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16 Nov 13:25

Scratch-Made Moscow Mules + Ginger Beer Concentrate

by Lindsay

Scratch-Made Moscow Mules + Ginger Beer Concentrate

My experiments in baby ginger continue… it turns out pickling isn’t all it’s good for.

Ever since Rachel’s ruined me for ginger beer forever, I’ve been trying to recreate it at home, since I don’t exactly make it to Seattle very often (and the shipping… well, it burns more than the ginger). In my experimentation I’ve discovered that not all ginger is created equal. The same recipe using ginger from different stores will taste different, and nothing I tried really tasted exactly right.

Until I used the baby ginger.

The flavor is strong and spicy, but fresher, without the same sinus-singing burn that more mature ginger tends to have.

Granted, it is still pretty dang spicy (just how I like it), but you can easily adjust the quantities of sugar, lime juice, and other ingredients to mellow out the burn if you choose.

"Fancy" Moscow Mule Recipe, made with homemade ginger beer concentrate

I used the brilliant method outlined in Ashley’s book, Date Night In, which calls for you to blend the ginger with sugar and water (no peeling necessary), and then strain out the solids. I run it through the blender again to eek out every last bit of ginger flavor.

The ginger beer concentrate is incredibly versatile, and while it serves as the base for these fancy mules, you can also mix it with plain club soda for a hot and refreshing homemade ginger beer. I like to make a big batch of the concentrate and freeze it in ice cube trays so I can easily make a ginger soda anytime I please.

"Fancy" Moscow Mule Recipe, made with homemade ginger beer concentrate and ginger liqueur

Funny story: I love ginger beer (that’s nothing new), and I know if a restaurant has a Moscow Mule on their menu that I can usually just get a plain ginger beer. Well, one night I tried to be clever and order “a Moscow Mule please, hold the mule”. The waiter gave me a strange look because, well, I basically just ordered a straight up vodka. Oops.

(Side thought: Who decided to call it a mule anyway? There’s nothing ass-inine about ginger beer. Maybe because it has a bit of a kick? Who knows.)

I call these “Fancy Mules” because they have an extra splash of Domaine de Canton, a French ginger liqueur that makes these mules extra special. I guess you could call them French Mules if you’d like (despite the fact that the Moscow part is still there). But the variations are really endless… Kentucky Mules made with bourbon, Gin Gin Mules with gin, Mexican Mules with tequila, Mezcal Mules with (duh) mezcal… I mean really, ginger beer with just about any liquor is going to be good. Especially this homemade ginger stuff.

Read the Rest —Scratch-Made Moscow Mules + Ginger Beer Concentrate

© Love & Olive Oil

15 Nov 23:33

7 Ways Weed Boosts My Libido

by Girly Juice


My relationship to marijuana has been a journey. There was a time, years ago, when I was “straight-edge,” but now I firmly consider myself a member of the #StonerFemme contingent. Weed helps me on a near-daily basis with my anxiety and depression, my chronic joint pain, and – yes! – my libido.

I get a lot of questions about this whenever I mention it on Twitter, largely from people who are confused because they haven’t experienced this effect from marijuana. I can’t really explain it; I’m sure it depends on your body chemistry, your method of consumption, and what type of weed you’ve got. As for me, I find that sativa-dominant hybrids work best if I’m trying to amp up my libido, but really, almost every strain I’ve tried has made me feel this way. (The first Leafly review for my favorite sexytimes strain just says “Yo I was vibrating and shit,” so apparently I’m not alone.)

Hopefully I don’t have to tell you that intoxicants can complicate consent. If you need a refresher on that, read the first four paragraphs of this article I wrote. But with that caveat, I want to tell you today about the seven (!) key ways that marijuana helps raise my libido and my enjoyment of sex and masturbation…


Arousal. Oftentimes, when I go several days without masturbating, it’s because it just feels like too much work. My sex drive is more responsive than spontaneous, so if I want to jerk off, I have to spend some time warming myself up and getting turned on: watching porn, reading erotica, and/or gently touching myself in places that aren’t my genitals until that area is ready to be touched. That process is lovely when I’m in the mood for it, but sometimes it just feels like an extra barrier to entry that isn’t worth the hassle. So I skip masturbation entirely.

Weed, amazingly, helps me circumvent the arousal process. If I smoke up, I’ll reliably get turned on within about 10 minutes, without having to actually do anything to make that happen. My genitals start to feel all warm and engorged like they do when I’ve been engaging in foreplay for several minutes – except I haven’t. It’s brilliant.

I remember one time, I smoked some weed at my then-boyfriend’s house just before leaving to head back home. On the walk home, I felt my own wetness start to drip down my leg. That’s a level of lubrication I usually only reach after, say, an hour of teasing and edging and fucking with someone I find colossally attractive. And weed made it happen without any effort or work at all. Strange and lovely!

Sensitivity. There is science to back this up: weed increases our capacity to feel physical sensations. Whether it’s a partner’s fingertips trailing along your spine, someone’s soft lips pressed against yours, or a vibrator nestled against your clit, sensory information tends to feel amplified when you’re high.

I wouldn’t say that weed makes my orgasms come more quickly or easily – I’m still a tough nut to crack, even when I’m stoned – but the lead-up to orgasm does feel better than it normally would. It’s as if I’ve never felt those exact sensations before, and my body and brain are experiencing them anew. It’s pretty magical.

Worth noting: this increased sensitivity isn’t always a good thing. When I had anal sex for the first time, my fuckpal – a seasoned stoner – advised me not to smoke beforehand, because anal penetration is already an intense sensation and weed could make it so I’d feel every bump and vein. I’m glad I listened to him. But for less overwhelming sex acts, that boost in receptiveness can be positively delicious.


Tactility. So, yes, weed makes me more physically sensitive, and it also makes me more excited about the whole notion of touching people. Or touching myself, as the case may be.

I once smoked weed with a beloved fuckbuddy while at a party, and when it hit me, I became obsessed with his arm hair. We were standing close together and I kept brushing my arm against his, sloooowly, to feel his comforting hairiness slide against my porcelain smoothness. It felt shockingly intimate and sexy, despite the fact that we were fully dressed and not even looking at each other – he was absorbed in conversation with someone else and I was pretending to listen to that conversation, too. But my attention was reduced to just those few inches of skin on skin, and how fucking delightful he felt against me.

This obsession with tactile information also means that oral sex on weed is a damn good time. You know what they say about “the munchies”…! When I’m high, I’m equally thrilled if there’s a Reese’s cup in my mouth or a dick in there, and for roughly equivalent reasons.

Visualizations. I wrote about this a bit when I had my first stoned orgasm. Weed isn’t a full-on psychedelic, in the sense that you’re probably not going to have a spiritual breakthrough or an LSD-esque “trip” on it, but it can create some visual and sensory hallucinations sometimes.

For example: once, Bex was sexting with their long-distance Sir while high, and when the topic of a blowjob was broached, Bex says they could actually feel their Sir’s cock in their mouth. I’ve had similar experiences when I’ve combined weed with fantasies, sexting, or porn: I become very suggestible, such that the mention of, say, a fist in my vagina can create the sensory illusion that there actually is a fist fucking me. When I try to sexually fantasize while sober, my mind often wanders and I can’t focus enough to get a vivid fantasy going; weed makes that process a lot easier and more fun.


Disinhibition. Much like alcohol, marijuana can loosen your inhibitions so you don’t feel as self-conscious. For an anxious person like me, this is a godsend. Anxiety triggers my sexual brakes, making it hard for me to get turned on and relax into the moment. Weed lifts the oppressive weight of anxiety off my shoulders, so I can be in the moment and quit worrying about shit that doesn’t matter.

While this effect is, like I said, similar to the disinhibition alcohol can facilitate, weed is physiologically a far better pre-sex choice than alcohol. Due to how booze affects the blood vessels, being drunk stunts our sexual sensitivity, our capacity for orgasm, and our ability to maintain an erection (penile or clitoral). They don’t call it “whiskey dick” for nothin’!

Joy. Gala Darling has written that regular exercise creates “a constant undercurrent of joy” in her life; I feel similarly about marijuana. It melts my stress and transports me to a place of childlike delight, where I can see the present moment for what it is: an opportunity for happiness, growth, and play.

There is certainly a time and a place for sex that is emotionally intense, focused, and serious. But that type of sex is a rare craving for me; what I want, far more often, is the goofy, giggly, relaxed kind of sex. I firmly believe that sex is grown-up playtime. I’m happiest in my sex life when I remember that and take it to heart. Weed makes that even easier to do.

When I’m depressed, or recovering from some kind of heartbreak, I often find it difficult to get turned on, because my sexual thoughts and fantasies just make me sad instead. Weed helps with that: it puts me into a happy-go-lucky brainspace where even people who’ve hurt my feelings can’t really bother me. So I can fantasize about them to my heart’s content.

Ecstatic pain. This one is weird, and I don’t have a scientific explanation for it, just firsthand experience to draw from: marijuana sometimes makes me experience pain as pleasure.

I first noticed this years ago when, stoned at a party, a friend and I began doing sun salutations. I noticed immediately that the stretching of my muscles – usually an intense, slightly uncomfortable feeling for me – felt almost orgasmic. I moaned aloud as I moved through the poses, pushing my body farther than I normally would, because the more I pushed, the better it felt.

It took me a few years to figure out how best to use this effect to my advantage: kink! I looove getting spanked, slapped, bitten, and scratched when I’m stoned. It all feels so fucking good. When I’m in that headspace and someone really skilled is spanking me just right, sometimes it even seems like I could get off from that alone. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still holdin’ out hope!


How do you find marijuana interacts with your libido, sensitivity, and enjoyment of sex? Got any tips, tricks, or favorite strains to share?

The post 7 Ways Weed Boosts My Libido appeared first on Girly Juice.

15 Nov 15:45

i have a chinese symbol tattooed on my neck that doesn't mean what i thought it did.

by samantha
look dude, i had no idea in 1998 that to give off some semblance of cool as an adult i would need to get a cubist rose tattooed on my barely discernible ribcage. in 1998 i had two pagers and one of those clear house phones that allowed you to see all the pink and red and blue wiring within. in 1998 i drove a maroon ford escort hatchback that i crashed in front of a strip mall while distractedly turning up the radio to better hear "the boy is mine." i knew in 1998 that pacey was the only reason on earth to ever watch dawson's creek, on regular CRT tv with an actual antenna. i had only tried three different types of cheese before 1998. in 1998 i didn't have a goddamned email address. so when, in 1998, i turned 18 years old and it officially became legal to carve intricate, lacy floral patterns and the names of my literary heroes into my supple young skin? i raced to the nearest tattoo parlor clutching my poetry journal to my bosom, ready to spend all $217 in my possession to have something deep and meaningful permanently inscribed into my flesh. JK I GOT A BUNCH OF TRIBAL TATTOOS AND SHIT LOL FUCK YOU.

i was in chicago last weekend for a book thing. and when i wasn't in my beautiful hotel room intermittently sobbing into the crisp white towels over how many delicious varieties of fried chicken were available within any one mile radius at virtually any time day or night, i was unfortunately outside of that hotel room being assaulted by other people's inane conversations. one night i was standing on the corner of halsted and randolph laughing at the idea that anyone would actually wait 2+ hours to eat a cheeseburger at au cheval when a handsome young man with two vibrant and colorful full sleeves adorning his pale, slender arms stumbled out of the restaurant, insulted that he was on the wait-for-a-text-list, griped "we can't get a seat at the bar but that guy with the cubs tattoo has a table!? let's go back to logan square, bro." (i might have taken some creative license with the last part of that sentence but whatever you know it's true.)

i could feel all the hair on my unironic mickey mouse/tweety bird/tazmanian devil tattoo stand on end. (i don't have any of those, but i know some bitches who do, and this is about solidarity.) everyone is a dumbass at 18. some people are still dumbasses at 32. it can't be helped. and sure, maybe i should've known that one day the olde english lettering spelling out ONE IRON DUKE on my right forearm would cause me deep and powerful shame at the hands of a style blogger with access to an american express card, but i fucking didn't. there were no smartphones back then, i couldn't just whip out my iphone and bring up the 10,000,000 pictures of the chinese symbol for "mother" available to me so that i wouldn't end up with the word "vagina" TATTOOED ON THE SIDE OF MY MOTHERFUCKING NECK FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. so give us a goddamned break, kids. back then we still had to fucking use encyclopedias.

so this one's for all the homies getting tattooed in the early aughts who had neither access to 2500 real american dollars to get inked from shoulder to wrist with something cool enough to impress our future roller derby teammates nor the foresight to realize that tattooing "i want no one else to succeed" on her breastplate would force her to engage with so many hideous, mouthbreathing strangers. ugh my life is neverending misery. i should either wear a turtleneck every day or get cards made up that say "please don't make me take my headphones off, it's a quote from there will be blood, okay!?"

i'm here for all you girls with butterflies flapping gently above your ass cracks and what you were misled to believe are the japanese letters for "love" and "destiny" peeking out from under the hems of your jeans; and the bros with barbed wire circling biceps that no longer flex as hard as they used to and faded orange koi gasping for air atop flabby pectoral muscles that strain a little tighter against your old abercrombie polo shirts. yes, i have an inky black tribal "sun" tattooed over the ill-conceived initials on my inner left wrist of a grown man who put ketchup on a steak at ruth's chris one time before leaving a 10% tip and I WILL NO LONGER BE ASHAMED, friends. did that dude and i end up happily ever after? no! but at the time did my then-25 year old brain think that a person who made me a copy of his house key should be honored in return with a corner of real estate on my body!? you bet that ladybug tattoo on your ass i did.

i'm not hiding anymore, fam. some asshole at a reading a couple years ago was like, "lol japanese wave tattoo!?" and for a split second i felt stupid and almost apologetic but wait: HELLO, SON. I AM OLD. and while i hope that tiny hipster mustache etched permanently into the side of your finger remains au courant forever, i'm smart enough to know it won't and that you better start thinking up the cutesy story to explain it away at parties now. because in ten years when 3D face tattoos are the wave and the girls you're trying to bone are all, "ew...mustache?" you're going to feel this exact same shame and hopefully by that point my aquarius constellation tattoo and i will be cackling up at you from the ninth circle of hell.

a semi-exhaustive list of all my trash tattoos, which hopefully will make you feel marginally better about your own life choices:

1 my first ever tattoo was this garbage i got, inspired by my 1998 hero ani difranco, in the dead center of my chest. i had the cover of her spin magazine tacked to a square of cardboard hanging on my dorm room wall, and that tattoo seemed as fitting a tribute as any to let everyone know that i spent a lot of time in high school crying along to "not a pretty girl."

