Monday, 31 December 2012

If 2012 taught me one thing ...

It showed me that I can find a way of getting a job - even if I have to make that job myself. Moving to America I had the wild dreams of actually being able to do something with my degrees - to get out of retail and start a "career". Yeah couple my lack of experience and not being able to sell myself and it wasn't looking good. While I was job hunting I'd been selling and playing on ebay on the side selling a mixture of things from Transformer Toys to Pokemon cards then I randomly started selling some crochet patterns and I've never looked back. I'm slowly building confidence in selling other pieces, vintage postcards, vintage recipe books to model train pieces and dolls house accessories.

Ebay rolled into Etsy which rolled into creating the Hook, Stitch, Treasure brand and we've additionally started selling on Amazon too. After building up ebay for a good couple of months I took the time in December to start working on my Etsy brand, I found some old letter stamps at an estate sale and started making my own postcard thank you come business cards. As Etsy has grown slowly bigger it's getting there - it certainly doesn't compare to ebay in the slightest when it comes to sales - but it does work better for older, quirkier items.

Non of this could of happened without having Joe to back and believe in me and drive me around to estate sales and post office whatever the weather and generally put up with me. Secondly without Detroit and the metro region being the second largest area for estate sales in the whole of the US this wouldn't be occurring either.

I've managed to prove to myself I can make my dreams a reality, and I do it all on a very low budget. Granted I don't make loads, certainly not enough to live off but it's growing and so are the profits and it's more then paying it's way and I'm going into 2013 with a whole new confidence and plans to really expand and work hard at it. But working it as a job it takes up a lot of hours, I often do 12 hour days taking pictures, writing up stock to parcelling up items but I don't mind, I love it, I love knowing old vintage patterns especially are finding new homes rather then being thrown away.

I think I got by and really got into it because of being a crafter myself, I knew a little about crocheting and knitting to be able to judge and resell items, I knew what I was talking about. If you have a passion or a hobby then turning and using it has part of your job is an amazing feeling and hopefully this post might encourage any of you to follow your own dreams.

How did 2012 fair for you? I'll be seeing you on the other side!

*    *    *

To say thank you and to welcome everyone into 2013 I'm offering a 25% discount off all items (patterns, recipe books, postcards) on my Etsy store with the code NewYear until the end of the week.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Cold Cold Christmas

The 21st of December came and Michigan started getting cold, here in the south east corner we just got away with a light sprinkling of the white stuff but temperatures certainly dropped. Getting out for a drive to Stony Creek on Sunday and we thought we'd head for a walk, but my inner heat was lacking so we legged it to the nature center and watched birds and turtles feeding and playing, which honestly I'd of been happy watching for hours.We also renewed our car pass to get into the metroparks for cheaper so watch out for loads more nature pictures (I'm so rock and roll). The snow returned last night, there's a good 6 or so inches of the white stuff outside - so glad today is a PJ day of working on the sofa and watching way too much Star Trek.

Monday, 24 December 2012

FOOD: Mince Pie Cookies

To me Christmas isn't right without mince meat - granted it's a love-hate thing for many people but to me it's beyond tasty. Here in the USA mince meat isn't the easiest of things to find and when it is found it's not on the cheap side but when I found (what you'd probably only find in the US) a cheap "condensed" package of mincemeat it was coming home with me. What's even better is that it had a recipe for mince pie a cakey kind of cookie on the side - a perfect mix of the British (mincemeat) and the American (cookies) and even more perfect for a blog post on Christmas eve.

Goodies required; 
1 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. of baking soda
1-2 tablespoons of milk (if required)
1 package of condensed mincemeat

Beating together the butter and the sugar until lovely and fluffy, add in the three eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients and then spoon into the wet mix. If the mix is looking too dry you might want to add milk but only one tablespoon at a time. Last crumble up the mincemeat and add in, mixing just a little. Shape into cookies and bake for 10 minutes at 375F.

On that note Merry Christmas to everyone - we're being low key and low budget while pleasing ourselves going to an all you can eat Chinese buffet - yum! 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hanging a home

It's weird how you find things in random places - items that wouldn't mean anything to anyone else but when you find it, it's like you was always meant to. When i was out gathering vintage baubles to make my Christmas wreath I came across a vintage decoration that took me back to memories of Christmas in the homeland.

You see it's a vintage house tree ornament - of a silver building, red roof and green trees. To anyone else it might just be a house but to me it's a little more. You see when my parents married in 1982 for their first married Christmas together in their first home they brought a set of two house ornaments exactly the same. Each Christmas ever since, each of them hung one of the two decorations upon the Christmas year. It was their tradition.

And now I found my little house, sat in the bottom of a collection of old torments. Shame there was only one but just weird how I found one thousands of miles away here in Michigan [granted they probably made thousands if not millions of them in China and shipped them globally - but ya know].

Monday, 17 December 2012

So yeah, life

Sometimes life just gets in the way, I've been immensely busy (in a good way) with my ebay auctions since thanks giving to the point that the only time I'm leaving my front door is for trips to the post office but it's proving to myself I could and can make a success of the reselling lark. Then our internet went down for two days which led to late night trips to starbucks just to do work. Anyway's bloggings been a bit of a second thought so I haven't had the time nor the will to catch up myself. So i'm rolling myself back out there with some of the more quirky vintage finds i've come across lately. 

This was a real find - a "Tool Kit for the Bride" a mini, say doll house sized package of versions a bride needs to keep her husband in line. It wasn't even opened and was too funny to pass up - it comes with a rolling pin, washing powder, iron, broom and cook book. It found its new home within hours of going online. 

