Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Shouts and Murmurs: Keeping cool during summertime

July 27, 2005

Summer's temperatures, predictably hot in Kansas in July and almost unbearably uncomfortable during the past week, may have left many of us scrambling for ways to keep cool.

Sure, there's the thermostat connected to central air-conditioning. And there's the opportunity to take a dunk in a swimming pool or a pond. Last week with our nieces visiting, we found that even a baby pool filled with a couple inches of cool water will take the edge off the heat when you dip your feet in the water.

My husband this spring has been experimenting with building small fountains. We've learned that sometimes even the sound of running water makes an area seem cooler, especially if there are plenty of shade trees around.

And, if there's no running water, the sound of cottonwood leaves rustling in the wind resembles the sound of a running stream, which also somehow seems to make the area feel cooler.

We can also feel cooler, or warmer, depending on what we eat.

At work where we tend to eat and run, or rather eat and work, we've found a new and cool summertime lunch -- frozen yogurt.

It's not the kind found at a drive-in restaurant. It's just your favorite yogurt put in the freezer until frozen.

In an office poll we talked about other foods that taste good frozen. Grapes are good. Frozen corn's not too bad. And blueberries are great.

And then there's the summertime menu, which tends to be lighter, and often cooler, than what we crave in the winter.

There's chicken salad with grapes. And there's bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, corn on the cob, cantaloupes, watermelon and cold pasta salads.

In our homes, staying cool means pulling shades, keeping the doors closed, letting the car cool outside before parking it in the garage, and using fans.

And in our cars, well, when a car is parked in the sun on a hot day, there's no easy answer. Just roll down the windows and let the car cool down before expecting the AC to make much of a difference.

Though not directly related to the heat, summer is a time to avoid chiggers, ticks and mosquitoes. While some of us may not like using the typical insect sprays, a friend last week suggested a method I hadn't heard of before. She said to rub dryer fabric softener sheets on yourself before heading out into the grass or weeds. I'm not sure if it works, but it sounds like it might be worth a try.

Summer is also a time to watch for snakes.

Last week as a rural Tonganoxie woman was weeding a flower bed outside her home, a copperhead snake bit her on the hand. After several days in intensive care and six vials of anti-venom, she is recovering.

In interviewing a Kansas University herpetologist, I learned it's just as important to watch for snakes at night as it is during the daytime.

So, a new checklist will be added to my ever vigilant poison ivy patrol -- that of snakes.

While I realize most snakes won't hurt humans, there are a few species that are dangerous -- especially if they're accidentally stepped on, or if they feel threatened.

So, keep that in mind, and light your way with a flashlight at night, especially if you're in or near wooded or rocky areas.

Though summer's heat can be brutal, it won't be long before we're shivering from winter's chills. So enjoy the summertime, and while you're at it, stay cool, and safe.

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