we survived the polar vortex! just barely.

It’s the first day of Spring!


As you all know, A and I purchased a home in June 2013.  If we would have known that the following winter would be the coldest winter in over a decade, maybe we would have delayed those plans.

2/20/14 9:30 a.m.
9:30 a.m.
2/21/14 9:30 a.m.
9:30 a.m.

The experts (who really love to name things) consistently referred to the dangerously frigid weather as the POLAR VORTEX.  And like an annoying relative, the POLAR VORTEX stuck around far too long.

The POLAR VORTEX is characterized by, ” a circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction — a polar low-pressure system.”

But in our home, this weather pattern was characterized by a few other things:

1. Propane prices and the resulting thermostat war

My lovely husband has the willpower of a thousand nuns.  Therefore, when the POLAR VORTEX hit, he was prepared to commit to some major changes for the betterment of the family.  He also was immune to my whining.

One of the biggest changes we made this winter was to ration our propane–the source of our heat.  As we live in the country, we are dependent on our 1,000 gallon propane tank to supply us with warmth.  As the POLAR VORTEX took hold,so did a perfect storm of circumstances leading to a propane shortage.  Thankfully, we were able to fill our tank at $1.99/gallon right before the cost of propane started to steeply climb, to a record $5/gallon.

To help us stretch our full propane tank to the end of the winter, we kept our home at 55 degrees all winter.

You read that correctly.

55. Degrees.

And A wouldn’t budge.  Not when I whined about how we were living like the Ingalls family.  Not when I shoved my freezing digits in his armpits.  Not when I wore mittens in the house and glared at him.

His unwavering pragmatism did translate into a propane tank that is still at approximately 40% full as we speak.  However, I would like to thank the inventor of heated blankets and wool socks for keeping me from killing my husband.

2. Our pets took over the heating vents

We only had a bit of warm air that was being released into our home, and most of it was soaked up by our tubby kitty, Tuna.

I have documented his love affair with our home’s sole giver of heat in the following photos, which could be considered an amateur art installation:  Cat on a Hot Tin Vent?

full vent action
full vent action
vent 2
statuesque vent cat
vent 3
this is your cat on vent
vent 4
vent 5
i will share … ONCE

3. Creative heating alternatives

Hamilton Family 2014
Hamilton Family 2014

As I mentioned before, we resorted to Prairie techniques to get us through this Long Winter.

I was not above making my own flannel heating pads as a cheap alternative to using the furnace (which I was banned from touching as we discussed in #1).

I found some cheap flannel fabric at a local craft store (presumably because they thought winter was over HAHAHA it’s never over) and sewed it into a rectangle.  I sewed up (You heard me.  This weather made me FINALLY learn how to use my sewing machine.) the three sides and filled the pocket with rice.  Only two minutes in the microwave turned this little guy into a mighty heating pad–holding its heat for at least an hour.  And I didn’t share with The Boss, which made it even better.

4. Tireless Robe Advocates

If you would have dropped in on our family unannounced in the last few months, you probably would have seen us swaddled in blankets, wearing slippers and almost always draped in our robes.  It was a very cute few months in our household.

For added style points, one or both of us would grab a passing pet and shove them into our robe/blanket configuration for added heat.

5. When all else fails, eat CHOCOLATE

On one night of a terrible, power outage-y blizzard, I decided to make my mother’s incredible Hot Fudge Sundae Cake.  Super decadent, delicious and super simple!  Great for escaping the sad reality of snow mountains piling up outside the windows, but also good throughout the year:


Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cocoa
2 teasp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup nuts chopped if desired
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cups hottest tap water
favorite ice cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees
In ungreased 9×9 pan.
Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt.
Mix milk, oil and vanilla with fork in dry ingredients until smooth.
Stir in nuts if wanted.
Spread evenly in pan.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and cocoa.  Pour hot water over batter
Bake 40 min.
Let stand 15 min.  (if you can stand it)
Spoon into dessert dishes or cut into squares.
Invert each square onto dessert plate.
Top with ice cream and spoon sauce over each serving
9 servings
While the declaration of Spring on the calendar means very little for Iowans, I can only hope the ushering in of a new season gives my family time to finally thaw.  Congrats, everyone–we survived the POLAR VORTEX!

3 thoughts on “we survived the polar vortex! just barely.

  1. Kristian March 21, 2014 / 4:53 pm

    No pictures of robe and blanket time? I’m disappointed.

  2. Mom March 20, 2014 / 2:17 pm

    To the fact that winter stayed too darn long, I quote Benjamin Franklin….
    “After three days fish and relatives begin to stink.” I would add Polar Vortex to that!

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