Wednesday, 30 April 2014

LIFE: Packing and More Packing

Packing Up Cookbook Packing

There's currently a human life size game of tertis going on in what was our dining space, what with piles of boxes and bags for moving. I actually didn't think we had that much stuff, apparently most of it's been hiding in cupboards and closets and is only just coming to life. It's actually got to the point of having to break down the next three or so weeks down with tasks to have achieved to feel like i'm getting somewhere with the packing, it's slow work!

You start on a mission to fill up every inch of a box, you come up with random code letters for the final dumping ground, and you realise you never ever have enough boxes. Cats start to think your piling up all these boxes just so they have a new kitty tower. One kitty Ed, being perfectly happy just to make the large box at the bottom her new sleeping and sitting ground, the other - Smokey a nosey tiny kitty loving the challenge of being able to sleep up high. Stacking even more boxes doesn't deter her nosiness, she just loves to sleep even higher.

And don't get me started on packing up the vinyl. 800 plus vinyl aren't the easiest thing to move when you're pretty short on boxes. Inventive we must become methinks. The dinning room table has been taken apart, all my vintage compacts are safety piled away and the nails are being pulled out of the wall - although my embroidery hoop collection will be one of the last things to be taken down, I hate how stark the walls look without them.

It's not that we even particularly know when we're moving per say, although we do have a closing date of mid May. After the home inspection not going as well as we hoped, we came up with the list of the items (major issues) that needed fixing - all 14 of them (electrical, gutters, raising concrete, fixing the garage etc), the seller actually agreed - even though it took them over a week to think about it. There's still a bit of a way to go, the closing date is in a little under three weeks but there are still some hurdles for the house and paperwork to jump though, but maybe, just maybe everything is working out!

If you have any packing tips - I'm all ears!

Monday, 28 April 2014

DETROIT: From The 13th Floor

Greektown Detroit Greektown Detroit Greektown Detroit Greektown Detroit Greektown Detroit

Some of the best views of the Detroit skyline can be found upon the 13th floor of the Greektown Casino while you're stood waiting for the elevator (yes really). Take a quick glance out the window and you'll spy the vivid unmistakeable red brick of the St Mary Roman Catholic church in the foreground, so vivid against the cream, the beige brick of it's historical counterparts that came to make up Downtown, their façades reflecting against the exterior of the Renaissance Center which sits alongside the Detroit riverfront - a symbol of their modern counterparts. Greektown is always busting with life - Greek music is always playing, street artists drawing, people coming and going from some of the best eateries Detroit has to offer. Slowly but surely the skyscrapers office spaces are refilling as businesses relocate to the city or are being refurbished into apartments, Downtown Detroit can't be written off just yet.

It's all a very grand sight to look out upon, to stop a while and take it all in.

Friday, 25 April 2014

CROSS STITCHING: Angel of the North


So I thought I'd end the week on a crafty note, seeing the weekend is right upon us. You would think having stitched for so long (it's going on twenty plus years) I might have turned my hand to designing, messing around and creating my own patterns, but in, fact aside from stitching this blackstitch sampler, I never have. While I'm more then happy at adjusting colors and picking out my own threads, changing fabrics to backing and framing my own pieces, the thought of designing I felt was always beyond me.

But with stitching both the Mackinac and Forty Mile Point Michigan lighthouses, I thought there needed to be a bit of more English input. While it's pretty easy to find charts featuring American places, British ones are a little trickier. Over a couple of days I played around a lot of websites where you can upload your photographs and they'll chart out a cross stitch version you can stitch you can alter how many colours, the style, it's kind of addictive seeing all your photographs stitching. The result now being I have a couple of Yorkshire lighthouses all charted out and ready to roll. 

Rather than throwing myself fully into the deep end I thought a test run with a much smaller and simpler pattern would be in order. So I came up with this little 3"ish Angel of the North design - it's pretty simplistic, but I like the result. It's certainly given me the confidence to mess around and design my own - working out a design around VW bugs will be how I'm spending this weekend!

Angel Embroidery

Why the Angel of the North? Well heading back to Newcastle for the four years I lived there, seeing the Angel as we passed by on the train, I always knew my Geordie home was close, it always was my homing beacon.

Have you every designed anything crafty yourself? 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

LIFE: Harlem Globetrotters

Harlem GlobetrottersHarlem Globetrotters Harlem Globetrotters

On Saturday the Harlem Globetrotters were playing their 2014 World Tour up at The Palace in Auburn Hills. Joe managed to grab some free tickets through work, and although they were general attendance seats up on the higher levels we had a great view overlooking the court. The Globbies as they are also known these days, began in 1926 as the Savoy Big Five to promote a ballroom, now famously known as an exhibition basketball team, all about comedy and theatrical displays while throwing in some sport too.

