Coping with cold weather: Tips for chilly women

Coping with cold weather: Tips for chilly women

Renee EllisonJan 12, '20

Up north here, winter is in full swing; we've battened the hatches. When you weatherproof a home, you cover the holes. So, too, the body! The main place heat escapes is through the head (especially if you have a small brain) and the feet (especially if you have holes in your toes).

  • The head: Wear stocking caps to sleep in, or Polar Tec hats that cover your ears. (Warms up your dreams and blocks out all sound…add eye-patches for a total blackout.) Wear them inside during the day, too… the stocking caps, that is, not the eye-patches. (Warning: if someone comes to your door, they’re apt to say, “Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize that you were just leaving.”—to which you answer ?????).
  • For outside daytime, think “Russian Czar hats” with fur that sticks out in front of the hat. I used to rip this off from hats, considering it a nuisance, not knowing what it was for. In a less aesthetic moment I discovered that the added fur moves the cold further out in front/away from the face by about two inches (one of the few splendid ideas the Russians have had).
  • The feet: Wear two layers of socks: a comfortable non-itchy thin inner sock, covered with a heavier wool sock (unless, of course, you like that itchy feeling). Wear flat-heeled thin tall leather boots all the time (high heels were invented by men); this adds additional warmth UP the leg. Or, wear ankle-high tennis shoes with thicker insulation, or any thick shoe.
  • Wear socks to bed. Fill hot water bottles and place them at the children’s feet as they go to sleep. My mom used to sleep with a hot brick from the fireplace wrapped in a thin towel during cold Wisconsin winters. (Heroically, you could use older, iffier, hot water bottles in your own bed.)
  • Stay warm at night (this is a time when you don’t need to heat your entire house): Sleep with two pillows. Set one pillow against the wall standing wide-ways at the head of your bed, providing another thick layer of insulation against the wall. (Move these extra pillows to the center of the bed if you’re having a marital spat and need a demilitarized zone for awhile.) Wear long underwear for pajamas, to cover with a quick robe when the children are around. (Forget about looking attractive at night.) Silk long underwear can’t be beat, although it tends to be torn and get runs in the fabric ( has been one source, for tops or bottoms. For reasons mentioned below, we recommend just getting the bottoms). And switch to flannel sheets when chilly nights have arrived.
  • Create your own heat: Become a heat combustion engine yourself. Exercise vigorously under the covers, sing vigorously, clean house vigorously, do daily vigorous walks and calisthenics, chop wood.
  • Stop the leaks in your house: Sew heavy curtains to put over your doors and windows…i.e. add shower rings to your spare thick blankets or sleeping bags and hang them over doors and windows. This makes your house look ghastly, but it drops your heating bills hugely. (Now is the time to come face to face with the fact that people always care more about how their own home looks, than yours.) Insulate windows with something like Reflectix® Bubble Pack Foil Insulation; it comes in large rolls at most major hardware stores, in the plumbing section. Cut it into sections that you can reinforce with yardsticks stapled or taped on as handles to set them into the window at night and remove when the sun is shining. Work with the elements, to take advantage of solar gain on sunny days; caulk around the exterior of your windows and check for leaks around doors (beef up the draft excluders if the cold air is sweeping under the door).
  • Stop the leaks in your bed: In Medieval times, people in cold climates hung thick canopy drapes around the bed (that is where the decorative frilly foo-foo thin things that warm up no one got started) and all the family members slept in one bed (that is where glee clubs got started).
  • Bathroom survival: Line your toilet seats with fur. Bathe in large plastic containers, storage bins, inside the tub.
  • Tips for chilly women using the tub only to catch the splatters. (Cold porcelain tubs could make you violent.) Preheat your bathroom to 350 degrees with a small electric heater before disrobing.
  • Drink hot drinks: Put warm water in a thermos before you go to bed at night, so that when you drink water during the night it isn’t like drinking ice. (This procedure prepares you for nocturnal picnics, too.) Be sure that it is only warm water; test it on your wrist before putting it into the thermos. If it’s too hot, waiting for it to cool off thoroughly awakes you at a time when you’d prefer to be thoroughly asleep. I’ve burned my tongue on hot thermos water. Makes for parched dreams afterwards, and a foul day following.
  • Drink something hot first thing in the morning—tea, coffee, hot grease… (just kidding about that last option). Just have hot water ready in a thermos all day long. If you need variety for tea choices, just use drops of essential oils in hot water all throughout the day. Forget those tea kettles that have a one inch hole and whistle; they get rusted and filthy inside, because you can’t see inside and can’t reach in to clean them properly. (They were invented by a fastidious neurotic.) A lid on a pan works fine; you become an expert at pouring it with no spout over time.
  • Focus the heat: We have two little portable electric-powered radiator oil-filled heaters. Where we live, they only cost about 15 cents an hour to run. We use these in addition to (often, instead of) the furnace for the whole house. We take this focused heat with us—moving it from area to area wherever we are doing our actual living. We set the heaters under or near the dining room table when we eat, move them to the living room right by the couches when we read, etc. In the morning I turn them on when I first get up, and drink hot tea and sit right next to them.
  • Wear layers: Top of the line are down vests and cashmere sweaters (a treasured find in thrift stores). Wearing two vests works wonders. Layer one over the other. This frees your arms to wash dishes without dipping your huge thick coat sleeves in the water. If your torso stays warm, the rest of you will, too. And of course, layer layers underneath that. I have found that I don’t like long underwear on the top because of the moments off and on throughout the day when I occasionally warm up. I don’t like having to take everything off just to cool down in these sporadic hotter moments. If I take everything off down to a regular blouse, then I’m always modest and don’t have to leave the room to change clothes entirely. Then ten minutes later I can quickly grab the external layers and put them all back on again.
  • Read and have couch time in sleeping bags up to your armholes. (When you walk around you’ll look like inch worms.)
  • Think hot thoughts—grateful thoughts. Join sympathies with Eskimos and Siberians. And be utterly thankful, if you’re one of the fortunate women who got to spend the majority of your earth-life in warm places. You’ll soon forget having had to pay these dues at the low end of the thermometer for a portion of the year. Some people have had to spend their entire lives cold. (I’ve found this particular gratefulness test hard to pass, myself, but it is a good goal to strive for in valiant moments of nobility—i.e., when the children are watching.)
  • If all else fails, cave in and move to India.

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