Bad At Sports

Musings on crafts, cooking, travel and books…but not a bat or ball in sight

Baby Boom – Pint-Sized Knits January 6, 2013

There’s been quite a baby boom in my office; six or so months ago a pregnancy was announced on an almost weekly basis and now most of them are ready to pop (or just have).

This has inspired me to buy a bunch of baby wool and knit cute little pastelly bits and bobs. My needles were clacking through most of December and this is what I produced.

I bought a couple of balls of Sirdar Snuggly baby bamboo DK (“skittle” – dark blue) and  Sublime baby cotton kapok DK in yellow, green and grey (“mashed banana”, “scoop” and”tin soldier” –  quite a few of these are half price at Black Sheep Wools at the moment). Both yarns are the same tension (28 rows by 22 sts) so perfect to work together.

I actually bought some circular needles to knit hats and booties with, but without thinking I bought 3o cm long ones which were way too long for tiny heads and feet. Luckily as well as being able to search for patterns by tension, yarn type, age and other useful things,Ravelry lets you select different knit “attributes”, so I just selected “seamed” patterns only.

Two of my colleagues were keeping the sex of their babies a surprise so pinks and blues were off the cards. I found this “purl stripes”  hat pattern that I made in a neutral yellow.


Was feeling a bit more ambitious (note the “intermediate” skill level on this one!)  so decided to try colour work for the first time with this Intarsia hat. It may have been running before I could walk because something went very wrong with the colourwork circles. I did consider pretending it was an abstract pattern, but then slapped myself on the wrist for being so lazy and just came up with my more suited to beginner square pattern. Apart from that, colourwork was pretty easy.


Booties were next – I completely fell in love with this pattern and made them again in green and yellow for another present. Lastly were these baby mittens for a friend’s little boy. I was pretty surprised when another friend told me that her baby would yank on their own hair while incessantly crying – not linking the hair pulling with the pain. They had to put socks on her hands so she couldn’t do herself any damage. With that in mind I thought these mittens would be a practical gift. Though they say to knit in the round, I just followed the instructions and seamed at the end.


So that’s it for me for the baby knitting for the moment, although I did buy a bunch of baby yarn in the sales in preparation for the next baby boom…


How I ended up in Japan November 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — badatsports @ 11:01 pm

I read my husband Tim’s recent post with interest where he outlines most people’s bafflement to his devotion to LA, a city that leaves me and the majority of visitors cold.  However no one seems to question his or my deep affection for Japan. He studied Asian Studies at university, I was born in the UK but my mum is Japanese  – it was natural that we would take time out after university and teach English in Japan for a few years after graduating. Plus, people generally accept that Japan is cool.

But Japan was actually my second choice for a gap year. Pfft I had been there like four times already; I’d been to the temples in Kyoto, eaten Kobe beef and been scared silly by Michael Jackson in 3D at Tokyo Disneyland. I don’t know if I was still bitter about Sleeping Beauty’s castle being a gift shop or it was just a twenty year old’s conviction that I’d “been there done that”, but I thought that Italy would be a more exotic and fun country for a gap year. Japan was a mercenary choice for me – there was no need to take or pay for a TEFL course to teach there. I could also breeze through the interview by earnestly repeating how much I wanted to learn about my culture.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit how precocious I was back then thinking I knew it all – I didn’t even put  city preferences as I had no idea what any of them were actually like.

But I found Japan completely intoxicating – my first full time job living in a new exotic country. Visiting your grandparents in a suburb is a completely different experience to exploring a city with a bunch of kids your age. I had never learnt Japanese – I could speak it up till I went to school but the teachers couldn’t deal with me mixing my English and Japanese. They told my mum to stop, but she valiantly continued. Then the cheeky buggers told me to tell my mum to stop talking to me in Japanese and all chances of me being bi-lingual were scuppered. So I spent quite a while being clueless. Tonight I went back through emails I sent to friends just after I arrived and relived the pain of this:

“I spent 5 minutes talking to someone in Japanese to hear them say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak English.”
And my first day at the school I was working at:

“Yesterday was my first day and didn’t get off to a promising start.  I turned up and there was only one teacher that only spoke Japanese and kept saying “but…why are you here? What are we supposed to do with you?” I think he thought I’d just turned up for fun, and to throw them in a tizzy.

