Monday, 30 March 2015

CREATIVE: That Time I Turned Us into Cross Stitch Figures

Stitch Characters

Like everything, there's trends in cross stitch, be is subversion lines that would make your grandma blush to turning your family into cross stitch characters. While I'm not much of a fan of the former, I can get behind anything to remember and mark me and my little world. 

Etsy will get you spending all your pennies getting someone to design and stitch yourself a piece. But being the crafter I am, I'm more than happy spending the time, researching and working on a piece myself. Luckily I came across this great (and free) resource from Martha Stewart on stitching a family portrait which comes with a great selection of male & female figures, hair styles, face shapes to accessories. If you want an easy go to guide - I can't sing it's praises even more if I tried.

Stitch Characters

So what did I stitch? My little fur ball family and that special man of mine. There's me with my glasses, you'll always pretty much find me in my jeans and some form of boots on my feet, with my Teeny Tiny Smokey beside me and our other fur ball Ed, sits beside Joe. These photographs technically don't show the finished piece as I back stitched our surname underneath our feet, but for ya know, internet safety I'm keeping that name to myself!

I stitched it all up in an afternoon, it was that easy and straight forward and it makes a perfect reminder and marker of our life here in 2015.
Stitch Characters

What have you been crafting lately?

Friday, 27 March 2015

FOOD: Celebrating Easter with the British Hamper Company

Easter Hamper

Even as an adult, you gotta love Easter for all the chocolate. While America too loves it's "candy" this time of year, there's nothing like some British tasting chocolate celebrations. Whether you live in my British homeland, you're an expat or have an interest in trying out some British chocolate wherever you are in the world, there is a great company to head to for satisfying that chocolate craving at Easter time! The British Hamper Company is here to answer all your British food needs.

Based out of Lincolnshire, The British Hamper Company prides themselves on offering quality service in producing imaginative luxury gift hampers. Whether you're looking for an Easter gift, craving some retro sweets, fancy giving something different for a wedding gift or need some early ideas for Christmas, they all offer a taste of Britain. Inside their hampers, you'll find a great selection reflecting the "exciting and passionate British food landscape" with food from award winning British artisans and independent food producers.

Sounds good right?!

Easter Hamper

Full of delicious goodies, the Easter gift hamper comes with a fine selection of nine delights of artisan chocolate from Britain's leading chocolatiers. An Easter egg made with butterscotch truffles (mmm) from London's Monty Bojanges to incredibly cute little Easter chicks and some tasty looking drinking chocolate from Chocca Mocca. It all comes in this adorably cute British themed bespoke packaging that is so getting reused in my craft room! Those raining clouds, are just too cute.


If you find yourself living on this side of the pond like me, the final final order date for guaranteed Easter delivery of the Easter Hamper to the USA and Canada is today (Friday 27th) so get your fingers filling in that order form asap! Fear not if you're in the UK, you have extra breathing room with final orders up to April 1st. 

International customers need not worry about delivery times nor poor packaging because the British Hamper Company make international delivery easy, secure and low fuss!  Typically USA bound delivery takes 4 days (perfect!). They also work on a preferred delivery date system, so if you're planning ahead for future celebrations, you can choose when you'd like your hamper to be delivered by. They also do an excellent job in securely wrapping not only the perishables, but also the hamper itself. Which is an added winner in my book! If you're an expat or thinking of treating yourself to some British chocolate from overseas, you can find out more about international delivery and service here.


Whether you fancy an Easter treat for yourself or you know someone who deserves one, you can't go wrong with this hamper! Personally I think I'll be hinting for that Retro Sweet hamper in the future for myself - there's so many childhood memories contained in that hamper! Right now, well I'm looking very much forward to getting very well acquainted with all this chocolate over the Easter weekend!

You can find out more about the British Hamper Company through their website, twitter or facebook page.

