Monday, June 8, 2020

Keeping Your Cool


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I am SO NOT ready for summer! July has apparently arrived ahead of schedule! For those of you who are just now enjoying the sun on your faces and the things popping up in your gardens, I envy you.  But here in north Texas we've been hitting the upper nineties the last few days, with humidity that puts the heat index ten degrees higher. People were dropping like flies from heat exhaustion at outdoor graduations on Saturday, and we worried about the protesters as they marched through our neighborhood late on Friday afternoon. Here was my back garden in the evening a couple of weeks ago, when it was a glorious 75 and you could actually sit outside!


Last night it was 95 at the same time! So UGH. It's just disgusting. If I want to grill--and it's too hot to cook in the kitchen--I have to wait until after sunset for it to be remotely bearable.


Our leaky old--um, vintage--house is comfortable enough up until about two in the afternoon, but when the sun moves around to the long wall of west facing windows, it gets brutal inside. Yes, we have central air-conditioning, but there is only so much it can do with the old beast of a house. Unfortunately, my downstairs writing space is in the room with those west facing windows, and my real, "designated" office is upstairs with south facing windows and is converted attic space, so it's equally miserable. 

West facing sun porch windows
My first go-to cooling strategy is to wet a dish towel, hold it in front of a fan, then drape it over my neck. But when I get really desperate, I shuck everything and get in a tepid bath until my body temperature drops. 

And I am really missing my afternoon tea, which is my boost for my afternoon writing sprint. I know the colonial British believed that drinking hot tea cooled you down, but it sure doesn't work for me. Will I have to switch to so-not-British ICED TEA

So REDS, what are your tried and true tips for beating the heat?

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, Debs, I feel for you! Heat really can wear you down. And you must have to water that beautiful garden of yours every single day. 

I swear by a cool shower. Then get out and just stand there and drip dry. At a minimum, standing in some cold water and splashing some on my neck, the backs of my knees, and inside of my arms. 

DEBS: Hallie, I water the back in the morning, when it's shady, and that's fine. I might be wetting myself down with the hose once or twice, too!

LUCY BURDETTE: Debs, do you have shades on those windows? We sprang for some in Key West this year and it makes a big difference in the afternoon. And I was doing my walk either early or after supper because otherwise just too hot.

If these were normal times, I’d say go to the library or a coffee shop! But of course life in anything but normal...

DEBS: Lucy, we do, as you can see in the photo of the porch. They go down about noon, when the sun starts to creep around the house. They are lined, but it's not black-out. It wasn't nearly as miserable in this room before last year when the neighbors cut down the tree that shaded our whole deck, patio, and the west side of the house. Black-out shades and solar film were on my pre-pandemic list...

RHYS BOWEN:  Last week it got to 110 degrees in Arizona. Literally too hot to go outside. We walked before 7 am and then were prisoners in air conditioning all day. So my way of coping was to admit we needed to risk driving back to California. 

I need not have been so paranoid. Rest area bathrooms were sparkling clean and empty. We spent the night at a lovely hotel in Pasadena. Again they too used every precaution: remote check in, man walking around with sanitizing spray. We arrived back in Marin County to find it was 98!  Not fair!!

However it has now cooled to a blissful 70 and I can sit out on my deck, drive to visit my daughter, so all is well. And our house here has a whole downstairs floor that is always cool so now I can face the summer.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Debs, I have an old house, but of course mine leaks at the opposite time of the year - in winter. I second Lucy’s suggestion if you don’t already have them - shades. Every window in my house, except for the kitchen, is curtained or has blinds, and in the summertime, if the sun is shining in, the curtains are CLOSED

My working-while-hot aid is an old fan, which I keep on while I’m at my desk. Even if it’s hot and humid, I find sitting in moving air makes me comfortable. 
 
Julia's scary fan
I agree with you and Hallie on a cool bath/shower. On hot nights, I’ll sit on the side of the tub and soak my feet in cold water (ours comes from a well 50 feet below ground, so you can bet it stays icy even in August.) When they’re almost numb, I’ll step on a towel so as not to drip and then go straight to bed. It really helps!

