Wednesday, 20 August 2014

GREEN FINGERS: The Taming of an Unruly Back Garden


There's nothing better then starting the day off with some gardening a couple of times a week. I'm super luckily in being able to work out of the home, so to spend those quiet hours working away has been lovely in the last couple of weeks. With an August challenge to finish all the hard landscaping - the trimming the trees, straightening up the borders and getting rid of most of the unruly weeds, it's been a bit of a work out, not sure it'll all be cleared by September, but it's fun all the same.

Garden Garden

So the before and after of the border in front of the decking after most of the unruly weeds have been pulled out. In a former life I think it was somewhat of a rockery - there's certainly a lot of large stones, but it's a damp and dark part of the garden, great for hostas mind. So far I've put in a homemade bird feeder and bird bath, both of which I hope to be sharing in the coming weeks once I get chance. Along the side of the decking you'll find half of the raspberries which need transplanting because where they stand right now, we can't get down the side of the house which is an issue when you have a chimney to fix. So as the autumn approaches we'll be moving the berry bushes and restraining the deck a lovely blue on our mission to add some colour other than green into the garden.

Garden Garden

Jump to the other end of the garden and attention has been turned to clearing out overgrown shrubs, weeds and trees and turning it into the veg patch - I'm aiming to get some carrots, radishes and garlic in to start us off. This is where the other half of the raspberries can be found and where the others will be finding their new home. So aside from the berries and the hibiscus trees that I love the colour of, everything is getting cleared out. The above before and afters were taken after a hard mornings work but there's still a load more to do to the opposite side (shown below) what with a a random tree growing up in the middle of my raspberry brushes and some really overgrown Evening Primrose flowers.


Beside weeds there's not much else going on back there, we did try our luck on some out of season and therefore reduced dahlia and foxglove bulbs back in July. Apparently the dahlias couldn't care less that they should be coming to the end of their flowering season by now and are growing like no ones business, really not sure what's going on with the foxgloves. Ah well, worth a try either way.


Running along the back fence is an over run mass of ground cover. It's like ivy, but more in the form of a mini bush - i'm saying that because I have no idea what it really is. All I know is that it's a pain to pull up. It's awful. I hate it with a passion. Still I guess it's keeping the weeds out, but I want it gone. The garden still has things to uncover - pavers lost under 2 inches of soil, bricks, rose bushes in the shade of dead shrubs to wind chimes long knocked off their branches. As for the front garden, that's pretty much taken care off with lots of bushes and a gorgeous magnolia tree, but again there's no colour.

With autumn around the corner, it's been time to work out what needs doing before winter sets in - what needs moving and pruning but also the really fun stuff like how to get more colour in. Like I mentioned we're staining the deck a blue shade in the coming weeks and have plans for filling the borders with spring bulbs - daffodils, tulips and snowdrops to finally add some more life into the garden. Slowly working towards my pinterest fed dream of having an old Englishy style garden in the suburbs of Michigan.

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Monday, 18 August 2014

LIFE: The Small Things #9

After week down, another week rolls around. With the Home Depot not having the paint we wanted to fix our decking, most of our weekend plans went a little out the window, luckily we managed to catch up on some estate sales, watched lots of Will and Grace and played around with ebay far too much instead. It seems this weekend has marked the turn in the year slowly heading towards the holiday season - there's been a noticeable increase in fall chat, Halloween candy and even the "C" word being discussed and it's not even Labor Day.

So, as ever, here's my big and large, good and bad small things that have been making up my world and making me tick.

  • Reading Team Seven, the debut novel by Marcus Burke, it's a good read even if it does feel like a slog and seems to not really get anywhere which is a shame
  • Watching Neighbours, after finding I could watch it via Hulu I've been catching up with the Aussie soap. Not that I've watched it since the BBC stopped showing it but it's pretty easy to catch up with. Even loads of the same characters are still there. It's like I never stopped watching.
  • Eating my first attempt at making this slow cooker curry, Halloween candy - yeap it's out already folks and trying out a new to us local pizza place - wins all round
  • Pinning lots of curry recipes, especially coconut and or lime based chicken curries mmmm
  • Crafting nothing at all, trying to complete my clear up the garden challenge before September means all my energy is going into weeding rather than crafting for the time being
  • Going mad trying to decide on deck paint colours, too many to pick from
  • Loving a vintage original British telephone box we came across at an estate sale the other week - now that would be an awesome garden featuring
  • Hoping we don't another great Detroit flood and 12ft puddles for a long while
  • Enjoying the DIY network probably a little too much
  • Listening to records on our new (well new to us, it's vintage after all) record player we picked up for $10, our original player is having issues with playing at the right speed lately, I think we've worn it out ... 
  • Thinking that i'm not ready for another round of a Michigan fall (even though I love the fall colours) or winter. Summer has been really off with the weather and after last weeks rain, I think this winter (remember the one we just had?!) is going to be bad.
  • Finishing editing photos that are at least two years old for future snapshots posts
  • Finding that the c word of Christmas and the holiday season is being mentioned - already had ebay telling me to prepare my store for the holiday season. It's too early. 
What have you been loving this week?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

LIFE: Seeking Comfort in a Foreign Land

While I often talk about exploring the US as a Brit, it's rare that I that share the feelings, the emotions of being thousands of miles from the land of my nationality. Sometimes that British land, it's countryside, it's TV shows and food feels so far away. So as part of the expat revelations link up with Holly - the blogger behind English Girl Canadian Man, I want to find the words to talk more about being away from the homeland in a strange country and all the emotions, feelings behind it. I mean it has been nearly 3 years, and writing about it might just help me deal with my lack of confidence because of being a bit of an outsider.

