Monday, July 9, 2018

Havin' a heatwave?

HALLIE EPHRON: We're just coming out of a heat wave -- 90+ degrees day after day. Most of my house is not air conditioned because MOST of the time we don't need it. But this last bout of heat tested my resolve. 


My mother, who'd survived many un-air-conditioned NYC summers, used to say that someone should invent a necklace of beads that could be put in the freezer, and then worn chilled around the neck. I went to look on Amazon and sure enough, there was my mother's unfulfilled dream, selling for a mere $49.00. There were 15 enthusiastic reviews and three expressing disappointment.


My beat-the-heat regimen consists of:
- Fans - lots of them
- Ice water
- A barely-warm bath - sit and schvitz (that's my granddaughter a few years ago, demonstrating this technique)
- Do any cooking early in the day; eat cold late
- Popsicles (OUTSHINE raspberry fruit bars, please)

When it gets really bad we go to the movies, but this year's crop of summer movies is rather pathetic. Lucy's been recommending Won't You Be My Neighbor (and in this day and age, we do need Mr. Rogers sweet neighborliness), but it's not playing anywhere near us. And no, I will not pay $15 to see the new Jurrasic Park.

How's the heat where you are, and what are your tricks and tips for keeping cool.


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We have NO air-conditioning in my 200 year old farmhouse, a decision I may need to rethink, given that we can expect ever-more "degree days" ie, beastly hot weather, in the future. Maine traditionally has no more than 4 - 5 days a year where the temperature tops 90, and a heat wave is maybe two days in a row. Four to five days of sweltering heat and humidity really tests us, especially considering Maine has the oldest (pre-20th century) housing stock in the nation, most of which hasn't been refitted with central air.



Fortunately, timber framing and lathe-and-plaster walls are excellent at keeping the heat out. (Keeping the heat IN is another story.) My plan for keeping cool is, except for the use of electric fans, pretty 19th century.

At night, as soon as the air temperature is at or below that of the interior of the house, I open all the windows (or at least, those that open – another story.) We have window fans in all the bedrooms to suck in cooler air throughout the night. I rise at 5:30 or 6 and go around shutting all the windows, drawing the curtains against the
sun. When I know it's going to be particularly hot, I also switch the screen/storm windows – the screens go up and the storm comes down, creating an extra layer of insulation. During the day, we turn on fans in rooms where we are – right now, I'm typing this at my kitchen table, in front of a box fan at the top of the cellar stairs. It brings up the always-cool air from the subterranean cellar.

Using this regime, the downstairs never gets hotter inside than 80F, and usually stays in the comfortable mid-seventies, even when it's 95 outside. By 10 or 11pm, the bedrooms are cool enough to sleep comfortably. I like to sit at the edge of the tub and soak my feet in cold water before retiring. 


LUCY BURDETTE: What could I possibly add to Julia's, aka, the
prairie settler, suggestions? I'm going with the movies. Yes, John and I adored the Mr. Rogers documentary. It starts a little slowly, but stay with it. He was a remarkable man who loved children and had a deep understanding of what they needed. He also seemed to know what we need in the world today--kindness, acceptance, willingness to stand for what we know is right.

We also loved RBG, the documentary about the remarkable Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I'm not usually the biggest fan of documentaries, but both of these were so excellent and inspiring--and the movie theater will be air-conditioned!

INGRID THOFT: Thankfully, I live in Seattle, where hot days are
few and far between.  I stay cool regardless of the temperature outside because our high-rise building has central air.  When I’m back on the east coast, which I will be in a few weeks, I find that swimming in the chilly ocean is the best way to stay cool.  As long as the ocean is at least 63°, I’ll go for a dip.  The bracing cold seems to lower my core temperature and provides a brief respite from the heat. 

