Sunday, 29 June 2014

GREEN FINGERS: On How to Grow a Lemon Plant From a Lemon Seed


When life gives you lemons, grow a lemon plant from it. 

That's what i've often done and you don't even need a garden.

Sometimes they take up to five years to produce fruit, if they do at all, but it's fun all the same. My attempts back in the UK never gave me any fruit but they sit happily in the hallway catching the sun. Hopefully, choosing to go organic (organic lemons are considered the best to source a seed from) may prove fruitful (pun certainly intended) plus the Michigan summer heat (over any Yorkshire "heat)" might be the magic they need. 

If not I'll have yet another lemon bush or two, all the same.

To get started take our seeds from your average lemon, dry them thoroughly on some paper towel. Plant them in some healthy looking compost and water just a little (not too much or they'll go rotten). Cover you pot in some plastic wrap/cling film, poke some small holes in it and keep it in a warm place. It takes upwards of 3 to 4 weeks to spot any seedy forms of life, once you see life, take off the plastic wrap and keep it in a very well lit place.

Lemon Lemon

Debate rules over how often you should water them, I go for misting them every 2/3 days, they seem to be happy with that.

Sadly only two of my four seeds sprouted, which growing from my experience of attempting this as a child, it pretty good odds. It's slow progress but they appear to be on the right track. Once they hit the two month milestone - which mine are about reaching, get them repotted into their own decently sized pot and give them plenty of sun.

Bigger news is that I haven't killed either of them yet. Being a serial cacti killer, this is marvelous progress. 

Have you ever tried growing a fruit from seed?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

LIFE: America & it's Growing Love for Football - the British Perspective

Being British and watching football pretty much goes hand in hand. It's part of our national heritage and identity even if you hate the sport. Every four years as the World Cup rolls around, our nation dusts off the car flags, buys the beer and thinks perhaps this is the year for brining the cup home. Sadly in reality this is rarely the case. You could argue it was the heat, the team never travels well or whatever else you can think of, but their lackluster performances always leaves you wanting, wishing for more. This year has been no exception and I should probably point out that I was backing the US from the off rather than my home country - I'm not sure what that says about me or my national homeland pride these days but I'm rolling with it all the same.

In coming to the US, I moved from a country which has so much national pride in it's team it's like a religion, to America - a nation that's only now really working out what the fuss is all about when it comes to the game. With a win and a draw, hopes are running high for today's game against Germany, will the US succeed where England failed? Will they get the chance to go beyond the group stages?

Football as a sport, and as a sport to watch across the US has been growing in popularity in the last couple of decades. While it might be played by kids in school, it's up against the big national sports (American football, ice hockey, basketball and baseball games) for attention and participation especially at university and therefore, professional levels. Furthermore, for some reason, perhaps this is a Detroit news thing, reporters - Pat Cupto in particular seems to make it his mission to dismiss American's interest in football as just being a World Cup thing, that American football is the only proper football to be watching yet alone playing. 

Thing is, it's not, attitudes are changing.

American residents purchased 200,000 World Cup tickets, second only to Brazil. Bars are packed for games, Americans themselves rather than purely expats from football loving countries are coming out and lending their support. Since the US hosted the 1994 World Cup, and the creation of the Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1993, more and more Americans are tuning in to watch football teams, regardless of the country playing. As a result, US soccer teams, are growing a fan base.

Nevertheless, European football leagues, particularly games from the Premier League teams draw in the biggest American audiences. Yet with 70 millions supposed soccer fans here in the country, MLS teams are battling to catch more of the limelight. In the US, top league football is played in the MLS which comprises of 3 Canadian teams and 16 from the US, divided again into the Eastern and Western conferences. But like the UK there are minor leagues, and our local Detroit City FC founded only in 2012, can be found in the 4th tier of the soccer pyramid.

Detroit City FC Source.

While reporters like Cupto would have you believe that soccer loving in the US was and only will ever be a World Cup fad and that's is too much of an un-American sport to ever get behind, he's wrong. If the growth in the sports popularity in the last two decades is anything to do by, the sport will only continue to grow, be that through star players or TV audience figures. 

Football/soccer may not be an American expression of national identity like to many in the UK, but as any sport it can bring people together. Whether it's right or wrong to get you're hopes up about the fortunes, or indeed misfortunes of the England team, it's refreshing to experience a country slowly, but surely getting behind it's football team, and i'm sure we can all get behind that.

