Wednesday, November 16, 2011

-37 (F)

Fairbanks did it. We reached -37 this morning. I woke up chilly under my blankets (I'm sure I've mentioned how poorly insulated our building is, and "my side" of the bed is right under a window) and shivered through getting dressed. When I let the dog out after her breakfast, a cloud appeared in the opening, which only happens when it's below about -20(F). So I knew it would be cold. I dressed for the cold. I just didn't know exactly how cold it was until I got to work.
Now, I know there are people out there who think, "How on earth do you dress for cold like that?!" But it truly is possible. My thighs were the only part of me that were cold when I made it to work. (And since my head was sweating, I find it a little unfair.)
So what are the necessary items to dress for such tremendous cold? The first rule is that you don't want to over-dress. Working up a sweat in these temps just means you'll be cold all day. (And yes, I know I just said my head was sweating. But my choice was either sweating or freezing. Which would you choose?) I didn't put on a sweater under my coat knowing that I'd start off chilly, but that I'd be going uphill and would be warm later on. A little chill at the beginning of my daily trek tends to be a good thing.
The second rule is to dress in layers. As soon as I get inside a building, I tear off all of my outside clothes. (Shane and I have jokingly dubbed it the "Alaskan striptease", which rather than getting naked means that you've taken off enough clothing to look like a person again.) And yes, the layers can be a pain in the butt. The other night I laughed to Shane because I said my goodbye but I was still in the room several minutes later, lacing up my boots and pulling on my gloves. It takes a while to get into and out of so much stuff, but not getting frostbite or hypothermia is worth it.
By layers, I also mean don't be afraid to utilize long underwear. I love mine, but I think a lot of people around here never wear them because of stigmas about how old-fashioned they are. It also means that those people don't spend any significant amount of time outdoors in the winter. If you're just going from a house to a warm car to a warm building, I can see why you'd find them unnecessary. But do you really want to be trapped indoors all winter? I don't care that they're not "sexy", and neither (thankfully!) does Shane, who also wears them.
Anyway, today I also doubled up on socks. I don't mean little cotton socks, I mean two pairs of wool socks. This was partly because I couldn't wear my warm winter boots (they rubbed the backs of my legs raw yesterday because my socks fell down on the walk home) so I wore my Bogs. However, I think this was actually to the good since the Bogs are taller and therefore kept more of my calves warm. My feet were nice and toasty for the walk.
I have a rather large collection of scarves, I must admit. There's a light, linen one that's more decorative and used when I'm not sure if I actually need a scarf or not. There's my cashmere one (a gift from my mother) which I use when I know we'll be driving somewhere, but I still need a warm scarf. (Our date, for instance.) I can't use that one when it's this cold because you need (and I do mean need something) over your face, not only for your skin and face but to prevent frostbite in your lungs. (Yep, it can happen.) The cashmere has a tendency to smell like wet dog when it's moist. So I defer to one of my other two scarves for super cold days, one I knitted myself and the other which was also a gift from family. They're both super long so I can wrap them around twice, and they're warm without being suffocating. (A definite plus.)
As I said before, I only wore a t-shirt today. I keep a sweater at work in case I get cold, but everything else usually does a good enough job. And on my walk, my torso tends to be the part of me that stays warm. A few times when I've worn a sweater, I've had the odd condition where my torso is sweating while my legs are numb with cold. I hate that.
The last thing I did in terms of apparel was to keep my hood up. Even with no wind blowing, it's amazing how warm it will keep you. It especially helps the face by making a little pocket of warmer air.
I think the one thing I'm missing are truly good gloves. I have two pairs, which do all right. And somewhere, I should have some mitten/glove hybrids. I used to have down mittens, but one of them got lost. So now I'm on the search for gloves which are good down to at least -40. For now, I'm utilizing my pockets and my warm breath to keep my fingers warm.
Finally, my advice is to have something warm to drink on either end. It's amazing how much this actually does warm you up. I start my work day by making a pot of tea in the coffee maker, and either make hot chocolate, hot apple cider, warm milk with honey, or more tea when I get home.
Of course, today happens to be the day our hot water is getting fixed. Which meant turning off the heat, so it's currently a cozy 58 (F) in our house right now. Sounds to me like a good excuse for snuggling with everyone. Well, everyone except our vigilant watch kitty who's on high alert, making sure the repairman doesn't invade the house. :)

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