Saturday, April 30, 2016

THE HOUSE: My 1.5 omr DIY for a 3.0 omr chandelier makeover for a little girl's bedroom

Can you believe this DIY chandelier only cost me 3.700 omr per piece (including chandelier, and paint)
One thing that I love to do is make-over furniture. I have a "secret" favorite used store.  I won't share where it is, because then, well, I'd miss the deals. However, my other sources include perusing the Dubizzle (Oman), visiting Dar Al Attaa's charity shop in Ruwi (near the Fatima grocery store place), and yes, going for walks and taking things from dumpsters. I have found some pretty awesome things in dumpsters. People are always throwing away chairs with broken or stained seats (so easy to fix! or re-upholster), and room dividers with rotten bases (easy to fix).... In my home country I was more of an "Antiques Store" and "Auction House" visiting kind of girl, but in Oman, I make do with what I can.

My Omani husband occasionally finds this disgusting as things people are getting rid of often do contain many gross things you have to look out for: bed bugs, cockroaches, wood rot, mould, etc.... However, I have sprays that I have invented for killing bed bugs (cockroaches I still got nothing but professional gassing---but Sunsilk shampoo does seem to kill their eggs in fabrics----reason I will never ever use that stuff in my hair), and for treating woods against rot, and for cleaning up mould. I'll write a post about that one of these days maybe? I dunno.

However, he is all good with the Dar Al Attaa charity shop (even though he appears to be allergic to it!!!!) where we got the lighting pieces for my daughter's bedroom.

For our new house, my budget is now finished. So that means, lots of DIY projects. Like, for example, lighting. I have no budget for lighting. I bought some chandeliers from China, but other than those, and my kitchen lights, everything has to be from Oman. One project I mentioned working on was my daughter's room chandeliers? I still have to do the wall lights, but I picked up two chandeliers at Dar Al Atta for 3 omr per chandelier. That means only 6 omr+ two cans of white spray paint (500 bz per can so add 1 omr) and 1 can of gold spray paint (+.500 bz) and add some hand-painted pink flowers (I have more than a few sets of acrylic and oil paint sets for painting etc. which I normally buy from anywhere to 2 omr to 5 omr per set---either from the bookshop near Dan Hypermarket in Al Khoud or Ramez in Seeb). So the total cost of the chandeliers will be 7.500 OMR + the wall lights which were 1.9 omr each (and I am using the leftover spray-paint on them).

So daughter's bedroom lighting, a total cost of 11.3 OMR. Not bad.

When I have money I'll do something prettier;).
They were pretty easy to do.

1.) remove glass lamp
2.) wrap wires with cut up plastic from garbage bags, and tie with painter's tape (or masking tape if you have patience to take masking tape off of projects [construction materials stores here in Muscat seem to think masking tape IS painter's tape but there are huge differences---I get painters tape at Ramez or Lulu)].
3.) I hung the chandeliers from an outdoor laundry line. Then I did all over white spray paint first. 2 coats.
4.) Then I hand-painted the flowers pink. When dry...
5.) I recovered all the parts I didn't want to paint with garbage bag plastic and tied to secure with tape.
6.) I spray painted then with gold. It didn't need 2 coats but if it did I would have done.
7.) After drying, I unwrapped the plastic and tape and reassembled.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

HOUSE UPDATE: an ever growing to-do list

The House to do list:
(done) front entry stairs
(........) front wall
(done) paint for two rooms
(done) gyps completion
(dunno---half done?) handrails installed
(........) granite installation+hob+kitchen sink
(........started at least) exterior trim painting
(almost!) electricity hook-up
(..........) water hook up
(........) exterior wall painting
(in progress) lighting installation
(done) hot water tanks installation
(.......) gravel the drive
(......) AC purchase and installation
(......) bathroom mirrors and shelving and odds and ends installed
(.....) kitchen floating shelves installed
(.....) curtains hung
(.....) TV installation and satellite

..... It seems like whenever I turn around I am adding something to the list of something to buy, deliver, install, and check over. Ughhhh!!!!!

At least now I have a front door, and front stairs. However, I am missing around 40 lights that I already bought. That's annoying. I did find an extra door however;). And the missing door handles for all the villas' front doors. Makes sense to pack them in a box for shower fixtures right? But whatever....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why I miss my veil ('niqab' in Muslim-speak) in Muscat, and when and why I don't

Sometimes I miss wearing my face veil (we Muslims call it a "niqab"---not a burka/burqa, thanks) in Muscat.

