Wednesday, 26 November 2014

SNAPSHOTS: Fists and a French Man - The Founding of Detroit

Hart Hart Downtown Hart Fist

One day in 1701, a French man landed on the shoreline of a river. That man Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrian du Detroit, which be commanded until 1710 as a part grand old New France. One wonders what he would have thought about the fortunes - the making of the American dream, the city that became the automobile center of the world, the Paris of the Midwest and Motown, to it's modern state of ruin and rebirth.

Anyway the site Cadillac stepped on in that marshy swamping state that became Detroit is now Hart Plaza itself founded in 1975. While a bit of a concrete jungle, it's a downtown gathering place. Surrounded by towering buildings, sculptures within the plaza remember Cadillac himself, the underground railroad, Horace Dodge (Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain) to the labor union legacy (Transcending - the arch). The later stands close to where Martin Luther King, Jr gave his first I Have a Dream speech in 1963. "The arc of history bends towards justice" - one of King's lines, is included in the sculpture. 

As Cadillac's statue stands guard over the riverside entrance to the plaza The Fist - a monument to Joe Louis often considered the first African American to achieve sport star frame within the US stands at the other. While the monument makes reference physically to Louis's powerpunch it's also symbolically aimed at racial injustice - something the city knows a lot about.

In the last five or so years, there's been studies and plans drawn up for a total redesign of the Plaza. Whether they'll happen I guess is another matter.

An all American post for an all American today tomorrow that is Thanksgiving. I wish you all a happy turkey day. Wherever you are in the world, take some time out to remember and appreciate what you are thankful for. I'm off to enjoy a long weekend with the husband, so I'll see you all on Monday!

Monday, 24 November 2014

LIFE: Cross Stitch Happenings

Cross Stitch

The times I pick up a needle and thread ebbs and falls as my moods do. I've realized if I'm stressed or worried, I don't tend to cross stitch, instead I opt for reading. I've yet to find the balance between the two hobbies, it's either cross stitching or reading and if you follow me on instagram, then you'll know I've been all for the sewing lately. 

About three years ago, on our way to Frankemuth there's a couple of great vintage shops along the way, in which I picked up an old vintage fabric covered sewing box, probably from the 1950's discolored from edge, and little worn around the edges. It's home to all my half started, never finished projects I've got on the go, sometimes when I'm feeling a little out of sorts between my cross stitching/reading moods I give it a poke and I fall head long into sewing again. 

I have a tendency to start new projects when I'm on the verge of finishing another, so I thought it was high time to get some finished, find some new ideas and designs and generally have a sort out especially because I've been aiming to sew some designs for Christmas cards.  

Cross Stitch Cross Stitch

Love Is In The Air is a free design you can find on Le Chalet des Perelles. I love the primitive feel this and actually a lot of the designs that feature on the blog has (I have a couple more projects from there lined up eventually), it's primitive, but super cute and colorful. I have to admit, this piece has been one of the most enjoyable designs I've stitched in a while, a mix of both the design and the colorful threads, it just got me super happy. 


This was one of those stitched but never framed projects. Obviously the initial "R" is for those times I forget my name starts with an r. I know it's a vintage design from an old chart book, but I forgets where, oops. But it does mark as my first embroidery hoop addition to the wall now in the new house. 


Belle and Boo designs take me back to my childhood, I can just imagine myself playing out in my hat and scarf with the leaves - well actually I'd be happy doing that still now. These designs come from a series from the Cross Stitcher magazine a couple of years ago with different designs for the seasons. It's on my to frame pile. Which knowing the speed I get things framed, they'll get done in a couple of years - yeah I need to improve that.  

Cross Stitch

And on the verge, so very close to being finished is my Sailors Delight. This design started my love for the primitive folky style in cross stitch that you often find in Americana based cross stitch work. It's kinda weird stitching designs that don't call for any backstitch and are actually quite simple in their stylization of words, buildings, etc. I guess the dark colours kind of made it hard for me to enjoyably pick up and stitch mind. 

So that's it for now, i'm saving the Christmasy designs for a feature post - ya know to be a festive blogger and all.

What have you been stitching or crafting lately?

Friday, 21 November 2014

FOOD: A Vintage Spice Cake

Cookbooks, especially vintage ones tend to be modest in selling their recipes. Recipe names are simple, straight forward and pretty much to the point. So it's rare for them to state "exceptionally good" within the directions, yet alone the title. As I love all things spice I would have tried this recipe, but an "exceptionally good" spice cake, well that got me baking it all the quicker. 

The recipe comes from an old Calumet Baking Powder booklet, one very well loved and used over the years before I came across it at an estate sale. It's so well loved that the first 13 pages are missing so while I can't precisely age it, it's very 1930's in style. I admit I have issues, I can't throws things like this out, they might be falling apart but if I can save them I will, if I can use them, even better.

Spice Cake Recipe

Vintage recipes can be a little tricky to work with - I mean even this one didn't give me a baking temperature or time but it worked out great. Plus my favorite with vintage recipes - they rarely call for any strange ingredients, sometimes one's that may be tricky to find, but not this one.

