A Merry Christmas Competition

Last week our company essentially took recess on Friday morning in honor of the 1st Annual Christmas Decorating Contest. UX became it’s own department separate from (but embedded in) the Tech team  this past summer, so the friendly rivalry was running strong between us leading up to this.

After some discussion over what we might choose to do for our area, we chose to focus on fun and food. Part of this was obvious – cookies, Mexican hot cocoa, gift bags with more cookies and some wonderfully tasty homemade whipped cream.

the UX department all done up

But  this is a decorating contest, right? How do you incorporate food into holiday decor? Food themed snowflakes and cinnamon ornaments, of course.

another view of the UX department decor

a close up of a storage cabinet with snowflakes and ornaments

sign saying 'Merry Christmas'

The ornaments did cause a bit of confusion. You might think the beads would be enough to get that they weren’t cookies, but we decided to take the safe side of things.

cinnamon ornaments in star shapes

Caitlin made up a Christmas tree design for us while I turned a hand at snowflake cutting.

Christmas tree image

Our tree was a bit different than the ones found just across the cubicle in the Tech department. One of their was made of post-it notes (they chose a theme of office supplies).

Christmas tree made of post it notes

Their crowning glory, though ,was the Mountain Dew/ginger ale tree.

'tree' made of Mountian Dew cans with a 'binary' tree in the background

It was pretty amusing and very definitely a reflection of them.

We in UX could not just leave it at food and decor, though. We’re interactive people – the User Experience department. So Caitlin took it a step further with some Christmas trivia for the judges followed by a bit of Christmas Mad Libs.

Image of this text - Rudolph the gargantuan-nosed mamot had a very runny nose and if you ever wiped it, you would even say it flows. All of the other marmots used to belch and call him snot-nose. They never let silly Rudolph running in any incredible games.

A marmot, for those who may be unfamiliar, is a large rodent like a groundhog or squirrel. We have one for a mascot – Ce Marmot. New Business kidnapped him for the judging.

Ce Marmot, our stuffed animal marmot, in a Santa hat

We closed out our time with the judges with an impromptu rendition of ‘Rudolph the Gargantuan-Nosed Reindeer’ at the request of our president.

So, how did we fare?

We didn’t win the overall prize – that went to the Jedis over Customer Service (they did a lovely job) BUT we won ‘Most Fun’.

The devs? They got ‘Most Original’, which worked out well for all. Here are a couple of other photos from their area.

Christmas lights augmented with post-it notes

a sign saying 'Christmas: There's an app for that."

To my personal amusement, they also retained and decorated our gift to them back when we helped decorate their work area.

pink flowers with some green festiveness

The fun wasn’t limited to our side of the building, though. I personally enjoyed the Star Wars theme over at Marketing (which is otherwise known as the Dark Side). I’ve been admiring their stockings for several weeks. If you can’t read it – the skeleton is Uncle Owen.

Uncle Owen, Luke and Obi-Wan in stockings

Lord Santa even made an appearance.

Darth Vader Santa

There was also a smaller Vader feeling the Christmas spirit along with a slightly different star atop their tree.

Christmas Vader bobblehead

Christmas w/ Death Star & sign saying the world beyond i Hoth

Curiously, this morning it was pointed out to me that Rudolph was no longer a gargantuan-nosed marmot, but instead a… well, I’ll just write it out in it’s entirety.

“Rudolph the bloody-nosed Vampire Spork had a very evil nose and if you ever stubbed it, you would even say it invigorates.
All of the other penguins used to arm-wrestle and call him Edward. They never let deadly Rudolph feast in any violent games…”

The vampire spork was a dead giveaway of the culprit. If it hadn’t been then the addition of the penguin would have been more than enough.

@Firstcrusader didn’t even try to deny it when I mention it to her. I may just start calling her FirstcruVader after this pic, though.

Firstcrusader with the Vader helmet and a lightsaber

PS Our blogger also sent an excellent holiday greeting out to us this week. I hope you enjoy it.

holiday card

Rag Doll Project

New Raggedy Ann Doll

As I am sure many offices across the nation did, ours adopted several families for the Christmas season and we had an angel tree for them with ornaments of their Christmas needs. After perusing the many options available I decided to do a doll for a three year old girl. I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend a lot but I thought I’d be able to find something.

Fail. Absolute fail.

Yes, there were dolls that were marked 3 & up when I checked on my next shopping trip, but nothing that I was willing to purchase in my price range. This led to Plan B aka Alaina’s craziest holiday decision of the year – make the doll.

I will admit this decision and project were largely inspired by the Raggedy Ann doll that I myself received from my grandmother as a girl.

The inspiration doll - my own Raggedy Ann

See how cute and well-loved she is?

That in mind I picked up some unbleached muslin on my next rip to JoAnn’s (the most dangerous store in a 30 mile radius) and promptly got absorbed in other things – like NaNoWriMo & putting together a rockstar poster for our lia sophia party.  Suddenly gifts were due in five days and I realized I had not only not started, but was missing supplies.

Three more days passed and it was Monday night. NaNo was 95% done. The poster had been a success. I finally made an emergency walk to JoAnn’s for striped fabric & embroidery floss.

After washing all of my fabric (so it would do any shrinking before the sewing) I began to cut and piece together the beginnings of a doll.

cut out pieces for the doll

I realized retrospectively that I should have been more careful in lining up those stripes because they were just bit off, but that realization came much later in the process. I also started on her attire.

half finished dress and apron

There were several different fabrics I was looking between for her dress before settling on this kelly green cotton jersey because it went best with the bright stripes in her stockings.  Traditionally, Raggedy Ann is in blue but none of the blues I had looked quite right and another run to the store was out of the question at this point.

Tuesday I knew I would have some work ahead of me with the embroidery on her face and chest.

close up

It really wasn’t that bad and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. What I was not expecting was how fricking (or should I say frakkin?) long it took me to do her hair.

That there is at least half of Return of the Jedi as well as the majority of Iron Man. Why? Check out the close up.

the hair

Every single one of those loops was hand pulled and knotted. If only I had realized what a process it was I would have attempted to spread that out over several sittings instead of one. I will say I am much better at it now than when I started. By the time I was done it was the wee hours of the next morning, so I called it a night. Her body and attire were almost complete.

completed unclothed doll

Wednesday was when gifts were due so I ran home over a late lunch and finished up the details like cutting the loops on her hair and edging her sleeves and apron. I also solved my biggest conundrum of the process – how to close her dress.

Being for a three year old, snaps and buttons were a no and ties probably beyond her skills. I don’t much care for velcro so I was a bit stuck. Then I found the random zipper that was exactly the length I needed. I;m not even sure where it came from, so I’m going with that it was meant to be. Once that was in she was complete.

She paused for a picture before being packed up and wrapped.

completed doll

Sometime this coming week she will arrive with her new family and be opened by a little girl who I sincerely hope will enjoy and find companionship in her just as I did in the Raggedy Ann I received. Aside from being nervous that she is not at all what her new friend is wanting, I am quite pleased with how she turned out. I won’t say that I’ll never do it again because I am sure I will, but I certainly will have a much better idea of what I am doing when the time comes.

P.S. This is also why there haven’t been any further posts from me this week. I do have a few in the wings waiting for final finishing touches that will be up sometime this weekend.

5 Things I Love – Dec 6

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

In honor of the retail shopping season (and my brother’s request for a Christmas wish list), I have decided to dedicate this week’s ‘5 Things I Love’ to a Christmas wishlist. Since some of you may have female geeks with my general assortment of interests in your life that you’re looking for gifts for, I’ll include not only the usual links but some related suggestions as well.

1. Her Universe Star Wars Burnout Tee

The “I Know” tee is a close second for me. They also have a swarovski hat, hoodie, jewelry and are offering 20% off + free shipping (US only, $8 off international) when you use the code ‘holiday’ at check out.

2. Star Trek (2009)

I am not sure how it is that I have not yet acquired this dvd, but it’s missing from my collection and this needs to be amended. I greatly enjoyed the movie in the theatre. In fact, I saw it twice, which is rare for me – opening night with my guy friends and then again with one of my girlfriends a few weeks later. Yet… nope, not in my collection.

