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by Brian Clarey

INDOOR ACTIVITIES

Kings full of aces beats a flush every time.

TUBE TIME

Baby, it’s cold outside… so cold even the transplanted snowbirds are complaining to anyone who will listen. So cold the little kids’ hair freezes at the bus stop. So cold the popsicles are on strike. So cold… well, you get the picture. Point is, it’s way too frigid to venture outside, and it looks like all of us are going to be spending as much time indoors as our lives will allow. As a service to our readers, here’s a list of things that can help stave off cabin fever. First off, you should look at this time as a chance to renew relations between your butt and your couch. Fire up the Netflix account and get some movies or an entire season of a television series. Catch a reality-show marathon on cable — I recommend “Little Miss Perfect” on WE — or master a new video game. And don’t forget that college basketball is in full swing and the NFL playoffs are rolling. Bust out the Snuggie and kick back.

GAME THEORY

Have you heard that puzzles and board games are making a comeback? Probably not, because I just made that up. Nevertheless, a round of Sorry!, Pictionary or Uno is a great way to wile away the indoor hours. Card games are fun, as well. My family likes poker, and believe me you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen the look on a 9-year-old’s face when a full house wipes out his flush. Puzzles, too, qualify as wholesome family entertainment… unless you buy your puzzles at the adult video store.

GLUTTONY

It’s winter, and as a mammal you have the right to pack on layer of winter fat. It’s in your genes! I like to cook hearty, stick-to-the-ribs type stuff when the mercury drops — stews and hearty soups, dense breads, cream sauces and all manner of things laden with cheese. And never discount the warm feelings a tray of nachos, hot wings, fried cheese or warm dip can inspire in a room. On my winter to-do list: chili and fondue.

ATONEMENT

About that layer of fat thing? Yeah…you probably shouldn’t do that. That’s for mammals which conceivably might not get anything to eat for a couple months. Squirrels and such. You, on the other hand, should embrace this time of confinement as an opportunity to get in the best shape of your life —or, at least, get back to the weight you were before you ate all those Christmas cookies. Take advantage of one of those resolution-oriented gym specials, squeeze yourself into a pair of sweats and get to it. Maybe you’ll finally get some action at the water park this year.

INDOOR SPORTS

Denizens of the cold climes know the best way to ride out winter is through participation in indoor sports. You could participate in a bowling or dart league. Pool qualifies, as does, I guess, swimming, but that seems out of the spirit of the enterprise. Think more along the lines of ping-pong and table shuffleboard and you’´re on the right track.

NESTING

It may be too cold outside to tend your garden, but it’´s the perfect time of year to feather your nest. Tighten up your crib by painting a room, installing carpet or flooring, remodeling a bathroom or finishing a basement. Those of you who have recently found yourselves among the idle poor (i.e.: unemployed) may discover that a household project can give a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Even if you’´re broke, rearranging the furniture and wall hangings can shake things up a bit.

ENTERTAIN

It’´s in our DNA to gather; we’´re herd animals at heart. So use the weather as an excuse to have a bunch of friends over, where everyone can complain about the cold while at the same time explaining how much colder it was when they were kids. Cook a meal or have everyone bring a covered dish, play some music and have conversation by the fire. Or tap a keg and fire up the iPod while everybody gets trashed in the garage. The world is your oyster.

PROCREATE

The oldest and best method of keeping warm involves bare skin and body heat, and maybe a little Barry White. It’´s no secret why most babies in the US are born in late summer and early fall — because it’´s nine months after winter.

VIRTUAL EXISTENCE

Learn what curious shut-ins have known for years: There are entire worlds to explore right from the comfort of your own home, provided you have a high-speed internet connection and a willingness to accept the fact that the avatars with which you are interacting might not be exactly who they say they are. Second Life is an online universe with millions of subscribers and its own form of currrency. World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs have lands to conquer and quests to fulfill. There are chat rooms and poker tables, Skype and AIM, an entire Facebook universe of activities and a huge chunk of the inetrtubes devoted solely to online sex. This is the best time in the history of the world to be a shut-in.

SKIP TOWN

If you’´ve got the ways and means, you just might want to shake the snow off your boots and get on an airplane or a cruise ship and ride the rest of this winter out in style somewhere a bit closer to the equator. Because winter is not without its charms, but wouldn’t we all rather be reenacting a Corona commercial on some tropical beach than scraping the ice from our windshields?

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