Following the leader(s)

Facebook banner for the only boy in the houseThirteen short months ago I started this blog, as a way to record the life and times of our family as our two beautiful girls grew. Obviously I could have done this in other ways, but we’ve got lots of friends scattered all over the world, some of whom (shock! horror!) don’t use social networks, and I thought it would be a good way of keeping them up to speed with our lives.

Little did I know what I was letting myself in for!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed product reviews and the odd sponsored post creeping in over the last few months. That’s something I never expected, or went out of my way to encourage, but it’s something I’m happy to have taken on board, and I hope some of those posts have proven useful to others.

According to an article in last week’s Independent, dad bloggers are on the rise and are apparently the “next big advertising demographic”, so I expect the offers will continue coming in. What I do need to do – and I think I’m getting better at it – is not saying yes to everything, and only working with brands and products that make sense for our family.

What all of that means, though, is that this blogging lark is becoming a bit more serious than I originally imagined, and consequently I’m having to treat it a bit more seriously. And I figure the best way to do that is to follow the example of the many bloggers I’ve come to know over the last year or so – they’re quite a friendly and sociable bunch!

Which is why this week I’ve given the blog its very own Facebook page. Which is where you come in – I’d really appreciate it if you would like the page. As well as making me feel popular, and who wouldn’t want to do that, it will also be a good way of knowing when new stuff appears on here. Which you can then read. And make me feel even more popular.

It’s not all about the ego, honest!

I’ve also set up an Instagram account, which you’re free to follow too, but I’m not sure what I’ll do with that if I’m completely honest. Share pictures I suppose. There’s one there already, celebrating #BeardDay!

I’ve learnt a lot in the last thirteen months, made some friends and had a lot of fun. Hopefully that’s the way it stays.

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!

Another year over, a new one just begun

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Crown and Anchor, Welby. Perfect for a New Year's Day pint

I found myself thinking about Yoko Ono in the shower this morning. No, nothing like that, it was the Christmas song she did with John Lennon that popped into my head, specifically the line where she wishes us “a happy new year… without any tears”.

Wishful thinking, and more than a little naive I reckon. As a parent of two pre-schoolers (something I won’t be able to say this time next year!) I’d settle for a day without tears. Maybe one day, but I don’t think it will come any time soon. Certainly not in 2013!

The year just gone had plenty of tears, but none of them were over anything serious. Unless you count being denied an extra biscuit or not getting to watch another Spongebob before bed as serious!

For the grown ups, 2012 was a successful year. Between us, Gem and I lost over 10 stone in weight – that’s a whole person! I also ran my first 10k road race, and in a pretty good time from what everyone tells me. And I set up this here blog, joining an awesome online community in the process, something which culminated in this wonderful video at the tail end of the year.

So now, as a new year dawns, it’s time to set some new goals, and this is something I’ve thought long and hard about, if only to make sure that I’m aiming for something that’s actually achievable – I’m a busy guy! Here, then, in no particular order, are my goals for 2013:

  1. Read at least 12 books

    I tried this a couple of years ago, and failed miserably, so I’m hoping for a better result this time around. 12 books… that’s one a month. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? If I got the train to work it wouldn’t be a problem, but driving every day limits my opportunities for reading. Of all my challenges, i think this might actually be the toughest.
  2. Run more
    I’m planning to run at least two 10ks this year, and to improve on the PB of 52:31 that I set in 2012. In fact, I’m aiming for a sub 50 minute 10k, but I think that’s going to depend on how soon I get back into it – I’m currently resting out a groin strain. Fingers crossed I can get out on the road in the next week or so, and hopefully the this one will fall into place.
  3. Write more regularly
    After a strong start, my blogging rate fell away over the summer, and the NFL season almost killed it entirely. It’s not tha I’ve struggled for things to write about, it’s been more a question of time management. Like the reading, though, I’m hoping to do a better job of making time in 2013. How well I do at that will, of course, be evident right here.
  4. Drink more beer
    I like beer, probably too much if I’m being honest. Something that made a big difference in the great diet of 2012,though, was substituting quality for quantity. Gone are the days of pickin up a case of whatever the supermarkets have on offer. Instead, I’m making more of an effort to seek out beers I’ve never drunk before, and savouring them. As a result, I’m drinking less overall, and that’s something I’m keen to continue in 2013. I might even write about some of the beers I’ve sampled!
  5. Make more beer
    This kind of goes hand in hand with the last item, and like so many of these, it’s something I’ve been saying for years but not actually managed. I did make my own beer once, so I’ve got all the kit. Finding room for the barrel while it ferments, out of the reach of The girls, that’s the biggest challenge.
  6. Take at least one picture every day
    I’ve seen a few folk do this over the last couple of years, and I like the idea a lot. The shot at the top of tis post is day one – we’ll see how I get on over the next 12 months

So those are my goals for 2013. I’m sure I’ll come up short on some, but hopefully I succeed on some, and find myself this time next year looking back on a successful 12 months.

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!

Happy birthday to me!

Cake

A cake - not actually birthday related

Believe it or not, it’s just over a year since Lunch Hour Waffle started – a year and seven days to be exact. Which means I should probably have written this post seven days ago, but never mind, it’s here now.

It’s been an interesting year, and I’ve learned a lot – about myself as much as anything else. If nothing else I’ve learned that there are some things I can write well about – family for example. The flip side of that, of course, is that there are some things I feel I’m less good at expressing in words. Music, in particular, is something I feel I struggle with. But I’ll persevere, and hopefully get a bit better.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the random nature of what gets read. It was March before I added a stats plugin to the site, so I don’t have numbers for the full year, but I thought it would be interesting to summarise the year in numbers: I like facts and figures, and it will give me something to compare future years against.

  • 38 – the number of published posts (39 including this one)
  • 53 – most views on a single day, which was on Tuesday May 17th
  • 96 – approved comments. No idea how many spammy comments got deleted
  • 110 – number of views my most popular post has had (not counting the home page)
  • 130.7 – average views per month, March – December 2011 (January isn’t finished yet!)
  • 1369 – total views to date

Most folk arrive here via Facebook or Twitter, which I’m guessing means I know pretty much everyone who finds themselves here. A few have even taken the step of subscribing via the likes of Google Reader and Instapaper – I must be doing something right then!

I do get the odd random visitor, though, and WordPress stats allow me to track the search terms that lead folk here. Here, for your amusement, are the top 5 terms that landed here in the last year (note: I’ve aggregated similar terms a bit, and mentioned the most popular version below):

  1. uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis
  2. bar inopia
  3. usborne computers
  4. ipad 2
  5. vintage trouble

Pretty varied, and not what I’d have expected. Some of the less popular search terms are worthy of mention too, only because they seem quite random. Honorable mention, therefore, goes to songs to do the slosh to, best song on my way to mars, i was there then hmv certificate and my favourite “good friends” + “became a couple” + uk.

I’ll finish with the top 10 most popular posts – given the search terms above, it should be no surprise to learn what came in at number 1. What’s more surprising is how far ahead of the competition it was, having been read almost twice as often as number 2!

  1. 30 songs: Uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis
  2. When I wake up early in the morning…
  3. I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim
  4. 30 songs: I jumped across for you
  5. Should I stay or should I go?
  6. 3 Become 4
  7. 30 songs: You gotta spread the word
  8. RIP Bar Inopia
  9. 30 songs: Writing’s on the wall
  10. 30 songs: The future is ours to find

Hmmm… 5 of those are actually music related (in theory, at least) – maybe I don’t suck at that as much as I think I do!

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!