Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July!  Are you celebrating with fireworks or a parade?

This latest survey from U.S. News & World Report says that Switzerland is the best country in the world.  What’s your opinion?  Do you think the USA is the best?  Or another country?  Any plans to move?  We’re still the “most powerful” country in the world according to the survey, but we’re only ranked seventh overall.

The survey ‘polled more than 21,000 people described by organizers as “business leaders, informed elites and general citizens.”’

The Best Country in the World? Survey Says It’s Switzerland

Open thread Presidents’ Day

Are you off from work today?  Do your kids have this week off from school?  Any special plans?

What else is on your mind today?

I am still slowly going through the Washington Post Presidential podcast series.  Yesterday I listened to the Andrew Jackson episode again after reading about comparisons between him and Donald Trump.  My latest “favorite” president is James Garfield, who may have been great had his term not been tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet (and the poor medical care he received).  Do you have a favorite president?

Worst Holiday Music

by Honolulu Mother

As we get to the point in the season where we’ve all had LOTS of opportunity to hear all the holiday music, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the holiday songs that least bear repeated hearings.

This LA Times article by Randy Lewis can get you started:

Ho, ho, no! 12 of the worst holiday albums of the last 20 years

My contribution to this topic is the album “All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.”  It’s hilarious at first, but a little of it goes a very long way.

More holiday season conversation

by Finn

With T-day in our rear-view mirror, we’re well into the holiday season.

Are you sending out cards? What kind do you send? Do you attach a newsletter to your cards? How do you feel about receiving newsletters with cards?

If you do send out cards, here’s some grammar help:

Are Your Holiday Cards Grammatically Correct?

Do you have travel plans for the holiday? Kids coming home from college? Do you have any travel planning tips to share? Ever tried Google flights?

Making travel planning less stressful this holiday season

Do you have any gift ideas to share? What items seem to be this year’s “it” gifts?

Holiday Letter

by Louise

Very few people send out holiday letters anymore but two of my relatives do and I must say I have enjoyed reading them.  Their letters are balanced, not over the top cheery nor down in the dumps.

It has been a tumultuous year. Capture that spirit in your own holiday letter spoof. You can pretend to be someone else. Make us laugh, spread the cheer!

Tips for Holiday Entertaining

by Honolulu Mother

Do you entertain during the holidays? An open house kind of thing for friends and family, a work-related thing, a cookie-decorating party, the big family dinner, a cocktail party? Let’s share our holiday entertaining tips!

My household relies heavily on Costco when doing a big party. We get the shrimp tray, the crudite tray, the cookie tray, some of the booze, the frozen spanakopita. Sam’s Club we use to supplement (sometimes they have better selection of frozen puff pastry hors d’ouevres), along with a couple of trays of finger food items from a nearby restaurant. I avoid having much cooking to do during the party as I find that even having to remember to take a pan out of the oven is more than enough to remember once the party is rolling.

Our biggest challenge is probably finding a date, as it seems like most people we know have packed weekends in December full of kid activities and family obligations. We just aim for earlier in the month and cross our fingers.

Do you have holiday entertaining tips to share, or stories to tell?

Thanksgiving open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread for any discussion topics over the Thanksgiving weekend.  How are things going?

Related to previous conversations about the “bubble” in which we live, here’s a version called the Thanksgiving Bubble courtesy of CollegeConfidential.

Is Your Thanksgiving in an Elitist Bubble?

No green bean casserole: 0 points
From scratch using a recipe off epicurious and fresh green beans and mushrooms: 1 point
Canned soup base, canned green beans, French’s fried onions: 5 points

Heritage breed, free range, humanely raised, hormone free turkey sold by your local butcher or Whole Foods at price that could pay for a nice dinner out for a family of four: 0 points
Pre-cooked turkey dinner bought at Dean & DeLuca: 0 points
Fresh turkey, nothing special: 1 point
Frozen Butterball Turkey: 2 points
Store brand turkey that you saved up the store receipts for months to get for free: 3 points
Turkey you shot yourself in the woods, gutted and dressed yourself: 10 points, with bonus point given for deep frying it.

Homemade cranberry sauce with fancy ingredients like candied ginger, figs or kumquats: 0 points
Homemade cranberry sauce, nothing fancy: 1 point
Canned whole berry cranberry sauce: 2 points
Canned jelly cranberry sauce still bearing the ridge lines from the can (my favorite kind ): 5 points
No cranberry sauce because you’re from the deep south and they don’t do the cranberry thing there: 7 points

Fresh sweet potatoes with a brown sugar/rum glaze (family favorite): 0 points
Fresh sweet potatoes with store bought marshmallows: 2 points
Fresh sweet potatoes with homemade marshmallows: -2 points
Canned sweet potatoes with store bought marshmallows: 5 points

Fresh whipped cream for your pie: 0 points
Whipped Cream from a can: 1 point
Premium ice cream: 0 points
Store brand ice cream: 1 point
Cool Whip: 5 points

What’s your score, both from your childhood and from today?

