Housebound and bored - help us find an evening diversion.
May 5, 2009 7:57 PM   Subscribe

We have turned into my parents: What do housebound couples do for kicks in the evening, besides the obvious?

Quite the pathetic question, but here it is anyway. My husband and I live in an inner city with our young son. We take care of his needs early in the evening, and he is generally tucked into bed before 7pm nightly, and asleep shortly afterwards.

Then my husband and I look at each other, shrug, and say "So waddya want to do now?"

In short, we are out of ideas of ways to entertain ourselves in the evenings, and have begun going to bed, like retirees, at about 8:30pm. It's pitiful. Last night we tried to remember what we used to do for fun back in the day. We are joking that we should get a hobby, which is probably ridiculous considering the various ways our lives are over-extended during the day with parenting, studying, working etc.

So what should we do for kicks? I would love some ideas.

• We loathe TV, and never watch it.
• We only have a few nights a week together because of work schedules, so we generally abstain from things we could do alone, like surfing the web or studying, and stick to doing things together and shared interests.
• We can't go out, because junior is in bed.
• We live in an inner city apartment, so no garden
• We are lovers of cultural things - music, art, film, architecture, travel, design, cooking as well as having shared interests in history, politics, pop culture, philosophy, astronomy, and other sciences. I would say our interests are very diverse, and our conversations tend to be about cerebral things. We are curious, nerdy people who enjoy discussing "ideas". We both LOVE to cook.
• We like to laugh
• We already know how to have sex, and probably don't need help with that
• When we weren't housebound we used to walk around the city, eat out, meet friends for drinks, go to movies, and go to rock shows. We rarely stayed in together

Any ideas? A project, games, at home cup cake business, slow and quiet renovation of our home... God help me, we're in a lame rut and we need your help.
posted by lottie to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
if you both love to cook, preparing multicourse meals together ("you handle the ____ and i'll make the _____") can be delightful if you have the room.

also, there has sort of been a board game renaissance in the last few years. you can find all sorts of resources online that will describe and show you games, letting you discover what would fit your tastes best. start with and go from there.

there are many, many ways to find concerts online. just bcs you can't GO to one doesn't mean you can WATCH one. have an event! crack a beer, stand in your living room, hold hands, and rock out.

also, you might hate TV, but i can't reccomend video gaming strongly enough. whatever kinds of "games" you enjoy to play, you will find something you can share either simultaneously or turn-based in a video game system. specific choices boil down to your personal preferences, but is a good place to get general ideas of what's out there and how people liked it.

have you thought about working on a project together? is there something you'd like to build or craft? can you split busywork on something like that?

basically, if you love each other and want to spend time together, just keep your hands busy and your brains and hearts will do the rest.
posted by radiosilents at 8:09 PM on May 5, 2009

Can't you have people over? I have friends who do this and their daughter slept right through a food themed oscar party.
posted by sweetkid at 8:10 PM on May 5, 2009


No, for serious. It sounds like you two desperately need to get out of the house more, not find replacement things to do in the house. If money is an issue (and when is money not an issue?) try swapping nights with friends.

How about inviting friends in? Might have to keep the noise level down (but it's not the end of the world if JR gets woken up every now and then) but a night of trivia or charades or whatever board games you like with some friends could be just right. Since you love to cook, you could make it a standing thing- "Tuesday Night Sushi and Charades" or whatever.

I love reading, but life often intervenes. Why not set aside a night just for reading, and then swap books so you can talk about them later? Better yet, read aloud to each other.

You don't like TV, but what about movies and high-quality mini-series on historical things? I can think of worse ways to spend a night than watching and discussing Ken Burns' Civil War or (yes, going there!) The Wire- it's not TV, it's HBO!
posted by charmcityblues at 8:11 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

We loathe TV, and never watch it....We are lovers of cultural things - music, art, film, architecture, travel, design, cooking as well as having shared interests in history, politics, pop culture, philosophy, astronomy, and other sciences.

These don't have to be mutually exclusive. Check out the revamped Frontline website and watch an episode a night. Or get a Netflix subscription and rent foreign films, documentaries, operas, etc.

Second checking out BoardGameGeek and finding some games that sound interesting to you both.

Take up painting or drawing. Buy an inexpensive electric piano that has a headphone jack and teach yourself to play the piano. If you get one that has the right kind of output and you have a Mac, you can hook it up to GarageBand and use the built-in lessons.

Consider a windowsill garden. You can grow herbs or flowers or both.

Renovation ideas: touch up cracks and chips in the paint; if you have a sewing machine, make some decorative pillows.
posted by jedicus at 8:12 PM on May 5, 2009

When we weren't housebound we used to walk around the city, eat out, meet friends for drinks, go to movies, and go to rock shows. We rarely stayed in together

you don't have to BE housebound, you know—other couples hire babysitters, or ask good friends or relatives to watch their kids every once in a while, so they can go out and do things by themselves together for a bit.
posted by lia at 8:14 PM on May 5, 2009

Response by poster: Oh great suggestions already! Just an additional point, our son sleeps through practically anything. Noise is not an issue.
posted by lottie at 8:14 PM on May 5, 2009

Cook some fancy meals? I found a glass of wine and chatting in the kitchen while cooking is nice together time.
We watch some TV - lateline and Q&A on the ABC are good for prompting more cerebral conversations, although on a bit late for me ;-)
We occasionally play a grown up board game like Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne.
Have you a friendly couple in the same situation? If so, make a regular dinner date taking turns. Junior will be fine to stay asleep on the ride home.
You used to go to the movies? Make one night a week stay-in movie night. Thanks to Torrents you can usually see whatever is just released.
posted by bystander at 8:16 PM on May 5, 2009

read to each other - this is especially good with humorous material - like David Sedaris stories, or Douglas Adams.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2009

-Double-team a crossword puzzle book
-Limitless card games

Read to each other (Short stories, or take turns on chapters of a novel)

Write the story of your life. Pick a topic or age-range, and you each write about it. Read each others' stories, and help each other edit. Save the stories for your son.

Seconding painting or drawing. Even if you suck, it's a fun bonding experience.

Movies (Even if you loathe TV, there are so many fantastic classic and new movies that will stimulate endless conversation. Just choose quality. Netflix will provide you with movies and documentaries that address "cultural things - music, art, film, architecture, travel, design, cooking as well as having shared interests in history, politics, pop culture, philosophy, astronomy, and other sciences".)
posted by The Deej at 8:28 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thirding reading aloud. As a bonus, once Junior gets a few years older, you can haul out some of the various childhood classics and you have an instant Family Bonding Activity.

Reading aloud was actually quite a common ritual in my household when I was growing up, and we still do it when we're all together on vacations and during holidays. We like to read funny things (David Sedaris and James Thurber both get pulled off the shelf a lot), but we've also done more literature-ey stuff: we've had a lot of success with both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen; adventure stories, like Lord of the Rings or Sherlock Holmes stories, have worked well, too.

Of course, those are just some of what's worked for my family. Obviously, you can read anything you like -- that's the beauty of it. With such varied interests, I doubt you'll have trouble coming up with material.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:05 PM on May 5, 2009

We like to play Gin, on the odd night where we don't want to go out or watch TV. It's intellectual, challenging, and you can cary on conversation.

You could prepare your lunches for the next day. Bento boxes are trendy right now. You could make his, and vice versa. Share the kitchen, and be together, but also tuck in some surprises. Great way to use up leftovers, and get creative.

Bake something for breakfast the next morning, like scones.

We also like to download NPR podcasts of Wait Wait, and listen to them together. It's better than TV, stimulates conversation, and we share laughs.

Video games can be fun for couples, and aren't necessarily anti-social, especially Wii games. We like Wario Ware, but it may not be for everyone. Trauma Center 2, if you get past the crazy lame j-pop music, is a lot of fun to play together. Also for download on PS3, Pixel Junk Monsters is a great co-op game.

Yoga? Might be a hard sale on some.

Yes, I do realize this post may parody Things White People Like.
posted by fontophilic at 9:12 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cook some really great dinners together to bring to the Ronald McDonald House near your local children's hospital. You get to cook together, and your good food will help some very worried parents who don't have the time or inclination to cook.
posted by headnsouth at 9:23 PM on May 5, 2009

Bake things- bread, cookies, pies, whatever floats your boat.

