Category Archives: Heat summer

Only child’s take on dining out(side)

Only Child with Mom in the backyard

In the stifling hot days of summer, my mother would haul out the whole paraphernalia for our family of three to eat outside in the summer. This was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when air-conditioned homes were not the norm. But at suppertime, our backyard had shade.

So, with some help from Dad and me, and several trips – from the kitchen, down the side stairs, out into the driveway to the backyard went a small card table, three chairs, table cloth, serviettes, cutlery, plates, and all the dishes of food – depending on what we were eating. And yes, it was often hot food. But the entrance to the backyard was inviting – an archway of red roses.

Only Child’s Dad under the backyard entrance

It was enjoyable eating outside in the breeze. But when even the temperature in the shade rose too high, mom used her backup plan – eating in the basement. Before the basement renovation, we would sit in our own private dining room with black floors, huge cement pillars, a furnace turned off for the summer, the old coal bin (which remained after the switch to oil heat) and mother’s pride and joy – her root cellar where all her canned jams, pickles, green tomatoes and the like were stored.

You could say it was all a labour of love combined with necessity – either roast or eat the roast, be cool or sweat.

But Mom had a dirty little secret, one which was shared among some of the women on her side of the family.

Except for cooking, canning and sewing, my mother hated housework.

I don’t recall her even doing a weekly housecleaning, except for laundry and it got hung out (even sometimes in winter) until she purchased a clothes dryer. But vacuuming and dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc.? Only if company was coming.

Then it was the big hustle to make everything neat and clean. Put away in closets and drawers were all her sewing paraphernalia – including the portable machine. You see, the home for all of that was the dining room table. And we needed that for the dinners for company. Company was mostly family and some friends. Mom did love to cook and bake and our family loved to eat.

But cleaning the house. Not in our genes.

And I think this dislike, even hatred for doing housework, is in the genes. I can’t find any scientific proof, so I will use anecdotes. My mother’s youngest sister , my godmother, was the same – loved to cook and bake, garden, and can, but clean? However, my godmother was a farmer’s wife, so there was lots else to do that your average housewife of the 50s and 60s didn’t do. But that doesn’t explain one of my Detroit Michigan cousins – who loved to sew and cook but hated to clean.

Are you getting the picture?

As for me – well I love to cook and garden, but freeze and dry garden vegetables and fruit (sometimes from the Farmer’s Market, not just my garden). I used to like to sew but lost interest over the years – I blame that on other interests taking over, lack of sufficient time, but also bad eyesight. When I am forced to mend an item of clothing, I can take more time threading the needle because I can’t see the hole, than actually mending. And this from a woman who made all her maternity clothes and used to quilt by hand.

As for the weekly housecleaning – some of it gets done – the laundry, changing bed-sheets, clean kitchen counters and sinks, and vacuum or mop. Dusting? Maybe every six weeks – to borrow a friend’s phrase “too much work.”

But nothing beats going outside on the veranda or in my backyard patio to eat my meals. I have it easier than Mom. Sure, for the backyard, I have to use a side door like Mom. But there is a patio table and umbrella already out there, so it is just bring out the food, sit down and eat. And breathe in, feast my eyes and nose on the flowers and veggies in my garden.

Top of my patio table up close

 

And try to keep the wasps away. I’m allergic to them. But it’s my patio and my garden.  So when it’s not raining, I’ll sit, eat and enjoy.

Looking from the patio at fresh lettuce, rhubarb and oregano

 

So, do you regularly clean your house, condo or apartment?

Or do you have better things to do? And if so, what are they?

I’d like some comments about this.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Garden, Gardening, Heat summer, Hereditary, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Only child

Only Child reboots and relaxes in the heat

Longshot of Only Child’s front garden where she now lives  and that Muskoka chair on the front veranda.

It’s getting hot and humid outside but I love it. When I was growing up I would sit outside in the backyard shade or sometimes the front veranda in the mornings. As I write in my memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons:

On sunny summer mornings, she [my late mother] parks me outside with my colouring book and crayons at the card table on the front veranda. I sit there in the slowly receding shade from the house and carefully pick out crayons to colour in the trees, flowers, people, and cartoon characters of my vast colouring book collection. Boxes holding only eight crayons are not good enough; I prefer at least 24 crayons because then I can pick out different browns for the hair and different greens for the grass and trees. I pull out a crayon, lift it to my nose to inhale the waxy smell, then apply it to the drawings of people and places. I make sure my crayon stays within the outline and that I shade evenly. No wisps or coloured lines scattered all over the page. Already I am realizing that I need some order in my life. But not without the spontaneous sweetness of nature. Often I lift my head from my shading to stare at the green grass and trees along the block and listen to the birds tweeting. Occasionally, a neighbour strolls by. We don’t wave or say “hello,” but I sense the peacefulness, not just between us, but overall. The neighbourhood is quiet now and I need to absorb this. It is more than just breathing – it is my reboot into living after confrontations with the Bully. Of course, I don’t figure this all out then. I am just content to soak up the moment without any angry outbursts.

(Copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford; excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons)

In the above, I am cooling off from much more than hot weather but from yet another encounter with The Bully.  However, on these hot humid summer days, we are more concerned with keeping our cool in another way. You’ve probably all seen those newscasts of parents leaving kids in steaming hot cars while they went inside an air-conditioned mall to shop. Or someone left a dog in an overheated car. Are these people stupid, careless, or has the heat gotten to them?