Disclosure: I received the Easter Hamper from the British Hamper Company for review purposes. all words, photographs and thoughts are all my own. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

FOOD: Scotty Simpson's Fish & Chips

James (Scotty) Simpson, a Scottish native opened a small fish n chips shop on a corner in the Detroit neighbourhood of Brightmoor in 1950. It became so successful he expanded the chippie into his butchers shop in the building next door. Sixty five years later and the business is still standing strong. 

Walking through the front door I was greeted with a smell that I haven't smelt since leaving the UK in 2011 - the smell of a chip shop. The frying, the batter, the fish. Mmm. I've missed that smell. It's actually one of those true British smells this BBC Mind The Gap article suggests that you'll come to miss if you ever leave the UK, alongside ya know, rain, cut grass, curry and say petrol. Chip shops in the tradition sense that you see in every British town are rare in America and Scotty's is one of the few places that offers food to go alongside having seating. You can smell the original owners Scottish heritage in the air by the way they fry their house boned and cut cod. The batter itself, well that's a secret recipe just as old as the establishment.   


Scotty's is one of those places that often ends up on, or very close to the top of the best places in Detroit and it's surrounding area for fish n chips and you can see why. And it's very, very popular. With fresh fish, hand cut coleslaw and homemade tartar sauce, they certainly know what they are doing. Sadly the chips were more of the thinner American variety, but they were fried tasty enough that I could see past it. And don't get me started on their homemade pies - their lemon meringue pie, well that just topped everything off perfectly.

Sadly many would overlook eating in Scotty's because of it's location. On the corner of Fenkell and Dolphin, Scotty's is a long standing residence of the Detroit community of Brightmoor, one often referred to as "Blightmoor". Those Detroit horror stories are nearly always given in reference to this area, regardless of whether they are true or not. Still, it's a pretty darn popular place. 


Scotty's fish n chips offers authentic food, one that speaks proper British way of frying and serving them. But also speaks authentic Detroit - from the friendly service, the mom n pop feel, there's nothing fancy. They know what they do and they do it really well. While a lot of the other places in Michigan (and Pittsburgh) offer fish n chips, especially in British, Irish, Scottish themed places, their dishes lack that original taste that I grew up. 

And while it's a bit of a drive for us, I'll certainly be dragged Joe back there when i'm craving proper British style fish, it's worth it for the smell along. 

Fancy some great British style fish n chips in Detroit? 
Scotty Simpson's Fish n Chips;
22200 Fenkell Ave
Detroit, Michigan, 48223

Monday, 23 March 2015

LIFE: Photo an Hour March 2015

Another month, another attempt at me keeping up with the photo an hour link up with Louisa and Jane - so far, so good! Oddly enough this year they keep falling on Saturdays were our plans go out the window (we had a great stock fill up at an estate sale the weekend previous so there was so real need to hit any this weekend) but they kinda show how daily life for me really is. 


9 am // because we'd finished off all the yummy cinnamon & raisin and the banana bread muffins (thank you Thomas the Baker) it was back to the odd Reeses Puffs for breakfast. I have to admit, a sure sign of me getting older much be this eating of breakfast malarkey. And ya know, awesome Yorkshire slang coasters. 

10 am // you can always tell when life gets busy by my lack of cross stitching which basically made up last week. I'm totally slacking on the SAL piece i'm working on so it was high time I tried to catch up.


11 am // both cats were having one of their rolling around like beached whales sessions. Smokey (pictured - you can see Ed doing the same here a couple of days previous) loves paper bags - sitting on or in them, but nothing beats rolling around on a paper bag showing off her tummy because she wants tummy rubs. 

12 pm // because it's just awesome to put Transformers into badass poses. 


1 pm // after wrestling with the self service machine in the Post Office I met Joe at the garage (well technically he met me at the cross roads because I HATE HATE HATE crossing roads in America, especially when they are five lines by myself) where the car was getting an oil change and something else done. I got highly amused watching it go up and down while reading months old magazines in the waiting room. 

2 pm // trip to Meijer to finally get me some potting compost for starting off some of my seeds inside, some little pots and some veg seeds for when it gets warmer to sow (radishes, fancy coloured carrots and onions). 


