Friday, December 30, 2011

better get sewing

I need to sew about 6 or so costumes for Mulan. Yet, instead of getting that done already, I've been doing everything BUT sewing.

I have this sort of mental issue about worrying that I'll mess it I haven't even cut the fabric yet. It's an easy pattern...they're just costumes(so they don't have to be perfect) but they do have to be put together well as the kids seem to wear them out from wiggling in them. Honestly, I'm too used to my kid taking care of her things that it shocked me the first time I had to fix a costume because the kid had wiggled too much back stage. argh!

So, sigh! Time to go get dressed and start sewing. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Zazzle fizzles out

Since my last contact with the folks at Zazzle I haven't heard anything at all.

So much for their supposed commitment to my satisfaction! :p

Humm I wonder if my friend does mugs? I should go check.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

struggles with ordering fun

recently a "blogebrity" decided to get the production team that helped with her latest book some really cute coffee mugs. And of course everyone else wanted them to, so she set up where we could order our own mugs.

The mugs had on one side

Trust me, I'm a Prefessional

the other side said

Leave Blank

The prefessional typo was a joke on the team as they had goofed the cover of her book and had to go back and place a sticker over the typo... I totally never bothered to lift the sticker on my book until she said to!

The leave blank was a typical thing that we see on cake wrecks all the time where the bakers will put the instructions on the cakes.

However, when I placed my order I received an email...
Thank you for your order

Your absolute satisfaction is our first priority. Our Quality Assurance team carefully reviews each order, and has discovered an issue with the design of one or more of your products:

Title: Trust Me, I'm A Prefessional (Green)

Design Issue:
--- The design of your product is missing text or image in the template field. Please feel free to re-order your personalized design in the given template fields on the product page. If you wish to have the template field blank, please be sure to delete the field in our design tools while customizing your product.

I sent them a response back...
My order was canceled and you sent this message "The design of your product is missing text or image in the template field. "
I would like the item that I ordered and I don't mind waiting for it...this is for me, not a gift.
I then tried to place my order again (as they have not removed the mug) and it was canceled with an email stating that the image didn't meet with their content policy.  I also got this response to my customer service request.

The reply:
Our system indicates that your order was cancelled by our Content Management Team, at which time a notification was automatically sent to the email address associated with your order. This message contained an explanation of any content restrictions, design failures or other criteria which factored into the cancellation of your order. It also includes instructions on how to re-order any items which have already been approved by our Content Management Team.

My reply to that:
The problem is that you are apparently filling orders for this item for some folks but not others. I found out later that everyone's order got canceled. The "image" in question is just text that was provided by the designer from real mistakes on cakes.

Please check the item (link provided to them) and explain to me how the image doesn't meet with your content policy. (I provided a link to their content policy page) I'm totally confused as to how "Trust Me, I'm A Prefessional" and "Leave Blank" violate any of your content policy.

Thank you for your time. I realize that this is a busy time of year.

I've deleted the info on what company we are dealing with here in hopes that the matter can be resolved and I'll get my mug. However, if they still want to be a pain about it, I'll be happy to tell you who it is.  I wonder if they have that system where they get notified when people mention them online???

Honestly, I feel that what is really going on here is that they were running a sale on mugs that day and were bombarded by fans of the blog wanting these mugs. The company might have gotten confused by the Leave Blank joke and just flagged it. But instead of checking with the designer about the content they just flagged it as unacceptable and canceled orders. :(

UPDATE: First the blogebrity contacted them and learned that 1) they canceled ALL the orders for the mug because the "Leave Blank" part confused them. She talked to the content review folks who were supposed to figure everything out. 2) If we emailed the company we could get a code so that we could still get the discount that was running when we first placed or orders.

So I emailed. I included the two order numbers that were canceled. However, customer service and content review must not speak to each other because customer service was shocked that someone else was telling me what to do about their website...and that while I had been advised to contact content review they showed no record of that happening. SIGH!

Honestly this isn't worth it to me anymore. Sure the mug was cute, but it was awfully expensive even with the discount...especially when we get tons of free mugs all the time.

By the way I won't ever be ordering or trying to order from you again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Amazing Race birthday party

Yesterday Darly attended this birthday party (described below) I volunteered to be a driver. I'll add in my notes about how it turned out in slanty type. ;o)

Dear Driver volunteers,

First off, thank you so much for helping us make Friend's 16th birthday a fun a memorable one. We are so much in your debt for doing this for us. I wanted to give you all a rundown of the events we have scheduled and what you each will be responsible for. Before I do, I also wanted to mention that we are still short by one video camera I believe. If you happen to have an extra that would be great.

