Three Words: Too Dang Hot

I was at a computer store the other day buying a USB hub, a transaction that didn't take terribly long, but the television running in the background broke in twice with news flashes about bombs falling in the Middle East and about a record heat wave wreaking havoc coast to coast. It turned an ordinary trip to get a part into a surreal experience where I felt that I was living in a bad science fiction story and I expected a burning ball to streak across the sky, igniting the hair of bystanders who would run aimlessly back and forth screaming. Of course that didn't happen but this summer has been so hot that something like that feels inevitable. Add in blackouts, brownouts, and my own bête noire, a broken air conditioner and escape becomes imperative. If we can't quite swing that trip to Antarctica then we've got to find something a little closer to home to do that's almost as cool and refreshing.

Take a swim. The obvious first choice of excellent activities when it's so hot the mercury has actually burst out of your thermometer is to go swimming. Last year I wrote two columns about great places to swim, one focusing on natural swimming holes and one on water parks. You can still access those columns which means you can be cooling off later today and all through the weekend, or even the entire remainder of the summer.

Cool off from the inside out. Eating cold food can do more than just thrill your taste buds, it can also cool you off. The key here is to think creatively. Sure there are the summer favorites of snow cones, ice cream, Popsicles and the ever tasty orange sherbet but we can go beyond even those delights. The buzz is that summer produce is particularly excellent this year and I can certainly verify that the peaches and sugar baby watermelons in my area are almost too good to be real. I have never in my life tasted peaches as good as this year's local crop. I rate them a strong buy. The watermelons are also deluxe and if you refrigerate before opening you may just pass out from the sheer pleasure of enjoying them. If you're craving home-made sorbet you'll like this website, featuring a stuffed monkey that demonstrates how to make deluxe sorbet using juice, rock salt, and a couple of zip lock bags. You also need ice cubes but you don't need electricity so you can make it when the electric is out, so long as your ice hasn't yet melted.

Go to the movies. Or the library. Or the mall. Or a bookstore. The destination is not so important as certain key elements. Is there air conditioning? Does it work? Is there a comfortable place to sit and relax? In an ideal world you're also going to be able to partake of a cool, refreshing beverage. You may want to hit the theaters to see Miami Vice, opening today amidst a large buzz. The rumors are that the set was plagued with troubles (possibly unsafe filming conditions, squabbling stars, and Colin Farrell heading to rehab as soon as the film wrapped.) Was director Michael Mann (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans) able to create a compelling film despite these problems? I don't know but if it turns out to be a sprawling incomprehensible mess, well at least you'll be cool and comfortable.

Take a cold bath and read an excellent book. You can cool off surprisingly well if you take a cool bath. If you have an interesting book you can spend an entire evening in the bath and emerge wonderfully refreshed. I just finished a terrific novel by Robert McCammon called Speaks the Nightbird. It's a mystery set in the Carolinas in the year of 1699. A young clerk called Matthew accompanies his master the magistrate to a small town to assist in the trial of a witch. Matthew has a bright and curious mind and is enthralled by the testimony he hears and he sets about trying to unravel the mystery and find the truth behind the strange happenings haunting the settlement. McCammon does a beautiful job with this book, balancing what we know today about how the world, science and medicine works with the way that Matthew would have understood illness, hypnotism, arson and other puzzles he wasn't equipped to really comprehend. Be sure to pick up both volumes of this book at once because when you get to the end of the first book you won't want to have to wait to find out what happens in the second.

This week we have a one-sentence review from Nelluc, who is reviewing Rachel Ray's show on the Food Network called $40 a Day. Nelluc says, "Learn to tip, woman!" Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at and I'll run the best ones. You may focus on just about anything that fits a family entertainment format; games, movies, books, music - the sky is the limit.