How-to: Keep your house cool

I live in a three story townhouse, and my bed is on the third floor. Sometimes, it can get so, so hot and I’m tempted to turn tail and hide at my parent’s place, where I not only sleep in the cool basement but also they have air conditioning!

While that compulsion isn’t so bad on the weekends when I don’t have to get too much done, during the week that means I have to get up about 30 minutes earlier and spend time packing work clothes/makeup to get ready in the morning, as well as drive into my house on the highway to tuck my car into the garage before walking to the bus station. It’s a lot of variables to add to an already hectic average work day, so I really try to keep my house cool to avoid doing that, as much as I love midweek visits to my parent’s place!

I know what you’re thinking, buy a portable air conditioner unit or a window version. I hear you. As someone who owns their home and pays whatever the utilities bills are, I investigated some of the options and couldn’t justify the cost of purchasing the unit ($500+ for a space of my size), creating a venting option, the energy to run it and then a reserve fund for if the self-evaporation function on it fails and there is a water leak in my home. Plus, as Consumerist and Consumer Report would imply, the efficacy of the portable units isn’t really worth the cost either.

For window air conditioner units, the argument was immediately stopped by a ban on them by the community guidelines in my area. However, they have a much higher incidence of mold than any other type of air conditioner, which can be damaging to respiratory health. If secured improperly, they can also be a safety and security concern.

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So, I took some hints and tricks from family and friends and have a system that gets my main floor to 17 degrees every night and around 20 degrees upstairs- perfectly reasonable living temperatures, potentially even too cool for some people! Here are my tips:

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Keep your lights and appliances off until it cools down

This one seems like a no-brainer, but also make sure that your blinds are of the blackout version in bedrooms and high-sun areas. Sure, my plain white vinyl blind isn’t the prettiest in my bedroom, but it keeps the sun out and that keeps my house cool. Airy curtain sheers are not doing you any favors, no matter how pretty they may be.

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A lot of different types of lights kick off ambient heat that can make your home even hotter. For this reason, I keep my main floor lights off until I need to have them on- sometimes that means I need to turn on a lamp for task lighting, but it’s a lot less than lighting the whole place up like a landing strip. Similarly, 25+degree heat may not be the best time to be baking a chicken in your oven. These are great days to use a crock pot, or your microwave to heat up a premade meal from the freezer. Better yet, try this no-cook meal I talked about recently. Once it’s cool outside and you have your windows open, do what you like (within reason).

Broke Girl Air Conditioning

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No, I am not implying you sit around and sweat it out until the sun goes down or outside gets cooler then inside. Although if you want to make yourself an iced drink and pretend it’s Mexico, I am with you. You can do things to prepare your house to clear the hot air out faster, though! I start with freezing trays of ice and pyrex dishes of water the night before. Then, on my main floor I turn on my giant turbo fan and aim it right on the ice! The effect of this is like dropping an ice cube in your drink- it cools the ambient temperature of your drink (or whatever room you’re in) and the heat rises. The same happens in your house! You’re just forcing it a bit. It is also nice to sit in front of the cool wind it provides. Beyonce hair alllllll night. This helps me be able to sit and watch TV, prep dinner, work on my computer without sweating to death. I’m Canadian… for the most part we’re optimized for cold, not heat up here in the GWN.

Once it is cooler outside than inside, take your fan or fans upstairs to the highest floor of your home or position them by your best windows for breeziness if you live on one level. Open up those windows and turn the fans on high. So long as your house is hotter than outside, there should be a natural effect where the hot air wants to rise, which means it needs to go outside! The fans will help push it out more expediently.

 

And of course, when all else fails, put some ice packs in your bed and tough it out! We only get hot weather every so often up here so it’s worth it to be good natured about it.

 

 

Easy Flatbread

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Hey!

Today’s post is a quick and easy snack inspired by a restaurant dish I love! On this particular day I had been helping out at my sister’s new place all day and everyone was going to have a Famoso flatbread (seriously, check it out!) at my parent’s place afterward, but I really needed to get home and get ready for the week. So, my mum helped me assemble all of the required ingredients to make something similar myself!

