Thursday, 27 February 2014

PITTSBURGH: Downtown, Where All The Lights Are Bright

Pittsburgh Downtown Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Downtown Pittsburgh Downtown Pittsburgh Downtown Pittsburgh1

I have to admit I love driving and walking through the downtown areas of America's cities. Pittsburgh is no exception, in fact it's one of my favorites in a pushing shoving with Chicago kind of way. The 'burg is a city with a great clash of early and contemporary architecture set against a backdrop of the rivers, 10 bridges in the downtown area alone, and the hills that the rest of the city is built upon. While I was talking last week about a mentioned potential interest in moving north to Traverse City - well it's in competition with Pittsburgh. 

Most cities in the US are formed around the square grid system, yet in Pittsburgh the two rivers - the Allegheny and the Monongahela which merge at the tip of the downtown area, come to form the triangular system. One which can be utterly confusing to the traveller but does come to form some interesting insertions, triangular buildings and merging skylines.

Pittsburgh is, like Detroit another great city to look up and be amazed. Reflections of old stonework, ageing outside fire escapes mirrored upon the modern glass of skyscrapers. Even more delightful is spying old painted advertisements upon the side of buildings, while their colors may have faded, to me they are still worthy of being appreciated.

Both Detroit and Pittsburgh were cities born out of industry - Detroit the automobile, Pittsburgh's fortune from steel. Yet their fortunes took opposite twists in the 1950's and onwards. You could get sad thinking Pittsburgh's downtown is what Detroit could have been like now, perhaps it's time to see it has what Detroit will one day be again in the future.

You can see downtown Pittsburgh at night here from Mt. Washington.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

BOOKS: Goodreads Tags

If there's one resolution for 2014 that I've been pleased with it's outcome already is refinding my love for reading - some books out of my normal comfort zone - a couple of science ones, a memoir and some fiction I wouldn't normally have picked up without winning them through Goodreads. So when I saw this Goodreads based tag upon Sarah's blog, while I'm not necessarily all over tags, I'm somewhat all over books. So let's jump into the deep end!

1. What was the last book you marked as 'read'?

Last week I finally finished reading Carl Sagan's book Cosmos - a book which originally accompanied a TV show here in the US back in the 1980's. I'll be the first to admit I wouldn't of picked this book up without meeting Joe and knowing that Sagan was one of his favorite scientists but it's nice to try something different for a change. Broadly speaking the book narrates how science and civilisation grew up together and therefore how we can explore the planets, space and ultimately the future of our own planet (there'll be a full review come March in my February book round up).

2. What are you currently reading?

Speaking of books I wouldn't necessarily reach for prior to to 2014, Mermaid the memoir of Eileen Cronin who was born without legs after her mother took thalidomide during the 1960's. It's a heartfelt and heartbreaking read. 

3. What was the last book you marked as 'to be read'?

The Hollow Ground by Natalie Harnett which is inspired by the true events of Pennsylvania underground fires in coal county (Centralia and Carbondale). An 11 year old girl whose family is forced to seek refuge with estranged grandparents after the underground fires ravaged the town formerly known as home. Even today, fifty years later the fires still burn away. 

4. What book do you plan on reading next?

Hard decision - I have a couple of books on the American independence and the role of pirates and George Washington biographies, it'll probably end up being one of those but I can never tell until I put the book I'm reading down.

5. Do you use the star rating system?

Yeah, but it's hard at times, especially without half stars - then it's always a dilemma - do you round up or round down?! I mean a book might be good, but was it that good - or even that bad?!

6. Are you doing a 2014 Reading Challenge?

That I am, I challenged myself to reading 30 books, apparently I'm already 4 books ahead.

7. Do you have a wish list?

All the books that I don't already own in my to read pile i'd say were on my wishlist. I certainly wouldn't turn a book down.

8. What book do you plan to buy next?

I don't often buy books in the sense of going to a bookstore and/or a website and treating myself - mainly because i'm really tight with books and I always grew up buying second hand ones from charity shops. These days I'll pick up a couple each week at an estate sale or two but you can never tell what you might find or come across which is half the fun.

9. Do you have any favorite quotes, would you like to share a few?

I don't really "do" quotes.

