Monday, 29 September 2014

LIFE: A Happy List

Fall Fall

Last week became one of those endlessly busy weeks. From working, trying to get the spring bulbs planted, being ill and all the new seasons of TV shows restarting, it was a little none stop. So here we start a brand new week, seven promising days of hope. Actually tomorrow marks my 28th birthday, I guess i'm properly a grown up by now - or at least I should be. Saying that, since becoming an expat birthdays make me cranky, I've lost interest in them (same can be said to a point about Christmas). I guess distance does that. So while I'd somewhat like to push my birthday under the carpet and forget about it, I am off to bake myself a marshmallow and chocolate birthday cake. Just because. 

So while I might be cranky and a way of catching up with myself, here's some happy things;

// new episodes of agents of shield and modern family - for the win 

// drinking so much tea

// scoring the final the mamas and the papas vinyl I needed to complete the collection

// battling my dentist phobia to get my tooth fixed

// ebay auction wins 

// halloween oreos

// weather in the 70s

// spying leaves slowly turning to yellows, oranges and reds

// planting 100+ spring bulbs

// working away every afternoon to will and grace marathons on we tv

// cross stitching after a long break

// joe <3

// sushi bar birthday treat (highly recommend Sushi Gallery if you're ever in my neck of the woods)

// feeling accomplished in tidying up the den and basement

// early sunday morning spent apple and raspberry picking at the orchard

What would be on your happy list?

Friday, 26 September 2014

LIFE: Lebister // Travel Q's // Tags


Over the last couple of weeks I've been was tagged in a couple of tag posts, so I thought i'd lump them together and use them as an opportunity for you to learn a little bit more about me. 

First up, Danielle over at ChicaDeeDee (another excellent expat blog if you enjoy hearing about worldly adventures) tagged me in the lebister award, I love how these questions are travel based and a little different from the norm that people tend to come up with this tag, so I thought why not.

1 // who or what has inspired you to travel?
my granddad always wanted to emigrate to Australia in the 1950's but never got the opportunity (I actually have a post about this kicking around somewhere, probably should post it hmm). Knowing this, and knowing how similar we are, I guess has particularly fueled a fire in me. That and just my need to get out of the rural going nowhere fast town I grew up. Granted I don't get to do lots of traveling, but i love local exploration, that's something that often gets overlooked. And actually growing up in a small, rural town where everyone knows your business and everyone seems a little on the small minded side, that in and of itself is a big reason to just get out and explore the wider world.

2 // backpack or suitcase?
backpack - I don't really have much luck with suitcases. The day before I left for Heathrow to catch my flight to Detroit the wheels broke off my suitcase which lead to a last minute run to York for a new one. And then generally I just loose things in them. 

3 // song that epitomizes travel for you?
err I actually don't think I have a song(s) for travel, anything by Maximo Park reminds me of my running away to university days and anything from I Am Arrows/Andy Burrows just takes me back to the whole starting the visa journey process.

Cliffods Tower

4 // what period of time would you most like to visit?
1930's America - while it was the era of the depression, it was the era of my favorite movie stars, fashion and authors. To have the chance to see what Detroit was like in its heyday with all the hotels and theaters, that would have been amazing. It was that era that got me into my love for vintage treasures after all.

5 // what's the strangest food you really want to try?
I can't think up anything strange as such. I would love to try lots of southern foods, proper Cajun dishes, because of which I'd love to visit New Orleans. 

6 // beach, mountain or jungle?
pass and opt for a city? I have terrible problems just sitting all day on a beach and not doing anything and i'm probably not fit enough for a mountain. As for a jungle, I'd get eaten alive, hell I get eaten alive in my own garden. 

7 // what is your best piece of travel advice?
actually something I blogged about earlier this year - eating in the local places rather than the chains. best way to find the local dishes and flavors for a great price.


8 // how do you like to unwind after a day on the road?
If we're traveling, and only done this once mind, but I did enjoy the little motel room we got in Mackinac City with a hot tub, I could get use to that. Otherwise, or at least normally curling up in bed with the TV remote, or if I'm home kitty snuggles and kitty purrs. Kitty purrs are magic.

9 // if you had a superpower, what would it be?
time travel - both back and forwards in time

10 // what do you feel has been your biggest achievement in life so far?
because I'm right on the verge of finally paying it off, my Sociology Masters. Being the first in my family to complete a degree, yet alone an MA personally it's a big achievement. I was the working class girl that got into a good university who managed to prove herself wrong twice with grades. The year was a challenge and pushed me so much that I learnt a lot about the world, sociology (which is probably a good thing seeing that was the course) but about myself.

I was also tagged in the one lovely blog away by Jessica (highly recommend her blog The Pyreflies) so I thought i'd throw everything all together here and share seven random facts.

7 Random Facts
Seeing Razorlight back in 2005 was my first ever concert
If I was born a boy, I was going to be named Richard
I was a tomboy growing up
People spelling my name wrong is a huge pet peeve
I believe in past lives
I'm allergic to amoxicillin
So far I've visited five US states

Told you they would be random ...

Seeing it's a Friday, lets have some fun - come share a random fact in the comment box!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

HOME SWEET HOME: Crafty Office Space

WallWall Postcards Wall Craft Room Things

Everyone needs a sanctuary, some find it in an spa like bathroom, others a walk in closest. For me, it's having an office and craft room. Of having a space to be inspired, to create and wonder. Having longed for an office come craft room - in our previous apartment my office/stock had taken over half the living room and was eating away at any spare bedroom space, it's nice to have a whole room to myself. 

As the magnolia tree sways and blooms outside, now it's leaves slowly turning crisp with the autumnal air, vintage postcards hang across the windows. Vintage advertisements so carefully torn from 1950's McCall magazines are pinned to the wall. The top shelf of the metal bookcase, once dusty and dragged banging and knocking it's way up from the basement is home to a collection of randoms picked up form estate sales - from a Carebear radio, my second Snoopy dog and scary clown a Steelers ball (well that's actually Joe's), sewing boxes to old twine and bobbins.

While it stands more office space and craft space, that will come in time, once I battle with some shelving and add some color to the walls other than those vintage advertisements.

Either way, I work and craft as I live - surrounded by vintage.

Monday, 22 September 2014

LIFE: When We Wish Away the Seasons


Fall is a funny time of year. Some call it the spring like blossoming for trees. While in spring we find beauty in the pushing up bulbs from beneath the soil once covered in inches of snow, we hear the lambs and we see the cherry blossom. In autumn, while the dying, the death of the leaves, it comes with such beauty, a beauty that comes from mother nature, one final bow before the snow, the final curtain call of the seasonal life starts again. 

Some people find a higher being in a church, or in verses of a book. The more I work, feel the soil between my fingers, create life in a planting a bulb or taking a cutting in the hope of giving new life. The more I work in the garden, the more peaceful with the world I've noticed I've become which in a long drawn out way, is helping me with working on that self love mission. Mother Nature, is something bigger than us all that creates such a wonderfully colourful, world around us, even as one season dies.

(yes we really do have a weed growing half way up the maple tree)

Out of nowhere while potting around in the garden, one crisp, golden leaf floated down onto our deck. Where it's travels had taken it who knows, none of our trees nor the neighbours have started their change into their autumnal clothes. I took it has a sign of things to come, of the cooler days, the darker nights, of the reds, the oranges that will grace the edges of the maple leaves in the weeks to come, of the world slowly down, recovering, taking a slower breath. As I plant the bulbs that will sprout out through the soil and be the welcoming sign of springs arrival come 2015 others are wishing autumn away and are already onto Christmas and winter. While many may herald the arrival of Autumn by the meteorological definition of September the first, for many it's welcomed tomorrow - the autumn equinox (September 23rd) and some of us just go by phenology - when the life cycles, the plants tell us it's autumn. 

Sometimes I think we could all take a step from mother natures book and work and flow with the seasons, rather than wishing one away for another and find beauty in each season. I'm finding as a newbie gardener, the garden tells you what time of year it is, not a date on a calender.

Friday, 19 September 2014

BLOGGING: On Using a Bridge Camera

Bridge camera

People judge you in the blogging world. They judge you a lot. One thing you get judge about, is the camera you use. They really shouldn't, but they do. Far too often bloggers feel they need to have a DSLR to a) take "good" photographs and b) to be a "proper" blogger. As much as I would love to own and use a DSLR, I can't justify the price and I can't see me owning one for a long way, so what do I use? Well for the most part, I use my trusty Fuji bridge although not all the photographs which appear on the blog are taken with it, I throw in camera phone and our GE point and shot photographs in to mix everything up a bit.

But also a lot of people don't know about bridge cameras, so I thought I'd share some of the pros and cons of this type of camera, and if you're looking for a new one, why it might be a great camera for you.


