Saturday, 28 February 2015

LIFE: Some More Questions and Some Answers Too


Continuing from that other Saturday tag post a couple of weeks ago and my mission to get around to answering all those tag questions. Here's the second bunch of questions is from Debi for the Sisterhood of the World;

1. If there was nothing holding you back, no lack of money and no fear, what would be the first thing you would do tomorrow?
Pay off all our debts - all the credit cards, the mortgage, the student loans, the car repayments. All of it. Just to have the financial freedom of having more control over our earnings and then to be able to have our own money to spend on doing the things we want to do - doing up the house, travel more etc. How extremely grown up of me.

2. Where is the on place that you've always wanted to visit but you just haven't gotten around to it yet?
Falling Water in Pennsylvania, we get so, so, close when we're visiting Pittsburgh but it's always at the wrong year or we just don't have the time, or money. That and Washington DC.

3. Who is your hero? Why?
I guess I should probably explain my answer to the same question previously and my lame answer. I'm basically of the mind that I'm of my own person and don't tend to see any particular person as inspirational. I find elements like being kind, open minded, being emphatic etc - I find having characteristic I want to have under my belt to be more inspiring that someone has a whole.

4. When you picture your future, what do you see?
Me, Joe, our house, our cats and probably a dog.

5. How would you describe yourself to someone who had never met you, in five words?
A creative sarcastic, day dreaming stress(ed) head. Okay that's only four but you get the idea.

6. If you could be better at one thing or skill what would that be?
I'd love to be better at embroidery or knitting neither I can get my head around. Or being able to send emails on eBay without sounding so passive aggressive.

7. What would you like to have accomplished by the end of 2015?
A proper veg patch, a lovely wildflower garden and at least some of the house improvements ticked off and a bit more financially secure, ya know boring grown up stuff.

8. If you were to write an autobiography what title would you give it?
I actually have no idea ...

9. If you could live anywhere in the world for one month, where would you live?
Chicago most likely, I loved visiting that city and there's just so many places to visit, drink at, eat that that we just didn't get the chance too.

10. What is your favourite thing to do to pass the time? Do you do it often enough?
Cross stitching is my biggie. I neglected it during my teenage years after starting when I was bout 6/7 with chicken pox. It's my go to thing if I have a half hour spare and I try and do some most days, sometimes that doesn't work out but I certainly got back into the swing of things. Save during the spring through autumn when I juggle it with working in the garden.

I'd love to hear how you'd answer the questions! Let me know the the comments below.

Thursday, 26 February 2015


Weather and the seasons, that age old tradition that us Brits love, love, love to talk about. As you might have noticed, it does frequently feature on my blog. Which is why I enjoyed putting together this topic for the Expat Revelation series with Holly. I didn't consider the seasonal differences before moving here I will be honest. Maybe if I had, I would have been mentally prepared for the differences between South East Michigan and East Yorkshire. 

Michigan is both warmer (yey) and colder (boo) than Yorkshire. Average temperatures hit a high of 82F (28C) in July to a cold 17F (-8) in January. It seems in the last three plus years that America has been home, all averages have been smashed. Especially the average cold temperature, -8C would be a pretty warm seeing I've spent most of 2015 in -20C. Luckily, Michigan is a lot dryer than good old Yorkshire, not that that's at all surprising it does like to rain in Yorkshire. Less rain, more snow, I can't win. 

So let's start as we mean to go on with the season right out my window, winter:

Lake St Clair Weekend
PHOTO: NOAA via The Detroit News

Right now i'm covered under that super cold whiteness. Yes it's that cold and wintry.  

I have to admit, I have never seen as much as snow as I have until moving here. In winter you're guaranteed a good foot or four or snow throughout the season with -20C becoming the new norm this year. In fact in 2013 we hit about 100 inches in total of snow. Around here winter is measured by how much the Great Lakes freeze over. Currently that stands at nearly 85% of the Lakes being covered by ice. Which is pretty awesome when you consider the Great Lakes is home to 21% of the worlds fresh water by volume (ta wiki for that fact). Unlike the UK, Michigan doesn't grind to a halt and just gets on with it. Wearing four layers becomes the norm, -8C feels warm, and snow shoveling is a nice winter work out.

Downtown Detroit

Spring brings hazy days but not until late April and May. Temperatures are much like a warm British summer day. As  far as seasons go, it's pretty uneventful but lovely all the same. 

Sunset Ren Cen

Oh summer with your long hot days around the high 20's into the 30's (C). Still a little hot for this Brit to fully enjoy. Sometimes we get a tornado watch or warning when it's the season (late spring through early summer). Sometimes one passes through, although rarely. Long warm days lead to stormy nights. The thunder is eerily loud and threatening enough that it use to scare me the first year or so.

Fall Colours Michigan Cooke Dam Fall Colours Michigan

And what's the result of those warm spring days, lovely summers and a mild autumn with it's colder nights? A beautiful colorful colourful autumn finale. The fall colours Michigan has to offer because of it's seasons is one of the reasons I love calling the mitten home. Burnt oranges, to crisp reds and dazzling golden yellows, the Michigan landscape comes alive. By the end of October the trees are naked and Thanksgiving always rolls around with a snow shower or three.

We're lucky in Michigan that we actually get to enjoy all four seasons with their quirks and charms. According to all the seasonal information out there, Michigan is more cloudy than the norm. It's one of the affects of being surrounded by all the Great Lakes. Many leave the mitten and it's surrounding northern states for the warmer climes of the south to retire, it certainly tests what you're made of. But those fall colours, having those of your doorstep, that makes it all worth while in my book.

Monday, 23 February 2015

LIFE: Photo An Hour Feb 2015

Saturday became a Saturday without any plans. By the time Friday was upon us, Joe was sick and the forecast was suggesting another 3" of snow. But no snow came, and Joe was feeling (somewhat) better, but like January's #photoanhour, estate sales were bleak and few & far between, so we were a meh about them all. In the end our day ended up revolving around one of our shared loves - records. 


8 am // Saturday morning started like any other - snuggles and play time with teeny tiny (who actually turned four in the past week). Normally she has her butt up against the air vent in my craft room, then see's me and get's all "come and rub my tummy" but today she was all about owning a paper bag. 

9 am // After picking up a handful of cheap original 7" singles (think Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, Motown) the week previous I decided it was high time I got around to decorating our single shelves in our record room


10 am // Some people read, some people poke the internet, I cross stitch to pass the time while we worked out what we were going to do, or think about doing. This Transformers piece is one I've been working on since Christmas, I have a bit of a love hate relationship with it but the end is in sight.

11 am // Because bacon and egg sarnie. Need I say more?!


12 pm // Getting out in the frozen tundra is an effort in itself with all the layers, boots, hats, and frozen snow, especially with it being -18C most of the week. Even Iceland has been warmer than Detroit. Brrrr. But I get cabin fever pretty bad so sometimes you just have to get out regardless.

1 pm // We ended up in Hamtramck. After coming across this Metro Times article about Detroit's best record stores and having not hit any for a while (plus we finally got our brand new turntable at the start of the week wup) we decided to hit Detroit Threads which is a mashed up mix of records (lots and lots of techno) mixed with vintage clothes and souvenir tees. 1 pm hit as we were making a chilly dash back to the car and this building caught my eye with it's old painted advertisement. Hamtramck is one of those places that is now firmly on my to explore list, with it's Polish heritage and now increasing Indian population, it's home to some great places to eat, or so I hear.


2 pm // By now we'd explored Solo Records (super friendly) in Royal Oak and were leaving Found Sound (super hipster) in Ferndale with a bag of records in tow. Horrid Michigan winter grey skies for added gloom.

3 pm // New records means an afternoon listening to them. Like we need an excuse.


4 pm // Finally got around to sorting out some threads and starting off those first stitches of a new cross stitch project. This'll end up as a group of daffodils i'm going to stuck upon and use for a greetings card, much like I did with the ones at Christmas. It's actually a free chart from DMC - yey.

5 pm // Weakness of living near a Taco Bell is that I can't turn down a trip, smothered burrito for tea it is then.


6 pm // Pretty much starting the evening as we intend to go on - a date with the remote for Netflix and Hulu (gotta love how our DVD player has a Netflix button, oh modern technology). Between watching South Park, anime and old X-Men cartoons it was a night of catching up with the Metro Times and blog reading.

7 pm // Oh and drinking whiskey, because that's how I roll. I tend to call it a day at this point, because I run out of ways of showing blog reading, TV watching and whiskey drinking.

I guess you could say Saturday summed me up pretty well - whiskey, records, cats, cross stitch, Detroitness and food. If that sparks your interest you can always follow my day to day going's on over on my instagram if you haven't been inflicted with it all ready!

So that was my Saturday, how was yours?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

BLOGGING: Don't Assume Your Blog Followers ...


There always seems to be a LOT of presumptions and assumptions thrown around and about blogging these days. That you need to blog a certain way, feature certain things, you have to be in it for the money. It often focuses on us, our blog, our writing, our style, but what about those that read your blog, those followers that come back time after time. Why are we making assumptions about those?!

Across the board it's time to stop the assumptions of finding this perfect reader we all seem to be after and remember why we started blogging and more often that not, just blog for ourselves.

So stop assuming that your blog readers;

Only use bloglovin
Please please please, I say this as a reader, link out your blog URL during a blog chat, not your bloglovin page. I'm pretty clued up and I'm sure if you're blog savvy you'll have a BL link on your page. While BL is really popular, it's not the only way to follow a blog, I know because it's not my preferred way (I only "follow" a blog on there because of the pressure of having to look like I follow your blog and so I can enter all your competitions - I actually use Feedly to read everything). Linking your BL link is just an extra annoying step for me, and my time is precious.

Want you to constantly talk blog
Obviously as a blog reader myself, if I have a liking for your blog I'm more than happy to follow you across different social media. Mainly because I'm nosy but I want to see what else goes on in your life - the things that you might not always get around to blogging about. But constantly talking blog all-the-time gets draining and I'll unclick. Throw a line out to your followers, engage with them, see what they get to too, it'll certainly help breach that reader - blogger bridge.

Are dumb
Regular readers are pretty wise, a hint of an undisclosed sponsored post can be smelt a mile off or a sudden 180 to constant PR posts. Integrity is a huge part of blogging, to me at least and regardless of how long you've being doing it for, you have to keep it real. So don't try and sneak out a sponsored post and pass it off like you didn't get something in return, your readers trust your words (or they should if they don't have any reason to doubt you) so respect them.

Are always following for the right reasons
Cynical to say but some "followers" may not be there for the right reasons, they might be fake, they might be just following and pay no attention to your blog and just hope you follow them back or because you wanted to reach a milestone and they are part of your follower quota. In other words, do things to make people follow you for the right reasons - you're approachable, your personality, your topics and just maybe because you let your blog grow organically over time.

Will always be happy
You can't please everyone in life so why expect to do so on your blog. You'll have readers that love some topics and hate others. Then you might have others that love every single thing you do, or they might just dig your photographs. Basically what I'm trying to say is that you can't make everyone happy with every single post (although if you do that's pretty awesome) so don't stress about trying too. Blog to make yourself happy - share the things that make you tick, that make you smile. 

Mind if you take a break
Life gets in the way of blogging at times, it's just a factor you have to deal with, but don't assume your readers need you to blog every single week if you can't handle it. If you can that's a high five to you, but sometimes we all burn out, we get bloggers block or you just go on holiday and you want to leave your blog standing for a while. It's fine to walk away for a week or two, most readers may not even notice because while we might love your blog, we're probably following far too many others to even note when one might not blog for a couple of days.

What do you wish people wouldn't amuse about blog readers?
What as a reader, do you wish more bloggers did or didn't do? I'd love to hear!

Monday, 16 February 2015

SNAPSHOTS: Hauntings & Afternoon Tea at The Whitney

Whitney Whitney Whitney Whitney Whitney

My snapshot posts have been in part, an excuse to redo some of the posts that I killed off when the images went dead. Our Valentines trip to The Whitney in Detroit, being one of them. The building is well worth talking about again, in fact I highly doubt I talked about it much the first time around being somewhat too worrisome to talk about Detroit on the blog because of stats (urgh). 

