Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Coping With The Heat

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for extreme temperatures. In the winter, I add layers and layers of down- and fiber-filled jackets and comforters to keep warm. Sometimes three pairs of socks. Toques and balaclavas. Add to this the use of heating pads, hot water bottles, working fireplaces, and central heating, and it is possible to be cozy and comfortable in the winter.

But summertime…ah, the livin’ is not always easy. There’s no limit to the amount of stuff you can pile on for the purpose of keeping warm. But there is a limit to how much you can take off to keep cool. Legally, as well as practically – and they’re not always the same thing (running around naked in the privacy of your own living room is one thing, but doing it in the front yard could be hazardous to your neighbors’ heart conditions…).

Some of the things I do to cope with the heat:

Loose clothes: I’m really past the age and body shape for high fashion. And I don’t much care that I’m not wearing the latest rage (good thing, too, because everywhere I look, I see evidence that the crotch-at-the-knees is still in style – I’d trip and break my neck!). I keep my clothing loose and tent-like, especially the shirts. I normally wear a medium, but in summer, I wear large and extra large shirts, untucked.

Long sleeves, long pants: Sounds like it would be hotter than shorts and tanks tops, but I find it cooler, as long as the clothing is loose. And they help keep the sun off your skin.

Natural fibers: Cotton, linen, and silk. Synthetics don’t breathe, and they don’t allow moisture to evaporate properly. That not only keeps you hot, but makes you feel sticky, to boot. Cotton and linen have a great “wicking” action – they absorb sweat and direct it away from your skin. Evaporation keeps you cool.

Don’t say silk is too expensive – it’s a lot more affordable than you know. You just have to know where to buy (hint: thrift stores). And for the most part, you can ignore the dry-clean-only labels. The Cavern’s laundry faerie puts silk shirts inside a clean pillowcase and uses one of those elastic hair thingies to keep it closed, then puts it in with the rest of the laundry. Hang the shirt up to dry. Been doing it for about twenty years, and haven’t ruined a shirt yet.

Boxers, not jockeys: For both men and women. Seriously. The tighter the underwear, the more likely you are to end up with jock itch or yeast infections. Or that supremely irritating rash known as “prickly heat.” The baggier your underwear, the more comfortable you’re going to be. And again, natural fibers (but not silk – it doesn’t really make good underwear).

Light colors: Goth is for winter. Light colors reflect heat away from you. Dark colors not only hold the heat, they also attract insects like mosquitoes and horse flies.

Hat: Cover your head to protect it from the sun. Baseball caps are okay for the top of your head (wear the beak forward to keep the sun out of your eyes). But the wider the brim, the more protection you have for your face and neck. Straw hats are inexpensive, and they can be customized with hat bands and thingies attached to them. Tilley hats (or decent copies) are just about perfect, if a little more expensive; but they’re also hardier. I’ve had mine for about eight years, and it’s going strong. It’s also washable.

Bandana: I’m surprised by the number of people who don’t realize what a useful thing a bandana can be. It’s a sweat band. It’s a face mop. It’s a sun shade. It’s a hat. It’s a wash cloth. It’s a fan. It’s a lot of other things, too. I’ve got about a dozen of them (they’re in every dollar store you can find) in various colors and patterns.

I wear mine a few different ways, depending on what I’m doing. But most of the time, I keep it wet. Fold into a triangle and tie it around your neck loosely. Use it to wipe your head, face, hands. When it starts to dry, get it wet again. Carry a spare for a friend.

Spray bottle: One of my favorite little inventions was the two-ounce plastic spritzer bottle. You can get them at Zellers, in the Personal Care section. They’re made by Goody (but don’t try to find them on the Goody website).

Fill it with water and tuck it into your shirt pocket, your fanny pack, or even your hatband. Use it to spritz your head, face, hands, bandana, shirt front – anything you want to keep cool.