10. Who are your favourite authors?

Too many to name and in no particular order - Melvin Burgess, Daphne du Maurier, Charlotte Bronte, Christian Wolmar, H. G. Wells I guess they would always be at the top of my list.

11. Have you joined any groups?

Nope, I spend too much time online to feel the need to be drawn into anything else. 

12. Are there any questions you'd like to add?

Not really - but anyone can feel free to ask me any book related questions if they'd like.

I'd love to hear how you'd answer any of these questions!

On Goodreads? Add me

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

LIFE: Icy Shores

IMG_20140222_104644 Lake St Clair Lake St Clair

Seeing grass for the first time in about a month made this girl happier than you could ever imagine. This week the temperatures broke zero for the first time in an absolute age, the snow has begun to melt (well excluding the insane snow mountains ploughed up in car parks because they won't be melting for months) nevertheless we certainly haven't got rid of the snowstorms all together, in fact last week they occurred with thunderstorms and now there's talk of another polar vortex for this week.

The suns also playing tricks, that bright sunshine isn't as warm as it would have you believe. It's actually been nice to have the windows open for a change, often they ended too frozen shut to even attempt to get any fresh air inside.

Again we happened to be driving along Jefferson for estate sales and this time I actually remembered to take a camera. Granted not much of the lake from the roadside appears to have changed since last time, but in general the Great Lakes on are whole are verging on 88% ice coverage which this awesome NASA image shows. But I bet the pilot and travelers of this small plane are more than a little thankful for the ice cover when the engine of the plane they were flying in quit mid flight, a frozen Lake Huron became the perfect landing spot.

So much ice - I hope it's warmer with you!

Monday, 24 February 2014

LIFE: #PhotoAnHour

I've been meaning to a photo an hour post for quite a while, but working from home, in my pj's by the TV isn't the most ideal for finding pretty things to see and do that are worthy of being noted. So I tagged along for the first time with Jane's #PhotoAnHour challenge (which you can follow along or join in month under it's hashtag and see who else joined in). Being a Saturday we were busy and out driving around estate sales, so at least I get to share some of the places and things we find, plus some extras.

9AM - Using the first of our buy one get one coupons from Biggby Coffee, the day began with a Mocha Cameral Latte, rather tasty. Joe had a Neapolitan Latte which apparently wasn't all that good, sad times. Estate sales tend to either start at 9 or 10am, so we headed to our first and got warmed up on this icy Saturday morning. 
10AM - Catching a quick photograph of Detroit along I-75 has we drove from one sale to another. At this point my phone was being pissy because i'd been in a couple of basements and it likes to have a hissy fit and need restarting, wah. 


11AM - Driving back along Lake St Clair between sales in Grosse Point and St Clair the lakes even more icy than it was the last time, chilly times indeed. I have a lot more photographs of the lake so there'll probably be another post on it soon, just because.
12PM - Picnic in the car (first week in a long time that it's actually been warm enough to do that) up in Clinton Township of a tuna sarnie with dortios, every sandwich always tastes extra yummy when you stick crisps inside right?!


1PM - Leaving the 7th estate sale of the day up still in Clinton Township, yeap 7. We actually visited 8 this weekend, which although seems a lot, in the summer months it can be double that. Integrity are one of our favourite companies that run such sales, mainly because of their last day $5 bag deals which means I get to stock up on craft stuff, cookbooks and vinyl's. At this sale we bagged three bags of cookbooks. Score.
2PM - Pit stop at Target for windscreen washer fluid for the car, drooling over notebooks that I don't need but find pretty. I was also drooling over an aqua colour Kitchen Aid mixture.


3PM - By now we were home, I'd tried to have a nap but that wasn't working out so a well deserved cup of Earl Grey and a couple of limited edition marshmallow Oreo's - okay but not as tasty as the cookie dough ones.
4PM - Hour spent sorting out our purchases for the day, including this pretty square vintage hand embroidered tablecloth with teacups and teapots in each corner. Can't wait to have a proper dinning space to have it on the table (currently it's home to the toaster, microwave, paper, oil lamp, random rubbish that I haven't got around to putting away/finding a home.
5PM - Sitting down to have a read through another find of the day, a copy of the Senior Prom magazine from 1950, it has some great articles on "the meaning of sex" and blind dates, there's probably a post coming about it in due course once I can get it flattened out enough.


