{ 880 comments… read them below }

      1. Malarkey01*

        Oh nice! I set a goal to read all of them this year and I have about 4 to finish so this is perfect. I love that you do this and it’s gotten me back in to reading different things than I’d normally pick. It sort of became my favorite thing to see Friday night.

          1. Jackalope*

            I haven’t read all of them, but I will say that my favorite (at least at this point) is Happy All the Time.

          2. Malarkey01*

            A Quiet Life hands down. The Whispers was second. There were so many that were great reads but A Quiet Life is the one I still think about months and months later.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I always tell my kids they can use the AAM annual book list as my gift wish list, and they have done so for the past three years. :-)

        1. Saturday*

          That’s a great idea. I can’t find time to read as often as I’d like, so I love having access to all the annual lists for some trusted recommendations. I’ve been most happy to find authors whose other books I want to read too, like Elinor Lipman.

      1. albertiraross*

        My sister also had a soft ginger kitty named Lucy! Did you paint the artwork yourself? I love it so much!

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            I love this. We rescued… a lot of cats. Maximum 13 at one time, but we took a bunch of elderly cats with health issues so some of them were short stays. :( We’re down to two, and I am not ready for the renal 18 year old to die.

            One day I’m going to get a painting commissioned of them all!

            RIP Sam and Lucy. <3

        1. Jellyfish Catcher*

          Looks like they are in order from left to right as to when you got each cat…that so? It’s a great picture!

          1. emeldee*

            I think you’re right that they’re shown in the order they joined Alison’s household: Lucy, Sam, Olive, Eve, Sophie, Wallace, Laurie, Hank, Stella, and Fig.

            I love that Alison’s husband included Lucy and Sam in the mix.

      2. MEH Squared*

        I love this drawing so much. It’s so warm and inviting with a touch of melancholy–just like this season. Kudos to your husband!

    1. Bluebell*

      I looked at the drawing quickly and thought cat menorah? But then I took a minute and realized what it was. Very sweet. I’m too lazy to look back – does anyone remember if Alison has ever done a cat menorah type thing with her fun Photoshop skills?

  1. Sad Daughter*

    Just an update: I wanted to thank everyone for their reading recommendations in the reading thread last week on escapist literature after my Mom passed away from a sudden case of sepsis and my Dad is being treated for cancer. When I got the news about my family’s health issues, I was in the middle of reading “The Outsider” by Stephen King, and yeah, I can’t even begin to start it back up anytime soon.

    I ended up getting physical copies of “Psalm for the Wild-Built,” “The Sweet Spot,” “To Hive and to Hold,” and two Randall Munroe books. I also got an eAudiobook copy of “The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches” and Kindle copies of “Get a Life, Chloe Brown,” “See You Yesterday,” and “The Hands of the Emperor.”

    I figured that was enough to get me started, and I put the rest on my Storygraph To Read list. I had only previously read two-ish books out of all of the ones listed, and that was, “Hench,” which I really enjoyed though I don’t think I could handle a reread right now, and the first “What If?” by Munroe. I forgot he had written sequels and spin-offs to that book, so I’m excited to get into them. Thanks again, everyone.

  2. WellRed*

    Honest question. I’m not a Taylor swift fan but accept that she’s widely lived and probably even a good person. I even sort if like a song or two. As Time magazine said in announcing her as person of the year, she brings joy. I won’t argue any of that. But I don’t think she’s a good singer. A good vocalist. I admire many singers whose music I don’t care for. Am I missing something with Tay?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah but Britney is a significantly worse singer than Taylor, and Taylor at least writes some of her own songs. I don’t love either, but Swift’s an order of magnitude more interesting.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          The OP isn’t arguing that she isn’t wildly successful. They’re saying they personally don’t find her voice that good and are genuinely asking, in good faith, for insights.

          I would suggest that this comment doesn’t add to the discussion in good faith, but rather comes across as taking offense that someone doesn’t like a successful woman’s singing voice. This is unfortunate because it misses an opportunity for an open-hearted discussion, and instead serves to steer the conversation off course into an unhelpful and unproductive direction.

          I looked up some analyses online about her vocal ability and found some interesting observations that seem to answer the OP’s question. I’ll link in a follow up comment.

          1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

            There are quite a few articles and videos talking about her voice. The article below seems to reflect the general consensus:

            “Where so many of her contemporaries pride themselves on technical excellence, Taylor Swift proves that there’s more to a great voice than just the fireworks.

            With a middling soprano range that seems more secure in its middle and lower echelons, Tay-Tay’s singing voice is not the most technically adept in the pop world. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t doing interesting things with it…

            Technically, what’s she doing?

            Taylor’s voice is characterised by its adherence to simple melodies, and its very few inflections or ornaments. Singing plainly is nothing to be ashamed of, but in a world of Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, she does tend to stick out as a distinctly un-flashy performer. When she’s called upon to sing quickly and nimbly, the security tends to slip (listen to how she delivers the “I’m lightning on my feet” passages on ’Shake It Off’ – she just about holds on).”


          2. MissElizaTudor*

            Leaving aside that this wasn’t a response to the OP, but rather, a response to someone saying America loves it’s mediocre white women, the OP didn’t just say they personally don’t like Swift’s voice. They said they don’t think she’s a good singer and that she isn’t a good vocalist. That’s not a point about preference, but a claim about quality.

          3. Rachel*

            I’m not replying to the OP.

            I am going to say that anybody is perfectly welcome to give the opinion that they think Taylor Swift’s music is a mediocre white woman. If that’s what you think, fine.

            But if it’s that easy to have her level of success with mediocre talent, then I assume the person who wrote the comment did the same thing.

            1. Workerbee*

              Oh, come on.

              It’s okay not to like what someone produces without also having to “prove” that they’ve done the same or better. An opinion doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Eh, there are a ton of successful people who don’t have much talent but hit at the right time and with the right marketing.

              As a classically trained singer myself, I don’t think Taylor Swift’s success is all due to her voice, which is admittedly pleasant and serviceable for pop. Her songs are catchy, with interesting lyrics, and she works extremely hard to connect with her fans and show gratitude to them.

              The latter is a move that makes her likeable even if you’re not a Swiftie (disclaimer: I’m not). I don’t know how much of it is just savvy marketing; she seems to genuinely appreciate them at least to some degree.

              There’s more to entertainment success than talent.

      2. Saturday*

        I don’t think that’s fair. Her lyrics are good, especially as she’s getting older, and that’s why a lot of people listen to her muic. It’s often not about a person’s voice – look at Bob Dylan.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          ^ I’m with this.

          I’m fine with Taylor Swift’s music, and find some of it pleasant and catchy. That her fans are able to set off detectable seismic events brings me a certain level of joy just because of the “ick, girl stuff” hate hate hate hate it flies in the face of.

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            Right? Disliking or devaluing something/someone that is primarily popular with young women and girls isn’t exactly a hot take.

            Maybe Britney and Taylor aren’t great in terms of specific things YOU value about music. But people who work as hard as they do and achieve the kind of success they’ve had are not mediocre.

      3. MissElizaTudor*

        And people online love putting words like “white” in front of “women” to say crappy things about women while pre-deflecting accusations of sexism or misogyny.

        1. But what to call me?*

          Yes this.

          Just because there’s an axis of oppression that doesn’t apply to her doesn’t invalidate the one that does. There are complaints one could make that might apply specifically to white women, but ‘set up by society for easy success’ is not one of them.

      4. Maggie*

        That’s kind of rude. I don’t get why people like her so much, and her music and vibe is not for me, but she’s kind of the opposite of mediocre. She’s one of the most successful people on the planet lol

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          I don’t understand Taylor Swift, but different artists appeal to different demographics. I’m sure someone thinks The Mountain Goats or Beyonce are mediocre

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        You’ll be thrilled to know that Stephen Miller is with you! He can tell that her purported success cannot be legitimate and is instead an open sign of a Vast Conspiracy.

        I am, of course, not joking about this.

    1. Pear Blossom*

      She’s a fine singer IMO. Better than others, but not great, so a little above average across the famous singers board. Ultimately, I think she puts out a really great concert or so I’ve heard from friends and coworkers who have seen her this year.

      I was pretty indifferent towards her, found her slightly annoying/a little fake, but still enjoyed most of her popular (ie on the radio) songs. I watched her Netflix doc a few years ago (Americana?) and it really changed my perspective on her. She’s gone through a lot of crap and has handled it so well for being in the public eye. And the things she does for her fans? She seems like a sweet person.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m not interested in her or her music but I think a lot of it is personality/persona. She comes across very sweet and like she genuinely cares about her fans. I remember like 10 years or so ago she would say stuff like “I’m not a feminist, I like boys!” and so much of her music was “not like other girls” type quirkiness, but I get the impression she’s matured throughout her career and as far as I can tell she’s a pretty great role model, at least as celebrities go?

      Also, person of the year is about someone’s impact, good or bad, and she’s definitely been a big deal during her current tour cycle regardless of anything else.

      1. virago*

        Taylor Swift also has done several things that are good in my book:

        She came out against the right-wing incumbent who ran for reelection to the US Senate in Tennessee, where she is from.

        She has urged her fans to register to vote.

        She has, by being named Time’s Person of the Year, greatly bothered people like Stephen Miller, the ghoul who crafted Donald Trump’s family separation policy. Miller doesn’t believe that the level of fan support for Swift can possibly be sincere, and he has said he’s going to “get to the bottom” of it.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      She’s also an incredible businesswoman who is protesting the fee add-ons by Ticketmaster and the entire ticketing/concert structure in general. I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of her songs, but a 30 year old woman in the entertainment business who’s running her career that well instead of being ruthlessly crushed and exploited is something exceptional.

      1. New Mom (of 1 4/9)*

        I’m quite sure if you have shopped in a public place or been the non-music-chooser in someone else’s car in the past 10-15 years, you have heard one of her songs. =)

          1. Blythe*

            Christmas questions! Backstory: I have two adolescent foster children who are back with me for the first time in a few years. They love kid-stuff (we have an elf on the shelf!)— and are also 12 and 16. So.

            1) We hope to have bio family over on Christmas day. What do we.. do? Eat? (Would love recs for activities and appetizers. DELICIOUS is key. We are not food snobs.)

            2) Would also love fun Christmas Eve activity ideas. I think we will decorate Christmas cookies and maybe do a drive to look at lights. What else?

            1. WestsideStory*

              Know what’s hot this year? Mexican dominoes. Look it up – fun for all ages.
              Also do a turkey? Easy to cook and it reads festive.

            2. carcinization*

              You want a delicious appetizer for non-food-snobs, it’s… one block Velveeta, one can “cream of” soup (we use cream of mushroom, but I’ve also used cream of chicken or something else in a pinch), one can Ro-tel or other tomato and chile product, and, if you want, one pound of pre-browned hamburger meat, breakfast sausage, or fake meat (it’s great with soyrizo but that makes it spicier). Microwave, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a dip. Lots of people make it with just the Velveeta and tomato product, but then the consistency is off (too thick to actually dip chips into). We have this once or twice a year only since it’s not health food or anything.

            3. TigerPants*

              Food that includes a DIY aspect is good for when you need an icebreaker activity/focal point other than just eating. Taco or baked potato bar? That dip recipe sounds delicious and unfussy!

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Would it be too much to ask to have her *buy* Ticketmaster? I’d throw the odd $20 into a GoFundMe for *that*.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      She’s an amazing entertainer, which is a different skill than being an amazing singer. She’s also a very canny businesswoman – it’s also nice to see a woman who started as a young entertainer who has taken charge of her own career, rather than being manipulated by others (someone like Britney Spears being a counter example).

      1. AGD*

        This. I don’t listen to her music, but yesterday I found myself thinking that so many female American pop stars at the moment are young women who are massively talented songwriters and decided themselves to take a chance on making that into their careers. I really appreciate this sense of agency, which goes hand in hand with media-savviness and straightforward refusal to play other people’s games (Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish are both skilled at batting away nonsense, which is so refreshing). Twenty years ago, there was so little of all this in American pop music (especially among the white women) that I actually stopped listening to the genre entirely for a few years.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Can we not compare Britney’s autonomy in her career to Taylor’s? Britney obviously has debilitating mental health issues. She had multiple major mental health crisises in front of the entire world that were very influenced (if not caused) by everyone around her, particularly her family and partners, plus pressure from the media. Taylor has a LOT more privilege (in not having the same mental health struggles) and support (family, friends and colleagues that weren’t abusing or manipulating her) than Britney has/had. It’s great that Taylor learned how to be a strong businesswoman but it’s not a personal failing of Britney that she didn’t do that too.

    5. Salsa Your Face*

      Pop music can be tough for me in general, because I’m a trained singer who swoons over good technique. But I’ve learned over the years that not only do most people not value good technique as much as I do, but most people can’t even identify what good technique sounds like. They’re listening to music totally differently from the way I do, and as long as their music brings them enjoyment, I figure it’s all good.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        How do you know what good technique sounds like? Are there some examples of songs where it’s noticeably better? I have no musical background but appreciate learning more about it.

        1. Jackalope*

          I’m not that skilled at music but I have a friend who is trained. I know one of the things my friend looks at is the way the music is put together. For example, Metallica was classically trained and they have more interesting melodies and ways to use harmonies in their music. I know in my limited sphere I can tell with piano music (if I look at it) someone who has the ability to give both left and right hands interesting parts vs. those who only care about the right hand (which is usually the dominant melody part). So some of it from what I know is whether people know how to do interesting and complex things with the music; it doesn’t have to be fancy, but there are some kinds of things you don’t think of if you haven’t been trained.

          1. Pearl116*

            Hi Jackalope, I conducted a “find” for Apocalyptica here, and didn’t find references– I think you may have meant Apocalyptica, not Metallica! Apo are Finnish, Sibelius-school trained cellists who love.love.love Metallica and metal music — they even got permission from Metallica to base their first album entirely on Metallica songs (and have toured and played onstage with them.)

        2. TechWorker*

          I am also a ‘trained singer’ and… singing training varies A LOT depending on the style and purpose. Opera singers are not doing identical training to musical theatre or pop. I’m not sure I would agree with the concept there’s one ‘good technique’ in the first place.

        3. Chaordic One*

          While I’m not really knowledgeable enough to offer an informed opinion, my uninformed opinion is that the vocal training shows up in how a singer might enunciate so the words in a song are heard clearly, in the phrasing so that they can sing a long verse without running out of breath, in where they pause to take a breath between verses, in how they project their voice so that it can be heard. They should be able to sing fairly loudly, but without straining (and possibly damaging their voice). Sometimes a singer might be able to sing in both a higher range, and also a lower range, but have trouble transitioning between ranges. Training can strengthen their voices to where the transitions between ranges becomes smoother and sounds effortless.

          An extreme example of a classicly trained singer who sings rock (and where that training is apparent) might be the rock singer, Pat Benatar. I also think about folk singer, Joan Baez, who tells of how she resisted formal training for a long time and how she prided herself on being a “natural” and untrained singer. As she approached the age of 40 she noticed that she was having trouble hitting the high notes and that she found herself winded after a long performance. She eventually caved-in and worked with a vocal coach and she said that she really learned a lot and that the training really helped her in her performances, especially as she grew older.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I sure wish Neil Diamond had gotten training before his voice got trashed. Sigh. And still mourn Whitney Houston. That was one fine voice before the cocaine killed it and her.

          2. Anonymous cat*

            That might explain something I’ve noticed with Broadway musicals.

            I love the Into the Woods soundtrack from the 80s version and listened to a revival version to compare it. It sounded like the 80s singers were holding notes and lines longer, and the revival singers were cutting them off. It made them sound a little breathless by comparison.

            Does current vocal training encourage people to do that?

            1. Varthema*

              I suspect that’s more artistic choice/directorial trend at the moment, to make it sound more “authentic” – that is, less like siiiiiiiingiiiiiiiing and more akin to the way people talk. Although it can also be used to mask a lack of training/technique when you cast a celebrity who doesn’t have the same chops as his/her musical theatre costars. kind of the way Russell Crowe did Javert.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                Yeah, it’s definitely a bit of both in most recent revivals/musicals who have a “name” who is not known for singing.

        4. Sopranistin*

          Professional musician and teacher here. The best way I can explain to a nonmusician is that the singer makes it look effortless. Singing well is challenging and there is so much to think about while you’re doing it. If they’re straining or have clenched muscles, that’s bad technique and will catch up to them eventually. As for pop musicians – I love to watch Beyonce sing, she makes it look so easy!

      2. Quinalla*

        This is how I feel, I don’t like most pop music either for the same reasons, but I understand the popular appeal. The very best singers and musicians, most folks cannot really tell how much better they are than the average popular singer and that’s ok. It’s like perfect pitch, if you don’t have it, you can’t tell if others do. I do NOT have perfect pitch, but my pitch is much better than anyone in my immediately family. They can’t really tell a huge difference, but to me it is night and day. And folks who have better pitch than me? I don’t even know what it is like for them :)

        Also autotune, good grief I cannot stand it, but again I get it :)

      3. carcinization*

        I’m also a trained singer with quite a range, and I love the way that Bob Dylan (well, not for the last 10 years or so, but before that) sings, and the way that Bjork sings as well, and I know their voices grate on many folks, including other trained singers I know. So, to each his/her own!

        1. Goldfeesh*

          I love how everyone can have different opinions. I love the way Bob sings on Rough and Rowdy Ways. He’s gone through so many stylistic changes over the years.

    6. Lizard the Second*

      I think she’s a good singer! But in any case, you don’t have to be a good singer for your songs to be catchy, or for them to speak to people in a personal way.

    7. Heather Crackers*

      She low-key started a cult. Early in her career she framed her work as always personal (though she has moved away from that for some tracks), she dropped tons of hints and Easter eggs, then evolved to outwardly admitting to doing so and started adding straightforward puzzles and brainteasers to her SM posts. It creates an “in group” because fans maximize their experience by studying her like a school subject. There’s backstory, terminology, references, all kinds of Swiftie-specific knowledge that sets them apart. It’s addictive because it earns fans an instant community of friends. It’s brilliant.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I think Taylor Swift is a good singer, but to me her music is just okay and I can take it or leave it. The cult of fandom that she has created is by far the most interesting thing about her to me. It’s so fascinating that her fans see her as a permanent underdog who must always be protected from anyone saying anything remotely negative or even mildly critical, even though she’s a billionaire. (For any Swiftie who us considering grabbing their pitchfork and torch after reading my last sentence: I very much doubt that Ms Swift reads AAM or cares about what I think of her and her fans, so you don’t have to tell me that I’m the worst person in the world, thanks. Also, she definitely did get a raw deal thanks to Kanye West being an absolutely terrible person.)

        Also, I think the “Taylor is a delicate little flower who will just DIE if someone says they don’t like her song!!!!!”mindset actually does a huge disservice to Taylor Swift herself. Whatever you think of her music, she seems to be a strong, intelligent and resilient person who isn’t going to melt into a puddle and expire if someone says they’re not into her music. It’s a bit strange that her fans are simultaneously so invested in the idea of her fragility and her toughness, because you don’t get where Taylor Swift is in the music industry without being tough. I think the need to see her as delicate is inextricably bound up in both her whiteness and her prettiness. Also, because she became famous as a teenager, people still think of her as practically a child because that’s how old she was when they first encountered her. (Same with Britney Spears.) So this all feeds into the sense that if her fans don’t protect her, nobody else will.

        I think that fandom in general can be a great thing, but I think when it tips over into this bizarre need to crush any criticism whatsoever, it gets toxic. However, Taylor Swift fans look great in comparison to some other fan bases, so it’s definitely not the worst fandom out there, just probably the largest.

        1. 2023 is ending soon*

          I’ve always thought that what Kanye did to her was the cornerstone of her massive success. I think she got tremendous sympathy and attention she might not have otherwise. She deserved that boost, honestly. But the ranks of those with talent is pretty large and a performer needs that break. However, what she did with it after, that’s all Taylor. I definitely respect her business ability.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            A discussion here that lingered with me was about the role of luck vs hard work. Specifically someone cited a professional poker player who didn’t just analyze her losing hands for bad luck, but also her winning hands for good luck. That if you want to be, say, become a faster runner, most people can get up to the top 90% of something by just working really hard. But at the very top it’s got some luck of genes and a lot of luck of opportunity, of who got a break at the right moment and who then followed through and built on that bit of luck.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Isn’t Taylor Swift’s father somehow connected to the music industry?

              She seems like a really nice person, but not making as interesting of music as the female singer songwriters I remember from the 90s.

              1. Taki*

                No, but he was relatively wealthy (not 1% wealthy but certainly upper middle class) and the family was willing to move to Nashville for her country music career when Taylor was young, which most families won’t do for such a long shot.

                1. AGD*

                  This. Like Emma Stone’s family – most of the time if parents get sat down by their teenage daughter and shown a well-developed PowerPoint presentation on why she would like them to move to Hollywood to help her try for a high-profile acting career, the parents will decline. Stone’s didn’t. Which isn’t to say that she doesn’t deserve her success – just that her parents made an unusual leap of faith of the sort that doesn’t always pay off but increased the chances a lot.

                2. amoeba*

                  Yup. Read a good book about that a while ago (the role of luck in success, basically) – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Can recommend.

                3. Qwerty*

                  Her dad helped start Big Machine Records for her first record deal. The label was newly created but didn’t have funding yet.

      2. BellStell*

        This is a huge part if her appeal. Watch Miss Americana the movie. I like some of her stuff but I like her as a business woman more. Also she drives voter registration and engages in civil society issues which are both things I admire in anyone. Finally I like that she pays her staff and team well from news reports and also that she is a role model for many young people.

    8. Double A*

      There’s a line in a Silver Jews song that hits home for me: “All my favorite singers couldn’t sing.” I actually like very few singers who have “great” voices. Like, Josh Groban has an incredible voice and I also love what I know of him as a person but I don’t want to listen to his music.

      Basically, “great voice” is not required for me to love music and is actually often kind of a negative for me.

      I’m neutral on Taylor Swift but I don’t identify with the idea that someone has to be a great singer to create music you love.

      1. But what to call me?*

        There could be something to that, not in the sense that having a great voice is a negative, but in that if you’ve achieved wild success as a singer without a great voice then there’s got to be something else you’re doing that got you there. Maybe you’re a great songwriter, great at putting on a show, great at finding a way to sing about things that speaks to people – whatever it is, you’ve got to be doing it well enough that people want to hear it regardless of the quality of your singing voice. Whereas someone with an amazing voice certainly could be doing those things too, but has a better chance of achieving success even if they don’t do them or do them less well.

    9. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Credit your own preference, which is only yours anyway, and doesn’t affect anyone else. I don’t really like most pop music, therefore I don’t know any of her songs and I don’t buy or stream any of her music. But, two things: I can like what I like and who cares what anyone else thinks; and, I have a great deal of respect for her as a musician, business person and donor. I don’t think you’re missing anything, you just have your own taste. No big deal.

    10. Gatomon*

      I enjoyed what she did with her 1989 album at the time, but I haven’t really been interested in her work before or since. I think she’s got an okay voice and she gets a lot out of it. Two of my absolute favorite artists have a very rough and almost ugly sound (Janice Joplin, early Sheena Ringo) so I don’t think a stellar voice is an absolute qualification for being a good musician. It’s more about what the artist can do with it.

      I do have a friend who’s a big Swiftie, and I’m not even really sure it’s about the music at this point. As another commentator mentions, there’s a whole lot more to the Swiftie world than the songs. I don’t even try to keep up.

    11. ironic sandwich*

      Among the other things mentioned – smart businesswoman, good entertainer – her songs often follow the folk music tradition of telling a story within the song. A number of artists that can’t sing follow this tradition (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen), but they’re old. So one of the unique things is she’s managed to do that in pop music to a generation of kids for whom it was novel.

      1. allathian*

        It’s been very gendered for the most part. Janis Joplin’s the first female singer-songwriter I can think of who became successful in spite of not having a beautiful voice. There are far more successful mediocre male singers than female ones. And I think that Taylor Swift has a better voice than JJ.

        She’s very good at what she does, and I love the way she’s taken control of her own career.

          1. allathian*

            She does, and some of her songs move me to tears, especially Piece of My Heart. But she’s not classically trained (not a criticism of her, most pop and rock singers aren’t), her technique isn’t particularly good, and her voice breaks on certain notes when she sings. She was an amazing performer who had lots to say, and I’ll always regret her death at such an early age because she undoubtedly had
            a lot more to say.

    12. RagingADHD*

      I have mostly enjoyed her songs that I happened to hear but wasn’t really into it. Then I saw the music video to Anti-Hero and found out she directed it. I felt it to be a very poetic and compelling piece of short filmmaking.

      I’m still not big into her music, but that firmly planted her in my mind as a serious, thoughtful artist.

      Her singing voice is only one component of her work. If she were making a career entirely as a vocalist, performing only songs written by other people, her voice would matter more. But that’s not what she’s doing — she’s writing, producing, directing, all of it.

    13. Jasmine Tea*

      Does anybody remember the movie Mr. Holland’s opus? There’s a scene where Mr. Holland explains to Gertrude that there’s more to music than just playing the notes on the page. Why do we listen to music like Louis Louie from the Kingsman? “ They can’t sing and they play the same three chords over and over! Why do we like them? Because it’s fun!”
      Some of the corniest songs in the world, some of the worst singers are permanently embedded in our brain because they’re fun!
      I do like Taylor Swift, but it seems like a lot of the songs are sad. Like Carpenter said the best love songs start with a broken heart.

      1. Heffalump*

        When “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs came out in 1964, I said, “Jeez, what a dumb song!” And I liked rock and roll in general at the time. Ca. 1979 I decided I had to have a copy. Things can change.

    14. Hot Water Bottle*

      It’s all about being an aspirational image … she is to teenage girls, what Jimmy Buffett is to boomers who have their retirement dates circled on their calendars. :) (And Jimmy’s music really wasn’t all that special either)

    15. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

      Art is in the eye of the beholder. Or here, in the ear of the listener. I enjoy her songs when I hear them and thought the album 1989 was a terrific pop album. She’s an excellent entertainer and shrewd businesswoman. I’m not about to shell out for her concerts, but I get why people are.

      I’ll always admire her for her countersuit and testimony in Mueller v. Swift though.

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

      I kind of feel like it’s more what you do with the voice that you have, whatever that is, that makes someone fun to listen to? Like, my favorite American songbook singer is Billie Holiday — she doesn’t have a great range, and her voice is a little rough, but she makes magic with it just the same. I also love Ella Fitzgerald with her sweet voice and Sarah Vaughn with her super-sweet tones, but Billie will always be number one in my heart. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a great singing voice, though I wish I did, and I find the beauty that Billie Holiday creates with the voice she was given inspirational.

      1. Jackalope*

        Bonnie Tyler has that too. I grew up listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart and it took me a long time to realize that her voice is pretty rough because I loved the way the music all came together. And if you listen to songs like It’s a Heartache, the roughness of her voice is what really makes the song; she’s definitely leaning into the style that works with the skills she’s got.

        1. misspiggy*

          Bonnie Tyler has a rough voice which she is always in control of. That’s a very difficult thing to achieve and a different situation to Taylor Swift, whose technical singing capacity is much lower (although perfectly fine for what she does with it).

      2. Chaordic One*

        You are so right about singers doing what they can with the voice they have. I think of all the many singers who don’t have “good” voices, but who still manage to entertain and provide thoughtful and interesting music with those voices. An extreme example is the singer, Marianne Faithful. As a young woman she had a pretty (although IMHO unremarkable) voice. Years of drug abuse lowered her voice and limited her already limited vocal range. People were genuinely shocked at the change, but she is still able to sing compelling and interesting songs and create music with the voice she has.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I remember a Bill Cosby show (yes, evil rapist, let’s move on) where they had an elderly jazz singer who had six notes of range but could make those suckers do the hula.

    17. Qwerty*

      Pop music doesn’t really showcase vocal talent very well. The more successful songs are those that get stuck in your head, make people want to dance, and/or are fun to sing along to.

      Taylor is a very successful businesswoman and creates singles that are going to sell. Her cult-like following is not an accident and she aggressively targets any negativity towards her. She doesn’t just do concerts – she does mega events. I think you’d have to be a strong singer to do a tour of 3hr performances without losing her voice.

      There are songs that showcase her singing skills better, but they usually aren’t the radio hits. She has a wider range than her peers. I found some interesting analysis of the re-recorded hits from mega fans, which had the common theme of the new versions showed stronger vocals but lost the emotion that made them a hit.

      Taylor was also at the start of the shift to expecting singers to write most of their songs, so part of her acclaim is that writing skill and the praise she’s gotten from the songwriters she has worked with. She doesn’t even sing all of her songs – some of them are passed on to other big name singers if she feels like it doesn’t fit her brand.

    18. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      So I’m not a musical expert, but here are my thoughts:

      – she’s very good at telling a story in her lyrics and a lot of people respond to that
      – her voice isn’t particularly strong (it’s gotten better recently because she’s gotten more breath control) but it is flexible and expressive, and she leans into that (“Holy Ground”, “Back to December”, “evermore”)
      – her lower register is actually pretty good and she’s been using it more lately (“Cruel Summer”, “Carolina” — honestly one of my favorites — and “’tis the damn season”)

      She’ll never be a Beyonce, whose vocal technique is impeccable and astounding, but her voice is better than she’s been given credit for, I think, not least because it has improved significantly and a lot of people haven’t revisited their judgement from earlier in her career (which is absolutely their right!), and because for some reason her singles, which get played incessantly, are often the weakest tracks from the albums??? IDK.

