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Archive for the ‘Temperature’ Category

A full year has come and gone since Hannah and I started Ditch the Umbrella. In that time we’ve reflected, mulled, and written about our emotional calendars, and, hopefully, gained a deeper understanding of what boosts our moods and where our emotional hotspots lurk. But now that we’ve completed a full seasonal cycle, we’ve completed our original mission, and so we will be concluding our little experiment. This will be my last blog post, and Hannah’s final reflection will be coming soon.

I, at least, have made changes to the way I live because of these little revelations: last winter, my worst season by far, I had such a bad case of cabin fever that I resorted to a frenetic and uncoordinated evening playing my roommate’s DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). This year, in an effort to prevent bad dancing, I’ve joined a gym so I can have an outlet for my energy when the days are short, the nights frigid, and the sidewalks nearly unwalkable.

The DDR incident, as I’ve come to think of it, taught me that I need to find ways to enjoy the winter sun, even if my face becomes an icicle. So this year, I plan on returning to cross country skiing, and may even try some winter hiking. (But only if I can start a snowball fight somewhere along the way.)

And I’ve started cooking, and cooking seasonally — enjoying fruits and vegetables when they’re naturally fresh (though I’ll still eat winter tomatoes, even if they’re nothing like the tomatoes Hannah rushed back to the States for) — and synching myself with the cycles of New England in that way.

But most importantly, I’m aware of my hotspots. Of the energy I feel in the fall that propels me to go-go-go, and to have an adventure. Of my weather obsession, which I no doubt inherited from the women in my family. Of my need to travel in the summer, or feel like I’m missing out on something. Of the amount of sleep I need to feel well rested and ready to go, especially when the hours of daylight are limited. Of the joy the holidays bring me with their carols, gingerbread, pine, and good cheer. Of the frustration I feel in the middle of winter, when I just can’t think about slipping on ice yet again. And of the things I can do to make the most of these experiences, and to revel in the joys each year brings.

Thanks for reading.

Late afternoon on the rails, Peru

Weather: Cloudy and unseasonably warm. Over 60 degrees in Cambridge.

Mood:

Anna: 6 out of 10. Energized, but slightly sad to be saying goodbye to DTU. A bit nostalgic.

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The canal is slashed with colorful pops of color — canoes and kayaks ready to be taken out onto the Charles. Since the opening of the season, they’ve been bobbing in the water, waiting for adventure-seeking tourists and groups of corporate team builders. I look down on them from my office, but so far, most of the paddling has been done by ducks that laze about on the water. I’ve been waiting for the kayakers, but they haven’t come.

I think of May as a warm month: short sleeves and light sweaters. But the past few weeks I’ve been wearing layers under my wool coat. From my office perch the sunlight, leafy trees, and people on their daily walks all make it seem warmer than it is. Then I step outside, am hit by a gust of wind, and wish I hadn’t been tricked by the light.

My new threshold for the start of summer? When people brave the no-longer-dirty-water of the Charles River and start launching regularly from the small dock down below.

Weather: Sunny. 59 degrees.

Moods:

Anna – 6.5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Somehow it doesn’t really feel like Friday.

Hannah – She’s having an adventure, so I hope she’s a 10 and celebrating Food Friday with a bowl of beautifully crafted pasta.

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I’m generally envious of the weather in San Francisco, but now I have visual evidence showing the steady and pleasant temperatures there compared to our volatile hot and cold swings.

That proof is in the form of an ubercool weather visualizer called Weather Spark that two Bay Area computer scientists recently launched. It’s still in beta, but well worth the visit.

If you want to see how Boston compares to San Francisco, or say, Sao Paolo, you can. If you want to see whether memories on your emotional calendar match up with weather reports on particular days, you can double check. Or you can look up the current temperature. There’s tons of data to mine and explore, so enjoy!

Weather: 37 degrees and overcast at Logan International Airport, according to Weather Spark.

Moods:

Anna – 6.5 out of 10.

Hannah – 4 out of 10. It’s been snowing.

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Rating our moods and matching them with a description of the weather was somewhat of an afterthought when Hannah and I started Ditch the Umbrella. We began with a looser formulation of what we wanted this blog to be about, and that mainly relied on self-reflection. But as we’ve written before, it can be difficult to balance insightful stories, impressions, memories, and emotions, and personal privacy. We have no desire to become constant over-sharers.

The mood rating has done a funny thing over time. First, we found ourselves seemingly-endlessly happy. Then we realized our scale must have been slightly off because we rarely judged ourselves to be middling 5’s. We made a course correction and started looking at general patterns.

Ever since it’s become cold and snowy, our moods have dropped. I’ve shed about two points from my summer/fall ratings, and Hannah’s have also decreased slightly. What had originally been an afterthought has actually provided us with a (slightly) more objective view of ourselves over time. And while last winter I didn’t take note of any mood drops, I also wasn’t on the lookout for them.

