The Basics of Carrot Cake Decoration

In many ways cake is the Holy Grail of baking.  Beautiful cakes are the ultimate goal of most home bakers and it’s where the money is professionally.  Just look at all those fancy cake shows on the food network and you’ll get a definite sense of this.  So we can accept that your goal may be to be the next big name in wedding cakes, but how to begin?  Well how about we start with making a cake and making it all pretty using nothing but the most basic techniques.  We will look at simple masking your cake with icing and also see how to cover it up if you’re just not happy with the results.  After all, you may not get it on the first time, so practice lots.  You don’t even need to eat the results if you find yourself buried in cake.  I know that my neighbours are more than willing to help me out of such predicaments. Continue reading

Ingredient In Depth: Pineapple

If ever there was an intimidating fruit, it is the pineapple.  I think a lot of people are lost when it comes to this semi-exotic treat.  I keep hearing how they’re hard to pick, difficult to choose and baffling to use as anything other than an offensive weapon.  Fear not gentle traveler, there are answers to be found and paths we can take to greater pineapple understanding.  Anything here can be done with canned pineapple, but fresh is far better. Continue reading

Spoiled By Choice

There is a funny thing that happens in martial arts.  At beginning levels all students seem to want to learn new techniques.  New techniques, all the time.  As an instructor, it’s sometimes a challenge to restrain yourself from indulging them.  There is that niggling insecurity (at least with me) that by showing new students things too slowly you’ll lose their attention.  This is a problem for more than a few reasons, the most immediate of which is that those students who get bored by the basics are probably not worth training unless they can be convinced to change their mind. Continue reading

Le Pain by Numbers

Home bakers are more than common.  There is after all a reason why every house I have ever been in has an oven.  The lucky ones even have two.  Nevertheless a person can go their whole lives making chocolate chip cookies out of a package and never know the divine pleasure of home baked bread.  To this end I thought I provide a step by step guide to making almost every kind of bread.  First know that truly excellent bread is not easy.  Secondly, it is of the utmost importance that this doesn’t discourage you.  Though it can take a while to develop a feel for bread and its dough, the journey is more than worth the time and energy required.  Please keep in mind that the difference between mediocre bread and excellent bread is the experience of the baker.  So, without any more ado, great and simple hamburger buns in 7 simple steps. Continue reading

Good Fighters With Bad Technique

I have had the privilege of knowing and training with some truly awesome fighters.  Fighters that work hard and show the results.  Every now and then, though, I come across an odd breed of fencer.  These folk win many of their fights with what can only be described as trickery.  These sneaky tricks often make use of bad technique.  Now it’s important to mention that I have no wish to disparage these fighters and I will shortly explain what I mean by “bad technique.”  It’s also important to note that were I called upon to train someone for a life or death duel, I would teach them to fight exactly as I described.  I have a repertoire of deadly tricks that tend to work exactly once and if you needed to defend your life in a one time duel, I would drill you with one of these techniques.  It’s my feeling, however, that reliance on tricks severely hampers the development of true skill. Continue reading

Guarded Statements

There’s something that’s been bothering me about historical fencing for a while.  I’ve been having a lot of problems with the term “guard.”  In theory a guard is any position your body and sword take to defend yourself.  There are complexities within that definition and some people have their own different definitions.  For example, one interpreter of the medieval I.33 system stated that there were no guards present in the style, because you were never supposed to stand stationary to protect yourself in any particular position.  One of my own instructors once made the ridiculous claim that any position you can hold your sword in is a guard, but it is only a “good guard” if it serves to protect you.  Ignoring the fact that if every position is a guard then the entire concept of guard becomes useless, some refining to the term is clearly needed. Continue reading

Cutting Remarks

I have been working a lot recently with the broadsword.  That is to say, the basket hilted sword that is also sometimes called the backsword.  Not any of the following examples.

Not Broadswords

Broadswords belong to a class of weapons that are primarily designed to cut.  Cutting is a funny thing.  I equate cutting to punching.  Hand a person a sword and right away they are going to want to cut with it.  Put someone in an unarmed situation and they are probably going to want to punch.  Just as it is  with cutting it is with punching, unless you’ve received quality training you’re going to do it wrong.  When teaching unarmed fighting I tell my students it will be about three months before they are going to be able to throw a proper and effective punch and this seems to be about right for most people. Continue reading

Simon’s First Three Rules of Knife Fighting

I was recently privileged to be invited to teach a couple of classes at the Cascadia North Accolade Tournament (CNAT) at Camp Jubilee.  This is an annual tournament and workshop for Western Martial Arts.  I taught two classes, the first was a combat knife class, the second was highland broadsword.  I had originally written a post about the broadsword, but after re-reading it I decided that it needs work.  So we’ll start with the knife.  I take my knife classes very seriously.  Which is not to say I don’t also take sword training seriously as well, but I don’t lie awake at night worrying that if I poorly explain a longsword technique one of my students will get in over their head at the bar. Continue reading