Survivor Voting

( / Roger Buser)

( / Roger Buser)

After Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, I started seeing a ton more of “If it’s Trump vs. Clinton, I’m not voting.” I can see where that point of view comes from: if you’re offered two options, and you don’t want either one, declining seems like a good idea. It’s like if you’re going to a wedding, and the reception menu choices are shellfish, when you’re seriously allergic to shellfish, or steak tartare, when you avoid beef for health and ethical reasons, and RAW beef freaks you out even more. If you don’t WANT either one, don’t PICK either one. Hoard some extra appetizers, drink extra wine, ask your tablemates if they want their rolls, eat the mints in your purse, and order a pizza when you get home.

But this is not a wedding reception. Instead it’s an episode of Survivor, where everyone on the island has to vote for what will be served for dinner, and then everyone will be forced to eat the winning option. You CAN abstain from voting, declining both options. But then you will be force-fed whatever everyone ELSE chooses, even if it means dying of a shellfish reaction.

No one who knows you will mistake your vote for enthusiastic support. No one will think, “Oh, she’s choosing BEEF? After all these years of declining beef at my parties and ranting about how bad it is, now suddenly she WANTS beef??” Everyone knows this is Survivor.

Update on Reader Question: Gift Ideas for a Student with Cancer

There is an update on the post Reader Question: Gift Ideas for a Student with Cancer:

I wrote to you a few months ago about a student in my third grade class who was out getting treatment for cancer. I really appreciated all of the suggestions, and thought it was time for an update. The good news is that H is now considered cancer free and has returned to school!
He was gone for four months. Using Skype to keep in touch was useful, but it was kind of hard to arrange times when he felt well and it was good timing for us. We did send lots of pictures and cards. Each week one of the third grade classrooms send cards. He sent in his Valentines and we sent his home to him. He also had a birthday and we sent a video of us singing and holding up signs. He sent us a video of his how to speech that we did in class. I liked the idea of the ” flat H” and if he had been gone longer I would have done that too.
He had a pretty low immune system when he came back and no hair but I warned the class about germs and stocked up on hand sanitizer. He wanted to just slide right back into the rhythm of the class, but that took a few weeks. What really helped was having the Child Life specialist from the hospital come in and give a presentation about cancer, chemo, MRI’s and ports. I think it really made H feel better – that everyone else finally had an idea of what he had gone through.
Now his hair is mostly grown in, he is caught up both academically and socially. He still attends a lot of special events for cancer survivors, but otherwise is a normal third grader. Thank you so much for your help!

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup, Similar to Panera’s Recipe

There is something so beautiful about waking up knowing there are Good Leftovers in the fridge. Today I have leftover Broccoli Cheddar Soup to look forward to, from this Taste of Home recipe:


Cheesy Broccoli Soup in a Bread Bowl Recipe


  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups fresh broccoli florets (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water or additional chicken stock
  • 2-1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 bread bowls


  • 1. In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 6-8 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in broccoli, carrot, stock, cream, bay leaves and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, 10-12 minutes or until tender.
  • 2. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into soup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove bay leaves; stir in cheese until melted. Stir in salt and pepper.
  • 3. For bread bowls, cut top off each loaf; carefully hollow out bottom of each, leaving a 1/4-in. shell (discard removed bread or save for another use). Serve soup in bread bowls. Yield: 6 servings.

(That whole part between sets of asterisks-lines is from


Isn’t it so annoying when people are like, “This was great! But I made it with this instead of that, and I left out the this, and I added that, and I used half again as much this,” and after awhile you’re like, “Why didn’t you just find a different recipe?”/”How can I possibly tell from your review if THIS recipe is any good or not?” Ahem. But anyway, I didn’t do bread bowls, I just put rolls on the side. And I used extra-sharp cheddar cheese instead of cheddar. And I used an entire 1-pound/5-cup bag of frozen broccoli florets (I’m not sure why the recipe estimate of ounces-to-cups is different than the estimate on the bag of frozen broccoli). And I used a big handful of pre-shredded carrot, because I happened to have that. And I used about half the amount of onion called for, because I am wary of onion. And I did happen to have a 6-qt stockpot, but there was a LOT of extra room in that pot.

