You need a chafing dish or fondue dish heated by alcohol lamp or equivalent (not a candle — it's not hot enough). Prepare small cubes of raw chicken, some raw fresh shrimp or scallops and other seafoods and meats that will cook (more or less) in three minutes, maximum. Also prepare chunks of such vegetables as broccoli tips, cauliflower tips, green beans, celery cut on the bias, Oriental style, tiny tender scallions, green onions, or other vegetables that will either cook quickly or at least taste all right if still raw. Fill the heated dish with pipinghot chicken broth and keep the flame alight. Arm your guests with chopsticks or fondue forks and invite them to choose from among the meat, vegetable and seafood chunks set out, separately, in serving dishes, along with soy sauce, hot mustard and other condiments you may fancy. For the beverage, try hot sake or cold white wine. Diners simply spear what they want, hold it in the simmering broth until it’s cooked, dip it into the condiments of their choice and murmur, "Mmmmmm — good!” The whole thing is called a Firepot. It’s pseudo-Oriental, but it’s just the snack to serve while impressing your guests with the Takemitsu recordings mentioned in item number 3. The chicken broth? Just make it from a package or can and bolster it with chicken bouillon cubes, adding water to taste.
Build a backyard skating rink
With this one, the name of the game is patience. And if you’re not willing to spend a little time outdoors on chilly evenings, forget it. But if you are, the whole family — and several dozen friends, relatives, neighbors and maybe yard-crashers — will thank you for your fortitude. Pick a level spot in the yard — the bigger the better. If there's a tree or two, don’t worry unless you’re intent on NHL-quality hockey. It’s best to wait for the first snowfall, but even cold, snowless weather will do. Since your outdoor tap is probably shut off by this time, hook the hose onto an indoor tap, such as the laundry-tub spout, and run the hose out through the basement window. Set the lawn sprinkler at its mistiest and put it to work on one patch of the chosen area, moving it about every half hour in mild weather, less frequently if the weather’s colder. Don’t be impatient. It will take three or four evenings of this treatment before you have even a base for your rink. What you’ll have by then is a rough bed of
snowlike, unskateable frozen matter. But not to worry. Spend the next two or three evenings building on that base with a coarser flow of water from the hose nozzle — played about by hand. Keep moving around, filling in holes, hollows and other rough spots. Finally, about a week after it all began, voilà! — you have a skateable rink that won’t likely need more than a little touching up with the hose for maybe an hour or so every week throughout the rest of the winter. (All this will likely retard the lawn’s growth next spring but won’t do it any real harm.) You don’t like standing outside for so long? But can you think of a better excuse to whip yourself up one of those mulled ales or hot toddies we suggest in item number 10? Now that we mention it, make it a double.
Dig Toru Takemitsu
If you’re wondering who—or what—Toru Takemitsu might be, you’re suffering from cultural lag. Takemitsu is the man who’s proving these days that while East is East and West is West, the twain can meet if they're strikingly and skillfully combined in symphonic compositions employing Western and traditional Japanese instruments. Seiji Ozawa, departing conductor of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, introduced Takemitsu’s music to Canadian audiences last year. Now you can hear the same performances on an LP called November Steps (RCA Victor LSC7051). What does it sound like? Well, words won’t really convey it, but here’s what the composer himself says about one effect: “The consummate sha-, kuhachi sound [is] the sound the wind makes when it blows through a decaying bamboo grove.” (Now there’s a sound you won’t hear in your average snow-covered Canadian backyard!) If you find his Steps have taken you along a fascinating new path, you’ll want to spring another $24 or so for the handsome four-record set, Works of Toru Takemitsu (Nivico SJV-1503-6). It’s a real coffee-table item, with lavish program notes in English and Japanese, and if that doesn’t impress your friends, memorize a few of Takemitsu’s McLuhanesque liner notes. Sample: “The sounds of Western music dispose themselves along a horizontal. The sounds of shakuhachi occur vertically, the way a tree grows.”
Make your own leather clothes Here’s a new hobby you can try that will keep you right in fashion. Major department stores are now
featuring a leather-like vinyl you can sew at home, using patterns out of standard pattern books. You can buy a variety of weights, textures and colors for prices ranging from $2.98 to $6.98 a yard (bolts are 54 or 58 inches). The vinyl comes bonded to cotton jersey or a slightly heavier cotton fabric. It’s not a material you can dry clean, but the outside will usually wipe clean, and the inside can be protected against soiling by spraying with a sanitizer. One caution: ask which vinyls are comparatively easy to sew; some are too hard for most home machines. But don’t worry about the unpleasant odor you’ll notice at first; it soon disappears.
Drive a snowmobile
If you have yet to climb onto a snowmobile, you belong to a fast-shrinking portion of the population. (There are 80,000 of the contraptions in Ontario alone.) And unless you simply can’t stand snow in any form, you really ought to try snowmobiling. It’s a lot more thrilling than skating and less hazardous than skiing. Mind you, it will cost you a few bucks, once you’re hooked. But most dealers will let you take a trial run for nothing or rent you a machine for an hour (around $5) or a weekend (about $75). Those rental rates are far steeper than you’d want to pay repeatedly, but the hourly rate is worth it once, to see how you like the sport. If you decide the plunge is permanent, it will cost you around $700 for the least-expensive machine (a Ski-Doo), about $180 for a car trailer and $25 and up each for snowmobile suits (a must out on those frozen lakes). Once equipped, you won’t need to log many miles before you’re ready to join a club and get in on a safari. With the right crowd (often 50 or more, sometimes in families) and the right food (cookouts are one of the big attractions) you’ll come back from a safari weekend feeling sorry for those friends of yours who fled south.
Establish a world record
World championship — if not fame — could be yours this winter. All you have to do is: 1. perform
7.501 situps in five hours, 55 minutes; 2. eat 49 raw eggs in 107 seconds; 3. shake hands with
12.501 people in 10'A hours; 4. rock continuously in a rocking chair for 93 hours, nine minutes,5. get married for the 17th time; or 6. spit a watermelon seed 28 feet, two inches. Go on — try; you can do it!
Take up yoga
Want to lose weight? Learn to relax? Or even just (as they say in the Serutan commercials) feel better all over? Try yoga, that time-tested Hindu system of mental discipline and muscular control that offers peaceful escape from Ulcerville. Start by letting your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages of your telephone directory; in most cities it’s listed under Yoga. No luck? Check adult-education offices. Rates vary widely; you can pay as little as six dollars a month for weekly one-hour sessions or as much as $70 for a 10-week package of three two-hour sessions a week. No classes in your town? Learn it from a book. One good how-to title: Yoga, by Ernest Wood (Penguin, 1962).
If you join a class, don’t be surprised if your teacher doesn’t look like a real guru. Not all yoga teachers are yogis, and not all yogis are Hindus. Our information came mostly from a yogi named Schmielewski.
Learn witchcraft, or maybe Ojibway
The lists of adult-education courses offered every winter in most major cities have grown so long they’re tedious ("Mushroom appreciation for the advanced amateur”). But here are three tips to get you started thinking:
1. If you want to be "in” this winter, take speed reading. It's the rage. The Evelyn Wood method, the most widely promoted of the commercial courses, is also the most expensive ($175 for eight weekly lessons), but successful students really do end up reading, and comprehending, 3,000 words a minute. Less-expensive courses (many around $40) promise less (a rate of 1,000 words a minute) but even that would probably be a vast improvement for you (most of us read about 300 words a minute).
2. If you want to be far out this winter, learn Ojibway. That’s possible this season if you're within reach of the University of Toronto.
3. If you want to be one-up on that sister-in-law of yours who claims to be psychic, study witchcraft. That's possible if you live in Scarborough, Ont., where the Centennial Community College is sponsoring a 10-week night course listed as: “Occult Science: a speculative survey of witchcraft, magic, alchemy, sorcery, vampirism and lycanthropy [that’s the werewolf bit].” Lecturer Frank Thayer has said (a little too defensively, we thought): "I don’t associate with the sort of people who believe
they are witches. However, I have a healthy respect for the power of witchcraft — both for good and evil." Or why not just spend those long winter evenings imagining what Thayer’s pupils are doing as homework?
Treat your dog to an obedience course
"There are no problem dogs,” one kennel-club director assured us recently in the tone social workers commonly reserve for juvenile delinquents, "only problem handlers.” So it’s your fault if your Fido’s cleverest trick is chasing cars or dining on fricassee of frightened postman. Feel appropriately guilty? Then enroll in an obedience course. Ostensibly, it’s your dog that’s to be taught; actually, it’s you who’ll be taught, and what you’ll' learn is dog psychology. Your dog should be at least six months old. In a typical course for novices (that’s you) you’ll learn how to make Fido obey such commands as “Stay” and "Down” from 30 feet away, heel on a lead, walk a figure eight at your side in a crowd, stand still for examination by a stranger (your vet will love you for it) and come when called. Ten weeks at an hour a week will probably cost $15 to $25. Don’t apply to just any trainer — find a good one, through a trusted veterinarian, a local kennel club or the Canadian Kennel Club, 1173 Bay Street, Toronto, which has a list of obedience clubs for the asking. As our friend the kennel-club director saysr “An obedient dog is a happy dog because it knows its place in society.” You should be so lucky.
Mix yourself a fancy drink
What better way to take your mind off the snow outside than attempting to ignite the contents of an ale stein with a red-hot poker? Simply pour a bottle of ale into a stein, heat a poker red hot, plunge it into the ale and hold it there for a minute or two. Then add a dash of Tabasco and a dash of ground ginger — and, sköl! You prefer hard liquor? Then how about a hot toddy? Pour IV2 ounces of Scotch, rum, rye or brandy into an Old Fashioned glass. Add two ounces of very hot (not quite boiling) water, half an ounce of lemon juice, half an ounce of honey and two or three cloves. Stir slightly and float a pat of butter on top. You don’t like the taste of liquor? Then pour IV2 ounces of vodka into a 10ounce glass. Add two or three cloves and a dash of Tabasco sauce. Fill the glass with hot ginger beer and stir slightly.
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