21 June 2011

hot child in the city

Happy First Day of Summer!!!  Though it was a perfectly lovely day today, as it wraps up there's no doubt in my mind that it's going to get hot this season.  In the city, where the burning sun radiates and reflects off of glassy, mirrored high rises, breezes from the surrounding rivers are blocked by buildings, hot steam pours from every subway grate, and the concrete jungle turns into a crowded desert, summertime can be tough.  Especially when living in a railroad apartment in Brooklyn with one window unit circulating the stagnant warmth.  I've mentioned before how nice the cross breeze in my narrow space is, but when the heat and humidity reach their seasonal peak, the cool breeze becomes hot and sticky leading me to take drastic measures to beat the heat.  Here, my top ten tips (in no particular order) for keeping cool (and staying on a budget) over the next couple of brutal months -

1. A quick fix to help when the heat is so close and sticky that sleep seems unattainable and you just end up tossing and turning, a sweaty mess all night - keep your sheets in the freezer.  I'm not even joking.  If it's unbearably hot and I know it will stay that way through the night, I put my sheets in a bag and toss them in the freezer for a few hours before bed.  As soon as you're ready to hit the sack, unfurl the frozen fabric, lay it out on the bed, and jump in quick.  It only lasts for a little while, but boy is it refreshing.  Other bedtime tips: keep some scented water in the fridge (lavender, rose, soothing scents) and spritz your pillow before your head hits it for some cool comfort.  Or camp in; we all know hot air rises, so set up a bed on the floor or blow up that air mattress and have a low to the ground indoor camp out.

2. Fill your freezer with ice pops.  Whether they're popsicles, Italian ices, fla-vor-ice, or Otter pops, they come in infinite flavors and are perfect when it's too hot to even think about eating a full meal.  Me and my honey probably go through at least fifty boxes of pops each season.  They're cheap and refreshing... perfect!

3. Head someplace with glorious central air.  True, you get bursts and blasts of the chilly goodness as shop doors open and close while you walk down the street, but that's just a tease.  Head somewhere that permits extended stays and is cheap/free and comfortable.  Try the public library and catch up on your summer reading list.  A bookstore works too, but I'd be a bad librarian if I didn't send you off to support your local branch.  Or how about catching a matinee at the theater, movie or Broadway.  Tickets are cheaper in the middle of the day and that gets you at least 2-3 hours of ac so cold you may even need a sweater.  While your brain is hot and spongy, fill it with beauty at any of the billion museums and galleries around town - you can sit and thoughtfully stare at a painting for hours and no one will question you (this is especially awesome if you are skilled at sleeping with your eyes open; ah the summer siesta.)  How about one of my favorite places - the grocery store!  Totally free and super cold and you can take your time wandering up and down the aisles without having to buy anything.  There's also the added bonus of getting some great ideas for new recipes or meal creations.  Just mind the age-old adage and don't go in hungry or your free chillout could get pricey!

4. Not my favorite, but I'll toss it out there for my honey's sake - ice baths and cold showers.  Lay in a tub full of chilly water or let the frozen beads fall down your back and you will be instantly awoken from the humid weather slump.  Put on a bathing suit and splash around in your bathtub... this is NYC, make your own pool!

5. Are water parks more your thing?  Try the fountain at Washington Square Park.  You can wade in it and it's all splashy.   It's like a little oasis in the middle of the bustling Village.  The liveliness of the park alone is enough with it's abundance of musicians and performers alongside squealing children and somber students, but the coolness of the fountain, the ultimate urban pool, truly makes this park a perfect destination on a hot summer day.

6. $1 paper fans from Pearl River.  A blessing on the subway platform, at outdoor markets, or while just sitting on your stoop.  These fans cost a dollar.  Need I say more?

7. Use fresh mint in everything!  I've mentioned before that I love to crush it up and put it ice cubes, but try putting fresh leaves in iced tea, water, lemonade, anything.  For the grownups, mojitos, minty white wine, caipirinhas... a few of these might make you forget the heat completely.  Try tearing up a few leaves and tossing them into a green salad, fruit salad or yogurt.  Mix it with your favorite sorbet or ice cream to crush that sweet tooth.  How about a minty pesto over cold pasta?  The refreshing coolness of fresh mint is so versatile and really does chill you from the inside out and leaves you with a freshness that could otherwise get lost pretty easily in the heat.  Even just gnawing on a few leaves will give you chills, just be sure to check your teeth before flashing too many smiles.

8. Freeze your fruit.  Frozen fruit tastes like candy.  Growing up, one of my favorite things to snack on was frozen grapes.  As I've gotten older, my tastes have grown and every summer I enjoy frozen melons, berries, and cherries.  And with all of these frozen treats in your freezer, sorbets and smoothies are a snap.  Add a bit of yogurt, honey and fresh herbs in a blender and breakfast is served.  Or dessert!

9. Go down the shore.  This isn't the Caribbean so the ocean is always chilly and there's rarely a still day at the beach so even if you don't take a dip, you can enjoy the breezy sea mist.  I like to ride to the beach, getting super hot and sweaty and then running into the water.  It's instantly refreshing and cooling.  And there are tons of free beaches all over NYC and the surrounding areas.  Take a retro trip to Coney Island and eat hotdogs and ride the Wonder Wheel.  Head out to desolate Rockaway to watch the surfers and the low-flying planes from nearby JFK.  If you want to feel like you're on vacation, you could head down to the Jersey Shore (there's a lot of it and not all of it is as bad as MTV makes it out to be,) or out to Long Island for a classy, Gatsby-esque affair.  If you're not up for the long and strenuous bike ride out to the beach, take the train.  It's air conditioned and cheap and takes at least an hour.

10. When bumping into sweaty tourists on the street gets to be way too much, get the heck out of town!  When a trip to the beach isn't enough, Club Matos is my destination oasis.  This remote little spot in Central New Jersey is just a 45 minute train ride away on the Northeast Corridor.  Your all-inclusive stay includes central air, premium cable tv, an in-ground pool, commercial-free radio, nature walks, laundry service, free car rentals, and a hammock.  Enjoy a bike ride along the canal or a trip to one of the many shopping destinations before sunbathing or taking a dip in the pool (but no diving allowed!)  Grill master Dave will keep your belly full of burgers and dogs while expert mixologist Lizzie B never lets your glass hit half-empty.  And be prepared for loads of free entertainment from the likes of Peanut and the Gang, the Burchnall Club, Random Neighborhood Kids, and everyone's favorite wacky duo, Alex&Kevin!  This summer, I definitely plan on trading in the sirens and super-loud radios for the soothing sounds of crickets and, well that's really all you hear out there in my little slice of Paradise.

Have a happy Summer and stay cool, kids!

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