a sigh of relief + (another) heap of boxes.

There is good news...and then there is good news. On Tuesday, we finally got the latter concerning our housing.

It's tricky to succinctly describe what was going on, or how quickly the tides changed for the better. But in short, the payment of our rent was auto-deducted from our paycheck before it even touched our bank account and was then passed down through three parties.  After we spotted our apartment online for $1,000 less than what was being deducted from our check...we knew something smelled fishy.

Someone...somewhere in this payment process...was helping themselves to $1000 of our money, thinking that for the next 12 months we'd blindly believe all of it was going toward "rent". Basically...we were about to get taken to the tune of $12,000.

Neither of us are "wave-makers" but we weren't exactly down with that. That's a college fund. That's a house downpayment. No, no...that's a phat trip to South Africa! (Take my future child's college fund or house downpayment. But don't you dare screw with our travel dreams! Ha.) So, we fought. After a month of discussing the matter with everyone involved, reading + writing a bajillion emails, showing proof over and over...even getting legal advice...we finally received word that moving forward, all income would remain untouched.

And we could finally proceed with securing our own housing! You know, just like normal people. But there was one catch in all this good news...we had to vacate our current place by June 30th.

Yep. We had exactly four days to find a new apartment in this foreign country, pack up our things and get the heck out of Dodge.



And...well, almost the heck out of Dodge. I'm still writing from the ghetto, sitting in a pile of boxes. But in a few short hours Gabe and I will load these boxes into the car, drive 15 minutes down the road and set up shop in a new apartment. A cute place with an enormous window looking directly over the ocean.

And an elevator without a stray wire to be found. :)

You cannot imagine the joy.


a little novice guacamole recipe.

I'm working hard to bump up from "braindead + totally clueless" to "novice" in the kitchen. Mexican is on the menu for tonight, naturally that includes guacamole...and I must admit a bit of prejudice: I hate guacamole. My husband loves the stuff. I do not. Blame it on the few times I've purchased it premade, only to find a pureed, mucky brownish mess. The taste was muddy and unfresh to me. 

But today I tried my hand at making my own guac. Turns out I like guacamole...when it's of the chunky + fresh variety!

Plenty experienced mamas out there know how to make this, I'm sure. But this post is for my fellow kitchen novices. :) Most of this recipe is experimentation! You cannot screw it up. If you love tomatoes, add some in. Don't like cilantro? Nix it. Even a bit of sour cream or hot sauce would be delicious.

Easy Peasy Guacamole

2 avocados
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small mild pepper of your choice, sliced
lime juice
salt + black pepper

Slice avocados into bowl and mash with a fork until you feel carpal tunnel coming on. (It takes a few minutes!) Add onion + garlic + mild pepper to mashed avocados, mix thoroughly. Then season with cilantro + lime juice + salt + pepper until you get that fresh, bright summertime flavor.

Makes about 3/4 cup...enough for chips + dip for 2, or meal toppings for 4. Be sure to keep chilled in an airtight container. :)


nooks and crannies.

(on my nightstand)

We've been working to get out of this apartment for a month (Gabe arrived here mid-May), and it's not looking any better. So, I've thrown that whole "we'll only be in this apartment for a month" thing to the wind...and have unpacked a bunch of my things. What else do I have to do, but unpack, arrange things and repack when we leave this apartment?

Pretty much nothing. ;)

One of the best parts about this move was the ability to sift through all my things...then pack up my severely narrowed-down "keeps" to be rediscovered in a new house. I've talked a lot about "things + stuff" throughout this process...I know...but this was such a huge lesson for me to learn. That by whittling down what you have, you feel you have more. That same ideology has followed me here: stop carrying dead material weight. Aside from an IKEA trip to purchase homey items not furnished by our apartment (a few comfy throw pillows, a cozy blanket and a candle), I haven't bought anything frivolous. No clothes, make-up, jewelry, no unnecessary home purchases in over two weeks. Don't get me wrong, the American in me still loves things! I'm not that good. You know I'm online window shopping and itching to make an unnecessary purchase. I'm plotting what it will be. But, I haven't popped yet. Knowing that at the end of this experience...everything has to get packed up +  dragged shipped back to the US? It's making me be a bit choosy.