2 giant tribal flame on top of right forearm.

3 tribal flower with nearly illegible name of dead mother scribbled beneath, top of left forearm.

4 below that, some other tribal thing that this dude at jade dragon kept calling a spider as he was tattooing it on me. i'm not really that into bugs and twenty years later it lives on my arm and still creeps me the fuck out.

5 "one iron duke," in honor of dead father, in that running from your wrist to your elbow style that eminem has wow o wow is this humiliating.


7 "shut up" on right upper arm.

8 ugh my sister and i got these matching butterfly tattoos? which is weird because i don't think we even like each other enough to do that kind of thing, and i'm going to go on record and say that i had chosen mine first and was in the chair with my shirt off when she got hers. 

9 oh man i was deeply in love and got the initials of a non-fictional person on the inside of my wrist and totally didn't think it was a mistake.

9a happiness is a lie and love is fleeting as fuck. cover ups to the rescue.

10 i was never one to instill a whole lot of meaning into my tattoo choices (and i definitely did not give them a whole lot of thought?) but i couldn't resist getting a little something when i went with a friend and got that there will be blood quote written on my left boob in this font that looks like a child's handwriting. i think this is officially when i was like "let's just cover this bag of rotting meat with whatever who cares."

11 case in point: i got really, really into sons of anarchy and decided that i was going to get a bunch of biker tattoos? okay so the first is this black and white shaded reaper surrounded by smoke and waves, angrily wielding a sickle with blood oozing from it; 12 the second one is a freehand skull done with only shading needles. he's surrounded by stars and roses and has a serpent coiled throughout, with its tail coming out of the skull's mouth and its head slithering out of where his missing brain would be; and finally, 13 a screaming reaper with terrifying sharp teeth who is brandishing an incredibly detailed smoking pistol. these are all on my right arm, and i still stand by this decision. man, i love that show.

14 slowing down in my old age, i got the aquarius constellation because if you pretend you believe in astrology people tend to be less irritated by your idiotic decision-making. 

15 when i went to dump my dad's ashes i got a tattoo of the state of tennessee, mostly to remind myself that i drove from chicago to nashville in a rented camry in seven hours fueled only by lukewarm diet coke and the kind of adult contemporary playlist that would melt your mom's panties right off.

16 cursed, on my wrist. because duh.

i wish i was cool, man. but i feel like that ship sailed as soon as i decided to pick my first handful of tattoos from the drunk rugby player's handbook circa 1997. there's freedom in covering your body with nonsense, though. once you get one dumb piece of garbage, you can just do whatever the fuck you want! aim low! get all of the cartoon characters and insipid motivational quotes your body can handle! ALL TATTOOS ARE TRASH. "dream as if you'll live forever." *cluster of birds trailing over mole-speckled right shoulder*
14 Nov 13:40

10 gorgeous judgement-busting photos of tattooed parents

by Ashley Sloan
All photos by
All photos by Ashley Sloan

In society, how you look is seen as very important — it can make or break you on getting a job, and it's how the average person creates their first impression of you. Which means that often tattooed individuals are harshly judged. Those that are tattooed parents especially get a mix of reactions…

Some are positive, but those reactions that are negative can be extreme. Stereotypically, people that are tattooed can be seen as people that may take part in drugs, gangs, or generally not living a culturally acceptable "positive" lifestyle. Sure, in recent years, tattoos have become more common, but they can still carry a negative connotation. I also have several tattoos, and was once asked if I did drugs. When I asked why this person asked me that, they said "because you have tattoos."

In my years as a photographer, I have seen some amazing artwork adorned on amazing people… and the majority of them parents. They have shown love, live a positive lifestyle, and are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. This got me thinking… "I want to show the world this love!"

The people in my "Tattooed Parents in Everyday Society" collection are parents who have been judged by those that do not know them. Many of these parents own small businesses, are tattoo artists themselves, are a part of a military family, and raise amazing kiddos. They just also have all this amazing art on their bodies…










In a world where constant judging of other people goes on, those with body art and kiddos should not be put into a category of negativity. Our artwork should be admired and us as parents should be supported because in the end we are all the same!

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14 Nov 13:17

Link: The Southern Poverty Law Center/Responding To Everyday Bigotry

by JenniferP

This excellent guide is full of gentle, direct scripts pulled from real situations.

Speak Up: Responding To Everyday Bigotry


14 Nov 13:04

#917: “How to set boundaries with people who think boundaries and hurt are manipulative? AKA Help implementing boundary advice?”

by JenniferP

Hello, Cap and friends! I have a couple of questions about boundary-setting with people who don’t believe in boundaries.

The Awkward team’s advice and scripts on setting boundaries have been so wonderfully helpful in my life, but what (if anything) can you say to people who believe that setting boundaries in a family is controlling?

For an example, there are wonderful scripts you linked from the SPLC center, on how to set boundaries with family members being bigoted:

>”Your ‘jokes’ are putting unnecessary distance between us; I worry they’ll end up doing irreparable harm. I want to make sure those ‘jokes’ don’t damage our relationship.” “You know that respect and tolerance are important values in my life, and, while I understand that you have a right to say what you want, I’m asking you to show a little more respect for me by not telling these ‘jokes’ when I’m around.” “I don’t want this rift to get worse, and I want us to have a good relationship. What should we do?””

In my family (parents + siblings, I’m 30), the responses are simply, “There wouldn’t be a problem if you just laughed” and “You’re trying to control what I do by saying that. It’s manipulative to say that I’m disrespecting you if I keep saying [awful insults about minority groups, or about me personally].” I mean, in a way they are kind of right? I am literally attempting to control discourse to a degree, but somehow that feels like they are missing the forest for the trees in a way I can’t articulate. Especially since they get offended if you don’t laugh at their ‘jokes!’

Is there any way to rationally respond to people that think that attempting to set boundaries (or tears at being insulted) is “childish and manipulative”? They see that as a truly deeply harmful thing, and it would be really wonderful if it was possible to get them to understand the idea of **mutual** respect.

Thank you so very much for ANY ideas.

– A Weary Woman

Dear Weary Woman,

Here are your 4 new best friends:

  • “Okay.”
  • “Wow.”
  • “No.”

Them: [Bigoted remark]

You: Wow. [+ maybe one of the SPLC scripts to unpack it]

Them: “It’s manipulative if you say my bigoted remarks are not okay!”


Them: “There would be no problem if you just laughed.”


Them: “Your problem is that you have no sense of humor.”


Be a broken record. Let them be offended. Let them think you’re being manipulative. Don’t engage in detail or give them reasons. If they won’t stop or escalate, say “Welp, good to see you, time to go!” & get out of there. You don’t owe them continued access to your attention. Leave the conversation and try again another day.

Whatever you do, don’t smooth it over. Let it get super awkward. Be the party pooper at the bigot party. Get a reputation for being uptight and humorless and no fun.

People have a right to their opinions, speech, and votes. You have a right to think those opinions are crap and to think less of people when they spout them. Bigots think that “everyone” thinks as they do and that their views are “simple common sense.” What bigots are looking for when they say bigoted stuff to people who (as far as they know) share their race/class/orientation/disability status/etc. is solidarity and reassurance. Deny them this reassurance and solidarity. Deny them evidence that “everyone” thinks that way. That is your power here, and it’s a pretty big one, given the way your family throws a tantrum whenever you try to use it. You’re already doing the right stuff, now it’s just about holding the line and letting be as awkward as they are making it.

If they care about your good opinion, they’ll stop saying that stuff around you. If they don’t, they won’t, and as a result, you’ll drift away from them and spend less time with them. If that happens, it’s a choice they are making. I guarantee that your folks can and do control themselves in countless other social situations, they just thought they could take their metaphorical hoods off around you and relax. Teach them that they can’t relax and that they need to behave themselves all the time.

Maybe because you spoke up a moment of self-awareness will come to them, and they will have a change of heart, but I think we should all keep our expectations about that very, very low right now and not get too invested in redemption narratives. Whenever I set a boundary here in moderation & dealing with (thankfully rare) trolling, I get pushback along the lines of “Well, with that attitude how do you expect to convert someone like me to your way of thinking?” The answer to that is: I don’t know, I’m not necessarily doing to convince you. I’m doing it for myself and for the other people who hang out here, so that we can feel safe and have the discussions we need to have. When you push back against someone’s bigoted remarks, this Thanksgiving (for one looming example) or at any other time, you’re not necessarily doing it to change that person’s heart or mind right in that minute. You’re doing it for yourself, so you can live with yourself and know that you did your best. And you’re doing it for the other people in your family, especially kids who are watching, to say, hey, I am a safe, kind person who doesn’t put up with this crap and you can be one, too.

True story: In undergrad, a professor invited Antonin Scalia (that Scalia) to our class to talk about hate crimes legislation and civil rights legislation in general. He made essentially the argument that many bigots make about this stuff – “Well, you can’t legislate people’s hearts, so why bother?” This was in 1993/1994 and I don’t have my notes anymore, so it’s not quite a direct quote that you can attribute, but he definitely said something along the lines of “If someone murders you because you’re gay or black, why can’t we just punish it like murder? Murder is already wrong enough, why do we have to saddle it with this extra burden of figuring out intent?

What he was ignoring is the way that oppression is about systems, not personal intent. Hate crimes are terrorism, meant to send a message to people in the targeted group that the same thing will happen to them. It’s not just violence against one person, it’s a threat and should be treated as one. While it would be nice if every hate group had a change of heart, what we can control is making it harder for them to do violence to people.

You can’t legislate people’s hearts, but you can hack away the culture that normalizes their behavior one plate of mashed potatoes and awkward conversation at a time. The world needs you to be awkward and make it weird.





09 Nov 15:21

This real-life eggplant emoji vibrator is a wet dream come true!

by Megan Finley
All photo courtesy of
All photo courtesy of

I just wanted to squeeze in a little quickie right now, and let you know that the eggplant emoji — you know, the one we ALL use because Japan hasn't gifted us with a dick emoji (yet) — is now a real life vibrator. In real life!


I think this cat's expression says it all. And I think I just found EVERYONE'S Secret Santa gifts. Because…


Whew. Thanks for letting me share this with you. Was it good for you?

Recent Comments

  • teddybErin: I love this so much. I wonder what grandma's would think about this making the White Elephant rounds [Link]
  • Megan Finley: I love you too. Also for reals. What would I do without being able to share my emoji vibrator news!!!! [Link]
  • Nya: Best post ever. The world needs more eggplant vibrators right now. [Link]
  • RakishLass: I love you Megan. For reals. [Link]

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09 Nov 15:17

On the underground resistance

by The Coquette

Are you freaking out? I’m freaking out.
Yes. I am freaking out.

I can’t fucking take it. I hate the news outlets for covering it like this. It’s meant to maximize our suffering. If trump wins I very seriously may commit suicide due to lack of faith in humanity.
Don’t commit suicide. We will get through this together.

I’m terrified.
Me too.

Drop the arrogant tone, kid.
Go fuck yourself.

I’m watching the votes roll in and I cannot stop crying. I’m so fucking nervous right now.
Go ahead and cry. This is worthy of your tears.

Fuck Gary Johnson. Fuck Gary Johnson. FUCK GARY JOHNSON!!!
Ralph Nader did this to us in 2000. History repeats. Such is life.

Coke, I’m watching the numbers come in and I’m freaking out. Help.
I cannot help you. We must accept this new reality with strong minds and calm hearts.

I’m so scared.
That’s okay. Just know, the republic will survive.

I feel like we’re all going to die in a nuclear holocaust now.
This will not result in your death, though unless you resist, it may result in your enslavement.

I am numb but almost in tears. What is happening?
A neo-fascist with a personality disorder conned his way into being the leader of the free world. It happens. Don’t worry. We will all be around to watch his downfall.

Do you have any words of comfort for us in this time of great fuckery?
Yes. In this time of great fuckery, know that you are on the right side of history, and though we may face difficult times ahead, it will only provide wings for the better angels of our nature.

Coke. I’m crying. I’m shattered. I’m in Australia, watching in horror and I can’t even begin to process what you guys are feeling. I’m so sorry.
It’s okay. We got this. The man will fuck up in such a way that he will not see the end of his first term as President.

what are we going to fucking do

Coke, I don’t want to live in this America. Trump almost President? I would rather die. It feels like the only option right now.
It is still our America. This is a grotesque fluke. The system will correct itself.

How the fuck is this happening?
America is filled with a small-minded, hateful, and willfully ignorant population of uneducated rural white voters. Trump got them to show up to the polls. Don’t worry. This will not happen again.

How do we Impeach a sitting president nowadays, by your estimation?
It will be quite easy with a con man like Trump. He is imminently impeachable.

What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? Please, give me something tangible that I can work toward to help this horrible country. Please.
Stay engaged and fight. Resist. Do not back down. Never give up.

What Now?

What the actual fuck?! How, why, I don’t even know what to say right now.
Breathe easy. We will survive this.

This is all just a stress dream, right? I’m going to wake up and Clinton will be in the White House.
No. This is reality. Accept it.

