2.29.2012

snowflakes that stay.

(you can only imagine what this did to my hair. ish.
to see more snowy photos,
 head here)

Holy whoa friends, I like you. The scads of baby shower suggestions blew my mind! Mama-to-be called me last night, we had a good little gab session to pick out out a few fun games. It's clear you could all write the best "Dos and Don'ts of Baby Showers" book known to man. Er, woman.

Other things that are blowing my mind: snow. We just got a lot of it. Yesterday afternoon the prettiest flakes began floating down, and I pushed back from a little writing I was doing to walk around the neighborhood. It had that gorgeous, it's-almost-Christmas first snow look. But, it wasn't long before those floating flakes turned icy and began pelting me in the face. I turned my tush around and headed back home, where I snuggled up for the rest of the evening to watch the snow fall.

I like to think Wisconsin winters are just saying an extra thorough goodbye, since this winter was my very last in Wisconsin. In the next few weeks I'll be packing up, getting ready to move to Kuwait or wherever Gabe's posted at the end of April. (I wish I knew. I also wish the answer was Italy.) This morning, the world is so beautiful and I don't mind the inconvenience of the snow. I feel a bit sentimental about it. 

Even if I'm not sure how I'll get my car out of the garage...

And hey. Happy Leap Day. Do something awesome today.

2.28.2012

auntie.


(if you want to see what things really look like when i'm setting up a photo,
click over here. ahh, what a little cropping can do...)

Here's the funny thing about moving up your wedding by six months: lots of people ask if you're pregnant. Or you can tell they're thinking it. Within days, I got wise and started addressing that topic, without being asked, while answering questions:

"Yes, we got married six months early! 
Yes, planned it in eight weeks!
No, we're not pregnant!"

But, it didn't help my case that within days of getting hitched, I started pinning + chatting about baby things. Whoops.

I swear, that's because I'm gonna be an auntie* and am excitedly planning my best friend' s brunch baby shower! Swear it. Baby A is going to be a little dude (yay!)...and the mama is a very unique individual who seems more into stripes and statements than little baby animals. After searching the web for just the right invite...and not finding it...I wound up making these. 

Now...I'm moving on to shower games, which I feel are a necessary evil. And I need help. Obviously they get people mingling and giggling. But, without naming any games specifically, I will say that shower games can get a little tacky/awkward for guests.

What's the worst shower game you've ever played?

The best game you've played?


**Quasi-auntie. I became a real aunt to the tenth power on New Years Eve. During our wedding reception, the little boys told me they'd decided to call me "Auntie B". Later, one of them gave us a card in which he'd doodled a patch of flowers and handwritten "I just wish you a good marriage."

He's seven. I died of cuteness.

2.27.2012

getting legit.

I'm a bit of a shy blogger--it's a family member or my husband who tells others that I write here. When it comes up in conversation, I'm always my worst critic, forever saying, "Oh, it's just this little silly thing I do. It's nothing, it's small. So many people do it better."

But deep down, I really, really love it. It's a huge part of who I am, who I know...and I have this quiet pride that I've actually stuck to it for years. Even if I die of embarrassment over my first few years of blogging. Ish.

I've started to apply the quote above to my creative efforts, too. Whatever you are...be a good one. Do it well, and don't be shy in taking pride in what you've tied your heart into.

So, first things first...I finally bought a legit website. Then, I hired a fabulous graphic designer to do an overhaul on my space. (Cannot wait to see it.) And that whole "be a good one" also means a little online clean up--when I started this blog in 2008, I had no clue what Twitter was, and I don't believe Instagram was even a "thing", therefore I wasn't intentional about keeping usernames + websites consistent through the years. I even did silly things like using my maiden name...after I got engaged. What the what? I know. 

I know.

Let's make it a bit easier. Here's where you can find me all around the web!


instagram: rinserepeatblog

Whew. That feels better already. :)

2.24.2012

big ol' scary white space.


A few semesters of my college career were spent in drawing and painting classes, days which could only be described as intimidating. (Full disclosure: They were tolerable only due to one very handsome British instructor.) Classes would start at 8am and last til 11am...I felt every second of those three hours. For the first hour, I'd fiddle with erasers, brushes and palettes until it was no longer possible to disguise the truth: I was buying time until I absolutely, positively had to commit to putting a colorful mark on that big blank white space.

Life for me, recently, has felt that way: a blank white space. I'm at this really beautiful place where I have time, energy, the ability to throw myself into something new, and a husband who is endlessly supportive of my creativity. There are vibrant colors just waiting to hit the canvas...I have so many ideas rolling around in my head. I could say, "I'm going to write a book...or spend every minute blogging...or open a small creative business...or devote all my time to learning French."

And God bless my husband. He's told me to do all of those things, he really believes I could do anything.

But right now, I'm scared of that big white space. Instead of taking myself seriously as a creative girl, I've been fiddling with little creative things here or there without committing to a bigger plan. And that's solely out of fear. 

When I crack past that layer of creative inferiority, I know I'm a gutsy girl. I planned a wedding in eight weeks, I flew to a foreign country to meet my husband and I've walked the streets of the middle east alone! In so many ways, I'm gutsy and have faith in my skill set. But dedicating myself to a first colorful, creative move...putting the first brushstroke on the canvas and solidly saying, "I'm doing this. Even if it's bumpy and awkward at first...I'm going to become great at it..."

...well, it's got me struggling. And I don't know if admitting it is a wise move, but I always try to be honest 'round here. So there it is, friends.

Do you ever feel that way about life? Just inexplicably, beyond frightened to make that first colorful stroke? How do you battle it?

2.23.2012

st. patricks day dinner.


At the beginning of last year, Gabe and I decided that St. Patty's Day was a "thing" for us, what with the whole falling-in-love-in-Ireland situation. Granted, he was in Iraq at the time, but it was my job to start the tradition of cooking a St. Patty's Feast every year.

I don't cook...ever. Just imagine the fear that swept though my body when I realized I'd invited nine people over for a dinner party.

But, I crammed those nine people into my 300 square foot apartment, all sitting around an 8ft folding table that just baaaarely fit in my itty bitty living room when laid from corner to corner. Thankfully, all my guests were family friends I'd know since birth or youth...so none were allowed to judge my cooking or my matchbox sized apartment.

(A little bit of frantic preparations.)

I kept the table decor pretty simple, a layer of burlap covered by a layer of green seersucker...quite obviously not ironed. You know, cause the Irish aren't fussy...or 'cause I was busy cooking an enormous slab of meat and wrinkles weren't top o' my list.

Three packages of mossy green rocks from the Dollar Store, mixed with a handful of gold coins and a few pillar candles made for an ultra easy $10 centerpiece. I snagged a handful of gold flatware and tied linen napkins with a paper doily and twine. Each place was set with a Guinness (just to get things started...) and a perfectly green Perrier.

The menu consisted of some real simple Irish favorites:

Mustard and Maple Glazed Corned Beef
Potatoes, Cabbage and Carrots
Irish Soda Bread
Colcannon
Peas
Irish Apple Cake

Irish Chocolate Cheesecake

Most of these recipes were dug out of out of a real, live Irish cookbook and while they frightened me at first I got the hang pretty quickly. Obviously Guinness and Irish coffee were drank like water. The corned beef is still being raved about, which blows my mind since I began with following a recipe but quickly diverged and added whatever I wanted.


Irish tunes were flowing and people stayed long after the sun went down...just gabbing and laughing. It was boiling hot in my apartment, we all reeked of corned beef and cabbage, but it was such a good time.

This year I was on the fence...whether to throw a larger party, or just invite my parents and sister over. But, I'm winding down to my last month or two here in Wisconsin and big bash was the only way to go! Big bash it is. And I can't wait.


Perhaps it's the Guinness, but there's something about Irish food and the Irish spirit that's absolutely contagious and I look forward to celebrating March 17th every year.

Do you do anything to celebrate St. Patty's Day?

2.21.2012

getting travel savvy: splash-proof labeled bottles.


If you're anything like me, packing consists of shoving full size cosmetic bottles in the zipper portion of your luggage...often the morning of your trip. But when I recently realized how much that bevy of bottles weighs, how frequently I fly and how close my baggage often teeters to that 50 lb max...

...I knew it was time to get a bit more travel-savvy.

These little personalized bottles are easy-peasy, inexpensive, splash-safe and you can crank out a whole batch of them in ten minutes or less. And I spend much less time sniffing bottles to figure out which is which, only to slather my legs with spendy conditioner and wash my hair with $2 lotion.

