Friday, 30 October 2015

SNAPSHOTS: The Cincinnati Zoo

Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo Zoo

After our first visit in July, the Cincinnati Zoo fast became my favorite. It's wonderfully laid out, the exhibits are huge and they do a great deal of work behind the scenes at helping reintroducing species back into the wild - to the point it's often considered the sexist zoo for all the breeding programs that help repopulate wild populations. So when we had a long weekend just after my birthday, I couldn't really turn down a road trip back there. 

It's always great returning to the zoo after a couple of months (one of the reasons why I love my Detroit Zoo membership) those lion clubs were getting so much larger and daddy Lion was back in the exhibit, Tofu the baby Red Panda was out and about, those baby Flamingo's were just as big as their parents. Plus we managed to catch a glimpse of those animals we missed the first time around - like the crazy cute Sloth to those calling the Gibbon island home. Plus the zoo is home to my favorite penguins - those baby blue ones and with the cooler weather overhead they were being adorably active - splashing, swimming around in their pool. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

LIFE: Allegheny Autumnal Backroads

Small Things Small Things Small Things Small Things

Sweeping along the many back roads of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) walls of orange and yellowing leaves were broken up with a quick glimpse of the Monongahela River, railroad tracks or rocky hills. Winding roads and hills seem another world away from the flat corner of SE Michigan, roads that often take me back to my English roots and old family holidays in the Lakes or Scotland. For this reason along, Allegheny always has a special place in my heart for drawing up those old memories of the homeland. I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised at the autumnal colours that this corner of West PA had to offer.   

Monday, 26 October 2015

LIFE: Small Things

Small Things

Life has been a little up in the air shall we say in the last couple of weeks, which unfortunately led to a quick dash back to Pittsburgh for a family funeral. Hence the delay in getting out last weeks small things posts, but with a death, it makes you appreciate those small things even more. And while I could go on about the differences in how a funeral plays out in the US in comparison, lets just talk about happy things, like;

  • Fall the fall colours - I can never tire of seeing all those oranges, reds and yellows
  • Signing up for Marvel Unlimited and getting to read loads and loads of Marvel comics - old and new
  • Managing to get a 3 foot tall Peace Lily home in one piece all the way from Pittsburgh, it however may not survive being around the kitties ... 
  • Having a couple of days being called auntie is always fun
  • Driving around the back roads of Allegheny in Pennsylvania and being blown away with all the beautiful fall colours (more on this to come)  
  • Finally getting around to reading Nimona which is a very quirky and fun graphic novel that I would highly recommend
  • Also Neil Gaiman's Sleeper and the Spindle is both a beautiful tale and gorgeously illustrated which is always a double winner
  • Being spoiled with a Keurig coffee machine in our hotel room
  • All the pumpkin carving
  • Meeting lots of new kitties and seeing just how well they flock to me, it's like I just let off cat lady signals at every turn
  • Popping into an anime store in Greensburg and finding all the goodies

How are things with you?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

CREATIVE: Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

A couple of months ago, I made the most of our friends buying their first house and made it the perfect excuse to get around to trying out designing another cross stitch to give to them as a celebratory gift. The design was a whole collection of various ideas that have been flying around in my head for a while that just happened to flow out and work pretty well together. Pretty love hearts, cute fluffy clouds and variegated shades on the text. Not to mention the endless number of french knotted flowers. Finished off in a 6" embroidery hoop and all ready to hang.

Home Sweet Home

I have to admit, I'm pleased as punch how this design turned out.

What have you been crafting lately?

Monday, 19 October 2015

LIFE: Photo An Hour - October 2015

Saturday rolled around marking the October link up for photo an hour organized by Jane and Louisa. The morning actually marked the first frost of the year (even snow in some places) and the first weekend getting around to estate sales for nearly a month. 

But enough of the introductory small talk and get to the juicy bits.
Photo An Hour

9 am // getting ready to go out - finally back to being scarf season, actually wishing I had some gloves to hand once we got outside because of the aforementioned frost. Chilly days.

10 am // admiring pretty autumnal colours

Photo An Hour

11 am // Joe was poking boxes with old Transformers toys, I was amusing myself admiring various old plates.

12 pm // blue skies ahead. Misleading Michigan blue skies I should add. They always suggest warm days that are now long gone.

Photo An Hour

1 pm // library trip - dropping some off, picking some up. Also admiring the huge comic book collection that my local library is home too.

2 pm // late lunch of a bacon sarnie smothered in brown sauce mmm

Photo An Hour

3 pm // on my bulb planting mission trying to plant over 200 of them. It's endless. Also annoying my squirrel friends by disturbing all their nut collections as I plant away. Take this additionally as my 4pm image.

5 pm // so I was a sucker for the lighthouse fabric, cleaning up an old footstool into yet another sewing box (can't have too many).

Photo An Hour

6 pm // became all about the n's - Netflix (NCIS), nail painting and reading the newspaper. Easily pleased. 

7 pm // tea time - Buffalo Wild Wing leftovers from Friday night - nom indeed.