6PM - Teatime of the leftovers from Friday night's shrimp Gang Pa curry from our favorite Thai Curry place. Twas yummy, but not one of my favorites from them (I'm actually working through their menu every other week).
7PM - Playing with the Grimlock Transformers toy Joe brought me earlier in the day, his mouth and eyes light up, yeah you can get corrupted into wanting Transformers yourself when you live with a collector.

So that was pretty much my Saturday, the rest of the night was spent catching up on blogs, writing some out, messing with photographs while watching TV. I thoroughly enjoyed joining in and I'll certainly be making a point to remember future #PhotoAnHour days in the future, so watch this space.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Friday, 21 February 2014

MICHIGAN: The World's Largest Limestone Quarry

RogersCityQuarry RogersCityQuarry RogersCityQuarry RogersCityQuarry

Now I really want to see the random things that America has to offer, you know from the mom and pop diners to crazy roadside oversized objects. Once we found out we could stop at the viewing sight overlooking the world's largest limestone quarry just outside of Rogers City, we knew it was a must. Founded in 1910, although production did not begin until 1912 The Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company with the construction of both the quarry and a port, transported the limestone out to everywhere from Chicago to Detroit and Cleveland. 101 years later, the quarry continues to be mined and stands at around 5 miles long and 2 miles wide - it's even more impressive once you see it from the air.

Stepping up onto the viewing platform is like being transported into another world. One cut up, blown up and carved into an unrecognisable unearthly landscape somewhat how you might imagine the surface of the moon to be with it's craters and mountains. It's even more unworldly when you consider the immense scale of the quarry as trucks drive across the vista dwarfed by the height of the cliffs and ledges because you know the truck in the third image down is going to dwarf you if you ever stood beside it. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

LIFE: Blue Skies and New Places

Lake Michigan Lake Michigan Lake Michigan

The prolonged snowy, horridly winter weather is making me long for spring, blue skies, being able to go outside without having to wear two layers of gloves, you know, warmer times. A quick pick-me-up are the photographs from our October holiday up north (yeah those that i'm still blogging about), yet blue skies seem to far away.

Traverse City was a place we drove pretty much over two hours to visit from Rose City - we'd heard about all the antique stores there and there's a rather good sushi place - which is always an awesome excuse to visit (although in the end we didn't end up eating there because it seemed rather posh and we were hot and sweaty after climbing the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes). I could say that Traverse City remains of Royal Oak or Ann Arbor (which to many won't mean a thing) but has a cool sense of lots of unique stores, restaurants, it's on a lake front. Granted it sees a lot of tourists in the summer months, but it doesn't seem to scream tourist destination like say Mackinaw City.

My camera didn't really come out in our visit to the city - bar eating at the English themed Cornish pastry place, it was more of a time to just relax and soak it up. The city came up in discussion the other day - one that's been added to our "where we might buy our second house" - yeah we're thinking about where we might live come 7/8 years down the line. I like Metro Detroit don't get me wrong, but I don't think it'll be our forever place. While we'd be giving up the zoo and metro parks we'd get gaining National Parks, sand dunes, a lake shores, including Lake Michigan, forests, somewhere a little quieter, more of a life not dominated by freeways and most likely less pot holes.

Where would you love to settle?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

FOOD: Rhubarb Cake

Rhubard Cake

Finally rhubarb season has rolled around again (yey!), so it's time to get stocked up and get baking. I can never turn down a good old fashioned rhubarb crumble with a huge dollop of custard. Sadly rhubarb has a bit of a bad reputation - many find it a little too sour to be enjoyable and others love it for that reason alone, plus it's a really good source of fibre and vitamins (score!). So to offer something a little different, I thought i'd start the rhubarb baking season with a cake, because everyone loves cake right?!

Like the banana cake recipe, this cake is taken from the 1990 Hometown Collection (I told you it was becoming a favorite) with this particular recipe credited from the Exclusively Rhubarb Cookbook - a charity cookbook from Coventry, Connecticut. Again it's a pretty straight forward recipe and doesn't call for anything you probably don't already have (bar the rhubarb). 

Rhubard Cake

So, to the recipe!