The David Whitney House stands proud as it did when first constructed between 1890 - 1984 for a mere $400,000 (approx $9.5 million in today's money). Named for David Whitney - a mightily wealthy lumber baron, then one of Michigan's richest inhabitants. Standing along Woodward Avenue, it's home to 52 rooms with 10 bathrooms, several Tiffany stained glass windows, a secret vault in the dinning room and the Detroit's first elevator (or as us Brits know them, lifts) in a residential building. It was one of the places to be for receptions, teas and evening parties often held by Mr and Mrs Whitney. 

The Tiffany glass windows are worthy of noting and are considered themselves to be worth more than the house itself. Their designs often come to reflect the role of each room, but in the case of the grand staircase, you'll find a knight (second photograph) - one who symbolize all those of the Whitney family line knighted and their royal lineage. 

Many believe Mr Whitney and his wife - both of whom died within the house in 1900 and 1917 respectively, haunt the building with disturbances noted on all three levels. Most particularly haunted is the elevator, which is known to move on it's own accord. Spooky! 

The house was turned into a restaurant back in 1986, offering afternoon tea, dinner service and hosting wedding receptions - which we actually looked into for ourselves. We visited on a chilly February afternoon all suited and booted while they were offering their Valentines afternoon tea - which itself was a delight and they welcome you going up the second floor and having a wander around. It's an enchanted building, one that has been beautifully preserved (although at a $3 million cost back in 1986). Dinning there is a great opportunity to sample how grand the houses of this era in Detroit must have once been and certainly a must stop if you're ever in the city. 

The Whitney
4421 Woodward Ave.,
Detroit, Michigan, 48201

Where are your top places for a spot of afternoon tea?

Saturday, 14 February 2015

LIFE: Eleven Questions


I've been tagged in a couple of posts lately, I thought I'd share them as and when over the weekend(s). I know tag posts are a bit like marmite, you either love them or hate them, but I'm using them as a chance to answer the questions and perhaps give you an insight into things you might not necessarily know about me, the blogger behind this blog.

First up is a tag from Samantha. I thought I'd mash up her 11 questions from the Libster award and make it more of a here's 11 random things about me you might not know about me kinda post. 

So here goes,

1. What is the most embarrassing that that has ever happened to you?
Hmm I have an excellent talent for walking into things in front of people - traffic sign, pillars in Target. You name it. Always somewhat embarrassing at the time.

2. Do you have any experience that were utterly life changing? What happened?
I guess meeting Joe changed the direction my life was heading in. Dealing with an international long distance relationship for two years, moving countries to be with him and making a new country my home certainly changes me as a person, my perceptions of the world and what I do with my life for sure. 

3. What did you study/major in when you were in school?
I have a BA in (human) geography and an MA in Sociology and Social Research both from Newcastle University (or as it was named when I started University of Newcastle Upon Tyne - there was a bit of a who-ha at the time about why). 

4. What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you doing it right now?
Everything from being in the RAF to a journalist, and I'm certainly not doing either now - although I did do work experience at my local newspaper. You can find out more back in my September 2014 post.

5. What is one bit of advice that you would give your younger self if you could go back in time?
Honestly, to have gotten more tattoos while at university. It sounds pretty vain but I was super tight with spending money even though I had savings from working during the holidays and I had a super great tattooist a bus ride away, so I wish I had made more use of having it right there. That and spent more time adventuring around Newcastle and the area - day trips, museums and the like while I lived there.  

6. Tea or Coffee? Why?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon. Why? Probably because I need something strong on a morning. Although I'm very partial to a coffee at night with something stronger than milk it in if you catch my drift.

7. If you could change your first name to anything you wanted, what would it be?
If I wasn't named Rachael I was going to be called Lydia. Which I always wanted my name to have been. Too many people spell my name wrong (they always spell it Rachel) and it's a sure way to annoy me even though after 28 years I should be use to it. I'm NOT. Lol.

8. Have you ever spent a few days binge-reading a blog? Whose was it? Why?
Today is My Favorite is one I re-found a couple of months ago. I'm the first to admit I'm not a super spiritual or baby centered person, but Nicole just writes everything so magically that I'm hooked in. 

9. Who is your biggest role model? Why?
Errr - pass?

10. If you could spend a day with anyone from Friends, who would it be and why?
Pass, I'd rather hang out with Will & Grace. I say that because I've never seen a full episode of Friends in my life and never intend too - I just don't find it funny (controversial I know).