The rest of the night was basically spent on the sofa watching Netflix and being lazy with two purring kitties.

How was your Saturday?

Friday, 16 October 2015

LIFE: Why Michigan Rocks in the Fall

Westgate Overlook Michigan

Maybe it's because I'm an autumn baby, or because September weekends were spent picking apples from the tree in my parents garden, eating all those pies, kicking all those leaves, but autumn has always been a favorite of mine. And while it's always been a favorite, moving to Michigan made it all the special, there's something pretty incredible about Michigan when fall comes to town.

Call this post a part bucket list, a to list of Michigan autumnal delights, or just another list of reasons why I love this state. 

Apple Picking

Apple Picking
With a broken oven - I shall miss the baking of apples picked by hand from our somewhat local apple orchard.Turning all those juicy ripe goodies into pies and crumbles. Nom. I would never have imagined witnessing the hour long queues to grab a bag for filling to the brim with apples, but once autumn comes around apple picking is a huge event.  

Cider and Doughnuts
The two go hand in hand lets be honest. Granted I've not actually made it to a cider mill yet (oops) but the doughnuts we treat ourselves too from Erwin's Orchard (where we go apple picking) are some of the best I've tasted.

Fall Colours Michigan

Fall Colours
You can take a gander at amazing autumn colours - reds, oranges, burnt crispy yellows throughout the state, but the higher you go, the more beautiful the sight becomes. I could basically say "drive along any road in the north and you'll be impressed". Actually true. But the avenue of trees along M22 or any that takes you through the Huron National Forest (stopping at my favorites when we took our little Michigan road trip back in 2012.

Need a guide for peak colour dates, well MLive has you covered.

Michigan Ren Fest

Michigan Ren Festival
Once Labor Day rolls around, the Michigan Ren Festival comes out to play. With Turkey legs the size of your face, jousting contests to displays and little shops it's a fun place for soaking in all things medieval. It's been a good couple of years since we took a trip to the festival, so we're probably due another visit. 

Erwin Orchard Picking

All sizes, shapes and varieties of pumpkins as far as the eye can see. There's something really American about seeing countless fields (often pick your own) of pumpkins in the fall. More so when you see how everyone decorates their front porch with them - all shapes and sizes.

What do you love about autumn where you live?

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

PITTSBURGH: The Block House - Western PA's Oldest Building

Point Park

Beside the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh's Point Park, you'll come across a small building with a delightful garden and a most intriguing history. Known as the Fort Pitt Block House, this building remains as the oldest standing structure in Western Pennsylvania and the oldest building west of the Allegheny Mountains. Occasionally known as Bouquet's Blockhouse or the Bouquet's Redoubt, the building was originally built as a defensive redoubt (often one of the first lines of defense) of Fort Pitt - what was once the largest and key defensive forts of the British.

While the fort was demolished in 1792, the Block House was converted into a private residence. The building isn't on the large side so I can't imagine who cramped housing conditions must have been - records suggest it was home to various sizes, classes and social backgrounds over the decades. By the 1840's the Block House was home to multiple families - just one of many tenement houses of Pittsburgh's poor Point District population.

Point Park

By 1894, Mary Schenley - a philanthropist, presented the deed to the Block House to the Daughter of American Revolution (DAR). With 16 months of restoration - removing the windows and doors, the DAR continue to this day to preserve the structure for future generations with many of the timbers, brick and stonework being original. Today the Block House is a free to visit museum. Sadly we wandered around Point Park late on a summers evening after closing, but fingers crossed for a peek inside sometime especially with it's British history.

I do wish I'd captured more photographs of the Edith Ammon Memorial Garden which is planted just to the left of the building. While small, it had quiet the English cottage garden feel yet filled with flowers native to the Pittsburgh area.

Point Park

It's always great to come across glimpses of British history on my travels on this side of the pond.

Monday, 12 October 2015

OHIO: Along Country Roads

Farmland Farmland Farmland Farmland Farmland Farmland Farmland

An unplanned diversions (roadworks & accidents) though the back roads on the northern drive homeward to Detroit from Cincinnati lead to a sneak peak of more of the Ohioan countryside. With tractors buzzing away gathering in the harvest, fields of produce stretched as far as the eye could see. Old farmhouses, brick and wooden popped up over the crops, nearly all with their sturdy metal roofing to protect themselves from the elements. Old wooden barns marked with painted lettering celebrating a notable year in the state's history faded and peeling in the distance. So I thank google maps for suggesting we avoid an hour long queue along I-75 and for offering me a pretty glimpse of American countryside. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

LIFE: Small Things


Once October rolls around I feel like one of the few people that doesn't go for the whole pumpkin thing, so forgive me while nothing pumpkiny fills up today's small things post. While everyone might be stocking up and drinking gallons of the pumpkin spice whatevers, I've been feeling more at home with my huge box of Yorkshire tea that landed on my doorstep (along with packets of instant custard and angels delight) in a birthday care package from the homeland for my birthday. Now that's more my kinda thing!

