Wednesday, June 15, 2011

15 Real Ways to Beat the Heat

After a week of triple digit temps here in June of 2011, I've decided to repost this from August of 2010: Toward the end of winter I long desperately for summer, for flowers and gardening, swimming and picnics and generally enjoying being outdoors in shorts and sunshine. Spring tiptoes in like the answer to a prayer and all is wonderful in my world. Unfortunately spring turns into summer and each year it comes as a surprise that a hot summer can be as difficult as a hard winter. In the sweltering heat and humidity of Florida in late July and August, I find myself wishing for winter again. Perhaps it is God's way of having us always look forward to something.
Over a lifetime, I've put together a mental list of ways to keep my cool. This year, I wrote it all down and did some research to make sure my inclinations were backed by science.
Here's the list:
  1. Avoid make-up whenever possible. Skin needs to breathe. Pores have a purpose and clogging them with make-up is like wearing a blanket on your face.
  2. Keep your hair off the back of your neck. The nape of the neck is very sensitive to touch and interprets the smallest breeze as a wash of cooling air. Also, hair gathered loosely in a clip allows for more air circulation along your scalp than when it is pulled tightly in a pony tail.
  3. Cool pulse points, especially at the inner wrists, inside the elbows and behind the knees. Pulse points are places where blood runs just below the surface of the skin. Cooling the blood, cools the body. This can be done with cool running water, a damp cloth or an ice cube wrapped in a cloth.
  4. Keep a bottle of Witch Hazel and a container of cotton balls in the refrigerator. A cotton ball wet with Witch Hazel cools pulse points, both when applied and as it evaporates and it is great for removing make-up and removing the oils that accumulate on the face when we're over heated.
  5. Drink water. Stay well hydrated. This is always good advise but it is especially important in the heat as the natural cooling processes of the body can deplete the body's reserves and cause dehydration stressing the body's organs. Avoid caffeine and alcohol because they increase dehydration.
  6. Adjust the Air Conditioner to a higher temperature and use fans to move the air. The moving air will feel just as cool while the higher artificial temperature reduces the difference between the air indoors and outdoors.
  7. Wear loose fitting clothing. Air circulation is always key to keeping cool.
  8. Wear natural fabrics - cotton or linen.
  9. Avoid use of fabric softeners on clothing during hot weather months. Fabric softeners coat the fabric fibers reducing or even eliminating their absorbency. Even our wonderfully soft and fluffy towels will not remove water from skin nearly as well as those rinsed with plain water.
  10. Avoid large meals heavy with protein and fat. They put more stress on the digestive system and as it works harder, it produces internal heat. Smaller, more frequent, lighter meals will actually help beat the heat.
  11. Eat Jalapenos - or other hot peppers. This might sound strange but it's true. Check it out HERE.
  12. Add lemon juice to your water - eat alkalinizing foods. Maintaining a proper bodily pH balance is important to proper system function, one of which is cooling the body. Find food lists HERE.
  13. Get your laptop off your lap. You may as well be sitting on a heating pad.
  14. Don't neglect your feet. The inner arches of your feet are also pulse points and need air movement to keep cool. Set your feet free. Sandals are not just for fashion they are practical.
  15. Sleep with your feet out of the covers. Again, it's a lot about air.
This is my personal list. There are many others that include things like standing in a bucket of ice or lying in a bathtub of cool water. You bet. They work. But I've tried to share the things that I do on a daily basis that are practical and achievable whether you stay at home or work in an office or in the field. Let me know how they work for you by leaving comments (below).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Brunswick Stew using B-B-Q Leftovers

