Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Survive a Chicago Winter

Last year when I started telling people I was seriously considering moving to Chicago for graduate school, the first thing that people would usually mention was how they hoped I would survive the winters there, that there would be a shocking difference between Texas "winters" and Chicago. When I moved into my apartment in August, this was hard to imagine as my mom and I sweated through moving my things up to the second floor in what felt like a sauna. Even in December before I left for winter break, it still didn't really feel like the dreaded winter weather I had been expecting, and then Texas beat Illinois to the first snow storm!

Well, it's January and my first Chicago winter is finally here! Technically, I have already survived a few since I was born in Illinois and spent a few years there before my family moved to North Carolina, but I can't say my two-year-old self has any useful memories of that time. I knew I was in for a treat because the weatherman referred to the 30 degree temps from a few days ago as if it was a lovely day, that we should feel lucky to have such wonderful weather at this time of year. Yesterday, the real cold weather finally hit. When my phone told me the high for the day was a measly 12 degrees fahrenheit I did a double take. By the evening, windchills plumeted the temperature into the negative 20s! This morning, I was greeted by a whopping zero degree forecast for my walk to school, and a windchill advisory has been issued for the surrounding area. I have never been in a place so cold that it was actually hazardous to my health! I am far from an expert and am still feeling my way through it, but here are some tips to survive a Chicago winter:

Step 1: Beef up your winter wardrobe
I waited for Land's End to have a sale before splurging on a huge puffy knee-length parka. This may seem ridiculous at first, but everyone has them and looks like an eskimo. I opted for a subtle puple color to show my TCU pride :) Other new additions to my wardrobe that I love -- an awesome hat with extra insulation around my ears, and gloves that still work with touch screens. I am still experimenting with scarves and how to wrap them. Today I tried wrapping a scarf around my lower face to cover my mouth and nose, but by the time I was halfway through my walk to class ice crystals were forming on my scarf due to the condensation of me breathing on it! That was definitely a new and unexpected experience haha. 

Step 2: Wear layers... Everywhere
I thought I had this down until I ventured outdoors last night to the rec center. The way there wasn't so bad, but the way back was terrifying! I spend maybe 20-30 min outside in my full winter gear, but just my tennis shoes and one pair of socks. When I returned to my apartment, I was legitimately concerned about the possibility of frostbite in my feet. All my toes were numb, white, and took an incredibly long time to warm up once indoors. Today, my pinky toe on my right foot is still somewhat numb. I'm not sure I will leave my aparment again for any non-necessary reasons until May, and I will never underestimate the power of layering socks ever again!

Step 3. Get the right equipment
Thankfully, I am now the owner of an ice scraper, snow shovel, and my very own jug of cat litter to use for my car thanks to my wonderful grandpa :) Other items that I recommend are an electric blanket, and a window insulating kit. My bed is pushed up against a large window so having an extra layer between me and the sub-zero temperatures outside has made a huge difference, and will also hopefully help with utility bills.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps anyone who find themself up north during wintertime!


  1. I'm so glad you're surviving! It's pretty chilly in Omaha too, but we haven't hit the negative 20s yet, thank goodness. I'm excited that you're blogging now - so fun! I love hearing all about your Chicago adventures. But what do you use the cat litter for? I'm intrigued..

    1. Haha I'm glad you're hanging in there too :) The cat litter is used to get traction in the ice/snow. So if my car gets stuck somewhere I can pour some of it on the ground and hopefully get un-stuck. I'm hoping that this won't be an issue though!

  2. I fully realized that I would be clueless in a northern winter, so props to you for adjusting and figuring it out fast! I am so not good at remembering to layer, even on cold days here. And multiple sock layers to the gym? I'd be in trouble!

    Love seeing you blogging! : )

    1. Thanks Julie! Both the winter weather and the blogging have been a learning experience haha. I have had a blog before where I posted a picture every day, but often felt like I wasn't really interesting enough to continue it. Moving north has given me all sorts of new fun things to update my friends and family on so hopefully I will stick with it this time!