Things We Like: Sleeping Comfortably On A Hot Night

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

With summer winding down, many of us are looking forward to everything that fall brings. One of the things about fall that I most look forward to is the cooler weather. Here in California, the weather is quite pleasant year round; however, September usually brings a couple weeks of almost unbearable heat (relatively speaking). And while the September heat is perfect for getting in a few finals days at the beach, living without air conditioning it can be most unpleasant for sleeping. If only we had a sleeping porch to take in the cool night air. Sigh.

For those of you who are likewise trying to beat the heat without the help of AC, I’ve put together a list of helpful tips and tricks to stay cool while you sleep. Even if you do have air conditioning, you can use these tricks to save a bit on your electricity bill without sacrificing too much in the way of comfort.

1.     Use Fans and Ice To Circulate Cool Air

Fans have been our saving grace the past couple weeks. Ceiling fans, air filters, and box fans are all great to keep the air moving inside the house, but you may need to take more drastic measures to pull cool air into your home — especially at night. We’ve been leaving box fans on by the screen door (locked of course) and windows at night to get the most out of the cooler nights. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

On really hot days we even put a shallow tray of ice cubes in front of the fans to chill the air even more. While it’s no substitute for air conditioning, every bit of cool air helps. Did you see the Great Gatsby? The ole’ ice-in-front-of-the-fan-trick seems to be a long time favorite for staying cool. Be careful though, dogs like ice. And if you share your home with a four-legged friend, you may later discover a puddle of melted ice somewhere in your living room. Don’t be mad though, they’re just trying to stay cool too!

2.     Pull the sheets back

Even the most breathable cotton sheets can trap hot air and make you uncomfortable in bed. If this is the case, try peeling the sheets back from your torso so they just cover your lower half. Alternatively, you can sleep with one leg (or your whole body) on top of the sheets. Again, not ideal but it helps.

3.     Take A Cold Shower Before Bed

If your body is feeling stubborn and won’t cool down, a cold shower will feel great. And instead of drying off quickly with a towel, try air-drying for a bit. As the cool water evaporates, it will take a little extra heat off your skin with it.

4.     Put Some Cold Towels On The Back Your Neck

A lot of blood flows through your neck, and placing a cold towel on the back of your neck can help you feel cooler quickly. This trick takes a bit of planning, as you’ll need to put a couple damp rags in the freezer for at least a couple hours before you need them. Your body also exchanges a great deal of heat through the hands and feet, and cold socks can likewise be used to help you cool down.

Thankfully, cooler weather is just around the corner. Until then, the above tricks should help out.

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Breakfast in Bed – Succotash Hash

Post by Alison Hein.

How we got “succotash” from the Narragansett word “msickquatash” is still a mystery. What we do know, is that this succulent corn and lima bean-based vegetable dish originated with native Americans who harvested indigenous crops from the eastern woodlands.

Popularity of succotash has waxed and waned. It experienced a mini-revival during the Great Depression when meat was scarce, and is a wonderful way to showcase end-of-summer sweet corn, The variability of this dish is extensive. Onions, peppers, and squash make lovely additions. Use fragrant herbs for a refined side dish, or spice it up with some hot cayenne. You can bake it, boil it, broil it, or encase it in a piecrust.

In this simple recipe, I replaced the traditional limas with perky and popular edamame (green soy beans), adding a punch of color and healthy protein. I also decided to add a little lean meat – thus the “hash” AND a rhyming recipe. J Feel free to omit the Canadian bacon for a perfectly satisfying vegetarian option.

It only takes about 15 minutes to prepare this bountiful dish. When topped with a crispy fried egg, even the biggest carnivores will be delighted with this colorful cornucopia of veggies and a Narragansett-inspired breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 slice Canadian bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 green onions, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 cup edamame (or use traditional lima beans)
½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup vegetable broth or water
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs
Fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Heat about half the olive oil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, Canadian bacon and green onions and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until garlic is golden but not yet browned. Add corn kernels, edamame, cherry tomatoes and vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly bubbling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until most liquid has evaporated.

In the meantime, add remaining olive oil to a large heavy frying pan. Crack eggs into the pan one at a time, making sure to leave enough space between the eggs so the whites don’t run together. Season with salt and pepper. Cook each egg until white is solid, but yolk is still soft, about 2 to 2½  minutes.

Place half the succotash hash in each of two dishes. Top each with a fried egg. Garnish with fresh parsley, if you like, and serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.

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Bedtime Stories: Doll Bones

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Doll Bones by Holly Black.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book for older kids. Now that school has begun, some (retail stores, especially) consider this the kick-off of fall and the Halloween season. If you are into creepy stuff, and especially if you are into creepy old dolls whose glass eyes seem to follow you, this is a wonderful read.

Doll Bones is an interesting book, because it is a ghost story with substance. Partly, this story is about three adolescents, Poppy, Alice, and Zach. They are alway playing make-believe adventures, with long elaborate plots, all of which leads back to the Queen, a creepy old doll that Poppy’s mother keeps locked in a glass case. But it’s also about adolescence, about growing older and changing. It’s about that age where friends begin to grow apart, and where social pressures affect who you interact with and how you interact with them.

Part coming-of-age, part ghost story, part timeless adventure tale, Doll Bones is a finely crafted spooky story from Holly Black, the mind that brought the world The Spiderwick Chronicles. A definite must-read for lovers of scary stories and good young adult literature.

