Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘snow’

Lessons Learned: Winter Comforts


Driving Home Last February

Let’s face it – we Baby Boomers have learned a thing or two in our 50 – 60 years on this planet.  Some of us have learned them through experience (both pleasant and bitter) and some of us have learned them by observing others, or being taught by our parents or others.

And Boomers growing up in the Northeast have learned how to cope with cold weather.  We remember the happy winters of our youth, when snow was nothing but fun.  When metal “saucers” were the high-tech alternative to the sharp bladed wooden Flexible Flyer snow sleds.  When we thought nothing of bundling up and heading outside to play for hours in the snow.  After all – we didn’t have the myriad indoor options of today’s youth, with 500 television channels and computer games and such.   The modern marvel of my youth was the snowmobile, which roared into popularity in the late sixties.  I grew up racing my snowmobile (a Rupp…) around the frozen lake with my friends.  Instead of using a game controller to pretend to drive a vehicle, I actually drove one, and learned early how to change a spark plug and fill a tank with gas.

Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’m increasingly less inclined to play outside in the snow.  My primary goal in the winter these days is just surviving it warmly and safely.  Some new and dear friends (love it when that happens!) recently moved to the frigid north from a much warmer clime, and I’ve been advising them on how to adapt to our winter weather.  Here are some both old-fashioned and modern marvels I’ve recommended to them (and now to you) to make winters easier to bear:

1.        Thinsulate.  This wondrous lightweight material from the geniuses at 3M™ is used in everything from boots to coats to gloves and hats, and it is wonderful.  Outer clothing no longer has to weigh 25 lbs to keep you warm – Thinsulate™ can do it while weighing only ounces.  My personal favorite – Isotoner gloves lined with the stuff.  Warm, yet stylish and practical – you really can pick up a penny (and handle a credit card and juggle your car keys) with your gloves on.  Yes, they’re pricey, but they last for multiple winters of daily use.


2.       Anything made in Canada.  What can I say?  Our neighbors to the north know how to make warm clothing and good boots.  If you’re looking for warm outerwear, you can’t go wrong with product made in Canada.  I have a pair of Canadian winter hiking boots that have lasted nearly 20 years and several trips to Ireland, and my tall Canadian leather winter dress boots are heading into their eleventh cold season. 


3.       Anything from L. L. Bean.  When they tell you a coat will keep you warm to 10 below, they mean it.  Their clothing wears like iron, and is usually machine washable.  Their Polartec® fleece vests are the warmest things I’ve ever seen.  Super thin, they layer perfectly (and invisibly) under a winter coat, and they really hold in your body heat.  And L. L. Bean is one of the few companies to offer good down coats in full lengths.  I never understood the logic of a warm down jacket that left your tender butt cheeks and thighs exposed to below zero wind chills with nothing but a thin layer of cotton or wool dress pants for protection.  Down coats aren’t pretty, but they’re effective. 


4.       Heated mattress pads.  Okay, I was very late discovering this one, and I have to say that I was an absolute fool for not knowing about them sooner.  A heated mattress pad is nirvana.  Our current rental home is not well insulated, and the master bedroom is the coldest room in the house.  When hubby was traveling in November, I was going to bed wearing warm socks, a flannel nightgown, my chenille robe, and layering three blankets over myself in bed.  I was beginning to picture Hubby finding me smothered under 50 lbs of layers in my attempts to stay warm.  Then someone mentioned using a heated mattress pad.  Who knew?  I turn it on an hour or so before bed, and the sheets are nice and toasty by the time I crawl in.  Then I turn it down, and set it to turn off a few hours after I go to bed.  So I fall asleep nice and warm, but stay asleep in a healthy cool bed (researchers say sleeping in a cool room is better for you).  This is true bliss.  If you live anywhere cold, you need to buy one of these.  Right now.  And it has dual controls, so I can make my side of the bed snuggly warm, and Hubby, who generates his own heat naturally, doesn’t have to deal with it.  A warm bed and marital peace.  Sweet.


