Saturday, January 12, 2013

California cold spell

Our house
It's cold here in Southern California, and for those of you who live in really cold places, what that means is that we have weather like yours. It was 22 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, and it's expected to stay that way for another couple of days.

Unlike people who live in more northern climes, we feel the cold more in Southern California, and while you might think that's because we're pampered, thin-skinned wimps, there's another reason. Our houses are simply not made for cold weather.

We have huge floor-to-ceiling windows designed, California-style, "to bring the outside in." Well, they certainly do that, especially on cold nights when the cold air flows right through the gaps in the louvered jalousie windows. We have flat roofs without insulation, so any heat we generate inside seeps through like osmosis.

Our problem is that cold snaps occur so rarely we forget how poorly prepared we are, and our deficient our heating system is. We shiver through a frigid night, and the following day it's 85 degrees in the Valley.

 Our house was built in 1962 when "all-electric" was the latest building trend. We have a fifty year old electric central heating system, which actually means we have no heating at all.

Think of having two giant toasters glowing away in the basement. Ancient unprogrammable thermostats regulate when the toasters go on, which they do with a huge light-dimming thump. A fan desultorily wafts some of the heated air through yards of uninsulated aluminum ducts.  By the time a fitful breeze flutters through the floor grates in our bedroom, it's not much warmer than the ambient air.

We've learned to ignore this whole thing. We've turned it off completely. Instead, during the rare cold snaps, we heat our house with the fireplace and with electric space heaters in the rooms we occupy.

I like these rolling, oil-filled radiator heaters. I have one next to my desk chair right now, another next to the bed, and there's a third in [The Man I Love]'s office. I'm almost thinking I should put a leash on them and roll them around with me wherever I go.

Living in a cold house inspires some odd clothing combinations, too. I prefer to sleep in a tee-shirt, but on cold nights I might wear flannel pajamas. On really cold nights I might wear a tank top under my flannel pajama top. Or even a long sleeved tee-shirt. And socks.

Even if I don't wear socks to bed, the floors are so cold I have to wear socks when I get up. And it's cold enough I need something more than my sleeping tee-shirt, so sometimes the flannel pajama top becomes an extra layer, sort of like a bed-jacket, only frumpier. And a scarf keeps my neck warm.

This morning when I walked the dog it was cold enough to see my breath, and in the places where the sun had not yet touched, there was frost on the baby leaves of the sprouting weeds. My dog-walking ensemble consisted of:

Flannel pajama pants printed with dogs and milk bones, worn beneath a pair of too-big taupe-colored knit jeans - I don't wear these out anymore, but they sure slip easily over a pair of flannel pajama pants. I wear them for the extra layer and because I still possess some vestige of propriety about appearing on the street wearing flannel pajama pants.

A purple, long-sleeved cotton tee-shirt, worn beneath a button flannel pajama top, printed with dogs and milk bones.

A flowered silk and linen scarf, knotted around my neck.

A navy fleece jacked embroidered with the name of my employer.

Leopard-print socks. These must have been left behind by my son during one of his visits, because I have no idea how they got into my drawer.

A pair of salmon colored Croc sling-back ballet flats. These replace the purple colored Croc ballet flats that I used to wear until the sole actually wore through against the asphalt of the road.

Red stretch gloves.  A black ball cap that says, "Got Art?"

I am a sartorial nightmare, but when it's this cold, I just don't care anymore.


Max Sartin said...

The house I lived in as a teenager was of "Southern California" design. Just like you described - flat roof, floor-to-ceiling windows and electric heat (coils in the ceiling of all places). We had thick curtains for the windows to help keep the heat in, and often had to get up on the roof to shovel the snow off. Whoever thought that was a good idea wasn't paying close attention to the weather in our "desert".
Well, stay warm through your cold spell.

smalltownme said...

I thank my lucky stars my house has a big central gas heater. We get lots of below freezing nights in the winter. If we ever get around to replacing all the old leaky 1963 windows, we would be cozy indeed.

M. Bouffant said...

22? It was 22? I really don't have anything to complain about then.

Stay warm!

Kizz said...

Fashion has no place in the cold.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I'm surprised how cold it is there right now! Your overnight low was our high temperature today, but we are built for such weather: plenty of insulation in the attic, double-pane windows, and an effective gas heater. I can't fathom how cold it must be near those windows. (If you happen to have large window-sized chunks of Styrofoam, that will help insulate a particularly drafty window.)
Hooray for fireplaces, flannel, scarves, and multiple layers!

Anonymous said...

Here in the center of the US of A ( northern IN) your attire can be seen any day of the week, in the winter, at the big box store that starts with a W and ends in mart! The only difference might be a sweatshirt that has some slogan about tearing the gun from their cold dead fingers. So don't feel bad, just stay warm. ALBUG

small mind said...

I am so impressed with your bravery at sharing your cold weather fashion ... I was inspired and tonight I might take photos and post a blog in a similar vein ... stealing ideas is the sincerest form of flattery!
Patricia x

Cassi said...

When I was looking at grad schools, I stayed the night with a student in La Jolla, in March. I've never been so cold in my life :-)

Jen on the Edge said...

I don't know how you can even get out of bed when it's that cold and you don't have heat. Brrrr...

When we built our house a few years ago, we made sure it was well insulated. It's also sited in relationship to the sun so that we get a lot of light and warmth during the winter months. On the rare days that we lose power in the winter, the house actually stays reasonably warm.