Coke, please? I’m scared of Trump. I’m angry and sad and empty. I was so proud to be an American -so proud to be a Michigander. Where do we go from here? How do we make this okay?
Your state fucked the whole country tonight. It’s not okay, but it is what happened. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on.

Never has “embrace the fucking change” made more visceral sense. What just happened?
History fucked us, as history is wont to do. We have no choice but to embrace it, for now.

Jesus fucking Christ. What happens next? What. Happened.
Tomorrow happens next. It will be okay. This is a shock, but the future is rich with possibility.

I just don’t fucking understand.
Don’t try to understand. Try to accept, and then gird your loins for battle.

I’m sure I’m not alone in asking this, now what? Earlier today when I was living in delirious denial, I was sure we’d elect our first woman president and turn the senate blue. I was wrong. I feel like the end of the world is here. Stock market crash, divided country, and someone truly unqualified, unstable, racist, misogynist, is going to take the highest office in the land in 70+ days. I imagine that Pence the terrifying evangelical will be the defacto president. Coke, I’m lost. Please give me something.
This is not the end of anything. It is the beginning of our call to action. We are on the right side of history, but nobody said this shit would be easy.

I will gladly join the resistance to take down the clown. Also any advice on what actions to take/how to best counteract Trump’s hate would be much appreciated in this dark despondent time.
Depending on how things pan out, I will have more information in the coming days with regard to joining the resistance. I’m not joking about this.

Were you serious about applications? I’m fucking horrified right now. I feel so numb. But something within me has changed tonight and I want to do something, anything. Much love from a longtime reader.
Yes. It’s too early to tell what it will become, but I am deadly serious about starting a movement. We can do this.

02 Nov 18:24

New study doesn’t show men are wimps about contraception side effects, low vasectomy rate might

by Dr. Jen Gunter

There has been a lot of discussion recently about a new hormonal contraception study for men that was halted early due to adverse events. Two of the side effects/adverse events that led to early termination were acne and mood disorders leading many to wonder, what gives?

Can’t men hack hormones or are researchers biased and letting men get off easy?

Excellent example of a terrible headline

The Study

A phase 2 trial of a combination of an injectable testosterone and norethisterone (a progestin and a hormone similar to what is in many birth control pills) for men. The goal was to see if the drug suppressed sperm, prevented pregnancy, was safe, and if the men who used it found the side effect profile acceptable. There was no placebo arm as placebo arms in contraception studies are unethical for obvious reasons.

320 men enrolled and 266 completed enough of the study to produce data on how well the product worked. The good news is that the drug combination was very successful and almost 96% of men has suppressed sperm. There were 4 pregnancies for a pregnancy rate of 1.57/100 users. The Pearl Index was calculated as 2.18 pregnancies per 100 person years (basically 100 people use the method and 2.18 get pregnant over that year).  The Pearl Index is 1.5-2 for the birth control pill. Other good news is that more than 75% of men said they were satisfied with the method and would use it again.

The Bad News

The study was halted early as one of two independent safety panels took issue with the high rate of side effects. This wasn’t the researchers saying, “Oh these poor men.” This was an independent review board. The adverse events that raised concerns were: acne (45%), increased libido (38%), “emotional disorder” (16.9%), injection site pain (23.1%) and myalgias (or muscle pain, 16.3%). One man committed suicide, which somehow the researchers said wasn’t related to the drug because his family said he was stressed at work, and one attempted suicide. 

Comparing Like With Like

You can’t compare the findings of a phase 2 trial with the echo chamber of personal experience that is the Internet. You have to compare study with study, not a study with an op-ed column. These side effect rate is pretty high with this new study of men when compared with contraception studies for women. For example and perspective, a study comparing the birth control patch with the pill found a serious adverse event rate of 2%. The pill reduces acne for 70% of women and in studies with the Mirena IUD the rate of acne is 6.8%.

That recently reported study on depression with the birth control pill? It has some good points, but also lots of issues – the most glaring being no control group (i.e. no copper IUD users). But let’s say for argument’s sake the study is accurate depression wise, which would mean the birth control pill accounted for one additional case of depression per 200 adolescent users. In the male contraception study 2.8% of users developed depression, so much higher. However, for the most accurate comparison we need prospective studies of women using birth control pills and those have not clearly demonstrated a link between depression and the pill. That doesn’t discount personal experiences, might there be a subset of women prone to depression with hormones? Might it be multifactorial so several events must be in place for the pill to trigger depression? Sure, but we don’t have those answers yet. 

As an aside, anyone telling women not to use the pill because it’s possible that an additional 0.5% of adolescents could develop depression I assume you are also telling women these same women that they should certainly not get pregnant as 15% of women develop post partum depression.

Four significant issues with the study

  1. A significant percentage of adverse events came from one study center
  2. None of the men appeared to have been formally screened for depression beforehand.
  3. “Emotional disorders” weren’t defined in the paper (perhaps they were in the study), I’m a doctor and I don’t know what that means
  4. For 5 men it took > 52 weeks (but less than 74 weeks) for spermatogenesis to recover. One man still had no return of adequate sperm for fertility at 4 years

Based on the above I think scientifically it was reasonable to stop the study. Was it to spare men possible excessive side effects, a possible increased risk of suicide, and ill-defined emotional issues at one study site? Sure, that’s ethics. It doesn’t mean the study was a failure, it means the side effect/adverse event profile was higher than expected and not distributed evenly among study centers and a group of reviewers wondered, ‘What’s up with this, perhaps we should figure it out?” It is curious to me that the delay in return to normal fertility wasn’t part of what prompted the independent review board to suggest, although likely they didn’t have that information at the time of the safety review.  

The biggest head scratcher for me is what was up with this one site? I also think if there are these early concerns about possible depression further studies should be formally screening men for depression. Maybe it is was drug and maybe men with depression were more likely to self-select for the study. I think grading the severity of acne might also be important. 

As for the 20 men who dropped out because of side effects? That’s A) not why the study was stopped and B) women drop out of contraception studies all the time too and it doesn’t mean they are wimps. Here’s a quote from a prospective study looking at the pill and depo provera and side effects and depression, “We observed that experiencing adverse symptoms may lead to method discontinuation.”

The dose of hormones was effective and that’s great, but the Press and many people have forgotten this for catchy and misleading headlines. Ending studies early for safety happens. The conclusion isn’t men can’t handle hormones it means better screening may be needed before and during the next study for both depression and anxiety and maybe more uniform training among study centers. 

The study doesn’t say men are wimping out, our low vasectomy rate does

Forget the study. We already have plenty of data on how women bear the burden of contraception when a similar option is available to both in the coupleship. Only 5% of American men have had a vasectomy yet 15% of American women have had a tubal ligation. Almost weekly I discuss contraception with a woman who is having issues with multiple methods. She and her partner have finished childbearing and yet she can’t get him to make an appointment to discuss vasectomy. She just rolls her eyes. She’d given up asking. She assumed the not insignificant risk of pregnancy usually more than once and yet she cannot get her partner to assume the insignificant risk of a vasectomy. What exactly does that say?  Yeah, I know this is not all men but it’s a lot. And this, quite frankly, is bullshit. The numbers should be reversed.

While vasectomy only applies to those finished childbearing it is about as adverse event free as contraception can be and yet we still can’t get all eligible men to have one. This is what makes me depressed about male hormonal contraception, because it is unlikely that there will ever be a contraceptive as easy and as safe as vasectomy.

We need more research into reversible male contraceptives and hopefully what was learned from this study will be helpful, however, looking at vasectomy rates I’m pretty pessimistic about the majority of men choosing it as an option. Here’s hoping I’m proven wrong.


  • An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated both review boards recommended terminating early, it was one. The information about those who dropped out has also been included. I have also updated the post with the number of men with delayed/failure to return to normal fertility.

21 Oct 17:54

Donald Trump confuses birth with abortion and no, there are no ninth month abortions

by Dr. Jen Gunter

The third and final Presidential debate focused very quickly on abortion. Clinton defended choice and Trump, not one to be bothered with facts, countered with this doozy of line:

“I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”

First of all, we don’t rip anything in OB/GYN. In surgery we use sharp dissection and blunt dissection, but we don’t rip. Some women do tear during a vaginal delivery, but that’s not a doctor ripping the baby out. Even with a forceps delivery I wouldn’t call it ripping. We also don’t rip tissues during c-sections. Perhaps we can forgive Donald Trump for not knowing this as it is hard to believe that a man who bragged that he doesn’t change diapers and said he wouldn’t have had a baby if his wife had wanted him to actually physically participate in its care would have attended the birth of his own children. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart as there is, after all, lots of blood coming out the “wherever.”

Trump’s statement, as incorrect as it may be, supports the fallacy of the due-date abortion. It is a common anti-choice narrative that women come in at 39 weeks and have some kind of abortion for fun or out of boredom and that we doctors are only too happy to comply. I’m sure some people think there are Groupons. The more graphic the description of the procedure the better as it helps to distract from the facts.

Talking about abortion from a medical perspective is challenging when you are not a health care provider. Even someone familiar with the laws can get confused. For example, Mrs. Clinton made an error speaking about late-term abortion when she said it was a health of the mother issue. Typically it is not (it’s almost always fetal anomalies). However, this error on Clinton’s part only underscores how important it is for politicians to not practice medicine.

To put it in perspective  1.3% of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks and 80% are for birth defects. Put another way 1% of abortions are after 21 weeks and are for birth defects and 0.3% of abortions are after 21 weeks and are not for birth defects (some of these will be health of the mother and a very few will be for other indications). Let’s take it situation by situation.

Abortion by gestational age in the United States Late-term abortion is > 21 weeks

Abortion by gestational age in the United States
Late-term abortion is > 21 weeks

Birth Defects

This could range from Down syndrome to anomalies incompatible with life. The generally accepted limit of viability is 24 weeks so before that gestational age abortions can happen for any reason. After 18 or so weeks the options are an induction of labor or a dilation or an evacuation (or D and E), which is a surgery. With induction it can take a few days as labor can be hard to trigger so early. If all goes well the cervix dilates and the fetus delivers. Sometimes indictions fail because you can’t always get such a premature uterus to contract. With a D and E the cervix is dilated, with the help of medication, instruments or both, and the fetus is removed. The fetus is essentially taken apart with a D and E to fit through the dilated cervix (the cervix is dilated less with a D and E than for an induction). This is no secret to the women having the procedure. This is also no ripping, there is simply surgical technique. Women know they were pregnant before the procedure and that they were not after and trust me they don’t think their doctor waved a magic wand or had a time turner.

After 24 weeks birth defects that lead to abortion are very severe and typically considered incompatible with life. These procedures are either a traditional induction, just like labor, or something that requires instrumentation. Because of the nonsensical partial birth abortion law women who wish to have a dilation and extraction (a modified technique for more advanced procedures) need to have fetal cardiac activity stopped with an injection into the uterus. Either way it’s a 2 or 3 day or even 4 process to get the cervix to dilate enough. The further along in the pregnancy, the more likely the procedure will be an induction of labor, but a skilled practitoner can do a dilation and extraction at 32 or 34 weeks. I’ve never heard of a dilation and extraction for any other reason than severe birth defects and often it is for a woman who has had two or three c-sections for whom inducing labor might pose other health hazards, like uterine rupture. Are we to force women to have c-sections for a pregnancy that is not compatible with life?

Why do some women end up with these procedures later on in their pregnancy? Sometimes it can take weeks or even longer to fully understand what is going on with the fetus. Some patients might think they can make it to term and then at 34 weeks cave and ask to be delivered because they just can’t bear one more person asking them about their baby. Do they just smile and walk away or say, “Well, actually, my baby has no brain and will die at birth?” Some women go to term and others can’t. To judge these women for requesting an early delivery is cruel on so many levels. I wrote more about it here if you are interested.  Regardless, terminations for birth defects isn’t ripping “the baby out of the womb in the ninth month.” At 38 or 39 weeks it’s always an induction and is simply called a delivery.

Health of the Mother

This definitely happens between 20 and 24 weeks. The most likely scenario is ruptured membranes and an infection in the uterus. The treatment of this is delivery or the infection will spread and kill the mother, however, someone with lupus or renal disease or heart disease (for example) could have a deterioration of their health and with their providers make the decision to have a termination. After 25 weeks this would simply be a c-section or an induction of labor and the baby would go to the neonatal intensive care unit. Between 24-25 weeks there could be some leeway as conditions that are serious enough to require delivery at 24 weeks often also have devastating effects on the fetus. For example, the fetus could be so severely growth restricted making viability at 24 weeks unlikely and a woman with a severe heart condition may not elect to risk her health with a c-section for a likely non viable pregnancy and choose a termination. These are difficult and nuanced decisions and everyone is simply working together to make the best decision for the pregnant person. I don’t know where Mrs. Clinton got this “bad news at the end” of the pregnancy being about maternal health. I have only ever heard of one very late abortion for maternal health and that was for the rape of a minor by her brother and that was still not at term.

So no one is performing health of the mother abortions at 38 or 39 weeks we just do deliveries. It’s called obstetrics.


Some of the 0.3% of abortions after 21 weeks will be for personal reasons. Often these are called elective abortions, but I don’t like that term. Usually this happens when it took too long to find a clinic and raise the money. These abortions happen before 24 weeks. There is no ninth month action here either.

The facts

There are no ninth month abortions. Really. A ninth month abortion is a unicorn and so it’s ridiculous to even discuss it. Terminations after 24 weeks are for severe fetal anomalies.

If it’s a unicorn, why not legislate it? Introducing a gestational age limit is introducing the thin edge of the wedge. Once you say abortion is illegal at say 37 weeks then you have agreed the subject is up for negotiation and more legislation.

If someone were truly interested in reducing abortion they wouldn’t start with the 1.3%, more reductions can be made in the first trimester where most terminations are due to unplanned pregnancies. These abortions could be reduced dramatically with access to free and accessible long-acting reversible contraception. To dismiss these abortions and focus on the later procedures means it is not about reducing abortion at all, so it can only be about punishment and control.







