Where would you choose to live in 1500?

by honolulumother

This post comes courtesy of my youngest, aka Tuxedo Boy.

If you were going to be sent back 500 years into the past to live but could choose the location, where do you think would be the best place to live?  You can keep your basic talents and personality, but you’re rolling the dice (or we’re drawing a Rawlsian veil of ignorance) as to your social class, sex, and race / ethnicity.  Alternatively, where do you think would be the worst place to live?
I chose China for my best place to live — they’re in the middle of the Ming dynasty so if I’m a peasant my crops aren’t so likely to be burned, and they promote based on civil service exams instead of who your parents are.  My worst place to live is the Aztec Empire.  It’s already the kind of place where they think nothing of sacrificing you and wearing your skin as a cape, and yet things are about to get significantly worse.
How about you?  Where would / wouldn’t you choose to live 500 years ago?
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Con Artists

by Honolulu Mother

This Vanity Fair article describes the author’s friendship and travels with an “heiress” whom she eventually realized was actually a con artist. It was an expensive lesson.

“AS AN ADDED BONUS, SHE PAID FOR EVERYTHING”: MY BRIGHT-LIGHTS MISADVENTURE WITH A MAGICIAN OF MANHATTAN

Have you ever been taken by, or narrowly avoided, a con? Or have your run-ins been limited to emails from Nigerian princes in exile and phone calls from Windows Security?

Food shows!

by Honolulu Mother

Do you enjoy watching food and cooking shows on your screen of choice? NYMag suggests the best cooking shows to match different moods:

The 7 Best Food Shows to Match Your Mood

Cooking shows aren’t a harmless pleasure to everyone, though. Like this Quartz article, some have questioned whether the competition shows’ judges really have the knowledge base to fairly rate the execution of the wide variety of cuisines that may come before them:

A COOKING SHOW CONTROVERSY OVER CRISPY CHICKEN REVEALS THE LACK OF CULINARY DIVERSITY ON TV

And of course, there are the long-standing complaints that most food tv shows don’t so much teach viewers how to cook as put viewers off cooking, by making it look too difficult and setting an unobtainable standard. I’ve watched some of a French show that’s certainly guilty of that — it takes a bad but functional cook’s signature dish, and a chef has them do a version that bears only a slight relation to the original and is many times more expensive and time-consuming. For instance, from spaghetti with jarred sauce and chopped cucumbers:

to some kind of tubular pasta structure filled with a meat-and-vegetable reduction inspired by bolognese sauce, napped with bechamel and garnished with cucumber:

The message is, “Your stand-by dinner is terrible, and the way to fix it is to spend ten times as much time and money.” The show, for anyone interested, is:

NORBERT COMMIS D’OFFICE

(No, it doesn’t have English subtitles, but it’s reality tv — your French doesn’t have to be that good for you to still get the gist.)

What, if any, food tv shows do you watch?

Post-Vacation Blues

by Honolulu Mother

Does coming home from a much-anticipated vacation leave you feeling down? If so, you’re in good company, according to this Daily Beast article:

Spring Breakers, Beware of the Impending Depression

The article has a couple of suggestions for easing the transition back into your everyday responsibilities:

DiMarco said it’s also important to prepare for the post-travel depression by giving yourself time to get back into your normal routine. Try to preemptively clear your work calendar for the first few days you’re back and schedule fun things like a manicure or an intramural sports game to be excited about.

“Knowing that you’re going to be a little bummed out your first two days back from vacation can help mitigate that,” she said. “You can also do some self care when you get back, yes you were just on vacation but it doesn’t mean you need to come home and punish yourself.”

There is no way my work would cooperate with giving me a clear calendar for the first few days I’m back after a trip. But I do find that post-vacation (and post-holiday season, for that matter), it helps to just accept that I’ll be feeling down for a week or so before I readjust to the usual hectic routine.

Do you have ways to deal with the post-vacation blues? Or do you not experience that?

Family Stories

These two submissions seemed to go together:

by Honolulu Mother

According to this Psychology Today blog post,

C]hildren and adolescents who know more of their family stories show higher well-being on multiple measures, including higher self-esteem, higher academic competence, higher social competence, and fewer behavior problems.

It goes on to offer a set of 20 questions that can serve as a starting point for telling family stories.

My kids like to hear family stories, though I don’t think they could answer all those questions. I specialize in telling embarrassing stories about my siblings, although some about me may slip in from time to time.

Do you share family stories? Have you created some of your own that your kids might pass on to their own families?
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Our Parents’ Stories

by Swim

The link to the article about cliques in nursing homes made me very sad. So much going on under the surface there. Made me think of a topic suggestion: what have you learned about your parents that surprised you? Young kids and adult children think they know their parents, but often have little idea of their parents younger lives, or even how interesting their lives are when kids leave home.