Bridge cameras seem to pass a lot of people by but they are a great alternative to a DSLR for a number of reasons. Basically bridge cameras slot between your standard digital compact and your DSLR, offering in the process advantages from both. If you want the simplicity of a point and shoot, but not the price of a DSLR, a bridge might be the camera for you. 
Ren Cen
Ren Cen, Detroit

I brought my Fuji Finepix S3300 Bridge back in 2011 (I think) from Argos for about £180, they tend to be less than £300 depending on the brand and model so they are considerably cheaper than your DSLR models. With a sizable LCD screen, they can fit in a full range of focal lengths from micro through to telephoto without the need to change lens. One big advantage is that they let you shoot in manual and raw, so they can be a great basis for learning how to use a camera away from the auto settings which is something I've loved being able to do since owning my camera. But don't worry, if manual isn't your thing they offer a full range of auto settings too.


Granted they can have issues in low light and they can be slow to focus - mine struggles a far bit with landscapes for whatever reason. Mine doesn't have a rechargeable battery, so it does eat them up, but nothing that can't be limited using lithium batteries. And while they are smaller and lighter than a DSLR they aren't cameras you can just throw in your pocket, so just like a DSLR if you're after sneaking some food photographs in a restaurant, they don't make it that easy to disguise.  


For me, a bridge suits my needs as both a blogger and as someone who loves to take photographs just because, then again I'm not a typical blogger (I don't own anything by apple and I don't use instagram). But if you do want to make the step into having a camera you have more control over, but want to save pennies, a bridge might be the way to go.

So while I feel I get judged about not being "proper" because I don't have a DSLR those are the reasons why I do love using my bridge. It's practical, has the advanced settings so I have the flexibility and the opportunity to have more control over my photographs but they also take photos I'm pleased with.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

LIFE: Weeding With a Woodpecker


One thing that amazes me is the amount of garden birds our little suburban corner attracts. Including what is becoming my favorite visitor, a woodpecker. I've noticed him before pecking his way into our maple tree. But looking up from my weeding the other day, there he was on this years dying flower branch. It's part of a huge grassy plant that seperates the main garden to what's going to become our vegetable patch. Admittedly, the plant was actually on a death list. It's in a prime sunny spot which, prior to this was being ear marked for adding to the butterfly garden. I guess we're working around it now. 

If I see a plant, a shrub, anything being used and enjoyed by any creature - a bird, a bee then it's staying. As much as I want a garden that's pretty and colourful, I'd prefer a garden that's a haven and helpful to the animals that need it more. He was was there a far while, barely bothered about me being about 10 feet away weeding. Even long enough to wander inside and grab my camera. But he seemed a little camera shy and took off to pecking at the telegraph tole. 

What wildlife have you spotted in your garden?

Monday, 15 September 2014

LIFE: #PhotoAnHour - A Saturday in September

It's been months (April to be exact) since I got around to joining Jane and her #photoanhour adventure. Mainly because for all the other months, it takes me until about midday to remember about it and by then, well half the day is over. But after deciding we couldn't really be arsed to driving for an hour and half just to hit five estate sales that we fancied poking, it was a lazy Saturday at home. So while watching Saturday TV, I noticed it coming up on twitter, and I thought why the hell not?!

It actually turned out to be more productive that I had planned.

9 am - starting the day with some kitty purrs from the Eddy // 10 am - lucky charms for a late breakfast // 11 am - trip to home depot  (oh looky we haven't been here in a while) for a brand spanking new spade and pruning shears although this was taken in the "oh my look at those blades on the saws, I want one" aisle.

12 pm - watering the hanging basket which, at midday is part of my daily routine while picking up the mail. The hanging basket was actually one of the first things we brought, well I say we, Joe brought it for me as a thank you for basically moving our entire apartment when he busted up his ankle moving house. In the last couple of weeks it's found a new lease of life so it's looking super colourful at the moment. And speaking of ankles, his ankle now aches when it's going to rain, he's a walking barometer, who needs weather apps?! // 1 pm - having a brew, lunch and watching the diy channel which continued to be on for most of the day // 2 pm after hanging around the #socialbloggers twitter chat for a bit, I felt the need to get outside and test out the brand spanking new spade while checking out my dahlias which were brought and planted as bulbs out of their planting season but are now on the verge of flowering - double yey (the hollyhocks have never done anything mine - you win some you loose some).


