Finding Warmth in Winter #4: Hibernation at Home

These snowmen hot chocolate (see picture) from BuzzFeed remind us that home isn’t only where the heart is; it’s where the hearth is! Don’t get us wrong; we love outdoor adventures when the sun’s blazing and the flowers blooming. But in winter gloom, staying put has its perks.

Cranking up the heat will guarantee a warm house, but it gets expensive quickly. Foregoing heat is not an option, either. And it’s inefficient to lower the heat drastically when you’re out – you’ll just expend energy ratcheting it up when you return.
Here are ten ways to lower the thermostat and lower your bills:

  1. Look up — check your roof for missing shingles, cracked shingles, and leaks! The typical asphalt shingle roof lasts around 25 years. If you can see sunlight from your attic, then cold air and precipitation can find their way into your home.
  2. Seal all cracks in your window frame. The Good Housekeeping Institute recommends shinning a flashlight or candle on the frame – with a partner outside. If they can see light, it’s time to caulk and seal!
  3. Reverse your ceiling fan’s motor to clockwise. This will create an updraft that pushes the rising warm air back down to where it benefits you.
  4. Splurge on blankets. Layering multiple blankets is key to keeping warm, and down comforters with high thread counts are known for their toasty-toes factor.
  5. Throw open the shades when the sun comes out; draw them shut at night. This will harness solar energy for a mild warming effect.
  6. Invest in blackout shades with a thermal lining to help save energy.
  7. Stop the chill from sneaking under doors and around outlets with doorstoppers and outlet insulators.
  8. Throw rugs everywhere! Wool feels cozier than floorboards on the feet, and offers insulation to boot (sorry, couldn’t resist.).
  9. Don’t heat rooms that you don’t use! If no one plans to occupy the guest room for a while, close the vents and door.
  10. Get a “smart” thermostat (like the Nest Learning Thermostat) for your home. You can program these devices to lower the temperature slightly when you’re not there, then adjust when you return. Eventually, the thermostat will learn your schedule and program itself.

Finding Warmth in Winter #3: Sparking Resolve Before January First

Cheers! This week you’ve got Christmas leftovers, Hanukah latkes, family dinners, New Year’s toasts, lazy afternoons, and access to enough food to send you into hibernation. Next week you’ve got clean breaks, fresh starts, work obligations, time crunches, goals to meet, and resolutions to uphold.

Let’s get these two weeks working together, rather than locking horns. Here’s our guide to getting a “running start” toward successful resolutions, without skimping on fun this week.

Drink water, eat fiber. Both water and fiber-rich foods can battle holiday bloat. To accomplish both at once, try water-rich vegetables such as zucchini and cucumber. And to warm up with stomach-soothing hydration, try peppermint tea.

Linger over meals. You read that right! Take advantage of the more relaxed pace of holiday week by eating socially, and slowly. Help yourself to cookies — and enjoy each bite. When you savor each bite as much as you savor the people around you, you will feel fuller much faster…so much so, that three cookies (instead of seven) will do the trick.

Freeze some grapes. They’re the perfect (water-filled) snack to pop while you’re cuddling on the couch, watching TV. (Other ideas: plain popcorn, sliced strawberries, hummus and black-bean chips.)

Get enough sleep. Even when you’re out to dinner or a party, block off eight hours for shut-eye. You’ll have less incentive to nosh late at night and sharper focus in the morning. Which brings us to our fifth suggestion.

Get moving every day. Power through the food coma; you’ll feel better almost instantly. From a 15-minute walk after a big meal to a family hike outdoors, staying active helps body, mind, and soul feel satisfied—not sluggish.

Don’t skip meals! It messes with your metabolism and sets you up for more overeating. If you indulged to much at lunch or dinner, it’s okay. Make the next meal “green and clean”: lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruits, to keep your energy up and your willpower strong.

Eat with your non-dominant hand. Strange, but true! Check out this article from Dr. Oz: http://www.drozthegoodlife.com/healthy-lifestyle/body/tips/a1767/stop-overeating-wrong-hand-trick/


Finding Warmth in Winter #2: Ice, Ice, Baby!