House styles and wall art

by July

This Pop Chart Lab poster features “121 hand-drawn American homes divided up into seven primary categories—Colonial, Folk/Vernacular, Romantic, Victorian, Eclectic, Modern, Neo-Eclectic—and 40 subdivisions, such as Italian Renaissance Revival, Ranch, and the dreaded McMansion”.  (Click to enlarge image.)

Which drawing most closely resembles your home?  Which one is your dream home style?  Are they one and the same?  If you live in a multi-family building, what is the style?

Would you hang this poster in your home?  What do you like to hang on your walls?  Fine art or posters, traditional or not, colorful or muted tones?

Robocalls and spoofing

by Honolulu Mother

I’ve been getting a lot of robocalls lately, and many of them seem to come from spoofed phone numbers (usually from my same area code). Apparently I’m not alone:

How robo-callers outwitted the government and completely wrecked the Do Not Call list

It’s an arms race between the robocallers and the callblockers, and the robocallers are winning. The unfortunate side effect is that it makes everyone less likely to answer the phone for an unfamiliar number, which cuts down on the utility of the phone as a communications device. (I pick up anyway as my kids are known to forget their phones at home and call from a friend’s phone.)

Have you been getting more robocalls? Have you tried a callblocking app? And, do you still pick up for unfamiliar numbers?

Restaurant Menus

by Honolulu Mother

I thought the group would be amused by this WaPo article complaining about incomprehensible restaurant menu listings:

It’s not just you: Restaurant menus really are confusing

I am familiar with pommes paillasson but the other examples given would have at least one unfamiliar term for me. However, I thought it was funny/ironic to have the Post’s food writer making this complaint since the inclusion of non-English or specialized language in restaurant menu listings has been something of a class test for over a century — think of all those fancy urban restaurants in the late nineteenth century using French for all the menu items despite being located in an English-speaking city. If you couldn’t understand what you were ordering it showed you were an outsider. I’d say that your more aspirational restaurants today do the same thing, assuming a level of diner familiarity with more obscure ingredients and current food trends that may be standard for well-heeled urbanites but leaves others feeling left out. So the real issue is that these restaurants dialed their menu obscurity level up to “11 – even restaurant critic can’t understand it.”

On the other hand, although I may be familiar with pommes paillasson, I’ve been baffled in the past by questions such as whether a DQ Blizzard is a drink (I now know it is ice cream) when outside my zone of familiarity. In other words, a part of this phenomenon is just restaurants aiming their menus at their usual crowd rather than deliberately trying to exclude infrequent diners.

Have you run into restaurant menus where you felt at a loss as to what was being offered, or how much food an item was likely to involve, or whether it would come with sides included? Are there ways you think restaurants could improve their menu writing? And do you place the blame for diner confusion more on restaurants trying too hard to be precious, or just on some restaurant staff doing a poor job of describing their food?

‘Healthy’ habits you can’t quite defend

by Honolulu Mother

The writers of 538 helpfully shared some of the “wellness” habits they love despite the lack of any real evidence of effectiveness:

The Wellness Habits We Love Too Much To Investigate

Are you willing to share here? And to those commenters inclined to cavil (you know who you are), no fair pointing out that someone’s cherished habit shared in this thread is likely to be pointless — they know that or they wouldn’t be sharing it here.

I’ll start: when I eat a falafel sandwich I cling to the belief that it’s a healthful choice and try not to think about the “deep fried” part of how falafels are made.

Calendaring

by Honolulu Mother

We haven’t had a post on family calendar systems for a while. This may risk bringing the Cozi hordes back down on us, but has anyone changed calendaring system? Still happy with the one you have? Looking for a change?

We’ve long used a paper calendar in the kitchen as the main family calendar, supplemented to some degree by Google calendar that only I ever looked at or got notifications from. Since changing the kitchen Echo out for an Echo show, though, the Google calendar notifications are very visible for all because they’re part of the rotating newsfeed on the Show’s screen when it’s idle (with a slideshow of family photos in the background). It’s also easier to ask to show a specific date in, say, April, than to flip forward in the paper calendar. As a result, I’m now making the effort to get everything into my Google calendar so it’ll show up in the newsfeed. We basically have two parallel systems going now, the paper one and the electronic one.

What’s your calendaring news?

