As I sit here, at 11 in the morning in Jordan in a blanket, with the AC on hot, I realize I have already broken all my cardinal winter rules. Despite that, I will share them with you in the hopes that you will be less foolish than I. As a preface to this post, I must say that a significant portion of these tips come from my Father, who is a (mostly) wise person, and is still kickin it old school on a lot of things.
Basically my key to surviving winter focuses a lot on what you can do to your body and to your home in order to avoid turning on the heat… cause your cheap and its more environmentally friendly. Lets begin!
1. Be one with the onion
…and layer. Winter means you shouldn’t be walking around in hot shorts, so get your layers on. Sweaters, socks, undershirts etc., you cant expect to be warm if your not dressed for it. I know this seems really obvious, but all my life I have seen people walking around in t-shirts going “Ohmygaaaaaaad its sooo cold”.. Like yeah, maybe cause you acting like you’re in fucking Tahiti…
Keeping warm in layers means your protected from the cold, AND you retain your body heat, keep all those juices sealed in. So gross but true. Thin layers are as important as the big ones as well, so don’t skimp on them. You also lose body heat through your feet and head mostly, and while I have an impressive amount of hair to wrap on my noggin, my feet are usually as cold a dead mans. Layer on your feeties too.. is my point.
2. Wool you listen to me?
I don’t like unnecessary costs, but I am not that sheep. Ha ha ha, sorry couldn’t resist. Anyways, wool is a major component in staying warm in winter. As the capitalist machine churns out more crappy synthetic materials, we lost the ability to make smart, educated choices when it comes to the things we purchase. Things are made to look good; they don’t focus on functionality, or on quality. Wool is a natural material, meaning it breathes and lets air flow in a harmonious way. This makes it ideal both in winter and summer, yes SUMMER. Basically, its insulating properties help keep warmth in, and warmth out depending on how its spun and crafted! It also absorbs moisture, but it does not necessarily feel wet, it doesn’t get soggy. On the flip side, wool burns at a high temperature, making it a safe alternative to acrylic blankets in your home, and if you have 100% wool blankets, a fire retardant. This is why my grandpa had thick wool blankets in the navy back in the day; it was used for its unparalleled warmth and they were told to use the blankets to put out fires. So basically, wool is amazing, and depending on where you live, it might be expensive. My solution would be to check out any local manufacturers, and to scour your local thrift stores! Clothes were made differently back in the day, both in terms of quality, craftsmanship, and materials, and most of the 100% wool items you will find will be vintage. So do it, buy wool, stay local. If the wool bothers your skin, you can try to look for solutions online, and wear cotton undershirts.
3. Keep your house properly insulated.
Now this step will depend on your finances, your region, and the materials used to build your house. My experience is USA and Jordan, but I am in Jordan currently so I’ll stick to that. For windows, double glazed windows go a long, long, long way towards warming your house. They made a HUGE difference in our house, and its investment worth making. Keeping the blinds/curtains closed also helps, which seems silly but works. Also, if your staying in one area of the house, close the doors, and keep that circulation locked in. There are other tricks, like dislodging and covering your clothes dryer vent, so it blows hot air into the house rather than out. Oh and carpets, lots of carpets. And blankets, bring on the blankets. Oh oh and, don’t block your radiators – it cuts the heat they give out.
4. “Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
Drink my friends, it warms you up. Especially stuff like red wine, whisky, and my personal favorite mulled wine. The earliest recorded mention of mulled wine is Roman, and I guess they spread that good shit around. Its usually red wine or port that’s heated up and infused with spices. The most common spices are cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, and the wine is usually sweetened with orange juice, sugar or honey. There are variations of it in the British isles, the Scandinavian countries as well as Finland and Estonia, and in German speaking regions. If you think back on the ingredients, all those heady spices and citrus in particular, you’ll realize that those would have been exotic and expensive ingredients. Particularly citrus, only really rich people would have been able to import citrus. You can look up recipes, but my favorite is actually the nerdiest of the nerdy. It’s a medieval recipe, that was used to recreate the ‘spiced wine’ that the Old Bear, commander of the Nights Watch of Westeros in the ASOIAF series, drinks copiously throughout the books.
5. Potus ypocras. Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried, a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii unce; of notemugges, ii unce & a half; of carewey, ii unce; of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of honey. – Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century
Basically, the drink not only keeps you warm cause its served hot, but the ginger in particular will spread a fire in your tummy and its wonderful. Also, if there are kids near you, you can utilize child labor. My beloved little sister Sophia made me little mulled wine satchels, she mixed the spices and put them in little tea bags for me, ready for use, just add wine and citrus/honey. Isn’t she the best?
5. “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
If you don’t drink booze, the rule still applies: drink hot beverages. Tea is my favorite, and if you get a non-caffeinated type you can drink continuously to keep yourself warm from the inside. I am one of those sensitive types so this one really works for me. There are other options too, like coffee, hot chocolate, hot milk, warm lemonade, hot ginger water, or pee, but I don’t personally recommend that one. This goes for food as well, and eating soups in winder it part of a religion. Invite people over, have a tea party, and you can slip some rum into your cup, its okay I wont tell.
With people or with beasts, just cuddle. Yes I may or may not force my cats to love me, but at night when its cold I wake up and find them sleeping on my face so I call it even.
For the people in the Arabian Gulf.
Since most of my readers are in the United Arab Emirates, this part of the post will be for them. First off let me say screw you, and I hate you. Yeah I am not good at pandering to my audience obviously… but hey, I am honest.
You guys are so lucky, yeah don’t tell me how hot it is in the summer, you guys have AC. I once visited Dubai in February, and it was glorious. I went to the pool every day, water cool enough to do laps, sun was shinning. It’s so cold here I avoid taking showers. Not really, but in theory it’s true. Here are my tips for the Gulfies
1. Be outdoors
Know that I hate you. But anyways I digress. Take this chance to get out there and swim, either for sport or for fun. The weather will be nice enough to allow you to enjoy the outdoors, so take picnics, walk on the beach, take desert safaris!
2. Pick up a challenging outdoors sport
Like rugby, I wish I could do rugby. For me winter means long walks in the rain, or comfortable jogging, but I am weird like that. For Gulf people, the weather will be okay, at least enough to play something like badminton. Or hell, beer pong… outside! Point is, take advantage of the weather. I know this might seem like the same point as 1. but that one is for recreation and this one is for fat burning.
Since you will still be in a tropical locale you jerks, continue to indulge in yummy beverages. Seek out the best bars, and the best beer labels, try out new cocktails! Don’t stick with the ordinary! Actually this applies to non-alcoholic beverages. Try tea bars, or go for British high tea. For those who don’t know, that’s a thing where you drink fancy tea (and champagne if you want) and eat inappropriately sized sandwiches and desserts. But hey, I’m American and size matters. Still so good though, particularly the scones, which you have to pronounce without the ‘e’ so its scons… Many things are wrong with the UK.
Get out of Dubai and find something off the beaten track, something in another city maybe. Do some research and go camping, or find a cool small town that is still (mostly) unspoiled by modernity. I am certain there is something to be found if you open your mind to it.
p.s. first three images in the post are not mine. :)