Friday, August 31, 2012

Beat the Heat Week


We've reached the end of summer!  …or the beginning of Indian Summer…  Either way, it's that special time of year when you don't need to turn on the hot water because the cold water somehow never gets cold.  I'm not quite sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with how flippin hot it's been!

Seeing that this new heat wave might not just be a "wave," but the new "norm" for our lives, and that we actually might be somewhat responsible for it, I decided to spend this last week trying to stay cool in other ways besides cranking up the air conditioning and creating even more greenhouse gases. 

So here, in no particular order, are a few of my theories and experiences (both efficient and not) that formed what I'm calling "Beat the Heat Week."

WASHING YOUR CAR

Washing your car is a great way to escape the summer heat.  Not because you naturally cool down while sudsing your sedan, but because it's basically law that when you wash your car, it will almost always rain afterwards. 

It happened to me last week!  And as counter productive as it sounds, I assure you the little bit of heat relief is totally worth the fact that your dirty black car is right back where it started.

NO T, LOTS OF SHADE

Unless you're living in 90% humidity, the best way to avoid the heat is still by finding some shade.  I spent an afternoon sitting under a tree in a park, for example.  Also, don't be afraid to cover up when you're in the sun.  Protecting your body by shading yourself is a great way to stay comfortable.

Which brings up a question I had last week… Whatever happened to umbrellas?  I'm talking old fashioned, Hello Dolly! umbrellas and parasols?  It seems like a good idea.  You are literally carrying around your shade with you!  

I think we need to bring them back.  The next time I'm driving down Santa Monica Blvd, I want to see the sidewalks decorated with people carrying around their shade.  Who knows, they might just become the new old "must have" accessory.

HOMEMADE POPSICLES

I made homemade popsicles last week using molds I found at the grocery store and different flavored coconut waters.  I thought it would be a great idea for a mid day treat that was still hydrating and healthy.  They turned out pretty good.  (Take a look at the double decker one I made by freezing the juices in increments.)  Just keep in mind that when you eat something that's frozen, your taste buds get a little numb and insensitive, which is probably why "real" popsicles have so much sugar in them.

COMMUNAL AIR CONDITIONING

When you're attempting to erase your carbon footprint by NOT blasting the air conditioner on a hot, summer afternoon, there's something very important you can remember. "Just because you're not blasting your air conditioner doesn't mean someone else isn't blasting theirs."


In other words, there is no reason to go to the movies at night in the summer.  Theatres are always nice and chilly and ready to charge you less for a matinee, so take advantage of it!  (I must admit, it was a little difficult to find a movie I wanted to see, but I made it happen…)  The same goes for all kinds of shopping and eating.  Get out of the house, and enjoy one of the perks of capitalism: communal air conditioning!

SLOW YOUR PULSE

Did you know there are certain areas on your body called "pulse points?"  They are places where your blood runs closest to the skin, thereby making it simple to take your pulse.

The five main pulse point areas are:
  • Carotid- side of the neck
  • Radial- the wrist
  • Femoral- near the groin
  • Pedal- on the foot
  • Brachial- at the inside of the elbow or under the shoulder

Cooling these areas is an effective way to give your overheated body a quick cool down.  Try keeping some "accessories" in the freezer to cool down your neck and wrists.  Freeze a bottle of water and set it in your lap while you're sitting on the couch.  And my personal favorite, if you're feeling depleted, soak your feet in some cold water.  These will all give immediate relief by cooling the blood that's circulating throughout your body.

BREATHE EASIER

 OK, so this one isn't necessarily a way to cool down, but it sure is good moral support.  Indoor plants do a lot of things for us.  They create oxygen, making it easier to breathe, and they bring life into a room, which help us to feel a little less stale when stuck at work.

NASA recently released a list of air purifying plants that not only do all of the above, but also literally purify the air of toxins.  If you are feeling miserable at work during the summer heat, take a look at bringing in some of these natural wonders.  10 Fabulous Houseplants

What I find really hopeful about "beating the heat" is that we're all in it together.  Weather is no respecter of persons.  If it's 100 degrees outside, then it's 100 degrees outside for everyone.

This is especially important when temperatures start to make our blood boil.  Everyone is in the same boat.  We all feel sticky and uncomfortable, and there's no reason to yell at each other.