5.       Hot toddies.  Medical research claims that cold weather doesn’t cause colds in humans.  That’s hard for us Boomers to accept, since our moms constantly told us to bundle up so we didn’t “catch cold”.  But perhaps it’s not the frigid temperatures that make us sick, but our lifestyles during this season.  We lock ourselves up in hermetically-sealed buildings all winter long – at home, at work, at the mall – creating virtual Petri dishes where viruses can hop from one person to another.  I’ve known I’d catch this cold I’m currently suffering from since mid-December, when it first began its progression around my office, my church, and through the family members we visited at Christmastime.  I threw vitamin C at it, and zinc, and now “real” cold medicine.  But the best thing for a cold (or at least the most enjoyable), and a true sign of winter’s arrival, is a good old-fashioned hot toddy.  More specifically, my hubby’s hot toddy.  Boiling water, a shot of Irish whiskey (Michael Collins is my choice), a dollop of honey, and a splash of lemon juice, all combined in a large mug.  Drink it as fast as you can (at home, just before bed).   You’ll soon be sweating, and then you’ll be sleeping.  And when you wake up, you’ll feel better.  Or at least well rested.  And if you don’t drink alcohol, well then, I’ve known people who’ve made toddies without the whiskey, and they claim it worked.  I’ll just take their word for it. 

With the proper tools, winters can be bearable.  And at the proper age, we become wise enough to avoid winters.  This will be my last winter in the northeast.  It’s been fun, but I’m outta here.  I’ve enjoyed the survival skills I’ve shared.  But I’m headed south after this one, thank you very much.  My old bones can’t take it.  And I’m eager to learn new skills at staying cool rather than staying warm.  Someday maybe I’ll share those here…

A Few Updates on 2010 (Before It’s Too Late!)

As we approach a new year, it’s not only time to think about resolutions for the future (most of them futile, to be sure), but it’s also time to take a look back at the year we’re completing.  Time to examine, evaluate and grade ourselves on how well we weathered having another year pass us by. 

Overall, 2010 was pretty decent for me.  For those of you who have been faithful readers (thank you!) since this blog began in May, please allow me to bring you up to date on some of the things I wrote about in 2010. 

My very first post was primarily dedicated to my aging neck, and the folds of skin that have appeared over time.  Update:  no change.  In fact, at the company Christmas party a few weeks ago, they took photos of couples as they arrived, and I still managed to be shocked at the double and triple chins I exhibit in the picture – yikes!  There’s really no way to “suck in” your neck like you do your belly, so I guess from now on my photos will show me with my chin pointing slightly skyward, and shoulders dropped, all in an effort to stretch that wattle out a little bit and reduce the deep skin folds.

Something else I’ve written about a few times this year is my displeasure with my weight.  One of the not-so-nice results of growing older is a slowdown in our metabolism.  Add to that the inevitable “oh, screw it, I’ll eat whatever the hell I want” attitude of a menopausal woman, and the result is extra pounds.  I’d love to tell you that my renewed focus on my reflection in the mirror, my dedication to Zumba, and my interest in improving my health lead me to an epiphany that allowed me to conquer fate and lose weight.  I’d love to tell you that, but it would be a lie. 

Instead, I’ve gained several pounds since early summer, and even crossed into another set of tens on the scale, if only briefly.  My clothes (already up one size) are feeling snug.  I am NOT going up another size.  So it’s a safe bet that one of my resolutions will have something to do with diet.  For real.  Honest.  No, really.  I’m serious.  Stay tuned…

In September, I recommended some of my favorite cleaning supplies to my readers.  I have an interesting update on that one.  My beloved Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner died in November.  The thing runs every day in a steamy shower, and they can’t last forever (it was several years old).  So I picked up a new one.  But it just didn’t run right, and soon it didn’t run at all. 

I felt terribly betrayed, especially since I’d so enthusiastically recommended the product to my friends in this very blog.  So I sent an email to S. C. Johnson, makers of Scrubbing Bubbles, expressing my disappointment, suggesting that they shouldn’t have messed with a good thing, etc.  It wasn’t a nasty email, but I was firm in expressing my feelings.  I almost immediately received a well-worded personal response, apologizing for the situation, stating that they would send me a coupon for my inconvenience.   

