Wednesday, 6 April 2016

REVIEW: Trying Out Daily Burn

While fitness is not a thing I would typically go out of the way to mention, having talked about signing up for Daily Burn throughout my Small Things posts and occasionally on Twitter and getting the odd interesting remark and comment, I thought I would come to share my first nine weeks using the program.

If you're not familiar with Daily Burn, what is it? Basically DB is an online fitness program, comprising 16 different programs from expert trainers alongside offering a live daily workout. DB also offers meal plans, recipes, supplement recommendations to lifestyle tips. Workouts tend to last between 15 to 45 minutes depending on the program. Streaming online and or through TV steaming services, currently the first month is free, then it's $12.99 monthly.

So tomorrow actually marks the final day in the True Beginner program that me and Joe have been working through for the last nine weeks. It's a program that takes you right back to the basics, and for someone who's never loved, enjoyed or even worked out really it's the best place it start. It combines and rotates between cardio, strength, mobility and core workouts, every couple of weeks inching up the challenge level. Without having access to scales for the first couple of weeks I can't say how much weight I've lost during this workout, which actually probably works out for the best. Yes, I've lost weight but it's also made me aware of other improvements, I feel stronger, I'm much more flexible, more stable and I can do exercises (planks, push ups) that I couldn't do before. But more importantly, it's made me feel awesome inside and out. In fact it's started an inner revolution for me. I never thought I'd come to enjoy exercise.

The last couple of weeks we've started exploring the Daily Burn 365 workouts. The 365 workout's is perhaps the part of DB you might have seen advertised - each day there's a brand spanking new 30 minute workout shown live (at 9am EST) and on demand throughout the day with a different trainer. These are far more intensive than the True Beginner workouts but it was time to try pushing ourselves, mix things up a little and they are certainly shows I'm going to try and join in live on weekdays because they make me feel great.

Like True Beginner there's a library of workouts that you can challenge yourself too, they typically seem to last between 16 days up to 3 months depending on which you choose and are at a variety of intensity levels from beginner to expert. Whether you like yoga, Pilates, what to work on your core or even dance workouts. There really is something for everyone, you can mix it up day to day, do it whenever you fancy and at your own pace. 

So I thought I'd string together a quick list of pros and cons about DB:

  • You don't need to be an expert - there is something for everyone regardless of fitness level, strength, experience and interest. 
  • Not needing lots of fancy equipment: basically (for the True Beginner and DB365 sessions) you need a sturdy chair, most likely a towel and maybe a yoga mat (which I ended up buying for like a cheap $8). You don't need fancy weights, lots of equipment. Just yourself.
  • Mixing it up - I know lots of people love YouTube for exercising, but I just could never stick to it. One on one with the trainer, not having that variety just wasn't working for me. Daily Burn offers that variety, it mixes it up for me, I don't have to remember what I did or didn't do yesterday or last week. It makes you feel included, makes it different.  

  • Modifications - workouts pretty much always offer a modification to work to your level of strength. While you're encouraged to push yourself, you're encouraged to do it to your own level and workouts nearly always come with various ways to achieve your goals.  
  • Positively: going on from the above, the trainers and community (which I'll speak to later) everyone is positive and not in a patronizing manner. You're encouraged, you're made to feel welcome, that you're worth this. This is a big big biggie for me.
  • Streaming options - I love that you can stream it through the website, on your phone, the app and steaming devices. It makes it so portable. But especially because you can stream it through devices like the Roku I can stream it full size on my TV. 
  • Website - the website is really easy to use which is pretty important when it's an online based service. The website is also full of interesting articles - offering tips on exercise, the aforementioned recipes and lifestyle tips.  
  • Community - the DB community seems to be pretty active through Facebook and through the webchats around the 365 program. You seen regular faces in the workouts and the trainers are pretty awesome in making you feel included and part of the team. 
  • Recipes - I can never have enough recipes I will be honest but I could probably do with some on the healthy side. The Daily Burn has a collection of recipe inspiration for all kinds of meals and drinks.
  • Improvements - nine weeks in, like I mentioned I'm feeling stronger, I've improved my balance, I can do exercises I couldn't before and I'm feeling positive. 
  • Can't use Paypal. Biggest issue of all for me. I rely on using Paypal pretty much constantly for being able to pay for apps online, to me it's just easier and I don't have the hassle or the fear of typing in card details. But Paypal sadly isn't an option for monthly payments. Sucks. 
  • Playing the wrong day - granted I'm not sure if is this more of an issue with DB or because we stream it through our Roku, but often loading the app through the Roku it'll want to reshow the work out from the previous day. Which all means logging on through the computer, clicking the correct show, loading it a little, logging back through the app on the Roku to get it streaming

I guess only being able to think of two cons is pretty awesome.