The Kids’ Menu

by Honolulu Mother

This guy feels strongly that kids’ menus should not be a thing:

Why ordering from the kids menu is harmful to children

I cannot say I agree. While we didn’t rely heavily on the kids’ menu when ours were in that age group, clearly there are pickier eaters out there than mine were and why shouldn’t restaurants offer some safe and relatively inexpensive options for families that want them? He sounds like a man who would have strong views on screen time.

However, I do agree that if you’re not dealing with a picky eater, there’s no reason to limit kids to the kids’ menu options, For smaller kids with smaller appetites sharing food works well, and you can order an appetizer to supplement if needed. And of course they eventually want to order their own entrees, which our policy was to allow as long as the kid would reliably eat what s/he ordered and the item wasn’t ridiculously expensive (and even if the kid thinks hot chocolate is the ideal beverage choice to go with salmon).

How about others? How long were your kids ordering off the kids’ menu? Do you agree with him that it’s preferable to avoid the kids’ menu? Does anyone agree with him that restaurants should not even offer a kids’ menu?

Office Holiday Parties

by Honolulu Mother

NYMag ran some advice for shy people attending office parties:

Advice for Shy People Forced to Attend Holiday Parties

Since I’m in the government sector, my office just doesn’t do the kind of party described there, but for those of you who do attend dressy evening office parties, do you think the article offers good advice? What tips would you add?

Christmas music

by Honolulu Mother

It’s time for our somewhat-annual discussion of Christmas music! What are your newest favorites? What are your classics? And what are your never-play-that-agains?

I will remind you of the existence of All I Want for Christmas is a Goat. That’s very distinctive, and pretty low on my list of Christmas favorites.

I have many that are high on my list of favorites, but for this year I’ll pick Christmas Island by Leon Redbone, and Holiday Songs and Lullabies by Shawn Colvin.

The Dark Underbelly of Online Mattress Sales

by Honolulu Mother

Oh brave new world this is, that has such business models in it!

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare

I have noticed the many Amazon reviewers mentioning that they got a free or discounted product in return for an honest review, but had no idea how thoroughly the cash-for-recommendations model had infiltrated the mattress business.

How do you filter online reviews? I like to look for a certain shape of review bars — a nice exponential curve that’s fat at the five star end and fades to almost nothing at the one star end. A spike at the one star end, even a small one, is bad news, although with some products (cell phones) it seems like you can’t avoid it. And of course you have to read to see if there are patterns to what people like, or dislike, about a product.

Give us your review of online product reviews!

Totebag Dinner Party Game

by Honolulu Mother

The object of this game is to plan a Totebag dinner party. Your guests should include:

1 historical figure
1 fictional character (books, movies, tv, comics, they’re all eligible)
1 living celebrity (sports, acting, music, eccentric billionaire, they’re all eligible)
3 Totebaggers of your choice
You and your date of choice (it doesn’t have to be your spouse!)

Who’s invited? What are you serving? And what are your seating arrangements — who is next to whom? For full credit, explain your choices.

Please do not fill more than two blue books. ^_^

Leftovers

by Honolulu Mother

I thought of Rhett when I saw this headline:

Why Americans have stopped eating leftovers

Despite years of training, my kids are not what I’d call enthusiastic leftover eaters. They will eat them, but grudgingly. Still, we get through most of our leftovers.

Does your household eat leftovers, or at least most of them? Do you have clever ways to re-use them, or do you just zap them?

Good Old Cookbooks

by Honolulu Mother

The Washington Post recently ran an article on three cookbooks published in the early 80s that were big sellers at the time, and continue to be popular today:

These three cookbooks went viral before the Internet existed — and they still hold up today

The cookbooks in the article are the Silver Palate Cookbook, Entertaining: Martha Stewart, and the Victory Garden Cookbook.

I don’t have any of those. My parents’ cookbook collection was pretty much complete by 1982, and I didn’t start my own until a couple of years later. But I have plenty of old cookbooks! Leaving aside the ones I have primarily for historical interest or sentimental reasons or reference, some old favorites that I still cook from include Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks for Italian food and Julie Sahni’s for Indian food, and Laurie Colwin’s books (essays with recipes) that I picked up in law school.

What good old cookbooks do you still cook from?

Cocktail hour

by Honolulu Mother

The Daily Beast recently ran this fun ode to the Manhattan:

How Manhattan Drinkers Are Different From Martini Drinkers

(Side note: Imagine an era where she put that on her head, looked in the mirror, and thought, “Oooh, so chic!”)

Do you like Manhattans? And if so, is it a year-round drink or do you switch to something like a G&T in the summer? Is a little bowl of nuts, olives, or cheese straws a necessary accompaniment? (Recommendation: Hunter Mix combined with Bombay Mix. I discovered when googling for the links that I’m not the only one who likes this combination.)

