Some city in Greece…I think it’s called Marathon?

In an earlier post I alluded to my inability to commit to The Big Race. For me, The Big Race (by the way, when you read that, you should be hearing one of those ominous radio echoes repeating “The Big Race”, just for effect 🙂 ), is the marathon.

I’ve been thinking about running a marathon for a while. I’m not sure why. The idea of running the distance (42 km/26 mi) doesn’t appeal to me. The idea of running for four hours (give or take — probably give at this point) doesn’t appeal to me. I think the appeal is in being able to say I’ve done it. I’m not looking for bragging rights; it’s more like crossing it off a list of things you’ve accomplished. When you think about it, that’s not a driving motivator to run 42 km. Now you know why I’ve been thinking about this since June 2010 and haven’t done anything about it.

Recently, my employment contract came to an end and spending 4-6 hours/day looking for work started to take it’s toll. I was still running, but without any direction. Also, living in the Great White North and not owning a treadmill, I found myself challenged to get out and run in inhospitable weather conditions. I needed purpose. I needed something to plan/organize for. It was the perfect breeding ground for the inspiration to enter The Big Race.

It started easily enough: find a training plan. I like Hal Higdon’s plans. I’ve used a few in the past and been very successful. Next: start training. Easy enough. I started running with some purpose and regularity in January. My sights were set on the Ottawa Marathon at the end of May. Lots of time! So, I ran. And I ran. I wobbled a bit in February (weather!) and was reduced to spending time on our elliptical machine. I got back on track. Suddenly, it’s Go time: time to start following the training plan, with 16 weeks to go until Race Day. The training started and it was a cinch! Weather was in my favour and if it wasn’t, I pushed through knowing I had a goal to reach and a training session to cross off my calendar. And then it happened. People I know who are also running the race started asking me when I was going to register for the race. I was hesitant to register, fearing my training would be sidelined by injury (remember that knee injury from soccer and that long road to recover in Sept/Oct?) or weather. I planned on waiting until the end of February to sign up for the race, thinking I would have a good idea of my fitness and my commitment levels at that time.

I started receiving emails with the subject line “Race 50% sold out”, “Race 55% sold out” and “Have you registered yet?”. I ran from these emails like a indebted person runs from the debt collector. My motto became “duck and weave, duck and weave” in an attempt to avoid commitment. Then it struck me: I was afraid. I was afraid to mentally commit to The Big Race. I had physically committed myself but my brain wasn’t sure it could cash the cheques my body was writing (Yes, that’s a nod to Top Gun). The realization surprised me. I’ve never been hesitant about a race before. I mulled that over for a day or so and then plunged right in and registered for the race. Suddenly, it became very real. I am going to run a Marathon. Wow…

So far, so good. I ran 19.5 km last weekend and that’s the longest I’ve ever run, which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. It’s been tough to get out this week (sitting here right now when I should be running 10K) as I’m dealing with March Break and sick kids but I’ll find the time because I am going to run a Marathon.

British Pie Week: The Celebration Continues with Lemon Meringue

I know, I know – British Pie week should result in pastry concoctions housing mushrooms, leeks, chicken and other assorted savory goodies.  The way I figure it, if I’m going to eat calorie-laden crusts, I’m not going to bother trying to disguise it as something healthy by adding vegetables and meat.

And with that, I give you: Lemon Meringue!

Pie Crust: use the one from the Cherry Pie recipe.

Roll it out into a circle and plop it into your pie plate.  Make sure the circle is about 2 inches larger than your pie plate so you have lots of crust to flute.

Chill your crust in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Line your pie plate with foil and fill with pie weights or beans.  Bake your crust for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil and contents.  Pop back into the oven for 10-15 minutes and cook until it’s golden.

Filling

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (this really adds some nice zing!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together.  Add this mixture to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.  Return to the heat and cook over medium heat.  Keep whisking!  The mixture will start to boil and become very thick.  Don’t stop whisking!  Turn off the heat and take about 1 cup of this hot mixture and add it to the beaten egg yolks.  Whisk that until it’s smooth.  Keeping the whisking motif going, add the egg mixture back to the pot and whisk it all together rather vigorously.  Turn the heat back on and bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Then, remove from the heat and stir in the butter.  Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and whisk until completely combined.  Voila!  Lemon filling, yum!

Pour that into the baked crust and move onto the meringue.

Meringue

Meringue can be tricky.  You can overwhip it.  You can add too much sugar too fast and end up with white goop.  Worst of all, the site of a pie crust filled with lemon filling makes it sad and it weeps (not really but I’m trying to avoid a boring paragraph about humidity, sugar and egg whites).  Weeping meringue is yucky.  It makes your pie crust all soft and in my opinion, it just ruins the pie.  To that end, I’ve read a lot about preventing meringue from weeping.