DEBS: Julia, I take that tepid bath right before bed. It makes a huge difference in sleeping comfort--not to mention the fact that I spend every day covered in sunscreen and mosquito repellent, so am not going to bed sticky!

I complain about the leaky house in the winter, too, just not as much:-) More layers will usually do the trick. And when it's cold downstairs in the porch, it's cozy in the upstairs office. It's having no comfortable place to work in the summer afternoons that is making me crazy.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, raising hand for old house, too. Ours is from 1894, and we love it, but when it's really hot outside, it's impossible inside. I did a Zoom the other day, and it was SO HUMID that I gave up, and said on the Zoom: hey, part of the entertainment is going to be watching my hair get puffy. Truly! I have a Dyson fan, which is silently awesome. Time to bring it up from the basement, I guess.

But yes. We have discovered, (because the food delivery people, bless them, serendipitously brought us lime tonic water), gin and super-lime tonic. Lovely. But only on weekends. (I know, what's a weekend?)

READERS, how do you manage the heat? Does anyone find that a hot drink cools you off? Or is that a total myth?

63 comments:

  1. Oh, summer heat is the worst! Shades and curtains are good suggestion; we dress for the heat and have ceiling fans in most rooms . . . they really help, especially with sleeping at night. If there’s a good breeze [usually just before a storm], we open the windows, especially in the sunroom.
    I can’t say for sure about the hot drinks, but I don’t stop drinking coffee just because it’s hot outside . . . .

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  2. I love hot weather and summer. But I also love my AC and my pool, the two primary ways I keep cool.

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  3. We have the a/c which is on most of the year. And ceiling fans. Last August half the a/c died so we replaced all of it. So glad. We’re in a streak of 90s right now. Still drink hot coffee in the mornings. Later it can be ice tea, white wine, cold beer, Pimm’s cup, whatever.

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  4. Sorry Debs about the summer heat and humidity returning to Texas. We had a record-setting heat wave last week in Ottawa but it only lasted 3 days. I think we really noticed the heat since with the COVID-19 closures, you could NOT cool off at a library, shopping mall, swimming pool or beach (all closed). Blissfully, we were back in the sun with temperatures only in the 70s (22C) with LOW humidity this weekend.

    I have an AC in my apartment but do not have to use it very often. When I lived in Toronto, my apartment building forbade the use of window air conditioners so we suffered during prolonged heat waves.

    I agree with Hallie and Julia's suggestions. Take plenty of cool baths and showers. Close the curtains in west/south facing windows.

    Eat cool foods (salads, cold pastas, smoothies, yogurt) and try not to use the oven/stove very much. I wish I could use a BBQ but that is not allowed at my apartment.

    Like Pat, I still needed my HOT, strong cup of coffee in the morning but can switch to cold drinks the rest of the day.

    And eat ice cream (gelato)! Two of my favourite gelato shops without walking distance of home are now opened for limited take-out or pickup (weekend afternoons/evenings).


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    1. Geez, I wish Blogger had spell-check. Within (not without) walking distance of home for the gelato!

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  5. I do NOT do heat and humidity, which makes living in southeastern Virginia pure torture in the summer. Which has arrived after a very short spring, I am not delighted to report. Fortunately, although our condo is not new, the HVAC is (do not ask). So my solution is to coop myself up in the AC all summer, until I can, under normal circumstances, flee to the Bay Area of California for a few weeks. Even if it is unusually hot there, it's cool in the mornings and evenings and blessedly DRY!!!

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    1. We have had three weeks of over 100 degree weather and high humidity. Eighties and nineties in February and March. Staying hot at night too, I’m a Bay Area native and where I live at the southern end this is not unusual weather.

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  6. So far I am loving the warmer days. I know I will not like it when 90’s approach, but so far so good in NC withe the 80’s.

