Friday, August 31, 2012

Won’t You Be My Neighbor Lemonade ~ FFP#6

As you may know over the summer we moved into a new neighborhood. I think many of us long for a place where children frolic in sprinklers while neighbors sit and visit one another on their porches. In this busy day and age that can be hard to come by. But it is worth the effort. Over the years some of our previous neighbors have become our dearest friends.

 

Now that I am finally unpacked, I am ready to to try and build relationships with those I can borrow a cup of sugar from in the future. There are many ways a good relationship can be formed.

I found these darling printables by Eat Drink Chic on Pinterest.


I really wanted to make my own lemonade and fill it in glass bottles I found at the thrift store or these cute gems at Ikea.
SLOM Bottle with stopper IKEA Tight-fitting stopper prevents leakage.
The lemonade would also be so cute presented in mason jars.

Lemonade in Mason Jars


But I get that if a lady you don’t know shows up on your doorstep with homemade lemonade you probably aren’t going to drink it. So I purchased some bottled (and sealed!) lemonade at Trader Joe’s. Tags were signed and attached with bakers twine and we plan on passing them out on Labor Day.


  
Do you have a great neighbor? 

Laura

What pin made your heart leap this week? Do you have a board collection you love? Please share, I’d love to see it.
You can link to a post you created or a pinterest URL.
Yes, it can be your own creation that you have pinned. 

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Truncating Your Blog Feed

Summary: This post is designed to help blog readers and blog writers understand truncated feeds. It features various links so that you can research the topic for yourself and make an informed decision as to what is best for you. 
Last week a movement began to sweep through blogland like a raging fire. Susan, who writes one of my favorite blogs, “Between Naps On The Porch” wrote a superb post on how she has begun to wage a war against scrapers stealing content from her blog. I know that she and other bloggers have sadly had to deal with this issue for a few years now. Since then hundreds of blogs announced that due to scrapers and their horrible sites stealing their blog content they were now going to be switching to a truncated feed.




What that means for those who read their favorite blogs in a reader via an RSS feed, and use a search engine other than Google Chrome, is that you will now have to click over to the blogs original site. The bad news for readers is that if you have a slow computer, the time spent waiting for a page to load it’s content and ads can seem like eternity. The bad news for writers is a potential loss of readership. 
The good news for the writer is that their blog will receive more protection against scrapers. It is my understanding that a blog does not receive page view credit when someone views their blog in a reader via an RSS feed. So they will also receive credit for the page view when the reader clicks over to the original site. More page views are definitely a positive. 
Several readers were concerned at why this entire issue suddenly has become a frantic hot topic. It has actually been a problem for several years. So why now is this cause for alarm? Call me the anti Chicken Little (The Sky Is Falling!!!!) I set out to do some major research.
Let me stress that I do not consider myself to be a computer expert AT ALL! This blog and all that it encompasses is written and produced by a one woman operation. That would be me. In the past I have googled topics like “How to create a blog header” to teach myself how to do things. I also watch videos on youtube to educate myself on a variety of topics. I am by all counts a self taught blogger. This can either be considered admirable or scary depending on who you ask. :) So please take all I say with a grain of salt. I encourage you to research and learn all you can about truncated feeds yourself. Education IS power!


Décor To Adore is a mid sized blog at best. On any given day it receives about 2,800 views. It is easy to see in the DTA sidebar (Yes, you have to click over to the original site to view the sidebar) that there are approximately 2,142 readers via Google Friend Connect, 90 thru Networked Blogs, 700 who read the posts via the DTA Facebook page, and the big one (for me) is the 2,634 readers via Feedburner.
Let me just take a small moment to express my gratitude.
That anyone at all reads this blog still continues to amaze me, even four years later. Thank you.
I myself have not had a lot of problems with scrapers, only small, sad people who have copied my photos/ideas and then claimed them as their own. When I or my adorable followers have called them on it, the majority have ceased and desisted. But let’s give the thief's a big round of boo!!!!

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Yes, the photo above is all mine. You can read the accompanying post HERE.  In a moment I will tell you why it was important that I just provided that link.
But first, when I added an RSS feed to my blog three years ago I researched the various options and settled on Feedburner because they came highly recommended and I found that they provided the highest form of protection against scrapers.
Next is the EASIEST way you can protect yourself.
Watermark your photos.
You will find that 90% of my blog photos are watermarked. I either use the initials DTA or Décor To Adore. The remaining 10% of the images are of my family, dogs, and other nonsense that is not worth stealing. Watermarking is good not only for protection against scrapers and sad people, but is also a fabulous tool in helping new readers find you via great sites like Pinterest.
I myself use Picasa to edit my photos. Picasa is free. Watermarking is easy to do. You click on the photo and the first tab features a wrench. In the 3rd row down is a box marked “text”. Click on it. You will then be able to add whatever words you choose, there are several fonts available.



You can also chose various colors for your font. Here I used Décor To Adore’s initials in purple.

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While the full name was done in dark green on this image.
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For those who would like to read about this floral post go HERE.
Which leads me to my next tip. Shameless self promotion is sometimes a good thing. On any given day you will find that when I write a blog post I link to other previous posts I have written, as well as link to other Décor To Adore related sites.
Just in this post alone I have linked to the DTA facebook page, my YouTube account, my Pinterest page and two previous posts. Just for good measure I will also link to my Twitter account. Linking makes scrapers angry.  Because the reader can find the original source of the work that has been stolen.
Now just to clarify I LOVE being featured on other blogs and have been blessed many times over by several fabulous sites. A feature is not the same as a scraper or small sad person. A feature provides credit where credit is due. My Ultimate DIY post that dear friend Joni from Cote de Texas featured two years ago and the apron that Laurie from Tip Junkie posted a year ago are STILL bringing new readers to my blog EVERY SINGLE DAY! A big kiss!!! Muuwah!
You see there, two more hyperlinks. Shameless and SMART! It is easy to create a hyperlink. I write my posts on Windows Live Writer. You type a word, highlight it, click on the hyperlink tab and insert the URL.



So, selecting Feedburner as your subscription service for RSS feeds, watermarking and hyperlinking are all easy things that a scraper takes one look at and says “To much to remove. No theft opportunities here.”  A scraper wants things quick and easy.
But know that truncating a feed, watermarking and hyperlinking are not a 100% guarantee against scrapers. So please still be alert.
Now, there are two more things that I do. One is a bit complicated. I have added a copyright to my feed's footers. It has to do with HTML. This POST was immensely helpful in guiding me through how to do so.
The last way I protect my content is easy peasy. If you scroll down to the very bottom of the DTA blog  (yes, you have to click over to the original site) you will see a tiny button that says “My Free Copyright”. Yep, my blog is copyrighted. I did that about a year ago. You can easily copyright your blog. My Free Copyright even has a HELP section at the bottom of their page. They can walk you through step by step.
These are all roadblocks against thieves ~ a way of deterring the scrapers who want an easy theft. They will look elsewhere when they see that you mean brass knuckled business.



Would you like to know if your blog content has ever been stolen? Here are two free sites where you can check.
Curious by nature I put the URL’s of some of the blogs that had claimed their work had been stolen into the above sites. I will only say that what I found revealed nothing of concern.
I have no problem with a blogger wanting to use a truncated feed to insure they receive the maximum amount of page views. They have absolutely earned it.
I myself will always be happy to click over to an original site of a truncated feed if the content interests me.
Any blogger will tell you that blogging is A LOT of work. No one deserves to get their hard work stolen. If you can get paid to blog through advertising and sponsorship it is all the better. I myself earn about $15 a week ~ that’s a little over $2 a day. This post alone has about 7 hours of research invested and took another 2 hours to write and produce. For 9 hours of work I earned a whopping 72 cents. Do I wish I would be credited with more page views that would result in a higher return on my time invested? In all honesty, absolutely. I will also insert a disclaimer that IF a problem with theft arises or further research reveals other positives that could apply to Décor to Adore in the future I may switch to a truncated format. 


