365 pictures: 21-30

30 days in, and I’ve yet to miss one. Although there have been a couple of close shaves. Still having fun with it, though, and still aiming to keep going for the rest of the year. Let’s be honest, most New Year’s resolutions have died a death by the end of January, so if I’ve made it this long I can make it to the end of the year, right? Right?

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21. Recycling
We had a post-Christmas mini-disaster with our recycling bin; because it was jammed full of wrapping paper and cardboard packaging, it didn’t empty properly, which meant we started the next 2 week cycle with a half full bin. So by the next collection, we had more boxes full of stuff in the kitchen that wouldn’t go in the bin. I think we’re sorted now.

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22. Snow
While the rest of the UK has been under a blanket of snow for much of January, we’ve managed to almost miss it entirely. Makes a nice change! This was about as bad as it got round these parts.

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23. Gangsta
I’ve got a small collection of baseball caps (3!) hanging on the bedpost, and every so often the girls like to try them on for size. Megan, for some reason, always prefers hers to be backwards. Heather picked this one, and asked if the hole in the back was for a pony tail to fit through – smart kid, that one.

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24. A bag for a hat
From the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s Megan modelling an altogether different sort of headgear- a mini shopping bag. What cracks me up is when they walk around like this, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Maybe it’s me who’s got it all wrong?

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25. Happy birthday Rabbie
Gemma’s not that keen on haggis, so when it comes to Burns Night we tend not to go with tradition. I have in the past done haggis, neeps and tatties just for me, but it means either consuming a whole haggis (not good for the waistline) or throwing some away. This year I got creative and we had haggis burgers (although Gem had hers without the haggis). I washed mine down with a surprisingly decent bottle of Rabbie Burns from Traditional Scottish Ales. The Bard would be proud.

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26. The artists at work

Both our girls love to scribble, and while Megan’s pictures really are just scribbles, all of a sudden Heather is able to produce pictures that actually look like what they’re meant to be. She told me a few weeks ago she’d like to be an artist, so who knows?

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27. Gogga Gone (chocolate scone)
Gem baked some scones on Sunday, for Sunday Bake Club, while I went out for a run. When I got back, Megan met me at the door, to very excitedly tell me about the “gogga gones” that Mummy had made. They were awesome, by the way – no susprises there! :)

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28. Early night
After a busy weekend, Monday night was a chance to get to bed at a decent hour. Just a few years ago, anything before midnight would have constituted an early night, but that was before we were being woken at 7 every day. Not that I’m complaining of course, just reflecting how much things have changed since the girls arrived.

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29. Baby Annabel
I came across this the other night when I was tidying up the toys, and the absurd pose amused me far more than it should. I think my mum might have had a hand in this one…

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30. Salad
I’ve mentioned before that one of our aims for this year is to cook everything from Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals, and last night I produced a fantastic Jamaican jerk pork dish. It was accompanied by this awesome looking salad, which I enjoyed far more than I was expecting, as I’m not normally a fan of sweetcorn in things. Shows you what I know!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

365 pictures: 11-20

So we’re on to the second batch of pictures in my 365 pictures project, and I’ve got to be honest, it’s starting to get tough already. I’m trying hard to take pictures because they’re interesting, not because I’ve need to, but it’s almost come to that a couple of times in the past week and a half. I guess that’s the challenge, though, to be creative and make something interesting. That’s the attitude I’m going with – we’ll see how I get on. Anyway, here’s pictures 11-20…

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11. 15 Minute meal
Gem got Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals for Christmas, and we’ve vowed to cook every recipe in the book. This was (I think) my first contribution, and very tasty it was too. Moroccan Lamb and chickpeas with harissa yoghurt, salad and wrap, if you’re interested.

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12. Story time
Possibly my favourite time of day, I love reading bedtime stories to the girls. We went through a spell of “double bedtime” recently, but as you can see Megan wasn’t really a fan, so we’ve reverted to separate bedtimes and stories.

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13. Hoping for snow
While the rest of the UK has been covered in snow, the greater Glasgow area has escaped. Which makes a nice change, although the girls are none too impressed. We have had a few flakes, they just haven’t amounted to anything. We had some just before this picture was taken, but by the time Megan got to the door they’d stopped again.

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14. Moon gazing
In lieu of snow, we’ve had a lot of clear nights, and this was one of them. It was so clear you could actually make out the dark side of the moon, which I’ve just about captured here.

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15. Milk time
Since we stopped heating it, Heather hasn’t been a fan of milk, unless it’s of the flavoured variety. Or comes from nursery in a cow-patterned carton. Megan, on the other hand, loves the white stuff, and even gets upset if her bedtime cup doesn’t appear as quick as she’d like. Which is definitely a good thing.

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16. School registration

I already wrote about school registration day, so I won’t say much here, other than to restate my disbelief that we’ve reached this stage already. Time really does fly!

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17. Sleeping
I love the weird and wonderful positions the girls get into when they’re asleep – this is actually quite tame compared to some we’ve come across!

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18. Morning princess
Most days start with Heather coming into our bedroom to announce that the sun on her gro-clock is up. Teddy normally comes with her, and often she brings other toys too. No prizes for guessing what came with her this day.

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19. Chicken cacciatore (a la me)
Another 15 minute meal, this time one for the whole family. Our girls love pasta, so we were pretty sure this one would go down well. And it did – Heather even ate the mushrooms in the sauce, despite saying she doesn’t like mushrooms. Win!

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20. Porridge
Heather recently remembered that she likes porridge, and has had it for breakfast every day since. Megan was never a fan – she never even liked baby porridge, although I’m with her on that one – but with the addition of blueberries and a little honey she’s a convert.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

365 pictures: 1-10

On a whim at the start of the year, I decided that in 2013 I would take (and share) a picture every day. I’ve seen quite a few people do it over the last few years, and thought I’d join in – it looks like fun. Gathered here are my first 10 efforts, along with some words.

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1. Crown and Anchor, Welby
New Year’s Day pint at my local (when I’m visiting the in-laws). Tetley’s Christmas Cracker, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. It was rather tasty!

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 2. Ready for the off
Last day of the holidays and a long drive home. I’m not sure if Megan was happy about this or not

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3. Back to work :(
Pretty self explanatory this one. NOBODY likes going back to work

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4. All over for another year
It never seems like any time at all between the decorations going up and coming back down again. And of course there are always a few things that escape going back in the loft. This year: 2 ornaments and a Santa stocking

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5. Peekaboo!
They say kids have more fun with the packaging than the toys. Megan was definitely loving this hanger from a Baby Annabel outfit. Last seen down the back of the sofa (the hanger, not the outfit)

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6. Playoffs baby!
Last Sunday was all about the football – I was insanely excited about the Washington Redskins first home playoff game in 13 years. Read all about it here

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7. NFL fan evening
Monday night was also about the football, as I was at an NFL fan evening in Edinburgh. And very good it was too. Read about it here

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8. Out with the old, in with the new
I wrote about this one too – changing my wall calendar at work

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9. Happy Mrs Chicken
Both our girls love technology – phones, iPad etc. By far Megan’s favourite game is Happy Mrs Chicken, featuring Peppa Pig. But she’s equally at home tweeting on my behalf from Tap the Frog!

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10. Morning princess
Astonishingly for someone so outgoing and full of life, Heather can be quite camera shy. So when she says “take a picture of me Daddy” you have to grab the opportunity with both hands.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

NFL fan night – Edinburgh, 7th January 2013

Jeff Reinebold, Neil Reynolds and Mark Brunell 7-Jan-2013

On Sunday I wrote about my excitement at my team, the Washington Redskins, returning to relevance with their first division title, and first home playoff game, since 1999. Sadly the  excitement was short-lived, as the season came to a shuddering halt, along with quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injured knee. Fingers crossed it’s not as career threatening as it looks, but it’s definitely a nasty one.

My post-season blues were very quickly shrugged off, though, as I had something else to look forward to – an NFL fan night to be held in Edinburgh the following evening. Although I hadn’t been lucky enough to secure tickets, my friend Ian had, and so it was that we headed through to Auld Reekie not really knowing what to expect.

We arrived at the venue, the rather magnificent Hub, about 10 minutes before the evening was due to begin, and found ourselves decent seats in the middle of the hall. I reckon about 200 fans were in attendance, mainly decked out in NFL jerseys or other merchandise, and with most of the league’s 32 teams represented – exactly the kind of thing I expect the organisers were expecting to see.

After a brief welcome from Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds, the evening began with a film, Barry Sanders: A Football Life. Now I love NFL Films, who’ve been setting the standard for sports documentaries for a long, long time. And this retrospective of one of the best running backs of all time (third best, according to his own father!) didn’t disappoint. The mix of archive footage and interviews, mixed with modern day interviews was perfectly presented, and I learned a lot about a player I remember fondly but didn’t have much opportunity to see play.

