A California Christmas

We’ll be home for Christmas. But in a different way – we’re going to spend Christmas at our home in California instead of our home in Indiana.

So this year I really want to design a Christmas around that idea – we are home. Our Christmas plans will look different from year to year, but a lot of what I said last year about the holidays still rings true. Especially the part about trying to focus on experiences over things for Christmas.

So let’s take a peek at five of the big pieces of our holiday this year.

Christmas California

Home

I love Christmas lights, but for some reason I’m not crazy about other seasonal decorations. My husband loves it though, so I picked up a few different festive items and did what I could to make the apartment cheerful (and not overwhelming).

Alternative Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

We even decorated the bunny cage with little ornaments and some garland. The most important decorations were actually candles, because we love the ambiance that the scent of winter pine brings to our space.

The best part? We can store these decorations in a space smaller than a shoe box.

Gifts

Again, we’re keeping it simple. For the nephews (six of them under the age of 12), we got walkie-talkies – a gift that is only fun if you’re spending time with others. I loved the idea of them running around the house, radioing to each other like secret agents.

[SPOILER ALERT] For the grownups, we did what we felt each family member would use or appreciate most. We gave practical things like gift cards, fun & useful coffee mugs and I even found some awesome glass straws for my smoothie-loving mother.

We also did something new this year for a few of our family members – we donated to charities in their honor. We picked a different charity for everyone we did this for, because we wanted it to be relevant and meaningful to each of them.

Family

We miss everyone terribly this season, but we’re so fortunate to have the communication we do with everyone. Calling, texting and skyping keep us all almost close enough to touch.

To reach out even a little further, we took Christmas photos of us and the bunnies and are sending out hand-written cards to let grandparents, friends and other family members know that we’re thinking about them.Christmas Cards

Even sitting down to write the cards has helped with those holiday blues I wrote about in my last post.

Charity

Since we don’t have a lot of holiday parties to go to this year, we’re going to spend a little bit of Christmas Eve volunteering and serving food for those in need.

We’ve both been feeling like it’s time to start sharing our time more with others who need it, so I think this is a start to something we can pick up in 2016!

I wanted to share this little tidbit since I think it might be a good option for people celebrating holidays far from home, and it might serve as a starting point for our future holidays in California.

Togetherness

This is the most important for us this year. Instead of gifts, we’re investing in strategic, sit-down-and-talk-to-me games.

King of Tokyo and Rivals for Catan are our most recent additions.

My husband has some holiday time off, so we’re going to spend our days exploring new places in LA, planning for 2016 and playing games to our hearts’ content.

Because being together is what it’s really about, right?

Happy Holidays!

 

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Are you a gamer?

I’m a big fan of board games. I grew up in a family of gamers (video, board, card; you name it, we played it), and we spent a lot of time hanging out and playing generic and easy-to-access games like Jenga, Uno, Monopoly, Aggravation, Sorry…you get the picture.

Now that we’re all adults, we’ve become a hyper-competitive group of strategic gamers who are in it for the long haul. Recently, games like King of Tokyo, Stone Age and Galaxy Trucker have been on our replay lists. If you’re still stuck playing games from when you were 8 years old, you need to step up your game. (Yes, of course that pun was intended).

Seriously? Board games?

Yes, board games. They’re more engaging than television, and there are so many that stretch your imagination and engage your critical thinking muscles more than you’d expect.

One of my goals for this year is to play more games with the specific goal of interacting with my fiance and family more. While it might mean owning more “stuff” (I’ll have to develop a plan for curating my growing board/dice/card game collection), these games hold great value to me. They’re functional, and they bring joy to my life.They also bring a healthy dose of friendly competition (eh, let’s be honest – “out for blood” comes up a lot in my family). Success in games like Settlers of Catan often depends on both your negotiating skills and your ability to bluff (hey, I don’t want people to know that I’m going to steal “Longest Road” until I can take it without contest).

If you want to know what kinds of games I’m talking about, check it out:

We don’t mess around.

Games for two

Being away from my family leaves my fiance and I to our own devices. Do we turn on Netflix and waste away the night? Okay, yeah sometimes. It’s a habit we’re trying to break.

But we’ve been able to come across some really great games for just the two of us, and we’ve been having a blast. “Yinsh” is a new favorite of ours – and might be one for those interested in minimalist design to check out.

Yinsh

It’s like Othello on very confusing, triangular steroids. Only it’s not as difficult as it first seems, and is comparable to doing a two-person Sudoku puzzle where your opponent can scramble the numbers to muddle your plans for complete domination. Pattern recognition, strategy and a clear mind are required to get the most out of this game.

Yinsh Board

If you ever need board game suggestions or have any to share, let me know! I’m always open to learning new games and sharing what I find with others.

Note: if you’re unconvinced, consider what Seth Godin has to say about Candyland in his book Linchpin:

Author Steven Johnson hates the board game Candyland and all board games like it. I hate them even more than he does.

‘I realize that games of pure chance have a long history, but that doesn’t make them any less moronic,’ he writes. Here’s how Candyland is played: You pick a card and do what it says. Repeat.

This is early training in agenda following. Indoctrination in obedience. We teach kids that the best way to win is to mindlessly pick cards, follow instructions, and wait for it all to turn out okay.

Sheesh. What a disaster.

My decree: If you own a copy, burn it. Replace it with Cosmic Encounters or chess or a big box filled with wooden blocks. Please don’t look at school or even board games the same way again. If they’re teaching your kids or future employees to be map readers and agenda followers, make them stop.”  – Page 193