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.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Cross Stitch Haul

I've only completed one cross stitch in my life but I've been bitten by the bug. So much so that when I recently visited Hobbycraft, I came home with a few cross stitch related things.

I was looking for a cross stitch magazine. I rarely buy magazines these days but on the cusp of a new hobby, I thought I'd treat myself. I decided on a Christmas edition of Ultimate Cross Stitch. It was a bit more expensive at £7.99 than the others on sale but I thought it was worth it for the 105 charts it contains. There's some large ones and plenty of small ones so I'm sure there'll be plenty I'll be able to manage even though I'm a novice.

I had a quick flick through the magazine whilst I was in the shop and saw these Scandinavian love hearts designs which can be made in to cards. I thought they were lovely so I decided to buy some aida and some red stranded cotton to give one a go.

I've only even used aida but I'm quite keen to have a go with evenweave fabric, it doesn't seem quite so stiff, so I bought some of that too. I'm not sure how I'll get on with it as it seems harder with this to see where the needle should go than with aida but I'll give it a try. My eyesight is rapidly deteriorating. I was given glasses three years ago but I know they're no longer strong enough so I'll have to book myself an appointment at the opticians. A voucher for a free eye test was pushed through my mum and dad's letterbox yesterday so that will do very nicely.

I also bought a new embroidery hoop as the one I have left marks when I used it. I'd really like a snap frame before I start my next large project so that I don't have to use a hoop at all.

It's quite exciting embarking on a new hobby, I just wish there were more hours in the day so that I had more time to do everything I want to do. One thing's for sure, I'll never be bored.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Tutti Frutti Baby Blanket

It's over two years ago that I started my On The Go blanket. The idea was that the blanket would be made up of granny squares and as they're so portable and easy to crochet when out and about, I would work on this blanket when I was On The Go and away from home.

I started the blanket whilst I was on holiday in Cornwall in 2013 and to be honest, I didn't add very much to the number of squares until I went on holiday, again to Cornwall, in 2014. I wrote my On The Go Update post shortly afterwards but even though I had high hopes of working on the blanket a little more on holiday this year, I just didn't get round to it.

I decided that enough was enough, it could be ten years at this rate until I'd have enough squares to make in to a blanket large enough to cover a bed so, as we'd had some lovely news that Mick's cousin's girlfriend is expecting a baby, I decided to use the squares I'd already made, with a few more which I crocheted up in no time at all, and make a baby blanket.

Mick's cousin didn't want to know the sex of the baby but his girlfriend did. They decided that she'd find out but wouldn't tell him. Unfortunately, somehow it managed to slip out and he now knows that she's expecting a baby girl. I'm actually quite pleased that I know as I've been able to crochet the shell border in soft peach which is a pinky sort of colour.

The blanket has been crocheted in Stylecraft Special DK in Meadow, Grape, Pomegranate, Soft Peach, Lemon, Cloud Blue and Cream, the colours remind me of those Tutti Frutti sweets which I used to love as a child and so my On The Go blanket has now morphed in to my Tutti Frutti Baby Blanket.

There aren't any other babies in the family to buy for so I'm looking forward to going shopping for some little outfits to gift along with this blanket, it's such a long time since I've bought any tiny clothes and there's some gorgeous designs, I'm going to be spoilt for choice.

Friday 6 November 2015

Start All Over Again

In A Winter Project post, I wrote about the Spice Of Life Crochet Along that I was taking part in and showed how far I'd got at that point. Unfortunately, since then, I noticed that my tension was completely out. This is how it looked. Sorry about the poor light but this was taken at night just before I decided to pull the whole lot out. You can see how it's curving, it's because my work was getting tighter as I went along.

I only got as far as pulling out a few rows. I'd been trying to be good by sewing in all the ends as I went along so I didn't have them all to do once I'd finished and of course, this made pulling it back near on impossible. I decided to abandon the idea at that point. This photo illustrates how different my tension was in the later rows than the earlier ones.

There was nothing for it but to start all over again.

I've never had any problems with my tension in the past, I can only assume that the problem this time has occurred because there's so many different stitches included in this pattern. Anyway, so far so good. This is how it's looking at the moment. It doesn't look very straight here but that's just how I've laid it out.

This time I'm leaving the ends just in case I have to pull it back again, I've learnt my lesson where ends are concerned. It might be a huge job at the end but at least I know it will be easy enough to pull the work back if I have to.

I have to say that I was really enjoying this project when I started it, now I'm on tenterhooks fretting about my tension all the time and it's taken some of the pleasure out of it for me. I lay out the work after every row just to check that it's not pulling and it's quite tiresome. I'll actually be glad when I've got it finished. I know that the first attempt will have to be pulled back at some point otherwise I'll run out of yarn. I'll just have to struggle on and do the best I can with those ends which have been sewn in.

There's one good thing, I know when I sew in ends they're not likely to work themselves loose, they're stuck good and proper.

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.

Monday 2 November 2015

Home Is Where The Heart Is

It was Christmas 2013 when Mick bought me a cross stitch kit. I remember attempting one when I was in my teens but I never got it finished, in fact, I've still got it kicking around somewhere. I started my new kit back in January this year and I've really enjoyed completing it. I actually finished the cross stitch back in April or May but put it away over the summer months as I lost my crafting mojo a little and also because I just wasn't enjoying the backstitch part of it. I persevered with it though as I do think it makes the stitching stand out and I've finally finished it.

I'm really pleased with how it looks. There's some marks on the aida which have been left by the embroidery hoop though so it does need a rinse through, I wonder if any of you cross stitchers out there can tell me the best way to wash it and what with.

I'm always curious to see the back of people's work, I know it doesn't really matter what it's like as it's never seen, but just in case anyone out there is like me, here's the back. It could be neater but I don't think it's that bad.

I really fancy having a go at an alphabet sampler next but can't seem to find any I like. It doesn't have to be a kit, a chart would do. Any recommendations please?