Jeff Reinebold and me

with Jeff Reinebold

After the film it was on to the main event, a chalk talk and Q&A with coach Jeff Reinebold and NFL legend Mark Brunell, who just happens to be the last Redskins QB to win a playoff game! This portion of the evening was let down slightly by technical issues – Reinebold appeared to be having problems with his telestrator. Instead we got a live action demonstration of zone read blocking, during which he managed to “offend” Edinburgh Wolves head coach Don Edmonston with a jibe about offensive linemen’s athleticism. Other topics covered included the upcoming NFL games at Wembley and a look at each of the teams still in the hunt for this year’s Super Bowl, as well as answering questions from the floor.

Things came to a close about 9:45,, and after getting pictures with Reinebold and Brunell it was time to head for home. I really enjoyed the evening, and felt like I learned a lot. Reinebold is a charismatic presenter, who makes even the complicated aspects of the game easy to understand (the game itself, he says, is actually pretty simple – something I’d agree with) and had the audience in the palm of his hand. As you’d expect of a 19 year NFL veteran, Brunell had some stories to tell, and it was great to hear first hand accounts of guys like Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Drew Brees. Reynolds, too, was excellent, keeping the evening moving and throwing in some stories of his own.

Mark Brunell and me

with Mark Brunell

Similar events are being held tonight and tomorrow in Birmingham and Leeds, and I’m sure all those in attendance will enjoy them as much as I did. It’s great that the NFL are putting on events such as those, and bringing the game closer to far-off fans. As I wrote the other day, it’s all a far cry from the week old highlights we watched back in the 80s, and long may it continue!

I’m already looking forward to the next event, whenever or wherever it might be. Glasgow would be nice!

Tickets for this year’s NFL International Series games at Wembley are now on sale. Visit http://www.nfluk.com/tickets-events/nfl-wembley for more information

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

When two tribes go to war

Chris Cooley Redskins jersey

Believe it or not, I was a relative latecomer to American football. Channel 4 were well into their fifth season of NFL coverage before I decided to see what all the fuss was about, but it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

This was sport like nothing I’d ever seen, and it very quickly ousted “our” football as my favourite. Of course it helped that my adopted team, the Washington Redskins, were rather good at the time. My first year as a Skins fan they reached the NFC Championship game (the Super Bowl semifinals for the uninitiated). In my second year Washington not only got to the Super Bowl, but won it in convincing style, beating a heavily favoured Denver Broncos team 42-10, and setting all sorts of records, many of which still stand. Good times!

It should, of course, be pointed out that I didn’t pick the Redskins just because they were good. I’m not saying it didn’t help, but the biggest factor in that decision was having family who lived near Washington. I can’t remember if gifts of team merchandise were the cause or result of choosing the Skins, but it certainly didn’t harm, and 25 years on I still have all manner of programs, collectibles and newspaper clippings from that Super Bowl run.

Back in those days, NFL coverage in the UK was very different. We got a highlights show on a Sunday evening, showing the best bits of games that has been played the previous week. There were other ways to find out the scores though. Telextext was one, and there were multiple weekly papers with game reports and other news, not just of the NFL but also of games played closer to home, in the various leagues springing up around the country. And for the really dedicated, there was US Armed Forces Network radio which broadcast live games on a Sunday night. Unfortunately the AFN signal was pretty weak, and it was common to lose commentary just as things were getting interesting.

Things are very different today. Sky Sports have been broadcasting 2 live games on a Sunday night, and gradually other broadcasters have been getting involved as well. Most weeks this season had 5 live games shown across Sky, Channel 4 and even the BBC! And of course the internet has made a big difference, bringing us Brits the same level of coverage as fans in the US. 10 year old me would never have believed it would be so good in the future.

This year I signed up to the NFL’s Gamepass package, allowing me to watch any game I wanted to, live or on demand, which for the first time ever has allowed me to see every game the Redskins have played. And I couldn’t have picked a better year, as Washington put 20 years of mediocrity behind themselves (those glory days of yore didn’t last) and finally appear to be a force again. It’s been a lot of fun to watch, and via the likes of Twitter to feel part of.

Tonight, the Redskins will be hosting their first home playoff game since 1999, and only their second since winning Super Bowl 26 in 1992. To say I’m excited would be an understatement – I don’t think 10 year old me could be more excited. Poor Gem is fed up hearing about RG3 (aka Robert Griffin III)’s knee, or the state of the Redskins secondary. But I can’t help it – to get this far after so many disappointing years just feels so good.

I’ve even got Heather singing along to the team’s fight song, Hail to the Redskins. Does that make me a bad dad?

The Redskins go into tonight’s game against the Seattle Seahawks as 3 point underdogs, and most experts expect them to lose. So my playoff joy may be about to end abruptly. But we’ve been surprising people all year, and the experts aren’t always right. That’s why they play the games, after all.

Me? I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll get the win. As a fan, it couldn’t really be any other way.

Hail to the Redskins!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!