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trounce winterís dark and 
chill with mini-parties
by Katy Balcer
1 2 3 4 

In the northern hemisphere, at least, weíre stuck in the dead of winter. And if your thermometer reads anything close to what mine does, you probably donít need to be reminded of that. Right about mid-January, I tend to find myself in a state of post-holiday numbness. Each day seems the same, and I wonder when Iíll ever feel the warmth of the sun again. Rather than fight the elements, I tend to give in. You might be familiar with the form of surrender Iím talking about Ė itís called ďhibernation.Ē

These days, a common scenario is this: get home from work, shovel something hot into my face, and settle into the folds of my comfy couch with a stack of library books, letters to write, the remote control, or all of the above. A bowl of pistachios is never out of armís reach. In bed by ten. Cozy, yes, but all in all, a very isolated way to be, despite the strong, sleepy allure of giving into winter.

This lifestyle lacks something. Other people! Even knowing this, however, I donít think itís uncommon in the Ďdead monthsí of winter to want to opt out of having major plans, for going out entails having to drive in unpredictable elements, bundle up in lumpy layers, face the wind chill, for heavenís sake!

So why not make people come to you? Here are three ideas for low-key, comfy gatherings thatíll make sure you and your friends wonít become totally isolated. And no one has to get dressed up, either.

poker night
Just ask your grandmaópoker isnít just a guy thing, though tv, movies, and lowbrow art would have you believe only men and dogs play the game. With only a few gamblers, one deck of cards, and something to wager, youíre off. You donít even have to play for money or use boring poker chips; you can bet food, coupons for favors, stamps, anything. And if poker tires, you can always play the dealer and turn your table onto blackjack.

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