I have a goal in mind for what I want to achieve with DB and I believe it's going to get me there. For me, the fact that the program has me excited for the next session when I'm worn out and tried after the day's workout, for me says something huge. For me, it means it's working and it's something I'm actually off to stick with.

So there you have it, i'm a full DB convert and I love it.


Monday, 28 March 2016

LIFE: Photo an Hour March 2016

If you didn't think the year was flying by already, well it's rolled around to another Photo an Hour Link up, to remind you just how quickly the months are passing us by. Sundays are typically our lazy days, we may pretend to be adults and get dressed, poke some DIY, do the weekly shop. This week we were enchanted by the blue skies and headed to the zoo for a wander and then flopped back on the sofa and went back to being lazy.

Sunday began with a late start to the day (10am) the usual coffee, cereals and catching up on a couple of pages of my new read - The Witches, which as you probably might have guessed is all about the Salem Witch Trails of 1692. Then I finally got around to opening up the Easter package from the homeland - some yummy looking Harry Hopalot chocolate figures from Thorntons.

I lost track of time when we were actually at the Detroit Zoo when it came to live updating, but hey I was having too much fun. With blue skies and warm temp, it was a perfect day to visit, loads of animals were up and playing around, especially fun to watch the young Chimpanzee's climbing and jumping off rocks and rolling down hills.

Fun for hobby time - cross stitching a Michael Powell design titled Garden Shed that will eventually end up upon a birthday card, and of course coloring in one of my favorite books - Unicorns Are Jerks. Because Unicorns fart in elevators, on purpose, if you didn't know.

5pm was time for tea! Some yummy homemade egg fried rice with lots of veg and crab. Then watching Windows decide it wanted to update. Had I know this earlier, this would probably have been achieved hours earlier. Yawn.

Then we ended the day, well more like 7pm (because my phone was dying) at failing to do our workout. Failing because we were still too knackered and achy from doing two cardio/core workouts on Saturday. We tried. That's the important thing right?!

So that was pretty much our Sunday. If you like random stuff like this, tag along on Instagram, where I try and post more of the same, random shit! 

How was your Sunday?


Monday, 21 March 2016

LIFE: That Time a Brit Went to the Supercross

Saturday saw the Monster Energy Supercross come to Detroit which some of Joe's family came to see (and brought us tickets) to tag along and watch at Ford Field. Personally,  while I'm a country girl, the only time I can stand dirt under my nails is when I'm working in the garden. Country sports, like anything involving motorbikes is not really my thing, but I tagged along, and anytime I can try and squeeze a blog post about something oh so American, then why the hell not share my random British thoughts.

Random thoughts like - why do they play the American national anthem at every sports event?! (not something we really do, or would probably care to do in the UK). Why do they then try and turn said anthem into a pop song?! Why is everyone at this event, so very white?! I came to the conclusion early enough into it that I'm not really hillbilly, countryside enough for such things. I'm happy to wallow in suburban excess, happily. 

But anyway, AMA Supercross is an American motorcycle racing held between January and May in various venues (typically baseball and football stadiums). Founded in 1974, Supercross is an offshoot of Motocross - the difference being Supercross uses off road bikes on man made tracks with jumps, obstacles and tight turns (Motocross using natural terrains on closed courses). When the championship hits Detroit, it finds it's home at the Lion's Ford Field and becomes one of the few venues were the track layout runs into the stands. Various pre-races make up the afternoon and main event - various sizes of bike engine, even a kids race. You have the Monster Energy ladies with hardy anything on waving heat and time signs around and races that last up to 20 laps. 