You'll need;
  • 1/2 cup of butter (softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 3 cups of finely chopped rhubarb - this works out at being about 6 average sized stalks
  • Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling 
Cream your butter and after a good mixing, add into your white sugar gradually, finishing off with adding in the egg and mixing well. Seperately add the flour, soda and salt. Alternating with the milk (I should probably add the recipe called for buttermilk but I never have that so go with whatever you have) add the dry mix into the mix. Finally add in the chopped up rhubarb. 

Pour the mix into a greased and lined 13 x 9 x 2" baking tray and sprinkle over the cinnamon and sugar - as much or as little as you'd like. Pop the tray into a preheated oven (350F) for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clear.

Rhubard Cake

The result is a lovely moist, surprisingly sweet but with a delightful taste of rhubarb and the cinnamon with sugar topping leaves a crisp warm winter taste in your mouth. The rhubarb does keep the cake a little soggy even after being cooked so it won't last too long but it freezes perfectly so your batch can be happily divided up and saved. 

How do you like your rhubarb? Lover or a hater?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

LIFE: Thirty Seven Down ...

Crochet Afghan Crochet Afghan Crochet Afghan

It felt like we've just come through one of those weekends. One of those two steps forward, one step back kind of days. Sushi and take out pizza, met with a flat tire, finishing and starting our taxes and then not being to upload them, Joe having a four day weekend met with more snowy and freezing cold weather (back down to -15C) meant too cold to visit the zoo, the list goes on. 

They say buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can ever do, I'm starting to think they were right, but it's more of the mortgage pre-approval than the house finding lark (well we haven't really got that far yet). Hopefully the tide is turning and once our taxes have been filled with the IRS we can try and apply for a government loan for down payment and we can finally get somewhere. Our apartment lease runs out in May, we've started putting stuff away in boxes, we're ready to be out of here. So if buying a house alone is stressful, throw on top greencard renewl and it's all fun and games. 

I did score a huge bag of vintage wool at an estate sale for five bucks which added some new colour into my pile and pretty much crocheted to my hearts content for the rest of the long weekend (Monday being Presidents Day and all). Grand total of 37 motifs for the crochet afghan project now complete, save being outlined in a final shade because I didn't haven't figured out on what colour to use as a border. Head in sand with big decisions like that. It's nice though, to have something you can just do without thinking, while watching the tv, listening to music. It just happens, it's certainly helping to chill me out a little. Just a little.

What do you do to relax?

Friday, 14 February 2014

LIFE: Today Is Like Any Other Day


For us, today is like any other day. I'll not make the bed, i'll moan about either ebay, the snow, the temperature - or all of them several times, play with the kitties and then we'll be having a pizza take out. Not because it's valentines but because Friday is always date night around ours. We won't be swapping cards, buying gifts, or even pronouncing and wishing each other a happy valentines.

You may call us cynical, but we're not. Managing a long distance relation for two years yet alone all the paperwork (lets not think of all the fees we paid) to be together, living in the same country and both wanting it, I don't need to another card to remind me. We have our anniversaries, our weekly date night, tickle fights, Joe driving me around estate sales every week, believing in me every day - I know that he loves me. 

Joe influences and helps me grow as a person daily - hell before him I'd never even read a comic, ate mac n cheese, liked hot dogs or ice cream, I turned my nose up at science books, Star Trek and probably would have given up blogging years ago. 

Yes I'm one of those cynical people that believe love should be shared and spoke of daily - it's shared through the little things, not because Hallmark, retail store or media outlet yet alone blogger is telling you so. 

So today might be February the 14th, but it's pizza day and Joe has the day off as a long weekend with Monday being some national holiday - Presidents Day I believe, and that's my kind of day. Actually take today to be reminded of the real history behind Valentine's Day - a day celebrated in many Christian denominations in remembrance of the Valentine martyrs of Rome (typically between AD 95 - AD 500) - with no romantic link to it's origins until the 14th century with Chaucer's "Valentines" poetry - were the sacrifice of the martyrs was sadly and still nearly always remains forgotten. Fast forward to 1797 and the British went full steam ahead into the mass, commercialised Valentines giving of cards.

If you want a blast from the past - here's my ways of how we copied in a long distance relationship.