What's your take on football? How to you rate USA's chances against Germany?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

MUSIC: Clairy Browne & the Bangin' Rackettes

Seeing one of your favorite bands live is both a scary and exciting experience. It's a huge bag of emotions, you love their music but you don't want them to disappoint, and when they come and beat your expectations, then it's the best feeling ever.

As I mentioned on Monday, on Saturday night we drove over the Ann Arbor for their Summer Festival, well the reason was to see Clairy Browne & the Bangin' Rackettes. We've been fans of the Melbourne based group Clairy since the Heineken advertisement in which Clairy is seen performing their song Love Letter, but we never got chance to catch them on their first US tour which if I remember rightly was last year. Saturday marked their first show of their Love Cliques tour which just happens to be the name of their upcoming EP being released August 5th. With Ann Arbor being down the road, it would have been rude not too.


Clairy Browne et al are best described as being a 9 piece band with heavy soul band with an early rock & roll vibe. There's certainly, at least for me a Motown feel but with more sexualised lyrics, in fact their whole performance is very sexy. Clairy and her Bangin' Rackettes came out wearing tight one pieces with sexy vintage-esque coverups with songs covering early morning walks of shame to other girls lusting over your man. And man can Clairy sing live.

So with the roller-coaster emotions of seeing one of your favorite bands like, they did not disappoint, far from it and admittedly it was a bit emotional watching them come on, especially as we were in the front row. Double yey.

They are a sexy band, they make you feel sexy, they make you want to get sexy with someone. That's pretty darn good by my book.

So I'll leave you with one of my favorite tracks Vicious Cycle, but you can also check out Jenny - from their forthcoming EP here.

Take a listen i'd love to hear what you think!

* US Tour Image source 

Monday, 23 June 2014

LIFE: Ann Arbor Summer Festival

A2SF Stage Frozen Clairy Browne

Free music, strawberry frozen yoghurt and a gorgeous summer evening, well what more could you want for a Saturday night?!

The annual Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an international arts event spanning June and July and sees concerts, art installations and speaking events all coming to the university city. Granted I never knew anything about it until we saw that one of our favorite bands - Clairy Browne & The Bangin' Rackettes, were playing a free (double yey) gig there. But it was well worth the drive over for the evening as a whole.

I've been admittedly wallowing in the stress and anxiety that makes up house buying and visa related stuff to the point were I don't particularly want to be doing anything, so Joe had to drag me there but I'm glad he did. With Clairy Browne playing on the Rackham stage with the Graduate studies building of the university as the backdrop we arrived an hour early, soaked up the summer evening, enjoyed some frozen raspberry yoghurt, listened to the band before - Horse Cave Trio (Detroit bluegrass roots band - pretty good too I must say) and enjoyed some people watching.

Well the main reason we went was to see Clairy Browne and they did not disappoint, I'll be sharing more about them in another post later this week.

Hope y'all had a grand weekend!

Friday, 20 June 2014

FOOD: The Coney Island Dog

Moving to the US has meant having the excuse of trying loads of new foods - both of the national and local delicacy. Living in Michigan I'm spoilt with the Coney Island Hot Dog - one that has nothing to do with Coney Island in New York - the name merely refers to the origin of the hot dog and not the topping. When talking about Coney Island dogs on twitter I often get a lot of questions about it, so I though I'd dedicate a little blog post to everything about it. 

The Coney is a firm fixture and favorite across south east Michigan and a variety of the dog can even be found in Ohio - often known there has the cheese chilli. But what is it? Well it's easily explained as a natural casing beef hot dog topped with an all meat, beanless chilli finished off with diced onions and mustard, and most importantly, Coneys are as messy as they are delicious, they might be cheap but they are mighty fine. 
Left - Coney from Comet Burgers, Royal Oak. Right - Coney and sliders from The Telway, Madison Heights. 

Come to Michigan and you'll be spoilt for choice with where to taste one, Lafayette and American Coney Islands next door to each other in Downtown Detroit always battle it out between themselves for the number one spot, but the region is full of Coney Island chains - Leos to National. But many independent burger places or diners will serve their own variety - the coney's from Telway in Madison Heights being a particular favorite of mine - plus is still has it's 50's decor which is always a win with me.

A trip to Michigan certainly wouldn't be complete until you've tried a coney dog. You can always check out my blog posts on my visit to Detroit's Lafayette Coney Island here.

How do you like your hot dogs?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

LIFE: TV Shows From My Childhood

There are some shows and most often their theme songs which take me right back to being a child. Being born in 1986, I remember most shows from early 1990's onwards. Admittedly I was always more of a fan of BBC children's show, for some reason they seemed to grip me more, and i guess even as a child, adverts annoyed me.