Apparently the Board of Education hadn’t even told them I was coming.  They had to phone the JTE (Japanese teacher of English) at home and get him to come into work.  They all spent a long time looking alternately exasperated pissed off and confused while I apologised profusely that they didn’t know I was coming.  In the end Hayami sensei took me on a city tour. We went to a temple and saw some amazing Japanese art, then to Shimonoseki, which is on Honshu island.  We went by car under a tunnel so that was pretty cool.  We had a look round the famous fish market, and had lunch there.

Half way through this very tasty fried fish he informed me it was fugu.  Any fans of The Simpson’s will know why I was rather concerned.  Apparently as a final test fugu chefs must prepare and eat the liver…the most poisonous part of the blowfish. Also, the best chefs are supposed to leave just enough poison to make your lips tingle.  I thought mine did a bit but it was probably all psychological.”
I did get my bearings eventually and fell in love with the place. And I did learn about my culture – but not really through the sumo (watching not participating), temple visits or tea ceremonies. By living and working there I feel like I now understand my grandparents better (literally  – I can say more than 5 words to them now) and  I understand more why my mum left.

Tim and I went back for a visit for the first time since we lived there last month, and it’s stirred up some serious self indulgent nostalgia. Please forgive me! Next posts will be about the trip.


Natsukashii (you can’t go home again) October 20, 2012

Filed under: Japan — badatsports @ 6:42 pm
Tags: ,

There are quite a few untranslatable Japanese words. “Genki” is one of them; it means “lively”, “energetic” and “full of beans”. I probably used it a dozen times a day when I lived in Japan (it’s how you ask and answer “how are you?”) but if I try the English equivalents I always sound like I’m being sarcastic – “Oh yeah, I’m full of beans today”.

Another that doesn’t really work as a single word in English is “ganbatte”, meaning “you can do it!”. For example :

Me: “I don’t think I can sing this song in front of hundreds of parents, teachers and students on culture day. I’ve only heard it once before, and I really can’t sing”

Music teacher: “Ganbatte!”

Side note: that scenario actually happened, and I was as bad as anticipated.
But the one that has been whirring around my brain the most in the last few months is “natsukashii”. If you look this up in a dictionary it will be defined as “nostalgia” – but that just doesn’t quite cut it. An exclamation of “natsukashii” can be prompted by ( but not limited to) a mouthful of comfort food that brings you right back to your childhood, a TV show/song/ in joke long forgotten and re-reading a book that blew your mind as a kid (and not letting  the strong religious overtones ruin it for you as an adult).

Or returning to the city you went to university in ten years before.

A friend of a friend asked why we were returning to Nottingham for the ten-year anniversary of beginning university when the bulk of us live in London and actually see each other pretty regularly. The first response was “don’t be such a killjoy”, but I suppose a more thoughtful answer is that you can’t beat the memories evoked by physically being in a certain place.

The whole weekend was a self-indulgent trip down memory lane positively dripping with natsukashii. As  we pulled into the train station we pronounced that we didn’t even remember how to get into town, until we exited the gates and realised that we actually did. Somehow it seemed crazy to us how familiar everything was – just like returning to your parental home after your first term at university it’s funny to you that nothing has changed when you have changed so much. It was a bittersweet moment.

Our halls of residence now and then

We had a good time catching up and visiting the few old favourite haunts that were still standing. However the real natsukashii moments were experienced the next day. We spent the afternoon visiting our old halls of residence and campus. We were in a positive frenzy of excitement posing like demented tourists for photos outside terraced houses we resided in that we hadn’t deemed photoworthy when we’d actually lived in them. We scared the poor student with our enthusiastic explanation of why we were taking photos of her house so much that she nervously backed up inside and we heard the audible clunk of bolts being drawn.

I don’t think this was all prompted by a wish to go back to those days, I think my brain would explode if it had to deal with all those hormones and roller-coaster of emotions. But I do believe a good bout of natsukashii is good for the soul. Wherever you are, it’s good (and intensely enjoyable) to remember how you got there.


