Saturday, July 22, 2000

Keeping house in summer

Martha might not have to move over, but we did get some helpful hints

        It's always been said that reading makes you a better writer. It certainly applies to our Tri-State readers.

  This week, readers take on the jobs of reporters in The Enquirer's Tempo section. Sede previous stories at
  • Monday: Best-kept secrets
  • Tuesday: Pet peeves
  • Wednesday: My summer vacation
  • Thursday: Technology woes
  • Today: Kid experts reveal secrets
  • Saturday: Move over, Martha
  • Sunday: Obsessive fans
        The Enquirer recently sounded the call for home-spun yarns from some of our readers. When we asked for would-be journalists to take over the Tempo cover this week, we received more than 200 e-mails, letters and faxes from all over the Tristate.

        For Tempo at Home, we proposed the general theme of ways to make your home more “summery.” We received tips on how to and how not to tackle housecleaning and some colorful ways to beat the heat.

        One reader talked about a summer home “find” in nearby Lebanon.

        “I thought it was kind of an interesting premise,” contributor Cindy DeSerna said when asked why she nominated her non-air conditioned home as the ideal summer oasis.

        Although space wouldn't allow us to print them all, here are some of the best ways reader suggestions for celebrating the summer at home.

"Cool' house thriving without AC
        We live in a Southwestern adobe-style home in the Lebanon area. This unique home has no air conditioning but plenty of tile, shade, a placid pond and wall garden to contribute to that “cool” summer feeling.

        We love the West and Southwest area of the country and already had furniture that fit right in with the house. The house is very open with a spiral staircase and high beamed ceilings. The adobe-style architecture makes the house cool in the summer, and we like the idea of living without central air.

        We do just fine without air conditioning and enjoy the summer months here in “southwestern” Ohio.

        — Cindy DeSerna, 53 (and husband, Chris), Lebanon

My mother's garden: A daughter's salute
        I am writing this essay on behalf of my mother, Carol Thoman, who has spent endless hours outside beautifying our garden. I must admit, it's worked. Since summer started, everyday the numerous compliments continue to grow. My mother doesn't work, though the skills she obtained while in the garden are enough to earn her almost any laboring job she wants.

        Her carpentry skills have improved with the building of a new arbor. She could even get a great job as a stone mason heaving rocks in the heavy wheelbarrow that I have not begun to be able to push. It's a wonder that she still has a back.

        Three years ago, we moved to a garden that was full of clay, rocks and weeds. Since then she's made it her personal goal to help Mother Nature “blossom” in our yard.

        Whenever she starts a project, whether it's digging up bushes or planting new flowers, one thought never escapes her: “I should hire someone to do this!”

        Yet not once has she put down the shovel or torn off her gardening gloves. She just keeps on working like it's her full-time job. But my mother does not wish to be paid. Instead, she just wants to keep doing the thing she enjoys most.

        — Madeline Thoman, 12, Indian Hill

Summertime housework? “Just Do It”
        Hate housework? Especially in the summer when it's hot and sticky?

        The best defense against having to do it is not to let it pile up. Stick a note in every room in the house, that says, “Just Do It!” That way, if the newspaper is all over the floor, you'll pick it up and put it where it belongs. You'll make the bed when you get up. You'll throw dirty clothes in the hamper, not on the floor. You'll get into the habit of walking into a room and automatically straighten it up.

        Plan dinner in your head while you're doing something else, like dusting the window sills or sorting the wash. Cook anything that can be done ahead when you feel like it — not at the last minute. Clean up as you go along. Put things in the dishwasher, don't leave them in the sink. Wipe off the stove and counters as part of the after-meal clean-up routine.

        Fold the clothes as they come out of the dryer, then put them where they belong. If you have to iron, let it accumulate then do it all while you watch something stupid on TV.

        Pay your bills once a month while you have all the stamps, envelopes, return-address stickers, calculator and checkbook spread out over your desk or table. Then put it all away till next time.

        My name isn't Martha Stewart, but I too can tell other people how to do things.

        — Marie Toland, 75, Clifton Heights

House Dutiful dust bunny roundup
        The spring-cleaning bug used to bite me but over the years I have built up an immunity and no longer suffer from its affliction. It's not that I enjoy lying to friends that our windows aren't dirty but actually tinted to cut down on the glare that my optician said could damage my extremely sensitive retinas. The true reason is that I have come to discover there are things I enjoy more than chasing dust bunnies from under beds or fishing grubby pennies from couches.

        It is my opinion that reading a good book, or taking a nap beats scrubbing and scouring. It is much safer as well since there are no harmful chemical additives in any of Oprah's book selections and my pillow is clearly labeled hypoallergenic.

        I do feel the need, however, to keep up appearances. After years of trial and error, I have devised a plan. I simply plop a bucket of cleaning supplies on the coffee table. I burn lemon scented candles that mimic furniture polish. I wear a paint-splattered T shirt, dab a little wallpaper paste in my hair, block the foyer with a ladder, settle in on the couch and no one's the wiser.

        — Jane Biddinger, 53, Fairfield

Husband's approach to cleaning
        I have never been a fan of housecleaning. Don't get me wrong. I like a clean house, but not one that looks like a museum piece. I used to enjoy helping my wife clean house. OK, maybe not, but I guess I don't understand housecleaning.

        One day some friends called and wanted to stop by. The house was clean, but my wife went frantic in a housecleaning whirl that made me dizzy. When I tried to help, she said, “What are you doing? Don't make it look like it's just been cleaned.” I give up.

        The two worst housecleaning critics are the mother-in-law to the wife and the wife to the husband after she's returned from a trip. I can't help with mother-in-laws, since I obviously have no clue. But for the husbands, here's a little hint when your wife goes out of town.

        First, use only paper plates, plastic utensils and microwaveable food. This leaves the kitchen spotless. Second, a “summertime fresh” house must be clean. Just before you pick her up, sprinkle carpet deodorizers down, run the vacuum over it leaving a fresh clean smell.

        You'll make your wife happy and make some points for yourself.

        — Charles Thompson, 51, Blue Ash

Beauty in surprising places

        Gardening without money — a challenge. With two college-age daughters, a house and four cars, there is little cash for plants and equipment. Creativity must substitute for money.

        Recently, during a repaving job on the street, I came home to find the mailbox and post pulled up and thrown onto the lawn. It could not be put back, due to a suddenly wider road. The other side of the driveway had a 15-foot space between the street and a rustic rail fence. I put the mailbox in this area. (I love those drive-in metal anchors; no digging.)

        Using some flat rocks harvested from a local road cut, a path appeared. A homemade plank bench was moved from another area of the garden. Black-eyed Susans went behind the bench, with blue catmint lining the rock path. Both types of plants were volunteer babies from my perennial garden.

        Three new ground-cover roses were installed in open areas along the path. They were my Mother's Day present, a sneaky use of money.

        A white clematis vine, which I thought the road workers killed, came up from under the new pavement to cover the mailbox. A very pleasant surprise.

        Now, getting the mail includes lingering on the sunny bench to flip through the mail. What started as a problem became the solution.

        — Nancy Rae Craig, 48, Springfield Township


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