Meanwhile, here are a few things that made the cut from my US life, and are now nestled in little spaces around our Kuwaiti apartment:

This Diana Camera was a find by my dad, a few weeks before my move. I grew up watching my dad fiddle with cameras, so it was special enough to come along.

Gulliver's Travels and the biography of a Saudi Arabian princess were gifts from my mom. She gifted me Gulliver's Travels on my 24th birthday, shortly before I was set to leave for Ireland to meet Gabe for the first time, and "Princess" in the weeks before I left for this adventure.

The framed print...well, it's from one of my favorite Etsy shops, Rebekka Seale. She also creates dreamy custom house portraits...which are incredible. (Spoken from experience! I gifted a house portrait to Gabe as his groom's gift on our wedding day.)

And finally...Rifle Paper Co notebooks. An indulgent purchase at a Paper Source shortly before Kuwait flight attempt #3. I knew it was my last chance to scoop up a little bit o' my brand of pretty. They remind me of the craft corner in my old apartment. Which I miss.

If you had to cut dead material weight...say to move to another country with only several boxes...what are a few frivolous things you'd keep?


new places, new traditions.

(experimenting with a hint-of-honey pizza crust. it was delicious.)

In the past, dinner for us was takeout in a hotel room or a quick meal at the coffee table in my small apartment. We'd press "play" on our favorite TV show and unwind.  It was a time to disconnect from the world.

But we've started something new here. It involves my making stuffed peppers or homemade pizza or creamy pasta in our cramped kitchen.

It's usually dark by the time my husband gets home at 7pm. I light the three candles we own. I set the table with the blue floral dishes our apartment provides, lay out the flatware that clashes so badly. I pull the chilled glasses from the freezer and pop the tops off glass-bottled sodas from the tiny market next door.

The lights and TV stay off.

And we talk.
We talk about his day.
Laugh about the kittens and their silly tricks.

I cry about missing home.
Or share the latest funny cultural clash.
Dream up where we want to go next.
Or scheme about fixing broken things.

It is humble, but it's real. It's the peanut butter that keeps our sandwich together.

And it's the part of my day that feels most like home.


nailed it.

Before I left the US, I had to seriously downgrade my nail polish collection.

It was strewn across a desktop + cosmetic bag + a shelf or two...and the thought of toting twenty-two bottles of polish into a Middle Eastern country seemed ridiculous.**  This lifestyle change wouldn't require a bevy of jazzy nail colors, given that my husband might be the only face I see most days. And perhaps a stray cat or two. So, I allowed myself four bottles of polish + a top coat. That's it.

Here are my four picks:

All Fired Up-Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure. My staple punchy red...as you may have noticed! It has a nice shiny finish, and looks great after just one coat. Sally Hansen isn't trendy, I know, but there's something about the brush in all SH polish that just works for me.

I Pink I Can-Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure. A newer acquisition...really fem and sweet. Ditto to previous comment about the brush. Paints on smooth as butter. And, like most of her polish: under $5.

Tart Deco-Essie. I adore Essie colors. (Who doesn't?) But I get the worst wear from them. Yet it seems Ol' Faithful Sally Hansen isn't exactly hip to the color of the season. So, I splurged on Essie's Tart Deco...worth it. Even if my nails chip after a day or two, the color is so much fun.

Mint Sorbet-Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear. The problem I've encountered with mint is that it often takes 3+ coats before the paint becomes opaque. Translucent polish just doesn't do it for me. But, this mint goes on opaque from the start. Love. And obviously, Sally doesn't disappoint with the brush here. Per usual. ;)

Finding myself a little bored on Friday, I finally tried the "party nail", which I've seen all over Instagram + Pinterest. (Best done by my friend, Jacin. Girlfriend knows how to rock the party nail!) Nine nails in Tart Deco, one nail in Mint Sorbet...and a few flakes of glitter. Such a fun little change from my usual self-manicure.

Turns out, I was right. No need for 22 bottles of polish here in Kuwait. Four hues + a little glitter works just fine for the eyes that see me daily: my husband doesn't care if my nails are red, mint or glittered...and the kittens?

Well, you can't judge the hand that feeds you.

**Not to mention that I've had problems with overweight international baggage in the past (what?...I travel prepared!), so every single ounce I packed was thoroughly analyzed before making the baggage cut.



While walking to dinner earlier this week, I spotted a single pink flower nestled in a dusty bush. Just one. It was the first naturally occurring flower I have seen in Kuwait, and the most vibrant color I'd noticed in days. I was amazed.

Color has that effect on me here. The entire country is bathed in yellows, taupes and beiges, even the few trees have taken a dusty hue, breaking only for the blue-grey water that turns hot orange during sun-up. It's so much different than home, where no color is spared on the exterior of homes + buildings, on acres of grass, trees and landscaping. Different than home, where the sun turns puffy clouds into pink and blue cotton candy everyday during sunrise and sunset.

Here, against the sandy backdrop, my eye notices color keenly...appreciating each drop like it never did in the US. My eye welcomes the rainbow of laundry, hung out on my neighbor's porch. I love the Turkish rugs thrown over the side of buildings, and the nets full of green or yellow soccer balls + bobbing inflatable toy camels hanging outside the tiny store below our apartment. I adore the brightly-packaged funny candies inside the store, and the way the shop owner greets us with the most familiar hello...like we are old friends.

Even among the people, my eyes are drawn to color. Among the black burkas of the women and long, white robes of the men, my eyes manage to find traditionally-dressed Indian women in vibrant purple and orange, or the beautifully printed hijabs that pass me by.

My ears are keenly aware of honks, of chatting voices...of every beautiful call to prayer. And every night I smell an incredible curry that wafts from the building next to ours.

There is color and beauty to be found wherever you go, I suppose.

Even in the sandy dessert. It might be a different style of beauty than you're used to.

But you just have to look.


P.S. Thanks so much for all your excited comments about our kittens! We feel hopeful about their future, after finding two wonderful  Kuwaiti shelters + organizations--K's Path and PAWS. Because the kittens have begun nursing again and mama cat isn't adoptable...she's quite aggressive...we plan for the kittens to stay where they're at with mama for a bit longer. They're in a very safe, shaded, low-traffic area. But when ready, we'll take the kittens to the shelter for adoption...maybe sans one for us....and leave mama in the wild where we found her.

Obviously she'll always be well-fed by us.:)


my little friends.

(please excuse cell phone photo + video.
this covert operation doesn't allow cameras + fancy lenses!)

Normally I'm not a morning person. But lately 5:30am is my favorite time of day. I wake up at 3am, and watch the clock...just waiting for 5am. Because every morning at 5:30am, Gabe and I put on our shoes and head down the rickety elevator, with a bag full of bottled water and cat food, because...

...it turns out stray kitty is a girl...and a mama to five adorable baby kittens! You can just about imagine all the squealing, clapping and excited tears that came from me, as we counted them in the dark, upon finding them this weekend.

At first, they were scrawny, lethargic and barely responded to our presence. Mama cat, who I've named Amala...Arabic meaning "hope...was so tiny, we worried she wasn't producing enough milk for five kittens. But after six days of square meals for mama + kittens, they're much more playful and alert. We've watched them for the past week, and guess the kittens are five to six weeks old.

Our biggest task has been checking on them multiple times a day, without others seeing it. Because here's the thing: strays aren't looked on kindly in Kuwait. Poisoning stray dogs + cats is common practice, widely used even in parks and public places, and animal abuse is quite high here. (Read here or here if you can handle it.) So, our biggest fear is that our frequent trips down the elevator and past the apartment manager's window (yes, he lives in one room off the lobby...present 24/7....it's tough to sneak past him over and over!) and into the secluded tree-filled courtyard will lead to our kittens being discovered, taken from their mama...or worse. Therefore, we always keep a wad of "hush money" in our pocket. Just incase we're stopped...we plan to buy his silence.

But, we've agreed that if we see anyone messing with our kitties, we'll take this covert operation one step further and quietly move them all into our apartment until the kittens are old enough to be separated from mama. We don't hang around long, lest we draw attention to them. Just long enough to clean up their little nest, retrieve food containers and top off their water.

Oh, and obviously long enough for me to shoot a few videos. This little orange tabby is quickly becoming one of my favorites. :)

So, on to the biggest question: should we adopt one in a few weeks, when it's ready to separate from mama? :)


this is home...for now.

pretty window. one of the things i do love about this place.

Startling discovery:  My life isn't a movie, and I didn't show up to a stunningly appointed apartment in Kuwait. What?!

Kidding. :) I thought I knew what I was getting into...yeah, yeah...it wasn't going to be pretty perfection. But I wasn't prepared for our apartment. We live in the projects (shout out to my neighbors with mattresses on their porch! What up!) and the list of things that need to be fixed in this apartment is a mile long. I'll spare you the checklist, but I will say this table I'm currently using is one wiggle away from collapsing to the floor. Had we seen this place and signed on the line, I could handle it. But this one's hard...because we didn't choose this place. Someone else did, without even seeing it. Yet we're paying the insanely expensive rent. More than the mortgage on our 4-bedroom house in California...which we've sadly decided to sell, as carrying both this rent + that mortgage is tapping us out.

But we're doing everything we can to get to a new place...chosen by us. For now that means we continue to live out of boxes until we're told we can sign a different lease. (Note: this hasn't stopped me from unpacking a few things. And rearranging furniture. And making an IKEA trip. Whoops.)

I'll just put it all out there: this hasn't been easy. There have been moments in the past week--usually while trying to cook on a half-stove in a kitchen smaller than my old bathroom--where I've tearfully thought, "What were we thinking? Why did we think living abroad would be good for us?" I wistfully think of the romanticized picture of my friends' first newlywed years: it all looked so light-hearted and fun. Fights were simply about where to spend Christmas or who didn't wash the dishes. And then I look at our first year first six months: separated by an ocean for four months, six weeks of unemployment, deciding to sell our house...and ultimately moving to the Middle East. Holy smokes, it's been a lot of stress.

I stand there, stirring something, wondering if we cheated ourselves out of that easy, rose-colored first year of bliss, while in pursuit of some grand adventure. Usually at that point in my mind-wandering, something in the kitchen breaks or overflows, and I'm distracted enough to let these thoughts float out the sand-coated window, to be picked up another day.

But I know with every new experience, there come growing pains. Often people don't talk about these pains, because admitting you had a late-night bickering sesh with your husband about something more serious than dish duty...well, it doesn't make your life sound amazing. But that's life...contrary to popular "inspirational" posters cirulating on Pinterest...there are bad days. Every single day can't always be glam and amazing.

The bigger the experience, the more intense the growing pains. This is a huge experience, and these are just our growing pains, I tell myself. And I also like to think that in two years, once we've moved out of this apartment + transitional stage of life, these growing pains will have become some pretty hilarious stories.

Because who doesn't want to hear about the time you lived in a Middle Eastern ghetto, in a building where the elevator "down" button hung off the wall...wires exposed? And the washing machine routinely overflowed? That's a jackpot of good stories!

And lucky me...I'll be able to tell them. ;)


papa's day.

Given my exit out of the country just a few weeks shy of Father's Day, I had to get my gift-giving act together sooner than usual.  But after getting rid of 90% of everything I own, I have mixed feelings about giving "stuff", unless it's something I'm sure is wanted, or a consumable that will be enjoyed + used up within a short time.

Because let's face it: almost all of us have WAY too much stuff. So much stuff that we forget about half the stuff we own. Then when we find it again years later, we somehow convince ourselves that we need to keep it..."because it was a gift". Or, "because I'll use it someday". It's crazy to me. And yet I've lived that way for 25 years...and am just realizing it now!

So, over the past two months, I've been giving gifts of cash/gift cards toward an experience I know the individual would enjoy. Not just a tacky wad of cash in a drug store birthday card...but a well-thought out, heartfully created, intentional gift. Something that clearly shows time + care were taken to choose something personal, and yet won't sit around collecting dust. 

Gifts for my mom and sister have been easy-peasy. But dads? Dads are so hard to shop for.

Then I remembered how much my Dad loves the Chicago Cubs and recently told me he hasn't visited Wrigley Field since he was a boy. It just so happens that I'll be home in late September, and my fam planned a weekend in Chicago for a family wedding. And there's a Cub's game scheduled. There were plenty of seats available for the game...I tracked down the best my wallet could afford....and BOOM. I booked those tickets faster than anything.