Water bottle: I don’t even walk the two blocks to the store without carrying a full water bottle. And I’m not talking about the two-bucks-a-pop for commercial bottled water, either (did you know that bottled water is more expensive than gasoline?). I’m talking about a water bottle with its own carry pouch with the long strap that you can sling over your head and shoulders. It’s refillable (this is where a Britta jug comes in handy). And if you’re lucky, you can find the wide-mouth bottles that you can load with ice cubes before you fill it with water. Get one that carries at least a quart. Drink from it often, even if you don’t “feel” thirsty. In the summer heat, by the time you actually feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. And what you don’t drink, you can use to keep your bandana wet and your spritzer bottle filled.

Sunscreen: DUH! Most people are smart enough to wear sunscreen these days. Not everyone has yet caught up to the idea that one application does not last the entire day. It washes off with sweat. It wipes off on your clothes. And it just plain exhausts itself. Renew applications every hour or so – and always right after you get out of the water, if you’re swimming. And use more of it if you’re in an area where you get reflected glare – near water or in the city (concrete has a wicked reflective quality).

Those are my most basic tips for coping with the summer sun and heat. I’ll add more as I think of them. And if you have any to add to my list, feel free to drop them into the comments.

Stay cool.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fast Chili

I don't usually blog cooking and recipes, but successful experiments need to be bragged about, so...

A couple months ago, in an issue of Men's Health (the online version), this recipe for chili appeared:

What you'll need:

1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp mixed herbs
1 tsp olive oil
4 oz ground turkey
2 tomatoes, diced
2 c pinto beans
1 c button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
Dash of black pepper
1 Tbsp paprika
2 chili peppers, chopped
In a pan, saute the onion, garlic, and herbs in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Place the turkey in the pan and saute for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans, and mushrooms and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the bay leaves, black pepper, paprika, and chili peppers. Let it all simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. If you can bear the wait, let it sit for a day: It tastes even better the next day.
Now, eveyone here at the Cavern really likes chili. I'm the minority vote that keeps having problems after the fact, so we don't have it very often. But this notation at the bottom caught my eye:

Note: If you're worried about the "rumblings" later from the beans, buy canned beans, rinse them well in a colander, and puree them in a blender or food processor with a little water. It'll break down the fiber and carbohydrates often associated with gas.

Aha! I thought. Canned, rinsed beans were the answer to the problem? And if I'm going to experiment with changing one thing, why not change a few more things while I'm at it?

My thoughts in note form:

1. Half an onion is wimpy. Use two.

2. Ditto two cloves of garlic -- use the whole head.

3. I have no idea what "mixed herbs" are, but this recipe doesn't mention chili powder, so let's change it to chili powder.

4. I never measure olive oil -- it's good for you, so get rid of the measurement (which is also wimpy).

5. And now to the real bone of contention: nobody here likes turkey, ground or otherwise, so get rid of it altogether. Use ground beef -- or to make it vegetarian, skip the meat altogether and use kernel corn (frozen, about 1 pound).

6. Two tomatoes don't sound like enough, unless they're the size of Nova Scotia; and if we're already using canned beans, why not canned tomatoes?

7. Pinto beans we don't have. We do have red kidney and garbanzo, so we'll just substitute those -- beans is beans, right?

8. One cup mushrooms? Button mushrooms? Nobody here has the patience to pick through the mushrooms for the ones you could sew on a shirt (if you could sew), so let's just say a large handful of mushroom, chopped if necessary. Two handsful if you like mushrooms a lot.

9. We don't have a bay tree, so screw the bay leaf.

10. Salt and pepper are usually added after the cooking is done.

11. And since paprika is added for color more than anything else, and the chili powder is already red, ditto the tomatoes, dump the paprika.

12. I actually bought the chili peppers, and ended up not having to use them on account of I'd accidentally also bought the HOT version of chili powder!

