Warming the Bod-Fantastic: Stop Asking Winter Not To Be Cold
Beverage of the morning: Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Tea
Soundtrack: The Best of Winter Jazz -
It is 7:00 AM and Riley has his head on the foot on the bed eyeballing me intensely for signs of stirring. I groggily reach for my phone and tap the weather app. Twenty degrees out. Ok, that is downright balmy. I hear those words in my head and have to smile. I have come a long way since last year. Even though the snow is a foot deep outside and all I really want to do is hibernate until Spring, I sling my legs over the side of the bed and start pulling on layers.
After walking the dog, I go out and start the car and clean it off with the snow brush. Then there is shoveling a short path to the back door. This took a lot longer than I anticipated and I had to congratulate myself on the bundle up efforts. I was outside about an hour and was quite comfortable. Since I have been out here getting my country mouse on, I have had to learn how to be warm when outside. I had to stop asking winter not to be cold. I didn't want to start my day with a complaint and a grumble. I wanted to be able to enjoy myself on winter mornings without freezing my face and butt and fingers off.
When I lived in the city, I used to just avoid being outside. There was absolutely no reason to be outside when it was below forty degrees. I would let the dog out into the yard and deal with the clean up come Spring. Keep warm efforts usually involved cranking the heat up. I lived in old houses with radiator heat which rattled and banged comfortingly, as well as homes with forced air situations where nothing was more welcome on chilly winter mornings that the steady woosh of hot air blowing out into the rooms. As a mother, making sure my kids were warm when going to school became somewhat of an obsession of mine and I was always picking up thin sweat pants, stretch pants, thermals and long sleeved t-shirts from the Target or the thrift store. I don't think my children ever wore just one pair of pants or an individual shirt from November through March. They rarely went without undershirts too. And even now, the sight of some child's body loosely roaming around a shirt, undershirt free, gives me a chill.
Being out here in what feels like no-mans-land (but is really just a sub-rural hop, skip and a jump away from asphalt) had some weather proofing lessons for me. Without a fenced in yard, I had to figure out how to stay warm if Riley was to ever be walked outside in the winter months. Last winter there were many an abbreviated outdoor session where we made it to the end of the driveway only to be chased back to the house by biting winds laughing and slapping me around. This was not the winter wonderland I had heard of. My boots were cute but not waterproof. The cold seeped into the thin soles making my toes burn inside of uncomfortably damp socks. After five minutes, my fingers would be stiff despite the fleece gloves, and the wind found its way between every tooth in the zipper of my jacket. I said to myself, 'this is not going to work. I have to figure this thing out!' I knew that the answer was not just one big gob of a coat, the key to staying warm is layers. I was ready to stock up on the old waffle weave long johns and then I discovered thin thermals! Cuddle-duds and similar brands have these silky tops and bottoms that feel great and don't add a lot of bulk. You could wear the pants over tights and under a dress and they would look like leggings. The tops look like regular t-shirts and layer beautifully. I found a pretty good selection at Marshalls at 40% off. I was impressed and hopeful. The next thing I looked into were fleece lined tights and stretch pants. Nice. These are also great layering pieces and are nice for lounging around the house. There are other brands that are made from merino wool blends which I may invest in this season.
There is no need to be cold!
And you don't have to strap a space heater to each leg either.
Ok. We now have on one or two "base layers", depending on the temperature. Now its time to add outer layers. I tend to add a layer per ten degree drop. In this scenario, let's say we are at about ten degrees fahrenheit. I would have on two base layers and then I want something heavier and more tightly woven, like denim. When the temperature drops below zero, I do have heavier weight (still thin!) thermals and I will pull a pair of sweats over my jeans. Layers are key but you have to be able to move around and not be a sausage.
On top I have my base layer silky or thin thermal, then a turtleneck. I can either add a hoodie or a fleece pullover or sweatshirt over the turtle neck but I find the thermal plus turtle to be plenty warm under my jackets. Yep, I said jackets. Now, I'm sure there are ski jackets meant to handle freezing temperatures and maybe I'll invest in one some day but for now, when it is really cold out I use my packable down jacket as a layer inside of my winter jacket. My packable down is thin and fits snugly and is comfortable under my roomier winter work coat. The winter work coat is a decent weight, I just like the more snuggly feeling of the down jacket underneath plus two hoods if needed. Which brings me to head gear.