RHYS BOWEN: I've just returned home from England where it was hotter than it is in California. Everyone in Cornwall looked as if they'd been holidaying on the Med.
So I'm actually feeling quite cool at home. Our summers in Northern California are rarely uncomfortable. We have a few days of 90 every year but then the fog comes in and cools everything down. We've never had an air conditioner and rarely need one. Big ceiling fan in the kitchen and bedroom do they job quite well upstairs and the rest of the bedrooms downstairs are always perfectly cool.  On uncomfortably hot days I go swimming at my health club, come home wet in my suit and prepare the evening meal while still wet!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Even with air conditioning, we are struggling with the heat here in north Texas. The last few days have
brought a little respite--low to mid nineties instead of one hundred plus, but the humidity has gone up as well.

So our strategies are pretty similar to those of you in the north east
with no AC! Definitely no baking anything in a hot oven in the evening--or the morning, for that matter. Lots of salads and grilling, although our gas grill gets west sun from late afternoon until sunset and that means we are eating late. Lots of fans, lots of ice water. A tepid bath before bed. And when cooking or doing any chores, I usually have a wet dish towel draped around my neck. Very fetching!


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN : Oh, gosh, we have a 100-year old house--and it has no AC. It is absolutely no problem except for about two weeks a year. And then. OMG. It is so hot.

We do have an AC in the bedroom, or we'd be swooning. It's funny--our house stays very cool, even on the hottest days.  And then at some point--it gives up. We go into the pool, of course. But the other night we talked about having drinks and apps outside by the pool--and we decided the only way to make that bearable would be to be IN the pool.

And want proof? Here is the thermometer from our car! See? I made it a little bigger so you could see it says 102 degrees!
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HALLIE: We know Jenn is in Nova Scotia where the weather is probably perfectly delightful. But for the rest of us... in the spirit of misery loves company, how hot is it where you are and how do you cope?

63 comments:

  1. Oh, my goodness, it’s HOT. Several days this past week the temperature in our back yard was close to three digits and going out the front door was like walking into an oven. I don’t mind warm weather at all, but this year the heat has gone far beyond bearable . . . .
    Fortunately, we have ceiling fans in the living room and in all the bedrooms, and air conditioning, and a fan on the kitchen counter beside the stove so that I can cook without melting into a little puddle in the middle of the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West . . . .

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  2. Here in Las Vegas 110-degree days are the norm right now. I will say though, everyone has AC here, so it's only a big deal if you're going to be outside for a long time. And it's a dry heat, which I know sounds like a joke once you reach a certain temperature, but I actually prefer a dry 110 to a humid 80. That said, I don't plan to leave the house until autumn!

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    1. Maria, so that 'dry heat' thing isn't a myth? Where we live in Boston the humidity can make it SO uncomfortable. Like breathing underwater in a swamp.

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    2. The dry heat makes a huge difference. I used to live in Florida, and I can remember being drenched in sweat just stepping outside in the summer. Here I can wear a coat in the 110-degree heat and not break a sweat. (Not that I would want to dress like that, but you get the point!) Of course, 110 degrees is uncomfortable no matter what, but if you're just walking to and from your car it's not that big of a deal.

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  3. I live around the corner from Debs, so her weather is my weather, but I've had an added twist this year. Last fall I had a new roof put on, which doesn't leak attic air nearly as much as the old roof did. That means when it's hot outside, it's REALLY hot in my attic, even with lots of vents. Somewhere in the re-roof process, the banging and shaking must have knocked loose a joint in my 58-year-old ductwork, so when the day tops 100 degrees outside, my AC is getting 116 degree air from my attic through the cold air return. Not good. The system can bring it down about 20 degrees, but that still leaves me at 84 degrees in the house in the afternoons, with high electricity bills and lots of wear and tear on my HVAC system--on my system, too, if I'm home during the day. Fortunately my workplace has good AC. On weekends I can go to a movie or go shopping, and my car is like a moving icebox, so if all else fails, I go for a drive. Fans and cold compresses are my go-to solutions.

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    1. That's so frustrating ... and just the kind of thing that's impossible to fix since you know what's happening button where. I wonder if putting a fan IN the attic to exhaust air would help.

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    2. And, at 120 degrees or so, it's too hot for the AC crew to go up to the attic to fix it until the weather cools down . . . It's going to be a long summer.

