Over the last few days, the Black Hills and much of the western United States have fallen victim to a really serious cold front sucked down from the arctic by moving pressure systems. That’s a fancy pants way of saying that it is freaking freezing here. The sun has been shining through most of this, which makes it that much harder to understand why you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut two seconds after leaving your nice, heated house. Cold this big hurts.
But it’s not all bad. Once you’re sure your pets are safely back inside and your pipes are unfrozen and you’ve given up on the idea of saving your roses, there are some definite benefits to weather this bitterly cold.
1. Hand-knit socks
Grandma gave them to you six years ago for Christmas or a birthday and at the time it was all you could do to smile and say “thank you” and try to mean it. You stuck them in your drawer where they eventually made their way to the very, very bottom of the back, behind the pair of holey Snoopy socks that you just can’t bear to throw away and underneath the neon-pink garter belt you got because you thought it would be sexy but discovered it’s just plain embarrassing. But now, that thick, scratchy, lime-green-and-orange pair of goodness is all you can think about, and when you finally get over your shock and how warm and cozy they are, you’ll have to send your grandma a very belated thank you card, and really mean it this time.
If you have one, count it a blessing. I’ve been trying to figure out a place to put one in my house since I moved in with no luck. I’m almost ready to settle for the Fire Channel on cable. Instead, I’ve been borrowing fireplaces at other people’s houses, and enjoying them thoroughly. Propane is nice because you can get copious amounts of heat in a very short time, which is perfect for defrosing after walking in from the car. Wood is even better, because while you can’t shoot from a body temperature of 80.4 to 103.7 in five minutes flat, you can toast marshmallows. Thought marshmallows were just for campfires in the summer? You’re wrong. They’re definitely for deadly cold winter indoor-fires too.
3. Hot soup
I love soup. It runs in my family, I think, though I came later to the appreciation than my siblings. A good, thick soup is the perfect solution for a cold day rumbling stomach. Something with potatoes is always good. Chile is excellent. I just had a ham and many-bean soup for lunch, though, and I think that might be my new favorite cold-day food. It was salty and hot and oh-so-good. If it didn’t cost $4/bowl, (“bowl”), I would have to have gone back for seconds. I’ll be looking up a recipe shortly, you can be sure.
4. Hot chocolate+
If you want a real project, you can make up real hot chocolate with milk and actual chocolate on your stove. If you do that, drink it straight, and enjoy. Otherwise, any old cocoa powder will do, because once you add the schnapps, the quality of the cocoa matters a lot less. Peppermint is my favorite, though cinnamon, caramel, or marshmallow (seriously!) are also good. If you feel nutty, I recommend amaretto or frangelico. Mmm. It’s also hard to go wrong with Bailey’s or Kahlua, and if you’re really desperate, just about anything you have in your cabinet will be okay. Warms you up from the inside out. And in case I haven’t already made my love of marshmallows abundantly clear, a few marshmallows on top is an excellent idea.
5. A huge, hairy cat
Maybe they make you sneeze, but there’s no denying that a cat is about the best lap-blanket ever invented. Not only do they keep your lap warm, if you pet them enough, they might give you a thigh massage (y’know… that kneading thing they do with their paws when they’re really happy). If just thinking about cats makes your eyes start to swell up, a dog might also do in a pinch.
If you have the option, stay in bed as long as you possibly can. Noon is good. Two is better. Cold temperatures actually cause the body to want to sleep more. It’s a defense mechanism, a way of conserving energy. There are few things as lovely as a huge fluffy blanket to burrow down into. And if you can’t sleep that long, stay in bed anyway. Get a good book or flip on the TV if you must. Now that you’re an adult, this is as close as you’ll get to playing hooky from school with “the flu.”
Dig up that brain candy book you’ve been waiting to read and take this freezing opportunity to pretend your TV and internet are broken, curl up under a fluffy blanket, and read until your eyes start to go crossed. If you can’t keep reading for longer than a few minutes at a time, your book obviously needs to be lower quality. Days when you can binge-read should not be reserved for catching up on your classics, it’s a time for gobbling up a stack of harlequins or the next book in that formula mystery series or a nice sword and sorcery tome of at least 900 pages. If you have the option, try to talk someone’s ear off about the characters and plot, even if the other person doesn’t care.
You’ve got them all over your house because they’re pretty, or they smell nice, or you want to be ready when the electricity goes out, but here’s hoping that never actually becomes a problem. And since we’re being optimistic, and you’ll never need to burn those candles, this is the perfect opportunity to do it because you can. Though not as obviously warming as a fireplace, having an actual flame nearby makes a room feel warmer, even if it’s just the ambiance. Fragrances like pine and cinnamon can make a winter day seem cozier, and if you feel wild, you could even try toasting mini-marshmallows. (Get it? Mini fire, mini marshmallows!)
9. Bubble baths
Nothing is better for defrosting extremities than a nice, hot bath (especially if you don’t have a fireplace). Pour in an overly-generous dose of bubbles and see if you can get the bubbles to tower twice as high as the tub itself. It’s a good game. (May want to have a life-preserver handy.) The best part is that bubble baths can be combined with any number of the above-listed goodies. Bring your hot chocolate and a book, but probably not your socks or the cat. Soak until you’re so wrinkly your mate will mistake you for your grandmother, then move along to the next wonderful icy-day activity.
This is the best one of all. Grab someone you’re particularly fond of and attach yourself. Hamster piles are fine, but a little one-on-one cuddling action is a treat not to be missed on any occasion. Here, the cold is just an excuse. Must huddle together for body warmth, eh?