Five Things Friday Vol. 38

Five Things Friday: just five things I’m thinking about or things that made my week, or things that I otherwise feel like sharing.

I received the two Covid-test kits that our government sent out (for free) in the mail this week. It seems kinda “too little too late” after two years into this pandemic, but hey, I take two free tests when I can get them. I haven’t really had many situations where I needed to test, but I am glad to have a test on hand. Have you ordered yours?

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Are any of you guys knowledgeable about blog hosting? Who are you hosting with? What do you pay (monthly/annually)? Are you happy with their customer service? I’ve been told that my (tiny, personal) blog is exceeding shared hosting resources but they won’t tell me what is causing this and help me fix the problem. I’ve been self-hosting my WordPress blog for years and I have truly learned a lot about the backside of blogs and how to manipulate them, but that still doesn’t make me a tech expert. I have tried to optimize what I can, but I honestly don’t know what else to optimize and I’d like some help, and not be threatened with the suspension of my site. I don’t think I should be constantly trouble-shooting my own blog.

I am trying to figure out if my blog is truly just outgrowing the service I pay for, or if they’re just trying to get me to upgrade when it’s not truly necessary. Does anyone have any insights?

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The documents for tax season have started to trickle in and I think I am going to try and tackle our tax return this month (as soon as I have all the documents together). Our tax returns are generally pretty simple (we don’t itemize) and so I haven’t felt the need to pay someone to do them for me. Do you do your own taxes? Do you try to get it out of the way or do you wait until the last minute?

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My new friend Elisabeth (hi!) shared her favorite oat waffle recipe (with all her tips and tricks!) with me a couple of weeks ago and since she’s not on social media, I wanted to give her a shoutout here. I made the waffles last weekend and they were amazing! They were my post-run treat and I enjoyed them with just a dusting of powdered sugar and a fresh cup of coffee!

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Thank you to everyone who chimed in this week on my work situation conundrum. I am not asked to go back to the office before April (well, that’s the deadline as of right now, but who knows if that might be pushed back depending on how things with Covid are going) and I want to emphasize how very thankful I am for the way my employer has handled the pandemic. I’ve been in maximum telework status for two years and at no point did I feel any pressure to do anything work-related that I wasn’t comfortable doing. We had a lot of flexibility and leadership has regularly held Covid-meetings where people could voice concerns and ask questions.

The decision about the future of my work situation will also not be set in stone. I am sure I can apply for an alternate work arrangement later down the road, but I still will have to make a preliminary decision if I want to apply for remote work (full time at home) or a telework arrangement (with a minimum of 2 days per pay period at the office) by mid-February. I think I am leaning towards a core telework agreement (1 day/week at the office) for now. Part of me thinks it would be great to see people in the office again, but I know that many won’t return full time (or at all), so what’s the point for me to go in if my co-workers are not there and I am still doing Teams calls, just in a cubicle? I’ll have a talk with my supervisor next week, so we’ll see. What’s the situation at your work?

TGIF, friends! I hope you have a nice weekend!

  1. I’m working from home as well which I love. I thought I’d hate it, but it’s been a really nice balance and I’m loving not having to commute in the Chicago snowstorms! Also, that waffle looks amazing. I’ve got frozen waffles in my freezer and that’s my attempt at breakfast today. Thank goodness it’s Friday!

    1. Waffles are always a good backup to have in the freezer!

  2. Yay! Cue my jazz hands that you made my beloved waffle recipe. Also – you have taken these to a whole new (fancy level) – look at that gorgeous shape and dusting of icing sugar! Yum.

    As it is Friday, guess what’s on the menu for us tonight. Those waffles. I actually cheated this week (or made life easier for future me) and made up a double batch on Monday, tossed them into the freezer, and they are now defrosting on the counter as I write this. I also used up all my frozen cherries and made a homemade cherry sauce (a bit of maple syrup, frozen dark, sweet cheeries, and tapioca pearls to thicken it). I can’t wait for supper…

    1. This gorgeous waffle shape is our “standard” waffle iron shape in Germany – I’ve never gotten used to the round or square waffle irons that you find here (although they have their own appeal, for one, they make much thicker waffles). But regardless, your waffle recipe was a winner and I’ll make them again!

  3. Ugh – the blog hosting situation sounds frustrating! I still use the free WordPress template, so can’t help, but am hoping you get lots of great advice!

    I felt the same way when I received our Covid test kits. Like… great, I guess? They may come in handy? But I would have much preferred a coordinated strategy and messaging plan about how to deal with Covid in the first place.

    1. I wanted more flexibility with my blog… now that’s the price I pay LOL

  4. I use Bluehost and I’ve never run into any issues. I pay annually and it works for me. I maintain a couple of work sites on GoDaddy and I’ve had more issues with them. Maybe you could use WP Smush or something to reduce image sizes and see if that frees up space/resources? It’s so hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

    I ordered my COVID tests but we haven’t received them yet. Too little too late.

    I’ve been back in person for work since August 2020. It is what it is for me. (You already know.) Even if there was a virtual alternative, it wouldn’t work for us.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation – I’ve heard from others that they use Bluehost. I might have to check them out. I am wary of migrating my blog though .Ugh.

