Monday, 30 September 2013

LIFE: 27 North American Places I Want to Visit

So today is the big 27 for me, i'm not really one to go sharing everything I received so I thought I'd throw out something a little different to celebrate. While I hate the term "bucket list" instead I'll call it my one-day-I-would-love-to-visit list of places in North America. 

Autumn colours in central and northern Michigan
Washington DC (probably more then 27 places there alone!)
Headlands International Dark Sky, Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
Chicago (again!)
Fallingwaters, Pennsylvania
Dollywood - yes Dolly Parton has her own theme park
Dawsons & Stevens Classic Dinner - 1950's styled diner with tonnes of coke memorabilia - Grayling, Michigan
Cedar Point, Ohio
UFO welcome center, South Carolina
Eastern Market, Detroit
Florida Keys
Laural Highlands, Pennsylvania
Hitsville, Motown Museum, Detroit
Yellowstone National Park
The Grand Canyon
Cincinnati Zoo
Le Claire, Iowa - Home of the American Pickers show and store
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Margret Mitchel's House (Gone With the Wind author), Atlanta, Georgia
Windsor, Ontario - merely for the view of Detroit over the river!
Niagara Falls
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Drive in movie (not sure it counts but it's on my list!)
Mount Rushmore and the Blackshills of South Dakota - I blame this on Calamity Jane

So there you go, a good mixture of local, semi local and more road trip worthy destinations don't you think?! Some of these places are on our to do list in the next year or so which will be great to experience. But as you can see no New York - why? Well for some reason while I love the big likes and my love for Chicago runs deep, I've never felt the same desire to visit New York, I would rather visit and spend hours and hours in Washington's museums I will admit! 

Which North American places would be on your must visit list?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

LIFE: Orchards and Apple Picking

Apple Picking 2 Apple Picking 6 Apple Picking 1 Apple Picking 5 Apple Picking 4

Growing up I climbed trees, a lot. It was part of the deal in autumn with old apple trees in the garden and summer was spent ducking from falling heavy apples while using the trees for shade. I was raised on apple pies and crumbles, our apple trees producing huge cooking apples that were stewed and stored away in the freezer to see us through the year. 

Along with the popularity of cider mills in the US, are orchards, but with the ease of just popping down to the store to grab a bag of them, I wasn't expecting there to be over an hour wait to grab a bag to go apple picking when we popped down to the orchard (the same trip we went raspberry picking). Each week different apple varieties are on offer - Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Cortland to Michigan Spy (a cooking apple) to Gala and for $17 we headed out with our 1/2 bushel bag - they suggest it's large enough for 40 apples (I think we topped that) like I child I was just as happy getting a tractor ride around the orchards and left the apple tree climbing to Joe, who like me as a child, appeared to be in his element. 

As I write this the delicious smell of caramelizing brown sugar dribbling over piles of Golden Delicious baking in a Dutch Apple Cake is drifting through the apartment. Just what I get baked and canned with 20 or so pounds of apples I'll let you know in a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

LIFE: Raspberries and Cider Mills

Autumn's arrival on Sunday was met with a day at the somewhat local Erwins Orchard and Cider Mill in South Lyon - a place with fields of orchards and pick your own raspberries alongside their infamous apple cider and doughnuts.

Nothing beats the taste of hand picked sun warmed raspberries and it became a family tradition to fill up countless recycled margarine boxes, freezing them until there was a need for more home made jam, stewing them into a sauce with ice creams and the like. The PYO places in Yorkshire were quiet, small affairs, their popularity waning so I, wrongly in hindsight expected the same to be true here in Michigan. Oh how wrong was I! I should of known due to the popularity of how quickly canning and preserves books get re-homed that this wasn't going to be a quiet affair, instead there were queues for packing to the huge queue to even buy a bag for apple picking - but more on that another time.

Cider Mills here are far from only being about the cider, they are full of family entertainment and yummy, tempting foods. Here there were petting zoo's, 3D movies to kids rides, corn mazes and sunflower gardens - my favorite - but I loved the rows on rows of raspberries and sounds of bees humming around. While it's a little late in the season for the raps there was certainly enough to find and fill our punnets full, now the mission begins to work out just what to do with them all!

