Here’s my little hack for using every last cent on a Visa/Amex prepaid gift card

visa gift card.JPG

Prepaid gift cards from brands like American Express and Visa make a lot of sense in theory. Like gift cards, they release you from the psychological horror of handing your loved ones cold, hard cash, but you can use them anywhere you can use credit cards, so they offer the receiver more flexibility than a store gift card. Great!

However, if you’ve ever received one, you may have discovered that they don't work like store gift cards in one major, critical way: if you swipe, say, a $25 Macy's gift card when making a $50 Macy's purchase, it'll take the $25 off your purchase and then you can pay the remaining balance with cash or your debit card. But if you try to use a $25 Visa gift card on a $50 Macy’s purchase, the card will get declined — because you’re essentially asking it to go over its limit. The only way to keep this from happening is to tell the person ringing you up, “I want to put $25 on this card” before you swipe the Visa gift card, so they can split the tender accordingly. This isn’t ideal, but it’s fine for a nice, solid number like $25.

But! It becomes a much bigger hassle when your $100 Visa gift card now has, say, $14.77 on it. It’s highly likely that at some point, there’s going to be such a weird/small amount left on the card that you’re going to be too embarrassed to ask a retail worker to “just put $4.36 on this card,” so instead you’re just going to deprive yourself of the full value of the gift card. I’m not saying this is what Big Credit Card wants to happen, but I do think these little amounts of cash left on thousands of gift cards add up for them in a way that they…do not hate. The whole thing has annoyed me for years, ever since I was on the other end of the transaction when I worked in retail in college.

(Also: to even be able to do what I outlined above, you have to keep track of the exact balance on the gift card, which requires going to a website and inputting the card number and PIN every time you want to check how much is left on it.)

All this to say: Visa and American Express and Mastercard prepaid gift cards are way more high-maintenance than they should be, and even though this is a minor hassle in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a hassle at the end of the day. But! After receiving a high-value prepaid Visa gift card last year and getting sick of checking the balance all the time, I figured out a really simple and easy workaround that allows you to actually use every penny on said card: Once the gift card is down to a stupidly small amount that you don’t feel like fucking with, you can just go to Amazon and buy yourself an e-gift card for the exact amount on the Visa gift card. So if there’s $7.83 on the Visa card, you can simply buy yourself a $7.83 Amazon gift card.

Amazon gift card.jpg

Once you’ve put in the exact amount and your personal details (including your own email address), add the gift card to your cart. Then head to check out, choose “add new payment method,” and put in the details of the prepaid gift card there (just like it’s a regular credit/debit card). You now have now successfully turned your prepaid gift card into a normal store gift card, and it’ll work as such — deducting that $7.83 from your next Amazon purchase, and letting you pay the remaining amount due, just as God intended. 🛍

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Just Good Shit: 04.28.19

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Hi, all! Here’s what I had going on this week…

Writing

The best $16 I ever spent: Old Navy pajamas after my husband left on Vox / The Goods.

On the blog

Reading

This week, I started reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. Also:

The Company That Sells Love to America Had a Dark Secret, The New York Times.
This is a long, completely worthwhile read.

‘For five years we dreaded every meal’: my infant son’s struggle with food, The Guardian.
“At times I was sad to my very marrow, a kind of sadness I have never quite shed, as if a small grain of darkness was planted in me for ever, blooming quietly in my bones even as my child was released from the hospital and sent out into the world to do the things that babies go on to do.”

It Was Never Like Crack, Eater.

Ask Polly: ‘Will Grief Destroy My New Marriage?’, The Cut.
“If you’re going to save yourself, you need to start melting out in the open. Right now you are tidying. Stop it. This is no time to seem fine. This is no time to be good.”

Her ‘Prince Charming’ Turned Out to Be a Crazed Hit Man on the Run, The New York Times.

How the World Fell Head Over Heels for RuPaul, Vogue.

No, You Don’t Have to Stop Apologizing, The New York Times.

The Chic Octogenarian Behind Barbie’s Best Looks, The New York Times.

I Booked a $1,000 Hotel Room With 25,000 Credit Card Points. Should I Charge My Boyfriend for His Share?, Wirecutter.
This is such a good/interesting question!

Against “ME!”, The Ringer.
“‘Hey kids!’ he shouts. ‘Spelling is fun!’ she shouts back. This is how the bridge starts. The bridge, in what is growing to be a pop-era Swift trademark, is a problem.”

Why Grown-Ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids, The Atlantic.

I’m Baby, The Cut.
“‘It’s a way for us to express a feeling of general helplessness and uselessness in a ‘funny/cute’ way,’ my friend Marian Bull, who is indisputably baby, told me.”

Have a great Sunday! 🌱

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9 things that have made me a calmer, better cook

lemons.JPG

I...did not grow up in a household where cooking for guests looked or felt chill in ANY way, so I really admire this quality in others and am trying to cultivate it in myself — whether I’m cooking for guests or just for myself. I’m not, like, Mrs. Doubtfire with her titties on fire when I’m cooking, but things like always knowing where the measuring spoon I need is, or not getting flustered or buried in disgusting dirty dishes while I’m cooking actually take work for me.

For the past six months or so, my thought has been, OK, if I’m going to cook, I’m going to really cook — because if I’m investing the time and money in making food, I want the food to actually taste good, and I find that being more focused when I’m cooking helps a lot in that regard. Also, being more focused when cooking also just...feels nice! Multitasking is bad and ineffective, while being present and accomplishing a task in one go is soothing and satisfying. I’ve found that I dread cooking a lot less now that I’m approaching it in this way.


Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful in my mission to be a less stressed cook:

  1. Actually read the entire recipe start to finish before you make it.

    This may seem obvious, but I used to just skim recipes before making them for the first time, and there was often a big gap between when I skimmed it (when I first came across it online) and when I actually made it (possibly weeks later). So now I read the recipe all the way through right before I get started to make sure I understand how I’ll actually be putting the ingredients together.

  2. Along with reading the recipe in advance, also pull out everything you’ll need in advance — so measuring cups and spoons, cutting boards, spices that are in the back of your pantry, etc.

    This step might seem kind of fussy, but it’s not like pulling everything out as you go saves you time (and in my case, I’ve found it actually takes more time).

  3. Take this a step further and measure/chop all your ingredients in advance.

    I recentlyish got into the habit of doing this with new recipes, when I wanted to be extra conscientious and careful so I didn’t mess them up. It makes me feel like a fancy TV chef, and is a reminder that all those cooking shows with their cute little prep bowls are really onto something. Again, doing this can feel kind of fussy, and it might actually add a little more time in the long run, but I think it’s worth it, especially if it keeps me from screwing up a recipe or wasting ingredients because I was rushing and made a mistake.

  4. Use your dishwasher as a holding pen.

    If you’re using a lot of bulky dishes (like mixing bowls) and your sink is filling up, but you don’t have time to stop and wash everything, just stick it in the dishwasher — even if it’s not dishwasher safe, or even if you haven’t rinsed it first. Basically, your dishwasher isn’t just a dishwasher — it’s also a fantastic storage spot. (This is especially helpful in a smaller kitchen.) You can always pull things out after the fact to hand wash them or rinse them. I hate when my sink starts to fill up with dirty dishes, and this helps so much in terms of maintaining a cleaner kitchen/an overall feeling of calm.

  5. Use a bowl to collect food scraps/trash while you cook.

    My least favorite part of cooking is chopping produce, and I hate being surrounded by the wet scraps as I’m chopping. But I recently watched my friend’s boyfriend cook dinner (this delicious Ina Garten pasta) and put all the scraps (stems, rinds, etc.) in a medium-sized bowl as he did. He’s a very calm/clean cook, so I was immediately very into this concept. I’ve tried in the past to use produce bags for this, and it was never super effective. But a bowl works so much better. (I think the fact that he used a genuinely beautiful white bowl helped too.) I realized later he was likely doing this so they could compost everything, but even if you’re not composting, it’s still SO nice to not have to keep going over to your garbage can every 60 seconds.

  6. Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode so you’re not distracted by texts or other notifications while you’re cooking.

    This is particularly helpful if the recipe is on your phone and you can’t avoid looking at your phone when you’re cooking.

  7. Related: if you’re going to make an IG story while you cook, just save the photos/videos to your phone for later instead of posting them in real time.

    Here’s an embarrassing story: I once burned the butter for lemon butter pasta because I was posting shit to my IG story while the butter was supposed to be melting (something that doesn’t take very long at all, turns out). I had to throw the butter out, clean the pot, and start over. This was extremely dumb! Since then, I’ve stopped posting cooking stuff in real time, and in general I don’t take a lot of pics/video while I’m cooking unless I know that I have like a solid five minutes before the next step.

  8. Make time.

    I rarely try new recipes on busy weeknights, or when I am getting home on the later side. And if I realize the day of that I’m going to be rushed, I’ll often change my plans and make a recipe I’ve already mastered and save the new recipe for a different night.

  9. And maybe don’t try that many new recipes overall.

    I tend to limit myself to one new recipe per week (if that!) because I’ve found that cooking new recipes — even easyish ones! — takes effort. I get very cranky with myself* if I’m putting that energy in several nights a week. But doing it once a week feels challenging in a good way, and has the added benefit of helping me master other recipes. (Which is why I can basically make chickpea pasta in my sleep now.) 👩🏽‍🍳 

*Because I have no one to blame but myself! Literally no one is making me try new recipes!


PSA: Gas-X is a magic bullet when it comes to period bloating

Gas-X.jpg

I come here today bearing excellent news for anyone who has a uterus and a body that balloons way up roughly once a month when the ol’ Aunt Period comes to town. Turns out, simeticone (better known as Gas-X) is a goddamn magic bullet when it comes to period bloating. I tried it at the recommendation of a friend and was genuinely astonished by how much better I felt. Like, I took two tablets the first day of my period and within the hour, my body had basically deflated — and it stayed that way for the rest of the week. I’ve used them several times now and I cannot get over what a difference they make.

PS If you’re going to try them, I recommend the minty chewable tablets!

Get a 48-pack on Amazon for $8.33. 🎈

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A case for having activities instead of hobbies

Friends! Today we have a post from Terri Pous, who was my first hire at BuzzFeed, and whose work I had the pleasure of editing every day for three years. Like me, she lives by the mantra ABR (always be recommending). —Rachel ✨

One of my least favorite questions is, “So, what do you for fun?” I always imagine people expect me to talk about a stamp collection, or a passion for knitting, or some other kind of hobby that conveniently fills time and gives you something to show for it. But I’m not a hobby person; I much prefer activities.

And, I get it: depending on your definition of “hobby,” activities could easily count as the same thing. To me, though, all hobbies are activities, but not all activities are hobbies. Lying on the grass in the park on a nice day? Activity! Going to the park every weekend with your Nat Geo field guide to identify the birds chirping loudly overhead? Hobby!

I like that activities have almost no barrier to entry. It’s daunting to begin a hobby — the time, skill, or effort involved can be enough to stop you before you even buy that calligraphy set. A hobby is something you craft and pursue and, if you’re lucky, perfect over time. It’s often insular, something you could parlay into a side hustle (though you don’t have to). And unless you know something I don’t (and if you do, please @ me), you can’t really make a side hustle out of planning trips to the botanical gardens with friends.

But activities! God, I love them. If Doing Things is a personality trait, then I have it. It’s probably because I live in New York, concrete jungle wet dream tomato AND home of so. many. ‘tivities. You can just pick up and do almost any activity whenever you want to do it, and a lot of them cost zero money. That’s not to say you can’t try refining them the way you would a hobby, but you don’t have to to get enjoyment out of them. They’re no-maintenance and low-stress. So much of life is about staying on brand or doing things with purpose, but activities exist just for sheer enjoyment, whatever that means for you. Love being outside? There’s an activity for that! Can’t get enough of shoveling foodstuffs into your piehole? You can make an activity out of that, too! Activities are so easy to collect and return to again and again, which is a big reason why I’ll always prefer them over hobbies.

Here are some of my personal faves, ones that even a committed extrovert like me doesn’t mind doing alone:

  • Trying new restaurants (and then providing copious suggestions when people ask for recommendations).

    I’ve started logging all of my restaurant visits into a Google spreadsheet, so you could argue that I’m hobb-ifying this activity.

  • Going to Broadway shows.

    Once I realized you don’t have to pay $100+ to enjoy arguably the best activity New York City has to offer, I started going to a lot more shows. I use TodayTix, Stubhub, TDF, and the IRL TKTS booth. And when I do decide to pay full price, I go to the box office in person to avoid those $14 “convenience” fees.

  • Visiting museums.

    Thanks to the NYC ID, I can get into a lot of museums and cultural institutions for free. But I’d willingly spend weekday afternoons at museums even if I had to pay full price. A few of my faves: The Met, the Transit Museum, the Natural History Museum, the New-York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York, the Guggenheim, the Cooper Hewitt. I need to go the Frick. I have lots of time to do it now!

  • Attending live podcast recordings.

    I’m a maje podcast junkie, and luckily, a lot of them sometimes set up shop at venues like The Bell House, Caveat, and Union Hall to do it live. I’ve seen Who? Weekly, WTF with Marc Maron, Ask Me Another (I was a contestant on that one, too), Why Your Train is F*cked, and several more in person.

  • Playing bar trivia.

    I’m a big ‘ole nerd, which is why this is probably my fave ‘tivity. I try to play every week at Gael Pub on the Upper East Side (where I used to host), and even when we don’t win, I love ~ learning new things ~. It sounds cheesy, but this activity has taught me so much about playing with a team and meeting new people! Win win!

  • Reading, especially non-fiction books.

    Again, I’m a well-established nerd, so it’s no surprise that I love hunkering down with a good biography of Theodore Roosevelt. It’s not a revolutionary activity, but it is a good way to pack some new tidbits into my spaghetti brain and then regurgitate them to anyone within a 10-foot radius.

  • Doing jigsaw puzzles.

    Some people are intimidated by puzzles and would probably place them squarely into the “hobbies” category, but I disagree! They’re an activity for me, one best done while watching Catastrophe or Instant Hotel in the background. If you’re freaked out at the prospect of a 1,000-piecer, try a 250 and tell me it wasn’t fun, low-key, and something you want to do over and over again for no reason other than sheer enjoyment.

  • Hosting (and/or coordinating) group hangouts.

    I’m talking game nights, dinner parties, potlucks, recipe clubs, you name it. I love getting people together with a purpose (I’m as fun as I sound), especially if there’s food involved.

  • Playing board games.

    See above. I recently went to a board game cafe with a friend, and while we failed miserably at learning a new game and instead played Guess Who? and Candyland, it was still a ton of fun and a reminder of how great board games are. Some of my favorites are Codenames and Ticket to Ride, and I’m eager to learn backgammon, Settlers of Catan, and Mahjong.

  • Watching documentaries.
    I’m not a huge movie or TV person, but if there’s a good documentary, I’ll eat it up (and then proselytize about it to everyone I know). Some good ones I’ve seen: Seeing Allred, 20 Feet from Stardom, Three Identical Strangers, Icarus, Going Clear.

  • Just strollin’.
    A big advantage of living in New York (and suddenly having lots of free time) is being able to walk outside and see where your feet take you. Even though we’re currently in the midst of a fool’s spring, I’ll still pick a destination or neighborhood or errand, and just stroll around at a leisurely pace to get there. It’s a perfect way to listen to a podcast, catch up with someone on the phone, or just take out the earbuds and take in your surroundings. It’s not exactly nature, but it’s as close as New York gets, so I’ll take it. ✨

Terri Pous is a writer, editor, two-day Jeopardy! champ, and an Aries. She loves abbrevs, reality TV, obscure facts about the US presidents, and the 🥴 emoji. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @terripous, and on sidewalks @ petting every dog.

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Just Good Shit: 04.21.19

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Heyoh! Here’s what I was up to this week…

On the blog

Reading

The Death of an Adjunct, The Atlantic.

(Further reading: the 2016 Gawker series on adjunct professors.)

Why Notre-Dame Was a Tinderbox, The New York Times.

The Lipstick I Wore to My Divorce, The Cut.

Why I Embraced Skin Care After My Mother’s Death, SELF.

What Pulitzer Prize-Nominated Books Should You Read First?, The New York Times.

I’m very excited about The Overstory, The Great Believers, and American Eden (currently free to read on Kindle if you have Prime).