  5. I work from home, but I find it pretty isolating. I like the flexibility, but I think I would be happiest with 1-2/week at the office and the rest at home.

    We do our own taxes. Ours are pretty simple and we just use Turbo Tax and it’s generally done in an hour or so. I always feel terrible when people tell me all about their complicated taxes and feel some guilt over the ease of ours.

    1. Is it an option for you to back to your office 1-2x/week eventually? Or is your position remote?

  6. Yes, I’m totally Team Do My Own Taxes. I’m also a CPA so my “official” take is that most of us can do our own taxes just fine BUT if you have a special situation, or if it feels too hard, or if you just want a second opinion, there’s nothing wrong with getting someone to do your taxes. Honestly it’s pretty cheap for the peace of mind.

    1. That’s what I thought: most people can do their own taxes! I am glad to hear that from a CPA like yourself. I mean, I’d happily pay someone if things got complicated, but so far that was not the case.

  7. Oh oh oh, I can help with the blog hosting! Last year my host told me that he wasn’t going to host small blogs anymore on a shared platform, and my god, I was going to have a breakdown. I just imagined all my posts disappearing. Anyway, I went with Bluehost, and they talked me through everything, and my old host – because it was his decision to end our relationship – migrated everything to the Bluehost platform. I think Bluehost does the migration for you though. It’s worth actually CALLING THEM ON THE PHONE, which was what I did. I didn’t want to do it on a phone call but it honestly was super easy, and I have had zero trouble with them. It’s not a very high cost either. I mean, they try to upsell you with things I didn’t really need – I don’t care about SEO – but the basic cost is very reasonable. I can’t remember what it was but it seemed quite low to me.

    I do my own taxes and it’s always stupid because, being a yoga teacher, I make very little money and there’s always something weird about my tax situation. It should be straightforward but it’s not. My husband does his and it’s super easy, but mine is always weird.

    My kids get test kits every two weeks at school, and so far we haven’t used them all. They are supposed to be testing all the time but that feels like a waste of resources. We are testing when one of their classmates gets sick or if we have to go somewhere. I’m happy to have them and I want to save them for emergencies, as it’s pretty much impossible to get a PCR test here.

    1. Another vote for Bluehost! I might have to check them out. I cannot imagine that my blog is so big and gets so much traffic that I am exhausting the resources… unless they provide me with shitty resource limits to begin with.

  8. I do my own taxes, but I’m an accountant so it would be weird if I didn’t. Back in the early days of my career, when hubby and I were in grad school and paying off student loans, I’d file as soon as possible because we’d always get a nice refund, thanks to education credits. Our income has increased substantially since then and therefore I minimize our withholding to make sure we either owe a little bit (and safe harbored) or we get a small refund, so most years, I wait as long as possible to file and pay. This year, however, I’m anxious to file ASAP. We put in solar panels, so we have a nice tax credit coming our way. Hopefully we’ll get our last document in the next week and can get the process started.

    1. I guess it comes in handy that you’re an accountant. You seem to be pretty savvy about handling taxes in the US – I find it somewhat confusing that we have to tell them employer how much to withhold, but I guess I got used to how things are done here.

  9. I am STILL waiting for my free COVID-19 tests. I ordered the morning it was available, and they still haven’t even shipped. So I guess I’m just never gonna get them, which sucks. I need to figure out what kind of reimbursement I’m eligible for through my insurance. At least there’s that avenue.

    I have HostGator and I’ve been really happy with them! I think I pay $300-$400 every three years and it’s really easy to use.

    I just did my taxes this weekend – I also do mine myself. I had a professional do them for the few years I was freelancing because I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t screwing it up, haha. But now I just go through TurboTax and it’s super easy.

    1. Oh no, I hope your free Covid-tests will still arrive. It seems like there are different delivery times for different people.

      Thanks for telling me about your blog host… $300-400 every three years doesn’t sound so bad, I guess. I think I’ll have to look around a bit.

  10. Good luck with the blog stuff. I have not kept up with the tech side of things and don’t understand it all anymore. And I dislike my host and they have horrible customer service. LOL.

    We put all our tax stuff together in January then our accountant does it and we send it close to the deadline since it has my husband’s business on there and he always has to pay in.

    That is great you can apply to telework full time if you want! We were all told we have to come in 2 days a pay period…. someday.

    1. Oh, you’re with the government like me… yes, two days per pay period is the minimum for core telework. I have not applied for a remote position at this time. We’ll see how things go. 2x/PP is not so bad. Are you asked to go back anytime soon?

  11. We are go in if you want/no requirement to go back in at this time or really ever? We are a work where is best that day with no set schedule company. I would like to make it in twice a month. I have managed once a month every like three months or so.

    I use Godaddy as a blog host, I have for like 10 years now I think? I think it’s like $10 a year? $15? I have it on set it and forget it, basically. It auto renews. You can’t be using that much space.

    1. That seems like a perfect arrangement. Does your work keep office space for you then? Or do you have shared space that you use if you go in?