I also found several piano books to go with for the music/Star Trek fan: Star Trek: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack and Complete Star Trek Theme Music: Piano Solo

3. IngenuiTEA 16 oz Tea Pot

Any tea lover will tell you that loose leaf is the way to go and this is an awesome device to help you with your loose leaf desires. Not sure where to get the tea? ThinkGeek has a sampler or a site like The Tea Table, which has an abundance of varieties.

Another option is a french press which will do either tea of coffee though they are marketed more to the coffee sphere.

4. The Art of Manipulating Fabric

A compendium of three-dimensional fabric effects, I want this book to add to my shelves for reference and inspiration on my sewing journeys. It also gets a lot of love in reviews and is a lot less expensive than many of the sewing/textile books I drool over.

5. Benefit’s ‘so hooked on Carmella’ eau de toilette

Described as a floral vanilla it has both the light and the earthy going for it. It’s my personal favorite of the Crescent Row scents, which not only have fun names and scents but also have fun packaging. Benefit is also offering a limited edition set of four mini bottles featuring ‘so hooked on Carmella’, ‘garden of good & Eva’, ‘lookin to rock Rita’ and ‘laugh with me LeeLee’ for those who can’t make up their mind (or aren’t sure of which one their gift recipient will like best).

Close seconds…

“Inevitable Betrayal” Tee

I can’t see any lover of Firefly not wanting this tee. I know it is one of many favorite scenes for me from the series. Close seconds – Define “Interesting” Tee and ‘The Babe with the Power’ Tee (Yes, I know it’s Labyrinth not Firefly but it too is on ThinkGeek)

Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

I actually have already read and once owned a copy of this urban fantasy novel. Loved it. Shared it with a friend. Friend moved. Sad day for me. I have as yet to read the rest of the series, but they are on my list now.

MacBook Pro Ironman Decal

Ever since I got my work computer, which happens to be a macbook pro, I have been eyeing these. There’s a Darth Vader and a Scrat several others from this seller that I’ve also contemplating, but I always end up coming back to the Iron Man.

Sonic Screwdriver

As a fan of the 10th Doctor how could I, or any fan, not want one of these?

This is by no means a finite list. There are a ton of other things that I could include like The Guild comic book, Chuck Season 2 (&3), Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, a ticket to Comic Con (if registration were working), more books, etc. etc.

Anyway, enough of that for today. Last weekend was a killer and my bed is telling me just how warm and comfy it is from across the apartment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this special edition of ‘5 Things I Love’ ;)

Special 2.5 Day Sale!

Empress set - necklace, earrings, ring cobalt faceted cabachons set in matte gold

That’s right – I’m sweetening the jewelry pot just in time for Holiday shopping. Why? I’ve got a goal to reach this weekend and I know some of you have some shopping you’ve been wanting to do. You’re just waiting for the right deal, so check out this special 2.5 Day Sale:

Buy: 1 Piece of Jewelry

Get @ 1/2 Price: 1 necklace +1 other piece of jewelry (more expensive than the one at regular price)

Repeat as needed.


Free Shipping on orders placed by 8pm EST, Nov. 5th

With a $65 order: Get an additional item at Hostess Bonus Pricing

With a $100 order or $100 in orders: Get $5 off of your Hostess Bonus item.

The $100 can be reached by collecting and either communicating the orders to me personally or by notifying me of online orders placed by friends that came from you.
After $100 each $50 in orders gets you another $5 off. So $150 in orders = $10 off. $200 in orders = $15 off (which is free if the piece retails at under $100)

An Example:

Crystal Palette Earrings$19
Blossom Necklace$29 (Retail Value $58)
Sequin Pendant Slide$21 (Retail Value $42)

Sub-total: $69 – $50 saved

Plus – the Party Favor Bracelet$20 (Retail Value $130)

Total: $89

Total Savings : $160

This sale concludes on Saturday, November 6th at 2pm. Orders can be placed from anywhere in the United States and will be shipped to you.