      1. But what to call me?*

        I don’t follow much about her, but an interesting thing from what little I do know and from what I’ve read in this discussion is how much she’s continued to develop, as opposed to the too-common ‘peak in early 20s, all downhill from there’ trajectory of so many young women in entertainment.

        Starting out with some things you’re good at but plenty of areas for improvement, and then continuing to get better at those things as you mature and get more experience and push yourself to learn new things and rethink old work and add complexity and nuance as you build the skills to pull it off, is a normal path to success in fields that don’t value youth over all else. Hopefully that will become more of the norm for women in the entertainment industry, too.

    19. Taki*

      Her strong suit has always been her lyrics and her ability to connect with fans. She has always had a relatively weak voice (I say as a major Swiftie). However, she had definitely improved since her debut album in 2007, both because her voice changed/she learned how to suit it, and because she has had voice lessons. I like her Taylor’s Version re-records because I like her mature voice much much better.

    20. Rondeaux*

      I don’t know that other people can convince you to like something if you don’t. If her music singing isn’t your taste and style, why else would you want to listen to her?

      What is it about other singers that you admire even if you don’t like their music? I hate opera but I know Pavoratti is good for example. Or Jose Carreras. Or the third one.

      Anyway, it sounds like you actually do know that TS is talented, and you say you like some of her songs, and that you know she brings joy. That sounds like enough

    21. Cedrus Libani*

      My take: Taylor Swift isn’t the best vocalist in the industry, nor is she the best at any other single aspect…but she’s good at everything, and that’s rare. She’s got a good voice. She’s attractive. She’s a good musician and songwriter, with an ear for radio friendly bops and lyrics that are just vulnerable enough to make people identify with her without going too far and making it weird. She goes out of her way to create positive interactions with her fans and to cultivate a warm, supportive fan community. And she puts on a good show.

      I’m not a Swiftie, but that’s because I’m not much of a fandom person in general. I do like her songs. I like them better when I get them for free as I’m shopping somewhere, rather than paying thousands of dollars to see her in person, but that’s because I’m cheap. I’m not surprised that she has the fan enthusiasm to support this.

    22. Busy Middle Manager*

      No you’re spot on. I think the music industry is just promoting the wrong people and has been for two decades. That’s why I listen to “old” music and now I’m seeing that the current generation does too.

      It’s actually kind of sad. At best, Taylor Swift should be in the average among a huge group of singers. I see loads of mental gymnastics where people try to convince themselves that there is still the same level of good music coming out now as in the past but it’s just not true. I dig and dig and come up with a few dozen songs from the current decade. Meanwhile, I consistently have a playlist of 5-10 songs from the 80s or 90s that I never head of that are new to me. It feels like those decades have an infinite supply of good music. Most of the signers seems objectively better than Taylor in terms of richness of their voice and how high or low they can go (don’t know music terms for that) and what they could “freestyle” at concerts.

      1. Rachel*

        Are you saying:

        (1) I don’t like music produced in the past 20 years


        (2) music produced in the past 20 years is objectively and universally untalented garbage

    23. Indolent Libertine*

      I’m not really familiar with her music (I don’t listen to much popular music from after about 1950), but the same phenomenon exists in the classical music realm. Andrea Bocelli is wildly successful despite being a quite mediocre singer by opera singing standards, which is how he positions himself. Andre Rieu – the violinist you see on PBS leading the small orchestra with women in puffy gowns playing Strauss waltzes etc. – is likewise a violinist of only middling skills. Their popularity baffles me.

    24. hmmm*

      This is such a weird question. People like different things. Do you also ask this about Bob Dylan? Or just young women?

    25. Helewise*

      I enjoy her because she’s a wonderful storyteller – both the content of her lyrics and the clever way she uses language and puts words together. I don’t have a trained enough ear to know where she falls as a vocalist other than she’s good enough not to grate on me, but denying her lyrical abilities makes me raise my eyebrow a bit.

    26. Emma*

      It’s fine if she’s not to your taste – taste is personal.
      But I understand why she’s person of the year – she’s played in a sold out tour, with a fanatical following. The media and public follow her every move, often analyzing the most minute detail. She’s a cultural icon. Like the number of people who I had know idea were Swifties, but shelled out hundreds or thousands of dollars to see her on tour this year (being willing to fly to any place they could find a ticket, both foreign and domestic) was wild. It’s a religious level of fervor. She broke Ticketmaster.
      So again, she may not be to your taste. But the person of the year title makes sense.

    27. Christmas Cookie*

      As a mom of 3 girls, I can say I’m glad my kids are growing up when Taylor is the popular musician to obsess over. She’s really a good role model for kids, especially compared to some of the other musicians that kids might glom into.

      I think what made her person of the year isn’t her musical talent alone. It’s the full package of the mass appeal- singing, performing, song writing, personality, treatment of fan base and the people that work for her, heck even the silly NFL romance! Also, the fact that she has enough appeal to sell out like she does- even the MOVIES of her concert were sold out!

    28. Spearmint*

      I like some of Swift’s musics but wouldn’t call myself a swiftie.

      Technical skill in singing is only a small part of what makes music interesting to me, and I suspect most people. When I survey my favorite artists, they span a wide range in technical singing ability.

      What I like about Swift is her authenticity (she writes her own songs), her vulnerable and interesting lyrics, and that there is variety in the sound of her music within and across albums. Her best songs make me feel something.

      1. NeonDreams*

        I’m the same way about her. I could take or leave her voice. It’s pleasant pop music. I love emotion in her lyrics. She’s a great story teller through the words and the music matches it.

    29. Justme, The OG*

      Not every artist is for every person. You do t have to like her. But in no way is she a bad singer.

    30. sulky-anne*

      I’m not a fan either, but I also enjoy a lot of music that most people find weird or boring. Musical taste is so personal, and it usually has a lot to do with the period of your life or the people you’re around when you get introduced to it.

  3. Mobie's Mom*

    Looking for book recommendations, please. Books along the lines of Maeve Binchey’s, Jan Karon’s, Rosalind (Rosamund?) Pilcher’s. Just cozy life stories. A little mystery or romance is okay. Thanks!

    1. Janesfriend*

      The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear is great. A woman detective in London after WW1, but with some minor romantic plot lines and a very cosy feel. And the joy if knowing there is a whole series to read if you like the first one!

      1. KarenK*

        I popped in here to second the Maisie Dobbs series. I’ve read all of them and they are fantastic. Cozy is exactly the correct word for the audiobooks.

        I would love to see Masterpiece produce a series based on her books!

    2. migrating coconuts*

      LaVyrle Spencer, Patrick Taylor’s “Irish country doctor” series, and I just started reading books by Dee MacDonald.

    3. Mitchell Hundred*

      I haven’t read all of his stuff, but Alexander McCall Smith’s work would probably fit the bill.

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

        I did find his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books very cozy and full of interesting glimpses into what life in Botswana can be like, and overall, I enjoyed reading them. On the other hand, I felt he was a little bit condescending towards his characters in that series.

        1. Chaordic One*

          I wasn’t a fan of the books, as they struck me as a little too “twee” and predictable. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the short-lived single year BBC/HBO TV series based on the books. Much better than I expected and I feel like they presented a realistic, positive portrayal and hopeful portrayal of some of life in Botswana.

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

            That’s good to know about the BBC series! Yeah, I agree that “twee” and “predictable” are indeed fair critiques.

      2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        Of the Alexander McCall Smith series, I would recommend both 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie for their cozy life stories.

    4. EllenD*

      I’d suggest Katie Fforde [yes two ‘ff’], but I’m not sure if she’s available everywhere. Her books are romance, often based in the West Country of England, with a focus on different – usually creative – careers and are upbeat endings. If you want Irish writers try Marian Keyes, her books often deal with difficult issues (cancer, addiction, marriage breakdown, etc) in an entertaining funny way, which I know sounds odd, but can also be insightful and have upbeat endings.

      1. WellRed*

        I love Marian (I looked recently to see if she had anything new) but I don’t think of her as cozy. Hilarious and a little wacky.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      If you like Maeve Binchy, try Patricia Scanlan, similar type of story (though with perhaps a bit more plot and less “slice of life” and a little more modern, more ’80s and ’90s feel than 50s and 60s).

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Currently reading The Last List of Mabel Beaumont, in which a woman in her 80s finds a list her just-deceased husband started and sets out to find her childhood best friend.

    7. PhyllisB*

      Haven’t read all the comments yet, but James Herriot’s books are wonderful. Can’t remember all the titles right now, but one of them is All Things Bright and Beautiful.

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

        And All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All, James Herriot’s Dog Stories, James Herriot’s Cat Stories . . . .

        Have you seen the new BBC series from the books that’s been playing the last couple of years? It has given me much joy!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Perfect pick me up books! Very funny and a great lens back into a way of life that even then was vanishing.

    8. PhyllisB*

      Also the Miss Julia series by Ann B Ross is great, and if you like Maeve Binchy you might like Sharon Owens. In fact, when she first started writing, some of the press said “The best book by Maeve Binchy she never wrote.” (I can’t help but wonder if Sharon and Maeve got tired of this comparison, but it’s extremely accurate.) It’s been years since I read anything of hers so can’t remember titles right now, but I will look them up and report back later in the day.

    9. PhyllisB*

      You may also like Debbie Macomber. Her Cedar Cove series is good, and if you like humor, her books about the angels Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy are hysterical.

    10. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I would recommend D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle series, starting with Miss Buncle’s book.

    11. Varthema*

      Marion Keyes! also Irish like Binchy, very very funny, some books take a dark turn like Binchy’s, but a totally engrossing read every time!

  4. goddessoftransitory*

    So, as promised, here’s the recipe for Patty Melt Casserole! It’s from Cuisine Magazine, issue 101, October 2013.


    2 Yellow onions, diced
    2 tsp sugar
    1 Tbsp vegetable oil

    1 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup ketchup
    4 Tbsp minced dill pickles, divided

    2 lbs ground beef
    1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
    2 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp caraway seeds

    2 Tbsp all purpose flour
    1 cup low sodium beef broth

    6 slices rye bread (any kind, we use dark, the recipe says marble)
    6 oz shredded cheddar cheese
    6 oz shredded swiss cheese
    1 33 oz back frozen crinkle cut French fries

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    Caramelize onions with sugar in oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, covered, 20-25 minutes (Husband says this may take longer; make sure to get them really brown on the bottom.)

    While onions caramelize, whisk together mayo, ketchup, and 2 Tbps of pickles for dressing. Set aside.

    When the onions are done, add beef, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt, pepper and caraway seeds to skillet, turn heat up to high, cook until meat is browned. Drain, retaining 2 Tbsp of drippings.

    Into meat mixture, stir flour, cook 2 minutes. Stir in broth and ONE cup of the mayo mix dressing, setting the rest aside. Cook until gravy thickens.

    In a 7″ x 11″ baking dish, layer 3 slices of bread.

    Top with 1/3 of two cheeses mixed together, the meat mixture, then the remaining 3 bread slices, another third of the cheeses, and the frozen french fries (don’t cook them first.) Retain last of the cheese.

    Bake for 20-25 minutes until fries are crisp.

    Remove from oven, preheat broiler. Sprinkle remaining cheese over fries, broil 3 minutes.

    Now it’s out of the oven! Husband does this for each individual serving as it’s eaten, but you can also do the entire casserole at once: drizzle the remaining mayo dressing over the top, and top with remaining minced pickles.

    The magazine recommends chocolate malts with this, but we don’t bother, just serve with chocolate milk on the side.

    We have this once a year for my birthday, maybe twice, because it is so, SO BAD FOR YOU and is one of my favorite things ever. SO GOOD. Enjoy!

    1. Dear liza dear liza*

      Your husband’s warning about how long it takes to caramelize onions reminds me of one of my favorite online rants, Layers of Deceit by Tom Scocca in Slate. “ Soft, dark brown onions in five minutes. That is a lie. Fully caramelized onions in five minutes more. Also a lie.

      There is no other word for it. Onions do not caramelize in five or 10 minutes. They never have, they never will—yet recipe writers have never stopped pretending that they will. I went on Twitter and said so, rudely, using CAPS LOCK. A chorus of frustrated cooks responded in kind (“That’s on some bullshit. You want caramelized onions? Stir for 45 minutes”).”

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        If you add some water to them, they carmelize faster. Not in 10 minutes like those deceitful recipes claim, but faster. Something about the water makes them cook faster than just oil.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, that and “reduce sauce by half.” Every recipe I’ve read claims it takes like five minutes over low heat and that is BULL. DOOKY. It takes a damn hour over high while your arm threatens to secede from your body and your darling spouse keeps eating spoonfuls of peanut butter and going “is dinner ready yet?”

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          See also: when you go to add a roux to broth and the recipe says “stir until thickened (2-3 minutes).” NOPE.

        2. RussianInTexas*

          “Prep time 5 minutes” when you need to peel and dice potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, various herbs, etc. LIES AND DECEIT.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Right? What Chop Bot 3000 are they using? And even if you go with “everything is minced and diced by my sous chef” idea and all that is done already, There’s no combo out there that becomes food in five minutes!

      3. Llama Llama*

        Brown butter does not brown in 5 min either.

        There are so many examples of these LIES! that I just smile and nod when reading times.

        It goes the opposite way as well. The mini quiche I made this week took 15 min in the oven not 30 (believe me they were done).

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Also a lie: ” Is soak dry kidney beans for 5 hours, then simmer until soft (about 30-45 minutes)”

          For me it has always been ninety minutes at least.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I made 3 Sisters Quesadillas this past week, and it said to cook them over medium heat 3 minutes per side. Sure, if you like blackened husks. One minute per side tops.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I sincerely do not understand why this blatant lie became a recipe convention. Do they think people only read the recipes to fantasize about a world of caramelized onions, and don’t try to actually follow the steps?

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I think a lot of online recipe writers don’t know the difference between caramelized and sauted.

        2. Rainy*

          Because if they are honest about how long it will actually take, they worry people won’t make it. I have a recipe that started out as something called spinach potatoes (we still call it that but it’s pretty different now) and one of the steps is “caramelize the onions”. Supposedly the prep time for this recipe, which includes slicing onions and potatoes, grating cheese, and cooking pancetta as well as cooking the onions, is 15 minutes. The prep time is more like 90 minutes.

      5. Rage*

        I saw an article once, the author complaining about this. Her solution was to put a bunch of onions in her crockpot and cook them all day. She would then portion out the caramelized onions and freeze them, ready to use in future recipes.

        I’ve always been tempted, but never enough to actually try it.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I was actually wondering if making a giant batch and freezing them in portions was a viable option.

        2. Wireknitter*

          I did the crockpot method once and froze one cup portions. It was so nice grabbing a block from the freezer and tossing into something. I highly recommend.

        3. Cedrus Libani*

          I do this, with a ten pound bag from Costco and a stick of butter. It takes a full day. Like, start it before you go to bed, so it will be far enough along in the morning to be worth checking on periodically during the next day. Also do it outside if you can; the smell isn’t bad, but it’s really intense. Also, get silicone ice cube trays of the appropriate size for portioning and freezing. It’s a proper pain in the butt, however you get instant, on-demand, deeply caramelized onions for a long time afterwards.

      6. Bluebell*

        I don’t have the link, but I think Serious eats featured an article about making caramelized onions in your Dutch oven with a pinch of baking soda. I tried it once, and it worked really well.

      7. the cat's ass*

        roaring with laughter about this. Was it the late great Tony Bourdain who was talking about this? “There’s so many onions they look like they’re going to mutiny out of the pan, and 6 hours later who have a small base-ball sized portion of caramelized onions.”Excruciating.

      8. goddessoftransitory*

        Heh, I pulled up that essay and laughed and laughed. IT IS SO TRUE.

        I mean, I live in the PNW, where I can routinely get Walla Walla Sweets and Vidalias–onions so mild you can bite into them like an apple if so inclined–and those sugar bombs take, as he says, forty to forty five minutes!

        I get that modern recipe writers have to pretend that standing rib roasts and West Indian black cakes and spaghetti sauce can be whipped up in thirty minutes, but anybody who has actually ever cooked anything knows to disregard the “takes X minutes” notation out of hand.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      THANK YOU for this recipe. Yum!

      And totally agree on the caramelizing onions timing. More is better

    3. Jazz and Manhattans*

      Sounds yummy and now that its cold I’m looking for more casserole recipes! I want to second and third the comments about unrealistic recipe directions. My major pet peeve is the lack of weights or measures for things like cauliflower and winter squash. Those very *greatly* in size and can change the recipe a lot without knowing a general weight or measure.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I ended up with SO MUCH butternut squash for my last recipe! Luckily my husband fell in love with it and is devouring the excess.

  5. Pear Blossom*

    Is there a website other than thesaurus dot com that you use that helps expand your vocabulary?

    The other day, I was trying to explain to someone how XYZ made me feel, and I used the word uncomfortable, but that word was too strong for the situation. Uneasy would not have worked either, also a little too strong. I feel like I find myself in this situation a lot where the word that I want to use is just not quite right.

    1. beep beep*

      I like using rhymezone dot com- it does a thesaurus function as well as rhymes :) When I was in school I also used to play vocabulary and idiom trivia on freerice dot com, which donates rice to charity via the World Food Programme for every trivia question you get right. You may find it helpful for vocabulary expansion, it gets pretty difficult.

    2. Lime green Pacer*

      I really like WordHippo. The thesaurus format they have really works well for me, and they have a dictionary and some other word-related stuff also. But I mainly use the thesaurus.

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I use Wordreference, because even as a bilingual person, I sometimes still need to translate from my native language to find the right nuance in English words. There’s also an English only section that is handy for looking up synonyms, and I find it very easy to switch from translating a word to thesaurus mode, which pleases my scattered brain very much.

      1. Mephyle*

        OneLook is fantastic. I start with two, three or four words that are close to what I’m looking for, and often it comes up with the word I want. If nothing it suggests is quite right, I take some of the closest ones over to the thesaurus, and then it may take another back-and-forth round between OneLook and the Thesaurus.

        ChatGPT can also do something similar to OneLook; you can describe what you‘re looking for and it comes up with a whole list of suggestions. When I’ve used it, it seldom failed to come up with the elusive word I couldn’t think of that was exactly what I wanted.

    4. kina lillet*

      Reading a variety of books is the best way to learn new words. You’ll gather a lot more words in your repertoire and be able to use them more naturally.

      Also, you’re running into the sublime problem of trying to use language to describe feeling—it’s why people write poetry and use metaphor. There might not be vocab that pinpoints your feelings, but a poem might do the trick. poetryfoundation dot org has a lot of free poems available to read.

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

        Strong agree that reading a lot of books is the best way to absorb the subtle differences in meaning among similar words and to use them correctly! It’s not a fast solution, but the gains you make stay with you for life.

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

          P.S. I just ran into your user name in *Casino Royale* — that liqueur is part of the cocktail that James Bond is developing!

      2. But what to call me?*

        Sure, but reading books doesn’t solve the immediate problem of ‘I know there’s a better word for this but it’s just not coming to me’.

        Recently, I needed a word to describe the way one character related to another and the best my brain could come up with was “military coworker”. (I blame too much AAM for getting me stuck on ‘coworker’.)
        onelook dot com saved me by immediately figuring out I meant “comrade”.

        1. kina lillet*

          Agree! But I don’t really know if there’s a way to solve that immediate problem for describing a feeling, or something ineffable. Just to keep reading and listening to how people express themselves.

    5. Reel*

      etymonline dot com! Understanding the history and components of a word adds a whole lot of extra depth and nuance to how I think about words. Plus, looking up a word brings up all entries which contain that word. For a lack of ease that does not quite reach the level of “uneasy” I might say that I was disquieted.

      This isn’t actually very useful for communicating emotions to other people, because what feels like the “perfect” word won’t necessarily be understood with that same nuance by your conversation partner, and may well seem pretentious.

      But sometimes it means I can build back to a more common term to express my meaning to others: am I disquieted because my ability to rest in a situation has been disrupted? Has my trust decreased? Do I now have reservations about something, or actual misgivings or even apprehensions?

    1. Nitpicker*

      Actually I believe it’s in Ladino which is to Spanish what Yiddish is to German.
      But thanks for the link – I love the song.

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

      You are a good DJ — username checks out! That is a jamming song. : )

  6. beep beep*

    A couple long-distance friends and I have been doing Ghibli Movie Fridays virtually and I’m really enjoying them, but we’ve done most of the big ones now and are moving more towards obscurer ones. (Howl’s, Kiki’s, Ponyo, Totoro, Spirited Away, and tonight was Nausicaa.) I’ve seen Grave of the Fireflies before and we’ve agreed that it’s a little heavy for our lighthearted movie nights, so can anyone suggest what we watch next? I’m sure we’ll watch The Boy And The Heron when it comes to streaming but until then :)

    1. Chibi Totoro*

      Only yesterday, Porco Rosso, The Cat Returns, Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, Arrietty, The Tale of the Princess Kagura. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Princess Mononoke (which was a huge hit when it came out) but I seem to remember it feeling a bit depressing/heavy. Probably not to the same level as Grave of the Fireflies. Pom Poko and The tale of the Princess Kagura are heavy on Japanese folklore. I remember being surprised by how much I liked Only Yesterday. Two Ghibli films I’ve seen and not enjoyed were My Neighbors the Yamadas and surprisingly Tales from Earthsea so I’d put those towards the end of your watchlist.

      1. Chibi Totoro*

        I realize that’s quite a few films I listed so if I had to prioritize them I’m probably suggest Only Yesterday and Porco Rosso.

      2. Reel*

        Worth knowing that Princess Mononoke is bloodily violent – I like it a lot but it is not light-hearted, more of an epic fantasy with some grim elements.

        Oh also that Porco Rosso, while a whimsical film, is specifically set in Fascist Italy in 1929. I was certainly surprised by that the first time I watched it.

        1. carcinization*

          I resisted watching Porco Rosso for decades because I’m not much of a history buff; finally watched it during the early pandemic and thought it was really good. Also, I’m pretty sure the Princess movie is “Kaguya,” not “Kagura”… I saw it in the theatre, really interesting animation style. And… what about “The Wind Rises” and “From up on Poppy Hill?”

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve only seen 4 Ghibli films (3 of which you’ve already done) but my favorite is Castle in the Sky. Kind of steampunk and really cute

    3. Meet Moot*

      Porco Rosso and From Up on Poppy Hill never cease to delight me. Laputa Castle in the Sky is also great but leaves me a little sad (maybe just me and my vibes). And Whisper of the Heart was also sweet but not *as* great.

      I’d also suggest (though it’s a completely different production house and Irish, rather than Japanese) Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers. Just if you happen to want to switch it up from Ghibli, Cartoon Saloon does lovely animations too.

      1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Seconded on Cartoon Saloon! Haven’t seen Windwalkers yet but absolutely lovely Song of the Sea.

    4. Mitchell Hundred*

      They’re not Studio Ghibli, but Satoshi Kon’s films Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress are both excellent. His outlook on life isn’t the same as Hayao Miyazaki’s, but I think it’s fair to say that those two films of his have similar streaks of optimism and faith in humanity.

      Kon made two other movies (Paprika and Perfect Blue) which are also great, but very different from Miyazaki’s work. While Miyazaki explores themes like environmentalism and the horrors of war, Kon’s big fascination was the interplay between people’s perceptions/memories/dreams and reality, and Paprika and Perfect Blue really lean hard into that in ways that can be disturbing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if somebody’s looking for stuff like Studio Ghibli those two specific movies wouldn’t be what I’d point to.

    5. Holly the spa pro*

      not a studio ghibli movie but check out Suzume. it has the same vibe and is a beautiful animation and story.

      1. carcinization*

        Another one my husband and I watched during the early pandemic. Wow, that was depressing! We’re usually into depressing stuff too, but that was a lot!

    6. beep beep*

      Thank you for the recommendations, everyone! I’ll probably put the most listed ones in a pot and pick randomly next time it’s my turn to choose :)

    7. don'tbeadork*

      Porco Rosso. Really.

      I quite like Castle in the Sky, but it is a little violent. Not to the same extreme as Mononoke and still a great story, but if you’re trying to avoid violence you’ll want to push this one back a little.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I went to see The Boy and the Heron yesterday! It was really good. Fanciful and amusing, with an engaging story, and the music is GORGEOUS. Love Joe Hisaishi. You’ll enjoy it.

  7. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Everyone share what you’re reading and give or request recs. As always, all reading is welcome.

    I just finished reading How to Get a Girlfriend When You’re a Terrifying Monster by Marie Cordno. It’s short (104 pages), and delightful; a romance between a biologist and a fragment of a cosmic horror, who is trying to be lovable and figure out the right number of eyes and tentacles to have as a human. Mostly light and playful and I recommend. I also read The Midnight Library which I wanted to talk about but will put in a separate comment because I want to include spoilers.

    1. Silver Robin*

      I just finished Record of a Spaceborn Few (audiobook version) and it was so good?? A little drama, lots of slice of life, lots of current themes, and all set in space a couple hundred years from now. Not everything is perfect at the end, but humanity is still worthwhile and I really needed that.

      1. fallingleavesofnovember*

        Record of a Spaceborn Few was my favourite of the Wayfarer series…I am someone who loves rituals and I found it totally fascinating and moving to consider how both the practical and emotional elements of death and life would be handled in that context.

      2. carcinization*

        Adding to my wishlist now, doesn’t look like I have to have read the first 2 books in the series to enjoy it.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I’ve read all 4 of them, and I’d say that Record does not rely in any important way on having read the other 3. Each book in that series is really more a book in the same setting that may mention characters, events, or places from another book rather than a continuation of what was happening in the specific story of the previous book.

          I recommend reading 1 (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) prior to reading 2 (A Closed and Common Orbit), but that’s just because the beginning of book 2 references events from late in book 1 that could be considered spoilers, but is still completely comprehensible as a book if you read it first.

    2. Jamie Starr*

      I’m about to start Eyeliner: A Cultural History by Zahra Hankir. I;ve always loved a heavily lined eye so I’m excited to learn more.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Reading a little collection of Rumpole Christmas stories; for those who don’t know, they’re by John Mortimer, father of actor Emily Mortimer. It started out as a TV series, Rumpole of the Bailey, and got so popular they were turned into books and radio broadcasts as well. They’re very funny, British, and lighthearted.

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

        Love those! I also love how Mortimer throws a little dash of social justice into his stories.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I gave up on Natural History of Dragons, it wasn’t holding my interest at all.

      I’m thinking of rereading East by Edith Pattou to refresh my memory before finally reading the sequel, West, which has been on my shelf for awhile. They’re middle grades so very quick and satisfying to read – hoping that will give me motivation to get going with some other books!

    5. Jackalope*

      So has anyone else read The Midnight Library? I finished it this week and was interested in what other people thought. (Will have spoilers.)

      I thought it was… okay. The author gets to make things up however he wants and he obviously wanted to have the character experiencing a Quantum Leap style disorientation, but I didn’t like that bit. How was she supposed to see if she liked a life if she had no idea what was happening? I felt that particularly in the glaciologist life; she jumped into a moment when she was allegedly involved in highly specialized scientific research but with no memory of what happened; of COURSE that didn’t work out even though she wanted it to. Or being in the middle of a concert but not knowing the songs. It was setting her up for the experience to fail, especially since she would be whisked away the second she felt some disappointment (and what life has NO disappointment in it?). The ending seemed a bit contrived and “the magic was in you all along”. But it was a fun idea and a quick, easy read.

      Any other thoughts?

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I really wanted to love this book, but only mildly enjoyed it.

        I found it predictable, and saw the ending coming within the first few chapters, so after a while I started getting bored. Had the story focused on fewer parallel lives, developed for longer, and fewer trips to the Library, it may have felt less repetitive to me. Also, I’m not the best reader of books with fantastical settings, because I prefer more realistic fiction. So when it comes to the world building, and the rules and constraints the author chose, I feel similarly to you.

        Given the subject matter, I might have appreciated it more if I’d read it at one of my lowest mental health points, rather than at a relatively stable time. I did like that its key messages / positive affirmations seemed easy to remember, immediate to understand, and free from spiritual undertones not everyone might appreciate.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Same with slightly less enjoyment. Predictable, repetitive, and somewhat sappy. Read it for book club and had no idea about what it was. I finished it out of stubbornness or something. I’m glad I read it if only because I can use it as a gauge of whether I’m going to agree with someone about books. If they loved it, then I’ll probably not follow their other suggestions.

        2. Fellow Traveller*

          I liked Haig’s How To Stop Time better than Midnight Library. I thought Midnight Library a little prescriptive and not… adventurous, I think is how to describe what I felt lacking in it. The narrative had no momentum for me. i think How To Stop Time explores the same questions of what we do with our one precious life, but the storytelling was much much better.

      2. Dear liza dear liza*

        I thought it was an interesting premise but the main character was never developed enough for me to feel invested in her journey. I was also perhaps unreasonably annoyed that *of course* the timeline in which she felt most fulfilled was one in which she was primarily a wife and mother. More glacier scientist and rock star, please!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I really liked the book. I think it captured how in the moment, we can think that we have no choices. But when we look back in 10 years, we can then see how there were a lot of paths, and what kept us on a less happy one was our own insistence that this was the only possible path and all other doors were now closed.

        For the ending: If you think about it, the idea of being shoved into a back corner of your own mind, or erased entirely, so that an alternate timeline version of you can see how it likes living the life you built–super dark. So an ending where she had to cycle back to her starting point, not stay on someone else’s path, was most satisfying to me.

      4. OtterB*

        It’s funny. I read this. I am sure I read the whole thing, which I don’t do these days if a book doesn’t hold my interest, so it was okay. But I don’t remember it at all. Not the characters, not the plot. Which I suppose is its own commentary.