Have you been raspberry picking this year? Ever visited a cider mill? I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, 20 September 2013

LIFE: Newcastle and My One University Regret

Eight years ago this week my life was packed into a car and I headed north to spend the next four years as a student at Newcastle University. Coming from a rural, back end of beyond kind of childhood, moving to the city was a big deal - it was exciting, a new start and certainly changed me for the better in many ways. Newcastle was really the only city, and only university I ever wanted to study at mainly due to family history of the north east, the culture and just loving the city in general. While I don't regret much in life and hindsight in a marvelous thing, but there is one thing I regret that I didn't do more of while in Newcastle - nope not the hangovers, missing seminars or cheap drinks, it was not making myself find the time to explore the city and the region more. 

If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know I love exploring my local area - be it around my hometown, York, Yorkshire and now Detroit and Michigan. This love for exploration in my locality only really started once I really got into taking photographs and more so through blogging. As I only started blogging in the last couple of months of completing my Masters in 2009, Newcastle and blogging never really crossed each other and I often wish it had. 

View towards the Tyne Bridge when the Tuxedo Princess floating nightclub (a hot spot for students on a Monday nights) with it's revolving dance floor but horrid smell of vomit - it closed in 2008 and by 2011 was sinking in the River Tees. The Monument which they decorated in the Toon colours.

I have no real excuse - after the fun of freshers I became a bit of a geek. Through being the first in my family, being working class and receiving a fair few bursaries and funding to even go to university I felt I had to prove myself and my worth at even being there, so I became a book worm and I'd feel guilty when I wasn't reading and researching. In hindsight I wish i'd taken then time at weekends to hop on the metro - visited Tynemouth and Whitley Bay, popped down to Wallsend to visit the eastern end of Hadrain's Wall to actually visiting the castle in Newcastle rather then merely walk pass it a couple of times. I somewhat kick myself when I think how Newcastle would have been a great base to pop up north to Edinburgh or Durham on the train. Oh hindsight how marvelous you are! Granted I often visited the Laing and the Baltic art galleries, but I could of done more, I wish i'd of breathed in more of the history, the life of Newcastle.

Granted I did go and visit things and many of my favorites include;
  • Quayside Market - Sundays 9.30 am - 4 pm along the River Tyne under the Tyne Bridge
  • Hancock Museum 
  • Laing Art Gallery
  • Jesmond Dene 
  • Grainger Market - great fruit and veg stalls
  • Walk along Gray Street - often voted as one of the finest streets in Britain
  • Baltic Art Gallery
  • The Sage Gateshead - even if your not seeing a music concert there, just going inside is awesome!
  • Severn Stories - over in Ouseburn valley is the National Center for Children's Books, they often have some great meet and greets with authors there. 
  • Heaton Park and it's castle
  • St James' Park - a must if you're a football fan, our freshers flat had a view looking out to the stadium on one side. 
While i'm proud of my Geordie family roots and of being alumni of Newcastle University, I sadly took the city for granted, it was only a little over an hour on the train from York and I had imagined living and working there after university so exploring was always put off for another day. But as I have learnt all too well, life doesn't always work out how you ever dreamed it might and still I miss that city. 
The view from my attic bedroom window in my fourth year in looking south towards Byker. I spent three years after living in Newcastle itself living in Heaton. I miss a view of hills! 
So forgive me if I rattle on about Detroit or Michigan too much, i'm just documenting the places for myself to remember everything on my doorstep before life changes again. Reflecting and remembering my university city certainly makes me see that any place - a village to a city, even a country should never be taken for granted, it needs to be explored, enjoyed and lived in.

Did you explore your university city much? Where did you go to university? And if you've ever been to Newcastle i'd love to hear your favorite places to visit!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

VINTAGE - Recipes Found Between the Covers

The wonderful thing with buying vintage cookbook is finding all the handwritten, newspaper and product leaflets filled with vintage recipes that have been stored, used as page markers and saved between the pages of these cookbooks. I always imagine the delicately written handwritten recipes notated on everything from war lumber recipes to invoices were those handed down from mother and daughter for generations or just quickly notated out in pencil while baking, piles of flour, sugar and butter all over the kitchen table as they remember a recipe of old. Many of the booklet tear outs date from the 1930's and earlier and I don't have the heart to throw them aside.

