Things to Know Before Visiting Vietnam

  • Say “not spicy” for everything, even if it’s not a traditionally spicy food.
  • People will pretend to understand you in order to be polite. This is true for restaurant staff as well. Make triple sure they actually do get it!
  • Google maps is unreliable. A paper map from the hotel will suffice.
  • Walk across the street and don’t stop. When you want to cross the street, you have to go confidently—and you can’t stop. That’s because there are a lot of cars and mopeds and, while one vehicle may swerve to avoid you, the vehicle directly behind it won’t see you.
  • Don’t smile at vendors or respond to their shouts. A hotel concierge told us that smiling or responding in any way would signal that we wanted to buy something, and that it was more polite to just ignore the attention.
  • There’s no such thing as a one-way street. Look both ways… always.
  • Hire the hotel driver because they have an incentive to follow (some of) the traffic laws. When you’re getting to your hotel from the airport, it’s smart to hire the hotel’s driver. If you get into a taxi, all bets are off.
  • Do not rent a bike or a moped. Unless you’re an absolute pro and “one” with the bike, it’s not a good idea to learn how to ride bikes/motorcycles here. There are just way too many accidents waiting to happen.
  • Wear a mask outside, too. The air pollution can be many dozens of times greater than what the WHO suggests is OK. That means even walking outdoors is bad for your health. Keep that mask on!

Photo credit: Steffen B

How to set up Your Aquarium for Mystery Snails

What you need to take care of these aquatic cuties!

  • 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫: I use this heater for my 40 gallon aquarium “EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater 100W.” Smaller aquariums can use smaller wattage heaters. Note that ALL heaters you get online are NOT accurate. It’s nice to get a cheapo thermometer to check. My heater is set at 83F and my tank is 76F. Annoying but not a big deal. The reason you need a heater is because it gets too cold here during the winter for the snails to live happy lives! In the summer, you technically don’t need a heater BUT, when the water is warmer, the snails are more active and more fun to watch! Optimal temps are between 68-84F.
  • 𝟏𝟎 𝐠𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐮𝐦: Yes, you can go smaller. This is just the easiest size to take care of. Why? You don’t have to clean it as often! Always buy a NEW tank! Tanks that have been used can contain bad bacteria and the eggs of assassin snails. Assassin snails will eat mystery snails(!!) and they’re REALLY hard to get rid of! I like the brand Aqueon from Petsmart. It’s cheap and hardy.
  • 𝐟𝐢𝐥𝐭𝐞𝐫: It’s always better to get a filter that’s rated for a tank that’s bigger than yours. Again, bigger filter, you clean less! My tank is ~45gal and my filter is rated for 50-75 gallons. Iike this brand “MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter 50 – 75 Gallon Aquarium, 350 GPH
  • 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫: This one you can’t substitute or do without. The water in our area will 100% kill baby snails. BUT, if you add a few drops of this “Fluval Water Conditioner for Aquariums” then all the bad stuff is neutralized and your snails are safe. Don’t skip this step ever! I have, and it’s bad news!
  • 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝: You can technically make your own snail food or try out different veggies to see what they like. I don’t have time for all that so I just buy calcium chips and snail cookies from A bag of each will last you more than a year! You also need to buy some frozen mysis shrimp from petsmart. Snails need some meat in their diet, especially as they’re growing! One packet will last you about two months or longer.
  • 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠: I have 25 snails so I clean my tank once a week. It takes me about 15 minutes and I use the water to water my houseplants. (It makes them VERY happy!) You can get something super simple like $13 “Luigi’s Aquarium/Fish Tank Siphon and Gravel Cleaner” to clean your tank. I splurged and got “AQQA Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Siphon Kit,6 in 1 Electric Automatic Removable Vacuum Water Changer” It’s $35, but it makes cleaning the tank SO fast and EASY. If you don’t mind spending an extra 20 bucks, I’d recommend it!
  • 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡: You will need the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It will last you years. I’m still using my original one! Don’t buy anything else… they’re useless and won’t give you accurate results. Once the tank is established, I like to check my water once a week. Luckily, the snails have a habit of telling you when something is wrong… you’ll see them lined up at the top of the waterline! Then you know you need to check and see what’s up.

