Happy Hallowe'en

If you have been patiently waiting for the first glimpse of my new pink tipped hair, wait no more. And as a Hallowe'en treat I also look delightful:

I also took some pictures outside so you can get a feel for the colour in daylight:

And of course I couldn't leave Sam out of the fun so here he is rocking eye make up inspired by Black Swan:

I have to state that the braided hair and stealing of one of my favourite scarves was the look that Sam was rocking all day anyway.

Lifelong dream achieved at last: PINK HAIR!

I have long harboured the dream of pink hair but have never had the balls to do it.

Pictures of dipped tips have been floating around the internet for months and I decided that a temporary dye would be a great idea hallowe'en.

Was it Lauren Conrad that kicked the trend off on the Beauty Department?

Hair romance has posted some amazing pictures of tipped hair here and here:

Hair colour ideas dubbed this not another pink dip dye:

Even hot French women are doing it:

Oh, you want to see my hair? You'll have to pop back tomorrow to see my hair. But beware it's hallowe'en so it may be a little scary!

Last Weekend: CDWM

This weekend kicked off a round of competitive Come Dine With Me between my school friends. We are competing in couples and Sam and I were the first to go. We haven't worked out how the scoring will work yet but the winner is going to attend our annual Christmas dinner on the rest of the group.

It's always the case that the first people to go get marked down to leave room for marking up in case the later contestants are better so I wanted to blow it out of the water.

The Food

The menu was a complexity of all the stereotypical French dishes we could think of, and indeed anything we thought was derived from a French word.

We started the evening with a cocktail of sparkling wine poured over sorbet balls and crudités served with dips in a hollowed out baguette.

The starter was a buckwheat gallette containing ham hock and melted gruyere cheese. Sam is a pancake whizz so this really played to his strengths and I would happily eat this again and again.

I made a coq au vin the night before and the flavour really intensified overnight. We had also planned to serve roast lamb but it's not in season so we went with pork medallions instead. As we were buying the meat fresh on the day this meant a last minute change to the menu. I had to cook the pork to serve rather than leaving it in the oven for a few hours as per the plan for the lamb. Despite this, it went remarkably well. I pan fried it and made a sauce by deglazing the pan with apple juice and adding a blob of cream and a dash of brandy. It turned out perfectly. We served the medallions on a bed of leeks and our preplanned vegetables of braised red cabbage, French bean almondine and mashed potatoes were a surprisingly good match to both meat dishes.

Sadly, we had so much fun cooking, hosting and eating that we didn't take many photos at all. The ones above do not do justice to the food. And we didn't get any shots at all of the delicious desserts we made: walnut chiffon pie and tarte au citron.

We served shots of kirsch between the main and dessert and rounded the meal off with tea, coffee and mini pain au chocolat.

The Entertainment

Realising that the best dinner parties have a form of entertainment somewhere in the evening I brought home from work the large cardboard packaging from a corkboard and painted it with my best effort at an Eiffel Tower. This then formed the backdrop for photos and I'm really pleased at how well it turned out:

I had so much fun throwing this party and so grateful that we were able to pull this off. Big thanks to my brilliant friends for turning up and to my lovely fiancée for bringing his excellent culinary skills! 

The scarf series: Shop bought

Not all my favourite scarves are homemade;

This scarf is a lovely knitted cowl in the softest creamy wool. It's not homemade because it was just £4 from Primark last winter. At prices last that, it's not possible to make this scarf for less at home so I didn't.

And I'm not the only one who likes this scarf:

And that concludes my scarf series. Hope you have something warm and snuggly wrapped round your neck right now!

The scarf series: colourful crochet

This beautiful scarf is homemade. But not by me!

An amazing crafty lady in my  life made it and I pilfered it from her. Sue has an eye for pretty colour combinations and my scarf gets many compliments whenever I wear it. I wore it to the WI craft club and it inspired a fellow crafter to make one herself.

It is made by crocheting several strands of yarn at the same time using a real big hook. It is absolutely stunning and I wear it all the time. Jealous much?

The scarf series: my first knitted effort

Now that the weather has turned cold it is well and truly scarf season. I love scarves but three of mine have extra special meaning to me and I'm going to do a three part series to share these with you, starting with this beauty:

This simple green scarf fills me with joy because it is the first knitted item I've ever made that is worth wearing.

I have to admit, I did not knit this conventionally as I am still cack-handed with knitting needles. Instead this was made with the power of the knook.

Having struggled with knitting for years, finding a viable alternative for knitted items is really exciting. There are also a growing number of resources for knooking, in particular the blog I'd rather be knooking.

Check back tomorrow for my favourite crocheted scarf!

My shoes

I have no connection to these shoes whatsoever. But they are named Lorna so I love them and want them:

If you want them too head over to Kate Kanzier for a bit of Lorna on your foot!

Weddings weddings everywhere

"Everyone judges weddings"

Once you've been to a few weddings it is inevitable that you will start to judge them. They are one of the few social events that haven't evolved with the rest of society and have strict etiquette rules by which to judge.

Who knew that the art of getting married would be fraught with politics?

