Friday, 30 May 2014

PITTSBURGH: Carnegie Science Museum

Pittsburgh Science Center Pittsburgh Science Center Pittsburgh Science Center Pittsburgh Science Center

The Carnegie Science Museum is one of four such Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh. Andrew Carnegie - a Scottish born philanthropist, moved to Pittsburgh with his family when they migrated in 1848, went on to organise the Carnegie Steel Company Focusing on world peace and education, Carnegie funded the building of over 2,500 libraries in the English speaking world and now Pittsburgh is home to four museums bearing his name and inspiration - the Andy Warhol Museum (another Pittsburgh native), Carnegie Museum of Art, Natural History and the Science Center. 

Today the Science Museum is a hands on and a great place to take kids for a couple of hours. The museum is noisy but in a good way and explores variables of noise, robots and space travel. There's even a submarine to step on, Ominmax theatre and a display of vintage bicycles - including one belonging to Elvis covered in sparkly glitter with Rock and Roll stamped over it - I wouldn't of minded taking a ride on that myself!

Pittsburgh Science Center

It's certainly a museum designed around kids and without having the nephews with us I think our attention would have been over within an hour and for what it is, it is rather pricey. It's more geared for little fingers unlike the Industry and Technology Museum in Chicago. Nevertheless there was things to keep adults engaged - the Robot Hall of Fame which featured such inductees as C-3PO from Star Wars to the Roddy the Robot (Forbidden Planet) to the first cited robot in cinema - Maria from the German 1927 movie Metropolis. As a fan of vintage films, that intrigued me no end. There's also an entire room dedicated to a miniature railroad and village but that is worthy of a blog post alone.

Where's your top places for taking children?

You can find the Carnegie Science Museum at; 

1 Allegheny Avenue, 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 


PS. Excuse the snow, we visited back on a snowy November day.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

DETROIT: Downtown Motown

Downtown Detroit Downtown Detroit Downtown Detroit Downtown Detroit Downtown Detroit Downtown Detroit Downtown Detroit

Sometimes I never know what to write when it comes to trying to annotate Detroit photo posts. Many people already have their perceptions, assumptions whether right or wrong about the city, some people won't even click on the post because Detroit is in the title. That's the roll of the dice. From the off I never wanted to go down the ruin porn photograph route when it comes to the city, there's enough of that already - just search ruin porn into Google and most of what comes up will be from Detroit. If you were to ever read reviews about restaurants or places to visit, things to do that I feature, the horror reviews would have you running for you life, sadly too many people in the suburbs believe said tales and never venture south of eight mile.

Sad but true.

Like when the in laws came to visit from Pittsburgh, we didn't hide them away in the suburbs like so many would.

I know Detroit has issues, I see it, I've driven down neighbours with only a couple of houses still occupied to entire stretches of nothing, just overgrown land. Detroit has issues that go back decades (racism, white flight, state/local politics), I guess if you live outside the US you might not be truly aware of them, maybe I'll explain them one day. I feel far more comfortable mentioning Detroit these days - whether it's things to see do or places to eat on my blog lately, I'm throwing caution to the wind and I truly hope you enjoy reading what I share, perhaps to see another side of the Motor City, just to balance things out a little.

On a side note, the eagle eyed locals among you might notice that the "Outsource to Detroit" banner still attached to the 1001 Woodward building in these photographs. They were taken just a couple of days before the 10 story, 130 foot banner split in two and flew its way through downtown due to the heavy winds we experienced in April. While to many it was a bit of an eye sore, it certainly caught your attention when you were heading south along Woodward.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

LIFE: The Little Things


We can all get too bogged down with the bigger picture - exam stress, house buying, growing up, work stuff. To always feel the need to be aiming towards something, to constantly be bettering ourselves. Sometimes we forget the smaller, everyday things that big light into our lives, that make us smile.

