Syrian Furniture in Situ (Part II)


We bought our first piece of Syrian furniture (a chest and mirror) while we were in Amman before we even had a house in sight. Luckily, the chest and mirror fit beautifully in our new home. Here’s the chest while it sat forlornly in Amman:

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And here it sits proudly in Alexandria:

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Just before Raj left Amman, he was able to pick up a few more pieces, with the house in mind (but without my opinion). I have to say he did an excellent job and surprised me with these pieces for Christmas. He’s been waiting for the homage to Raj since then, so here goes. How lucky am I to have such a generous, sweet, and tasteful husband?

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Floor pillows for extra seating–these were a surprise–I never thought Raj would go for these. I’m indebted to Jenna at the Embassy for helping Raj choose these two coordinating ones.

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An inlaid chest that fits perfectly into the niche

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Cross-Stitched, Handmade Christmas Stockings–A Year in the Making


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With my underwhelmingly open schedule while living in Jordan, I had lots of time to bake homemade bread almost daily, make Greek-style yogurt, read, exercise and craft. A lot! Here are two fine examples of what my idle hands were able to stitch in record time. Normally, such projects would take countless months to make each one; not so in Jordan. I did both of these stockings in about two months. I’m not a skilled sewer, unlike my highly gifted mother, whom I managed to convince (connive?) that no one else would be able to sew the final products nearly as well as her. I think they turned out spectacularly, even better than I imagined with lining, piping and all.

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Raj’s is sewn on a tan linen, and mine is sewn on an off-white, extremely fine Irish linen.

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How to Avoid Doing Chores–Take Up Embroidery


The trio of fabulousness…
(which will be even better once I sew the pompoms along the borders)

I am busier than ever, yet find myself carving out minutes here and there to work on my newest favorite hobby–embroidery. Before you feel sorry for me and ask me how many pounds I’ve put on or how many cats I’ve adopted since returning stateside, you need to check out the website Sublime Stitching. As the website states, “This ain’t your gramma’s embroidery.” Do yourself a favor. Check it out. Now!

{I’d like to add that I was in Anthropologie today (I’m VERY busy) perusing the tea towel section and I have to say, I was not even TEMPTED to buy one of their $34.99 towels because I think mine are equally as adorable–although for $12.99 in the sale section, my heart did skip a couple of beats, but I passed them up. Imagine ALL of the money I’m saving by making my own!}

I happened upon Sublime Stitching’s website months ago while I was trolling the Internet aimlessly (as I did all day long in Amman). I fell in love with her whimsical and charming patterns and ordered a few last month as a prize for myself. I started with a kit, which included a hoop, floss, scissors, a tea towel, and needles, and also ordered a couple of additional patterns: Dia de Los Muertos and Bon Voyage, plus a couple more towels.

Here are my first attempts–and keep in mind, I’m newly minted in this art, so my stitches are BASIC–nothing fancy (yet). I’ve included the pompoms below that I’ll be sewing along the borders once I get my sewing machine back (it’s still in Jordan) just to show you how much cuter they’ll be after the addition. (Can they get any cuter?)

Here’s the progression:

The patterns for Day of the Dead
My very first stitches…so nervous
Voila…
Onto project numero dos
Closeup of Our Lady of Something
The cutest sugar skulls I’ve ever seen
Project number three from a world traveler
I want those gold shoes

I ran out of out of towels last night and I’m almost out of floss…BUT I CAN. NOT. STOP. So I bought some more SUPER cheap towels at Ross ($3.99 for FOUR! What a bargain) in cute colors AND I checked out (as in borrowed from the library–saving even MORE $$$) Jenny Hart’s two embroidery books from the library today. Flipping through the pages, I’m spying some cupcake and pie patterns that I’ll be incorporating into my next masterpieces.

The books that I’ll be buying. I wanted to be sure that I wanted them.

Penzeys Spices True Love


Get a catalog

Love to cook. Cook to love. That’s Penzeys Spices motto and my adopted motto as well. I’ve been a devotee of Penzeys ever since my sister turned me on to their catalog years ago (yes, Nicole, I give you full credit!). The closest store to us back in California was Torrance (way too far from San Clemente) so we would both study the catalog, read the articles, and then coordinate our orders to save on shipping. Lucky for me, I have access to the fabulous Falls Church, Virginia store, which I have yet to visit, but plan on supplementing my diminishing stores of spices soon.