      Thanks for the recommendation. Do you pay $10 or $15 per month? Probably per year, right? That must have been a typo? Either way, it seems like they give you enough resources if you’ve never run into a problem with them… and I agree, I can’t be using THAT much space with my tiny little blog.

  12. I FEEL YOUR PAIN on the blog tech stuff.

    I started out on Blogger almost 2 years ago, then converted to a self hosted wordpress site using Hostinger as my hosting service a little over 1 year ago. I had some issues and just do NOT have time to devote to learning all about it, so I hired someone to help me finalize it…but there are still things I currently would like to change but I have no idea how. (The hired help is very expensive! So I feel like I can’t just reach out for help on every little thing.)

    And the worst part, it seems like my hosting service has some kind of security service that essentially blocks my blog from pulling into Feedly. And I know a lot of people really like to follow blogs in Feedly! But my blog shows up as “unreachable” in Feedly which is infuriating because I feel like it probably is a hinderance for some people/ probably makes some just give up on visiting my blog. It sounds like I either need to change hosts too to get away from this (I’ve spent hours in chats with the hosting support and nothing ever gets resolved)- but I tend to upload a lot of photos and like you, am unclear how much space or whatever I need. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of that stuff either.

    The web designer I worked with actually suggested maybe I should just go to a managed site for simplicity’s sake, since I’m so clueless and just don’t really have time/interest right now to learn how to manage everything myself. But I feel like I’d first need to hire someone even to convert my blog over to a blog….Anyway! That’s not helping you to answer your question… I know some people have suggested Siteground to me as good host, but it didn’t look particularly cheap… Who is your current host?

    1. Hi Kae, thanks for stopping by…. I know a little bit of stuff on the backend of WordPress, if you need help tweaking stuff (when it comes to theme, plugins, etc.)
      I am a little more lost when it comes to stats, traffic and the like.

      You’re right that I had a bit of trouble getting your feed to work in Feedly, but I don’t know what exactly it is causing that it won’t pull your feed from just your URL. It seemed to have just happened recently though because I think I was getting your post a few weeks ago, but then it stopped.
      Either way, I wanted to let you know though (and I know that is true with other blogs – that’s how I found out): if you type in http://gratefulkae.COM/FEED/, Feedly will pull your feed again. I was able to get all your latest posts to show up.

      Very annoying, but I’ve had other blogs with the same problem. Tell people to add /feed/ behind your URL, if they ever point out that they can’t get your feed to show up.

      1. OMG my mind is blown right now. You knew a way to get it to work in Feedly!!! Albeit a workaround, but still- I cannot even tell you how frustrated I have been with this and how much time I’ve spent over the past year trying to fix this issue. It’s still not a perfect solution, since obviously people don’t know about the option to add “feed” after. But after chatting with a web desginer, Feedly Pro support, AND Hostinger support, no one ever suggested that as a backup plan!

  13. My host is Bluehost and I pay a modest annual fee and another fee (I think USD 300) every three years.
    I rarely have problems and if I do, I can contact them via a chat and they react promptly. I am very un-techie so I’m glad for their professional help!

  14. ARG, taxes!!! Ours are insanely complicated because my husband has multiple streams of income, and itemizes his deductions. We used to pay someone, but now my husband does it himself. The only problem is, getting him to do it on time. We usually end up filing an extension and it goes on and on. SIGH!
    Still haven’t ordered my Covid tests- I guess since I just had Covid I don’t really feel the urgency. But I’m sure there will come a time where I’ll want a home test and will be kicking myself if I don’t have one, so… I should get on that and see if I can still get them.
    You made Elisabeth’s waffles! They look delicious and I love the shape. At first I thought you made them that way for Valentine’s Day, but saw in the comments that’s the traditional German shape. I love it!

  15. The waffles. look nice.
    I. get the feeling with your work situation. I am freelancer for five years now and have mostly worked remote. Some clients want me to come in to their offices on a regular basis but often times it is really frustrating. I go there (often out of town with overnight and traveling costs) and then they sit in meetings are on trade fairs or just sick. And I. sit there alone at a desk and could have been doing the same work at home. however every once in a while is good and necessary to be there in person. Hope you can find a good solution for yourself.

  16. Oh, San, I am right there with you on the work issues/choices. I know we are going to be going back to mostly in person in the Fall semester and I am dreading it. I have loved the last 2 years of online meetings – particularly for the large ones in which I always felt anxious and self-conscious. The challenge is, those in leadership positions really want to see people “in the building”. Which is frustrating, since we have made it work (quite well!) in a virtual space. I’m advocating for continued virtual options for meetings, with no “penalty” (real or perceived) for participating virtually. They need to know it just works better for some of us!

    Sorry for the long rant in your comments, but I do hear you. It’s hard. I’m glad that your workplace is being flexible, but it sounds like you are really gravitating towards the one day in the office/week option. If you can change it in the future, I say go for it!

    I use the same hosting service as Kae but… don’t have the Feedly issues, for some reason. We have not been able to figure it out. :( I tried your +/Feed/ option but it did not work for me for her blog. Hope you find something that works for you!

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