Friday, 29 August 2014

TRAVEL: Bay City

Friendship Shell, Wenonah Park

Last week we popped oop north to visit Bay City (the one here in Michigan, not Wisconsin) - Joe had a work conference up there so I tagged along, it's a place we visited before so I was more than happy to entertain myself wandering around. Because I was pleasing myself for eight hours I have many a photograph to break down and share but I thought I'd start with the main downtown area and as ever all the little things. 

If you know anything about my adventures while living here in the US I love exploring and finding the side of America that might get a little overlooked if you're just visiting. For me it's all about the faded painted advertisements on walls, the outside stairwells, the old buildings and street names. I love the architecture of 1800's America when all these small towns and cities were being founded and finding their fortunes be it home or business, and with Bay City being founded in 1837 it's my kind of place.

BayCity BayCity
Purple building at N. Water St & 3rd, view towards City Hall and museum 

Bay City is located along the base of the Saginaw Bay just before Lake Huron. Originally known as Lower Saginaw it prosperity was founded upon the deep river waters , much deeper than in Saginaw itself, perfect for all the industries that rely on shipping. By the mid 1860's the city was dooming with the sound and life of shipbuilding, saw mills and lumber - the industrialists in charge made their fortunes and built their mansions many of which are now historical landmarks (more of this homes to come in following posts). But like many a city in the Midwest's Rust Belt and just like here in Detroit, by the 1950's onwards such areas struggled to adapt to the changes both economically and socially, the area lost nearly half it's manufacturing jobs and incomes further decreased.

BayCity DSCF8347Bay City
Garden at 6th St & N. Van Buren St, Trinity Episcopal Church, alleyway along 3rd st. 

Birthplace of singer Madonna, local folklore declares the infamous fictional lumberjack Paul Bunyan was based on Fabian "Joe" Fournier - a fearsome brawler standing 6 foot tall, with the strength of three men and a double row of teeth. You wouldn't want to mess with him on a Friday night would you?! After his murder in 1875 tales and stories began. There are arguments over the origins, of who Paul Bunyan was or may have been, but in 1906 Michigan Oscoda/AuSable Press printed a story about a lumberjack with two sets of teeth - a man echoing the description of Joe Fournier. But who was he really, well who knows but Bay City would like to lay down their claim.

Now Bay City celebrates it's river heritage, street upon street is home to antique malls and it's old buildings still stand proud as their fortunes continue to change.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

LIFE: Biggest Fear(s) as an Expat


I'll be the first to admit that I have a fair new fears, anxiety filled moments when it comes to being an expat. Even more so that this for me, is a hard topic to speak about, it reveals what I find to be my weakness, that being an expat isn't always a rosy experience. It's hard for to pin point one fear that troubles me more than other and the fears have certainly changed and no doubt will continue to do so.  So I thought I'd share some of the main worries for the last in the Expat Revelations with Holly - past, every day ones and possible future issues.

Moving from the UK with it's free NHS (well paid with taxes) to the US without any medical coverage was a big fear. Until I was granted my greencard I couldn't be added onto Joe's health insurance coverage. So for the first six months I was running uninsured and wild and dangerous and probably should have wrapped myself up in bubble wrap. That was until I got strep 3 months into uncovered period and I had to go to the urgent care. Without insurance seeing a Dr cost $100 - any treatment and tests just added up that total. Now fast forward and having that health insurance is a big relief, it's still not cheap to visit a Dr or get medication, but it makes it cheaper and something to stress about a little less.

The homeland
Honestly I worry about returning to the UK, even to visit. I haven't returned since I left, I worry, and well know that the UK isn't the same country - politically and socially and I'm not that unworldly girl that left in 2011. People have changed - friends have had babies, got married, people have died and again I'm not that person they use to know (I talk about immigration guilt which somewhat relates to this point more here). Absence changes everyone - yourself and the ones you left behind. Being so use to an American way of life - a life of American pancakes, of having money notes all the same size, American gas prices, of Target and mom n pop diners, being "British" again for whatever crazy reason, even if it's just for a week, is scary.

Of Being The Foreigner 
Being that British girl, that foreigner, of still being an outsider is always a constant fear. It's an insecurity that blankets my life, a fear of never fully belonging in either the US or the UK, like which country is really home. Everyday fears of my accent making me stick out but I also fear completely loosing my East Yorkshire twang, of meeting people, of being misunderstood, humour falling flat, saying, doing the wrong thing.

Visa, greencard paper has been a fear since 2011 but it's one that still comes into play when I have to apply for something new. Go back to April/May of this year and my fear of having to prove my marriage was real. Granted my greencard entitles me to live in the US for ten years, by then I want to have applied and being granted citizenship. But I fear not being able to remember all of the key constitutional points and it's amendments of all the government roles and things. I need to the battle the fear of applying for citizenship (and also what that means on a personal level as no longer being just a British citizenship - although being a Brit I'm granted dual citizenship but still) to stop the constant green card renewal fear.

Fears are something I don't think people speak about on blogs enough and certainly not enough on expat based blogs. It's not wrong to admit any of us has a fear whether big or small, but for some reason admitting you have a fear while being an expat is too real, it's too open about admitting that the expat dream isn't as amazing or as grand as you want everyone to believe.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

BLOGGING: The Writing Process


Today I'm sharing my unworldly experience when it comes to blogging. After being tagged Kelly who's blog Adventures in Tea and Cake always makes me hungry! I was actually surprised how much these questions got me thinking. As a hobby blogger I don't necessarily really think about my blogging, writing process call it what you will, so it was interesting to take a step back and think through it all. 

What are you working on?
There's always posts in the working on phase and I constantly feel the struggle to try and find my voice, have my personality spilling out the computer screen. But for whatever reason it's so hard for me not to write formally - at least that's how it comes over when I reread my words. Some see the light of day long before others. I have a couple of posts from our short trip to Bay City lined up - historical homes to former train stations. Digging up old photographs for more snapshots, more expat themed posts and room tours. There's even some old Detroit and Pittsburgh posts that have been sleeping in my draft folder that need finishing. They'll get done eventually

How does my work differ from others in the genre?  
Aside from sitting under the lifestyle blog umbrella I don't think my blog necessarily just fits one genre. I'm not a typical expat blogger (I don't get the chance to jet set around the country/world like many in that "niche") but since joining in the expat revelations link up I do like the challenge both myself and the conceptions that expat life is all merry and happy.  

While I might not be a stand out blogger on anyone's reading list, but I do hope to show Michigan and particularly Detroit in a new light. Michigan is never a stand out place on anyone's must visit list when it comes to the US and Detroit is always seen in the wrong light so I love trying to challenge those perceptions. 

I guess I like having my fingers in lots of different pies when it comes to topics and the longer I blog (five years plus now) the more I throw caution to the wind and just share what I want regardless of the stats.


Why do I write about what I do?
In short because it's me.

My blog has always reflected my life - the adventures, the everyday, the good and the bad. Life happens first, the blogging comes afterwards. Topics, themes they've always shadowed what's surrounding me - whether it was being in a long distance relationship, getting a visa to being that Yorkshire lass in the US. 

But it's more than that, blogging is just one of my hobbies, the hobbies fit and feed content be it tackling the garden, DIY, collecting vintage compacts or listening to records. I always want to keep this space real, personal and me, and the only way I know how to do that is to share my everyday life and adventures. For me, that's my freedom when it comes to writing. 

How does my writing process work?
In short - things happen first, blog post comes after. I tend to work off and around the photographs as I find them the best way to stimulate the words. For tags, questions or posts about a particular place I often work out of my notebook before I can even think about typing. Jotting down words, emotions, things I need to fit in for me I find that more productive than staring at a screen and hoping the words come to my fingers. 

Like I said before, sometimes a post will get worked out and published within a day, sometimes they sit in draft form for months. I don't like to rush my posts out just because something happened there and then. Sometimes they need curing, they need going over to get the feel just right. Sometimes I have the pictures and not the words to express the emotions behind them. 

As I'm not one big on organisation that's as far as my process as such goes. Blogging fits in around everything else - a spare 30 minutes here, and hour or two on a Sunday as and when. For me, that seems to work best, those are the ways that keep me energized to keep blogging rather than forcing myself.

*               *               *

It seems like everyone has more than likely been linked into this hop by now - but if not, consider yourself tagged. Either way i'd love to know how you get around to writing up those blog posts, while you're at it, i'd love to hear what you love, or even hate (play nice) about this blog of mine!