So this spice cake is prefect and seasonal what with the nutmeg and cinnamon. It's super moist, so moist you don't even need a frosting on the top. Perfect!

Spice Cake - Exceptionally Good

1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
2 level teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3/4 of a cup of cold water
Yolks of four eggs or two whole ones

Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly and add in the eggs. Sift the flour with the baking powder, spices and salt. Alternate mixing in the water and the flour mix into the creamed butter. Bake in a square pan at 350F for 45 minutes until slightly golden.

Spice Cake Recipe

But was it an exceptionally good spice cake?

Well yes, yes it actually was.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

VINTAGE: Record Trolley Stand Revamp

Record Stand

Hunting in the back of a tiny closet in a bungalow up an an estate sale a month of so ago we stumbled across a vintage record holder. It was hidden behind a pile of books with records stacked in, around and all over it. While half the task was getting it out, it was a quirky enough find for us to want to take it home and make it ours especially considering it was only $10. Plus in all our hunting years, we've never come across a trolly the right size for 33's, normally they are only large enough for slotting in singles, this was a must.

Record Stand

Now this vintage record trolley, holder, storage thing (call it whatever you will) probably dates from the 50's or 60's and has some groovy little wheels and this smashing metal strip across the slots you could order your records by, if you feel so inclined. Plus the fact that it has a wooden handle to push and pull it around, for me, makes me giggle and tops it all off completely. Granted it was a little worse for wear, suffering from rust and dust and admittedly it sat in the garage until we knew what we wanted to do with it. Well actually, I kind of forgot we even found it until Joe mentioned grabbing some spray paint while we were at the Home Depot the other week. So it went from a very rusty gold to a pretty satin lagoon (don't you just love paint names?!). 

Record Stand

Some vintage pieces are perfect as they are - the vintage hamper I fixed up being a prime example of that, this record holder, not so much. Gold doesn't really fit with the furniture we have, and because we love records so much, it deserves to be a stand out piece and sometimes you just have to throw some colour out there.
Record Stand

Rust is easily enough removed from metal with some thick sandpaper and after rubbing it clean, you're go to go with the spray paint. This project was the first time I've spray painted in a long while, and I really enjoyed it (actually eying up another piece of furniture that's in my office that needs a similar colour pop revamp).

Record Stand
I've wheeled it around our house numerous times trying to find the perfect place for it. It looks grand in the back den but with no heating in that room, that's not so good for the records, so it's currently taking pride of place in our already cramped living room. But it does have all our favorites/placed often records finding their home on it. 

Admittedly I was apprehensive of such a bright color on a vintage piece, but it works really well and I'm super pleased with it.

Monday, 17 November 2014

LIFE: The Colours of Fall

FallLeaves1 FallLeaves2

Weather has taken a turn here in Michigan. The last week has been met with temps down in the 30's (F) and snow showers. Breezy days have left us with a crisp golden carpet of leaves as you step outside our back door. Crisp yellows, burnt golds and warming reds, they cover your shoes, they crunch beneath your feet.

As the weather gets colder, the days shorter, the leaves are dying and getting swept into garden bags, the beauty, the color soon becoming a fading memory. After saving a handful the other week, I took to scanning them - a final way to remember the autumn that was. A way to record, a way to remember those colours.

Sometimes I wish the trees could be those reds, the oranges, the yellows throughout the year, but then, I guess they wouldn't be so special.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

VINYL SPINS: October's Turntable


People often suggest I share and talk more about our vinyl, be it the collect, how we find all the records to just what we play. It's hard. They aren't the popular posts, the music we listen to tend to be from the 1980's or older and well, eventually vinyl will stop being cool again and we'll go back to being nerds who listen to their music on old turn tables. 

But I'm throwing hell to the wind. These vinyls (well their covers) need to be shared. So every month I'm thinking of sharing the vinyls that have been played a lot over the previous month, or are special records we scored or I just like the art work. You get the drift. All of the pictures will be taken from my instagram, which if you follow you'll already know I'm already sharing a lot of my music spins - I tend to work to music, it helps me focus. 

So being the first month, there's lots of explanations going, in the future, it'll probably just be pictures and a brief description. 

Octobers turntable can be summed digging out and revamping our vintage record trolley, playing lots of Motown, Andy Burrow's latest vinyl imported from the UK for dirt cheap, adding lots of records to our little decor shelf, lots of dancing around the living room to Powerstation and always being amazed at Clairy Browne's voice.

What have you been finding yourself listening to lately?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

LIFE: My First Days as a Expat

This time of year marks the memory of that flight to the USA. It's a funny coincidence that the first topic in November's expat revelations series (run by Holly) up about our first days as an expat, which comes as I mark three years as America being home - after landing in Detroit on November 8th, 2011. I wish I could tell you so many details of those first couple of days, of all the things we got up to and the places we went. Yet, so much of it is a blur. Perhaps it's because everything was all so new, it was such a big thing, there was so much to take in that it's all got a little lost in time. That and my memory is typically rubbish.