While not sure how rare or even useful this piece is but it's certainly a quirky piece for a sewer to have. It's basically called a "Dial-a-gram", which designed to bring "sewing to your fingertips" dates from 1955 which spins around depending on the fabric your sewing with giving suggestions for the best threads, needles and stitches to use. 

Vogue sewing books and magazines really are a delight to come across, I could hours just pouring over the stylised images within them. Take this 1958 Vogue Sewing Book for example - aren't just dresses just lovely? It even convinces me to try use get my sewing machine even more.

Now this last item is one I'm giving you a sneak peek at as I haven't got around to uploading it to either of my stores. Elbows Off was a pamphlet published (if I remember rightly) in the 1950's for the Men and Women of General Motors addressing the ways and means when it comes to table manners. It covers everything from what a guest should bring their hosts to topics of conversion and table settings. If you're interested in this then drop me a message one way or another.

It's finds like all of the above that keep me searching and selling.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Martha Stewart Customizable Notebook

Martha Stewart has done it again - is there anything that woman can't do?! When I was offered the chance of reviewing one of her latest customizable notebooks I jumped at the chance. Starting and working on two online stores I have paperwork, notes, and piles of labels for shipping and everything else, I'm an organisation freak when it comes to my work so anything that can help, is just a miracle. Prior to receiving this notebook I was working out of three notebooks alongside loose pieces of paper taking over our living room, now i'm just down to two - i'm getting sorted! 

These notebooks come in the lush green color we always associate with Martha Stewart products which are always clean and fresh. They are totally multipurpose and are great for any kind of organisation, whether you need a notebook for your blog ideas or recipes because of the plastic colored dividers you can slot in and separate sections. What's even better is that these dividers come with write on tabs which are easily erasable. Accessories additionally include calender pages, task pads - (which I call my to do lists) and even expansion discs. What I've found most useful is the planner pocket where I've crammed everything from my USPS Christmas shipping dates to postcards to write up and labels. It's a great size for a notebook too being able to fit into my sachet. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Russian Literature

Tales, whether they be fiction or non fiction, set in Russia are a particular obsession and weakness of mine. Through it's history and geography Russia is a land I would love to explore, while it's history is often dark, the stories whether penned by a Russian hand or set in the country always intrigue me, here's some of my favourites.

Historical there's two books you should make sure are on your to read list, regardless of if you like Russia of not - Anna Karenina  and Doctor Zhivago. Both have been made into films, TV dramas and the like (in fact Kiaera Knightly has stared in adaptions of both) but the books reveal so much more. While Anna Karenina is a bit of a brick to read and in parts certainly isn't the easiest, Tolstoy's work is such a social historical document that it is worth spreading the time over coming to grab an insight into the heart of the Russian society mixed with love of a way of life that doesn't exist.

A couple of decades later and Doctor Zhivago is based. Former bourgeois members of Russian society fighting to survive just as much as the poor man. But regardless of the social circumstances love occurs. Doctor Zhivago - a tale of a man court between two women he loves and an all powerful Communist world strikes a tale of the constant battle of life verses the state. Actually in the Soviet Union, Doctor Zhivago wasn't published until 1987 over 20 years after it's first publication elsewhere. 

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons possibly marks first most noticeable read about Russia that I read and is the first in a series of novels tracing the life of Tatiana and Alexander who meet during the siege of Leningrad (otherwise known as St. Petersburg - the city was surrounded in siege conditions by the German army between September 1941 to January 1944 and effectively starved over a million Russians to death). The tale follows their love and their struggles with themselves, their secrets and the war around them. Their story continues through Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden.

Continuing the story of life during the siege - The Madonnas of Leningrad is a moving story of an elderly Russian lady a former art gallery worker now living in America. Her battle with failing memory draws forth the memories of life living in the basement of the art gallery, death and starvation around her. While it's a bit of a slow read in parts and the time frames are all over the place, it's worth a read.

Non fiction wise Former People - The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith, draws home through a captivating manner the lives and the fortunes of other side of the Bolshevik Revolution - that of the bourgeois. The death of the czar and the rise of Lenin changed the lives of hundreds of Russian aristocrats, the former Princes', Countess and their families forced to loose everything with the power change. Often non fiction can be dry as stale bread yet Former People engages you in understanding the revolution from the other side, their loses, the deaths, murders and the torture as you follow the outcomes of two families -  the Sheremetevs and the Golisyn's. 
Former People is in sharp contrast to Eight Pieces of Empire By Sheets - a 20 year glimpse through the eyes of the American journalist Lawrence Scott Sheets based in and journeying around the Soviet Union just prior and after it's collapse. The fortunes of it's people and the new formation of countries documented through war narratives and ethnic diversity who knew nothing other them communism and the effects of democracy upon their new nations.

Have you read any of these? Do you go after reading about a particular time in history or country?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Old postcards, happy memories.

Recently I've been branching out and selling some vintage postcards - I love not only seeing the places they have come from but imagining who posted or was intended to receive them. Ages ago I scanned in some of my grandparents old postcards we found after cleaning out my gran's house all from places they had been on holiday. They seem to have a prettier, idyllic sense to them in their modern contemporaries. I thought it was about time to share them.

If were a very early reader of LOTS you might remember the first postcard which was originally featured back in October of 2009. This postcard was sent to my grandad from his gran back in 1930 with the sweetest note written on the reverse; 

"Dear Arthur, 
How would you life to go rambling in this wood? 
That is what I've been doing, 
With love, 

My great great grandma lived near Skipton in West Yorkshire and traveled across to the Humber to my grandads house in Hull. This sadly was the only postcard which had actually been sent, the rest below probably just collected for their memories.


Being a Yorkshire lass we often took drives up to the North Yorkshire Moors for walks ourselves so Beckhole and Goathland is a very familiar place to me. Other might know Goathland as being the set location for Heartbeat. I'm sure the sociologist in me would really enjoy analyzing images such as this for their portrayal of the rural idyll.