Perhaps I should sell them with the books they come from, while sometimes I keep them logged between the pages, more often I selfishly keep them for myself which brings the issue on how to preserve them. For now they are all just loose and stored in poly-wallets, but with many of them being double sided I wonder how to store them proper to admire them in the future (I'd love your ideas if you have them!).

Aren't you intrigued by the crazy cake and the cheddar apple bread recipes?!! I know I am! 

Monday, 16 September 2013

FOOD: Sloppy Joes

I thought we'd continue with a look at American food for all my non American followers and talk about one of the main staples of American food culture - the Sloppy Joe. This staple - a combination of mince, ketchup and spices tends to date from the 1920's from an Iowa restaurateur began serving the aforementioned ingredients between two slices of bread. But as with most things there is another story that war time rationing lead to housewives mixing ground beef which was rationed due to the war effort, with other ingredients to make it go further. 

Sloppy Joe reached it's mass appeal when Hunt's introduced it's Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce in a can back in 1969 - making it even easier to prepare and it's still available to this day.  The sloppy part to the name is easily explained - it's a very very sloppy thing to eat, prepare to get it over your face and hands. But as to the Joe part of the name, well there are several suggestion for that. Joe was possibly the name of the cook in the Iowa restaurant. Another theory suggests the name spread due to the vast success of the Sloppy Joe's restaurant in Florida's Key West Region, or that the name came from just a guy named Joe's appearance after eating such a sandwich. 

Sloppy Joe's was actually something that took me a while to get around to liking. I wasn't stuck on it at first and actually it wasn't until I started making it myself that I really started to like it. We'd been buying it out of the aforementioned Manwich can but on our little mission to save money and be healthier I found a recipe on the old Internets and took to making it. It's really quick and really easy to make and doesn't call for anything that you can easy get if you don't have it in your cupboards already. Typically you eat it in a hamburger bun, me on my healthy kick I stick it on a flour tortilla shell. Either way - super yummy! 

Sloppy Joes - 4 servings. 

  • About a cup of mince (beef, turkey etc) 
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper 
  • 3/4 teaspoon of garlic powder 
  • One big 1 1/2 teaspoon dollop of yellow mustard 
  • One big cup of ketchup 3 teaspoons of brown sugar 
  • Salt and black pepper to taste 

After chopping up your green pepper and onions, through them into your frying pan with the mince and brown over a medium heat. Then stir in your garlic and brown sugar alongside your ketchup and mustard. The last two you can alter to your taste, the more sloppy the more ketchup you add, I always end up adding a little extra of both just to make it sloppy and with a kick! Then all you need to do is mix it all up and simmer for a good 20 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper if that's your thing and serve (typically) on a bun.

I dare you, once you make it yourself, you'll never want to eat it out of a tin, every again!

Have you ever had sloppy Joe's? What's your favorite American food?

Friday, 13 September 2013

VINTAGE: Postcard Memories

Heidi doesn't like Christmas, university, lawyers nor her life she declares, in fact the only thing that seemed to make her excited was a gift of train tickets "home" from New York. Buying and collecting postcards you get an odd glimpse into personalities, occurrences and social histories. You find postcards offering general chit chat to full diary entries of a days events. Say like Heidi and her series of five postcards mailed to Bill up in Stony Brook, there's no suggestion of their relationship - perhaps brother and sister or old school time friend, it's certainly open and confessional. You glimpse a hint at Heidi's life, she seems a little dramatic speaking often of lawyers and schools. I often wonder what Bill penned back in response. 

Surprisingly I've never mentioned my other blog here on Dear Ms. Leigh. It's not so much a blog, but Vintage Postcard Memories is basically a visual collection of postcards found across the internet sitting happily alongside postcards I've sold and ones I've added to my unintended collection - the ones that end up too battered and busied to ever sell alongside being a sucker in keeping Chicago, Detroit and Yorkshire postcards. Anyway after gaining over 100 followers on there I thought i'd give it a shout out if vintage postcards are your thing too! 

