Thursday 29 January 2015

Challenge Update - January 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 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.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Photo Medley - January

I often have lots of photos on my camera which don't make it on to the blog for one reason or another, I may take a photo which doesn't fit in to a blog post or I may have taken far too many photos of a subject to include them all in one blog post. I had an idea that I would combine all these odd photos at the end of each month and show them on my blog. When it's come near to the end of January, I've had a look at what I've got and unfortunately, it doesn't amount to much, probably because the weather's been too cold to be out and about with my camera and the light too dismal to get good shots indoors.

There's just a few here for January.

The unused bug house covered in snow. I've had this for two years now and not one bug has taken up residence in it.

My Granny Stripe blanket. It's grown just a little since this photo was taken and I'm loving how the colours are working out.

Mrs Blackbird in the garden. I was counting the visiting birds for the Big Garden Birdwatch.

A Dunnock hoovering up the seeds which had been dropped from one of the feeders.

I hope to have more photos to include in the posts at the end of future months, we'll see how it goes.

Sunday 25 January 2015

I Spoke Too Soon

I mentioned in my last post how I'm not keen on starting a new blanket. I dislike making the foundation chain and crocheting the first couple of rows, but I'd started my new Granny Stripe blanket, got past those first tricksy rows, and thought it would be plain sailing from then on. How wrong I was.

I used a larger hook for the foundation chain, moving up from 4mm to 6mm. The first few rows went all well and good but as I added more and more rows, the work started to want to arc like a rainbow. It wasn't too noticeable and it was easy to pull it in to shape. I thought that once finished, putting a border on would probably sort it out, but I knew it wasn't right so I started again.

This time I used an 8mm hook for the foundation chain and it seems to have sorted the problem out. I've never had any problem like this with my ripple blankets and I've crocheted the foundation chain in the same way so I'm not sure why it happened this time.

I'm enjoying putting the colours together and seeing how they work out. There's seventeen shades to choose from so there's plenty of choice.

I'm hoping that this time, it really will be plain sailing with no further hiccups.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

New Projects

After finishing my Christmas Knitting, I had a bit of a break. I was knitting gifts right up to the big day and then, after receiving some lovely crafty gifts for Christmas, as well as having other projects waiting in the wings, I just couldn't decide what to start.

While I was thinking about it, I cracked on and made some dishcloths. They don't take long to make and I like handmade ones much more than bought ones. They last much longer too. I always use Grandmother's Favorite Dishcloth pattern, it's very easy to knit up.

In the end, I decided that I'd start a couple of projects which have been waiting since Christmas 2013. Mick bought me a huge pack of Stylecraft Special DK, it's made up of the 17 shades which are used in the Attic24 Granny Stripe blanket.

I've been wondering whether to use the yarn to make a Granny Stripe blanket myself or whether to use it for something different. In the end I decided to go with the Granny Stripe afterall. I have two cream leather sofas in my room so I'd like to make a couple of Granny Stripe blankets so that I can have one on the back of each, they will add a bit of colour to all the neutral tones in my room. I love the process of blanket making once I get going, though it has to be said that I'm not keen on those first few rows, making the foundation chain and the first couple of rows after that, but I made a start last night so it should be plain sailing from now on.

Another project which has been waiting since Christmas 2013 is the cross stitch kit which Mick bought me.

I've only attempted cross stitch once before, that was many many years ago and it never got finished. I started this one a few days ago but goodness me, my eyesight is worse than I thought. I'm finding it so hard to see the tiny holes so it's very slow going. This tiny patch which I've completed so far took me a very long time, I can see that this project will take ages to complete. I thought that cross stitch may be a nice winter hobby but I can't see a thing in electric light, I need natural light when stitching, so perhaps it's more of a summer hobby.

I've still got the Yarn From Skeggy to use. I'd like to make this in to a blanket but I'm not sure what style as yet, that's something else to think about. I also think I may add some more colours to those I've already got.

Edward's Menagerie is also waiting to be started. I've decided that the first animal I'll attempt is Emma the Bunny as this is supposed to be the easiest pattern to start off with.

Then there's my hare felting kit which Mick bought me for Christmas this year. I've no idea whether I'll find this easy or hard, needle felting is something I've never tried before.

There's a couple of knitted items I'd like to make. I've been promising myself a hat for the last few years but still haven't got round to making one. My ears get rather cold when I'm out walking Archie, especially when the temperature plummets as it did yesterday. In fact, it was so icy yesterday that I went flying whilst I was walking him. I did that thing that many people do when they take a tumble, get up and pretend it never happened and then have a sneaky look round a few moments later to see if anyone saw you. Luckily, I didn't see anyone about so I hope my fall went unobserved. I didn't think I was hurt at the time but I've got a very sore leg today. Anyway, back to the hat. I've seen a lovely pattern in Issue 128 of Simply Knitting so I'd like to get the yarn for that and I've seen a couple of patterns for scarves which I'd like to have a go at too.

So that's lots of new projects, either just started or waiting to be started. I think I'm going to be very busy.

Friday 16 January 2015

Yarndale Gifts

I didn't have much in the way of purchases to show you in my Yarndale 2014 post. There were so many things there that took my fancy but I found it all a little overwhelming and I came home with fairly empty bags. Mick, on the other hand, did quite well. He watched closely what I was admiring and went off shopping on his own, only for some things from Yarndale to turn up in my Christmas stocking.

One of the things which I fell in love with on the day was needle felting. There was so much of it shown around the show, it really caught my attention. I loved all the little felt animals on jennymade's stand so I was thrilled to bits to find that Mick had bought me this needle felt hare kit.

