weekend open thread – January 6-7, 2024

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

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Master Slave Husband Wife, by Ilyon Woo. The true story of an enslaved husband and wife who escaped slavery in the American south by posing as a white man (her) and “his” slave (him). This is utterly engrossing and will keep you up all night telling yourself you’ll just read one more chapter.

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

{ 1,281 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that the weekend posts are for relatively light discussion and comments should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or one to two updates on things you received advice about in the past are fine, but “here’s an update on my life” personal-blog-style posts are not. The full rules are here.

  2. AnotherLadyGrey*

    Beautiful kitty as always! Alison, it looks like this kitty enjoys small felted balls. My cat Pixie is OBSESSED with this type of toy and carries them all over the house. Do you have a particular brand or seller that you like? We’re always looking for new kinds and shapes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They are pretty small — you can probably get a good idea of scale from the photo. I think it would be tough to pull them apart and eat them, but I also wouldn’t put very much past a truly determined cat.

          1. RLC*

            For a much larger soft ball option, we buy undyed felted wool dryer balls for our cats. If you have a “kicker” in the cat family those are the perfect size to grasp and kick. When the balls get unraveled from kicking, we tie them into an old sock, machine wash/dry, and they re-felt for more play.

      1. AnotherLadyGrey*

        Thank you so much!! I just ordered these. I can’t wait for our kitties to try them out.

    1. Kathenus*

      My cat loved these types of pom pom balls too. Then I noticed I couldn’t find them around, and one day saw her eat one. So unfortunately no more toys like this for her :(

    1. iNot*

      Lone Women by Victor LaValle, Mem by Bethany C. Morrow and What Happened to Ruth Ramirez by Claire Jimenez

    2. Sitting Pretty*

      The All American by Joe Milan, Jr.
      A very close 2nd is The People who Report More Stress by Alejandro Varela.

    3. Annie Edison*

      Tie: “Chain Gang All Stars” and “Demon Copperhead.” Both had incredible writing and gave me a new window into the experiences of others/insights into social issues

      1. bookwisp*

        I got about halfway through Demon Copperhead before I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore. The writing is great but the constant misery was just to much for me. I heard it has a good ending though?

        1. Rrrrach*

          It does! I gave myself a little break halfway through with a more cheery book – then was ok to return to it. Really rate it despite the misery.

        2. RedinSC*

          I’m with you. I gave up on Demon Copperhead for the same reason.

          My book club, those who finished it, LOVED LOVED LOVED it, though.

        3. Indolent Libertine*

          I had to take it in stages, but I did finish. And it’s wonderful. I think I probably don’t appreciate exactly how great it is because I haven’t actually read David Copperfield! That was one reason I forced myself to get to the end, so that I can pick up the Dickens and know “oh, ok, here’s where that came from.” I think it’s easier to read about the misery of the poor in London of that era because it feels theoretical to us at our far remove whereas Kingsolver’s setting is very much with us now; I wonder whether Dickens’ contemporaneous readers had the same difficulty?

    4. Quantum Possum*

      I read a lot of pop-culture memoirs this year. My favorites were The Woman in Me by Britney Spears, I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy, and Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson.

      Other favorites: The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow; The Delusions of Crowds by William J. Bernstein; Household Horror by Marc Olivier; a two-volume collected of Euripides’ plays; and every Maeve Binchy book ever because it was 100% the kind of year in which I had to chain-read cozy Irish novels to survive.

      1. bookwisp*

        I’m Glad My Mom Died was really good! A very fast read too, I burned through it in a day and a half.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          Same here!

          I was blown away by how hilarious McCurdy is, as well as being a thoughtful, evocative writer.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Is the Euripides collection a new translation? I’m a former drama major and on a major ancient Greek kick lately, so I’m intrigued!

        1. Quantum Possum*

          It’s the University of Chicago Press series “The Complete Greek Tragedies.” There are four volumes of Euripides’ plays in the series, with different translators, edited by classicists David Grene and Richmond Lattimore. I’ve read quite a few translations of Euripides and these are by far my favorites.

          I love all things ancient Greece, too. Euripides is my absolute fave dramatist. No other Greek playwright treated women as important humans, like Euripides did.

    5. Procedure Publisher*

      “The Cat Who Saved Books” was the book I read in 2023. Great for book lovers, fans of cats, those who enjoy Japanese culture, and those who want to read about a boy navigating his first love. The Cat and the boy’s grandfather do deliver some very profound thoughts about life, books, and reading.

    6. acmx*

      Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, What You Are Looking for is in the Library and Killers of a Certain Age were my top rated books (unfortunately I’ve been in a reading slump for a couple of years. I only read around 20 books in 2023).

        1. acmx*

          I’d be interested in if you liked it or not. :) Maybe post in the reading thread when you’ve read it?

    7. peanut butter*

      killers of a certain age, for a fun romp; the silent patient for an engrossing psychological book; Israel (it’s a textbook) for one version of history with some dark academic humour thrown in.

    8. vombatus ursinus*

      I’m hesitant to commit to “favourite”, but ‘Olga Dies Dreaming’ by Xochitl Gonzalez had me really engrossed when I was reading it, and I still think about it ~6 months later!

    9. Inkhorn*

      Favourite non-fiction: The Burgundians by Bart van Loo.

      Favourite fiction: The Wife and the Widow by Christian White.

    10. Serenity*

      Sooo many, but The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb is very high on the list. What an amazing story, and the audiobook is especially fantastic because the narrator was amazing.

    11. Queer Earthling*

      Honestly, Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle. It’s a good, solid work of horror, and is one of the few stories I’ve read that really hits what it’s like to grow up queer and ND in a hyper-religious environment, not only the trauma of your own experience, but realizing you’ve perpetuated harm and trying to figure out what to do. It’s also just one of the few books so engaging that I had to stay up late to finish–that’s not something that happens to me much anymore.

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        I’m only just this moment learning about the existence (such as it is) of Chuck Tingle. Wowers! I’ve just put a hold on Camp Damascus at my library. Thanks for the rec!

        1. Queer Earthling*

          Most of his Tinglers are, ummm, not safe for work, just to warn you, but you can probably guess which ones from the titles. But Chuck is also just a delightful human being and I’m so happy his new mainstream books are finding success. I really hope you like Camp Damascus!

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty is the one I keep recommending for a straight-up fun, engrossing read. Set about 800 years ago on and around the Arabian Sea, a retired/hiding pirate captain is tracked down by the family of a former crewman. She agrees to take on one last job…

      Magic, monsters, mapmaking, the politics of pirating, the annoyance of trying to do bold physical things when you now have a trick knee, strong sense of place (the Island of Socotra is real; it really has dragon trees) when Europe is a distant boop that occasionally emits crusaders. And they get the old gang back together to pull one last job.

    13. English Rose*

      Based only on how certain books stay in your mind, The Last List of Mabel Beaumont, by Laura Pearson. Mabel’s husband Arthur loved making lists, and after he dies, she finds a list he has started which simply says “Find D”. Does this mean Mabel should try and find her old friend Dot, who she lost touch with decades ago?

    14. old curmudgeon*

      “Starter Villain” by John Scalzi. Cats are sentient, dolphins are sentient, profane and on strike, obnoxious billionaires get their well-deserved comeuppance – it’s popcorn, like all of Scalzi’s work, but it’s well written popcorn and in places it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. Got me through some rough times in 2023, and I recommend it.

      1. the cat's ass*

        I loved it too, as the perfectly funny antidote to my perfectly awful 2023. Also loved Romantic Comedy. Wasn’t a big year for Deep Reading.

    15. Valancy Stirling*

      Coming back because I remembered The Midnight Library. That book broke and healed me.

    16. GoryDetails*

      I’m sure I’ll forget some – I should keep better track! – but here are some of my notable favorites:

      Fiction:

      Wash Day Diaries, by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith, a graphic novel weaving the stories of four women of color and their friendships.

      Hide by Kiersten White, about a group of people tapped to participate in a reality show set at an abandoned amusement park – but where the stakes are a lot higher than they could guess.

      Passing Strange by Ellen Klages, something of a fantasy/film-noir/screwball-comedy mashup set in 1940s San Francisco, and featuring six women whose lives and loves entangle – at a time when women dancing together in public – or even wearing clothing designed for men – was illegal.

      Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, a dream-like fantasy with touches of horror, yet ultimately triumphant – and deliciously atmospheric.

      A Psalm for the Wild-built and A Prayer for the Crown-shy, both by Becky Chambers, a tale of a curious “tea monk” who comes across one of the robots who had separated from humankind when their AIs became independent. The books are fables, really, lovely and calm and presenting a beautiful possibility for a culture that uses technology but does not abuse it.

      The Gone-away World by Nick Harkaway, speculative SF/mystery with a mix of humor and surreal subplots and – well, it’s hard to describe, and saying too much would spoil some of the delights, but I loved it.

      Non-fiction:

      Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller, by Oliver Darkshire, quirky and hilarious

      Sweat: A History of Exercise by Bill Hayes, blending his explorations into a particular 16th-century book with his personal memoirs

      The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos, about the writing and publication of the classic novel

      Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, about fungi, their history, and how significant they are to our ecosystem

      101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price, a travel guide to places that might not seem all that appealing – though one’s opinions might vary; some of the places the author hates sound really intriguing to me!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Entangled Life is one that really lingered with me, and deepened how I think about ecosystems and exoplanets.

        Also the part about slime molds being able to find their way to the Ikea exits.

    17. Nervous Nellie*

      Greenwood by Michael Christie. His descriptions of a newborn child, page after page, were dazzling.

    18. Pieforbreakfast*

      Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet. A really nice read about someone finding their community (and not about dinosaurs.)

    19. LA Girl*

      Not new in 2023, but my favorite reads of the year: “Rocket Boys” by Homer Hickam and “Educated” by Tara Westover.

    20. Water Everywhere*

      Martha Wells’ Murderbot series for me. I related so hard to the main character that I read each one at least twice while I had them (library loans) to extend my time in that universe.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I love Haunting of Hill House–it’s on my list of “wish I could read it for the first time again.” You would probably love her other work, too!

    21. Wilde*

      Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton – a billionaire purchases a bolt hole in New Zealand, a group of environmental mercenaries plant the bolt hole. Nuanced, fallible characters.

      The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel – a woman’s journey into an Australian cult.

      There are no Grown-Ups by Pamela Druckerman – a series of essays about the authors life in France after she turns 40. A light hearted take on life.

      Thanks to everyone who recommended books in 2023. I’ve got young kids who won’t let me browse the library shelf, so these threads are godsend to me. May every book you read in 2024 be just what you need.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        My kiddo had no patience for letting me pick out books at the library either! I solved it by having him find me “3 books with the color orange” on the spine. I ended up reading quite a few books I probably wouldn’t have chosen, some were great discoveries and others were duds…but since it was the library, no harm no foul. Just try again next week with a different color.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Are they old enough to read a bit? if they are, a variation on this would be to go to a section fiction for example and have them pick out three authors whose name begins with the letter A. Next visit, B…I did this on my own one year and discovered some really good authors and books. I got up to letter G before I quit. I’m thinking of trying it again.

    22. Phryne*

      It was a trilogy, the Green Bone saga. The first one is called Jade City. I liked the characters and the believable West they developed, and the world building is brilliant, with a history that is directly relevant to how the world is in the present day and believable international politics that are not overly complicated.
      I especially liked how the story showed how different cultures react on other cultures based on their own very different history and values.

    23. goddessoftransitory*

      Stephen Fry’s trilogy Mythos, Heroes, and Troy. They’re wonderful, witty, and fun, but treat the subject matter seriously and are clearly well researched. It was a labor of love, and it shows.

    24. carcinization*

      Probably Johson’s The Space Between Worlds, but that was a fairly recent read so I could certainly be forgetting something.

    25. Bookworm in Illinois*

      Favorite fiction: Shubeik Lubeik. A graphic novel, set in Cairo, Egypt, that follows some characters in a world in which wishes are for sale. So good.

      Favorite memoir: Heretic. One woman’s journey of leaving the evangelical Christian church and its ideas of womanhood. A lot that resonated for me.

      Favorite work-related books (I’m a therapist, but you don’t need to be a therapist to read these!):
      Raising Kids with Big, Baffling Behaviors: Brain-Body-Sensory Strategies That Really Work “You Should Be Grateful”: Stories of Race, Identity, and Transracial Adoption.

    26. cleo*

      Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H – beautifully written memoir that changed the way I see the world

      The Unbalancing by R.B. Lemberg – queer high fantasy

    27. BlueCactus*

      The Bandit Queens by Parini Scroff. A woman in rural India’s abusive husband disappeared five years ago, and everyone assumes she murdered him. This doesn’t bother her, until other women in her village start showing up asking for help getting rid of their abusive husbands. The character work was stellar.

  3. Dicey Tillerman*

    Resurrecting a thread that was posted late last weekend in hopes that it gets some more traction this weekend (with thanks to OP Squidhead for the question!)

    What’s something you did for the first time in 2023 or you hope to do for the first time in 2024? Big or small!

    1. iNot*

      I decided to travel somewhere every single month for fun (both domestically and internationally) in 2023. It was interesting. I overall enjoyed myself and got to see new places (Chicago was my fave). However I do not want to repeat that goal again this year. It was too much airport time lol.

      1. Bluebell*

        What a fantastic goal! 2023 was definitely the year I went back to traveling, but didn’t reach that level. Did the place have to be out of state to qualify?

    2. Dicey Tillerman*

      I stole this from the internet, but in 2024 I will be having Fruit Adventures! I made a list of fruits I’ve never eaten, or haven’t eaten on their own (fig newtons vs. fresh figs, for example.) I ended up with about 30 items on the list so far, and I’m planning to try 1-2 new things each month.

      Also, I’ve never had a manicure, and there is a nail salon that just opened up next to my office building. :)

      I’ve always been a books on paper person, but late in 2023 I started listening to audiobook versions of a favorite series, and so far I’m enjoying them!

      1. Jessica*

        This is awesome! Please report on your discoveries. There are various fruits I normally just wheel on past because I’m not sure what they are or how to eat them or how to pick out a good one, but I’m sure the internet could tell me!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I love your Fruit Adventures! And it would be fun to add Miracle Fruit to your list, which make non-sweet things (especially sour things) taste sweet for about an hour after you eat the miracle berries. Like if you eat them and then try a lemon, it will taste like really sweet lemonade, cream cheese tastes like cheesecake, etc.

        1. Dicey Tillerman*

          Alison, I just looked up Miracle Fruit–that’s really neat! I’ll have to see if I can track it down.

      3. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’m with you on the audiobooks. I’ve never tried them and after getting recommendations on a previous weekend thread, I’m ready.

      4. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        After dithering about it for some time, I just started listening to audio books on New Years Day. I’ve already finished two books, and have started on the 3rd and 4th! I used to love paper books, but sadly have to admit to myself that I just can’t seem to settle and read the way I used to.

      5. Bluebell*

        That sounds so fun! If you are near a huge Latin or Asian grocery store, you might discover even more fruits that you have never heard of. I was in an Asian grocery store just this week and was admiring the dragon fruit, while remembering that eating it is such a letdown compared to how cool it looks.

        1. MassChick*

          Ha ha, I feel you. The variety with the deep pink flesh looks glorious and has more flavor. Dragon fruit are better in a salad rather than eaten solo.

      6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m not committing to the full year, but after reading this yesterday, I bought a packet of the “apple pears” I’ve wondered about several times at the grocery store to experiment with. (They are in fact basically pear-flavored and apple-shaped-and-textured, exactly as it sounds.) I ate one yesterday and have put several of them in today’s batch of applesauce too.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I want to relearn to play the piano – it’s not truly new, but I don’t think I’ve played since high school and a family member recently gave me theirs that they were getting rid of.

    4. Quantum Possum*

      What’s something you did for the first time in 2023

      Peri-menopause!

      I’m definitely not hating it, but it still sucks in ways. I’m pretty sure I’m stuck with it through 2024, too, lol.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          (Retirement) Class of 2024! I’m probably jumping in; my spouse is having more trouble letting go, they may go another year or two, even though we certainly don’t need it. Once our offspring starts graduate school in the fall and we can see how much that will cost, it will probably be easier for my spouse to make the leap. I’m guessing (hoping?) they’ll get merit aid and make up the rest as a TA.

          1. just here for the scripts*

            Spousal member of this class, as hubby *says * he’s really retiring this year—he started with a mid January/early February timeline and now is saying tax week (April 15), so I’m not holding my breath :)

            I’m 11 years younger and (more than) a bit behind him in terms of savings, but I’m hoping to give it a try in 2025 so we have some time to experience that phase o life together before aging catches up with us.

    5. office hobbit*

      2023: made a really big home improvement purchase after doing all the research and vetting all the bids myself! Truly looking forward to not having to do this again for a very long time, but very pleased with myself for becoming a temporary expert, surprising some contractors with how much I knew, and holding my own against the few contractors who tried to “don’t worry your pretty little head” me.

      2024: I’m starting needlepoint for the first time, but the true achievement will be if I manage to go to bed on time regularly for the first time ever!

    6. Cookies For Breakfast*

      2023: cat fostering. It changed the lives of both me and a wonderful pair of young cats in the best way.

      2024: a way smaller pursuit…I want to learn to smoke aubergines on a gas hob so I can finally, hopefully, master baba ghanoush (cooking them under the oven grill never seems to make them smoky enough).

      1. kendall^2*

        I usually cut the aubergines in half and roast cut side down, and later add smoked paprika to get the smokiness quotient higher.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      2023 was my first time getting furniture (a footstool and a chair) re-upholstered. Both items look way better now and it cost less than I thought it would, so I was really happy with how it turned out.

      For 2024, I have a couple of mid-century modern nightstands (bedside tables) that need to be re-varnished and I’ve never had that done before, either. If anyone has any tips for getting this done by a professional, please reply to this comment!

    8. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      I’m going to make one fancy recipe a month. I have so many recipes saved that I want to try, but rarely take the time to try. I suspect these will mostly be desserts :)

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        If you’re in the mood for sharing what you make over time, as a fellow recipe hoarder, I’ll be very interested :)

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        What a great idea! I have a ton of recipes sitting around; this may become a goal for me.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I love this one; I may join you. I’ve bookmarked zillions of things and never bothered to try them.

      4. My Brain is Exploding*

        Similarly, in 2023 I tried 2 new recipes a month from my pile of cut-out recipes. They weren’t fancy, though!

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Theater weekend in NYC in a nice hotel at the end of January. Xmas gift from my husband (who does not like NYC, nor crowds, nor planning things, though he does enjoy live theater). While not the primary motivation in offering, it is proving killer at motivating me to work out hard and consistently because I want to be able to walk around without running down too fast.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Tried two new things for helping my body recover from years of hard whacks:

      Start of year shiatsu (acupressure). I now laugh that I went to my first appointment earnestly explaining that I hoped we could improve either the damaged ligaments in one foot (that were still not healed 6 months after the injury), or anxiety tied to past cancer–it’s a full-body approach, and helped with those and with things I had just taken for granted as unchangeable. A couple of months in my husband and children commented at the changes they could see, and that they were really glad I was willing to try something new and see if it helped.

      End of year ortho-bionomy, a very gentle passive stretching system. The idea is that if a muscle isn’t aligning right you give it some slack to work out the kinks, rather than trying to pull it straight. This made a real difference for my hips right away, and I notice that she will be gently working on one point on my body, and a different part of my body will suddenly relax.

      Both practitioners were specifically recommended to me by someone familiar with local people in the field and my particular physical problems; I’m not sure if someone out of the phone book would have been as effective. But for anyone trying to figure out how to address a body that doesn’t work like it once did, I am an anecdote of these two approaches really having an impact.

    11. sswj*

      New thing in 2023: Tried Dock Diving with my Lab. She LOVED it, and I need to carve out time to do more.

      New thing I want to do in ’24: Renovate my awful kitchen!!!

      1. Bluebell*

        Good luck with the kitchen renovation! I turned to the commentariat when I got mine done in 2019 and people gave me lots of good suggestions here. I can’t believe it’s been five years.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        If you need a pick me up, YouTube “Corgi dock diving.” Those li’l stumpers flinging forth into the water are the definition of EXCELSIOR!

    12. Valancy Stirling*

      I flew! And I traveled for the first time since before the beginning of the pandemic

    13. Jackie*

      Got pedicures! I turned 62 in the summer, and I noticed it was more difficult twisting my back to be able to paint the baby toes. And the smearing was out of control. Saw a co- workers toes while changing in the locker room, and she said how much she loved her professional pedicures. Now I get one every 6 weeks at the salon after my hair appointment – loving this extra bit of self care that I deserve! ❤️

    14. Turtle Dove*

      In 2023 I finally visited the West Coast with my husband and fell in love with sea stacks. (Thanks again for the great ideas shared here!) We studied Spanish together and hosted more guests than usual. I traveled solo to see a dear friend and a sibling, and I deepened relationships at home and formed new ones. I worked steadily on a big creative project and met all my goals. I started yoga and cooked more. The year was rich in connection, travel, and creativity. My confidence grew. I’m aiming for more of that good stuff this year (“more in ’24!”) with a few challenges thrown in.

    15. Amory Blaine*

      Started running again after almost 10 years with the goal of finishing my first ultra (50k!) in February! I’ve made new running buddies and am feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time.

    16. Trina*

      2023 first: RV camping! Lots of room for improvement on future trips (rained half the time, cloudy the rest so we couldn’t stargaze, husband was sick with a migraine one night) but still enjoyed it!

      2024 hopeful first: being pregnant

    17. Girasol*

      Hired help. We’ve always muddled through without help, but after tightening that old faucet over and over, the cost of hiring a plumber to get it right once and for all was so worthwhile.
      Went camping alone. Haven’t done that in years. Hiked, paddled, climbed the dunes, read books, looked at the storms and the stars and had a lovely time. At nearly 70 it was much better after I splurged on an upgraded tent and a fatter mattress than the ones that used to be so comfy. Will go again this year, especially to that nice state campground on the lake where I can paddle around all day and visit that heavenly little hippie bakery in town on the way to and from.

      1. MassChick*

        Just wow! The camping alone part I mean, I’ve always easily been able to hire the right people for home affairs.
        It’s inspiring to read about physical adventures in the retirement years. I seemed to be doomed to the arthritis my mother and grandmother had but I’m hoping I can stay more mobile and functional.

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        Hooray for you for camping alone! That’s a big deal.

        We’re the same age and that’s one of my favorite things also. This year I went backpacking for the first time in many years, on a professionally guided group trip, to see if I still could. It went well enough that my plan in 2024 is to take a solo backpacking trip after the first time in decades.

        1. Girasol*

          Okay, now I’m inspired! I haven’t been backpacking in years and I’m definitely not as fit as I was, but I loved it and still miss it. I might have to find a short easy hike and just see how well I can do. Do you have one of those units that links your phone via satellite so you can text a friend from anywhere in an emergency? A single retired friend of mine put me onto those and I do like the peace of mind.

    18. The Dude Abides*

      After an earlier attempt in February 2020, I finally joined the local YMCA and committed to working out and improving my fitness/nutrition.

      It took some drastic changes to my habits, but I’m down 25-30 pounds (which is a lot when starting from 180-185). People are also noticing the visual changes and complimenting me, which I’m still not used to.

      1. MassChick*

        Good for you! When I get better about my eating and movement and people comment on my appearance, I find I get into a weird mindset – simultaneously anxious and complacent and then back slide. Now that it’s less about weight/vanity and more about healthy joints and wellbeing, I’m hoping I’ll stay more aware and catch any backslides quickly.

    19. goddessoftransitory*

      Read Emily Wilson’s translations of The Iliad and The Odessey. Already started the former.

      Actually move if we can find a new, bigger apartment. There’s one building that would be perfect if the right size space opens up.

      GET NEW LAMPS. I cannot take our current bedroom/living room ones anymore, they are absolute crap to read by!

    20. BlueMeeple*

      The hopeful: have my gallbladder removal operation and finally be able to do everything and not plan around potential gallstones bopping about, ( although waiting lists suggest this could be in 2025.) However, my friend who had gallstones with complications had her operation yesterday, so maybe they are starting to work through the lists…

      Pass the driving test! After four fails in 2023, this is now very nervy, but I want to pass it without having to retake the theory test.

    21. Elizabeth West*

      2023:
      Finally had a lobster roll! Delicious! I was really looking forward to that, lol. It was stupid expensive and will remain an occasional treat.

      2024 (or 2025):
      I want to try skiing or maybe snowboarding. I can’t do it now because of my knee, but maybe next winter it will be well enough and I’ll be back in better shape. No idea if I’ll enjoy it, but I’d still like to give it a go.

    22. Dancing Otter*

      In 2023, I drove out to the west coast: first time in Oregon or the Pacific Northwest in general; first time crossing the Rockies – they made crossing the Appalachians seem like foothills in comparison. Also the furthest I’ve ever driven, I think.
      In 2024, I am hiring professional movers for the first time. No more pack-it-yourself, recruit friends and family, rent a POD (or equivalent). It will be my first time apartment-hunting remotely, too, and my last move was 15 years ago. LLLOOOTTTSSS of stuff to get rid of in preparation!

    23. fallingleavesofnovember*

      In 2023 I started going to the pool to swim laps – first time at a public pool since I was a child. I love swimming and am lucky to have access to a lake in summer, but finally decided that I should try and make it part of my life the rest of the year! I’m proud because I’m not doing it with any particular ambition or objective (which can be a challenge for me) – I’ve been aiming for once a week, swimming 30-40 minutes, just because it makes my body feel good and it makes me happy.
      In 2024 I am hoping to take a couple of one-on-one signing lessons…I sing multiple times a week at my church, but have never had any formal training and there are specific things that I’d like to try to improve.

    24. Might Be Spam*

      In May, I went on my first solo road trip. It was three days of driving each way and I made no advance plans for hotels or activities along the way. Serendipity all the way!
      The one thing I had wanted to do didn’t work out, which was fine, because I found other fun things to do along the way. I had a great time and I want to do it again this spring.

    25. Eff Walsingham*

      In 2023, my spouse and I moved across the continent, which was such a huge project with so many moving parts (haha) that I can scarcely take in the fact of our accomplishment yet! Some components went as planned/hoped (flying with 2 cats was… interesting!) and some went completely sideways (the local housing market) but we really like where we are right now, and we’ll see what happens if interest rates come down as predicted.

      Two small things that make me happy: I tried avocado toast, and now I see what the young folks are so enthused about! (My husband doesn’t care for it. So when we go out to our new favourite brunch spot, I get his avocado slices as well!) Also, while our housing situation was taking shape and we were in short stay accommodations, I learned to use a French press. It may not sound like much of a victory, but to me it always seemed like having to perform alchemy on zero cups of consumed coffee. I now feel slightly better fitted for survival as I reach what I suppose I must tardily admit to myself is middle age.

      For 2024, at least the early part, my goal is to unpack! Then, we’ll see.

    26. Squidhead*

      Thanks, Dicey and everyone else! Another first for me in 2023 was getting a full-body massage at a spa. It was a gift (it’s a pricey place) and I enjoyed the massage and the sauna but I’m not sure the whole spa environment is really my thing.

    27. Quinalla*

      I did physical therapy for the first time in 2023 and it was amazing. I’m bummed I have arthritis in my knee that made it give out (!) but I was glad I didn’t have to have knee surgery and physical therapy is amazing. It’s something I plan to do sooner if I’m having physical issues in the future.

      For 2024, I hope to present at an industry conference. I’ve done a lot of presentations in-house and would like to take the next step there :)

  4. Christine’s Dance*

    A friend of mine Emily got engaged over New Years but I’m not sure how to feel about it. At the start of December, she called me in tears because a friend of hers received a SnapChat request from her boyfriend asking for nude pics. When she confronted him, he said his account had been hacked. Emily knew for a fact that his credit card and Facebook had been hacked recently so she was uncertain whether the SnapChat was also a hack (the Facebook hack apparently didn’t send out requests for nudes). But even if it was a real hack and he hadn’t sent the request, it made her think about some weird lies he told in the time they dated, some lies about how he was friends with a mutual friend of theirs but that person told my friend she didn’t know the boyfriend that well; that happened twice with two different people. Lies that felt like emotional manipulation. She told me they’ve talked through the lies and have better communication now.

    On top of all this is that Emily has a long history of not great boyfriends, guys who put her down and were jerks. This new boyfriend, she sprang him on our friend group kinda weirdly. We didn’t even know she was dating anyone and then she told us two days before a group outing that she was bringing him along. We didn’t get to talk to him because it was an outdoor activity that didn’t have downtime to get to know him. I think they’ve only been dating around 6 months and will be moving in together next year.

    Not all of our friend group knows about the SnapChat drama and the weird lies, just me and another friend Alice. Alice is very upset by the engagement and doesn’t want anything to do with the fiancé. I’m trying to be more “support Emily so she has friends to fall back on if it goes badly”. There’s a good chance that Emily would ask Alice and I to be bridesmaids and Alice is already saying that she’ll refuse to even attend the wedding. Frankly I don’t blame her but I worry that Emily will get defensive and pull away from the friend group if we push too hard about the guy. Another friend, one who I don’t think knows about the drama, commented to me that she thought they were moving quite fast.

    My message to Emily in the text message chat where she shared the news was just
    “if you’re happy and feeling good about this, then I’m happy for you”. And she gave a heart emoji to it like she did to everyone else who is screaming “CONGRATS” in the chat. But that’s the extent I think I should push my reservations. Any thoughts on how I should handle this? Should I push harder about the guy like Alice wants to do or even refuse to Participate in the wedding, or just go along with it and be there for Emily?

    1. Annie Edison*

      Do you have the kind of relationship where you could sort of gently feel out Emily without coming straight out and voicing your objections? I’m picturing a conversation along the lines of “wow, you’re engaged, that’s such big news! How are you feeling about it?” and then follow up with something like “oh by the way, whatever ended up happening with that SnapChat drama last month?”

      1. Annie Edison*

        Ack I hit enter too soon. I’m thinking your instinct to support her regardless of your feelings is spot on, but I’m also thinking about some times when I’ve had boyfriends that were less than stellar. My friends and family were always supportive of me no matter what, but then would voice concerns after the fact, when I’d already ended the relationship. I remember sometimes thinking “well why didn’t you say that sooner” because my gut had been telling me all along that something was off, but I didn’t have enough faith in my own instincts to listen. I don’t know if I would have listened to anyone else either until I was ready, but I do think that having someone else open up space for me to voice my own concerns, and/or sort of mirror them back to me, might have helped me realize the truth sooner

    2. E*

      I think you’re thinking about this right – if this is a bad relationship she’s going to need your support and won’t be as likely to seek it if she feel judged or ashamed. Fwiw the circumstances of the group outing don’t sound that weird to me? But I can see why your spidey sense is going off at the rest of it. Still, better just to show up for her as trying to convince her otherwise risks isolating her if this guy is bad news. Having been in a bad relationship myself, I needed to see things for myself and then rely on loved ones when I was ready to leave, but the ones who made it a them vs him kind of thing were not helpful to me

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I was in this situation last year and I tried really hard to offer like a “normalcy meter” as gently as possible. Basically I refused to validate things I was uncomfortable with, but tried really hard not to put her in a position to be defending him or justifying his behavior. I did agree to be a bridesmaid but I wasn’t happy about it.