Some advocate that meringue must be applied to a hot filling and popped into the oven as soon as possible.  Others state this step isn’t necessary.  I’ve tried both and had failures and success with both.  Interestingly, I never used to worry about this and I never had a weepy pie.  Then one day something changed and as a result, I’ve adopted the process of adding a cornstarch mixture to my pie meringue.  Oh, and don’t try to use egg whites from a carton.  Trust me on this.  They just don’t whip up the same as a white from a whole egg. I converted this recipe from one that made enough for 2 pies and was all in metric so you’ll have to pull out your scale to weigh the sugar.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 108 ml water
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (approx 5)
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Immediately upon boiling, turn down the heat and add the cornstarch.  Whisk like crazy.  Cook for about one minute, until the mixture is translucent.  Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Whip the egg whites until they’ve tripled in volume.  Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Continue whipping and add the vanilla.  Add the cornstarch mixture, a wee bit at a time and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Put it all together

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Spread the meringue topping over the lemon filling.  Make sure the meringue contacts the entire crust, so as to seal it.  Feel free to make swirls and peaks and whatever you want (use a piping bag or get creative with spoon or fork; they all work).

Pop the pie into the oven and bake for approx 10-20 mins or until the meringue is browned. Note: if your peaks are thin, they may burn before the rest of the meringue browns.

Cool on a rack before serving.

British Pie Week! To celebrate: Cherry Pie!

I recently discovered it’s British Pie Week. Seriously. Check it out.  The website leads me to believe that it’s a celebration based on pre-made pie dough and fabricated by a company in order to sell more product but hey, who am I to criticize a nation celebrating pie?

I’m fairly certain that British Pie Week is meant to celebrate things like Steak and Kidney Pie, Chicken Pot Pie and Fish Pie.  While I won’t deny my Welsh roots, I will deny wanting to eat Fish Pie.  Ewww.  Instead, I give you Cherry Pie.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this pie.  The funny thing is, I hate cherry pie.  Really.  It’s sour.  And cherry flavoured.  My husband on the other hand – he loves cherry pie.  His idea of a perfect birthday cake is my home made cherry pie.  Since I’m no connoisseur but he certainly is, I have it on his opinion that this recipe makes the best.pie.ever.

Go forth – make pie!  Celebrate British Pie Week.  I think we should follow it with Canadian Exercise Week to work off the calories 😉

Crust

I use a food processor.  I’ve had plenty of experience making pie crust by hand.  It’s a very romantic notion.  Practical? Not so much.  I hate how it gets under my finger nails, so I opt for the processor.

Recipe makes enough for a total of 5 single crusts (2 double crust pies and one single, 1 double crust pie and 3 singles – you get the idea).

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks – very cold!
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening – very cold!
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Place flour, sugar & salt in bowl of food processor.  Pulse to mix.

Add butter and pulse 2-3 times.  Add shortening (it warms up faster than the butter, hence I add it after I’ve pulsed the butter a few times but you could add it at the same time) and pulse just until the fat is dispersed throughout the flour.  The pieces of fat resemble small peas.  If you’re not sure, it’s better to stop when the pieces are bigger rather than smaller.

Mix the egg into a bowl; add the lemon juice and the water.  I find this works best in a pyrex measuring cup.  Make sure these ingredients are cold in order to maintain the consistency of the butter and shortening.

Remove the lid of your food processor (make sure it’s turned off!).  Pour the water/lemon juice/egg mixture over the flour mixture.  Replace the cover and pulse just enough times that you’ve made a rough mass of dough.

Unplug your food processor; remove the lid and dump onto a lightly floured counter top.

Shape the mass into a log and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour (can be left for up to 3 days; can be tightly wrapped and sealed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to 3 months).  I shape the dough into a log because then I can score 5 equal sections to make my pie crusts.  For this pie, you’ll need 2 crusts: a top and a bottom.

I like to make the pie crust a day in advance.  Once your pie crust is firm and you’ve got a section, roll out your dough to fit a 9 inch pie pan.  Stick it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Pie Filling

Whoa.  This is going to take all of 5 minutes to make.  Better get that oven preheated.  Crank it up to 425 F.

  • 5-6 cups of sour cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen – note that if you use frozen, you must defrost and allow enough time for most of the juices to be extracted or you’ll end up with a soggy mess)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • milk for glazing

In a large bowl, toss the cherries, cornstarch, flour, sugar and lemon juice together.  That’s it.

Put it all together

Pour the filling into the previously prepared pie crust.  Stick it in the fridge.  Roll out another pie crust (the top).  You can get fancy and cut it into lattice or whatever you want.  Remove the pie from the fridge.  Dip a pastry brush (or your finger) in the milk and run it around the edge of the bottom pie crust, where the top will sit.  You want to seal the seams.  Place the top crust on the pie.  Pinch the edges to seal the crust.  Trim the edges and flute or whatever you want.  Prick a few slits in the top with a sharp knife.  Using that pastry brush and the milk, glaze the top of the pie.  Sprinkle with fancy coarse sugar if you have any or just leave as is.