I guess it was a different way to spend a Saturday night. I did get to cheer on a Brit in one race who was propping up the back, sigh. It was fun being inside Ford Field for the first time. Getting another sports team plastic cup to add to my every growing collection (alongside my Sparty and Harlem Globetrotter ones). Indoor fireworks and fireballs are always fun. Constantly coughing because of the smell of petrol/gas, feeling very small and anxious as 46k plus people are leaving, overpriced downtown Detroit parking spaces, not so much. 

While I'm coming more to grips and understanding American sports. I think I would have preferred watching the Lions getting their ass handed to them, or anything March Madness related. Guess I've left my countryside ways long ago.

How about you? A fan of Supercross?


Thursday, 17 March 2016

LIFE: Small Things #12

With the clocks jumping an hour forward last Sunday here in the US, there's a extra sense of spring in the air. The days are getting warmer and longer, bulbs are popping up everywhere and more and more birds are chirping and fluttering in to garden for a nosy. Oncoming spring also means the arrival of annoying weather like three hour long thunderstorm early Wednesday morning, I always forgot how hideously loud the bangs and booms are in Michigan. 

The promise of spring has created a little bit of inner peace within myself. This week in particular I feel I might be getting somewhere with my stress and there's lots of plan making to be doing. 

So without further-ado, here's an assortment in no particular order (order being overrated) of random small, but happy things.
  • Getting my Brit fix while popping to the store that has a decent British international section - this trip calling for Wetabix and salad cream. And no, sadly to everyone who thought I ate them together when I shared this on instagram, I don't. 
  • Talking about British food, those scotch eggs from One Eyed Betty's.
  • Finding Tubi TV on our Roku which has a sizable collection of British shows, even ones more recent then Netflix. Even better it's FREE!
  • Said Tubi TV also has a couple of Transformer shows on which makes the OH happy.
  • Speaking of TV, the second seasons of Happy Valley and Dinotrux popping up on Netflix - happy TV days indeed. 
  • Reading - Midnight in Perking and The Other Daughter. 
  • Starting out new tradition of (homemade) taco Tuesday, even making my own guacamole and taco sauce (playing with all the spices!!) for the first time. 
  • Talking of spices, turning an old spice rack into a nail polish holder. Sometimes those Pinterest craft ideas actually work.
  • Lots of spring bulbs popping up around my garden - tulips, daffodils and flowering crocuses. Especially excited for the bulbs showing in the two new flower beds I dug lining out front path last year. 
  • Cuddles on the sofa with Joe and Eddy - purrs all round.
  • Cats and paper bags, which are nearly as good as empty boxes. Also getting an empty box and now not being able to remove it from the living room because the cats love it.
  • Onto god knows what week of using Daily Burns True Beginner workout (for everyone who has asked, I will be doing a review/round up once we finish this program) and getting a lot stronger. We started kickboxing which week and it's AWESOME!
  • Also starting Pilates, which ached and killed me, but fun all the same. 
  • Finishing my crochet wreath! 
  • Ordering lots of seeds for the garden - herbs, flowers and even going to attempt to grow cacti!
  • 1940's radio. I'm sick of constant Trump & US election talk on the radio, so I spend most mornings chilling out to the 1940's UK radio station, which suits me perfectly. 

And everything I came remember, and if you made it to the end of the list, well congrats to you!

What's been rocking your world?


Thursday, 10 March 2016

FOOD: Hold On The Brits are Coming ... With Their Scotch Eggs

Think about stereotypical British food and scotch eggs may top your list, or at least come close, perhaps alongside pork pies, fish n chips, sausages rolls and even mushy peas. Surprisingly, scotch eggs are making a fast experience in pubs and eateries in Metro Detroit of all places outside of your British themed pubs. 

I have to be honest here, from leaving the UK to this March, I haven't eaten a scotch egg (or sausage rolls, bakewell tart .... it's an endless list). Hearing about the tend, reading all the restaurant reviews, well it was making this Brit hungry. 

But what on earth is a scotch egg I hear you non British folk cry?! Well take a boiled egg, wrap it in sausage meat and breadcrumbs, fry away and there you go. One scotch egg. Typically us British eat it as is hot or cold. It's often considered a picnic food, a snack or have with your lunch. Here in the US it's appearing more and more on menu's as an appetizer, a snack to have with your beer often served hot with a dipping sauce - think ranch, a hot sauce or mustard.