SIDE NOTE: If you want to keep plants, you’ll need to buy an aquarium light. Do NOT keep the light on at all times. Fish and snails need to sleep. It’s very bad to keep them in the light all the time. I recommend light for no more than 8 hours a day or you’ll get algae growth.

Photo Credit: theaquariumkeeper2

How to Decorate Your Aquarium

Decorating your tank!

Decorating your tank is SO much fun… especially if kids get involved. You can go wild with decorating! Decorations are also important because it gives your good bacteria a place to grow when you’re setting up your tank. Just keep these tips in mind:

No metal. Metal will start to degrade and can release harmful chemicals into the water. Baby snails and fish are especially sensitive to changes, and this could kill them.

No Spongebob-themed stuff. I know! It’s a bummer. But lots of aquarium forums are reporting that there are a lot of Spongebob decorations made of toxic materials… and those toxins have wiped out entire aquariums causing heartache and the loss of hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars.

No random plants. Plants can carry bad bacteria and assassin snails. I like purchasing aquatic plants from an online store called Wet Plants. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I’ve purchased several times and never had a problem! They also have great customer service. If a plant dies really quickly, they’ll send you a new one. You can use fishing string or crazy glue to tie/glue plants to rocks to hold them in place. If you’re using glue, do NOT glue the stem. Only glue a single root. Plants are great because they act like a second filter and make your tank healthier!

No new snails or fish without quarantine. This isn’t a decoration recommendation, but it’s still important. I’ve had my snails long enough that I know they don’t have a fungus or parasite problem. If you get new snails/fish from a different source, make sure to quarantine them in a separate tank to prevent the spread of disease!

Substrate. You don’t need rocks or pebbles on the bottom of your tank! It’s actually easier to clean your tank without it. Of course, if you want to, you can add it! I would recommend something that’s not too sharp so it doesn’t hurt the snails.

Plastic decoration: You can use toys as decorations! Just crazy glue rocks to the bottom to keep them from floating. Make sure the toys are relatively new. (Nothing from when we were growing up!) Newer toys that are made for kids (or, better yet, infants) are less likely to contain any chemicals that might leech into the water and hurt the snails. (No paper, cloth, stuff that will get icky)

Wood decorations: Lots of people love using drift wood in their tanks! But don’t just use wood you got outside. Buy wood that’s specifically made for aquariums. If you REALLY want to use your own wood, Google how to clean it properly. I believe it needs to be boiled for a long while.

Air stone: If there’s enough surface agitation, it’s not necessary to keep your snails and fish healthy, but it IS fun to watch the snails float and play in the bubbles!

Photo credit: JadonBarnes

How to Cycle a Tank

How to “cycle” your tank
Hi! This is going to be a quick guide so let me know if you have questions. Why do we need to cycle the tank? Basically, your snails will poop and cause the ammonia levels to increase in your tank. Once the ammonia gets too high, the snails die. BUT, if you add beneficial bacteria, the bacteria turns the ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates, which are safe for snails.

How do we cycle? People used to take goldfish or dead fish and throw them in an uncycled tank to get that ammonia and build up the good bacteria. We won’t do that because it hurts the goldfish, it’s not super accurate and dead fish smell REALLY BAD when they’re rotting.
Instead, buy “Dr. Tim’s Aquatics Ammonium Chloride Aquarium Treatment for Fishless Cycling” and the testing kit I recommended “API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit” and some beneficial bacteria “Fluval Cycle Biological Enhancer, Aquarium Water Treatment”
Follow the directions on the Dr. Tim’s bottle and on the Fluval bottle. You’re going to add ammonia and beneficial bacteria and test the ammonia levels in your water the next day. When you can put in ammonia and 24 hours later it’s been eaten by the bacteria and isn’t showing up on your test, your tank is cycled and you can add snails! During the process, keep your filter running but don’t add carbon filtration or UV light (<–some filters come with that).

How long does this take? When I cycled my tank, it took three weeks. SO LONG. What I didn’t have was filter media from an already established aquarium! That filter media is the BEST source of good bacteria. So ask me or someone else on this group for some filter media, and it will be so much easier!