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  7. Last year we lost a beautiful giant tree shading the back of our house. The heat has been awful when the afternoon sun beats in. Two things are helping - installing outdoor curtains on the downstairs windows and a fabric patio shade over an existing trellis behind the house. Both ordered online. Ceiling fans help too. When we lived in Phoenix we had misters outside which helped but it has to be really dry for that. We may install awnings on the upstairs windows. Find a writing area on the other side of the house for the summer!

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    1. Last summer, after the loss of the tree, we put shade sails on our patio and deck, but discovered that they were pulling our pergola out of alignment. I don't know about outdoor curtains! Will have to check on that.

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  8. I do not do heat, period. I have a fan pointed at my bed, two fans in the living/kitchen area. I shut everything up about 10am and then try to open after sunset. Of course, "everything" is a window in the bedroom and a much larger one in in the living area, no cross ventilation. I have been known to take one of the frozen ice chest packs out on the freezer, wrap it in a towel and put on the back of my neck or lower back. It really helps at night when I just can't sleep. Frozen juice bars, I go for the sugar free ones. I have a pitcher of water in the fridge, that helps. No cooking unless it done before 10am and absolutely no baking, period.

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    1. All great ideas, Deana. I made pizza on the gas grill last night. I just cannot use my oven when it's this hot.

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  9. My second floor office gets hot, too, but I don't tend to do brain/creative work in the afternoons. Downstairs when it's hot we close up around nine and close the shades so it stays comfortable for hours - and I have a smaller laptop down there, too.

    I swear by ceiling fans. Moving air makes a big difference. And cooling your feet down.

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    1. Also - we live in an antique house (1890), but my Hugh took it down to the studs and insulated it, and the windows are reasonably tight, so it's not leaky.

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    2. Ours is 1905, Edith, and has never been insulated. And 30 out of 34 windows are original, so the R value is practically nil. Replacing 30 windows, unfortunately, is not likely to ever be in the budget... My hubby is handy with wiring and plumbing, but carpentry, not so much.

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  10. We live in a small 1950's split level oriented east-west. There are 3 small windows on the south side in the upstairs bedrooms. Each one is shaded by a small metal awning and those rooms are definitely helped by the outside awnings. So, Deb, I strongly recommend that you look into outside awnings to protect the windows that face south.
    Connecticut is very different. Today is a positively golden day. When I walked into the kitchen at 6:30 am, the temperature outside was probably 50 degrees. Last week, the humidity was so bad, that like Hank in Massachusetts, we were wilting. Then we got this weather as a reward for putting up with the rainy cold spring that never seemed to become spring-like.
    Anyway, we do not have central ac. We have a couple of window units that usually do the trick during the 90-100 degree heat that summer can bring. My trick is similar to Julia's. Ice cold footbath when I can't seem to cool down. Ice cubes on my wrists, too. Drink more water, just water, not juice or anything with sugar in it.
    BTW, I brushed Kenai yesterday and left the fuzz on the lawn. Two little sparrows came by and picked up all they could carry. They kept coming back until you couldn't see the dog hair! It was a riot.
    Stay well everyone. Deb, hope you and your husband find a solution to the oppressive heat.

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    1. You made me smile Judy with the image of the birds coming to take your dog's hair

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    2. Judy, we put the German shepherd hair in an empty flower pot and watch the birds come for it. I think it must make lovely nests!

      I start on the water just as soon as I finish my morning latte!

      I've considered awnings since the neighbors cut down the shade tree, but that's a long stretch of seven windows on the west side of the sun porch, and one is blocked by the trunk of our pecan tree. I'm not sure how we would fit an awning.

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  11. Debs, I wonder if awnings would help, in the absence of that poor tree? My aunt in Florida has them, they do double duty as hurricane shields in their case, but they sure make a difference in the temperature inside the house. Those roll-up awnings have gotten very sophisticated these days.

