Wednesday, 30 October 2013

LIFE: Halloween at the Zoo

Detroit Zoo Halloween
Detroit Zoo Halloween
Detroit Zoo Halloween
Detroit Zoo Halloween
Pumpkin Animals Pumpkin Animals

America goes all out for pretty much every season and holiday it can get it's hands on. But the big scale, street wide everyone goes all in, really starts a month before Halloween and continues into Christmas. But it's not only houses you'll see decorated, it'll be business and attractions and it was so fun to be able to see all the pumpkins and displays while we were visiting the Detroit Zoo a couple of weeks ago.

Around the entire zoo were hundreds of carved pumpkins - just rows and lines of them everywhere. You could feel their eyes watching you. A short walk around the zoo was festively decorated with characters - a collection of movie stars, sport teams to computer games and TV shows all made from pumpkins which we believe were all made by local school children. Some of the design were really inventive and they were all incredibly fun to walk around during our zoo trip. . My favorite has to be that of the dinosaur - her eye lashes are to die for!

Have you seen any fun Halloween displays?

Monday, 28 October 2013

MICHIGAN: To the Lighthouse

Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Grand Traverse Lighthouse Grand Traverse Bay Rocks Beach Grand Traverse Rocks Beach Grand Traverse

If you ever get the time or the inclination to do so there's a gorgeous lakeside scenic road tour around Lake Michigan which we happened to drive along on a day trip out from Traverse City. At times you'll forget they are even lakes they are so vast, their stretch seems endless like the seas which ultimately lead the lakes to be also known as the Sweetwater Seas. Making the drive north we headed along the lake side to Leelanau State Park to visit the Grand Traverse Lighthouse one set in a popular beauty spot, tourist destination and growing wine region. 

Many take the time to visit not only do the Lake Michigan circular tour, but to stop at all the lighthouses along the way - in fact Michigan has more lighthouses then any US state with 115 still standing although many are now decommissioned. Lighthouses and foghorns during the late 1800's when many of them were built marked and signaled the only way to guide ships through the Great Lakes that surround Michigan, guiding ships between Chicago and out towards New York, you might be surprised to hear that the Great Lakes are some of the most treacherous waters out there.

The Grand Traverse Light built in 1858 guards the entrance between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay right on the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsular and now sits within the Leelanau State Park. While decommissioned in 1972, for a small fee you can now climb your way to the light and gaze out to a further two lighthouses in the far distance. Climbing down onto the beach we were met with a mass of stone snacks, some featuring some incredibly well balanced arrangements of stones marking people's visits over the years. a modern man made monument striking in it's volume although I can imagine many fall victim to rough winter storms. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

FOUND IT FRIDAY: Holiday Antiquing

Antique Shop Hunting

I've been meaning for months to be more dedicated to sharing my vintage finds from estate sales and the like, but it's just never stuck. So I'm running with Joe's idea of trying at least to make it a somewhat semi-permanent fixtures every couple of Fridays in what I'm now terming Found it Friday

Estate sales have been a little hit and miss in the last couple of weeks, coupled with missing a weekend after being stuck with a broken down car, I thought I'd share some of our finds we picked up during our time away. As a couple we love nothing more then finding and poking through local vintage antique malls and flea markets in new places and we certainly came away with some goodies - although mostly of the vinyl and vintage powder compact kind, but I guess you wouldn't expect anything different from us these days!

Vintage Powder Compacts

We took the leisurely coastal route north after coming off the freeway at Bay City and after seeing a couple of antique stores driving through Tawas, we decided to have a quick stop and looksee. There's actually a number of antique malls and it was a great start to our holiday, we managed to pick up three nicely priced compacts - the red powder and rouge compact, Richard Hurbuard somewhat Aztec designed compact and a smaller rogue pot from the Central Michigan Normal from Mt. Pleasant all for $26, bargain!

I find the Central Michigan Normal compact the most intriguing. After doing a little research the title is actually the former name of the Central Michigan University. The university changed it's name just prior to World War 2 so this compact happens to be one of the early ones before mass production took off in post war America. 