      Early in the relationship was a lot of “um, it seems like you’re moving really fast but I’m glad you’re happy” and “haha yikes” type comments. Then “so, I’ve noticed it seems like he does this worrisome thing a lot, what do you think of that?” Then when she started telling me the bad stuff “wow that’s messed up” and “what an asshole” and “you don’t deserve this” and “what are you going to do?”

      She ended the relationship about a month before the wedding.

      1. Still*

        This is what I did in that situation, trying to strike the balance between being supportive of her happiness and validating her worries.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Embodies Alison’s advice, passed on from Marie, about not normalizing the bad stuff as just how relationships are and everyone has this same drama.

      1. adipucey*

        Absolutely. Friend will need a support network when this whirlwind goes south, and will most likely feel judged by those who pushed her away. The best thing anyone can do for a loved one in a (most likely) abusive or manipulative relationship is to make sure that loved one knows you will always, always be there to help them land on their feet.

    4. Saturday*

      I think Alice is really not being a supportive friend, and you’re approaching this in a much better way. I also think you don’t have to and probably shouldn’t do anything immediately. She still in a post-engagement glow, and probably not very receptive to hearing friend’s concerns right now. Wait till that wears off. X

      1. Sharkbait*

        I don’t think of this as Alice “not being a supportive friend” as such. We’re all allowed to disengage with friends who make us feel uncomfortable based on our own value system, even if these actions don’t affect us directly. If you decide not to continue a friendship with Bob because he kicks puppies or votes for a certain politician or makes fun of ugly babies or whatever, you’re allowed to do so. I personally know how frustrating it is to watch a loved one stay in toxic relationships and it’s understandable for Alice to not want to be around that kind of discomfort.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Looks like you and Alice are going to have an accidental social experiment. You try your way, she tries her way, and see how it all turns out in the end.

      Or, to put it another way, you don’t have to be the friend saying “NOOO! Horrible idea!” because Alice is already doing that. You can be the one keeping your mouth shut and your eyes open. Both are valid options, but it’s ok (and even a good idea) to use different approaches.

      1. Ally*

        Yes this is true, you have all bases covered.

        FWIW, I had a somewhat similar thing with a close friend, I handled it by telling her that I didn’t like him, but then honestly just by sulking and avoiding them, which must have hurt her. Do not recommend. He turned out to be pretty great and they are happy, and thankfully are still good mates with me. It’s such a tricky situation, tread carefully.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I think the thing to ask oneself in this kind of situation is “is HE rubbing me the wrong way” or “Is how he treats me/her/others rubbing me the wrong way?”

          The former could just be irritating mannerisms or quirks. The latter are much more likely to be indicators of character, judgement, and kindness.

    6. Mel*

      I think you need to ask yourself if Emily is likely to listen to your concerns about her fiancé or if, as you said, she’s more likely to become defensive — and consequently more determined to marry him.

      If you think she’ll listen, then you can have a frank conversation with her,and hope it goes well. Perhaps you might manage to persuade her to slow down. That way she might come to reassess her fiancé before she actually marries him.

      However if you really think she’ll become defensive, then it’s better to do as you’re planning and be supportive so that if and when things fall apart she won’t be so embarrassed or resentful that she won’t come to you for help. I once read in the comments of a Reddit or Not Always Right story (it was a while ago so I don’t remember exactly) about someone going no contact with their family for not liking their fiancée/wife, and even after they divorced, he still refused to get back in contact with his family because he couldn’t forgive their attitude towards his ex. You don’t want to put Emily in that position. You want her to feel she can turn to you if need be.

    7. JSPA*

      Respectfully,

      “We didn’t even know she was dating anyone and then she told us two days before a group outing that she was bringing him along”

      strikes me as dead normal.

      You are presumably not 14 years old; dating someone is not intrinsically a group activity from the start.

      I don’t love some of the rest of it. (Though, “send nudes” has become a standard birthday joke in some circles.)

      “I’m happy for you if you’re happy” is exactly the tone to hold. That, and maybe a pre‐wedding gift of consultation with a lawyer on a good pre‐nup.

      But except for the legal exposure, there’s not a ton of stuff that’s worse in a cheating marriage than a cheating relationship.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think “normal” is subjective and that is not the case for everyone though! Some female friend groups are very good at helping each other spot a wrong ‘un before you get too invested. Presumably the OP knows what is/isn’t in character for her friend. It would be unusual for me to spring a date on my female friends without them knowing about were he came from, or where we met. It’s not that it’s weird or wrong to keep a new relationship secret, but it does make the vetting of a strange man a bit more difficult. For example, logistically, my female friends would be my safety calls (“I’ll call if I need to escape” or “I’ll call when I’m home safe”) if I went out on a first date with somebody new that I met online. They’d also be the people I would ask to ask around to see if anyone knew him, or what they thought of X and y comments or situations from the first date. If I didn’t use their counsel, it’d probably be because it’s a guy I met through family or colleagues or some other reliable source. From OP’s perspective it’s not wrong that she wasn’t there at the inception, but it does make it more difficult for her to sound alarms: at this point it’s a bit late.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I agree with your assessment of all the flags, and the fact that this is being rushed through in six months could be a love bombing thing. I also think you’re right about how easy it would be to push her into being defensive and closed off. The way I always think of it, (I was married to a guy like your friend’s fiancé; lying, rushing the schedule etc) is that controlling or unhealthy relationships take away your voice in some way; in the relationship you’re either dismissed or lied to, or told what to think. It’s really important that friends in this situation give the person a safe space where they can still voice their thoughts without feeling pressured. I’m in this situation with a loved one right now, and even though she’s said a few times that she’s close to leaving him, I know that she wouldn’t continue to complain to me if I didn’t also say “hmm that doesn’t seem so bad” when the complaint is just BEC stuff. Basically, I project objective-but-cares-about-she-wants. I always round up with “Whatever you decide to do, I’m there for you”. You also might need to decide if you’re in this for the long haul. I have another friend who was voicing concerns before the wedding, he was flirting with other women at the wedding, she still complains all the time but in a “Oh men!” kind of way, and …. they’ve been married ten years now. I gave them a year when they got engaged.

    9. Irish Teacher.*

      I can’t see how refusing to participate in the wedding will help. If you are right (and it sounds like you might be) and this guy does turn out to be bad for her, then doing that will make it more difficult for her to admit it. Nobody wants to admit, “hey, you were right all along. The guy I trusted turned out to be lying just like you said.” And if you are wrong and he’s a good guy, then you’ll have damaged your friendship for no reason.

      I don’t think refusing to participate in the wedding will make her doubt him. It will only push her closer to him and perhaps make her think you are jealous or if he is really manipulative, allow him to convince her he is the only one she can trust.

      I do think you can gently bring things up as they happen. I read a comment I think on a previous post here that recommended replying to stuff like “lol, he lied to me again, but sure, that’s men for you, isn’t it? You can’t trust them,” with something like, “I don’t know. I’ve never known my husband/partner/ex to lie about anything like that.”

      Basically, encourage her to talk about any doubts she has, don’t validate any behaviour that sounds off on his part but leave it up to her to decide. Let her see you are on her side.

    10. Lilo*

      My husband had something like this play out with his sister. She got engaged to this guy who had just so many red flags, and my husband decided to sit down with her to talk.about it. It was a huge mistake because what ultimately happened is she got very defensive and stopped talking to him for a while. We attended the wedding and played nice, and yes, her ex was just as bad as we thought (physically and mentally abusive), they divorced after 2 years and the guy’s now serving a ten year sentence for what he did to the next women (yes, that bad). My husband never ever said “I told you so”.

      Despite all that, he regrets speaking up because he says that’s the day their close brother/sister relationship died and he wished he’d just been quietly there for her instead. He thinks he accidentally played into the ex husband’s isolation campaign.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        We humans really, really, really hate to be wrong–there’s a Hidden Brain episode about how much easier it is for us to learn by watching someone else be wrong, rather than make the mistake ourselves. (Probably part of the enduring appeal of advice columns.)

        This week’s Dr Nerdlove is about how someone who goes back to an abuser is often reasoning “If they’re an abuser then I would be really stupid to get involved with them ever, and I don’t want to feel stupid–what can I do to feel not stupid? I can make this work! That will show anyone who thought I was stupid, including me.”

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      So for the specific things you mention:
      The SnapChat thing actually sounds like something a hacker would do. Rolling the dice on “Hey, I wonder if people will send me naked shots?” where the actual human using that account would be like “The blowback from this would be tremendous, and I have absolutely no reason to believe that Mortimer would send me nudes rather than send screen caps to my girlfriend.” It could be the account holder playing games, lying, and trying for plausible deniability, but that’s not the only explanation. (Whether it’s most likely would depend on how I knew him.)
      Similarly, Abigail saying “Oh yes, I know Mortimer, we’re friends” and Mortimer saying “Abigail? We’re acquaintances” is a really common disconnect in how close the relationship is–I wouldn’t go to “lying” if they do actually know each other.

      Both of these things seem easy to explain away–but sometimes, when your gut is telling you things are off with this person, once-innocuous things start to land differently. I think your instinct to be there for her is the right one, and also that anyone is allowed to eventually tire of this role.

      1. Zephy*

        That’s an awful lot of mental gymnastics to explain away behavior that’s already landing weird – this isn’t an indictment of you specifically, just pointing out that things usually are what they look like more often than not. Hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras, and all that. If it’s not what it looks like, then it better start looking different ASAP for Emily’s sake.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I sincerely don’t get how this is mental gymnastics–to me the simplest “horses not zebras” explanation of differing levels of claimed friendship is that they know each other but have different views on the depths of the bond, and the simplest explanation for a gross and offensive message from someone who should know that this will get a resounding “no” followed by alerting others in the social group and publicly shaming them is that the account was hacked.

          For the latter there are people for whom I immediately land on “Okay, no way Grandma would do this, I need to tell her the account was hacked” and others for whom it’s “Oh, their social media got hacked? Yeah, that would explain the bizarre out of character message. Whew, I can stop thinking about whether to share that.” And people for whom I immediately would go to “Gross person being gross” and maybe this guy is squarely in that group as soon as you know him.

          Both of these examples are things that are going to get quickly fact-checked in real time by people the romantic partner trusts–maybe he’s just that much of a sociopath and this adds to the thrill, but there are easier things to lie about, and total strangers rather than acquaintances that you can hit up for nudes and not care if they’re grossed out.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Yes it could be a hacker, but that’s not the most obvious conclusion; there are tons of dudes who send sketchy messages and requests of nudes to friends of their girlfriends. I’m super happy you’ve never met this guy because he’s everywhere! They aren’t sociopaths, they’re just lame guys who lie their way out of things, control their relationships with whatever weapon is handy, and they don’t really care what the friends think. This is a super common phenomenon, it’s not unusual at all. I wouldn’t rule anything out, as per hacking, but the quick engagement also fits a pattern.

    12. Ohana*

      I think you can voice your concern and be supportive at the same time, which it sounds like what you want to do.
      I have a friend who got engaged less than a year after meeting his girlfriend. I was not a big fan of the gf and I didn’t really like the person he was turning into since he met her. I was worried he was changing himself for her and he would end up not liking who he became eventually. I sat down with him one day and explained that to him. but I also said that I would support him no matter what, without judgement. in fact, after that conversation he asked me to help with the proposal and I agreed.
      In this case I ended up being wrong and they are still married over 10 years later and he didn’t change too much more and did even return more to his old self in some areas. but I think if it didn’t work out he would have felt comfortable telling me about it without worrying that I would say ‘i told you so’.

      all this to say, I suggest that you have a serious conversation with her where you tell her your concerns, but that you will support her no matter what what and just want her to be happy.

  5. Goose*

    I am in the midst of recovering from top surgery, but I’m looking forward to getting my first tailor-made suit! Has anyone here ever gotten a suit taylor made/fit? Where have you done it? Any advice for making sure the experience is going to be gender affirming? I’m in DC if that helps.

    1. Dicey Tillerman*

      Congrats on the surgery and the new suit! My cousin and her wife had their wedding suits custom-made at Bindle and Keep in NYC. Both they and their suits looked beautiful!

      1. Reba*

        Congratulations and I hope your recovery goes smoothly!

        My spouse had a good experience with Suit Supply, which sells made to measure and off the rack suits. There are a few other made to measure (so like semi custom not really bespoke suits) outlets in DC that you could look for reviews of. My spouse is a cis guy so can’t speak to your experience, but he was self conscious about his changing body and we found the sales guy to be lovely and a great low key cheerleader. I would encourage you to bring a supportive friend, and make sure you get a salesperson or fitter you click with (that is walk away if it doesn’t feel right, make an appointment with someone who is highly recommended).
        Good luck and I hope it’s fun.

    2. E*

      Congrats! Not sure their price range but there is a Brooklyn-based company called Bindle &Keep that specializes in this. there was a documentary about them and a few of their clients called Suited if you’re interested.

    3. Newbie*

      Look up “the menswear guy” (@dieworkwear) on Twitter/X, and his blog, “Die, Workwear!”. He has loads of good stuff on fit, tailors, and classic menswear for all price points and body types, including some tailors who are known for good work on people in transition.

      1. Phryne*

        This was my first thought too. I’m neither male nor in the US and I still love reading his tweets on menswear, so interesting!

    4. sulky-anne*

      Congratulations!! I hope your recovery is going well! Please disregard if this doesn’t apply to you, but if you happen to have also started T within the last year or two (or are planning to start soon) I’d recommend holding off on any big clothing purchases for a bit. Basically don’t be like me–after top surgery I made a bunch of new clothes that now don’t fit because my body type changed pretty substantially in the last year.

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

      Congratulations! Have fun enjoying those new clothes. : )

    6. RJ*

      Congrats on your top surgery! I got a suit custom made for my wedding from Bindle & Keep in NYC. I was able to do the two fittings all via Zoom and had a great experience – super respectful, super gender affirming, and I’ll be immodest – I look killer in the suit they made for me. Would hands down recommend if they’re within your budget.

  6. Mint.com Alternative*

    I’m a long-term Mint.com user, but I’m now looking for an alternative since they’re shifting to Credit Karma. My primary objective is to track and categorize expenses, then roll those up to monthly/yearly totals.

    Anyone have a resource they’ve liked and used? I’m open to either a free or paid solution. Thanks, fellow budgeters!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Monarch was created by folks who used to work for Mint, and you can tell. I’ve been pretty pleased with it so far and they have a code on their website for a 30 day free trial and 50% off your first year, for ex-Mint folk. They also have a tool to import your Mint data if you want to, and that worked mostly well.

    2. Belle*

      We were also Mint users and testing Quicken Simplifi out. So far it is working well for us because most of my financial institutions link and bring in my transactions. You can import your Mint transactions but we requested ours to be deleted when Mint announced the change. I didn’t want our data hanging out there or moved.

      They are also doing a promo. Still early to say long-term but working well so far.

    3. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

      I have tried EVERYTHING out. Simplifi. PocketGuard. Zeta. YNAB. EveryDollar. Lunch Money. And more. Monarch is my favorite. I like it better than Mint, even (for the way that goals work).

    4. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I am so old I just use Excel (and things became quite informative, with having the budget items highlighted in yellow and the actual expenses right next to the proposed budget item).

    5. adipucey*

      I’ve been testing out Nerdwallet and for the most part I’m liking it (the free version). I will always miss Mint though, sigh.

    6. Not So Little My*

      I love Tiller! You have to be comfortable with spreadsheets, but their community forums are very helpful.

  7. iNot*

    Oh I wrote an essay in high school about this
    couple and won a contest. I’ll have to add this book to my reading list!

  8. Teapot Translator*

    Some months ago, I asked for budget advice. I’m back to ask for more since I couldn’t apply all the advice I got back them. I want to start different “accounts” for big expenses (either in different savings accounts or in all in one), and I want to make sure I’ve thought of the main big expenses: three months expenses just in case, car maintenance and repairs, and major appliances (they’re getting old). Anything else? Long-term savings are taken care of.

    1. Annie Edison*

      Vacations? I also have an account for Christmas gifts/other holiday spending so I’m not hit with all of it at once at the end of the year.

      This year I’m also experimenting with a rolling slush fund for mid-size, irregularly occuring expenses (things like car insurance premium, which I pay every 6 months, car registration fees, etc)- things in the 100-600 range that come up at set times but not every month. I added up everything I could think of that comes up over the course of the year and then divided by 12, and I deposit that amount into a savings account each month, and then pull from it to cover those expenses as they come up. It makes my monthly budgeting feel more even and balanced, and I don’t feel like I have to worry about remembering to set aside enough for insurance premiums or whatever

      1. GeeJiJean*

        Seconding an account for annual or semi-annual expenses like car insurance, property tax, etc. Making monthly contributions to a dedicated account helped me feel so much more confident that I could cover those expenses when they came due.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Possibilities that may or may not be relevant —
      General home repairs/replacements, anything from a broken window to a new roof
      Pet veterinary needs
      Medical needs – aim to save up a year’s deductible in case of emergency? This may be in your long term already.
      Annual fees – not just credit cards, but anything you pay for annually. Costco or Sam’s membership, streaming service you want to pay for annually, a professional membership or certification, anything with dues, add it all up and split the cost over the year to balance it out
      If you celebrate, a Christmas (or generic gift-giving) budget
      Electronics upgrade? New computer, tv, something of that nature?

    3. RLC*

      A few more based on personal experience:
      – Emergency travel fund if you might have to travel on short notice to support a friend or family member.
      – Pet emergency medical care fund if you’re a pet parent.
      – Home repair fund: even if a small to moderate loss is typically covered by property insurance, you may prefer to pay for repairs directly rather than to file a claim.

    4. Jackalope*

      Echoing a general house fund. You can use the money for appliances, random repairs, etc. A fund for car stuff (both to use if a repair is needed or to save towards a new car when it’s time) can also be helpful. And if you have recurring expenses that are once a year, every few months, etc, then putting the money away each month can help so it’s not a huge chunk of your money in the month the bill comes due.

    5. Ginger Cat Lady*

      We have the house fund, the vacation fund, the pet “HSA” where we put the $$ we used to spend on pet insurance, the emergency fund, and the 3 month expenses.
      Sometimes when big stuff happens we have to drain the vacation fund for other stuff, like when everything in our house broke within 6 weeks (furnace/AC, water heater, garage door opener, sprinkler system, dishwasher, fridge AND a roof leak, UGH)

    6. Thunder Kitten*

      check the fees if you start lots of separate accts esp if you expect some to have low balances/little activity.

      Also, be honest if you are organized enough to keep track of multiple separate accts.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I do this with literal separate accounts, and I’ve been very happy with Capital One – no fees on the extra accounts, they’re all together in one place so I can keep an eye on them, and I can automate the transfers to savings from both my main checking account (also with Cap One) and a couple of accounts I do maintain with other local bank/credit union with no issues. I think Cap One allows up to 99 savings accounts? haha. I have 13 currently.

        1. just here for the scripts*

          We did this to help our god sons start saving for car/grad school/etc.. I own the accounts and list them as joint on their own accounts. This way we can easily transfer $$ to encourage them as they make their own contributions (I can’t call it “matching” cuz we give less than they deposit, but enough to help them develop the savings habit). Capital One has been awesome for this

    7. IT Manager*

      Sinking funds! This is my 2024 big change, I’m budgeting weekly in separate “sinking” accounts for this type of ad box or annual expense instead of hoping I have the funds when things come up. In addition to your list I have:

      Yearly IRA contribution
      Unexpected pet expense (boarding and vet)
      Car insurance
      Annual vacation
      Home repairs/issues
      529 for kids
      Gifts (holidays and birthdays)
      New car fund (target – 2030)

    8. Lizabeth*

      Budgeting for car repairs is really HARD. Yes, for oil changes, basic tune ups and tires but anything else depends on several things. How old is the car? What kind of shape is it in right now? Do you keep track of all repairs, oil changes etc? It’s easy to do – I keep a small pad in the car and record date, mileage, gallons bought, total price and price per gallon (thanks Dad!) plus all repairs, price and mileage. Then you have a record to refer to. Big repair bills get put on a credit card and paid off within 3 months. My rule of thumb is if repairs go over $2000 a year two years running, it’s time to replace the car. But I keep my cars and run them into the ground literally. My last car was a 2004 that I just got rid of last year because my mechanic said it would need front/back struts, serpentine belt and the catalytic converter was going. A good trusted car mechanic is key to doing it that way. They are out there but it takes some digging to find them. Also add a AAA membership with 100 miles of towing included. That has saved my bacon a couple of times.

    9. Kayem*

      Among my other accounts, I have a debit/checking account called something like “non-essential recurring debits.” These are things like monthly streaming subscriptions, annual dues, annualized subscriptions, domain registration fees and hosting costs, etc. It’s a lot of little amounts, but when added up together, represents a good chunk of money. I do quarterly transfers into that account with a three month float to cover issues like price increases, etc.

      This helped me by decluttering my other accounts so I didn’t have to scroll through a bunch of small transactions to find the electric bill payment. It also let me see just how much I was spending on these recurring fees so if I needed to trim expenditures, it was easy to identify what went on the chopping block.

    10. Kay*

      I recommend doing a physical walk through your house, looking at everything (and I mean everything from your closet to your cabinets). Then do a mental “walk” so to speak through your schedule for the year.

      For the house – have you factored in AC units, roof, water heater, windows, pool equipment, landscaping lines, paint, remodel/updates/areas in need of fixing? How about electronics, furniture or anything else you might feel like sprucing up?

      You can review your spending every quarter to make sure you have accounted for everything, but thinking about your habits will help plan for this. Do you go on an international vacation every year, visit family, revamp your wardrobe every season, buy camping gear at the start of summer, plant a garden every season, donate to charities, splurge for certain birthdays?

    11. just here for the scripts*

      Unexpected—and not really covered by insurance medical bills. In my case it was dental implants/new crowns, root canal, etc. and acupuncture for complications from a broken foot (plantar faciatis).

    12. Reluctant Mezzo*

      We had the main operational account for most normal expenses, groceries etc., with another account called the Dead Water Heater Fund, the vacation account, and the account for the property tax and various insurances.

    13. Boof*

      I’d be a little careful about having a lot of accounts strictly for bookkeeping. Consider instead of keeping track of your finances via an app, or just your own spreadsheets. Generally, the only ones that probably deserve their own accounts or major things that need their own buckets. For example, professional expenses that might be reimbursed versus personal ones. I do admit, we have my own house account, but It is in part due to the fact that it is also our mortgage lender. Each of us has a checking account, a savings account, and the rest to keep track of over a few credit cards. One major credit card, one for travel, one for professional expenses. That does not get into investment accounts like a college account for each of my kids, and a few different retirement accounts, because of different work places, etc.

  9. Cj*

    I noticed Elizabeth West posting on the work thread, and I reminded me that I read her first book a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was going to read the next one after the tax season, and then life happened.

    I’ve been really, really sick last few days it just starting to feel better. I will the second on my tablet somewhere. maybe I will start it this weekend.

    if you’re around elizabeth, sorry I can’t remember the names of the books right now, and I actually don’t feel too bad to go look right now. I wish I remember, because I would love to point other people in their direction.

    I found them on Amazon under her name if anybody is interested. I think there’s also a first initial in front of elizabeth? once again, sorry but I’m just not up to looking it up right now.

    1. Cj*

      oh my god, the speech to text errors again. and for some reason I haven’t been able to scroll in the box in order to edit things.

    2. Chaordic One*

      A quick search using google led to Amazon where I see she writes under the name “A. Elizabeth West” and has published 3 books including, “Tunerville,” “Confluence,” and “The Shiny Folk and other Stories.”

        1. Deedee*

          I read Tunerville a while ago and really enjoyed it. Now heading to Amazon to look at the other two!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Omg, being the subject of a book thread is….bizarre, lol.

      Yep, Book 1 of the Tuner Trilogy is Tunerville, and Book 2 is Confluence. The Shiny Folk is a collection of speculative stories.

      I’m working on Book 3 of the trilogy (no title yet) but it’s been slow going due to moving, surgery, etc. I was hoping it would come out this summer — that may be optimistic. I’d like to finish it soon since I have something else planned.

      I hope you feel better soon. I was sick last week (not Covid) — there’s something nasty going around. :(

  10. Office Chinchilla*

    My mother recently told me and my brother that we have a half-sibling she gave up for adoption years before we were born. I’m still reeling from that. I want to do a DNA test so that, if he’s looking for us, he can find me, but I don’t know which one to do. I’ve refrained from these tests before because of privacy (my exact words were “I’m not a snitch”) but the risk/benefit analysis is different now. Which one do you recommend? What’s got my greatest chance of success, if he is looking, balanced against privacy concerns?

    1. Sloanicota*

      FWIW when I have to do something that goes against my privacy values, I might try to put in deliberately wrong or misleading information – maybe a nickname, at least a google voice number, a burner email (that you can still check, but that isn’t connected to your other information) etc. You may be able to use a pay-as-you-go credit card (?).

      1. Office Chinchilla*

        Most of my concerns are around police use of DNA databases, as I really am related to people with questionable activities. But the ones I’d be most concerned about are either dead or the law caught up with them and they’ve served their time now (and one cousin already accidentally uncovered another cousin’s secret child). A burner email is a really good idea, though. Thank you!

        1. Sloanicota*

          If you’re really extreme, you could deliberately pollute the database by switching samples with someone else you know. You could share the information with each other behind the scenes, or just use a shared burner email, or whatever so that you would still be able to contact people if you wish, but it would mess up the trail of who is connected to who. I realize there’s a lot of variables to consider ethically. I don’t like that they’re building these giant DNA databases.

    2. Zip*

      There’s a facebook group where they talk about this stuff. Well, two. One is DNA Detectives and ine is DD Social. Many very experienced folk on their who know which tests are best for different things. Many of them have also gone through what you are.

      1. Office Chinchilla*

        Thanks! I am very active on Facebook but I’d have to figure out how to do something like that without all of the family seeing it. (I think my mother would prefer we never discuss it again unless I find this guy and he wants to meet her.) Facebook is not great at keeping secrets. Ask me how I know one of my cousins is active in her kink community, and how certain I am she doesn’t know that I know.

        1. Scallions*

          (1) Whoa!
          (2) you don’t have to post on the FB groups. Older posts and resources pages will tell you all you need to know because so many people have had similar questions.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Ugh yes FB not-infrequently has a Thing where questions/comments posted on theoretically private pages seem to become visible to others. And you can sometimes see group membership even if the content is private – and if you’re in multiple groups it’s hard to remember which ones have the highest privacy settings vs medium ones and remember what you type :( I do not like FB.

        3. Observer*

          Use a separate burner account using a burner email address.

          Start by just reading – you might find what you need that way.

    3. Seashell*

      Ancestry.com has the largest database for people in the US. If you’re elsewhere, there may be better options. Beware that there are some tests with names that sound like Ancestry dot com, but are not the real thing.

        1. fallingleavesofnovember*

          There is also another site called gedmatch where you can upload results from most of the main DNA test sites (ancestry, 23andMe, etc) and compare to people from other sites who also use gedmatch. It is a little less intuitive to use than the commercial sites, but for a close relationship like a half sibling, you don’t have to do too much data interpretation. I believe gedmatch also has an opt-in/opt-out for allowing your info to be included in police searches of their database.

    4. Adoptee*

      Another option might be to contact the adoption agency or the vital records department of the state where the sibling was born. You can register your info that you’re okay being “found” and if the adoptee also registers that they want to find their bio family they can reach out to each party.

      I’m an adoptee and this is how I connected with my b mother. (The adoption agency called me and said she had contacted them looking for me.) There are also “adoption angels” (I think that’s what they’re called), that you can ask to do research.

      1. Adoptee*

        Just to add — I sent a letter to the adoption agency 30+ years ago, and was only looked for about 7 years ago. In the interim, I was able to file for my original birth certificate, which showed my bio mother’s name. (Like you, I have privacy concerns with uploading DNA to a database.)

        1. Office Chinchilla*

          Thanks! I’m hesitant to be too aggressive (I have a friend who is an adoptee and has no interest in finding her bio family, and my family very much has a “no news is good news” philosophy). The adoption was through a home for unwed mothers in the early 70’s that I assume no longer exists, but that’s good to know I could contact the state and register with them! That never would have occurred to me. My mother left her name and address at the time, and an aunt with that same last name still lives in that house, so she assumes no one’s ever come looking for her, but I think that’s assuming a lot.

          1. Adoptee*

            Mine was in the 70s too, but through a religious organization. The specific chapter no longer exists, but I was “found” through the chapter that absorbed all the files.

            I do think it’s assuming a lot that leaving an address would be enough. Even though states/laws are becoming more open with giving adoptees some info, in my experience it’s still extremely difficult to find out info if it was a closed adoption. Would also recommend a burner email – I used one to communicate with the adoption agency and the b mother. Personally, I was also very careful to not reveal things like the city where I lived, where I went to school, where I grew up up etc. when I corresponded with her. Just remember – if you find the half-sibling – you are a stranger to him. He is a stranger to you. I know for me, I was very suspicious(?) of the motives for my b mother trying to find me after such a long time. Why not sooner? What were her motivations? And I would ask yourself what is it that you are hoping for if you find this person? And then ask yourself how you might feel if what you find/out doesn’t work out.

        2. fposte*

          Here’s a neat and annoying fact—the original birth certificates with the bio mother’s name often use a fictional name. Obviously yours didn’t, but that was a real shock for me. Both my brother’s and mine are as fake as the post-adoption one.

          1. Adoptee*

            Yes, I read of that happening. Mine had no father listed, which was common for the time since they were unmarried. Do you think the (first) name listed for yourself was fake, too? That was a trip for me – going through your life as [Name] and then imagining if your name had been something else. I have a love/hate relationship with my (adopted) name and kinda like my birth name better so that also probably factors into it.

            1. fposte*

              I didn’t have a first name. My brother did, and also a whole Irish identity that was a total lie. Fortunately he didn’t care too much about that.

      2. Imtheone*

        Contacting the adoption agency is a good idea, whether or not you decide to go with genetic testing.

    5. Sharkbait*

      Wow – I hope your mother has had all the support she deserves and is in a good place!

      I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the website, but there was one where you could upload your own DNA results and it would contact you if someone matched from a different company.

    6. Dwight Schrute*

      I had a similar experience! My mom told me about my half sister she had put up for adoption before I was born when I was in high school. She had found my mom and wanted to meet us, so we did! We chat a couple times a year and we went to her wedding. I think I would do Ancestry if I were in your position and wanted to be “findable”. Best of luck!

    7. Sutemi*

      You may be interested in reading The Lost Family by Libby Copeland, which goes into detail on how people are using DNA information and outcomes from finding new family members. It might not be most up to date on which is the best system to use, but I found its investigation into the different companies fascinating.

    8. Genealogist Hat On*

      Assuming you’re in the United States, I’d start with Ancestry, as they have by far the largest database; if you’re in Europe, MyHeritage might be better as a first try. 23andMe is not as useful for genealogy lately, and I’d skip them if you have concerns about health privacy, but it does have a decent sized mass of testers. FamilyTreeDNA is less useful in your case, since it has a smaller database; it’s the main place to test if you were interested in yDNA and mtDNA, but for finding your sibling autosomal’s all you’d need, and your sibling probably isn’t going to shell out a few hundred bucks for mtDNA testing.

      In the past I’d have also recommended uploading your test results to Gedmatch, but now that it’s owned by a forensic DNA company and due to recent police misuse of the site, I would not recommend doing so if you aren’t comfortable with police use of your results.