Well! Anyway! This soup claims to be similar to Panera’s, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had Panera’s, but I would say this soup is at least within range of it. Also, it pleased me by being surprisingly easy to make. I’ve tried other soups where I work for an hour and a half just fussing with all the prep, and this one I started at 5:00 and it was ready by 5:40, and some of that was time I spent playing Candy Crush on my phone while supervising the simmer. I guess it would have taken longer if I’d cut up fresh broccoli florets and finely diced a carrot. And hadn’t used frozen pre-diced onion. And hadn’t had Paul mince the garlic and Rob shred the cheese. WHATEVER. But I can do all those things NEXT time TOO!

Oh! Also. The nutmeg looked weird to me in this recipe but, despite what you’d think after the paragraph about all the changes I made, I have a GENERAL preference for making the recipe as-written the first time I make it, so I went ahead and nutmegged it up—and there was nothing weird about it. I didn’t think, “Whoa, nutmeg” or whatever. In fact, it is possible my jar of nutmeg has gone off.

What is the Best Chocolate I Can Buy from a Store?

I would like to buy a small amount of good chocolate as a birthday present for someone who loves chocolate. I am wondering what, in your opinion, is the best chocolate that I could just drive to a store and purchase. If I had a See’s near me, that’s where I’d be going—but alas.

I am picturing the amount that would fill a mug, which is her other present from me—but if the recommendations tend toward chocolate sold in a bar shape or a pretty box, that is fine: it does not HAVE to go in the mug. I say “a store” because I would prefer not to have to order it: warm-weather shipping is expensive; also, the birthday is soonish. [Edited to add: if it comes from Amazon with Prime shipping, that would work too.]

All the questions you might currently have, I can’t answer. Is she picky about brand? I don’t know. Does she prefer milk or dark? I don’t know. How does she feel about soft centers / caramels / truffles? I don’t know. How about nuts and fruit? I don’t know. And so all you have to go on is the very basic question about what YOU think is the best. (It’s okay if your answer involves a store you don’t know if it’s near me or not. Even if the store is NOT near me, I suspect OTHER people, people who DO live near that store, will want to hear about it.)


Last night I got an email from Old Navy about cardholders getting 40% off, and although I think of their clothes as being pretty much the same price no matter what the sale is (this is the case with many, many stores, not at all just Old Navy), I realized I hadn’t checked their Tall Perfect Crew t-shirts in awhile, and I like to make sure I am UP TO THE MINUTE on new colors for those, because I have allllll the grey, black, white, and navy I can EVER WEAR, and every so often they offer colors other than those.

Anyway. There were no new colors on the Tall Perfect Crews, and I remembered from a recent post that the word “tunic” was a good way to find shirts that fit like Talls, so I searched tunic.

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Wait. That is not a tunic. In fact, if I saw that just described as “relaxed plus-size hoodie,” I would think, “Nope, too short.”


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Okay, these are also not tunic-length. My understanding of the word “tunic” is that it means “will cover your entire butt and can be worn with leggings.” I do not even want to wear that short boxy coral one with jeans, let alone leggings. And look at the side-slit! The skin of her torso would be showing if she were standing up straight.


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Yes, THESE are tunics! Not available in plus-sizes, though. Hm. I will keep looking.


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This too is a tunic-length top. Regular sizes only, no plus.


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That’s a nice regular-sizes-only tunic-length shirt. Look at that excellent butt-coverage!


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Tunic-length sweater for thin people.


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Tunic-length sweater for non-thin people.


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Do your legs touch at any point, even at the very very widest part? No? Then you may have a tunic. Here, this is plenty long enough to cover that embarrassing thigh-gap.