***Comments are now closed due to an increasing number of abusive remarks***

17 Oct 12:53

His Daughter Wanted To Fly The Millenium Falcon For Halloween, So...

by Jen




That's right, as if this little Rey wasn't already too cute for words:


 Now she gets to fly her own Millenium Falcon!

 ... which her dad made out of foam board and paper cups.

 And, you guys?

» Read More
11 Oct 13:47

Vestiges of monogamy…SEE ME ON TOUR!...

Vestiges of monogamy…

SIGN UP to get updates about “Love Retold”: my graphic novel coming out in 2017:

05 Oct 20:31

Panic Victories, Cabbages, and Kings

by Jen
I posted this yesterday on Facebook to my closest circle of friends, but after I did, it occurred to me it applies here, too:

(Yes, I *am* wearing a Knights Who Say Ni helmet in a tank top for my profile pic. WHAT.) 

The week I'm referring to was on our first book tour, when John came down with a deadly combo of  pneumonia and a bacterial staph infection. I did a show while he was in the E.R., before we realized how serious it was, but after that is a haze of terror and helplessness and aching, soul-stabbing loneliness.

I started Epbot about 7 months later, I think in some ways because I *did* feel so alone that week. While there was an incredible outpouring of support and love from the Cake Wrecks community, with readers driving out of their way to bring me things at my hotel, and sending messages and offers of help, there was also a wall there. Not an intentional one, of course; it's just we didn't know each other. They knew I liked to write funny stuff, I knew they liked to read it. Beyond that, the rest was a guessing game.

With Epbot I set out to create a place where, among other things, I could be myself and just talk to people. And ideally, have them talk back. About silly stuff. About fandom stuff. Of struggles and triumphs and inspirations - of cabbages and kings!

I got all that in spades.

Today, most of my closest friends I've met through this blog. Some were fans who asked for a meetup, others were artists or cosplayers I featured on roundups. Some I've only met IRL a few times, others I get to see every month. But all of them found something in common with me, chose to express it, and have made my life so much richer.

Even those of you I don't know yet, I feel like I know, at least a little. From what I hear on meetups, I think you feel the same. We have these commonalities, you see. Not everything, of course - that'd be boring - but enough to bring us together. Enough to cheer each other on.

 Yesterday John and I had a meetup at Diagon Alley in Universal. Not unusual; we do these a lot.

Why yes, I WILL use this excuse to post a few pics from my phone.

This was a particularly lovely one, though, because right up front Chelsea admitted she was nervous meeting me, so I got to confess that I was nervous, too. Not over the meeting, but because I'd decided that maybe that was the day I could finally, after years of hoping and trying and failing - finally get myself on the ride E.T.

You're laughing now, but my agoraphobia has prevented me from going on rides for around 5 years now. It's an irrational nuisance, a fear-monster I've been working to tame. Two years ago I conquered the kiddy Dr. Suess ride, but anything that locked me in, that lifted off the ground or sailed into water, has been off-limits - and of course that's nearly all of them.

E.T. was my holy grail, because I hadn't been on it since I was a kid, and because I was afraid it would close before I could work up the courage. Yes, I, a grown woman, was afraid of the E.T. ride.

I've been working on my exposure therapy, though, while continuing to get my thyroid and hormone issues in check. Several months ago I went on the boat ride in The Land. Before that I made it through the queue of E.T. - a big step, since they lock you in a room first - before ducking out at the end with shaky, sweaty palms. And often at night, before I went to sleep, I would imagine myself on the ride, the darkness and the height and the restraint bars, until the fear loosened ever-so-slightly.

So I'd been doing my homework, and I felt, finally, ready. All I needed now was moral support, a pinch of distraction, and maybe even a scosh of peer pressure.

I told Chelsea this - well, an abbreviated version - when we first met, and later that day, just before the park closed, she and her hubby Nate insisted on accompanying me and John to the ride.

We told them they didn't have to. There were other things they'd rather do, and we told them to go do those instead. But they spent their precious vacation time to come with us, chatting and laughing, and then they rode E.T. with me, and you guys, I rode E.T., I did it, and though I shook quite a bit and gripped those handlebars 'til my knuckles went white and I very nearly panicked, I didn't panic. I went right to that edge, and came back safe and sound. I can't say it was fun, not yet, but I can see how it might be again someday - and just that is something I couldn't imagine even a few months ago.

I know a theme park ride is a silly victory, I do, but it's a marker of so much more. Last week I sat comfortably through a community play. Bad traffic doesn't bother me anymore. Neither do elevators or movies. A month ago - and this one stings to admit - I successfully drove by myself for the first time in over two years, and it was actually fun. Best of all, I did all of these things without Xanax.

While I'm proud, let me be clear: It's not mind-over-matter. It's not that I have better or stronger willpower. It's proper health care and treatment and medication, combined with a few mental and breathing techniques for fine-tuning. After years of searching for the right doctors and tests, my Hashimoto's is mostly under control, I do spine stretches to relieve "computer hunch," and most recently I've been correcting some imbalances with prescription hormones - all issues that have triggered and exacerbated my panic. It's been such a long, tedious journey, but now, almost a decade after my panic switched on overnight, I can almost imagine a life without it. Almost. That. is. HUGE.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to know there is hope, and because this isn't a private victory. Whether you're aware of it or not, you've helped me get here. This community is helping me take back what agoraphobia has stolen from me. So it was only fitting that Chelsea and Nate were there with me at E.T., even if they, too, didn't know how much they were helping. (I managed not to cry after; just stood there grinning and shaking. That's another little battle won.)

Thanks to this community, I don't have to face the monsters alone. And neither do you.

Oh, and since I believe every victory deserves its spoils, check it out - I got myself a battle trophy:

I took this on a nearby bench while the rest of the group went on the Simpsons ride. (Baby steps - I'll get to more rides eventually.) You know I'm giddy when I resort to taking selfies. [shudder]

My new E.T. plush stands next to my monitor, a reminder of triumphs and home and friends I haven't met yet, and also that when the really hard times come, next time, I won't have to face them alone.

Fist bumps all round, y'all. We did good.

04 Oct 17:22

Leslie Jones Finds Her Hacker in SNL Mr. Robot Spoof - "Is there a Mrs. Robot?"

by Charline Jao

Heads up: Spoilers for Mr. Robot in the above video.

Leslie Jones wants the world to know she’s got the world’s most notorious hacker on her side. The recent Saturday Night Live premiere included a Mr. Robot parody in which Jones recruits Elliot Alderson (expertly spoofed by Pete Davidson) to help her hunt down her hacker. Mr. Robot and Darlene also make small appearances.

If you weren’t already aware, the video references Jones’ real life experience getting hacked. After being targeted for online abuse which consisted of posting Jones’ private photos, information, and other horrific types of sexism and racism, the Ghostbusters star spoke to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who promised to do more in combatting this kind of behavior. Homeland Security is also currently investigating the case.

While most of the jokes in the video play off Mr. Robot‘s seriousness by building the contrast between Elliot’s sad, technological prowess and Jones’ energetic, outdated sensibility (her password is “password”), there’s something very powerful about Leslie Jones making comedy out of something as awful as her harassment. How amazing is that? Not only does she unapologetically bring up her role in Ghostbusters in a clever “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” to remind us she won’t let the haters get her downshe’s using that terrible experience as fuel for new content.

What did you think about the spoof?

(via Polygon)
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03 Oct 18:41

Can We Make PEGs A Thing?

by Jen
A close friend of ours had something bad happen yesterday, and while John and I waited for news and paced the house and looked helplessly at our phones, something occurred to me:

You know how we say, "Please let us know if you need anything," to people in pain? And how that's just putting the burden on *them* to tell us how to help, right when they're least capable of thinking straight?

I think we can agree that doesn't work.

But what if we each had a list: a Personal Emergency Guide. A PEG. And on this list, just like a medical ID bracelet or an In Case of Emergency notice, we could record how and when and to-what-extent our friends and family can help during a crisis.

Obviously you'd have to fill out this list before there's trouble, when you're clear headed, but once it's done you can invoke your PEG at any time on social media. Even better, post it now, so others can reference it as needed.

So what goes on a PEG? Any and everything you'd want to know about your friends when you're trying to help them feel better. Something like this:

I'm no graphic designer - John helped me do this much - but you get the idea.

Obviously you'll want to tailor your PEG to fit; these are just some basics to get you started. Remember this is for emotional emergencies, though, not everyday. Think about how you cope with fear and bad news and sadness, and about what's helped in the past.

In the same vein, don't assume you already know what your friends need; everyone is different, and pain changes things. That friend who hugs everyone may want space, or the distant, cynical one may want company - you never know, and only they can tell you for sure.

I'm planning to post that graphic on my personal Facebook, and ask my friends to fill it out. Call me awkward - 'cuz I am - but I appreciate some guidelines when life gets messy. Maybe you do, too. If so, grab that graphic (or make your own!), and let's start some conversations. Let's learn something new. Let's be better friends.

Now it's your turn: what'd I miss? What would you add to your PEG, and what do you wish your friends would add to theirs?

P.S. Our friend's situation yesterday turned out OK, and we were able to visit and laugh and have an awesome time together. I'm lucky she took charge, though, and simply told us what she wanted. That's all a good PEG is, really, so however you express it, just get one out there, k?

03 Oct 17:08

Guest Post: #909 “I Should Be Able To Do Money…But I Can’t”

by joon

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am so scared. I keep messing things up financially. I just don’t know how to do it. How to DO MONEY. But it’s a paradox, because I am earning a decent amount.

It’s a paradox about which I feel rather ashamed, because I am aware of my privilege. I come from a middle-class family of financial flailers–always earning a comfortably middle-class salary, yet always lurching, always in debt, always bouncing checks, always living paycheck to paycheck, always STRESSED AS FUCK about money, yet never really changing (or seeming to know how to change) spending habits, or debt, or livingsituation, or whatever the fuck it is you do to live with lower financial stress. I am just like my parents in this regard.

I am so scared. I am always living paycheck to paycheck, and even that isn’t enough. To illustrate what I mean, I often have to stop eating for 3 days before paychecks, I tend to bounce checks once every month or two, and I’ve had to postpone my student loan payments 3 times in 4 months. It is not so easy to just move, either–my rent is pretty decent for the location, especially considering that now I don’t have a car (a crash last summer, another financial fuckeroo), it is important to live near my workplace.

I just don’t know where to start. Whenever I google stuff about getting financial advice online for free, it’s always some advice that comes in the form of happy go lucky blank slates. Like, these super-duper positive people writing how-to’s as though they are teaching the teenage children of rich and stable folks how to save their allowance. Fuck that shit! I don’t want advice that is starting from some elusive, unrealistic (at least for me, but probably for most) baseline of financial stability and emotional okayness.

I want some advice that respects my baseline of terrible credit, shitty habits, major upcoming expenses, MAJOR student loan debt, major shame and self-loathing, and total overwhelm and fear.

I feel so fucked. I am scared.

I know that here, Captain, you tend to respond to stories. However, I also know that you love advice blogs in general, that you’re an aficionado of the genre. Therefore my question is a request for help in finding some other advice blogs: do you know of any places on the internet I can go to find the kind of help, the kind of realistic, open, detailed, respectful advice I’m looking for?

And frankly if you have thoughts on my situation, I will definitely take your advice, too.

Thanks a lot,

Financially Flailing

Dear Flailing,

I hear you that you feel scared—and that you feel especially ashamed because you recognize your relative good fortune to date. Would it help to know that you are not alone, that you are now among the majority in the US? Living paycheck to paycheck—or well behind one—is common, including in folks who’ve had sound opportunity. So kudos to you for actively seeking to set straight what so far feels to you like an impossible situation.

As you’ve found, the advice common in financial guides does not apply to everyone, or at least not to everyone’s starting point. Many such resources assume a near-magical combination of higher-income, plus a naturally frugal bent, plus a supportive family, plus a state of emotional zen, plus a cognitive capacity to navigate institutions ranging from banks to universities, plus plus plus. Not everyone has all of these. Folks with barriers such as stress, grief, cognitive limitations, a difficult family history, an experience of abuse, or a disability are often left to their own devices and, like you, feel embarrassment and shame that they aren’t “succeeding.”

Many mainstream resources don’t help. In fact, they exacerbate the issue by making it difficult for folks to come out of their financial closets. I know it didn’t help me one iota when all the advice seemed to scream, “Be an entirely different person! Become an extrovert! Don’t have Asperger’s or depression! Have more physical stamina!”  Ack. Our financial path must—at its most basic level—honor who we are at our heart, not to mention at our physical capacity.

You’re smart, articulate, and educated but, as you’ve discovered, these qualities alone do not lead to financial success. But other ones do.

As a volunteer, I serve some of my region’s lowest-income people. Interestingly, some had extremely high income (think executive directors and an NHL player) before needing help to secure and then live on $510 per month. As is usually the case, their financial flailing was not about a lack of drive, commitment, hard work, or intelligence. These folks’ careers relied on these characteristics. So what else is at play?

You seem to be painfully aware that you have sufficient income and status, and that there is some self-sabotage going on. This means that while you feel like a failure you’re actually already two steps ahead of the game!

I propose five strategies to help you fulfill your dream of financial well-being:

1. Prepare. Interestingly, preparing for financial recovery involves no file folders, specialized software, or fee-based advisers. Getting ready will involve just the simple step of writing down five free things you can do when you start to feel overwhelmed. What soothes you? A bubble bath? A run? Knitting? Texting with a dear friend? Meditation? A pitch black room? The Pogues on maximum volume? Post your list to at least five key places: your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, the top of your shoe, your wrist, wherever you will see this prompt to self-soothe rather than spend. When the judgement or panic begins to arise, implement one of your personal self-soothing options. (And if you spend instead? No big deal, because you’re going to put in place the next steps too.)

