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

Wedding Bells & Skeletons

First comes love, then comes marriage, then come office shenanigans while you’re on your honeymoon…

full room view of this particular shenanigan

So, one of our managers (not mine, though we’ve been friends since before I started working with my current employer) recently got married and, of course, in his absence shenanigans ensued.

We initially were just going to do cheesy wedding decorations, which we fulfilled with dollar store wedding bells and doves.

folding paper bell garland

Bell garland wrapped around the phone handle

The great thing about shopping at the dollar store (aside from inexpensive shenanigans) is that you never know what you’ll find. The doves, for instance were not in our original discussions, but were a lovely addition.

wedding favor doves scattered across the computer keyboard

wedding favor doves scattered amidst stormtroopers

We couldn’t just leave it at that though. I mean, this is the guy who is the actual owner of the Zombie Survival Guide cards that live in Marketing, and Halloween isn’t far off. It started with a large skull tempting my partner in shenaniganizing, but we opted for the smaller bag or skulls due to their potential diversity.

plastic skull between two rhinos

The glittery spider was another addition, with added appeal in that Twilight’s sparkling glampires had been a topic of conversation that day. (We found out one of the guys in the office is totally Team Edward after I stumbled across the shirtless Jacob Barbie.)

glittery spider and the doves face off on the desktop

Then we saw the garland of skeletons. What better to complement wedding bells?

mixed garlands of skeletons & wedding bells

I actually bought this garland last year for a Scouting event and can say from personal experience that they don’t survive impact very well. These fellows should be pretty safe in their current position.

Of course, I think the best part was this morning, when this tweet appeared on my computer on the opposite side of the building:

twitter quote 'You put a skull in my coffee cup?"

Yes. Yes, we did.

Ladyfingers & Tiramisu Brains: Sweet Finger Nibbling

“Men that fight off zombies don’t eat ladiesfingers.”

“Zombies do.”

@InTheWarRoom

As was, um, mentioned in my last post, there was a bit of a zombie outbreak in our office last Friday, so with a couple of birthdays and such going on it was decided that cake would be an excellent option.

Now, the gent who received the brunt of the shenanigans is a bit of a coffee addict as in he wrote a whole blog post around how good a certain cup of coffee was kind of addict and with zombie on the brain, well, I decided to make my first venture into Tiramisu also a design challenge. Goodbye boxed cake/brownie mix. Hello homemade Tiramisu brain.

As I worked on gathering the ingredients I ran into 2 supply problems, both of which being related to living in a micropolis surrounded by corn, wheat and sunflowers. I generally enjoy living here, but it just isn’t the kind of town where marscapone and ladyfingers are available in abundance. The first I was able to pick up while downstate visiting family, but those ladyfingers were evasive. So, I pulled a Betty Crocker and made them.

Beware – these make your kitchen smell lovely, but are dangerously tasty. If you leave them alone on the cooling rack too long they just may disappear.

Ladyfingers

via allrecipes.com

4 eggs, seperated

2/3 cup white sugar

7/8 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line two 17 x 12 inch baking sheets with baking parchment. Fit large pastry bag with a plain 1/2 inch round tube.

While I was at the grocery store immediately previous to starting, I forgot to get parchment so I tried silicon baking sheets and wax paper. Both worked. The silicon worked better. Also, I don’t have a pastry bag, so… Behold! The baggie of ladyfinger goodness!

Yes, I know. My baking supplies are soooo high end ;)

2. Place egg whites in bowl and beat on high until soft peaks start to form. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. In another bowl beat egg yolks and remaining sugar. Whip until thick and very pale in color.

3. Sift flour and baking powder together on a sheet of wax paper. Fold half the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Fold in flour, and then add the remaining egg whites. Transfer mixture to pastry bag and pipe out onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.

Two notes.

A) Think on how old your baking powder may be. Mine I’m pretty certain needs to be replaced or the ladyfingers would be fluffier. They still tasted absolutely delicious.

B) If you cook on silicon keep an eye out. They may take a minute or so longer to cook. Also, let them cool a little before attempting to remove them and they’ll come off cleaner.