And the altered recipe, after fussing and playing with it a few times, came out like this:

2 medium onions, chopped
1 head garlic, roughly chopped
1 - 4 Tablespoons chili powder (to taste, obviously -- start with one; you can always add more)
olive oil
1 pound frozen kernel corn
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and rough chopped
3 19-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 19-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 handfuls muchrooms in bite-sized pieces
2 chili peppers (optional)
First, build yourself a Bloody Mary with the juice you drained from the canned whole tomatoes. Waste not, want not.
Heat a large dutch oven to medium , and after the pot is hot, then add the olive oil (hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick -- the late Jeff Smith {The Frugal Gourmet}. He was right). Saute the onions and garlic until just translucent (no browning), then add the chili powder, stirring quickly. Don't inhale the steam! Add the crushed tomatoes, the whole tomatoes, the corn, the mushrooms. Stir occasionally until corn is no longer frozen and the mushrooms have started to soften. Add the drained and rinsed beans, and mix well. Reduce heat to low-medium, and let it all simmer for half an hour to an hour, stirring occasionally.
If you really prefer meat in your chili, use a pound of ground beef, cooked and well drained, in the place of the corn.
Serve in huge bowls with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, chopped green onion, crusty bread, and maybe a green salad.
It's better the second day, so make enough for leftovers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Trading Places?

Are you a man or woman who is curious about how the other side "gets it?"

Well...go find out.

(Found in Jackie's archives.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

On Getting Old...

I needed a laugh this morning. So guess what showed up in my mailbox? Timing. It's all about timing...

1."OLD" IS WHEN..... Your sweetie says, "Let's go upstairs and make out," and you answer, "Pick one, I can't do both!"

2."OLD" IS WHEN..... Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you're barefoot.

3."OLD" IS WHEN..... A sexy babe catches your fancy and your pacemaker opens the garage door.

4."OLD" IS WHEN..... Going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.

5."OLD" IS WHEN..... You don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.

6."OLD" IS WHEN...... You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.

7."OLD" IS WHEN..... "Getting a little action" means you don't need to take any fiber today.

8."OLD" IS WHEN..... "Getting lucky" means you find your car in the parking lot.

9."OLD" IS WHEN..... An "all-nighter" means not having to get up to pee.

10. "OLD" IS WHEN... The wife asks you to nibble on her ear and you have to go get your teeth..... (courtesy DazzlinDino in the comments)

Thanks, cousin!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Updating This Beast...

Okay, it's been awhile since I've done any blogging housework. I'm a lousy blog housekeeper. Tell me something I don't know.

But this entry by Andrew prompted me to get busy with the sidebar again. Anyone who manages to get himself banned from his own blog, even temporarily, automatically gets a link to my temperamental site.

So, if you have trouble getting the Cavern to hold still, don't fret -- it's just me trying to figure out how to drive this thing. Again.


Okay, done for now. And this time, it didn't take too long. Usually, updating the sidebar involves yelling, stomping of feet, threats to delete and never reactivate the thing again -- all accompanied by that idiotic update clock that spins mindlessly around and around and around while telling me that "this may take a few minutes, especially if you have a large blog." Wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't stuck on 2% the whole time, and then occasionally does a *whoops, gone* peek-a-boo act, followed by frantic scrambling to figure out wotthehell went wrong this time!

So, in no particular order, I've added:

Wandering Scribe
The Consumerist
Boing Boing

And I'm about to give up with the stupid color commands on this idiotic thing. I like the links color to be red, so I tell it red, and it does what it bloody feels like.

Anyone got a hammer?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hell Week At AOL?

It took a couple of days for all the links to work so I could post this piece. Actually, it took a couple of days for all the servers to recover from the bombardment of hits trying to link to the original post.

Check out Vinny's (Insignificant Thoughts) efforts at trying to cancel a dormant AOL account.

Link to the audio here. If you have trouble pulling it up, wait for awhile and try again. This is one of the hottest audio files ever posted, I think.

I used to work in the "customer service" (or what passes for it these days), and as I listened to Jon -- the retentions rep -- I could actually hear the point at which his synapses disconnected from his rational thought processes, and his mouth just ran away from him. What he shoulda done was pass the call to a supervisor and take a break. Instead, he lost control of the call. He also, apparently, lost his job over this one.

Moral: If your job involves dealing with the public in a polite, calm manner, never piss off a blogger who can back up his story with an audio recording of your hissy fit.

(H/T Boing Boing)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

DaVinci Da Movie

I went to see The DaVinci Code last night. I had to go. I was being pushed.

