Like it or not, winter is upon us in Nebraska. Every year we’re faced with the same types of problems: frozen cars, drafty homes, and dealing with snow. These are some tips you should know to make life a little easier for the next several months. Although they are not in any way exclusive to Nebraska, they’re definitely handy for getting through a long, cold, windy Nebraska winter.
1. Make a cheap draft stopper for your door.
Instead of using one of those stuffed tubes that you have to kick back into place after you open your door, take a trip to the hardware store and get some pipe insulation. It's very cheap and easy to slide onto your door and cut to size. It makes a snug seal between the door and the floor, keeping drafts out and heat in.
(This is typically only useful on interior doors, not entry doors, since entry doors should not have enough clearance on the bottom to fit a piece of insulation.)
2. Circulate the warm air.
Your ceiling fans should all have switches to reverse their direction. In the winter, make sure to turn them to "reverse" (clockwise) so they pull down the warm air near the ceiling and circulate it through the room.
3. Create makeshift waterproof shoes.
Did the first snow of the season creep up on you before you had the chance to buy your kids new snow boots? It happens to us every year. Make do for a day or two by having them slip recycled bread bags onto their feet between their socks and shoes. It's not pretty, but it's better than soaked socks!
4. Save your citrus peels for an aromatic fire starter.
After you peel an orange or a clementine, save the peels and dry them out on a cookie sheet on your counter until they are nice and hard. Throw them into a brown paper bag with a couple of silica gel packets (like the kind that you sometimes find in new shoes or clothes) to dry them out even more. Next time you start a fire in your fireplace, use the peels instead of paper for a cleaner-burning fire starter. You'll still need kindling, but the oils in the peels are great for getting the flame started.
5. Let nature be your fridge.
If you haven't already weatherized your windows with plastic shrink-wrap kits (which I very highly recommend for cutting your heating bills), put those windows to good use. Open the window and stick a few beers between the sash and the screen or storm window to cool them down without taking up space in the refrigerator. This is especially handy when you have holiday company and the fridge is already packed - and it's more convenient than sticking the bottles in a pile of snow outside. Just don't forget about the bottles and leave them out there long enough to freeze.
6. Let the sun do some of your defrosting.
If possible, park your car facing east in the evening. When the sun comes up, it will start softening and melting the frost on your windshield. Of course, this is only helpful if you aren't already on your way to work before the sun makes an appearance.
7. Keep the windshield from icing over.
To prevent icy windshields in the first place, try mixing white vinegar with water in a 3:1 ratio in a plastic spray bottle. Spray your ice-free windshield thoroughly with the mixture when you get home in the evening and it should still be clear in the morning.
8. Combat icy car doors or locks with hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol, making it useful for cutting through thin ice. If your door handles are frozen in the morning, squirting some hand sanitizer on the frozen part may help loosen it up. If you come across an iced-over lock, spread a little hand sanitizer on the key before inserting it.
9. Don't lose the heat.
After you're done baking and have turned off your oven, leave the door open. The warm air will escape into your home instead of being wasted inside the oven. Just be sure to keep kids and animals away.
10. Use kitty litter to get moving again.
If you get your car stuck in ice or snow, spreading kitty litter under your tires will give you some traction to help you get moving.
11. Stop snow from sticking.
Hate banging the snow shovel on the ground after every scoop to loosen the stuck-on snow? Spritz some cooking spray onto the shovel blade before you start to help the snow slide right off.
12. Use an old sock to stay warm.
Grab a clean, long sock that you don't wear anymore and make sure it has no holes. Fill it up almost to the top with dry rice, then tie the sock at the top. Microwave the rice-filled sock for a few minutes for an instant heating pad. You can use them on sore muscles or to warm frozen toes, but our favorite use is heating up a few of them and sticking them into the bed before bedtime. They keep you nice and toasty so you can turn the furnace down a couple more degrees while you sleep.
Do you have any other tips and tricks to make winter a little easier or more pleasant? Please share in the comments!