Motown Records Sunbeam Mixmaster Vintage Advertisement

Flea markets in the US tend to be a little more junk shop then what i'm use to in the UK, but we popped into one in Oscoda and were met with a huge amount of vinyl. I manged to pick up two Motown vinyls - my first Martha and the Vandellas (famous for Nowhere to Run, Dancing in the Street etc) and a Gladys Knight and the Pips record. I also have another side interest in collecting old vintage advertisements, basically ones taken out of old magazines. I already have a couple up in our kitchen and have dream-like-plans of continuing this when we buy a house these will go with my Fred & Ginger advertisement I picked up at the Royal Oak garage sale earlier this year. At $1 for the two you really can't go wrong and saves me cutting up my own vintage magazines!

Antique ShopVintage Powder Compacts

Our last vintage stop was a gorgeous little antique store called Trillium Woods Antiques somewhat in the middle of nowhere but handily located along Lake Shore Drive more communally the Avenue of Trees scenic drive. This sweet little log cabin store was set within the woods and had some lovely home decor pieces, but as ever we were more interested in the compacts and managed to find two. The first being a leather one, also part of a matching set with a small purse with the most intricate design upon the top and the second, a cute little square design with flowers. Granted the second wasn't the cheapest ($19) in hindsight but certainly welcome in my collection!

Looking back at all out goodies has made me all excited about all the estate sales we have lined up for tomorrow, there looks to be a few good ones so fingers crossed!

Where are your favorite places and shops to get your vintage picks from? Found anything good yourself lately - I would love you hear all about them!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

FOOD: Homemade Apple Pie

Apples and Pie

There's something about the smell of stewing and baking apples that takes me right back to my childhood. As as the delicious smell of apple pies baking in the oven filled the apartment I was dreaming of proper English custard to top them off. Sadly that's a little harder to achieve in the USA but a girl can dream. 

When baking the basics I always reach for my vintage cookbooks whereby recipes are based around staple ingredients any decent baker should already have filling their cupboards. Simple ingredients in time tested recipes which are money saving and delicious. For both the pastry and apple pie recipes I owe to the Boston Cooking School Cook book - my prized edition published in 1936 - although it dates back to 1896 and is increasingly becoming a cooking book I swear by. While you have to play with the cooking times a little, everything is welcomingly straight forward, it calls for everyday items and most importantly, everything turns out tasty.

Apple Pie Recipe
Apple Pie

Pastry is one of those things in baking that takes practice and a little bit of natural talent. If you have naturally cold hands (I knew mine would eventually come in handy) you'll be a whizz at pastry making which was why my gran was a queen at being able to make pastry that was pliable, rollable and tasty. Pastry works best when it's made with cold hands, on a cold surface, with very cold water and after being cooled in the fridge for up to 18 - 24 hours which is why it's always best to make it the day before you need it (and then left out to get back to air temperature). You'll certainly notice a big difference if you don't let it cool prior to baking.

Pastry - enough for one 9" pie

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 butter (or shortening)
Approx 1/4" of very cold, water

Pastry making itself is easy but it takes effort and a skill at knowing when it's just right. Start by mixing in your flour and salt together then cut in your butter and work it in with your fingers. No mixers or spoons - get down and dirty with your fingers. Mix and rub together until the butter is evenly mixed in and no larger then the size of a pea. Dribble the iced water in a little at a time until the dough is damp but not overly sticky. Roll with your hands into a ball and wrap into cling film (plastic wrap) and store in the fridge for a minimum of 18 hours. 

Baked Apple Pie

Personally I don't think you should mess around with the greats like apple pie - for me, simple is best although that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be plain or tasteless, certainly not. Granted you can play around with the spices (nutmeg and cinnamon work best) and throw in some raisins or raspberries if you have them on hand, but otherwise a slice of apple pie - hot or cold with custard, whipped cream or ice cream and i'm a happy girl.