I'm sure this campsite is one in which my grandad took the family one summer in the late 1950s to late 1960s as I remember my mums comments about remembering the place when we took a family holiday in Dumfries and Galloway in 2010.


I would be lying if I had any clue where this postcard was from or even marks, but don't you just love that image? I certainly wouldn't enjoy driving a car that close to such a sheer face of a cliff! 

Monday, 3 December 2012

I made my own Christmas Bauble Wreath

Since about August I've been spying and pinning, and pinning, and pinning Christmas wreaths made up of baubles. Every year back in the UK my dad would fasten a wreath to the front door as soon as we stuck up a Christmas tree and to me, they go hand in hand with Christmas. But I didn't want to have something as traditional and I wanted to make my own - hence me hoarding tonnes of vintage baubles every time we hit estate sales and saving them up. 

Luckily you don't really need much to make this, nor do you need to be extremely crafty you just need to be one with Christmas spirit and a bit of patience. 

Shopping list of goodies;
  • Baubles - many many baubles in whatever style, size, color, taste you want
  • An old wire coat hanger 
  • A glue gun [kinda optional but helps] 
  • Some Christmas music playing - to get you in the festive mood
  • A big bow - home made or shop brought

First you need to make sure you've eaten your spinach to pull the wire coat hanger open and bend into a circle. It's easier said then done. It does help somewhat using pillars but mostly it comes down to mere strength and bending and rebending. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle, just near enough. 

As you can see, mines far from being a true circle but it worked just as well. Then you want to take your baubles still with their small hangers [not the shop bought hangers or cotton you'd use to hang them upon the tree] and slip them down onto the coat hangers. 

There's no real logic to how to place them, I did find it helps have some smaller baubles to fill in some of the gaps and somewhat arrange them in three lines but they'll fall and settle in their own way. You may or may not want to glue the baubles either to the wire or to each other, gluing them does stop them from moving and twisting and stops the need to fill the reverse of the wreath as much.

Fill up and around as far as you can but you will want to leave a gap at the top. The fiddly bit comes when your trying to refasten the two ends of the hanger back together. Granted I failed at this, even with pillars, so the cheats way is to wrap wool very tightly around and around the two ends and glue gun it in place which surprisingly held. 

You could leave it as is, but I finished it off with a huge oversized ribbon. I picked mine up from the Dollar Tree [love that dollar store] but you could make your own. It's perfect for adding that little extra hint of Christmas and hides some more of the wire. Then you're done, you could hang it on your door or like me [because I don't trust people and I don't want it walking off] hang it inside your home. Mines hanging above my crafty corner opposite the tree - the lights reflecting off it adds that little extra.

Have you been getting crafty for Christmas?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

LIFE: Christmas Round Ours

There's no halt in America between the seasons, Halloween rolls into Thanksgiving, and the days after thanksgiving means the Christmas Trees start appearing in people's homes. Where pop up fireworks were sold for July 4th, they are now selling Christmas trees of all sizes. Be in America and you can stick up your decorations [and get away with it] in November, so we went along with the flow. A lot of our pieces were rehomed from estate sales or brought in sales post Christmas last year - saving the pennies is always relevant whichever the season. 

The cross stitch stocking was actually a piece I rescued from a bag of stock for selling, it was stitched so carefully and neatly yet was unfinished, so with my best stitcher's needle in hang I finished it off and framed it. Not to mention all the Christmas LPs we've rehomed, we even found a vinyl recording of The Muppets and John Denver singing Christmas tunes - score!

Are you getting into the Christmas spirit?   

Monday, 26 November 2012

On snow and foggy mornings

Thanksgiving hits and here in metro Detroit the weathers on a winter turn. Last week mornings were met waking up to thick fog and yesterday [Sunday] the first sprinkling of snow upon the grass - it's been trying on and off since Friday with light snow flurries and finally it was cold enough to lay. I guess this is why I love Christmas decorations which we put up at the end of last week - they warm up the home when it's so cold and dark outside. These photos are just a glimpse around our city on cold mornings outside our apartment window or on wanders to the library.

If you're in the UK - I hope your keeping dry!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Celebrate Thanksgiving with 15% off at Hook, Stitch and Treasure

If you didn't already know, not only do I sell goodies on ebay but I additionally have an Etsy store - Hook, Stitch and a Treasure where I rehome vintage pattern books, predominately crochet or knitting. Hook Stitch and a Treasure is where I set aside my older patterns, mainly from say the 1940s to 1950s. 

 Taken from Everyone Wears Sweaters - 1950s vintage knitting patterns.
So to get celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday I thought I'd have a store wide sale on my Etsy store - I'm offering everyone 15% discount [excluding shipping costs] worldwide with the promo code THANKS. 

 Get prepared for winter with this 1956, Jack Frost two needle knitting pattern booklet for mittens.

This sale runs until Tuesday 27th November so make sure you grab some vintage goodies whether you admire vintage, you craft or you know someone that does!

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Year I Bake My First Christmas Cake

I may be kidding myself in thinking I can bake a Christmas Cake but it's something that has always been a part of Christmas in my life. Apart from last year and in all honesty, I missed having one. So this year I'm determined to bake my own or at least attempt too.

Christmas Cake [or as they are just often called in the US Fruit Cakes] can be a little of a deal breaker - you either love them or hate them, but I've always been a little partial to a slice with some butter on, and if I'm splashing out a slice of nice cheese too. But they aren't the easiest things to bake and require a little extra thought and time. Also they aren't really to be baked three days before Christmas, traditionally the longer it rests before the festive season the better - some say around Halloween, some earlier. As long as you have an air tight box your set. Or you could just run down to Marks and Spencers and grab one of there's - they make tasty tasty ones. 

