I have dropped my anti-writing voices in a jar and shoved them in a neighbor’s closet (thanks, Bahareh!) but I can still hear their mewling in my head, getting in the way of words on the page screen.  But what could be a better way to break through writer’s block than making a list, write right? So I found my way back to Stasha, whose topic this week is easy-peasy: 10 things around the house.

Now, I wish I could show you a tres chic apartment, filled with aesthetically pleasing furniture and interesting objet from our travels.

Yeah. Maybe in the next life. Right now, I live in an apartment with an amazing view and none of my own furniture. We moved into a furnished apartment when we arrived in Abu Dhabi and while we have personalized it a bit, I’m not sure Real Simple or Martha Stewart would approve our … er… well, let’s put a brave face on things and call them “design choices,” shall we?

1. In our old apartment, I had plants, some of which I’d kept alive for five, ten, fifteen years. Here? I bought a gardenia plant at Ikea, put it on the windowsill and the desert sun crisped it in about three days…about three months ago.  Why I haven’t thrown it away yet, I have no idea.

2.  Nice view, right? We’re on the 37th floor, so it’s quite a vista. Nicely juxtaposed against the city view right now, however, is Liam’s current Lego project, which for some reason needed to be built in our living room: he’s building a house, and thus far he’s constructed the furniture for all the various rooms, including a baby’s crib, a bathroom (complete with toilet & toilet paper), and a kitchen.

3. Husband’s desk-nest and a TV screen that came with the apartment but we don’t want. We’ve not yet managed to return it to the building manager.  Isn’t Husband’s desk remarkably tidy? He’s been away for a week, and the cleaning lady had her way with his papers and boxes.

4. The junk laundry room, where soccer balls go to die. Or maybe to breed. I swear we only had two soccer balls when we moved here, and now we have…five? Plus a few more that are flat, buried in the bottom of this pile.

5.  The coffee table that came with the apartment is massive and has four cubbyholes under it, which seems to be where we’re stockpiling back issues of the newspaper. If you need an article from The National that ran in…April? May? then by all means, stop by.  Yes, yes, it’s true, the entire paper is available online.  I’m not sure why underneath my coffee table looks like Basic Hoarding 101, but perhaps Husband is operating on the principle that we’ll just keep the papers until the city institutes a proper paper recycling program.

 6.  Where I work. Sometimes. I don’t have a real workspace in this apartment: there is a desk in the bedroom but it’s a sort of decorative “ladies desk” with two tiny drawers, like a dollhouse desk, and it’s currently draped in laundry.  So I perch at the end of the dining table.  I have the standard mom-pile next to the computer: teaching work, my own writing, various hard drives, and a kids’ birthday party invitation that needs an RSVP.

7.  Beautiful silver candelabra from my mom’s house, lugged out here in our suitcases this summer. Now tastefully accented by rappelling-Lego-guy. And no candles because I can’t find dripless candles anywhere.

8.  The stove. Bane of my existence: electric, takes forever to heat and then forever to cool, and seems to have a heating element in the oven that only heats up on the top. Thus: burned-top, doughy-bottom for just about everything. But the real mystery here is: the drain. I can (almost) understand a drain near the sink. But near the stove, in the middle of the floor, where with just about every step, the drain-lid slips off with an annoying rattle? Is it meant as an abbattoir, so I can slit the chicken’s neck right by the stove, then toss the chicken into the oven? Or is it for washing the floor? I should just dump a bucket of water across the floor, sloosh it around, then swish it down the drain? It is, as they say, a puzzlement.

9.  Husband and I do want to make the apartment “ours,” and so to that end, we bought this wonderful photograph, taken by an Egyptian photographer who is a friend of a friend of ours. It’s a great photo. And one day, when it’s hanging on the wall, I can show it to you. In the meantime, it’s been a kind of “in process” installation in the front hall since early June.

10.  It has come to my attention that some people don’t save the Lego boxes. I am confused by that fact. I’m thinking of doing an entire “accent wall” in tiles made from Lego boxes.

And there you have it: how to personalize a furnished apartment in ten easy steps. If you’d like my sons to come over and help you achieve your own “lived-in” look, they’re available at a very reasonable hourly rate.