I mean, I was going to see it anyway, eventually. Oh, I might have waited until the DVD came out, so I could watch it in the comfort of my own home, as I do with so many other movies. But I had to go see it in the theater. Something was giving me not-much-choice.

A couple days ago, I went out and bought a few DVDs. Among them was Stealth. I've been wanting to see this one for a long time -- kind of a sequel to Top Gun (in which the real stars were the Tomcats, not the Tom Cruise). This, by th' way, is a terrific action movie about a completely fictional (isn't it?) unmanned stealth fighter with its own intelligence and emotions. His name is EDI -- pronounced "Eddy" -- and while I know that a lot of the flight sequences were CGI, if you like movies with supratechnology, you'll like this one.

Anyway. I opened the box to get the disc out, and there on the inside of the cover was a free ticket to go see The DaVinci Code (different link) at my local theater complex!

"Cool," I thought to myself, and magnetized it to the fridge door in case someone wanted to use it.

Picked up the mail yesterday, and there, tucked in between the Safeway flier and the hermetically sealed Readers' Digest was a neatly folded (and necessarily empty) popcorn bag from my local theater complex, with a coupon sticking out of it that promised to fill the bag with popcorn if I'd come see a movie!

Okay. I can take a hint. While I like popcorn, but not movie popcorn, whatever forces are involved might not be able to tell the difference between movie popcorn and real popcorn. I took the ticket off the fridge and went to see the movie. Before yet another hint landed. No telling what form the next hint might take, after all. I really would not be up to entertaining any albino monks who might be wandering through my neighborhood...

I read the book a long time ago, so I can't compare it to the movie. I do remember that I read the book almost at a single sitting. The movie moves just about as fast. Keep in mind that everything happens in one twenty-four-hour period, and that nobody stops to eat, drink, sleep, or pee. Suspend disbelief for the time it takes to watch, and just enjoy yourself.

If you've read the book, you've got your own built-in spoiler. And while the movie doesn't follow the book slavishly, it follows the book closely enough that there aren't really any surprises.

There is nothing insulting to any religion in this movie. Pay no attention to the assholes who say there is. They haven't seen it. Or if they have seen it, they weren't paying attention. Period.

The cinematography is bloody excellent! There are some wonderfully innovative composite shots that blend past and present pretty seamlessly, and they contribute nicely to the flow of the movie.

The score by Hans Zimmer was great. It may not win an album-of-the-year award, but it does what it's supposed to do -- it loads your emotional responses.

Give your reality a break. Go see The DaVinci Code (different link again).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hands Across The Border

This was one of the reasons I needed to get home from my trip to Bellingham. Or so I thought.

This particular celebration has the potential to be a great festival. Unfortunately, nobody seems to be in charge. I couldn't find one single person who had any idea about who was running the show.

Thousands of people gather in a border park for the day to do what? Watch one sparsely populated pipe band lead hundreds of children in a great circle around the grounds, have them stand in the hot sun for a few hours' worth of speeches by people no one has ever heard of, and then the RCMP and the Washington State troopers raise both flags together on top of the memorial to the Treaty of Ghent?

No food vendors, with the exception of the ice cream trucks. Very few souvenir-type items for sale, and none of them on the grounds in view of people who might want to buy them -- you have to go looking for them, and to do that, you have to know they're there! No performers. No games or entertainment of any kind.

Nothing is advertised. Nothing is promoted. Nothing is publicized. It's almost like they don't want anyone to know it's happening. Russ Hiebert didn't even show up, and it's in his constituency!

And yet, every year, thousands of Americans and Canadians gather at Peace Arch Park in White Rock/Blaine for this event.

About the only thing of interest was that I had found a blended Canadian/American flag (can't seem to find a picture of it anywhere on the web, sorry) that I liked, and I found a way to fasten it to the top of my new staff (see previous post for description of staff), extending its height by several more inches. This gave me the tallest freestanding flagpole in the area. That, in turn, attracted the few reporters, photographers, and videographers who were there. And since they seemed to be as bored with everything as I was, they spent their time chasing me down. I spent my time running away. I really, really hate having my picture taken.

