Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 Challenge Results

My 2015 challenges were:-

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 surpassed my expectations where reading was concerned. In total, I've read forty books this year. I think my favourite read was I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. It's very cleverly written and if you haven't read it I can thoroughly recommend it. I don't want to say too much about the story as the twists could be very easily given away.

Although I didn't set myself any goals regarding the number of Agatha Christie books I should read this year, I managed one a month. These are included in my total of forty books. I'm really enjoying working my way through these books, there's 66 detective or mystery novels so having read a dozen, I've only scratched at the surface so far.

I managed to watch 49 films from IMDb's top 100 movies of all time, which is some going as I don't usually watch many films. I watched many films I wouldn't usually have chosen to watch and really surprised myself as I thoroughly enjoyed many of them. Some of the films I hadn't seen before, didn't think were my thing at all, yet enjoyed once I watched them were Life Is Beautiful, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, The Departed and Braveheart. I've realised that it's sometimes worth watching films which don't immediately grab your attention or that you don't think are your kind of film.

I've supported at least thirty different charities this year. I hope my monthly Challenge Update posts have demonstrated that there's lots of different ways in which to help or support a charity, it doesn't always have to be a monetary donation, anyone can help in so many different ways.

I've enjoyed setting myself these fun challenges, though I'm taking a break from them next year. I shall, of course, continue with my reading, I'll continue to read Agatha Christie books in chronological order, and I'll continue to support charities, I'm just not setting myself any new challenges.

Wishing you all a very happy new year and sending my very best wishes for 2016.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Challenge Update - December 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 didn't expect to get through many books this month, what with the lead up to Christmas and the busyness of it all but I managed two books as well as the Agatha Christie one.

I watched the new television adaptation of Poldark earlier on this year and really enjoyed it so when I saw Ross Poldark by Winston Graham for sale in a charity shop, I didn't hesitate in buying it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even though I'd seen the series on tv, it didn't spoil the book for me.

I read a Liane Moriarty book, The Husband's Secret, back in March and really enjoyed it, so I picked up another book by the same author, The Last Anniversary, when I saw it in a charity shop. I thought it was a good read, though I did unravel the mystery almost from the beginning.

Peril At End House was my Agatha Christie read this month. It took me a little while to get in to this book and I did guess who the murderer was, though I changed my mind and latched on to someone else before it was finally revealed. I find Agatha Christie is very good at keeping you guessing and setting up lots of red herrings making you question what you think.

I've managed to watch five films this month and I had every intention of watching It's A Wonderful Life in the run up to Christmas too, though I just ran out of time right before the big day.

Sunset Boulevard is a film I've seen before. In fact, I watched it back in July 2013 as part of my challenges then and didn't particularly enjoy it. In fact, I didn't think I'd watch it again but I'm so pleased I did as I really enjoyed it this time round. I sometimes find that I enjoy a film much better the second time I watch it.

Casablanca is another film I watched back in 2013. I enjoyed it the first time I saw it and I enjoyed watching it again.

I've also seen Rear Window before. I think this is a brilliant film, though I do like many James Stewart films.

I've never really fancied Braveheart but this is one of the best films I've watched as part of this challenge this year. I didn't expect to like it but once again, I proved myself wrong. It was very gory which I didn't like, but it's one of those films which stay with you after you've seen it. I found myself thinking about it for quite a while after watching it. I thought Mel Gibson was excellent in it.

Back To The Future is another film that's never taken my fancy but it was ok. I wouldn't rave about it but it's a film which all the family can watch together.

I've cut down on the number of Christmas cards I've sent over the past couple of years. I still send to people I don't see very often and elderly relatives who I know enjoy receiving cards but I decided that I'd give a donation to charity in lieu of sending cards to other people. The Salvation Army do such a great job, especially at Christmas time, so I thought I'd give my donation this year to them.

