Ah, yes. The beginning of the true cold season. The full force of Old Man Winter is almost upon us, and, once again, our lands have turned on their own, banishing the temperate temperatures and non-mitten days for the next nine months.
The easiest ways to just get through winter are, to most, obvious and few. One, soak it all in and enjoy, by indulging in every winter sport that you can get your wool-socked feet into. Two, tolerate it the best that you can, by purchasing the warmest of winter coats, stocking up on an overload of firewood, and running as fast as you can manage from your front door to your car door. And three, go into complete denial, stroll around in shorts even when the temp hits minus 10, and, after about a month of this defiance, finally snap and purchase a one-way ticket to Antigua.
But what about the gentler pursuits that are so often overlooked just when you might need them? When was the last time you pulled out an old board game played charades had a theme party created something with your friends... or made your own gourmet dinner instead of grabbing a bag of fast food on the way home?
Winter is the perfect time to pursue these more simple pleasures, and here are a few suggestions on how to do just that.
A GUST OF GAMES
When the wind is buffeting the heck out of your windows, call all of your friends and have a game night with the gang. This ones easy, especially if you rely on a game of cards or traditional charades to get things started - but to really get the laughter going, just get out your old games of childhood - from checkers and Candyland to Simon and Twister - and call the gang over again for a night of acting like kids, right down to the snacks - try stuff like Doritos, Cheetos, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Kool-Aid.
Not adult enough fer ya? Then step up the gaming with popular game pastimes like Trivial Pursuit, Cranium (that ones a hoot, as its like six games in one), Taboo, Scattergories, or your own version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Survivor (vote your friends off of your own island) or Deal or No Deal (using gift certificates to local restaurants and stores as the mystery suitcase prizes, perhaps?).
If analog isnt your thing, then pull out the PS2, XBox, or Gamecube for a night of stalking spies in Goldeneye, a few rounds of Guitar Hero, or perhaps a co-op game of Mario Party.
A FLURRY OF FUN, PART ONE
When a snowstorm prevents you from pursuing your out-of-town plans, dont feel desolate - take advantage of the unexpected time off, and call the gang again for a theme party.
Theme parties these days are highly underrated - your pals might poke fun at the idea once again, but once theyre in the midst of it, theyll actually be glad that the storm grounded that flight to San Fran!
A few good ones to banish the winter blues are ones that are set in warmer territories than our own. Try a party set in your favorite faraway destination if youd like to set your party in Spain, you could watch a travelogue on DVD, play a little flamenco music, serve up some sangria and paella, and say Ole! For France, put on Amelie or The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, fire up the Edith Piaf, make a hearty French Country Cassoulet, see how much French you remember from high school with some French flash cards... you get the idea.
Have a Black and White party, where all of the decorations - and foods - think grilled black rye bread and swiss cheese sandwiches, Oreo cookies, colas and sparkling waters - are black and white; watch old black and white movies, and make up some mix tapes where the songs either have black or white in the title.
Or, have an Academy Awards party; gather the gang to watch a favorite cult TV show (Heroes anyone?) or celebrate a less popular holiday - dig out your creativity and just think of the party possibilites for Alaska Admission Day (January 3), Kazoo Day (January 28), or Frozen Food Day (March 6).
FLURRY OF FUN, PART TWO
Arts and Crafts nights or Project nights are great in two ways. Try developing your own game world with an RPG - or Roleplaying Game - night, or invent your own board game, with some people working on the board itself, some making the game pieces, and some outlining the game rules.
For those who are into sewing or knitting, Stitch Nights are great, because everyone can work individually on their own project (brought along from home) while communally enjoying conversation, coffee, and snacks. Same applies to painting, woodcarving, sketching, jewelry making - anything that can be stuffed into a bag can be taken to a friends house to enjoy the camaraderie while being creative.
You can arrange your own writing workshops, whether for stories, poetry, songs, or scripts, with like-minded friends; or if youre into acting or dancing, get your fellow thespians or dancers together to practice.
THE CLIMATE FOR COOKING
If you are one of those who think that everythings better with food, then have a cooking night where everyone is in charge of one dish, from the appetizer to salad, soup to entree to dessert, and watch the fun happen right in your own kitchen. Or go back to that theme night idea, and make up an entire menu from your chosen country or type of cuisine thats cooperatively cooked - and eaten, of course - by your circle of friends.
Have a random chef night, where one person is chosen to cook a special dish for everyone else (its someone elses turn next time, of course).
Have a random recipe night, or do a progressive dinner, where you go to one persons house for appetizers, another persons house for soup, anothers for the entree... all the way to after-dinner coffees.
And theres always the old-reliable potluck dinner, where everyone brings a dish and theyre all shared over conversation, laughter... and, hey, perhaps some board games.