Saturday, December 10, 2011

Green Heat

It starts and ends with the comforter, the down comforter. More on that below. I love my comforter so much that things got out of hand in writing this post and went on forever .

Other tips from a European lifestyle for keeping warm, the green way.

1) Wear a sweater. Seriously, turn the heat down and put on a sweater. I tried this. I was sick of seeing my kids running around the house in t-shirts when it was freezing cold out. I turned the heat down to 63 and waited. The sweaters came out. Magic.
* The nighttime version of a sweater is called a blanket sleeper. This is for the little ankle-biters who won't stay under the covers. It goes over regular pyjamas. A baby sleeping bag is another great option, up to about 3 years old. They zip up and can't be kicked off.
2) Morning routine; drink something warm, first, before you shower, before you take the dog out, and especially before you walk to school, go for a run. This will increase your inner temperature and you will use less hot water for less time in the shower/bath. Heating a kettle or sticking a mug of cocoa in the microwave uses a lot less energy than 20 minutes in the shower.
3) At bedtime; turn down the heat and warm up your bed with a rice bag or a hot water bottle. For the hot water bottle; well, fill it with hot water (I used to boil the water, but begin to fill with tap water so as not to melt the bottle.)
We converted to rice bags years ago, here is how they work: You pop it in the oven on lowish heat or in the microwave for a minute or two and place it where your toes go at the bottom of your bed. The kids will love it, it is a special winter-time treat at bedtime. Don't have any rice bags? Take a piece of fabric (flannel is nice), fold it in half, stitch it up and stuff it with rice. Or use a big man's sock; fill that with rice and tie a knot in the end. I like to sprinkle the rice first with lavender or lemonbalm essential oil, both are soothing and good for sleep.

Now for the comforter in lieu of all blankets, flat sheets, extra heat. There is one on every bed in our house and this is where the night starts out all cozy and...well, cold for a minute, until a warm body and a warm rice bag quickly create heat that lasts until morning. In fact our beds are so very comfortable and warm that some of us have a really hard time leaving them in the morning.

My childhood nighttime memories are of warmth and comfort...and weight. In fact, the best present my sister and I ever got for Christmas was matching yellow electric blankets one year. But it took a lot of getting used to, sleeping without the reassuring weight of about a hundred blankets on me. A down comforter takes your body heat and holds it in, even lasting through midnight potty breaks, and is so light you would think it was made of feathers...(sorry, that was dumb.)

The initial investment for a down comforter, (from about $100 for a twin size on sale to $350 for a high-quality queen or king) makes it a good Christmas gift from relatives who just want to please you, a lot. It may seem expensive for a blanket, but this is the only "blanket" you will ever need. Ours was a wedding gift from my in-laws 18 years ago, and it is still the best one in the house. I have had one complaint. My own parents don't use the comforter we gave them as a gift years ago because it is "too warm." To which I say; "turn down the heat and use the goose already." (That is not an inappropriate remark, it is a reference to the goose feathers.)

What to look for in a comforter:
1) Weight; the colder the climate, the heavier the weight. Mine is a heavy-duty and it was just fine in cold, damp southern France, even though it rarely got cold enough to snow.
2) Construction; quilting, sometimes called "baffle-box" that holds the feathers in place to a minimum. It does not need to be fancy, because one of the fun parts of owning a down comforter is the daily "fluffing"; whereby you announce that you are about to fluff the comforter and a bunch of kids in pjs jump underneath so they can be fluffed right along with it. I stand on the end of my bed to gain enough height, and whoosh all the feathers back to the top and throughout the comforter by shaking/lifting it. It is only not fun when one is nine months pregnant. Or when one has forgotten to fluff and is lying there about to fall asleep and your significant other decides it must be done right now or he/she will never be warm enough.

Stay warm and sleep well!

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