2. Connect. The primary difference I see in people who transition from struggling to stable is emotional back-up. Many of us rely on spending to alleviate intolerable levels of loneliness, isolation, fear, anger, guilt, and more. Ironically, when we then spiral into shame about our spending, we often spend even more to cope! For this reason, I recommend your second step be putting support in place. For a sociable introvert or a person with a wild schedule, an online forum such as that offered by the Simple Living Network might be the best bet. For a person who thrives in live groups, the twelve-step program Debtors Anonymous can be a boon. If you have access to affordable one-on-one therapy, I encourage you to take that opportunity, too.

Even when these resources use financial floundering as a focus or anchor topic, much more will happen. This is because for most of us, money is attached to loss, hope, grief, attachment, and shame. When we focus on our finances, our money issues begin to resolve but so do layers of psychological struggle. When we act on one, we are inherently acting on both. So in healing financially, it is critical to have support not just to spend more judiciously, but to live through the emotional layers that arise when we shift the very way we’re interacting with our world. Your support person or group provides practical support while simultaneously (and more importantly) caring for your heart—walking you through your shame and out the other side while you implement change.

3. Envision. Take up to an hour to consider your personal goals. What are your dreams? When you see yourself in twenty years, what is your life full of? What does that look like, smell like, sound like, taste like? Pull related photos out of magazines, jot down key words, or chat about it into your phone or video camera. The sky’s the limit. Record everything you truly desire materially or environmentally. Silence? A turntable? An English country garden? The opportunity to raise a child?

4. Assess. Does your current lifestyle match this vision? If your heart tells you that in the future you want a peaceful cottage to write in, does spending $4 on ice cream today align with that? Don’t judge or kick yourself. Just notice. Watch yourself as though you are a scientist—a neutral third party curious about the patterns.

5. Record. On any given day, write down every penny that comes in to your life and every penny that goes out. This includes the dollar to the busker and the auto-debit for the internet bill. This activity can seem intimidating, because we anticipate seeing evidence of unmitigated disaster: pen hitting paper minute by minute, volumes of scrawled notes. It needn’t be overwhelming, though, and in fact can be strangely soothing. When we record in a notebook every penny as it goes out or in, we begin to see the power we have—the choice we get to make from moment to moment. We give ourselves a glimpse of our healthy decision-making capacity. Record nothing from before this moment, and nothing from beyond now. Just this moment’s transaction. As you record, accept your feelings. (Rely on your list for self-soothing.) Don’t try to modify your spending; no one else need see the information. Just record. Do this in as many moments, on as many days, as you feel up to it. Your consciousness will take it from there.

Once we have these five elements or practices in place, we naturally take steps to increase our income—asking for a raise, babysitting for a neighbour, snagging that grant—and decreasing our expenses—applying for a halt in student loan interest, canceling the gym membership we never use, inviting friends to a potluck in place of our usual Friday night restaurant outing. We do these one at a time, as our support team helps us to.

When we’ve connected more deeply with ourselves—and recognized our right to honor our truest self—we begin spending on that which aligns with our own deepest values, and declining to spend on that which others told us we should want: marriage, a magazine subscription, the university degree. Of course, the actual details of what we spend or save on are unique to each person, which is why our financial journey is often one of achieving physical, psychological, and relational freedom as well.

When we align our finances with who we really are at heart—ditching other people’s priorities in favor of honoring our own values and dreams—the perplexing paradoxes resolve. In the end, it seems that near-magic is involved after all, but it’s you who creates it.

Joon Madriga was marginalized by a severe yet undiagnosed brain-based disability, which left her on the streets. She subsequently found her way to help herself, then thousands of others. Her recently released book, Rising: Strategies for the Broke, the At-Risk, and Those Who Love Them, is available on She blogs at and welcomes your questions and struggles there.

Moderator Note: Readers, feel free to recommend other resources & techniques in the comments. I’d prefer to see recommendations in the form of “X site/forum/tool worked really well for me, here’s how and why” over “You should try X.”

28 Sep 18:44

Rose Armor Gown Photoshoot by Mike Saffels with Kelly Eden

by Lillyxandra


We shot our new Rose Armor Gown and revisited the Princess Celestia Gown with Saffels Photography and model Kelly Eden!  You can view the BTS here! – 
A special thanks to Creature of Habit for helping on set <3 

– Rose Armor Gown –

We used a dusty rose chiffon that parts in the front to reveal silver 3D lace. The underlying fabric is a pale peach wedding satin. Metal filigree decorates the top of the dress and under-bust. We created matching filigree shoulder caps glittering with gems. Swags of chain drape over the sides of the arm and back.

– Princess Celestia Gown –

This gown was made for The Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball ( ). I wanted to create a human version of Princess Celestia (My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic). Not only did I want to make a human version but also something decadent that she would wear to a masquerade. Celestia has a sun theme, I incorporated a star burst to the center of her tapestry panel. I added white LED lights to the wings for an ethereal glow. Fluffy layers of tulle and pearl organza make the high collar and puff sleeves.



27 Sep 17:39

Why Star Trek: Discovery Needs an Environmental Conservation Plotline - Can a show about exploring strange new worlds help save life on our own?

by David Shiffman


The announcement of a new Star Trek TV show has Trekkers around the world, including me, buzzing with excitement. CBS and showrunner Bryan Fuller have revealed some key details about Star Trek: Discovery, promising “new crews, new villains, new heroes, and new worlds.” We know that the new show will take place in the Prime timeline, approximately a decade before Kirk’s original 5 year mission. What we don’t yet know is what the main plotlines will be. As a lifelong Star Trek fan, a conservation biologist and a citizen afraid of the future, I hope that Star Trek: Discovery will feature an environmental conservation plotline.

Star Trek is at its best when it focuses on important real-world problems through the lens of science fiction. In the original series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” showed how preposterous and harmful racism can be at the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “Homefront” in Deep Space Nine showed that moral compromises made in the name of security can be more damaging to a peaceful society than the actual danger from the enemy. And for all its flaws, Star Trek: Enterprise did a great job portraying the stigma that AIDS sufferers face via Vulcan Pa’nar syndrome.

But in hundreds of hours of airtime, Star Trek has barely covered topics related to environmental conservation at all. Spock referred to killing what was believed to be the last surviving Horta as “a crime against science” in “Devil in the Dark”; The Voyage Home focused on Kirk and company going back in time to retrieve now-extinct humpback whales; and in The Next Generation’s “New Ground,” Worf’s son Alexander learns about how rhinos went extinct on Earth and tries to rescue an endangered Corvan gilvo from a shipboard fire. That’s about it.

Environmental conservation is one of the most important issues facing the world today. According to the WWF, wildlife populations have dropped more than 50% in the last few decades. Research shows that human activities are causing species to go extinct at more than 1,000 times their natural rate. Things are so bad that scientists say human actions have created a whole new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, and have caused the Earth’s sixth-ever mass extinction event.

An environmental conservation plotline on Star Trek: Discovery could help raise awareness of these real-world problems. Such a plotline might take several forms. We know that before the relative paradise of the Discovery/TOS era, things got ugly for the people of Earth. Crises such as the Bell Riots, the Eugenics Wars, and the post-atomic horror have been somewhat well explored. Others, such as the World War III era eco-terrorism movement led by the dictator Colonel Green, have been barely mentioned. A Discovery-era extremist environmental movement influenced by Colonel Green could be an interesting plot point. After all, the Terra Prime movement on Enterprise was one of the best parts of that show.

A society with interstellar commerce must face ecological problems with introduced or invasive species. In the real world, ecosystems are being devastated by the introduction of non-native species. These species often have no predators in the new ecosystem, or outcompete native species for food. One way that invasive species are spread in the real world is through cargo vessels moving from port to port. How much worse must this problem be when you’re dealing with ships moving between hundreds of worlds? We learned from The Phantom Menace that plot points based on trade policy aren’t always the most fascinating thing to watch. However, introduced Tribbles eating all the grain in a silo was a key component of one of the most beloved Star Trek episodes of all time. And speaking of invasive species, what ever happened to Sluggo, the invertebrate who Ensign Sato took from one planet and released on an ecologically similar planet in “Fight or Flight”?

From The Voyage Home, we know that Earth’s oceans in the days of Star Trek: Discovery don’t have humpback whales anymore, but we know little else. Maybe we could explore what’s happening in the oceans through the eyes of the fish-faced Antedeans, introduced to us in TNG‘s “Manhunt,” or through the Xindi Aquatics from Enterprise, or through a new amphibious species entirely. Did humanity ever solve the overfishing crisis from causing major disruptions to global food security? Did ocean acidification ever disrupt ocean food webs by making it impossible for shelled organisms to create their shells? Did we ever try mining the deep sea? What did these things do to our oceans, and the many animal species which call them home? If we solved these problems, how did we solve them?

There are lots of other ways to incorporate environmental conservation into Star Trek: Discovery. A look at how “modern” science helped Earth’s environment to recover from the post-atomic horror could be interesting, and could be perhaps mentioned in the context of helping another species to move on from a similar problem. Could the genetic engineering technology used to create augments like Khan be used for de-extinction, or to make threatened species more resilient to environmental change? In the modern world, zoos have captive breeding programs for endangered species; might a spaceship or offworld colony be a 23rd century equivalent? Does “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” refer to biodiversity as well? How did Alexander’s Corvan gilvos become endangered in the first place? The list goes on and on, and I’m sure writers far more creative than I could suggest even better ways to shine a light on these problems through the Star Trek universe.

An environmental plotline on Star Trek: Discovery won’t save the world, but it could help to bring attention to some real-world conservation issues. And the way things are going, if our world’s threatened species are to live long and prosper, environmental issues need all the attention they can get.

David Shiffman is a marine conservation biologist and science writer. You can follow him on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.

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27 Sep 15:13

#905: “I’m a college student who doesn’t drink. How can I make my peers understand that without killing the mood?”

by JenniferP

"Pay attention also to the people who Will. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Go., the ones who keep trying to override your choice, the ones who hint that they will spike your drink “as a joke,” the ones who call attention to it in a way that feels belittling or coercive. Avoid them, where possible, and if they’re in your social circle, keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your friends, especially drunk friends, alone with them. Don’t leave your drink unattended with them, or drink unidentified things they hand you. Someone who meets your “no thanks!” with half an hour of manipulation and second-guessing is communicating that they are bad at consent. "

Dear Captain,

I’m a 20-year-old college student and I don’t drink, nor will I likely ever drink in the future. My father is an alcoholic, and every family member on his side has some form of substance abuse problem. I know that having a drink now and again will not necessarily hurt me or lead to a drinking problem of my own, but I’ve decided to just abstain completely anyways.

Most of my peers/classmates, however, like to drink and will often talk at length about it. I’ve been asked multiple times about my beer preference or some other alcohol-related question, to which I simply reply I don’t drink. For some reason, most people can’t seem to accept this and will ask me why not, or even try to convince me how great drinking is if I say it’s because I’m not interested. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking or listening to stories about it, but I don’t know how to explain my “disinterest” to other people.

I really don’t want to be a huge bummer in front of other people and say outright, “I don’t drink because my dad is an alcoholic,” but I don’t know how to get people to stop asking questions. “I don’t drink for personal reasons,” also feels like either a bummer or might lead to people asking what those reasons are.

So, Captain is there any way I can sidestep these questions without having to divulge my personal circumstances or bringing down the mood of the group?

Thanks for any help,

Sober in South Florida (she/her)

Dear Sober in South Florida,

For close, trusted friends, consider telling the unvarnished truth at a time when you’re one-on-one with them in a calm, quiet place and not at a party or immediately heading to one: “The [party last week] [where the topic came up in a big, awkward way] wasn’t the time to talk about this, but I wanted to tell you: I don’t drink because of some serious addiction problems in my family. I’m fine if other people drink, but sometimes it’s exhausting when people try really hard to sell me on how great it is or pry into my reasons. I know for sure that it’s not for me.” 

You don’t owe anyone your whole family history, but you don’t owe your family a shield of never talking about it, either, and maybe it would be helpful for people close to you to know a little bit about your reasons. If they know, they can stop pressuring you about it right now, forever. They can have your back when others do pressure you. You can ask them directly to do this, like, “Not everyone has to know about my family, but now that you do, can you help me out sometimes? Remembering that I don’t drink and not making me re-negotiate that every time we are out and about would help, a lot. When others don’t get it, helping me change the subject (i.e. ‘Dude, she told you she doesn’t drink. New topic!’) would also help and make me feel less alone about this.”

You never know: They might have their own complicated families. You are not alone.

Now, repeat after me: “Reasonable people who are cool to hang out with will accept what I say at face value. The people I generally want in my life will not pressure me, demand elaborate reasons, or make it their mission to sell me on the wonders of booze once I’ve said I’m not into it.”

Also, repeat after me: ‘The mood of the group’ is not my job. 

Culture being what it is, there is no one way you can communicate that you don’t drink that will magically stop people from having feelings (or occasional annoying reactions) to that fact. However, if your perfectly reasonable life choice ‘brings down the mood of the group‘ then that’s on the group. The stuff you’re already saying, like:

  • “No thank you! But you go ahead.” 
  • “Not interested, thanks! But your story is interesting – what happened next?”
  • “I don’t drink, but I don’t mind if other people do.” 
  • “You do you! I don’t drink.” 
  • “I don’t have a favorite drink, but what’s in yours?

…is just fine. You’re not being mysterious or unclear or judgmental or a jerk.

You could try throwing in a subject change and see if it changes the vibe. Does the other person take your cue?

  • I don’t drink, thanks. How did you hear about this band?
  • Not for me, thanks. Where’d you find that t-shirt?
  • It’s not my jam. What’s your favorite place to eat around here?

