Sunday, 29 March 2015

Challenge Update - March 2015

My 2015 challenges are:-

1. Read one book each month.
1a. Read Agatha Christie books in chronological order.
2. Watch films from IMDb's top 100 movies of all time.
3. Support charities.

My reading picked up a little in March, I got through three books as well as my Agatha Christie read. The first book I read was The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. I remember someone recommending this book on a blog but I can't for the life of me remember who it was. What would you do if you found an envelope amongst your husband's belongings with 'to be opened only in the event of my death' written on it? Would you open it? Cecilia Fitzpatrick did and it had serious consequences for a number of families. I enjoyed the story, but once I've read a book I'm sometimes left wondering what happened afterwards. I liked the fact that Liane Moriarty answered those questions in a final chapter.

I saw The Debt & The Doormat by Laura Barnard was a free Kindle download so I thought that was a good reason to give it a go. I enjoyed reading about Poppy, a girl in her twenties, who swaps flats with her best friend and who is totally accident prone. The book was very funny, but the poor grammar and terrible punctuation nearly spoilt it for me, I can't see how this book was ever proof read. I enjoyed it for what it was but I'm in no hurry to read the sequel.

A Mother's Story by Amanda Prowse was recommended by Mitzi on her Lazy Days & Sundays at The Willows blog in A Mother's Story post. It just so happened that on the day Mitzi posted about this book, it was on my Kindle Daily Deals for just 99p so I downloaded it straight away. I'm so glad I did as I really enjoyed it. Jessica and Matthew appear to have it all, but after the traumatic birth of their first child, post natal depression rears its ugly head and their lives fall apart. It's written with great sensitivity and gives a very real insight in to the effect that post natal depression has on people's lives, it's such a terrible illness.

Hercule Poirot returned in Agatha Christie's third book, The Murder On The Links. This is my favourite of the three Agatha Christie books I've read so far. I was kept guessing till the end in this book, having changed my mind who the murderer was on several occasions.

I haven't watched as many films this month as I did in January and February, just four.

I've never seen Terminator but I watched Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I'd seen bits of this film previously, and it doesn't really matter if you haven't seen the first film. I'm not really in to science fiction but I didn't mind this film at all.

I've seen both Alien and its sequel, Aliens, previously but I enjoyed watching them again. I don't think there's many films where the sequel is better than the original but in my opinion, this is one of them.

I'm really not in to gangster movies so I wasn't expecting to enjoy Goodfellas. It's based on a true story and follows Henry Hill, a small time gangster, over the course of the next thirty years as an associate of the New York Mafia's Lucchese family. He eventually betrayed the mob and was placed in witness protection. There's no getting away from the fact that it's a violent movie but the violence is part of the story so it's in context. I think the casting was excellent and the film itself exceeded my expectations.

It was Red Nose Day for Comic Relief on the 13th of March so I bought a red nose to support this worthy cause. I saw children from the local primary school going to school that morning dressed in red and some even had their face painted. I could hear lots of excited shouts in the playground that day.

It was The Great Daffodil Appeal for Marie Curie Cancer Care in March. I bought my daffodil and have been wearing it all month. Marie Curie support so many people, not only the person living with terminal illness but their families too.

I had a bag full of old clothes and textiles which had seen better days so I dropped these off at the Oxfam recycling bin in the nearby Tesco's car park. Oxfam have a recycling plant, Wastesaver, which maximises revenue from textiles that cannot be resold in their shops, and minimises the amount of textiles sent to landfil. Damaged or low grade items can be sold to recycling traders so they can be turned in to such things as car soundproofing or mattress stuffing. I'm happy to know that my old clothes and textiles which aren't good enough to be sold in charity shops can still raise money for worthy causes.