Learn a hobby together- knitting? Pottery? Making fun electronic things? Programming?

And perhaps, don't give up on the TV? There are some high quality TV shows out there that are more like episodic films than anything else. A few of the canonical suggestions are The Wire, Mad Men, The Sopranos, almost anything else by HBO. The Office and 30 Rock are great if you like their style(s) of comedy. Season DVDs are easy to rent, and you can space out episodes so it's almost like real TV but without commercials and on your own schedule.
posted by MadamM at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2009

We are curious, nerdy people who enjoy discussing "ideas". We both LOVE to cook.

Then do both!

Pour a couple of glasses of wine. Put on a cerebral podcast, perhaps one from Radio National or the BBC. The Forum is particularly good, but there are plenty of options.

Make dinner while you listen - either cook the meal together, or put an armchair in the kitchen and take turns cooking something impressive while the other person watches in comfort. Either way, by the time the meal's ready, the podcast will be over and you'll both have plenty ideas to discuss over dinner.
posted by embrangled at 9:36 PM on May 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

the NPR/podcast idea is a GREAT one. my gal and i have had fun with this, and it's way more conversation-provoking than TV (speaking generally).
posted by radiosilents at 11:01 PM on May 5, 2009

Oh my god... movies, and we too in our household never watch TV anymore. Several years ago I started taking a hard left from the usual Hollywood schlock and there is just a gold mine out there that's bubbled under, and if you find foreign films palatable that just triples the choices. Five years ago I thought I'd seen every decent movie there was to see. And since then I've found probably 300 awesome ones. It just never ends if you keep looking. RottenTomatoes and Cannes lists are a good starting point. IMDB and AFI suck -- too mainstream. And YES, go to the miniseries. The Wire isn't all there is... there's Deadwood, I Claudius, Rich Man Poor Man, Foyle's War, To Serve Them All My Days, Upstairs Downstairs, From The Earth To The Moon, etc, etc, etc.

Plus you can get a cheap LCD projector for only several hundred dollars, too. There are forums out there expressly for this kind of thing. That way you can have cinema entertainment every night. I have an old Proxima I got off eBay for $350 a few years ago with a 5 x 8' Wilsonart laminate screen and guests are always awed.
posted by crapmatic at 11:43 PM on May 5, 2009

Another suggestion is the radio. We sometimes put on ABC 702 in the evening when we are folding the clothes or ironing. Between 7 and 8pm weeknights they have a trivia quiz and between arguing about the answers and commenting on whether the callers that ring in are right or wrong we are interactively entertained. Note for US readers, this is more like lightweight NPR than "talk" radio.
posted by bystander at 3:38 AM on May 6, 2009

Came in here to Nth Board games. My wife and I have *mostly* replaced the time we used to spend watching TV with playing board games.
There are a ton of couples suggestions geeklists on BGG, but here are a couple of our favorites:

Carcassonne - A tile laying area control game. My wife loves it because its somewhat like putting together a puzzle. A warning, this game can be VERY cutthroat in two player mode though. We were playing last night, and I set myself up to steal her 36 point City that only had one Knight on it.. Oh man was she pissed. This game is kid compatible too, my son has been playing since we started, and he was 5 at the time.

Blokus - Lay little colorful tetris like tiles to see who can get the most town. If you are going to mostly play two player, get travel blokus, otherwise pick the full game up. My son LOVES this game.

Bohnanza - A card based game of trading, planting, and selling beans. I know it doesn't sound interesting like that, but its a blast with a bunch of players, or just two.

Rat-a-tat-cat - This one is a kids game, but I find my wife and I playing it allmost as much alone as with our son. Try to get the lowest total among all your cards, the catch? Your cards are all face down, and you have to remember which is which.

If you guys are lucky enough to enjoy similiar genres, a few other suggestions that I can hardly ever get my wife to play:

Race for the Galaxy - a Sci-fi card game where players race to collect the most victory points.

Last Night On Earth - Works well from 2-6 players. Some players play the zombies, the rest play the remaining humans in a small town. Great game with tons of missions and fun stuff to do.