Here are mine, what are yours?

lemon plants growing from seeds and not killing them ... yet // mango curry // starting a new cross stitch pattern // being called "auntie Rachael" // French toast // kitty purrs // pretty wrapping paper // blog comments // maps // Vernors slurpees from 7 Eleven // cuppa tea // the Mexicantown Bakery // sunny days // adding to the embroidery hoop wall // rhubarb // vinyl records // the smell of old books // playing the punch buggy game // concrete mixers from Culvers // cookbooks // deep space nine // air conditioning // blog comments // cocktails in the bath // vintage postcards // exploring detroit


Friday, 23 May 2014

CROSS STITCHING: VW Bugs and Vintage Record Players

VW Bugs

Me and Joe play the punch buggy game* all the time - be it during a quick drive to the post office or a road trip somewhere. It's always fun and I nearly always loose, it's just one of our little couple quirks. In my stitching mission to sew things that are personal to me/us it was Joe's suggestion to stitch something related to a VW Bug, I mean they are pretty cool right?

VW Bugs

The design is adapted from a cross stitching book by Jeanette Crews Designs titled 40 Classic Cars - One Nighters which had a delightfully cute 1960's VW Bug - a design I just repeated lots and lots. Keeping things simple, each car is stitched in just one colour (colours reflecting the actual ones we see here and there in the old Metro Detroit area) and finished off with a simple black backstitching design. Popping it into a 6" wooden hoop its yet another addition to that wall of mine.

Record Player

Going along with stitching more personalized self created designs I thought it was high time I tried stitching something vinyl record related, what better than trying to recreate our vintage 1970's Sony player - a player we picked up at an estate sale for a mind blowing $3 (yes really). It certainly wasn't the easily task, what with trying to stitch a circle so it actually looks like a record was on the tricky side but I like how it's turned out.

Record Player

Granted I jazzed up the colour from it's vintage brown into a more dashing blue, but most of the dials and so on are pretty much in their correct positions. The back stitching was pretty much free hand, a tale of learning and stitching as I went along. Just excuse all the mess in the background of that image - that's the packing pile for moving.

VW Bugs

I've even managed to bulk stitching some simple markers in blackstitch lettering for the back of my pieces because I totally suck at remembering to do so and it's nice to be able to that somewhere a reminder of just when something was stitched (I mean aside from my blogs and stuff).

This is probably an excellent time to tell you about that other blog Hook Stitch Hoop that I've been working on, one more dedicated to my cross stitching, works in progress and the like. So if that's you're thing too, make sure to follow along!

What have you been crafting lately?

* Punch buggy game is one children often play and, on spotting a VW Bug one gets to punch the upper arm of their team mate, shouting either "Slug Bug"/"Punch Buggy" or shouting out the colour of said car.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

HOME BUYING: 5 Home Buying Tips

House buying can be a scary thing for any buyer, yet alone a couple of first time buyers out of their depth and pretty much on their own both financially and with regards to knowing what the hell goes on with trying to buy a house. Granted out first attempt was a bit of a fail we kind of learnt things the hard way, but we learnt a lot of things to take forward.

1 // Relationships
Whether it's your mortgage adviser or your relator/estate agent work with people you can get on with, that you can bounce ideas off, who are willing to give you their full attention and won't mind you ringing them with a random question at 9.30PM. It's their job to work for you. You don't need to be best friends but it certainly pays off to have people that you get on with that's for sure.

2// Home Inspections
You might remember my post about our home inspection - but they are key in giving that extra insight into a home you've stuck your bid on. Skipping a house inspection may risk you buying a money pit that leaks money rather than enjoyment and can get you in a better position for adjusting the buying price.

3 // Conditional offers
Make sure all your offers are condition - conditional upon the mortgage being approved, conditional on the home inspection and upon the appraisal. Unconditional offers can put you in a tricky corner if things don't work out and luckily helped us get out of our contract.

4 // Buy an electrical ground tester
If you're planning at looking and buying an older home, often electric switches aren't grounded which for some can be a deal breaker (it won't fail a house/FHA inspection it's more down to preferences especially if you have a lot of high end appliances). Joe spotted our home inspector using one and for our second and third round of looking for a house we decided to purchase one - they cost like $11 from Home Depot. While it's not a deal breaker for us, it's nice knowing which rooms are/aren't grounded.