‘You Don’t Have to Have Cerebral Palsy to Relate to My Story’, Vulture.

Three Magical Phrases to Comfort a Dying Person, Jenny Harrington on Human Parts / Medium.

The Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Recall Speaks to Parental Desperation, Not Just Lack of Awareness, Jezebel.

How to Improve Your Memory (Even if You Can’t Find Your Car Keys), The New York Times.

I’m a big fan of the third tip (tell someone).

Behind the New, Gloriously Queer Emily Dickinson Movie, Vulture.

A Sober Person Walks Into a Nonalcoholic Bar…, Grub Street.

Why I Take All My First Dates to Olive Garden, Bon Appétit.

Watching

Homecoming on Netflix and more of Our Planet. I liked Episode 2 (“Frozen Worlds”) a lot — much better than Episode 3 (“Jungles”). BTW, if you’re watching Our Planet with little ones, Netflix tweeted the time stamps of the most intense segments.

Best life

House pants

After seeing several ads for them on Instagram, I ordered these not-quite-sweatpants from Los Angeles Apparel ($40). I am always on the lookout for good house clothes, and I like that I can wear these to work from home and cook but also to take Chuck on walks and run errands. I have the mint, but they come in 14 other colors, and I think I might get a second pair.

The fanny pack life

I bought a small gray Herschel fanny pack during Shopbop’s big sale a couple weeks ago and am loving it so far — it’s been great to get back to the unencumbered life. (If you’e curious, it’s $35 on Amazon and comes in seven other colors.)

Spring pasta

I made NYT Cooking’s Pasta With Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Peas the other night; I don’t think it’ll make the list of my favorite recipes of all time, but it was still good/easy/worth it!

Have a great Sunday! 🐰

Sign up to receive these links each week in an email.

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Toward a more perfect home screen

When I saw this photo from Courtney Carver / Be More With Less pop up in my Instagram feed last August, I was...lightly shocked?! To be honest, I didn’t even know what I was looking at at first; my eyes needed time to adjust. After staring at it for a few seconds, I realized it was an iPhone with a home screen that had been entirely cleared of apps. I guess I could have reasoned that one could do this, if one wanted to, but I’d genuinely never seen anything like it.


This is what Courtney wrote in the photo’s caption about her setup:


“No apps on the home screen or placed in neatly labeled containers. Nope. All apps are in one folder (see lower right of my screen). I open my apps (when I want to) by swiping right and typing the app name in the search bar. That way I'm not tempted because I see an app icon.”


(BTW, the caption has several other tips for practicing good digital hygiene and is worth reading in full!)


When I saw the photo, I had already buried Facebook and Twitter deep enough in my phone that I essentially forgot about them / stopped using them, but this photo made me consider whether there were any other apps that needed to go. There was: Instagram. I was finding myself reaching for it more and more last year for a couple reasons. First, because it was there. But also because I’d turned on notifications after several years of not having them. I did it because I was getting tagged in more Stories, particularly from people who were posting about my book, and if I didn’t open the app for 24 hours, I wouldn’t see the story they had tagged me in or be able to reply/thank them. The problem was that I was now getting notifications about all my DMs, many of which weren’t that important but were still super distracting. (I am the kind of person who can’t stand having a notification badge!)

All that to say: seeing this photo on Instagram gave me the push I needed to move Instagram off my home screen and bury it in a folder so it was a couple swipes away. (I replaced it on my home screen with Headspace.) I didn’t turn off IG notifications but I didn’t need to; the effect was immediate and dramatic. Turns out, when the red notification badge isn’t on my home screen, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I really like Instagram (the main feed anyway) so I was genuinely shocked by how little I thought about or cared about it when it wasn’t just there.  

After moving the Instagram app, I also cleaned up my home screen a little bit. I figured I wasn’t going to achieve home screen minimalism overnight, but I could start moving in that direction. So I deleted/buried more apps and made two rows of additional space on my home screen. Here’s how it currently looks:

iPhone screen.JPG

(If I swipe right, the screen has just two rows of icons: five folders with apps + three standalone apps.)

It’s not totally minimalist, but I feel good about where things are / my relationship with my phone at the moment!

Some related things:

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Just a bunch of good things to read if you want to be a better manager

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

I recognize that my current job status — just partly employed — might mean this isn’t the ideal time to publish this post. But! Before I got laid off, I had been managing for three years, and in 2017 and 2018, my teams grew significantly and I began managing managers. I really liked managing and cared a lot about doing it well, so I was often looking for thoughtful, practical advice about being a good manager.

So even though I’m not currently a manager, I thought I’d share some of my favorite resources! (BTW, most of these are helpful for everyone with a job, even if you’re not a manager and/or have no desire to become one!)

Ask a Manager

Ask a Manager, written by Alison Green, is my go-to for all things work-related. If you aren’t familiar with Ask a Manager and want a funny and entertaining intro to the blog, here are a few posts I wrote while at BuzzFeed to get you started:

Those posts are on the wackier side, but I have truly learned so much from reading the more mundane AAM posts (plus the comments) every day for years. I also spent at least one Friday nights a few years ago going deep on the archives, which served as a pretty great crash course in how work works. (By the way, if you’re a manager, you may want to browse the being the boss tag.)

Beyond the AAM blog, I highly recommend Alison’s 2018 book, Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work. After I read it, I passed it around to my team so they could read it too. Alison knows so much about how businesses and professional relationships should work, and always gives practical advice in an empathetic and straightforward way. I recommend AAM for everyone, regardless of where you are in your career.

Get it on Amazon for $10.87 or find it at a local bookstore.

