Laura Dean Bennett
The calendar may insist that the first day of winter isn’t until the Winter Solstice on December 21, but here in Pocahontas County, we know better.
It’s time to batten down the hatches and tack up the extra blankets over the attic stairs.
And, after you’ve done that, you may want to be reminded of a few other things you can do to make winter a little less daunting.
I know it sounds silly, but go around and make sure your windows are completely and tightly closed and locked down.
Check for drafts at your windows. Stuff cracks with folded newspaper and lay rolled up towels or pillow cases over the casement or on the window sill.
Consider changing out your summer curtains for heavier winter curtains.
Tuck the edges in around the window to avoid drafts or letting your heat be wasted by escaping up onto the cold window panes.
During the day, open the curtains on the sunny side of the house and keep them closed on the shady side.
Close all the curtains at night and shut the doors on unused rooms to keep the heat in the central area of the house.
If there are any drafts under your doors, roll up a throw rug and scoot it up close to keep them at bay.
If, like me, you like to pull the heat from the floor up and away to the ceiling in the summer, remember to reverse your ceiling fans. Push that heat hanging around the ceiling back down where it can do you some good.
Even if you wear socks to bed, and even if you have flannel sheets, it’s sometimes still chilly putting your feet between the sheets at bedtime.
If you’ll tuck a hot water bottle or a heating pad down under the covers, your bed will welcome you instead of giving you the cold shoulder.
We lose 30 percent of our body heat through our heads, so always keep a hat by the door and one in your vehicle, even if you’re not planning on being outdoors long.
And there’s no shame in wearing a warm, stretchy cap to bed. There’s a reason our grandparents wore “sleeping caps” in the old days.
Rather than spending extra money heating your entire house, put on a sweater or a robe, maybe even a stretchy cap.
And keep a lap robe or a comfy throw over the back of your couch and chairs to keep legs and feet comfortable.
It’s time to do lots of baking and to cook your meals in the oven as opposed to on top the stove. When you’re done cooking, turn the oven off and leave the oven door open to help heat the house.
Leftover newspapers come in handy for lots of things. You can put some inside the back door to catch snow and mud from your boots. And crumple some up and stuff your boots to dry up any dampness inside.
To keep your tall leather boots from “breaking down,” roll up newspapers and stick them into your boots. When not it use, they’ll preserve their shape and you’ll stay stylish.
Adding a shoe liner or a layer of wool to your boots or shoes will help protect your feet from getting cold. You may even want to do this with your slippers!
Before the kids go tramping around in the woods or hiking out in the snow, slide sandwich bags or plastic wrap over their socks to get another layer of insulation from the dampness.
Spray your winter boots and shoes with waterproofing leather or suede preserver and they will last through many snowy seasons.
Keep extra gloves in your jacket pockets and your glove box. You never know when you’ll be glad they’re there.
Keep a little container of hand sanitizer with you. If a car door lock or a gate latch is frozen, just squirt it into the lock, wait a few seconds, and you should be good to go. If that doesn’t do the trick, heat the lock with a match or a lighter.
Before tackling a snowy sidewalk or driveway with the snow shovel, spray the shovel with cooking spray. It’ll make the snow slide right off, making the job that much easier.
For icy steps and sidewalks, make your own de-icer. Mix half a gallon of hot water, one teaspoon of Dawn dish soap, and one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Spray or pour on and watch it melt away the ice.
Leaving your vehicle outside in the cold? The windshield will be a little less frosty if you park facing east.
I know you know about folding your windshield wipers back and leaving them “standing up” when we’re expecting ice and snow. But you may also want to slip some old knee or tube socks over them – and secure with a rubber band or twine tied in a bow, never a knot – to protect the rubber edges from the elements.
Your side mirrors would also like a bit of protection – tuck them into a plastic bag, tie the edges together and “fold” the mirrors in when you leave the vehicle for a frosty overnight in the storm.
If you’ve ever gotten stuck on a snowy road, you know it can be tricky getting enough traction to get going again. Keep a couple of bags of kitty litter – the original clay kind, not the clump-able kind – in your vehicle and you’ll be ready to pour it between your wheel and the offending slippery stuff. Sand will also work.
While you’re stocking your vehicle for the winter, add some bottled water and snack bars, a warm blanket, a flashlight, a book and some cardboard and a permanent marker in case you need to write a note or make a sign. You never know when a road accident may cause you to have to spend some extended time in the vehicle while you wait for help to arrive.
Just to be on the safe side, if you’re venturing out on the roads during bad weather, let someone know where you are headed, when you’re expecting to arrive and when you’ll be home. And make it a habit to call and tell them when you have gotten home. At least someone will know if it’s time to send out the St. Bernard.
We all need vitamin D to stay healthy, so be sure to take a few minutes to be outdoors in the sunshine whenever you can.
And, now that you’ve gotten all in readiness for winter, you deserve to have a little fun.
On a really cold day, go outside and blow bubbles with dish soap.
If the temperature is below zero and your dish soap is cold, your bubbles should freeze in a matter of minutes – or even seconds.
Isn’t winter fun?
Laura Dean Bennett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org