Over the weekend old friends we hadn't seen a while came by for a nice dinner on Keese Mills Road, their old home. Inviting aromas from our kitchens included roast chicken, a fresh ham roast, garden string beans, two homemade breads, cabbage and red potatoes, and a homemade pumpkin cheesecake.
We talked and ate pretty much non-stop until all our plates were clean. Then we continued our discussions as the table was cleared, settling on the topic of keeping warm in winter weather.
Quips from winter survivors
From the woman who gave me my first pair of flannel-lined blue jeans came, "I have found the most perfect cure for cold feet! You've heard of those five-hour hand warmers? Well, they now have toe-warmers, too, and they keep my feet perfectly comfortable " and she showed me the little packet they came in. You open the pack, apply the heating pad to the top of your feet, and the warmth penetrates and keeps those toes cozy.
From there the conversation turned to what each of us has done to be warm or get warm in the winter. "Wool socks. They have to be number one in keeping warm in the winter, followed by having a good pair of Sorels." For a while the company that owned Sorels was out of business, but it's back now, and a great variety of warm boots is available to North Country shoppers.
I pointed to the scarf-covered chair next to the front door, and said, "Scarves. Scarves can help your core stay warm, keeping your arms free to gesture and move about freely ... they are interchangeable and multi-layer-able as well." They acknowledged I was definitely a scarf advocate and had been for over forty years, so I sheepishly smiled, donning a fresh scarf for emphasis.
Next came, "Dressing in layers. Definitely a need for turtlenecks, fleece vests." Another friend piped in, "I have an electric shirt I wear on long motorcycle rides. I just got a thermostat for it, but it layers well, and heats you up when you're cold. Then you just turn it off until you're cold again." I couldn't see me looking around for a plug for my electric shirt, but it was still something to keep someone warm.
Then John said, "When I was in the Navy we sometimes wore electric socks. The heating unit was on a garter around your calf. We were out on flight decks in raging wind sometimes, but my feet were warm. They were life savers."
We discussed Sorels, and other foot-warming winter boots. We acknowledged that warmth often trumped comfort, and when the winter weather was really harsh, long-meandering walks in uncomfortable boots were not at the top of most people's to-do lists. These boots' warm wool liners, when coupled with good wool socks and long johns, allowed many a Carnival parade to be watched in complete comfort.
Then Deb said, "I've fallen in love with my electric blanket for going to sleep at night. It has a thermostat for each side, so I can adjust my side, or even turn it off, and getting into bed is extremely comfortable now. I can leave the window open a little crack and get some fresh air, and still stay warm."
Someone said, "But I like the comfort of the weight of a good quilt. A couple full sized, old fashioned blankets and a quilt? Can't beat it for a comfy warm sleep on a cold night. Those electric blankets are too lightweight for me ..."
I brought the discussion back to being outdoors when someone said, "Well, I know when I'm out cross- country skiing that I start off being cold, but quickly my body warms up to the point I have to start removing layers in order to be comfortable-that counts as a warming device, doesn't it?"
I added, "Oh yes, it does, and add snowshoeing to that list, and winter hiking. We all know how incongruous it is to be out in the cold air, pulling off gloves and hat to cool off after a climb up an esker. But those who do not dress in layers generally do not enjoy the experience as much." It's moving your body, in whatever way you're most inclined, through the winter environment. Walk, cross-country ski, snowshoe-do something aerobic outside and you'll find the cheapest and easiest "warming trend" we can come up with.
Or, failing to take on these ideas, and still being annoyed with the cold, plan to take your annual warm-weather trip during the cold time, and leave the warming tricks to us, the folks who live here all year round, with our wool socks, fleece vests, scarves, toe warmers and long johns to keep us warm until spring arrives.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.