Radical Candor

The first time I read this post about radical candor, it sort of blew my mind. It’s not that I hadn’t been practicing something akin to radical candor before...but I had never thought of being direct and honest in these exact terms. It’s a concept I returned to again and again as a manager. And although radical candor tends to get all the attention, I think ruinous empathy is a really, really important concept that we should all be talking about more at work. I think about this quote — “The vast majority of management mistakes happen in the quadrant that I call ruinous empathy” — a lot.

The Mind of the Leader

The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results was one of my favorite non-fiction reads in 2018. It's genuinely inspiring and I immediately wanted to buy it for all of the managers I managed. The main idea is that the best leaders have three qualities: compassion, selflessness, and mindfulness. If you want to get a better idea of what it’s about/the tone, check out this podcast episode/transcript: "Leading with Less Ego” from HBR IdeaCast.

Get it from Amazon for $16.99 or find it at a local bookstore.

Harvard Business Review

Speaking of the Harvard Business Review, I really like HBR and the HBR IdeaCast. (They also have a bunch of other podcasts, but I haven’t personally listened to them.) TBH, it’s not a site I remember to check as often as I should, but I just signed up for a couple of their newsletters to get it on my radar every week. (See all their newsletters.) Here are a few articles I liked/saved in Pocket that you might like:

Jeff Weiner: Leading with Compassion

When my friend Millie — one of my best, most inspiring manager buddies — recommended this episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast to me, I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical. But! This episode turned out to be really great and is worth listening to. (If you prefer to watch instead of listen, there are also videos of the interview.)

Reorgs Happen

Finally, this one is pretty specific, but I love this Reorgs Happen deck created by Camille Fournier. My friend Rachel (a very good manager!) sent it to me a few years ago. It’s funny and well-done and extremely accurate, and I wish more managers thought about reorgs (and, really, any big changes at work) this way.

That’s all I’ve got! But I’d love to hear about the specific resources that you’ve found helpful with regard to management. Since I don’t have comments turned on yet, feel free to email me at rachel @ justgoodshit dot com. I’d love to put together a Part 2 of this post with your suggestions! ✨

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I just love these minty toothpicks

tea tree oil and mint toothpicks.jpg

These tea tree oil and mint toothpicks were something of an impulse buy after I saw them on The Cut last summer. I’ve never been particularly into toothpicks (has anyone? probably yes) but I thought they might be useful for moments when I didn’t have time to brush my teeth after lunch at work.

Turns out, they’re amazing! The minty flavor is delicious and using one actually freshens your mouth/breath in a meaningful way. And the birchwood and carved top makes them feel a bit higher-quality than the restaurant supply store toothpicks I’m used to. I now keep them in my bag all the time to use instead of floss in a salad emergency. (One note: the top of the container sometimes pops open, so keep an eye on it or hit it with some washi tape so you don’t end up with a purse full of minty little daggers.)

I included the toothpicks in one of my holiday gift guides at BF in 2018 and they sold really well. They really do make for a good little gift though — a nice hostess gift, party favor, stocking stuffer, etc. — and pair perfectly with a teeny mint green toothpick holder ($7.99).

You can get a two-pack on Amazon for $8.61. I’ve also seen them in some NYC bodegas next to the cache of CBD products. PS They are also available in a cinnamon flavor. ✨

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So, you should really be using a rinse aid in your dishwasher

rinse aid.JPG

Last summer, I was on Wirecutter, looking for their recommendation on the best dish soap. (It’s Seventh Generation BTW.) And somehow or another, I landed on an article they had written about rinse aid. I had never given rinse aid much thought; I didn’t know what it purported to do, but I assumed it was kind of a scam. I...could not have been more wrong.

Here’s Wirecutter (emphasis mine):

“As much as we might like to believe the claim, rinse aid isn’t just a money grab for detergent companies.

You need rinse aid because dishwasher detergents don’t work the same as they used to. If you’ve read our guide to the best dishwashers, you know that in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators made detergent companies stop using phosphates, a great cleaning agent, because they can lead to algal bloom.

Says Liam McCabe in our dishwasher guide:

‘Every new dishwasher has a rinse-aid dispenser because rinse aid is essentially mandatory if you want your dishwasher to work well these days, according to every industry person we talked to. Rinse aid offsets the limitations resulting from gentler detergents and stricter efficiency standards—it’s just part of the deal now.’”

Ex...fucking...scuse me????

And THEN I saw this sentence: “if your dishes are coming out of the dishwasher wet, or with food bits still stuck to them, give rinse aid a whirl.”

My dishes were coming out of the dishwasher SO wet AND with food bits stuck to them!!!!! (Truly: so wet, it was kind of ridiculous. After running the dishwasher — which includes a long heated drying cycle! — I’d still need to leave them in the dishwasher all day to dry before putting them in the cabinets.)

I immediately ordered rinse aid — I bought Seventh Generation, because that’s what was cheapest on Amazon Fresh — and it’s made a world of difference. I’m slightly annoyed that I didn’t know about this sooner! But if you’re experiencing something similar, it might be worth trying rinse aid and seeing if it helps.

Get an 8-ounce bottle of Seventh Generation Rinse Aid from Amazon Prime for $8.92 or Amazon Fresh for $5.99. 💦

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Just Good Shit: 04.14.19

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

This week, Just Good Shit went live and I published a bunch of new posts, which felt great! And even though the weather was pretty iffy, I got to spend lots of time outdoors and/or with the windows open, which felt amazing.

Here's more from this week...

On the blog

Reading

‘The Unthinkable Has Happened’, NY Mag.

