Thursday, November 19, 2009

10 Warming Winter Ways

The snowline is creeping down the mountainside and our new home is getting cooler and draftier. As a woman who's been producing her own heat-waves for a few years, this drop in household temperature is welcome change. However, for hubby, who prefers things warm, it's not a good feature.

So, there's been a minor battle waged over the thermostat. It goes against my frugal nature to turn the furnace up over 20 Celsius. There are other ways to stay warm, I argue. Here's my top-ten list of warming ways for winter living:

  1. Use weather-stripping and caulking to ensure all doors and windows are sealed against drafts.
  2. Sew/buy curtains of heavier-weight fabrics, or add a backing/liner onto existing curtains.
  3. Dress in layers and add or subtract pieces as needed for fluctuations in household temperatures.
  4. Wear slippers, warm socks, and/or indoor footwear – keep the feet warm and the rest is easier to warm.
  5. Close heat registers in and the doors of rooms that are infrequently used.
  6. Use ceiling or stand-alone fans to keep air moving rather than lying in hot and cold pockets around the house.
  7. Use throw blankets in cooler seating areas.
  8. Maintain moderate humidity levels with humidifiers or de-humidifiers, as needed.
  9. On chillier days, consider roasting or baking. An oven heated to moderate temperature is a great source of household heat that, through the use of those aforementioned fans, can disperse throughout a wide area, eliminating the need to bump up the thermostat, and all the while making something delicious.
  10. Another way of staying warm through food is to enjoy soups, stews, and warm drinks. The body's temperature rises during the digestive process anyway, but when that food is braised or boiled, the warmth spreads when you raise a steaming spoonful or mug, and swallow its hot contents.

There are other – ahem – more "adult" ways to stay warm, but those are outside the scope of this blog.

One adult favourite of a tamer variety, is the hot toddy. Like most hot drinks, the warmth begins as soon as hands grip the mug. When the toddy is consumed the magical heat begins, firing belly and body. If you'd like to try this "medicinal approach" just email me with "Hot Drink" in the subject line, and I'll gladly share my recipe for a simple and deliciously sweet mix for hot buttered-rum. It can be served with or without the alcoholic content.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting Crafty

This is my busiest period. With sixteen birthdays and three anniversaries occurring between September and January, and Christmas – with all its baking, cooking, decorating and gift-giving – squeezed in there, too, this season is downright frenzied. So, how do I cope?

Mainly, I don't do all the shopping during these months. That would overtax both our budget and schedule. Instead, shopping for gifts, cards and dry foods begins months ahead. In the case of Christmas-gift crafting, immediately after the holidays when seasonal fabrics, notions and decorations go on sale, is when I shop for next year's supplies. Their availability passes with the season and I like to putter at crafts throughout the year.

Birthday cards can be bought ahead, too. Years ago, I found a handy sorting calendar that enables me to take advantage of card sales, and keep them ready for delivery, or mailing, well ahead of their due dates. This lead-time also allows for creation of cards, when I'm inspired to do so. For this purpose, I keep my eyes open, throughout the year, for sales of remnant lace and ribbons, glitter, and decorative stickers.

When it comes to gift-giving, I use a similar tactic but for different reasons. As often happens when birthdays fall in summer or winter, many available items (like clothing, sporting goods, etc.) are very seasonal. By shopping for those gifts at other times of the year, selections are more varied. Also, when shopping ahead for gifts and cards, it's much easier to stick with a budget. Each month we set aside funds for gift-giving and, whether or not an occasion is current, we have money available for those "perfect gifts" when we find them on sale.

By far, though, Christmas poses the greatest gift-giving challenge. It strains the budget, the seasonal mood, and creativity – the latter, in particular, when every store seems to offer the same (mostly useless and cheaply made) merchandise. This is why I like crafting gifts months in advance: it eases the budget; it calms that holiday frenzy; and there's real opportunity to give unique and keepsake-quality gifts.

So, if you like to knit, sew, or scrapbook, and if you want to make Yuletide-themed gifts, this is the time to buy those yarns, fabrics, stencils, baubles, or stickers. You needn't hurry to create with them, either. These supplies will last the year, giving you plenty of opportunity to complete your projects before next winter brings forth a whole new crop of materials to purchase for the following year's holidays.