But please, if you have not had content theft and like the idea of using a truncated feed to maximize your page views to possibly increase your monetary income please be honest so that other bloggers who may not fully understand truncated feeds do not become frightened. 
It should be ok to say “I work hard at blogging. This is how I support my family. I would like to be completely compensated for my hard work.” Let’s remove the stigma. 
For those that want to know more:
One thing that I learned in my research is that WordPress writers have the benefit of several built in levels of scraper security.
There are also some WordPress plug ins you can add. This article might assist you.
A blogger article that I found helpful:
Another article stated that truncating a feed really isn’t that helpful against theft:
Lastly, Susan has followed up with another brilliant post on how you can still read a truncated post through google chrome.
I realize I may regret writing this post as it is sure to be a hot button issue since I have raised a few questions that will probably not win me any popularity contests.
But the bottom line is that I write this with a pure and loving heart. I urge each and every one of you to take some time and read up on blog content theft and truncated feeds. Then make a well informed decision that is right for you.
I want to state again that truncating a feed isn’t a bad thing.
Earning a living for your family by blogging is a noble profession. Be proud of it!
I wrote this post because history is filled with movements and wars where 80% of the people weren’t really sure why things were happening. They just allowed themselves to be cattle herded into supporting something that perhaps they would have not participated in if they understood all the details. So again:
 Educate yourself! Knowledge is power!
Don’t just jump on the bandwagon. It may be burning underneath.
And my grandmother’s personal favorite:
To make wise decisions you must be informed. I hope that this post has helped in some small way.
Laura

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Farm To Table Feast for Forty

I spent my birthday weekend in Laguna Beach. The weather was sublime.

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I arrived at Andrea’s home late Friday afternoon to help set up and decorate for a Farm to Table Feast for Forty held on Saturday. My children, who had accompanied me, were corralled into helping out. We quickly became familiar with these lovely brick steps as the space was transformed.  

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A single long table was placed under the loggia. It was first covered in antique French linen and topped with a lovely washed burlap runner. Next came the plates, silverware and crystal for 24.

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Four glass hurricanes were placed in the center and intermittently surrounded by small votives.  A vine was plucked from the garden and was just the right touch of greenery. You can create a garland of greenery with potato vine, ivy, and even pumpkin, but you may want to avoid jasmine as the heady scent may conflict with food.

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Antique French linen napkins were rolled and tied with a bit of soft velvet. A single stem of rosemary or lavender was tucked in for color. A bonus from gathering a basketful of herbs was that every now and again, throughout the evening, I would catch a bit of the lovely scent as it lingered on my hands.

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At the end of the long table a desert station was set up. We moved Andrea’s great pine desk down from her bedroom and topped it with a collection of lovely antique crates.

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Lovely vignettes of nests and silver nestled inside the crates and created a décor of rustic elegance at it’s finest.

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It was a concoction of everything but the kitchen sink that worked beautifully.

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Her best serving pieces were set out as the sun slipped into the ocean.

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As nightfall approached the flickering candlelight made the copper pots gleam.

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Smaller round tables were set up on the upper patio and dressed in a similar fashion. To get the vine to bend in a circular shape I just gently snapped it in the place where I wanted a curve.

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Guests were smitten with the large copper tubs filled with ice, water, wine and rosemary. The herbs scent and color is a lovely addition and it also acts as a cushion for the glass bottles.

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As the platters began to be filled I quickly found my children in the upper tiers of the garden, snapped a photo and reminded them to be on their best behavior.

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They were absolute angels.

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I just adore the stonework that is dotted throughout the property.

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I just wish I had had more time to take a few more shots of the guests.

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Now for the food. Andrea prepared the entire menu. I was just lucky enough to serve it and grab a taste here and there.

My favorite? A simple slice of red tomato and peach topped with burrata, which in Italian means “buttered”. It is an apt description of this luscious cheese. While I have purchased burrata at Trader Joe’s before, there is nothing like fresh. It was topped with mint, a bit of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Delissimo!

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A garden salad with yummy haricots verts, dill and delicious beets.

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Fresh pappardelle pasta with seasonal mushrooms, butter and grated parmesan.

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Then came dessert which was nothing short of bliss~ fresh berries, chocolate mousse, whipped cream, lemon tart….sigh. But the coconut cake...well, I am still dreaming of just a single slice.

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Have you ever hosted a large party like this?

Laura

Don’t forget to link up your favorite “pinable” images on Friday!

Yes, it can be a direct link to your Pinterest account.

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Linking to:

StoneGable , A Stroll Thru Life, BNOTP, Designs By Gollum

Monday, August 27, 2012

Does Your House Tell Your Story?

This is our small entry at the new Décor To Adore manor. It might be a bit too much going on for some. But for our family it feels authentically like home.

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The space is tiny. It measures just 6’ x 9”.

When we first saw the home it was staged in a contemporary style. Anyone could have lived there. Anyone.

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But what if you want a home that tells a story of those that live there? What if you want to make the most of a space? What if you have an incredibly small budget?

Think about what speaks to you. What you cherish.

I began by bringing in a small antique washstand that Mr. Décor had purchased years ago at a flea market while stationed in England. It’s small scale fit the small space. 

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I topped it with a few of our favorite books, added a small sculpture my mother Karen made in high school, scattered a few found shells and finished the look with an arrangement of hydrangeas.

 

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Artwork had me stumped for awhile. The builder placed the light switches smack dab in the middle of the wall. Grrrrr. As I continued to unpack 18 million pictures I realized that I actually had very little open wall space. Most of the walls in our new home feature windows. So I took a risk and put all of our favorites up on one wall. I had nowhere to go but up.

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Every piece tells a story. This bell once hung around the neck of someone very special to us. I thank Albert C. Barnes for giving the green light to hang hardware on the wall.

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Seeing the bell reminds us of our Nanny who was tied to the olive tree in our front yard everyday that we lived on Crete.

Family photos and watercolors of favorite places mingle together. Who says a light switch can’t be art?

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You may remember that the vintage scrolled metal frames were found for mere pennies at a thrift store when I was visiting my Grandma Jingles last spring. A quick coat of spray paint made them modern.

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The light in the entry and attached living area encourages morning sun salutations. Yes, by all means the dogs are allowed on the white slipcovered couches. Rudi waits to be lifted. You can see a small footrest behind him that is put into place so that the fur boys can get down when they want to.

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Across from the couch is a large entertainment center and Franz’s favorite napping spot.

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The center is decorated very simply with a confit pot I hand carried home from France, wooden shoe molds found at a flea market in Germany and two books, one of which was written by my dear friend Brooke who greatly inspires me. The other major influence in decorating this space was my lovely friend Joni.

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Nestled next to the slipcovered chair is a small rattan table. This little gem was found at Ross for $15.00. The lid lifts off for extra storage. In small spaces multi functional furniture is key. I love the texture the rattan brings to the room.

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On top of the table a few starfish nestle on a vintage metal vanity tray along with a lantern that was carried by Mr. Décor’s grandfather, Landen, aka POP Gunn, as he walked the banks while working construction on what is now the Panama Canal.

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The coffee table deserves a post all it’s own. It too has a special story and the carving is amazing.

See the slipcovered chairs that were once in my office?

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They are topped with down cushions so lovely to lay on. They used to be yellow but got a recent dip in a dye bath.

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You can see that the small dining area is separated by a low pony wall and an archway provides a glimpse of the kitchen.

Using the same curtains, hung high, helps to unify the two spaces.

Next to the slipcovered sofa is a skirted table.

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It is topped by a lamp, an antique frame once belonging to my great grandmother Emma and a collection of shells. Mr. Décor was once an avid scuba diver. The large shell was found by him in the Red Sea.

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The other table in the opposite corner is covered by yet another favorite book, the same antique frame in a smaller size and an hour glass where time has stopped.

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Yes, what began as this….

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…and this…

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…has been transformed. It is no longer a generic space. The house now tells the story of the family that lives here.

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I am still working on changing out the overhead lighting and plan to swap out the summer aqua for a bit of orange and burlap in the fall. That is the beauty of a neutral palette.

Laura

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Between Naps On The Porch, Today’s Creative Blog, Someday Crafts, SSS, StoneGable, The Shabby Nest, Tatertots and Jello, Positively Splendid, The 36th Avenue, SNS, A Stroll Thru Life