Cooling Off In The Summer Heat

It's beginning to feel like summer here in Philadelphia. If the heat does not get you, the humidity certainly will! I've recently discovered a couple of things that help to keep me cool and comfortable. These will also work for you, even if you do not live here in the city.

The most incredible discovery happened just a few days ago. My daughter and I were watching TV in my one window, no cross ventilation bedroom, and the heat was unbearable. (I've since put my air conditioner in, but this was a couple of days before that.) I knew there was no way that I was going to sleep that night. I was moaning and groaning, and my brilliant daughter suggested that I fill up my hot water bottle with cold water. I've been using a hot water bottle every night for a very painful frozen shoulder, and the heat works wonders for me. It was laying there in the bed, beckoning me to fill it up with cold H2O. It was so amazing! I cuddled with it, and held it in the bend of my arm. I kid you not … it instantly cooled me off! I held it to my feet, my tummy, my inner arms and thighs, and even my hands appreciated the coldness. As usual, I found the sound of the slushing water to be comforting, as well. Hot water bottles can be found at most pharmacies, and generally cost $ 10- $ 15. Buy one, or buy many, and keep them on hand to cool you down during the hotter days of summer. In the winter, they'll keep you warm and help to relieve achy joints, belly aches, cramps, and sometimes, heartburn.

There are a couple of other things that I've been doing so far this season. It's things that I've known to do for a long time, and I have done so a little in the past. However, I have been faithfully remembering to put my wrists under very cold running water to almost instantly give me relief and lower my level of discomfort. I've also been splashing my face with very cold water and holding cold, wet paper towels against the back of my neck and chest. Simple enough, yet it only works if you actually do it! I've given up on any delusions of keeping sunscreen on my face, as it only makes me sweat and horribly irritates my skin, but that's another story. It's worked to my advantage-not wearing sunscreen the last three years-because now I instantly splash my face with cold water, having no reason to fear getting sunscreen in my eyes. (I have taken to wearing some rather goofy looking sunhats.)

To remain more comfortable during the heat, everyone knows to keep well hydrated. To make water more appealing, add sliced ​​or cut up fruit to an empty water container (glass looks very attractive), and fill it with water. Put this in the fridge and fill it up as the container empties. You can use strawberries, lemons, limes, apples, nectarines, pears, watermelon, cucumbers, or a combination of any of these. You can use any fruit that you'd like. You can also add fresh mint leaves, if desired. It's amazing how flavorful the water becomes. It's refreshing, and it encourages you to stay hydrated.

Do not forget how hydrating fruits can be! If you eat a fair amount of fruit throughout the day, it all adds up. Frozen fruit will cool you right down, and it tastes almost as good as ice cream. Here are some ways to prepare, and eat, frozen fruits:

• Frozen grapes – although grapes are really a winter fruit, and not nearly as tasty during the summer, freezing them during the hotter months is an interesting way to enjoy them. Fill up a zip-lock bag or container with whole, clean, and dried grapes, and put the container into the freezer. That's it. When they're frozen, you can eat them just as they are. They can also be added to smoothies.

• Sorbets and slushies – use any frozen fruit of your choosing. You can buy bags of frozen fruits, or freeze your own. (Cut fruit-melons, pineapples, etc.-into chunks and freeze in containers or zip lock bags.) Add desired amount of frozen fruit to a blender or Vitamix container, and add water or your favorite milk- cow, almond, coconut, Egypt rice. The amount of liquid that you add will determine the consistency, which can range from a thick sorbet to a drinkable slushie. Sweeten, as desired. If the fruit is very sweet, you may not need any sweetener at all. If you do choose to sweeten it, start with a very small amount, and taste it before you add more.

• Mock Chunky Monkey Ice Cream – This is a healthy version of a Ben & Jerry's classic. Mash some bananas, and add walnut pieces and chocolate chips, and freeze. That's it!

• Frozen fruit with milk – put desired amount of frozen fruit (pineapple, mango, blueberries, etc.) into a small bowl, and pour your favorite milk on top.

• Smoothies made with lots of frozen fruit – I sometimes make my smoothies this way, and it feels more like a milkshake.

Remember to eat cooling foods like cucumbers, mint, and yogurt, and wear loose and comfortable clothing. Also, keep a little bag of ice handy in your freezer (zip-lock bag or a small bag of frozen corn or peas) to place on your forehead or under your feet. If you're sitting up in a chair, put the bag on the floor and put your bare feet on top of it. The cold "hot" water bag will also do the trick.

These are just a few suggestions to keep you comfortable, happy, and healthy during the summer months. Have fun, and keep cool!