5 // Pay attention
It's a bit of a novel feeling looking around houses but I admit to not paying enough attention on the houses we were looking at, like not noticing the lack of gutters, or there being a hole in the ceiling of the garage to how messy the hardwood flooring was on the first floor. Print off your house viewing scheduling, take notes, take photographs to write your first impressions, the pros and cons.

What would be your house buying tips?

Monday, 19 May 2014

LIFE: Weekend Visitors

GEDC0176 Market Detroit Boat Ren Cen

A hectic weekend of plates of over sized pancakes, Pizza Papalis style deep dish pizzas to long walks around parts of Detroit just flew by. With close family visiting from Pennsylvania, we didn't hide the family away in the suburbs (like many would) but ventured into Detroit to show them what the city has to offer. 

A long walk around the hugely busy and vibrant Eastern Market on Saturday morning burned off those calories from a plate of pancakes from the Original Pancake House - while it may have taken me over two years to find a free day to get to the market it's certainly somewhere we'll head to more often - live music, hundreds of stalls from food sellers, Detroit souvenirs to plant growers it has an incredible atmosphere and once we finally get our hands on a garden, it'll probably be filled with plants from there. Then a drive to the riverfront to show the kids Canada from over the river and the GM headquarters made us hungry for pizza. It may take over 30 minutes for your pizza to arrive (because of how they cook it), but man is the wait worth it.

How was your weekend?

Friday, 16 May 2014

LIFE: Blossom

Blossom Blossom

Spring blossoms finally come around just as the first thunderstorms of the year roll in. From the freezing temperature of winter past - like when it was -20C and all. We're now in the dizzy heights of the mid to high 20C's most days (Yorkshire summer time = Michigan spring) although April shows seem to be rolling into May this week. If all a little late.

It takes to mid May for the blossoms to appear in all their pinks and white. Come Monday morning before I started work, I quickly grabbed my camera and dashed out before another oncoming thunder shower and the accompanying wind blew the natural confetti off the trees. Now, a couple of days later, the same blossoms are looking a little sorry for themselves, all waterlogged and a little droopy. I know that feeling sometimes.

Anyway, we have a hectic long weekend ahead with house hunting and family visiting, I'll see you on the other side!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Slows BBQ

Slows BBQ is one of those places that always features on the must visit list when it comes to eating out in Detroit. Opening in 2009 it's now one of the key businesses along Michigan Avenue in Detroit's Corktown. It's a causal place, popular and trendy with us young folk to say the least in one of the most up and coming areas of the city outside of Downtown and Midtown (one historically linked to Irish immigrants if you didn't guess that from the areas name).

With a menu filled with southern inspired slow cooked meats their ribs are coated and rubbed in 13 spices leaving a spicy caramelized crust, slow cooked for hours until they are delightfully trendy. But if ribs aren't your thing they have lots of other delicious dishes and sides alongside a lot of Michigan beers and fancy beers on tap too.

So what did we start with? Well first things first we shared a plentiful appetizer of sweet catfish in a tempura batter with a delightful sauce to accompany it. While Joe oped for the full plate of ribs I went for the big three - a selection of three of their best - pulled pork, pulled chicken and sliced brisket. Each entree and combo comes with your choice of two sides - so mac n cheese (the best ever) and some spicy baked beans for me (mmm) and waffle fries covered in Hoffman's cheese (rather tasty and very cheesy) and some coleslaw (nom) for him. Seriously you get so much food, pratically everyone leaves with a doggy bag full.

I should probably admit before moving to the US I had little experience eating barbecue foods so i've always been a little daunted by it, especially with how messy you can get doing so. I'm not an expert at knowing the best and the rest when it comes to BBQ but Slows certainly pushed a certain chain place I've eaten at prior to this off the radar. They know how to do their food. Everything is served pretty quick, the spice is just right. Four sauces to accompany your meal are offered on your table which take everything to next level. Service is great, friendly and there's no rush to leave if you fancy having a special drink after your meal.

