Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bloggpaus/blog break

I should have done this a while back... but I guess it's not too late! I am taking a break from blogging. Too much going on at work and I can't really give this any serious attention.

Stay tuned though as I'll probably be back by the end of February or so.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


First try! And they must be eaten with warm milk!


I have turned on word verification for comments on this blog, because I've been getting a lot of spam comments like "Hello! You may probably be very curious to know how one can make real money on investments."

While it is easy to just delete them on the newer posts, when they pop up on old ones it's a pain to try to find them and remove them.

Hopefully, this won't create a big hassle for any of you real people trying to comment. Let me know if it does, and I will try to figure something else out to block the spam.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oh, how easy

I saw a friend's blog and realized how easy it is in Sweden to say "no thanks" to spam in the mail.

You simply make a sign or write a note that says "no fliers, please" and the person delivering inserts and such is not supposed to put junk mail in your mailbox.

Mostly, this is made possible because mail is delivered to each and every apartment in Sweden through a small mail slot in the front door. If the sign is on the door, it stops unwanted mail.

It is also possible because companies hire a separate staff to distribute fliers and such, unlike in the United States, where it all has to be sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Here, you have to visit the post office or its web site to stop unwanted mail, but you also run the risk of stopping magazines or free newspapers if you opt out.

And most companies use newspapers to distribute their fliers and inserts, because it's the most convenient way to reach the consumers. Unless you live in a house and has a mailbox by the road, most people's boxes are locked and unaccessible.

I wish I could just put a sign up on our box though that says "stop putting junk in here! Mailman, take that crap back with you when you leave!" but I'm afraid that's not allowed, nor would anyone adhere to it (It is, after all, a federal crime to tamper with anyone else's mail in any way).

No wonder our recycling bin is full before our two weeks are up! And we don't even have a daily newspaper at our house (despite working for newspapers, or perhaps because we both work for newspapers, we do not want one at our house every day).

Outdoor time on the farm




Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vampire cupcakes

It's a co-worker's birthday next week, so we are having a "Twilight" party at the office. Today I started practicing making vampire cupcakes. See all the blood? It's yummy raspberry preserves! They were really supposed to be made with meringue, but I couldn't find any. Instead, I used Fluff. A little stickier, but still good.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pizza - so simple, so good

The best thing about pizza is that you can use pretty much what you have at home. If you don't have pizza dough (I buy mine pre-made for $1.29, much easier than having to make it), you can use a tortilla or a piece of bread.

While mozzarella is the best cheese, I've used cheddar cheese, feta cheese and various Mexican cheeses - sometimes a combination of all of them.

For sauce, I usually throw on a couple of spoonfuls of whatever open jar of pasta sauce I have in the fridge, but sometimes I'll end up with just a can of crushed tomatoes.

For other toppings I use whatever vegetables I have at home, although I sometimes put some ham and pineapple on it.

Today's pizza consists of a Stop & Shop dough with red peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, mozz, parmesan, Classico sauce and some oregano. Time to dig in!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another batch of food bread

About a week ago, I made batch of what is in our house called "food bread," a direct translation from the Swedish matbröd. It's basically any bread that you can have cold cuts and cheese on, (so not muffins or pastries).

My grandfather would have called this particular bread siktkakor, and the rye bread recipe is straight from his secret black baking book, via my grandmohter dictating it over the phone.

It was the first time I ever tried it by myself, and all things considered, it came out pretty decent. The best part? If I have half a slice of this for breakfast with some butter and cheese, I am full until lunch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘In the Middle of the Night’

When I first picked up the controversial book about the July 2007 murders in Cheshire, I was hoping to learn more details of the actual case. I wanted to read about what had happened that morning as Dr. William Petit became the only survivor in his family of a brutal home invasion that ended with a beautiful New England home going up in flames.

As I started reading “In the Middle of the Night,” however, I quickly realized that Brian McDonald’s book is more a disguised love store with one of the suspects arrested in the case, Joshua Komisarjevsky; it is the story about a homeschooled child raised in a Christian home, who had overcome so much, but still turned to crime at an early age.

I really didn’t want to read about Komisarjevsky’s grandfather renovating his barn in the 1980s, nor did I want to read about his family and what they have accomplished – it is simply irrelevant to this case and I quickly skipped over several pages when his family history came up.