On the contrary, these are the moments we should take a look at our neighbors or fellow pedestrians and smile, recognizing that with our shiny foreheads and shirts with pit stains, we're all "beating the heat" together. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Week- August 2012


A few years back, I was rehearsing a production of Godspell in a dance studio near Palm Springs.  It was early September, the summer heat hadn't died down, and because the studio was not only air conditioner-less but covered with an aluminum roof, I felt like I was dancing in an Easy Bake Oven.

There was one particular "day by day" that the blistering temperatures inside the studio got so bad, our little production of Godspell started to feel more like "Hellspell."  In response, the producer thoughtfully brought in some fans and blocks of ice in hopes of creating an old school air conditioner.  Unfortunately, all the invention did was make a really big puddle in the front of the room.  Still, I couldn't help but applaud the ingenuity of it all, particularly since we each got a gift card after that rehearsal to a local frozen yogurt shop.  "Bless the Lord, my soul" indeed!

Fast forward to 2012.  According to a report from the National Climatic Data Center, the past 12 months in the United States have been the warmest since record keeping began in 1895.  If this is how things are going to be for a while, then we need to get creative in our ways of staying cool.  More creative, that is, than sitting in front of a fan and a block of ice…  

Cue "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week."

For the next seven days, I'm going to explore the art of "staying cool."  Back home in Utah, that usually just means going downstairs to the basement that's always magically fifteen degrees cooler than the rest of the house.  But for those of us living without that luxury, or who want to do something besides hide in a basement, I'm going to strive to find ways to make hot days feel more like biting into a York peppermint patty.  Actually, that's not a bad idea…

So stay cool this week friends!  And if you don't, then come back next week to find out how.


View the results of Beat the Heat Week

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mayan Chocolate Cream Pie


I have two rules about JELL-O pudding:

#1- The "Instant" kind is garbage.  It's "Cook & Serve" or nothing.

#2- Though delicious, it does NOT belong in a pie crust.

Simple, right?  And yet, most chocolate pies out there generally surrender to the little store bought boxes of magic mentioned above.  So, I recently took it upon myself to find a really "kickin" chocolate pie recipe that does NOT require JELL-O Pudding (Cook & Serve, or otherwise).

What I ended up finding is a rather unconventional recipe, thanks to vanillacarrots.com, that turned out better than almost any other pie I've ever made.  It is rich, and creamy, and when you taste it for the first time, you will say something like, "Oh.  Ohhhhh!"



Mayan Chocolate Cream Pie
  
Ingredients-


FILLING

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

2 large egg yolks, beaten

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

TOPPING

1½ cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 baked pie crust

Method-
Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan. Add milk and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat stirring with a whisk until mixture thickens. Turn off the heat and whisk in the chocolate and cream cheese. Add cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Whisk until blended. Cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar to the whipped cream. Add 1 cup to the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to blend.

Pour into the pie crust. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top of the pie and sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill six hours.



Now, I know, you're probably thinking, "Looks good.  I'll try it.  But without the cayenne pepper."  If that's the case, I must tell you,

"Noooooooo!!!"

You must try it WITH the cayenne pepper!  Part of the pie's decadence is that "bite" that comes towards the end of tasting the chocolate.  I promise the cayenne doesn't make your dessert taste like salsa; it just adds a little heat, and that heat somehow makes the chocolate taste better. 

If you'd like, you can follow what I did and lower the cayenne in the recipe to ¼ tsp.  A little goes a long way, and you can still get the desired result with half the amount.  Either way, you will not be sorry, and your tummy will thank you more than you might realize...  You see, cayenne pepper actually promotes good digestion.  And like I always dream of saying, what better way to promote good digestion then by eating dessert.  J


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Funny Females- Class of 2012

Who are your favorites?

There are few things I enjoy as much as funny females.  Maybe it's because as a teenager, every Saturday night was ruled by the women of Saturday Night Live.  Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Ana Gesteyer, Tina Fey: those were the comedy all stars of my high school experience.

Unfortunately it's taken quite awhile for the rest of the nation to catch up to "the wisdom of my adolescence," but thanks to the mega hit film Bridesmaids last year, I think the ridiculous question of whether or not women can be funny has finally been laid to rest alongside the earth being flat and sandals with socks.

So in honor of all the funny females who continually make me laugh, I want to give a shout out to a few of the new ones who are currently enjoying a great year in comedy.  They are names that you may not know, but you definitely should, and ultimately will.

Rebel Wilson

Though making a splash with only two scenes in last year's Bridesmaids and following that up with six (you counted right, six!) films in 2012, Rebel Wilson is still mainly known by American audiences as "the funny, fat British girl."  

