Monday, June 15, 2009

Keeping Your Cool

Though the temperatures haven't been in the 90's around here recently, the weather has been sweltering none the less. In this corridor of the States, humidity reigns supreme. A quick trip outside will leave you sweating and soaked. Most people retreat into houses that have the AC cranked and the windows sealed tightly.
Everywhere I turn lately (or every webpage and email I open at least) there are articles about cutting back the AC and how that will help our environment as a whole, as well as our very own wallets. But ... what if you don't have AC at all?? Well, for starters, you don't have to worry about cutting it up a few degrees!
Now I must admit something here, and I really do hold this as being a VERY key element: our house was built in 1890. They didn't have AC back then, though I'm sure they had hot & humid summers. Our ceilings tend to be 10' tall, we have transoms (little tiny windows that open) above most doors inside the house, and now we have ceiling fans. The house is situated on the street so that the sun rises in front, sets in back, and the wind blows across the long front porch. They knew how to build houses WITH the environment back then. Work with it all rather than try to command that it bend to your absolute will.
Still, it does get pretty darn hot. So, what do we do? Well, first: fans are absolutely critical to life. We have ceiling fans with wide, tilted blades that actually move the air. For some reason, until recently it seems that it was ok to make ceiling fans with narrow blades that laid flat. Those don't move air ~ rather, on hot summer days, they tend to just mock you by circling above and not providing relief. Spending the $150 or so bucks for a good fan is definitely a worthwhile investment!! We also have window fans. Box style are our favorite - those bad boys blow, and in a good way. But, we also have a couple little window fans where the big boys simply wouldn't be appropriate (kitchen window). One key to successful window fans is knowing the temperatures! It has become almost a game around here: monitoring the outside temp and the inside temp. Once outside becomes hotter than in, the fans have to be turned around (usually physically) to blow air out. They can be turned to blow air in once outside is cooler than in. This took me a while to come to terms with, I must admit. Fans are supposed to blow a nice breeze on you and cool you down, that's how it goes, right?? Trust me, on a hot day, you'll be amazed by how much cooler your house can be by blowing air out.
I could go on now about planting trees and all that jazz, and it is important, but I'm guessing it is stuff you've already read. So, I'll just stick to something else: get out! Get your butt outside, preferrably in the shade! Pay attention to your surroundings, know where the sun rises and where it sets. Early on in the day, before the sun gets too high, we'll be out back playing on the deck or in the yard. In the evening, when the sun is on the back of the house, we'll be out front on the porch or in the front yard. Another bonus to this part of "keeping cool" - you get to be part of your neighborhood and community. Know a close-by park that has lots of shade trees, take the kiddos there during the right time of day, and get to know neighbors who are doing the same. Closed-up windows means closed-up neighborhoods. Remember when you were a kid and you were outside all the time, wasn't that more fun??
Second: take a cue from us Southerners - slow is good. We're not slow because we're lazy or dumb, we're slow because bustling around get's ya too darn hot. Our house is comfortable until we start acting like we've been drinking Red Bull or something, then it becomes hot. You wanna be crazy and silly - go outside (hear your mama's voice yet??). Chores around the house are best done (around here anyway) are best done in the morning before the sun heats the house up. Or, spread out over the course of the day, time taken to do them. No rush. Keep your cool.
Third: Eat seasonally. This sounds too simple to be true, but the majority of us now-a-days don't eat this way. We certainly don't grow our own or even eat locally grown, seasonal food. There is a reason it is called "winter squash" - if it is hot out, go for something that is more like "summer squash". Fruits are good. Salads are good. And, another cue taken from Southerners, BBQs and grillin' out RULES. I love to cook, but our kitchen catches the afternoon sun and heats up quick. Turning on the oven is something I dread. Grilling out in the evening is a perfect solution. Eating fish instead of beef or pork is another lighter choice for the season, and spending the day catching the fish is a great way to keep cool also. If you can't grill, take advantage of crock-pots and summer dishes that can be cooked in them. Check out for a yummy "Inside & Outside" Cheeseburger idea that is perfect for the grill.
So, there ya go. Some more tips on how to keep your cool over the summer. Oh yea, just in case you haven't thought about this one: dress appropriately! Wear cotton, linens, and light colors. Take advantage of sandals and barefeet. Don't wear jeans, if you gotta wear pants, refer back to that first sentence. Ladies, skirts catch breezes very nicely. If you have long hair, pull it up. And, if you're drinking, indulge in some Southern & Caribbean style cocktails. I'll even join you for one.

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