For me, summer is a time of freedom and exploration, sand dunes and salt water, and friends and weekends in seaside towns. In summer, it’s not at all uncommon for me to walk more than 5 miles, exploring the city and meeting with people. In the winter, I’m much more likely to stay in, watch a movie, and hibernate. Last winter, though, I explored the joys of the season, discovered cross country skiing, and rekindled my love for figure skating.

Somehow, though, I haven’t managed to get to the Weston Ski Track yet this year, and I’ve only skated once. We’ve been hit by storm after storm and I seem to go to meeting after meeting. By the time the weekend arrives, I’m ready to relax, not explore. That adventuresome part of my personality seems to retreat.

Now that I better understand these nuances, I am going to:

  • Join a gym and/or generally increase physical fitness. (Endorphins, yay!)
  • Schedule at least one weekend day in advance.
  • Leave one weekend day less structured. Sleep. Read. Relax. Undertake spontaneous adventures.
  • Play jazz. Loudly.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables (even though winter tomatoes regularly disappoint).
  • Go cross country skiing!

I welcome other suggestions.

Note: I may have to add trampoline dodgeball to my list.

Weather: Sunny, blue skies. 34 degrees.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Lots of coffee!!

Hannah – 5 out of 10. Tired.

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Every single day, at 10:30 am, I find myself suddenly stricken with cold. My fingers against the keyboard become positively frigid. My whole body tenses up, and I start to shiver.

What’s causing this sudden temperature drop? Let’s review my morning ritual. At 8:35, I arrive at the office after a long commute and a wickedly cold trek from the train station to my office. (This morning: 15 degrees). I take off my coat and defrost over my e-mails, a hot cup of coffee, and a steaming bowl of oatmeal. The rising sun shines through the east-facing window, bathing me with passive-solar heat.

But by 10:30 am, the sun is no longer shining directly through the window. And my hot meal has become a digestive process which seems determined to suck all of the heat away from my body. In the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that eating doesn’t just make me tired. It also makes me cold.

I first recognized the phenomenon two weeks ago. It was 20 degrees outside and the sun was setting when I biked across Philadelphia to go to an obscure Indonesian restaurant. By the time we headed home several hours later, it had only dropped a few degrees. But as soon as I stepped outside, I started to shake uncontrollably. It took a few minutes of shivering before I was able to get onto my bike. (My date, on the other hand, said he felt warmer after the meal than before.)

Anna tells me that she experienced the same thing in Europe. Hours trekking through the icy streets in search of a good meal were fine, as long as she had her mind set on her goal (good food, asap). But trying to get home after that lovely, late-evening dinner? Horrendously cold.

The internet corroborates my digestive theory. Answers.com tells me that after you eat a meal, your body directs blood towards your internal organs as part of the digestive process. This means that you have less blood moving through your external body parts (hands, feet, skin), making you shiver. Once you’re done digesting, answers.com promises, you will feel even warmer than before because of all the nutritious food you ate.

On the other hand, answers.com also has an explanation for why some people feel warm after eating: it could be caused by rapid processing of sugars, or by heat generated through metabolic processes. My conclusion: answers.com doesn’t have a clue. And in this field, the internet is coming up cold.

So I’m sticking with anecdotal evidence, which everyone knows sounds convincing even when it’s not. Do you get cold after you eat?

Weather:

19 degrees and sunny (but it feels like 11!)

Moods:

Hannah: 5 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale. It’s almost time for lunch!

Anna: 4.5

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Last night, I ventured onto the not-yet-fully-cleared sidewalks of Somerville in search of food at Highland Kitchen.

“Highland Kitchen?” you think. “Kinda sounds like a greasy-spoon diner.” Or at least, that’s what I thought when I first heard about it.

Located a slightly-inconvenient distance between Porter Square and Harvard Square (it’s a 25-minute walk from Porter and a 30-minute walk from Harvard), Highland Kitchen hardly resembles the restaurant I expected when I first went there a year ago.

It’s actually a warmly-decorated space full of interesting-looking people that seems to be full by 6:45pm every night. And their menu is nothing like that of a greasy-spoon diner, although it has more than a few comfort-food options. A sampling includes smoked bluefish cakes, a spicy coconut curried goat stew, and their decadent Highland cheeseburger.

Keep in mind I had trudged through mounds of snow to get to the restaurant. Before I sat down, I had to peel off a zillion layers (see The Coldest Cold to fully understand this). And then I ordered The Dorchester.

The Dorchester is made with vodka, triple sec, pink lemonade, and a cucumber, and since Highland Kitchen likes to share, you can even find out how to mix it here.

Let me tell you, it is, hands down, the PERFECT summer drink. Which is exactly what I told the waiter, after saying that it would be even better if a) summer were actually here, b) I had a porch, and c) I were sitting on said imagined porch. Something, perhaps, like this:

Kind, optimistic man that he was, he responded, “But it gets you into that frame of mind, doesn’t it?”

It did. For a minute, I could almost feel the sun on my face. And then I looked outside.