As I said, this has the potential to be a great celebration, if someone were to take charge and get it publicized properly. As it is, though, I was more than disappointed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

While I didn't go to market to buy a fat pig, I did spend some time south of the forty-ninth. Originally, I was only going for the weekend, but the trip kept getting extended with new things to do and people to meet.

The Bellingham Highland Games are always a good bet. Especially if you like Celtic music. I'm a born sucker for pipes and drums, and this festival kinda starts the year off for me. This year I only got to be there for the Saturday, and I wanted to be everywhere at once.

Celtic music? Let me recommend -- for sheer energy as well as the amazing sound this group puts out -- Wicked Tinkers. The quote at the top of their page reads: “…the Tinkers appeared, beating the living hell out of tapan, bodhran, and marching snare drum, while pipes skirled, a didgeridoo wobbled, and a Bronze Age Irish horn bellowed, like the voice of some H.P. Lovecraft aquatic leviathan." The quote does not lie. They perform traditional and modern Celtic music in traditional dress (they're regimental, a fact which become apparent as soon as they start leaping and whirling about) and in some non-traditional ways, coming off the stage and into the audience at times, getting everyone involved...Keith Jones actually invites little kids to bang on his drum. Their verson of The O'Neill's March absolutely wiped me out, and I was only keepin' time by clapping, stomping, and thumping my staff on the ground. No way can I tell you about these guys and have you believe it -- you have to see and hear for yourself, and your first experience should be live! Half their appeal is visual.

And I bought myself a fine new staff from one of the vendors. It's made from a saguaro rib and crowned with a piece of cholla stem (scroll down to see the reticulate pattern that's left when all the succulent tissue is gone). The vendor prowls the Arizona desert in the winter and picks up dead cactus skeletons, taking them home to his workshop where he works his magic and turns them into functional art. I love this staff. So does the rest of the world, it seems. Coming back across the border, I had a helluva time getting the Canada Customs guys to quit playing with it and let me go home.

Sunday I spent at Bellingham's Gay Pride Day. Unlike Vancouver, they don't hold a parade, but they do have a festival in a semi-covered marketplace in downtown Bellingham. There are vendors, speeches, political groups, information booths, performers...quite an impressive showing considering that Bellingham is a rather small city.

I'm used to unusual things happening around me, but one episode kinda freaked out my companions when I told them about it: I had been wandering around on my own, like I usually do in an unfamiliar place, and I noticed that I kept getting in the way of a blind man. It seemed like every time I turned around, I was almost bumping into him. It never occurred to me that he was following me until he spoke.

"I can feel your aura," he said as I was about to duck out of his way again. "Are you Wiccan?"

I told him I was pagan, but not British trad, and he grinned. "I figured you were. Your aura is very green."

Interesting. From what little I know of auras (which is not much -- not my area of expertise), green signifies a healer. Pretty damned close. Having a blind man follow me about the place by feeling the color, though, was absolutely fascinating.

We made an unplanned trip to Seattle the afternoon before I was to come home. It was kinda "we're going to Burlington, anyway, so why don't we keep going to Pike Place Market?"

Why don't we? I've never been to Pike Place Market. And I've been wanting to see and hear Howlin' Hobbit. This might be the time...


We didn't get there until almost closing time (who knew the place had a closing time?), and most of the vendors were already packing up and closing their doors. I did manage to find a gem shop and picked up some very nice pieces of jet, and we had supper at one of the restaurants. And then we headed north again. Or started to...

The very short version of this is that the flywheel attached to the alternator decided to pack it in -- in the middle of I-5! Those of you who are mechanically inclined can translate for the rest, if you wish. Bottom line, though, is that the car was not going to make the trip back to Bellingham. Not then. Probably not ever.

We did get back to Bellingham, sans the car we started out in, about one o'clock the next morning. Thanks to a few kind strangers, a former relative of one of my companions, and a very good friend and rescuer who drove down from Bellingham to pick us up and drive us back again on absolutely no notice (on a rainy, miserable night, and without working windshield wipers on the rescue vehicle, yet)!