At the beginning of the month, Dogs Trust had their Christmas Fair. I do try and support them by attending their events whenever I can and this was no exception. You can see the festive photo we had taken of Archie in my Santa Paws post.

Archie has had so many toys bought for him over the years that he won't play with. He hates things which squeak, balls, or anything made of plastic so we had a good sort out and took all his unwanted toys with us to Dogs Trust for the dogs there. We also took yet more old bedding. They must go through quite a lot of quilts and blankets, they always seem pleased to receive donations.

I sorted out more things to donate to a charity shop this month. We took them to the R.S.P.C.A. shop. I'm still sorting other things out so there'll be plenty more donations being made next year.

Another donation has been made to the food bank. I'm always mindful that whilst I'm tucking in to a hearty Christmas dinner, there are others very much less fortunate than myself. I know this isn't much in the grand scheme of things but I hope that someone will be less hungry because of my donation. You can find your local food bank on The Trussell Trust website

I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas. Mick isn't back to work until next Monday and Eleanor returns to school the same day, so we're still chilling out. We've still got Daniel and his girlfriend with us. The areas where both of their houses are in York are under threat of flood so I'm not sure when they'll return home. Another storm is due Tuesday night in to Wednesday which isn't going to help matters. My heart goes out to all those people who have been affected all around the country.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Photo Medley - December

I hope everyone had a wonderful day yesterday and that the Christmas festivities are continuing. I'm just popping in because we're not only heading towards the end of the month but also the end of the year and it's time again to catch up on photos which haven't yet made it on to the blog, not that there's very many this month. I think I was far too busy with the Christmas preparations to think about my camera very much.

Lots of time was taken up with swap parcels this month. I've taken part in four different swaps this year and I wanted to make sure that parcels and cards were posted off in good time. These are the parcels which were sent off to Lisa from Jumble and Jelly. We're doing a Twelve Days of Christmas swap between ourselves just the same as we did last year.

Not only was I busy sending off gifts, I was receiving them too. These are the gifts I received from Lisa, I've now opened two of them but I'll tell you more once I've opened them all. I love the paper they're wrapped up in.

The Christmas tree was put up mid month. I don't like to get all the decorations up too early but I do like to have everything done before the last minute. It's always fun reacquainting ourselves with things we haven't seen for almost a year.

I received this bauble in the Twelve Days of Christmas swap last year. I've refilled it with chocolates and it's hanging on the tree again this year.

I intended taking lots of photos throughout the day yesterday but I was too busy enjoying myself to remember. I did take some photos at dinner time though. We had three extra guests this year, my mum and dad spent the day with us and we also have Daniel's girlfriend staying with us this year. She's American and isn't travelling home this year so she's staying with us instead.

That's all I've got to show this month, short and sweet. Season's greetings to everyone, I do hope you're enjoying the festive period as much as we are.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Santa Paws

Earlier on this month, we attended the Dogs Trust Christmas Fair. We knew that Santa Paws was going to be there so we took Archie with us. He wasn't very keen to sit still so Santa Paws picked him up and sat him on his knee. Isn't this a lovely photo?

Unfortunately, I've had to chop the bottom of the photo off as Archie got a little over excited to be meeting Santa Paws, if you get my meaning, ha ha.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas Card Swap 2015

This is the second year running that I've joined in with the Christmas Card Swap which Amy from Love Made My Home has organised. This time I was partnered with Melanie from Wuthering Heights Farm but as Melanie has recently decided not to carry on with her blog, I was worried that she might have decided not to take part in the swap afterall.

I received a lovely email from Melanie saying that she did still want to exhange cards and I received this lovely one all the way from Canada.

I'm afraid that I didn't think to take a photo of the card I sent but it was one I bought from a local shop with a similar message to Greetings From Garforth, which is the small town where I live.

