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Surviving Summer

Posted May 19 2013 2:37pm

I knew it was going to be really hot today (86 predicted, which means it’ll be at least 90 degrees F) so we did our grocery shopping early, right after the store opened at 9 am.  Unfortunately, most of the town had the same idea and the store was more crowded than I’d ever seen it.  I’m not sure if everyone was shopping in order to beat the heat, like me, or in preparation for a day outside (picnic, barbeque).  As we checked out, the cashier smiled brightly and said, “It’s beautiful today!”  I didn’t want to be rude so I smiled back and agreed with her.  But deep down, in my heart of hearts, what I was really thinking was, Are you kidding?!  I hate this weather!

Yes, I admit it.  Summer is not my favorite season.  It’s not even my second-favorite season.  I know I’m an oddball, and for years I tried to hide it because so many people would react in horror when I said I didn’t like hot summer weather.  Now, though, I let my summer-hating freak flag fly.

Even when I was a kid, I preferred to stay inside (and read).  I was never a big sports/outdoor activities fan; the closest sport-like recreation for me was roller skating…which I did inside.  (Our area of town had no sidewalks and the street was too rough for roller skating, so I spent lots of time at the roller rink.)  I did some swimming and some bike riding, I’d go out and hit tennis balls against the side of the garage (INSIDE the garage, but with the door open so it was sorta outside), and in my teens I did a lot of walking from place to place.  But I was happier to just stay inside and read all day long.

Back then it wasn’t that I didn’t like the hot temperatures.  On the contrary – the only thing summer was good for when I was high school and my 20s was sunbathing.  I’d slather on Hawaiian Tropic oil (no sunscreen – are you kidding?!) and go lay out on a blanket-covered chaise, the kind with the metal frame and the sticky plastic slats.  I’d bring a bottle of water or keep the garden hose sprayer near me and spray off with cool water when I got too warm.  An hour or two of that and I had my tan (I never burned, thanks to my Italian genes) and my dose of summer (and UV radiation) for the day.

I don’t know…maybe it was my youth, maybe it was being skinny (which I was until my mid-30s), maybe it just wasn’t as hot and humid back then as it is now…but now, once the temperature passes 83 degrees it is just miserable for me.  I sweat, for one thing, especially if it’s humid (which is most of the time here in Illinois).  I never used to sweat!  It started a couple of years ago so I suspect it’s hormones, since I’m looking at menopause in the next decade or sooner.  It’s just gross – I hate feeling sticky and having a little pool of sweat in the small of my back or on my neck.

So summer gets treated the same as winter – I stay inside, all the windows shut, with the air conditioning on.  It’s the only way to get through the day in any kind of comfort.  If I have to go outside, I do it very early in the morning.  (We still manage to get our walks in that way.)  I close the blinds to block the relentless sun, which shines into our kitchen and dining room all day long.  We live in a raised ranch, so our living area is technically on the second floor and that makes everything warmer.  (Our lower level, where the candle workshop used to be, stays nice and cool.  Too bad I can’t cook dinner down there!)

I plan meals around the forecasted temperatures, making sure to minimize any use of the stovetop on warmer days.  Our built-in oven doesn’t heat the kitchen up at all, but our five-burner gas stovetop throws off so much heat – it’s like having an indoor bonfire, right at the time of day when the house is already at its warmest.  We use the grill, slow cooker, oven and microwave and save the cooktop for days when the temperature will be 80 degrees or less.  I did find a great way to cook pasta in the summer, by the way:  Boil your (salted) water, throw in the pasta, stir and cover the pot.  Turn off the heat completely.  Check the pasta after 10 minutes and it should be the perfect texture (sometimes I go 11 minutes for thicker pasta).  I cooked pasta this way all last summer and it really helped keep the house from heating up too much!

If I had to rank the seasons from best to worst, I’d say fall, spring, and then summer and winter would be tied.  Seriously.  I like thunderstorms in summer and snow in winter, but I don’t like the extremes in temperature that those seasons bring.  I don’t like driving in the snow, so I only enjoy snow if I can stay safe in my house.  I do like temperatures up to 80 degrees, with low humidity, so every now and then, if we have a mild summer, I can safely say that I enjoyed it.

Otherwise though, I’m that weird person who looks disappointed when the temperature (and humidity) rises; that person who will never say, “What a beautiful day!  Get outside and enjoy it!” when it’s 88 degrees of nonstop sun and no clouds.  I’m the one who silently endures summer and waits patiently for fall, with its pleasant days and crisp mornings and woodsmoke-filled evenings.


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