Do you remember my Challenge Update - January 2015 post? I mentioned Candlelighters which is a childhood cancer charity in Yorkshire and said that I'd set up a regular standing order to them. I'd done it in Mick's name as the charity is able to reclaim tax on a donation made by a UK taxpayer, increasing the amount of the donation. As I don't pay tax because I don't work, it made more sense to donate in Mick's name. We received a lovely card from the charity thanking us for our regular donation.

I'd hoped to get out in the garden a bit this weekend but the weather hasn't been very nice at all. Surely, now that we're approaching April, the weather must improve soon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Photo Medley - March

Time for a round up of the photos I've taken this month which haven't made it on to the blog for one reason or another.

Archie on one of his many walks.

It's tiring posing for photos, especially when you're a dog.

Signs of spring in the garden.

A Gerbera amongst my Mother's Day bouquet.

Trying to take photos of the eclipse without looking at the sun and without a filter on the camera. It doesn't work!

The first thing Eleanor's ever knit.

She even crocheted a curly tail.

Archie showing his appreciation of flowers.

A random set of photos, I'm sure you'll agree.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sewing Machine Basics Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway to win Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover.

A name was drawn at random from all the entries and I'm pleased to announce that the winner is Amy from Love Made My Home. Can you please let me have your address so that I can get the book posted out to you, my email address is under the Contact Me section in my sidebar. I hope you'll find the book very useful.

I hope everyone's enjoying the weekend, it's a lovely day here today, I hope it's the same where you are.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Washing Day

Yesterday was the first time this year that I've hung washing on the line to dry. It wasn't a perfect drying day but at least it didn't rain.

Eleanor's bedding dried enough for me to iron it when I brought it in, but it needed airing off before I could put it away this morning.

I love line dried washing, it has such a lovely scent that you don't get when you dry it indoors. We just need it to warm up a little and then we'll be able to get lots more drying done outside.

Don't forget, if you haven't already entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Friday the 20th of March 2015 to do so, just leave a comment on my Sewing Machine Basics Giveaway post.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Project Update

I thought I'd do a little update post on the projects I'm working on at the moment, not that there's been much progress on any of them, but they're starting to take shape.

First of all, my cross stitch. I'm really enjoying this, it's so relaxing to work on. I started a cross stitch many years ago, I must have been about eleven or twelve at the time, but it never got finished so it will be an accomplishment if I manage to work on this to the end. I don't see why I won't, I think cross stitch may be a new hobby for me.

My Granny Stripe Blanket is growing slowly. I've now used all the seventeen colours I'm working with so the next rows will be the same colours jumbled up.

This is a good project to work on whilst I'm watching television as it's so easy to get in to a rhythm with it and I don't need to concentrate on what I'm doing.

I recently finished knitting the Blackberry Beanie for Eleanor so I've started on the Winter Green hat in issue 128 of Simply Knitting for myself. It's knit in Wendy Aspire which is a chunky yarn so I'm sure it will knit up quite quickly. It's got a lace pattern so I shall have to concentrate on that.

I've still got lots of projects which I want to have a go at waiting in the wings but I get quite tetchy if I have too many things on the go at once so I don't want to start anything else just yet.

What are you working on? How about doing a project update post yourself and leaving me a comment here so that I can pop by? I love to see what other people are working on.

Don't forget, if you haven't already entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Friday the 20th of March 2015 to do so, just leave a comment on my Sewing Machine Basics Giveaway post.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Blackberry Beanie

It's taken a while to get this beanie finished for Eleanor. It's knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran and when I came to the end of the two 50g balls which the pattern said it took, Eleanor wanted more adding. I bought another ball and continued to knit until Eleanor decided it was big enough.

Now anyone who knows me will know that I hate sewing things up so it sat in my project bag for quite a while before I picked it up and got on with it. Once sewn up it looked ridiculous, it was far too big. I'm not actually keen on the beanie style anyway but it's what the young ones seem to want. There was no way I was leaving it as it was so I unpicked it, pulled it all out and started again, stopping at the point that the pattern dictates and it looks much better.

