As a Michigander, born and raised, I’ve learned a thing or two about winter. Lenawee County is no Fargo, ND or anything but in an average winter our temps hover in the mid twenties during the day and we’ll get about 3 feet of snow before the spring thaw, which any gardener will tell you is just before Mother’s Day.
Then there are years like last year. The average temperature last winter was slightly below, “OMG, Hell itself must be frozen solid by now,” Hell is a city in Michigan, by the way. True story. Google it. Our snowfall was extraordinary too. We were careful to constantly dress our toddler in bright colors just in case he fell in. At one point we had to dig the car out. I don’t mean we had to clear the driveway behind the car. We actually, literally had to assess the lumps in the snow, determine where the car was, swim across the snow to get to it, and dig it out.
And now the Farmer’s almanac is saying this year will be similar. Hmmm… guess we’ll find out.
Did I ever tell you I lived in Arizona for eight years? True story. I came back to Michigan, in part, because I was homesick for seasonal weather. I just thought I’d share that glimpse into my insanity.
Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up and ask you if you have any of your own. If so, by all means, please leave them in the comments!
#1 – Improvise an ice scraper.
If you have a lovely modern vehicle with a satellite radio and a sound system custom designed to make the best use of your MP3 player, I salute you. You probably also have a remote starter and a defrosting system that is actually warm enough to melt frost.
If you, like me, are driving a 15 year old van that can barely muster up enough warm air to blow the fog off the windshield when it’s 50 degrees and raining then you, like me, may still be able to enjoy the Madonna: The Immaculate Collection cassette you bought (explicitly disobeying your parents’ forbidding of such music) in 1991. Cassette cases make perfect frost scrapers! CD cases and credit cards will do as well, in a pinch, but they just don’t fit in your hand like a good old tape box. See? There’s a silver lining to every cloud!
#2 – Dress warm!
If you keep a heating pad by your bed to soothe those winter time aches and pains turn it on and lay it on top of your clean clothes in the morning before you put them on. When you get dressed they’ll be fabulously toasty!
#3 – Stop the draft.
Doors that have a drafty gap at the bottom can be sealed up easily for pennies using a piece of foam pipe insulation, cut open along one side.
#4 – Invest in some litter.
Keep a large bag of cheap, non-clumping kitty litter in your trunk all winter long. The extra weight will be useful on slippery roads and if you get stuck in the snow or ice sprinkling a generous amount of the litter around your tires may be enough to give you the traction to get back on the road. Your car’s floor mats will also serve as traction in desperate times, but driving on them with snow/ice/mud/salt/yuck covered tires really isn’t good for them so try the kitty litter first. Make sure it’s not the clumping stuff, which may react weirdly to the wet environment.
#5 – Rescue your dry skin.
I get extraordinarily dry skin in winter. Places like the space in between my fingers and the corners of my mouth will actually crack and bleed. Believe me when I tell you I have tried just about every “extra moisturizing” product on the market over the years. Then I started breastfeeding and found the best product in the universe for people with this issue – lanolin. Not lotion WITH lanolin. Pure lanolin: the kind they sell as nipple cream in the baby department. On hands and feet, slathering it on and covering your skin in loose fitting cotton socks or gloves…. ahhhh…. a bit of bliss, I tell you!
#6 – Make the most of your baking.
Cook in the oven frequently. Leave it open to cool when you are done. The heat from the oven will help warm the house.
#7 – Light ’em up!
Likewise you can add heat and improve the ambiance by burning candles. Of course, keep an eye on them and make sure they’re in safe places, but you’d be surprised how much heat a few tiny candles can generate in a small room!
#8 – Save water.
While we’re on the subject of heating tricks, consider plugging the bathtub drain while you shower and leaving the fan off and the door open. Humid air is more conducive to heat than dry air so your whole house will benefit from the steam and the hot water in the tub will continue to release heat and steam for some time after you are done. Putting a pie tin with a bit of water in it on your heat vent will increase the humidity in the air as well.
#9 – The right shoes for the occasion.
For staying warm outdoors, choose shoes with rubber soles over other types. Rubber is a fabulous insulator!
#10 – Double up your mittens.
If you just can’t get your hands warm, try a pair of those really cheap stretchy gloves from the dollar store under a pair of bulky mittens. The combination of tight fitting and loose fitting will more than double the warmth factor. In cold weather, layers are priceless.
#11 – Let the sun shine!
If it’s not the cold, but the dark that gets you down open the blinds and face the sunlight as early as possible each morning. If you wake up in the dark and you’re under fluorescent lights by the time day breaks your body gets very confused and stressed. Even just standing in a sunny window for a few minutes each morning can help reduce winter time blues.
#12 – Quick dry.
If your shoes get really wet, stuff them with those super-absorbent micro-fiber towels they sell in the automotive department. They will suck the moisture right out of the fabric of your shoes, leaving them only the tiniest bit damp. Don’t forget and leave them in there, though, or you’ll end up with a wet, stinky, moldy mess. Ew. 30 minutes or so should be more than sufficient.
#13 – Have a lot of sex.
Hey, any survivalist will tell you that skin-to-skin is the fastest way to warm a cold person. And, it’s dark by 5pm. And you’re not safe out driving around on those slippery roads so… you know… let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
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