I instantly felt better about the company and their product – it’s amazing what good customer service can do.  Two days later, an envelope arrived from S. C. Johnson, with a coupon for an entire sprayer set – FREE.  And the new one works flawlessly. 

When they mentioned sending me a coupon, I figured they were going to send a $1.00 coupon for cleaning solution, not a free $20 unit!  Needless to say, my doubts about recommending this product are completely gone, and I’m back to telling everyone – get a Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner!!!

This blog is one of my accomplishments for 2010, and I’ve managed to stay pretty close to a weekly schedule with my posts.  And yes, it did stretch my writing muscles, and yes, I did get my first paying writing job this year.  After I told you about getting that exciting first paycheck, I received two more checks for writing (whoo-hoo!!). I’m working on a relatively big project right now that might actually give me my first real byline.  That’s pretty heady stuff for a Baby Boomer who always “wanted” to write, but never felt the courage to get out there and actually write.  And while I haven’t quite dusted off the old novel as promised, I have jotted some notes on the plot line, and I think I have a general direction laid out for the book.  So that’s another “stay tuned” subject, and I’m sure writing will also be mentioned in my resolutions for 2011.

I did manage to predict the future in one post, much to my dismay.  Two weeks after writing about adult toys and fretting that someday we’d see commercials for vibrators on television, it happened.  Hubby and I saw a television commercial for a Trojan vibrator during prime time!  We just looked at each other and burst out laughing, but I really think it’s all a bit too much.

Another update on the home front – – – I mentioned snow recently, as in how much snow we’ve received here in upstate New York in December.  At the time, we’d hit fifty inches in two weeks, after more than six months of no snow at all.  Well, since that blog was written, we’ve received another twenty-three inches of snow and counting.  We are currently at 73.1 inches for December – our snowiest December ever.  I guess if you’re going to get snow, you may as well go for breaking the records, right?  That’s about all the snow really brings us – terrific bragging rights.  You think that massive blizzard on the east coast this weekend was “snow”?  Get real – those people don’t know what snow is.  To quote the governor of Pennsylvania – “wussies.” 

All in all, 2010 was a pretty darn good year.  Made some new friends.  Picked out our eventual retirement destination.  Started writing, and even got paid for some of it.  Examined my aging process in a blog, and survived the scrutiny.  Fifty-two was an okay age for me.  Fifty-three arrives in just a few weeks, and I’m thinking that’s going to be a good one, too.   I hope you can look back on 2010 with me as a mostly successful year, and look forward to 2011 as the beginning of a new adventure, as we go “sliding into old” a day/year/decade at a time.  Happy New Year!

Dear Lake Effect Snow: You Win

The key is lots and lots of layers...

I live in an area of New York fondly referred to as “the snow belt.” Just as the grain belt of the country has lots of grain, the snow belt gets lots of, well, snow. It’s due to a fairly innocent looking lake. Yup. Lake-effect snow is created by lakes. But not just any lake – little lakes don’t create snow. But big ones, in fact “Great” ones, do. The Great Lakes are snow-making machines in the winter time. If you live anywhere near the Great Lakes, you know what I’m talking about. If not, allow me to give you a brief lesson.

The Great Lakes are on the northern border of the U.S. When cold air comes roaring down out of Canada at just the right angle (sometimes referred to as an “Alberta Clipper”), and the lake waters are still relatively warm, the dry, cold air sucks up moisture from the warm lake. When the cold air hits land again, it drops that moisture, in the form of snow. Sometimes it’s an innocuous whisper of snowflakes. But often, the snowfall ends up being measured in feet in the localized, windswept communities in its path. Lake effect snow comes off the lake in bands, and those bands will sweep back and forth depending on the wind direction and strength. Some of those bands of snow can be just two or three miles wide. Some of them can stretch across multiple counties. One of the unique consequences of these bands of snow is that one side of a small village can be getting snow at a rate of several inches per hour, while the sun is shining on the other side of town. Seriously. I’ve left my house in a white-out blizzard of snow, only to drive into blue sky and sunshine less than three miles away. It’s weird.

