Life

The snake plant has a story. When I was visiting my mom last summer, I wanted to bring home one of the plant’s “babies” but couldn’t figure out how I’d keep it alive in the ~30 hours of my journey home (or how to not get caught and potentially in trouble for bringing a plant overseas). So I’ve sort of been searching for one for a while here, and yesterday, I finally found some at a nursery – but the guy wanted close to $50 for one plant. And he wouldn’t bargain and wasn’t particularly nice. I went to a couple other nurseries on the same road and found a place with one lonely snake plant left and got it for $10. Mission accomplished.

The tenants renting our old apartment downstairs moved out this week, and since it’s largely furnished and decorated with our personal things, I took this as an opportunity to reclaim some textiles and switch things up a bit. I was missing my kilim pillows and rugs from Egypt.

I also added two new plants to the bedroom, and they make me so happy every time I see them that they deserved a photo shoot.

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Life

We’ve been on an epic Eid al-Adha staycation for about the last nine days, and it has been so perfect. At first, part of me couldn’t help but think of all the places we could have run away to in Asia for nine days, but ticket prices put me off traveling anywhere (the equivalent of trying to travel the day before Thanksgiving in the US). Plus I hadn’t had a day off in about two months, so staying in was just what I needed. Layth and I marathon watched Narcos and munched on sweet potato fries and sambousak. I actually cleaned our house. And I am very nearly done with redecorating the upstairs flat, after reupholstering a couch and two armchairs, plus many trips to Ikea and many hours cleaning, carrying out old furniture, and hemming curtains. Continue Reading

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So, in addition to my job as a journalist that takes me to hospitals on the Syrian border and southern Jordan to meet with tribal leaders, I also apparently moonlight as a chair reupholsterer.

I’ve just finished my third and biggest project so far, a sofa, removing the sad, old floral fabric and finding its inner glam with teal velvet.

I took inspiration from this midcentury couch from West Elm, but being priced at $1300 originally, and the fact that there’s no West Elm in Jordan, I decided to emulate it.

For this couch, I bought 16 meters of fabric at 4JD/m, total 64 JD ($90 US)
Paying the tailor to sew new cushion covers: 50 JD ($70 US)
So a total cost of about $160 plus some elbow grease and tools I already had to transform an old couch.

Obviously this one is a two-cushion couch and the arms are styled a bit differently, but the color is pretty dead on and I think it looks great. Plus I even picked up some nesting coffee tables from Ikea that are pretty similar to the one in the West Elm photo.

This is all going in the flat above ours, which we’ll hopefully be renting out soon. So, tragically, I will not be enjoying this couch personally, but I am jealous of whoever gets to curl up on it in the winter in Amman.

I also reupholstered this beast of a wingback chair, which originally had red and gold fabric on it that just made me think of Gryffindor house from Harry Potter, and now I have to do the same to its mate so there will be a pair of them.

More pictures TK once the apartment is all set up and looking pretty.

Life, Middle East

Amman house tour, part 2: somewhat less in-progress! Goodbye green wall, hello artwork and more decor.

Sharing because 1) I want to persuade more friends to come visit me, 2) my mom arrives on Sunday and I’m a little excited to play hostess/tour guide in Jordan, and 3) I’ve never had a house that looks even remotely put-together, so this still freaks me out a little.

Since last time, we got a new balcony table (seen in the first picture through the window, although it’s covered with a table cloth), hung a whole lot of pictures, painted some walls, added some shelves/storage, rearranged some things (especially the office – rotated the desk, moved the chair and ditched the old cabinets), replaced our shower heads (the guest bath just didn’t have one), and got the guest bathroom ready to use – shower curtain, rugs, storage, all that.

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Since we had our first dinner gathering last night and our house is pretty much guest-ready, I figure it’s time for a virtual house tour. Plus, it feels like all my awkward adolescent years spent watching HGTV (when I thought I could be an interior designer) have been leading up to this moment.

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Living room before & after. I think the only thing we kept is the little white lamp on the table (now in the kitchen), and the coffee/side tables,which we want to replace eventually. Next task is to get some art on the big blank wall and probably paint the green wall a different color. We got the new couch, curtains, and floor lamp from Ikea. Carpet is from Kashmir by way of Sri Lanka. Pillows are from Jordan and Turkey.