When you encounter someone who just won’t let it go, remind yourself: It is NOT COOL to pressure you or interrogate you or make you feel weird or somehow “less than” because you don’t drink. You are the sole boss of what goes into your body! You told them, straight up, how things are. You don’t have to continually negotiate. In fact, it’s better not to, because negotiating & giving reasons to unreasonable people communicates that things are up for negotiation.

For example:

Random Party Person: “What’s your favorite beer? IPA? Stout? Porter?”

You: “I don’t have one. I don’t drink.”

Random Party Person: “You don’t drink. At all.”

You: “That’s what I said. So, what’s your favorite kind of beer?”

Random Party Person: “But how will you know until you try it?”

You: “I guess I’ll miss out! I hear that [Subject Change] is happening soon, what do you know about that?”

Random Party Person: “But you have to try [drink]. [Drink] will change your mind.”

You: It really won’t. So, what are your thoughts on [Subject Change]?

Random Party Person: “But my favorite drink that I love drinking is so awesome! Are you sure?”

You: “Positive. So, howabout that [Subject Change]?”

Random Party Person: “So, do you think we’re all alcoholic reprobates? Are you silently judging all of us?”

You: “Yes, absolutely. So, [Subject Change] is [Subject Change-y]. What’s your plan for [Subject Change]?”

Random Party Person: “But how can you have fun at parties in college and not drink?”

You: (Choose your own adventure, depending on your energy level and how invested you are in talking to this person after they continually ignore your wishes and talk over you)

  • “Ooooooooooookay then. Bye.” (Walk away)
  • “I manage to have a great time, except when I meet people who Will. Not. Let. It. Go.” 
  • “Was something unclear? How many times do I have to say that I don’t drink?”
  • “Why are you trying so hard to sell me on this? I’ve already said ‘no thank you.’ Once should be enough.” 
  • “By my count I’ve tried to change the subject three times. It’s your turn for a new topic.” 
  • “Drinking/other people’s drinking/your drinking/Friends’ drinking mostly doesn’t bother me. Being interrogated & pressured about it really does, though, so, I’m gonna cut this short.” 
  • “You seem smart – you really can’t think of any reasons that a person just wouldn’t be into drinking? None?” 

When you have these conversations, pay attention to the people who say “Oh, I didn’t realize. That’s cool!” and the ones who embrace the subject changes you throw out. They are communicating an important thing to you and that thing is “I can hang with who you really are. I won’t pressure you.” In other words, they are giving signals that they are good at consent.

Pay attention to the ones who shame-spiral in front of you about their own drinking habits or who admit that they don’t really like it but feel like they have to because “it’s college!” You don’t have to intervene or becoming a sounding board for or fix their issues, but sometimes saying, “It’s college, exactly, so we can do what we want,” is a good thing to hear. They’ll mark you down somewhere as a safe, cool person who won’t pressure them.

Pay attention also to the people who Will. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Go., the ones who keep trying to override your choice, the ones who hint that they will spike your drink “as a joke,” the ones who call attention to it in a way that feels belittling or coercive. Avoid them, where possible, and if they’re in your social circle, keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your friends, especially drunk friends, alone with them. Don’t leave your drink unattended with them, or drink unidentified things they hand you. Someone who meets your “no thanks!” with half an hour of manipulation and second-guessing is communicating that they are bad at consent. 

You have great reasons for never drinking and there is nothing particularly strange about making choices about what you want to consume. When people want to push and question your choices, remember: They are the ones making it awkward and weird by not taking ‘no’ for an answer. College drinking culture *is* really pervasive, but the more you hold your ground the more other people around you who don’t want to drink or don’t love drinking are going to feel safe to push back against people who pressure them.

P.S. If you are a college student who is friends with someone who doesn’t drink:

  • Remember that they don’t drink – don’t keep offering it to them or calling attention to it. Treat it like the non-big-deal that it is.
  • Don’t bring booze to or make booze the center of every hang your group has.
  • Don’t make a big deal of their reasons, disclose things they’ve told you in confidence about their reasons, or demand reasons.
  • Drink or don’t drink, as you will. Don’t make the non-drinker your Drinking Confessor, Repository Of All Your Complex Feelings About Alcohol, Secret Keeper of the Order of Drunken Hookups.
  • When y’all meet someone new, and that person starts to make a big deal, step in. “[Friend] doesn’t drink, it’s not a big deal. What are you having?” 
  • Try thinking about this in terms of coercion and consent. Is it every okay to pressure someone to do something they don’t want with their body? Who in your social circle understands that the answer to that is “nope!”? Who has poor boundaries and won’t stop pushing people? Someone who would spike your friend’s drink when they aren’t looking or who makes constant fun of someone for not drinking is telling you, “I do not actually respect other people when they say no.” Take care of each other out there.




21 Sep 17:54

Kof-tot curry: My recipe for potato kofta curry using tater tots

by JM Hoover


The other day I was pinning Indian food recipes and ran across a few for potato kofta curry. Kofta is basically a type of Indian meatball made with lamb or beef. Since we eat meatless meals most nights, I was more interested in the veggie recipes. Potato koftas are made with riced potatoes, onions and spices. Most of the recipes I read went through the painstaking instructions of how to make these potato balls… I read through them and realized, "They are just making tater tots!"

I've been known to scoff at home made tater tots in all shapes and sizes so I decided that I'd make my own version of potato kofta for our lunches this week… "kof-tot curry."

Warning: Don't serve my potato kofta curry to any Indian food purists… they will laugh you out of the kitchen. Do make it if you want a quick and hearty meat free meal that makes excellent leftovers. It's probably the most glamorous way I've ever eaten tater tots…


  • 2 cups of unseasoned tater tots (I used 365 brand from Whole Foods)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 and ½ cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt, cream or cream cheese (I used yogurt.)
  • 1 cup of mixed greens ( I used frozen kale and collards from our CSA. Any veggies you like will work fine.)
  • 1 can of garbanzos


  1. For the koftas: Bake tater tots as directed on the tot bag. Do not fry them or add oil or salt.
  2. Combine spices with ½ cup of water.
  3. Cook your onions in olive oil until translucent.
  4. Add the garlic until and cook until everything is starting to turn golden.
  5. Add the spice water, and stir.
  6. Add tomato paste, water, and greens. Stir until all items are combined and the tomato sauce is not clumpy.
  7. Drain and rinse your garbanzos and add them to the pan.
  8. Let simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the greens are cooked.
  9. Add dairy and mix gently. (Or omit this, up to you, it does make it creamier.)
  10. Once your tots, I mean, "koftas," are done you can add them to the sauce. Eat a few off the pan to make sure tater tots are still delicious. They are! Let them sit to absorb the sauce.

At this point I put them in mason jars in the fridge for lunches in the week but you can also heat it back up and serve it. More time marinating with the rest of the curry makes it more delicious.

Recent Comments

  • Trystan: OMG GENIUS!!! I'm trying this for sure 🙂 [Link]
  • Colleen: I cannot WAIT to try this! [Link]

Join the discussion

20 Sep 20:24

What do you pack for lunch?

by Alissa

YESSSSSSS Worst adult struggle, for reals.

Unicorn Universal Neoprene Sleeve Lunch Bag
Unicorn Universal Neoprene Sleeve Lunch Bag
At the grand old age of 35 I'm still figuring out how to be an adult, and I think I'm learning that all of adulthood is probably faking it…

One thing I wish someone had warned me of is that one of the hardest parts will be feeding yourself. Plan food, buy food, cook food, eat food, clean up after food, and repeat over and over forever.

A challenge I've had for years is… I just don't know what to pack for lunch at the office. I struggle to get going in the morning, and some things, if packed the night before, get soggy. I often end up throwing a yogurt in my bag along with a scoop of this soup recipe in tupperware. Then I keep a box of dry cereal under my desk for if I'm still hungry. PBJ and an apple work their way in there from time to time as well.

Homies, what do you pack for lunch?

Share your lunch bag with us in the comments!

Recent Comments

  • mjshegog: Honestly my life got a whole lot better when I just started doing high protein shakes or meal replacement bars.… [Link]
  • Carrie: All of these ideas are GREAT and are making me think I need to step my game up! But, I… [Link]
  • Ky: Lunch at the office is the WORST! Here is the only thing that works for me. I am… [Link]
  • Kadence: I have no idea, but even so, you could put half in the freezer and do just one week at… [Link]
  • Kamea: This is what I do. If we have leftovers from grilling (burgers, brats, chicken, whatever) I'll bag up some for… [Link]

+ 61 more! Join the discussion

16 Sep 13:37

Pine + Main

by Ana White

Well, this is exciting!

UPDATE: We are experiencing unexpectedly high traffic volumes on Pine + Main and are working hard to get the site restored.  Thank you for your patience.  

UPDATE 2: We are back up!  Thank you for all the interest in Pine + Main!



Many years ago, when I first started blogging, someone once commented that they hoped I would grow and get big someday, because they knew I'd do something good with the opportunity.

That comment has stuck with me through the years, and has kept me restless.  I've felt guilty, and could not be happy with just personal work success.  I needed to do more with this opportunity I'd been given.

For a long time I believed that simply meant reaching more people, and empowering them with more DIY inspiration.  So I spent many years concentrating on creating more plans and reaching more people through blogging, social media, tradditional media and television opportunities. 

DIY is such a good thing.  Not only are you able to create something useful and beautiful for your home, but you can do it for pennies on the dollar using the most local of all materials - wood.  The more people building furniture for themselves, the less freight ships barging it around the world.  

So when more and more bloggers began creating plans, I embraced it, happy more of us were spreading the DIY message, more plans were being shared, and more people were being inspired.  

I, for a good moment, thought that there would never be a piece of furniture bought again.

Boy, was I wrong.  

People were buying more furniture than ever.  

But not from big box stores or fancy catalogs.  


They were buying from the stay-at-home-mom, who made a coffee table, then a bed, then furnished her entire house, then started building for friends and family, and pretty soon had a six month waiting list. The dad who builds on weekends, the sisters who build together, the grandma that never knew she could use tools - people who understand why local furniture matters, why handmade is so great, and care about their communities, are buying their furniture from local makers.

I have always been a fan of the professional makers - many years ago, I myself used to earn extra income for our family by making custom furnishings.  It was a way I could help, doing something that I loved, that directly affected our family's bottom line.  I eventually transitioned into plan creation because it was easier for me to share plans than to set up and run an ecommerce website, find new customers and deal with marketing, when I really only had time to build.  

I believe the problem still exists today.  There are many makers - and many thousands more buyers - but we are still lacking an easy to use, trusted solution that makes finding a locally available, handmade table or a custom-sized dresser as simple as ubering a ride or buying a hand knitted scarf.  

I'm so excited to formally share with you Pine + Main - built from the ground up to support the local maker, to celebrate community, and to always consider sustainability.  

It is with great joy that I invite you to visit, let me know what you think, and be a part of this new venture.

Let's make furniture local again!







14 Sep 19:36

Polyamory Problems: How Do You Tell Your Coworker You Live With Your Boyfriend and His Girlfriend?

Polyamory Problems: How Do You Tell Your Coworker You Live With Your Boyfriend and His Girlfriend?:

Check out this article Lux Alptraum interviewed me for.
As Wolf sums it up, “Sometimes when I mention polyamory, people are like, ‘I don’t want to hear about your sex life.’ But that response does not happen if someone monogamous says, ‘I have a fiancé.’ People’s natural response isn’t, ‘Whoa, dude, too much information!’”

14 Sep 15:53

How to make delicious, clean-eating-worthy, instant oatmeal in no time at all!

by Camille Haviland
My DIY instant oatmeal
Just add hot water to these few ingredients and you can make homemade instant oatmeal without all the added sugar and chemicals. You will be blown away by how easy it is!

Oatmeal has a lot of soothing properties both for your skin and digestive system. It's packed with soluble fiber (the kind that keeps everything moving without the cramping), it is a good source of iron, it contains naturally occurring heart-healthy fats, and even has some protein! Although despite it's comforting texture and subtle flavor, it is notorious for being a little bland.

Most dishes require multiple steps in order to create layers of flavor, but not oatmeal, this breakfast is one dish that actually benefits from a one step process!

When you think about it, dry oats turn into oatmeal by absorbing whatever liquid is added to it, therefore adding the flavor during the cooking process means all of that flavor is going to end up inside of the grains instead of just laying on top. The problem with instant oatmeal is that almost a third of that little packet is sugar, and more than half of the ingredients listed are artificial flavors, chemicals, and preservatives. Not exactly clean eating for a food that is so naturally good for you!

The solution here is to make your own instant oatmeal!

I know what you're thinking, is it really "instant" if I have to make it myself? There may be a lot of info here, but trust me, once you get the hang of it the prep is so easy a three year old could do it! It will take you less time to make this oatmeal than it will take to read this article.

Of course you could take like ten minutes on the weekend to prepare a few of these ahead of time. Although when I was a commuter I was one of those people who woke up, no joke, 15 minutes before I had to leave the house and I would whip these up in less than a minute as I was running out the door. The most difficult part of the whole process was finding the correct lid to match my container (in retrospect ziplock bags probably would have helped).

What You Will Need:

  • Hot water source
  • Spoon
  • Container for dry ingredients (if traveling)
  • Heat-safe bowl or mug — This is what you will be cooking your oatmeal in. At work I always just used a coffee cup with a lid, any mug or bowl is fine as long as it can take the heat.



Quick cooking oats
Make sure that you buy quick cooking oats rather than old fashioned or steel cut oats. The "quick cooking" is the "instant" part of this trick! Also pro tip: a big container of oats costs way less in the long run than those individual instant packs.

I enjoy a teaspoon of raw sugar (you could also use brown sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, whatever you have on hand. Granulated white sugar will work in a pinch but it won't give you the best flavor). Or if you're not too strict about clean eating and low-cal or artificial sweeteners are your thing, that's fine too!