      Whichever site you decide to use, I’d wait a few weeks and watch prices before buying a test; you’ve missed the Black Friday sales, but a lot of sites do sales around DNA Day in February.

      Also, before you test, mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of other surprises — just because you already know about this one doesn’t rule out there being, say, an unexpectes sibling or cousin on your dad’s side.

    9. Silence*

      Hugs if you want them. That news can be shocking.
      Found out about my older half brother when my parents split and aired each other’s dirty laundry to us kids.
      No advice on finding them as my mother had an open adoption where she exchanged letters and calls with him.

    10. Venus*

      Sorry I’m a bit late, but a quick comment that apparently the DNA databases are sufficiently populated that the police can now find anyone in the U.S. if they really wanted to. If that is what limits you then I wouldn’t worry about it.

  11. Sloanicota*

    Okay, one week in, how is everybody doing on New Years resolutions, if you set one? Is it working for you?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I had two: 1) do dryanuary, which I do every year – once again I’m astonished how much cheaper it is to eat out, how I don’t really miss a drink once things are underway, and how hard it is to think of non-alcohol-centric suggestions for socializing. This year I have really been noticing that, boy, some of my friends drink A LOT. Like, a lot a lot. 2) Eat the vegetables of the rainbow every week, which I’m tracking on a chart. This is working okay so far.

      1. Jackalope*

        When you say eat the vegetables of the rainbow each week, what does that look like? Is it some veggies every day and a wide variety? Or one of each color each day? Or how are you working that? I used to eat a lot of veggies and I like them a lot but I’ve fallen out of the habit to a certain extent and would like to bring them more back into my menu.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Well, I set this resolution because I don’t eat enough vegetables and when I do, it’s only ever broccoli or carrots – not because I don’t like veggies but just because I’m kind of in a food rut, just grabbing what’s familiar. So, I literally made a chart with 52 rows (one for each week) and a green, red, yellow, purple, and orange column. This week I had brussles sprouts for my green, so I checked that box off – beets for red, made corn chowder for yellow, mashed sweet potatoes for orange, and purple cabbage. These are usually side dishes that either go with my lunch or dinner. One week down, 51 to go …

      2. Angstrom*

        I enjoy alcohol-free social dancing, such as a ballroom/swing group class followed by open dancing, or contradancing.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My overall goal for 2024 is to be nicer to my body so it will be nicer to me. I’m mostly managing – more fruits and veggies, more moving, though tonight I ate more pizza than I had meant to. Then I moved a little more after.

      It’s supposed to be a shared goal with my husband, who has more physical health issues than I do, but he’s not holding up his end of the plan at ALL, so I should probably put on my own oxygen mask first rather than sabotage myself by dawdling around for him to catch up.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m trying intermittent fasting and today (day 5) was the first day I had a snack early. Otherwise I’ve stuck to my schedule without trouble!

      I’ve been exercising most days and reading every day but doing an atrocious job getting to bed earlier.

      I’m trying a different way to track/remind myself of things and I’m happy with it so far.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I could never do this–I get sooooo stabby when my blood sugar drops; basically I’m one of those “you’re not you when you’re hungry” Snickers ads. I think it’s super cool and wish I could try it but I don’t want to end up fired/in jail.

    4. Anon Poster*

      Mine is weirdly specific and very low-stakes. I cook for myself two or three times a week, and my goal is to choose a new album to listen to on cooking nights rather than keep listening to the same few playlists over and over. A month or so ago I asked about people’s favorite albums in the weekend thread. I screenshotted all the answers and am excited to dive into those when I need a suggestion!

    5. Ella*

      I’m middle-aged and I’ve gained a lot of weight over the years. I recently realized that if I keep going the way i’m going, I may wind up with serious mobility issues in just a few years. So I joined Weight Watchers, and I’m trying to walk more and refocus my eating around healthier foods. The app is “gamified” enough that I am currently enjoying figuring it out and planning meals. We’ll see how it goes in the long run!

    6. vombatus ursinus*

      * Go to bed earlier and get up earlier: Going okay. I am doing both earli-ER, but not at my ‘goal’ bed and waking times yet. And I’ve been feeling a little tired some days because my body doesn’t want to go to sleep at my goal bedtime, so I end up sleeping less. But I will persist.

      * Take a break from social media: Had one or two instances of my finger automatically tapping the Instagram app icon (!), but I managed not to look at anything and offload the app again straight away. My brain feels much calmer and less overstimulated :\

      *Reading more varied/challenging books: Got through one this week and started another this morning :)

      1. WellRed*

        I didn’t this year but a few years ago I resolved to read one nonfiction book a month and it went well but I still love fiction far more!

    7. sulky-anne*

      Mine are all goals to accomplish by the end of the year, not necessarily daily things. But one of them is to improve my sewing skills, and I’ve already got two projects going, so that feels like a pretty strong start.

    8. Zona the Great*

      My New Year’s resolution is always the same: set and guard my boundaries as if they were the crown jewels. I didn’t realize this was my standard resolution until I read the entries in my journal for the past few years where I tell myself this will be there year of Me and that I do not need to allow people into my peace who don’t belong. Last year I was moderately successful and I celebrate the small wins. A work in progress.

    9. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      It took a long time, but I don’t make resolutions any more. It’s my way of fighting back against a sick culture that uses guilt to control people.

      1. allathian*

        Me too. I also deeply resent the idea that we have to keep “improving” ourselves all the time. Just let me stagnate without guilt, thanks.

        Sure, if you genuinely want to learn a new skill, start a new hobby, lose weight or whatever, go right ahead. But there’s no obligation to do any of that if you aren’t feeling it.

    10. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I’m doing a fun one: learn scratch baking by baking something new every week. Last week I made choux for the first time and it went well! There was a minor hitch with today’s cake (stuck to the pan and according to comments on the recipe I’m not the only person who greased their pan and still had the damn thing hang on for dear life) but it mostly came out okay!

    11. Anima*

      I wanted to take more time of – so far it worked, I only had work/school for two days out of the seven. :D

  12. Jackalope*

    Reading thread! Share what you’ve been reading and give or request recs. How have you started off your new year of reading?

    I just finished an anthology called Never After, a collection of fantasy novellas about romances that didn’t work out as planned (note that all of the stories have happy endings, although it may be something like the main character decides she’s not interested in any of her potential suitors and runs away to start a bakery or something). I’ve also been working my way through The Phoenix King; not sure how I feel about it. It’s very long and I’m having a hard time appreciating the characters, so… we’ll see if I finish it. (Especially since it’s the first book of a trilogy. 1500 pages of material I’m not 100% into is a lot.) I will note that it seems to be well-written so far, and it’s more a case of “this is not the book for me”, rather than “this book sucks bears”.

    1. Teapot Translator*

      I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (I liked some of it, but the humour didn’t translate), Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (not the book for me), and Mrs Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish by Dorothy Gilman (it’s always fun to read a Mrs Pollifax book, like meeting with a dear friend).

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m listening to Remarkably Bright Creatures on audiobook and so far I’m really disappointed. Not into it at all, although it amuses me that there’s a separate voice narrator for the octopus vs the rest of the story.

      1. EA*

        I read the ebook, but I didn’t click with that book either, and it had come really highly recommended.

    3. Jamie Starr*

      I didn’t meet my 2023 goal as far as number of books went, but I did okay with number of pages read. For 2024 I’m going to focus more on total pages and try to read at least X pages every day. I started with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and like it so far, although I wish I knew more Greek – both the language and mythological history.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I exceeded my Goodreads goal this year. Goal was 130 books, I ended up with 133, but I never think to see how many pages I’ve read.
        I belong to a Facebook group called Women Reading Great Books (not as highbrow as it sounds, just means what was a great book for you?)
        Sometimes different commenters will share their successes (and failures) in reaching their goals and without fail some of the responses are snarky comments like who cares, or this shouldn’t be a competition, ect. My reaction? Lighten up, people!!
        Most of us set goals for our own pleasure and the only “competition” is with ourselves to see if we can improve our “personal best.”
        In my case, it’s to keep track of exactly what I’ve read. You wouldn’t believe how many books get issued with different covers, or how many times there are several books with the same title (book titles are not copyrighted.) For example, I have read at least three books over the years titled Dashing Through the Snow. They were all totally different types of books. One was a cozy mystery, one a romance, and one was just a general fiction that happened to be set in winter. I just saw there’s a new book with this title issued this year but don’t know details.
        Anyway, if you can’t share your thoughts in a forum that’s about reading, who else is going to care? If this sort of thread doesn’t interest you, scroll on by.

        1. Jamie Starr*

          For me, pages are as important as the number of books in a way. Because I could read a bunch of 70-100 page books/plays and up my book count. But that seems too easy. Most of the books I read are between 300 – 400 pages. Of course, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Camus’ Stranger is short, but more important (in terms of literature) than some longer trashy fiction novel, imo.

    4. anon for this*

      I’m reading “Ace” by Angela Chen and it’s surprisingly validating. I’ve kind of felt for awhile that I probably fall somewhere in the ace realm but didn’t pursue it very deeply because I don’t think it would change anything for me. I’m only on Chapter 2 and there have been multiple things I’d never thought of the way the author describes but they really resonate. It’s interesting coming to it from a place of “yeah, this is probably me but I’m not going to learn anything I don’t already know” to “wait, that’s a thing??”

      1. Mitchell Hundred*

        I (an asexual man) once heard a friend trying to vocalize how attraction works for her. She is definitely not asexual or aromantic, but I thought the concept of the split attraction model might resonate, so I mentioned it to her and she really seemed to take to it. In my experience it’s generally nice to know that there’s a name for the thing you’ve been trying to express.

        And for anyone who doesn’t know, the split attraction model is basically the idea that people experience attraction to other people in many different ways, and those don’t always align with each other. For obvious reasons ace/aro people are most familiar with it, but in my opinion it’s open for anyone to identify with if they want.

    5. Valancy Stirling*

      I’m reading Inheritance by Nora Roberts. Spooky but not scary, which suits me. My main takeaway is that, if I ever end up living in a haunted house again, I want a cleaning ghost and a house DJ this time around.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Ghosts should be entertaining or helpful; I mean, they’re non-living there rent free!

    6. Past Lurker*

      I’m reading “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” which is the first science fiction book I’ve read in a long time. I used to read this genre a lot when I was younger. So far, I like this book!

      1. GoryDetails*

        I’m enjoying “Small Angry Planet” as my current carrying-around book. I first discovered the series via “Record of a Spaceborn Few,” which I *loved*; while I do rather miss the setting and characters from that book, I’m finding the ragtag-bunch-of-misfits setup of “Angry Planet” quite entertaining.

    7. Double A*

      I just finished The Last Americans by Brandon Taylor. It was about a group of mostly gay graduate students in the arts who have a bunch of existential crises and lots of dreary sex. It has some lovely writing but was just…a bummer. I wouldn’t recommend it.

      Now I’m read “Gifts” by Ursula K Le Guin. It’s basically pastoral fantasy. It’s pretty pleasant and feels kind of quaint.

      I set a page goal last year to read 10,000 pages and I read 15,000! And 44 books, which is 15 more than the previous year.

    8. Rara Avis*

      I’m in the middle of rereading Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series for the 30th anniversary of the first book. Paused after The Moor to read The Hound of the Baskervilles.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I have an interesting story about how I discovered this series (speaking of which, I’m way behind on this series. I need to catch up!!)
        I was a member of a book club at our library and we had a book assigned. I went to the library to check it out, but forgot to bring the title of the book or the author. (No one at the desk knew which book and the woman leading the gathering was off that day.) All I remembered was that the word bees was in the title. I found the book The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and checked it out. Loved it!! However, that wasn’t the book assigned. The actual book was The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It was wonderful, also.
        I always said that was my favorite mistake.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I love this method of stumbling on gems. Connie Willis and Diane Ackerman are two of my main go to sources for “mentioned this book and it sounded fab, so I checked it out.”

    9. Inkhorn*

      I’m currently enjoying Six Wives by David Starkey (yes, THOSE six wives). Between the subject matter and the nearly 800 pages it’s not exactly light summer reading, but a break from the Weekday Place is a good chance to read the books that are too big to carry around comfortably.

      1. I've Been There*

        Yes, I really enjoyed that. Starkey is excellent – I followed up with “Elizabeth, The Struggle for the Throne” which is mostly about what happened before Elizabeth I finally became queen, Very good and insightful.

    10. Curiosity*

      Who’s the Never After author? There are a few different series that come up for that search!

      1. Jackalope*

        It was edited by Laurell Hamilton and also had stories by Sharon Shinn, Marjorie Liu, and one more author I wasn’t familiar with.

    11. Bluebell*

      Some hits and some misses this week. I really enjoyed The Impossibility of Us by Sara Lotz, which may have been recommended here. Friends with Boats was supposed to be a breezy and fun summer read, but I found it pretty annoying. Legends and Lattes was definitely cozy and fun. I also finished Dinners with Ruth by Nina Totenberg, which really brought back a lot of memories from when RBG died, but also has a worthwhile retelling of Nina Totenberg’s career, and a great story about her father’s stolen Stradivarius violin being recovered.

    12. PhyllisB*

      For those of you who enjoy cozies which feature older people (like Richard Osman’s books) you might enjoy a series I just discovered by Peter Borland. The first title was The Charity Shop Detective Agency and the second was The Beach Club Murders. I read both of them in like three days. There’s a third I haven’t found yet, The Dog Show Murder.

        1. Bazzalikestobark*

          I’m currently reading the second book in this series, Death comes to Marlow, easy to read and fun. First book is The Marlow Murder Club and author is Robert Thorogood.

      1. Seltaeb*

        Neither Libby nor any library in my system had any of these, but I had an Amazon credit that would give me the Kindle edition of the first book for $1.34, so I’ll give it a try, thanks!

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      I am currently reading Akin by Emma Donoghue. It’s reasonably good, but I am a bit disappointed. It doesn’t really compare to Room.

      I just finished Robin Stevens’ The Ministry of Unladylike Activity. The ending is a bit unlikely, but then it is a kid’s mystery story, so I guess we have to give it that. I like the fact that Fionnuala’s phrases are mostly pretty realistic. They are actually phrases used in Ireland.

    14. Nervous Nellie*

      I am reading The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, a foundation book of Canadian literature and the first of 5 books in the Manawaka Series, which is a fantastic, loosely connected series of books about 5 people/family groups in a small town in Manitoba. This first book is a riveting portrait of old age. The fiery main character is in her 90s, reluctantly living with her weasley son and pompous daughter-in-law. She clashes with them at every turn. As a teen I read this in school and was firmly in Camp Mum, but now I am older, I see the sadness and tough position the son and DIL are in. And Laurence is such a storyteller – simple, direct and honest. After this I will reread the other 4.

    15. GoryDetails*

      Currently reading:

      “A History of Wild Places” by Shea Ernshaw, a novel that opens with a detective – who has some psychic abilities – following the years-cold trail of a missing woman into the deep woods, only to disappear himself. The perspective switches to that of a resident of the remote commune in that location, an isolated cult-like community that fears contagion from the Outside… Not sure where this is going, though it does have some vibes of the movie “The Village”.

      And a contender for “longest title”:

      “Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry” by Leanne Shapton, which is presented in the form of a catalog for an auction, with the captions for the various items providing glimpses into the short, up-and-down relationship between Doolan (who writes food columns about cake) and Morris (a photographer whose concepts sometimes work and sometimes don’t). Quirky and amusing, though it begs the question of why all these personal items are up for auction at all; to me it suggests that the couple died suddenly and tragically – and possibly notoriously – and the sale is along the lines of an estate sale, including collectibles as well as contents-of-pockets-type scraps.

      Will be starting Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt, with the intriguing premise that a widow working as a cleaner at an aquarium befriends… the giant Pacific octopus residing there!

    16. Zephy*

      I found this book called Psycho-Cybernetics by a Dr. Maxwell Maltz at an antique mall last month. Looks like it’s been updated and expanded with a new publication in recent years, but the edition I’m reading is copyright 1960. The title alone drew me in, but it’s basically a self-help book about realizing your dreams through the power of belief or whatever. We’ll see if it works – I’m fairly certain this was written for an audience whose brains work differently than mine does, especially the original 1960 edition – but the basic concepts I’ve encountered thus far don’t seem too outlandish (you act on your beliefs about a situation, not the objective facts, and those beliefs can be changed; your brain is bad at distinguishing between memories of actual experiences you had and things you just imagined really hard; your sense of self affects the way you move through the world and appear to others). I’m still dubious about the “Music Man method” of developing a skill that Dr. Maltz describes, where imagining yourself doing the thing well is almost as good as physically practicing doing the thing, not sure if I’m going to look deeper into the studies he mentions about that but I guess I could. I’m willing to hear this guy out, maybe I’ll see if I can track down a copy of the revised edition. I haven’t looked into the author at all, so if this guy is actually a neo-nazi or whatever someone please tell me, but I bought the book secondhand so at least he or his estate didn’t directly profit from my purchase.

    17. Sister George Michael*

      Death Writes, by Andrea Carter. It’s the 6th book in a mystery series that takes place in Donegal, Ireland. Highly recommended!

    18. goddessoftransitory*

      Just finishing H Rider Haggard’s Cleopatra: a surprisingly fun and fast read with some trenchant insights into human nature (the main character inadvertently laughs at the wrong time–SO the wrong time–and that’s what sets up the rest of his problems!) Then starting Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders, which I got for Christmas.

      My morning breakfast read is Dirty Old London, about Victorian England’s efforts at sanitation and recycling in The Smoke, and have started The Iliad for bedtime reading.

    19. carcinization*

      About halfway through Islington’s An Echo of Things to Come, which is one of those doorstop-size fantasy novels and the second in a trilogy. I’m getting a little tired of the POV shifts I guess but I still think it’s okay. Not as far into The Absolute Book by Knox, I like it more so I’m reading it a bit more slowly.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      I started reading Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How it Changes Us, by Brian Klaas. It’s about who seeks power, why we choose the leaders we do, and how we can choose better.

      Next I want to read Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present. I mean, I want to be ready just in case we collapse into a theocratic autocracy. (Hurry up, last season of Handmaid’s Tale.)

      I’m also re-reading through my own library, since it was packed away for three years. I may cull a few more books but right now, I have no plans to do so since I got rid of so much stuff when I left OldCity.

    21. Lizard*

      I’ve been reading The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara, and I finished Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy last night (which I loved). They’ve been interesting to read side-by-side because, despite being very different books, they both take place in a climate change dystopia and both are told with interwoven timelines. I used today to read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

    22. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I read 57,363 pages (145 books). I read some honker big books, including some combined series, plus Hild and Menewood, with a reread of Hands of the Emperor along with At the Feet of the Sun, along with some smaller books.

    23. Seltaeb*

      I’m reading The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell. Thanks to whoever it was here who recommended this series a while back!

    24. anxiousGrad*

      I just started Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby. I’ve only read two of the essays so far but I’m enjoying it so far. I actually laughed aloud a couple of times, so I’ll have to be careful when I read it in public. I also didn’t realize somehow until reading this that the show Work in Progress (Irby was one of the writers) was canceled! I know it’s been a long time since the second season came out, but I guess I was just hoping that it would come back eventually.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I like her stuff! Especially the one in there about how “I like it!” is a perfectly reasonable approach to–liking what you like.

  13. Jackalope*

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

    I’ve played Portal a little bit. My spouse was super excited about me playing it so I’ve been happy to try, but I’m not super into puzzle games so it’s been frustrating in that way. But I’ve decided that I’ll go at least far enough to make it through the initial “tests”, and then see if I want to keep going after that. Has anyone else played Portal before? What were your thoughts if so?

    1. Quantum Possum*

      Yay, gaming thread! :)

      Portal is hilarious and wonderful, but I’m with you, I got frustrated with the puzzles. I love watching people play it, though.

      My favorite video game in recent years is Pentiment. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played…a pretty intense emotional experience. It’s a narrative 2D role-playing game set in 16th-century Bavaria, focusing on a small Alpine town and its abbey. You play as Andreas, an artist who is working in the abbey, illuminating manuscripts, when a series of murders forces him into an investigative role. The attention to historical accuracy, the depth of the characters and story, the beauty of the artwork, the mechanics of the game…everything is perfect.

    2. anon24*

      I played Portal, zoomed right through until the last maybe 3 or 4 puzzles and got totally stuck. I decided the experience and having fun was more important than “git good scrub” and “cheated” by watching playthroughs and following along. It was fun to get through the game and to escape. I’d like to play Portal 2 at some point but it would definitely just be an experience game and I’d probably just have a walk through available from the start.

      The cake is a lie!

    3. David Rose*

      Portal is one of my favorite games! :) So much fun to solve the puzzles and I love GlaDOS as a character so much. Make sure to play the sequel too, it’s more thinking-with-portals fun and has such fantastic worldbuilding.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        GlaDOS is hands-down one of the best fictional characters ever. I want to be her when I grow up.

      2. Phryne*

        I loved Portal 2 even more than one because of the amazing design. And there was a bit more story and the puzzles had more variety I think.

    4. Professor Plum*

      I’ve been playing Carcassone with family and friends recently. Discovered we had the River 2 expansion that for some reason we’d never opened. Very fun alternative to the single started piece. Unfortunately it’s out of print and it looks like used copies are selling at way too high prices for 12 tiles.

    5. MEH Squared*

      I had a bad experience the first time I played (my partner at the time tried to ‘coach’ me by shouting how to play as I was playing, which was SO not helpful), but when I tried it again with a supportive friend, I had a much better time. My friend had to do a few of the portals because I have dexterity issues, but I did the vast majority and finished the game.

      I really enjoyed it and I just love that the protagonist is based on an Asian woman and GLaDOS is terrific. It’s so rare to have a video game in which the two man characters are not male.

      Also, Still Alive is a banger.

    6. Shy Platypus*

      Oooooh loved portal :) I’ve never played the second opus because it used to crash on my computer, but in the year 2024 these crashes should be gone! (Unless GlaDOS has done some science to block me from playing?)

      I think anon24 has a good puzzle philosophy: you can try to get to the solution by yourself, and get some help when it stops being fun.

      Last week I played a bit of the Golden Idol, and I completely missed some very important clues/deductions, especially in the late game. The game has a built-in hint system, but I thought they were a bit conservative with it : “we recommend not using hints”, “please complete this tedious puzzle before you can get a hint”, etc. I felt a bit shamed for a totally valid thing, and ended up reading some hints from the internet rather than the game! But then again, different people have different playstyles. I’d still recommend the game if you like puzzles and goofy murder stories!

      1. Trina*

        The Curse of the Golden Idol I think can be more fun if you have another person or two to play it alongside – I played with my husband and if one of us missed a clue, the other person usually spotted it. We had both played and enjoyed Return of the Obra Dinn so we already knew this one was right up our alley, though.

    7. Vio*

      I love the Portal games, partly for the fun puzzles, partly for the hilarity and partly for the nice story. The second game is even better than the first and also comes with the ability to design your own tests and play those made by other people… practically infinite test chambers! It’s been a while since I made any but I still play now and then to try out some new maps.

    8. beep beep*

      I ordered a plug-in gaming controller for PC that’s supposed to arrive today and I’m excited to play some games with it! I’ve never played with XBox configuration before so I expect a learning curve, though. At the top of the list are Stray and a couple rhythm games I bought recently.

    9. Dwight Schrute*

      Finished Act II IN BG3 but haven’t started Act III yet. I’m already looking forward to my next play through

      1. anon24*

        Act 3 is so overwhelming! There’s so much to do! So many things to find! So many places to go! (if you have time and motivation, search every building you can get into) I’m on my 4th playthrough and every time I get to act 3 I lose my momentum because I’m just like wow what is all this? What do I do first? I usually just ignore the main quest until its forced on me and systematically go around exploring the entire map and clearing side quests. I missed so much hidden stuff on my first playthrough that I found on my second playthrough, but that’s the fun of the game. There’s so many ways to play and so many different character arcs to take for everyone that it’s enjoyable to keep replaying. I’m on playthrough 4, although I took a little break, and I’m already planning 5 and 6.

        1. Dwight Schrute*

          this is my first playthrough but I love how different it can be from play to play! my friends have all had different experiences from me and I LOVE that about this game.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      I don’t play video games at all, but this reminded me of the old Team Four Star YouTube videos of Two Sayians Play… with Vegeta and Nappa playing Portal. They are hilarious!

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I never actually played it, but I watched a former BF play and it was very funny. I too find puzzle games frustrating at times and tend to cheat by looking up walkthroughs.

    12. Lemonwhirl*

      We’ve spent this weekend figuring out how to play Iki, a board game that’s set in the Edo period in Japan. It was a little difficult to get to grips with the rules, turns, and phases, but we got through a 3-player game all together and then my kid and I have played the two-player game twice more. It’s a great game – very complex with shifting strategic imperatives.

      My kid and husband hated Calico, which is unfortunate, but at least it has a 1-player mode. I with there was a phone version!

    13. GythaOgden*

      Borderlands. All three main games (I tried the Pre-Sequel first but the first main story boss once you get to the moon is too hard so I’m leaving that for now) and the Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands standalone games. Motoring through them and enjoying the stories while not getting bored of just playing one game.

      My hands were getting a bit sore (mainly from the way my hypermobile fingers bend while gaming, cross-stitching and scrolling YouTube) before Christmas so I do now play in compression gloves, but those seem to be working well to prevent major pain but allow better mobility than tape allowed me.

  14. coffee anon*

    I have a very low stakes possibly very dumb first world question! I am just getting into making coffee at home, and have not managed to take it straight black. I want to add some milk or half and half, but as the only person in my household who would use either of these products and only uses a little bit at a time, how do I use it up before it goes bad?? I buy the smallest amount possible but it still seems impossible. Is this just life with dairy products?

      1. allx*

        Two ideas:
        1. If you buy cream in a carton, don’t open the flaps all the way. Just break the first seal but don’t open into a spout. You will be able to squirt cream out of the mostly sealed top but air will not get in as easily and will prolong the life of a carton of cream.

        2. When/if you get coffee to-go that is served with the little half-and-half’s in individual containers, keep a couple extra for home. They last a long time. Non-dairy creamer comes in the individual size too, so you have to check to make sure it’s what you want. I do this when I travel because the lobby of hotels usually has small creams but the room only has powdered creamer. At one time, I used to be able to buy a package (~30) of single-serve creams but haven’t seen them in a while.

      1. Rainy*

        You can freeze milk and half-and-half but when you thaw it the fat and water will have separated so it’ll be grainy and people usually cook with it rather than drinking it. It’ll probably make your coffee super weird. I’d buy the smallest possible container and resign yourself to tossing some when it goes, personally.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      I recommend single-serving cartons of milk (whole or 2%). Don’t get a pack of them, just get one at a time…should be $2 or less.

      1. Clisby*

        Yes, I buy Horizon shelf-stable milk – 8 oz. containers. I don’t use them that often at home because I like drinking milk and try to keep in the refrigerator at all times, but sometimes I run out. This way, I always have milk for coffee. It’s also handy for vacation travel where the place you stay has a coffeemaker but for some reason thinks non-dairy powdered creamer is the equivalent of milk/cream. Another thought: Cream lasts MUCH longer than milk in the refrigerator without going bad, and I can get that in 8 oz. containers.

    2. Forensic13*

      Could you make almond or oat milk at home? You could also get literally a kid’s milk or similar size, especially as part of a fast food meal or at a convenience store.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I guess I’m paying too much attention to the use-by date then, though I tend to get oat milk when I get an alternative :)

            1. Phryne*

              Use by dates are very important in meat and fish, but not as much for other products. Meat and fish can have too much harmful bacteria in them and look fine. Nearly every other kind of food will look/smell/taste spoiled with it is, and is probably fine to eat if it looks/smells/tastes fine. Definitely don’t eat something you don’t trust, but if you are a healthy adult individual, the risk of eating something over the date is very minimal.

              1. SarahKay*

                Seconding that cow’s milk will taste absolutely vile long before it’s gone bad enough to do a healthy adult / teenager any harm.
                (Assuming you haven’t lost your sense of smell due to Covid or whatever.)

          2. Phryne*

            That is my experience oat milk too. The thing with oat milk is, after a while it will separate and look spoiled. Unlike dairy though, this does not mean that it is spoiled. It is more as with coconut milk, just shake it to mix it again. I’ve used oat milk that has been properly refrigerated after opening for three weeks or so with no ill effects.

      1. Esprit de l'escalier*

        Haha, at first I thought “literally a kid’s milk” meant literally milk intended for a baby goat. How specialized can you get?!

        1. Rainy*

          That would be goat milk, which is freaking delicious although I don’t put it in coffee–goat milk has a pretty distinctive flavour and doesn’t really do well with coffee typically.

          Source: grew up on a goat farm.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            I love goat milk and goat cheese!

            I also love goats. Not to eat, but to hang out with.

            1. Rainy*

              Goat milk on cereal is shockingly underrated, I think. Ice cold goat milk on a big bowl of honey nut Cheerios or strawberry Special K is basically my idea of heaven.

        2. Esprit de l'escalier*

          When my now middle-aged son was a wee tyke his pediatrician told me he was sensitive to cow’s milk. His babysitter’s husband used to drive out to a farm in the next, rural county to buy goat milk for his own family and would bring some for me. It was expensive but I felt it was necessary.

          Evidently those goats ate all sorts of weeds and their milk was pretty smelly and strong-tasting, and yet my usually very picky child was willing to drink it. So that’s my experience of goat milk, and is probably not the case if the goat milk is kind of the point of having them and not a side product of using them to control noxious weeds.

          1. Rainy*

            Oh, they eat the weeds whether that’s why you got them or not! Goat milk has a definite whang to it, although it’s usually only smelly if they’ve been eating wild garlic, which they only do for a week or two in early spring. We used all of that milk for cheese.

            Goats are great partners with sheep or cows because they will eat grass if that’s all there is but they prefer weeds, vines, shrubs–they’re browsers, not grazers, for preference. They also take down poison ivy–they love it and will literally eat it right out of existence in your pastures. :)

            1. allathian*

              Cool!

              Goats will eat pretty much anything.

              Apparently horses will eat the green parts of Christmas trees, ours are usually spruce.

              My maternal grandma had a small dairy farm when I was a kid, and I loved the fresh, untreated milk. Now I don’t drink any milk, and prefer the skimmed stuff in my coffee.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      1. There are single serve milk bottles (8 oz?). I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten one at a regular grocery store, but I’ve definitely seen them in gas station convenience stores.
      2. Ultra pasturized milk lasts longer. Not sure how much longer.
      3. Heavy cream doesn’t expire for like a month or two. You should be able to go through a pint of that in plenty of time.

    4. Sloanicota*

      This is maybe weird but if you ever see those packs of shelf-stable organic milk boxes, like for kids lunches? Horizon organic I think? Anyway, they have a little straw and are single-serve, and they last a loooong time. One, once opened, lasts me a week if I’m only using a squirt in a cup or two of coffee, but they usually come in a six-pack.

      1. Bluebell*

        Yes, those little boxes of milk are super helpful to have. Our family has a cabin, so on weekends where we get there Saturday afternoon and will be leaving Sunday night, we just take one tiny box of milk to have our coffee.

    5. ThatGirl*

      Cream/half and half lasts a lot longer than regular milk – if you buy a quart and use it every day I don’t think it will go bad.

    6. Maggie*

      You can freeze milk and it totally retains its integrity so you could split it up into a couple containers. I had this problem too but my corner store now sells quarts which I can get through!