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But are you plus-sized, even MODEL plus-sized, and would really like to participate in the leggings trend? I am sorry, this is what we call a tunic for YOU. Nice and short, a little EXTRA short in the tum region, with a nice high side-slit and oddly warped stripes. Also, we made the sleeves shorter, because we know plumper women like to show off those upper arms.

Funeral Update; Method for Chilling About Work; Book: So Sad Today

I did go to the funeral, and I was so grateful for all your encouragement to do so, even if that feedback might have been sliiiiiightly skewed due to me saying, pretty much verbatim, “If you think I shouldn’t go, don’t say so”—and so I also thank those of you who thought I shouldn’t go but refrained from saying so. It takes great internal fortitude to keep quiet when you think someone is making a mistake, or anyway it takes ME great internal fortitude, so again, thanks.

As the time to get dressed and get in the car grew closer, I grew increasingly stressed (“HOW DOES THIS EVEN WORK. WHERE WILL I PARK. WHERE WILL I SIT. WHAT WILL I SAY. WHAT WILL I WEAR. HOW MUCH WILL I CRY. WHAT IF ALL MY CHOICES ARE WRONG”), so all those “No, really, it’s a good idea to go” comments helped get me past the Bailing Out window, and then afterward I felt very glad that I went. The family seemed glad to see me. I was glad to be there. I was glad to have been there. It was win-win-win.

I have found a way to chill out a bit about my working situation while I figure out what to do, and that is to pretend I’m doing a series of jobs, each for one year. I immediately relax: “Oh, I can do this for two more months, no big!” Lots of things can change in a couple of months. Maybe in two months I’ll be settled into my new schedule and I’ll be content again. Maybe in two months my “I cannot leave her” client will have died or gone into a nursing home or moved beyond my ability to care for her. Maybe in two months my supervisor will be replaced. For now I’ll stop thinking I have to RIGHT NOW make the decision between “Quitting THIS MINUTE” and “Doing this for the rest of my life.”

Instead I’ll think about what job I’ll do NEXT, which is a fun topic rather than stressful, if I’m thinking about something I’ll only do for a year. Bakery again? Bakery was pretty okay. I always smelled delicious. Something in the school system? Something where I sit next to a computer with a pile of paperwork, occasionally chatting with co-workers?

Oh, I just finished this book and I think you might want to try it:

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So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder. One of the reviews on the back describes it as “uncomfortable,” and I would say some sections certainly qualify—but it’s the kind of discomfort that can come from someone being really, really frank about themselves, not the kind where someone is describing, say, cruelty to animals. There was one chapter about a fetish, and I sort of skimmed that quickly: after 17 years of motherhood, the sound of someone about to barf fills me with nothing but horror. But I found a lot to identify with, and the whole thing reminded me of blogging I remember from years ago, where it was more like Online Diaries. One chapter is about a time in her marriage when they were non-monogamous. Another is a series of funny texts between herself and her Higher Self. There is a lot of talk about living with anxiety and depression and what that’s like for her, and some of her coping mechanisms. There’s an interesting chapter about fake crushes, and methods she does/doesn’t recommend for getting over them.

Funerals; Work Fretting

One of my clients died, and I am not 100% sure I am allowed to say so. The HIPAA training we’ve received is so tight, I’ve wondered if we are even allowed to say we HAVE clients, or if we are supposed to pretend we are secretaries or CIA agents or something. My general feeling about HIPAA is this: if I can tell you some non-embarrassing information about a person, and then even if I gave you a WEEK at gunpoint to find out who I was talking about you couldn’t do it without committing crimes, then probably I am not violating anyone’s privacy.

