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Home for the holidays

By now, you're probably acquainted with the beginning-to-get-tired term "staycation." Sure, making use of local parks, engaging in recreational activities and embarking on backyard camp-outs are excellent, low-CO2 alternatives to traveling during...

Home for the holidays
f you plan on sticking close to home during the holidays, it helps to plan ahead so you don't end up wasting your well-deserved time off. There are plenty of ways to make good, green use of your free time around the casa if you're voluntarily housebound. (Ali Johnson/The Kansas City Star/MCT)

By now, you're probably acquainted with the beginning-to-get-tired term "staycation." Sure, making use of local parks, engaging in recreational activities and embarking on backyard camp-outs are excellent, low-CO2 alternatives to traveling during the summer, but during the winter months when cabin fever sets in, you might end up cursing yourself for not booking that trip to Maui. I mean, really, how many times during a 10-day stretch can you visit the Sparta Teapot Museum, play backgammon with the neighbors and clean out the garage? Not too many, I'm guessing.

If you do plan on sticking close to home during the holidays, it helps to plan ahead so you don't end up spending your well-deserved time off reenacting scenes from "The Shining" or counting down the minutes until your holiday is over. Below are 10 ways to make good, green use of your free time around the casa if you're voluntarily housebound. While they may not be the most sexy or glamorous ways to pass the time, these are activities that you'll probably thank yourself later for doing. Let's get to it ...

_ PERFORM ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME IMPROVEMENTS: Now that "cash for caulkers" is one step closer to becoming a reality, it's an opportune time to embark on home improvements that will lower both your utility bills and your carbon footprint. Support your local green job force by hiring a home energy auditing team to inspect your abode. It could prove to be an enlightening daylong diversion and you could tempt kindly auditors with any leftover desserts that you're trying to get rid of. If you already know the problem areas around your home, perform low-cost DIY weatherization projects like caulking, placing shrink wrap plastic over drafty windows, installing foam outlet gaskets or making a homemade draft stopper.

_ READ A BOOK: Lounging around the house while everyone else is behind the wheel or freaking out at the airport is a primo excuse to catch up on reading. Some recommended green home-and-garden-themed titles published this year: "Architecture in Times of Need," "Eco House Book," "Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home," "Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies," "PreFab Green," "Super Natural Home" and "Green: Architecture Now!"

_ WATCH A MOVIE: While heading out (preferably via public transportation) to catch a movie at your local multiplex is always an option, why not stick around the house and cozy up with a green film that you've been meaning to see but haven't had the chance to watch? Check out "Food, Inc." or "No Impact Man," among others. Or, if you'd like a good holiday scare, try an animal-themed horror film such as "The Birds" or "Open Water," or one featuring homicidal plants like "The Ruins" or "The Happening."

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_ INDULGE THE KIDS: Yes, you read that right. If you got 'em, lure the little ones away from the Wii for a hot minute (or couple of hours) and plan a fun family activity that involves creative crafting, eco-education, recycling and energy conservation tutorials, and so on. MNN parenting blogger Jenn Savedge suggests you teach your child to respect other people's traditions and cherish his own with her guide to multicultural winter celebrations: www.mnn.com/family/holiday/blogs/multicultural-winter-holiday-celebrations .

_ CLEAN HOUSE: Is your home, for one reason or another, a perpetual sty? Go on a daylong cleaning rampage while experimenting with eco-friendly cleaning methods and products that you haven't tried out before. Try natural cleaning and laundering products like 20 Mule Team Borax, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and white vinegar. If purging your home of unnecessaries is part of your cleaning regimen, make sure to donate, not dump, when possible.

_ REINTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE KITCHEN: Even if you aren't a culinary genius, why not take advantage of a staycation by trying out some new recipes that you've been meaning to tackle? Eating Well magazine, among others, features a lot of seasonal recipes. And for aspiring or established foodies with a bit of spare time (to mess up and experiment) on their hands, you could try a local and/or organic ingredient-based meal.

_ PAINT THE HOUSE GREEN: Painting a single room can be a loooong process that involves not only paint time but significant commitment to prep and clean up. With your free time, why not give two rooms a makeover using low/no-VOC paints like Natura from Benjamin Moore?

_ GO TREASURE HUNTING: Visiting flea markets, estate sales and antique stores in search of furniture and home accessories cannot be a harried experience ... you need ample time to really peruse the merch before finding a diamond in the rough. Commit an entire day to antiquing and then head straight home and spruce up a room or two with your secondhand finds. If you have an eye for DIY, transform ragtag previously owned purchases into completely new and fetching creations.

_ GO (HOME) STEADY: Although wintertime may not be the best time to give up modern creature comforts and try your hand at self-reliance, why not give it a shot? The modern homesteading movement is quickly picking up steam as many suburban and urbanites experiment with low-impact, countrified ways of life. Try canning, homebrewing, composting, growing your own food, knitting ... the possibilities are endless as long as you have an open mind.

_ RELAX!

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
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