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Framed Collection of Sophia's Paintings

I finally went to Michaels and bought a shopping cart's worth of frames and mats. I needed to get my Europe paintings (both oil & water color) framed and hung out in the open, instead of lurking in the closet like they have been since I moved into this town home.

Well, after a couple nights of putting those together and trying to figure out where on earth to hang them (some are still waiting patiently...), I realized I had some other artwork I'd accumulated but never displayed: a few water color paintings Sophia painted for me way back when.

They're just fun, abstract, throw-some-colors-onto-paper paintings but after I framed three of them and hung them together, they look like a collection I paid money for at an art gallery. So says the proud auntie :)

You might think I got this idea from Pinterest (my newest and most favorite of all social media endeavors), but that's not true. I'm not sure where I got the idea, but I know I've been hanging on to her paintings for a couple years and just hadn't gotten around to framing them until now. I'm glad I did. (Learn the easy steps for a do-it-yourself art gallery using child's art.)

While at first it might sound mean, about the only place I have left to hang things is in our enclosed stairwell...but I'm liking the look they give to the uber-white, plain-slate space and I'm looking forward to putting up more in the staircase – of course, I might need Clint's help since I could barely reach the hammer up to get the top frame in place :)

I told my sister that one of her daughters had framed artwork hanging in my house, but it'd be nice to have the other daughter represented, as well.

"Have her paint me something," I said, to which she replied, "Will do. She's into drawing ooglie-eyed monsters with boogers." My response: "Okay then. We'll put HER collection in Clint's bathroom!"

Happy National Peanut Butter Day

I know, I know...I don't "believe" in National Days. Or do I? It seems that maybe I'm changing, since I celebrated with a s'moretini on National S'mores Day and Granny Bernier's spaghetti on National Spaghetti Day.

It was brought to my attention at lunch that today is National Peanut Butter Day. I love peanut butter, but I'm not head-over-heels for it or anything. I'll consume the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup sitting at my desk in honor but I don't know that I'm inclined to go much farther in celebration.

However, for those of you gung-ho about National Peanut Butter Day, here's a little ol' recipe for peanut butter pretzel bites that I noticed on Pinterest today if it strikes your fancy to bake something special. 

On second thought, maybe I'll give Zada a peanut butter kong in honor of this special day. She'll like that...she, unlike me, is gaga for peanut butter.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

Looking for homemade powder laundry detergent

I moved it, sorry for the inconvenience!

How Google+ is Affecting Search Results

The latest buzz the last couple of days on the search scene is all about Google+ and how it's affecting search results. Danny Sullivan did some research and wrote up a nice article about how Google's definitely pushing Google+ in the SERPs.

I decided to run my own little experiment this morning, just to see what I could see. At first I merely compared results from searches performed when I was logged in to Google versus not.

First up: searching for myself ("Sarah Bernier Danks"). This one is interesting because I had JUST been messing around with my Google+ profile, so I figured that's why it was suddenly showing up front and center (it hadn't before), and without me even getting more than "sarah b" typed into the search bar...

And here's without me being signed in (notice I had to type in my full name here):

Then I decided to type in a co-worker's name – well, I guess he's a friend...whatever – while signed in. Interesting that although I'm searching for someone ELSE, my own Google+ profile is the second result, just because I mentioned him:

(Thanks for the picture, Dennis :)

Here's without being signed in (and I'm out of the picture):

Okay, that's interesting enough but I wanted to try more general searches, so I tried "actors" while signed in:

And then once more without being signed in...hmmm, same thing:

This got me to thinking, why are THOSE actors showing up (and why are Britney & Snoop showing up for "music")? Here's a (slightly) less "famous" search:

Interesting how Rand's Google+ profile is showing up right in the suggestions. So I thought, maybe that's not a fair comparison, since Rand is huge in the search marketing/online world. Let's go back to celebrities. 

I did a search for, well, you know...and here's what I got:

Obviously, I reasoned, he's not on Google+, since that result's not showing up like it does for Rand Fishkin...I mean, Rob has to be AT LEAST as popular as Randfish, does he not? But, upon further searching, here he is, alive and well on Google+:

I got the same results for Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron – nothing showed up in searches for them, either, even though both have Google+ profiles. What the hell, Google? Why're you picking and choosing who "gets" to have their Google+ profile show up in your suggestions?  

