staying warm

as the freezing sideways snow continues to attack both air and ground outside, boggling my mind with the reality, once again, that each snowflake is totally individually unique, it seems a good time to catalog what i have learned in my 2 detroit winters about staying warm.

here i mean staying warm as opposed to looking warm, trying to stay warm, or staying cute.

from the inside out, documenting my staying warm strategy:

– drink lots of water. i can’t prove it, but i suspect that when you get dehydrated your skins cracks and then the cold slips in through those cracks into your bones. cold weather is dry, and at the very least, your miserable cold cracked skin is painful and awful. so drink tons of water.

– eat heartily. this is not time to have your body fighting for fuel. it takes additional energy to just walk in this kind of weather, much less walk, stay warm, dig out your car, get up after you slip on ice, etc. soothe and sustain your body with soups, breads, good fats. since you are stuck inside for long periods, cooking can diversify the time.

hot water bottles. my friend kat reminded me of the miracle that is a good hot water bottle. fill it with hot water and it radiates heat – into your body, throughout your bed, onto your pillow. it is much safer than electric heating pads or blankets and the one i have stays warm all night. you can reheat the water inside by pouring it into a pot and getting it hot again, so it’s sustainable as well.

– space heaters [electric or fireplace!]: find a reasonable level you can keep your house at all the time, and then use space heaters wisely to adjust as needed, rather than going for tropical wonderland in every room. in our house the kitchen stays warm cause i stay cooking in it. at my sister’s home they use a woodburning stove and add a few logs when they need more heat. rustic. or not. i am on a journey to perfect this strategy.

– plastic the windows! this conserves the heat you are putting in the house, and blocks the wind which is nearly buffeting down the walls, theoretically. while i have not done this, i have the kit and the ladder and the intention. i can see the difference it makes in other people’s homes and am (shame) trying to see if there is an aesthetically pleasing way to do it. (unshame)

– lotion. see water. lotion is what you do to moisturize the outside of your body and help the water with an inside/outside moisturizing approach. i am loving lavender and honeysuckle shea butters from the pure shea store near eastern market in Detroit.

– underwear. you have to change how you think of underwear. you need some panty-draws like usual [if you usually wear them…if you don’t, no judgment], some long underwear (top and bottom). this is not the place to buy the crap from a big box store that falls apart immediately. this is the time to go to an outdoors-people type store and ask what they use in the arctic.

– wool socks. you want your socks to play an active role in keeping your feet warm (if i sound a little militant there remember my roots)! a couple of great pairs will do, you can layer normal socks closest to your feet under them. you should have a good pair of wool indoor socks too – the kind with the piece of leather sewn to the bottom that work like inside boots? yes those.

– legwarmers. not for style, chunky wool legwarmers that can be a layer of protection for ankles and most exposed part of leg. woven armor. i just got a fantastic hand knit pair from my girl megan in oakland!

– waterproof warm boots. muckboots, Frye boots, snowboots – invest in comfortable boots that protect your feet. this generally means avoiding lace-up boots which can leak, cheap material boots which will get holes around the base, anything NOT a boot, and anything with a heel on it, even if it’s masquerading as a winter boot.

– clothing that layers well. staying warm also means being able to unlayer and adjust your outfit when you are indoors. if you are too hot while indoors and get sweaty, that will lead to a colder outdoor experience. but you don’t want to strip down to layers that leave you cold indoors either. long-sleeves! i am particularly a fan lately of the middle layer – you want something between your coat and your outfit that you can add/subtract based on the indoor temperature – while mostly sweater, this can also be a large well-placed scarf.

– coat/hat/gloves: puffy, fluffy, easy to get on and off. between your coat and your hat you want to make sure that your entire hairline, ears and chin can be protected. lately i have also been looking for options to cover my whole face. the gloves need to really cover the wrists, and i recommend putting them on before coat to leave no opening between the two. also make sure you can move your fingers in case of an accident. and then fur (faux preferred by most people I know unless you can find responsible fur…) is a great sign of warmth which is why all other winter mammals are covered in it. we got stiffed on that one, so faux-up!

– non-caffeinated tea or hot chocolate, early and often. you can hold it between your hands while drinking it as a warmth-strategy (without hyping yourself up past the point of sleep with coffee). soup is also fantastic in this way, especially in a mug. you can blow on it and it heats up the air and blows it back!

– shared struggle. i don’t know why, but connecting with other humans out in that cold, even smiling, going so far as that “it’s so cold in the D, right?” laugh…it makes you feel connected on a deeper level.

– realizing you are so lucky. because you are – if you have all the default privileges on which my plan relies: a home, a bed, a warm place to be, people who are looking out for you, something warm to eat, something warm to drink, and can choose to have warmth? no complaining. you are lucky, and you should be as generous as you can in making that kind of warmth a normal experience for everyone.