Monday, December 30, 2019

Assessing My Christmas 2019 Lemon Meringue Pie


I hadn't made a lemon meringue pie in, uh, lots of years. It tasted good, and looked mostly good before I started cutting into it. ("Wateriness" loomed large, which I'll discuss later.)

The driving force to make the pie was using up bottled lemon juice that I opened last month. (Used only 2 T with yellow cake batter for lemon cake variation.) During and after the pie project, pertinent thoughts popped up.

Lemon Juice Shelf Life

From "Does Lemon Juice Go Bad? Shelf Life & Expiration": "In the fridge, once opened, it can last up to six months."

Amount of Lemon Juice in a Lemon Meringue Pie

My main Google search term was “easy lemon meringue pie”. Most recipes I ran across called for 1/3 cup. One recipe that called for 1/2 cup of lemon juice was at allrecipes.com "Lemon Meringue Pie III". Pillsbury’s "Lemon Meringue Pie" also calls for ½ cup of lemon juice.

Pie Shell Type (Scratch, Frozen, Refrigerated, Graham Cracker Crust)

I bought ("Pillsbury™ Pet-Ritz™ Regular Pie Crusts". (Convenient that it supplied a recipe for lemon meringue pie.) Although I’d made pies last year with scratch crust, I wasn’t in the mood this time. Scratch ingredients are cheap, and you know what goes into the shells. However, scratch shells are labor-intensive. View “Cherry Pie—Section 2 of 3, Pie Dough Preparation”, which also includes a link to the blog article.

I chose frozen instead of refrigerated for handling convenience. The frozen shells come preformed with own pans. As for graham cracker pie crusts, I’d not considered them, but I know of recipes to make them. Furthermore, they are available pre-made with shell in baking aisles.

Lemon Pie Filling Complexities

I felt intimidated when recently reading the “pudding” process from several sources. Measurements, sequence of items, constant stirring, stovetop monitoring are crucial. I myself have used cornstarch-as-thickener process numerous time for many years, including past lemon meringue pies. After the process, I decided it wasn’t so difficult after all (again).

Cream of Tartar in Meringue

Meringue is mainly egg whites with loads of sugar and air. When it’s ready to use, it resembles shaving cream. Some recipes I ran across omit cream of tartar, some bakers advocate it wholeheartedly as a bubble stabilizer. Never heard of or used cream of tartar? "What Is Cream of Tartar—and What Can I Substitute for It?"states that it's "a byproduct of wine production, the residue left on the barrels".

From Foood52’s “For Perfectly Whipped Egg Whites (+ Lofty Meringues), Add a Little Pinch of This
I use cream of tartar as a stabilizer in any recipe that calls for whipping egg whites, even when the recipe doesn’t call for it. I simply add 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar per cup of egg whites—or 1/4 teaspoon for every 4 egg whites—to the bowl with the egg whites before I begin whipping, and then proceed with the recipe as written. Some of my most respected colleagues use twice as much cream of tartar as I do, so you can choose how much to use.
Meringue Making

As a former newbie to meringue making, I was amazed at how much volume a few egg whites could expand to, with beating lots of air into them, and snowy white! It takes time! If you have a tilt-head mixer, that’s your friend to hold the beater up, and you need to add the sugar in spoonfuls for ensuring good sweetener distribution.

Several sites explain the process so you can see what ready meringue batches look like. Most bakers advocate spreading it onto poured pie filling while it’s warm or hot. At least one mentions a cool pie filling. They all stress spreading the meringue to the pie edge, totally sealing the filling.

Post-piebake Cooldown

Time ranges from one hour before cutting and serving to at least three. Some advice includes refrigeration. My lesson learned (sigh) is to be patient, wait long, and include a period of refrigeration before cutting. I had let it cool at room temperature for 2 ½ hours without refrigeration.

The Pillsbury frozen pie recipe states prep time of one hour, and total preparation time of five and a quarter hours. The cooling info says to cool completely; a subsequent sentence says to refrigerate about three hours, implying a room-temperature cooling time of 1 ¼ hours. Duh, I just noticed the online Pillsbury recipe "Lemon Meringue Pie" lists one hour for room temperature cooling.

"How to Cool & Serve Lemon Meringue Pie" provides explicit info for cooling and serving conditions.
Place the warm pie on a cooking rack for up to two hours. ... Refrigerate the pie for one hour if you prefer to serve it chilled. Make sure the pie has cooled to room temperature before refrigerating. Slice the pie in six or eight pieces with a sharp, thin-bladed knife. Make certain you cut all the way through the crust. If the lemon filling does not slice cleanly, you may need to cool your pie longer.
From delish.com's "Easy Lemon Meringue Pie"
The hardest part about this recipe is waiting for the custard filling to set. It takes a few hours and is 100% worth it if you're hoping to get a nice slice.

Cool completely, about 1 hour, then refrigerate until filling is set, 3 hours.
From once upon a chef's "Lemon Meringue Pie": "Let the pie cool completely on a rack before serving, about 3 hours."

Pie Wateriness, Weepiness, Sogginess

The initial wateriness was from the pie filling not setting fully—temperature and time. Served up two slices and spooned excess fluid. Refrigerated overnight; saw new excess fluid at cut area. Served up another two slices and spooned excess fluid. Third day, more of the same condition—new excess fluid at cut area. A few hours later, researched and found info about covering pie with foil or wrap. Did that, after I dabbed some already-developing fluid. Day four—success! Minimal excess fluid.

The useful info about covering pie came from "Food Storage - How long can you keep...LEMON MERINGUE PIE - BAKED"
Freshly baked lemon meringue pie will keep for about 2 to 3 days in the fridge; refrigerate covered loosely with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
"How to keep meringue pies from getting soggy" reiterates cooldown and refrigeration timings.
Refrigeration makes meringue weep more quickly, so let the pie stand at room temperature in a draft-free spot before serving it. After a few hours, however, it will need to be refrigerated.
"Prevent Weeping Meringue" states "Weeping occurs as moisture begins to slowly seep out of the meringue layer and ruin both the look and therefore the appeal of this otherwise delightful creation."

Room for Improvement

A future pie by me is sure to be better with the following reminders, as long as I don’t forget or ignore other info I’ve written.
  • The filling color was less yellowy than I expected. I used bottled lemon juice and skipped putting in peel (aka zest), as many other recipes call for. I did run across a few sites that mention using a few drops of yellow food coloring into the filling.
  • The meringue was maybe too thin in a couple of areas near the crust edge. Next time I’ll be sure to slather the meringue and seal the edge thickly.
  • With so much time for the pie to cool and set, consider the pie to be a 6-hour process. Definitely need ensure the baked pie is cool, at least an hour, then place it in the fridge for 3 ¼ hours.
  • The overnight wateriness over three days surprised me. Each time after cutting into pie, I need to cover with plastic wrap, pressing out air from cut areas.
BTW, it's good that I used the Pillbury recipe rather than allrecipes one, which calls for a fourth egg and extra 1/3 cup of water. They would have overflowed the pie crust. The online Pillsbury pie recipe calls for refrigerated pie shell, but ingredients and process are the same.

Additional Helpful Sites

Food for the cool's "Lemon Meringue Pie & Tips for Beginners" has lengthy helpful info for beginners and remedials is a long read, but has gems worth noting. (I myself found the process more work than I'd want to do in the future.) One passage seems pretty important WRT filling temperature:
make sure your filling is piping hot, fresh from the saucepan, when you pour it into the shell and add the meringue!! The filling has to be hot because the steam will travel up through the egg whites and cook the meringue from the bottom. If the filling has cooled, when the pie goes in the oven, the heat will heat up the filling and the steam will get trapped between the filling and meringue, creating a watery layer that causes the top and filling to separate.

"highly recommend a stand mixer for this! If not, you can still beat it with a hand mixer, but your arm will be tired."
"Magic Lemon Meringue Pie | Food Network" is intriguing for ease and brevity. The pie crust is graham cracker crust. Video shows meringue consistency to emulate, which she makes before making the filling. The filling is condensed milk, egg yolks, and lemon juice. Interesting that the filling color is similar to mine--offwhite rather than yellowy.

"Easy Lemon Meringue Pie" shows an unusual filling. Best attraction is her showing the meringue consistency and spreading at the end.

"How to Keep a Lemon Meringue Pie From Getting Soggy" describes using a glass pie pan instead of metal. (I myself am unlikely to buy a glass pan before I try other suggestions.)
Use a glass pie plate for your lemon meringue pie. A pie baked in a glass plate will absorb heat from the oven faster, which makes the pie bake more quickly, making it firm and preventing it from getting too soggy from the filling.

Place the pie in the bottom half of the oven so that the pie crust is closer to the direct heat of the oven. The faster the pie crust cooks, the less chance there will be of having a soggy crust.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Creating a YouTube Playlist Really Fast

In 2012, I wrote my previous blog articles WRT creating YouTube playlists with YT newbies in mind. (I'd been more of a newbie back then.) My newer method streamlines the process to minimal steps and window hopping.

Long ago, I set up playlists for music selections that reflect blog article topics. Keeping the playlists up-to-date have been problematic because of some owners removing videos or changing the public status to private. After having occasionally revisiting playlists and updating them, I no longer prioritize URL replacements.

What prompted me to revisit creating YT playlists? Two incentives: Replicating a set of cartoons on a VHS tape that didn't list the entire contents, and wanting to create recent thematic playlists for videos I'd created over time.

Scroll to near the end of this article for the playlist-creation procedure.

VHS-tape Cartoons

I had a VHS tape of cartoons ("Woody Woodpecker and Friends") that I wanted to be able to view without risking wearing out the VCR. The set info on the box is not very helpful; it lists only 12 of the 22 stories. I looked high and low on the web for the full listing. Neither VHS tape nor DVD version is available for sale. The closest info I found were both from WorldCat.org, which lists libraries that have them, no place close to home.

From one "Woody Woodpecker & Friends—"Diamond Entertainment Two hours of classic cartoons, 2003, DVD"

From another "Woody Woodpecker & Friends"—Distributed by Diamond Entertainment Corp., ©2000."

I finally resorted to playing the entire tape over two days, jotting down the titles, main characters, copyright year, in play order. I found all of the cartoons on YouTube. The playlist I created reflects the VHS tape's videos and order, but better quality. For two of the stories, I included links to additional versions because of quality issues—Robinhood Makes Good and Greedy Humpty Dumpty.

Thematic Playlists

Do you have a sizable collection of your own videos? Maybe some that are about similar topics? Create playlists with themes in mind. Set up the play order, and change them whenever you want.
This year, I started posting videos that did not correlate with same-name blog articles. I called them "Eye-caught Snippets" and put them into a playlist. More recently, I decided to create playlists for bugs , deer, and kitchen doings.

Creating the YouTube Playlist Really Fast

Assumptions are that you are familiar with YouTube and have a YouTube account.

Hint: Before starting the playlist process, first create a list that has columns for title and link. The list helps with easy navigation to the video and adding it to the playlist.
  1. Log in to YouTube.
  2. Navigate to a video.
  3. Click the Save button. (You must be logged in so you can save.)
  4. When the playlist window opens, click the playlist you want to save the selection to.
    (If you don't have a playlist for this purpose yet, click "New playlist", and follow the prompts.)
  5. Click the "X" at the upper right to complete the save process.
  6. Open a second YouTube window, click the Playlist tab, and select the playlist you're working on.
    Occasionally refresh the list to confirm the added item.
  7. Repeat the actions for navigating to a video and saving it until you're done.

Previous how-to's for creating a YouTube playlist

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Short Pre- TDay Deer Tracking


How short was the tracking? About 16 minutes and 1/4 mile of deer path. Followed a pack of deer and shot five clips on 11/23, the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

I found it amusing that the first clip showed decorative spider webbing among the foliage. That resident actually managed to remove it before Thanksgiving day. (I appreciated the web decoration serving as a visual cue for timeframe.)

During my deer pack follow, additional items of interest were a couple of balloon arrangements. One was a sitting turkey (on a straw cushion), another one was a group of smiling jack o'lanterns beside a sitting turkey.

Interestingly, the jack-o'lanterns were dual-purposed, having been around for Halloween and kept in place for Thanksgiving.

While I reviewed and edited items for creating my video for including the inflatable balloons, I decided to also work in a couple of deer images from just before Halloween. One pic has a fawn and doe seemingly playing peekaboo with each other, to the right of a Halloween skeleton.

The other pic is a composite of a buck. Lucky for me, I happened to have had my camera with me during this car trip. BTW, almost all my image captures are on foot. (Video clip frames vary slightly from the stills shown here.)
My video featuring the deer pack includes the following sections:
  1. Web-strung foliage at a house, deer pack ambling away
  2. A close deer trio moving from my left to right
  3. Pack starting to cross street and apparently doubling back halfway
  4. Pack deliberately trotting across street right to left
  5. Pack ambling away
  6. Halloween/Thanksgiving pic potpourri near 11/23 timeframe
The potpourri section includes a few Halloween and Thanksgiving images for timeframe reference. (I really wanted to include the timeframe-proximate regal buck and peekaboo deer.)

For more articles about deer, enter "deer" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "deer" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section). BTW, additional deer videos are available at my YouTube channel.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Composting Cleanly, Way Reducing Ick


Recently, we started participating in the community composting program. At the lead-off seminar, we received a specifically designed compostables pail for indoors. About a week or so later, outdoor carts arrived in the neighborhood. It took a few days to gingerly get with the program.

Although the seminar literature didn't help ease the ick apprehension, the Q and A session planted some ideas to "neaten" compostables. Actually implementing them was less messy than anticipated. Reduce ickiness possibilites by avoiding fouling both containers:
  • Use castoff food boxes to line the indoor pail, additionally helped if you initially use paper towels for spills/cleanups then toss into the boxes. Toss in items like egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit cores, post-meal wipes, etc.
  • Use newspaper to wrap food scraps, produce (fruits, veggies) trimmings, melon rinds.
  • Prepare the outdoor cart with a layer, maybe half-can full, of tree debris (leaves, small branches). Compress by pressing down with dustpan or similar item if you want.
When disposing of castoff food boxfuls and wrapped compostables, place them into the prepared cart instead of overturning the pail into the cart.

My video, less than 3 minutes, has four main sections with captions:
  1. Cart for compostables, intro and prep
  2. Pail for compostables, preparations and fill
  3. Kitchen wrapping preparations (some examples of produce)
  4. Compostables into cart
Pizza boxes are a type of castoff that the seminar emphasized as fine to compost. Also OK, meat-based tossouts. Visit top level info at "Curbside Composting Collection Program". Get smaller info bites at "How-to-Guide" and "Curbside Composting FAQ".

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Better'n a Baker's Dozen of Deer


A few days ago on a morning walk, the sun was pretty bright out, making me think conditions wouldn't be good for using my camera. For about the first half hour, I spotted some deer here and there, but contrasts not good. Happily, a load of deer came into view in shade. Within six minutes, I snagged three separate clips within 500 feet that I thought interesting.

Baker's Dozen
So many deer came into view in my first clip, I wondered how many I recorded. Upon viewing the clip several times, I'm more than 90 percent sure I have 14. My title refers to baker's dozen. I don't believe the term is used much anymore, but I wanted to refresh my recollection of its meaning. From "baker's dozen:"
a group of 13; a dozen plus one: from the former practice among bakers and other tradespeople of giving 13 items to the dozen as a safeguard against penalties for short weights and measures.
One doe, which I feature in the second video segment, caught my eye for smudge-like markings on her flank and shoulder. In the third clip, five deer are prominent. At the very start, however, a faraway sixth one ambles at the extreme right part of the clip. Blink and you miss it!

During viewing and editing, I noticed these deer all had taupe coloration but some were smaller than others. When I "shot" deer earlier in the year, fawns were more tawny and had white spots. More on the spotting later.

Coloration
Taupe and tawny each have 5 letters, starting with "ta". I wanted to clarify the color distinctions.
From "Taupe Color":
intermediate shade between dark brown and gray, which shares similar attributes of both colors. However, taupe does not describe a single color, rather, it is used to describe a vast range of colors from dark tan to brownish gray.
From "tawny":
A color adjective, tawny describes something that is a mix of yellow, orange, and brown colors. … Tawny comes from the Anglo-Norman word, taune, which means tanned.
It turns out that colors change during the year. In viewing some of my videos of deer from earlier in the year, does also look tawny. View deer/fawn segments at "Critter Shootin' Near Mid-June 2019" and "Fawnzies and Deering Does" (from July).

"Whitetail Deer Facts & Trivia, Information & Photos" is loaded with good deer info to begin with. Surprising is that the coat colors change throughout the seasons, like getting dye-jobs year around.
The whitetail's coat will change with the seasons, from reddish brown in the spring and summer when vegetation is growing to grayish brown in the winter. This helps the deer to stay camouflaged all year round. The change in color happens quickly, usually in 1 or 2 weeks.
Fawn Spots
From "More Information: When Do Fawns Lose Their Spots?":
Fawns maintain their white spots for 90 to 120 days after birth; quite useful for their survival. These spots eventually fade away from their body after that time frame. Once gone, a shiny brownish fur replaces it. A thicker coat replaces the previous coat of the fawn as the white spots slowly fade. The purpose of the thicker coat is for them to survive the winter.
Antler Starts
Another feature that piqued my interest with these clips was absence of antlers or forehead nubs. I wondered when male deer started developing them. From "Managing for Age in White-tailed Deer"
Male deer begin growing their first set of antlers at about one year of age. They will grow a new set of antlers yearly. With proper nutrition equal, antlers will get larger each year until about six years of age.

For more articles about deer, enter "deer" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "deer" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section). BTW, additional deer videos are available at my YouTube channel.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Halloween Scenes Around


Jack O'Lanterns, skeletons, ghouls, ghosts, goblins, black cats, dragons, witches, oh, my! Additional ghastly, occasional cutie characters! The scenery owners seemed to have gotten into the spirit (grin). I fess up! These stills and clips from these 20 sites are from two weeks in October 2018. With so much nearby flora and fauna to pick from within a year's time, I kept kicking the 2018 Halloween blog-and-video can down the road. Stroll with me and view the Halloweeny sites/sights.

For more articles about Halloween, enter "Halloween" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "Halloween" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section).

Friday, September 27, 2019

Cicada Wasp, Pac-Mannish Deco

In mId -August, spotted couple of cicada-pertinent items--a cicada wasp and cicada wing, one day apart. Decided to save the cicada wasp topic till now. (The previous article and video is about the wing—"Cicada Wing Curiosity Piquer".

As is often, the winged bug caught our eyes during a morning walk. Initially, thought might be a hornet. Took video and stills, one with a measuring tape body. Later, I estimated the insect at ~ 2”, using some kludgy composite means of measuring items. Easiest way to estimate the length would have been simply pull some of the measuring tape out, lock it, place the tab near one end the insect, and take a pic.
Anyway, I poked around on the web to narrow down the stinger suspect. Found an excellent Cicada Wasp Flickr image. Now armed with caption info, particularly "Cicada Killer Wasp (Crabroninae, Sphecius specimen)", I no longer, uh, flew blind trying to determine the insect.

"Crabronidae, the crabronid wasps, including the mud daubers and sand wasps" section of "Insect Identification Key" and "Genus Specius" section of BugGuide.net greatly helped my bug determination. BugGuide's Taxonomy tab shows the four species convallis (Pacific), grandis (Western), hogardii (Caribbean), and speciosus (Eastern).

In looking at the BugGuide's Sphecius genus images, the yellow markings of the images I have seem to best indicate the Eastern species. Look at a Pac-Man image, then look at killer wasp images I offer up. Do you also see Pac-Mannish faces? Contrast with markings of other species' examples—less Pac-Mannish, imho. (View my video for circling-around peering.)

I recalled I had blogged about a cicada wasp with cicada. Revisted "Wasp and Cicada Together". The pic of a neighbor and dead cicada wasp greatly resembles the Cicada Wasp Flickr image.

For more articles about cicadas, enter "cicada" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "cicada" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section).

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Cicada Wing Curiosity Piquer

Last month, we found a wing part inside the kitchen door. Wondered if someone tracked it in. Maybe a butterfly wing? Hmm, as I'd been preoccupied with cicadas this July and August, I immediately recognized it as a partial cicada wing. Decided to video-record it, turning it with tweezers, and also taking some stills.


Although seemingly transparent, the wing panes actually have "spikes". Poking around the web, I found articles about cicada wing research, mostly about antibacterial properties. (Google hits for cicada wing water repellency were fewer.)

Antibacterial Capability

From "Cicada wings inspire new ideas for antibacterial products"
Scientists have discovered that the wing surface of the Clanger cicada (Psaltoda claripennis) isn’t flat. Instead, it is covered with thousands of pillars that are about 200 nanometers tall (a nanometer is a billion times smaller than a meter). When certain types of disease causing bacteria land on a cicada’s wing, they are killed by the nanopillars.
From "Nanopillars on surface of wing of the clanger cicada kill bacteria by expanding surface area to the point of stretching and ripping."
On the surface of the clanger cicada there are tiny cone-like structures known as nanopillars. These are spaced out among the wing and protrude upward from the surface. … when a bacterial cell finds itself on the surface of the wing; as it settles in, the nanopillars push up against it causing the cell to somewhat mold around them. This shifting of shape causes stretching in the bacterial cell's membrane. With enough stretch, the surface eventually begins to split and tear.
From "Cicada wings hold engineering and nanotechnology secrets | UNC-TV Science"
structures on a wing about 50 nanometers tall (~2.25 minutes into video), about 1000 times smaller than human hair width.
Additional info about anti-bacterial properties: "Researchers find cicada wing structure able to kill bacteria on contact (w/ video)", "Antibacterial Surfaces Inspired By Cicada Wings"

Water Repellency

From "Studying Cicada Wings for Bioinspiration"
The study, published in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, focused on the water-repelling ability of cicada wings. The research team of engineers and entomologists used high-speed microscopic photography to study the wings' ability to repel water.

"The property that allows a surface to repel water is called hydrophobicity and it causes water to bead up and roll away," Miljkovic said. "Superhydrophobicity is simply an extreme form of this property and cicada wings that have this feature have a rough nanotexture that creates open spaces around water droplets, allowing surface tension to force the droplets to jump off of the wings."
From "Cicada Wings Are Self-Cleaning"
Researchers now find the design of their wings can cause filth to jump right off of them with the aid of dew, findings that might help lead to better artificial self-cleaning materials. … Scientists had known that cicada wings are super-water-repellent, or super-hydrophobic.
More Winging It

During winging-it web browsing, I noticed sites that sell cicada wings, both jewelry designs and organic: Amazon Cicada Wing Jewelry for sale, Cicada wings for sale

More Cicadaing

From Cicada Mania—"dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world". This site has menu links: News & Facts, Species, Sounds, Photos, FAQs, Merch(andise) 17-Year Cicadas. Oddly, the site doesn't provide info or links about scientific studies about cicada wings.

For more articles about cicadas, enter "cicada" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "cicada" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section).

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Cicada Exuviae Trios, Additional Exuviae at Odd Hang Spots

I've seen some odd places that cicada nymphs chose to park their shells and extract themselves. My spotting of the recent trio and solo at odd places inspired me to find other oddball exuviae discard locations I'd taken pix of. FWIW, some places might not seem so odd; that a few nymphs chose the same place around the same time is. (My previous article is about the seven exuviae on my house in a recent three-week period.)



The First Trio

The first cicada exuviae (exoskeleton) trio was at a rain shutoff device, spotted Sunday 8/18 elevenish. I might not have considered it unusual for one exuviae. Three, however, made me chuckle because they were so close to each other. I thought about threesomes—Three Stooges, Three Amigos, Three Musketeers, Kingston Trio, ….

The Rest of the Exuviae Hangups

Coincidentally, only a few minutes later at another part of the yard, another exuviae caught our eyes. While trimming some branches, the other co-trimmer thought one limb end had a particularly ugly cut. Looking closer, it turns out an exuviae was hugging it. This one might have been hanging out for awhile; closer look shows dust and tree debris. (In contrast, the trio looked pretty "clean" and shiny.)
In July 2017, a cicada molted and abandoned its shell at the front door step. The following other oddball spots were from July 2018:
  • On a sidewalk curb
  • On a car tire that faced the street (two different shells on two consecutive days)
  • On a sago plant (another trio)
Followup Visit to The First Trio

The other day, I saw that only one exuviae still hung out at the rain shutoff device—clinging to the wire. The other two shells apparently fell off. The remaining shell looks like a good example of a nymph having found a great item to clutch in preparation for self-extraction. It successfully implemented strategy that "Photo Essay: Cicada Nymph Molts into Adult" describes:
they find a place on a tree to grab hold and ‘affix’ themselves … Beginning around dusk the Cicada nymph crawls out of the ground and up a tree to affix itself to a sturdy part. This nymph circled this branch, feeling for a strong hold. Molting is quite a process and they’ll be there awhile, so they want to make sure not to fall during the process.
Nevertheless, I used a twig for positioning the two other exoskeletons and taking additional pix for the video.

For more articles about cicadas, enter "cicada" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "cicada" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section).

Monday, August 26, 2019

Hangout for 7 Cicada Exuviae 7-11 Through 8-01 2019

This year's been a huge year for cicadas. I wound up with images for seven different cicada exuviae that hung at the house between July 11 and August 1, a three-week period. I've differentiated them with phonetically alphabetishmonikers. (Oddly, no exuviae were at sides nor back of house, and none at the curb.)

Date Name Comment
July 11 Ayy Upside down at the porch overhang, seemingly to hug it symmetrically while defying gravity—no "glue" involved.
July 21 Bea At a vertical part of the porch, head toward the sky. (One pic, taken with the flash on, resulted in a coppertone face-like image.)
July 24, 25 Cee Initially at a porch column corner, head angled skyward; July 25 pix shows profile and belly-up views (porch surface). Definitely see no "glue" residue.
July 27 Dee At porch surface and brick wall intersection, but also featuring the cicada itself on porch surface.
July 31, Aug 1 Eee At a brick wall edge, head skyward, with nearby ant and spider.
Aug 1 Eff Upside down at porch overhang, similar to exuviae Ayy.
Aug 1 Gee Similarly positioned as exuviae Cee, but at a different porch and near the overhang.
The video shows more and closer details of these "visitors".
My first exposure to cicada exuviae, was in 2016, when I posted a pic (a beaut!) to LinkedIn requesting ID help. Shortly thereafter, I posted "Closeup of Molted Cicada Exoskeleton (and More Info)". A cicada exuviae (exoskeleton), imho, is fascinating for its split-back opening that displays much of the inside of the abandoned shell and inside-out "appendages". View a great, 34-second time-lapse video of a cicada emerging and vacating its shell.

One commonality of most exuviae I've spotted was the skyward position of the head. For some other exuviae, I thought it odd that they hung upside down parallel to the ground. I wondered if cicada nymphs applied some type of glue before attempting self-extraction. "Photo Essay: Cicada Nymph Molts into Adult" explains cicada nymphs' strategy for attaching their exoskeletons onto something before shellbreak:
they find a place on a tree to grab hold and ‘affix’ themselves … Beginning around dusk the Cicada nymph crawls out of the ground and up a tree to affix itself to a sturdy part. This nymph circled this branch, feeling for a strong hold. Molting is quite a process and they’ll be there awhile, so they want to make sure not to fall during the process.
Note a pic on its website and accompanying caption: "a cicada attached itself to another cicada nymph who was about to emerge."

"Bug of the Week: Cicada Nymph" complements the Photo Essay site for emphasis on the nymph stage. It also might shed light about those "appendages" I mentioned earlier.
In the back where the skin has split you can often see tiny white threads. Those are the reminants [sic] of the cicadas breathing tubes, called trachae.
My most fascinating cicada/exuviae experience was spotting a cicada emerging from its exoskeleton—"Molting Cicada Visitor at My Doorstep". It was a periodic monitoring of pic-taking and videorecording that spanned several hours. (So proud of the video I created!)

For more articles about cicadas, enter "cicada" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "cicada" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section).

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Webworm Nest at Tx Black Walnut Tree

At a city park in June, I noticed a conical item high on a Texas Black Walnut tree. I took some pix and a zoom-in/out video. Although details weren't great, the item looked "aerated". Returned with someone else who brought a monopod and higher-resolution camera. Over about a week, posted some images and zoom-out video to LinkedIn for gathering opinions on what the item could be. Speculations: Web belonging to webworms, tent worms, gypsy moths, silkworms. Responses included advice to destroy the web/nest.

Webworms, Tent Worms, Gypsy Moths, Silk Worms, Oh, My!

Someone mentioned tent worms and their affinity for pecan trees. However, someone else mentioned webworms and provided "Fall Webworm", which nudged me towards webworms.
Caterpillars (larvae) of the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) feed on over 100 different species of deciduous trees. Walnut, hickory, pecan, persimmon, sweetgum, ash, maple, oak, poplar, redbud, and willow are commonly damaged.
Poking Around the Web

"Bagworm, Fall Webworm or Eastern Tent Caterpillar?" provides clarification because of food preferences between web worms and tent worms.
Tent caterpillars like to feed on crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash, flowering cherry, and other trees and shrubs in the rose family. … Fall webworm feeds on over 120 different species of deciduous trees including crabapple, ash, oak, elm, maple, hickory, sweet gum, and black walnut.
"Webworms feeding in a tree near you this fall" from Aug 2016 differentiates the two worm types as does the Illinois site: "Not to be confused with the Eastern tent caterpillar, which shows up in the early spring, the fall webworm is prevalent in late summer through the fall."

Coincidentally, a friend blogger (Steve Schwartzman) posted an item very recently about webworms "A world all its own" and cited the same scientific name—Hyphantria cunea, linked to its entry in Wikipedia. As Steve's photo is of a raindrop-covered webworm web and bears no resemblance to my "airy" cone, Wikipedia's pic of a webworm nest looks similar to my images.

Regarding the possibility of gypsy moths, I did a Google image search for gypsy moth webs. They don't resemble the structure I'd pic'd, but more like the image at "Why are there so many creepy webs on the tree branches over your head?"

As for maybe silk worms, floated by another commenter, "What to do When Your Trees Are Full of Silk Worms" states, "true silkworms feed solely on the leaves of white mulberry trees. If you have a few in your yard that are covered in webs, silkworms are the culprits."

Bugged out? Ready to battle? A possible difficulty in destroying the nest I spotted, besides it being on city property, might be the height. I estimated the height to be about 40'. View my short video, which might provide idea of distance relative to height.



Some Timely Resources (within the Last Couple of Months)

"What to do in your garden this week - Care for chrysanthemum, fertilize and monitor for webworms." published this month.
Monitor mulberry, oak, pecan, poplar and willow trees for webworms. Heavy infestations over several years can weaken trees as the caterpillars feast on the foliage. If the egg masses on the leaves are accessible, simply remove and destroy them. Tear open the webs so natural predators can access the larvae. If the webs are growing, rip them open and spray the foliage, top and bottom, with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
Another very current source came in mid-June: "Webworms are hanging out in Central Texas trees this year in greater numbers than usual"
Webworms — or Fall webworms or Hyphantria cunea — are young moths who live out their time as caterpillars in silken enclosures they spin in plants. … Webworms start off as eggs, and when they hatch, they begin spinning their silken webs.

If you want to get rid of webworms, [entomologist Wizzie] Brown said that a good option is simply opening up the web to allow for lizards, wasps, or birds to get in and eat them. You can also prune the infested parts of the tree away or use a high-pressure water spray to get holes in the web.
The article includes embedded link to YouTube video "Webworms are hanging out in Central Texas trees this year in greater numbers than usual".

Additional Resources in IDing and Battling Webworms and their Web Nests

"Everything that You Need to Know About Webworms" from July 2018 contains info, with excellent video that differentiates webworms,bag worms, tent caterpillars, and bag worms, and controlling these pests, including those in high trees.
These webworms make a webbed nest in the hardwoods of the deciduous tree limbs (mostly alder, willow, cottonwood, elm, walnut, apple and peach trees). Webworms can be further classified into Web worms, and Eastern Tent Caterpillars.
"How to Deal with Webworms in Your Trees" from Oct 2018 advises "If possible, open up hole(s) in the nest with a stick, pole saw, or high-pressure nozzle. Then use appropriate insecticide."

"Creepy-looking web sacks are popping up all over Georgia" from August 2017 states, "trees are covered with what look like huge spider webs". The site includes a video with close-in views of web and caterpillars, and UGA agricultural agent breaking open a web bag.

"CATERPILLAR NEST REMOVAL IN PECAN TREE 9-14-12" shows one person's method for getting rid of a webworm nest that was about 40' above the ground, but with different logistical considerations than the one in my images.

"How to Control Webworms High in a Tree" from Aug 2018 is a short and sweet video, with text and narration. Although it has very little imagery. The emphasis on text and narration is good for reinforcing other sites' how-to info.

Circling Back to Texas Black Walnut

The tree with the nest greatly resembles the tree that was at street level that I blogged about last year. Visit "Texas Black Walnut--Lookalike to Deadly Manchineel". The article includes embedded link to its associated YouTube video.


Webworm Nest and Cooper's Hawk Together

The webworm nest makes a cameo in my video.



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Fawnzies and Deering Does


It took only about half an hour to capture does and fawns one morning (June 23). Two does and their twin fawns were two separate families. One of the does of twins had a Sharpie-pen-like horizontal mark at its left flank. One additional doe had a single fawn near it. One snippet showed two fawnless does. This season, I have rarely missed spotting deer during neighborhood strolls (multiple times weekly.)

Feed Me!

A previous video I'd uploaded included a clip of a doe standing one hind hooves to reach some tree leaves (~5 minute mark). In this blog's video, I managed to capture a mom feeding her young'uns. Or maybe it's more like the young'uns insisting to Mom, "Feed me! Feed me!"

Thinking of the, uh, food order, my mind meandered to the entertaining musical version of "Little Shop of Horrors". Audrey II, the mutant plant, is terrifying and amusing at the same time when "requesting" food.

Piqued About Fawns?

Numerous sources inform about youthful spots, importance of not touching these babies, and fast maturity.
An interesting way to obtain fawn info is entering a curiosity question about them in Google, such as "how much do fawns weigh at birth". Google displays loads of questions and answers.

One evening in 2005, I'd spotted a fawn lying among jasmine. Hadn't thought of any other time to work the pic into previous article. Not likely it is still around.

"Whitetail Deer Facts & Trivia, Information & Photos" says, "Few whitetail deer live more than 5 years in the wild. Some whitetails have been found to be up to 11 years old in the wild, and domesticated deer have lived up to 20 years."

More recently than way back then, I spotted, recorded, and blogged about a buck we spotted New Year's Day. It had several points on its antler; was older than a juvenile.

For more articles about deer, enter "deer" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "deer" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section). BTW, additional deer videos are available at my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Critter Shootin' Near Mid-June 2019


Previously, I blogged "Lotsa Bloomin' Mid-May Near Mid-year 2019", regarding a neighborhood stroll—flora and fauna images from May 16, 17, 18. This neighborhood stroll video includes only animals; the walk took less than an hour. What a collection of critters!
  1. Cooper's Hawk and mockingbird
  2. Doe and two fawns
  3. Red June bug
  4. Doe and two fawns (Initially unsure if a second family or the same one.)
  5. Caterpillar (June bug larva)
The Cooper's Hawk perched atop a foliage-free branch group. A mockingbird kept dive-bombing it. Trying to keep the camera steady at the distance and zoom challenged me.

I wasn't sure that the doe and fawns were the same family until reviewing the video clips. In the second footage of deer, they were much more energetic than in the first footage.

The June bug might have already been dead; I didn't want to prod it to find out. Incidentally, I'd uploaded the bug to LinkedIn with request for ID. The color and pose didn't resemble any of the three olivy green/brown June bugs I pic'd last year ("So How Cute ARE June Bugs?"). Maybe I should have ensured the reddish bug had its total back upward.

The caterpillar resembled several that I'd shot in April. The undulation movement intrigued me, as well as its prolegs. It took some poking around Google images to find some that resemble my "capture"; I finally found enough info to declare the critter a June bug larva. "Life Cycle Process of a June Bug" shows a basic diagram. "Turfgrass - May/June Beetle Grubs" links to a January-through-December image. Grubs don't sound good to have around. "How To: Get Rid of June Bugs", section "PREVENT DAMAGE FROM GRUBS" has a large image with caution and recommendation: "grubs that will get your grass. Lose the larvae …". Another anti-grub resource: "Grub Worm Identification and Treatment".

This year has been very good for abundant blooms, new-growth plants, and wildlife. View some via the index. Also, I'll be posting more strolling image items to share.

For more articles about deer, enter "deer" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "deer" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section). BTW, additional deer videos are available at my YouTube channel.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Lotsa Bloomin' Mid-May Near Mid-year 2019


This year, May has been an especially eye-popping year for blooms. This blog and accompanying video represent sightings simply from short walks in and near the neighborhood on May 16, 17, and 18. (Includes coupla non-bloom subjects.)
While strolling in the 'hood one day,
In this kinda wet month of May,
Many blooms, so picturesque,
E'en a non-bloom piqued me, yes,
I meandered and pic'd another couple of days!
Acknowledgement to Ed Haley's "Strolling Through The Park One Day" music and lyrics. Want to sing along to the original?

The following subjects caught my eye:
  • Two different prickly pear colonies with varying bloom stages (Dig those toes!)
  • Small flattened snake with an intriguing pattern (to me) that looks even more interesting at the head
  • Two different Mexican hat colonies, one trail with loads of color variations, one patch with a blink-and-and-you'll-miss-it bee
  • Creek, somewhat vertically zigzagged
  • Shoal Creek Chaste Tree, blooms sparse and pale so far this year
Prickly pear plants were predominant in this stroll. Some prickly pear references: "Prickly Pear Cactus", "Prickly pear cactus, our state plant". Mexican hat blooms were also prominent. Visit "Mexican hats el 5 de mayo, no mas el 7 de mayo" for more eyefuls and references.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mexican hats el 5 de mayo, no mas el 7 de mayo

To bee'd


Or not to bee'd


During a short walk on Sunday, May 5, I took a few pix of some small clutches of Mexican hat flowers. (I hadn't actually thought of the date coincidence as a Mexican theme.) Two days later, I had hoped to show them to someone else. ¡Ay caramba! They were nowhere in sight! Where'd they go? Did someone pluck them? To take inside? To take them somewhere else? To throw them away? Eh, I wasn't going to be brave enough to knock on the homeowner's door to ask.

