Link love

DH was out of town this week so… links are light again.  There have been plenty of horrible things happening and I’ve been doing voter registration drives and protesting climate change.  It sounds like Trump maybe asked the Ukraine for help smearing Joe Biden?  And the FBI had silenced another credible threat against Kavanaugh while the senate rammed his confirmation through.   There’s just so much.  But we have to keep pushing.  Now is a great time to write some post-cards to voters or to call an elected official about something important to you.

Offered without further comment

JD Roth on his anxiety and depression.


Ask the Grumpies: What to do with a 13th paycheck?

Debbie M asks:

In my retirement system, retirees are getting a so-called 13th paycheck (up to a maximum of $2,000) this year. (Interestingly, I learned that a 13th paycheck is standard or even required for employees in many countries. Weird!) So what should I do with it? As pension money, it is “unearned” and therefore cannot be contributed to retirement savings vehicles. And I don’t have debt (woo hoo!) or an HSA. So currently I’m thinking:
10% to charity
45% to taxable investments
45% to my vacation fund (still, uh, negative since I went to two foreign countries expensively in one year a while back)

Any other ideas?

Sorry for the delay on this– I hope it isn’t too late!

But… those all sound like really reasonable choices.  Go for it!

I guess you could check to make sure your emergency fund is padded for housing expenses or car expenses etc., but presumably you could take out of the vacation fund or sell taxable investments in the case of an emergency.  In theory you could use it to make energy saving improvements around your house like more efficient lighting or insulation if you don’t have those already.

Grumpy Nation, what other things could Debbie M do?

On the new era of Fragrance: A tiny rant

Several of the men in my department have started smelling increasingly floral.  Like there’s a miasma of chemical fragrance wafting like a cloud around them.  My nose starts to drip when they come near.

On the plane the woman in front of me sprayed a bunch of perfume on herself before getting off.  I dripped and sneezed and dripped.

DC2 had skin trouble with the handsoap we usually buy, so DH replaced our bathroom handsoap with liquid ivory, because he got ivory and dove mixed up (dove is dermatologist recommended– they’re both old brands with white bottles and similar packaging).  I stopped being able to go near his face for half a day after he shaved, or my nose would drip and my eyes would start to water.

Then the grocery store stopped carrying his unscented head and shoulders, and they increased the fragrance in the suave he used to buy before he started trying to attack his dandruff.

We spent quite a bit of time at the grocery store today sniffing various shampoos.  He did find a mint scented one that didn’t cause any allergic reaction for me, but in the end everyone decided that DC2 and DH and I would all use the unscented Burt’s Bees baby shampoo that I switched to a while back.   (I started having dandruff and scalp itchiness problems with regular shampoo and decided to buy a bunch of different expensive unscented baby shampoos from Target– Burt’s Bees has been great.  I won’t say it gives me much in the way of volume or body etc, but my scalp feels fine, I have little dandruff, and … I only need to wash my hair about once per week now, which is crazy.)

I was so happy during the last decade or so when scents were out.  The bath and body works era before then was hellish– if I got around too many people or the wrong people I would get a drippy nose and a headache.  I frequently ran out of tylenol allergy sinus.

But now it seems like fragrances are back in, and they’re in EVERYTHING.  Even products we’ve used for years have started upping their scent.

I hate it.

Thank goodness for Zyrtec.  But I will be happy when this fad goes away.

Feel free to commiserate, fellow allergy sufferers!

Simple meals for kids to cook

We feel like it is important for our kids to be able to cook a few meals on their own before they leave our house for good.  Ideally they will also know how to follow a cookbook, but being able to do a few simple meals from scratch (or with a box) without needing access to the internet or an actual cookbook is a helpful skill that should be useful in all sorts of situations.

What are some of these meals they can and should be able to do?

Our kids can both do:
1. scrambled eggs
2. quesadillas/tacos
3. grilled cheese
4. macaroni and cheese from a box with tuna and peas
5. cold cereal
6. salad

I really ought to teach them how to do spaghetti with meat sauce and onions sometime soon.  If either of them liked chili, that would also be on my list.

My memorized repertoire when I left home also included (along with all of the above): fry-ups, swiss steak, chicken cacciatore, salad dressing baked chicken, and leek and potato soup.  I could also do random things with lipton onions soup packets and cans of various campbells soups.  I haven’t made most of these in years either because they’re not healthy with my PCOS or because the children aren’t crazy about them.

DC1 has been preferring to make desserts from cookbooks.  Along with that, most kids seem to like making cookies.  Although I have some desserts memorized (ex. dump cake), I don’t really have any worth making memorized, so we use recipes.

What simple meals did you make as a kid?  What do your kids make, if applicable?  What other meals do you recommend kids learn how to do before they leave home?


