Friday, 27 January 2012

Cake in a mug

I've seen this idea for making cakes in mugs kicking around for a fair while, and I finally got around to trying one when my craving for chocolate cake overpowered me. There are some really simple [this being one] and some more "developed" recipes for cakes in mugs on the internet it's all up to personal choice. I just wanted something super quick and fun plus with currently having really bad tonsils at the moment, I needed something easy to eat. 

What you will need;
One microwaveable mug
Said microwave
One egg
Four tablespoons of icing/confecioners sugar
One and a half tablespoons of cocoa powder

Just measure out and mix all the ingredients together into your chosen mug and stick into the microwave for about one to one and a half minutes depending on the power of your microwave - just make sure to keep an eye on it.

Mine developed a slight lean after taking it out of the mug, I guess you can eat it without a topping but I choose some cream. It's never going to beat a top notch cake and or desert but if you want something quick and very easy to make then its definitely worth giving a go. I think this might starve off many a chocolate and cake hungry pang in the near future.

Have you ever made a cake in a mug? Have any good mug cake recipes to share?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

My Shutterfly Photobook

One of the most addictive projects I've ever done is making our Chicago photo book. While I'd love to have the skills to make a scrapbook an online version was much more workable for me. Yet I wasn't sure which company to try, but after a play around I decided to use Shutterfly. Shutterfly aim to provide the user with a range of templates, cover styles, embellishments and designs to create a personalised book for you and your memories. It was these extra touches of embellishments - for example being able to add pins, stickers, tape, banners and love hearts, that set Shutterfly aside from the other photo book websites which merely provide a printed photo album with the added line of text. 

Online design board - your uploaded photos and pages line the bottom with design options for layouts, backgrounds, embellishments and a library of idea pages are on the left. You can edit, arrange and preview your photo book pages at anytime.

How long you spend and how detailed you make your photo book is entirely up to you, you have the ability to save and store your photos online and return to your project as and when you need. Because it's up to you how creative you want to be, you don't have to be an entire genius at either computers or graphic design, the templates really do help you on your way. From designing to ordering my book took me three weeks - Christmas and New Year happened mid way and I was determined to do a good job on our honeymoon photographs, verging on somewhat obsessive.

I opted to make a 8 x 11" photo book with a hard cover, you're provided with twenty pages with any extra charged at 75 cents each of which I added ten extra pages. Shutterfly seem to run a lot of promotions so we got our book at a discount with addition savings on the extra pages, another offer provided at the time, free shipping on orders over $30 so we saved again. In all, our book cost just under $34/£22.

It took just over a week for our photo book to arrive and they provide you the ability to track your package. All their parcels are bright orange and are safety wrapped. Inside of which was my first ever photo book. I love how shinny the front cover is, for which you can add your own photos and words - I opted to cover ours with a photograph of the bean. The quality of the paper and the printing is of a very high standard, when you upload your photographs a warning appears if they are of a high enough resolution. Even the one photograph which was of a low resolution came out as good as the rest.

The printed page of the computer screen [first photograph], the spine, and the spine and back of the cover the later of which you can design and embellish as much or as little as you require.

Would I make a photo book again and use Shutterfly? The answer to both is yes. I love the personalization you can create and their offering of inspiration. To be able to have my photographs properly printed out is an extra bonus especially to the quality to which they are printed. Whether I would create a photo book for normal everyday occasions is a different matter, but for important events such as our honeymoon, children, big holidays, etc I could really imagine making one. Shutterfly also allow you to order your photographs as prints and make other photo gifts so it's a very useable website with something for everyone.

Have you ever tried making a photobook? 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Coty Envelope Compact

This compact happened to be one of my Christmas presents [I'm suffering from a bit of a serious compact backlog when it comes to posting them so beware of the forthcoming compact over load] and its additionally one of the compacts most collectors will come to own, it's sinuous with powder compacts and one of the most important powder compact manufactures. 

As a brand, Coty was one of the leading French perfume houses [later additionally producing from New York] and became known for introducing unusual styled compacts particularly during the 1940 and 1950s. One that they most famous for is their envelope shaped compact around 1954. Yet it wasn't their original design - they merely added extra presentation boxes in a post war era. In fact the envelope as a style for vintage powder compacts was first introduced in 1923 by the French jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels.

Its gold tone engine turned metal exterior has a smoothed edge with its Coty trademark engraved upon the lid of the powder well. Additionally attached to the powder well lid is a small clip, designed to hook over your puff, additionally featuring the brand of Coty to keep it in place - a tiny detail I've never seen before. Unlike some of it's American counterparts the mirror is held in place with an overlapping rim of metal - something more often associated with British compacts.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Snow, toy trains and being a geek.

