Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some Winter Thoughts

earmuffs - Pendleton

I grew up in a very snowy and cold place, so these Polar Vortexes don't completely overwhelm me, although they're pretty doggone dreadful...

My parents were particularly adept at handling the cold, and so I have a few ideas and insights that might be useful.

  • Cover your head - at least your ears.  It seems really obvious, but lots of people manage to skip this part.  If your hair absolutely won't sustain a hat, at least put on some earmuffs - those bare ears sticking out of the side of your head are a freeze magnet.
  • And you should avoid wearing big earrings, necklaces next to your skin, or anything metallic that touches you directly.  Metal gets cold, and cold metal against your flesh is really bad...
  • Don't forget to wear sunscreen or something gooey and emollient on your skin.  The air is super-dry when it's this cold, and your skin is not going to be happy.  AND...  gooey stuff will help hold in some of your heat.

David Walliams entering the English Channel at the start of his cross-channel swim 4th July 2006
David Williams, entering the English Channel, slathered in something called Channel Swimmer's Grease.  Seriously.
  • Do NOT go out with wet, or even damp hair.  I once saw someone's hair BREAK... Her very long hair was hanging down the outside of her coat, and a six-inch long chunk of it as big around as a broom handle SNAPPED OFF...  She absolutely had to have a new hairstyle the next day.  It was astonishing...
  • In a similar vein, consider keeping your nails as the very shortest possible length with which you're comfortable.  Nails get really brittle in cold weather, and when you combine that with the fumble-fingered joys of cold hands, snapping off a couple of your nails INSIDE of your gloves is a definite possibility.  And a really painful headache...
  • Many thin layers are as good or better than one heavy layer.  This is particularly handy if you live somewhere that doesn't merit stockpiling cashmere.
  • And on that note, 2 pair of thin socks will be better than one pair of heavy ones.  And don't cram your feet into tight boots with too many socks; constructing your circulation won't help you stay warm.
  • Leather soled shoes aren't the best, unless they're multiple layers like men's welt-bottomed shoes.  Thin soles on cold pavement = frostbitten toes.
  • You've probably got to cover your face when you go out -  might I suggest that you tie a cotton handkerchief around your face BEFORE you put on your regular winter scarf.  It's softer, and washable, and more absorbent.  You know your eyes are going to water, and your nose is going to run.  Might as well have your hanky right there... (why don't we just quit pretending that only men need handkerchiefs?)
handkerchiefs - Nordstrom 

  • Cold helps you lose weight.  Really.  Seriously.  University of Maastricht researchers published results in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.  They theorize that the increase in obesity could result in part of the overall warming of ambient temperatures in our homes and workplaces.  Turning down the thermostat certainly saves money, will help the environment, and if it helps weight control, I'm on it!


  1. Great suggestions even for those of us in warmer climates who sometimes have to face cold weather.

  2. Great tips! A couple to add: Drink lots of water. Hydrate from the inside as well as the outside to combat that super-dry air. Also the scarf next to your neck and face? If it's silk, it will keep you warmer.

  3. Thanks for the advice. We Floridians are getting all sorts of grief regarding our snow closures. Hate to point out that none of us know how to deal with snow, or have the cold weather garments available to us! We can buy swimsuits right now, but there are very few long underwear layers or sweaters thicker than thin cotton right now.

  4. Thanks so much, Janice. Almost all of this was new to me (in Virginia) - and is immediately helpful.

  5. This is a helpful reminder of clothes' true purpose: to protect us from the elements. Something to remember when we're feeling less than grateful for our wardrobes. Thanks for the good tips!

  6. Wonderful tips. Stay warm everyone.

  7. Any tips for dealing with the salt menace that gets on the boots and everything else?I was just up north and somehow they managed to COAT my gate checked suitcase in salt(or is it really CA chloride nowdays?)which of course got everything since it didn't just brush off.

    1. Ideally, treat leather or fabric •before• the salt attacks it. (I recommend a shoes dressing like J. Audet Jr. Boot Guard or NikWax, available at outdoor-wear stores. The standard boot spray works too, but has to be reapplied every few days. Once you've treated your boots or shoes, you still have to wipe off the salt after wearing, because it is still on the surface. Wipe with barely damp cloth using mixture of half vinegar, half water. Put boots or shoes on shoe forms to dry. Wiping with vinegar/water solution should help your suitcase too (depending on what it's made of), but sometimes the salt gets right into the fabric and damages irreparably.

    2. Tips from someone literally living in snow for at least six months of the year:
      Wipe away the salt with a slice of lemon.
      And afterwards, polish and protect with a few drops of vegetable oil.

    3. If you can, apply neutral color polish to your shoes/boots before wearing them. IF you get salt on them, saddle soap will remove it in most cases. After they are dry, apply another coat of polish.

  8. Since Jan 23, 'Blogger' doesn't seem to be pulling up any of your later posts. I think it's google blogger, url shows as: blogger.com. I've tried editing sites from my end but no luck with it updating so far. Anyway, I have caught up now, was great fun having so many new posts to read this morning! :)

  9. I would love some ideas of how I can wear this scarf I have had for some years but find hard to style.
    Thanks Ruthie

  10. Grew up just miles from a town called "The Icebox of the US", and now live in Montréal. Just claiming my cred. So will add: Even if you don't have to go, empty your bladder before stepping outdoors. The cold will send an entirely different signal to your kidneys. Get boots with Vibram or similar soles; it is not the snow that will cause a fall, it's ice, and that's often invisible. Wear long underwear; silk is good b/c not too heavy once you get indoors.

  11. Oh and I forgot: sheepskin insoles. Best. thing.ever for boots. For sale at shoe-repair stores or on Amazon. If your boots are too closely-fitting to accommodate them, non-fluffy lambswool insoles work well too.

  12. I live in Lake Tahoe. We're usually about 6 feet deep in snow about now, but all you East Coasters are getting our white stuff this year! Knit caps are big here and it seems like some people put one on in the fall and don't take it off until spring. They really do help. For big storms I wear a fur aviator hat with ear flaps that tie down snug. My kids make fun of me, but I don't care. In their perpetual effort to be cool, they'll wear a tee shirt and leggings when its in the 40's. For me, when the snow is falling and the temperature really drops, pretty is not important!!

  13. Thin soles - so true. Last year I went on a trip wearing layers: camisole, thermal T shirt, V neck sweater, blouse, thick cardigan, winter coat, silk scarf, pashmina, gloves, hat, thermal tights, trousers socks- and thin soled leather boots. I was still cold - because I got chilled from the feet up in slushy snow. For Xmas this year I got thick soled waterproof boots. Now I just need to work out how to incorporate them into a day to evening outfit.

  14. Funny this should be the post the day I was one of those trapped overnight in the Atlanta snow gridlock.