Jayson Greene's writing about his 2-year-old daughter's death is so remarkable, and deeply moving.

AAFU: My boyfriend of two years ghosted me, The Outline.

"But what happened isn’t simply unjust, it points to something much more frightening — that love itself exists outside the framework of justice. There is no court at which to plead your case, no authority who can grant you recompense. ... There is nothing you can say to him to make him feel sufficiently guilty, nothing he could realistically say to you to take back the fact that he made the choices he did, no adequate combination of the right words in the right order to make any of this okay."

Psycho Analysis, Book Forum.

Every line of this is truly *chef's kiss*.

Sharing the Shame After My Arrest, The New York Times.

My IUD Ghosted My Period But Not My PMS, Cosmopolitan.

Is Your Wellness Practice Just a Diet in Disguise?, Healthyish.

"I’m not asking you to quit paleo or boycott your local SoulCycle. I’m simply asking you to question your motives and your impact—to consider what it could mean to eat intuitively instead of restrictively, to move joyfully instead of punishingly, and to rediscover what a relationship with food looks like without guilt or shame."

How OnlyFans Changed Sex Work Forever, The New York Times.

What It’s Like to Lose a Million Dollars to an Online Dating Scam, The Cut.

How to Be a Better Listener, A Cup of Jo.

The Slippery Slope of Dating Someone With a Trust Fund, The Cut.

Why funky ’70s-style fonts are popping up on brands like Chobani and Glossier, The Goods / Vox.

Pssst: The Just Good Shit blog header is Corben, a free variant of Cooper Black.

Here's a real-life example of an excellent cover letter, Ask a Manager.

This cover letter is so charming!

Watching

Our Planet on Netflix (so far, I don't think it's as good as Planet Earth, but it's still extremely dece), the Fashion Coward sketch on SNL, and this funny video.

NYC

Spring is here (ish)! Now is a good time to bookmark the NYC Street Tree Map.

Have a good one! 👋🏽

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Just Good Bops: April

I like to think I am pretty good at recommending things, but I also know my limits — which is why I will not be the one creating regular playlists for Just Good Shit. My taste in music is what’s known in ~ the biz ~ as “bad.” Anyway, I asked Kiyana — who designed Just Good Shit and its very cute concomitant emoji graphics — to make regular playlists of Good Shit for you (and also for me). Here’s the first one! —Rachel ✨

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

I was pretty reluctant to believe that I experienced seasonal mood changes — I like winter! I think snow is cozy and magical! — but my Spotify playlists tell a contradictory story. I definitely use the weather as a cue to soundtrack my mood. When it’s too cold to venture outside, I’m listening to aching folk music, while summer calls for bare arms and island-adjacent pop music.

TBH, it’s hard to make a playlist for April because April is kind of terrible. One minute the sun is out and I feel a BRIEF glimmer of joy, and the next minute it’s freezing and windy and I'm swearing under my breath as I rummage around for my umbrella and winter coat. So a good April playlist is all about slow burn anticipation. I’m as ready for warm weather as everyone, but it’s too early in the season for horny, glittery rap flutes. It has to be above at least, like, 73 degrees for that to be OK. Until then, I’ll be listening to mid-tempo songs that imperceptibly build and swell until they burst.

BTW! Once you’re on Spotify, you should really click through and listen to these albums in full:

Mitski, Be The Cowboy

Mitski’s Puberty 2 soundtracked the entirety of my 2017 and 2018, so when she followed it up with Be The Cowboy, I was ecstatic. Have you ever experienced that feeling where you love something so much you feel incapable of talking about it? Yeah, that’s me right now, trying to write about Mitski. Just listen to this album, I swear it’s good.

Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising

In the same way that Mitski (rightfully!!) dominated 2018 with Be The Cowboy, I think you’re going to hear a lot about Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising this year. Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood) calls herself a “nostalgic futurist” — think Joni Mitchell, but if Joni Mitchell was singing about Tinder instead of environmentalism.

ROSALÍA, El Mal Querer

A buddy of mine described ROSALÍA as having “the most beautiful voice in the entire world” and, yeah, she’s really fucking good. Pitchfork described this album as being an example of “woman-flexing R&B,” which about sums it up. Make sure you listen to “PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ - Cap. 3: Celos” and her sort-of cover of “Cry Me A River,” “BAGDAD - Cap.7: Liturgia.”


Also! I’ve never been good at curating a playlist that ebbs and flows in just the right way, so just throw this shit on shuffle and have a good time. 🎧

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Tiny party tip: change your guest Wi-Fi network name to something fun/relevant before you host

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Here’s a cute idea that I picked up from my friend Tashween: if you’re having a party or hosting out-of-town guests, change the name of your guest Wi-Fi network and the password to something related to the event, and then give everyone the info in the invitation (and/or at the gathering itself).

For example, when I threw a potato party in March 2015, I named the guest Wi-Fi network Starch Madness, and the password was something like tatersgonnatate. More recently, I’ve just been making the network name the name of the party itself, and then doing a cute/relevant/easy to type but still secure password.

Is changing your guest network name absolutely necessary? Of course not. Is it silly and fun and a cute way to pre-game your gathering? It is! It’s also also a subtle flex, implying that you have your shit together enough to actually know your internet provider login information, and can therefore easily change your Wi-Fi password whenever you feel like it. Your parents’ “6hNq_27vhUo5nME” could never. ✨

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Don't sleep on friendship bracelets as a hobby

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After I attended The Compact summer camp last summer, I got very into making friendship bracelets. Using this Honestly WTF tutorial along with an $8 pattern I downloaded from Purl Soho, I’d put my phone in airplane mode, put on an episode of Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America's Best Idea *, and braid until my brain didn’t feel on fire anymore.