Living in an Arab Muslim country, purely religious things take on cultural meanings and lose their religious, and prejudice against niqab is the same here in Oman as it is in Western country almost. I can't wear it for work in most places, I was asked to take a photo of a woman wearing niqab off of my profile picture on my email (because it scares people and makes them think of ISIS/DAEESH) for work, some people assume it is related to tribal/regional associations of a woman's honour (i.e. her father or husband makes her wear it or it identifies her to be from a certain tribe or area and thus have a limited educational or aspirational background etc), some dudes think any woman who walks alone without a male chaperone while wearing niqab is hiding her identity to be able to like, date them or something (sooooooooooooooo annoying!!!!!).

Religious people, also, just as annoying. Gotta wear niqab a certain way to be doing so for religious purposes (i.e. can't wear flower crowns or pins or maybe even colours for your niqab).

However, it is safer to wear it here. Besides creepy loser guys. I mean no one calls you terrorist, throws stuff at you, harasses you for blocks shouting profanities at you or threatening to hurt you if you don't take it off.

I know. I've worn (and not worn) niqab in both a Western country, and here in Oman.
Canadian niqab-wearing chick? That picture above is sooooo me;). Niqab in Canada had extra benefits it doesn't have here (opposed to the detriments of affecting personal safety at at times.

a. in super cold weather, trust me niqab was AWESOME. EVEN cheap, crap quality niqabs that would kill you over a Muscat summer.
 b. If you were a native American, when people told you to move back to Saudi Arabia (because they see your niqab) you have the best retort ever.
 c. prejudiced people make themselves known to you right away. Without a niqab, trust me, you can't see how bigoted and two-faced a lot of supposedly liberal people are.
 d. you could make extremist weirdo Muslims super mad just by wearing a brooch pinned to your veil, or by wearing something pink. That was always awesome. I like to make ignorant crappy "religious" people "who can't read good" annoyed, my denomination, yours, it's all good;).

e. Some of the most awesome women's self defense class instructors in Canada wore niqab, and it was always such a killer to see the faces of women when their coach put on her niqab on as we all left the gym.
f. the most kind, selfless, generous, educated, informed, cool, and OUTSPOKEN Muslim women I knew were often niqabis from U.K., France, or Canada. They did kick-boxing, spoke back to sexist religious clerics, wrote newspapers, fought for human rights, surfed, ice-skated, show-jumped, skate-boarded, and were artists. People always expected so little from them, but look what they were despite. They were women I wanted to be like. Strong. Confident. Educated. Brave. Smart. Funny. Silly.

g. the creepy loser stalkers don't actually know who you are when you are wearing niqab, so when you like, dent their car when you happen to kick it, it is really hard for the police to find you after;) just saying....

h. Wearing niqab means I can wear the darkest red lipstick in the world without anyone thinking I am trying get attention from some dude or make another woman feel insecure or whatever loser thing they think that I wear lipstick for. I just happen to like me some lipstick a lot, and with niqab can enjoy it in peace without any controversy. I can also wear blue lipstick and you'd never know.

j. Religious reasons of course.  It means my actions have to speak louder than my appearance, and that my words have to be clearer, wiser, more grounded, educated, and patient. In other words, niqab holds the power to make me, a generally angry, inpatient, prone to cursing, person, a better person. Who considers all aspects of themselves reflected before the world, but first, to the inspection of one's own ideals. ...Some people might see it is as barrier to the world, but the only barrier it ever was for me, was a barrier for shooting out imperfectly formed words strung together haphazardly, a soft reminder that my movements require a cooling rationality to guide the passions underlying them.

...I don't wear it anymore for a variety of reasons... I am perhaps not as religiously focused as I was say four to five years ago. I feel stupid taking it on and off for work. In Oman I get loser dudes following me when I wear it but walk alone etc... People think my husband makes me wear it, or that I am from a tribe, nation, family, religious sect, that I am not.  I also don't like seeing women pressured to wear it. Women who don't like it, believe in it, or understand it. As much as I don't like people thinking I am a woman that anyone could force anything upon, I don't like seeing women forced.
It is like icecream.... I love icecream...but not everybody does. Would you force spoon icecream down somebody's throat? No. Nor would you think someone who happens to like icecream is crazy or oppressed either.  Why can't the world let religious dress be like a  dessert preference? Let religious dress be the extra wonderful thing to dress the meal and each to his or her own--- it isn't the whole of the meal, and it isn't like a meal isn't still a meal if someone skips out on dessert, right.?;).

The meal only fails to be a meal when you skip the meal altogether, and just choose your own dessert.

...A thing to remember;).

Monday, April 18, 2016

House Update: Will we finish by the end of this month or no?

So, the kitchens are installed (granite will come.... inshaAllah... at the end of the week). All doors and windows are in, finally. The stairs and halls are painted.

