Thursday, 29 August 2013

DETROIT: Chimera


If you ever happen to drive on I-75 through the north end of Detroit, before you reach the suburbs you might just happen to spy a massive Chimera upon a wall. Acting as a huge welcome sign to Detroit from the north, this huge piece, the largest mural in Michigan has entranced me ever since I moved to the state. Not only is it huge - it's 870 feet in size, but it's beautiful. The Chimera which the artist Kobbie Solomon describes as being a composite of the four Detroit sports teams (Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons) and the art which occurs daily within the building upon which the design was spray painted upon - the Russell Center. Built in 1915, the Russell Industrial Center was a hive of activity manufacturing parts for the big auto companies born out of Detroit, and during the war was home to manufacturing B-17 Flying Fortress Wings. Now it's home to over 150 small businesses and artists and is considered one of the key examples of positive urban redevelop within the city - oh and they were filming scene's for the next Transformers movie there the other week too!

It actually took my parents telling me over the weekend that Texas had song on the radio about Detroit - surprisingly it's never really made my radar living so close to city limits but there you go. While I've never been a huge Texas fan, I certainly can appreciate the they actually filmed the song in the city - and barely any ruin porn shots feature (yippie!!). It's a video that features many places now familiar to me - Woodward Avenue, Fox Threatre, Belle Isle to Campus Martius and Hitsville (Motown) many of the places which have appears on Dear Ms Leigh at some point or another.

And while we're talking about Detroit, make sure you check out my guest post over on Bethan's blog A Pretty Place to Play were I express my love and passion for exploring my home turf.

What's your favorite things and places to go around your home patch?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

PENNSYLVANIA - Pittsburgh Zoo

Detroit Zoo membership has benefits outside our own zoo - lovely entry discounts at other zoos so we took the opportunity when we visited to have a look around the Pittsburgh Zoo when we were there a couple of weeks ago. Joe's been many times growing up, but it was my first trip. Pittsburgh zoo has to be one of my new favorites- it's informative, just the right size where there's lots to see but it's not tiring and clean. While its built in and around a steep hill (you even take an escalator up the hillside after paying it's that steep) all the exhibits are landscaped in a huge circular layout, and the exhibits look natural and large enough.

Pittsburgh Zoo is also home to a great aquarium with sting rays, jellies to sharks and a huge array of fish and of course there's penguins - my favorite! We even managed to glimpse a tiger club and a baby gorilla both being very, very cute. But the super fun part was going with Joe's sister and kids and seeing the zoo through their eyes - even all even had our photo taken with an elephant, although I think the kids enjoyed the adventure playground more then anything.

Where's your favorite zoo?

Monday, 26 August 2013

DETROIT - Seasons Change

Walking along Detroit's Woodward Avenue yesterday after spending another Sunday at the DIA I noticed leaves were crunching under my feet and the orange and brown tint to the trees - autumn is slowly eating its way into summer days. It's still warm, very warm in south east Michigan, but mornings are colder, nights certainly are and it's these conditions with make the East and Mid West of the US infamous for it's fall show of tree colours. The bright blue warm August days just sets off a stunning backdrop for these shades.

As we were driving up we spied lines of freshers with their life packed into boxes as they hung outside their residence buildings at Wayne State University (which is in Midtown Detroit) - where have the years gone that eight years ago I was on the verge of breaking out from being a country girl, my life packed into suitcases as I started my adventure as a Fresher at Newcastle University?! If that wasn't enough as another season approaches it makes me remember just how quickly time seems to drift away. It only seems like a couple of months ago that I arrived in the US, in November it'll turn two years as my home.

Friday, 23 August 2013

VINTAGE: A Kiss Goodnight - 1950's Dating

To kiss or not to kiss - that is the question so stated Frances Grant. Now most of us would probably have words with Grant especially through our modern eyes, thing is Grant is speaking from a 1950's Teen Talks booklet on dating. While I love vintage I often approach vintage literature on society, sex and femininity as the former sociologist that is still in me (in a past British life I gained a masters in Sociology) and I often feel glad I was born in the 1980's at least with regards to equality and the like.

Now Grant tells us how we should all properly introduce our dates to our parents (rarely did I do that), double or triple date - because "it's really hilarious when the gang of you get together at a table at the Coke Corner and make the rounds of the newest moron jokes and shaggy dog stories" (really?!). Yet I fall in love with the image of date nights in diners and pour nickles into juke boxes and imagine the 1950's teenagers to talk about what we did at that age - music, fashion, sports and the opposite sex. 

Just don't ever, "neck" as they call it in these American parts. Ever. 

Grant talks of going steady - oh the images of having a guy carrying your books to class, of having a sure date to the Prom and of being "sort of engaged to be engaged". Yet Grant's discussion then leaps to suggest dumping the go steady guy and of the need to be single. Kisses should only ever be friendly, you shouldn't be seen in a parked car with a guy and a girl should never, ever date a fast boy. I find Grant (who throws in honoring god and being Christian every now and again) is somewhat hypocritical - telling you how to date, the advantages but within pages suddenly disliking the idea of dating to then mentioning "playing the field" - because apparently by "playing the field you make comparisons and draw conclusions that help you choose your life partner when you're ready for marriage". As a 26 year old all I'm reading is mixed messages so lord knows how a 1950's teen would feel reading the literature.

One aspect to dating Grant holds firm on is kissing; don't even think about kissing your date goodnight unless;
  1. You know him well and know he isn't the over-amourous type
  2. You're positive in your own mind that nothing can come of it
Oh the qualms of dating, I guess they have their issues whatever the decade ... what dating tips would you pass on to teens?

Quotes taken from Teen Talks by a Teen Ager - No. 2 On Dates by Francis Grant

Thursday, 22 August 2013


The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is credited as having one of the top art collections in the nation. No joke. This is why it's now a hot bed of topic and discussion when it comes to Detroit trying to file for bankruptcy, many people are eyeing up it's collection. Located in Midtown it's seen as one of the key players in the revival of the area and it's a great place to spend a couple of hours, ideally a day. 

The future of the DIA is a little up in the air, Christy's have been asked by Detroit's emergency manager Kevin Orr to value the whole collection. Orr argues he doesn't intend to sell any of the pieces but when it's value at a market value of $2.5 billion Detroit's creditors are eyeing it up. Personally I hope they don't sell anything from the DIA, granted pensions need to be paid, street lights turned back on but selling the DIA collection in the long term will solve nothing. The value of the collection is nothing compared to the $15 billions of debt the city has, plus removing the collection will do nothing to draw people back into the city, by removing a key attraction your removing their dollar spending money not only in the DIA but in the business and other museums around it. 

But that's my somewhat simplistic option on the matter. I'd love to know which side you fall on?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

VINTAGE - Recent Goodies

I haven't done a vintage haul post in a long time, but fear not we're still busy grabbing the bargains on a Saturday at estate sales. Aside from the hundreds (literally) of records we've been buying there's been some other vintage additions to the household.

With our bookcase increasingly becoming home to our records we're somewhat sort on space for the old hardbacks but when you come across ones for instance on how to cope with marriage in the 1950's to the works of Poe and 1930's bartender books it's hard to say no. Cooking books are certainly a weakness, particularly ones with spicy or Indian food although they aren't necessarily vintage I just loving having piles of cookbooks to scour and search for inspiration from. 

What's been one of my favourite finds has been the vintage set of scales we picked up, it's been worn, it's marked and it's been someone's trusted scales for many a year. With many American recipes based around cup measurements they are certainly more of a decorative piece and even an old Ball Mason jar is now home to my collection of seashells. They are just a couple of vintage kitchenwares items I've been picking up for our when-we-get-out-first-home kitchen which I intend to root very much in the past.

I've managed to pick up a lot of craft supplies lately which is grand as I'm planning to make several cross stitch gifts for Christmas. I always stick up on embroidery threads and pieces of adia if and when they are cheap enough and even the odd vintage sewing box in the process. Even a French Mustard jar worn out label and all (shown in the top picture) which contained a selection of mismatched vintage buttons is now home to my assortment of vintage sewing bobbins.

And finally to go with my drive lately to get all my photographs printed that I've taken in the last year a 1970's vintage photo album that got only brings back memories of my grandmothers gordy albums but will be a great place to store my own - so much that I've already filled it and will be back out hunting for another this weekend.

What have been your recent vintage finds?

Friday, 16 August 2013

LIFE: On Loosing Weight


I'll admit to being somewhat shy about sharing my decision to attempt to get more active and loss weight but admitting I'm overweight and rather unfit is one of the key places to start in rolling out a positive lifestyle change.

Moving to the US saw about a 2 stone increase in my weight. It's big mixture larger food portions, the cheapness, range and ease of take outs (which wasn't the case when growing up in the countryside), I have a very sedentary lifestyle - I use to walk a good couple of miles everyday walking to and from the bus stop to around York and just generally being lazy. It's been bugging me for over a year I've never been willing enough to make a change but recent photographs of myself (once I gain more confidence I'll share them) I know it's time to make the time and the effort to help myself.

The changes have been slight but in the two weeks I've been doing this I've seen a difference already - yey! Every couple of week i'm hoping to reflect and share the journey, the hurdles, the workouts I love to meal planning and such. But to start off I want to explain the small differences I've already made;

// Being more active
Sitting down all day in front of a computer and the only commute to work being form the bed or sofa to the computer chair makes me an extra lazy person so i'm now aiming to do 3/4 40 minute work outs a week alongside all the walking we do at weekends which in the past two weeks I have been achieving. I've been bookmarking fitness videos on Youtube like crazy and switch back and forth between types of exercise so I love having a huge back stock of workouts and I particularly love those by the FitnessBlender, Popsugar Fitness and BeFit channels. Most mornings begin with a workout and the day i'm typically not doing a workout i'll make up with having a big cleaning session which is still calorie burning. 