Apple Pie

6 to 8 apples (eating or cooking)
1/2 to 3/4 of white or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg or cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons of lemon juice

After rolling out your pastry to line the bottom of a 9" pie tin, core and cut the apples into eighths. Line around the pie bottom working towards the center and then pile on the remainder. Here you could add in any extras you fancy - lemon rind, raspberries, raisins etc. Then mix together the sugar nutmeg (or cinnamon - or perhaps both if you fancy!) lemon juice and sprinkle all over the pile of apples. Finish off by dotting butter here and there. Wet the edges of the pie with water or milk and top with the upper pastry crust and press the edges tight together - perhaps even press together and decorate with a fork as I did.

After cutting a little vent or two into the top of the pie, bake at 450F for the first 10 minutes, reducing the heat to 350F for the next 45 or so minutes until the pie turns a lovely shade of gold - fitting for the autumnal season.

Don't you just love a slice of apple pie?!

PS - Make sure to check out my little guest post on Katie's blog Gold Dust as I talk about our kitty Smokey!

Monday, 21 October 2013

MIGHIGAN: River Road Scenic Byway

The scenic drive along the River Road National Scenic Byway (which somewhat follows the route of M-65) - is picturesque at any time of the year but maybe even more so when the burnt crisp oranges, yellows and reds bleed into the leaves. This drive which is recommended in many a tourist guide, runs for 22 miles along the southern bank of the Au Sable River ("River of Sand") the drive begins just north of the small town of Hale beside the Five Channels Dam through to the historic logging city of Oscoda on the shores of Lake Huron taking you along shinning outlooks and miles of trees, sand dunes and marshes.

We happened to drive through, past and along parts of the scenic drive the week we where in the area, but for our first visit we drove the entire length and while we were running out between showers, we tried to sight-see at a majority of the overlooks and places of interest along the way - we would have seen more however this drive is also within the National Huron Forest so the dreaded old government shut down effectively closed parts down - for instance stairs down to see the natural springs at Iargo - a historic stopping point of Indians were closed, the visitors center at the Lumberman's Monument was closed alongside all the loos and bins. Other then that, the shut down nor the rain wasn't deterring us or many others.

Westgate Overlook

Driving in from the west, the Westgate Overlook is the first stop on the route and offered a stunning overlook downriver across two viewing platforms. The fall colour here was the most incredible along the route, those oranges and reds truly stick with you.

Westgate Overlook Michigan Westgate Overlook Michigan Government Shutdown

Iargo Springs 

Second stop was another panoramic viewing spot over the river, yet one that has great historical significance over the centuries. To Indians this area held great importance and was often used as a meeting spot and a drinking water source. With the turn of the century early loggers began constructing dams to divert the water into their camps and by the 1920's the springs were a popular recreation source for Europeans with trails later built in 1934. The trails continue to be available alongside more recent boardwalks and dams. However on our shutdown time visit, with signs suggesting heavy fines for going down the steps - we chickened out. So sadly we never saw the springs themselves, however the panoramic views were beautiful enough. 

Iargo Springs Michigan Iargo Springs Michigan

Canoer's Memorial

Just a little further away there's another pull in with trails, views but additionally a memorial. Built in 1950, the Canoer's Memorial commemorates those who have canoed along the 240 mile stretch between Grayling to Oscoda in the annual race, the white of the monument certainly striking against the backdrop of red, greens and yellows.

Canoers Memorial

Foote Pond Over Look

Often called Eagles Nest from the bald eagles that often nest in the area, the Foote Pond overlook offers views over the Au Sable River and the Foote Pond created by the Foote Dam a little further upstream. The rather steep sand dune running down from the edge of the outlook runs straight down to the waters edge and was dotted with footprint markers of those a little more adventurous then I - I could just see me landing head first in the water after tumbling midway down or something!

Foote Pond Fall Michigan Foote Pond Fall Michigan

Foote Site Park

Foote Site Park is where the famous Au Sable River Queen launches it's boat tours, and even in October the queue was huge when we drove past on another day. The park has a small beach area and what appears to be a great spot for bird watching.