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  4. Down on the Cape where it was pretty darn hot last week, I liked having to go to the grocery store or anywhere else that was air conditioned. The weekend wasn't so bad weather wise, Saturday was cool enough that I mowed the front and back lawns, but Sunday was sunny enough that I ended up with a sunburn while visiting a flea market.

    Generally, when trying to keep cool during these hot days, I try to do as little as possible and have a fan going when I have to do some work.

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    1. Jay, you're so lucky to be down the Cape. An ocean breeze is like a little miracle.

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    2. I'm sure it would be but I don't get to actually feel it that often.

      Oh, and while it is hot outside it is even hotter in my job. I work in a building with a flat metal roof and no AC. So it is probably 20 degrees hotter inside than outside. And that is before you factor in the 250 degree heat tunnel I work in front of a few days a week.

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  5. Definitely HOT in western Maine. We have window units to air condition the bedroom and my office and usually only use them. few times every summer. It was a solid week and more hot weather to come, with humidity. Yuck!

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  6. In northern Ohio, hot is almost always accompanied by humid--I can't deal with either too hot or too cold--so my AC has been getting a work-out. But I have lots of old oaks and maples shading my property--so my go-to solution is to open the windows all up in the morning, pull the curtains in windows with southern exposure in the early afternoon, keep the ceiling fans going and use regular fans for those areas where the cool air doesn't always reach. When the boys were younger, I made killer yogurt/fresh fruit freezer pops which were a big hit and definitely helped!

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    1. We do the window routine, too, and it really helps. Except on the very worst days.

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  7. After that debilitating heat last week we had a couple cool nights. No A/C here either but the ceiling fans usually are all I need. Supposed to hit 90 degrees again today but they say the humidity won't be as bad as last week. I find that I can't do much of anything in the heat except sit in front of the fan and read!

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  8. I had a house full for 4th of July and it was so hot. No AC at our house on Cape Cod. I love fans. But cooking? I did much more on the grill than usual.

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    1. Same here... grilled swordfish, nothing more delicious or easy.

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  9. Cincinnati is usually hot and humid all summer, but this year it's hideous. We're eating chicken salad (remember the Silver Palate cookbook? excellent salad recipes) and walking the dogs before 9am or after 9pm. A cold shower before bed under a ceiling fan set at high speed. When I played tennis in Atlanta, I would dunk a clean white tube sock in ice water and drape it around my neck.

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    1. Going to dig out my copy of Silver Palate...
      I boiled chicken thighs one morning and turned them into curried chicken salad (w mayo, curry powder, toasted almond slivers, raisins, apple, and lemon juice).

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    2. Hallie, I'm going to do that with chicken today but with pine nuts instead of almonds, and I'm out of apples. Maybe I will pick up a fresh peach or two at the farm stand?

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    3. We had a birthday party Saturday night, an had fresh peaches on angel food. There is NOTHING better than perfect peaches!

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    4. I love the Silver Palate chicken salad, Margaret! Yummy and perfect when it's sweltering out!

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    5. Ann - peaches would be great. Or mango, even better.

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  10. Our house is relatively new compared to Deb's, Hank's, Julia's and Hallie's, 95 years old this summer! However, some previous owner installed central air. I use the word loosely as it has issues reaching the bedrooms. Up here on the tundra, as in Maine and Massachusetts, we rarely need AC. Until we do.

    Last week we had it running everyday. Most nights we can open up, and ceiling fans in the bedrooms are frabjous. I needed a quilt and a sheet every night.

    Most of our weather is affected by that big lake on our north. Whatever blows in from Canada picks up moisture from Lake Ontario and dumps it on Rochester. Lake effect used to be a term I heard on the weather report when I lived in California, meant nothing. Now it means I rarely have to water the garden. Except for last week. We had record breaking heat and no rain for ten days.

    But everything survived, including me, and Julie barely. I suggested she not start the grill with that thunderstorm approaching, but she likes to sit under the umbrella in the rain -- or so she used to. Thursday night she had a tray of chicken in one hand and a glass of wine in the other when the lightning bolt hit, so close it made the air crackle and the hairs on her arms stand up. I've never seen her move so fast, back into the house, chicken, wine, and all.