How will you be spending your February the 14th?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

VINTAGE: 1937 German Cookbook

Germancookbook Germancookbook Germancookbook Germancookbook

One of the perks of my job is coming across some truly delightful vintage cookbooks. Long before glossy full page photographs of baked goods became the norm - cookbooks, if they included any images often featured some wonderful illustrations for the housewife to drool over. Many of the illustrated cookbooks tend to be 1910's to 1930's in origin - their colors are rich, wonderfully detailed and honesty, I think they sell the dishes pretty well. 

I could share many, many a cookbook I come across but there's one in particular that deserves a blog post. We came across this one in particular - one published in German in 1937, at an estate sale among a collection of several early 1900's German books. It's filled with wonderful color and black and white illustrations and the most amazing and detailed font throughout. 

When you consider the year - 1937 - this cookbook must  have some stories to tell. It was the fourth year with Hitler as Chancellor and it is often considered the year his foreign policies began to radicalise. May the 6th saw the now infamous Hindenburg disaster. I get intrigued about cookbooks, especially foreign ones, how and when did it get out of Germany, who was the lady that was cooking from it in 1937? How they she and her family fare the war? Did the war push them to moving to America or did they leave decades after? It would be impressive find if the cookbook had survived the war upon a kitchen shelf in Germany when you consider just how much damage the allied forces pounded upon German cities (over 19 of Germany's major cities were destroyed 50% or more).

If only the pages could talk ... 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

ZOO TIMES: The Butterfly House

DetroitZoo DetroitZoo DetroitZoo DetroitZoo DetroitZoo DetroitZoo

Steamed up glasses and camera lenses are always worth suffering for a step inside any Butterfly House. I remember being intrigued as a young girl by one in Hornsea and then and one of my many visa travel adventures down to London enjoying an hour inside a special butterfly tent outside the British Museum to calm the nerves back in 2011.

The Detroit Zoo Butterfly House is home to about 70 different species, all free to fly around above your head in their tropical environment. During the summer months they are everywhere, but like us humans, they weren't particularly impressed with the winter chill and it actually affects how much they want to fly. Still a couple of were feeling cooperative in letting me photograph them and hopefully the next visit will be met with warmer weather and the slights of those beautiful wings.

Monday, 10 February 2014

BOOKS: Januarys Book Pile


One of my big big big intentions for 2014 was to get back into reading. Books kind of unfortunately (I have no excuses) fell of my to do list last year, which as a formally huge book reader was below par on my part. So this year is about making amends and getting back between the pages. Interacting and using Goodreads again has been a big help and I though as I love reading book reviews on blogs - it was high time I shared some of mine, so monthly I'll be throwing a pile of books at you that I've read in the last 30 of so days. 

So just what have I been reading? Well ...

2013 found me coming across a vintage biography of the actress Lauren Bacall (famous for movies To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep). By Myself captures her journey from New York to Hollywood in the height of the golden age of film. Often biography's can be a hard read, but Bacall is a talented narrator, it's engaging, funny and offers a great insight. Light-hearted tales of serving soldiers during WW2, filming her first movie to falling completely in love with a married man and also famous actor Humphrey Bogart, a man 25 years her senior. Following their married and Bogart's illness and untimely death - the passion they shared and the emotion she shares capturing those final hours are heartbreaking to read. Nevertheless, this book leaves the reader with many more questions to ask - especially post Bogart and Bacall's lines regarding her role has a mother (it often seems her career always came first). While I whipped through the first three quarters of By Myself, the last part was a darn old slog to the end. 

Supercontinent actually surprised me at just how much I enjoyed it. As a former geographer student I always remember the school lessons of volcanoes and plate tectonic and Supercontinent is a great read if you still have that child like fascination with the world beneath your feet. Accessible for the science reader and lay person alike, Ted Nield outlines the history of continental movements addressing the first scientists who questioned the possibility of countries across the oceans once being joined and goes on to question just how our world may look physically in the far future.

Estate sales are great places to pick up pieces of social history documents - the Cold War being one such time periods it's really easy to find books upon as many were government issued and delivered to every home. How to Survive an Atomic Bomb is certainly of it's time and with the benefit of hindsight and the long term side effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that perhaps our chance of surviving such a bomb isn't as likely as the book would have you believe.

After reading The Fifth Beatle (reviewed here) I ploughed head long into Last Diner Standing * - a thrilling murder mystery set in a cold wintry Texas. Headstrong waitress Rosie comes head to head trying to solve the murder of one of her best friends former husband and in the process uncovers all kinds of plots and corruption. Its easy to say a books plots and twist keep you gripped but in Last Diner Standing they really do - right until the very end the turns of the tale always keep the guessing.