Au Sable River Boat Fall Colours Michigan

Finally as the rain was starting to clear we reach the end of the drive in the historic city of Oscoda - one of the few cities claiming to be the home of the popular American Folklore figure Paul Bunyan - in fact a huge statue to him stands along the cities main street. It's a small little city once built around the logging industry but now subject to the ebbs and flow of tourism, mom and pop diners standing alongside the creeping numbers of fast food chains.

If you ever get the chance to drive in America whether you live here or visiting, I urge you to check out the American Byways website which suggests scenic tours such as this River Road Tour - it's a get base for getting off the freeways and seeing not only wonderful areas, but what I call "real America".

Where are your favorite places to go to for a scenic drive?

Friday, 18 October 2013

LIFE: Fall Colours

Fall Colours Michigan Fall Colours Michigan Fall Colours Michigan Fall Colours Michigan Fall Colours Michigan Fall Colours Michigan

Fall - with strong early Germanic roots,  fall became the popular definition for describing autumn (actually a French word) during the 16th century. As it fell from use within the UK, fall migrated with the early English travelers in their new colonies - the USA, hence it's use there today.

As someone who has experienced fall in both countries, nothing in Yorkshire could ever compare to the fall colours I know find in the Mid West. Thankfully you don't have to travel far in Michigan to catch a glimpse and be amazed by the colours here, yet the colours are even more striking when all you can see is the tops of trees shining out in shades of burnt oranges, crisp yellows to burning reds, all still singed with their former green life all the way to the horizon.

Here in Michigan the peak colour season runs between the very end of September through to late October with the height of colour migrating south through the state as the month progresses. Our stay in the north was timed perfectly for seeing this years peak colours, although there was a remarkable fading by the end of our stay as the leaves sadly started drifting to the ground.

Garrison Keiler shared a poem on The Writers Almanac the Wednesday morning during our stay, it seemed to fit the approaching season and the slow vanishing of these colours to the ground just right;

Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon! Too soon!

Taken from The Pennycandystore Beyond the El, Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I just want these colours to always last! Where are your favorite places to see the autumnal colours?!

Photographs where taken across our visit including - Rose City, between Grayling and Traverse City, Westgate Overlook, between Kalkaska and Petoskey, along US-23 and the Calacite Quarry outside Rogers City

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

LIFE: On Getting Away

Autumn Lake Autumn Lake
Cabin Toasted Marshmallows Swan Mist on the Lake

You might have noticed I've been a little absent of late - we've just been busy road tripping and exploring again this time up in the north of Michigan. Thing is, Joe doesn't do anything by half especially when it comes to presents be it birthdays or Christmas. So for my 27th birthday, which was at the end of September he excelled himself in booking us a four night stay in a cabin literally on a lakeside in the middle of nowhere surrounded by the most incredible autumnal colours I've ever seen.

The cabin itself is one of three located on Bear Lake in northern Michigan outside of Rose City - my first sample of small town rural America. A somewhat sleepy town, but one ideal and central for exploring all the forests, parks and lakes the region is bursting with. Our visit however began on day five of the government shut down and has many of the northern scenic attractions - from the Huron National Forest to the Sleeping Bear Dunes are government run visiting them became more of a challenge.  "Closed" signs were hasty taped across public toilets and bins were chained shut, yet many visitors were still making their way on the tails even if they couldn't make use of the tourist centers. 

Nights were spent in battleship duels, star gazing to cider drinking, making bonfires and yes trying my first ever toasted marshmallows (I had a sheltered childhood I will be honest). When life feels a constant uphill struggle to pay day, to loud neighbors and free-ways at every turn while constantly being pulled into social media and technology our trip away was a very welcome escape from life - no phone signal, no TV, no wifi - even if the way home didn't turn out like planned.

I'm hoping to get out a load of blog posts about just what we got up to with many a picture of just how gorgeous the leaf colour gets in the Mid West in autumn - truly stunning! 