I caught Eleanor at the door as she came home from school yesterday and got her to model it so that I could take some photos. She's got a ponytail in her hair so it's made the hat stick out a little at the back, but you can get the idea of it.

Here it is laid flat.

Archie was pleased to see Eleanor home from school.

Eleanor chose the colour of the yarn to go with her winter coat.

Here is the Blackberry Beanie pattern in case you'd like to knit this yourself. It's a simple pattern and knits up quickly.

Time to get on with the hat I promised myself now. It won't be a beanie.

Don't forget, if you haven't already entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Friday the 20th of March 2015 to do so, just leave a comment on my Sewing Machine Basics Giveaway post.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sewing Machine Basics Giveaway

How do you fancy winning a copy of Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover?

You can read more about the book in my Sewing Machine Basics post. It's like a complete sewing course for the beginner, showing the basics in the first section and with 11 different workshops in the second, building up your knowledge as you work your way through the book.

Of course, the book isn't only for beginners, it comes with pull out pattern sheets which any sewer can use, and as the workshops take you through different techniques, they would be good for brushing up the skills of more advanced sewers too.

I bought a couple of these books so that I could offer one to my readers. If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning it just leave a comment on this post by twelve noon on Friday the 20th of March 2015. A name will be drawn at random soon afterwards. I usually offer to post my giveaways worldwide, however, this is quite a heavy book so I'm afraid that on this occasion, this is a UK only giveaway as the cost to post abroad would be huge.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Red Nose Day

It's Comic Relief's Red Nose Day on Friday so I thought I'd buy my red nose ready for the big day. There's nine different noses to collect this year and you don't know which one you've got until you open the bag. You may even find one of the twelve golden noses which are hidden in surprise bags across the land, and if you're lucky enough to find one in Sainsbury's, Oxfam or the online shop, you will win a once in a lifetime experience.

I didn't find a golden nose, I didn't even find the Snotty Professor who I was hoping for, instead I got Nosebot. Nosebot hopes that robotic noses will replace human ones, removing the revolting human habits of sneezing and snot making.

Have you got yours yet?

Friday, 6 March 2015

Sewing Machine Basics

Last November I wrote a post, Learning To Sew, where I told you it was my intention to teach myself to sew. I still haven't embarked on this new hobby, but I've been enjoying watching The Sewing Bee and it's made me think again about getting Eleanor's sewing machine out and having a go.

I've treated myself to another book on the subject, Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover, which I think will help greatly.

It's split in to two sections, Section 1 is all about Getting Started. It has information on sewing machine know-how, tools & equipment, understanding fabrics and get set for cutting. It takes the beginner right the way through everything they need to know from choosing a new sewing machine right the way through to starting their first sewing project.

Section 2 is split up in to 11 different workshops. Each workshop builds up to a complete course for the beginner and each one covers a new technique with a project at the end of the workshop to put the skills you've just learned in to practice. The workshops cover simple seams & easy hems, simple stitches, bias binding & patch pockets, fastenings, zippers & decorative touches, advanced seams & hems, measuring & calculating for windows, understanding dress patterns, inside pockets & casings, darts & underlying fabrics and gathers, pleats & tucks.

There's some lovely projects at the end of each workshop ranging from an envelope pillow, a lined tote bag, an unlined Roman blind right the way through to a soft long-length blouse at the end of Workshop 11.

The book also comes with pull out pattern sheets.

I really like how the book is a complete course, building up your knowledge as you work your way through it. It assumes you're a complete beginner, which is great because I am, and goes through the very basics at the beginning, but has more advanced projects to make as you work your way through it, so it would be a good book for someone who knows a bit about machine sewing too.

I wonder how many people The Sewing Bee has inspired to have a go themselves. It's the final next week, I'll be sorry to see another series finish but perhaps by the time the next series starts I'll have completed a project or two myself.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Back On The Health Kick

My weight has steadily crept up over winter. I finished the last of my Christmas chocolates last night, three tiny bars of Green & Blacks, so it's back to healthy eating for me as from today.