A couple of purchases I did make myself, but which I couldn't share on my blog at the time, were a couple of needle felting kits I bought as Christmas gifts. This is the one I bought for Eleanor.

She's already started it and has managed to make the ball shape for the head, but it's been put on standby while she does her exams, she's had mocks all this week and last week, but now they're over I'm sure she'll get back on with it.

I've been wanting an apron for ages, I'm so messy in the kitchen and I get whatever I'm cooking all down my clothes. I came across the Quince Pie stand but there was such a wonderful choice of designs that I couldn't make up my mind. Mick made his mind up though and bought me this one in a fabulous sheep print for Christmas.

I stood admiring the Edward's Menagerie animals for ages wondering if I should buy Kerry Lord's book or not.

I've never read or followed a crochet pattern before so I thought it would probably be too hard for me and decided against. Mick obviously has more faith in me than I do myself as not only did the book turn up in my Christmas stocking but so did the most beautiful ball of Toft Alpaca yarn.

I did know that these ceramic pig earrings would be in my stocking as Mick bought them while I was there. I love all things pig so I just had to have these, they're so cute.

I may not have bought very much myself when I attended Yarndale, but I've now got plenty of things to remind me of a wonderful day out.

Monday 12 January 2015

Christmas Knitting

I didn't do as much knitting for Christmas as I've done other years, I'm quite a slow knitter so it can be quite time consuming. I thought I'd show you what I did do though.

Eleanor mentioned that she'd like some more long socks. I've used this same Sirdar pattern many times, in fact, it's the one I used when I first started knitting socks as they're done on two needles rather than double pointed needles which seemed scary to me at the time. Now, I much prefer knitting in the round as there's no sewing up to do. I decided I'd make her two pairs as I already had the Sirdar Crofter yarn in my stash, one pair in heather, the other in plumage.

I also knit a pair of socks for one of The Twelve Days Of Christmas gifts which I gave to Lisa from Jumble and Jelly. This is also a pattern I've used before, Thuja by Bobby Ziegler. I used Regia World College Color in library colourway which was in my stash, this yarn is no longer available which is a shame as I really like it.

Hand made soap wrapped with a washcloth was the order of the day this Christmas. They don't take very long to knit up and look quite fancy when tied with a pretty ribbon. Eleanor and Lisa were among the recipients. I used Rico Design Creative Cotton Print in both pink and green mix.

That was the extent of my Christmas knitting. Perhaps I should start earlier this year so that I can get more done.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The Twelve Days Of Christmas

You may remember back on my Unexpected Gifts post that I mentioned the Twelve Days Of Christmas swap that Lisa from Jumble and Jelly and I had decided to do. You can see the twelve parcels which Lisa sent me in that post.

I had a few people ask me to show what was inside the wrapping so here we go.

On the first day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A Christmas pudding brooch and a chocolate coin. The brooch is so cute and it will be worn all through next Christmas.

On the second day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
Mini Christmas list pegs and three chocolate coins. Lisa knows how I like to be organised so these little pegs will stand me in good stead.

On the third day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A keyring and two chocolate coins. I've just had some new keys cut, goodness knows what happened to the ones I had but they've gone missing somehow, so this lovely keyring will keep the new ones safe.

On the fourth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
My Sister Eileen DVD and four chocolate coins. I've never seen this film but it's got some good reviews online so I'm looking forward to watching it. It's a musical so it fits in to my favourite genre very well.

On the fifth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
HEMA washi tape and two chocolate coins. I love this tape, perfect for jazzing up my Filofax.

On the sixth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A writing set and four chocolate coins. I'm a sucker for nice stationery and this fits the bill perfectly. I'd recently run out of my nice writing paper so this came in the nick of time.

On the seventh day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A pair of socks and a Flump. I never wear plain socks, I always have a picture on them so these are right up my street and Flumps are very popular in our house so I've had to hide this so that I can sit down on my own and savour it.

On the eighth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A heart hanger and two chocolate coins. A beautiful sentiment, I'm still thinking about the perfect place to hang it.

On the ninth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
An alphabet stamp set and two chocolate coins. I used to make cards and I've also dabbled with scrapbooking, something I'd like to take up again so this stamp set will come in very useful for that.

On the tenth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A Christmas bauble filled with little chocolate Christmas puddings. I shall refill this with chocolates and hang it on the tree next Christmas.

On the eleventh day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
Snowfall in Burracombe by Lilian Harry, a Dogs & Puppies bookmark calendar and three chocolate coins. The book sounds really good and it's got excellent reviews online too. I love the bookmark calendar, there's a different bookmark for each month of the year and I was pleased to see that there's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on one of them.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Lisa sent to me:-
A sticky note pad and four chocolate coins. I go through so many sticky notes in my Filofax so these are great, especially as they're so cute.

So there you have it, haven't I done well? Twelve fabulous gifts and all that choccy too. It's been fun opening a gift each day for twelve days after Christmas, it's prolonged the festivities here.

Thank you so much, Lisa, I'm thrilled to bits with every single gift.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Nib Nibs Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Nib Nibs giveaway. Everyone who entered had the chance of earning up to ten entries and it seems that lots of people would like to get their hands on some to try as there were 856 entries in total, quite an amount.

I'm pleased to announce that the winner chosen at random is Sarah C. The guys from Nib Nibs will be in touch with you directly to obtain your shipping details.

Don't forget, if you fancy trying Nib Nibs yourself there's a page on their website which lets you know where your local stockists are. I can definitely recommend them.