You never leave anyone or any animal in a hot car in the summer if you will be away from the car for more than the time it takes to fill the car up at a gas station (and then you are right there). If your car has air conditioning, it goes off when you turn off the ignition. Just think hot seat when you return to your car and sit down.

In fact, if you leave your car in the heat, take your children and dogs with you.

The mortality rate from heat exposure (not just in cars) is higher than dying from a lightning strike or a flood. In the United States, the average fatality rate for death from heat wave exposure is 400 a year. And during the Chicago heat wave of 1995, about 600 people died from heat exposure within five days. Check out the Wikipedia article and its references at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_wave#Mortality for more information about the perils of heat waves.

Today, tomorrow and Thursday, I am going to restrain myself from excess walking and even heavy gardening. When I see a weed (or two, or three, or…) I will say “on the weekend.” Instead I will sit in the shade and enjoy my garden or sit on the veranda, as I do most mornings with my coffee, now that I have a Muskoka chair – shades (pun intended) of my childhood. After an intense session of editing or writing (rewriting more likely) inside (air conditioning on when necessary, although I try to use open windows, fresh air and ceiling fans only, when possible) I need the change to absorbing beauty, calm, peace.

If that doesn’t motivate me, the Wikipedia article will. And yes, I’ll be dressing cool in shorts and tank top and using sunscreen and wearing my big sunglasses and a hat. For more information on protecting yourself from the heat check out http://triblocal.com/gurnee/community/stories/2012/06/health-department-provides-hot-weather-health-tips/

More garden photos from this month are posted below. Enjoy.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Blue sea of Forget-me-nots which popped up in May – now finished for this season.

Raggedy Annie swings among the roses of the comeback rosebush (died, then resurrected itself in 2009)

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Filed under Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Health, Heat summer, Home and Garden, Muskoka Chair, Only child, Only child memoir, Peace and quiet, Reboot, Roses

Only Child on keeping cool in home office

Only Child's garden oasis from the summer heat

Today is the first heat-wave day in Toronto. It made me remember how my mother coped with a hot and humid house back in the grey ages when I was growing up. Air-conditioners weren’t the norm then so Mom decided that one time of the day she, Dad and I would be cool – suppertime. So we ate either in the basement or outside in the shady backyard. Mom cooked supper in a hot kitchen (facing south) and then with a little help from Dad and me, carted downstairs (or outside) a card table, three chairs, tablecloth, dishes and food. Then for half an hour to 45 minutes we could sit in coolness while we ate. Afterwards, we carted everything back upstairs or into the house and mother did the dishes – by hand.

An awful lot of work, especially the moving around and cooking in the heat.  But it got me thinking about staying cool while we work in our home office, sometimes without always cranking up the air-conditioning. Mom’s basement procedure provides a more modern/less set-up work idea for those of us who work from home. Of course, if your office is in your basement, you are already there. For the rest of us (my office is a converted dining room), here are a few ideas. Some are from http://wparticle.net/2741-tips-on-how-to-keep-the-office-cool-during-the-summer-time-for-less.html and some seem to be running around in my head. With energy use peaking all round, and possibly leading to brownouts (depending on where you live), some of these might just help.

1. Desktop PCs use more electricity than laptops and notebooks. Printers also use a lot of electricity (I know; most go into sleep mode). With wireless connections, you can just turn on your power board for your modem/router and take your laptop or notebook down to the basement. If you don’t have proper outlets to plug in down there, use the laptop or notebook on batteries.

Basement not suitable or you live in an apartment or flat with no basement access? Take your laptop/notebook to an air-conditioned library or Internet cafe (My son, who works from home does this, although his landlord is finally putting in air-conditioning). Or stay home and…

1. Draw your drapes and close your windows during the day and do the reverse at night. Thermal drapes are good but so are mini blinds.

2. Use fans, particularly the overhead ones – they circulate the air better than the regular fans. Thoughts on window fans differ from good to bad. Check out http://wparticle.net/2741-tips-on-how-to-keep-the-office-cool-during-the-summer-time-for-less.html for some ideas here.

3. Drink, drink, drink, preferable water and fruit juices while you work, but keep the drinks away from the laptop.

4. Take breaks away from your laptop. If you have a swimming pool in your backyard or apartment building, use it.

5. Consider shortening your work week or at least your workday for the summer. I am. Starting in June I don’t work on Fridays, at least on client work. I may do some of my own writing but I may also go to the beach or “work” in my garden (early morning or later in the evening) or just sit in the garden and read a book.

6. Don’t use your conventional oven. Cook on the barbie (if you have one), or use a crockpot or rice steamer and your microwave. Make light meals. Salads are good.

7. Dress light and comfortable. . Unless you are meeting clients in your home office, shorts and a tank top or a bathing suit are fine.

8. If you go outside make sure you apply sunscreen before, put on the sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat or cap. Stay in the shade as much as possible and go for walks in the early morning or late evening after the sun sets.

9.  Last but not least – keep your cool with your temper. Angry outbursts will raise more than your ire and blood pressure.

Anybody else have any favourites about keeping cool?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Cooling home office summer, Energy saving summer home office, Health, Heat summer, Only child