While the history of the scotch egg is a little up in the air - no ones really too sure of it's origins. Fortnum & Mason, the London department store happen to lay claim to them having invented them back in 1738. Others argue they have a more Indian cuisine background. Either way the British have laid claim to them and we just love to eat them.

Scotch eggs have become so much of a popular, perhaps we could say hipster food that Eater dedicated an entire list to finding them in Metro Detroit. One such place was One Eyed Betty's - a gastopub with lots, and lots of beers, pinball machines and as it happens awesome tasting food - including their scotch eggs - yippie! (they even have crispy Brussel sprouts as an appetizer too - apparently loving their random British foods). Served with a hot sauce, they were everything I could have wanted and hoped a scotch egg could be, and more.

Whether this is a growing tend across the US, who's to say? Maybe it's because they are a kinda quirky hand food, great to share, easily eaten and enjoyed with a beer and kinda like an all day breakfast food. I've personally seen them pop up on a menu while eating at the British (no surprise there) themed Piper's Pub in Pittsburgh, PA. Back in January 2014 the Chicago Tribune published a piece on the scotch eggs increasing menu presence with the rise of the small plate restaurant. But I'm just happy they're more readily available on my doorstep.

So I guess alongside my adventures in hunting out fish n chips, I have another British food stuff to eat, enjoy and as always, compare.

Any excuse for eating out ... any excuse ...
Places mentioned:

One Eyed Betty's: 175 W. Troy St, Ferndale, MI, 48220
Piper's Pub: 1828 E. Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203


Monday, 7 March 2016

CREATIVE: Getting My Craft On

The last couple of weeks has been met with a super urge to be rather crafty and get my hands messy. Be it playing around with lots of thread, paper, rooting through tins of vintage buttons to daydreaming about a whole variety of projects. If you follow me on Instagram you might already be aware of the million and one crafty projects I seem to have on the go at any one time (and perhaps be sick of me sharing them) but for those of you who haven't noticed them, or wanted more information, I thought it would be fun to do a little round up and see how I get along over the year ahead.

So we'll start with crocheting!

The last week has actually seen me picking up a crochet hook for the first time in a good couple of months. I go through fits and starts when it comes to crocheting, I don't really find that there is a lot that I want to do with this craft but when that urge comes along, I gotta roll with it.

My mam always loves to mail me vintage crochet patterns of doilies, table cloths and random house decor that was popular, I'm just a sucker for collecting all the patterns I will be honest because I have nightmares of them being thrown away and lost forever. That and I'm just a sucker.

Anyway ... knowing I have a pile of old crochet thread collected from estate sales, I thought I'd get around to getting back to crocheting some doilies. I guess you might have to have a vintage heart to still find a love and or need for doilies like I use them, but with all the vintage odds and ends we have around our house, they suit everything just swell. 

So I'm working on a small mat from a dressing set, it'll be about 12" in diameter once completed (pictured above) and comes from what appears to be a 1950's Penelope pattern booklet called Household Crochet.

Rolling with the crocheting urge, a crochet flower wreath has been on my must make list for far too many years to think about. I finally picked up a couple of unused Styrofoam wreaths at an estate sale last year and well, it was time to get cracking. Using this pattern from Red Heart, everything is just made up of a collection of different flowers, different colored yarns and vintage buttons. All second hand, all being reused which I love!

As for the cross stitching, that's going as well as ever. I've started rotating my projects, working on each for a week at a time to make sure non of them are getting neglected, which I'm guilty of doing when I get my head set on a piece that I'm really enjoying.

So I'm working on Flossie, a design from The Heart's Content. I don't normally tend to fall for stitching people even though such designs are rather popular in the stitching world. But Flossie always looked a fun piece, she's on the time consuming side with all the dress details, but I love how she's turning out. 

Taking me back to the seaside is my little harbor town piece that comes from issue 237 of Cross Stitch Collection. With mismatched houses, little fishing boats and smelly seagulls, every time I dig this piece out it takes me back to all the small fishing towns of North Yorkshire and everywhere else it could be around the UK coastline. Eventually it'll be hung up in our bathroom - once both are completed. Like Flossie, it's a slow piece to stitch, measuring 13" square there's a lot of detail going on, but it's cheerful and fun all the same. 

