Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Walking Sticks

Walking sticks are a different kind of leggy bug from others I've previously written about. These bugs look like twigs with daddy-longleggy legs and longish antennae. (Visit "Leggy Bugs--Daddy Longlegs" to read about the three bug types known as daddy longlegs.) View a walking stick navigating plant life and leaves, mostly upside down, in "Walking Stick insect!". (Towards the end, a hand enters the view, providing perspective of the subject's size and structure.)

Elementary Information in the First-Person (Bug) POV

Visit Bugfacts.net's "Walking Stick" site for elementary information from a bug's first-person narrative. The ruler and side views illustrate body part proportions. The size range is impressive—"less than 1 inch to over 1 foot in length, depending on my species." An entertaining animation video "Walking Stick • I'm a Creepy Crawly" reiterates Bugfact's basic information about walking sticks.

Life Cycle, Life Span, Male/Female Contrasts

From Bugfact's "Walking Stick" site:
three stages of development: egg, nymph and adult. The female can lay up to 150 eggs, dropping them one by one to the ground. My egg is also camouflaged and resembles a brown seed. I hatch in the spring as a nymph and resemble a tiny adult. My life span is one season.
From "Giant Walkingstick - (Megaphasma denticrus)"
In some species of Walkingstick, males ride on the backs of the females for most of their adult lives. Some types of Walkingstick females can reproduce asexually, where males are difficult to find.
Watch a stick insect emerge from its egg at "Stick Insect Hatching". The bug's uncurling and exiting is amazing to behold. You might feel exhausted from empathy after watching the six-minute video.

Size Matters

The National WildLife Federation's "Walking Sticks" states:
The biggest insects in the world are stick insects—one species measures over 20 inches long with its legs outstretched.
ABC.net's article amuses for its account of an Australian walking stick—"Australia's largest stick insect, daughter of Lady Gaga-ntuan, lays eggs at Melbourne Museum", updated January 7, 2016.
One of Lady Gaga-ntuan's offspring has now grown to become the largest known stick insect in Australia, at 56.5cm [22.24"] long.
Xinhuanet, a Chinese publication, reports "World's longest insect discovered in China", published May 5, 2016.
Zhao Li, with the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC) in Chengdu, found the 62.4-cm-long [24 inches] stick insect during a field inspection in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2014, breaking the record for length for all 807,625 insects discovered so far, according to the IMWC.
View "New Insect Species Breaks Record for World’s Longest" for truly up-to-date info about the size record-holding insect found in China named for Zhao Li, the scientist who found it.

If you want to see even more images and videos about walking sticks (bugs, not canes), Google image and YouTube video searches for "walking stick bug" and "walking stick insect" yield plenty. Also, BugGuide shows pictures that people submit.

Leggy Bugs articles:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Daddy Longlegs

Previously, I wrote about the crane fly as a leggy buggy. At that time, I made a passing remark about them being called daddy longlegs in the UK. (A humongous crane fly that landed on my door inspired me to photograph and write up about crane flies before writing this daddy longlegs article.)

Did you know that daddy longlegs can be three types of very long-legged bugs? "Why Are They Called Daddy Longlegs?" explains.
That name is often used to describe several different creatures. For example, it may be used to describe the long-legged crane fly, which is an insect, or long-legged cellar spiders, which are true spiders. Mostly, though, daddy longlegs is used to refer to Opiliones, which are an order of arachnids also known as harvestmen. … Harvestmen have one body section and two eyes, while most spiders have two body sections and eight eyes.

The following table lists some very basic differences among them.
large crane fly cellar spider harvestman
# legs
6
8
8
wings?
y
n
n
# eyes
2
8
2
silk/web spinner?
n
y
n
body sections
head, thorax, abcomen head/thorax (cephalothorax), abdomen single section

View my pixstrip for rudimentary drawings of the bugs; the text indicates very abbreviated animal hierarchy.

"Who's the daddy? Are daddy longlegs actually spiders? Are they poisonous and how do you get rid of them?" has a few good passages that describe these bugs.
While the common English insect commonly referred to as a daddy long-legs is in fact NOT a spider, there is actually also a type of spider that is sometimes also referred to as a daddy long-legs and another type of arachnid that is also known as a daddy long-legs.

Brits generally use the word daddy long-legs to refer to craneflies – long-legged winged insects which are not spiders.
The article has sections for bird's eye views (grin) about comparing and contrasting the three bugs:
  • What are the differences between craneflies and spiders?
  • What are the similarities between harvestmen and spiders?
  • What are the differences between harvestmen and spiders?
"Daddy Longlegs: Spiders & Other Critters" provides good overview differentiations also, including the following topics:
  • Harvestmen & crane flies
  • Cellar spiders
  • Taxonomy/classification for cellar spiders, harvestmen, and crane flies
Visit BugGuide's three sites for these leggy bugs, which include tabs for taxonomy, general information, images, and US map of states indicating habitat (Data).
More resources:

Leggy Bugs articles:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Crane Flies

In case you spot a leggy bug that looks like a huuuuuge mosquito (REALLY huge), chances are good that it’s a non-biting, non-stinging crane fly. Within a few months of moving to Central Texas many years ago, I spotted a humongous long-legged bug that I initially thought was a daddy longlegs. However, it had six legs. I then thought it might be a Texas-sized mosquito.

Don’t they make everything bigger in this state? I avoided it, as I was afraid it’d spear me deeply! Over the years, I heard that it wasn’t a mosquito.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a humongously long-legged bug on my back storm door. I was able to take only one picture before it flew off! I estimated it to be at least 4 inches top to bottom, about the size if I held my thumb and forefinger apart as a guide. This bug, as I've been told, is a crane fly, which, incidentally, is called a daddy longlegs in UK.

Actually, I had been planning to write about daddy longlegs, the 8-legged kind. I’ve queued it up for the next article.

On LinkedIn, I requested help with IDing the bug, posting a cropped and color/contrast modified image. Two people piped up and declared it a crane fly, and pasted a couple of links. Pinning down my exact specimen’s category became really difficult. Sooooo many members in the crane fly group! The Bug Guide search for “crane fly” yielded loads of hits.

From using BG and other bug links, I’ve settled that my bug is in Arthropods (Arthropoda) > Hexapods (Hexapoda) » Insects (Insecta) > Flies (Diptera) > "Nematocera" (Non-Brachycera) > Crane Flies (Tipulomorpha) > Large Crane Flies (Tipulidae) > Tipulinae > Tipula.

Because I was able to shoot only one picture, I wondered how to gauge the size. I decided to try to replicate the photo’s background and include a measuring stick. A few days of shooting, and I came up with the composite with a superimposed reduced-opacity measuring stick, then cropped it. I’d say the crane fly measured at least four inches leg tip to leg tip, as my upper image indicates. The following pixstrip shows the integration of two main images into one.

Most of the crane fly sites I’ve run across list body lengths in mm. Most of sites regarding even the giant ones state maybe less than an inch. I’d say my bug reaches an inch or so. Anyway, one site with loads of info is “The Crane Flies (Diptera:Tipulidae of Pennsylvania)”. The section about Tibula is way at the bottom.

I think my bug resembles the Tipula disjuncta crane fly by Gayle and Jeanell Strickland. Although my bug looks ghostly white, I’m not sure how the lighting, flash-on, and my distance might have affected how it photographed. And I wish it’d been in better focus.

Piqued further about crane flies? Besides visiting the Bug Guide and Pennsylvania Crane Fly sites, buzz around the following sites.

From Entomology Today's "Mosquito Hawk? Skeeter Eater? Giant Mosquito? No, No, and No"
They have a narrow body with two long and slender wings, as well as six stilt-like legs that can be twice as long as the body. Crane flies are diverse in wing pattern, color, and size.
From "The Crane Fly vs. The Mosquito! A Case of Mistaken Identity: A Crane Fly is not a Giant Mosquito!"
It is important to differentiate between these two bugs because mosquitoes transmit diseases like West Nile virus, encephalitis and Malaria, killing millions of people worldwide each year. Crane flies cannot bite and they do not carry diseases.
SHERDOG “crane fly and mosquito” comparison info with diagram

From Wikipedia's "Crane fly" site
Adult crane flies have very long legs and a long, thin abdomen. It is very easy to accidentally break off their delicate legs when catching crane flies. Their thin legs and abdomen may help them to escape from birds who try to eat them. Females have larger abdomens in comparison to the males. The female abdomen also ends in a pointed ovipositor that looks a bit like a stinger. Crane flies cannot sting.
Crane Flies - Infraorder Tipulomorpha
View lots of images, accompanied with their scientific category names (“often referred to as ‘large’ crane flies, with 4,269 recognized species”). Also visit links at http://cirrusimage.com/ for totally distracting macro images of North American insects and spiders and accompanying summaries.

Google image search for "crane flies"

Leggy Bugs articles:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Inchworms

Inchworms are caterpillars in the Geometridae family of Lepidopteran larvae, which I wrote about in “Leggy Bugs—Caterpillars (Lepidopteran Larvae, which Become Butterflies and Moths)”. They have front and back leggy sections and long middles—caterpillars' version of canines' dachshund.

Wisegeek’s “What Are Inchworms?” has an overview and an image for introduction for these critters. They're leggier than adult insects, but seemingly shortchanged compared to caterpillars in my previous article. (I used the picture as a basis for my blog image.)

For a more extensive introduction to inchworm and animal categorization, Bug Guide's website for “Family Geometridae - Geometrid Moths” is a good place to start.

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Geometroidea (Geometrid, Swallowtail Moths)
Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths)

Although inchworms are caterpillars, their locomotion is so odd that they deserve an article all their own. Their family, Geometridae, pertains to “earth” and “measuring”. Their physiology is more specialized than the caterpillars I wrote about previously. The Bug Guide explains:
the lack of prolegs in the middle of the body necessitates the peculiar method of locomotion, drawing the hind end up to the thoracic legs to form a loop, and then extending the body forward.
An excellent video of inchworm locomotion on a flat surface is “Inchworm Walking”. The caterpillar thrusts its front section forward, pulls the rear section up to the front legs, forming a loop, then repeats the motion. Its movement makes me think of a pelvis-shape strong enough to thrust out a very long torso and head. And yet, when fully extended, the head and front “arms” are strong enough to hoist the body and legs back to immediately behind the front end. The movement also seems like something a small, self-propelled slinky might make.

From Encyclopedia.com’s "Inchworm" description of inchworm movement:
inchworms lack appendages in the middle portion of their body, causing them to have a characteristic looping gait. They have three pairs of true legs at the front end, like other caterpillars, but only two or three pairs of prolegs (larval abdominal appendages), located at the rear end. An inchworm moves by drawing its hind end forward while holding on with the front legs, then advancing its front section while holding on with the prolegs.
The Bug Guide’s “Superfamily Geometroidea - Geometrid and Swallowtail Moths” provides most explanations and descriptions at the subfamily level.

Inchworms, unlike general caterpillars, metamorphose into only moths. Sciencing’s “Inchworm Life Cycle” explains:
The thousands of moth species in the family Geometridae are often referred to as inchworms when in the caterpillar stage. … This group of moths has a complete metamorphosis: They go through four stages during their life cycle.
More website resources:
Additional videos featuring inchworms and their movements, some with interesting sways:
  • "Inchworms"
    Ability to lift their front of the body at an angle as though bending from hips.
  • INCREDIBLE INCHWORM
    Acrobatic inchworm with hoisting its body almost totally vertical on horizontal surface and other seemingly gravity-defying surface grippings.
  • Inch worm Highway
    Inchworm walking the front legs forward, then dragging the rest of the body and rear legs forward. The body forms a loop as the rear section stops just behind the front legs.
  • Inchworm
    Another great example of locomotion, this inchworm being brown-patterned.
  • The Happy Inchworm
    Animation that shows motion as push from behind, pull from front, and no separate leg movement. This video is more for entertainment, although some commenters object to the violent outcome.

Leggy Bugs articles:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Leggy Bugs—Caterpillars (Lepidopteran Larvae, which Become Butterflies and Moths)

Butterfly and moth caterpillars have fewer legs than the leggy bugs I wrote about last month (“Leggy Bugs--Centipedes and Millipedes”).

One nice image I found was helpful with identifiers. View a nicely captured example of movement at "Close-up Caterpillar Footage".

My image shows a caterpillar with two possible paths to adulthood of butterfly or moth. The pupa stage is chrysalis or cocoon. A butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, and a moth emerges from a cocoon. Their antennae and body shapes differ. Butterflies are active in the daytime, while moths are active at night.

North Carolina State University's "Lepidoptera" site succinctly describes the order that butterflies and moths belong to:
The name Lepidoptera, derived from the Greek words "lepido" for scale and "ptera" for wings, refers to the flattened hairs (scales) that cover the body and wings of most adults.”
The site includes basic information about the caterpillar life cycle and the adult stages as butterflies and moths. It also discusses animal classification terminology, noting that Lepidoptera is a category (order) under Insecta (class). It also summarizes subcategories (families) of lepidoptera. One family, Geometridae, includes inchworms. (Their locomotion is so weird to me that I'm going to save writing about them in my next article.)

I’ve always wondered about caterpillars having many legs, yet emerging as butterflies or moths after complete metamorphosis, with only six legs. For differentiation between complete (four-stage) and incomplete (three-stage) insect metamorphosis, visit the Pacific Science Center Exhibits “Metamorphosis” site.

Another curiosity for me is that “caterpillar” is their larval term, whether they emerge as either of the flying insects. Swithzoo’s "Caterpillar" site explains: “The caterpillar's six front legs transform into the adult insect's legs, the other 'prolegs' disappear, wings grow, and the insect emerges as a beautiful moth or butterfly.”

Purdue’s “Is It a Moth or Is It a Butterfly?” elaborates on the caterpillar’s prolegs and other characteristics:
Caterpillars have a well-developed head and a cylindrical body, which is made up of 13 segments. Each of the three segments behind the head has a pair of legs, just like adult insects. But caterpillars also have some additional, fleshy, leg-like appendages - called prolegs - on other segments. Prolegs have tiny hooks at the end that function to grasp things such as the stems and leaves of plants.
The Library of Congress site “How can you tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth?” provides loads of helpful, short, section titles about these insects (wings, anatomy, behavior, cocoon/chrysalis, …).

Backyard Nature's site "Caterpillars” shows an image that indicates the site’s focus on these animals’ voraciousness—webpage title imaged as leaves chewed into contours of “CATERPILLARS”. Visit for close looks and reads about these leggy bugs.

More resources:
  • GardeneGateeNotes “Cocoon versus chrysalis
    This site shows a cocoon and chrysalis side by side and provides a short, nuts and bolts explanation.
  • Diffen's "Butterfly vs. Moth"
    This site has a handy two-column table at the top, then more details and images. This site also includes a Related Comparisons section with links to pages comparing other related insects, other similar animals.
  • Easy Science for Kids "Butterflies and Moths"
    A table near the top shows differences between moths and butterflies, followed by basic text and a diagram (parts identified) for those who are just starting to look into these flighty insects.
  • Brittanica Kids site
    The main attraction is a helpful diagram of a butterfly and moth side-by-side and corresponding parts identifiers.
  • Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species site for “Butterflies and moths
    This site’s format is question-and-answer, with basic and elementary approach.
  • Moths vs Butterflies
    Entertaining video (mostly narration) of basic contrasts between these flyers.

Leggy Bugs articles:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Centipedes and Millipedes

Leggy bugs can mean bugs that have lots of legs, or bugs that have long legs. Animal-kingdom bugs can mean insects (6 legs), arachnids (8 legs), or for me, creepy crawlies with way more legs than I care to count. Let's get to the long-bodied creepy crawlies first. Google is a great starting resource for viewing images (for this article, centipedes and millipedes).

Centipedes

Enchanted Learning shows a diagram and descriptive terms of parts. A more detailed diagram is at Amateur Entomologists' Society. Both of these webpages have good elementary information.

Millipedes

Google's hits for millipede images show some atop hands and other body parts (cringe). For sizes, one image that surprised me greatly showed someone using both hands to hold one. On the other hand (grin), one image shows a millipede on a finger, and another shows one with a penny.

Enchanted Learning shows a diagram and descriptive terms of parts. EL's millipede diagram is much more detailed than for the centipede. Amateur Entomologists' Society's diagram is similar to its centipede one.

The University of Bristol's 'Morphology" webpage has a really detailed image and scholastic explanation of anatomy. (The home page "Diplopoda" provides overview of millipedes.) BTW, "Chilopoda" is the term for centipedes, but U of Bristol doesn't have a special section for it. That is, replacing the URL part "chilopoda" for "diplopod" yields a not-found page.

My section about centipedes is short and the millipedes section only a bit longer. The most interesting information might be contrasts between the two creepy crawlies.

Centipede vs Millipede

A big difference in looks between these bugs is the number of legs per segment. Centipedes have one pair, and millipedes have two pairs. One helpful image with side by side drawings and descriptors is at the "Centipede vs. Millipede" section of "Top 10 Facts About Millipedes"..

In seeing so many Google image hits for millipedes where people handle them, I sensed that centipedes might be less receptive to handling than millipedes. Maybe another reason. Centipedes bite. "Millipedes of Petroglyph" provides a section for differentiating the two animals, and especially warning about the centipede's capability to bite and hurt. For a video featuring someone capturing one of each and explaining differences, view "Millipede vs Centipede!".

Additional sites that contrast these two members of Myriapoda (many-legged) subphylum
For some whimsy, visit Gaming History about "Centipede" and "Millipede". Both sites describe the video games, scoring, and technical details. The Millipede site notes that the game (the successor to Centipede) had been originally called Centipede Deluxe. The Millipede site, besides describing the game play and technical details, includes a trivia section on differences between the two games. For videos about the games, visit YouTube and enter appropriate keywords.

Leggy Bugs articles:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Familiar Music in Superbowl 2017 Product Ads

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article


What an exciting start and finish to this year's Superbowl—New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons, 34 to 28 in overtime! For me, one song emerges for games with a lot of emotional stake: the Eagles' "Gonna Be a Heartache Tonight".

This article is similar to my previous article about songs in product ads "Familiar Music in Product Ads and Product Jingles that Became Hit Songs". This time, I focus on Sunday's 2017 Superbowl advertisements, skipping discussing jingles that might become song hits. In viewing commercials multiple times, I was intrigued by some subtle, unfamiliar musical notes, and, with some songs, was psychologically transported to different eras.

Some songs have been standards forever—"America the Beautiful" (Coca Cola), "Amazing Grace" (upcoming Logan movie). Some songs are as old as 50 years or as recent as within this decade. My journey in hunting up music that ads used was distractingly enjoyable for trips down memory lane (Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild") as well as discovering songs new to me (Sia's "Move Your Body").

The following list of products and their associated music are in the approximate order that the ads aired during the game. Except for "standards" that I mentioned earlier, secondary links go to original-artist versions of known songs.

Coca Cola
Ford
Google Home
Michelin Tires
LifeWTR
GoDaddy
Logan (movie)
Bai Antioxidant Infusions
Michelob ULTRA
Lexus LC
Wendy’s
National Geographic’s Genius Series
Kia Niro
Amazon Echo
Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster
Nintendo Switch

Monday, January 30, 2017

Familiar Music in Product Ads and Product Jingles that Became Hit Songs

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article


Some products have used known songs, and some products' jingles have expanded into song hits. The first category has a lot more instances than the second one. Maybe it's more common to have songs inspire ads than for ad-specific music to morph into recorded music that people want to buy.

The music I cite range from about 50 years to well over 100 years old. If newer music has integrated into products, I probably am less aware. Technology that wasn't available a few decades ago has made it convenient to skip commercials. For Superbowl 51, I'll consider being on the lookout for products with familiar music.

Hmm, I'd like to see the NFL switch from the unwieldy Roman numerals to the more compact Arabic numerals. Think about the Superbowl number two years ago. BTW, if you want to quickly convert a Roman numeral to Arabic or vice versa, visit "Roman Numerals Converter". Enter a numeral, then click Convert It!

Products that Incorporated Known Music

Tropicana Orange Juice
Crispy Critters Cereal
Subway Sandwiches
Doritos Chips
Beef
United Airlines
Noxzema Shaving Cream
Marlboro Cigarettes
Product Ad Jingles that Expanded and Became Hit Songs

Benson & Hedges Cigarettes
Alka Seltzer
Crocker Bank
Coca Cola

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cherry Pie, Episode 3--Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients

*** 1/24/2017
Accompanying video segments now available at YouTube—
"Cherry Pie—Section 1 of 3, Overview and Fruit Filling Preparation"
"Cherry Pie—Section 2 of 3, Pie Dough Preparation"
"Cherry Pie—Section 3 of 3, Pie Assembly and Baking"
Playlist: "Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients, All Three Sections"


The writeup is finally here! It deviates from my usual recipe articles of including imperative steps, which could make this article REALLY long and maybe more difficult to follow than going to my video(s). The process has two separate stages and the convergence stage: fruit filling preparation, pie dough preparation, and pie assembly/baking. Although the number of ingredients are few, the processes require time, timing, and order. If you try this recipe, you should first read the article and view the video (three sections) thoroughly.

The ingredients are few:
  • Cherry pie filling: 1 pound frozen cherries, 1 C granulated sugar, 1/4 C cornstarch, 1/2 C water
  • Pie crust: 2 1/4 C flour, 1 T powdered sugar (granulated ok), 3/4 t salt, up to 3/4 C water
Historically, for recipes I've posted, I've listed required equipment. In this case, because bakers' tool preferences can vary widely, the video sections provide the best visual guidelines. The following actions are a few examples of deviating from traditional pie-making norms.
  • For the pie filling, I coated frozen cherries and granulated sugar in a bowl, chilling them overnight and occasionally stirring to get the cherries to juice up. The cherries bag includes thawing instructions that might speed up the process. Some people prefer fresh cherries that they de-stem and pit. Others use canned or jar cherries, which require different processes.
  • For mixing of pie dough ingredients, I used a tilt-head stand mixer for ease. In the past, I have used a pastry blender. Some people prefer to use two forks.
  • For cutting the butter, I used a combination of french fry cutter and butter knife. I've seen videos for various butter shapes from pat slices to butter cube in its entirety.
  • For rolling out of pie dough, I used a Joseph rolling pin on a cutting board. Other bakers use various rolling pins and work surfaces.
  • For fruit pie venting, required for steam escape during baking, I latticed the top crust using a pizza cutter and an inverted cooling rack. (Numerous sites show different methodologies for latticing.) Typical top crusts have slits, which are faster to implement.
One picture is worth a thousand words, and the video is worth a lot more. The entire video turns out to be 2.5G and 26:10 long. To make upload more manageable, I split it into sections 1, 2, and 3. You can view them as a playlist or as standalone segments. Title screens within the sections display text for preparing the fruit filling, preparing the pie dough, and assembling the pie and baking it.

Video Section Title: Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients)
Section 1, Overview and Fruit Filling Preparation

  1. Processing the frozen cherries
  2. Fruit mix overnight
  3. Draining the cherries
  4. Mixing cornstarch and water for making the fruit sauce
  5. Cooking the cornstarch and sauce together
  6. Folding the cooked sauce into the cherries
Video Section Title: Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients)
Section 2, Pie Dough Preparation

  1. Pie crust ingredients (overall intro info)
  2. Measuring pie crust dry ingredients
  3. Mixing the dry ingredients together
  4. Cutting the butter
  5. Stirring the cut butter chunks into the dry ingredients
  6. Mixing water into the chilled dough
  7. Preparing to chill the mixed dough for an hour
  8. Retrieving the chilled dough for flouring, flattening, folding, and rotating it a few times before wrapping it for more chilling
  9. Retrieving the chilled dough, dividing it, and rolling out the bottom pie crust
  10. Preheating the oven for 350 degrees, flouring the surface, and rolling out the top crust
Video Section Title: Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients)
Section 3, Pie Assembly and Baking

  1. Cutting the top crust dough into lattice strips
  2. Pouring the cherries into the pie pan, then assembling the lattice strips
  3. Brushing egg wash on unbaked pie
  4. Weighing the egg-washed, unbaked pie before baking it for 30 minutes
  5. Putting a pie shield on the pie after baking it for 30 minutes
  6. Baking complete (60 total minutes)--moving the pie from the oven to a cooling rack
  7. Revisiting latticing: Simulating cutting lattice strips differently using wax paper and pizza cutter
  8. Detailed article: Cherry Pie, Episode 3--Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients http://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2017/01/cherry-pie-episode-3-using-frozen.html
Future Pie Thoughts
I've made three cherry pies in the recent past. For making a more perfect pie, hopefully using less time, I'll try the following actions:
  • Instead of overnight thawing of cherries and sugar, I'll try using the microwave oven, carefully monitoring and periodically stirring.
  • Weigh out my two pie doughs before rolling them out. I have tended to barely cover the pan with the bottom shell, and rolled out too much dough for the top shell (lattice).
  • Buy and use a pastry mat that has concentric circles as visual guides for pie shell diameters. The circles should help me stay inside the "lines". Related, for my third pie, I used an Oneida cutting board for my dough surface. It was OK, but the board slid around, even with a somewhat damp kitchen cloth. The silicone mats are reported to stay put during use. Possible candidate mats:
  • Re-view videos about latticing the day before or the day of making a pie to refamiliarize myself with the weaving process.
  • Bake the pie for 65 minutes total instead of 60. The bottom shells were cooked, but still a little pale.
Visit blog articles of my first and second cherry pie learning processes, which also include helpful links about scratch pie making.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cherry Pie, Episode 2--Oops, Awws, and Ahhs

Previously in "Cherry Pie, Episode 1--the Newish Baker Challenge", I wrote that I would put the recipe in the next article (meaning this one). Well, this blog article WAS going to be about the complete cherry pie recipe process, along with a link to a YouTube video. However, a big snag came up. The big snag and other factors nudged me to write this interim article instead.

Oops and aww (biggest snag): My camera battery ran out before I could finish recording all of pie #2 process.

My camera died about halfway through the lattice-cutting stage. My final video will be a composite of steps I took for making pie #2 and pie #3. It'll be a Frankenstein assemblage of video clips and edits—more clips of the better results and omission of some of the not-so-hot ones. The entire recipe will be in Episode 3 article.

Oops and ahh: I missed integrating the butter into the dry ingredients, but the crust came out fine anyway.

I had forgotten the step of slowly mixing the cut butter into the stirred dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar) before adding water. (I'd interrupted my dough process to eat breakfast.) I put the bowl of butter and dry ingredients into the refrigerator, to resume the process afterward in about an hour.

After breakfast, I resumed the dough process. I trickled icy water into the slowly moving mixer, watching for dough texture to become acceptable. After turning out the dough onto my floured work surface, I pressed it, folded it towards me, pressed, folded, left-right, pressed, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated it.

When I realized I'd omitted the intermediate step, I compensated by refrigerating the mixed, plastic-wrapped dough for about three hours before rollout. (Numerous sites recommend at least one hour.)
Anyway, the missed step did not affect the outcome of the crust. Two possible actions that might have helped the crust results:
  • Tossing the cut butter pieces through the dry ingredients, thus coarse-integrating the ingredients while coating the butter
  • Refrigerating the bowlful of butter and dry ingredients for an hour during my leisurely breakfast, thus chilling the ingredients before further mixing
For pie #3, I'll refrigerate the plastic-wrapped dough for only an hour and see if the crust quality differs.

Oops: The fruit fluid was a bit thick for my pasta drainer to strain the cherries.

For the fruit-and-sugar-overnight process, I used my pasta drainer, similar to the "Stainless Steel Pot Drainer with Handle". The task was awkward. The holes were a bit undersized for draining the viscous fluid from the cherries. Also, holding the drainer against the bowl was somewhat unwieldy.

I decided to root around my kitchen gadgets for a more suitable straining device. Next pie, I'll try my fry basket, which resembles one from Lionsdeal. One possible workaround for easier draining is warming up the fruit mixture in the microwave until the fluid becomes runnier.

Oops: The length of the new Joseph adjustable rolling pin overspanned the existing cutting board that I used for dough rollout.

The cutting board I used was 13 inches wide. The roller (between the gauges) measures more than that, thus, making the roller's thickness wheel gauges ineffective. I've bought and will use a 16" x 16" plastic cutting board that will more than accommodate the roller.

Aww: My latticing skills still need work.

My pressing down of the rectangular cooling rack didn't help me with cutting lattice strips very straight. Next pie, I'll use a pizza cutter with cooling rack together to make the cuts. It'll be like using an X-Acto knife and a straightedge that has yoked multiple edges.

Ahh: My crust for pies #1 and #2 seemed tough as time passed, but dough treatment wasn't the reason.

The key is that refrigerated pie crust gets harder because of butter getting more solid when chilled. The day after the pie was in the refrigerator, I cut a piece and warmed it in the microwave. Eureka! Yummy pie with tender crust! The Other likes his pie cold, and my entreaties to warm his were soundly rejected. Anyway, if your cooled-down pie crust seems tough, warm it up.

Speaking of pie crust, I did some research on economics of DIY crust. Ingredients are cheaper for homemade, and you know all the items you're putting in. Prices are approximate, and YMMV for amounts, as humidity and measurement methods can differ.

For scratch crust ingredients, the most significant for cost are flour and butter. I'm excluding cost and weight for sugar and salt, as their bulk and cost impacts are negligible. Estimates:

flour (~ $2 for 5 pounds, estimation of 20-25 cents for 2 1/4 C flour)
butter (~$3.50 per pound, estimation of $1.30 for 3/8 pound)

Calculating about $1.50 for ~9 oz flour, 5 oz butter, 6 oz water and weight of about 1 1/4 pounds (20 oz).

For pre-made crusts:
Ahh: I discovered that baking the pie at one temperature was as effective as baking initially at higher temperature, then lowering it.

I baked the pie at 375° for 30 minutes, placed my pie shield on it, and baked it for another 30 minutes. Upon cutting it open three hours later, I felt that another 5 minutes baking might have browned the underside more without burning it.

Ahh: The fruit sauce held together well, barely pooling. By the last day, only a little of the sauce pooled. Incidentally, this pie lasted us only three days; pie #1 lasted four days.

One more incidental: This unbaked pie weighed 2 pounds, 15 ½ ounces with pan; pan weighs 2 ounces. The baked pie and pan (20 minutes after removal from oven and reweighed ~ 1 hour later) weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Net weight loss through water vapor evaporation was 2 ½ ounces.

Visit "Cherry Pie, Episode 3--Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients", my assessment of cherry pie #3, which also includes links to YouTube video segments for making cherry pie.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cherry Pie, Episode 1--the Newish Baker Challenge

This article is an assessment of a cherry pie I made last month. I'd not made a scratch pie in many years—scratch meaning pie dough from scratch ingredients and fresh filling. My recollection of the most recent crusts were frozen pre-made ones in pans or rolled up disks, all of which required thawing. They were really convenient! As for filling, the previous cherry pie was years ago that required two cans of filling. Or maybe they were cans of fruit that I needed to make cornstarch sauce.

