Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping Warm

Keeping warm is very much on my mind these days.  We are having our roof rebuilt, which was supposed to be done last spring.  In order to do this, the construction workers needed to take the heating/air conditioning unit off the roof for what may turn out to be two weeks.  This week the local temperatures decided to drop to their normal level of 40's and 30's, and down into the 20's at night.  (For those of you not in the US, that's Fahrenheit,  down to freezing and below.)
We have 2 space heaters, one in the bedroom and one in the living room.  The inside temp is around 63 right now, which is colder than I like.  I am wearing a wool sweater, and have a double-thick fleece blanket over my legs, and a cat on top of that.  My topic today is on how to keep warm when your surroundings aren't.
The first area I mentioned above is clothing.  The best way to dress is in layers, so you can take off and add on as needed.  I wrote quite a bit about warm clothing last year.  The next area I mentioned is my fleece blankie.  I also wrote about these blankets last year, telling how to make them.  There are other options for blankets besides fleece, though none so soft and comforting (in my opinion).    I will just mention a few, since there are so many.  Electric blankets are nice because they are not too heavy, and can be adjusted depending on how much warmth you want.  Another nice option related to this is an electric mattress pad.  We have these at our cabin.  They are great for when we get there later in the day, and the place doesn't get warmed up sufficiently by bedtime.  Wool blankets are warm, but some are heavy or scratchy.  Thermal blankets have air spaces woven into them, you put them between 2 sheets, your body heat rises up and gets trapped in the blanket to keep you warm.  Quilts of various thicknesses are another option.  If they are filled with feathers or down they are very warm but lightweight.  There are quilts filled with fake down, some are good, some tend to mat over time.  Flannel sheets are also nice, because they don't feel as cold on your skin.  When I was having a problem with night sweats, my doctor recommended flannel sheets as being more absorbent, and they don't feel as cold on the skin when wet.  (Sounds awful when I think about it now- I sure am glad I seem to be past that era). 
I also mentioned one of my favorite sources of heat, my cat.  Sharing space with another warm blooded animal, human or otherwise, is a great way to keep warm.  A good example of this is penguins.  They often congregate in large clusters, standing very close together to stay warm.  They take turns standing on the outer perimeter of the group, so no one has to be cold too long.  I'd rather snuggle with my one cat than a whole flock of penguins. 
A hot cup of tea or cocoa or coffee can be soothing in the cold.  I can't say that it actually warms me up much, though it does feel good to take in a mouthful of hot (but not too hot) liquid, and holding a hot mug in my hands warms my hands.  There are those who say that drinking hot tea is a good way to cool down in the summer, because it makes your sweat.  I can't say that I get a consistent heating or cooling effect from hot drinks.    Eating a bowl of soup or chili does seem to help me warm up, at least while I am eating it, especially if I hold onto the bowl.
Exercise or movement is a good source of heat.  If you exercise regularly, it not only heats you up for the time you are doing it, but it increases your metabolism, which keeps you warmer.  (Increased metabolism also burns calories faster, so you can eat more without gaining weight.)  Movement also decreases muscle stiffness.
Fire may seem like a good source of heat, and sitting by a lit fireplace has a magical effect on how I feel, but most fireplaces actually draw heat out of a room.  This is because the fire needs air to burn, and the air is pulled from the room and up the chimney.  Wood stoves, on the other hand, do heat a room, by radiating heat from the stove itself, and on some units, there are fans that increase the efficiency.   Our cabin is heated primarily by a wood stove.
There are a variety of space heaters, too many to cover in this blog.  I do want to mention a few personal space heaters that may be useful.  There are heated mittens, socks and slippers, both electric and battery operated.  There are also small packets that are self warming hand or foot warmers that heat by a self contained chemical reaction. They contain a device inside that needs to be snapped or broken, and then the contents of the packet shaken or squished together.  The different types last anywhere from twenty minutes to ten hours.  Some can be reused by putting in hot water to reset the device.
I'm sure there are heat sources I have not mentioned.  If you hve a favorite one that you don't see here, let us know by posting a comment. 

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