Staying Productive When Unemployed

Courtesy of Stokpic

Courtesy of Stokpic

By unemployed, I mean not going to an office every day. That means you could be freelancing, applying for higher education or a new job, or planning world domination via miswak toothbrushes. Whatever your reasons are for not clocking in, here are some tips that I came up with from my own summer of unemployment.

Let Side Projects Take Center Stage
Use the flexible schedule to work on the side projects that were always lower on your list of priorities. When you have a full-time job, it’s tough to burn the midnight oil on something that isn’t a must or hasn’t fully taken shape yet. When the day’s events are up to you though, you can recalibrate where you want to invest your minutes. Not all side projects have to be grandiose and extra ambitious. It can be as simple as getting through all the books on Obama’s summer reading list.

Keep To-Do Lists and Deadlines
Without a boss or manager keeping you in check and the sun luring you into beach bummery, it’s not hard to waste away ending up in an endless lethargic stupor. Having daily lists of what to do can keep you on your toes, making sure you cross off the most basic tasks for the day. Just remember to be realistic with your expectations of what you can accomplish. Being productive AND sleeping in is doable, just set up the schedule that works for you.

Stop Feeling Guilty
You need discipline as mentioned above but you will have the propinquity to revel in the newfound freedom. There is beauty in being able to wake up when you want and shift things around on a whim. Learning to be okay with doing nothing temporarily every once in a while is a skill that has to be acquired. In the technology age when we’re all incessantly connected and online, we need to master the art of stillness. And if you’re wasting too much time/energy vegetating and living the funemployed life, take up a new hobby and eat more falafel. Those vegetarian sandwiches cost $2 and keep you full all day.

Courtesy of Stokpic

Courtesy of Stokpic


Change Desks for the Day

Get out of the house and off the bed. Changing it up helps you feel like you’re going to work, especially when your home is supposed to be the place you turn off your brain. If you need to get work done that doesn’t depend on internet connection, go to a spot that has bad wifi. You’ll be too frustrated to bother connecting which will force you to pour your energy into the tasks at hand, spending less time reading The Atlantic articles about millennials. Trying different hideouts to camp for the day with your laptop/sketchbook/agenda can be a fun way to get acquainted with your surroundings. You’ll test cafes and meet people who are a) escaping electricity cuts
b) researching something you could be into or c) wearing a tarboosh because they’re a lost Italian tourist.

Be selective with where you go though because spending hours on end at coffee shops can rack up quite the bill unless you’re one of the types that orders one cappuccino every 4 hours. A balanced way to assess how much you should ingest at a cafe is to base it on: how much internet you consume, how many other laptops are there, and how many waiters have changed shifts.

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Not to sound like a preteen on tumblr but with freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy? 

5 Steps to Survive Lebanese Wedding Season

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Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

1. Don’t Post Wedding Selfies

The beauty of having friends and family from different non-overlapping circles is that you can wear the same dresses to their occasions, even if they’re a few days apart. It is possible to last an entire wedding season with one dress if you do not document it heavily.

However, by posting a full-length-mirror selfie to Instagram, you’ve officially retired that OOTD to next year’s rotation because Noor won’t forgive you for wearing the same dress to her wedding next month – I mean, it’s like you don’t even CARE.

If you don’t want to recycle wedding outfits, then hashtag your heart out because you looking FINE and that hair won’t stand a chance against our humidity or surround-dancefloor-while-clapping duty.

None of this applies to men. Boys, just change your tie and you’re in an entirely new outfit. Life is unfair.

2. Power Banks

You will be there for at least 4 hours and you will be using your phone to either chat, take photos, or [insert social media addiction here]. Your phone will die. In the 21st century, that will cause people who are not in your physical presence to assume you’re also dead. That, and you could get very bored or be forced to talk to a relative who keeps asking about your age and marital status.

Make sure your lifeline is fully charged when you leave home and keep a power bank on you or stuffed in your little clutch.

3. The “3a2belik/lak” Drinking Game

3a2belik is the Arabic sentiment that means “hopefully you’re next” – at a wedding, it’s referring to going down the aisle. Besides hearing this from everyone including the valet parking guy, one of the best features of weddings is the open bar so, every time you hear a “3a2belik/nefrah minnik/nshallah mnshoofik 3arous,” take a sip from your glass of Chivas or a shot of tequila. At a large wedding party, make it 1 shot/3 3abeliks.

If you’re at a conservative wedding (i.e. no booze), replace the whisky with spoonfuls of tiramisu. The traces of rum may do the job or, at the very least, you’ll get a decent sugar high that’ll make you giggle your way through the night.

