Thursday, 29 January 2015

CREATIVE: A Garden Party Stitch Along

It's not that I need an excuse to get creative with any cross stitch project especially when I have a dream list of things I want to stitch that's longer than my arm. But when Cross Stitch Collection magazine announced a stitch along project running throughout 2015, I thought why the hell not. One of my missions (I guess others would call it resolutions) for this year is to be more crafty and creative after all. 

The project - Garden Party is a free Edwardian scene and is not only the first stitch along I've taken part in but it's basically the largest project I have ever, ever worked on. Which I admit is as much scary as it is exciting. On 16ct the piece measures a good 7 x 26 inches with over 47,000 stitches. Ekkk.

It's also been a perfect excuse to shop from my stash - luckily I had a large enough piece of aida that after cleaning and bleaching came out perfectly and managed to grab a lot of shades from my stash of embroidery floss. Both of which - floss and aida I try and pick up at estate sales, so it cuts down on the price hugely which always helps in my book.


To mark joining in and stitching something so large, I'm going to try and document my monthly progress. I'm currently working on the middle third of the chart. I didn't have all the threads until a couple of weeks ago so for a while, it looked like a big pile of nothing, but now, it's slowly starting to take shape as I stitch in more of the figures. Below is my January check in photograph!


I've given myself the aim of complete half a page a month (there's six pages in all), maybe a little more. It doesn't sound a lot but there's a lot of stitching and colour changes.

If you yourself fancy joining in or finding out more, you can find the details over on the Cross Stitch Collection website.

Monday, 26 January 2015

FOOD: M-Brew

Alongside my hunt for decent fish n chips across the USA I'm always on the look out for other American versions of British foods, Cornish pasties being a great example. Cornish miners brought the tradition of the pastie when they migrated to work in the mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsular and they are still working their way throughout the state. 

Joe came across a recommendation for M-Brew, an eatery in Ferndale that offers the traditional Michigan take on a said pasty. They actually specialize in local Michigan beers and food - all Michigan sourced. It's in an old converted VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) building and from the outside, just off of Woodward looks just like any other house on the street. Climb up to the wrap around porch and you enter to a homely cabin feel, a fireplace to bare wooden beams. Step through to a back basement you'll find a cave of vintage arcade games (think pac-mac), pinball machines (Family Guy, Wizard of Oz, Star Trek etc), dart boards to a shuffleboard. 


M-Brew has a coffee shop feel, the cosy seats in front of the fireplace, but a coffee shop that serves beer. Lots and lots of beer. 30 Michigan craft beers in fact to Michigan made wines, meads and sodas. To be honest it's a little all over the place, perhaps that's a good thing in this instance because it only does it make it fun, but because it can be what you want it to be at any one time. It's a place to grab a coffee and read, a place to play a couple of pin balls or somewhere to drink a couple of local beers and relax.

But to the important business, the pasties. The Bruce Crossing (a town in Michigan's UP) Pasty is crammed full of beef, rutabaga, potato, carrots and onion and can be served with gravy if that's you're thing. It's traditional to a T, even the way it's folded. Would it stand up in the UK? Most probably. Is it the best pasty I've had in Michigan (this being the third?! - the first being one from Cousin Jenny's Cornish Pasties in Traverse City which were pretty tasty) - why yes! 


We actually spent more time here then we would typically eating out, due to the games and pinball machines, the atmosphere is great, the staff are super friendly and having somewhere on the doorstep that serves Michigan made products - that's always a winner. We'll certainly be back, I have my eye on trying one of their Detroit pizzas next time!

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Fancy a pasty? You can find M-Brew at;
177 Vester St.
Ferndale, MI, 48220

Thursday, 22 January 2015

LIFE: Snow Days


A couple of years ago, my home town met with a thief. Someone was driving the eight or so miles from another town, filling their car with the salt straight out of the salt containers for the footpaths and driving off. Coming from a rural town where nothing much goes on, the newspapers went full stream and there was public outcry among the masses and huge debates about council provisions. 