The blog title alone would basically sum up our weekend. Friday night started with more snow, making home made chicken curry for the first time and fighting for the new crochet ripple blankie i'm making off our kitty who adores my blankets. We finally posted off my residency forms [the next step in the immigration lark] on Saturday after eating some posh, huge muffins [I opted for the cream cheese carrot cake muffin]. Then we drove over to the hobby store and brought a new toy train starter set. We've been talking about getting a new set for a while after the 1976 set that we do have engine's won't run. 

When it comes to trains, I am a geek and will openily admitt it. Even to the point of getting excited when seeing former railway tracks and buildings especially like the 1900 Detroit United Railway Powerhouse building in Farmington that I photographed on the way back home. Even though the basic sets only come with curving track to make a huge circle, I could spend hours literately watching the toy train going around, and around - now we just need a bigger apartment so we have the space to add more tracks and things to it. Didn't I tell you I was a geek?!

This weekend was also spent wasting hours on Pinterest and Joe found me this blog all about Penguins - my second obsession - seriously I could loose more hours watching all the uploaded penguin webcams. We're also sorting out a lot of Joe's old things to put and sell on Ebay, working our way through DVDS, spare transformers [the toys] and now old Pokermon and other similar like cards [I particularly don't understand them]. Seeing I can't work in the states yet my job is being in charge of running our Ebay lines so that is how I'll be spending this week. I might even make another memory board to see if that might sell on the old auction site.

Drop me your link if you have a Pinterest!

Friday, 20 January 2012


Another weekend, another zoo, this one being the one that's only a ten or so minute drive from our apartment - the Detroit Zoo. Visiting on Martin Luther King day [Monday] we spent a couple of hours wander around with groups of families amongst a covering of snow and iced up ponds, upon which many animals seemed to be at home - especially the geese. While some of the animals had been taken off exhibit because of winter/snowy weather there was still plenty to see. I particularly loved the conservatory filled with tropical butterflies which are always great to try and photograph and the underwater tunnel within which seals and the polar bears can swim above your head. Saying that, I think we've run out of zoo's till we figure out where to venture to for a holiday/road trip.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

CROCHET: Finishing the Winter Blanket

Today I'm sat safely, and warmly watching the snow attempting to settle from the comfort of the apartments windows and having tomato soup for lunch. While today isn't the first time we've had some attempt at snow in metropolitan Detroit it's definitely one of the coldest. We're barely been breaking the freezing point, if at all in the past week or so. Today's high is only a magnificent -2ÂșC, yet it feels much, much colder. Saying that, and from what I've seen of UK weather, there's seems to be lacking the great snow falls that we would normally have had by now. How I remember fondly my vain attempts of busing to York in great snow falls in East Yorkshire with the buses running up to an hour late or just not running at all.

With great timing however, I did finally manage to finish the first crochet blanket I've made in a long while. There's nothing better then snuggling under a home made blankie and keeping your toes warm - especially when you know what the weather is doing outside. I managed to get the wool at half price back in November and with the remnants and the other spare wool ends I'm off to start another blanket, this time to use for our road trips and picnics - in the hope of ensuring the coming of nicer weather!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

VINTAGE: Sewing Box

Every girl needs a sewing box right, but when I was back in the UK I never seemed to have one. We found this fabric covered sewing box in Frankenmuth way back in November for a total steal of a price and I just love the colour of the green inlay. It's now full of crafty doodles, patterns, crocheting stuff, cottons and sewing notions and sits delightfully on top of my sewing table.

Monday, 16 January 2012

FOOD: The British Food Aisle

As good as living in America is, sometimes you get the total joy of finding the imported British food section in stores. Normally wherever you go they sell the same stock - including hobnobs, Yorkshire tea, Jaffa cakes, salad cream and mushy peas. But nothing finishes off your baked beans or bacon like HP and American custard is nothing compared to Birds. Sometimes you have to go back to your roots.

We stumbled across Irn Bru in the "posh" local food store for $1.99 a can, which is like £1.30, shockingly pricey when you compare the price marked upon the can itself for it's British RRP of 49p. But Irn Bru reminds me of childhood holidays in Scotland and buying it from my local fish n chip shop in Newcastle's Heaton area when I was a student. On the other hand the equivalent of 90p is always worth a Yorkie bar, especially when the relabelled information declares it has made in York upon it, that makes a Yorkshire girl happy.

If you moved countries what food would you crave and miss?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Ed and the attacking camera lens cover

Ed actually seems to hate anything plastic, from the TV remote, carrier bags, transformers [the toys], phones to milk top rings and now my camera.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Make your own canvas memory board

We often seem to acquire lots of random pieces and slips of paper that seem to litter either the computer desk or the coffee table. Most of these bits are coupons or tickets that would be better being kept somewhere separate so I've been meaning to create a memory board to keep them together. I wanted to create something visually pleasing and decorative rather then buying a cork pin board and have it for organisation as well as providing a space for the odd photograph of us or ticket from an outing and so on. As you can see from my list of items below this can be a really cheap project, I brought all my items from Jo Ann [they seem to be the best for price and offers], it could be an even cheaper project if you wanted to use old buttons or fabric remnants and the choice of canvas is entirely up to you. If your under 16 make sure your under adult supervision as well as using your common sense because some of the equipment we're using gets very hot.

