Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Tie Turkey Dinner


Our Marine Ball was held on Thursday night so instead of spending the day cooking a turkey and trimmings, I spent it doing hair and makeup!  Though I did miss the leftovers today, it was a great event last night, despite that damn winter beard I swear my husband grows just to annoy me!  This isn’t the best quality picture in the world but I think we look cute.

For my fellow Americans, I hope your Turkey Day was equally wonderful; for my international friends, I hope you had an enjoyable Thursday Smile

Friday, November 4, 2011

my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bedrooms…

oh the shame…

I took these pictures yesterday afternoon to serve as my before pictures.  Even knowing that we will never have guests here in Saudi, this state of affairs is terrible.  Between the tubs of Christmas decorations, the stacks of empty boxes, the Welcome Kit stuff that needs to be returned to work, the piles of clothes to donate, and the boxes that haven’t been unpacked since I arrived, these two rooms are a disaster.

Red circles= empty boxes
Yellow circles= clothing to be donated
Fuchsia circles= Welcome Kit stuff to be returned
Aqua circle= clothing to be sent to my sister

(excuse the weird curves- these are merged from several individual pictures)


GuestBedroomMerge for blog

I focused on the back bedroom (the first picture) because it is the bigger room and the one I thought would be easier to deal with despite its size.  The smaller second bedroom is the one where my cleaning lady just dumps anything she isn’t sure how to handle and so it is full of just random stuff (and as you can see) empty boxes. 

That said, did take a few minutes to clear the empty boxes out of the smaller bedroom which made an immediate improvement as pictured below.  I don’t have any pictures of the bigger back bedroom because I kept working until after the sun set and so the lighting made it impossible.  I am about halfway through that room which makes me happy- I intend to finish it tomorrow and then hopefully still have time to work on the second smaller bedroom as well.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

12 day vacation ahead!


Between the Eid al-Adha holiday and the Veteran’s Day long weekend, today is the first day of a 10 day vacation from work; add in the 2 extra days I’m taking and I’ve got a nice little 12 day holiday ahead.  I’m heading to Paris to meet my mom and aunt on Monday night; until them I’m holding down the fort for work (we always need coverage in country even when the office is closed).  Brad is already home in Iowa so I have the house to myself, and- as usual- I have a list of projects I hope to get done before I head out of town.

I want to clean out the two guest rooms, boxing up the last of the welcome kit to return to work and getting rid of the stacks of empty cardboard boxes from my mail-order addiction.  I need to always have a few boxes on hand to mail stuff out, but the current stock is excessive.  I want to open up and unpack the last few boxes that were shipped here from DC last year.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need the contents since I have done so well without them, but you never know.  At the very least, I should be able to get rid of some stuff.

I’m giving myself today to lounge around, read a book, and generally be lazy because the last couple of weeks at work have been tiring.  Tomorrow, I’m determined to tackle the big back bedroom- I’ll take before and after pictures to help keep me accountable. 

Unrelatedly, do you like my newest side table pictured above?  He is the cutest camel ever with lovely big feet.  I named him Mustafa.  My husband is a bit worried I’m naming the furniture, but really I ask how anyone could resist naming this little guy?  If I start naming the couch, well then that might be a sign I’m teetering on the edge…

Sunday, October 2, 2011

the gallery wall grows…

(if you haven’t already seen this on Apartment Therapy)

This was my gallery wall for months- I liked the layout and look of it, but it only occupied half of that weird wall.


Finally I got my ass to IKEA with the art I still needed to frame and was actually able to buy frames for all but one piece.  My husband was NOT enthusiastic that this project was back because last time getting the holes exactly right for my anal design was a nightmare.  This time I made paper replicas of the art to hang, taping it onto the walls with the location of the hangers marked on the the paper so I could just mark the wall once the paper was perfect.  My husband was much happier to be able to drill all the holes in one 10 minute push so he could then return to college football.


See the wall is strange because it is both living room and walkway into the dining room.  It is hard to explain without better pictures of the room (I swear those will come some day) but the room is big- that window is the span of two of those end tables and a loveseat and then the wall continues maybe another 5ft (the TV is in that corner).  The living room has a couch, a loveseat, two armchairs, two coffee tables, a 54” TV, a DVD cabinet, and five end tables, and we still have lots of space to walk.  Here is a not great picture of that portion of the room taken the last weekend when I rearranged the furniture.


Big room and yet only half of the art wall overlaps with the main seating area portion of the space; there are another two armchairs and another table in the walkway portion of the space.  I swear it works better than it sounds.  And please note that I own very little of this furniture- just the TV stand, the wooden cabinet, the two coffee tables and the chests.  Plus the rugs- those I do own.  The rest of the furniture, all bazillion chairs, comes with the house/job.

Here is the final art wall.  I like it because it fills the space and allows me to display a lot of the art I’ve collected over the years.  I wish I could let it be more random but I just don’t have it in me; more formless arrangements make me twitchy in my own house though I often admire them in the spaces of others.


Brad isn’t thrilled that after a year in the house (6 months with this furniture), I still see this as a work in progress.  He would like the house to be done and left alone, but I am a self-confessed tinkerer so that just isn’t going to happen.  Despite that, I think he agrees this new arrangement feels more spacious, and I know he is happy to get that pile of art off the chest and onto the wall.  Now I need to get a little stand or something built to elevate that small carved wood chest on the left to raise it up closer to the height of the larger chest on the right.  Great, another project…

Friday, September 30, 2011

Seasons Change, People Change…

Autumn has come to Saudi Arabia.  I know this not because there is a bite of winter in the breeze; instead, occasionally the breeze isn’t actually hot.  I know this not because the colors of the changing trees surround me; instead, occasionally the sky is blue rather than yellow.  I know this not because I need the odd hot drink to warm my fingers; instead, occasionally I need to add a little hot water to the stream of cold in order to keep my shower scalding.

I miss DC with its autumn smells and colors.  I miss the ability to get a Pumpkin Spice latte from Starbucks.  I miss wearing sweaters.  I miss rain which I haven’t seen for months.  I miss walking outside.  I miss being out at night on my own.  I miss being on the street on my own at time of day in fact.

I’m looking at my windows right now, soaked on the outside with condensation because the humidity that burns off during the day comes back with a vengeance at night.  In another couple of weeks, the weather here should be lovely, not autumnal, but lovely.  Nevertheless, I’m using travel to satisfy my need for climate change.  I’m planning an early November trip to Europe with my mom and hopefully my sister, a trip where I’ll likely get to wear sweaters and boots in the rain.  Christmas in Ireland will be cold and wet and soaked in the season; heck, I’ll likely be thrilled to return to the warmth of the desert for the new year.

Today was the end of the fiscal year and so therefore the end of a crazy couple of weeks at work.  It was also the 6 year anniversary of my father’s death.  For the first year ever, my mom, sister, and I were all in different places, different countries in fact, for this anniversary.  My sister, alone in DC, had no one to travel to the cemetery with her to deliver flowers and drink a toast.  Today of all days, I wish I had been there with her, for her. 

Despite the fact that I love my job and love living overseas, some days I wish I led a more normal life, one that allows me to be present for special occasions both happy and sad.  Today was one of those days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Ten years ago I was newly arrived in Kuwait, three weeks into a two year tour. I was working in the consular section, handling visas and settling into life in the Middle East. Weeks before, I had been in NYC with my mom and sister, one last hurrah before heading overseas. On that trip, we did almost every tourist thing you can do in New York save going up in the Twin Towers. I have a punishing fear of heights, and after having a panic attack at the Empire State Building, I decided to forgo any more trips on high, and my mother and sister agreed, promising themselves a trip to the top of the World Trade Center on their next visit to the city. Little did we know how much would have changed before that next trip.

When we first got word that a plane had hit the WTC, we all gathered around the TV wondering how such an accident could happen in Manhattan. When we saw the second plane hit, we knew it was no accident. The next few hours were spent in a flurry of setting up an emergency operations center and fielding calls from hundreds of American citizens living in Kuwait. In between it all, I tried frantically for hours to reach my family in DC before finally getting through and learning they were safe. We lived at work for the next couple of days trying to help people track down loved ones, trying to soothe their fears and grief, trying to wrap our minds around the attack. Kuwaitis came out in droves to express their grief, delivering flowers, signs, and cards to the embassy. Over time, as the names of the victims became known, there was time to mourn for college classmates, for the parents of friends, for members of my extended community. There was fear and uncertainty, there was grief and anger, and eventually, there was the dawning realization that the world as we knew it would never be the same.

Ten years later, I find myself once again living in the Middle East, living in a world forever changed and to a certain extent forever defined by what happened a decade ago in New York and in DC and in Pennsylvania. I see war and conflict and fear in so many places, so many lives lost and so many more changed by the events of September 11, 2001. And today, a day when it is impossible not to remember a day we can never forget, I find myself with nothing more to say than "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bedroom Makeover: Curtain Angst

So I'm trying to remake my bedroom into a cohesive space, not easy when I don't own the furniture and am limited in what I can do to the space. The first element that needs to be addressed is the windows.

I hate the windows in my house- they are barred and open right onto the "street" at the front of the house so leaving them uncovered is not an option. Before I moved in, the whole house had mustard yellow velvety curtains with torn yellowing sheers (they look much better in this photo than they did in real life). These came down when I got the house painted and never went back up!
The paint is "desert beige" and would not be my top choice but was the best of the 8 options I was offered. It looks better now that the carpet is gone and it is a nice neutral backdrop for art.
We got new blinds which was a plus- wide white plantation blinds that I selected for everyone on compound. The problem is that the windows have no trim of any kinds which I hate so the look of the blinds alone isn't doing it for me.
For months after I moved in, I lived with sheets on the windows, sheets provided with the house because my worldly goods had not yet arrived. Don't ask me why the sheets that come with the house have a strawberry pattern- that design decision is one I will never understand.
Finally when home in DC this summer, I hit IKEA (we have one here in Dhahran but the curtain selection is terrible). I bought these white curtains that are supposed to reduce the light. I don't love the tabs, but I hope to make them smaller once my new sewing machine comes from Amazon (free gift that I have to now teach myself to use). The problem is, I had planned to use only one panel per window but I think they look too stretched.
I tried using two panels on the window on the right below but I think that is too full for my taste. Also, ignore the pooling on the floor which will go away once I reduce the length of the tabs.
The last picture shows just one panel but less stretched- I kept all the tabs inside the brackets (at first I had one tab outside the bracket on each side).
I think this is my current preference, though I suspect my ideal would be one panel that was 1.5 times the width of the current panels. If my mom was here, I could convince her to make that happen for me, but I am fearful my sewing skills might not stretch that far (once they are actually developed that is!)

Sigh...still so very not happy with this bedroom...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

where is wardrobe therapy when I need it???

I finally unpacked my suitcases from my trip to the US and that made for quite the set of piles on the bed. The problem is, these piles do not include all the things already hiding in drawers and in closets. For a person who has never really liked clothes, I sure seem to have a lot of them all of a sudden. The stuff on the bed has mostly been purchased in the last 12 months (thank you Anthropologie). The stuff in the dressers and closet is mostly stuff I came to Saudi with, stuff that mostly fits but does little (sometimes nothing for me). Since I have these lovely 10 days off, I'm determined to weed out the nothings to leave me with space for the lovelies. Unfortunately, I tend to be very bad at this process- I really need my ruthless sister here to slash and burn her way through my wardrobe. Sigh...

Friday, August 19, 2011

most wonderful blog post ever

If you haven't already read this magnificent article about towels and chickens and husbands, be prepared to laugh until you cry: And That's Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles. Now I want a giant chicken!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

one year down, two to go

I'm back in Saudi after a glorious few weeks in the US, and a terrible week coping with jetlag when I returned.  I'm finally back on track with sleeping and work, and in a few days will have another glorious 10 days off of work to celebrate Eid.  We aren't traveling anywhere for Eid because we just got back and Brad has different days off than I have and basically we just aren't in the mood.  I do however have a long list of tasks to accomplish at home like wardobe purging, completion of unpacking (8 months after my stuff arrived), rearranging some furniture, and hanging some more art.

We'll see how much of that list actually gets done but at least I have high in the sky apple pie hopes!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

nothing compares to hometown fireworks

Just a little taste of how I spent Independence Day this year with family on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial watching fireworks explode around the Washington Monument.  Heaven...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

leaving on a jet plane

heading out tonight for a much-needed break in the U.S. may be scarce around here until I'm back in Saudi in August. Happy summer everyone!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

10 days and counting

Brad left a few days ago on vacation, and I'll be heading back to the U.S. in ten days for my leave (our timing didn't mesh up for a variety of work related reasons). I had in mind that I would use this time alone oh so productively in the house. I would organize, unpack boxes, rearrange closets, sort through clothes for donation- the list goes on and on. In the six days Brad has been gone, I've accomplished nothing on that list. Now I have only 10 days left to get things rolling.

Time to get motivated!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Chair I Just Can't Live Without Despite Its Lack of Style


If you want to read the whole post, it is over at Apartment Therapy DC. I was delighted to learn (a) that lots of other people love their papasan chairs, and (b) that lots of other people have a piece that they love despite its lack of style. I was surpised that people had opinions on both the bookcases and the rug. The bookcases are Drexel Heritage and not my style, but they came with the house. The rug is a handmade Mahi Tabriz that I bought years ago in Kuwait; it is one of my favorite pieces and I was shocked by the number of people who thought it was the problem piece in the room! Just goes to show, everyone has a different style and different design aesthetic...

Monday, May 30, 2011

For all those who face the snowy heights of honor with a mighty heart...

On May 30, 1884, then-Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. gave an address- his first important public address outside the law. The speech was given in Keene, New Hampshire, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic, in a white painted town hall on the village common. His words seem as apt today as they were 127 years ago:

"So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiam and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall- at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory...

...But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

NOT what you want to find when you run home for some lunch!

Seems the wind yesterday took out my lovely tree, the one that shaded my hammock.  The tree in turn took out Brad's grill and some fence and a waterpipe for the irrigation system in the yard.  Thank goodness I'm not responsible for the cleanup effort that I suspect will take days...

Friday, May 20, 2011

for those of you who like the new background

It is a photo of a section of a map that hangs on my wall.  I bought the map on a trip to Istanbul back in 2005 at the book market- it is made of four separate sheets of paper glued together.  It is handpainted and covered in hand-written notes in Turkish; the back is all handwritten text.  The guy who sold it to me tried hard to convince me it was a very very old antique, and it might be, but frankly the age wasn't as important to me as the fact that I instantly loved it.  My mom subsequently gave me the purchase price of the map as a birthday gift, and when I was looking for a new background to convey my feeling about the Foreign Circus, I knew instantly I wanted to use my lovely birthday map.

Closeup of the map

The map in my old apt in DC circa 2007

Sunday, May 8, 2011

104 degrees and it is only May 8th!

so obviously the long hot humid summer is about to begin. I'm torn- summer heat should mean a drop a sandstorms which trigger killer allergies in me, but when it is hot and humid at midnight, you begin to feel like you are living in a sauna on the face of the sun. We aren't there yet mind you, but I know it is coming. I'll be home for part of the summer and am sure DC will feel like a cool spring day in comparison to Dhahran, but I'll still be here for the worst of the heat. Time to start creating some summer beverages to take the edge off...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ah the joy of vacation!

Not a blog vacation (though that appears to have happened without any planning or thought on my part) but a real vacation- a week in Rome to be precise. You may have noticed that things in my part of the world have been heating up lately, and so a week out of the region was a delight. Brad and I ate and walked our way around teh city for 7 full days of glorious unplugged vacation. It has been years since I took such a trip, and helped remind me of why I love this life I lead, helpful given the way work has been going lately.

I've been bad at blogging because there is just so much else going on and because I have someone to come home to at night that occupies my time. I'm trying to settle into a routine but keeping up with AT and Facebook and LibraryThing and book reviews and blogging is just overwhemling some days when I've already spent 9+ hours staring at a computer screen. Perhaps I just need a schedule, a day a week when I post here, a different day when I do book's a thought. I may try to implement it. But not yet as I'm still basking in that vacation glow...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thank goodness for IKEA!

So this past weekend I tackled the ugly guest bathroom- you can read about the project over on Apartment Therapy DC to get a full flavor for the before, but the after is pictured above. The sham in the window us just until I can find the box with curtains in it, but that window faces the front of the house and we have armed guards patrolling the compound 24/7 so some kind of window covering is essential.

I like the way the blue works with the tiles, and though I know it isn't terribly sophisticated, I'm not sure sophisticated was an option with those ugly tiles!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

why in the name of all that is holy

did someone make these design choices for my guest bathroom? pinky-brown shower tiles and a plastic shower curtain on the window? REALLY?

Finding a shower curtain to work with those tiles should be a joy, not to mention replacing that idiotic cut-off plastic shower curtain with some kind of presentable window treatment since that window faces the front of the house and does not have privacy glass. Calgon, take it away...