Green Latern pizza // Johnny Rockets // Astoria Bakery, Royal Oak // Sushi at Totoro, Ann Arbor

It's funny. The one thing I do remember, or at least remember the situations is when food was involved. Landing and getting through customs in the middle of the afternoon and with my body still on UK time, my first ever US meal was pizza. I mean, let's set off on the right footing here. It wasn't just any pizza mind, it was a rather well known (at least in these parts) pizza from Green Lantern. It has a bit of a reputation that it's so bad that it's good. I call it death pie because it makes my stomach hate me. It's greesey, but it's good all the same. Time was spent drinking all sorts of Mountain Dew flavors, driving up to the Great Lakes Malls for burgers in Johnny Rockets to sushi in Ann Arbor's Totoro to finding out about the horrors of canned cheese. But I knew from the off I could get use to all this food.

That weekend and we drove into Detroit for my first trip downtown. And to tell you the truth, I didn't really know what to expect. 
   RenCenDEtroit Woodward Geektown

I'd already seen the burnt out, abandoned buildings, the empty streets those can easily be seen from the freeways. I knew all the news stories, all the option pieces people have of the city, but I like to think i'm open minded. Driving around downtown I just remember thinking ow huge everything is, just how high the buildings reach up.  Now remember i'm a country lass and while I've lived in Newcastle and visited London, there's nothing to compare. As we visited Belle Isle, walked along the river front, stepped into the library I could see what the city has to offer, I could see it still had life in it. It's a shame people still write the place off so much.

Those first weeks where not only my first days as an expat but my first of ever being in America. It felt like a holiday and continued to do so for months. There was so much to take in. The difference in the small things that make up life - trying to constantly remember that a dime (10c) is smaller than a nickle (5c), that you have to look the other way crossing the road first, that sales tax isn't included in the price.

Those first couple of days only could show me a glimpse of what America had to offer.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

FOOD: Playing With All the Spices


I love spices, I love buying them, I love the smell of them, I love cooking with them. They are one of my favorite things when it comes to food. They are fantastic at adding flavor into your meals but they also have some great health properties - take ginger known for it's role in aiding digestive uses, particularly nausea or turmeric considered for it's properties in protecting against cognitive decline. 

Most of the time I like to keep my supplies well stocked and tend to have around 25 herbs and spices at anyone time - why so many, well I make all my own home made curries (Indian and Thai) and I'm starting to experiment with more Mexican dishes, so having a stock of spices always comes in handy. Buying spices can be a little pricey to start with, but luckily they last and store well, plus you don't really need to have all of them.

If making your own homemade Indian curries spikes your interest, I'd suggest stocking up on at least the following;

  • Coriander
  • Turmeric
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry powder 
  • Herbs - especially cilantro, known as coriander in the UK
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Onion seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamon (if you can find it)

While I've been making my own curries for the last three years, I've never considered making my own spice blend. No excuse, no real reason why. So when I came across this article from Woman's Health on DIY Spice Blends I thought, well why the hell not. The article has a great collection of 9 spices designed to help loose weight - which is a great added benefit of spices. The one I'm sharing is a curry blend, which those the spices it uses will be excellent for an Indian curry.

Curry Blend  
2 tablespoons of cumin powder
2 tablespoons of ground coriander
2 tablespoons of turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cardamon*
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

* Cardamon isn't always the easiest spice to find, but you can use a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg - equal parts of each to make an alternative. 

Spice blenders are basically some of the easiest recipes of literally just mixing all the ingredients together and away you go. If you like your curries a mild to medium spice, work with using about 1/2 a tablespoon of the blend.

What about you? Do you love your spices too?!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

LIFE: Autumnal Days


Autumn makes me homely, it makes me want to draw the curtains tight, crawl under a blanket, pour a huge hot chocolate and watch TV, read a little more. More so now we own a house, a house that's ours, there's space to decorate, to celebrate the seasons, a bird feeder in front of the living room window that entertains me as much as the cats. I've been working away with vinyl records playing again, feeling a little braver about sharing our collection on instagram.

Suffering from stress, anxiety, buying a house and the process of buying one, for me was awful. I lost sleep, so much sleep, it wore me down, it drained me. But in the end it was worth eating up all of our savings, the last couple of months have been hard money wise, my stress levels dip and flow but i'm looking forward to the last couple of months 2014 has in store, as we finally return to our normal routine. 

November marks the third year of calling the US home, yet another year has passed by in a heartbeat. America has given me opportunities, experiences, a way of life I never thought I would experience for myself. With Halloween us passing by and Thanksgiving on the horizon, these holidays that Americans embrace, take to heart remind me why I love this country. It sure likes to celebrate.

Happiness has been:

Reading comics (Ms Marvel, Hellblazer, Cpt Marvel) // joe spoiling me with dutch girl donuts and roses // american candy - the tootsie rolls, almond joy and reeses <3 // kitty snuggles // instagram for helping me capture those little moments // sweet potato curry // autumn colours // watching constantine // vintage penguin mugs // reeses puffs cereals