Saturday, November 15, 2014

North American Winters - Remind me why I live here.

So, up here in North America - I say "up here" but Chicago is actually on the same latitude as Madrid! - the winters can be harsh. Last year was a real doozy with temps so low we were advised only to go out if needed, not to take children and dogs on long walks etc. I thought it was cold being brought up with the winds howling off the North Sea but this is a different kind of coldness.

This is how I walk the dog -

Fashionista on the loose!

But it wasn't until I started dispensing advise to Perfectly Happy Mum that I realized just how much we have to adapt living here. PHM has recently moved from England to a suburb of Chicago, and - the temps have just started to plummet. We are already existing below freezing (20's Fahrenheit) and trying to remind ourselves that this will seem positively balmy in a couple of months.

So yes, we all run out to buy snow-pants-that-actually-fit for the kids, more gloves and mittens than you think you would ever need ('cause they disappear mysteriously), hats, balaclavas (see above), warm boots etc. We stock up on de-icing salt for when the snow and ice comes, 'cause it's rarer than hens' teeth once that happens. If you're in the burbs (PHM) you might want to buy, or at least locate your nearest snow blower and your car needs to be prepped to the max. That's not just with de-icer, but the emergency stuff for when you break down and have to wait. Even in the inside of a car, if the heat's not on it can get dangerous in no time. 

Remind me - why do I live here?

But there are other things that, unless you have a friendly person who also doesn't take it for granted, you'd only learn through bitter experience.

Static - is fierce at this time of year. When you touch someone else, it's electric, but not in a good way! Opening a car door without first putting your sleeve over your hand can be painful and just pray to the heavens that your indoor carpeting isn't too synthetic! There's not a lot you can do about this unfortunately. Many heating systems (being air that's circulated through the house) have a built-in humidifier, and you can also buy small portable devices. Or - you can place bowls of water all over the place and watch in amazement at how quickly the water evaporates! 

Chapped-ness - a big one. Everyone here has a Chapstick in the pocket at all times. Not only do lips get chapped, but hands too; particularly fingertips. There's a wealth of creams on the market to deal with this and it's usually just a question of finding one that works for you. Perfectly Happy Mum went out shopping for supplies the other day and came back with what she thought was the most disgusting taste ever on a Chapstick - 

Believe me, there are worse, including one called Carmex, - the heavy duty stuff that stings like a mother! 

Outerwear - your namby pamby European winter coat will last you till about the second week in November and then it's the Eskimo look for you! As seen from the photo above, fashion goes out the window as everyone dons floor length duvets cunningly disguised as extra long parkas. Woolley gloves are abandoned in favor of ski gloves, jeans are of the fleece-lined variety, and boots must come up to your mid-calf at the very least. And no heels. Are you kidding me? Actually, having landed arse over tit once too often last winter while walking the dog, I'm going one better than flat boots this time. Oh yes, I'm purchasing me some of these babies from LL Bean - 

I'm nothing if not prepared! 


  1. I am discovering all these pleasurable moments... Thank you for all your advice though, they have been extremely helpful this week x

  2. I'm moving to New York in December. For the past 4 years I've been used to year round temperatures of 30 degrees celsius - day and night in Singapore so arriving in winter will be a shock to the system and I'm dreading it. Will definitely stock up on multiple pairs of gloves, hats and thermals.

  3. I was trying to remember what extreme cold felt like, but it's one of those things that's hard for your senses to recall. I think life where we were was so built around not having to be troubled by extremes of temperature, that we didn't experience it all that much. We went from heated house to heated car to heated venue. I think Chicago life is probably more rugged.

  4. I now have a whole collection of extra warm winter clothes (mainly from LL Bean) that I've hardly worn since being back in England.

    But those sheepskin boots are worth it for those few days a year when it's really chilly here....

    Stay warm!

  5. There are so many different kinds of cold, and it's all relative. The cold here is much like Chicago's: mid-continent cold fronts that are not only frigid but dry. Sunny days without wind can feel balmy despite a 0°F air temp. Head out to Portland, OR, and 50°F with high humidity chill me to the bone!

  6. We get properly cold weather here in Moscow but like Iota, the buildings are so superheated that for the brief time we're outside, we tend not to notice. Although the time when the inside of the front door lock froze because it was -25degC outside for 4 weeks straight was quite memorable...

  7. Some friends of friends have moved this year from Texas to Chicago. I'm wondering how they're coping!

    I'm afraid I'd refuse to go. I will only move to somewhere warmer than here (British midlands), so while the south of England might just about pass, really I want to go to Australia. Hopefully in a few years time... but if Husband gets a job in the upper half of the US, or in Canada, he can go on his own!


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