Monday, 25 August 2014

LIFE: What's Inside the Bag Inside the Other Bag


The first and only time I've ever done a what's inside my bag post was way back in August 2011 on trip to London for my visa medical. That seems not only a lifetime ago, but a world ago. So after seeing my favorite brightly hair coloured pal Kerri offering a peek into hers, I though it was high time I did another. But I thought I'd do it a little different and show you the things inside my rucksack in which my bag is carried for our little two night stay away in Bay City, Michigan last week.

Oh my old Nike rucksack, my once well used and well trusted bag for lugging things back and forth in my former student life train journeys between York and Newcastle which now gets dusted off for such little adventures. My handbag, or purse if I'm trying to pretend to be more American then I am was a second hand find, it's a bit like a Mary Poppins bag, you can cram a lot more in it them you'd ever guess. It's normally filled with Post Office receipts and shopping coupons but for once I had a clear out. Normally it's contents aren't that exciting - a mini toiletry bag, a purse, hand cream, a bunch of keys with more keyrings then keys to be honest (not pictured) tic tacs (nom) and my trusty Samsung MP3 - which was actually pictured 3 years ago in that other what's in my bag post.


Whether it's a night away or a week long trip I always over pack, so for once I've been trying to cut all the stuff down. With Joe attending a work conference I had eight hours to please myself - a great excuse to catch up on some reading (an advance copy of The Betrayers by Davis Bezmozgis and Plunge into Michigan - a hilarious factoid book about the state I call home, and yes I really do read the Model Railroad magazine, for that time when we eventually get to set ours up in the basement) and perhaps even do some blogging.

While I'd love to leave technology at home and even with Ebay on vacation mode, my trusty Acer netbook tags along - ya know for checking TripAdvisor and general link to the outside world and while it's not pictured I even packed an extension lead - hotels like to challenge you with where they stick their measly limited sockets so I find having some extra wire length on the handy side. But as much as I love my netbook, I also love having a notebook on hand - it's my go to for jotting down blog, craft ideas to feelings and newspaper clippings. After reading about some self guided walking tours around the historical residential area, there's even a highlighted map and notes about the houses as my guide.

Of course adventures to little places means taking my camera - it's always difficult to take photographs of the camera you intend to take when you need it to take photographs of the things in your bag, so you get a glimpse of the GE point and shoot (which is really Joe's) but I always take my Fuji bridge (yeah I'm a rare blogger that doesn't have a DSLR) and batteries to give it some juice. 

As for giving myself some juice, there's some tea bags. I never trust that there will be enough coffee or tea supplies in my hotel room and sometimes they just taste dam awful. So yes, I pack some Earl Grey.

What are your must have things for a short trip away?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

LIFE: How I've Changed Since Expatiation


Sometimes I wonder if how I've changed as a person over the last two and a half years of being an expat if it's all been because of moving countries or because of growing older and everything else that's been thrown my way. How much difference have those 3,656 miles made?! So for today's Expat Revelations link up with Holly, I'm exploring how becoming a British expat in the USA has changed me - for good, or bad.

To back track I was a bit rebellious in my teen early twenties - the time that was matched with my university years. I went out drinking three times a week, probably drank too much, smoked a little, went to gigs and had lots of friends. Now I'd rather stay in of a night and watch Family Guy or read a book. Is that because i'm eight years the wiser? Because I'm nearly 28 and growing up (or old), or because moving countries knocked my confidence and i'd rather stay in and lets be honest here, hide a little. 

Which is odd when you think about it. Moving countries is a big deal, it's nothing to take lightly. You have to have confidence that this is the move, the life change for you. You pack your bags, you move thousands of miles. I moved to the US and had never stepped foot in the country before. I left family, friends and a job behind. I didn't have plans, other than being with Joe. Surely that took a huge ball of confidence? I guess it did just for some reason it knocked me down rather than built me up.

See I don't like bigging myself up can't you tell.

Being an expat makes me feel like the odd one out, being the one with the funny, the odd accent (that everyone thinks is Australian) or jokes that I was Joe's mail order bride knocked me for six, it's made me so self aware of myself that I pull myself apart. Waitresses sometimes can't pick up what I say, you get double takes, you get people complaining about foreigners right behind you. All that compiles in pushing my social anxiety to the forefront. It makes me question myself about being the outsider. 

