Hot Water Bottles and Other Old-Fashioned Ways to Keep Warm on the Cheap

hot water bottle - old fashioned ways to keep warmSometimes, it really is the simple things in life that provide a sense of luxury, comfort and well being -- behold the humble hot water bottle. Really.

As folks shiver through Snowmageddon and one of the wildest winters on record, bringing the bottle back may be worth a shot.

How it works: boil water, pour into a hot water bottle and slip it in between the sheets of your bed (perhaps down by the feet) a few minutes prior to bedtime. Instead of bracing for those first, frigid few minutes of getting into an empty bed, tired toes will be treated to a cozy sanctuary of toasty goodness. Does that explain it clearly enough? Let me try it another way, sharing a bed with a hottie (New Zealand slang for a hot water bottle) feels like a warm embrace, cocoa with little marshmallows and cuddling by a fire in a well-appointed ski chalet you just won tax free. Ahhhhhh. It means someone is taking good care of you -- even if that person is you.

Bliss. The hot water bottle will stay warm all night. By morning it cools to a tepid temperature, but the job is done. At this point, the clean water could be used to hydrate plants, be poured into a bath, or stored in a container to reheat that evening. Some hot water bottles can be reheated in the microwave without emptying.

Using a hot water bottle makes it easier to turn down the thermostat before going to bed, saving both fuel and money. Not only are you warm, you are now an environmentally-conscious and financially savvy citizen of the world. Cue the halo.

The old-fashioned bottles are also handy for stomach aches, back, joint or menstrual pain and sore muscles. Some come with attachments for enemas (can't do that with a space heater), although in my opinion this function robs the hottie of all charm and most of its joy. Employ if you must.

Currently, hot water bottles are enjoying a style renaissance, surfacing in an array of snazzy designs for a variety of budgets and tastes. Although Restoration Hardware sold out of its cashmere-covered hot water bottles, I found whimsical heart-shaped and cat-shaped hot water bottles on eBay. For a limited time, eBay is also auctioning a vintage 1957 Jayne Mansfield shaped hot water bottle as well as a replica of a 1907 Steiff teddy bear hottie.

German manufacturer, Fashy, owns a large percentage of the hot water bottle market, selling them in an impressive assortment of shapes, sizes and assorted covers (plaid, fleece, faux fur, kid-friendly plush animals), from $13.94 on Amazon.

The Vermont Country Store, Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-To-Find
, sell a hot water bottle covered in wool fleece for $24.95. One fair-weather fan from California describes it this way, "I've had mine for about six years now and love it! ... Even at four in the morning when I wake up 'cause my body temperature has dropped ... the bottle is still warm and I snuggle up with it and can fall back asleep."

For style seekers, basic models ($5.10, WalMart; $16.99, Target; $7.07 and up at Sears) can be tricked out with cute covers from the online crafters at Etsy. EcoCozy sells some of the best (think: recycled felted sweaters and great modern, graphic designs ($35), but there are many to choose from.

HoneyCreweller
sells hot water bottle "cozies" made from old cashmere sweaters ($32). Tripsy the Hottie, Hot Water Bottle covers ($48) designed by FromtoFrom in Montreal are one-of-a kind creatures with funny faces, appliques and huge amounts of creativity. ACrookedSixpence out of England designs hot water bottle cable-knit sweaters ($39.88), and crafter JeoWeo sells hot water bottles covered in wool cozies with hearts and stripes that she believes are just the thing for Valentine's Day. The Don't Teal My Heart ($30) appliqued cozy and hottie combo is one example. "Keep your sweetie warm these cold wintry days and nights" reads the site.

Of course, there are many old-fashioned, cost-cutting ways to keep warm (snuggling ranking up there at the top), and my clever colleagues at WalletPop suggested several:

Jennie Phipps says she discovered wool, long undershirts while living in upstate New York and still wears them all winter, "It keeps me comfortable even when the room isn't exactly toasty and I'm sitting still," says Phipps.

Writer Sarah Gilbert, agrees. "Wool!" says Gilbert. "There is a lot of wool going on in my cold house in the winter ... fantastic insulating properties, and it's antibacterial too." Now, there's a cold fighter.

Ann Brenoff suggests fingerless gloves, but Ron Dicker says they make him feel like someone out of a Dicken's tale and is more enthusiastic about electric mattress pads.

"In my house," says Kelly Phillips Erb, "fuzzy socks, heavy drapes and cuddling! Also, I bake my own bread so I try to do it around the time that the kiddos are fresh out of the bath...as it warms the whole house."

Teresa Ciulla
also heads to the kitchen. "I tend to cook more dishes in the oven on cold days, then after I turn the oven off, I leave it open to make the kitchen, where the girls do homework, even warmer."

Fleece-lined tights from Target
also made the list, as did layering surf-inspired rash guards ("It's hard to find long johns in California") or an extra pair of yoga pants under clothes, wrapping up in a sleeping bag while working at the computer, or downing a shot of whiskey, "It warms me up in a flask ... I mean, flash."

Cuddling with pets, growing facial hair (for half of us), warm slippers, spicy food and wearing pantyhose under jeans were among other suggestions.

Of course, if growing facial hair is out, and you've had it up to here with wearing wool sweaters to bed, the good news is Punxsutawney Phil says it's almost over. According to the ground hog, we're in for an early spring. Hurray! However, since his accuracy over the past 125 years hovers at 39%, you might want to keep that hot water bottle handy. Just in case.

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