As my city is buried deeper and deeper under ice, sleet, and snow, I find my thoughts turning towards one question: How to stay warm?
This is a particular problem in my present apartment, where the newish vinyl windows are so badly insulated that the vertical blinds rattle when the wind gusts. There have been times when I could feel a cold draft through the tight-shut windows, even while standing several feet away. The doors aren't tightly sealed, either, but it's the windows that really kill me.
I miss my old apartment, with its elderly metal-framed windows and the over-abundant heat that rose up from the basement. I remember having to crack a window open sometimes to let out excess heat, even on a cold winter day. Now for warmth I depend on my own apartment's central heating, which at full blast doesn't quite take the chill off the air on windy days like this. Back around Christmas, I suffered through a few nights when, even curled up with a pile of quilts tucked in all around me, my body heat couldn't keep up with the icy draft that somehow stabbed its way into my blanket cocoon.
So I told my father today while we were on the phone, comparing notes about the grandmother storm now blanketing our area. I was waxing nostalgic about hot water bottles, electric blankets, and those pans of hot stones people used to transfer from the fireplace to the bottom of their bedclothes. That's when my father told me about a simple type of bedwarmer one of his ex-parishioners had made for him, something anybody with a little needle-and-thread know-how could make at home, and which could very quickly, simply, and safely warm up your bed on a cold winter's night.
Start with a cloth pouch. You can make one yourself out of your choice of fabric, or you can use a pillowcase or slip-cover of some kind. Fill the bag with 2 to 4 pounds of dried beans, or (if you live near a farm supply store) feed corn, making sure to discard any plastic wrappings. Sew the bag shut.
When you want to warm up your bed, pop this bag of beans or corn into the microwave and heat it for a couple of minutes. (You may have to put up with a certain smell when you do this.) Carefully wrap the bag in a towel and/or a second pillowcase to avoid burning yourself, and stick the bundle under the covers of your bed. A few minutes later, you should be able to get into a nice, toasty-warm bed. Push the bed-warming bundle toward the foot of your bed and it will heat your feet for a while, too.
Here's a crafty website that gives a fully illustrated explanation of how to make one of these bed-warmers from scratch. I think they would make a great gift. Really. I could use one right now!