To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More Scenes From Christmas

We spent Christmas eve and day in Florida at my husband's brother's house with them and with their parents. We always enjoy Christmas on the farm with our family and all of the animals. Our dog Bella considers it a Lowe dog family reunion! Some of these photos have already appeared here, and some are new.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Scenes from Christmas

It isn't Christmas 'til I decorate sugar cookies.

Santa brought a bulky gift early!

The reindeer are out.

Childhood flies away...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pyrex: They Don't Make It Like They Used To

Take a look at my chicken sitting amidst a bunch of broken glass that was once a 9 x 13 Pyrex casserole dish. Thank goodness the oven was closed when the dish shattered. Given the volume of the explosion from inside my oven, it would have likely blown the glass all over the kitchen had it not been contained. It's a very good thing I didn't choose that moment to peek into the oven to check on the meat.

So what did I do to cause this? Well, I started baking chicken the same way I have been doing for decades in my older Pyrex that dates back to the 1970s, except that this time, I did it in a dish I got for Christmas only 2 years ago. The dish was at room temperature, right out of the cabinet. The chicken had been out of the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. The oven was preheated to 400 before the chicken went in. About 10 minutes into cooking, the dish suddenly broke into a million pieces.

Now, to be fair, the Pyrex website indicates that I was supposed to cover the bottom of the dish with liquid. They also insist that Pyrex glassware is safe when used according to their directions. They aren't likely to sympathize with my complaint since I didn't add liquid, even though the chicken covered the entire bottom of the dish. The thing is, since new Pyrex is passed off as the same product it has always been - same look, same name - everyone assumes that it will behave the same way it always has. I've been cooking in my vintage Pyrex for twenty years and I've never added liquid to baking chicken. My mother and grandmother used Pyrex almost on a daily basis. They never added liquid to baking chicken and yet, they were both still able to hand down their Pyrex to me.

Pyrex is not the same product it has always been. It was once owned by Corning and its dishes were made of borosilicate glass.  It is now owned by World Kitchen, and the dishes are made with soda lime glass. Soda lime is more likely to shatter due to temperature changes. If you scroll down and watch the video I've posted from Consumer Reports, you can see that the newer Pyrex made of soda lime glass breaks in their tests 100% of the time (granted, they are using it in an unsafe way), but they report that when they did the same tests to European Pyrex which is still made of borosilicate glass, NONE of the dishes broke. A decades-old Pyrex dish that was subjected to even larger temperature differences also survived unbroken. World Kitchen puts out statements saying that Pyrex is made the same way it has always been made for the last 60 years, but a former Corning scientist says that they were still making Pyrex from borosilicate when he retired in 1987. Hmmm. More evidence that World Kitchen changed the composition of the glass is found in the fact that, after World Kitchen took over, the crack cocaine industry has had to switch from using Pyrex measuring cups (now made of soda lime) to stolen pyrex lab equipment (still borosilicate).

World Kitchen claims that soda lime glass is better because it is less prone to break when you drop it, but when I investigated a little more, I discovered that soda lime glass can be manufactured more cheaply and reduces impact on the environment. Ohhhhh. Now I get it. Note to World Kitchen:  I expect glass to break when I drop it, and I don't consider you responsible for my clumsiness.  However, I also expect Pyrex to be the same product my mother bought in 1970 and to respond to normal use and kitchen conditions in the same way.  If it's not the same product, give it a new name and a new look. Until you do, selling Pyrex and claiming it is the same as before is a covert bait and switch practice with potentially dire consequences.

As my vintage Pyrex wears out, I plan to replace it with some other kind of bakeware. Considering the possibility of glass flying into a face, or being thrown 6-8 feet across the kitchen, I certainly don't want to use a risky product around my aging mother or my daughter who will soon be learning to cook on her own, never mind my own safety. As you cook for your family this Christmas, please take extra precautions if you are using newer Pyrex.

World Kitchen will only take this seriously if they get enough reports. Consumer Reports has called for an investigation by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. If you've had Pyrex break under normal kitchen conditions, please file a report with the CPSC and report it to World Kitchen as well. WK claims they don't get very many complaints. I think that's just another cover up.

Where to report problems with Pyrex:

The Consumer Products Safety Commission:
World Kitchen, manufacturer of Pyrex: Go here and find the link to email.
Consumer Reports: Report a problem product
Consumer Affairs:  Add your story here.

Read More

Consumer Reports, Jan. 2011:  Blaming the Victim
Consumer Reports, Oct. 2011:  Shattered glass:  More than 140 new incidents reported 
Pyrex Glassware:  Is It Safe to Use?
Should Consumers Beware of Pyrex Bakeware?
New Warnings About Problems With Glass Bakeware

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teacher Gifts

I've been a busy bee this morning! The gift baskets are ready to go! Every year, I give gifts to the munchkin's teachers as well as to some service people who help us through the year. I struggle with the teacher gifts. I don't want to give them something lame when I know that other parents give them $50 gift cards and other expensive things. Our teachers are wonderful, and they deserve those lavish gifts, but it just isn't possible on my budget. I hope they like what they're getting this year!

I found baskets for $1 each at The Christmas Tree Shop, and last year, I found little small tins right after Christmas at Michael's 3 for $1. The baskets hold a tin of spiced cider mix and the small tin filled with Ina Garten's Rosemary Cashews. They're wonderful! I also tucked in some Ghirardelli squares. In the munchkin's main classroom teacher's basket, there are some teacherly goodies as well - pens, post-it notes, fun paper clips, and reward stickers. We have lots of teachers to remember - besides the munchkin's classroom teacher, there are lots of other teachers and staff members at school who deserve to be remembered, plus the piano teacher, the tennis coach, etc. Last year, I caught a sale at Avon on small things like purse size hand cream, lip balm, etc. and packaged those up in the smaller gift bags for the art/music/technology/Spanish/library teachers at school.

What do you give your child's teachers?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Elf Mayhem

The elves are here. Yep, I said elves. This year, we have not one, but two elves on our shelves. Ironically, this was the year when I thought maybe, just maybe, there'd be no elf.

"Mama, is Zippy real?" my 9-year-old munchkin asked just before Thanksgiving. "Suzie's mom told her that she was too old for an elf, and elves come from a store anyway."

I thought fast. "Honey, you've seen the Elf on the Shelf display at the bookstore, right? So, you already knew that you could get elves at the store."


"You know, some of your Santa presents come from stores, too. You knew that, right?"


"Well, just because something comes from a store doesn't mean that Santa isn't involved." I held my breath. I'm not sure if I was hoping she'd buy my explanation or keep asking more questions. I've been a little ambivalent about the elf from the beginning.



So, why do we have two? It was Thanksgiving night, and we were staying at my parents' house. "I can't wait to see where Zippy is tomorrow morning!" said the munchkin at bedtime. Uh-oh. Zippy was still at his summer residence in back-home-closetville.

"Honey, Zippy usually doesn't come until Dec. 1."

"But, Millie said that her elf was coming the day after Thanksgiving. Why would hers come then and mine wait until December 1st? I'm 100% SURE he comes tomorrow!"

After she went to sleep, I asked my mom, "Don't you have an old little Christmas elf that was grandma's?"

"I think so."

"Can we look for it?"

"Oh, Lord, that stuff's all packed up in the storage boxes in the closet. We'd never find it."

The closet had boxes stacked to the 12-foot ceiling. The elf was in the 9th box.

There was a note from Santa the next morning. Turns out that Zippy took a kick to the head while helping Santa feed the reindeer.  He'd recover, but in the meantime, Scotty would be filling in. After a few days, Zippy and his bandaged head appeared with Scotty and they've been working together. We think Scotty might be an apprentice. He's a little less mature than Zippy and is sometimes discovered doing mischievous things like eating our chocolate chip cookies, riding on the Zhu Zhu puppies, or drinking syrup.

I'm thinking that there's just no escaping Santa's elves. There will probably be an elf in the house when she comes home from college.

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