When those times arise when I miss the country, or all the rain reminds me of Yorkshire or I crave mushy peas, when I feel a little lost or I get bugged about my accent again, the one way of finding comfort for me, is food. But not in the comfort eating piling on the pounds way. Food is comforting but it's also a fantastic way of embracing your new home and culture and a way of keeping in touch with your homeland.

I admit, I love food, I love trying new food, granted sometimes it all feels a little overwhelming but it's a great adventure all the same. Prior to moving to the US I'd never eaten any Mexican food nor really had a milkshake - now both firm favorites. Let's be honest I'd barely stepped into a fast food place prior to moving here. Food is that bridge between cultures. You can embrace the new (the BBQ, pancakes, burgers) your own culture (the fish n chips, pasties) and even find new foreign cuisines in your own foreign land (in my instance Mexicantown). That's one of the things that makes America so great, it's history of immigrants, of movement and travel there's so much international influence in food. It all comes to play in food.

The English (left) verses the America fish n chips - which would you prefer?

It's even fun to make it a challenge - like my adventures in trying Cornish Pasties up in Traverse City and Mackinaw City to finding the best place in Metro Detroit that serves up fish n chips. I still get to eat a British favorite, but I'm eating how Americans think it should be. Sometimes it's bang on, sometimes it's presented in a way you might never have considered, sometimes it's way off the mark. It's fun all the same and sometimes I just need that plate of fish n chips, or I need that bacon sarnie with HP sauce dribbled all over, a boiled egg with soldiers for my lunch, my salad topped off with salad cream not one of the thousands of salad dressings you'll find in a store here.

I could go on.

Food itself is comforting. It can warm you up, cool you down, fill your needs and invite your senses to new places. Embracing the local cuisine, eating where the locals eat, to having a favorite on a menu is that step to reaching out, to finding a home. But sometimes just a trip to the local store (Meijer in my case) just to pass a glance over the British section of the international food aisle. Picking up a treat whether it's brown sauce, salad cream or an overpriced Yorkie bar, just that can take a girl back to her Yorkshire roots. 

But if there's one thing that is more comforting than anything, well that's always a cuppa tea.

That and my childhood teddy bear that I brought over with me, reading a good book, crafting but the cuppa tea, that's always a winner lets be honest.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

LIFE: The Great Detroit Flood of 2014

Man what a crazy week we've just had weather wise. If you follow me on twitter you might have noticed me talking about the endless amount of rain we had on Monday evening - the second amount of rainfall ever on record for this area - second to such an event back in 1925. It has come to be known in the world of hashtags as the #DetroitFlood event, and being British well I like to chat weather.

It started raining around 11 in the morning as just a really grey, dull Monday morning. But the four hour deluge didn't start until around four in the afternoon. Deluge to say the least we got about 4.57 inches. Combine heavy rain and overworked water pumps which then broke, and you end up with freeways flooded 14 foot deep with water. Yes 14 feet of it - like in the first image. That junction (the meeting point of I-75 and I-696, probably one of the busiest junctions in Metro Detroit) became the Great Lakes region newest lake. 

Main roads (8 mile, Woodward) to pretty much all the freeways had junctions and mile upon mile under water and closed, with Detroit and pretty much all the lower Oakland and Macomb counties affected. There's so many photographs and tales of people being rescued from the roofs of their cars - over a 1000 were abandoned they reckon, water flooding basements, buses filling up with water and people boating along the freeways - many of which are still closed, two days later, and sadly three people lost their life. 

While half a mile down the road we had a flooded freeway, luckily we came out the other side okay although we did get some funky looking water bubbling up into our basement sinks. But thanks to a very overworked sump pump in our basement we came out fine unlike some of our neighbours who have around 3" of standing water below. Now it took me to moving to Michigan to know what a sump pump was but it's pump used in basements where flooding is regular and where the water table is higher than the foundation of the home - it's basically a fixed feature in these parts and they automatically kick on when the water level gets too high. Still it was a little touch and go - having just brought the house and not knowing how well the pump or if there were foundation issues, we were certainly blessed on Monday night to come out the other side okay.

Trying to go about our normal routine on Tuesday was a bit of a challenge, not only with all the main routes Joe could take to work being closed but just being able to get anywhere. With freeways closed, driving over their overpasses to see a deserted freeway at rush hour is super surreal. The above picture was taken at the Dequindre overpass over I-696 on our way home, normally at 4pm on a Tuesday that road would be packed out. Ya know, Detroit is the Motor City, we don't really do public transport, this area is all about cars. Those freeways never stop, yet to be replaced with soil covered roads and cars abandoned here and there, it's eerie to say the least.


The forecasts for thunderstorms and heavy rain on Tuesday didn't luckily add any further issues. It just liked to look menacing as we drove along 9 mile. Doom and gloom. After the great freeze of January and now the great flood, Michigan certainly likes to throw extreme weather at you.