At the time, for me it wasn't a big deal. But now wow I'm old before my time and turning into a bit of a nimby and I get annoyed when my neighbours don't shovel their snow. Back when we lived in our apartment, snow shoveling wasn't an issue, but now we own a house, we have to do it ourselves. You see, in the US most cities have some ordinance that any snow on the footpaths (yeah yeah I'm not calling them a sidewalk, I'm pretty stubborn with my English words) in front of, around your house have to be cleared within a certain time of snowfall, for our city, it's 24 hours. They threaten fines, but going by the lack of shoveling on some of hour neighbours parts, that doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.

Ho hum.


Some people join the gym come the new year, but I'm finding snow shoveling to be a jolly good work out in itself. It takes half an hour and I have a smug smile on my face when it's all cleared. Properly cleared. As someone who skates and falls on her arse on those paths that haven't been cleared fully and then the snow melts and ices, I fully appreciate a cleared path.

Coldness and winters are relative. I remember my days waiting for the bus into York and thinking how freezing it was when it was 5C. Now 2C feels like a heatwave, a daily search on the weather websites hunting for the "high" of the week and hoping there's no snowfall and layers, it's all about the layers. Holly sums it up spot on in her ABC's of winter post, granted she's over the border in Ontario, Canada but for the most part, everything is pretty similar, what with Canada being over the river from me and all.


Those spring bulbs I planted, well they and the season they herald the arrival of, well they can't arrive soon enough I reckon.

How's your winter been?

Monday, 19 January 2015

LIFE: Photo an Hour Jan 2015

I was happy to hear that Louisa picked up the #photoanhour organizing baton for 2015 and it's a little mission of mine to hopefully take part in each monthly challenge throughout this coming year. This weekend marked our since Christmas of going out hitting some estate sales which, with the +2C "heatwave" (we've been stuck at -13C and colder for the last couple of weeks) it was a nice cure for the cabin fever of late.


 9am // starting the day right with a brew, i was actually aiming for an Earl Grey tea bag, turned out I picked a smokey tea. Took me about 5 minutes of drinking to realise this, well after Joe asking if I was drinking a smokey tea and I was like noooooo ... apparently I was after all. I guess I wasn't full awake. 

10am // driving to an estate sale we took I-75 which is basically a freeway to test your patience and humanity levels. Otherwise known as everyone forgets how to drive and does triple lane changes. But anyway we timed it well with seeing a train passing overhead, which being a train geek I am, is always a welcome sight (we can actually hear trains honking from our house - doubly awesome). 


11 am// third photograph of my day hit while we were at our second estate sale and sadly I couldn't take any fancy photographs of the mountain of tupperware in the basement, this old piano would do.

12 pm // prior to this estate sales were kinda lacking on the score front - actually this next estate sale where we found all these vintage cookbooks was the only decent one. Not only did we find a load of cookbooks but also a load of vintage crochet and cross stitch stuff too.


2 pm // quickly glossing over the fact I forgot about the 1pm photograph, well carry on. On the way home we popped into our favorite local liquor store and did some stocking up - some gin, vodka and rum. Stereotypical packaged in a brown paper bag.

3 pm // after getting home, sorting out a vinyl we found today. Boney M will probably go over most people's head but they were a German pop group of the 1980's. They are one of my first vinyl memories growing up as a kid, my dad pretty much had all their records and I always loved playing them. They actually weren't big in America - so it's probably quite a score coming across it, although their recording of Mary's Boy Child that gets played over the festive period that they became more known.


4 pm // I love pouring through cookbooks old and new for some new inspiration, we picked up these at the estate sale I mentioned before. A girl can never have too many cookbooks I reckon.

5 pm // It was still feeling a little spring like as 5pm rolled by and we were buying a parking ticket in Ferndale, the sky was looking rather pretty too.


6 pm // so the reason why we popped over to Ferndale was to try M-Brew - a little local cafe that specialises in Michigan made products - from food to drink (as seen in the photograph enjoying a local beer), while it has a cafe feel upstairs, down in the back basement they have a collection of vintage arcade and some pinball machines. I'm hoping to get around to talking about it more in a future post.

7 pm // home and my plans for the evening - netflix, the internets and a glass of whiskey.

So that was my Saturday, how was yours?!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

LIFE: Commenting on American Culture


A discussion on Reddit grew so popular the other week it even got a mention on the BBC. The thread with over 40,000 comments asked non Americans to comment on the US customs they found the strangest. Finding myself nodding away to their suggestions, I thought i'd compile a list of my own. 