 

Presents and shopping

These two related topics dovetail nicely so they are posted together.

Holiday Gift Giving

by North of Boston

OK, Totebaggers, the Holidays are upon us, so let’s talk presents. What are you planning to give your loved ones? What are you hoping to get? Are you changing your gift-giving habits this year (e.g. expanding or contracting your recipient list, or spending more or less on gifts than you have in the past)? And if you’re stuck on what to get someone, here’s your chance to ask for suggestions!

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Shopping Deals

by Finn

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, that can only mean one thing: Black Friday is also approaching, to be followed by Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday.

Are you looking to take advantage of any deals offered in this shopping season? What are your strategies? Are there any great deals out there that you’re willing to share?

Totebag 30-Day Challenge — DONE!

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today on Memorial Day we honor the memory of members of our armed forces who died in service to our country.  Like many other places across the country, our town has a parade and memorial service today.  Barbecues, ballgames, and beaches are also popular spots for this day.  What are you doing today?

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ALSO, for POLITICAL COMMENTS we now have dedicated weekly pages.  Check it out!

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The Totebag 30-Day Challenge is DONE!

We have completed our challenge.  Your thoughts?  Good, bad, indifferent?  Would you do another one?

Open thread on President’s Day

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread.  Any and all topics are welcome.

Would you be tempted to participate in a reality show in return for $40,000 in home renovations?

HGTV’s Property Brothers are returning to my area, and this caught my eye.

What’s the budget you need to have to be considered?

‘Buying & Selling’ is the best deal you’re going to get from any television show. It’s unreal; the homeowners contribute from $10-$15,000 and they’re getting a $50-$60,000 renovation. For one house, we just redid the entire exterior siding, which was lemon yellow, before we even filmed. It’s huge benefit to have this quality of renovation and to have this incredible team come in to renovate your house.

 

Love, lust, and longevity

by Grace aka costofcollege

Sunday is Valentine’s Day.  Here are some random thoughts on love.

Why is marriage so hard over the long term?

One of the main reasons is what science calls it “habituation.” Which is a fancy way of saying we get bored.

Early on, when a couple can finish each other’s sentences it’s romantic. But over time “predictable” is a huge negative.

Chris Rock puts it this way:

You stop talking . . . because at some point you’ve heard everything that person has said . . .

Read the article to see if you agree with these 3 Things That Keep Love Alive.

  1. Learn from arranged marriages.
  2. Focus on the good.
  3. Do more exciting things.

More food for thought:

Do you and your spouse lead parallel lives?

This question implies that a couple does “a lot of separate activities but still live under the same roof”.  Here’s a section from one comment in the discussion.

..I’m a firm believer that it can be healthy to develop one’s own interests outside the marriage – as long as it’s not hurting the marriage. Most of the time, if it’s beneficial to an individual, that person will bring the benefits and satisfaction back to the marriage. Just my theory.
I know people who did everything together – and are now split up. But I also know people who did most things separately and split up, too. I think it’s all about balance….

What about sex?

What Keeps Couples Happy Long Term
A large, new study on sexual satisfaction finds happy long-term couples share certain habits

I thought this was a pretty good way to describe the early stages of romance, at least from a woman’s perspective.  What do you think?

…  by “romance,” I know they mean the traditional version, the one that depends on living inside a giant, suspenseful question mark. This version of romance is all about that thrilling moment when you think that someone may have just materialized who will make every single thing in the world feel delicious and amazing and right forever and ever. It springs forth from big questions, like “Can I really have what I’ve been looking for? Will I really feel loved and desired and truly adored at last? Can I finally be seen as the answer to someone else’s dream, the heroine with the glimmering eyes and sultry smile?” And this version of romance peaks at the exact moment when you think, Holy Christ, I really am going to melt right into this other person (who is a relative stranger)! It really IS physically intoxicating and perfect! And it seems like we feel the exact same way about each other! Traditional romance is heady and exciting precisely because — and not in spite of the fact that — there are still lingering questions at the edges of the frame: “Will I be enough for this person? Will she stop wanting me someday? Is he as amazing as he seems/feels/tastes?”

What Romance Really Means After 10 Years of Marriage

Do you do anything special for Valentine’s Day?

Race in America

by Grace aka costofcollege

On Martin Luther King Day, 5 facts about race in America

Here’s one.