Bake the pie for 20 mins then reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake until juices begin to bubble, about 35-45 mins.  I like to keep a cookie sheet handy and slip it onto the rack  below the pie if the pie starts to bubble over.  Keep in mind that a cookie sheet will increase your cooking time as it absorbs some of the heat and blocks it from the pie.

Remove pie from the oven and allow to cool before eating otherwise those cherries are going to burn your mouth.  Badly.

Serves 6-8.  Or 2-4 if you’re my husband.  What can I say?  He likes his pie.

Extolling the Virtues of Beautifully Crafted Copy aka Ads I Like

I was thinking today of my relationship with running and my inability to commit to “The Big Race”.  More on that in another post.  For now though, the thought trail led me down memory lane and I remembered New Balance’s love/hate advertising campaign.

I can identify with this ad.  I’m sure most runners can.  Mmm, warm blankets, sleep, zzzzzz vs Ugh, cold running clothes, windchill, yowza, I’m awake!  Legs feel like lead vs I’m ALIVE!

It’s been a while since advertising campaigns have really grabbed my attention.  It may seem quite trivial to discuss the impact marketing/advertising can have in your life but really – take a look around you – commercialism is everywhere.  Of course it would have an impact on anyone. 

When I think of popular campaigns, I remember Nike.  Just Do It.  Bo Knows.  And let us not forget Nike’s whole Women campaign from the 1990’s.  That campaign spoke volumes to me. That was a truly beautiful campaign.

If you walked into my dorm room, you would have been greeted by a centrefold of Bo Jackson in a bathtub (soooo wish I had a scan of that to plop in here – If any readers have a jpg of this ad, feel free to share!) surrounded by a wall of Nike adverts with that all-too-familiar font.  Nike was wordy back then.  That suited me well.  It made things stick.  The words gave me inspiration from which to draw motivation.  In researching this post (sifting through pages on the internet seeking out the old ads), I learned that the creative genius behind the Nike Women campaign that affected me so, was Janet Champ.  Her attitude of empowerment was flashed in my face when I was in my early 20s, trying to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be and what I could do.  I was ripe for the picking and their perfect consumer.

I fell in love with Janet’s copy.  I believed there was no stopping me.  I believed I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to.  It may sound silly but if you look at the impact their campaign had and the response to it, you’ll know that I’m not alone in my sentiments.  You may even be just like me and have felt similarly upon reading their ads.  The art and copy wasn’t just a promotional tool.  They were pieces of art.  To that end, some ads from this campaign are actually displayed in the Smithsonian.  Part of me wishes I still had those dog-eared bits of paper.  I would show them to my daughter.  I wonder what her reaction would be and if she would draw energy from that beautifully crafted copy. Would those words inspire her and re-enforce that she is strong, capable and unstoppable?

Did these beautifully crafted words make me a better person and shape who I am today? Who knows. I do know that in those turbulent years of my early 20’s, when I was creating the person I would become, in times of indecision, I would look at my postered walls, pick up my gym shoes and Just Do It. (The shoes weren’t Nike btw, so the ads spurred me to action but not the purchasing kind of action.)

It’s International Women’s Day and therefore fitting that I post some of the ads from the Nike Women Campaign.  I threw in the Bo Knows commercial just for fun.  That and “I’m Not a Runner” – more current but one of my faves.

(Click on the ads to read the text.)

Nike: Measure of a Woman

Nike: 40 yr old woman

I so wish I had the ad that contained this brilliant copy:

You were born a daughter. You looked up to your mother. You looked up to your father. You looked up at everyone. You wanted to be a princess. You thought you were a princess. You wanted to own a horse. You wanted to be a horse. You wanted your brother to be a horse. You wanted to wear pink. You never wanted to wear pink. You wanted to be a Veterinarian. You wanted to be President. You wanted to be the President’s Veterinarian. You were picked last for the team. You were the best one on the team. You refused to be on the team. You wanted to be good in algebra. You hid during algebra. You wanted the boys to notice you. You were afraid the boys would notice you. You started to get acne. You started to get breasts. You started to get acne that was bigger than your breasts. You wouldn’t wear a bra. You couldn’t wait to wear a bra. You couldn’t fit into a bra. You didn’t like the way you looked. You didn’t like the way your parents looked. You didn’t want to grow up. You had your first best friend. You had your first date. You had your second best friend. You had your second first date. You spent hours on the telephone. You got kissed. You got to kiss back. You went to the prom. You didn’t go to the prom. You went to the prom with the wrong person. You spent hours on the telephone. You fell in love. You fell in love. You fell in love. You lost your best friend. You lost your other best friend. You really fell in love. You became a steady girlfriend. You became a significant other. YOU BECAME SIGNIFICANT TO YOURSELF. Sooner or later, you start taking yourself seriously. You know when you need a break. You know when you need a rest. You know what to get worked up about and what to get rid of. And you know when it’s time to take care of yourself, for yourself. To do something that makes you stronger, faster, more complete. Because you know it’s never too late to have a life. And never too late to change one. JUST DO IT.

%d bloggers like this: