Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Justice

No blog post for 2 months, and now two in a week! What's next, a third one? Answer, yes. I have something to say about a certain something but that will have to wait as I have super big news!

Bit late, but big news none-the-less. At the encouragement of mother, I had entered the Fergus Fall Fair in a bid to clean up in the south western Ontario region of pie baking competitions. Happy to say my pear and ginger pie, once again, crushed it's under baked, under tender, doughy, flavourless competitors.

Much like Millbrook however, I, and my ego, were dealt a severe (and unjustified I might add) blow when my pumpkin was handed a paltry second place finish. To be completely honest, and as unbiased as I can be, my pie did, without question, look the best. I made oak leaf accents out of dough and baked it just enough to ensure it would not crack. Even if it had, the dough accoutrement would have hidden such a flaw.

I do have to wonder though just HOW blind this judging really is. Next year, I am entering under ghost names.

There were a dozen of more pumpkin pies in the "competition" so didn't feel TOO bad about my second place. Having my mother say "it could have used 5 more minutes in the oven" was hard to swallow, unlike my pie!, but perhaps true. Alas.

A couple weeks later I entered the Rockton World's Fair pumpkin and apple categories. IronMan has certainly paid me back for my marathon, IronMan cheering endeavours as he has tolerated cursing at a 'stupid' stove, throwing out pies to start over and driving to some backwoods places near midnight in order to make a deadline.

Perfect pies in my perfect Martha Stewart pie basket, always a conversation starter and crowd pleaser,  we headed off for Rockton with just enough time, according to the GPS, to make the submission deadline.

As I waltzed into the hall, I noted several people leaving with pies in boxes and just a slice missing. Apparently they were going to be sold at the concession stand next day. With smug satisfaction, I noticed extremely running filling where pieces had been cut away. One this is for certain, Robert Mitchell's filling is not running.

I approached the pie submission station and was handed two take-away containers in the shape of a pie slice. Excuse me? You want me to cut INTO my perfect creation BEFORE the judges see them?

"Oh we don't like them to go to waste. We just take a slice for judging and you can take the rest home or donate them to the fair." I was told.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I should have a t-shirt printed with 'don't throw that out, I'll eat it later', how the height of pie baking be appreciated if one doesn't get the entire sensory experience? Begrudgingly, I cut into both, left my slices and, head held high, took the remainder with me thank you very much.

That was back on Thanksgiving weekend. So near on a month ago. I had given up hope on hearing anything and in fact just this weekend told a group of IronMan's friends that all hope was lost. We were actually at a cocktail party, I didn't randomly e-mail them.

But low and behold, today when I got home, my heart skipped a bit when I pulled out of the mailbox a letter from the fine people at the fair. In addition to a FIRST PLACE ribbon for my pumpkin pie was a cheque for $7.22! Luckily I don't do it for the money, but rather the glory.

So, in summary, for the summer, that is 8 ribbons for my culinary endeavours and a FIRST place finish in the annual Highland Games Mitchell 10km run competition. I can now rest easy knowing that I have conquered my first WORLD's fair.

Next year, more pie, and maybe even my long awaited book - the Life of Pie.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

No More Bikram Beaches

Two months!

Where does the time go? I won't even try to make excuses as to why I haven't been writing and will jump directly into WHY I am writing. After moving to "the beach" neighbourhood, not the beaches for those not in the know, and a much overdue, if slightly too long at 6 months, break from yoga, I decided to step back on to the mat and support a local business.

Having previously walked by the Bikram Toronto yoga studio on numerous occasions I thought I'd give it a go. IronMan had told me, or should I say warned me, that the instructors were uniformly regimented in their teaching style. There are 26 postures. They are repeated twice. No variations. No modifications. And NO water sipping unless authorized by the instructor. All the classes are 90 minutes. No one hour or one hour fifteen on offer.

It's $25 unlimited for the first week so I thought even if I only went twice I would be ahead of the game as their drop in classes are $20. I went twice. But for no other reason than to get my moneys worth and see if the instructors really were ALL the same. Granted, I can only compare two, but where there's smoke.....

Right from the opening pranayama breath exercise I knew I was in trouble. Knuckles pressed tightly under my chin, I lifted my elbows on the inhale and on the exhale, as instructed, dropped my head back as I pressed my elbows together. After 3 of these I felt I must be doing something wrong as I had a bad pain in my neck. "You should really feel this. Your neck should hurt. It feels good." Does it? Bit like saying getting kicked in the junk feels good isn't it? I am pretty sure no exercise that involves deliberate pain to your neck being a good thing.

Alas, the other 87 minutes were not much better.

In numerous postures, "lock your knee" was the instruction that made me nervous and subsequently gave me gas. Regardless of the form of exercise, I have always been told locking the knee is bad for you. And for the knee! Straight leg? Sure. On the verge of locking? Okay. But deliberating hyperextending your knee? Ummm, I am going to go with no.

According to a Google search of "is locking your knees bad", Bikram Vancouver used to have an article on this very thing. But it's no longer available. I wonder why? But everything else I read, says not a good idea.

Posture 9 on the menu, I mean in the series is the bikram version of triangle. As "bounce bounce bounce and settle...." rang out across the room. I shot a glance in the mirror to see if the yogi had changed into a 20 minute workout outfit. 'tis the Halloween season so I expected to see leg warmers, jerry curl and a headband. Disappointingly, no. I don't remember bouncing on your knee being a good thing since 1982? 83?

When we got to the Fixed Firm Pose, posture 20, and I modified to support my knees, I got a LOUD lecture on how what I was doing was bad for my knees and could lead to injury. Funny, every other class I've been to, oh wait, and learned during my instructors course said if you can get your backside on the ground, either support with a block OR sit on your heals in lieu of said block. For fear of being called out again, I just sat the second set out.

Now I'm not saying I know everything, despite what others might say that I say, but in this case me thinks I am. I am not giving up hope yet however. There is a downward dog studio a little further east that I shall take my healthy neck, knees and injured pride too.

Oh, and if that weren't enough reason, check out the picture I found on-line.