22 July 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

We are officially entering what is called, "the dog days of summer". That is at least if you go by the calendar of ancient Rome, which considered the dog days to last from July 24th to August 24th. A more modern publication, the Farmer's Almanac, lists the dog days as the 40 days beginning July 3rd and lasting until August 11th.

As a child, I had always imagined that the name refered to the image of a large, furry dog, panting heavily while resting in the shade of the porch. It in fact, the dog days are so named because in ancient times, the rising of the dog star, Sirius coincided with the sunrise. However you choose to explain the term, we can all agree that the days are too hot, too humid and the cooling rains are too far and few between. This is the time of year when we are most likely to seek some chilling relief.

Let's sit languidly for a few moments, and dwell on nice chilly thoughts.

One of summer's most necessary and popular summer items, surely is the ubiquitous ice cube tray. There is nothing more satisfying than the plunk of an ice cube plummeting into a tumbler, and then the slight crackles as it meets the temperature of the surrounding liquid. Its a little thing, but it makes me a little happier to see my ice cubes arrive in fun shapes. I have a small collection of plastis ice cube trays from IKEA, and I love that they come out with new shapes every year. I have X's and O's from previous collections, so on a truly steamy day, I can indulge in an icy game of tic-tac-toe to cool things down. this year's collection includes fish, stars and flowers, and of course the trays are in typically bold, fun, Ikea colours.

With fun ice cubes at hand, we better get a nice drink to cool with them. And there is nothing better on a sweaty day, than a nice cold glass of lemonade.

My favorite recipe for lemonade (I know, who needs a recipe for lemonade, right? But really there is a knack to getting not too sweet, not too tart), comes from Martha Stewart.

4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar
3.5 cups water

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups lemon juice and the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring unti the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool.
In a pitcher, stir together the syrup, remaining 2 cups of lemon and juice and the water. To serve, pour over ice.

Next thing, we need is a little shade, and failing the use of a Southern ante-bellum plantation style porch, a giant umbrella will do the trick. D.O.T Patio, currently with locations only within Ontario has an impressive variety of umbrellas to choose one. This one, though a little too expensive for my current budget, is probably my dream umbrella. At 17' it provides a huge shady area. I also love that it has a side arm rather than a centre pole. The pole design, though traditional, does make adding an alfresco dining centrepiece difficult, and can involve a slight amount of ducking and weaving if trying to maintain eye contact with tablemates.

If the icy cold drink in the shade, isn't working for you, and you need a little more excitement in your day, there is only one thing that will do: perennial summertime favorite, the Wham-O Slip-n-Slide. Available at most department and toy stores, just hook it up to your garden hose and slide away.

Have any other fun ways to spend these dog days? I'd love to hear how you stay cool, so please feel free to add comments.

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