“We don’t fight winter; we take advantage of it.” – The Book of Hygge

America winters are rough, but Nordic ones are even rougher. That may explain why countries such as Norway and Denmark invest in the concept of hygge (hoo-guh), which roughly translates to finding joy in your current situation – in this case, winter – by warming your body and soul and cultivating the comfort of home, whether you’re there or not. Think soup, mulled wine and hot cocoa with marshmallows; slippers, robes and scented candles; and lots of time with family and friends — plus blissful solitude, whether engrossed in a book, curled on the couch and/or submerged in a bubble bath.

We’re on board. But, with that said: how do we explain the surging popularity of ice hotels? These are temporary lodging places (rebuilt, post-thaw, each year) in which the walls, fixtures and fittings are made entirely of ice or compacted snow, cemented with an ice-coated packed snow called snice (that’s “snow” and “ice”).

You wouldn’t camp out in an igloo or mold drinking vessels out of snow; so why pay to sleep on a bed of snow and toast to your health (or lack thereof) with ice glasses at a solid-brick ice bar?

The Nordic countries have their share of ice hotels, some built from the frozen waters of local rivers. Here in North America, Quebec’s Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel) first opened in January 2001. Its ice beds have wooden frames, deer skins and arctic sleeping bags; and before turning in for the night, guests can enjoy a shot of vodka at the Absolut Ice Bar.

In fact, how-to videos for sleeping on ice all recommend that guests warm up with a cocktail before bed. Guests report feeling so warm and cozy – safely ensconced in the snow – that many shed their thermal underwear by morning. The breakfasts include hot juice, of course.

Would you venture into an ice hotel during the camping hiatus? Tell us why!


Finding Warmth In Winter #1: Furry Friends

When campgrounds and other warm-weather sites close down, winter can turn dreary in more ways than one. Spring may lie around the corner; but this trek through the woods seems impossibly long. For this series of blogs, we’re exploring ways to bring joy, light and that warm, fuzzy feeling into the coldest months. We’re kicking it off with a fun one: owning (or borrowing) a pet! If you have one, you can attest to the list below. If you don’t, and certain family members are requesting one for Christmas, this list might tip the odds in their favor.

  1. Less stress. Researchers found that people conducting a stressful task reported less stress when their pets were with them – and pets took down stress levels better than spouses, relatives and friends. “You might lose your job, your house, your 401(k)—but you’ll never lose the unconditional love of your pet,” says Marty Becker, author of Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual.
  2. Lower blood pressure and cholesterol…and thus fewer heart attacks. You may love your dog more than anything; it loves your heart right back!
  3. Better mood. Within half an hour of playing with your dog, you feel more relaxed and calm. The interaction raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, the natural “feel-good” chemicals.
  4. Built-in exercise. “This dog isn’t going to walk itself”…and that’s to your advantage! Between neighborhood strolls and playing fetch, dog walkers get plenty of movement, and ample chances to enjoy the winter sunshine…another mood booster. When the chill sends you and your pet sprinting outdoors, you can generate warmth and keep moving by giving your pet a rubdown with a warm towel. Hugs and wrestling may follow!
  5. Instant friend-maker. Dog parks, outdoor cafes and pet stores (and newer social networking websites like Dogster and Petpop) are a great way to meet and mingle. Animal Planet calls them “the common denominator that helps people connect.”
  6. Healthier, happier kids. Children who grow up with dogs in the family have fewer allergies, stronger immune systems, and less risk of both eczema and allergies.  They also have an outlet for excess energy, a natural way to calm down, and a perfect opportunity to learn to care for others, responsibly.
  7. Stronger values. Dogs teach us more than we teach them. Think patience, commitment, affection, empathy, and all the virtues and values attached to caring for a pet.

Remember: Taking on a pet, particularly in winter, requires responsibility. (Yet another value for the list above!) You’ll want to avoid lighted candles, tape extension cords to the wall, and sweep your rug free of pine needles, ribbon and tinsel.