    7. Clare*

      Can you make other foods with it that you can either eat or give away? The classic choice is yoghurt since you’re basically just letting it go ‘bad’ with your choice of bacteria. But custard, ice cream, butter and just about every category of baked goods under the sun can also help you churn through your milk (pun intended).

      Funny story. Home made butter is extremely easy with high-fat milk. All you need to do is agitate it for long enough and voila. When my Father was little he went for a long walk with some friends and he didn’t feel like drinking plain water, so he put milk into his drink bottle and stuffed it down into his pack. When they arrived arrived at their destination, the excited young boy pulled out his tasty treat to discover the milk was all watery and full of icky chunks! He’d churned it into butter as he bumped along the track haha

    8. office hobbit*

      One option could be to buy those little half and half capsules that they have at restaurants. They have them at some grocery stores or at restaurant supply stores if you have any near you.

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        I buy mine at Target. I got tired of wasting so much half and half, but still want to have the occasional cup of coffee at home.

      2. Trina*

        And at least some brands don’t need to be refrigerated, so you could even keep them in a bag if you’re ever making the coffee not actually at home.

    9. AcademiaNut*

      If you buy half and half in 250 ml cartons, and use it daily, you’ll finish it up before it goes off. I can go through 500 ml as the only coffee drinker. It’ll often be good well past the “best by” date – just give it a sniff. Heavy cream keeps longer, but I find it rather greasy in coffee.

      If you have some to use up, use it in cooking – cream soup, or a sauce. A bit of half and half drizzled over fruit desserts (berry pie, apple crumble) is good as well.

    10. HannahS*

      How about ice cubes? Freeze your milk, then put the cubes in a ziplock. A single cube would probably bring boiling hot coffee to a drinkable temperature.

    11. coffeeanon*

      I was always under the impression that milk doesn’t freeze very well, so good to know it does ok!
      I like soy milk but have the same issue where I just can’t use it up fast enough. I basically stopped drinking milk after childhood and it weirds me out a little, even non-dairy milk. I have a diet that really doesn’t incorporate that much dairy at all, nor do I bake, hence why I’m here struggle busing through a quart before it goes bad. Thanks all for the suggestions!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        French toast and milk/cheese pasta sauces are 2 easy ways to use up milk.

        And I just made whole-milk kefir for the first time– followed the recipe to do a gallon in the instant pot, then pulled some off and did an experiment in a quart just in the jar in the kitchen. (A few hours near where something else was boiling, then just at my chilly house temps.) I think I poured off too much whey because it’s not tangy, but otherwise it’s a success for using up excess milk.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I forgot to add that if you split the milk into smaller clean jars, you can extend its fridge-life because there will be less exposure. Canning jars are ideal, especially with the internet selling us specialized caps and pour spouts. Avoid plastic, and avoid jars that had soy sauce, non-distilled vinegar, or other fermented products. I learned this long ago by ruining a few bottles of an otherwise nice homebrewed beverage.

    12. Jay*

      If non-dairy creamer is out of the question, then have you tried sweetened condensed milk? It lasts for an insane amount of time in the fridge and comes in both small cans and very convenient pouches. A little goes a long way.

      1. Clisby*

        That might be fine for someone who wants coffee sweetened. For those of us who think “Eww … no sugar”, not so much.

    13. Ellis Bell*

      Milk freezes perfectly well, so just pour the amount you want into a container and freeze the rest.

    14. English Rose*

      Going along with everyone who recommends freezing it. I discovered during the pandemic that milk freezes really well. Get a few smaller containers to decant and thaw one that will last a few days.

    15. The bean moves on*

      I’m the only one in my household that takes their coffee with creamer and I buy the pints. I’ve never had an issue with it going bad. But I’m a daily coffee drinker. Some times I buy a quart of oat milk, and i haven’t had an issue with that either, but I tend to use more oat milk than creamer in a given coffee mug.

    16. Southern Girl*

      Plain soy milk, or sweetened or chocolate if you prefer, has a very long shelf life even after being opened. I find it is very similar to dairy milk. You can also use it in recipes that call for milk. I have used it for years, after having regularly thrown out half of the cows milk I bought.

    17. mreasy*

      You can get milk in the teeny containers intended for lunchboxes. That’s what I do whenever I need a little bit for cooking. However, half and half can keep for quite awhile due to the fat conte t, so if that’s your style the pint container might work out fine.

    18. Dwight Schrute*

      try the lactose free versions! lactaid brand stuff always lasts much longer than regular dairy products in my experience

    19. Lady Alys*

      I buy pints of heavy cream, add a splash to my coffee, and give it a good mix with one of those little frother thingies. I think doing the blending helps keep the coffee from feeling “greasy” (a problem mentioned by someone earlier in this thread). A pint will last a few weeks, and I’ve never had it go bad.

    20. Anonymous Koala*

      Echoing the comments recommending half an half or cream – in my experience it lasts about 3 weeks in the fridge. Another option if you have a high speed blender is hemp milk – I make it as needed with 1 tbsp of hemp seeds, 1 date, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup of hot water, and it lasts a few days in the fridge. You could probably scale the recipe up/down depending on your blender. A friend of mine does this with almond butter in place of the hemp seeds to make almond milk.

    21. Anono-me*

      Reddit whip- Keeps forever just rinse off the top with hot water every few sprays. (It also comes in flavored versions. )

    22. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Like others have said, I’ve bought packs of milk boxes (like juice boxes) to use at work, particularly handy to only refrigerate one at a time, and even handier when I was teleworking two days a week and so didn’t use that much of it. I also bought 8-12oz bottles of refrigerated whole milk from beverage coolers to use for creamer at work. I don’t think I ever had to throw out any milk using those two sources, even when I was only in the office 2-3 days a week.

      If you really want to make sure it’ll never go bad, get powdered/dry milk. I don’t like it as much as the previous solutions, but I used to buy it long ago when I wanted a cheap creamer that would last, and it has no added sugar or corn syrup solids.

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

      Fat-free half and half is ultra pasteurized and lasts a really long time.

    24. heythere*

      Lactaid milk tastes great and lasts months longer (the use by date is often like two months). I buy it specifically for this reason — only person in my household who uses milk and I only use it for coffee

    25. Jay*

      Sorry, couldn’t find my original post, or I would have put it under that, but, quick question:
      Is there any reason that you cannot HAVE dairy?
      If you can have it, then, how about looking up some recipes that you can use milk or cream in, so that it doesn’t go to waste, but just turns into a tasty treat? If you use heavy cream, you can make homemade whipped cream and that is good on ALL THE THINGS. If you use milk, things like cereal, oatmeal or mac and cheese are pretty standard, reliable options.

      1. coffeeanon*

        I come from a background that really doesn’t use that much dairy and as a result I just don’t like eating a lot of dishes that usually use milk. Drinking it straight up just…weirds me out. I don’t bake. Have gone literally decades without using milk. None of it is rational, but that’s why I have this problem/why I don’t have milk in the first place. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    26. carcinization*

      My mom uses evaporated milk in her coffee for this reason. It comes in tiny cans so I think you could use it up in time, and it’s not powdered or alternative!

      1. Rose is a rose is a rose*

        Evaporated milk! Not condensed milk. Comes in a can, keeps well in the fridge once opened. My go-to when I lived somewhere with minimal refrigeration.

    27. Elizabeth West*

      I buy the quart half-and-half cartons with the round screw-on lids and never open the sides. I drink coffee every morning and they seem to last okay as long as I put the lid back on tight.

    28. Seeking Second Childhood*

      So my kefir experiment was a success but I can make it faster than I’ll drink it.

      I first thought about freezing milk in silicone muffin pan— easy to pop out tp store in freezer bags.

      Then I realized I can just freeze it in jelly jars, at least after I make space in the freezer door.

      Thanks for asking this!

    29. ecnaseener*

      In my experience, ultra-pasteurized half-and-half lasts really long past its expiration date! When it gets past its date, start pouring it into a separate container instead of directly into the coffee so you can smell it before putting it in the coffee. I live alone and have never had h&h last long enough to actually spoil.

    30. PhyllisB*

      I haven’t read all the comments, so if this has been suggested, forgive me. I don’t know where you live so I don’t know what options are available for you, but where I live you can buy half and half in a one pint carton. It lasts surprisingly long. However, if you’re concerned about freshness you can divide and freeze half of it. It holds up very well. If you don’t want to do that, you can use it in cooking. I Always use it for mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.. My stepfather used to use it for his cereal. If that tastes too rich thin with some milk.

    31. MaryLoo*

      Keep the milk in the far back of your refrigerator behind other items. It stays consistently colder because it’s less affected by the fridge door opening and closing. Do not keep it in the fridge door, even if your fridge has door shelves for it

    32. And thanks for the coffee*

      I had a similar problem. I love some half and half in my coffee, but use so little that I’d waste half of a pint of the long lasting half and half. I finally started ordering 24 count packages of the little cups of half and half like you find at restaurants. $2.76 the last time I bought this. I use about 1/2 of each per mug of coffee. This has solved my problem. Good luck in finding what will work for you.

    33. coffeeanon*

      I tried to make yogurt from the bulk of the milk but seem to be unsuccessful. :( Thin and runny, I think it’s too cold to properly incubate.

    34. Izzy the Cat*

      Ultra pasturized milk!! It is regular milk but with expiry dates that are MUCH longer. This is the only “regular” milk we buy in my house.

    35. Samwise*

      You can freeze milk. Separate it into containers that will hold enough for one week, allowing room to expand at the top.

    36. Voluptuousfire*

      Buy a pint of half and half and look for later dates. I’m a single household and can take a solid month to go through a quart of half and half. That’s coffee every day, usually one cup.

      Also if you have Costco, get your half and half there. It’s usually a $1.99 for a quart, so if you’re worried about tossing it out, it’s less of a worry since it’s $2.

  15. Chaordic One*

    I have dairy allergies and buy lactose-free milk. Usually I buy the “Lactaid” brand, but for some reason, it seems to me, that lactose-free milks usually have a longer use-by date and tend to stay fresh longer than regular milk. Before I was diagnosed I used to buy “Horizon” brand organic milk and it also usually had a longer use-by date and tended to stay fresh longer than regular milk.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        For more fun nesting fails, look up photos of mourning dove nests. (They always cheer me up whenever I start feeling impostor syndrome, lol.)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          The guy at the YouTube site Across the Pond has a great video about a mourning dove building its “nest” outside his window.

        2. Snell*

          I tried a simple Google image search and didn’t come up with anything too out there, but with a little deeper digging, found the stupid dove nests subreddit, where I found out about the Youtube channel Faucons Pèlerins Illkirch, which shows cameras of a peregrine falcon nest.

          Maybe you noticed that a peregrine falcon nest is not a mourning dove nest. Well, this year, one pigeon had a dream. The aforementioned subreddit features a photo that exhibits the pigeon’s acute survival instincts (this is sarcasm).

          “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvOzGksL_Z0
          Highlight at 1:01 when the falcon assumes ferociously broody hen posture.

          Falcon delivers well-deserved, methodical, savage beating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WUbrCC_pOI

    1. Clare*

      Warning for those who’ve never tried it: lactose free milk gets that way by adding lactase enzymes into the milk. They break the lactose down into glucose. So it’s not less healthy (your body does the same) but it does taste sweeter. If you add sweetener to your coffee, try a little less with lactose free milk, and if you don’t usually add sweetner – be warned – it will taste a tiny bit sweet.

      1. Chaordic One*

        This is not really something that I ever consciously thought about, but you’re right. Lactose-free milk does indeed taste a tiny bit sweet (sweeter than plain milk). Thank you for explaining the reasons for this.

    2. Girasol*

      That stuff is wonderful. At the start of covid, when grocery stores here offered no delivery or pickup, I shopped masked and only once a month. Lactaid, I discovered, lasts six weeks and more.

  16. houseDecisions*

    How can I tell if a mortgage broker is a good person to work with? The person I’m talking to seems nice and knowledgeable, but I want to double-check. I can google in general and maybe check the Better Business Beauru. What else should I do?

    1. Lbd*

      Real estate agents and notary publics (do the legal paperwork for real estate transactions here) might know of someone. If you have a business relationship with somebody in one of those fields, they might have a recommendation, or might know something about the broker you want to work with.
      Good luck!

    2. Bluebell*

      The first mortgage broker we used was recommended by our real estate agent. When it came time to refinance, we knew someone in town through another relationship with her, and gave her a try. It worked out really well. If your town has a Facebook group or email group, you could definitely ask for recommendations there, or feedback on a particular broker.

    3. Nervous Nellie*

      The CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a whole section on their site for Consumer Education/Mortgages. It answers questions about the rules mortgage servicers must comply with, how to review brokers’ credentials, and how to check if there have been any disciplinary actions against them:

      https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/is-there-any-way-i-can-check-to-see-if-the-company-or-person-i-contact-is-permitted-to-make-or-broker-mortgage-loans-en-133/

    4. Nervous Nellie*

      I’ve sent in a comment here with a link to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau site – it should appear soon. That agency has lots of helpful guidance for you about checking if your broker has any disciplinary action against them, and ensuring they comply with certain requirements. Good luck to you!

    5. Kay*

      If you know a good escrow officer they will be your best resource. I would take their word over a real estate agent, but if you know a good agent that might help as well. Unfortunately, in my experience, there really isn’t any resource better than insider industry information.

    6. Boof*

      Ideally someone who will never sell your loan; things that should be taken care of (taxes/escrow) can get messed up in the transfer (among other things i’m sure, but that actually happened to us with our first mortgage). For our current one we went with a local credit union which does lack some bells and whistles (more limited open hrs, clunkier website) but is rock stable and doesn’t have any weird “gotchya” charges, generally seems more invested in being a solid service for the community than finding profits. Obviously any corp needs to stay afloat but my impression has been really good.

  17. Aphrodite*

    I feel ridiculous posting this but I am now curious enough to do so. Does anyone else do Publishers Clearing House?

    They send out a crazy number of emails each day with links to all their various games and. puzzles and other things. Twice, I think, in the distant past I bought through them and it was fine but now I enter the various things they offer.

    I’ve reached the next-to-the-top token level which has its own challenges that can be fun if mindless. Of course, I dream of winning the big prize or any prize but other than a $5 one I have not. I don’t pin dreams or my life on winning as I know the odds are probably on the same level as the lottery but it’s fun to think about how I would give notice at my job if I did win. (Somewhere between a five-minute and five-day notice, probably closer to the former since I want to retire anyway and couldn’t care less about any references.)

    I have no interest in cars, boats, planes, cruises, and 1,000 meals, or any other silly things. But I would love to support a bunch of cat shelters, pay vets who volunteer their services in emergencies to help cats, and live as I do now. Well, maybe I’d hire a private chef to prepare (and clean up) dinners. I’d give up any cooking except for breakfast immediately.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      My grandmother did Publishers Clearing House until she was almost 90! We had a lot of fun with it as a family. :) Seeing PCH mentioned always gives me happy nostalgia.

      I would love to support a bunch of cat shelters, pay vets who volunteer their services in emergencies to help cats, and live as I do now.

      Aww, I love this!! <3 I donate to our local low-cost spay and neuter clinic. I'm so glad places like that exist!

      Well, maybe I’d hire a private chef to prepare (and clean up) dinners. I’d give up any cooking except for breakfast immediately.

      Same! I’d also hire a full-time housekeeper.

    2. Fastest Thumb in the West*

      I won $1000 from them back in the mid 90’s. I haven’t played in a very long time.

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

    I’m a boomer and woke up this morning as the proud owner of a teenager. He and his friends are so different than my generation.

    It will be fun tracking the quantities of Tylenol I will need this year.

    1. peanut butter*

      good luck with that, and happy birthday. prepare to be very wrong about so many things. so very many things. Also, marvel at the wonder that is a teenager’s appetite – I still can’t get over how much mine eats.

      I’m just about to no longer have a teenager, but she can still throw an epic tantrum; being 2 never really goes away, I guess.

    2. Double A*

      I’ve been teaching teenagers for the past 15 years; I enjoy them a lot. As a teacher I’m marginally less of an idiot than parents, mostly. Or at least I am not told to my face. One thing that surprises me about modern teenagers is how good they are. Sometimes I want to tell them to live a little more. I hope their parents will let them before they never learn how.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      Congratulations on your shiny new teenager! I was sort of braced for anything when mine hit the teen years, but they continued to be the great people they always had. Everything was fine except for a very occasional moment of “omg here’s a situation you have NEVER, EVER even thought of how to handle, think fast, what are you going to do?”

    4. allathian*

      I hear you, my son’s 14. It’s fun, he’s a great kid. I must admit that I enjoy having an older kid much more than I thought I would. His friends are good people, too.

    5. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Also a boomer. Teenagers are awesome. Mine is past that stage – about to turn 24 – and I miss it. Loved watching her mind stretch and grow and watch her learn about relationships and start to put her values into action. It helped that I had absolutely no illusions about or desire to have control over her and focused most of my energy pre-teenage years on building a solid relationship so she trusted me. This required biting my tongue about some of what she chose to do and it was worth every single moment of struggle to hear “Mom, it’s so weird that my friends can’t talk to their parents about (sex/drugs/relationships/politics/etc). I don’t get it.”

      Enjoy!

    6. Clisby*

      Boomer here, too, and teenagers are a lot of fun! I was 55 when my daughter turned 13, and 61 when my son turned 13.

      Although, I’ve never thought any particular age was better than others – it always seemed like the age they were was just right.

    7. Winter*

      Teens are the sweetest and the best. I have two girls, 17 and 14 and it’s my favourite age by far. I love their friends too, one day I’d like to foster teens.

      They are hilarious and thoughtful and interesting and loving. They have big emotions and need big support at times but getting to know the people they are becoming is my favourite thing I’ve ever done.

    8. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I have three teenagers at they moment. Based on this sample + their friends I am so proud of this generation. They are much kinder and empathetic then I remember teenagers being in the 1990s. They are a lot more open to expressing their feelings (I regularly hear my boys say ‘i love you’ to their mates), and put work into being good people. I’ve learnt a lot and I’m grateful for it.

      * they are also emotional, busy, hungry and all round a lot of work but that’s probably not a surprise!

      1. AGD*

        Agreed. I teach young adults and the difference relative to when I was that age is astounding! They’re so aware. Of each other, of societal messages and gender roles and inequality, of how to see through nonsense.

    9. allathian*

      Funny thing about boomers, because I’m in Finland, and here the term refers to the literal baby boomer generation born between 1945 and 1955. Most of these are grandparents or great-grandparents of teenagers. They won’t be parents of teenagers unless it’s by adoption (unlikely even then, most adoption agencies here specify that an adoptive parent can’t be more than 40 years older than their kid, so a 48 year old could adopt an 8 year old, but not an infant).

  19. WoodswomanWrites*

    Completely random question here, something that popped into my mind after reading the other thread discussing couples getting engaged and sometimes calling it off.

    I’ve been a guest at many weddings and they were lovely. But occasionally in the news are those weddings where everything is in place and then one member of the couple doesn’t go through with it. That made me think about what I would do if I were a guest in that awkward situation.

    So I’m asking out of curiosity… has anyone here ever been a guest at a wedding that at the last-minute didn’t occur? What happened next?

    1. Pop*

      My best friend was. One party cheated on another and it came out the night before the wedding. About half of the room knew what was happening at the rehearsal and half didn’t. Ultimately it was for the best as there were some red flags with the couple but the whole weekend (most guests had to travel) was not an amazing time for anyone involved.

    2. Jackalope*

      I wasn’t a guest, but someone that I knew had a similar situation. Her fiancé called it off just a couple of days before the wedding, out of the blue (at least it was for her, but prob not for him). I appreciated her and her family’s response a lot. They decided that since everyone had non refundable plane tickets and hotels and they’d paid a lot for the site and catering and such, they’d just have a big family reunion and enjoy spending time together anyway. So they had a grand gigantic fancy party and then everyone went home.

      1. Elle Woods*

        I had a similar experience except the guests all lived locally. One of my dad’s cousins (“Jane”) was getting married and called off the wedding two days beforehand. Jane’s parents and siblings burned up the phone lines letting everyone know that the wedding wasn’t going to occur but the reception was still on. I was about 8 years old at the time, so I don’t remember all the details but I do remember it was a really fun party.

    3. ThatGirl*

      No, but I was at a wedding that should not have happened – the bride was in love with someone else, who mouthed “I love you” to her as she walked down the aisle. First marriage lasted less than a year.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Incredible. That sounds like the final wedding scene in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    4. allathian*

      One cousin canceled her wedding after the save the date cards had been sent, so instead of wedding invites, guests got “unsave the date” instead.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I know someone who had to cancel after the invites were sent out – the groom changed his mind. Somehow she’s the kind of person these dramatic things happen to! Still, I felt for her. I was also a bridesmaid in a wedding where the bride and groom fought bitterly all night, including the groom storming out to go smoke in the parking lot where he had to be retrieved by the best man in time for speeches. I didn’t think that boded well – but to my surprise, they’ve been married something like ten years and have two kids, seemingly happy enough, so I’m just assuming the stress of the day got the better of them.

    6. Phryne*

      Not quite ‘before the altar ‘ last minute, but I was to be witness for the bride at my oldest friend’s wedding. About 2 months before the wedding took place they split up. They had been together for about 16 years, so I think in hindsight the decision to get married was an attempt to save a relationship that had already run it’s course and it was for the best that things came to a head before and not after it took place.

    7. Cedrus Libani*

      The only cancelled wedding I’ve ever seen was my own…March 22, 2020. You can guess what happened. It was fine; not a heartbreak, just a headache. We got married 18 months later.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Hah! One of my friends got married in the autumn of 2020 and the government had just dictated that there could be up to 30 guests at a wedding. So he was really happy he would only have to fork out for half his planned guests! Their honeymoon cruise took place in 2022 and had to be rearranged twice, but to be frank I think that just meant they appreciated it more when they finally got to go on it.

        It was a nice day and a bit of cheer in between lockdowns. We were all sensible but made the most of a night away before the winter closed in around us and we all went into effective hibernation.

    8. GythaOgden*

      No, but the priest who married us also did the funeral ceremony for the groom almost exactly three years later :(. I got him to do both because his sermons are amazing and both compassionate and theologically insightful, and he has been a part of my spiritual journey for most of my adult life, but I felt bad later on because it did hit him hard as well.

  20. Weekend Warrior*

    I really need to hear some good news stories about weird allergies that were finally identified and hopefully even resolved.
    I posted a while ago about being sensitive/allergic to all shampoos I’ve tried after my go to Neutrogena Anti-Residue was discontinued. Yep, even Free & Clear. I have a stash of the Neutrogena and am still trying samples from friends, working with a cosmetics formulator to try to figure out a custom formula, and seeing an allergist in March. So far nothing has worked out and I would love to hear some encouraging stories!

    1. Not A Manager*

      Are you okay with castille soap? There are a lot of homemade shampoo recipes online that are based on castille soap and some optional additions.

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        May have to try down the road but these homemade shampoos can be quite harsh, contain allergens, lack proper preservatives, etc.

        1. Clisby*

          I used to wash my hair with Kirk’s Castile Soap. I really liked it, but there were no allergies in play. I used to be able to buy it at the grocery store, but not within recent years.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Castile soap need not be homemade — Dr.Bronner’s even has an unscented.

          It may be worth listing all ingredients in the ones you’ve reacted to so you can find a common thread. A friend did that with deodorants to land on Tom’s of Maine roll-on.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I should have scrolled farther… I just saw your mention of a spreadsheet.

    2. Chaordic One*

      I may have posted this before, but there is the story of my cousin, “Jean.” Jean came down with a terrible cold (fever, chills, cough, red swollen eyes, runny nose, and sneezing). She took a lot of of cold medicine and used boxes and boxes of Kleenex-type disposable tissues. The worst of the cold passed after about a week or so, but not the swollen eyes, the runny nose or the sneezing and she continued to go through boxes of tissues. After a couple of months of this, during which time she visited several different doctors who all told her she just needed to give herself more time to get over it. Then, after three lemons, a fourth doctor figured out that she probably was having an allergic reaction to something. But what? Testing showed that she was allergic to Kleenex-type disposable tissues. So she stopped using them and, for the most part, her runny nose, sneezing and swollen eyes went away. When she needs to blow her nose she now uses cloth handkerchiefs.

      1. Becky S*

        That is ironic!! Who would guess?
        I knew someone who lived in the NJ Pine Barrens who developed an allergy to pine pollen.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Apparently it’s quite common to develop spontaneous allergy, or at least skin reaction, to neosporin and similar ointments, meaning you think the wound isn’t healing but really it’s the cream itself.

          1. Huh*

            That explains why whenever I’ve had a mole or something removed in the past few years, the dermatologist always gives me a small packet of aquaphor to put on the “wound,” instead of neosporin!

          2. Generic Name*

            Yup, that happened to me. I’m allergic to one of the antibiotics in triple antibiotic creams.

      2. Weekend Warrior*

        Thanks! Exactly what I was looking for. Very glad your cousin got an answer to the mystery!

    3. Kara*

      Is sidestepping the problem by going No Poo an option? The name is awful (why not No Shampoo?!), but I’ve heard good things about this particular hair cleaning method. Research it first; I’m told there’s a few things that can catch you by surprise in the beginning, plus there’s a transition period as your hair gets used to not having all its natural oils stripped constantly (assuming a US-normal hair washing interval).

      1. Heather Crackers*

        Don’t do this if you have fine hair, meaning the individual strands are small. During my curly journey, I gave it a shot and started balding. Turns out that frequent washing is necessary for most fine hair, because any little bit of sebum clogging the follicle can kill it and lead to hair fall. My dermatologist went on a rant about “listening to internet b*llshit” and told me off. (Not aggressively, she was just frustrated, and we laughed about it.)

        1. Sloanicota*

          Interesting! I wonder if this is my problem – I notice thinning of my already-thinning hair. Were you not washing at all, or washing with alternate shampoo that is less cleansing, if I can ask? I do still shower every other day but I use a no-poo kind of product.

          1. Heather Crackers*

            No-poo and low-poo were both part of my attempts, as well as regular shampoos that met CGM guidelines. Per the dermatologist, I now use an unscented gentle clarifying shampoo in combination with a prescription ketoconazole shampoo (basically a souped-up Nizoral). This is very specific for my personal needs because I have extremely hard well water and psoriasis (on top of having fine curls that apparently need to be sweet-talked to keep them from jumping clean off my head).

            Also I only just realized that I censored the wrong part of the word in my original reply. How incredibly dumb.

        2. Weekend Warrior*

          Yeah, I don’t think this would be a good idea for my “thine” hair. There is a lot of “internet bullsh*t” out there and no magic answers to obscure allergies. I get why people want to believe there is though. I sure wish there was!

      2. Clisby*

        I didn’t go no-shampoo, but my hair definitely benefited from fewer washings. I now wash my hair every 7-9 days. I’m in the US, but don’t know what a US-normal interval would be. I’d think it would depend on the hair – mine is really dry.

    4. Anonymous Koala*

      Apologies if you’ve already tried this, but have you considered calling Neutrogena and seeing if they’ll let you speak with someone in formulation who could recommend another product? I don’t have much experience doing this with consumer products, but I used to run into this issue with discontinued products for work all the time and often the company would be able to recommend an alternative product that I could test as a decent starting point. Neutrogena might be able to recommend a product in their line with the same ingredients, or even a competitor.

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        Yes, have contacted Neutrogena Customer Support as have many others. There’s even a Change.org petition out there pleading for the return of this product. :) I haven’t been able to speak to anyone “expert” but all alternative products suggested by Customer Support irritate my scalp and/or cause my scalp and face to itch and my chest to tighten. Many shampoos have recently reformulated due to supply issues and PR concerns about certain ingredients, e.g. sulfates, preservatives. The new formulations are probably better for some people but the replacement ingredients are worse for others like me. I have a giant spreadsheet of ingredients and haven’t been able to isolate what is setting me off. :(

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

      Could you maybe be allergic to salicylates? Maybe try out the Cleure line of products and see if they work for you? www dot cleure dot com

    6. Clisby*

      I don’t know that I’d call this a weird allergy, but I had never before heard of an allergy manifesting in quite this way.

      When my daughter was 6, it became obvious she had some hearing loss. I really felt bad, because my husband and I thought she wasn’t paying attention to us and scolded her, until one day when we realized at the same moment – she can’t hear us.

      I took her to her pediatrician, who ran hearing tests and determined she had moderate hearing loss in both ears. She didn’t have any ear damage – no ear infection, no pain, no punctured eardrum, etc.

      The pediatrician said, “My best guess is this is an allergic reaction, and we’re in the height of pollen season.” (we lived in Atlanta at the time, and pollen season there can be brutal). She told me to give her Claritin, and in a week her hearing was back to normal.

      I took her back to the pediatrician for a re-check; she confirmed her hearing now was normal. I said, “But every once in a while, it still seems like she doesn’t hear us.” She said, “She’s 6. Sometimes she really isn’t paying attention to you.”

    7. sulky-anne*

      I had what I thought was a new sensitivity to hand soap and had to try all different kinds of fragrance free ones, then discovered that it was just that my skin was very dry and easily irritated. Once I sorted out that problem, I could tolerate scented hand soaps again. (I don’t particularly want my hand soap to be scented but those are cheaper and easier to find.) So it’s possible that your sensitivity is coming from an underlying issue that just gets extra irritated by some common shampoo ingredients.

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        I think this may be true. Fingers crossed that the allergist I’m seeing in March can help figure this out.

    8. Chaordic One*

      It really is disappointing that Neutrogena would discontinue their Anti-Residue Shampoo. While I don’t suffer from allergies as extreme as yours I have used the product in the past and really liked it. It’s a timeless classic! I can’t imagine what the people at Neutrogena might be thinking. I wonder if the sales were dropping or something? Or maybe they just weren’t marketing the product very well? Fortunately for me, there are other products that I’m able to use.

      1. Clisby*

        I use a paste of baking soda and water to remove shampoo residue. My daughter and son swear by it, too.

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have an unopened Neutrogena Anti-Residue that’s still in the box which I’m not at all invested in keeping, and I would happily send it to you to add to your stash if you want. Email me if you want it!

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        Aw, that’s so kind. I have spent $$ buying up anything I can find from Amazon and EBay resellers. Quality is not always A+. I’ll email you and we can see if it’ll be worth the hassle for you. Having a stash buys me time to figure this out.

    10. Mari*

      I also have a strong scent sensitivity/allergy and am limited in what shampoos I can use. At some point I developed an itchy scalp problem, went to a dermatologist and was told to use medicated shampoo. I explained my problem and she was able to tell me which recommended shampoo was unscented. I now have it in rotation with the other unscented shampoo I can use. I’m not in the US, so can’t recommend brands, but maybe a dermatologist could help?

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        Yes! My GP is sending me to an allergist first but I figure a dermatologist is in my future. Glad this worked out for you! I’ve had bad luck with unscented Free & Clear and also Neutral but I continue to kiss as many frogs as possible hoping to find that prince. :)

    11. E*

      Have you tried DIY vinegar (or baking soda + vinegar rinse)? My friend swears by it. I didn’t love it for my texture or the vinegar smell (it doesn’t really last in your hair but you DEF smell it in the shower). but might help buy you time if your stash runs out

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        My sister uses this as she has the same issues as me but can’t tolerate the Neutrogena. May be in my future!