I set myself the challenge of losing some weight back in 2012 and did quite well losing two stone six pounds in total. I have to say that a lot of that weight has gone back on now so I really need to get back on track.

I don't like to diet as such, I prefer to eat more healthily and this seems to do the trick. Portion control is key, as is cutting out snacking between meals which is my major downfall. I shall continue to eat the same meals as the rest of the family but I shall just eat smaller portions. I do enjoy a glass of wine but alcohol is a complete no no if I want to lose weight so that shall be cut out all together.

I usually manage my five a day as I love vegetables, but I'm not such a big eater of fruit so that's something I shall definitely eat more of, the fruit bowl is stocked up in readiness.

I have to admit that I'm not a lover of exercising, I walk Archie at least once every day and that's about as much as I do, but I shall start using the exercise bike again as I know that exercising really does help to shift the weight.

Of the two stone six pounds which I lost in 2012, one stone ten pounds has gone back on so ideally, I'd like to lose two stones. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Challenge Update - February 2015

My 2015 challenges are:-

1. Read one book each month.
1a. Read Agatha Christie books in chronological order.
2. Watch films from IMDb's top 100 movies of all time.
3. Support charities.

I've had another good month in February. Two books have been read on the Kindle, the first one being Little Women. This is a book I've never read before, I remember watching the film but couldn't remember everything about it so when I saw this was free for the Kindle, I thought I'd give it a go and I'm so glad that I did as I really enjoyed it. I read a post at the back end of last year which Amy wrote on her Love Made My Home blog, Orchard House and Louisa May Alcott, about her visit to the author's house in Concord, Massachusetts which I found really interesting as the book was actually loosely based on Louisa and her three sisters.

The second book I read in February was The Inn At The Top by Neil Hanson. This book has the subtitle Tales of Life at the Highest Pub in Britain, so that should give you some idea of what this book is about. It's packed with anecdotes about the author and his wife's time at the inn, in a remote part of the Yorkshire Dales, back in the 1970's with bits of history about the area thrown in for good measure. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

I read the second of Agatha Christie's books, The Secret Adversary. This book introduces the reader to Tommy and Tuppence, two fictional detectives who appear together in four Agatha Christie novels and one collection of short stories. I'm familiar with Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple but I've never come across Tommy and Tuppence in any Agatha Christie books I've read previously so this was a bit of a surprise. I enjoyed the book and didn't guess the ending.

I've had a bit of a film watching marathon this month, ten in total.

For A Few Dollars More is one of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, the second in the Dollars Trilogy which are a favourite of my dad's. I can't say I was enthralled, it was watchable but not really my thing.

The Shawshank Redemption is number one on IMDb's top 100 and I can see why. It's a film I've seen before and one, I'm sure, I'll watch again. It would definitely make it on to my top 100, quite near the top.

I wasn't looking forward to watching Life Is Beautiful, an Italian comedy drama. I confess that I'm not all that fond of films with subtitles, but this was such a lovely film. A Jewish Italian, Guido, and his family are taken to a Nazi concentration camp where Guido comes up with an idea to shield his son from the true horror of the situation. Bittersweet. I'm pleased I watched it. Roberto Benigni directed and starred in this film and he won an Oscar for Best Actor, very well deserved in my opinion.

I nearly gave Pulp Fiction a miss even though I didn't really know what it was about. I'd heard about the violence and didn't fancy it, but it wasn't at all what I was expecting, I didn't realise it was a black comedy. I actually really enjoyed the film, very clever how three separate stories are connected together, and I loved John Travolta in it. Mick had never seen it before either so I sat through it a second time with him.

American History X is a film I've never heard of before. It's about two brothers, one a neo Nazi skinhead who ends up a reformed character after his time in prison, and the other who seems to be going down the same lines. A very powerful storyline which is bound to stir up strong emotions. This is another film I wouldn't have chosen to watch but I'm glad that I did.