Separate places in the past (May last year, May 2014) bloomed wildly with Mexican hats, but nada on the 5th or 7th this year. Fortunately for me, more recently, I did manage to spot additional crops of Mexican hats and took pix and video. My compilation videos (bee'd and beeless include Mexican hats from four different areas (shot May 5, 16, 17, and 23). Hope you yourself spot such striking cute blooms where you live, work, play, or wander!

A few online resources to visit—
  • "Upright prairie coneflower Ratibida columnifera" is a good starting point, with very basic description and some images.
  • "Ratibida columnifera" lists "Mexican Hat, Red-spike Mexican Hat, Upright Prairie Coneflower, Prairie Coneflower, Long-headed Coneflower, Thimbleflower" as common names. The website has more extensive information and a link to almost 200 images.
  • "Wildflowers of Texas", besides providing its image of Mexican hats and short description, also includes similar thumbnail info on other Texas wildflowers. (Note: Because of inconsistency in vertical placements of images near flowers' descriptions, it helps if you already know some of these specimens.)
    Mexican hat (Ratibida columnaris)—Blooms May to July, later with favorable weather. Common throughout most of state. Named for its resemblance to the traditional high-crowned, broad-brimmed Mexican sombrero.

    Seeing both "Ratibida columnifera" and "Ratibida columnaris" terms confused me. I've not been able to find much to clarify the difference. "Ratibida columnifera" shows up a lot more in hits, even when searching for "columnaris". "Mexican Hat / Ratibida columnaris / 500+ Seeds Perennial" indicates both terms are acceptable. (Prices look a lot more economical than some other sites that sell seeds and plants!)
  • "Ratibida Species, Mexican Hats, Thimbleflower, Upright Prairie Coneflower Ratibida columnifera" caught my eye for a pic that shows a striking batch of yellow-only petaled blooms.
  • A friend blogger Steve Schwartzman's blog collection of Mexican hat flowers reflects different times of years that he's caught 'em.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Blue Heron Sighting, Swans, and 12 Days of Christmas Connection

During this morning's walk, we spotted a pair of birds flying overhead. Companion speculated swans. A nearby homeowner who also spotted them declared they were blue herons. I had figured "swans" was not feasible. "They don't fly," I thought. Or do they?

A few years ago, when some relatives visited, we walked into a hotel that had swans in a pond area. View "Embassy Suites Austin TX - Arboretum", starting about 2:10 to see some swans in the lobby. A nearby sign mentions something about feeding (or not). My recollection was seeing a sign that said they swam only and did not fly. (I'm not making a special trip to the hotel to confirm no-fly swan zone.)

Swan Flights

From "Swan Facts for Kids", "swans can actually fly. They are among the largest flying birds out there and need about 30 yards to become airborne". "Flight Profiles and Take Off" describes flight and communication methodologies among trumpeter and tundra swan flocks.

"Swan Migration" provides details about migration of trumpeter and tundra swans.
Two swan species are native to North America. In summer, both migrate to the Arctic for breeding and nesting. Male trumpeter swans, one of the world's largest water birds, can weigh up to 28 pounds, with females a few pounds lighter; tundra swans are less than two-thirds that size. … trumpeters have all-black bills, while most tundra swans have a yellow patch on theirs.
12 Days of Christmas, Swans, and Additional Birds

During my mind meandering about swans, I thought about "12 Days of Christmas" and the line about seven swans a-swimming. Then I recalled several gift references to different bird types. Yet, how many younger people know what these birds are? Partridge? Turtle doves? French hens? Calling birds?

For a starting point about lyrics, visit "The Twelve Days of Christmas Traditional" to view all lyrics in one place. Want to know how many total birds? Visit "How Many Birds Are In The 12 Days Of Christmas Carol?".

View two entertainingly illustrated videos are "12 Days Of Christmas | Kids Songs | Super Simple Songs" and "Christmas Songs for Children * 12 Days of Christmas * Kids Songs * Christmas Carols for Kids". BTW, those images might be unhelpful with identifying actual birds in the lyrics. View real bird pix accompanied by descriptions at "The bird songs behind 'The 12 Days of Christmas'".

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DIY Red-light Head Light



You might ask, "Who would want a red-light head light?" Well, amateur astronomers, for hands-free seeing at night, especially if they're carrying or handling equipment, such as telescopes. Other night-sky observers might want to wear them for being able to walk around without bumping into people or items, and they can retain night vision while viewing objects, whether through telescopes or binoculars at night-sky watching events.

You might wonder why it's important to use red light at night to see with instead of using other-color light. Red light helps illuminate dark areas without adversely affecting night vision. Eyes need time to adjust to dark surroundings. At night, when someone turns on a non-red light, such as car headlights or white-light flashlight, sky objects become less visible and vibrant until the eyesight becomes re-accustomed to darkness.

A red light head light is a modification of an off-the-shelf elastic headband lamp. (More on acquiring the lamp and similar later.) The bulb itself is white—suitable for normal uses. For astronomy purposes, the light needs to be red.

Step-by-step Modifying Regular Headlight to Red Headlight

The video shows items needed, procedure, and white lightcircle next to red light circle. Items required:
  • Head lamp (Western Safety brand) or similar elastic-band lamp with center bulb
  • Red automotive tail light tape, available at auto parts stores
  • Scissors
Note: The tape should be wider than the diameter of the lamp's screw-on transparent cap. For example, the tape I used was 1 7/8" wide, and the cap was 1 5/8" across. (Ruler in video is for tape width reference.)

Procedure
  1. Unscrew the retainer ring with clear cap from the rest of the lamp.
  2. Separate the clear cap from the ring.
  3. Cut a squarish piece of red tape that overlaps the cap with a reasonable margin all around. In my case, the tape was wider than the cap diameter by only 1/4".
  4. Firmly place the center of the flat part of the cap onto the sticky part of the tape.
  5. With scissors, snip the red tape's corners and sides up to the cap's edge.
  6. Fold and evenly press each of the snipped tape corners to the cap's edge, pressing at opposite corners for evenness in stickiness and surfaces.
  7. Press the retainer ring back onto the cap.
  8. Screw the retainer ring and cap onto the lamp.
For contrast, the video shows red and white flashlight circles side by side.

