How To Stay Cool In A Heatwave

Apparently it’s going to be hot this week. The papers say so (apparently our roads are in danger of melting!), and more importantly,  the weather experts agree.

My preferred weather site is Netweather.tv but everyone has their favorite. Sometimes they all say different things, but this week they all agree that we have some hot weather coming our way. There’s talk of a ‘heatwave’ but we’ll see.

It’s only really an official Heatwave when the temperature exceeds the average maximum for the time of year by at least 5C, for 5 days or more. In England, this means temperatures need to hit 26C for 5 days running, and in Greater London it looks like  this might actually happen. In other areas Heatwave temperatures may only be reached for 2-3 days , but it can still make things very uncomfortable, especially at night.

In Britain it’s very unusual to have air conditioning at home. It’s needed so rarely that it doesn’t make sense to have it installed, so what can you do to cool down when the temperatures rise?

Cool Down The House

Shut all the curtains, blinds and windows on the sunny side of the house in the morning and only open them when the outside temperature is cooler than the inside temperature. If it’s hotter outside, you are just heating up the house. Once it’s cooler outside, open the windows downstairs on the shady side and upstairs on the sunny side.

Awnings can be helpful to stop south-facing rooms heating up

As a rule, if you live in the UK, don’t open the loft  hatch. Most loft spaces are insulated  but not well ventilated so the air in the loft is much hotter than the rooms below and just spills out into the house from an open hatch.

Once the outside temperature drops, set up fans to create an air flow than brings cooler air in an open door on the ground floor, pushes hot air up the stairs towards the upper floors and out a window.

Use lights and appliances as little as possible during the day. Oven, computers, TV and washing machine all play their part in heating up your house.

Hanging wet sheets and towels in front of windows or fans will increase the effect of a cool breeze.

Keep Your Family Cool

Drink enough water! At least 6  glasses of water a day. It’s important not to get dehydrated.

Fans are useful to keep the air moving, even when the air is hot. In our house we have many different fans and they all play a role in cooling us down when the heat strikes. My favourite fan is my little USB fan that blows a breeze towards me while I’m at my computer, but we have just bought this high velocity fan which we point at the ceiling in the hallway to get an air flow going. It’s loud though, so not great for bedrooms so every bedroom also has a fan in it in this house!

Sitting in front of a fan pointed at a bowl of ice creates a lovely cool breeze.

Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibres. Wear a hat if you have to go outside but if you can, avoid going out during hottest time of the day.

Get wet! Have a cool shower, put on some wet clothes or even just wet your hair. Get a paddling pool for the kids, or even for just for yourself.  Immersing your hands and feet into cool water will cool you down, as will running your wrists under cold water for 30 seconds. Iced water and ice lollies also help.

When it’s time for bed, cotton sheets are the coolest. Put your pillow in the fridge before going to bed or put a filled hot water bottle in the fridge or freezer.

Ditch the duvet and use the cover only if you feel the need to sleep covered up.

And make sure you always have drinkable water beside the bed. There is nothing worse than waking up and needing a drink but not wanting to go downstairs and get one.

Don’t Forget Your Pets

Make sure all pets have multiple source of water available at all times.

Never leave a pet (or a baby!) in the car  in this weather. Even with the windows down a little and parked in the shade , the temperature can rise  enough in 20 minutes to kill a dog. If it’s 23C outside, the temperature in a car can reach 40C within 10 minutes and for a non- sweating hairy animal, that’s enough to do physiological damage.

Walk your dogs in the morning or evening, avoid the middle of the day.

Make sure your pets have somewhere cool to go, especially if you go out and leave them all day. Cooling mats are available in different sizes. A dog locked outside without shelter may succumb to heat stroke in the garden in hot weather, so make sure they have water and shelter .

Some dogs enjoy being hosed down in the summer, others will wallow in a paddling pool and you can make ‘dog lollies’ by freezing treats in a cup of water. Cats will naturally seek out some where cool if they are able to do so, but it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature and water bottles of the cages of any small furries or reptiles.