I know that I won't be in a place to get married next year but even with the luxury of two years to plan it, getting my venue sorted out has monopolised my thoughts for weeks now. I have a wedding planner (of the bridal filofax variety) and have actually placed a huge amount of info in it. I even have three potential venues in mind.

I will be haphazardly posting my wedding ideas as and when they happen, albeit a diluted version as I would of course like the day itself to be a bit of a surprise. And now that my friends are falling like dominoes with the weight of their new engagement rings, I also rather selfishly, want to keep my ideas for my special day! 

Update: After posting this I headed straight over to my favourite wedding blog, Rock n Roll Bride where the inimitable Gala Darling was quoted: “What other people think of you is none of your business.”  I needed to hear that right now!

The Women's Institute

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it or not yet on this little corner of the internet that I call home but I have been part of the team setting up the West Ealing Women's Institute.

My good friend Nikki set the whole thing in motion and I got on board just as things kicked off and have secured myself a committee position as secretary. We had our first official meeting to form in September and I wanted to use the momentum we built up so suggested a craft group meeting at the Star and Anchor pub.

For me, the event was perfect. I sat in the cosy pub, sipping a cocktail having a natter and crafting away. Several things about the evening made me incredibly happy:

1. One woman came along with a beautiful wicker basket. When we complimented her on the pretty crafting vehicle she told us that she hadn't used this craft basket and it's contents in over 20 years. My one email inviting people to the pub for a craft added several new hexagons to her paper pieced quilt. That felt great!

2. I was wearing a scarf that another crafty lady in my life had made for me and it inspired one of the ladies to make a similar item. As you can see from the picture above it was also one of the fastest crafts of the night.

3. I taught someone to crochet. I have actually vastly overstated my accomplishments as my initial cocktail meant my teaching skills were rather poor indeed. Despite this we had an identifiable granny square at the end of the evening which is pretty good going for a novice being taught by an incoherent beginner!

4. At the end of the evening I overheard one woman telling the others on her table how happy she was that she'd come. She'd had an awful day and knew that she would have a sleepless night dwelling on it. In the end, a craft and a natter had recharged her and I think she'd come up with a plan of action with the help of her fellow crafters.

I had the most wonderful time. I think that sometimes it is easier to chat when you have something in your hands to work on. I'm so grateful to Nikki and Val for getting this in motion as now I'm firing on all cylinders thinking up things we can do. 

If you have any ideas for speakers/workshop leaders for the WI, tweet @WestEalingWI, leave a comment or email me.

5 things I have learnt about announcing an engagement

What an amazing 2 weeks I have had since Sam proposed! An engagement is such happy news that it is lovely to share with people. I had always presumed that being engaged was the same as not being engaged with the addition of a ring but there are a whole heap of things that happen that I had not prepared for at all.

These are the key points that I have learnt so far:

1. You should not engage in conversation with people without a battle plan for announcing your engagement to them. It feels rude simply blurting out the news but it's hard to slip it in once you get into the banal pleasantries of conversation. This is especially the case at work. Plan how you will bridge the conversation from the latest email from marketing to your new ring because when the news spreads round the office people will wonder why you haven't mentioned it to them sooner.

2. Practice your proposal 'elevator pitch'. You need to be able to deliver the juicy details in under a minute if need be. You can embellish the bare bones story with people you know and love but you will end up telling many more people than this so you need to have a basic version of the story to wheel out.

3. Prepare for the obvious questions. I didn't think that anyone would have any firm details or even ideas about their wedding in the first few weeks after an engagement. However, some people must have because everyone has asked about the details in the first week. Be prepared to answer questions such as when where and what type of wedding you'll be planning.

4. People will get you cards. This was a shock to me. I now know that I need to get people cards if they become engaged.

5. Hand care is essential. Keep hand cream on your person at all times and use something for your cuticles daily. Keep your nails in tip top condition and never leave the house with chipped nail polish. Your left hand will be subject to a level of scrutiny like never before so keep it looking good.

Image via Confetti System

One of the cutest knitting projects I have ever seen: beekeeper's quilt

This weekend, like this week (and most probably the foreseeable future) has been absolutely manic. I have shoehorned so much into it and have had a lovely time catching up with my parents and family from up t'north. It was my plan to tell you all about this. But in a brief moment of downtime I checked my reader and Meredith of One Sheepish Girl had linked to this little sneaky peak of a project:

So I clicked through to A Common Thread to see what it was all about where I saw these cute fair isle hexapuffs:

And even though I still can't knit very well with actual knitting equipment, I got excited and started clicking through to see what the beekeeper's quilt was all about.


Image by Glinsterling on Flickr

Chalklegs has pdf patterns for some cute patterns to knit into them, including constellations and the fair isles featured above.

I think, judging by her enthusiasm on her video, that Stephanie of Tiny Owl Knits invented the beekeeper's quilt and you can buy patterns for it from her website.

I didn't have time to delve too deeply into the world of hexapuffs but there are patterns on Ravelry, and a flickr group dedicated to them.

This is a long term project made up of lots of small, easy to achieve mini projects. I love it. I need to learn to knit well enough to make them and to change my thread colours to make the patterned variety.

This is absolutely my 2012 project. Alongside planning my wedding of course!