A growing share of Americans say that racism in society is a big problem. Half of Americans now say this, up from 33% five years earlier, reflecting an increase across all demographic groups. Nearly three-quarters of blacks characterized racism as a big problem, as did 58% of Hispanics. Although whites were far less likely to say racism is a big problem (44%), the share of whites expressing this view has risen 17 percentage points since 2010. There is a partisan divide too: 61% of Democrats say racism is a big problem, compared with 41% of Republicans – though the share of Republicans saying racism is a big problem has doubled since 2010, when it was just 17%.

What are your thoughts on this?  Are you surprised we have not experienced more racial healing over the last few years?  Anything else on your mind today?

Company benefits and perks

by Grace aka costofcollege

Inspired by a CollegeConfidential discussion about Work Holiday Perks I began to wonder about the most common or latest types of employment benefits.  Long-term parental leave has been in the news recently, with New York City one of the latest to offer this to some of its employees.

A young person I know scored big with time-off policies when he recently changed jobs to a London-based employer.  They offer at least 24 vacation days to everyone, plus they close the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  He was thrilled because most employers only offer 10-15 vacation days for their U.S.-based junior employees.

Flexibility is an important workplace perk for Totebaggers.  What other benefits do you value?  Do you see any trends, positive or negative, in job benefits?

Happy New Year!  There will not be a post tomorrow, but maybe you can share how you rang in the new year and any other topics on your mind.

What makes a good party?

by Grace aka costofcollege

With holiday season in full swing, the question of what makes a good party was posed to some celebrities.  Some of their answers were predictable (the mix of guests) while others were slightly more eccentric (topless vacuum girls).

10 Celebrities on What Makes a Great Party

Another writer is unhappy that her friends seem to squeeze “90 percent of the year’s parties into two godforsaken weekends” during the holidays.  She wants fewer lame holiday parties and more parties spaced out during the rest of the year.

… Is it really so hard? Is it rocket science, buying a case of beer and a bag of pita chips? Don’t bother vacuuming. Throw a real party, in January, or June, or October. You know you want to. You love parties. You miss them. You want to throw a rager so bad it hurts. And you know just the thankless curmudgeon to invite.

Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties

Are you attending many parties this holiday season?  Are you hosting a party?  Or are you spending the holidays cocooning at home or pursuing other activities?

What makes a good party?  What are some of the best and worst parties you’ve attended or hosted?

SURVEY TIME:
We typically host large family dinners during the holidays, and the topic of seating arrangements seems to elicit strong opinions among some people.  At dinner parties, do you prefer to be seated next to your Significant Other or do you prefer to sit next to other guests? (This assumes that tending to young children is not part of the equation.)

 

No post tomorrow on Christmas Day, but we can comment on how our holiday weekend is coming along.  Which gifts were winners, and which were losers?

Merry Christmas!

Ideas for gift giving

Two Totebaggers seek advice about gift giving, and you can post your own questions in the comments.


Gift giving on a budget

by Louise

I like to give gifts but I have to look at my budget as well. DH has over the years delegated gift giving to me. I primarily buy for my nieces and nephews. For the adults it is occasional gifts if I think they would enjoy them.

I try not to splurge. In a nod to MMM, I had my DD “save” her birthday gifts (craft kits) and open them in the lean months.

What are your strategies for gift giving on a budget, saving gifts for later or do you turn into MMM (modern day Scrooge) and declare a gift free holiday ?


Gift giving for families in transition

by SWVA Mom

I was wondering today if I should get my estranged husband a Christmas gift and thought I should ask the Totebag. Do you or your friends/family exchange holiday gifts with the ex-spouse? If so, what’s appropriate? More specifically, is booze OK?

Do you help young children purchase something nice for their other parent or just let them go with the craft project they made at school? I’m not there yet, but same question for step-siblings who might come into the picture.

What about ex-in-laws? (I did send gifts to my nieces.) And do you still exchange holiday cards with the ex’s aunts/uncles/cousins?

Any other holiday etiquette tips for families in transition? Please share your funny stories or cautionary tales about broken & blended family holidays.

Gratitude

by Grace aka costofcollege

Among the 8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives During the Holidays is this one.

8. Find reasons to be grateful. Be thankful that you get to cook, or that you don’t have to cook. Be thankful that you get to travel, or that you don’t have to travel. Be thankful for your family or your friends. Be grateful for electricity and running water. Find something. Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster. Also, feeling grateful toward someone crowds out emotions like resentment and annoyance.

What are you grateful for?  Do you expect to encounter difficult relatives tomorrow?  Do you have relatives who put the “fun” in dysfunctional?  I think tip #6 that recommends we not expect perfection is a good one.  What else is on your mind this Thanksgiving eve?

What time do you usually eat Thanksgiving dinner?  We’re eating earlier than usual this year, 1:pm,  because some guests have to get on the road by early evening and some will be working early on Black Friday.