...The dark English racing green I chose for my own home is scaring Omani in-laws because they don't understand the concept of art on the walls, and deeply layered masculine spaces. Villa #1's neutral palette, however, is pleasing everyone. They love the grey-ish beiges, the white trims, the white doors (do you know how hard it is to sell Omanis on white doors in general if they are not doing a modern 100% glossy home?). But a white door will brighten a home over a wood door if light and airy is what one truly desires.
The rest of my house is so bloody light and feminine I had to do something much more Victorian-girl for myself. A dark green was my solution. While I'd love portrait-gallery worthy red, I don't think anyone but me would ever accept such a space.  My hall lights are brass. My stair railing is brass (it was supposed to be black wrought iron but whatever, I am trying to be flexible and not freak out on every single person working for us every day). Still, despite showing them concepts of, say, Ralph Lauren stores and restaurants where the same colour scheme is used (without windows might I add), I showed my man my paint chip, and he was like, "ugh that's dark it's going to be so dark".
...My husband, however, has been sold on the idea because I told him I will allow him to purchase more antique rifles if he agrees to hang them on the walls in the hall;). If he can have rifles that may not even shoot anymore, I can have my paint. Since seeing it however, he loves it. He gets what I mean, with the white trim, and eventual art and like, even beduoin textiles and swords and stuff we can hang. Thank goodness he's traveled to, like country houses in Ireland, and seen a castle in France, to get what I mean in terms of possibilities. It IS dark, but it is meant to HIGHLIGHT other stuff.
...All bedrooms except for one (I have to buy the paint today---a dark-ish gold-ish neutral I am thinking of) are painted. The living room in villa 2 is supposed to get its gyps finished today (inshaallah) and THEN it can be painted.Villa #1's gyps needs to be clad in decorative stone. Today, tomorrow, by the end of the week...

...I fired my last gyps guy. He was a screw up every hour or so, and soooooooooo impossibly slow at fixing mistakes that I freaked out over an unrelated Baladiyia/Muscat Municipalities issue regarding the front wall height requirements/electricity box/gate(s). I literally broke down into tears in my office. A neighboring professor tried to cheer me up by asking me about 300 year old English novels. So.... new gyps company is supposed to finish today. Old gyps company still had work to finish that we already paid for in villa 1 and they are almost done (they screwed up there too, but again, trying to finish on time, we said we could live with it).

... The Baladiyia/Muscat Municipalities issue regarding the front wall height requirements/electricity box/gate(s) is driving me insane. First, they are like, you need your floorplan to fit a car inside the wall of your home. Thus a gate. So we make pillars to support a gate (at the right height and width to accommodate the required flood height for the electric box etc.. Then they are like, you can close the wall, and park outside (its cheaper technically then getting a gate). But of course, then I need to use my yard gate, as a front house gate, and we already put the pillars, and the poor engineer has to either knock two down, or or make two more, to put the smaller entry gate and not have it look ugly (ugly will make me freak out). -

---Also the gas piping. Will we or will we not get a fine from the ROP for painting it? No one knows really. I can't see the ROP driving around fining people for painting gas piping, but however, for safety reasons, can't I just tag it (same colour and written warning) and still paint it? So it looks less ghastly but still, should someone want to cut it for some reason, they won't blow themselves up, since they'll see the warning and coloured gas designation tape on different points???? And If I sell it, I can paint it back the ghastly colour just in case the new owners aren't as caring about not blowing up their hired help as I think that I am? That is a story to-be-continued.

Also windows and doors company apparently will start to fix my stairs railing as soon as the paint is dry. They are a Mabaila company and good so far. Last company (Al Hail) never did anything but took our money. The owner (Omani) is trying to pay back clients since his actual workers (Turkish) were only giving him a percentage and were taking the rest (common business practice in Oman) but they never did any of the work they took (large) deposits on, and have since run away to Turkey with the money that the Omani owner is now struggling to pay back. I feel bad for the owner, but I don't think you should own a business you don't have a hand in running. I am still mad we're about a month late just because of windows fixing. Also dealing with consumer protection is always an extra effort. At least it's there....

So to do... front entry stairs, front wall (?), paint for two rooms, gyps completion (today inshaAllah), granite installation+hob+kitchen sink by the end of this week, paint trims, paint exterior wall, install lighting, get water and electricity hook-up...gravel the drive... I THINK that is it... not sure. But I think so. Plus hang a lot of stuff (shelves, racks, mirrors, TVs, ACs). Can we finish by the end of this month? .