    When I pick blackberries, it's always in the dead heat of summer here, and in open fields with the sun beating down. Add tick-proof clothing to neck and wrists, a hat, and knee-high boots, and it can really get dangerous for body heat. When my father-in-law was alive and fishing creeks all summer, I made him a cooling neck wrap, with some kind of water absorbent beads inside. The idea is to soak the neck wrap (looks like a folded bandana), and the evaporation cools the body. I've used this idea for the last couple years, and it really works. Just Google "cooling wraps for neck", there is a vast array of them, some even use ice cubes. When I pick berries I don't mind ice melting down the back of my neck, but you might prefer the kind that doesn't do that.

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    1. Here's a tutorial on making the kind with the water-absorbing beads. They are pretty amazing.
      https://www.chicaandjo.com/make-your-own-cooling-neck-wraps/

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    2. I have a similar neck wrap. You soak the wrap in cold water, wring it out, snap the fabric and it stays cool for hours. It works really well.
      Here's one link, for those who prefer to buy, rather than DIY
      https://www.mission.com/collections/mission-cooling-towels

      Our group walks start at 8:45 (leaving home now) and ends before 11:00 so we usually avoid the worst of the summer heat. Have not used the Mission wrap yet this year but I will eventually.

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    3. Karen and Grace, these are amazing! I don't know how I missed the existence of this technology in the past, but I am WOWED by it now. Thank you so much!

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    4. Susan, the one I made for my FIL was back in the early 90's. I'd kind of forgotten about it, until a couple years ago. They have come a long way since the original.

      Thanks for the recommendation, Grace. I have been using ice and ice water, but I need something that lasts longer.

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    5. Thanks for the recommendations! I will check these out. It's the same principle as my wet dish towel, but probably more efficient and less messy!

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    6. And it doesn't have to be remoistened for hours, Debs. Stays cool, too.

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    7. Clinical director found something simalar, now some of the staff are testing the before she purchases enough for all the field staff.

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  12. Ohio has moved far enough into opening back up that I am now going into my office two days a week. (We have no more than half the staff in on any given day, with lots of social distancing and precautions.) This is leading me to rather schizophrenic clothing choices.

    On the days I'm working from home, my office is an upstairs "bedroom" converted to office space. We have central air, but the upstairs is consistently about 10 degrees warmer than downstairs. So the days I work here, when it is hot, I am in either a sundress or shorts and tank top. With the oscillating fan going as well.

    On the days I work at the office, the air conditioning is working VERY well. (Possibly because of fewer bodies heating up the space?) So those days it is summer office clothing with a heavy sweater over it. Plus a steady flow of hot coffee.

    BTW, I do have to gloat for just a moment: we have had a cold front move through so even though it is predicted to hit 91 again tomorrow, this morning when we took our walk it was 58 degrees. We have the air turned off for the moment, all the windows are open, and I'm writing this with a throw blanket across my legs.

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    1. Oh, bliss, Susan! We actually have a little front coming through tomorrow which will drop the Tuesday night temp down to 60. Unfortunately, it's not predicted to last more than a couple of days, but it will be a little relief.

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  13. Fans, fans, fans! Ceiling fans. Tabletop fans. Dyson fans. Awnings. Shades. Soak a bandanna in ice water and loosely wrap it around your neck. Drink ice water. Find a quiet place on the north/east side of the house. On a sticky Cincinnati night, I take a cold shower, dab the drips, and lie under the bedroom ceiling fan, set on high. I go out early in the morning or after dark.

    Watch movies set in Arctic climates, Dr. Zhivago, or Fortitude.

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    1. Love the Artic movie idea, Margaret!! We are on season 2 of Fortitude, which is set on a fictional island north of Norway. (It was actually filmed in Iceland, I think.) I think it does make us feel cooler, lol.

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  14. Margaret! You have all the answers! We only have about two weeks a year where it is completely unbearable, and you all have reminded me of iced lattes! Hooray!

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  15. Our house is also old, although not as old as some of you (built in 1928). It still has the old plaster-and-lathe walls. This means when it gets cold overnight (like now, my toes are actually frosty), the inside will stay cool all day. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true and the insulation is, um, let's call it substandard and leave it at that.