This is a wonderful swap to take part in, it's relatively inexpensive and allows you to make new blog friends. Many thanks for organising it, Amy. I'm linking this post to Amy's Sharing Our Card Swaps post where everyone's sharing the lovely cards they've received.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Another Swap Parcel On The Way

The last of my swap parcels was posted on Wednesday. This is the #stitchingsanta Blog Christmas Gift Swap which was organised by Sheila on her Sewchet blog.

This is a great swap for anyone who knits, crochets or stitches. There's two categories, Sewing or Crochet/Knitting. I went for the second option. This is a secret santa type swap where I get given someone to send a parcel to and someone else gets given my details and should be sending a parcel to me. There's a £10 limit to spend on the gifts but you can make other gifts to send too.

I can't show you what I sent yet as the parcel won't be opened until Christmas day and I don't want to spoil it for the person I've sent to, but I'll show you the card I sent. I made this from the little kit I bought from Hobbycraft a few weeks ago, isn't it cute?

I haven't heard that the parcel's been received yet so I hope it won't be too much longer before it's delivered. I'm always worried when I send gifts through the post, though I've never had anything go missing yet, touch wood.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Best Bowler

It was the AGM last week at the cricket club which Mick plays for. As well as club business, they use this evening to present prizes and trophies. Mick was thrilled to win the trophy for best bowler, the first trophy he's won with this team. Bearing in mind that he's fifty next year and there are some much younger players in the team, I think he's done very well.

I wrote my Cricket Star post about Daniel winning a trophy for being the best bowler in the under 15 team not long after I started writing this blog. Mick had only just started playing cricket again that year after a very long break. I thought it would be a summer passtime for him but no, it now takes up time in winter too as he's started playing indoor cricket.

Daniel was hoping to play cricket at university but it hasn't worked out very well for him. He got a few games in his first year but since then, his lab sessions have always coincided with training so he's ended up missing out. He does come home occasionally and play for his old team, something which Mick's really pleased about, he feels very proud playing alongside his son.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Wetherby Dickensian Christmas Market

We popped in to Wetherby yesterday to have a wander around the Dickensian Christmas Market. Events such as these really put me in the Christmassy spirit.

Wetherby is only a small market town and the number and range of stalls was very good, however, it was a bit of a shame that more stall holders didn't take up the Dickensian theme and dress in costume.

The prices were very good. We didn't buy much, just some cakes to take home with us, but I was tempted by the lovely cheeses and jams, not to mention the hog roasts.

There was musical entertainment too, a young girl singing and playing guitar whilst we were there but I believe Wetherby Silver Band and various choirs were performing throughout the day.

It really wouldn't be a Christmas market without some of Santa's reindeers. I'm not sure which two these are but I don't think either of them were Rudolph as neither had a shiny nose.

I haven't been to Wetherby's Farmers Market before. It regularly has around twenty stalls which are focused on food with a wide variety of meat, fish and vegetables and a range of baked foods and more exotic items. It's held on the second Sunday of each month. I shall definitely put it in my diary and go again.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Slow Progress

I wanted my Spice Of Life Crochet Along blanket to be a project which lasted over winter and that's exactly what it's going to be, there's no sign of me finishing it in the near future. In fact, I've added just three colours to it since I last posted about it at the beginning of November.

To be fair, I've been busy with other things since then and crochet has taken a back seat somewhat but as I've said before, I don't mind a blanket being worked up over quite a period of time. They're big projects and not to be rushed in my opinion. The whole point of embarking on something so big is to enjoy the process and I can't do that if I'm working to deadlines so slow and steady it will be and each stitch crocheted will be enjoyed. Here are those last three colours I've worked on this month.

I'm sure I'll get more time to work on the blanket once Christmas is sorted and I've got a bit more time to relax, whenever that may be.

I'm joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party over on her Thistlebear blog. Do pop over and take a look what it's all about, and how about joining in with the fun? I'm sure many of you have projects on the go for winter.

Friday, 4 December 2015

It's Swap Time

If you've joined in with my Twelve Days Of Christmas swap, then your parcels should be posted off no later than tomorrow.