Hoods are great, especially with a drawstring to bring them tight around your face so the wind doesn't swoop about your neck. You will want your forehead covered as well. A good, windproof hat that covers your ears will work just fine. I am loving my mud-cloth sherpa lined hat. It has a brim so I can tip it down to block wind which is a bonus. It is toasty and snug and definitely jazzes things up in the winter wear department. The face was the most problematic for me as I worked out all the snowflakes in the equation. Right now what is working for my face is a scarf wound about the lower half. My breath helps it stay warm in there and I can bring it up over the nose or I can dip it down to get fresh air. My cheeks stay warm this way. There are ski masks available too but I have not had to go that route as of yet. A pair of real ski gloves took care of the digits. No stretchy micro-fiber hand coverings unless they were going inside of some real ski gloves. Heavy duty suede or leather work gloves are nice too if there is shoveling or other tasks to handle that require more dexterity.
Warm socks are a must but even more important is a waterproof boot with a thick sole. I lucked up on a relatively inexpensive pair of Unionbay hiking boots from, again...Marshall's. They went to Sedona, Arizona and back and handled the red rocks beautifully blister-free. I wasn't sure how they would hold up in the snow considering the price, but so far so good. They are still fine for dog walking, hiking, and gardening. I grab them for everything and appreciate the traction in the snow and my feet do not get cold. Like, not at all. Who knew this was possible? Or maybe I was the only one who didn't know?
This has all been in order to be outside for a considerable length of time and feel comfortable. Believe it or not there are all sorts of fun things to do outside in the winter. I just saw joggers going by this morning! I probably won't be jogging, but a winter bonfire would be nice. Or a daytime nature photo shoot. Or, maybe just a walk in the woods icicle hunting. 'Whatever your winter outdoor adventure, allow yourself time to get dressed and undressed,' says Riley. He seems to have finally connected this to the fur-covered ease with which he is ready to get out in the snow every morning and has stopped racing back and forth to the door, coming back to look at me incredulously as I pull on another pair of pants . Also, running to the bathroom only to find one has six things to navigate before the squat can be problematic so plan accordingly by listening to your bod-fantastic.
One time, I went outside...
And a beautiful Snow Queen came by...
She told me to stop asking winter not to be cold.
If traveling in the cold to perhaps a meeting or office type situation, I would focus more on removable outer layers so I could adjust to inside temperatures and be comfortable. Think hoodies and fleece pullovers or jeans with sweats over them. If your bus stalls or the car gets a flat, you will be suited up appropriately and you can peel down once you arrive at your destination.
The same is true for a cooler inside situation. Save yourself the sticker shock of accumulative gas bills over the winter months. I tend to keep my heat at or around 65 degrees. I am lucky in that my home tends to be warmer upstairs than downstairs so I mostly hang out there until the spring thaw but will still don a few layers to brave the kitchen and family room areas. I just can't afford a thousand dollar gas bill and I have gotten used to the cooler environment, the body is remarkably adaptable. If you come to visit me, (or any heat-challenged situation) layer up! Silky thermals underneath warm pajamas or fleecy lounge pants, thick fuzzy socks, fleece pullovers, wraps and shawls, bring it! Mittens and gloves optional. You are officially invited to get your cozy on. I keep an assortment of comforters, blankets, and quilts at the ready. There is always a pot of tea of coffee brewing and I've been known to make soup. Sidle up to the fireplace and chill. I mean...well, you know what I mean.
I am still very much so learning as I go so I would love to know your tips and tricks for being a four season citizen. Let me know in the comments below!
Is winter wear expensive? Yes, it can be, but cheaper then a wild gas bill. Again I suggest checking Marshalls or Target for discounted prices. I want you to be warm right now but after season clearances may yield a few finds for next season. Until then, there are also many creative items that can be used as layers from flannel pajama pants to sweats. Quality winter gear makes a great gift so ask for it or give it to your loved ones. I know at least two friends who are getting silky thermals from me this holiday season. I am so tired of hearing them say, 'I'm cooooold." If you are lucky enough to live in a four season state, a few thoughtful pieces can make a tremendous difference in year-round comfort. Go on outside, enjoy yourself and and as the song goes, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!