9.28.2012

autumnal.

I'm writing this while sipping chai tea from a moose mug. Yeah, that's right, a moose mug...it's safe to say that I'm back in the northwoods of Wisconsin. ;)

Also, I'm writing this at 3am...which leads me to admit that I haven't quite kicked jetlag's rear as quickly as I hoped. No matter how many times I travel + try to bridge that 8 hr gap and 28 hrs of travel...I always bite the dust on day two. Usually it's in the form of a six hour nap. Don't worry, I honored that tradition today.

But, that hasn't stopped me from embracing all the things I've missed. In 36 hours I've...

...sipped a pumpkin spice latte + several chai lattes. (Both of which aren't available at my Starbucks in Kuwait, so you can imagine my delight.)

...walked our family pup for miles, and hiked through the forest with my mom...stopping at the top to drink teeny bottles of wine.

...open-mouth stared at the crazy cheap groceries (broccoli for $0.78?!) and had lunch at my fave restaurant.

...strolled through my old neighborhood and reminisced in front of my old diggs.

...FaceTimed with my kitten (and husband, too).

...visited Target twice. It was bliss. Somehow I left empty handed, but that's likely due to a J. Crew pillaging trip planned for today. ;)

...and drove for the first time in four months. It was WILD.

I love it. I love, love being home where people smile + say hello as you pass them on the sidewalk. Where doors are held open for the next person or sweet ladies let you cut in the checkout because you only have two items. Although not everyone in my hometown is this kind, it's prevalent enough to say it's quite normal. I call it Wisconsin Nice...Minnesota Nice is totally a thing, too, but neither is intensely kind as Canada Nice. Canadians have it mastered. ;)

This morning I'm road tripping to Chicago for the wedding of my cousin, Courtney. Our guys unknowingly proposed just a few hours apart last June...in different countries...but it was still a crazy coincidence considering we also share a birthday! (What up, June 8th babies!) So I like to think we have a special connection. :)

Anyway, I'm overjoyed to be home for the day she ties the knot. Also pretty stoked for some big city shopping with tolerable American prices.


Hope your Friday is swell, and your weekend is even better. :)



9.25.2012

you can't go home again.




The phrase "you can't go home again" has long mystified me. What do you mean you can't go home again? Of course you can! You just save up, buy a plane ticket, pack your things...wait, wait, wait...get on a plane and then boom! You're home again. Doing all the at-home-things you used to do!

It wasn't until I spent a month vaporizing my life at home, then four months living seven thousand miles away that I realized...ohhh. Yeah. You can't go home again. Physically, yes. You can put your body in that exact same city...maybe even in the home you grew up in. But you can never again recreate the person you were or the exact bubble you lived in before you left. There will always be this nostalgic haze that hangs around the days you can't get back.

My mind is tumbling with complicated, excited and jumbled thoughts as I clumsily, sleepily pack for my midnight flight back home to Wisconsin. There's just one thing that keeps snagging up my excitement over flying back to the US to reunite with family + friends. And here it is:

I am a binge eater. Not the comedic binge eater who calls herself a binge eater because once she ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's after a bad break-up. (Although, yes. Done it.) But a diagnosed, by-the-books binge eater. (More here.) Back home, I had a grasp on it. I was so mindful of what came into my house. When I felt myself losing control, I'd go for a long walk or bike ride... I had a system. And it worked! But here...my new life...I'd liken to putting an alcoholic in a liquor store and asking them to stay sober. I am home, alone, all day. Being in your house, with food ten feet away 24/7 is exhausting. It's a binge-eater's nightmare, and a battle I fight no less than seventeen times a day. And many times I've lost that battle...I've stood there eating boredom, loneliness and homesickness. It's embarrassing to admit that you lack the self-control to walk away from an entire loaf of bread...even when Gabe and I talk about it, I can't help but cover my face and cry hot, humilated tears. Your mind grasps that you shouldn't stand in the kitchen and eat four bowls of oatmeal until your tummy explodes, but something just takes you over. And you do. And then there is shame. So, so much shame that you can't just get your crap together and be normal like everyone else.

And as math and science would have it...I've gained weight. Two pants sizes of weight in four months.

It's silly, but I'm afraid to go back home. Afraid that I don't look the same. Afraid to go shopping or see old friends who will think, "WHOA. Beth got married and reeeallly let herself go. Yikes." And I know. No one I actually respect and love will think that. They know I struggle with deep-rooted causes of this problem....and that I do indeed fight. Instead, the people I love will think, "I can't believe you're home! And you're living the Middle East. WHOA, girl!"