Parking could a bit of an issue, especially on a busy summer evening, Michigan Avenue is a bit limited for parking but there is a lot behind the Mercury Bar literally over the road and for $3 you can park for as long as you like, plus your money goes into funding the guy who keeps an eye on your car and goes into looking after Roosevelt Park.

Slows can be found at;
2138 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan, 48216 

How do you like your barbecue grub? 

Monday, 12 May 2014

LIFE: The Things I Am and the Things I'm Trying to Be


Stumbling across Alycia's things I am, things i'm trying to be and things I'm not post the other week, I was itching to do one for myself. I'm super talented at knocking chips off of myself, not to good at bigging myself up or actually being nice to myself, it was an interesting change.

I am
more creative than I give myself credit for
a maker of a decent curry
a geek, nerd, trekie, vinyl junkie
excellent at procrastination
someone who cries in the cinema, always, regardless of the film
rather stressy
very sarky

trying to be
less bothered about things mentioned in blog chats - how your blog should be like this, you need to have that - I don't have time for that pettiness any more
more accepting of myself
better at listing stuff on etsy
less worrisome

I am not
emotionally strong
very good at my poker face
able to sit and do nothing
a fan of folding the laundry

What about you?

Friday, 9 May 2014

WHISKEY: Michigan Made

Michigan probably isn't one of the places you might associate with whiskey, thing is craft distilling is a growing business in all corners of the state continuing from a boom which began in 2008 and is still growing.  Being a bit of a whiskey drinker myself, I thought it was high time I took to trying some of Michigan's own produce.


The first was very close to home. Just a couple of miles away in Ferndale is the Valentine Distilling Company, while probably more known for it's premium and award winning vodka, the company was the first to begin operating as a distillery in the area since prohibition. Detroit's automobile heritage is all over the bottle - from the whiskey's Woodward name - a historic road between Detroit and Pontiac to it's eye catching and bold label - something Valentine always does right. While Woodward is technically a bourbon it's made from over 50% corn with rye and malted barley making up the rest. It tastes more like a rye whiskey, it's as sweet as one too. Aged for four years in a maple syrup infused American oak cask, it's a lovely sweet, rye, cinnamon tasting whiskey. A lot of people cast aside whiskey because of the burning throat sensation (for want of a better description there I must add) but in fact there is none.


Serve it straight on the rocks and you can't go wrong - it's currently my favourite. Made in a limited edition, Woodward Whiskey will set you back about $37 and it's well worth every cent - make sure to check out their distribution map if it's in a state near you!


Another whiskey from a little further north is from the Traverse City Whiskey Company, from you guessed it, Traverse City. Infused with cherries (this area of Michigan is big with cherry harvesting and festivals don't ya know) this American Cherry Bourbon actually has the hand labelled batch number, in my instance numero 001, I'm not sure if they makes me super lucky or not but there you go. As you would hope there is a lovely cherry scent to the bourbon although it somewhat is lacking in the cherry taste, there's a hint it's there but nothing more. It's very mellow, it doesn't scream cherry flavoring nor does it scream a rye spicy flavor either. It's tempered and cool and would, I imagine go perfectly well with ice cream and cherry pie, or just as a mixer in your cola if that's your thing. According to their website, the Traverse City Whiskey Co., seem to have big plans ahead hopefully this whiskey is a sign of things to come and I certainly wouldn't turn down sampling their straight Whiskey either.


This is the cheaper whiskey of the pair, a 750ml bottle setting you back a decent $29. If you happen to live here in the Mitten this whiskey seems pretty easy to come across, they also have a presence in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Florida and California, again check out their retail finder for more information.

You can always click back to check out my other whiskey recommendations here if you're new to whiskey or fancy trying something different.

Do you have any favorite locally made food and drinks?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

BLACKWORK: Michigan State Map

Michigan Blackwork

I've been itching to some some more blackwork for a while, constantly pinning ideas on Pinterest doesn't help matters. I've been intrigued by the use of negative space in blackwork  where by the blackwork frames the design be it a letter, a flower, or in this instance a map. While I can't claim originality on the concept of negative space in blackwork, the design is my own - the map taken from a website resource for blank maps and the block pattern just one of the hundreds of blackwork designs that are out there. As a form of embroidery, blackwork has been stitched since before Tudor age, however it's somewhat lost it's popularity and pattern books are hard to come by - on the few and far between occasions I find them at estate sales, they are like finding gold.