Finally I gave in and added a third main piece into my rotation - a UK sampler by Emma Congdon from issue 214 of World of Cross Stitching Magazine. Again another bright and cheerful piece that reminds me of the homeland. It's such a fun design to stitch, I'm aiming to change some pieces around, I don't particularly like the "love" plate so I might add in some Yorkshire roses or make some reference to East Yorkshire and the like but I'm still on the fence about what I might do, or if I will.

With my cross stitching bag parked next to the sofa, it's a constant reminder of all the projects I would love to get done. I'm aiming to stitch an anniversary design for the MIL, lots more birthday and Christmas cards, there's a Little Red Riding Hood piece I've been eyeing and a super colorful "it's a wonderful life" design I'm itching to start. 

As always, there's more projects then I'll ever have time for!

Have you been getting your craft on lately?


Thursday, 3 March 2016

LIFE: Small Things #11

They say March loves to come "in like a lion and out like a lamb" well it's pretty much living up to that saying this month in Michigan. From 60F weekends followed by snow emergencies, howling winds and back to blue skies, it's hard to keep up. In a funny comparison, recent snow showers in the old home land was being shared on Facebook of "lots of now", I think it barely measured an inch. Oh the perspective that moving to Michigan provided me when it comes to everything snow and winter. 

But that hint of something a little warmer, of those richer blue skies and the promise of bulbs popping up in the garden has got me feeling a little warm inside, and crafty, very crafty. So here's the latest small things pile of joy;
  • Everything hummus related - just pure joy in a pot
  • Managing three weeks of Daily Burn. Which for me is a big deal (it's an exercise work out thingy for those not in the know) because of my high laziness and stubbornness. While it's making me walk like John Wayne and ache in places I never knew I could ache, hopefully it's all doing some good. 
  • Getting lots of crafting in starting with making some card (birthday and mothers card), it always fun to mess around with paper, glue and washi tape.
  • Lots of new coloring books - apparently coloring book addiction is real. I'd highly recommend the Taste of Home Color magazine coloring book if you fancy something cheerful, cute and cheap (it's like $4.99 bargain!). 
  • I finally got my hands on two of Theo Nicole Lorenz's coloring books - Unicorns are Jerks and Dinosaurs at Work both highly humorous and quirky. I really need to add her Mer World Problems (think first world problems for mermaids) too. 
  • While many expats get food parcels, I get coloring books - yes another coloring book. This really fun book filled with vintage themed designs called Bygones. 
  • Reading some great books - Judy Blume's In The Unlikely Event, Boneyards (Richard Bak) and currently Midnight in Perking (Paul French).
  • Picking up a crochet hook for the first time in months and messing around with some vintage patterns.  
  • Productive tidying up organizing days (aka throwing stuff in lots of pretty boxes and making everything look tidy).
  • Starting a fabulously colorful new cross stitch project all about the homeland! 

So that's pretty much been my world, lots of crafting, coloring and good times.

How are things with you?


Monday, 29 February 2016

READS: February's Graphic Novels

These monthly round ups of my graphic novels are fast becoming one of my favorite regular posts and it's been great to receive such positive feedback them the last couple of months or so.

So let's get to the point - here is February's round up by starting off with my favorite read of the month!

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Remember all those bedtime stories of your childhood featuring mystical and eerie dark woods? Of lurking shapes, unexpected happenings and the abyss? 

Well Through the Woods perfectly captures that horror, that mystery through the five unsettling tales that come to make up this graphic novel. Every tale ends on a cliffhanger which forces your mind into overdrive for hours after. As for the art work, it's as fantastic and as creepy as the tales themselves.

I'm not normally spooked by books, but yeah this one made me feel a little jumpy afterwards. 

Sisters (Smile #2) by Raina Telgemeier
After reading and loving Smile by Telgemeier, I set out to read some more of her works. As the sequel to Smile, Sisters features Raina and her relationship with her little sister Amara. A sister she longed for yet their relationship has always been tense. Set during a family road trip from San Francisco through the Colorado Rockies for a family reunion, tension between their parents and a the addition of a baby brother. 

Being an only child, I can't relate or speak to how well Raina speaks of sibling relationships but it was still an engaging read. The ending was a little flat with lots of things hanging in the air, but I'm hoping the story will continue in the future.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Anne Marie Flemming
I have to admit to not having a clue who Long Tack Sam - one of China's greatest magicians was when picking up this book. Born in 1885, Sam went onto become a magician, a key act in vaudeville, a restaurant owner, to world traveler in case you didn't know either.