3 pm // back home via Toys R Us and I finally got around to trying some local tea. Joseph Wesley is a Detroit company and one of their teas (no 2.) was inside of a Mitten Create box I won before Christmas. I'm not a big loose tea drinker, but this was pretty tasty.

4 pm // binge watching Armitage III while trying to get back to doing some more sewing but Ed has other ideas. This is a typical scene if i'm on the sofa stitching on an afternoon because she can see straight out into the front garden and see the girls on the feeders. That and she wants attention.


5 pm // know me and you'll know Taco Bell is a massive weakness of mine. The new Sriarcha Quesrito being a new favorite of mine. Tasty tasty in my tummy.

6 pm // trying to catch up on blog read and, while having a break from the anime, we watched a couple of episodes of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt after hearing great things about it. It certainly lives up to the hype. 


7 pm // it took a while for the sun to come out today, but i'm loving not only hearing the birds chirping away in the morning, but the lovely lighter evenings. 

8 pm // enjoying a slice of banana bread (baked from a 1944 recipe) and how the rest of my evening was spent - enjoying some whiskey, watching more anime and working on some blog posts. 

So that was basically my Saturday, nothing really to write home about but just the little things that pretty much make up my life daily, which if you're interested you can find me sharing over on IG. How was your weekend?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

LIFE: A Tale of a Grand Carriage, An Adopted Baby & a Cathedral


Look deep enough and you'll probably find a family history mystery within your own genealogy. As a geeky teenager I use to love drawing up family trees and talking to my gran about her history and life (she did make it into the Durham newspaper in the 1930's for falling into the river after all). But there was always one side of the family tree that we could never fill, that of my great granddad on my mam's mum's side. 

The story that we know starts in early 1900's Durham, a small city in the North East of England. A smart, elegant and extremely rich carriage or so they say arrived in the city and dropped off a baby to a house in the shadows of the cathedral. For the first couple of years at Christmas and birthdays, cards with money would arrive, we presume from the mother and then they stopped. We don't know if my great granddad questioned his heritage, he knew he was adopted but how much he asked, or investigated we will never know. He was however caught as a late teen going through some papers, papers which revealed his heritage, grabbed by his adoptive mother and thrown into the fire before he could ever cast his eye over them. She had been sworn to secrecy.

This secret was one which would never be told. He came to work in the castle at the time when university life was was for the upper class, when they were waited on hand and foot and being Durham, it was closely linked to the Cathedral. Family folklore comes to state many a person, especially in the religious order stated "we should be waiting on you" as my great grandfather served and helped them. People in the church knew the tale, knew of whom his family really was, but none would ever tell. 

Durham Green

Tales of legitimate child during this era are rift, it's what period dramas love after all and we're lead to believe this is just one such tale. As he died in the 1950's it was put upon his grandchildren to try and discover the truth. I forget how, but there were records of the hotel somewhere down south in which we believe he was born in, the records were lost in a fire, everything, any documents were always lost to fire. Perhaps his mother was a maid, a street girl, lover, a mistress of someone too well connected to be seen having legitimate children paid off and sent away. Well that's what the family historian was lead to believe, he even made assumption as to who the father was - due to the presence and location of the hotel and other pieces of family folklore which I now forget. The assumed father's name has been suggested as one very prominent in London at the time, but either way there's no real proof.

It's a mystery that has always intrigued me because it's one that will never be solved, it's one that somewhat illogically effects me occasionally about knowing where I come from. Not one of the people who knew my great grandfathers heritage shared the secret, not one and many knew. That's the part that bugs me, that's what makes me think there's something a lot deeper that the clergy knew and were ultimately involved. 

Do you have any family tales to share?

Monday, 16 March 2015

CREATIVE: That Time Optimus Prime Nearly Beat Me


Sometimes cross stitch pieces can teach you things even after 20 years of stitching. That cream isn't the best background colour. That said cream thread shows up your cats fur so bad. That freehand back stitch is harder than I thought. That and Optimus Prime was nearly the death of this cross stitch piece. 