Round The Twist

Now, I can still sing the Round The Twist theme song - I think most people who grew up watching this show probably can. Round The Twist followed the life and adventures of three kids in Australia who grew up in a lighthouse (wow) and their bizarre magical adventures. It was a show that was often recast between the series, and I admit I've never seen any of the "newer" series (3 and 4) that aired in 2000. 
The Queens Nose

Based on the Dick King Smith (how I loved his books as a child) The Queen's Nose was one of my favourite, favourite shows on the BBC. Both follow the story of Harmony Parker who is given a 50 pence piece that can grant 7 wishes. Who of us didn't then wish for a magic 50p for ourselves and began rubbing all the ones we had?

The Demon Headmaster

Another book to TV adaptation by the BBC was The Demon Headmaster which started airing in 1996, which follows a show run and manipulated by a Headmaster.


Byker Grove

Byker Byker Byker Grove ... yeah who doesn't remember that theme tune? Byker Grove is actually my first memory of hearing about Newcastle (rather than knowing family ties to the city - and then my determination later to move and study there - I even lived a street away from Byker itself although everyone knows the youth club wasn't filmed in Byker in real life). I remember that infamous episode of PJ going blind from the paint balling accident, Jemma being electrocuted (1994) and it's often marked as being one of the first to address issues of homosexuality and teen pregnancies to a younger audience.  

So those were my top four favorite kids TV shows going up, i'd love to hear what yours were!

Monday, 16 June 2014

LIFE: When Everything Seems to Happen at Once

Talk about everything happening at once.

Last week was a crazy week I will be honest. What with two trips to ER (kidney stones on the OHs part), waiting to hear about the lenders appraisal on the house and a crazy busy week with work alongside approval on my greencard paperwork well I would welcome a break and a quieter week but that's not on the radar any time soon.

If everything goes to plan *fingers crossed* we should be moving into the house at the start of July yey! It amazes me how quickly the house buying process runs in the US - we're currently five weeks in with an estimate of a week and a bit left for all the paperwork to be sorted. Which in theory means operation packing overdrive will be going into full throttle in the coming week and trying to have a thorough sort out in the process, or at least attempting too.

To say i'm feeling overwhelmed with all the packing is a bit of an understatement.

It doesn't help that I hate, hate, hate having blank walls, and nothing around me. I guess i'm a bit clingy when it comes to stuff, it makes somewhere homey. My home (well apartment) is just packed to the ceiling with brown boxes.

Ah well be worth it in the end.

Unlike the first house, this one seems to be pretty sound and doesn't call for any major improvements - fixing a gutter here, lifting up some concrete there and updating old fixtures as and when. The gardens excites me immensely and I'll certainly be enjoying it during my blog break, plus there's going to be a room for all our vinyl. A WHOLE ROOM. Plus it has some great original fittings like a laundry shoot and tie holders - it's the little things.

That or i'm easily impressed.

As for the greencard approval, well the US and Joe is stuck with me being here until 2024. The background to removing the conditions and about the paperwork I explained back in March with my case of proving my marriage legit. In all the paperwork in all took three months, which is actually half of the currently waiting time on the I-751 form working through the California office. So now i'm a nice lawful permanent resident. Again, it's all about the little things.

It feels right calling America home and I love being here and all the opportunities it's given me from my job to buying a house (could never afford buying one in the UK lets be honest) to all the amazing food to try and places to visit. South East Michigan, and well particular Detroit isn't on many peoples radars, people in the UK questioned why I'd even think of wanting to move somewhere near Detroit, but the city has always impressed me. It's gritty, life is tough there but it's changing, there's improvements, it's all exciting.

Here's to another ten years and whatever else the future has to hold (although it'll be interesting to see if I'm still blogging in another 10 years that's for sure). 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

FOOD: The MexicanTown Bakery


If you haven't guessed already I have a really sweet tooth, luckily my cravings are often sorted with the amount of bakeries and doughnut shops in these parts. But one of my favorites has to be the MexicanTown Bakery over in, you guess it, MexicanTown. Joe's managed to bring back some sweet treat goodies from the bakery before but this was my first trip inside and I was like a kid in a candy shop. So many choices.

Rich chocolate cake, cookies the size of the palm of your hand, covered apples to pastries and biscuits. Everything you could ever wish for and more than you could take in. So what did I go for this time? A huge chocolate chip cookie and a divinely moist chocolate cake. 