    12. Virtual Light*

      Allergy tests were key for me in a similar situation. After covering my whole back with tiny dots of things my skin might be reacting to, they discovered that I am now allergic to two ingredients that are in most liquid soap formulations. I got an app that lists products that I am NOT allergic to, and switched to bar shampoo in the end. The dermatologist wanted that info before she prescribed any course of action. Best of luck!!

        1. Virtual Light*

          If you get super-frustrated it might be worth looking at bar shampoos with minimal ingredients in the meantime, as they have completely different formulations from liquid shampoos. I use one of the Dr. Liggetts shampoo bars and am interested to try the ones from the Unscented Company. I also just tried a conditioner bar from Camamu that works really well.

          Change with allergies is so hard and I sympathize.

    13. Anti SLS*

      I had dandruff until I started to avoid SLS and cocomidopropyl betaine in my shampoo – it went away completely on its own and has never returned knock on wood. It’s the only thing that worked – I tried ALL the anti-dandruff shampoos, including prescription shampoo from the dermatologist, and nothing working until I ditched SLS and cocomidopropyl betaine. They are very harsh surfactants, not good if you are sensitive or have dry skin to begin with. Have you tried a shampoo with milder surfactants like glucosides? I’d recommend trying to eliminate sulfates if you haven’t already, and also avoiding aloe leaf juice as an ingredient in shampoo, which sometimes comes in formulations that use glucosides as surfactants.

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        Glad this worked out for you. Those ingredients are for sure irritating to many people but they are in the Anti Residue shampoo that I can tolerate. This is what’s so frustrating! I can’t find any easy answer as to why the Neutrogena works for me and other shampoos don’t. I have worked with a cosmetic formulator to try to recreate the Anti Residue formula from the publicly listed ingredients but had a very bad reaction. I probably need lab grade ingredients and not the ones you can buy as a hobbyist as I may be allergic to some by-product of production. Fingers crossed that the allergist’s tests can pinpoint what is going on.

  21. WoodswomanWrites, rental/Turo car options*

    Two years in advance, I heard about the extended solar eclipse coming to North America on April 8. I booked an Airbnb in the center of totality in an open area a couple hours from Austin, Texas. I’ve also got my flight set. But I underestimated the lead time required for renting a car.

    In the past couple months, I’ve tried every mainstream rental company I can find and looked through Costco, Expedia, etc. but everything is sold out. The only local place I’ve found near the airport has abysmal reviews and I could end up stranded. I’m looking into Turo, the equivalent of Airbnb for cars, because it’s all I’m finding. I’m not thrilled about that option for insurance reasons, but it might be all I’ve got.

    Any experiences with Turo you can share? Or suggestions I may not have thought of for finding a rental?

    1. Not A Manager*

      I like Turo. I know exactly what car I’m getting, the owners are usually responsive, and they’ll deliver to your door for a fee. I have not had any bad experiences with them.

    2. Lynn*

      We have rented our vehicle on Turo, so this is coming from the opposite direction- but I’ve found it to be a very friendly platform.

      Just like for AirBnb – consistent good reviews is a green flag. Prompt and friendly communication from the car owner is a big green flag too. Send a message and ask a question or two before booking to feel them out.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Keep checking in on the rental, as they will try to move vehicles in. For the ’17 eclipse I initially booked a pickup truck from one of the standard companies (Hertz?) because it was the only thing available, but once we got there they offered us a standard sedan as an alternative.

      I highly recommend exactly what you’re doing, totality in person.

    4. No Tribble At All*

      Had a great time renting a test electric car through Turo! We checked the mileage allowed and drove it nearly 400 miles.

    5. Dr. Doll*

      thanks for posting this because I’m kind of afraid my husband is going to want to see the eclipse from Austin and it’s clearly a no go.

    6. Janet*

      I’ve actually had very positive experience with Turo! Specifically have used it in ATX multiple times, never had any issues. Of course, since everything went smoothly I’m not sure how it goes if something does go wrong and you need the insurance or anything.

      1. Maybeanonfornow*

        Many of my friends used Turo although I never did. From what I understand if it goes well it’s great but if there’s any little problem, they will back up the car owner 1000% over the person who is renting. So if you have even any minor, scuffle or damage, or there’s something wrong with the car when you get it and the owner won’t admit it, you’ve lost your money.

    7. California Dreamin’*

      Not answering your question but I’m glad you posted because we just heard about the upcoming eclipse last week, and we’re going to happen to be in Boston the day before. I was like maybe we should extend the trip by a couple days and drive up to Vermont to be in the path of totality. Luckily my kids didn’t want to miss school for that, because it sounds like we probably would’ve been way too late to find lodging!

    8. Pippa K*

      Don’t know if this would work for you but U-haul rents small pickup trucks for about $20 a day, and they can be a good fallback when regular car rental companies have nothing available.

    9. LA Girl*

      I used Turo very successfully in Hawaii right as the state was opening up post-lockdown and before the rental agencies had restocked their fleets.

      We had a better experience with a junky-looking older car, because the owner was more relaxed. The brand new SUV we rented on another island came with a very fussy owner who demanded we wash the car before returning it (a hassle in an unfamiliar city), and we felt nervous driving it.

      But overall, an easy experience. I’d recommend renting a model you’re familiar with.

      Btw, good on you for pre planning for the eclipse! That’s one of my bucket list things but I didn’t move fast enough for April and now I can’t afford to get away. Enjoy, and tell us about it!

    10. ConfusedAcademic*

      We have used Turo multiple times, in different states, and never had a problem. Read reviews and dig for the car that’s right for you. Look for owners that are responsive to questions–that’s always served us well.

    11. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      No advice for your car issues.

      I had a wonderful experience with the last total eclipse, which I watched in my backyard.

      A friend of mine traveled 3 hours to see it, but a cloud ruined the totality. Hope your day has clear skies and you ave a fantastic experience!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yep, I was lucky that my mom lived right in the path of totality for the 2017 eclipse. Two good friends of mine from Europe were traveling to see that and other things at the time and we all met up at her house along with my uncle. It’s worth seeing at least once — a very unearthly experience.

        I don’t know if I’ll make it to this one, but at least I’ve seen it. Bucket list item unlocked. :)

    12. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m glad to hear about all these positive experiences with Turo. I wouldn’t have thought about people being pickier with new cars that they want washed before returning. I’ll go ahead and book something while I still have options.

      I’ll be interested in hearing other people’s experiences watching the eclipse so that sound like a fun weekend thread come April.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I have a fiction recommendation for you to entertain yourself with while you wait. Look for the Connie Willis short story “And Come from Miles Around”. It’s from the point of view of a stressed mother of a three year old who have both been brought along on astronomy-buff dad’s total eclipse dream trip. Be prepared for the Connie Willis trademark whimsical chaos, it throws some people. Trust the process; it’s going somewhere.

    13. Donkey Hotey*

      We used Turo once in Hawaii and it felt like I was driving a stranger’s car, not the feeling i get from a rental car.

      But if you’re only going out and back, perhaps do without a car and just get a Lyft to and from?

  22. Might Be Spam*

    How do you feel when your adult children go home after an extended visit and you don’t know when you will see them again? What do you do to feel better?

    It’s been ten years and I still get teary when my son goes home after the holidays, or I come home after visiting him. I get teary as soon as he starts packing, but he doesn’t know it.

    I’m going to drop him off at the airport early tomorrow and will probably sniffle all the way home. I do have something planned for the evening, but I will be sad until then.

    Because of Covid, there was an unexpected two year gap in visits and that uncertainty makes it harder to say goodbye. I usually visit him in late spring, but now he travels a lot, so I don’t know when my next visit will be.

    1. Pass the Kleenex*

      I feel the same way (I have felt like that since we dropped our oldest at college 20 years ago) and I felt the same way after we’d visit my parents and left to come home. It’s good to have a project to work on, a project that takes some concentration. Also I will sometimes write a letter to them about how nice it was to see them and things I love about them. I usually cry while I’m writing it but that’s OK! We see our adult children fairly regularly now but I feel that way (and so does my spouse) even after a ending a long day together.

    2. Sloanicota*

      My mom does this. It’s very noticeable that she gets silent and gloomy as soon as talk of packing comes up, and often sniffles on the ride to the airport. It makes it a bit awkward but also I find it sweet. I do worry she needs more hobbies / distractions / pleasant things in her life to look forward to, especially because I feel like our family is always so much fuss and chaos when we’re there that she probably needs a break by the time we go.

    3. Rara Avis*

      We Zoom with my parents every weekend. Would setting that up and having that to look forward to help?

      1. Sloanicota*

        Do keep in mind though, although a parent may love to schedule a weekly zoom with their adult child, it may be hard on the child to accommodate – monthly or even biweekly would go over better, while still serving this need. My parents don’t seem to understand why my sister can’t fit them in more, but like … they’re retired, while she has two young school aged kids and their schedule is packed and chaotic and they’re running all over the place all the time with activities.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, and sometimes I wonder why. Assuming healthy familial relationships, I don’t think a monthly call is too much to ask…

    4. California Dreamin’*

      My husband’s mother cries every time we leave from visiting them (typically once a year, occasionally twice) and her tears usually cause me to tear up as well. His sisters will also get sympathy tears if they happen to be around during the departure. She has always done this, but I think now that she’s in her 80s there’s the added component of we don’t know how many more visits there will be.
      This feeling seems really normal to me as a parent. I tell people that dropping my eldest off at college across the country for the first time felt like someone was cutting off my arm. I cried every time he went back to school after a trip home. For me a lot of it is tied to the feeling I often have that everything is going too fast and I want to rewind and have my little kids again!
      I think about the best you can do is have plans for later that day that will help you move on, and then just know that the feeling is coming and know a timeline for it, so like I’m going to feel super sad after the airport, but later I’m getting drinks with Jane and then when I wake up tomorrow I will feel less melancholy.

    5. BlueMeeple*

      I don’t have children, so this isn’t directly related, but when family visits, trips or holidays come to an end, this works for me. I still miss the family time and don’t want to go back to work, but this is my list.

      – Keep in mind each day how many more days of the trip/visit are left, i.e. “today is day 2, and we have two more days then we go home.”

      – Have things planned for the week after the trip or visit, or things that need done or planned.

      – Take photos of the trip or visit, display and save them after the trip is done and then focus on something else short term, ( even something small, like household stuff).

      Everyone’s different, but I find this helps. :)

    6. Observer*

      How do you feel when your adult children go home after an extended visit and you don’t know when you will see them again? What do you do to feel better?

      Take some mental snapshots from each visit to replay later.

      But mostly, take comfort from the fact that you raised a child with the wings to fly, yet who still *wants* to be with you some of the time.

    7. GERDQueen*

      I’m the adult child that gets teary along with my Mom when I leave. I’ve had some health issues that have made visiting very difficult over the last several years and its been hard all around.

      We have weekly calls and a moderately active family text thread. When the mood strikes, we’ve had movie nights using Amazon Watch Party and similar. When we can’t visit for holidays, we’ve scheduled video calls and connected parts of the family that are further away. It’s still hard, though!

  23. Rufus Bumblesplat*

    Has anyone made their own wedding dress?

    No horror stories, please, I’m already fighting anxiety paralysis!

    I’ve made a couple of dresses before, plus a few pairs of jeans, so sewing is not completely new to me, but I’m still finding it a bit daunting. I know there will be some challenges in managing the sheer volume of fabric as I’ve never made anything floor length before.

    I didn’t want to start making it too early in case of any size/weight changes, and have set myself the goal of finishing the toile by the end of February, which then gives me 3 months to complete the proper dress by the end of May. This sounds reasonable, right? (If all else fails I do have the budget to buy myself something off the rack and attempt adjustments if it all goes horribly wrong)

    1. Shy Platypus*

      Love to sew has a podcast episode on making your own wedding dress, as one of the hosts got married this fall and made her own dress :) you might find that interesting.

      She made way more than one toile, but she mixed several patterns (2 or 3 iirc), and her dress was very adjusted and yours may be less so. I’d still readjust your timing with more time devoted to toiles, and less to the actual dress (once you’re set, the pattern will be a known quantity so you’ll be faster).

      Ymmv depending on whether (i) you know the company that carries the pattern you pick, and you know they fit your body well, (ii) you use zero or one or mix multiple patterns, (iii) you’re looking for something close-fitting or loose-fitting, and last but not least (iv) the degree to which you’re a perfectionist

        1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

          Thank you for linking to the podcast! I just listened to the episode whilst finishing making my last centerpiece. Very interesting and encouraging to hear her process, though I’m glad I have several months longer than she did. She does indeed look gorgeous, and the dress is beautifully made.

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll take a look. :)

        That’s a good point about the actual dress probably being a little quicker due to familiarity. That said I’m anticipating the final dress being a bit more time consuming as it calls for things like hand sewn hems, which I’ll probably just machine on the toile.

        The plan is one pattern, slight mod to use a zip instead of bridal buttons, and some necessary size grading which will likely require a couple of toiles to get the bodice to fit right.

        I’m somewhat fighting perfectionist tendencies, and telling myself there’s such a thing as “good enough” and frankly noone else is going to be as critical of the dress as I am.

    2. Jules the First*

      My mum made her own, and her best friend’s (which she was awkwardly still hemming in the ER waiting room on the morning of the wedding while my dad was getting a finger glued back together…it’s still the fastest they’ve ever been in and out of the ER in the 50 years they’ve been married!). My sister worked with a local seamstress to design and make her wedding dress, which was significantly cheaper than buying one off the rack.

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        Oh wow, your Mum is very dedicated! Fingers crossed I don’t have any ER visits to contend with! I hope your Dad managed to get patched up ok.

    3. Inkhorn*

      I haven’t made a wedding dress, but last year I made a double-layered 14th-century kirtle for a mediaeval festival. Based on that, five months sounds feasible – I had three and wished I had one more, largely because the pattern was designed for a very different body type and the bodice muslin turned into an epic saga. (Also because I’ve never been very good at sleeves.)

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        I didn’t realise there was a specific name for that kind of dress, thanks for the new word!

        I’m lucky in that the sleeves are very simple (off the shoulder, so no sleeve cap required), but the bodice is going to take some adjustments as my bust to waist measurements do not fall in the same pattern size.

        1. peanut butter*

          one way around the bust and waist not be5the same size is to redraw the pattern piece with the bust and waist at the right sizes and regrade the curve between them. that is one of the most common adjustments.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I didn’t make my own but my mom made mine from across the country without me being there. She made the skirt and bodice from my measurements in two separate pieces, then sent them to me and I worked with a local to do final adjustments, hemming and attaching top to bottom.

    5. English Rose*

      My sister did, and it turned out really well, even though she would probably describe herself as a medium rather than expert sewer. From what I can recall she picked a pattern which wasn’t too challenging in terms of fit (I think it had raglan rather than fitted sleeves), but still flattering. It ended up really lovely.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, I made my own wedding dress. Raw silk; it looked lovely. I think a big plus with making a wedding dress vs other clothing is that you don’t expect to wash and wear it multiple times, so having unfinished seams isn’t a big deal.

      This was after finding a gown I really liked in a magazine–it was even in the affordable dresses section!–and it was $14,000. In 1990. My dress was similar in shape but without the pretty band of tulle and flowers around the skirt.

      Generic advice re fabric is to try it in the light you expect to be in–e.g. I’ve heard of things that were lovely in the softly lit dressing room being more see-through in full sun.

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        Oh, that sounds lovely. Raw silk has a really nice texture to it.

        Yes, I’m skipping the fabric pre-washing that I’d normally do for a garment. I’m not so concerned with shrinkage as it’s never going to be washed!

        That’s a point about fabric translucency that I hadn’t thought of, thank you. It should hopefully be fine, as the pattern requires dress fabric + interlining + lining, but well worth checking, just in case. Now all I need is a sunny day!

    7. GoryDetails*

      I did, though it was a pretty simple style – I think it was from a Jessica McClintock pattern, long sleeves, floor-length, simple lines. I’d found a lovely textured white fabric that I layered on top of a simple lining, and got a long strip of (fake)-pearl-beaded ribbon/webbing to use as a belt. (I could sew fairly well – made my own shirts for years – so I was OK with some basic techniques. Would never have tackled anything with layers of lace or tulle or boning, though!)

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        Ahaha…

        Boning (check)
        Lace overlay on the bodice and godet (check)
        No tulle though!
        :’)

    8. Llellayena*

      I’m in the process of having my wedding dress made. I didn’t trust my skills with gauze/lace/crepe to do it myself, though I have made several dresses in brocade and cotton. Also, unless you’ve got an aide with equal skills to help on the fitting and hem pinning, things will get real tricky real fast! I’m contributing some effort to the process and doing any of the beading that I want on the dress, but I’m leaving the bulk of the sewing to someone else.

    9. JulieA*

      My mum was a seamstress and she made my wedding dress. Even with all her experience, she insisted on making a practice dress before she worked up the courage to cut into the tulle we picked out. It was such a lovely experience, having her pin and tuck my dress into shape, and despite her threatening to lock me in my room and starve me if I “gained so much as an ounce!” between the weeks that the dress was complete and the wedding, we had a wonderful time and talked about so many things. I cherish the dress and those memories.

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        Oh, that sounds truly wonderful, and such a special experience to have shared with your Mum.

    10. Cynthia*

      That timeline sounds very reasonable! I sewed my own wedding dress and I loved it – it felt very empowering. I did what you’re suggesting and had a cheap-but-fine backup dress that I knew I could wear in a pinch, which really took the stress out of the situation and just made it fun. Good luck with your dress, and I hope you have a lovely wedding, whatever you wear!

    11. Anti SLS*

      I watched someone on Youtube do it – you might search for videos for inspiration. I thought the level of effort she had committed to was insane (on top of DIYing pretty much every other aspect of the wedding), but she got it done, and it looked amazing. I’d think it’d depend on the design of the dress and materials you are working with etc and your skill level but making your own wedding dress is doable per that one Youtuber.

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        I have what could be considered an unwise number of handmade elements, but as they are non-perishable items I’ve been chipping away at it for the past 11 months and a good number are already complete. There’s something quite satisfying about the making process.

    12. Sewing blogs*

      The forums of patternreview.com have a number of threads about sewing wedding dresses. I think you can see the most recent 6 months of posts without a membership.
      Fitforaqueen.wordpress.com is written by a sewist who spent many years doing wedding dress alterations. That’s different than sewing from scratch, but you may get some good tips on working with the tricky materials that wedding dresses are often made of. Also, her rants about poorly constructed purchased dresses may help you feel that making your own is worth it, and that you can do at least a good a job as many professionals!

    13. And thanks for the coffee*

      I made my wedding dress and 4 bridesmaids’ dresses for my wedding in 1972. I was 21 and had a lot of experience sewing. They were made out of velvet for a winter wedding. I didn’t make a practice dress for any of them. I don’t remember any particular agony over the process. There were no last minute hems, fortunately. I would never undertake anything like that now but must have enjoyed doing it then. Good luck with it and enjoy your wedding.

      1. NeonDreams*

        Catmomandrea on instagram made her own dress in a few months. It turned out really pretty. She posted several videos about the process but I suspect it’s pretty far back on her account. Their wedding was in 2017.

    14. Maybeanonfornow*

      I can’t help you with doing your own wedding dress, but I had mine made by a seamstress that I met at our local fabric store. If you’re concerned that you might have problems doing it yourself, that might be one thing to suggest.

    15. Healthcare Worker*

      My mother made my sister’s wedding gown, and it was lovely. It was almost 50 years ago (!) but I recall the hand sewing took her longer than she anticipated. She added beads, and also made the veil. Good luck!

    16. zaracat*

      I made my wedding dress with a few additions to a standard commercial pattern. I was lucky in that I was a perfect match for the pattern sizing, but was a reasonably experienced sewer (including a couple of formal dresses) and at the time was working insane hours so I didn’t make a toile first. The dress was a full length, full skirted dress with a boned bodice and puffy sleeves (think Princess Di but simpler), made from a fairly lightweight ivory silk and fully lined. I added flowers and leaves handmade from the same silk around the neckline, and a detachable train with the join covered by a large bow and more handmade fabric flowers. No lace. The dress was always intended to be re-wearable – at the time I was an officer in the military and we had formal balls twice a year – and the train was hand embroidered with a family emblem and was intended to be made into a christening gown later. Although I no longer have the dress I still have the christening gown and all of the flowers and leaves.

      My advice is yes, this is something you can achieve yourself and it will make it all the more special. It can also save a lot of money, not just on the initial cost, but also because in my experience commercially produced formal dresses are often not well constructed for what they cost (eg narrow, poorly finished seams) and will not stand up to repeated wearing and cleaning or alterations especially being let out. Get the toile fitting right and work out all of the construction problems on that, and if actual dress fabric is one that is tricky to work with then practice sewing with spare pieces of that fabric until you are sure that you can get good results, if necessary getting tips from other sewers – especially for things like velvet, chiffon or lightweight satin which can be incredibly frustrating. Once you’ve done the prep work the actual dress sewing should be pretty straightforward. Add in larger than normal seam allowances on either sides or centre back to make any later adjustments easier. Make sure to get the undergarments that you’ll need before you make the toile, and make the toile to fit over these, as they can alter the fit and appearance considerably. With sewing large volumes of fabric, the key is to have all of the fabric supported while you sew, so you may need to use a larger than normal table or add temporary tables to the side/back of your sewing table. Make sure to let the dress hang for at least 24-48 hours before hemming, preferably on a dress form, as the weight of a full length dress will result in considerable drop which will vary depending on the grain line.

      Re weight/size change: while it’s good to at least consider that you may change size, one thing I’d strongly recommend is not to try and lose weight ahead of a big event. Make the dress for your usual body. Everyone will think you look gorgeous anyway! Dieting means that any slip-up risks the dress fit on the big day, makes it less likely that you will ever be able to re-wear the dress once you get back to normal life, and just puts a whole lot of unnecessary stress on you.

      Good luck and I hope you will share updates on your progress and photos of your finished creation.

      1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

        Thank you so much for the encouragement and information. Thanks also for the tip about hanging the dress for a day or two prior to hemming, that’s something I wouldn’t have thought to do but it makes perfect sense.

    17. Eff Walsingham*

      My Mum had a business making wedding gowns and formal dresses back in the 80s/90s. Two things I remember are how her entire workshop was shrouded in clean sheets to prevent those giant 80s dresses from touching the floor or other surfaces, and how she would complain about “slippery” bridal fabrics being harder to work with than cotton or linen. YMMV, obviously, but if you’re planning on multiple layers of satin or sheer synthetic, it’s best to assume that they’ll be very “active” as you work on them, and allow extra time and space if possible.

  24. The Prettiest Curse*

    I recently did a Google Street View tour of the modern wonders of the world. Though they were all interesting, I came to the conclusion that visiting some of them is absolutely not for me. Which brings me to the question: if you had a form of transportation that didn’t contribute to global heating, an unlimited travel budget, unlimited travel time and no other restrictions, which famous places would you NOT want to visit?

    I wouldn’t want to go into space or (though they don’t take tourists) to the International Space Station. Regular air travel stresses me out enough, so space travel would be way too much! You can also tour the ISS on Google Street View and it’s an incredibly cramped and visually confusing environment, though I’m sure the people who work there get used to it.

    On earth, even though Venice looks beautiful and I’d love to visit Italy again, the city is slowly being destroyed by over-tourism, so I think it might be best not to contribute to that phenomenon.

    What’s on your personal “do not visit” list?

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m with you on Venice. It’s the most famous city within a relatively short drive of where I grew up, and the over-tourism always made my visits somewhat unpleasant.

      India would be at the top of my list. Everyone I know who has been, including a parent who lived there for years, is equally awestruck by the beautiful things they’ve experienced, and by how sensorily and emotionally overwhelmed they felt, especially in the big cities. I lived in a neighbouring country as a child for a little while (smaller but with a similar environment in many ways), and my memories are in a similar vein. I don’t think the food, culture and nature would make up for that if I were to visit India now.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        I will say that I was very impressed by Taj Mahal itself – that was way way way better than the pictures!

        Also we managed to there early, and on a non-holiday, so that there wasn’t too much crowding.

      2. LA Girl*

        I agree about India. I’m a big fan of The Amazing Race, and every time they go there, the sensory overload is overwhelming even through the screen. And no desire to see the Taj Mahal.

      3. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

        I’ve been, and by “sensory overload” a lot of women are probably trying to say “sexual harassment.” No desire to go to Delhi again.

    2. Annie*

      This are probably negative answers but:
      – Places the original inhabitants don’t want you to visit
      – Places in danger from over-tourism
      – Places too dangerous for tourists (hello, Mount Everest)

      I am honestly not sure what the modern wonders of the world are? I for sure would not like to visit anything too high up! So yes, I absolutely agree with you about the ISS, though for a different reason :)

    3. StellBell*

      For me I have been to date to 70 countries. I have no desire to go to India or places where over tourism is harming them, or to places where the rusks are high for crime. As I have gotten older I am getting more picky and if traveling for fun want to avoid dodginess, illness, and crime.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      I haven’t traveled much outside the US, so my vote within the US is the Grand Canyon. It should be more impressive than it is. You sort of walk up and look out over the view and think, yep, that’s a big canyon, and then you’ve sort of seen it. If you really want to feel like you’ve been transported to the surface of another planet and be inspired by the landscape, Bryce Canyon is so much better.

      1. Bluebell*

        Seth Meyers and his brother do a podcast about family trips, and one of the standard questions they always ask is have you visited the Grand Canyon or do you want to? Seth is firmly team I don’t need to go to the Grand Canyon, and I think Josh has been or wants to go.

      2. Old and Don’t Care*

        I completely agree. I’m afraid of heights so going into the canyon was never on the table, and I was done in half an hour. At the most. Bryce, Zion and Arches are all much cooler.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        When I was a teen my family did Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon in the same trip and I felt the same way. I think part of it was because we did a horse ride at Bryce so it was more fun, but it’s also just so fascinating and visually stunning. Going to the Grand Canyon after it was like “cool, a bigger but less beautiful hole” and I don’t really remember what we did for the time we were there. My husband hasn’t been and wants to plan a trip there and I’m kind of like okay but it seems like a waste of a vacation lol

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I agree with Bill Bryson in The Lost Continent, where he says that the sheer size of the Grand Canyon is so enormous that it kind of falls flat because there’s nothing around for scale–you look to the bottom and see a thread of water and go “huh,” but it’s the Colorado River, one of the biggest rivers in the continental US! It’s just so far away it can’t emphasize how deep the canyon really is.

      4. Girasol*

        I love the Grand Canyon, just not so much the crowded South Rim. But there aren’t many US places I wouldn’t like to go or go again. As a private pilot with a teensy plane I’ve been stranded by weather in all sorts of middle of nowhere “flyover” towns that all had their own wonderful curiosities and stories. But I might pick the east Florida beach towns as places not to visit again. Not only are they overcrowded but the campgrounds have banana spiders. Big spiders. Big webs. Don’t google banana spider.

          1. Inkhorn*

            Now I’m wondering whether Florida’s banana spiders can outdo Australia’s huntsmen for size … but I do NOT want to google to find out.

    5. Jackalope*

      For me it’s Saudi Arabia. I’m a woman and I don’t want to go someplace where women are treated so horribly. Sometime in 2021 or so I saw an ad for…. athletic tourism? Not sure what to call it. But it was an ad for visiting Saudi Arabia and doing things like rock climbing in the desert, and I thought, “Yeah, like I would be able to do things like that as a woman!” (And even if they made an exception for tourists, I don’t trust it to exist as an exception 100% of the time.)

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I don’t want to visit any country where women are second-class citizens by law, so all Muslim countries are out, at least those that are subject to sharia law. I don’t want to visit Southeast Asia either, where a 5 year old boy gets more respect than his mom. I also don’t want to visit any country with an authoritarian government, like Poland (we drove through Poland on our road trip around the Baltic Sea in 2019, but only stopped at a roadside diner to eat), Hungary, Turkey, Russia, or China. Warzones are also out, so no Ukraine or Israel, either. I’m an introvert, so I don’t think I could handle very crowded places like India. I also don’t want to contribute to over-tourism, so places like Venice are out.

        I’d love to see Macchu Picchu, and I’m open to traveling in some parts of Africa to see wildlife, but I’d only want to do sustainable tourism that genuinely benefits the local population.

        1. Magdalena*

          Just FYI about Poland, after the most recent election (October 2023) the authoritarian party lost and we’ve just got ourselves a new government. It certainly won’t get 100% better overnight but things are already starting to change a bit.

          1. allathian*

            Absolutely! Fingers crossed that things continue to improve. Now if only Hungary followed suit…

            That said, there are lots of places I wouldn’t want to visit in the US, too. Granted, I’m old enough that the limits on reproductive rights don’t affect me directly, but…

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          I did not realise just how high up Macchu Picchu is till I did the virtual tour. I don’t like to be up that high, plus those terraces look extremely steep, so that’s another one off my list! (Apparently Macchu Picchi is also over-touristed now, and there’s a similar site nearby that nobody visits, which is supposed to be just as interesting.)

          Also in the “too high, no thank you category” – viewing platforms on skyscrapers and Mount Fuji. Cool though it would be to hike up a dormant volcano, I think I’d be too scared. Plus volcanoes freak me out!

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        +1000 and also because of the rampant animal abuse. Things like dog and bullfighting put a lot of places off the list for me.

    6. Lilo*

      Las Vegas. I don’t gamble or drink.

      Egypt. Every female traveler I know who has been there has been harassed.

      1. carcinization*

        I don’t gamble and am a very minimal drinker, but I want to go to Vegas for the great restaurants!

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Everything I’ve ever read about the Egyptian pyramids sounds like a huge bummer.

      I have no interest in ever going to Vegas.

      I went as a kid, but I don’t plan to ever bring my own kids to Mt. Rushmore. It’s basically extremely huge and irreversible graffiti.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Looking at the Pyramids on Google Street View more or less destroyed my desire to visit them, though there are other archaeological sites in Egypt might be more interesting.

    8. Sally Rhubarb*

      Any of the Disneys. Paying a grand to stand in line? No thanks.

      Any place where tourism has destroyed the environment.

      Any country that is anti-queer or anti-woman.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I would like to go to Disney once. Not a big fan of amusement parks, but it might be fun if I had someone to go with who can show me around.

        1. allathian*

          I went to Disneyland Paris in the off season when I was a student. We got to see everything we wanted and ride all the rides in one day. The longest queue was something like 30 minutes.

    9. Kayem*

      Within the US, I’d say NYC. Granted, I’ve visited before, but that’s also why I know I don’t want to go back. I’ve also have no desire to visit Las Vegas, but might one day because a dear friend of mine is besotted with it and really wants to do a trip together and I value our friendship more than I value my lack of interest.

      Outside the US, I’d say anywhere that I’d be participating in colonialist tourism or anywhere there’s endangered species in their natural environments. My mom raves about going ziplining in the jungle in a specific South American country that’s struggling with the destruction of native habitat for agricultural development and the tourism industry and I just don’t want to be a part of that.

      And as much as I’d love to go to Antarctica, it’s on my do not visit list because I know how delicate the environment is there and how tourism is screwing with things.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      Oohh, good question!

      I’m assuming a personal teleporter, here:

      I would skip most tropical areas. I do not do well in heat and humidity, and would spend the entire time there crouched in front of an air conditioner or melting.

      I would probably also skip the Egyptian pyramids/Valley of the Kings for similar overtourist/encroaching urbanism reasons. On the other hand, I might go to Stonehenge because the people who run the site make a big point of NOT allowing crowds of people to wander over everything but keep everyone at a short distance, to keep the stones intact and maintain a sense of awe.