And you really can't say that too often. 

The design is actually one I came across through Jucie Lucie's blog (via Pinterest). Originally designed to be crocheted into squares but the pattern was basic enough to be converted into cross stitch. The tricky part came with adding the details that comes with back stitching, which I basically made up as I went along. Optimus Prime's face being a right royal annoyance. He looked, at one point, more evil Decepticon than earths savior (he's the third square down on the far left).

Optimus Prime

It really wasn't all prime at that point.

I have to be honest in confessing there was times I really disliked stitching this piece. It probably wasn't until half way through the tables started to turn I actually started liking it. The cream background wasn't my wisest idea - mainly for how much it shows cats fur, my hair, basically anything, to how lighter colours seem to make my stitches appear less neat.


I could say my interest in stitching this piece was through Joe's love for Transformers (the toys, the cartons - we won't mention the films urgh). But lets be honest here, I have a fair high level of enjoyment watching Transformers Prime and now with Robots in Disguise. So while it's finding it's place on the wall of our record room come Transformers hang out, it's for the both of us to the point where I already have another Transformers piece lined up to stitch.

Optimus & Bumblebee

Plus, getting to play around with the Transformers while taking these photographs, that was pretty fun too. And yes, yes, if you're a Transformers geek you'll be well aware that the design is one based upon G1 Transformers for which we don't have any toy lines, so please excuse the other universe lines of Transformers. Ahem.

Friday, 13 March 2015

DETROIT: Why Would You Come to Detroit?


Why would anyone come to visit Detroit? Why would I even move to Detroit (a question I get asked a lot). Surely it's that zombie wasteland we hear all about on the media, right?! There's even locals in the burbs that won't venture into Detroit proper (urgh pet peeve). 

But I mean it's not like we have; 

Fun places for big kids

Pinball machines (M-Brew) and skee ball (Marvin's) anyone?


An island park larger than New York's Central Park who are you trying to fool?!

Belle Isle - an island in the middle of the Detroit River, offering views of both the American and Canadian riverfront with museums, aquariums, gardens and beaches.


There's nothing to see here, literally 

Detroit is one of the few cities with a international river front - home to a river walk, a state park, a gorgeous view to special events. You can even wave at Canadians. It's not that 75% of the liqueur smuggled into the US passed over the Detroit River during prohibition or anything. 
Belle Isle


Nor is it home to some important pieces in America's history

from the car JFK was shot in, the Lincoln's death chair, to the infamous bus Rosa Park refused to give up her seat upon, they both and more have a home at the Henry Ford Museum
Rosa Parks Bus


Nor will you find America's oldest aquarium, nope 

The Detroit Aquarium, found upon Belle Isle (mentioned above) was opened in 1904 and was the oldest continually opened public aquarium in America. In recent years, it's been getting a new lease of life.


And the views aren't worth mentioning ... 

Whether it's driving along Woodward, from the 13th floor of the Greektown Casino or walking along the riverfront, Detroit has a pretty impressive skyline. 
Greektown Detroit 15th


It's not like there's anywhere decent to eat 

Be it great BBQ at Slows, a tasty burger at the Mercury Bar, to endless Coney's and diners, there's something for everyone. It's not that Detroit has it's very own style of pizza which inspired many of the big Midwest pizza chains or anything ... 
McShanes Pizza


A market in the middle of an urban wasteland? What madness are you on ... 

Stock up on Michigan made goodies, vintage treats to thousands of with the sweet smell of flowers to food and street music fill the air around the Eastern Market. I'm personally super excited about stocking up on flowers once spring fully rolls around!
EasternMarket Market


"Art" to spark a debate ... 

Whether it's a sly street cat in Corktown or a Chimera it all sparks that old graffiti verses street art debate. 

