You deposit your delicate derrière onto the driver seat and you:
(a) Run back into the house and don't emerge until May.
(b) Grit your teeth, remain seated and get frostbite on your bum.
(c) Turn on the seat heat and drive away. - OR:
(d) Settle yourself in comfort and calmly drive away.
I have a friend who goes for option (a), spending winters holed up in her house until she runs out of food. As she telecommutes, she really only needs to emerge to walk her dog a few times a day: since it doesn't involve putting her behind in contact with any cold objects, she can deal with that.
But a mom like me doesn't have that option. There's school, sports, fossil hunting. There's grocery shopping and cello lessons. I have to take that driver's seat.
I've done (b): just grit your teeth. I've never quite got frostbite, but a urinary tract infection is nasty enough. Now that we have a car with seat heat, I've gone with option (c) as well. But I hesitate to hit that button that so resembles a rude gesture. First of all, I can't help thinking of what toxins emanate from the synthetic stuffing of the seat when you heat it up to the temperature of a hot day in Florida. Secondly, I'm not into toasted skin syndrome or burn marks on my thighs in the shape of the heating elements. Finally, while seat heat feels comfy at first, soon I start to feel like the frog in the pot, with the fire underneath: you just never know at what point you are actually cooked.
Certainly I would never turn on the seat heat underneath the cello. Ack! Heating it in one place while leaving it icy cold in another would do a number on a delicate wood instrument like that. What saves the cello on the way to school or to lessons is its well-padded case.
Padding is also what helps me attain option (d). Now there's padding, and there's padding - and then, for wintry conditions, there's wool. If it helps medium-sized creatures like sheep survive Icelandic winters, I'd say it's good enough for me.
Wool has come a long way since your grandmother knitted you that horrifically itchy Shetland sweater that shrank to the size of a mitten at the first wash. Let me sing its praises.
Insulation. Wool's insulating properties are legendary, and the reason that wool is so beloved of fishermen, Nordic skiing teams - and green moms. A thin base layer of wool fits under your regular pants and can keep you comfy without the need to look dorky in bulky snow pants. A few layers will keep you warm when temperatures dip well below freezing.
Waterproof. Wool tends to repel water, making it a popular material for pea coats and diaper covers. It also repels dirt, particularly nice if your toddler is prone to dribbling food on their fronts: often you can just wipe it off with a cloth - you couldn't do that with cotton, which instantly absorbs everything that falls on it.
When exposed to a lot of water, wool does eventually get wet, and quite heavy. But the air pockets that give it its insulating properties are inside the fiber, so even a wet wool sweater still helps you retain body heat. I once went on a disastrous winter camping trip that culminated in a 30-foot fall into a half-frozen creek. My down coat became a useless sodden mess instantly. But I walked out of those woods through the snow, wearing two wool sweaters. Never even caught a cold.
Breathable. You can wear wool in a large temperature range because it breathes. In fact, many desert people prize wool for both the heat of the day and the cold desert nights. It's great for vigorous sports and vigorous work because it releases your perspiration while you're at it, and keeps you from getting chilled when you stop for a break.
Clean. Besides being naturally dirt repellent, wool has its own magical odor fighting properties that are nothing short of a miracle. Just read the rave reviews at outdoor clothing webstores. Wool deals with perspiration in a way polyester fleece can't even being to imitate. Smelly feet? Try wool socks (preferrably in leather shoes).
Itchless. Not all wool is created equal: Shetland wool ranks just above steel wool, in my opinion (I mean, even the hardy Scots wear it as kilts rather than have it chafe against their legs as pants). But if you play your cards right you don't ever have to put up with that. Choose wool from the Merino sheep for on-the-skin comfort. Harder to find, but soft as cotton, is Bluefaced Leicester; it's been my favourite ever since I discovered it; you may have to knit your own. On the most desperate days, I pull out my secret weapon: my angora-merino blend leggings. Itchless. Warm. Bliss.
Here is the scoop about that itch: even diehards like me find merino wool ever so slightly itchy the first day of every winter. Persist through that for just one day, and by the next day you won't want to take off that wool Tshirt. When my children were very young, they parted with their wool clothing with the greatest reluctance: the only way I could persuade them to take off their woollies was to show them the clean set waiting to be put on instead.superwash wool: The scales on the wool fibers, which like to grip into each other and cause felting and shrinking, have been either stripped away, or covered in a microcoat of polymer; smoothing the outside surface of the fiber. Superwash means you can throw your sweaters, socks, baselayers, everything, into the machine on the regular washing cycle, without felting or shrinking. You can even machine-dry some superwash wool, although I prefer to air dry.
A good wool garment lasts for years and years, but when it's finally finished, because the holes are now simply too large to repair, you can re-purpose it. A man's sweater is a great filler for a toddler pillow. I'm collecting old sweaters for the padding of our cello box. You can use wool as the middle layer of an insulated lunch bag. You can stuff some holey socks in another holey sock, as a cheap alternative to wool felt balls for your laundry drying machine. You can send it off for industrial recycling: felt is useful in a multitude of ways. And you can simply toss it on the compost heap where it will decay like cotton rags.turn down my thermostat to 60F, saving a bundle. I'm fine on my bike, as long as there is no snow on the ground. I have achieved option (d), above: I can sit down calmly on the coldest of car seats and be okay.
As they say in Sweden (where children play outside every day year round): There's no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing.