Friday, July 21, 2017

How To Keep Your Cool

DEBORAH CROMBIE: So we are in the dog days of July, and surprise, surprise, it's really HOT in north Texas. How weird is it that we always know it's coming but somehow we are never prepared for it?


I shouldn't be complaining--we are not into triple digits, just upper 90s, although the 100 degree weather is coming the first of August.

And as I may have mentioned (once or twice) the downside of living in our charming turn of the (last) century Craftsman house is that is a SIEVE. This house was energy efficient in 1905, when the temperatures were lower, the breezes blew across the prairie (not the concrete), and those deep eaves and myriad (open) windows kept things relatively cool. (Of course, this is me fantasizing, since I didn't actually live in north Texas in 1905. Maybe they thought it was hot as blazes, too.)

Our more than twenty-year-old compressors struggle valiantly, but once we hit 95, it is, honestly, hell. We limp through every summer, dreading the day when we will have to replace the whole heat/air system, because we will certainly never make up the cost in utility savings. Unless we live to be about 110.

SO, how to stay cool? Sunday, we went to a friend's pool party, and it was glorious!!! Sitting outside all afternoon and evening, comfortably, dipping in the lovely cool water every so often and then letting the moisture evaporate in the breeze. Heaven! But no pool for us, because the digging of would kill our huge hundred-year-old elms and pecans in the back yard. Then what?

Not our friend's pool, but very cool!
I tried the newly cleaned and refilled inflatable hot tub (that's another story) set at 100 degrees, and literally had to come in and take a half-hour cold bath to lower my body temperature enough to go to sleep.

Here are my better suggestions:

As few clothes as won't get you arrested if you walk out the front door.

Ice. Ice. Lots of ice. And I confess there are moments when I stand in front of the open refrigerator door.

A wet dishtowel, held in front of the fan, then draped around one's sweaty neck.

Fizzy coconut water. We had that at the pool party. With lots of ICE. And lime. Great way to stay hydrated.

Unsweetened ice tea is good, too, even though I know it's a British no-no.

And here's a strawberry cucumber margarita recipe that made me feel cooler just looking at it. Going to try this, as soon as I get strawberries. (This week, overloaded with blueberries, blackberries, peaches, and plums.)

Afternoon naps. There is a reason siestas were invented.

Fans. Lots of fans. In every room in the house. And if you sprinkle yourself with water, they work even better.

Slow cooker. And grill. Although when it's over 95, standing in front of a blazing hot grill in the west sun is not very appealing. The main thing is DO NOT USE OVEN.

Lots of salads.

As many cucumbers and as much watermelon as is humanly possible to eat.

Cold baths. Literally. 

And my last fun thing. Here is the sno cone stand a block from our house. I see it from my kitchen windows. I don't actually like sno cones, but that's not the point. It's the ambiance. It says

SUMMER. 

JUST CHILL.


And one of these days, I'm going to just go buy a cup of shave ice, without the syrup, and maybe dump it over my head.

REDS AND READERS, how do you keep your cool?

 


41 comments:

  1. Keeping cool around here includes ceiling fans, loose and comfortable [and minimal] clothing, water, and sitting quietly. [Of course, the sitting quietly part is easy: I just grab a book and settle down near the fan.]
    John likes afternoon naps; me, not so much . . . they tend to interrupt my reading.

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  2. Great suggestions, Debs. Yes, loose cotton clothing, fans, and moving slowly.

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  3. The air conditioner is my friend. Last summer, mine broke. According to the information I got when I bought the house, it had been installed in 2006, so I was prepared for it to be cranky, but when I finally found an AC company that could get out to help me in less than a week, we discovered that, while the heating unit of my HVAC had probably been installed in 2006, the AC condenser dated back to 1992. It was time for a change! Since I was going to have to transfer the money to pay for it out of a savings account anyway, I asked if there was a cash discount. They told me they'd knock $2,000 off the final price, but it had to be in actual folding Benjamins. They clearly didn't expect me to take them up on it, but two thousand bucks is two thousand bucks, folks. While the work crew went off to pick up my new HVAC, I trotted off to the bank to pick up the largest wad of bills I ever hope to give away. The president of the company himself came to accept my payment. As a wise friend said to me later, "It's not the MOST eccentric thing you've ever done, but it's on the list." I didn't care. I was cool once more.

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  4. I work in a building with a flat metal roof and no A/C. So it is freaking hotter inside than outside on those hottest of days. To keep cool, the fans are going all the time.

    At home, the fan is going. And when I don't have to do anything or go anywhere, I just stay as unmoving in front of it as possible.

    The restaurants, movie theaters and other places that have A/C usually are an appreciated visit for me too.

    I don't go to the beach. I wish I had a walk in cooler to stay inside of on the hottest days.

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  5. We have the hot muggies and no a/c ... so fans 'r' us. Ice water. I drink it. Dab it on my face, neck, inside my arms, backs of my knees. Stand in the tub and run cold water on my feet. I could never own a pool because of the maintenance. TOO MUCH WORK!

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  6. Oh, and going to the movies! When it gets really bad we go and freeze. And when we come out the warmth feels good. For a minute or two.

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  7. Feel for you Debs!! I wonder if you could set up good AC in one room? The worst part of the super heat is trying to sleep in it. Especially with a big furry dog huffing and puffing right next to my side of the bed...

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  8. Oh we have a big old house too, And we love it, but it is impossible to cool! We have a window AC unit in the bedroom, so that is our oasis. Our Backyard pool is also fabulous, and the pool guys take care of it! A once a week visit. And lots of fans.
    Gin and tonics, of course. We put water bottles in the freezer, and then drink them as they defrost. And if I do it right, I can put a plastic bottle of soda in the freezer, or lemonade, and then wait till it's just slushy. Love that!

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  9. I love all your suggestions, Debs. I admit I also stood in front of the open freezer at times, much to my husband's chagrin. I have used a lot of them.

    When I was pregnant, I made him buy a window A/C unity for our bedroom because being 8-9 months pregnant in June/July really sucked.

    Our house is all plaster inside, so it usually stayed relatively cool as long as we kept the windows/doors shut during the day. Open them at night to let the cool air in. But last year, The Hubby insisted on central A/C. Given how my body now reacts to extreme heat (badly), I agreed. The upstairs runs constantly, but I can generally leave the downstairs unit off (they are separate) - except now when it's ridiculously humid and I run it just to get the moisture out of the air.

    Oh, another tip - leaving off the lights, especially any incandescents. Not much heat, but when it's high heat/high humidity every bit helps.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Yes, Mary/Liz, I meant to say that. Even though almost every bulb in our house is now LED, we are living in a cave with lights off and blinds drawn.

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  10. The older I get, the less I'm comfortable when it's too hot/cold. Fans, lots of them--overhead and floor models. When I worked outdoors--those really great bandannas that you put in the freezer--wrap it around your neck and instant relief! Loose clothing--in light colors. In my parents turn of the 20th-century home, honeycomb shades on the west exposure--put those down before the sun got too high on that side of the house and the temperature stayed at least 10 degrees cooler (southern exposure was shaded by trees). Pitchers of iced drinks--cucumber/lemon water is good!

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  11. I am so glad I live where I do, but I grew up in the midwest and then spent twenty-odd years in the DFW area, so I know hot and humid. Too well.

    California, both southern and northern, spoiled me for summer weather. No AC, no flies, no mosquitos, no SCREENS even. Still I missed seasons. California has three you know: Early spring, spring, and late spring.

    In the winter of 2001 we moved to western NY, on Lake Ontario. I learned then what "lake effect" meant. Canadian arctic air blows over the warmer lake water and dumps on Rochester, about 120 inches a season. Our winters are long and can be very cold, but they are completely magnificent. I am in awe of each blizzard, the unearthly quiet, the part where "moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, gave a lustre of mid-day to objects below." It really is light as day, unbelievable.

    Autumn is our glory time, can't be described. You have to see it, right East Coasters? Spring is the usual awakening and can last as long as a week!

    But oh these summers. Last year was a bit hot a dry, very unusual. This year is cool and wet. We've had one day that got up to 90 so far, and that day we turned on the central air as the humidity matched the temp. But only during the day. Every single night so far I've slept under a quilt. My bedroom has windows on three sides and a ceiling fan, so it's a bit like being on a sleeping porch, always cool, always fresh.

    I have two sons living not far from Deb, and my daughter is moving to Grapevine in a couple of weeks. I have no plans for summer visits. Texas isn't doable for me anymore, and I can't begin to tell you how I hate to sleep in air conditioning, tantamount to being on a plane for 8 hours. I truly believe my sons do not know how to open windows. I'm hoping that Melinda's house on the lake will be a little more forgiving.

    I even keep the bedroom windows cracked in the dead of winter. And as Deb and Hank have said, these old houses have very efficient air exchanges with the outdoors!



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    1. One of the hardest things I had to adjust to, when I moved to Texas, was that it doesn't cool down at night. Even out in the country, where we had more trees than pavement, nighttime temperatures stayed in the upper 80s, so it is perpetual AC for me until fall, which is a fabulous time of year, even if the color here doesn't rival my native Ozarks.

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    2. Oh yes Gigi, I remember that feeling too, when I moved to Texas in 1962. Even in the deadliest of summers, back home it cooled down at night. I suppose that is what we get here. As soon as the sun goes down, it is fine. Buggy but fine.

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    3. Yes, the daytime temps would be bearable if it cooled down at night, but now we are lucky if it drops into upper 70s. Not enough to get a cooling start on the day.

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    4. Ann, I would adore to sleep with the windows open at night... It would be like England!

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  12. We have never had A/C in all my years in California and never needed it until recently. Usually the fog comes in, sending cool breezes Into the house. But in recent years (no climate change, of course) we've had a few really hot days. Ceiling fans and luckily a lower floor that always stay cool keep us going. And I go to my health club, swim and come home in a wet suit to cook dinner.

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  13. How do I stay cool in summer?

    Toronto can be hot and, because of Lake Ontario, muggy sometimes. But nothing, nothing like what I hear about from points south. Like Texas. But since I live a block from the lake, there is also a cooling effect. And I have tall trees, so I can remain fairly comfortable in my house, except after a long stretch of sweltering weather. Ceiling fans in every room to move the air about. And a big extra fan for extra warm days.

    Oh, and getting away to the cottage in Haliburton, a few hours north of here. On a lake. Ahhh....

    Sorry if none of this info helps. I know we are very very lucky to have the old family summer place (ca. 1936) to retreat to.

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  14. I grew up in Texas (with a 2 year stint in Oklahoma) and hated the heat my entire life. When I fell in love and married a man in Wyoming, I had no idea how much happier I'd be. I absolutely love the weather here. It does get into the 90's in July and August now (climate change, anyone?) but our house is built with windows in every direction and there is always (well, almost always) wind, so that really helps to keep things cool. I can handle the cold, snowy winters as long as I don't have to visit my parents in Dallas or my sister in Midland in the summer. I had to travel to Lubbock, TX for a funeral a few weeks ago (with my husband and meteorologist daughter) and we all thought we would just melt like the wicked witch. Our daughter was blown away that wind could be that hot. We stopped in the panhandle at a Dairy Queen to get a blizzard to cool us off, but that lasted about 5 minutes once we were out in that hot wind again. "I'm melting, I'm melting!"

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    1. Beverly, we are least green and pretty in the heat. Lubbock really is hell.

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    2. We lived in Lubbock for a couple of years. Dust storms. Ugh. Wonderful people though.

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  15. I'm thinking maybe I want to move to Rochester:-)

    I forgot another rule; DO NOT OPEN DOORS ANY LONGER THAN NECESSARY. This is hard when you have two big dogs who don't really want to go out in the heat...

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  16. We've said for years we were going to put in an attic fan, but we've never done it. And even then, we would probably only use it to cool down the house in spring and fall. It's too muggy in the summer to open the house if you don't have to.

    I don't remember Texas being this humid when I was a child, and it did cool down at night, except for a few nights in August. More reservoirs, more houses, more traffic, more concrete, more watering... And this little climate change thing...

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    1. It's not good to fool (with) Mother Nature.