      5. Jackalope*

        One other thought I had last night. One of the things with literary fiction authors is that they sometimes will write a book that’s more or less set in another genre – fantasy, romance, etc. – that had its own genre rules and requirements, but they will write it with the literary fiction genre rules instead. For me that makes them feel like they’re a bit flat; the book doesn’t have the same spark as it would if it were solidly in one genre or another. To me that’s some of what went wrong with The Midnight Library; it takes some of the ideas that are typically fantasy ideas and then tries to use them for a literary fiction novel. I totally support people thinking that it worked for them, but it just didn’t work for me.

        1. Foila*

          I had the same trouble with Sea of Tranquility, it was sort of an awkward take on sci fi by a lit fic author that wasn’t great at either genre. (I also am happy if others loved it.)

    6. Seashell*

      I’m reading Lucinda Williams’ memoir. I only know a handful of her songs, but I thought the book sounded interesting. I’m enjoying it.

      1. Bluebell*

        I read most of it and liked it. Love her music, so it was great to hear the stories behind the songs.

    7. Snell*

      So I’m reading this, but I can’t recommend it, but I am reading this, so here goes: I’m finishing the Hunger Games series. It came out when I was squarely within the target demographic, so I read the first book to see what the buzz was all about. I liked it well enough, but not enough to pick up the next book. All my cousins were into it, and a relative gifted me a full trilogy set because that was what you were gifting to kids my age that year, but I had no desire to pick it up whatsoever.

      10+ years later, and I was reflecting back on it, and I thought, hey, I was a teenager then, judgemental in the way kids are at that age. Maybe I didn’t give the series a fair shot, and I might have actually enjoyed it if I continued with it. So I borrowed the other two books from the library, but less than a quarter of the way into the second book, I knew with absolute certainty that I had it right the first time. I’m still not into it, and I wouldn’t have been into it as a teenager either. It’s just not to my taste.

      I’m still finishing the series because it’ll bug me to have read this far into the story and not see how it ends.

      1. Jackalope*

        I have to say that The Hunger Games series never did much for me either. It’s not a series that I look back on with a feeling of, “There go several hours of my life that I’ll never get back again,” but there were so many things that just didn’t work for me.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I was in the same boat – I love post apocalyptic fiction so it should have been right up my alley, but all the postapoc fiction that came out right around that same time was just meh, and Hunger Games in particular – as you say the first book was fine, but didn’t really leave me in any particular rush to finish the series.

        1. Snell*

          I will say, I did look up on Youtube how the songs were handled in the film versions, and got a laugh when the propagandist edited “The Hanging Tree” lyrics from “necklace of rope” to “necklace of hope.” Yeah, you probably want people to associate your cause with something encouraging rather than morbid, but anyone old enough to understand what a hanging tree is is also not going to miss that “a necklace of ***ope” is the noose. And yeah, it was explicitly something a character edited and curated for propaganda purposes, but it was so unsubtle I had to laugh, and wonder who they (the fictional propagandist) thought would buy that. That was some 4kids editing shenanigans.

    8. Yorkshire Tea Lady*

      I’m reading Mick Herron’s The Secret Hours, which is a standalone in the same universe as the Slow Horses series.

      Definitely the best thriller writer around at the moment, and love his satirical take on British politics…

    9. Hot Water Bottle*

      The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins was fantastic… great mystery, great villains, great inheritance/revenge plot, and very relatable to a contemporary reader even though it was written in 1860. I was also astounded that it had fully-formed Italian “Vito Corleone” style characters (complete with a shadowy mafia organization)… 100 years before The Godfather!

      1. word nerd*

        Ah, thanks for reminding me that I should read this–I keep hearing such good things about it!

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

        Oh, I adored that book! Marian Halcombe was such a badass in the part that she narrated, and Count Fosco is quite a compelling villain.

        It’s not quite as spectacular, but *The Law and the Lady* is another fun Collins about a woman who learns that the mysterious Scotsman she married but who then fled from her is dogged by a verdict of “not proven” from when he was accused of killing his first wife. She sets out to see if she can prove his innocence and find out what really happened.

        1. Hot Water Bottle*

          Thanks, I’ll have “Law and the Lady” as my next W. Collins read. I have already read The Moonstone and The Haunted Hotel, both of which were great.
          “Uncle Silas” by Sheridan le Fanu is a similar type of story, and was superb (and contains nothing supernatural, even though he is usually known for ghost/vampire fiction)

        2. Pom Mom*

          Wilkie Collins is the BEST. He wrote 39 novels. The quality went down a bit after he became addicted to opium but still great reads. He was a pal of Charles Dickens. In fact, his brother married one of Dickens’s daughters. He also was involved with but not married to two women, which was NOT DONE in Victorian England. On his tombstone, all he wanted was his authorship of Woman in White mentioned. Seriously, read these books!

    10. Angstrom*

      Partway into The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Liking the writing and the slow build.

      Reread Understanding Comics and Making Comics by Scott McCloud. Lots of interesting ideas that apply to other forms of storytelling.

      Read Scorpio, the new Frontlines book from Marko Kloos. Good scifi. Heroine is a dog handler.

    11. word nerd*

      Lately I haven’t been feeling novels or genre fiction as much and haven’t really been able to finish any of them. Picked up Winter’s Orbit, and while I think I would normally like it in a different mood, I feel myself drawn more to nonfiction these days.

      Meanwhile, I really liked Nine Nasty Words, a linguistic analysis of swear words and derogatory terms. Found it fascinating to really think about how much some of them can encompass and how they’ve evolved over time.

      And right now I’m totally in love with Letter Perfect by David Sacks, which is about the alphabet and has a chapter devoted to each letter, but I don’t know how much of that is because I’m a, well, word nerd. BUT IT’S SUPER INTERESTING SO FAR.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        If you haven’t read it yet, Word by Word by Kory Stamper is a really fun book about dictionaries.

        1. word nerd*

          I loved that book! At the end of it, I wished I could sit down and have tea with Kory Stamper every week. :P

    12. Teapot Translator*

      I just finished The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. I don’t know what to think. I had a hard time getting through the first half, then the second half flew by. I thought it was going to be something, ended up being another. But it has stayed with me.

    13. The Other Dawn*

      I’m reading Kindom of Bones by James Rollins. It’s book 16 of the Sigma Force series. He’s a new author to me and I’ve blown through the first 15 books of the series this year. I’m sad that the next one is the last until August.

      Next on the list is the next in Ken Follett’s Kinsbridge series, The Armor of Light. The I have The Edge and also Simply Lies, both by David Baldacci; and then Seven Shades of Evil by Robert McCammon.

    14. Nervous Nellie*

      A double feature for me this week. As I am also doing one holiday movie every evening, I wanted reading that would balance that out and be decidedly holiday cheer-free. Done – I have returned to the essays of retired political cartoonist Tim Kreider, in his books We Learn Nothing and I Wrote This Book Because I Love You. Both are classic Kreider – melancholy, erudite, and philosophical. His use of language is dazzling. I saw him read at a bookshop in Seattle many years ago. The audience was in tears applauding. Just – wow.

    15. PhyllisB*

      I’m in my “Christmas” season right now so reading a lot of books with Christmas story lines. Also trying to finish my Goodreads goal for the year. I have seven to go so if anyone can recommend some short, entertaining books (don’t have to be Christmasy) it would be much appreciated.

      1. allx*

        We Have Always Lived in the Castle-Jackson (146)
        The House on Mango Street-Cisneros (110)
        An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good-Tursten (178)
        My Name Is Lucy Barton-Strout (193)

        The Thanksgiving Visitor-Capote (37)
        A Christmas Memory-Capote (48)
        Gift of the Magi-O Henry (26)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          OH my God, thanks for reminding me about A Christmas Memory! I’m in the middle of my Christmas reading as well and that one slipped my mind!

          1. allx*

            It is probably my favorite story ever since seeing it performed as a two-person play 30 years ago. Such a wonderful relationship between the boy and elderly relative. Charming.

        2. allx*

          Also, Elderly Lady book is a small square book, so page length looks long but it is a ver fast, fun read. The second book is also fun: An Elderly Lady Should Not Be Crossed.

      2. Jackalope*

        If you’re okay with fantasy, the one I recommended in my first post (How to Get a Girlfriend If You’re a Terrifying Monster) and its sequel are both short (104 and 143 pages respectively); I haven’t read the sequel yet but the first was light and playful and fun. I also just read Silver In the Wood by Emily Tesh which has a very different feel (not sure I can summarize it but you can look it up and see if it’s for you) and that one also has 104 pages.

      3. word nerd*

        Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is quite short, and an amazing gut punch in a good way. It’s perfect for Christmas reading, and the author is such a good writer.

      4. OtterB*

        If you like science fiction, The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older is fun. Sherlock Holmesish, gaslamp vibe in colonies in the atmosphere of Jupiter connected by trains. Investigator looking for a missing man calls on her ex-girlfriend, a professor, for help.

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

      Still re-reading James Bond novels for a bit of escapism — I’m now on *Casino Royale*.

    17. Crop Tiger*

      The Navigating Fox by Christopher Rowe. It’s a novella so its a short read, but wow is it worth it.

    18. Annie Edison*

      I read Once and Future Witches earlier this week, and just finished The Other Bennett Sister last night (an Allison recommendation). And now perusing this thread for some ideas about what to read next

    19. GoryDetails*

      (After adding “How to Get a Girlfriend When You’re a Terrifying Monster” to my wishlist):

      I’ve started the latest Donna Andrews “Meg Langslow/Christmas” book, Let It Crow! Let It Crow! Let It Crow!, featuring a reality-TV-show blade-making competition that Meg gets pressured into competing in. [The plot points that lead up to this do work pretty well, though they make me annoyed on her behalf!] I’ve enjoyed watching the real-world series “Forged in Fire,” and while this version’s supposedly a low-rent copy made by shady people, it could be fun. (Will see how it stacks up to other novels focusing on reality-shows – I’ve read several very good ones.)

      On audiobook, I’m nearing the climax of Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher, the third in her “Saint of Steel” series – and one that does some callbacks to the “Clocktaur” books from a couple of decades earlier in the same ‘verse. This one mixes the fantasy/suspense/action elements with the simmering romantic/sexual tension between “bone doctor” Piper and paladin-of-a-dead-god Galen, and is quite fluffy/whimsical for a story with so much gruesome death in it {wry grin}. [The relationship tension between the two men is entertaining, but does go on and on and on. Even in-story, the other characters are at the eye-rolling, get-a-room-already stage well before our heroes are ready to make a move. Granted, they each have emotional baggage, but still…] I do like the characters very much, and was pleased to find that the gnoll Earstripe (a kind of badger-person) gets a major role (and much snarkery).

    20. Can't think of a funny name*

      Just finished Homecoming by Kate Morton…400 pages but I finished it in days…could not put it down! About a woman who goes to Australia when her grandmom is dying and learns about 50 year old family secrets behind some mysterious deaths.

    21. Sparkly Librarian*

      I finished Any Other Family in about a day and a half, even with work and family responsibilities. It’s fiction about an extended family formed through open adoption (birth parents and three sets of adoptive parents, and the four kids). I found it very relatable, considering recent developments that have expanded my family. Gave me thinky-thoughts about motherhood, adoption, relationships, family culture, my phase in life.

    22. ampersand*

      Anything described as “trying to be lovable and figure out the right number of eyes and tentacles to have as a human” sounds adorable and like something I need to read! Added to my list, thanks! :)

      In the same-ish vein, I’m currently reading Molly Molloy and the Angel of Death which was either recommended here or on Reddit–I can’t recall. In any case, it’s good!

    23. fallingleavesofnovember*

      I’ve just finished Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer, which is about a woman who has cancer, how she and her family respond, and her reviewing the events of her life – it’s especially about the relationships between mothers and daughters, the experiences of the body, as well as faith and obsession. It alternates between the woman’s perspective at different time periods and actually having the cancer speak as a character, and the latter sections are pretty experimental. I found it a fascinating but intense read! I would recommend but would definitely advise caution for anyone who has or has someone close to them with cancer (also for an abusive relationship).

    24. The OG Sleepless*

      Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister. Mystery, time travel, and family relationships. I really enjoyed it.

  8. Jackalope*

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

    We just finished up a major arc in the D&D campaign I’m running, and I was able introduce a plot twist I’ve been sitting on for two YEARS, which was super exciting. We’ll be moving back to the other campaign for a bit which will give me time to plan what will happen next.

    1. Azami*

      What was the plot point?? That must have been extremely satisfying as both a storyteller and a game runner.

      1. Jackalope*

        Kind of a long story, but one of the PCs is a warlock following The Lady of the White Well. The story written about her (she doesn’t even get a name) is that she is punished for something not her fault by being imprisoned in a small area by her lake until she “gives her heart freely”. The player and I both thought that was bs, so I had to come up with a different way to free her. The plot twist was that the players were told to find a way to help her form a new pantheon with the Raven Queen; this also frees another minor deity who was also imprisoned (arguably by the same deities), and avoids having to make the PC fall in love with the patron or find someone else to fall in love with her (neither or which my player was interested in). The Raven Queen had not been involved at all before this, so it was fun pulling her in to the story.

    2. Jay*

      Just finished the Campaign in Diablo IV in the latest Season. Now on to the Open World goodies! Also messing around a bit with the latest Season of Fallout 76. Post Apocalyptic Atlantic City is looking NICE!

    3. Maleficent2026*

      Disney Dreamlight Valley recently released for iOS. I’ve played it on Switch since it’s very beginning. I’m torn on whether or not to download it to my phone, because I’m not sure if I can handle that temptation being at my fingertips all the time!

    4. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Last weekend I played the entirety of a game called Chants of Sennar. You play as someone attempting to climb through a “tower of babel” type setting, deciphering the various languages on the way and trying to solve inter-culture issues. I needed some help from walkthroughs when I couldn’t figure out where to go to find the last few words, but overall I didn’t find the puzzles too obscure.
      There’s a free demo available on Steam, and if I’m remembering correctly, switching from the demo to the full version was seamless. According to my playtimes, the demo was almost 45 minutes, and it was definitely enough to tell whether it’s for you!

    5. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I finished Like a Dragon: Gaiden and the ending stomped all over my heart. in cleats. I want to try and squeeze Lost Judgment in before Infinite Wealth drops…

      1. Cyndi*

        Oh, the Yakuza games look like fun (if I ever finish slowly playing through the Resident Evils) but I’m so intimidated by the combat system. It looks so complicated!

    6. Cyndi*

      My Resident Evil series playthrough has been hampered by getting stuck on an objectively really simple puzzle near the end Code Veronica. It’s just a timing thing where you have to drop something under a falling rock and then dodge back again without getting squashed yourself, and I can NOT get it. Does anyone want to just finish this game for me real quick please

    7. ampersand*

      My husband and I are playing an advent calendar mystery game called Exit: Advent Calendar that’s one clue per day to solve a mystery (and escape an ice cave). It’s the right mix of challenging and fun.

  9. migrating coconuts*

    LaVyrle Spencer, Patrick Taylor’s “Irish country doctor” series, and I just started reading books by Dee MacDonald.

  10. Salad Bar Recipes*

    Does anyone know how to make the large kidney beans that are often available at salad bars? I want to make the red kidney bean salad and I think they are with onion (maybe pickled onion?) and herbs. I’m trying to move toward a blue zone diet–what are some of your favorite salad ingredients?

    1. Zephy*

      Oh, the salad-bar kidney beans are easy:
      1. Buy a can of kidney beans.

      My definition of “salad” is pretty loose (not Midwest-loose, you won’t find any gelatinized mayonnaise with fruit in it here), but my general salad-building formula goes something like this.

      Base – something fibrous, like leaves or grains or beans, or maybe cooked pasta/noodles. The base doesn’t need to have a strong flavor, but it can (e.g. arugula).
      Crunch – Generally raw fruit or vegetables, cut up small; onion, bell pepper, celery, carrot (shredded), bean sprouts, cucumber, apple slices. Maybe nuts or seeds, like walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, or pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds). Not all of these every time, whatever moves me/whatever flavor profile I’m going for.
      Protein – can be animal-based real meat, plant-based fake meat, or beans if you’re using something else as your base.
      Soft stuff – fill in the rest of the flavor profile you’re going for with basically whatever else you want in your salad. Mushrooms (raw or cooked), olives, fruit (fresh or dried), crumbly cheese, roasted root vegetables (squash, beets, sweet potato).
      The Juice – any salad needs some kind of dressing, and you can make a vinaigrette out of basically any acid + fat of your choice, get weird with it.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Coincidentally I just ranted above about how long it takes to cook dry kidney beans. I will warn you if you start from dry, you MUST cook them hot enough and long enough to break down a natural chemical that will give you “digestive distress”. (My favorite euphemism.)

    3. zaracat*

      I love to put pomegranate seeds in my salads – adds a pop of colour, lovely flavour and crunch. Bonus for a single person is that they freeze really well. I buy whole pomegranates, prep and freeze them myself. They are expensive where I live (often $4-5 each) so I’ve planted a bush sized, self pollinating variety in my garden and am looking forward to having a steady supply in a couple of years. Other salad faves: capers especially in potato salad, and black sesame seeds

  11. HannahS*

    Table decor advice! Two main questions, but any other advice or comment is welcome.

    1. What can I use to elevate (like, physically elevate) certain elements on the table?
    2. Are there any brands of nice-looking disposable snack bowls and platters? Or a way to make ugly ones look better?

    The context: My husband and I are hosting a much-belated wedding reception this summer and I’m enjoying the pleasant frivolity of thinking a lot about table decor. We will have 2-4 long tables, so it’s more “complementary tablescapes” than “12 identical centerpieces,” and the goal is “affordable and fairly easy, but looks elegant and ornate.” A bit secret garden-y? I’m not sure.

    Anyway, I’m thinking a dark tablecloth, a heavily embroidered/textured table runner, gold votives with electric tea candles, and scattered bowls/platters in various sizes of fresh fruit, dried fruit, and nuts. No flowers. I’m a confident seamstress, so the table runners will be easy to DIY inexpensively.

    The elevation question–years ago I was at a catered event where the caterer used cardboard boxes to raise some of the items on the table, and covered them with squares of fabric. It added a lot of dimension to the table…but how do you do it without the boxes falling or collapsing? Are they weighted?

    And for the bowls. So, thrifting anything for food is out, because the venue is strictly kosher, and buying new is not in my budget. Are there nice-looking disposable (preferably compostable) bowls or platters? Is there a way to jazz up plastic ones to look a bit less…well, plastic?

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Stacks of books would work well to elevate! If you have nice enough looking books, you wouldn’t even need to cover.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Potentially disastrous for the books being around food and liquid– I’d seal in ziplock bags.

        I would look at using sturdy upside-down flower pots inside the covered boxes.

    2. Time for a change?*

      If you don’t need to have everything match how about going to thrift stores for bowls and platters? They should be fairly inexpensive and you can just donate them back.
      Tapping the boxes shut and wrapping would give them more strength. And put lighter items on them and having one dimension be slightly smaller than the box would put most of the weight on the sides instead of the top.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        She literally said:
        “thrifting anything for food is out, because the venue is strictly kosher”

    3. RLC*

      Do you have access to a home improvement store or lumberyard, or a builder/carpenter/woodworker friend? Blocks of clean scrap wood in varying sizes could serve as very sturdy non crushable bases for items. Wrap in paper or tinfoil to cover the wood (or paint if so inclined). My mom decorated cakes as a hobby-turned-tiny business, lots of foil covered wood supporting heavy cakes and such (dad had a construction business).

      1. Anono-me*

        Home Depot often has discounts on wood that is damaged, warped or had big knots. Since you will be cutting it in small pieces, that will be much less of an issue for you. The Home Depot near me will make a few cuts for free (and more for a small fee) if I go in when they are not busy.

    4. LA Girl*

      I do the box thing all the time. One tablecloth on the table, several sturdy cardboard boxes, and another tablecloth draped and gathered around the boxes, and any other decorations (flowers, etc) around them. You don’t need to weight the boxes. The weight of the serving dishes holds them down. It’s easy and looks great by adding that height to the table.

    5. SofiaDeo*

      I use sturdy/hard styrofoam to make shelves/elevate things in the pantry, and I think this would transport easily. They should hold a moderate weight depending on the size without risk of collapse much better than most cardboard. Bring a long fish or bread knife if for some reason you decide to re-size them last minute, just do it outside (back of an SUV is easy to contain mess & clean later, bring a sheet to do it on).

      I often used to nest food containing bowls and platters or pans inside other decorative ones for my parties. If you nest, you might find some inexpensive interesting looking sets to mix & match. For a wedding, if you have a lot of friends/family and they are at all traditional, can you borrow silverplate serving pieces? And put the plastic bowl or platter with the food inside/on top? Silverplate and other metals won’t break, just use plenty of towels to wrap the pieces in for transport so nothing gets scratched. Even if there are different “styles”, the fact of the silver (or copper, or brass) would pull it all together. Mixed metals would also go with your already planned gold votives. I used woods too, but this may not work with your theme.

    6. Not A Manager*

      If you have cake pans, brownie pans, etc. you can flip those over and cover them with a napkin. Cardboard boxes are surprisingly sturdy. If your event is this summer you have plenty of time to collect the good ones.

      How many bowls do you need? You can get a set of 10 nesting glass bowls on amazon for less than $30, and a set of 6 nesting metal bowls for $25. If you’re using them for dry items like whole fruit or bread rolls, you can pretty them up with a napkin draped inside them.

      Plastic and aluminum serving trays can be gussied up with paper doilies or with cloth napkins.

    7. JSPA*

      most supposedly compostable stuff really isn’t, at least not in the context of a landfill or home compost.

      So…I am unclear if the venue refuses anything not-new (even from a kosher home) or only things of unknown provenance. (“Strict” kosher means different things to different groups and sub-traditions, and even different rabbis within the same tradition).

      The rules* for kashering metal pots used for boiling; metal plates / trays; and a subset of glassware (and true granite / stone) are considerably more relaxed than anything for ceramics and plastics. And wood (for non-damp-contact) is yet another set of (variable) rules.

      If they do accept items from kosher sources, and will tell you which interpretations of kashrut they follow, there may be some secondhand options that are fairly easily kashered and brought into a kosher household, and from there to the restaurant.

      If not, I’d be tempted to serve at least dry foods and finger foods (chips, breads, pastries) from cut-offs of new untreated lumber, with a napkin on top. But again, if they insist that any new item that isn’t from an unopened package that’s certified, needs to be kashered before use, you’re probably going to be using one of a very few prepackaged options–and really, that will be 100% fine, in the grand scheme of things.

      *which vary dramatically by tradition and interpretation

    8. Slartibartfast*

      I have a Sam’s club membership and they have fancy disposable table ware. You don’t need a membership if you have a gift card. Gordon’s food supplies would be another store to try. You can also rent table linens and vases, etc at party supply stores

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

      Are you renting tableware and glassware? Most rental places also have serveware. (If you haven’t already looked into it, kosher rentals are 100% a thing. Your venue should be able to give you some recommendations.)

      Some rentals companies will also have risers, and if you google “decorative risers” you’ll get multiple inexpensive options in clear or white acrylic. You can also do things like order (or provide) extra serving bowls, turn them upside down and use napkins or other fabric to hide them. (As a former caterer, I’d advise going easy on risers on the table itself. You want people to be able to see each other, and you want any family-style dishes to be easy to reach, pass, and set back down.)

    10. Maleficent2026*

      To elevate the decor, I like to use clear acrylic display stands or cupcake risers. No help on the bowl idea, unfortunately.

    11. Ginger Baker*

      Search for catering supply dishes on Amazon – lots of Fancier but disposable serving options!

    12. Black Suede Shoes*

      When serving bread or chips, etc., we often line the bowls/baskets with a couple of unfolded festive napkins that expand up and over the edges of the bowls. That successfully distracts from the blandness of the containers and makes everything appear visually connected.

    13. PhyllisB*

      I don’t know where you live, so don’t know if you have these stores in your area: Dollar Tree has some really nice glassware and paper goods. Also, if you have an Ollie’s I found some neat looking soup bowls. They’re disposable, but sturdy enough to wash and reuse if you like. Alsi found pretty napkins and plates. I ordered some plastic cutlery from Walmart that looks like sterling silver. About boxes: Dollar General sells very pretty decorative boxes that are sturdy. They have all kinds of designs and sizes. I generally buy a few of the Christmas boxes every year, but they have some that would be perfect for a wedding reception. You can cover them, but if you get some that coordinate with your other items they can be part of your decor. Then you can reuse them for storage or gift giving!! Hope these ideas help.
      Oh, one more thing: if you have a restaurant supply house close to you it’s worth a trip. They have a lot of inexpensive disposable trays and other serving pieces that are lovely.
      I learned all this when both of my daughters got married the same year. :-)

    14. Observer*

      Are there nice-looking disposable (preferably compostable) bowls or platters? Is there a way to jazz up plastic ones to look a bit less…well, plastic?

      If you are in NY or near Lakewood NJ, there are a lot of options. Not a lot of composable that I know of but there is a lot of stuff you can buy if you are not going to insist on that. Even a lot of the larger kosher supermarkets carry this stuff.

      Depending on what you are serving, foil covered cardboard can look surprisingly good as well.

      Catering supply places that target the Orthodox community should have some good stuff because a LOT of events use disposables. Also, I did some googling, and discovered, to my pleasant surprise that places like Target have some decent stuff. But seriously, if you are near some of the larger Orthodox Jewish centers, you’ll probably have your best luck.

  12. IndigentPhD*

    Anyone have good inspirational read or film about finding your passion in life again? Not love life related, more reinventing yourself.

    1. Anonymoose*

      I love Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. There’s just something fun about how she realises how she can low-key change her own and others’ lives. It’s an older movie though and I understand french so not sure if it’s as good for all.

    2. CMama*

      The movie, The Dawn Wall, is a great documentary about a rock climber finding purpose after a traumatic kidnapping and divorce.

    3. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

      The Pixar movie “Up” is absolutely wonderful and this is an important theme of the movie.

      “Brittany Runs a Marathon” is another that I enjoyed with a reinvention theme, particularly with a focus on getting out of your own way.

      1. anonymous plus*

        I was tempted to watch that but it looks like it might be sizeist/have body shaming tropes. Does it go there?

        1. Seashell*

          I watched it a while ago, so I don’t remember all the details, but I liked it and didn’t find it offensive.

    4. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

      On the non-fiction, self-help type front, I enjoyed “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “The Miracle Morning.” Not about reinventing yourself per se, but more about giving yourself the headspace to explore the possibilities of life and move toward things that are meaningful to you.

    5. Not Totally Subclinical*

      Maud Hart Lovelace, Emily of Deep Valley. While the main character is eighteen, her struggles in reinventing her life after high school still resonate with decades-older me.

    6. AGD*

      Po Bronson’s “What Should I Do With My Life?” is about 25% self-help and 75% human interest. Fascinating stories about how people found their thing – including a few really dramatic/unexpected stories.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      One of my mom’s favorite movies is Babette’s Feast, about a woman who is gourmet cook and has been stuck making only plain, boring food at her job for years in a small community. When she comes into some money, she uses it to cook a huge, once in a lifetime banquet for the town.

    8. Goldfeesh*

      A House of Straw: A Natural Building Odyssey by Carolyn Roberts. It does end up with a bit of romance in it, but it isn’t what the book is about. It’s the story of a woman who ends up building a straw bale house with the help of her community.

    9. Call me St. Vincent*

      The book Designing Your Life written by some Stanford cognitive scientists is legit about this exact thing! Book is based on a course they taught.

      1. Helewise*

        This is a great book – I’m going through it with my high-schooler now, too. It’s good for helping you think more broadly about the choices you have.

    10. Qwerty*

      I love The Holiday even though it is technically a rom-com. Two women swap houses to get away from their love life disasters and end up getting more comfortable with who they are. I absolutely love the friendship between Kate Winslet’s character and her elderly neighbor.

    11. Voluptuousfire*

      It’s a little corny, but Bend It Like Beckham. I love how Jess ends up making it with soccer and past her family and her community’s expectations for her.

      I remember seeing it in the theater and walking out and feeling really positive and energized.

      1. And thanks for the coffee*

        Loved that movie and watched it many times. I wasn’t sure exactly why I liked it so much.

  13. Sitting Pretty*

    Teapot advice needed!

    (No, for real. Actual teapots, not the chocolate kind).

    I somehow find myself as a grownup human with a fondness for tea but out a single teapot. How did this happen? I have kettles, both electric and stovetop, and plenty of mugs and saucers and even multiple tea balls/strainers. But no pot!

    I’d like to acquire a couple of cute, funky teapots for when a guest comes over for tea (which I can happily report occurring more often as I get older.) I don’t want just a basic off-the-shelf teapot from H Mart or Target, I’d like something with a little personality and flare.

    Do you have a favorite source for such things? I have limited kitchen real estate so can probably only get 2 max, and I’d like them to be fun. Not so floral/classic, maybe more modern, folk-arty, or straight up weird.

    1. Professor Plum*

      I just picked up a couple recently at the thrift store. It takes a bit of wandering time to see what’s available, and when you see one you like it, pick it up right away. Wash well, including a vinegar soak and they’re good to go.

      I also just got an IngenuiTea at the thrift store—new in its box. Great for steeping loose leaf tea for one—tea dispenses through a filter at the bottom when the unit is set on top of a mug. I’ve enjoyed using it this last week or so.

      1. eeeek*

        I love Adagio com’s IngenuiTea! I have two (home / work) and use both multiple times a day. They are so convenient. And with 16 oz capacity, they make *enough* tea for me. (Yeah, I consume a LOT of tea…) HINT: cleaning the filter (which I only do when it’s really stained) was a nuisance until I found that fizzy denture tablets work great. Just rinse a LOT to get the minty residue out.