Anyway, I am not VERY sad, because this was a situation where the end was a mercy sought by all, including the client. But of course I am still some sad. I am also upset because I was planning to go to the funeral [edited to add: I would have gone to the visitation instead, but they’re having only a funeral], and then Paul said he thought that would be really weird. “Maybe if you’d been her full-time caregiver for, like, five years,” he said. And I was going to ask for group input on this, but I realized two things: (1) Paul has already ruined it by planting doubt, despite being a person who didn’t attend his own father’s funeral so maybe I could just dismiss his opinion on this, and (2) I don’t want to hear even one more person confirm his opinion. I would really like it if “going to a funeral” was in pretty much EVERY SINGLE CASE considered a normal, nice, non-weird, routine, CITIZEN OF THIS PLANET thing to do.

I don’t mind if we make exceptions for people who attend in bad faith (wanting to cause a scene, wanting to make others unhappy, not even knowing the person or his/her family but going for the free food, etc.), but high attendance at a funeral is considered a GOOD thing, and low attendance is considered a SAD thing, and I don’t see why it would be weird to attend the funeral of ANYONE I had a connection to, including co-workers, parents of friends, the town librarian, etc. She was my very first client, and I took care of her at least once a week for nearly ten months, and I will be continuing to care for her husband. If I were her husband/children, I think I would be touched to see the caregivers attend the funeral, and it would make me glad because I would think it meant they were actually fond of her and so probably took good care of her when she was alive.

This also brings my job to a crossroads. I have been thinking for awhile that my continuing stress levels after ten months may mean this job is just not a good fit—even though in some ways it is a GREAT fit. Losing this client means changing my schedule again, and my supervisor tried to give me a client who is so out of my league, it gives me a sick feeling to think she’d be willing to send someone so unqualified. The care plan is packed with notes from the nurse about how the person taking this client MUST be able to do X, Y, and Z—all CNA/LNA-trained tasks, none of which I can do. I emailed my supervisor yesterday morning saying so, and she hasn’t replied. The last time I turned down a client, she took it badly, and I am still having occasional imaginary arguments with her in my head about it. I am trying very hard to put into practice the philosophy of this book:

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It is helping somewhat, but I am still flinching with anticipation of the email I am likely to eventually receive. I am trying to remember that the ABSOLUTE WORST that can happen is that she can say “You know what, this isn’t working out”—which I AGREE with, but I would be sad to leave one of my clients. The second-worst possible outcome is one that might be the BEST outcome, which would be for me to continue spending three short shifts per week with the one client who is exactly what I had in mind when I sought out this job, and then quit when that client no longer needs me. Despite all this mental coaching, I am still getting a gross feeling every time I hear a “new email” sound. Because the ACTUAL thing I’m worried about is not the practical outcome with regard to the job, but rather the number of things she could say that I will hate and want to argue with.

Breaking news: I just received a completely friendly and good-natured email from my supervisor. Well. This just further demonstrates two things: (1) How very nice it would be to be the sort of person who doesn’t think about bad things until they actually happen, and (2) How VERY MUCH my supervisor influences my job satisfaction, because in one email I went from “I think I’d better quit” to “Sure, I’ll take on those additional shifts!”

[Edited to add: Then she called later, and we had a conversation in which said she was sorry about the mix-up in my schedule: she said hadn’t realized the client I’m literally not qualified to care for was “so much work,” and she referred to the shifts I AM qualified to take as “light, fluffy shifts.” It was subtle but effective: I was left with the impression that I requested the alterations in my schedule to suit my lazy ways, rather than based on whether my skill set was an appropriate/safe match with the client’s needs. So. We’re back to “I think I’d better quit.”]

Current Favorite Mugs

I own a lot of mugs, and I LIKE to own a lot of mugs. I am now at the “If a new mug comes into the house, an old mug must go out” stage of mug-ownership, but only because I cannot figure out a way to steal another cupboard shelf.


Notice that the shelf is curving under the weight of all those mugs.