What I used -
  • Ribbon $2.99
  • Fat quarter of fabric $1.29
  • Mixture of black and white buttons $1 per strip
  • 12 x 16" art canvas $5.99 
  • Glue gun [you could use a staple gun if you have one] 
  • Scissors 
  • Iron
Total cost: $12.27 before tax [£7.96]

Firstly if you need to, give your fabric a quick iron, merely to ease out any ceases and to make sure what your working with is nice and flat.

Cut your fabric to size by measuring at least a two inch allowance around all sides of the canvas so you have plenty of material to work with on the reverse.

Working with your fabric underneath your canvas and with one edge at a time, work carefully with the glue gun *remember glue guns get really warm* or if you have one, use a staple gun. Then glue [or staple] along the edge but leave the corners unglued for now. Stretch and hold the fabric in place until it's firmly glued. Then do the same on the other sides working from one side then it's opposite.

After leaving the corners of your fabric till last carefully fold the material until you get a nice smooth and tidy edge as if you were wrapping a present. Glue the material in place then flip your canvas over.

Next it's time to attach your ribbons which work to keep what your adding onto your board in place, so they need to be fairy tight when your gluing them. Firstly work diagonally from corner to corner, gluing firmly at each edge on the reverse of the canvas. Then add more ribbons from the middle of the canvas diagonally across so you create diamonds.
Using the glue gun again, glue the two ribbons where they cross, first to the fabric directly underneath, then to each other. Finish off by gluing the reverse of a complimentary coloured button and sticking it over the top of the adjoining ribbons.

Then your finished - you can make and attach ribbons from the reverse of the canvas to make a hanger for hanging your board if you want, then add whatever you fancy to your board.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

One mystery vintage compact

The second item that Joe spotted at our poke in the Antiques Mall was one mysterious vintage compact. After pouring our eyes over the compacts there [none of which really grabbed me] we found one compact bagged up, the bag being stapled shut and a price of $6.50 labelled upon it. It looked a bit of a state and another label covered what remained of it's original powder label on it's bottom so no assumptions over it's manufacture could be really made, but for the price it was going it was a bit of a thrill taking the risk. Then on a closer inspection I could see a J and an R initial design upon the top - matching mine and Joe's that alone compelled me [well for Joe] to buy it. 

Getting back to the car and a quick pulling and grabbed it out of it's bag opening it up revealed a complete tray of powder, an intact and fairly clear mirror and a clean unused Coty puff. As a manufacturer Coty went between marking and not marking their compacts, if they didn't have a powder well lid often their brand name could be found on the powder label on the bottom, but as I've previously mentioned this was covered by a sticky label and my careful attempts to take it off just parted what remained of the label - this is why stickers should never be used upon vintage or antique items, ever. The top of the compact itself has a fabric metal appearance, with parts of the top being marked [can't complain with the price paid however]. The initialed design could even have been added later as there seems to be glue marks surrounding the metal which should never have been there if it was originally produced with the compact. 

This compact is a bit of a mystery and one I'll keep looking into. But I guess that's part of the fun, right?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

VINTAGE: Roadtrip Finds

On our way to Pittsburgh at Christmas we drove past a huge billboard advertising an Antiques Mall  by the with Ohio, passing again on the way to Toledo called for a visit on the way home. I'm glad we did because the building was huge, across two floors, three wings and all kinds of vintage and antique things at a fairly reasonable price and for $19 (£12) we found some really good bargain.

Now we have a proper bookcase that's rather empty, I love poking the old hardbacks in such places, and managed to find this first edition 1943 "Complete Guide to Sewing" by Constance Talbot. Constance apparently was considered one of the leading ladies when it came to lecturing and teaching sewing to the masses. With it's release during WWII this sewing book became a key guide for the thrifty American lady, advising her on how to sew her own utilitarian work uniform, on how to make her families clothes last and on recycling garments. It's an absolute bible for everything from making collars, bedding, how to embroider and even how to make your own underwear.

Joe managed to stumble across two great finds - the first being a Coca Cola pin up girl tray covered in reproduced advertisements, and the second a mystery compact which i'll blog about separately. One of the same Cola trays is currently on sale on Ebay advertised as being from the 1980s I'm not sure if it is actually that old however. Either way I love the old advertising and it's colours and it makes a good focal point above the TV.