So I wanted to try with an easy recipe, but then I got carried away and started changing it all to fit my wants  and it's certainly not dark like the traditional fruit cake. It's basically a cherry recipe with raisins and sultanas and instead of using all the suggested orange juice  I replaced some of it with some good old rum for a festive kick [and because we didn't have brandy and I thought why the hell not].

Shopping list;
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of butter
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup of orange juice - from a bottle or actual oranges
1/4 cup of rum
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
12 ounces of mixed fruit - whatever you have
8 ounces of halved glazed cherries

If you want that extra kick it's best to start preparing your fruit the day before. Cut, slice throw in all your dried fruit - the raisins, cherries, sultanas and pour over the rum - ours being a nice rich spiced dark rum. Then you just need to cover and leave it to sit for a good 24 hours for all that tasty rum to be soaked into the fruit. Mmmm.

In one bowl you want to cream your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in your orange juice and eggs mixing well. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl. Take 1/3 of this flour mix and add it into the raisins and cherries - apparently adding some of the flour straight to the fruit stops them from sinking when it comes to baking it. Apparently.

Add the flour mix to the batter and blend, finally adding in your flour fruit mixture and mix just till it's all lovely and combined.

Pour into a lined bread loaf tin and stick in your preheated oven (300F/150C) for 2 hours - don't open the oven until at least 2 hours have past.

This is the first recipe I've ever written on LOTS without testing first so what it actually tastes like is a mystery but my does it smell good! It's best to keep cakes such as these wrapped up nice and tight in either tin foil or baking paper in a air tight tin and they last really well. A week or two before Christmas you can dribble some more rum over the top and let it soak in to add even more of a kick! I'm debating about covering it in marzipan and icing - i'm not sure how feasible that is for a somewhat okayish baker.
Are you a fan of Christmas cakes whether they be from Marks and Spencers or homemade?! Do you bake anything special for the festive season? 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

American's and manners - or a lack of them

I ended up ranting about this mid way around a "posh" estate sale at the weekend to Joe - he has to hear all of my rants sadly. You see, I thought I was one of "that generations  which, with the raise of social media and texting manners where going out of the window. That's what we were told to believe, us young folk that never opened doors for others or said please and thank you. Transplant that youth, being me into the USA and well, i'm just a huge bag of manners. 

Granted estate sales are kind of similar to jumble sales in the fact that it's every man, or women for themselves. Elbows are sharped and if you see something you want you grab it out from under the nose of the next person. However, estate sales have increasingly made me realise the amount of MIDDLE AGED people in the USA that lack common courtesy. You stand aside in a door way, they just walk pass you, you hold a door open and they don't even acknowledge your presence with a smile. Apparently manners do cost over here. 

This is how I always feel after estate sales - source

Maybe i'm too nice, I do hold doors open, I stand aside to let others past, I say please and thank you because I was raised that way and I think it's important. I want to raise my children to have manners too. There's too much rush and hassle in the world to not take the time out, interact and be pleasant to others. I know certain areas of the UK, say in London people aren't perceived as being as "friendly" as say the north but you do occasionally get a smile out of someone. Here in the US, or at least I should say south east Michigan as to not stereotype the whole of the country, a smile is a lucky find. 

But then you get to the other extreme of customer service, an experience people always would consider to be lacking in the UK when it comes to shopping. America to me certainly does try and give you customer service but to the point were it's all over the top. I'm sorry but I know you're only saying "have a good day" because you have too and you sound like a robot saying it. Maybe everyone's faced with too much of the false greetings and thanks that people don't know how to say the real ones. 

Do you think manners are a dying trend regardless of your country?

On a totes happier note - so looking forward to Thanks Giving and sticking up the olde Christmas tree this week - you totally can get away with putting your tree up in November in the USA and I love it! 

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Adventure of a Cat & a 1950's Cat Lady

Getting eBay prepared for the craziness which may be Thanksgiving and the accompanying Black Friday and Cyber Monday means I've been spending this week getting new stock written up. All these new items need images which I'm still yet to find any better way then sitting on the floor and taking. But Ed - one of our cats is nosy, she likes to be in your face and know what's going on. But, she also hates cameras, or at least the cord that's attached to them. Stick it too close and she'll either come and sit on the stock or attack my camera .... 

I'm sure she thinks in Ed's world she's helping ...

Speaking of kitties and stock - I came across this gorgeous image within a 1950's edition of the home and craft magazine McCall's Needlework that in it's time was very popular. Their pattern and inspiration magazines originally retailed for 50 cents and are amazing time capsules for vintage crafts and fashion inspiration and as social history documents. This particular fashion shoot image is from a showcase entitled "Spring fashions catch the glow down to sunset colors" from Spring - Summer 1952 - the magazine providing you the pattern to make the pieces yourself. Why can't I look this glam and stylish with my cats?

I'm not sure which I'm attracted to more, the one piece knitted dress in a lush pink or the kitty?!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

DETROIT: America's Oldest Aquarium

Aquarium Aquarium Aquarium Aquarium Aquarium
Belle Isle's is home to America's oldest running Aquarium, or at least it was until it was sadly closed in 2005. With a history of 60 tank exhibits for native Great Lake species and other international fishes, the basement of the building also served as a speak easy during prohibition. The building was designed by arhictect Albert Kahn - a man infamous for many buildings around the city and the aquarium itself is worthy of being noted for it's beauty. With it's single large open gallery design, the walls and curved ceiling is covered in green glass tiles - ones aimed at recreating the sense of being underwater. 