Next up: Ladyfingers & Tiramisu Brains: Creamy Temptation

Don’t Let the Zombies Get You Down

As with any office, there are several things that are recurring themes of jokes. Papyrus, of course, is one of those, but another is zombies. I’m not sure who started it. It predates my arrival at the office and they have been rather popular in pop culture of late, but they pop up on a fairly regular basis.

Well, last Friday we had a bit of an occurrence, perhaps better termed an outbreak or even an attack. We made it through mostly unscathed.

The majority of the office has been cleaned up so you’d never know such a  thing occurred, but I’m afraid that one co-worker’s desk got it bad. So much so we had to tape it off.

It was sheer coincidence that it was the one co-worker who has been on vacation these past two weeks. Really. It could definitely be worse. His mug did survive the onslaught.

He really worries about that mug, too. (I can’t imagine why…) There were still a few ankle-biter zombies being chased out.

But the reinforcements had been called in and were taking care of the issue.

At least he has now been notified of the situation so that he’s prepared for any future outbreaks.

Along with one other co-worker. Strangely enough, it is the one who owns the Zombie Survival Guide cards.

One good thing did come out of all of this though – some nice brain Tiramisu style :)

Pretty in Pink

Three weeks later...

As some of you may have caught reading previous posts, we at our office have a fondness for pranks. Several of them have been posted to this blog in the past including one entry entitled ‘6 Steps to Awesome Office Decor’ which details how we decorated the developers side of the cubicle in response to a typographical prank they pulled on our content editor. The devs were all on vacation at the time and we expected that they would probably remove the decor, especially since we chose such a girly color.

This has not been the case.

In fact, three weeks have passed since the prank was initially pulled and the majority of the room is just as we decorated it for them. They’ve even cleaned the white board underneath the beads without taking it down. Not only that, but I felt the need to share with you the care they have taken with putting away the things that they have removed from their desks. Lest you disbelieve me, I have taken pictures to back me up.

Apparently they were collecting dust. Note the careful stacking that was done to place them inside the votive holder.

The rest of the petals I found on our storage shelf along with the neatly lined up votive holders. The stray bouquet was originally placed in the paper towel roll and only this week ended up on the storage unit when the white board was cleaned. The names tags (unpictured) have all found home near their work areas, though no longer on their chairs.

In the meantime, the Papyrus pranking continues. I am sure that this is just one chapter in a story that is not yet complete.

6 Steps to Awesome Office Decor

1) Find something that inspires you.

In the example I’ll be using the inspiration came from a little prank performed by the developers which involved turning the alpha of our new website entirely into Papyrus font from Helvetica. They were being very naive if they didn’t expect retribution.

2) Working off of your inspiration, select a specific thematic element you wish to focus on.

In this case we chose flowers. After all, as their note said, by expression their deep affection for Papyrus they were already half way to being 5 year old girls. We just thought we’d help them in this endeavor.

3) Shop around a bit to find the best price on your decor.

In a great moment of serendipity, we discovered that another co-worker was having a yard sale the day we were shopping for our cubicle face lift which included some gorgeous hot pink flowers from their wedding. Not only did they have the flower bundles, but they also had rose petals, bead strands and tealight holders to match. It was glorious.

4) Check your calendar for the best, least disruptive time to institute your decor changes.

It just so happened that entire development team was on vacation for two consecutive days leaving their side of the cubicle completely open to our decorating choices. They may never do such a thing again.

5) Decorate, tweaking to get the absolute best effect.

We chose a Friday, post 5 pm to enact our choices. Strangely, there were a number of folks still in the office at that time, but they were all supportive of the updated decor. We also found that the bouquets of flowers had lovely yellow ribbon on them that we were able to re-purpose in our efforts. Here are some images of the finished product:

An overall look at the finished product

It just makes the picture, doesn't it?

Need a vase, try a paper towel roll (they won't even realize what it is).

Each dev got their own name tag - in Papyrus

See the lovely bead draping

6) Wow your friends and colleagues.

Being the non-morning person that I am, I missed the first two gents initial reactions, but the third was quite entertaining as he came to a complete stop upon entering. Interestingly, he noticed the name tags before even realizing that the profusion of hot pink. They did admit, at least in hushed whispers to each other, that they had been owned.

Two days later

As for the decor, if has stood the test thus far remaining up for the past four days. We are not entirely certain if they don’t mind the pink or are just unwilling to spend the energy required to remove it all. Time will tell.