11. What is the very first thing you do every morning?
Honestly, after checking the time, checking social media and eBay notifications while in bed still. Sad but true.

How would you answer the questions?!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

DRINKS: The Hummer Milkshake


Everyone deserves a cheeky treat, but what about a cheeky adult milkshake?! 

The Hummer milkshake, which has nothing to do with the vehicle it shares it's name with, is considered one of the iconic dishes/drinks to hail from Detroit at least according to Eater. Alongside the Coney Dog, the Boston Cooler, the Last Word and the Detroit style pizza, the Hummer came out of the Motor City in the late 1960's.  

There are stories around these parts of how this milkshake cocktail came to be especially old local tales of who actually concocted the drink. Back in 2001, the MetroTimes shared the original story, of Jerome Adams, bartender for the Bayview Yacht Club, who in 1968 was charged with coming up with a new crowd pleasing beverage. After messing and mixing with all the liquors one can find in a typical bar, Adams found the most pleasing mix came from kahula, rum and what would you know, ice cream. 

It became an instant hit. 

With yacht members sailing and traveling the world, they asked clueless bartenders for Hummers - a cocktail that got it's name by the way because well, as one of the original testers described it as being a drink that makes you "want to hum".  Perplexed bartenders rang the Bayview for the recipe and the rest as they say, is history. 

I have to admit to not knowing either about the Hummer or it's Detroit roots until coming across the Eater Detroit article, but seeing the Mercury Bar was the place offering them, well a return trip was in order. As it happens the Mercury Bar, over in Corktown is my favorite place in Detroit for burgers, so it was a double win. 

But if you can't get to the Mercury Bar for yourself (somewhere I highly, highly recommend) you can always make yourself one;
  • 1 1/2 ounces of rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces of Kahula
  • 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • Couple of ice cubes

Blend together and serve with whipped cream for the top!

If you're luckily enough to live in the area, I can't recommend The Mercury enough - for milkshakes or for burgers!

 Mercury Bar
2163 Michigan Ave,
Detroit, MI
Ever had a hummer?

Monday, 9 February 2015

LIFE: Super Snow Days


I often feel a bit of a broken record when it comes to weather talk. Then again it is a British pastime. It's small talk, something to break the ice at a bus stop. Back in 2008 a survey concluded that the top British trait was talking about the forecast even if the weather is pretty, on the whole uneventful although it's constantly changing. It's a love that surpasses curtain twitching, watching soaps and our love of queuing. Sadly American's, maybe even the rest of the world don't share that same appreciation or obsession, call it what you will, so I let it all out on social media.

So for that reason, it would be very un-British of me to not mention the third highest snowfall experienced in Detroit at the beginning of February. It dumped the most snow since 1974. Quite impressive. Across 24 hours we reached the wintry depths of 16" of the white stuff. Drifts of snow marked their way across our street, into our garden. At the time of writing this, there stands a thigh deep drift on our deck, so much so that I can't open on of our back doors due to it's weight. 

Snowstorm Snowstorm

This all coincided with a couple of inches of snow falling on my British hometown and watching it grind to a halt from afar. Oh England.

I have to admit I was quite in awe, especially as it was the most snow I've ever experienced, in one storm that is. There is something magical about snow when it's so untouched, white and sparking. You catch a glint of a twinkle while you're shoveling and it glistens like glitter. But a week on and it's a mushy brown squishy melting mess.

MI Central

Nevertheless, Michigan Central Station looked super pretty in the snow if nothing else.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

EXPAT: On Becoming a Little Bit American


When you make a new country your home, it's only natural that the more you feel a home there, the more you adopt some of the local culture, traditions, mannerisms. It can be a fine balancing act juggling my British ways and finding my feet with new American ways, sometimes they past me by. Many of them actually did until I got thinking for this edition of the expat revelations link up with Holly.

So, in the three plus years America has been my home, how do I think I've become just a little part of the furniture?!

A for Effort with Coupons
The art of coupons is very much a sport over this side of the pond, of which I am but a mere beginner. I do love being able to put coupons on my shoppers card but I don't go the extremes of buying Sunday papers just for the coupons. It is pretty fun though seeing how much you save. 