Orders placed online will not reflect these savings initially. I will adjust them upon receipt of the order through our advisor system. No orders are completed online without my first seeing them. To order online go to http://www.liasophia.com/sites/barbkraus/catalog-intro and use ‘Alaina Kraus’ as the hostess name.

You can also order by contacting me at alainarkraus (at) gmail . com

Holidays are in the Air: New Partylite Scents

Holidays? Already? Yep, I had the same thought (not that I haven’t already started Christmas shopping). The holidays may seem far away with the whole 90+ and humidity thing going on outside, but Halloween is coming in only 11.5 weeks. After that the holidays just keep piling up until after New Year’s. Don’t panic. There’s still plenty of time to get that pre-holiday to do list done.

All that to say that with all the blinging going on with lia sophia I’ve been remiss in sharing anything from the new Partylite catalogs. Now, I know that there are lots of new beautiful and whimsical home decor pieces in the Halloween and Holiday/Winter catalogs, but it’s really all about the new fragrances. There are nine new scents and seven favorites that have been brought back.

New Scents

Sugar Plum Fairies

Juicy plums, melons and peaches combine with floral notes for a magical aroma. Fulfills the wish for a sophisticated treat.

Peace on Earth

Heavenly fantasy floral blends jasmine and rose with a hint of spice and subtle woodsy notes. Share a feeling of hope and harmony.

Cinnamon Eggnog

Decadent eggnog is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla for a traditional, mouthwatering treat that makes holiday celebrations feel complete.

Leaves of Fun

Rich pumpkin fills the crisp air, laced with hints of cinnamon, mandarin and pine. Takes you to a pumpkin patch, falling leaves and all.


Steaming gingerbread, flavored with a dash of cinnamon and ginger, stirs up memories of a favorite holiday sweet.

Spiced Cider

Apple cider simmer slowly spiced with comforting touches of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a cool autumn day.

Spruce in the Snow

All the freshness of spruce, fir, cypress and pine, coated in a blanket of snow. Takes you to the calm and quiet of the winter woods.

Ebony Wood & Patchouli

The rich scent of Asian ebony wood mingles with musky patchouli for an exotic appeal. It’s a bit of the Orient, right at home.

Arctic Oasis

An invigorating spalsh of cool mint, floral and green note mingled with hints of pine and musk. Delivers the refreshingly pure scent of Arctic ice.

They’re Back!

Iced Snowberries

Sweet berries, apples and fruits are kept crisp by winter’s icy air while a dusting of vanilla and musk adds warmth. It’s the best of both worlds.

Cranberry Delight

A rich, fruity mix of cranberries, citrus and black currants is laced with warm vanilla for added sweetness. Creates an air of festivity.

Holiday Spices

A simmering blend of vanilla, connamon and cloves wraps your home in a cozy, warm embrace.

Hocus Pocus

Back by popular demand!

Coconut and praline add an unexpected twist to this mysterious blend of sugar, berries, grapefruit and floral notes. It’s a magical Halloween surprise.

Ginger Pumpkin

The right touch of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon creates the inviting aroma of freshly-baked pumpkin delight.

Halloween Night

Rich butterscotch, vanilla and spices are slowly stirred into a batch of warm, sugary caramel. It’s a gooey, creamy sinfully sweet treat.

Spiced Plum

Back by popular demand!

Rich, succulent plums and pomegranates spiced with cinnamon, clove and vanilla. Delivers the sweet-and-spicy sensation of a fine warmed plum cordial.

Cinnamon & Bayberry

The fiery heat of cinnamon is complemented by the crispness of bayberry. It’s as if fresh Christmas greens have been brought indoors to a spiced holiday kitchen.

Peppermint Bark

Refreshing peppermint kissed with chocolate, mint leaves and vanilla. A decadent treat.

Cinnamon Sticks

This timeless holiday aroma comforts with its familiar, spicy warmth. Almost nothing says “home sweet home” better.

All scents are available now. Check out the Partylite page for current specials.
*Descriptions are courtesy of the Fall/Holiday 2010 catalog*