Regardless I remind myself that being an expat has made me strong. It's given me opportunities to do things I would never have otherwise, I mean after being in a long distance relationship I get to be with my guy that's worth it all. But it's additionally the estate sales which created a vinyl collection through which I got into blues music. I'm a lot more aware of the beauty of the world and just how vast it is and of how sheltered my youth was. Maybe moving countries gave me the kick up my arse to grow up, to take a bit more responsibility. It's certainly made me a bit more adventurous about exploring places - something I regret not doing more at university. Granted I need a push from Joe at times, but I love finding new places to eat, new places to visit, it's given me a new and better appreciation of the world around me, and I certainly would never have thought about promoting Detroit like I try and do here even knowing it was going to be my home until I took to exploring the city for myself. 

Being an expat certainly changes you, it makes you so self aware, it makes you aware of the world around you - the small things, the big things. While it can make you aware of yourself, your nationality, your confidence in doing such a huge thing, it can also make you so, so aware of being an outsider and as someone who likes to fade into the crowd a little, it's hard to handle at times.

I for one certainly could do with reminding myself how strong I am.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

GREEN FINGERS: The Taming of an Unruly Back Garden


There's nothing better then starting the day off with some gardening a couple of times a week. I'm super luckily in being able to work out of the home, so to spend those quiet hours working away has been lovely in the last couple of weeks. With an August challenge to finish all the hard landscaping - the trimming the trees, straightening up the borders and getting rid of most of the unruly weeds, it's been a bit of a work out, not sure it'll all be cleared by September, but it's fun all the same.

Garden Garden

So the before and after of the border in front of the decking after most of the unruly weeds have been pulled out. In a former life I think it was somewhat of a rockery - there's certainly a lot of large stones, but it's a damp and dark part of the garden, great for hostas mind. So far I've put in a homemade bird feeder and bird bath, both of which I hope to be sharing in the coming weeks once I get chance. Along the side of the decking you'll find half of the raspberries which need transplanting because where they stand right now, we can't get down the side of the house which is an issue when you have a chimney to fix. So as the autumn approaches we'll be moving the berry bushes and restraining the deck a lovely blue on our mission to add some colour other than green into the garden.

Garden Garden

Jump to the other end of the garden and attention has been turned to clearing out overgrown shrubs, weeds and trees and turning it into the veg patch - I'm aiming to get some carrots, radishes and garlic in to start us off. This is where the other half of the raspberries can be found and where the others will be finding their new home. So aside from the berries and the hibiscus trees that I love the colour of, everything is getting cleared out. The above before and afters were taken after a hard mornings work but there's still a load more to do to the opposite side (shown below) what with a a random tree growing up in the middle of my raspberry brushes and some really overgrown Evening Primrose flowers.


Beside weeds there's not much else going on back there, we did try our luck on some out of season and therefore reduced dahlia and foxglove bulbs back in July. Apparently the dahlias couldn't care less that they should be coming to the end of their flowering season by now and are growing like no ones business, really not sure what's going on with the foxgloves. Ah well, worth a try either way.


Running along the back fence is an over run mass of ground cover. It's like ivy, but more in the form of a mini bush - i'm saying that because I have no idea what it really is. All I know is that it's a pain to pull up. It's awful. I hate it with a passion. Still I guess it's keeping the weeds out, but I want it gone. The garden still has things to uncover - pavers lost under 2 inches of soil, bricks, rose bushes in the shade of dead shrubs to wind chimes long knocked off their branches. As for the front garden, that's pretty much taken care off with lots of bushes and a gorgeous magnolia tree, but again there's no colour.

With autumn around the corner, it's been time to work out what needs doing before winter sets in - what needs moving and pruning but also the really fun stuff like how to get more colour in. Like I mentioned we're staining the deck a blue shade in the coming weeks and have plans for filling the borders with spring bulbs - daffodils, tulips and snowdrops to finally add some more life into the garden. Slowly working towards my pinterest fed dream of having an old Englishy style garden in the suburbs of Michigan.

Monday, 18 August 2014

LIFE: The Small Things #9

After week down, another week rolls around. With the Home Depot not having the paint we wanted to fix our decking, most of our weekend plans went a little out the window, luckily we managed to catch up on some estate sales, watched lots of Will and Grace and played around with ebay far too much instead. It seems this weekend has marked the turn in the year slowly heading towards the holiday season - there's been a noticeable increase in fall chat, Halloween candy and even the "C" word being discussed and it's not even Labor Day.