If your dog has a finds summer difficult and has a fluffy or hair coat, you can get them clipped for summer. We always used to do this with out old Goldie X and he was like a puppy again after his hair cut.

Try to enjoy the nice weather while it lasts, because one thing is certain; it won’t last forever and soon everyone will be complaining about the rain.

paddling pool

 

Yes, I Still Have An Accent

I’ve been living in the UK for 17 years now, and yes, I *still* have an accent. Apparently the accent you use when you reach puberty is the one you will have for life, and as I was 27 when I first got off the plane, it seems that I’m stuck with it.

It’s not all that unusual in Central London. But we live a bit further out in suburban London and although our neighbourhood is a bit of a melting pot, there aren’t that many Kiwis around. People usually ask if I’m from Orstraleah or from Sowf Efricka, then grimace when I tell them they have it wrong. I don’t mind.

Most of the time I forget I don’t sound like everyone else and the people I see every day are used to it. So it’s mainly when I  meet new people, like when we are on holiday, that it becomes an issue.

When we are abroad and get talking to people. someone always looks straight at me and asks ‘Where are you from?’ Reasonable question, isn’t it? I smile and reply ‘London’. They blink and you can see the cogs turning before they ask again , ‘No, before London!’ Then I realise what they are asking, and tell them New Zealand, and they ask where and apologise because they have never heard of Tauranga or Hamilton. There is usually no point in telling people where you come from in NZ unless it’s Auckland, Rotorua or the South Island. Then we have a conversation about their cousin or school friend who lives ‘somewhere in New Zealand’.

As I said, I don’t really mind. I’m used to a bit of curiosity and to people asking me what on earth I’m doing bringing up children in London, when I could be raising my family in New Zealand. That topic is a whole different blog post.

What really annoys me is when I have to ring a bank or insurance company that has call centre not located in the UK, or even worse, requires me to speak to a machine. Both situations raise my blood pressure by just thinking about it.

The poor call centre people are obviously trained using American and English accents. We often resort to spelling words as they can not understand what I’m saying at all. Luckily they seem to have been taught the phonetic alphabet, so we usually muddle through.

However, the machines make me cry. I had to ring M&S the other day as we have some insurance with them and they asked me to read out my policy number. I did so and it got 7 out of 12 numbers wrong. THEN the machine told me I could key in the numbers if I preferred. Of course I preferred, why on earth did they not give this as an option from the start?  Next we moved on to my birthdate, the machine got that wrong too then suggested I could use the keypad instead. FFS! Finally it put me through to a real person. Hurrah. They had a strong regional accent ( Mancunian perhaps?) but bless them, they understood every word I sad and they asked me questions I could answer. I was so relieved.

I wonder how many people have heart attacks dealing with these machines?

My children had mild Kiwi accents before they started school but now they sound like any other English kids. My accent may not have disappeared but I think I have toned it down quite a lot over the years. And when I speak to people from home, they tell me how English I sound and if they are fresh off the boat, their accents sound harsh to me. Apparently my accent gets stronger , the longer I talk to a fellow countryman.

And I still manage to flummox some of my old friends with a few words. One that causes great amusement is my pronunciation of ‘fair’; apparently I pronounce it  ‘fear’ which has led to some interesting conversations in the past.

I guess we should all be thankful that I haven’t started Vblogging!

Kiwi accent

Wisdom Panel Review: Doggy DNA

We have two mixed breed dogs, both of them from a rescue that plucks dogs out of dog pounds in Ireland and transports them to the UK for a second, or sometimes third or fourth, chance.

The name of this rescue is Heathlands Animal Sanctuary and if you live anywhere near Hertfordshire and are looking for a rescue dog, I’d recommend you check out their dogs that need a home.

I like Heathlands because they don’t have a blanket policy about children’s ages, their dogs go into foster homes, not kennels and they seem to be very good at matching dogs with owners.  Neither of the dogs we have at the moment were dogs that I rang Heathlands about; they were both suggested as possibilities once I spoke to the rehomers about our family situation.

