Come and join us tree-side in our Portland home as we rediscover our unplayed board games!
After many delays, we are finally in a position to start opening and playing the games we have been accumulating over the past several years.
It’s been a long wait, and we are really looking forward to playing them all – but we can’t even remember what we have!
Follow along as we practice a little holiday gratitude to help balance out the isolation of being newbies in a new city by unwrapping a giant pile of things we already own.
Even though we are in the middle of kitchen renovations, hence the lounge full of appliances, this idea honestly made the day feel just like a proper Christmas – tasty food, over-stimulated pets, and bags of wrapping paper to burn at the end of the day.
Portland (Oregon) locals – see anything you want to play with us? Get in touch, we are really keen to play more games IRL and make more friends in our new home!
So, grab your knitting, a basket of washing to fold, a puzzle, or a cuppa, and join us for a cozy afternoon of opening gifts and trying to remember where we bought things.
Gratitude, or why are we doing this?
Usually, I don’t use wrapping paper. It feels wasteful to me – single use, hard to recycle – but there’s something deeply connected to my childhood memories about giant piles of wrapping paper at Christmas time, and I feel very disconnected at present. We have no family in Portland, and shipping to and from NZ is prohibitive – even normal postage was expensive, but there are still expensive difficulties to overcome as a result of the pandemic. The box of gifts we sent last year cost us $500USD in postage.
So the first reason I wanted to wrap a lot of gifts was for emotional support, feeling cut off from friends and family and sad that we would be spending Xmas alone.
The second, and primary reason, was that I wanted to remember and celebrate what we already had. With our kitchen renovations heavily over budget because of a change in scope (we were originally going to do a lot of it ourselves, but changed our minds for reasons), things were going to be tight for the next few months. George has recently started a new job, but insurance in the USA is very expensive and complicated – we were still having to pay for our out-of-pocket insurance until his kicked in. On top of that, our gas bill had been charged incorrectly all year, and they suddenly took over a thousand dollars in one hit to make up for it – so we needed a way to feel ok about spending our holidays with just the two of us, and also a way to spend less.
Generally, Christmas is my big blow-out – I spend two thirds of the year accumulating gifts, squirrelling them away so that the spending doesn’t hit too hard – and while I had done a little of that, it wasn’t nearly as much as in previous years, where I worked at craft fairs myself, selling what I made as Copper Catkin, and buying from my fellow crafters.
This year, we still went ahead with our traditions – on Xmas Eve, we give each other Want, Need, Wear, and Read gifts; we do stockings with a set number of items in them, and a main gift each. It’s a lot, but we have no kids, and we don’t buy a lot of these things for ourselves during the year – as many men do, George relies on his Xmas gifts for basics like socks and underwear, for example.
So for me, I wanted to remind myself of how lucky I am to be in this position, even if we had to tighten our belts a bit, and also to remind us both of how much we already have in our board game collection. So, George went through the collection on the shelf, and brought up everything still in shrink wrap (apart from a few expansions where we don’t have the base game, or games that we have punched but not played). And we wrapped and wrapped and wrapped! I might not love wrapping paper, but I love using it – crisp folds, well-planned cuts, the sound of the tape dispenser, these are all core Xmas memories for me.
Even as we wrapped them, we were rediscovering the games we owned – I was surprised to see games I thought I hadn’t been able to buy, Kickstarters I forgot had arrived, and excited all over again about the ones that I hadn’t forgotten but simply hadn’t been able to play.
There’s something deeply soothing to me about a decorated tree with a huge pile of gifts underneath. Even the fake ones at the mall with empty cardboard boxes underneath give me that happy feeling. So it was honestly therapeutic to have all these games in a big stack under our tree. I spent a lot of time just looking at it and feeling glad we decided to do this.
And then, all of a sudden, it was Xmas Eve!
We did really well to feed ourselves without a kitchen – we managed porridge for breakfast, a platter for lunch, and queso (with a strange, layered dip, nachos style) for dinner. Then, presents! Want, Need, Wear, Read – it’s fun to have guidelines, and interpret them creatively!
Xmas day started really well, with stockings and new matching PJs, and cuddles with the pets.
After a ritual breakfast of plums, cornflakes, and cream, to honour my Grandad Kelly, we opened our main gifts.
We got a Le Creuset crepe pan, plus a couple of small gifts (a foldable Chip Shop shopping bag for George and Jet Plane lolly earrings for me) from my parents, some amusing socks and delicious treats from our friends Amanda and Matt, and I got George a Chirp wheel set for his back, and he gave me an awesome 3D puzzle to hide on the bookshelf!
We had been working really hard, especially George, to try to get the kitchen finished enough so that the oven could be installed in time for a roast turkey, but there was a misunderstanding about who was going to install it (not the appliance delivery people, and not our plumber or electrician, either!) – so we were not going to have an oven after all.
I had planned for that eventuality, and made sure we had the supplies for our plan B: the Breville Sear and Grill OTT sandwich press saved our Xmas meal! We made grilled turkey breast, stuffing patties, and smashed grilled potatoes, with microwaved peas and gravy made from a base in one of our wonderful little Itaki pots. No bread sauce, trifle, or Xmas pudding, though – we have agreed that we will have a late, full Xmas spread once the kitchen is fully finished, sometime in February, and maybe even invite a friend or two to join us, so it feels properly festive!
But… how did we spend the rest of the day, between breakfast, morning presents, and dinner?
We unwrapped our games!
After we had opened our own gifts, and had some light lunch, we decided to start opening our games. It’s humbling to realise how much you own, especially when it’s a luxury item like board games. I am incredibly grateful to have a life in which I have the privilege to have such an amazing collection of games waiting for us to have the time to play them!
It took a remarkably long time to unwrap so many games – so I broke the videos up into several episodes.
And here, in part 4, we start to think about how to address this giant to-do list of games!
And these are all the games we unwrapped: