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All-Flash Websites Still Not Okay

Even though Google's announced they're even better at indexing Flash (SWF) content, don't get all excited and build a website all in flash because "it'll look cool, and Google can read all the content now!" For real. If you care ANYTHING about measuring the success – perceived or otherwise – of your online marketing efforts, an all-flash site isn't the way to go. At least, not yet.

Let's step back for a minute. "Hang on a tick," you say..."hasn't Google been able to penetrate Flash files for a couple years now?" Actually, yes – since the beginning of July 2008, Google's been working on being able to read and index Flash files, even updating last year to being able to index external content loaded from other files and associating it with the "parent" SWF file.

All this is awesome! Google continues to move right along and improve...but should you be building websites entirely in Flash because of this? I don't know....but my guess is probably not.

Here's why: even with this heightened ability to read/index SWF content, will a website built entirely in Flash still appear as one page? Currently, that's the case. Sure, The Google can read and index your Flash content. BUT, a site built in Flash registers as a single web page. "So?" you might scoff. Well, again, if you're interested in tracking any sort of data on your pretty little site, you MIGHT want to re-think Flash.

Check it out:


























This is all the data Google can (as of this morning) gather for a website built entirely in Flash, which consists of 6 or 7 "pages" – to a human – but only 1 to Google. Visitors can enter, click around, and see different content, but Google perceives each visitor as hitting "only" the home page...since, technically, no other "page" exists (look at the address bar when viewing an all-Flash site; you'll see what I mean).

Maybe this newest advancement in reading SWF/Flash content will prove me wrong. But, maybe it's a glitch they haven't worked out yet...or might not ever be able to.

So, while a Flash website can look "really cool," "innovative" and "cutting edge," is it worth anything if you're looking to measure its success with analytics???

Answer: nope.

Horseback Riding Lessons in Pequot Lakes

I grew up around horses, have always loved them, and started (seriously) horseback riding at the age of 7. Throughout all my years of trail riding, practicing for horse shows (mostly 4-H) and just horsin' around, Maxine has been there. She's not just a friend; "Max" is family. But that aside, she's also a damn good horse woman, and she's finally giving riding lessons again.

Horseback Riding Instruction
Maxine gives lessons to horseback riders of all ages at Lonesome Dove Training Center in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. While the fundamentals of horseback riding she teaches aren't discipline-specific, she can focus with any rider on their desired discipline: western, hunt seat, saddle seat, show hack, even driving.

Whether you're an adult looking to step up your horse show game or learn a new discipline, or you have a young child deliriously in love with horses, you should be taking horseback riding lessons from Maxine Luger Gallett. She has an innate sense of how to train riders to work along with their horses. She has over 30 years' experience showing horses, schooling riders in equitation, and showing horses in multiple disciplines; she can take any horse and rider combo and turn them into a well-rounded pair.

Maxine Has Schooled Many Horseback Riders Over The Years
Over the years she's garnered quite a following of loyal protégés.

While I didn't take as many lessons from her as I'd have liked over the years (by the time I hit my "stride" with showing, she wasn't giving lessons), I've learned a lot from her and I did pretty well with my little 4-H horse over the years. I mean, if you count winning a trip to the State 4-H Horse Show every year I was eligible (and placing down there, too :); placing highly in local shows and even winning some open classes against "big-shot" trainers, then yes, I think I did pretty well. Of course, that was way back in high school and college. Now I pretty much just trail ride, but I'm still learning – every time I see Max, I learn SOMETHING new!

My sister (Amy Bernier Satterfield), on the other hand, took lessons with Max for years – and not just for 4-H competitions, she went to the Class A Arabian shows – and under her tutelage not only became a beautiful equestrian (first in hunt seat, followed by saddle seat and western) but also a great trainer. She finished her National Show Horse ("Ben") and turned him into a winning machine. Her recent accomplishments include attending and placing at WSCA horse shows against some extremely tough competition in hunt seat pleasure. In fact, for the Arabian Unplugged 2010 show circuit, she was the "runaway" English Hunt Seat High Point Champion. That's quite an accomplishment!

