My apartment makeover

Posted by Mark

Back in April I bought the Bang & Olufsen A9 sound system for my apartment. The A9 had looked so beautiful in the store but when it came time to take photos of it for my blog I just couldn’t make it look good which is why I ended up using stock photos from their website instead. I realized I couldn’t make it look good because my apartment looked horrible. Around the same time I was invited by the team at West Elm in Avenues to pass by and check out their store. I had only passed by the store from outside before and had gotten the impression it was an expensive brand so never really went in. But on that day I got shown around the place and I just fell in love with everything since their furniture had a very New York loft feel. Then I found out their prices were slightly more expensive than IKEA but less than THE One and it hit me, I needed a makeover. My apartment was looking outdated and I needed a fresh start anyway with my recent divorce and all so I asked them if they’d be interested in doing a makeover and they liked the idea. Last week I finally had everything done.

My apartment is a beautiful duplex located in one of my favorite places in Kuwait, the old Salmiya shopping street. The apartment has very nice space and a lot of potential but wasn’t getting any TLC. When I first moved in I was broke and couldn’t afford to furnish it properly and then later when I did have money I was spending it all on my apartment in Lebanon. Not only that but the walls had the most horrible colors that somehow seemed like a good idea years ago. The first thing I did when West Elm came over to check my place out was let them know what my issues were with the current setup and what I was expecting from the makeover. For example my living space had enough seating for around 5 people so when my friends were coming over I wouldn’t have enough space for everyone and the space I already had was very focused around the TV. I couldn’t have big lunches or dinners at my place either since my dinning room table fit only 4 people. I hated the lights in my apartment, I hated my kitchen which was an ugly purple and my living space was a bright magenta (it was a phase I went through so don’t judge me) which I honestly couldn’t stand anymore. I didn’t want a TV in my new space because I thought having a TV would be anti social plus I already had a TV room upstairs. I wanted the space to be very social and one that could hold a lot of people. Usually when people come over the groups are divided between the kitchen and the living space so I wanted people sitting in the living space to be facing the kitchen so they’re more connected. Finally I needed to have my iMac downstairs because I do most of my work on my iMac and I didn’t want to take any work with me upstairs. Based on those criteria’s we sat down and decided what we were going to do.

The first thing we decided on obviously was to change the color of the walls. They recommended I go with a dark grey which I was hesitant to at first but now I’m so glad I did. I also ended up ordering really beautiful Orla Kiely wallpaper to add a bit of color to the walls. I’ve loved Orla Kiely’s stem patterns for a very long time and figured it would give a slightly retro feel to the space which it did. I’ve also always loved baby blue walls and thought it would match perfectly with my KitchenAid Mixer so I had my kitchen painted a baby blue. I actually ended up repainting my whole apartment including my bedroom and my TV room since after I saw what a big difference it made to my space downstairs I wanted to change everything.

On my first visit to the West Elm store the first thing that caught my eye was an incredible bookcase/sculpture they had on display. I right away asked them about it and they told me it wasn’t for sale and that it was actually built by one of their talented employees out of wood recycled from their crates. It was love at first sight and I knew I had to have it. So after nagging them about it they finally told me I could take it. This was going to be the centerpiece to my living space. It was just insane looking, it wasn’t perfect, it had flaws and it was all over the place but that’s who I was and that’s why I needed this.

For the couch we decided to go with the Tillary 8-piece Sectional. It was comfortable, cozy and it would fit perfectly in my space while holding a lot of people. It came in a bunch of colors but I wanted grey which I thought was very bachelor pad’ish and worked well with the wallpaper and the black glossy floor. For the dinning room table we went with the Parker Dining Table. I liked it because it was minimal while still looking slightly retro like my wallpaper and it was also expandable so it could hold 6 people when closed and 8 when open. To give the table a funky touch we chose the John Vogel designed chairs and got matching barstool versions to use with my kitchen bar. Finally the accessories and lights, they had a ton to choose from and other than the lights I let them decide on the accessories for me and damn what a difference the accessories make. The rugs and the random accessories on my tables all around the apartment just give the place such a warm and cozy feel.

I can’t believe how my place looks so different after the makeover. I still need to buy my dinnerware and a few more accessories from them but the overall look is done. The difference is night and day and I now love spending time chilling on my couch listening to music while browsing on my iPad or hanging out with friends. Friends are also loving the fact that I don’t have a TV in the space since without it all the attention goes on socializing. To think all this started because of my Bang & Olufsen A9. I just wanted it to look good at home and I ended up getting a whole makeover done around it. Now my A9 looks like it was made for the space and the bookcase looks like it was built around it. If you’re interested in checking them out, West Elm is located in Avenues Phase III near Harvey Nichols and opposite Life with Cacao. Here is a link to their [Facebook Page]

Photos of the bookcase and accessories were taken by the super talented @tammyque


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Beach Cleanup

Posted by Mark

Is there a company you could hire to come and clean up a strip of beach? If yes let me know.


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Review: Oliversan Asian Restaurant

Posted by Mark

Last week I was craving Chinese food so I headed with a friend to Oliversan in Burj Jassim. Oliversan is the new Asian restaurant owned by the same owners as Maki. On any other day I would have visited Caesars or China Kitchen, my two favorite Chinese restaurants, but that evening I felt like going to a “nicer” place and until Peacock reopens, Oliversan is the only alternative.

The interior looks nice and cozy but like most restaurants during Ramadan, it was empty when we arrived. We were given the menu and I started looking for sweet and sour chicken (my favorite dish) which turns out they didn’t have. That was a good thing since it allowed me to try something new which wasn’t hard to do since their whole menu was full of dishes I hadn’t heard of before. We ended up ordering the following:

Velvety Creamy Chicken Corn Soup KD1.5
Spicy Garlic Sweet Snap Peas KD2.5
Oliversan Duck Salad KD4.5
Sweet and Sour Ostrich Fillet KD5
Braised Short Ribs with Oolong Tea Leaves KD6.5
Regular Oliversan Fried Rice KD2.5

The soup arrived first. I generally wouldn’t order cream of chicken soup at a Chinese restaurant but they only had three soups on the menu and I felt like soup that night. Glad I did because the soup was actually the least disappointing thing I had that night. The Spicy Garlic Sweet Snap Peas came once the soup was done along with the Duck Salad. I wasn’t too impressed with the Duck Salad, not for that price point at least since I didn’t think there was enough duck in it. The dressing was good though and it was a pretty light starter along with the snap peas which left lots of room for the main course.

Once we were done with our starters the waiter brought us our main dishes. The food presentation looked great specially the sweet and sour ostrich. Taste wise my friend liked both dishes but I personally didn’t. I thought the sweet and sour ostrich was the better of the two dishes but it was slightly bland. The meat was surprisingly tender and had good flavor, its just the sweet and sour sauce that let it down. The braised short ribs I had high hopes for but I didn’t end up liking it at all. I thought it was too dry and it should have been served a lot hotter. My guess is since they’re still in a soft launch phase the menu is still being fine tuned which is why I left them this same feedback before I left.

The service was great but since we were alone in the restaurant I wouldn’t have expected anything less. One thing that I found odd was the food plates. The main courses were served in huge plates while our dinner plates were tiny (similar in size to the bread and butter plates). I found it very unpractical eating out of a small plate since I could barely fit a bit of rice with two pieces of ostrich without food starting to spill out of the plate.

In the end I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe I should have gone for the Spicy Chicken with Box Choy or the Mongolian Ostrich with Thai Basil since those two dishes were the other ones I was considering. Anyway if you’re interested in trying them out they’re located in Burj Jassim and their phone number is 22901051.

[Menu Shot 1] [Menu Shot 2]

Note: Interior shot taken from their website


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Aloo ISDN by Fasttelco

Posted by Mark

A couple of weeks back Fasttelco hooked me up with a product they have called Aloo ISDN. Aloo ISDN is a phone line to use when traveling which will allow me to make and receive unlimited calls to and from Kuwait for free. It’s a really great simple product but a bit complicated to explain so I will try my best to be very clear.

– When you sign up to Aloo ISDN, Fasttelco will provide you with a local number, in my case its 22200XXX (XXX because I don’t want everyone to have my number)

– Once you get the number you then need to download the free app “Media5” from the app Store and follow Fasttelco’s setup instructions. I am personally using the application “Bria” instead of Media5 but it isn’t free. Both these apps work on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The product requires the internet to work so your device needs to be connected to WiFi or 3G/4G LTE. I used Aloo this past weekend while in Lebanon and I thought it was great.

Before I left Kuwait I forwarded my Viva number to my Aloo number so that any phone call I receive while in Lebanon I would get to answer using my Aloo number. You don’t have to do that but I found it easier than giving everyone my “travel number” and that way I also avoid getting calls on my regular number and paying roaming charges.

The product works. I didn’t have access to WiFi while in Lebanon but I did have a 3G connection. I used the Aloo number a bunch of times and only on one occasion did I have a connection problem but at the time I was driving on a mountain road so my guess is the 3G connection was dropping. Using the number is fairly easy. When you get a phone call the app would pop up and ask me if I want to answer the phone call. To make a phone call I just launch the app and either dial the number or find one from my contact book. I was actually surprised I was able to use the service with a Lebanese 3G connection since the connection in Lebanon isn’t that fast. If it works in Lebanon it should work even better in European countries or the States.

If you travel a lot and pay a lot of roaming charges then this product could save you a lot of money. For a regular number is costs KD70 the first year and then KD60 every year after that so unless you make and receive over KD60 worth of roaming calls a year Aloo is not worth getting. They also have more premium numbers, the number they gave me for example is a silver number and costs KD120 the first year, gold costs KD200 the first year, platinum 500, diamond 1000 and royal 5000. All the numbers then cost KD60 a year after that. If you’re interested in signing up or getting more information you can call Fasttelco on 1838485.


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Live: Ask Me Anything Right Now

Posted by Mark

I’m holding an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session right now up till 11AM. You can ask me anything you want in the comments below and I’ll try my best to reply to you right on the spot. If you’ve ever been curious about anything or just want to know more about me then this is your chance to get your answers. I will be answering all your questions truthfully and if there is one I won’t answer I will say so.

Update: I am extending this session past 11AM since there are too many questions and I am still trying to go through them all.

Update2: I’m closing this at 11:30AM

Update3: And I’m done! That was exhausting. All questions have been answered and no questions were deleted or ignored. Hope that was informative for everyone. Might hold another session in the evening one day (no date set) for those of you who couldn’t take part in this morning session because of work or other issues.


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Ask Me Anything Tomorrow

Posted by Mark

I’m going to hold an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session tomorrow morning similar to the ones that take place on Reddit. You’ll basically be able to ask me anything you want in the comments and I’ll try my best to reply to you right on the spot. I was originally thinking of holding two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening but I figured we’ll see how the morning one goes first before setting up a second session.

If you’ve ever been curious about anything or just want to know more about me then this is your chance to get your answers. Just check this blog tomorrow at 10AM and I’ll have the “Live” Ask Me Anything post up for you to ask me questions under. The AMA session will take place from 10AM to 11AM tomorrow July 8th. I don’t think I will set any rules or have any subjects that are out of bounds, we’ll just have to see how it goes.


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The Jaguar F-Type

Posted by Mark

A couple of weeks ago I was driving on the highway when a Jaguar F-Type drove past me. It was the first time I had seen one in person and I thought the rear end looked amazing which is why once I got home I emailed my contact at Jaguar asking if I could borrow the car, which I did, last week.

The F-Type turned out to be smaller than I was expecting it to be and that’s a good thing since I’m not a fan of large sports cars. It’s a 2-seat roadster convertible with a soft top that comes with either a V6 or a V8 engine. The model I tested had the V6 S-type engine which has 40 more horsepower compared to the regular V6.

The F-Type is by far the best looking Jaguar in production right now and is easily one of the hotest looking roadsters available on the market. I love the direction they went with the rear end but even the front of the car looks slick and aggressive. The interior of the car I drove was a combination of black and tan. I’m not usually a big fan of tan but since the dashboard and everything else was black and just the leather seats and leather trim in tan, the combination looked pretty good.

Performance wise although the car I drove was the F-Type S it wasn’t as fast as I was hoping it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I risked deportation a number of times while driving the car (by accident of course) but it wasn’t the “this car is going to kill me” kinda fast. On the other hand the car sounds INSANE! The model I drove was the fully loaded F-Type S with the optional exhaust system installed and if there is one option you have to get with this car this is the one. The exhaust system by default sounds fairly normal but there is a little switch on the centre console which once pressed transforms the exhaust into a completely different beast. The car was easy to drive (slow and fast) and it felt pretty responsive and agile weaving in and out of traffic.

I didn’t have or spot any major issues with the car during the time I had it but I was supposed to drop a friend off at the airport with the car and I couldn’t. The trunk of the F-Type is so small that I couldn’t fit a medium sized bag into it. I also had an issue with the car dials, during the day they just seemed a bit dark and I kept wishing they were much brighter. Finally the soft top, it’s not just with this Jaguar but in general I’m just not a fan of soft tops in Kuwait. For the good part of the year the roof is going to be closed and a foldable hard top would be much more practical solution for our weather.

One thing that surprised me about the car was the price. Whenever a friend asked me how much the car was worth I told them I didn’t know but that I assumed it cost upwards of KD30,000. When I was returning the car I found out the car actually starts at around KD22,000 which I felt was undervalued. The car looks like it’s worth a lot more than that and if you look at what else is available at that price range the Jag looks like a great buy. Of course with all the extra options the price does add up. If you want the F-Type S that starts at 25,000 and the model I drove was a fully loaded F-Type S (exhaust, rear camera, 20inch wheels etc..) which costs 29,500. The V8 model is even more expensive of course.

Anyway if you’re interested in test driving the car yourself you can pass by the Jaguar dealer in Al-Rai (Al-Zayani) and check it out there.


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Review: Kindle Paperwhite

Posted by Mark

A few months back I upgraded from the entry level Kindle to the Kindle Paperwhite and although I hated it at first I’ve grown to like it, a lot.

Literally 10 minutes after getting the Kindle Paperwhite in the mail I was offering it up for sale because I hated it so much. I found it incredibly sluggish and hated the new graphical interface. I just couldn’t see myself using the Paperwhite without hurling it out the window 2 minutes later and I just wanted to get rid of it right away. Thankfully I didn’t. Some of my followers who found the Paperwhite frustrating at first told me if I used it for awhile I’d get used to it and a week later I was.

Once you get used to the Paperwhite it’s actually a pretty good ereader. First of all the biggest improvement over my entry level Kindle is the fact the Papwerwhite is backlit which means I can use it in complete darkness. The second improvement is the fact the Paperwhite has no buttons and uses a touch screen. At first this annoyed me but after using it on the beach a few times I now appreciate the fact the Paperwhite doesn’t have any buttons where little grains of sand can hide under. The Paperwhite is slightly larger and heavier than the entry level Kindle but I no longer notice the difference. Battery life is still extremely long, even with the backlit on it still lasts over 2 weeks with me per charge, maybe even more.

Yes the interface is still sluggish specially when compared to other touch devices like the iPad or any touch screen phone on the market, but I’ve really gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I’ve now given my older Kindle away because I can no longer go back to it and yesterday when a friend asked me which Kindle to get I recommended the Paperwhite to them. Even with whatever little faults it has, at KD35 it’s a really good deal. [Amazon Link]


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Review: Bang & Olufsen A9

Posted by Mark

When I picked up the B&O Beolit 12 last month I also ended up picking up the Bang & Olufsen A9. I wasn’t planning to originally but it was so hard to resist. I first spotted the A9 when I was at the B&O store in Prague and it was love at first sight. It’s an AirPlay compatible speaker that will allow you to stream music onto it wirelessly and in case you don’t have Wifi you can connect your iPhone/iPod using a USB cable. The speaker has a very minimal design being just a circle with no buttons on the front and even in the back other than the power button there isn’t anything else. To increase and decrease the volume you just caress the speaker on the top from the left to right, to decrease the volume you swipe your hand right to left and to mute it you just hold the speaker on the top. The touch controls are very practical to use.

Sound wise the speaker is pretty loud and bassy for it’s size. That’s what actually sold me since I was not expecting the sound to be that big. I mostly listen to indie and electronic music on it and so far there isn’t anything really that it had difficultly playing. If we go back to the looks I should mention the speaker can be customized when it comes to colors. The front fabric cover by default comes in white but you can purchase different colors as well to match your environment like black, red, green etc.. Same with the wooden legs, you can get them in 3 different colors. In case you want to mount the speaker on the wall you can do that too.

Setting up the device was as easy as setting up the Beolit 12 and I didn’t have any trouble although a lot of people do get stuck and frustrated but that’s because they don’t follow instructions. I actually love the iPhone App since it allows me to control the settings on both my B&O devices with great ease.

My only gripe about the A9 and one many of you will remark on is the price, it’s KD890 (including the legs). At that price point it’s pretty much competing with full fledged sound systems that would deliver a lot more bang for the buck. But obviously none would look as good as the A9 or come in as simple a setup. The only other speaker system that I imagine could compete with the A9 is the Parrot Design Zikmu by Philippe Starck. But that isn’t affordable either costing around KD600 and the A9 is nearly 5 times more powerful (100w vs 480w RMS). It’s a luxury product that’s for sure but that’s the case with everything B&O produce. I love it and don’t regret getting it.


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Nu Hotel – Milan

Posted by Mark

Last weekend I went to Milan and stayed at a trendy little hotel called Nu. It was actually my second choice since I had originally set my eyes on Hotel Straf, but Nu Hotel ended up coming in at half the price which made it the obvious choice.

The hotel is not located in the city center and is not walking distance to Duomo which is actually a good thing. Duomo is in the city center where all the cathedrals, department stores, franchises, luxury brands and ALL the tourist are. Many people actually want to be in Duomo which is fine by me but I would rather shop and stay in places with more locals than tourists. The hotel is located 5 minutes away from the Metro anyway which means a ride to any part of Milan will mostly take just under 20 minutes.

My room was pretty spacious for European standards but what probably helped the room look even more spacious was the super large window that occupied most of one wall. It brought in a lot of soft natural light into the room even on an overcast day. The room had all the regular amenities like free interent, mini bar, a safe and breakfast in bed should you choose. The customer service was fantastic, I was having minor issues with my AC since in typical person from Kuwait style I wanted it on all the time and at the coldest possible temperature and they were extremely helpful with sorting that issue out for me.

There wasn’t much going on around the hotel other than a happening bar across the street. Other than that everything on the street was usually closed by nightfall. If I ever go back to Milan I wouldn’t hesitate staying at Nu Hotel. Here is the link to their [Website]


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