Truly, my logical mind grasps that the opinion of those I love and trust is what really matters. That message is just delayed in getting to tiny part of my mind that controls the vast, chaotic space of my emotions.

So, I've promised myself I'll leave behind the size 6's and 8's that easily slipped over my thighs a few months ago...and along with them the sense that I'm not good enough, simply because my pants read 10 or 12. Instead, I'll pack up my suitcase with the few things that still fit my larger-frame, the smile I rarely cease to wear, and I'll return home again...to the people who have always loved me, regardless of my pants size.

In that way, I suppose, you can always go home again. :)

9.19.2012

dirty little house secret.


I firmly believe that every woman has one corner of her house where she shoves her mess. Sometimes it's a tiny cabinet, if she's lucky it's a large closet.

And if you're me...it's an entire empty bedroom.

(avert thine eyes from the decor crimes committed in this space. or join me in mocking them.)

Case and point: This extra bedroom. Which is not-so-lovingly referred to as "Where Sad Furniture Goes to Die". You see, a metrosexual decorated our furnished apartment...in 1993. And he mistakenly thought he was decorating a nightclub for ladies...but upon discovering he was actually decorating a 3-bedroom apartment for normal people, decided to make it work anyway.

Not really. But this is my best theory. (Dark wood? Oodles of metallic lamps? Padded headboard? Creepy lady wall hangings? *Shiver.*)

I know. The first question probably is, "If you don't like it, why did you choose to rent?"

When we chose this place, we had four days to find an apartment and move in. You can pay a professional to show you a bevy of nice apartments, but it costs a tidy sum. So we skipped that and looked on our own. Honestly, we were counting dollars to make sure we could pay a security deposit + first month's rent....we were in financial crunch mode after two months of unemployment, dealing with this situation, paying off a wedding + keeping up with our mortgage back home. (Newflash: weddings + an international move will wipe out your piggy bank.)


It had been a tense few months, financially.

But thankfully, the manager was kind enough to give us an extra week to pay up. So, we went for this place. It wasn't our style, but was worlds nicer than our first place. Absolutely it's more space (and furniture) than two people need, but the location is super convenient, it has a gym + pool and the view was fantastic.


But once I decided to make this place a home...I knew that the first step was pairing the furniture down by 50%. It was so overfurnished. Step two was ripping down the unforgivable curtains in every room and hiding the scary bed linens.

And that's where this room comes in. It really became stash central last week when I tackled Gabe and my bedroom (photos in the next few days!)...and threw all the leftovers in here.

I'm not proud. But, there it is. ;)

Have you ever lived in a furnished apartment? Did it drive you nuts? Any secrets to dealing with furniture pieces you're stuck with, but not in love with?

 

9.18.2012

making friends.

(my new friend is a jewelry-maker. sweet, right?)

Let me tell you something: Making friends in a foreign country is serious business.

It's not for lack of people, but mostly for lack of transport. Especially when you live 20 minutes outside the city, have 1 car in your household and your husband possesses said car for 60+ hours a week. There's no way Gabe would let me get on a Kuwaiti bus (here's why). He's even iffy about my taking a cab solo (here's why and here's why). On top of all that, I am as low-key as it comes with friendship...I'm pretty content entertaining myself most days and haven't been too stressed about getting social.

But earlier this summer, a friendly midwestern newlywed (like myself) named Rachel emailed to say she was moving to Kuwait with her husband and had stumbled across my blog. We excitedly planned to meet up for a shopping trip or coffee once she got settled in. Last month she arrived and dropped an email to say "let's meet up soon!". I explained where I lived + sent her a map as it's tricky to find residential addresses here. She quickly emailed back the same map with a big arrow pointing to the building next to mine...

...turns out she lives next door. WHAT! We wigged out. Crazy perfect, considering we're in city of several million and hadn't even chatted about where I lived or where they were apartment-hunting.