Monday, 9 January 2012

OHIO: Toledo Zoo

On Saturday we braved colds and man flu to drive an hour to Toledo Zoo in Ohio. Despite it being January we're currently having rather unseasonal "good" weather and it was nice to get out into the sunshine after being subjected to the sneezes and sniffles of the past week. Plus during the winter months Toledo offers half price entrance - what more reason could we ever need?!

Toledo Zoo isn't one of the biggest zoo's I've been to, but they do have some of the key animals to see and a lot of them were coming out to play. One of the most amazing things we got to see were the two three and a half month old Amur tiger clubs playing with their mum, a seven month old baby elephant following and copying his mother and a polar bear having a play in his pool splashing and playing with a barrel.

Friday, 6 January 2012

DETROIT: Michigan Central Station

Modelled from a Roman Bath this was the central waiting room.
The main concourse featured an image of the Detroit skyline donated by the local newspaper
I'll admit since before I knew officially about moving to Detroit, there was one place I wanted to visit, perhaps its my love of trains and old buildings but the Michigan Central Railway Station is the perfect place for photographs. Formally this train station was the hub for Detroit and south-eastern Michigan's rail network, now unfortunately the building is a shell, it's windows are broken or missing, entrances are boarded.

It was designed after the original station was burnt down in 1913 and completed with 18 floor office space above with a huge luggage basement below all complete with a shopping arcade.  The station itself isn't within walking distance of Downtown so passengers arrived using the street car. However the Depression and the introduction of the car [remember Detroit is Motor City] the street cars vanished and so the station was cut off. While it managed to serve it's use during WWII it somewhat survived the declining use of public transport if only just. Nevertheless in 1988 the station closed.

Standing in the right place you can peek through the boarded entrances, you can only imagine how gorgeous this building once was. While landscaping has occurred and construction vehicles are parked before the main doors whether any work is being undertaken, or being planned remains unknown. In the UK you could imagine such a building having a preservation order and restored into some transportation museum, it's a shame its not happening to this place. It is a magnificent building.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

VINTAGE: 1933 Century of Progress Chicago Compact

As anyone knows I have a secret love for the city of Chicago - I get the same great feeling I had about moving to and living in Newcastle [and it's the city I hint most about moving to]. Chicago was also where we had our honeymoon, so a compact that was designed to commemorate the 1933 World Fair that the city hosted was always going to be a winner.

The World Fair 1933-34

The first World Fair was held in Crystal Palace and hosted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This fair, also known as the Century of Progress was held between 1933 to 1934 to celebrate Chicago's centenary with technological innovation as it's main theme, held around where the main museum campus of Chicago is today.

The compact itself is a double compact - holding what remains of the rogue in the top compartment and pressed powder in the bottom, with a double hinged mirror separating the two. It is in fact a very small compact being 2.1" x 1.7" wide - a scale representative of it's era. The famous Century of Progress logo appears upon it's blue enameled top. Overall it's in a brilliant condition for being so old - with only slight marking on the bottom - the hinges and the clasps work perfectly and comes complete with both puffs. While these commemorative compacts aren't rare [there's always a few in varying conditions on Ebay for various prices ranging from $30-100] they still command a strong selling price even though they are actually unmarked as to whom manufactured them. Nevertheless I love being able to own something from one of my favorite places especially now that the compact has entered it's 79th year.

On a related note the blog might get a bit compact heavy shortly, in addition to the two other Christmas compacts from the husband i'm currently bidding my way through Ebay. I jokingly laughed that the boy could buy the transformers lot he had his eye on if I could spend the same amount on compacts - deal done! So with $60 on my side i'm trying to get my hands on a wide range of compacts. Compacts and transformers [as in the toy not train transformers] are the only things I ever bid for on ebay - what do you lovelies end up buying there?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Hello new year


So that's another year down and a new start for many of us and I'm bringing in this new year full of cold - oh the joy! Me and the boy welcomed in the year after watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory of TBS, watching the ball drop on ABC live from Times Square drunk up on Vicks and surrounded by tissues. It was weird watching all the comments from my friends in the UK on facebook welcoming in the new year at 7pm our time, sometimes you totally forget about the time difference.

2011 was a bit of a crazy year - being in a job I didn't particularly like, working with people who didn't understand my relationship, my visa adventure, London trips, moving to Michigan, getting married and visiting Chicago and Pittsburgh all in the space of a month. And I've been lucky enough to have this space to share it with anyone that cares to read [so thank you - I've often questioned myself I still blog; but knowing people read what I type does help]. Safe to say there's been a lot of changes and experiences going on, and 2012 probably won't be different. We're on the verge of posting off my forms to apply for residency then I can hopefully in a few more months look for a job, maybe we'll move, at least into a new apartment; maybe a different state, and hopefully get to go on lots more travels. I'm just glad I start 2012 by my husbands side. 

Happy new year!