And then began the hunt for a way to not lamely hand my dad two freshly printed Stub Hub tickets. After searching through my packed-up apartment, I unearthed a basket, and jazzed it up with spare ribbon + a striped piece of wax paper. A quick trip to the store to pick up root beer bottles, Kettle Corn bags and peanuts filled the basket to the brim. The tickets were slid into in a manila envelope, then covered with more red + white stripes, and cut out photos of Wrigley Field. Finally, I doodled a little baseball stitching along the corners of his card and called it a day.

All told, I think he really loved it. And turning what would have been a card + two tickets into a cute little basket only cost a few more dollars and a trip to the grocery store. :)

What's your gift-giving style? Do you ask what an individual would like or just guess? Go the safe route with cash or gift card?


hello kuwait + happy bday me.

my mom sent the birthday banner we've hung in our home for 20 years.
here it is, in our bedroom.

Miracle of miracles...last night I made it to Kuwait! And the biggest miracle of all: I was upgraded to First Class just minutes before boarding the 13 hour flight. Free First Class! Where they keep all the good booze! The crew shakes your hand hello and greets you by name. The silverware is real, the seats are uber private, loaded with pillows + lie completely flat.  

It was luxurious as all get out. But now, I'm here. And it's my birthday! Gabe headed into work for a bit this morning, but not before taking me for coffee + pastries. Afterwards he dropped me off at home, with tea + croissants in hand I waved goodbye and headed for the door...

...only to realize I needed a code to enter the building. Frantically, I texted Gabe, but I wasn't sure he grabbed his phone this morning. Locked out in a foreign country....aaannnddd the adventure begins, I thought. Resigned that I could be stuck outside for up to four hours, I hunkered down on the cool marble steps. Next to me, the sweetest stray kitten was napping. 

I figured it was a good time to make friends with the local feline population, even if it cost me my breakfast. Breaking off tiny pieces of an almond croissant, I tossed them to the scrawny kitten...at first the kitty flinched, frightened by me. Then cautiously, he lifted his malnourished body off the stoop and crawled toward the flaky crumbs.

Excited about our budding friendship, I set down my cup of milk + tea and scooted closer to kitty. Without hesitation, he hopped up, headed straight for my cup and began licking the lid! Carefully, I popped the lid off and poured in a hefty amount of tea. Apparently that's what kitty wanted all along...it took him mere seconds to polish off the makeshift bowl of tea.

what's mine is yours, eh kitty?

I watched him lap up tea splashes and croissant crumbs until I was able to get into our apartment. All told, making friends with kitty was the best birthday gift, and I've spent the morning searching for a sweet Arabic name befitting of this scrawny kitten. Gabe agreed to pick up cat food on his way home...and I've held by his request:

Bethany, please don't bring stray cats into the house, no matter how cute. We'll feed them outside, but don't bring them in. Please, Bethany....

For a moment, I thought about doing it anyway. It is my birthday, afterall... ;)



Okay, Life. I get it. It's super funny that I can't get to a place on the globe that I wasn't really jazzed about to begin with. And it's hilarious that after this post...you've made me put my money where my mouth is.

You've had your laughs. Joke over.

Last night, we all boarded another plane as planned, Kuwait Flight Attempt #2. Just before the cabin door shut, a man became sick. All over the place. Things went downhill from there. After three pointless tarmac hours...we were kicked off and told we'd have to come back the next day for Kuwait Flight Attempt #3. So at 2:30am, after being refused my baggage for a second time, I took a taxi to an insanely priced hotel in Virgina...my only choice as everything else was booked. Completely out of clothing options, I showered and crawled in bed wearing a towel, promising to purchase cheap new threads in the AM.

oh my lands. new threads! thank you, anthro sales rack for new
earrings, shirts and good smelling soap.

Tonight we'll all board again, and hold our breath that we might make it to Kuwait. There are moments in the past three days where I just wanted to lose my crap. But yesterday, I met a fellow passenger on our flight, a soldier home on leave from Afghanistan. He'd gotten special leave because his wife had given birth to a little baby boy, Fletcher. He lit up while telling me about his days with one-week-old Fletcher, even showing me the sweetest little hospital nursery pictures. Rather than spending these insane past three days with his wife and little baby Fletcher, he's spent his time at an airport Cinnabon and waiting in lines to get hotel vouchers.