// Eating better 
We recently made the switch to organic fruit and veg which I think has helped in my decision to be more healthy although my eating has never been too I just tend to overeat when it comes to snacks, chocolate and home baking. Daily sandwiches have been intermingled with to taco wraps, eating more salads, no more snacking on an evening and drinking a lot more water alongside eating a lot fruit and veg. While I don't try to calorie watch I do document everything into my Fitness Pal food and exercise dairy which is great for seeing calories burned through exercise to food content and a place to measure your progress.

While I don't feel brave enough in writing how much I weigh (at least not right now), in a little over a week I've lost 4lb so it's great to see it's working and I do feel better in myself for being more active. For me it's not just about loosing weight it's about helping myself while becoming both healthier and better for it. 

I thought i'd leave you with a couple of my favorite work out videos from the past couple of weeks that I've been using (all youtube links);

I'd love to hear your weight loss and exercise stories! Share your favorite workout videos and exercise below too! Any tips and hints to share for those of us just starting down the weight loss and exercise journey?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

VINTAGE: 1920's Postcards

Just how cute is this series of vintage hand tinted postcards from the 1920's?  They are from a series of seven postcards of the same glamorous lady in various hats and flowers uploaded by the tumblr user Dolores of 1918 - there's a couple of other such postcard collections on her page so I urge you to check them out. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


Farm Farm Farm Farm
Going back to Pennsylvania took me back to my own childhood growing up in the countryside in and around East Yorkshire. High school was opposite a field of cows, spotting new born lambs in fields on the way to York was always our sign of oncoming spring and warmer times. But with the move to Michigan seeing fields yet along cows or sheep is a little bit of a rarity, at least without a good drive out of suburbia. 

You know when you when you hit the countryside when those smells hit your nose, but for once they were a little welcoming and the rolling green hills, winding tight roads and white picket fencing made a lovely change from endless free ways. Joe and our nephews showed me around what is the working farm at the Round Hill Park - a farm Joe often visited as a child and has a great selection of horses, hens to pigs and cows. It was great to see the children has interested in the animals as they were at dragging me around the place. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

FOOD - Pennsylvania Style

Funnel GEDC0667

Visiting a new state means trying new foods. Often states have their own favorites or their own ways of doing things. Funnel cake (top image) appears to be a Pennsylvania thing, at least in being readily available as historically they are associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch region. What they are is basically unhealthy - batter poured into boiling hot fat and cooking till brown and in this case, sprinkled with confectioners sugar. 

If you've ever watched either Man v Food or the Best Sandwich in America both hosted by Adam Richman visiting the original Primanti Brothers restaurant in Pittsburgh's strip district. The signature dish of Primanti Brothers are sandwiches filled with Italian dressing coleslaw, salad and fries all served inside two pieces of Italian bread. To say the tuna cheese sandwich I had was delicious would be an understatement and they certainly deserve to be in the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die in the USA and Canada guidebook.  

And what would be better for finishing this post then the 42 foot Heinz 57 ketchup sign - through the use of lights the bottle fills up and slowly pours out every thirty seconds.

Would love to hear if you love any food a particular state is associated with!

You can find the original Primanti Bros and their tasty sandwiches at
1832 E. Carson Street,

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Kennywood Kennywood Kennywood Kennywood Kennywood Kennywood

 While America has many theme-parks, only two of them are listed on the National Register of Historic Places - Kennywood located just outside of Pittsburgh is one of them. But it's history dates even prior to it's location as a theme park being the site of the 1775 Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War when the British general Edward Braddock was defeated by French and Canadian troops with their Native American allies. 

But back to theme-parks .. today Kennywood is home to many historic structures and rides, many opening in the early 1900's including three working wooden coasters - The Jackrabbit opening in 1921 is one of the oldest running coasters in the world and popular for it's double dip which jumps you literally out of your seat. The Racer designed in 1927 is one of three of it's type that remain (another is, or at least was in Blackpool, UK) a twin track coaster whereby the cars race each other around the course and Thunderbolt - originally built has the Pippin in 1924 but renamed and lengthened in 1968.  

Due to the hilly terrain of Pittsburgh, coasters work in and round the steep inclines, most particularly in the case of the Phantoms Revenge which when it opened in 1991 was the world's fastest with the longest drop (228ft) into the bottom of a ravine at 85mph - at which point on our visit a guys hat flew straight off resulting in my laughing so far I ended up crying the rest the way around. 

So say I was a fan of rollar coasters prior to our Kennywood visit would be misleading, in fact I was rather apprehensive about our visit possibly because I haven't been on or visited a theme park since school trips to Flamingoland over ten years ago. But even for the non huge coaster fan it's certainly a fun place and there's more then just coasters - there's some great water rides, flying coasters to casseroles and the like. I kept telling Joe my laughing on every ride was a sign of my nerves ... I think it was a sign of just how much I was enjoying myself.

Where's your favorite theme park? Are you a lover of roller-coasters too?