Some of you may know that I was featured in the catalog a few years back and paid homage to Raj by including our traditional Friday night pizza recipe. One night while I was combing through the catalog in Amman (feeling sad for not being able to ship spices overseas), I was inspired (once again) to respond to their “Calling All Cooks” campaign. I was contacted by one of their pleasant writers and shared with her my experiences of living overseas and a few of my favorite Middle Eastern recipes. The story sort of morphed into a love story about how Raj and I met.

Here’s the link to the Fall, “True Love” catalog http://www.penzeys.com/images/F12.pdf. Our story is featured on page 48-49. Check out my recipes for Shish Tawouk (my favorite, simple and easy grilled chicken kebabs) and fattoush (a mixed salad with toasted pita bread pieces). Enjoy…

Ma`a as-salama (Goodbye in Arabic) Amman, Jordan


One of our last sunsets at the Dead Sea

So the time as come to bid goodbye to Amman. Although I’ve already left the country for good and have been living in what I now consider home, I feel the need to come full circle and say goodbye. It was an interesting fourteen months to say the least; I’m happy that I had the opportunity to live in another country, amongst a culture that was different from my own, but nothing feels as good as coming home to familiar things, places, and people who you’ve missed so much.

I didn’t warm up to Amman quickly. Rather, our relationship was on shaky ground for the first few months. Here’s a list of the things that drove me crazy from the get-go and then the things that made my time in Amman something that I’ll cherish and look back upon fondly:

The Bad:

  1. Cats, cats, and more cats. I am an animal lover, not necessarily of cats, but I hate seeing starving and sad, pitiful cats (some with wounds and worse still, a one-eyed cat I saw in my neighborhood) climbing into dumpsters looking for food. There’s obviously an overpopulation problem that hasn’t been addressed.

    Sorry, no shots of cats in dumpsters.
  2. Driving and traffic circles: Everyone can agree that driving in Amman and throughout all of Jordan (perhaps all of the middle east) is a nightmare. Lanes are merely suggestions; the light barely turns green and hordes of angry drivers slam on their horns. It’s stressful and dangerous and I’m so happy to never have to drive there again.
  3. No love for dogs. Poor Shanti. He moved from a dog-friendly community where people treated dogs equally as well as children to a place where dogs are considered harem (forbidden). He is currently in hiding until his hair grows out enough to take him to the groomers. I may just drop him off on the curb in front of the groomers in a basket with money attached so that I don’t have to face the groomer’s horror when she sees the situation–good thing the place is called Hairy Situation.Additionally, he had a bump removed last year in Amman, leaving the poor pup disfigured. His show days are gone.

    Isn’t this the SADDEST dog you’ve ever seen?
  4. Lack of shopping options. As I mentioned throughout my stay, I suffered severely from retail withdrawal. Sure high-end boutiques were aplenty, but there was nothing I could afford. I couldn’t even sneak purchases in the mail because the ‘boss man’ picked up the mail at the embassy, thereby eliminating my stellar ability to sneak items into the house. I have since made up for lost time and am feeling quite content at the moment.
  5. Continuous stomach virus: I won’t get TMI on you here, but it seemed that between the two of us, one of us was sick every week regardless of what we ate, where we ate it, or how careful I was in the food preparation. Enough said.
  6. AFN and Tiger Box television: I will never, ever watch Armed Forces Network (AFN) again. Luckily for me, Raj is not in the military, so the chances of me staying true to my word are good. AFN has no commercials, though they have just as many public service announcements to make up for the lack of commercials. Reminders like “what right looks like” or “never to drive when your medication says may cause drowsiness” will not be missed. Tiger Box, a satellite of sorts, is equally as abysmal. I have never seen so many B movies that I didn’t know existed and yet because I was so starved for entertainment, I was captivated with them solely because there was nothing else on TV.