What’s your tipple?

Commuting

by Honolulu Mother

This U.S. News article discussed an interesting study on how commuting patterns are slowly changing:

How Commuting Is Changing

Here’s the article’s summary of national trends:

On the national level these figures illustrate a few large, long-term trends that are continuing to play themselves out over time. Slow, steady declines in single drivers are offset by equally slow increases in public transit riders. A lot is made of the gains in so-called nonmotorized commuters walking and biking – and for good reason – but by far the biggest change is in those staying at home to work.

And of differences in commuting patterns from place to place:

… the places where commuters predominantly drive to work alone are concentrated in the South and the Midwest. On the flipside, transit-intensive counties also tend to have the highest rates of walkers, taxi riders and bicyclists. Those who are able to work from home the most seem concentrated in suburban, or collar, counties where they be otherwise facing long trips into the central business district.

I’ve noticed that the recently introduced bikeshare program here seems to be drawing a lot of commuters, with racks in the business / financial district filling up in the morning and emptying in the evening (although the bikeshare van does its best to rebalance the supply by moving bikes around). But my own commute is a single-person-in-car commute by the time I get to work, even though it usually starts as a full car leaving home.

Has your commute changed in recent years? Do you see the kind of gradual changes the article talks about?

Job transitions

by Honolulu Mother

In this request for advice to New York Magazine’s Ask a Boss, an employee leaving a nonprofit worried that her soon-to-be-former boss expected her to still be available after her planned departure for another job:

‘I Quit, But My Boss Won’t Let Me Go!’

Have you ever had a previous job try to follow you to your new job? Do you have any tips for smooth transitions, both for leaving the old workplace in good shape to carry on without you and for preparing to hit the ground running in the new job?

Do Your Teens Get Enough Sleep?

by Honolulu Mother

It’s reported that very few teens get an adequate amount of sleep — on the order of 15% — and this is bad for them in a host of ways ranging from general health to mental focus, as discussed in this Psychology Today article:

Your Teen Needs More Sleep

This seems to go along with the recent suggestion that much of what is classified as ADHD could actually be a sleep disorder:

Could some ADHD be a type of sleep disorder? That would fundamentally change how we treat it.

I push my kids to get to bed at night, but there are challenges such as high homework loads, group projects where the group wants to meet online late at night, and of course the every-present electronic temptations. And of course since I get up earlier in the morning than they do, if I want to get enough sleep myself I can’t be staying up to make sure everyone really gets to bed at the time promised. So, I find that school vacations always start with the kids sleeping half the day as they catch up.

Do your teens and younger children get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night? If not, is this a concern for you?

Twitter Wars

by Honolulu Mother

I was amused to read about this recent Twitter war between two science museums:

Man accidentally starts Twitter war between Natural History and Science museums

Much preferable to some other Twitter wars we’ve recently seen.

Do you prefer your Twitter wars between celebrities, politicians, venerable institutions, businesses, or brands? Or do you prefer to mix those categories? What Twitter war would you like to instigate?

Laundry!

by Honolulu Mother

It’s been quite a while since our last laundry post — more than two years, I should think, since I’m not seeing any listed under the Home & Garden tag or as a separate topic. So, I hereby declare it to be open season on laundry talk! As well as other housekeeping tips and questions folks may have.

In our laundry news, I have been using those wool dryer balls that you drizzle with lavender oil or something similar for a couple of years now, though intermittantly. We never have to worry about dryer cling in our climate so I can’t say how they do with that, but they do an ok job of unclumping clothes in the dryer and (with essential oil) lightly scenting them. Obviously this is fussier, not to mention more Totebaggy, than just throwing in a dryer sheet. So one could argue that the 30 seconds I spend dosing the dryer balls and tossing them in the dryer could be better spent folding clothes so that we would actually catch up with it all and people could sit on the laundry-folding couch.

What’s new, laundry-wise, in your neck of the woods?

Apples

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently the Honeycrisp was just the beginning — Big Apple is planning newer, more amazing apples to take over our grocery shelves.

Honeycrisp was just the beginning: inside the quest to create the perfect apple

I like Honeycrisp quite well, but I liked Pink Lady before they were cool (or at least before they were in the big boxes). My daughter always wants to get Ambrosia apples. But of course we have a more limited apple selection here as the only locally grown apples are mountain apples (which though good are not technically apples). Do you have a favorite apple? Do you live in apple country? And what do you do with your apples — eat them all out of hand, bake with them, make applesauce or cider?