Now his great granddaughter brings his life to color in this graphic memoir, pretty much a companion to the documentary of the same subject. Which is part of the problem. While I really loved the addition of photographs of Sam and his act, his family etc, stills from the documentary were blurry, still covered with the documentary subtitles. The author herself admits to not being good at drawing so we're left with stick fingers It felt messy and rushed. The story and life of Sam was very interesting to read, but I feel it would have been better has a straight forward non fiction biography.

How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis  
First things first, the various forms of artwork in this graphic novel is phenomenal, from pencil drawings to lush watercolors, it all brings you right into each of the short (some very short) tales that comprise How to be Happy. But that's where all this positive talk ends. Some tales felt far too obscure that they just didn't make sense, it lacked a sense of flow and felt very disjointed throughout. 

Weeks on, I still don't really know what to think about this book. It seemed to be missing a point - (maybe that is the point)?! Even the author narrates that the book is not about how to be happy. Hmmm.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier 
This happens to be one of those teen graphic novels that is matched with a lot of controversy for featuring a gay character. The book isn't about being gay, it's not even the main character who happens to be gay. Because apparently teens shouldn't be reading about such things ... but if you have trouble finding this book, that might be why.

Anyways, so this is my second Telgemier book within one review - (you can tell I really like her work can't you?!) about purple haired Callie (so jealous of her hair) - one of the set designers for her schools drama production who comes to struggle with production wise, friendship challenges and boys. It's a great little humorous graphic novel, full of wonderfully vivid artwork, a diverse cast and a nice little story line. 

Lumberjanes Vol 1. (#1-4) Beware the Kitty Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Broke A. Allen and Marta Laiho

I'll openily admit to sneaking Lumberjanes into this lot of reviews. I know there's not too much of a clear line between comics & graphic novels, but I've been trying to keep them separate*. My justification is reading Lumberjanes in the volume format. Anyway to the important details - The Miss Quinzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqual Thistle Crumpet's (how awesome is that for a name!) summer camp is the setting for five best friends and all their adventures. Think coming across three eyed foxes in the middle of the night, falling into caves and supernatural animals.  If you're a fan of Nimona - plot and style (also by Noelle Stevenson) you'll love this tale, it's funny, it's engaging and cute, plus it's filled with rad artwork. I can't wait to pick up volume 2!

So that was my graphic novel reading for February, read any? Loved, liked, hated any of them?


*otherwise I would be swamped with reviews and you would all be yawning at your screen. But if you're interested my favorite monthly comic book reads are Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Spider Gwen, Pasty Walker AKA Hellcat and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. You can tell I'm a Marvel fan can't ya?! Maybe that's all a post for another day ...

Thursday, 25 February 2016

FOOD: Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea

All things Alice in Wonderland greet you once you step inside Birmingham's Mad Hatter bar and bistro. From the doorknobs, to walls of mirrors, clocks and the red & black upholstery and furniture throughout, you'll feel like you just fell down a rabbit hole and earned yourself a spot for some delicious afternoon tea for your troubles. 

It has been far, far too long since our last afternoon tea adventure to The Whitney and after coming across Mad Hatter on a visit to Birmingham in December, the bar and bistro ended up on our to try list. Feeling a little homesick, Joe booked us a reservation for afternoon tea a couple of weeks ago. 

Everything Mad Hatter is very whimsical but without going too overboard. Table are adorned with pretty mismatched tea cups and saucers. Tea is presented in quirky teapots and food is severed upon traditional three tier serving platter to round things off. 

With our teacups filled with hot cinnamon spice tea, it was time to dig in. We started with the traditional finger sandwiches (think cucumber with minted cream cheese, artichoke, smoked salon and caper - my favorite and roasted pepper and hummus) all small, but all very filling.

Now, as with my fish and chips adventures in the US, I always love to see how the US takes on and caters British food traditions to the American market. Scones being one of them - because you know as Brits, we're rather picky about them. According to the menu the scones presented are the choice of the chef, we were served chocolate chip and poppy seed. Probably not something you'd see on traditional afternoon tea back in the homeland. Served with mascarpone cheese and lemon curd, I have to be honest, they were delicious and make a nice change from the norm. 