What have you been reading lately?

* Last Diner Standing was a  Goodreads First Reads giveaway win back in 2012.

Friday, 7 February 2014

LIFE: Things #5


January is often one of those months that seems to past me by, it's never memorable or at least nothing memorable happens enough to make it a month of note. And aside from the snow, oh so much snow it's just the average old cold (very cold) and very snowy January - sucks that we're only half way through winter. Mid way through the month I deicide I wanted to do a photo a day, not a lark for social media or for my blog, but actually for myself, to get me picking up my camera again. I managed to cobble together some photographs from earlier in the month and intend to carry the mission on for the coming year, so it'll be 365ish Photo a Day. 

Otherwise the point of these things posts are always a little bit to let off steam, so here goes;

► Actually falling out of love with The Big Bang Theory - sadly just not finding it as funny or as geeky as it use to be. Controversial I know.

► And then falling in love with Community. 

► Getting lost with the huge increase in blog chats - don't get me wrong I love the chance to mingle, met and find new blogs, but when it's the same old topics (branding, getting sponsorship, paid posts) they just become too samey.

► Said blog chats always end up with people going on about needing a DSLR camera and making me doubt my own photographs because I don't have one, and probably never will (at least not in the near future).

► Also hearing twice within a week in blog chats people not following blogs if they dislike the blogs name - petty much?!

► Not really understanding why so many British people were staying up just for the Superbowl (even I wasn't watching it in the US)

► Hearing far too much about Valentines Day (urgh)

► Being grateful for being able to receive CBET (Canandian TV channel) through our cable so I can watch the winter Olympics live rather than NBC that only want to do highlights late at night. 

► Spending the week craving a Primanti Bros., sarnie and it thus resulting in having to have a chip buttie which is nothing in comparison. 

► Feeling the joy of sticking with a book that wasn't the most appealing or gritting when starting it - The Winter of Our Discontent (John Steinbeck) I'm looking at you ...

► Thinking about snow days growing up in Yorkshire - a snow day off school was when the bus couldn't get up the hill. This interesting map shows just how much snow it takes for schools to be cancelled in the US

► Then getting landed with another 5" of snow yesterday *yawn*

Snow Snow

I'm so over snow.

How's your world?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

RECIPE: Banana Cake


If you're easy seduced by cake - then this cake - a banana one has to go on your to bake list! While normally when we have left over, brown bananas I whip up a banana bread loaf - you can find the recipe I swear by here, Joe remembered seeing an interesting recipes for a banana cake in a recipe cook we picked up the day before at an estate sale (yeah I might have another issue with collecting vintage cookbooks). It did not disappoint.

This version is one adpated, a lot adapted from the 1990 Hometown Collection a cookbook compiling recipes from around the US - this recipe in fact coming from the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota. I didn't have all the ingredients the recipe suggested but i'm getting a little braver in adding and taking away items, so here goes;

Banana Cake


3/4 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of mashed bananas
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teapsoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of flaked coconut

In a large bowl cream the butter, gradually adding the sugar. Once mixed add in the eggs one at a time, finally adding the banana

Seperately combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternating with the milk, add the dry mix into the creamed mixture, finally adding in the vanilla. 

Pour the batter into two 9" circular pans, topping off with 1/2 cup of coconut upon each one. Place into a preheated oven at 350F and bake for 30-35 minutes. 

Cool completely before making the filling and decorating with the frosting.

Creamy Filling;

1/2 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, flour, salt, milke and butter into a saucepan and heat until the mixture has thickened. 

Remove from the heat, add in the vanilla and leave to cool completely. When cooled, turn one of the cake layers coconut side down, spread the filling and lower the second layer coconut side up. Decorate with the white snow frosting on all the sides and up to an inch around the top.

White Snow Frosting;

1/2 cup butter
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of confectionery sugar

Combining the butter, egg white and vanilla extract mix until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar. This actually made more then enough for icing, so make sure to help yourself to a big spoonful.


The end result is a really light, sweet cake, in fact I'd go as far as saying it's the lightest cake I've made to date and is certainly nothing like a dense banana bread. Granted you only want small slices - the icing is on the sickly side (you could even omit it completely).