Michigan Blackwork

Between the Upper and Lower Peninsular's that make up Michigan are several islands - they do get blurred into the pattern somewhat but they are there if you look hard enough. Traditionally blackwork was stitched in black thread, sometimes red or gold being used to give that something extra. I was deciding for ages before I decided to go with a purple shade, a bright colour would have been great, but with only using one thread (bar the outlining which is in two) you always need to work with a colour that can stand on it's own. The finished design is framed in a 5" hoop I had on hand (yes it's another addition to the embroidery hoop wall).

Michigan Blackwork

Not that I need to give myself any more projects, but I was thinking about adding and creating some more state based designs from the states I visit as and when, perhaps even though in a map of East Yorkshire to balance it all out.

Ya know because I don't have on my crafty projects to do and all.

Monday, 5 May 2014

LIFE: A Weekend of Spiderman, Slows and Sweets

Sum up this weekend in three words you'll find Spiderman, Slows and sweets at the top of the list. Actually you could probably throw in salad cream too because I had to get my British fix in a buy some more. While Joe's birthday might not be until this Wednesday, we decided to celebrate it early. The long weekend began on Thursday night with a quick trip to Treat Dreams in Ferndale - a glorious ice cream shop which offers ice cream made on the premises with flavours you probably wouldn't find anywhere else, like pineapple curry or brown sugar ham. There's more traditional flavours too so I opted for death by chocolate (a vegan ice cream) and a double chocolate chip which was tasty to say the least. It costs $4.60 for two scoops so a little more than you'd normally pay but worth it all the same.

Joe's birthday is always, always matched with a new Marvel movie (like every year there's always a new release just before or on this birthday - which is good because he's a huge comic book fan) - this year was no different with the second of the Spiderman movies finally hitting the big screen. Taking the day off work, we caught the first showing of the day at our local cinema (9.45am early). I have to admit to being more of a Captain America, Agents of Shield Marvel fan and in the words of the comic book fan of a husband, it was "good, but not great". So there you go.

weekend2Awesome kitty design (should call it street art others would call it graffiti) along the back of buildings where the Mercury Burger Bar is in Corktown (sandwiched between Michigan Avenue and the car park). The Big Three - my tasty meal at Slows BBQ.

The day was rounded off with a trip to Corktown to eat in Slows - a rather well known BBQ restaurant in these parts. It's taken me over two years to get down there but my word the food was delicious - rich, tender meats and great sauces. The place is more then worthy of post all on it's own so stay tuned for that. Being so close to Mexicantown we headed the short drive west to grab some more red creame soda and a tasty sweet treat from the Mexicantown Bakery - another place I'd highly recommend if you're in Detroit - it's my favorite bakery to say the least.
weekend3 Vinyl
Tasty treat from the Mexicantown Bakery - that confectionery sugar gets everywhere, first of the new vinyl boxes filled and this weeks vinyl pickings.

After hitting and having success at some estate sales in the morning, especially when it came to rehoming some vinyl, we took a trip to Ikea. Having run out of boxes for moving the vinyl collection we found Ikea do a box that is just the kind of size for vinyl, so we grabbed ten of the Tjena boxes (if vinyl storeage is your kind of thing they seem to hold about 70 mixed single and double records, each box is $4.99, they seem sturdy enough too) which are now stacked like the tower of boxes in the living room. As for Sunday well that's always just about food shopping, chilling out watching Netflix and catching up on blogs.

This weekend of relaxing and just being us was especially important after deciding to back out of the house we had put an offer on. After appraising for lower than the offer we'd place, the seller would only lower the asking price and not do some of the important work, work that we wouldn't have the money for until probably too much damage was done to the foundation. It's the right decision in the long term and the right decision for us, just hard all the same, so the search restarts.

How was your weekend?