To finish things off, the top tier was filled with wonderfully cut and presented fresh fruits surrounding a selection of cakes - chocolate brownies, lemon tarts and a wonderful Oreo dessert.

Everything is served with your choice of tea. With fourteen regular teas, alongside decaf there's probably something for everyone from the Mad House Blend, Chocolate Mint to say Chinese Flower to name but a few. We even purchased a caddy of the Hot Cinnamon Spice to take home with us it was so delicious. Even better, you can try multiple tea blends throughout your stay. 

For $24 per person, you'd be hard pressed to find something so delicious and well serviced (our server was both friendly and very attentive throughout our stay). The venue is also a bistro and bar and it has me very tempted to return, for more tea drinking and the rest of their menu. 

Plus anywhere with a chandelier comprised of tea cups and spoons is a winner in my book. 

Mad Hatter Bistro: 185 N. Woodward Ave, Birmingham, MI 48009. 
Afternoon tea by reservation 11am - 3pm. 

Are you a fan of afternoon tea?


Monday, 22 February 2016

LIFE: Photo an Hour February 2016

Saturday marked an unseasonably warm winters day here in the depths of suburbia of Detroit. Somewhat welcome after long cold days, of being able to put aside the hat, the gloves, get outside in the garden, sadly these things never seem to last. The day also marked February's photo an hour link up - a somewhat routine Saturday for us after taking a break from the DIY in the bathroom fix up (mainly because we can't decide on what to do with the floor). So what else did we get up to inside of playing adults ...

With blue skies overheard, waking up to birdsong and temperature not in the minus numbers, 9am was looking rather pretty as we started up the car and headed forth for a morning of hitting some state sales. By 10am were we'd hit a couple of estate sales including one in which the second floor was just full of vintage clothing from the last century - dresses, purses, sweaters, shoes to linens, you name it. I had to resist buying all the scarves - a big weakness of mine.

But I did buy two of the scarves, so 12pm was seeing me giving them a bit of a wash. I often seem to miss an hour during the day, 11am was that, I think we were heading home with hungry tummies, too hungry to snap a picture of nothingness. After a quick lunch and cleaning the scarves, it was time to make the most of the unseasonable weather (1pm) and have a quick tidy up in the garden and spotting some life in the process.

With estate sales done, chores done and the gardening done, time to get stitching. I've been working on this seaside piece for a couple of months and it always reminds me of quaint seaside towns of the homeland. So sofa, cross stitching and going between Hulu and Netflix was the plans for the afternoon. Once 3pm came around, it was time for a brew - hot cinnamon spice tea. Delicious.  

4pm yeap, still stitching ... until 5pm rolled around and the hungry tummies returned. Too hungry to say no to Taco Bell. Another of those weaknesses.

Still sofa bound and trapped under a purring kitty and reading some more of The Unlikely Event that you might remember me mentioning in Thursday's small things post. Over half way through and it's turning into quite the page turner. I missed 7pm sweating away exercising away to Daily Burn which no one needs to see a picture of. Which lead to 8pm and digging my way through my kitted up cross stitch projects wondering which one to add into my rotation. It took me until Sunday to finally decide on a UK themed design. Seriously picking between cross stitch projects is far too hard. 

The rest of the night was pretty much cheap wine, anime and more reading.

It's great having a nice back catalog of photo an hour link ups so I can look back on what we were doing last year for the link up - a day of record store poking, bacon sarnies and of course Taco Bell.

How was your Saturday?


Thursday, 18 February 2016

LIFE: Small Things #10

The lighter evenings are starting to appear and oh my, do they make me wish and long for spring even more. To be able to push open the windows, see daffodils starting to drop their brightly colored heads in the breeze and awaking to morning birdsong. Michigan winters make those days feel so far away. Granted our winter this year hasn't been as cold, or as snowy, but there's only so many days in the minus numbers I can handle although it's always the perfect excuse to curl up on the sofa with the TV remote and a good book. 