Now the rules of the game. Each team will be given an "official" rules sheet that will explain to them how to play the game and how to act. I won't go over those in this e-mail, but I do want to emphasize that you are not a "team" member on the team. Think of yourselves as the local host and referee for your contestants. You will be judging them on completion of challenges and will be holding all the clues. When you feel they have completed the task correctly give them the next clue. Some of the clues will be on smartphones via e-mail, some will be paper. All Route Info's and Detours will be electronic on the phones. All Road Blocks will be Paper. They will all be numbered so you know when to give them. You will also be responsible for maintaining the teams smartphone. That phone will be the only one the team can use to gather information about finding each challenge. Don't let them see clues ahead of time and collect the phone any time it's not being used for directions by the teams. Your final duty, I know a lot to do right, will be to video tape the challenges. We're not really expecting a complete filming of the entire challenge. Just video what you can and what looks fun. While the team is traveling between challenges you should allow the team to video themselves in the car. We want to get lots of fun footage of the teams as they compete in the challenge. The end result will be a video memory of the day made in the style of an actual TV show and each contestant will get a copy on DVD. But not until after Christmas... LOL! Actually figuring out when and where the correct clues to give was pretty confusing. There was one location clue that was on paper (given by "Phil") given after the correct task was performed and as it was the only location clue given this way it cause some great confusion...see later on!

Schedule of events:

The "game" will start at 2:00pm in the parking lot of High School. I think you all know where it is, but if you need directions let me know. We'd like the drivers to be there early to set up the cars in the right spot and add team colors. Speaking of team colors. It would be great if each driver could where a shirt that matches the teams color so they can spot you easily. Greg will be driving the Red team. Rob will be driving the Blue team. Rene will be driving the Yellow team. John will be driving the Green team. Joanna will be driving the Black team. The teams will be given the rules of the game and allowed some time to "get to know each other." Once we are ready, they will race across the parking lot to their drivers where you will give them the first route info clue (Route Info #1). Then it's game on! Not that it matters but NO ONE was wearing team colors and that didn't end up being how the drivers were set up as "Phil" had to drive a couple of legs of the game too.

First stop is Family Sports Center at the corner of Arapahoe and Peoria. Remember, you can't just drive to the spot. You must wait until the team gives you directions to get there. If they are WAY off and you know they are obviously headed the wrong way, you can intervene and give gentle guidance to get them back, but for the most part we want the teams to work at the directions. At family sports, one team member will be required to climb the rock wall inside. You will be given four tickets in your packet to cover the cost of the "ride" at FSC. When you arrive in the parking lot and park, you will give your team the "Detour" clue (Detour #1). That will inform them to choose one team member. Once they have chosen, you can give that team member the "Road Bock" clue (Road Block #1). That will explain the challenge and any penalties involved. In this task, if they attempt the task but cannot reach the top of the wall, they can come back down and will be assessed a 5 minute penalty. If any team cannot attempt or complete a task at all, they should be given a 15 minute time penalty. But we figure each team will at least try them and the tasks are not that difficult. All of the team members should stay together, so the other two members should go in with you and observe and cheer on. Once the contestant has completed the task you will show the team the next route info (Route Info #2). First Google maps lead everyone who used it out of the way. Yes we got there eventually, but there was a much shorter route. One team (the one with the birthday girl in it) knew how to get there without using Google maps and beat us all there by a huge margin. Sadly FSC had only one person running the game so the teams all had to wait in order of arrival to do the challenge. This part of the game would have been much better if FSC had more staff on the game. :( This challenge would have been PERFECT for Darly to do, but alas she didn't get chosen for it. If we had all the teams climbing at the same time and Darly was our climber we could have easily have jumped into the lead here. However, because we had to wait to climb the race pretty much stayed in the same order with hardly any changes.

After FSC, the team will be directed to go to Willow Creek Park. It's easily found on google maps. At the park, there will be a marked area. After you park, give the team the Road Block clue for this challenge (Road Block #2). The area will have a start line and a one rope circle for each team. The object will be to take a colored "rock" and throw the rock from the start line to circle. You will have your rock with you from the beginning and it will need to come with you when you finish. The distance will be far enough that it can't be done by one person. Each team member will get one throw and the next team member will start from the spot where the last throw stopped. Rolling counts. For example: John starts at the line and throws the rock, Jane goes to where the rock stopped and throws it from there, Judy goes to the spot where that toss stopped and throws it from there. The last throw will need to land inside the ring. We decided that at least half of the rock must be inside the ring that is marked with their color. If they don't make it inside the ring by the time all three team members have thrown, they will need to start over. When the team does finally get the rock in the ring, you will give them the next route info (Route Info #3). I never noticed any starting line, but this task was super easy...I was expecting the distance to be much longer, but the organizers were worried about time.