Another of Max's students, Stacy Ennenga Stricker, has gone on to become quite the horse woman. She also trains horses – she's working on finishing two of them this year – and has an affinity for Parelli training. To watch her working with her horses is truly amazing. 

Maxine's own daughter, Tasha, is following in her mother's footsteps, showing her pinto (Tío) in 4-H, at open shows (including WSCA), and participating in drill team.

Max's latest students are young girls (my niece included) in various stages of learning to ride. She teaches them the basics of riding, but she also gives them confidence. One of them – the 11-year-old daughter of my friend – won her walk-trot class at the 4-H County Fair Horse Show this past summer. She's gung-ho, excited about her lessons, and is shaping into a great little rider under Maxine's tutelage! And so the list goes on.

Horseback Riding Lesson Details
So, after singing a few of her many accolades, here's the scoop on taking lessons with Max:

All lessons are given at Lonesome Dove Training Center, owned and maintained by the Haffs.

Pricing: Using a Lesson Horse
If a rider uses an on-site lesson horse, the pricing is $65.00 for an hour of riding instruction. This hour does NOT include catching the horse, grooming or tacking up. Each rider receives a full hour's worth of riding and schooling. $5.00 of this fee is for the use of the arena (since Maxine doesn't own the facility); another $10.00 is for the use of the lesson horse.

If only a half-hour session is desired, the charge is $40.00 (with the use of a lesson horse).

Pricing: Bringing Your Own Horse
If a rider chooses to bring his/her own horse, lesson pricing is $55.00 for an hour of riding instruction; $30.00 for a half-hour session. Again, the time to groom your horse and saddle up is not included in the lesson time.

Of course, if you have a young child who wants to learn these things – how to properly groom and tack a horse – I'm sure she can accommodate, since these are also important aspects of riding!

Also, discounted rates are available for lessons with 2 riders – of approximately the same knowledge level – but talk to Max to discuss details.

Contact Maxine
To get started on your way to becoming a better equestrian – or to enroll your daughter/son – you can email Max at lugerltd@hotmail.com or call her at (218) 562-4754.

If you take lessons from Max, I guarantee you'll not only learn how to become a better rider and how to work with your horse; you'll have a lot of fun, too!

Metaphorically Speaking?

Today while I was getting ready for work a thought hit me which I must expound on here.

I have a walk-through bathroom. I believe the technical term is a Jack & Jill bathroom. It's pretty stupid...I mean, a bathroom with two doors I have to shut before – well, you know. Anyway, while I like having all the openness and light, I'm not a fan of the layout.

In order to get to my linen closet – in which I store linens (weird), medicine, hair products and other necessities I use every day – I have to close one of the bathroom doors. This bothers me.

I don't WANT to close one door to open another one. It's irritating.

Which got me to thinking: is that a metaphor for my life?

I Chopped My Hair Again

Hey, the celebrities are all doing it – lopping off all their locks – plus I needed a change. This is yet another part of the cycle I've been in since college of growing my hair out; getting sick of it and whacking it off in one swell foop; letting it grow out long again...

So, to document this latest foray into pixie land (okay, it's not a true pixie but for me it's so short I just call it that) I have the "before" and "after" proof ...

Here's me sitting in the chair while the hairdresser (LaRae from Hair Matters) mixes the highlight stuff:

 
Now, while some of you might be thinking the orangey-yellowy cast to my hair might be caused from the lighting in the salon, it's not. That was actually the color of my hair after a summer's worth of being outside on weekends in the sun. Not very flattering. The word which comes to mind is "sallow."

After a couple hours' worth of transformation (and having shown her pictures of cute Meg Ryan 'dos I liked), here's the result:


Is she good or WHAT?! Everyone should go to LaRae!

Okay, for real – here's the finished product:


I can make it look messier – sorry, Meggier – than she did at the salon. It's SO fun, and QUICK! No more blow-drying my locks for 10 minutes (or more) every morning. I might even start getting to work early because of this :)

Thank you, LaRae, for my cute new 'do!



*Meg Ryan image borrowed from this site.

Hey, Behr – I Need Your Advice for a Paint Color!