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Things We Like: Ten Habits To Help You Sleep Better

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Sleep is one of those unavoidable, mission critical facets of life that we cannot avoid. However, many people treat sleep as a mere inconvenience, and spend their whole lives trying to shortcut the process. Whether your bad relationship with sleep is intentional or otherwise, improving your sleep is one thing you have complete control over that can make one of the biggest impacts on your quality of life.

To help get you on your way (or remind you of what you already know), we’ve put together a list of ten habits to help you sleep better.


5 things to do for better sleep


  1.     Exercise

Exercise is a great way to use up excess energy. In addition to helping you sleep better, exercising is good for your overall health. Instead of worrying about the time of day you exercise or making excuses, just get out there and do it.

2.   Eat Healthy

Cut out the fast food and freezer dinners, and reach for fruits and vegetables. It may take some time to notice the change, but eating healthy will not only help you sleep better; it will help you feel better and more energized throughout the rest of your day.

3.  Stay Hydrated

The human body is mostly water, and needs to stay hydrated. While the amount of water you need to drink depends on the individual, chances are you aren’t drinking enough. If you’re thirsty, it means you’re dehydrated. Drink enough water throughout the day to where your body doesn’t have to tell you it needs more.

4.    Meditate

Meditation helps put your mind at ease before falling asleep. I’ve been getting back into it the past couple weeks, and it’s helped a lot. If you’re just beginning, try focusing on your breaths: count one each time you inhale, and when you get to 10 count back down each time you exhale. I usually don’t even make it back down to zero before dozing off.

5.    Establish a routine, and stick to it

People are creatures of habit, and one of the best ways to sleep better is to make it a routine. If you wake up for work at the same time every day, then you know what time you need to go to sleep to get enough of it. Many people who establish a sleeping routine don’t even need an alarm clock after a while. Instead, their bodies have learned what to expect and the mind serves as its own clock.

 

 

5 things to avoid for better sleep



1.    Stay Away From Big Meals Before Bed

While a light snack (peanut butter on celery sticks) can actually help you sleep better through the night, a large meal will not. If you eat a lot before bed, your body will continue to digest the food while you’re trying to sleep. It’s a tug of war that you’re never going to win. Instead, try to eat dinner a couple hours before going to bed to make sure you’re body has had enough time to digest.

2.    Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and excessive liquids before bed

Caffeine and alcohol are two of the prime culprits of a bad night’s sleep, though too much water before bed can also wake you from your slumber in search of a bathroom. Caffeine can affect you up to 12 hours after drinking it, so you may even need to cut back on lunchtime coffees. And while alcohol may seem like it helps you fall asleep, it actually causes midnight restlessness.

3.    Turn Off The Lights

You need to make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. One obvious change would be to turn off the lights or television set before you go to bed. If you’ve turned everything off and your room is still brighter than you’d like, consider investing in some blackout curtains. You’ll never be able to reach your full sleep potential in a bright room.

4.    Don’t oversleep

Oversleeping can be as bad for your health as not sleeping enough. The average adult needs around 8 hours of sleep, and can vary by a couple hours depending on the individual. In addition to heart disease, depression, and diabetes, oversleeping will leave you feeling more tired when you wake up than you did before.

5.    Don’t sleep in an uncomfortable bed

If you don’t have a comfortable bed, then you won’t ever look forward to using it. If you wake up with a sore neck or stiff back in the morning, it may be time in invest in a new mattress or some new pillows. If you’re too hot at night, you can turn down the air conditioning, turn on a fan, or try some new cotton sheets that breathe better. The bottom line is that an uncomfortable bed will ruin what would otherwise be a great night’s sleep. Start here first.

 

Remember: When forming new habits or breaking old ones, the trick is to go slow. Instead of trying to change everything at once, focus on one thing at a time. This will help ensure that your new habits stick, and permanently become part of who you are.

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Breakfast in Bed – Peach Vodka Muffins

Post by Alison Hein.

I was planning on making muffins, and had picked up some local fragrant, ripe peaches for the job. While preparing my mise en place, I realized there was no milk in the fridge. Hmmm. What to do? And then I thought, vodka! After all, the most searched and viewed recipe on my food blog MixerUpper is Peach-Infused Vodka (http://mixerupper.com/2012/07/08/homemade-peach-infused-vodka/). And so I followed one of my favorite bits of cooking wisdom – when in doubt, use booze. 😉

Even though you can’t taste the vodka in the baked muffins, I like to think it added a deep smoothness to the batter. Be advised that one pound of fresh, juicy peaches is a lot, so the muffins will be slightly dense and moist at the base. If you like, sprinkle the muffin tops with cinnamon sugar before baking for a sweeter, spiced adaptation. Just don’t omit the vodka in your boozy, summery breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
4 to 5 ripe peaches, about 1 pound
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons vodka
1¾ cups white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream

Preparation
Peel, slice, and chop peaches*. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and vodka and mix well.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Combine dry ingredients with butter mixture. Stir in sour cream and mix gently until just smooth. Fold in peaches. Spoon into lined muffin tin and bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly on rack before removing muffins from tin.

*      To easily peel peaches, cut a small “x” in the bottom of the fruit. Carefully drop into boiling water and blanch for up to one minute. Remove peaches from pot and immerse in ice water. Peel off peach skin starting at the “x’. Slice peach by cutting lengthwise to the pit, and pulling slices away from pit. Chop slices into smaller pieces.

Makes 12 muffins.

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