Secret City February 9, 2012

Filed under: London — badatsports @ 11:32 pm
Tags: ,

I was at a hen do in summer surrounded by women who had moved from London to Devon. They bemoaned the smog of London, the rude and uncaring people, the noise, the relentlessness of it. Me and my London dwelling friend could kind of see their point, but when we  stepped off the train onto an oppressively crowded platform and  were immediately huffed at for pausing to sort out our bags and thus delaying a commuter’s journey by two seconds, we shared a contented smile and relieved sigh. We were just where we wanted to be.

My Devonshire friend claims that I hate trees. That’s not the case at all – I will appreciate a beautiful landscape of green rolling hills and fluffy sheep like the best of them – I just start to fidget after a minute or so and wonder how much longer I should stand there.



2011 in photos January 20, 2012

Filed under: photography — badatsports @ 12:17 am

I decided that a nice way to commemorate a roller-coaster of a year would be in pictures. I dully flicked through my online photo albums and felt uninspired. Yes, there were some very happy times (weddings and hen -dos  of some of my best friends, trips to Edinburgh and Budapest, and family visits to name a few) but it seemed a bit flat somehow. So I went through my random, often drunken, often blurry (often drunken and blurry) phone photos. In no particular order:

From left to right:

1. I got accustomed to seeing my husband on TV and reading about him in the press. The Waitrose magazine was not the most renowned publication he was featured in, but it is the one I have a photo of.

2. A rather dark photo of Jaime’s Big Feastival that I went to with Tim in summer. I got all nostalgic when Athlete played.

3. Watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at Somerset House. Lovely atmosphere and brill film for a closeted geek.



Long time no speak January 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — badatsports @ 8:48 pm

I’ve decided to start this blog up again, but it seemed a bit strange to just launch back into it without addressing the months of silence…just like how I feel the need to apologise to a friend  for a longer than normal gap between emails or explain to the receptionist why I haven’t set foot in the gym for a year (or so I imagine I would have to if I actually had a gym membership).

Of course, like with the friends and the fictional gym there are valid reasons for this. I started a new, demanding and more “grown up” job in May and there were a host of exciting things (my husband’s many well earned successes, some of my American family moving to Edinburgh to name a couple) to keep me busy.

But a big reason – and this is why I feel guilty – is procrastination.

I spend far too much time playing games on the internet, idly browsing Facebook and watching TV shows aimed at teenagers. This must stop! The warning signs of a short attention span started in childhood  – by the age of 13 I had  a dusty violin (played it for a couple of years but gave up when I didn’t like the teacher), jewellery making kit (never looked as good as the picture on the box), knitting needles and wool, a flower press (can’t remember why I found that interesting in the first place) and other attempts at hobbies piled up in a cupboard never again to see the light of day.

So, I’m going to try to update this reasonably often, finish the half knitted cardigan that’s been hanging around and really get to grip with the practical use of shutter speed and aperture.

Wish me luck!


BBC Birmingham Good Food show 2011 July 12, 2011

Filed under: food,photography — badatsports @ 10:17 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I have been very lax at keep this blog updated, and I fully admit that I have been spurred onto writing this entry tonight (an hour before bedtime) because my  blog worthy foodie adventures are starting to pile up unrecorded. I could blame work, but the truth is since I last entered the blogosphere I have watched 3 seasons of Fringe and spent countless hours aimlessly trawling through my Twitter feed. I have planned to write many a time, but it’s so easy to be lured away by a pint outside on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon.

My friend Matt said that if you are a writer you always find time to write (ironically he said this on the aforementioned sunny Sunday), so I am probably not a writer. This doesn’t bother me too much. Writing can join the ever-increasing pile of discarded hobbies that grows year on year – from the short-lived violin playing days of my childhood (didn’t like my new teacher so quit), to running and knitting (which I haven’t done for months but still list as interests to make me look well-rounded).

One thing that I never lose interest in however – is eating. A love of food has been ever-present in my life. A good friend Tanya pointed out that all of my boyfriends have loved to cook –  as if this was a coincidence, not a well thought out life choice. And as fate would have it, I ended up married to a MasterChef. My stomach always looks out for me.

One of the perks of being Tim’s wife is that I got to go to the BBC Birmingham Good Food Show in mid June. In 2009 they combined with MasterChef and now do cook offs between past champions, cook schools (where participants can cook along with John, or a previous contestant) and even a mini MasterChef competiton judged by John and Greg with audience members.