The vegetarian way to stay warm this winter for just a few dollars (hint: it involves barley, of all things!)

Years ago, I wrote an article (for a newspaper, not for this blog) about Aveda gift packages. One of the products they sent me to test included a cherry pit neck wrap.

It was brilliant. Totally brilliant. I just popped it into the microwave for a minute or so and had a nice, toasty wrap.

I loved that damn thing. I loved it right up to the day the washing machine ripped the cover a new one and the replacement cover I made burst into some truly spectacular flames in the microwave and I had to throw the whole mess into the garbage.

But then, thanks to the Internet and my local Whole Foods health food store, I came up with a replacement that cost less than a few dollars.

Homemade neck wrap
As Aveda no longer sold the original neck wrap, I turned to other stores. Neck wraps were hard to find, but the ones I did locate were loaded with chemicals (lavender essence; hint of thyme; cool mint). And I didn’t want to snuggle up to that.

So then I searched online for cherry pits. See, I figured I’d make one of my own.

I never did find any pits, but I did find an article that said that lots of things could be used to make a neck pillow. Such as barley. And rice. And oatmeal and buckwheat and flax seed.

Rice a roll
I happened to have some Jasmine rice in the pantry so I made a 6" square with a cotton (you don't want to us a fabric that will melt or ignite, such as a polyester) Brooks Brothers shirt my husband had worn a hole into.

After some trial and error (and close watching of the microwave for fireworks or flames) I discovered that 66 seconds heated it to a perfect temperature.

And it worked well. But not for long, Because only 5 or 6 minutes later, it was cool again.

Barley and oatmeal and buckwheat, oh my
So I went to Whole Foods. And loaded up on a few dollars worth of barley and oatmeal and buckwheat. And brought them home and microwaved all three.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3
First, I felt all three right after I took them out of the microwave. Two were only warm; but one was nice and hot.

Second, I waited 5 minutes and felt them again. And, again, two only maintained a bit of heat, while one was still pretty warm.

And the winner is . . .
And the filling that got hotter, faster, and remained hotter, longer? Barley.

Barley versus rice
So, in the grudge match of the century, I now tested barley against rice.

And the winner? Once again, the mighty barley.

But there was one catch. The Jasmine rice smelled better. So it won Miss Congeniality.

But it did give me the idea to tuck a sprig of dried lavender in with the barley when I make my final bag. Not that barley smells bad. Just that lavender smells better.

And what about poor flax seed?
Alas, the poor flax seed was useless in the neck roll. But it is great in my ‘nanner.