When we visited the aquarium was open every odd weekend but now it's opened every Saturday as they raise funds to keep it open. Granted it's not worth a trip just to see the aquarium as about only a third of the tanks actually have fishes in, the others may be empty of fish but they do have interesting visual displays showcasing local business. 

It's sad to know it's future is unknown although just this summer it's been re-roofed, if this aquarium with such a great history was in any other city it would have masses of tourists and never have been left to decay.

Monday, 12 November 2012

This Christmas I Intend To Be Crafty

This coming Christmas has really sparked a need in me to be a bit more crafty and make our apartment a little more homely and festive. It's our first Christmas together in our own place [last year being spent in a motel in Pittsburgh while visiting Joe's family and wasn't really the same] and came just over a month after moving to the US so I wasn't feeling overly settled. This year I want it to be different and my way of making things Christmassy and homely will be getting down and getting crafty which I intend to share with you all. 

I have a couple of ideas lined up for you all already from making a Christmas Bauble Wreath, baking my very first Christmas Cake [wish me luck] and showing you all this amazing book about Christmas I pulled out of a damp garage at an estate sale to a very very special Christmas ornament I found which brings back many memories of the homeland plus whatever else I can think of!

You see I've already cheated in making my bauble wreath - nothing beats being prepared on a cold and windy morning when Sandy was baring down over Michigan - it's now hanging in the wardrobe awaiting being put on the wall.

Truth is I actually started crafting presents for Christmas back in August like this bathroom based sampler which will be winging it's way back to the UK as a present.

Christmas seems to be in full go already in the USA. It's the only country that you can get away with putting up your tree in November, to the point where people already have and the local radio has started playing Christmas tunes 24/7. If America can't get you into the Christmas spirit it'll certainly turn you into a Scrooge instead! Hopefully ours will be going up at the end of next week - at least we'll get Thanks Giving out of the way first!

Are you getting all prepared for Christmas or do you wait until December to think about the festivities? 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Today Is A Milestone

A year a go I remember waking up before anyone should be allowed, crawling out with my heafty suitcase and waiting outside a Premier Inn for a bus to take me to terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport in what felt the dead of night. I was standing on the edge of my new life, to find my way, to become more me and face life thousands of miles away from my homeland. I only now remember how cold it was and how nervous I was about facing security once I landed in the US and handed over my papers. Before I knew I was up in the air, served three meals, watched countless films and looked out upon the ocean and lakes we flew over. By mid afternoon US time I'd landed in my new home - Michigan. 

A year here has taught me not only a lot about the US but about how I see myself as British, England, how people see immigration and Detroit itself. People often remarked about the horrors i'd see in Detroit - they tend to forget it was home to Motown and the auto-industry. Granted we live outside city limits, we're in what you'd call suburbia. But suburbia in the US is huge, it goes on for miles, and miles and even further then that. I love that Detroit is on the verge of really becoming itself again, people have tried to knock it for so long but there's a new passion and drive going around. 

To be an educating person I thought i'd share some things you might not now about Detroit - things that happened here FIRST;
  • The worlds first urban free way - the Davidson opened in 1942
  • Operating traffic lights at the junction of Woodward and Garriot, although manually operated in 1915
  • To hold a state fair
  • Pave a whole mile of concrete street on Woodward between 6 and 7 mile back in 1909.
  • Provide milk in a paper carton provided in 1930 by Pur-Pak.
  • Experience the delight of an ice cream soda and coffee brewed by an automatic machine.
  • Develop the first carbonated soft drink in 1866 by the pharmacist James Vernor who invented Vernor's Ginger Ale.
Interesting huh?!

Move away from home and you'll soon learn who your friends are. Out of sight, out of the country is often certainly out of mind in many cases. Which is a shame, because people say things like they'll keep in touch but they never do. I've lost a good friend, well someone I thought was a friend who just dropped all contact with me since leaving. In a way that makes you appreciate those who have stayed in touch even more. 

Slowly my words and how I say them and spell them are slowly turning more and more American. I think that's down to running and using ebay every week to sell items and my need to spell things the American way. Colour is now pretty much always color and I just accept that spell checker wants to change all my '"s" to "z". But a "z" will always be a zed, not a zee. Ever. Mostly I interchange words all the time, me and Joe will have conversations and inter-use American and English all the time - it makes us quirky like that. And I like it. 

Sometimes I feel like I haven't seen enough of the US, people see more in a week on road-trips then I have in a year. But I have to make myself remember that living and visiting is different. Your not here to visit on a whirlwind that i'm experiencing beyond that and seeing the real America. I use to always wonder why American's never tended to go aboard, but now I see why - the countries so huge there's enough to spend a lifetime traveling around. People often get surprised to see I moved here from the UK and they'll admit they haven't even left the state so perhaps only seeing Chicago, Pittsburgh, around some of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan isn't a bad thing - then again i'm not interested in really seeing New York. Next on the list is Washington DC hopefully next year. 

But there is a side to America you don't often get to see as a holiday maker. It only really came to me during the election - the huge amount of racism still around. Obama wins and twitter turns into a race-fest, people proclaiming a true vote is only a write vote. Or just basically the humiliation that comes from Donald Trump's twitter page. But it's not just about race - it's been the whole debates regarding rape, healthcare and women. Sometimes America feels the land of opportunity only to those with money, or white.

So here's to another year, my second thanks giving, my second Christmas, even more Taco Bells, Jets pizzas, crazy coloring in soda, wondering why Michigan lefts make any sense and hunting out HP sauce. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A photographers best friend - their camera

Looking around estate sales I often come across vintage cameras. Predominately the ones people have kept around and cherished decades later were the ones that were worth that little extra investment and demanded that extra input from the photographer. With Christmas just around the corner [how quickly has that come around again?!] many of you will probably be wishing and writing a new camera upon your Christmas lists.

