Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meowsletter: Moose's July Recap

Hello readers! It's been a great month, hasn't it?  Anna cut back on the Instagram updates, so I haven't gotten as much face time on the blog.  I'm not complaining though.  The less time she spends posting means more time she spends feeding me.

Here's what we've been up to at home this month:
1. Buffalo spent a lot of time in that basket.  I am of the opinion this obsession is unhealthy.
2. Anna spent time exploring Aiken County near Redcliffe Plantation.
3. Anna also spent a fair amount of time drinking wine.  I judged her from afar.

4. Buffalo also spent a lot of time in this box.  Again...I find it unhealthy.
5. Anna received her new Erin Condren life planner in the mail.  You would've thought it was a holiday or something.  She was literally doing cartwheels.
6. Anna drank more wine.  This time I judged her up close.

7-9. Anna posted pictures of her self.  I believe they're called "selfies."  I call them "embarrassies."
Her vanity knows no bounds.
1. Anna and Bella went running.
2. The weather forecast has looked like this for the past 60 days. 
3. Seriously.  So. Much. Rain.

4. Buffalo and I: Battle of the Bed
5. Anna received more random text messages from men in Alabama.
6. Buffalo helped Anna get some work done on her laptop.

7. Anna ate a lot of ice cream. 
8. Anna also ate a lot of cobbler.
9. Anna straightened her hair for the first time all summer and then it started raining.  Typical.

Til next time,

Moose - over and out.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Passive Agressive Notes

Wednesday, July 24 is Pioneer Day in Utah.  Did you know that?  Pioneer Day.
Pioneer Day is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the U.S. state of Utah, with some celebrations in regions of surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers. It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, where the Latter-day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States.
Did you know that most people get Pioneer Day off work?  Well I'm not Mormon nor am I from Utah, so I didn't know that.

Here's the back story.  I have a gym membership in Aiken at a place called Achieve Fitness.  I signed up for a two-year contract back in 2011 and it just expired in July.  I knew it was about to expire and didn't want them to automatically roll me over to a month-to-month situation, so I called and spoke with a young lady.  She promised me it wouldn't happen.

Low and behold, like clockwork, I was billed the following month.  I marched my patootie into the gym (for the first time in more than a year) and demanded to know what the heck was up.  Obviously I was polite - I'm not about to raise hell in a building full of juiced-up muscle maniacs.

The man behind the counter explained what the heck was up and told me the only way to stop getting billed was to mail a cancellation in writing to their national headquarters.  He told me I could find their phone number on the back of my membership card.

GREAT, THANKS.

So on Wednesday, July 24, I called National Fitness' headquarters in Layton, Utah, only to be met with a cheery recording telling me they were closed for Pioneer Day.  Considering I was already aggravated and had no idea what Pioneer Day was, I immediately thought this was some sort of conspiracy.

I called back on the 25th and spoke to a guy who may or may not be my new least favorite person on the planet.  He told me to mail a request and gave me their address.  I asked to speak to a manager, and he said, "no." Literally.  What type of person won't let you talk to a manager?  He also didn't tell me what to mail other than a letter.  SO a letter is what I wrote:


Here is what it said:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

National Fitness
Attn: Billing Department
P.O. Box 497
Layton, UT 84041

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Anna Taylor. This letter serves as formal notice of my intent to cancel my gym membership with your company. The number on my plastic barcode keychain is XXXXXXX.  My membership number is XXXXXXXXXX.

My two-year contract with Achieve Fitness in Aiken, South Carolina expired in July of this year.  I called the local facility and spoke with an employee in an effort to find out whether or not my contract would automatically renew.  I visited the gym no more than 20 times in the past two years, so naturally I did not want to continue paying for a service I do not use.  The woman I spoke with assured me it would not automatically renew, but said she was not 100% positive (it sounded like she did not fully understand how to operate her computer system) and she encouraged me to double-check my bank statement the next month just in case.  Obviously I hung up the phone feeling confident after our conversation and her very clear understanding of your company’s billing procedure.  I should have known better.  If anything, gym employees are not around to ensure customer (or ex-customer) satisfaction, but only to guarantee we spend as much money as possible.

My membership automatically renewed itself the following month like I was promised it would not (though I’m sure somewhere buried deep in my contract full of legal jargon, this is what I agreed to), and I was set up with a month-to-month membership, so I visited my gym to ask for a cancellation in person.  Naturally it is not that simple, and they needed a presidential order to stop billing me.  I was told I should call the national office to have it taken care of, and that I would likely need to submit something in writing for security purposes.  This makes sense.  I could show up to the gym with my birth certificate, passport, social security card, and 45 other forms of identification, but a letter is much safer.  It seems nobody else has access to Microsoft Word or the ability to send certified mail.  Also, when I called the gym to verify my membership number, I was only asked for my first and last names.  For a company so hell-bent on ensuring privacy/security, that seems strange.