      Same for Mount Everest. When I read about people having to stand in line to go the summit, snap their selfie, and get out, it just drained any sense of majesty or accomplishment for me.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I’m with everyone on overtourism, eco-damage, or dangerousness. But the big thing for me now is discomfort. Not cultural differences — physical discomfort. I do not want to go to a place where I cannot 1) sleep on a comfy bed, 2) get something to eat easily, and 3) it takes a huge amount of effort to get to or to leave.

      I haven’t ruled out going camping again at some point, but I definitely need it to be escapable. As in, I can get in a vehicle and leave. Also, it cannot be around bears. I like bears — at a distance. I fed a cub once in a small zoo, but that was a BABY. No big bears, please!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. I am definitely approaching the “camping means no room service” stage of life. And I don’t want to spend more time and trouble on the getting to/from somewhere than actually spending time at the destination.

    12. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m asthmatic and sensitive to poor air quality. I will never go somewhere with consistently bad air quality which includes many places such as Mexico City, Beijing, Delhi, etc. When wildfires were going on in here in California, it was shocking that our air quality was the worst in the world for a while. I was indoors with multiple air filters going.

      Like many others, I don’t want to go to countries with authoritarian governments where people’s civil rights are trampled based on gender, ethnicity, queerness, religion, etc.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Same for me on the air quality issue – every time it gets to be fire season in California, I’m glad that I’m not living there any more because my lungs just can’t take the wildfire smoke, even with masks and air purifiers. There are many interesting places that are off limits to me for that reason.

  25. vombatus ursinus*

    CW for some general discussion of death/mortality (I think it’s mild, but want to err on the side of sensitivity!)
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    So I’m 30 and have been living on the other side of the world from my parents for ~1.5 years. We initially moved for a two-year contract for my partner, but I have surprisingly found myself in a really good position now too, and we’re quite keen to stay here for at least another two years.

    My dad is from yet another continent (!) and moved to my home country at about the same age I was when I left. He’s now dealing with his own elderly parents moving into assisted living and dealing with health issues mostly from the other side of the world (he tries to visit once a year or so).

    I will of course be sad when my grandparents pass, but I know they’ve had good long lives and are aging as comfortably as possible. What’s been a bit confronting for me is dealing with the thought that, given my dad was considerably older when I was born than his parents were when he was born, I’ll probably be pretty lucky to have another 20 years with *him* around at most. And mum is ~10 years younger than my dad, so chances are we’ll have longer, but still …

    My partner and I are happily without kids, so family support/grandparent relationships aren’t a consideration, but … I really love my parents, we get on well, and I know I’m going to be really sad when they’re not around anymore! I want to make sure we can both enjoy and benefit from the time we have left together, despite living so far apart.

    So far, I’ve set up a standing video call for my parents and me once a month to make sure we don’t let too much time go by without talking. I was also thinking of getting my mum a monthly book subscription, where I would then read the same books and we could discuss them like a book club.

    So, my question is, for anyone who is or has been on either side of this equation, what advice do you have for staying in touch and making the most of things? If you lived far away from your parents, or if your adult kids live far away from you, what are you glad you/they did/are doing? Anything you regret or wish you’d done more of?

    Thanks so much in advance.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I initially sent physical cards to my daughter because she was living overseas (doing grad school research) and expected to move often and then move back to this continent, so accumulating home decor didn’t make sense. Cards are designed to be ephemeral, but can be stuck on a fridge or cork board to enjoy for longer and provide a bit of decoration. She really enjoyed these–enough that she sent some back to me–and I started doing it more deliberately, finding neat art ones, and continued even now that she is back on this continent (but an airplane ride away).

      It combines the pleasures of a physical thing with it not being an additional noun they are expected to treasure forever.

      1. vombatus ursinus*

        Ooh I like the card idea, thank you. I do actually have a big stack of postcards I got soon after we first moved here and never did anything with.

    2. Sloanicota*

      This is morbid but one thing I’ve started to do is take videos of my parents, especially moments where we’re all around laughing or having characteristic squabbles. After my grandfather passed I realized how much more meaningful the video I have of him singing Christmas carols with us is, relative to all the nice photos which of course are also good to have. But with videos, it’s like they’re back with you for a second. Take them and then carefully preserve them (but don’t be obvious about why you’re doing it haha).

      1. purple spotted giraffe*

        we tried to do the video when my kid was young, and we had a bilingual book (english/my dad’s native language – which is dying). But sadly, the camera was on “take a picture every 2 seconds’ instead of video, so we missed my dad reading in his native language. And, we weren’t able to recreate the moment.

    3. RagingADHD*

      In the last couple years of my mom’s life, I went to calling her once a week to calling every day, to calling multiple times a day for a quick question or chat. We were only 1 time zone away rather than several, but I am really glad we had that spontaneous kind of closeness and conversation.

      We moved back to live near my parents when she got sick for real. I can’t say I wish we’d moved earlier because it was impossible – there was no work. But I wish somehow we’d had more time while she could enjoy it.

    4. Usually Lurking*

      My kids and grandkids live in Portugal (I’m on the east coast of the US), five time zones away. We use an app called MarcoPolo to record videos for one another – think texting, but in video format. We sometimes send a dozen in a day – some only a few seconds long (“Look at the frost on the windows! It’s so cold!”), and some what we call Podcasts that might last ten minutes. They’ve got little kids, I have a full time job, and it’s hard to find a time to really sit down and video chat “live,” but these little videos keep us so connected to one another’s lives! I’m a big fan, even though at first I thought it would be no different than texting. But it is SO MUCH BETTER! And it’s free, so go for it!

    5. Ali + Nino*

      My mom lives in another state and I try to call her once a week, on the same day. I don’t think she realizes that I’ve made this schedule but hopefully she enjoys our weekly calls. I’ve been meaning to do the same with my in-laws but…maybe 2024 will be our year :)

    6. MeepMeep123*

      This will weird out a lot of Americans and I have learned to not mention it too much, but when I lived 1500 miles away from my parents, I called them every day, usually for a brief chat on my way to or from work. I have a close relationship with them and I wanted to stay close.

    7. zaracat*

      Accept that you will miss some important events, and make arrangements for how you will participate anyway. My elderly grandmother died about a week after I visited, and I could not afford or get leave to go back again for the funeral. The funeral was filmed and my family sent me the DVD (this was before it was easy to live stream).

      With video chat, I also quite enjoy having a more natural setup than face to face chats. For example, me and my OS extended family will each set up a tablet/laptop on the table and eat together and just casually talk. We’ve even played the board game Pandemic a few times.

    8. Silence*

      While not quite the question you asked my mother and I have scheduled weekly calls since I left home for university.we alternate who calls.

  26. Bigfoot Bookworm*

    Question for murder mystery book readers. I usually stick to sci-fi/fantasy books but a murder mystery book caught my eye because of the fantastical topic. It was a murder that was being blamed on Bigfoot and a cryptozoologist was looking to see if it was proof at long last of a real Sasquatch or someone faking it to cover up a murder. The only other murder mystery book I’ve read was one that took place at a Renaissance Festival. Both times, I found myself getting bored with how much talking the characters do. The investigation is only talking to witnesses/suspects and doing research; there’s very little of anything else. I’m just curious if this is normal for murder mystery books or if the two books I picked up are just written that way.

    1. Sundae funday*

      Murder mysteries as a genre typically have the same elements: opens with a mystery, then someone finds and follows the clues that leads to a resolution. The emphasis is usually on the investigation so IME, yes, a lot of time will be spent on research and talking to witnesses.
      It could be this genre is not for you! Life’s too short and there are too many books out there to read to make yourself finish titles you don’t enjoy.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Yes, that is pretty normal for murder mystery books or at least one particular style of them – the whodunnits; thrillers are different and involve more action.

      There will usually also be some interactions between the suspects themselves and some background, but in general, the point is to see if you can figure out what is going on/guess which of the suspects is the killer.

      Some more modern stories tend to give the detective a personal story – maybe there are two detectives and they fall in love or maybe the case brings back some previous trauma for the detective – but honestly, in most cases, I find those kind of contrived and a distraction from what I am reading the book for – the investigation.

    3. Sloanicota*

      That is pretty characteristic of a “cozy” – in a more thriller-style mystery, there would be more action scenes like shootouts, finding bodies, running for your life, fight scenes etc. Cozies are generally investigations that are mostly talking to the various unique characters of the world, and the reader is generally trying to solve the puzzle alongside the protagonist. So for folks who aren’t interested in the solve or the reveal, it might be a bit dull.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Generic writing advice I recall is to get good at dialogue, because a good chunk of telling most stories is dialogue. (Anecdote: George Lucas knew dialogue wasn’t his forté and so had someone better at that do a pass on the scripts for the first three Star Wars movies.) So while I think dialogue is more required for mysteries, I don’t notice the difference the way it struck you. (I read both genres.)

      A mystery/sci-fi book on my list is Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty, in which your typical amateur detective (wherever I go, people get murdered around me, and then I help solve the case) moves to a space station to get away from the murders. This of course doesn’t work.

      The Thursday Murder Club is technically a murder mystery but appealing to people who don’t normally read those. (e.g. my spouse) It really embodies the idea of interesting people find interesting things to be interested in, a quality I admire.

    5. Teapot Translator*

      I wouldn’t have described it that way, but yes, it’s mainly about the investigation. If you want to try other mystery books that have a SF/F element, there’s Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty, A Master of Djinn by P. Djèli Clark, and the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

      1. Phryne*

        P. Djeli Clark has also written two novellas with some of the characters of A master of Djinn: A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, which I can recommend as well.
        There are also the books from the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, which are a kind of noir detective kind of mystery in which the protagonist is a modern day wizard. They were not really my thing tbh, I read the first 4 or so (so definitely not bad! just not my thing) but I know many people that absolutely love them, and they are certainly not just talking, there is plenty action too.

    6. Ellen Ripley*

      To me, the writer/writing style is a huge part of whether or not I enjoy reading the book. Also how the characters are written.

      I really enjoy the Pendergast series by Preston and Child, and Gilliam Flynn’s second novel “Dark Places”. These all are centered around murder mysteries, but the characters feel real, and the books have me chuckling and eager to read more all the way through.

    7. WestsideStory*

      Two words: Agatha Christie. Her writing is spare, she can sketch a character in half a sentence, but sportingly leaves all the clues in plain sight for the reader to find. They are good mysteries, if period pieces of their time.

    8. Forensic13*

      You might enjoy cross-genre mystery books more. Alistair Reynolds has some fantastic sci-fi mysteries, and I really like Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. (Warning, it gets DARK.). Oh, or the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

  27. Meh*

    What is this called?

    I remember around Thanksgiving people were chatting about schedules and who does what at what time for planning a large meal.

    I think it’s a type of project management or name of software (I don’t think Asana, but it was posted like we Asanaed the day) but it’s been bugging me that I can’t remember.

  28. Dr. Doll*

    a few weeks ago i posted for advice about long flights. I’m beginning my return trip now, at the airport ready to do 30 hours (not kidding) in airplanes. Big kerfuffle with my bag. Then with my passport. I lost my jacket. I’m at the posted gate but it’s not my flight. I can’t decide if I dislike myself or this country or traveling or men in this country or kind of life altogether, or as said, myself, the most right now.

    tell me some awful travel stories to keep me company and assure me that the things that go wrong make the best stories in the end.

    1. purple spotted giraffe*

      I can’t think of travel stories right now. Well, other than I woke up at 3:30 to take my adult kid to the airport, and didn’t manage to get back to sleep. I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly. Were you on a holiday, or visiting family? Maybe not visiting that country so much in the future is good? Pay for flights to visit you where you live now.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        it was necessary. and I hadn’t gone for 8 years, so it’s not like it’s an imposition. just, sigh, always a very tough trip.

      2. Dr. Doll*

        it was necessary. I haven’t been in 8 yr so it’s not an unreasonable thing, just always a very, very difficult trip.

    2. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I have a flight story that I started to type, and is getting very long. Featuring: a couple of cheapskates flying home for Christmas, diverted planes, a risk-seeking captain, a rugby team, and a far-sighted budget airline (/sarcasm) that insists on flying to the foggiest region of Italy in the middle of the winter. No one gets hurt, though I may have got an anxiety attack.

      If you’re not deterred by a long read, let me know, and I’ll post it!

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Here it is! If you can have a laugh at our expense, then my job is done here :)

          My partner and I haven’t travelled to our home country for Christmas in two years. Our last trip is probably the kind of stuff I’d wish on my worst enemy.

          It’s 2021, and with lots of pandemic uncertainty still on, we put off booking our flights until it’s almost too late. Prices from our local airport have got very high, and it’s cheaper to travel to another town the day before (1.5-hour train journey), then fly early in the morning from there. We sort our COVID tests, turn up at the airport on time, and notice a very slight delay. So far, not so bad.

          What the airline isn’t telling us: due to bad weather the previous day, our plane has been diverted to a different city and they’re trying to get it back. So they likely know the delay isn’t that slight, and don’t communicate a thing. There’s no staff around to ask, and we start doubting a plane even exists. The wait is mindnumbingly boring, we leave 3 hours late, and still, at least, we are in motion. Surely it can’t get any worse. RIGHT?

          As we approach our destination, the plane is taking quite long to start its descent. The captain announces that, due to extreme fog, we’ll be diverted to another airport. Oh, extreme fog! Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. No doubt, no doubt, no doubt. Who among our far-sighted budget airline overlords would have imagined flying to the smallest airport in the foggiest region of Northeastern Italy in the middle of December would lead to this?

          Things go downhill fast. In one case, quite literally.

          1) There’s a major airport perfectly equipped for severe weather very close to our initial destination. That’s not where we’re going.

          2) The captain names another small airport farther away, and I manage to stay upbeat, because it happens to be the one near where my parents live.

          3) He then changes his mind. No diversion! All is fine and dandy! Let’s land!
          4) The plane starts going down. We feel the pull of gravity as if the wheels are about to touch the ground. Instead, there is a huge, scary bump, kind of a plunging down. The plane then shoots back up at the speed of light. It’s like a rollercoaster ride, but worse, because did we just avoid crashing? This is where I, a terrible flyer in normal circumstances, have an anxiety attack.

          5) The captain apologises, and says the diversion is back on. But we must have wasted precious time with that landing attempt, because now we’re going…to an airport in the North West.

          6) The professional rugby team on the plane with us erupts in what I can only describe as the beginnings of a riot

          7) We eventually land. We’re herded on buses that take 3 hours to drive us back North-East, then it’s a further hour to my partner’s hometown. All told, a journey that usually takes half a day has taken us over 24 hours. I crash on a bed past 1am and have a hard time believing it’s real.

          And now, if you aren’t bored to death yet, a short “where are they now?” epilogue.

          1) The same thing happened on our return flight (we got to the airport, were told we’d be leaving from somewhere else due to the fog, were nearly left stranded in the airport parking lot because no one would tell us where to find the transfer bus)

          2) The airline denied us compensation on the grounds that the disruption was outside of their control. See earlier re. their airport choice in December. Play stupid games, etc.

          3) We haven’t travelled home for Christmas since, and never will again if I can help it.

    3. Jackalope*

      Many years ago I was living and working in a country not my own, and was getting ready to fly back home for a visit and to go to a wedding. The organization I was working for would buy us tickets that had a return date but were 100% flexible and we’d always change the dates. I had done so (as was normal) and had received an email with the changes, along with my original ticket. Importantly, my home country had electronic tickets at the time BUT unbeknownst to me the country I was living in only used paper tickets. It also had a very small national airport and all of their international flights left incredibly early so we got at the airport an hour before the flight no matter where we were flying.

      So I arrive at the airport which is half an hour from my home, go up to the ticket counter, show them the printout with the date change to my ticket, and the guy working the counter says, “Great, now where is your ticket?” Dear reader, I had thought that the email WAS my ticket. I knew exactly where the original paper ticket was, back home in my apartment, but I hadn’t imagined that it would be necessary (see: electronic tickets in home country). I didn’t have time to run home and get it, and missing this flight meant missing the wedding of my good friend. I freaked out.

      And then I remembered that I had a new housemate back at the apartment. My other housemate (with me at the airport) called her and asked if she could grab a taxi and rush to the airport.

      I shall pass over the next 35 minutes in silence. Suffice it to say that my housemate made it in the nick of time. My other housemate ran out and got my ticket, ran back in (through the first level of security, since the person working it knew her and let her pass without being scanned again), we ran up to the change counter and got the magic actions taken. We ran to the luggage check, where the person working the counter was in the process of giving away my seat but we arrived just in time and almost threw my bag at the weighing machine. Then we raced to the passport control and my housemate rushed me to the diplomatic visitors line, said, “She’s in grave danger of missing her plane!” They barely glanced at my passport, stamped it, and let me through. I ran all the way to the gate (thankfully it was a small airport with just a few gates) and ran up to the door gasping for air. The person working the gate said, “Oh, you got your ticket then,” at which point I realized that probably the entire airport knew of my plight. (Hopefully they got a good story out of it in return for being so helpful.) I nodded, they let me on, and I rushed onto the plane and fell into my seat about 8 minutes after my ticket had arrived at the airport, and about 7 minutes before the plane was scheduled to depart. And I made it home and made it to the wedding.

      1. Jackalope*

        Oh, and I forgot to mention this but my luggage even made it on time! Hurray for lovely small airports with kind and helpful staff.

        1. Jackalope*

          I was just thinking about this today. Said friend went on to be happily married for many years before losing their spouse in a tragic accident. Today I was traveling again going to said friend’s second wedding. So this was lovely coincidental timing. I hope this marriage works out as well as the first one did. Thankfully my travel was much less exciting.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Well, I showed up at the wrong airport for my flight on Christmas eve, so that was a pretty stressful adventure. Run Run Reindeer indeed! (but we made it).

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      In the 90s, leaving our Peace Corps posting just as the military made yet another not-particularly-ept coup attempt. (They would take over some things but not others, so the coups kept not taking.) We had bought our tickets ourselves from a local airline flying out of the next country over, and the representative for that airline took us and our copious luggage, hired people to carry the luggage, and bribed the guards to let us walk over a couple of blocks north of the official border crossing. While this worked just fine–and I should emphasize that I am a small quiet blond woman and so looked both extremely harmless and like I was probably an American–it convinced me that I am not cut out to be a spy.

      Travel disasters really do turn into the best travel stories. “We had great meals and our hotel was lovely” convinces you to go there, but “And then the mysterious box started oozing some sort of brown fluid” keeps you rapt for the next twist. (Having typed this, it reminds me that the rule of restaurant reviews, which I cannot unsee since learning it, is that negative reviews use a lot of first person. This bad meal happened to ME. While positive reviews are more “the escargot were lovely.”)

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My husband and I did most of our relationship backwards (we lived together before we started dating) so decided to do our wedding backwards too — we did our honeymoon first, as a week in Disneyworld, then flew from Orlando to Vegas to meet a dozen of our friends and family for the actual wedding. Our last day at Disney, we were finishing up a couple last minute things in the parks before heading for the airport, and we were like “it’s looking awfully gloomy out here.” Turns out we were, as I understand it, literally the last plane to make it out of the Orlando airport before they shut it down for Hurricane Irma. So we ALMOST missed our own wedding. But it all worked out in the end. :)

    7. StellBell*

      I have been stuck in an airport during a coup for three days. I have been to six places where I was teargassed. I never check luggage and still have had it lost upon the mandatory check in too many people game. I have had jet lag for a month after a 30 hr flight from the Pacific to Europe. Traveling is hard. Now I have a non covid cold I picked up on a flight even tho I masked on my holiday travel. I send you sympathy and when you get home to your own bed and kitchen and bath you will be so happy!

      1. Dr. Doll*

        I, uh, think you win.

        crap, I hope I am not jetlagged for a month. I have a four day institute and classes starting with only one day between getting home. which, hey, I might need that day to GET home if I miss this first connection.

        1. StellBell*

          I think had it also not been summer with daylight ending here at nearly 11pm amd starting at 4:45 it would have been easier to adjust and maybe would have tried something to help sleep but did not

        1. StellBell*

          since 2011 my work including volunteer stuff has had me to travel to places that are unsettled and in two cases there were protests were local where I lived at the time. I hope the next years are less exciting honestly.

    8. Rara Avis*

      Flying from coast to coast via Chicago Midway. Land in daylight. Connecting flight can’t leave after sunset because a thunderstorm knocked out the runway lights. 4 hours on the tarmac, first waiting in hope for lights, then because there’s no gate to bring us in to, because no planes have left the airport in 4 hours.

      Get in line to rebook, leaving husband in a cot with exhausted toddler. Borrow a swim diaper from a friendly fellow passenger because I didn’t pack enough. Phone is dead so I can’t try to rebook that way. Get to the counter around 4 a.m. The customer in front of me had a 30-minute interaction with the gate agent, who greets me thusly: “Don’t say Manchester.” Of course that’s where I’m heading. The good news is that she’s already checked all the New England airports, so we can save time and go straight to booking the next available flight, 3 days later.

      We get a hotel and try to sleep. The toddler, who slept in the cot all night, doesn’t let that happen. But we have a not too bad mini-vacation in Chicago — zoo, mall for a movie and change of clothes, connect with some cousins.

      24 hours before the rescheduled flight, I try to check in online. My husband’s won’t go through. I call, get a person, and find that he was rebooked for one day later. I don’t know who the customer service agent kicks off the flight, but she gets him a seat.

      We arrive at the airport to continue our interrupted flight — and watch through the enormous windows as another summer thunderstorm rolls in — the sky turns gray, rain hits the window horizontally, and the displays light up red. It doesn’t look good. But it worked out in the end — with a number of incoming flights delayed, we are able to get seats on a more direct flight, and arrive 3 days late bu two hours early to find our luggage waiting for us.

    9. Bluebell*

      Many years ago, I was taking what should have been a simple flight from Savannah to Boston, with a change at JFK. It started off well enough, just leaving a little late but everything seemed to be fine. Then, for some reason, we needed to refuel or get something checked out in North Carolina. They wouldn’t let us off the plane so we sat ther for about two hours. At least the flight attendance handed out snacks There was a musician in a famous band on board, and he wanted to leave; they told him that if he did, he couldn’t get back on the plane. He left. Finally we arrived in New York around midnight or one, and of course we had to wait till the next morning to take our plane out. The flight attendants had told us that there might be help with hotels, or even a place to sleep at the airport. At the gate they said no hotels, but sent us to another terminal, where they said there would be cots. While we were walking with our luggage to the other terminal, it started raining. Of course, there was no hospitality area, so , about 10 of us had to sleep in the food court where other unlucky folks were also sleeping. At 6 am I walk back to the original terminal, and I get on an early shuttle from New York to Boston, and as we’re sitting on the plane, there’s a problem and so we all file off again. Of course, there’s a rush to the counter so everybody can rebook, so here I am unshowered and super tired, while there are all these officious business suit types talking about how they have to get to meetings on time. Luckily, it was only about an hour wait until the next shuttle, and I got on that. I finally got back into Boston late morning, only 12 hours later than I originally should have. Thank heavens that this happened in pre-Covid days, if I had to be masking throughout the whole thing, it would have been even worse!

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

      At the time I was younger and dumber and didn’t care. I flew from JFK to Hong Kong to Chongqing, to Guilin to meet up with my wife, visit in-laws and the two of us were to travel home.

      I used light rail from Pennsauken, NJ to Trenton. Jersey Transit to Trenton. Jersey Transit to NY Penn Station. Long Island Railroad to JFK. Monorail into Airport. Arrived at JFK 4 hours early.

      Took an Ambien and slept much of the way to Beijing. 5 hour layover to flew to Chongqing. Looked at the departure board (all in Chinese, I don’t speak or read Chinese) and saw my flight to Gulin was cancelled.

      Went to help desk (she spoke zero English) and using a tablet roughly drew a picture of a hotel and a sleeping man in a bed. She smiled and got me a hotel room (one of the worst hotel rooms ever, but that’s another story).

      Next morning got the flight to Guilin. Met my wife at airport and drove the 3 hours to her parents house. Not exactly a slow boat to China, but pretty close.

    11. WellRed*

      It certainly doesn’t compare to some of these. 25 years ago flying home from DC to Boston with a stop in Newark where I wasn’t going to have to get off the plane. Landed in Newark only to find the plane was being rerouted back to DC and we all had to get off (about half a dozen). The problem was I was the only one heading from there to Maine and we were going to land after 10, too late for me to catch a bus and, at 24, was too young to rent a car. I refused to move from the ticket counter until I got a hotel voucher along with rebooked flight.

    12. KatherineJ*

      Last Christmas my checked luggage was lost (aka left at the transiting airport) in both directions and on the return flight it was mildly damaged. I got it back both times, but it was very frustrating.

      In May I went to a conference on the otherwise of the country. All but the firat flight were delayed. My final flight was canceled and I had to spend the night in Toronto Pearson Airport because the airline had canceled so many flights they ran out of hotel vouchers. To top it off, there were wildfires in the region I am working in so I had to drive back the long way, adding hours to the trip and two hours after arriving home we were evacuated. I noped out of the arena once it became apparent they were going to stick with the setup.

      **Yes I did get compensation for the lost luggage, damaged bag and 8 hour delay from the canceled flight. Forest fire wise, everything and everyone in the community I work in was thankfully fine. Though I hope they are working on a better plan for housing people in such emergencies.

    13. Jackie*

      I am still haunted by this flight.

      Picture 1985 and I am almost 24 years old. My brother was in the Air Force and stationed outside of London. I had only flown once before, with family. This was a solo trip to visit for a week, and my first time out of the USA. We departed Pittsburgh, then to Dulles airport and were finally cruising over the Atlantic. I had a window seat, the middle seat was empty, and the aisle seat was occupied by a lovely middle aged woman who spoke no English. I felt so grown up and “cosmopolitan” embarking on my big travel adventure – so much that I ordered a glass of red wine to celebrate. The steward delivered my wine, and I used the table of the middle seat to set it on. Within minutes there was a wobble in the cabin, and the wineglass pitched laterally to nosedive headfirst directly into my crotch.
      I was wearing white cotton “painter’s” (remember those!) pants with sheer pantyhose underneath, and NO UNDERWEAR!
      My equally horrified seatmate rang for the steward, and he came back to our row. His solution since the 7 hour flight had just begun, was for me to take off my pants and he would try to rinse the wine out. I was given a blanket to cover myself while I shimmied out of my red crotch stained white jeans, shredding pantyhose on the removal. He then took off with my pants and I used the blanket as a makeshift skirt, trying not to cry during the rest of the flight.
      The only time I used the bathroom was during the movie portion when the whole cabin was dark. I passed the center galley kitchen and saw my pants suspended from the ceiling, air drying. The British Airways steward had come back to my seat at one point (with complimentary alcohol) and announced “Madam, it is very difficult to remove red wine from white trousers!”
      He gave my pants back to me as we were circling Heathrow to land. They were cardboard stiff because he had used multiple cartons of white milk to rinse the wine out of the crotch area. My seatmate held a blanket up to shield my nudeness as I struggled in my seat to get them back on right before we landed on the runway.
      I stood in line to retrieve my luggage wondering why I kept smelling baby formula- duh! It was my pants. My brother saw me, shouted my name, and I ran and jumped into his arms sobbing hysterically, blubbering that “I flew over the Atlantic Ocean with no pants on!”
      My brother then stepped aside to introduce me to his friend who had come along specifically to meet the “single and available” sister…
      Never have flown sans underwear again, and I always have a spare with leggings in my carry on bag.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Wow! Have you ever got up enough courage to order red wine on a flight again, or have you sworn off that combo for life?

        1. Jackie*

          lol NEVER again. No white clothing, only beer or clear beverages! It was awful – my pants were still blush pink in the crotch. Kudos to the steward who did his best. Pretty sure no flight attendants would try to wash out a passenger’s private clothing area in this day and age!

      2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        If this a rom-com, you would have ended up married to your brother’s friend.

      3. Dr. Doll*

        oh my goodness, this is Bridget Jones level of awkward and funny. I hope it worked out as well for you as for her in the end!

    14. Dark Macadamia*

      I traveled just me and my 2yo once for a family event. I had a temporary magnetic device inside my chest due to a surgery, which was extremely awkward to explain to security (I had a doctor’s letter at least) and resulted in my kid and I needing to go through different types of scanners.

      The actual flight went fine, but the people we were staying with had gotten an Airbnb that explicitly said in the listing that it was NOT suitable for children. Lots of heavy decor, little glass side tables, etc. Only seats in the dining area were bar stools. Steep stairs with no way to block them. It was so stressful!

      The day we left our flight ended up getting canceled AFTER I did the awkward “magnetic boobs” dance through security. So we had to stay another night in the Airbnb of toddler danger and then the next morning I overslept and my relatives 1) didn’t wake me and then 2) decided that helping my toddler get ready as fast as possible meant cooking a full breakfast and not like, getting her dressed. She ate a plastic baggie of scrambled eggs in the car on the way to the airport lol.

      Oh, and when I was at the gate desk trying to figure out what to do about the flight, the person suggested getting a rental car and driving to another city to try to get on a flight that was leaving in like an hour. Dunno how they expected that to work out!

    15. ThatGirl*

      In 2004 I had my Christmas derailed by a blizzard and major Delta computer issues. Took me 36 hours and a whole new route – I was trying to get from southern Indiana to northern Indiana and had a layover in Atlanta before landing in Chicago.

    16. Elle Woods*

      I used to live in an area that had a regional airport. To get home to see my family, I’d have to fly on a puddle-jumper plane to a hub like Chicago, St. Louis, or Detroit, and transfer to a regular-size plane.

      On one particular trip back from visiting family, the plane being flown to the hub was a small one instead of a full-size one. All the passengers were on board and we were approaching departure time when the pilot came on the speaker and said that the fuel company had over-filled the plane and they were waiting for them to return to unload some fuel. Forty-five minutes later, the fuel company shows up, unloads some fuel, and we’re on our way.

      The problem was that my connection time at the hub was only about 60 minutes. And, of course, the gate where my flight was arriving and the gate for my next segment were on opposite ends of the airport. There were three of us who were in the same predicament and, as it turns out, were all headed to the same destination. We inquired about having a cart available to shuttle us over there but were told that because we were able-bodied it was a no-go.

      Our flight lands at the hub, taxis to the gate, and the three of us sprint through the airport to our gate for our next flight. We got to the gate just after the gate agent had shut the skyway door. We explain what happened at original destination and she says, ” Well, that’s too bad. We’ve been calling for the three of you for at least 30 minutes and you didn’t show up. The skyway doors have been shut. We’ll have to rebook you on the next flight to [regional airport].”

      EXCEPT…this was the last flight the airline was making to the regional airport…EVER. (Something that hadn’t been announced when I booked the ticket three months earlier.)

      The gate agent started working on re-booking the three of us on the next available flight to regional airport and realized that there are none; this is the last flight to our particular regional airport. At this point, the plane has not pushed back from the gate. I don’t remember how, but she was able to get in touch with the pilot who agreed to let us on the plane but only after ALL of the passengers had disembarked.

      So all the passengers disembarked, mechanics were called to look at “an issue,” and all passengers–including me and the other two passengers who had been on my earlier flight–were allowed to reboard. We arrived about 90 minutes later than originally scheduled but at least we got to where we were going. I’m forever grateful to the pilot who made the decision they did to get us on board.

