Back in January, I made a plan for self-improvement. While my documentation of progress has been patchy at best - a review of everything once, one books update and several mentioned of the socks challenge - I have achieved the four main aims (though did not manage the four smaller aims - another time maybe).
1. Knit 12 pairs of socks
Blue Vanillas, Thistle Vanillas, Wanidas
Row 2: Red Vanillas, Potamus, Cubists
Row 3: Blue Vanillas II, Rainbow Slant, Mischeif Managed
Row 4: Jazzy Jaywalkers, Helter Skelter, Long Way Round
I freely admit that now, I am addicted to knitting socks. They fit into my life neatly, keeping me entertained on both my commute and my monthly schlep up to Scotland. They can be shoved in a handbag and carried around to fill odd moments of waiting. I tend to have one easier pattern and one more difficult on the go, so that I can pick up whichever I am in the mood for. Given my recent Socktopus love, it looks like I'll be carrying on with this sock knitting thing for a while yet!
2. Cook 12 new dinners
1. Aubergine Parmagiana, from Jamie's Italy
2. Microwave Risotto, from 100 Veggie Dishes - it's even on the cover of this edition!
3. Pizza from the Great British Bake Off: How to Bake Book
4. Prawn Pasta (Jamie's Italy)
5. Aubergine Pasta (Jamie's Italy)
6. Squash Gnocchi (100 Veggie Dishes)
7. Moussaka, from a book I cannot find anywhere called the Vegetarian Cookbook
8. Vegan Moussaka, adapted from (7) by topping with mashed potato
9. Fish Pie, from a mixture of internet recipies
10. Walnut and Sage Risotto, from the 30-minute Vegetarian
11. Paella (Vegetarian Cookbook)
12. Mushroom and Lentil Pies, adapted from the Seasoned Vegetarian
I enjoyed making all of these things, and some of them will definitely get added to the repertoire. Though it was often more expensive than I thought it would be, I'm hoping that I'm building up a good store cupboard and so it will be cheaper in the future. Some were quick and some took a fair while, but all but one (that's the pizza) were cooked after I'd got in from work. The microwave risotto is probably my favourite, as it is just so much easier than doing risotto in a pan - though it wouldn't scale up very well.
3. Watch 12 new classic films
1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
2. Mr Smith Goes to Washington
3. Annie Hall
4. The Apartment
5. The Odd Couple
6. 3.10 to Yuma (1957)
7. The Third Man
8. Dial M for Murder
9. 2001: A Space Odyssey
10. High Noon
12. Taking of Pelham 123 (1974)
Obviously, all great movies and I very much enjoyed them all. As there are many different types of film there, it's difficult to compare them, but I think for my favourite of the bunch it's between The Apartment and The Third Man - though the former is funny and the second is a film-noir mystery, I I enjoyed them in different ways.
4. Read 12 new classic novels
1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
4. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
6. Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
8. Women in Love by D.H.Lawrence
9. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
10. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
11. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
12. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I have tried to select a favourite from these, but it is incredibly difficult; they are all brilliant books in their own way. If I had to pick, it's probably between the Great Gatsby and A Tale of Two Cities, but it probably depends more on mood and memory for it to be a fair measure!
Overall, I have really enjoyed challenging myself to this. As with every year, this one has had its ups and downs, and having some constants through that has made it all seem more manageable. My life has always involved lots of long train rides (they got longer in May when my fiancee moved further away, adding on 2h40m each direction), and the sock knitting and novel reading fitted in well with that. The dinners and films was a lot more stop/start - there was the odd month where I did like three of each and the odd month where and nothing for either - and I think I would have enjoyed those two challenges more if I had spread them out over the year, but enjoyable nonetheless. I would totally do it all again - if I every have a 'quiet year' again....