And yes, that's happened more often than I'd like to admit. ;)


Supplies:
Small travel bottles    Double-sided tape
Washi tape   Scissors
Contact paper     A pretty pen
Plain white paper                                   

 

How to:

Step 1: Cut out a thin strip of paper, and label it. Use your cutest pen, obviously.

Step 2: Place a little double sided tape on the back of paper strip and attach to a small bottle.

Step 3: Cut washi tape strips long enough to fit around all the way around the bottle. Attach, framing your paper label.

Step 4: Place bottle on contact paper to measure out the amount needed, making sure the contact paper will extend just beyond washi tape. Remove backing and carefully apply around bottle. Smooth out any bubbles and press the edges firmly to create a good splash-safe seal.

Ta-da! Much cuter, and endlessly more functional.

2.17.2012

home, home, home.

(Snapped by me, somewhere over Wisconsin.)

I am home, I am home, I am home. And it feels much like breathing air for the first time. After living in the US my entire life, and traveling only in very free societies...Kuwait was a cultural contrast! Beautiful in many ways and full of things to learn, but ultimately I could feel rules and eyes everywhere.

Several days before I left Kuwait, I took a longer walk than usual, walking outside our neighborhood...it felt so nice and freeing. On the walk home, a man pulled his car over on the busy street, trying to convince me to get in his car and he'd drive me home. I flatly said no, without looking at his eyes and crossed the busy street. He flipped a U-turn and followed me...all the way back to the neighborhood where my apartment building waited just up the street. Trying to be a smart cookie and not give away where I lived, I headed to the Thai restaurant a few steps further. As I attempted to cross the street...he stopped the nose of his car right in my path and continued leering, asking me if I needed a ride. Thinking quick, I darted behind his car, dashed across the street behind a barrier of parked cars and into Sabaidee...where I ate spring rolls and waited until the coast was clear.

That was the end of my exploring in Kuwait--I don't know how sinister that man's intentions were...perhaps he just wanted a western woman's attention, perhaps it was something darker. But it was off-putting. I wasn't terribly frightened, as it was daylight in a busy neighborhood and I had my phone. Gabe and Enijah, our maid, quickly agreed there would be no more solo exploring, save the one block walk to Sabaidee to fetch spring rolls for lunch...the route where English-speaking guards were posted every 100 feet. After this rule was enacted, the days were very long and I became fidgety.

Already I miss little things about Kuwait, like my friend Enijah, hearing the call to prayer, and largely, I miss my husband so much. It was a wonderful experience. But, I'm slightly relieved to be back home, where I slept well for the first time in 12 days, and can wear + photograph whatever I'd like.

I'm taking this weekend to unpack, wash laundry, attend a wedding and restock my cupboards. In other words, get back to normal life around here!

How about you? Any big weekend plans?

2.15.2012

vday and last day in kuwait.

For the past two days, the internet gods have not been shining on me here in Kuwait...the connection trips out every few minutes, and eventually quick tasks like uploading an Instagram photo takes forever. Needless to say, I scrapped any and all plans for a cutesy Happy Valentines post yesterday!


Sometimes you gotta know when to give up, right? But the skies have parted and the gods are shining on me with a stable connection (15 minutes and counting!)...so here's a quick recap:


On Valentines, Gabe took the entire day off of work--a miracle since he's worked seven days a week for the past month. We spent our Valentines morning sleeping in, eating breakfast in bed and snuggling until noon when we both realized we had massive caffeine withdrawl headaches and popped over to Starbucks.


Later our friendly cab driver, Nesar, took us down to Souq Mubarakiya, the closest thing you'll find to an old-school Arabian market in this country. There was lots of meat, spices, exotic fruits and veggies as well as tons of jewelry, scarves and other little treasures. Since we hit it early in the afternoon, it was fairly empty...things seem to come alive later here in Kuwait.

We cleaned up quickly, grabbing little gifts for my family and a few keepsakes for us. Definitely my favorite part of this visit.


We had decided a few weeks ago to stay in and cook dinner ourselves on V-day...mostly because I was dying to wear my red, lace-back dress. We agreed would get me arrested if it saw the light of day in Kuwait. Reason #2: displays of affection (hugging, linking arms, kissing) are pretty frowned upon in public...and what can I say? I wanted to hold my husband's hand and kiss him across the table on V-day. So, dinner in it was.