This clue will direct them to Rob and Amy's house. It's actually only about half a mile from the park, but don't give that away let them figure that out. Once you park, give them the Detour clue (Detour #2). They will need to choose one team member to do this challenge. Once they have chosen the team member give them the Road Block (Road Block #3). Also, we assume there will be more than one team arriving, but only one team can attempt the challenge at a time. So there will be a sign up sheet at the door. The team cannot go in or sign up until they have been given their road block clue so they will need to pick the person first. The first team to arrive will go right in. After that the teams will need to sign up on the list and will have to wait until their turn. Only one team will be allowed inside at a time. The task is simple. There will be 2 cups, one with sprite and one with plain club soda. Each cup will be guarded by a guard. The person doing the challenge will be allowed to ask one guard one question to determine which cup is sweet and which is the "poison". Team members not competing cannot help at all. The trick is that one guard always lies and one always tells the truth. This is a classic riddle which has a simple solution. Once they team member has asked the question, they must choose one of the cups and drink the contents completely. The cannot receive their next clue until the contents of the cup are completely finished. This might be tough for someone who has never tasted straight soda water. IF the team member chooses the "poison" cup they will be given a 5 minute penalty upon leaving the house. The entire team must leave so that the next team can start, but they will not be given the next route info until the 5 minutes is finished. Once the challenge is complete, give the team the next route info (Route Info #4). It was here that most teams figured out what the second Theme of the party was...have you figured it out yet? Oh I guess I should tell you that the clues that the kids got had titles that gave them a hit to the second theme.

The team will now be headed to Civic Green Park. This park is located just behind the library. It's also easy to find on google maps. Drive to the park and park where the team members tell you to. There is Flower statue in the Southeast corner of the park. They will need to figure out that they have to start there. the flower is pictured on the route info clue. You will have a video loaded on your phone. The team will need to watch the video in order to figure out the starting point. Once you have parked, give them the Road block clue (Road Block #4). While they are reading it, get the video ready to be watched. Let them watch the video and figure out where to start. Once they have made it to the flower you will give them the paper that has the pictures of the stones on it. They should be able to follow the path shown on the video and will see the stones in a specific order. You will have another sheet that shows the correct order of the stones. When they finish the route, they will need to return to you at the flower and tell you the order they saw the stones. IF they do not give you the correct order, you will tell them "no." Nothing else. They will have to start over and follow the video again until they get the order correct. Once they have the correct order, they will move to the pavillion area of the parke where they will need to chase and "capture" one of the little kids dressed as mice. Capturing simply means touching or grabbing. All three team members will be allowed to chase, but they only need to capture one mouse. The mouse will direct the team to take them to the climbing ball (also pictured on the route clue). At the ball one team member will be required to climb to the top of the ball and retrieve one orange flag. Once they give you the orange flag, you can give them the next route info (Route Info #5). The video wouldn't load because it was too big, so instead the teams had to wait in order of arrival and a mouse would run the was up to the teams to figure out that they needed to mark the order of their stones. If they didn't get the route right or didn't mark the stones, they had to go back up to the waiting point to start over. Our team had to start over so they lost their slight lead in order here. I think they dropped from 3rd to 4th here.

Now the team will be headed to John and Christy's house. It's not too far away, but again, the team will need to direct you. Once you park at the house, give the team the detour clue (Detour #3). The team will be picking 2 members to compete. Once they have chosen, give them the road block clue (Road Block #5). Similar to the other house, there will be a sign up sheet. The first two teams can proceed, the rest will need to sign up and wait their turn, unless there is no team in front of them. The task here will be to make truffles. There will be a demonstration video in the kitchen to watch and follow. The team will need to make a total of 6 truffles. One for each team member, one for the driver :), one for a mouse, and one for the birthday girl! They can eat theirs right away, so can you. But the 2 extras will need to be brought with them in paper cups and in a box. That box MUST be with you when you get to the pitstop. Your job as the judge will be to approve the rolled truffles before they can be refrigerated and decorated. You will also need to approve the box to be sure it is packaged correctly, there will be an example at the house. The teams will need to make the chocolate ganache, but they don't have to wait for it to chill completely. After they finish the ganache step they will put the bowl in the refrigerator. There will be a pre made batch of ganache that they will be allowed to take out and use to scope the truffles. The two members will scope 6 truffle centers from the pre made mix. they will need to roll the 6 centers into a good ball like the video shows. You will judge if the balls are acceptable. They don't need to be perfect, but they need to be close. Not falling apart or smashed or melted, etc. This is tricky because their hands will be warm. (The trick is to cool your hands with cold water, but don't give that away unless they have been struggling for a very long time.) Once they have rolled the centers to your judgment, they will chill them in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. You should be able to use a time your teams smartphone. After the five minutes has passed, they can retrieve them from the refrigerator. Now all three team members will participate. They will be allowed to coat their truffles with which ever topping they choose and you can tell them which you prefer. The two for the box will need to match the example exactly. If they don't match the two in the box, they will not be accepted. Don't tell the teams that they need to match because we want them to figure that part out. If the team does not match the example exactly, you will tell them they did not complete the truffles correctly. They will need to make two more and match the box. Once they have finished all 6 truffles and the box matches correctly, you can give them the next route info (Route Info #6). this challenge was again first in first out. Due to time running out and it was getting cold outside waiting they started allowing more teams inside at a time which lead to the later teams knowing what needed to be done, but as there wasn't anyway to pass each other up, it wasn't a big deal. I got a toffee covered truffle! YUM!