Alright, all you Behr Paint users: I need advice on a paint color. Namely, a shade/hue of blue. This is sort of a continuation of our Town Home Makeover Project (which I have yet to document here but soon shall) and partially a result of me buying a really cool piece of art.

Enter said piece of art into the house and the consequence: needing to paint. First of all, the entire downstairs living room is white. All walls. Plus the carpet's beige. MLEH. While I never in a million years thought I'd EVER willingly paint "beige" in a house, I did choose Toasted Wheat for the upstairs living room/kitchen and then I accented with red...some orange...etc. I'm kind of a fan of the "neutral" base colors with accents.

Anyway. My idea for this room – our downstairs living room – is a combination of browns (again, carpet's beige; couch/chair/ottoman are dark brown) and blue with orange accents. I just love orange. In addition to red, it's probably the color I can't do without. SO. With that color palette (mostly) chosen, now what do I do with all these nooks n crannies in this room? Paint just one wall? Paint all of it? Bleck...I don't even want to think of painting all of it. My idea is to ONLY paint the wall on which the new art will reside.

Here's the new art – it's a bigun, measuring ~42" tall by ~65" wide – which is to go behind the couch:


Cool, huh? I found this gem in the Lazy Turtle while antiquing with my friend in Anoka a couple weekends ago. So you can see it's the perfect wall art for me – it has neat horses in it, it's historical (Clint loves Egyptian history), plus it has the colors I want for that room – BUT since it'd be going on a white wall something needs to change. I can't do white-on-white.

Here's the room in question last Christmas (hence the lights; no I haven't started decorating already):



First and foremost: yes, I got rid of the pillows on the couch – except the orange one, of course – so no advice needed there.

Secondly, as you can see the room has a LOT of extra surface area on the south side (fireplace, TV nook, stairs) so painting that wall would probably do me in.

Thirdly – and this is a biggie – I'm considering ONLY painting the north wall (behind the couch) with some shade of blue. Thoughts? Suggestions? Am I crazy??

C'mon, Behr...help a gal out!

Hey, Idiot, Press "Enter"

Boy, Google Instant sure has the world in a tizzy. From "I don't want to be shown a SERP without hitting 'Enter'" to "Why don't they censor Google Images like they censor Web searches?" C'mon, people, admit it...Google has more (perceived) power over you than you a) realize and/or b) will admit.

Upon reading Danny Sullivan's article about G is for Girls Breast Feeding Each Other I saw the video Max Goldberg – some random stand-up guy – did in which he spouts off about how Google's censoring the entire Interwebz and not allowing searches on certain words. He's actually kinda funny, but he's either trying to stir up a hornet's nest or he's an idiot. If he truly thinks Google won't allow him to search certain words, he might need a lesson in how The Google works.

So, here's a quick tutorial on how to MAX-imize your SERP (PS, buddy, that means Search Engine Results Page)*:

Step 1: If you don't have a Google toolbar, then type google.com into your address bar (if you don't know these terms, I can't help you). This should get you to something that looks like this:
Step 2: Type in a word – ANY WORD – to start searching.



Okay...here's a better example:



Here's the neat thing with Google nowadays – it'll not only suggest results (without having to hit "enter" on your keyboard or even the "Search" button...which is SOOOOO 2004); it displays them REAL-TIME! Sweet! However, that might not work for all searches, which brings us to...

Step 3: If your search is "censored" from Google Instant – meaning Google doesn't want to automagically display results for certain, shall we say, sensitive keywords – you're still able to research that material. Hang onto your hats, folks, I'm going to tell you how to get around the "massive, unforgivable censorship" imposed on us by The Google.

Ready???

PRESS ENTER.



That's right, I've have single-handedly found the way around Google's censorship. If Google doesn't want you to see Instant results, you hafta hit your 'enter' key. Whew. I'm gonna call it a day.

Of course, maybe I WANT to see "blacklisted" results without having to hit "enter" – define lazy – and that's what this whole thing is all about. Then you'd think They would let Us define this by setting our filters.
 


BUT, what about shared and/or public computers? Poses a rather delicate situation...one which I think Google is – overall – handling very well.

But I digress. So, to recap, it's as easy as 1, 2, 3 to search on Google. For those of you who REALLY can't figure it out – like Max Goldburp – here's another, quicker, live tutorial. I.e., let me Google "lesbians" for you, idiot. 



*Disclaimer: I'm not a teacher nor do I have any special ed type of background, so results when utilizing this tutorial may vary based on the IQ of individual searchers.

Crosby & Aitkin Team Up To Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This video brings a tear to my eye – not just because it's well done; it also hits closer to home. As in, 14 miles from home...I didn't grow up in Crosby, Minnesota, but I did attend kindergarten through my senior year of high school there.

I was a tried-and-true Ranger fan, hell bent on hating the Gobblers (from the not-very-far-away neighboring town of Aitkin). I realize high school sports rivalry doesn't extend into the health care system, but it was still touching to see the two rival towns unite in this awesome video in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Some familiar faces in here, and also a great message. Not just for women – and men! – to be aware of breast cancer and its risks, but that a whole community is supporting a cause and spreading awareness.

Well done, Crosby and Aitkin! (Not to mention the videographers :)

Dear Jill Whalen...You Actually ARE A Fool!

...Or, I Really Thought That By 2010 Jill Whalen Would Figure It Out
Back in 2005 when I serendipitously fell into the SEO world, the company at which I worked invited Jill Whalen to come and talk. Since I was literally about 2 days into my role I had no clue who this chick was or what was going on. I really couldn't tell you what she talked about but I DO remember thinking it was neat that a writer also knew search optimization. Never woulda figured her for a whiner.

That was 5 years ago and boy, has the world of search marketing sure changed. Which is okay – it's a dynamic environment, after all. The point is, if you truly call yourself a "Search Marketer" you need to move right along with the times and keep up on new advancements.

I'm not going to say I'm up-to-date on everything; I do know that optimization tactics and paid search marketing have drastically changed since '05: for the better, I might add. It's only ever ANY search engine's objective to return the most relevant results to its users...otherwise said users will ditch search engine A for search engine B.

Whether anyone likes it or not, The Search Engine is Google and while the others (yes, there are others) strive to keep up, Google sets the bar for search engine capabilities. And, do you know what? If you don't like it, then get the hell offline. To be honest, if you don't like rules and regulations, you shouldn't be a marketer at all. It's the same with traditional marketing, people.

Are we, as SEOs, trying to please Google when we take on a website or PPC client? Hell no. We're following protocol – as any marketer does in ANY discipline, such as PR, media planning, etc. – and applying our knowledge to create a marketing campaign which will positively affect ROI.

Enter purported SEOs who bitch about Google's RULES and how they don't WANNA be a marketer beholden to an online conglomerate. Does the whiny tone come through? It should...just like in Jill Whalen's little passive-aggressive rant about how she looks like a fool all because of Google.

She whines and cries about how Google condones link buying, keyword-stuffing, doorway sites and "crappy articles" submitted to bullshit networks full of – you guessed it – other crappy articles. She also claims to have been telling people for a decade that "the way to be found in Google is to have one, great, all-encompassing website." See, and here I thought the more niched the content, the better chance it had of competing.

According to her, Google "single-handedly created the entire link-building and link-buying industries" and that "Link building is the most distasteful, horrible act to have to perform for a website." No one's asking you to do anything you don't want to do here, Jill ('cause no always means no)...if you don't want to acquire credible, relevant, topical links for your clients' websites, then DON'T. If you don't want to create websites around targeted, descriptive, relevant content, don't.

There are a lot of other accusations in her rant, all of which accuse Google of showing only spammy sites in their SERPs. Once more, I don't quite know what she's talking about, but this I do know:

Sounds like someone's pissed off that the websites she creates aren't ranking #1 in Google. Somewhat reminiscent of what people complained about 5 years ago. Might have to move with the times, Jilly-girl, and read up on some advancements. If you're a true SEO, then you KNOW online marketing changes. Just sayin'.

This isn't the first time we've seen her head on a tirade about something which actually isn't true. It seems she likes to take words and ideas and twist them to make people (or search engines) look evil, like she did here.