Otherwise other happy things include;

  • Joe brought me a brand spanking new laptop for my birthday. Yey I finally have a working laptop that actually came with Windows 10 so I didn't get to kill another laptop in the upgrading process.
  • Said laptop coming with the kindle app and a local library that offers downloadable books for free to borrow - I'm far too excited. 
  • Dear Ms Leigh is the expat blog of the month over on Expat Blog - for which I rambled on about myself. 
  • Stitched a Halloween Kitty although I forgot to take a photograph of it completed before passing it to my friend ... oops 
  • That birthday of mine.
  • I finally got around to ordering my spring bulbs. Over 200 of them. Far too excited for them to arrive - lots of daffodils, iris's, glads, crocuses to name but a couple.
  • Doing lots of reading - Night Circus, Friends with Boys and Ocean At The End of the Lane being particular highlights of the last two week.
  • Binge watching How To Get Away With Murder - love that show and season two is looking to be just as good.
  • Lots of tasty new food places and cocktails drinked
  • Hungry Howie's chocolate brownies with raspberry topping mmmm
  • Taking a birthday road trip to Cincinnati - enjoyed the night in a hotel and got to visit the zoo again (couple of blog posts upcoming ... eventually) but think baby red panda and blue penguins! 
  • Oh and feeding a giraffe - much fun! 
  • Seeing some of the Ohio countryside/farmland while trusting google maps diversion around accidents and roadworks. 
  • Starting a Scandinavian advent calendar cross stitch kit - a birthday gift my parents picked u[p in Norway which is far too cute and I'm loving every stitch. Fingers crossed I get it finished in time for December 1st. 

So tell me, what's been rocking your world lately?!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

LIFE: Eight Photos Of Happiness

Sometimes you see a tag post come across your blog reading and you actually think, wow that isn't half bad. Then you tag yourself and away you go. Which is what I actually did when I spied Kerri's version of eight photographs of happiness

It's one of those nice tags where there's no silly pointless questions, it's not got that feeling of being done to death and you can just ramble to your hearts content. 

I'm easily pleased like that. 

So here goes, eight things that not only bring me happiness but are pretty important things in my life.

Birthday Day


Cross Stitching

Not only is it my oldest hobby - I've been cross stitching since I was about five, but it's the one thing that's sure to take my mind off of things. So having stitched on and off for 24 years, it's a big part of who I am. It was actually something I was bullied for being able to do growing up so I abandoned it for a good couple of years, but i'm having a second wind these days. It's relaxing, I love creating, I love still how it all comes together. Plus now I've taken a hand to designing some pieces too, the fun just keeps adding up.

Birthday Day


Picking out my first kitty Bertie is one of my earliest memories. Being an only child I guess Bertie became my closest companion growing up. I'm a self titled cat lady and share our house with Ed (pictured) and Smokey, I love hearing their purrs, getting kitty snuggles, having them walk all over me even if I'm trying to stitch ... 



Fall Colours

One of the best best reasons (aside from being with the love of my life after all) is being in a state that offers some of the most incredible fall colours once September rolls around. There is nothing like those burnt reds, crisp oranges and vivid yellows. It takes your breath away .... (although having to rake up all said leaves is another matter). 

Stitch Characters

Being Mr & Mrs

Joe, well he's my best friend. I'm not sure how I came to deserving him but I'm so glad he's decided to spend the rest of his life with me. But our life together is the one thing I don't really share on my blog and I like it that way :)



I sound like a broken record, but most people write Detroit off, even locals. Which annoys me to no end. But I love having the motor city on my doorstep, I love exploring it's areas, it's food culture and getting around to sharing them here on the blog. My fault is that I can get a little bitchy about it - like if you say you're going to get murdered, mugged, attacked, hijacked just because you went three meters south of 8 mile you'll feel my wrath. #SorryNotSorry 

Pittsburgh Incline


My geeky love is certainly for trains - big trains, train tracks, incline trains (as above with the Monogahela Incline in Pittsburgh)  model trains. I love them all. In fact for my 21st birthday, aside from all the partying at university, my big highlight was taking another ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.



More often an not I love exploring what's on my doorstep. Growing up with staycations far before it was cool, I'm a fan of keeping my nose to the ground which the how and the where's about things to do. When time and money allows, I love getting to explore new places. Finding those fun local places off of the beaten track. 

Birthday Day

Zoo Trips

One of the favorite things in my purse is my zoo membership card. I love being able to pop in as and when. Plus it helps having those discounts to reciprocal zoo's around the country - especially the Cincinnati Zoo which is my favorite I will be honest. Moreover the Detroit Zoo is often considered one of the greenest zoo's and it's making great strides in helping endangered creatures, building new exhibits and spreading the world about being green.

While I managed to pick of eight, I probably could have featured about 80 more (including say reading, Pittsburgh, photography itself, gardening, butterflies ... the list is endless). But I'm sure they give you a general impression!

What would be in your eight photographs of happiness?!