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…