Let’s just be real for a second.  The reason you require cancellation in writing is because it makes the process a heck of a lot more complicated.  Many letters must get delayed in the mail, allowing you an extra period of time to bill your members.  Plus, some people likely get so frustrated with the process, they delay or avoid it altogether.  What an excellent business strategy.

I called the national office on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 only to find it closed in the middle of the week for a holiday called Pioneer Day.  How fun.  I called back on July 25 and spoke with a charming young man who told me my intent to cancel must be submitted in writing.  He did not say why, only that this is what I agreed to in my contract (pesky contracts!).  I asked to speak with a manager, and he told me that was impossible.  Apparently he was the only employee in the building that day and was without any supervision.

This fellow failed to inform me what I needed to include in my official letter of intent to cancel, though I also forgot to ask for explicit instructions so I suppose we are both at fault.  If National Fitness ever has a training day for employees (perhaps requiring your offices to be closed for no reason in the middle of the week), I would suggest you implement a refresher course on basic manners.  I am sure it is not easy to speak with clients on the phone all day, many of whom are likely disgruntled, but nonetheless, if the man on the other end of the line is representative of your company as a whole, I might re-think your hiring process.

Thank you in advance for processing my membership cancellation in a timely manner. If you need to contact me, I can be reached at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

Sincerely,
Anna Taylor


I know my letter probably won't accomplish anything. Hell, I don't even know if my membership will be cancelled or if I just need to come to terms with paying Achieve Fitness $20 once a month for the rest of my life.  But sticking that letter in the mail and giving them a long-distance middle finger felt really good.  And just for kittens and giggles, I burned my plastic Achieve Fitness barcode keychain.
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Blueberry Cobbler Recipe


               INGREDIENTS              

2 Cups Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Flour
2 TSP Baking Powder
1/4 TSP Salt

3 TBSP Shortening
2 TBSP Butter

1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Hot Water

2 Pints Blueberries

             INSTRUCTIONS              


• Pre-heat the oven to 350°. 

• Mix together 1 Cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl using a whisk.  Next, mix in the shortening.  Once combined, slowly add milk and stir.  Ta-da! You have never looked batter.  Get it? Ok.

• Pour your batter into a greased 9 X 13 pan.

• Add your blueberries evenly on top of batter.

• Pour remaining 1 Cup of sugar evenly over blueberries.

• Pour 1 Cup of hot water on top of sugar.  Your blueberries should be pretty much immersed.  You might need to add 1/2 Cup more water.

• Cut 2 TBSP of butter into small cubes and dot randomly on top of the cobbler.

• Yes, I know it looks weird and holy crap that's a lot of water.

• Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown.



This the first cobbler I've ever made.  I found the recipe here. In my humble opinion, it's best served warm with ice cream.  Also, don't be alarmed if it takes longer than an hour to be perfectly cooked.  I left this in the oven for right at 60 minutes and it really could have cooked for another 15 minutes or so.  I think this directly correlates to the amount of water you have to use. 
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Small



I want so badly to write.  To sit down and pour out my thoughts into some wildly poetic and emotionally provoking essay on life and love, both topics about which I know little.  But nothing comes.

There are times when I sit down at the computer with a sort of muffled clarity and there are times when all I want to do is mash on my keyboard in desperate exasperation.  The latter are far more frequent.


**photo by my dad, Gary Rice, in the early 80s
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Favorite Finds: Link Love





Favorite Exploration Inspiration: Cabin Porn, Oh Pioneer, Life Lived Well
Favorite Type: Chic Type Blog, Society 6, Type for Now
Favorite Pinners: Megan, Cassie, Beth
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

DIY: Corky Christmas Craft


Bah Humbug, you say.  Christmas is 5 months away, you say.  WHO CARES, I say.  I am already getting prepared for the best season of the year!

Hobby Lobby has their Christmas decor out.  It's like they are pandering directly to me.  I picked up two little floral accents (I think they count as floral? They were in the aisle with all the wreath fixins...) the other day for a craft I had in mind.

Mike and I accumulate corks.  Mainly I accumulate them.  Mike sometimes helps, but he lets me keep the ones I remember not to throw away in a bowl on one of our bookshelves as decoration and testament to my early stage alcoholism.  It's really a rather pointless collection.  I decided to put a few of them to use as holiday fridge magnets thanks to this easy DIY project.  All I needed were my new floral accents, some corks, a glue gun, and magnets - all of which I had!  I really tried to pick cool corks to use, but apparently all I drink is Sutter Home.


I also needed a drill.  I left that off the original list because it sounded sort of intimidating.  I used the drill and a really small drill bit to make a nice hole in the top of the corks.  That's all.  No wall damage or anything.  Drill a hole in the top of the corks, snip off a short twig from the main branch, and then stick it in the cork.  Add a drop of hot glue to one of the magnets, and then stick said magnet into the cork.

