365 pictures: 31-40

Astonishingly, this is my fourth grouping of daily pictures, which means we’re now over 40 days into 2013 – that’s more than a tenth of the year gone already! How did that happen, exactly? Beats me, and yet somehow we’re already into the middle third of February. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun, and looking back at these images I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a lot of fun so far this month. In amongst the tears and the tantrums of course…

image

31. Are you talkin’ to me?
Megan, although pretty handy with cutlery for her age, is still quite a messy eater. Hence the apron. I loved this picture, because of the attitude that seems to be pouring out of every fibre of her being. For the record, she looks a lot happier in the other pictures I took at the same time. Especially when she’s ripping a banana skin to shreds. As you do…

image

22. Waiting
February 1st was MoT time for the car I drive to and from work in, which meant catching a bus between office and garage on the way home. Which was inevitably late. And it was chilly. I love the dazzle of the lights in this one – not a special effect, although it probably does mean I need to give the lens a clean.

image

33. Tunnel
This is my favourite picture of the year so far. Both girls love this caterpillar tunnel, although it’s Megan who gets it out more than Heather these days – maybe now that she’s turned 4 it’s not cool any more?

image

34. Super Bowl
Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, and we decorated the place to celebrate with bunting (which the girls loved) and a US flag over the coffee table. William the hippo had to be included in things – he was a gift to Heather from an awesome friend in NYC, where the *real* William lives in the Metropolitan Museum (aka The Met). Megan’s got one of her own too, and the various Williams have literally been all over the world (3 continents and counting) featuring in countless pictures along the way. Everyone needs a travel mascot!

image

35. Butter wouldn’t melt
The observant amongst you will notice that this set of pictures is dominated by Megan, this being the third of seven pictures she’s in. That’s not deliberate in any way, but is probably down to a couple of things:

  • Heather can be a bit camera shy these days, hiding from the camera unless she’s really in the mood
  • Megan is at an age where pretty much everything she does is photo-worthy in some way – especially with that smile
Hopefully balance will be restored over the rest of the year.

image

36. Stickers
I’ll be honest, I forgot to take any pictures last Tuesday, so this was a creative attempt not to miss a day. I think it turned out not bad, personally, all things considered.

image

37. Hello Kitty
Suzy, one of Gem’s friends from work popped over a couple of weekends ago, and brought the girls Hello Kitty goodie bags which included these masks. The stickers have long since been stuck to (and removed from) pretty much every available surface, but the masks live on.

image

38. Doctor in the house
One of my favourite things over the past few months is how well the girls have become at playing together. Heather still leads the way of course, but Megan loves joining in with everything, including various role play games. This one, first thing one morning, involved taking turns at being doctors. This is Megan’s surgery in the corner – Heather’s was on the other side of the living room, in front of the TV. Consultation ended when the porridge I was making for both doctor and patient was ready

image

39. Chillaxin’
Another favourite, this is Megan relaxing with some milk before bed. Gem will sometimes sit on an armchair with her leg hooked over the arm like this, so Megan is very much channeling Mummy here. What Mummy¬†doesn’t do, however, is go on to kick her legs back and forth and come close to spilling what’s left of her milk. Guess who did that then…

image

40. Lunch
On Saturday we had an impromptu trip to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and had lunch in their KG Cafe. I love the sheer mischief in Megan’s eyes here. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come, as she spent the next couple of hours trying to run off and refusing to hold hands or be carried! Both girls love Kelvingrove, though, especially the various natural history exhibits and the working bee hive. They’re not so interested in the galleries of paintings up the stairs though, which means I never get to wander round those either. Maybe one day…

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!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: My Super Bowl preview

Super Bowl XLVI

Anyone who knows me will know that football – American, rather than Association – is my big sporting love, and has been for over 25 years now. Which is a very scary number, as it means I’ve seen more than half (56% to be exact) of the Super Bowls played.

This year’s installment of America’s biggest sporting event, probably its biggest annual event, takes place in Indianapolis this Sunday. A long time ago I would write previews of big games, analysing each team, picking apart their strengths and weaknesses, and offering predictions. These were then emailed round various friends, and sometimes what I said actually turned out to be on the money. I’ve decided to revive that, in a form that will live on in posterity (unlike those old emails!).

So here it is then, my first annual Super Bowl preview! (Obviously if football of the NFL variety isn’t your thing, you probably want to look away now. That’s fine, I understand. Honest)

New England Patriots

The Patriots’ road to the big game is one we’ve seen them take many times before – since 2001 they’ve won the AFC East division 9 times, and only once in that span have they failed to win at least 10 games. That said, the Pats weren’t the dominant force they’ve been in the past, with narrow wins over the likes of Washington, Miami, Buffalo and even Indianaoplis. Perhaps most significant of all was their week 9 loss to the Giants at Gillette Field – they Pats only home loss of the year. An omen for this Sunday?

New York Giants

While the Patriots road to the playoffs looked fairly assured for most of the season, the Giants was anything but. A four game losing streak in November and early December left them with a series of must-win games in the last four weeks of the season. And win they did, beating Dallas twice to scrape past them and take the NFC East title. A dominant defensive front, coupled with some QB play from Eli Manning have been keys to the team’s ¬†success through the last few weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Giants offense vs Patriots defense

Without a dominant rushing game (they ranked 32nd in the league in both rushing yards and yards per carry) the Giants have relied heavily on veteran QB Eli Manning, and for the most part he’s done the business, throwing for just under 5,000 yards. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were the team’s leading receivers, combining for almost half (158) of Eli’s 359 completions. Good news for Giants fans is that NE’s defence gave up more yards than anyone except Green Bay. Not so good news is that for most teams those yards didn’t equate to points, as the Pats exhibited a “bend but don’t break” mentality. The Baltimore Ravens found this out to their cost, with four trips to the red-zone yielding just a single touchdown in the AFC Championship game. For New York to win they have to be able to finish drives consistently – field goals aren’t going to be enough.

Patriots offense vs Giants defense

New England’s running game didn’t rank particularly highly either, but with Tom Brady under center, and an impressive array of receivers to throw to, they didn’t need it. Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski led the way, combining for 212 of Brady’s 401 completed passes. Gronkowski’s fitness is in doubt for the big one, though, so Brady may need a big game from the likes of Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch or even Chad Ochocinco to move the ball consistently. Up against them is one of the most consistently aggressive defensive fronts in the league. The Giants averaged three sacks per game in both the regular season AND the postseason. NY need to maintain this and keep the pressure on Tom Brady to have any chance of stopping the Patriots offense.

Special teams

Neither team has much to write about as far as special teams go, with both having fairly average punting and return games. New England would appear at first glance to have an edge in the kicking game, with Stephen Gostkowski having a better overall success rate than Greenock-born Lawrence Tynes. However, most of Tynes misses have come outside the 40 yard line, so the kickers are fairly even too.

Keys to the game

For New York:

  1. Get pressure on Tom Brady, early and often. Allowing the Patriots QB to get into a rhythm spells trouble
  2. Turn possession into touchdowns. Field goals, or even worse coming away with nothing, will probably not be enough to win the game
  3. Slow the tempo of the game. Give Tom Brady enough chances, he’ll find a way to beat you, no matter how much pressure you get on him. The Giants have to limit how many times #12 gets to touch the ball

For New England:

  1. Establish a running game. If the Pats can move the ball on the ground early, it should slow the Giants pass rush
  2. Spread the ball around. With Gronkowski’s status uncertain following his high ankle sprain, Brady needs his other receivers to step up, and give him throwing options
  3. Don’t give up big plays. The Pats defense gives up yards, but stiffens near its own goal line. What they have to avoid, though, is giving up touchdowns from distance

My prediction

Weighing all of the above up, I’m going for a 23-20 Patriots win. We’ll see if I’m right on Sunday night.

If you’re in the UK, you can watch the Super Bowl in HD, on BBC 1 or Sky Sports, this Sunday. Kick off will be around 11:15pm.

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!