Gabe made delicious spaghetti and garlic bread, while I unpacked all the silly little things I'd brought 7000+ miles for the occasion. (Candle sticks, pink gingham fabric scrap, paper doilies, sparkly ribbons and confetti.) We hauled the tiny bistro table off the porch and placed it right in front of the enormous ocean-view window in the living room.

I was proud of our silly little teamwork, of celebrating the day together. It wasn't a fancy dinner at a fabulous restaurant, but it was romantic and heartfelt and that's all we needed.


Tonight, at midnight, I'm back on a plane to the states...but I made sure to hide a dozen little love notes in Gabe's bedroom lest he feel a little lonely when he returns from the airport. With all our past goodbyes, he's the one boarding 24 hours worth of flights...so this is a bit of a role reversal! I've told him that the best prescription for returning to a lonely home...is some trashy episodes of The Bachelor and a large bowl of mac and cheese.

Methinks he will likely not be taking my advice...

I'm off to cuddle with my husband for two hours before it's back on a plane. Although I'm sad to leave, I'll be relieved to be back in a country where I can snap photos to my heart's content, and perhaps wear something that exposes my elbows. Hurray! ;)

Hope you each had a lovely Valentines Day!

2.12.2012

days by the beach.


Gabe works from 7am to 7pm, and while counting the hours til he comes home, I fill my day with small moments.

Days alone in Kuwait are very different than home: I set out on little walks in search of seashells, read on park benches and find tiny kittens that live next to the beach. When I don't feel like leaving home, I gaze at ocean waves from our windy balcony and listen for the hauntingly beautiful adhan ...or lay on my belly in our bed, my feet pressed against the cool headboard and my head at the foot of the bed, looking straight out the window.

I could watch waves for hours.

Sometimes, our maid will come to my room--we chat while I curl my hair and she hangs up laundry. We talk about her daughter, when "husband" and I want to have babies, her home country of Sri Lanka and whether or not she likes macarons (she doesn't). There's stumbling and repeating, my accent is heavy midwestern and hers heavy middle eastern, but we're both heavy on the smiles to make up for our conversational bumps.

The other day she said to me:

"I tell my friends that I like you, Madame, because you are happy, laughing and loud...just like me!"

We learn to say each other's names through lots of laughs and mispronunciations. She says mine like "Bet-nee", and it's so endearing I cannot correct it. I'm certain I say "Ee-nigh-uh" wrong, too, but she smiles anyway. She was right. We are both happy, laughing and loud...and I am elated to have a friend for however long I am here.

This experience has revived my childlike heart. Not that it was ever gone, but experiencing an entirely new culture is humbling, like learning to walk and talk all over again....ever dependant on the kindness and understanding of those surrounding you. It resparks the ability to rejoice in little things like seashells, new friends, found kittens and crossing the biggest street here all by myself.

Yep, I crossed the busiest, craziest street. And I wasn't even ashamed when I beamed, telling Gabe all about it. It really is like growing up all over again.

2.10.2012

everything...and more...you wanted to know.

(instagram: wwrinserepeat. from top left to right: minaret at a mosque,
view from our bedroom, roses from Gabe and detail of a mosque)

Hello, friends! I'm on day three here in Kuwait, and here's something I didn't expect to say: I really love it here...it's been an intriguing cultural experience. Truly! So much so that Gabe and I decided we'd be comfortable living here through the year. Unexpected, right? Nothing is in stone, though. Just saying that we're open to the experience, if offered. :)

On to the FAQs:

Do you have to wear a hijab or burka while visiting Kuwait? Nope! Only Muslim women are required to cover their heads and/or body. But as a western woman, you must keep shoulders and knees covered, avoid overly tight clothing...and definitely no baring of cleavage. Basically, dress like you're going to grandma's...be modest.

The ladies here have amazing fashion sense, even if they keep it covered in public. I saw countless women dressed in traditional dark, floor length robes shopping at incredible clothing shops. Also, I've spotted more than a few pairs of sparkly shoes peeking out from under cloaks. :)

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Are you safe? I'm very much safe, especially when I'm home! Four security guards watch our apartment building 24/7. During the day, I'm allowed to roam our little neighborhood alone--apartment buildings, a few restaurants and pharmacies. Oh, and lots of stray cats. We met a very friendly cab driver, Naser, and I can call him if I'd like to be driven to the market or shopping center.