Getting an Elastic-band Headlight

Western Safety manufactures a headlamp commonly available at Amazon and Harbor Freight. Amazon's price is $1.79, and Harbor Freight's list price is $2.99. For additional types of headlamps, visit Google image offerings.

Some Caveats of the Western Safety Headlamp

You might run into at least one of the following situations if you get headlamps that this company manufactures. The first two items have workarounds.
  • Slots for straps might be wide; straps might loosen from the unit. (Tape the strap pegs together.)

    Related: Contrast two styles of strap retainers and slots.

  • Straps might be short (tight fit) for the wearer. (Stitch an extender, such as a piece of a lanyard or wide ribbon.)

  • Switch sometimes doesn't turn on reliably.
  • Battery cavity can be slightly undersized and batteries not fitting well.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Nandina Domestica—Good, Bad, not Ugly

Out on a walk early February 4, I spotted a plant with striking red berries and vibrant leaves, making me think of Christmas and holly. It was growing wild in a shallow ravine just behind a guard rail.

The weather around that time was surprisingly moderate—mid-60s to 70ish, no precipitation. For that matter, January and February this year seemed mostly pretty springy, with February staying moderate except for about February 8 and 9, when wintery weather came for a short visit.

Took a few pix, then created a composite. Being pretty ignorant about plants, I posted the image to LinkedIn and requested ID help. Happily for me, a connection shortly replied and IDed it as "nandina", enthusiastically embracing its ever greenness and presence in her yard.

That enthusiasm and ID at that time sent me off web-hunting A Google search for "nandina" returned numerous hits that allude to poisonous and invasive properties. Hmmm, maybe nandina has both fans and haters. More on that later.

About a week or so ago, I ran across a copy of native plant species that a blogger friend of mine provided for one of the annual nearby nature walks. One item was "Nandina, heavenly bamboo — Nandina domestica", in the category of "Some Alien Invasive Plant Species ...". ("Alien" and "Invasive" in the same breath don't sound complimentary to me.)

"What Are the Different Types of Nandina Shrubs?" provides a good overview of the plant.
The shrubs are also called heavenly bamboo due to their upright shoots, which resemble those of bamboo, but in fact they're no relation. In U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, where nandina shrubs grow year-round, they can become invasive. ... To help prevent nandinas from taking over your yard, grow nonfruiting varieties. … Nandina leaves and berries are toxic and may be harmful to birds, humans, grazing animals and cats.

"Nandina domestica Heavenly Bamboo" provides both positive and negative points. (BTW, the site's pic at the left side shows just the berries and leaves that are very similar to my pic.)

Good and not Ugly (Upside)
Nandina spreads slowly by underground stems, providing attractive clumps for entryways, containers, or as specimen plantings in a ground cover. They also add an accent to the front of a shrub border when planted in groups or clumps.

Nandina is a low maintenance shrub, requiring only one pruning each year to control plant height, if needed.

Bad (Downside)
Plants have been reported as invasive into selected natural areas in Florida and other southern states.

"Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo)" echoes a similar downside sentiment: "Native to Japan, China and India. Plants tend to be invasive in some southern states".

"Nandina (Nandina domestica)" is a two-minute video that provides good basic description and images of the plant. It, like several resources I've run across, mention the invasiveness.

"Heavenly Bamboo" provides description, pictures, and care information. No downside info. Wonder why? It's a plant vendor. Gave me pause to see the price—$69, considering the one I spotted was growing wild and free.

Additional Resources
  • "Nandina domestica Heavenly bamboo" heavily describes the plant's physical characteristics, propagation means, toxicity to some animals, and difficulty in controlling it. Note the website's name includes "invasives".
  • "Why nandina berries and certain birds don't mix" provides good basic info about nandina with a bit more specifics about the cedar waxwing bird's eating habits that make the berries more dangerous for them than most other animals. The embedded video describes the berries and leaf shape and configuration for those of us curious non-botanists.
  • "Just Try To Kill Nandina!" is an entertaining article that the author seems to both grudgingly admire the nandina for its beauty, yet also disdain the plant's tenacity for survival and propagation.
More Recent Composite, with Flowers

Three months after having taken the February pix, saw flowers and no berries. From "Nandina domestica" WRT order of flowers/berries, "8-15 in. erect panicle of white flowers in early summer; panicle of 0.3 in. bright red berries fall into winter". Panicle's a new term for me! Wisegeek's "What is a Panicle?" explains, "A panicle is a cluster of flowers which grows on the end of a branch or shoot."

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Reaching Past Pasta Ads that Feature La Donna E Mobile

Every now and then, I've tried finding a TV commercial that advertised pasta and used a particularly catchy classical piece. I've long since forgotten the name of the pasta and most of the pasta words. I had never learned the name of the music until a few weeks ago. With some further effort beyond doing a playlist lookup for my local classical music radio station, I narrowed it down to "La Donna E Mobile" from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto. ("La Donna e Mobile" is a 43-sec instrumental autoplay audio that loops.)

I figured it would be easy to find the TV ad on YouTube, but it wasn't so. I expanded my searches. I've wracked my brain and looked all over the web. I posted to a forum requesting help in finding the ad. My inquiry included my feeble recall of lyrics that mention pasta shapes, such as mostaccioli, vermecilli, …. It seems the singer mentioned about 20 pasta shapes.

A couple of suggestions were close, but not correct. "The Pasta Song" has loads of pasta shapes in both lyrics and images. Not the correct song, however. Be forewarned that the images are mouth-watering and maybe hunger inducing! "Leggos ad by Grey Melbourne" starts out with a charming choreography of dancing tomatoes, and ends with their total destruction into sauce. Integration with music equipment is fascinating! Right music, incorrect lyrics.

I had an interesting journey seeking the ad. Besides encountering some nice performances, the following resources helped provide some overview of the opera plot.
Deeper curiosity about the plot led me to "Rigoletto Synopsis The Story of Verdi's Rigoletto", which provides info about the composer, characters, and summary about the entire play.

My curiosity about pronunciation percolated. "How to pronounce La donna è mobile" and "'La donna è mobile' Verdi (Rigoletto)" seem sensible resources.

The following links describe the popularity of La Donna e Mobile for various products—Doritos, tomato paste, Dancing with the Stars, Nestle Choco Crossies (cookies), AXE (body spray), …
I have almost totally given up on trying to find the ad (eh, from maybe early 60s). I suppose someone's parent or older friend who worked there AND spotted this resource or my article could specify the company name. Long shot, I think.