I like that we have rescue dogs. It makes me feel good that we are willing to take a dog that no one else wants and give it a home. I have paid for privately breed pups in the past and I have owned purebreds, but I don’t think I will ever own another pedigree or non-rescue dog again. Never say never, of course but I feel like I was given a second chance at a particular point in my life and owning rescue dogs is my way of passing it on. I like the fact that I can save a life or two in this way and it’s great to have a story to share with people so they can see that not all rescue dogs have problems.

I also like having mixed breed , or mongrel, dogs. It’s like a canine lucky dip as you never quite know what you are getting. Your dog is unique.

It’s a great talking point when you are out walking and it seems everyone wants to know what kind of dog you have. Even if you’ve never wondered about the parentage of your mixed-breed dog, after a few months of every  Tom, Dick and Sally playing ‘Spot the Breed’ with your beloved pooch, you’ll find yourself curious too. That’s when a DNA test can come in useful.

We used Wisdom Panel DNA test because their data base includes information on over 180 different breeds from America  and the UK. If your dog comes from Europe or a country with non KC registered breeds, then your dog’s ancestry is less likely to be accurate. The test costs between £50-60 and you get sent a form to fill out that asks for your dog’s name, sex and weight. Along with the form are two swabs, and you try to rub these along the inside of your dog’s cheeks in order to collect some cheek cells (DNA). I found this was easier for our older dog, he was pretty calm about it but our younger dog tried to chew on the swab so we had a bit of a tussle. Still, I did manage to get usable samples.

Once I’d posted the swabs, I activated the test online and waited for a couple of weeks until I got an email saying that our dogs’ results were in.

The Results

Bruno mounds

This is our eldest dog. He’ll be 3 next month. He came to us from Heathlands as a puppy, as his German Shepherd mum came out of an Irish pound with two older puppies at foot. She had been handed into the pound by her owner ‘because she keeps having puppies’ and when the vet went to spay her, he discovered she was heavily pregnant again.

B and his 4 brothers and sisters were born in a foster home, so he came to us after having a great start in life. Even without knowing his mum was a German Shepherd, you would probably be able to make a good guess at that part of his ancestry but what else can you see in him?

According to Wisdom Panel B has a German Shepherd parent and a parent that is 1/2 rough Collie and a little less than 1/2 St Bernard. You can see the Collie in his face, but while he’s tall he’s nowhere as big as a St Bernard. He does have strangely waterproof coat though, mud and water just wipe off him and we call him our Teflon dog.

Farley woods

This is our younger dog.

He was picked up on the Irish streets as a stray, brought to England and lived in a foster home for 3 months before he came to us in March. He acts like a teenage dog but has not grown at all since coming to England so he’s probably about 18 months old.

He’s not an obvious combination but most of the guesses made involved Collies, Huskies and Beagles. His DNA test proved he is a real mix of breeds. Neither of his parents were purebred. One was a Labrador/ something cross and the other was a Siberian Husky/ something cross. The ‘somethings’ seem to be mostly Collie and Kerry Blue, but there are a number of other breeds mentioned in smaller proportions.

F is energetic, but bright and very trainable. He also has a annoyingly piercing loud bark.

For us DNA tests have satisfied our curiosity about what breeds make up the canine members of our family.  Knowing what we are dealing with has helped us think about the training, handling and health issues of our boys, and as a bonus we can finally answer correctly when people ask us ‘What kind of dog is that?’

The Gallery: Buildings

Treasury at Petra

We’ve seen a lot of buildings during our travels but my favourite one is also probably one of the oldest. This is Al Khazneh, otherwise known as The Treasury, in Petra, Jordan.

It was built in the first century AD and you can see it wasn’t so much as built, as carved out of the beautiful rose-red sandstone that comprise the rock faces and canyons of this area. It was originally built as a mausoleum and the inside is basically a series of doors and very plain hollowed out rooms, in contrast to the beautifully detailed exterior.