Breathe. Relax. Try another search ("Minneapolis ad agencies") while signed in:

While it's fun to see ThinkSEM (a really great search marketing company based right here in the Twin Cities) show up for this search, is it the most relevant, considering the context in which ThinkSEM deals with ad agencies, versus actually BEING an ad agency? 

So here's my SERP without being signed into Google:

I'm finally getting to a point that'll hit closer to home with those of us who like to call ourselves Search Engine Marketers...what'll this do to the amount of time (in the near future since this has all started happening) we'll have to spend on the phone and in meetings with clients patiently explaining (and re-explaining) WHY we – the experts they're paying for optimization – can't control the SERPs and "how come at home I'm showing up NUMBER ONE and at work I'm NOT??" Or whatever else they're going to come up with whilst they continually while away the hours Googling themselves...

Only time will tell if Google will continue to "get away" with promoting Google+...and what affect it'll have on the way we search and optimize moving forward.

A Lovely Way to Spend a Cold Minnesota Evening

With The Husband out at an event, it's just me and the dog this evening...I had to cut my walk short because, damn it was cold out! I know it's all "relative," considering the winter we had last year, but still. Unbelievable.

So now while the wind whistles outside I'm in comfy clothes, the dog's fed and happily snoozing and I, well I think it's time for a little "me time" -- some wine, a nice fire and a tasty, heaping plate of chorizo nachos.

Hiking with Dogs in the Country

While up at Mom & Dad's for the Christmas weekend I took the dogs out every day for a couple's so lovely walking through woods and fields with nary a sidewalk in sight :) I get my daily exercise, the dogs love it and I get to pretend I'm a country girl again.

I used to bring my SLR with me on these walks, but it's so bulky and I'm always afraid of ruining it (sometimes I end up on trail-less land, clambering over/under/through brush, etc.), so I started slipping my new point-and-shoot into my pocket. Clint got it for me as a birthday present – in September – and I have yet to read the instruction manual, which is more than likely the reason why I haven't mastered its settings.

I say that because we sometimes fight about where the focal point should be and whether or not to use flash. I guess I could go ahead and read up on how to use it...

Regardless, it comes with me always in my purse (you never know when you'll need a camera) and of course while hiking in the country with the dogs. Zada is a pretty poser but Tesa...well, Tesa does some really weird stuff that's fun to catch on card (I can't say "film" anymore, although that makes more sense to me).

Unfortunately, while I had the camera with me I didn't have a free hand to capture her weirdest moment that weekend: diving head-first down a hole in the hay bales to chase after a stick. She's gamey and will do just about anything, but she didn't quite think her endeavor through...I just happened to be close enough to grab her tail as she kept falling and then got stuck. My sister and I hauled her out and she was fine, but it still would've been a funny picture (the mental one we have is hilarious).

Other than that, it was mostly a lot of tramping around in the woods, across fields, along the river, on lonely trails connecting backwoods plots of land, and in the horse pasture (to check the fence line).

This winter has been mild – for Minnesota – and there was barely any snow on the ground (not much more than a dusting), with temps in the 20s and 30s...perfect for hiking (in my country-girl opinion).

Hogan, Tesa and Zada were my constant companions while outside and I think they loved the walks as much as I did. While there wasn't open water for them to drink (like there was on the river over Thanksgiving weekend), they got bitefuls of snow here and there.

One of the things about these dogs – well, Tesa & Zada, anyway...Hogan's 10 years old, after all – is that no matter how long they've been out running around, they're always ready to go. If you're putting on your boots, they're whining at the door, excited to head outside again.

And if all the humans are inside, poor Zada resigns herself to lying on the porch (with an ever-ready stick at her disposal), waiting patiently for someone to come out and play :)

National Spaghetti Day

Evidently yesterday was National Spaghetti Day. I know it's true 'cause I read it on Facebook. Then I confirmed said fact by checking on The Google and Wikipedia stated that January 4th is, indeed, a day of national celebration in honor of spaghetti.

Now, I'm not a fan of National Insert Whatever-the-hell Here Days (hang on, I guess I sort of celebrated National S'mores Day by drinking a delicious s'moretini), but I AM a fan of food. Especially pasta. In true I'm-justifying-this style, I opted to make spaghetti – okay, okay, I used linguine noodles but let's not split angel hairs – in order to give the day its due.

