Friday, February 18, 2005

Window Weather

For the past several days, the weather here in Celebration has been definite "Window Weather." It's sunny and warm (not hot) with a mild breeze that feels so good when you're sitting in front of the window. It's the perfect time to air out the house and get some of that freshness inside. I have an Oreck air purifier, which helps when the house is sealed, but nothing can beat Mother Nature.

Each morning, we're been opening all of the windows on both floors; at night, we usually close up the downstairs but leave the upstairs windows open. After dark, the air takes on a bit of a chill that makes it perfect for sleeping as long as you snuggle up under a light blanket.

I'm glad that most of the construction nearby is done. When it's in active progress, opening your windows is not a good idea unless you want to live in the Dust Bowl. Last year at this time, the construction crews were busy erecting condos and townhomes just down/across the alley from us. I can see the yucky dirt remnants on the outside window sills, and it's nothing that I would want blowing into my house.

We still have construction in this area of East Village, but it's behind us and on another street, so we have a "cushion" to keep the construction dust at bay. Slowly but surely, the flat, vacant fields are all being turned into brand-spanking-new homes. My memory of my first sight of our neighborhood, when virtually none of the present homes existed, is fading, but I still have the photos to remind me.

I miss having a screen door; our first floor is a "shotgun" arrangement, meaning that there is a clear path from the front door to the back. Apparently, in the pre-air-conditioning days, that allowed people to get a breeze going through the house so things would get too sweltering in the summer. Now it doesn't matter; when it's hot outside, you simply crank up the air and don't give it another thought. But on a day like today, a breeze running from end to end of my home is an appealing idea.

The cats just love it when the windows are open. In the master bedroom, we have a giant "cat tree" by one of the windows, with multiple levels of perches. Ironically, Farquaad prefers to be on whatever perch poor Stitch has claimed than to stake out his own. Thus they lie in a furry pile, sniffing the fresh air and peeking at whatever activity is going on below. Sometimes they go into my husband's office, where they sit up on their hind legs like meerkats to see what's going on in the front of the house (the master bedroom overlooks the backyard, so they like variety).

Downstairs, they can arrange themselves on the arms of the couch to get a closer look at the backyard. But for some reason, they seem to prefer being overhead and peering down regally like Egyptian gods overlooking their subjects. Poor Tooncinator peeks out every now and then, but he mainly hides under the bed in abject terror of some unknown threat.

Three cats means three litter boxes, and that's another reason that I love Window Weather. I don't like any sort of "cat smell," so I wage a constant battle. My Oreck units and scented plug-ins from Bath & Body Works are my main weapons, but I prefer using natural means. Nothing smells as good as fresh air circulating throughout the house.

I love to venture outdoors when the weather is like this, too. It's still such a novelty for me to be basking in the warmth and sunshine in February. Walking downtown for an ice cream cone has become my semi-regular evening treat. Yesterday it was so gorgeous outside that I sat down by the lake to eat my treat before heading back home. The area was teeming with locals and tourists alike, enjoying some of the nicest weather imaginable. It felt so good to sit and rock and watch a group of children fishing while scattered groups of people chatted or relaxed in the other chairs.

The only slight unpleasantness came when a pair of cigar smokers passed by; then they came back around again. Ugh! I don't know what they were smoking, but it smelled like what you'd wind up with if you wrapped one of my horse's "road apples" in dried leaves and lit it on fire. Perhaps they thought they were doing everyone a favor by sharing their Eau De Horse Turd, but I was glad when they finally left for good.

There were countless others out on the walking trail, taking advantage of the perfect day. Walkers, joggers, bikers, roller name it, and they were there. I debated taking the long way home, but my husband was out grocery shopping and I wanted to time my arrival close to his because he was going to be starting dinner. Another great aspect of Window Weather is that it's perfect for outdoor grilling, and we've been taking full advantage lately.

Of course, even when we lived in the Midwest, my husband never allowed ice, snow, and sub-zero temperatures to keep him from cooking out. Before we were married, he invited me over for a steak dinner. It was freezing cold outside, and I was thoroughly absorbed in a television program while he prepared the meal. He was utterly offended that I hadn't realized he was grilling the steaks outside. But I hadn't been paying attention, and it was beyond my comprehension that someone would actually cook outdoors in the midst of a bleak and bitter Chicago winter. I figured he had just used a George Foreman indoor grill.

That was at his old townhome; after we got married and moved into our condo, grilling became much easier. To use our old grill, you had to deal with the annoyance of propane tanks that always seems to run out of gas at the most inopportune times. During one memorable experience, we were rushing to get a refill as a thunderstorm approached. As we drove down the street, the sky turned an eerie green color. Sirens wailed in the distance, and up in the sky we actually saw a funnel cloud! Fortunately it didn't touch down.

At the condo, we had a natural gas connection on the balcony. No more tanks; just turn on the valve, stick in the lighter, and voila! The ease of lighting came in handy when we had a wasp infestation, too. One spring, a hive of nasty, stinging insects decided to build a home in the grill. Easy enough to deal with...just light it up and burn those suckers out.

My sister had a similar issue with her grill once, but it was mice instead of wasps. She would brush her dog outside in the yard each evening, and a mama mouse used the dog fur to construct a nest right inside of the nearby grill. Being very soft-hearted, Sis waited until the babies were grown and gone before stripped and disinfecting the grill "guts," as well as replacing the lava rocks, to remove any traces of the unwanted former tenants.

Here in Florida, we have a mini grill that uses tiny little butane tanks. Eventually we'll probably get a larger model, but for now our little Wal-Mart workhorse does the trick. We've grilled all manner of goodies, from burgers and steaks to chicken kabobs and corn to lamb chops. I also like to wrap some fresh sliced mushrooms and chopped onions into a little foil "packet," along with a sprinkling of butter, and allow them to saute over the flames. It makes the perfect topper for anything from a burger patty to a filet mignon.

Today's meal with be a steak for my husband and a lamb chop with mint jelly for me. We've both just finished working, so we haven't had time to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous weather yet. Later, we'll be heading to a friend's house, and I think we'll be taking out bikes. I rarely ever drive to any destination within Celebration. If it's within walking distance, I lace up my tennis shoes. If it's a bit too far to hoof it, I get out my bike. Why use gas, create pollution, and stress out over finding a parking space when you can get to your destination and get some exercise at the same time?

Of course, my attitude will change when the oppressive summer heat takes over. That's when Canyonero's air conditioning wins me over. But for now, in the lovely "window weather," I want to be outside as much as possible. I don't know how long it will last, but I plan to take full advantage of it while it's here.

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