Also, I'd like to add I truly enjoyed how you bash, bash and beat the dead horse and then, at the end, with a casual addition of a "P.S.S." (no clue what that means, I think she meant it as a post postscript, but I'm only guessing) she adds this little nugget: "(Google) You're still way better than the other search engines!"

So, a search engine which you say returns ONLY spam and makes you look like a fool is way better than anything else you'd use to find content online? Yikes. Define: FOOL.

*Also...did you notice how, even though she HATES link building, by writing something controversial she garnered a link (albeit from my rinky-dink, personal blog)? Yes, I do realize I offered it up; I merely wanted to make a point :)

Google Suggests Instant Search

Remember when we first saw Google Suggest?

I thought it was annoying. Then I got used to it and didn't heed the – what I considered to be – random suggestions.

Then I not only started paying attention, I started USING said suggestions. Wow, Google really knows what I'm searching for! Thanks, Google :)


It didn't take long at all to start implementing keywords – whether for a site optimization or PPC campaign – based on Google's suggestions. Hey, if Google's suggesting it, you have to figure a) SOMEONE'S searching for it, and/or b) someone's going to click on that suggestion because Google suggested it.

Of course, it was also funny to search for the neatest, most hilarious suggestions for random stuff...



Well, there's a new type of suggest now. This morning Google announced their faster-than-the-speed-of-type search, Google Instant. Not only does Google suggest what you should TYPE, they're suggesting what you should click...before you even finish typing. That's right, as you type, your SERP changes in real-time. You don't even need to finish typing – or hit "return" – in order to access your results.



A picture doesn't do it justice; you really need to experience it to get the full effect. Hint: you have to be signed in and thus far it's only worked for me in Chrome.

The question is: what will this do to search? What will it do to all those egomaniacal crazies out there who want to rank for generic terms? Will they now insist on ranking for letters???

Google Thinks Sexuality is Important

We all know Google shows sitelinks for the cool kid sites – i.e., reputable websites – but the question here isn't "how do they determine which sites get sitelinks in their rich snippets?" Rather the question is, "how does Google determine which links get placed into the sitelinks snippet?"

From the horse's mouth – none other than Mr. Google himself – we learn that "we (Google) show sitelinks whenever we think that they might be especially helpful for someone...the way we compute that is algorithmic." See the full video here.

Interesting. Normally, with consumer sites, say West Photo, we'll see sitelinks such as "Rental List," "Promotions," etc:



While that's all well and good, yesterday I happened to stumble across an interesting rich snippet for the Yahoo Directory...it seems Google thinks sexuality is not only "helpful," they think it's ESPECIALLY helpful:



Go, Google!

What'll be interesting to see is whether or not Yahoo decides to change that (by utilizing Webmaster Tools). If not, then go Yahoo!

Has anyone else run across other interesting sitelinks?

Zada's Journey Continues

I'm that geek who goes back and re-reads old blog posts from time to time and in doing so today I came across my first day with Zada – also a long day of "firsts" for her. She'd never done a lot of things a dog owner sort of takes for granted when they bring a new puppy home...things like wearing a collar, walking on a leash (keep in mind she was 4 months old when I got her), going for a car ride, being used to meeting new dogs and seeing new places, etc.

Reading through my emotions of that day I'm definitely glad we've progressed to where we are now. Namely, I have a nearly-4-year-old German shepherd I can mostly trust around new dogs and kids and who motivates me to get out for walks. When I pick up her collar, she comes to me and puts her nose up so I can slip it on. I grab her leash out of the closet and she knows we're heading outside for an uber-fun walk (any walk is a fun walk for her). She rides in the car like a champ – she never threw up again after that first day – and is calm, doesn't whine or get excited and waits until I tell her she can jump out.

She waits at doors for me to tell her it's okay to go out (or come in). I never realized how NICE it is to have a polite dog until I see everyone else's dog rushing headlong through doors. I don't have to worry about her taking off to chase squirrels, rabbits, ducks or turkeys, though I do have to watch her around deer and cats. I can walk her off leash and trust she'll stick around (unless, again, there are deer...but we're working on that!).