Kitty Midtown Chimera


The buildings are nothing fancy either  

From big to small old buildings are finding new leases of life. Office buildings are being converted into apartments, new sports arenas are being proposed, new building ideas drawn up by the week. Old houses, long empty and trashed and finding loving new owners breathing new life into them. But it's about the small details as much as it is about towering skyscrapers, there is detail everywhere. 
Fisher Coleman


They really don't know how to make doughnuts around here either

Dutch Girl Donuts at 7 Mile and Woodward - Best. Donuts. Ever. 


Everyone has a rival, even the food places ... 

Detroit is all about it's food. Everyone tries, everyone has their options it's either all about the American or all about Lafayette either way, you'll enjoy a tasty Coney dog or three. 

Because it's just a zombie wasteland right?!

Yeap, there's nothing to see here, move along

But that's fine, I'm happy to enjoy this all by myself!

Detroit is all about misconceptions. Too many misconceptions that people believe to the point they avoid the city like the plague. Even locals.

For me, one of the reasons why I try and share positive Detroit posts here is to challenge those misconceptions. Whether you live down the road and get too scared to drive south of 8 mile or you live in the UK and all you see is the constant stream of Guardian articles about the city. Like seriously, the Guardian seems to be all over Detroit the last couple of months. The misconceptions need to be challenged, and often. But I always feel the need to justify why I like Detroit, why I would go out my way to share nice things, why would I stay in the area. If you follow me on twitter you know I'm constantly sharing Detroit related articles, sound bites - new places to eat, stores, things to do, things that are happening? Why (because it's somewhat of a bookmark for myself) but also because I'm proud to be around a city that's changing for the better.

Thanks for letting me harp on about Detroit all the time! 

Why Would You Come to Detroit was written to link up with Something Beautiful and Reckless Blog to celebrate everything 313 - March 13th, Detroit Day. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

GARDEN: Milkweed & the Plight of Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

One thing that got me through this dreadfully long and cold winter was thoughts about my garden and my plans for creating (or at least trying to, a butterfly garden). There something so incredibly beautiful about spotting a butterfly fluttering around your garden. But there is one butterfly in particular that has seen it's number dramatically decline in the last 20 years - the Monarch butterfly. This keystone American species, well they really need your help. 

Freak weather, the increasing use of genetically modified crops and a national shortage of milkweed have all contributed in the challenges a Monarch butterfly faces in it's 3,000 mile mitigation from as far north as Canada down to Mexico, the west coast of California or Florida. Yet there is a simple way to help - by planting milkweed. Why is this plant important? Well it's their only larval food source, the only plant they lay their eggs upon. But it's being increasingly removed by farmers and gardeners alike. 

Fall (September - November) Monarch Migration in North America (source)

This vital source for the Monarch butterfly is pretty easy to get your hands on whether it's through a local garden center or online in either seeds or plants. Back in September I came across the seed program run by the Live Monarch Foundation which was started after the death of 80% of the entire monarch bleeding program in a extremely cold winter in Mexico back in 2002. Since then the foundation has come to promote the replanting of milkweed and the care of Monarch caterpillars. For a small donation (starting at $1 = 50 seeds and going upwards) plus postage (49c) you'll be sent some milkweed seeds suitable for your region with planting instructions. Within a two weeks my order had arrived and are being stored away in a drawer until spring and I can get to sow them in my garden. But it is important that pets are kept away from milkweed, as it's highly poisonous to cats and dogs.

Monarchs have been recorded in the UK, although there's only been about 500 recordings. Milkweed is not native to the UK so consider planting general butterfly loving plants - lavender, chives, purple cone flowers, sunflowers, holly, ivy, to just leaving in nettles, thistles and dandelions. There's a handy PDF that highlights RHS recommended plants for attracting butterflies if you're UK based (because I know a lot of my readers are all back in my homeland so I like to keep you all in the picture too!).

For me, my garden is as much about having an outside space as it is to help the wildlife. Whether it's a bee, a butterfly or a bird, my garden is for them as much as it is for me and something I hope to share more once it's back to proper gardening weather. So if you have that spare corner, think about helping out the wildlife.