The spices
For a single serving you only need about a 1/4 or 1/8 of a teaspoon. These are things you probably already have in your pantry, any ground or powdered flavoring you would use for baking will work: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, clove, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder, espresso powder, etc.


  • A dash of salt is always included in more traditional oatmeal recipes.
  • Some people prefer milk to water, you could absolutely heat milk (or any kind of non-dairy milk) and substitute as the cooking liquid. Or if it's easier use a little less hot water and mix in a splash of milk after it's cooked.
  • Textural add-ins are also great! Fruit (dried, fresh or frozen), nuts, flax or chia seeds, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, etc.
  • You could add a scoop of protein powder, or for a cleaner protein try a spoonful of any organic nut butter (which also adds a beautiful richness).

Serving size:

One serving of plain quick cooking oats is 1/2 cup, whereas one package of instant oatmeal is about 1/4 cup (much smaller serving because the amount of sweetener they use adds SO many calories). Personally I'm somewhere in between, one packet is not enough but two is too much. 

Serving size is probably the most difficult part, however have no fear I did all the math for you!

1/4c oats (1 packet) = 1/2c water (4oz)
1/3c oats (1.5 packets) = 3/4c water (6oz)
1/2c oats (2 packets) = 1c water (8oz)
3/4c oats (3 packets) = 1-1/2c water (12oz)



1. Prep: Combine dry ingredients.
For travel: Take your oatmeal plus any dry sweeteners and additions place them in a travel container. Seal and shake to combine.
For home: Place your dry ingredients into your mug or bowl and stir to combine.

2. Measure: I love using the Keurig for this because the water comes out piping hot and perfectly measured! They are programed for standard tea cup, coffee mug, ad travel mug sizes so the small setting is 6 oz, medium is 8 oz, and large is 12 oz.

Cook: Put it all together. Either pour hot water over the dry ingredients and let it stand covered for a few minutes, or mix everything together and then microwave.

Add mix-ins: Liquid sweeteners and any other flavorings can go in now. Keep mix-ins that you want to stay crunchy out until after cooking!


Flavor combos

As far as flavors go, you can create your own combinations or try to emulate some of your favorite packet flavors. It might take a few runs to adjust the flavors to your taste, but he possibilities are endless! If you're not sure where to start here are some of my suggestions:

  • Lightly Spiced: Raw sugar, cinnamon, ginger.
  • Apple-Cinnamon: Raw sugar, cinnamon, dried apples.
  • Maple-Brown Sugar: This one is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Banana-Nut: Honey, chopped walnuts, sliced banana.
  • Cherry-Almond: Raw sugar, almond extract, dried cherries, slivered almonds.
  • Cranberry-Pecan: Brown sugar, dried cranberries, chopped pecans.
  • Blue Razzberry: Honey, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries.
  • Oatmeal Cookie: Honey, cinnamon, raisins.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie: Light brown sugar, vanilla extract, chocolate chips.
  • Speculoos Cookie: Spoonful of cookie butter.
  • Nutty Brownie: Honey, cocoa powder, chopped walnuts.
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate: Raw sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, splash of milk.
  • Chocolate Hazelnut: Chopped hazelnuts, spoonful of Nutella.
  • Chocolate PB: Cocoa powder, spoonful of peanut butter.
  • Almond Protein: Honey, spoonful of almond butter.
  • Fluffernutter: Spoonfull of marshmallow fluff, spoonful of any nut butter.
  • Pumpkin Spice: Maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice.
  • Apple Pie: Honey, cinnamon, fresh diced apples.
  • Strawberries and Cream: Honey, fresh diced strawberries, splash of milk.
  • Peaches and Cream: Raw sugar, cinnamon, fresh diced peaches, splash of milk.


Et voila! Super simple, super healthy, super delicious instant oatmeal in a matter of minutes!

Recent Comments

  • Anna: Excellent oatmeal recipe! 😀 I love the Chocolate Hazelnut flavour but I use much more than spoonful… [Link]
  • enchanted: That's more or less what I do, except I don't peel the apples (you'll have little bits of peel in… [Link]
  • wednesday: It was more like jam, but not very dark... I'll check apple butter too anyway, thanks for the suggestion 🙂 [Link]
  • H.A: That's probably apple butter? More like jam, dark color? [Link]
  • Wednesday: Oh i see! Yeah, i actually do that all the time. I thought applesauce was some kind of smooth preserve,… [Link]

+ 17 more! Join the discussion

12 Sep 12:41

Travel tip/Brain apps/Frownies/InstantWatcher

by cc

Travel tip:
The cheapest bargain of any overseas vacation is the $25 for the travel guidebook, so I always get the latest version. And I have no qualms about cutting it up. I get the large country-scale guide, and then with a razor blade knife I excise only the portions I could possibly use (photo above). Then I staple and bind with clear packing tape for very durable, and lightweight, thin booklets. — KK

Les Revenants (The Returned) is a French supernatural television series (with English subtitles) that my wife and I are enjoying. The first episode opens with a terrible school bus accident in the alps that leaves 38 children dead. Four years later, some of the children return home, un-aged and unharmed. Spooky and fun. — MF

I’ve been enjoying using both Peak and Elevate brain-training apps for about a month now. While Elevate has more challenging writing and math exercises that actually teach you as you go, Peak’s problem solving puzzles are addictive, and I get a greater sense of accomplishment after completing them. Plus, I really enjoy competing against previous scores and watching my “brain map” grow. Here’s a good comparison review. — CL

For pithy brilliant insight into the contours of our digital future, I’m following Benedict Evans on Twitter, and I subscribe to his weekly newsletter. He is creative, quantitative, plausible and fun. — KK

I often get sinus headaches and sometimes when I fall asleep with a headache, I will wake up with deep wrinkles from brow furrowing throughout the night. Frownies helps to prevent these from forming. I’ve already gone through a box and will continue reordering. — CL

I’m a Netflix subscriber, but the built-in title browsing isn’t great. I use, which lets you browse and search shows and movies in many different ways. — MF

Want to get our next Recomendo a week early in your inbox? Sign up for next Sunday newsletter here.

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Lamar

09 Sep 15:58

[UPDATED] Exclusive Interview: Comic Creator Katie O’Neill Talks About Her Work, Announces Next Project With Oni Press

by Teresa Jusino



If you’re a fan of web comics, you’ve probably already seen Katie O’Neill’s work. Her latest hardcover collection Princess Princess Ever After (which I reviewed earlier this morning), started life as a web comic on her popular Tumblr. Today, O’Neill’s is announcing exclusively through TMS, her next original project with Oni Press!

Oni Press will be publishing a new, original graphic novel by O’Neill called The Tea Dragon Society! In it, a talented young blacksmith named Greta (pictured in the character study above) meets the head of The Tea Dragon Society, a small group who practice the lost art of tea dragon husbandry. So, what the heck are tea dragons? I don’t know, but with O’Neill drawing them, I bet they’re cute as hell.

Also cute as hell is the rest of this world! Oni Press has provided TMS with an exclusive first look at The Tea Dragon Society, which you can check out in the gallery below! [UPDATE at 4:45PM: in addition to the preview below, O’Neill has a website for The Tea Dragon Society, and will be posting a 5-page sneak peak on September 14.]

You are seeing this message because you have javascript disabled. To use our slideshows you need to enable javascript. There's no cross domain hackery or tracking voodoo, it's just some sweet jQuery animations. Please, think of the animations.

In the meantime, enjoy the html version below. I guess. If that's your thing.

  1. The Tea Dragon Society 1 The Tea Dragon Society 1 Character study of Greta. Art by Katie O'Neill.
  2. The Tea Dragon Society 2 The Tea Dragon Society 2 Character study of Minette. Art by Katie O'Neill.
  3. The Tea Dragon Society 3 The Tea Dragon Society 3 Preview page 1 By Katie O'Neill.
  4. The Tea Dragon Society 4 The Tea Dragon Society 4 Preview page 2 By Katie O'Neill.

[View All on One Page]

Oni also gave us the opportunity of an exclusive interview with O’Neill about Princess Princess, The Tea Dragon Society, and what she hopes readers find in her work.

Teresa Jusino (TMS): Princess Princess Ever After was already a popular webcomic. Why is it important that it’s now been collected in hardcover, and why did you choose to partner with Oni Press?

Katie O’Neill: Webcomics are a wonderful medium that allows all kinds of stories to exist and be read freely, which is something that really motivates and excites me. However, there’s a different kind of accessibility and visibility that comes with a book, particularly one that is in easy reach of kids’ hands in school and public libraries, and in the children’s section of book stores. Princess Princess Ever After is a story I wish I’d had growing up, so accessibility for children is very important to me. Happily, I’ve also had lots of stories of older fans sharing the webcomic with their young relatives via tablets etc, which is really cool too.

When Oni Press reached out to me, I jumped at the chance to work with them. I’d heard that they’re very respectful of the creators and properties they work with, which I have found to absolutely be the case! It’s been amazing working with the whole team to bring this book out into the world, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity.

TMS: Inclusiveness seems to be very important to you. What fueled your decision to not only create LGBTQIA characters in Princess Princess, but to also have characters of color in both that story and in the upcoming Tea Dragon Society? How, if at all, does that affect your story?

O’Neill: Inclusiveness is definitely very important to me, I feel it’s only natural that comics (and all media!) should reflect the diversity of the world around us. I try to do my part by supporting works and anthologies by a diverse range of creators, and portraying different identities while being aware of not writing something that I haven’t experienced and isn’t my story to tell. The most authentic stories about a particular identity can only come from those who have lived it. Instead, I try to look towards universal human experiences, emotions, problems and situations and base my story writing off those.

TMS: Since we’re announcing The Tea Dragon Society today, I’d love for you to briefly tell me in your own words what the basic plot is, and then tell me what inspired you to tell this particular story next?

O’Neill: The Tea Dragon Society is about a young blacksmith apprentice, Greta, who is learning her craft but isn’t entirely sure what use it has in modern society. When she encounters a tea dragon and becomes closer to those who raise them and grow their tea, she learns about the dying art form and how it enriches the lives of those she meets—and eventually her own. With the experiences and the memories she makes, she begins to wonder if there’s a value in craft all of its own.

The idea definitely started with the Tea Dragons themselves, and then developing ideas about their lore and husbandry, and then wondering who would go to such lengths for a good cup of tea? Keeping traditions and crafts alive is also very important to me, and in making a children’s graphic novel I hoped kids would start thinking about the different crafts they encounter in their lives that they could play a part in keeping modern and thriving.

TMS: I’ve been falling more and more in love with all-ages comics lately. What do you think is important about the existence of quality, all-ages stories? What do you enjoy about telling stories that can be read by younger readers? What do you hope they get out of your stories?

O’Neill: I think all-ages comics have a magic and charm that lies in being able to come back to them over and over again, in different stages throughout your life, taking away something different. I think when you read and love something as a child, reading it again as an adult will always take you back to that moment in your childhood, and hopefully, help you remember what made you happy then.

As much as I do have themes and ideas that I’d like to convey with my stories, the bottom line is that I hope younger readers enjoy them! I hope they laugh at my jokes and love the characters, and maybe be inspired to write their own stories and adventures one day. Both of these books have strong LGBTQIA themes, so I do also hope they help normalise all kinds of family dynamics and personal identities for kids just starting to figure things out.

TMS: I always marvel at people who both write and draw their own stories, as I’m a writer who can only draw stick figures! Do you consider yourself an artist first? A writer first? Or are you always both?

O’Neill: I find it pretty hard to un-link the two! Whenever I sit down to do some doodles in my sketchbook, it always ends up with me constructing little stories in my head about the subject or place I’m drawing. Likewise, when I write prose, I write so visually that I might as well draw it anyway. Though recently I’ve been more interested in drawing for its own sake (like landscapes, patterns, freestanding illustrations), I still like for it to be connected to a larger narrative, theme, idea or purpose.

TMS: Tell me why you think comics fans should pick up The Tea Dragon Society when it comes out? Who do you think will love this book?

O’Neill: The Tea Dragon Society is an absolute labour of love for me, and I’m so happy to have poured as much of my interests in as possible into one story. I feel the most pride when I create a story where I want to introduce the characters to everyone like a member of the family, to watch and see how people will react to certain moments and developments, and that’s absolutely what this book is to me. It’s a very warm and comforting story, I think that anyone who loves Ghibli films, Animal Crossing games or slice-of-life stories will feel at home with The Tea Dragon Society.


Princess Princess Ever After is out in hardcover now. The Tea Dragon Society is set for release in November 2017. 

(image via Oni Press)

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09 Sep 13:19

5 Tips for Mastering Lunch: Build to Last All Week — Meal Planning Lessons

by Kelli Foster

In my home, meal planning goes beyond dinner. Just as important as making the week run like a smooth, well-oiled machine, is lunch prep. Unlike dinner, I tackle my midday meal by preparing a whole week's worth of lunches in one fell swoop. These are the five ways I make it happen, and how you can do it too.


09 Sep 13:19

How Do You Use Your Bullet Journal to Meal Plan? — On Trend

by Ariel Knutson


(Image credit: @that_journal)

Since last December, you might have heard a lot of people talk about bullet journaling. There's a whole website dedicated to the concept, and a clever video that breaks down the whole process. In its basic form, a bullet diary combines a to-do list, a diary, and planner. It helps you keep track of what you need to do that day, and also helps you plan for things you want to accomplish in the future. There are many additions you can add to your bullet journal. I love this one on tracking your mental health, and this one for tracking your hobbies.

This got me thinking, however: Could a bullet journal make you a better meal planner? And what would that even look like in the bullet journaling universe?