She's been – knock on wood – healthy, with no major illnesses or surgeries (save for her spay and having to get her leg stitched up when she sliced it open 3 years ago). I did recently put her on glucosamine because historically she's been sore after a ton of exercise. She hasn't displayed that for a while (pre-glucosamine) so might not be an issue.

I get compliments all the time on what a good dog she is...and while she's not perfect, she IS such a great dog and I'm thankful – in spite of a few quirks – I have her. Here's to the time you've already given and those years left yet to give!

A Horsey Weekend

A Girl on Her Horse
A couple weekends ago I made the sojourn up North to hang out at the parents' Ranch n Spa. Not only to relax...I had a few items on the agenda: I had to enter my photography at the Crow Wing County Fair; a family friend wanted me to take pictures of her daughter and her horse; and my mother and family friends were riding in a horse show in Aitkin.

Haley & BlazeNeedless to say it was a busy – and very fun-filled – few days. It was also very photography-focused. I always bring my DSLR when I go up there, but I don't think it's ever gotten quite the use it did on that trip: I ended up shooting over 1,500 images. Normally I don't get those types of numbers unless I'm shooting a wedding or on vacation.

Hunt Seat Pinto Horse Lomo Effect
It all started with the cloudy, slightly-foggy morning photo shoot of a girl and her horse (a 30-year-old horse, I might add). Since animals aren't always super-cooperative – though old, this horse is still somewhat naughty and wasn't willing to stand still – and I needed to catch the "poses" quickly, I cheated and threw the camera into the sports mode setting. *Sigh* Yes, for a portrait-type photo shoot I did this. But, it was a slightly cloudy day (and with my 24-105 f/4, that wasn't ideal), the horse was moving around and I wanted to be able to continuous-fire.

National Show Horse Grazing
Turns out it was a good setting for that particular situation. No time to manually set up f-stop and aperture for each image. Partly the reason I took so many shots, since of course I was trigger-happy. Got some good ones, and our friend is happy so that's all that matters.

Joy of Perfection & Hucklebey CharmerThe day after that I went ahead and kept right on shooting – for the majority of the day, anyway – in my cheater sports setting since I was at a horse show. Again, lots of shots snapped in order to get the good ones (in this case, it's so much about framing, lighting, etc. as it is about how the horse looks). I ended up shooting more video of the classes than images, and none of the shots were great, in my opinion. But, the weather was (mostly) good, ribbons were won and fun was had.

Grass with Horses in Background
After getting back from the show it was time to head into Brainerd to enter my photography at the fairgrounds. Evidently the judges liked me, my photos did well again this year :)

When I got home from that it was only natural to head out to our own horse pasture and continue shooting. Sometimes a horse of your own standing in a field evokes more of an emotional response than anything else...again, while not exceptional shots they're my family's horses and I just like the shots.

Three Horses Lomo Effect
That weekend kick-started my picture-taking gene. Since then I've been pretty focused with not only shooting more but also wading back into the plethora of stock I have and editing older images. I don't think I could re-create that weekend if I tried...but I'm glad I got the chance to get to blend two of my great loves – horses and photography.



National Show Horses in Pasture

Thanks to the horses for posing for the camera :)

Victory 44

Scotch Egg Plate at Victory 44
I lived in North Minneapolis for 4 years and never knew about Victory 44. Maybe it's new or maybe I was too scared to venture out. Regardless, I've recently experienced this cool little place and I must say the experience was a surprise.

For that neighborhood the cuisine is shockingly cosmopolitan. My friend and I sat on the patio –  which is cuter than the inside and according to our waiter, dog-friendly – and sipped our cold, adult beverages while said waiter explained their chalkboard menu (including how to say "charcuterie").

Since their plates are all small and we wanted so many items, we ended up ordering quite the parade of wonderful food. To accompany my waiter-advertised white wine and my friend's cocktail, we dined upon the following:



Charcuterie at Victory 44: Their Meat & Cheese Tray
  1. Bacon fries (these were tasty, big french fries with crumbled cheese; we didn't notice any bacon)
  2. Scotch egg - absolutely to DIE for if you like scotch eggs!
  3. Charcuterie - their "meat and cheese tray" which is actually a lovely concoction of head cheese, liverwurst, paté and pickled veggies and overall yumminess.
  4. Seared scallops - extremely tasty. 
  5. Dessert - a 2-part, delectable, sinful, utterly fantastic display of art which we also ate. FABULOUS.





We did spend a nice little sum of coin –  although they're small plates the prices add up when you eat as many of them as we did – the quality of the food was definitely worth the price. 

I'm thinking I'd love to head back sometime and try more menu items (and also the dessert...it'd be silly not to) and maybe I'll even bring the dog!

Dessert Tray at Victory 44

A Fun Summer Weekend

This past weekend was pretty relaxing and fun. The weather was nice – some storms passed through a couple evenings but no damage for us – and I got quite a bit done. Here's a random account of how it all went down:

Among other things, together we watched our dog-in-law for a day; ate grilled steaks, tilapia and catfish and watched a couple movies.

I finally got around to planting my (3) hanging baskets (with wave petunias and verbena) along with transferring my 2 little basil plants to their respective brightly-colored pots (from Michaels, $2.50 each!). Although they're probably sad they no longer get to sit out on the deck with all the other plants, they now grace the window sill in the living room and look very cheery. I'm going to have to come up with some more good recipes that use basil!

Also I had to cut back one of my already-potted plants...it was getting out of hand so I had fresh-cut flowers. Turns out I'm going to have to overhaul it, it's way too "leggy" so I'll have many more vases to fill after chopping it back.



Zada got to hang out at the dog park for a total of about 2.5 hours this weekend, which I'm sure she thought was fun. Judging by all the running, chasing and tongue-lolling I'm only guessing she had a good time. By the amount of time she CRASHED after her 2 sessions I'm thinking she got enough exercise, too :)

Speaking of the dog, I finally got around to hanging all the pictures in the living room/dining room. FINALLY. It was somewhat of a daunting task to start for the mere fact I'm a tad OCD so if I were to hang pictures and they weren't perfect it'd bug me to no end. Turns out I hung all 16 images in hardly no time. And they're straight. And perfectly spaced. AND level!

Started working out again – even though it was "just" with the Best of Gilad – and it's kicked my a$$. Didn't realize how out-of-shape I am!

 I got to see my nieces, too. Headed over there one afternoon for lunch, chats, nail-painting and bubble-blowing. Good times. Niece #1 asked me to paint all her nails - each hand and foot a different color, of course. Thought I did pretty well.

Did quite a bit of reading. I'm almost done with The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson's 2nd book. It's a good 'un. I only bought the first 2; wanted to wait 'til the 3rd came out in paperback, but I'm thinking I might not be able to wait that long.

All in all, a pleasant weekend!

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Early in May my aunt contacted me and asked if I'd like to go to a Saints game. More specifically, the "bring your dog to the ballpark" game, otherwise known as a 'Saint Paul Saints Dog Day.' I figured it'd be fun and a good socializing opportunity for Zada. Plus there'd be beer. Oh, and baseball.

Since the Saints play near where we live, it wasn't a long trip. Which is good, because I'd had 'one of those days' and was running behind, and stressed out for whatever reason. Upon calling my aunt to tell her I'd be late, she informed me she'd signed me up for some sort of contest. Great.

Upon arriving, I found my aunt and we proceeded to the tail-waggin' tailgating party in the parking lot. She has some friends who'd organized a little get-together complete with chips, hot dogs, dogs on leashes and – of course – beer.


While the majority of the dogs at this particular party were bite-sized, there were a few big dogs for Zada to meet and play with, including a wilder-than-wild husky mix and a Bernese mountain dog. Of course, my aunt had also brought along one of her dogs (BB) so we had a full line-up.



After heading over for a free hot dog (included with our ticket!) and our complimentary photo (stolen from Facebook, hopefully the photog doesn't mind) it was time to head into the game. We got a little distracted waiting in line for our free soda (I chose beer) because these weird characters kept marching by. My aunt decided she wanted a portrait of the two dogs with an Elvis-type character; Zada looked skeptical of the whole thing.