While experts debate the origins of Brunswick Stew between Virginia and Georgia, my family might be closer to the truth. For as long as I can remember, and believe me that's a very long time, Brunswick Stew has always been the meal that follows a huge afternoon bar-b-q regardless of the location. As much a part of the Southern Tradition as fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, is the thriftiness involved in Southern foods and Brunswick Stew is just another example of wasting nothing.
Southern hospitality requires that no one leave the table hungry and the result is always leftovers. Hence, the stew pot - usually a cast iron dutch oven. Into it goes the remaining bar-b-q pork and chicken, pulled from the bone. Plates of sliced tomatoes and onions are tossed in. Leftover corn is cut from the cob and added, a jar of home-canned tomatoes tenderizes and moistens while the addition of butter beans serves as a thickener. Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce give it a traditional, Southern "kick". The concoction is given a good stir, covered and left to rest on the hot grill as the embers diminish over a number of hours. Some time, into the evening, it is announced that there is stew for anyone who is again hungry. It's an informal sort of thing; some helping themselves, some not. Always, there is a great deal of left over "leftovers" and the pot is carried to the kitchen to be refrigerated and served to family the following day.
The Brunswick Stew I remember and make is never exactly the same from one time to another but it's always close and the difference doesn't seen to be a "better or worse" kind of thing. Sometimes I make it using the pre-cooked meats of a bar-b-q. Other times, I start from scratch, with Brunswick Stew as my actual goal, which only adds the step of cooking chicken and pork in the oven or crock pot before actually starting the stew. BRUNSWICK STEW
  • 6-8 cups of pre-cooked & boned chicken and/or pork or both
  • 1 large onion - coarsely chopped
  • 1 quart of canned tomatoes - undrained
  • 1 can butter beans - drained
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn - drained
  • Salt to taste
  • Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce - added a little at a time until the flavor suits
  • Bar-b-q sauce - add 1/2 cup if you are not using previously sauced meats
A couple of things to remember are:
  1. It is a slow cooking process - a crock pot works well for this - 8 to 12 hours works for me.
  2. The final product should have solids and liquids evenly incorporated into a semi-stringy (sounds terrible, doesn't it?) but wonderfully tender mass.
  3. The butter beans, tomatoes & onions should be more or less indefinable, with the crunch of corn present.
  4. The bar-b-q taste should be subtle but "there" (a little goes a long way).
  5. The Tabasco or hot sauce should be present but not hot.
  6. I have never known anyone to add potatoes, although, if the result is not thick enough, some instant mashed potatoes sprinkled in will do the trick.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Power Outage - Smart Moves & Stupid Ones

Parts of the Florida Panhandle have been in desperate need of rain. My poor pond decreases by inches every day and is down almost 10 feet, so I was thrilled when storm clouds began to gather...but a little concerned when the rain came with hail.
With the storm and dinner time approaching simultaneously, I had headed to the kitchen to fix the quickest meal I could think of. With pre-cooked rice and pre-cooked and cubed chicken in the freezer, stir-fry was only minutes away from the table. While the frozen packages got a quick thaw in the microwave, I began to cut some fresh onions, celery, carrots and broccoli. Then the lights flickered once and were gone.
Five minutes later, the storm passed on, leaving only an eighth inch of rain in the gauge, the thunder muffled by distance, the clouds lighting up, one after another, as if in conversation. With darkness due at any moment, I sat on the sofa watching the flicker of candles instead of television. My mind was still on dinner. I was so close. At the point of suggesting that we go out for dinner, I suddenly remembered the propane burner that is a part of our gas grill.
Problem solved. In five minutes we would eat. First the raw veggies got a quick stir in hot Sesame Oil.
Then the pre-cooked and thawed chicken went in.
Once the chicken was thoroughly hot, I added the rice and an egg to toss around.
A little Szechuan and Soy Sauce, a thorough stir, and I called it quits. Dinner in less than 5 minutes. Under other conditions, I might have added straw mushrooms and water chestnuts but the wind was again picking up and the thunder moving closer.
Darkness fell with a thud, that deep black that you cannot see into. The wind and light show settled in for the duration and, as hours passed, it became obvious that power would not be restored any time soon. So, I set about preparing the house for the night. Candles were extinguished. The little battery operated radio was set to our nearest, semi-local station, a flashlight was placed on the bedside table and I was about to turn in when I had one of those thoughts that makes one wonder...
I remembered seeing a DC adapter in the box with the radio and headphones and speakers. "Aha! If I use that, I can leave the radio on all night without worrying about running down the batteries." I got the adapter from it's storage place and plugged it into the radio and then into the wall - nothing. "Hum?! Maybe the plug won't work while the radio has batteries in it", I reasoned. Somewhat pleased with the quickness of my mind, I opened the battery compartment, and paused. My eyes fell sheepishly on the plug in the wall - the plug in the electrical outlet in the wall. "Duh!" I snickered out loud and went to tell my husband what a screwy thing I had done. He made me feel so much less stupid. As my story approached the point of considering whether or not the radio would work with both batteries AND the plug, I could see his mind switching into problem-solving mode. I just stood there watching his wheels turn. He looked at me curiously because I had stopped mid-sentence. "Plug, honey", I said, "electrical plug." The expression on his face was priceless and I felt so much better knowing that I was not alone in expecting power while knowing very well that there was none.
We take so much for granted.
A couple of ideas that work well for me: 1) I turned this chandelier into a candle-lier by moving the rod so that the globes face up instead of down. The globes hold votives in glass containers and give enough light over my work space to keep me going.
Solar powered path lights, can come inside to keep rooms from being completely dark and they make great night lights.

Unlike candles, they are safe and can be left unattended all night. Just remember to return them to the outdoors the following morning so that they will recharge.