Last week in upstate New York, the lake effect machine cranked into full gear, and dropped over FIFTY inches of snow in many areas. In five days. F-I-F-T-Y. We went from green grass and a historically long stretch of snow-free days (dating back to early March) to four feet of snow and counting, in less than a week. All thanks to Lake Ontario (and Canada, of course).

As a Baby Boomer, I have fond memories of incredible snow storms and blizzards that literally left us house-bound for days in upstate New York. No cell phones. No computers. No accurate forecasts of coming storms (“this could be the storm of the century, folks”). No natural gas generators. No Ugg boots. No “Thinsulate”. No snowblowers as we know them today. When the snow started falling, we just hunkered down for the duration. We always had a freezer full of food and a box of dried milk on hand for emergencies. But then again, my memories are those of a child, who was just filled with awe and wonder at a world that could go from green to white in the blink of an eye, burying entire cars in drifts that reached up to and above our windowsills. Not impressed? We had a walk-out basement, and I’m talking about snow over the FIRST FLOOR (not basement) windows. But as a kid, I didn’t have to worry about what to do with the snow, how to get to work, whether or not the roof would hold, how close the basement was to flooding, or whether we had enough milk and bread to get by. I just worried about how soon I could get out into the stuff with my sled!

Hubby make the first pass at the driveway.

But more than forty years have passed since then, and my attitude has changed towards snow. It took a while. I learned how to drive in this area, so snow frankly never scared me. Through my twenties, I just never blinked at it. Slap on the old metal-studded snow tires (long illegal), and my big heavy car would go through anything. Bundle up in layers and deal with it – that was my philosophy. In my thirties, not much changed. I’d lived enough life by thirty to know that bad things can happen. Cars can land in ditches.

Did you know that a Ford Mustang plowing off the edge of the road and down a steep slope in new snow can feel like you’re driving through a giant marshmallow, or a huge down pillow? Whoosh! And then the white stuff buries the hood of the car (and fortunately stops the vehicle before I connected with that telephone pole). Ice can land you on your fanny in a parking lot faster than you can even begin to blink. Driveways have to shoveled, one way or the other. Yes, stuff happens as you get older. And as I hit my forties, winter started becoming starkly less attractive. I think I began running out of patience with it by age forty-six. Pretty? Yes. Lots of lots of backbreaking work? Definitely.

I admire the elderly ladies I know who think nothing of sweeping off their cars and heading to the market in the middle of a blizzard. Nothing slows them down. Snow? So what? Take it slow, and you can clear off that sidewalk just fine. Neighbors pitch in. No big deal. For most of my life, I thought I’d be one of those feisty, independent women who shrugged in the face of lake effect snow and said “bring it on!” I thought “snow birds” were wimps for heading south every winter.

But I came to a stark realization a couple years ago, when we received five feet of snow one February week, and Hubby was in El Paso golfing with his baby brother. On the fourth straight night of shoveling snow alone in the bitter cold and howling wind, with snow banks so high I couldn’t get the snow over the top of them, and no end in sight, I came to an epiphany on my front porch. I don’t want to grow old here. I don’t need to deal with this year after year, and I’m not going to. No offense, everyone, but I’m outta here, and the sooner, the better. Any doubts about the decision I made that frigid night were erased the following morning, when I realized that another foot and a half of snow had fallen overnight. Again. I was DONE.

Fifty inches of snow is impressive. It’s awe-inspiring. And yes, it’s beautiful. But enough, already. The south is calling me, and I’m listening. Are proud older women to be admired when they stay in their northern hometowns and deal with one winter after another? Absolutely. They’re my heroes. But I’m not one of them.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m saying it now – I’m not staying here. Lake effect has beaten me. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten was to “pick my battles”. Winter is just one of those battles I’m not ready to fight much longer. I’ll retreat, thank you, to warmer climes. I’ll hear about lake effect snow in the news, and I’ll smile with the wisdom of someone who’s been there, but was smart enough to leave.

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