The bakery is also a great store for Mexican and some harder to find American pops (in Michigan we tend to call soda pop, so being British I don't feel out of place in this regard). While I have a liking for Mexican cola, I found it hard to turn down the offer of a Jarritos Mango drink, Joe picked up an apple soda and a couple of the Barg's red creme soda. Barg's creme soda is so hard to find in fact, that this is the first bottle Joe's seen in over four years.

It's like liquid gold.

I think it's a bit of an acquired taste, it's certainly different to anything I've tried before, really very sweet if that's your kind of thing.

MexicanTown itself is a must visit location if you're ever in Detroit, literally across the road is our favorite Mexican restaurant Armandos who do a fabulously great priced all you can eat lunchtime buffet - everything is always warm and well stocked.

Where do you like to get your Mexican fix?

Mexicantown Bakery can be found at;
4300 W Vernor Hwy
Detroit, Michigan

Monday, 9 June 2014

LIFE: Other Peoples Junk

Greetings Compact Penguins Motown

This little part of the world is heaven if both estate sales and yard sales are your kinda thing. The past couple of weekends we've taken to randomly driving around (you really don't have to drive far) and having a gander at some of the yard sales just for a change from estate sales. 

While I find yard sales a little more frustrating than estate sales - you have no idea what you might find, they can be super hit and miss and some just don't hold any interest in us (lots of sales for baby clothes and items, household junk etc). But they can be fun all the same - from finding penguin nesting dolls, couple of vintage Detroit postcards to cookbooks, vinyls and an unbranded vintage powder compact with a sweet dragonfly design upon it's top, we didn't do too badly. Aside from me getting sunstroke, that wasn't fun.

I don't think anything is going to beat the $1 Jimi Hendrix Experience vinyl (Are You Experienced - 1967) we found the week previous, but last weekend the vinyl gods were smiling on us again. You go through peaks and lows, you can go weeks without finding anything you're interested in and then have a day when everything is in your favor. Take for example the three estate sales we hit which must have had thousands and thousands of records between them, from which we rehomed about 70 everything from The Beatles, Deep Purple to lots of lovely Motown Records (Marvelettes, Temptations, Spinners to the Supremes) to Stevie Nicks and Buddy Holly (an original 1958 one at that) with everything in between. Motown's never the easiest to find, at least in LP format, so finding 9 in one day is my kinda fun.

What have you found lately?

Friday, 6 June 2014

LIFE: Things ... Currently


Lists, lists, lists.

Lists are helping me focus right now. While I wish I could grab my hands on a magical watch like Bernard (American kids you were missing out not growing up with Bernard's Watch, a show about a kid that had a watch that stopped time). We have an offer on a house that's working through the system, works picking up, i'm packing like there's no tomorrow, trying to find that spare out to craft, get out into the sunshine, my blogs feeling a bit neglected. My blog reading list, more so. 

So it's been a while since i've done one of my life/things posts, I thought I'd combine it with a currently kinda tag and throw it out there, so we all feel a little more grounded.
  • Reading - great positive articles about Detroit, like the awesome street art boom in the city
  • Watching - Lots of marathons - well Bar Rescue and NCIS LA for hours on end. Niceeee.
  • Trying - to relax and not be overly stressy about everything
  • Eating - these chocolate cupcakes with this vanilla butter cream frosting, I just had to bake something on Tuesday (or it might have been Monday, I forget), these fit the bill.
  • Pinning - lots of ideas and wishes from my office come craft room to finally having that garden
  • Crafting - everything between a Red Sky at Night cross stitch to a cute little birdie that'll be turned into a thank you card, alongside finally working on a blanket, crocheted from a huge granny square (you can always keep up with my craft adventures ya know on my Hook Stitch Hook blog)
  • Going - to lots of flea markets but not really finding much
  • Loving - finally being acclimatised (somewhat) to the American summer, finally
  • Hoping - that this house doesn't fall through
  • Thinking - my British accent made a barista's day yesterday, she was very happy hearing it that's for sure
  • Enjoying - going to some yardsales for a change, great place for cheap vinyl we're finding
  • Listening (to) - my Billie Holiday boxset and Simply Red - growing up with my mam listening to Simply Red rather often, I finally found a $1 vinyl copy of a New Flame, yeah that was coming home with me. That and Skid Row, lots of Skid Row.
  • Finishing - not enough packing as a I probably should to be that's for sure.