      I’ve since moved to an area with a major airport and am always grateful that I don’t have to deal with all the regional airplane stuff anymore.

      1. office hobbit*

        Oh my goodness! Do you (or anyone else) know the reason for the protocol that the other passengers had to disembark before you three could be allowed on?

        1. Elle Woods*

          I don’t. I’ve thought of two options over the years. First, perhaps it was a federal regulation? Second, maybe it was the least likely way to raise complaints from those already on board? I’m guessing it would’ve raised some hackles if three people boarded all of a sudden.

    17. Lore*

      I had a grad school classmate who was an international student in the US from Scotland, who needed to renew her student visa, which requires leaving the US. You are not required to go to your home country, but people mostly do, because who wants to try to navigate an appointment at a US embassy in a third country? However, my college roommate was a US foreign service officer on her first posting as a visa officer in Central America, and she was happy to handle making the appointment for us. So, we took a lovely trip to Central America with another friend, my roommate was an amazing hostess, my friend got her visa renewed, all was well.

      Until our trip home. None of us, it turns out, had previously flown internationally with a domestic connection inside the US, and we had no idea till we landed in Houston, with what seemed like an adequate 90 minutes between flights, that we had to go through immigration, retrieve bags, go through customs, and recheck bags at our port of entry into the US, not our destination. Not only was the particular visa situation completely baffling to the immigration officials (this was the late 90s so pre TSA)–why on earth would a British person go to Central America to renew a US student visa–but my friend’s Scottish accent was more incomprehensible to the Texas officials than if she’d actually been speaking a second language. We finally got it sorted out, with about 20 minutes left to get to a new terminal, recheck bags, and board. So we’re dashing madly through a very large and unfamiliar airport, and of course we all bought pottery and other handcrafts as souvenirs so we’ve got very fragile carryons along with our suitcases, and we’re cutting it close, but we get to the checkin counter in the second terminal thinking *maybe* they won’t have closed bag check yet…only to discover that our first flight was the first one to land after a day’s worth of cataclysmic thunderstorms, the airport had only just reopened, and our connection wasn’t even rescheduled yet, that’s how backed up the airport was. Which literally none of the at least ten people we’d interacted with had thought to mention in the hour and fifteen minutes we’d been in the airport thus far. We then spent six hours being shuffled from gate to gate in the Houston airport, going so far as to board a plane and then be deboarded for mechanical issues. When we finally arrive at Newark Airport, it’s about 1 a.m. and the terminal is basically shut down; there’s one narrow authorized path we’re allowed to take back to the baggage claim and to exit the airport. There is not a working ATM on this authorized path. We had been planning to take a shuttle bus to Manhattan, and we each had barely the amount of cash we’d have needed for that ticket. But we’ve long missed both the last shuttle and the last train, so we need a cab. Which, if we combine resources for, we have just enough for the flat fare to Manhattan, but not for a tip. We try to explain this to the cab driver and ask if he’ll wait a minute after we get out so we can run to the ATM in the bodega on my friend’s corner and get cash. (After which I will need to get a second cab to Brooklyn.) He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t believe us, so tears off the minute he sees us get our bags. (Which is how my friends lost all their souvenirs in his trunk, but better lost pottery than lost regular luggage, I guess.)

    18. Sally Rhubarb*

      This happened when I flew out to California to visit my best friend. We drove over to Nevada and stayed up in the mountains. It was beautiful.

      And then on the drive back, we got a flat tire. On a weekend. In the mountains. My friend had no spare.

      We kept calling tow companies but when they heard where we were, they either immediately hung up or cursed us out and then hung up. So there we were, stranded on the side of the road halfway down a mountain. To get an Uber to the nearest town was going to cost $200+. My flight was leaving the next day and we weren’t even in the same state as the airport.

      Then this guy drove up and asked if we needed help. My friend explained the situation and he offered to drive us down to Reno to get a new tire & help us put it on the car. Now normally I wouldn’t get in a stranger’s truck but we were so desperate and so out of options that we agreed.

      To quote from To Wong Fu, this guy was a regular knight in shining pick up truck. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if he didn’t stop to help.

    19. Sister George Michael*

      Two months after 9/11, we headed from the Midwest to a conference in FL. My colleague wanted to take a $50 cheaper route that included stops; I insisted we fly direct. At the end of the conference, our two colleagues from Indianapolis started their way home, their first flight was to the Atlanta airport, which they accomplished successfully. That weekend, there was some kind of Really Important College Football Game between, I want to say, Mississippi and Alabama. A guy going to that game went through security at the Atlanta airport, realized he forgot his camera where he’d been sitting earlier, and ran back through security to get it. Some security agent (TSA hadn’t been created yet) got nervous by the running past (although he was running out of the secure zone), and the entire airport was shut down to try to find the guy. All travelers were moved outdoors and the airport was closed for about four hours. (The running guy had no idea that he was the cause of the issue.) Our two colleagues had to go to a local motel for the night, which was of course besieged with hopeful guests. When they finally got to their room, one collapsed on the bed, saying ‘finally!’ but then immediately jumped back up and said ‘someone peed on this bed.’ They went back down to reception, where the receptionists tried to force them to the back of the long line until colleague said loudly ‘you gave us a room with urine on the bed.’ They were quickly re-roomed. They ate dinner at a restaurant; the store next to the restaurant burned to the ground. (This did not directly affect them, but still!). The next day, they got a flight to Indianapolis. There was a lot of fog in Indy so the flight circled for a long time, then finally gave up and landed in Chicago. Passengers were accommodated with a bus to Indy.

    20. vombatus ursinus*

      My sympathies! Hope everything goes as well as possible for the rest of the trip …

      Here is my travel story: my partner is from Aotearoa New Zealand and I’m from Australia, both countries that adopted very tightly controlled public health strategies aiming for zero COVID (or zero community spread, at least) in 2020-22. We lived in Australia during this period.

      Eventually, after a short-lived ‘travel bubble’ between the two countries opened for a few months in 2021 and then closed again, Australia began to allow quarantine-free international travel again — but NZ had the more restrictive approach and lower cases, so we were basically waiting for their government to open the border to travellers from Australia. Anyway, long story short, eventually everything lines up and we manage to book flights to visit my partner’s family.

      We look up the paperwork required to allow us to enter NZ and accordingly gather our vaccination records, get PCR-tested within 48 hours of our flight, etc., as well as bringing our passports of course.

      Our first flight is from my hometown to Sydney at around 6am, so we order a taxi to pick us up at 4.15am. The drive is only 15 minutes at that time of day, so should be plenty of time to get us checked in and through security well before boarding, even if it’s a bit busy. I barely sleep because I’m always worried I’m going to sleep through the alarm and miss the flight in situations like this.

      At 4.10 we traipse out to the street and wait. At 4.15, there’s no taxi. 4.20, no taxi. 4.25, no taxi and we’re getting pretty worried. Partner calls the taxi company — they apparently have no record of our order, but will send one now. We wait on the street, anxious and sleep-deprived. About 4.50 a taxi shows up and off we go. It’s later than I would like but we should still make the flight.

      We walk into the departures hall at the airport and it is absolutely PACKED. I had flown out of that airport probably nearly 100 times in my life and NEVER seen it like that. The entire hall is full of people. The check-in queue is huge. The security queue is incomprehensible.

      We are nervous but try to focus on what we can control. We get in the check-in queue. When we get to the front, the agent asks us all the usual questions, and then the COVID questions — do we have any symptoms, are we vaccinated, do we have our negative PCR results, do we have our international travel authorisation — yep, yep, yep. And have we filled in the Aotearoa COVID Entry 5000 form?

      Okay, I can’t remember the real name of the form, but the upshot was that in addition to presenting all of the substantive documents — the passports, vaccine records, and so on — we were also supposed to fill in a form for the NZ government basically collecting all of these in one place. And we had both somehow missed that. And our first flight is boarding in, like, five minutes and there’s still a huge security queue.

      The check-in person sees our panic and says, “Well, you can fill it in online, and your international flight’s not till a bit later — you’ll probably be okay. We just need to get you through security RIGHT NOW so you don’t miss your domestic flight.”

      So off we charge through the fast-track security screening line — everyone working at the airline/airport was really helpful at least — while simultaneously trying to fill out this NZ government form on our phones. We manage to make it and submit the forms just after boarding, crossing our fingers that they weren’t turn us away when we arrive in NZ.

      We arrive in Sydney and get on a shuttle bus to transfer to the international terminal — which is absolute mayhem. Queues like I’ve never seen before. Apparently everyone has forgotten how to make international travel function in the ~2 years it’s been shut down (or, I realise upon reflection, a lot of employees quit or were laid off and they haven’t all come back, so they’re probably very short-staffed as well). People in front of us in the security screening queue are saying things like they’ve been in this queue for two hours, their flight started boarding 10 minutes ago — and we can’t even see the front of the queue. Airline staff are pacing up and down the edges of the queue and desperately calling for people travelling to specific countries, trying to move them through, but we’re not among them.

      We try to keep calm as the line moves forward at a snail’s pace and the clock keeps ticking towards the boarding time for our international flight. We try to come to terms with the fact that we might not make it and it won’t be the end of the world — maybe we could stay here for a night and the airline will be able to find us seats on a flight tomorrow? But what if our negative PCR tests aren’t valid anymore? We don’t know …

      We finally make it through international security just after our scheduled boarding time, and we start jogging through the terminal trying to make it to our gate. It’s a big terminal and I’m really not a runner, especially with 7kg on my back. A woman dressed in the uniform of the airline we’re travelling with flags us down and asks where we’re flying to. We tell her, and she says, “Ah, you don’t need to run — there’s a Code Blue, so no flights are taking off right now.”

      Apparently Code Blue is something to do with when there’s a storm within a certain distance from the airport. A bit out of breath, we gratefully walk the rest of the way to our gate. Almost all the other passengers have already boarded and are now stuck on the plane for the 45 minutes or so it takes for the storm to make its way past — so maybe we’re lucky we didn’t get stuck with them, in the end. We make it onto the flight and head off, still banking on the NZ government approving our entry forms by the time we arrive.

      Well, we did make it and had a lovely visit with the family, so it all worked out okay in the end. Aaaand then on the way back, our international flight was delayed, so we missed our domestic connection in Australia and had to spend the night in an airport hotel … :)

    21. Jellyjams*

      Kind of long, and from 22 years ago, but hopefully you’ll find it entertaining. I grew up (and still live) in rural Western PA. My mom did a lot of canning and preserving when I was growing up. We picked a LOT of berries, mostly wild ones, and she made lots of pies, jellies, and jams, which I then did as well. When she moved to Florida, she desperately missed PA berries. So when she came to visit, I would send her home with a variety of berries out of my freezer.

      In September of 2001, she and my aunt had flown up together to visit each of their families. I had a seldom-used suitcase that I had filled with frozen packages of strawberries, blueberries, black and red raspberries, and choke cherries. I then put the entire suitcase in my deep freezer. (The luggage compartment of airplanes are very cold, so a checked suitcase full of frozen berries actually arrived still frozen.)

      A couple of days before her flight home, I took her to my sister’s (who lived in Pittsburgh), and she had made room in her freezer for Mom’s berry suitcase. My sister then passed my Mom and the berry suitcase off to my cousin, where my Mom and aunt were spending the night because said cousin was taking them to the airport the following morning. Warned ahead of time, the cousin had also made room in her freezer.

      The next morning my cousin called, laughing, and assured me that she’d dropped off Mom and Aunt and Mom’s berry suitcase was safely checked. I actually woke up sick that morning and had to call off work. I was curled up on the couch under an afghan, sipping some hot tea, and watching the Today Show – when the first plane hit the first tower. Cue omg, how awful, what a tragedy. Then the 2nd plane hit, cue OMG when the news broke that these weren’t random accidents.

      Then cue OMGOMGOMGOMG when they said there was yet another highjacked plane in PA and the realization hit that my mother’s plane had taken off at 9:05 that morning and she was currently in the air. Cue major panic. When they started grounding planes, my mom’s plane landed somewhere in North Carolina. When they found out what had happened and that they might be stuck in the airport, for days possibly, she and my aunt staked out one of those benches with the orange plastic covers and stowed their suitcases under it.

      Later, my aunt told us that the world was falling apart and all mom was worried about was her berries thawing. They took turns waiting in long lines for a pay phone, but very few calls were going through, so we had no idea where she was. As they were sitting on their bench wondering and worrying, a man came by with a huge sign that said “Tampa” and kept calling out, “large van headed to Tampa, anyone want to go to Tampa?”

      He’d rented a 15 passenger van and was taking anyone who was willing to split the cost to Tampa. Mom and aunt jumped at the opportunity and, when he tried to put her heavy berry suitcase on the bottom of the luggage pile, Mom informed him it was very valuable cargo, so she rode the whole way to Florida with it between her legs.

      When they got to Tampa, it was 3 a.m., and they didn’t want to call any of their neighbors to come get them, but one of the other passengers had a car at the airport and was going to St. Petersburg. She detoured the short way off the highway and dropped both mom and aunt right on their doorsteps. The phone was ringing when Mom walked in – it was her night owl of a neighbor who had seen her come home and was often a recipient of Mom’s pies and jellies. He said, “Mom, I cleaned out my freezer and I have room for your berries.” And that’s the story of how my mother and her still frozen berries made it home from Pittsburgh to Florida on 911.

    22. goddessoftransitory*

      My mom was trying to fly back to the US on 9/11. Had to stay in London until air travel could resume. It was far from the worst that could happen, of course, but it really threw her to be dealing with that huge tragedy while being in limbo in another country.

    23. carcinization*

      My house burned down (natural disaster, no fault of ours) in September 2011. My husband and I traveled across the country to see his family that Christmas… packing our suitcases full of brand-new winter clothes because his family lives in a colder part of the country than the area where we live, and we’d of course just lost most of our clothing. When it came time to return home, his suitcase was at the baggage carousel but mine was nowhere to be found. I went home despairing of losing a good percentage of my new wardrobe. We made the necessary calls and such, and late that night a representative showed up at our door with my suitcase! I never thought it would happen, especially not that quickly!

    24. Elizabeth West*

      The last two times I went to London, I got my period on the way back. The first time, the plane was delayed because a lady had a seizure during boarding so we left Heathrow an hour late. I got stuck in Atlanta along with everyone else who missed their next flight. My checked bag went on to OldCity without me. I was so tired I was dragging my souvenir carryon behind me on the floor and crying as I slogged through the airport to the shuttle.

      The hotel Delta sent us to had nothing around but a small convenience store across the street (no sidewalks!) and it only had products for men. Nothing for women, not even deodorant or razors — it was bizarrely all male-themed. Lucky the front desk had some pads. I had to sleep in my leggings since I didn’t have any pjs in my carryon or backpack (I never made that mistake again).

      The second time, I forgot supplies again, but I had time to run to the store up the street from my auntie’s house and grab some. That time was easier since I took British Airway’s premium economy, so I was more comfortable on the flight back.

    25. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I don’t have any awful travel stories, but there was the time I was flying back from a conference. The flight was delayed by thunderstorms, and I missed the last airport shuttle going to my town and it was so late I just slept in the airport. Airport security suggested an area with comfortable chairs that was on their regular patrol route.

      I have a friend who did a lot of travel for his job and he had so many great stories of trips going wrong but working out just fine. The only one I can remember now is the one where his plane was delayed on the tarmac to take off and his seat mate had a panic attack and opened the window exit to escape. They had to return to the gate to take the woman off the plane and fix the window before they could go back to the end of the takeoff line.

    26. Elizabeth*

      In around 2014, I was flying Kansas City to Dallas in late May. Dallas is notorious for their thunderstorms at that time of year. The flight was delayed for about 3 hours before we could even board.

      When we finally were in the air, the turbulence was awful. I don’t generally get air sick, but I kept the bag handy just in case.

      Shortly before we were supposed to land, the pilot came on and told us that Dallas was on a ground stop at both airports, that we didn’t have enough fuel to go into the holding pattern, and we were setting down at a small airport just south of the Oklahoma state line.

      It turned out that we were the 4th plane to have made this stop. The first two had taken the gates, so we weren’t able to leave the plane. The pilot from the 3rd plane had ordered pizza to be delivered to their aircraft.

      The flight attendant was in her first flight post-training, and she hadn’t yet been given keys to the lavatories. I was sitting in the next-to-back row, with a flight attendant trainer and two pilots right behind me. The lavatories started overflowing. Fortunately, the trainer had keys to lock them.

      We sat in the late spring/early summer heat & humidity for nearly an hour, with the worsening stench of sweating bodies and ripe sewage all around us.

      When we finally got to our destination, I have never been so thrilled for air conditioning!

    27. Ray*

      I was traveling home from a family trip to Mexico with my 4 year old daughter. We were flying back to JFK and then had an hour drive home. It was 2019, and I did not have international cell phone service. My parents dropped us off in Cancun, about 40 min from where we were staying. I was divorced and been seeing someone for about 1 month at that point, and he had suggested trying to change my flight due to the expected snow storm. I didn’t even try, because I needed to get my daughter back to her father on time (our relationship was not amicable).
      So about 25 min after we got to the airport, our direct flight was canceled. There are plenty of people heading to NY so I didn’t worry, just waited to see when it was rescheduled for. Well, that never happened. They finally put us on a flight to Mexico City, and we land there at 12 am. I don’t speak Spanish, my toddler is tired, and I have all our luggage. I wandered around the airport for 2 hours waiting for the flight to JFK to be posted. The airport was huge and I think at some point I had to go through security twice. Finally the flight was rescheduled to take off at 4 am. I ended up hunkered down near a cafe where they were kind enough to give me their WiFi password for free (I had no pesos left) and made friends with an old Spanish lady who watched my sleeping daughter and luggage so I could pee. I texted with the guy I was seeing and he kept me awake for 2 hours. I cried when we sat on that flight, and we both slept the whole way home. Landed at 7 am NY time and drove home 1 hour in a foot of snow. Got my daughter to her father on time. The most stressful travel of my life, and never again will I travel without international cell phone service. As for the guy I was dating? I married him a year later. He still gives good advice!

    28. Cedrus Libani*

      I’ve had the usual adventures – the multi day plane trips (planned or not), the shady border guards, and the time I insisted on boarding my flight despite being violently ill with food poisoning and unable to control either end of my digestive tract. But my favorite travel story is actually my dad’s.

      It’s 1970, he’s fresh out of college, and has signed up with a defense contractor to work in West Germany. As the new guy, he’s voluntold to bring something with him. The most sensitive papers would be printed with special ink that disappeared when exposed to light. So, they needed a light box. Imagine a suitcase sized device: fluorescent light tubes, wires, a battery, and a timer. Basically, the most obvious bomb that has ever bombed, something that would have looked right at home with an ACME logo on the side of it being carried around by Wile E Coyote, except in real life.

      My dad is at the Frankfurt airport, trying to get this monstrosity through customs. “What is THAT?!” “It’s…an eraser?” replies my dad, in his schoolboy German. He picks it up, trying to explain. It starts ticking.

      He was, as you might imagine, tackled by several large men with guns and forcefully escorted to a back room, where he remained for several hours until a high-ranking member of the West German command arrived to confirm his story and rescue both him and the device.

    29. Silence*

      Kind of mild compared to some of these.
      I live interstate from my mother, about an hours flying time. After visiting for Xmas I had an evening flight home so she dropped me at the airport around 6 so I could check in for my flight at 8. I am not sure if we actually circled our destination or were only nearly there when there was an announcement that due to wind speed at ground level the airport was closed so we were turning around to where we came from.
      So around an hour after she was expecting me to text that I landed safely my mother got a call asking if I could stay a night. Got my flight rebooked for the next morning while waiting for her, the airline was trying to find rooms for everyone but apparently nearly everything nearby was booked out by that time.

      Flying from Australia to Vegus with a change in LA. The 6 hrs in LA we thought would be half a day of sitting around ended up just enough time to get through customs and to the terminal for our connecting flight but when we got to vegus our checked luggage was still in LA (was told it happens a lot due to elevation/air pressure meaning they prefer to have less weight landing there) but were told it wold be on a later flight either later that night or tomorrow. Not a big problem except we were starting a 2 week bus tour at 7 the next morning. It was also a public holiday in the USA we don’t have in Australia so nothing was open to get any temp replacements. I couldn’t even find any period products which was becoming an urgent issue. Bags arrived about 11pm so all turned out ok but now always have a change of clothes and a weekends worth of pads in my carry on.

  29. Seeking big sleep bra recommendations*

    Oh magical commentariat, hear my plea:

    I’m a new mom looking for bralettes I can wear to sleep to hold the nursing pads. I don’t want to wear my real nursing bras because they’re actually supportive/snug, and that reduces production. Also they’re uncomfortable to sleep in! The tricky part? My bra size is US 36N aka UK 36J, and probably larger if I haven’t pumped in a few hours.

    The only place I’ve found that has them is bravissimo, and those bralettes are size J and might still be too small. It seems nowhere in the darn world has a sleep bra or a bralette in my size. It needs to have separate cups to hold the nursing pads, but other than that I want it as soft & stretchy as possible.

    I have a size 3x torrid bralette I’m using right now which is comfy enough but doesn’t have full coverage cups, so the pads sometimes fall out as I sleep, and then I leak everywhere. Does anyone have any recommendations? I’m at the verge of trying to sew a line down a tank top for cups. (I’ve tried using disposable stick-on nursing pads on a t-shirt and they move around too much)

    1. Somewhere in Texas*

      I wonder if searching for a low-support sports bra might be better than looking for a bralette?

      I haven’t used them, but maybe Parade? Or MeUndies?

    2. Not A Manager*

      Why not try the DIY option if you have a disfavored tank top you’re willing to experiment on?

      I’m a big DIY person anyway. It’s been a long, long time since I needed to deal with nursing pads, so maybe this is ridiculous, but one thing I would consider is putting on a thin, stretchy tee shirt with the pads under it, and then using any kind of tape or binding over the tee shirt to hold the pads in. All you really want is to recreate the form of a bra, but with pads in the place of cups.

      In fact, if you have an old bra that fits properly in the structural part of the bra even if the cups aren’t right, could you literally cut out the cups and use the bra skeleton, as it were, over the tee shirt to hold the pads in place?

      1. Sloanicota*

        A few whipstitches can also secure the pads to the t-shirt. You can also cut off the shirt below the breast if you don’t like to sleep covered-up.

    3. Lilo*

      I didn’t personally find the nursing bra restrictive. what about just buying a larger size in a nursing bra?

      1. Kat*

        Was going to suggest this – do you think the nursing bra would be comfortable enough to sleep in if you increased the band a size (or two)?

        1. allathian*

          You can also buy extender pieces for back-fastening bras, if the cup size is comfortable to sleep in.

      2. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

        I love the Sugar Candy nursing bras and slept in them postpartum, FWIW. Actually I would just wear them for 24 hours straight (changed them when I showered) and would hand wash. I had a weird bra size, like 30 J or K while pumping, so can confirm they’re good for tig ol bitties.

        1. Jules the First*

          Seconding the Sugar Candy rec – I’m still sleeping in mine, 2.5 years pp (and still nursing…they’ve held up well, even being regularly machine washed). Bravado are similar, a bit less supportive but have a better slot for trapping a pad, so that might work as well.

    4. Stephanie*

      If the hospital where you gave birth has a lactation consultant, they could probably help you. My daughter is 25, so it’s been a long time, but the lactation consult at the hospital got me started out with two good nursing bras, and one was a softer, more bralette style that was great for sleeping. They had a pretty big selection of sizes, too.

    5. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      I’m a similar size and honestly just gave up trying to find a bra. however I slept in nursing tanks.

    6. Baps*

      Can you find the pads that have adhesive on one side? Then you wouldn’t need separate cups and could also find crop tops. I am a similar size to you and ordered a sleep bra in size L; it fit fine.

    7. Generic Name*

      I used nursing tanks when I was lactating. They have a shelf bra, and aren’t restrictive at all. Very comfy. I got mine at Target, but it sounds like you’re in the UK

    8. Double A*

      I’m not your size so I apologize if this brand doesn’t work, but I lived in Kindred Bravely sleep nursing bras.

    9. HBJ*

      Honestly? Put down a towel or thick burp cloth and go sans bra. Buy a mattress protector just in case, and a few drips on the sheet will dry and doesn’t need washing every time. That’s what I did, never did wear a bra to bed when I was breastfeeding. Worked just fine.

    10. Dark Macadamia*

      I love Soma’s Enbliss bralette! It has slots for removable pads that you could use for the nursing pads with or without their included ones. I’m a 40DD and wear the XL, it looks like it goes up to XXXL (and when I went to look at sizes I saw they have a good sale going right now, so thank you for my new bras lol)

    11. the word's out*

      Have you checked out True&co? I exclusively wear this brand now (for comfort reasons only) but having previously been a nursing mom, I suspect these might work for you.

    12. Lilo*

      The other thing I’m going to note is, at least for me, this problem was brief and resolved in a maybe 3-4 weeks. So hopefully it’ll be short for you too.

    13. Ali + Nino*

      Sorry if you’ve already tried this, but have you looked specifically for nighttime/sleeping nursing bras? The manufacturers know that nursing moms are doing their thing at night! I got some sleeping nursing bras at Target that are literally just a piece of cloth that let you pull back the part covering your breast for easy access. No underwire, no nothing – it’s just fabric.

  30. Fragrance Recs*

    I want to start wearing light fragrances again for certain occasions. I tried smelling different scents when I was recently in an airport but got overwhelmed quickly! Any recs for very light scents? Sorry I can’t think of different words to narrow down the description. I used to wear some of Victorias Secret body mists and liked those. Especially appreciate suggestions of things I can smell at either Sephora or Ulta. I just can’t handle trying everything!! I recently bought a Bath and Body Works lotion and it’s definitely TOO MUCH SCENT!
    Thanks!

    1. fposte*

      One trick to lighten a scent is to spray it on TP, then dab with the TP. It’s more controlled and some will have evaporated before application so it’s a smaller “dose.”

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

        Another way to lighten — do as Holly Hunter does in *Broadcast News*: hold a perfume bottle facing away from you, spritz the perfume into the air in front of you, wait a second, and then walk into it.

    2. WellRed*

      It might help you to narrow down what sort if scent you like first, then you can concentrate on testing those. For example, floral, spicy, woodsy?

    3. Reba*

      You might try a solid or oil perfume. They tend to “wear close to the skin” i.e. they have moderate to low sillage, i.e. you will smell it more than others will. They can also be somewhat longer lasting than alcohol-based scents (hard to generalize because Chemistry).

    4. Anono-me*

      I have trouble with lots of scents. The ‘Happy’ line by Clinique works well for me. (I do the one spray in the air and walk into it application. )

    5. Phryne*

      Your own body chemistry plays a big part in how scents smell on you. My skin makes everything smell too sweet. I’d get a lemon verbena based perfume, light and fresh on the test strip, and it would be so sweet on my skin people would comment on it.
      In the end I did a perfume consult at a specialised store that sells scents from perfume houses only, not big brand ones. It was a really fun experience, taught me quite a bit about what I like and don’t like. The consultant told me most of the big brands tend to go sweet in their perfume lines because the biggest market is young women and they tend to buy those.
      In the end I got a perfume there with bases of leather and sandalwood, more common in male scents but they work for me because they don’t turn sweet.
      I realise this may not be directly actionable for you if you don’t have the option of such a consult, but maybe it might surprise you if you try scents that are more earthy or nutty. They sound like heavy smells, but they might turn out to be less heavy on your skin than you expect because of how your skin works.

    6. Anonymous Koala*

      I like mixing a drop of the bath and body works lotions (which I agree are far too scented) with plain unscented body lotion and applying that as perfume – I find it lightens the scent and keeps it ‘close’ to me if that makes sense – I can smell it but usually others cannot.

    7. Hatchet*

      One to try is Ralph Lauren Blue. I’ve worn it for years and don’t think it’s too heavy (though I may have become nose-blind to it). Looks like Ulta carries it. Good luck!

    8. RLC*

      I’ve found fragrances categorized as “aquatic” tend to be light. MAC “Turquatic” and Maison Margiela Replica “Sailing Day”, for example.

    9. Nihil Scio*

      I’m one whose skin chemistry turns scents either too sweet or too strong. Finding a new scent is a process, one that usually sends me back to my now standby, Very Irresistible by Givenchy. This particular perfume is light, long lasting, and isn’t intrusive at all. I’ve had a little luck with Daisy by Marc Jacobs but sometimes it’s a little strong. If a perfume is too strong, I get a slight but persistent headache.

      So my advice is the following

      Turn your search to higher end perfume counters where they have coffee beans to cleanse your palate between testing

      Test on paper samples first and only choose one or two to test on your skin. Make sure the testing areas are on different arms.

      Wait at least a day. Don’t buy anything right away. The scent will change over a period of minutes to hours and will get 1) stronger, 2) sweeter, 3) become icky (can’t figure another word for this), 4) turn lovely and rest lightly.

      The higher end perfumes tend to last longer so stay away from cheaper stores. Popular perfumes may not be for you. I started this process 40 years ago when Opium was all the rage and it turned into sickly sweet purple juice on my skin. Ick!

      Don’t worry about finding your perfect scent right away. This is a process. Enjoy it.

      1

    10. Silence*

      Most of the Bvlgari omnia scents are fairly ‘watery’ which may fit your criteria.
      Pravda iris is light
      Or ‘clean rain’

  31. Just a Name*

    Looking for a recommendation for an all in one color printer that is easy to set up and works with both PCs and Macs. My MIL has two non-working printers in her house. I tried to troubleshoot them both last week when we were there but they are truly dead. My thoughts are that I’d have one shipped to her and one of her local retirement community friends could help her set it up. Otherwise I’d be zooming, hence the easy to set up requirement. She bought the last one at an estate sale, so it’s well out of warranty. Thanks!

    1. Big sigh*

      I have a brother printer. It is compatible with both systems and had no problems setting it up.

    2. Professor Plum*

      After fighting with multiple ink jets from a variety of companies, I bought a brother laser jet. It works fine. I don’t print often and rarely need color. The ink keys always dried up on me in the times between printing. Not an issue with the laser jet.

    3. Qwerty*

      I have the ET-3850 by Epson – it is both a printer and scanner, with the option to do flatbed scanning or where you stick the stack of papers in the top and it auto-feeds (not sure what the term is) Ink management is easy – the four ink colors are separate wells and you refill from a bottle rather than swapping cartridges, plus you can see the levels directly in the printer rather than relying on software.

      It connects to wifi so my printer and laptop don’t even have to be in the same room. My parents and siblings all have older versions of the same model and seem to be rather satisfied. Setup was pretty easy.

    4. Healthcare Worker*

      My Brother printer/scanner works great – I’ve had it for years, and no problems. Easy to set up, with on screen instructions.

  32. Seeking A Writing Group*

    For anyone who’s in a writing group for support and feedback, what’s it like? How does it work? I attended one recently. The group was welcoming and lively. But I have concerns. Two people dominated the two-hour meeting and rambled a lot. I’m expected to email a writing sample to 15 strangers. I worry about privacy and theft. One group member uses her government email, which I find bonkers. Maybe that’s all typical. Maybe I’m not ready to share. Maybe I’d like a different group. I’d love to hear others’ experiences.

    1. Maryn*

      I was in a local writing group for decades, all of us eventually published. It only recently disbanded when too many members moved away. Now I get my feedback online from fellow writers at AbsoluteWrite.com/forums. (Transparency: I moderate there.)