Two men committed this crime and are currently awaiting trial for it, and it is clear that one person is featured in a favorable light (as if the author is saying "I understand why you did this, it's OK") and the other is blamed for most of what happened ("he was a fat, clumsy, not so bright guy from Winsted" - my interpretation of what the author wrote, not actual quotes from the book).

This deadly home invasion happened on a quiet street not more than 15 minutes from where I’ve spent most of my years in Connecticut. It was in a safe neighborhood, where nobody locked their doors, and it happened to an average family, who had no connection to the brutal criminals who broke into their house as they lay safely in their beds.

I want to read THEIR story – the story that Dr. Petit will one day tell, and may have already shared with some of his close friends. I want to know what gave him the courage to keep going after everyone he loved was gone.

What I definitely do not want to read is a glorified version of events from the viewpoint of one of the two criminals currently on trial for the tree deaths, a man who was not supposed to have any contact with anyone on the outside except his lawyer, but someone managed to write pages worth of letters to a mediocre author who wanted to make some money. And, it should be said, the author also managed to lie his way into prison to visit Komisarjevsky, by pretending to be an attorney.

In the town where the crimes happened, many protested as the library was set to buy copies of the book. The library said it is part of the town’s history; residents said nobody should support this book because of the horrible events it portrays and how McDonald went about writing it.

I say, let the library have it – that way, nobody needs to waste any of their money on buying it, and McDonald won’t sell anymore books.

In December, only a little over 21,000 copies of the book had sold on, something a local judge pointed out as he denied an attorney's request to have the triple-murder trial moved to a different court. The defense attorney for Stephen Hayes claims the book blames his client for setting fire to the house and says this is taining the jury pool so it will be impossible for Hayes to get a fair trial. The judge did not agree, and the trial is set to start in New Haven later this year.

I'm glad a review copy of the book landed on my desk - I certainly would have never paid to read it. If anyone else is interested in it, I'll be glad to pass along my copy so you can put your money to a better use.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘Up for Renewal’

“Up for Renewal” follows writer Cathy Alter as she takes on the task of letting magazines guide her life.

Alter, a divorced Jewish woman living in Washington, D.C., sets out on the task of letting "O," "Cosmopolitan" and "Glamour" teach her about love, sex and starting her life over. And in 12 months, she manages to do just that.

First, she learns how to wrap a sandwich to bring to work using a clingy plastic wrap. Then, she learns how to make a whole meal. She even learns to get rid of her "upper-arm jiggle," to be comfortable with going camping, how to live without washing her hair every day and how to paint her apartment.

One of the reviewers on the back cover of the book said it feels like you’ve made a new friend when you read it, and that’s really how I felt. While I chuckled slightly and felt significantly more domestic than Alter as she stumbled through her sandwich stage, her voice is open and honest and it is very easy to feel sympathy for her many failures.

Of course, the book isn’t for everyone. For one thing, there are several references to Alter and her co-worker having sex at work, which may be too much to handle for some. Others might just not understand Alter’s personality.

I lent “Up for Renewal” to a co-worker who was going through a renewal face, and she hated it.
“This woman can’t even make a sandwich,” was the first thing she said.
“But didn’t you think it was funny?” I asked.
“Not really. She gives all Jewish women from Connecticut a bad name.”

She quickly handed the book back, as if not wanting to be seen with it near her desk. But that’s OK. We can’t all like the same thing. I am currently having my “Monster of Florence” co-worker read it just to see if I’m crazy, or if she likes it too.

I’ll get back to you on how that goes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘The Monster of Florence’

A co-worker first recommended the book “The Monster of Florence” a month ago. I got it for Christmas from Albie’s mom, and I finished reading it last week.

The book by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi takes you through 14 brutal murders in and around Florence dating back 20 years, and the Italian law enforcement’s search for the killer. But this is also a story of how a local newspaper journalist becomes a monster expert through his own investigations and great reporting, and later a suspect in the murders.

It is a story of how the Italian legal system lacks oversight, how prosecutors tell investigators what to look for (and what to find), and how innocent people can be convicted of heinous crimes with almost no physical evidence to back up the charges.

The story is extremely timely and relevant as 22-year-old American Amanda Knox was just convicted in the killing of a British exchange student in Perugia, Italy, in December.

At the center of both cases is prosecutor Guiliano Mignini. Mignini was indicted and charged with abuse of office in 2006 after he ordered wiretaps on several journalists – especially those who wrote about him critically – and area judges, but he is still allowed to keep working as a prosecutor despite the charges against him. He is expected to stand trial for abuse of office and “abetting” in the Monster of Florence case.