Extra credit: Sometimes your tank can get a little wonky. Maybe you forgot to clean it or a snail died in it and the ammonia levels spiked. BUT you’re busy and you don’t have time to clean. That’s why I like to have this on-hand “API AMMO-LOCK Ammonia detoxifier.” It’ll make your tank safe for 24 hours and buy you some time before you have to clean it. (Only use this for emergencies because snails deserve to have a clean home!)
Photo Credit: HuyPhan2602

How to Treat Columnaris in Fish in 10 steps

I didn’t mean to get an aquarium.

I met a neighbor who had some aquatic snails. We hit it off, bonding over her lovely garden and the weird way mystery snails glide across a tank. When she moved, she asked me to take a few, and I figured I could keep them alive and well in a vase on my dining room table. I was only supposed to get two… when my husband came home with 24!

So I purchased an aquarium. Fast forward a year later, and now I breed snails and have fish!

Fish are far more difficult to keep alive than any cat or dog I’ve ever had. It turns out that fish get sick when they’re stressed, and when I moved my school from one tank to another, a few of them started showing signs of columnaris.

Columnaris is a bacteria that lives inside of most tanks already and comes in several different strains. One of them acts so quickly that the fish die within 24 hours so there’s nothing to do. When fish get stressed, they become more susceptible to disease and may fall prey to the bacteria.

There’s really not a lot of information out there about how to treat this disease. After hours of research, here’s how I did it:

1. Make sure it’s actually columnaris. My local shops had NO idea how to diagnose this disease so, in this case, Google Images is your friend.

2. Move the impacted fish to a hospital tank. It helps if you have two filters running on your main tank so you can just switch one to your hospital tank and it’s pretty much instantly cycled. I didn’t have a spare filter so I had to buy one. Make sure you don’t get something with UV or carbon because that’ll decrease the efficacy of the medication you’ll be adding later. Also buy a thermometer and heater. I recommend using a 10 gallon tank as your hospital tank because most medications are A) expensive and B) meant to be added in 10 gallon increments.

3. Address the reason your fish were stressed in the first place and fix it. It’s no good if you save your fish from columnaris only to have them get sick again when they’re back in the community tank!

4. I purchased aquarium salt, API Fin & Body Cure, gel Terramycin, a siphon and two new buckets on Amazon.

5. Every evening I siphoned out 75% of the water into a “dirty hospital tank water” bucket. I filled another bucket with lukewarm water, added Prime and filled the tank. (Columnaris likes heat so it’s best to keep your tank as cool as your fish can safely handle.)

6. I added aquarium salt to the box’s directions and a packet of API Fin & Body Cure, also to the box’s directions.

7. I added some gel Terramycin to two clean Q-tips and placed them aside. I scooped out the infection fish with a net and placed it on a clean cutting board. (I’ll sanitize the net in between fish.) I swabbed the gel onto the fish’s wounds and carefully placed it back in the tank.

8. Made sure to give the fish the tastiest food possible. Anorexia is usually part of columnaris so try to entice your fish with their favorite meals!

9. Once the infection is gone, move your little ones back into the community tank and sanitize everything you used in the hospital tank. (For me, the infection cleared up in two weeks!)

10. Celebrate!


Photo Source: Abhishek R.

How to Treat Brown Rot in Peaches

Hi! A few people in my AMAZING gardening group had questions about brown rot. I recently purchased a house and the two peach trees in my backyard have severe brown rot. SO I went on Google Scholar and read a lot of academic papers on how to best treat the disease. This is what I’ve learned.


  • The first thing you want to do is figure out how tall your tree is, approximately. That will help you create a budget. As much as no one wants to ever cut down a tree, sometimes that’s just the most cost-effective way to manage brown rot.
  • A little about brown rot… all peach trees are probably going to get brown rot (a fungus) at some point. It’s really a matter of just managing it. Other stone fruit trees can also get the disease. Brown rot attacks twigs and leaves but the main issue is when it gets to your peaches! Once brown rot attacks, it’s only a matter of days before the entire peach is mummified and destroyed.
  • The time to act is now, in the winter. Make sure you collect any mummified peaches that are still on the tree or have fallen to the ground. The fungus likes to overwinter in these peaches. Do NOT compost the dead peaches. Put them in a sealed bag and throw them away so as not to spread the fungus.
  • Identify branches and twigs that are dead and prune these off. The fungus lives in these dead areas and will come back during spring. Also look for branches that crisscross each other and prune one of them off. When the wind blows, the branches will rub against each other and create a raw spot that can then become infected by fungus or pests.
  • Use the right tools. I’ve done hours of research, and here’s what I’ve found works the best. It’s pricey, which is why you want to have a budget. And why can’t you just use the shears you’ve had for years? Rusty, dull shears won’t create clean cuts and it’ll take longer for the tree to heal, which leaves more opportunities for those areas to get infected. This is the best pair of basic pruning shears that gardeners on multiple review sites swear by. This is the best ratchet lopper for getting bigger branches. Here’s the best pruning saw for heavy duty pruning. And, if you have a tall tree like I do, this is the best extendable pruning saw that’ll keep you from having to climb a ladder while wielding a sharp object! Safety first!
  • When you prune, make sure to clean off the shears with a solution of bleach after EACH time you make a cut. This will prevent the spread of infection. Take the branches that you’ve pruned and put them in a bag and throw them away. Do not compost.
  • When the tree begins to fruit, prune off any new peaches that are too close together. Keep each fruit at least six inches apart. That way, if one becomes infected, it’s less likely to infect the others.
  • You’ll also need to buy fungicide. According to some recent academic studies, you can use copper fungicide with “moderate” success. Scientists recommend using a combination of fungicides such as: Merivon, Indar and Luna Sensation. Indar + Luna Sensation had a success rate of 91% when combating brown rot! The reason you want to use two to three different types of fungicide is that brown rot can very easily become resistant to a fungicide when it is applied often.
  • “Small handheld sprayers are suitable for a single tree and a larger backpack sprayer is preferable for spraying multiple trees at once. Spray all the surfaces of the tree thoroughly, as well as the ground underneath the tree; the fungus that causes brown rot overwinters throughout the tree, especially inside the crevices of tree bark and on any debris on the ground. A good rule of thumb is to use one gallon of the fungicide solution for every 5 feet of tree height and width. For example, a tree 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide takes about 5 gallons to thoroughly cover the entire surface area.” Source
  • You’ll want to spray three times. Once, right as the tree is budding. Another time three weeks later, and a third time about one week before the fruit is ripening, when it has color but it’s not ready to pick.
  • Finally, check your tree for cankers. Here’s how to handle them: Link here and this is the knife I’d recommend.

Let me know if you have any questions! After creating a budget for my trees and taking into account the cost of pruning and applying fungicide to 20-foot-tall branches, plus removing cankers, the most viable option is for me to cut down the trees and start over with dwarf peaches that I can care for more easily. I hope this research helps you make the right decision for your yard!

Photo Credit: Charles Deluvio

The Last Panic Attack of June

The last panic attack of June is pretty ho-hum. Almost embarrassingly so. I’m kind of rooting for it, to be honest. “Go out with a BANG,” I say, “not a whimper.” I truly expected better from the last panic attack of June.

If I had to pick a Hogwarts house for my panic attack, I’d toss it into Hufflepuff. It’s not strong enough, nor cruel enough, for Gryffindor or Slytherin. And due to its utter lack of brain fog, Ravenclaw is out. So it gets the leftover house. But when you’re a panic attack that resembles a lukewarm ham and pea soup, you’re lucky to get anything at all. It’s a letdown, really, this last panic attack of June.

If this panic attack were a dinner guest, he’d (yes, it’s a he) spend the whole evening picking his teeth with his not-so-clean fingernails and then flicking his treasure into the thick fibers of the shag carpeted floor when he thinks no one is looking—but, of course, everyone is looking.

If the panic attack were a lover, he’d be the type that struggles to unclasp your bra. He’d leave his socks on while you’re having sex. He’d still refer to sex as “doing it.” He’d be 43 and aspire to work as a CPA. Right now, he doesn’t work because reasons. You don’t want to hold his hand in public—or in private. It’s all very disappointing for the last panic attack of June.

Click the link below to continue reading

Read More

Be Less Polite

My therapist is constantly trying to get me to be less polite.

She says I need to open up, be more emotional, let it all out. I tell her she should hear me address a server after I’ve waited an hour for my food and it comes out cold. Or the screams of frustration when a customer service representative puts me on hold for the 10th time. That’s bad enough. No additional innocents need be subject to my wrath.

But she insists. And it’s been a theme in our chats for a while now. “What if you just let go,” she asks, “and tell me what you really think?”

Click link below to read more

Read More