While I maintain that investing in good camera is only half the equation in producing good photographs, if photography is your passion then it's certainly worth thinking about spending a little extra. Personally I use a bridge camera as right now suits my needs and my budget - it still lets me play with manual settings, but my next camera will be an upgrade into a D/SLR camera. 

When it comes to looking for your next camera there are always certain pointers to keep in mind that you might want to consider - from asking yourself what type of photographs you will be taking, a camera's size to it's shape and functions. Jessops has always been a great store to shop for cameras regardless of your budget.

If money was no object for us this Christmas i'd be hinting madly for a Nikon which as a brand are always on spec offering high end features on relatively light frame bodies for great prices such as the Digital SRL D7000.

With a choice of purchasing just the body you can make use of the lens you may already own or then go on and purchase ones that fit your need. The Nikon D700 comes with 16.2 megapixels, space for two SD memory cards, great ISO levels and even the ability to produce HD movie clips - the kit version comes with an 18-105 lens.

If you have that little extra to spend or you've been super good this year you'd be wise to make an investment in the Digital SRL D800 additionally by Nikon.
You could call this camera the newer, bolder younger brother of the one I previously mentioned which comes with a humongous megapixel size of 36.3. Additionally the D800 comes with two slots for SD memory cards it's credited as being 10% lighter then it's D700 sibling and comes with Nikon's next generation of EXPEED 3 image processing system. Doesn't that sound a tonne of fun to play with?!

What cameras would be on your Christmas list this year?

Disclosure - this is a sponsored post, however the article and all thoughts expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

MIICHIGAN: Greenfield Village

On Saturday we wrapped ourselves up and went down to Dearborn to visit another part of the Henry Ford museum complex known as Greenfield Village. If your familiar with Beamish in the UK it's very similar - an outside open air museum come village put together by Henry Ford [that car dude] with houses and buildings related to his life - childhood home and first Ford building to the complex of Thomas Edison and other prominent Americans. In fact its the largest of such museums in the whole of the USA. There was also stream trains which made the trip in itself worth while. So I thought i'd share with some of the 'statement' buildings from people you know [or should know about].

This building was built at Greenfield Village in 1945 and is a 1/4 size replica of Ford's first factory located on Detroit's Mack Avenue where from 1903 workers began manufacturing some of Ford's earliest vehicles. 

Before they became infamous for their flight trails, the Wright Bros. daily income came from building, selling and the repair of bicycles in Dayton, Ohio their actual shop now sits along Greenfield Village's Main Street next to their home which has additionally been moved there.

Inside the replica [although some of the parts are original] of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park complex you can see were the first light bulb, phonograph and many of his other inventions were created. Apparently Edison challenged himself to making one minor invention every 10 days which he is said to have achieved. 

Inside the Detroit Toledo and Milwaukee Roundhouse which was built in 1984 there's some great stream engines inside [well great to me at least]. They are currently working on Mr Ford's personal train engine and America's oldest scheduled running train [from the 1850's] is currently undergoing it's winter service.

When you think of Mr Heinz, you'll probably think of tomato ketchup but he actually started bottling horseradish which he sold from and made in the basement of this house which moved from Pennsylvania to the village. 

Around Main Street they had some lovely vintage porcelain [well replica] advertisements for everything from soap to sewing threads. There's certainly something much more beautiful to these advertisements then there is to airbrushed women. 

Joe had a lot of fun feeding the sheep that were alongside the replica of Henry Ford's childhood home - they were rather friendly to say the least and I was somewhat envious of that lovely lot of thick wool they had on their backs.

Are you a museum geek like we are?!

Friday, 2 November 2012

October's Sponsors

Apologies for this being a tad on the late side but it's here on the less. I've got two great blogs to introduce you to this month that have been supporting LOTS, so here's to it! Remember you can choose to sponsor my blog throughout the month with some great low prices, there's even chance for a free blog swap - just click here for more details!

First i'd love you to meet Gillian aka Gladley and her great blog The Glad Blog. Gillian is actually like myself in being an expat who moved herself and her life to the US from Scotland. The Glad Blog much like my own covered her adventures through the crazy visa processed, integrating into the crazy ways of American life through the eyes of an outsider and settling down. I actually came across Gillian through our experiences which when your going through the ordeal of moving overseas it's great knowing there is someone out there that is going through what you are even more so when I learnt she'd moved to Joe's home state of Pennsylvania which is a great way of me seeing and learning more about that state. If you enjoy my takes on American life as an expat then I'd highly suggest you pop over and say hello! 

Next up I'm glad to have luckily enough to have Megan's blog ad for October. Megan runs the blog Ta-Da a great crafty adventure who much like myself describes herself as being "a smidge all over the place". There's few things that make me want to knit but Ta-Da really does especially when Megan photographically documents a pieces process. Nevertheless even if your not a knitter but a crafter and a lover of life in general you'll certainly find some inspiration on Megan's blog! 

I've also been hosting an ad space for Lori who works has a Scentsy representative - you'll find the link for more details upon the right sidebar. I have a great sample and review of Scentsy goodies with a giveaway and details about becoming a Scentsy rep yourself coming next week. 

Fancy seeing your blog or online store here next month? Click for more details! 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


So say American's go all out for Halloween would be a bit of an understatement. Granted not every American loves or welcomes All Hallows into their life or home, but many, oh so many do. Because we drive around loads over the weekends for estate sales, we get to see houses and yards that we normally wouldn't, so so many have turned their front yards into grave yards covered in grave stones, spooky lighting,  fake cobwebs, pumpkins to hanging ghosts and ghouls off trees. In comparison while people like the idea of Halloween in the UK, kids go trick or treating it never seem to have got off to the same extent and level and love that the US populace has for the holiday. Saying that the popularity of Halloween I felt was growing, if only slowly by the time I left the UK. 