RuneBound - Plays good solo or with multiple people. A fun Fantasy race to defeat the dragon lord. Can be played Co-op or competitive. Tons of small and large expansions for it.

Also, If she likes cooking with you, that can be a great couples activity. I wish my wife enjoyed cooking more, but the time we do spend in the kitchen is great.
posted by JonnyRotten at 3:45 AM on May 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

also, you might hate TV, but i can't reccommend video gaming strongly enough. whatever kinds of "games" you enjoy to play, you will find something you can share either simultaneously or turn-based in a video game system.

This is what we do. We find something we play together, whether it be on the computer or console.

We also hate watching TV, but enjoy watching particular shows when we can get them on DVD and watch them in order. Try getting Netflix and renting some good shows on DVD, or getting a DVR if you have cable (we don't). You can watch a couple episodes each evening.
posted by thejanna at 6:04 AM on May 6, 2009

Doing big projects around the house together (cleaning out the garage, painting a room, etc) is a good way to have couple time, plus you get stuff done.

Get the list of the 100 MUST see movies of all time and make it a point to see every one of them with popcorn, candy and the works.

Hire that sitter.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 6:33 AM on May 6, 2009

Get your weekly chores done so that you have time on the weekends for fun.

There is nothing wrong with TV, it's what you watch. In the bad old days before Tivo and Netflix, you were forced to watch whatever was on. But now with on-demand and DVRs and Netflix, you can choose what to watch. Quite frankly, there is a lot of quality entertainment available out there. You just have to find programs that you like. I used to hate watching cable programs because of the onerous commercial interruptions and duplication of information. * Now with a dvr, I can watch things I like and skip over the crap.

(Nothing wrong with going to bed early on weeknights- whether for fun or sleep. I can only speak for myself, but I can't imagine going back to the up-all-night lifestyle. The idea of waking up unrefreshed and unready to face the new day gives me chills. I love going to bed early because I can wake up early. Or "sleep in" and still be ready to go at 8am.)

* You know what I'm talking about, the History Channel is notorious for it. So is Mythbusters. I love the content in those shows, but they constantly rehash what they have already talked about. With a DVR, you can get all the content in nearly half the time.
posted by gjc at 6:55 AM on May 6, 2009

I want to second others' ideas about cooking at night. If you've already had dinner with your little one, than you probably want to branch out and cook something else. Making each other lunch is a great idea. What about batch cooking for the rest of the week/month? I couldn't find the book I use on Amazon, but this has the general idea.
posted by purpletangerine at 6:57 AM on May 6, 2009

Get a dog. They are constant sources of entertainment.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:04 AM on May 6, 2009

We, too, are hermits -- more by choice than by child -- I'm the knitting geek, he's the comic book geek, we tend to spend a lot of time together but doing our own thing. Nthing the joint hobby suggestions above, though I would say if I had a choice it would be pretty kickass if my boyfriend took up knitting with me. (Or, spin it, I'll knit it...) It isn't going to happen, but it would be cool. Maybe I can live vicariously through you instead! :)

Or how about both taking up instruments?
posted by at 7:08 AM on May 6, 2009

Watching movies is an obvious suggestion, but to make it a bit more interesting, schedule little film festivals or themed choices. We've been watching the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies in chronological order, and watching them that way gives you a lot more to discuss/think about than just a random selection of classics -- we never would have been able to notice / talk about the differences in the films before & after the Hays production code if we hadn't watched them that way.
posted by the bricabrac man at 7:41 AM on May 6, 2009

If your son really sleeps through anything, Rock Band.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:15 AM on May 6, 2009

Wii. Duh.
posted by ostranenie at 11:19 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) Netflix
2) Back rubs
3) Foot massages
4) Taking a good long walk
5) Play with the cats
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 7:45 PM on May 6, 2009

My husband and I have set up a bird feeder and have been sitting on the porch watching all the birds that come by. We bring the laptop outside and have used to identify them all.

We've decided that mockingbirds are complete assholes.
posted by chiababe at 9:19 AM on May 7, 2009

My vote is for a shortened cocktail hour after the baby is asleep, then start making a complicated dinner.
posted by jmevius at 10:16 AM on May 7, 2009

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