While the matches against the All Stars are played in the original basketball format of four 10 minute quarters, it's all very stop start - filled in comedy routines, dancing, tricks and high levels of audience participation, especially for the kids, they mock and joke with the refs, hang and jump off the hoops to comcial singing. There's been a new twist with the audience being able to vote for which "rules" they want in each quarter through their website and twitter. It's all very funny to say the least even to me and I'm far from being a big sports fan (ice hockey is my exception) it was a great couple of hours of entertaining humour and athleticism and if you have kids I can imagine it being a great, inspiring night out.

Have you ever seen the Globetrotters?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

LIFE: Celebrating Vinyl - Record Store Day 2014

Record Store Day

Saturday saw the annual return of Record Store Day. If you're not aware, Record Store Day is a great day if you love limited releases, shopping in your local, independent record stores and especially love vinyl (you might remember my post regarding the day in 2013). The list of special, one off releases tends to come out a month before the day, you eye up what you'd love and cross everything in the hope that the record store(s) by you might have something. 

We'd originally planed to shop at UHF in Royal Oak, but after driving pass the crazy long queue at 8.30am, we decided to go to Flipside in Clawson which wasn't opening until 10am. So we spent over an hour, somewhat cold standing in what turned out to be pretty close to the front (we were like 15/16 in the line). While the sun was shining and the skies blue, Michigan skies can be very misleading this time of year, and dancing on the spot for warmth was the order of the day. Once the doors are open it's pretty much an orderly scrum and you have to grab something when you see it. It's all so very hit and miss.

So what did we get?

Record Store Day Record Store Day

The biggie was the 30th anniversary special edition glow in the dark Ghostbusters theme 10" record - it is pretty awesome and has one of Joe's favorite films, I'm glad we managed to pick it up. It comes with the original version, instrumental and a couple of dance/dub versions. Plus like I said it GLOWS IN THE DARK!! And yes the Ghostbusters film is 30 years old this year, doesn't that make you feel old?!

We're both fans of The Zombies - the English rock band who formed in 1962, with The Beatles they were one of the big British Invasion Groups of the 60's. They had two special, limited re-release vinyls for Record Store Day - Odyssey & Oracle (2,500 copies) and The Zombies (1,500 copies) as we've never managed to come across any Zombies records at estate sales, we finally have some to add to our collection. 

Record Store Day Record Store Day Record Store Day

Joe's a Jimi Hendrix fan - so the Jimi Hendrix Experience Live at Monterey was a must grab, and although I'm not a big Hendrix fan, it's a pretty cool album, it's also 280 gram vinyl - which if you're into such things is a big deal, it's set at the quality of an audio file although you need a top notch record player to get the most out of it. Also all our purchases came home in a pretty neat illustrated bag by Edward Ubiera - which you can see partially in the first photograph.

Sadly the increase in the day's popularity wasn't matched with quantity of vinyl available. Tweets, facebook comments and blog posts from record listeners and collectors seem to be echoing for a need for change in the future. Both Broken Record and Nailler 9's underlying message suggest RSD should be less about inferior titles and the quantity of them available and more about supporting the local, truely independent record stores throughout the year. Personally I hope next year they fine tune the number of listings and increase the number of pressings, which I know won't make them has "limited" it would allow more people the chance to find the record(s) they want after queuing for hours. As it stood on Saturday, If there's more than three people queuing in front of you wanting the same record, you have little hope.

Don't get me wrong I love the experience of Record Store Day, getting to meet some like minded people and support local record stores (which we do throughout the year anyway), I'd just like everyone to have a better chance of getting what they want.

What were your experiences with Record Store Day 2014? What did you buy or wish you could of got your hands on? Or just tell me what music you love - I'd love to hear!


Monday, 21 April 2014

LIFE: April #PhotoAnHour

Back in February I took part in my first of the #PhotoAnHour monthly challenges organised by Jane, I sadly missed March due to being at a home buyer course so photos were somewhat impractical, but luckily, Saturday was busy busy for things and places for what we go up to.

With Saturday being right before Easter, estate sales where few and far between and with Record Store day we turned our attention to other things, hopefully this'll give you a peek into a different kind of Saturday for us!


8am // spring means finally digging out my old Converse, and when I say old they are like nine years old and somewhat falling apart. But they are so darn comfy. But I forgot how cold my feet feel in them when it's not super warm out.  