It also turns out that Rachel is a crafty gal with an eye for repurposing jewelry pieces into really sweet, wearable new things! She's even starting an online shop, Fayeth, and gifted me three of her pieces when we met up (two pictured above). They're absolutely adorable...the headband is so pretty I often leave it sitting on my dresser just so I can watch it sparkle. :)

She's working on building her online shop, Fayeth, so be sure to check that as it grows. But for now you can get your paws on her handcrafted treasures at these two brick + mortar shops:

Stix and Roses
3854 W. Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60618
 
122 W Main Street
State Center, IA 50247

No pun intended, but this jewelry designer is a gem. Having a her next door is fantastic ...someone who's up for little neighborhood adventures or cool with just lounging around the house...and it feels a bit safer knowing a friendly face is literally just steps away. Last night we booked in-home manis + pedis and spent the evening gabbing with two hilarious nail techs from the Philippines. So much fun. It's one of those good, casual, real-life friendships free of any need to put on airs...as evidenced by the fact that she often stops by and I proclaim,

"Hey! Uh, I haven't showered. Or done anything productive. But come on in! Look how cute Lucky is today!"
 
Ah. Now isn't that the sign of true friendship? ;)
 

9.17.2012

i believe in...


(only my friend shannon would own scissors this cute. taken in april, on a trip to philly.)

Remember back when I used to do these little Monday posts...a lists of silly, serious or random things I believe in? Just a Monday kickstart of sorts. My friend Mary tweeted me today, saying she missed my "I believe in Monday" posts. Gabe always tells me he misses them, too.

I suppose I miss them as well. So, here we go:

I believe in...

...fall. Even if it's 109 degrees in Kuwait--and life looks more "sandstorm" than "enchanted autumnal forest"--it is still fall to me. And I still have an overwhelming desire to buy boots, scarves and mittens.

...turning off all "push notifications" on my phone. And most location services....creepy!

...yoga pants. If this period of my life were made into a cartoon, my character would be wearing yoga pants. And a stolen t-shirt from Gabe + a sports bra. And let's get real: it's not because I'm headed to the gym, most days.

...letting Lucky share our bed. (Kids, no. Pets, yes.) Waking up to a little beast, snuggled in my arm crook? I die.

(love the nooks + crannies at swanton berryfarm. taken in march, in santa cruz.)

...counting down the days to everything. Seven days til Gabe turns 36. Nine days til I'm on a flight back to visit the US. Twenty-two days til I meet my best friend's baby boy, and celebrate her birthday.

...drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte the second my plane lands in the US next week.

...getting back on the blog horse, even though I've been the worst for the past few months. I try not to write unless I feel I have something to say, and then try not to apologize if it's sporadic. I'll continue to do that. We all follow oodles of blogs, and don't need someone blathering on just because she feels she has to meet a quota. Trust me, I want to say things. There's just less to say here. Or maybe I have to figure out what to say. Or how to say it. Something. Regardless, there's some figuring out to do.

So, yeah. I believe in all that.

What do you believe in today?

Happy Monday, pals. Hope it's swell. :)

9.14.2012

kuwait in threes.

 

Last week, Gabe and I were out to lunch when I noticed a couple sitting awfully close. I perked up and urgently whispered to Gabe,

"Oh my lands. Don't look now, but the couple behind you is getting SO SAUCY. And I don't even think they're married. Oh lord! He's nuzzling her hair! Her hand is on his thigh...IN PUBLIC!"

I. Was. Scandalized. My verbal play-by-play of their affection continued while we finished our lunch. At this point I realized had this little tête-à-tête occured in the US, I'd never notice. But here...it was dinging my Scandal Radar something fierce.

And therefore...at the end of Expathood: Month Three I'll proudly claim to have adjusted to the social norms in this country. Not assimilated, but certainly adjusted.

So, here's a little insight into my first three months, in three sets of three. Cause why not? :)
 
-----------------------------------------------

three things i've learned

one: With all that is going on in the Middle East this week, I feel I can't state this enough: the people here are peaceful. They're either interested or completely indifferent to our existence. It's so easy to make snap judgements about a culture thousands of miles away, based solely on what the media plays out. But please believe me when I say that what you read + see on TV is the exception rather than the rule. We are safe. We are respected. For that I'm so thankful.

And we have the utmost respect for those around us...even if they worship another higher power or live by another set of social rules than what we know...we respect their choices.

two: We have maids, and they will happily wash our dishes if I tip them. This discovery is both powerful and dangerous. I try my best not to use this knowledge for evil. ;)

three: The Kuwaiti Dinar is currently the strongest currency in the world. ($3.60 US dollars = 1 Kuwaiti Dinar) This is why I faint nearly every time we go shopping as I calculate cost conversions in my head. $13 for a head of broccoli, $14 for the amount of soy milk we'd pay $4 for back in the US...or $120 for an IKEA item that's $80 back home. It's add ups FAST. And it's certainly eye-opening.