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If you’re looking for a new hobby or activity, making friendship bracelets is a good one! Here are a bunch of reasons I enjoy it so much:

  • The action itself — the braiding/knotting/etc. — is very soothing and meditative.

  • You don’t have to be creative or crafty to be good at it.

  • It’s cheap! You can make several bracelets for under $10, and possibly under $5.

  • The fact that it’s so inexpensive / that embroidery floss is so plentiful means there’s a lot less pressure to make every bracelet perfect, or to even finish. More than a few times now, I’ve started a bracelet and then messed it up, or got halfway done and decided I didn’t like the colors and I just...abandoned ship. I’ve also finished bracelets and not done anything with them afterward. You don’t have to give it to a friend or wear it yourself. Knowing this makes it easier to just sit down and do it, particularly if you’re a uhhhh….slightly-uptight perfectionist who hates being bad at things.

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  • But also: friendship bracelets are honestly pretty cute, especially if you choose a more ~sophisticated~ color palette.

  • It’s a very portable hobby and the supplies don’t take up a lot of space.

  • You can do it outside! I’ve spent a few truly lovely afternoons sitting outside on a patio, chatting with good people while working on a friendship bracelet.

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  • It’s a great travel hobby/activity. If you’re planning, say, a weekend at a cabin or some kind of family trip and need some fun and light activities to do by a fireplace or on a front porch, or for ~ family-friendly ~ things to do, this is a good one. You can stock up on a bunch of embroidery floss and a grab a pack of safety pins before you go and you’re...pretty much set. (You may also want to pack a small pair of scissors.) I like it for trips because you can do it alone (while, say, everyone else is reading or playing a game) or a bunch of people can do it as a group. In my experience, it’s something that most people haven’t done since they were young, so they don’t realize how fun it can be...but once they get going, they find themselves really enjoying it and/or easily being able to execute complicated patterns they mastered when they were tweens.

  • It’s a great way to not be on your phone. If you want to stop scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, you can pick up a friendship bracelet in progress and work on that for a little while.

Get the tutorials: DIY Friendship Bracelet, Honestly WTF and Classic Friendship Bracelet Pattern, $8 from Purl Soho. Also, I haven’t mastered this yet, but it’s lovely: Monochrome Friendship Bracelets, Purl Soho.


PS If you want to make your bracelets a little sturdier / less likely to fade, you can use knotting cord instead of embroidery floss.


*I definitely need to write a separate post on why Ken Burns documentaries are good shit.

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This homemade hummus is truly the best hummus

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Last month, my mom texted me from the grocery store a few days before she drove out to visit me in New York. She sent me a photo of a package of mini naan “dippers” with the message, “Are you going to make hummus while we are there? I can bring some of these.” I replied, “I probably will not make hummus, but maybe I could.” An hour later, after some other unrelated conversation, she texted me, “I bought those little breads so you really should make hummus.”

And really, how could I argue with that?

The hummus she was talking about was developed by chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia. I’ve made it a few times now — including when my mom visited me in early January.

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It is completely reasonable that my mom has developed a taste for this hummus after having it once. This hummus is...incredible. As my former coworker Michelle wrote about it, “If you have the energy to learn how to prepare just one food over the course of your lifetime, let it be this one.” It’s so creamy, so flavorful, so...special. I love it on bread, but also on perfect chicken and roasted vegetables.


A couple recipe notes:

  • The hummus isn’t at all hard to make, but I think it’s kind of an Event. I think it’s just because it has kind of a lot of steps (the first of which starts the night before you actually make it), and also because I have a small New York kitchen. In any case, it’s absolutely worth it.

  • I’ve made the hummus with both dried chickpeas and canned chickpeas. The dried chickpeas are definitely better (the final effect is just creamier) but using canned beans won’t ruin it. Basically, if you forgot to soak the beans and now think you can’t make it, go ahead and use canned; they are definitely good enough.

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  • I’ve been using my KitchenAid stand mixer with the whisk attachment to make the tehina sauce and that works very well. The second time I made it, I inexplicably temporarily lost my mind and made the tehina in my food processor....which WORKED, but it required a lot more dishes and everything just got really messy. It wasn’t until later that I realized I hadn’t done that the first time — which why it was a much pleasanter/easier experience the first time! (You can also whisk it by hand, of course.)

  • When I made it last month, I used the extra tehina sauce that I’d frozen the last time around and it worked perfectly! (I let it thaw for about 24 hours first.) The tehina sauce recipe makes twice the amount you need, and it’s definitely worth saving/freezing it to use later; it cuts down on the amount of time and energy you’ll spend the second time in a pretty meaningful way.

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A modest proposal: Take notes when you’re hanging out with friends

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I’ve written before about my friend Julia’s Ladies Article Club, which I’ve had the pleasure of attending on a couple of occasions when I’ve been in D.C. visiting her. I love a lot of things about it, but one of my favorite aspects is that someone always takes notes during the gathering. The note-taker writes down anything that comes up during the conversation that warrants some kind of follow-up — so basically, if someone mentions a product or a recipe or a podcast episode or a good Instagram account, the note-taker adds it to her list. Then she’ll start an email thread with everyone later on to collect/share the items mentioned.

I’ve always thought this idea was so smart and efficient, and I’ve started doing it more when hanging out with friends — even, just, like, during a coffee date. I like doing it because it’s practical, but also because writing these items down in my journal creates a mini diary entry about the hangout/the conversation.


