Dressing warmly next winter

This winter of record-breaking lows put our cold-weather dressing skills to the test. We all know the drill: layers, hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, insulated boots with good tread. I usually follow it pretty well but still felt cold here and there on exceptionally frigid days.  

• If I didn’t wear a scarf over my mouth, my cheeks stung. If I did, my breath fogged up my glasses. A friend suggested an open-weave scarf. I read tips about putting various things on the lenses (shaving foam, bar soap, rain repellent, hair spray, spit) and buffing — none of which sounds appealing but might be worth a try. 

• If I wore a thigh-length parka, the front of my legs just above the knee was cold even with two layers. Below-zero wind chills call for the below-the-knee down coat, even though it is bulky and not as easy to walk in.    

• When piles of snow turned into slush on corners, pedestrians had to step into puddles to cross the street. My feet got wet in supposedly waterproof boots, but the boots may not have been at fault. Those puddles were deep enough that they could have reached the shoelaces. If water got in from the top of the boots, the solution might be slip-on boots without laces or zippers. 

That’s it for reminders to do better next winter. 

On a positive note, I decided footed tights are my favorite bottom (in two senses) layer. They fit sleekly under pants, are inexpensive, durable, wash easily, and dry quickly. Heavier socks can go over the nylon base layer. (Buying tip: According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, No Nonsense Opaque Control-Top Tights are the least expensive high-performing tights.)

Since I prefer gloves to mittens, I was glad that Thinsulate gloves were warm enough. 

I haven’t figured out what to do about hat hair. Actually, I’ve stopped thinking about it. Staying warm is more important.


I actually have a pair of slip-on boots. They’ve sat in my closet for two decades, never worn outside. 

I still remember how great a deal they were: $20 for leather, mid-calf, waterproof Blondo boots that retailed for more than $100. They are a size 8, my size then. 

Because other boots were still serviceable, I didn’t wear the new ones right away. By the time I wanted to, I couldn’t get them on. Yep, our feet get bigger as we age.

Boot stretchers, bags of frozen water, the hairdryer, rubbing alcohol, wadded-up newspaper: I’ve tried most of the online advice for stretching boots. Maybe the boots have stretched a bit, since I can get into them with thin socks — but thin socks don’t keep my feet warm.

The lesson here is not don’t buy the wrong size. It’s when you buy something, use it.



The college admission scandal has me thinking about my niece Ashley’s application to Purdue. The in-state public university offered merit scholarships to her high school classmates with lesser credentials while she got nothing. As the name implies, such scholarships are for merit, not need. Ashley was in the top 5 percent of her high school class, a state title holder in a business club competition, and president of three organizations, one of which she cofounded. 

Ashley wondered whether Purdue legacies were favored; she knew only one Purdue scholarship recipient who isn’t a legacy. Her mother suspected that Purdue decision makers unfairly assumed that Ashley would choose Indiana University because she’s an IU legacy three times over — father, mother, and sister. In fact, Ashley wasn’t interested in IU.   

Purdue’s decisions are not transparent and not appealable, so the family wouldn’t have been able to get an explanation. The university’s website says that “freshman merit scholarships are awarded based on a holistic review” of the application. A comment by Samantha Tapia, associate director of scholarships, makes me wonder why the scholarships are labeled “merit”: “[M]erit aid offered at the freshman level is actually not about ‘rewarding’ students on their past accomplishments. It is very much about strategically shaping various aspects of an institution’s enrollment.” 

No one Ashley knew received a large scholarship, but Ashley’s ego was bruised. Purdue slipped from its front-runner position. 

Kudos to the universities that publish specific criteria for merit scholarships. Miami of Ohio, which Ashley ultimately chose, publishes a chart indicating scholarship ranges based on test scores and GPA. Ashley was offered a fair merit scholarship, and she loves Miami.

An affluent student who had other options wasn’t hurt much, but applicants on the losing end can suffer real harm when rich students cheat to get in, legacies get unreasonable preference, and the admission office’s decisions are unfair. Let’s hope the current scandal leads to changes that improve the process.



“Nice message for the president to send three days after a deadly terrorist attack on Muslims — standing up for a host [Judge Jeanine Pirro] who was suspended for anti-Muslim bigotry.” 

—Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman under President Barack Obama

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