I will never, ever complain about US prices.



three things i've loved

one: Unexpected camel sightings! There are beautiful, rare moments in which all the menial, dull or inconvenient experiences here are washed away when I realize I'm doing something no one would have ever expected. Not even me. Camels and melodic calls to prayer always bring on that caliber of joy.

two: Ocean view from our bedroom, office and living room. Ocean view, Gulf view. Whatever you want to call it...how I lived for years without an ocean view and access to innumerable sea shells is beyond me. Every morning between 4am and 5am, Lucky + I wake up to watch the sun rise over the rippled water. It's pink and orange and watery blue. Every color of lovely.

three: Holy canoli, girls. The shopping options can make this smalltown gal's head spin. From Forever 21 to Kate Spade...from IKEA to Pottery Barn to ZARA Home...you can shop your tush off.



three things i've missed

one: I miss ease. It's a complex thing to miss, or even explain, but for example: I miss waking up and getting dressed in 15 minutes without stressing about offending someone. I miss having my own car, and easily getting from point A to point B. I miss buying new bedding without having to perform mathematical contortions to decipher what size our bed is: US King? UK King? Middle Eastern King? Is that size in cm or inches?

two: I miss rain and flowers and chilly, dewy mornings. And estate sales and farmer's markets and bumping into friends at the grocery store. You could say I most miss the style of American charm I've known for 26 years.

three: I miss Target. There, I said it. Of everything my home country has to offer....I miss the Big Red Dot.

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

Whoever said, "It's the little things" was no liar. It is indeed the little things I enjoy here, and the little things I miss most. :)
 
Happy weekend, friends.


9.05.2012

thoughts while jazzing up a planter.

(not a fancy diy here, but this is what the planter used to look like)

Sometimes in a world of Pinterest and visual perfection, it's easy to give up when you're not in the perfect situation. You don't have the right room to decorate, the right body to dress, the right location to access cute things. Why try, right?

Until this week, I had not crafted anything in months...since before my move to Kuwait. I rarely even used Pinterest and I unsubscribed from a ton of cute decor blogs. They just made me feel sad about my drastic change of lifestyle. Because I'm an all or nothing girl. And if I can't make life "all" and perfect, then I'm all about "nothing". For the past few months, I was just stuck. Stuck in "nothing"...a place where I fit in neither here in Kuwait or there, in my old life. (More here.)

Life just isn't that cute or creatively easy anymore. Heck, finding a needle + thread here took trips to multiple stores! I've learned that carrying on with who you are takes a lot more work in a culture so unlike your own, in a place so far from home.

For example, our new home. Our apartment isn't exactly adorable. It's large + livable, and much cleaner than our first place in Kuwait...but it's no inspiring vintage home with hardwood floors and a beautiful porch. (I miss you, old home!) There's some cray swirly mural painting all over the living room, the curtains are from an 80's tasseled nightmare and let's not talk about the furniture. Oh, and there's a whole lot of checkerboard floors. (I'll show you a photo someday.) 

But there's an incredible beach view + a Starbucks in the basement...so that covers a multitude of sins.

Anyway, what I really want to say is...regardless of all that...I finally feel the desire to try. To try to be happy here, to make this place my own. Maybe it's Lucky or maybe my recent trip. Maybe because I finally made a good friend, a crafty Midwestern 20-something much like me, and I feel less alone. Or maybe it was just the passing of time. Growing tired of carrying sadness over all this presumed "perfect" I left behind, to come to this bumpy journey of imperfection.

But, life is imperfect...not just for me...for everyone no matter how it looks from the outside. Sometimes more imperfect, sometimes less. Right now, life just is more imperfect than it once was. But I refuse to make this year or two years a blank white wall...where I cease to exist creatively...simply because my circumstances aren't as easy as they once were. Paint, fabric and making my home feel personal brings me joy. It has since I was a 12 year old girl, painting her bedroom at midnight. Giving that up is such a cop-out. It's just a pathetic fear of not being good enough, fear of having to work harder at something than I used to...and that's a lame excuse. 

All that to say, I painted a planter and tied some ribbons around it. Not exciting. Not epic. Not pin-worthy. It wasn't much, but in the smallest way, this little planter was my first effort. The first piece of old "me" that meshed with the new "me"...a girl who's ready to make a temporary, but cute, home in Kuwait.

And I'm happy about it.
 