This recipe isn’t an exact dupe- it uses flatout flatbreads (something my mum found at Safeway and I’m now obsessed with) and I wasn’t in the mood to make my own tatziki so I used a pre-packaged hummus. Since most of these ingredients were actually my mum’s (I think she felt a bit bad I had helped all day and wasn’t going to be there for the fun post-work snack), the costing is a bit of an extrapolation- you can also use pitas for the base, which is what I used to work out the cost.

This is great to make up if you’re going to have a guest or are having a light supper of a salad.

Mediterranean Flatbread with Hummus

$1.71 for one flatbread

One pita- $0.58

~1 tablespoons crumbled feta- $0.54

Fresh Thyme (~1-2 sprigs)- $0.20

2 tablespoons hummus- $0.38

Pantry essentials: minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

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To make your flatbread, start by first preheating your oven on bake to 350. Then, line a baking sheet with foil.

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One you place however many pitas or flatbreads you’d like to make on the pan, lightly brush or drizzle the bread with olive oil. You want it well dispersed and not soggy, so don’t be afraid to mix it around with your fingers. Next, distribute your minced garlic evenly around the flatbread. Sprinkle your feta, then your thyme leaves above that. Lastly, add a bit of ground pepper and kosher salt to top it all off and pop it into the oven.

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I didn’t measure how long this took to be honest. I just stared at it through the window of my oven and wondered when it would be ready. It’s ready when your feta is melty and the bread base is crispy when you tap it with a metal tong or fork. (Highly scientific, eh?)

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Once it’s cool enough to touch, cut it into strips and serve with your hummus!

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What is your favorite fancy snack?

How To: Plant Your Own Flower Pots

 

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Hey!

Today I wanted to talk about something I do pretty much every year with my mum- custom flower pots. While my mum probably could afford to purchase pre-made planters and pots of flowers, she makes her own each year and says that the best way to save money on having a nice yard is to take the time to learn how to do it yourself. The type-A’s amoungst us will also appreciate that these are 100% customizable to your own color and varietal preference. So lets get started!
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When you’re within a day or two of having time to plant, get to the local greenhouse or big box store and start looking at plants. As you are looking, keep in mind where you’re wanting to put these plants- if they’re going in a shady area, find some that are shade lovers by reading the tags inserted in the pots. Also consider the physical height and sprawl of your plants- if you have a tall center plant, consider surrounding it with some medium height plants as well as some trailing plants for the most visual interest. Once you’ve picked out your plants, grab some potting soil and you’re good to head home!
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Your first step is to find a container that is the appropriate size for what you’d like to put in it, and fill it with potting soil. If you have a truly enormous pot because you’re wanting to create visual height, filling the entire pot with soil isn’t necessary. Fill the bottom half of the pot with empty water bottles (caps on, uncrushed) and/or a smaller pot turned upside down, then lay down a layer of newsprint (about 3 pages thick). Pour your dirt on top of that and you’ll have a much lighter pot, and you won’t waste dirt. As you fill your pots, no matter what you want to lightly press down your dirt. If you don’t, once you water the plants the dirt will settle and your plants will be too far down in the pot.
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As you’re filling that pot up with soil, keep in mind what you’d like to eventually plant in there – leave enough space that you can set the root system of the plant in there and then fill around it with additional dirt. Set your center plant first, then set your other plants around it. The root systems of these plants actually like being lightly broken up, as the pots they’re in often have them root bound waiting for sale. Once you’ve placed your plants (don’t worry if they’re not standing up straight), you can start filling in the dirt around them to stabilize them in place!
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You will continue filling up your pots with dirt until everything is stable, and all of the root systems are fully covered. Lightly press down the soil around your plants to make sure they aren’t going to settle the first time you water them. Watering them lightly to welcome them into their new home is coincidentally the last step!
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I know that making your own planters and pots can seem intimidating, but as you can see it’s actually pretty easy for those inclined to get a bit dirty and save a few bucks! Once you’ve purchased your pots, the cost will be significantly less year over year compared to purchasing pre-made options.
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What is your favorite flower to plant at home?

Cous Cous Salad

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This easy multi-meal salad is perfect for when it’s hot out since you don’t need to really “cook” anything. You just need to wash your veggies, boil the kettle, and you’re good to go. This version isn’t vegetarian, but you could easily remove the chicken to make it vegetarian, or add a vegan cheese to make it vegan. When I’m making this salad, I keep everything separate until the end and then arrange the toppings because I love how it looks, but if you are in a rush just dump in as you go!