    Ah summer.

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    1. Lightning is TERRIFYING! When last week's heatwave broke FINALLY the thunderstorm was prolonged and impressive, rolling thunder and lightning for what felt like ours on end. Anyone with dogs must have gone nuts.

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    2. What? that's so scary! I went outside into that thunderstorm--I just had to run to do an errand. How rainy could it be, right? It's just rain. I got about ten feet--and dashed back onto the office.

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  11. I'd never lived in a house with A/C until a couple years ago. Montana gets hot in the summer (90s-100s) but we would utilize the tricks already mentioned. A/C is just .... nice to have. We love it, the dogs love it.

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    1. Dogs and cats, too, I wonder how they get through it. Or male lions with that shaggy mane in their natural habitats.

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    2. My cats seem to love the heat! I think it almost unbearable on the second floor but the cats will be up there stretched out - one lying in a shaft of sunlight as if he couldn't get enough. and he's black which really soaks up the sun.
      My dog, on the other hand, really suffers in the heat.

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    3. My German shepherds will go out and lie IN the sun!! Although usually only in the mornings, before the temps get really high.

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    4. Zoe will lie in the sun on the paved driveway in the morning. All the other dogs just look at her as if she's crazy.

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  12. Just looked it up - lions (and presumably cats) pant to stay cool. Drink, but never go INTO, water. Huh.

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  13. Sometimes I try to think of it as funny. In context. Isn't it hilarious and miraculous that it's SO hot? Isn't it amazing that five months from now we'll be complaining about the cold? I am amused by those thoughts for about five seconds. BUT! I am so thrilled when I get to walk down to the coffee place and get an iced latter. What a treat!

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    1. Iced coffee is my favorite summer treat. And now you can buy bottles of cold brew, to which I add ice, some half and half, and a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract. SO good.

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  14. Like Julia, our house (1928 Craftsman-style) has the original plaster and lathe walls. They were pretty good at keeping the heat out for all but 2 weeks of the year. But a couple of years ago, we bit the bullet and installed an A/C system because the humidity was killer, even when the temps weren't too bad. So thick it made an 80-degree day feel fifteen degrees warmer.

    And yes, we've been known to take refuge in a movie theater.

    Mary/Liz

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  15. I'm in the San Fernando Valley in So. Cal. I also took a pic of my dashboard temperature read-out. It was 117 on Friday at 11:00 am. We hit 118 that day and broke the existing record. Deborah, I laughed at your solution to doing housework. As a teenager living with my grandmother, I was appalled at her hot weather wardrobe (complete with damp towel). Now I'm in total agreement. I'm impressed that housework evens gets attempted.

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  16. I picked blackberries in the blazing sun last week, during the mid-90-degree temps with outrageous humidity. Because of chiggers, snakes, ticks, etc., along with stickers on the wild bushes, it's necessary to cover up, head to toe, and to wear thick knee-high boots. Crazy, and actually kind of dangerous relative to heatstroke potential.

    My strategy for keeping safe is to start as early in the day as possible, wear a hat, tie a water-soaked bandana loosely around my neck, and to sling an ice-cold water bottle across my chest. The water bottle does two things: it provides hydration, but it also cools my core a little and makes me feel much more comfortable.

    A few years ago a friend who sells windows showed us the difference in temperature between the area in front of a south-facing window without any covering, and one with a pulled drape. Thirty degrees difference. The sun beating in our double patio door was intense, so I made heavy curtains for that door, which stay pulled when the sun is low.

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    1. wow Karen, I would have let those blackberries go! but I bet you're making something incredible with the crop...

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    2. In addition to freezing a bunch, I'll make jam, cobbler, and pies. Last year I froze five pies to make during the winter, and that was so successful I'm planning to do it again. Nothing better than blackberry pie in the middle of the winter.

      We have about thirty acres of wild berries, and if it wasn't so labor-intensive to pick them I'd set up a roadside stand.

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  17. Here in Columbus we have had a record number of days over 90 degrees so far this summer. Fortunately our heating and cooling system was replaced about 18 months ago, so everything works perfectly. Generally speaking, we use our AC less than most of our neighbors. As long as it is cooling off well overnight, we are usually content. But that has not been the case much of the time this year.

    We have the added challenge that we're getting a lot of work done on our house this summer. We renovated the master bath, painted the exterior and the entire interior, and are about to get new carpet/flooring throughout. So it is a complete state of chaos that has necessitated us sleeping in the guest room for a couple months. That is the room of the upstairs with the worst ventilation, so we always provide guests with an oscillating fan to augment the AC. But some nights this summer have been so bad that in addition to that, we've kept the door open and placed another fan right outside the door, to pull cooler air into the room.

    Still, I work really hard at not complaining about the heat. I complain a lot in the winter, and it is my opinion that we should each get to complain about the heat OR the cold, but not both.

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  18. Here in hot, humid Michigan, I live in the AC and try to avoid going outdoors during the hottest part of the day. Lately the heat index has been over a hundred with humidity that feels like breathing through a wet towel. The last couple days have been much better, a brief respite before the heat and humidity spike again.

    I hate summer. Seriously, I think I have the opposite of seasonal affective disorder. I hate the heat, humidity, and the fact that it never gets dark.

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    1. You're right, and there should be a name for it.

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  19. I live in NY, which provides the triple summer whammy of high heat, high humidity, and lots of asphalt and concrete to make sure the heat is retained. Whew. I live in a 100+ townhouse, attached on sides and windows at either end. No cross ventilation. It would now be possible to install central AC but it is a very big deal. Instead, we have powerful window AC in most rooms. Ugly? Sure. Expensive to run? Yes. but I am an older woman on various meds, and I never tolerated heat well even when I was young and rail thin. They got a real workout last week, with temps around 98. And I am grateful.

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  20. Oh please. 90's? 102? It' was 120+ here on Friday and Saturday. I'm thankful for my new car and a working AC again. And the AC in my condo worked well. Kept all the blinds closed. Don't want to think about my electric bill next month, however.

    Yesterday, it was only 110. It was 101 when I went to play ultimate Frisbee outside at 5PM. Lower 90's when I was driving home at 8PM.

    It's supposed to be in the 90's this week. About to sign up for a mud run on Saturday.

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    1. I am afraid to ask, but what's a mud run? Especially when it's 120+ out?

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    2. Very impressive, Mark! Do you tolerate the cold as well as you do the heat?

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    3. Hallie, a mud run is a run where there are obstacles, some of which are mud pits you run through or crawl through. It will be in the 90's when I do the one on Saturday. It raises money for the American Cancer Society. And since I am now a cancer survivor (diagnosed in December, cancer free after surgery), it is near and dear to my heart.

      Ingrid, I don't tolerate the cold nearly as well. I HATE cold. I don't do snow. I live in Southern California. I'm a CA native, but now that I've moved down here, even going back to the San Francisco bay area at Christmas feels cold. Yes, I'm a wimp.

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  21. I've very envious of those of you who have cooler temps at night. Last week we were still in the mid nineties at 11 PM!! And humid. Horrible.

    When I was a very small child I can remember not having any A/C. Our house was in the country then (the city has since gobbled up all that farmland and much more) and we had an attic fan, so even a few open windows pulled in the cooling night air and by early morning we'd be burrowing under the covers. Sigh. Many more (man-made) lakes, concrete, etc., etc., and the changing weather patterns have made it much warmer here, and no one exists in this part of Texas without air conditioning anymore.

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    1. Even on our hottest days, the nights cool off. It was the thing that hit me when I moved to Texas in 1962. It was still stifling at night. Yech

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  22. I am a weenie. My AC is usually set to 71 and runs pretty much all summer. I'm in the Raleigh NC area and it has been so hot and humid. I remember living in the DC area for a few years as a kid and only two rooms were air conditioned and mine wasn't one of them. Misery. When we lived in Hawaii we never needed it. I've never lived north so not used to cooler summer nights. I bet that's nice when it actually happens. Sort of like autumn.

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  23. I will never complain about the heat! (Ask my friends and family!) In the summer I never have to worry about needing to shovel snow off my deck, I don't need to shovel a path to my car, and then try to find it under the snow, I don't need to clear ice and snow off the car, I don't need to worry about slipping on the ice, etc. This past winter I slipped on a piece of ice about the size of a half dollar and ended up with a badly sprained wrist, while I was recuperating from being hit by a car.

    I have air conditioning and I have an efficient furnace, and I'm happy to use them to keep myself comfortable!

    DebRo

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    1. Oh, Deborah - I know I shouldn't have but I laughed... Winter really can kill ya.

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  24. It's been hot for early July here in Portland (OR), high 80s and moving into the 90s in a couple of days. Our 21 year-old house has air (we set it at 78), so we can stay comfortable, and we have ceiling fans in living room and bedroom. Even in the hottest days, we can open the windows by 10PM, and let those fans pull in the cooler outside air.

    Our problem isn't humidity (usually around 18-20%), it's the dryness. We haven't had any measurable rain since April and the state is a tinderbox. Several large fires burning not. That didn't stop the idiots from shooting off illegal fireworks, though. Sigh. Thank goodness we have a sprinkler / irrigation system for the yard and garden.

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    1. I don't think of Portland as being dry... have been reading about the fires.

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  25. While we got a bit of a break today, 87 right now, the meteorologist just assured me that it does feel like 93. Looks like most of the week will be low 90s. But, there is that humidity that is the killer. Like those further up the Ohio River in Cincinnati, we here in western Kentucky on the Ohio River are victims of the miserable humidity, too. We have central air, which we set on 72 or 73, but we also have a couple of box fans, as our air conditioner isn't the most efficient these days. The past five summers, at least, we've lived on borrowed time with it, and I'm once again hoping it will go the distance this summer.

    I am amazed at the number of you here that don't have central air, but then my family didn't have central air in a house until I was fifteen. We did have a window unit in the living room. But, I don't remember being particularly hot or uncomfortable. I really do believe that global warming has heated things up. And, of course, there is something really comforting about the air flowing in from the windows and not being all shut up. However, where I live, I'm glad that the AC is keeping me cool.

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  26. Growing up in Atlanta we didn't have AC but an attic fan or whole house fan and did the open windows at night and closed in the day. It was an old 30's single story farmhouse in the woods so cool. Then along came the '60's with the building boom and concrete everywhere. We finally got one unit in the DR to blow into the LR. None in the kitchen or bedrooms! The best house I ever went in was in a old neighborhood built by an architect between the wars who thought the Germans would fight again and invade us. So he built a bunker, poured concrete walls, ceilings, and floors with plaster and hardwood on top. Coolest place I had ever been in but you needed a jack hammer to change an electrical outlet so we didn't buy it. A millionaire did and completely demolished the interior to renovate it. Amazing house though.

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    1. Sounds like a great setting for a novel!

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  27. We follow Julia’s regimen in our 1880’s New England house - all the windows open at night with fans blowing the cool air in, closed early in the morning, shades down. Fan pulling cool air up from the old basement. No cooking - grilling and salads. Our outside thermometer, directly in the sun, has measured 103 and 105 on some recent days, Hank. (I had to go get my glasses to check!) Our house stays pretty cool, though our daughter - home for awhile - is committed to getting an air conditioner for her bedroom, If I get hot, I take a coolish shower. Peps me up. Steamy heat is the worst. I worked for years in a number of punishing tropical environments where people made wise decisions about what to wear - loose fitting long dresses (slacks too confining and hot), short-sleeved light shirts and open collars for men - slowing down physically and maintaining reduced schedules in the worst of the heat, eating later at night - only light food during the day. And my favorite - the whole family going up to sleep on the roof for the night under the stars. While a few of the Victorians around town here have “sleeping porches”, ours does not. The thought of sleeping on our own snow-conscious steep slate roof is terrifying!

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  28. So sorry I was MIA on this post. First I lost my phone then I was off in the middle of nowhere. Slowly working my way back to civilization!

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