So, as ever, here's my big and large, good and bad small things that have been making up my world and making me tick.

  • Reading Team Seven, the debut novel by Marcus Burke, it's a good read even if it does feel like a slog and seems to not really get anywhere which is a shame
  • Watching Neighbours, after finding I could watch it via Hulu I've been catching up with the Aussie soap. Not that I've watched it since the BBC stopped showing it but it's pretty easy to catch up with. Even loads of the same characters are still there. It's like I never stopped watching.
  • Eating my first attempt at making this slow cooker curry, Halloween candy - yeap it's out already folks and trying out a new to us local pizza place - wins all round
  • Pinning lots of curry recipes, especially coconut and or lime based chicken curries mmmm
  • Crafting nothing at all, trying to complete my clear up the garden challenge before September means all my energy is going into weeding rather than crafting for the time being
  • Going mad trying to decide on deck paint colours, too many to pick from
  • Loving a vintage original British telephone box we came across at an estate sale the other week - now that would be an awesome garden featuring
  • Hoping we don't another great Detroit flood and 12ft puddles for a long while
  • Enjoying the DIY network probably a little too much
  • Listening to records on our new (well new to us, it's vintage after all) record player we picked up for $10, our original player is having issues with playing at the right speed lately, I think we've worn it out ... 
  • Thinking that i'm not ready for another round of a Michigan fall (even though I love the fall colours) or winter. Summer has been really off with the weather and after last weeks rain, I think this winter (remember the one we just had?!) is going to be bad.
  • Finishing editing photos that are at least two years old for future snapshots posts
  • Finding that the c word of Christmas and the holiday season is being mentioned - already had ebay telling me to prepare my store for the holiday season. It's too early. 
What have you been loving this week?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

LIFE: Seeking Comfort in a Foreign Land

While I often talk about exploring the US as a Brit, it's rare that I that share the feelings, the emotions of being thousands of miles from the land of my nationality. Sometimes that British land, it's countryside, it's TV shows and food feels so far away. So as part of the expat revelations link up with Holly - the blogger behind English Girl Canadian Man, I want to find the words to talk more about being away from the homeland in a strange country and all the emotions, feelings behind it. I mean it has been nearly 3 years, and writing about it might just help me deal with my lack of confidence because of being a bit of an outsider.

When those times arise when I miss the country, or all the rain reminds me of Yorkshire or I crave mushy peas, when I feel a little lost or I get bugged about my accent again, the one way of finding comfort for me, is food. But not in the comfort eating piling on the pounds way. Food is comforting but it's also a fantastic way of embracing your new home and culture and a way of keeping in touch with your homeland.

I admit, I love food, I love trying new food, granted sometimes it all feels a little overwhelming but it's a great adventure all the same. Prior to moving to the US I'd never eaten any Mexican food nor really had a milkshake - now both firm favorites. Let's be honest I'd barely stepped into a fast food place prior to moving here. Food is that bridge between cultures. You can embrace the new (the BBQ, pancakes, burgers) your own culture (the fish n chips, pasties) and even find new foreign cuisines in your own foreign land (in my instance Mexicantown). That's one of the things that makes America so great, it's history of immigrants, of movement and travel there's so much international influence in food. It all comes to play in food.

The English (left) verses the America fish n chips - which would you prefer?

It's even fun to make it a challenge - like my adventures in trying Cornish Pasties up in Traverse City and Mackinaw City to finding the best place in Metro Detroit that serves up fish n chips. I still get to eat a British favorite, but I'm eating how Americans think it should be. Sometimes it's bang on, sometimes it's presented in a way you might never have considered, sometimes it's way off the mark. It's fun all the same and sometimes I just need that plate of fish n chips, or I need that bacon sarnie with HP sauce dribbled all over, a boiled egg with soldiers for my lunch, my salad topped off with salad cream not one of the thousands of salad dressings you'll find in a store here.

I could go on.

Food itself is comforting. It can warm you up, cool you down, fill your needs and invite your senses to new places. Embracing the local cuisine, eating where the locals eat, to having a favorite on a menu is that step to reaching out, to finding a home. But sometimes just a trip to the local store (Meijer in my case) just to pass a glance over the British section of the international food aisle. Picking up a treat whether it's brown sauce, salad cream or an overpriced Yorkie bar, just that can take a girl back to her Yorkshire roots. 