Mediterranean Cous Cous Salad

$6.81 for four, or $1.70 per serving
1 cup cous cous – $0.44
one can of chick peas – $0.77
one tomato – $0.85
half of a cucumber – $0.38
the juice and zest of one lemon – $0.87
salt, pepper, oregano and olive oil
feta (or vegan option to your preference) – ~$1 (depending on how much you like)
one cooked and cooled chicken breast (optional) – ~$2.50 depending on source (mine were from Costco)
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Step 1: Boil your kettle to get 1.5 cups of boiling water to pour over your cous cous in a large bowl (it grows). Once you’ve poured that over, cover the bowl with a lid or saran wrap for ten minutes (while we prep everything else)
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Step 2: Wash your tomato, lemon and cucumber. Dice the tomato and cucumber and set aside for later
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Step 3: Zest your lemon (either into the bowl of cous cous if you’re a slow chopper like me, or onto a plate), and then squeeze its juice into a mixing cup. Add an equal amount of olive oil, a lot of dried oregano, a binch of salt and generously add pepper. Once you mix this, it will be your dressing! Don’t worry if it seems like a lot, this is dressing quite a bit of cous cous (which is a blank slate flavor-wise) and veggies.
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Step 4: Take your meat option (if you’re having one) and cut it into bite-sized pieces and set aside
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Step 5: Take your desired amount of feta and crumble it onto a plate
Step 6: Rinse your can of chick peas under cold water
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Step 7: Assembly time! I like to put my toppings on in lines, and then drizzle my mixed dressing over the top!
This salad will usually make 3-4 meals for me, as there is both chick peas and chicken in it. What are your favorite no-cook meals?

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A Not-So Fitnessy Friday

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Hey!

It’s been a full ten days since my last post here on the blog, and honestly everything screeched to a halt in my life about a week and a half ago.

My roommate came home to tell me that she was moving out, with two days notice, because she had lost a significant portion of her income. I don’t think she knew at the time what day of the month it actually was, so I offered to let her stay an extra few days. Partly to be kind, and partly because I didn’t want my house to be a three ring circus for 48 hours. Unfortunately, for 3 out of the five days she had to move out, I didn’t see or notice a ton of action. On the fourth day, I came home to find some decently significant damage to my home.

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Deep gouges in my stairwell…

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…damaged door casings…

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…and a stub wall that was not only damaged in the paint, but the millwork too. Believe it or not, when you take a chunk out of an MDF mantle… it’s not that easy (or cheap) to fix properly.

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I was so mad at that point that I told her she was no longer welcome in my home without supervision (it was past the end of the month by two days, so she was on charity time anyhow). I told her when I’d be home for the remainder of the week, and when she failed to come and get her poop in a group, I started to do it for her. Thursday night I packed down to the garage (which I told her I wouldn’t change the code for so she could get it during the day on Friday before her final appointment to grab her hanging clothes and food) everything that she hadn’t moved out yet other than her clothes, including furniture. I had to call a friend to help essentially make sure she moved out before I went even more grey.

Friday evening rolled around and I came home from work to find she hadn’t taken a thing. She blew past our 4pm meeting time and I was having guests over for dinner, and she was expecting to just come and go as she pleased. I had had enough. I took her clothes downstairs as well and when she arrived with her boyfriend, I told them to hurry up. Them moving the speed of snails on downers was only making me angrier and she was supposed to already be out.

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Finally, though, she was gone. Over five hours after the deadline I gave her, and partially moved by me (ok, the majority was done by me), but she was gone.

Saturday was my mum’s birthday, although it was a bit overtaken by some concern for a family member as well. This week has been busy with work and work related stress, as well as my dad’s birthday. My spare time was basically cleaning up the mess she had left behind and studying for a work exam. My sister finally got her house, too!

So why am I telling you (and showing you) all of this? Life is real. My life is as real as anyone else’s life and sometimes things come up that get in the way of the best laid plans. And when your plans get ruined and the sky is kinda opening up on you, you do a shot of sambuca and put on your big girl pants.