If anyone in the world gets to be upset about this situation, it is not me. It is that man. It's that new father.

My birthday is on Friday, Life. All I really want in this world is for little Fletcher's daddy to make it safely back to Afghanistan. And maybe come home for Fletcher's first Christmas.

Put a bow on that, and we're good, Life. We're good.


let this be a lesson to you...

...always pack clean undergarments in your carry on. At least for international travel.

About three hours into our transatlantic flight last night, I noticed a scurfuffle. Word spread throughout the cabins: a man was legit having a heart attack on the plane. And, just like in the movies...there was a doctor on board. A doctor with scrubs! My sleepy mind drank in the awesomeness. The plane turned around, mid-ocean, and headed for Boston, the closest US airport + hospital...docked at 3am and immediately medics took the stable gentleman off the plane. 

Finally, after two hours of tarmac-sitting, we got word that we couldn't continue on to Kuwait. So, we'd return to Washington DC...and get on a special flight sometime the following evening.

Yep. Halfway across the ocean and then back to the US.

The following few hours were one giant traveler's mess...we were told our flight wouldn't leave for 16 hours. At Hour 25 of my nonstop travels...the point at which I was unable to locate my sweet, sweet checked baggage full of clean clothes...I may have slumped in a chair and cried into my hands. I knew crying wasn't brave or going to help, nor was this a particularly appropriate time to fall apart. But I just couldn't keep it in anymore.

Eventually, I gave up on my baggage + vouchers and headed to the hotel Gabe had sweetly booked. And let me tell you: that was the most amazing shower I've ever taken. Not to get too saucy, but I crawled into that bed in my fresh undergarments and fell asleep for six beautiful hours.

rumpled clothes: check. sense of adventure: double check.

Long story short: thankfully, I'd tucked undergarments + toiletries in my carry on bag. (Shout out to my raspberry Kelly Moore camera bag, which has plenty of space for such things.) But, I am still wearing the same outfit I donned over 40 hours ago...and I can't sugarcoat it. I am gross.

All that to say: welcome to Groundhogs Day, folks. Tonight I really leave for Kuwait...

...provided no one decides to have a major medical emergency onboard this 747. ;)


thoughts on layover.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time wondering what I might be when I grew up...my grade school "When I Grow Up" portfolio reveals that I've long been undecided. I wanted to do everything.

Well, not quite everything. I can't say that what's coming after this thirteen hour flight was on my list. "Move to an extremely foreign country with my newlywed husband" wasn't depicted in that ol' portfolio. Even now, as I sit mere minutes and feet away from the jetway to Kuwait City, I cannot state what I want to be when I grow up. I can't say that this experience is what I want. Were someone to offer me a pretty, easy out to someplace like Italy or France...I can't say I'd choose this path less traveled.

But sometimes life does a really beautiful thing in forcing you down a path you'd never have chosen. And in those moments, there is nothing left to do but just dive in. Or in this case, scan my boarding pass, fly across the ocean and hug my husband.

Sitting here, I've just decided what to be when I grow up: I just want to be brave.

So, let's do this thing, Life. Make me be brave.

by car, by plane....

...but probably not by bike. As you read this, I'm likely waiting to board one of today's three flights, and chipping away at the two days (28 hours, to be exact) of travel that will slowly, slowly, slowly land me in Kuwait. And although I'm headed to this strange unexpected, new life...I feel ready. Like I've already been changed. But that's another day, another post.

Early this morning as I laid awake, unable to sleep and filled with conflicted feelings of excitement and sadness...I was sent the sweetest gift: my gorgeous blog friends Jen and Alexandra both made me the cutest, kindest goodbye videos! I may have cried. Both girls' blogs are must-reads who are also making big moves this year. (New York City and Copenhagen!) I cannot wait to see it all unfold! Go take a peek...I just love them.

Friends and readers, This is where my smalltown Wisconsin volume ends! Thank you so much for reading along with these years of my life...chapters filled with finding love and self, tying the knot and figuring out the first few months of marriage. I hope you stick around for the next volume. Obviously it's set in Kuwait. So, maybe a camel will make an appearance. Get stoked. :)

Much love,


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