Last month, I was at my friend Emily’s apartment for a little friend dinner party, and when she mentioned a book she liked, I said, “Wait, I’m going to write down the stuff we talk about so I can look it up later.” I pulled out my notebook and pen and Jess said, “Welcome to Rachel’s meeting,” and everyone laughed. AND YET! An hour or so later, Emily asked me where my pullover and my socks were from, and when I told her, she said, “Wait, I want to write all this down,” and took out her phone and opened the Notes app. And later that night, after we’d all gone home, Jess texted the group and said, “Who is sending out the meeting notes?” And we all sent around the things that we’d discussed and made note of.

I always think I’m going to remember all the things I mention or that my friend mentions when we’re hanging out, but when you’re with smart/well-read/interesting people, that’s basically impossible. Just take notes! ✍🏽

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Tiny life tip: use your iPhone’s photo search function more

Here’s an extremely small tip that might make your life slightly easier if you ever find yourself scrolling through iPhone photos for a very long time trying to unearth a specific photo you know is on your phone somewhere: you can search your iPhone photos by date! The search button is at the bottom right whenever you’re looking at your photos.

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So, for example, if you wanted to look at all of your Christmas photos, you could type “December” in the search bar and be shown all the photos you took in any December ever. And if you wanted to look at your Christmas photos from a specific year, you could type “December 2015” in the search bar and limit your search results even further. As long as you know roughly when you took/saved a photo, it’s a super helpful shortcut.

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You can also search for things that are in the photos — like, say, “dog” — but I’ve found that’s far less reliable, and that searching by date is ultimately more likely to be successful! 📸

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Just Good Shit: 04.07.19

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Happy Sunday! Here’s a recap of what I was into this week.

Reading

Watching & listening to

Podcasts

I listened to an old episode of Nancy, "The Pentagon's Secret Gaggle of Gays," which is so goddamn good. I also really liked the cartoon sound effects episode of Twenty Thousand Hertz, and downloaded several others to listen to.

Streaming

On Friday night, after a long week and wanting to zone out with light and easy, I watched some old episodes of I Love Lucy on Amazon Prime. I also watched Free Solo and...did not love it? It's a movie about a man wanting to do something incredibly dangerous, all the people who know him begging him not to, and him doing it anyway. It's a no from me, dawg. ⛰

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Extremely good shit: this chickpea pasta recipe

Much like I believe in wearing the same clothes all the time, I am big on figuring out a few recipes that work for me and making them over and over and over again. This chickpea pasta recipe is one such recipe. It’s filling, it’s nourishing, it’s inexpensive (seriously, my grocery bill dropped considerably after I started making this several nights a week), it’s fast/easy, it warms up well the next day, it’s vegetarian and dairy-free (if you’re into that sort of thing), and you can basically always have the ingredients available to be able to make it. (More on that in a moment.) I’ve recommended it to so many people, and they’re all believers now.

If/when you’re ready to join the Cult of CPP, here are some tips I’ve found for making it even easier to make.

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  • Don't skip the finishing oil; that's where all the flavor is!

  • Cut/measure/prep all the ingredients before you start cooking. There aren’t very many ingredients, so it’s mostly a matter of doing things like opening a can of chickpeas, draining, and rinsing them; crushing a couple of garlic cloves; and measuring out pasta and tomato paste. The reason I suggest doing this is because once you start making it, everything moves very fast, and you won't really have time to do those things while the food is cooking like you might with other recipes.

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  • Instead of chopping fresh rosemary for the finishing oil every time you make it, you can chop a bunch of rosemary at once and then freeze it in individual portions olive oil cubes. I freeze the teaspoon of fresh rosemary in 1 and ½ tablespoons of olive oil — because that’s what my ice cube trays can hold — and then add the additional ½ tablespoon of olive oil when I’m making the recipe. I pop out a cube when I start making the recipe, and by the time I’m ready to make the finishing oil, it’s basically thawed. Using the rosemary cubes is so convenient and it means that I’m both less likely to waste extra rosemary and more likely to have the ingredients I need on hand all the time.

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  • You can actually freeze the tomato paste in individual servings too. (In general, freezing extra tomato paste is a good move because so rarely do you need the entire can!) It’s not like opening a can of tomato paste, measuring some out, washing the tablespoon, and rinsing the can/peeling off the label for the recycling bin is oppressive or anything...but it’s also a step I’d rather not fuck with every time if I don’t have to.

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  • If you’re feeling really motivated and meal-preppy, you could transfer the pasta to a Mason jar with measurement marks on the side so you don’t have to pour it into a measuring cup each time you’re making it.

This recipe is truly so great; it’s right up there with the perfect chicken in terms of how much I love it and how often I recommend it.

Get the recipe: Quick pasta and chickpeas, Smitten Kitchen. 🍝

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These bamboo nursing pads are great for taking off your makeup

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I don’t know if this is true in other cities, but in NYC, cotton rounds are really expensive. Like, every time I go to buy them, I’m surprised by how expensive they are. I used them for years (with Garnier micellar water, one of my most-used products) to take my makeup off at night and then to wash my face in the morning. But I recently came across a cheaper and less wasteful option: organic bamboo nursing pads ($13.90 for a pack of 10 on Amazon).

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As you can see, they are pretty big; I can cycle through the different “petals” to take off my makeup at night, getting several uses out of one pad. And once a pad is fully covered in mascara and eyeliner, I just toss it in the laundry. I still buy cotton rounds to take off my nail polish, but now I buy them far less.

Get a pack of 10 pads on Amazon for $13.90. 💦

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