In other news various happy things, and somewhat a sneak peek of things I'll eventually get around to sharing here on the blog;
  • Lovely five day long weekend extending into Presidents Day with the OH although it always does result in me being confused about the day of the week afterwards. Right now I have no idea if it's Wednesday or Friday ... when it's actually Thursday.
  • Gorgeous afternoon tea at the Mad Hatter Bistro and Tearoom in Birmingham (review to come).
  • The last week or so has actually been all about tea - afternoon tea, buying some fancy spiced cinnamon tea, Persian tea. All the tea.
  • Seeing Deadpool early Friday morning. The humor was right up my street and it was a brilliant adaption of the comic book. Villains were a little on the weak side but I'll get over that. Also probably features the best Stan Lee cameo. 
  • Also public service announcement - stay to the end of Deadpool, because you know, extra scenes and all. I'll never understand people leaving early ...
  • Speaking of spring I may have spotted some bulbs poking up in the back garden - I also may be really wrong and they are just weeds. Or now dead because of the chilly week we just had. 
  • Rushing out to buy a load of wings from Detroit Wing Co., after hearing your favorite radio hosts (Valenti & Foster on 97.1 The Ticket - yes oddly enough my favorite radio hosts are on a sports talk station - what is happening to me?!) talking about chicken wings for four hours.  Four flipping hours, who couldn't say no to wings after four sodding hours?!
  • Mexican hot chocolate treat for our adulting ongoing DIY adventures from Cafe Con Leche.
  • Waving at my favorite Detroit building while drinking that Mexican hot chocolate - the Fisher Building. Gorgeous.  
  • Stitching a little wild flower seed packet design for a forthcoming birthday card.
  • Reading two awesome books - The Boston Girl and The Turner House - both I'd highly recommend. 
  • I'll probably say the same about Judy Blume's In The Unlikely Event which I've just started reading. 70 odd pages in and very intriguing. 
  • Oh and lots of graphic novels but I'll get to that in my monthly graphic novels review dump don't you fear. (*whispers*) it features - Through The Woods, Lumberjanes and Sisters.
  • Finally getting all that stubborn old bathroom floor tile up, hammered out some concrete and replaced some floorboards. Getting overwhelmed with all this adulting points atm. We even hired a nail gun and didn't kill ourselves in the process of using it.
  • Paczki Day! Joe sneaked out early on Fat Tuesday/Shove Tuesday to grab some paczki's from Dutch Girl Donuts. Delicious! What's a paczki you ask?! Well I talked about them a couple of years ago.
  • Signing up for Daily Burn (a fitness workout over the internet, TV whatever you got - if you have Hulu you'll probably know their annoying adverts about leg day) and actually using it somewhat regularly. 
That's probably the most bullet points of happiness I may have ever achieved on my small things posts. Does help I'm bullet pointing three things daily that made me happy in that mission to work and overcome my stress issues. Ah well happy days indeed. 

How are things with you?


Thursday, 11 February 2016

BOOKS: The Start Where You Are Journal

If I could sum up my intentions for 2016 it would be restful. Especially restful in mind. For the last ten years, perhaps more I've had a brain that won't much to my increasing despair stop thinking, panicking, overthinking, stop. 

I stumbled across Meera Lee Petal's Start Where You Are Journal while flicking through page after page of books claiming to solve all my problems. Perhaps it was the gorgeous cover, the bold colors, but probably more of the notion of opening the pages and starting that quest for mindfulness and "self exploration" finally ticked the box.

The journal is comprised of around 50 or so questions, suggestions, projects and the like, each with it's own bold and wonderfully colorized water-colored illustrated quotations from Thomas Jefferson, Roald Dahl to Shakespeare and other figures, writers and artists alike. And while I'm not someone who is big on quotations, they all seem fitting to the following work page. Such questions and prompts as drawing self portraits using colours and patterns, coloring in world maps to listing sources of happiness are designed to set you upon the path of navigating the daily chaos that is life. 

The questions and projects are simple enough that you don't feel like you're digging too deep in learning about ourselves. In fact it's a very quiet and completative journal, it's simple in reminding us that by taking the time to spend five or so minutes to come to know ourselves better, we're not only appreciating the world, our dreams but ourselves.

Which is probably why, after several weeks I'm still working my way though my self-exploration, unlike other previous journaling attempts. Which for me, is a bit of a big deal and the reason why i'm even sharing it on my blog. I'm not normally one to take stock, reflect, like I mentioned, I'm not a restful kind of person. But this journal, fitting in the prompts, reflecting on the quotations, it's helping me get there. 

What is your journaling story?