There will not be a post on Thanksgiving Day or on Friday, but let’s chat about anything you’d like.  How’d your dinner turn out?  Are you shopping on Black Friday?  Is the global travel alert stressing you out or making you yawn?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Scary stories

by Rhode

It’s Halloween time and I’m all for scary stories…

I love lists like these…

14 Creepy Things Kids Have Actually Said

There’s also this take – scary 2 sentence stories (Reddit has a similar 5-word scary story thread).

20 Terrifying Two-Sentence Horror Stories. I Didn’t Think It Was Possible Until #5… When The Hair On My Neck Stood Up

Totebaggers, share with us your creepiest kid-tale or your scariest story in 2 sentences or less…

Halloween activities and food

Finn and Honolulu Mother have some thoughts about Halloween.

by Finn

Halloween is coming up soon, a fact of which you are well aware if your kids (or you) have been watching the Disney Channel, which has been trying to turn the entire month of October into Halloween.

This year it’s on a Saturday, which will change its dynamic relative to the more common weekday Halloween.

What are you and your family doing for Halloween this year? Throwing a party? Going to a party? Treating it like any other Halloween? Hiding in the bushes with a water hose?


by Honolulu Mother

Do you make any special recipes for Halloween? A spiderweb cake, mini hot dogs wrapped in pastry to look like mummies, a ghastly punch? Or perhaps food traditions that may not be Halloween-themed but that you associate with it?

We’ve taken to having pizza on Halloween night as it’s easy to eat for costumed people and also is something the kids are likely to at least eat a slice of before heading out to gather sweet Halloween bounty.  We’ve also made various Halloween-themed treats, both for friends’ parties and our own place.  The Taste of Home website has a bunch of Halloween recipes, broken down by category (spider theme, graveyard theme, etc.).  If you prefer a more upscale approach, Martha Stewart’s site is another option.  A couple of years ago I made a shrimp mousse brain, similar to this one.

So in addition to Finn’s questions, please also let us know what special foods or drinks you might be trying for Halloween!

Picture-perfect families

by Grace aka costofcollege

Does your family look like this at holiday gatherings?

20151010.TFamilyGathering2

Looking at this photo and other similar ones from a recent Lands’ End catalog reminded me that few families present a picture-perfect image during holiday gatherings.  And not only in appearance, but also in behavior.  Maybe you’ve observed some of this firsthand.  Does your teenager spend all evening texting instead of chatting with grandma?  Does your brother-in-law insist on bringing up politics or other controversial topics that intrude upon pleasant conversations?  Do any of your relatives drink just a little too much?

On the other hand, many Totebaggers probably do bear some resemblance to the happy family in the catalog photo.  Do you play flag football after Thanksgiving dinner?  Do your little ones play nicely with their cousins?  Does everyone wear stylish clothes?

What does your family look like during holiday gatherings?  What do you all do before and after your meal?  Does everyone behave?  How do your gatherings today compare with the ones when you were growing up?  Do you look forward to getting together, or do you dread it?

Horrible Jobs

by Grace aka costofcollege

In advance of Labor Day on Monday, let’s talk about jobs.

You may not be surprised to learn that middle managers are some of the unhappiest workers.

… In a new study from researchers at Columbia University, of nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), they saw that 18 percent of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression. For blue-collar workers, that figure was 12 percent, and for owners and executives, it was only 11 percent.

What’s so bad about a middle management job?

All of the downsides of being a subordinate, combined with all of the downsides of having to tell people to do things they don’t want to do.

What’s your opinion?  Are you or have you been a middle manager?  What is the worst job you ever had?  And what did you learn from that experience?

There will not be a post on Monday, Labor Day.  But we can keep our conversation going here.

The 4th of July open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling patriotic this weekend?  Or just feeling happy that you have a long weekend?  Going out or staying in?  Are you going to see a fireworks show?

Here’s your chance to hijack our discussion with anything that’s on your mind.  Some random links to get us going:

Eating ‘healthy’ food may not make you fit: Study

Take a walk for your mental health.

President Obama and Jeb Bush find common ground in their stance against adding peas to guacamole.

Memorial Day 2015

by Grace aka costofcollege

201104.eWashingtonDC67AID

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

This photo is from a Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, a moving ritual that honors U.S.soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  The dedication and precision demonstrated during the ceremony was impressive and confidence-inspiring.

What’s on your mind this Memorial Day?

April Fool’s Ideas?

by Tulip

Just throwing this one out there, but I never do anything to “celebrate” April Fool’s Day. I suppose there’s been some conversation at school because my DD came home a few days ago asking if I’d do something to fool her for the day. I think the fact that she asks for it and expects it sort of defeats the idea, but that’s an entirely different issue! At any rate, I could google and search pinterest and be in way over my head, but I am guessing that other totebaggers have some low-investment ideas for April Fool’s pranks to pull on the kids?