I was wondering where we'd be sitting at this ballpark, since bleachers aren't very dog-friendly. Evidently we ended up in the wrong section, but no one seemed to care and after settling the dogs we sat down to watch some baseball. Zada – in true cowardly shepherd fashion – hid underneath me and didn't emerge the entire time.


Of course, to go along with my beer I had to buy mini-donuts. The dog in front of us in the stands got a donut treat from the vendor and for each time I reached into my own bag for a donut that dog bored holes through me. Cute lab named 'Fin.' (I think) There was surprisingly less barking than I'd thought with a bunch of dogs in attendance. Maybe like mine they were mostly just overwhelmed with the experience. (That and the fact I spilled a bunch of beer on her.)

Wouldn't you know I hadn't bothered to check the weather and it started to rain. Both my aunt and I put on our free ball caps but after a while the rain just wouldn't let up – thank goodness she'd brought ponchos! Only my beer got to share mine; my aunt tucked BB into hers so he stayed warm and dry the entire game.

After the 6th inning we had to head down to the gate for our "contest" which ended up being "Best of Breed" or something. It was fun, but I really didn't take it too seriously since a gal in a huge pig costume was the judge. Either way, BB won and my uncle won't ever let me live THAT one down :)

All in all, it was a fun time and I think I'd go back again on Saints Dog Day – hopefully it won't rain the next time, though. There's nothing QUITE like riding home in a car reeking of wet, beer-stained dog. Try to explain THAT one to the cops.

PS: There was actually baseball at the park, too :)

Look Who's Keeping Plants Alive

Even though I grew up in the country, I've never gardened. You might think growing up country doesn't necessarily equal gardening skills, but MOST people have some sort of garden – whether it's for flowers or vegetables – but my mother hated it so I never learned it. Wait, I take that back – one year in high school I DID attempt a veggie garden of squash and green beans. It wasn't pretty.

Throughout my years living alone in apartments, I'd try every once in a while to purchase a potted plant for some living thing to share my space...alas, I was never able to keep any of them alive. I even killed cacti. Yes, that's right. More than once.

When I moved into my very own house, I got somewhat excited to try to plant around the house...I didn't get to it until the year before I moved out (Clint was nice enough to put in bricks to make little gardens for me!), and still it was only transplanted hostas. Thing is, the majority of them that I planted (~30 or so) lived! That was a boost.

Now we live in a town home, and the point is moot. I mean, it's already landscaped. BUT, you can buy pots. Then, you can buy flowers. Then you mix them together, and you can put them on your deck. It's crazy.


Last summer, I decided to purchase one of those ready-made pots from the Cub "nursery" (geraniums = hardy) and figured I could start there. Thing is, my problem is watering. I was never really sure how much to water a plant. Evidently I did "okay" last summer, because the hardy geranium lasted almost 'til the end of the season. 

This year is different. I got talked into buying some plants from my cousin-in-law's kids for Boy Scouts. Figured I could buy a pot and plant them. Not really sure what I bought, and of course they're nothing like I thought. Still haven't potted them, but they ARE still alive...





Clint even bought me two already-potted plants (he thought I could uproot them and re-plant in a different pot, but I like them as is). My friend then gave me 3 hanging baskets which I plan on planting this week. Thing is, all these plants are STILL alive. It's quite amazing. No, for real. They're ALIVE.




And there's more. For the hanging baskets we made a trip to Linder's for flowers which are hanging-basket friendly, and while there I got an idea to buy some basil (which I use in a chicken dish Clint likes). Evidently that's a pretty popular herb, since the store only had 2 little plants left. Of course one of them was extremely wilted and looked like it was on its last roots. Wouldn't you know, not only did it perk up, it's GROWN! AND...I used the leaves from those little plants in making dinner last night. What a feeling.



While I wouldn't call myself a green thumb (Clint's had to remind me to water the flowers and has also pitched in from time to time...plus all the rain we've had has helped :), I think I'm well on my way to being able to keep plants alive and healthy. So what if I don't even have a watering can (I use a beer pitcher that says "Clint's Tavern" on it), I think I'm well on my way to being let off my plant probation.

Who knows? Next year I might even up the ante.