4. Take on a New Identity

When at a social function like a Lebanese Wedding, you’re bound to meet people. You may even be at a table full of new faces. Now is your chance to pull a Frank Abagnale and invent a whole different persona. Keep your name but change all the details. Don’t worry, they’ll never admit that they Facebook stalked you only to find out you are not a massage therapist with a condo in New Mexico.

Be careful though – you’re in Lebanon which means a person you don’t know could turn out to be your cousin. At that point, inform them about Step 3 and let the bonding begin.

5. Uber/Careem it Home

Unless your face is glued to your phone’s screen because you’re being an antisocial millennial and only showed up for the shrimp cocktail at the buffet (no judgment), you will not want to drive home because of three things:
a) Existing in heels
b) Not knowing the road back to civilization
c) 3a2belik Drinking Game/Open Bar

Avoid it. You could even go home in an Uber Black since you’re all fancy. Treat yo self. And wedding planners, get some promo-codes for your guests so everyone can drink and be merry…and safe.

Mabrouk to all the new couples of the season!

10 Signs You’re a Lebanese Designer

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Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

1. You frequent coffee shops based on their internet connection, not their coffee. That, and their interior decor. If you can pretend you’re in Brooklyn or Berlin, then you’re a loyal customer. This is why Urbanista is designer headquarters; it’s got the best wifi and if you stay there long enough, you’ll eventually feel like your #deskfortheday is across from Central Park on Lex.

2. The words “hipster” and “designer” are not interchangeable although you are the token-hipster amongst your non-designer friends. This has nothing to do with the fact that you like fedoras, plaid shirts, and craft beer. One pair of fruit socks does not a hipster you make. Okay maybe it does? But it’s not your fault H&M released a Coachella collection in Lebanon. You only shop there for basics anyway. And Balmain in November.

3. Papercup and Antoine Stationery are places you cannot visit if you are past the 20th of the month. If you do, you will not be eating until your next paycheck because you pulled a Carrie Bradshaw and bought a design biannual issue that costs $40. You don’t need another Moleskine notebook, a Rifle Paper Thank You card, or Choux a la Creme stickers. It’s best to stay away otherwise you’ll be caressing paper goods like you’re in a romcom sponsored by Fabriano.

4. If you identify yourself as an illustrator, you probably wear Converse. If you’re an art director, you have at least one pair of Nike AirMax. And if you’re a fashion designer, you probably own one pair of laced up brogues. If you’re just a creative in general, you have all three.

5. You use yamli.com to get words typed in Arabic.

6. As an undergrad, you interned at a top ad agency and you a) decided that that’s what you’ll do for a few years b) despised it and went to work in a boutique design firm in an old house in Gemmayzeh with high ceilings c) eventually left the country to do your Masters in Milan, Amsterdam, or the States

7. You’ve never bought original Adobe CS software (or any other software) because your university/office/Interlink installed it for you.

8. Your MacBook Pro had the price tag of a small used car. It is your child and if it were to ever get hurt, you would sit in the corner wondering which organ to sell to replace it.

9. Working on anything bilingual makes you go cross-eyed because Arabic and Latin have different rules when it comes to typography. Let’s not even mention the existence of trilingual briefs.

10. Your Teta still doesn’t know what you do. As far as she’s concerned, you’re a “drawing engineer” which got her approval because it means you studied هندسة. Thanks Yamli.

5 Handcrafted Valentine’s Day Gifts

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Yes, Valentine’s Day is commercial and you don’t need a day to appreciate the ones you love. But if you love someone, what’s the harm in having an excuse to celebrate it? I’m sure each couple has their own way of doing so and, perhaps, has agreed:

a) not to exchange gifts,
b) not to acknowledge this “holiday”
c) to stay in with DVDs & sushi

Nothing is wrong with opting for a sweet bouquet, a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, and an “I love you.” But for those of you who need some ideas, I put together a list of some unisex handcrafted items you could get here in Lebanon so you don’t have to resort to Amazon and fork over shipping fees, go to Pinterest and attempt a DIY project when you’re not the artsy type, or buy a generic fluffy heart-covered monstrosity from [insert gift shop chain name here].

If you want to get your special someone a present that is thoughtful and unique, go for the personalized and custom-made. And don’t forget to wrap it up nice because half the fun is the mystery and anticipation behind a wonderfully packaged surprise. Also, feel free to contact me for a Bambi’s Soapbox love card. I’m selling them at a discount: 5,000 LL each.