One of my favourites is Forrest Gump. I don't know how many times I've seen this already, but I'm sure it's another one which I'll watch again. I think Tom Hanks is a brilliant actor and is fantastic in the role. This would definitely make my top 100.

Full Metal Jacket is about new Marine recruits, taking the viewer through their basic training and in to combat in Vietnam. I'm not really in to war films and this wasn't my thing, but it was watchable. It wouldn't make it in to my top 100 though.

Another Tom Hanks film, The Green Mile. I think this would make my top ten, a hopeless, tragic story about men on death row, but a beautiful tale too. This is another film which I can watch over and over again.

The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are number two and three on IMDb's list. They wouldn't make it on to my list, but that's not to say they're not great films. I'm not in to gangster movies at all so these really weren't to my taste. I did enjoy watching Al Pacino when he was younger though, a very good looking man.

Eleanor cleared a few things out of her drawers and wardrobes a couple of weeks ago so they were taken to The Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd clothing bank. These clothing banks are so handy, they're usually situated in supermarket carparks and I know I can take my donations there at any time of day, they don't close like charity shops do.

Lend With Care, part of Care International, allows entrepreneurs in developing countries to make their own way out of poverty with the help of a microfinance loan. Making a contribution towards the loan is a great way to help someone help themselves and this can be in £15 increments. The entrepreneur's profile is regularly updated so you can follow their progress and see how their new source of income is transforming their life. Providing all goes well, the loan will be repaid to your account and you can then decide whether to withdraw the amount you lent or you can go on to help more entrepreneurs in the same way. I think it's a great scheme so I've helped a lady in Zambia with her bakery business this month. It's a very short term loan and should be repaid in July so I hope to go on and help more people in the same way.

It's been another busy month where my challenges are concerned but I'm hoping to have a bit of a rest over the weekend as I'm suffering with conjunctivitis at the moment and I've also done something to my back, I'm not sure what as it came on suddenly without me realising. I do hope it doesn't stick around, a bad back is something I can definitely do without now that the gardening season is nearly upon us.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Photo Medley - February

I usually have lots of photos on my camera which never make it on to the blog, but there aren't very many for February. It's been so cold just lately that I haven't been out much with my camera, so I thought I'd show you a few more photos which I took around the lake at Thornes Park.

You can see how icy it was, the birds look as though they're walking on water.

I'm hoping that the weather is going to start warming up so that I can get out and about a bit more with my camera. Let's see what March brings.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

How Did That Happen?

It's Daniel's birthday today, he's twenty. Just how did that happen? How did my baby boy turn in to a strapping twenty year old in the blink of an eye? I don't feel old enough to have a twenty year old son.

We won't be seeing him today but he's coming home for the weekend with his girlfriend tomorrow so we're going out for a meal tomorrow night, I'm sure he'll have some plans of his own for Saturday and then I shall cook a roast dinner for them before we take them back to university on Sunday.

Happy birthday, Daniel.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Thornes Park

Last Saturday, we visited Thornes Park in Wakefield. The main idea was to visit the Walled Garden for a post for my other blog, The Good Life. You can read about it on my Thornes Park In February post. We had Archie with us so after a look around the gardens we decided on a walk around the park. Archie came off his lead and had a good run around but as we neared the lake, we put him back on his lead otherwise he'd have been straight in the water.

It was a cold day and part of the lake was iced over, there looked to be some quite sharp pieces of ice jutting out.

Lots of birds use the lake.

The Canada Geese can get quite aggressive as you pass them, Archie wasn't very keen.

There was a man with his little boy throwing bread for the birds.

The rest of the Canada Geese couldn't come quickly enough when they knew food was around.

There was plenty for everyone.

This isn't a park we usually visit so it was a change to go somewhere different and Archie enjoyed himself.