    We did install A/C a couple years ago, but I find it irritates the nerve damage in my arm so I don't like using it. For cooling, I've always had fair success with soaking a towel in cold water, wringing it out, then draping it across my neck. Repeat as needed.

    Oh, and I don't know if hot beverages cool you off, but it takes a lot for me to give up my cuppa!

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  16. My heart is breaking for all of you, well except our Canadian cousins and Julia. Last month we had freezing weather and snow. Pftt.

    We have, in comparison to Julia, Deb, Hallie, and Hank, a newish house, built in 1923. At some point it got fairly well insulated plus it faces south. That side is well shaded by huge dogwoods and maples and oaks. It's in the city, so the houses on either side shade us in the morning and evening, too. We do have central air, but it only goes on when days get both hot and humid, sometimes 2-3 in a row! No shades or curtains at all downstairs. Hey, we came here from California Window covering are for bedrooms and bathrooms only.

    All the bedrooms have great cross ventilation and ceiling fans, plus a hot night in Rochester is when the temp doesn't go below 70.

    Our tulips and lilacs and wisteria and creeping phlox and other spring bulbs are done. Now it is roses and peonies and lupines and pinks. I haven't planted the patio pots yet, but that might happen today because we have two days of 90+ forecast this week, dropping back into the high 60s by the weekend.

    I love living on Lake Ontario, which has a cool breeze even on the hottest days. No mosquitos yet but they will come, and so will the fireflies.

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    1. You made me feel cooler, Ann!

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    2. Ann, I lived in Burlington ON which is on the shore of Lake Ontario for 4 years. Nature's greatest air conditioner. But then again, Burlington also got tons of lake-effect snow in the winter (and Toronto got none).

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    3. We definitely get lake effect. Snow in winter and rain in summer. No droughts here!

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  17. No AC here, not even window units but since the house is only 10 years old the windows are good at keeping the heat out. Usually it cools off at night but when the humidity is bad and it can be brutal the ceiling fan really helps. Otherwise I have blackout shades during the day and when the temp drops I begin to open windows. Julia's cool foot bath is an amazing whole body cooler.

    My beverage of choice is limeade - nothing seems to cool me off better.

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    1. I am definitely going for the blackout shades when things get a little more back to normal--meaning I can shop for fabric, and have my friend who makes these things in the house!

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  18. Debs, I thought that you were supposed to install a kind of awning after the tree was cut . A covered porch or an awning will diffuse direct sun off your windows, it should help. I can't add to all the good counsels up here.
    I live in a renovated former school house, no a/c but in Quebec we usually have only a few unbearable hot weather. Fans, airing in the morning when it is cool, closing draperies on south and west will do the trick.
    About beverages, very cold drinks are not good for me, they put a heavy pressure on my stomach. Even in hot weather, I drink mostly tap water . Also hot tea or hot herbal drink will help me but only the kinds in which you don't add milk.

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    1. Thanks, Danielle! I think I need to move to Canada...

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  19. Here in northern Ohio, we are enjoying a short respite from heat/humidity--windows opened, no need even for fans--until tomorrow, alas!

    I read this trick for reducing a fever--cold socks on your feet--and it works to bring down your body temperature. So, if you could stand cold, wet socks--or perhaps just a cold foot-bath while you work, along with a cold compress for your neck, too. My go to drink is smooth iced tea--a little lemon or mint and keep it coming, please!

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    1. Flora, this cracks me up. I don't know if I can do wet socks. I could soak my feet in a dishpan, though. So interesting how feet affect your body temperature. In the winter, I can't go to sleep if my feet are cold. I have to put on a pair of socks, which always end up in the bottom of the bed in the morning.

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    2. I will pass on the clammy wet socks, Flora. Soaking feet in a cool bath (or dishpan) would work.

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    3. This does actually work for a fever--I've done it for my youngest nephew when he was a little boy. I don't think I could do the wet socks myself--but definitely have sat with my feet in the tub and run cold water over them to cool myself down.