Halloween already?!

by Honolulu Mother

The Halloween stuff has been showing up in stores since late August or early September, and 2/3 of my offspring already have costume plans — inflatable T-Rex costumes, which they’re also trying to talk some friends into getting, so they can go as a pack of T-Rexes. Possibly they were inspired by this series of videos:

Are you ordering / working on Halloween costumes or decor already, or are you reading this post and thinking, “Even on the Totebag we’re doing Halloween already?”

Saving Stuff for Children and Grandchildren

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article had some suggestions on what items might be worth holding on to for children or grandchildren:

Just because an item doesn’t spark joy doesn’t mean you should toss it

In brief, the author (who helps people declutter) says that it’s worth setting aside a few things intended to be passed on to children and grandchildren, but choose (1) not too much — a couple of items, not a whole collection; (2) mostly small items; and (3) items that have special meaning.

We are not at a downsizing stage of life right now. We do regularly give away outgrown books and clothes, but we’re not looking at those with too much of a sentimental eye. (With some exceptions — my daughter didn’t want me to get rid of the Humphrey books, books about a classroom hamster written at about an 8-10 year old reading level.) So while this advice sounds ok to me, it’s not something I’ve had much cause to think through.

For those of you closer to this topic either as givers or recipients, what do you think of this approach?

Desperation Dinners

by Honolulu Mother

On the old site some years back we once had a topic on desperation dinners: those old faithfuls that you can throw together from what’s in the freezer and pantry on those nights when everyone’s hungry, time is short, and nothing was planned. Some suggestions from that topic were recorded in the Juggle Cookbook:

The Juggle Cookbook

I suggest we do an update now, in honor of Sky’s return to work. What do you turn to when you get home at the end of the day and realize that nothing’s been planned for dinner?

Some of our desperation dinners are pesto pasta (jarred pesto that lives in the fridge, toss in grape tomatoes or chopped tomatoes or whatever is around that seems like it could go in); creamed tuna on rice and creamed chicken on rice with peas; sausages from the freezer either pan-fried with butter or broiled or done on a Foreman-type grill with micro-steamed veggies and smashed potatoes on the side; boneless skinless chicken thighs defrosted just enough to cut up stir fried with whatever veg we have around and some sauce from the mason jar of generic stir-fry sauce (house-made) that lives in the fridge, with rice.

What are your household’s desperation dinner?

Popular Majors at Selective Versus Nonselective Colleges

by Honolulu Mother

We have argued before about the value of majors that don’t directly tie in to a well-paid job. A recent 538 article notes that students at selective colleges are the ones more likely to be going into, say, social sciences or performing arts, while their peers at less selective colleges focus more on technical or directly job-related fields:

Students At Most Colleges Don’t Pick ‘Useless’ Majors

The article suggests that it could be that the selective school undergraduates assume they’re going on to graduate school so the undergraduate major matters less, or it could be that they expect their college name and network to open doors even where their major isn’t pre-professional. I would note also that more selective schools may not even have the pre-professional majors. Have you noticed this effect, and if so do you have thoughts on what causes it?

Vermin

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s a topic to make everyone cringe: What problem creatures tend to infest homes or yards in your area, and what do you do to fight them off?

In Hawaii, we don’t have cold winters to knock back the insect population, and we have flying cockroaches of a size only seen in most mainlanders’ nightmares, colloquially known as B-52s.

You can sprinkle borax along all your walls, and put out Hoy Hoy traps regularly, but they *will* get into your house, and on a still and muggy night lovelorn roaches will take to the air.

We also have centipedes (mostly outside, thank goodness) in our insect arsenal, and of course termites are responsible for a great deal of property damage. And we have the usual rodent suspects. And while I wouldn’t personally class them as vermin (because they eat termites and other bugs), geckos are a constant presence in Hawaii homes.

What unusual vermin does your area have? And, do you have any vermin-fighting tips?

Can Money Buy Happiness After All?

by Honolulu Mother

The Washington Post found a recent study so interesting that they reported on it twice:

Yes, you can buy happiness – if you spend it to save time

One surprising way money can buy happiness, according to scientists

In the study, people were given $40 and told to spend it on some fun item, and then given $40 again the next week and told to spend it on something to save them time. They reported greater happiness from the purchase than the fun-item group. The study concluded that you can buy more happiness from spending on anything from take-out to a yard service or weekly cleaners than from spending the same amount on material things.

We may be in the Totebag minority in not having a cleaning service or yard service, and we also go pretty light on the dining out or takeout. My first reaction was to wonder if my household is missing a good thing here. My second reaction was to wonder if the study had really accounted for hedonic adaptation, i.e. the idea that if you normally take care of some task yourself but one time you have someone else do it for you, it feels *great*, but if you always outsource it, that just feels normal. For example, when I get back from a vacation I always have a few days of adjustment to the idea that no, really, we do have to provision and prepare all the meals and yes, we really do have to go back to work. Then I settle back in and the routine feels normal again.