But if there's one thing that is more comforting than anything, well that's always a cuppa tea.

That and my childhood teddy bear that I brought over with me, reading a good book, crafting but the cuppa tea, that's always a winner lets be honest.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

LIFE: The Great Detroit Flood of 2014

Man what a crazy week we've just had weather wise. If you follow me on twitter you might have noticed me talking about the endless amount of rain we had on Monday evening - the second amount of rainfall ever on record for this area - second to such an event back in 1925. It has come to be known in the world of hashtags as the #DetroitFlood event, and being British well I like to chat weather.

It started raining around 11 in the morning as just a really grey, dull Monday morning. But the four hour deluge didn't start until around four in the afternoon. Deluge to say the least we got about 4.57 inches. Combine heavy rain and overworked water pumps which then broke, and you end up with freeways flooded 14 foot deep with water. Yes 14 feet of it - like in the first image. That junction (the meeting point of I-75 and I-696, probably one of the busiest junctions in Metro Detroit) became the Great Lakes region newest lake. 

Main roads (8 mile, Woodward) to pretty much all the freeways had junctions and mile upon mile under water and closed, with Detroit and pretty much all the lower Oakland and Macomb counties affected. There's so many photographs and tales of people being rescued from the roofs of their cars - over a 1000 were abandoned they reckon, water flooding basements, buses filling up with water and people boating along the freeways - many of which are still closed, two days later, and sadly three people lost their life. 

While half a mile down the road we had a flooded freeway, luckily we came out the other side okay although we did get some funky looking water bubbling up into our basement sinks. But thanks to a very overworked sump pump in our basement we came out fine unlike some of our neighbours who have around 3" of standing water below. Now it took me to moving to Michigan to know what a sump pump was but it's pump used in basements where flooding is regular and where the water table is higher than the foundation of the home - it's basically a fixed feature in these parts and they automatically kick on when the water level gets too high. Still it was a little touch and go - having just brought the house and not knowing how well the pump or if there were foundation issues, we were certainly blessed on Monday night to come out the other side okay.

Trying to go about our normal routine on Tuesday was a bit of a challenge, not only with all the main routes Joe could take to work being closed but just being able to get anywhere. With freeways closed, driving over their overpasses to see a deserted freeway at rush hour is super surreal. The above picture was taken at the Dequindre overpass over I-696 on our way home, normally at 4pm on a Tuesday that road would be packed out. Ya know, Detroit is the Motor City, we don't really do public transport, this area is all about cars. Those freeways never stop, yet to be replaced with soil covered roads and cars abandoned here and there, it's eerie to say the least.


The forecasts for thunderstorms and heavy rain on Tuesday didn't luckily add any further issues. It just liked to look menacing as we drove along 9 mile. Doom and gloom. After the great freeze of January and now the great flood, Michigan certainly likes to throw extreme weather at you.

Monday, 11 August 2014

SNAPSHOTS: A City of Gold Facades and the King of Ruin Porn

15th Michigan Central United Cafe DSCF0220 Fisher

Detroit was often referenced to as the Paris of the Midwest. Why you might ask, for it's architecture. The Fisher Building (images 4 & 5), a landmark in New Center distinct, built in 1928 in the grand Art Deco style. It's gold facade and doors welcoming the workers and shoppers alike. This is what Detroit was, and this is what Detroit is. Soon after moving to this corner of Michigan, I stayed away from mentioning Detroit on the blog a lot, probably for the fear of plummeting view numbers more then anything. But as a result, I have so many snapshots and memories of a city that have never made their way onto this blog. Even in the short time some of the photographs captured, the buildings have changed, being demolished, redeveloped or  found a new life as as the city's fortunes start to change. 

These photographs capture a quick glimpse into Corktown and the New Center area. To out-of-towners, to the ruin porn lovers Corktown is the home of the Michigan Central Station (second image). Across the street from the infamous and super tasty Slows, the former grand railway station which at it's date of construction in 1912 was the tallest such station in the world. It now lies as a ghost, the king of all images of ruin porn (urgh dislike - previous rant about it here). Several windows have been re-glazed since these photographs were taken in 2011, although it's long term future is still up in the air even after rumors of a $676k refurb. For me, well I can only imagine how grand arriving into Detroit by train must have been stepping out that station. 