        1. Professor Plum*

          Thanks for the tip! Yes after barely a week of having mine, I’m taking it with me visiting family over the holidays.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Oh yes, I love Calmityware! I have their big teapot (good spout!), and several other pieces from them as well!

      2. GoryDetails*

        I was going to mention Calamityware! I adore the could-be-worse line… (Though I admit that my favorite teapot is a classic “Brown Betty”.)

    2. DistantAudacity*

      My most important criteria for teapots is It Must Not Drip – i.e. the spout must be well constructed. Doesn’t matter how cute it is if it drips all over the place.
      With that said, I find UK brands tend to have the engineering in place :) I have a nice one from Denby, and one from Sophie Conran (?).

      For just myself, or one guest, I like to use the small one (holds about 0,75 l of water), which brews on one of the larger type teabags, or 2-3 tsps of loose tea, and is about 2 or 3 (smaller) cups. Less waste of tea, and I use it every day for myself!

    3. RLC*

      I’ve had one teapot made by a local art potter, discovered their work at a craft fair. Independent potters and ceramic artisans often make amazing, creative pieces for very reasonable prices. Some farmers’ markets in our area (Pacific NW USA) feature potters’ and ceramicists’ booths in winter when fewer fresh produce sellers are available.
      If you want to mess with your guests’ eyes and minds, Calamityware’s pieces are amazing. Bonus points for mixing actual traditional Blue Willow with their “Things could be worse” design. I have some and it always brings a smile.

    4. Anono-me*

      Museum gift shops sometimes have artist inspired teapots.

      If you are wanting several teapots for guests, maybe several of the little teapot and cup and saucer combos might be nice.

      I have a teapot with a matching tealight stand to help it stay warm. You might like something similar if your tea parties tend towards lots of conversation.

      I have not yet mastered the art of drippless tea pouring or rather I have not mastered it without cheating. Many tea shops have a little gizmo to catch drips. It is a bit of sponge on an elastic loop often with a tiny porcelain figurine. The sponge goes just under the end of the spout to catch the drips and the elastic loop crosses over the lid and stretches over the pot’s handle.

    5. Uisce Chick*

      This teapot is not especially quirky, but it is the best tea pot I have ever owned. It is perfectly balanced and pours without a single drip. It is a pure pleasure to use. I’m just including the key word title from Amazon, where I bought it a few years ago, but I know my son bought one at a local tea shop, so it is out in the wild, if you want to avoid Amazon. “BonJour Tea Glass Zen Teapot with Stainless Steel Infuser and Bamboo Trivet, 34 Ounce, Clear”

    6. Llellayena*

      As someone who collects “unusual” teapots (including an R2-D2 one I picked up at a comicon) I can tell you that it’s a right place/right time thing. I’ve had multiple bouts of success at Teavana or other tea-specific stores. Museum stores (MoMA, architecture museum) are good too. Keep in mind how you’ll use them though. Japanese tea pots are beautiful but barely hold a single cup of tea. So decide if you want a multi-cup thing for guests or a single-cup for cozy self-indulgence.

      1. Llellayena*

        The page refreshed while I was typing and I forgot one when I retyped…one of my favorite teapots is shaped like an elephant and I think I got it at Sur La Table.

        Side note: anyone know how to get Safari to NOT refresh mid-read…? Really gets in the way of longer reads and things with sub-threads (like AAM!).

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        The paint your own pottery place by me has those mini teapots with an upturned mug on top. If you have one near you could be a fun way to customize one. I’ve never made one, so not sure how it’d perform functionally, but the staff would probably know.

    7. Nervous Nellie*

      Etsy has some great options, including vintage Corning Ware (which we had when I was a kid and I can assure you it does not drip) and lovely pottery pieces. What a fun house gift! I hope you enjoy the browsing & selecting, and your own special tea ritual with them when you get them.

    8. osmoglossom*

      I really love Bee House Teapots — ceramic teapots made in Japan (beehouseteapot dot com) — they have varying sizes, shapes and colors.

    9. Healthcare Worker*

      You might enjoy looking at Replacements dot com to see older styles – try English tea pots. And I second looking at antique or thrift stores.

    10. zaracat*

      I have multiple thrift shop teapots. One of my favourites is a floral patterned chinese one that I managed to find a perfectly matching cup months later at a completely different shop. Just make sure no chips or cracks. One good tip for removing tannin stains and hard water residue from ceramics and glass is denture cleaning tablets. If you want to be hard core about seeing if they pour nicely, take a bottle of water, a cup (or use one from shop) and a dish towel to dry after. They’re already used – it’d be pretty silly if shop objected to testing with plain water.

    11. WavesFromKate*

      But chocolate teapots come with magic, adventure, romance, and lots of lovely letters.

      I have no advice on the other kind, just wanted to acknowledge the reference and make sure you knew I appreciated it.

    12. Workerbee*

      Search for “Copco” teapots on eBay!

      I’ve seen shapes like bunny, frog, dinosaur (!!), strawberry, apple, cow, fish. . .

      1. Professor Plum*

        Oh the rabbit hole of Etsy: look for the sassy teapots from ToTheBonePottery there. Fun and quirky!

    13. Imtheone*

      I love Beehouse teapots. There are a variety of glazes, so you might find one that speaks to you.

      They are great for loose tea, have spouts that don’t drip, and, if you remove the tea strainer and lid, can be microwaved.

  14. Ginger Cat Lady*

    I have an old iPod that still works and I’d love to listen to the music I have on there more, but I can’t do wired headphones for that long, I move & carry stuff just enough as I work that it’s a problem.
    Is it possible to buy a Apple 30pin to bluetooth adapter? Does such a think exist? My preliminary search shows a bunch for specific Bose systems that I don’t have.

    1. Roland*

      Try adding the word “ipod” to your search. I googled “ipod 30 pin bluetooth adapter” and then some of the results were for adapters with the male part of the 30pin instead of just female which I think is what you mean about sound systems? So intended to plug into the ipod instead of simulating the ipod for ipod-specific speakers.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        A specific one I found on Amazon: “heaven2017 Wireless Bluetooth HiFi Audio Dongle Adapter for iPod Classic/Touch Black 1”

        No idea how reliable such a thing is at this point, the 30pin adapter has been out of production for yonks, but.

    2. PX*

      Depending on your speaker what you might just need is a double ended jack? I also have an old ipod and my speaker has an audio jack so I just bought a double ended jack – one end in the ipod, one in the speaker and it works perfectly

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I think they’re looking for the ability to use Bluetooth headphones instead of wired – no speaker.

    3. Fellow Traveller*

      We have an AirFly which we use on flights to connect wireless headphones to the inflight system. I imagine it would work for Bluetooth speakers as well.

    4. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Have you tried looking for headphone jack-to-bluetooth adapters? My first pair of wireless headphones had a small block with a transmitter that plugged into my ipod where the headphones normally would.

    5. Workerbee*

      Reddit has both iPod and iPod Classic subreddits where I know I’ve seen this exact question come up, so you can also try there.

    6. Kellisa*

      How old is your iPod? Just in case, double check that there isn’t already Bluetooth in the general settings. I have one from 2010 and it has the capability.

  15. nnn*

    Seeking recommendations for computer screen cleaning products, since the product I’ve been using for ages (Ecomist) seems to have been discontinued.

    I have the kind of screens that are a bit “soft”, plasticky, not super reflective (as opposed to the hard, rigid, more reflective glass screens).

    I’m particularly in the market for a product that minimizes streaking even if you don’t take particular care with your cleaning technique, if such a thing exists.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      The cleaning solution that optometrists sell, and that can be used on camera lenses, would likely work. I haven’t tried it on the surface you’re mentioning but it’s designed not to leave streaks. The key is using a specialized cleaning cloth, the kind that comes with glasses, so you don’t scratch the surface.

    2. Jay*

      Have you tried just rubbing alcohol? That’s mostly what the great majority are, anyway. They unusually just add things like scent and colorings. And it evaporates completely in short order. Try it on a tiny, inconspicuous corner, just in case.
      Be warned, though, do NOT let it drip on your wood furniture. This stuff can, and will, sometimes strip paint.

      1. miel*

        The IT department for my side gig officially recommended cleaning screens with rubbing alcohol, so, seconding this!

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      She has 8 I think – she commented higher up in response to another question that two of the ones in this drawing have crossed the rainbow bridge.

  16. allathian*

    What have you watched recently?

    I really enjoyed A Haunting in Venice, even though it’s a very free adaptation of Halloween Party. They changed the venue and the basic premise as well as most characters, but it worked for me. It was a bit creepy but not full-on horror, which I don’t enjoy. Perfect for Halloween…

    We finished the third season of The Wire. Very intense, and I’m looking forward to the next season.

    Started the last season of Voyager. I liked the double episode Unimatrix Zero as a standalone two parter, but it completely ruined the Borg as a threat. Apparently all you need to survive assimilation with your individuality intact is a neural blocker, and being rescued before it wears off. No PSTD either…

    1. Hot Water Bottle*

      I saw Home Alone for the first time ever- and my biggest impression was that WOW, the class warring was strong in that one. The uber-rich are portrayed as lovable, super-competent, and ultimately pious with good hearts (even if they may have some annoying foibles)… while the less wealthy are vile, sociopathic, creatures who can’t wait to emerge from their filthy vans and destroy your smooth jazz CDs and everything else you own. Marie Antoinette would have appreciated it. (Maybe this was an early 90s thing? I recall that Lion King got some similar criticism)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I have only vague impressions of Home Alone. For the Lion King, though, it really stood out to me that the characters singing about how great it is to be in the circle of life are the prey.

      2. RagingADHD*

        It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I don’t think the burglars (deliberate, career criminals) were supposed to be a general depiction of the “less wealthy.”

        The idea that thieves case affluent homes to find out when they will be empty is the closest thing to realism in the whole movie, IIRC.

        I’ve never been rich, but I’ve been burglarized twice, and in both cases it was obvious they had been watching the house or apartment building to break in while we were gone.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Our house been burglarized and it’s in not at all rich neighborhood. I know couple people to whom it happened as well, and all got burglarized when no one was home. Totally realistic.

        2. Busy Middle Manager*

          Agreed. Objectively, crime peaked circa 1993 in my area, so two years after Home Alone. Everyone I know has a story of their car being broken into, some had their houses broken into or just a scary story of someone trying to break in, then there was all of the low level crime like randomly finding your car keyed, forgetting to lock your car and realizing someone stole all the CDs from it, finding someone trying to open your backdoor and running away when you turned on the light and being scared for weeks they’d come back, getting mugged.

          I wonder if the previous OP is just younger and doesn’t remember living through that so thinks it’s all sort of made up? I could see that. Alot of people make fun of the satanic panic or stranger danger in retrospect. Yes some things were exaggerated but the fear stemmed from generally more crime, at least in many swaths of the country, at the time.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I just meant that burglars actually exist and generally don’t want to rob a house while it’s occupied. I don’t think any aspect of the movie was intended as social commentary in any respect.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            Yes, the crime rates in general were in the long term slide until the pandemic, so it’s easy to forget that it used to be a lot more prevalent.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Lots of war-type movies, weirdly enough. Greyhound on Apple TV (WW2 destroyer vs submarine movie), which of course triggered my desire to watch Hunt for Red October. And the classic War Games. I’ve needed things that are gripping/engrossing.

      I agree with you about Voyager! The Borg are frustrating as an enemy because they’re simply too powerful, so they’re always defeated in “dumb” tricky little ways. I wanted them to be a little less overwhelming to make it plausible that our heroes can win. I do love Seven, of course. My husband and I say “Fun will now commence!” a lot.

      1. allathian*

        Seven’s grown on me. The first time I watched the show, I absolutely hated her. I couldn’t get past the fact she was brought in to replace Kes (my favorite character in the first 3 seasons), and to give the (younger) male demographic an attractive woman to crush on. Now I can appreciate Seven for the interesting character she is, even if she helped ruin the Borg for me as a credible villain species.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Wednesday. It hit my husband’s love of cynicism and my love of terrifying little girls. I appreciated the developing friendships (Enid and Thing!) getting a lot more weight and romance being more afterthought.

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

      Re-watching Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson. It is so good!

    5. fposte*

      Second season of Fisk has dropped and I’m midway though that. I also really enjoyed Mike Birbiglia’s The Old Man and the Pool.

    6. GoryDetails*

      I happily binge-watched the first six (seven?) seasons of “Face Off”. Am now (re-)watching the horror movie “Sinister,” in which a true-crime writer moves his family into a crime-scene home without telling them its history, and truly horrifying things ensue.

      On the lighter side, the Great British Bake Off’s holiday episodes just dropped on Netflix, so after all the gruesome makeups and murders, I can see cake!

      1. Siobahn*

        Seconding “Sinister.” Even the opening scene is just classic horror creepy, but then, so is the whole film. Really well done.

    7. Bluebell*

      Spouse and I have watched Bridgerton season one together, but only one episode of season two. I picked it up this week and finished the whole thing. Plus I watched one episode of Queen Charlotte and I’m looking forward to finishing that.

    8. The Prettiest Curse*

      Last weekend, I watched the excellent documentary Stasi FC (available on Sky Documentaries in the UK), which is about the head of the Stasi rigging the East German football championship so that his favourite team could win it – for 10 years in a row. Eventually, even the team’s die-hard fans were so disgusted that they stopped showing up at matches.

      This week, I also saw the new Aki Kaurismski film Fallen Leaves, which is a deadpan Finnish romantic comedy. There are a few musical scenes in the film, so you get to hear some Finnish romantic ballads, plus a really great electronic tune from a band that should enter Eurovision right away. Also, if you see the trailer for this film, the dog it features does eventually show up, but not till about 2/3 of the way through. (It’s an exceptionally cute dog, so well worth the wait.) Overall, highly recommended, especially if you like your romantic films to be totally unsentimental.

    9. Helvetica*

      I’m still thinking about “Aftersun”, which I saw a couple of weeks ago. It was so tenderly balanced, almost too still but managed to quite literally move me to tears. A true revelation of a movie.

    10. Elle Woods*

      We watched “All is Calm” on our local PBS affiliate last night. It’s about the Christmas Truce on the Western Front of 1914 using real-life stories of Allied and German soldiers. The actual musical is just over an hour long; there’s a roughly 15-20 minute behind the scenes bit after it. It’s very touching and the cast is spectacular.

      Other than that, hubs and I are sports nuts, so we’ve been watching a lot of professional sports (NBA, NFL) and college sports (esp. men’s & women’s hockey).

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      I really enjoyed A Haunting in Venice. It was the first Poirot film I’d seen not knowing the ending going in (like Orient Express or Death on the Nile) so I got to discover the murderer in real time!

      We keep trying to go to Godzilla Minus One but being thwarted by life: heavy rain, Peanut needs to go the vet again, blah blah blah.

    12. carcinization*

      My husband and I went to see “The Marvels” in a near-empty theatre (one other person), I thought it was just okay.

    13. zaracat*

      Max Miller’s YouTube channel A Taste of History. Yummy food, easily digestible (haha) history, very personable presenter. He’s also just released a recipe book.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I adore Max Miller! Some of the recipes turned out surprisingly well; others are more in the “that’s… interesting” category for me, but still quite entertaining.

    14. Angstrom*

      The classic 1936 screwball comedy My Man Godfrey. Intersing to see the prevalence of backless gowns, which was the style in the 1930s.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been working my way through The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu. I saw bits of it as a child, but it wasn’t something that appealed to me at that time, and I didn’t really understand it. It’s a lot funnier now that I’m an adult, although the casual sexism of the 1970s annoys me.

      Also watched the new Doctor Who specials and am anxiously awaiting the Christmas one. They’re on Disney Plus now, fyi.

      1. allathian*

        The season start looks promising. I love the way Prez got hired by the vice principal of the school. At least you’d assume a former cop could keep order in class.

        We’re watching this for the first time, we missed it when it originally aired.

    16. LCH*

      Star Trek: Strange new worlds is my favorite of the newer ST series out there.

      Ghosts either UK or US are good.

  17. Summer*

    So, this is tangentially related to the religion post from earlier but not actually directly (and also, um, about the fact that I celebrate Christmas).

    I’m neopagan, part of one of the better-known organized groups – like, I help organize rituals, I volunteer for related charity work, I am involved beyond just showing up occasionally. The religion being as recent as it is, the vast, vast majority of us are converts, and apparently my area in particular has had some issues with cult-type groups trying to isolate people. So all the reputable groups around here emphasize that you should not jettison your family culture, traditions, or practices unless they are actually harmful. Diwali, Eid, Christmas – if you like it and it keeps you connected to your loved ones, it’s a good thing. (I do know people who celebrate all three of those despite being neopagan. Different people, to be clear.)

    The thing is, my family’s Christian-adjacent-atheist – our big winter get-together is Christmas. It doesn’t involve going to church or anything directly related to Jesus, but there’s the rainbow string lights and the gift exchange and the tree. I enjoy the winter family get-together and do not want to lose it, and as people have made very clear here, even changing the name and date wouldn’t make it “not Christmas”. The traditions involved with it are important to various family members and they do not want to change them.

    Folks here have clearly put much more thought into separating Christmas and all Christian elements from their lives than I have, which is great, but they mostly seem oriented towards a setting where you don’t have any family culture or traditions that are Christian (we also celebrate all the holidays based on the Gregorian calendar, which many people here also view as specifically Christian). Anyone have advice about whether it’s possible to be non-Christian while also still participating in stuff like Traditional Winter Family Get-Together With Gift Exchange, and how? Not by my religion’s standards – those are fine with anything as long as no one’s getting hurt. By yours.

    1. curly sue*

      A question back to you – why would my religion’s standards matter in any way, if it’s a faith you don’t belong to? If your faith’s standards work for you, what’s the problem?

      1. Summer*

        Because I am/we are evidently a very small minority in the world of non-Christians for being okay with Christmas and other Gregorian-calendar-focused holidays. I’m trying to get to a point where I can integrate better and offend people less, and that means at least lining up enough with their beliefs on what makes someone Christian that they’re not going to consider me a liar if I tell them I’m not Christian.

        1. curly sue*

          Is this about the difference between being a practicing Christian and being culturally Christian that came up in the other thread? Because I’ll happily explain why Jews from my cultural background tend to find Christmas a problem, but I’m not sure that’s the actual question here.

        2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          If I’m understanding correctly, your question is “what makes someone a Christian?”

          If so, there are many beliefs about that. The best I can tell, the common denominator is a belief in who Jesus is and then saying that belief to yourself and others.

          I was also curious about your comment here: “and that means at least lining up enough with their beliefs on what makes someone Christian that they’re not going to consider me a liar if I tell them I’m not Christian”

          I guess … why does it matter if they call you a liar? How would they be the authority on what religion/spiritual tradition you observe? What happens if they call you a liar? Do you actually have people in your life who would argue with you about this? It just seems like a strangely argumentative stance for someone to take, and I’d probably avoid someone who does this altogether because it seems out of proportion and out of touch, as well as not made in good faith.

        3. Jay (no, the other one)*

          My husband was raised in a Protestant faith and converted to Judaism after we were married. His siblings celebrate Christmas and neither of them would consider themselves a Christian. They don’t go to church and don’t celebrate Easter beyond buying a chocolate rabbit or two.

          I doubt either of them has ever had to explain to anyone why they have a Christmas tree and bake cookies and do whatever else it is that they do. I’m not sure why you’d have to tell someone you’re not Christian. We don’t do Christmas at all in our house but I know a number of Jews who put up trees so I don’t assume anything from the presence of a tree.

        4. kina lillet*

          Hmmm. I’m not sure this is the forum for this discussion, especially because I’m picking up on some banked anger over the previous week’s discussion.

          You can practice your religion and call yourself exactly what you want. Really! And, many many many non-Christians have fun celebrating Christmas, without losing their identity as non-Christians, especially outside of the US. Really! You are very much in the majority.

          There are a couple specific points here. Christmas is indeed a Christian holiday, not a Gregorian-calendar-focused(?) holiday. And Christianity is thee hegemonic religion in the US, to the point that it nearly becomes invisible. As an evangelical religion, Christianity exerts a strong force of assimilation & syncretization, even when it doesn’t press for explicit conversion.

          Some additional context that you may be missing, is that a lot of the protest about the ubiquity of Christmas in the US comes from American Jews, who face a continual pressure to assimilate; and that assimilation is a loss of religion, history, and identity.

        5. ecnaseener*

          It seems like the phrasing you’re looking for is “I’m not Christian, I’m neopagan, but my family still does some Christmas stuff.” That will make perfect sense to anyone who’s just asking what your religion is.

          If you mean you don’t know how to respond to the phrase “culturally Christian,” that’s basically what it means — connected to the Christian culture you grew up in even if it’s not your religion. It’s not really a statement about you as an individual, it’s a statement about your culture. Like, I’m Jewish and I don’t pretend not to have been influenced by Christian culture, it’s unavoidable.

        6. RagingADHD*

          Your attitude / practice is not a very small minority in the real world, at all. I think it’s either a very large minority or a majority, depending where you live.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I agree. I missed the discussion last week, but most people I know are culturally christian atheists. It’s not at all a small minority, at least in Europe. All those trappings are nice, and they fill a desire many people have (structuring the year, following traditions, all the social stuff that comes with it). We will happily sit around a tree and even sing carols about baby Jesus and continue not believing in God at all. We call it Christmas because that’s what it is. It’s fine as long as one isn’t pressuring others to participate.

            1. londonedit*

              Yeah…I know it makes some people here angry and I’ve learnt the hard way about getting into these discussions on this website because until I started reading here I’d never encountered anger about it, but where I live many many people celebrate Christmas in a broadly secular, or at least culturally Christian but not religious way. Where I live it’s perfectly fine to celebrate Christmas and sing carols and go to a church carol service and put up a Christmas tree all while not at all believing in God or considering oneself a Christian. It’s about tradition and culture rather than being specifically about religion. You can do Christmas and ignore the Jesus stuff.

              1. Magdalena*

                Hmm, I don’t think this was the point of last week’s discussion at all?
                People don’t get angry about others who consider themselves non-Christians who celebrate Christmas traditions. I think the issue was with pushing others to join Christmas celebrations by insisting those celebrations are purely secular.
                People were asked to make space for commenters who were dealing with this problem (being pushed to celebrate Christmas) so that voices of the cultural majority would not drown out those primarily affected.
                There is plenty of space for discussing Christmas stuff in all the other threads of the year.

                1. Saturday*

                  Yes! The issue isn’t about non-Christian people celebrating Christmas in a secular way. It’s when people say that because they celebrate Christmas in a secular way, Christmas itself is a secular holiday.

                  Christmas and Christmas stuff remain culturally Christian, no matter the beliefs of the individuals celebrating.

                  Basically, what Dark Macadamia said below.

              2. nnn*

                Literally no one here has said they have a problem with that. What we keep saying is that we have a problem with you expecting US to do that.

        7. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Are you a small minority though? This forum isn’t a statistically valid sample. When you have a strong thread of something in an online forum I assume that it’s concentrated. And frankly, most people don’t care what others do as long as it doesn’t impact them.

          Have your lights and tree and gifts. If anyone gives you grief because you’re not christian then they’re the ones with an issue, not you.

        8. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          I’m a nontheist who not only enjoys all the traditional trappings of Christmas, but I even go to church occasionally, for the culture/music/socializing. I know other atheists and agnostics who make snarky anti-Christmas noises among friends, but then happily sit by the tree opening presents and stuffing Santa cookies in their face. Remember that this is the internet, and a lot of people (including myself sometimes!) get into keyboard warrior mode online, making adamant statements they’d never make in real life.

          1. nnn*

            What statements are you referring to? The people in Thursday’s discussion seemed sincere to me and not saying anything that sounded hyperbolic. (That actually seems kinda dismissive to say.)

        9. nnn*

          Where are you getting that from? No one said anything like that.

          The point of discussion was that people need to stop making assumptions about other people and what they should participate in, not what you do for yourself.

          I’ve never seen so many people misunderstand a discussion here. It’s doesn’t feel great.

        10. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

          I think there are a huge number of non-Christian’s who celebrate Christmas and Easter as secular holidays. That is the part of Christian dominance in our culture, that even those of us who are most definitely not Christian but also not anything else have trees and presents and easter baskets. And while I could try and claim I am celebrating Oester and Solstice, nah. I am just looking for some cheer and chocolate.

          1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

            The only time I had to explain that I was not Christian was when a neighbor put up a Keep Christ in Christmas sign in my yard. My MIL answered the door and she knew we were not Christian but thought it would be neighborly to accept the sign. I returned the sign.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t think it’s so much about people putting thought into separating Christmas and all Christian elements from their lives as that people with family members who are Christian or who themselves grew up Christian have a different experience to people who grew up as part of another religion and only learnt about Christianity from an outsider’s perspective say when they went to school.

      Neither is better or worse and I don’t think anybody reasonable would be offended by people partaking in celebrations with their families even if those celebrations are from different religions than they practice. I took the conversation in the other thread more as a reminder that these two experiences are very different and that it was those whose experience was of always being outside Christianity and never having chosen to take part in Christmas or having Christmas a time of significance for them that would be most use to the LW.

      As I am Christian, I’m probably not best placed to say whether it’s possible for somebody who belongs to another religion to enjoy Christmas but I would say that only they (and possibly the rules of their own religion) can say that. If they want to, then that seems perfectly cool to me, but it should also be perfectly cool for somebody to opt out and be able to do so if Christmas conflicts with the values of their religion or they just don’t want to take part in it.

      With regard to the previous discussion, I don’t think it was so much about wheher or not non-Christians should participate in Christmas (as that is something each person can only decide for themselves and nobody should be judged either way) but rather that the LW was looking for advice on how to avoid Christmas and because so many people do celebrate Christmas, it could easily become derailing if those of us who do didn’t hang back and allow those who actually had the experience the LW did to be the ones to speak. I didn’t think anybody was suggesting their experiences were more correct or what one should be doing, just that they were more relevant to the LW’s question.

      1. CorporateDrone*

        I am Christian and deeply religious. I would be very surprised if you were doing the parts of Christmas that are important to my faith.

        We tell our kids that there are two Christmases just like there are two Easter’s. In our opinion, one has very little to do with the other, even around timing. It’s deeply weird to hunt Easter eggs during lent, for instance. Not a Christian thing at all, although plenty of Christians participate in this activity despite it being kind of inappropriate. (Insert obligatory if you are a Christian and do this – no judgement! I just can’t)

        Same with Christmas – you won’t find the secular celebrations of advent echoing in solemnity of fasting and prayer that comes with advent, and then the secular (consumerist?) version starts in Nov and ends when Christmas actually begins.

        Even if you are a Christian more on the Protestant side and don’t have some of the well defined rituals, Christmas isn’t exactly (supposed to be) about the presents or decorations.

        In really religious communities we have the exact same conversation you are having but about whether we should allow the secular (fun) traditions to muddy the waters. Something like Elf on the Shelf is a perfect example. It’s the sort of thing that is inexplicably (to me) seen as an example of a Christmas (and therefore “Christian”) tradition. It’s very much not Christian at all and I wouldn’t feel right doing it in our household. If you were some random other faith and doing the elf thing I wouldn’t feel like you were “lying” because it’s a secular Christmas culture thing. Whereas if you do something like a Jesse tree as someone of another faith I’d find that weird. Make sense?

        1. Sloanicota*

          Agree. Christmas in my household is about going to all four advent services and then the candlelight Christmas Eve service, putting out the creche, and having my dad read us the relevant sections of the Bible. I really wouldn’t worry about lights and Santa making you too Christian TBH. That discussion about holidays was interesting but I don’t think everyone got the point.

        2. WestsideStory*

          “Two Christmases” seems a good way to frame it. It sounds like it’s what I do – there’s the holiday that my Jewish in-laws celebrate by putting up a tree and opening up presents in their pajamas on the morning of Dec. 25th – and then the one I do quietly in the background, which is doing the Advent daily meditations, not eating meat on the Fridays and going to church and enjoying the cavalcade of the Catholic calendar this month. (I.e, St Nicholas Day, immaculate conception, Guadalupe, St. Lucia, St Stephen, each with its own little ethnic-religious festivities). My origin family are all atheists except a sibling who’s Wiccan, they all do the tree thing and never bother with church. So yeah 2 kinds of Christmas.
          I did very much appreciate the earlier discussion about the overpowering force of the commercial holiday. It tires me also!

        3. New Mom (of 1 4/9)*

          Yup, exactly. We only have babies, but my husband and I have decided we’re not going to do the whole Santa thing.

          Old/Julian Calendar Orthodox Christians kind of have it good in this respect–sure, your work or school breaks don’t line up with your Christmas, but nothing says “these are really two holidays” like celebrating “church Christmas” on January 7th!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I agree with this: I would never be offended or protest if anyone non Christian wanted to participate in any of the rituals around the holiday, or the trimmings that have been loaded on through history. But I would never insist or expect that they do so, or write off them not wanting to participate in any aspect of it.

    3. Shell*

      If I understand your question correctly, you are worried about cultural appropriation. That is, you recognize that Christmas is a Christian holiday, and you are worried about stepping on Christian toes by putting up a tree or giving gifts on December 25 or whatever when you are a neopagan.

      I’m a lifelong Christian, and sufficiently serious about it that I considered a career in ministry. There certainly are things that are theologically central to Christianity that (as a non-Christian) you shouldn’t do — like, if you happen to find yourself in church on Christmas Day, you probably shouldn’t take communion.