Myself, I normally store my vintage postcards in an old scrapbook I came across or pinning and poking them between things to have them on show. Recently with help of some bakers twine and paperclips I managed to hang some across my dresser/desk. I have wild intentions of hanging them from wall to wall in my when-we-buy-a-house spare room come office come craft room.

If you have a tumblr leave me a link - i'd love to give you a follow! 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

LIFE: On Looking Up

If there's one thing I do when sightseeing local or otherwise is to look up. I'm always doing it. Constantly. It's a force of habit that I don't know when it started until someone actually pointed out how I commented on things "up there". 

I frequently missing things right in front of me but i'll always notice the fancy cornice edgings around a building, empty space were fire escapes precariously would have stood, carved faces, arched windows on the top floor and how the metal of a build intersects the sky. Looking up can reveal former names of old buildings, it's date to former uses. I often find older buildings to be just as, if not more so detailed and decorated around the tops of the structures as they are at the ground. 

The buildings you look up at don't even necessarily have to be tall, they can be houses with smoke markings upon the outer walls or chimney stacks, they can be smooth edged roof such as the entrance to the Renaissance Building shown in the bottom right photograph. 

Looking up allows the comparison and juxtaposition of space. Of man made entering the sky, reflections upon glass structure fronts, of bright blue skies against black steel. Or trees balancing space with structures. Trees themselves are more then worthy of being looked up at. This habit of mine it more and more often coming through in my photography - those shown above are all from Detroit, the presence of these buildings have made me turn my camera willing upwards dwarfing both myself and my camera with it and I hope to focus more on the details "up there" in the future. 

It's so easy to see the world with your camera away from the street eye level, there's a whole world above our heads and it's waiting to be spoken to.

Do you ever look up?

Monday, 9 September 2013

FOOD - The Coney Island Dog


So, lets start a new week with something yummy! If you didn't notice on my Primanti Brothers, we're big fans of watching Man Vs Food and if you've ever watched it yourself might have seen Adam Richman eating Coney Island Hot Dogs - more often just known as the Coney. With a name like Coney you might expect such a food to be from from New York/Coney Island - the name merely refers to the hot dog itself, but it's origin is actually one of Greek-American and of Detroit in the early 1900's.

The Detroit Coney is basically a beef hot dog topped in a meat, beanless chili sauce finished off with mustard and diced onions. It's an all in hands on sticky, messy tasty goo of goodness. When visiting Detroit eating a Coney is a must and it's bad showing on my part that it's taken me nearly two years to getting around to trying one, nevertheless they are awesome.

But to add to the fun, there's a bid family story about the Coney Island, one that you could say splits the city in two. In 1903 Gust Keros immigrated to Detroit from Greece and unable to find employment Keros began shining shoes and selling hot dogs topped in chili out of a cart upon the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette Blvd. By 1917, Keros had opened American Coney Island upon Lafayette and shortly after brought his brother to America. However, and rumors and tales are open to exactly why, but his brother opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door using just a slightly different sauce.

Nearly 100 years later, American Coney and Lafayette Coney still sit next to each other in Downtown Detroit, both open and both serving their different takes on the Coney. This time we chose Layette and for $12 you can get 4 Coney's, a plate of fries and two cokes - absolute bargain. The Formica long shared tables, the green tiled walls and being able to eat at a counter if you wish certainly takes you back in time to the diners of old. The mustard sets off the chili just right, it's sloppy, it's messy and the natural casing to the hot dogs gives an amazing crunch. Lafayette is not has big, it's not has loud from the street front but it doesn't need to be - their chili says it all. - next time it'll be the American Coney. But even as Adam Richman - who visited and ate at both in his show, you can't really say which is better.

Have you ever had a Coney Island? Would you?

