I have four nieces, two nephews, and two great-nephews. We have always been a relatively close family, notwithstanding sometimes being scattered across the country, but out of the whole batch, I have had the opportunity to really get to know only one of my nieces as an adult.

Until this last weekend, that is. One of my other nieces joined us at our home Friday night, and opted to spend the night with us rather than drive back home in the dark and rain. It was by far the most time we had ever been able to spend with her, and it was really nice to get to know the competent and confident young woman she has become.

We had a lazy day on Saturday, with my niece shuffling around bundled under a down comforter. We often keep our house pretty chilly, so I decided for her sake to bump up the heat a bit. To my surprise, the house was 62 degrees, much colder than normal. And although the thermostat was constantly calling for heat, neither the heat pump nor the gas furnace was coming on. The air coming out of the vent was stone cold.

Not good.

I shut down the system, and opened up the access panel on the furnace. Now, unless the furnace happened to have a large flashing neon arrow saying “The Problem Is Right Here,” this was largely a pointless exercise, as my knowledge of gas-fired furnace technology could easily fit in a thimble, with room left over for my understanding of string theory. Yet, as all men know, this is an obligatory step in the process. Well, I didn’t see anything that looked definitively wrong, that is, no smoke and no sparks. I closed the furnace back up, and tried to restart the system. The thermostat made a loud clicking sound, and then went completely blank, and refused to come back on.

Okay, so we have no heat, and I have apparently fried the entire climate control system. Since I had accomplished my task as alpha male, it was now clearly time to call in the experts.

Fortunately, unlike the last time we were without heat, it wasn’t that cold outside, maybe 45 degrees. Also fortunately, unlike the last time, we still had light and power. I plugged in a space heater in the kitchen, and decided to bake the beer bread mix I had gotten for Christmas to warm up the house. Well, making the beer bread warmed us up so nicely that the wife and kids made a batch of banana bread right after. By now we were in the swing of things, so I made a batch of Cranberry Orange Walnut bread after that. This carbohydrate frenzy kept the house quite comfortable.

The Service Technician arrived ($130 for a weekend service call, not covered by warranty) and announced that we had simply blown a fuse. He replaced the fuse, and the heat came back on normally. I was still a bit suspicious, because the fuse had blown AFTER the heat had been refusing to come on. But we had heat, and that was good enough. And it was New Years Eve.

My niece had to leave by early evening, but not before my OTHER niece had arrived, bringing a friend of hers along with her. It was great to see her again, as she lives in California and a) the children adore her, and b) we don’t see her nearly often enough. She, her friend, and my kids played a short game of Mario Party 6, and there was much screaming and merriment. There’s more than one way to warm a house, after all.

This morning my daughter woke me at 5:00 am, to tell me that the thermostat was clicking loudly. As you might expect, it is calling for heat, but neither the heat pump nor the gas furnace is responding. I turned the system off before we could blow another fuse, and hopefully the service tech will be able to determine the problem. And hopefully this visit WILL be covered by our warranty.

A Happy (if chilly) New Year to all of you.