I've wrapped all my gifts up and they're now winging their way through the postal system to Marlene from Simply Living who I'm partnered with.

Marlene is obviously a much more organised person than I am as I've already received the gifts from her.

It was so exciting opening up the box, even Archie couldn't resist a sniff.

They've been put away now until Christmas Day when the first of the twelve gifts will be opened up.

I'm doing a Twelve Days Of Christmas swap with Lisa from Jumble and Jelly again this year too. Her parcel has already been sent off as has the card for the Christmas Card Swap 2015 which Amy from Love Made My Home organised. My partner has stopped writing her blog but she saw the comment I left and still wanted to take part so that's good. She lives in Canada so my card is on it's way across the Atlantic. It's been quite busy getting everything organised.

The only parcel left to send now is the #stitchingsanta Blog Christmas Gift Swap which Sheila organised on her Sewchet blog. I'm very nearly there with everything now so that parcel should be posted next week.

How's everyone else doing with their swaps? Are you all done now or are you still putting last minute things together like me?

I've hardly started thinking about Christmas yet, apart from the swaps. I've bought a couple of things for Daniel, something for his girlfriend and I've got a few bits and pieces for Eleanor which I've picked up throughout the year but apart from that I've got all my gifts to buy. I don't think I've ever been as disorganised as I am this year. There's no decorations up yet, though we never trim up early, that will be done next weekend. Perhaps then it'll start feeling more like Christmas.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Challenge Update - November 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 has slowed down somewhat this month, I've just kept up with my challenge of reading one book plus one Agatha Christie book.

Christmas For One is the next book in the Amanda Prowse No Greater Love series which I'm working my way through. This is the book I bought from Barter Books in the summer when I was on holiday in Northumberland. I'm finding the books in this series are a bit hit and miss, some I love, some I'm not as keen on, but I'm pleased to say that I really enjoyed this one. It was very predictable and there wasn't a lot of substance to it, but it was an entertaining and pleasurable read.

My Agatha Christie book this month was The Sittaford Mystery. What with a murder, a seance, an escaped convict and heavy snowfall all but cutting off the village, the scene was set for another enjoyable tale. This is the first of the eleven books I've read so far where I guessed the murderer, I'm never usually correct at guessing whodunnit. It had some wonderful characters and it's another Agatha Christie book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I've watched four films from IMDb's list this month. With just one more month to go I'm wondering what the final tally will be.

I'm very late to the party where Star Wars is concerned but seeing as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi were all on the list, I decided it was about time I watched them. I remember all the hype around these films from my childhood but I never really fancied them. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, though they're not the type of films I'd choose to watch if I hadn't set myself this challenge, I actually found them quite good, especially considering their age.

The other film I watched this month is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, another film I remember well from my childhood, my dad and brother were huge western fans, especially those spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood. I don't remember actually sitting down and watching this film the whole way through before, but having done so this time, I realise that I've seen the whole film previously, albeit out of sequence and over lots of different sittings. It's definitely a classic and has a fabulous soundtrack by Ennio Morricone which I'm sure everyone's familiar with whether they've seen the film or not.

I'm always very happy to support The Royal British Legion when they have their poppy appeal. Providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants, it's a very worthwhile charity to support.

You only have to watch the real life stories on Children In Need to realise that the money raised is spent where it's really needed. This charity has changed the lives of many children and young people in the UK and it's another charity I'm happy to support, especially when I can buy yummy things like cupcakes and biscuits knowing that a donation from the sale is made to the charity.

I get loads of these charity bags through the letterbox, it's a great way to donate unwanted clothes etc. to charity without having to trail to a charity shop. Simply fill the bag and leave it on the doorstep on the day stated and someone will come and collect it.

I filled this bag, and a black back besides, for Macmillan Cancer Support with old bed linen I'd just sorted out. There are so many cancer charities out there but this is one of the largest providing specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer.