9am // after driving around we decided to start queuing up at Flipside record store for Record Store Day, they didn't open till 10 so we spent over an hour on not the warmest of mornings - Michigan skies are deceiving. 

10am // just a little after 10am we came out with all our vinyl goodies in a fancy Record Store Day bag, we also stocked up on some much needed 12" protective covers and such - I'll be sharing the vinyl purchases in a post later this week.


11am // sadly Flipside didn't have the Cake boxset so we headed to Royal Oak and queued outside of UHF (they didn't any left by that time, sigh). I did notice this neat Record Store poster in their door though, sadly since noticed the lack of female musical artists in it though.

12am // waiting for a exceedingly long train to cross Woodward up in Ponitac, we were driving up to poke the Homes for Humanity resale store to see their prices on electrical appliances that we're going to need to buy when we buy a house. 

1pm // back home after picking up a meal from steak and shake for lunch - awesome place for a burger (they also do good milkshakes just so you know)


2pm // lazy afternoon started catching up on twitter, blogs and ebay, record player on, glaring at the tetris pile of moving boxes in the far distance

3pm // starting to stitch a blackwork piece I designed around the state map of Michigan for another embroidery hoop design for myself

4pm // currently playing Led Zepplin II, having a stackable record player we also had Blue Oyster, Black Sabbath and some of Ozzy's solo work all playing prior


5pm // snack before we headed out, didn't particularly like then when I first moved, but Pop Tarts have certainly grown on me. I'd highly recommend the Cookies and Crème flavour. Nom.

6pm // heading north to the Palace in Auburn Hills, if I'd of taken it a couple of minutes prior, you'd of seen the weaving jackass driver that was on the road too- there's many jackasses on the roads in these parts

7pm // took our seats for the Harlem Globetrotters verses the All Stars game which was a pretty fun evening (again, there's another post with more pictures lined up)

The rest of the night was spent at the game until just before 9, eating a super late tea at McDonalds on the way home, seeing the return of my cold and watching Scrubs. Another highlight - Skid Row favoriting one of my tweets, it's the little things that's for sure!

You can always check out the #PhotoAnHour tag on twitter to see what everyone else involved got up to!

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

ZOO TIMES: Baby Red Pandas

Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas

There is nothing cuter than seeing a couple of nine month old Red Pandas. For the first time we managed to catch them playing as they were brought back onto the exhibit at the Detroit Zoo on our last visit. Ta-Shi (mum) and Shifu (dad) had their first litter together in June of 2013, they were first announced as male, but in fact they are both girls and are spending their time occasionally outside in their exhibit before they both go off to another zoo for breeding programs.

As Red Pandas are on the vulnerable species list due to deforestation, they are selected into breeding programs as soon as they are born and despite their name, they aren't closely related to the giant Panda. Slightly larger than you domestic kitty, they mainly snack on bamboo but are omnivorous creatures. Typically they are largely sedentary begins and enjoy their own company and normally when we visit in the summer months they are lost high up in the trees so to be able to seeing all four of them out and playing, was a very rare treat indeed. Contrary to the norm, Shifu a first time dad has apparently been a bit of a hands on father with his babies, mother is especially playful as you can see in many of the photographs she actively plays.

Aren't they all just adorable?!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

EBAY: How To Price and List to Sell on Ebay

I thought I'd share some of my ebay wisdom, I've occasionally done things like this on the blog in the past, but it's high time for a bit of an in depth look on how to word and list your items so that they actually sell. To give you some background I run an ebay store and generally spend hours on the site daily listing, researching to relisting items, I've come across ways and means to get the most from your listings and hopefully they'll help you regardless of if you're an active ebay seller or you just list when ebay throws some free listing safter you've had a clear out.

So many times people share or I see listings that just lack the key information buyers are actively searching for they basically tell you nothing and it's any wonder the item sells. There are millions upon millions of listings upon ebay at any one time, you need to know how to make yours stand out through great photographs, full descriptions or free shipping.

So let's start at the beginning with the listings title. 

Full, concise key word heavy descriptions are your way to get your items into the search results. You need to cram everything in - colour, size, brand, date (if applicable), fabric, company. Take for example your selling an Old Navy tee - simply saying "Old Navy tee" might get you some views, but "Old Navy Tee Green Striped Medium 36" Bust Cotton" probably will get you more.

Next up are photographs, you can never have to many. Photograph the front and back of everything, tags and all flaws or issues - all of which need to be noted in your selling pitch - the description. You're photographs should be taken in a well lit place, keeping the item as true to the real colour as possible, this isn't the place for showing off your photograph editing and effect skills.