5. Creative Space Beirut/Second St

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Featured last month on the blog, these two brands have hand-stitched fashionable pieces done by fashion design students (Creative Space Beirut) and Sarah Hermez & Tracy Moussi (Second St). On top of getting some stylish clothing, the monies you invest in these pieces would go toward keeping a free design school running. They’re available at the Creative Space Beirut or Memory Lane, both in Mar Mikhael.

4. Crochet Friend from Rachel K

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I discovered Rachel at Afkart in December. She has a collection of fashion pieces too but what really caught my eye at her stand was her geeky handmade crochet buddies. From Karl Lagerfeld to Mario, these little guys go for $60 a piece. You can also request a personalized crocheted version of you (or your beau) but I’d refrain from gifting a voodoo-like doll to someone you love. Unless you’re into that. No judgment.

3. GGRIL Glass Goods

From GGRIL's Facebook page

From GGRIL’s Facebook page

It would be wrong to have a list of handcrafted items without including the work of Ziad Abi Chaker and GGRIL. Whether it’s a vase for the bouquet you just got or a lamp to set the mood for the evening, GGRIL has beautiful blown glass items that make great presents. Plus, they’re supporting a dying artisanal craft in Lebanon AND recycling old booze bottles. Sold at various cafes and stores: Dar Bistro & Books in Hamra, Vide-Posh in Badaro, Bayrut Express in Ashrafieh.

2. Madame Cefanie Leather Goods

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I saw this lady’s work at Brut l’Atelier while on the Mar Mikhael walking tour. There, you can purchase a wallet or purse of various colors OR you can contact Madame Cefanie to request a customized bag with size and color of your choice.

1. Baked Goods

Try to bake some cookies or their favorite dessert (given that it’s not soufflé or anything else that would have Gordon Ramsay yelling at you). Baking a sweet treat for your person puts all the tender, love, and care into the pan of fatty goodness you’re whipping up for them. Wrap it up with some nice wax paper and ribbon: instant personal gift! Make sure to use chocolate for the extra aphrodisiac effect. *wink wink*

And when all else fails, if none of the above works for your significant other, go for lingerie (remember what I said about a “wonderfully packaged surprise”?). Buy it for them to wear or wear some yourself: everyone wins.

5 Eco-Friendly Product Designers in Lebanon

Lebanon’s got a smorgasbord of hidden talent. Well, maybe not hidden but they certainly don’t get enough attention for the monumental work they’re doing. Lebanon has an issue with managing landfills: we burn trash, bury it, or dump it in our sea. I read once that the country is only able to recycle a maximum of 6% of its collected waste. SIX PERCENT. What is the discrepancy between produced and actually collected?

The below are just a few instances where people are working towards a greener Lebanon which is an initiative we should all start aiming for through more environmentally-friendly plans and sustainable design & development.

1. White Sur White, Cyrille Najjar


Najjar is a designer at White Sur White who spoke at Pecha Kucha last week. One particular product featured in his presentation was a portable solar cell that can be used to replace electric generators. It looks like a Samsonite suitcase with wheels and everything except it offers 5-10 amperes of electricity. The 1+1 project was created by them in order to produce furniture with less waste, short-cutting the way products are made. Najjar said that 40% of a product is pollution between packaging, shipping, and additional wrapping. They bypass this by making their furniture easy to transport and assemble like stacks of flat sheets that interconnect. By doing so, they effectively take preventive measures towards producing unneeded layers of material that will just be thrown away.

2. Waste, Waleed Jad

Waleed, also a speaker at Pecha Kucha, is behind the latest fashion trend going around. Perhaps you’ve read about WASTE on the various sites that are talking about their work: fashion pieces made of trash. Flex material (the heavy-duty plastic that advertisements are printed on to withstand harsh weather), along with car seatbelts & the inner tubings of tires are what WASTE uses to make collections of bags and furniture. Because they’re using such materials, every piece of their collections is 100% unique too – even if they have a double of a certain advertisement. The interior of the Etihad Art Gallery Cafe in Abu Dhabi is full of re-purposed furniture all put together by WASTE’s scavenging efforts. They raided all the swap markets, antique shops, and Basta-like venues to fill it up with recycled “junk.”

3. GGRIL, Ziad Abichaker

Green Glass Recycling Initiative in Lebanon is led by Cedar Environmental’s Ziad Abichaker, the trash king of our nation. He spoke about his love story with garbage at TEDxBeirut 2012 and is setting quite the example when it comes to implementing sustainable waste solutions. Abichaker, who was the brains behind turning nylon bags into sturdy boards by compacting them using intense pressure, is now working to bring back the art of glass blowing (stop giggling) by giving used glass bottles a second life.