While the photographs may have been hidden away in dusty files on the computer, it's time they started seeing the light of day.

Friday, 8 August 2014

HOME SWEET HOME: The Record Room

VinylRoom VinylRoom VinylRoom VinylRoom VinylRoom VinylRoom Record Room

If you know anything about our collections, it's probably that we have a lot of records. Like going on 1000 of them. I guess it's fitting that they now have their own room in what once was a spare bedroom, well they share it with another of Joe's collections, his Transformers Toys but seeing they were once taking over our apartments living room it's a big improvement. As someone who loves seeing other people's record collections and especially how they are displayed and stored (if that's your thing too i'll be sharing links at the end as to where we found/brought everything), it's about time I got around to sharing ours in my first room tour (ever). 

The record room is probably one that'll change the most over the coming years as our collection continues to expand. It's also one of the rooms that old and new furniture merge the most. While we try and pick up pieces from estate sales sometimes Ikea does the job just as well - they have a great range of pieces that is ideal for record storage which is luckily both reasonably price and most importantly, sturdy enough to handle their weight.

Above our vintage record player, singles of bands we love line the decorative mini shelves (I have no idea what they are properly called admittedly). There you'll find the likes of The Police, Pat Batener, Bruce Springsteen to Queen, with posters - The Protomen, Detroit Jazz Festival and magazine fronts framed upon the wall. We have a collection of empty/double record sleeves, Bowie, The Platters, The Beatles that will eventually end up framed and displayed too. She says, they've been waiting to be framed for over a year, it'll get done some day.

While we're not neurotic about ordering, certain shelves and cabinets become home to various types - the favorites, jazz, classical, the pop and the rock, my motown collection ordered together. Sub-organizing so many records is another matter entirely, yeah still working on that part.

So there you have it, a short and sweet sneak peek into both a collection that means a lot to me, and one of my favorite rooms because of the things inside it. No doubt it'll be featuring again as we continue to work and add to it. And as ever, if you what to know why I prefer vinyl for my music fix, just check out my 10 reasons here!

Pieces mentioned;
Sony record player

PS. Please excuse that some of these photographs aren't the best, the room has no windows, hence no natural light and turned into a right pain to photograph.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

FOOD: Why You Should Ditch the Chain and Eat Local on Holiday


While Applebees, The Outback Steakhouse to the Cheesecake Factory (overated and overpriced, yeah I said it) may attract tourists and locals alike. That doesn't mean you should just eat at the chain restaurants if you're visiting the US (or on any holiday in any country if we're being honest). This post came about after yesterdays #lbloggers chat and all the recommendations for the aforementioned chain restaurants if you ever happen to be visiting the USA, to be despair of myself and Joe.

Even as a non tourist, in the two and half years of America being my home, I've barely eaten in chains (about twice in Applebees - nowt special, couple of times in I-Hop - urgh, Red Lobster - s'alright) and i'll openly admit to liking US fast food chains (Taco Bell, Culvers (great concrete mixes) Wendy to Steak n Shake (mmm milkshakes)) but the majority of the places we eat in are local, independent restaurants, take outs and cafes. 

Why? Because that's were you'll find the variety, the local cuisine, the food that makes America run. Ya know what us locals eat. All those tasty looking foods in that photograph? Yeah all eaten and enjoyed in our local Detroit places (Slows, Grand Trunk Pub, Treat Dreams, Comet Burgers). 

To visit the real America you need to experience the local places. You need to step into the Mexicantowns, the Polish bakeries, you should dine in mom n pop restaurants, the diners, eat on the streets from the food trucks or in the 1950's slider joints. They might not necessarily look as smart or as well polished but you'll be treated to huge portions, local cuisines and by heck, cheaper and better food because they specialize in their customers tastes, the local produce probably using recipes that go way back. 

This is why I pour for hours through reviews on Trip Advisor, and add in my own. I want to know the best independent places whether it's for a date night down the road or a weekend away in Bay City or Pittsburgh. Local food varies between cities as it varies between states. But local always wins with us, every time.

For me food is all part of the travel experience. It's about filling the senses whether it's sightseeing or tasting the local grub. So the next time you plan that holiday to Orlando or New York, hunt out the independent restaurants, find the local places and you'll eat like a local - step outside your comfort zone. You'll find the real America not just the tourist one. 

What about you? Local places or the chains?