So you have your photographs and you're ready to get to the meaty part of the listing itself.

Selling on Ebay

Ebays made a push the last couple of months to make sure sellers are filling out the category listings. While they can be a pain to fill out and ebay often forgets them when you're relisting, they are basically the mini searches buyers can click (say colour, used/new) to narrow down their searching for a specific item. Sometimes there will be categories you just can't fill out because you don't have the information, just do all that you can or type in unknown.

Now the description - you'll find some sellers cram this with every piece of information, some barely say anything. What I do is repeat and elaborate what's in the title, but what else should you include? Well think about;
  • Measurements - not just the clothes size, actually measure and mention the length, waist- actual figures are better then just saying "medium" as as all know how much store size differs
  • Colour - now colours don't always sure up true in photographs so describe the colour as best you can - not need to be all fancy just pale, dark, medium
  • Issues - noting any issue is super important, it pays to be honest - mention tears, scuffs, stains etc
  • Extra details - is it still sealed? New in it's original box? New with tags? Heavily used? With or without instructions?
Selling on Ebay

While I know it's super tempting to start everything at 99p/c or lower, you really might be underpricing your items, especially when you factor in both ebay and paypal fees alongside the cost of buying your shipping materials - you might end up loosing money. And do you really want that dress going for 99c/p?! Make sure to use the search facilities yourself that ebay provides to check the price of what an item, or similar items have sold for in the past, or if they sell at all. Start the bids at a price you would be truly comfortable at parting with the item.

If you're in it for the long haul, becoming a top rated seller is another way to grab a buyers attention by getting your listings higher in the "best match" offerings, but that takes time and is also dependent upon your return policy (you have to expect returns), feedback scores and your handling time. Free shipping can attract some buyers however you need to factor in the costs in the selling price, but in honesty, if you have high price items you might be better off considering selling via the buy it now option. That's probably too much of a gloss over with regards to stores and buy it now options but if you're interested I can whip out a post about those alone just let me know!

Do you sell on ebay? What are your tips and experiences? Feel free to ask me any questions below or through twitter!

Monday, 14 April 2014

LIFE: Spring Tidings

Spring Spring Spring Spring Spring

It's certainly been more spring like here in Michigan the last couple of weeks. About time right?! Thing is, it goes from being 0 degrees to 20 degrees in the space of two weeks, there's barely any transition period, and being British, spring time Michigan weather is pretty much British summer weather. I'm still not fully use to it. Nevertheless it's a very welcome change and has certainly been a great excuse to get out more. Yesterday we took a trip to the zoo and spied my first daffodil sights of the year - a plant that always reminds me of the homeland for whatever reason. Swans, to ducks and geese were building and sitting on nests a handsome red-winged blackbird (bottom photo) was tweeting rather happily and we finally saw the most adorable nine month old red pandas who were out for a play with their parents (which are worthy of having their own post so stay tuned). Sadly any signs of life on the trees, yet alone cherry blossom seems a bit of a stretch away.

What do you love about spring?

Friday, 11 April 2014

HOME BUYING: What I've Learnt So Far


We're about a month into our full ongoing first home search and it's probably about time for an update. I've learnt a lot, both about myself, and the process of buying your first house. It's all been about home buying classes, mortgages, visiting places and waiting.

So what have we learnt and what you don't see on home buying shows;
  • I have zero patience, like none whatsoever
  • Joe is as cool as a cucumber 
  • I get too emotionally attached to a house but then I struggle with the concept of not having any attachment when you're going to be spending so much money and will be living in said home for an extended period
  • Insomnia is a regular occurrence, although it's been getting better
  • Try and attend a home buying course - you might think you know everything about home buying or mortgages, you probably don't
  • Black mold of doom really is a thing and mortgage lenders don't like mold
  • There's more to just "sticking in an offer on a house" dam you TV house buying shows - they never show you all the paperwork - like 20 pages of contracts to sign
  • Basements seem to leak, quite often and mortgage lenders don't like that either
  • Don't assume a house has gutters - oops
  • Some houses have really odd layouts
  • Some houses are missing their basements, they had them once, you can still see the original windows, yet you can't find the way to get into them .... are their bodies hidden inside?!
  • Bungalows with tight, steep spiral staircases are scary to get down
  • Hardwood floors are the in thing right now
  • Oh and I have lots of blog posts about home buying lined up - but I a) feel like it's tempting fate to publish them and b) that they won't be of interest to people - le sigh!
So we found a house, it had a great living space, was one short on the number of bedrooms we wanted but it had an open "living" space upstairs so it was workable. It's basically been a flip house, it's had some work to it but there's a lot of things that could be added to, a project house but it looked okay and okay enough for us to tackle. The way things work in Michigan is that you see a house stick a bid in and then do the home inspection but the contracts are written in a way that you see the results of the inspection and then ask the seller to fix them, ask for a lower price or walk away.   