Weather: 16 degrees in Boston when I left my apartment this morning, but at least it’s bright.

Moods:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Feeling pretty good.

Hannah – 5 out of 10. Long week.

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If you’re really a summer person at heart, or just want to laugh, check this out:

http://www.someecards.com/2011/01/22/an-attack-ad-against-winter-paid-for-by-summer

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According to WBUR and a slew of other news articles, today is the coldest day Massachusetts has experienced in the past six years. Last night, meteorologists predicted wind chill temperatures of -15 to -25 degrees Fahrenheit in Boston.

Thanks to numerous weather warnings from my mother, WBZ, and strangers in the street, I piled on so many layers last night and this morning that I was actually sweating after a 15-minute walk outside. In case you’re curious about how many layers it takes to overheat in below-freezing temperatures, let me enlighten you:

  • Knit shirt
  • Wool sweater
  • Thermal leggings
  • Wool knee socks
  • Leg warmers
  • Pants
  • Snow boots
  • Wool shawl
  • Silk glove liners
  • Elbow-length knit gloves
  • Winter hat, originally bought for my January trip to Prague and Vienna
  • Knee-length down jacket (a.k.a., the sleeping bag with arms)

I may or may not resemble Randy from “A Christmas Story.”

But I’d rather look comical than become a human icicle.

Weather: 12 degrees in Boston, but it feels like -3, so layer up and stay warm!

Moods:

Anna – 6 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Lots to do.

Hannah – She’s traveling, so no rating today.

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I relaxed on Sunday. My one foray into the outside world was for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. (Of note: my favorite suburban coffee shop is closed on Sundays.) Otherwise, I read. And listened to my mother fret about the impending snowstorm. Okay, okay. She was right—blizzard.

I spent the rest of my non-reading day watching weather updates on the news, talking about plows, and eavesdropping on the telephone updates my mother received from her weather-inclined friends.

Somewhere between discussions of salt, sand, and shoveling techniques, we flashed back to the December ice storm that clobbered this area two years ago. It left us without heat, electricity, and sanity. And we were the lucky ones—our power resumed after a mere four days. Other people were off the grid for weeks.

That ice storm was an anomaly. You see, we had no idea it would be so bad. We didn’t know it was going to knock a tree onto our brand new car. Or partially sever a tree branch right over our kitchen roof. When we finally shoved the tree off the car—still driveable—and piled in on a quest for a hot cup of coffee (priorities!), the only place in town that still had power was the insurance agency. Go figure.

Now, back to last Sunday. As any good daughter would, I reminded my mother that she was acting like somebody else she knew. My grandmother.

Especially around the holidays, my grandmother used to become the queen of weather reports. Is there a possibility of snow? Ice? Freezing rain? Anything that would impact her drive from her house to ours?  When she’d finally arrive, safely, she’d relax…until her return journey neared.

I like to think weather obsession is not genetic. I tease my mom about her constant monitoring. (FYI: Monday night’s news provided another few hours of weather gluttony for her.) And I don’t have to worry about driving in bad conditions since I don’t own a car. But I’ll admit to listening to the weather report on the radio each morning before setting off for the train station—I mean, what if it’s going to snow?

Weather: Blue skies over a blinding white blanket of snow.

Moods:

Anna – 5 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. I was a 4.5 earlier in the day, but now I’m neutral.

Hannah – 5 out of 10. Post-Christmas exhaustion.

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I don’t love winter. I don’t love the fact that, at 4:30 pm, it’s already dark out.

I don’t love Christmas carols, holiday parties make me nervous, and I prefer summer sports.

Call me crazy, but I love the cold.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of the time the power went out during a family Chanukah party. (Fortunately, we already had a fire going in the fireplace.) We woke up the next morning to mounds of snow, and the electricity was out for three days. We slept in sleeping bags in front of the fire. My parents don’t speak fondly of that week, but I loved every bit of it.

Another favorite memory is from November of 2008. I was living near a tidal river in Maine and I decided that I wanted to get in one final swim before the season was over. So I dragged my roommate out of bed at  some ungodly hour of the morning and we  stood out on the docks in our swim suits. Our towels, and enormous sweaters, were piled up beside us. The tide was a bit low, and my friend and I were afraid we wouldn’t be able to pull ourselves up once we got in. We watched the sun rise and we dithered. Then finally we jumped.

The shocking cold, and the adrenaline that comes with it, was so incredible that we practically flew back out of the water. Then we went to eat pancakes.

We are a small but intimate group, those who love the cold. We are the people who sleep with our windows open year round. We live in extreme climates and we travel to colder ones. We go polar-bearing and we camp in the snow.

It’s been a balmy 50 degrees here all weekend. Like Louisa, I am bothered by the seasonal dissonance. I’m also ready for some good old-fashioned cold.

Are you?

Weather: 50 degrees and rainy

Mood:

Hannah: 5 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. She has a headache and it’s dark outside.

Anna: Wavering between a 6 and a 7. She had a productive day. But she over-steeped her tea.

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