If you walk into any store from September onward you'd be amazed at all the spooky goodies you can purchase. From pumpkin cutters, spooky phones that answer to a deathly laugh to skeletons and special Halloween sweets [me being a fan of the pumpkin shaped snicker bars]. 

Hurricane Sandy resulted in windy and rainy nights so many in our neck of the woods are moving trick or treating to the weekend it seems. Either way we have a load of sweeties that we'll gobble up if no little ghosts or ghouls appear. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

When life gives you lemons

I know life would be dull if we all had it easy, we wouldn't appreciate the good if we didn't know the bad. But sometimes it feels like when it rains, it pours. Everything things to happen at once - when life gets real. 

Our car has been dying for a month or so, you don't realise how much you need it till the thought of it being dead comes to mind. Joe needs it for his job, you might think social workers sit behind a desk all day but he's more likely to be sat behind his car wheel all day in the three years he's had his current car has added 80,000 miles to the total. But it has a problem with the engine that would cost more then what the car is probably worth to fix and the rear left wheel makes crazy scraping noises when you do start left turns. Not a healthy sign at least.

Then you pay your rent bill like normally, they charge you twice you have $80 to last you a week. Yeah that happened too. We have new "apartment complex managers" which have just been rubbish since day one and once you know you're getting new landlords you know your rent is going up. It's going up that much we're seriously considering moving - we're kinda far out from Joe's work anyway and maybe a move would be good for us and there's cheaper places out there. But it's the hassle and the nerves of moving that come to take over. I can easily move myself from the UK to the US without many nerves but the idea of moving me, Joe, two cats and everything we own as little as 5 or 30 miles is unnerving.

Oh yeah and we're doing all this on one income and my ebay sellings.

Sometimes I think me and Joe have never had it easy what with being in separate countries for 2 years, visas, money problems to me just not being able to get a job. Sometimes you just want to scream for someone to give you a break.

Oh how I whine. As Joe jokes when I whine - would I like cheese with that?!

How do you cope when life gets hard? 

Monday, 22 October 2012

DIY Crocheted Flower Brooch & Hair Clip

 Colder months often means having to pull out the warmer, thicker coats that have all lived in our wardrobe for the last year and granted, many of them just look the same. When I received a selection of Aleene's glue and adhesives it got thinking about making some accessories using my love of crochet to jazz up my outfits. This ended up being really inexpensive and is a great way of using some odd ends of yarn. So I decided to crochet a flower hair clip and brooch and here's the tutorial!

A range of some of the Aleene's glue and adhesive products which has glue and adhesive for all your needs from traditional tacky glue to a spray paint version and fabric glue.

Shopping list;

  • Odds and ends of yarn, whatever thickness and or colors that you have around
  • Crochet hook
  • Hair clips you can craft with
  • Brooch fastener
  • Aleenes Original Tacky Glue
  • Aleene's Fabric Fusion Glue

So I started off crocheting two flower and a leaf motif which once you know the foundations of crocheting anyone can make and are great way of using up odd pieces of yarn. The pattern I used came from a 1970s motif book I grabbed at an estate sale but there's plenty of free patterns online.

Once all your crocheting is complete, taking some neutral colored felt I cut a circular piece just slightly larger then the inner circle of the last flower round. Having a backing piece of felt not only strengthens the piece but allows you a backing to adhere the fastening too. For this I used the Aleene's Fabric Fusion which takes 2 - 4 hours to set. While it was setting I kept it in place with some pins. For the brooch once the felt backing has set you then glue the leaf in place across the back.

To add that little extra detailing to the flower front, I adhered two miss matched buttons to each flower center. When gluing an item to fabric I found it best to use the Alenee's Tacky glue running a line around the button and leaving a good four hours to set and it holds firm.

When everything is glued and set you can think about how you want to use and style your pieces. Both the brooch fasteners and the hair grips can be easily found in good craft stores or you could even reuse old pieces if you have them lying around. Again as your adhering onto fabric you're best using the original tacky glue - for the hair clip its just as simple as gluing onto the metal circular piece and holding it tight upon the back whereas you might want to add a little extra support to the brooch again using the felt. 

While the brooch fastener can be glued to the reverse leaf side, a piece of felt glue each side and running over the brooch adds that extra support and hold.

Perfect way to stand out that little more in the winter months!

Want to see what others have been creating using the same products?! Check out the links below!

You can find out more about Alnee's Glue and Adhesives via their social media links; 
Website // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest 

You can read my disclosure here

Thursday, 18 October 2012

LIFE: Lately ...

I haven't really been around on blogger and or social media. Well not so much as normal. They've both somewhat taken a bit of a step back - everything else is going on and I'm not finding the need or the drive to spend that extra time blogging - which is kinda lame on my part. But I'm busy, busy busy with trying to expand and grow my online selling. You see not being able to find someone out there willing to hire me to the point where it was making me very down I've taken matters into my own hands and I'm just throwing myself head and feet into my eBay reselling and additionally with my Etsy to make my own way in the world. Granted it's slow, it takes up a lot of my time from Saturdays and Sundays 9 to 4 hunting estate sales, writing up listings and posting and doesn't make me millions but it's making me happy and I finally feel like I'm paying my way a little in our relationship. 

One of my favorite items up on Etsy right now - a 1950's guide to letter writing entitled It's time to write letters! [now sold]. It's a great reminder to step away from the email and get out a pen, some nice stationary and start penning out a personal hand written letter to your nearest and dearest. Shame etsy isn't pulling as much weight as Ebay is right now though.

