Bad At Sports

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

Bakeathon: lime angel food cake with pistachio crust and chocolate and almond torte April 4, 2011

There is something intensely satisfying about baking a cake. I find every stage enjoyable; planning what you will make, the therapeutic measuring mixing and whisking, the pride you feel in it sitting there looking all pretty, and of course devouring it with a nice cup of tea. I haven’t baked for quite a while – I am fighting a losing battle against an expanding waistline and Tim (that American on MasterChef is my husband so step back Twitter groupies) does tend to somewhat monopolise the kitchen. I can hear Tim’s protests as I type this, because usually I don’t mind. I like cooking main meals, but it never produces the same kind of joy I get from making desserts. This probably has a lot of do with my terribly sweet tooth, but I also think there’s a delightful decadence in making something just for fun. No nutritional benefits, not to use up the leftover veg in the fridge that’s starting to go brown around the edges, just baking something that’s a treat.

The double celebration of my step-dad’s 70th and Mother’s day on the third of April was the perfect excuse. Don is a complete sucker for chocolate cakes, so I decided to break open my new MasterChef at Home cookbook and give Dhruv Baker’s Dark Chocolate and Almond Torte with Amaretto Cream, Raspberries and Passion Fruit at whirl. Before you get too impressed, I dismissed the cream and fruit and just went for the cake. Recipe is here courtesy of Gluten Free for Kids website. I stuck with the ground almonds and the cake was still lovely and moist, but I did substitute Amaretto for Shannon White Chocolate Irish Cream as that is what we had knocking around. The chocolate was Lindt dark almond and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Peruvian Fairtrade Dark Chocolate.

This is what it was supposed to look like:

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Tales of my new Canon 350D: glass and LCDs March 5, 2011

Filed under: photography — badatsports @ 9:50 pm

The other day I had forgotten to bring a book to work, and the friend I was meeting to go to our inaugural book club meeting was late (we discussed Revolutionary Road and all felt very intellectual. It was great). I found myself in W H Smiths looking for a magazine to pass the time and realised I am too old or too young for most women’s lifestyle publications. I’m old enough to know what style of swim suit is most flattering on me for the upcoming holiday season and I have the “smokey eye” effect as pat as I ever will, but I’m too young to care about wainscotting or the ten best walk in showers (that’s an actual article if you’re interested)

Then my eye alighted on Digital SLR Photography magazine, and I decided to give it a whirl. Having neglected my shiny new camera for a while, I decided to try out one of their creative projects. The set up was simple enough, and as I was feeling rather lazy I was delighted to find that I neither had to leave my house or prepare anything special.

All I had to do was find a pretty background on my computer, a wine glass, set my camera to aperture priority mode (with an aperture of f/8, and ISO of 800) and snap away. With the aperture t f/8, even though my hands were shaking all over the place the image still came out fairly sharp.

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Two colour brioche stitch scarf February 26, 2011

Filed under: knitting — badatsports @ 11:17 am
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I have been absent from the blogosphere for too long now. I have a multitude of reasons, having way too much fun watching and supporting my husband Tim who is in the final 12 of Masterchef UK, job hunting, reviewing theatre productions for Extra! Extra!, dipping my toe into Twitter land and working on a new scarf. However the tardiness of the UK postal system is no longer a reason as the scarf I made for my mother-in-law finally arrived about a month after I sent it.

It was meant to be a Christmas present but I didn’t quite finish it in time, but living in chilly Wisconsin I am told she is getting some wear out of it now. As Nancy is an avid Packers fan ( a long term one, not a glory seeker because they won the Superbowl this year) I was advised to go for green and gold, mighty Green Bay’s colours.

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Snappy snaps – tales of my new Canon 350D January 31, 2011

Filed under: photography — badatsports @ 9:59 pm
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I’ve been interested in photography for a while, and up until now my old Canon Powershot A640 served me well. It documented most of my three years living in Japan, my honeymoon in Hawaii and many other magical moments in between. However I have always encountered severe camera envy, especially when browsing Flickr or seeing gorgeous amateur wedding photography…and I have now made the leap into SLR ownership. My friend was selling a second-hand Canon EOS 350D for £150, and despite post-Christmas empty wallet syndrome I jumped at the chance.

He handed it over to me a couple of weeks ago, and with my prompting started tutoring me on ISOs, aperture, shutter speed and the appropriate situations to prioritise each with a slightly maniacal gleam of photographic passion in his eye. I’m not scientifically minded, so I found this recap on the Exposure triangle very useful.

And now, I am in love. The picture quality is sharp, it doesn’t have the frustrating lag between photos and it has a fun twiddly thing at the end of the lens to focus.

