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Dear Miss Manners: My sister has been dating a guy for about four months, and I just found out she is eight weeks pregnant. She is 32 years old, which should mean she is an adult and can make her own decisions, but they instantly jumped into a serious relationship.

He has a 4-year-old son who she met less than a month after they began dating, and now the boyfriend and his son stay with her almost all of the time. My parents basically support her – they make her car payment and pay her school loans. So I think this is not the best thing to happen. When I express my concern about anything, she becomes angry right away. So how do I talk to her about this?

Gentle Reader: Just what is the wise counsel that you are offering your sister and she is perversely rejecting? That people who are expecting a baby have no business entering a serious relationship? That allowing the prospective father to stay at your sister’s house will ruin her reputation? That instead of helping her, your parents should be locking her in her room so she doesn’t get into trouble? Naive Miss Manners would have thought that a relationship that produced a pregnancy was already a wee bit serious. But if not, it strikes her as a good time to begin. And apparently they have. Please don’t try to put a damper on this.

Friends persist

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I had encountered some financial difficulties that we solved by selling our primary home, which had a mortgage, and moving to our vacation home, which does not. The children and I reside full time in this home now, and my husband works in our old town during the week, which is three hours away. Weekends are the only time we have as a family.

At least twice a month, we are invited by friends to attend parties or events in our old town. As much as I love my family and friends, the six-hour round-trip drive, the tank of gas and disruption to our time together make these invitations irritating to have to decline. This is still going on after two years. Should I say something, or simply pray people get the hint?

Gentle Reader: Is it really that annoying to know that your friends still miss you and want to see you?

Apparently it is. Otherwise, Miss Manners would think you might invite them to visit you, or go into town with your husband one day and meet them for dinner. You needn’t sacrifice your weekends to keep from sacrificing those friendships.

Use for ‘slop bowl’

Dear Miss Manners: I have my grandmother’s silver plate coffee and tea service. There are three pots; one has a warming stand. Besides the sugar bowl, there is another bowl someone told me was the “slop bowl.” Please tell me how one makes tea with a set such as this?

Gentle Reader: The large pot with the warming stand is for hot water, the middle-sized one is for tea leaves in a lesser amount of hot water, and the small pitcher is for milk. The slops (sic) bowl is necessary because fresh tea and the soothing conviviality that it produces keep people coming back for more.

For the first cup, you use the extra-hot water to adjust the strength of the tea to the tea drinker’s taste, bearing in mind that the longer the leaves steep, the stronger the teapot’s contents will be. Such are the delights of afternoon tea that tea itself is often neglected, and those who come back for seconds will present you with not-quite-empty cups, at the bottom of which will be a tiny, cold, messy puddle. It may contain a few drenched tea leaves (even though, of course, you strained the tea when you poured that first cup). That’s what goes into the slops bowl before you pour fresh hot tea into the cup: slops.