Thursday, January 28, 2010

How I Keep Warm: A Catalog

Unlike many women my age, I suffer from cold flashes. My hands and feet turn icy; my arms, legs, and nose are frosty to the touch. It can go on for hours. When I complain to my doctor, she mutters about Reynaud's Syndrome, but my skin doesn't turn colors and I don't have any rheumatic diseases. I'm just freezing cold, a few times a day. Maybe it's poor circulation. We keep the thermostat at 70 to 72, by the way, but the original windows in these old Back Bay townhouses can be very drafty, and the walls are uninsulated.

Here's how I warm up:

Penzey's Hot Chocolate.  Tea doesn't work as well as cocoa. I don't know why. And while Penzey's is rich and satisfying, it isn't as sweet as some, so you never feel too full or sugar-crazed afterward.

At my last office job, which was in an arctic-temperature office building, I survived year-round thanks to two daily cups of cocoa, a space heater, a fleece, a hat, and fingerless gloves.

Mine are actually much more adorable, with subtle coral and yellow flowers knitted on a pale aqua angora background, trimmed with pale green crochet. A good pair of fingerless gloves will have you dropping your "H"s in no time as you channel your inner Eliza Doolittle. This was okay in the office, where calling everyone "sir" or "milady" was considered acceptably sarcastic.

Eliza Doolittle could not afford cashmere socks but I can, especially when they are reduced to $9 from $24 during Garnet Hill's winter sale. Sadly, it's over, so I can't provide a link. By ordering right before Christmas, I was able to stock up before they sold out. Washing makes them even fluffier.

I wear my socks with these Ugg fleece-lined boots, in the house:

I consider these to be much handsomer than standard Ugg boots. Unfortunately, they don't seem to make them anymore. All their current styles are appallingly ugly. But warm: I'm aware that Uggs are outdoor boots, designed to be worn without socks because of their extreme warmth. However, these barely thaw my feet even indoors, with socks, during a cold flash. So I wear them while huddling under a large, moth-eaten, knitted Scottish cashmere throw:

My husband gave me this wonderful, outrageously expensive gift for Christmas many years ago. It's my beloved Linus blanket. Not only did he give it to me; he will locate it and bring it to me any time I complain that I'm cold. That's an exceptional husband, and a gift that keeps on giving.

I really should do something about the moth holes.

When I'm really cold, I put a full-length shearling coat over the throw. I use this stiff, junky microwaveable heating pad for my feet, but it takes a long time to work:

I crave one of furry hot water bottles instead, from Pottery Barn:

Hey: it's on sale, and I have a gift card. But don't hot water bottles leak? And do they stay warm for a long, long time? Long enough to thaw out icicle toes?

Needless to say, I'm always wearing a cashmere turtleneck from J. Crew, Ann Taylor, or Pure — and, often, this fleece jacket:

Sometimes, nothing works but a hot bath. I like Philosophy's Candy Cane Bath and Shower Gel: it smells like the holidays, not toothpaste. The scent is refreshingly cool, even in a steamy bubble bath:

I also warm up by making soup in my Le Creuset Dutch oven:

When all else fails, I go to bed. I have written before about our Cuddledown Warmth Level 3 down comforter. Here's how this southern Maine company classifies its comforters by warmth level (click to enlarge):

We use our Level 3 from fall through spring, with heavy flannel sheets and a couple of coverlets on top. We also wear things like socks and sweaters to bed, too, and I occasionally wrap up in the cashmere throw under the Level 3. I guess I'll never be mistaken for a native New Englander. But my husband is, and he's often just as cold as I am.

Maybe we need a Level 4, but the salespeople at Cuddledown practically require a court order before they'll sell you one. They thought we were insane for wanting a Level 3. Yeah, there's a big steam radiator next to our bed, so it's not really comparable to an "unheated European farmhouse." But we still get cold. While these comforters are expensive they are excellent quality. And you can sometimes get the heavier ones for half-price at the Maine outlets, after hardier souls have returned them because they are too hot. That's how we got a deal on ours.

Finally, there's nothing like another warm body (or four) to make a bed cozy. If you don't mind the occasional cold, wet nose probing your exposed skin, so you'll wake up and do a little petting, there's a lot to be said for this type of fur bedspread.


  1. I have some tips for you. Starting with magnetic, interior storm windows! They have kept out Back Bay condo cozy for years. You pay once to have them installed and save each year thereafter.

    You didn't mention silk long johns. That's another of our tricks. Here's a piece I wrote on that last year.

  2. There's nothing like a thermal vest, I reckon! well, and cats on your knee or bed.....

    Have you succumbed to income-generating blogging? I've had a couple of invitations recently, but didn't respond, as I felt I had more critical opinions than praise!


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