There seems to be a bias in prosecution in both cases. Once the prosecutor made up his mind about who he thought was behind the Monster of Florence crimes, Mignini disregarded not only physical evidence, but also common sense. It seems he has done the same in the Knox case.

According to CBS blog Crimesider, Mignini quietly appeared in court on and off for his own trial since April 2008, while waging a highly publicized prosecution against Knox.

Did Amanda Knox really kill her roommate? I don’t know. But she should at least be allowed a fair trial, and not a trial overseen by a man who is being investigated for not letting people have fair trials.

The Italian justice system does, indeed, seem to be in need of repair.

Let’s just hope Knox gets a chance to appeal her conviction and a separate set of eyes – people who are not on Magnini’s payroll – will re-examine the evidence against her.

Let us also hope that Magnini will be held accountable for his actions if it turns out he made the Italian justice system look worse than it already is.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dear IKEA...

Dear IKEA,

I’ve decided to take a break from coming to your store – perhaps for a year, perhaps forever.

Shopping at your IKEA store in New Haven is very bad for my health. It dramatically increases my stress levels; it makes me angry to the point that I want to hit someone in the parking lot with my car to relieve my frustration of shopping in your store (and I almost did this successfully the last time I was there).

The lack of bags, and the way your staff rudely tells its customers they no longer carry them, is the biggest bogus idea I’ve ever heard of. When I asked why a few months back, an “IKEA co-worker” simply shrugged her shoulders as if to say “that’s not my problem.” She then proceeded to tell me lies about changes in state statutes that would require all stores in Connecticut to stop carrying bags – she was not too pleased when I corrected her, and I still had nothing to put my items in.

As I stood there at the end of the check-out line with dozens of tiny little items piled up on top of each other and nowhere to put them, the co-worker informed me that I could go back inside and grab some giant blue bags that were for sale.

I ended up shoving my stuff back into the cart and wheeling it out to my car, where I quickly threw everything into the trunk higgledy-piggledy – not caring whether anything broke.

At my last visit, the “co-worker” cheerily informed me of the boxes available at the exit – all the way across the bottom floor. So, I am supposed to leave the items I have already paid for, while the cashier piles the next person’s stuff on top of mine, to run across the store and get some boxes? I’m pretty sure most of my stuff would be gone by the time I came back.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem paying for bags, or even bringing my own bags from home. But it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve never even told anyone they won’t be available.

If you aren’t going to have bags, and you are doing this for what to you seems like honorable reasons, then put a huge sign up BEFORE people get to the registers saying “We do not offer bags – go grab a box now!” Or offer boxes by the checkouts, instead of leaving your customers stranded with a pile of crap they now wish they had never bought in the first place while the cashier – again – shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head to inform you that this really isn’t his problem. He really just wants you to leave the store, no matter how much crap you have to struggle with.

And don’t even get me started on the quality of the products you sell. As if this isn’t indicative in itself by the amount of recalls your store has due to strangulation hazards and other dangers, let me tell you about some recent problems we’ve experienced.
The Malm bed my husband and I bought last year was missing every single piece required to actually put the bed together. When we called the help center to see how we could get the darn screws or plugs, we were told that we could just drive back down to the store to pick up these parts – 30 miles away. After much hassle, the person at the other end agreed to ship us the items, which came about a week later. In the meantime, we were sleeping on the floor.

The blinds we bought for all our windows include a part you are supposed to attach to cover up the hinges. Since the Velcro included isn’t strong enough, this part has fallen off on every single blind we have bought. Despite using double-sticking tape – and finally, Superglue – the little wooden slip will fall of, mostly in the middle of the night, scaring the crap out of us and the cats.

For Christmas in 2005, I had made a Swedish dish using anchovies bought in the IKEA food market. It gave me food poisoning, and I was throwing up for three days, unable to go to work.

The caviar I bought on my next trip had already expired, and it was oozing some strange-colored material that certainly did not belong in the tube.

And now, your store employees tell me, you don’t even accept batteries for recycling. So what good are you?

You don’t have shopping bags, your staff is rude and uneducated, you sell furniture that’s crap with missing parts, and you try to poison me with your food products.

Perhaps I should have used the blinds to try to strangle myself instead of shopping in your store – it certainly would have been a lot more pleasant.