On the whole, it's good to be home and surrounded by familiar things. Sometimes I think that's the only reason any of us go home -- it's familiar.

Oh...one more thing. I usually do these cross-border trips by bus. This time, I took Amtrak. Beats the hell outa the bus!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Honey, I'm Home!

Posting will resume once I catch my breath...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Have Fun and Behave Yourselves

I'm out of the country for a few days, and I may or may not have access to a computer while I'm away. So I'll leave you with some interesting things to look at while I'm gone.

Gizmodo has a new concept for a doggie bag.

And I know that cat lovers really, really love to spoil their cats by bringing home some expensive toys, but this is ridiculous. Terminally cute, though...

Both the above links, and many more, courtesy of Online And Off The Grid.

And I don't know who it was that decided the two concepts of having fun and behaving yourself were compatable. But I grew up hearing it from my parents and other adults, so don't yell at me -- I'm just passing it along.

See ya when I get back.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Yay Grandma!

You go, girl!

Kindness to strangers is one thing. Not taking any crap from a rip-off artist is a whole 'nother thing altogether.

'Gad, I love a woman with spunk...

Summer Eating -- Pickup Meme

Summer time is upon us – or so says the calendar, anyway. I have no idea what the weather will say, or how emphatically it will speak. We’ll find that out when it gets here. But climate change is not what this post is about.

I dunno about everyone else, but my eating habits change in the warmer weather. I eat more raw fruit and veggies, and more cold meals altogether. Not because I like cold food, necessarily, but because I’m usually too busy/lazy to bother cooking if I don’t have to do so. And so say all the Cavern Denizens. If we don’t have to cook, we be juuuuuust fiiiiine!

But. We also do a lot less formal meal eating and a whole lot more grab-and-go eating. It’s called snacking. Ignore what the Canada Food Guide tells you – it’s full of crap about the “right” foods.

Anyway, I wanted to find out what everyone does in the summer for grab-and-go snack/meals.

One of my favorite snacks is apples with cheese. Or any fruit with cheese, but I’m particularly fond of Gala apples with a nice, sharp, well-aged, English cheddar. You know the kind of cheese that is so crumbly that you can almost spread it on bread? Yeah – that kind of cheese. I could survive quite nicely for the entire summer on this, I think. I’m munching on some now, while I’m doing this post…

And then there’s popcorn. No pre-made or packaged stuff, thank you. And you can keep the microwave stuff where it belongs, on the store shelf. I have a hot air popper. It takes – what – a couple minutes, tops, to put out a gallon of hot popcorn? And I use olive oil – not butter – on the popped corn. You can drizzle it on, like you would with butter, or you can put it in one of those little spritzer bottles and spray it on. Butter is too expensive (I have a major popcorn habit) to use all the time. I use regular olive oil, not the extra virgin. I like the flavor of regular oil, and if you buy it like I do – in gallon cans – it’s quite inexpensive. And for those of you who keep track of such things, it’s also monounsaturated and not genetically modified (unlike corn, peanut, and canola oils, which are genetically modified). For toppings, I blend my own flavorings. I use things like onion powder, garlic powder paprika, -- all kinds of finely ground spices and herbs. I grind a lot of them myself, but you can get them pre-ground in the seasoning section of the grocery. Mix with a little salt, and you have customized popcorn that costs a whole lot less than what you buy in those popcorn booths in the mall.

I also like canned fish mixed with chopped onion, and sometimes a salad dressing (depending on the fish), then spread on bread. And I don’t mean white bread. I use a good black bread or twelve-grain whole-kernel bread. You know – the kind of bread you have to chew. I go through a lot of canned salmon this way, and only wild salmon, never farmed. It doesn’t have to be Sockeye, either. Pink, Keta…they all have the same amount of protein. Stock up on it while it’s on sale.

Okay, there are three of my favorite summer grab-and-gos. How about everyone else? And Beep Beep, I know you’re getting ready for the cold weather Down Under, but what would you be eating in the hot weather?

For those of you who have blogs, do a post on your own site and link it back to my comments, okay? Invite other to pick it up, as well. Rather than doing a tag meme, let's make it voluntary.