Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Does "layering" have to mean sweaters?

With the temperature in the 20s this morning, it's definitely time to be thinking about layering to keep warm. Living in Fairbanks, and either walking or biking year-round, has made me very aware of my layering. During the winter I can get an approximation of the temperature from the size of the steam cloud that forms when I open the door to let the dog out in the morning. Often this also means another trip to the bedroom to either grab another layer or put one back. Layering isn't just a good thing to do, it becomes an art form at that point. Knowing exactly how much to wear to keep yourself comfortable, and how to be comfortable in any situation, is very tricky. Who knows what the day might bring?
Let's face it, we don't always have control over what the temperature is. My office is always, always chilly. If I go other places, sometimes they're too hot. But even when we do have control, it can be good (environmentally and budgetarily) to keep the temperature down. Mothers everywhere tell their children to "put on a sweater" when they get cold. I'm sure most people are sick of hearing that advice and I know some would prefer to keep the heat up rather than wear a sweater. Honestly, wearing so many clothes around here can make the best of us a bit weary by the end of winter. When you're pulling on your longjohns yet again or deciding which of your sweaters to wear yet again it's easy to start daydreaming about swimsuit weather and shorts and tank tops. Spring is the time of year when you're ready to say, "Fuck it! I'm turning the heat up to 85!"
Layering doesn't always mean longjohns and sweaters or flannel shirts, however. (Although flannel shirts are amazingly comfortable.) Today I'm wearing two layers: a tank top and a light shirt. The tank isn't visible to anyone, but it's helping to keep me warm nonetheless. My office is perpetually cold and when I was getting dressed this morning I realized that, even with the sweater I planned to bring, I would probably be chilly. I forgot the sweater in my mad dash out of the house, but because I have 2 layers on already it's not such a big deal today. (If I got really cold I could always put my fleece jacket on.)
On Pinterest I keep seeing all these cute outfits which people (or magazines?) have put together and they often involve layers. A tank top and a sweater, or a long-sleeved shirt and a scarf. Layers not only add warmth but they can add something visually interesting to your outfit. One navy blue thermal shirt is much like the next, but add a pretty scarf and it looks instantly dressy and more interesting. Sure a scarf might not be the warmest thing in the world, but it could make the difference between being slightly uncomfortable and being comfortable.
As the temperature drops I'll start layering more and more. It won't be unusual for me to leave the house with 3-4 layers on top, at least 2 on my legs, and 3 on my feet. (Plus gloves and a scarf or cowl and a hat, possibly even putting up my hood for an extra layer on my head and neck. But that sort of goes without saying.) Most of these layers won't be visible to others but they'll be keeping me toasty warm.
When you layer your clothing, it's also much easier to turn the temperature of your house down and save a bit on heating. I say "clothing", but at home it doesn't even have to be that. There's a reason slippers were invented and it sure wasn't for their looks. We both have sheepskin slippers with rubber soles which my in-laws gave us. They're perfect, soft and warm and comfortable and durable. The rubber soles also mean that we're not ruining them if we have to step outside to grab the dog when she's being a pest, or something like that.
One of our favorite things in the winter is to wrap up in a big blanket. Shane will sit at his computer wrapped up in one and I'll frequently read in bed (with a pet or two snuggling in) to keep warm. If I'm up and about, I've got a robe or a blanket with me. The advice your mother gave you to put on a sweater doesn't actually have to be taken literally. Finding a comfortable way to keep warm is key. For me, that often means something loose. Having so many layers on during the winter is not only bulky but it can feel constricting. When I'm home, I wear loose, comfortable clothes and I'd rather throw a blanket around myself than put on a sweater. Again.
Finally, don't forget the power of a hot drink to warm you up. Tea, hot cocoa, warm cider, mulled wine, hot buttered rum, warm milk with honey, whatever. It's now chilly enough that I look forward to starting my pot of tea when I get to work each morning. Holding the hot mug heats my chilled fingers and feels comforting.
After writing all of this, I realized that I'm actually excited for the cold. Not just the snow, but the cold itself. It bothers me when I'm cold, but I guess I sort of like it when the temperature dips. I'm much more appreciative of all the things that help to keep me warm, such as a filling meal of pot roast (I have one in the slow cooker right now) or just waking up with the dog curled at my side. The little things in life become so much more meaningful when faced with such a formidable force of nature like extreme cold. It makes me proud of humanity's resiliency, that we can face it and (sort of) conquer it. And it makes me proud of my own resiliency. If I can do all of the things I do in this place, what can't I do?

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