Crafting for Bored People: Valentine’s Day Calaveras (Sugar Skull) Decoration

Valentine's Day Garland Hanging on Bookshelf

It’s amazing what I find myself doing these days just to stay busy. Can I blame it on reading Amy Sedaris’ Simple Times, Crafts for Poor People? Probably not, although I do owe her a debt of gratitude for comedic relief.  I’m the kind of person who NEEDS to do something at almost ALL times, driving Raj crazy with my manic drive to complete each new project in as little time as possible. (This is what type-A’s do when they’re NOT working. They put ALL of their energy into something, anything trying to forget that they have nothing to do.) Whether I’m watching TV, relaxing, or just talking to Raj, I like having something to work on in my hands. I’m still baking and cooking, but as you can imagine, that gets dangerous–being faced with cookies, cakes, and stashes of sweets haunting you ALL day, each and every time you set foot into the kitchen. So…in the past few months, I’ve revisited crafts that I haven’t done since junior high school (i.e. cross stitching) and have taken up some new ones, a la felt garland making, or whatever you want to call this.  This is what my life has become–craft central.

My latest project involves my affection for all things Day of the Dead–which has nothing to do with Valentine’s day, but who cares? I made this Valentine’s Day Sugar Skull garland out of felt, which I imagine hanging on the mantle of our (as of yet, non-existent) house back in DC. (It somehow doesn’t look as good hanging from the bookcase here in Amman, in a place that isn’t all abuzz in Valentine’s Day decor, as I imagine it will look back in the US.) The garland is comprised of eight calaveras (skulls): four moustached males and four flower bedecked females with nine hearts in between the skulls. Prior to this project, I didn’t know how to embroider, but look at me now. I’ve mastered chain stitch, blanket stitch, back-stitch, and French knots.

A must have on any bookshelf if ever you find yourself living in the Middle East

In addition to this project and in keeping in line with the theme, I’ve also completed another skull garland, this one for Halloween.

Halloween Garland
Closeup 1
Closeup 2

And my next project? I think I need to move away from the skulls, possibly to something more lively. I’m open to suggestions.


Minor Miracle in the Kitchen

As you’ve probably noted by now, I hate this kitchen. Here are the major offenses that this kitchen is charged with:

  • its design (it lacks any!)
  • open cabinets (not one, but two)
  •  propane oven (don’t get me started)
  • chartreuse colored sink with the built-in tray for a dish rack (because there’s no dishwasher!)
  • large window with bars (are we in the ghetto?)
  • funky built-in table (and we don’t have any chairs. I had to send the chairs that came with the table back to storage because they were beyond my magic repertoire–decoupage, painting, fabric…)
  • overhead lighting that goes on upon banging the cabinets (and we’ve had them fixed)
  • the converter box–if I want to use any of my appliances (i.e. Kitchenaid, etc., I have to plug them into a converter which is a HUGE, circa 1965 ugly, metal tool box looking contraption the size of a shoe box that is difficult to camouflage and potentially dangerous, not to mention you can only plug two things in at once).

None of this is charming or quaint or anything in between. It’s just ugly and I cannot live in such a state so I’ve attempted to make some minor adjustments. First on the list, the open cabinets and the window.

Before I show you what I’ve done, let’s review my constraints:

  • I don’t know of any fabric stores like JoAnn Fabrics, etc. where I can get fabric and notions, etc. This means I have to order online, sight unseen, which is difficult, especially with fabric.
  • I didn’t bring all of my crafting supplies, just a couple and nothing great.
  • Raj is CHEAP (He often reminds me, “we’re only here 2 years so why spend ANY money.”).

Given these obstacles, I have to say that I’m very pleased with the results. What do you think?

Here’s the before and after of the dishwasher space:
Before and after of the large cabinet to the left of the refrigerator:
…and the window treatment (it’s really hard to see anything, sorry):
It’s difficult to see what I’ve done, but I ordered a dark brown burlap (yes, Raj, it’s very cheap) and a couple of tension rods (total cost $20). One of the rods didn’t fit, so I had to improvise with some other way to hang the fabric in the tall cabinet. Luckily, I had a few decorative tacks in my craft box and hammered the fabric on the shelf above. Although I have my sewing machine here, I found it more efficient to use “steam and seam” for the seams and to attach the grosgrain ribbon onto the front panels. (If you’ve never used “steam and seam” it’s a great product). I ran out of fabric so I was forced to pull out the sewing machine to seam together what little fabric I had leftover. I staple gunned the fabric to the wood panel above the kitchen window and used more of the decorative tacks and grosgrain ribbon to finish it off. It’s so much better that I can almost step foot in the kitchen without cringing.

A Minor Victory in the Bathroom

Our "Summer Cottage" Theme

Check out the shower curtain in the master bathroom. Pretty, huh? Notice anything (aside from the sea-themed design including lighthouses, sailboats and shells) that isn’t quite right? Look again.


The shower curtain, which I might add is hung properly (you can see the holes in the top), is sideways–the lighthouses, sailboats, and shells are all askew. This curtain kerfuffle has been making me sick since I first stepped foot into the shower and noticed its flaw. But it’s more than just the flaw. It’s just plain ridiculous to have a sea themed shower curtain in Amman. There aren’t any sailboats or seashells or lighthouses ANYWHERE in the vicinity. Luckily for me, I came armed to Amman with a shower curtain, just in case I faced a conundrum as insurmountable as this. Below is the new and improved shower curtain. It looks much better, not awesome, but given the constraints, my new awesome is so much different then my former one. It’s a huge improvement unless you live in the sideways world.

New & Improved