The fascination with university sports, especially American Football here in the US is extreme. Don't get me wrong there is always some university pride in your university teams back in the UK, but in the US it's at another level. American Football matches featuring university teams have a higher crowd attendance that UK Premiership games. To be honest, aside from ice hockey, I don't really understand the huge love for American Football or baseball. Speaking of university - it's cost. From seeing, and without getting too personal, the cost Joe's paid, and will be paying for a very long time for going to university.


Medication advertisements, which pretty much all have a risk of death. Then followed by an advertisement for a lawsuit over a medical complication. Speaking of advertisements, America goes a little OTT for them whether it's celebrating Christmas, tax season or something political.. If you thought party political ads in the UK were bad, here they get down right dirty, personal and often very misleading. 

If you ever visit a public toilet in the US you'll have noticed that "huge" gaps around the toilet door. I'm not sure of the purpose - to make eye contact with the person on the loo? To check if the loo is empty? To make every one super uncomfy?! 

In the wider scheme of things, attitudes to healthcare, lack of maternity provision, the gun culture, sales tax, Black Friday (and by it's extension Britain trying to get all over Black Friday - yeah just no), "news" channels, not using the metric system.

Which parts of American culture do you love or like me, just not understand?!

Monday, 12 January 2015

VINTAGE: Quirky Old Postcards

I love finding vintage postcards, I can spend so much just looking at them to googling the address of the buildings be it motel or restaurant that might be the subject upon the front just to see if they still stand - most often than not you'll just find a ab empty grown over lot, a car park or a McDonalds. 

Vintage postcards are so much more quirky then their modern, highly commercialized counterparts that we may or may not still send today. They often portray the off beat, off the road, or random local places as a form of advertising or vacation souvenir. For me, there's another reason - postcards have taught me a lot about America geographically as well as any tourist website. They are a great peek into social and local history, seeing how a place changes over time, to where people go, or at least use to go vacations and what publishers thought was worthy of sticking on a postcard in the first place. 

So I thought I'd come to share some of the more quirky and amusing postcards I've come across in my pickings.
Snow bank in North Michigan - real photograph postcard (RPPC) probably 1930's/1940's - gets a little snowy around here.

Pam Am's new 747 - the plane with all the room in the world. Pam Am, the world's most experienced airline

Princess Street in Kingson, Ontario, Canada. Postcard 1954 - loving the classic cars.
Oldsmobile Super "88" Holiday Coupe from Rogers Motor Inc., of New London CT - don't you just love her expression - I think I'd be as happy too.
The clowns at Florida's Cypress Gardens - because clowns aren't crazy enough - i'm sure this is what nightmares are made of for some.
1976 Annual American Bowling Congress Tournament, Oklahoma City because bowling is a big deal.
Bergan's Suburban Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge located along route 4 in Paramus, New Jersey. Postmarked 1955

Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa postmarked 1948 - the girl doesn't look all that impressed does she?!
Do you still send postcards?


Thursday, 8 January 2015

CREATIVE: Fiddle Dee Dee!


I'll be the first to admit that quote stitching which is all the rage these days and as an extension, submissive stitching isn't normally my cup of tea. Yet, a quote, a line seemed to be the only way to go with stitching something to mark my reading, finally of Gone With the Wind (one of my 30 before 30's). 

Cross stitch designs for Gone With the Wind that are already hanging around on the internets weren't really doing anything for me, so as always, it was a chance to create my own. Thinking of lines from the book, Scarlett's fiddle dee dee seemed like an obviously choice. It's a line she repeats throughout the story, one uttered when she's expressing some kind of impatience or scorn whether it's the men constantly talking about the chance of going to war with the Yankees or how marriage is just for fun for men.

fiddle dee dee

So the wording was pretty simple enough - I actually came across a cross stitch writing tool which is pretty handy if you want to work out and design your own quotes or samplers. And the heart flower wreath design is a free design from Luli, it became my final start of 2014 and my first finish of the new year and in the process, another addition to my embroidery hoop wall.


Fiddle dee dee indeed!

