Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sandy Stiltball

I got really excited earlier this month when one of my boys and i found ourselves surrounded by tall, shaggy-stemmed mushrooms in a rocky desert landscape.  When you walk the hinterland a fair bit and suddenly find something completely new to your experience, it is such a thrill.

Battarrea phalloides, with the cool common name of "sandy stiltball", can be over 15 inches tall, and the specimens we found ranged from barely emerging above the surface, to 11-12 inches tall.  There were about 30 sandy stiltball specimens around a small field between the golf course and Portales soccer fields.

Sandy stiltball is a stalked puffball.  Once mature, the skin on the mushroom cap sloughs off, exposing a rusty colored surface of spores.  (Pardon me for any errors in correct mycological terminology.)  It is recorded from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico.  And Brazil and Australia and Russia.  And Europe and the British Isles.  Interesting to imagine that the same species i found pushing its way up through my hard, barren, drought-stressed, New Mexico caliche soil is the same species that pops up in the Cotswolds and Hawaii.

On the surface of it, records of sandy stiltball's occurrence all over the world implies that it is a common species, but in fact it is really quite rare, with documented sightings being few and far between.  My websearch turned up only three other sightings for New Mexico.  We were extremely fortunate to have seen them. :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fine Handmade Brass Nut Picks and Favorite Pecan Pie Recipe

One of my teen aged son's is making these beautiful little brass nut picks.  They are available for purchase through my etsy shop.  A shiny, handmade nut pick would make a lovely hostess gift, or unique gift for the gourmand on your shopping list this Christmas season.  Each pick is gift boxed and comes with a little Maker Card to show your gift recipient what good taste you have in artful handmade collectibles--aren't you thoughtful! :-)

Victor takes our extra pecans down to Mexico every year and sells them to a candy manufacturer.  Stray nuts we crush under our heals on the stoop for the winter birds to enjoy all winter.  (Photo: female dark-eyed junco.)

I highly recommend the Reed's Rocket Pecan Cracker, a nutcracker extraordinaire.

We have two large old pecan trees on our property, and despite the drought, they have yielded well.  The nuts of one tree are oblong and the meat breaks easily: perfect pecan pieces for quick breads and brownies.  The other pecan tree produces round nuts that crack releasing the halves intact:  perfect for baking Turtles and pies.

You are wondering if i know a good pecan pie recipe?  I sure do!

(from Texas Pecan Growers Assoc. website)

1 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons margarine
3 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup or more chopped pecans (or place pecan halves on pie)
1 unbaked pie crust
Boil for one minute the sugar, corn syrup and margarine. Beat eggs slightly, add hot syrup. Beating until well mixed, add vanilla. Mix flour and one tablespoon sugar together; put in bottom of unbaked pie crust. Pour in filling; top with pecans. Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until firm in center.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday on a White Lake

We avoided the stores this Black Friday by heading to the hinterland for some fresh air and exercise.  We walked around a dry salt lake bed near Muleshoe, Texas, and i took photos of the terrain.  Honey yellow crystals (gypsum, i think?) are very plentiful in some areas about this lake, and i tried to capture them with some ground level shots.

In years when the lake has water in it, thousands of sandhill cranes can be seen here.  The surface of the lake bed was white as snow with the salts that have leached out of the ground.  Gasses that had formed just under the soil surface while it was still moist had buckled up the top centimeter or so of the bed into intricate folds.

Maybe one of these years it will rain again and this will all be under water and cranes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Exploding Pyrex

It is Sunday night and hubby was taking his roast beef out of the oven when the hot Pyrex 9x13 pan exploded sending shards across the kitchen.  He had just placed it on the stove top (on an element that had not been on since my morning coffee) and taken his oven mitts off the handles.  Fortunately, there was only a little greasy juice in the pan, and there were no little children in the area.  But the fact that a glass dish can do this is pretty horrifying.

Wanting to know if this was more than just a freak occurrence i googled it, and found out that Consumer Affairs has a page with 1,230 Complaints and Reviews of Pyrex, 72% of which are very negative.

It is quite something to read the reports of consumers on the above site, as one after another they relate their exploding Pyrex experiences, often with injury from big flying shards of hot glass and spattering hot liquids, sometimes with burned floors and damaged ovens.

It appears that exploding Pyrex has been a problem here in the U.S. for the past two or three years and the mother company has denied all responsibility for resulting damages.  The company, World Kitchen, says people aren't heeding the small print on the labels and that burns and cuts caused by the shattering pans are the consumers' own faults.

Consumer Affairs provides an article that explains the findings of test results on the glass composing the Pyrex dishes in the U.S. vs the Pyrex pans manufactured in the EU (where Pyrex pans don't seem to explode).  Basically the EU cookware is still made using borosilicate glass (which is very forgiving of temperature shock), and the U.S. Pyrex is made using the cheaper soda lime glass (like i make my beads with), but they claim it is tempered, so that if it breaks from a temperature shock it will break in little cubes like automobile windows do.  Tests showed that this tempering is often absent in a dish or unevenly done.  In our own case, and in all of the incidents i read about, the glass broke explosively, in shards.

We only have one other Pyrex dish, and you better believe it has been retired.