The Good: 

  1. My tennis coach Basel: I played tennis collegiately and then gave it up for close to twenty years due to burnout and lack of a (good) partner to play with. I rediscovered my love for the game by taking tennis lessons with a fabulous coach whom I wish I had met when I was playing competitively. The only bargain in Jordan was tennis lessons. By the time I left, I was taking lessons three times a week for an hour and a half each time. According to Basel, had he been my coach when I was young, I would have played professional. Oh how I miss my lessons.
  2. My self-indulgent “me time” schedule: Now that I’m back to work, I no longer have the luxury of waking up when I want, playing tennis or running at the gym, going to Barre classes, teaching or doing my own personal practice of yoga, meeting Raj at the embassy for lunch, laying out by the pool, reading, blogging…O my God the list could go on and on…. Gone are my days as a “lady of luxury.” You will be missed!
  3. Grace, our friend and cleaning lady: Grace was recommended to us by a co-worker of Raj. She was such a loving companion to Shanti when we left him in her care on multiple, long-term occasions. She took such great care of our house too. I wish she could come to live with us here! I know Shanti would sing to that.
  4. Traveling: We have been on so many amazing long and short trips while we were in Jordan. The Egyptian cruise at Christmas still remains my all time favorite, though there were so many fabulous others. As much as I love traveling, I’m looking forward to staying put for a while and traveling locally, revisiting our favorite haunts and checking out other new places.
  5. Parties and Events: We had to opportunity to attend parties at a number of embassies in Amman. The highlight, getting up-dos and sanctioned shopping for appropriate ‘party’ clothing.

    Love the up-do, but I’m paying the price in damage.
At the French Embassy, Bastille Day

So I’m left with a blog entitled Jen Maan in Amman and even though I’m no longer living in Amman, I’ll be redirecting my focus to the things that I still love to do regardless of where I’m living, like cooking, baking, crafting…just no longer in the middle east.

Ma`a as-salama…

Jen

Amman’s Barre Method Workout


Who would have thought that I’d be introduced to the Barre Method while living in Amman! Although yoga may be an underground enterprise in Amman, the Barre is anything but a secret. It’s an incredible workout that works every part of your body. I love augmenting my workouts with the Barre because it’s a lot less cerebral than running and yoga. It’s fun and active and it was made even better by the incredible instructor, Carrie Cole.

Here are some fun photos that were taken and featured in a Jordanian magazine in June, 2012 called Family Flavors.  I forgot to post these a while ago.

Notice my serious look of concentration.

Here’s the link to the magazine, pages 52-53: http://issuu.com/familyflavours/docs/family_flavours-june_2012-online-_mag

Paris and Purchases


 

As I mentioned in the previous post, France was freezing (not really, but it was cold after our jaunt to Portugal) and I only packed for warm, sunny weather (sun dresses and sandals) so I had to wear the same thing over and over again (this was very difficult for me). As a result, you will not see ANY pictures of me (picture me with my dad’s red sweater, jeans, and running shoes, walking though the streets of Paris. I would have been shown the exit had I walked into Hermes dressed like this). In fact, ALL pictures of me from this part of the trip have been burned…SO, we’re skipping past the photos of Paris and ending the European vacation on the few items that I purchased.

One of my favorite fountains by Niki de Saint Phalle. (Remember the Howard Jones video (What Is Love?) from a million years ago filmed here?)

 

 

 

 

First up, a bottle of wine we purchased on our way home in Paris, which was quickly consumed…and the wine bottle holder from Chambord (it’s some kind of a wild boar, though it’s difficult to tell from the pictures).
Kusmi Tea: I’ve never tried it, but it smelled divine and I like the packaging. I’ll keep you posted when I sample it.
Some bowls from Portugal, in the southern style that were oh so cheap. I can’t wait to use these!
A trio of condiment bowls atop a small platter that I purchase in Lisbon.
…and a close up of one of the bowls taken off of the serving platter…

I also purchased a couple of scarves in Paris, but I’m not sure where they’ve walked off to. It’s hard to believe that I didn’t buy anything else. All of these pieces, like everything else that I’ve bought will go into storage in Amman until we’re reunited in the States in a few months. At this point, it will be like Christmas when I get to unwrap all of the treasures that I’ve been collecting over the course of 15 months–all of the items from Egypt (which I never got around to posting), the icons and bowls from Israel, the pottery from Jordan, the mosaics, the Syrian furniture…