3 pm - admiring the hard work - plenty of weeding got done, widened the border ready for spring bulb planting and transplanted some flowers around (you can kinda see how this area looked back when we moved in here in the last photo - it's the general same area - and well was covered with the same weeds) // 4 pm - coming in from gardening getting my Maximo Park fix // 5 pm - homemade burgers filled with cheese & onion made and cooked by Joe - very tasty

6 pm - teeny tiny came over for some snuggles // 7 pm - watching the world go by out the front window, it's still hard getting use to somewhere that's so quiet when we use to live next to a freeway // 8 pm - settling down to a night of relisting stuff on ebay, watching Modern Family and catching up on blogs 

How was your Saturday? 

Friday, 12 September 2014

TRAVEL: Carnegie Miniature Railroad & Village

Pittsburgh Science Center

If you love things in miniature then seeing the miniature railroad and village within Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Museum is a must. Not only does it include a fully running o-scale railroad but replicates the life, times and buildings of the late 1800's through to the 1930's but anyone familiar with this corner of western Pennsylvania will recognise any a feature or two as you walk around. We took a trip to the museum last thanksgiving and I thought it was high time I got around to sharing it here for you all to see. 

Miniature Railroad

To understand this railroad, first we need to talk about it's history. It was the project of Charles Bowdish (1886 - 1988), who after being honorable discharged from the US Army during WWI began constructing miniature replicas of his hometown of Brookville, PA. Around Christmas of 1920, Bowdish set up and displayed his railway to entertain the guests at his brothers wedding. He then went on to open his house for free every Christmas for anyone interested in looking at his display. Sadly when his insurance company refused to offer him coverage, Bowdish offered the railroad to the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in Pittsburgh, with the first run of the line in 1954 and it became an instant hit. Eventually the Bulh became part of the Carnegie museum and the railroad now has it's very own room, the layout stretching a huge 84 feet (25m) by 30 feet (9.1m) a whole 60% larger than the original and the layout changes yearly - to be revealed the day after Thanksgiving. 

Miniature Railroad

Computers control the lighting which changes through day and night as you walk around. There's so much detail to take in that it's impossible to talk about everything that you see. It's pretty overwhelming, especially when you consider all the time it takes to put it all together. And it's not only the trains that run, boats, the incline mover to rides in the fairground are all moving constantly. Plus there's 250,000 trees. Just wow.

Reflecting and remembering Pittsburgh's industrial heritage, the railroad does have the largest o-scale steel mill replica which can be seen in the distance of the above photograph.

Miniature Railroad Miniature Railroad

When the lights dip down reflecting night time the fairground area of the display really comes to life. There's replicas of an amusement park and the Leap-the-Dips - the world's oldest operating wooden roller coaster located at the Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania. It even has a little cart that goes around the track.

Miniature Railroad

Pittsburgh is located a short drive away from the Laurel Highlands where you'll find one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces, Fallingwater - a house basically built over waterfalls which has been on my must list list for ages. Joe likes to joke that I've actually been there because of seeing the model. Eventually I'll get there. 

Miniature Railroad

There's even something for the sports fans with a replica of Forbes Field - once home of Pittsburgh's baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Don't you just love all the fan details in the stadium?!

Miniature Railroad

It's hard to pick between the fairground and the town scenes as my favorite part of the miniature railroad. Again, it's all in the details. I mean look at all the windows - the curtains, the details in the shrubs to the cars and it's like that the entire way throughout the layout.

The railroad was certainly my highlight from the Carnegie museum (review of which I posted here) - which as a whole is more aimed at children. But the railroad, well that's great for kids and adults alike whether you know Pittsburgh or not or if you have an interest in model trains.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

LIFE: Four Questions to Finding Some Self Love


If there's one thing I've been trying work on daily in the last couple of weeks has been trying to cut myself some stack. After leaving university and moving back in with my overbearing parents (eh they probably meant well) topped off with moving to the US and standing out a little, my self confidence took a bit of a nose dive. 

Self love for me is a weird thing to get my head around. Having grown up with parents, family members, kids in school taking odd bits out of you those voices, those words, they became internalized, no matter how hard I tried to ignore them. Those words, emotions, well they still hold me back. Now I stand on the verge of turning 28, not having the confidence in myself is holding me so it's time I started addressing some of these problems and try some self love for a change.

So, after coming across Cystal's guest post on Hello Neverland regarding self love, I knew the questions she posed were the ones I had to ask myself.  

What about yourself makes you feel the most confident?
This is the question that I went back and forth for days trying to answer. Some days I would think it was the strength of moving countries - but then I would remember how anxious being an expat has also made me. Other days I would consider the fact I can go out, to estate sales, go to the post office or food shopping without make up on and not be bothered about it (or that it means I've lacked the confidence to make myself look good). Then perhaps it's because I manage to work for myself and make somewhat of a living from me.

