Monthly Archives: December 2006

How to shop for a Memory Foam Mattress

Donncha is choosing a memory foam mattress. About ten months ago I purchased a foam mattress and it dramatically improved my sleep. It took me about a week to choose a mattress and the time was very well spent. Take your time! You’re going to spend years cradled in this piece of foam so you had better find a good one.

The big brand I saw everywhere was Tempur-Pedic. They are pricey so I bought a non-marketed brand foam mattress for about 40% less. It’s fantastic!

The salesman said the reason for the higher price is a more consistent foam density throughout the mattress. The cheaper ones tend to have harder/softer areas. My mattress has a firm side and a soft side and I consider that a perk. It’s like having two beds. :)

I did get the Tempur-Pedic brand anatomically conforming pillow and I was surprised to find that one of the corners is much more dense than the rest of the pillow. That corner doesn’t squish as readily under pressure. I didn’t return it because that corner is far from where I lay my head. Still, look out for that when you get your mattress and pillows.

Take your time when you go shopping for a mattress! You shouldn’t plunk down a bundle of money the first time you go into the store. Go in a few times in a week, preferably late in the day when you could use a nice lie-down. Wear loose clothing and remove your shoes. If you don’t plan on buying one of their pillows, bring your own.

Unlike spring and air mattresses, memory foam changes as it gradually reacts to your body heat. Spend at least a few minutes settling into every mattress you try. Relax on at least one sample from each firmness category. Try different brands. Take your time! Tell the salesperson to leave you alone so you can feel each one thoroughly. Try the kind with layers of varying densities. Try the most expensive and the cheapest. Try rolling over. If you like to cuddle in bed you should bring someone along. (I don’t know how friendly you should get with the help at your local mattress emporium.)

The mattress you used in the showroom will almost certainly not be the one you bring home. Ask to spend a few minutes on “your mattress” before you take delivery. They will tell you that the showroom mattresses have been broken in, therefore you should not expect identical performance from the brand new article. This is true but you should still be able to detect any major problems and potentially save yourself a hassle. (I didn’t do this, so I wound up with a mattress that has a firm side and a soft side. One man’s serendipity is another man’s hassle.)

The last bit of advice: get a good warranty. Sometimes the foam will develop a permanent depression. The warranty should specify the threshold of acceptable depression (maybe 2cm) and it should endure at least 10 years. They range to 20 years and beyond.

Happy shopping and remember to take your time!

Improv Roast Adventure

A couple of days ago I went to the store feeling more adventurous than usual. Let’s be clear about this: my idea of adventure in the kitchen is making something I’ve never made or never made well, which includes almost the entirety of makeable things. I would be perjured if I said it wouldn’t be an adventure to attempt a dinner of steak and steamed vegetables. Thinking about this now, I feel my pulse quicken. Adventure!

So, when I looked in my refrigerator and found a two-pound roast I went looking for my safari hat. What is this cut of meat? How do I make it edible? How do I make it delicious? All I knew about roasting fit into a single word: slow. What am I supposed to do with that?

Earlier this year as I browsed the shelves at my neighborhood Goodwill bookstore I recognized the title and author of a book: “Let’s Cook it Right” by Adelle Davis. This book has a copyright date of 1947 and it is very hard to find despite being a fantastic resource. It was probably consigned to history because it degrades women or something: “Every woman knows that heat rises and causes a cake to brown more quickly at the top of an oven than at the bottom.”

Anyway, I’m trying to finish this article before the roast is done so I will carry on with the story. I sought Mrs. Davis’ advice on the matter of roasting a roast. “To roast meat means to cook it with dry heat.” Wow, I didn’t know that. She goes on to discuss the mechanics of roasting in contrast with searing, steaming and frying. She teaches about the use of a thermometer and explains the need for a roasting rack.

I don’t have a thermometer or a roasting rack. I can make do without the thermometer (hadn’t mankind roasted things prior to the invention of the oven thermometer?) but I have just learned that a roast done in a pan cannot be said to be roasted. The meat should be brushed (I have no brush) with vegetable oil (I have oil) and set on a rack (I have no rack) where it will drip into a pan (I have pans and/or pan substitutes) but it must not sit in a pool of juice or contact a cooking surface. I guess that means I can’t simply put the roast in a pan.

With the oven pre-heated and the meat oiled, I wondered what I could use for a rack. Doesn’t an oven come with racks? Yeah, they stretch across the space in the oven and support things like cookie sheets. I could put the meat on one rack and the pan on a lower rack. This wouldn’t be good; the racks had not been cleaned and it would be awkward to use them and to clean them afterward. What else could work as a rack?

Coat hangers. Of course that was my first thought: I’d made an egg helicopter out of coat hangers and plastic wrap in the eleventh grade and it won the competition. Anything but coat hangers, please.

Guitar strings. I could suspend the roast in a net of steel wires tied to the rim of a pot. No, I didn’t have enough spare strings for that.

Almost ready to give up and chop the roast into very poor steaks for grilling or frying, I noticed my ample supply of clean silverware. Here was a solution: in a large saucepan, lay the roast across a deep bed of stainless steel forks. Problem solved!

My roast has been in the oven for an hour. It looks and smells wonderful on the outside but its internal temperature is anybody’s guess. I guess the route to tender meat is to turn down the heat and turn up the time. Meanwhile I’ve made a shopping list: roasting rack, oil brush, meat thermometer, oven thermometer, broiling pan, safari hat.

Fishing for Allure

Introduction

Everything begins with a word. This story began with a word and though it may be argued convincingly that the story rests upon a solid foundation of “Everything,” as begins the first sentence, yet truer still is the seniority and precedence of the title and, should we proceed without delusion to discover the impetus of this story, the word “allure” will be known as the first word of this story.

With a chill in my bones I sat down to my Typomatic mechanical writer and began to pedal. Electricity had been in short supply and during the third month of the seige it became apparent that the most valuable possessions in my storage room would be my bicycle frame and the alternator from the otherwise working urban scooter, a worthy steed but for its petroleum thirst, for which there would likely never be a cure.

Beneath my window of packing tape and glass shards harvested from neighboring alleys I could hear the impact of fists as they imparted damage into living bodies for whom this morning’s careless wandering would be their last. A feeling of comfort soaked through my body, defrosting my joints and warming my brain which, now defrosted, made the chilling realization of my own retracted and shriveled human sympathy and chased the feeling away.

What could such a frost-hearted writer improve in this world? Whose lot might his fork-tongued words improve? Toward what benefit could anyone apply the workings of this craven mind?

In an act of hopelessness more devoid of hope than the tiniest snowflake upon hearing of its condemnation to an afterlife, short though it may be, upon the burning steppes of Hell, I proceeded to bombard the assailants in the alley with the largest thing I could lift and hurl through the patchwork window: myself.