I’ve given it a whirl a couple of times and I have vowed to stay away from “auto” mode and editing tools until I have really got to grips with it and its capabilities. I know this means that my first thousand or so photos will be awful. I took about 40 photos of the same duck in Finsbury Park ranging from blindingly overexposed to pitch black while trying different shutter speed and aperture combos. Cropping is especially hard to resist as the standard 18-55mm lens doesn’t get me as close as I would like to things.

Nevertheless I will keep trying, and maybe I will be able to produce something really beautiful.

So here are the best of my first awful photos:

 

Modern Delight January 22, 2011

Filed under: books — badatsports @ 12:40 pm
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It was easy to make me deliriously happy when I was a child. The night before Christmas I would try to expel my pent up excitement by jumping up and down on my bed until the wee hours, then jumping up and down on my mum’s bed at five in the morning. Being allowed a 99 flake on a summer’s day would elicit squeals of delight and Disneyland was my childish Mecca – a place so magical that you had to wander around it with a grin constantly plastered to your face – and even the fact that Sleeping Beauty’s castle was just a gift shop didn’t dampen my spirits.

Now I am an adult, that level of joy is harder to reach and sustain, especially in wet and windy January. This week we experienced Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year due to debt, weather and a lack of motivation. Despite being a PR stunt from 2005, it must be true as it has been graced with its own Wikipedia article. Bearing this in mind I’d like to share with you the collection of essays, Modern Delight. I picked it up in a charity shop quite a while back and it contains bite sized 500 or so word essays from well-known people as diverse as authors Phillip Pullman and Nick Hornby to politicians like Vince Cable and even Henry “The Fonz” Winkler.

It was designed as an update of J.B Priestley’s 1949 book of 114 essays called Delight. In gloomy post war times when The Ministry of Food controlled our food supplies and the economy was in tatters he wanted to boost morale by reminding everyone of the small happinesses of life like giving advice, not going to a party and the perfect G&T.

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Keep calm and carry on January 15, 2011

Filed under: food,Museums — badatsports @ 10:57 am
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Americans are brash. French people are rude. Asian people are smart. And English people – as well as being snooty, unable to express emotions and, according to Hollywood, make perfect super villains – moan about the weather. I’m not sure about the other stereotypes, but the Brits do like to whinge that it’s too wet, hot, cold or snowy.

This has been even more true of late with the atypical stuff Mother Nature has been throwing at us. The snow threw us into a tizzy and gave us a whole host of things to moan about. Roads weren’t salted, trains weren’t running, planes grounded, Xmases ruined. One look at Facebook and you could see everyone shouting about how annoyed they were…me included. And it’s not just the weather. We work ourselves into  paroxysms of rage about tourists getting in our way, inflation, that Katie Price is allowed on TV and all the other niggly irritations of modern life. On my first day back at work this year when the extremely surly London Underground worker told me that my season ticket had gone up in price after I had stood in a queue for half an hour, I was sorely tempted to start ranting about tube strikes and train delays, but instead I waited so my colleagues and I could rant together at work.

Which is fine isn’t it? We’re in a recession and times are hard. However when I went to see the Ministry of Food exhibit at the Imperial War Museum over Christmas I realised that we don’t have it all that bad. It was all about how Britain fed itself during World War Two, and gave me a lot of food for thought (har har).

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Forget me not January 7, 2011

Filed under: pretty things — badatsports @ 6:24 pm
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The other day at half ten at night I was merrily typing away on my last blog post, feeling quite smug that I was actually being somewhat productive after work instead of lying on the sofa watching teen vampire dramas as per usual. Then I noticed a text from one of my best friends Sarah who lives in Dublin…that was sent at half 7…and that said she was ready to Skype when I was. We’d arranged to chat a couple of days ago and I had completely forgotten. It’s not like she’s a boring conversationalist or that I was doing more important things, it just completely slipped my mind. I apologised profusely and she replied the next day totally nonplussed and vaguely amused. She wasn’t surprised by my scattiness.

There are some people who would never leave their purse in the back of a New York taxi by accident, or go food shopping and not buy the one thing they really went for, or haven’t ever stepped foot in a London Transport/secondary school/department store’s lost property office. Some people don’t have to spend the day smelling like Old Spice because they neglected to buy deodorant and had to use their husband’s. I am not “some people”.

So the day after my missed telephone date I went out and bought a 2011 diary (5 days late of course) because without a date planner constantly on my person my day is littered with panic, regret and missed appointments.

As I am so reliant on these things, I am also very fussy. They must be a suitable size to carry around and the lighter the better. The indispensable things in life that live in my bag (phone, purse, keys, book, tissues, lip balm, lip gloss, eye drops, gloves, ear phones, old receipts, expired travelcards…) weigh far enough as it is. They must have a monthly planner on one page so I can fill in my engagements and  instantly see what I am doing that month. And they have to be pretty, because who doesn’t need pretty things in their life?

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