4. Artafif, Wissam Muases

Started by Syrian Muases, Artafif is set up in Furn el Chebbak. He’s creating glassware and accessories out of sliced beer bottles. I’ve seen this done on Pinterest and it seems pretty easy: you use rope and acetone to cut the bottles, then sand the sharp edges. Of course, his process is probably more complex & aesthetic, and hopefully more effective when it comes to sanding.

5. Junk Munkez, Lea Kirdikian & Xavier Baghdadi

I found these guys while scanning Waraq’s Facebook page. Waraq, located in Ras el Nabe3 and another group from Pecha Kucha, is a team of 4 artists who created an “artists’ community” that hosts workshops and screenings. One up-cycling workshop was held a few weeks ago with the Junk Munkez, a duo comprised of an animator and a product designer. Their Facebook page states, “We design colorfully fun objects for those who seek a lighter and greener side to life. By using eco conscious ethics in designing eco friendly products, we are trying to spread DIY and RRR principles in our rather upside world. Where consumerism and surplus reign supreme.”

In conclusion, when you can’t recycle, up-cycle.

5 Signs It’s Christmas in Lebanon

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1. Airport Check-ins
…or Facebook statuses that say “Beirut.” The time has come for everyone to fly in for two weeks and have mana2eesh, fateh, and hangovers all while still getting over their jetlag. Some only have four days to see friends, Faraya, and their 35 cousins. Suddenly, bars have customers over the age of 21 because all the Lebanese youth are in town again.

2. Traffic
The flood of visitors who want to be out and about, the shoppers who need to grab gifts and cook dinners, and the poor employees who decided to work through the holiday season – they all get sucked into another dimension where time stops and you’re frozen somewhere between Ashrafieh and Zouk. There’s some distant sound of bells and Nemr Abou Nassar but you’re not quite sure if it’s Christmas time or you’re just trapped in the Matrix. WHY IS EVERYONE HONKING IF NO ONE CAN MOOOOOOOOVE…

3. Dinner Parties
Brunches, lunches, and holiday gatherings. So many wine bottles, poinsettias, and gift-wrapped chocolate sets going around and so many dinners that you’re in a food coma for 14 days straight. Have a second slice of pie and don’t let the haters stop you from doing your thing. And don’t wear anything skin-tight until April.

4. Snowing in Kfardebian
Pictures of snow. Snow on roofs of cars and melted piles of it on the highways. Face-mask tans. People canceling plans because they’re in Arez. EVERY OTHER PICTURE ON INSTAGRAM. This message also comes in the form of an email from Classic Burger Joint: “Now Grilling in Kfardebian.” Winter is no longer coming Stark, it’s here. *slurps Coke* #snow

5. SMS Flood
Kilo biftek bi 5,500 min TSC, Buche de Noel bi 29,999 min Spinney’s, Escalope bi 3000 min Abu Tony. Oh yeah, and Happy Holidays.

20 (More) Songs, 20 (More) Memories

Part Two of my stroll down Memory Lane.

1. What’s Up – 4 Non-Blondes

We were miniature golfing at that golf course across from Disneyland. Mom was seven or eight months pregnant with my first little sister and I had to keep getting her golf balls out of the holes because she was so pregnant she could hardly bend over.  Stop thinking about balls and bending over that
way, this is my pregnant mother we’re talking about. This song was playing at the 7th hole and I couldn’t believe I was losing.

2. Crawling – Linkin Park

Ahh, middle school. We had just moved to Lebanon. Chester Bennington could be Eminem’s antisocial cousin who talks to teddy bears with no eyes. Thus, he was the perfect role model for an angst-ridden 13 year old.

3. She Will Be Loved- Maroon 5

I think I was around seventeen-going-on-eighteen and felt like Adam Levine was singing to me when he’d say “beauty queen of only eighteen.” This is how self-centered we are when we’re teenagers; we immediately think we’re the only girls with crooked smiles who will be loved. Then we realize it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise.

4. Reload – Sebastian Ingrosso, Tommy Trash, John Martin

First time to Pier 7. There was this table of guppies across from us that had two guys dancing nonstop for 3 hours. Whether or not their energy levels were natural or substance-induced, they were so happy that it was infectious. One got kicked off the stage because he was dancing alone. He was so sad and yet, he kept moving and just got on some other podium.

5. Going Deeper & Blackfeel Wite – N.F.M.T. (Patrick Podage Remix)

Capitole with my favorites. Shazaming everything. There was a really “friendly” couple at the bar that was entertaining the whole place. We had epic chocolate birthday cake and, for once, felt like the youngest circle on a rooftop of Beirutis.

