101805-coldOne thing I’d never guessed from Lord of the Rings: New Zealand can be a damn cold place. Their builders have never heard of insulation, and I also live in one of the highest high-altitude areas on the North Island. With the onset of winter (today we had our first snowfall, and two inches of snow closed the school – hilarious), warmth is a topic very much on my mind these days.

I come from Toronto, a land of central heating, well-insulated homes and double-glazing. Undoubtedly many North Americans live as I now do in New Zealand, but it was an amusing shock to my system to discover that simply doing jumping jacks (or star jumps, as they call them here) was insufficient to stay warm on a permanent basis. So I’ve decided to share, with my fellow urbanites, the top seven ways (because I can’t think of ten) I keep the blood flow going.

7) Ain’t No Mountain Higher. Living at the foot of a mountain means I’ll have unqualified access to its ski field during the season, and you can bet I’ll be up there in the snow when it’s grey, mushy, damp and boring down below. Besides, skiing’s heaps more exciting than star jumps.

6) The Bane of New Zealand. And that’s not the Aussies, although they’re responsible. Ever since possums were brought over in the 19th century they have almost single-handedly destroyed New Zealand’s fragile avian ecology. So while drivers aren’t exactly encouraged to contribute to the national road-kill statistic, no one stops for a requiem either, and the national parks and hunters have a ball. The advantage to so many defunct possums is you get possum fur mittens, possum fur scarves, possum fur sweaters, or (at one memorable gift shop) possum fur…recreational accessories, let’s call them. For me, my pair of possum fur socks is the warmest things I own, and single-handedly save my feet from frostbite. Merino, alpaca, and cashmere have nothing on possums.

5) Milo. This is not Jim Carrey’s dog in The Mask. This is a malt-cocoa powder drink that the Kiwis drink almost as much as beer, which they guzzle like vampires slurp blood. I find it unpalatable unless consumed with equal parts of milk, sugar, coffee and Jim Beam, which then results in a sweet as Kiwi Mochaccino that gets my blood going very satisfactorily. Of course, if you’re a true Kiwi you’d skip the Milo and just drink beer with gloves on, but I’m not that brave. Yet.

4) Aping Jamie Oliver. Along with the mismatched carpets and the mice, when I moved into my new house I inherited a choice bread maker – which, around the rest of the world, is known as a cast iron pot. This has not only furnished me with weeks of spaghetti sauce, beef stew and chicken noodle soup, but one day a week my house is steamy with the aroma of whatever happens to be simmering on the stove.

3) Bed Heat. Get your mind out of the gutter – I’m talking about electric blankets. Turn it on 15 minutes before crawling in and presto! a toasty bed to revel in when your breath makes puffs of smoke inside your house. On the down side, if you’re not careful it saps electricity. But it’s worth it to not have to sleep under fourteen layers of wool blankets, which is what I was doing before I got my magic blankie.

2) They call me Thermals. I used to think authors were joking when they shoved the hero and heroine in cold situations which forced the heroine to put on thermal underwear, which got the hero to thinking other things than immediate survival, which got them into situations where they didn’t need the longjohns. But the Kiwis have perfected the art of stylin’ thermals, which are just really close-knit garments. I wear mine day in, day out, and they really do make you look good.

But my number one method of keeping pneumonia at bay is firewood for my coal range stove. And that’s a whole other story. So until next time,

Jean AAR