The Timeless Pleasure of Playing Games

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Welcome. One of the conversations I find myself having frequently with loved ones in recent months is about how we experience time passing. Is it plodding, each month seeming, since March, to contain twice as many days? Or is it careening by, a windblown mess of calendar pages left in its dust?

It’s a luxury, to be sure, to have the bandwidth to consider such questions, to think about how we’re managing and making sense of time. Last week, I asked you about the tiny things you do each day that constitute a routine, how you wrangle whatever hours you have at your disposal and try to give them meaning.

Albert in California is baking muffins each morning. Lou in New Jersey does daily drawings. Jean-François, Quebec, kisses his wife first thing. Many are finding routine in yoga, meditation, prayer, walks, caring for plants and pets, drinking coffee outside. Julia, who’s been working to increase production of her own food, spends quality time each day with her chickens. Barbara is trying to “do the next right thing.”

My At Home colleagues are playing games. Ted is losing himself in city simulation video games, where he can control the creation of neighborhoods, transit systems, bus routes, the weather. Frannie plays Trivial Pursuit with her husband, Fishbowl and Codenames online with friends, and the card game Exploding Kittens with her larger family. Jaspal and her husband are building their way through their Lego Architecture sets. “We spend quality time together, working as a team, helping one another complete each step,” she says. “ The end product makes its way onto a bookshelf for us to admire and mark the passage of time.”

I like the New York Times crossword puzzle, where reducing my average daily completion times has become a bit of a part-time job. I loved reading about this treasure hunt on Block Island, which put me in mind of the summer scavenger hunts of my youth as well as Midnight Madness, a dizzyingly fun, large-scale puzzle game that used to take place in New York City in August. Teams would stay up all night solving clues, the answers to which would send them dashing off to another location in the city and the site of the next puzzle. My team never came close to winning, but we loved playing because the game offered what all good games do: diversion, challenge, small victories, catharsis.

The Times has a bunch of good games in addition the crossword. (Spelling Bee is a particular favorite.) Old-school pencil-and-paper games need just two players and a little strategy.

What games are you enjoying lately? Tell us: [email protected]. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for living a good life at home and near it appear below.

Credit…Annelise Capossela
  • Quarantine travel restrictions have become increasingly common throughout the United States, but enforcing them has proved tricky. Some wonder whether it’s a good idea to travel at all, and they may find themselves at odds with friends or family who see little problem with it. As for those who have relocated to work remotely during the pandemic, they may find themselves facing a hefty tax bill.

  • As many of us have been working and living under the same roof with the same people for several months, we may be feeling a bit allergic to all this physical and emotional closeness. Establishing healthy boundaries is essential. This may mean scheduling “noisy time” for kids, or even, if you’ve got the space, repurposing a closet as an office.

Credit…Andrew Purcell for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Carrie Purcell.
  • Chefs known for their carnivorous bents are exploring the possibilities of plant-based charcuterie. They’re curing and smoking fruits and vegetables, creating menu items like smoked carrot “hot dogs” and watermelon ham. The barbecue expert Steven Raichlen has a few of their recipes for you to try.

  • It’s August and, in much of the country, it’s hot. If you’d rather not tend to a bubbling sauce on the stove, we’ve got you covered with 10 no-cook pasta sauces. Each recipe makes use of the season’s produce and can be prepared in the time it takes to boil the noodles. And if you’re up for a little simmering, try Yotam Ottolenghi’s one-pan crispy spaghetti, inspired by his father.

  • And for dessert, Melissa Clark has perfected the poundcake.

Credit…via Ranger Doug’s Enterprises
  • Meet Doug Leen, the “Ranger of the Lost Art” for the national parks. He’s made it his life’s work to locate, restore and reproduce the silk-screened posters created for 13 parks and monuments in the 1930s and ’40s by Works Progress Administration artists.

  • Feeling a little wilted lately? On Wednesday, August 26 at 5:30 p.m. E.T., join our beauty and Well columnist Bee Shapiro; the reporter Danya Issawi; the wellness influencer Marcus Bridgewater, a.k.a. “Garden Marcus”; and the chef Angela Dimayuga for “Happy Garden, Healthy You.” The “mini-staycation” includes meditation, skincare tips, and a lesson in the basics of gardening. RSVP here.

  • And Parul Sehgal says Elena Ferrante’s new novel, “The Lying Life of Adults,” is “suspenseful and propulsive; in style and theme, a sibling to her previous books.”

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