So what does the Totebag think? Is outsourcing pesky tasks really a surer route to happiness than saving for a family vacation or other goals? Or is this study missing a distinction between outsourcing something as an occasional treat versus routinely?

Reading the Fine Print

by Honolulu Mother

I have to admit, I don’t usually read the lengthy terms and conditions that one sometimes needs to click to accept for a software installation or to use an organization’s wifi. So I would have been one of the (great majority of) people blithely agreeing to manually unclog sewer pipes or paint snail shells here:

22,000 People Agreed to Clean Toilets by Logging on to Wi-Fi

For waivers for things like horseback riding or ziplining, I’ll at least skim through to make sure nothing looks out of place. But I’m not reading those particularly closely either — yes, I know there are risks, and it’s not like the terms are open to negotiation.

Are others more careful readers of the fine print? Have any other skimmers or skippers been burned by the casual approach?

What Weird Food Do You Order Online?

by Honolulu Mother

This NYMag article, and the one on cult condiments linked at the bottom, made me think of the various oddball food items I get from Amazon.

I Only Want to Cook With Things in Tubes

We buy the little tubes of hollandaise and bearnaise sauce (the Christian Poitier stuff — it’s pretty good!), curry pastes, sausage casings, fancy maraschino cherries from Tillen Farms, all of them things that if found locally at all will be pricey specialty items.

I’ve also been known to order Irish-style bangers and white and black puddings from some outfit in NJ. And I have to admit, I’m very tempted by a place in Maine that does smoked haddock, if I can ever talk myself into paying the shipping. (It was that year I spent in Ireland way back when that formed these particular tastes.)

What foods do others order online? Any that you’d recommend generally?

Alpha Girls

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s an article exploring what makes the cool high school girls cool, and why those same traits don’t necessarily carry over to adult success:

Why Everyone Loves the Alpha Girl

Did you fit this description in high school? Did you know other kids who did? What are they up to as adults?

The queen bee of my high school class was the queen bee from elementary school on up — no change in adolescence — and she was really perfectly nice, not relationally aggressive as described. Though she did once send her friends to ask me to trade the prize I’d won in an elementary school reading contest (a basketball hoop you could fit to a wastebasket!) for what she got as the second place finisher — I declined. But on the whole, she was the queen bee because she was pretty and athletic and generally pleasant, plus she had a six years older sister who was pretty and athletic and a popular girl herself, so from early on she was the cute junior mascot of all the high school cheerleaders. And now she is married with kids, working at something or other that her parents are very proud of (I ran into them a couple of years ago), and has enough going on in her real life that she’s not much on FB. So I don’t think she fits the pattern of this article at all.

The Latest Country Whose Parenting We Should Emulate

by Honolulu Mother

I’m sure we all remember when we were urged to go all Tiger Mom on our kids, and when a bit later we were urged to feed them pate and celeriac and send them off to play while the grown-ups talk, because French women not only don’t get fat, they also don’t serve up Easy Mac to picky eaters or hover over playdates. But now we’re offered a new group to be more like: the Dutch!

The key to raising happy kids? The latest trend says do as the Dutch do.

I am especially amused by this because a few years ago, around when the Tiger Mom stuff was big in the news, my daughter’s friend (whose mother is Dutch) had come along for a weekend at my parents’ house and my mother, impressed with the friend’s behavior, was talking about how there should be a book on Dutch parenting . . . right up until the friend accidentally dropped a gecko in my mother’s lap and it ended up inside her shorts.

The article suggests that features of Dutch childhood include plenty of independence, time for play, and minimal academic stress, all helped along by a wholly un-American level of work-life balance. Does that sound good to you? Does it sound feasible? And, what country’s parenting style do you think we should next be urged to adopt, and why?

How Do You Use Humor?

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s a humor quiz from New York Magazine that looks not at whether you have a sense of humor (we all do, of *course*), but instead how you use humor in interacting with others:

Test Yourself: Psychologists Created a Quiz to Define Your Sense of Humor

According to the article accompanying the quiz,

The HSQ divides humor into four main styles: Affiliative, Self-Enhancing, Aggressive, and Self-Defeating. Affiliative humor means cracking jokes, engaging in banter, and otherwise using humor to make others like us. Self-enhancing humor is an optimistic, coping humor, characterized by the ability to laugh at yourself or at the absurdity of a situation and feel better as a result. Aggressive humor is characterized by sarcasm, teasing, criticism, and ridicule. Self-defeating humor is attempting to get others to like us by putting ourselves down.

As the article notes, humor isn’t an unqualified good, as it can be used to positive or negative ends. I took the quiz and came out as primarily affiliative, which didn’t surprise me. Do any Totebaggers find themselves surprised by a quiz result? And, does the analysis of humor styles correspond with your observations generally?

What Does Your State Shop For?

by Honolulu Mother

Estately (a real estate blog I guess?) put together a map showing what item each state shops for more frequently than any other state:

Thrillist also wrote it up here:

THIS MAP SHOWS THE MOST COMMON ONLINE SHOPPING SEARCHES IN ALL 50 STATES

You can scroll down to see the complete list from each state. Hawaii’s looks mostly right, though I’m not sure what’s up with that Flowbee. Some other states have explaining to do — Colorado and Kansas, is it the long winters? Rhode Island, I feel your pain.

How about your state — does the list surprise you?

A Quick Fix for the Blues

by Honolulu Mother

This article in The Week offers a few quick ways to boost your happiness.  At the end of the article (which gives more detail on why and how this works), it sums them up thus:

Sum up

Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

1. Ask “what am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.

2. Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.

3. Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”

4. Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

Are there mood-boosters we could add to this list? For me, I would add (1) Go for a walk and (2) Put on cheerful music. What suggestions do others have?

Should You Worry About the Person the Dog Dislikes?

by Honolulu Mother

I was intrigued by this Quora discussion on whether dogs’ and cats’ reactions to people are meaningful indicators. In other words, should you be wary of someone your pet avoids or dislikes, and be inclined to trust the person the pet takes an immediate shine to?

Do certain people give off an aura to animals? My cat hisses severely at this person, and my dog hides.

The X Plan

by Honolulu Mother

This blog post by Bert Fulks recommends a variant on the you-can-always-get-a-ride-home policy that I’ve seen recommended before (including on the Totebag) for the teenage years. He describes it thus:

Let’s say that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party. If anything about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter “X” to any of us (his mother, me, his older brother or sister). The one who receives the text has a very basic script to follow. Within a few minutes, they call Danny’s phone. When he answers, the conversation goes like this:

“Hello?”

“Danny, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”

“What happened?”

“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”

At that point, Danny tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave.

It seems like a good idea. What says the Totebag’s collective wisdom?

When talking is the wrong way to show support

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested in this Washington Post article suggesting that sometimes the best way to be a supportive parent is to stay quiet, at least until your child is ready to talk:

The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak

This is not a natural response for me. I have learned over time that there are times it’s best to say what you have to say and then drop it, or wait for a better time to raise a thorny topic — this isn’t limited to parenting, either — but I hadn’t really thought about the option to say nothing in a situation such as the one described in the article (disappointing loss in a big game). I’ll have to remember that as another tool in my parenting toolbox.

Is the don’t-talk approach something you would use, or have used, in a similar situation? What do you think of the advice?

Is Furniture Shopping Hard on a Relationship?

by Honolulu Mother

I’d never heard of the theory that Ikea is a relationship death trap before reading this NYMag article:

Psychologists Explain Why Ikea Is a Relationship Death-Trap

I can’t say I’ve ever fought at Ikea, although since we don’t have one here my Ikea experiences with my husband have not focused on serious furniture shopping. Going during a vacation, to take advantage of the option to put your small children in a supervised playroom for an hour while you browse children’s duvets, is probably not the kind of stressor people are talking about.

However, I can’t say that furniture shopping has struck me as a relationship-stressor in general, even though it can be a tedious and time-consuming process. How about others? Are you nodding along with the author, or are you bemused at the idea?

The Rise and Fall of DARE

by Honolulu Mother

According to this article, DARE has seen its funding mostly dry up in recent years as education departments finally took notice of all the evidence that it didn’t actually work:

DARE: The Anti-Drug Program That Never Actually Worked

Yes, the program known for giving our nation’s police officers a nice family-friendly outing and PR opportunity and for causing a generation of kids to lecture their parents about the beer in the cooler at the family cookout. I don’t know if they’ve stopped offering it in the local schools now, but if so, it was too late for my kids, who all went through it in late elementary and picked up all kinds of interesting alternative facts from the friendly police officers teaching the class. My favorite was the assertion that alcohol and coffee work the same way: first they make you more active, then after you drink more, they slow you down and put you to sleep.

Did you, or your kids, go through DARE? What do you think of it? Are their better alternatives for drug education?