Now the teams are headed to the mall. Park near the Food Court. The entire next challenge will take place in the food court area. Once you park, give them the next Detour (Detour #4). They will need to pick one team member. Once they have picked, give that team member the road block (Road Block #6). This task is complicated, but not impossible. Before you enter the mall you will need to explain something very important. The mall does not allow scavenger hunts. We have to be careful not to be disruptive in any way. So the team members will need to be calm and quiet at all times. You'll have to really stress this. When you enter the food court, chose a table and sit with your entire team. Tell them to stay with you until the challenge is complete. Only the one team member completing the task will be allowed to walk around the court. No one should run at all. Please be sure they are calm and quiet so we don't ruin it for the remaining team. You will need to give the selected member the sheet of paper with the letters on it. They will be directed to decode the clue by putting the letters in the correct order. To do this, they will start at one spot in the food court and walk counter clockwise. Each letter is a picture taken from the signs in the food court. As they walk the food court, they will see each letter in order. They will need to figure that out, so don't give that away. Once they return to where they started, they should have the entire code word. In this case, they will need to start at Ben and Jerry's, but they will not be told that, don't give that away. Once they have the code, the one team member will walk to the fountain in the center of the of the mall (just down the escalator) and will present the code to "Phil" or me. I will verify that the code is correct and if so, I will hand them the next Route info. If the code is not correct, I will tell them and also explain that they can get help from one team member to try the second time. If they receive the route info, they can continue to the next challenge. This was a challenge where teams could move ahead! But because time was running out, "Phil" wasn't there by the time we got to this point. So each team in order would just wait for the next team to arrive and the drivers took over for "Phil"... this is where we got the confusion about the location clues. There was also some confusion about where the location clue was leading folks.

This route info will send them to Greg and Terri's house. Once you park, show the team the detour (Detour #5). Once they choose the team member, give them the road block (Road Block #7). The team member will need to enter the house and search a pile of stuffed animals for a small tan bear with their team colors. Two teams can compete at the same time. Once they find the bear and present it to Terri, they will now have to defeat an enemy playing a Playstation game called gladiator. It's a simple game that should be easy to complete. After they have won the game, best 2 of three competitions, they can receive the final route info (Route Info #8). This route info will direct them to the pitstop. This task was first in first out. The only way to move ahead was to skip it...which one team did. Note: the previous step where there was confusion about this location clue. The team that skipped thought (because of similar addresses) that they were going to the pitstop already...and in the end they went straight there.

The pitstop is at Willow Creek #3 clubhouse. Remember, you are still not allowed to take them there, they must direct you. The Club house is back near the park where the rock toss was done. The clubhouse will be the pitstop. Please send me a text telling me when you are on your way to the pit stop so that we can prepare for their arrival. When you arrive, please video tape the arrival and me welcoming your team to the pitstop. That's all, now the party starts!!! because the one team skipped the previous location they incurred a 15 minute penalty...however, it took the other team (the one I was driving for) 20 minutes to get our team was last to arrive. :( I think I was the only one who cared though as the kids were just having fun.

One last thing. Please keep me apprised of your progress throughout the race. We'll be monitoring the progress and time. We need to know if we are going to be too long and if we need to cut some events out. If that happens, I will inform all parents via text message which event to skip. It might get harry if that happens, but we'll try to make it smooth. I need to know when each team starts and completes a challenge. AS the team is preping (maybe just before you leave the car) please send me a text to let me know which challenge you are starting. Then when they have completed it and are looking for the next stop, let me know again by text that you have finished. That will allow us to gauge how long we are taking and if we are running long. Unfortunately I being technically challenged, I wasn't able to keep in touch with "Phil" to let him know our location. When we were on our way to the Mall he called to let me know that I would need to look for the previous team for our clue...I learned there that I had to wait for the next team to give them the clue.

We started the race just a bit after 2pm and arrived at the clubhouse a bit after 6pm. I was so very tired! At the clubhouse the second theme movie was playing, the kids had dinner, & cake. They also played a few games that the parents had never heard of. The parents chatted. It was very loud and crazy. Darly had a lot of fun but doesn't want ANYTHING like this for her birthday...she wants a nice quiet Tea Party. YAY! :D