Of course, one cannot have any type of Italian food without consuming wine to complement it, and since this was a red sauce I opted for (of course) a Pinot noir. Bogle's, to be exact. Quite tasty.

I'm sure you're wondering what I put in my spaghetti sauce. I shall divulge (and confess) that it's a knock-off of Granny Bernier's recipe she learned from the Italian woman ("Mrs. Palermo") she lived next to when my dad was young (this was in Chicago, I believe).

The real recipe calls for tomatoes and onions grown in one's garden to start the sauce; my family sort of skips that old-school stuff and begins with a plain tomato sauce for a base (Mom prefers Old World Style Ragú, which is what I also use).

After that one needs to add the following ingredients:
  • onions,
  • garlic,
  • Worcestershire (pronounced "woostah" in Massachusetts) sauce,
  • oregano,
  • some sort of hot sauce (Mom uses Tabasco; I use Sriracha or chili paste),
  • a hefty splash of red wine (that's my addition),
  • pepper (I think that's my addition, too) and
  • Italian sausage (browned).
Now, the ORIGINAL Granny recipe calls for mild Italian sausage links cut into "coins" and browned before being added to the sauce...since I'm a rebel I totally get the HOT Italian sausage (ground). I mean, who's got time to cut evenly-sliced coins, anyway? I'm sorry, Granny. 

After all these yummy ingredients are in the pot, it's best to let them simmer – so the flavors can "marry," as some chefs are wont to say – for at least an hour.

I put this meaty sauce over wheat noodles, serve it with some yummy garlic bread and pair it with a nice red wine (again, most often it's a Pinot noir...mainly because that's our favorite kind). After finishing that meal, it's mostly lying back on the couch watching TV because there's not much else one can do with a fully distended tummy.

Bon appetit, pasta lovers...I hope your National Spaghetti Day was as delicious as ours!

Naughty Zada

In five days I'll have had Zada for five years. Kind of hard to believe that much time has gone by and she's THAT old...

Since the day I brought her home, we've definitely had some ups and downs but overall I think she's a great dog. Other than a few idiosyncratic tendencies, she's a well-behaved, friendly dog and I love her to pieces.

Let me preface the following tale with some back-story: I grew up in a family of large dogs (mainly German shepherds, though recently my parents have decided they're more partial to Goldens). We lived in the country so our dogs were always indoor/outdoor and while they spent the evenings in the house, they were never, ever...EVER...allowed on the furniture. That's just not the way we Berniers roll.

Imagine Clint's and my surprise, then, when today we rang in 2012 with quite the surprise: Zada evidently spent the night on our guest bed downstairs!!!

I can honestly say this dog has never been on the furniture – she's never been invited up, she's never tried to get on it, and if she HAD managed a sneak foray onto the couch we'd have known instantly (she sheds year-round and leaves a plethora of guard hairs wherever she may roam).

However, the evidence is there, plain as day...I might not've cleaned recently, but I keep a neat house and the guest room is always ready to go at a moment's notice: tidy, with clean sheets and a very wrinkle- and – until recently – dog hair-free bedspread. Not so much now.

I WILL say that after Clint and I got back from our December trip to Puerto Vallarta, I noticed a LOT of hair on that same bed and called my cousin (who'd watched both Zada & Tesa) in a panic, gasping out, "were the dogs up on your bed?!" She said that no, definitely not, but she HAD kicked her covers to the floor and not made her bed, and the dogs had lain on the bedding while it was on the floor.

I did believe that story, since Tesa does exactly that every time Mom makes the bed back home (as soon as the old sheets come off, Mom says Tesa's right there to nest in there and take a nap). That seems to have been the prelude to full-blown doggy naughtiness since Zada now assumes this bed – which is a futon and therefore much closer to dog-level than our own bed – is there for her snoozing gratification.

I'm NOT happy about this turn of events but other than catching her in the act (unlikely) all I can do to deter her is close the door to that bedroom, which has almost always been her favorite to hang out in (on the floor, of course).

While I was in there taking the evidence – I mean, pictures – she wandered in after me and when she passed by The Spot, she got very close and gave it a nice long sniff...probably thinking, "I can't wait until bedtime tonight!" I gave her an admonition – "No, don't you DARE" – and she lowered her ears and kinda slunk off...I think she knows she was naughty.

What do YOU think?