On all our estate sale hunting's lately I've been grabbed cheap boxes and assortments of vintage Christmas baubles, I've had plans and been pinning wildly bauble wreaths and I'm determined to make my own this year. Trying to fight off the urge to make it right now and hold off a little closer to December but I hope to get it done and posted up on here!

So that's my life lately. Crazy to think I've been here three weeks short of a year, and hopefully my reselling is heading in the right direction, certainly getting busier week by week!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

DIY Leaf Stenciled Vase

Stenciled leaf vase with gilded pinecones

I grew up in a house with a huge basket of pine cones sitting by the fire. Everyplace we visited we'd always try and find more pine cones to add to the collection so when Plaid sent me some Martha Stewart Crafts  goodies I knew I wanted to start off a brand new collection for life here in the US because around our apartment pine cones are dripping off the trees - it's a cheap and perfect way to bring some of the fall season into your home. 

If you haven't checked them out already Plaid have teemed up with Martha Stewart Crafts in providing some amazing crafty goodies especially for glass painting with everything you could ever need from paints, special brushes, stencils and transfer paper. 


  • Vase 
  • Pine cones or other goodies like acorns
  • Martha Stewart Glass patterning tape
  • Martha Stewart Liquid gilding in silver and copper
  • Martha Stewart Natural bristle brush
  • Martha Stewart Squeegees
  • Martha Stewart Glass paint in chestnut, brown and mace colours
  • Martha Stewart Leaves Adhesive Silkscreen #33235

The vase itself was an estate sale find - one grabbed into the $5 bag with a load of other goodies so that in itself was rather inexpensive but it was plain and certainly needed jazzing up. Using the Martha Stewart Crafts glass patterning tape I marked out around the rim of the vase - just to make sure when it came to gilding the edge the finish would be neat and straight. The gilding paint - which came in silver and copper applies smooth and although it needs a good couple of layers really builds up well. I choose to use the copper color for this part and I'd suggest applying it in a well ventilated area. Once it's dyed gently pull away the patterning tape and you'll have a nice, crisp edge.

As soon as I'd opened the box of goodies I was instantly drawn to the leaf silkscreen and I knew I wanted to create the impression of leaves falling down along the length of the vase. Using wonky angles, letting them over lap with two of the different sized leaves I took to placing the silkscreens upon the vase. These silkscreens already have a pre-sticky backing which really helps with placement, you don't have to worry about them slipping or coming unstuck when your applying your paint. 

Then to the fun part - painting! Sticking to autumnal colours I used the Martha Stewart Crafts Glass Paint using a mixture of shades Chestnut, Brown and Mace alternating across the leaves. The Martha Stewart squeegees are amazing for using with silk screens - applying your paint along the edge of the stencil and merely dragging it down with the squeegee until it's all covered.  

And there you have it - pretty stenciled leaves upon glass - pretty huh? I just love that rustic look. You need to take your silkscreen off as soon as you've painted each leave - no need to leave it to dry. Then there's two methods to set your paintwork - you can either leave it 21 days to dry or bake in the oven. Seeing I wasn't intending to use this vase for anything other then decoration I opted for the 21 air drying method. 

Now you could leave your finished vase as is - and just add some flowers. But I wanted to get back to collecting pine cones - so my my vase is my pine cone holder. But I wanted to spice them up a little and add some more dimensions to the range of colors so I went back to using the gilding paint an used both the silver and copper tones to paint just a couple of the pine cones in each shade. I was surprised at just how well the gilding took to the cones - I thought it would be a little too porous  but after only two coats they were done and then it's time to just place them into your vase. 

FINISHED! A great simple and small way to add a bit of autumn into your home and you could certainly add acorns, leaves, berries into the mixture as and when you come across them. 

Make sure you check out what other crafters have been making with their goodies! 

You can visit and find out more about Plaid via their social media links;

Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest 

Disclosure - I wrote this post as part of a paid campaign with Plaid and Blueprint Social. The opinions in this post are my own.

Monday, 15 October 2012

DETROIT: Belle Isle Nature Zoo

Hidden away on Belle Isle is a tiny little Nature Zoo which is run by the Detroit Zoo. I thought I'd write this post as a somewhat comparison and show and tell about American garden birdies after we spent a good while watching some birds having a feed. In America you'll find the normal sparrows and your starlings, but the other birdies they are bigger and brighter. Even the traditional Robin in the US is the size of a blackbird. 

The common grackle is the size of your blackbird and is similar in colouring expect the Grackle has a gorgeous blue/green/purple colouring to it's head. Apparently they tend to steel food from other birds and are more likely to feed from the floor.

American woodpeckers are a lot easier to find and spot when you're out in the woods compared to my former life in the countryside of Yorkshire. This a red bellied woodpecker is one spending most of it's time in southern Canada and the northeastern parts of the US. Not too sure why it's called red bellied as the redness is found on it's head, but there you go.  House sparrows are house sparrows were ever you are!

Pretty Blue Jays, apparently have a bit of an angry side to them with their lavender blue colouring and white underside. Being the size of blackbirds, maybe a little bigger they are easy to spot. They have a bad reputation of destroying other birdies nests and eggs.

Squirrels are pretty easy to find here in Michigan. They tend be a lot darker in colour too - in some cases actually being black. We get loads coming across the lawns in front of our apartment. 

At the Nature Zoo they also have this really neat two sided display connected to the outside of the building were bee's can fly along into and visibly show you making honeycombs. I even spotted the Queen bee. The rest of the Nature Zoo was filled with the typical species you might come across in the wilds of Michigan from Salamanders, turtles, fishies and frogs.

After spying their little allotment patch, they have a great little trail through fields of wild flowers and woodland around the nature centre too and what appears out into grasslands. We didn't have the best of footwear to be slogging around in overground grasses but it's certainly somewhere to wander back too.