After eying up some more of the recipes in this cookbook it's certainly becoming a firm favourite - any cookbook with a recipe for a rhubarb cake inside just has to be, right?!

How do you like your cake?

Please excuse the bad photographs - our apartment is a dark, dark place.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

TRAVEL: Mr Teds Lighthouse Adventures


Mr Ted has a lot of travel miles under his little belt. He's jet setted his way between East Yorkshire and Detroit three times (although granted once was stuffed within a tight padded envelope which he didn't particularly agree to) he's visited Edinburgh, Pittsburgh, passed through London and stayed in Chicago. Luckily he doesn't ask too much of his human companions but he does like to sight see - in this instance lighthouses. As Mr Ted had read yesterdays post about our beer road trip, he thought it was high time I got around to publishing his lighthouse road trip.

Original source
Our original plan was to drive between Mackinaw City down to Bay City following the tourist scenic drive along the lakeside taking in many of the lighthouses along the way. That was the plan at least - didn't really happen like that we only managed from McGulpin's Point to Forty Mile Point both circled in the map above. But that's for later - i'll let Mr Ted take over from here.

Mac City

Hello everyone. The first stop was passing the Old Mackinac Point again, this lighthouse one which marks the junction of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan and sits a little away from Mackinac Bridge which actually rendered it obsolete in 1957. Beginning it's operation in 1890, Old Mackinac Point helped guide ships through the dangers of the Mackinac Straits. 

Lighthouse Michigan Mr Ted

Driving back on ourselves and heading about three miles eastward, me and my human companions took a peek early morning style at McGulpin Point - another lighthouse built to aid the navigation of ships through the Straits and in fact is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in these parts. Costings $20,000 to build in 1869 and operated until 1906 when the Lighthouse Board judged the aforementioned Old Mackinac Point lighthouse to be doing a better job. The lighthouse was then turned into a private residence and is now open to the public since 2009. Nevertheless this lighthouse design - of a true light tower attached to living quarters is one that went on to feature in many other lighthouses around Michigan and the Great Lakes (Eagle Harbor, White River Light, Sand Island Light) - maybe me and my human companions will see them one day.

Leaving Mackinaw behind we headed along US 23 to Cheboygan - home to quite a number of lighthouses .

Lighthouse Michigan

Oddly the first we came across was located in a parking lot, somewhat away from the lake if I care to mention it myself. Anyhow, the Cheboygan Front Range lighthouse was constructed in 1890 to guide sailors up the Cheboygan River.

Lighthouse Michigan

A little further down the road and in Gordon Turner Park you'll find the relocated Cheboygan Crib light - sadly Rachael pointed her camera at the wrong end of the pier there's an internet image for you to admire. Originally the light which was built in 1882 was built offshore and daily the local lighthouse keeper would have to have rowed in all weathers to maintain the light as there were no accommodations in the building. Like with the closing of many of the former lighthouses of the Great Lakes, this light was decommissioned, yet with the support and help of the local community the light was relocated onto firmer ground. 

Lighthouse Michigan

The good thing about those modern camera contraptions you humans love is being able to capture what I believe is the Fourteen Foot Shoal lighthouse far into the distance. Being one of the first automated lighthouses it marks the shallow depth of Lake Huron at this point (14ft) and appears to remain an active navigation guide.


All this lighthouse talk makes a little Yorkshire bear hungry, so we parked up and ate Cornish pasties - nothing like the English version but a bear must eat all the same. 


Carrying on a little further south we happened upon what has since become mine and Rachael's favorite lighthouse - Forty Mile Point (in fact it's worthy of a post alone). It's a beautiful, fully restored light one built in 1896 there's also a foghorn building and outhouses not to mention a shipwreck which is mighty fun for a bear. It remains in operation to this day. 


We all had hoped to continue the journey along US 23 past Alpena and into Saginaw Bay before heading south back to Detroitland ... just the car had other ideas has it came to a grinding halt and broke down outside of Rogers City much to the dismay of my human friends and I was actually starting to miss my two kitty friends back home. I did overhear them mention a road trip around the entire Lower Michigan Peninsula to see all the rest - there's too many to for a bear to count on his lighthouse map. But I shall hold the humans to that plan all the same.