      But Christmas trees and lights are not like that. They are certainly strongly associated with a major Christian holiday (so Jewish people who are annoyed at the idea of “midwinter secular holiday trees” are right). But the trees and the lights don’t really have a lot of sacred meaning to Christians, and if non-Christians decide for themselves that they would like to participate in the decorative aspects of Christmas, that’s totally OK.

    4. AtheistButGivesPresents*

      I grew up in a Catholic country in the only atheist family I knew. My parents ‘got rid of the church’ (starting with skipping the religious wedding and baptism etc) but they didn’t have any other traditions to sub in and it did not occur to them to make something up. I don’t care much about Christmas, for me it’s a nice winter break to look forward to and when I travel home to see my dad and friends. I am not really celebrating anything, just going along. Thing is, you cannot really completely uncouple my country traditions with the church, and it would be strange and not practical to ditch everything.

    5. RMNPgirl*

      My family always jokes that as atheists we do Christmas really well.
      Background – both my parents grew up in very religious households, my dad is the son of a minister, and both became non-believers in college. I was raised agnostic/atheist.
      What we celebrate at Christmas is the giving and thinking of others and being with loved ones. Christmas trees were originally pagan and a way to celebrate life in the middle of winter, so we do a lot with trees, wreaths, evergreen boughs.
      Is it inherently Christian, yes, but I’ve never had anyone say we’re liars if we celebrate Christmas but don’t believe in Christ.

    6. RussianInTexas*

      I am a full on atheist Jew. I’ve been brought up as an atheist Jew. My atheist Jewish family puts up the tree and does gifts on Christmas morning after Christmas breakfast. Just because it’s a fun tradition, and for my family it replaced the Russian NY celebration, which is basically the same.
      My partner and I (he is of a somewhat similar background, although grew up in the US) do not decorate our house, but we go to Christmas festivities at various family houses. Pretty much no one in the near extended family gotta to church or in any want religious, it’s just culturally traditional for them.
      So there you have it. A whole family of non Christians participation in some of the Christmas traditions without much thinking about it.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Now, Easter I don’t participate in. Easter to me is a LOT more directly Christian, and no.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Everybody should celebrate and enjoy what makes them happy, for whatever reasons!

      A discussion about what is appropriate in a diverse workplace to avoid reinforcing cultural hegemony has nothing to do with how you enjoy family time or what holidays you personally celebrate.

      I think part of the issue comes from the fact that from a practicing / devout Christian point of view, celebrating Christmas with parties, music, presents and decor doesn’t make someone Christian anymore than doing yoga for exercise makes someone Hindu. So when Christians say “Christmas trees aren’t religious,” they mean they are not part of the spiritual practice. There is even a small but vehement segment of Christians who overtly reject Santa and all commercialized Christmas trappings because they aren’t explicitly religious enough for their conscience.

      But that oversimplification misses the point. Because in a society where religious freedom and tolerance are given lip service but not often rigorously practiced, having even the external trappings constantly imposed on people can feel very oppressive.

      Lots of non-Christians enjoy Christmas. Lots don’t. And I think the wide variety of experiences and feelings about Christmas was well expressed in yesterday’s discussion. Being sensitive to other people means not assuming or imposing on a captive audience. Your family and your home are up to you.

    8. Double A*

      I’m not a Christian. I celebrate Christmas. The only time I feel tension about that is when I read this site and people insist Christmas is religious which makes me feel like maybe I shouldn’t celebrate it because I’m not religious. But it’s personally and culturally important to me so I celebrate it in the way that keeps me connected to what’s important and joyful about it for me.

      I will say, I’m culturally Christian, because my ancestors are all Christian. But this feels different from being culturally Jewish to me. As far as I know you can’t be an atheist Christian, but you can be an atheist Jew. Christianity is only a religion, whereas Judaism is also and ethnicity. But Christmas is the only Christian holiday I celebrate and we don’t celebrate any of the religious parts.

      So yeah, I feel bad that people feel overwhelmed by Christmas when it’s not their tradition but I also feel overlooked when they insist it’s totally a religious holiday because what does that make me? I say celebrate what’s important to you in the way that you want and don’t let other people make you feel like you have to ascribe meaning to it that you don’t.

      Most Christian holidays are built on pagan holidays anyway so it seems pretty seamless to integrate them.

      1. Double A*

        Fundamentally I think it’s really nice to have a celebration with food, family, and gifts during the darkest time of the year and it’s nice to have a time when our otherwise hyper individualistic and work-obsessed society collectively more or less slows down and takes a break for a minute at the same time.

        Christmas is ultimately a capitalist holiday, which isn’t great. I wish we’d critique it more on those grounds. As you can see from this thread, many more devout Christians find many of the secular parts of the holiday in tension with their faith.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        When I first saw people call it “cultural Christianity” here I was really uncomfortable. I’m not Christian and it kind of feels invalidating of my actual beliefs. But I think the discomfort comes from dominant/privileged groups being treated as the default and it’s important to confront that uneasiness. Celebrating a Christian holiday even if you only do the family/food/decor parts IS culturally Christian. I wouldn’t be doing it if I hadn’t been raised by Christians, who were also raised by Christians, in a country where Christianity is the dominant religion… which is kind of what culture is.

        1. allathian*

          I’m culturally Christian but not a believer. My parents are more or less secular and religion was never a big thing at home, although both sets of grandparents were fairly devout, especially my maternal grandmother.

          So I grew up with some of the religious elements of Christmas as a child, including getting up at 5 am on Christmas morning to go to church at 6 am when we celebrated Christmas with my maternal grandma. When the last of my grandparents died, my parents skipped the explicitly Christian parts of Christmas completely, and my husband and I have done the same.

          My husband’s family of origin was more religious than mine, although he isn’t. My MIL and her second husband met at the senior singles’ club of their church, my FIL was a member of a church choir until his dementia made it impossible for him to continue, and my SIL is a Lutheran preacher. For as long as my FIL sang in the choir, their concert on the 1st Sunday of Advent marked the start of the Christmas season for us.

          But when we celebrate Christmas together, we skip all the religious parts of it. They go to church without us. Listening to a few Christmas carols is about as far as we’ll go, and I’ll freely admit that I prefer the explicitly Christian carols like Silent Night and Joy to the World to more secular ones like Jingle Bells and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

          In my family, we’ve also stopped exchanging presents among adults a few years ago because all of us found that the stress of finding and buying presents was greater than the pleasure of receiving a present, no matter how well chosen.

          For us, Christmas is all about spending time with family and enjoying a meal together, and a few extra days off work for my sister, my husband, and me, and two weeks off school for our son. (It’s been years since we last celebrated Christmas together with my SIL because she’s usually working during the holy days and she lives a 3-hour drive away.)

          All of my friends are like me, culturally Christian and seemingly at least non-practicing. I don’t currently have any friends who’ve grown up in a different religious tradition, all of them have grown up celebrating Christmas and still do.

          If any of them have personal religious convictions, they don’t talk about them with the rest of us because they realize that proselytizing wouldn’t be welcome and they’d be risking our friendship if they tried.

          That said, reading about the experiences of people who grew up in and/or follow non-Christian religious traditions has been really eye-opening for me. It’s obvious in hindsight, but I really appreciate knowing how much being pressured to participate in holiday celebrations that either have no meaning for them at best or are a form of cultural oppression at worst really bothers people, and justifiably so.

          I celebrate “secular” Christmas because I don’t participate in any Christian rituals. But I’ll never again assume that my secular Christmas is going to feel secular to people who follow different religious traditions. Regardless of beliefs, I think it should be up to each person to determine how much they want to participate in Christmas traditions, without judment from anyone else. I wish…

      3. Llama Llama*

        I say, don’t listen to Internet commenters and do what you want to do. They may be the most vocal but not the majority.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      I think you’re misunderstanding the conversations about Christmas that happen here. Yes, you can be non-Christian and celebrate Christmas. The point that gets made here a lot this time of year is that CHRISTMAS itself cannot be non-Christian.

      The problem isn’t atheists putting up a tree or people of other faiths exchanging gifts in December – it’s people (and especially organizations) acting like Christmas celebrations are “neutral” as long as you leave Jesus out of it. Jesus Christmas is religiously Christian and Santa Christmas is culturally Christian, so it’s harmful to force either version on people as if it’s a universal practice.

    10. Dancing Otter*

      If you’re asking what in the general holiday traditions is too religious to pass off as secular, you might want to avoid setting up a crèche and singing church-y Christmas carols, as opposed to the Santa or winter wonderland type. It’s not as though you’re heading off to midnight mass and taking communion.
      A lot of the Christmas traditions are less about the coming of Christ than the coming of cookies and presents and family. Sure, the gift-giving may be *based* on the magi bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh, but for most people now it’s either about love and generosity or greed. And evergreens are a lot closer to your religion than to Christian theology. I’m quite sure there’s nothing in the Gospels about cinnamon scented pine cones.
      So if you tell someone you’re pagan and they protest that you celebrate Christmas, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that it’s all about family. And liking cookies and spiced cider and such.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        It’s interesting also because I think it snows in Jerusalem maybe a tiny bit every few years? The evergreen/winter wonderland thing is definitely not an accurate representation of how December is in the Middle East (weather and vegetation wise).

    11. Roland*

      I’m not sure I understand the question. Of course one can be non-Christian while going to a Christmas party, you just go to it. If there are specific issues, then those can be tackled, but I don’t really know that there’s any generally-applicable advice. No one on Thursday was saying “members of my community are not allowed to enjoy Christmas gatherings”.

    12. Girasol*

      The lights and candles and tree and decking of the halls are all taken from pagan celebrations of the solstice anyway. (IIRC, an early Christian evangelist to Britain tried to morph pagan rituals into Christian ones in hope of making more converts, since telling people that they’d have to give up their favorite pagan festivals to follow Christ wasn’t working.) Besides, if “all acts of love and pleasure are sacred,” why wouldn’t celebrating with family be right, even if they don’t share the same faith?

    13. MeepMeep123*

      I’m a fairly committed non-Christian – my family and I are very Jewish and definitely don’t do any sort of Christmas stuff at home. My wife’s best friend does a huge blowout Christmas party every year. Prior to COVID, we always went, brought appropriate presents, and admired the Christmas tree. Didn’t make us any less Jewish.

      Which reminds me that I need to get busy writing Christmas cards for all our Christmas-celebrating friends.

  18. Gnomes (UK)*

    A couple of days ago I was asked if I was pregnant for the third time in my life, when I have never actually been pregnant. This time the comment was from a sort-of family friend in the supermarket. The previous have been from complete strangers.

    Has anyone else ever experienced this? Is it a common thing for women/feminine-presenting people? Each time it has happened my body has been a different size. The first time, a bloke at a music festival (who admittedly looked like he might have been high) asked if he could touch my (non-existent) bump. Just looking for some solidarity I suppose…

    1. KeinName*

      I had it happen by a waiter at an all you can eat buffet. Didn’t want to give me some sort of sauce because of my supposed pregnancy. Long time ago. Can’t remember if I had a belly, possibly might have, but that’s just the way I look, the belly protrudes. I have also never been pregnant. Oh and another time I was wearing a Dirndl at a family birthday do, where my then-MIL said that many people had asked her if I was pregnant, and how she wished she could have said yes. There‘s also a fun family picture from that time where I inadvertently put my hands around my mid-riff as if I was cradling a pregnant belly. I hope that’s enough co-misery for you! I‘m glad it doesn’t happen more often than every 10 years and I should soon be over the age where people assume – and voice – these things.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have a really annoying unconscious habit of holding my hands at my waist in pictures in that “hand on bump” fashion and it has ruined (to me) so many pictures in the last ten years. Especially during the year or so where I was wearing t-shirt dresses that as far as I can tell were designed to make everyone look pregnant, before I thought maybe it wasn’t just me, it was the dresses. (It was a combination, but they are not a good style for me.) Solidarity.

    2. Queer Earthling*

      It used to happen to me all the time–I carry my weight in my tummy and have since I was little. One stranger actually argued with me when I said that I wasn’t, and told me I should go to a doctor to make sure. (I wish I’d had the presence of mind to tell him that if I were, it’d be a gay miracle.) At some point I started saying, “No, just fat,” which cut down on any follow-up questions.

      It comes up less often now–I don’t know if the rest of me has gotten chubbier and caught up, or if it’s because I dress much more masc than I used to and with very little shape, or what, but I don’t miss it.

      My partner used to get asked fairly often as well, but that was mostly because they had an undiagnosed ten-pound ovarian cyst. Getting that removed cut down on a lot of questions, as you can imagine.

      1. WestsideStory*

        Had same comments and a similar diagnosis maybe consider scheduling that gyn appointment if you’ve not had one recently?

        1. Queer Earthling*

          Okay, absolutely not trying to be rude because I know you mean well, but I didn’t ask for medical advice. I’ve got my health under control (as I said: it’s how I carried my weight, probably also a posture thing; the guy bugging me about whether I was pregnant or not happened ten years ago) but regardless, telling a stranger who didn’t ask for medical advice to see a gyno isn’t exactly more polite than asking a stranger if they’re pregnant.

      2. RW*

        I’ve had someone argue with me too! Like… I think I’d know?
        I get it a ton, and it is (for me) related to where I carry my weight, and also the fact that my job has me seeing a lot of people on a recurring basis, so I get regulars who want to know things like that. Doesn’t make it a better thing to ask, and I’ve mostly lost all shame about returning awkwardness to sender on this one (“no, I’m not” is enough to make the vast majority of people squirm with regret!)

    3. Invisible fish*

      I was asked by a young girl if I was going to have a baby – at the time, my stomach was totally flat and I wore about a 14/16 – I’m just curvy. What made it memorable was that her mom and aunt were right there, and they were horrified/embarrassed. (The two of them were not curvy, so to the child, having hips must equate to a temporary state that can only result from carrying another human internally.) I responded that I wasn’t, and the little girl asked why. I said because I couldn’t be, and the little girl asked why. I then told her I couldn’t have a baby because I wasn’t married… the mom and aunt looked so relieved I’d put an end to the questions without being rude to a child!

      It was then that I realized my mom was a genius for all the years of answering questions in a way that satisfied my child’s curiosity without giving me information that would cause greater confusion. This then lead me to be really accepting of others’ reality instead of comparing it with mine and in turn questioning it.

    4. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Yup. Used to happen to me all the time when I wore any kind of loose dress. I responded the same way Queer Earthling did – “nope, just fat.” I’ve never been pregnant either. We adopted our daughter at birth so for a while I also got comments about losing the baby weight….why oh why oh why can’t people just keep their mouths shut about other people’s bodies?

    5. Sloanicota*

      Yes, and I’m really not a big person, but I think I have a habit of standing in a way that pushes my stomach out (and I was leaning back against a wall at the second time it happened). Honestly it’s a humiliating faux pas **for the person who does the asking,** not the person being asked – I try hard not to let myself be embarrassed by their error. Who says that??

    6. Seashell*

      The only time I can remember that happening was the kid next door asking me. I think he was about 6 years old at the time, so I forgave him.

      When I was actually pregnant with my first, I didn’t tell my work supervisor until about 6 months in. As far as I know, no one suspected. One of the benefits of being not-skinny!

    7. Heather Crackers*

      I had a super-religious aunt-in-law say to me at a wedding that she was glad to see I was finally embracing God’s love. When I was clearly puzzled, she rubbed my stomach. So not only did she call me fat, she insulted my beliefs. A very efficient insult.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Used to happen to me often whenever I wore an empire waist dress or princess seams, even when I had an eating disorder and you could see the ribs connecting to my sternum. Sometimes kids, sometimes grownups.

      IDK exactly what age it stopped happening, because I just hated it so much that I gave up wearing those styles for a long time. I started wearing high waists again in my mid-40s and it hasn’t happened since.

      I doubt yours are about your clothes, but that’s just how it happened for me.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      One time while standing in a restaurant lobby waiting for a table, someone offered me her seat. I was visibly confused so you’d think that would be a hint to back off but she was like “I INSIST, YOU’RE PREGNANT!” and I just flatly said “no I’m not” and walked away. Totally ruined my night (I was relatively newly fat at that point and really self-conscious about it) and it still makes me angry. Now I would just say “nope, just fat!” as cheerfully as possible, but it still bothers me.

    10. Llama Llama*

      4 times. Once by a coworker who ran excitedly to me about it (my other coworker who saw it gave her lots of grief), two times by strangers and the fourth was a week or so after having my twins a pastor at my church said something along the lines of ‘when you have your twins’. When he realized I already had the twins, you could see the ‘what did I just do’ look in his face.

      1. silavra*

        This happened to my sister – she stopped at Walgreens on the way home from the hospital and the lady asked her when she was due. In all fairness, you still look pretty pregnant right after, even with singles!

    11. Mornington Crescent*

      I’ve not been asked if I was pregnant, but this happened to me years ago, and I still think of this funny moment fondly.

      I happened to be stood behind a woman in the queue in a shop, and she had a baby in a big cream pram with her. It was one of those ones with a huge hood almost completely conceals the baby inside. She stepped out the queue briefly to grab something, leaving me as the nearest adult to the pram.

      At just that moment, a little girl of no more than six wandered over, took one look at me and the pram and said to me “is that your baby? I like your baby!”

      The little girl skipped off, mum got back into the queue and I was left wondering how the little girl had even SEEN the baby in the first place.

    12. SSC*

      Yep, probably 5-6 times since my late 20’s (I’m 44 now). As some others have shared, that’s where I carry my extra 10 pounds or so, and people ASSume. The most awkward was when a coworker years ago asked, and when I said no, she pushed back with “Are you sure? I heard you were pregnant.” Nope, still sure. I’m a health care provider now, in an outpatient setting, and my patients are the ones who commonly ask, maybe once a month. Those are awkward; due to needing to be respectful and maintain a good rapport with them, I can’t respond how I’d prefer.

    13. goddessoftransitory*

      Never had it happen to me, but I adhere totally to Dave Barry’s advice: Unless she’s actively in labor and you can see the head crowning, do not ask a woman if she is pregnant.

    14. Girasol*

      I’m a cis-het woman with no curves. I’ve never been told I’m pregnant but people who think they have “gay-dar” have insisted that I’m a gay man who won’t admit it. Pregnant, gay – some folks are just weirdly judgy about others’ bodies.

    15. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Yes, I’ve had it happen a couple of times. No, I’ve never been pregnant.

      The absolutely worst time was when a female airport security staff member said “oh, you’re pregnant” in a startled voice *AS SHE WAS PATTING ME DOWN*.

      She realized her error when she saw the look on my face. Bit awkward, that.

    16. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      OY- I had a cashier at the local store ask me repeatedly when my baby was due when I was not and had never been pregnant. I finally traced it to a sweatshirt that hung funny and kind of pooched out.

      But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part is that for YEARS after she would ask me how my baby was and when I said I didn’t have a child she would tell me that of course I did, she remembered when I was pregnant. Even when I said “No, you remember repeatedly thinking I was pregnant but I was just wearing a fat looking sweatshirt” she would say that I had most definitely been pregnant.

      I never could figure it out. I came very close to telling her the baby died, but I felt it would cause even worse drama in my small town.

      1. Llama Llama*

        I mean what did she think happened? Either you never had a baby like you claimed or the baby died? Why would she insist on pushing it??

    17. Slartibartfast*

      iI had a client ask me once if I was pregnant, and when I said no, he asked me if I was sure…. Nope,just fat, thanks.

  19. Sad*

    Yes. And it was right after I had worked really hard and had lost 65 pounds, so it made me cry.

    That was nothing, though, to the many, many times strangers on the street have asked me why I was fat, told me to lose weight because I looked “awful,” and said I should see a doctor for my obvious “thyroid problem.”

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Aren’t people wonderful?! /s
      Who feels entitled to barge up to a total stranger with insults?! I’m angry on your behalf.
      Sending you healing thoughts, and a lot of respect for working hard to lose 65 pounds.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I had a bunch of preteen boys do that to me: once I put the nearest one in a headlock he discovered a newfound respect for the notion of not trying the patience of strangers.

  20. Seashell*

    I reached a 200 day winning streak on Wordless today.

    Anyone else have something silly to brag about?

      1. Pamela Adams*

        Nice! I’m also at 280 weeks, but only 299 days. I must have read a paper book one day.

        Level 4584 on Candy Crush. (is this a brag or a cry for help?)

      1. Kiki Is The Most*

        I’m only 440 days BUT when they sent us our “year in review” I’m in the top 1% of all learners this year. Last year I was in top 2% so I’m happy to see my progress in data stats!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I gave away stuff that I’ve been meaning to give away for MONTHS. Free space in garage yay

    2. carcinization*

      Fattest woman in my yoga class, did the balance poses and pigeon pose better than anyone else there this morning. I’m not a yoga savant or anything, and I know it’s not about competition, it just makes me happy that within reason everyone has parts of the practice they are better and worse at naturally.

    3. Bluebell*

      Yesterday I got the 2 word solution for letterboxed. So glad that my reading tastes made it easy for me to find zombification!

    4. Llama Llama*

      I recently figured out how to fold a fitted sheet properly. So much so that when getting one out today, my husband wasn’t sure right away which was the fitted one.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        That’s quite the accomplishment! I’ve watched videos and try to fold them the right way, but I have yet to fold one that doesn’t come out looking like a train wreck.

    5. WoodswomanWrites*

      I achieved the highest score of anyone in the world on an extremely obscure online game. It involves identifying flags from countries around the world and answering some random geography questions. To get the highest score, you have to not only get them right but finish really fast. I hadn’t played it in a long time and when I did, I once again became the highest scorer. I’m sure the total number of players is small, but it still makes me happy.

      1. allathian*

        My son played a similar game recently, but he only had to match the flag to the country. He got a 100% score, out of 219 or so countries.

  21. BellStell*

    Little joys thread! What were you tiny wins this week or something that brought you joy?
    For me, I got a hair cut for the first time in over a year. I love it. Like really love it. And, I am packing for a move and clearing stuff out to donate.

    1. Cat and dog fosterer*

      I’m clearing stuff out too. It feels great! And my spicy kittens let themselves be pet while they eat. Slow progress, yet at least they’re doing better.

    2. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

      I tried caramelizing onions in the slow cooker (butter, oil, and 12 hours on low) and it really worked! I’d made French onion soup the traditional way before, but it’s a lot easier if you make it a two-day process. I’m thinking of making a batch of onions and freezing them, because the rest of the recipe comes together so quickly it can be a weekday dinner.

        1. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

          3T butter, 1T olive oil, ~700g sliced onions. I gave it an initial stir and maybe two more during the process. So easy!

    3. GoryDetails*

      I scored a new winter coat at a local LL Bean outlet store, for half the price of new. It’s rare for me to find something there that fits AND that I like, so I was very pleased. (My old coat was suffering escalating issues, from a semi-functional zipper to worn spots on the sleeves to general shabbiness, so it was high time for a new one.)

    4. RagingADHD*

      After almost a year of living inside, our little feral rescue is letting me briefly pick her up without freaking out or being mad afterwards.

    5. Llama Llama*

      The city I just moved to has leaf pickup. If you put it by the road, they will pick it up once a month. My house has lots of trees so we had lots of leaves for them to pick up this month. It was sooo fascinating to watch. It was like a giant vacuum.

    6. AGD*

      I got a lovely compliment at Unweekendy Place.

      Oh, and I was walking along and watched a guy go by on an electric scooter while using his voice to make motorcycle noises.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I pulled into my driveway and there was a hawk in a nearby tree right at eye level. We sat together for a good 3 minutes before he flew off.

    8. M&M Mom*

      My daughter was voted Teacher of Year at her middle school. Second year of teaching. So proud of her!

    9. Irish Teacher.*

      Tinest win ever, but…a couple of years ago my mother accidentally threw out this travel mug I really loved. I looked online and everywhere in town for a replacement, but it seemed to have gone off the market. Today, we randomly stumbled upon one. I had given up on getting it again.

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

        Oh, that’s a great win! It’s so cool to be able to get a replacement of something you thought was gone forever.

    10. carcinization*

      Well, tonight is our annual trip to drive around looking at Christmas lights, so I’m looking forward. I recently was given a $20 gift card to a local coffee shop (at Place that Must Not be Named, to celebrate the week specific to my profession), so the hot beverage accompaniment is taken care of as well.

    11. Voluptuousfire*

      This afternoon I was just thinking about my niece, and I just happened to go check my phone and got a text message from her right as I was thinking of her. Synchronicity!

      She sent me a picture she do for my birthday next week with a big banner, and she staged a little tableau around the picture of her Barbie dolls, and a bunch of other little toys with her arms raised in celebration. I absolutely adore this kid, and was absolutely delighted by her gesture. She’s 10 and is such a kind, smart, young woman, and she’s just delightful.

    12. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m going through bins and discarding/donating tons of stuff and it feels wonderful!
      Plus making lots of cookies and such to give vs buying things. I like how this feels!

    13. Filosofickle*

      (It’s definitely tiny.) I was doing volunteer work wrapping gifts for an adopt-a-family event, and a baby doll stroller really had me stymied — no bags were big enough, the paper on hand was flimsy, and the tape didn’t tear or stick well — but with some resourcefulness I MacGyvered it and I’m very pleased with that :)

    14. Cookies For Breakfast*

      The cookies I baked last Sunday (dark chocolate, tahini and hazelnut) were the best I’ve had in a while. I nearly didn’t make them out of laziness!

      Also, we set up a date to say hi to our former foster cats before Christmas. They live nearby, and it’s sweet that their new family are open to sending photos now and then and organising the odd visit. Those two beautiful silly animals made our year really special, we consider them our forever friends.

    15. Angstrom*

      A fun contradance last night. Big turnout, lots of new folks, great energy, and a wide mix of ages. Didn’t sit down all evening.

      A nap on the couch with a dog snuggled up next to me.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      I went to the Christmas market in the Seaport yesterday and found something I’ve always wanted — an authentic wool Irish fisherman’s sweater. It wasn’t cheap but cost less than I expected. The minute I tried it on, I knew it was mine. :)

      I also had my very first lobster roll. It was very good but did not cost less than expected. :\ This will clearly be an occasional treat.

  22. Seeking Second Childhood*

    So something changed with Flylady since I dropped the emails 5+ years ago. I’m starting a new push to get on top of being organized again, and the main website page won’t load. A websearch turned up some references to rants and staff turnover and LLC dissolution but wikipedia has nothing. (Although its edit history shows a back&forth 8 months ago.)

    Can anyone clue me in? This is not just curiosity— if the proselytizing turned into anti-others statements I will find a different calendar for 2024.

    1. the cat's pajamas*

      Wow, I haven’t looked at flylady in years. Maybe the internet archive has a backup of the old site though?

    2. Maleficent2026*

      Oh wow, haven’t heard that name in a long time! Flylady.net still works and seems to be the correct site. But a 2 minute Google search says that apparently she went full on right wing conspiracy theory sometime in 202, which apparently is what led to a lot of the recent issues.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I guess my reply went to moderation. short version I got the same search results before I posted here… I a. hoping for a direct report to avoid digging.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Apparently she went hardcore MAGA on her FB and Twitter, rather than on the site itself. I have seen discussion of it but didn’t look up the accounts because that’s the last thing I need.

      IDK if it was hateful “culture war” stuff or only Big Lie election stuff, but those things do tend to go hand in hand.

      Not entirely surprising based on her background / general milieu, but disappointing nonetheless.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      So far you guys are getting the same search results I did, right down to reddit. I was wondering if anyone had specific links or emails because I don’t want to slog through FB & Twitter.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Well, neither does anyone else.

        Gotta say, this isn’t exactly the first place I’d think of looking for people who keep lovingly curated playlists of right wing social media rants st their fingertips.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Lol no, but there are commenter here whose evaluation I trust if they happened to have been following the person before/until she went off the deep end.

    5. Doc McCracken*

      I can’t offer much info on Flylady but if you struggle keeping up with your house, I love Dana K. White at A Slob Comes Clean. Her book How to Manage Your House Without Losing Your Mind is awesome! (I was diagnosed with adhd just last year at age 41 and Dana is who helped not have an anxiety attack if we got unexpected company.) She has lots of videos on YouTube and a couple hundred episodes of a podcast.

    6. Jean (just Jean)*

      Flylady’s politics are definitely not mine, but she deserves credit for giving me hours of laughter in the middle of the night when I was an overwhelmed parent of a young child with ADHD and Asperger’s. At one time Flylady would feature lists of the “Weirdest Things Flung” (part of her 27-Thing Fling events that encouraged people to get. rid. of. whatever weird junk was cluttering their home) and people would post the darndest things: decades-old jars full of home-canned foodstuffs, dead washing machines, horrible taxidermy pieces, and all sorts of bulky, inconvenient, “I cannot believe that anyone would hold onto this” STUFF. The inventory of ridiculously useless objects had me giggling or chortling every time.

  23. Spotted Owl*

    I need help with language/ responses to comments. My kid’s teacher makes subtle digs at my comfortable lifestyle. Thing is, when I was in high school, I was literally homeless for a time, sleeping in an alley if I couldn’t get an invite to sleep at a friend’s house. I struggled and worked for years to be able to live like I do, and I’m not some kind of millionaire now. She makes comments about how my kids are spoiled. Yes, my kids have always had beds and food and clean clothes, but also they have jobs. I don’t give them pocket money, and their clothes most likely came from a thrift store or Old Navy. Most people do not know my background, and I’m not keen to share my life story with her. Her comments bother me deeply. Sometimes I want to scream that she had a mom growing up and that would have been a world of difference to me as mine abandoned me early in life. As you can tell, I’m emotional about this issue. I know what it is like to truly have nothing except some clothes in a backpack. If I don’t work and save, there is no fallback location for me in the world. My family line starts with me and my spouse at the top of the chart. What can I say to this teacher when she makes comments about how I wouldn’t understand what it’s like for her? Or how I have it so easy? Or how my kid is spoiled? It’s putting me over the edge. I just want her to teach my kid without making digs to me or my kid about my income. I also don’t want to tee off because I feel like my kid will pay the price.