Link love

Traveling again… links are light.  Many stupid and terrible things happened with the Trump administration this week including a lot of fascist stuff, but apparently none of them made it to being linked here.

Artificial intelligence could make your job harder

Taking out a student loan is better than dropping out

Investing in children really does pay big benefits for government

Ask the grumpies: Favorite kinds of museums?

Leah asks:

Do you like visiting museums? If yes, what is your preferred type? History, art, science, local, or another type?

#1:  As a parent, my favorite kind of museum these days are large children’s museums that aren’t insanely crowded that can wear the kids out.  But I also like history and science.  Sometimes local.  Recently my kids went to the Houdini museum in NYC and declared it their favorite museum ever (even moreso than the insane children’s museum in St. Louis).  I like *some* art museums, and mostly the kinds with exhibits full of things that aren’t just paintings, though I also love a good Dutch masters collection.  My favorite art museum is The Art Institute of Chicago.  My second favorite is the Prado (love me some Hieronymus Bosch).  I think the Metropolitan Museum of Art is too … random?  It’s full of stuff but the individual rooms don’t seem as well curated as in Chicago, where each room tells a story.  But with a few exceptions I don’t tend to seek out art museums like I do historical museums or, to a lesser extent, natural science.

In terms of history, I like the Oriental Institute and both Gettys.  I used to love the DeYoung museum, but I haven’t been in SF when it was open in over 30 years, so I don’t know if I still like it since it’s moved.  (The SF Science museum is still just as cool as it was when I was a kid, and they’ve waaaay upgraded the earthquake exhibit which was my favorite then.)  Local museums can be pretty cool as well, and we’ve taken the kids to a few historical towns where they have volunteers dressed up in historical costumes demonstrating historical things.  I think my favorite localish museum is a textile museum in I think Lowell, Massachusetts, though there’s also a tiny small-town museum about a distant branch of my family who were much more colorful than my direct ancestors.

All of the Smithsonians are amazing.

Poor roly poly nice kitty

At the last vet appointment, they said that nice kitty needs to exercise more and eat less or she’s going to be at high risk for type 2 diabetes.  She also is so roly poly that she can no longer clean her rear end area.  She tries and she just flops over.  It’s both amusing and sad at the same time.  She also does not appreciate someone else coming after her with a warm wet paper towel to help clean her, though she doesn’t run away very quickly either.

This wasn’t really a problem when we had two (or more) cats.  But after Little Kitty died and after my sister’s cats went back home from an extended visit when my sister was traveling for a month we didn’t quite get the automatic food timer set correctly for just one cat.  And Nice Kitty was originally a street kitty (from our back yard) and doesn’t seem to be great at self-regulation if food is out.  Hard food would pile up, but it would eventually get eaten, except anything that fell to the floor because Nice Kitty is picky and wants things a certain way.

So we cut a feeding off the automatic timer.  That didn’t seem to do anything.  Hard food still piled up.  It still eventually got eaten.  Less made it to the floor.

So we cut another feeding off the automatic timer.  This one had some bite to it.  In the morning about an hour after the food is gone from the early morning feeding, she sings her songs of woe.  Can’t you see I’m wasting away, she croons.  I haven’t eaten in an hour!  She will drag DH over to the feeder and complain loudly about it being broken.  She will guide me over to the treat area to hopefully suggest that now would be a great time for treats.

A friend of ours suggested we stave off the complaining during this time with catnip.  This seemed to work– she got really into the nip.  It reminds me a bit of those late 20th century stories about Hollywood starlets on a bad path in order to be as skinny as the industry tells them to be.  “Nothing tastes as good as being able to clean yourself feels,” I tell her.  I don’t want to fat shame her, but I also think she should be able to clean her own rear end.

When the timer does go off, she gets the first exercise in (other than lazily rolling around batting at a piece of string she’s been refusing to actually chase) for a long time, racing to her food bowl.

We worry that some of this lethargy is caused by increasing her Prozac prescription after recent pee protests (peetests?) about visiting cats and DH accidentally buying scented instead of unscented litter for three of the four litterboxes.  Or not opening the patio door open wide enough in the morning for her to feel confident about using the patio potty.  We’re not quite sure what goes on in her kitty head.  Maybe it’s just uncomfortable to pee when you haven’t been able to wipe in a long while so DC1’s unfolded clean laundry pile looks like a better place than a litter box.  If the peetests stop for a long enough period, we will probably taper back down to every other day.  (If the peetests continue, we will take her back to the vet for more tests.)

We don’t want her to lose weight too quickly, of course.  And as the weather gets cooler she’ll be more willing to do exercise on her own.  I’m also thinking of getting a puzzle ball or some kind of other toy that rewards exercise with hidden treats.

How do you handle feeding your pets?