I've recently been sorting out lots of old games, toys and books. Daniel and Eleanor may now be twenty and seventeen but there's still lots of their old things kicking around. These were taken to the Age UK charity shop. I'm sure they'll have no problem selling these sort of things in the run up to Christmas.

It's hard to believe that my next Challenge Update post will be after Christmas, this year has flown by. It's raining today and it's so windy, we're definitely on the cusp of winter now, I do hope that spring comes early.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Photo Medley - November

We're heading towards the end of another month so it's time for another round up of the photos which haven't yet made it on to the blog.

Plants and trees are losing their leaves. The blueberry bushes turn flaming red before their leaves fall to the ground.

Flowers have been hanging on providing some much welcome colour despite rain and high winds.

We had our first snowfall. The roof of this car shows what was left of it by early afternoon.

I used to sell lots of things on ebay but it's years now since I listed anything. I found it so time consuming and the fees increased so much that it didn't make selling worthwhile. I recently received an offer inviting me to list up to 100 items for free and giving me a discount of 50% of the final value fee on any of the items which sold. I thought this sounded like a good offer so I had a bit of a sort out and listed some things we didn't use any more, nowhere near 100 though. So far, I've sold thirteen items and made in excess of £120 after fees and postage have been deducted. I don't think that's bad going. Here's the lastest couple of parcels which are waiting to be posted.

It's that time of year again when washing isn't drying outdoors. I hate having it hung up around the house but needs must. I don't have a tumble dryer so it's got to dry somewhere.

Eleanor bought me these socks for Christmas a couple of years ago, they're my favourites. She called them my Monday socks as somehow I always seemed to get them out of the drawer on a Monday. I've worn them so often that they've got a hole in the heel and they're now only fit for the bin. Oh well, something else to put on my Christmas list.

That's it for another month. Thank goodness the wind of last weekend has dropped and the temperature has increased slightly. Rain's forecast for this weekend so instead of spending time outdoors, I'm hoping to make a start on my Christmas shopping.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Winter's Arrived

I was woken in the early hours of Saturday morning by the wind howling. It was actually snowing too, it had been forecast but I thought it might miss us. There was a thin covering but most of it had gone by morning, just bits left here and there.

We decided to visit a park in Bradford which we've been to before. I wanted to see the botanical gardens there at this time of year and you can read about our trip in my Lister Park Botanical Gardens In November post over on my other blog, The Good Life.

I'm glad I got wrapped up warm, though the sun was putting in an appearance it was bitterly cold. Such a shock to the system after the mild autumn we've had up to now.

I don't think anyone will have ventured out for a game of bowls this weekend.

I'm pleased to say that there's no sign of snow left now, although it looks very pretty when freshly laid, I'm not a fan. Temperatures are set to increase again as this week goes on so I hope that's the last we see of the white stuff for quite some time.

Friday, 20 November 2015

It's Nearly Time

Christmas is only five weeks away now so it will soon be time to send out all the cards and parcels for the swaps I'm taking part in.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Swap which I'm hosting myself should be posted no later than 5th of December. How is everyone doing? I've just about finished with the gift buying now so I've just got to wrap them all up. I've started buying the wrapping paper.

I hope everyone's having fun with this swap and that you're all getting ready to post out the gifts. If anyone's having any problems, please do let me know.

Amy from Love Made My Home published the Christmas Card Swap 2015 partners at the beginning of the week but unfortunately, I've been paired with someone who has stopped writing her blog so it doesn't look like she's going to take part in the swap now. I'm still hoping that she'll answer the comment I left on her blog though, we'll see.

I've bought most of the gifts for the #stitchingsanta Blog Christmas Gift Swap over on Sheila's Sewchet blog. I'm knitting furiously now to finish what I'm making to add to the parcel.

I'm having lots of fun with the swaps I'm taking part in, I hope you are too.