Here are my current favorites, from largest to smallest:


And now the individual mug profiles:


The chicken mug. It has come to my attention that they are roosters, but I still think of it as the chicken mug. It is one of my largest mugs; I most often use it when I am having coffee as a beverage with a meal, as opposed to when I am just having a cup of coffee. This is a mug I resisted buying, because it is so large and because its shape seems tippy. But I could not resist the pull of the chickens, and then I was so glad I’d given in. I wish there was not a chicken on the inside of the mug, even though I found that charming when I bought it, because I feel a little uncomfortable if the hot coffee overlaps him—as if his feeties will get burned.


These two mugs are a little embarrassing, because I bought both of them for other people, thinking “This is a gorgeous mug—not my style, but perfect for so-and-so”—and then got them home and couldn’t believe I’d considered giving them away, and kept them. Even more embarrassing, it actually went like this:

1. Purchased light blue mug for recipient.
2. Brought light blue mug home and couldn’t believe I’d considered giving it away.
3. Purchased pink mug as replacement for recipient.
4. Brought pink mug home and couldn’t believe I’d considered giving it away.

With the pink mug, I even stood there in the store explaining to my mother why the pink mug was different than the blue mug and I Really Wouldn’t want to keep it for myself.

These are both largeish mugs, not as large as the chicken mug but pretty good as beverage mugs. I usually have to add a little more coffee to them before I’m done with breakfast. I think one reason I love them so much right now is that my eyes were hungry for spring colors. I may love them less in the fall/winter.


Bird mug. This one looks oddly largish in the picture but is more petite: the pedestal and the nipped-in sides mean it holds significantly less than its pink/blue neighbors. I use this one when I am Having Some Coffee But Not as a Beverage Per Se. Like, for my pre-breakfast coffee, or for a little coffee to go along with a cookie later on. It bothers me a little bit that the bird on the inside of the mug is so similar to the bird visually closest to it on the outside of the mug. I wish it were a different bird entirely. But I have made peace with that. I love the curvy shape of the mug, and the handle, and the birdies. I am more drawn to this mug in spring/summer.


These two are also Small Mugs. I have this same mug in I think five different prints, because I like the size/shape/handle/heft so much. The one with the little grey blossoms is a winter favorite that will soon be replaced by the brighter/springier ones—but I do still reach for it on grim mornings. The other is one I stood considering in the store, thinking, “What is the MEANING of this design? Birds on bird-stands? Roses bigger than the birds? Butterflies? Grapes? Why?”—but I’m so glad I bought it because it stays fun to look at.

This is a topic, by the way, where I would be VERY INTERESTED in seeing YOUR favorite mugs, so if you do (or have done) a post on it, I hope you’ll leave a link in the comments. Or I’d enjoy just HEARING about your favorite mug(s).

Happy Shopping Trip

My mom and I have gotten in a pattern of going shopping each week, always including Target (I always need something from Target) but our favorites are stores like HomeGoods and Marshalls and consignment shops, because they’re like treasure-hunting. We don’t always buy much, but we like looking and considering and discussing. In recent weeks we’ve frequently gone through entire stores and purchased nothing at all: the stock comes and goes, and also both of us have been getting rid of stuff recently, and that puts a damper on bringing in more stuff.

BUT. Yesterday I had a very successful shopping trip, in which stuff was added to my household. I’m going to tell you where I bought each thing AND how much I paid. It is tricky talking about prices, because one person’s “WOW awesome deal!!” is another person’s “Must be nice to have so much spare cash”—and making self-deprecating comments on one’s own purchase prices only makes it WORSE, generating reactions from “She thinks that’s cheap?? Is she HIGH??” to “Oh, man, if she thinks that’s expensive, what would she think about what I spend??” Therefore I will not COMMENT on the price, I will just TELL it to you. Or maybe I will comment a little if I can’t resist.

FIRST: I have been looking for LARGE PLASTIC CUPS. Target used to have them with their summer dishes line every year, so I got cocky: I won’t OVERBUY, I’ll just wait until the next year and maybe get a new color! Oh, shopping hubris. So for the last few years we have been down to one single large plastic cup, and none of the plastic cups I found elsewhere were right: too tippy, don’t stack, poor handfeel, whatever. Yesterday I found something I think will work:


These are Cynthia Rowley 32-ounce iced-tea cups, and WE SHALL SEE. They were in a set of 8 for $7.99 at HomeGoods. I wish I could have bought them individually and mixed the patterns, because I liked but didn’t love any of the patterns, and I don’t really need EIGHT of these. There were whales, tropical flowers, flamingos, fish, wavy stripes. I finally got the mixed sea creatures; I took the picture so you could see all the way around the cup. My mother was very patient while I considered all the options.

NEXT. The last time we were at HomeGoods, I saw some pretty plastic glasses that looked like glass. I don’t generally like drinking out of glass glasses, but I like the LOOK of them, and when I was home having dinner I wished I was drinking out of a pretty new glass-looking plastic glass. So yesterday when we were at HomeGoods again I bought two of them:


I didn’t measure them, but they’re the usual size of glass you might have with dinner. What would that be, 16 ounce? Something like that. They were $2.99 each. I am resisting commenting on that. That is just what they cost.

THEN. This was not actually chronologically next, but we are on the topic of glasses so let’s keep to the theme. The last time I was visiting my brother, he said probably don’t drink liquor out of plastic cups because who knows probably it’s fine but you know maybe also the alcohol dissolves the plastic and you drink it but probably that’s fine tho. Anyway, I was looking for some smallish glass glasses. I found these:


They were at a consignment shop, $3 for the pair. I think they’re probably about 6-ounce, but I haven’t checked. I will try my vodka/gin-and-whatever in them this weekend. Or perhaps tonight.

THEN. My mom and I were taking turns using the bathroom while the other person babysat the cart/purses, and I was browsing the art and saw this fellow:


I like squirrels, and also one of Edward’s nicknames is Squirrel, and also this Squirrel looks a bit like Edward, so I was interested. The next picture in the stack was a fox in a business suit, but it had a human body and human hands, and NO. Animals in formal wear? YES. Human bodies with animal heads? NO. And then I saw THIS gentleman:


And once the dapper birdy was going home with me, it seemed right to bring the squirrel as well. HomeGoods, $9.99 each.

Finally, a little something for Paul:


My sister-in-law bought one of these giant bars of soap for Paul for Christmas, and he kept talking about how much he liked it, and I kept saying Christmas/birthday was the PERFECT time for $10 bars of soap, but “random day in spring” was NOT. But HomeGoods had these for $6.99 each, and they were the last two, and…well, I must have been feeling warmly toward Paul. And he’s right, they DO last a long time: he only just finished up the bar he got for Christmas. And they do smell nice. And the packaging is amusing, and I like to reward amusing packaging. Still, this is the purchase that got me thinking how awkward it can be to talk about prices.

Tall Plus-Sized T-Shirts for Women

I am looking for t-shirts that are (1) tall and (2) big enough without being too big. I’m plus-sized (you can be big OR tall but not both if you’re a woman), but the Old Navy XXL Tall used to be perfect: the Tall dimensions added width as well as length. But they’ve changed their cut/fit, so now they’re even more “fitted” than before, and the neckline is odd. I’ve tried the Old Navy 2X in plus sizes, but it’s too short and too wide. And in a lot of brands, 2XL is “baby doll fit”—i.e., a size or two smaller than expected. Anything men’s or unisex looks ridiculous on me: way too wide in the shoulders and waist, but then super tight across hips and stomach. But men’s sizes are LONG enough, at least.

Probably price is going to be another issue. I searched “tall plus-size” and did find some limited options—for, like, $60 per shirt. NO. Not for a perfectly ordinary t-shirt that would sell for $10 if it were a few inches shorter and narrower. I would like what I used to get at Old Navy, which was about $5-10/shirt, depending on sales. I will be reasonable and pay up to $15-20 for t-shirts if there is no other choice, but that is IT.