What 3 things do you like about your personality?
Being quick witted (probably a better way of saying how I like being sarky) I can pull out a quick funny line without really thinking about it. Creativity with crafts, writing or photography, I can think outside the box and entertain myself for hours. Being curious by nature I want to know everything, I'm that person who always wants to know why, I'll research, I'll hunt out books, I want to know how things work or why they don't, why this happened, what that means.

What are two physical attitudes that you love and wouldn't change a thing about
My hair - it's thick, it still has some of it's natural curl, it takes well to hair dye, it's survived all the hair dye, and for all the stuff I don't do with it, it still looks healthy and well. Looking young for my age - it's a pain still being ID'd (especially as you tend to get ID'd if you look under 40 in the US) and while there's times I would love to look my age, or older, my skin is healthy, hopefully i'll still look young for my age in my 60's. 

What one skill that you've mastered enough to be able to teach it to some?
Ah hard to pick one - I'm self taught at crocheting and having cross stitched since I was 5 I could probably share that too. But come to think about it, probably how to make money from ebay. While it's a hobby for many, for me it's how I make my living so I know all the ins and outs of getting the most from those titles, images, listings. Sadly it's more than just sticking an item up for 99c with free shipping and hoping for the best when you factor in all the fees etc.  

"Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are".
Malcolm S. Forbes 
How would you answer these questions? I'd love to hear.

Monday, 8 September 2014

TRAVEL: Center Avenue Historic District, Bay City


There's something I really love about American late 19th century architecture - perhaps because it's so different in both style and often in size compared to buildings of the same era back back in the UK. One of the best ways of seeing historical structures is always on foot, so after wandering around downtown Bay City I decided to have a wander along part of the walking tour produced by the Bay City Center Avenue Neighbourhood Association. With Center Avenue the core, there are among 880 historical structures with examples of various architectural styles - arts & craft, Gothic revival, mid century modern to Tudor revival and the odd kit home thrown in for good measure.

I myself, well I love an old house with a turret topped off with a cone roof (as in the above photograph along Center Avenue) - a style typical of Queen Ann residences. There's something rather grand and regal about a house with a turret.

First along the walking tour was the Shearer residence;

814 N. Monroe
The Residence of George H. & Elva Shearer c. 1876

George appears to have had his fingers in lots of pies - finding his first steps working as a laborer in his fathers lumber business he worked his way into becoming the manager of Shearer Brothers - a lumber, real estate and insurance company. Not only that but dear old George was the secretary of the Elm Lawn Cemetery and vice president of Bay County Savings bank. Designed by his father, 814 N. Monroe is built in the Second Empire style - a Parisian design.

900 Fifth St.
The Residence of Thomas Webster c. 1886

Moving to Bay City in 1874 Webster practiced law and was elected County Probate Judge in 1880. Upon his death in 1940 at the age of 92, he was the last surviving Civil War vet in Bay City - he'd ran away aged 16 from his New York home to join the Union Army. Webster shared his Queen Anne home with his first wife Ella who died shortly after giving birth to sons. With Isabel - his second wife, he had a daughter Amelia. After being converted into apartments in 1957, the Fifth St Webster house  is now a luxury B&B which looks very swanky.

1001 Center Avenue
The Residence of Virgil & Mary c. 1904

Mary Cranage received 1001 Center Avenue as a wedding present from her parents to celebrate her marriage to Virgil - a practitioner and surgeon. And what a grand wedding present it was! In 1964 the home was converted to offices, there currently seems to be some work going on inside.

701 North Grant
The Residence of George W. and Maria C. Mann c. 1879

1879 saw George Mann, a lawyer purchasing three lots near at North Grant for $300 but it's unclear in the records if the deed was for this house or one that use to be further north. Either way Amos Woolfitt - manager of the Bay Cit Beef Co., had brought the house with his house Mary. The house remained in their family until 1972. With a distinctive blue sliding and bright white wrap around porch this house is a beauty.

It's always great to get the chance to get out and walk around historical neighborhoods, you really get to feel just how old and grand they were when it's street upon street of similar sized and aged building. It's equally impressive, if not more so when you consider how many of them are mere wooden structures - they do well to not only last the test of time, but the Michigan weather. While the brick residences might not look too out of place in England of this era, the wooden homes are certainly, very American.