08 Sep 19:12

#896: “One wedding, one funeral, and a crapton of sibling conflict.”

by JenniferP

Oh man, just this bit is relevant for recent events:

"Even when removed from the realm of the petty or the emotionally searing, different mediums foster different kinds of interactions, for instance, the Person-You-Like-At-Parties-And-Dislike-On-Facebook or that colleague who is super affable and reasonable in person, but then you email him a request and discover that in writing he is The Amazing Bureaucrat Man, Who Only Says No, but if you run the exact same request by him in person, he’s like “Sure, let’s do it?” so you learn to always ask in person first and then follow up in email only once the request has been verbally granted. "

Dear Captain Awkward,

My brother died suddenly in an accident in May. He was my only full sibling. The only sibling I grew up with and lived with. I also have 3 older half siblings from my father’s first marriage- we’re not super close, we see each other at holidays and text quarterly updates. After the funeral, I had to plan my wedding happening just 8 weeks after my brother’s death. The trouble starts when I am texting with T (the oldest half sister) and say that I am having a hard time because my mother is emotionally unavailable due to her grief. T has a tense relationship with my mother and uses this moment to tell me how unreasonably angry my mother was acting when she last saw her. I am LIVID and stop responding. T says “sorry, it just made her sad.” I lose a day of wedding planning to being angry and trying to figure out how to respond. I give up and send no reply.

In the following weeks, T sends a message explaining her behaviour and then tells me that I am acting unacceptably. I tell her that I need some time and space. My other sister K is sent to get some answers and I tell her to mind her own business. T gives me 10 days and then tells me I’m being abusive and I’m just mad because her siblings are alive and mine is dead, that everyone was at her wedding and my brother won’t be at mine. She doesn’t want to come to my wedding because she’s not sure if I even love her anymore. I tell her that needing space was about me not her. At this time she also makes a plea to my parents to get them to make me talk with her- they say she should just leave me alone. My father sobs and begs T to attend the wedding.

At the wedding, T shows up late and leaves early. I generally avoid them and have a fine time. After the wedding she blocks me and my parents on facebook and gets her husband and mother to do the same. I text T that I am available to talk now, but understand if she needs space. No response. I text K and say apologize for being snappy and telling her to mind her own business. She blasts back demanding I take responsibility for everything – for making my “wedding into a battle ground”, shattering all of the relationships, and “single handedly tearing our grieving family apart”. I’m at a loss. Am I selfish? Are they? How much of this is my fault? Should I just cut my losses? Help?

-One wedding and a funeral

(Preferred pronouns she-her)

Dear One Wedding,

I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother, how awful! There would never be a good time for something like that to happen, but to have that grief overshadowing such a happy, huge life event seems like a special sort of hell. I am mentally hugging you and petting your hair right now, unless of course you don’t like that sort of thing. And making you tea (or coffee, or hot chocolate, or something cold, if you’d prefer). And piling good-and-not-too-stressful books by your bed.

What you 100% did not need and do not need is to be the dumping ground for all of  T’s complicated feelings about family during an already stressful time for you. I guarantee that you did not “make your wedding into a battleground” and you are not “singlehandedly tearing our grieving family apart” or “being abusive.” I think you were right to tell K. to stay out of it and you didn’t do anything wrong by asking for a little space. This all sounds like some grade A, level 1 projection on T’s part, and I don’t think talking more to either T. or K. about any of it more right now is going to fix things. What would actually fix things is T. saying “I’m so sorry I made everything about me, I’ve been acting like an ass.” I don’t think that apology is coming any time soon. In the meantime, you’ve tried to mend fences where you could, and now it’s time to give yourself permission to let this all drop. A victory here, given the looming winter holidays, might be “Did not get into emotionally difficult conversations with T. about family stuff. Managed to exchange brief pleasantries over pie and chill with the rest of the family = +100 Points To Gryffindor/Me.”

One script for when T. eventually wants to talk it all out (but only focus on what you did “wrong” and not apologize) could be:

a) Have the FIGHT, already.Here’s what this all looks like from my perspective: [Brother] died, and then when I tried to talk to you about some stuff with Mom you used it to grind an axe you have with her, and then you acted like coming to my wedding was suddenly a gigantic chore and made a big hassle for me and our parents about it and made me feel like a jerk for needing a little space to grieve. Then you sent K. to get in the middle of it, which was NOT cool. And then you’ve been saying this stuff about how I’m ‘tearing our family apart,’ which is just…incorrect? I do not want to fight with you anymore, but some of the stuff you’ve said has really hurt my feelings.”

She’ll react how she reacts. Maybe it will clear the air for you to get this all out there and not just be on the receiving end of it. Being the “bigger person” all the time can be vastly overrated.

b) Refuse to have the fight.T., it was a really messed up time, and I don’t actually want to talk about it anymore. Let’s let bygones be bygones and try to enjoy each other’s company without going into all that. I’m really glad to see you, and I really don’t want to fight.

It’s not the same as “I forgive you for acting like an asshole when my brother died and being a big weirdo about my wedding” but “Sister, why won’t you tallllk to me, you’re tearing our family apaaaaart” isn’t the same as “I apologize for acting like an asshole when your brother died and being a jerk about coming to your wedding.” Letting the argument die might help the relationship thaw, with some time and some new, positive interactions to chase the old, negative interactions out.

You seem like a “this specific thing is bugging me” sort of arguer and T. comes across as a “This specific thing is reminding me about how you ALWAYS are a BAD PERSON who is WRONG and I am telling EVERYONE” sort of fighter. Those two styles are not real compatible, so I really wish you luck in finding a way to talk about this that gets you what you need, which sounds like a respite from being T.’s personal scapegoat for everything wrong in your family.

One more suggestion going forward:

It sounds like T. + texting + You do not mix very well, especially around emotional topics, and that is some information you can use in the future.

Let me explain: Some people really prefer the distance & time delay of text conversations, and I get why, and in many circumstances doing things by email or letter can be really valuable for that reason. However, I find that texting, email, chat, etc.* can also be terrible ways to have contentious back-and-forth conversations with certain people about emotional stuff. There’s something about it that sucks me in so easily, the addictive chime of the incoming message, the “Oh yeah, howbout THIS?” retort, the fact that I type 100+ words/minute and can answer so quickly only to realize later that I was putting things in writing that would be passing, forgettable comments in a verbal fight except I’ve now written them in stone, to be read and re-read and dissected. Text message fights: All the savoring pleasures of grudge-holding with the immediate gratification of being right!

Even when removed from the realm of the petty or the emotionally searing, different mediums foster different kinds of interactions, for instance, the Person-You-Like-At-Parties-And-Dislike-On-Facebook or that colleague who is super affable and reasonable in person, but then you email him a request and discover that in writing he is The Amazing Bureaucrat Man, Who Only Says No, but if you run the exact same request by him in person, he’s like “Sure, let’s do it?” so you learn to always ask in person first and then follow up in email only once the request has been verbally granted. (Do other people have this colleague? No? Just me?)

I generally want to like people and have positive interactions with them, and sometimes little things like “I will walk the 10 feet to that person’s desk and talk about it instead of answering this email that annoyingly CC’d  our boss in kind” or “Let’s go to bed angry – I gotta sleep and so do you! – I trust we’ll figure this all out in the morning and I love you” and “I can tell this student is really upset and writing me these emails is stressing them out more, I’m gonna give them my cell # so we can talk for a minute” can make a big difference in how a conflict resolves itself.

Anyway, to bring it back to you, dear Letter Writer, you might be able to use this knowledge to help in de-escalating situations with T. and/or K. in the future. For one example, you might want to limit how much you use texts to communicate with them, especially now when things are messy. If you do text with them, you might make a personal rule to keep things light and reserve deeper topics are for a phone call or an in-person chat. As soon as something gets emotionally heavy, or you feel like they aren’t hearing you, or are escalating a conflict, it’s time to take a break from the conversation and move it to another venue. You can be explicit about it: “Hey, Sister, I feel like there is more we both want to say here than I can comfortably text – when’s a good time to call you?” or “Whoa, can’t chat right now, call me later?” You can also wait a while before responding to the text. It’s been a very hard & valuable lesson in my life that, just because someone used a fairly immediate mode of communication, it doesn’t mean I have to reply right now or engage with everything they said.”I got your message and I’m thinking about it” is a reasonable response that can de-escalate situations by giving everyone some breathing room and taking things out of the heat of the moment.

Obviously this doesn’t solve your whole problem, since T’s overall behavior and not Text Messaging is the culprit here, but in a situation where you can’t control very much this might give you one vector that you can control even if it’s just reminding yourself:”T’s being T. again, I don’t have to respond right this second.

Wishing you the best in your new marriage, in resolving these family conflicts (or at least de-escalating them so they aren’t all coming at YOU), and sending you condolences on the loss of your brother. I hope you are being very kind to yourself and that your spouse & friends are being very kind to you.❤


*See also: Internet comments, Tweets, other social media

07 Sep 15:49

TOM maxipads claim to convert water to oxygen and hydrogen for vaginal health. As an OB/GYN I say that’s a bad idea!

by Dr. Jen Gunter


A new type of menstrual pad hopes to break into the American market. They are called TOM and that stands for either The Oxygen Movement or Time Of the Month depending I suppose on which demographic the company is trying to reach.

According to an article in Slate TOM claims the “company’s proprietary formula absorbs liquid and humidity and separates water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, keeping the pad drier.” Both the Facebook page and the Kickstarter demo page claim the pad makes up to 50 ml “of pure oxygen day.”

The other health claims on their Facebook page are as follows:

  • Women will feel drier and be more comfortable
  • The oxygen will enter the vagina and kill bad anaerobic bacteria in the vagina and encourage the growth of good bacteria
  • “Lighten and balance” skin tone

I only have 3 university chemistry courses to my name and that was a while ago, but fortunately I know how to Google. I remembered correctly that you typically need electricity to covert water to oxygen and hydrogen, so unless these pads are battery-powered there’s an issue. I also found other ways to convert water to oxygen such as heating a metal oxide to over 1,000 degrees Celsius (ouch), vibration at approximately 43 khz (which apparently stings), photodissociation (light may not be readily available between the vulva and a pad or inside a pad), and 14 megahertz radio waves (doesn’t seem to be a good idea in closed spaces). Separating water basically takes a lot of energy, so not very menstrual pad friendly. Someone made a leaf that can convert water to oxygen using sunlight and carbon dioxide (basically man-made photosynthesis), but it’s hard to se how such a design could work where the sun doesn’t shine.

I’m going to do out on a limb here and say TOM maxipads don’t have a liquid that converts water to oxygen and hydrogen. If they did have such a liquid then NASA, the Russians, Elon Musk, basically everyone would be interested. One could sell that for a lot more money than can be made selling menstrual pads. So TOM pads, prove me wrong.

Hindenburg_burning-2Then there is the pesky issue of the flammable hydrogen. No cooking on the gas stove, fireside chats, or  candles in the bathroom! Oxygen is flammable too.

Your vagina doesn’t want any extra oxygen.

This is what TOMS thinks about vaginal oxygen (from their Facebook page):

So, WHY OXYGEN in the first place? Do we really need oxygen in that area during that time of the month? The answer is a very confident YES.
The honest truth is, during a woman’s menstrual cycle, there is a lot that can be going on. When you wear a pad that doesn’t produce oxygen (aka 100% of the pads currently out there), not only is it humid, itchy and uncomfortable…there are a lot of health issues encompassed within that. Certain odor-causing bacteria grow much faster when there is no oxygen present. These bacteria LOVE alkaline, oxygen-free environments. On the other end of the spectrum, our good bacteria (lactobacillus) loves an acidic environment and CAN live with oxygen, completely opposite of what the bad bacteria likes.

Actually, the answer is a very definitive NO. The partial pressure of oxygen in the vagina is 7 mm Hg or less (one source says the partial pressure of oxygen in the vagina during menstruation is 4 mm Hg). The partial pressure oxygen in the air at sea level is 160 mm Hg, so relatively speaking the vagina is a very low oxygen environment and is very happy that way. Also, oxygen produced at the vulva wouldn’t enter. If oxygen could move into the vagina by diffusion it would already be there. It takes inserting something, like a tampon or a diaphragm to temporarily raise the oxygen level. Raising the oxygen level is not believed to be a good thing; it’s one proposed mechanism for how toxic shock syndrome develops with tampons.

Oxygen doesn’t lighten the skin

The offensive idea of needing to lighten skin aside, if oxygen whitens or lightens skin then my kids would have lightened areas under their noses as they wore oxygen for a year. A whole year of 24/7 exposure to higher than normal concentrations of oxygen. I have never heard of lightened skin as a consequence of oxygen exposure so this seems totally bogus. Even if it were possible it’s hard to see how 200 ml of oxygen a day (assuming 4 pads a day) for 3-5 days could do that.

Could something in TOM pads be lightening the skin? They make the claim repeatedly, but have softened it for the U.S. market. I wonder about sodium percarbonate, also known as oxygen bleach, i.e. the stuff in OxyClean. Sodium percarbonate forms hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water and hydrogen peroxide eventually degrades to water and oxygen satisfying the oxygen production claim. Some people use hydrogen peroxide to lighten their skin. Could the pads contain sodium percarbonate? I would want proof they don’t contain this or any other chemical to lighten skin. These products can all be irritants.

I’m a GYNO, here’s my summary

A safe liquid or device that can be held in a menstrual pad that is capable of turning water to oxygen sounds bogus.

If such technology actually did exist it would have to be studied to get FDA approval as this is a new technology. The people who make TOM pads have a demo Kickstarted page. Keep in mind it will take years to do the studies and get approval. No one is getting pads next week or even next year or possibly even ever.

Chemistry issues aside, the biologic plausibility is weak. Oxygen made in a pad can’t diffuse into the vagina.

If we discard basic physiology and say oxygen can diffuse into the vagina that would be a bad thing. Vaginas don’t want extra oxygen.

Any product that actually lightens vulvar skin contains a chemical that you don’t want on your vulva. Since oxygen can’t lighten skin if the product actually does affect skin color what chemical/irritant is in it?

Verdict: Stay away from TOM pads until they can prove their claims and safety

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