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!