Americanized Spelling
Just for points sake I stuck the z (zed though, not zee) in there. I wonder if we didn't have an eBay store that this would have changed as much as it has but I have adjusted my spelling. It's not so conscious anymore especially when typing. I miss out "u"s and throw out "z"'s all over the place these days.

Reese's to Hot Dogs
I eat like an American I will be honest and I love love LOVE American food especially with all the choices you can find here. Then again I was never one for traditional British food - well the meat pies, the roast dinners at least. Granted we live in a HUGE metro area so if you fancy Mexican it's right there, some Korean, perhaps some Mongolian?! Well that's there too. We're pretty spoiled in Detroit for some incredibly good food.

[Weaknesses - Reeses Puffs & Taco Bell]

Reese's cereal is the first cereal in 28 years that I actually like eating, I love a good milkshake from Steak & Shake, a cheeky order from Taco Bell, or a coney to American baked beans. And if needs be, I can happily eat a bar of American made chocolate without turning my nose up.

Issues - From Politics to Immigration
From politics, attitudes to healthcare, immigration, who might run for president in 2016 they all interest (and often annoy me), those choices affect my life even though as a green card holder I can't vote. Mind you it all gets a little depressing so I often tune out but, I have an interest for sure. I still know (to a point) what's going on in the UK politically but I have more awareness and interest over this side of the pond. 

Foreign Homeland
Saying that, the UK feels more and more of a foreign place to me. I cling to listening to the BBC, I like to know what's going on but there's a difference between being told what's occurring and what it feels like on the ground. I'm out of touch with friends, with what's on the TV, what the must have trend is in New Look. 


All the Grown Up Documents
I have American health insurance, American life insurance, an American mortgage, an American dentist, an American bank account, a house here ... you get the picture.

"I'm an Alien, i'm a Legal Alien"
When May comes around I can apply for US citizenship. While it's not something I plan on apply for this year at least (we need that money for fixing up the house and my green card is good through 2024) I know one day in a couple of years I want to start the ball rolling and become a US citizen. It's not something I take lightly although it's something I know I want to do. I want the US properly to be my home and feel fully integrated. I want the right the vote here and to have the right to say I'm a citizen.

[I'm very very slowly exploring the USA] 

Sometimes knowing i'm becoming more American doesn't bother me, I take it with a pinch of salt, other times it brings on the homesickness and memories of that Brit that's still deep inside. Being surrounded by American culture, ways and means it's only natural that I take some of these aspects into daily life, i'm not immune to influence but all these things I do, I try to keep a balance with my British ways and traditions, which is probably worthy of a post in and of itself so i'll leave it at that for now. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

LIFE: Lego, Lighthouses & Model Trains

Great Train Show

I have a super geeky hobby, it's a love for trains. Train travel, steam trains, model trains. I love them all. But it's something I've really mentioned in all the years this blog has been on the go. For the last couple of years, me and Joe have been building up a collection of model railway gear - the tracks, the locomotives, the rolling stock and now that we finally have a house and got a little bit more organised, we're starting to piece together ideas for constructing a proper layout. 

Now I won't bore you all about the inner workings of model railroading, but i'll probably share the process in parts and train related places and events along the way. So i'm easing into it with the Great Train Show held at the Novi Suburban Showplace on Saturday which was basically a big trade event for model railroad and train collectors and enthusiasts. 

One of the fun things with any hobby is being inspired by others and model trains is no expectation. But I have to admit to having a big soft spot for the city and rail layout Lego fans always seem to come up with. The event featured a version of city/train layout made by the Michigan Lego Users Group.  It's not a true model railroad as such, but it's pretty accessible whatever you're view of model railroading!

Great Train Show Great Train Show Great Train Show Great Train Show

So much detail!

Their design is part Detroit, part Michigan with Detroit building, a replica version of the people mover, to Michigan lighthouses and just a wider scene of shoreline, farm land and buildings. It's very similar in design to their exhibit over at the Henry Ford which has a large Detroit design. 

Whether you love trains or not, just considering the scale, the time, the cost and the number of Lego's yet alone skill and patience to construction such designs, it's pretty inspiring!