I guess we weren't expecting there to be so many issues. Like big electrical safely hazard kind of issues, like exposed wires, and missing circuit breakers and ungrounded plugs in the kitchen of all places. So we sent off a list of 14 things that need fixing before we'd consider moving forward.

This is where home inspections are worth their money in gold (ours cost around $350), I was a little on the fence about them prior to this I will admit. We went through the Buyer Projection Group (who were recommended to us through a lady at the home buyers course and who we'll certainly be using again if the occasion arises) who offer a really thorough attic to basement plus exterior inspection and you'll end up with a number of reports filled with advice, photographs and actions that should be taken or considered. Big tip is to always tag along and attend the inspection too (although I was out with the lurgy so only Joe attending ours).

So here is a snap shot taken from our home report which was comprised of two thorough room by room inspection reports, this part being from the electric panels inspection which as you can see, has some rather interesting issues.

The home inspection was especially helpful for us as we're inexperienced first time buyers doing this alone, I wouldn't have known the fume was missing a screw or to have looked that the bedroom ceiling fan was incorrectly fitted. To be honest I'm glad we didn't even touch let alone look inside the electric box after seeing how dangerous it is as it currently stands.

So the inspection helps you the buyer know what to do next - to carry on with the sale, back out or ask for changes. For us, right now it's in the sellers hands, we've sent what we want changing, it's up to them. Nevertheless with the majority of the issues being dangerous and electrical all these concerns are going to come up again with another buyer if we back out, it's probably in their own interests to get it fixed. Also as a side note, any buyer that backs out of a sale, this report has to be passed on to any future buyer by the seller.

This whole house buying malarkey is certainly a huge learning curve. If things don't work out with this house, knowing what we know now about the process of sticking in bid and all the paperwork that goes into it alongside what we should look out more for from doing this inspection it will have been worth it.

Every had a home inspection turn up anything funky? What did you learn when you were buying a house?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

LIFE: Early Spring Drive Around Belle Isle

Belle Isle Belle Isle Belle Isle Belle Isle Belle Isle Belle Isle

We had to head into Detroit yesterday (Tuesday) for my biometrics (fingerprinting and such which took all of 10 minutes) for my green card paperwork and while we were killing time before heading over to Mexicantown for foods, we took a drive around Belle Isle. While we had lovely blue skies, and even somewhat warm enough to finally ditch that jacket, there's still no signs of spring on the trees or flowers around us.

It's the first time we've managed to get over to the isle since it became a state park in November of 2013 and by the looks of it changes are starting to be made improvement wise, there's certainly been a lot of trees cut down in the overgrown middle and possibly some tidying up around the old zoo. Either way it's still a perfect viewing spot for looking at downtown Detroit and all it's buildings it's certainly buzzing with life at the moment as workmen prepare the road and track for the Indy car races at the end of May.

Belle Isle is home to the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse (just visible in the distance in picture 4) which is one of America's most unique lighthouses in that it's constructed of marble. Sadly the downpour from Monday night meant a wander without proper walking shoes was a bit of a no go but it's on my must visit list for this year.

Monday, 7 April 2014

CROSS STITCHING: Mackinac Point Light

Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Another pretty cross stitch project all complete - this time back to a more traditional design from Presque Isle Needlework of Mackinac Point - another of the lighthouses we saw on our travels up north last October. I love these designs for how bold the coloring is and even though it's a very limited color selection, it works wonders - although the full colours don't really come out in the above photograph due to how dark our apartment is for photo taking. Nevertheless I do love being able to compare the finished needlepoint design to the real thing, but it took me a while to figure out just which angel I'd stitched it from.

Mac City Mackinac Point Lighthouse

It's pretty much a squashed in version of the bottom photograph which was taken from what I would have consider the backside of the lighthouse (just mentally remove the tree and shed and you're there). Granted there's a little artistic license been taken with the repositioning of the bridge but I can live with that. Luckily it just fits into a 6" embroidery hoop to add to the hoop collection - they certainly just give you enough aida to stitch the piece on that's for sure.

What are you crafting at the moment?

You can also find my completed 40 Mile Point lighthouse cross stitch here.