic “nope.” I don’t really like unexpected changes and new things are often kind of uncomfortable, but I have been really trying this past year to push myself a little past that initial reaction and give things maybe a second or third try before giving up. However, the result of that effort is that I sort of feel like I have lost trust in my feelings and experiences, a bit? If that makes sense? It was worst when I was trying to date; often, first dates are awkward and might not be the best representative of what this person is really like, but it’s also kind of an awful feeling to keep going out with someone you’re not excited about seeing. I’ve had the same issue with some new groups I’ve tried to join. I’m working on a “three tries is enough tries” rule, but .. I don’t know, I just feel muddled. Does anyone else deal with this, and any suggestions ?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      A gift to my reading was the revolutionary concept that I could start a book, decide it wasn’t for me, and put it down. Relatedly, I decided that if I really loved every book I read, that meant that I was staying too close to known knowns–that the occasional “huh, really not into this” was a good sign that I was allowing enough breadth in my reading.

      But that has to be occasional, not constant. To me–who shares the reflexive no, amped up after a few brutal years health-wise that sapped any reserves–you rule of three makes sense. One thing I’m doing now is signing up for art classes at a place near me, and it helped to think of it as “you will be trying something different, and that will be good” rather than “this will restart your old art ability to what it was before.” If you’re feeling tired and frustrated, maybe a “three tries is enough for the fall; in February you should try another new thing but you have permission to step back and ferment through the solstice” would help?

      1. WellRed*

        It’s very freeing to realize you needn’t finish a book, or the movie or order from the really expensive menu.

      2. allathian*

        It also depends a lot on what else’s going on in your life. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and only making safe choices in your reading and watching habits, maybe branching out to something new would be stimulating for you.

        But if you’re already stressed out at work, dealing with stressful family stuff, it’s also okay to decide to stay in your comfort zone in those areas that are fully within your control, i.e. what you read and what you watch. Stress from different sources is cumulative, after all.

      3. Anonymous cat*

        Similar to the art classes:
        I tell myself, I’m just TRYING this activity. It’s not for forever. So if I’m meh, that’s okay.

        Also, I think of my big picture goals. Like, was a bigger goal just to leave the house and be around people in an agreeable activity? Okay, we’re doing that so success!

        And always—if something/someone is ringing alarm bells, you can leave. The world won’t fall apart if you miss the end of something.

    2. Water Everywhere*

      What about capping your tries at two instead of three? I have that knee jerk ‘nope’ response to new things, too, and I’ve been working on that by telling myself I need to give it at least two tries before deciding it’s not for me and quitting. In tandem with this I’ve also decided that two tries are enough; the older I get the less inclined I am to waste my time & energy on things/activities/people that don’t give me some kind of positive return.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do sort of feel like on the second try you should at least be able to sort of see the potential for future enjoyment, even if it’s still may