Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas!

I have updates and holiday decorations to share, but that will likely happen after my visitors depart.

Happy Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

sneak peak at my evolving patio...

Here is a reminder of what my patio looked like for much of the last year.

My mom and sis are visiting for Christmas and have been helping me decorate and get a few small projects completed.  The maintenance guys hung my curtain rods yesterday and so today we rearranged the furniture and hung up the curtains.  This is how the far end of the patio looks now.

I love the new conversation nook on this side of the patio.  We are still working on the other side- stay tuned for more updates...

Monday, December 3, 2012

DVD cabinet makeover

remember how I was looking for ways to turn my cabinet (on left) into the inspiration cabinet (on right)?


Well, here is my new DVD cabinet:

I have to say that I love it.  My husband, who might not notice if I covered myself in Rub 'n Buff, not only picked up on the change, but expressed his unsolicited enthusiasm for the makeover- TWICE if you can believe that!  The fabric is Geisha (Black) by Robert Kaufman- thank you eBay.  I chose the Antique Gold Rub 'n Buff for the trim and it was super-easy to use; wipe on with a cloth, wait a few minutes, buff to a sheen.  The fabric is held in place with painter's tape (yes I was that eager to see if I liked it and then decided to roll that way and see how long it lasts), and in person has some gold accents that play off the newly colored trim.

Minus shipping time to Saudi, makeover took about an hour.  Costs were low too: the fabric was about $20 as was the Rub 'n Buff sampler which has twenty tubes of different colors and will likely last a lifetime given how little I used here.  All in all, I am delighted with this project and now on the lookout for other things to Rub 'n Buff!

want a closeup?  I know I do...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

look what came in the mail...


a project is in the offing...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

decisions, decisions...

so, as I posted over on AT on Friday (Advice on Creating a Cozy Outdoor Entertaining Area for the Holidays?), I am hoping to make my large outdoor space more cozy for the winter (which is rather amusing since we are still hitting over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day).  I want to install some curtains outside to enclose the patio, and I purchased the Janette curtains from IKEA that are pictured below when home in September.  I fell in love with them when I saw them featured over at Trapped in North Jersey a few months ago.  I seriously love the way those curtains look in that dining room.
I just got around to purchasing curtain rods to hang the darn things and now I am starting to second-guess the idea.  I picked these for the riot of color and pattern (too much of Saudi is just desert beige) but now I am not certain.  Are they too patterned?  Should outdoor curtains be white and billowy instead?  Also, I want to create an inexpensive outdoor carpet using a  dropcloth or tablecloth, but I am not sure how to make that work with these curtains.  Can I mix in another pattern or is that crazy talk?  Would stripes work? Or do I have to stick with a plain color for the "rug"?

oh the agony of design indecision!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Marines!

Tonight we celebrated the 237th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps.  It was a lovely night, especially because for one of the couples at my table it was their first USMC Birthday Ball, and viewing the pomp and circumstance through their eyes was delightful.  I had a wonderful night with my own favorite Marine (retired), and I believe a good time was had by all :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

VOTE, because you can...

Today of all days, I am proud to be an American. Regardless of party affiliation, irrespective of which candidate you support, today I applaud you for exercising your right to vote. I've spent too many years in my life living in countries where gender or ethnicity determines participation in elections to do anything but celebrate our great nation for the basic fact that every citizen, for one brief and shining moment, is indeed created equal. 

VOTE, because people fought and suffered and died to give you the right to do so.  
VOTE, because there is no more personally empowering moment than to do so.
VOTE, because around the world, too many can only dream of the freedom to do so.

Friday, November 2, 2012

down the rabbit hole...

We're just finishing up a 10 day holiday here for Eid (I took a brief 5 day trip to Dublin in the middle of it) which was admittedly a welcome respite.  Work has been crazy and I am in the middle of bidding on my next assignment (no, I have no idea yet where I'll be going) which has only added to the chaos.  Brad travelled home for Eid to see family, and I was supposed to use some of the time off to tidy the house and generally deal with the stuff that seems to just breed in dark corners.

I hosted one stop of a Halloween house crawl here and so my living room is immaculate which is so soothing to walk into that I can't even explain it.  Of course, it got that way by stowing stuff in other rooms, and now instead of dealing with that situation, I find myself wandering down the rabbit hole that is the internet, following random posts and pictures and threads and sites.  Seriously, my laptop is just a portal into an unbelievably wonderful world that seems designed to simply suck time from me.

Nothing life altering here, except that in my wanderings online I found this picture from Elle Decor:

which speaks to my desire to do something different with the glass door cabinet I inherited from an elderly neighbor that I use to store my DVDs.  I wrote about cabinet over on Apartment Therapy a couple of years ago, and have always been on the lookout for another solution with more color and pattern.

Now of course I'm scouring the internet for inexpensive fabric or paper that can give me that same feel without spending a fortune.  And so the trip down the rabbit hole continues...

edited to add:
Here is another picture of the inspiration cabinet with a less chaotic background.  I really really like it...

Friday, October 12, 2012

back in the saddle...

First, I want to thank everyone for their kind comments on my last post- they were much appreciated.

I'm back in Saudi after a delightful vacation back home in the U.S. and battling jetlag and the shock of returning to work.  My husband will be leaving next week for his break and I have a bunch of house projects to accomplish when he is gone, including some type of overhaul of my patio and backyard area.

In the meantime, I leave you with this picture of our trip to WDW- that's my sis on the left, my mom in the Minnie ears (isn't she cute?), my sister's BFF, then yours truly in the R2D2 ears (yes, I'm a nerd).  It was my mom's 1st trip to WDW, my 2nd, my sister's 3rd I believe, and her friend's 10th!  The weather was great, the parks not too crowded, and a wonderful time was had by all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

reflections on a difficult week

It has been a hard week for those of us in the Foreign Service, a week filled with sorrow and anger and anxiety.  I am actually back home in DC on leave right now, and was on my way to Walt Disney World when I got the news about the attacks in Benghazi.  It was an absurd contradiction- I was on my way to "the happiest place on earth" while my organization was mourning the loss of four our own.  I did not know any of those we lost, but Facebook posts and email traffic made it clear they were dear to many of my friends.  In an organization as small as the Foreign Service, an attack like this has an impact on every member.

I was in A-100 (our orientation/training class) back in 1998 when our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.  It was a shocking and sobering welcome into the Foreign Service.  I remember serving a shift on the phone, answering calls from fellow officers checking on friends and colleagues in Dar and Nairobi.  I remember being surprised at the number of such calls I answered, the anxiety of people desperate for news of fallen colleagues, the palpable feeling of sorrow that fell over the halls of the Department.  Now of course I understand that feeling, those phone calls.  Last Wednesday, I too was anxiously scanning the news for the names of the fallen, terribly afraid I would see the name of someone I knew, someone I had served with in some far-flung locale.  I too cannot shake a deep sadness over recent events, over the assault on a life and mission I hold so dear.

My friends and family, who always have concerns about my service overseas, are now extremely anxious about my return to the Middle East.  I am not anxious about returning; in fact, I feel guilty about not being there with my colleagues during these tumultuous times.  I am no stranger to hardship and danger pay posts.  I was in the Middle East on September 11, 2001.  I've lived and worked through an authorized then ordered departure from post.  I have experience dealing with this type of crisis, and I feel guilty I am not there to help those at my post who are new to the service work their way through this one.

I also feel guilty about the anxiety I know my job creates for those who care about me, for the fears I know sometimes keep them awake at night.  I know when I leave in two weeks, my mother will insist on coming to the airport with me to see me off.  I know she will bravely hide her qualms about my career choice and attempt to send me off with a smile and a promise to see me soon.  I know that I will call from the gate to leave her a message to listen to when she gets home, a message promising everything will be fine and that I love her.  I know she will save that message on the answering machine, as she has saved other such messages- a desperate hedge against an uncertain future.

I mourn the loss of my colleagues in Benghazi, and extend my heartfelt condolences to their families and friends.  I mourn the images of embassies and consulates under siege, on fire, under attack.  I mourn the lives uprooted as families and officers are forced to depart posts that are no longer secure.  I mourn all that we have lost in this terrible week, and terrible feeling of vulnerability that these attacks have brought to the forefront.

Above all, I am proud to serve with the dedicated men and women of the Foreign Service.  I am proud of our commitment to the ideals that make our nation great.  I am proud of our determination every day to make the world in which we live a little better than the day before.  I am proud that in the face of hostility, violence, and threats, we continue our work- not without fear, not without trepidation, and not without sorrow, but every day despite those emotions.

We are small in number.  We are in many ways a family.  And this week we grieve.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Safari highlights and photos


Things I learned on safari:
  • Hippos are shy and skittish- don't get between them and their waterhole. Also, a hippo rolling over in a pool is a sight to see- those stumpy legs waving in the air cracked us up!
  • Elephants are wonderful, and baby elephants are the cutest thing ever when they try to learn to use their trunks or give themselves a dust bath. Adolescent elephants will happily block the road and trumpet to show off until an older female elephant snorts to make them move along.
  • Lions spend a lot of time lounging around and napping. Even when they finally wake up, they may only move 20 feet before lying down for another nap. Lions and elephants don't get along- that group in the road with a lioness and five cubs? They had just had a nasty run-in with a herd of angry elephants who drove them into hiding; we caught the tail end of it before the elephants moved along. It took the lioness a while to round up the five cubs (three are hers, two belong to another lioness) and then even longer to calm them down afterward.
  • Giraffes who suddenly realize lions are in the neighborhood rapidly move along. Watching a male giraffe stalking a female giraffe who is almost in heat is like watching college kids at a club- the guy sidles up and sniffs around, makes a halfhearted move, gets the brushoff, waits a few minutes and then tries the same move again.
  • Leopards are just fabulous- stealthy and beautiful. Sometimes they look right through you. Sometimes they look right at you. Sometimes they like to roll around in dung. 
  • Rhinos are also skittish, especially when leopards are roaming nearby.  Rhinos are also surprisingly fast and rather delicate on their feet when running away from you.
  • Zebras are not skittish and will happily block the road. They are also curious and one is often willing to look right at the camera and pose.
  • Impala are everywhere and are beautiful. Their horns are incredible, and the adolescents play fight seemingly for the crowd before trotting off for water. 
Sabi Sand Wiltuin is an incredible place, one we will definitely visit again. I cannot recommend Londolozi enough- our time there was magical. We will definitely return!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

just a taste to whet your appetite...

I have a lot of safari stuff in my head that I want to pull together into a post or two, but I cannot resist the urge to share a couple of pictures from our first game drive the very afternoon we arrived.  I cannot tell you how much I loved this little guy...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

taking a break...

I'm taking a wee break from blogging (and life in general)- Brad and I are in South Africa for a few days getting some much needed R&R.  Capetown has been magnificent- I cannot recommend it highly enough.  We head out tomorrow for safari for a few days before heading back to Saudi...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saudi sunset

I walked outside tonight to an unusual sight- white clouds in a blue sky is not the norm for Saudi in July.  It was 115 degrees in the shade today with 73% humidity, but somehow a sky like this helps get me set up for the week ahead...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the big curtain reveal

OK, I should have waited to take a picture in daylight, but I was too impatient.  I love the curtains.  They are bright and bold and full of color- a stark contrast to the Saudi desert.  I added the carpet too but don't know  if it works.  I fear it is too small.  I swear that carpet is red not black like it appears in the photo above.

The color in the second photo is better but still not quite accurate.  I like having a carpet in that room to add a little color and softness but it seems too small.  The ottoman is there because my husband likes a place to sit to put on his shoes; we really need a bench but we had that ottoman and no place to put it so for now, it serves its purpose.  I love the painting over the bed, purchased from a street artist on my 2011 birthday trip to Rome.

The bedroom is not finished, but I am a lot happier with it now than I was a week ago!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

in which I learn an exciting new skill...

you might remember that back in Sept 2011, I was suffering from angst related to my bedroom curtains.

Shamefully, that curtain situation has remained the same all these months. I didn't like the plain white curtains, so I bought these bright tropical ones on clearance at Urban Outfitters. Once they arrived, I discovered that though the pattern was great, the fact that the curtains were voile made them basically sheer, certainly too thin to hold out that strong Saudi sun. Also, you will note that in contrast to the too long IKEA curtains, these new panels are too short.  For months now I've been promising myself I would do something with them to make the bedroom less blah.

A couple of weeks ago, I got motivated to at least pull these panels out again and fiddle with them.  I thought perhaps I would like them short so I tried the arrangement on the left.  Clearly too short.  Then I thought to combine the panels to make one heavier but brighter curtain so I tested that out on the right.  Not terrible though still too short and billowing weirdly because of the AC vent that is at the ceiling just to the right of that window.  Yesterday (virtual Sunday here in Saudi), I pulled down the white curtains entirely and threw them in the wash with a bit of bleach to perk them up.  Then I threw them in the dryer- apparently a mistake as they shrunk by a few inches each.  

Then I made a bold move, and pulled out that sewing machine I got so many months ago.  The instructions that came in the box were only in Spanish (!) but I was able to find the manual in English online.  I boldly set off with no real expectations of success, but to my surprise, sewing straight lines was kind of easy.  I now have four panels each made from one IKEA panel base with one UO panel sewn to the front.  I removed the tabs and have the curtains hanging from IKEA rings.  They are still too short, but I am going to add a black band at the end of each curtain to have them hang almost to the floor (not touching though because of the dust and sand here).

No pictures because the rest of the room is a mess (husband is traveling so I've been doing lots of projects etc) but I hope to get some posted soon.  The effect is pretty close to the panel on the right above and I have to say that I really enjoy the injection of some color and pattern into this blah bedroom.  Also, I am thrilled to have used my sewing machine successfully for a home improvement project; I'm sure there will be more sewing related projects in my future!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

rugs glorious rugs...

my newest addition - can't begin to describe how soft it is!
I went rug shopping this weekend in Bahrain because friends are in the market for carpets.  Back when I lived in Kuwait (2001-2003), I used to shop for rugs all the time with my friends- we had rug guys (Hussein and Ali) and we had a monthly routine of visiting the shop to see what was new, drink tea, and get educated about these beautiful works of art.  Thanks to those trips, I have quite the collection of carpets big and small.

When I got assigned to Saudi, I was excited to think about sinking back into that type of carpet shopping routine with more browsing and less buying.  I thought I would make new friends who wanted to learn about carpets and I would be able to steer them as more knowledgeable folks had steered me all those years ago.  I have gone rug shopping here a few times but have always been underwhelmed by the offerings and shocked at the prices which were 7 to 10 times what I paid a decade ago.  I have friends who want to learn about carpets, but not anyone who wants to pay those prices!

Finally this past weekend, I had my rug shopping breakthrough in neighboring Bahrain.  Friends and I found a shop with a great selection of rugs and a seller who was eager to show them off and to chat.  We looked at piles of rugs and my friends learned more about what they like and what they don't.  Even my husband enjoyed himself (and he is NOT a rug guy).  I had no intention of buying a carpet until I found this lovely red tribal that didn't photograph very well but is beautiful in real life.

My husband liked this best of all the carpets we saw and so we bought it.  My friends also bought a carpet- a lovely tabriz for their home back in VA.  I had a wonderful time, and I thought we were done until we went to another shop and my husband pointed out the grey carpet at the top of this post- the first grey carpet I've ever seen in my years of shopping.  It is unbelievably soft underfoot and has now found a new home in our entryway.

It was a great weekend of shopping and friends and rugs and memories.  I hope it won't be the last!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

heading to South Africa!

not for a couple of months, but still...

Now that the trip is booked, I'm focused on the need for a new camera.  I've got a 6 year old point and shoot pocket camera that I love, but that definitely isn't going to cut it for safari.  I'm looking at a DSLR (Canon EOS Rebel) or an advanced point and shoot (Canon G-12).  I'd kill for a Best Buy or camera store where I could test these out, but alas I am thousands of miles from the convenience of US shopping.  Luckily   I have great friends with cameras offering to let me play around with theirs just to see.  Still, any advice from readers would be welcome; I want to make sure my pictures are as good at the one above (from the resort where we'll be staying).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

catching up, after a fashion...

I've been gone for a while- work has been crazy and then I got to go home for two weeks for training and vacation.

 The picture above is from my 20 year high school reunion which just happened to providentially fall when I was home for class- that is 4 of the 6 people who made up my group in high school and it was great to see them back at our old stomping grounds. We had a class of 55 and my group gets together (usually in pairs but sometimes in larger bunches) fairly regularly but it was still a great night and I think we all look pretty good!

I'm back in Saudi now and the heat has certainly started with a vengeance. Between that and the jet-lag, I've been a bit out of things for a week but have high hopes this weekend will help me get back on track.

 My sister and I came up with a manageable plan to help me get started on cleaning and organizing this large house to winnow down before my packout in 12 months. She and my mom are coming out to visit in December for the holidays so I have to get those guest rooms in order to give them a place to stay!

Friday, April 6, 2012

wow, Egypt is just wow!

My sister and I had a wonderful week in Dahab (Sinai coast) and Cairo- the weather was great, the scenery unbelievable, and the food delicious.  It was astonishing how few tourists we saw; our guides in various places all said that numbers were down about 80% since the revolution which is astonishing.  We felt safe everywhere we went and were certainly well received by the Egyptians we met along the way.  I'll definitely return- partly to see Luxor and Aswan, and partly to sit again on the beach in Dahab in a pod listening to the waves lap gently against the shore...

More pictures are posted on the photos page if you want to see the highlights of the trip.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

vacation here I come

well not quite yet but soon.  since my training in Thailand got cancelled, my sister and I switched up our plans and are heading here:

We'll also hit the Red Sea coast (maybe Sharm el Sheikh, maybe Dahab) and hope to squeeze in a day trip to Petra.  It will be busy but hopefully fun and I sure could use a break after the last couple of weeks...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

Yes, another St. Patrick's Day celebrated in Saudi Arabia which is just odd on so many levels.  We had our party on Thursday night which was epic mostly because of the weather.  Thursday afternoon we had 100 degree temps, high humidity, and start of a sandstorm.  By Thursday evening, the temperature had dropped but the winds were howling which certainly didn't help the poor live band at our outdoor party (and didn't do much for my hairstyle either)!  We've been in the midst of a sandstorm ever since- howling winds kept me awake last night and my allergies are going wild plus I can't escape that metallic tang it leaves in the back of your throat.  Add in the fact that we have a major representational event due to take place outdoors later this week, and you can imagine my desire for this storm to just blow away.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Q&A Meme

Responding to a challenge posted by scb here:

1. Which of your ancestors would you most like to meet?
I would like to talk to my paternal grandparents.  The immigrated from Ireland before independence and landed at Ellis Island.  They both passed away before I was born but I would love to know more about them and their story.

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Huh, this is a hard one for me given the career choice.  At the moment, I can't help but thinking "there's no place like home" and wishing we were living back in the US, but I know if we were, I would soon go stir crazy.  If I had money, celebrity money, I would love to have a home in Venice.  I would love to have a small place in Ireland where we could vacation and see family.  If I was going to plant myself forever in one place, I would want to buy a house in the neighborhood where I grew up in DC, a fixer upper that needed some TLC to rediscover its former glory.  Sadly, that also takes celebrity money these days!

3. If you could have dinner with three contemporary celebrities, who would you choose?
Hard one for me as I'm not a big celebrity person.  I think Angelina Jolie would be interesting because of the work she has done for the UN around the world.  I would also think Christiane Amanpour would have wonderful insights to share based on her work as a journalist.  Finally, the Queen of England I think is a fascinating woman who has seen so much in her lifetime and has taken her country through such upheavals that dinner with her would be a chance to learn.

4. What is your favorite piece of music?
I never studied music and so don't have much a background in classical music- I recognize a lot of it because of years of ballet, but never know the names of the pieces or the composers.  I have a tragic love of 1980s glam rock, and a deep affinity for Irish music.

5. What was your favorite toy when you were a child?
As a tot, I had a very odd stuffed duck- green gingham and very well loved.  I left him on a bus once in Ireland which was a crisis that led my mom back out at the end of a long day to go to the bus station downtown to see if anyone had turned him in (no easy access to phones in 1970s Dublin).  She was crossing the street when she saw the duck in the front window of a bus just passing her, leading to my mom chasing down the bus to retrieve my precious duck (a passenger had turned it in to the driver, who finished his route and was on his way downtown to turn in both the bus and the duck).  I still have the duck.  When I got older, my big love was Lego.  I still have that as well!

6. What is the last movie you saw (either in the theater or at home)? Would you see it again?
We just watched Beauty and the Beast in 3D; Brad had never seen it before while I found myself able to sing along to every song.  I've seen it before and I'll definitely see it again.

7. If you could hire someone regularly to do one chore around your house, what would it be?
I already have someone doing many chores around my house which is a delight.  I think the chore I hate the most is cleaning the bathroom, though I am also terrible at laundry which to me is so much work and so futile because clothes just keep getting dirty.  I hate doing laundry, especially the folding and putting away part.

8. When you think of your favorite holiday or celebration, what sound(s) come to mind?
My favorite holiday is Christmas and I think of the carols from church.

9. Which is your favorite season, and why?
Tough one.  Spring and fall trigger my allergies, while summer in DC is hot and muggy, and winter is often cold and wet.  Years living in the Middle East and on the equator have taught me that what I really love is HAVING seasons; we had about three minutes of rain a couple of days ago which could be all we'll get this winter in Saudi.  I miss rain.

10. Which book do you wish YOU had written?
So very many- Pride and Prejudice.  Jane Eyre.  Anna Karenina.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  Harry Potter.  A Busman's Honeymoon.  Anne of Green Gables.

11. Tidy desk or messy one?
Messy.  Really messy.  I think the only times I have a clean desk are the first day I move into an office and the last day I move out of one.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Friday was a warm and sunny 71 degrees- short sleeve weather to be sure. Yesterday and today? 50s dropping to 30s at night. Wool coat. Scarf. Gloves. House heat kicked on for maybe the second time all year. No heat in my office so the scarf and gloves actually stayed on all day today.

Yes, I know this is not real winter. My last overseas post was Bosnia- first snowfall Oct 5th, last snowfall early April. Heck, we got feet of snow in DC my last couple of winters there. Still, I'm living in Saudi and coats/scarves/gloves are not the norm.

Part of me wants the temp to creep back up. Part of me delights in the chance to wear my winter clothes a bit (especially the super-cute scarf and gloves I picked up at Avoca in Dublin over Christmas). Part of me wants to document this chill to look back on in a few months when our temps hit 120+ with 90% humidity.

No snow here, but still a hint of January weather to enjoy. I'll take what I can get...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Resolutions

but first, a gratuitous shot of NYE featuring my new dress and Brad’s lovely velvet jacket…


OK, I don’t generally do resolutions, but I think I need some structure for my year and so I’m giving it a whirl. 

  • I resolve to be a better blogger as I have certainly fallen off in writing over the last few months, though I am still following and reading all my favorites.
  • I resolve to try to leave work stress at work rather than bringing it home with me the way I have been.  My husband deserves better and frankly our relationship and sanity is more important than my job.
  • I resolve to be more active; I started playing softball this fall and loved it, so though I know I hate the gym, I am on the hunt for other activities that get me out of the house and onto my feet. 
  • I resolve to declutter and start truly culling through my belongings so that my packout in summer 2013 isn’t a complete nightmare.  I have 18 months so I can do it slow and steady if I just do a little every week.

There, that seems like a sane and manageable list.  Wish me luck!

Happy 2012 everyone Smile