Anyway, I wanted to try my new tilt-head stand mixer for pie crust, hoping to save shoulders and arms from elbow-grease effort of a manual pastry blender. I pored over numerous sites for guidance for pie making, particularly crust ingredients and processes. For the cherry filling, I decided I'd use frozen cherries rather than fresh that would need pitting, or canned, whether they were pre-sauced or required fluid thickening.

The big-picture pie-making process is as follows:
  1. Acquire two pie crusts or make your own. Ingredients are flour, fat, salt, sugar (optional), and water. The amounts vary from recipe to recipe. The sequence of additions and process are similar among recipes.
  2. Acquire filling or make from ingredients you buy. For fruit pies, ingredients are mainly fruit, sugar, cornstarch or other thickening agents, and fluid. The sequence of additions and process are similar among recipes, but can vary widely.
  3. Assemble (crust in pan, then filling, then "vented" top crust), and bake. Single-crust pies can require pre-baking. Lattice-top pies provide venting as well as decoration. Temperatures and durations vary widely among recipes. Some recipes include extra efforts and more items than others. A pie crust shield or foil at the rim is helpful for avoiding edge overbaking.
My pie tasted good, but had some issues that I hope to improve my process for the next pass. Before I get into the next-time discussion, I'm noting some innovations I implemented.

Home Innovations
During my research of pie making, I thought of implements that I had that might help in my pie making.

 Using a Vintage French Fry Cutter for Cutting Butter
I saw various approaches to butter use—tablespoon slices, pat-size slices, 1 cm (.39”) cubes, and whole-stick. I myself used a hand-held French fry cutter and butter knife to easily cut butter into cubes as follows:
  1. Halved one stick so three sections are small enough to fit the cutter sideways.
  2. Pushed the cutter halfway down.
  3. Used the butter knife to cut at the grid wires.
  4. Pushed the cutter farther down.
  5. Used the knife to finish pushing the rest of the butter from the opposite side.
Using Two-Color Alternating-Stripe Cutting Board for Dough Surface
I used a cutting board (12” x 13”) that had alternating dark and light wood sections. The size was helpful for easily rotating the dough 90° at a time during rolling out time. The stripes, although not consistent widths, were helpful guidelines for cutting the lattice strips.

Post-Pie Implementation Thoughts
The thawed cherries were fragile and required tender treatment when stirring in 1 C sugar. Next time, will stir sugar with the frozen cherries, then refrigerate so the cherries juice up and thaw overnight. Stirring will be minimal the next day.

The baked pie crust seemed normal the first day, but seemed tougher in the three subsequent days. I might not have handled the dough as well as I could have. Next time, I will try improving methodology and equipment.
The latticing was awkward, and I ended up with three strips for one axis and five in the other axis. Next time I’ll cut 12 strips and be more methodical about weaving them. (For marking strips, I'm going to use a cooling rack and pizza cutter—press the rack's rack wires along the top crust, then cut the strips.) Some sites for latticing guidance:
The fruit sauce pooled somewhat at the bottom of the pie, even on the fourth day. Next time, I’ll drain the fruit liquid more thoroughly into the saucepan and be sure that the cornstarch sauce thickens up well.

Additional helpful links—admittedly mostly crust-centric:
Note: Pie pan size selection will greatly influence the amount of ingredients and time required for baking. The pie pan I used was an 8" Marie Callender metal pan (~1 1/2 pints water capacity), which was a good size for my fruit filling (1 pound rozen cherries processed with sugar, cornstarch, and water).

Visit blog articles of my other two cherry pie learning processes.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Zebra Cake, Using Two Half Boxes of Mix

*** 11/19/2016
Accompanying video now available at YouTube—"Zebra Cake, Using Two Half Boxes of Mix"


Last month, I wrote up "Zebra Cake, Using Marble Cake Mix", which differs from this zebra cake only slightly. While the marble cake method has the convenience of using one box of cake mix (marble), the two-half-box method provides flexibility in varying flavors and brands. Try different varieties of chocolate (fudgy, devil's food, …) and lighter color cake (white, yellow, vanilla).
My pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. ingredients
  2. equipment
  3. preparing pans (spray oil with parchment paper)
  4. separate bowls for chocolate and white cake mixes
  5. mixing of wet ingredients
  6. mixing of white cake batter
  7. mixing of chocolate cake batter
  8. start of dispensing of batters into the pans, alternating colors
  9. batters in pans, kitchen scale
  10. baked cakes
  11. parchment paper removal
  12. frosted cake with slice showing zebra effect
Ingredients
  • 1/2 box chocolatey cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Devil's Food.)
  • 1/2 box lighter color cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Classic White.)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/8 C cooking oil
  • 1 1/8 C water
  • spray oil
  • frosting of your choice (I used mocha frosting. Scroll down for EZ instructions.)
Implements
  • electric mixer
  • 3 mixing bowls, 1 for mixing wet ingredients, the other two for mixing the batters
  • 2 round cake pans
  • cooling rack(s)
  • measuring cups
  • rubber spatula(s)
  • 2 1/4-cup measuring cups for dispensing different color batters
  • measuring cup or pitcher that holds more than two cups
Additional (straggler) items
  • parchment paper as desired
  • knife for spreading frosting
  • cake plate
Instructions (Have the cake mix box handy! And watch the YouTube video for more details.)
  1. Prepare baking pans. (I used parchment paper and cooking spray.)
  2. Pour the cake powders into separate bowls.
  3. In the third mixing bowl, mix the wet ingredients together, then measure. (Mine measured about 2 cups.)
  4. Pour half of the liquid into the lighter color cake powder, then mix (about 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium).
  5. Preheat the oven (350°).
  6. Pour the other half of the liquid into the chocolatey cake powder, then mix (about 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium).
  7. Use the two 1/4 C measuring cups to alternate pouring light and dark batters into the two pans. (Afterward, if desired, weigh the two filled pans to confirm the amounts are close to equal. Adjust as desired.)
  8. Bake for about 24 minutes. YMMV
  9. Test cake(s) for doneness with toothpick.
  10. Remove the pans of cake and place on cooling rack(s) for about 15 minutes for cooling.
  11. Decorate as fancy as you wish. Conventional, not-too-fussy decorating is as follows:
    1. Place one layer upside down on a plate and decorate the exposed side
    2. Place the other layer right side up on the first layer.
    3. Frost the sides.
    4. Frost the top.
Mocha frosting:
o 1/2 can white frosting
o 1/2 can choco frosting
o 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp just-boiled water or just-brewed coffee