    1. RagingADHD*

      That’s really inappropriate. I think you are better off calling out the dynamic than trying to correct the substance of her statements.

      “I am not sure whether you’re aware of this, but when you say things like X and Y, it comes across very hostile and negative. I am concerned about how this might affect your teaching relationship with Kid, or how it makes Kid feel to hear you say things like that.

      Is there something you and I need to address between us? I’ve never purposely done anything to offend you, but if there is something bothering you, I would love to talk it out so we can stop this negative pattern.”

    2. Trina*

      What context are these comments happening in? I feel like knowing what kind of conversations or email chains these are popping up in will affect what the most effective and/or diplomatic response will be.

      1. Spotted Owl*

        Often times it happens when there is a group of parents around and possibly even our kids. We will be talking about something that has nothing to do with finances. She’ll throw out something and look my way or lately use my name like she’s calling me out. I’ve talked with parents who are friendly with me. They notice but thankfully don’t seem to be judging me.
        My kid shared that the teacher scolded her for throwing away part of her lunch. The teacher said that she personally was raised to not waste food and how nice it is for my daughter to be able to throw away part of her sandwich that she didn’t want to finish.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          I would lose my shit over this – I specifically encourage my kids to eat the amount that feels right to them and not force themselves to finish something they are too full for or simply don’t want to eat (and we do discuss that it is, for sure, a privilege to be able to ditch a sandwich etc just because you don’t like the taste and if our finances were different that might not be the case, but we ARE lucky enough to be able to do so (and then, wisely, not choose that kind of sandwich again!) and it is vitally important to me that my kids know they are allowed to want to eat things they like eating versus force themselves to eat something they don’t want, for any reason). There are flames on the side of my face on your behalf right now. :/

          1. Spotted Owl*

            Thank you. Because believe me, I understand that it is a privilege to throw out a few bites of a sandwich. Fortunately, we are at a point where it’s better to go into the trash then come home in the lunchbox. It is that comment to my kid that has put me over the edge.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          OKAY NOPE.

          I don’t know what this person’s problem is? But she’s trying to make it yours and your child’s, and that has to stop yesterday.

          I am truly sorry that she had it tough growing up and that she may still be struggling, but A) that is a her problem, not a random child’s and their mother’s problem and B) she’s basically decided that she knows all about your life and circumstances because–your child didn’t eat an entire sandwich? The hell?

          This is truly disturbing behavior and it needs to be stopped, officially, by the school.

        3. Busy Middle Manager*

          That’s weird! I would just say “I grew up poor and now we’re regular middle class and there is nothing wrong with it.”

          I hate to give out advice “be graceful” when I wouldn’t do it myself, but when it comes to money discussions in the current year, I’d say, be patient. She’s definitely living through something as many of us are. I am financial news and data junkie and things like rent and home affordability or college affordability or car affordability (so, all of the big things) are objectively worse than they have ever been. So chances are this teacher is stressed about money and targetting the wrong people. So the key is to factually acknowledge the weird economy we’re in where the economy is so “good” that people can’t afford to live, while simultaneously letting her know you’re not rich and sympathize and you’re on the same side in the struggle

          1. Observer*

            So the key is to factually acknowledge the weird economy we’re in where the economy is so “good” that people can’t afford to live, while simultaneously letting her know you’re not rich and sympathize and you’re on the same side in the struggle

            No. Sure, I get that she’s living through something, and she may be having real struggles with meeting some basic necessities. That still does not explain her behavior.

            Her behavior would not be ok if the OP were wealthy and has grown up in a wealthy and loving household. The OP doesn’t need to ask for grace here. And what’s more, given this person’s behavior, it’s not all that likely that she’ll agree that @Spotted Owl is “poor enough”.

        4. Observer*

          My kid shared that the teacher scolded her for throwing away part of her lunch. The teacher said that she personally was raised to not waste food and how nice it is for my daughter to be able to throw away part of her sandwich that she didn’t want to finish.

          So UTTERLY inappropriate. For any so called educator to pull that kind of garbage is really out of line. In my circles “the starving children in Africa” trope is a bit of a joke, but but it;s a joke about a real problem. This is much the same – and it’s just as toxic.

    3. Jm*

      Much sympathy. Just reading this made my blood pressure rise. I’m looking forward to the responses from wiser commenters. My response went right to ‘what an odd thing to say.’

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

      Ask for an informal chat with her supervisor (principle, AP, dept head) and express your concerns. If your child suffers consequences, you can go nuclear with “downtown” administration.

    5. Double A*

      I’m a teacher and it is extremely unprofessional to make comments like this about a student! I agree you could go to the principal or administrator.

      You could also say to her: “You never know anyone’s full story. You need to refrain from making judgemental comments like that about my child. It’s hurtful.” Or even more pointedly, “If you knew my background you would be embarrassed to make comments like that.”

      I’m really sorry you’re experiencing a teacher like this. She sounds burned out but that’s no excuse to bully a kid.

    6. Not A Manager*

      This is very weird. From what you’re describing, your kids can’t be materially different from most of the kids she’s teaching – it’s not like they’re hopping on your private jet to Chamonix for the weekend – so either she’s doing this to everyone, or something is off in her perception or in yours.

      I would literally ask her, in an inquiring tone not a confrontational one. “You’ve mentioned several times that my kids are spoiled. I don’t think their situation is unusual, and I certainly try to keep them grounded. Is there something they are doing or saying in class that’s concerning to you?” It’s possible that there is some behavioral issue happening, or that she perceives is happening, that you can address with her or with the kids.

      If not, and if she’s really like “no your kids are great but I can’t stand that they have more than one sweater,” then I do think you could (a) gently and without a lot of detail tell her that you grew up in need and you work hard to ensure your kids’ comfort or (b) complain to her boss.

    7. WellRed*

      What on earth?! Your kids sound very normal, not spoiled monsters but even if they were, what is this teacher even thinking?

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Like, even if Spotted Owl was of the Richie Rich line and flew around in a golden chariot it would be totally inappropriate!

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m a teacher and I can’t imagine any context where I would tell a parent their kids are spoiled. She’s done this more than once???

      I’m curious when or how this is coming up. Is it in a situation where she’s raising a behavior concern and you’re focusing on the wrong thing because the language she uses is triggering? The only thing I can think is if they’re like, bullying poor kids or bragging about things you buy for them or something… maybe bringing electronics or toys to school and being bratty when told to put them away. Even then I would be diplomatic about how “its important to be kind” or “we don’t allow distracting toys” because spoiled isn’t really the problem.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I realized after posting this that it’s heavily influenced by me taking the teacher perspective and having a couple really accusatory and unproductive parent contacts recently, I’m sorry for that. Based on the fact that she’s doing it directly to your kids and it’s about FOOD you should definitely ask her to stop. Just like “Hi, my child told me you criticized them for not finishing lunch and I’d appreciate you not making comments like that anymore.” or something along those lines. Loop in the principal if there’s any further comments or she seems to retaliate against your kids.

        1. Spotted Owl*

          I didn’t take any offense. A teacher perspective is helpful, especially because I know I am sensitive about this topic. I worked hard so that my kids could feel normal. I just don’t get why she singles out my kid. My kids don’t have the latest and greatest.
          Another time she told my kid that she watches my kid’s face because she knows that my kid understands what the adults are saying. To me this means my kid is perceptive. I don’t see the connection to our financial situation.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            That’s just…a weird thing to say. And in context with the rest of this? Creepy, frankly.

          2. Kay*

            What??!! That is a really strange thing to say. Not to mention it sounds like the rest of it is all just the teacher being oddly fixated on you & your kids. I would start employing the “Can I ask why you said that?” comment with her, and if she doesn’t change go the administration route.

          3. Love me, love my cat*

            Telling your child that she watches their face is just….bizarre and scary. This would seriously concern me, along with the other comments she has made. If possible, I would move my child out of her classroom. And definitely have a conversation with the principal. Something IS wrong with that teacher.

          4. Quandong*

            Okay, this extra information changes my original advice.

            I think something is very off about this teacher, more than bullying you and your child (which is in itself inappropriate and completely unacceptable, and not your fault).

            Please write a list of all the weird and inappropriate things the teacher has said and done, and have a meeting with the principal (or most suitable person at the school in a position of authority).

            Honestly, I haven’t come across anything like this in my time working in schools and hearing my parents talk about their jobs as teachers. You would be totally justified in removing your child from this class.

            1. Patty Mayonnaise*

              Seconding all of this. Escalate to the principal, and if they don’t do anything, escalate to the superintendent.

            2. AGD*

              Yeah, something here is VERY not good. I’ve also never seen a teacher do anything like either of these things, and I’ve worked with a lot of teachers (mostly good ones, but some mediocre and a few lousy). Yikes! I’d talk to the principal as well.

          5. Spotted Owl*

            It’s an after school club. I could remove my kid but then she’s the one who suffers. She’s passionate about the activity and likes the other kids in the club. The good news is that it isn’t all day every day. The downside is that we potentially have two more years with this teacher, and she determines leadership roles for the students. I’m trying to measure my response so I don’t come across as angry as I feel. I also really really do not want my background to be a topic of conversation.
            I’m trying to think back to when this started. It might have been when we did the buyout instead of selling junk. I know our house is nice. This is the greatest luxury of my life, and it took decades to get here. But still, it’s in a neighborhood with 60 other houses just like it and is not in The Neighborhood in our town. I’m beside myself over this whole thing. I wish I could just be Successful Adult and not feel like dirty, hungry kid. Most of all I want my kids to grow up feeling normal. I just want the comments to stop. I’m afraid that any other information about me is going to open a new line of commentary which I don’t want to be reminded about either. I need help shutting this down. Thank you for all your suggestions.

            1. Observer*

              I also really really do not want my background to be a topic of conversation.

              That’s very wise. Your background is really not relevant here. What *is* relevant is your daughter’s behavior, her ability to take part on the activity and the very inappropriate behavior of the teacher.

              Like there is some problem with your child actually understanding what’s being said around her?! Is this teacher in the habit of talking trash around the kids on the assumption that the kids don’t understand what’s being said?

              Is she really expecting your daughter to police her facial expressions so strongly that she’s not allowed to show any “unapproved” reaction to anything this teacher said? All of this is nuts on its own.

              I just want the comments to stop.

              I think it’s a good bet that you are going to have to talk to whoever is on top of this teacher. And *THIS* is the perfect tack to take. Not your background etc. Just “Stop the inappropriate comments to me and *especially* my kid. And don’t retaliate against her either.” That all you want, and is a totally and completely reasonable expectation. No need for anything about your background.

          6. virago*

            Another time she told my kid that she watches my kid’s face because she knows that my kid understands what the adults are saying. To me this means my kid is perceptive.

            Perceptive for sure, and smart, too, probably! And sad to say, some adults are uncomfortable around perceptive and smart kids. So this teacher is telling you something about herself, even if she doesn’t know it.

        2. Observer*

          I realized after posting this that it’s heavily influenced by me taking the teacher perspective and having a couple really accusatory and unproductive parent contacts recently,

          I think you actually made a very good point. And it’s a useful perspective. Because if the kid were misbehaving as in your examples, @Spotted Owl would need to address that – but the teacher would still be out of line.

          Of course, with the additional information your examples are not relevant, but having that perspective in their back pocket is still useful because it makes the potential conversation more potentially useful. “You’re behavior is terrible” may be true, but it’s not going to get anywhere. “If my child is misbehaving we should definitely deal with that, but you can’t call her names or criticize her for not being destitute, nor for not forcing herself to eat when she’s not hungry” is something a teacher needs to take on board. And if she doesn’t that’s something that a competent principal is going to listen to.

          Loop in the principal if there’s any further comments or she seems to retaliate against your kids.


    9. MissGirl*

      This is not a *you* problem. Even if you were a millionaire with a trust fund, this not a you problem. If your kids are misbehaving (not that they are), it would be on her to address that directly and not with passive aggressive comments. The problem isn’t that she’s misinformed about what she’s saying. The problem is her saying them at all.

      As someone whose fortunes recently changed for the better, I’m working on shifting my mindset as well. It’s okay to spend money to make my life better. It’s okay to spend money to make your kids like better. It sounds like you have some internal shame that you’re doing good. That is something for you to work on. Then you’ll have the context to see why her comments are out of line and the confidence to address then (however you see fit).

    10. Ouch.*

      What a pain. And I totally get why you don’t want to share your life with this person. On the other hand, if you are willing to share a bit, it might teach this teacher to be more compassionate and to check her assumptions, which would be a gift to so many people. If willing, maybe you could ask for a short meeting with her, or try to talk privately when you are already there. You might ask why she thinks your kid is spoiled, and/or just quietly respond that you were homeless in high school and you want to make sure your kids never experience anything like it. If that doesn’t shame her into stopping, go to the orincipal. But I would start with the teacher.

    11. Irish Teacher.*

      What on earth is wrong with that teacher? Even if you hadn’t experienced poverty, that would be totally inappropriate and I would be really worried about whether her attitude is coming out in how she treats your child.

      If she thinks your child is spoilt, it may well affect how she treats them or how she interprets it if they act out (thinking they are being a “spoilt brat” rather than seeing if they are stressed or being bullied or dealing with problems or whatever).

      And she is a teacher, hardly living in poverty herself (yes, I know people can have good jobs and still have debt or whatever, but that is also true for Spotted Owl and if that is the case, then she should know that you can’t know from a person’s job, appearance, etc how “easy” or otherwise their life is – mind you, a teacher should know that anyway, as they are bound to have had students from well-off families who had learning disabilities or mental health problems or were being abused or neglected).

      And a teacher should not be judging how “easy” somebody’s life is based on their income. As I mentioned, there are kids who are abused by rich parents, kids from wealthy families who have learning disabilities, mental health problems, who get bullied, etc. If she is so obsessed with the idea that rich=easy life, I would also worry that she would fail to notice if a kid in her class from a wealthy family came in with signs of abuse or that she would think they were “just being lazy” if they were struggling academically rather than raising the possibility of a learning difficulty.

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      I would complain to her principal. Not only are those remarks completely uncalled for, she’s signaling that she’s treating your kid badly because she thinks they’re “spoiled.” Who knows what other kids in the class are getting this treatment as well, and how long it’s been going on?

      I am really, really not cool with this AT ALL.

    13. Invisible fish*

      She has time to notice that stuff? I’m a teacher. I process “child is appropriately clothed” – I couldn’t tell you if what the kids are wearing is cheap or expensive or second hand or have tags on them, because I’m only concerned about them getting cold or maybe not having access to laundry facilities. She saw your kid throw away some food and had time to comment on it? I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the kids who pop up at my door because they know I have snacks. I’m not sure about this but … it doesn’t seem like she’s using her time to focus on important things? Like maybe actually teaching?

    14. Heather Crackers*

      Say simply “How do you know?” and then stop talking.

      This is what I said when a colleague went on a lunch rant about how I had no idea what it was like to struggle with my weight.

      It got her to stop because she was startled. I had actually finished losing 60 pounds only a year before she started working there.

    15. Christmas Cookie*

      What?! How old is your child? How often are you around this teacher?!

      I have 3 kids in elem and short of conferences or proactive volunteering, I don’t really spend time with the teachers to the extent they could drop comments like that. I mean what even!

      This has nothing to do with your background; the comments are just not appropriate- no context needed. I’d (maybe) give her ONE very clear request to stop, then escalate.

      Gonna go mentally hug all my kids’ teachers. We’ve had some quirky ones over the years but nothing like this!!

    16. Bibliovore*

      Teacher here with 20 years experience.
      This teacher is being off the charts inappropriate.
      DO NOT share any of your personal life with them. (this from someone who grew up without and is now more than comfortable)
      Document and reflect-
      The food thing is awful- I appreciate you respecting your child’s autonomy and I am concerned ( a very teacher word) that Ms. Inappropriate is commenting on a child’s food at all.

      We did have a rule that what wasn’t eaten went home so that parents had an idea what kids were eating of their lunches.

      Spoiled- I would document and reflect and put in writing – what does that even mean?
      So detach from your own big feelings and examine the truths of the situation.
      You can be kind to the teacher and document and meeting and you phrases like
      I observed…
      I heard you say…
      When you say this…. I am hearing….
      I am concerned…
      With concrete examples AND that the other parents acknowledged these events.
      Then follow up with WHAT you want Ms. Inappropriate to do or say
      In our family we respect body autonomy without comment…
      I need you NOT to describe my child or my parenting as spoiled.
      I need you NOT to comment on my economic status (giving an example)
      I am sure you are capable of teaching and being objective to the gifts and deficits of every child in your care.

      Sometimes teachers who behave like this are expressing their own childhood/growing up trauma’s in an inappropriate way such as favoritism or picking on a kid or a family. That is NOT okay.
      You may want to bring another parents as a witness.

    17. Sharkbait*

      My sister worked at expensive schools where children of celebrities attended. So in her case she taught some of the most privileged, actually spoiled, elitist kids whose wardrobe would cost more than my idea of an average car. Even then, I can’t imagine her saying some of the things you have described. Your background, while it makes the comments particularly hurtful, is irrelevant.

    18. Mari*

      Retired teacher here. I just want to chime in to agree with the other teachers that this is not normal teacher behavior. Don’t tell her your background; you don’t want to, it’s beside the point, and I don’t think she can be trusted with that information.
      Ask for a meeting, point out that she has been making these kinds of comments both to you and your kid and in front of other people ( be ready with specific examples, just in case she somehow doesn’t realize she’s doing it). Tell her that it makes you and your kid feel bad and ask if there is a specific problem or behavior that is leading to the comments. Don’t accept generalizations, get specifics. Narrowing it down to specific incidents should allow you both to see if there is a problem with your child (in which case you agree to talk to them) or not (in which case you push back). You could also point out that your kid works.

      If this doesn’t work, or there is retaliation, then go to the principal. You could go there first, but principals tend to like it if they know you’ve already spoken to the teacher.

      Also, keep calm during the discussion and don’t say more than you want to. Keep that in the front of your mind. Go in with the attitude that of course you’re both reasonable adults who care about your kid, so this will be a fruitful discussion. I say this because this is a sensitive topic for you and sometimes that causes us to go into a discussion with the feeling that we’re in the middle of a big fight. Then the other person is blind-sided by the level of intensity and gets defensive.

      Good luck with this. Again, this is really unprofessional and unacceptable behavior on the part of the teacher. It’s good that you are going to address it.

    19. Observer*

      What can I say to this teacher when she makes comments about how I wouldn’t understand what it’s like for her? Or how I have it so easy? Or how my kid is spoiled?

      What the what?!?!? This teacher is being *beyond* inappropriate.

      For claims about your child being spoiled – stop her right there. Tell her flat out that if your kid misbehaves, you’ll work with her to deal with it. But otherwise, she just needs to quit it. You’re on board for criticism of your child just because. Or because of her looks, brains, or the circumstances of her life. If she tries pushing back “but she’s spoiled” or any variation thereof, be a broken record. “Is she misbehaving?” And, if it doesn’t stop, do talk to the principal. It doesn’t matter what your background is – even if you grew up in perfect circumstances, it still would not be ok to rag on a kid because they don’t have a terrible life. And you do NOT need to justify your parenting!

      As for not understanding what it’s like for her, you could point out to her that she has no idea who understands what because she knows nothing about the life history of any of the parents of her students. And you’re not interested in justifying your life history to her. Also, you can ask her what it is you need to understand? Is there an expectation that you have the she believes is unreasonable? You can talk – but she needs to explain the problem not just dismiss you. If she can’t or won’t do that, she needs to quit it.

      My sympathies.

      PS I realize that everything I said is very simple, but also that it may not be so easy to actually say / do this.

  24. Teapot Translator*

    What’s cooking?
    I made some pork osso bucco and will be making mushroom soup. Someone mentioned it last week and it made me want to eat some. I need to make anothe dish, but I’m not really inspired.

    1. My Brain is Exploding*

      I made some lemon poppy seed scones yesterday and am prepping to make a turkey and fixings tomorrow when we have out-of-town family here. I’ll make broccoli salad (with apple, bacon, onions, raisins, and peanuts) today and also a cranberry upside down cake.

    2. MissB*

      I’m making chicken marsala tonight and beef stew tomorrow. I have to remember to start the focaccia rolls before bed.

      I may make some ginger molasses cookies tomorrow.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Ha! Chicken marsala is on the calendar for tomorrow night here.
        One night this week I’ll do the baked feta/cherry tomato pasta viral recipe of yore.

    3. Snell*

      Parsnips :) It’s parsnip season and I love them so much. I could also go for other winter roots, but that’s a matter of finding them. They’re not the most popular vegetables where I live, so I rarely find them at the grocery store, but usually find something at the farmers market.

      Usually my no-effort parsnips just go in the oven, seasoned and oiled, but this time I parboiled them before the oven. I think I’ve found my new method! For when I have the time for parboiling, at least. For the first time, I understand what other people mean when they relate parsnips to potatoes. It was like eating potatoes if potato were a vegetable (I said what I said).

      It feels too early for fennel, at least for me personally, but there’s a stall at the farmers market that has beautiful product—enormous bulbs, fragrant fronds, good price, same as or cheaper than the other vendors, whose fennel doesn’t look as good. I’m thinking of doing a fennel+veggie sausage pasta bake next.

    4. beep beep*

      It’s soup season and I’m craving potato soup- it’s so heavily dairy that I hope it goes okay with plant-based milk/butter, but hey, potatoes aren’t the most expensive thing in the world. I did make feijoada last week and it was delicious, but now I’m a little tired of bean soup after it was ten or so meals.

      1. carcinization*

        You’re right, feijoada is so good, but it makes so much! I lost count of how many servings it ended up being the last time I made it, and that was even with an unexpected houseguest!

    5. GenterousWoman*

      I was at Disney Springs on Black Friday and I had a delicious Beef Wellington burger with ground beef, mushroom mince, mustard, prosciutto surrounded by puffed pastry. I’m determined to re-create it but better. Time will tell!

    6. carcinization*

      Tomorrow is Budget Bytes’ One Pot Chicken with Orzo & Olives. I’ve never made it before but I’m sure it will be nice. I decided to make it instead of another chicken/tomato/pasta recipe I also have ingredients for since I can save the bones from this one for making stock… I just had to buy some stock so that means it’s time to make stock again! Holiday baking is starting but I’m pacing myself since it’s for multiple events, so tomorrow is Cinnamon Roll Cake, Wednesday is Sausage Balls, next weekend is Homesick Texan’s Pecan Date Fruitcake, etc.

    7. Girasol*

      Roasted veggies with cheese: purple potatoes, beets, onions, carrots, and broccoli plus anything else there’s extra of. If I can just remember to get them cut up, seasoned, and onto the sheet in time for dinner, they make such a nice supper on a winter evening.

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

      I made a big pot of traditional chicken soup and had the usual disagreement with my wife over ingredients (I lost, of course).

      Before I became an indentured servant I would put a couple of fatty chicken backs on the bottom and the pot and then scrape off an obnoxious amount of smaltz after cooling. I believe it adds an extra dimension to the taste of the soup.

      My wife differs.

      What do you all think?

      1. GoryDetails*

        I’m a big fan of schmaltz myself – the chicken-fat kind, not the cringe-inducing-twee-sentimentality kind – so I’d vote for you, but I don’t live with you. So, you know, if you LIKE your wife and want her to be able to enjoy the soup, maybe… save the chicken backs for your own batch? {wry grin}

        And now I want to make some chicken soup, fatty bits and all!

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      Well, it WAS going to be burrito skillet and baked potato soup for me and winter pork stew and something or other for Husband, but our bus never showed yesterday and we couldn’t get to the store. It’s a weekend of scrounging and pizza for now.

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This week’s experiment list includes a vegetarian sweet potato and squash chili with beans. I am hopeful that it is tasty and can go into regular rotation; we need to move our menu more toward veggie, but I am neurospicy and have weird and annoying food sensitivity issues. (Short summed up version: Supertaster for bitter so most raw veg are too bitter, and crunchy veg set my teeth on edge anyway, and I don’t like most non-meat protein sources other than beans. I WISH I LIKED EGGS.)

    11. Gluten Free Biscuit*

      When it gets cooler out the Cookie and Kate sweet potato-black bean enchiladas go into my meal rotation!

  25. Trina*

    Any other musicians out there going through a very active schedule of winter concerts? Every year we tell these (admittedly wonderful!) audiences that yes, we do in fact ring bells during the spring and summer too, but we always end up with ~10 concerts in early-to-mid December. Exhausting but still fun :)

    1. Rara Avis*

      Hello, fellow bell ringer. I’m in a moment of calm before losing the rest of my weekend to concerts. We’re only doing 3 though. And yes, we can’t get an audience for a spring concert.

    2. OyHiOh*

      As a parent of budding middle school musicians/performers (and a church bell ringer in my younger years, hi! ) yes, it’s exhausting. We had a drama performance and two concerts (band and choir) this past week (plus auditions for the spring musical – that coulda been better timed, honestly). I offer you arm wishes for the dominant cultural holidays of the season, deep restful sleep when you can get it, and your preferred beverage of choice. :-)

  26. SuprisinglyADHD*

    A weird question: can cats go into a mild heat after they’ve been spayed? Our female cat turned 1 in august and was spayed in spring (due to waitlists she went into heat twice before she was spayed). In the last few months we’ve noticed that she occasionally displays much milder versions of her behavior during heat, rolling around on the floor and blankets and being extremely cuddly for a few days before resuming her normal behavior for a while. Is that just normal, or should we be concerned she’s having hormone fluctuations?
    This looks silly typed out but we’ve been worried.

    1. Generic Name*

      Assuming the surgery was done correctly, it removes all of the reproductive organs, ovaries and all. So it would be impossible to go into heat. It sounds like your cat is just being a cat. My cat will go through phases where she is cuddly and sleeps with me at night and then she’ll sleep wherever hidey spot she has other times.

    2. Chicago Anon*

      We once had a cat with an incomplete spay who needed to be re-fixed. Ask your vet about screening for her hormone levels.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m so glad you asked this since we’ve been wondering if our male dog had an incomplete neuter! Because sometimes he sure doesn’t act neutered, even though I can’t see anything, if you know what I mean. He was neutered at about 6 months old.

      1. silavra*

        I’m pretty sure my neutered two year old husky/lab mix has just been reincarnated from a teenage boy.

    4. Slartibartfast*

      You can still have an animal go into heat after being spayed if an ovarian remnant gets left behind, this is a fragment of tissue if the ovary isn’t completely removed. It’s not terribly common but it happens, the organs involved are pretty tiny and it wouldn’t be obvious at the time of surgery if a bit of ovary got caught in the clamp. If that’s suspected, you can diagnose it with blood work showing elevated estrogen, but the blood has to be drawn during heat and also the surgery to retrieve the remnant has to be during heat when it’s engorged and easiest to see, but even then it can be hard to find. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, I wouldn’t expect her to be in heat this time of year, cats cycle based on the amount of daylight and cycle every 3 weeks or so unless they get pregnant.

  27. Hotdog not dog*

    We are looking into adopting a dog from a rescue group, and they are planning to do a “virtual home inspection” via FaceTime. I’m a bit anxious and have been cleaning the house as though we were expecting Martha Stewart to show up for tea. Has anyone done this before? What will they likely be looking for? The house is safe, clean-ish, and was entirely suitable for the late Best Good Dog, but the shelter he was adopted from didn’t do inspections beyond whether the check cleared. This one does a thorough background check (they’ve already spoken with our vet and all 3 required references) and had a multiple page, very detailed application. A friend of ours had adopted through this rescue a few years ago and highly recommended them. I’m fine with the whole background check, inspection and all, just nervous that they’ll see something they don’t like and we won’t get the dog. (Mr. Hotdog has allowed himself to become attached to a specific dog, much against my advice and his own intentions, so I’m really hoping this works out!)

    1. Maleficent2026*

      What size is the dog, roughly? They may be looking at food and water bowl placement, sleeping area, kennels (if any), toys, etc. If there are any other pets in the house, where are their areas and supplies? How “dog-proofed” is your house? Are there any areas he could get stuck? Are there obvious electrical cords out that could be a chewing temptation? Food or cleaning supplies that might be too accessible to doggo? If you have a backyard or outdoor area for him, is it fenced? How high is the fence? A friend volunteers at a shelter with similar requirements and these are some things she’s mentioned to me.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        He’s a husky, same as our previous dog. They can be very inventive when it comes to mischief, so the dog proofing we had in place for one dog may or may not work for the next one. We definitely have the space, and I’m planning to buy new toys, bed, etc once we know what will work best for the individual dog. (I did keep most of Best Good Dog’s things, but they might not be right for the new dog.)
        The house isn’t huge, nor is it recently renovated- it’s clearly lived in- but we own it, and it has a big yard. Not fenced, though. We decided not to bother when we quickly learned that Best Good Dog could climb over an 8′ fence, as well as open a latched gate. We just made sure he was leashed and heavily supervised at all times, and were committed to daily walks and visits to the dog park. They may count that against us.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Or they may not – as the reasoning makes it evident that you have doggo’s best interest in mind and are aware that they will need lots of exercise and already have plans to accommodate that rather than just chucking them out the back door to entertain themselves. :) (no judging either way, my yard is fenced and I totally chuck my dogs out there when necessary :-P )

          1. Hotdog not dog*

            We wanted to put in a fence, but would have needed a variance for anything over 6′. The dog park fence is 8′, and fortunately BGD could not climb it faster than I can run. When he was ready to leave a place, he was READY! Fences meant nothing whatsoever to him!