      It sounds to me like the group you observed is not functioning well. No one should dominate or be allowed to ramble, which is why our group had rotating leadership roles–there was someone in charge whose task it was to stop such things before the person took up too much time.

      Your concerns about theft are common for beginning writers. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way, but nobody wants to steal your writing. If it would benefit from critique in a writing group, then it’s not something a thief could sell, right? (Long ago my work stolen and sold–and I still don’t worry about this.)

      Besides, you own the copyright from the moment of creation even without registering it. (Don’t delete early drafts; they’re part of your proof.)

      It seems foolish to use a work email for this purpose, especially a government one, but that’s the member’s problem, not yours.

      My former writing group helped me move up from wanna-be to selling some short stories to major markets. Independent of that group, which had a genre focus, I’ve sold more, and two novels. I’d never have mastered reducing word count without them.

    2. office hobbit*

      I’m in an online writing group and we knew each other before forming the group, so slightly different situation to yours. But a couple of people dominating the conversation and rambling would bother me too. You should feel comfortable and welcomed to share. The person using their govt email is weird; I would think anything sent there could potentially come up in a foia request if it happens to match the request parameters (not to mention just being visible to their workplace IT). In my experience in writing groups I’ve seen few examples of outright theft, but definitely some of people being “inspired” by others’ works quite heavily. I think if you don’t trust the group or feel comfortable there, it’s unlikely to do you much good. Maybe spend some time thinking about what you want out of a group, then see how those wants align with this specific group? Are there other groups in the area or online that you could try out?

      1. Seeking A Writing Group*

        Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll check out other groups. I know of two others, and a library program I like may offer support. Genre is important to me, and I’d rather not drive far.

        Another challenge is finding the courage to hear feedback. I tense up when I imagine someone criticizing my work. If you don’t mind sharing more, how do you handle that?

        1. office hobbit*

          Hmm, it took some practice for me to figure out at what stages of writing I’m ready to hear feedback. It turns out that if I get feedback in the middle of the process, I end up getting way into my own head and doubting my instincts, and the work ultimately suffers. But some people really like getting feedback and suggestions throughout the process! So you’ll have to find out what works for you. (For me, it’s been most helpful to get input from others near-ish the beginning if I’m stuck on some details/ideas (but not so near the beginning that I haven’t gotten to know my characters/plot yet), and then again after I’ve finished a first or second draft. Some people I’m comfortable sending a first draft to because I’ve worked with them enough by now that I know they’ll understand my rough patches, other people I know I’ll get better help from if I send them a second draft (tho their help at that stage is invaluable).)

          Since my group is online, all the feedback is able to be asynchronous, which can help if you’re getting feedback that’s difficult to hear. I imagine having someone respond to my work in person to my face could be a bit harder! Sometimes you want some time to think over their comments before you respond (but if that happens in person, I think a group of writers would understand you responding something to that effect–thanks, this is a really interesting perspective I hadn’t considered, I’ll have to think about it for a while).

          I feel like I’m just rambling. If I had to give some straightforward tips (ETA: I have also rambled in my “straightforward” tips) on receiving critiques they would be something like:
          -Don’t submit works for critique before you’re able to take a step back from them. Ideally you and the person offering feedback will be approaching this as a joint exercise to improve the work. If the work still feels like work=you, it will be harder to do this–you should be comfortable with knowing it’s flawed and wanting to improve it.
          -Certain people will “get” your work more than others and give you more insightful/helpful feedback as a result. That’s just the nature of receiving feedback from multiple people.
          -But, remind yourself that anyone’s reactions are valid, though this doesn’t mean you have to take everyone’s advice. But they’re a useful window into how other readers might react. If your initial response is to disagree with feedback, remember that the feedback is still true for that reader. Like for example if someone says such and such is confusing, but you think it’s clear or maybe you like it being a little confusing, you can decide you’re ok with some readers being confused by that. (But also, do give yourself some time to think over feedback you disagree with to see if you’re having a kneejerk protective reaction. Or ask a second person if they found it confusing as well, for example. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind and it’s improved the work! Sometimes I’ve changed the work based on advice I disagreed with, and ultimately changed it back again.)
          -Take people’s feedback before you try to explain things to them, since when your work is out in the world, you won’t be able to explain things to readers. Once they’ve said their piece, then you can ask questions, or explain while asking like “I thought x made it clear, how did you interpret that, or was it too easy to miss” etc.
          -It can be helpful to have specific questions to ask readers or specific components to ask for feedback on (like dialogue, etc), tho be prepared for readers to react to whatever they want as well. I usually ask for attention to components before people read, and ask them any specific questions (“did the conversation on page 11 feel natural?”) after.

          If this is all still feeling a little tense, maybe also practice getting critiqued in areas you care less about. Like, you could ask a friend for some practice, do something like draw a terrible stick figure and have them critique it very seriously so you can get used to that interaction in a very low stakes way. I don’t know if you’d need anything like that–I’m just remembering how, years ago, I felt the way you describe at the idea of anyone pointing out I had done something less than splendidly. Now I care much less and I assume my first efforts will be lacking, and I welcome the help. So part of it is also about your mindset as you approach it!

          This got so long, I hope any of this was helpful!
          you: if you don’t mind sharing
          me: I ope’ my word-hoard

        2. KeinName*

          I did a short workshop with an acclaimed author once and she explained about triads. Many of the successful authors she knows did an intensive programme (conpetitive to get into, from a school or journal or other esteemed organisation, and very small group) and during that found their triad. It’s a circle of three people who trust each other’s assessment and understand the genre (I.e. all understand magical realism). She spoke against seeking feedback willy-nilly if I recall. And for many authors they have these triads for decades.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Stephen King writes about this in his guide On Writing. In his case, he tends to write for “his reader,” in his case, his wife. She’s his first reader and critic of all his stuff.

    3. Nicosloanica*

      I am in one, and it really changed the course of my writing in the best way. But like any other group, it’s all about the chemistry of the individual people. We meet weekly and there are 8 core members with some who come more or less often. We get along well and have similar goals / writing skill level. We started out as just a plain old meetup, now we are a closed group. Theft is really not a thing in the writing world, I promise. Most of us are desperate to get anyone to read / care about our work at all, so I’m sorry to say our product doesn’t really have any value worth stealing (I say this as someone who is now published. I only ever see amateurs worry about this).

    4. RagingADHD*

      I haven’t participated in a writing group for years because I found they were full of weirdness, and often poorly moderated (such as letting ramblers dominate the time). I’m sure there are good ones, but finding one was a project I wasn’t up for.

      To your question in the reply comment, getting feedback on your writing is nerve wracking but necessary / inevitable if you ever want to publish. Even indie authors who self-edit and upload to Amazon get feedback. It’s just unfiltered comments from readers. That is definitely not the first round of feedback you want!

      The mindset I find helpful is to think about my goals for the piece, and then take the feedback as reflecting whether or not the piece did its job by getting across the ideas or experiences I wanted to convey. Did it work, or not? Could it work better? Where are the weak spots that need attention?

      It’s not a referendum on whether I am smart, or talented, or worthy, etc. It’s about whether the piece is finished yet or still needs more work.

      Separating yourself from the piece is not easy at first, but the more you write the less precious each piece becomes. Partly just due to habit, and partly because your interest and attachment moves on to whatever you want to write next.

    5. LA Girl*

      I have been in a writing group for 20+ years, and I am a professor teaching writing, so I lead multiple writing workshops every week. So lots of experience. And a few thoughts.

      •Theft is very rare. But it does happen. (2 former students in the same writing group. One wrote a very personal, unique story about a bizarre experience working for a movie star. Before he could finish it, the other former student wrote a wild, highly fictionalized take on the same story and won some prizes for it.) If you get a hint that theft of ideas is happening, get out. Mostly though, you should enter with an attitude of trust and support.

      •Look for a group of people writing pieces with some genre/theme/market overlap with what you write.

      •Time management is everything. Your group leader must keep an eye on the clock. Everyone presenting should have a roughly equal amount of time. If that’s not happening, the group will be dysfunctional in many ways, and you need a new group or a new leader.

      •Not everyone has to present at every meeting. Sometimes this is key to getting good feedback. My writers group covers 2 projects each meeting, 1 hour each.

      •If people raise their hands to talk, it’s easier to control rambling and pontificating.

      •In a healthy writers group (or class), time is deliberately given to positive comments. In my writers group and classes, we always start by going around the room with each person talking about what they love about the work being discussed. That has the added benefit of making sure every single person is commenting.

      …It sounds as if you may not have found the right group yet. But it’s out there. Good luck! Happy writing! And keep us posted!

    6. Girasol*

      I was in one that didn’t have meetings but was entirely online. The ground rules entitled you to post one item for critique after you had critiqued X many of others’ submissions. The approach to critiques varied from person to person, one making a brief flat statement of approval/disapproval of the plot, one addressing plot points in detail, one doing an English teacher style markup of grammar issues. That sort of organization didn’t lend itself to the problem that you saw. But I had put a lot of work into critiques of others’ work and was disappointed at the short and careless critiques I got in return.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      No advice “live,” but Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, her writing guide, has a chapter on writing groups that has great and very funny advice.

    8. Seeking A Writing Group*

      Thanks, everyone, for sharing your experience and advice. Lots of great ideas! I’ll try a few other local groups. If nothing clicks, I may venture online. As long as I continue to write and improve, I’ll be happy.

  33. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Anyone around who has tried the Halara pants (or other clothing) I keep seeing ads for? They look kind of like a lower priced version of the Betabrand yoga-pants-that-look-like-work-pants, but all their models that I’ve seen are pretty much the same shape (that is, fairly thin) and I’m trying to figure out if they’d hold up to the hype on folks who don’t fit that demographic.

    1. Dinoweeds*

      I love Halara! I’m 5’6″ and 240 lbs, so definitely not an average model size. I’ve bought their shorts, skirts, and dresses and I love them all!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        are their size charts fairly reasonable, or are they the kind of place where “XL” really means “high end of medium”?

      2. Dinoweeds*

        Nope, their size charts are pretty accurate. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten 1X in all of it and it has fit well.

  34. Bluebell*

    Recommendations for plain white dinnerware? Spouse and I got our plates from Crate and barrel for our wedding, and this January, we celebrate 28 years and quite a few broken and chipped plates and bowls. So now it’s time to buy a new set we think. We don’t want anything quite as light as Corelle, but nothing super heavy.

    1. Heather Crackers*

      Our dishware came from a restaurant store. It’s very utilitarian, but basically indestructible. The brand is Tuxton.

    2. CTT*

      It’s more of the same, but I got new plates and bowls from Crate and Barrel last year and love them. IKEA also has surprisingly sturdy dinnerware that isn’t too clunky.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Seconding IKEA – we bought white plates from one of their basic lines. As a big plus for us, it was one of the few in our budget that had proper deep plates for pasta / soup, as opposed to bowls. And I imagine finding replacements will be pretty easy should we break anything.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Thirding IKEA – in my house we call those “powls,” like a cross between a plate and a bowl, for lack of a better word, and they’re hands down the style of dish we use the most.

        2. Manders*

          I have a very basic set of white IKEA dinnerware, and they were incredibly inexpensive. To the point where every time I ended up at an IKEA I would pick up a new set, just in case my cat broke some (again). I’m now the proud (not really) owner of service for 24, in a condo that is 1400 sq ft, LOL. I love them. The deep bowl is awesome, and they honestly wear really well.

      2. Clara Bowe*

        World Market has a ton of nice single-color stuff. Last time I was in, there were plain white options. Plus, they always have sales of some kind.

    3. mreasy*

      Mine is from Fish’s Eddy (classic diner line) and it seems pretty well indestructible. I’m not sure how much of their everyday stuff they sell online but their cost to quality ratio is off the charts.

      1. mreasy*

        Also if you want to get really into it, find stoneware from Pfaltzgraff online. Full sets can be had relatively cheaply and these things are straight up tanks.

        1. Bluebell*

          We had the classic blue and white Pfaltzgraff when I was growing up. Looking for something a little later than that.

        1. Bibliovore*

          mine are all fishes eddy. oddly I just went to their on-line store and they didn’t have any of the “diner ware”

          1. Bibliovore*

            Diner White
            A complete collection of classic, sturdy silhouettes with beautiful cup handles, perfect plate rims and bowls that will be the most used dishes in the kitchen.
            Sorry, there are no products in this collection

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Also comes in white Fiesta ware. That’s what I have. I really like it but it’s on the heavier side.

      2. Seashell*

        I do too. I would consider them on the heavy side, but I have had basically no breakage unless something fell from really high up.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      If you’re up for it, many a thrift and secondhand store has full sets going for a song. Apparently full dinner services are no longer in style and lots of beautiful dishes are without homes.

    5. Brad Pitt eating with Penguins*

      I like the Sweese brand, and use the “pasta bowls” as plates – the rim helps corral potential messes!

    6. zaracat*

      Brand aside, I’d always choose porcelain as opposed to stoneware or earthenware. Earthenware especially slip-cast is much less durable and will chip and crack easily, and the glaze on white stoneware shows every little scrape as an ugly grey mark and looks completely crap after a very short time. Ikea has good quality porcelain for relatively low price. If you want to spend a bit more, commercial grade porcelain dinnerware will last much better.

  35. Housing background checks*

    Does anyone here work in HR/benefits and have experience with the process of receiving calls for background checks to get housing (mortgage or rentals)? What are you asked, and what info does the caller offer to you? Is it always the same script, or how much does it vary?

    1. WellRed*

      I’m it he but have gotten these calls for employee coworkers for apartment rentals. I was asked a few very basic questions including confirming full time employment, reliability etc.

    2. Belle*

      HR person here. Usually they ask me to confirm employment dates, salary/hourly rate a dm confirm we are not aware of any upcoming change in employment status (such as employee resigned recently). They will sometime ask for job title too.

    3. Chaordic One*

      When I was in HR there was a bit of a pattern to the questions asked. The callers for such things usually wanted to confirm that the person they were calling about was actually employed by us, job title(s) (and often job duties), how long they’d been employed by us, if they worked full- or part-time, salary and wage information, and then questions about character and reliability.

      All we were allowed to do over the phone was to confirm whether or not they were currently employed by us, the position(s) (job title(s) and duties) held, the dates of employment, and whether or not they were considered a full- or part-time employee. If the person was no longer employed by us, if asked, we could confirm whether or not the ex-employee was eligible for re-hire.

      We had a specific form that current and former employees could fill out which would allow us to disclose salary and wage information to the person or representative from a business listed on the form, but I don’t recall that anyone ever submitted one to us or ever providing that information to anyone over the phone. (I think employees usually provided copies of their pay stubs or direct deposit bank statements, instead.)

      We were told not to answer questions about character or reliability (and as employees in HR we usually wouldn’t know enough about the employee to answer the questions anyway). If asked, we were not allowed to provide names of supervisors or coworkers and told to tell the caller they would need to get that information from the person they were calling about.

    4. Kayem*

      I worked on the flip side, being the one to call HR for that. I always confirmed that the person was an employee and dates of employment on the phone. Once I confirmed they were a current or former employee, I sent in a form for salary/wage information (which also included dates of employment) so we could have that on record.

      Usually went like this:

      “Hi, my name is Kayem and I’m with Teapot Housing Association in Citystate. I am calling to verify employment information for Bob Burgerbarn.” Then the HR rep would usually ask me to verify employee information, usually a birthdate. This was to show that 1) I had access to that employee’s information and was not a scammer, and 2) we were both talking about Bob A. Burgerbarn instead of Bob J. Burgerbarn. If Bob A. Burgerbarn was confirmed a current or former employee, I’d then ask for contact information for me to send the verification form (which was usually a fax because my employer was stuck in the dark ages).

      Sometimes HR had their own forms they had to use, sometimes they’d use the one we sent, sometimes they’d send a letter with the information instead. As long as we had dates of employment and wage history (for former employees) or current wages (for current employees), we were happy. I do not remember if our form included information about upcoming raises and CoL adjustments as that information wasn’t always provided.

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      The caller gives me their name, company, reason for calling. Usually the employee lets me know they’ll be calling.
      They ask for employment and comp verification. Are they employed in good standing, sometimes.
      Pretty straightforward

      1. Bethlam*

        Pretty much the same here. I could verify employment status (ft or pt), length of service, job title, and avg number of hours worked on a phone call.. Verification of salary required a signed permission form on the requesting party’s letterhead faxed from them or handed to me by employee.

        Did a lot of these, but never had anyone ask about character or reliability.

  36. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Thanks for all the support last week. I needed it, online and in the real world. We have been lucky to have friends & family show up for us.

    As far as I know there is no way to hide text in this site’s comments so I’ll skip to my heartbroken public service announcement.

    If you or anyone you love are taking Ozempic, please please please look into the news reports of side effects. There are people working to have mental health side effects added to the label.

    I strongly believe this was an avoidable tragedy for my family. I read the warning labels when he started taking it, and I would have watched oh so carefully if I had known suicidal ideation is showing up for some people taking this class of medication.

    Hug your families, write your wills, and set up a system for giving your heirs your passwords.

    1. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, and thanks for the heads-up. I’m obese enough to potentially qualify for weight loss medication.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It was working. His blood sugar issues and early diabetes indicators were reversing. He’d lost weight at a safe steady rate. I just want others to know that the harmful thoughts can have an external source, and to set up contact with a mental health professional.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. And I want to echo your last sentence. A friend of mine went recently and his wife has to jump through tons of hoops to get access to his accounts. With the grief is uncertainty and panic.

      1. Samwise*

        Power of attorney and health care power of attorney. Have a lawyer draw up the paperwork—this it is not the place to look for cheap alternatives .

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

      I am so very sorry for your loss. Please be very gentle with yourself during this awful time.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Oh dear. I’m so very sorry for your loss.
      And thank you for letting everyone know about this.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      I am so sorry. My sister is taking the other drug, Weygovy, and I will alert her to this right away.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I’d also like to add a link to a terrific site: Get Your Shit Together.

        https://getyourshittogether.org/

        It was started by a woman in similar circumstances who was unexpectedly widowed and had to deal with so much more than she should have.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Thank you! I’m lucky to have people I trust helping with the immediate chaos, and this may be what I need for the future.

  37. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

    recently started wearing black leggings. no matter how I was them, they come out with lint. I hang dry them. best way to get the lint out?

    1. Liminality*

      I’m wondering if your washing machine might have a “hidden” lint trap somewhere that is really Really full and therefore no longer doing its job.
      It’s not only dryears that have lint traps. Sometimes the lint trap can be in the central agitator of the washer. I’d do some quick web research to find out “brand X model y lint trap locations”.
      Aside from that, if you can figure out which clothes/items are Making the lint and wash them separately that might help.
      Good Luck!

    2. Qwerty*

      I put my hang-dry clothes in the dryer on air-fluff (no heat) for 10-15min to remove lint and cat hair.

      Fleece tends to attract all the lint in the load. Maybe try tossing something like a microfiber washcloth in the load to see if that will attract the lint instead of your leggings? Or change the order that you do your loads of laundry in case the lint is being left by a previous load (like towels)

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I always wash my black clothes inside out, so that they don’t get the washed-out greyish look as easily. But it also means that lint and other possible fuzzy stuff gets attatched to the inside of the garment instead of the outside!
      Seconding checking for a lint trap, too, though!

  38. Newbie*

    Does anyone here live and work in rural Montana? I realize that’s a HUGE area, but I’m about to take a job in a little town off of I-15. I haven’t lived where there’s real winter since the 1990s, so am out of practice, but I do have what I think is adequate clothing. Probably too much clothing.
    The town I’m moving to has a grocery store, hardware store, library and movie theatre within walking distance of my house, along with my workplace.
    What do I need to know?

    1. YNWA*

      I grew up in rural Montana. Thankfully I escaped years ago so my take is going to be more negative than someone who recently located there on the high of watching Yellowstone.

      Internet is likely going to be an issue, you might have to use satellite internet which is a whole lot of headache. Healthcare may be a barrier. If something serious happens, you’re likely at least two hours from a major trauma center. Mental health care absolutely blows in the state.

      People are going to be nosy under the guise of neighborly so be wary who you tell what to. Rumors spread like wildfire. You’re going to be in blood red territory so be prepared for a lot of MAGA talk and bias, unless you’re near Helena which is one of the only blue areas of the state. Montanans really buy into the “last great place” mantra which is crap, but they’re very proud people who feign that they’re salt of the earth simple, but they’re not. There’s a lot of racism–mainly aimed at indigenous people but really any POC. You’ll hear a lot about the reservations and “how things are.”

      If you’re more northerly like Cut Bank, Shelby, you’re going to be on the high-line and it will get cold. Windy, sub zero. Snow varies but you’re on the high plains. If you’re more southerly, like Butte or Dillon, you’ll get more snow. It’ll still be cold but less likely to get the blizzards of up north sweeping the plains.

      1. Newbie*

        I’ll be near the high-line and definitely checked that there’s internet! I don’t need much to be happy but a grocery store and internet are necessary creature comforts. Never seen Yellowstone, and maybe that’s a good thing. I do get the impression that the state is seeing a lot of well-to-do folks from CA and TX who are expecting a more idealized version of rural life than really exists.
        I’ve lived in lower AL, south GA and north FL, so am pretty familiar with insular small-town dynamics and being in MAGA-land. Hopefully folks are live and let live… I lived in AL when sovereign states crazies were having a moment and that was scary.

        1. YNWA*

          One more thing, things move slow. If you need work done on your house or car, you can sometimes wait weeks, even months. My mom needed a deck replaced and it took about 8 months just because people with skills are usually booked out. That goes for electrical, plumbing, debris removal, pretty much anything.

          My hometown has experienced a huge jump in COL to the point where it’s on par with the city I live in now, but wages definitely don’t match the costs.

    2. Pippa*

      If you like small towns and beautiful scenery, I bet you’ll love it!

      One thing I’d flag just so you’re aware – right now (last few years) there’s a lot of contentious discourse about people moving to Montana. On the right wing, condemning newcomers for ‘bringing outsider attitudes’ and telling people ‘go back where you came from’, or alternatively seeing them as refugees from the liberal coasts and cities who’ve come to live in a last bastion of social conservatism. (The version on the left mostly resents newcomers for driving up housing prices, and housing availability is a real problem.) But in reality Montana was never historically what’s now called a ‘red state’ and the recent turn to extremist politics is really dismaying – I hope it’ll fade soon. There are wonderful people and places all over the state and anyone would be lucky to live here!

      1. Pippa*

        This posted before I meant to, so just wanted to add – if you want to spend some time in a more progressive environment than your small town might be, Missoula’s great, and the quality of health care available there is really good too (so if you need anything major done, for example). And seconding what YNWA said about racism esp. toward indigenous people. If you’re interested in some insight on related issues I recommend the work of Chris La Tray, Montana’s current poet laureate.

        1. Newbie*

          Thank you for the recommendations! I’ve followed Rep Zephyr’s career fairly closely and have been intrigued by the diversity of politics in the state. Wish she was going to be my rep, but no such luck.

          1. YNWA*

            Montana used to be more purple but since 2016 it’s gone very deep red outside of Missoula, Helena, and the Flathead County which can be violet as opposed to purple. I used to be proud of some of the politics in Montana, but not anymore. Ever since they elected that Giganforte (which was unthinkable when I was growing up. The idea of a politician from anywhere other than Montana winning was just unfathomable) governor, the state has gone to shit. Although I do know they’re hoping to enshrine reproductive rights in the constitution, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope it’ll actually happen.

  39. acmx*

    Looking for alternatives to Round up. I’ve used the DIY (vinegar+salt etc) and that works ok but I have an area that constantly needs weeding. I need something that can kill the roots in this area (by the road).

    1. Newbie*

      For spot treatment, any time I boil water for pasta or something like that, when I’m through with the water, I bring it back to boiling, then take the pot outside and pour it on the offending weed(s). A bit medieval, but it works and I’m getting a reuse out of the water.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A few years ago I bought myself a propane weed burner. Because I’m an old time Pern fan I call it my flame-thrower.

      The trouble is the fuel. I got the one that takes the little.cans because I found a rechargeable system. I used it regularly; I’m NOT in a drought zone so the garden hose is enough for fire safety. Then the recharger had a recall. So it’s worth looking into whether there’s a system without the waste of the mini-cans.

      Oh and don’t use it on an area with a plastic weed barrier. :(

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Those liners are only so good as the regularity of leaf removal. My house is in the woods and previous owners used it with garden gravel. :(

    3. Girasol*

      I asked a local farmer once about salt. She said that farmers use it, but you have to be sure that the area you’re salting is one where you won’t be wanting to grow anything at all immediately or in the future.

    4. Weed*

      Well I was going to recommend fire like the other person. But what about digging up this area to get rid of the roots of the weeds, then replanting with something else hardy that can compete with the weeds, then heavily mulching and maintaining the mulch? I don’t know what zone you’re in though. If you’re able to heavily mulch, that will reduce weed seeds from being able to take hold. Potentially the level of maintenance could come down to just pulling out a few weeds here and there from time to time depending on the situation. Salt is not ideal because very few things can survive in a saline soil and the only way to get rid of salt in soil is to have it leach deeper into the ground using water so as I understand it, you don’t ever really get rid of the salt, you just hope it stays below where the plant root system draws water from so that plants can still grow there.

      1. acmx*

        Thank you! Honestly… I won’t dig up these weeds lol (the weeds that grow between my property and the road). Mulch wouldn’t work in this spot but what I think what my plan is would be similar idea. I want to kill/remove the weeds and then place more of my landscaping material (e.g. rock) down. Some of it washes away and that’s probably part of why there’s so much weeds here. I want to get the weeds a little more under control first. I don’t have a lawn anymore. I had it removed and had native plants installed. I’m in Florida so keeping weeds under control is a year round endeavor (especially as I’m trying to stay more chemical free).

        1. office hobbit*

          Hm, since your goal is to put landscape rocks over it eventually, would something like a lasagna compost/sheet compost work? You could put that down to smother the weeds and then put rock on top of it.

          1. acmx*

            I think I will try the salt water then maybe cardboard to smother right before I add more rocks.
            I’m not too worried about the soil in this area. And I won’t be using too much salt water.

  40. StarryStarryNight*

    I’ve been using the Habitica app to track habits I want to develop/keep up – think basic things like using moisturiser, practicing a language I‘m trying to learn, doing back and neck stretches etc. However, the app seems to be getting increasingly buggy. Can anyone suggest an alternative? Looking for something intuitive and free/cheap, don’t really need the gamification features Habitica has. Thanks!

    1. office hobbit*

      It wasn’t built for this, but the app Tody (which I think I got from a rec from someone on here!) has a simple task tracking system and daily reminders. It’s meant for housekeeping but you can program in your own tasks and categories. In addition to cleaning I’ve added in habits like you listed. It’s got a free, ad-free version on Android!

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I use Loop habit tracker. You can have different frequency and alert settings for each task and it’s basically a list where you put a checkmark next to each thing you accomplish.

      1. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

        I’ve been using this for years, too. I find the little checkmarks strangely addictive/motivating.

    3. MeepMeep123*

      I have tried out just about every habit-tracker app out there, and the one I like the most is Smile Todo. It gives you little buttons to push for each habit, and a smiley-face emoji to summarize your day. The more buttons you check off, the happier the smiley-face gets.

  41. Mask Wars, part the millionth*

    Please help me improve my approach to a sticky situation (below).

    I’m receiving 28 near-daily treatments at the same hour each M-F in a radiation oncologist’s office. The number varies per patient, but if you’re in the office as a patient, you overlap with the same people for a while — and of course, you’ve got cancer.

    About 10 days ago, I returned to the dressing area expecting to be alone, saw a woman, apologized for not having on my mask (they weren’t mandatory, so I took mine off ONLY when alone, under the machine), and put it on. She laughed (not mockingly) and said she doesn’t believe in them. I was surprised but said nothing — no point.

    On M 1-8-24, masks will be just shy of mandatory in that office, and if I see her unmasked, I’d like to say to her, pleasantly, “Hi. I want to share some info with you. Last week I was hospitalized, in isolation, for 5 days because my wbc had dropped so low — an infection could have killed me. This was just a couple of days after you told me that you don’t believe in masks. But regardless of your beliefs, they work — and they save lives. Every patient in the room is immunocompromised; please wear a mask around us, for our benefit even if you think you don’t need one. Thanks.”

    In reality, I want to stab and punch her, and I wish the frikkin office would make them *mandatory*, but. I realize I could say nothing, but 4 years into this disease wreaking havoc *and* facing my 1st winter as as immunocompromised person make me inclined to say something.

    Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. ThatGirl*

      I’m gonna say over explaining won’t help – much as I understand the urge. I would stick with “we would all appreciate it if you’d wear a mask in here since a lot of us have weak immune systems” and leave it at that.

      1. Weed*

        I like this suggestion. Also recommend getting a good quality, well fitting N95 mask for yourself and wearing it. This will reduce your risk if others choose not to mask. I am sorry you are going through this.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Someone who has CANCER and still doesn’t “believe” in masks after the past 4 years is not going to suddenly care because you were hospitalized. She doesn’t even wear it for herself! I’d just say an abbreviated version with the goal being to get the mask on, not change her mind: “Could you please wear a mask when you’re near me? We’re all at high risk here and I recently had a major infection so I’m being extra cautious now.”

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and I can’t believe the office isn’t requiring them.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Also, is it possible to make this the office’s problem? Like, if she refuses to wear a mask and they refuse to require it, could you ask to be seated in a different area/have separate areas for masked and unmasked patients? Basically make it more work to space people out than it is to just mandate masks in the shared area.

        1. Mask Wars, part the millionth*

          Thanks, DM. I have the same impulse — to tell the receptionist (cordially) that, given my recent hospitalization (which she knows about), I’m going to wait in the hallway if anyone in the waiting room is unmasked. (The waiting area is too small to make separate areas feasible.)

          Thanks again.

        2. Anono-me*

          I think Dark Macadamia is correct on all counts. People who are lazy or unconcerned about masking will often mask if politely requested to do so;but people who have declared that they are decidedly mask free are not going to listen to anything you say. Best you can try for in the moment is social distance as best you can* and for the long term give it to the clinic to sort out or put you in a private room right away.

          Sending good thoughts for a good recovery in your general direction.

          *If you are like me and can cough at will like part of a lung is about to come up; even extreme antimask/anti social distance people become very good about social distancing.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          I second this one. You shouldn’t have to deal with this on top of everything else, and having it be “official” from the office staff might make the difference.

    3. Bluebell*

      I agree with Dark Macadamia’s wording and comment. I don’t think she will change, so as an alternative, could you either 1- see if you can get the office to change their policy, given that wastewater counts are at their highest since the Omicron wave 2 years ago or 2- see if you can reschedule so that you don’t overlap with Lady Maskless? I hope the next month isn’t too awful for you.

    4. Qwerty*

      A random stranger telling this lady that masks work is not going to change her viewpoint. Flip it around – is there anything this lady could say to you to make you not believe in the effectiveness of masks?

      More effective would be to talk to the office so they can ensure that you are not exposed to maskless patients, whether that means making it mandatory or keeping you away from the maskless people. The fact that they aren’t requiring the masks undermines the point you’d be trying to make anyway. I’m really surprised they aren’t required in an oncologists office! Even my ENT requires it for everyone because there are number of cancer patients.

    5. Rara Avis*

      It’s hard for me to understand why a medical facility treating cancer patients doesn’t require masks. They are mandatory in my state — even the ophthalmologist enforces the rule.