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  20. COLD SOCKS ON YOUR FEET! WHAT A GREAT IDEA! Thinking... keep a pair of socks in the freezer, just in case?

    I feel for folks who have to endure persistent humidity with heat. We do in New England, but not all the time. It makes the varnish on our dining room chairs turn tacky. Ick.

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    1. Oh, ugh, Hallie. Sticking to the dining room chairs!!! At least we don't have to deal with that!

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  21. Hank, I cannot imagine you having puffy hair! Your hair always look perfect!

    Debs, great post! Since our apartment is right over the garage, it is always cooler on our floor than the floors above us. What do I do to stay cool? I turn off the lights. I try to drink more water and stay hydrated.

    Diana

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  22. I live two blocks from Deb, so you already know what my summer weather is like. I have ceiling fans in the big rooms of my 1960 brick ranch-style house. The brick is a decent insulator, but when the AC goes wonky, it's miserable here. I got out on the west side of the house this morning, while it was still shady, to water the garden and . . . still hot. Still humid. Time for me to drink lots of water (which I keep in a filter pitcher in the fridge) and turn into a turtle.

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    1. Gigi can testify to how hot my kitchen is on summer evenings, even with AC and fans! We were having nice social distancing happy hours every week or so in the back garden, and now it's too hot. Waaaa.

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  23. Last summer we put in a little window unit AC in my upstairs office, so that I could work comfortably in the afternoons. But it has apparently stopped cooling!!! Repair-anything hubby has given up on it, so I guess my job for the day is to order another one. Boo on Frigidaire for a selling a unit that didn't last a year!

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    1. Yikes, a lemon of an air conditioner, Debs. And of course it breaks down when the weather starts getting hot!

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  24. I put my feet into a tub of cold water when I really need to cool off (though haven't been there yet here in Manitoba) and I definitely believe that hot tea on a hot day cools me down. But sometimes, instead, I have a short cup of very strong coffee topped off with a (very) generous dollop of rich vanilla ice cream -- tastes fabulous!

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    1. Affogato, yum! Our favourite Italian cafe makes those.

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    2. Grace -- thank you for giving that drink a name. I had called it a "short dark pick-me-up" when I first served it to my parents at the cottage, due to the very strong coffee and the sugar-lift from the ice cream. But affogato sounds so much for sophisticated!

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  25. Summer is not my favorite season at all anymore. I can’t stand the heat and hate to sweat. My house stays cool, except for the family room, which needs its own unit, but we haven’t splurged for that. It’s on one end of the house with its own entrance, so we just keep the door to it shut, which ensures the rest of the house can be cool. I’m reading a book set in Alaska right now, and it’s sounding like a good place to be. Hahaha!

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  26. I did not even know there was such a thing as lime tonic water, but now it's on my must-have-as-soon-as-humanly-possible list. Also, only on weekends, or to be more accurate, Friday night.

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  27. No AC here but ceiling fans and a swamp cooler help on all but high humidity days when I head for the pool. I had to cut down my shade trees when they died this year and I really miss them. My daughter installed some outdoor window shades she got at Costco. They keep the sun from getting to the window glass. I had to replace an old leaky large living room window last month with a double glazed and it seems to help.
    Has anyone tried the Arctic Cool cooling towels yet? They’re silky and come two to a tube. Just wet them and keep the tube in the refrigerator. I like to drape one around my neck when I go to bed in hot nights.
    Also I have a small window fan aimed at my bed. Right now I’m nursing an ice cold Pellegrino.
    But I’m with you, Debs...not happy to greet summer anymore.

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    1. Wendy I will check out those Costco shades. And the Arctic Cool towels!

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  28. I don't mind the heat unless it is very hot and humid. Since I hate being cold, I try not to use the air conditioners or keep them on low. However, if it is 77 degrees or over, my breathing suffers so I have to turn on or bump up the air. I drink hot tea in the morning unless it is super hot and humid, and iced tea and iced water the rest of the day. Stay safe and well and cool.

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