Friday, 6 September 2013

VINTAGE: US Capitol Vintage Powder Compact

So tonight we're off out to try a pizza place with it's very own stone oven for it's pizza's for our date night. But it's a kinda of special date night in the fact we've somewhat celebrating being together four years. So in four years together Joe has come to know me very well and as a sweetie gave me this vintage tin powder compact showing the US Capitol framed by cherry blossom in Washington DC for our 4 year anniversary on Wednesday. This enamel compact has an upper disk in the top which opens to reveal the metal stiff and powder well. The metal stiff in this compact denotes it as being a somewhat early compact - of an era before plastic was mass produced and therefore cheap. The lady would turn the metal disk clockwise thus grating against the powder which would come through the small holes in the stiff therefore allowing the lady to use just as much or as little powder she required at any time. 

Washington DC is right up there on my must visit list hence why Joe brought it for me, it probably says something about me that Washington Dc is on the list and New York doesn't feature. It also not only goes with my souvenir compacts but it's a matching compact for my Chicago Buckingham Fountain Compact as shown in the bottom photograph.

This week not only marks four years of me and Joe being together and of everything we overcame to be together, but it's also four years since I started collecting compacts which all started with one gold Stratton. Four years on the collection stands at 65 and still going strong.

Have a lovely weekend everyone, got anything excited planned? 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Monday in the US was good old Labor Day so we opted to head downtown have a wander and eat Coney's (more on this food goodness in a later post). Labor Day was also the last day of the 34th annual Detroit Jazz Festival which just happens to be the worlds largest free jazz festival. Food Trucks and merchandise stalls line the streets between the stages in Campus Martius with a backdrop of fountains and towering buildings down to Hart Plaza and it's stunning setting along the Detroit River. We managed to tie in listening to some music, wandering and walking off our Coney and it was great to see so many people downtown enjoying both the music and the sunshine. We certainly plan to spend some more time there next year.

And don't you just love those brightly in your face coloured chairs - they were all set around some fake grass and over sized chess games. They'd certainly brighten up your garden sitting on those - I might have to try and hunt some of those out to add to my "when we finally get out house" list! 

Monday, 2 September 2013

LIFE: Weight Loss and Finding Balance


Four weeks into my change into becoming more active and healthier, I've been finding and adopting the method that works for me. To make a lifestyle change and to make it one that can be easy to stick to and importantly, enjoyable I've accepted it all comes down to finding what works for you. Culling sugar and having two hour daily workout sessions may work for some, but it would never work for me. I love food, I love a take out pizza, i'm somewhat lazy, I accept this and i'm working with it in my attempt at being healthy. 

Normally I would have given up with trying to be more active three weeks ago. Now after finishing my forth I've seen a 12kg loss alongside a good couple of inches here and there. My arms are stronger, my stamina is certainly up. I'm enjoying cooking with healthier foods and seeking them out in the stores. I could wish to loose that amount every month but that would be unhealthy, I could loose it and be starved every night. But I don't want to be. 

Monday to Friday's I eat pretty well, wraps for lunch, a fruit or two and drink plenty of iced water along the way. I'm using more salads and  more vegetables, working out good calories from the bad. I've added in my calories consumed graph from the last month - the red line indicates the amount of calories I should be eating and as you can see it's a work in progress. Some days I'm way others way under, and while eating healthy is about lowering your calorie intake, it's not about culling it completely or you'll risk your health in the long term. (Also the graph doesn't show the "gained" calories from exercise, so ya know ... )

I still have a slice of toast with orange marmalade if I'm hungry come 8PM. I'll still have a cocktail or a beer on a Friday or Saturday night and we'll still eat out once a week or order a pizza. I love food to much to stop eating the "bad" stuff and if I was to cut it out completely, I'd of fallen off the wagon weeks ago. 

Moderation and balance. 

Fun workouts really help to, there's nothing worse then miserable slow workouts and two weeks ago I came across Cassey on her youtube channel Blogilates her enthusiasm is infectious and has certainly pushed me through the work out to the end. So my top three workouts that I'm going to share this week are all from her and I've certainly noticed a positive impact from doing all three;

Progress so far since 30th July;
  • Weight loss - 12kg
  • Waist - 1 1/2" loss
  • Hips - 2"
Here's to another four weeks ahead although my birthday at the end of the month may throw me off a little, but that is certainly allowed in my book!