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I remember a Rifftrax of an old Centron short showing a German Shepherd casually clearing a six foot fence like it was a croquet hoop, and Mike saying “…who was drafted by the New York Knicks!”

        2. Sloanicota*

          I have definitely seen rescue orgs be really intense about the fenced yard requirements and it’s actually a huge issue for a lot of great adoptees – hope it’s not the case with these folks! It feels really classist to me; only certain people can afford big fenced properties, but it’s not like only the uber-wealthy make good pet owners! Other people just commit to walking on a leash. Huskies are such great escape artists I wouldn’t actually encourage people in leaving them unattended anyway.

    2. MissB*

      It has been a few years since we adopted our rescue pup (he’s 5 and was 8 weeks old when we adopted him), but it was before 2020 so we had an in-person visit. They spent less than 3 minutes in our home and most of the time talking outside. He said they do home visits to make sure that you have a properly enclosed yard and aren’t trying to adopt a large dog while living in an apartment. I’m sure different rescue agencies have different things they look at, but a simple non-messy home with no big jugs of alcohol and no paraphernalia hanging out should get you a solid pass. We are empty nesters, so our house is devoid of the usual kid stuff. I didn’t spend all day scrubbing the house and vacuuming up the leaves in the yard.

      Our house is a fixer-upper but mostly fixed up at this point. We live on a half acre lot and at the time had no fencing but planned to fence the entire property. I really got the sense that they wanted to see that we could *afford* a dog without much of a struggle. We’re not rich, but solidly middle class and our house and furnishings reflect that.

      You’ll be fine, and your new dog will be happy with your home too.

    3. Generic Name*

      I agree with Maleficent2026. They’re looking for obvious signs of unsuitability for a dog to live in your home. We adopted our dog from a rescue that is close to 2 college towns, and the application was fairly extensive and asked questions aimed at college students. We also had to sign something saying they could do surprise home inspections at any time after adoption. I’d be surprised if they actually did that because we are a days drove away from the rescue in another state. I’m hearing that it’s pretty typical to have extensive applications for pet adoptions. The rescue I got my cats from actually called my references.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        They have already called our references and our vet. I’m hoping we’re close enough to dog proof, but that would depend on the dog. One of the first things we had to do when we adopted Best Good Dog was change the doorknobs from the lever style to the knob style. We also had to make sure anything made of paper was out of his reach. My mom’s dog was fine with those things but needed to be kept away from laundry and other textiles like dish towels.

    4. Manders*

      I think this type of inspection can be a bit ridiculous. My parents have been turned down for SO MANY dogs from “rescue” groups because they don’t have small children at home and they don’t have a pool for the dog to swim in. What do they have? A very clean, safe, spacious home with a beautiful fenced-in back yard, and also AAALLLLLLL the time in the world to dote on a dog because they are retired and are home a lot (and in good health and not all that old). After 2 years of disappointment after disappointment, they decided to get a dog from a breeder. That dog is the most played-with, spoiled, lucky dog in the world. It’s not how they wanted to get a dog, but not one rescue group would do more than approve them for a short-term foster situation.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        One of the questions they asked was whether we had a pool or pond…the answer they were looking for was “no”!
        I’m hoping they will be reasonable, but I’ve also heard stories from people like your parents who couldn’t get approved for silly reasons. I guess that’s why I’m stress cleaning today!

        1. K9 Names*

          You shouldn’t need to clean, really. I just adopted from a husky rescue (although not quite a husky). My house was a mess from reorganizing. They want to check for any potential safety concerns and check my fenced yard.
          Since you’ve had a husky before, you know they’re good at escaping and getting into trouble :) you’re familiar with the breed so you should be welcome adopter!

          Good luck and come back to tell us you got him!

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          Hmmm. We have a pond, which the rescue saw in our virtual visit, and they didn’t have an issue. But I think it also helped that we’ve actually done rescue work ourselves.

        1. Houndmom*

          My vet got turned down by multiple rescues because his yard is not allowed (wetlands) to be fenced. He was looking to take in older dogs who needed care as he was a young widower and had expertise and time.

          Eventually, a friend vet of his involved in a dog rescue found him two older dogs.

          We did a home inspection for a greyhound and they were just looking to make sure we could keep the doors closed, we’re not overly clean and the other dog we had was friendly.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        They don’t have a pool??? Were they trying to adopt a seal?

        Seriously, what kind of requirement is a POOL?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I don’t know that I’d want a dog in a pool if I had one, between concerns about cleaning the pool after and keeping the dog from gulping the water and wet dog for days. Yack.

        2. Manders*

          They were mostly looking at retriever and doodle rescues. Retrievers love to swim. But it’s not an actual requirement of the breed and they have had several retriever mixes that never swam (even if they went to a friend’s house where there was a pool). They do have a nice water feature fountain thing in the back yard that is large enough for a dog, but none of theirs have ever gotten in. I don’t know, they are very selective (but my parents have done lots and lots of temporary fostering for the same organizations, so it’s not like they won’t give them a dog at all. Just when it’s most convenient for the organization, I guess?). It just drove all of us nuts that they ended up going to a breeder, which they didn’t want to do (the breeder sold them an older dog, not a puppy).

    5. Bluebell*

      The rescue that I volunteer with had us do a home inspection before we started as fosters. My sense was that they were just getting a look at the house and also checking out our general vibe as people. They didn’t insist that we have a fenced in yard.

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      We adopted our dog from Dogs Trust (UK) a couple of years ago and did a virtual house visit, and they just wanted us to show that we had a back garden with high enough fences and that the fences didn’t have any damage or gaps. They did also interview my husband extensively and made him do a lot of paperwork, but the fencing/garden show and tell was the only thing we had to do virtually. Good luck with your meeting!

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I used to do home visits for our rescue. I was in Manhattan so I looked exclusively at apartments– no yards and sometimes not even elevators. I wasn’t looking for spotlessness, but a general feeling of safety (no protruding wires and no haphazard cables was a big thing, as was storage for cleaning supplies) and comfort. I usually asked about where they planned to put the crate and there were some other questions, but it was mostly to get an overall feel for the place AND the people. (Plus I loved looking at other people’s decor…)

      I only flagged a couple of things when I did in-homes:
      – One couple lived in a six-floor walk-up, so I suggested to them and to the rescue that they not adopt a puppy nor a senior dog– that was a flag for discussion with the adopters, not a mark against them
      – Same couple was renovating one of their bedrooms and the place was a construction zone. I talked to them briefly about timeline for the renovations and we discussed making sure that door was always closed. Again, not a mark against them but a flag, and the rescue reiterated it before they got their dog (which they did)– it was more to be certain they understood the hazards to the dog
      – One woman… I actually recommended against approving her. Her apartment was absolutely spotless and she seemed very nice, but she was overly concerned about cleanliness and housebreaking, to the point where I felt she didn’t fully understand or accept that dogs, especially new rescues, sometimes have accidents. And that some dogs shed. She also failed to mention in her application that the plan was to take the dog back and forth to her boyfriend’s home, sometimes leaving the dog with the boyfriend, who was not listed as a co-adopter.
      – One couple had a great little apartment and they were really friendly and personable, but in talking with them it became clear that the husband had zero interest in the dog and it was all about the wife. I don’t remember if I recommended they not adopt (I doubt it), but it certainly gave me pause and was part of my report.

      Most of the time it was all very positive. The point was to get the dogs adopted into homes where they were welcome and they would be loved and treated well. We weren’t looking for perfection but for openness. I realize not all rescues are the same, but for the most part, the home inspection was a formality and an opportunity to talk a bit more.

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      The rescue league we used for the current dog did this. We ‘walked’ them around our yard, showed them all the rooms, where the dog’s beds and crate would be, where the food and water would be, it was fine. I think they wanted to make sure the house was pretty normal with not a lot of dangerous clutter for the dog to access, chew and ingest. They ‘met’ the cat as well.
      This rescue was super good. They referred us to a great trainer, which we really needed as the dog was horribly abused and needed a lot of work. Three years later, he’s amazing!

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I suspect they are looking for unexpected hazards like toxic house plants, enough clutter that a dog could get into trouble easily, and whether or not there is a good location for food water and bed.

    10. MissCoco*

      Friends recently adopted from a rescue that did a home inspection, and they said the inspector just asked them to get/change a couple things (this was for a kitten), but it wasn’t disqualifying issues. So hopefully that can offer some reassurance, for at least some rescues even if you aren’t “perfect” during the inspection it doesn’t mean you are disqualified from adoption.

    11. Hotdog not dog*

      Thank you all so much! I know it’s late, but we just got word WE’RE GETTING OUR DOG!!! (probably not as a result of my washing all the woodwork, but you never know!)

  28. sagewhiz*

    YA horror book recs?

    Suggestions for ones where the protagonist is a male? Virtually all the “best of” I find have female leads, which is great as I’m all for girl power. However, this is for a teen with Down syndrome, reading at the 8th grade level, who’s *seriously* into horror stuff. (Even has a Chucky poster in his room, ugh.) His favorite author is R.L. Stine, but he already owns all of Stine’s books.

    So, ideas please? Peruding pages in the library or a bookstore is out, as I have no interest in the genre and wouldn’t know if something’s good or not.

    1. GoryDetails*

      Maybe some early Stephen King? “Salem’s Lot” features plenty of vampire horror, and the main protagonists are both male – an adult author and a boy who’s about 12. There are adult subplots re spousal abuse, etc., so maybe not entirely suitable – but I recall cheerfully skimming over the “boring” bits when I was craving the next vampires/crypts/skeletons scenes in my early forays into horror.

      If you think he might like more folksy horror, Manly Wade Wellman’s collection “John the Balladeer” features a wandering guitar-player who battles monsters, ghosts, witches, etc. in the Appalachian hills.

      And there’s a series by Rick Yancey, starting with The Monstrumologist, in which a boy becomes the apprentice to a man who hunts monsters; unusual and very, very creepy!

      1. WellRed*

        Yes to Salems Lot and I also really liked Christine by Stephen King. Bookstores and libraries can also make recommendations for you. That’s what they love to do.

    2. Queer Earthling*

      The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is…not exactly horror, but horror-adjacent. It’s a Jungle Book-inspired story in which a young boy is raised by graveyard ghosts, and also has to deal with the person who murdered his parents prior.

      Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas maybe? It’s got horror elements, and the lead is a trans man. His family has a tradition of mediumship in the men, and he’s trying to solve the murder of another boy while proving to his family that he is in fact a man, including his ability to handle ghosts. That said, there’s also a heavy romance plotline between him and the murdered boy, so that might or might not appeal. Oh, I just saw that your recipient reads at an 8th grade level, so this might be a little older than you’re looking for, but I’mma leave it in case anyone else is interested or if you decide it might appeal anyway.

      You might try looking at a few Bruce Coville books? He writes a bit younger than 8th grade level, I think, but they tend to have YA-level depth of character and thoughtfulness. Same with Mary Downing Hahn, who also writes a lot of ghost books–Time For Andrew is still a favorite, and that has a male protagonist.

      Most of these are more “spooky ghosts” than straight-up slasher horror, but something might be of interest, I hope. Has he actually said he doesn’t want to read stories with female protagonists, though? RL Stine often has female leads, I believe.

    3. slashgirl*

      Did you actually check out your public library’s website? They may have some lists on their website for good YA Horror. If they don’t then contact them. My library system has a form online you can submit–or you could call/email/visit. The staff should be able to help you find what you’re looking for, especially if you’re in a larger city–many of those libraries will have staff that work with teen/ya lit specifically.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      These are older, but – especially if he has seen and enjoyed the recent ish movie “House With A Clock In Its Walls” with Jack Black – look for stuff by John Bellairs – he has a couple of series about boys (I forget the ages, 10-13?) who get caught up in various supernatural nonsense, “House/Clock” is based on the first book in one of the series. I reread a few of them fairly recently when the movie came out and while they’re obviously older (one boy lives with his grandparents because his father died in the Korean War I think) I don’t remember anything BLINDINGLY gross as far as -isms.

      1. Cyndi*

        Johnny’s dad isn’t dead but he’s MIA and/or a POW, iirc. A lot of the family stuff for John Bellairs heroes is pretty bleak! But they’re really good and legitimately scary, and they’ve always held up for me when I reread any as an adult.

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

        Seconding *House With a Clock in Its Walls* (and sequels). I found it totally gripping, and it is scary (but things sort of work out, as far as I recall). Many a moon ago, I recommended it for a friend’s little brother who was a late bloomer struggling to learn how to read, and that is the book that got him reading!

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I think this is more middle grades but the Skeleton Creek series – they’re written like journals and have an online component with videos. The narrator is a boy who is housebound (I think due to an injury?) and his female friend is helping him investigate a local mystery (so she takes the videos to send to him).

    6. Double A*

      I just read The Patient by Jasper DeWitt and I would say it fits the bill. It was pretty legit scary though!

    7. Not A Manager*

      Edgar Allen Poe has good horror with all male protagonists. The prose can be somewhat dense, but I think it’s solidly 8th grade reading level. Dracula and Frankenstein might be harder for him to read to himself, but he might enjoy them as audiobooks.

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

        I love the audiobook idea for Dracula!

        If he would enjoy getting the novel Dracula in little bits via e-mail (one e-mail for each day there’s a letter in the book), you can sign him up for DraculaDaily, and they’ll send him pieces of the novel from May until November.

        1. Queer Earthling*

          Keep in mind that the Dracula Daily thing can be a little confusing if you haven’t read it; the conceit isn’t just “bits of story,” but that it’s sent chronologically as the story is happening, since the novel is epistolary and the letters & diary entries are dated. The actual book rearranges them in a way that makes more sense in a story; doing it in chronological order like Dracula Daily means some things end up being removed from story context. If he’s basically familiar, though, it might be fine.

    8. Hypatia*

      two series I read to check out for my teen son were “I Hunt Killers” by Barry Lyga and “I Am Not a Serial Killer” by Dan Wells.
      both have male protagonists. I never read horror, and I found them to excellent reads.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      You might try YA author Christopher Pike: he’s got tons of novels, several in series, so there’s probably something to your teen’s taste.

    10. Siobahn*

      He might enjoy Lois Duncan’s books. “Summer of Fear” is my personal favorite, and I also liked “Gallows Hill”; she’s written a ton.

    11. Ronnie*

      Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Brake and The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey had male protagonists.

      I loved R.L. Stine as a kid too. Your teen has good taste. :)

    12. sagewhiz*

      Thanks for such a great sounding bunch of choices! Looks like I’ll be able to introduce him to new writers he’s likely to enjoy.

      As to checking with my library, well, that is always my first inclination, because the staff at my branch is excellent. However, it’s closed for renovation, and at the branch I now have to visit, of the two people on the help desk I inevitably get *helped* by the one who is borderline incompetent, clueless, and virtually no help at all. (If I had to work with that person I’d be the BEC, which is totally unlike me!) Which is why I turned to this competent, clued in, and very helpful group of folks!

  29. Maleficent2026*

    What size is the dog, roughly? They may be looking at food and water bowl placement, sleeping area, kennels (if any), toys, etc. If there are any other pets in the house, where are their areas and supplies? How “dog-proofed” is your house? Are there any areas he could get stuck? Are there obvious electrical cords out that could be a chewing temptation? Food or cleaning supplies that might be too accessible to doggo? If you have a backyard or outdoor area for him, is it fenced? How high is the fence? A friend volunteers at a shelter with similar requirements and these are some things she’s mentioned to me.

  30. Courageous cat*

    I am curious: why is it so common in comment threads on here for replies to end up going un-nested? I feel like I’m seeing it more and more that replies, that should be within a thread, end up being their own comment.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Really? Not sure if it varies by mobile or desktop or something, but there isn’t a box to type in unless I hit reply

        1. Generic Name*

          I’m on iPad, and there is a large “leave a comment” box directly below your comment, since as I type this, it’s the last one on the page. I (hopefully) tapped “reply” so my comment shows up appropriately nested….

          1. Courageous cat*

            Ah interesting, I guess I only look on desktop, and the only way I can pull up the text box is by going to the end of all the comments.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Oh, I see, you said that. So maybe it only happens then with threads that are at the end, rather than in the middle.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Nah I always hit reply, and then very carefully double check that I’m still replying to the correct comment before submitting, and I still misfire sometimes. The mobile site is finicky.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Are you on mobile? I don’t usually have this problem on desktop. I read on mobile sometimes but if I’m feeling posty I generally switch.

    1. anon24*

      I also think its a glitch sometimes on mobile. If I type a comment in the comment box, the text stays there until I delete it, leave the page, or comment. I’ve hit reply before, typed my comment, and somewhere in the process bumped “cancel reply to comment”. Then if I go to submit my comment it just puts it as a new post, but there’s no warning that it’s no longer a reply, and it’s really easy to miss that it changed from reply to a new comment. I’ve also had it just glitch and do it without me being anywhere near the “cancel” button. I used to wonder why everyone struggled so much until it happened to me and almost happened to me a couple times, now I just know to always verify my comment is still going where I want it after I type it all out and before I hit post.

    2. New Mom (of 1 4/9)*

      The site has a mind of its own when I’m scrolling on mobile. I actually find it ridiculously frustrating, it always thinks I want to comment somewhere random (usually when I’m not trying to comment at all!)

    3. Turtle Dove*

      I always use my laptop rather than my phone. Once I typed up a reply and then thought, “Oh, I’ll refresh the page before I post.” That moved my comment from nested to un-nested, which kind of makes sense. I’ve been careful since then, and it hasn’t happened again.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My Android sometimes pops up a reply window and if I don’t notice to close it, my next reply will go in the wrong place.

    5. Heather Crackers*

      The site jumps up and down unprompted. I think I’m choosing the correct “REPLY” link but often I’m not.

    6. Indolent Libertine*

      I’ve had that happen when replying on a mobile device. If you scroll the underlying page before submitting your reply, it winds up as a new comment instead.

  31. Oaxaca Trip*

    My partner and I are going to Oaxaca next week for the holidays. We’ve been planning things out and I was wondering if anyone’s been and had suggestions in things to do, places or dishes to eat, day trips etc. We love art, culture, history, the outdoors, etc. Not big on nightlife. We’ll be taking a cooking class, but haven’t chosen which yet.

    Any general tips also welcome! This will be our first trip to the area and my first trip to Mexico.

    1. Atheist Nun*

      I had a great time in Oaxaca when I visited 14 years ago, and I hope you will too! I like precolonial history and architecture, so I really enjoyed day trips to Monte Alban and Mitla. I also took a day trip through a tour company that visited outlying towns where artisans demonstrated handicrafts such as alebrijes and weaving.

    2. M&M Mom*

      Hi, my husband was just there last week! Restaurant rec is Origen. He said it was absolutely amazing. He liked the food so much. He brought some moly home. We are having it for dinner tonight. Have a great trip.

      1. M&M Mom*

        Nois is another restaurant.
        For a real mescal experience, Mezcalaria in Situ. The owner is awesome.

    3. Usually-an-AAM-lurker*

      I visited Oaxaca last winter! You can’t go wrong with the obvious picks (Monte Alban, Mitla, Santo Domingo). My top non-obvious pick is the Rufino Tamayo Museum. It has a small but amazing collection of prehispanic artifacts that were the artist Rufino Tamayo’s personal collection — selected for their artistic value, not their archeological value. So many beautiful and unexpected pieces. On a completely different note, I highly recommend Margaux at Vamos o Que tours. (Just google Vamos o que Oaxaca). We enjoyed birdwatching with Margaux, but I suspect any of her tours are good. And finally my top restaurant recommendation would be Casa Taviche for a modern take on traditional foods. Enjoy!

  32. turkey breast question*

    I like cooking up a small turkey breast when my supermarket has them (not very often), so I bought a 2.75lb frozen breast yesterday. When I got it home and read the label more thoroughly I found it is packaged in a cooking bag inside the outer bag, and they say to cook it from frozen in that cooking bag. It’s currently in my freezer.

    I would much prefer to rub on a seasoning paste before it cooks, but then I couldn’t use the cooking bag. Does anyone know if a turkey breast that is packaged like this can be thawed and roasted in the usual way instead of being cooked from a frozen state in the cooking bag?

    1. WellRed*

      Is it Jenny o brand or similar? Thats what I did for Thanksgiving but it was not frozen. I did cook in the bag though, which I was also surprised by.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Yes. It’s just meat, you can cook it any way you like. The special bag is just a convenience thing.

      I don’t cook stuff in plastic bags, regardless. I know logically that nobody has dropped dead from using cooking bags, but I find it distasteful and can’t shake the suspicion that it’s not healthy.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      We smoke the turkey breast after thowing as if the cooking bag doesn’t exist. Check if it’s pre brined, they usually are, but I am not sure why wouldn’t you be able to roast it on its own.

      1. turkey breast question*

        I wasn’t sure if it had been processed in some way that it wouldn’t roast well on its own without the bag.

      1. Girasol*

        If you have a slow cooker you can thaw the meat in the fridge, rip off all the bags, and roast it in the cooker. It stays pretty moist that way and you could season it as you like.

        1. turkey breast question*

          I have a slow cooker but it’s really small. But it’s a small turkey breast so maybe it would fit. I like the idea of doing it that way … no mess in the oven.

      2. Manders*

        I’ve purchased this exact product and although I usually don’t cook in plastic, I followed the directions and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out using the bag. It was definitely moister and more flavorful than I had expected. But I’m sure you can remove it and add whatever to it.

  33. MissGirl*

    I fully acknowledge this is a good problem to have so please skip if it’s frustrating to you (it isn’t about work).

    I’ve had a tumultuous year with going through two layoffs (one voluntary, one not). Luckily, I had time to prepare and made it through about four months of unemployment without too much of a hit to my savings although I fell behind on retirement. I now have a great job that pays 30K more than I was making in June. The problem is my anxiety around money is higher than it’s ever been.

    I was listening to a financial podcast (So Money) and the guest mentioned that (barring certain circumstances) our feelings about money are amplified the more we have. Meaning if you’re someone who is charitable and giving; you’ll be more giving with more money. If you’re miserly and cheap, you’ll be even more so with more money.

    I’ve seen this with my own finances. When I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, I was anxious about money but in different ways. I was stressed about my car giving out and not being able to afford a payment or not making rent. But because I had so little money, the stress was easier to bury or ignore if that makes sense. It was a future problem; not a now problem.

    With the upheaval of the last year and the fact I’m making more than I ever have, I’m so much more on edge. I feel like my decisions matter so much more. (Trying to get back in therapy after stopping with no insurance). I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do after having read countless financial articles and books, not to mention podcasts. I’m even setting aside money for “guilt-free spending” although I still feel guilty. I wake up in a panic that I’ll lose my job (on my second day no less). I’m behind on retirement due to years of low pay but I’m on track to fix that. I’m constantly opening my Excel and my investment accounts to check my amounts even though they only change twice a month. I’m trying to curb this as I know it’s not helpful but I still go for the quick dopamine rush.

    I know part of it is trauma from the last year. What’s happened in my career is nothing compared to what I’ve been through in my personal life. I know time will help heal some of it. But I know a lot will persist. Has anyone worked through their money anxiety? How do you let go, knowing you’ve done everything you can do and it’s a matter of time and luck? Has having an advisor tell you you’re doing fine helped at all? I just want to come to a degree of piece.

    1. Finances aren't my Fave*

      This is hard, and one reason is you can’t just talk to anyone about your finances…like we would never tell my mother-in-law about our finances because she doesn’t keep things to herself, but we could tell my dad because (a) he had enough money that it wasn’t uncomfortable difference between us and (b) he wouldn’t tell anyone. When we started doing really well, we did get a financial advisor. This not only helped us with investments (which I did, but didn’t enjoy) AND he tells us, yes, we are doing fine and don’t feel bad about spending $X; we are savers and not spenders. (Also I trust he would tell us if we were being stupid. And, bonus, we told him to tell our kids if he ever thinks we are losing our minds when it comes to money, like if we start taking out lots for online shopping or a Nigerian prince.)

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think “You become how you are but more so” is necessarily true. I was tight-fisted and anxious for a long time, and then with retirement I was able to see that I was doing okay and could be more generous.

      An advisor may help, if you’re that kind of person, but you need to be careful there; most advisors work on commission for making trades (when it’s overall better long term to leave money where it is) and for a percentage of assets under management. 1% of assets under management doesn’t sound like much, but when you realize that in retirement the usual max annual withdrawal recommended is 4% a year (and a lot of people prefer 3), that means giving 1/4 of your annual spending money to your advisor. Which is especially galling when they don’t generally add value over DIY.

      So look for an advisor who’s fee only, maybe somebody in the Garrett Planning Network, who will take a few hours for a health check without binding you to them long-term.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        I became “cheap” to build wealth, so often the personality change comes beforehand, it’s not clear which leads to which. I lived more lavishly when I was poor. Once I started accumulating some money I got comfortable being cheap because I didn’t care what people thought about me. There was no real amplification of strikingly good or bad qualities

    3. Double A*

      Have you looked into You Need a Budget? It’s a pretty low bar to entry way to take a really good look at your finances and know exactly what is there and what each dollar is for. I’m bored a saver but I found myself getting more anxious as we had more savings and I didn’t really know why. Once I started using Ynab I realized I had a blob of savings that I didn’t know what it was for so I didn’t really know how much I had. Having to give all my money a job, even the blob in savings, helped give me a clearer picture of what I had and what I could use it for.

      It’s free to try for 34 days. It’s a bit of an expensive subscription, $15 a month or about $100 for a year, but I find it with it (I do the yearly payment as then it’s more like $9 a month). But it’s a good product so no I feel good paying for it.

    4. Busy Middle Manager*

      I have been doing the FIRE thing (financial independence retire early, well, IDK how early it will be). The theme of the past seven years has been to stock away huge amounts of money for the future.

      I’m not 100% sure what specifically you are anxious about, if you could explain. I check everything all of the time as well, I’m not sure it’s as big of a problem as the financial industry says, especially if you have assets that go up and down in a range but don’t have massive growth (like my utility stocks). So following them to know when’s a good time to sell some is not actually a bad thing. Remember the financial media is talking to a fictitious average person and not any one of us in particular.

      The anxiety I have now is trying to plan for and predict the future – with all of the past data online, I still don’t know which data to use. If you dig into the data that goes into those long term stock gains of 9% or 11%, you realize it’s pretty useless. In the 80s and most of the 90s, stocks were objectively cheap or cheaper, depending on the stock. Now using the same metrics, stocks are overvalued. Alot of that 11%-per-year stock market growth is things going from generally undervalued to overvalued. That’s something that can only really happen once. So what will propel growth in the coming decades? That I don’t know. What do I put money into? How much do I need to save per year if I have no clue what growth will be?

      To generally answer your question though, the first time I got rid of bad financial anxiety was to have an emergency fund for my emergency fund. Yes I know that is hard. But since you say you earn alot. My first waves of panic were “OMG what if something happens.” Then it becomes “even six months of expenses isn’t alot, last time I was unemployed it took me four months to get another job, cutting it close!” So I saved way more than I thought I needed. Sorry if this sounds like “have you tried not being poor” but it doesn’t need to be massive amounts of money

    5. Meet Moot*

      I have always been really frugal and struggle with spending money. I’m earning well above what I’ve ever earned before, and I budget for all of it plus more (e.g. if my car insurance costs $X annually, I budget away $X plus 15%, just in case). I’ve deliberately included excess unallocated funding for when I need some flexibility. But every fortnight, the ‘excess’ account grows and I can’t bring myself to spend it — even on things that I need, like a mop.

      I’ve recently been hit with a bunch of significant and unexpected expenses, and have been able to pay all of them just from the excess fund, not even from my emergency fund or car fund etc. I’ve found being tested and still being totally financially secure has really helped. I then bought myself one nice, slightly expensive thing, and the world didn’t cave in. I wouldn’t do it again anytime soon, but being able to prove to myself that I’m not as financially fragile as I feel has helped.

      Also, not to add to the list of financial content, but the podcast She’s On The Money does some episodes that address the psychology around money anxiety, and has listener-episodes where people talk about their own experiences with money anxiety etc. Might help?

    6. Girasol*

      I’m doing okay now after scrimping for retirement. I’m good at budgeting and analyzing finances and I know that I can afford to spend more now. But it’s hard to break years of financial habits. It seems as difficult to relax my financial habits as I imagine it must be for a careless spender to learn to save up and pay off a huge credit card debt. But between the two problems, I agree: this is the nice one to have.

    7. zaracat*

      I can relate to feeling that as you have more it matters more, and that it can take a long time to recover from the trauma of having either been in poverty or being financially disadvantaged as a result of abusive work or personal relationships. Being in a secure position now, and having financial counselling may not be enough – have you considered personal counselling as well?

    8. Kay*

      So what I find helpful – first make a budget for both your “if I had to cut all spending I could get by on X” and “this is what my average not stressing about funds spending looks like” so you know your average monthly spending as well as what you can get by on if you lost your job tomorrow.

      Next – make some financial goals – preferably a 5, and a more loose 10/15+ year projection. Then for that 5 year make some base and stretch goals – basically if I want to retire with X amount of money at 50 I need to save at least Y per month but it would be great if I could double it, the roof needs to be replaced every 20 years, I need a vacation every year, I’ll need a new car in 3 years type thing-whatever is right for you. Break that amount up per month.

      Once you know – I’ve saved the catch up funds for my retirement, I have fully funded the roof replacement and now I have Xtra left over, you can decide what you want to do with it. Sometimes I put it towards investments, sometimes vacations or splurges – whatever my mood.