6. Sugar Ray 14:59 Album

I was obsessed with this CD. And Sugar Ray. And Mark McGrath. I was 11. This played all day long while I’d clean my room or wander around the neighborhood. You know a CD is good when you can still listen to it and not think “WHY did I like them?” With that said, everything Backstreet Boys has ever done is gold.

7. Play (Dirty) – David Banner

Riding in the back seat of a Megane with a bunch of my friends on a Saturday morning. We were on our way back from Roadster after being mentally violated during a Quiz 1 Physics exam. No one would’ve ever guessed that we just flunked a test because we were so happy with our eggs and pancakes. Sleep-deprived and high off maple syrup sugar, the fact that this song was playing just made us laugh even harder.

8. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark – Fall Out Boy

My NIKE Powersong for a few months which means I’ve been hardwired to feel like I need to run when I hear this. The chorus starts and it’s like GO GO GO. I’ve been Pavlov-ed.  Not to mention, I now hate listening to this song because it makes me feel lazy if I’m not on a treadmill or in the middle of a workout. This is my new Powersong.

9. N****s in Paris – Jay Z & Kanye West

I don’t think I will ever get tired of this song. Ever. I have two separate memories of this song, both of which are of me going apeshit in a pub because this song is on and IMINTHEZONE. And they goin’ gorillaz HAAAN?! *falls*

10. Next to You –  Justin Bieber ft. Chris Brown

I was at a red light, left knee wedged up against the door & wheel, singing along completely into it. Like REALLY into it. And then my friend drove up next to me. Only then did I realize my windows were open because he was laughing at me. In all fairness, he was listening to this.

11. Son’s Gonna Rise- Citizen Cope

The scene in One Tree Hill where the lead female characters are dancing slow motion at Tric. Then, I remember the show in the early years when Peyton Sawyer was emo, Nathan & Haley were perfect, and Lucas was a profound narrator in a hoodie.

12. Shot at the Night – The Killers

This song makes me nostalgic for memories that aren’t mine or for ones I haven’t made yet. It will play when I drive down PCH at dusk sometime in the future and I’ll reminisce about sunsets seen on the other side of the world; ones with llama cranes, liquid gold, and fishermen boats.

13. Virtually any Michael Jackson song before 1996

My dad came home with a present: my first CD ever. Michael Jackson History. This is music. I watched too much VH1 as a child. Moonwalker was my favorite movie for quite some time and I knew a lot of True Hollywood Stories before I knew what the Hollywood ones were. I’m sorry but all these “artists” of today will never be MJ. Pharrell is trying and JT has his moments but no. Snoop Komodo Dragon will never be a legend.

14. Too Close- Alex Clare

You know that song that brings you out of a ditch after listening to it on repeat for 2 weeks straight? This was that song. It just couldn’t get loud enough. If I have hearing damage, it will be because of this jingle. I wouldn’t listen to it if I wasn’t in a place where I could scream along with it.

15. Don’t Speak – No Doubt

Crying on my friend’s couch after too much red wine. The radio was on and decided to play this. Let’s say it was bad timing? My friends might as well have broken the stereo considering the way they picked up on it before I did. One took care of the music while the other proceeded to body slam me with a hug. The wine kicked in and I was asleep shortly after on said couch.

16. Do I Wanna Know? – The Arctic Monkeys

On the way to Kfarmatta for a Sunday barbecue. We explored an old silk mill and it was the first time I had arak. The song went on to be my anthem that week at the office.

17. Kiss – Prince

I don’t understand how anyone can NOT dance to this if it’s ever playing. The Queen of England boogies to this. So I was stuck in traffic on Hamra Main Street with a few friends and Prince joins us. Naturally, we start singing and dancing our faces off while the friend in the back hid in the shadows because she was utterly mortified.

18. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys

Internship of 2012. Sitting in a room on the 8th floor with 4 other girls who you would not expect to be friends under normal circumstances. This is the beauty of being trapped in a room for extended periods of time – you find that you can actually meet cool people outside your immediate circle if you give them a chance. Thus, me doing the Lonely Boy dance with my fellow interns in the midst of our research.

19. #Beautiful – Mariah Carey ft Miguel

This was the song on the radio the first time I got in my second new car. Appropriate.

20. Monster Mash

Halloween at Knott’s Berry Farm. I was dressed up as a witch. Horrible black lipstick. Horrible costume. Horrible awkward preteen phase. Some poor souls performed this on stage while dressed up in tacky costumes and cheap makeup. Happy Halloween y’all.