Ta-da!  Corky Christmas magnet.  Theoretically this could be done for any holiday.  Or no holiday.  But everything is better when it's made of Red, Green, or Gold.

Wait for the glue to dry (do I even have to say that?) and then put the magnets wherever you want.  If they're Christmas magnets, maybe put them away until at least Thanksgiving.  Unless you're me.  Then leave them out because let's be honest...I live every day like it's December 25.



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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Design


It's Wednesday and I have about [] <--- that much motivation.

So here are some products of me playing around with my own handwriting.  It's an easy way to fill boring hours while Mike is at work.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

EAT: Mini Cinnibons!


So we had one more day's worth of dough leftover from Pizza Night, and Mike decided to make something sweet for breakfast.  These adorable little Mini Cinnies were the result, and boy were they delicious!

Mike used a muffin tin to bake them in so they'd keep their shape.  For the icing, he used almond extract instead of vanilla extract and it added a little surprise pop of flavor to an otherwise traditional topping.




The filling is made with butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  The icing is butter, cream cheese (if you have it), almond (or vanilla) extract, and powdered sugar! Here's a simple recipe if you prefer following instructions to the eyeball method, which is what Mike usually does.

Seriously. So good.  And undoubtedly one of the many contributing factors to my weekend's weight gain.  OH WELL.  Fatter is funner.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Visiting Pisgah National Forest


Friday I only worked until 1 PM, so when I got home, Mike and I decided to go on an impromptu camping trip for our 16 monthiversary. We packed up our camping stuff (twinkle lights included), left some food out for the cats, and hit the road to Pisgah National Forest.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous on Friday in Aiken.  Sun was out.  It was hot.  It would have been great kayaking weather.  It was sunny for our drive, too.  All the way to Spartanburg, and then it started clouding up.  By the time we reached Hendersonville, a thunderstorm was imminent.  We were less than a mile from the campground when the bottom dropped out and we found ourselves crawling along down the road.

We got to the campground only to find they didn't have any single walk-in campsites left.  Luckily they knew of a place about 6 miles away, so we reserved a spot over the phone and then headed back the way we had come.

It didn't look like it had rained a single drop at the new campsite, which made setting up the tent and cooking dinner really easy.  The firewood was all damp, though.  So Mike spent two hours trying to get the kindling to light while I drank Landshark and took pictures.


Once dark fell, we still didn't really have a fire.  I'd wanted to investigate the nearby "lake" before bed, so we went for a quick walk to the water.


Our air mattress has a hole in it, so when we woke up in the morning we were essentially sleeping on the ground.  I tossed and turned all night and couldn't convince myself to lay there any longer, so at about 7 I got up, changed my clothes, and then walked around the campground.  Mike slept until about 8:30. I'm glad we weren't planning on sticking around - this place had too many rules.

I do love mornings in the mountains.  Everything is so calm and the horizon is so misty.  Around 9 the sun really started to come out and I thought we were in for a great day.  We packed up the food and important things but left our tent and grill because we were planning on returning for a 2nd night to camp before heading home on Sunday.

We drove a few miles back into Pisgah National Forest to the fish hatchery and the John Rock trail head.  The last time Mike and I hiked in Pisgah, he proposed.  We decided not to go back to Looking Glass Rock AKA Proposal Rock, but instead went to John Rock.  John Rock is across a valley from Looking Glass and you get a great view!


Bella was having a blast.  Every time we crossed a stream she had to wallow around in it.  She loves the water.  Mike took her the whole way because they are both faster than I am.

It's less than 3 miles to the top and the climb is not bad.  It's mostly gradual incline with one or two steep parts.  Our hike was muddy because of all the recent rain, so there were a few slow-going stretches and a lot of puddles to avoid.  But the view from the top is worth it!



That rocky hump in the distance is Looking Glass Rock.  Mike and I were on top of that outcropping when we got engaged.  We only had about 10 minutes to enjoy the vantage point, though, because it started to sprinkle.  I didn't want to be on the rocks when it really started raining.  They get slippery and dangerous.

We headed back into the tree coverage right as it really began to pour.  I put the camera away and it didn't come back out the whole trip down.  About 1/4 of the way back the sun came out and the rain turned to a light drizzle.  I thought it was just a passing summer storm, but within 5 minutes the sky went dark and we were plodding through some seriously heavy rain. The trail turned into a mountain stream and we were soaked.

Naturally the rain subsided right about the time we got back to the car.  It didn't seem like the rain was going to let up anytime in the near future, so we decided to head back to the campsite, pack up the tent (wet), grab lunch, and head home.  Which is exactly what we did.  When we got back to Aiken we had to set the tent back up to let it dry (because it was hot and sunny in Aiken...naturally).

Despite the weather, it was a good little adventure.  It's nice to get away from home sometimes.



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