...Knowing Oman I sorely doubt it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

DIY projects for decorating (and fashion) using tassels

I have always been a huge fan of embroidered thread tassels trimming the edges of towels.... I admit, I have yet to purchase such a set of towels, or make a set for myself in a DIY project... but you never know... one day. They remind me of the middle east, and especially Morocco...
Another look I love is tassels tied to keys... I plan to do this soon. Oman has so many charming tassels in stores for trims where they also more popularly sell abaya crystals and laces and what not... so even for small boxes like a jewelry box or a locking dresser, there is a tassel for the key. I am still looking for the perfect tiny tassel for our tea box...
Extra large chunky yarn tassels look great on blankets and throws, and even on rugs... Again, not a DIY project I have personally done but I've seen this DIY done by others and done well.
 So, tassels for towels...
Tassels for blankets and rugs... Below, a few guides on how to make your own basic tassels (they are so easy!!!!!):
 Tassels to tie towels... (that is something I should try):
 Tassels to trim a shower curtain... why not? It looks kind of like an OPNO girl DIY project;).
 Tassels for no reason whatsoever, hanging from hinges...
 Zara pom pom edged towels (they have the same in tassels but I didn't find a picture!):
...A DIY I have done, albeit using a grey striped linen pillows, with black and maroon yarn tassels for a bedu look, is the tassel edged pillow, perfect for beginner tassel makers. Apparently this is the most pinned tassel project on pinterest;)... I bet because it is sooooo easy.

There are also a million tutorials on how to make tassel necklaces and earrings!
And maybe if you have edged an exorbitant amount of throws or blankets with tassels you might want a tassel be-decked basket to stow them in? I dunno, if you have a cat though say goodbye to that basket ever so quick....
 Myself, I need to do DIY project on a pair of sandals, using some tassels.
Or an abaya, inspired by these dresses:
Though this top is just so sophisticated and gorgeous... wear it with wide legged linen trousers for Oman, and a leather skirt for Paris;):

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Personal Post: Dreams for Plans

Life has been pretty intense recently. In two weeks I have written 20, 000 words, read over 30, 000 pages, edited two papers, sanded, painted, and primed a kitchen table, spray-painted two chandeliers, filled several muslin bags with dried lavender to hang in the closet with hangers for scenting clothes and to fold between linens, and managed to hand wash 6-7 loads of laundry a week...
...cooked (almost) 2 course meals a day, and somehow managed to mind two children under five from destroying our house, my sanity, and each other (they still like me and hug me and want to hang out with me so I must be doing okay). I have also not collapsed too recently (currently pregnant) unlike last time I was under these circumstances. I credit the recent intake of steak and lamb (and even camel!) that I am minding via my recent sojourn into mastering Moroccan cuisine (which I am far from mastering, but getting better at tangines at least). Oh and I failed my driving road test... again.
Biggest landmarks of April beyond being pregnant and failing still to make time to see a doctor (I swear I am doing better than when I do see doctors):

1.) I have started with a new boss while doing to some carry-over work with the old one to finalize a project I was almost four years on now. Instead of signing on for years, I am signing on for a few months at a time, so I can pick and choose my projects. I am aiming still for something in archeology or heritage-based work but let's face it, that is not where the money is.

2.) My house is supposed to be finished construction by the end of this month. Tile and almost all windows and doors are in and grouted/lined/edged. Kitchen cabinetry is in (and major appliances). Bathroom fixtures are coming. Painting is being completed. Lighting is all delivered. I am excited but tired of detail-minding for all these projects (not just my own home). I need a vacation (in my own new house;) ). For example, Turkey sent us the wrong kitchen hardware. China sent us black instead of white handles... The drain for the laundry room in villa 1 was installed in villa 2 by mistake... and I still need to catch the granite guy to do the counters. Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!

3.) I need to focus on my actual life goals more. Most of the dreams I had I have already achieved (let's face it, I am not an ambitious person---I wanted to have a family, be happy and busy, and useful---I wanted to design, build and decorate a home of my own, and own it---- and beyond that, what has gone unfulfilled so far are the following:
a. Finish a novel or book (at least one to be published---that I write about something I want not for anybody else and without anyone else's name as the primary author on the cover when I am doing all the actual work!!!!).
b. Start my own business.... ugh.... so hard to do this really.
c. Have a career in archeology even for a short period of time (internships as a teenager do not count as fulfillment of this dream Dad!!!!!)
d. Travel again. I need to see China more, I need to do Italy and France, Ireland again, Germany and Canada for my husband and kids...Zanzibar, the DRC, Rwanda, all the African great lakes....Yemen, Israel/ day.
Other people's goals for me include:
d. total independence (I am financially and capably independent of most people already) in the form of having a driving license. Which I seem unable to do (I prefer having a driver really but I guess....)
e. update my wardrobe (I used to be the Queen of doing this, and loving to do so, but I don't like buying clothes when I'm pregnant and I'd rather spend my money on restaurants, travel, toys for my kids, and decorating my house right now.... Maybe when the house is finished and I am back to regular size my enthusiasm for being stylish will come back? I don't know...
f. learn another language enough to work in it in a scholarly capacity (doubt I'll actually do this, but hey, Arabic would be nice right?) ;)

Sorry for the rather intrinsically motivated diary-esqe post. I have little energy or time to write something more related to general life in Oman right now;).