The building was named ‘The Treasury’ by  local people after legends told of treasure kept in the urn right at the top of the facade. The mythical treasure has been said to belong to the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, or a group of bandits and pirates. The urn has been shot at many times in the hope that the valuables may tumble out, but it has been proved that the carved urn is in fact solid sandstone and it is unlikely the treasure ever existed.

Many of the smaller details of the exterior carving has been eroded over time but the figures are fittingly supposed to be various figures from mythology associated with the afterlife.

We visited Petra as a family four years ago along with other places in Jorden, and it was one of our best family holidays ever. There are many other buildings to explore in the ancient city of Petra, but a lot of tour groups just come down the the Siq, look at the Treasury, and leave again. That’s why there are so many people in this photo. The rest of the ancient city is much less crowded and if you go all that way it seems a pity not to explore just that little bit further, so we spent the best part of a day there.

Deserted Petra

This post was written for this week’s Gallery theme of Buildings. Check out this week’s post over at Sticky Fingers

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My Daughter Wears Glasses Too.

DD2 is almost 12 and has just about finished her first year of secondary school.

It’s been a bit of a rough year for her. DD was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the beginning of the academic year, when we were told she ‘probably’ had dyspraxia, hypermobility, hypotonia and some sensory processing difficulties as well.  We are still waiting on a report from the Occupational Therapist regarding her physical profile, but we have no reason to believe that these suspicions won’t be confirmed.

None of these diagnoses have come as a surprise to DH or I, although DD hasn’t enjoyed being labelled as ‘different’. When you are approaching your teenage years, you basically just want to be the same as everyone else.

And now, she needs glasses too.

For the last couple of months DD has occasionally mentioned that she hasn’t been able to see things properly. When I have gone to question her more closely, she has been characteristically vague. I always get the kids’ sight checked every year, so I wasn’t too worried as she’d had 20:20 vision last August. Then in the week before half term she mentioned she had a headache from squinting at the board at school, and muttered something about double vision.

I know you don’t muck around with eyes, so rang the optician and made an appointment for half term. I watched DD very closely for the next few days, but didn’t see anything that made me think that she was having trouble with her sight.

However, DD has form for not sending out clear signs that something is wrong with her senses. When she was in year 1 we discovered she had significant hearing loss in both ears as a result of severe glue ear. She’d never had an ear infection in her life , as far as we knew, and I do have some medical knowledge. Although I can remember being convinced she was deaf at about 9 months of age as loud noises just didn’t bother her. But she started to talk at the usual sort of age, and grommets and an adenoidectomy sorted out her later problems. The only thing that made me take her to get her hearing checked was her insistence on turning the TV volume up all the time.

By the time we got to the optician’s last week, I had convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with DD’s sight. So I was horrified when she couldn’t read any of the the lines in the first chart the optician put up, and got most of the bigger letters on the second chart wrong too. It was only when he put up a third, even larger-lettered chart that she could read the letters accurately.

It turns out DD is moderately short-sighted and even though she sits at the front of the class, she’s probably been having to work really hard to read what’s on the board. That won’t be helping her already limited powers of concentration and organisation.

She is so happy to be able to see again that she doesn’t mind wearing her glasses at all. She’s constantly amazed at the difference they have made and went  into school happily today, wanting to show them off. DD is a Dr Who fan and she thinks her glasses make her look like a proper Whovian.

New glasses
I hope she continues to be enthusiastic about wearing them and I do think they really suit her. But I know that at some point she will probably want to try contacts, so we are looking at night time lenses. This means she could take them out in the morning and would not need to wear anything during the day. Or she could opt for normal day time lenses. There are lots of options for the short-sighted these days!

So if you have a child that is doing or saying anything that makes you wonder if their sight is okay, even if it was checked quite recently, then please take them to get their vision tested sooner rather than later.

Part of me was very tempted to leave her until her annual eye test, as what she was describing was so vague, but now she has her glasses she talks about the difference in her sight all the time. She tells me she thought the blurriness was normal and was just part of growing up.