Our back door has a western exposure, as does one of our kitchen windows. The big shade tree out back that helped keep the back of the house cool had to be taken down a few years ago. Its replacement is years away from being ready to shade the back of the house, so the afternoon sun really warms up the place - and in hot weather, not in a good way.
I have toyed with the idea of a retractable awning across the back of the house, but it's costly, and I've seen lots of negative consumer reviews about durability and customer service problems. Outside the western kitchen window, I installed a Coolaroo shade, which I lower on sunny afternoons when the temperature is high. It works really well blocking the heat.
The window in our back door also needs shading, but I don't want to attach a curtain or shade to the door because I like having the view. And because the door swings out instead of in (we changed it to an outswing to give us more room on the small landing), we can't install a storm door to improve energy efficiency in winter or summer.
Step 1: install offset curtain rod.
(Step 1?! More like steps 1 through 43, with all the pondering, price comparisons of curtain rods,
selection of style, color, and size of the rod,
figuring out how to avoid covering up our Delft tiles,
finding the tools, deciding the height,
hesitating over drilling the holes, hesitating over drilling the holes, hesitating over drilling the holes...
Step 1 was huge.)
Step 2: find a piece of material, preferably something already on hand, that will cover the window but not the Delft tiles and that will allow a test drive of having a curtain before investing $ and time in something more permanent.
(Step 2 wasn't quite as nerve racking as Step 1 but did involve going to a fabric store and trying to decide what color, style, and pattern of fabric to buy -- and not being able to commit -- then going to a thrift store to buy a sheet or something similar and finding nothing I liked, before deciding to just use an extra sheet from our linen closet, and then remembering this 1-yard piece of upholstery fabric I bought 15 years ago to make pillow covers. Which never got made.)
Step 3: Machine hem the fabric, attach the clip-on rings, thread onto the curtain rod, draw the curtain.
Joy of joys, this thing WORKS! The heat is blocked! And I realized that the neutral tones and simple
pattern of the fabric are more pleasing to me than the multitude of colors and
patterns I had seriously considered at the fabric store. Next step may be to line this to improve the heat block. And then to make a floor length version to draw on winter nights using Warm Window fabric as a liner.
And then...doing the same treatment for winter on the front door, which has a large beveled glass panel and no storm door.
All of this because I saw this picture on blackbird's
blog that she found somewhere, and it gave me a solution to provide heat & cold protection without permanently limiting the view.
Now that G is attending a new adult day program (fingers crossed, it's still working) that picks him up and brings him home again, I need to be cognizant of the bus' arrival in the afternoons so I can go out to get G. The arrival time can vary by as much as 40 minutes. Some days I'm outside working in the yard with Oscar, who barks when he hears the bus coming. (Don't give him too much credit - he barks when a UPS truck or school bus goes by, too.)
If it's an afternoon when I'm working in the kitchen, though, Oscar doesn't always let me know the bus has arrived. And the kitchen is at the back of the house, so every few minutes I stop what I'm doing to look out the front windows to see if the bus has pulled up.
Then it dawned on me: a spy mirror.
When I first met G (a real Dutchman who moved here from Holland when we married), he told me about spy mirrors. In many old Dutch villages, homes were built right up to the sidewalks. It wasn't uncommon to have a small mirror mounted outside the front window, so the home's inhabitant could sit inside, just out of sight of passersby, and see what was happening in the street via their spy mirrors.
So I took the small side view mirror off my bicycle, attached it outside the window over the kitchen sink, adjusted it so I can see the street, and voila. We'll see how well it works tomorrow afternoon.
After we remodeled our kitchen in 1993, I got out of the habit of using paper towels. We hadn't thought about where a paper towel holder would go when G specified a tile backsplash in the new kitchen, so our wall-mounted towel holder from the old kitchen wasn't a good option. For a while, I had a free-standing holder but got tired of one more thing on the counter, so I put it away. I still have a roll of paper towels on hand for particularly icky cleanups, but it takes six months to a year these days for me to go through a roll.
In public restrooms, though, there often isn't an alternative to paper towels, short of leaving with dripping hands or wiping my hands on my clothes, so I use the paper towels without thinking about it.
Here's an ingenious method to reduce the number of towels you need to dry your hands when out. Evidently, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the U.S. And using one less per day would save more than 571 million pounds of paper towels in a year. Most of us take multiple sheets of towels because one doesn't do the job well enough. But there is a way to make just one towel work.
All this comes from an Earth911.com e-newsletter, and their source is a TEDx talk by an Oregonian named Joe Smith.
I'm hoping that the next time I reach for a paper towel to dry my hands, I remember this simple technique:
I know it's not nice to brag, but since I had nothing to do with
his intellect, drive, or charming personality, can you make an exception
for me here?
One of my nephews (I have nine of them - this one's about in the middle of the pack) is graduating from Tulane University tomorrow and has won a Fulbright grant to conduct research in China. He spent his junior year in Taiwan and China, becoming fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and then taking courses at Chinese universities. He'll leave in September to begin his research on Chinese ethnic minorities' romance, dating, marriage, and child-rearing traditions.
(The Fulbright program was founded in 1945/46 by the U.S. Congress for the "promotion of international good will through the exchange of
students in the fields of education, culture, and science." There's more here.)
When one of my other nephews graduated from Tulane a few years ago (hmmm...7 years ago!), G was still well enough for us to travel the 1,000 miles to New Orleans to be there for his graduation. It was a wonderful occasion and felt so good to be part of a celebration for such a milestone.
For so many reasons, I wish we were going to be there tomorrow for this milestone. My heart will be there!
He didn't have the same three-month adjustment period as when he started the first program last June, thank God.
And this place picks him up and brings him home again
the three days a week that he attends.
Last Thursday I overslept, so we weren't ready in time for the bus. That turned out to be a good thing, as when I took him to the location, I had a chance to see two of the staff greet him warmly when we arrived. And he responded just as warmly.
One of my geographically-distant friends has been keeping a group of us posted by email since December on her progress through breast cancer surgery, then chemo. She just finished her last chemo session and will begin a series of 33 radiation treatments later this month.
She said in her latest message, "I need to find a way to count down these treatments in a way that doesn't discourage me. Somehow I think seeing 33 days on the calendar will be too depressing."
Behold the 33 day herbal tea garland (inspired by Ali at Domesticali): an assortment of teas fastened to a pink cord with tiny wooden clothes pins, now winging its garishly-colored way to my friend via the United States Post Office.
My friend and neighbor J hailed me as Oscar and I walked past her house.
"When you're done with your walk and have returned Oscar home, come meet our new cat."
This is Bitty, a seven year old Siberian, which is one of the few (only?) breeds of cat that people with cat allergies have a chance of tolerating. She is soft and cuddly and loves to be petted. J is in heaven, because she wanted a cat but has allergies to most cats and dogs.
Next stop, after cat admiration, was my friend's garden. Some of the kale overwintered (I didn't know it could do that) and has gone to flower. The flowers are delicious - like very mild kale or broccoli. J also invited me to cut arugula, leaf lettuce, and spinach to take home. And she pulled some bunching onions, which overrun her garden, and handed them to me.