This is due, in part, to the fact that movie studios continue to make her the star of every movie trailer in which she appears (thanks to her ability to get a laugh out of every line she has) but refuse to show her name in the process.

So here it is.  REBEL WILSON!  That's her name, and she's actually Australian.  Take a look at how she single handedly makes the upcoming film Pitch Perfect, look like something far more entertaining than its premise lets on. 



Emily Mortimer

Emily Mortimer isn't new to comedy.  Her memorable turns on 30 Rock and in films like My Idiot Brother have demonstrated her abilities as an actress with a dry wit.

But her work on the new HBO series The Newsroom has brought her talent to a whole new level.  Who knew this swan-like British actress could be so warm, lovable, and funny?  Maybe her husband...?

In The Newsroom, not only does Aaron Sorkin's perpetually dense dialogue pour out of her mouth with ease, but it does so without making her seem elitist.  And in a show like The Newsroom that's meant to be an idealistic view of the news elite, that's no small accomplishment.

Forever in a balancing act of Peabody awards, fervent optimism, and complete lack of office emailing skills, her Mackenzie proves to be one of the most vibrant characters on the show.    

video

Stacey Oristano

Set in and around a dance studio in the small fictional town of Paradise, ABC Family's newest show Bunheads comes from creator Amy Sherman Palladino (Gilmore Girls), and carries with it the fast paced dialogue that has become her hallmark, packed with heart and a whole lot of snark.  But it took me two complete viewings of the first episode before I realized where I had previously seen the town misfit Truly. 

I used to enjoy Stacey Oristano on the brilliant show Friday Night Lights in which she played a small town Texas housewife and pole dancer with a heart of... definitely not gold... aluminum?

Anyway.  On Bunheads, she's rid of the trailer park, and has in its place, a clothing store by the name of Sparkles.  Just as quirky as it sounds, her performance is filled with self doubt that often serves as a scene stealing contrast to the sharp intelligence of the other characters.

See how she manages to finagle her way into the birthday plans of her nemesis Michelle (Sutton Foster) in a recent episode.

video


So here's a question:  Who are YOUR favorite funny females right now?  Amy Poehler?  Zooey Deschanel?  Lena Dunham?  Leave a comment and share your favorites!


To see the videos of these funny females, make sure to visit the blog at http://www.jeffreyscottparsons.com/2012/08/funny-females-class-of-2012.html

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And The Ban Played On



There's been a lot of talk about bans lately.



No, not those.



Not that either.



That's the one.


All over the country, Americans are fiercely exercising their 1st Amendment muscles debating the things they think should and shouldn't be banned.  And good for them!  What's great about this country is we can have an open dialogue about pretty much anything we want.

But before that dialogue goes any further, I think we should all take a moment to sheathe our tongue shaped swords and reflect on what we've already learned about "banning" from history.  That way we can avoid looking foolish later on.  Then, after we've taken this moment, we can all go back to supporting or protesting the sale of chicken sandwiches.

So without further adieu, here are a few entertaining bans from human history, both recent and not:

  • Last year, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority decided to ban "glazed donut" from being texted on cell phones.  It was one of 1700 words deemed "offensive and obscene."  Also on the list, "Monkey Crotch."
  • California law currently bans vehicles from going faster than 60 mph when they don't have a driver.
  • In 1927, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) sent out a formal ban of images that should be avoided in future movies.  Among them: "White Slavery."  Not among them: "all other kinds of slavery." 
  • In the 1980s, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu called the board game Scrabble "overly intellectual" and promptly banned it from his nation.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think all bans are terrible.  In Boulder, Colorado, for example, they were able to ban sofas from being stored on front porches.  How amazing is that?!  I think we can all agree that was tax dollars well spent, particularly if you've ever visited small midwestern towns or frat houses.

I also came across a list of notable authors whose books have, at some point, somewhere, by someone been banned from libraries, schools, and/or communities.  Some of them include:

Maya Angelou
Aristophanes
Ray Bradbury
Lewis Carrol
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Anne Frank
Ernest Hemingway
James Joyce
Thomas Paine
William Shakespeare
George Bernard Shaw
John Steinbeck
J.R.R. Tolkien
Mark Twain

This clearly shows that banning isn't that bad.  I mean, if these brilliant authors have each been banned at some point, then there's gotta be something to it.  Maybe bans let us know when we're on the cusp of something great.  After all, history shows an idea is never really that new until it makes somebody mad.

