Seattle 2008 027_edited

The thermometer in the northwest of the U.S. has nudged (and sometimes tipped over) the 100F mark for the past few days now.

As an Aussie girl yearning for a ‘real’ summer’s day, I was equally thrilled (It’s hot!) and amused (Will the people here please stop freaking out?) when I saw the forecast.

But you see, Seattle is equipped for the cold, not the heat.  Our apartment, with its two tiny windows in the living room, has central heating, but no air-conditioning.

We are on the bottom floor and face north, so our place cooler than most other apartments in this building, but there is no air movement.  If I cook for more than a few minutes, it gets very hot in here.

“We are eating only raw food for the next few days,” I informed Ben.  He rarely complains about anything, and this revelation was no exception.  I think he is just thrilled that I am willing to prepare dinner at all – cooked or raw.

Sleeping has presented its own problems.  Two nights ago was the hottest night on record in Seattle – 71F/21C, which is very warm when you’re trying to sleep.

In my last apartment in Sydney, I had many windows.  On a night like that I would have thrown them all open, and enjoyed a cooling sea breeze throughout the night.  Not here.

Here we sleep under only a sheet, with a giant fan blowing on us.  We sleep perfectly still to avoid the chance of touching or generating any superfluous body heat.

And you cannot buy a fan or air-conditioner in the entire north-west at the moment.  Sold out!

Yesterday Ben and I were out in search of a salad spinner (so my life would be complete).  We got our salad spinner (and my life IS complete), but as we left the store, a man pulled up in a car, leaned  out the window and asked a staff member, “Do you have any fans?”  “Nope,” was the heart-breaking reply.

“Really?” an incredulous Ben asked me.  “I know this is unusually hot weather, but it gets warm here.  Don’t people have fans anyway?”  It’s a good point.  We have been sleeping with a fan on all summer.

“You know, we have two fans,” he continued.  “I bet we could sell one for $100 right now.”   When we got back to the car, the thermometer read ‘104’.  “I think we should keep the fan,” I countered.

Forecasters predicted that yesterday would be the hottest day in Seattle’s recorded history.  They were right.  While we were buying a salad spinner, the city of Seattle was suffering.  It is not used to the heat, it is not built for heat, and it is ill-equipped when a wave of it hits.

Malls, cinemas, and parks with wading pools are bursting at the seams.  Restaurant takings have gone through the roof in recent days.  People are showing up to work early and staying late, because most people here do not have air-conditioning at home.

Having said all that, I write this from the coolness of our apartment while outside it is 91F/33C.  If we keep the blinds closed, the fans on, and the cooking to a minimum, we can keep it cool in here so sleep comes easier.  A salad for dinner tonight, methinks.

So, the cynic is silenced.

Yes, it is hot, even for an Aussie girl.

Finally, I am reminded of a favorite poem by Shel Silverstein.  Enjoy.

It’s Hot!
It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade,
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

Pwerhouse Museum collection

Musings from Minnesota

“Summer time and the living is easy…”

Gershwin had it right. When the days are hot and the breezes are cool, when lakes are glassy and the loons call out at dusk, when you’re sipping beer and reading on the deck, life is easy.

A few days ago, Ben and I got back from a week at Crosslake, Minnesota. It is about a 3-hour drive from the twin cities, and is a heavenly part of the world.

Ben’s grandmother, Ellie, owns a cabin on Rush Lake, and we headed up there for some time away from the city bustle. Ben’s parents joined us half way through our stay and friends, Jake and Arielle, brought their baby Gus to visit.

Snippets from our stay:

Getting grubby

We both spend too much of our day to day lives indoors sitting at desks. That is why we gladly donned gloves and work clothes and got a little grubby doing yard work.


We raked and cleared, and I ushered a fist-sized frog down to the water when he (she?) emerged a little shell-shocked from a pile of leaves. I unearthed an old wheel barrow


and mended a small outdoor table. It feels really good to hit wood with a hammer!

When cleaning the speed boat I discovered at least 50 different kinds of spiders. In fact, there seem to be more spiders in the state of Minnesota than there are in the entire of Australia. One even thought that wiggling around inside my bra (while it was on) would be fun. Perhaps it was, but only for the spider.

Even Little Gus took time out of his visit to pitch in. Here he is getting vital instruction from Uncle Ben.


Seeing and being seen

My biggest question of the week was: “Are we in Minnesota or Miami?” The 4th of July long weekend on the lakes of Minnesota is the scene to see and be seen.


On one of our first jaunts out and about, I said to Ben, “I didn’t realize that I should be in a bikini and artfully arranged across the back of the boat.” He replied that he was all for supporting local cultural practices, so I adjusted my attire and seating arrangements on subsequent days, just to fit in…you know.

Getting into the Minnesota groove

Lazy days

So much of our time was just lazing about. Reading on the deck, walking to the shore and watching the sunset, playing with Remy, (Kevin and Ellen’s dog), getting ice-cream from the parlor in town, enjoying the fresh air, and having encounters with the wildlife (chipmunks, squirrels, frogs, crawfish, turtles, loons, geese and ‘lake’gulls).

Taken by Ben
Taken by Ben




Even our boys, Squirt and Tahoe, spent some time just watching the world go by. It was a truly relaxing time.


Water works

Of course, spending time up at the lakes means being on and in the water.

View of lagoon from dock



We swam, floated about on sun loungers, boated on the pontoon, sped about in the speed boat and even water skied on our last day up there. While the speed boat wasn’t powerful enough to slalom ski, I got up easily on two (despite the 16 years since I have done that) and took full advantage of the glassy water. There are few things that feel as exhilarating being ‘out on the whip’ as the boat turns.

4th of July Celebrations

And of course, our visit coincided with a festive time of the year. We attended the 4th of July parade, and watched as children lining the streets hauled more candy thrown from floats than they would ever get while trick or treating.


There were patriots young,


and old.


A highlight for us was seeing a family friend, Carl, driving his restored 1910s firetruck in the parade.


We were lucky enough to be taken for a ride on his firetruck a few days later.


As always, a warm thank you to my best friend and traveling companion, Ben, and to his lovely family who were wonderful to us.

‘Til the next time I wander…