If necessary, microwave the frostings a few seconds for stirrability, then stir all ingredients together.
Post-recipe Thoughts
This two-half-box method for zebra cake yielded only slightly less batter than the marble-cake method, but final cakes looked and tasted similar. (I'm not a pro.) For the marble-cake method, the wet ingredients were 3 eggs, 1 cup water, and 1/3 cup oil; baking time was two minutes shorter. Anyway, for future zebra cakes, I need to improve my aim in pouring batters in concentric circles.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Envying Animals, Part 2--Non-senses

My previous article "Envying Animals, Part 1--Vision, Hearing, Sense of Smell" was about envying animal characteristics pertaining to three senses. This article is about envying animal non-sense (grin) characteristics. Obvious capabilities are flight and living underwater without requiring mechanical devices. Other marvelous animal capabilities are ability to leap tall objects in a single bound, tails for tools and communication, and ability to hide in plain sight.

Flight
Has anyone ever, from youngster age on up, ever NOT wished for ability for self-propelled flight? For animals, we have birds, bats, and flying insects. We have aircraft and other machines that fly. Legendary fantasy flyers, such as European dragons, flying monkeys, Pegasus, and flying creatures from Avatar tantalize the fancy for flight. We have fantasy superheroes with wings or jet packs, and some who originate from other dimensions or planets.

Especially impressive are birds that can fly very long distances without stopping. From "These amazing little birds just broke the world record for nonstop flight": "These amazing little birds just broke the world record for nonstop flight … common swifts are capable of flying for 10 months without once touching land".

Underwater Living
Wouldn't it be great to breathe underwater without using a snorkel or scuba tank? Or deal with holding breath? Or worry about running out of air? Wonder about fish aquatic environment? "How do fish breathe under water?" explains: "Fish use their gills to breathe by extracting oxygen from the surrounding water."

High Jumps (Able to Leap Tall Objects in a Single Bound)
I think it'd be cool to be able to jump heights that cats, squirrels, and deer can in relation to their body lengths.
On a related note, "Top 10 Best Jumper Animals!" depicts animals that exhibit astounding horizontal as well as vertical jumping abilities.

Tail Uses
We humans lack tails. I envy dogs for having tails for conveying emotion. I envy prehensile-tailed animals for their ability to use their tails like an additional hand.
  • "Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?" state "Dogs use their tails to communicate strong emotions such as agitation, annoyance and anger as well as happiness."
  • "Animals With Prehensile Tails: Gripping Facts and Pictures" describes numerous animals that use their tails as tools. "They can curl their tail around objects such as branches and hold on to those objects for balance. … The Silky Anteater and the northern and southern tamandua have prehensile tails, which assists them in climbing trees or holding on to branches or other objects."
Hiding in Plain Sight—Camouflage, Mimicry
Some animals have their own cloaking devices, some for seeing without being seen, and some for making them seem to be something they're not.
Hanging Out in Groups—Swarm Behavior
I envy and marvel about some animals that can swarm without colliding into other members. Think about swarms of bees, flocks of birds, and schools of fish. From "Swarm behaviour": "a collective behaviour exhibited by entities, particularly animals, of similar size which aggregate together, perhaps milling about the same spot or perhaps moving en masse or migrating in some direction. … From a more abstract point of view, swarm behaviour is the collective motion of a large number of self-propelled entities."

I can only imagine if aliens observe humans going 'round and 'round a race track collectively, but collide into others. Also, consider what alien observers might infer if they saw a sporting event—migration into a stadium, rituals and movements in the center that correlate with group motions and vocalizations, and migration out of the stadium.

Some Human Advantages Over Animals
Despite my envy of several animals' characteristics, in some areas (and more), we humans excel animals:
  • Speech and communication, as in spoken and written language
  • Human bipedalism that helps with seeing and assessing environments, and leaves hands free to do other things
  • Unlike a goodly number of animals, no need to eat on the run, such as pursuing live prey for a meal or chomping on animal on the hoof. Also seldom needing to fret of predators in hot pursuit to make a meal out of us.
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