Never Give All the Heart (to your colleagues)

by Honolulu Mother

This NYMag article briefly summarizes a much longer Harvard Business Review article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele on the trade-off between being a giver at work (good for the organization!) and being too generous with yourself (bad for you!)   The sweet spot is apparently to be generous, but to know your limits and keep something back for yourself.

Where do you fall along the spectrum from taker to selfless giver (there’s a grid in the HBR article), at work and at home?  I suspect most of us will self-report as self-protective givers, the sweet spot, but I also suspect that category covers a wide range from aiming to have everyone owing you just one more favor than you owe them, to being an almost-selfless giver who holds just enough in reserve to avoid burnout.  And, I suspect most of us are closer to the selfless-giver end of the spectrum at home than at work.

Art Imitating Life: Smoking and Drinking in Movies

by Honolulu Mother

I was amused by this Pacific Standard article noting James Bond’s transition from a heavy smoker to a nonsmoker over the course of his cinematic life:

The Smoking Habits of James Bond

It reminded me of some instances of changes in society’s attitude toward something being noticeable when watching older movies — for instance, we no longer see anything like the drunken goose uncle in Aristocats and the moonshine-swigging swamp mouse in The Rescuers, Disney movies released during my childhood. And the ones dating from my childhood were no longer using stereotypes such as the crows from Dumbo (and the portrayal of plantation life in the not-available-for-viewing Song of the South), not to mention those nasty gossiping elephants.

Another old movie trope that just seems weird and fetishy now was the feisty-woman-who-needs-a-spanking, as detailed here by Jezebel:

‘I Don’t Know Whether to Kiss You or Spank You’: A Half Century of Fear of an Unspanked Woman

Do you have any favorite examples of things in old movies that wouldn’t be there in something made today?

6 Habits of Highly Organized People

by Honolulu Mother

As a disorganized person, I thought the advice in this Washington Post article was pretty good:

6 Habits of Highly Organized People

The first two tips, keeping organizational systems simple and using the force of habit and routine to get things done, are two of the major things that work for me to keep on top of things. I have certainly found that complex organizational systems — especially those designed by others! — are something I’m more likely to work around than to benefit from, or worse yet procrastinate doing whatever task they’re supposed to support because the system is a pain to deal with.

I have more trouble putting into effect the “a place for everything and everything in its place” suggestion, not because I disagree, but because in a small house with five people plus pets we have more of the ‘everything’ than we do of the places to put it. I think Hesper Desloovere, the author of this Hairpin article, put her finger on something important here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Money (love the title!)

The brilliant and bonkers documentary Queen of Versailles was originally meant to chronicle the construction of the most expensive house in America by one of the wealthiest families in the world. Instead, the filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield, had the good luck to capture bad fortune, as the Siegel family hemorrhages money, staff and sense during the 2008 economic crisis. It’s striking how quickly their perfectly manicured mansion goes to literal shit. As they lay off butlers, maids, nannies, chauffeurs and gardeners, their sprawling house begins to resemble one that would be featured on the show “Hoarders:” days-old dishes left to rot, animals neglected, and dog poop everywhere….

. . .Jackie was actually a hoarder all along. She pathologically acquired stuff, animals and children, leaning on an army of staff to squirrel the purchases away, feed the kids and clean up the shit. When the vast wealth starts to evaporate, it lays bare her problems and exposes a counterintuitive truth: stuff is a poor-people problem….

Like juicing, spinning and other rich white lady pastimes, the driving force behind the KonMari method is competitive deprivation….

Do you agree with this take?

And, do you have any tried-and-true organization tips that don’t require significant time or money or both?

Why Does Sports Participation Drop Off by 13?

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently of the kids who play organized sports, only 30% are still playing by the end of middle school, as written up in this Washington Post article:

Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13

The article suggests a number of reasons, which largely come down to the way the system is designed to be up-or-out and narrow down to the most serious and competitive players, in combination with similar increases in time demands and competitiveness in other activities forcing kids to choose just one or two things to focus on.

Do you have thoughts on this phenomenon? Is there a place for a once-a-week fun league in high school? Have your high schoolers found other fun ways to keep active when they’re not in organized sports?

Sausage-making and the SAT

by Honolulu Mother

For those with high schoolers, here’s a deep dive into the sausage-making leading up to the new SAT this past spring. It sheds some light on where it’s coming from and is also entertaining in an industry gossip sense:

College Board faces rocky path after CEO pushes new vision for SAT

For everyone else, sorry about this topic! Perhaps you’d like to discuss actual sausage making? Have you ever tried it? We have and it’s a production, but having a freezer stocked with the end product is nice. Do you have a favorite sausage maker, either a national brand or local product?