Thursday, February 28, 2008

Removing tiles and baking cake

Today my boss told me that my weekend section, TGIF, might get cut from The Register Citizen due to lack of advertising. While nothing is certain yet, the news is a little upsetting.

When I got home, I felt I needed to do something constructive. First, I baked what Albie calls "Swedish Brownies" - i.e. kladdkaka, after Kajsamaria's recipe (in Swedish). Two days ago when I made it, I didn't turn the oven up high enough and had to cook the batter for twice as long, which resulted in a somewhat dry cake. After purchasing more cocoa and butter, I was determined to get it right today.

I've only tried two pieces so far, but it is most certainly yummy!

While I was in the kitchen, I also decided it is time for the glued-to-the-wall floor tiles to come down. We are not starting renovations in the kitchen yet, but Albie - safely at work - gave me the OK to start ripping.

It doesn't look too good, of course, but at least I felt like I did something today. All I did at work, pretty much, was watch these videos (links may lead to material that may be offensive to some people):

I'm F**ing Matt Damon

I'm F**ing Ben Affleck

A prank from ‘The Office’ at the office

There’s a scene from the American version of the British sitcom “The Office” where paper salesman “Jim” hides a cell phone from his co-worker “Andy” by placing it above the ceiling tiles. When the phone rings, “Andy” is having a very difficult time locating it, yet he keeps hearing his very specific ring coming from somewhere around his cubicle.

Albie and I decided to play out the prank in our office. One of our reporters is seemingly fond of his cell phone, so we decided to make him the target. He is also pretty easy going, and would most likely not be too upset or too humiliated.

While the reporter was at the grocery store, we scoped out the perfect tile above his desk where the phone would be positioned for maximum effect. The only problem was… we had to separate the reporter from his phone somehow.

I tried to hold a private meeting with said reporter in a small office. About 30 seconds went by before Albie called me on the inter-office phone to say that the phone was in said reporter’s pocket.

Step two consisted of calling the reporter while he was at his desk with the goal of him taking the phone out from its hiding place and placing it on his desk. The mission was successful.

Later that evening, said reporter suddenly left his desk to visit the restroom. Albie and I stormed over to his desk, swiftly grabbed his phone, climbed up on his chair and picked up the ceiling tile. The phone was placed in perfect position and we were back in our seats in no time.

Said reporter noticed almost immediately that he didn’t know where his phone was. He began calling it from his office phone. A soft buzz from the vibrating phone filled the newsroom and we all looked around, surprised.

“It’s gotta be here somewhere,” the reporter said. “I thought maybe it was in my car, but I can hear it.”

“Yeah,” we said. “It’s coming from somewhere.”

“Are you sure it didn’t fall on the floor like it did before?” I asked, innocently.

We all pretended to help looking.

“You didn’t put it in your pocket, now, did you?” I said.

“No,” the reporter said, slightly confused. “At least I don’t think so.”

We gave up looking, and one after one sat back down at our own desks. The reporter was looking more and more perplexed. Then he finally figured it out.

"I feel like that guy on The O... Oh!" he said, realizing where the idea came from.

On “The Office,” the “Andy” character eventually punches a hole through a wall and has to attend anger management classes since he fails to locate his phone. It wasn’t quite that dramatic for us.

Albie helped the reporter retrieve his phone and we all had a good laugh.

Who says work can’t be fun? Although, I guess we shouldn’t call this work…

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When an editor can't stay away from writing...

My job does not usually include writing. Sometimes, however, I cannot help myself.

We are, as usual, short staffed. When interesting stuff happens, I feel that I just have to lend a hand to the reporters...

Nader mulls bid for White House - Friday for Saturday's paper

Winsted to get new town manager - Saturday for Sunday's paper

This is a brief editorial I wrote on the subject, too, for Sunday's paper. Writing editorials is actually part of my job, but the most boring part...

* * * * * * * * *

Some older stories I've written for The Register Citizen, if anyone is interested...

Kidney for Brian

Avoiding Pitfalls of Consumer Fraud

Two arrested for bloody mess

Unfortunately, we switched to a different web host in the late fall, and all stories prior to that are unavailable unless picked up by other sources (like some of the ones above) :-(

Maybe later I will post links to stories I've had published in previous newspapers, in case anyone is intersted in finding out what I do...

Blinds, more paint and corner pieces

Some people like to call these "window treatments." I call them curtains and blinds, which also makes them less expensive. "Window treatments" can cost hundreds of dollars. I used my old curtains and bought fabric color at the craft store for $4 (x2, because I wasn't happy with the first color I chose). The bamboo blind was $6 at Wal-Mart. I had to cut it with scissors to make it more narrow, but you can't really tell. All three windows in the living room will get these as soon as I make my way back to Wal-Mart (you can see the old white blinds to the right and left).

The wood blind on the back door in the dining room is from IKEA, $20.

I also got ambitious and started painting part of the hallway with the same green tea color as the living room. Of course, Albie had already done the prepwork with spackling holes and taping the ceiling. The trim around the door will eventually be painted white.

Albie and I finally found an outside-corner piece at Home Depot. Now we just have to paint the molding so we can put it up and finish this darn dining room! Oh, and I got my favorite shelf up on the wall. This is where the blue wine glasses go... eventually.