While i'm not one to apologise for life happening, for not posting as often, or as well or whatever as normal, it's probably kind to give you a heads up and all. Whatever happens with this house, good or bad i'll be taking a little break once July rolls around, just to catch up with myself and ya know, enjoy summer. As ever you can always follow me on Twitter if that's your thing.

Hows things with you?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

MICHIGAN: Uniroyal - The Worlds Largest Tire


If you ever happen to be driving east along I-94 through Allen Park just by the Metro Airport you might come across one of the world's largest roadside attractions - a huge tire. Heading back from Taylor this weekend, I finally managed to quickly grab a drive by photograph!

Located near Detroit, the Uniroyal Giant Tire stands 80 feet high (about 8 stories high) and was originally created as a Ferris wheel for the 1964/1965 New York World Fair. With each ride in any of the 24 gonadlas costing 25c and lasting 10 minutes, the tire Ferris wheel was enjoyed by over 2 million people.

 Back in it's former life as a Ferris Wheel at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. Source.

After the fair closed the tire was dissembled into over 180 pieces, the gondolas removed and the tire was relocated to the Uniroyal sales office in Detroit to be displayed as a static roadside attraction, paying homage to the automotive history. For me the first mention I ever heard of Detroit was in geography lessons - Detroit built it's wealth and fortune upon the automotive industry, with Henry Ford's thirst for innovation refining the production line and mass assembly. With these methods adopted by Ford's rivals, and part suppliers establishing themselves in the city, many car manufactures based their headquarters in the Detroit, the Motor City.  

Weighting 12 tons, the worlds largest tire is built to withstand hurricane strength winds and while it's changed it's name and had a new hub cap over the years it's still standing strong. You certainly won't miss it if you're ever in these parts!

Looking for the Uniroyal Tire? 
You'll find it eastbound on I-94 between Southfield Freeway and Outer Drive. 

What's the best roadside attraction you've ever spotted?

Monday, 2 June 2014

LIFE: Our Collections

Sharing a one bedroom apartment with four collections between me and Joe is just one of the reasons why we need to expand into a house. I've always collected something - for at least as long as I can properly remember that is, whether it was badges to Nancy Drew books and now having someone to not only share my collections with, but to additionally collect stuff together is an added bonus.

So I thought i'd take the time during this 2014 Blogger Challenge post on collections to talk about the four main collections I/we live with, how we got into them and what they are all about. Sadly nearly all of it is all packed away for moving, hopefully they'll see the light of day again soon!

Vintage Powder Compacts
So collecting compacts began back in 2009 after my gran died and I inherited (well saved from the rubbish) some of hers - one being a Statton, another one being pre WW2, both piped my interest and the collection grew from there. They mainly date from the early 1930's through to the mid 1980's and I currently have brands from France, UK, US and Germany. It's a slow to grow collection, while they are easy to pick up on ebay I prefer hunting them out at estate sales. Still, I think the collection is at around 80 these days. 

You can find out more about my collection under the vintage powder compacts tag.

I happily share my living space with about 200 Transformer Toys - Joe's main collecting habitat, although a majority of them are packed away for moving. His collection mainly revolves around the Beast Wars, Prime and Generations toy line and I find them rather nifty myself, and I'll happily admit to asking for a Grimlock Transformer along with a couple of others for myself. Back in 2012 I shared a little more about the collection here if you're interested.

Vinyl Records
If you're a regular reader you'll know we have a love for all things vinyl, well we have a big weakness for vinyl's lets be honest. We began collecting in 2012, picking up a couple of records even before we had a player. After picking up a then unworking original 1970's Sony record player for $3 the collection just grew and grew. With records spanning everywhere from the mid 1950's to the present day with everything from blues, to jazz, sound tracks, Motown to heavy metal we've taken to using Discogs to catolgue our collection because we have too many to remember. I've managed to catalog 826 of them so far, but there's at least a good couple of hundred that were packed away for moving before hand.

Find all things record related under the vinyl tag.

Model Trains
Our model train collection is something I've never really got around to talking about, possibly it's a little too geeky to share. Anyway individually we both have a love for trains be it the real ones for travelling for the model rail kind. We have a big collection of model engines, stock cars to mini trees and track that we've collected from estate sales, sadly they are all in boxes and have never yet been played with due to a total lack of space - hopefully whenever we get a house we'll set up a track in the basement and get it working.

Those are the big four, that and a liking for collecting vintage postcards (particularly Detroit/Michigan ones) and crafty things. I'd love to hear what about what you collect!