9.04.2012

rome: the end. (finally.)


I love traveling. I love it. But I'm the worst at sitting down right away to filter through photos and write about my trip. Maybe because it's so fresh, it's overwhelming? Who knows. But then, when I do try to write about a visit, it gets so wildly lengthy that I can't help but think,

"No one is going to read this, Beth. People just want PHOTOS. Shut your mouth up and post some cute photos."

So, incase I haven't already convinced you to visit Rome...I'm just going to bombard you with this final, photo-heavy post...with a little text in between. Feel free to skip the text. Just consider this one last plea to take a trip to Italy as soon as your budget allows. ;)

 
For reference, I hung out within this beautiful triangle of space which enveloped Piazza del Popolo, Fountain de Trevi, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, so most of these photos are from wandering in that area...with a sidestep over to the Vatican. I did visit the Roman ruins and the Colosseum...the famous spots, but this area was what I truly enjoyed most of all.


Full disclosure, I took mostly iPhone photos on this trip. Not my usual travel groove, but I was traveling alone. Most days I walked 6-7 miles in beasty heat and humidity! By day three, toting a DSLR with an extra lens, plus normal purse contents had given me serious purse arm. And, the streets are packed...even after dark. It makes stopping to pull out your camera, adjust your settings less than easy. Since I was alone and often walking home after sunset, I opted for comfort and safety.

So, I only took my DSLR out on shorter trips, less busy day trips. Because sometimes you just need to enjoy yourself.

 
The Vatican (above) is...amazing. Unfortunately you cannot take photos in the Sistine Chapel, and the place is crazy full of people. Oh, and it's boiling-lava-hot inside. But definitely worth a trip. Just be sure to buy tickets in advance, otherwise you risk standing in line (in the elements) for an hour or more!
 
 
Every day I walked past this adorable bookstore that was packed to the ceiling. Literally. An old gentleman sat inside, often talking to someone on the phone. So I'd pause, page through the stacks of books and listen to him speak in Italian.

 
Sidewalk cafes are around every, single corner. Perhaps this is why I loved Rome so much. An opportunity to eat every 10 feet? Why not! In the busier areas, there were often men whose only job was to lure you into their cafe, shouting at every passerby:
"Bella! Miss! Stop and eat! I'll give you a very nice table!"
 
 
Since I'm not a fancy foodie, I often chose my lunch and dinner cafe by whomever said the funniest, sweetest or most interesting line as I passed. Yeah. I'm a sucker like that. ;)
 
 
There is so much shopping to do. I window-shopped, as I didn't have space or cash for anything extravagant. But the finest stores line these streets...some even guarded by buff Italian men. I kept my distance from those, but did come close enough to snap a few photos of lustable Miu Miu shoes + coats.
 
 
Most streets genuinely DO look like the above photo. Charm and creeping ivy are around every single corner. At night, the sidestreets stay quite busy...some are guarded by police, too, so I felt pretty safe wandering about!

 
 
Trevi Fountain was perhaps the most busy area of Rome I encountered. It took me five minutes to get close enough to the water to toss in a penny + make a wish! But it's very worthy of a stop. The streets nearby are lined with vendors selling Roman Holiday posters and all kinds of trinkets. It's a wonderful area in which to find yourself lost. Oodles of restaurants offer outdoor tables here...it's a fabulous people-watching location! :)
 
 
And finally, a word to my single ladies: Go to Rome. Go. Since I was eating alone, a few charming waiters brought me lemoncello + wine on the house...then hung around to chat. One waiter offered to take me dancing after his shift ended. (Obviously I declined. My friend, Lauren, was right...wedding rings just seem to be an invitation for Italian men to try harder!) On my final night in Rome, I was eating solo in Piazza Navona when a guy on a bike stopped to ask if I'd like company. I'd read that this happens frequently if you eat alone...so I politely, and yet awkwardly, told him I was married, but he was welcome to pull up a chair + chat. He laughed, and did anyway. Turns out he was an American expat, living in Italy for five years. So, we had fun discussing the perils + tribulations of expat-hood!

No funny business. Totally respectable, just friendly. Swear on a stack of Domino Magazines. But, after a week of talking to myself, it was so nice to have a conversation with a stranger!

From my experience...the people are so, so nice. The men were flirty...but not sleezy. If you're single, your chances for meeting an Italian heartthrob are pretty high. Just be smart + keep your wits about you!

And that, my friends...was Rome. :)

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