Monday, 5 January 2015

FOOD: Fish & Chips at McShane's Irish Pub

I guess you could say I'm pretty boring when it comes to food choices in restaurants and bars. Visit any new place and i'm most likely to order fish n chips regardless of where we are eating. I'm calling it a personal mission of mine to find the best place that serves up fish n chips - whether that's in Michigan or whatever state I happen to be in. 

After finding some pretty awesome fish n chips back in Pittsburgh over Thanksgiving in the Scottish themed Pipers Pub (which sadly I was far too busy eating to stop and take a picture). It was the first place i've come across in my little challenge that serve the said dish with the traditional thick chips (or fries if you're American). As tasty as they were, 400 odd miles is a long way to go for some fish n chips so the Michigan search continued. 

Joe's taken it upon himself to search the interwebs for recommendations in the Metro area. So when we found McShane's Irish Pub it was a bit of a winner - Irish themed - tick, a whiskey bar - double tick, close by - tick and super high praise for their fish n chips, well it would have been rude not to try.

(please excuse grainy picture, twas dark)

McShane's is I guess you could say at the quieter end of Michigan Avenue in Detroit's, Corktown, I say quieter because it's a way from the hub of Slows, Mercury Bar etc, and can be found on the corner of Michigan Ave and Trumbell, right next to the former baseball pitch - which with the plans for redeveloping the area, I can see this part of town growing from strength to strength. 

So to the all important - how were the fish n chips. Well, lets say they knocked the Grand Trunk Pub off the top of my Michigan league on the fish n chip front. The malt beer batter was crisp and delicious, the cod tender, the thyme steak chips thick and huge. They certainly know what they are doing. Many reviews credit them for making a dish worthy of being from, or even better than those found in the homeland, stick them next to one from the UK and I don't think you could tell the difference taste wise at least. The coleslaw might throw a Brit off mind you. 


McShane's menu features another British staple Shepherds pie, alongside the best wings I've tasted and thick, juicy sandwiches. Plus the bar has 89 different whiskey's. After drinking a delightful rye whiskey - Templeton on the rocks, i'll certainly be back for some more fish n chips and a try of another one of those 88 whiskey's that remain to be tried! 

If you fancy trying it out for yourself, pop along to;
McShanes Irish Pub
1460 Michigan Ave,
Detroit, Michigan

Friday, 2 January 2015

LIFE: Last Year I ...

It's weird to think that 2014 is already last year. Hey I even struggle to think that 2000 rolled around 15 years ago. 2014 was a pretty awesome year, perhaps not so much for the blog, I've had my struggles with that, especially recently but personally, even with the insomnia and all the stress, it turned out pretty well. 

I'm taking inspiration from Dainty Squid's (a favorite blog of mine to read) visual documentation of the year - so here is mine, here was my 2014. 

Experienced and survived a polar vortex and the great flood 

Explored and fell more in love with Detroit and experience some of the awesome local food places the city has to offer - the Grand Trunk Pub, The Mercury Bar, McShanes, MexicanTown Bakery and Slows are all new favorites.

Went to my first basketball game, granted it was the Harlem Globetrotters, but still 

Re-found my passion for cross stitching and started designing some of my own pieces - from record players to VW Bugs and the Angel of the North

Finally explored the Eastern Market

Saw one of my favorite bands, Clairy Browne, live in Ann Arbor 

Saw random roadside attractions - like the worlds largest tire

Brought our very first house and tried to tame a garden, somewhat successfully 

Fell in love with purple buildings in Bay City

And you know what, that all probably sums up both me and my blog pretty well. I have high hopes for making 2015 super crafty, creative and green fingered in various ways and means.

Thanks to all of you - for all your supports, comments, likes, shares throughout the year. I hope you stick around and follow whatever adventures and things that come my way in the next year. I've realised in the last couple of months that this blog is never going to be big, it hurt a little, but in turn it makes you remember that for me, blogging is just a hobby, it's just a small part of who I am, that I shouldn't stress about it as much as I sometimes do. I can't glamourse living in Michigan, or make Detroit sound the most hip happening place, nor can I make the life of an expat sound incredible. But I can try and share what my life is all about and whatever makes me tick, even if that isn't always the most exciting hobbies and things that make up a person.

I wish you all the best as we start a brand new year.