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 definitely started my challenges well this year, January's been a very good month.
I received a Kindle for Christmas and the first book I downloaded on to it was A Nightingale Christmas Wish by Donna Douglas. You may remember that I've read books from the Nightingale series before. The books are set in an East End hospital in the 1930's and follow the careers and lives of various girls as they come to train and work at the Florence Nightingale Teaching Hospital. This latest book was just as good as the others I've read and I'm now looking forward to the next in the series to be released.
A book I've been wanting to read since its release is The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen. Amanda was featured on The Dales, a documentary hosted by Adrian Edmondson about the Yorkshire Dales. Amanda lives and works on a remote hill farm and as well as tending to her flock, she has seven children. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down.
The first of Agatha Christie's books is The Mysterious Affair At Styles. This is the book which introduces us to Hercule Poirot, the eccentric Belgian detective. Agatha Christie is so good at keeping the reader guessing the whole way through the book, I must have changed my mind at least three times who I thought the murderer was before it being revealed at the end.
When I chose my challenges for this year, I had the intention of watching every film from IMDb's top 100 movies of all time. Flighty from Flighty's Plot left me a comment on my 2015 Challenges post saying that if he was doing this challenge, it would be to watch films from the list rather than all of them as there's some films he wouldn't want to watch. I have to agree with him to a point. When I've thought about it, there will be some films which I suppose I just won't be able to find, but I do want to watch as many films as I can, even if I don't particularly fancy them as I'm sure there'll be many which I don't think will be to my taste which I would probably enjoy if I gave them a chance.
When I counted up, I realised that I've already seen sixteen of the films on the list, however, I shall watch them again as part of this challenge. I made a good start this month watching eight films.
I was quite looking forward to watching Taxi Driver. I like both Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster, two good actors, but wow, what a rubbish film. This is number 76 on the list, it wouldn't make my top 1000 never mind 100. Sorry but it's too arty for me.
The Silence of the Lambs is a film I've seen before, in fact, I saw it with Mick on our first wedding anniversary, how romantic! It's a film I could watch, and have watched, over and over again. Brilliant performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. This would definitely make my top 100 list.
I read To Kill a Mockingbird at school and reread it just last year. It's a brilliant book and a fabulous film. I'd seen it before but I enjoyed it just the same. The book would definitely make my top 100, I think the film probably would too.
I've never fancied The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I'm not in to fantasy, but to be honest, I was quite looking forward to watching the films as part of this challenge to see what all the fuss was about. That's over nine hours of my life I'll never get back! I thought The Fellowship of the Ring started off well and I thought I might actually enjoy the films but it was just too long and drawn out. The Two Towers seemed to go on even longer, it could have been condensed in to half an hour for me, but The Return of the King did actually have a conclusion, though again, the film could have been shorter. These three films wouldn't make my top 100, but I can see that anyone who enjoys this genre would enjoy them.
Once Upon a Time in the West isn't a film I'd choose to watch myself. Though I grew up in a house where westerns were regularly watched as I had a dad and a brother who couldn't get enough of them, they aren't the type of film I particularly enjoy. Still, I found this to be watchable, it had a good story to it and it kept me interested. It wouldn't make my top 100 but it was ok.
The last film I've watched this month is Se7en. I've seen this film before yet the only bit I could remember was the very end, which actually spoils the film if you know it beforehand. It wouldn't make my top 100 but 128 minutes of Brad Pitt is definitely worth watching. Actually, it's worth watching even if you don't like Brad Pitt.
I've supported four different charities this month. Firstly, I've set up a regular standing order. Charities like regular donations as it allows them to plan ahead based on revenue. The charity I've decided to support this year is Candlelighters which is a childhood cancer charity in Yorkshire. Having had cancer myself, lost a sister to cancer, had my mum battle cancer and now my dad has cancer you can see why cancer charities are close to my heart. When I was undergoing treatment myself, the childrens treatment room was right next to the waiting room I had to use and it broke my heart to listen to the cries as those children were having to endure treatment for this terrible disease. Candlelighters was formed over forty years ago to help children and their families at a terrible time in their lives. Regular donations don't have to be large, charities are happy with any donation, no matter how small. Don't forget to tick that you want to gift aid your donation, this is a scheme where the charity is able to reclaim tax on a donation made by a UK taxpayer, increasing the amount of the donation with no extra cost to yourself. As I don't work and therefore don't pay tax, my monthly donation has been set up in Mick's name to take advantage of gift aid.
I've been having a bit of a clear out this month so I took this lot to the charity shop. Martin House is a local children's hospice and the charity shop I usually take my donations to supports it.
Sometimes there are things which aren't suitable to take to a charity shop, for instance, this pile of socks which Mick cleared out of his drawer this month. They'd seen better days so I asked him to drop them off at the local Bag It Up clothing bank. Bag It Up collects and recycles unwanted donations to markets in the UK and overseas and this generates vital funds for charity. 'End of life' garments are recycled in to industrial wipers and cloths, mattress filling, insulation and new fibres. Our local recycling bank supports the Yorkshire Air Ambulance but different banks support different charities. There's a bank locator on the website if you have any textiles which have seen better days.
My Christmas cards were dropped off at Marks & Spencer who were working with The Woodland Trust and running a recycling scheme. For every 1000 cards collected in their recycling bins, a tree would be planted. It's good to know that the cards I received this year will go some way to getting a new tree planted.
It's been a busy month where my challenges are concerned. I'm sure the film watching and book reading rate will drop once the better weather is here so I'm making the most of the dark nights and cold weather at the moment and hunkering down with a book or the tv to watch a film whilst I've got the opportunity to do so.
I'm weather watching today. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground when I went to bed last night. I woke up at about 4am and looked out of the window and it had gone, but it must have snowed again before I got up as there was a little more than a smattering making everywhere white again. We've had a few flurries this morning and we're forecast more later on today, though I don't think it will amount to much.
I hope your own challenges have started off well and that the snow isn't too bad where you are.