A potato peeler and backwards thinking

I once had an au-pair friend from East Germany who was very stubborn. While making dinner for the 4-year-old boy in the family, I caught her peeling potatoes with a sharp knife, struggling with every slanted cut.

I asked her why she didn’t use a potato peeler. She looked at me like I was an idiot.
“Do they not have one?” I asked.
I had assumed it was a common household item in Westchester County.
“My family in Germany doesn’t have one,” she replied, while carefully trying not to cut her fingers off.

I still didn’t understand why this would prevent her from using the peeler now.
“When I go back home, I can only use a knife,” she said. “Why should I get used to using something that I will not have in a few months?”
I suggested she buy a potato peeler to take home with her. It’s a small item, not very costly. It wouldn’t take up that much room in a suit case.

My friend scowled at me.
“Why?” was her only response.

I didn’t even know what to say. To me, her whole attitude was so baffling that I was left flabbergasted.

The whole idea of traveling to a foreign country is to learn things from other cultures, exchange ideas and further yourself as a person. For some, it means learning the language better or making more money, but you still return with so much more.

If you find something new and exciting that people at home do not have, you are almost obligated to bring it back with you. An item that is clever, that can make your life easier… wouldn’t you want to share it with the people you know?

Perhaps that is just me. My family is into gadgets of all kinds. A new gadget, no matter how stupid, is always interesting. If it is an automatic apple peeler, perhaps we look at it and laugh. “Who needs this?” we say. But items like a pill-splitter or a fitted sheet for the bed - that can make life more convenient - are always welcome.

Some people, unfortunately, prefer it when time stands still. Boy, will they be upset when they realize things will not stay the same forever.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Curtains are up!

Two pieces of the chair rail have been put up in the dining room, the new blinds (from IKEA) are mounted and the curtains are FINALLY up! Oh, and Albie painted the chandelier black as a last step of getting rid of the 80s brass feel that we have throughout our condo.

Don't bee too critical, now, because the curtains still need to be ironed and the chair rail still needs to be painted. Not to mention the floor we need to add instead of the ugly green rug... And, of course, a new dining room set will be placed in the center of the room instead of the kitchen table. We're also going to change the glass on the chandelier to a frosted one to give a softer look to the room. Wow! This stuff really never ends...

At least Albie and I got to have breakfast for the very first time since September in our dining room.

Everything is painted in the living room, and we've decided to continue the "green tea" color out into the hallway.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clippings from Sweden

Once in a while, I get a thick letter with newspaper clippings from my grandmother in Sweden. It has become a game for me to look at each clip closely and figure out why a particular one was sent to me.

First, I have to decide what side of the piece is most significant. This is fairly easy when words or headlines are cut off on one side, or pictures are slashed in half. Sometimes, however, I find a relevant story on both sides and then have to carefully examine each caption and read the text completely to figure out who it is that I am supposed to recognize.

Is this an old friend from school? Was that my third-grade violin teacher? Is this just a pretty picture of my hometown?

When I’ve read an entire story and still cannot figure it out, I can only come to one conclusion: This is a picture of someone my grandmother knows.

My grandmother belongs to several music groups where she plays the guitar and the accordion. She also takes water aerobics and sometimes substitutes for the teacher. She always runs into people she knows, whether she goes to the store or the doctor’s office. I haven’t lived in Sweden in almost ten years, so I haven’t kept up with her circle of friends as well as she would have hoped. Perhaps she is trying to give me a hint.

I also find myself reading Swedish articles differently, now that I work for a daily newspaper. All of a sudden, I pay attention to the names of the police chiefs, the spokesmen of different state agencies and information about emergency personnel’s different rescue procedures. I keep thinking “this could be good to know.”

Perhaps I am thinking I will one day go back. Or perhaps I am just thinking like a journalist.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sunset in Sweden

A few years ago, I was contemplating writing something along the lines of "When the sun sets over the Bronx" or "There's nothing more beautiful than a sunset over the Bronx." I didn't know what would follow that sentence, so nothing became of it.

Looking through some old photos of a trip to Sweden in December 2002, I am glad I ran out of words. A Swedish sunset in the winter, I realized, is the most beautiful sunset in the world.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Mostly done with the living room

While I was at work yesterday, Albie finished painting the living room. He and his dad also mounted our television on the wall. Once we decide it's not too high, we will put the speakers up as well.

I still have to put two more coats of white on the window frames, but then we'll be good to go. Well, except for the fact that I now have to color the curtains to match the room better. I'm having a hard time finding good fabric color - nobody here seems to use it very often. You know, the color you just throw into the washing machine and when the wash is done, everything comes out a different color... I'm going to try the craft store tomorrow.

Our dining room has been re-painted. We decided the first yellow was too bright and didn't go well with the green. It is now a softer shade of yellow. When we get the chair rails and molding up, I'll take some more pictures of that.

A floor consultant was here last week and we think we've picked out our new floor. The wall-to-wall dark green carpet just isn't working for us. It screems 1980s, and it is just, well... ugly. Who wants carpets everywhere anyway?

My au pair room had a pink carpet in the bathroom. A friend in England had carpets in the kitchen. I guess our place really isn't that bad.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Random thoughts

Why is it called "coffee" and "kaffeine" in English, and "kaffe" and "koffein" in Swedish (and other European languages)?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Svenska negerbollar i Connecticut

Negerbollar på svenskt Höganäs-fat.