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  17. I lived for a year in Sacramento in an apartment in a converted Victorian. I'd come home from work, open all the windows and lay on the bed until dark. There was nothing else for it. I had thought those adorable Craftsmen were designed to be shady because of the heat. Bummer.

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  18. Get new AC compressors, if you can. Today's models are so much more efficient. If you can't, roll ice cubes in a damp dish towel and wear around your neck. It especially helps at night to sleep. ~Tricia

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  19. I cannot claim to have tried this yet, but my sister-in-law in Austin just posted this recipe under the headline "The answer to triple-digit Texas temps." It seemed so relevant to today's topic, I thought I'd share.

    White Sangria Recipe
    Fresh and fruity White Sangria made with white wine, triple sec, fresh orange juice and lemon juice.

    Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup (1 to 2 oranges) freshly squeezed orange juice
    • 1/2 cup (3 to 4 lemons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
    • 1/2 cup sugar (add more if desired)
    • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, etc...)
    • 1 bottle (10 oz.) soda water
    • 1 orange , sliced
    • 1 lemon sliced
    Instructions
    1. In a large pitcher, combine orange juice, lemon juice, triple sec and sugar; stir until well combined.
    2. Add the bottle of wine and soda water; stir well.
    3. Garnish with orange slices and lemon slices.
    4. Serve.

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    1. Susan, I had a prosecco cocktail at my friend's pool party that was fabulous. I'm going to get the recipe from her this afternoon and will post it later, but this one sounds good, too.

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  20. This New England gal could only survive the Arizona summer heat by having a pool. When Hub and I bought our house, we decided a pool was a must. In the summer, we pretty much live in it!

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    1. I would live in mine if I had one, believe me.

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  21. AC. I love summer, but I love my AC.

    And I like to jump in my pool, too.

    I'm on vacation in New Orleans right now, and the humidity is killing me. I'm definitely used to my dry heat.

    Of course, this is coming from the guy who likes to go for a run when it is hot out. Yes, I'm sick.

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  22. I've turned the temperature down a couple of degrees in the hot tub, so hopefully it can be my very small pool:-)

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    1. Why not turn the heat off in the hot tub during this heat wave?

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  23. 84 degrees with a breeze here in Falmouth, MA. With empathy and apologies. One suggestion, I think it is a nation-wide EPA program you arrange through your utility -- energy audit. We added insulation and took out the attic fan (which apparently causes a lot of winter heat loss). Also, solar panels. We used Solar City. Bills are sometimes minus. We don't use AC but have fans for "those" days. I love your cheerful attitude, Deborah!

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  24. We don't get many hot days in Seattle (and none of the horrible humidity), but when we do, we barely notice since our condo has air conditioning. However, when I go back to Boston and start sweating the moment I walk out the door, I find a swim in the Atlantic does the trick!

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    1. can I move back and live in your closet? that is about the space I could afford with Seattle rents.

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  25. In Houston the only way to stay cool is stay indoors in the A/C. Period. Do not go outside. That isn't practical at all, hence my desire to move to a cooler clime someday. I'm actually a native Houstonian, although I moved away and eventually found myself here again. Our first two houses didn't have a/c. We used fans and open screened windows. Dad put a window unit in the den so that was our cool cave with a TV to watch. Then he put a unit in their bedroom when Mom was pregnant with #3. School was not air conditioned. We opened windows and had these tall fans on a pedestal that blew over our desks. The teachers had to have voices that carried to be heard. That heat didn't seem to bother me so much at the time. It just was.

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  26. We go out before 11 AM and not after 2 PM as we are deluged with thunder storms. We keep window a/c units in the computer rooms prolong the life of the hard drives. We keep well hydrated, tea, water, fruit infusions at least a liter a day. I try to cook using recipes that from Asia that are meant for hot weather. A cool shower before bedtime also works minor miracles. We hang in and try not to become another swamp thang.

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  27. I love the picture of the ice cream truck, Debs. Takes me back to my childhood. How did we stand it back when central air wasn't a common thing? I was 15 when we moved into a house with central air. Of course, for kids it was probably a lot easier to deal with than mothers who still cooked meals every day, no matter how hot it was.

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  28. I wish I could swim all day in summer. I wish my house had a pool. It's so hot :(
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