--------------------------
How do locals react to western women? Do they pay much attention to you? They definitely notice westerners!  Lots of men just watch you...all the way down the street. They're simply intrigued and aren't shy about stopping everything to check you out. On my first day here, I went on a short walk--a man popped his head out of a shop to yell after me, "Fantastic! You are very, very fantastic!" And yet, every interaction I've had with local men has been friendly and respectful.

The women are very kind...a few might stare, but not as many as the men. Those I've encountered in social situations--in restaurants, in shops, at the airport--are very friendly. What I've loved thus far is that the women aren't afraid to laugh with me as I try to figure out new things, like ordering food, the way doors lock differently here...or how sinks and hand dryers turn on. They're even kind when I have a hard time understanding conversation, due to my horrible ability to hear through accents other than my own!

In short, as long as you're respectful and dressed appropriately, I cannot imagine having any troubles with the local population. They might stare...I look quite different than the local Kuwaiti, so I get it! It's slightly uncomfortable, but I haven't experienced a sliver of unkindness yet.

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And...are you scared to be there? Not at all...not even for a second. When traveling, I believe there's a difference between being wise and being scared. I'm not scared for my safety, but aware that as a western woman I need to stay alert to my surroundings when alone, and remain extremely conscious of what I say or do.

--------------------------

So, riddle me this, friends: would you ever visit the middle east? I've been surprised by how many readers + friends have said they'd love to, given the chance!

Happy weekend!

2.08.2012

a word about photos.

(from top left: welcome sign after leaving airport, making friends with an alley cat,
our favorite restaurant and the ocean view from our living room)

You know me...I'm a shutterbug in my daily life, especially so when traveling. But here in Kuwait, there are lots of restrictions. So many restrictions that taking my DSLR camera when I go out actually makes me a bit nervous!

Photography of most public areas like museums, parks and malls is prohibited and the same is true of military, government buildings and airports. Complicating this even more? Taking photos which happen to include a local without permission...also prohibited. That means most street photos or architectural photos are out of the question, and breaking these rules can mean getting your camera confiscated or worse.

What I'm saying is this: please bear with me! Don't be surprised if there are lots of vignettes that don't include vast city-scenes, buildings or local faces. My fingers are itching to click that shutter each time I step outside and I want to deliver bucketloads interesting photos...fantastic buildings and beautiful, intriguing people. But mostly, I want to be a respectful tourist. So I keep those itchy fingers in my pocket most of the time. When I do spot something snappable, I've been doing so with my iPhone--it's small and inconspicuous enough to shoot quickly--without being obvious.

In other news, tomorrow will be my first real day out on the town...I'm excited to get a better feel for the culture and society! Over the past few weeks I've naturally been asked lots of questions about my trip like, do you have to wear a hijab? is it safe for women to walk alone? are you scared? what will you eat? and so forth!

I'd love to take Friday to entertain inquiring minds! If you have a question about visiting the Middle East...anything, don't be shy...just drop it in the comments here and I'll answer it on Friday! :)

2.07.2012

a different adventure of sorts.

(instagram: wwrinserepeat or view my photos here)

Someday, I would like to write a book. It's a silly, self-indulgent thought...but it's there and I acknowledge it. One chapter would be titled, "...then I went to Kuwait", and that chapter would be my pride and joy.

There are two types of pride that I've experienced in life. One type follows a dream fulfilled--a heart-bursting, misty-eyed moment you've spent hours imagining--like standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or walking down the aisle towards the love of your life. 

But there's another type of pride that I've experienced only once...at 3am on a tenth floor balcony in Kuwait, with my husband fast asleep down the hall. I was jet-lagged, eating a deliciously soggy egg roll and listening to the ocean waves hit the shore. It was a quiet pride that washed over as I realized I'd just traveled 24 hours to visit the Middle East...something I never thought to dream of, never considered myself gutsy enough to do.

That pride isn't the misty-eyed type...but it's a moment in which you honor life's twists and turns. The way it takes you the scenic way, and suddenly you find your feet on the ground in the most unexpected places, like a breezy balcony in Kuwait.

All that to say: I am here. I am safe, I am very, very jet-lagged...but mostly I am proud of myself.

And that's a phrase I don't often say...so I swear it means something big.

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If you're not an Instagrammer but still want sneak peeks, you can follow along on my Rinse. Repeat. Facebook page...I'll be sharing snippets of my trip in between blog posts!

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