It’s taken us several months to get the house looking like this – while the house was fully furnished, and we kept some of the big things like the bedroom sets and a lot of appliances and accessories that were in the kitchen – we replaced a lot of furniture and most of the decor. So that meant slowly moving furniture out of this apartment and into another, or deciding what to donate/sell, and slowly buying furniture as we were able to afford it. I bought a chaise longue that was crazy on sale when a store was closing down. And with my first paycheck here I bought the kitchen table and chairs.

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Usually, this meant me and Layth’s mom sneaking over here during the day after she had brought grandpa to a relative’s house, or while he was taking a nap, so that we could redecorate without him “supervising.” But one day we did come home – before we had fully moved in – to find him standing in our living room, upset and confused about why we had moved the furniture. What to say? He’s 95 but still not used to slowing down – he’s used to running a hospital with hundreds of employees, having a busy social life and a big family around him. It’s difficult and it makes me feel guilty about changing things – especially since everything was in good condition, just either felt way too formal for us, or outdated – but ultimately we’re the ones who will be living here every day, so we might as well like it.

The house is still a work in progress, and maybe not ready for prime-time yet, but it’s definitely starting to feel more cozy as we settle into a routine here and start getting art on the walls.

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Master bedroom before and after: We switched the bedroom furniture with the guest room (sorry guests! this one was just more to our taste. I promise the other bed is comfy too.) Curtains are Ikea, the bed cover and sheets are Vera Wang and Bloomingdales (purchased at an outlet shop in Swefieh), and we added some more of our own carpets.

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The bathroom’s not much different, but we did change the shower curtain and bathroom rug, and we added a corner storage unit and a new medicine cabinet, replacing the little mirror that was above the sink before (all from Ikea).

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The guest room! It has a queen-sized bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a big wardrobe for clothes or extra storage space. Other than moving this bedroom set from our room and removing some of the extra accessories that we didn’t want to keep, this is pretty much the same as before. I would’ve liked to change the curtains in this room (they’re the same blue drapes as in the “before” photos) – but judging by Layth’s grandfather’s reaction to us changing the curtains in our room (”but the blue color is nice! but they are good material! why don’t you like them? why did you spend money?!”) Changing these curtains will have to wait a little while.

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The office, before & after: AKA, my new favorite room in the house. We got rid of that bizarre desk and moved in the desk and shelf unit Layth had in his old place (from Ikea, per usual). There’s also a comfy chaise longue next to the window, and a TV. There’s still some bulky cabinets on the left wall, but once we figure out what to do with them we might move things around a little in here.

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Sadly, this made me realize that I have only four physical books with me in Amman – and most of them are language-learning books. Granted, I have at least 60 books on my Kindle, but I do miss my books back in the US, especially photography books and poetry, things that don’t translate well on a Kindle.

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Life, Middle East

We’ve been hard at work redecorating the new house and the kitchen is starting to look quite nice, if I do say so myself. As I’ve mentioned before, this is probably the second-biggest kitchen I’ve ever seen (the biggest is downstairs in Layth’s grandpa’s apartment). We’re lucky to have a home we can grow into together, and we’re lucky it already had a lot of furnishings and accessories that we didn’t have to go out and buy. But it also had some pretty interesting curtain choices (I think chosen by Layth’s grandmother, Allah yer7amha), and the chairs in the top picture remind me of a Tim Burton animated movie for some reason. A new dining table set, new curtains, and moving the refrigerator went a long way (it’s now closer to the stove at the other end, which makes more sense for cooking, and having the table next to the window makes it nice to look outside).

The rest of the kitchen doesn’t look that much different, with the addition of some new potholders and my orange tea kettle. Adding a little Bonsai tree, a little lamp in the corner (Ikea, confiscated from another room), and a couple carpets (from Egypt and Ikea) just makes it a little more homey. I’m hoping to find another large carpet when we’re in Sri Lanka next month, too. Now to move in our fridge magnet collection…