      I personally found that doing this budget and planning myself (not my advisor doing it), and after fully funding my stretch goals for a few years I feel a lot less anxious about things – even with inflation through the roof and prices of some of those things (hello cars and housing prices) are much more than I expected, oh yeah – and the market sucks compared to a few years ago.

      I have access to enough funds to cover living expenses for a year, and I know exactly how my stretch goals are impacted if things happen. Knowledge is power. Once a month I update all my investment figures and at least every year I review the budget & goals. While I don’t know what the future holds, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of thinking through things and having a plan A, B and C. You’ll be okay.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agree with this, I think some of us (raises hand) are worst-case-scenario-oriented. I need to make a plan / understand the options for the absolute disaster version before I can feel comfortable in any other scenario. What if I lose my job and can’t get a new one above minimum wage for a year? What is the absolute necessity budget? What are some ideas for how I could at least achieve that?? Until I feel pretty good about those answers, I can’t move on to enjoying discretionary spending.

  34. RussianInTexas*

    We smoke the turkey breast after throwing as if the cooking bag doesn’t exist. Check if it’s pre brined, they usually are, but I am not sure why wouldn’t you be able to roast it on its own.

  35. Angstrom*

    Readers: If the protagonist is female, is she the hero or the heroine?
    Years ago I would have reflexively said “heroine”, but now, I’m not so sure. Heroine can sound diminutive.

    1. RagingADHD*

      IDK, I don’t even use “hero” unless it’s a particular type of story. I usually say “main character,” lead, or protagonist.

      If it is the type of story that has a hero / heroine, I would probably say heroine if it fits. It doesn’t seem diminutive to me, just specific.

    2. Cal*

      I just had a flashback to a comment I saw recently misspelling “heroine” as “heroin”. That won’t happen if you use “hero”. Though I am not sure how strong an argument that is.

    3. Cal*

      When did “Hero” become masculine? It is a woman’s name in one of Shakespeare’s plays so if it has been neutral once, why couldn’t it happen again?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Hero in Much Ado is named for the Greek mythological figure from Hero and Leander. The masculine form of the name is usually transliterated as Heron (as Heron of Alexandria).

        The non-proper noun hero / heroine was gendered in (at least in later periods) Greek, and the feminine form appears at least as far back as the 2nd century.

        In English, I surmise that hero became more all-purpose for consistency. For example, heroism, anti-hero, or heroic sound strange with “heroine,” so it’s better to stick to the simpler form.

    4. AGD*

      Might be an outdated female version of something, like “stewardess.” I’ve been wondering if “actress” is going that way too.

      I notice that Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown,” which was a big award winner in the 1980s, is very overtly about a female hero.

      1. NotBatman*

        Yes, it seems like everyone’s moving toward just using the original versions of terms without feminine suffixes. “Waitress/Waiter” is becoming “server”, “actor/actress” is becoming “actor”, “host/hostess” is becoming “host”, etc.

        If you look at Agatha Christie self-identifying as “an authoress” who wrote about “murderesses”, it seems like the trend of slowly dropping feminizing suffixes has been happening for a while.

      2. Teapot Translator*

        I think actress is going that way. I can’t remember if it’s on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! where they never say actress. They always say actor.

      3. Ali + Nino*

        I would say “heroine,” but then again referring to women as “actors” as opposed to “actresses” drives me nuts.

  36. Aphrodite*

    I did it. I pulled the plug on this incredible ice cream maker that I’ve been watching for about two years now. It has changed price, going from a high of more than $1200, often hovering around $800-$900, and has (at least for now) gone to $700, the lowest I’ve seen. Still, that’s a horrendous amount of money for an ice cream maker. But I cannot get it out of my mind. So about a half hour ago I did it. (Not that I feel a need for cold ice cream now; hot milk would be much more my style.). I am excited and nervous and really looking forward to it.


    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Hooray for you! I love getting something for a good price after waffling on it for a long time, that’s really exciting :)

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Oh my. That looks absolutely fabulous! I look forward to hearing about all the ice cream you make in that gorgeous machine

  37. Cyndi*

    There was some discussion this week about people liking/not liking to wear heels so I want to admit to one of my really embarrassing life problems: I do okay with heels but what I can’t wear are ballet flats. Or any shoe that doesn’t come most of the way up my foot, or at least have a Mary Jane type strap to hold it on. Everyone talks about flats like they’re such a comfortable casual no-effort option but they just…don’t stay on my feet? They slide right off with every step, even if I stick a heel cushion in, and if I try ones that fit snugly enough to stay on, they rub the back of my heel raw. What am I doing wrong here?

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’m convinced it has to do with how I use my toes when I walk. I was told that most people curl their toes when they walk and I lift and spread my toes when I walk (I have to have gel nail polish on my toes or the polish will wear off from doing this). So this means I cannot wear sandals that are not a thong or that don’t have a heel strap. How people keep slides on their feet is beyond me.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I once got a hairline fracture across the top of my foot from wearing chunky wedge heels held on only by a wide strap across the top of my foot. My toes were gripping the shoes for dear life trying to hold the heavy heel on my foot, and the fracture formed slowly over repeated wear. The fracture is healed, but I still have trouble with that foot swelling more than the other one and feeling uncomfortable in shoes more quickly.

          As for flats being comfortable, I feel the same as you — I was TOLD that they were supposed to be more comfortable, but I haven’t found that to be true for me. They rubbed the backs of my heels, and when I tried using the invisible socklet thingys, they kept sliding down into my shoes and causing me to have to fish them back out every 15 minutes.

          My solution is that I now mainly wear closed shoes that come up higher on my foot: tennis shoes for casual, oxfords for dress, etc. I look up pictures of how to style each type of shoe and scroll until I find something that looks like me.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      I don’t know, but I have the same issue! Ballet flats are such heck for my feet. They hurt, have no support and fall off. I do much better with boots, sneakers and sandals (not flip flops at ALL).
      I see so many folks wearing them and they look so cute, but I just can’t manage them at all.

      1. Cyndi*

        Yeah, I live in a combination of low/flat boots, lace up oxfords, mary janes and sneakers, but I’ve had trouble finding non-sneaker options for hot weather that work with my wonky feet and that I actually like the look of.

        It gets tricky with skirts too–I love a pencil skirt but it’s a bit tricky finding higher-vamp shoes that look good with them. I’ve had a good run finding oxfords with 1-2″ chunky heels lately, though, so maybe now I can actually wear my favorite skirts more often!

        1. RLC*

          Same foot/shoe challenges here! Over the past 40 years I’ve discovered that my most comfortable shoes have come from dance specialty shops and retro/historic style manufacturers. Ballroom Dance shoes stay on my feet much more securely than street shoes and look great with most dressy clothes. I have a shoe repair shop change the suede or leather soles and heel caps to rubber for practical wear. Even found heeled ballroom dance sandals to wear with my wedding gown.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Same here; I have very high arches and flats are uncomfortable. I was so bummed when I finally got a pair of Chucks and discovered they have NO arch support at ALL.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have wide toes and narrow heels – duck feet :-P – and the only style of flats I’ve managed to find that I don’t walk right out of in three steps are Rothys. (But I generally prefer more foot coverage anyway.)

    4. Chicago Anon*

      Very high arches make it hard to keep a foot in a ballet flat. If that’s the situation, you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re just built that way.

    5. AGD*

      I didn’t actually realize that people can actually wear those normally. I think I assumed there was some extra step to it? Like, adhesive pads or something? My feet just come straight out of them. I’d assumed it was something about the shape of my heels, but have been instinctively reaching for really solid straps for my entire adult life. You’ve just blown my mind.

      1. Cyndi*

        Maybe there is and I’ve missed something too! But they seem to be a grab-and-go default option for so many people. Like those pairs of ballet flats come folded up in a little pouch, that people keep in their purses so they can change out of heels.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I can get away with those because they’re usually cloth with elastic at the toes and heels. But not for long because they have no real soles. :-P

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Tieks? Yeah, I bought two pair of those several years ago because I loved the colors, how they looked, and the thought of something was apparently so comfortable for so many people. And at the time I was looking to reward myself, so why not blow hundreds of dollars on these cute shoes?

          They were fine when I got them and tried them on the first time. I wore them around the house a couple times and then went to work in them. And wow, they were absolute torture for me just going about my daily schedule. But by then I’d worn them outside and it was too late to return them. I also thought, “Oh, they’ll get better. I just need to get used to them.” Nope. They’re sitting in my closet.

    6. Southern Girl*

      Probably nothing! I can’t wear flat dress shoes because I will either walk right out of them or they are too tight. Have to have straps.

    7. RussianInTexas*

      Ballet flats do stay on my feet (most have no cushion so I can’t walk/stand in them regardless), but it’s absolutely impossible for me to wear pumps that don’t have done kind of a strap. they slide right of me heel, in the back. I joke that I don’t shoe right.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Some kind! Slingback shoes are ok, because I can tighten the straps to my liking, but the regular “business” heeled pumps? Nope.

    8. Girasol*

      Me too. Any dressy ladies’ shoes fit me like I was a little girl shuffling along playing dress-up in mama’s shoes. I can’t even figure out what’s supposed to make them stay on – the toe-to-heel pressure of shoes that are a size too short? I go for ones with straps or else dressy boots.

      1. ampersand*

        Same. I assume it’s something about foot shape, since I have wide feet but narrow heels. If the toe box part fits, the heel is too big, and if the heel is snug and doesn’t slide off, the toe box is too tight. And if it’s a slide on without straps, I might as well be barefoot because that shoe is not staying on.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I can’t keep backless shoes on, and the really low flats will tend to slide off when I’m walking fast. It’s something to do with the toes. Don’t stress about it, just wear shoes which work for you. If you want to wear shoes which you can’t keep on, then see if you can add clear elastic or something.

    10. lissajous*

      I can only wear them if they fit *perfectly* and alas, my beloved pair that for many years did fit have stretched just enough that they now slip off my heel. But while they worked they were my go-to for six months+ of the year, they were great! I’d go for half-hour walks at lunchtime in them and everything, they got re-soled many times.
      I still have them for driving shoes if I’m going out and want to wear heels at the event.

      My feet are long and narrow, so fit is always tricky, but I also have low arches (without needing orthotics) so if the width is right ballet flats can work for me. You should not have to claw your toes to keep shoes on as far as I’m aware. If ballet flats don’t work for you, then they don’t. I find it very difficult to get flat boots that work – many have too much height over the arch plus being too wide, and there’s only so much room socks can take up!

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      I have froggy feet, and cannot wear any kind of cute shoe, heeled or not. I need flat heeled shoes with arch and sole support or I pay dearly.

      Even with like, a one inch chunky heel, the soles of my feet start to burn like the weave of my stocking/shoe is being burned into them with acid. And cute ballet flat type shoes, that have the top of the shoe ending at the tops of my toes? That cutoff for some reason causes a band of pure pain across the top arch of my foot.

      My feet just hate me for some reason.

    12. HBJ*

      Yea, I don’t wear flats anymore. I did for awhile, and they were ok, but they felt kind of awkward to walk in. Like the whole curl your toes to keep them on. And I absolutely CANNOT do pumps.

    13. Love me, love my cat*

      Possibly you just have a narrow heel. This isn’t quite the same as having a narrow foot. An A width heel is narrow, AA even narrower, etc. I have a AA heel, which is unfortunately quite close to my bra size:) I think you have to go to a “real” shoe store and be properly fitted to find out what size you really need.

      1. Love me, love my cat*

        Augh. When I said “I think you need to….” I meant that this is probably the best way to get that service. In re-reading my comment, I realized it could be interpreted as me telling you what you should do. I’m not *quite* that bossy!

  38. Anono-me*

    Amazon Question

    Alison, Do you still get a small commission on whatever we buy, if we go to Amazon via the book lists on your site rather than going directly to Amazon?

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Do you also get it if, say, I add to my cart over time without using your link, but then go to Amazon with your link to male the purchase? Or vice versa, using it to add to the cart but not when I make the purchase?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I earn a commission on any items you place in your cart within 24 hours of your arrival at Amazon via my link (even if it takes you longer to actually buy them, as long as you put them in your cart during that 24 hours). I’m not positive about that second question, though.

          1. Pam Adams*

            perhaps keep things in your cart as a shopping list, then remove and replace them when you’re ready to buy?

  39. Jay*

    So, I’m asking for a bit of a sanity check here.
    For the last month or so I’ve had terrible luck with my coffee.
    I’m not the biggest coffee connoisseur on earth, but I know what drinkable coffee not supposed to smell like.
    I’ve purchased 5 bags of whole beans from two different supermarket chains, and three more from three different small shops. All different brands.
    I’ve gotten one single bag that has NOT smelled like rotting fish.
    And it’s not a brand or roast that I particularly like, at that.
    I’ve spoken to a couple of people that I know and, while they haven’t had anywhere near that bad of luck, they have noticed a sharp drop off in the quality of both whole bean and ground coffee.
    Have any other members of the Readership seen anything like this happening where they live. I’m in Massachusetts, by the way.
    I’m about ready to go back to Chock-Full-O-Nuts, even though it gives me heartburn.

      1. Jay*

        Here’s the thing.
        It’s JUST coffee. Everything else is just fine.
        And the smell and (the one time I tried to drink a cup) taste are all spot on for rancid coffee oils.

      2. SarahKay*

        Covid was my first thought too.
        While losing your sense of smell altogether seems to be the more common effect of Covid, my cousin definitely found her sense of smell was just messed with. She spent about three days searching for the rat that she swore blind had clearly died and was rotting somewhere in the walls, despite her husband and son saying they couldn’t smell anything.
        I had the more typical loss of my sense smell and the fact that I couldn’t smell coffee, in particular, really messed with my head. Even though I knew logically it was Covid and that the issue was with me, my brain *really* wanted to believe that the issue was actually with the coffeee – that maybe it was old and had lost its smell.

    1. NotReallyKate*

      Also in Massachusetts (Boston), and I haven’t noticed this with the beans I buy. Granted, I get the same kind every time – Vermont Coffee Company, medium roast. I drink mine regular but my husband takes it black, and we’ve been happy with it both hot and iced.

      Someone else suggested to try cleaning the coffee grinder and the coffee maker, which sounds like it might be the issue if it’s just coffee that tastes off/rancid. Or maybe there’s something funky with your water?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Unrelated question from a non-coffee drinker – what is the difference between drinking your coffee “regular” vs “black”? I mean, I know what black coffee is, but.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Ahhh, this brings back memories of the epic coffee thread back in the day on Tomato Nation!

    2. ThatGirl*

      Do you live with anyone who could tell you what they smell? Is it the beans fresh from the bag or once the coffee is made? Does coffee from a coffee shop smell bad to you?

      Definitely try: cleaning your grinder, cleaning your coffeemaker, using filtered water…

      I’m in Illinois and have not had any problems.

    3. Vanessa*

      So this is off on a tangent but what coffees don’t give you heartburn. I guess I just assumed it would be an impact of all coffee and resigned myself to it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It may be the acidity. Dark roasts tend to have lower acidity, and coldbrew is practically none, because of the way it’s made. Maybe try making or buying some coldbrew concentrate, and if you prefer it hot, you can heat it or add hot water or milk.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Have you tried running the cleaning cycle on your coffee maker? If it doesn’t have one, you can run a cycle with half white vinegar and half water and then run a couple more cycles with just water.
      I’m in MA as well, but buy my coffee online, not locally.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I haven’t noticed anything, but I usually buy whatever ground coffee is on sale or cheapest (also in MA and right now I’m drinking Chock Full O’ Nuts). You might very well have had a mild case of Covid and it’s messed with your smell receptors.
      It might be worth giving the coffeemaker and grinder a thorough clean, though, if you haven’t lately.

    6. Bluebell*

      It may not be Covid, but sometimes your sense of smell can just do weird things and something that used to smell great now smells awful to you. When I hit my 30s, I’m not sure what happened but I can no longer abide the smell of lilies; they have a weird hotdog note in them for me. Luckily, there are lots of other flower options out there, but I admit that coffee smelling awful would probably break my heart. I’m also in the Boston area, but will proudly proclaim that I loathe DD coffee because it has an ammonia note in it I can’t abide. No great loss though.

    7. Chaordic One*

      If you get a cup of coffee at a restaurant or Starbucks or McDonald’s does it taste funny, too? If so, then I would imagine that you might possibly have had a very mild case of COVID or something else that has affected your taste buds.

      I have noticed a general overall decline in the quality of coffee over the last couple of years and you really do have to pay attention to the “use by” dates on it. Coffee tends to become more acidic and bitter with age. If there isn’t anything wrong with your coffee maker or the water you’re using, there might be something wrong with what you’ve been buying. (Smells like rotting fish? WTF?)

    8. Jay*

      Thanks very much to everyone who has replied!
      It’s only been the bags of beans.
      I’ve returned them to the stores and the people at the returns counters have all smelled the same thing immediately and gave me my money back with apologies. One grocery store I ran into a bag so rank, it could be smelled even through the sealed bag.
      Coffee at work and restaurants has been fine.
      The bag of Peets I have now is fine.
      It’s just been the other bags from other stores that have been problematical.
      However, having heard from everyone here, I am working on the assumption that it’s just a weird batch of luck on my part. It won’t be the oddest coincidence I’ve dealt with this year, lol.

  40. StellaDoodle*

    This painting is so lovely, it’s happy and bittersweet at the same time. Makes me think of the kitties I’ve been so fortunate to have in my life, and I love the thought of them all sitting together, looking out the window. Thank you for sharing this :)

  41. A really efficient toilet*

    Looking for a recommendation for a toilet that can efficiently send a bulky load down the pipes without clogging. The non-clogging functionality is my prime requirement. What’s available in the US that really works in this regard?

    From what I’ve gleaned, Toto is kind of the Cadillac of toilets but it’s also kind of expensive, so if a non-Cadillac would do the job, that would be fine.

    1. Heather Crackers*

      They can be difficult to maintain, but a macerating toilet might be what you’re looking for

    2. Lynn*

      It’s inexpensive but it works: American Standard. Their basic toilet. We’ve tried a couple fancier ones and “prettier” ones – so far this one works the best. My kids still occasionally manage to clog it by overusing TP, but adults have never had an issue.

      1. Double A*

        Our American Standard clogs constantly for anything beyond a standard production (sorry trying to follow the no grossness rule!)

    3. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      In a previous home, I replaced the builder grade toilets (which clogged all the time) with the American Standard “Champion IV” model. Their advertisements said you could flush a bucket of golf balls without clogging. They worked wonderfully – never a clog in 6 or 7 years. They cost about $250 apiece at the time, but well worth it. My current home has “Aquasource” toilets, which seem to work well – no clogs in 3 years. Not sure where they came from or how much they cost.

    4. Juneybug*

      For our low flow toilet, we have a rule that you flush once for solid body waste, then flush again for paper. I know that defeats the water saving feature but after having to plunge a few times each month, we rather waste water than deal with human waste.

    5. A really efficient toilet*

      I checked out the American Standard Champion model and got extremely mixed reviews, including one saying (correctly) that there’s a class action lawsuit against the company bc some of these have a defective flap or valve or something that causes ghost flushes and poor performance. If you get one without this defect you might love it, but otherwise, oops.

      So I am still uncertain which one brand/model would be reliably effective. Ready to buy but don’t know what to buy.

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

      We have Totos and they’re the best. They work even better than the toilets at my parents’ house, which aren’t low flow. I think they’re worth the money. I also like that the ones we have are one smooth piece on the outside, so they’re very easy to keep clean.

    7. Atheist Nun*

      I have a Toto flushometer toilet, and it has never clogged in 12 years (and I generate lots of “bulky loads”). Flushometers (tankless toilets) are ugly, but they work.

  42. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Etiquette check: My brother’s fiancee has basically stopped showing up for family things. Totally her choice, of course, though I’m a bit sad-I’d love to get to know her better. I’ve been continuing to invite her to things I host or organize pretty much whenever my brother is invited. Holiday stuff or a regular dinner or just hiking. I want her to still feel welcomed even if she doesn’t take me up on the invitation. Is this polite or is this too pushy?

    1. RagingADHD*

      Issuing the invitation is polite, as they are a social unit. If you were flowing up and asking why she didn’t attend, or contacting her multiple times about each event, that would be pushy.

      It does seem like something you could talk to your brother about, though. Does he have any insight he’s willing to share about how you could make things easier or more welcoming for her?

    2. Gyne*

      I’d focus on non group activities (like, just you, Brother, and Fiance) and text her separately from Brother. Like, send Brother a text inviting them both (or a group text) and then send her a separate text along the lines of “I hope you’re able to make it hiking next Saturday – looking forward to having some time to chat!” so she knows she is personally invited and wanted there. I don’t think it’s too pushy; it makes it clear you want to see *her* and doesn’t require a response.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Wow, my instinct is the total opposite, it’s fascinating how people can differ! I would check with brother to get a temperature on this – is she feeling overwhelmed by too! much! family! (in which case, personally inviting her on her own text is just going to be the nail on the coffin) is she just busy and doesn’t get to everything (in which case your suggestion is totally fine) is there actually a problem that needs to be addressed, what.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Nooooooo. What?? “This person doesn’t seem to want to hang out with me so I’ll double down and pester them MORE”? Has that ever actually worked? Because when my husband’s sister did that, I ended up blocking her on social media and telling him that if he actually gave her my number, heads were gonna roll.

        1. Gyne*

          Oh man, I totally hit a nerve! This approach absolutely would make a difference to me- however I filtered this through my own lens which says, “they don’t really want to see *me* and won’t care that I’m not there.” If the group is overwhelming, 1-on-1 gatherings are less intimidating. I’m trusting Elspeth is a normal, kind person worth getting to know. If she’s cool and I’m the SIL overwhelmed by big family gatherings, yes, I would definitely appreciate an invitation to a low key hangout.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Whereas my lens says “I’m a huge introvert and do not have the spoons to deal with my husband’s family, and if his sister had asked him instead of bombarding me with messages, he could have explained that to her, but since we didn’t have that opportunity and she went straight to messaging me repeatedly and expecting exuberant and enthusiastic responses, to the point where she pitched tantrums at him about how I wasn’t nice enough, I eventually put my foot down because it was clear that my actual wishes would not be respected.”

            Emphasis on “check with brother first to see what level of response would be comfortable for fiancée, don’t continue to message her directly if she doesn’t seem to be into it lest you damage the relationship longer term.”

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              (No offense meant, Elspeth, I’m not saying you would be that aggressive about it – but at the same time I’m fairly certain my husband’s sister didn’t think she was being over the top at all and I know she was offended when she found out that’s how I viewed it. We didn’t speak at all for ten years, and still don’t really for the most part. And I still don’t give her my number.)

      3. RussianInTexas*

        oh no! A direct text specifically to a one person absolutely puts more pressure on that person and requires a response.

    3. Sharkbait*

      That depends on why she’s stopped showing up.

      I stopped attending large family-in-law events because of a dysfunctional family member. MIL continued to issue invitations to make me feel like I was invited. I understood the good intentions but it irritated me to keep receiving and responding when we both knew I wasn’t going to come. Since she can’t mind read my husband politely communicated her to stop and now we’re all on the same page.

      Are you able to ask why brother’s fiancee doesn’t attend family functions any more? Is her aversion more towards large group events or is she unwilling to meet in smaller groups- e.g., just with you? You can always let her know directly that you won’t invite her directly out of respect for her decision to not attend events, but that she’s always welcome to wherever your brother is invited in the future.

      1. Chaordic One*

        There’s a lot of truth to Sharkbait’s comments. I sometimes avoid certain family events, not because of dysfunctional family members (missing an event because of a dysfunctional family member is certainly a valid reason), but because as an introvert when I had a very demanding job I was burnt-out. I just wasn’t up to the challenge of meeting other people, socializing, and making small talk and conversation, let alone getting dressed up to go out. I needed the time to be by myself, to recharge and rest and make myself ready for another day back at the demanding job.

      2. Unkempt Flatware*

        I have had this happen has well. I declined every single invitation and after the last one she quipped, “I knew you’d say no” and my response was, “then why did you invite me? To test me?” This was a friend I had faded away from over the years, however. I’d hate to lose the connection to an in-law, even if just polite hellos at a family gathering.

        This is tough, OP. I’d say that if she knows she is always welcome at family events, there is no need to keep inviting her and basically inviting ill-feelings by one or both of you. I hope it improves!

    4. Emma*

      In this situation, I’d probably talk to my brother and say “I’ve noticed fiancee typically doesn’t attend family functions. If there’s anything I can do to make her more comfortable, let me know. And do you think it would be better for me to keep including her in the invitations, or just to send them to you? We’d always love to see her if she wants to come, but I don’t want to pressure her.”

  43. Wait Wait DO Tell Me*

    I’m wondering if a caller on this week’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is an AAM reader! The caller said she was a former librarian, now project mgr in a corporate job. That struck me as something someone recently posted here about, either as a comment or an update or a good news post.

    If true and you’re out there, please dish about getting on the show! I’ve often thought about calling in to be a player and am curious as to how the process works. What q’s are asked when you say you’d like to be a caller? How long before you’re contacted to be one? How far in advance is your appearance scheduled? What time to you have to be available and for how long—I know the shows are taped live but don’t know when that is. Do you get a choice of which segment to be the caller for, e.g. first caller, limericks, bluff the listener? Would love to know about the experience!

    1. Group dancer*

      That wasn’t me but I was on it about seven months ago! I called one day on a whim and left a voicemail. A few weeks later a producer called and said they were interested in having me on. He let me know the dates and time range they record and I could pick the day I wanted, but they picked the segment. (I did limericks.) The actual live conversation over the phone with Peter Segal and the comedians was very fun and much longer than I expected, but they cut it WAY down for what went on the radio and the website.

  44. Gronk*

    where do you go for clothes inspiration? I don’t really enjoy clothes shopping and I need to buy a nice outfit for an upcoming event. I weigh more than I used to so I’ve enjoyed trying on clothes even less than usual! I would love to be able to find an instagram account or website that inspires me but so far everything I’ve searched doesn’t really excite me. (also, I’m in the southern hemisphere so need summer inspo and everything seems more wintery when I search instagram). is there a key word or phrase I should be trying?

    1. YNWA*

      I like Torrid. I’m a plus sized gal myself. Torrid uses models that are real bodies and they tell you the height and size of the model so you can gauge things like length. While Torrid isn’t super high-end, they do have nicer/dressier clothes that hold up well.

    1. NotBatman*

      If it’s physically feasible, I love when people wrap their entire doors in wrapping paper. It’s pretty cheap, just a little bit labor-intensive.

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

      I’d doublecheck that apartment door decorations are allowed before going all out. They’re illegal (fire code) where I live, and the better-managed buildings actively police it and will issue warnings and fines.

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Simple but really effective (especially with a white door) is a wide ribbon in a festive colour (red, dark green, maybe gold or silver if the door is darker). Simply once put across horizontally and once vertically, and a big bow made from the same ribbon put at where they cross. The door looks like a biiiig present :D

  45. Ronnie*

    My friend, who writes professionally, doesn’t understand why I’ve stopped writing.

    From childhood up until a few years after graduating college, I loved writing and editing. I wrote short stories and novellas and novels, and I did play-by-post role play. After working full time a few years, I finally stopped. I just didn’t have the spoons to write for fun anymore…until I was laid off and became long term unemployed. I decided to do a writing project to keep my sanity in between endless job applications and interviews.

    I wrote a draft of a novel and then spent about a year and a half getting critiques, doing edits, and researching how to query agents. I entered mentor contests, where I received several requests for my full manuscript, but the ultimate feedback I’d get was my novel was too polished for them to help me. (I did get chosen for one mentorship, but my mentor had to quit for pandemic-related reasons.) I ended up querying a large number of agents, and the result was form rejections and ghosting.

    I was crushed. All that effort and time for nothing. I felt bitter about all the positive feedback I received from the mentorship contests and critiquing partners–the feedback was specific and they seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my novel. It felt like they must have been lying the whole time since agents didn’t show the same interest.

    I have since gotten a job and work full time again. I miss writing sometimes, but I’m tired and have no motivation to do it after the experience I had with my last novel. My friend, who self-publishes novels for a living, keeps encouraging me to write another novel to query because I can’t let one failed project stop me, I’m so talented, etc.

    Can anyone relate to supposedly having talent for something but not wanting to pursue it? How do I convince her that writing isn’t for me anymore?

    1. Magda*

      It’s really tough. I got lucky in my writing journey but so many others do not. I would never encourage anyone to pursue traditional publishing; the people who are driven to do it will do so despite all discouragement. It’s like wanting to be an A list actress or a supermodel, there’s literally a handful per generation. Self publishing is a great alternative for the people who are excited about it, but it’s really HARD and if you’re not enthusiastic, it makes no sense to try and make yourself. As you know, the process is brutal and it’s not a way to make a living (I had a book featured in a major national newspaper and have made approximately $12K on my traditionally published books. That is … not even close to enough to make a living, and I got luckier than 99.9% of people with this dream). I don’t know what to tell your friend other than “please butt out, my life choices are my own” but I would suggest fanfiction as a possible outlet. It has made such a difference in my life. There’s fanfiction for any kind of media you might be interested in, with a ready-made audience, and you can get in touch with your creative side and just have fun again.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Why do you need to convince her? You get to decide how to use your time and energy. If she’s pestering you, you’d be better off “convincing” her to stop doing that, than trying to get her to agree with you.

    3. Alex*

      You don’t have to convince her. Just ask her to stop, because when she says those things it bothers you. If she is your friend, she will hopefully hear you and stop it!

      I also had an experience where I loved writing and now no longer want to write anymore. It’s fine. We don’t have to if we don’t want to! We are not obligated to use our talents if they are not making us happy.