Friday, 4 October 2013

REVIEW: Dutch Oven & Cast Iron Cooking

Cast Iron Cookbook

It's time to pull out, dust off and reuse that cast iron skillet that grandma once lovingly used in her kitchen as dutch oven and cast ironing cooking is being rediscovered.  Today we take non-stick pans for granted yet their introduction saw cast iron cookware being pushed to the back of kitchen cupboards. Nevertheless the advantages of cast iron cookware are once again being praised.

Dutch Cooking & Cast Iron Cooking by Peg Couch brings this method of cooking to those of us who may not of considered it's merits. This form of cooking is not only versatile - you can basically take the pan direct from stove top to oven, but it's durable and green - certainly an item to pass from generation to generation. It's also a natural, non-stick method of cooking. While cast iron cookware requires care and seasoning, it's thoroughly outlined alongside it's history before we get into the huge variety of exciting and delicious recipes. More so, many of these recipes are written to be made in bulk with many offering 8 to 10 servings. Directions are offered for all recipes for stove/oven or fire cooking making it a handy go to cookbook for camping trips and it's food that you'll want to share! 

Cast Iron Cookbook

While the mouthwatering photo inserts might grab your attention alone, you'll find over 70 everyday favorites, from Zippy Scrambled Eggs to mouthwatering Swiss Crabmeat Bake all organised by meal times. Recipes call for simple, everyday ingredients - again great if your out camping.

With weekly trips to estate sales we have a couple of cast iron skillets but I've never known just what or just how to use this vintage cookware. So, putting this cookbook and my skillet to the test I decided to try out the One-Pan Brownies to keep us company on our forthcoming road-trip.


To say these brownies were a hit with the husband would be an understatement and they are certainly my favorite batch I've ever made. The recipe itself was straight forward but detailed enough to cook from. Not having to line or prepare a tin was a big advantage alongside melting, stirring and baking everything in the same skillet was a welcomed plus! The brownies themselves were lovely and moist although very rich in their denseness. Melting the chocolate and butter together creates a wonderfully smooth batter and it's nice to have a brownie recipe without nuts for a change.

So if like me you have a piece of cast iron cookware just dying to be used in your kitchen or you've been using one for a while, Dutch Oven & Cast Iron Cooking would be an ideal fit to add to your cookbook collection. However, unless I'm cooking in bulk to then freeze, some of the serving sizes are a little on the large size for just the two of us but I can certainly see it's merits for taking camping and eating with friends. But this cookbook has found a place on my shelf all the same most notably for the pie and cake recipes - I mean who wouldn't want to try baking a nutty hot fudge cake or a berry crumble?!

Have you ever tried cast iron cookware?

Dutch Oven & Cast Iron Cooking by Peg Couch from Fox Chapel Publishing is released on November 1st, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-56523-817-6 Retail Price $14.99.
Disclosure - Fox Chapel Publishing provided this book to me free of charge for review purposes, all opinions and images are my own. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

VINTAGE: The Bride and Homemaker

These wonderful advertisements were printed inside The Bride and Homemaker of Detroit, a 1953 booklet filled with page after page of advice for the soon to be bride. Articles denote just what the groom pays for on the big day (the rings, clergyman's fees, wedding licence, gloves and buttonnaires, bachelor dinner, a gift for the bride to the honeymoon). While the feminist in me fall queasy at the thought of recipes to find "the way to a man's heart" or that helping your husband have a spanking smart and clean suit will help him to success the semiologist is always looking for the hidden meanings to femininity representations and the like.

Nevertheless vintage advertisements have an art and are a joy in and of themselves. Upon my kitchen walls hang a couple of 1950's food product advertisements, they are bold, eye catching and go into immense detail which certainly lacks in contemporary airbrushed adverts. While these adverts certainly won't be getting ripped from their booklet any time soon, a bit of brightening through fotofuze and they look as good as new.

Don't you just love them?!