So don't get discouraged, America!  We may all have different opinions, but we're not that different.  We can absolutely figure out what we want and what we don't.  And until we do, we just have to keep a healthy perspective on bans, which in turn, always lead to open minds and clean porches.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The First 10,000

There are certain milestones in my life that always seem rather anticlimactic.  Take New Year's Eve, for example.  Doesn't it make much more sense to start out the new year with a good night's sleep rather than a countdown hosted by Ryan Seacrest?


And yet when I saw last week that the JSP Blog had passed the 10,000 visitors mark, I'll admit I got pretty darn excited. 

Probably because getting to this point has been no small feat.  I try to write about themes that are universal, but I also know that what I've ended up with are blog posts that are 100% me.  So I can't be all that surprised when millions of people haven't flocked to their computers to read about things like my irrational fear of Tom Stoppard.

Still, I'm proud of the work I've done, and I'm very grateful to those who have read it, so I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize a few that have made this first 10,000 not only possible, but also so very rewarding.

First up: Anjelica Huston

January 2012 marked the blog debut of "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week," a monthly, two part series that introduces a themed task that I really don't have to do, but have always wanted an excuse to complete. Then, after seven days, I report on said task with my typical fire & music and post it for the world to read!

My first "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" was dedicated to the films of Anjelica Huston.  Why?  Because there's nothing more awesome than random specificity. 

So over seven days I tracked down and watched eight of Lady Anjie's movies that I previously hadn't seen (which is actually harder than it sounds) and managed to learn something new about myself in the process.

While I figured that Anjelica Huston Week would be really fun, I had no idea it would receive the kind of response it did.  I knew Ms Huston was reentering the spotlight with her role on the NBC show "Smash," but who knew so many people would be as interested in her movies as I was that week. 

So thank you, Anjelica Huston.  It's because of you and your ethnic sounding first name that I have continued "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" every month since then. Without it, I may have never interviewed the LA Parking Enforcement, attended a Cardio Barre class, done my laundry before 7 AM, downed eight bottles of soda in one evening, fought the American obesity epidemic, jumped out of a plane, or reached my first 10,000.  

Next up: Accidental Googlers

One of the unhealthy addictions that having your own blog can lead to is looking through the traffic patterns of how people find your blog in the first place.  Sometimes it's through Facebook and Twitter accounts; other times it's not.  And right now, I'd like to thank some of the "nots."

To all the "Accidental Googlers" out there whose visits, though misguided, have still added to the 10,000 visits, I thank you.

Without you, my post What to Expect When You're Expecting would have never received the additional views it did when the three of you that actually wanted to see the movie of the same name googled its title.

My ode to Persian ice cream Eating Perfume would have been visited by one less person if one of you hadn't googled the words "eating perfume poison."  However, I hope that doesn't mean whoever it was had, in fact, eaten perfume, or worse had a child that did so, and decided to read my blog instead of calling 911.

But the Best (and Worst) "Accidental Googler" Award goes to the person out there who found my post 5 Things That Make Me A White Guy (which pokes fun at my own race) by googling the words "things to make me whiter."

Now while this is quite humorous, it also made me kind of sad to think that one of you was sitting behind a computer somewhere searching for ways to become "whiter."  Which is why I have decided to say something to this particular individual: 

Dear Not-So-White Ma'm, Sir, and/or Anything in Between:

Hi there. You recently visited my blog after googling the words "things to make me whiter," and I felt the need to respond to you seeing that my blog post probably didn't help you out very much.

I want to tell you that you do NOT need to be any whiter.  Trust me, there are enough of us out there.  I know the Summer Olympics are on right now, and it may seem like we're a little outnumbered, but just wait another couple years until the Winter Olympics, and then you'll see… 

I know it's hard.  Maybe you feel like your skin color doesn't match your insides.  Is that the case?  If so, I ask you, does the outside of an Oreo cookie match its filling?  No, I say to you, it does NOT!  And yet it is still delicious, with or without milk.

So I ask you to be strong, good earthling.  Be yourself, and if that's not good enough, then be Barack Obama.  But don't just settle.  We are all exactly the shade of special that God painted us.  Keep reaching for the stars.  I gotta go get a spray tan.

Sincerely,
JSP

Finally: Thank YOU!

I'm serious.  Thank you!!  If this is your first time visiting the blog, then welcome!  I hope you visit often and leave feeling even better than when you arrived.

And if you've been here before, whether to read about Gymania or Hate Cookies or any of the tracks from the 2011 Album, then you deserve more than a thank you.  You deserve my love, and I freely give it to you. 

This is the JSP Blog.  Stay awhile. 
And Happy Reading!